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All Things Thriller

A Celebration of Thrillers, Noire and Black Comedy by Pamela Lowe Saldana

The Politics of Sadism and Covid-19

In general, I don’t enjoy talking about or writing about politics. I rarely discuss them with my friends and family because–shock, shock–I have friends and family with opposing views on the subject matter; views that differ from my own.

Is that selfish?

Yes, it most certainly is.

In fact, I’m so selfish that sometimes I refrain from talking politics with my husband even though our views are remarkably similar.

Why?

Because I don’t want to argue about it.

Those who know me would be surprised by that, as I am known to be an opinionated person. And opinionated people tend to be argumentative.

I could give some anecdotal examples of my argumentative tendencies and for the sake of good writing, I should–but, I’m too exhausted, disheartened and fed up with all the arguing, the divisiveness and the demonization of “the other” to be chatty.

This isn’t lighthearted stuff. It’s not funny.

And, yes, I’ve tip toed around this subject matter before on this blog. My series “How’d He Get This Way? (A Profile In Narcissism)” about a nameless despot/master of the universe type is a case in point.

But I’m through tiptoeing around.

So even though it goes against my grain and I’ll make enemies out of some who use to be friends, I’m going to share this. And even though I know sharing it probably won’t convince anyone, that it won’t change anybody’s mind and that my voice is small, still, I have to use it.

I have to speak out. Too many people are dying.

Dr. John Gartner is a practicing Baltimore psychologist of world renown who specializes in the treatment of borderline personality disorder. He served as a part time assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore for 28 years. He graduated magna cum laude with a BA in psychology from Princeton University, received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Massachusetts, completed his internship at Bellevue/NYU Medical Center and his post-doctoral training at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical School.

The following is an excerpt of an April 25, 2020 article and interview of Dr. John Gartner by writer Chauncey Devega for Salon online magazine entitled, Psychologist John Gartner: Trump is a sexual sadist who is actively engaging in sabotage 

Donald Trump’s behavior is very predictable. He has a very simple mind. Why do so many people treat him as some type of mystery? Why do they claim to be so “surprised” by his vile behavior?

Yes, Donald Trump is simplistic. But an atomic explosion is also very simple.  

How does the human mind remain in denial about Trump’s nature when on an almost daily basis he reveals his true nature through his cruelty, lies, violence and other anti-social behavior? There are many Americans who oppose Trump who continue to claim that they are somehow surprised by his behavior?

Malignant narcissists are very sick people. They are sick in such a deep, disturbed and dark way that a normal person cannot comprehend such behavior. Therefore, normal, mentally healthy people cannot imagine or understand the mind of a malignant narcissist.

As a mental health professional, what do you see when you watch Trump’s so-called briefings about the coronavirus pandemic?

Trump is both denying responsibility by saying things such as, “I take no responsibility. We’ve done everything right.” But at the same time, Trump is also sabotaging the efforts to stop the coronavirus pandemic. This is a very important aspect of Trump’s behavior. Trump is not just deflecting blame onto the governors, he is actively interfering with the governors’ ability to do their job. Trump is not just incompetent. He is actively engaging in sabotage.

How does someone with his type of mind reconcile claims like “I have total power” with “I take no responsibility”? He has said both things within a few days of each other.

That is a function of how the psychology of a malignant narcissist is structured. When Trump says things such as, “I have total power,” that’s the grandiosity. “I’m in total control” is a function of Trump’s paranoia, where everything bad is projected outward. Therefore, anything negative or bad is someone else’s fault.  Bad things are other people in Trump’s mind. The grandiosity and “greatness” are all him. Trump’s mind runs on a formula which bends and twists facts, ideas and memories to suit his malignant narcissism. This is why Trump contradicts himself so easily. He lies and makes things up. His fantasies all serve his malignant narcissism and the world he has created in his own mind about his greatness.

The fourth component of Trump’s malignant narcissism is sadism. That part of Trump’s mind is more hidden. People such as Trump are malignant-narcissist sadists because they, at some deep level, are driven to cause harm to other people. Trump’s life is proof of this. He enjoys ripping people off and humiliating people. He does this manically and gleefully. He has lied more than 16,000 times. He threatens people online and elsewhere. I believe that Donald Trump is also a sexual sadist, who on some basic level enjoys and is aroused by watching people be afraid of him. In his mind, Trump is creating chaos and instability so that he can feel powerful.

Professor of psychiatry and psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg called that phenomenon “omnipotent destructiveness.” The bullying, the violence, the destruction, frightening people, humiliating people, getting revenge and the like — such behavior is what Donald Trump has done his whole life. It is who Donald Trump really is. Unfortunately, too many people are still in denial of that fact.

If Donald Trump is primarily obsessed with omnipotent destruction, how is that fueling his behavior?

Donald Trump has to create a field of negative corrupting energy around himself. For example, he pressures the scientific experts to bend the truth to his dreamworld during his press conferences. The scientists are basically Trump’s hostages. The American people are hostages as well to Donald Trump. We are being abused by him. We know that Trump is lying. We know that he’s doing nothing to help us. We feel helpless to do anything to stop him. It is causing collective mental despair. In this way Donald Trump is inducing feelings of rage and outrage — and he keeps doing it. It is not that all Americans are suckers or dupes, it is that Trump is a master at such cruel and manipulative behavior. Donald Trump knows exactly what he is doing to the physical and emotional health of the American people.

I envision Donald Trump as a megalomaniacal puppet master. The American people are his little marionettes. The American people must acknowledge that relationship to cut the strings.   

That is a great analogy. Donald Trump is a master at getting negative attention, and the more people he can shock and upset, the better. Donald Trump has been doing such a thing for years.

The pandemic has provided Trump with the opportunity to use his skill at doing such things into overdrive. America, with this coronavirus crisis, is now “The Trump Show.”

Society is a type of family. Leaders are fathers, mothers, and other types of parental authority figures. In that role, Donald Trump is abusing the American people.  

Yes, the American people are being abused by Donald Trump. This is a key dimension of sadists. I also believe that Donald Trump is democidal. I would even go so far as to say that he is a “democidal maniac”. If you look at human history there is one trait that all malignant narcissistic leaders have in common: They kill mass numbers of their own people. Why would Donald Trump be any different? 

Trump has had many public moments where one can see the convergence of his rage, misogyny and violence. Trump’s press conferences have been a showcase for his pathologies. There is so much rage when a reporter makes clear that Trump is lying or asks him a basic question that challenges his self-delusions and fantasies. Trump’s rage at women who challenge him, in particular nonwhite women such as PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor, is palpable. 

It is probably not lost on Trump that the people who are being disproportionately killed by the coronavirus are people in Democratic blue states and cities: nonwhite people, poor people, other marginalized people in this society, working-class people. These are the people who Donald Trump sees as “less than,” inferior to him, the types of people he likes to grind down under his heel.

In the course of a week, we literally had Trump’s cultists, his spokespeople, saying, “People should sacrifice themselves for the economy.” Literally go out and die. Of course the real meaning there is, “I want you to go out and die so that I can be re-elected because I’m dependent on the economy.” Trump and his allies have been telling people to go out and risk their lives as an act of loyalty to “the economy.” And of course Trump is willing to see people die to ensure — at least in his mind — that he will be re-elected. In many ways he is positioning himself as a god who demands human sacrifice.

Such behavior and beliefs are common among malignant narcissists. Malignant narcissists like Donald Trump view other human beings as kindling wood to be burned for their own personal enrichment and enlargement and expansion.

Beyond mere negligence, much of Trump’s and his regime’s behavior is malevolent. Trump and his sycophants knew that potentially millions of Americans could die but chose to do nothing. His administration has gone so far as to purge people from the government who were trying to warn the public.

Again, that behavior is part of the psychology of malignant narcissistic leaders. They are democidal. Malignant narcissistic leaders kill many of their own people through wars and political terror, but also through willful incompetence. These types of leaders actively do things that will kill large portions of the population. Causing harm is a type of addiction for them. Donald Trump’s addiction is only getting worse.

Donald Trump is a human predator. That is what he does. He will not change. At this point, I hold the American people, the news media, the Republican Party and its voters ultimately responsible for the calamity that is Trump’s reign. 

The 2020 presidential election will decide either the life or death of America.

What would you tell those Americans and others who would object to your analysis of Trump and the danger he represents? Because many people would protest that whatever Trump’s flaws may be, of course he loves America, and it’s inconceivable we would have a president who would actively seek to harm the American people.

Follow the facts to the obvious and true conclusion. If all the facts show that Donald Trump is a malignant narcissist with these powerful sadistic tendencies, this omnipotent destructiveness, where he’s getting pleasure and a sense of power from dominating people and degrading people and destroying people and plundering people and laying waste to people, both psychologically and physically, then to deny such obvious facts is willful ignorance.

What do you think Donald Trump will do if, shortly before Nov. 3, it appears clear that he is going to lose the election?

Rather than making a prediction as to Trump’s specific actions, it is more helpful to describe the type of actions he will take. Rather than trying to say, “This is the move he’ll make.” Like in a relationship, Donald Trump is the abuser. He is the husband or father who is abusing his partner or children or other relatives. The American people are like a woman who is leaving her abuser. She tells her abuser, “That’s it! I am done with you!” She has her keys in hand and is opening the door of the house or apartment to finally leave. What happens? The democidal maniac Donald Trump will attack us, badly. Make no mistake. Donald Trump is going to find a way to attack and cause great harm to the American people if he believes that he will lose the 2020 election.

 

 

Let Me In, A Film directed by Matt Reeves; Horror (2010)

Before zombies, vampires were the ghouls who ruled. And some of them were quite sexy.

For instance, I found Frank Langella’s portrayal of the Transylvanian count very appealing. Then again, I was thirteen when I saw Dracula (1979) and much like my taste in cuisine, my opinion of what constitutes sexiness has changed. So, for sake of authenticity–and experiment–I watched a portion of the film the other night.

Frank Langella still holds up. The movie?…not so much. I had to bail.

Then there’s the vampire Jason Patrick–that’s the actor, not the vampire’s name–in Lost Boys. Now that’s a sexy vampire.

Chris Sarandon is sexy too, in Fright Night, (1985) but he’s too-too diabolical to be full blown sexy. (I know. The too thing is a bit much, but I’m keepin’ it. Obviously.)

But vampires aren’t always sexy. Nosferatu, the 1922 original, comes to mind.

The vampire in Matt Reeves’ 2010 psychological/romantic horror film, Let Me In, isn’t sexy either. And that’s a good thing since she’s a twelve-year-old girl.

Of course vampires are no tellin’ how old because they are doomed to sameness of their birth until someone puts a stake through their hearts or until the sunlight burns them to a crisp. In this regard, Abby (Chloe Grace Mortez) is no different from her ilk.

But she is unique.

For one thing, her skin emanates a hue of blue. Not that she’s the color of a smurf or–God forbid–of a humanoid Avatar. No. She’s more the color of an infant born without enough oxygen in the blood. The illness is called blue baby syndrome and the discoloration is subtle.

Abby is subtle too. She wears a drab hoodie and appears to be always cold, except that she isn’t. She walks barefoot in the snow without so much discomfort as most us have walking barefoot on the beach in 90 degree weather.

Oddly, the boy who lives next door to Abby has the same blue pallor. He too is twelve and, like her, he is an only child living with a single parent in dreary apartment complex. His name is Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee).

Owen’s not a vampire. But he is creepy. He likes to spy on his neighbors with his telescope.

Okay, that’s a no-no, but it’s not beyond the pale of early adolescent boyhood–or so I’ve been told. (I have girls.) It certainly doesn’t justify his complexion.

All right. Then try this on for size:

Owen likes to don a Michael Myers mask while he’s spying on his neighbors and he soothes himself by lunging at imaginary school girls with a butcher knife.

So yeah, this kid needs help.

And that’s too bad because he’s not going to get it from his mother, who is on a fundamentalist Christian/alcohol induced tear, or from his father, who is too preoccupied with the terms of their divorce to listen to the language of his son’s off kilter angst. What’s more, he’s a skinny little loner with big eyes and a pretty mouth, which makes him the easy target of a sadistic bully with homosexual urges.

One evening, Owen is taking out his frustrations on a tree with his newly purchased pocket knife.

“Are you scared? Are you scared little girl?” he jeers as he stabs the bark of the tree.

When he turns around, Abby is standing there.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“Nothing,” he answers.

“Just so you know, we can’t be friends,” she says.

“Who says I want to be,” he answers.

But, of course, he does. Desperately.

Owen has observed this strange, pretty girl before, but this is first time they’ve talked. Little by little she warms to him. And before long they are holding hands and he is giving her gifts. She reciprocates with a gentle kiss on his cheek.

Meanwhile, a disheveled detective (Elias Koteus) is investigating a series of ritualistic murders perpetrated by a man in a mask made out of a garbage bags with cutout eye holes. Two teenagers from Owen’s school have fallen victim to the fiend.

Then a neighbor and object of Owen’s voyeurism is murdered. Though the murder appears to be unrelated to the ritualistic killings, it draws the detective to Owen’s door and into the orbit of all-consuming first love.

And perilously close to the duplicity of evil.

Director, Matt Reeves insists that Let Me In is not a remake of Thomas Alfredson’s critically acclaimed 2008 Swedish film, Let The Right One In. He doth protest too much.

That is not to say that his film is subpar. It isn’t.

Where Alfredson’s film is artfully stark, Let Me In is stylishly sleek. The difference is as American and as subtle as an electric blue IROC Z28.

And that’s a good thing.









How’d He Get This Way?(A profile in Narcissism) Part: IV

He wanted to remove his suit jacket but driblets of sweat running down the middle of his back deterred him. It unnerved him too, though he refused show it. There was no way he was going to allow himself to look like that idiot who jumped on tables and waved his arms around like a lunatic on crack.

You’d think a guy with sweat circles from here to China should have sense enough to keep his arms down.

People are stupid like that.

He adjusted the vent so that it was aimed right at his face. The relief was almost instantaneous.

The Lincoln Aviator’s air conditioner was exceptional. The legroom too. The ride as smooth as tempered glass.

In fact, over all, he liked the Aviator better than the Escalade and that surprised him. Like his father, he had always been a Cadillac man.

That said, he would have preferred to be in a BMW X7, but these days his touring vehicles had to be American. Just optics, of course. Everybody knows there’s no American made cars anymore.

Well, anyone with half a brain knows it. All the parts are manufactured in China. Or Mexico.

His right hand girl briefed him. He could hear her voice, gentle, even-toned, but he had no idea what she was saying. She put papers on the attache in his lap for him to look over because he refused to use an I-Pad.

Sometimes she got on his nerves–like right now–but he rarely raised his voice to her. She was supremely loyal. And very smart.

She was beautiful too, though she had been putting on weight lately.

Just the other day he came this close to saying something about it to her, but he stopped himself. Women are so sensitive about the weight thing. And he couldn’t afford to loose her.

She took care of everything for him–no matter how big or how small. It didn’t matter what time of day or night he called, she always answered. Quickly. No more than five–six–rings at the most.

So he just gave her the look.

Immediately she had put her head down and adjusted her blouse. Pulled down her skirt. Afterwards he noticed her eating carrot and celery sticks. Obviously she had gotten the message.

Five, maybe ten pounds more and she’d get the wink and the thumbs up.

Women, especially, liked that.

Up ahead a man standing in the turn lane abruptly started walking across the street. A cascade of brake lights gleamed through the windshield as the driver suddenly slowed the Navigator.

“Sorry about that, sir,” the driver said.

He nodded solemnly. “You have to be very careful, Ritchie,” he warned. They’ll walk right out in front of you.”

“Yes sir,” the driver said.

Normally they would be in a limo and he would have no contact with the driver, but this was his idea. Low profile. No motorcade. He wanted to see it like it really was.

Bums. Prostitutes. The homeless.

Boarded up buildings. Liquor stores. Beauty supply shops. Convenience stores…

More like smoke shops than convenience stores…Independent ones. No national chain would want to open up here.

Blocks and blocks of it.

He turned his attention back toward the driver’s broad shoulders, his muscled neck and perfectly etched hairline, cut so short it was more shadow than hair.

Ritchie was black. But not like them.

Ritchie was tall, too. Taller than him. And he didn’t like that.

He didn’t like looking up to any man. White or black.

“What’d you think, Ritchie? What needs to be done here? How can we turn this around?” he asked in his most concerned voice.

“Jobs, sir,” the driver said decisively. “Jobs, jobs and more jobs. Opportunity, sir. Job training. Good schools.”

He nodded. “Opportunity. Hmm. Yes. Opportunity’s good,” he said.

He looked at the driver in the rear view mirror. He hated the blacked out sunglasses the man wore.

“Anything else?” he asked.

“Grocery stores, sir,” the driver said. “I haven’t seen a grocery store for miles.”

He nodded and turned his attention back toward his window. It was just like he expected. Jobs. Schools. He knew the guy would say that before he asked.

They always said the same thing.

Yeah, the grocery store thing caught him a little bit off guard, but the guy was right. No grocery stores.

At least there were convenience stores…Well, they were more like cigarette stores…Smoke shops. But still…

Into The Flame

Into the flames are thrown

promises

broken

bone, life

taken

And breath

Yet, hands that fan

wag fingers

Forgive

Forgive

Obey

The Naked Kiss, a Film by Samuel Fuller; Noir (1964)

Kelly is in a bind. She drugged her pimp and beat him up.

She didn’t roll him, but she took back the money he stole from her. To add humiliation to bumps and bruises, she yanked down her headshot from the gallery over his mantel and tore it to pieces.

Now she has to get out of town. So she lands in nowheresville.

Nowheresville is quaint. Very mom and pop. There are lots of houses with immaculate lawns and white picket fences. There are pleasantly plump old ladies with platefuls of cookies too–and little kids with balloons, skipping.

Lots of skipping.

When Kelly gets off the bus, she looks perfectly respectable. Her dress is stylish and well made, more for business than pleasure. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Her hair is mid-length, combed away from the face with very little bounce. She carries decent luggage.

Never in my wildest dreams would I suspect that Kelly’s a prostie. But I’m not a cop either. Griff is. He’s the head honcho cop of Grantsville, the real name of nowheresville.

And since Griff’s a cop, he naturally hangs out at the bus stop. As such, he has access to state-of-the-art-high-class-call-girl radar. All cops have it in noirwheresville.

I know. You’re welcome.

Kelly has her own top-of-the-line cop radar, so when they exchange hellos they practically short out the electrical grid with all the sparks flying. Still, they come to terms–20.00 introductory rate (remember, it’s 1964)–and go to his place.

Afterwards he sprawls on the couch while she sits on the floor. They chit chat about the prostitute business.

Griff brushes Kelly’s hair. She tells him it’s just now getting to the length she prefers since her pimp shaved it off as punishment for an indiscretion. Griff is horrified. He offers to introduce her to Candy, the madam across the river in a “wide open” town.

He informs her that he drops by Candy’s on occasion to visit her “bonbon girls.” If she’s going to set up shop there, he’ll drop by more often. But he warns her not to do business in Grantville. It’s not that kind of town.

Then he leaves Kelly alone in his apartment while he gets back to cop business. She needs to freshen up and he trusts her. He knows she’s not that kind of a call-girl from chit chatting with her.

While Kelly is putting on her makeup she takes a good long look at herself in Griff’s mirror (because…well, that’s what us girls do when we put on makeup and she’s at his house.) In spite of her perfect cheekbones and respectable hair, she doesn’t like who she sees.

She decides she doesn’t want to become a “bonbon” girl at Candy’s in the “wide open” town across the river. So she rents a room in a pleasantly plump little old lady’s boarding house instead and gets a straight job as a physical therapy assistant in a children’s orthopedic hospital.

Kelly’s really good at being a physical therapy assistant. (So good, I was impressed. I thought about going into the field myself after my knee surgery, but there was too much math and science involved.) She’s nice but tough. She doesn’t let kids slide because they’re disabled.

Everybody at the hospital likes her. Even the tough as nails, masculine head nurse. ( I wasn’t as impressed with that, but that’s just me.) There she catches the eye of the well-healed J.L. Grant, Griff’s best friend and the philanthropic namesake of the town and hospital.

Griff is none too pleased. It’s not so much that he’s jealous, it’s just that he’s decided that, in spite of the chit chatting, Kelly is that kind of a call-girl. He threatens to tell J.L. about her very recent past despite all the good that she’s done: teaching crippled kids to walk, giving a knocked up nurse some money so she can start a new life without having to resort to an abortion, beating Candy to a pulp for trying to recruit “bonbon” girls from the nursing pool.

But Kelly beats Griff to the punch. She tells J.L. about her past and…he barely bats and eye! They embrace–and he gives her a naked kiss.

No, not that kind of naked kiss…the naked kind of a kiss..

Let me explain.

A naked kiss is a perverted kiss. It’s a subconscious thing. If you’re a guy and woman gives you a naked kiss, you probably won’t give it a second thought because you’re a guy.

But, if you’re a woman and a man gives you a naked kiss, there’s a good chance you’ll get that “hair on the back of my neck stood up” feeling. It’s our intuition and it’s a God given protection mechanism.

Sometimes the woman’s intuition is sabotaged by her naivete and kindness. She feels something is wrong, but she puts it out of her mind. Especially if the guy is an upstanding, well educated member of society. Or if she convinces herself that he’s really good and that she’ll help him change.

But, of course, Kelly’s anything but naive. And it’s not her first naked kiss, either.

She’d do well to mind her intuition…as we all would, ladies.

As we all would.

  • Kelly – Constance Towers
  • Griff – Michael Dante
  • Candy – Virgina Grey
  • Head Nurse – Patsy Kelly
  • Miss Josephine (pleasantly plump little old lady) – Betty Bronson
  • Cinematography – Stanley Cortez
  • Written by – Samuel Fuller
Samuel Fuller and Constance Towers

The Naked Kiss (1964); The Opening Sequence, directed by Samuel Fuller; Cinematography by Stanley Cortez

There’s always jazz in film noir–in black and white classic film noir, that is. Even in the post classic noir era of the 60s when rock and R&B inspired pop was du joir, it’s always jazz.

That’s because the film directors were old guys. (With the exception of Ida Lupino, God bless her). Jazz was the music of their youth. It was subversive to them, anyway.

So when Kelly (Constance Towers) beats the blankety-blank out of her pimp in the pre-credit opening sequence of Samuel Fuller’s The Naked Kiss, the jazz is a blarin’. Maybe that’s because Kelly turns the radio up so nobody can hear the pimp pleading and whimpering while his masculine nick-nacks are being smashed to smithereens…

No. It’s the old guy thing.

While the jazz isn’t subversive, that’s about only thing that isn’t in this opening sequence. Everything else is as stunning as Constance Towers is.

Whoa! Those cheekbones!

The sequence opens with Kelly looking directly into the camera with a furrowed and sweaty brow, mid wallop. She’s using her purse as a bludgeon and she’s in her brassier, a skirt and stilettos–of course.

Okay. I’m predominately a realist. Men are physically stronger than women. Sorry.

(Believe me, no one is sorrier about that than I am. There is almost nothing that I would like more than to have a figure like Raquel Welch and the physical strength of Lou Ferrigno. Not happening. Either or. And yes, I’m getting on up there too–hence my references.)

Anyway, there’s no way a man is just going to take a beating from a woman wielding a patent-leather clutch like a battleaxe unless he’s incapacitated. And, yep, it turns out Kelly’s pimp is just that. She’s slipped him a mickey.

But that doesn’t stop him from getting in a few licks of his own.

Samuel Fuller is known for his realistic physical violence sequences. In the opening, famed cinematographer, Stanley Cortez (The Night of the Hunter, The Amazing Ambersons) strapped a camera to a cameraman who was tethered to a production assistant acting as an anchor. (Movie cameras–especially those from that era–are extremely heavy.) Fuller told Towers to literally wallop the camera with her purse.

The effect is staggering. And unprecedented. The viewer takes on the perspective of the pimp getting the blankety-blank beat out of him.

During the melee, the pimp pulls Kelly’s hair and–holy smokes!–her hair is a wig. It comes off! She’s bald!!!

True. Not that big of a deal, certainly not befitting of three exclamation points–these days. Remember, this is 1964. (Refer to my previous post Prelude to The Naked Kiss.)

Sooo…yeah…

!!!

Kelly finally, realistically, gets the better of her pimp. She straddles him. She throttles him. Then she grabs one of those bottles–a martini bottle, I think it’s called–and sprays him with it for good measure.

Then she goes through his pockets. He’s got a bank roll of 800.00. That’s a good chunk of change circa 1964. But Kelly doesn’t take all of it. Just the 75.00 he’s cheated her out of. She stuffs her brassier with it.

With all due respect to Ms. Towers–it could use a little stuffing. Nobody’s perfect.

After all that, she gives him a final kick in the ribs, snatches up her wig and gets herself together in front of his dresser mirror. Now the credits roll and the music changes into feminine melodramatic swells as she refreshes her makeup and combs out her wig. She’s a little worse for wear, but still beautiful. And still defiant.

And it’s just the opening sequence.

No exclamation points needed.

To be cont’d…

  

 

Prelude To The Naked Kiss

All right ladies and gentlemen. Today we are boarding the way back machine. We will be traveling back to the year 1964.

Consequently, I am not your captain. I am your stewardess. Ha!

Our captain is most assuredly male because we don’t want to cause a social crisis when we land. Heh!…The fact that his control panel consists of only a dial–much like an “oven” dial–is irrelevant. Ouch!

The purpose of our journey is to observe the mores concerning the day to day life of the typical American woman circa 1964.

…Excuse me?…Why 1964?

Because that’s the year the film, The Naked Kiss came out. And this will all tie into to to my next post about the film. Rest assured. So “wait for it.”

Now then, if everybody will have a seat and buckle up we’ll be there in the time it takes the captain to turn the oven to 350°…I mean the dial back to 1964. Ha ha!…

Okay, ladies and gentlemen. We’ve landed. What?…Yeah, it’s fast. It’s 2020. Or Not!

The captain has asked that everyone stay together so nobody gets left behind. Okay. Everybody out…Ladies first. Ha!

American women! This is your life circa 1964!Circa 1964You are married. That is, unless you want to be a social outcast. A whopping 80% of the citizenry think single people are immoral, neurotic and sick. This especially applies to women.

You’ve married young-probably by the age of 20, giving birth to the first of your 2.5 children by age 25. If you desire less than 2.5 children you can now take the pill, but it’s only prescribed to married women. Keep in mind that in Connecticut and Massachusetts there are laws–rarely enforced, but still on the books–prohibiting even married women from using contraceptives.

Your only diploma is from high school. Only about 7% of women have a bachelor degree or higher. The few women who obtain a college degree do so to make themselves more attractive to socially upward men. I’m working on my MRS, is a common saying among the few ladies on college campuses. Should you desire an Ivy League education, you’re out of luck. With the exception of Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania, Ivy League schools do not admit women.

You can’t get a credit card without your husband’s signature. There are exceptions. Liz Taylor, for example, has her own credit cards.

Uh. What?…Yeah…Okay…Uh huh…Yeah…I GOT IT!…

Ladies and gentlemen may I have your attention please…Ladies and gentlemen there has been a sudden change of plans. The captain has ordered everybody back on board…Excuse me…EXCUSE ME! Everybody listen up! We have a situation here. SO PAY ATTENTION! If you don’t want to be left behind circa 1964 you better get your ass back on board! NOW!!

Panic

So, whew!…Ladies and gentlemen I’m sorry about that…I really am. I want to apologize for loosing my temper but I had to get everybody back on board because we had a little emergency on our hands. We had to interrupt our trip and comeback to 2020 a bit early because several of our ladies started having panic attacks. Myself included…

Even though I don’t have a college degree…was married at the age of 20…had the first of my two children at 25…and never took birth control pills…

Personally, that thing about the credit cards really threw me for a loop, but it’s all terrible. 

Thank God we’re here!

 

 

Samuel Fuller: Tabloid Journalist, Nazi Slayer and Legendary Independent Filmmaker; Conclusion

He is a fine specimen of youth giving way to manhood, this boy with smartly cut blonde hair. It is thick, as are his muscled legs and thighs. He wears shorts, most likely khaki, and a white uniform coat. He steps gingerly for he’s been warned, “Step on a foot or a leg and I’ll smash your f#@$ing skull.”

In his hands are sheets, as white as his hair appears to be. There are other men with sheets too, who are head and shoulders taller than the earthen walls, but they are shriveled and gray with shame. They do not fill the frame.

They spread the sheets carefully over the newly dressed, emaciated corpses. All of them. Then they climb out of the grave.

Another group of shriveled men take handfuls of dirt and throw it into the grave. But these men are different. Their clothes are dirty and they are shriveled not with shame, but from malnutrition. Only a few hours before they have been herded and separated once again, this time by a Soviet doctor.

These men are the most viable, probably because they were among the last to arrive. The doctor told them they would be treated and allowed to leave.

There are two other groups. The doctor told one group that they are only hours away from death. These cannot speak. Some of them–skeletons with sores and skin–lay on stretchers panting through gaping mouths.

The other group is not as bad. One man leans on a crutch. He has a bandage on his head with blots of black and rags around his feet. The doctor addressed this group too. They were informed that though they can walk and talk, their bodies are too disease ravaged to be saved. They have days to live instead of hours.

Both groups will be treated kindly, with dignity and respect. But they will not be allowed to leave.

There is no sound, just black and white footage taken by a 16 mm camera, a steady hand and an eye for framing. Samuel Fuller’s narrates the happenings in his gruff but eloquent way. His is a voice of clarity and resolve that bears witness, daring the deniers to dispute what he has seen, one that is scarred by too many cigars, too much rowdiness and memories such as these.

It is a marvelous voice. It is the voice of an old man.

It is his first film.

“I had a helluva opportunity to cover the biggest crime story of the century and nothing was going to stop me from being an eye witness”

In 1942 a twenty-nine year old Samuel Fuller was a private in the 16th Infantry Regiment of the famed 1st Infantry Division. Members of the 1st Infantry wore the distinctive red 1 insignia as their shoulder patch, hence the nickname The Big Red One.

The first action that Fuller saw was during the invasion of North Africa in a minor skirmish with the Vichy French in Morocco. Fighting heated up considerably as the regiment moved further inland. Then it was on to Sicily where the stakes became higher as did the death toll in battles with German Panzer divisions. During this roughly two year period, Fuller penned the pulp novel, The Dark Page.

Now thoroughly battle-tested, The Big Red One stormed Omaha Beach at Normandy on June 6, 1944. The 1st Infantry Division was responsible for invading the east side of the beach.

Fuller’s Company I landed off course at the extreme east end. They took tremendous fire but made it to the base of the bluffs relatively intact. Then they began the near suicidal mission of scaling bluff fortifications depicted in Saving Private Ryan where the 29th Infantry Division and Battalions of Rangers stormed the bluffs on the west side of Omaha. Once atop the bluffs, Company I fought their way inland where they dodged mine fields and engaged in hand to hand combat with the enemy.

Normandy proved to be the beginning of the end for German armed forces already  weakened by the failed invasion of the Soviet Union. Still, Nazi troops were a ferocious fighting force fueled by the Aryan superman myth and copious supplies of government issued methamphetamine. (The allies used speed too, but in the less devastating form of Benzedrine.)

From the bluffs of Normandy The Big Red One continued their march through France where every battle became fiercer as the Germans engaged desperate, but ultimately futile, attempts to drive the Allies away from their borders. Once inside Germany the 1st Infantry Division fought at the Battle at Hurtgen Forrest, the Battle of the Bulge, through the Harz Mountains and finally into Czechoslovakia.

On May 6, 1945, the 16th Infantry Regiment approached the city of Falkenau where they took heavy artillery fire that knocked out four of their tanks. Fierce fighting ensued all day and the regiment suffered heavy casualties. The next morning fighting resumed before commanding artillery officer General Clift Andrus issued an order to “cease all forward movement.” Two hours later, in the early afternoon of May 7th, Germany surrendered.

Three days later the 16th Regiment encountered armed resistance from SS guards as they reached the inauspicious watchtowers of Konzentrationslager Falkenau only a few thousand yards from the picturesque city. As the regiment stormed the camp, Fuller dove behind a big white mound and returned fire from the last SS defenders.

The camp was duly overrun and firing ceased. Fuller examined the mound that had protected him. It was comprised of thousands of human teeth. He observed other mounds too–one of eye glasses, one of toothbrushes, one of shaving brushes and one of artificial limbs.

All over the compound Fuller and his squad made gruesome discoveries. There were photographs of naked women being chased by snarling dogs while SS officers grinned lasciviously. There were putrescent bodies, still bearing marks of torture, stacked like firewood; the stench of gangrene and decomposition caused the infantrymen to wretch.

In an oven of the crematorium an SS guard was discovered hiding among blackened corpses. A soldier, nicknamed Weasel, who had the reputation of a pacifist, emptied his clip into the man.

Wandering in the fog of horror Fuller heard the distant sound of someone shouting his name. The voice of his Captain broke through his slow motion trance.

“…Fuller! Take your camera and get your ass up on that wall,” the outraged officer ordered, referring to the Bell & Howell hand held movie camera his mother had sent to him. “You’re gonna show the world what these bastards have done.”

In July 1980 the epic war film The Big Red One written and directed by Samuel Fuller, starring Lee Marvin, was released by Lorimar Studios. Based on Fuller’s own experiences in the 1st Infantry Division during WWII, it is regarded as one of the best war movies ever produced. 

Then in 1988, film director Emil Weiss brought Samuel Fuller back to Falkenau where he recounted the atrocities he witnessed there in the French documentary Falkenau, the Impossible. The footage Fuller shot in 1945 was incorporated into the film. 

“While this is an expensive epic, he hasn’t fallen to the temptations of the epic form. He doesn’t give us a lot of phony meaning, as if to justify the scope of the production. There aren’t a lot of deep, significant speeches. In the ways that count, “The Big Red One” is still a B-movie–hard-boiled, filled with action, held together by male camaraderie, directed with a lean economy of action. It’s one of the most expensive B-pictures ever made, and I think that helps it fit the subject. “A” war movies are about War, but “B” war movies are about soldiers.” –Roger Ebert

 

 

Samuel Fuller: Tabloid Journalist, Nazi Slayer and Legendary Independent Filmmaker; Part I

The custodian pressed his finger to his lips. Fuller nodded and followed him  down the corridor to a door. There he waited as the man cracked it, just enough to catch a glimpse beyond its breadth. Slowly the door opened a little bit wider and a little bit more until the man was behind it and Fuller was through it.

Now he was in the grand foyer, where he’d been once before–where he’d been given the boot. From the foyer he walked directly to the Gold Room and through one of its ornate double doors.

Sure enough, there it was, polished to a pearly perfection, gleaming between heaps of splendid arrangements. As Fuller approached the dais he felt an uncomfortable flutter in his chest and a restriction of air; the overwhelming scent of floral didn’t help. Eighteen was much too young to be having a heart attack.  He raised the massive lid.

It was just as the custodian said. The flowing waves of bleached blonde hair. The regal yet approachable slope of the nose. The sensuous mouth. The delicate hands folded across the fine fabric of a glamorous evening dress.

Fuller carefully closed the lid. Then he slipped out he same way he’d came in. Stealthily. Once on the street, he ran to the nearest phone and dropped a nickle into it. Shainmark, the editor New York Evening Graphic, answered.

“It’s true,” Fuller wheezed into the mouthpiece. “It’s her.”

“You’re absolutely sure? It’s Jeanne Eagels in the casket?” Shainmark quizzed.

“Yeah. It’s her.”

“Wait for me in the alley. I’m coming over there to see for myself,” Shainmark growled. “This is big, kid.”

“Yeah,” Fuller said.

He walked back to the alley excited but sad. This day, October 3, 1929, Samuel Fuller would remember for the rest of his life.

In the 1920’s Jeanne Eagels was the most celebrated actress of stage and screen, and one of the world’s most beautiful women. Throngs thrilled to her theatrics, especially on Broadway where her portrayal of prostitute Sadie Thompson in the production of John Colton’s Rain, brought people to their feet in droves of ovations and adulation. To this day, she owns the role of the tough talking sailor’s trollop who seeks mercy from a pious missionary who is dangerously unfit to give it.

Ms. Eagels lived her by her own famous words, “Never deny. Never explain. Say nothing and become a legend.” And her philosophy proved correct; she drove her fans and the press into a frenzy of procuring and consuming every tidbit of information about her.

But poor health and compulsive behavior fueled a hotter fame than she bargained for, one that even her considerable talent could not tame. Chronic pain from a severe sinus blockage and an exhaustive touring schedule drove her to seek pain medications and street drugs, including heroin, just as it whetted an already strong appetite for drink. Rumors of this and of a prolific love life circulated like wildfire through tabloids such as the New York Evening Graphic where Samuel Fuller, a well read, ambitious high school dropout worked as a cub reporter.

Though he was new to the status of reporter, Fuller was already a veteran of the newsroom. In 1924, when he was all of thirteen years old he became a copy-boy (a teenager who literally ran copy from the reporters hands to various editors) for the William Randolph Hearst owned New York Evening Journal. From there he graduated to personal copy-boy for the Journal’s editor in chief, Arthur Brisbane. Through Brisbane, Fuller met the famed newspaper mogul who he found to be nothing like the character, Foster Kane, in Orson Welles Citizen Kane. He described Hearst in his excellent autobiography, The Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking,

“…in came a tall, heavyset man with oblique eyebrows and very sad eyes. When he talked he made birdlike noises. There was nothing pompous about him except for his very expensive-looking dark suit.”

Nor did he find Hearts’ mistress, actress, Marion Davies to be anything like her inspired character. About her, Fuller wrote,

“The one thing about Citizen Kane that irked me was the way Welles handled Marion Davis…I’d seen her on several occasions at Hearst’s apartment. Contrary to Kane’s empty headed Susan, Marion was smart, charming and funny.” 

Although Fuller had apprenticed in the rarefied, highly respected air of the Journal, he jumped at the chance to produce his own bylines–and for a heftier paycheck–when, in 1928, he was approached by the New York Evening Graphic, a lurid tabloid featuring explicit crime scene photos and salacious headlines. There he quickly gained a reputation as a reporter with a knack for the sensational while covering suicide “jumpers.”

From photo journalists, Fuller learned to watch the feet of a prospective jumper poised on the ledge of a building. If the jumper shuffled his feet closer to the edge it usually meant bad news–so to speak. Then the photographers would time their shot so they would catch the jumper in mid air. From there it was up to Fuller to match the intensity of the photograph with his copy. He achieved this, not only by his skill as writer, but by shrewdly befriending the cops and technicians on the scene. When he asked for the suicide note he rarely walked away empty handed.

But it was more than just a calculating nature that prodded Fuller to rub shoulders with the working class. He broke bread with them because he was one of them. As such, he did not aspire to the power and grandeur of William Randolph Hearst, or to that of his mentor, Arthur Brisbane; he thirsted for the approval of the cogs that turned the wheel. The journalists.

Moreover, he empathized with the denizens of the street–the con artists, the prostitutes and the numbers runners that he covered. In them he saw apparitions of what might have been, if not for the hardworking, steady hand of his widowed mother who pleaded with him–to no avail–not to dropout when he was expelled for aiding and abetting a New York Evening Graphic story on teenage sex at the very high school he attended.

And so it was only fitting that his scoop on the heroin overdose death of Jeanne Eagels came by way of a custodian working at the funeral parlor where her body lay. Fuller had met the man while working on a story about the predatory and discriminating nature of the undertaking business.

As he waited for his editor in the alley behind the parlor he wrestled with the emotional turmoil of a journalist’s ethics and the morals taught to him by his mother. On one hand, he was happy about the opportunity to break the biggest story of his brief, but already brimming life. On the other, he mourned the loss of the talented, strong willed actress from Kansas City who had risen like a flaming, shooting star only to crash and burn on the pinnacle of her career at thirty-five years old. Within this conflict Samuel Fuller would find a gray zone in which he would abide and mine for the rest of his life.

“I’ll always remember the angelic expression on Jeanne Eagels’ face in that godforsaken coffin. Through her, I understood for the first time the quicksand nature of fame, a seductive mistress I’d never court.” Samuel Fuller-A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking

To be cont’d…

Adventures In DeeJaying

Those of you familiar with my blog probably know that I am a DJ. I have DJ’d professionally–on FM radio and as a mobile–for twenty-five years, most of that time spent as a mobile.

I no longer actively DJ. Instead, my husband and I manage a small business in which we employ a collective of younger, hipper, physically stronger DJs. (Sorry, honey.)

DJing came to me fortuitously and somewhat unexpectedly; my husband was in radio at the time and, as a part time air personality, was tasked with doing private parties for people calling the station looking for a DJ. I went with him to his gigs and before long I was doing my own.

Mobile DJing required a very different skill set from what I had learned in college radio and from what my husband was doing at 104.5 The Fox, although some of the cross over skills we accrued were definitely assets. In any event, it wasn’t my intention to DJ professionally in any capacity, let alone to do it for a quarter of a century, but that’s what happened.

It was tough going at first. I had no experience as a dance DJ and I hadn’t spent much time in night clubs (aside from the year I spent with my husband in a strip club where he was DJing. I’ve written about that little episode. Terrible.)  The few clubs I did go to, back in the day, were rock clubs where live bands played.

Consequently I have many harrowing, cringe inducing stories from early in my career that perhaps I will share later. I can look back on these memories and laugh, but at the time, I assure you, it wasn’t funny at all. In fact I would have thrown in the towel, probably after my very first gig, if I could have–but I didn’t have that option.

Well, I take that back, I could have, but that would mean me going back to working low paying–and if not that–back-breaking jobs, as my qualifications were few and my connections fewer still. So I sucked it up.

Anyway, this particular incident happened when I was probably a good six or seven years into my career, when I was over the big hump of not knowing what the hell I was doing, much more comfortable in my acquired skills, but I still had a lot to learn about the nuances of the job.

Back in those days we did a lot of smaller gigs–backyard barbecues, family and class reunions, school dances, that kind of thing. And we did a lot of out of town gigs in the smaller cities skirting Nashville and the surrounding counties.

Now I remember precisely what town I was in, but I’m not going to divulge that bit of info. I’m sure it would be perfectly fine if I did, but I’m very cautious when it comes to this kind of stuff, so mum’s the word.

The gig was a bachelorette party and it was at this little, rinky-dink “country club”–a cinder-block country club (yeah, I’m with ya’, it’s the first and last time I’ve seen one of those too) way on the outskirts of the town. I arrived on location about forty-five minutes beforehand to setup.

In those days I did my own setup and take down, so I was dreading this one. It was upstairs, in a room over the country club.

Well, I go up the stairs to check out the room and the door was locked and the lights were off. Immediately I got an extra dose of  anxiety because I was already about thirty minutes later than I wanted to be, considering I had to haul all my gear up the stairs.

When I drove up, I saw there were some cars in the parking lot. So I went downstairs to the main portion of the building. As I approached the door, I noticed that it was a metal and that it had a diamond shaped window cut into it. The window was covered in foil. Not a good sign.

But I had a job to do and I was running out of time. So I turned the knob and walked in.

Oh boy. Did I get an eye full. It was a scene right out of the movie Walking Tall. The original Joe Don Baker, Walking Tall; not the Bo Svenson one or–gag!–the Duane Johnson, aka, The Rock, Walking Tall.

The room was full of gambling paraphernalia. There was a roulette table. There were slot machines and there was a lady, I rather thin-faced woman with a stern expression, sitting at a table dealing cards. To my recollection, she was the only woman in the room. I looked at her and she looked at me. And that was all she wrote.

I turned and calmly walked out the door. Now keep in mind that I took in all of this in less than a minute.

I went back to my van, got in and locked the doors. I almost threw the thing in reverse and got the hell out of dodge. But I didn’t. My husband and I had a little girl, a mortgage and bills to pay.

In about five minutes a pickup pulled into the lot and parked beside me. An kindly looking gentleman got out. He had the keys to the upstairs room. He offered to help me carry up my gear, but I politely refused.

He was elderly.

And since I’ve been writing about DJing, I thought I would give you a sample of my wares. Now this is nothing fancy. No tricks. No gimmicks. And it’s not necessarily dance music either. There’s some 80s and some 90s–mostly rock.

It’s about an hour of continuous music, so fair warning.

Enjoy, if you’re so inclined.

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