Friday, May 30, 2014

Then We Got Home

Then when we got home there was a feral kitten stranded on our roof! While we were trying to get it down ineffectually with a stepladder Lee Durkee strolled by and enticed me to join him at Ajax, where we quoted a lot of poetry at each other, including Browning. I saw Kaitlyn there and I think almost convinced her to take the poor roof-dwelling kitten home one day soon. We'll see!

Stale Cheese Puffs

Tonight John T. Edge had occasion to remark, "There's nothing worse than stale cheese puffs." That reminded me! All during the most recent season we worked on of ADVENTURE TIME (we just finished yesterday), Kent Osborne has been eating from the SAME BAG of Utz brand cheese snacks. I asked him the other day how it was possible he had been eating from the same bag for such an inconceivably long time, and he said, "Because they're terrible."

Miss Merston

Yesterday I was listening to some music composed by the mystic (is that what you'd call him? a mystic?) G.I. Gurdjieff and I remembered running across something about him many years ago when I read Colin Wilson's mammoth book on the occult, titled - wait for it - THE OCCULT. So I took out that volume and opened to a gathering of Gurdjieff and his disciples, "a special occasion when Miss Merston served tea to everyone. Every time she bent over to hand someone a teacup, she farted gently, and said, 'Pardon me.'" And now, like Miss Merston, I must beg your pardon for making you read this.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

In Which John Wayne Shouts at an Owl

Watched THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS just because it was on the same DVD with SEVEN SINNERS. Saw there was a guy named Fuzzy Knight in the cast. I thought that was pretty funny and envisioned a short "blog" "post" about the fact that there was a guy named Fuzzy Knight. But then Betty Field (pictured, reeling out some pages of dialogue) started reeling out some pages of dialogue, for example, about a place called "Moanin' Meadow": "It's where the haint comes from: frogs as quiet as grave-rocks, light coming from nowhere, and the trees don't rustle, and the flowers grow big but they don't have pretty smells." Then later, on the same subject, "Them that goes in there has daylight dreams they always disremember," something something something, "nightshades dancing with the bats." She just goes on and on like that (with gutsy confidence, I must say). She calls telephones "city telephone machines for talking," a screenwriting affectation often parodied on THE SIMPSONS, such as when Cletus (or is it Brandine?) refers to a mirror as a "reversifying glass." Betty Field talks that way so much that even the other characters have trouble. After one of her monologues a guy says, "For the sake of my aching soul's confusion, what are you aiming at?" Which is of course his windy, colorful way of saying "Huh?" Because everybody in the movie talks that way, just not as much as Betty Field. A blind old lady in a rocking chair says of some premonition, "I knowed it. I knowed it when I heard the fox bark in the night and the voice growed damp and afraid." John Wayne says the way he feels is "kind of like being borned all over again, right side up. I ain't lost from nobody no more." Okay! Somebody else says, "The lightnin' tree took away my speakin'." This is the same character we see catching and eating dust motes in a patch of sunlight under a window, natch. John Wayne talks to owls. "Evening, brother!" he shouts at an owl. Yes, they lay on the old poetry of the hills stuff pretty thick. And I don't know, I kind of liked it! I am not sure whether I liked it because of that stuff or in spite of it. Maybe it's like what Marilynne Robinson said about Poe that time: "Poe at his best is not imaginable without the excesses for which he must be forgiven. I think I have always loved him because to love him requires loyalty."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Moody Blue

One thing Ace Atkins's great forthcoming novel did, for better or for worse, is get me to listen to MOODY BLUE, which is, I think, Elvis's final non-posthumous album, and which makes a significant appearance early in Ace's book. So then I looked up the recording session that produced the title track in the second volume of Peter Guralnick's massive and definitive Elvis bio: "He showed up for the first day of the recording session still dressed in his police captain's uniform." (!) "Elvis's continued preference for downbeat material was not heartening... At one point, when he was alone in his room with Red and Sonny, he explained a plot he had devised to rub out the drug pushers of Memphis... 'That's pretty heavy,' Red said dubiously."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Lights Go Out

Watched Marlene Dietrich and John Wayne in SEVEN SINNERS. The Navy men love Marlene Dietrich in this movie! But they REALLY go bananas for her when she dresses up like a Navy man and sings a little song about being a Navy man. They love it! They're so excited to see a woman dressed up like their buddies... or themselves. Lot of interesting gender stuff in this movie. At one point when the lights go out a Navy man mistakes John Wayne (another Navy man) for Marlene Dietrich! That doesn't seem likely. This guy tries to smooch John Wayne and then Dietrich says, "I don't want you girls to think I'm intruding." Hmm! Not all of the gender stuff is pleasant or amusing: Broderick Crawford, whose character is played off as a lovable goon who loves to scrap, suddenly goes psycho and smacks Dietrich (his best friend!) around because she's supposedly not good enough for John Wayne and will ruin his Navy career. Then they weep and embrace and pretty soon Broderick Crawford is running around in fast motion in a zany bar brawl (fighting a huge army of bad guys in identical white linen jackets and white fedoras; it's like something out of THE MATRIX) and the movie forgets that the troubling scene ever happened. Well, there's a bittersweet ending and the lovers must part forever. But not in real life! According to this John Wayne bio I just read, he and Dietrich were quite the item. (Significantly, it's Broderick Crawford who ends up sailing away with John Wayne at the end of the movie.) But most importantly I caught a few minutes of a movie called TWO-BITS & PEPPER the other night. The capsule description said it was about a horse and a pony who save some kidnapped children. That seems like a difficult job for a horse and a pony. As I discovered, the bad guys were BOTH portrayed by Joe Piscopo. One Joe Piscopo has a "comically" warped mouth and thick glasses and the other was like some kind of street tough with a scar and a leather jacket. I think Joe Piscopo had the feeling he was paying tribute to THE NUTTY PROFESSOR or something. He wasn't. HE WASN'T!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Maybe Kangaroos

Reading that biography of John Wayne, I was particularly mesmerized by the allusions to a movie produced by John Wayne, a brainchild of his boozy sidekick Jimmy Grant, a circus movie starring Mickey Spillane as himself - RING OF FEAR! It says something about me that I also watched ISLAND IN THE SKY, a very interesting John Wayne movie that starts out interesting and just gets more and more interesting as it goes along, a really fine movie, and yet I have no desire to "blog" about it. I'd much rather "blog" about RING OF FEAR, which is, as I just informed you, a circus movie starring Mickey Spillane. As himself! Many spoilers follow, ha ha. RING OF FEAR begins with thudding timpani and roaring lions. The theme song goes, "Here comes the circus/ Marching down the street/ Hear that thrilling beat/ The band... the band... the band is playing, Yay!" and that's the whole song. (See also.) The narrator lists all the animals in the circus, ending his litany with "maybe kangaroos." Maybe! Sounds ominous. Then we cut to a big, scary sign: STATE MENTAL INSTITUTION, and a guy saying, "I tell you I'm not crazy, gentlemen." We're less than 5 minutes in! Oh boy! Then the guy says something I didn't quite catch about "building a fence around the universe." He's in trouble for talking to a picture of a "circus girl." Then he escapes! I thought they were setting him up to be sympathetic but then he tossed a random guy under an oncoming train, so I guess not. He meets up with his pal, a guy named Twitchy. I thought I had that wrong until a surly clown said, "Twitchy must be hitting the bottle again," thereby confirming the name Twitchy. Twenty-five minutes in, here's Mickey Spillane for some reason. Somebody says, "Say, ain't you Mickey Spillane?" Spillane mumbles, "Yeah, that's right." Poor Mickey! As an actor he doesn't even seem convinced of his own name. He does walk around with copies of his new paperback in his jacket pocket and hand them out to strangers. Lots of circus acts in this movie. I hate to see them taunting the tigers with the whip and the chair, though, so I fast forwarded through that stuff, I must admit (though to come clean I enjoyed it - very guiltily - when some elephants danced to "Turkey in the Straw" - God have mercy!). Twitchy is a drunk clown, like so many sad clowns before him, but I wasn't sure I could safely categorize him as a sad clown until I saw that he was being blackmailed for murder. That would make anybody sad! Now we meet, for a few sparkling moments, an acrobat named Tiny. Boy, I liked her. Her "bum" of a husband works part-time as a department-store Santa. Golly, I would have watched a whole movie about them! But that's all we get of Tiny. Mickey Spillane calls somebody "a windy character" and Pat O'Brien responds, "Yeah, he's windy and he's a character." I am not sure what that exchange of dialogue got us! The sword swallower wants peppermint polish for her swords because her swords taste so terrible. (Hey, I've got eight pages of notes here.) She has a weird way of introducing herself: "Hello, Mr. Spillane, are you married?" Mickey says, "It slips my mind at the moment," a pretty good Mickey Spillane line, but the incongruous set-up is unforgivable. I have here in my notes that Mickey Spillane chews gum and squints. Half an hour in or so I find out that the crazy madman is named "Dublin O'Malley." He's Irish, by the way. Meanwhile, back at the circus! A clown comes out holding an umbrella. Cut to the crowd laughing hysterically. Cut back to the clown holding his umbrella. A clown holding an umbrella really seems to get to everybody. (See also.) By an hour in, Dublin O'Malley seems kind of like an interesting, complicated psychopath, or am I going soft? (Also about an hour in, a kangaroo actually appears - a kangaroo with, forgive me for saying so, surprisingly prominent testicles.) I did enjoy watching Mickey Spillane eat an ice cream cone. It seemed authentic. Was he getting more comfortable onscreen? Or was I getting more full of rye? Around this time, for example, I started thinking of the actor who played Dublin O'Malley as a poor man's Orson Welles, which is funny, because Dr. Theresa, who was in the next room and not even paying attention, later told me that she thought he sounded just like Orson Welles in LADY FROM SHANGHAI. Suddenly Mickey Spillane is wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Later, he will put on a tight sweater, too, before suddenly reverting to the usual baggy jacket, loose tie, and fedora. Turns out Twitchy used to be an aerialist, which reminded me of something that Bill Taft once said to me in a circus performers' graveyard. Dublin has a long, intricate monologue describing death by cyanide to Twitchy and yes, this scene clinches it, Twitchy is a super sad clown. Dublin O'Malley drowns that clown! Reaction shots of disapproving circus animals! Pat O'Brien gives a deadpan read of the immortal line, "Valerie, I'm sorry. We just got news that Dublin is a kill-happy maniac." Dublin is eaten by a tiger, cutting immediately to a song about the circus being "a magic wonderland" of "angels and clowns." THE END

The Works

"'They dress the monkeys as cowboys?' 'Oh yes, ma'am,' Diane said, blowing out another stream of smoke. 'Hats, chaps, six-shooters. The works.'" Happy to announce that THE FORSAKEN is the second Ace Atkins novel (that I know of) to feature monkeys riding dogs.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dear Doody

"'Dear,' I said. 'Dear Doody.'" Sample dialogue from DEAD HEAT: A SHELL SCOTT NOVEL by Richard S. Prather.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What Are Flaming Puckers

Jimmy and Bill gave me a neat old paperback that proclaims itself on its cover to be "a new SHELL SCOTT novel by Richard S. Prather - Over 27,000,000 SHELL SCOTT books sold!" And here is how it starts: "She had eyes that sizzled and lips like flaming puckers..." Before that, we get a little preview page up front, spiced with dialogue to pique the potential reader's interest, in which this person with sizzling eyes (her name is Doody!) accuses SHELL SCOTT of "plying" her with drinks and "crab Louies" to get information. On the back of the book there's an ad for SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL by Helen Gurley Brown! Here is a different SHELL SCOTT novel with a funny title. I see that Prather also wrote one called THREE'S A SHROUD, now that is some terrible wordplay.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Aerosol Valve

I'm on page 478 of this John Wayne biography, and on that page I found what I feel sure will be this book's most surprising sentence: "Wayne was living in a large ranch house with a couple of hippie girls he had picked up hitchhiking on the drive to New Mexico." Trust me, nothing in the previous 477 pages prepares you for that sentence. A few pages earlier I had been introduced to "Robert Abplanalp, the Nixon crony who had gotten rich by inventing the aerosol valve." It's funny to think of the Nixon crony who invented the aerosol valve, but most of all it's great because Abplanalp is almost a palindrome and sounds like a last name Jerry Lewis might try to say in a movie. Finally, I have learned that John Wayne wanted to make a movie with Doris Day (many of whose records he owned) and spent the evening after he won his Oscar getting drunk with Richard Burton, who lost. "Very drunk but, in his foul-mouthed way, quite affable," Burton pronounced. Ha ha, what do you have to do to get Richard Burton to call you "very drunk"?

Monday, May 19, 2014

TV Paraphrase

Here is a picture taken from a TV screen of Bill Boyle and Derrick Harriell on last night's Anthony Bourdain TV program. And here, below, I attack some oysters while everybody else is like hey, are we going to get any of those oysters? And the answer is no, not if I can help it. Speaking of shamelessness, when Bill and Jimmy were interviewing me a while back I said something comparing writers who are jealous and competitive to a couple of Beckett characters arguing over a piece of dirt (see HOW IT IS) so on the TV program when the same subject came up I was able to whip out a paraphrase of my earlier observation as a seemingly spontaneous aperçu but it wasn't, it wasn't a spontaneous aperçu, I am sorry for my lack of a spontaneous aperçu.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Couldn't Sit Still

Hey look at this pic I nabbed from Anthony Bourdain's "blog." You can see Mr. Bourdain and Tom Franklin and Chris Offutt with his cascading silver locks, and the back of Wright Thompson's head and the back of Ace Atkins's head and if you look carefully, Megan Abbott's ever-thoughtful nose and mouth. Back behind the camera, that glamorous "extra" is Dr. Theresa, talking to some dude in a vest. (Dr. Theresa says that's Drew! My old eyes are going.) See that empty chair next to Anthony Bourdain? That's my chair! I kept getting up for more drinks. Yes, we were having a high old time that night at the City Grocery Bar. Many of us were out of our minds! "Because that's the reality," as Richard E. Grant says in THE PLAYER. I wish I could say it like Richard E. Grant. However the show came out I just hope I don't embarrass my poor old mother, that's all I ask, Lord. Why didn't someone stand behind me constantly whispering in my ear that I was on national TV? The next day - a luncheon at the Lamar Lounge - I was gently asked by the production team not to jump up and wiggle around so much. You know, for continuity. I'm a perpetual rube! It was exciting having Anthony Bourdain in town to shoot his show PARTS UNKNOWN, which is coming on CNN tonight. That's why I couldn't sit still!

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Hey in this John Wayne biography, Humphrey Bogart just walked into a bar with an apple corer in his back. His wife jabbed it in there, "up to the hilt"! John Wayne "couldn't get it out until he put a foot on Bogart's back for leverage."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Boy Named Fat

"Duke chose the banjo. His teacher was a boy named Fat Stockridge, who was a year or two older. But all of Duke's extracurricular activities meant that he didn't have any time for practice. When he and Stockbridge would get together, Duke would have made no progress, so Stockbridge would amuse himself by playing dirty songs on the banjo." That's something I just read in this new John Wayne biography, which I picked up at Square Books today. I bought it as one pathetic way of trying to pretend that Megan is still in town. She started reading it while she was here, and I can imagine that I'll run into her somewhere and we'll discuss it. I checked the index for Jerry Lewis. Four entries! I haven't peeked, but I fear they will be fleeting allusions to his partnership with Dean Martin, with whom John Wayne made some movies. But you never know! And four is pretty good. It means this John Wayne bio has as much Jerry Lewis in it as the Dick Van Dyke autobiography, the Roger Ebert autobiography, the thousand-page Spencer Tracy biography and the Henry Fonda biography combined.

Jerry in the Jeans With Chicken

Turns out Kent Osborne isn't the only guy who likes to eat chicken. He just happens to like it the most! But John Currence was in Louisville, Kentucky, last night, eating what he says was some great fried chicken at a place called Franco's under a photograph of another satisfied customer... Jerry Lewis! John sent me this photo of the photo. Please "click" here to read about the time I ate a hot dog under a photo of Jerry Lewis. And please sing the title of this "post" to the tune of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" (see also).

Her Name Is Breezy

Hey look I had that BREEZY poster that Jesse and Cole gave me framed but I haven't hung it up yet. Have you noticed that there is an upcoming episode of ADVENTURE TIME entitled "Breezy"? COINCIDENCE?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Among the Pine Cones

Ha ha, Paracelsus gets right to it in his Credo: "I am different, let this not upset you... By nature I am not subtly spun, nor is it the custom of my native land to accomplish anything by spinning silk. Nor are we raised on figs, nor or mead, nor on wheaten bread, but on cheese, milk, and oatcakes, which cannot give one a subtle disposition... those who are raised in soft clothes and in women's apartments and we who are brought up among the pine-cones have trouble in understanding one another well." Anyway, take that, wheaten bread! Yes, I guess you could say Paracelsus was the original punk rocker, but don't. Don't ever say that. It sounds dumb.

The Unruly Professor

More beautifully stilted writing from this introduction to Paracelsus: "The authorities issued a warrant for the arrest of the unruly professor; but he had vanished under cover of night. Once again he sought a home on the highway, his truest companion."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Strange Crucibles

The introduction to this volume of Paracelsus is bizarre and charmingly old-fashioned and amusingly translated: "Quaint alchemic kitchens in which he is said to have worked are still to be found at various places; with their strange crucibles, retorts, and other vessels, they are awesomely shown to the curious traveler... A man's true personality is always more than his biographical development... The essence of a personality is its living core, which draws its sustenance from the fertile womb of the soul's depths; in these primordial depths of the soul there lies hidden the treasure of the eternal images which are the fountainhead of everything creative... It is said that Wilhelm [Paracelsus's father] was born out of wedlock in an impoverished family of knights, and that throughout his life the circumstances of his birth were a source of unhappiness to him... Thus we find at the cradle of Paracelsus medieval chivalrous virtue and aspiration to higher culture on the side of the father, healthy earthiness and deep piety on the side of the mother. This widely divergent heritage no doubt explains to some extent how it came about that his rather weak and fragile body harboured such a profusion of tensions." Okay! Hey, while looking for an image with which to illustrate this "post" (that's not Paracelsus but who cares? dig that tiny lion with his tongue hanging out) I ran across a "link" referring to Paracelsus as the "stormy petrel of medicine." Ha ha ha! I don't know what it means but I like it. This "link" seems likewise lively and amusingly translated: "Along with his taste for medicine he seems also to have acquired an appetite for alcoholic beverages - an appetite often to bring him reproach in later life... Paracelsus became a traveling doctor, going from town to town, sometimes in dirty rags, and at other times in flamboyant finery. Constant companion was his large sword, in the handle of which he did [hid? - J.P.] his most precious medicines." Ha ha, hmm.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cat Name

I talk about sad clowns a lot here, but I can't take any credit for the sad clown angle of tonight's ADVENTURE TIME, storyboarded by the wonderful Graham Falk and just concluded in most of our large nation. It was entirely Pen's idea to make the character a sad clown; I was "pitching" (as we say in the business) for him to be a piano player for a torch singer in a seedy mob-run nightclub, like Cameron Mitchell in the Doris Day movie LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME. Strangely, it was also Pen's idea to name the episode "Sad Face" after one of our cats, Sad Face. I even tried to change that title a couple of times on drafts of the outline, but Pen kept changing it back. You may "click" here to see a drawing Pen did of Sad Face, with whom he was quite taken on his trip to Oxford. You will note that the drawing is labeled "Big Boy," which indeed became Sad Face's secondary name for a number of reasons. He was first called Sad Face as an aloof and slender feral cat who lurked mysteriously in the gray mist and shadows half-unseen and for whom we used to put out food. Those who say feral cats cannot be tamed have never seen Dr. Theresa in action. She made friends with Sad Face patiently over the course of several months. We caught him finally (ha ha! I know how boring this is and I just don't care) and took him in for his shots and had him fixed, intending to release him again, which we did, during a rainstorm! How terrible. What were we thinking? He didn't seem to care. But he came in one day and stayed in, this wraith who used to be able to jump over tall fences and run agilely if heart-stoppingly through the traffic in front of our house, back and forth across the busy and treacherous street like a maniac. He lost any desire to go outside ever again, just like me, and got comfortable and fat, just like me. So we took to calling him "Big Boy" instead of "Sad Face," though he still has a sad face, but a "happy head," as our young neighbor once observed. Anyway, I'll have you know Sad Face has lost a lot of weight since Pen drew that picture. For real! For further reading (ha ha! Don't do it!), remember when I was writing that dumb serialized fantasy novel for the Vice magazine and nobody cared? You will note that a daring brigand in it had a faithful horse called Sad Face.

Owls Again Already

Trust me, I am sicker than you are of books with owls in them. Why have I been cursed to notice an owl in every book? It's happening every two hours now. I guess I did it to myself. I can't blame God! Picked up another John D. MacDonald and ran across a carpentry phenomenon called "owl eyes." You don't want "owl eyes" around your nail heads, apparently. I hate learning.


Every book has an owl in it. Sometimes the owl doesn't appear until just before the ending. Sometimes the book will quote another book with an owl in it, making it a "twofer." Both of these things are true for THE BOOK OF LEGENDARY LANDS by Umberto Eco, which in its last chapter quotes Rabelais on the subject of an island inhabited by birds who "farted like men." Rabelaisian! "Some of them were all over white as swans, others as black as crows, many as grey as owls, others black and white like magpies, some all red like redbirds, and others purple and white like some pigeons."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

100 Brave Companions

This book has a chapter on that "hollow earth" stuff that McNeil once sent me some of his infernal computer "links" about. Eco includes a letter, dated April 10, 1818, from John Cleves Symmes "Of Ohio, late captain of infantry," who wrote to every member of Congress, "I declare the earth is hollow and habitable within... I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the world will aid and support me in this undertaking... I ask 100 brave companions, well equipped, to start from Siberia, in the fall season, with reindeers and sleighs, on the ice of the frozen sea. I engage we find a warm and rich land, stocked with thrifty vegetables and animals, if not men..."

Friday, May 09, 2014


Reading this lavish, heavy (I mean physically heavy, like it's hard to carry around) book by Umberto Eco, THE BOOK OF LEGENDARY LANDS. It has lots of great parts, like: "In the West, too, there was no lack of artisans able to construct automata, and legend has it that Pope Sylvester II (who reigned 999-1003) was attributed with the creation of a golden talking head that murmured secret advice." And: "At the court of Khan Mongke in Karakorum, William of Rubrick saw a silver tree whose roots were formed by four silver lions, from each of whose mouths poured mare's milk." There was an angel with a trumpet on top, and when the angel blew its horn, some snakes that were coiled around the tree started spitting out wine, mead, and rice beer. Anyway, people used to know how to have a good time.

Devil Eyes II: The Bedeviling

Megan sent me that "devil eyes" picture I told you about that nearly killed John Currence. Ha ha, look, there in the back, Liam is standing in front of a painting that makes him look like he has giant hair. Good times, good times. Speaking of hair, last night I watched a few minutes of X, Y & ZEE but I couldn't go on! You see, back when Megan was here and we were reading the Richard Burton diaries together, I noticed X, Y & ZEE coming on TCM and dvr'd it and we planned to watch it but we never did. So the associations are painful. But I watched enough to see that Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Caine in 1972 had hair that looked especially crazy when they were playing ping pong... and that the screenplay was written by Edna O'Brien. And that Elizabeth Taylor won at ping pong.

Magnificent Toilet

Pendleton Ward sent this to me in a tweet. As you can see, it appears to be a public toilet over which someone has hung a framed photograph of Bob Hope and Raquel Welch. I asked for details. None were forthcoming. A picture is worth a thousand words, they say.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Devil Eyes

Thinking about other stuff that happened last night. Like half the town was crammed together in that back section of the City Grocery Bar to tell Megan goodbye, including John Currence, who owns the joint, and somehow it fell to John to take a picture of everybody (with Megan's cell phone, I think) so he perched on that thin, shaky railing over the deep stairwell that leads to the restaurant below, and he leaned back, and back, and back, trying to get everybody in the picture, but he couldn't, not by half, and I kind of thought he was going to fall down his own stairwell and break his own neck out of kindness. But he didn't. I glanced at the picture as the phone was being passed back to Megan and everybody had flashing devil eyes.

"Blog"trospective 13: When Megan Lived Here

Well, it really happened. Megan Abbott moved back to New York. Now what are we supposed to do? Besides vomit and weep I mean. I guess we will attempt to cope by constructing a "blog"trospective of everything Megan did while she lived here (this is not everything Megan did while she lived here): almost made John Currence break his neck---appeared on Anthony Bourdain's television program---appreciated Marlene Dietrich's talent for playing the musical saw---arrived at the record store just as David was putting up the new sign---attended a party where a little girl did that thing where you rapidly stab a knife between your splayed fingers---brought up Sigmund Freud a lot---by example, had me drinking negronis for a spell---called BUFFALO '66 "a child's fantasy" (not in a bad way!)---compared me to Cathy in WUTHERING HEIGHTS---considered a dance called "the mumbly peg"---contemplated the travails of Lucille Ball as a woman in Hollywood---declared intent to be meaningless---defined wildness---discussed Philip Roth a lot---displayed a cheery and tasteful novelty item---drank moonshine (twice... that I know of!)---during a visit by Kent Osborne she witnessed Kent eating chicken wings, which failed to be noted at the time---emailed me about Hank Worden---emailed me about orgone boxes---endured rude scoffing at a ghost story she repeated---expressed a correct opinion about THE GLASS KEY that I undermined with ignorant hyperbole---found a lone pom-pom (this happened more than once)---got scared by a creepy tree---guaranteed weeping---had her first belt of rye---heard Ace's master spoiler for the entire Travis McGee series---helped Dr. Theresa and me avoid trick-or-treaters---hosted a Jerry Lewis double feature---likened something to Poe---loaned me a pen---looked up "querulous" in her dictionary---meeting time at the bar was 4:02---met me at a bar after I improvised some iambic pentameter---participated in an ecstatic roar---pined for some oysters---planned to watch an Elizabeth Taylor movie---pointed a gun at me---professed a generalized affection for wax museums---read Claudia Roth Pierpont's book about Philip Roth---read my tarot cards via cell phone---received a visit from her parents---reminded me of an anecdote about Billy Wilder---researched "friendship clubs"---said something about Mary Steenburgen's accordion---sent me a picture of Bob Hope and Doris Day and Santa---sent me Dick Shawn's obituary---shared her knowledge about an illustrator who drew women with "impossibly long feet"---spent the last warm evening of the year on the balcony of the City Grocery Bar---spoiled a bat attack---started reading the new John Wayne bio---strolled past Robert Mitchum's house from HOME FROM THE HILL---studied the racy cover of UNCLE GOOD'S WEEK-END PARTY, a novel by Faulkner's brother---told a story I misheard about a Depression-era Shirley Temple cream pitcher (and she actually gave us a Depression-era Shirley Temple cream pitcher last night as a goodbye present)---took a picture of a bubble house---took a walk with me while I was wearing a hat (and bedroom slippers, not pictured)---used the old-fashioned term "smoker" to refer to a gathering of rowdy males (she was talking about Bill and Jimmy and me)---visited Elvis's birthplace---visited Faulkner's house with Laraine Newman---was followed on twitter by the manufacturers of a gross-sounding vodka---was harassed by an inflated Batman---was supposed to be on a panel with Adrienne Barbeau (the panel happened but Barbeau canceled)---watched a Norman Mailer movie---watched BARRY LYNDON with Kent Osborne---we possibly left some dvds at her apartment---went to a hobo festival---wondered about tight pants---wowed 'em at "Noir at the Bar."

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Elderly Jason

Watched the beginning of THE MUSIC MAN on TCM last night. Guess who was in it? That's right, Hank Worden again. This time he had one line. Megan emailed about how Hank Worden started out in the 1930s with such roles as "Barfly, Barfly, Henchman, Henchman Squint, Henchman Hank," and ended up as "Old Timer, Old Geezer, Elderly Jason, Old Codger, Old Coot." (See also.) "Such is the cycle of life," Megan concludes.

Monday, May 05, 2014


Well, Megan Abbott is getting ready to hightail it back to New York City, from whence she came. During her brief time here as writer-in-residence, there have been several "movie nights," not all of them chronicled by your humble chronicler - indeed, not all of them attended by him. The first featured Hal Needham's HOOPER, starring Burt Reynolds and Sally Field. For our very last "movie night" we decided to do something different: Hal Needham's SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, starring Burt Reynolds and Sally Field. "I'm trying to see whose pants are tighter," Megan remarked of our two leads. When Jerry Reed's character said, "I got to get some go-go juice and put some groceries down my neck," it reminded me of something Dean Moriarty might say, leading me to a brief and instantly concluded reflection on the relationship between beatnik and CB radio culture. Ace brought over Coors beer (an important factor in the plot, as I am sure you recall) and "diablo sandwiches," one of which Jackie Gleason orders at a pivotal point in the movie. Now, according to Ace, no one knows what a diablo sandwich really is. Ace has scoured the "internet" and found it to be full of lies, grandiose claims, and errors on the subject. He even telephoned the original restaurant from the movie - the "Old Hickory House" (as Dr. Theresa recalled last night, she used to go there for biscuits and gravy with her dad) - and confirmed that they had never sold anything called a "diablo sandwich." Ace therefore reconstructed the diablo sandwich through a careful study of the frames in which Jackie Gleason terrifyingly devours his "diablo sandwich." There is a picture that Megan took of Dr. Theresa and Ace and Bill and me standing in her kitchen over the fixings for our diablo sandwiches but I can't use it here... it is too depressing, emphasizing as it does Megan's absence from the frame (there's another one of Ace and Megan toasting with cans of Coors, but that hasn't hit my inbox yet). So instead I will find a photo of Hank Worden, whom I noticed in a SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT cameo for the first time last night. Cameo! It was a blip. Less than two seconds, I'd guess. I want to say it was a tribute to a certain scene in RED RIVER, substituting horn-blasting semis for rearing horses, though I don't know whether I'm making up that scene in my head, and now that I think of it, I don't know that Hank Worden was in RED RIVER. I do know that he was in everything from THE SEARCHERS to TWIN PEAKS (which is why he is talking to David Lynch in that photo). Interestingly (?) - how I abuse that word! - his appearance in TWIN PEAKS combines his dialogue from THE SEARCHERS with the thumbs-up gesture he flashes in SMOKEY IN THE BANDIT (doesn't he?). I have given you so much to think about.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Doomy Rich Girl Hauteur

Went over to Megan Abbott's to watch a Truffaut movie and something reminded us of Wes Anderson and Megan referred to Gwyneth Paltrow's "doomy rich girl hauteur," which I wrote down on a card in my wallet with a borrowed pen. Then we looked out the window and saw something weird and went out on Megan's balcony and someone had floated at least a dozen paper lanterns in the sky, propelled by candles (Wes Anderson style!) glowing from within. Some of them landed on the roof of the neighboring building, which I thought was going to burn down (Wes Anderson style! It never did, so far) and some kept going, up, up into the sky, forever. (Not forever.)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Victor Mature's Dog

In case you were wondering (you weren't), Victor Mature's dog shows up in that book just four pages later. He or she is named "Genius," not "Genius II," so maybe Victor Mature was pulling the reporter's leg. Jim Backus's acting teacher is said to have "owl-like eyes," so you know what that means. And you might be surprised by the variety of people - an old woman, an old man on a train, a scheming cocktail waitress, and many others - who long to, and occasionally do, have romantic interludes with Jim Backus, according to Jim Backus. But his appendix bursts before anything happens with the old woman, who is probably not even old except in the eyes of a callow Jim Backus. And now let us change the subject. Backus devotes a chapter to his "surrogate father" Ed Wynn (pictured), and that got me thinking about Ed Wynn's odd place in the culture. He's forgotten, I guess. Even Jim Backus feels the need to constantly remind the reader who he is, but Ed Wynn's voice is still around - that's the weird part. It's pretty much the voice of the character Choose Goose (also pictured) on ADVENTURE TIME, for example.
What a strange thing to die in 1966 and just have your voice floating around from person to person on its own ever since. Ed Wynn was married countless times - I mean, Jim Backus literally can't count how many times - and was always seen with a "long-stemmed beauty" on each arm. (That's what Jim Backus calls women!) Well, that surprised me. But what doesn't.