Friday, May 29, 2009

It is not Rosa von Praunheim who is perverse, but the situations in which he films

This post is in conjunction with this week’s episode, which explores the films that will be part of next weekend’s “Films of Rosa von Praunheim” festival at Anthology Film Archives. The festival runs from June 4-7, contains 10 features and 2 shorts, and will boast a live performance by von Praunheim, entitled "I am not a Tomato." (I have no explanation). I offer up a little survey of von Praunheim clips that can be found on the obvious site, YouTube.

First, a few notes in case the name doesn’t ring a bell (and it’s quite a name!): Rosa von Praunheim is a now-legendary German filmmaker with a great sense of humor, a cool nom du cinema, and a keen ability to craft cinematic acts of provocation like It Is Not the Homosexual Who is Perverse, but the Situation in Which He Lives (1970). He made several sharp documentaries about the AIDS crisis in the Eighties, and has since produced a number of memorable docus about gay issues, strong women, and aspects of his own life.

The YT von Praunheim stash is mostly made up of Rosa’s comic creations, which is no surprise. Here is an unsubtitled (but pretty stylishly campy) scene from his very successful (and sadly unavailable over here) Die Bettwurst (1971). The song layered under the clip by the poster is, of course, by the le grand Gainsbarre:

Another bit of stylish camp here, unfortunately also unsubbed, from Rote Liebe (1982)

A musical interlude from the always imposing Diamanda Galas, from the 1990 AIDS docu Positive:

The opening minutes to the colorfully titled “Erotic Tale” that Praunheim made in 1999 for an anthology series. The short, “Can I Be Your Bratwurst, Please?” stars American gay porn star Jeff Stryker as a gent that both men and women want to consume — literally:

And the final film in the Anthology series is actually up in its entirety on YT. The film cannot be currently seen in the U.S. It’s a documentary about, well… the subject is in the title, Men, Heroes & Gay Nazis (2005):

And, finally, the opening minutes of a recent-vintage short shot here in NYC, starring nightclub chanteuse Phoebe Legere. Germans Taste Best (2007):

Tiny Tim sings an anthem for the new century: the psychedelic, deranged global warming premonition "The Other Side"

When he is remembered at all, Tiny Tim is labeled a one-hit wonder, a media oddity whose stint on Laugh-In made him hot for a minute (during which he had a massively viewed wedding on The Tonight Show), and then he was consigned to the scrapheap of pop culture. In truth, Tiny was indeed an unusual man on a personal level (and very especially a lovesick, often heartbroken one), but he was a gentleman who loved the hoary old tunes that he sang. Tiny was the kind of a versatile, unusual singer who could do justice to "There’ll Always Be an England” and The Beatles’ “Girl” (which he seems to relate to on a heavy level, and if you knew the stories of his fascinations with les femmes, you’d know he did).

Several top-notch Tiny Tim discoveries can be made on YouTube, including his appearance on “The Coca Crystal Show” with Izzy Fertel. The finest discovery, however, are clips from a TV special Tiny did in Australia in the late Sixties, which are all posted on this blog.

The most familiar tune is the wonderful "Living in the Sunlight” (I dare you to be downhearted while listening to Tiny warble this one). The song was recently revived on Spongebob Squarepants. But the most eye-opening, jaw-dropping performance is “The Other Side,” my personal fave from Tiny’s debut LP, God Bless Tiny Tim. On the record it’s a thoroughly psychedelic turn (that sounds amazing in headphones), but here, as sung to and with a group of cute little girls, it’s nothing less than a bizarrely prescient ditty about global warming — the icecaps are indeed melting. I have long maintained that my all-time favorite use of a children’s chorus is on The Cramps’ “People Ain’t No Good,” but I will now supplement that by saying that the best use of a cute-kid chorus on TV has to be Tiny’s of the tots here to chant the line “All the world is drowning…”

An inconvenient truth? Tiny predicted it YEARS ago!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Strange duets for charity: "Pavarotti and Friends"

There’s nothing like a ridiculous duet, and that’s what we got in the clip I’ve embedded below. It features an unlikely duo: Lou Reed, looking less cadaverous than he normally does, and Luciano Pavarotti, in severe-dye mode. This song has proven to be Lou’s second biggest tune over the years, trailing behind “Walk on the Wild Side” — “Perfect Day” was covered by a group of celebs including Lou for a charity video, and was even used on an NFL commercial! This is very strange when you consider the menacing, mocking last line, “You’re gonna reap just what you sow…”

Pavarotti in fact duetted with a LOT of unlikely folk in a series of “Pavarotti and Friends” concerts that were only broadcast on Italian TV, and are now available in YouTube-friendly nuggets. The concerts were performed to raise funds for U.N. refugee children’s charities. Other performers Luciano rocked out with include Joe Cocker, Tom Jones (although the Leningrad Cowboys had already proved that “Delilah” IS indeed operatic!), Stevie Wonder, JAMES BROWN, Gloria Estefan, the freakin’ Spice Girls, Grace Jones, and yes, Deep Purple!

Oh, okay, one more, since I’m a child of the Seventies: Luciano singing with Barry goddamnsmooth White, “My First, My Last, My Everything”!

What does this all prove? That Luciano was not just an opera giant, but was game to involve himself in all kinds of silliness when it came to charity work.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pipe, Wig, Spitting, Policeman, Paraplegic Fetishes Flourish on the 'Tube

One of the finest purposes the Internet serves is that it makes ya feel normal. When you investigate the odder fetishes out there, you can’t help but feel that your own attachments, obsessions, and fixations are pretty freaking vanilla and mundane. Over a decade ago I featured some sterling images from the worlds of the gunge/slapstick-fetish fans, plushies, and, oh yes, the furry underground on the Funhouse. Along those lines, I refer you to another blogspot blog, one run by writer Dennis Cooper, where Funhouse correspondent “stevee” supplies a short laundry list of some of the wondrous and extremely strange fetishes that can be found on YouTube, the site that is truly, uniquely American, in that it is terrified and threatened by the notion of human genitalia and bared breasts.

Check out the list of bizarro fetish vids here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hear me talk about smut (the softcore kind)

I haven’t been exploring the worlds of exploitation and grindhouse-genre moviemaking as much in recent months on the Funhouse, but I still maintain a fascination for the sort of “low trash” that makes everyone happy (except those with very tight sphincters). Thus I appreciate the work carried on by the folks at Alternative Cinema, which is a company comprised of various and sundry DVD labels that put out current-day exploitation pics and, most notably, wonderful Sixties and Seventies softcore and hardcore features. I guested a few weeks back on the company’s audio podcast, which is available on the always update-happy (but will never tell ya how many people are subscribing to your podcast) iTunes and also here on the AC site.

And why did we love public access again?

Classic Manhattan public access is sorely underrepresented on YouTube, but occasionally some clips show up that remind us of the reasons that access was such an addictive pleasure back in the day (“the day” being the 1970s through the 1990s). You can find such pleasures in the great postings of Coca Crystal, but also here in this edited-down rendition of an episode of Richard H. Roffman and Friends.

The Roffman show seemed like a motlier version of Joe Franklin. The reason for this was that Roffman charged the guests on his local radio and cable-access shows (so much for the “friends” idea). The result was that you got a whole-hearted plug, but also had a short (very short) segment on the air, and then that was it. Here you have everyone from a local fashion designer (Roffman urging her “let’s go, c’mon!”) to vanity-press authors to a jello wrestler and the president of a Bing Crosby fan club. The uniquely talented Jim Grasso steals the show, however (hear the stifled laughter).

This condensation of the episode makes yer head spin, in several ways. There are few shows like this on TV anymore (and the remaining ones are all on access). Dig the vintage opening disclaimer from a wary Manhattan Cable:

Friday, May 15, 2009

We welcome Socialisme: a new missive from Uncle Jean

At this point when the cinema seems bankrupt of ideas and, more importantly, of reflection, it is a true joy to announce that one of the greatest film poets ever is still hangin’ around amongst us, and his powers haven’t diminished. The trailer for Godard’s latest feature, Socialisme, plays like his beautiful video essays and “later” features (some reaching back as far as the early Eighties) in which he developed a style that is the closest thing to pure cinema outside of the underground. He is an Old Master by virtue of his age, but retains a fresh approach to the medium. His rhythms are his own, and when I watch his work, I feel like most of the other folks wielding film and video cameras are just fuckin’ around....

The image above has a caption that reads, "What's changed these days is that the bastards are sincere."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Anthem for burnout couch potatoes: the timeless “TVOD”

Television has been an integral part of our lives for around six decades, and yet there are so few songs that truly convey the feeling of completely surrendering to the power of the Holy Box. Some might say that ”TV Party” sums it up well, while others might opt for the Tubes’ bouncy “TV is King," which I like so much I made it one of two opening theme songs for the Funhouse during the show’s early years.

However… there is one tune from the gent who gave us “Warm Leatherette” that accurately conveys the true sense of abandon that comes with accepting the fact that you can never, and should never, attempt to break away from the hold the original addictive medium holds over you. I didn’t know there was a video for it, but yes, you can now experience “TVOD” by the Normal on this new addictive medium:

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Jolly Fat Man: Deceased Artiste Dom DeLuise

Like any good comic character actor, Dom DeLuise seemed perfectly fine with mocking himself in performance, and as a result, he was always working, appearing in some supporting role somewhere (in recent years he was more than likely doing a quick cartoon voice or showing up in a mediocre straight-to-vid like the notorious Italian-financed Silence of the Hams). Dom broke through in the Sixties, and is well-remembered for his appearances on The Dean Martin Show (see below), where he remained for several years as the house “barber” in goofy segments wherein scripted material gave way to silly improv.

He of course is best known for his work with Mel Brooks and Burt Reynolds (most of the obits forgot he did three movies with Gene Wilder, spinning off of the Brooks orbit). But he was truly all over the place from the Sixties through the Nineties on both TV and in the movies. He was in two glorious early Seventies cult movies, Herb Gardner’s terrific Who is Harry Kellerman…? (1971) and the TV movie Evil Roy Slade (in 1972, preceding his bit in Blazing Saddles by a full year). The nicest thing I can say about Mr. DeLuise is that he seemed like a member of the family (and in fact, I have relatives who he reminded me of).

I have my own favorite Dom moment, which at some point I’ll post on YouTube (since it ain’t up there currently), but for the time being here are some choice bits featuring the big man.

Here is “Dominick the Great” on Dean Martin:

“The French Mistake” in Blazing Saddles:

Reprising his “barber” bit with Tony Orlando:

The only film he directed, an adaptation of Donald Westlake (!), is up on Youtube, the 1979 film Hot Stuff:

Here is a seminal moment from the above, Dom tokin’ a doob, and making like Stan Laurel with his laughter:

The kind of crap he appeared in quite a lot (hey, an actor’s gotta pay-a dem bills, boss). Appearing with a kid, Jimmie Walker, and small-person stuntman “Deep Roy” as a very weird fuckin' monkey in Going Bananas:

One of those godawful numbers they do at the beginning of the Oscars. And yes, this crappy one that Dom does with Telly Savalas and Pat Morita is no better or worse than those terrible things that Billy Crystal did — which sucked in entirely new ways, so the demented remember them fondly — and the recent one Hugh Jackman did:

The dippy Cannonball Run closing-credits blooper reels, all in one place:

A weird comedy outtake from a cooking instructional CD-Rom that Dom made. I’m wondering what the hell they bleeped out (abuse of another celebrity, obscenity, a stray racist remark, an in-joke only the crew got, something completely tame?). Who knows?

And something that can be found on DVD, the failed but funny 1973 sitcom Lotsa Luck. Here’s the opening theme (the first line is “I used to buy a pickle” — don’t ask me why I’ve carried that with me for the past 36 years….)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ah... YouTube: Jacques Brel with English subtitles!

In the bottomless pit of amazingly wonderful music video on YouTube are chestnuts of sublimely melodramatic pop music. Now, the foremost example of this sort of music is of course the gorgeous morsels of death-rock that populated American rock ’n’ roll in the early Sixties (“Teen Angel,” “Tell Laura I Love Her,” etc.), but in the same vein of awesome, moving, and morose pop I must include the Belgian master, the late Monsieur Brel. Americans discovered his music through the translations of Mort Shuman and Eric Blau in the long-running cabaret show Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (god, I do love those long Sixties/Seventies show/movie titles…).

The British, however, were introduced to Brel’s wonderfully emotionally overwrought works through through covers of the Shuman-Blau translations by Scott Walker (plum examples here and here. Also David Bowie (main example here).

Well, in the world of YouTube, we are now treated to the terrific sight of Brel himself, a simply incredible, incredible stage performer, singing his own tunes, for the first time ever with English subtitles translating his wrenching lyrics (I do believe Serge Gainsbourg was a more complex and innovative poet-lyricist, but there’s no arguing with the raw power of Brel’s work).

Here are three examples from YT, each of ’em a gem:
The song we know better (through a Rod McKuen translation, and later a perfectly depressing one hit wonder version by Terry Jacks) as “Seasons in the Sun.” I give you “Le Moribond” in English. It’s actually a pretty “up” song with the singer urging us to celebrate his death:

Here is Brel’s most wrenching song, “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (Don’t Leave Me) with English subs. There is a more amazingly raw performance of this by Brel with English subs up on YT, but the poster doesn’t allow for embeds on that one, so dig this subtitled version instead:

Here’s a little upbeat number, just so’s you don’t think ol’ Jacques was a downer. This one also appeared in “Live and Well…” It’s called “Brussels.”

And here, we have a good example of Brel’s stagecraft. Tell me one other singer (okay, Alice Cooper — but besides Alice, whom I also love) who has performed a song while wearing a noose onstage:

Ah... YouTube: part the first

As our friend Stephen has quite accurately remarked (and I and several friends have conveniently appropriated), YouTube is quite possibly the deepest single “rabbit hole” site on the Net, where one clicks on one clip, thinks of another, gets a sidesearch suggesting a third, and on and on, until you’ve lost a good two or three hours watching insanely rare material that violates copyright, but let’s be honest, who really gives a shit when it comes to the propagation of material that is never going to show up in another format (no cable network, DVD release, or iTunes downloads for these suckers, folks).

In that spirit I offer a Seventies one-hit wonder clip that was a pleasant surprise: the 2008 Deceased Artiste “Hurricane” Smith performing his big hit “Oh Babe, What Would You Say?” on The Tonight Show. I was extremely happy to see this up on YT, as a bunch of One Hit Wonder fans had been querying the posters of other OHW artists, asking for Hurricane doing his big number. Here we have not a lip-synch or a fully accurate version of the song, but a retooled rendition using the Tonight band. For those who don’t know who Hurricane was, he was Norman Smith, a sound engineer and record producer who engineered the Beatles work from ’63-’65, and produced the first two Pink Floyd albums as well as the landmark S.F. Sorrow album by the Pretty Things. Not a bad resume to add to full-fledged status as a One Hit Wonder.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Angel of Vengeance, Casualty of Obsession: Zoe Tamerlis

The strangest celebrities sometimes show up at genre fan cons. Such was the case when Zoe Tamerlis, aka Zoe Tamerlaine, aka Zoe Lund, showed up at the Chiller Theatre convention back in 1997. Tamerlis will forever be best known as the star of Abel Ferrara’s kinetic and disturbing action-vengeance pic Ms. 45 (1980), which is a fusion of Death Wish and Taxi Driver. She was also a very sad drug casualty, as she died at 37, after what is referred to on several websites as “extended cocaine use, which replaced her prolonged heroin use.” She was an uncommonly beautiful model-actress who made only six features, and scripted one of Abel Ferrara’s finest works, Bad Lieutenant (1992).

When I spoke to her, she was 35 and extremely nervous. Some of this no doubt came from having to sit at a very busy convention trying to hawk rather bleary photographs of herself (she agreed to do the interview in exchange for me buying one — which I planned on doing anyway). She brought up the subject of drugs herself in the context of speaking about Keitel’s “nod” scene in Bad Lieutenant, and I must admit I was too shy to actually probe the issue, as her hands were rather shaky and had bruises on them, she was feverishly chain-smoking, and was wearing a dark mesh top that was see-through, which I didn’t realize until the interview had already begun.

She leaves behind indelible film images in the films of Ferrara (who himself has seemingly left narrative linearity behind in recent years), as well as Larry Cohen’s Special Effects. She did speak about her heroin use in a documentary about the supermodel Gia, which can be seen here. More about her life can be found here and at a very thorough site created by her husband Robert Lund at

On the script of Ms. 45:

On her co-scripting credit with Ferrara for Bad Lieutenant

On the heroin-nod and threesome sequences in Bad Lieutenant: