Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Santa Barbara Surrealism

Traditionally, the University has been more than just the seat of higher learning.  In the past, the Halls of Academia have often been, more than not, the hotbed of radical thought.  The ivy covered walls of colleges in London, Paris and Vienna have seen the stirrings of innovative thought, deemed rebellious and unacceptable at first, only later to become the modus operandi of current teaching. 

The pattern remains the same.  How many names come to mind?  Copernicus, Schiller, Byron, Shelley, Freud, Beethoven, Einstein, and Thurdwanger (the latter omitted due to his tragic death by boredom).  And yet, this pattern seems to have been broken in the last century.  The college appears to have settled in the role of factory, or monastery.  The student as firebrand seems to have been replaced by a career-oriented, assembly line prototype.  But that may be changing. 

Perhaps we thought the last flurry of campus unrest was in '68.  Without a Voltaire or Jean-Paul Marat as figurehead, the movement seemed quickly spent.  The time seems ripe for another campus controversy.  It may be happening now, and with an artistic figure of the past as its center.  Our own local University seems up in arms over the current exhibition of works by German surrealist Garcon Garcon.

It was 1919 when young Dieter Lichtenbowel attended the Academy of Certain Things in Cologne, Germany.  He had already published his thesis, Pre-Christian Ladder Worship.  Dieter was tutoring a class in Hardware Symbolism in the Old Testament.  His theories were bold, unorthodox.  He was beginning to make a name for himself.  It was Klaus, and was made of cardboard.  Later he made another name for himself.  This time it was Hans, and was constructed of thin wood, brown paper and string.  He tried to make another name for himself, this time out of cloth.  He asked a cloth merchant to cut him out a piece of muslin.  The merchant, however, was nearly deaf, and misunderstanding, tried to cut out a piece of a passing Moslem.  This ended Dieter's name making period.

Dieter enjoyed the company of his artist friends.  He envied their ability to paint.  "Could not pure philosophy and art come together?" he wondered.  He decided he would try to make it happen.  He left the academic world of Cologne, and in 1920, headed for Paris.

The years of 1921 and 1939 were the productive ones for Dieter Lichtenbowel.  Paris was a constant source of inspiration to him.  He hung around the Bohemian coffee shop and nightspots with his artist friends.  He talked endlessly about the mixture of art, religion and workshop tools.  He even changed his name.  Garcon Garcon was adopted because they were the two words he used most often in cafes.  Either in the Chez Bon Tits Cafe, or the all German Cabaret Dumpkopf, Dieter was heard shouting to the waiter for refills.

One could talk at lengths about Garcon Garcon's Paris life, but for us it is enough to say he created his best work at this time.  He made new impressions in the world of surrealist art.  The expression gaga surrealisme was coined from his name.  His works either outraged or delighted, but they never bored.  One need only look at his output.  Among many innovative works, Self Portrait By Somebody Else, and The Bride Stripped Bare Even By The Washing Machine Repairman still have the same effect today as they did in the '20s and '30s.  This seems evident especially by current attempts to ban Garcon Garcon's exhibition at the University.  See it before it is run out of town.

Another minor controversy on campus appears to be the new course offered in the It's Extended series, Little Known Chinese Eccentrics.  The course, taught by visiting professor Dr. Roger Frogner-Wham, has been raising eyebrows, and other body parts.  For example, Dr. Frogner-Wham lectures on Chinese philosopher Confused Shoes (so named because of his habit of placing his left shoe on his right foot, and vice versa).  Confused Shoes lived during the Bung Dynasty and invented a unique method of prophecy.  He would take three men who suffered from hemorrhoids, toss them in the air, and from the way they fell, read the future.  He called this Painful Rectal I Ching.  Education is a wonderful thing. 


[First published July 14, 1981.]

Monday, August 30, 2010

"I need a bohemian atmosphere."

Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.  The environment of the study should be one of philosophical transcendence and inspirational bliss.  However, this late entry in the month of Saint Augustine has become cranky because we just finished watching Michael Caine in Harry Brown.  Yes, Michael Caine, that icon of '60s swinging London.  "My name is Michael Caine."  In his greatest film yet: Get Carter A Wheelchair.  We as moviegoers should be thankful that today's savvy industry leaders refuse to let the Charles Bronson Death Wish franchise disappear.  There is hope for every aging actor to become a revenge-driven vigilante.  My heart breaks at the thought that this brilliant writing formula didn't happen sooner.  How I would have loved to have seen Walter Brennan still active post-The Real McCoys, armed with an AK-47, gunning down drug dealers in Compton.  Can't you picture Wilford Brimley pistol whipping some hood in Griffith Park terrorizing a blue haired lady with her chihuahua?  But I digress.  Back to Michael Caine.  The swinging '60s icon.  What a load of crap.  Just because he wore black, horn-rimmed glasses as spy Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File didn't mean Monsieur Caine was a bookish, liberal intellectual.  I've enjoyed so many of his early films, but just because they were set in a certain time and space doesn't mean the actor himself reflected our particular sympathies.  Beware, my friend...Mr. Caine has always been a conservative Tory who will do any film as long as you meet his paycheck.  Remember all those disaster movies of the '70s?  The Swarm?  And certainly from that point on, Michael Caine is at his finest.  "I can't pick up my Oscar, I'm filming Jaws: The Revenge."  Remember how bad his glasses looked?  Hanging around with Joan Collins and all those questionable rich businessmen from Tehran?  Oh, those were the good old days.  I guess I'm going through a love/hate catharsis with Mr. Caine.  I still own the original The Italian Job, the original Get Carter (and I guess I can give Michael credit for being good in the original Sleuth as well as the remake), and I really did enjoy the film Flawless.  And I admire much about Pulp except for the animal killing.  I can quote dialogue between him and Oskar Homolka in Funeral In Berlin.  So what's the problem?  Harry Brown, for one.  And the fact that Michael Caine still does it for the money first and the art second.  For every Hannah And Her Sisters, there's The Island and four other god awful titles that I do not wish to flog you with at this moment.  Man, I am cranky.  I just wanted to talk about my digs.  Instead, here I am doing a bad Sight & Sound article about how Michael Caine's best films depend upon his director and screenplay writer.  Oh my god.  So how do I get out of this?  Oh, okay.  When Michael Caine was a struggling actor, he shared lodgings with another struggling bohemian actor, Terence Stamp. 


Whew!  Well, kids, there's nothing like those early artistic days for capturing the bohemian spirit.  I had those days, yes sir, Jim.  Before I got married, the Artist As A Younger Man enjoyed the environment and the enthusiasm that decorated it.  A man's home was his Kastle, and in my Kase, sometimes it was in the truest Kafka sense.  The hovel as a home had to reflect all of the passions that kept me young at heart, bladder and knee. 

So now we are tuned into the Home & Garden channel on acid.  Observe the neo-gothic, early Armenian, post-modern, pre-surrealistic, proto-psychedelic, art deco, with a hint of Swedish moderne, and a whiff of pre-Weimar, post-Bauhaus, early Russian-Turkish hallucination.  A Frank Lloyd Wright design after a heavy Mexican dinner.  A collision of Amish and Danish decor with Mayan/Pagan trauma.  This is perhaps initially and shockingly evident upon viewing the illustrations on display.  Note the cacophony of merging motifs and themes.  One can see the pilgrim's attempt at building a tower of Babel made entirely of vinyl.  Reaching to the heavens, this lost library of sound.  Like a memory of fabled Alexandria, from Amon Duul II to Zabriskie Point.


The rooms (which in debate, could be considered just one room, including the shower) were not unlike an early salon.  Tapestries on the walls, peacock feathers sticking out of German wine bottles, heroes and mementos on display.  Trash, works of art and magical things too.  Plus dust and wires.  "Dustin Wires?  Wasn't he that '60s actor who got it on with Anne Bancroft?"  And speaking of German wine, as has been noted in earlier entries, Space Pirate Radio shows were fueled on the power of German white wine.  Here now is photographic proof of the stockpile, strategically located next to the photo of Einstein on the back cover of the M album, the Japanese poster for Yellow Magic Orchestra, and the image of Pamela Stephenson as Magritte from The Face magazine.  For anyone interested in the obscure, the plastic glass in front of the vintage Coca-Cola tray and green glass container of collected matchbooks is, in fact, the one given to me by Roger Waters upon my first meeting with Pink Floyd at the L.A. Sports Arena.  The Chalice Revealed!


And scandalously we continue into the private quarters of the bedroom.  Note the sinful one-sheet posters for Emmanuelle The Joys Of A Woman, Nastassja Kinski in Stay As You Are, and the obscured poster of Laura Antonelli in The Divine Nymph. 

And finally, for adults only, the ultimate destination, the last place to hide, o banheiro surrealista erotico!  Oh my!


Oh my, oh my!  La salle de bains surrealiste erotique.  El cuarto de bano surrealista erotico.  Das erotische surrealistische Badezimmer.  De erotische surrealistische badkamers.  The erotic surrealist bathroom.  Where hygiene and art come together in collage.  I thought it was beautiful.  More beautiful than the Louvre.  Ironically, when I was in Paris visiting the Louvre, my parents who had an unexpected visitor, found themselves vacating their apartment and coming to stay at mine.  Oh dear.  Neither of them had ever visited the ESP (the erotic surrealist pissoir).  My father said that being in the bathroom was rather disquieting.  Wherever he looked, someone was munching on someone else.  After hearing this, I came to my senses, became a Catholic and entered the priesthood.  Sure. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

"By gad, sir, you are a character."

Slipping away from music for the moment and back to film.  One of my most guilty pleasures is the love of character actors.  As it has been apparent in previous entries, it is the character actors in the films that I tend to enjoy the most in my cinematic experience.  Stars or leading actors motivate me less into a movie house than the support characters.  With the release of each new film, it is the secondary names I look upon. 

This love of character actors comes from my early childhood.  Films of the '30s and '40s were always loaded with the interesting characters who were there to support, torment or bedevil the leads.  Their names are etched in monochrome: from Peter Lorre to George Zucco; Lionel Atwill to Martin Kosleck.  Many character actors could also be leads, like Basil Rathbone, Karloff and Lugosi, up to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  But for me, more than often, the secondary and even third-tiered actors were the most interesting.  My god, the list is endless.  I would rather watch Gale Sondergaard or Anna May Wong over Katherine Hepburn. In a way, I prefer the character actor to remain in the number 2 or 3 spot, rather than becoming the star vehicle.  There are exceptions, including some of the names I've mentioned.  Myrna Loy and William Powell are two more examples. 

So we step into the Tardis and speed into my era, the Swinging Sixties.  And a whole new chapter of character actors pop onto the scene.  There are so many.  Hopefully I will have time to mention them all.  So stepping out of the police box, I find myself happy to be in the same time and place as the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.  Sixties?  No, it's upside down.  We are in the nineties.  In my current guise as Arts & Entertainment Editor for radio station KTMS, as well as the on-going entity of Space Pirate Radio, I now find myself lucky enough to rub elbows and other body parts, with actors who appeared in many of the cult films that have delighted my peculiar tastes.  In one 24 hour period, I have attended the film premiere of a movie starring Amanda Donohoe, a particular favourite actress of mine, who has worked with both Nicolas Roeg in Castaway and Ken Russell in Lair Of The White Worm.  The film was Diamond Skulls, directed by Nick Broomfield (a lovely gentleman and an artist in his own right, who took the photograph of me and Amanda).  I spent two pleasurable days in their company, extolling the joys of British cinema and many anecdotes about Oliver Reed. 

It was at this premiere that I had the incredible pleasure of meeting one of the most friendly character actors of all time, Clive Revill.  My wife who loves Star Wars still lets me in the house thanks to my close encounter with the original Emperor.  Despite my proximity to this master of the Dark Side, we had more giggles and fun with his work in films like The Legend Of Hell House, Kaleidoscope, Fathom, The Assassination Bureau, and Modesty Blaise.  He was so damned friendly.  I like to think that he was just happy to meet somebody in America who knew his body of work.  But seriously, he was genuinely delightful and thinking about it now, I could just give him a big cuddle.  I mean, I relate to this cat.  He has worked in so many interesting projects and with so many different people and yet, had none of the bullshit trappings of a showbiz entourage.  I have the deepest respect for his art and talent.  He personifies what it is about the character actor that inspires me.  I am almost regretful that I didn't hustle him up to my show for more anecdotes and insights into his life experience.
Over the years, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented to me the opportunity to meet many, many artists in the film industry, past and present.  I had the pleasure of getting to know the great Turhan Bey through the festival.  This incredible man from the golden age of Hollywood.  Another example of the classic character actor.  What a gentleman.  And what a voice.  His IDs for Space Pirate Radio continue to give me chills.  From his performance in The Mummy's Tomb to his work with Maria Montez and Jon Hall, and ultimately his career as a photographer in Vienna.  The man is a class act. 

It was also during this time that I got to meet Tyrone Power Jr.  He and his lovely wife at the time, DeLane Matthews, were premiering the film Healer which also featured Turhan Bey and David McCallum.  So Ty, who had never actually known his father, had inherited his father's good looks on top of an extremely muscular build.  I felt that if his career had been handled successfully, he could have easily walked into the Zorro franchise that his father had made famous. 

So now I'm not sure if this rant has been about character actors and/or the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.  I certainly met many interesting artists during my involvement.  Richard Farnsworth stands out.  The old school, of course: Robert Mitchum, Bradford Dillman, Karl Malden, Anthony Zerbe, Don Murrary, Carol Lynley, Anne Francis, Richard Widmark and Michael Parks.  Santa Barbara was the perfect eccentric city for character actors.  I remember doing a radio broadcast with a highly inebriated James Brolin.  And with him was Stuart Whitman, also equally lubricated.  This was radio.  And on the air, Stuart Whitman said that anyone coming into the restaurant that we were broadcasting from who was wearing a tie would have it cut off.  Whitman, threatened to cut my tie off.  This was very odd.  I was wearing a turtleneck at the time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make."

And with those words on the airwaves, the show starts. The music begins.

My wife loves concerts. She sees far more shows these days than I do. But blissfully, it was the music that brought us together. Now before I start sounding like Peter Fonda in that commercial for Flower Power, I...uh, oh nevermind. (I had dinner with Peter Fonda once, but that's another story. The Castle Of Otranto by Horace Walpole. That's another story too.) Sorry, I lost my mind there...

Oh, yes, the music. Concerts. Obviously, it was the music that inspired me to start Space Pirate Radio. However, most of my concert-going experiences happened after I began the show in 1973. As the show expanded in its range of music, I was able to attend more shows featuring the artists that I had played as import records only. My love of new, foreign music helped keep the discoveries coming. One artist or record label would inspire me to explore a different offshoot. If I saw a name of an artist or producer on one disc and found it on another, then that would tempt my curiosity to hear the sounds that were offered. This is what made it all exciting, folks. New discoveries. Archeology in sound.

My initial tendencies were to explore the experimental, electronic music from the Pink Floyd/psychedelic school that had inspired the Germans. Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel and especially Amon Duul II were the key inspirations for getting the show on the air. I was pleased to have the first show on commercial radio that aired these artists. Someone once described me as the John Peel of the US, but I was able to play the entire songs--full sides worth. The luxury of a 6 hour show late at night in the early morning hours.

There were, however, exceptions to the all-electronic mantra that the show seemed to pulsate to. But yet, there was still something magical and psychedelic and progressive to it all. One example came from the folk school. I used to believe that in the 60s, in London at the UFO Club, there were three schools of experimental music: space rock, as personified by house band, the Pink Floyd; space jazz, as represented by the Soft Machine; and space folk, as interpreted by the Incredible String Band. Each one of these three bands triggered off whole schools of musical experimentation by an unlimited variety of artists. Now I could do a doctorate thesis here, but I won't. Instead, I will detour with the space folk and mention Alan Stivell.

Alan Stivell at the time was a very interesting Breton artist who did for the Celtic harp what Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull had done with the flute. He made it jazz, man. Stivell was hugely popular in France and Europe but unplayed in the United States. His album "Renaissance of the Celtic Harp" was as spacey and innovative as anything else could be under the power of electricity. Space Pirate Radio was again the first place to showcase him on commercial radio. To listeners, his work was legendary. Quite magical. His live performances at such places as the Olympia Theatre in Paris were envied and appreciated. He had never performed in California. In 1982 that would change.

Stephen Cloud, a concert promoter in Santa Barbara, often took chances on shows that should be done for art's sake and booked Stivell at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History on February 11. Stivell would play the night before in San Francisco and follow the next day in Los Angeles with Robin Williamson of the Incredible String Band. Cloud appreciated Stivell's music but wasn't sure the show would do well due to its eclectic nature. It sold out and had to turn many away. The success of the show prompted Stivell to return the following year at the Victoria Street Theatre. Stivell was a lot of fun to be with. Very easy-going. All the ladies were charmed by him. He came over to my apartment, did a casual interview and some fun IDs.

So back to concerts. It was always a high point to see a concert by someone you had admired and shared with on the air. And then to either have them on the show or hang out backstage and talk about this and that...quite fun, really. I am blessed to say that there have been quite a number of those moments. I've already mentioned a number of them here. There are others I wish to go into length with later. Tangerine Dream, Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, were quite special. My two days with Mike Oldfield were unique. Steve Hackett and Rick Wakeman stand out. My dinner with Robin Williamson and his wife Janet turned into a very memorable show.

Oh, there were concerts before my show. The Standells ("love that dirty water") and the Knickerbockers ("Lies"), an American band that wanted to sound like the Beatles, both played my decrepit high school. I saw Janis Joplin after she had left Big Brother, debuting with her Kosmic Blues Band at the San Bernadino Swing Auditorium in 1968. Brought her a bottle of Southern Comfort and hung out in the first row. Janis headlined the show along with Lee Michaels, MC5 and some new band called Chicago Transit Authority. Oh my. Those horns. Snuck into a Mothers Of Invention/Alice Cooper concert at Cal State Fullerton. Later I would have Frank Zappa on my show and redefine the art of interviewing. Story to come later.

Anyway, the heyday of concerts was definitely during the Space Pirate Radio era of 1974-1994. From 1974 until about 1985, KTYD had a lock-in with just about every concert. There were high points and low points, both at the historic Arlington Theatre. The zenith: a co-promotion with Gentle Giant for a wonderfully relaxed yet powerful performance. The nadir: The Clash, where I felt we were all extras in a monster car rally performing A Clockwork Orange.

It saddens me to think of the concerts that nearly happened but didn't. Tangerine Dream would have played Santa Barbara years before they did my 20th anniversary party for Space Pirate Radio at the Ventura Theatre. And Genesis was going to do The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway at UCSB, but the promoter cancelled it because Fleetwood Mac was playing the same weekend. This saddens me. The tears are coming. But saddest of all is thinking that we had to turn down a one night only concert performance of Zamfir with Joy Division. Moron, this later.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Viva La Fiasco!

It is summer again, and the joyous words ring out: Viva la Fiasco! Once more, the City Fathers (by a previous marriage) of Santa Barbara extend the open hand of friendship to la turista, the tourist. And it is to the visitor of our humble resort community that we invite to participate in the celebration of our proud heritage.

Perhaps for some guests, up on holiday from the City of Appliances or the San Industrial Valley, it is hard to catch the full spirit of things, as we salute the bones of the Spanish that we stand upon. But this feeling of detachment is only temporary. Even the most noxious airhead is soon caught in the grip of mad ethnic delirium that the ancients called los gringos locos. And after the plentiful consumption of salsa and tequila, the happy pilgrim is soon familiar with strangers, greeting them with the old world: saludos, Bien Vaginos!

But quite often the furtive plea is heard: "Can we see it all?" And the answer, of course, is: "Yes! Most definitely." Most of the festivities are obvious. But after the Parade, the Mission, the beaches, what then? Especially at night. Santa Barbara After Dark then becomes our quest.

We enjoy an exciting evening of street dancing. Notice how one can dance from the sidewalk to the street and back to the sidewalk again, without fear of stumbling on the curb, or missing a beat? The corners were contoured with this in mind.

And so, exhausted, yet elated from our dancing, we ask ourselves: "What next?" It is much too early to go back to the Motel 6. The question is to find the right bar or nightspot to continue our festive mood.

It is at this point that we separate the average tourist from the adventurer. There are many bars in this town. They appeal to the full spectrum of local society. But this author recommends only one nightspot that fully captures the spirit of Fiasco. It is the Club El Fuego.

Even the most seasoned local is not completely familiar with operations of the Club El Fuego. It is not easy to find. True, it runs parallel with Cabrillo and Carillo and against Castillo (streets which were named, by the way, to confuse outsiders and discourage new residents), the Club El Fuego is located on the little known streets of Las Pulgas and El Dumpster. It is worth the find.

The Club El Fuego was started in late 1963 by the retired Germanic-Hispanic, Juan Auf Deisdaz, who left his native Germany towards the end of the war, abandoning his modest lighting business. He relocated in South America first, followed by Mexico, and then finally settled in Santa Barbara with, or so it has been said, the aid of Richard Nixon.

Avoiding such idle gossip, let me say that Juan, as he likes to be called, is the most genial of hosts. Investing the money of his soap plant business in South America, the Club El Fuego has become "more of a home, than a business," as Juan describes. The description is an apt one. The interior is a harmonious combination of white clay and green palms, rattan furniture and 40s statuary from the Munich Olympics. What better environment to spend your late night Fiasco celebrations in. And don't forget to order the Naughty Margharita, the only drink based on a Gilbert and Sullivan rejection slip. It's a favorite, guaranteed to water your mouth and dampen your knees.

Feeling that late night glow, you can bask yourself in the memories of your Fiasco Day Holiday: Your visit to the shrine of Brojas Hymenez des Flores, Our Lady of the Sacred Maxi-Shield. True, Saint Barbara is the city's patron saint. But one must not forget this little known figure, and her assault against a bloody rampage.

Distant memories, perhaps. But pleasant ones, none-the-less. Memories, that I hope you, dear pilgrim, will take back and cherish forever. And then there is next year. In the land of Zorro and the Cisco Kid, and even Ronald Reagan and the Shah of Iran, a funny voice says: "Remember! Viva la Fiasco!"


[First published July 22, 1980.]

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"I thought you were supposed to be in Paris."

"I am in Paris."

August 1982. I am in the City of Lights. This is my first time here. The purpose of my visit is twofold. I am in Europe putting together the television pilot for Space Pirate Radio brilliantly titled "Space Pirate Video." Zounds! This is progress. My first purpose is to secure videos of French electronic and progressive artists that have never been seen before by western eyes. I am hoping to discover gems from such performers as Ange, Mona Lisa, Richard Pinhas and Magma. It is also my intention to have a meeting with Jean Michel Jarre and secure either concert footage or promotional videos for American release.

The other goal of my trip here (as it had been previously in England, before arriving in France via Munich) is to visit locations connected with Peter Sellers for my documentary on his life. In this case, it is to visit the infamous Crazy Horse Saloon. Located on the Champs-Elysees, this notorious burlesque hall was used in the filming of "What's New, Pussycat?" The interior of the building has remained relatively the same since the 1965 film. Ah! I love research. Watching the stage show with the beautiful tableau of female flesh, slightly vodka-fueled, I can see Peter O'Toole and Peter Sellers in the room with Paula Prentiss on stage and Woody Allen in the wardrobe.





Between these two objectives is also the role of tourist with a purpose. My play Casanova's Lips, set in Paris, concludes with its Hitchcock meets the Goon Show ending atop the Eiffel Tower. Armed with a copy of the book published from the play, I decided to document its return to the scene of the crime. The proof is in the pictures.





Paris is a city of love. But like throughout the rest of Europe, I was on my own. In a sort of pre-Banksy way, I took one of my Space Pirate Radio t-shirts with me, and photographed that instead of the normal family holiday snaps.




I stayed at the Hotel de l'Observatoire in the Latin Quarter. Tiniest elevator in the world and it felt like a firetrap. Ah, Paris. Near the Sorbonne, my room faced a clocktower that rang every 15 minutes. Despite that, the neighbourhood was colourful. Very bohemian. In one store I saw a beautiful poster of Klaus Kinski in period garb. Long hair, lace cuffs and eyeshadow. I wanted to buy it, but I didn't think I could afford it. Why? Because I got robbed after walking out of the Crazy Horse Saloon. "Look, ze druken touriste walks from ze club. Ou est le wallet?" A thoroughly delightful way to end one's European adventure.

An American Zany In Europe

London, Munich and Paris: three of the most exciting and artistically rewarding cities in the world (Pomona can be exciting also, but I'm dealing only with Europe here). Where does the pilgrim go, in search of his aesthetic roots? Westminster Abbey, perhaps; rich in the pageantry of English rule? The Munich Museum of Modern Art, maybe; loaded with its collection of Germanic Impressionism and post-Bauhaus Neo-Classicism? Or else, the Louvre and the Bauborg Museums, the two poles of Parisian art? Not me. I was checking out the local temperatures in the X-rated cinemas.

A sociologist at heart, a scientist at foot, and a degenerate at any other body part you'd like to mention, I enthusiastically ventured forth on my study of European tastes, as reflected in its A-Dult Entertainment.

London was my first stop, and I was quite ready for the sinful delights of Swinging London. In the West End, I found myself at the Moulin, a complex of five cinemas, each with three features of steamy film fare. I chose Cinema 3, with the triple bill of Come Play With Me 3, Mary Millingtons' True Blue Confessions, and The Daughter of Emanuelle. Alas, the experience was a disappointment.

First, the cinemas are a major fire hazard, with only one entrance/exit for each show, with each row of seats ending against the wall. And the films? Not worth dying in this potential pyro-hall--in England everything is rated and then censored. And I mean everything. Cigarette commercials, in fact, all commercials, begin with the brown and white Board of Review Rating. In the X-rated films themselves, all the steamy parts are removed, thus turning an imported romp of naked German schoolgirls into a patchwork of sight and soundtrack. "Tongue slowly glides down thigh..." And Zappo! A sudden change of musik, and tongue has arrived at knee, with the profound hint of topographical explorations deleted. After the 306th cut, with everyone suddenly dressed and smoking ciggies, I'm exhausted of the experience.

In London, to see the type of fare available at the Pussycat in Ventura or the Screaming Beaver Theatre in the City of Appliances, one must be a dues paying member of a cinema club. Suddenly London swings a little less, and in certain circles. Munich, however, restored my faith in trouser tightening movies.

Sometimes I think Germany invented Sex. Maybe Sex in Other Places than the Home. Munich is a beautiful city, though perhaps not the healthiest place because of the elevation. Walking down the Schillerstrasse (as most streets in Munich are something strasses, usually named after Bavaria's greatest, like Leopold, Ludwig, and Klaus Kinski), I found myself at the Blue Movie Kino, featuring two imported items. One was the American film Inside Desiree Cousteau, dubbed into German. The other was a French scorcher entitled Die Madschen Vom Paris Pigalle, likewise dubbed.

Paying my certain DM, a man says to me, "Bier?" "Nein," I replied, to which he says, "Nein?" in shock, his false teeth falling out on the counter display of Der Kracker Jacks. Come to find out, the bier is included in the admission. They give you two biers, a large cup, and put them in a small wire bike basket. These baskets fit in a rack behind the large and comfortable loge chairs, a holder also ready for your cup. What comfort! And the surprises aren't yet over. The films are in Super 35mm with Dolby sound! Suddenly grunts and groans of passion emit behind you, and it's not the couple two rows back--state-of-the-art pornography. And the films? Well, let's just say I'm glad I brought my rubber jodhpurs with latex curry sack. And I've never been able to get my old hair style back. For weeks I eyed mail boxes with bad intent, and still go into a cold sweat when anyone says, "Du machts meine loins gertingle." I hope to visit Munich again soon for another dose of PVS (Perverse Visual Stimulus), though I'm not sure my heart or laundry can take it.

In Paris I visited Le Gate cinema, which was showing a French-Spanish porno called Vicenses A Ibiza, which was pretty fair, especially after Germany. And no bier here (I was amazed that in Germany, with all those bottles around, not one went rolling under the seats, was dropped or thrown at the screen. That would never happen in Ventura). All I remember vividly about Paris pornography was that men kept coming out of the bathroom, but no one ever went in. Curious. Le Gate cinema was in the Montparnasse district of Paris, so, hopefully, things are different on the other Banke, Montmartre and the Pigalle.

Eschewing film, I visited the notorious Crazy Horse Saloon, but that's another story. A friend of mine, meeting some French visitors, told them of my Crazy Horse experience. "He went to the Crazy Horse?" they asked in disgust. "It is for tourists." "Didn't you visit Disneyland?" asked my friend, and the conversation closed. By the way, I did see the Louvre. I remember people dropping like flies from the humidity, the Mona Lisa smiling sardonically at her voyeurs, and lots of big paintings with naked people on them.

[First published March 2, 1983.]

Monday, August 2, 2010

"For one who has not lived even a single lifetime...you are a wise man, Van Helsing."

Pardon me here, people. This is an awkward follow-up to the previous entry. Since that post, I have been digging among the archives and found some artifacts relating to that time and more. Hence the reason for the candid shot of Vincent Price and myself at the aforementioned dinner. Better now than later.

However, this places me still in the realm of my adventures with the Count Dracula Society. So let us step into the Tardis and head back to the end of 1969 as I prepare for my first trip to London. I am armed with letters of introduction and the home addresses of both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. As a dedicated Anglophile, I am foolishly considering this trip to London to be permanent. Donald Reed, the president of the Society, has graciously furnished me these letters in my capacity as Vice Chairman of the Count Dracula Society to be a liaison to these two great actors who are being honoured for their work. Peter Cushing and his wife Helen live in Kent. Christopher Lee is in London living in Cadogan Square, his neighbours including Boris Karloff and horror author Dennis Wheatley (of whom Christopher Lee will produce and star in his "The Devil Rides Out").





I venture out into the foreign city to locate Cadogan Square. Finding myself in the moody and mysterious Square, I locate the residence of Mr. Lee. Pushing the buzzer, I find myself speaking to his wife. Lee has just arrived from making a Fu Manchu film and he has the flu...Flu Manchu? Our conversation will have to be the next day and on the telephone. The telephone will likewise be my first contact with Peter Cushing and it will also be with his wife. She is absolutely delightful; extremely pleased that her husband's work is so well-liked by the appreciative Americans. I can understand why after her passing, Peter was so affected. But for the time being, the omens seem to be working against my purposes. Meetings will come later.