Sunday, May 29, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
THE BEAUTY PAGEANT
During a slow period in his career, Frank was reduced to going on the “appearance circuit”. This meant hitting the road and appearing at local events as a “celebrity”.
FRANK: I had several appearances in small towns where I was involved in celebrity events, All-Star Events, they’d call them. But the thing is, the smaller the town you would go to, you’d be lucky to have one person who would be perceived as being a celebrity, like a local football star or Tom Bosley. That’s where I would come in. This is where you would have to make an impression, one person at a time. A Frank Belmondo grass roots movement.
HAWLEY SMOOT: It’s very rare that you would have a superstar that is willing to work the circuit, but with guys like Frank, they almost have no choice. They need to get out there and meet people, open up doors.
FRANK: I had to teach myself several skills just to be able to go out on the circuit. I took classes on how to become a professional judge. Learning Annex has so much to offer. I also taught myself over two years’ time how to play golf, just so I could get into celebrity tournaments. I’m currently at an eight handicap. But do they let me play in the big celebrity tournaments, like Pebble Beach? Hell, no. They tell me I’m not a big enough celebrity, but tell me this – is Jack Wagner? The guy played Frisco Jones on General Hospital like ten years ago, and that song he did was in the late eighties? Come on!
In the summer of 1998, Frank played in six tournaments in the Great Lakes area, finishing as high as sixth in the Jesse Ventura Invitational. While Frank was able to make some money performing at the dinners held the night before the event “A few jokes, get the locals involved, keep them loose”), he wasn’t feeling like he was making a great impression.
FRANK: Sure, I was getting to play golf and make a few bucks while doing it, but I needed something more. At that moment of my career, I was at a Travelodge level. I needed to get up to a Holiday Inn level, at the least. I called Hawley and I demanded results, which is something that I rarely ever do.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Yeah, I could tell that he was serious. So I scoured the trades, kept my ear open for opportunities. Suddenly, I get a call from a friend of mine, Carl DiGregorio, who is the editor of Don’t Fade Away Monthly.
CARL DIGREGORIO, MANAGING EDITOR, DON’T FADE AWAY MONTHLY: We are a magazine that specializes in getting former celebrities who are trying to stay in the public eye some work. For example, on our cover this month we have the fabulous Bonnie Franklin, the former star of One Day at a Time, standing next to Rebecca Montenegro, the second place winner of the World’s Largest Squash competition at the Alabama State Gourd Festival. We get celebrities, or as we call them, Misplaced Stars, work appearing at conventions, boat shows, supermarket openings – we cover everything that a Misplaced Star would need.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Anyway, Carl calls me up and tells me that they had a Lance Bass incident involving the 23rd Annual Miss Allegheny County Preteen Beauty Pageant. Turns out, they thought they had Lance Bass to emcee the event, but it was an impersonator.
LANCE BASS, SINGER, *NSYNC: There’s been this guy claiming to be me, getting work from it. I don’t know how anybody could be fooled by him, though. First off, the guy can’t sing or dance. Secondly, he’s Korean.
HAWLEY SMOOT: So once Carl gives me this news I realize that Frank’s got an opportunity here to shine. So I get to work to find out where Allegheny County is, and make a few calls and – bang – Frank’s got a job.
FRANK: Allegheny County is where Pittsburgh is. I didn’t know that. And I was born, like, a three-hour drive away from there. You learn something new every day.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Frank was still getting some good heat from a Where are they Now? segment that they were running on VH-1, so much so that Who Took the Gravy? got a syndication deal on a UHF channel in the Pittsburgh area. So they were happy to have him come and host the show.
BOB BDZELIC, PRODUCER, 23rd ANNUAL MISS ALLEGHENY COUNTY PRETEEN BEAUTY PAGEANT: Frankly, when we found out that we weren’t getting Lance Bass from *NSYNC to host the show, and that the Korean kid was just not going to be a good replacement, we were desperate. But we persevered – you don’t have 22 previous Miss Allegheny County Preteen Beauty Pageants without learning to adjust. And Frank was willing to work cheap and do lots of publicity, so that was good.
FRANK: They set me up at a Sheraton – for two weeks! Class organization, I’ll tell you.
BOB BDZELIC: At first we got a lot of complaints from parents who were upset that Lance Bass wasn’t hosting the show, their kids were disappointed. So I say that we could try to get Joey Fatone, and they all shut up after that.
Frank used the first of his two weeks to appear on local radio shows such as “Beaver Falls Community Watch” and “Eye on Monroeville” to promote the event. While most of the questions asked by radio show callers were of the “Who in the hell are you?” and “Where in the hell have you been?” variety, along with one question delving into his brief career in the porn industry, Frank came off as a professional. The pageant committee, previously oblivious to the porn incident, considered letting him go. But since Frank did not appear nude in the film or commit a sex act in it, the committee stayed put.
Shortly after going through the press junket, of sorts, Frank found out something that made him look at the pageant differently.
FRANK: So I’m talking to Bob Bdzelic the day before rehearsals were to begin and he thanks me for doing so much press before the show and I thank him and things are going nice. He then says, “We would have had Jodie handle a few appearances this week, but she wasn’t available until tomorrow.” So I innocently ask who Jodie is, assuming she’s a local community celebrity, like a newscaster or a politician. Bob then tells me it’s Jodie Foster. I’m like, you mean, the Jodie Foster? The Academy Award winner? He says, yeah, her cousin is one of the members of the committee. I’m flabbergasted.
JODIE FOSTER, ACTRESS-DIRECTOR-PRODUCER: Being a former child star myself, I know how hard it is to not only get your foot in the door, but also stay there and thrive. I don’t want any of these kids to become a cautionary tale…like Frank. I mean no disrespect, but Frank would fit into the category of “cautionary tale”.
FRANK: I was torn. Here’s a great opportunity for me to show my stuff to a great talent like Jodie Foster, but I also knew that she would be the center of attention. The only way that I was going to make an impression is if I bring my A-Game.
The first day of rehearsals gave Frank an opportunity to showcase his talents. This included Frank having to sing for the first time in front of an audience.
BOB BDZELIC: In the 23 years of the Miss Allegheny County Preteen Beauty Pageant, the host of the show would always open with a song. The year before Franco Harris opened with Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”, which really brought down the house.
HAROLD BRZINSKI, MUSICAL DIRECTOR, 23rd ANNUAL MISS ALLEGHENY PRETEEN BEAUTY PAGEANT: Despite his young age, Frank had a bit of Dean Martin in him, a roguish quality. So even though this was a preteen beauty pageant, we wanted him to do something with a little swing in it, something for the ladies in the audience.
The first song that Frank was asked to sing was the Hart and Rodgers classic “The Lady is a Tramp”. However, one of the pageant committee members, Sister Mary Alice McConnell of the St. Ignatius Church in Pittsburgh, realized during the first rehearsal that the song was wildly inappropriate.
SISTER MARY ALICE MCCONNELL: Frankly, I don’t know what they were thinking.
After a meeting with Frank, Harold Brzinski and members of the committee, the group settled on another standard, the Mack Gordon/Josef Myrow tune “You Make Me Feel So Young”.
FRANK: In hindsight, I realize that may have been an inappropriate choice, as well. But you live and learn. I think that I did a commendable job, considering the circumstances. We had fun with it.
Despite the upbeat nature of rehearsals, however, a level of discomfort began to develop between Frank and Jodie.
JODIE FOSTER: I wasn’t sure what it was at the time, but every time I’d see Frank, he’d have this suspicious look on his face, like he didn’t trust me.
“CHILLY” BILLY CARDILLE, LOCAL TELEVISION HOST OF “CHILLER THEATER” (1963-1983) AND PAGEANT JUDGE: Frank thought that there was some kind of conspiracy going on, that perhaps Jodie was trying to fix the pageant.
FRANK: I’m not saying there was a conspiracy, but what the hell is Jodie Foster doing at a preteen beauty pageant in Pittsburgh? Something was fishy.
Frank also noticed that Jodie was paying – in his words – “extra attention” to one of the contestants, 12-year-old Judith Brozlofski.
“CHILLY” BILLY CARDILLE There was one girl – her name was Judith, I believe – that Jodie kept commenting on, complementing her on her poise, stuff like that. It was almost as if she was selling her to me and the other judges, trying to convince us that she was “the one”.
As the talent show began, the opening number did not have the powerful effect that Franco Harris’ number did the year before.
“CHILLY” BILLY CARDILLE: Frank did a good job, he really did, but after that song everybody felt just a little bit uncomfortable. It seemed a little bit creepy, and it kind of set a bad tone for the evening.
FRANK: Luckily I was able to get the audience with the monologue. I’m a professional. I know how to bounce back.
While backstage, during a commercial break, Frank had a brief discussion with one of the stagehands, Pete Dinunzio.
PETE DINUNZIO, PROFESSIONAL STAGEHAND: One of my jobs was to collect the judges’ scorecards and bring them to the accountant tabulating the results backstage. Frank comes up to me and says that he thinks that something’s up with Jodie Foster, and to see if there are any “irregularities” with her judging, specifically with this one girl. He says there’s a twenty in it for me, which, by the way, I still haven’t seen one penny of. But that didn’t matter, because if you take out that one year where I was suspended I’ve been a stagehand at the Miss Allegheny County Preteen Beauty Pageant for fifteen straight years. I would never want this pageant’s integrity to be compromised.
Indeed, if there was one person that Frank could rely on to uphold the integrity of the Miss Allegheny County Preteen Beauty Pageant, it was Pete Dinunzio. Dismissing the one year in which he was suspended from working, Dinunzio constantly oversaw that the rules and regulations of the pageant were followed. In fact, in 1989 it was Dinunzio who broke the story that one of the contestants was, in fact, married. “You can’t have a Missus in a Miss pageant,” Dinunzio said to local reporters.
During the first two rounds of competition – the evening gown spectacular and the current events showcase, where each contestant had to read an essay about an issue affecting Allegheny County in the news – Foster had indeed given the highest score to Brozlofski in both rounds.
FRANK: Okay, the evening gown I’ll give her. She had a nice dress and she walked with good posture. But the current events showcase? Come on, she talked about littering, for crissake! With all of the stuff in the world going on, and she gets the highest score for that? One girl did five minutes on NAFTA and how it would affect the steel industry in Allegheny County. And she gets the top score for littering? Come on!
JODIE FOSTER: I felt that the girl that spoke about NAFTA was a little long-winded and didn’t prove all of her arguments, specifically in regard to her projections for increased unemployment rates in Allegheny County over the next three to five years. A freshman economics student at a junior college could have busted holes into her argument.
Things really came to a boil after the talent competition, where Foster once again gave the highest score to Brozlofski.
FRANK: Okay, by the time they get to the talent show section of the show, there are only twelve girls left. Out of the twelve, seven of them do baton acts. Seven, including that Brozlofski girl. Foster gives her a score a whole point higher than everyone else. And it’s not like she had her batons on fire or anything like that. She was just twirling them. So I just lose it.
JODIE FOSTER: We hit a commercial break and I go backstage to stretch my legs and use the restroom. Frank comes barreling at me like a man possessed, screaming “J’Accuse! J’Accuse!” I don’t know why he was screaming in French. Then he says, “You’re ruining the integrity of the Miss Allegheny County Preteen Beauty Pageant!” He says it several times.
FRANK: So I ask her how she could give that girl such a consistently higher score than the rest of the girls. She looks me straight in the eye and says, “She has a star quality.” When I hear that, I’m just shocked, just completely shocked. So I push her. Maybe that was a mistake.
A melee ensued in which a dozen people shove, punch and throw objects within a confined area. Foster managed to avoid any injury, but Frank received scratches over his eye and a slight concussion when a beer bottle hit him in the head.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Frank at the time didn’t tell me anything about Jodie, so when I see him get into a fistfight, I was as surprised as anyone. I believe that Jodie’s agent was the one with the bottle, but I can’t prove that. But after control was restored, and we were able to get back to the show, Frank showed once again why he is a real trooper. He said, “Just stitch me up and get me back in there, coach.” I’m not sure if it was the concussion that made him call me coach, but he was still ready to entertain.
TONY CARDELLA, DIRECTOR, 23RD ANNUAL MISS ALLEGHENY COUNTY PRETEEN BEAUTY PAGEANT: We had this clip prepared in case there were some stage problems about the history of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture in Western Pennsylvania, so we ran that while Frank was stitched up. When he came back out on stage, we did have a slight problem where he was responding out loud to everything I was saying to him in his earpiece for a few moments, and while interviewing one of the contestants for the question and answer portion of the show he called her Pepe. But overall he did a good job.
In order to preserve the integrity of the voting, Jodie agreed to not have her votes counted. Despite her bowing out of the judging, Judith Brozlofski still won the pageant by an overwhelming margin.
“CHILLY” BILLY CARDILLE: I can’t explain it. She just had that star quality. I saw it in Vampira, too, but in a completely different way. You can’t deny it when it is there.
FRANK: She was a nice girl and all, and I was happy to see her win, but I just didn’t see that “star quality” thing in her. Maybe it’s just me. Go figure.
Two years after winning the 23rd Annual Miss Allegheny County Preteen Beauty Pageant, Judith Brozlofski was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar® for her role in the Jodie Foster-directed Water Under the Bridge, where she played Maxine, a young girl suffering through kidney failure. To this date, there is no proof that Brozlofski and Foster had any prior connection to Foster or that she is related to her.
Frank and Jodie made up shortly after the pageant. When asked by a reporter if Frank could ever appear in one of her films, Jodie replied, “Not a chance in hell.”
(To see Chapter 14, click here)
(To see Chapter 14, click here)
Saturday, May 21, 2011
INTERVIEW WITH HAWLEY SMOOT, TEN PERCENTER MAGAZINE, JULY, 1997
The following is an interview with Frank’s second agent, Hawley Smoot, unedited. Excerpts of this interview appeared in Ten Percenter magazine (“The Magazine for Agents by Agents”) as part of a feature entitled “Resuscitating the Dead – When You Have a Star that’s lost Its Luster”. Thanks to the tape recordings of the interviewer, Stan Shebak, we are able to show you the interview in its entirety.
At the time of the interview, Hawley did not know the topic of the article and has since sued the magazine for libel, claiming that Frank Belmondo is not dead. The magazine claims that the title of the article is merely referring to Belmondo’s career and has nothing to do with his state of being. The case has not yet gone to trial, but according to Smoot, he feels “oddly confident” that things will go in his favor.
10%: Hawley Smoot, that’s an interesting name. Were you named after the 1930 tariff act that was passed during the Hoover administration?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Yes, as a matter of fact, I was. My mother named me. She was a big fan of tariffs, actually, although I have no idea why. She was originally going to name me Payne Aldrich, after a 1909 tariff during the Taft administration. She went with Hawley Smoot, instead. Smoot’s actually my middle name.
10%: I did not know that. What’s your last name?
HAWLEY SMOOT: I’d rather not say.
10%: Alright then…since your mother is so interested in tariffs, did she know that the passing of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act was one of the measures that helped put us deeper into the Great Depression? It was quite detrimental to the United States economy, I do believe.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Well, she was a big fan of tariffs, but I think that she wasn’t very knowledgeable about them. She was like – you know the people in the first ten rows of a Lakers game? They’re constantly there, they know an event is occurring in front of them, yet they can’t tell you anything relevant about it. My mom was that way with tariffs. If she had realized the effects of Hawley-Smoot, maybe she would have named me differently. But my mom was a good woman. Very strong, like an ox. Broad back for a woman, God love her. I think that is one of the things that Frank and I have in common – we both have physically strong mothers.
10%: So, you’re fairly new in the agent business…what was your previous occupation?
HAWLEY SMOOT: It’s not my previous occupation; I still do it, on the side. I’m in the import-export business, but I’m much stronger in regard to the export side.
10%: That’s funny.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Why?
10%: Well, you’re named after a tariff act, and you’re in the import-export business.
HAWLEY SMOOT: I had never thought of that. Huh. Somebody should write that down.
10%: I just did.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Good, that’s good.
10%: What do you export?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Things that need to be sent out of the country.
10%: Such as…?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Things that are sold elsewhere.
10%: You’re not going to tell me exactly what you export, are you?
HAWLEY SMOOT: I don’t see that happening at any time during this interview. Nothing illegal, mind you, but I refuse to discuss it. There are many eyes and ears out there.
10%: Fair enough.
HAWLEY SMOOT: I’ll just say this – it has absolutely nothing to do with monkeys.
10%: I don’t even know how to respond to that. Let’s change the subject. How do you go from the import-export business to talent management?
HAWLEY SMOOT: I had been helping out one of my neighbors, Wink Martindale (former host of the game show Tic-Tac-Dough), with some business advice, and I had realized that I was pretty good at it. It had gotten to the point that Wink made me his unofficial business manager. While that was quite lucrative, I wanted to do more in the entertainment industry. I wanted to be making deals. That’s when Frank Belmondo came into my life.
10%: What was your first meeting with Frank like?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Well, he was going through a spiritual low point in his life. Professionally, he wasn’t too hot, either. I saw him at the Circle Bar, this joint that I used to frequent. He was trying to master the art of Hi-Ball consumption, if you know what I mean. He wasn’t very good at it, either. Some drunks have style – Peter O’Toole was a great drinker, and Bukowski…even Foster Brooks, he had his own thing. Dean Martin, William Faulkner…anyway, I’m rambling. With Frank, the only personality traits that he had as a drunk were mumbling and sweating profusely. You can’t even pick up bar floozies looking for a free drink with that going for you. Luckily for him, I recognized Frank from the tabloids, and I offered to help.
10%: What was your plan of action in regard to rejuvenating Frank’s career?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Fortunately for me, Frank’s career arc couldn’t get any lower. My first step was to give Frank a sense of stability. I had to get Frank off of the idea of being a drunk. Not to quit drinking, exactly, just to not do it in excess. I’d be a hypocrite if I told anybody to quit drinking. I like a nice shot of Johnny Walker Black just as much as the next person. Besides, Frank had only been a drunk for about two weeks, so he wasn’t in too deep. After getting that working, I had to get Frank to trust me.
10%: How did you do that?
HAWLEY SMOOT: I knew that Frank was an outdoorsman of sorts, so I took him puma hunting.
10%: Puma hunting?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Yeah.
10%: Aren’t puma an endangered species? You can’t hunt puma.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Not if it is done in defense.
10%: How is it done in defense?
HAWLEY SMOOT: We’d use one of the members of the tour group as a lure, more or less.
10%: What do you mean by “a lure, more or less”?
HAWLEY SMOOT: The person who pulled the short straw would have to wear a meat necklace.
10%: A meat necklace?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Yeah.
10%: What’s a—
HAWLEY SMOOT: It’s a necklace made of meat…marinated tri-tip, to be exact. When the puma would come out and try to get the meat necklace, we would have to defend the guy with the lure…I’m saying too much.
10%: This all sounds morally reprehensible.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Hey, we’re not here to talk about ethics or morals. We’re here to talk about talent management and representation. Anyway, we learned a lot about each other on that trip. We’re both alpha males. We both wanted to lead the hunt. Also, Frank is an excellent marksman. Those two weeks that Frank tried to be a drunk didn’t seem to affect him at all. In fact, he seemed invigorated. I knew that we had him on the right track.
10%: What kind of work were you looking for Frank? What was your battle plan?
HAWLEY SMOOT: We couldn’t just make Frank into a superstar. We had two choices: work the grass roots movement, or go the kitschy route. Since Quentin Tarantino wasn’t calling to give Frank a part in his next movie, we went the grass roots route. Meet the people. Maybe from that we’d get a call from Quentin. We had him appear on a bunch of local morning radio shows. I told Frank to just be honest. Spill the beans. People want to hear all of the sordid stuff, sex, drugs and the like. Give the people what they want.
10%: Isn’t that a little humiliating?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Hey, it worked so well that it got him a regular gig on a morning show in Los Angeles, Marky Stark and his Funny Bunch. He appeared as one of their Band of Loonies, along with Francisco the Midget Accordion Player, Ben with the Lazy Eye, and Clara the Dyslexic Transsexual Court Stenographer.
10%: A guy with a lazy eye on the radio? I don’t get it.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Between the two of us, he didn’t really have a lazy eye, but I didn’t get the whole joke, either. But, hey, morning radio is a tough business, and you’d be surprised how much mileage they got out of that. The kids just ate it up.
10%: I believe it was that time on the radio show that Frank got a small part in a film, correct?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Hey, you did your homework! Yeah, this music video director, his name was Skye Comanche, he had directed a bunch of videos for Ludacris or Ja Rule or somebody like that, and he had his first feature. It was one of those urban street dramas that are supposed to be cautionary tales but end up glamorizing the whole gangsta scene, with the Cristal and bling-bling and all that. Frank played White Devil #3. It gave Frank some much-needed street cred.
10%: Where, in the grand scheme of things, do you see Frank in the near future?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Frank Belmondo is a special talent. Truly underrated. Someday there’s going to be a visionary who is going to be able to harness his talent and bring him back to the stratosphere where he belongs. So I say to the casting directors, film producers and student filmmakers of the world, take a chance on Frank. You may be pleasantly surprised.
(To see Chapter 13, click here)
(To see Chapter 13, click here)
Friday, May 20, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
FRANK BURNS DOWN AN ASHRAM
FRANK: Shortly after the whole Menagerie incident, I found myself walking around town a lot, especially down at the Venice Boardwalk. It was comforting for me to see people crazier than I was, I guess. The whole thing kept me from going over the top.
SUNSHINE EPIPHANY, F.K.A. HELEN KETTERING, FORMER MEMBER, THE SOLEMN VOW: Normally, our group focused on recruiting teenagers, runaways who were looking for somebody to listen to them…but one of our members kept seeing Morning Dew – that was Frank’s chosen name – walking around our spot on the Boardwalk where we chanted. When he told our leader, North Star, that Frank was a struggling, somewhat famous actor, North Star knew that he would be valuable to us, as well as easily susceptible.
FRANK: Their chanting and their drums that they were playing had a good beat and the whole thing was easy to dance to. I’d always to make sure that I would stop for a listen. It made me feel good. Next thing you know, this woman, this beautiful woman, comes up and starts talking to me. At first I took her as a fan, but then I realized that wasn’t the case. It’s refreshing, actually, as there’s nothing worse than a woman trying to latch on to your celebrity. She told me her name was Sunshine Epiphany. I’ll never forget that moment.
SUNSHINE EPIPHANY: I was brought in as a closer with the men. Guys seemed to respond to me well. I’d wear this white dress that was low-cut, and I wouldn’t wear a bra. But I noticed that Frank never looked down at my chest. He was always looking into my eyes. That impressed me. Most guys become hypnotized by breasts, it seems.
FRANK: Trust me, I noticed her rack. Great rack. Like two ripe casabas. Very impressive. One of the gifts that I developed over the years with women is to always make women think that I’m looking into their eyes, but, trust me, I’m checking out the whole package. Oh, yeah, and listening is important, too. Yeah.
Within days, Frank was attending The Solemn Vow’s meetings, which were held at a strip mall in Culver City, California.
NORTH STAR, F.K.A. BEN JEFFRIES, LEADER OF THE SOLEMN VOW: I worked in commercial real estate before I found my calling. I still had a few friends in the business and they would let me use abandoned office spaces for our meetings. The place we were using in Culver City used to be a Kinko’s.
FRANK: Being a new member, the first thing that I had to do was buy a robe. Luckily, the group had its own website (www.solemnvowsuperstore.com), so I was able to order one from there. But it cost me $189! What a gyp! For polyester, too, not silk. Come on!
NORTH STAR: The Solemn Vow follows Zhao the Guardian, who is our benevolent savior. I saw him in a vision on my front lawn during a period in my life where I was going through a really rough patch. Zhao is the keeper of all of the animals, and he is pure and wise. When I saw him he told me that I needed help and that he would show me the way. I immediately went inside of my house and started writing copiously, channeling Zhao’s philosophies into written form. Through Zhao I finally had purpose in life, and I finally had direction. It was up to me to pass on the word of Zhao.
FRANK: Mostly, the Solemn Vow made me in charge of refreshments. Not many people know this, but I make one hell of a chai tea latte. What’s my secret? A little extra dash of chai…and a whole lotta love. One time, I tried to shorthand the beverage thing and just bring in a case of Mountain Dew – as a joke, you know, playing off of my name and all that – and they got very upset, especially North Star. The Solemn Vow has a thing about no carbonated beverages. In fact, it’s in their bylaws.
THE OFFICAL BYLAWS OF THE SOLEMN VOW
(Including commentary from Frank)
- ALWAYS REMEMBER THE SOLEMN VOW.
FRANK: It’s funny. During the whole time I was there, they never told me what the Solemn Vow was. That kind of makes it hard to remember it.
- WE ARE, WE ARE, WE ARE BUT ZHAO’S CHILDREN.
FRANK: I assume that Zhao had nothing to do with the fact that their second bylaw was completely lifted from a lyric in an Icicle Works song. That was a good song, though, “Whisper to a Scream”. I wonder whatever happened to that band…
- NO CARBONATED BEVERAGES!
FRANK: It seems kind of high on the list, don’t you think?
NORTH STAR: What Morning Dew fails to understand is that in order to complete the cleansing process, one must be free of impurities, including carbonation. Burps are the devil’s foghorn. Zhao was very clear about this.
- BEFRIEND ALL MEMBERS OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM, BUT ALSO UNDERSTAND THEIR ROLE IN OUR LIVES.
FRANK: This just means that you can be an animal rights person, but that it’s okay to eat meat. One of my first nights with the Vow, I remember, we had a pig spit and beer can chicken. Say what you want about them, they sure did know how to barbecue.
- EVERYTHING IN NATURE IS FOR OUR USE. USE IT IN ABUNDANCE.
FRANK: Weed! Come on, you couldn’t figure that one out? They grew their own. They smoked so much they would make Tommy Chong go “Whoa, slow down.”
- THE LIGHT THAT SHINES ON YOUR PERSON IS THE AWAKENING OF ONE’S SELF THROUGH THE POWER OF THE VOW AND THE KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU ARE FREE TO USE SAID KNOWLEDGE TO AWAKEN ONESELF.
FRANK: I have no clue. No clue. Maybe this had something to do with all the weed they smoked.
- NAMYAN DADPA GANZIG
SUNSHINE EPIPHANY: Morning Dew came to me and said that he was concerned, that he doubted the legitimacy of the organization and the existence of Zhao. Considering his celebrity, I was afraid that if he came out with this news to the public, this would create quite a scandal. Not a big scandal, mind you – he wasn’t that big of a celebrity – but a scandal, nonetheless. So I slept with him. It kept him quiet for a couple of weeks. I was thinking about doing it, anyway, and this just accelerated the process.
FRANK: Man, what a lover she was! Very passionate, almost like there was this desperation in her.
With the continued promise of sex from Sunshine, Frank managed to keep quiet and he did not investigate the purpose of the Vow, but an incident involving Frank and cat food caused Frank to reconsider.
FRANK: I was running errands for North Star, and he asked me to stop by his house and feed his pets. When I got there I realized that he was out of cat food – two of North Star’s cats ate this special kind of cat food because they were both diabetic. So I find out where the nearest pet store is and I go over to pick up a few cans. When I get in there, the owner sees me in my robe and completely flips.
HENRY ZHAO, OWNER, HENRY’S EXOTIC ANIMALS: Ben Jeffries, that freak, is my neighbor. I tried to get him out of our community but he wouldn’t leave. One time he was completely drugged out on his front lawn, so I go out to him and tell him that he needs help and that I’d take him to the hospital. I am a good neighbor, even if he is a freak. He tells me that I am a god and that he wants to worship me. I tell him to piss off, but next time I see him he’s walking around in a robe and people are following him around.
FRANK: At first, my instinct was to disregard him and just get the cat food and get out of there. When you’re walking around in a white robe in the middle of the day in Burbank, you have to be prepared for those kinds of comments. But as the pet store owner is yelling at me, this guy walks through the front door and says, “Hello, Mr. Zhao, do you have any of that special shampoo for my hamster?” It took me a few moments to get over the hamster shampoo remark, but once I got my head back together, I talked to Mr. Zhao and he told me the whole story about North Star and him hallucinating on his front lawn. All of my fears about North Star were confirmed.
An angry Frank raced over to The Compound, a special facility that The Solemn Vow used for meditation, to confront North Star.
FRANK: The Compound was an abandoned preschool in Inglewood where the members of the Vow would go to get high. They said that the place was used for praying, but when I saw North Star sitting at their altar – it was really just parts from an old jungle gym in the preschool – he was using a bong that he made from a hollowed-out bowling pin. While I give him credit for such a creative use of a bowling pin, in my mind, the jig was up.
SUNSHINE EPIPHANY: Morning Dew comes barreling into the place and starts yelling at North Star, saying he’s a fraud and that The Solemn Vow is a sham. North Star sits there quietly, taking it all in, and then he asks Morning Dew if he’s fed the cats. When Morning Dew says “no”, North Star loses it, too, yelling that his cats are diabetic and that they need their special cat food and that Morning Dew was being really irresponsible. Then North Star starts asking the rest of us if anybody could run over to Subway for him, that he was starving. This made Morning Dew even more upset, and the next thing you know, the two of them are pushing each other. I knew that my sleeping with either of them – or both of them – would not fix this situation.
FRANK: We’re pushing each other around, and his bowling pin bong flies out of his hand and, the next thing you know, the jungle gym – North Star called it an ashram, for crying out loud – is surrounded by fire. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the fire did a lot of damage to the place. Since the members of The Vow were trespassing, everyone ran like hell in different directions. I don’t know what happened to everyone after that.
SUNSHINE EPIPHANY: The fire was like a great revelation to me. It truly opened my eyes. I knew then that I was destined to follow another path, to follow the path that was truly destined for me. I knew that I had to become a dental assistant. As if a spirit was guiding me, I walked over to a pay phone and called the toll-free number for the school that advertised on late night television and I started my new life as a dental assistant. I am proud to say that I am still following that bliss.
CALLING BIRD, F.K.A. GORDON WINTHROP, FORMER MEMBER OF THE SOLEMN VOW: The fire just meant that I had to find a new place to smoke. Most of the people in the group were just in it for the pot. North Star had some wicked shit.
NORTH STAR: I got blamed for the fire, which sucked. It was a space that my friend was trying to rent out and it was my responsibility. I couldn’t mention The Vow to the police because I was afraid that it could hurt me with my taxes. I got probation for the whole thing, paid a fine…
I don’t feel any hostility toward Frank. It was a fun ride, and I still had my commercial real estate work to fall back on. Surprisingly enough, my criminal record didn’t affect me at all – it turns out that 37% of all people in the commercial real estate business in California have a criminal record. To tell you the truth, it may have helped it a bit.
While the members of The Solemn Vow found new directions in life to take, Frank was still searching for his own path.
FRANK: I briefly tried drinking, to see how that would work out as a future, but I realized that I wasn’t a very good drunk and I hated the fact that my clothes started to smell of urine. Thankfully, Hawley Smoot came into my life and he got me back on track.
HAWLEY SMOOT, IMPORTER/EXPORTER AND TALENT AGENT: I had been doing the agent thing as a side project, just to kill some time and make a few extra bucks. But when I saw Frank nearly passed out at the Circle Bar, I realized that he was my chance, I truly believed this, to make talent management at least a legitimate part-time occupation. And, of course, I wanted to help Frank, too.
(To see Chapter 12, click here)
(To see Chapter 12, click here)
Thursday, May 5, 2011
AN UNFORTUNATE MISTAKE
FRANK: I don’t know why I did it. You first see it as a stupid joke, a “Yeah, wouldn’t it be funny if I did that?” But then the consequences aren’t factored in, you know? Maybe I was being fatalistic. Maybe I thought that my career was over. I know that I needed the money. I don’t know.
VITTORIO DE KINKA, ADULT FILM DIRECTOR: They happened to be having a Stars of Yesteryear convention at the same hotel as the adult film expo that we were having, at the same time. It made for some great moments in the lobby. I remember Nina Hartley and one of the Darrins from Bewitched getting into this complete shouting match – you see, they had adjoining rooms and one of Nina’s vibrators was making way too much noise. The damn vibrator was keeping him awake at night. What planning by that hotel! Anyway, I end up running into Belmondo while waiting in line to check in.
FRANK: So, I’m waiting in line to check into the hotel, and I’m looking around, and I joke, “This looks like a goddamned porno convention in here. This guy, Vittorio, turns around and tells me that it is. For a moment I think that I’m in the wrong hotel, but I’m reassured that I’m not and that everything’s okay.
VITTORIO DE KINKA: I realize who Frank is, and I notice that he’s a decent-looking guy, tall, relatively fit. So I say half-jokingly, “Have you ever thought of a career in adult films?” He laughs, politely says no, but you can tell that he’s seriously thinking about my question. I’ve piqued his interest.
FRANK: I had never pictured myself as an adult film star. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got the goods, believe me. It’s just that I never saw that as a career. But my agent, Buck, wasn’t getting me any work. The last thing that he set up for me, he had me go to this producer’s house in Malibu for a meet-and-greet and all the guy wanted to see was me playing ping-pong in my underwear. As you can obviously guess, I wasn’t too happy about that.
VITTORIO DE KINKA: He took my card, but I wasn’t expecting to hear from him. A week later, I get a call from him. We set up a meeting, he comes to my office in Van Nuys, and the first thing that comes out of his mouth is, “I’ve been reading a lot of Tennessee Williams lately.” I had no idea where he was going with this, but I was intrigued.
FRANK: I spent that week from the time that I met Vittorio to our meeting in his office watching nothing but porn. You know, as research. I had watched about 32 of them, straight porn, girl-on-girl, fetish, midgets, the whole thing. What I noticed was that every one of those films had the same problem – poor story structure. So, I say to myself, where do you find good story structure? The classics. Not necessarily Shakespeare, that would be too bold and Shakespeare’s been run around the block too many times. But Pinter, Chekhov, Tennessee Williams…there’s a way to make those work; I’d just have to add fucking.
Frank presented to de Kinka the concept of taking classic theatre pieces and turning them into adult films. De Kinka immediately embraced the concept and two titles were put into pre-production, both based on plays by Williams. Frank would write, co-produce and appear in both productions, The Ass Menagerie and A Street-Ho Named Desiree.
VITTORIO DE KINKA: Normally, pre-production would last about three or four days, tops. Scripts are written on the fly. But with this one we decided to give Frank some time to develop these pieces. I felt that these two films would be a breakthrough in the adult film industry, sort of like how Deep Throat opened up the public to…uh, deep throating. Not only that, but having someone like Frank involved – say what you want, he’s still somewhat of a celebrity – and his involvement in the project adds a level of intrigue to the project. I paid Frank an advance immediately – I wasn’t going to lose this idea. Then I told him to start cracking.
FRANK: Buck wasn’t happy with my decision. But it was more money that I had gotten from him in the last year.
LEONARD “BUCK” FENITA: I represent quite a diverse group of individuals – clowns, magicians, pet psychics – but I don’t work in porno. Even an agent must have his limits. It was time to cut ties with Frank.
FRANK: It was sad to lose Buck, but there are times when a young actor has to say to himself, “I don’t need guidance. I have to make business decisions on my own.” I know, I know what you’re thinking, I don’t have a formal education and I’ve never actually handled my own money, but I’ve lived, okay? That should be enough.
Frank was given two months to create a first draft of Menagerie; Desiree would come later. Frank took his advance and drove up to Carmel, California, a town best known as the one in which Clint Eastwood was once their mayor. Frank rented a cabin, which gave him the time to be alone with his thoughts.
FRANK: During my time in Carmel, I had originally planned to eat only food that I had caught, so I brought my crossbow and rod-and-reel. But then I realized that Carmel was more of a resort town, and that crossbow hunting wasn’t an option. Also, I usually only fish for sport, as I’m not much of a fish-eater. Besides, I found out that Carmel has some really nice restaurants up there, top-notch, and I wasn’t going to let that opportunity go to waste.
Meanwhile, down in Van Nuys, a great amount of buzz was being created over the new project.
VITTORIO DE KINKA: We started a word-of-mouth campaign that started getting everyone in the industry very excited. Several of the top actresses in the business so much wanted to be a part of the project that they started taking actual acting classes. Method acting! You never hear about that.
LEZLEY PUNANI, ADULT FILM STARLET: In my class, it was the first time that I started performing in pieces where there were four-syllable words other than “penetration”.
AL GOLDSTEIN, PUBLISHER, SCREW MAGAZINE: I was very curious to see how Belmondo would combine the Southern lyricism of Tennessee Williams with hot girl-on-girl action.
But during this time in Carmel, Frank learned that writing a script for an adult film was not going to be easy.
FRANK: After struggling for several weeks with the script for Menagerie, I decided to write down a list of issues that I was having with the script.
FRANK’S LIST OF ISSUES WITH THE SCRIPT OF THE ASS MENAGERIE
- Tennessee Williams was a really good writer. Don’t want to cheapen his work with a poorly-written script.
- Only four characters in The Glass Menagerie. Three of them are family. Will need to add more characters so the whole thing doesn’t get creepy. Consider adding lesbians.
- Should probably change references to the pre-World War II climate to something more current. Perhaps Operation Desert Storm could have a few sexual connotations.
- Instead of having a collection of glass animal figurines, Laura’s collection could be Kama Sutra statues. Possible co-promotion there. Remember to talk to Vittorio about that.
- Laura’s weak leg will not work in an adult film. Give her another ailment. Nymphomania? Or maybe the weak leg could bring in a kink audience. Tough call.
FRANK: For a while there, I was thinking that I should have tried Jane Austen, instead. But I’m not a quitter.
VITTORIO DE KINKA: When Frank came back from Carmel, he only had 29 pages completed, and he had gained 12 pounds. Don’t get me wrong, there was some brilliant stuff in those 29 pages, but there was only one sex scene and it was in the missionary position, for crying out loud. Let’s face it, most people fall asleep after ten minutes of an adult film – they do their business and that’s it. If we were trying to create something that transcends the genre, we can’t have them falling asleep through five minutes without even doing their business. That’ll just make people angry.
FRANK: I realized that I had to get focused. I agreed to pump up the sexual content, which, it turns out, was surprisingly easy – when Amanda talks about the day that she received seventeen gentlemen callers in a single afternoon, make it a three-way flashback; when Laura is polishing her figurines, morph it into a sex fantasy; when Tom says he’s going to the movies, have him go to a bordello, instead. It all started to come together. I didn’t realize how easy it was to turn Tennessee Williams into hard-core porn. Maybe I just had a block in Carmel.
But while the writing was going much better for Frank, there was still one hurdle for him to clear – acting in an adult film.
VITTORIO DE KINKA: Yes, Frank had acted before, it’s true. But acting in an adult film is much, much different. It takes a certain kind of…mental toughness, let’s say…to handle it. We decided that we needed Frank to appear in a smaller-scale scenario, just to see what he can do.
The producers of the film had a meeting and it was agreed that Frank would appear in a test scene with veteran adult film starlet Holland Tunnell. The scene would be shot one week from the day of the meeting.
VITTORIO DI KINKA: For the test scene, we had problems right from the beginning. First, Frank insisted that he wear a Mexican wrestling mask during the entire scene.
FRANK: I was always a big fan of Mil Mascaras, the old-time Mexican wrestler. It was a tribute, really.
VITTORIO DE KINKA: The next thing, he wanted the scene shot in 70MM film. Do you know how expensive that would be? We’re not shooting Ben-Hur, and, last time I checked, my name wasn’t Vittorio Spielberg. He also wanted, Jesus Christ, the original cast recording of Sunday in the Park with George. Not to mention, his performance, well…
HOLLAND TUNNELL, ADULT FILM STARLET: The guy screwed so bad…it was like watching a dog trying to drive a car. He had no idea what he was doing.
FRANK: I have to admit, I was nervous. I also was trying to do a couple of new things that I read in a book. I wanted to take adult films to somewhere it hadn’t gone before. Maybe I was overreaching.
HOLLAND TUNNELL: At one point I think he was trying to stick his dick in my ear. A Chinese virgin with the hiccups would’ve had a better performance. It was like watching Jean Van de Velde in the 1999 British Open, what a choke. I’m a big golfing fan, by the way.
VITTORIO DE KINKA: This put us in a delicate situation. We needed Frank to appear in a film, to build up some credibility in the market. Also, we wanted Frank to feel like he was still involved in the process. My production crew sat down and we came up with Frankie Belmondo’s Peephole Classics.
The idea behind the project was to put Frank in voyeuristic scenarios where he would walk in on sexual situations. Frank would act as an investigative reporter studying the sex lives of suburban America. But even that proved to be difficult, as Frank had constant squabbles on-set with di Kinka.
The following is an excerpt from newly-discovered behind-the-scenes footage from the filming of Frankie Belmondo’s Peephole Classics, Vol. 1:
DI KINKA: Okay, Frank, you’re going to walk through the door and you’ll see Rebecca and Tiffany on the dining room table. Then you say your line. You know your line?
FRANK: Sure. (louder) Hey, that’s a vagina!
DI KINKA: Good, good.
FRANK: Hey, V, I was wondering, what’s my motivation for this scene?
DI KINKA: Your motivation?
FRANK: Yeah, what am I feeling at this moment?
DI KINKA: I know what motivation means.
FRANK: Oh, sorry. So, what’s my motivation?
DI KINKA: You’re surprised to see a vagina.
FRANK: I see, I see. What if I said the line as, “Say, that’s a vagina!”
DI KINKA: No, no, I think “Hey” works much better.
FRANK: Okay…but what about a trumpet?
DI KINKA: A trumpet?
FRANK: A trumpet. Wouldn’t it be great if – hear me out on this one – after I say the line, you have a trumpet going WINK-wah, sort of like a Laugh-In kind of moment. Give the scene a little levity.
DI KINKA: (long pause) I don’t think so.
FRANK: Uh, okay, maybe you’re right.
Di Kinka walks away, the CLAPPER stands in front of camera with the clapboard.
CLAPPER: Peephole Classics, scene four, take one.
DI KINKA: And…action!
Rebecca and Tiffany, both naked, start making love to each other on top of the dining room table. Moments later, Frank barges into the room.
FRANK: Hey, that’s a – you know what, V, I’m not feeling this line reading.
VITTORIO DI KINKA: We realized that Frank was just not cut out for an acting role in one of our films. It just wasn’t going to work.
FRANK: To be told that you’re not a good enough actor for porn…that, that’s just something that’s really hard to take. It was definitely a low point in my career,
VITTORIO DI KINKA: We were just going to produce the Menagerie script for Frank, but then the estate of Tennessee Williams got word of our production and all hell broke loose. They threatened us with lawsuits; it would’ve been quite ugly. It’s a shame, really. He may not be able to act in adult films, but he could write one hell of a script. It would have moved adult films into a whole new realm. Imagine…legitimate scripts with real acting…
FRANK: At that point I was adrift, searching for some guidance. I guess that I was susceptible to temptation, and that’s when Martina appeared.
MARTINA SUNSHINE, MEMBER, THE SOLEMN VOW: I saw Frank on the Venice Boardwalk. We recruit members there. Usually, they’re homeless teenagers or drug addicts, people lost in the world, so we saw getting Frank to join our collective as being a real coup. The Solemn Vow’s goal is to help people find spiritual harmony within the universe through our teachings and give them a sense of self-worth.
FRANK: I just thought that Martina was really cute, and that we could hang out, that’s all.
(To see Chapter 11, click here)
(To see Chapter 11, click here)