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.

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Vintage Cable Box: “Best Friends, 1982”

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“Father Time has a way of just beating the shit out of us.”

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Best Friends, 1982 (Goldie Hawn), Warner Bros.

I can’t watch a movie about relationships without thinking of mine. As Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn play two screenwriters involved romantically with each other, they are thoughtful people. They share their affections, their hang-ups, their curiosities and fascinations, so they are completely in-tune with each other. They exhibit the same sense of humor, and capacity for pathos. Reading countless theories about intimate relationships in sociology books, when people live with each other, to a degree they begin to take on the qualities or properties of the people they love.

They mess around with the idea of getting married. Goldie doesn’t think they need to be married, but Burt craves the legitimacy. He wants to be known as a married man. He wants that respect. With advice from her friend, played by Valerie Curtin (who wrote Best Friends with her husband at the time, Barry Levinson), Goldie takes the plunge. She hops into a shower with Burt and accepts his proposal. In my opinion, that’s the best way to accept a proposal. Now that I watch the movie in adulthood, I wonder if Goldie’s character just doesn’t want to grow up, and she considers marriage to be the first nail in her childhood coffin. One similarity that exists between this movie and a movie like Deathtrap is that writers tend to eat, sleep, and breathe the characters they create, and since Goldie and Burt are collaborating on a screenplay, they seem to be playing versions of the characters they are writing.

They decide to have a quickie wedding, officiated by Richard Libertini (who can’t pronounce the word endow – it keeps coming out as en-doe). They take a cross-country trip back east to share the good news with their parents. The scenes aboard the train are a great promotional advertisement for airplane travel. Goldie’s parents are crazy old-fashioned, make them sleep in separate beds and separate rooms, and make Burt grits because they assume since he’s from Virginia, he’ll enjoy the southern-specialty cuisine. My mother was born in Nashville, and she always hated grits. I’m not partial to them either.

BEST FRIENDS, Burt Reynolds, Goldie Hawn, 1982
Look at those pretty dogs!

Burt’s parents are more progressive. They automatically assume Burt and Goldie sleep together. Burt’s dad is a strange character. He creeps out Goldie with his hunting stories. There’s a great shot where we are looking at Burt and his father from Goldie’s perspective eating breakfast (no grits!) and their actions are completely synchronized. These are great characters, loaded with eccentricities, and you get the feeling you’ve watched Curtin and Levinson and their interactions in order to behave like an actual couple.

When I saw Best Friends a while back, I enjoyed the film’s bittersweet humor. Looking at it now, it became sly and suggestive, hinting more at the rock-solid core of drama. Best Friends is more drama than comedy, or perhaps a drama with a sense of humor. At the time of release, Goldie Hawn was a dependable comedienne (that’s a word you don’t hear anymore) headlining her own productions like Private Benjamin, Wildcats, and Protocol. Burt Reynolds (truly an underrated acting talent) headlined his own action movies, like Sharky’s Machine and Stick, and taking brief breaks to star in unusual existential comedies like The End and Paternity.

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.

“And Babies Make Three…”

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As of this writing, Masha has given birth to her twins, and by all indications, she is positively glowing, extremely happy, and creatively empowered. I wish her all the best in life, and I was very happy with how this interview turned out. It’s unusual for me, after a discussion with Neena last week, I thought of all the talented people I’ve been blessed to work with over the years and all the wonderful things they’ve gotten up to in the intervening years, and I feel proud to have known each and every one of them!

Tonight I talk with actress, bon vivant, the lovely lady, the sexy Russian, Masha Sapron. She was in my movie, “Ligeia” (on DVD and hopefully out there in torrent form). She appears on the cover of the
DVD in the famous cat-suit. I remember I wanted her to wear a cat-suit in the movie in her weird “cos-play” scenes with the character played by Martin Davis, and they both wear, they also wear masks
and I forget if the masks were part of the costume, or if we bought them separately.

So, Masha did research for the movie, and some of it wound up in the film [Ligeia]. There is a dinner scene, probably the easiest scene I shot because everybody was sitting down. We wired everybody with microphones, and we got a hundred set-ups in like two hours, because we had two cameras. Masha tells this insane story about a club she went to, I guess it was a sex club, I’m not even sure. There was a lot of improvisation, people bouncing off one another, which I love. That’s my favorite kind of thing to do.

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NEW PODCAST: “Stop Stealing My Sunshine And Make Your Own!”

Stop-Stealing-My-Sunshine-And-Make-Your-Own

We went off-script for this episode of BlissVille Fridays with Andrew La Ganke. I had started writing a script for the first time in a long time and I was excited about it. From, I want to say, 2005-2010, I was writing and I had some lofty ideas, but it came down to the choice either making another movie, or moving my family out of a crumbling Astoria apartment. I chose the latter and instead focused on writing and publishing stories and long-form novels. We trade stories about writing screenplays, participating in workshops, and dealing with other writers.