Thursday, June 26, 2008

'Frances Farmer'

When I was flipping around channels the other day, I stopped on the Biography Channel, as the bio on Frances Farmer was the bio-de-jour.

I had seen the film, Frances, with Jessica Lange, and I had read info on the real Frances Farmer, as well as reading Kenneth Anger's "Hollywood Babylon."

However, as I watched the bio, the tragedy of her life really struck me. Mental illness is so sneaky and it can rob you of so much, as well it can delude you into thinking that you are the normal one and everyone around you is an attacker.

From what I saw, and then subsequently read about Ms. Farmer, it seemed that no matter how much success or adulation she received for her acting, she would single-handedly ruin things when the going got too good.

However, she was an iconoclast, in my opinion. I had no idea that she won a trip to the Soviet Union, while she was a college student in the 1930s. Later, it would be used against her to prove she was a "Communist."

She was a rebel before rebelling was cool in Hollywood. She refused to be pigeon-holed in B-movie exploits that only capitalized on her looks. She worked with some of the best playwrights and writers of the day. Odets, Hemingway, but she was often combative and paranoid.

As well, she became a major alcoholic.

This began her real descent into madness and exploitation because of it.

According to Wikipedia:

On October 19, 1942, she was stopped by the police in Santa Monica for driving with her headlights on bright in the wartime blackout zone that affected most of the West Coast. Some reports say she was unable to produce a driver's license and was verbally abusive. The police suspected her of being drunk and she was jailed overnight. Farmer was fined $500 and given a 180-day suspended sentence. She immediately paid $250 and was put on probation.

By January 1943, she failed to pay the rest of the fine and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest. At almost the same time, a studio hairdresser filed an assault charge alleging that Farmer had dislocated her jaw on the set. The police traced Farmer to the Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. Getting no answer, they entered her room with a pass key. They reportedly found her in bed (some stories include an episode involving the bathroom) and made her dress quickly. By all accounts, she did not surrender peacefully.

At her hearing the next morning, she behaved erratically. She claimed the police had violated her civil rights, demanded an attorney, and threw an inkwell at the judge. He immediately sentenced her to 180 days in jail. She knocked down a policeman and bruised another, along with a matron. She ran to a phone booth where she tried to call her attorney, but was subdued by the police. They physically carried her away as she shouted, “Have you ever had a broken heart?”

Newspaper reports gave sensationalized accounts of her arrest. Through the efforts of her sister-in-law, a deputy sheriff in Los Angeles County, Farmer was transferred to the psychiatric ward of L.A. General Hospital.[1] There she was diagnosed with "manic depressive psychosis".

I think the worst, however, was being institutionalized against your will. Basically, it happened to Frances twice, once at the hands of her own mother. Can you imagine being thrown in a mental hospital by your own mother, or parents?

As seen in the film, she received ECT treatments, but what is disputed is whether she actually had a lobotomy, as the film suggests.

Years of trying to fight her mother's legal guardianship over her, her mother re-institutionalizing her, took its toll on the woman. However, she never gave up.

At the same time, toward the end of her life, she told others, "I blame nobody but me for my downfall."

I don't know if I believe that or not, but Frances Farmer's life is a good case study for what untreated alcoholism and mental illness can actually do to the person and their family, friends. As well, it is a good cautionary tale about the dysfunctional family unit, period.

The relationship with her mother, as portrayed in the film, is part factual and part dramatic license, but I do think it shows how our sick parents can influence our own sickness.

Erratic behavior, impulsive decision-making, violent outbursts can stop the most creative, intelligent minds. Add to that, involuntary hospitalization in a mental hospital will either make you or break you.

The last part of the program focused on the "This is Your Life" on Frances Farmer. It was bittersweet.

If you get a chance to catch her bio, it's well worth the look. May she truly Rest In Peace.

Here is one of the most pivotal scenes in the film, and it is a chance to see the phenomenal Kim Stanley as Frances' mother.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another Blast from the Past

This time, it's a tune penned by Mel Tillis, and it's been covered by many.

I first heard "Mental Revenge" on an old Linda Ronstadt album, and then I heard it again, while listening to a "Best of Linda" CD compilation.

When I was trying to find a video with Linda singing it on YouTube, I found this classic video of Waylon Jennings taking a turn at it.

I love it, and I think my faithful readers will love this one too. I think he's probably on one of the old country TV shows like "Town and Country," or another.

It's from 1966. Check out the Fender Telecaster. I love this one. I love it because I can actually see his fingering on the guitar, and I can replicate that on mine. Sometimes, I get together with a friend of mine who can really sing, and we pick out old tunes like this.

This was a golden age in classic country, when folks like Waylon and Johnny Cash were establishing themselves.

Here are the lyrics, and I hope you enjoy the video as well. I think the lyrics really speak to me, and I am sure, others.

Mental Revenge
written by Mel Tillis

Well I hope that the friend that you've thrown yourself on
Gets drunk and loses her job
And every road that you travel on
Is dusty rocky and hard

I couldn't make you love me
You only made me blue
So all in all if the curtain should fall
Then I hope that it falls on you

And I will have sweet
Sweet sweet mental revenge
I will have sweet
Sweet sweet mental revenge

Well I hope that the train from Caribou, Maine
Runs over your new love affair
You'll walk the floor from dawn to dawn
And you'll tear out your peroxide hair

I never was your woman
Cause you were never true
So all in all if the curtain should fall
Then I hope that it falls on you

And I will have sweet
Sweet sweet mental revenge
I will have sweet
Sweet sweet mental revenge
I will have sweet
Sweet sweet mental revenge
I will have sweet
Sweet sweet mental revenge

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Maybe Hillary should use her for door-to-door campaigning?

Our tax dollars go to MARTA--Atlanta's rapid transit system--and is this what we pay for?

Do we pay so unstable individuals can hold court and harass older folks, while everyone looks on and do absolutely nothing to shut her up?

All I can say is that maybe she can go to work for Hillary, in a last ditch effort to bully people into voting for her...

Actually, maybe Hillary--who often claims to be down with the 'peeps' herself--should start talking and acting like this young lady. Maybe she should wear the same garb, and call Obama "Shorty" a few times. At this point in her dismal campaign, it couldn't hurt.

Incidents such as the one below are part of the reason that racism is alive and well in the South, particularly Atlanta. I'm not saying it's right. It isn't, but I believe Rev. King is probably turning over in his grave when thinking that he lost his life, so idiots like this one could freestyle rap, while harassing an elderly black woman and yelling "Shorty," in every other breath.

I am sorry to say, but if I had been on that train, I would have immediately called the driver and had her escorted off, and, knowing me, I would have been 'chicken-heading' her back. Instead, it's too much fun to record the idiot going off and only respond after she's almost ready to kick the crap out of an old woman.

No doubt we are not like NYC's subway system, but oddly enough when I was in NYC, I didn't encounter any problems on the subway. It's only been here in Atlanta that I have been accosted by crack addicts, or a group of 'hooligans' yelling, "I don't LIKE WHITE PEOPLE...I HATE WHITE PEOPLE..." as they moved their way down the aisle, knocking a man's glasses off, while he pretended to read the paper, etc.

I've read that this young lady was off her medication. I really hope that is the case.

Well, on with "da show, BOY-EEEEEEE"

Monday, May 05, 2008

Musical 'Iron'-y

Over the weekend, I went on a downloading frenzy, and ripped some great music from Wanda Jackson, Faron Young, Jim Ed Brown/The Browns and last, but certainly not least, Johnny Horton.

Most remember Johnny for his "Battle of New Orleans," but this man was the king of rock-a-billy with a twang, and had some pretty impressive fans like Johnny Cash. Horton was not a drinker, and warned others who did drink, as he played the Louisiana Hayride.

Here's where it gets weird.

Horton married Hank Williams' widow, Billie Jean (she was married to Hank for about two months before he died of an overdose in 1952) in 1953, and she was destined to be yet another widow when Horton was killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver in Texas, on his way back from a concert appearance.

Horton was only 35. I first took notice of Horton, when I heard the original recording of "Honky Tonk Man," when I was watching a film. Up until that time, I had only heard the Dwight Yoakam cover of the song.

"The Mansion You Stole" is a really interesting song, and they really don't make country troubadours like Horton anymore. Listen to the lyrics and/or read the lyrics here. I think all of us can relate to this lament in one way or another.

Faron Young was quite a character. I first saw him when the old Nashville Network was still on cable, and Young and Dottie West would host a video show that showed old clips from shows like Town and Country, Hee Haw, Louisiana Hayride, etc. It was an awesome show, but I had not heard of Faron Young, until I heard him sing "Hello Walls."

Then, I realized that I had heard versions of that song, but I didn't realize it was one of his biggest hits.

Unmitigated Gall is one of his hits that really stood out for me, when I listened to his work last night. The lyrics were written by Mel Tillis, whose daughter, Pam, re-recorded Unmitigated Gall a few years ago.

I just love the lyrics, as they seem ironic to me right now for many reasons. I cannot seem to find a clip of Faron singing it, but I will post the lyrics.

Poor Faron shot himself, after realizing he had a very serious illness, in 1996. It was a shock to his friends and family.


"Mansion that you stole"

The Mansion You Stole
The mansion I own has captured your heart
You said it was love dear but you lied from the start
I wanted true love but you wanted my gold
Someday you'll be sorry for the lies that you told

You've stolen my heart and you cheated on me
But someday my darling I know that you'll see
A house without love can make you so cold
And you will be lonely in the mansion you stole

"Unmitigated Gall"
Words by Mel Tillis

Well, how can you have
The unmitigated gall
To come back now
Expecting me to fall.

Right down on my knees
And kiss your feet, yeah feet
Feet that one day
Went a walking out on me.

With a fast talking slob
You hardly knew his name
Your mind is

And where did you get
The backbone and grit
To come back now
Expecting me to fit.

Right back into plans
That we once made
Plans that now are gone forever
To return never, ever.

I don't want you anymore
So get away from my door.
And let me live, live, live
And let me live, live, live.

Don't come messin'
Up my life again
How can you have
The courage and the nerve.

To come back now
Expecting me to love you
After the way
That you've done me.

Guess you think
That I'm a fool
But you're the one
That's blew their cool.

I don't need you anymore
So get away from my door.
And let me live, live, live
And let me live, live, live...
Here's Faron singing Hello Walls:

Okay, here's a question for any of the readers who still visit here. What famous singer/songwriter wrote "Hello Walls?"

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Apocolypse Must Be Near...

Oh yes, we've learned so much from the tragedies of 9/11 and Katrina, etc. Remember for that brief, day or so, how we all thought about what really matters in this life?

Yes, here is what I came across this evening, as reading it really warmed the cockles of my jaded heart!!!

It's all about that cute little cherub Miley know "Achy Breaky IlookandsoundlikeBillClinton Heart Billy Ray" Cyrus' daughter.

From MTV UK:

Miley Cyrus- the 15 year old star of kids show Hannah Montana- has signed a deal to write her first book.

Disney- who also make her TV show, film, albums and merchandise- will release her autobiography in 2009.

According to reports the book will focus of Miley’s relationship with her mother and family.

Christian Cyrus said she wanted to: “motivate mothers and daughters to build lifetimes of memories together and inspire kids around the world to live their dreams."


Oh my god.

(said with a whiny country accent) "It waw-s the best of tah-mes, it waw-s the worst of tah-mes"

What in the HELL is she going to write about?

"....and then I got my period."

Ridiculous and audacious don't even begin to describe this travesty of pulp.

Gas prices are so high that most Americans cannot even take a vacation this summer, rice is vanishing as a staple, foreclosures are at their highest ever, but a 15-year-old pop star deserves a seven figure salary, because we all need to know when her breasts started developing.

"Diddy said I could sing too..."

What a sick, sick culture we live in.

I hope they offer her "racy" pictures as a special DVD insert to the book. Maybe she'll go to rehab during the book's publication, and they'll have to add an 'Epilogue' to her distinguished career.

Hell, maybe we should just give her a Kennedy Center Honor, along with honoring the distinguished careers of Cato Kaelin, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

Bea Arthur will sing a tribute to Miley, and Patti LuPone will sing selections from the upcoming Andrew Lloyd Weber musical "At Least We Have Paris."

And the "American Idol Loser" chorus will sing a tribute to Cato Kaelin.

The ideas are limitless.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The passing of the seasons

April is a precarious time in Georgia.

As Spring tries to sprout via the pollen-laden trees--the Dogwoods , peach and cherry blossom --the last vestiges of Winter try desperately to hang on for dear life.

One day it can be sunny, 78 degrees and no humidity, and then the next 55 degrees and windy. Since February, we've experienced a round of tornadoes, followed by frigid temperatures at least three times.

I do recall even experiencing a snow storm in the first weeks of April, many years ago.

It's a tumultuous time, but Spring wins out, as everything that was old is new again and things that were dead come to life again.

In the past two weeks, I've seen the struggle and ultimate passage of life to death and death to life in my own neighborhood.

A couple of months ago, my neighbor and friend, Donna, called to ask me if I wanted to see John Fogerty in concert--FOR FREE! Um...YEAH!

When I asked Donna who gave the tickets to her, she told me about Ken Durr--a neighbor that lives in our complex--someone I had never met.

Donna told me that Ken was a writer and a 'hermit' like Donna and me, and that he'd been living in our complex for a few years. She also told me that he was a Vietnam Vet, who was exposed to Agent Orange. From that exposure, he had already battled prostate cancer and won, but now his body was--again--riddled with The Big C.

We bought Ken a John Fogerty t-shirt and his latest cd, and I finally met Ken.

It was like meeting an old friend. Through his weakened state, there was a distinct charisma that shone like a bright light from him.

We talked shop: He told me about how he was a copywriter back in the day, and how he was working on a book about the brothels that used to dot the train tracks all along Georgia, during WWII.

Well, that caught my attention. According to Ken, basically there were little towns along the routes that took GI's in and out of Fort Benning, GA, that basically served as um, shall we say "R&R" towns for the boys getting ready to ship out or train for WWII.

I was hooked, so to speak.

Ken and I sat and talked for about an hour, which is about all he could handle, and he gave me a big hug as I left.

Little did I know that it would be one of the last times I'd see him alive. We emailed, as he went through chemo, and he would write when he was up to it. He was always upbeat, determined to kick the cancer that was ravaging his body.

If anyone could do it, it would be Ken Durr. He made it out of Vietnam alive--he was in the middle of combat as a helicopter pilot--and he saw the Cancer as a weaker battle.

But, as in Vietnam, he underestimated the enemy.

Two weeks ago, Donna called me when I was in a meeting with a client, to tell me that Ken had died at home, with his wife by his side.

For most people that know me, you know that I don't "do" funerals very well. I find, especially in the south, the whole propping the coffin open and sitting and staring at a soul who has obviously passed sort of, well, morbid, but that's just me.

I know for many, it's a time to say a final goodbye. For me, when I go, I want no pomp and circumstance, as my body is going to Emory University for medical students to work on, and then to be cremated.

However, when it came to Ken Durr, I was going to the viewing and the funeral. His wife, Darlene, had been his full-time partner, caretaker, nurse 24/7. I wanted to go for her too. It was hard to see him in the coffin, bald and gaunt.

I preferred the pictures of him, next to the casket, when he was well, full of life, and smiling. I didn't know Ken for very long, but when I met him, I felt like I knew him forever. I am glad his suffering is over, and it seems appropriate that as the calendar seasons changed, so did Ken's season come to an end during Spring.

His spirit is still all around.

Another soul passed on as well last week.

I have a dear friend, Colleen, and over the years we have been the best of friends and sometimes we've so gotten on each other's nerves, that we have to take a break.

Our tempers run about the same, and we have some of the same issues about holding things in and then going off at some point. Both of us know how we are when we "go off" and I think we restrain, or handle conflicts in email sometimes, because we know what would happen if we did it in person.

It doesn't mean I don't love or care about her, because I always have and I always will, but there are times when I'm overly sensitive about issues, or she is sensitive about something, and our 'issues' sort of bump up against each other.

We are sort of like 'Gladiators' in battle, but when the dust clears, I always have her back and she's got mine.

She's been going through a lot in the past few years, and her will to survive is something I admire. Colleen is like the 'Phoenix.' No matter the crisis, she will rise, unscathed and stronger out of the ashes.

Colleen is one of the biggest characters I have ever met. She is larger than life, and I suppose that is what has always attracted me to her as a friend.

Throughout our relationship, her mom and dad have played a large role. The stories she has about growing up in Louisiana, with her daddy taking her everywhere, are priceless. Like her, her daddy was larger than life.

I wish I could have met him in person, but the times that I was invited to go with her back home, I had to work, or something didn't work out.

After a long illness, Colleen's daddy passed last week. She had just gotten home to see him, to sit with him, to hold his hand and tell him that she loved him, and vice versa, so that is a good thing.

When I saw some of the pictures from the graveside service, it looked like a gorgeous Spring day. There's no doubt that his soul is still alive and all around. Much of it is embodied by Colleen herself.

For Ken and Les, and their families, this is for you:

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.

A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

a time to kill and a time to heal ...
a time to weep and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn and a time to dance ...
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;

a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;

a time for war and a time for peace.

ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Utter Brilliance

About a month ago, Susan and I finally got a chance to see Julie Taymor's musical directorial debut, "Across the Universe." I'd seen her work in the directing of "Frida" about artist, Frida Kahlo, which was also visually brilliant.

But the way this film was made has literally changed my life. It's one of the most visually stunning works I have ever seen.

Critics have lambasted it for being somewhat of a long music video, but I totally disagree. Only Taymor could take the Beatles songbook and weave it into a linear narrative that takes viewers on a kaleidoscope tour of the 1960's via a group of friends, who are thrust together from various points "Across the Universe."

There are too many nuances to mention here, but when I saw it in the movie theatre--a rare treat for $1.75--I didn't take my eyes from the screen once.

The editing, the choreography, cinematography, and last but not least, the performances of the lead characters really gel together.

Since we've experienced the film, we've bought the extended version DVD, and we've screened it for friends about three times now, and I am not sick of it at all. For me, it's like watching Coppola's Godfather I and II. I can watch both of those films to 'infinity and beyond' and never tire of their cinematic genius as well.

Ms. Taymor cares about every detail, and--to me--she's a genius, hands down. We saw her production of "The Magic Flute" at the Met in NYC, last Christmas, and it was just as brilliant. She is a rare talent, and I envy her genius.

It's definitely a gift.

If you have not seen the film, rent it, Pay-Per-View it, or buy it. You will not be sorry that you did.

I am now a true-blue fan of Ms. Dana Fuchs. She plays "Sadie" in the film. Without sounding like Rex Reed, Dana Fuchs is FAB-U-LOUS!!!

And she's damn hot too. I hope she will come down to Atlanta, after her European tour.

Here are some clips from the film: Hopefully, you will see them before they get yanked.

The first is one of the best, in my opinion. Who else but Taymor would come up with these visuals for the song, "I Want You...I Want You So Bad, Baby?" It's the Uncle Sam poster that hooked me into this scene, and I never looked back.

This scene is so relevant today, as it is in the film.

And here is another, brilliant performance by Ms. Dana Fuchs as "Sadie."

A fun, fun scene, which makes me want to go bowling with my socks on, and my favorite song:

Finally, my favorite scene:

Visit Dana Fuchs' website/blog:

Dana Fuchs