Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Plenty of jam jars, baby."

Yes, Senator.  I admit it.  I AM a Marxist!  Groucho, that is.

I recently bought Skidoo, the infamous psychedelic filmic disaster from director Otto Preminger.  Featuring the last film appearance of Groucho and a gallery of Hollywood greats caught up in a 1968 car crash of Catskill meets capsule humour.  Infamous for a time because of the conflicting tones of Ed Sullivan presents Hair, this cult item was long kept in the vaults.  Watching Jackie Gleeson trip out on acid, as well as three villains from the old Batman TV series: Burgess Meredith, Caesar Romero and Frank Gorshin.  Plus Mickey Rooney and fellow birthday boy Frankie Avalon being seduced by a nymphomaniac Carol Channing. Mondo bizarre.

Anyway, Groucho plays a character named God.  And supposedly he dropped acid to be in tune with the kids.  Not that LSD was sole property of the Now Generation.  It seems it was used rather extensively by the Then Generation.  Cary Grant.  Gig Young.  More pretty leading men than Middle America would have cared to known were taking the stuff "by Doctor's Authorization."  I watch actors from the late Fifties and especially the early Sixties and see window pane eyes in those method performances.  Hollywood High is not just a school.

But back to Groucho...

Very trippy in the film.  Seeing him with a beautiful, half naked, African-American, super tall, runway model type, dressed in a total back to butt cleavage exposed gown.  Far out.  And further out as a yogi type, smoking a joint on a peace/love bedecked sailboat.  From Margaret Dumont to Marilyn Monroe to Carmen Miranda to Jayne Mansfield.  And now this.  Baggy pants, indeed.

There were 5 Marx Brothers, later 4.  And then there were 3.  Like the Goons, first 4 and known as 3.  Thank Krishna the Beatles were 4.  Many claimed to be number 5.  "Who is number 1?"  You ARE...number 6!"

But back to Groucho...

Supposedly after Richard Nixon lost the Governor's race in California, he moved to a home on Groucho's street in Hollywood.  "Isn't it terrible?" a neighbour asked Groucho, about their new arrival.  "Well, better here than in Washington," was his reported reply.

I once interviewed Bud Cort, half the star of Harold and Maude.  He lived in Groucho's home for a time. That seems pretty surreal to me.  Like Kato Kaelin living on O.J. Simpson's property.  Or Truman Capote living with Johnny Carson's ex-wife.  I asked Bud more about his friendship with another psychedelisized leading actor, Peter Sellers.  But high times seemed a constant with both comedians.

The closest I came to Groucho was in 1975.  I was in Westwood Village with my girlfriend at the time, seeing an early show of the just released Woody Allen film, Love and Death.  Staying after the credits ended, house lights up, we lingered discussing the merits of the film.  It sort of dawned on me that people were not entering the theatre for the next showing.  This was odd because at that time, intermissions between showings were very short.  It was then that we discovered that the theatre managers had held back the next audience in order to escort Groucho Marx and his lady companion to the row behind us.  "Oh my God, it's Groucho!" Wearing his checkered tami or beret or cap, we smiled, nodded a silent greeting and left the theatre.

Outside, the patrons were queued up to be let in.  Strangely, and this is true...there were young men dressed up as Groucho waiting to get in.  Like a pre-Star Wars thing, I was never sure if they were fans, groupies or just a coincidence.

Or maybe it was the acid.  I wasn't tripping, but I can't vouch for the rest of the cast.