By • Sep 1st, 2005 •

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Katie Le Bourgeois and Terence Adams with FIR’s editor, in New Orleans, circa 1964

FIR’s next ‘Farewell to Film Greats’ column will have to include New Orleans, a film location to scores of atmospheric motion pictures over the past century. Having lived there for four years, I’ve been following the devastation scenario with great sorrow. I suspect we will never enjoy the decadent pleasures of that antebellum city again, that if and when it is reborn, it will look more like NYC’s South Street Seaport – a clean, false approximation of antiquity – than the New Orleans of old. This was the home of the Cajuns and the Creoles, their culture and their cuisine. It was the home of voodoo in the U.S, where Jim Bowie and Jean Lafitte ran slaves off pirate ships. It was the home of Spanish Moss (gone long before the hurricane hit and the levees fell, due to a city-wide blight), and jazz-filled cemeteries (whose contents have been washed into the water that drapes the landscape, and may give rise to much pestilence and corruption). None of that will ever be back. Ironically, the old French Quarter, in large part abandoned by tourists in recent decades in lieu of a more PC-friendly version erected nearby, is one of the few areas spared by the full fury of the storm and flood. How many weekend mornings I spent at Café du Monde, munching beignets. And how fondly I remember watching Norman Jewison filming THE CINCINNATI KID outside the Royal Orleans Hotel back in the mid 60s. These locations are still standing, relatively unblemished. But New Orleans…accept it: that’s gone.

I was there because I had adventurously chosen Tulane University for my college education. Despite it’s being a fine school, I spent less and less time on campus as the years progressed, and more and more time down town. I bought an Ocelot, lived in an attic above a sorority house, traveled to Baton Rouge with my friend Allen Pasternak to frequent bayou whorehouses which were situated on tiny islands – we’d flash our car lights and a truck would drive through the swamp to pick us up and transport us to the cathouse, and back later to our vehicle. Then we’d barrel back into the Big Easy at daybreak, stopping to gobble down fresh oysters. I eventually got Hepatitis, but that was during post production on STREET TRASH, not in the wondrous city of my college days. No, the closest I got to death in those days was when cigar-chomping cops, noting my New York license plates, pulled me over and threatened me with violence if I was ever caught with a black woman. And then they called the Dean of the school and reported me. Things were different then…kind of…

The city was into its own legacy – indigenous food, and jazz. So when film shoots came to town, I, as Entertainment Editor of the Tulane Hullabaloo newspaper, was invited to the sets. I met Rod Taylor and Catherine Spaak on the location shoot for HOTEL, where a charming Taylor tried valiantly but not quite successfully to get Ms. Spaak to relax. I recently spoke with Sidney Pollack about watching him shoot THIS PROPERTY IS CONDEMNED. And on THE CINCINNATI KID, I got to socialize with Edward G. Robinson, Steve McQueen, Karl Malden and Anne Margaret. Those were extraordinary days, having lunch with Jane Fonda, Gila Golan, Maximillian Schell, Slim Pickens, etc. I wonder how some of my friends from those days are faring now. Terence Adams… Katherine le Bourgeoise… If you’re out there, and okay, please send me an email.

At the ‘Horror Find’ convention near Baltimore a few weeks ago, while promoting the DVD release of STREET TRASH, I picked up the five-hour international cut of Bertolucci’s 1900 from Exploited Cinema, and was advised that the long cut of that film would probably never make it to the U.S because of pedophilia content.

When I got home, naturally curious, I ran the DVD, and the scene in question featured Burt Lancaster and a young girl (though my suspicions are that she was older than she was made out to be). An aging patriarch (Lancaster) lures an innocent creature into his vast estate’s barn where he tells her to milk a cow, which she does, whereupon he open his fly and tells her to milk him. She puts her hand inside his pants and does as she’s told, then laughs and says she can’t milk a bull, and still laughing, heads back outside utterly unscathed by the experience. Lancaster, however, promptly hangs himself.

It’s an outrageous scene, but one thing it isn’t is pornographic. As someone who was around and alert to the debate when pornography was being heavily contested in the courts in the 70s, it seemed to me that everyone on both sides agreed that by definition, pornography had to be prurient, it had to be designed to arouse sexual feelings. The scene in 1900 clearly wasn’t, and didn’t; in fact, it was rather forlorn.

Which brings me to a lovely package I recently received for review, including a coffee table book, DVD, and deck of cards, all featuring THE SUICIDEGIRLS. I had only barely heard of them, and assumed they were a rock group. No, it seems they are a burgeoning movement around the country attracting young fringe women who indulge in innocent sexual burlesque both photographically and in a traveling vaudeville show. Very much an extension of what the ‘Rocky Horror Show’ was a few decades ago, this phenomenon gives image and voice to what young people are thinking when not embracing the status quo, and naturally it involves sex, but in an innocent, fun-loving, non-prurient way, kind of in keeping with the buoyant philosophical tone of Cindi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”.

Most of the girls on the DVD are small-breasted, though I don’t quite see why that would be a pre-requisite for touring. More importantly, the mini-films on the DVD are well shot and edited, and each one focuses on a different SuicideGirl and has a different tone. There is copious nudity, mostly topless, and lots of what could be considered anti-social behavior, but none of it offensive. Likewise, the book, published by Feral House, is filled with compelling photographs, many emulating pin-up photography of yore, taken by SuicideGirls founder Missy Suicide (who, at least as far as I could tell, hasn’t joined her sisterhood in doffing her clothes), the latter section accompanied by essays from the various girls, and these I found to be the most enlightening aspect of all, a free style, honest rhetoric that captures the times and really helped me understand some of what’s going on out there.

Lastly the deck of cards, each a different caricature of one of the girls, are wonderfully drawn by Rion Vernon. I just loved the whole presentation. Hats off to the SuicideChickens. To keep up with their antics, check out Suicidegirls.com

And here’s something brand new to FIR: we will be co-supporting a film festival later in September. The 7th Annual NY Turkish Film Festival will be held at Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue from September 24th to October 2nd. It’s high time FIR has gotten more active in supporting film events, and this hopefully will be a first of many. Your editor will be a presence there, and if you spot him, please come up and introduce yourselves. I’ll be delighted to make your acquaintance.

You can buy tickets in the organizator’s website:


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One Response »

  1. Was Allen Pasternak in Israel in 1973?

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