Saturday, November 29, 2008


Cary Grant & Eva Marie Saint climbing Mt. Rushmore in North by Northwest
The runaway carousel in Strangers on a Train
Prom night in Carrie.
What am I? A bowl of fruit? A tangerine that peels in a minute? The great Barbara Nichols to Tony Curtis in Sweet Smell of Success.
Doris day going hysterical when James Stewart tells her her son has been kidnapped in The Man who Knew Too Much
The last scene of John Wayne walking out of the cabin and away from his past in The Searchers
The shower scene from Psycho
The children in the rowboat floating down the river as in a Grimm fairytale from Night of the Hunter
Nicholson chasing his son through the maze at the end of The Shining

The last scene from I Am a Fugitive From a ChainGang. Girlfriend asks Paul Muni "how will you live "I steal" as he disappears into the darkness.
James Cagney's homecoming in The Public Enemy. Wrapped like a mummy and falling to the floor dead when his brother opens the door.
James Cagney again White Heat the last scene Top of the world ma, as his world blows up around him
Cagey again in White Heat hearing about his mother's death in the prison dinning room and going berserk
Edward G. Robinson's death scene in Little Caesar: “Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico”?
Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray's outrageous sexual banter back and forth in Double Indemnity
Bogart to Mary Astor "you’re good you’re very good" in the Maltese Falcon
Bogart and Hepburn battling the leeches in The African Queen
Bette Davis in All About Eve. “Fasten your seat belts…its going to be a bumpy night!'
Brando and Rod Steiger in the back seat of the cab “I coulda been a contender Charlie”
Agnes Moorhead's hysterical breakdowns on the stairs and in the kitchen-The Magnificent Ambersons
Seen through a window the young Charles Foster Kane playing in the snow while his mother Agnes Moorhead makes arrangements to send him away in Citizen Kane.
The fun house sequence at the end of The Lady from Shanghai
Tipp Hendrix on the phone in the background speaking to her new lover Rod Taylor while in the foreground ex lover Suzanne Pleshette smokes a cigarette better than anyone ever did in The Birds
Barbara Stanwyck tripping henry Fonda in The Lady Eve
Again in The Lady Eve Henry Fonda to Barbara Stanwyck "snakes are my life" "what a life" replies Sandwyck
Betty Hutton's wild night out with the entire military service in TheMiracle of Morgan's creek
Betty Hutton and Eddie Bracken attempting to get a wedding license in The Miracle of Morgan's creek
Kim Novak and William Holden dancing at the picnic in Picnic, the most sexual moment in an American film of the 1950's
Yvonne de Carlo doing the Hot rumba with a young, unbilled and unknown Tony Curtis in Criss Cross, two ripe beautiful young things at their peak of their beauty and sexuality.
Edward G. Robinson whispering a lurid remark in Lauren Bacall's ear in Key Largo
Claire Trevor's sad bad singing for a drink in Key Largo
James Stewart’s Saul Bass designed nightmare in Vertigo
Alida Valli's real time long walk out of the cemetery at the end of The Third Man, walking past the man who loved her but paying him no mind.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Touch of Genius

There is now out on dvd a brand new restoration of Orson Welles masterpiece from 1958 Touch of Evil. This wonderful set includes not only the beautiful pristine sharp black and white print restored to the way that Welles wanted it, but also the original chopped up theatrical release print and another print which is a preview version that was found in 1976. I’ve only watched the restored one, which is the one that I saw at the Film Forum a few years back. Originally released as I said in 1958 in a botched and butchered form and dumped like a bag of garbage on a double bill at neighborhood RKO theatres, the film never had a chance. Even though the reviews were generally good, the film I think was just too outrageous for the conservative movie going public of the late 1950‘s. This core group of movie goers were more interested in seeing the ponderous overweight 500pd French pastry of a musical Gigi and the stiff theatrical bound but “serious” “Separate Tables” than this Welles picture or the Hitchcock masterwork Vertigo, which was also generally ignored and not so happily received. As it turns out of course, no one today could give a shit about the big Oscar winners of 1958, while Touch of Evil and Vertigo are now considered the masterpieces that they always were. Touch begins with one of the most audacious and thrilling openings in film history and in the restored version is without the opening credits that were added to the film over Welles‘s protests. Quickly we see someone place a package (it turns out to be some sort of explosive) into the trunk of a car, as Henry Mancini’s cha cha cha music score plays on the soundtrack. The camera in one amazing 3 minute long tracking shot follows the car, as it makes it way through the skuzzy streets of a seedy sordid town on the border between California and Mexico. In reality this was really the sordid skuzzy neighborhood of Venice before it picked itself up and dusted itself off. During this long take we are introduced to the newly married Mexican detective played by of all people Charlton Heston (in bad dark makeup) and his lovely blonde wife played by the always good Janet Leigh who are on their honeymoon. Soon enough the package that was placed in the car trunk explodes and we are off and running. The film is about corruption and evil big and small played out against a mostly nighttime nightmare of Welles’s imagination with very little day light peeking through. Based on a forgotten little potboiler called Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson and which Welles took and turned into this steamy visually superb thriller. There are some startling and memorable sequences and scenes: Welles arriving at the scene of the crime shot from below exiting his car looking as big as a whale, Heston using the phone at a crummy candy store while the female blind owner fills one side of the screen listening to his conversation, Leigh caught up in a horrible degrading scene at a motel with a nutty motel manager played intensely by Dennis Weaver , some 50’s drugged up-delinquents and a positively scary lesbian hood played by the uncredited Mercedes McCambridge. Leigh would again have her problems with a motel and a nutty motel manager a few years later that alas doesn’t end as happily for her as this one does. There is also an amazing scene of a car speeding down a tight alleyway with the camera literally in the actor’s lap. There are many other small and large moments along with lots of Welles's signature overlapping of dialog and conversations and his superb use of space. Much of the film takes place in tight cluttered and constricted small rooms and dingy bars and the superb lighting and camera work by the great Russell Metty is a major contribution to the film. The acting is all first rate with especially wonderful performances by Joseph Calleia as Welle’s loyal partner, Akim Tamiroff as the ridiculous, inept and oddly loveable head of a Mexican crime family and the great Marlene Dietrich in a black fright wig as a gypsy Madame of an strange after hours rundown gin joint whorehouse. It’s Dietrich who delivers some of the most remembered lines of the film, and she ends the movie literally walking into the early morning dawn. This is some kind of a film.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Superstition Review has just posted some of my art in their latest issue on line. You can view the art at this link.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Last night I went rummaging through portfolios of my old drawings and came up with these that I did when I was a teenager.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Walked With A Cockette And Lived To Tell About It

Yes it’s true; I did walk with a Cockette. In fact I lived above a former Cockette in my old loft on 27th street many moons ago in the early 80’s. I had met Jake one nice spring day when I went out on my back fire escape, and noticed a good looking young man sitting on a chair on the adjacent roof getting a haircut from a neighbor of mine who was the estranged daughter of a well known documentary filmmaker. Jake noticed me standing there, and said hi and asked me if I knew of any lofts that were available for rent. As luck would have it, the loft on the floor below mine had just became vacant, and later that day Jake got in touch with the landlord and soon moved in. Jake had long given up his bubbles bangles and beads for a more conservative look and was no longer a Cockette, a cocksucker yes, but no longer a Cockette. I had no idea Jake was a former Cockette until one of his roommates told me. “You know Ira Joel besides Jake being a cocksucker he used to be a Cockette” and showed me a photo album of Jake in his many drag costumes. All of this came back to me the other week as I finally watched the documentary on the Cockettes and of course there was Jake in all his tattered glory. I was never much into them, and I didn’t even go to see them when they came to New York and delivered their disastrous performance for the difficult to please New York audiences. The documentary showed them getting quickly back on the bus to San Francisco after the New York debacle, but Jake loved New York City and soon left the fold and settled in the city. I found the Cockettes to be a little too strange even for me. I mean with those beards and gowns they kinda frighten me and they were so unprofessional and tacky. I was much more into the Theatre of The Ridiculous founded by the late great Charles Ludlum, and I never missed one of his fantastic plays. My relationship with Jake started out ok, but after a while we were not getting along at all. He had a taste for tacky forgotten show music from the 20’s and 30’s and would blast these awful songs and singers at all hours of the day and night which would rattle my nerves. He also had a terrible temper and would get into awful screaming fights with his roommates. Jake would scream foul language at them, and my roommate and me would laugh and howl at some of the things Jake would scream at the poor souls at the top of his lungs that would filter up through the porous floors and walls up to our loft. A drag queen forever. After leaving the life of drag Jake had decided to become a furniture dealer and he had a knack and a talent for this often finding great pieces of Art Deco pieces in the garbage dumps and dumpsters around the city and in the surrounding areas. Occasionally Jake would gift me with a little this or that and I still have some of the things he gave me. It wasn’t that Jake was a bad person, he was just impervious to other people’s life styles and assumed that everyone stayed up all night blasting their televisions and listening to horrible Rudy Vallee and Ruth Etting records. I had told him several times that his TV viewing at 2 and 3 in the morning was keeping my roommate and me awake and could he please keep it down. He would just look at me like I had told him the moon was made of blue cheese and the next night the loud sounds of late night TV would stomp up through his loft to mine. I started to dislike the guy, and after one nasty phone call to him early one morning, when I told him that he would never sleep again if he didn’t stop his loud playing of music and the TV at all hours of the night. We pretty much stopped speaking after that. Then I noticed that he was getting thinner and I knew Jake was sick. He never told me that he had AIDS but he didn’t have to. By that time I had already lost some friends. He started to lose his hair and developed shingles all over his face. “I’m going to go back home to Indiana for awhile Ira Joel and I’m subletting my place to a nice young man whose a performance artist.” “Great I thought, now I’m really in for it.” However the opposite was true for the performance artist turned out to be a gentle sweet and considerate young man who I really liked a lot. When Jake came back about a year later he had his mother Bathsheba with him. His mother moved in to his loft and as Jake got sicker and sicker it was her who took care of him. I tried to be as kind and helpful to them as I could, helping Bathsheba carry the groceries, getting cabs for them in the pouring rain when they had doctor appointments, things like that. I still didn’t like him though, and he was constantly yelling at me for no reason at all and even told me to go and drop dead. “Jake I think you will be doing that before me” I said. I know it wasn’t nice but I was sick of his nastiness. Soon after Jake did just that and his mother sold off all his Art Deco furniture and pottery and went back to Indiana.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I Am Thrilled

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