Wednesday, May 23, 2018

'An Alternate History': Jim Morrison & Pamela

A prolific groupie who counts Jimmy Page among her former lovers has said her drug-fuelled sexual encounters empowered women. Pamela Des Barres says the Led Zeppelin guitarist was a 'true love' but also had flings with The Who's Keith Moon and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. The 69-year-old believes she was a positive role model to younger women. Whether it was watching Elvis sat between Jimmy and his band's frontman Robert Plant, or sitting on stage watching the legendary guitarist entertain 80,000 fans, she had a front row seat for the rock 'n' roll antics of the 1960s.

As she promotes the republication of her now 30-year-old memoirs I'm With The Band, she told The Sun: 'Sitting on Jimmy’s amp, I almost felt like one of the group. Girls in the audience looked up at me and wondered which one I was sleeping with, and I was so proud. Any woman who gets out there, looks on stage and goes after someone who inspires her, that is the ultimate feminist act, surely?' she said. "People ask me the #MeToo’ question a lot, I had #MeToo’ stories growing up–but not with musicians. I was never harmed. I considered myself a feminist." One man who couldn't charm Pamela into bed was Jimi Hendrix, for whom she performed in a short film dancing around his band. She said the impossibly charismatic guitarist hit on her but she felt she was too young to sleep with him at the age of 17. 

But the same year Pamela hooked up The Doors frontman Jim Morrison after hearing his song The End playing from a nearby building. She went to his house to find him singing along to his own record while standing shirtless next to his fridge in leather trousers. Pamela recalls 'making out passionately' and described the singer as the most beautiful man she has ever seen.

In 1973 Pamela called time on her groupie lifestyle, but married singer Michael Des Barres. They divorced in 1991 after having a child, Nicholas, in 1978. The former groupie is believed to be the inspiration for the 2000 film Almost Famous, but Pamela wasn't impressed with the movie. Pamela, who now lives alone in LA, identifies as a Christian and squares the religion's moral dogma with her promiscuous past by describing orgasms as 'godly'. Source:

In the early 60's both Jack Kerouac and Jim Morrison were living in the Clearwater, Florida area, a time in Kerouac’s life that he was hitting local bars with an entourage of teenage admirers. It’s tempting to imagine a teenage Jim Morrison sharing a beer with Kerouac, but no such meeting has ever been mentioned. At the time Morrison was known to be extremely shy, a few years before when the Morrison’s lived in San Francisco Morrison went to the City Lights Bookstore while poet-owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti was there and Morrison was too shy to approach him. 

Jim Morrison 'An Alternate History' by Jim Cherry: In Beat poet Michael McClure Jim Morrison found a kindred poetic spirit and a productive relationship, but not at first. McClure and Morrison first met in New York while McClure was rehearsing his play “The Beard.” Both men were drinking and had an immediate dislike for each other. That hurdle seems to have been overcome by the time The Doors went to play their European tour. Morrison ran into McClure and invited him over to read some of his poetry. McClure was soon encouraging Morrison to get his poetry self-published it. By 1969 Morrison was impressed by McClure’s novel “The Adept” which had themes and settings in common with Morrison’s. They rented an office in a Hollywood building and worked on a screenplay of “The Adept” but because of its lack of cohesion was rejected by an agent, and the two went on to other projects. 

One of the most frequently asked questions among Doors fans, is what would Jim Morrison be doing if he hadn't died? July 3, 1971, 4am, Paris, France. Jim Morrison wakes up after falling asleep in the bathtub after a night of drinking. Morrison wraps himself in a warm robe and goes back to bed. As he gets into bed he’s careful not to wake Pam. August 1971. He comes to the conclusion that although he’s feeling better he can’t recreate the creative burst he felt on Venice Beach six years earlier. Morrison adopts the same discipline he had when working with Michael McClure. Morrison, gaining creative confidence and control, decides to accede to Pam Courson’s wishes that she and Jim have a normal life. He buys an old church in the French countryside that will be renovated into their home. In the meantime Morrison wanting to finish ‘old business’ works on his manuscript of Observations While on Trial in Miami. The book is observational as well as philosophical with a surrealist edge to it and provides a look into the American judicial system of the time. It becomes an underground hit and is considered by many to be one of the last great writings of the 1960’s counterculture movement.

The producers of Altered States see Morrison and are so impressed they want him to star in their movie. Morrison, familiar with the Paddy Chayefsky novel and seeing this as a chance to advance his film career agrees to play the lead as long as he can direct. Morrison argues that based on past experiences he has some insight into the subject matter and he throws in the use of a Doors song as well. The producers agree and Jim Morrison stars in and directs Altered States which is released in 1980... As I was writing this a sense of sadness overcame me for what could have been. Jim Morrison’s talents were many and his potential was within his grasp all he had to do was find a way. Source:

Maybe intellectuals have always been persecuted and shoved in lockers, but today we are at a specially low point — where social media interaction has replaced genuine debate and political discourse, where politicians are judged by whether we’d want to have a beer with them, where scientific consensus is rejected, where culture is underfunded, where journalism is drowning in celebrity gossip. Jim Morrison wouldn't fit well in our era of celebrated mediocrity, that's sure. Pamela Courson was the muse who inspired many of Jim Morrison's songs and poems like "Love Street," "Queen of the Highway," or "Twentieth Century Fox." Morrison began his relationship with Pamela Courson in 1966 when they met during one of the first appearances of the Doors at “ London Fog”. She was born in Weed, California and grew up in an area south of L.A., Orange County (Morrison dedicated a piece to her called “Orange County Suite” even at the time it was never published officially). Pam was studying art at L.A. City College and couldn’t wait to explore the big city (in particular the Sunset Strip zone).

Morrison was touched by the sweetness of Pamela, her warm smile and her apparent defencelessness. It didn’t take long for the two to fall in love and so began a relationship which, although it had its ups and downs, was marked by a sense of profound complicity. The main characteristic of their relationship was clearly expressed in the words of the song “Queen of the Highway”. Pam was the princess and Jim was the monster dressed in black leather. Pam was often present at studio recording sessions of the Doors. Jim often used to joke and improvise during the sessions: an example can be heard in “Five To One”, in which Jim repeats both at the beginning and end of the song the words “Love my girl”; no doubt these words were meant for Pam who was sitting in some corner of the studio. Jim in Pamela had finally found his other half.  Source:

Friday, May 18, 2018

"Danny Says", Jim Morrison & Pamela Courson

Danny Fields was instrumental in the stardom of some of the biggest bands in the ’60s and ’70s from The Stooges to the Ramones to The Doors, acting as a manager, a publicity director, and a writer and editor of such popular magazines as 16.  Fields was everywhere, so much so that his biography might read more like a who’s-who list of the music world. The film starts with some rapid-fire interviews from music legends such as Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper. Then we are taken back and formally introduced to Danny Fields. At Elektra Records he worked with The Doors and was instrumental in signing such artists as MC5 and The Stooges. After being fired from Elektra he became the manager for the Ramones. But as the film shifts into Fields’ time in the music industry, the focus zooms between micro stories about Jim Morrison, Nico, Edie Sedgwick, MC5, and the insane Iggy Pop. Danny Fields: 'I was The Doors’ first press agent in New York. Jim Morrison hated me from then on, because I restricted him. He asked the president of the record company to fire me. God, we hated each other.' But, while these stories are fascinating glimpses into the antics of the icons of the era, they seem to have very little to do with Fields other than the fact that he was there, trying his best to make records sell and prevent everyone from overdosing. And these stories seem to unravel chronologically, moving ever forward through the ups and downs, with no real structure in sight.  Source:

Feast of Friends (The Doors Tribute & More) will perform at The Cutting Room, 44 E 32nd St, New York, New York 10016 on Saturday, June 9, 2018 at 9:00pm. Feast of Friends captures elements of the bands studio sound and fuses that with the epic improvisational jams that shaped the bands live performances. FoF perform a variety of songs from The Doors historic catalog ranging from 1967 to 1971. You'll hear all the greatest hits and psychedelic deep cuts, plus a unique twist as FoF also include their original music reminiscent of The Doors unmistakable sound into their set lists. Advance tickets available here: Source:

If you timeline Patricia Kennealy's "Strange Days" and compare with The Doors schedule you will find that Miss Kennealy spent less than a week and a half with Jim Morrison -- days, not even a month, let alone a year. Angels Dance and Angels Die by Patricia Butler is the bane of her existence and her worst nightmare because it is utterly incompatible with her narrative. Not only is it about Jim Morrison’s love relationship with Pamela, but it describes her as “Pamela Morrison” and people who read this book find it totally plausible and assume it as Morrison's only true relationship. Jerry Hopkins wrote a foreword for Angels Dance and Angels Die, and in it he says all the things that Patricia wants the world to not hear: Hopkins calls Pamela Jim’s “cosmic mate” and “common-law-wife,” saying Butler’s book should be “the final word on the matter,” praising Butler’s work ethic. Hopkins compares Jim & Pam to Heloise and Abelard, and Romeo and Juliet. Also he writes: “thereby, finally, giving Pamela Susan Morrison the consideration she deserves,” and “I believe The Doors sometimes resented Pam’s presence in Jim’s life, because she was a recurring voice that urged him to leave the band and turn his full attention on writing.” Finally Hopkins talks about how he had met Pam about a year before her death, waxes eloquent about her beauty and even chastises Oliver Stone for his depiction of her in the film The Doors

Alain Ronay, Jim Morrison's photographer friend, said of Pamela Courson: “She is practically his real wife.” Jim Morrison on Pamela Courson in Circus magazine (1970): "There are no words to describe my relationship with her, but no matter what we did to each other, we always found our way back and now our love is stronger than ever." Morrison's final will and testament reads: "To whom it may concern I bequeath all of my worldly possessions to my only companion in life, Pamela Susan Courson..." Source:

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Lou Reed's poetry book, Jerry Lewis' trauma

'We are the people who are desperate beyond emotion': Lou Reed's lost poetry to be published for the first time. The verses “We are the people who have known only lies and desperation. We are the people without a country, a voice, or a mirror. We are the crystal gaze returned through the density and immensity of a berserk nation” belong to the poetry volume Do Angels Need Haircuts? (80 pages), published by Anthology Editions on May 1, 2018. It was Anne Waldman who facilitated Reed's first significant reading, on March 10th, 1971, at the Poetry Project, which she ran out of St. Mark's Church just around the corner from The Dom, on Second Avenue and 10th Street. The pieces Reed read that evening, along with bits of his introductions transcribed from an archival recording, form the core of Do Angels Need Haircuts? Bettye Kronstad was in the audience the night of his reading. Having quit the Velvets, Reed began dating Bettye, a young college student with no ties to the downtown scene. They had bagels for brunch and Chinese for dinner with his parents. He told her he was thinking of quitting music to pursue writing. He'd sent out a love poem for Kronstad to The Harvard Advocate magazine. Reed's widow Laurie Anderson explains her relationship to these poems: 'I got to spend twenty-one years with Lou. I married him. It wasn't until a lot later that I fell in love with the young bad boy Lou. He was dead by then and I read his poems. Now he is my muse.' Source:

Jerry Lewis' father Danny would show up at the office or on a set, and Jerry would immediately shrivel into a depression. Bogdanovich witnessed this exchange between the two of them in 1962 on the set of It’s Only Money, recalling that “every time his father came into the studio, he went into a funk. I remember producer Perry Cross practically had sentries out: ‘If you see Danny Lewis coming, slap him in irons.’” Jerry Lewis was also depressed about the bad reviews of The Bell Boy (1960) and when he ran into Wilder, the director told Jerry why the town was against him. "The only reason that they're talking is that they can't do it. And the thing they hate more than anything is that you're doing it and you're showing them they can't." —"Billy Wilder, Movie-Maker: Critical Essays on the Films" (2010) by Karen McNally 

According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, performing artists who experienced more abuse, neglect or family dysfunction in childhood tend to have a more intense creative process. “This study reflects years of dedicated research. In general, the performing artists in our sample who experienced a high amount of trauma may suffer more pathology but they also thrive with heightened experiences and value the creative process as a healing and meaningful component in their lives.” The artists with more childhood adversity were more likely to be more fantasy prone, experience more shame and anxiety, and had experienced more traumatic events. Perfectionism is a risk factor for suicide ideation but probably does not indicate a further risk for attempting suicide. Thomson said future research will examine the physical health of artists with a history of trauma. Source:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Jerry Lewis Collection, 1950s Homes

Paramount Home Media Distribution has assembled a collection of 10 classic movies starring the late comedian Jerry Lewis and will release the 10-disc set on DVD only on June 12. The marquee title is 1963’s The Nutty Professor, which celebrates its 55th anniversary this year. Considered by many to be Lewis’ most memorable film, The Nutty Professor has Lewis portraying a socially awkward professor who invents a serum that turns him into the handsome but obnoxious Buddy Love. The film was included on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 funniest American films of all time. The 10-DVD set also includes the following: The Stooge (1951)—Features one of Lewis’ earliest pairings with Dean Martin as a musical-comedy duo, The Delicate Delinquent (1956), The Bellboy (1960), Cinderfella (1960), The Errand Boy (1961), The Ladies Man (1961), The Disorderly Orderly (1964), The Patsy (1964) and The Family Jewels (1965). Source:

Not only Jerry Lewis played the irrepressible big kid to Dean Martin's smooth crooner, there was also a generational gap between both in regard to gender dynamics. Whereas Martin—who bridled over his role as Lewis’s stooge—represented the old heterosexist guard, Lewis was a cultural pioneer by breaking up (at least on film) with the Fifties's rigid concepts of male/female courtship. Although Martin was the official ladies' man of the duo, Lewis also provoked odd feelings of attraction on the bobby soxers generation. Liz Renay, showgirl and Marilyn Monroe look-alike who became Mickey Cohen's lover, was remarkably discreet in discussing her association with Jerry Lewis in her biography My Face for the World to See (2002). Another of his dalliances was with fashion model Lynn Dixon in the early 1950s. She was introduced to Lewis by Milton Berle and their affair  lasted from 1949-1952.

Information gathered by psychologist Lewis Terman in the 1930s showed that of women born before 1890, 13.5 percent had sexual intercourse before marriage. Social research showed that heterosexual intimacy had become common among unmarried youth. For those born in the decade after 1900, the figure rose to 50 percent, with an even higher percentage for women born in the following decade. By 1930 only 12 percent of white married women worked, and limitations upon married women working became even greater during the Depression. Studies during the 1920s and 1930s by physicians, psychiatrists, and sociologists supported the changing values of the new morality and stressed the importance of sexual pleasure within marriage. Studies of different middle-class populations from the late 1920s found large majorities of married couples using some form of contraception on a regular basis. Behaviorist John Watson noted the pervasive presence of sexual themes in the culture of the day—movies, novels, newspapers, and magazines. As a consequence, "'Virtue,' 'purity' in the old sense, rarely exist and are not even considered desirable. But new values are coming into vogue: individuality—clear-sightedness—independence in thought and action."

Wini Breines explores white middle class America and argues that mixed messages given to girls during the 1950s lent fuel to the fire that would later become known as Feminism. Researchers at the University of Arkansas have discovered that though straight partners have sex more often, bisexual and lesbian women have more orgasms – by far. They found that heterosexual men “usually always orgasmed when sexually intimate,” doing so 95 percent of the time. In contrast, straight women orgasm in just 65 percent of cases. They found that women were 33 percent more likely to orgasm when they were having sex with another woman. Dr Kristen Jozkowski said: “Sex that includes more varied sexual behaviour results in women experiencing more orgasms”. Sex between women “was excitingly diversified,” she explained.

The postwar boom led to government policies that helped multiply homeownership rates from roughly 40 percent at the end of the war to 60 percent during the second half of the 20th century. According to Harvard professor and urban planning historian Alexander von Hoffman, a combination of two government initiatives—the establishment of the Federal Housing Authority and the Veterans Administration (VA) home loans programs—served as runways for first-time homebuyers. Initially created during the ’30s, the Federal Housing Authority guaranteed loans as long as new homes that would create the modern mortgage market. An analysis of housing and mortgage data from 1960 by Leo Grebler, a renowned professor of urban land economics at UCLA, demonstrates the pronounced impact of these programs. In 1950, FHA and VA loans accounted for 51 percent of the 1.35 million home starts across the nation. These federal programs would account for anywhere between 30 and 51 percent of housing starts between 1951 and 1957, according to Grebler’s analysis.

Between 1953 and 1957, 2.4 million units were started under these programs, using $3.6 billion in loans. With the U.S. Treasury backing home loans and protecting lenders from defaults, the risk of a bad loan plummeted. Floodgates of capital opened, reshaping land on the periphery of cities. Mortgage rates were incredibly low during the suburban boom of the ’50s and ’60s. In 1960, the average mortgage rate was 5.1 percent. In 1950 alone, suburban growth was 10 times that of central cities, and the nation’s builders registered 2 million housing starts. By the end of the decade, 15 million homes were under construction across the country. And during that decade, as the economy expanded rapidly and interstate roads took shape, residential development in the suburbs accounted for 75 percent of total U.S. construction. Many of these new homes, large-scale, tract-style construction, were built with the backing of various government financing programs, and became available to a much broader cross section of society. “A much larger percentage of homes on the market in the ’50s were new homes, and they are much more expensive in relation to income now than they were then,” says Michael Carliner, a housing economist at Harvard. 1.2 million homes were started across the country in 2017. But adjusted for both an increased population as well as the large drop seen during the recent Great Recession, these numbers appear anemic, the lowest number per capita in 60 years. And unlike the postwar building spree, fewer new homes can be considered affordable starter homes. Builders say the combination of land, labor, and material costs makes affordable homes impossible, and only more expensive models offer enough of a profit margin. Source:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Happy Anniversary, Jayne Mansfield! Jerry Lewis (Movie Stars of the 1950s): Larger than Life

Frank Tashlin made a couple of bizarre films with Jayne Mansfield, who one might argue was a cartoon version of 20th Century Fox’s other zaftig blonde, Marilyn Monroe. Mansfield’s first real success had been in the Broadway version of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and her part was an explicit parody of Monroe. Her first film with Tashlin at Fox was The Girl Can’t Help It, which includes many early stars of rock and roll, like Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. As the critic Dave Kehr pointed out in his article for The New York Times: "The most absurd figure in Tashlin's films is not the heavy-bosomed blonde but the pathetic male in a pure, helpless state of arousal, continually provoked by the eroticized environment that surrounds him." Jayne Mansfield became a living cartoon of nuclear-powered 50’s femininity in “The Girl Can’t Help It”; Jerry Lewis was her polar opposite, a frightened kid trembling on the edge of a hormonal explosion. In 1956 Mansfield and Lewis had appeared together in Las Vegas, posing with a cake at the Sands Hotel's fourth anniversary celebration. Mansfield was beautiful and curvaceous but possessed comic timing and a sympathetic warmth that many other bombshells couldn't--still can't--muster. Tashlin's films have been somewhat neglected in the US, in part because of his close association with Jerry Lewis. “Decades before postmodernism became fashionable, Tashlin was gleefully constructing a world of simulacra and surfaces in which images refer only to other images and characters cobble their identities from mass media and pop culture.” Frank Tashlin died in 1972, but the world he satirized 50 years ago is still with us, in some ways more than ever. Source:

"I remember as a kid, having dreams at nights of becoming a superclown and saving the world from terrible troubles"  Jerry Lewis

Especially as he gained more control over his movies, Jerry Lewis offered up truly schizophrenic characters. An unleashed maniac offering episodes of comedic anarchy as it can barely contain itself is the core character. But Lewis wants you to love this maniac and know he has the soul of a poet. He establishes this with scenes so mawkish that their pumped-up sugar drools out the sides of the screen. On the one hand, he is a force of nature maniacally destructive and sputteringly out of control. The plots of many of the Lewis films are simple: The Bellboy -- Lewis is amok in a hotel; The Ladies' Man -- amok in an all-girls' boarding house; Who's Minding the Store? -- amok in a department store. On the other, he is a tormented soul, a wounded butterfly, a romantic, emotionally stunted child. Jim Carrey, however, never looks back in his offensive routines. If you've always wondered what it was about Jerry Lewis that sent the French into ecstasy and the loyal fan screaming, check him out in The Disorderly Orderly. If it leaves you cold, venture no further into Lewis land. —Scanlines (1999) by Louis Black for The Austin Chronicle

Jerry Lewis was a challenging and enigmatic figure long before the French got their hands on him. Although the merits of Jerry Lewis's self-directed films have been hotly debated, comparatively little attention has been paid to the highly successful 1950s films that made possible his move into film directing. Lewis first met Dean Martin in August 1944 when they were signed as individual attractions at New York's Glass Hat Club. Martin was the headliner, while Lewis played his record act and served as master of ceremonies. That's My Boy (1951) had a serious-minded story that anticipates such melodramas of masculine crisis as Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Tea and Sympathy (1956), and Home from the Hill (1960). The film's plot deals with questions of how to be a man, and how to be a man among men, with Lewis playing a characteristic psychoneurotic cowed by a hyper-athletic father but finding solace in the sheltering embrace of Martin's gentle buddy. The Stooge (1952) offers the most dramatically sustained exploration of the two-man relationship, with its intermingling of affection and hostility, togetherness and difference. The promise of their union coexisted with a strong awareness that the competition between the two men, and between their distinctive talents, always threatened to rend the partnership asunder. News of Dean Martin's dissatisfaction began to filter into the public arena during the troubled production of 3 Ring Circus. Lewis reported: "During the filming Dean kept blowing his top at me and everyone else, saying he was fed up to the ears playing a stooge.... It developed into psychological warfare for the balance of the picture". Their partnership was clearly on a downward spiral. Reported schisms and rumor-mongering made it difficult for audiences to believe that their freewheeling, fun-loving act was grounded in authentic feeling. 

The Spring 2018 FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE is out! Articles: The Five Lane Sisters, Jerry Lewis Part I (by Charles Tranberg), James Mason, Kaye Ballard, Tom Tyler, SHANE (1953), SECRETS OF THE FRENCH POLICE (1932), and the regular feature OVERLOOKED IN HOLLYWOOD (profiles on Lester Vail, Mary Nolan, Lewis Wilson, Peggy Conklin, Rebel Randall, and Paul Page). Charles Tranberg: People might have found Dean Martin more handsome but I would say that is probably true that Jerry Lewis was "cuter." Ironically, despite of Martin being the official heartthrob of the duo, Shawn Levy hints in The King of Comedy (1997) that Jerry Lewis had the most active sexual life, since Martin's seduction game often worked on a superficial level. Lewis himself had confessed to Levy: "I never could stay mad at women, because I had a high sex drive."

When the end came in 1956 the masquerade was over. While he could win over popular audiences, the new Jerry Lewis who rose with such untimely haste from the ashes of the beloved entertainment team met with a remarkably hostile reception from cultural tastemakers. Attacks on his aspirations and abilities were to become commonplace in the press long before "the French" staked their claim to him. The opposition grew more vocal as Lewis explored territories barred to the simple funnyman of old. By the end of the decade he was not just one of the best beloved of American entertainers; he was also just about the most reviled. Films such as The Caddy, Scared Stiff, The Stooge, and Living It Up had teased with the Lewis figure's status as a harassed misfit, but the team's partnership dynamic had always trammeled the poignancy. Unshackled from his quarrelsome partner, Lewis was free to use his familiar Idiot/Kid figure to develop a more extended treatment of the comic misfit as a beleaguered outcast questing for acceptance. Lewis contextualized the traumatic breakup of Martin within a bionarrative of abandonment that stretched back to his lonely childhood. Lewis fleshed out this biographical narrative in an article by journalist Bill Davidson: "I've Always Been Scared," shortly after the partnership folded, in February 1957. This article exposed a bruised sensitivity cowering in the shadow of the manic clown. "All my life," Lewis declares, "I've been afraid of being alone". In a story he would repeat, Lewis portrays himself as a pathetic outsider who deploys the mask of comedy as a protective shield. Seeking love and acceptance via the showbiz success his father never attained, Lewis is compelled to win the substitute gratifications of applause and laughter: "If I could make people laugh, I thought, they'd like me and let me be with them". 

The psychological narrative articulated by these articles highlights the degree to which Lewis's star image occupied a very different constellation from the carefree zany of old. Whereas earlier publicity stressed the congruence between the onstage and offstage selves of Martin and Lewis, Lewis's solo career instituted a strategic opposition between the "real" man alone and the onscreen comic misfit. "It may be," offers Look magazine, "that audiences are drawn to him because they see or sense the real Jerry, the lonely man of many complexes" ("Always in a Crowd-Always Alone," 1958). The director of six Martin and Lewis pictures and two of Lewis's solo films Norman Taurog told Arthur Marx: "In the beginning, he was a doll. He listened, did what I told him, and didn't bother anyone. Then one day I noticed him looking through the camera between takes and starting to make suggestions to Lyle Gregg, our cameraman, on things he had no business making suggestions about: how high a crane to put the camera on, or what kind of lens to use.... I used to tell him, 'For God's sake, Jerry, why do you want to waste your energy doing things other people are getting paid for? Nobody goes to a Martin and Lewis movie because you directed a scene. They go because it says on the marquee-Jerry Lewis in so and so; not Jerry Lewis, cameraman. Save your energy for acting'."

The Delicate Delinquent flaunts Lewis's allegiance to the youth audience. At the same time, it also distances him from the energetic and rebellious excess that marked his earlier performances. Rather than abandoning himself to the delights of sheer abandon, Lewis's delicate delinquent, Sydney Pythias, is searching (literally) for direction. Mistaken for a gang member after a street rumble, the good natured orphan is hauled off to the neighborhood precinct house, where he encounters patrolman Mike Damon (McGavin). A reformed juvenile offender himself, Damon has a mission to save slum kids from criminal temptations. Sydney is perfect for such rehabilitation as he lacks social and familial ties, or any other external context of self-definition. "How does a guy know what he wants to be?" he asks Damon. "Especially somebody like me? I'll tell you what I am-I'm a nowhere." Sydney's eventual success suggests that a good heart will eventually triumph over insecurity and sheer ineptitude. For Bosley Crowther, Sydney's characteristically Lewisian eccentricities sat rather uncomfortably with the idealized authority he is allowed at the end of this "serious-message comedy": "Mr. Lewis runs a gamut from Hamlet to clown. Mr. Lewis, trying to act hard like a man, trying to fit odd-shaped blocks into odd-shaped holes, is a delirious comedian. The good intention of his message may be missed in this eccentricity."

Robert Kass suggested in Films in Review that Lewis emblematized the otherness of "young America gone berserk". From a more celebratory perspective, J. Hoberman proposes that "the young Jerry was America's id. His every cute outburst threatened to escalate into loss of control; the sight of his big mouth promised a kind of ecstatic self-annihilation" ("The Nutty Retrospective," Village Voice, 15 December 1988). The uncontrolled eruptions of Lewis's body connected with the rebellious stirrings of a nascent youth culture, which would itself erupt into national and international consciousness with the primal beat of rock 'n' roll. As Karal Ann Marling argues, "Like Elvis, Jerry Lewis seemed rebellious because he wouldn't stand still; he both projected and aroused strong emotion through motion". —Larger Than Life / Movie Stars of the 1950s: Jerry Lewis (2010) by Frank Krutnik 

Monday, April 16, 2018

"Sex and culture": Marilyn Monroe (no kind of bimbo), Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis

There is a case for saying that Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe's second husband, was humiliated on account of the shoot when she is standing on a subway grate and her dress is being blown up in the air and she is trying to hold it down. There was some kind of deal that the dress wouldn’t go up too high. And then it’s in her face. She is exposed. But it is DiMaggio – coming from a working-class Italian-American family – who feels humiliated. She belonged to him and yet here she is seemingly available to all the world. That marriage was never going to work out. You would think that marriage to Arthur Miller would have suited her better. Author of Death of a Salesman, and scriptwriter on The Misfits (her final film), he was also one of the ace intellectuals of his era. “Egghead Weds Hourglass”, read the headline in Variety. In reality, she, the child of 20th Century Fox, was a would-be intellectual. She was certainly no airhead, no kind of “bimbo”. You would think the Monroe-Miller combination ought to have been workable. But it didn’t. Because Miller really needed a bimbo. He didn’t want to be married to an earnest undergraduate. He wanted an All-American Girl to symbolically get him off the hook of the McCarthy black list, that had him branded as a communist and Jewish to boot. Maybe Monroe could save him. But she needed him to save her. —"The pain of character assassination in the public eye" (2018) by Andy Martin

Western society has all the symptoms of a declining civilization. When sexual freedom becomes totally unrestricted, society becomes unstable and collapses. Joseph Daniel Unwin studied 80 tribes and 6 civilizations through 5,000 years of history and found a positive correlation between the cultural achievement of a people and the sexual restraint they observe. Sex and Culture was praised by Aldous Huxley: "Unwin's conclusions may be summed up as follows. All human societies are in one or another of four cultural conditions: zoistic, manistic, deistic, rationalistic. Of these societies the zoistic displays the least amount of mental and social energy, the rationalistic the most. Investigation shows that the societies exhibiting the least amount of energy are those where the opportunities for sexual indulgence are the greatest." According to Unwin, after a nation becomes prosperous it becomes increasingly liberal with regard to sexual morality and as a result loses its cohesion, its impetus and its purpose. The effect, says the author, is irrevocable. JD Unwin also infers that legal equality between women and men is necessary to institute before absolute monogamy is instituted, otherwise the monogamy will erode in the name of emancipating women. One can choose to see Unwin’s work as the foretelling of a doomed American civilization. Whatever the case, the importance of sexual morality in everyday life should not be overlooked due to its strong correlation with civilizational flourishing. Sexual restraint and ethics are not products of an ancient past that progress can suddenly replace; they are arguably the lynchpin of all of the technological and scientific progress of today. Source:

“A threedimensional philosophy, including a regard for the past and a care for the future, is characteristic of developed virile minds; a two-dimensional outlook, implying an exclusive regard for the present, suggests either a lack of development or a state of degeneracy. The introduction of an irregular continence into a society accustomed to sexual freedom is the most important and the most painful of all social revolutions. In the 16th century England, when the aristocrats modified their absolute monogamy, they had lost their supremacy to the rising middle classes, who preserved absolute monogamy. Nominally until the 19th century marriage was indissoluble; but throughout their history the English were casuists in any matter which concerned the relation between husband and wife, and, by passing a special bill through a parliament which they dominated, the nobles proclaimed the dissolution of the indissoluble bond. Towards the middle of the twentieth century some failure of nerve was apparent throughout the society; there were signs, too, that the middle classes were losing their supremacy. No further records are available, and the productive energy of the English remained tremendous, for sexual intercourse and divorce by mutual consent had not become part of the inherited tradition of a complete new generation. Indeed the majority of the population still insisted on some degree of compulsory continence. Evidence is not lacking, however, that such customs were falling into desuetude. After great social energy has been displayed in a civilization, new and alien elements appear. The society begins to discriminate between the slovenly and the elegant, between the vague and the exact. When an atom emits energy, the outer electrons seem to jump down a quantum or a number of quanta; finally they are locked against the nucleus; and what was once a massive event of low density becomes a small event of high density. When a human society radiates energy, precisely the opposite occurs. We begin with a society in which all the individuals are locked together by forces we do not understand; such a society displays no energy; but, as soon as we energize it, individuals begin to leave the nucleus, and form, as it were, an energetic belt around it, the behaviour of this belt determining the cultural condition of the society. If the society is energized again, more individuals leave the nucleus and join the outer belt; others leave the belt itself, assume still newer modes of behaviour, and form a second belt, this belt in its turn determining the cultural condition of the society. And the more energy a society displays, the greater is the cultural distance between the outer belts and the original nucleus, which, indeed, may even be disintegrated. If any society should desire to control its cultural destiny, to display its productive energy for a long time, and even forever, it must re-create itself, first, by placing the sexes on a level of complete legal equality, and then by altering its economic and social organization in such a way as to render it both possible and tolerable for sexual opportunity to remain at a minimum for an extended period, and even forever. In such a case the face of the society would be set in the direction of the Cultural Process; its inherited tradition would be continually enriched; it would achieve a higher culture than has yet been attained; by the action of human entropy its tradition would be augmented and refined.” —"Sex and culture" (1934) by JD Unwin

Jerry Lewis talked about the inherent intelligence involved in comedy. Comedy is a grid of unsuspected associations; the synaptic leaps are corrosive abstractions, no less than in social or biological science. Jerry explained that it was crucial for him to “present himself as a good man,” that he seeks to be funny for people who share his values, for “people who understand you.” Gregg Barson, director of the documentary Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis, wisely spoke about the liberating power of playing in disguise—“He was able to look at Jekyll and Hyde and see that, hey, that’s funny, that you can be this double life”—and showed a clip of “The Family Jewels.” For Lewis, the doubleness inhered in the process. He spoke not of directing himself but of directing “Jerry”—as soon as he went on-camera, he became a character, but one who drew on his own inner being. He was, from the start, a double, himself in disguise. I’ve long considered Jerry Lewis to be a radical democrat—revealing the most humiliating, debasing incompetence, awkwardness and servility that may mark his most modest of viewers, and extracting from these burdens the radiance of virtue and even a miraculous power. There’s an extra level of pathos to Lewis’s career—its truncation. Asked by David Susskind in 1964 TV how he connected with “millions of people,” Lewis answers: “You have to be one of the millions of people.” And, in response to the link between comedy and tragedy, Lewis said: “I think that it’s quite sad the mere fact that you walk out in front of an audience. There is a sad connotation to the fact that you say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, watch me, I’m going to show off.' Well, that’s pretty sad, having to do that.” The great paradox—the one from “The Nutty Professor”—is that Lewis distinguishes his comic persona, Jerry, from himself. It’s the suave incarnation of Buddy Love that renders him attractive, but it’s the pathetically overlooked nebbish who, via Lewis’s fearlessly self-revealing, even self-abasing artistry, gives him the symbolic feet on the ground that renders his milieu of Hollywood universally touching and ordinary. —"Jerry Lewis and Buddy Love" (2012) by Richard Brody

The dancer in the white room of The Ladies Man (1961) Sylvia Lewis who played 'Miss Cartilage' remembers: “I got a call from Jerry to come talk to him about working in ‘The Ladies Man’ and he signed me to do it. I spent 11 weeks on the set, just hanging around hoping to get 10 minutes with him to begin rehearsing. But it never happened until towards the end of shooting, even though I was paid for being at the studio every day. He was always very kind and respectful to me. In fact, I can say during my Hollywood years I was never treated better by anyone. I just remember Jerry telling me about how he would get visions in his head when we worked together.” The late Secretary of Defense Leslie Aspin, then a congressman from Wisconsin (known for his opposition to the war in Vietnam), penned these words in 1977 in the conclusion of his nomination of Jerry Lewis for the Nobel Peace Prize: “Jerry Lewis is a man for all seasons, all people and all times. His name has, in the hearts of millions, become synonymous with peace, love and brotherhood.” Source: 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Marilyn! The New Musical, Jerry Lewis

Our emotional state in a given moment may influence what we see, according to findings published in a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. In two experiments, researchers found that participants saw a neutral face as smiling more when it was paired with an unseen positive image. The research shows that humans are active perceivers, say psychological scientist Erika Siegel of the University of California, San Francisco and her coauthors. “We do not passively detect information in the world and then react to it – we construct perceptions of the world as the architects of our own experience. Our affective feelings are a critical determinant of the experience we create,” the researchers explain. Ultimately, these experiments provide further evidence that what we see is not a direct reflection of the world but a mental representation of the world that is infused by our emotional experiences. This research was supported by the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and a National Institute of Mental Health T32 grant (MH019391) to E. H. Siegel. Source:

Gemma Arterton has spoken with The Times about her role as Marilyn in It’s Me, Sugar, which opens the new season Sky Arts’ Urban Myths in the UK ‘Marilyn used her vulnerable side to get what she wanted and to manipulate people,’ says Gemma Arterton, on a break from filming a stingingly satirical scene in which Monroe and Strasberg discuss her ‘motivation’ for opening a door (Strasberg asks Monroe if her character eats cheese and Monroe replies: ‘Only on Fridays!’). ‘That was a powerful tool that she had, to make everyone feel sorry for her. But in that power she was in control. There’s a bit in our film where they’re 37 takes in and Wilder says, “Don’t worry about it!” And she says, “Don’t worry about what?” And she actually said that! So she’s very tongue-in-cheek. She knows what she’s doing. But she plays the childlike thing. It’s part of her act.’ Source:

While Bombshell, the fictional Marilyn Monroe musical from NBC’s Smash, inches toward the actual stage in a long-gestating development process, another show exploring the life of the film icon will play Las Vegas. Marilyn! The New Musical will play the Paris Theater beginning May 23 before an official opening June 1. The show features a book by director Tegan Summer and an original score by Gregory Nabours, plus additional songs made famous by Monroe. Ruby Lewis, who starred on Broadway in Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour, will take on the title role. The cast will also include Brittney Bertier as Norma Jeane (depicted in the musical as Monroe’s ever-present alter ego), Travis Cloer as Milton Greene, Randal Keith as Darryl F. Znuck, Christopher Showerman as Joe DiMaggio, Matthew Tyler as Arthur Miller, Lindsay Roginski as Jane Russell, and Una Eggerts as Jayne Mansfield. The production team includes choreographer Ferly Prado, set designer Matt Steinbrenner, and casting director Michael Donovan. Source:

I met Jerry Lewis and I will be grateful forever we crossed paths that night, when Nate was in an uncontrolled mood and Jerry intervined. Nate tried to punch him but Jerry ducked skillfully all the blows. I kissed Jerry on the cheek—I think he blushed—and wrote down my telephone number on a casino napkin. “Take care, baby girl,” mumbled Jerry, still flushed from our unexpected fixture. Las Vegas, in the early forties, was not much of anything. A small oasis, a railway depot, a little grid of streets by the tracks and then emptiness. Small town. Big desert. Big sky. Grit. Heat. Distant mountains. Stunted brownneedled cacti. Sagebrush. And Block 16, the red-light district with its gambling and its liquor and its girls, who sat on wooden chairs by the open doorways of their concrete-block shanties. Las Vegas was suddenly exploding now, in the early fifties, with entertainers like Frank Sinatra and Milton Berle and Vic Damone and Red Skelton and Rosemary Clooney and Eddie Fisher all on the Strip all at once, and when they finished their own gigs, they headed out to the other clubs and lounges to see who was doing what at 2:00 A.M. and no one went to bed until the sun had bleached the neon to a pathetic pallor. —"The Magnificent Esme Wells" (2018) by Adrienne Sharp