Sunday, April 24, 2011
"Deefeecult for you. Easy for me."
Having a cold is no fun, except for one thing: it changes my voice and I can sound like obscure character actors. Suddenly Orson Welles is easy. Or John Houston or Sidney Greenstreet. David Suchet...a breeze. A touch of bronchitis or throat cancer and it sounds like a lifetime of cigars and Johnnie Walker Red. Is that George Zucco on the phone telling former fascist-mafiosa boss to stick fist up rectal plumbing? Who can be sure? It's just a fever dream.
So is this topic my love of mimicry? Not sure. I do truly understand the Peter Sellers approach to acting: the voice came first. It's a radio thing. The Ear is just slightly ahead of the Eye. Working in tandem, but it is a trade off. For myself, this is a delight but more likely a pain in the ass for all of my friends. Going to the movies with me is no fun (besides my inability to not comment during the film regarding some trivial criticism or useless piece of esoterica); the worst bit is the after-effect. The mimic's curse. If we have watched a Michael Caine film, I will be unable to not stop sounding like him (I am actually writing these words in Sir Michael's broken cockney style...thank God you can't hear it. If I attempted to write it out, the previous sentences would have been filled with pauses, hyphens and a ton of dots...), for at least a half an hour after the viewing. This is the usual problem with most British films. Peter O'Toole, David Warner, the Pythons. Lately I bore my friends with my Jason Statham ("Don't touch the f..king car"). I don't need pneumonia to do that one.
While British are the easiest for me (as noted earlier, I got my first job in radio pretending to be English), other Europeans can possess my soul like a bad Benny Hinn Revival ("Did someone touch me?"). Germans are a curse. I know. I am one. I am sure my wife is tired of my Armin Mueller-Stahl impressions. This Munchen actor from the Fassbinder school always seems to end every sentence with the question, "yes?" "So Kafka, they followed you, yes?" Since my wife loves the band Yes, I can torment her in the wee hours of the morning by asking in the Armin-ean tones, "So, Kafka, you like the band Yes, yes?" This might be considered a union of vaudeville and waterboarding, but to me it is a form of art that may have amused Torquemada.
Just as Sellers and Milligan could easily become Hindu Abbott and Costellos on the Goon Show, I find myself absorbing all the inflections of the films I watch. I live in a heavily populated area of Mexican-Americans, yet seem to keep my parody level low. Except for occasional bursts of Telemundo, telenovela announcer-type proclamations or bad Sabado Gigante buffoonery, my mimicry is more subdued and in awe to the "mucho fuego" quality of the steamy Salma Hayek or Paz Vega.
I miss watching Animal Nocturno on Friday nights from Mexico City. Ricardo Rocha and (hubba-hubba!) Patricia Llaca were the closest to a pure, multi-cultural, Hispanic program I have ever seen. Like Jack Paar with Frida Kahlo. My wife even became a believer when old Space Pirate Radio friend Tony Levin appeared on the show, unexpectedly, with his band and did more songs live than would have ever been seen on U.S. television. Late night Mexican TV at its best, rather than Escandalo TV (you have to be kidding) or El Gordo y Flaca. If I was less hetero, it would be re-runs of Viviana a la Media Noche. But I see I've gone off the tracks here once more. "Hola, las Pulgas!"
So what have we learned here? Not much, really. Chevy Chase, on his ill-fated late night talk show, was criticized for making a reference to Senor Wences. Don't make references to something your audience is probably too young to know. Keep it current. Don't be smart. This MAY be less fashionable, but f..k that noise. Hip is cool. And young is very cool. I wish I had your energy. But stupid sucks...so play that game their way and you will be used and abused. Which is what they want. Dumb it down. We can USE you. We understand. Au contraire, mes amis. Keep it oblique as long as it is still true to what you believe. If they don't get the reference, that's their problem.
So having made reference to Senor Wences, I cancel my own show ("All right?"). Now there was an artist. A Central European imitating a Spanish surrealist with a Portuguese head in a box. You wouldn't have The Muppets or Star Wars or Yoda without him, mixing it up first. But that's another topic. Except I've cancelled my show...So,
Germans are fun to do. I've mentioned this. A glass or 2 of Moselle wine and I will do BOTH Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski ("Kinski vas a mad-man, a luna tick" ). Herzog murdered Kinski. Perry Mason could prove this. "Dees leeves from the Columbian rainforest...Cook dem for tree minoots, a delicacy. Cook dem for tree minoots and ten seconds...a lethal poison...your live functions seas in a total state of shock." Lots of laughs. I played a crazed German doctor in Arsenic & Old Lace. One word would get me in character: "gerschitzen."
That's right, folks. Single words or small phrases can set you off in multi-personality dementia. "Yumpin yart fanoot" is the Manchurian Candidate code for instant Swedish. "Tony" or "Tone E" brings on an instant Charles Boyer. "Torture" or "Tor Chure" will manifest into spontaneous Bela Lugosi.
(Speaking of multi-personalities...although I've never seen a single episode of The United States of Tara, I am happy to see that the writer dated the same girl I used to know. Even down to the name. A slight Vowel Movement.)
So what about that picture? It's an exclusive shot of the new Doctor Who ("Bowties are cool."). Oops, sorry, no, it's not. And he wouldn't have made that sartorial comment if he had seen Matt Drudge. Actually, pictured above is disturbed Ruskie poet Sergei Suitenpanz, companion of modern dance icon Isadora Duncan. I'd love to tell you more, but I've been cancelled. If I could, I would pour another glass of Rasputin, the Mad Wodka and begin my story as follows...