Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Gayest Things You'll See This Week

I think Katy Perry is okay. Not fabulous. Not amazing, Just okay. I am certainly sick to death of "California Gurls," a song which seems to be everywhere, all the time. Not that its a bad song... just enough, already. 

And while "I Kissed a Girl" was sort of a gay anthem for a while, once there were 8 billion versions of "I Kissed a Boy" on YouTube, I immediately lost interest.

There are tons of parodies of Katy's songs. I even saw one of "California Gurls" done by the models at Dirty Tony (a gay porn site) partially shot during a pride parade (may be NSFW, depending on where you work):

I hope their 'acting' is better than their dancing...

And of course, there's that parody done with the creepy old guy, which I will never subject you to again.

Now, for the first time, comes a gay parody version of one of her songs which I have seen before seeing the original video (via):

And while there has yet to be an official video for "Peacock," you can hear it here. So what it is that makes Perry's songs so ripe for parody? Bubblegum pop has always been the subject of parody, I suppose, and while Perry's lyrics are certainly more suggestive than some, the songs may have well have been performed by The Archies or Josie and the Pussycats.

And now that I've mentioned The Archies, I have to give a thumbs up to Archie Comics for introducing a gay character in the next issue of "Veronica." Blue-eyed, blond hunk Kevin Keller is Veronica's new love interest. But to her consternation, he shows no interest in the brunette sex kitten. To the writers' credit, the teens in Riverdale are totally unaffected by Kevin's revelations and take his sexuality in stride. Of course it seems utterly bizarre to your Uncle P that teenage characters in a comic book display more social sophistication and emotional maturity than many real people...

More, anon.

Monday, August 30, 2010

LOL Actors

Just a quickie... 

So, we've finally started some real blocking on Top Girls. It's the first scene of the play, a sort-of fantasy dinner celebrating Marlene's (the main character) promotion. She is joined by five historical/literary characters including Victorian traveler Isabella Byrd; Pope Joan; Buddhist nun Lady Nijo; Bruegel's Dull Gret and Patient Grizelda from the Canterbury Tales. They're talking (sometimes all at once) and drinking and carrying on throughout the scene.

We stopped for a moment to clarify something and someone asks, "So what are we doing when we aren't speaking?" 

"Eating," was my answer. So we pick up the scene again and three of my six actresses immediately break into "Nom-nom-nom-nom..." sending all of us into fits of laughter over the dumbest Internet meme, ever. It could only have been better if they'd actually sung the song:

And people ask me why I love the theatre...

More, anon.

Singing in the Reign

I was going to do a post about the Emmy Awards tonight, but I became so enraged at NBC's sound engineers for making most of what the usually hilarious John Hodges Hodgman had to say unintelligible, that I turned it off. I was also upset that the Academy didn't recognize the genius of Michael Emerson's performance on the final season of "Lost," though I must admit to being thrilled by Kyra Sedgwick's win for her work on the always excellent "The Closer."

I know I just blogged about Gene Kelly and his extraordinary dancing prowess. But I ran across the video below on Bits and Pieces, and just had to take a few minutes to talk about it. 

This certainly isn't the first time that the song Singin' in the Rain has been used for a Sci-Fi movie. Most notoriously, it was used in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. The song is sung as Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his 'droogies' commit a heinous home invasion and rape. I couldn't embed a clip, but you can see it here. I love that the doorbell in that scene plays the first four notes of Beethoven's 9th Symphony... Death certainly knocked on the door that evening...

So, what does it mean when an Imperial Stormtrooper and his two Mini-Mes do their own version of the iconic number? I have no idea. I just know it's fun. Enjoy:

A packed rehearsal schedule for Top Girls and the seasonal shift change at the day job may mean that Uncle P might not be posting much this week, though I promise to do my best to keep you informed and entertained (assuming I do either if those things for you).

More, anon.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Other End

Have you ever had to call for tech support and been routed to a call center in India or Pakistan? It can be very frustrating. For the past week or so, I've been dealing with my PC manufacturer's tech support people. The first time I called, I was routed to Pakistan. The gentleman to whom I was finally connected was most helpful and I thought the issue was resolved. 

Silly Uncle P... 

Because I had called them late at night, when they found there was still a problem, they called me late at night, usually after I had gone to bed. It was very annoying and I am afraid I got a little upset with them. Finally, I agreed to call them. After a ridiculous amount of transfers, I was finally routed to a gentleman in India. Rohit was (I hope to God) finally able to resolve the remaining problem, and even helped me to get rid of some programs that were just taking up memory for no good reason. Both Rohit and the supervisor (at whom I spent more than a few minutes yelling) were patient and understanding. I ended up apologizing to both of them, knowing it was neither of their faults. Hopefully, I will never have to talk to them again.

A few months ago, I posted a long list of things to do and not to do in order to get help from a Customer Service agent. And tonight, I was guilty of at least one of those infractions I so vehemently warned against. To their credit, neither gentleman got upset and both were very pleasant, throughout. Having been on the other end of the line for once, has made me appreciate how difficult their (and my) job can be.

Be kind to the Service reps you encounter on such calls. They are there to help you, and if you let them, they will.

Of course, this experience has made me appreciate this so much more:

More, anon.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Not-So-Happy Meals and Other Horror Movie Nonsense

I guess you have to find your heart wherever you can, though the Tin Man there seems to have gone a bit overboard, don't you think? 

I wish I knew where I found this image, so I could give some proper credit. But like many things in Uncle P's scary mind, it's lost forever...

As another "Schocktober" draws close here at the Revenge, I thought an End of Summer Horror post would be fun. And to start it off, here's a short that's apparently been around for a while, but I just discovered today. Coulrophobes be warned... this won't be pretty. Ladies and Germs, I give you Happy Meal:

I'm lovin' it!
So what other horrors await us at our local multiplexes this fall? Let's see...

Well, this weekend we have The Last Exorcism:

That looks interesting, if nothing else...

September 17th brings us Devil:

I'm willing to give Devil a go, even if M. Knight Sham-Movie-Maker is involved. At least he didn't direct it.
We are also supposed to finally see the much-delayed release of the Renee Zelwegger, Bradley Cooper, Jodelle Ferland thriller Case 39:

And October brings us the 7th (really?) entry in the Saw franchise, Saw 3D:

Then there's Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and John Leguizamo in Vanishing on 7th Street:

And director Darren Aronofsky has Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Barbara Hershey in the ballet-themed thriller, Black Swan:

But Uncle P is most looking forward to AMC's original series, "The Walking Dead:"

It seems like Uncle P will be very busy this fall, even after his show closes...

More, anon.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Getting Better All the Time

Stephen Rader Did NOT Draw This

I feel like I have to apologize for last night's rant. Uncle P isn't exactly sure what set him off. We all have our moments, don't we? And while I don't exactly feel like Batman riding a rainbow unicorn over a purple sea of frolicking dolphins, I'm certainly in a better mood tonight.

I think it has something to do with yet another terrific rehearsal with my very smart cast. Top Girls is proving to be the most challenging play I have ever directed. Not that I didn't know that going in - just reading the damned thing is a challenge. Still, playwright Caryl Churchill raises questions without answers, leaving it up to the audience to answer them for themselves. Of course, that means the director and cast have to provide their own answers, whether they are the same as the audience's or not. It's most definitely the kind of play that uses the subjectivity of art to its fullest extent. Right now we're still doing a lot of discussing and sussing, trying to arrive at our own answers as we explore this multi-layered play.

Of course, it could just be my mood was elevated by a friend who posted the video below on Facebook, tonight. I love synchronicity, and the whole Queen theme that seems to have invaded my life these past few days has to mean something...

Oh, Muppets! How silly can you get? And of course, I dare you not to laugh at this:

There, that's better. A little nonsense, now and then/Is cherished by the wisest men.

More, anon.

Today's Mood (NSFW)

So, directing a powerfully feminist, socialist play has got me thinking about some of the men in my life (not all, and certainly none of the current ones) and how I've been treated by some of the major asshats I've dated and/or loved. 

That's not to say that every man I've ever dated and/or loved is/was an asshat. Sadly, though, the majority of them are/were. Still, I'm at the point in my life where I have given up on ever finding someone to spend the rest of it with (I apologize for the terrible grammar, but that's what happens when I get worked up). I'm not getting any younger here...

Now I know this clip has been all over the web, recently, but it's such a happy tune combined with a rather negative message that it somehow makes me feel good and expresses just how I'm feeling at this moment, I had to post it:

    Don't worry, Uncle P isn't descending into one of his bouts with depression... at least he hopes not. Still, the song below has become my theme song of late:

    See what happens when I don't have rehearsal?

    More, anon.

    PS - I'm sort of annoyed by Blogger's new tools. I have to figure how to format all over again. Urgh!

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Gotta Dance!

    Just a quickie tonight. Rehearsals for Top Girls have begun in earnest, and I'm getting home later than usual.

    My sweet Post Apocalyptic Bohemian friend Stephen, reminded me that today is Gene Kelly's Birthday.

    I know there are plenty of Fred Astaire fans out there -- and with good reason. Fred's dancing was smooth and debonair. With Ginger (or any other dancer) on his arm, he was the epitome of suavity. But he seemed old even in the 1950's.

    Gene, on the other hand, seemed ageless. His athletic dance style and roguish grin exuded charm and sexiness in a time when both were rarely talked about in 'polite circles.'

    I am almost ashamed to admit that it wasn't until Uncle P was in his early 30's that he sat down and watched all of Singin' In the Rain, and I have kicked myself for not doing so sooner, ever since. I have also been smitten with Kelly ever since. Of course, while SITR is Gene Kelly at his quadruple threat (Singer, Dancer, Actor, Director) best, it is hardly the sum of his career as one of Hollywood's true legends.

    Uncle P would have fallen flat on his ass about 300 times...

    And from Summer Stock:


    And of course, there's this:

    Kelly was grace, charm and elegance personified, even in his last film, the lamentable Xanadu (a movie Uncle P and his sister love, despite its many, many flaws), Kelly was nothing short of amazing:

    They don't make 'em like this anymore. And that's a damned shame.

    More, anon.

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    PA Pride

    Uncle P is lucky enough to live and work in Bucks County, PA. It's a really beautiful and diverse place, close to both Philadelphia and New York City, not at all far from the Jersey Shore and well withing driving distance of both Boston and DC.

    The weather isn't always perfect (horrible humidity in the summer and winters that can run the gamut from mild to wild), but that's what happens when one lives in a valley. Still, the fall foliage rivals anything in New England (as evidenced by the picture of the Delaware River on your right) and the political climate is among the most progressive in the Commonwealth (the state of Pennsylvania is a commonwealth, as are Massachusetts; Kentucky; Virginia and Puerto Rico). I sometimes think of Bucks County as the Italy of Pennsylvania, given it's vague, scrunchy boot-like shape.

    In Bucks, the County Seat is the quaint town of Doylestown, about 45 minutes north of where I live. The County Courthouse is located there, along with some terrific shops and restaurants. Uncle P's dear friend Q celebrated her 50th Birthday at the County Theatre in Doylestown and more than one of my co-workers live there.

    By now you are asking "So what's your point, Uncle P?" Well, last week, Doylestown became the 17th municipality in Pennsylvania to adopt an official policy banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or identification (via). This means that no business in Doylestown may refuse employment or services to any person because of his or her sexual identity. Bucks has always been at the forefront of LGBT rights. New Hope (a place I've often described as "PA's P-town") has been Bucks' LGBT center for as long as I can remember and I see more rainbow stickers on the bumpers of cars in Bucks County than almost anywhere else I've traveled in the state.

    And while this may not be The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week, it's certainly the best news I've shared with you in a while and yet another reason I'm proud to live where I do.

    Please enjoy this brief video tour of New Hope. It should give an idea of why Bucks County is such a great place to live and work.

    More, anon.

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    This Post Sucks

    I know that I have posted about Vampires and Vampire Movies, before. But I have never posted about my personal favorite Vampire Movies. Inspired by yesterday's Ghost Movie post, I thought I'd share with you my favorite Vampire Movies of all time.

    Vampire movies date back to the silent era, when German filmmaker F.W. Murnau made his unauthorized version of Bram Stoker's novel 'Dracula,' Nosferatu, starring Max Schreck as the vampire Graf Orlok. Murnau's version of a vampire was a horrific monster with pointed ears, fanged incisors and taloned fingers (an image Tobe Hooper would revive in his TV version of Stephen King's Salem's Lot). The making of Murnau's film was explored in Shadow of the Vampire, in which Willem Defoe plays Schreck as a real vampire. More on that film later...

    Anyway, given the popularity of Stephanie Meyer's deplorably chaste "Twilight" novels, I think it's high-time to discuss the 10 Best Vampire Movies of All Time.

    10. Dracula (1931). Tod Browning made this film version of the stage play which propelled Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi into stardom and made early film-goers swoon. Quaint by today's standards, but loaded with atmosphere and some rather startling performances (particular from Dwight Frye as the madman Renfield), Browning's movie is one of the first horror movies I remember seeing as a child.

    9. Vampire Hunter D (1985). I haven't really talked about animated films very much, though I should (and will), one day. This post-apocalyptic anime film is the story of a young woman who calls upon a great vampire hunter to enact revenge against those who killed her family. Of course [SPOILER ALERT], it turns out that D (no, not that D) is himself a vampire (the most famous one of all), seeking redemption for his own lost soul.

    8. Thirst (1979). Chantal Contouri stars as the last descendant of Elizabeth Bathory, kidnapped by a vampire cult who want her to be their leader. The cult manages a "farm' where human victims are "milked" in this disturbing Australian film from director Rod Hardy. This movie has no connection to the recent Japanese film of the same name, which I have yet to see..

    7. Shadow of the Vampire (2000). John Malkovich; Willem Defoe; Cary Elwes; Udo Kier and Eddie Izzard star in this fascinating film that supposes the star of Murnau's Nosferatu was an actual vampire. Creepy and unsettling, Defoe's performance is fascinating, as always.

    6. The Hunger (1983). Tony Scott directs this adaptation of Whitley Strieber's novel about an ancient vampire and her many lovers, infamous for its lesbian sex scene between the gorgeous Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. David Bowie co-stars in this now cult fave. Watch for an early appearance from future vampire Willem Defoe.

    5. Interview with the Vampire (1994). Director Neil Jordan followed up The Crying Game with this gorgeous adaptation of the Anne Rice novel. Rice initially decried the casting of Tom Cruise as the cruel and youthful Lestat de Lioncourt, but recanted when she saw the final product. It's 2002 follow-up Queen of the Damned, was less-than-successful and no further attempts have been made to adapt Rice's 'Vampire Chronicles' for the screen. Still, Cruise, Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas bring the sexy to Rice's homoerotic story and a young Kirsten Dunst delivers one of the most amazing performances ever by a child actor.

    4. Cronos (1993). Guillermo del Toro's first film tells the story of ancient device in the form of a mechanical scarab which bestows eternal life upon its user by turning him into a blood-lusting vampire. Actor Ron Perlman makes his first of many appearances in a del Toro film.

    3. Near Dark (1987). Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow cut her teeth (all puns intended) on this Western Vampire movie starring the gorgeous Adrian Pasdar ("Heroes"), Bill Paxton and Lance Hendrickson. A tale of evil, love and redemption, Bigelow's film was one of the first to bring the genre into to the late 20th century.

    2. 30 Days of Night (2007). Director David Slade (Hard Candy) adapts the graphic novel about an Alaskan town under siege by ruthless vampires during a month of arctic darkness. Cruel, relentless and hardcore, the vampires in 30 Days... are (thankfully) about as far from Stephanie Meyer's "sparkling" twinks as one can get.

    1. Let the Right One In (2008). This Swedish film took the genre by storm two years ago with its tale of an ancient child vampire ostensibly helping out a bullied young boy, but who is actually on the prowl for a replacement for her aging human thrall. Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist (who also wrote the screenplay), Let the Right One In has been remade by Cloverfield director Matt Reeves and from all advance accounts, it's actually a remake worth the re-making.
    Let Me In is due for release this October.

    Honorable mentions: The Lost Boys; Martin; Fright Night; Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Blade II.

    I know this will not be the last time Uncle P posts about vampires. Some things just never get old (literally).

    More, anon.

    Thursday, August 19, 2010


    Over at Into The Abyss, horror blogger/filmmaker Todd Miro posted his "Top Ten Ghostly Movies" yesterday and while I agree with some of his choices (we even share our number 1 pick), I'm not convinced that most of his favorites are actually in the Top Ten.

    For example, Todd's #10 is Paranormal Activity, a movie I hated because it was just so damned boring and not in the least bit scary. And, it's not even a ghost movie, but rather a movie about demonic possession.

    I felt I had to respond and talk about my Top 12 Ghostly Movies of All Time, most of which don't seem to even be on Todd's radar. Todd, I love your blog, but I think you got it wrong, my friend.

    12. The Fog (1980). Director John Carpenter's follow-up to Halloween is about a California town under siege on its 100th anniversary by the ghosts of lepers who were left to drown, rather be allowed to come ashore. Scream queens Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh and Adrienne Barbeau star along with Tom Atkins and Hal Holbrook in this fun, creepy tale of ghostly revenge. Ignore the lame 20005 remake.

    11. The Gift (2000). Sam Raimi (Spider-Man; Drag Me to Hell) directs this quiet but effective thriller about a Southern small-town psychic (Cate Blanchett) inadvertently embroiled in solving the murder of the local hussy (Katie Holmes). Giovanni Ribisi; Keanu Reeves; Greg Kinnear; Gary Cole; J.K. Simmons and the incomparable Julie Harris (more on her later in this post) co-star.

    10. Kairo (2001). Kiyoshi Kurosawa's J-Horror movie about ghosts in the machines had me trying to see around corners while dreading what might lurk there. While investigating the suicide of a friend, several Japanese students find themselves caught up in something far more sinister than any of them could ever have imagined. Avoid the excruciatingly bad 2006 American remake starring Kristen Bell. The original is probably one of the best Japanese horror movies ever made.

    9. The Innocents (1961). Deborah Kerr (The King and I) stars as a governess who begins to suspect that the home in which she works may be haunted in director Jack Clayton's adaption of Henry James' novel, "The Turn of the Screw." Creepy kids and loads of atmosphere. Truman Capote helped write the screenplay.

    8. The Legend of Hell House (1973). Similar in plot to Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House," Richard Matheson's novel concerns a group of paranormal investigators spending time in a supposedly haunted mansion. Roddy McDowell stars.

    7. The Others (2001). Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar made his English-language debut with this creepy and atmospheric story about a woman (Nicole Kidman) trapped in a house with her photosensitive children, waiting for her husband to return from the war. While I figured out its 'twist ending' long before the reveal, I forgave that in favor of Amenabar's use of atmosphere and the performances of its excellent cast.

    6. Lady in White (1998). A young boy (Lucas Haas), locked in a school room closet on Halloween in 1962 is visited by the ghost of a young girl who was murdered many years ago by a pedophile. Len Cariou, Alex Rocco and Katherine Helmond co-star.

    5. Ringu (1998). Hideo Nakata's film started the American obsession with J-Horror, and while the American remake The Ring is not a bad movie, the original is undoubtedly the superior. A video tape that kills, a young girl drowned in a well and a mystery that unravels via non-linear plotting all add up to one creepy movie.

    4. The Devil's Backbone (2001). Guillermo del Toro's story about a haunted Spanish orphanage during Franco's reign of terror plays out as both a ghost story and an anti-war drama (themes the director would again explore in his amazing 2006 fantasy Pan's Labyrinth).

    3. Dead Silence (2007) James Wan and Leigh Whannell are probably best known as the originators of the Saw franchise, but their follow-up (originally titled Silence) is a very creepy movie about the vengeful ghost of a mid-century ventriloquist named Mary Shaw. Dismissed by most critics when it was originally released, Dead Silence is definitely worth a second look. Loaded with atmosphere and the creep-factor that accompanies almost every ventriloquist dummy ever made, Dead Silence is Wan and Whannell's best film so far.

    2. Poltergeist (1982). Stephen Spielberg produced Tobe Hooper's (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) movie about a perfect suburban family plagued by the ghosts of the people buried beneath their Utopian development. It remains the only movie Uncle P and his sister have seen enough times to tell you exactly what's happening just by listening to Jerry Goldsmith's amazing score. A completely unnecessary remake is in the works.

    1. The Haunting (1963). Robert Wise's adaptation of Shirley Jackson's novel remains the scariest movie ever made, without really showing anything at all. With an astonishing performance by Julie Harris as Nell, and sound effects that lead the viewer to imagine far worse things than any CGI effect could conjure, The Haunting is a movie I dare any of you to watch alone with the lights turned off. The deplorable 1999 Jan deBont remake doesn't even deserve to share the title with Wise's truly terrifying film.

    Honorable mentions: The Orphanage; The Changeling; Dark Water (2002); The Frighteners; The Sixth Sense; Silent Hill.

    Scared yet?

    More, anon.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Too Pooped to Peep

    I'm actually attempting to get a decent night's sleep tonight, so I won't be up to my usual mayhem and/or nonsense.

    I got home from work, gulped down a turkey hoagie (sub, grinder, hero or whatever you might call it in your region of the country or world) and rushed off to a Top Girls production meeting before rehearsal. I came home after yet another terrific rehearsal (Thespis somehow continues to smile on me when it comes to amazing casts) and zapped through last night's "AGT" (please - no spoilers from tonight's results show, thank you) and then sat down to read email, glance at Facebook and write this quickie blog entry.

    I really am so very tired... How tired? I'll let Lily Von Schtupp say it (or rather, sing it) for me:

    Man, I miss Madeline... talk about comic timing!

    I am off to bed early (for me, anyway) in the hope of getting a full 8 hours for once. I hope this evening finds all of you and yours well-rested. I'll be posting about ghosts, tomorrow... Boo!

    More, anon.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week

    That's former "Facts of Life" star Mindy Cohn on your left. It's been a while since anyone's heard anything from Mindy, though she has a new movie coming out.

    I don't know how this has missed my gaydar, but her new movie is called Violet Tendencies Apparently, it's about a 'fag-hag' (oh, how I truly hate that term, even though we all know at least one) who falls in love with a "fag-stag."

    What? You've never heard the term "fag-stag?" Well, you're in good company, because I've never heard it, either. And I have to wonder if screenwriter Jesse Archer made it up for this movie. A "fag-stag" is (one can only assume) a straight boy who hangs out with gay men.

    Now, to be truthful, while I have never heard that specific term, I a must admit to knowing a few (not to mention any names, initials or photo links) straight guys who may very well qualify as "fag-stags." Not (as George and Jerry will tell you) that there's anything wrong with that. I have plenty of straight male friends. In fact, I probably have more straight male friends than gay male friends, though I suspect that's a result of statistics, more than anything.

    Anyway - I think the movie looks adorable and I can't wait to see it (though I imagine it will be playing festivals and art houses well out of my geographical region). Here's the probably NSFW trailer:

    As for myself, Uncle P is just happy to see that Mindy can still get work.

    And just for shits and giggles:

    Jo was the lesbian, right?

    More, anon.

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    54 and 33 Years Ago Today...

    Today marks the anniversaries of the deaths of two prominent figures in both popular culture and my own life, who have more in common than one might initially suppose.

    On August 16th, 1956, Bela "Dracula" Lugosi passed into the ether. His funeral was attended by a handful of his friends, including the infamously bad director, Edward D. Wood, Jr. As per his request, he was buried in his Dracula costume.

    Lugosi had enjoyed a rather successful stage and film career in his native Hungary for quite a while before appearing as Bram Stoker's archetypal monster in the original Broadway production of Dean and Balderston's 1927 play, which in turn was adapted into the famous 1931 film by director Tod Browning. Women swooned and Lugosi became Universal's top star, though his refusal to wear the heavy makeup required to play Frankenstein's Monster would give his greatest rival his own iconic horror role. Lugosi would go on to appear in dozens of films, including White Zombie; The Black Cat; Island of Lost Souls (the first film adaptation of "The Island of Doctor Moreau") and Franz Lubitsch's classic comedy Ninotchka. Sadly, by the mid-to-late 40's, he had been reduced to appearing in self-parodying roles in films like Zombies on Broadway and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein:

    By the mid-50's Lugosi was a washed up has-been, addicted to drugs and reduced to appearing in Ed Wood's tragically funny films Glen or Glenda and Bride of the Monster. Ironically, his last film was made two years after his death, when Wood used silent footage of the star at the start of what many have called "The Worst Movie Ever Made" (though many would argue that point), Plan Nine from Outer Space. Ironically, Martin Landau would go on to win an Oscar for his portrayal of Lugosi in Tim Burton's best film, Ed Wood:

    Lugosi was a childhood idol, and I can remember being very upset when Dracula was shown to my 7th grade class (the novel was part of our curriculum) and most of the kids laughed at the, by then, corny movie. Being of Hungarian descent (with a little German and Scotch thrown in on my mother's side), I grew up thinking that if 'Uncle Bela' could be a star, then so could I.

    Flash forward 21 years to 1977. I was about to enter my Junior year of High School that August when my mother tearfully informed me of the death of her own personal icon, Elvis Presley.

    Dad may have been an aficionado of Classical music (Beethoven and Wagner, in particular -- more on Dad's Nazi-leanings at another time), but Mom was a Rock 'N' Roller, and Elvis was the man she wished she could have married (along with millions of other gals in the '50's).

    One of Uncle P's earliest stage memories -- I was maybe 8 or 9 -- was lip-synching to a 45RPM vinyl recording of "Hound Dog" in front of my elementary school classmates. I seem to remember they all had a good time...

    Elvis and Bela shared a similar career path - both were Pop Culture icons taken down by their addictions, though Elvis certainly enjoyed a longer and much more lucrative career. Both made some really awful movies:

    Whatever happened to Mary Tyler Moore, anyway?

    Elvis died of a drug-overdose, found by his daughter on the toilet. I can't imagine a more ignominious ending to the career of 'The King.' And while my mother still pays homage to Presley on the anniversary of his death, I can't help but make mention of how gorgeous and hot he was in that black leather outfit he wore for his 1968 "Comeback Special:"

    Damn! I totally understand why women threw their panties on stage... and I have never been so jealous of Priscilla... And I know plenty of 'straight' boys that would have thrown themselves at this version of him.

    What does all this mean? I'm not exactly sure. Maybe it's just that legendary talent endures. Both Lugosi and Presley will remain icons of Pop Culture, as long as folks like myself continue to talk about them; post their images; view their works and aspire to be just like them - without the death-causing addictions, of course.

    More, anon.

    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    'Haven' or TV's Love/Hate Affair with Stephen King

    I have been an ardent fan of author Stephen King since I first read "Carrie" in high school. Set in 1979 (the year I graduated HS), "Carrie" really struck home with me and I eagerly awaited his next book, which turned out to be the vampire thriller " 'Salem's Lot." It was the story of a small town infiltrated by vampires who arrived under the guise of antique dealers (King would again explore antique dealers in "Needful Things").

    We all know Carrie would go on to become a film a film that launched the careers of both Brian DePalma and Sissy Spacek; furthered the career of John Travolta and revived the career of Piper Laurie. But 'Salem's Lot would be the first of many TV adaptations of King's works. I can honestly say that King's second novel freaked me out by moving the dusty, Victorian monster to modern America in his own, down-home style. But the television adaptation, directed by none other than Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; Poltergeist) left me cold. Basing the design of head-vampire Barlow on German actor Max Schreck's vampire from Nosferatu, Hooper's mini-series turned what I found to be horrifying into something which seemed infinitely silly. It also didn't help that the very bland David Soul (Starsky and Hutch) was cast in the lead. Yawn...

    Even the presence of the great James Mason and Bonnie Bedelia didn't help this piece of TV crap.

    1990 saw the adaptation of It, starring Tim Curry as the creepiest clown in movie history. Sadly, the mini-series version suffers the same fate as the novel -- the lamest ending in horror history:

    "Beep beep, Georgie! Everything floats down here!"

    The next year, TV tackled King again, this time in an adaptation of his short story Sometimes They Come Back, about a teacher haunted buy the ghosts of his old high school bullies. Tim Matheson and Brook Adams starred in this not-at-all scary TV movie.


    1993 saw the TV adaptation of King's The Tommyknockers, about ancient alien forces taking hold of the residents of a small town. Jimmy Smits ("L.A. Law"); Marg Helgenberger ("C.S.I."); replicant Joanna Cassidy and former porn queen Traci Lords starred in this one, which almost got it right, but director John Power somehow missed the mark:

    Tommyknockers is the first appearance of King's fictional Maine town of Haven, which I will get to, shortly...

    Finally, in 1994, director Mick Garris almost got a King novel right with his four-part mini-series version of King's apocalyptic epic, The Stand. My biggest complaints about The Stand are the horrible miscasting of Laura San Giacomo and Corey Nemic in pivotal roles which would have been better served by almost anyone else. But Gary Sinise; Rob Lowe; Jamey Sheridan; Ruby Dee and the rest of the all-star ensemble are just about right on the money.

    I'm not going to bother with the godawful The Langoliers (the less said, the better). Instead, let's talk about Garris' version of The Shining. King fans know that King was less than satisfied with the Stanley Kubrick version of one of his best (and perhaps his actual best) novels. While a fine film, it hardly covers everything that made the novel so brilliant. Mick Garris' 1997 TV version is a bit more faithful to its source material, though television standards still don't allow for everything that made the book so creepy:

    There's more, of course. The Canadian TV series based on "The Dead Zone;" the 2002 remake of Carrie; the 2004 remake of Salem's Lot and the proposed mini-series version of "The Talisman," which is undoubtedly my favorite novel of all time. Which brings me to the SyFy original series "Haven." Based on King's short story "The Colorado Kid," the series is the story of FBI agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose), who comes to the small town in search of an escaped serial killer and stays in search of the woman who may or may not be her mother. The most recent episode revolved around the reanimation of taxidermied animals (and humans). And while my mother said "This is ridiculous," while watching the episode with me, my response was "Of course it is. But that doesn't make it any less entertaining."

    There have only been 5 episodes of "Haven," but nonetheless, I find myself intrigued (and entertained). I just hope that subsequent TV versions of King's works can accurately capture his voice and the true creepiness he manages to convey in his novels and short stories. I still have his monumental novel "Under the Dome" to read -- when and if I ever find the time and patience to read a novel again, but I will always be a fan of the talented (despite what literary critics have to say) and prolific author.

    More, anon.

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    Triskaidekaphobia 2: The Beginning

    The last time I talked about Friday the 13th, it was all about the the increasingly bad movie franchise that started with Sean S. Cunningham's 1980 original. And from looking at some of my blog links below, lots of other folks are doing the same, today.

    But tonight, I'm more interested in how the whole Bad Luck thing associated with today's date started. And in superstition, in general.

    "Superstition' can be defined in two ways (via):

    1 a : a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation b : an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition
    2 : a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary

    Some say the fear of the number 13 is a result of Judas' betrayal of Jesus at Gethsemane (Judas being the 13th person in attendance). Others say it goes back even further to Norse mythology in a tale about a dinner in which Loki, the god of mischief, was the uninvited 13th guest at a dinner in Valhalla, where he killed Balder the Good with a holly spear, resulting in a darkness which enveloped the world. Numerologists will tell you that 13 is the number that upsets the perfect balance of the number 12 (12 months; 12 signs of the zodiac; 12 labors of Hercules; 12 ribs; 12 jurors... the list goes on and on).

    Of course, superstition itself goes as far back as Man's origins, when every misunderstood natural phenomenon was ascribed to gods, demons and/or other assorted supernatural beings. Today, the list of superstitions seems endless and varies from country to country. We all know that walking under a ladder is bad luck, as is stepping on a crack; breaking a mirror; crossing paths with a black cat, etc. Conversely, carrying a rabbit's foot, rubbing the Buddha's belly or finding a four-leaf clover are all considered good luck charms.

    As for yours truly, Uncle P doesn't really believe in luck, good or bad. In fact, Uncle P doesn't really believe in much that he can't see, feel, hear, smell or taste (and even then I know the senses can be fooled). Still, I'd like to think I have an open mind. Just because I've never seen a ghost doesn't mean they don't exist. I've never seen the Blarney Stone, but I know it exists (I also know that while another superstition says that kissing it is supposed to give one the 'gift of gab,' kissing it is also the germiest thing one can do while on vacation).

    Yes, I refrain from saying the name of the 'Scottish Play' in a theatre, though only to mollify my fellow thespians who choose to believe that doing so will bring disaster to whatever production one happens to be working on at the time. But I don't worry about walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, steeping on cracks or crossing paths with black cats. Nor should you...

    Ironically, I got a dose of Friday the 13th while in the midst of writing this post in teh form of a virus attack, resulting in a 2 1/2 hour phone call to Pakistan, where a very helpful HP support technician was finally able to remove the virus remotely, which is why this post didn't show up until Saturday. I'm still rather tired, but glad to be back. Have a good weekend.

    More, anon.

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    In Praise of Yet Another Cast

    That's the Playbill cover for the Manhattan Theatre Club's 2008 production of Caryl Churchill's 1982 play Top Girls, which I have just started to direct. The company is Shakespeare '70, for whom I directed The Skin of Our Teeth in the fall of 2008 and for whom I have acted in productions of An Enemy of the People; An Inspector Calls and A View from the Bridge.

    Top Girls sort of fell into my lap, as it were. After two potential female directors turned it down (for various reasons), the producer (my dear friend, Q) brought it to me. I'd heard of the play, but had never seen nor read it. But I adore Churchill's earlier play Cloud Nine, so I was intrigued.

    Upon first reading it, I must admit to being a bit intimidated by the subject matter (more on that, later), it's non-linear structure and Churchill's carefully constructed (and often complicated) over-lapping dialog. But during a second read, I found myself visualizing the piece on stage and realized I had nothing to be afraid of, especially if I had the right cast.

    Q and I immediately started thinking about actresses we thought would not only be appropriate for the piece, but who could also handle the complexities of the characters and the writing. Emails and invitations were sent; entreaties were made and one audition was held. Finally, I had a cast consisting of not only actresses I knew and had worked with previously; actresses I knew, but had not worked with before and actresses with whom I'd had no experience what-so-ever.

    So, we just had our first read-through and I must say, I have to be the luckiest director on the East Coast. The women in this show are amazing! Not only do they all "get' the show, but each of them brings her own unique perspective to the characters (each play at least two) that neither Q nor I had had envisioned upon reading it on our own.

    Nothing excites an artist more than a challenge. And nothing excites a director more than a cast that is up to that challenge. Top Girls may well be the most challenging play I have ever directed, but the 8 uber-talented women in this production will go a very long way in making my job as a director a delightful challenge, to say the least. I know I often gush about the casts of the shows I direct (and rightfully so), but I really think this one is particularly exceptional. And while I have directed shows with all-male casts (get your minds out of that gutter, right now!), this is the first time I have directed an all-female cast. I've already told them I feel a bit like an onion in a petunia patch, but I'm pretty sure we have ourselves quite a show on our hands.

    Top Girls runs September 23rd through October 2nd at the Don Evans Studio Theatre on the campus of The College of New Jersey in Ewing, NJ. I'll be posting more info as it becomes available and will most certainly be posting more about the rehearsal process as we move forward. I just hope it will be as exciting to read about, as it is to be a part of.

    More, anon.