Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Living Doll: Aphrodite Meets the Space Age

In the early Sixties teenage America fell under the spell of the Horror & Sci-fi movie explosion hitting drive-in theaters all across the country. It was tearing them away from their TV sets, and CBS fought back by programming an army of shows to win them back. Shows like The Munsters, My Favorite Martian and Lost in Space were hitting the airwaves harder than John Glenn’s orbit in Friendship 7. There was one show in the bunch that was the most memorable and stranger than the rest called My Living Doll.

My Living Doll starred musical actress Julie Newmar and Forties matinee idol Bob Cummings. Although it was a situation comedy it was more sophisticated that the other shows listed above; I think it simultaneously helped the show and destroyed it, too.

My Living Doll began as the tale of Dr. Bob McDonald, psychiatrist for a NASA-based agency, who gets a call in his office from the head scientists in robotics warning him of a robot on the loose rampaging around the building. Expecting a terrifying nuts and bolts cyborg to wreak havoc in the hallway, Dr. McDonald is accosted instead by a beautiful Amazon clad only in a towel!

Julie Newmar lists her training in mime as background for the role of Rhoda (formerly AF 709) and she uses it to full advantage. Her jerky robotic movements are flawless in their execution and her facial expressions as a machine processing bizarre human behavior and equally perfect. Watching her defuse lecherous men's advances with cold, mechanical responses is space age feminism at its finest.

Viewing the episodes of My Living Doll: The Official Collection DVD, are a mixed bag between sexual tension and feminine comedy (beauty contests; kleptomania at a Beverly Hills jewelers, etc.) with the feminine comedy being more fun to watch. The sexual tension business is neither funny nor sexy, due to Cummings working the camera too hard.

Speaking of Cummings, the character of Dr. McDonald was intended to create some spark of sexual tension between himself and Rhoda, but the producers shot the pooch by hiring a tired old guy to play a young, available bachelor. Just think what the show would have been like if they hired someone like, oh, Adam West to play Dr. McDonald. (Never mind).

Legend has it that Cummings was not only jealous of Newmar’s popularity but even wanted to take over her role as the robot. The poor man thought kids were tuning in to watch him!

I remember watching this show shortly before Newmar hit pay dirt as The Catwoman on Batman and liked it, but it was obvious the show was doomed. With her Amazon build and low, husky voice, Newmar was on a wavelength that wasn’t TV friendly at all. Although the producers tried to make her look wholesome there was an aggressive eroticism about this robot that definitely made the show too bizarre to be successful.

Walking a tightrope between beautiful and funny is a major risk, Thelma Todd being the most infamous example, but few pull it off as brilliantly as Julie Newmar, and if you want to see it done to perfection than seek out My Living Doll: The Official Collection, Volume One, available on MPI Home Video.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Smell Check 2015

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and what could be more sensual than wearing a seductive fragrance to put your loved one in the mood? In other words, it’s just about time for Smell Check 2015.

Since last year I’ve learned a lot about fragrances in terms of projection – the power of your scent projecting out; sillage – the staying power of the scent on you; dry down – when the top notes of a scent drift away and the middle and base notes take over.

Numerous great fragrance review sites have popped up on the internet, with my favorite being Fragrantica.com, where you can find endless reviews from cologne and perfume fans on every scent you’re curious about. The site has barometers showing projection and sillage rate of each fragrance, all voted on by users, in addition to breakdowns to all the notes used in each fragrance. It’s amazing.

In the past few years I’ve found myself gravitating more towards niche fragrances as opposed to designer fragrances, easy on my nose but not so easy on my wallet. In the long run I’ve got to admit it’s all been worth it for the great scents I’ve discovered. Here are a few, some old and some even older:

Tobacco Vanille (Tom Ford) – Everybody loves Tobacco Vanille, and so do I, but with all that said I don’t get a lot of tobacco in this scent. I get cinnamon and honey with a whiff, ahh, should be kind of feminine but it still maintains a masculine tone all the way through. I’m loving this, but for a tobacco vibe I’ll stick with Mugler Pure Havane.

By the way, while many niche fragrances carry high price tags, nobody ups the ante quite like Tom Ford. A large bottle of his juice will set you back by $250-350. Whew! Because of his greedy price fixing frag fans madly scramble towards cheaper scents that emulate the same notes, or they simply buy testers, which are in ample supply on eBay.

Andy Warhol Silver Factory, now known as Silver (Bond No. 9) – Silver Factory was the first release in a series of Andy Warhol-inspired fragrances that Bond No. 9 released in 2007. Several more releases followed, like Andy Warhol Montauk, Success Is A Job In New York City, and one that even had a silk-screened portrait of Andy himself circa 1964. Each bottle bore an original design by Warhol that enhanced the desirability of the fragrance.

In 2013, Bond No. 9’s license with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts’ license expired, so Silver Factory is now called Silver Bond No. 9, cased in a simple silver bottle with the familiar Bond No. 9 star shape, it’s still the same fragrance in a different package.

And what a great fragrance it is! According to the oppress release it includes: Jasmine, iris and violet, the favorite flower of Andy Warhol. Base notes include: bergamot, mildly bitter grapefruit, lavender, amber, a mix of wood resins, sweet vanilla and sensual cedar wood. I’m not getting all the flowers listed but I’m definitely getting patchouli and leather, even though it’s not listed anywhere. Anyway, this is one of the greatest scents out there. I’m loving it and lusting it at the same time.

Demeter Oud (Demeter) – I didn’t get enough oud from this, to be honest, but instead got a gingerbread fragrance. I like gingerbread but the oud didn’t deliver here at all. Demeter isn’t the best in terms of projection or sillage, but it’s low budget so you get what you pay for.

Oud Save The King (Atkinson) – I got a tester of this and Rebecca got a tester of Oud Save The Queen, and I thought the Queen was better and stronger than the King. Oud Save The King had a sort of Designer’s Imposter’s vibe to it, no oud to be smelled for miles and bad projection and even worse sillage. Maybe Demeter had a hand in this!

Muscs Koublai Khan (Serge Lutens) – Tabernac!!! I love most Serge Lutens but this was a little too raunchy for my taste. This is for guys who like to go “down there” when their girl or guy hasn’t bathed in a week. It’s nasty and it’s strong.

Koublai Khan features civet - a thick yellowish musky-odored substance found in a pouch near the sexual organs of the civet cat and used in perfume, and castoreum, which is the yellowish secretion of the castor sac which is, in combination with the beaver's urine, used during scent marking of territory. Need I say more? The dry down gets better, but who’s going to wait three hours for that nasty crotch funk to evaporate?

Aoud Musk (Montale) – This was good, the oud had a beautifully full presence I really enjoyed. Montale also gets points for storing their scents in a can rather than in a bottle. This makes it better for posterity in that it keeps out light from fading the scent.

Aoud Musk is an “elegant blend of saffron, ebony, vetiver and amber notes, placed on the base of sensual musk and agar”. It has a sweet woody scent that’s a little on the dark side, but I like that sort of thing.

A*Men Pure Havane (Thierry Mugler) – Next to Pure Malt this is the best of the A*Men frags out there. When you spray Pure Havane you will smell Swisher sweet cigars, you will smell sweet cherry flavored pipe tobacco, you will smell a little incense, some wood, cocoa, labdanum and styrax. You can spray this all over me 24/7 and I will never get bored with it. My signature scent at the moment and not for the weak of heart!

Just a few words about niche fragrances: although they cost about as much as a pair of nice shoes they’re definitely worth the trouble of seeking out. While there are some nice designer fragrances out there, the vast majority of them cater to a large marketplace, which means the scents aren’t going to get too risky or unusual. The more adventurous scents can be found in niche fragrances, so they’re worth the extra money.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Afterword to The Foreword

Hi, everyone, just letting you know that I've created an author page for myself on Amazon.com. If you click on there you can see all my books that are available, as well as my Twitter feed (tweet, tweet) and maybe some extra stuff that I sometimes post here, some stuff not. It's a sort of virtual Andy Seven clubhouse. Yeah, it's my clubhouse and it's freaking me out! Click here for some action:
http://www.amazon.com/Andy-Seven/e/B00NCD4S2S/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Long Gone Saturday Night

"There's nothing more rebellious than some ugly person dancing around thinking they're wonderful"
-Kim Fowley

Another one gone: no sooner did I write a eulogy for the great Jack Bruce do I find myself mourning the loss of the great Kim Fowley. Kim Fowley, legendary Hollywood songwriter, performer, producer and Whirling Dervish passed on ten days ago, January 15, 2015. What makes Fowley so unique from all Hollywood movers and shakers is that there isn't anyone in Hollywood who couldn't claim Fowley as a musical associate, and that was the key to his staying power as an artist.

Through the garage, psych, glam, punk and metal eras and beyond there wasn't a style or project he deemed too small or beneath him. His work transcended trends due to his absolute belief in everything he worked on.

Talking to Kim was not for the weak of heart: he fixed his steely gaze at you from that skull-like face and spoke with a directness that either frightened you or made you laugh. It was actually a pretty good acid test to see who was sincere and who was just another Sunset Boulevard huckster.

And Sunset Boulevard! How many songs did he write about Sunset or Hollywood Boulevard? Songs like Hollywood Nights, Terrors In Tinseltown, Hollywood USA, Canyon Woman, Hollywood Child, Mayor of the Sunset Strip, ad infinitum.

Whether seeing him at Canter's in 1966 or Rodney's English Disco in 1974 or a Weirdos/Nerves show he promoted in 1977, even seeing him at the screening of "New York Doll" at the Director's Guild Theater in 2005, Fowley was there, a permanent fixture on the local scene.

My favorite album by him was Good Clean Fun, followed by Outrageous, where he took his manic Sunset Blvd. energy and distilled it into wild, raw, savage tracks, treading a demented balance between Steppenwolf raunch and Frank Zappa-style freakazoid documentary.

And speaking of Zappa, Fowley was one of the craziest voices on "Freak Out", the first Mothers of Invention album, babbling all the way through sides 3 and 4 in an improvisational foreign language known only to himself. Fowley can also be heard laying down an unbelievable rap about Wild man Fischer on the legendary "An Evening With Wild man Fischer" album.

With the loss of Kim Fowley the world has lost a lot more color. Things look a lot paler than they used to.

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Captain Beefheart fans will have to postpone their mourning for a little while, because Rhino Records in association with Warner Bros. have just released an amazing four-disc box set of iconic Beefheart albums titled Sun Zoom Spark. The discs included are the long out of print Lick My Decals Off, Baby, The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot, with a fourth disc comprised of unreleased outtakes and demos mostly recorded during The Spotlight Kid sessions.

Many Beefheart fans consider this period (1970-1972) to be his most fully realized (read freest) work ever, arguably better than his later Virgin Records output. I would advise many newbies to start with Safe As Milk, followed by Trout Mask Replica, and then this chunky monster of a box set.

But getting back to Sun Zoom Spark, the fourth disc is guaranteed to get even the most rabid fans to buy it. Beautifully packaged with tons of Don Van Vliet art, this is one of those box sets that's impossible to resist.

In addition to this treasure trove of newly released stuff is a download of the complete Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot outtakes, posted in its entirety on You Tube by Idiotska's Live Corner, seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCdwDSfsVFY. Clocking in at over three hours(!) this is even more phenomenal than the Sun Zoom Spark CD. An early version of "Ice Cream For Crow" titled Drink Paint Run Run starts the action, and it amply demonstrates Zoot Horn Rollo and Winged Eel Fingerling playing some of the most incendiary guitar you'll ever hear.

The three hour tapes reveal snippets, references and full-on previews of Low Yo Yo Stuff, Circumstances (played as a dirge), Sun Zoom Spark, Harry Irene, Suction Prints, Sheriff of Hong Kong, Ice Cream For Crow, Flavor Bud Living, Sue Egypt, Dirty Blue Gene, and even a hint of Up On The My-Oh-My.

I intend on getting the Sun Zoom Spark package because you get the great bonus disc as well as the very first official Warner Bros. release of Lick My Decals Off, Baby, which Rhino had in limited release for only two years, so seeing it back in print's pretty exciting. If you can get through a blistering thirty-minute version of Pompadour Swamp then your ship's come in. Forty years in the making and worth every minute waited.

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And speaking of Kim Fowley and Captain Beefheart, there's a great documentary on You Tube called "From Straight to Bizarre" about Zappa's legendary record labels: Straight and Bizarre Records and the artists that made it happen.

It's rich in rare footage of Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, featuring small capsule profiles on the artists run rampant on the labels: Alice Cooper, Wild Man Fischer, Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, Essra Mohawk (Sandy Gurvitz), Jeff Simmons,and The GTOs. There's also a few bits about non-label artists like Vito and Mr. Ubiquitous, Kim Fowley.

There was a little too much GTOs for my liking and not enough Beefheart. A little background on the people behind the scenes like Cal Schenkel, responsible for the offbeat and provocative album covers would have been great to watch.

I was also disappointed to see Tim Buckley and Judy Henske cut out of the doc, which makes it not completely comprehensive in my opinion. They're quickly dismissed towards the end as simply being Herb Cohen's folkie clients. So what? They helped give the labels just as much personality as Alice and The GTOs. Nevertheless, this is essential viewing not just for Zappa fans, but for Sixties counterculture fans as well.

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Hello, world, I'm still trying to sell my Lydia Lunch records. If you want to bask in her ridiculously nihilistic oeuvre here's your big chance!

I'm selling her 1979 album Queen of Siam on Ze Records, the Eight Eyed Spy album released on Fetish Records in 1981, and an autographed 7" Teenage Jesus And The Jerks single baby Doll b/w Feud In Flop, all for the low price of $90. Robert Quine fans note that he played guitar all over the Queen of Siam album, so there's some major skronk going down for sale. Here's the link if you're interested: http://www.ebay.com/itm/171650590192?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Now Playing ABSOLUTELY FREE on You Tube - Hugo Haas Edition

Nine months ago I reported on full movies being available for viewing on You Tube. The variety of films available is staggering: in addition to rare noir gems I've viewed nearly forgotten silent films, obscure foreign classics, garish Italian giallo horrors, and even contemporary films with a twist, like Point Break in French and Looking For Mr. Goodbar in German.

If you're a Hugo Haas fan like me, and don't laugh, Richard Hell and Robert Quine formed a friendship over their love of all things Hugo, then you'll find a treasure trove of heretofore unreleased (on DVD) Hugo gems on You Tube. The best ones generally star his battleship blonde Cleo Moore.

Three films I've recently viewed are The Other Woman, Edge of Hell and the bizarre race drama The Night of the Quarter Moon. As beat as some of Hugo's films look many of them were released by major studios, mostly Columbia Pictures and a few from 20th Century Fox. Here's a small rundown of what you can catch on YT:

Night of the Quarter Moon (1959): One of Haas' last directed films, this sports a top-notch cast which includes Julie London, Nat King Cole, Jackie Coogan, Disney star Dean Jones, and Agnes Moorehead. Unfortunately it might be one of the worst films I've ever seen.

If I followed the film properly, and yes, it is confusing, Ginny Nelson (Julie London) gets her windows smashed in by some racist punks. Hubby Roderic Nelson (John Drew Barrymore) gets a call at work about the vandalism and races to the scene of the crime to stop the carnage. The police appear from out of nowhere and arrest Barrymore even though the punks are still brandishing bricks and rocks.

This is one of those movies that are supposed to wind you up because the bad guys just can't stop winning and the victims can't stop losing. Because London is "colored" she seeks the advice of attorney Nat King Cole, whose first recommendation is to "forget it". What the fuck???

The film can't make up it's mind what London's ethnicity is, either: first we're told she's black (!) and then we're told she's Latina. The films keeps flip-flopping about her being Latina and then going back to her being black. No question Miss London is a ravishing woman, but she's as Caucasian as it gets.

London spends half of the film building her court case against Agnes Moorehead, playing another cunty mother-in-law like in Bewitched and trying to contact her mentally ill husband, now sequestered away at Mama's house and forbidden to speak to Julie.

The film ends with an intense court battle which results in a lurid display meant to bolster London's case. I won't say what it is, because it's so stupid no court on planet Earth would entertain it. But Hugo Haas probably thought this was powerful stuff. I'm still trying to figure out what race Julie London was supposed to play.

Edge of Hell (1956): Hugo plays Valentin, a former Russian star of the theater, now reduced to living in the streets of New York on the bum. His only bread and butter is Flip, a scruffy dog who performs ordinary circus tricks like hopping around in a circle (wowie zowie). All through the picture Valentin spouts his philosophy on life to both his hobo pals and his rich clients - more on them in a second.

Edge of Hell follows Valentin through his daily life full of homeless whimsy, cloying and cute with bums who wouldn't hurt a fly. The squeeze play happens when Valentin brings Flip to a rich kiddies party to entertain the brats. After getting paid a paltry $20 for entertaining the snot noses and it's time to split the shindig, the rich birthday boy breaks down and demands that Flip stay at his plush home.

Dad offers Valentin $500 for the dog and with asthma attacks hitting him by the score and an eviction notice (he lives in a cold basement) hanging in his face, will he sell his pride and joy Flip or die on the cold streets of New York? Despite the noir title there ain't much noir going on here.

The Other Woman (1954): Noir all the way, and this time Cleo's on board doing what she does best. Cleo's plays Sherry, an untalented bit player who can't act her way out of a paper bag. After getting kicked off the movie by director Walter Darman (Haas), Sherry's madder than a wet hen and devises a scheme to get even with Darman.

Begging Darman to come over her place to prove there's no hard feelings, he finally relents and has a few drinks with her. Passing out from all the booze, he eventually wakes up to some fish story from her about how they had a night of sex.

Since Darman's a married man she starts with the blackmail phone calls, demanding he pay $50,000 ASAP or she's going to tell all to Darman's wife with a few muddy, dark photos. Since Hugo can't scrape up 50K to shut her up he makes plans to have her ass offed.

Ironically this is the best of the three Haas films; shot on a shoestring budget with cookie-cutter plotting, Haas proved his best work was in cranking out simple noir films. Everything else just paled in comparison, and Moore seemed to make everything work. As John Cale once sang, simple stories are the best.

The prominence of You Tube is more robust than ever, largely due to alternative video services' poor decision making: satellite television providers with increasing their monthly service fees - ours was $100 a month for basic service which we dropped a year ago; and video disc rental services like Netflix, who dramatically slashed their catalog of films without rhyme or reason. These bad decisions ironically opened up a large playing field for You Tube to actually grow and flourish in ways in all its years as a website.