Welcome to Pure Film Creative or, as I like to think of it, Tiger Beat for intellectuals (and perverts; you know which one you are).
Regular readers of these pages will often find us opining on who is sexy (Ashton Kutcher, Duran Duran, Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and who is not (Killough’s former landlady Susan Blais, Russell Crowe, pre-Raphaelite painters). It’s easy to do when you’re talking about movie stars and fashionable pop bands, since good looks are a prerequisite for such roles in society. With political figures, the distinction is murkier. Much like the sewage most of them crawled from.
What's not sexy about an Aussie thug in a tub with a stogie, a brew and phone he's about to brain the hotel maid with?
I don’t find ugly liars attractive, but I seem to be in the minority. Last week, before the shocking truth exploded, I wrote on PFC that Anthony Weiner couldn’t have e-mailed his cock-bulge photo to a 22-year-old woman because he’s not that dumb. What I thought, but didn’t write was, “Who the fuck wants to see Anthony Weiner’s dick, anyway?” Continue reading →
This blog has becoming something of a daily beast of its own, attracting glamorous star contributors like James Tuttle and Eric Baker, getting picked up and aggregated by powerful international websites with ties to the fashion mafia. We have started to view ourselves as the two-thirds homosexual lifestyle-and-entertainment Julian Assange. And it is understandably going to our heads. Always one to try to keep us grounded and humble, Tuttle is prone to tossing off quips like, “We must make sure our tens of readers don’t think we’re losing touch with reality.” He is just being a snarky homo, as is his right under Article 2(a) of the Provincetown Declaration of Equality of 2011, which allows a Ghey a measure of dark-roast sarcasm in direct proportion to how old he was at the time of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Founding Bear Daddies gather in Provincetown for the signing of what is commonly known in the gay community as P-Dec, a reference to declaration signer Benjamin Frankbear, seen here in the foreground, and his inability to control himself during the celebratory beer blast out on the deck.
With so much Perez Hilton-ish red-carpet flash and glimmer going on around here, it’s hard to remember this blog’s original intent, which was to promote Pure Film Creative, our web content company, with a side purpose of exposing the nefarious dealings of my erstwhile landlady, the Wicked Blais. With the Wicked Blais safely out of harm’s way, seething behind the walls of her own private Mordor of shithole Hollywood real estate, we should try to cast an eye on web content from time to time rather than just name-dropping for the sake of tags, and lamenting the lack of style on reality shows.
Never one to be terribly quick on the uptake, I needed time to think about Tom Ford’s “five easy lessons in how to be a modern gentleman” from Another Magazine, which went surprising viral, namely because of the silliness of the fifth lesson about flip-flops and shorts in the city. Ford is described in Another as a “fashion powerhouse, film mogul and old school romantic.” I have decided that the second descriptor, “film mogul,” is tongue-in-cheek, although knowing the fashion press as well as I do, whoever wrote that is either sucking up to Ford or actually believes that because Ford’s one and only film was so well styled and shot it has somehow propelled the designer to the top of the film business.
Too close to home: Colin Firth looks into the blue eyes of a dirty blonde half his age in "A Single Man." I wouldn't date a kid in a pink angora sweater, though. A lime-green hoodie, yes.
I was pleasantly surprised by A Single Man. No, pleasantly is too mild and a cliché. I was staggered by how good it was. Everyone in the Biz had been following Ford’s misadventures trying to get it made with not a small amount of schadenfreude. How dareth the designing fagelah wander into our rarified climes?
I know both the film business and the fashion world intimately, and there is no question as to which is the more difficult to succeed in. Fashion people are continuously astounded at how long it takes to make a feature film: nine years on average, no matter who you are. Even the humblest designer working in some storefront in Williamsburg would have churned out at least eighteen collections by then. What needs to be taken into account is production on one entire collection costs less than a single day’s shoot on an indie feature film. Continue reading →
Research for my hagiography-in-progress of Eliot Spitzer continued last night with a screening of Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, a companion piece to The Inside Job, which I blogged about in an earlier post. Regardless of its sensational title, Client 9 isn’t really about hookers and the politicians who love them. It’s about the worms at the heart of the recent financial crisis, which is now clearly as much of a scandal as it is a crisis, and one man’s crusade to try to eradicate those heartworms.
The hero Spitzer. I brook no criticism of him. If I were truly cheesy, or maybe just a bit more meshugana, I'd Photoshop a halo behind his head.
Spitzer ferreted out the corruption at AIG early on, forcing the ouster of the execrable Hank Greenberg. It would seem from Client 9’s narrative and timeline that this began the process of Spitzer’s own demise at the hands of a cabal of venal old Wall Street and Albany Repubes, who are so unbelievably American Gargoyle that if I cast them in a fictional film about themselves, I would be hauled up by critics for not understanding the nuances of performance, for having brought to the screen unbelievably contrived, Silent Era performativity of nefariousness.
I cannot describe in a blog such as this, which aspires to be as light and fluffy as a Galliano tulle ball gown, just how hamfistedly Machiavellian, how egregiously mendacious, how plain physically repulsive these crotchety codgers are. You just have to see it yourself. As for their minions … my landlady, the Wicked Blais, would be envious.
The hero himself admits right from the start that it was hubris that brought him down. He compares himself to Icarus. This is no delusional Charlie Sheen narcissist, nor does he possess that most nauseating of personality traits, false humility. For a man like this — brilliant, successful beyond most people’s wildest aspirations, did I mention sexy? — to own his hubris is humility enough. Continue reading →
Praise the Lord. I have seen Johnny Depp’s apotheosis and it is named Rango. It’s like he’s pulled together all of his work since Edward Scissorhands into one masterpiece symphony in the form of an animated feature. It all makes sense now. Rango tips its mottled cowboy hat to Ed Wood, to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but most of all, intentionally or not, to Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, the last Jarmusch film I truly enjoyed, as opposed to feeling flattened by enervation.
I don't know why they kept calling Rango a lizard when he was in fact a chameleon. I know, chameleons are lizards, but lizards makes them sound so pedestrian. Maybe the studios felt that American audiences would be too tempted to pronounce the "ch."
If you haven’t heard by now, Rango is truly trippy, brilliantly written, gorgeously animated, superbly voiced, and I have serious doubts it will ever make its real cost back. If the studio reported a budget of $135 million, it’s bound to be much more than that. Rango is basically an art film with a big Hollywood finish, which you really don’t mind because the whole journey is so jaw-droppingly audacious and bizarre. It’s certainly the first time I’ve ever been sexually attracted to a rattlesnake.
One hot motherfucker. If you ignore the fact he is voiced by Bill Nighy, this is the sexiest cartoon character since the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast."
According to my personal lexicon, a spineless dick is what I call a good friend who won’t go into overdraft to loan me more money. According to the Guardian, the scientific community is all a-flutter over the discovery that we men have shed the DNA responsible for allowing us to have spines in our penises like other mammals. The dickhead creationists will probably cite this lack of penile backbone as incontrovertible proof that we were actually created by God, not descended from apes through evolution. I say to them, Verily, thou shouldst have more faith in science than fruitloops juju mumbo jumbo, for hath not science replaced the penile backbone with Viagra? Is Pfizer not therefore divine?
Speaking of spineless dicks, I cannot resist reposting this image with a new caption:
Radical feminist poet and playwright Mama Muamah Gaddafi, author of “For Bedouin Girls, Who Have Considered Homicide When the Sand Dunes Are Too Ruff,” shows her followers that you don’t have to wear trousers to behave like a man.
I was right about the atrocities, they’re trickling out already: apparently Mama Gaddafi has swept out the dungeon and has been sharpening her knives and waxing the rack. Some BBC journalists she had a stab at are reporting widespread torture by Mama’s minions. Where does evil like that come from, do you suppose? I’ve been watching Lady Gaga’s new video over and over for the answers, but her creation myth is just as bat-shit loony as anyone else’s.
Well, I’ve had my day in court. Now that the records are sealed and a settlement has been reached, I can blog the fuck out of this.
For those of you just joining this blog/tirade, or blogirade, and for those of you who have been following it but are confused as to the details of what has led me to chronicle my fight with my landlady, Susan Blais, these are the broad strokes of what happened.
Another iconic image from Nick Knight, the director of Lady Gaga's latest video. I see this as symbolic of what it's like to take me on. So I'm full of myself. Yeah well.
Look at what I found on the stairwell of my tenement-slash-college dorm this morning:
Hey, as long as it's got carpeting, it's a bed.
He’s part of the musician crew from the studio apartment across from mine, the place I described in an earlier post as reminding me of how many musicians you can fit with their instruments into a phone booth. They’re the ones who have no furniture, so they all sleep on the floor and vacuum once a day rather than making the bed. So glamorous.
I went on a hike yesterday with my friend James Tuttle up to the Hollywood Sign and around Hollywoodland. When we were still at the base of the hills, we were treated to another ultra-glamorous sight of some smack-head weaving past us, stopping his car, rolling down his window and projectile vomiting onto the street. Because we were on foot, we had to walk past a streak of barf now decorating the path. Ten yards later, he stopped again, opened the door this time and spewed once more, even more copiously. Given that both Tuttle and I are gay men named James with rapid-fire, caustic senses of humor, it was astounding that we didn’t have much to say. I believe I was processing a thought something like: if a black cat crossing you path is bad luck, what is someone puking across it? Is it sort of reverse bad luck like when a bird shits on your head, and whoever is with you snickers in that way that means he’s really smothering a hefty schadenfreude-laden guffaw, and says, “That brings good luck,” after which you feel like cracking open his idiotic head like a fortune cookie?
Like spitting in a really butch way, projectile vomiting is a talent, as demonstrated on "Little Britain."
A few yards up the road, the guy pulled into a driveway and was met by another pasty-faced junkie who handed him what I assumed were drugs, but handed them over just like that, cool as can be, not even bothering to hide the transaction from the two revolted homos tramping up the hill trying to get their cardio in and commenting on the houses and how they’d do things differently if only they could afford something more than their current respective shitholes (well, Tuttle’s is a considerably nicer shithole than mine).
Later Tuttle told me that Moby, who as I also mentioned in a previous post has bought a mini-castle on a peak in Hollywoodland called Wolf’s Lair, left his door open one night and awoke to find some druggie passed out in the front hall (or something like that, we’re trying to locate the story; stand by for verification). Moby being Moby, having started his career playing at raves, allegedly just put a blanket over the kid, and the next morning he was gone. This makes me feel better about the phone booth musician passed out on my Hollywood shithole’s stairwell this morning. I should have put a blanket over him rather than kicking him in the ribs as I walked by. But that’s why Moby’s a rich vegan and I’m a poor carnivore.
The gatehouse to Moby's new 8-bedroom faux French château at the entrance to Hollywoodland. Bastard.
A side view of Moby's new castle, Wolf's Lair. See, if I were him, I would pour boiling oil on junkies who tried to scale my walls and sleep in my foyer. But I'm not a vegan.
The Health Department came today for an inspection of my apartment as well as the studio across the hall, which is being rented by the lead phone booth musician, a 19-year-old named Corey, who is much more the right demographic for this building than I am.
Let me backtrack a second to explain how I ended up here to begin with: a couple of better options fell through suddenly; I needed a place to move fast; I was staying around the corner at Tuttle’s; I saw this place listed on Craigslist, went to see it, met the handsome manager, was totally charmed, moved in the next day. I felt so good about my producerly efficient handling of a mini housing crisis. Two months later, psycho Susan Blais fired the manager, who was by now my drinking buddy and good friend, and now she’s after me, presumably because he was my drinking buddy and good friend.
So the lovely Persian woman from the Health Department showed up chatting on her iPhone with her grandmother, from what little Farsi I understand. After she’d noted the shameful condition of my toilet, we went across the hall to the musicians’ phone booth and knocked on the door. It was 2 p.m. I’d warned Corey this was happening today, but I knew he’d fuck this up when I heard him still partying at 3 a.m., so I mustered my best parental knock in order to rouse someone in the phone booth to come and answer the door, which I accomplished with evidently more success than the stairway sleeper, who had been shut out of the room all day. A musician I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before (they all look the same with that hair in front of the face) answered the door and I strode in with my best avuncular stride.
“COREY!! HEALTH DEPARTMENT’S HERE!!” I barked. He was asleep in the master bedroom, better known in real estate argot as the walk-in closet. I kid you not: Corey really was sleeping behind the sliding doors of the walk-in closet. Adorable.
The reason I was so loud is I was getting my own back for being kept up last night. Having been a 19-year-old artist into heavy Class A drugs myself, I know there is nothing better than being roused from a nice coma in a shag-carpeted closet following an all-night bender by your avuncular neighbor’s fog-horn voice announcing the presence of government inspectors.
This necessary unpleasantness — I need to prove to the court that this is indeed a shithole, ergo the call to the Health Department — was capped by a spat with the new manager of the building, a sanctimonious Born Again Christian who keeps saying, “Hey, man, I’m just doing my job,” which is the kind of statement that makes my eyes want to pop out of their sockets with the sheer force of steaming rage arising from pressure-cooked moral indignation.
I needed to get away, so I hopped on the bus and headed east, which is where I should have headed to begin with four months ago rather than moving into Susan Blais’s Trap for Runaway Suckers just because the building manager was handsome and charming. For Christ’s sake, I’m a filmmaker, I should have seen the most obvious forewarning: the Greyhound Bus Station is two blocks away. The bus stations in New York and Hollywood are a movie-of-the-week cliché. This building is for kids who come to Hollywood/New York with their dreams stuffed in their guitar cases, who walk up the street, see the “For Rent” sign, think, Wow, this isn’t bad, and like Corey move in, only to find themselves out on their asses a few months later because of the bedbugs, or because they’ve fallen behind of the rent, or whatever, and Susan Blais has fucked them for their deposits, because what they didn’t realize is that this is really the gingerbread house from a Grimm’s fairy tale, which lures the young uns in so that the evil witch can bake them in a pie. If they’re lucky, they escape and follow the bread crumbs back down to the bus depot and home they go, lighter for the guitar they hocked to give their last penny to the Wicked Blais.
I was never meant to live in this place. It was a total accident. I shall never rent with my dick again.
So after being slathered with sanctimony by the building manager, I headed east to my friend Ricardo’s furniture store; I knew he would be trapped there and thus an unwitting victim to my need to mewl. The whole notion of having to call the Health Department and fight back against this insane woman had given me indigestion, and I hadn’t even eaten. Of course, as always on buses in LA, there was the ubiquitous schizophrenic talking to himself, a Bus Schizo. He was quiet until we got to around Silverlake, and then the tirade began.
“SHALOM!” he yelled, which was a nice way to start seeing as it was Friday and it was almost sundown; this was a Jewish Bus Schizo. After singing a little rhyming ditty, he launched into a diatribe on comparative religion for the benefit of the mostly Latino passengers, the gist of which was that all the “damned Catholics” on the bus should “go to hell because we Jews don’t believe in hell anyway, HAHAHAHA!”, which actually made some perverse sense. Unfortunately, his bellowing “SHALOM!” set off another one-eyed Bus Schizo in the handicapped seat behind the bus driver, who started whimpering to himself and rocking back and forth. All I could think was, Where is John Galliano when you need him? Imagine him in this scene all coked-up and boozy, personality splintering everywhere, collagened lips a-flapping with racist invectives, hurtling himself down the bus at some militant Jewish crackpot who is screaming, “SHALOM! I’m meshugana! Can’t you tell? All you damned Catholics are going to hell!” (He really said that. I copied it verbatim on the notepad on my Blackberry.)
Ricardo’s new store (Freespace Modern, 1282 Sunset Boulevard) is in Angelino Heights sandwiched between Silverlake and Echo Park. Or maybe it’s just after Echo Park. I dunno. It’s pre-hip and it’s over there, near downtown, where I should have moved in the first place, if I’d only taken my lazy ass a bit further than just a block away from Tuttle’s place. Ricardo is selling his formidable collection of mid-century furniture and lamps at insanely good prices compared to what others just down the road sell the same thing for.
FreeSpace Modern on Sunset Boulevard in Angelino Heights, the next Silverlake.
It was good I made that trip east today; I needed a chilled, balancing Ricardo Diaz infusion. I need a plan for whatever happens after my court date with the execrable Susan Blais next week, because whatever happens, I am out of here. Going to East Hollywood is a good idea for the time being. I’ll miss my stomps through the Hills with Tuttle and waving to Moby, but sometimes you gotta be a little Californian and follow the signs, you know what I mean, dood? One minute you’re chilling in your shithole-slash-dorm room thinking about what to do, where to go after this, so you hop on a bus, listen to a rousing schizophrenic Jewish racist tirade, and the next thing you know, the road ahead is clear, lined with florescent yellow bricks.
Today we have the post-mortem of the Oscars, which is only interesting to the kind of people who still read the newspaper in paper form, and to people like me who are left baffled, and require some sort of grief counseling. Truth be known, I’ve only ever been completely satisfied with an Oscar ceremony once, and that was the year The Last Emperor won. I was just smitten with that film. I was lucky to be a magazine editor at the time, so I booked myself and my friends into countless screenings of the film, and championed it ardently wherever I could. Clearly I identified with the poor, misunderstood boy emperor who floated around a gilded cage swathed in silk to a score by Ryuichi Sakamoto, lit by Vittorio Storaro.
James Franco butching it up in an impression of Marilyn Monroe that really wasn't as funny as Anne Hathaway pretended. The fact he played it like a frat bro in drag was disappointing.
So let’s analyze the analysis of last night’s ceremony by the grown ups of news, the New York Times. Alessandra Stanley says that the”The producers cast the young stars James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts, then kept the writing old and hoary,” which sounded like a personal comment directed at me and my love life. Franco and Hathaway were almost show-stoppingly nervous and downright bad right at the beginning just after that brilliant Inception mash-up video they did with Alec Baldwin and Nelson Mandela. That video was the highlight of the evening, along with the Bob Hope hologram with portions of an old broadcast, which as the NY Times pointed out, underscored just how lame the writing for last night’s show really was. I do not agree that Kirk Douglas merely “did his best,” as the Times says; it’s the first time in my life I actually liked the guy.
This is the James Franco in drag we know and love, for the cover of trannie magazine Candy, photo by Terry Richardson.
The big upset was David Fincher’s loss. I couldn’t help but hear the words of a director friend of mine, “Harvey Weinstein is truly evil.” Indeed, after what happened last night, with a decent but insipid film like King’s Speech upsetting the far more accomplished Social Network, one can only think that Harvey has pulled off the ultimate impossible financing deal and re-mortgaged his soul to the devil. And this is just when I’d thought the devil had had enough of Harvey and had moved on to my landlady Susan Blais.
Bringing this all back to to the subject of me, watching Franco and Hathaway clash like oil over water – he basically flipped the finger to the Academy with his attitude, treating them to what his generation really thinks about this crap, while she ran off in the opposite direction and sucked up to the establishment — reminded me of the one time I have ever experienced a large-scale televised awards thing like this, which was when I hosted the Miss India Pageant in 1993. As I like to say, it is something every American should do once in his lifetime.
The reason I was cast as the host is ridiculous in the first place. A friend of mine was co-producing it, and as this was the first time India was televising the event, they wanted it to look as professional as possible, which meant having an American white man do it. This was at a time when India was still reinventing herself and feeling insecure about being Indian, so hiding behind an American — a native New Yorker, no less, who was spoon-fed bravado from when he could barely stand in his crib — seemed like a good idea. In principle. I had begun my film career in India, see, and had lingered for long enough to start to speak Hindi, which meant I could pronounce the names with some degree of accuracy (linguistically speaking, Hindi has some tricky consonant groupings, and if you aren’t spoon-fed them in your crib, they are very difficult to pronounce).
The producers’ biggest mistake was thinking that, because they thought I looked like David Letterman, I would be funny. This was typical racial profiling as practiced by non-whites: they think we all look alike. No white person would every mistake me for Letterman, especially a white comedian. Just because I liked to lounge around Mumbai on a Rajasthani divan high on opium and ganja, shredding my world with acerbic alacrity didn’t mean I was ready for the level of impromptu comedy that would soon be required of me, in front of over a billion people across Asia, from the Middle East to Hong Kong.
Four days before rehearsals were meant to begin for the pageant, thirteen bombs exploded in different places Mumbai, a mini-9/11.
The Mumbai Stock Exchange after the March, 1993 blasts
One of the targets was the Centaur Hotel, a well-intentionally designed structure that looks like the prow of a beached ocean liner in Juhu, which fortuitously rhymes with Malibu because that’s sort of what it is in relation to the rest of Mumbai geographically; i.e., it’s up the coast from the main city and is a well-to-do enclave. The comparisons stop right there, though. This is India, so Juhu is plenty funky, and at the time the Centaur Hotel was a complete shithole, albeit classified as a 5-star shithole by the Indian government because, of course, it was run by the Indian government. I say was a complete shithole because I noticed in Slumdog Millionaire that it was closed for business and being renovated; it’s that abandoned hotel the heroes hide out in for a while. I’m glad it has (hopefully) been brought up to it’s potential; I always thought that architecturally it was a great concept.
The Miss India pageant was supposed to take place in the bombed-out Centaur, so naturally I assumed that the show would be cancelled or at the very least postponed. Not at all. There are a handful of countries that take their pageants very seriously; in places like India, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, it is like the women’s World Series. The show would go on, even though most of the entire ground floor of the hotel was blasted out. Not to be outshone, I decided on going, what the hell, it’s a lark, so I packed my bravado, copped some Xanax for those post-large-scale-terrorism-attack willies combined with stage fright (we all know those), and hopped on a plane from Delhi to Mumbai for rehearsals.
When I got there, I noticed they were constructing this massive runway down the middle of the Olympic-sized pool in the center of the hotel right down to the beach. I could see them building it from my room on the top floor of the hotel. It was in the shape of a Byzantine double crucifix. I came to think of that as symbolic over the upcoming days.
The inner courtyard of the Centaur Juhu Hotel, showing my pool of doom, over which the catwalk was built. My room was on the top floor, center, right hand side. The entire ground floor was blackened from the blast that had ripped through the hotel shortly before we started rehearsals.
Just after I checked in, I was sitting in my room catching up with a friend of mine, Milind Soman, a male model turned actor, with whom I had shared another adventure a few years earlier, during which he proved himself to be one of the few real stand-up guys I have ever met in my life. New Yorkers would call him a mensch. While we were catching up, the phone rang.
“Is this James Killough?”
“There’s a bomb under your bed,” said the caller, clearly not the hospitality desk welcoming me to the hotel and making sure everything was all right. Now, you would think given what had just happened across Mumbai that I would get up and bolt from the room. But for some reason, maybe trying to impress mensch-of-mensches Milind sitting opposite me, I just looked under the bed and replied, “No, there isn’t.”
“Then you are a target the night of the performance,” said the caller, and hanged up.
Milind Soman, whom I sadly haven't seen in a donkey's age, but I'm pleased to see he's now the spokesman for Just For Men, which I use on my beard, but I would use on my hair if I had enough.
Much as I would have liked to ignore the call, the sensible thing to do was to tell the producers, given that this was a climate akin to post-9/11 New York. The whole production was instantly put under lockdown, and we weren’t allowed to go outside hotel for any reason. And we were three days or so away from the main performance. I was assured there would now be elite force snipers covering me from the roof and a Black Cat commando embedded every fifth person in the sizable audience for good measure. Great. Suddenly I felt like was really the host of the Miss Israel Pageant taking place on the Gaza Strip.
Indians are nothing if not expert reassurers. It’s that sway of the head, the “no problem, don’t worry,” their charm. You buy it every time no matter how long you’ve lived there, no matter how well you speak the language. Why? Because they themselves buy it.
I was promised a rehearsal, but didn’t get one the entire three or four days leading up to the performance, during which I basically twiddled my thumbs in my room. I was this afterthought who was somehow going to wing it with a script I had written. I was invincible, I didn’t need what mere mortal performers needed, because I was David Letterman. Everyone else scurried around, the girls going off to swimsuit contests and shopping sprees and congeniality competitions and other Miss Country things, while the crew frantically tried to prepare for an event they had never staged this on this level before. Again, this was the first time the Miss India Pageant was to be televised.
In case you didn't get the point, I shall belabor it. Another scene from the Mumbai blasts shortly before the Miss India pageant.
As my crucifix runway was being built, the backdrop went up as well. It turned out to be an enormous peacock, from which I was to emerge at the beginning of the show and make my way down this sweeping staircase. Just like Liberace.
Ugh. I was pre-embarrassed for myself. The Xanax stopped working. Rudderless, rehearsal-less, increasingly nervous, I snuck out of the hotel to the house of one of the pageant judges next door, an actress with whom I had worked on the first film I ever wrote, which had brought me to India in the first place. The judge wasn’t there, but her willfully insouciant sister was.
“What are you worried about?” the sister said breezily, as if being forced to perform for two hours in front of a billion people across Asia (in rerun) without a rehearsal, with snipers on the roof, commandos in the audience, K-9 bomb squad dogs behind stage and around it — a stage crowned by a peacock I would emerge from like some burlesque fan dancer, no less — when you have never done anything remotely like this in your life, and you only got the gig because of erroneous racial profiling, weren’t enough to justify a wee case of the jitters. “The contest is rigged anyway,” she yawned. “Everyone knows that. Just relax.”
Oh, great. Thanks, friend’s sister. Now I have to be the spokesperson for petty pageant corruption on top of everything else.
I am not a quiet, retiring type. If something bothers me, I’m gonna let you know. And I was getting pissed as hell. Still, I was lulled into the usual reassurance with the swaying heads, and lots of “What rubbish! Of course it’s not rigged!” As proof, there was going to be a terminal in my podium that would be linked directly to the judges and their voting tabulation. Furthermore, this terminal would act as a sort of teleprompter for my script. My friend’s sister had to be wrong.
Indian Army Black Cat Commandos bouncing around. Yes, I willingly put my life in their hands, all in the name of beauty pageant.
I’ll never know what happened in the hour leading up to the performance to cause the mysterious malfunction of the judge’s voting tabulation system linked to the terminal in my podium, which likewise didn’t work. Maybe the judges rebelled against the rigging and couldn’t be trusted to vote the right way. Given what happened at the end of the performance, I would like to imagine that something like that happened, that my friends and colleagues had had a crisis of conscience, as I still have. I’ve never spoken to them about it because I fled in such a hurry and returned to Bombay only years later.
Just before the performance began and my name was announced, before I emerged from the embarrassingly camp peacock, with snipers overhead, a throng of models and contestants backstage, and nausea in my stomach, I said to the stage manager, whom I shall call Deepak to protect the complicit, “How the fuck am I supposed to do this reading from a script I haven’t rehearsed?”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “Just go out there and be funny.”
The 1993 Miss India Pageant wasn’t just rigged in a subtle way, it was a full-blown 18-sail-ship rigging in plain view of everyone in the audience, the contestants, judges, and me, its spokesperson. The show wasn’t broadcast live, but it was still difficult to mask what happened in the final edit that was shown to over a billion people across Asia, in rerun.
The first hiccup occurred towards the last third. There was something strange going on in the manual relay of information between the judges and me, which lead me to accidentally read out the real semi-finalists they had actually voted for, not what the producers wanted, which meant that one of the girls, who would of course go on to win second place, was accidentally eliminated. We had to go back and redo that portion of the show, and eliminate the girl who was supposed to have won, whose name I had already read out, who had mistakenly celebrated a victory that was likely hers to begin with.
In the heat of the moment, I still had time to muster moral indignation — the unfairly eliminated girls, who like me had refused to believe the rumors of rigging, were sobbing backstage — and turned to Deepak when I was offstage for a moment in the wings, “It’s rigged!”
“So what,” he replied with a shrug. “You’re doing a great job. Keep going.”
Despite everything, I suppose I had managed to locate my inner David Letterman and was actually managing to be humorous. No longer. I wasn’t amused and was seriously contemplating walking off.
Just before the end, I was given a note in handwriting I recognized, James, Please read these names out, and it was signed, the Judges. And the names of three girls who should have won were there, not the names of the three who ended up with crowns on their heads. Had I read the real winners out, they would simply have made me go back and redo it, and I was tired of this shit. What had started out as a fun lark had turned into yet another Mumbai nightmare.
Namrata Shirodkar, the woman crowned as Miss India, but who probably wasn't the real winner.
Now, maybe this was an elaborate set-up, we will never know. Maybe that wasn’t really a note from the judges, but like I said, I had worked with two of them for a long time, and knew a few of the others. And I had been warned by almost everyone that the show was going to be rigged and that the girl who was crowned, Namrata Shirodkar, was going to win it, which I just refused to believe possible.
I left that note on the podium, along with the microphone I threw down in disgust once the lights cut and the cameras were off. On my way out, I said to Deepak, “I’m not going to say anything about this, but I want cash, and you can pay the taxes,” and left on the 1 a.m. Air India flight back to Delhi. They did pay me a month later over a Thai meal in Delhi, in cash, literally under the table. I hope they paid the taxes. After all, the organizers and producers of the event were none other than the venerable Times of India.
Well, after telling that story, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to insert my signature picture of Amanda Seyfried’s breast. So I’ll leave you with a more chaste picture of her having an orgasm instead:
Amanda Seyfried having an orgasm while looking at her lesbian lover's shoes in "Chloe." (Oh come, all ye pervy keyword searchers! Join me!) This orgasm is distinct from the one enjoyed by Julianne Moore in an earlier scene, when Julianne was being fingered by Amanda. In this one, Amanda is having sex with Julianne's character's teenaged son. The film is kinda filthy if you think about it, not when you watch it, though.
And the video below isn’t funny at all. I take back what I said about John Galliano having been provoked in my blog a couple of days ago. I apologize for it, and it certainly doesn’t look like anyone from my crew is going to be offering him work soon, even if he were inclined to do it. I take Galliano’s passing on doing the costumes for Hatter a few years ago at its word and cease and desist from further endeavor to convince him otherwise.
And so we continue with the shamelessly extroverted post titles.
It’s Oscar day. Ho hum for most of us, nauseatingly exciting for those up for awards. Literally nauseating: I would be puking in a bucket right now if I were nominated. With the helicopters whirling overhead because the Kodak Theater is less than ten blocks away, it’s time for me to muse about the Oscars from the perspective of a bit of satellite debris orbiting Planet Hollywood.
Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler looking like my Oscar-wishful producer.
Once upon a career, I had this executive producer in London who looked like a British Oskar Schindler as played by Liam Neeson, which, yes, meant he looked a bit like Liam. He even smoked these little cigars, had a super cut-glass accent, wore blue blazers and jeans, and in general wowed me as being the archetypal dashing playboy Euro-producer. Naturally, I hung on his every word. The fact he wasn’t particularly successful, and like most of the people in our business sat around planning and talking about making films rather than actually making them, made not a tick of difference to me. He looked the part. And in this filmmaker’s mind, I had cast him in the movie of my life as the man who would produce me. Finally.
“James, my boy,” Faux Oskar said to me once (yes, he actually used to call me James My Boy, with a slight wave of his cheroot, which dazzled me), “Anyone who tells you he isn’t in the film business to win an Oscar is lying.” I gulped. It had been a very long time since I had fantasized about winning an Oscar, of giving That Speech in my mind. My mother was more excited about the prospect of my ever winning than I was (“Can I accept it for you, darling? Wouldn’t that be fun to have your mum up there?”) However, if Faux Oskar said it, it must be true. So I became a liar without a lie and let no one know I had no Oscar ambitions.
The real truth is I actually do this film thing because I love it. It’s not work for me the way jobs are for most other people. When I am seized with the passion of a project, it’s better than being high on sex-enhancing drugs in an orgy of gorgeous people, and that feeling lasts for the duration of the gig. Now you have an idea of why we’re all so addicted to it, at the expense of all reason.
A few years later, I was in Los Angeles on a second date with this insanely handsome German guy, the kind who should have “Arrogance” tattooed between his shoulder blades, the kind the real Oskar Schindler risked so much to screw over. This Uber-Douche invited me to an Oscar party in a loft downtown, during which he kept sneaking off to the bathroom and doing coke. The fact he didn’t offer me any was bad enough, but what made it worse is that his already rampant Narcissism Personality Disorder was now a Godzilla in the room. He had become Super Uber-Douche.
It was one of those Oscars that happen to me every few years where people I have known in the past were involved with the ceremony, either dishing out or receiving. I believe Faye Dunaway, with whom I’d had a long history when I was much younger, not all of it pleasant, was one of the presenters. Then Akiva Goldsman, whom I had known pretty well in college, won for Best Adapted Screenplay. I groaned.
Crapmeister Akiva Goldsman turning into a genius. Akiva's greatest contribution to the arts is probably having inspired me to drop out of Wesleyan.
Now, the reason I groaned was not because I dislike Akiva particularly, even though he was the final straw that made me to decide to drop out of Wesleyan and move to Paris and become a fashion photographer’s assistant. What happened on that occasion is I was very high on pot sitting in my friend Tom Rockwell’s kitchen at college and feeling paranoid (I was a freshman, Akiva was older, so that was extra paranoid-making), and he was trying to explain phenomenology to this other guy, and I just couldn’t grasp it. Little did I know until I shacked up with a philosophy professor twenty years later that I was by no means alone in not understanding phenomenology.
I decided then and there that a) Wesleyan displeased me aesthetically in general, and b) admissions had made a mistake; I was far too dumb to be there. The hidden third c) was that I desperately wanted to get back to Europe, where I had grown up. America was still in a bit of a troglodyte era, ruled by Reagan; the croissant had yet to be introduced to McDonalds.
So there was Akiva, winning an Oscar for “Beautiful Mind,” fumbling through his speech, during which, in typical Wesleyan fashion, he sucked up to all of Power Hollywood from CAA (a Wesleyan creation) to Steven Spielberg. Like I said, I didn’t groan because I dislike “Keevie,” as we called him back then, but because he was shattering my schadenfreude. Up until that moment, Akiva was known as “Hollywood’s Crapmeister,” the man blamed for killing the first iteration of the Batman franchise. That is no mean feat. If I had been known as Hollywood’s Crapmeister, I would have committed hari kiri, ergo the schadenfreude. But when he won the Oscar, I knew that from that moment, Akiva was screenwriting royalty, my new king, or at the very least a powerful arch-duke with connections to kings. He was no longer a crapmeister, one of the worst writers around, someone whose presumed misery had made me feel better about mine; he would be forever more a “genius.” And so I groaned.
And after I groaned, Uber-Douche turned to me and said, “You vill never vin von of dose.” If he was grinding his teeth because of the coke he hadn’t offered me, I was grinding mine to stop myself from punching him.
Later at a club he announced, “Ok, vee go home now.”
“So go,” I replied. And patted myself on the back for rejecting Apollo.
Wanna buy an Oscah? Peggy Siegal has one for you for the right price.
James, you ask, you are obviously the ultimate Hollywood outsider’s insider. How does one win an Oscar? Easy. Just have insane good fortune, a modicum of talent — filmmaking is not rocket science, believe me, not at all — and a fantastic publicist. That’s what ultimately gets you the award. Err on the side of caution and hire Peggy Siegal. Done. She’s a nightmare, but funny in a way, if you like your gossip hardcore. She will stop at nothing and stoop to everything to reach your goals.
Speaking of hardcore gossip, we reach the explanation for the title of this blog post, a tribute to my friend, Indian fashion designer Malini Ramani. It’s the way she gossips, I can never get enough of listening to her. Across a crowded room at a noisy party, you can hear her breathlessly soaking in the latest dish, and she has this raspy voice that resonates through the sturdiest inebriated atoms. When she hears the first tidbit she always says, in the Delhi upper class nasal singsong, “Shut up!” This is how the speaker knows the story is good. Getting a Shut Up! from Malini is the Michelin one star of quality South Asian gossip. If you are lucky to get a Fuck off! next, you have really made the grade. But it’s said like this: “Fuck! Off!” followed by a sharp intake of breath. Now, if this isn’t just gossip, but a bona fide scandal, you will be rewarded with the third star: “YOU’RE LY-ING!” And “lying” is said just like that, both syllables clearly distinguished and with such force of purpose that the capital letters sway to the right as if gusted by a sharp wind of flabbergastedness.
My friend, Indian fashion designer Malini Ramani, at the end of one of her shows (she's the short one). I guess this collection was entitled "Injuns: Feathers, Not Dots." She's probably in full gossip with the gal on her left. There isn't a single moment one shouldn't be fully gossip-immersed, even at a curtain call.
Of course, you aren’t really lying, it just means that you have dished the goz so superbly, scooped every seasoned saried-and-bejeweled doyen in the room to the punch so expertly that you can only be LY-ING. Given that most of Delhi gossip is pure fabrication generated simply for the sake of adding a little masala to the otherwise overly sweet and dull dolce vita everyone there swims in, being a liar is the Oscar of compliments.
No Killough Rant-Post would be complete without a mention of my (in my opinion) execrable psycho landlady, Susan Blais, whom I shall see in court the week after next, after which I shall give you more details, including the address of this shithole she owns so that you avoid it like the plague (I heard from another tenant that not long ago this place was lousy with fleas and bedbugs for six months until she was forced to fumigate). And of course no Pure Film Creative post would be complete without a pic of Amanda Seyfried’s breasts, so here you are:
A double treat today, even though it is once again just Amanda's side boob. The other tit is Julianne Moore's breast, which probably won't get me as many hits as typing Amanda Seyfried's breast. What is Amanda doing with her right hand? Why, Amanda Seifried is fingering Julianne Moore! Now THAT should net me a half dozen more adorable perv readers for my blog. Thanks, girls. Keep up the good work. See you at the Oscars!