Thursday, June 30, 2011

FROM THE ASHES: THE FRANK BELMONDO STORY, CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XVIII

A FEW FINAL WORDS FROM FRANK BELMONDO

Three hours before the debut of The Lost Trucker of Cedar Creek in Carnegie Hall, Frank wrote the following while on his laptop computer for use as the final chapter of his biography. Frank had completed reading the first draft of the first seventeen chapters that morning, and, as always, he had a few comments.

Dear Reader,

When I was first approached by Shawn Hugus to write the story of my life, I was in a state of confusion about where I was headed in my life and the decisions that I had made to put me where I was. I hadn’t yet planned my dance comeback and I was drifting. To be honest, I agreed to have the book written not only for financial reasons, but for also - more or less - as a form of therapy, to understand my place in this world. After reading the first draft of the book so far, I realize that I have lived a pretty screwed-up life. Fun, but screwed-up.

Despite that, I have to say that I’m happy with the results of the book, and I am grateful for all of the people who volunteered to be a part of the interview process. I especially want to thank Reza Belmondo, my birth mother. Someday I may get the nerve to go visit her at the penitentiary, but that’s an emotional wall that I really haven’t even begun to scale.  Bear with me, Reza.

As for the writing, I’m okay with it, I guess. The only issue that I have with it is that it’s too short. Going onto the web with my laptop, I found several biographies that were much larger. To name a few:

John Adams, by David McCullough – 752 pages.
Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio, by Jeffrey Kluger, 384 pages.

Brad & Jen: the Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Golden Couple, by Joey Bartolomeo, Mara Reinstein, 216 pages.

Nails, by Lenny Dykstra, 215 pages.

Okay, I know that John Adams was the President of the United States (Second? Third? I’m never sure), and one of the founding fathers of our country, but, come on, he’s been dead for almost two hundred years! There’s not even one eyewitness alive to corroborate any of what he’s done. For all I know, all of the stuff in the book could’ve been fiction. And to have this book be over five times as long as my book, I’m sorry, I have to take issue.

Now, Jonas Salk, I can understand why somebody would write a biography about him. I mean, he cured polio, for crying out loud. But did he ever get into a fist fight with Jodie Foster? I never read anything that said that he did, so I’m going to say “no”. I think that both books should be about the same size.

The Brad and Jen book came out, like, a week after they broke up, and they were able to get 216 pages out of it, boom. That’s some investigative journalism, my friend. Forget Woodward and Bernstein, give Bartolomeo and Reinstein a Pulitzer. My writer had almost a year to put my book together, and it was about 90 pages less than this one, not counting the part that I wrote…come to think of it, he took two magazine interviews, too, and that’s like another 12 pages he didn’t write! What did my biographer do, anyway?

Now Nails was the only one of these books that I have read, and it was good. Lenny Dykstra was like the Mark Twain of baseball. A crude, vulgar Mark Twain, but you get the point. I know that he had a ghostwriter, but the book’s all Lenny. I think that if any athlete should be writing fiction, it should be Lenny Dykstra. He could be a Larry McMurtry type. The reason that I bring Nails up is that the book was basically about one year and it was also about 90 pages longer than my book, which covered my whole life. Maybe I should have had Lenny Dykstra write my book.

Wait, I’m working myself into a lather before the biggest night of my life. Time to calm down. There, much better. Actually, Shawn did a good job. I shouldn’t be so hard on him. My life had a lot of warts, and Shawn was firm but fair with all of them. I’m really appreciative. Maybe this night will be bigger things to come for me (and, perhaps, another book), or it could just be the last stand before I fall into obscurity. I don’t know. Either way, the whole thing’s been a good ride and I stand behind the work that I’ve done. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get my hamstrings stretched.

Sincerely,

Frank

Monday, June 27, 2011

RESOLUTE (mid-year update)

So, in January, I was pretty ambitious, giving myself 11 New Year's resolutions. Mostly that was because I have a lot of free time, but it is also because I am constantly trying to better myself. In order to hold myself to these resolutions, I am doing a mid-year update in order to keep myself focused on completing them. Therefore, here were my January resolutions again, with status updates of where I am right now.

1. Write on this blog more often. Okay. This is a good start. Think I only wrote on the blog eight times last year, so this is beatable.


Okay, in 2010 I wrote eight entries on my blog. So far, this is number 38. I'd call that ACCOMPLISHED.

2. Get myself down to 180 pounds. It's going to be tough, since I had a bacon cheeseburger at lunch today and I haven't hooked up the Wii Fit in months. It can be done.


Around January, I was slightly over 200 pounds. Now, I have been bouncing between 189-191. The next 9-11 pounds are always the hardest. I'd call this one PROGRESSING.

3. Finish my brother's idea for a story - either as a script or fiction. Right now it's fiction. Was a script a month ago. Could go back to a script. An agent is currently reading one of my other ideas. I'll be willing to call this one a win if I get an agent.


Let's see. I did some work on my brother's idea, and I will work on it...after I finish my script, which I have finished a first draft of and am making revisions. Don't have an agent, yet, but I think that once I get this script revised, I've got a good shot. I'd call this PROGRESSING.

4. If that doesn't work, get a job. Play time is not quite over, but it'll be soon. Can't live the life of the free and easy for too long.


Hmmm. I have been doing a lot more freelancing, but I am working toward getting my portfolio finally done, may be done by tomorrow. Maybe. I'll call this a NOT COMPLETED.

5. Continue the reading of 20 books in a year. I think I finished 20 last year, but lost count. Maybe this time I'll do a mini-review on here just to keep count.


I'm already through 12 books, and number 13 is about halfway done. Small blurbs of the 12 books I've read are on the blog. ON TARGET.

6. More culture. Get to at least three museums I haven't been to (or haven't in a while).


Have been to the Jurassic Museum of Technology (trippy), and MOCA (very cool). Have a plan to go see the Norton Simon in the next month or so. If you count some art shows I've been to, I'd say I've completed this one, but let's just say ON TARGET.

7. Do something on a stage. Already made the first attempt at this. Stay tuned.


So...I was in discussion with someone about this, but it's been put aside for the short-term. Not a guarantee, but still POSSIBLE.

8. Two trips this year. Whether one is international depends on number four. Might involve hitting a couple ballparks I haven't seen, yet. San Francisco and Denver?


Went to San Francisco last week, and saw AT&T Park. Nice. Still need a second trip, but ON TARGET.

9. Get at least 100 followers on Twitter. It's kind of sad, actually. I think I'm spinning gold on there, and, yet, it's going unnoticed. Oh, well. Getting more than four followers on here would be nice, too. Just follow it! It won't send you e-mails or anything. :)


If I had just kept all of the spammers that have become my "followers", I'd easily be over it. But I'm still at 86, and a few are questionable. I started at around 70, so I'm IN PROGRESS, but can use a little help soon.

10. Improve on seeing the Top 100 Films on the AFI list (the 2007 list, not the 1998). Right now, I'm at 61. Want to be at 70 by the end of the year.


Way past. At 75 already. May go see SWING TIME at the Aero in a couple weeks. Screw it, let's go for 80. WIN.

11. Meet the right girl. One of these days, I'm going to get that one right.


...oh, well, there's still six months more to the year.

So far, two clear wins, three on target, three progressing toward the goal, and we'll say three not completed. If I get eight done (or nine, ten or eleven), I'd call that one hell of a year.

Friday, June 24, 2011

FROM THE ASHES: THE FRANK BELMONDO STORY, CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVII

DO WHAT YOU LOVE, LOVE WHAT YOU DO

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: When I read the article in People magazine regarding Francis and the hunting trip, the thing that stood out to me was not the fact that Francis’ career went into a sinkhole, because that happens in the world of entertainment. What surprised me was that Francis was able to carry that large woman basketball player over his shoulder and then throw her into a car. Sure, it might have been adrenaline, but that single act made me think that Francis might still have the leg power to dance again. The world of modern dance was deprived of Francis’ gift on the day he injured his Achilles’ tendon. Maybe we could reward those who waited so patiently for another comet to soar through the sky so brilliantly and have had to wait in vain.

FRANK: When I got the call from Dr. Penchance, I thought it was a crank call. I mean, here I was in my early thirties, I was out of shape – slightly, but still out of shape – and I hadn’t danced professionally in over 25 years. Also, I just naturally assumed that Dr. Penchance was dead, considering all of the rum that that guy would polish off. Sure enough, I checked around and found out that he was alive. Sober, even.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: I wouldn’t say that I had an addiction to rum, so much as I had a carnal lust for it, each drop of it a liquid paradise that caused my taste buds to convulse in rhythmic ecstasy…but I have it under control now.

The first thing that was done was to have Frank’s Achilles’ tendon checked out by two doctors.  Both of them gave him a clean bill of health.

DR. ALDIS RAY, CEDARS-SINAI HOSPITAL, LOS ANGELES, CA: It looked as though there was not a thing wrong with it in the first place. I believe that years of inactivity gave him the time to fully heal. I felt confident that he could dance again.

With a clean bill of health, Frank came back to Cedar Creek to begin the comeback of his dance career under the watchful eye of Dr. Penchance. In order to avoid publicity, Frank did his training in the barn of a nearby friend of the Laster family, Arnold von Benschauten.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: We decided to practice in an obscure place in case Frank didn’t have the goods anymore. If it wasn’t meant to be, we didn’t want anyone to know about it.

ARNOLD VON BENSCHAUTEN, FAMILY FRIEND: I watched Francis during his training period, but I promised not to tell anyone about it. Watching him train, it was like…well, you remember the training scene in Rocky IV, when Rocky was training in the mountains? It was a lot like that, except that there was a lot more prancing.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: Physically, we had a lot of work to do. He was in no shape to dance in the same manner that he was used to doing. I wasn’t worried about his passion, though, as you could tell that he wanted to be great again, and not just for financial gain, which was good, because the money in modern dance wasn’t what it used to be.

FRANK: The money was a reason that I did want to come back, and when Dr. Penchance told me the financial problems in the industry, it did slow me down slightly. But I persevered.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: The main obstacle that we had to overcome with Francis was getting him to believe in his greatness once again. In order to do that, any time that Francis would doubt himself, in any way, I would taser him. On the lowest setting, mind you, but it got the message across.

FRANK: Some days after training my teeth would rattle for hours after a session, I was tasered so much. If he wasn’t the great Dr. Lars Penchance, I wouldn’t have put up with it.

After four weeks of rigorous training, Frank was 18 pounds lighter and in the best physical shape of his life.

FRANK: My calf muscles were tight, man, and you could bounce a silver dollar off of my ass cheeks. Lars even tried to do so, but I wouldn’t let him. But I was exhausted after those four weeks. I was more tired than a Robin Williams penis joke.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: I gave him three days to let him decide if this was all worth it to him. I wasn’t going to go forward anymore if he didn’t believe that this was the right thing to do. During the training period I had seen significant progress in his skills, even occasionally seeing that moment of greatness that I remember from his childhood.

FRANK: I decided to go with my father out to a friend’s cabin and go crossbow hunting. I had bought a new crossbow that I wanted to try out and I thought that it would get my mind off of dance. It didn’t/

JEREMIAH LASTER: We hunted for a grand total of two hours. For the next two days, Francis was working on his dance piece, The Lost Trucker of Cedar Creek.

FRANK: The piece came back to me in a dream, the piece that I wrote while driving a big rig. It seemed even clearer than it did when I first wrote it. By the time the weekend was over I had essentially put together the entire program.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: When Francis came back to the barn with The Lost Trucker of Cedar Creek in tow, I knew that not only was Francis serious, but that the old magic that he had in him was back. At that moment I tried to kiss him but he ended up smacking me in the face with a feed bag.

FRANK: I had never felt as high as the moment when I realized that my piece was a legitimate work of art, not even when I was taking those Indian cough drops. It was really neat.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: It was still a raw piece of work, as untamed and primal as a feral cat.  We were going to have to iron out all of the kinks in the piece, and we had to set it to music, as well. I felt that the piece needed something unconventional.

The “unconventional” band that they found were the boldly experimental group from Iceland, Sigur Rós.  

JON THOR BIRGISSON, GUITARIST-VOCALIST, SIGUR RÓS: Dr. Penchance had heard of our group when we performed a few songs for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for his dance piece Split Sides. Being from Iceland, we were not all-too-familiar with trucking, but Dr. Penchance sent us a copy of the movie Convoy and it was very inspirational. Kris Kristofferson was bad-ass. We also talked to Mr. Cunningham and he recommended that we do this.

MERCE CUNNINGHAM, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, MERCE CUNNINGHAM DANCE COMPANY: I told Jon that if he had the opportunity to be involved in Francis Laster’s return to dance, that he should jump at it, that it would be their chance to be involved in a history-in-the-making moment.  And if it did not succeed, no worries, most people would probably not notice.

JON THOR BIRGISSON: We went to West Virginia and we got a room at a Radisson hotel that was very nice. The staff there was very friendly. The next morning we went to Cedar Creek and met Frank and Dr. Penchance.

FRANK: I had never heard of this band, and when I was told that they had made up their own language to sing in, that weirded me out a bit, too. But when I listened to some of their music I saw what Dr. Penchance was thinking. If we could somehow combine their music with my vision of trucking and dance, we would have something special.

The members of Sigur Rós sat down to watch Frank do a dry run of his piece without music in the von Benschauten’s barn.

FRANK: I was able to do the entire piece without music because there was already music in my head. I just fed off of that. Luckily for all of us, Sigur Rós had a similar vision to mine. It was the most that I had ever been in sync with anyone in performance since the time I appeared on Miami Vice. Don Johnson and I worked really well together.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: It was agreed. Francis would perform The Lost Trucker of Cedar Creek in four months’ time. Sigur Rós would do the musical score. We had also decided to have a group of young dancers perform Purple Nurple for the first time since Francis did it as a child as a precursor to Trucker. Francis even decided to perform under the name of Francis Laster, which made me quite happy, as well as the Lasters. The only decision left was to decide the locale for the performance.

HAWLEY SMOOT: For a performance so big in scope, one where the whole world would be watching, there was only one logical place to do the performance: the Wheeling Civic Center. Unfortunately for us, the center was booked for a two-week run of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Mac Davis during the time we wanted. I don’t blame them, really, for not making a change. So we had to settle for Carnegie Hall, instead.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: We set a date of August 14th, and as soon as the press release went out, it became the hottest ticket in New York. Every person in Cedar Creek bought a ticket for the show and a caravan was created to go there, as well as a Phillies-Pirates game a few days before.

FRANK: I was getting calls from everywhere. The whole cast from Who Took the Gravy? said they were coming, and we set up a reunion with the cast for an interview with Katie Kouric on the Today show. Screaming Jimmy Leaney was coming. Wendy Peski was coming. Wendy Peski! That made me feel good. PBS had agreed to televise the performance live, and it was during a pledge week, so we know how highly they thought of it. Now all we had to do was make the show work.

Not an easy proposition, as it turned out. Tensions between Frank and Dr. Penchance were at a boil over the next several weeks, with both of them walking out on each other on separate occasions during rehearsals.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: Francis can be a very ill-tempered man when he doesn’t get his way. I merely had a costume suggestion and the next thing you know, he’s going completely insane.

FRANK: He wanted me to wear hot pants. I will never wear hot pants. Well, maybe if it was the right director, like Martin Scorsese or Sir Richard Attenborough or somebody like that, then maybe you could…but not for this.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: We lost two days on that argument. Then I left for a day when I got into an argument with Frank over who played Carol Seaver on Growing Pains. Frank was correct in saying that it was Tracey Gold, but I could’ve sworn that it was Heather Langenkamp. It turns out that Heather was on Just the Ten of Us, which was coincidentally a spin-off of Growing Pains, so you could see how I was wrong. Maybe I overreacted.

FRANK: Any twit with a working knowledge of 1980s television knows that Tracey Gold was Carol Seaver, but, hey, there were far more important things happening than that, so we got back to work.

JON THOR BIRGISSON: Even being from Iceland, I knew that it was Tracey Gold. But I sensed that there was something far greater than the cast of Growing Pains in their argument and it had to be sorted out.

FRANK: We made up the next day and that was the end of the fighting. We were able to fill out the full cast of the show about six weeks prior to opening night using all West Virginian dancers, and we got the music to where we wanted it. We had a show that we felt good about.

Two weeks before the day of the show, Frank and Dr. Penchance moved their operations to New York City where they worked out the final staging of the show. Hawley also came to help with publicity.

HAWLEY SMOOT: We worked out a schedule of rehearsals mixed with public appearances. Frank was the Grand Marshal of the Lithuanian-American Day Parade and he appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly on the same day, but we were also able to get him into the rehearsal studio for a couple of hours, too. We made it all work. Frank was a bundle of energy at that point.

Two days before opening night, a special gala was held to celebrate the opening of the show and the return of Frank to the dance world. For Frank, it was a very emotional evening.

FRANK: To see that so many people still cared about me, that they still supported my career, it was a beautiful moment. I got up with Screaming Jimmy and performed “Shake Your Love” for the first time since we parted ways, completely impromptu. I also realized that Wendy Peski and I still had some feelings for each other. It was something that we wanted to pursue, but I had to wait a bit. I wasn’t going to ruin my dance career over a quick pop in the sack – it’s like a boxer, you have to keep the legs strong.

DR. LARS PENCHANCE: Francis was focused to make this piece work. It actually saddened me, because you could tell how devoted he was to his craft, and the fact that the world of dance did not get to appreciate him for so long…it’s really bittersweet. But I had no doubt that Francis was back.

FRANK: As opening night arrived, I was completely at peace. This was my moment. This was what all of my life was leading up to, and I was ready for it. For once, I felt like I wasn’t going to screw this moment up, and if I did, maybe I could get into selling insurance or something. Either way, I was feeling okay. Let’s make some magic.

(To see Chapter 18, click here)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

10 Lines Christopher Walken needs to say NOW

Maybe this needs to be a Letterman Top 10 list, I don't know. But some how, some way, this needs to happen.

10. "Martha, I think there are martians in our back yard."
9. "Now batting for the Boston Red Sox, number 39, catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia."
8. "Some people call me Maurice (woo-woo), 'cause I speak of the pompitous of love."
7. "The Denny's Grand Slam Breakfast - what a bargain!"
6. "I am totally in the mood for some hot monkey love."
5. "My favorite Culture Club song, by far, has to be 'Karma Chameleon'."
4. "Kim Kardashian's butt - wowzy wowzy wow."
3. "Camptown Racetrack sing this song, doo-dah, doo-dah."
2. "Your apartment needs to be fumigated for vermin."
1. "You are not the first lady whose vulva has made me extremely aroused."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

FROM THE ASHES: THE FRANK BELMONDO STORY, CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVI

RANDOM MISTAKES, 2000-2004 (this was to be called “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” but that was taken)

The following are five ideas/situations that Frank was involved with during the years 2000-2004. The results are below.


EMOTICONS! 

THE CONCEPT: A game show based on the popular icons used by e-mailers and instant messengers as a shorthand form of communication. Tech-savvy contestants would solve puzzles built from the emoticons to win great prizes.

SLOGAN: The Game Show the Unabomber Loves to Hate!

FRANK: I got a start-up company (Hotspur Technologies) to sponsor the show. We filmed five test episodes and were going to try to sell it to The Learning Channel or Discovery or something like that. I was the emcee. The Game Show Network had passed sight-unseen. Maybe that should have been a sign.

PROBLEMS: Only a limited number of emoticons meant a limited number of questions. Frank was constantly confused as to which emoticon was what, leading him to say during the middle of show four, “I don’t know what in the hell I’m talking about.” During the Lightning Bonus Round portion of the show, in which contestants had to name as many emoticons as possible off of a flashing screen, three contestants received seizures from the array of bright flashing lights.

FRANK: I don’t know why we didn’t stop after the second one. Twice isn’t a fluke.

THE RESULT: The financial settlements for the three stricken contestants was the beginning of the end of Hotspur Technologies, who filed for bankruptcy six months later.

SANDS AND HANDS

THE CONCEPT: What do you get when you combine a world-class sandwich shop with the state of Nevada’s legalization of prostitution?

THE SLOGAN: Come from the hand jobs, stay for our fresh baked baguettes!

THE LOGO: A buxom brunette waitress with an oversized right hand holding a tray with a French Dip sandwich.

FRANK: I thought that it was a good idea. Let’s face it, after a guy has sex, wouldn’t a lot of them want a great sandwich? I know I would! And that’s the key to the place – really great sandwiches. We even had a room planned with comfortable couches and ESPN on all of the time, so you can take a nap afterwards. A hand job, a great sandwich and a place to nap – that’s like a trip to Mecca.

PROBLEMS: Health code violations aplenty. Said one Nevada health official, “Any time you mix ejaculation with condiments, you’re going to have problems.” Also, as one prostitute said, “I do tricks so I can avoid waiting tables.” This led to only older professional women applying for the jobs.

FRANK: There was one woman who applied for a job who looked as though she whored during the Coolidge administration. Let’s face it; if you are at a place that specializes in hand jobs, and you have a middle-aged mother of three giving it to you, it takes some of the magic away. I don’t care if you’re eating filet mignon.

PROBLEMS (cont.): Women’s groups protested, some because of moral issues, some because there was no place for women to get the same treatment.

FRANK: I was stumped. What would be a comparable place for women? Gelato and Thigh Massage? I had no idea.

THE RESULT: The place never opened.

CONGRESS

THE CONCEPT: Frank, on advice from a political organization called Liberals No More, considers running for Congress as a Republican in the 30th District of California, running against Democratic stalwart Henry Waxman.

PROPOSED CAMPAIGN SLOGAN: True Values.

PROBLEMS: A simple background check revealed Frank’s time in a rehabilitation facility, his brief porn career and his joining a cult. A sample poll of 100 people had Frank losing to Waxman by a result of 97-3.

FRANK: And that poll included votes from me and Hawley. The third was a guy who was a big fan of my song “Hot Ass Baby”.

VINCE BENTON, POLITICAL ADVISOR: I think that David Duke would have gotten four votes, and that’s without him voting for himself.

THE RESULT: Frank drops out of the race before officially entering it. Nobody notices.

C.H.E.E.S.y. TELETHON

THE CONCEPT: Frank agrees to host a telethon for C.H.E.E.S.y., the California Hospitals Eczema Eradication Symposium, on a local public access station.

THE PROBLEMS: Frank is unable to make any of the rehearsals and does not bother to read any of the literature sent to him regarding eczema and the work of the symposium.

FRANK: I was going to read it, really I was, but then I got called to play in a foursome at the Riviera Country Club. I had never gotten to play there before.

So, I get to the telethon thirty minutes before it begins – car trouble – they’re all panicking and they only have time to do hair and makeup, that’s it. They then tell me that I’m supposed to open the show with a song. Are you kidding me? Granted, I know that I should have been at rehearsal, but…anyway, I get one of the stagehands to grab this cassette tape of karaoke instrumentals that I use to practice with out of the glove compartment of my car and tell them to play the first song that they can cue up on the tape. I can just roll into it, I tell them, I’m a professional and I know all of the songs on the tape. Now, in hindsight I realize that “I’ve Got You under My Skin” was an unfortunate choice, but I think I really nailed it, if that means anything.

The song ends, and everybody’s looking at me with stunned looks on their faces. I thought they were really impressed. I introduce myself, tell a joke or two, and then I bring out the head of C.H.E.E.S.y. I make a joke, asking him, “Can I call you the Cheese Head?” He says no, all serious and that. So, then I say, “So, what is eczema, exactly?” At the time, I wasn’t only asking for the viewing audience’s sake, I really wanted to know.

DR. MARTIN FREUNLIND, HEAD OF C.H.E.E.S.y.: First, he couldn’t even pronounce “eczema”. He kept saying “ex-ZEE-ma”. After the tenth time he gets it wrong, a stagehand tries to correct him, and he goes, on camera, “Alright! I get it!”

FRANK: So, the doctor tells me what eczema is, and I just freeze. Disgusting! Just disgusting! After hearing that I just…I couldn’t shake anyone’s hand after that. I started doing that thing where people touch elbows with each other. I started telling people that it was “my thing”.

DR. MARTIN FREUNLIND: And then we show this medical video on eczema and the ways to combat it. It was a clinical tape, very graphic. The whole time that we are playing the tape, you can hear Frank gagging off-camera.

FRANK: I practically dry heaved. It didn’t help that I was hung over from the night before.

DR. MARTIN FREUNLIND: Then, Frank realizes the connection between our name and eczema and he goes on this five-minute tirade about it. Now, I admit that C.H.E.E.S.y. isn’t the best name, but…let’s just say that the name wasn’t my idea. I was out-voted.

THE RESULT: While very few people saw the live airing of the telethon, the tape became an underground bootleg sensation, one of the most downloaded videos on illegal file-sharing services. While the live telethon made less than $1,000 during the live broadcast, viewings of the bootleg gave C.H.E.E.S.y. several-thousand dollars in donations afterward.

DR. MARTIN FREUNLIND: While it wasn’t the perfect way to get our message across, the result has been certainly satisfying.

FRANK: Every once in a while, somebody will come up to me on the street and say, “Hey, you’re the eczema guy!” That’s not especially satisfying.


THE HUNTING TRIP


THE PARTICULARS: Frank, Hawley and friends go on a hunting trip in the Smoky Mountain region. Guns, alcohol and raw emotion rule the day (and night).

HAWLEY SMOOT: In continuing with our tradition of going together on hunting trips, I took Frank up to this little spot in the Smoky Mountains called—(due to special request by one of the people involved in the story and that person’s legal representation, that person’s name and the location of the hunting trip have been withheld. We have, however, been given the right to stay that the hunting trip was located in the Smoky Mountain region – Ed.). It was me, Frank, Wink Martindale, Bucky – a friend of mine who was a state trooper – and, let’s just say, this congressman from the state which we were visiting.

FRANK: We were hunting for deer that week. I had bought a new Winchester Model 70 deer hunting rifle just for the trip, and I was looking forward to using it. Unfortunately, we weren’t having much too luck the first few days, so spirits were a bit low. That’s when Bucky broke out the Peppermint Schnapps.

PHILIP “BUCKY” LITELLI, STATE TROOPER AND AVID SPORTSMAN: I know that it’s not overly manly to be drinking Peppermint Schnapps, but I’m not much of a drinker and at least there is a sweet taste to Schnapps so it doesn’t make drinking it unbearable. Wink kept calling me a pussy, but I kept reminding him that I could throw him in jail and then who would be the pussy? Huh? So that shut him up a bit.

WINK MARTINDALE, GAME SHOW HOST AND AVID SPORTSMAN: Bucky was a pussy. I’m not much of a drinker, but Peppermint Schnapps? Come on! But since it was the only drink there, we made do.

FRANK: Anyway, you get one or two drinks into Wink, and he’ll start telling stories. He can tell you tons of stories about the game show business, especially Tic-Tac-Dough. Did you know that there are game shows that have an I.Q. ceiling? That if you’re too smart, they don’t want you on their show? Wheel of Fortune is like that. That show looks like they grabbed a bunch of trade school dropouts. One time I was watching that show, and it was one of those weeks where they had siblings playing together. And I remember the puzzle ended up being “mannequin”, and they had everything but the “Q” and the “U”. The two brothers whose turn it was spin, confer with each other, and then they say “K”. I’m serious. And stop buying so many vowels, already! I hate when people do that. It’s not that freakin’ hard!

HAWLEY SMOOT: Wink and the congressman are completely blitzed. They start singing their college fight songs for crying out loud. Then I see Bucky sitting in a corner all by himself, and he’s actually whimpering. He was whimpering! I think the Peppermint Schnapps caused him to have some kind of self-realization at that very moment.

PHILIP “BUCKY” LITELLI: I had realized that my father had cheated on my mother when I was twelve. I had been denying it for the longest time. The whole moment was very cathartic.

WINK MARTINDALE: I told you Bucky was a pussy.

FRANK: So we’re in the cabin, and – actually, before I tell you what happened, let me set this up for you. Hawley’s wife, she’s a very, very large woman.

HAWLEY SMOOT: My wife is not large, per se. She’s completely proportionate for her height. She’s 6’2”, maybe 6’2 ½”. She played power forward at Rutgers. Four-year starter, twice all-conference, too.

FRANK: She’s large. Jealous, too, almost paranoid, really. She’s snap at you like a wildcat. Hawley, he’s a good-looking man. Women are drawn to him. He can’t help it. But he’s loyal to his wife. She can’t believe that, though, for whatever reason.

So, we’re sitting in the cabin, and there’s some rustling outside. Wink bolts right up and grabs his rifle. He’s out the door like one of those – who were those soldiers during the Revolutionary War who used to get ready in a minute? Anyway, Wink runs out to the porch, and there’s this large brown object between the trees. Wink thinks it’s a buck and he shoots. The thing drops to the ground and cries with this blood-curdling scream. The problem is, it doesn’t sound like an animal. We knew that there was something wrong right away.

IMELDA SMOOT, WIFE OF HAWLEY SMOOT: I learned two valuable lessons from that experience. First, I should be more trusting about my husband. Second, never wear a brown overcoat in the woods. That son of a bitch Martindale got me in the shoulder, hurt like hell.

FRANK: When we got over to Imelda and realized what happened, I had four guys panicking on me. Hawley had a wife with a gunshot wound; Wink was seeing himself in jail; the congressman was worried about his upcoming election, saying something like “Cabingate” over and over again; and Bucky was still dealing with his paternal issues. So I threw Imelda over my shoulder – and remember, she’s a large woman, must have been adrenaline or something – and I threw her into Hawley’s SUV and told them to all get in.

HAWLEY SMOOT: It was an unfortunate time for my wife and me to get into an argument on the ride to the hospital, but I believe that our fighting opened up a lot of issues that needed to be dealt with…it made our relationship that much better.

FRANK: Hawley kept calling Imelda “a distrusting whore” and Imelda called him “a skirt-chasing cocksucker”…yes, I believe that’s what she called him. They’re just like that. It works for them, I guess.

PHILIP “BUCKY” LITELLI: We get to the hospital, and I had calmed down from my experience. We had to deal with two issues: getting Imelda taken care of and keeping the congressman hidden from anyone who recognized him. We succeeded on one of the two fronts.

FRANK: We had kept the congressman hidden away in a private observation room, away from the public. That’s when Miguel came in.

MIGUEL PANZADILLO, HOSPITAL ORDERLY: Before I got a job as an orderly, I had a very rough life. One of the jobs that I had when I was young was as a…I am so ashamed to say this…I used to give men pleasure for money down by the lake. The man whose name I am not allowed to say because you told me not to, he was one of my biggest clients. He made me wear a cowboy hat. He would always yell “Yippee-kay-yay-ay” while sitting in the front seat of his car down by the lake. It was very shameful. I had gotten away from that life, and then I saw him there at the hospital. I felt that I had to express my feelings. I lashed out at him, that’s what I did. I was lashing.

News of the recent incident reached papers immediately as two reporters covering another hunting accident were at the hospital and saw everything.

BOB LACARDIE, NEWSPAPER REPORTER: I was one of the beat writers covering hunting accidents in the county. There are so many hunting accidents in this county each paper had to have a beat writer covering them. That night was a bonanza – Wink Martindale shooting a woman and a congressman’s gay lover announcing their tryst in the middle of the hospital? Oh, yeah, one of the other guys in the group was an actor of some sort, although I had never heard of him. I thought that I might get a Pulitzer for this one…or at least a cover on People magazine.

THE RESULT: The second reporter on the scene, Terry Wilcox, got the People cover story (“He just happened to be a better writer than me, I guess,” said LaCardie).

The congressman tried to rebound from the fiasco (“I had several public appearances where I was kissing my wife, but she had a hard time smiling”), but was forced to resign.

Bucky Litelli is seeking counseling and is feeling “much better”.

Wink Martindale received probation for Hunting While Impaired and has sworn off Peppermint Schnapps, or any other liqueurs, for good.

Hawley and Imelda are still together and Hawley has encouraged Imelda into coaching high school girls’ basketball. Led by Imelda’s coaching, her team finished third in state in 2004.

The whole incident affected Frank the most, though, as a person from his past read the People article and came to Frank with a plan…

(To see Chapter 17, click here)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

20 Books This Year Project: #12, "2030", by Albert Brooks

The thing that made the Albert Brooks film Defending Your Life work so well (forgetting the fact that it was quite funny) was that, despite dealing with something as fantastical and unknown as the afterlife, the whole thing was just so...reasonable. Brooks was able to take a subject that is foreign to all (what happens to us when we die) and created a world that actually seemed somewhat plausible. I mean, it's farfetched, but it's just as possible as a golden gate and angels with harps.

Which brings us to 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America, Brooks' first novel. Brooks runs through the lives of a series of characters while explaining what happens to the federal deficit, health care, the Middle East, communication and technology, and our relationship with China. None of the suggestions of where we'll be in 19 years are out of the realm of possibility; in fact, many of them make perfect sense.

Brooks' writing style is very similar to that of Steve Martin's - both write in an effortless, elegant style that makes their works quite readable. Despite both having careers in stand-up, they avoid going for the easy, cheap laugh and trust the intelligence of the reader.

There could have been a little more development of a couple of the characters (specifically that of a Chinese health care magnate who quickly adjusts to the American lifestyle), but overall it's a very good read. GRADE: A-


(P.S. Maybe the Criterion Collection could do a Blu-ray of Defending Your Life, please?)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

FROM THE ASHES: THE FRANK BELMONDO STORY, CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XV

THE INTERVIEW MAGAZINE INTERVIEW


Before “Hot Ass Baby” had its release on the radio – and its sudden disappearance just days after its debut – Frank was interviewed by model-actress Shalom Harlow for Interview magazine. Usually the interviews in Andy Warhol’s famous magazine were done by people that were directly connected with the interviewee, but due to time conflicts Shalom was brought in at the last minute. For the telephone interview, Shalom was only given a couple of questions in advance, with the magazine’s editor telling her to “Just get him started. He’ll do most of the talking.”


INTERVIEW MAGAZINE, JANUARY 2001

FRANK BELMONDO: THE FORMER CHILD STAR MADE A COMEBACK BY SHAKING YOUR LOVE. CAN HE DO IT AGAIN? INTERVIEWED BY SHALOM HARLOW.

SHALOM: Hello?

FRANK: Yes?

SHALOM: This is Frank Belmondo, right?

FRANK: If this is the Red Cross again, I’m telling you, I’m all out of blood. I’m all used up.

SHALOM: No, this is Shalom Harlow. I’m calling you about your interview for Interview magazine.

FRANK: Oh, yeah. Sure. I forgot that was today. What’s your name again?

SHALOM: Shalom Harlow.

FRANK: I thought that the whole idea of the magazine was to have famous people interviewing other famous people. What have you done?

SHALOM: I’m a model and an actress.

FRANK: Oh.

SHALOM: And I used to be the host of House of Style on MTV.

FRANK: Well, ain’t that great. Good for you, kid. It’s always good to be versatile. I’m thinking about getting into the import-export business.

SHALOM: Really, that’s interesting.

FRANK: Yeah, that’s only if this music thing doesn’t get off of the ground.

SHALOM: This brings us to your new song, “Hot Ass Baby”.

FRANK: Oh, wait, I get it! I’ve got a song called “Hot Ass Baby”, and they have a model interviewing me! You must have a sweet caboose.

SHALOM: Oh, ummm…

FRANK: I mean, unless you’re one of those BBW models. If that’s the case, then I mean no disrespect. No, they wouldn’t have a BBW doing this interview, not at Interview. They always have twigs in the fashion section of that rag. Hold on, I’m going to look you up on the Internet. This will take a minute – I’m on a dial-up, but I’m on my cell phone, so we can still talk. So, before you called. I was flipping through the channels on the TV, and on TBS they’re showing Young Guns for the 450th time. I can’t watch that movie anymore.

SHALOM: Why not?

FRANK: All of the actors in the movie are like 5-foot-3. It kind of ruins the movie for me. All of these midgets running around with pop guns. It takes the piss out of it when you know stuff like that, if you ask me.

SHALOM: I didn’t ask you.

FRANK: Touché…I found your picture. Holy cow, you’re hot!

SHALOW: Oh, uh, thank you…

FRANK: A little creepy looking, in an Elvira sort of way, but hot, nonetheless.

SHALOM: Let’s get back to the interview. What was your inspiration for the song?

FRANK: That would have to be a woman with a really hot ass. It went for days.

SHALOM: That’s it?

FRANK: What were you expecting for my inspiration, a pretty sunset? The Chinese Cultural Revolution? The song is called “Hot Ass Baby”. HOT. ASS. BABY.

SHALOM: I haven’t heard the song, yet. I guess I just thought there might be a metaphor there or something.

FRANK: Listen here, English major, there ain’t no clever subtext in that song. Do you think that Sir Mix-a-Lot was searching for hidden meaning when he wrote “Baby Got Back”? He liked big butts and he couldn’t lie. That’s it.

SHALOM: Let’s move on. Does Screaming Jimmy appear on this song?

FRANK: Oh, uh, no. We have gone our separate ways.

SHALOM: Oh, that’s too bad. I really liked him.

FRANK: Yeah, he was great, but even Lennon and McCartney couldn’t last forever.

SHALOM: I see. It seems that I hit a nerve. I apologize.

FRANK: I MADE JIMMY LEANEY. HE’D STILL BE WORKING A DAY JOB IF IT WASN’T FOR ME…I’m sorry, I shouldn’t take it out on you.

SHALOM: No, I understand.

FRANK: You do seem very understanding. I was about to take a nap, but if you wanted to come over I could make pancakes.

SHALOM: I think we should leave it here. Thanks, Frank, for the interview, and good luck on your career.

FRANK: I’m sorry, are you a lesbian or something?

SHALOM: Excuse me?

FRANK: Don’t get me wrong, that’s cool if you are…

(Shalom hangs up)

SHALOM: Somebody get my agent, I’m about to fire him.

(To see Chapter 16, click here)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Five of My Favorite Movie Scenes

So, every once in a while I'm going to revisit some of my favorite movie scenes. Today's category, Great Sleazy Guys:

1. Blood Simple, "Marty Hires Visser": I know, I've put this scene up before on a previous blog, but M. Emmet Walsh's character is one of the great all-time villains. You're not a Coen Brothers fan if you haven't seen this movie.

2. The Professional, "Everyone!": Yes, Jean Reno is a bad-ass in this movie. Yes, Natalie Portman makes you (almost) understand the unresolved sexual tension between her and Reno, even though she's a preteen. But Gary Oldman...he's a glorified mess, and I mean that in the best way possible.

3. There Will Be Blood, "I Drink Your Milkshake!": Sometimes actors give great performances, and sometimes actors become the character. Daniel Day Lewis became Daniel Plainview, and, let's face it, Daniel Plainview was a major league asshole.

4. Blue Velvet, "Joy Ride With Frank": There were several scenes I could've chosen to highlight Dennis Hopper's Frank Booth, but I chose this one because we both have an affinity for Pabst Blue Ribbon. That being said, he might be the one character of this bunch I'd least like to have a drink with, for sure.

5. Election, "McCallister Must Stop Tracy Now": Okay, not every sleazy guy has to be a murderer. Sometimes they can just be a put-upon high school teacher who can't stand seeing the school suck-up win an election. Matthew Broderick plays the role of the teacher in such an uncomfortable way, you almost feel bad for Reese Witherspoon's Tracy Flick. Almost.

FROM THE ASHES: THE FRANK BELMONDO STORY, CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XIV

FRANK’S MUSIC CAREER

Shortly after his emcee appearance at the 23rd Annual Miss Allegheny County Preteen Beauty Pageant, Frank discovered that he might have a chance to turn singing into a new career. It was his work at the pageant, combined with a new fad that was taking over the country that gave Frank a new opportunity.

FRANK: The film Swingers had come out a couple of months earlier, and all of a sudden, the lounge scene was becoming the next big thing. All of these twenty-something kids were hanging out in dive bars, wearing cheap suits and binge drinking. At first, I was upset that all of these young punks were infringing on my lifestyle. But then I realized that with this lounge scene kicking up, so was interest in that kind of music, and a new appreciation in the classic singers – Sinatra, Martin, Bennett. Now, I’m not saying that I sing like Tony Bennett, but I do have a distinctive style, and I thought that I could make something unique and fun.

TED LEOTARDO, VICE-PRESIDENT, TREMOLO RECORDS: I had known Frank from way back. He would emcee some local concerts, and he was part of the improv scene for a short while in the early nineties. I remember, though, that he wasn’t particularly good at it. Wasn’t quick on his feet, couldn’t create a character, which was surprising, since he was an actor ever since he was young. But Frank was a good kid, and whenever I needed something heavy lifted from my car, he would always do it for me. So, I was willing to give him a listen.

FRANK: So, I come to him with this idea to take a modern song – not a brand new one, but one still in the public consciousness – and change it into a lounge song, jazz it up a bit.

TED LEOTARDO: Frank didn’t know this – at least, I didn’t think he knew this – but the idea of taking popular songs and changing their format was kind of a weakness of mine. Back in the seventies, I had always said that Beethoven’s “5th Symphony” would sound great as a disco song. Too bad that bastard from Saturday Night Fever beat me to it. So, I tried to do my own musical transformation of a song by taking this local polka band that I knew named Polka-Motion and having them perform Wagner’s operatic classic “Ride of the Valkyries” – you know, the one that played in Apocalypse Now when the helicopters were flying. But the song was so intense that the accordion player had an aneurysm while playing it. It wasn’t the desired effect that I had in mind. But the music transformation thing was still something that I was interested in doing.

FRANK: Ted was really excited about the idea, but we still needed a song that would work in the lounge style. After going through a list of songs, Ted and I finally settled on Debbie Gibson’s “Shake Your Love.” It was just an issue of getting Debbie to let us perform the song.

DEBBIE GIBSON, SINGER-ACTRESS: I had lost a ton of money on the Kentucky Derby the year before, and I needed a cash influx. One of the jockeys in the paddock – I became kind of a regular fixture in the paddock that year – gave me a sure thing, but the son of a bitch lost a shoe on the last furlong. The deal that they were willing to give me for that lounge guy to release “Shake Your Love” was enough to cover my gambling debts and still give me enough money to enter the World Series of Poker that next year.

Debbie finished 38th in the 2000 World Series of Poker, netting her a small profit.

After three days in the studio, neither Frank nor Tremolo Records’ production crew felt that they were getting the desired effect that they needed for a big hit.

CHAZ ORTEGA, MUSIC PRODUCER: Frank was doing a decent job, but we could never get the song to pop. Something was missing. It was flat. I had suggested that there needed to be a second vocal to contrast Frank’s delivery, but not a female vocal. I can’t say why, but I guess I just felt that the song needed to keep its machismo.

FRANK: I wasn’t too excited about the idea at first – I mean, this was my show and all – but even I realized that during the third day I wasn’t going to be able to do this alone.

CHAZ ORTEGA: We started throwing out names of singers, and for some reason Frank had this fascination with Harvey Korman. He was really determined to sing with Harvey Korman.

FRANK: Hey, I always wanted to work with Mr. Korman. I loved him on The Carol Burnett Show.

CHAZ ORTEGA: Anyway, it turned out that Harvey wasn’t available, as he was doing a one-man show in Branson, Missouri for the next four weeks, so we were back to square one. Suddenly one of the session players says, “Why don’t you just get Screaming Jimmy Leaney to do it? I’m playing squash with him in the morning, and he can use the work.” I swear, it was like a beam of sunlight shot through the entire room.

Screaming Jimmy Leaney was a regular in the Los Angeles comedy scene. He was quite popular despite the fact that his act was limited to two things: being incredibly loud, and being incredibly flamboyant. Reader’s Digest once said of him, “If Rip Taylor, Waylan Flowers and Madame had a three-way, and from that unholy union begat a child with a learning disability, that child would be Screaming Jimmy Leaney.”

SCREAMING JIMMY LEANEY: WHEN I WAS GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO SING “SHAKE YOUR LOVE,” I SAID TO THEM, “BRING IT ON, BITCHES.”

FRANK: I have to admit that I wasn’t overly excited about the choice, as I was still reeling from the fact that we couldn’t get Harvey Korman out of Branson. But the others saw something in Jimmy, and I felt like I had to trust their instincts.

CHAZ ORTEGA: When we brought Jimmy in and ran through the song, we told him just one thing – be like Fred Schneider (of the B-52s), but more flamboyant. He just smiled and said, “I CAN DO THAT.”

Once Screaming Jimmy came on board, things moved quickly. The song was completed that day, although not without problems.

FRANK: We had to do our vocals separately. He was just too loud.

CHAZ ORTEGA: I remember doing Screaming Jimmy’s vocals, and I kept saying “Turn it down…no, lower…lower…”

SCREAMING JIMMY: I HAVE MY OWN STYLE, AND IT SOMETIMES TAKES PEOPLE TIME TO APPRECIATE MY CHARMS.

FRANK: It was tough, it was tough. But I have to say this – once I heard the final product, I knew that we had something big. It was like, with all due respect, listening to Sgt. Pepper for the first time, except it was a novelty song with an overly flamboyant guy screaming the background vocals.

Once the song was completed, everyone realized that they had to get this song out quickly. As singles were being pressed, a music video was conceived and produced within two weeks.

FRANK: I’m not sure why they chose an all-girls Catholic school as a location to film the video. It just didn’t seem right to me. But they said they knew what they were doing. They also had Screaming Jimmy in pajamas with ducks on them and, I don’t know what you call them, footies? With the feet in them? I don’t know.

While the video received several complaints from the Parents for Music Research Coalition (although, in a published report, even they were not sure why, saying they “didn’t get it, but something just had to be wrong”), it still received a healthy run on music television, specifically VH-1. With the combination of the video and some steady play on adult contemporary radio (one radio station received 42 requests for the song in an hour’s time, all by a guy named “Rashaun”), the song reached number 32 on the Billboard Top 40. In the next few weeks, appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Rosie O’Donnell Show only helped their stock. But it was an appearance on another show that put cracks in their foundation.

FRANK: We did this appearance on Antiques Roadshow, on PBS. The whole freaking time Screaming Jimmy, every time something new comes out to show, he’d go, “MY GOD, THAT THING’S JUST SO OLD!” And every time he’d say it, he’d start cracking up hysterically. Okay, Jimmy, I get the joke. Now shut the hell up. But I will say this; that show is the reason that I now have such an interest in Hummel figurines.

After eight weeks together as a singing duo, the tension between the two was too much, and their musical partnership was over.

While the song gave both men some notoriety, only one of the two was able to capitalize on their sudden fame.

FRANK: I wanted to continue with the music thing, but, as with most trends, my luck was short-lived. I wrote this song on a cocktail napkin called “Hot Ass Baby,” and I got it recorded, but the kids weren’t going for it.

CHAZ ORTEGA: I think that Frank realized that without Screaming Jimmy in the fray, we were back to square one. “Hot Ass Baby” had some potential, but Frank has the kind of singing voice that isn’t meant to stand alone.

TED LEOTARDO: Frank originally wanted to do “Hot Ass Baby” as another duet, but once again he couldn’t get Harvey Korman, and that’s when he decided to do it on his own.

FRANK: Damn, that Harvey Korman is harder to find than the Lindbergh baby.

SCREAMING JIMMY: SOME PEOPLE AT MIRAMAX SAW OUR MUSIC VIDEO AND GAVE ME A CALL TO AUDITION FOR THIS PART MOVIE WITH MARISA TOMEI AND MIRA SORVINO. I SAID THAT I COULDN’T TURN DOWN THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WITH TWO OSCAR WINNERS, EVEN IF THEY WERE MARISA TOMEI AND MIRA SORVINO. AND I GOT THE PART!

The film, a small-budget project called Jersey Girls Who Smack Their Gum While They Talk, only had moderate box office success, but Screaming Jimmy’s role as Bertrand, an overly flamboyant pet shop store owner, won over critics in several liberal free weekly newspapers and made him a counter-culture superstar of sorts. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who was ready to take a major gamble with a controversial new script but was having trouble finding a lead for the film, thought that they had hit paydirt.

AUSTIN KIMBRITTAN, FORMER VICE-PRESIDENT OF PRODUCTION, METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER: Screaming Jimmy was a unique talent, and with him coming out of nowhere to such acclaim in both music and film, it was like we had found lightning in a bottle. We felt like we had our man.

SCREAMING JIMMY: I WAS ECSTATIC JUST TO BE CONSIDERED FOR A LEADING ROLE, MUCH LESS TO GET THE PART. BUT I PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE REALIZED THAT I WASN’T READY FOR SUCH A LEAP, THAT I WAS MOVING TOO FAST.

The Southern Dandy had Screaming Jimmy starring as Darnell Le Fay, an overly flamboyant Confederate Civil War general. The film, which also starred Martin Short as General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, went through many problems during its shoot, including a plague of locusts which halted production for two days. Once principal photography was completed, however, the studio was still optimistic. Then, two weeks before the film’s scheduled release, controversy reared its ugly head…

NEW YORK POST HEADLINE (JULY 13, 2000): SCREAMING JIMMY CONFESSES – I’M STRAIGHT.

MAXINE SILVERMAN, DIRECTOR OF PUBLICITY, METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER: When it came out that Screaming Jimmy was not gay, that he had a wife and kids that lived in Encino, we knew that we were in big trouble. We even considered pushing back the release, but then we decided that to go with the “even bad publicity is good publicity” angle. We were wrong to go that route.

AUSTIN KIMBRITTAN: It was as if you were a football coach, and you had Michael Jordan on your team, and just before the first game Michael says, “Hey, hold on, I’m not a football player. I can’t do this.” (Long pause) Wait a minute, that didn’t come out right…

SCREAMING JIMMY: I was shocked that anybody even thought I was gay. It’s not like I told anybody that. I even used to bring my wife and kids onto the set, several times. BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?

MAXINE SILVERMAN: We just thought that they were friends of his, that they were somebody else’s family.

The film, which had a budget of over $62 million, grossed only $7 million worldwide. The New York Times called the film “a steaming pile of monkey dung. It is the closest that I have ever come to having my eyes and ears bleed while watching a film. I feel sorry for the parents of every person that worked on this project.”

MAXINE SILVERMAN: The problem was, we were so focused on the controversial nature of the film and the issues of Screaming Jimmy not being gay, we didn’t bother to notice that what we had was a really, really bad film. But that’s what you get when you have a gay Civil War film written and directed by a Spanish guy with only one name.

TOTINO, WRITER-DIRECTOR OF THE SOUTHERN DANDY (through a translator): I stand behind my work. No comment.

Screaming Jimmy’s career went into sudden decline for several years. He tried a comeback one year later, removing the “Screaming” moniker and working as a traditional comedian, but to no success, causing him to bring his persona back.

CHAZ ORTEGA: Taking the “Screaming” out of Jimmy Leaney is like taking the filthy whore out of Madonna. I mean, come on, what’s the point?

Only recently has Screaming Jimmy found new success, co-hosting a television series on the Lifetime network entitled When Facelifts Don’t Work.

SCREAMING JIMMY: IT’S A FUN LITTLE SHOW. BASICALLY WE TAKE THESE UGLY WOMEN AND WE GIVE THEM PLASTIC SURGERY, BUT WE ONLY USE DOCTORS THAT OPERATE OUT OF STRIP MALLS. OUR BUDGET IS VERY LIMITED SINCE WE ARE BASIC CABLE. ANYWAY, WHEN THE WOMEN ARE DONE WE LOOK AT THEM AND GO, “NO, THAT DIDN’T TURN OUT RIGHT.” THEN WE SEE HOW THEY REACT. IT’S FUNNY; THEY ALL END UP LOOKING LIKE MELISSA RIVERS. IT’S A CAUTIONARY TALE, REALLY.

FRANK: I felt bad for Jimmy. Despite our issues during those few months he wasn’t a bad guy. Besides, if it wasn’t for “Shake Your Love” I wouldn’t have my pool. Above-ground, mind you, but it’s still a good pool.

(To see Chapter 15, click here)