Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Moments in Time: Marilyn Monroe

More than 50 years after her death, Marilyn Monroe continues to fascinate the public. The most recent example of her timeless, transfixing spell comes in the form of one of the legendary bombshell’s most admired assets: her gorgeous blonde hair. Moments in Time, a purveyor specializing in collectibles, is now offering up a lock of Monroe’s famous mane, giving the public a chance to own a piece of Old Hollywood history nonpareil. The cost for such an iconic piece of cinematic gold? A cool $16,500.

Housed in a display box, the hair clipping comes from the actress’s hairdresser Kenneth Battelle and is dated June 14, 1959. The paper box features two glass framed pieces: one which contains a lock of around 35 strands of hair (making each follicle worth somewhere around $471) and, next to it, there’s an image of the iconic actress in the middle of her signature laugh. Still, Marilyn Monroe’s legacy has cast a longer shadow than most, and a get like this will certainly go quickly. If you’re a Monroe aficionado, we’d suggest ponying up the dough as quickly as possible. As they say: Hair today, gone tomorrow. Source:

Marilyn Monroe has come to represent our notion (however nostalgic) of 1950s attitudes, as scholars like Sarah Paige Baty (in her essay American Monroe, 1995) show. As critic Richard Dyer argued in Stars (1980), "Monroe’s image must be situated in the flux of ideas about morality and sexuality that characterized the 50s in America and can be indicated by such instances as the spread of Freudian ideas in post-war America, the Kinsey report, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, rebel stars such as James Dean and Elvis Presley, etc. Marilyn Monroe’s combination of sexuality and innocence is part of that flux, but one can also see her “charisma” as being the apparent condensation of all that within her. Marilyn invented a persona—The Girl—that would at first seem to release her from the bad things of her childhood, but which later became like one of her childhood ghouls, leaning over her, making her all sex, suffocating her. Thus she seemed to “be” the very tensions that ran through the ideological life of 50s." —"The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe" (2005) by Sarah Churchwell

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Bad Times at the El Royale, Cal Neva restored

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) is a stylish film marred by muddled social commentary, set in 1969 at a resort modelled after the 220-room Cal Neva Lodge, which straddled the California-Nevada state line. However, the El Royale seems to have only eighteen rooms, judging by the keys hanging in the key safe, considerably fewer judging by the floorplan, of which only four are rented. All four guests arrive within the span of half an hour or so, to find the resort entirely unoccupied. No staff either, other than the concierge/desk clerk. Most of the rooms have been unoccupied for so long, they haven't even been cleaned. Very Kafkaesque, but how does such a resort remain in business? With two non-guests, there are seven central characters. The suggestion that they represent the seven deadly sins and the hotel represents heaven and hell has considerable appeal. John Hamm's character is the only one to get a room in the California area.

There is a question that permeates Bad Times At The El Royale without ever becoming a central focus: who is on the tape? The people who own the El Royale had been spying on people in the rooms with the footage being mailed to them by Miles. This, the last remaining reel, had captured a particularly famous person who visited the hotel in the recent past and has since died, committing what we can assume was adultery. One of the most obvious candidates is Robert F. Kennedy. According to director Drew Goddard: "Who knows how true any of the mob stuff and Kennedy rumors are, but it’s titillating to a writer’s imagination."  Everything in Bad Times At The El Royale exists in a gray area except two people: Darlene and Billy Lee, light and dark respectively. Indeed, she's the one who puts him in his place, too. By following her dreams despite having had her career stepped on by greasy producers, Darlene eventually finds her break, and a nice friend along the way. Billy uses the vulnerable to give himself a power trip before getting his comeuppance. Bad Times At The El Royale offers a couple of simple takeaways – hold onto your dreams as hard as you can, because so much of this world is out to destroy them, and if some bad people have made you do some bad things, it's okay, you are forgiven, because we all know who the real bad guys are. Source:

Built in 1926, the Cal Neva Resort, Spa & Casino was owned by Frank Sinatra from 1960-63, and frequented by the likes of the Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe and members of the Kennedy family, among others. Company co-owner Robert Radovan previously said a December 12, 2014, reopening was originally eyed to coincide with what would have been Sinatra’s 99th birthday. However, various financing and construction issues delayed the reopening.  In July 2016, the Cal Neva was put up for auction. Billionaire Larry Ellison was the sole bidder, purchasing the property for $35.8 million in January 2018. The new Cal Neva offers a refurbished non-smoking casino with table games and slot machines. Further, the resort’s theater — The Showroom, originally imagined and built by Sinatra aka the Sinatra Ballroom — ‘will be carefully restored and upgraded to once again serve as Tahoe’s preeminent entertainment venue, which will also host local community events and recitals.’ A hotel similar to the Cal Neva in appearance and characteristics was featured in the 2018 film "Bad Times at the El Royale". Source:

Friday, December 21, 2018

Merry Christmas in Weirdland

19. Remember the Night (1940)
Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck famously co-starred in Billy Wilder’s 1944 noir Double Indemnity. They first teamed up for this 1940 Christmas romance in which Fred MacMurray plays John Sargent, a hard-charging DA who, through a misunderstanding, comes to spend the days before Christmas with Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck), a small-time jewel thief he’s prosecuting. They start to fall in love during a road trip to Indiana, a sojourn that almost allows them to forget that John still has to try to send Lee to jail when they get back. Directed by Mitchell Leisen from a Preston Sturges script, Remember the Night begins as a broad, brisk comedy but shifts moods as John learns about Lee’s difficult past. In a classic holiday-spirit turn, he comes to realize the advantages his loving family have bestowed upon him once he sees how appreciative Lee is after sharing the first warm Christmas morning of her life with his family.

13. It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
A great Christmas movie that not enough people talk about, It Happened on Fifth Avenue opens with the homeless sage Aloysius T. McKeever (Victor Moore) moving, as he does every Christmas season, into the luxurious Manhattan home of vacationing tycoon Michael J. O’Connor (Charles Ruggles). From there the film keeps piling on the complications as it breaks down the divide between the haves and the have-nots. McKeever is soon joined by a displaced World War II vet (Don DeFore) and O’Connor’s daughter Mary (Gale Storm), who knows the house even better than those squatting there. The house grows more crowded, new loves get kindled, old loves get renewed, and O’Connor is forced to do a Scrooge-like about-face when he gets reacquainted with those less fortunate than him. Directed by Roy Del Ruth, who took on the project after Frank Capra decided to make It’s a Wonderful Life instead, It Happened on Fifth Avenue earns its warmth honestly, tethering a tale of fresh starts and changed hearts to the real difficulties faced by those reaching for the American dream in a postwar era that was supposed to bring prosperity for all.

12. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
In a film as sexy as it is funny, Barbara Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a magazine columnist who risks being exposed as a phony if she can’t create the perfect Christmas at the Connecticut home she’s writing about as part of a PR stunt to reward recuperating GI Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), who’s been dreaming of tasting her recipes while serving in World War II. The only problem: There is no Connecticut home, and she can’t cook. The farcical complications pile up from there, and Stanwyck deftly balances Elizabeth’s mounting sense of panic with wry humor as she reckons with her unexpected desire for Jones — a desire that has popped up just after she’s decided to give up on love in return for a marriage of convenience. Director Peter Godfrey keeps the action fast and light while trusting Stanwyck to excellently bring her character’s dilemma to life, even if it involves changing a diaper as if she’s never seen a baby before in her life.

5. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
There are many great romantic movies set at Christmas, but somehow The Shop Around the Corner still stands above them all. Maybe it’s the irresistible premise: A pair of feuding co-workers don’t realize they’re falling in love with one another via anonymous letters. (If that sounds familiar, it’s because Nora Ephron drew on the same source material — the Miklós László play Parfumerie — for You’ve Got Mail.) Maybe it’s a cast headed by Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan and filled out with colorful character actors. Maybe it’s because few directors have balanced lightness and romance like Ernst Lubitsch. Whatever the case, it’s both a peerless romantic comedy and one of the great Christmas movies, weaving themes of forgiveness and second chances into a love story that reflects the season in which it takes place.

3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
What was going on that led to so many great Christmas movies being released in 1947? That year saw the release of The Bishop’s Wife, It Happened on Fifth Avenue (see above), and offered most viewers their first chance to see the greatest Christmas movie of all time (see below). It also produced this lovely story of a girl (Natalie Wood) whose mother (Maureen O’Hara) unwittingly hires someone who may be the actual Kris Kringle as a department-store Santa at Macy’s. What follows is part fantasy, part romance (as O’Hara’s character starts to fall for a charming neighbor), part indictment of commercialism, part defense of letting children be children as long as they can, and part legal thriller (well, sort of). Mostly, the film, written and directed by George Seaton, is an irresistible bit of Christmas whimsy made unforgettable by Edmund Gwenn’s turn as the man who might be Santa.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Really, what other film could top a list of the greatest Christmas movies of all time? Frank Capra’s enduring classic stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, the unwitting savior of Bedford Falls, a man whose goodness and generosity has touched more people than he realizes. In fact, as one bleak Christmas looms, he doesn’t realize it at all and is ready to commit suicide — until an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) arrives to show him the error of his ways.

Though it’s become synonymous with holiday cheer, Capra’s film works because of its willingness to go to some dark places, and because of Stewart’s ability to play a gregarious goof one moment and a man whose world comes crashing down the next. Curiously, the film didn’t go into wide release until after Christmas in January of 1947, which might have contributed to its underwhelming box-office performance. But it received a second life thanks to relentless airings on local television in the ’70s and ’80s, where its depiction of one man’s dark night of the soul (and a nightmarish vision of what unrestrained greed looks like without those interested in fairness and justice to stand in the way of the Mr. Potters of the world) connected with a new generation. It’s not hard to see why. It’s grounded in details of the times that inspired it — the Depression, World War II — but its vision of holiday kindness, and of the sort of country most of us would want to live in and the values of kindness and generosity most of us share, remains timeless. Source:

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Marilyn, Dorothy Kilgallen, JFK, Destiny Betrayed

Prior to the 1960 election, Marilyn – although politically astute – had apparently shown little interest in John F. Kennedy, dismissing him as too inexperienced. But like many Americans, she soon warmed to his youth and charisma. It is generally thought that they first met in late 1961. Marilyn met his brother Bobby, now Attorney General, over dinner at the Lawford home. She was accompanied that evening by Pat Newcomb. Pat was known for her extreme loyalty and protectiveness towards Marilyn, and some likened their relationship to that of sisters. In a letter to a colleague, Greenson wrote that Marilyn had been angered when Pat dyed her hair the same shade as hers. Dr. Ralph Greenson construed it as a fear of lesbian advances – which Pat denied. At lunchtime, Pat joined Marilyn by the pool, and Mrs Murray heard them bickering. It seems unlikely that Marilyn was angry merely because Pat had slept well, so it may have been about something more personal. “She was furious, it’s true,” Pat told Anthony Summers, author of Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. “But I think that she was also furious about something else, I think there was a lot more, not related to me, that I don’t know about.” Although she didn’t mention it in early interviews, Mrs Murray would later claim that Bobby Kennedy and Peter Lawford arrived, apparently unannounced, at the house early that afternoon. Many critics dispute this, because Bobby was supposedly with his family at a ranch outside San Francisco. Pat has denied outright that Bobby visited Marilyn. “Marilyn paid me my salary during her lifetime,” Pat told columnist Mike Connolly in 1962, “and I’m not going to write any post-mortems about my best friend.” True to her word, she declined all offers to publish a memoir of her time with Marilyn. “Evidence of Marilyn’s relationships with the Kennedys is mostly anecdotal – but substantial,” Charles Casillo asserts. However, he does not give credit to the many conspiracy theories implicating the Kennedys. The whole subject has become something of an urban myth that it has distorted Marilyn’s legacy.“Marilyn could not resolve her feelings of being unloved because she felt she was unlovable,” he writes, adding that “the depression that enveloped her in 1962 was like nothing she had experienced before.”  Source:

The Reporter who knew too much was born of eight words: “They’ve killed Dorothy; now they’ll go after Ruby.” They were uttered by Jack Ruby’s attorney Melvin Belli. He said them to friend Dr. Martin Schorr shortly after Dorothy Kilgallen’s death. On April 14, 1965, Kilgallen was headlining her Journal-American column with the daunting words, “Why Did Oswald Risk All By Shooting Cop?” Her column proves she was continuing to question the “Oswald Alone” theory even after the Ruby trial had ended. Kilgallen wrote: "A mysterious and significant aspect of the events following the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas has never been explored publically, although it must have occurred to crack reporters covering the case as well as authorities investigating the tragedies. The important question—why did Lee Harvey Oswald, presumably fleeing from the police after the assassination, approach Patrolman J. D. Tippit’s car—in broad daylight with witnesses standing by—and shoot the policeman three times, although he had not said a word to Oswald. Oswald had managed to slip away from the scene and was—up to that point—not a reckless one. A man who knows he is wanted by the authorities after a spectacular crime does not seek out a policeman usually, unless he has decided to give himself up, and certainly Oswald was not doing that. By shooting Tippit instead of trying to make himself inconspicuous, Oswald put himself in double jeopardy. His act almost guaranteed his arrest. Why? A whodunit fan would infer that the policeman knew something about Oswald that was so dangerous [the policeman] had to be silenced at any cost, even Oswald’s chance at escape and freedom." 

Commenting on Ruby’s state of mind, she added, “He opened the floodgates of his mind and unloosed a stream of consciousness that would have dazzled a James Joyce buff and enraptured a psychiatrist. There was a great deal of fear inside Jack Ruby that Sunday in June [when he testified]. He feared for his own life.” In her “Voice of Broadway” column, and to anyone who would listen, Kilgallen called the Warren Commission report “laughable” and continued her assassination probe with Jack Ruby as the focal point. She learned of his three prison attempts at suicide in late 1964. First, Ruby stood 20 feet from a concrete wall. His face soaked with perspiration, he ran as fast as possible head first into the wall. He hoped to crack open his skull. He did not. Ruby’s second attempt involved use of an electric light socket. His third try involved using his pants legs to hang himself. A guard, always on watch, squelched Ruby’s intended plan. Hearing of Ruby’s suicide attempt anguished Kilgallen. She continued to ponder the shocking statement Ruby made after appearing before the Warren Commission: “The world will never know the true facts of what occurred. My motives. The people who had, that had so much to gain and had such an ulteior motive to put me in this position I’m in would never let the true facts come above board to the world.” Ruby’s admission only reinforced Kilgallen’s belief that Oswald’s killer was part of a conspiracy and cover-up. More certain every day of her suspicions, Kilgallen was not shy about sharing them. She told friend Marlin Swing several times, “This had to be a conspiracy.” The savvy Kilgallen realized what other competent researchers who fit facts to conclusions instead of the other way around, have during the years: Oswald was a puzzling/confusing character and attempts to decipher his role in the killing of JFK an absolute quagmire with few answers available. The famous reporter, like John F. Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Jack Ruby, was doomed. She just did not know it yet. —"The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of Dorothy Kilgallen" (2016) by Mark Shaw

While sequestered at the Inn of the Six Flags in Arlington, Marina Oswald was asked about her husband’s activities after she left New Orleans. She first replied that she thought he stayed in New Orleans and looked for work. She then said she had no knowledge of any trip to Mexico by Lee in September, and she added that, to her knowledge, Oswald had never been to Mexico. Marina was repeatedly asked about this topic on six more occasions. But she continued to deny that Oswald had ever said anything about being in Mexico City. In February she signed a deal with an entity called Tex-Italia films for the rights to her story. She would go on to make 132,500 dollars from this mysterious company, which never produced a film. In February, before the Warren Commission, she now reversed her story: Oswald had told her he was going to Mexico. And she now backed up what the CIA was saying: Oswald went to Mexico City to get a visa to Cuba. Again, the Commission now had some corroboration for a trip to Mexico that no one recalled Oswald mentioning. And it began with Ruth Paine. The Commission was enthralled by Ruth Paine now producing questionable evidence to implicate Oswald in the shooting. Why would a communist be shooting at both a rightwing ideologue like General Edwin Walker and the most liberal president since Franklin D. Roosevelt? Further, it was Kennedy who pushed Walker out of his command after a thirty year career in the service. This was for distributing rightwing, John Birch Society literature to his troops. No one from the Commission posed these obvious questions. To my knowledge, no critic before Jim Garrison ever seriously questioned the Warren Commission’s version of Oswald’s alleged journey to Mexico City.

Today, with the declassified documents secured by the ARRB, it appears that Garrison was correct about both the importance of and deliberate mystery surrounding Mexico City. The declassified record suggests that, seven weeks before the assassination, certain individuals in the CIA were manipulating either Oswald or an imposter in Mexico City. Almost all the information the Commission received came from the CIA and the FBI. And it arrived in heavily censored form. It was not until August of 1996, thirty-four years later, that the ARRB declassified the Slawson-Coleman Report. This was the report written by Warren Commission lawyers David Slawson and William Coleman describing their journey to Mexico City to investigate what Oswald did there. The excursion was actually suggested to them by Deputy Director Richard Helms. One reason for the Commission’s ignorance about the Oswald file is that Helms actually appointed James Angleton to be the main liaison to the Commission. Unlike his predecessor in that spot, John Whitten, Angleton tried to accent Oswald’s Russian period for the Commission. Since Angleton and Dulles were close colleagues from the 1940s, Allen Dulles tipped off his friend as to what queries they would get about Oswald from the Commission. Since there had been a rumor that Oswald was an FBI agent, Dulles informed Angleton in advance as to what the Commission queries would likely be about Oswald’s possible intelligence ties. Then Angleton and William Sullivan of the FBI rehearsed and unified their responses to deny any intelligence connection to Oswald. This is the reason that the HSCA report on Mexico City was not part of the published volumes in 1979. The report is over 300 pages long. It was therefore classified until the ARRB was created. And then it had to go through several reviews. But even today, an annex to the report, “Was Oswald an Agent of the CIA” has not been released.—"Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case" (2012) by James DiEugenio

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New book and film project on Dorothy Kilgallen

A new book on the late newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen blasts Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. for slamming shut a purported re-investigation into her mysterious death. The glamorous reporter and TV personality, 52, was found dead in her Manhattan townhouse on Nov. 8, 1965, amid her own probe of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination two years earlier. In “Denial of Justice: Dorothy Kilgallen, Abuse of Power, and the Most Compelling JFK Assassination Investigation in History,” author Mark Shaw pursues a theory outlined in his prior book, “The Reporter Who Knew Too Much,” that she was murdered to quash her dogged pursuit of the truth. To be published on the 55th anniversary of JFK’s death, the book accuses Vance of a cover-up. Shaw claims a “reliable source close to the DA’s office” told him that Vance’s staff found Kilgallen’s missing JFK file and “buried it.” “We will decline comment,” a Vance spokeswoman said in response. The morning after Kilgallen’s last appearance as a panelist on the hit TV game show “What’s My Line?,” her body was found slumped in bed, naked under a blue bathrobe, still wearing the makeup, false eyelashes and floral hair accessory she had donned for the show. Shaw contends Kilgallen was drugged by accomplices of New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello, who feared her planned book would accuse him of plotting the JFK assassination and the killing of JFK assassin Lee Harvey-Oswald, who was shot to death by nightclub owner Jack Ruby. Kilgallen, a syndicated columnist for the New York Journal-American, covered Ruby’s murder trial and scored a brief interview with him. Aiming to reconstruct why Kilgallen disputed the widely accepted “Oswald alone” theory, Shaw analyzed the 2,000-page transcript of the 1964 Ruby trial. He cites little-known testimony that, as JFK was killed, Ruby sat in a Dallas Morning News advertising office with a direct view of the Texas School Book Depository, where Oswald fired the fatal shot. Source:

Producing team John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle are developing a project about investigative reporter Dorothy Kilgallen. The duo have optioned Mark Shaw’s true crime novel “The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen” for an upcoming project. “The Reporter Who Knew Too Much” centers on a legal analyst telling the story of Kilgallen while providing new evidence surrounding her untimely death. Kilgallen was conducting an in-depth investigation probes into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but was found dead in her apartment in 1965. The Dowdles will draw from Shaw’s follow-up, “Denial of Justice: Dorothy Kilgallen, Abuse of Power and the Most Compelling JFK Assassination Investigation in History.” “Dorothy Kilgallen remains one of the most influential personalities of her era and decades ahead of her time,” the Dowdle brothers said. “Her insatiable drive to uncover the truth was both fascinating and dangerous. She defended those she felt were victims of injustice. In the process she took on some of the most powerful men in the world, knowing full well her life was in danger.” Source:

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Love is like Russian Roulette: Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Lou Reed

Five reasons why Rami Malek can win the Oscar for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” 1. He plays a real person and is physically transformed onscreen. It’s awardsology 101. The combination of portraying an actual individual plus altering one’s outward appearance is the easiest way to ensnare the academy’s attention. In the past twenty years alone, Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry,” Adrien Brody in “The Pianist,” Jamie Foxx in “Ray,” Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote,” Reese Witherspoon in “Walk the Line,” Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose,” Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything” and Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.” 2. He delivers what will likely be the flashiest performance of the final five. This year, Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the ultimate showstopper. Whether he’s in song, dance or discourse, he’s constantly acting for the camera. That’s over two hours of tears, torment and assorted theatrics. And then there’s the Live Aid concert at the end of the film, which has been singled out as the brightest bit in the movie. Malek’s fierce channeling of Mercury sends shivers down the spine. This might be considered his requisite “killer scene.” 3. He’ll win the SAG Award (and probably the BAFTA, too.) I’m abstaining from calling the Golden Globe race – but when it comes to SAG, Malek is the one to beat. Actors will see him as having the most challenging role. Can you imagine the risks of playing one of the most iconic singers of the twentieth century? Very, very frightening. 4. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a box office smash. Malek’s biggest Oscar obstacle is undoubtedly the mixed critical reaction to the film. It enjoyed a bigger opening weekend than “A Star is Born,” a film buoyed by two huge stars. As of this writing, “Rhapsody” is poised to cross the $100 million mark in the U.S. alone. 5. He might benefit from being the only first-time nominee. Malek is 37 and has paid his dues (time after time, although he's made mistakes – like last summer’s “Papillon”).  Nonetheless, some voters might wish to reward someone more “overdue” for the Best Actor crown. There’s no shortage of contenders. Take Bradley Cooper in “A Star is Born,” hoping to produce his first victory after three previous losses. There’s Christian Bale in the upcoming “Vice,” who could use a bookend to his supporting prize for “The Fighter.” If just enough Academy members were rocked by Rami, he could be the champion on Oscar’s big night. Source:

The cast in Bohemian Rhapsody has plenty of recognizable names and faces that play these characters (of which are based on real-life individuals), bringing them to life. Leading the charge (and definitely shines the brightest in the movie) is Rami Malek as Farrokh Bulsara (aka Freddie Mercury). Malek, known for his role in Mr. Robot, truly does a fantastic job in the role. The movie also showcases the love (and interests) that Freddie Mercury courts, examining the lives of both Mary Austin (Freddie’s girlfriend / lifelong companion) and Paul Prenter (Freddie’s manager), who are played by actress Lucy Boynton (Murder on the Orient Express) and actor Allan Leech (The Imitation Game). Unfortunately, Boynton’s Mary complicated relationship with Freddie is a bit underdeveloped. It starts off strong, but becomes less and less important, failing to leave an emotional impact. We don’t get any real idea of who these people are outside of Mercury himself. There’s nothing to be learned about Mary Austin and why she was the most important figure in his life, nothing to learn about Jim Hutton or later Queen manager Jim “Miami” Beach (Tom Hollander). Is the Freddie characterization too gay, not bi enough, not gay enough? Freddie Mercury paid the tragic price for a hell-raising life of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Safe sex, he said, was possible, "But you can't expect to give up sex for ever." Ironically Mercury had claimed for years he was one of the loneliest men in the world. Freddie once told a close friend: "Love is like Russian Roulette for me, I've tried either side - male and female - but all of them have gone wrong. The one-night stands are just me playing a part. I can be a good lover but after all these years I'm not a good partner for anybody." 

Women also gave the superstar sleepless nights. For the past years, blonde Mary Austin caused Freddie deep emotional turmoil and heartbreak. They met in the early '70's as Freddie was shopping. He later said: "Mary is my only friend in the world." Within days they moved into a flat in London's Holland Park. Their love blossomed for seven years and they even considered getting married. "The sex was good," Freddie said. "The only thing that got Mary mad was when I would jump up in the middle of the night to write lyrics." Mary quit her day job to become his personal assistant. She traveled the world with his group, Queen, booking their hotels and concerts. In 1982 they split up but remained good friends. When Freddie dabbled in hard drugs like LSD and Heroin, Mary helped him kick the habit. Freddie bought her a £400,000 four bed-roomed flat in Kensington, near his Edwardian home. And two years later, when the romance was rekindled, she asked Freddie to give her a child Freddie responded by making her the sole heir to his massive fortune in his will but told her: "I'd rather have another cat." Freddie said of Mary: "Ours is a pure friendship but friendship of the highest standard. It's an instinctive thing. I still love her. I couldn’t fall in love with a man the same way as I have with Mary. We'll probably grow old together." Source:

"Under Pressure" is a 1981 song by the British rock band Queen and British singer David Bowie. It was included on Queen's 1982 album Hot Space. The song reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Queen's second number-one hit in their home country (after 1975's "Bohemian Rhapsody", which topped the chart for nine weeks) and Bowie's third (after 1980's "Ashes to Ashes" and the 1975 reissue of "Space Oddity"). Mercury and Bowie were friendly but rivalrous, both strong-willed and competitive. “Freddie and David locked horns, without a doubt,” Brian May said in a 2017 interview with Mojo magazine. “But that’s when the sparks fly and why it turned out great.” 

A brief, kaleidoscopic overview of David Bowie's conquests: actresses Susan Sarandon and Candy Clark, Playboy model and actress Bebe Buell; dancer Melissa Hurley; singer Ava Cherry; Jean Millington, of the rock band Fanny; and model Winona Williams, whom he invited to live in Berlin with him. Along the way he paid court to Monique van Vooren (twenty years his senior), had an affair with Dana Gillespie (who was then fourteen to his sixteen) and a dalliance with Cyrinda Foxe (a glamorous Monroe doppelgänger), and—in the spirit of his continuing rivalry with Mick Jagger—toyed with Jagger’s onetime girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, backing singer Claudia Lennear (the inspiration for Mick Jagger’s song “Brown Sugar,” and about whom David wrote “Lady Grinning Soul”), Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes and briefly dated Mick’s first wife, Bianca Jagger.

According to David’s ex-wife, Angie, who hawked a variety of negative stories about David since their divorce, there may also have been a moment with Mick Jagger himself. In Angie Bowie’s version of the alleged event, first published in her 1981 autobiography Free Spirit, she returned from a trip to find Mick and David in bed together, something which David took the rare step of denying. At the young age of ten, Bowie was already aware of girls, and claims to have fallen head-over-heels in love with one of them. “I went out with her years later, when we were about eighteen—but I fucked it up. On our second date, she found out that I’d been with another girl. I could not keep it zipped,” he said. However, his propensity for assuming that any girl was fair game, no matter who else had already laid claim to her, led to one of the most seminal events in his life. In the spring of 1961, when David was just fourteen years old, a girl named Carol would inadvertently be the architect of the first tragedy of his life—one that would ultimately become the cornerstone of his image. His best friend George Underwood had fixed his amorous attentions on Carol and arranged a date with her. David, who had designs on Carol himself, told a massive lie to George, declaring that Carol wasn’t interested in George and therefore wouldn’t be going on the date he had set up with her. When George learned the truth, outraged, he took a swing at David and caught him in the eye. David stumbled and fell down. His punch had caught David’s left eye at an odd angle and scratched the eyeball, causing the muscle that contracts the iris to become paralyzed.

David Bowie’s left pupil remained permanently dilated, giving that eye the appearance of being a different color from his right eye. It also left him with damaged depth perception, so that when he drove, cars didn’t come toward him but just appeared to get bigger. His unmatched eyes also lent his gaze a hypnotic quality, and although it took him some time to adjust to the fact that his eyes were no longer identical, and he thought that he looked “weird,” he admitted, “I quite enjoyed that as a badge of honor.” David Jones had traveled inordinately far from the winsome, saxophone-playing thirteen-year-old boy who was already his school’s Casanova, and whose desires had in those early days appeared to be directed exclusively at girls, and only girls. When asked by this author to name his ideal woman in bed, he cracked, “Snow White.” “There was a certain spikiness between Lou and Iggy, and they obviously didn’t get on very well,” David remembered about his American rock friends. While Iggy regaled everyone with stories about growing up in a trailer park and his forays into heroin and crystal meth, David’s bond with Iggy was forged. Years later, David said, “Iggy’s a lot more exuberant than I am. I tend to be quieter, more reflective. He’s always a little bit on the dangerous line. I’m not particularly; I’m much more of an observer.” His friendship with Lou Reed was equally problematic, even more thornly due to Reed's moody personality.

Was David’s “I’m gay” announcement a cynical ploy he resorted to to promote Hunky Dory, and a way of starting the process of launching Ziggy on an unsuspecting world, or was it a battle against sexual conformity? In a 1997 interview, Changes: Bowie at 50, a BBC radio program released in conjunction with his fiftieth birthday, he looked back at his revolutionary revelation that he was gay and said, “I did it more out of bravado. I wanted people to be aware of me.” “He was always very flirtatious. He looked you straight in the eyes, but he wasn’t condescending. He treated women with the same equality as he treated men, and looked at your intelligence as well as your sexuality,” Cherry Vanilla remembered. “The sex was as dirty, rough, and aerobic as anyone could want, but it never felt like we were just having sex. It felt like we were really making love.”

In 1972, David played Carnegie Hall, to great acclaim. That night, backstage, nineteen-year-old groupie Josette Caruso made a play for David. “When I arrived at the hotel suite, which included a living room, a piano, and two bedrooms, David was sitting on a couch, wearing a black shirt and black pants. I sat next to him. He poured me a glass of wine and started talking about Catcher in the Rye and he told me that he identified with the book’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield,” Josette remembered. “He was in a very playful mood and sang ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ to me. Then there was a knock on the door, and Ian Hunter and some other guys from Mott the Hoople turned up and we all chatted. Then they left, and David and I went into the bedroom together. “In bed, he was a wonderful lover, massively endowed. David was very romantic, kissing me, holding me, calling me ‘Josie,’ whereas everyone else called me Josette. He was a wonderful lover, but it wasn’t about size, but about his technique. He didn’t just fuck, he made love. He was romantic, charming,” Josette remembered. “But there was nothing gay about him, nothing effeminate. I wouldn’t have thought he was bisexual. He was all man. He was aggressive, took charge, knew all the moves, wasn’t kinky, but really controlled me in bed.” 

For while Bowie had once relished her uninhibited sexuality when they were both single, childless, and flouting convention, the moment Angie had became the mother of his son, he instantly reverted to Victorian tradition and wanted her to stay home and play the role of wife and mother. Instead, she continued to have lovers, both male and female. As a settlement during the divorce process, Bowie paid her $750,000 in 1980. “It was like living with a blow-torch,” Bowie said later about Angie, and “She has as much insight into the human condition as a walnut and a self-interest that would make Narcissus green with envy.” Angie said in 2016, shortly after Bowie's death: 'I knew I had to save David - and by giving him our son, he had a reason to live.'  

David Bowie was always very gracious with me, and deferential to Lou. David genuinely wanted to help Lou succeed as a solo artist, but he also knew that being associated with Lou and his legendary cult status with the Velvets would, by association, bring him cachet and prestige himself, too. Lou wasn’t particularly enamored with Angie; she was David’s wife, though, so Lou was always respectful to her. With women Lou was polite, shy, and almost behaved like a high-school kid. I had bought a white crepe floral dress in London, when Angie and I went on a shopping spree on the Kings Road. Lou kissed and said quiety: ‘I love you. There are no words to tell you how much, Princess.’ That night we took dinner with David and Angie at the Ginger Man. I remember Bowie abruptly turned around to Angie and said, ‘Why can’t you wear a dress, like her?’ Both Lou and I noticed there was some tension between David and Angie, but we didn’t dwell on it. They had an entirely different relationship to us, and they drew very different boundaries around their marriage than either Lou or I would be comfortable with—an open relationship with lovers. From the beginning of our relationship I told Lou in no uncertain terms that if I saw a needle anywhere near him, I would—without fail—leave him. Hard drugs were his Achilles’ heel, and I knew they would destroy him if he started taking them again. —"Perfect Day: An Intimate Portrait Of Life With Lou Reed" (2016) by Bettye Kronstad

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Rami Malek channels Freddie Mercury's hurt in "Bohemian Rahpsody" (2018)

More than most bio-pics, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is carried by the performance of its lead actor, because Malek offers more than a skillful impersonation—he offers an imaginative interpretation. Malek does an impressive job of re-creating Mercury’s moves onstage, but the core of the performance is Malek’s intensely thoughtful, insight-rich channelling of Mercury’s hurt, his alienation and isolation even at the height of his fame. While watching the movie, I found his performance eerily reminiscent, as if based less on Freddie Mercury himself than on some other movie actor’s performance. Then it struck me: Malek wasn’t just channelling hurt; he was channelling Hurt—Malek’s quiet and nearly abashed delivery of lines, in a way that emphasizes both Freddie’s extra teeth and the emotional effect of being singled out for them, reminded me of John Hurt’s performance as John Merrick, in David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” makes the case that Mercury is more interesting than his music—and, by extension, that popularity itself, the ability to become a mainstream star and hitmaker, is itself no fluke or by-product but a conscious creation and a mark of genius. Source:

Rami Malek gets asked whether Freddie Mercury as a ‘Gay Icon’:  The team behind “Bohemian Rhapsody” have already been accused of “straightwashing” Freddie Mercury; now, Rami Malek has made headlines because of his response to a question about the singer’s sexuality. Malek, 37, was asked by Into magazine whether he saw the Queen frontman as a “gay icon,” and his answer left fans rather confused. The actor shared, “What’s really great about him is he never wanted to, or thought of himself as being boxed into anything. He just was. I’ve heard him say, when asked, he says, ‘I’m just me.’ If he’s an icon to one there’s no reason that it requires another adjective.” Mercury spent most of his life battling the public, the press and even some in his personal life about how he chose to identify himself. Many labeled him as gay, and very few chose to validate his inherent bisexuality. So is Mercury’s bisexuality erased in that scene with Mary Austin? No, it is made to be real. Source:

With her apricot hair, green eyes, and Bambi lashes, Mary Austin — who he once called the love of his life and who inspired Queen's song "Love of My Life"— was the embodiment of a Hulanicki Biba poster. When the fashion designer founded the Kensington emporium from which a flourishing fashion movement arose, Barbara Hulanicki might have chosen Mary as her muse. Petite and fine-boned, what Mary lacked in terms of stature and confidence she more than compensated for with almost textbook seventies style. “Freddie was already living with Mary when I met him, so I got to know and love them both equally,” Mick Rock says. “I was always popping round to their little flat to hang out with them at teatime. At the height of the glam rock scene, Mary was a really cute-looking lady who could have had anyone, done anything. But she never saw herself as anything special. She never wanted to put herself forward in any way. She was self-effacing, sweet, and charming. You just wanted to give her a cuddle.”

Pale, coy, and peering through shiny tresses, she had the demeanor of an earlier namesake, Mary Hopkin—the fresh-faced prodigy of Paul McCartney who’d had a hit with “Those Were the Days.” What would later be dubbed “the Stevie Nicks look” after the Fleetwood Mac singer was already common on Kensington High Street: midi dresses, maxi coats, suede platform boots, chiffon scarves, velvet chain chokers, purple lips, and smoky eyes. “She’d had a tough background,” remembers trusted journalist David Wigg. “Her parents, who were deaf and dumb, and who communicated through sign language and lip-reading, were poor. Her father worked as a hand trimmer for wallpaper specialists, and her mother was a domestic. But that wouldn’t have bothered Freddie. He somehow preferred people a little below his own level. He did like people in his life who were artistic, or who had come from nothing. Artistic and amusing were the key: he loved to laugh. Mary was shy, but she could make him giggle.” Mary also knew that Freddie had suffered, since childhood, something to which he rarely admitted: a persecution complex. That is, he worried that people were making fun of him behind his back, and that he was indeed ridiculous. It was to remain one of his fiercest inner demons until his death.

Despite her shy demeanor, Mary found herself caught up in London’s rock scene. Having pestered Brian May for an introduction, Freddie landed the girl of his dreams. The attraction between them was immediate, mutual, and would last a lifetime. The pair became inseparable and almost immediately began a sexual relationship. Their relationship would take precedence over every affair, with man or woman, in which Freddie would later indulge. Over the years, Mary became Freddie’s rock. He would rely on her to be strong for him. Whenever Freddie felt his sex/drugs/rock ’n’ roll lifestyle spiraling out of control and was unable to cope with the pressures of recording and touring, it was to Mary that he turned. They soon began living together, in a cramped, shabby £10-a-week bedsit in Victoria Road, just off Kensington High Street—the London neighborhood to which Freddie would always return. Today, the street is officially the most expensive for property in England and Wales, the average residence having an estimated sales value of £6.4 million. “I liked him and it went from there,” Mary would recall. “It took about three years for me to really fall in love. I’ve never felt that way before or since, with anyone. . .  I loved Freddie very much, and very deeply. I felt very safe with him.” 

Mick Rock remembers Freddie being “beside himself” over his issues with sexuality. “He was not exclusively gay, and that screwed him. He was torn. It was almost as if he had to know whether he was one thing or the other for sure, but he was caught in this middle ground, in a kind of no-man’s land. He loved women. He enjoyed their company immensely. Later in life he may have been more promiscuous with men, but he loved to get with the girls. Mary, of course, was the love of his life . . . the closest emotional bond he had ever known. Perhaps that had more to do with the woman in question than sexual preference. There was a real true love there between him and Mary. The sexual thing wasn’t nearly so important as their emotional and spiritual bond.” In 1976, Freddie decamped to an apartment at 12 Stafford Terrace in London’s Kensington and bought Mary a place of her own.

She would remain his devoted assistant at his side almost daily until his death fifteen years later. In a 1985 interview, Freddie Mercury said of Mary Austin, "All my lovers asked me why they couldn't replace Mary Austin, but it's simply impossible. The only friend I've got is Mary, and I don't want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other, that's enough for me." In his will, Mercury left the vast majority of his wealth, including his home and recording royalties, to Mary Austin and the remainder to his parents and sister. —"Freddie Mercury: The Definitive Biography" (2011) by Lesley-Ann Jones