Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"I dislike mirrors. Van Helsing...will explain."

My wife would be happy to live her entire life in a theme park.  Dingyland is her Fortress of Solitude.  Hiding in Open Sight.  It is her Nirvana (of course, so are concert halls, clubs, movie theatres, as well as arenas and stadiums; the latter of which I truly hate).  Dingyland is going to take a lot of work on both of our parts if I am ever to embrace it as "The Happiest Place On Earth."  The Magical Kingdom.  I despise the concept of Kingdom.  Kings are usually Tyrants.  And the Tyrant Must Die.

This is not the time or place to discuss my love/hate relationship with Walt Disney.  As the mutated product of a young life misspent in Door Hinge County (Door Hinge being the only rhyming equivalent of Orange), I will save this rant for an upcoming encounter with the blessed/cursed location; this Carnival of Souls encamped in Anna's Home. 

No, instead I will sidetrack to the lovely lady's Second Place of Fantastic Diversion: Universal Studios.
           
Longtime listeners of SPACE PIRATE RADIO will know that I refer to the Hollywood Studio as Unilateral Pictures.  Producers of the Classic Horror Films like 1941's THE WOLF GUY, starring Lon Chairs, Jr.  "Even a man who's pure of heart, And says his prayers at night.  May become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms,  And his trousers are too tight."

Spontaneity becomes the choreography of motivation and I insist to the travel driven wife that we are off to Hollywood to see KULA SHAKER at The Roxy and stay at the Universal Hilton, visit the Park and do the Tourista Tango.

I've never done the Universal Studios Park, Rides or Tour Experience.  I have worked on the Universal Studio lot, however, a number of times and quite enjoyed myself.  Director John Landis, an old horror and sci-fi fan who when as kids hung out at Forry Ackerman's house of fantastic memorabilia; he lets me cavort in THE BLUES BROTHERS.  My former girlfriend, Sue Dugan, is now a costumer working for Designer Deborah Nadoolman, the wife of Landis.  I may discuss my subliminal film career, if you can call it a career, later.  But suffice for now, Universal Studios is the "Happiest Place" for me, because I've worked here, made money here, was given job offers here and all around treated well.  John Landis would grab me from the Jail House Rock scene (the movie's finale) and pull me along to his working bungalow, which just happens to be the one Alfred Hitchcock called home, and watch rough cuts of the James Brown sequence.  John would spend precious working time talking to me about our horror and sci-fi obsessed days at the home of the editor of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and passing this information on to a lady reporter from the Denver Post.  That was January 1980.  Earlier, at the end of 1979, I was a paid extra in the Illinois concert scenes, actually filmed at the Hollywood Palladium.  Besides the music, the thrill of those two days was hanging with Cab Calloway and working with the great comedy actor John Candy.  I loved SCTV and hated SNL.

In the mid eighties, I would do one more film for Universal with John Landis.  INTO THE NIGHT.  Spending 15 hours shooting from afternoon till daybreak at the legendary Ships Restaurant on La Cienega Blvd.  That was a trip!  This film was the first leading role for both Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer.  I played a leather freak in black, Raymond Blurr.  The opening establishing crane shot of Ships Restaurant, showing the front door entrance, with yours truly, sitting at the counter with a beautiful, free-spirited, blonde woman (played by a lady model, who had just appeared in a ZZ Top video), was actually the last take filmed at nearly 4:30 in the morning.  In the other window, film director Amy Heckerling of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, serves dessert and coffee to Jeff and Michelle.  I am seen over Michele's right shoulder, in her responses to Jeff's line of questioning.


Later still, I would be offered a chance to write scripts for THE INCREDIBLE HULK television series, but purist that I thought I was, would decline.  Finally in 1994, I would be invited to contribute research and promotional assistance to THE SHADOW, observe the filming of the Sanctum scenes, and have full access to cast and crew.  A real buzz for a long time lover of THE SHADOW radio series and pulp magazines.  All this verbosity, to simply say the Universal Studios park has a not unwelcome feel to it.  Rather than Disneyland, which does have some magickal childhood memories, also includes a young adult contempt of its darker undertones.  Undertones which have soured into elder adult overtures of malignancy and betrayal.  How fresh the memories retain of a gestapo-like dress code, which often banned those of us with modish long hair from entering this exalted realm of fantasy.  Bullshit!

So it takes the Little Lady to bring back my Inner Child.  My attitude has changed.  My altitude has changed as well.  In hotels, I like the high floors.  What happened to my fear of California Earthquakes?  The train in that long tunnel in Chatsworth?  The Klaustro Kino Phobia of the subway; the tight fit of the Red Line?  Hah!  Hah!

The Universal Studios Park is a stage set, and I love playing on the stage.  The childhood memories flood back.  That's a problem with the Elderly Plumbing.  From the opening Universal Globe through to the paths & byways.  It's recess time!  My first order of preschool business is going to Springfield.  Now I have to admit, from the early days on, I was never a fan of the show.  Everyone else was.  Even as a comedy fan and comic artwork aficionado, I didn't have time for the program.  Even though Matt Groening contributed LIFE IN HELL to the underground press I did my surreal satires to and our paths crossed, I didn't schmooze.  THE SIMPSONS was on Sunday evenings, and I was prepping SPACE PIRATE RADIO for that night at the Witching Hour. 

Well, that has changed, like so many other things.  I enjoy the show for all its avant-garde touches and subtleties waiting to be picked up.  It's still smarter than FAMILY GUY or SOUTH PARK.  It's gotten friendlier and that's appreciated in this environment of cruel, angry and dystopian humour that permeates the mindset.  I need optimism when I'm cutting the enemy down with giggle-filled sarcasm. 


Even the wife, who tortures me, and I mean TORTUES, as in Bela Lugosi in THE RAVEN, "TORE-CHURES" me with her fanatical love for the accursed Dingyland....even the wife admits that Unilateral has the Park Life down better than the Walt's Stormtroopers.  Yes, it's WESTWORLD with a pointy fingerprint scan.  But the entrance experience is far more professional, less invasive and inviting then Dingy's "ARBEIT MACHT FREI," just off the train cattle car welcome at Himmler Street and the SSplanade. 

We do THE SIMPSONS ride.  It is the first ride I've been on since the original Captain Nemo ride or Mr. Toad or Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland.  Or maybe Tripping on the Monsanto ride, hoping to steal a kiss from girlfriend, Maggie Elfman.  This ride...there are warnings about people with heart conditions, nervous dispositions, spinal problems, sudden shocks, flash photography and epileptic seizures.  Like those medical ads on TV, "side effects may include certain death, shrinking of the toupee and testicular migration.  Do NOT take CRAPALOFT if you have suicidal thoughts regarding Jerry Springer, or find breathing a normal part of your daily routine,  Discontinue taking CRAPALOFT if symptoms include spontaneous choreography of the bowels, or sudden quantities of sawdust develop in your heart valves, thus causing pulpatations."
                              
Oh, the irony!  I'm going to die on THE SIMPSONS ride!

And just a day after seeing KULA SHAKER at the ROXY THEATRE on the Sunset Strip.  I mean, KULA SHAKER.  Featuring frontman Crispian Mills, the son of my first childhood crush, Hayley Mills.  Hayley Mills whose photo on LIFE Magazine was my first passion for the opposite sex.  And Crispian, the son of director Roy Bolting.  Whose May-December marriage to Hayley caused an outrage--especially with Walt Disney!  And possibly began my obsession with younger woman.  Quite possibly.  Buy Roy Bolting is cool 'cause he directed all those great, early Peter Sellers films.


Ah, the ROXY THEATRE!  Saw STEELEYE SPAN there.  And STOMU YAMASHTA'S GO, with Michael Shrieve and Al Di Meola in the group.  And the original stage production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.  Fab, man!

And yes, I DID survive the Simpsons KRUSTYLAND ride.  The wife and I even had a car to ourselves.  It was that mellow.  At the end of the ride, a camera takes a picture of the abused and surprised riders. Sadly and unfortunately, the flash didn't go off.  So I have no visual memory of surviving the experience with cherished woman.

I did die, however, on the MINIONS ride.  Next time, I will be prepared.