Vintage Cable Box: “The Lonely Lady, 1983”

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“I don’t suppose I’m the only one who’s had to fuck her way to the top.”

lonely lady

The Lonely Lady, 1983 (Pia Zadora), Universal Pictures

Let’s get this out of the way first.  Pia Zadora is fucking hot!  She’s such a soft, sensual creature – goddess and demon.  She makes me nuts just thinking about her.  A diminutive yet voluptuous combination of nymph and vixen struggling tooth and nail against the evil masculine forces which circle her in tribal formation and threaten to destroy her delicate creative genius.  You can damn me, but I understand her frustration.  Not that I’m some babe out there with talent that’s always being ignored in favor of my gorgeous breasts and well-toned ass, but I get that when you’re out there, trying to take a swim, you’re going to run across a lot of leeches in the pool.

The movie opens with Pia’s character, Jerilee, on her way to a big award ceremony in Hollywood. From there, we go into a flashback. In high school, she wins her first creative writing award. Later, after a party, a young Ray Liotta rapes her with a garden hose. This movie pulls no punches when it comes to naming man as woman’s ultimate aggressor. The rape is filmed in such a way that a female acquaintance is laughing at her, and taunting her while Liotta does the deed. I can’t imagine any woman ever behaving in such a way when another woman is being raped, but this story is the brain-child of Harold Robbins, famous for a particular form of exploitation disguised as the trashy “romance” novel.

After an untold period of time chronicling her recovery, Jerilee gets back on the horse and continues writing. She ultimately marries her boyfriend’s dad (against mother Bibi Besch’s wishes), because he is a successful screenwriter. They try to consummate, but the old man has a heart condition. Her marriage gets her critical meetings with the power-brokers of Hollywood, but everybody seems to be interested only in her body. Tensions between her and her husband escalate when she rewrites one his scripts. They divorce, and she proceeds to screw every actor and producer in Hollywood to get her screenplay sold. She dates a manipulative actor (Jared Martin), who knocks her up, forcing her to get an abortion because he won’t support the child.

Sleazy Introduction
A sleazy introduction.

I don’t believe I understand the message of this movie, other than that men will rape you, take advantage of you, manipulate you, abuse you emotionally, or try to destroy you should you dare to live your dreams.  The meaning is lost in the details because Jerilee, while obviously telegraphed as being “talented”, is also extremely naive, and more often than not, idiotic in her ambitions.  Moreover, Zadora, in her performance, doesn’t strike me as a writer.  More like a curious observer in a world of snakes masquerading as men.  The other women in the movie aren’t much help, either.  They are either strict, judgmental authoritarians (like her mother), or slutty gold-diggers.  So, The Lonely Lady deceptively labels itself a product of feminine empowerment, but instead it skewers the fairer sex by creating a culture of victimization in it’s central character; an interesting female archetype who must be punished for being beautiful and sexually attractive.

A naive young man myself when first watching the film, I assumed this what movies for adults were; products laced with sex and nudity, violence, and profanity, but done up in a dismal melodramatic watercolor painting with unusual outbursts of primary color.  Unfortunately, the music, and the editing, and the many montages of The Lonely Lady make it seem like nothing more than a made-for-television drama with tits.  Not that I mind.  The movie is never boring.  I have to give Pia props for her bravery in being made the fool of this peculiar morality fable; she is remarkably easy on the eyes, even as her dialogue hurts our ears.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.


Vintage Cable Box: “Silent Movie, 1976”




Silent Movie, 1976 (Mel Brooks), 20th Century Fox

In 1976, Mel Brooks was the King of Comedy.  A year-and-a-half previous, he had directed two of the greatest movies (let alone comedies) ever made in Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.  The creative world was his.  He could’ve followed up those two incredible gems with any project that piqued his interest, and he instead chose to take a giant step backward in the evolution of film with a silent movie (appropriately titled Silent Movie).  I always wondered if executives at Fox were worried about this peculiar choice.  If the lack of dialogue wasn’t enough to worry the studio, the subject matter (that of lambasting the studio process and the run of billion-dollar conglomerates insinuating themselves into the creative visual arts) would be sure to give them pause.  Brooks’ power was such that he could do whatever he wanted at the time.

Brooks (in his first starring role) plays washed-up director Mel  Funn, who (along with his buddies Marty Eggs (Marty Feldman) and Dom Bell (Dom DeLuise), convinces Big Pictures studio chief Sid Caesar to finance his latest work: a silent movie.  Caesar, weary from threats the studio will be taken over by evil corporation, Engulf and Devour (obviously a play on Gulf & Western and their acquisition of Paramount in 1966) agrees on the proviso Funn can sign big Hollywood names to the production.  Funn, Eggs, and Bell immediately set out finding stars for their movie.  The three attack Burt Reynolds in his shower.  They have lunch with James Caan in his wobbly trailer.  They dress in suits of armor to woo Liza Minneli.  They race in electric wheelchairs with Paul Newman.  They dance with and court Anne Bancroft.  Somewhat miraculously, these actors agree to star in Funn’s silent movie, all except for Marcel Marceau, who famously delivers the only line of audible dialogue (see above quote).

Enter Engulf and Devour.  They have an evil plan.  Knowing Funn’s past, they engage sexy vixen Vilma Kaplan (the very hot Bernadette Peters, with her explosive pelvic thrust) to seduce Funn, and then discard him so he’ll take up drinking again.  Eggs and Bell catch on to the scheme and warn Funn, who is so disillusioned and distraught (believe me, I can relate), he crawls into an enormous bottle and is declared “king of the winos”.  Unbeknownst to him (and Engulf and Devour), Vilma has fallen head-over-heels for our pal Mel.  Lucky bastard!  Vilma, Eggs, and Bell pour a hundred cups of coffee into him, sober him up, and start making the movie.  Engulf and Devour executives steal the print of the finished movie before it’s official premiere, so it’s up to the gang to get the movie back, screen it, and save Big Pictures Studios before the conglomerate can complete their take-over.

Hi Burt!

This is such a damned fun (and funny movie), it’s unusual to watch without narrative-building dialogue quite honestly getting in the way of the sheer physical humor that propels what we see on the screen.  This is a story that doesn’t scream out for dialogue; doesn’t require dialogue.  The three leads (Feldman, in particular, channeling Harpo Marx) are perfectly suited to the exaggerated mannerisms and pantomime necessary to the humor.  Silent Movie is a delicious experiment that would not be repeated in quite this way ever again.  Recently, in viewing and commenting on 2013’s Deadly Prey sequel, The Deadliest Prey (directed by David A. Prior), I bemoaned the terrible dialogue that kills the movie for me, mainly because, in my view, if you don’t have decent actors, it’s going to make the production even worse.  When you remove dialogue, you remove a potential flaw, and if you can’t write good dialogue, don’t bother trying.

I had meant to write this review for quite some time, but I found myself almost consistently distracted by the beauty and talent of Bernadette Peters.  She is seriously sexy in this movie (and in most everything she does).  To my wife’s ire, I required a drool bucket when we sat down to watch the movie.  She also had to pick my jaw up off the floor after watching Vilma’s interpretation of Lecouna’s “Babalu”.  Men!  Anyway, this is the last installment of my tribute to Mel Brooks, who turned 90 yesterday.  God bless him.  In my life as a writer (and sometime filmmaker), I always go back to Mel; a testament to the timelessness of his material.  My wife and I often quote his gags, one-for-one.  Most recently, I rewrote a scene in my own movie, Total Male Fantasy No. 10, in which I instructed my lead to replicate a particular bit from one of Mel’s movies.  It’s odd.  You would think I revere a Welles, or a Kubrick, or a Hitchcock, but no – it always comes back to Mel Brooks.  Please make another film, Mel!

A picture of Bernadette because … damn!

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

Vintage Cable Box: “Wavelength, 1983”

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“Iris, they gotta put something on.  We can’t run around with three naked kids.  Not even in Hollywood.”


Wavelength, 1983 (Robert Carradine), New World Pictures

Wavelength plays out almost like a hallucinatory daydream, seen through the eyes of a ghost-like Cherie Currie (who is always illuminated by key blue and green lights). She tells the story of how she met burned-out rock star Bobby Sinclair and consequently, a trio of aliens, whom can communicate with her telepathically. Cherie plays Iris Longacre, an earthy artist who hooks up with Bobby, and starts hearing strange whale-like sounds (like cries for help), somewhere buried within the Hollywood Hills. They take a walk around the neighborhood and come upon an enclosed structure, built like a fort, with barbed-wire fences.

Intrigued by her claims, Bobby takes her to meet an old miner (Keenan Wynn) who had assisted in the construction of a top secret Air Force base in the Hills. The reasoning being no one would ever suspect a compound in such a bizarre location. Wynn shows them a network of elaborate tunnels that lead to the base. Bobby and Iris make their way inside, and as they get closer, the cries get louder. As it happens, scientists are conducting an autopsy on what appears to be an alien, recovered from a crash site in the desert. It is this alien that is crying. Iris freaks out and screams in a kind of sympathetic pain. They are caught and arrested.

Examinations reveal Iris to be a twin (interesting in that Cherie indeed has a twin sister, Marie – who appeared with her in The Rosebud Beach Hotel), which scientists theorize give her latent psychic abilities. Iris and Bobby are reunited and then confined to the laboratory where alien canisters are being stored. The Government orders the base evacuated and sealed, effectively sentencing the kids to death. Bobby opens the canisters. The aliens come out. They look like naked, bald children. They have superhuman strength and preternatural powers, and they break down the doors, engineering Iris and Bobby’s escape. In a clever twist, the Government tells authorities to launch a dragnet for three missing “kids”, presumably abducted by Bobby and Iris.

The alien crash site is causing all the land around it to be subsumed in a poisonous environment. Witnesses and base personnel are dying off, and plant life is eroding. Iris and Bobby (with the help of Wynn and a pair of intrepid Native Americans) transport the remaining three aliens to their crash site. The movie (and the climax) bears some striking similarities to John Carpenter’s Starman (for which director Mike Gray coincidentally co-created the TV series spin-off), released a year later, especially with the revelation of the alien spacecraft: a mirror-like glowing sphere that casts a reflection.


While obviously a low-budget science fiction, Wavelength is a beautifully-shot, impeccably edited (by Mark Goldblatt, who would go on to become Hollywood’s premiere action movie editor), swiftly-paced (yet thoughtful and sublime) and atmospheric film. Even in the murky, old VHS version, I can still appreciate the photography, but I would love to see an HD transfer. Robert Carradine shows he can act without having to dress up like a nerd. Cherie Currie is photographed like a gorgeous ghost, and at times, her performance is flirtatious, solicitous, and downright creepy. I love her face in this film. Director Mike Gray had previously co-written (with James Bridges and T.S. Cook) the screenplay of The China Syndrome, as well as an excellent documentary about artist Marc Chagall, The Gift from 1973. Gray passed away in 2013.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

New Episode! “T.n.T. (Terror ‘n Tinseltown)”


88th Academy Awards with Chris Rock, Angela Bassett, Louis C.K., and Leonardo DiCaprio produced by David Hill and Reginald Hudlin. Directed by Glenn Weiss.

“Act Naturally” (Johnny Russell/Voni Morrison) by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos.
“Til It Happens to You” (Lady Gaga/Diane Warren) by Lady Gaga.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (a 2015 film directed by George Miller)
“The Road Warrior” (a 1982 film directed by George Miller)
“Bridge Of Spies” (a 2015 film directed by Steven Spielberg)
“Pulp Fiction” (a 1994 film directed by Quentin Tarantino)
“Cast Away” (a 2000 film directed by Robert Zemeckis)
“Joe Versus The Volcano” (1990 film directed by John Patrick Shanley)
“A Woman Under The Influence” (a 1974 film directed by John Cassavettes)
“Batman Begins” (a 2005 film directed by Christopher Nolan)
“Daughters Of Darkness” (a 1971 film directed by Harry Kümel)
“That’s Action!” (1991 film directed by David A. Prior)
“Expert Village” with Kevin Lindenmuth.
“Point Break” (a 1991 film directed by Kathryn Bigelow)
“Point Break” (a 2015 film directed by Ericson Core)
“Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In)” (Stuart Hamblen) by Pebbles and Bamm Bamm.

© BlissVille, David Lawler copyright 2016 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode.  Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners.  This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107.  It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

Monkees vs. Macheen: “I’ve Got A Little Song Here”


“One Good Scheme Deserves Another”


Here’s one of my favorite episodes, largely because it focuses on Mike, my favorite character. When I was five and watching this show, I always identified with and had an attachment to him. If you were that kid in kindergarten, playing quietly while the other kids were running around like idiots, you understand where I’m coming from. Mike is the calm one, the smart one, the stable one. Sure he gets into wacky situations and has crazy ideas, but relatively speaking, he’s the one with the most common sense. In “I’ve Got a Little Song Here,” his wish to be successful overrules his usual intelligence. He wants it so much, and he wants other people to be proud of him, so he gets taken in by an unscrupulous business man. It also plays into one of the overall show themes: the wish for (and elusive pursuit of) success.

To start, the camera focuses on the “Money is the Root of All Evil” sign because the show doesn’t want us to miss that point. Peter and Mike are playing checkers and, while Mike is answering a knock at the door, Peter makes a bunch of moves behind his back. Nice to know Peter isn’t always the naive one. Mike gets a letter from “High Class Music Publishers” and decides he wants to bring them his song. The others didn’t know he wrote a song, so Mike humbly admits he did. I love his humble “aw, shucks” routines, very endearing. Davy and Micky launch into a Vaudevillian costume fantasy about songwriters, with Micky doing an Al Jolson impression and Davy at the piano. Mike thinks they are mocking him and tells them song-writing is a million dollar industry. They crack up as the postman comes back for the 6 cents due on the letter.

“I’ve Got a Little Song Here” was written by Treva Silverman who wrote “Monkee See, Monkee Die” and other funny episodes later in the broadcast order. Bruce Kessler directed this episode, which debuted on November 28, 1966.

At the music publisher’s office, Mike meets another song-writing hopeful, an older man who tells him he’s written a song called “My Funny Valentine.” Mike doesn’t have the heart to tell him it’s been done. The door to the office makes it clear that High Class is involved in many industries: “Greeting Cards, Storm Windows, Reconditioned Vacuum Cleaners, Magazine Subscriptions, and Door Letter Service.” Music Publishing is almost an afterthought.

In the office, Mike meets Bernie Class and tells him his song is called “I’m Gonna Buy Me a Dog.” Bernie does a fake out, saying he doesn’t like the song; he loves it! He’s going to get the song to the hottest “thing” in showbiz, Joannie Jans. He keeps saying his name wrong. “Nesslerood, ” etc. The catch is Mike has to give Bernie $100 for incidentals and legal fees. Mike doesn’t have it, so Bernie starts putting the pressure on.


I love that kind of logic. Mike says he’ll get the money somehow, and dashes off to the pay phone where he calls Micky, his Mom, and a guy he met on the bus to tell them he’s going to be a big songwriter. I think this is what it’s about for Mike; not so much the possibility of money but about being seen by others as having “made it.” I really feel for him, I can relate. He doesn’t want anyone to worry about him, he doesn’t want anyone to think he’s having a hard time. He’s going to make it. Bernie is awful for making a quick buck off that emotional need. At the pad, Micky tells Mike if Joannie performs his song he will be rich. Will he still remember them? Mike tells Davy, “Ah, you know I will, Danny,” his potential success is already going to his head.

They start to sing a little of “I’m Gonna Buy Me a Dog” (Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart) and it cuts to the romp where they play with dogs at the park. Cute, and such a Tiger Beat ready moment. This is the song where Micky and Davy talk and joke through their performance. Of course, it’s pretty silly on its own. I found an interview with Micky Dolenz on the Huffington Post that mentions a possible straight version but someone, probably Don Kirshner, decided to go with the silly take. Seems like a great idea. The chosen version suits the loose, wacky comedy of the show.

 I found a couple of fun versions of the song to share. One is Davy performing it on a The Farmer’s Daughter episode from January 1966 (several months earlier than this episode aired) with none other than Stacey Maxwell from the “Monkee See, Monkee Die” episode. The other is by a band called Gamma Goochee. I like this version. The song is still goofy, but they rock it with a little blues guitar and harmonica.

It’s interesting that they chose to use this song for the story. We knew Mike Nesmith was a real life songwriter. They could have used any of the various songs he wrote for the Monkees records. Since they make fun of the song and the songwriting business in this episode, it would probably be insulting to use one of Michael Nesmith’s actually quite good songs. Using the jokey, novelty song says something about the Bernie character. Whatever the song was, silly or serious, good or bad, Bernie was just going to take songwriters for their $100.  As it is, the song is just a plot device, and when they trick Bernie in the end, he looks like a bigger idiot because the song is so goofy.

Now, back to our story. Mike is giving Bernie the money he scraped together pawning his guitar. Whenever they pawn their instruments, we know it’s a painful sacrifice. He’s a nickel short, but Bernie says he can “owe” him. Mike finally gets a little skeptical and wants to make sure Joannie will do his song in her movie. To drive the con home, Bernie places a fake call to “Joannie” in front of Mike. He’s actually randomly dialed a married couple, and the wife is obviously up to something as she takes the phone and tells “Max” never to call her there. That’s a cynical joke within an episode that is mostly one big fat cynical joke. Mike believes it, and his lack of wariness is out of character here, as most of the time he is the most suspicious. In “Kidnappers”, for instance, he questioned Trump’s every scheme to get them publicity. On the other hand, he went along with that too.

Micky is sure Mike’s being cheated and decides this is a job for Monkee Men! This is the first flight of the Monkee Men, who come back in “Monkee Chow Mein” and “I Was A 99-lb. Weakling.” Composer Stu Phillips gives them their own theme music as well. Davy and Micky are able to fly, but Peter has to walk.


At the High Class office, the Monkee Men disguise themselves as piano tuners, though first Peter has to lose the thick, black-rimmed Clark Kent-styled glasses he’s wearing. While Peter tunes the piano, they overhear Bernie dictating a letter into a microphone that incriminates him. He’s pulled the scheme to get $100 from 500 other songwriters.

Meanwhile, poor Mike is finding out the hard way. He gets on the set of Joannie’s movie and approaches her at her dressing table. The actress playing Joannie is very funny; she really hits that vacuous, self-centered starlet note.


Mike wants to thank her for doing his song, but she clearly has no idea what he’s talking about. He realizes she’s never heard of him or his song. My favorite off-topic joke of this is when the director approaches and she asks him to tell the actor playing the vampire not to get so “emotionally involved.” If you look at her neck, you can see it’s full of hickies.

At home, the Monkees try to distract Mike from his depression with various offers: bowling, swimming, and the movies. Poor Mike. I’ve frequently felt that way myself, when I get this feeling that my life never has and never will go anywhere. Hopefully it passes. The score is a sad, harmonica-laden bluesy version of the theme. Davy tries to convince him it wasn’t his fault but Mike’s not hearing it.


Micky tries to cheer him with his impression of the “inimitable James Cagney” and then he does “Fred Astaire doing the inimitable James Cagney,” which is the same impression but with dancing at the end. Peter gets him to smile when he says his mother thinks Mike has the best posture of anyone she knows.

One good scheme deserves another, so Micky’s dialing the phone. Mike rolls his eyes. Come on Mike, you know this is how the Monkees roll. You usually take part in these schemes yourself. Micky does that WC Fields voice and calls Bernie, introducing himself as movie producer MD and telling him to meet him at the studio in one hour. Bernie acts like he knows who the hell MD is. Mike looks skeptical and then curious.

In the next brilliant sequence, Micky steals the show as MD, film producer extraordinaire, and Davy and Peter keep the spectacle convincing as his entourage; Davy constantly sweeping Micky with a small broom and Peter pretending to take notes on his every word. They pull the Monkeemobile backwards into Dean Martin’s space at “Mammoth Studios” and fast-talk past the security guard. The three of them burst onto a set where Micky bosses the crew around and confuses the actual director and producer shooting there. Of course nobody knows who he is, so Micky tells Davy “Please, no names it will only embarrass him.” The Monkees keep the rolling bluff moving so fast the actual film crew buys it. It’s hilarious because they are all so frightened to admit they don’t know who he is. He acts like he’s in charge, and everyone accepts it. So many great logic-defying lines here.


Frequent Monkees extras Valerie Kairys, David Pearl, and David Price are sitting in the back of this scene. There is one other piece of business that I never noticed until watching this carefully. It’s Peter’s activity in the foreground.


The point of all this was for the Monkees to fool Bernie so that when he arrives, Micky convinces him he needs a song about a dog for his next big picture. Bernie suggests “I’m Gonna Buy Me a Dog” written by some kid called Nishwash. Peter almost blows it by correcting him. Bernie brings Mike, claiming to have him under exclusive contract. (Micky has switched his fake accent here.) Mike and the others exchange happy smiles. Bernie tries to get Mike to sign but Mike won’t sign for less than $200. Bernie gives it to him, a dollar short, and Mike signs. Bernie hands the contract to Micky and runs off to arrange promotion. Micky says “Good work, Nishmash.”

Good work indeed, they’ve tricked Bernie beautifully at his own game. He’s so convinced by MD and the possibility of getting rich from Mike’s song. Mike is lucky to have these friends to get him out of this. He’s usually clear-thinking, but his heart’s desire to make it as a songwriter took him over. The Monkees are genius con artists and deception is their preferred tactic for getting out of trouble, though it doesn’t always work. They do get swindled quite a bit themselves, as we saw here.

There’s a romp to “Mary, Mary” (Michael Nesmith) which is one of his originals. The Monkees run all over behind the set/back of the studio and play with the spotlight. In the tag sequence, Mike goes to see the old man songwriter from the hallway scene and gives him back his $100 from the $200 he got from Bernie. In another ironic joke, the old man says to let him know if his new song, “I’m Gonna Buy Me a Dog,”  is ever played, as apparently songwriters steal from one another. Well, that’s showbiz!


What a fun episode, packed with great lines and gags. The writers/producers take a poke at Hollywood, “the false values, the phoniness, the fakery.”  It’s interesting that they do this a few times during the series run because the show itself is a part of showbiz. The Monkees are a Hollywood-made show and band. The writers are not afraid to make fun of themselves and what they are, which they demonstrate over and over, with breaking the fourth wall, and drawing attention to the fact that this is all a show. This is a kind of ultimate breaking of the fourth wall.



by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.