Thursday, September 30, 2010


1985, directed by Ridley Scott

LEGEND, a dark fairy tale, was one of those movies i'd always heard about, but never got around to seeing. If you're in the same boat, it's not a boat you have to leave. I do recommend that every film student be required to view it, however, for a humbling lesson in how a film that has everything can simply...not work. LEGEND receives my nomination for the most almost-towering dud ever. You'll scratch your head for weeks, trying to figure out what went wrong.
The version i'm talking about is the 2002 director's cut. The original theatrical release was supposedly flat-out bad. The director in question? Ridley Scott, whose previous two offerings had been ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER. The production values are wondrous, the writing well-crafted, the acting excellent. A young Tom Cruise gives an unaffected, heroic performance. Mia Sara gives a dual performance at once so pure and so corrupted, you'll cry at the thought of the Van Damme eye candy she ended up as. And at the center, Tim Curry as the Prince of Darkness. This should have been the role of his lifetime, and he nailed it.
With all that, how could it have missed? But it walk away feeling dulled and leaden.
Was it the editing? Gremlins, perhaps?
Tell me...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

dream of heroes

(I recently wrote an in-depth piece about the only darkness to ever invade my dreams. Focus determines reality, so in writing a piece like that, there's always the danger you'll draw yet more darkness unto yourself. Hopefully, the good you do in the world by writing such a piece outweighs the damage you might do to yourself. All of which is why i was so happy to have this dream last night, one of the most pure, shining dreams i've remembered in a while.)

I was at a meeting that had been convened for a large group (about thirty or so) of super-heroes, each with unique powers. We gathered standing in a circle, in some type of public hall, like a VFW or transit center, where there were other groups and individuals moving about. We lived in suspicious, non-heroic times, so most of us were unsure about our function, or that we even properly belonged in this land. We hadn't been together for long, and didn't know each other well. Our leader was a good person, but was a bit overwhelmed by the cynicsm of the times. My own powers were of a Captain Marvel variety, and i knew i was one of the strongest...some of the other super powers in the room were a little bizarre and underwhelming. But i was humble, not willing to sway the group with my strength, knowing that we needed to function as equals if we were going to function at all. I knew that our group was considering disbanding or diminishing our goals, and that my words and spirit had to touch them, or a dream would be lost. I was given the floor, and began a long speech. It was so long it had to be continued at the next meeting. While i spoke, we lost many members...not because my words were false, but because the forces of malaise in the world were so strong. I could accept that. I knew that if my words were true, we could triumph and be reunited. At the second meeting, our space in the hall kept getting downgraded. We had always kept our symbol, a big painted circle, at the center of our group. We had lost it, and i kept on insisting to the leader that we maintain some sort of symbol there. He thought it was a waste of time, but relented. The best we could do in the end was an unused condom, but that condom stayed true at the center of our group. The final parts of my speech were about the power of symbols, and the need that people had for them...without the world's belief in what our symbol stood for, we would never succeed. I was finally done, and looked around, not knowing whether i'd gotten through. There were less than ten of us left. The group's uncertainty was finally overcome when one of them put her arms around me. She had a smile of such belief and hope. I wasn't sure what her super power was. She had Native American or Latino blood. She smiled so beautifully as she held me, and we spoke...she was so happy and serene. We looked at one of our other heroes. I didn't know his power - she told me it was gastric.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Anthony James

"THAT-GUY" PROFILE: Anthony James
The closest he ever came to a regular television role was four episodes as Elbert Moses on GUNSMOKE. But for twenty-five years, whenever a producer needed a menacing, lanky, slimy henchman-type, Anthony James was on the job. 6'3", with hawk-like features and pocked skin, he worked often and well that five series brought him back to play another character (four different characters on GUNSMOKE alone). Did you see him on BONANZA, HAWAII FIVE-O, IRONSIDE, THE MOD SQUAD, S.W.A.T., STARSKY AND HUTCH, MAN FROM ATLANTIS, VEGA$, QUINCY, B.J. AND THE BEAR, SIMON AND SIMON(3x), THE A-TEAM(3x), KNIGHT RIDER, HUNTER, THE FALL GUY, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and MARRIED WITH CHILDREN? Was he a shady deputy in "Angels in Chains", the greatest episode of CHARLIE'S ANGELS? Was he Laird the alien tracker in the greatest episode of V? Was he Varek, the irradiated, super-powered, sympathetic henchman in BUCK ROGERS(2x)? Was he even possibly a romulan? Yup. Did we love him at the movies too? How about IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, a gay hitchhiker in VANISHING POINT, and his final role, Skinny the pimp in UNFORGIVEN? Or our personal favorite, Hector Savage in NAKED GUN 2 1/2, getting caught up in the song "The Way We Were", as he prepares to kill Jane in the shower?
Did he give up his serial sleaziness in the early 90s to become a celebrated painter? Yes, he did.
Nicely done, Anthony. We thank you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


It's not just select tribes or families showing faithlessness, it's the entire Hebrew nation. Before Joshua led Israel into the promised land, the Lord was very explicit and direct (Deuteronomy 28) about the punishments which would befall the people of Israel if they ever became unfaithful. It promised no less than widespread death, defeat, destruction, degradation, and dispersal. The supreme being would be incapable of going back on It's word, as It does in these verses.
If your sense of humor tends in that direction, this is one of the funniest images the Bible has thus far produced.
What is the message here? That the Lord "rights all wrongs"? Or is this simply an isolated incident? If so, isn't it unreasonable to propose that the Lord would right certain wrongs but not others, or that once upon a time It righted certain wrongs, but no more? The wording of this verse seems to imply that the events following the death of the sixty-nine could not have happened any other way, that everything had to happen as it did. This seems to be another biblical argument against free will, and not just pertaining to specific individuals. A very important point is that it is not reasonable for the Lord to give a complex set of rules to follow, as It has done, unless humankind has the free will to do or not do these things in the first place. Many of the people and nations whose hearts were "hardened" endured death and destruction as a result. It is ludicrously unjust to have people become victims of the Lord's wrath, when they weren't even acting of their free will in the first place.

Witness For the Prosecution

-winter 1994
Charlie Leeder came calling, asking whether i'd join a production that was about to open. It was a tiny part, but that was cool, there would be little pressure and it would be great to be around him again. The company was Shakespeare '70, in Trenton. Around this time, Charlie and i were in a two-year celebration of Harry Chapin's work. We would get together every month or two to listen to one of his albums, with a pizza. The play was a courtroom drama. I was the assistant prosecutor, Mr. Bartram. I can't remember whether i had a line. Charlie played the doctor. There was an Asian girl named Helen in the cast, whom i had a crush on. She thought i was too thin. I worked up the gumption to tell her that the only people who ever said that, hadn't seen me without clothes. I asked her out. She passed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Planet of the Apes, TV

The APES franchise has been lampooned for trotting out one inferior product after another (four sequels, one TV series, one cartoon), milking that cash cow. This allegation is unfair, yet not maliciously so. None of the spawns came anywhere near the 1968 masterpiece, yet it can't be said that they weren't trying. You try living up to the 27th greatest film of all time.
When the series aired, the public had already been subjected to four flaccid follow-ups. Within half a season, the series was tossed on the dustheap. A sad turn of events, because it had the potential to be the only worthy successor.
How many promising series are canned after less than one season? How many brilliant shows stumble through a shaky first season?
The premise is similar to the movie. Astronauts return to earth after 2000 years, to find a planet run by apes, with humans in bondage. Direct connection to the characters and events of the films is nebulous and inconsistent, and all humans now have the ability to talk. There is, however, an organgutan named Zaius, and Roddy McDowell plays the chimpanzee Galen, who joins the two astronauts as fugitives on the run. McDowell is brilliant as always. Ron Harper (Uncle Jack, LAND OF THE LOST) and James Naughton are solid as the astronauts Virdon and Burke (Jersey City, baby!). And brilliantly apish is Mark Lenard (Sarek, STAR TREK) as arch-nemesis gorilla General Urko. Also delightful are the guest appearances (Michael Conrad of HILL STREET BLUES, Marc Singer of THE BEASTMASTER, Sondra Locke, Roscoe Lee Browne of SOAP, Oscar-winner Jackie Earl Haley of THE BAD NEWS BEARS, and many "oh that guy!" moments). If you fancy drinking games, the one for this series would be whenever someone shouts "Think, Urko, think!!"
They filmed fourteen episodes. Many are plagued by iffy writing, sometimes painfully so. But some came together wonderfully, and despite the smaller budget, you never question the reality of the ape world. So if you're in the mood for an APES-athon, start with the movie, then go to these episodes:
-The Legacy
Virdon is captured, and incarcerated with a mother and her angry son. He and the woman develop feelings while he tries to win over the son, who is collaborating with the apes.
-The Trap
Burke is trapped in a subway tunnel collapse with Urko. They must escape together.
-The Deception
The fugitives befriend a blind ape named Fauna whose human-sympathizer father was killed by vigilantes. Unaware of her father's politics, or that her uncle is a vigilante, or that Galen's companions are human (setting the all-time record for TV guest character obliviousness), she falls in love with Burke. When she discovers the truth(s), her world crashes down.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


The greater my feeling of broken emptiness grows, the more profound my mournful desire to fall into gentle, loving be held inside someone's body for an hour or two at a time. There is a faint, constant ache around my shoulders and neck, that nothing but a rub every day or two could fix. But there's a contradiction at work...the more hurt and needful you are, the more off-balance you become. The more off-balance, the less you have something good to offer another human being.
So though i would reach out to some who might love me, the protector inside me shouts me away from those i might hurt.
And the core of my wound carries with it an anti-social aspect...wanting nothing to do with fools and ungentle souls.
We are all of us, in varying degrees, fools and ungentle souls.
So another barrier goes up. The fact that i have one foot out the door of this glistening metropolis might also affect the mindset of any woman who might take a fancy to me.
There are three women i think of. There is the woman whose checkout line i always gravitate to at the local grocery. We have a nice connection...our eye contect is long, and there are moments when our talk threatens to break social constraints. I sense that she and i could be lovers in a short time. She lives in my neighborhood, and i intuit that we would not wear condoms...compelling factors. My physical attraction is not profound though (i'm a fan of moles, but she has one that hits me the wrong way), and i have no idea whether we have any deep personality compatibility. The kind of woman i need is one who has the rare ability to live in the moment, not using love as a negotiation. If this woman is not one such (and almost none are), then she could end up being hurt.
But i want a lover so badly, the wounded part of me sees her through the eyes of a predator (as most men always do, plus a good number of women).
The second woman is an acquaintance i had one semi-romantic night with, years ago. We've kept in very occasional e-mail contact since, initiated by her. If my physical attraction had been more profound, i'd have made more time for her long since. She might have the non-negotiative mindset i require...indeed, it's even possible that i would be the one who is too conservative. She's into sex clubs and hardcore porn. She loves George Harrison though, so we'd have that that going for us.
The third woman is an old friend. There has always been a sexual element between us, never fully explored. Were my attraction more profound, that wouldn't be the case. I have little doubt she could live in the moment. We have similar philosophies, and enjoy each other's company.
With all these women though, there's the inescapable feeling that intimacy wouldn't banish the demons of emptiness.
So i hold back, waiting...
In moments of emptiness, i almost seriously think about masseuses and prostitutes for the first time in my life.
I mean, why not? Feeling ever more isolated from conventional avenues of physical connection...why not?
Perhaps i shouldn't kid myself...if i ever did hire a whore, i might be fated to be one of those "i just want to hold you" johns. As much as i hate money, i sometimes think about how delightful i'd be as a rich person. I think i would walk the streets (or stroll the cyber-realm) and show up in the lives of prostitutes and others in financial servitude. For a whirlwind moment, i'd take them to a place where they can be whatever they want, with nothing demanded of them.
Sometimes i feel i'm hanging on to my integrity with my teeth.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


For the first time since you've started reading my writings, and going back five years more, i address you as a human who is debt-free, in material terms. Tabulating material debt, either that which you owe, or that which is owed you, occupies a very low rung on the ladder of enlightenment. But living in this capitalist society, it's hard not to feel money's weight. I'd always gravitated toward a debt-free life; i paid off my college loans quickly, and whenever i used my credit card, would pay the balance in full at the end of the month. Eight years ago however, i produced JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR in Florida, with a female Jesus. It was smashing artistically, but left me $1500 in debt. In five years here in NY as a non-materialist freelancer, i'd only been able to break even financially (which is actually no mean feat). Then two years ago, i went through theft, vandalism, and credit card fraud, just as a recession began. Suddenly my debt was $4000. Some relatives loaned me that amount, so i could free myself from the honorless credit card company, Bank of America.
I've been living the past half-year in Jersey City as a rent-free house/dog caretaker. Freed of my $500 monthly rent burden, i paid off the last of my debt this week. I might tell you that i feel a weight has been lifted, but that's only barely spiritual sense of "burden" weighs on scales much larger (and also perhaps my current wounded headspace prevents me from experiencing certain joys).
In all my time in NY, my only regret has been not having more cash, to produce my plays. I'd be lying if i said it wasn't tempting to stay in NY longer, now that saving money quickly is much more feasible.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

amy, gretchen, christina, charmaine

WOMEN 50-53
We acted together in the play SOCIAL SECURITY after i returned to live in Florida and take care of my grandmother. I'd been attracted to another woman in the cast, the one who played my wife. One night at the end of the run Amy needed someone to talk to, so we went to her place. Her husband wasn’t to be home for hours, and we talked about her unhappy marriage. I mentioned that men probably paid her little attention now that she was married. She sadly said yes, and joked about how i'd been unsuccessfully smitten with this other girl, while Amy was thinking "Hello? Over here? Me? Why aren't you noticing me?" I told her that i found her attractive, reached out and held her hand…and our hands never let go as we laughed and talked for another hour or more. Then i went home. Had she wanted more? Perhaps she didn't know, herself. A beautiful memory.
Another girl i met who was visiting her grandmother in the community where i lived with Mom-Mom. We hung out for a week. She had chronic arthritis at the age of twenty, and was looking forward to moving to Florida someday. We spent one or two evenings in my bed, making out. I think i digitally stimulated her to orgasm. A year later she returned. We went to a motel (the only time in my life i've taken a girl to one), but she seemed unsure and sad, so we just talked. We lost touch.
Can't remember her last name either, but in this case that's less of a surprise. She was a visiting light tech from Miami for THE ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE on Sanibel Island. I had a small part and lots of free time. During rehearsals, she and i would sit near each other in the audience in the dark, talking and touching…attraction was acknowledged, and she came to my home after rehearsals. We stripped and made snugglebunnies. Our attraction wasn't profound, but horny loneliness ain't nothing. She had profoundly huge breasts. She mentioned that she had a boyfriend back home. She wanted to go all the way; i demurred. But somewhere in the snugglebunnies, i penetrated her, very shallowly and briefly. We said we'd keep in touch, we didn't…
An actress in the first play i ever directed, THE ODD COUPLE. A college student, she was double cast as a Cardinal sister and Mary the cop. She was sweet, smart, and fun. She had very long soft blonde hair, a little nose, and a willowy body. After rehearsals at my house, she and i would hang out…she took me up on a backrub offer, and wanted it done properly, with oil. She had tiny, absolutely beautiful breasts. We spent about a month sharing and cuddling, as sexuality crept into our embraces. We kissed each other's faces while i massaged and kissed her body. When the sexuality was acknowledged, she asked me to be her lover. I asked to wait a while longer. She got a tattoo of theater masks on her hip, and i was the first to kiss it. One night i so very softly kissed her vagina. A shift came as she was getting to know my friend Shane, the Felix to my Oscar. He was sweet and shy, and i could see a spark growing between them. He felt more strongly about her than i, so with my encouragement they started seeing each other.

The Dining Room

-spring 1993
Back in PA, Adam Gee asked me to do a show with the Pennington Players. He was directing an A.R. Gurney comedy, and told me he would hook me up with his New York agent if i did the show. I said he needn't worry about the agent, as i wasn't keen on them. Gurney was a modern American writer with insight into the WASP lifestyle. I'd read the play, and wanted to do it. It was an ensemble piece in which we all played many characters. Adam's girlfriend Nikki was cast, and so was Chris Arena, Simon from JCS in 1985. It was great to reconnect with him. The third male was Joe Mihalchik, whom i hit it off with wonderfully. Betty Henninger was cast, and it was delightful to finally do some real acting with her. Our final player was a wonderful, gracious human being named Betty Beltz. She was in her late 60s, and we became special friends. We lived a couple miles apart, so we carpooled. She cooked the most incredible meals for me, and shared her life. I did yardwork for her. She gave me a dashiki, and a 1914 Annapolis jacket that had belonged to her husband. The AD was Jon Betzler, who was going off to film school the following fall. He and i became buddies. The cast chemistry was wonderful. My favorite scenes were the one in which i played the aging patriarch whose only real friend is his maid Dora (played by Betty), and the one where the men played Betty's sons, trying to keep her happy as she descends into dementia. We sang "Aura Lee" (the "Love Me Tender" melody) in three-part harmony, and swapped off the harmony parts. One rehearsal i wore my leper costume from JCS (Betty had dared me to do it), and Joe said that buff guys shouln't be allowed to wear costumes like that. We performed in a Pennington church. Such a sweet time.