Tuesday, February 21, 2017

All the Colors of the Night

“No, I don’t know why.”

That’s the response that would probably come first if someone asked me what motivated me to make this new video project. But if I thought about it a little, I might come up with something along the lines of this: “Not that I need a reason, you sniveling jerk, but I feel like a nearly lifelong love of horror movies and weird ’80s music is reason enough.”

That gets pretty much to the point of my second video project, which I’m calling “All the Colors of the Night” and which you can watch in full below.



Heads up: This project contains boobs and butts and some blood, and it’s therefore NSFW, unless your work is cool about typical horror movie fare. If you’re squeamish about violence, know that there’s nothing excessively graphic, but these are horror movies I’m working with, for the most part, so there’s a certain base level of bodily violence that should be expected.

My previous video project came out of nowhere, really, because I’d been pretty much only words up until that point, and while I’m happy I did it, I now feel like it’s mostly a messy and unstructured thing. I felt like I wanted to give it another shot and make something a bit more orderly. You can judge for yourself whether I achieved this. Regardless, I liked wrapping up a bunch of horror movies (and thereabouts) in colorful dressing and setting them to ’80s Euro pop (and thereabouts), and I hope you do too.

A few notes:
  • I tried to make it so it looks good either on a computer monitor or a TV screen. 
  • Please watch the credits.
  • Please watch for patterns.
  • I do acknowledge that the vast majority of characters appearing in this project are white people. I will blame that on the genre as it existed back in the day. I did my best to offer Geretta Geretta prominent placement.
  • I also acknowledge that a disproportionate number of victims of violence in this are female. I will again blame this on the genre as it existed back in the day.
  • I honestly love all of the movies and songs I included in this project, and in case anyone wants to point out that I am essentially using them all without permission, I’d like to clarify that I don’t intend to make a dime off this project and I consider it a remix—just one that blends video and music in a way that doesn’t exist online elsewhere and that does not intend to take the place of the original film or songs.
  • I started this project the day before Halloween and finished it on Valentine’s Day, meaning that the world seems a lot different now than it did beforehand. I will hold back on making any grand metaphors, but I did this because I wanted to try take movies that people might think of as scary or weird or dark and focus on the parts that make them beautiful. You can find nice moments even when things are scary, I guess. 
  • The title comes from a 1972 Edwige Fenech film All the Colors of the Dark, which was released in the U.S. as They’re Coming To Get You and Day of the Maniac. I like my version of the title better.
  • The three through-lines between the first project and the second are, apparently, Dario Argento’s Inferno and Dorine Hollier’s “Tonight! (Crazy Night!)” and the Bollywood version of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Regarding that last one, I made a handy ten-minute supercut of it that you can watch here.
  • No, that really is Mia Farrow’s little sister.
  • No, that isn’t actually Shelley Winters.
  • I did actually make a little trailer for this project, and none of it appears in the final project. Watch, if your want, below.



Sunday, February 19, 2017

Thank You for Being a Friend

About a year ago, I interviewed a handful of writers from The Golden Girls about their experiences on the show. The piece did fairly well, mostly because a certain sort of ’80s child will reflexively click on anything Golden Girls-related but also maybe because I got a few good anecdotes out of the writers, including the best Bea Arthur story I’d ever heard. The pieced was published in Frontiers, however, and that magazine has ceased to exist—like, in any form. It’s even gone from the Google cache, weirdly, and the original post now seems to be completely inaccessible.

Because I really liked this piece and because someone recently reached out to me asking if I had a copy of the text, I figure some other people might still like to read it. Here’s the writer’s room oral history piece in its entirety.

St. Olaf and Big Daddy and thereabouts, I guess.

Thank You for Being a Friend — A Golden Girls Oral History

More than 20 years later, the ladies are still sharing cheesecake, still talking life lessons out on the lanai and still making fans laugh. The final episode of The Golden Girls aired May 9, 1992, but thanks to around-the-clock reruns and a devoted fan base, Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia have endured in a way other TV characters haven’t. From the show’s first season, The Golden Girls has especially enjoyed popularity among gay audiences. (L.A.’s Golden Girlz Live is perhaps the greatest realization of that popularity—the shining brooch on the Dorothy Zbornak ensemble that is Golden Girls fandom, if you will.)

In honor of the show’s continued success and its unique appeal to gay viewers, Frontiers spoke with some of the show’s writers about what sets the queen of sitcoms apart from the rest. Featured in this interview are Mort Nathan, co-executive producer and writer; Jamie Wooten, producer and writer; Winifred Hervey, co-producer and writer; Stan Zimmerman, writer; and Jeff Duteil, writer of the “Dorothy’s lesbian friend” episode.


Mort Nathan, on starting on the show from day one with writing partner Barry Fanaro: We took the job knowing it would be writing for characters in their 60s, but the actresses were very skeptical. I remember that when we met Bea Arthur, she looked at us and said, “You’ve got to be kidding. How can these children write for us?” I told her, “Bea, give us a month. We’ll figure it out.” She said a month was fair, and then Betty White said, “Not one more day, darling.”

Winifred Hervey: These were ladies who had done Maude and Mary Tyler Moore. Estelle Getty had been on Broadway. These were substantial women, who’d had people like Norman Lear write for them, and they didn’t know that these people who were 25, 26 years old could write for them. But it worked. They got past that and they loved us.

Nathan: These women had a chance at revitalizing their careers, and they wanted to make sure they were in good hands. When my writing partner and I left after four years, though, it was as if we were going off to war. They were very upset. They loved us, and we loved them right back.

Hervey: When it was explained to me in the beginning, I think it was still being called Miami Nice. But the cast — they could have said the show was about anything and I would have signed up just to work with these women. And it was created by Susan Harris, who at the time was one of the brightest comedy writers in Hollywood. She had done Soap and Benson, and to work with Susan and [executive producers] Paul Junger Witt and Tony Thomas, that was a huge honor.

Stan Zimmerman: Casting those four — it was just magic in bottle. I remember back then, we didn’t have computers to look up the ratings. Remember, we didn’t know if it was going to be a hit. We knew it was funny, but you never know. And we wouldn’t know until we got in Monday what the ratings were. And they would say, “We’re No. 15 this week.” And we’d all go crazy. And next week they’d say, “We’re No. 8.” And then it was, “We’re No. 1.” And then it was “We’re No. 1” again.

Nathan: The ladies were happy to be at the top of their craft for a second time. Bea, Betty and Rue McClanahan were all big stars before, but work had gotten sporadic. But Golden Girls made them stars again, and they loved it — not because of their egos but because of the work. Sometimes the shows were three, four, five minutes too long just because the live audience’s laughs were so huge. Those people had such a great time, which means the ladies had such a great time.

Jeffrey Duteil: The show had a huge gay following — and right away, too. I remember getting ready on Saturday nights. We’d go meet friends at the bars or whatever, and while we were getting ready, we’d watch The Golden Girls. A lot of the gay bars back then, even Revolver, would tape the episode and then show it on the screen. A lot of them had viewing parties — even Golden Girls cocktails. And this was back in the first season.

Jamie Wooten, who joined the show with writing partner Marc Cherry in the fifth season: Marc and I watched a lot of television, and Golden Girls was our favorite show. We pitched an idea about Blanche’s dead husband having fathered an illegitimate child. It went well and they asked us to join the staff. It was surreal. We couldn’t believe we got onto our favorite show.

Zimmerman, on joining with writing partner James Berg: We came in and pitched a whole bunch. We were scared to death, and they just said, “No, no, no.” We were literally out the door, and I turned around and said, “What if Rose’s mother comes to visit?” And they were like “And?” I don’t know what I said, but they told us to sit back down. And we wrote it.

Hervey: Writing on the show, I learned a lot about staying true to the characters, leaning the actors’ voices and their strengths. Some people do one-liners really well. Some people do monologues. Like Bea hardly ever did long stories the way Betty, Rue and Estelle did. But I also learned you didn’t always even need to write words; actors like Bea could do a lot with just the lift of an eyebrow and get a laugh with just that.

Zimmerman: If it was [a line for] Bea Arthur, you could just have Rose say something dumb, and then all Dorothy would need to do is give a look. We discovered that all in the first season. We discovered Rose telling her long stories. We just started writing these St. Olaf stories and that became a runner. It was my school in structuring a joke and making sure it comes from the character. You can’t put Rose’s line in Dorothy’s mouth. If you were given lines from the show blind, you could easily say, “That’s Sofia. That’s Rose.” Now so much of TV isn’t written that way, and it’s bland.

Wooten: There was an interesting thing that Witt Thomas did in order to save money. Smaller guest parts were done at the table reads by writers. It was such a thrill. We would sit there and read these parts with the cast, and if you could make one of them laugh? Come on! Who ever gets to do that?

Nathan, on the Emmy-winning script for the “Rose dates a little person” episode: We would come up with ideas that service the character. Rose, for example, was a woman trying to re-establish her life and move forward. We figured that would start with dating. The premise of the show was that people who were 60 or 70 weren’t drastically different from people who were 20 or 30; everyone wants to be happy. We asked what conflict would be interesting for Betty, playing this na├»ve character, and would put her in an awkward position romantically. And that morphed into Rose going out with a little person, just because that presented her with these additional hurdles.

Duteil: The experiences the characters had, they spoke to people. Everyone says people like it because it reminds them of their own mothers or aunts or whatever, but I think back then, when AIDS was rampant and coming out was still a big deal, the gay community really felt these characters were an extension of their own communities. They were accepting and funny and bitchy. The best fag hags a guy could have. They were accepting.

Hervey: What we would do was we’d put a whole bunch of stuff in there and we’d know we wouldn’t get it all through. We’d put 10 things in, and there’s only one you really want, and in the end you get it. I remember they let us do this joke, and I couldn’t believe it: Blanche was talking about having smuggled a guy into her dormitory at finishing school, and there was a knock at her door and she remembers having politely hello’d with her foot, all up in the air. We thought it was hilarious and it would never get to air, but it did. And it got a huge laugh.

Zimmerman, on the episode where Rose’s mother visits: Bea Arthur’s mother had died two days before we filmed that, and the producers went to her and said they would cancel filming. She said, “Absolutely not.” She came from the theater. The show must go on. But that scene with Estelle, where Sophia thanks Dorothy for treating her like a person and not an old lady — you can see that Bea can’t look her in the eye. And I noticed that, because I knew what was going on. It’s this beautiful moment. I could just feel it between the two of them. It chokes right in her throat, to be there and thinking of your mother. But good actors use what you have, and she was that vulnerable and open.

Hervey: Bea was always my favorite. I left after the third season, and that’s the year she won her Emmy for Best Actress. I was at the ceremony, and after she gave her speech she came over and said, “Winifred, did you hear I mentioned your name, you little twat?” She was mad because I left.

Nathan: TV Guide had done a piece on the show: “The Golden Girls — Is it still as good as it was the first year?” And they asked random people what they thought of the show, and this one housewife said she didn’t think the show was as good and that Bea Arthur’s character wasn’t as interesting. They mentioned her by name — Mrs. Betty Johnson, Sioux Falls, Iowa. So Bea reads this at lunch and then gets on the phone and asks information for this Betty Johnson’s number. And she calls her. And she picks up, this TV Guide woman, and Bea says, “This is Bea Arthur, and I want to talk to you about what you said in TV Guide.” The woman was horrified. She said she was misquoted. “I didn’t mean it. Is it really you? I love the show. I take it back.” And Bea goes, “That’s what I thought. OK, that’s better.”

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Thurmanniversary

The general consensus among people I talk to on a regular basis was that 2016 felt like one long, drawn-out roller coaster accident that only managed to get louder and more fiery as the months passed by. I agree, and while I think every horrible thing accumulated to overall more stress than I’d experienced in a previous single year, I have to say 2016 also gave me one of the best things to ever happen to me: On February 5, 2016, a seventy-pound bag of hair and grumbles came to live with me. His name is Thurman. His is my dog. And I love him very much.

Behold.



I know it’s trite to say, but as soon as Thurman got here, it seemed like he’d always been here, and it’s hard to imagine life in my house without him, wandering around this place like a little king. That was apparent to me those first few days, when I was supposedly fostering him as opposed to rescuing and adopting him outright. He just quickly and seamlessly folded into the day-to-day, which is all the more remarkable considering how he’s essentially a walking money pit, how he’s irreparably damaged my hardwood floors, and how he’s rendered me a social pariah as a result of unreasonable hostility toward motorcycles, skateboards, strollers, wheelchairs and Caucasian children.

I can, however, make a comparison that illustrates the difference a single year makes. A few days ago, I looked around online to try and find any trace of Thurman’s life with his original owners. The name, after all, came with the dog, and it seems reasonable that they might have posted about him somewhere online before they decided to abandon him. The results gave me three bits of information: 1) Uma Thurman poses with dogs often enough to jack the results; 2) Rachel Bilson also has or had a dog named Thurman; and finally once references to those two actress were eliminated, 3) Thurman’s old adoption profile photo still exists online. Even though it would have been my first glimpse of Thurman, I find this photo hard to look at now, just because he seems sad and underweight and altogether unwell.

For contrast, here below is that photo next to one I took this morning, post-walk.


I think he looks happier, but I’m biased. I’m willing to call it a win, and add to it the reminder that good things can still happen even in times of chaos and strife. This weird animal—Thurman Snowfoot Goldeneyes Snaroo Thurmanski—is one of those.

If you are not yet exhausted by me talking about my dog, hit the jump to see a visual summary of his past year.