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Monday, April 18, 2016

We Are The One: A Look At Mickey One

One of my favorite films of all time is Mickey One. It was released by Columbia Pictures in 1965 and directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty. Mickey One is the story of a lounge stand-up comedian who’s on the run from the mob for reasons left open to conjecture: Were there unpaid debts? Was he playing around with the mob boss’ mistress? Was he in arrears for countless favors from the mob?

Mickey runs away after being called on the carpet by club owner Ruby Lapp (played by Franchot Tone in one of his last performances). He hits the skid row section of Chicago and lifts the social security card of a rolled drunk named Mickey Wonjhowcski. which he shortens to Mickey One.

Living in a flophouse and working as a pearl diver, he has a tenant forced on him by his insane landlady. He falls in love with the girl and she recognizes his talent, prompting him to badger a tenth-rate burlesque agent, who books him into a string of dogwater lounges.

Gingerly working his way back into the nightclub grind, he hopes he won’t attract much attention, but of course with his Warren Beatty looks and enormously successful comedic talent he eventually attracts all the attention he previously hoped to avoid. Mickey One ends with him performing to a dark, empty club with a blinding spotlight burning into him with an unknown figure behind the light (the mob boss?). The moral of the story: you can run but you can’t hide.

Mickey One was made in the Sixties, an era when the mystery of the John F. Kennedy assassination greatly disturbed the country and provoked endless meditations on conspiracies, innocent people on the run for unknown transgressions, and questions of personal identity. It was an era of Kafkaesque entertainment which spawned television shows like The Prisoner, The Fugitive, Run For Your Life, Coronet Blue, and other weird programs.

Arthur Penn once said that Mickey One was his attempt to make his version of a French New Wave film, and in that regard he considered the film to be a minor failure. Part of the French New Wave influence was the casting of Alexandra Stewart as the love interest, who was Francois Truffaut’s girlfriend at the time.

Mickey One is so much more than a Nouvelle Vague homage, though, in fact it’s one of the most American films ever made. The film looks like a Tom Waits album cover from start to finish with its scenes of Salvation Army bands, hobo jungles, wrecking yards and burlesque queens (and with no Barbara Nichols in sight!). If you liked Robert Frank’s book The Americans you will love the beautiful cinematography of Ghislain Cloquet.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Mickey One: it was in 1978 and I was living in The Canterbury Apartments in Hollywood at the time. I had a terrible case of the flu and had that thing where you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. I turned on my black and white portable TV and watched The Late Show and there it was, Mickey One.

I felt as if I was getting a broadcast from outer space. It was the parallel reality I thought I’d never see. Warren Beatty and his absurd America oif exploding industrial art called YES really sold it for me. From that moment on I called myself Andy Seven and I’ve never looked back, just like Mickey One.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Long Haircuts

It's been awhile since I've had a haircut, and I'm accustomed to having my hair a certain length. If my hair gets too long I start looking like Geronimo or some other cigar store Injun with my old face peeking out of a mop. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and I had to give myself a haircut.

I once gave myself a haircut when I was a teenager and it was so savage in butchery that I ended up looking like a shock therapy patient, big bald spots in my scalp followed by long, stringy strands of hair. It was truly horrorshow, but things would be different now.

I did my best to remember the way my hair was cut in the past. I used a tiny, delicate pair of snips, not some garden shears. I set up a large circle of mirrors around the bathroom so I could see my head from all angles.

Cutting the front and sides was never a problem for me, that was always simple. The real challenge lay in cutting the back of my head and making sure that it was done as evenly as possible. Wearing my barber's cape, I snipped gingerly around the left side rear....SNIP! Then the right side rear...SNIP SNIP!!!

Then moving up towards the middle of the head, gently combing out longer strands of hair...SNIP!! Again, a little to the left...then the right....SNIP SNIP!!

Getting towards the top in the back...don't take too much off the top, easy...easy...SNIP! I could actually feel my hair feeling stronger and healthier with each cut, the strands shorter and thicker. When it felt like I'd cut enough (who knows?) I appraised myself in the mirror and liked the job I did. And I'd be a liar if I told you it wasn't one of the hardest things I've ever done.

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It's funny that my internet friend Linda Bloodworth has a novel called A Raven's Touch because I know what that feels like. When I worked in Koreatown the blackbirds would get excited by my jet black hair and land on my head!

I'd feel their claws gently resting on my scalp while their wings would flap above me. It was like wearing a crown of black wings! You could say it was their way of saying, "WE ACCEPT YOU ONE OF US">>>>>>>>>>>>

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When I went into Sunland I saw a lot of beat trailer-style homes with cars parked on the front lawn, their guts pulled out sitting on blocks , not even finished, some even getting rusty from overexposure to the elements. There were kids' toys strewn about the yard, dirty and sticky from use and abuse. The odd mattress lay about here and there, springs sticking out like spikes from an old cactus.

The roads were not only poorly paved but looked like a pothole convention. My shock absorbers got a mad workout bouncing up and down the poverty roadwork. The car bounced like a bumper car from some long condemned carnival.

As beat as the homes looked, there was that constant of the American flag waving loud and proud in front lawn poles or at the very least stretched out over a stumpy porch. The poor always let you know what country they're living in , even though same country was giving them the rawest deal of their lives.

They definitely loved their horses as much as they loved their fucking flag. Every once in awhile I'd spot a horse trailer, empty, no horses, sitting in the driveway of the folks. An empty horse trailer looks a lot like an iron outhouse with no toilet inside.

Another block ahead and the veneer of the area changed completely. Trailer homes gave way to a lush suburb of beautifully manicured lawns with large driveways and luxurious mid-century homes. I felt as if I'd been dropped into an entirely different town within the course of a few blocks.

I came to a full stop when a willowy teenage girl walked her horse across the street in front of me. She glanced at me fro a moment, her chestnut brown hair falling into her bright green eyes as she gave me a small smile. The horse loped slowly as if it were ill.

The path cleared I drove to my delivery. She lived in a home that looked more like Cheviot Hills then Sunland. I pulled into her driveway and parked. I brought out her boutique order and rang her door bell. A very distinguished looking elderly lady opened the door. I saw a very bright chandelier sparkling behind her.

"Yes?"
"Your Oscar De La Renta is here, ma'am".
"Oohhhh...good!" She had a large pile of silver hair piled atop her head, immaculate makeup worn with a magnificent string of pearls adorning her neck.
"Have a great day, ma'am".
I handed her the long black garment bag and returned to my car, the sun baking everything inside my auto. I flipped on the air conditioning and sped back to Santa Monica.

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Made a delivery at this beautiful park in the Hollywood Hills to this rich Jewish couple. They were putting together this Easter Egg Hunt picnic and screaming at each other while I was dropping their stuff off. It was cool, though, because they tipped me while they were screaming.