By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo
FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO LAUGH; ROBOTS, RAY GUNS, AND THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
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I keep hearing this rumor that humor is dead. Ever since the attacks, you can't even make fun of our president, whom I was counting on for mindless mirth for the next four years, without self-righteous flag-wavers getting in your face and calling you a commie. Recently W used the brand new word (at least to most of us) "misunderestimated" not once, not twice, but three times in the course of one of his non-scripted speeches. Not only was the extra "mis" stricken from the official transcripts, but no one in the audience even giggled! Of course, it's more pathetic than funny - I mean, this guy goes around talking to schoolchildren, and who knows what strange, indecipherable words he's accidentally adding to the national vocabulary? The future of our nation's grammatical correctness might be permanently infected with our prez's dumbed-down manglement (yes that's an intentionally mangled word) of the English language. Not only are we forced to endure his natural idiocy as somehow acceptable and even charming behavior, coming as it does from the Leader of the Free World, but we're now being told we can't even laugh at it. That would make us "traitors."
Other people are whining they just don't feel like laughing. If you recently lost someone near and dear to you, I could certainly understand the lack of laughter in your own life, and you are owed as long a mourning period as you need before gaining the strength to move on. But otherwise, lighten up.
The fact is, if you have lost the ability to laugh, it ain't because humor is dead. You are. Whether you have a pulse or not. The greatest humor, truly timeless universal comedy, comes from the depths of pain and anguish and despair, and we got plenty of all that right now all over the place. I'm hoping the coming years of paranoia and soul-testing will make me laugh harder than ever, in defensive response to the incredible grief afflicting this neurotic little ball of dirt spinning senselessly in eternal space. I'm counting on humor, all kinds, not just safe, cutesy, politically correct crap, to get me through the agony of being alive in this time and place. So God Bless the Onion, American's most truthful source of news reporting, for headlines like "Terrorists Surprised to Find Selves in Hell" and "Security Beefed Up At Cedar Rapids Public Library." A good laugh is like an orgasm for the brain - it just relieves so much tension.
Irony, not even truth, has been the first reported casualty of the "new war," though I have made several posthumous sightings of it myself. "But make no mistake" (make no mistake, I'm SICK of that god damn phrase already - make no mistake!) - truth is the next target. Civil liberties are on the government hit list, too. The shock waves of 9-11 are going to be felt for years beyond the global "war on terrorism" if right wing mandates are somehow forced on this nation's citizenry in the name of the new "patriotism" sweeping our fair land like anthrax in a windy train tunnel. That may sound like a negative spin on what many people claim to be a positive unity, but the main element unifying this nation right now ain't true love, it's real fear.
Dig it: a white and black man are beating the crap out of each other. All of a sudden there's an earthquake, and they stop fighting long enough to help each other escape falling debris and avoid big cracks in the ground beneath them. Once the apocalyptic shaking stops, and they're sure everything's back to normal, they start beating the crap out of each other again. That's how I see this sudden outbreak of brotherhood, as a convenient, desperate expression of basic survival instincts. Again, I really hope I'm wrong. But if we as a society, as a race, haven't learned not to hate and kill and oppress and discriminate against each other in the wake of two world wars and countless isolated ones, why would we suddenly become enlightened now? Of course, this epiphany is way overdue. The coffee of common sense and basic humanity has been brewing under our slumbering noses for centuries. Was the World Trade Center tragedy the final alarm clock for mankind? Are we ALL going to wake up now and smell that sweet coffee? Is that the sound of a collective waking yawn I hear, or just more snoring as we roll over for a more comfortable position in the big bed of self-delusion?
Call me cynical - and again I hope I'm wrong - but our societal prejudices are not (so far) one of the positive casualties of this "new war." We've found a common ground in our mortality and vulnerability, stunningly displayed with the repeated images of the plane crashes and fall of the towers. But once the recent horrors fade in memory, most of mankind will resume its self-destructive course of ignorance, in the name of patriotism, religion, justice, whatever.
This is why it is important to remain vigilant in this time of crisis, not only watching out for obvious dangers like hijackers and biochemical weapons, but also for more insidious, invisible threats from within our own society. If bigots like Ashcroft somehow slip in their uptight agenda while we're all worrying about the next foreign terrorist attack to materialize on home soil, or if W. does manage to smoothly appoint a right wing Supreme Court Justice, bolstered by high "wartime" poll numbers in this newly conservative atmosphere, were going to be suffering the consequences of 9-11 long after bin Laden and the al Queda have joined Hitler and the Nazis in historical purgatory. (History is indeed on our side here - the terrorists are going down, eventually, no question about it, because no one really wants a world without any naked women. But History also dictates a calmer, more sensible, and compassionate world order following the defeat of the disruptive forces. Ultimately, both are up to US.)
You hear a lot of squawking in the media and in government about how the fundamentalist Muslims (hell, fundamentalists are everywhere, from Christianity to AA, Islam sure as hell didn't invent the concept) treat their women like shit. They're totally right. But if this current administration had its way, a very basic female right - abortion - would be totally abolished right here in the "land of the free." Ordering women what to do with their bodies according to a religious doctrine they don't embrace is fascism, plain and simple, so when you hear some "patriotic" redneck trying to defend his hatred for "diaper heads" with this quasi-humanitarian argument, fart the smoke he's blowing up your ass right back in his face. Both of them.
I must say, I am damn glad Colin Powell is in there somewhere doing something. If we come out of this thing not only safer but healthier, in body, mind and spirit, I will give him credit, not W. or Ashcroft or anyone else in the whole damn administration. I don't like everything Powell does or says, but when it comes to this kinda shit, he's a very calm, but strong and confident, voice of reason. Of course, I'd breathe a hell of a lot easier and feel much more secure on all fronts if this happened on Bill Clinton's watch, but it didn't. And I don't think it could have. Dig it: when George Sr. was prez, we had war and recession. Then Clinton - with all his french fry munching and thong-gazing - turned it all around and kept this nation in peace and prosperity for two full terms. George Jr. is in office nine months, and we're right back in recession and war (his word, remember), even worse than before. I see a pattern emerging here, and its name is Bush. (What would be really ironic is if Hillary got in the White House in 2004, completing the cycle, but right now I fear the worst, eight years of retarded cowboy horseshit.) W. is not an evil man, but he is a moron, and that can be just as dangerous, especially in a precarious global situation like the one engulfing us all.
But anyway, as I've said before, I am a Rat Pack Democrat - liberal, with style. I support civil rights, but not political correctness. I think "Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher is a brave (if sometimes annoying) man and should never have apologized for his pretty harmless remarks, any more than anyone else on his televised forum of free thinking should have to. (In case you don't know, he agreed with someone that ramming a plane into a building was not cowardly, but the US firing missiles from thousands of miles away is - to me, they're both weak, but I didn't find Bill's remarks subversive or morally reprehensible at all, and I see his point, at least partially). Several chickenshit sponsors and stations pulled out right away, with more of this rampant knee jerk nationalism. How hypocritical. Like, what are our guys going to die for over there, hell, what did the poor WTC people die for? Freedom - not only of viewpoint, but of its expression.
I hear stuff on that show that pisses me off all the time - even from Bill - but I don't think any of them should apologize, because that would (and did) negate the whole point of the program. Not even Falwell owes me an apology for his offensively ignorant remarks about gays and pagans bringing this disaster on us. Because, for one thing, I wouldn't believe him. You are all free to disagree with me and each other, but to shut anyone up or make them publicly apologize with threats of corporate payback smacks of serious high level censorship. As long as you're not outright insulting an entire race of people, which is just plain stupid and rude, you should be heard. That Texas journalist who got fired for criticizing Bush - hear! hear! - should sue the paper for arbitrarily revoking his constitutional right of free speech, especially since he works for the press. This is one of the few advantages of having your own web site - no one can rob you of your platform. They can just ignore it. Which is fine by me.
One time Maher had Tina Sinatra on his show, and he was visibly awe-struck. His love of Frank is unabashed, and I could tell Tina thought it was cute, though she took no crap off him (she IS a Sinatra). I loved her recent book about her old man. I especially relished reading that even during his senile Reagan years he remained a social liberal, all for abortion, gun control and civil rights. Of course, a guy who bangs a lot of broads, rubs shoulders with the Mob, and hangs out with Sammy Davis Jr. would have to be for all those things.
Recently a French lady journalist named Valentine Gay contacted me via email and asked if I would consider being interviewed for a French TV documentary on Las Vegas, hosted by this cat named Ariel Wizman, on Channel Canal Four, to be broadcast in January in tandem with the release of the remake of "Ocean's 11" in France. As most of you know, I am picketing this cultural atrocity (more on that in next month's column). Its director Stephen Soderbergh is also scheduled to be interviewed for this special. How they found my web site, I don't know. I did used to hang out with Mickey Rourke, one of their favorites, so maybe they found me that way. Fact is, on October 23 I will be Las Vegas to be interviewed at the Stardust, poolside, out by the old Royal Nevada site. Of course Monica Tiki Goddess and I are staying in the old, original Stardust tower, built in '58 (most people ask to stay in the new tower, they sounded suspicious). I hooked the French up with Ray Dennis Steckler (who returns to the Parkway in February), and Ted V. Mikels, now wrapping up filming on the sequel Mark of the Astro Zombies, since the French want to also talk about B movie culture (?). This all came out of left field, well, right field, from across the big pond. While in Vegas, we're also going to see Tom Jones at the MGM, and meet up with pallies Bruce, Enid and Dean at brand new tiki bar called Hidden Cove or Taboo Cove or whatever in the Venetian, a modern claptrap I swore I'd never set foot in, since it was built on the hallowed ground of the Sands. But I do want to see those tikis, designed by friends of Otto Von Stroheim. Plus, as revealed on a recent Travel Channel documentary called The Rat Pack's Las Vegas (thanks to Larry Chadwick for taping that one for me), I know now right where the fabled Copa Room, where the Rat Pack held court, used to be. I want to kiss the sacred ground, though with the heightened security, such an odd act in the middle of the main hall might attract unwanted macho attention. I'll report back on all this - the French, the tikis, Tom Jones, Ray Dennis Steckler - in next month's column, which will be devoted to my protest of the "Ocean's 11" remake, coming out December 7.
As for this month, I am very happy to announce yet another Psychotronic Show from the (inter)stellar rare collections of Scott Moon, publisher of Planet X, and Buzz Bob Ekman. This one is called THE THRILLVILLE HOLIDAY PSYCHOTRONIC TOY SHOW (Nov 8, Parkway), because it will feature robots, ray guns and other futuristic playthings of the past: an episode of The Adventures of Superman, Gigantor, and other sci fi TV shows with mechanical guest stars, plus loads of vintage toy commercials, drive-in movie trailers, scopitones and other buried treasures form their voodoo vaults. All in the magic of 16mm. You may not get to see this stuff on the big screen again, so don't miss it. The little kid in you will thank you. You owe it to him and her for dragging them into the cold-blooded chaos of the 21st Century.
Then Monica and I are off for three weeks - including Thanksgiving - but I return with a big bang with my OTHER all time favorite flick, the classic New York noir SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (November 29, Parkway). This 1957 masterpiece stars Tony Curtis in his greatest role as press agent Sidney Falco, with Burt Lancaster (who also produced) equally slick and slimy as monster columnist JJ Hunsecker. The photography by James Wong Howe is just stunning, making this a truly authentic Times Square time capsule. The real treat is the scathingly sardonic screenplay by Ernest Lehman, based on his novella. There are more quotable lines in this movie than in ANY other film, EVER. My personal favorite is "The cat's in the bag, the bag's in the river." Word is they plan on turning this into a Broadway musical, which I guess I can live with, BUT they then plan to remake the movie with John Cusack. Fine - so can Tony Curtis star in a remake of Say Anything to even the score?
WHY DO THEY KEEP DOING THIS TO ME?
I will save my vitriol regarding this latest cultural tragedy, along with the upcoming remakes of Ocean's 11, Viva Las Vegas (with Ricky Martin and J-Lo), Forbidden Planet, and Barbarella (with Drew Fucking Barrymore), for next month. For now, I will try very hard to find something humorous in all this so I can find the strength to move on. I suggest you do the same.
THE BOYCOTT BEGINS! FRANK'S BIRTHDAY PARTY!
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