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Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood

“There was something very attractive in all the hidden places, the hidden histories”*…

In the late 1970s, Asian restaurants in California’s cities started booking some unlikely dinner entertainment: punk bands…

Bill Hong was a Cantonese immigrant dad in his late 40s, running a restaurant in Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood with his sister Anna Hong and her husband Arthur, when two young promoters approached him with a business proposition: What did Hong think about renting out the restaurant’s upstairs banquet hall on the evenings when it wasn’t being used?

It was 1979, and LA was struggling. The entire country had plunged into a deep recession just a few years prior, and now Chinatown and the city’s downtown areas were falling into disrepair. More recent Chinese immigrants had started moving to suburban enclaves like the San Gabriel Valley, bypassing Chinatown and its businesses completely; the non-Chinese customers who used to flock to the neighborhood for exotic chow mein dinners were now avoiding downtown altogether.

When Bill Hong said yes to the promoters, he was trying to be practical. He knew the restaurant needed more customers; maybe letting a few young bands play could help bring them in. He never could’ve foreseen that his family’s establishment, the Hong Kong Low—located on a small street called Gin Ling Way—would become a focal point for a seminal music scene: West Coast punk.

Nor did he know how many times the restaurant’s toilet would get smashed in the process.

Hong’s restaurant—known as the Hong Kong Café to showgoers—was far from the only Asian restaurant to incubate the California punk scene. In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, from Sacramento to San Francisco, some of the state’s most important punk venues were actually Chinese and Filipino restaurants. At eateries like Sacramento’s China Wagon and Kin’s Coloma, or San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens, now-iconic bands such as X, the Germs, and Black Flag played some of their most memorable early gigs. The Hong Kong wasn’t even the first place in LA’s Chinatown to host gigs: the restaurant across the courtyard, Madame Wong’s, had already been doing the same for at least a year…

Su Tissue of the Suburban Lawns performing at the Hong Kong Café, 1979. Photograph by John Brian King.
Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys, performing at San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens—otherwise known as the “Fab Mab”—in 1979 (the same year he ran for mayor of SF). Photograph by Mike Murphy.
Withdrawl, known as Sacramento’s best local punk band at the time, playing at Kin’s Coloma, 1981

Tour the venues: “How Chinese Food Fueled the Rise of California Punk,” from Madeline Leung Coleman (@madelesque)

* “Punk rock, when I was a part of it, was called ‘the underground.’ There was something very attractive in all the hidden places, the hidden histories.” – Mary Harron

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As we muse on the mosh, we might recall that this date in 1979 was “Fleetwood Mac Day” in Los Angeles, as the group was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (about 6 miles northwest of the Hong Kong Café).

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“Hollywood is a place where a man can get stabbed in the back while climbing a ladder”*…

 

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Cartoon of the brothers Warner drawn by Faulkner for his daughter Jill. Early 1940s. Center for Faulkner Studies, Southeast Missouri State University

 

William Faulkner disparaged his two decades of work in film, even though he spent the equivalent of four years in Hollywood and worked at MGM, Universal, Twentieth Century-Fox, RKO, and Warner Bros. Biographies of Faulkner treat his film work as more or less ancillary to his life and fiction, but in fact his screenwriting transformed his conception of himself and his writing. An understanding of the man and his work changes when his contributions to cinema are integrated into a capacious conception of his career…   – “The Cinematic Faulkner: Framing Hollywood

Jill Faulkner Summers found the screenplay for the vampire film Dreadful Hollow among her father’s papers in 1999.  An adaption of Irina Karlova’s lesbian vampire tale of the same title, it remains unpublished (except for excerpts) and unproduced… but not unstudied:

The screenplay is an important contribution to Faulkner scholarship in particular and film adaptation studies in general because the script has not been altered or edited in any way by anyone other than Faulkner. Because the film has not been produced, the multiple script revisions that usually occur when a film goes into production have not happened.  The script is completely Faulkner’s own and reading the screenplay allows a rare glimpse into Faulkner the screenwriter after he had been at it in Hollywood for over ten years. This essay provides the first thorough analysis of Faulkner’s unpublished screenplay for Dreadful Hollow. The first section gives an overview of how the script came to be, Hawks’ attempts to get the film made, and a detailed summary of the screenplay with new plot details not mentioned in earlier published summaries.  The second section focuses on the screenplay as a vampire narrative that borrows conventions from earlier vampire texts and catalogues the significant changes Faulkner made to the vampire novel on which the screenplay is based.  Faulkner chose to emphasize the vampire’s lesbianism to a greater extent than any earlier female vampire text, which is all the more striking because a female vampire film had not been made since Dracula’s Daughter (1936).  He also added details and made filmic changes to the story that cause the vampire’s destruction to appear as a rape or lynching and a revenge response to her lesbianism.  Finally, the essay shows how Faulkner reworks the novel’s conventional detective narrative for the film by including his own specific interests in crime narratives to give Hawks another vehicle for his vision.  He was rewriting the detective stories, “Knight’s Gambit” and “An Error in Chemistry” for publication while working on the screenplay and had just completed the screenplays for To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946) for Hawks…

Faulkner wrote Dreadful Hollow immediately following To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, and so it should be read along with those two films as indicative of the kind of work he produced for Hawks at the time. The screenplay reveals Faulkner’s approach to adaptation was to add elements that could deepen an audience’s appreciation of a form. In doing so, he resists the Hollywood Studio system’s tendency to whitewash corners and soften the shadows of source materials, something that would have been appreciated by his friend and sometimes employer, Hawks. Because the film has not been produced, the multiple script revisions that usually accompanied any script Faulkner wrote for a studio have not happened and the script is completely Faulkner’s own. The screenplay reveals him to be a serious and focused screenwriter with a wide knowledge of early film narratives and techniques who by 1945 had become quite good at his trade. Faulkner stamped the screenplay with his signature multiple times and so it contains large traces of his more canonical work. These echoes serve to further blur the lines between his “literary work” and his “commercial work” and suggest, instead, that for Faulkner, the distinction was perhaps not as clear as scholars have made it out to be. It therefore, should be considered a supplement to his more literary work. I wholeheartedly agree with Kawin’s 1977 assessment of the script: It’s Faulkner’s best screenplay and it deserves a place among his better-known and published work…

Grateful TotH to friend CE…

For a review of Faulkner’s entire career as a screenwriter, visit the essay cited at the top: “The Cinematic Faulkner: Framing Hollywood.”

* William Faulkner

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As we reframe fame, we might spare a thought for Martin E. Segal; he died on this date in 2012.  A Russian emigre to the U.S., Segal built a successful international human resources and employee benefit consulting firm.  But he is much better remembered for his passionate support for the arts– perhaps most particularly, as a champion of Lincoln Center and as the co-founder (in 1969, with William F. May and Schuyler G. Chapin) of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and as its first President.  Now know as Film at Lincoln Center, it hosts The New York Film Festival and (with the Museum of Modern Art) the New Directors/NewFilms Festival.

As The New York Times noted in its obituary, while Marty “was generous with his money, he was perhaps most admired for the donations he managed to extract from others. He used to say he had no trouble giving people the ‘opportunity’ to contribute to the causes he cared most about, whether it be Lincoln Center’s redevelopment project, which updated the campus; Public Radio International [now PRX], of which he was a founding member; or the Library of America, a nonprofit publisher dedicated to publishing, and keeping in print, editions of America’s most significant writing.”

sub-segal-obit-superJumbo source

 

“No scientific discovery is named after its discoverer”*…

 

 click here (and again) for a larger version

Via Lapham’s Quarterly, “Eponymous laws: Legal Nomenclature.”

* “Stigler’s Law”  Statistician Stephen Stigler (who attributes the law to sociologist Robert Merton)

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As we give credit where credit is due, we might send expensive birthday greetings to Irving Paul “Swifty” Lazar; he was born on his date in 1907.  A bankruptcy lawyer turned talent agent, he represented Humphrey Bogart (who gave Lazar his nickname), Lauren Bacall, Truman Capote, Cher, Joan Collins, Noël Coward, Ira Gershwin, Cary Grant, Moss Hart, Ernest Hemingway, Gene Kelly, Madonna, Walter Matthau, Larry McMurtry, Vladimir Nabokov, Clifford Odets, Cole Porter, William Saroyan, Irwin Shaw, Richard Nixon (Lazar negotiated the interview with David Frost), and Tennessee Williams (among many others).  Lazar’s power grew to such an extent that he could negotiate a deal for someone who wasn’tt even his client, then collect a fee from that person’s agent.

In a 1993 profile of Lazar, Michael Korda recalled his first glimpse of the self-dubbed “Prince of Pitch”:

The person in question was standing on the other side of the pool, an incongruous, diminutive figure among all the half-naked, oiled, and bronzed bodies. He was totally bald, and his face–what could be seen of it below huge, glittering gold-rimmed Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses–was tanned, like his pate, to the color of a well-cared-for crocodile handbag. He was wearing tiny white shoes, a blue blazer with gold buttons, and white trousers pressed so perfectly, despite the heat, that he looked like a shiny, expensive beach toy that had just been unpacked by some lucky child. He was shouting into a telephone…

Asked in 1975 to summarize his philosophy, Lazar replied with what might be called “Lazar’s Law”: “In a deal, you give and take. You compromise. Then you grab the cash and catch the next train out of town.”

Swifty Lazar, with Diana Ross

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 28, 2018 at 1:01 am

“When I consider Life, ’tis all a cheat; Yet, fooled with hope, men favour the deceit”*…

 

A picture, supposedly of Poyais, fabricated by Gregor MacGregor

In October 1822, Gregor MacGregor, a native of Glengyle, Scotland, made a striking announcement. He was, he said, not only a local banker’s son, but the Cazique, or prince, of the land of Poyais along Honduras’s Black River.

A little larger than Wales, the country was so fertile it could yield three maize harvests a year. The water, so pure and refreshing it could quench any thirst – and as if that weren’t enough, chunks of gold lined the riverbeds. The trees overflowed with fruit, and the forest teemed with game. Painting an exotic, Edenic vision of a new life abroad, his proposal offered quite the contrast with the rainy darkness and rocky soils of Scotland.

What Poyais lacked, he said, was willing investors and settlers to develop and leverage its resources to the fullest. At the time, investments in Central and South America were gaining in popularity, and Poyais appeared to be a particularly appealing proposition.

Scotland didn’t have any colonies of her own, after all. Could this not be a corner of the new world for her own use?…

MacGregor designed currency that was supposedly used in his fictional land

Gregor MacGregor’s massive fraud and how he brought it off: “The con-man who pulled off history’s most audacious scam” (excerpted from Maria Konnikova’s The Confidence Game).

* John Dryden

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As we demur from accepting wooden nickels, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that Los Angles police were summoned to the home of silent film director William Desmond Taylor by a call about a “natural death” that had occurred the night before.  When they arrived they found actors, actresses, and studio executives rummaging through the director’s belongings… and Taylor lying dead on the living room floor with a bullet in his back.

Mary Miles Minter, a teenager, had become a star in Taylor’s films and had fallen in love with him– much to the dismay of her mother,  Charlotte Shelby.  After Taylor’s murder, a love note to Taylor from Minter was found in his home, along with her nightgown in the bedroom.  Then other damning facts came to light: Minter had once tried to shoot herself with the same type of gun used in Taylor’s murder; Shelby had previously threatened the life of another director who had made a pass at her daughter; and most portentously, Shelby’s alibi witness received suspiciously large sums of money after the murder.  Still, no one was ever prosecuted for Taylor’s death– the case remains officially unsolved.

Mary Miles Minter and William Desmond Taylor

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 2, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The greatest escape I ever made was when I left Appleton, Wisconsin”*…

 

 

Hopefully you’ll never experience being held somewhere against your will, but if you find yourself in a tricky situation, you’ll be glad to know a few effective escape strategies. Standard-issue police handcuffs, and more recently, zip ties, can both be rendered useless in a matter of seconds if you know what you’re doing…

Learn to slip both cuffs and zip ties at “How to Escape from Handcuffs.”

* Harry Houdini

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As we amaze our friends, we might spare a thought for Otis Harlan, he died on this date in 1940.  A vaudevillian (Hell in the first show at New York City’s Folies Bergère; Irving Berlin’s “ragtime” productions, et al.), Harlan moved to Hollywood and became a film staple.  He played the role of Cap’n Andy in the first, part-talkie film version of Show Boat (1929), and was the Master of Ceremonies in the sound prologue that accompanied the film.  In 1935, he played Starveling in Max Reinhardt’s 1935 magical film version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  And in 1937, he voiced “Happy” the dwarf in the Disney animated classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and appeared in the Our Gang short Roamin’ Holiday. Five years later, he voiced Mr. Mole in Bambi.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

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