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Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Pickpocket In The Slam Pit

11:45 PM. Skipjack's. Long Beach, California. Skipjack's was a hardcore punk club in the South Bay area. The club was an old wrestling-cum-roller derby auditorium framed in stucco and neon lights with a lot of rotting wood inside. The auditorium itself seemed to be slowly decaying from the salty sea air that wafted northward from the harbor a few miles away.

Punks from all over the hoods of Wilmington, Lomita, and Pedro all converged every Friday and Saturday nights at Skipjack's. Stew Rat Nickson was no exception, a miserable specimen of lowlife punk rock, a skeletal, gangly youth with clammy white skin housing a relentless network of freckles and pimples. He had so many freckles and pimples nobody knew where one began and the other one ended.

His head of short hair was dyed a sickly orange with bald patches that had other colors dyed in there, and dyed so badly that some of the dye stained his neck and ears. Mr. Stew Rat simply didn't care.

Tonight was the night of Stew Rat's big score. It was simple: his tartan bondage pants had a long zipper running down the length of his right leg with a cargo pocket running from upper thigh to his ankle for hiding things...like wallets.

The plan was to get into the slam pit and find himself the better, aka well-fed, suburban punks and pull their wallets and cram it down his secret pocket. The club was so booked with moshers he would easily score, and no one would be the wiser. The quickest smash and grab ever.

Crank Call were on stage and tearing it up, playing a mile a minute and roaring as ferociously as a jet plane taking off. The lead singer, a beefy sunburned monster in a crewcut stepped up to the mike and bellowed, "HOW MANY OF YOU DICKS CAME HERE TONIGHT TO FUCK SHIT UP? YEAH!"

The audience roared and Stew Rat pushed and jostled his way through the crowd, knocking over a few beers in the process.

Crank Call pounded into the song, drums beating machine like rhythms like runaway oil pumps and guitars stuttering like the screaming factory noises straight outta Long Beach.

Stew Rat shoved his way further towards the pit, bodies parting further and further away from the chaotic dance of destruction, a sausage fest of tribal brutality. Young men careening and bashing into each other like wayward steel balls hitting bumpers and flippers in some god-forsaken pinball machine.

Stew Rat grinned with his decaying orange teeth glowing in the darkness. An occasional mosher would bump into him, some smiling and saying, "SORRY, DUDE!".
Stew Rat didn't care, they were fair game to him.

He pulled the zipper halfway down the long cargo pocket, readying himself for the big steal. He was about to hit his first victim when the song ended abruptly as all hardcore songs go.

Crank Call's bassist played a rumbling groove, shaking the walls like a 10.5 earthquake on the Richter scale. The guitar flew right in like a Space Shuttle gone berserk.

Stew Rat licked his lips and chortled.
"Come to Poppa, fucker!" He angled his way in to a clutch of young punkers all collapsing in a heap. He half-humped the cleanest looking one from behind and quickly slipped his fingers into his back pocket and slipped the fancy crocodile skin wallet down the cargo pocket.

He moved over to another clutch of guys ready to collapse in a heap and dog piled underneath, pulling one wallet, then another out of the range of anyone's vision. Both wallets went straight down the cargo pocket.

As soon as he got up on his feet he saw a big fat dude crowd surfing, the kids around him holding up the surfer with their arms suspended above their heads.
"This is too easy!" Stew Rat chuckled. "Easy pickings to be sure!"

He spotted a wholesome looking punk and leaned in on him, slipping his fingers effortlessly into his rear pocket. He didn't have a wallet in there because he pulled out a lump of snot rags.
"YUCK! He probably keeps his wallet in the front. That sucks".

Stew Rat saw another clean-looking punker hoisting the fat surfer with both arms up and rubbed up against him. Sliding with the agility of a ferret, he slipped his fingers into the back pocket and quickly pulled out a wallet with punk rock stickers all over it and tossed it down the now bulging cargo pocket. He finished his steal just in time as Crank Call finished their song.

"Ho, ho, ho, this rules! This might be my best night ever! Long Beach is the greatest!" He laughed to himself. He looked around feeling mighty smug about himself until he caught a huge, dark Latino dude in a wife beater staring at him across the pit with sheer hatred.

"Shit, is this asshole onto me? He looks like he saw something. Maybe everything", Stew Rat got nervous.
The Latino dude was about to cross the pit and attack Stew Rat.
"What does this fuck face want? Does he want a split, is he gonna narc on me or is he gonna pound me for all my shit?"

Stew Rat began walking away backwards, but it wasn't necessary. Crank Call's singer stomped up to the microphone and barked.
The band busted out a stormy wail of radioactive waste, guitars feeding back and spitting out electric noise and the singer howling like a witch doctor fished out of the Pacific Ocean.

The guys in the slam pit were now doing the circular chicken dance like demented Navajo warriors, stomping their feet and pumping their arms like a circular locomotive around the dance floor.

The Latino quickened his pace towards Stew Rat, dodging the slam pit circle and getting closer and closer to catching up with him. Stew Rat began to panic, wet himself, whimpered and broke out in a nasty sweat. A musky odor filled the air.

Just when his pursuer was about to catch up with him a stage diver leaped off the stage and landed feet first on the big, dark man's head, kicking him unconscious. The slam pit opened up and bouncers pushed their way in to take away the unconscious Latino. They grabbed him by his legs and pulled him across the club like a limp wheelbarrow.

"OFFICER DOWN, OFFICER DOWN. NO SERIOUSLY, LET'S DO ANOTHER SONG, THIS ONE'S CALLED 'PISSPOT PRINCESS'". The band ripped into their newest number with a vengeance.
Stew Rat calmed down in the knowledge that his pursuer was knocked out cold and put out of the way.

He spied his next victim, a beefy well-fed punk rock jock. Everyone in the pit pressed up against his body so his pressing up against him wouldn't look conspicuous at all. This was too perfect. He shoved and slammed his way towards the jock, ricocheting with the rest of the guys in the pit.

"CLOSER, CLOSER, ALMOST...THERE!" Stew Rat practically humped the jock with his torso, quickly slipping his fingers into the back pocket and pulling out the wallet. Just as he was about to toss it down the secret pocket, he heard someone yell, "LOOK OUT!"

The bondage strap that ran across his trousers was caught in the jock's left leg and he was stuck to him and couldn't extricate himself, meaning he was stuck when he saw Crank Call's guitarist jump off the stage and land on top of him with the guitar's head stock impaling him deep into his skull, the stainless steel machine heads knifing into his cranium, thus ending the short lived crimes of Stew Rat Nickson.

Copyright 2014, Andy Seven.

Top Illustration by Rebecca Seven. Lower Illustration by Jaime Hernandez.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Now Playing ABSOLUTELY FREE on You Tube

Once upon a time, well a few years ago I wrote a periodic blog called "Stuff I Burned From TCM" which was a regular round-up of movies I burned off the TV set from Turner Classic Movies because they weren't available on video. TCM probably caught wind of that happening too often so now they're in the business of selling overpriced dubs of these films.

Well, there are still a ton of things you can't buy from TCM but you can definitely see for absolutely free on You Tube, and not just scattered film clips but the movies in their entirety. You can even save them and burn them, too. Life is wonderful!

In addition to the movies listed below I've also burned dozens of Heckle & Jeckle cartoons (Fifties Terrytoons genius) and a funny Shemp Howard solo short called "Mr. Noisy", where the moonlighting Stooge spends all his leisure time heckling tennis players, golfers and baseball pitchers at the top of his lungs. Wicked!

Alias Nick Beal (1949) Ray Milland breaks the bank playing a demonic apparition who helps a civic minded District Attorney (Thomas Mitchell) with framing a untouchable racketeer and consequently tempting him with a shot at the Governor's race, seal with a pact.

Many of the scenes with Mitchell and Milland either takes place on a foggy wharf or in some oceanfront dive (Don Burnham returns!). Of course, no noir is complete without a femme fatale so the great Audrey Totter provides a moral base, veering from dockside slut transformed by Beal into a politico temptress, a la Monica Lewinsky.

Totter delivers a great, convincing performance in her two phases but it's clearly evident that this is Milland's show all the way. He plays The Devil with great relish and seems to enjoy himself quite a bit playing a nasty, evil spirit.

Asphalt (1929) is a German silent film classic directed by Joe May, and if you liked the Louise Brooks classics "Pandora's Box" and "Diary Of A Lost Girl" you'll very likely enjoy this one, too. The film begins with breathtaking scenes of Berlin night life in the Twenties with the serpentine underworld slithering through the crime-ridden streets.

Joining in the larceny is Else Kramer, played by the great Betty Amann (shown above), conning an old jeweler with seductive behavior. While she's teasing the old fogey out of his diamonds we see a big, dumb lug of street cop Albert Holk (Gustav Frolich of "Metropolis") doing his boring job of guiding cars across the street.

After Else is accused of swiping diamonds in the store they grab a cop down the street, and the next thing you know Officer Holk takes Else in for booking. Unfortunately, Else turns on the water works in the cab and persuades Officer Holk to take her to her flat first so she can grab a few of her things.

She turns on the charm and the cognac and Office Holk finds himself in bed with the criminal. Was their love making real or was it just another con job pulled by Else? It's hard to tell especially since her current boyfriend, a big-shot criminal busts in on them later and things come to a deadly head.

Asphalt is another great film about an honest man fallen from grace by a demonic woman. The Germans seem to be fond of this plot since The Blue Angel mind the same territory with dramatically different results.

Amann may not be as endearing as Brooks or as humorous as Dietrich but had she moved to the States she probably would have had a great career as a film noir femme fatale. If you like great silent films then Asphalt should be at the top of your list (right after Piccadilly).

Woman On The Run (1950) An excellent noir completely owned by Ann Sheridan as you've never seen her before. After playing the reliably good girl in so many Warner Bros. films in the Forties she becomes a nasty bitch in this film, looking and behaving a great deal like Rita Hayworth did in "Lady From Shanghai".

The great irony of the story is that the real person "on the run" is Sheridan's husband who suffers from major paranoia after witnessing a drive-by shooting. Since Ann is the only one who can lead the police to a husband she hates she builds up a hard as nails attitude. You wonder who she has more contempt for: her husband or the authorities.

Filmed almost entirely on the streets of San Francisco, portions of the film almost verge on being some lo-fi travelogue, Ann hitting the pavement of Market Street, Fisherman's Wharf and old North Beach. The street scenes put the location shots of "D.O.A." to shame!

What makes the film so brilliant, however, is the way both the police detective, played by Robert Keith, and the pesky news reporter, played by Dennis O'Keefe, force her to give them more and more information about her much hated husband. The woman on the run flees the streets of Frisco Town like a demented harpy confessing her feelings about a man she once loved.

The great climax to this film takes place on a roller coaster in an amusement park (shades of "The Burglar"!). Robert Keith you'll recognize as the small town sheriff in "The Wild One" and Dennis O'Keefe is great as usual just as he was in the Anthony Mann noirs "Raw Deal" and "T-Men". Highly recommended!