WEIRDLAND: May 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Frozen in Time: Oliver Stone's JFK (100th Anniversary) & The Doors

President John F. Kennedy would be 100 years old on May 29, 2017, but he is forever frozen in time at age 46, following his assassination in 1963. To be exact, JFK served two years, 10 months and two days as president, the fifth-shortest time in office among the nation’s 45 presidents, but his legend has no end. Candidates of all political persuasions have imitated his charisma and style, but there was only one JFK. His centenary brings new books, the most notable probably “The Road to Camelot”, a provocative reconstruction of his “five-year campaign” for the White House. Kennedy’s quotations still apply to life in America today and offer plenty of material the current president might want to study. “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer,” Kennedy said. Tourists visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota in the mid-1990s were asked to pick their favorite president, and a majority selected John F. Kennedy—“the president of the world” had passed, a common thought from a wintry November day 54 years in our past. 

Thurston Clarke, in his book “J.F.K.’s Last Hundred Days” argues passionately that J.F.K. was moving ever more decisively left, flapping his wings like a dove, just before he was killed. The evidence is that Kennedy began to argue, more loudly than he had before, that American politicians should do everything possible to avoid provoking a nuclear holocaust that would destroy civilization. Kennedy was planning to get out of Vietnam by the end of 1965, or at least had made up his mind not to get drawn any farther in.  Paranoid as the period was, it was in ways more open. Oswald’s captors decided that he would have to be shown to the press, and arranged a midnight press conference for him, something that would not happen today. Source: www.hutchnews.com

More than 25 years after its premiere, JFK (1991) is the way most Americans now learn about one of the most traumatic events in their recent history. According to Robert Brent Toplin, a historian who admires Oliver Stone, JFK has probably “had a greater impact on public opinion than any other work of art in American history.” Indeed, the movie remains a great source of pride for Stone, if not his masterpiece. Allegedly, the film exposed a fascist-led coup that “hit the central nerve core of the establishment,” and has “held up very well over time,” the director contended recently at the Lucca Film Festival in April, 2017. Source: www.thedailybeast.com

The Doors (1991) was not considered a box-office success. But in some ways, The Doors was like Scarface—it may not have fared that well at the box office, but it was a film that people would remember. Yet as far as the movie industry was concerned, a lot of people were looking for Stone to fail and now they felt justified. Many wondered if he would become a more cautious filmmaker and stay a little closer to the safety of the Hollywood system. Stone's answer was his most outrageous, biggest, and riskiest project ever: JFK. "Yeah, I missed out on the sixties," Stone admits. "I'm not angry about it, but I am saddened that I missed it—especially the healthy male/female relationships. I never had a coeducational existence. The sixties had this enormous sense of sexual liberation. Women started to come out of the closet and fucking was 'in'. It was stylish, fashionable. I missed all that, and the honest, open man/woman communication that came with it." 

In the original screenplay Jim Morrison was talking about death in a dramatic scene and he begged Pam: 'Tell me your cunt is mine.' And in that scene Pam bends over and says, 'Fuck me, Jim.' Some of the actors were uncomfortable auditioning, not just the actresses. Even Christian Slater was uncomfortable doing that scene during the casting process. About sixty actresses auditioned for Pam's role, one of them was Patricia Arquette. Former Doors' manager Bill Siddons felt the script focused "virtually, exclusively on the more sensational side of Jim's personality and not the man I knew: a bright, warm human being who actually gave a shit about people." Though Kilmer did look amazingly like Morrison in many ways, his eyes were not nearly as piercing and deepset. People generally wouldn't notice this, but those who were most drawn to Morrison's eyes would probably never be convinced. As Val Kilmer found with Jim Morrison, Meg Ryan's biggest obstacle was the conflicting accounts she received about Pamela Courson. "It was hell researching her," Ryan said. "One person would say she was a heroin addict, another person would say, no, she was afraid of needles. Some people said she was a monster, mean and awful, and others said, no, she was the sweetest thing that ever came down the pike. The only thing that everyone agreed on was that she was a redhead." 

Oliver Stone saw Jim and Pam's relationship as a great love story: "She may be basically a figure of innocence, but I see the movie character of Pam as a monster, too. She's very much a sixties child, not too thoughtful. She decides to ride the snake with Jim, and once having ridden that snake, proves she can hold on and stay with him all the way out—till the point where she's willing to die with him. What I like in their story is that Jim had this loyalty, too. He stuck with her to the end. That's at the center of the movie. He really loved her." Stone adds: "Morrison was even darker than we showed in a lot of ways—what struck me was his sadness and depression. I assumed from the records that he had a lot more fun, but it seemed like he had become this Dionysian figure who was denied fun. The beautiful women I thought would be all around him were not, on closer inspection, so beautiful after all." Stone did seem to miss Morrison's humor in the film: "I believe Morrison had a terrific sense of humor and I'm not so sure we caught it [onscreen]. We tried to show the holy and the fool at the same time. Probably, people might say I didn't get enough holy. I couldn't find the exact Jim. Nobody could play Jim Morrison but Jim Morrison," concedes Stone.  —"Stone: The Controversies, Excesses, And Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker" (1995) by James Riordan

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rock and Grunge Saviours: Chris Cornell, Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Jim Morrison

Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell's death Wednesday night left rock fans reflecting on the grunge era, and many came to a sorrowful realization: Eddie Vedder, the frontman of Pearl Jam, is one of the movement's only icons who is still alive. Eric Alper tweeted, "The voices I grew up with: Andy Wood Layne Staley Chris Cornell Kurt Cobain… only Eddie Vedder is left."

Eddie Vedder stands alone now. Let that sink in. The story of grunge is also one of death. The genre's songs were gloomy as the gray Seattle sky, and heroin usage was not uncommon among its guitar-wielding practitioners. Still, with breakout hits from Nirvana and Soundgarden leading the way, grunge finally flooded American soundwaves and, with them, the Billboard charts. In 1994, the genre was arguably at its peak. Soundgarden and Nirvana songs continued to blast from speakers in shopping malls and car stereos.

That was also the year that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, the genre's leader, put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger, killing himself. At the time, heroin was pumping through his veins. He was the first major figure to go but far from the last. "If their music failed to make it clear, life was intolerably painful for many of Cornell's peers," wrote The Washington Post's pop music critic Chris Richards. "Singer Layne Staley and bassist Mike Starr of Alice in Chains each died of drug-related causes, in 2002 and 2011, respectively. In 2015, Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland died of an overdose on his tour bus." Cornell hanged himself in a Detroit hotel room after performing what would become his final show with his band, which he closed by playing "In My Time of Dying" by Led Zeppelin.

Vedder's Pearl Jam, however, persists. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder combined a Jim Morrison-style natural baritone range with other punk and rock influences. It long ago took up the mantle as grunge's longest-lasting band, steadily releasing albums for the past 25 years. At its commercial height, Pearl Jam wrote songs that weren't quite as angry; they were more melodic, more stadium-ready. To some, the band was softer, more easily digestible by the masses. 

Among those was Cobain himself, who once said, "They're a safe rock band. They're a pleasant rock band that everyone likes" and on a separate occasion said, "I find it offensive to be lumped in with bands like Pearl Jam," according to rock critic Steven Hyden's book "Your Favorite Band is Killing Me." Unlike many of his contemporaries, Vedder wasn't known for using heroin. Though the phrase "sell out" often appeared when describing Pearl Jam, Vedder, like Cobain and Cornell before him, didn't enjoy his fame. Rather than turn to substances, though, he merely began writing songs that loyal fans found much more appealing than a mainstream audience. Source: www.torontosun.com

Jim Morrison seemed not to be all that satisfied by the fame he had gained. Shortly before his death Morrison had confessed, “I’m so sick of everything. People keep thinking of me as a rock and roll star and I don’t want anything to do with it. I can’t stand it anymore… who do they think Jim Morrison is anyway?” Many of his lyrics refer to death and could be described as depressive: “As long as I got breath / The death of rock is the death of me / And rock is dead.” His friend and fellow poet Michael Ford claimed Morrison “contributed to American Indian funds. I think he really wanted to help people.” Morrison made conscious efforts to turn concerts into “a theater of confrontation.” Because “for all his tragic flaws, Morrison was not faking it - his show was theatrical, but his rebellious image and philosophy of life was not.” The “Woman as Muse” theme which frequently appeared in Morrison’s works suggests that women should not be displayed in any other environment except a complex one. In The Real-Life Death of Jim Morrison (an article based on an interview conducted by Bernard Wolfe, printed in Esquire magazine in June, 1972), Morrison is quoted as saying: “If there were real things in the world instead of just a panorama of symbols all the poets would have been accountants and census takers.” His next comment acknowledged the artificiality of much of the discourse of life: “People have the feeling that what’s going on outside isn’t real, just a bunch of staged events, all I did was to record this feeling.” —"A Theatre of Perception: The Doors and The Sixties" (2016) by Mark Vanstone 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Uncommon Rock Stars: Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison, Lou Reed

The term ‘rock star’ really came into widespread use in the seventies and eighties when the music business was looking to sustain the careers of its biggest names. The music industry was no longer happy to hop from fad to fad. It was beginning to realize the value of brands. There was no better brand than a rock star. By the twenty-first century, the term 'rock star' has been spread so thin as to be meaningless. In the twenty-first century it seems rather inappropriate to describe Kanye West or Adele as rock stars. These people are cut from a different cloth. The age of the rock star ended with the rise of automated percussion, the domination of the committee approach to hit-making, the widespread adoption of choreography and the advent of the mystique-destroying internet. The age of the rock star is over. We now live in a hip hop world. The game has changed. If we no longer have a breed that qualifies for the description ‘rock star’, how can it be that the idea of the rock star as a social type remains so strong? This didn’t happen yesterday. Back in 1973, just two years after the death of Jim Morrison, just as a new generation was beginning to warm to David Bowie’s tongue-in-cheek rock-star figure Ziggy Stardust – Texas Monthly magazine published what was the first recorded example of the term ‘rock star’ being applied to describe somebody who wasn’t a rock star. I don’t see any sign of the acts who came afterwards, who were born in the late eighties and nineties, accumulating successive generations of fans or acquiring the patina of legend in quite the same way.

If you were born in one of the decades immediately following the 1950s, a pantheon of rock stars provided you with a cast of fantasy friends who lived out their lives in a parallel universe. Now, like the cowboy, the cavalier, the wandering minstrel, the chorus girl, the burglar in the striped sweater, the top-hatted banker, the painter with his beret and the writer in his smoking jacket, the rock star must finally be consigned to the wardrobe of anachronistic stereotypes. In real life he has been overshadowed by brazen hip hop stars, and overtaken by talent-school munchkins who are far more manipulative than he would have dared be. His power base has been destroyed by the disappearance of the record industry, his magic fleeing in the twenty-four-hour daylight of social media. While they were on the stage they captured our imagination and our trust in a way no movie star or writer managed.  Rock stars were uncommon people. They were a product of the rise of post-war prosperity. They came from ordinary lives and had no reason to expect that they would ever be special. At the same time they refused to accept that they would ever be anything but exceptional. Many of them had careers that lasted far longer than their hits and their legends continued to endure. They endured because, like the stars of the great cowboy films of that earlier age, they were playing themselves and, at the same time, they were playing us.

Elvis Presley loved the company of females, whether they were adolescents smelling of Spray Net who just wanted his autograph, marriageable Eisenhower girls in rustling petticoats and white gloves who wanted to introduce him to their mothers, feather-bedecked showgirls ready to show him a good time in the dressing room, or even show-business professionals who weren’t sure whether they wished to mother him or shove him into the nearest cupboard and kiss his face off. By September 1956 Elvis was the biggest male sex symbol since Rudolph Valentino. But whereas Valentino had to get into costume in order to embody the full fantasy package and was only available on the big screen, the whole point about the new rock-star celebrity as embodied by Elvis was that while he might apparently live in the clouds he was still available in the normal world if you knew where to find him. A YouGov poll in the UK says that 29% of 18-24 year-olds have never listened to a single Elvis song. None reported to listening to him daily and only 8% admitted to listening to an Elvis song at least once a month. When pressed, only 12% said they liked Elvis, compared to the Beatles (23%) and Bowie (25%). The Guardian also reports that the value of Elvis merch and memorabilia is cratering, a bad sign leading up to the 40th anniversary of his death. Bookings for Elvis impersonators are falling. About the only positive sign is that streams of Elvis music are doing well, with 328 million streams in 2016. Compare that to Bowie (600 million) and Michael Jackson (1.3 billion).

Jerry Lee Lewis’ prodigious talent made him almost a novelty act. His only problem was that he actually was the redneck hoodlum his rock and roll peers only pretended to be. Fellow Southern boys were less easily thrown by Jerry Lee’s front, preferring to say he didn’t mean nothing by it, but even they were forced to concede that he would argue with a signpost. Whereas Elvis was professionally modest, the self-belief of Jerry Lee Lewis went beyond the quality it takes to get up on stage and command everybody’s attention with a prolonged ‘weeeeeeellllll’, passed directly through the braggadocio that showbiz traditionally expects of a headliner, and edged perilously close to an acute psychological condition. He was the first rock star to play up to his public image regardless of the cost. Furthermore, Jerry’s domestic arrangements made him more vulnerable. In looking at those arrangements from the twenty-first century it’s important to bear in mind that this was the real world for many people in the Southern states of America and not a Coen Brothers fantasy. Jerry Lee couldn’t say he hadn’t been warned. Sam Phillips had told him it might not be a good idea to take Myra with him to Britain, where a nymphet would inevitably be catnip to a press pack looking for a story about the decline and fall of morals in the coffee-bar generation. But Jerry was stubborn and in love. He didn’t return to Europe until the next decade and never recovered his momentum as a rock and roll star in the USA.

Born in 1936, the youngest of a poor but musical family, Buddy Holly had little reason to think he would ever amount to anything. In a school essay in 1953 he listed his many shortcomings writing, ‘I have thought about making a living out of Western music if I am good enough, but I will have to wait to see how that turns out.’ Gary Tollett, who sang on some of Holly’s records and came from the kind of west Texas town outside Lubbock that Larry McMurtry depicted in The Last Picture Show, said of his generation, ‘We thought more about work than we did about playing.’ Holly, the first member of his family to graduate from high school, thought he might get work as a draughtsman. The thing is, everybody liked Buddy Holly. His records ‘That’ll Be The Day’, ‘Oh Boy’, ‘Peggy Sue’ and ‘Rave On’, had been hits. His particular strain of ‘western bop’ had enjoyed surprisingly wide acceptance. He had even topped the rhythm and blues charts. He had appeared on all the big TV shows: Ed Sullivan and Sunday Night at the London Palladium in the UK. Nevertheless in the winter of 1958, barely a year since he had been at number one in the US Hot 100, twenty-two-year-old Buddy Holly found himself without funds and embarked his final tour. The longevity of Holly’s songs is guaranteed because the sadness of his passing places every note in a melancholy light. He had an optimistic, gentle self-mocking hiccup in his voice. He was as popular with the boys as Elvis Presley was with the girls, but for different reasons. Buddy Holly was the most influential rock star of his time, possibly of all time.

Jim Morrison's total abandon and blatant sexuality stirred the audience's emotion and the effect was both chilling and numbing.  On being a sex symbol, Morrison once commented: "Sex is just one part of my act. It is important I guess, but I don't think it is the main thing." His essential conservatism came out in an interview he gave to CBC radio in May, 1970: “I don’t want a revolution. A revolution is really just a switch from one faction to another. Democratic ideals are still worthwhile. I lament that so many people are living a quiet life when so many injustices are going on. I think that’s sad. The repression of sexual energy has always been the tool of a totalitarian system. I can’t talk much about sex. Sex will always be a mystery to me.” When he was about sixteen, Jim Morrison began reading Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy, finding insight into the the nature of man. He learned that all men, even his father, had to obey others. Nietzsche described a different kind of man who, because of his creativity and independence, answered to no man. This prophetic independence of the spirit opened hundreds of doors in Jim Morrison's mind. One of these doors may have been a deeper interest in music when Nietzsche described a musician as "a priest, a ventriloquist of God." His concert in Miami in 1969 would prove to be a turning point in his career and life. Beset by legal problems and years of alcohol abuse, Morrison was escaping to France not only to rechart his life, but also to salvage a dream. Paris was the home of the French Symbolist poets. If he couldn't find literary sustenance in that atmosphere, he couldn't find it anywhere. Morrison desired to leave the City of Night for the City of Light. Apparently Morrison had made amends with Janis Joplin just weeks before she passed away, and he was genuinely grateful for it. Jim Morrison was the perfect artist for the sixties generation, a representative mirror for the decade that started out believing music and love would set them free only to wind up ensnared by that freedom into decay and despair. He was faced with a hard choice: he could choose to totally become his rock-image, or he could fight to hold on to his true personality. True to form, Morrison chose neither option. Perhaps Morrison's real legacy is how he took the fear that accompanied the explosions into freedom in the sixties and, after first making it even more bizarre and apocalyptic than anyone thought possible, diffused it all by turning everything we were taking so seriously into a big joke.

Lou Reed had an unhappy childhood. His misguided parents thought electric shock treatment might snap him out of his adolescent unhappiness. Throughout his life it was difficult to know where his psychiatric problems ended and his overbearing personality began. The standard Velvet Underground review recounted their latest misadventures with the music business, described the state of the tensions within the band and ended by being slightly disappointed with how unadventurous record buyers were not supporting them as they had supported Led Zeppelin or The Doors. The Velvet Underground seemed to have missed the bus. Glenn O’Brien, who edited Warhol’s magazine Interview, commented about Lou that ‘he was brilliant, but had a lot of bitterness in him that fed a mean streak. A mean streak that alternated with empathy and great humour.’ Having apparently failed as a rock star, Reed was attempting in 1971 to reposition himself as a man of letters, publishing poems as Lewis Reed, and attending poetry readings with Jim Carroll at St Mark’s. Reed wrote a piece for Crawdaddy magazine, which was headlined ‘Why I Wouldn’t Want My Son to be a Rock Star or a Dog Even’. Its central thrust seemed to be that only a person with no proper sense of self would ever wish to be a rock and roll star. Some of its passages suggested that Lou Reed considered the life of the rock star beneath his dignity. Reed might have been enjoying the short holiday from the bohemian limelight back in his parents’ home in the suburbs but the rage for repute was building inside. His contradictory nature cried out for expression. He never lost his belief in the power and beauty of simplicity and minimalism in rock. David Bowie wanted to collaborate with Reed after signing a deal with RCA to release his album Hunky Dory. RCA threw a party at a club called The Ginger Man. Among the guests were Lou Reed and Bettye Kronstad, who appeared in the midst of Bowie’s cultivated fabulousness like the suburban figures they had become. Reed was still the elder statesman commercially rejected and Transformer would start to change his luck. Lou Reed made us believe that redemption was always equivocal but never impossible. —"Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars - 1955/1994" (2017) by David Hepworth

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Riding the crest of the wave: Jim Morrison, Timothy Leary, LSD & the American Dream

Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson sharing a moment of tenderness in Muir Woods, outside San Francisco, 1967. Although their relationship was often troubled, Pamela always remained Jim’s sole ‘cosmic mate’. Jim took Pam under his wing, introduced her to pyschedelic drugs and poetry. Although he was not faithful, it was to Pamela he returned, pledging his eternal love. Sometimes when The Doors weren’t playing at the Whisky, Jim went to other bars on the Sunset Strip and ‘sat in’ with the house bands. Pam frequently would go with Jim and for a short while she danced in one of the clubs, until Jim insisted she quit (which delated Jim's jealousy). By then, they were sharing a small apartment in Laurel Canyon. Jim gave his little brother Andy advice— ‘I talked to him about my being slow with the chicks, I just finished high school. Jim said not to worry about it. He said he didn’t get laid until he was at Junior College. He wanted me to feel like I was okay.’


‘We Could Be So Good Together’ was another of many songs Jim wrote about his troubled relationship with Pam. A columnist for the Village Voice, Howard Smith, wrote: ‘There really hasn’t been a major male sex symbol since James Dean died and Marlon Brando got a paunch. Jim Morrison could be the biggest thing to grab the mass libido in a long time.’ Diane Gardiner, The Doors' publicist and Pam's confidant, booked press interviews with Jim at the Phone Booth, the topless bar next to The Doors office. “Jim was interested in strip dancers and how they felt,” Diane said. “He had a real empathy for them. He would go to those places and he would applaud. He’d be a great audience.” Diane also remembered Jim's drunken advances: “Jim had fallen across the bed and he just looked up at me and he said, 'I want to fuck you.' There was that old part of me going, Gee whiz, 'I’d like to fuck you, too.' So I just said, 'Sure, Jim.' I found out he didn’t like women who weren’t feminine. He didn’t like it when women get kind of brash. He thought I was being too mechanized, I found out later. Anyway, we didn’t fuck and he went back out into the front room.” 

Michael McClure, one of the ‘Beat Generation’ poets whom Jim so admired when he was in high school, had written a play in 1965 about Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid (The Beard), and a Hollywood producer thought Jim should be cast as Billy the Kid. Michael McClure said: ‘I knew Jim was a poet and I enjoyed his singing, but I never had seen any of his poetry. I sat down and read his stuff and I was terrifically impressed. These were the poems that appeared in The  Lords and the New Creatures. Later Jim told me they had been sorted out by Pam, who’d edited it down from a much larger manuscript at Jim’s request. He seemed to explicitly rely on Pamela.’ Although Pamela’s sporadic affairs didn’t seem to bother Jim, his sublimated rage came out in other ways—shitty performances, self-negating behavior, and generally abusing himself and almost everyone who depended on him. After Jim's death Jerry Hopkins met Pam over lunch. His impressions were she was "beautiful, fragile, vulnerable, and manipulative".


HWY—An American Pastoral (1969): the script’s atmospheric desert imagery and cast of mythic American hobos and lowlifes seems to have been modeled on the surreal world of Michael McClure’s The Beard. The scenario included a homicidal hitcher, Billy Cooke, murdering whoever picked him up: a homosexual, a sheriff, a pilot who had served in Vietnam. ‘I don’t think the shaman is too interested in defining his role in society, he’s just more interested in pursuing his own fantasies,’ Jim Morrison said: "There's this theory about the nature of tragedy comedy that Aristotle didn't mean catharsis for the audience but a purgation of emotions for the actors themselves. The audience is just a witness to what's taking place on stage." In his autobiography Long Time Gone, David Crosby remembered Morrison as having ‘a masochistic bent; he sublimated it. He’d go out and get monumentally trashed – drunk, high, and really polluted. He did it repeatedly.’

Morrison had written these lines in one of his Paris notebooks: ‘Leave the informed sense in our wake/you be the Christ on this package tour/Money beats soul/Last words, last words, out.’ Later, some biographers would use these lines to support a suicide theory. In November 1971, four months after Jim died, Pam filed a ‘declaration in support of widow’s allowance’, claiming ‘at all times since September 30, 1967, I have considered that I was married to James D. Morrison, and that I was in fact his wife at the time of his death and am now his widow’. Pam had Jim ask Max Fink which states had the loosest laws recognizing common-law marriage. In her court statement, Pam said, ‘Jim reported to me that he learned from Fink that to create a marriage in the state of Colorado it was sufficient if two people stayed together, had marital relations and agreed to thereby be husband and wife, if in fact they thereafter conducted and held themselves out as each other’s spouse. We spent the night at a hotel, had sexual relations and agreed that we would forever after, be husband and wife. We very briefly honeymooned in Colorado and then continued our [the Doors] tour.’ Pam’s statement went on to say that during their relationship, all her living expenses were paid from Jim’s earnings, and she and Jim were given $2,500 in cash each month. 

Lizzie James, from Creem magazine, Autumn 1969: Jim would astonish me each time he gave me a chilling glimpse of his loneliness. At three or five in the morning, sometimes, he called and said, ‘Come and take me away…’ as though it was some winged denizen of heaven he had dialled. At one point, I told Jim, ‘You look like a Greek god.’ He shook his head, laughing with the bashfulness and insecurity of any ordinary guy. He was a stranger, a ‘rider on the storm’ thrown into this world. He was surrounded by an ever-present collection of buddies, gofers, groupies, associates and hangers-on. But when I said that I wanted to be his friend, he put his arm around me in quick acceptance, with feeling in his voice that I seriously recognised to be nothing other than need. After he was gone, I was sorry about nothing except that I hadn’t given him more. For what I did give, which was to plunge my greedy curiosity and eagerness into his mind in thirst for his ideas, had seemed to me no gift at all. But it was clear that it had seemed so to him, because he gave me so much in return – desperately careful in his explanations, because he saw my craving to understand. "The Lizard King, The Essential Jim Morrison" (ekindle, 2014) by Jerry Hopkins


Jim Morrison had a huge stash of Owsley Stanley’s “White Lightning” acid that looked like aspirin tablets, the cleanest LSD in 1966-67. In those early days of LSD and other mind-altering drugs, there was a series of tests on experimental drugs being conducted by the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Center. Of course the tests were strictly monitored, and students were allowed to sign up for only one of them because of the potential dangers of abuse. Morrison was among the first to sign up, and using a series of aliases he signed up for every test!


Timothy Leary went to California and made the rounds of the research community. In Los Angeles he attended a number of parties that were similar to the ones he and Richard Alpert had organized in New York, full of literate, intelligent seekers quietly discussing their trips to the Other World. One night, a sloshed Marilyn Monroe slipped into Tim's bedroom and asked him to turn her on. There were moments when Leary had to agree with Allen Ginsberg: everyone was becoming hip. This was an illusion, of course. Maybe 10 percent were becoming hip, the rest were getting nervous. And one of the focal points of their anxiety was LSD.  —"Storming Heaven: LSD & The American Dream" (2011) by Jay Stevens

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream—a novel written by Hunter S. Thompson in 1971—follows its protagonist, Raoul Duke, and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, as they descend on Las Vegas to chase the American Dream through a drug-induced haze, all the while ruminating on the failure of the 1960s countercultural movement: “Strange memories—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place... no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant... that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave... So now, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Beauty Requires Thought, Jim Morrison's little girl

The first oral contraceptive, Enovid, was approved by the FDA in 1960. The Pill became the symbol of the "sexual revolution" of the 1960s. Access to new dating apps such as Grindr and Tinder have opened a new world of possibilities. Despite this, research suggests that we’re actually having less sex now than we have for decades. In March, American researchers Jean Twenge, Ryne Sherman and Brooke Wells published an article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior showing that Americans were having sex on average nine fewer times per year in the early 2010s compared to the late 1990s – a 15% drop from 62 times a year to just 53. The researchers argued the drops may be due to increasing levels of unhappiness. Western societies in particular have seen a mental health epidemic in the past few decades, primarily depression and anxiety disorders. There is a strong correlation between depressive symptoms and reduction in sexual activity and desire. Bringing this evidence together Twenge, Sherman and Wells argue there is a causal link between drops in happiness and average drops in sexual activity. Research connects these mental health epidemics with the increasingly insecure nature of modern life, particularly for younger generations. It is this generation that has shown the highest drops in sexual activity, with research from Jean Twenge showing millennials are reporting having fewer sexual encounters than either Generation X or the baby boomers did at the same age. Job and housing insecurity, the fear of climate change, and the destruction of communal spaces and social life, have all been found to connect to mental health problems. A mixture of work, insecurity and technology is leading us all to feel slightly less aroused. Drops in sexual activity could be argued, therefore, to reflect the nature of modern life. This phenomenon is a mixture of insecurity and technology. Tackling the sexual decline will require dealing with the very causes of the mental health crisis facing Western worlds – a crisis that is underpinned by job and housing insecurity, fears of climate change, and the loss of communal and social spaces. Source: www.bbc.com


John Fitzgerald Kennedy's 100th Anniversary will be on May 29, 1917. The National Archives is set to release the last remaining top-secret files about JFK’s 1963 assassination. The trove of some 3,600 files, mostly from the FBI and CIA, were part of the collection assembled and sealed by the Archives, on the condition that they all be made public by October 2017. But there’s a catch: According to the same law, President Donald Trump has the ability to block the release of any or all of the documents—if he certifies that keeping them secret is a matter of national security. Philip Shenon, author of “A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination,” wrote recently in Politico Magazine the Archives could begin the process of releasing the estimated 3,600 files still under seal within weeks. As most of the files come from the FBI and CIA, the hope is that some of them may shed light on whether those agencies missed evidence of a conspiracy involving Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Many people believed the government either didn’t know or was hiding the real truth behind the assassination, and conspiracy theories abounded (as evidenced by Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie “JFK”).


—Steve Wheeler: Anyone who saw the Oliver Stone film would never think that Jim Morrison loved a group like the Beach Boys. He was such a dark, morose character in that film. What are your thoughts about the Stone movie? —Frank Lisciandro: I found it to be intolerable. Oliver Stone did not know, or maybe he did not want to know, who Jim Morrison was and he did not come close to capturing the essence of Jim. The film never presented the quiet, sensitive, extremely intelligent human being that Jim was off and on the stage. He wasn’t frantic and manic as he is portrayed in this Hollywood movie. Jim had a sensational sense of humor and that is what is entirely lacking in the Stone film. The guy was absolutely hilariously funny and he would make himself the butt of jokes. I never saw Jim lock someone in a closet and set the room on the fire. I couldn’t even imagine him doing anything remotely like that; this was absolutely not in his nature or personality. He was not a violent person. If Jim needed to get back at you, he would do it with words, and he could be devastating that way.


Jim Morrison’s arrival in Los Angeles in January 1964 coincided with the birth of a generation whose tumultuous course was shaped profoundly by disaster. Only weeks prior to Morrison’s arrival, the dreams of Camelot were blown to hell when John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. The bullets fired that day shattered not only flesh and bone, but the hopes of an entire nation for its future. Morrison once observed that human beings “have no real control over events or their own lives.” Jim Morrison’s arrival in Los Angeles that January also coincided with the arrival of the Whisky a Go-Go, the first club on the Sunset Strip to cater to the burgeoning youth culture. 

The New York Times called the club a “fad” and seemed shocked by the fact bare-midriffed, mini-skirted go-go girls were spinning records and dancing in glass cages. It was a new concept, and Mary Werbelow was one of those who was able to cash in on the craze. Jim had been anxious for Mary’s arrival, and had envisioned the two of them sharing an apartment, much as they had dreamed of back in Clearwater. Unfortunately, Mary now had plans of her own, not all of which included Jim. She wanted to live alone, she told Morrison. Moreover, she wanted to find an agent and seriously pursue a dancing career. Mary’s stubbornness angered and disappointed Jim. “He was crazy about her,” remembers Ray Manzarek, echoing Bryan Gates’ observations: “Mary was the love of Jim’s life.” Perhaps that had been true at one time. Recalls Manzarek, “Jim told her to stop dancing. He said, ‘Don’t do this. Stay in school, get your degree, finish up in art.’ And Mary said ‘No, I want to dance.’ Jim said, ‘Look, I’ll take care of us, this band is going all the way,’ but Mary said, ‘No I don’t like your band, I don’t think this band is going all the way.’

Jim drifted, spending a short time with a friend from UCLA, Dennis Jakob, living on the rooftop of the building in Venice where Dennis lived; today the building has been renamed “The Morrison.” Since graduation, Jim’s short hair had grown out until it curled around his face. Morrison had always been attractive. Now he was beautiful. There is little to say about Jim and Pamela in their early days together. Maybe if there had been more drama in the beginning then we’d know more about the relationship between Jim and his “little girl” during that relatively brief period of tranquilitybetween their first meeting in 1966 and The Doors’ first real taste of success. 

Pam Courson is almost a cipher in The Doors story, but Raeanne Bee and Alix Chavasse are trying to change that, as they’re writing a biography of Courson tentatively titled, “She Dances in a Ring of Fire: The Life and Death of an American Muse”, they hope to publish in the near future. Here is an excerpt from the introduction to their forthcoming book: One person more than any other, Pamela Courson, (Morrison’s common-law wife, friend, editor) withstood his fleeting and unpredictable darkness, and it has been thanks to her influence that the world is now able to recognize Jim as a brilliant poetic visionary. Their relationship was, by all counts, unconventional and strange. Jim took care of Pamela and found in her a kindred spirit and muse, while Pamela encouraged Jim’s creative gifts and tried to save him from the toxic rock scene that was swallowing him alive. They fought like hell, had affairs, and took turns tempting fate through their vices and whims, but in the end, they always returned home (wherever that was at any given time) to one another. Despite her personal demons, Pam’s loyalty and faith in his work remained constant until her premature death in 1974. Despite Morrison’s efforts to protect Pamela through his last will and testament, history has not been so giving, and she continues to this day to be a beautiful mystery, vilified and ultimately misunderstood. Source: doorsexaminer.com

Oliver Stone simply tried to make Meg Ryan look as much like Pam Courson as possible physically (though one insider observed “It’s probably the only movie in history where the lead actors don’t even come close to being as beautiful as the people they’re portraying”), while the character’s words and actions seemed to bear little resemblance to anything Pamela might have said or done in real life. “That was just some other person, that’s all,” says Julia Negron of the character Meg Ryan plays in The Doors. When Cheri Siddons first saw the script of Oliver Stone, she told Stone that the Jim she knew—and she had known Jim quite well—was not incessantly dark and dangerous, but a loving, compassionate, funny man. Stone’s response to Cheri’s concerns was typical: “That Jim would make a boring movie,” he told her, “and I don’t want to make a boring movie.” In a 1994 interview, Robby Krieger said that Oliver Stone's film didn't give the viewer “any kind of understanding of what made Jim Morrison tick.” John Densmore said of Jim & Pam: “They were like Romeo and Juliet. They fought like hell, but they were meant to be together.” The Doors' manager Bill Siddons said: “Pamela was the only one. I knew there were other ones, but ultimately Pamela was always the only real one.”


“Everything at the Castle was theater,” said Paul Rothchild. “Jim was a colossal madman pursued by his own demons. Jim took Nico up in a tower, both naked, and Jim, stoned out of his mind, walked along the edge of the parapet. Hundreds of feet down. Here’s this rock star at the peak of his career risking his life to prove to this girl that life is nothing. ‘This is theater, I’m doing this theater for you.’ He asked Nico to walk the same line and she backed down.” Morrison usually avoided the company of homosexuals. "Babe Hill and I were very close to Jim and if he was bisexual, we would have known," said Paul Ferrara. "The scene was a crowded locker room at California State University at Long Beach. Jim had just been told that he was to go on stage in a few minutes and that Nico, the Warhol superstar, in a predatory mood, had just flown in from New York to confront his long-standing girlfriend, Pamela. As part of her offensive, Nico had dyed her trademark blonde hair a flaming red to match Pam's. Jim became visibly edgy at the news." —Alain Ronay (1967)

A new study carried out by Denis Pelli and Aenne Brielmann at New York University's Department of Psychology has been published on May, 11 in the journal Current Biology. "We find that beauty, when it happens, is strongly pleasurable, and that strong pleasure is always beautiful," says Denis Pelli: "Strong pleasure and beauty both require thought. Our evidence rejects Kant’s claim that sensuous pleasures cannot be beautiful." In the late 1860s, Hungarian journalist Karl Maria Kertbeny coined four terms to describe sexual experiences: heterosexual, homosexual, monosexual and heterogenit. The next time the word 'heterosexual' was published was in 1889, when Austro-German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing included it in Psychopathia Sexualis. But in almost 500 pages the word “heterosexual” is used only 24 times, and isn’t even indexed. “In sexual love the real purpose of the instinct, the propagation of the species, does not enter into consciousness,” Krafft-Ebing wrote. Jonathan Ned Katz, in The Invention of Heterosexuality, notes the impact of Krafft-Ebing’s move: “Placing the reproductive aside in the unconscious, Krafft-Ebing created a small, obscure space in which a new pleasure norm began to grow.” The importance of this shift –from reproductive instinct to erotic desire– can’t be overstated, as it’s crucial to modern notions of sexuality. Without Krafft-Ebing’s work, this narrative might not have ever become thought of as “normal.” Defining normal sexual instinct according to erotic desire was a fundamental revolution in thinking about sex. Krafft-Ebing’s work laid the groundwork for the cultural shift that happened and the definition of heterosexual as “normal” in 1934. A recent UK poll found that fewer than half of those aged 18-24 identify as “100% heterosexual.” That isn’t to suggest a majority of those young respondents regularly practise bisexuality or homosexuality; rather it shows that they don’t seem to have the same need for the word “heterosexual” as their 20th-Century forebears. Source: www.bbc.com

Friday, May 12, 2017

Anne of Green Gables, Redheads, LSD, Jim Morrison: An Hour for Magic


Anne of Green Gables returns in a new adaption for Netflix. Debuting May 12, 2017, Anne With an E stars newcomer Amybeth McNulty. Anne Shirley is the heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved 1908 novel, Anne of Green Gables. If you know only one thing about Anne Shirley, it is most likely that she has red hair, braided into pigtails, sticking out from underneath an unfortunate straw hat. In the 1890s, red hair was a symbol of witchiness and passion.

Anne's hair immediately establishes her as an outsider. It was Moira Walley-Beckett's interest in trauma that attracted her to participate in both Breaking Bad and Anne of Green Gables' screenwriting"I am drawn to the psychology of wounded people," she says. Anne is also a romance, but a slow-burning one. Margaret Atwood wrote in an essay on the occasion of the Anne of Green Gables centenary, "The presiding genius of Anne is not the gritty gray Angel of Realism, but the rainbow-coloured, dove-winged Godlet of the Heart's Desire."

Gilbert Blythe first appears in Anne of Green Gables at school, “a tall boy, with curly brown hair, roguish hazel eyes and a mouth twisted into a teasing smile”. Gilbert Blythe is handsome, smart, witty and chivalrous. But he also turns out to be one of the great feminist heroes: he and Anne are the best students in their year, and he openly admires her brilliance and mouthiness, saying brains are more important than looks while she arrogantly disdains him for years, even when he saves her from drowning. Anne finally realises she loves Gilbert in the third book in the series, Anne of the Island. Gilbert tells her he loved her since the first day he saw her and called her 'Carrots,' when she broke her slate over his head. Years later, he gives up his job offer of teaching at the Avonlea school so that Anne may live at Green Gables.


Pamela Courson is usually mentioned in biographies of Jim Morrison as his redhead 'cosmic mate' but a closer look at her as a person is usually evaded. John Morton, from the American psychedelic garage-rock band of the 1960s Hunger, recounts how a fortuitous rendezvous with Pamela at the Whisky A Go Go inspired them to write the song Colors, published in 1969: "She came back stage and I just figured she was a groupie. She said her name was Valerie Sunshine (this may not have been unusual; in an article about her boutique Themis, Pam used the pseudonym Pamela Roselilly). She told us she wasn’t interested in sex but she had some LSD she wanted to share and go down to Santa Monica beach. Me, Valerie Sunshine, and Mike Lane walked on the beach in Santa Monica. The night was perfect on the beach, full moon and turquoise ocean with beautiful waves rolling in. In the distance you could see the lights on the pier. Valerie was like a goddess with long red hair, in a white lace see through blouse and an airy short white skirt. She was running and skipping on the sand like a carefree child. She just breezed through the air, floating like a leaf, a beautiful white leaf. Valerie had that magical quality that just drew you in. We were all high on Blue Owsley, one of the strongest mind-altering acid you could take.

Valerie was just this innocent soul, I was envisioning her as an angel passing through time. She was magical. All of sudden the intensity of colors just emerged from nowhere. She smiled and said “can you see how fantastic the world is?” She said, “Create me a song!” We looked over at the pier and flashed on the beautiful lights and colors and watched the waves roll in simultaneously from the turquoise sea under a bright moonlit sky and Mike Lane sang “lights flashing, images before my eyes, people turning finally/all the colors in the world have come from me.” I finished with “try and realize what life is worth if you don’t have a disguise.” At that moment there was a full orchestra at my command and the music just flowed in, the violins and strings just resounded as if I was conducting the song. She then became the mad hatter and said “I’m late! I’m late for a very important date.” We drove back to The Whisky and Valerie said as she got out of the van, “in the real world my name is Pam—Pam Courson.” Then she disappeared into the crowd. The next day as we were rehearsing we put together our new song “Colors.” Source: pamelacoursonmorrison.wordpress.com

Jim Morrison was a genuine Southern gentleman and believed that gallantry, charm and a dash of manners were the ingredients to win a woman’s heart. Pamela Courson Morrison was Jim’s soulmate, refuge and friend. Morrison thought and felt in planetary terms, and his mind had an uncanny way of reaching way back in time. In the heart and soul of Jim Morrison there was an uncontrollable rage against injustice. I never knew him to harm anyone physically—except himself. And then it was only to make a point, a statement he deemed important enough to suffer for. Jim always gave you back at least as much as you gave him. He always gave a good count and never short-weighted anyone. But in the last years of his incredible life, he ceased being other people’s image of him. He changed, he began to dislike performing in large halls and finally decided not to do it anymore. He became himself. His personality and his physical appearance were not transformed for the same purpose that a chameleon changes colors to blend into the environment. Jim changed on the outside because his mind was evolving into new levels of awareness. It was the final transition into James Douglas Morrison, Poet, that most confused and alienated his fans. They wanted him to stand still, to be forever the leather-limbed dark angel. For Jim that would have been as intolerable as wearing a mask to a fete and never again being able to remove it. In the years 1966 and 1967, Jim used LSD to journey to the frontiers of divine madness, seeking inspiration beyond the perimeter of reason. He was out there with Homer, Blake, Rimbaud, Poe, Whitman and others. The visions and portents he experienced were the breath and fire of his poems, lyrics and observations. Some of his visions were brilliant and clear, filled with universal mythological and symbolic images. Other times, what he saw was horrible and the words he put on paper could not adequately convey the abstract terror and nightmare transparency. —"Jim Morrison: An Hour for Magic" (1996) by Frank Lisciandro

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Woodshock (Kirsten Dunst), Jim Morrison's psychedelic interview


Woodshock will opens in theatres on September 15, 2017. Synopsis: A woman falls deeper into paranoia after taking a deadly drug. Kirsten Dunst stars as Theresa, spiraling in the wake of profound loss, torn between her fractured emotional state and the reality-altering effects of a potent cannabinoid drug. Immersive and spellbinding, Woodshock transcends genre to become a singularly thrilling cinematic experience that marks the arrival of Kate Mulleavy and Laura Mulleavy as a major new voice in film. Woodshock is a hypnotic exploration of isolation, paranoia, and grief that exists in a dream-world all its own. Source: www.slashfilm.com

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), a potent psychoactive substance, induces profound changes in various mental domains, including perception, self-awareness and emotions. As with the other psychedelics (for example, psilocybin and mescaline), these effects are mainly mediated through agonism at the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor. Although several modern studies on psilocybin have been conducted, recent data on LSD in humans are still very limited. LSD hits the receptor at an unexpected angle, forcing it to create a lid and "trapping" the LSD in, leading to continual hallucination for up to 12 hours. It's an incredibly powerful drug, whereas most drugs as measured in grams, LSD is measured in 1/100,000th of a gram, the equivalent of 1/10th of the mass of a grain of sand. Permanent hallucinations are a possible and life-altering effect of the drug’s use. Hallucinogen Persisting Perceptive Disorder is considered to be a complex hallucinogen-induced psychosis  that feels like a "permanent trip". Bad trips give some users feelings of panic, confusion, sadness, and scary images. It’s nearly impossible to predict who will experience a good trip or a bad trip. Dilated pupils, increased heart rate and blood pressure, trembling, uncontrollable shaking, sweating, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite are all frequently reported effects. Source: www.nature.com



Pure unbounded joy or the beginning of the end? Psychedelic interview with the leader of "The Doors", Jim Morrison, in 1968.


Timothy Leary had announced that LSD was the most powerful aphrodisiac ever discovered. Terrence McKenna wrote about his LSD experiences in "The Invisible Landscape" (1975) a book that mixes psychedelics, shamanism, schizophrenic theory, molecular biology, and the implications of the neuro-consciousness frontier (how the composition of psychedelic compounds like mescaline, psilocybin, and ibogaine share a relation with the neuro-receptors in our brains). Between May 1, 1966, and April 30, 1967, the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control had seized approximately 1.6 million LSD acid doses. Thorazine was the traditional antidote for a bad LSD trip. In 1966, Pamela Courson revealed how Morrison was having awful nightmares about the Vietnam bombings, stating how they would burn through his flesh and the Vietnamese people around him. Morrison watched the bloodshed televised on every major American news station. Morrison’s lyric, “the music is your special friend, dance on fire as it intends,” from “When the Music’s Over” represented his belief that America’s existing social structures were on the verge of collapse. The Doors’ political motivation behind Waiting for the Sun is further realized in their track “Summer’s Almost Gone.” Written by Morrison in the winter after the New Haven arrest, the song confirms the fact that The Doors and America’s rebellious youth were no longer wallowing in the “Summer of Love.” The lyric that resonates most to this fact is when Morrison exclaims, “where will we be, when the summer’s gone?” as if he realized the United States was about to burst into chaos but was not sure when or how its bubble would burst. —"Storming Heaven: LSD & The American Dream" (2011) by Jay Stevens

“You never knew whether Jim would show up as the erudite, poetic scholar or the kamikaze drunk,” said The Doors' producer Paul Rothchild. Jim would tell Pamela that the paranoid song “Five to one” referred to exactly that configuration: Paul Rothchild, Bruce Botnick, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger, all, in Jim’s estimation, pitted against him. Paul Rothchild had known, in a peripheral way, that Jim had a girlfriend but, he said, “I didn’t become really become aware of Pamela until the second album. She was around a great deal more then. Every time he saw her coming into the studio, my friend [assistant engineer] Fritz Richmond used to call out, ‘Here comes the most beautiful girl in the world!’ And she was. She was very beautiful.” But while Paul was as charmed by Pamela’s beauty and apparent sweetness as anybody, he also sensed something under the surface that made him wary. “I have a thing called red signal danger, an alarm lights up in my head,” he said. “And to me she was dangerous. There was nothing but trouble there.” But as Jim had explained to January Jensen, trouble was just what he’d been looking for in a woman. Mirandi Babitz remembers Pamela mentioning that she had met Jim for the first time at a campus party either at UCLA or LACC, a story January Jensen confirms as well, based on Jim’s version of the event. In retrospect, it was a more romantic story than Oliver Stone’s version. —"Angels Dance and Angels Die: The Tragic Romance of Pamela and Jim Morrison" (2010) by Patricia Butler

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

40th Anniversary of Joan Crawford's death

LUCILLE LESUEUR YOU HAVE BEEN PLACED UNDER CONTRACT MGM STUDIO STOP SIX MONTH OPTION STOP SEVENTY FIVE DOLLARS A WEEK STOP LEAVE IMMEDIATELY FOR CALIFORNIA STOP — I kept the telegram clutched in my hand as the train rattled out of Kansas City and then swam on with chugging, steady strokes across this incredibly broad land—across plains and fields and forests I’d never really known existed, toward a destination I’d never really known existed either, Hollywood. Did they dance in movies? All that mattered was dancing. I’d seen six movies in my whole life. No one danced! And I wanted to be the best dancer in the world. Lucille LeSueur, a seventeen-year-old bursting with energy, with pent-up spirits. I longed to leap into the aisle and dance. Instead, I sat there sedately in my gray plaid suit, my small gray cloche hat pulled down to my eyes, my feet resting on my one suitcase. I was wearing pumps with huge bows, and inside the suitcase there were additional pumps with bows. Not many, it was a small case. Producer Harry Rapf from MGM had seen me dancing in the chorus of Innocent Eyes and offered a screen test to “the girl third from the left in the back row.” The girl third from the left would never even have taken the test if it hadn’t been for theatrical agent Nils T. Granlund, dear old Granny Granlund, the chorus girl’s friend in need. What was I thinking of, he said. Did I want to spend the rest of my life doing a time step in some Broadway chorus? Fighting for a place in the front row? So I took the test, along with eighteen others, a routine affair that consisted of walking toward the camera, stopping where a mark had been drawn on the floor, then full face to the camera, profile to the camera, after which I was to look “sad, mad, questioning, wistful and coy.” It was all over in fifteen minutes, but I was called back the next day to make a second test. This time Nils Granlund practically had to drag me. This time Mr. Rapf and Bob Rubin were introduced to me. Would I like to be an actress, they asked. No, I said candidly, I’d like to be a dancer. I wasn’t interested in acting. I was far more interested in going home for Christmas. So I went home. I was helping Mother iron shirts in the laundry agency when the wire came from MGM. We read it with absolute amazement. Mother never had approved of show business, she had all the arguments most parents have to a girl away from home in a glamour business, but those seventy-five dollars a week paralyzed her negatives. Mine too. Compared with the twelve dollars a week I’d earned behind the notions counter at Kline’s Department Store in Kansas City, compared with the thirty-five a week dancing in a Shubert chorus line and doubling in a nightclub—seventy-five dollars sounded a veritable fortune! Two days later, I was on the train. New Year’s Day 1925.

What would Hollywood expect? I couldn’t possibly foresee that awaiting me were love, laughter and disaster, power, and a lovely pinnacle. Not awaiting me either, experiences to be worked for, living that would demand everything I could give and that would give to me in return. I couldn’t possibly foresee that Hollywood was to be my high school and college. Everything I’d ever learn was to stem from the people I worked with, the characters I played, the people I learned to love. Seventeen is rebellious—and suppliant for reassurance. It took an endless while for the train to finally pull into the station at Los Angeles and when it did, I scanned the platform anxiously. There would be, I felt sure, a welcoming committee from the studio, people to guide me. Mr. Rapf probably. I searched the passing faces. People were rushing toward each other, hugging and kissing, there was buoyance, a sound of happiness in the air. But no one for me. Mr. Rapf had the sagacious look of a vaudeville agent, an old-time showman. I scrutinized the crowd, not a single sagacious look. The crowd was thinning. Redcaps were trundling away the luggage. I quickened my pace, ran, following my suitcase. It was a long walk, and when we got to the station itself there was a bewildering crowd of people. I walked back and forth as if I were expecting someone. It grew more and more quiet. I leaned against a pillar waiting. It must have been a strong pillar, for at this time I weighed one hundred and forty-five pounds of baby fat. I was self-conscious, unsure, and my “style” was strictly dreadful. I hated my round face, I hated my freckles, my big mouth and eyes.

I tried to stretch my five feet three as tall as possible, tossed my head in the air, poked my chin out, and dared people to notice me. When the station was virtually empty, I hid my face against the pillar sobbing. This alone I’d never been in my life. Suddenly into the loneliness came the sound of whistling. Around and around it went like the buzzing of a bee. I began to recognize the tune. I’d sung it myself at Harry Richman’s nightclub in New York, “When my sweetie walks down the street, all the little birdies go tweet, tweet, tweet...” I looked up to see a young man, strolling toward me, his hands in his pockets, still whistling and almost on key. He nodded politely as he approached and asked if he could be of any help. He was just a teenager too, so I blew my nose and sobbed my story. He gave me a quick appraisal, head to toe, and whistled his surprise, the kind of whistle every girl likes to get. “Why you must be Lucille LeSueur!” he said. “Honey, I’m looking for you. I’m the Welcoming Committee from the studio.” He was Larry Barbier, the publicity department office boy—they’d instructed him to go down to the station and meet one of Harry Rapf’s “show girls” from New York. “I was looking for a dame six feet tall with a big hat and wolfhounds,” Larry said, and we both laughed. Obviously I was no show girl, I was a pony. “Rapf usually signs show girls,” Larry said. “Come along, honey, we’ll find your luggage.” One nice thing—he did have a limousine waiting, with a chauffeur, and we drove out a long, long way through streets lined with palm trees. An infinity of palm trees. In nothing flat I discovered that the pretty young girls in film business were just as numerous. Business was booming. Metro had taken over the Goldwyn Studios ten months before. They were making big pictures, The Merry Widow, The Unholy Three, The Great Divide; they had wonderful stars like Ramon Novarro and Lon Chaney, Mae Murray, Lillian Gish, Alice Terry, Buster Keaton and Marion Davies. But they were constantly signing new talent, searching for some face or personality that might develop into stellar box office. Besides, every studio boss had some relative or protégé who wished a job. It was routine. We dropped my bag at the Washington Hotel in Culver City, continued on to the studio and signed the contract. It was all as unreal as a dream. What really hit me was that six-month option. I had six months to prove something. If I failed to make it, they could drop me. However, I had no time to worry about that—my screen test was scheduled for the next day. I’d never have gotten through it except for cameraman Johnny Arnold (later, for years, head of MGM’s camera department) and Tommy Shagrue, the little redheaded Irish electrician. They must have been pretty disappointed in me, freckles and all. But Johnny, seeing how tense I was, insisted that I’d photograph. “Don’t be afraid of that thing,” he said, pointing to the camera. “It’s only got one eye, honey, and it can’t talk back to you.” He and Tommy worked with all the great stars. MGM watched zealously over their stars in those days, and of first importance was the choice of cameramen, Ollie Marsh to this star, George Barnes or George Folsey to that star... Johnny Arnold made the assignments with great care. But he also ran these routine tests of newcomers every week, kids who’d last six months or less. When I was told to smile, I smiled. “Turn your profile to the camera, dear.” I turned. “Now let’s have a few lines from this play, right here.” Sad lines. It was very obvious—even to me—that all I knew how to do was dance. “Can you cry?” I thought of that six-month option, started crying and couldn’t stop. Tommy Shagrue had once hoofed in vaudeville. “You’re a dancer, aren’t you?” he asked. “Bet you can’t do this one.” He cut loose with a buck-and-wing. “Bet I can!” And I did. “Okay,” Tommy said, “now go in there and do your scene, honey. Give it everything you’ve got.” I gave. What the test looked like I never knew, but Johnny told me it was okay. 

“A lot of girls look just alike,” he said. “You don’t look like anyone else. You’re athletic-looking and your face is built” whatever that meant. Within a week, I was spending most of my time before the camera. Not the movie camera, but the still camera in publicity. I was strictly the “action queen” of cheesecake, as Greta Garbo had been. Pete Smith, head of the Publicity Department, had just bought an action Graflex for photographer Don Gilum and Don’s action shots were favorites with newspaper editors. There were a number of young starlets around the studio. Don Gilum would take Dorothy Sebastian and me over to the University of Southern California track—an excuse to put us in shorts and T-shirts—and snap us while we ran the fifty-yard dash and took the hurdles. Or he’d take us out to Santa Monica beach—an excuse for bathing suits—where we’d play volleyball, leap on the sands, kick, jump and play football, not the authentic version of course. We’d kick a football—I damn near broke my toe the first time—or toss a pass in very feminine fashion while Don’s camera caught us. There was no such thing as a portable radio, but the prop man improvised a horn on a box when Dorothy and I danced, and the caption read, “to the music of a portable radio.”

That gave the manufacturers an idea. Dorothy Sebastian and I became devoted friends. She was a jolly, vital girl from Alabama and we loved these excursions to the beach. We kicked, leaped, worked out with dumbbells, lifted iron weights and played with boxing gloves as if it were a game. For me it was. I probably had more pictures taken than any girl who’d ever been signed at the studio, because, as a dancer, I could leap the highest and jump the farthest. I threw myself into action shots with youthful abandon. They also took pictures of me as I came out of a firecracker for the Fourth of July, climbing down a chimney in a fur-trimmed Santa Claus bathing suit with a Teddy bear in my pack, and in all sorts of chiffon scarves and beads I’d dig up in wardrobe, some of the most artistic of these for European publication. Once they took me down to Seventh and Broadway in Los Angeles, put me in a traffic cop’s hat and let me stop traffic. I stopped quite a bit of traffic, and that photo broke in newspapers across country. I was in pictures, that’s true, but not moving. As a matter of fact, my first appearance before the moving camera was anonymous. I doubled for Norma Shearer in her dual role in Lady of the Night. This was the story of a reform-school graduate and a judge’s daughter, both in love with the same young inventor. Full face there’s no resemblance between Norma and me, but our profiles did look somewhat alike. While Norma played the Tough Girl (full front, close-up), I played the Lady (with my back to the camera); when she did the Lady, I was the Tough Girl (with my back to the camera). Between times, I tried to watch everything Norma did, for she was that wonderful being, a star. Also, she dated Irving Thalberg, who was in charge of studio production. Thalberg would come by the set occasionally, a cool-looking, dark young man who tossed a gold coin in the air, tossed it and tossed it, with such concentration that you never dared speak to him. I didn’t envy Norma, but I did long for a friend at court! She had Thalberg, Marion Davies had Mr. Hearst, Jeanette MacDonald had a good education and a hard-working mother, I, well, I still had never caught sight of that vanished showman with the sagacious look. Mr. Rapf I had seen only that once in New York. He evidently had forgotten I was here. No one else knew, except, of course, Johnny Arnold, Tommy Shagrue, the boys in publicity, Lulu, the matron in charge of the dressing rooms, and Edith and Eleanor in hairdressing. I was always showing up in hairdressing to experiment and watch. I couldn’t sit and watch those six precious months slide by. There were dozens of girls on the lot, with contracts and theatrical experience, and friends at court. I’d find out what pictures were being cast, then attempt to secure a bit part or extra work. What I didn’t grasp was that when Mr. Rapf went east looking for talent he wasn’t looking for actresses, he was looking for background glamour, which is certainly what I was. In New York I’d been so far back I never did see the audience.

Now in Hollywood I was still background glamour. Carey Wilson cast me—at Mr. Rapf’s suggestion!—as Miss MGM, introducing a sales film which would show clips from forthcoming MGM attractions to exhibitors at the annual convention. Mr. Wilson sent me to Sophie Watman in wardrobe for plain opera pumps—no bows—size two and a half at that time. The opening shot was of me, all legs, in high-heeled black patent leather pumps. I liked Mr. Wilson and he became one of my self-appointed guardian angels. Later he told me why. He was used to girls in what he calls “the Hollywood pattern”: brassy exteriors, a vamp technique and the ability to scheme, plan and finagle to get ahead. “You were different, you were just plain scared to death,” he told me years later. “You hadn’t come to a boil yet. You’d have been overwhelmed anywhere and here you were in a spot that was honestly overwhelming, the biggest studio in the business, a place teeming with the brightest stars.” —"A Portrait of Joan: The Autobiography of Joan Crawford" (1962) edited by Jane Kesner Ardmore

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Twin Peaks returns, F. Scott Fitzgerald's lost stories, Jim Morrison's poetic vision


TWIN PEAKS—2017 Teaser for the return of David Lynch's SHOWTIME Series. After 25 years, the cult hit Twin Peaks is finally returning to television. The eerie show, which first debuted on ABC in 1990, is getting a revival on Showtime beginning May 21. The film genre that fascinates Lynch most of all is film noir—a style that reached its pinnacle at midcentury—with its shadowy lighting, brooding detectives, and femmes fatales. Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Drive (2001), and Blue Velvet (1986) are all neo-noirs. “There’s a beguiling and magnetic mood,” Lynch once said of the genre. “There’s so much darkness, and there’s so much room to dream.” Laura Palmer is, in Lynch’s words, “radiant on the surface but dying inside”—Through the course of the series, you can detect Lynch’s realization that the films he’s loved, from Laura to Vertigo, contain their own hidden stories. Only by making an even larger story, a story expansive enough to contain all the rest of them, could he begin to get at the one that most needed to be told. For Agent Cooper, Twin Peaks is an idyll, but to the contemporary viewer, it’s a more like mirage. Source: www.slate.com

As Agent Cooper unravels the actual story of Laura’s demise, the truth involves a much wider conspiracy than originally conceived. With his unorthodox divinatory methods of solving crime, Cooper astounds local law enforcement with the concept of utilizing synchronicity to associate similar names with inanimate objects in a game of rock toss.  This odd practice will configure Cooper as both a classic pulp detective figure along the lines of Sam Spade, but also grant a mystical side from which he will draw to peer into the psychosphere. Mircea Eliade defined shamanism not as religion, but as a “technique of ecstasy,” a system of ecstatic and therapeutic methods whose purpose is to obtain contact with the parallel universe of spirits. In Twin Peaks, it is the light in the morgue over the place where the body of Laura Palmer had been kept, and which is then visited by Mike, the one-armed man, who recites the famous poem: “Through the darkness of futures past The magician longs to see; One chants out between two worlds ‘Fire walk with me.’” There, in a strange little verse, we have the key to unlocking the mystery not only of Twin Peaks but virtually all of Lynch’s films: the suspension of normal laws of time (“futures past”) and the idea that the magician lives “between two worlds.” The suspension of normal, linear narrative event in favor of a dreamlike, hallucinatory set of images that are taking place all over the fourth dimension is part of Lynch’s appeal as a director. ‘I learned that just beneath the surface there’s another world, and still different worlds as you dig deeper.’ –David Lynch Source: jayanalisis.com

Jim Morrison was a man who should have stomped as a shaman in the ritualistic paces that left footprints, unseen and windswept but indelible, on the floor of the desert landscape. Jim’s face—the visage of an Adonis whose bright smile and gleaming eyes were in the process of beholding a grand vision. Jim, like Rimbaud, knew that words were a sword in an endless battle with a culture that could care less about poetry, mysticism, wisdom, rhythm, vision, and prophecy. The rebels who were his contemporaries needed a Dionysus, a true Jesus, an actor who could live and—most importantly die—as the eternal messiah and scapegoat. Artaud and Nietzsche combined to teach him that his own life and death had to be theatrical in nature. Forget Dylan and his protest songs. Forget The Beatles and their innocent image, which made the psychedelic into the secure. Forget The Stones and their bad-boy image, which was so calculated that it made their desire for “Satisfaction” passionless and commercial. Jim became a rock god of an industry that worshiped the image of the swaggering frontman (the Jaggers and Daltreys that imitated him).

Jim metamorphosed into a Dionysus who was willing to carry out a martyrdom for a people who had lost all sense of the sacred—a people who had the Kennedys and MLK killed, “the Moral Majority…” Jim Morrison, now as fiery an orator, a biblical-style prophet, no longer the shaman from the desert floors of peyote trances, was using the rhetorical fire-and-brimstone of Nixon’s Moral Majority—the very technique of his enemies—to bring about revolution. But Morrison's passion would be made meaningless by the same mentality that drove Nietzsche to the asylum and forced Rimbaud to abandon poetry. Illiterate audiences wanted him half-naked, teasing, and pornographic in stark black-and-white images. They weren’t able to comprehend that Jim’s life was made for a stage. The depth of his martyrdom was disproportionate to the depth of his audiences’ understanding, so that when he performed, he was taken for a drunken fool who refused to sing the hits. Instead, he’d dance like a shaman, hide under stages, improvise poems and lyrics, joke... Jim Morrison’s martyrdom became a tragedy of incomprehension. Source: stereoembersmagazine.com

F. Scott Fitzgerald was a wunderkind by many accounts destroyed by the hedonism of the ‘Golden Twenties’ he defined. A common take on the trajectory of Fitzgerald’s life runs through the arc of fame and success after the publication of his first novel, This Side of Paradise, at the age of 24, to death in obscurity at the end of a late wilderness period marred by alcoholism and a sense of personal failure. The descent of his effervescent wife, Zelda, “the first American flapper” as he called her, into ever more severe mental illness, has added another layer to the tragic aura that has built up around the author’s life story. Fitzgerald died at 44, desperately trying, and failing to successfully write for Hollywood, “a great sculptor hired to do a plumbing job”, as Billy Wilder put it. Most of the stories collected in I'd Die For You were written through the 1930s, in an increasingly dark period.

There are ostensibly bleak currents running through these stories – divorce, suicide, the effects of the Depression – but what really makes an impression is the humour. Some of Fitzgerald’s stories can read at times as frothy throwaway bagatelles but from the first, early (1919) story in this collection, The I.O.U., a Woody Allen-ish sensibility comes to the fore. Preston Sturges would have made a sympathetic collaborator. Doctors are, understandably, targets for Fitzgerald’s satire, as in the raucous Women in the House, as are the Hollywood set of the title story. It’s possible that his wit was piqued as his life became ever more traumatic and pressured, literally “writing for his life”, and he moved his focus away from the frivolous and the tragic. Source: www.independent.co.uk

—Jim Morrison: How many other guys have you fucked since you been with me? —Pamela: How many dogs have you fucked? You're the only one who couldn't make it, you asshole, the only limp dick! —Jim Morrison: Would you die for me? (The Doors, 1991)

—Frank Lisciandro: In 1990, Oliver Stone’s film was in pre-production and Stone’s production team asked me about using my photographs for research, and about me being a consultant for the film. So I asked to see Stone’s script before accepting their offer. Stone responded that he didn’t allow anyone to read his scripts before production. I replied that I didn’t want to be a consultant on his film if I didn’t know how he intended to portray Jim. I didn’t want to be part of spreading any more lies, rumors and misinformation. Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together is still the #1 Rated Morrison tome on Amazon. Michael McClure  confirmed my own unschooled opinion of Jim’s work, saying that Jim Morrison was one of the finest poets of his generation. I also appreciated his general review of the ’60s art scene in L.A. 

—I wanted a photograph (for the front cover of Friends Gathered Together) that was recognizable as Jim and one that captured the viewer immediately. In that photograph Jim is looking at the camera so he’s looking at the viewer; his expression is neutral and engaging. There’s an instant contact.  From the beginning I thought of the book as a gathering of friends each adding their testimony for a true picture of the character and person of Jim Morrison. Over the years Jim’s fans have matured. They want to know about Jim’s character, about his poetry, his filmmaking, his lyrics and books. They want evidence and facts and are not as ready to rely on rumor and urban legend.