READING WITH XIPHOS #5
and wished he hadn’t.
Every once in awhile I go cold on reading for a bit of time, usually about a week to maybe three. This happened to me back in March. That was until some discussions popped up around here about the books The Kid Stays in the Picture and Easy Riders Raging Bulls and those books got me back on the reading horse. Coincidentally, around the same time I watched all 13 episodes of a failed TV series the other book I’m reviewing is based on. So thanks everybody for inadvertently giving me something to inflict on all of you.
The Kid Stay’s In The Picture
(Robert Evans 1994)
I have to give Robert Evans some credit for his skill at legerdemain. He makes you look at his right hand by dangling embarrassing personal and professional revelations while hiding what is in his left, major criminal activity. Robert Evans is the master of this all throughout his autobiography The Kid Stay’s in the Picture.
The book tells the story of Robert Evans’s rise from childhood radio and stage star to mildly successful but ultimately failed movie actor to even worse producer. Against all odds, Evans became head of production for Paramount Studios during its most creative period, from 1966 to 1974. After Evans got fired he finally became a successful producer until his personal and professional demons laid him low for a decade. This book is his comeback. For me the most interesting piece of info I learned about Evans’s tenure as studio chief is that he comes straight from the creative side of the business and his choices for the movies he greenlit show that. Evans did not have a MBA or even a college degree for that matter. Hell he didn’t even have a high school degree. Evans dropped out to pursue a career as an actor.
Along the way Evans took a detour to become a millionaire with his brother by starting a successful men’s fashion label and then pissed all his money away. This is a recurring theme in Evans’s life. In 1966 Evans met a self made multimillionaire, Austrian emigrant Charles Bluhdorn, whose company, Gulf+Western Industries, had recently purchased Paramount Studios for what amounted to a handful of beans. Bluhdorn took a chance on Evans as head of production. Bluhdorn had nothing to lose really. If Evans failed, like most thought he would, Gulf+Western could just close the studio and sell off the land, probably at a substantial profit. Instead, proving everybody but Bluhdorn wrong, Evans succeeded beyond all expectations, saved the studio and was responsible for some of the best movies ever made.
The early to mid 60′s were nearly the death for Hollywood studios. Their choices were lame, productions bloated and uninteresting. All the major directors were old, hide bound, lazy and out of touch (more on this in the Easy Rider review) so Hollywood was ripe for a revolution from within. Guys like Evans were the point men for the new Hollywood and his creative choices, viewed through the prism of art instead of commerce, helped fuel the New Hollywood movement of the 1970′s. Unfortunately it also revved up Evans personal demons and caused his hard and nearly permanent fall from grace.
During the course of the book, Evans cataloged his personal and professional mistakes and choices in an honest and forthright manner for which I give him credit. I also believe him when he casts himself and much of Hollywood in an unflattering light. I know he’s being fairly truthful on Hollywood matters because Easy Riders Raging Bulls backs him up more or less. Unfortunately, I do think Evans was being less than truthful about his involvement in drug trafficking and with Organized Crime that lead to a guy getting clipped. I also don’t believe that a man in his mid forties, who was an alleged teetotaler his whole life, would become a raving coke fiend over night because his hot German actress girlfriend/coke whore/coke mule gave him his first bump because he had a backache.
Would I recommend this book? Yes I would. It’s well written and gives good insight into the era when Hollywood came the closest to making films that could be considered art on a monthly basis. Unfortunately I wish I didn’t read the book. It started me down a road of not liking a lot of big names in Hollywood and by extension, their movies. Easy Riders Raging Bulls took that mild distaste I harbored and lit a flame of hate that will not endear me to many readers of WOTM but that is another review down the page.
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
(Anthony Bourdain 2000)
I came to read this book in a round about way. I was looking something up on IMDB and in a typically unfocused manner, I began clicking on link after link until I landed on one that had all 13 episodes of the highly fictionalized version of this book, a TV show also called Kitchen Confidential funnily enough. So I decided to watch all 13 episodes online since I had some fond memories about a couple of the episodes I watched back in 2005. Truthfully, the fond memories tended to be more about the woman I was watching the show with at the time than the show itself, still I gave them a go. Even if the highly fictionalized TV version wasn’t as good as I remembered it to be, it got me interested in reading the book so off to the library I went.
I really liked this book. It was funny, witty, very well written and Anthony Bourdain gave an honest look into a world I knew nothing about, that of the professional chef, warts and all and there are lots of warts. The book is also the personal story of a highly trained chef with a boat load of passion for cooking and the skill to back it up who, due to a crippling heroin/other drugs addiction and even worse personal choices, fell from the ranks of greatness. Bourdain spent many years as what he called a “mercenary” chef in kitchens that didn’t deserve his talents but he had no choice. His addiction burned a lot of bridges and he had to get that monkey of his back and get well.
I enjoy reading about guys who have tasted success, then screw the pooch royally and manage to make it back on top. I can sympathize because I’ve done it and I respect a person that has the back bone and drive to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and drive on. If you like books like that, I highly recommend Kitchen Confidential.
There is one complaint I want to address about the book. Mr Bourdain, I realize you wrote this book between 1999 and 2000 in those heady pre 9/11 days so you could throw around imagery and words about running a kitchen like a military campaign and being a chef is like being a fighting man in combat with a cavalier sense of impunity. Sir, with all due respect, being an executive chef or a member of the kitchen staff isn’t even close to being a combat Soldier or Marine and you really should not make the argument that it is. Other than that minor to somewhat major complaint, you wrote a good book.
Easy Riders and Raging Bulls:
How the Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood
(Peter Biskind 1998)
Upfront honesty, I am going to piss off at least two people profoundly and maybe more with this review because I am going to tear into some directors that members of this group hold in high esteem. I am not doing this deliberately to make you mad but I’m also not going to sugarcoat my opinion about these people. I believe they deserve what I have for them. First though, I need to throw the book under the bus.
Easy Riders Raging Bulls was written by Peter Biskin whose entire life has been devoted to swallowing the cock of Hollywood easily, repeatedly and without a gag reflex. This knucklehead is the worst kind of star fucker and the legs of stars he chooses to hump are directors and writers. It’s Biskind’s leg humping like he’s a trained leg humping dog that is ultimately responsible for making the book nearly unreadable. It took me weeks to slog through this horribly written book. Usually I can tear through books in a few days, faster if the subject is something light and frivolous as Hollywood, but not this book. It was so tough to get through and so badly written that it knocked off my previous most difficult book to read, Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire, from what I thought was it’s unscalable height of suckatude.
Look, it’s not like my reading list is comprised entirely of Dan Brown and John Grisham novels. Sure I read those kinds of stories for the pure entrainment value and don’t look down on them but I mostly read history, math and science books. Christ, I’ve read Xenophon, A Brief History of Time and all six volumes of Gibbons History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire but compared to ERRB, those other books were like a Teen Beat magazine on the difficulty level.
Here is the premise of the book: A group of about 20 or so “maverick” directors, writers and a few actors that includes (but not limited to) Martin Scorsese, William Friedkin, George Luca$, The Beard, Francis Ford Coppola (gag puke), Warren Beatty, Paul Schrader and others saved Hollywood from itself with their new “American” cinema. As far as the premise goes, it’s correct. Hollywood, as we learned in this book and Robert Evans’s, in the mid to later 60′s was moribund and near death. Several studios were almost or were bankrupt. The products they were putting out were lousy. They were bloated and not well made and nobody wanted to watch them. All the big directors were old and if they weren’t nearly going senile they were obstinate in thinking they were still relevant to the changing times. For all intents and purposes, Hollywood was ripe for a revolution and the “young guns” were ready to lead it.
These young turks had a stupendously amazing run of making movies that were artistic and monetary successes for the most part. Movies like The Godfather 1&2, The Exorcist, The French Connection, Paper Moon, Jaws, Star Wars, Taxi Driver, Bonnie & Clyde and a host of other fantastic films were created during this time. This period from the late 60′s to the early 80′s was the most artistic period of production Hollywood had or will ever have in my opinion and generally I don’t think of movies as art. The movies made in this period for the most part will stand the test of time and will always be considered cinema and art instead of the disposable, cynical, throw away, rotten garbage movies that the likes of a Don “I’m to fat for my own skin” Smurphy “produces” or what passes for movies out of the Hollywood sewer today.
Biskind chronicles all this in a confusing and jumbled and smugly self-satisfied manner. Even when he is supposedly taking to task the people he covering, it is always with the sub-text of how great and wonderful we all are (he considers himself part of the movement). This group of young guns was an incestuous group that kept telling each other how great they were all the while joyfully and gleefully finding ways to fuck each other over both literally and figuratively. Buskind lapped it all up like the dutiful jizz mop that he is.
There was so much wrong with the book that I’m just going to bullet point the worst of the worst.
- Since Biskind is a inveterate name dropper I had to look up a least a dozen names on the internet. They just popped out of nowhere and we were expected to know them.
- Biskind would refer to people sometimes by first names, sometimes by last names and sometimes by both in the same paragraph or page. It was hard to follow
- Except for Interview With the Vampire, I’ve almost never had to go back and reread paragraphs or pages I’ve already read. Biskind has a confusing style and he flits back and forth between subjects, sometimes in the same paragraph. I was constantly looking up people in the index.
- Well you get the idea, I’m not going to belabor the point
That is it for a few of the technical problems I had with the writing of the book. Now I’m going to move onto the problems I had with more than a few the subjects and this will not endear me to most everybody here. Again, I’m not trying to be confrontational. It is what it is and it is my impression of these people.
A few points before I begin about some of the criteria I am using. First, drug use is not a factor. One of the people I’ll be raining a shit storm down on was a cockhead without using hard drugs. To me, drug use is just a sign of weakness so I’m not using it as a criteria for judgment. Sex. Don’t care about this one except when the people involved fucked their friend’s old ladies (or boys). You don’t fuck what are supposed to be your friend’s significant others. Arrogance I have a problem with but only along certain lines and I will get to those specifically.
Last point, I admit freely and proudly that I am basing my opinions on the fact that I had a rural proletariat upbringing in flyover country. Oh so scary, I’m one of them. I am a red neck (in the true sense of the word and not in the hijacked meaning of the word by overly effete, lazy, ill and worthlessly educated city dwelling motherfuckers that aren’t worthy enough to carry my jock both physically and intellectually) and I’m not ashamed of it. Because of my limited intellectual capabilities and rigid adherence to outmoded concepts of right and wrong and what constitutes “proper” behavior, I am not able to see the difference between the art and the artist. I know I am a narrow minded constructivist that isn’t open minded enough to realize that fallacious and pernicious social constructs of bourgeois society don’t apply to the important creators of ideas and art. I know that since I willingly murder babies and enslave the poor and downtrodden and rape women I have no place commenting on the great men of the art world. I get all that but I don’t care.
PEOPLE I LEARNED TO HATE
Francis Ford Coppola. You sir are a fraud, a thief and a delusional fool. I hate to write that since I truly enjoyed both Godfather movies (3 doesn’t exist). In my opinion they are among the best most involving movies ever made. I get lost in them each time I see them and find something new in them every time I watch. After reading about you in ERRB and Evans book, the bloom is way off that rose. In fact now I believe the success of those movies had as much to do with Evans living in the editing booth as you did in filming. You actively and unashamedly stole money from studios and friends. You called yourself an auteur when you hadn’t done anything. Coppola, you have two great movies in the Godfather and in Apocalypse Now you almost touched greatness (way to miss the point of Heart of Darkness and I would like to have seen what Milieus wrote originally). One movie I thought was good but was mostly unseen was Gardens’ of Stone (which has more to do with me loving the book as a kid). That’s it chowder head. Your cult leader status led you to abuse weak minded sheep like Luca$ and we, as as moviegoers, ended up paying the price. Good job asshole, you’re a total goniff.
Lastly, your actions in the Philippines were criminal. You and your arrogance got lucky you didn’t kill more people on set. Congrats on becoming Kurtz in real life dipshit.
Robert Towne (writer, he wrote or co-wrote Bonnie and Clyde, Shampoo, Chinatown and others) You are a weird, delusional tool and not anywhere as smart as you wish you were. You haven’t made history or “changed the perception of reality in profound and permanent ways.” YOU WROTE SOME MOVIES, THAT’S IT FUCK-O. Actually, numb nuts, what you really did was kiss ass and suck up like a nuclear powered Dyson vac to dumbfucks higher on the food chain than you. When they turned on you for being a high maintenance, attention whore, psudo-hippie, money worshiper (like all the other alleged artistes) you whined like a girl that just got her first period in gym class, you pussy. You’re another big time hippie artiste writer that wails on women you piece of shit. You break the mother of your child’s face? I’m not kidding here, he broke her face. Fucking untalented, hack, scum bag. How did that directing gig work out for you douche? Not well. What’s with all the hate and violence towards women that all these alleged flower children, peace and love pushing knob jockeys have? I only thought it was evil motherfuckers like me that that treat women bad.
Robert Altman I don’t fucking get this this guy. Oh wait, I do. Altman was a miserable money grubbing cocksucker that thought he was better than everybody and felt he was entitled to treat anybody like dirt. Fucking condescending prick. If it wasn’t for the fact that everybody in Hollywood is a feeble wimp, they wouldn’t have taken your abusive bullshit for one damn second. Your whole “angry” guy persona doesn’t even make any sense Altman. You got to live your dream, got paid reCOCKulous sums of money (which like all these “artistes” was the paramount thing, fucking hypocrites) for doing nothing. You had absolute control and power on the set. You banged beautiful women without an ounce of effort on your part. Losers kissed your ass daily and tongue bathed your balls repeatedly all the while making only ONE good movie. If that was my life, I would be the most jovial and happy motherfucker ever to walk the earth but no. You had to play scary angry guy all the time you schmuck.
I know people get all weirded out if you talk ill about the recently deceased but death holds no special meaning for me so I have zero problem shoveling another load of dirt on a festering corpse. With that in mind…..Fuck You Dennis Hopper. You were a bully, a coward, a hack, a woman beating piece of shit and child fucker. Again, if anybody in Hollywood had man parts swinging between their legs or specifically if that giant cunt Peter Fonda had male genitals, your bogus tough guy bullshit never would have flown. Hell, Rip Torn exposed you for the lying cowardly piece of shit you were and not once but twice in court. How much did you lose big mouth? With the fake story you told, like 800 large or so? Also, you titanic piece of shit, young girls? Fucking scumbag, you show up stoned and drunk to your child’s graduation from a big time private school in Connecticut and hit on her friends because you’re a short eyes? Then you bring your child out to New Mexico, get lit and abandon your child on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere with your slam piece after shooting at them. Nice job, father of year. Piece of shit, I hope you are roasting over a hot fire in the pits of perdition.
DUDES THAT WERE DUMB ASSES
BUT AT LEAST I UNDERSTAND THEIR DOUCHINESS …..SORT OF
Paul Schrader: He’s legitimately mentally ill in my opinion. His parents did a number on him with their hard core religious nonsense. I get his actions even if they were stupid and full of shit most of the time. You are also a colossal suck up smooooooch Schrader. You were never going to kill yourself jack off, you just wanted your douchey friends to think that. So you kept a revolver on your desk as a prop for attention. Credit earned where credit’s due, you did write some great movies even if you took credit for work that was your brothers which is really low. In fact, you willing to screw over your brother for a writing credit on Blue Collar means you are lower than the bottom of a grave digger shoes.
William Friedkin: He gets it and this quote proves it, “I have no image of myself as an artist. I’m making commercial films, I’m making a product designed to have people buy it.” You sir get a great big gold star for honesty and FOR getting it. I would also say you made films that were much more than that. Unfortunately, then you made Sorcerer and that was your giant, near career killing moment and puts the lie in your teeth over that quote. Your cuntiness led to Ellen Burstyn sustaining major bodily damage in your ruthless pursuit of “realism in reaction.” Your firing of weapons inside, playing loud music, building refrigerated sets, insisting on filming on location even for pick up shots, were all power trips and some could be considered dangerous. Still, I get you and I understand your particular brand of assholery. It makes sense to me so really, even though you made a ton of shit heel moves they are understandable shit heel moves.
Martin Scorsese: My opinion of him really hasn’t changed, I like his work. All his problems stem from being a coke fiend. That’s the only way to explain something like New York, New York or for humping Liza Minnelli. Plus he was a monstrous momma’s boy but he wasn’t alone in that. Scorsese, along with Friedkin and Schrader and a bunch of other Hollywood goofs, all had mommy issues. What the hell was up with that you pansy’s? Somebody should hurry up and do a Scorsese bio pic and get David Krumholtz to star. There is a picture in the book where these two look like twins.
Bogdonavich, The Beard, Cassavetes, Ashby and most of the rest of the bunch I get more or less, mostly less. All these guys had an unending desire for power as defined by money and not art and each and every one had the desire to be famous. To achieve these goals they happily fucked over their friends to get there which is my last big gripe I have with these asshats. They all pretended to to be friends while secretly screwing each other over and making sure they earn more money than anybody else. The Neck and The Beard won that one going away. Maybe it’s because of my conventional narrow minded fly-over country upbringing but fucking over people that are allegedly your friends is a big deal to me and I find it a disgusting personal trait.
THE ONE GUY THAT I ENDED UP WITH SOME GOOD FEELINGS TOWARDS AND NOBODY IS MORE SURPRISED THAN ME
I can’t believe I am going to write this but George Luca$ went up a couple of notches for me. I didn’t know before ERRB just how fragile and mentally weak he is. Luca$ is also massively socially inept. The poor bastard hit the uber-nerd trifecta. I also did not know about Luca$ being the prime acolyte in the high church of Francis Ford Coppola. It’s the ass reaming he took from Coppola that inflamed all his other problems that stem from being mentally weak. Because of that I am taking some of the onus off of Luca$ for the the shit that is “the prequels” and put a lot of the blame where it belongs, on the shoulders of Coppola. I also gained some respect for Luca$ because he was among the first to realize that money could be made with tie ins and cross platform promotions and more importantly he told the scumbag unions of the Writers and Directors Guilds to go and fuck themselves. Atta’ boy George, anybody that tells parasite unions to eat shit is all right by me.
THE ONE GUY I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT AND I MEAN ZERO EXCEPT FOR HIS NAME THAT I ENDED UP SORT OF LIKING
Don Simpson Sure he was a sex freak that liked pro pussy, S&M and video taping himself (who doesn’t like all that by the way). Sure, he had, allegedly, like a $60,000 a month drug habit. Sure, he was producer of some horrible movies and, as an executive at Paramount, was so impaired by drugs he fell asleep in meetings and greenlit some shitty flicks but the crazy dope fiend got it. First he realized that Altman was a huge fucking fraud and second, and more importantly, he was honest (for an abusive junky that is). I quote, “We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. Our obligation is to make money.” Sure Simpson may have been the worst drug addict who ever lived, a sex freak’s sex freak and a jerk off but at least he was an honest sex freak druggie jerk off unlike the bullshit filled artistes.
One other heads up for y’all. They made a documentary based off this book called A Decade Under The Influence. If you are in the States, they seem to play episodes of the doc on a continual basis on the Independent Film Channel. I think the episodes are on Youtube if you are interested. One note to future documentations on this subject, DO NOT mic up Julie Christie. That chick is D-U-M-B DUMB. Holy Mother, she would ramble on, not make any sense and talk about things not even related to the question asked. I get why you had her on. Even in her sixties she is still amazingly beautiful, maybe even more so than in the 70′s but good god she is stupid and pompous, the worst kind of daily double.
So to sum it all up, can I recommend this book? No, not at all but your mileage might vary. I thought it was an awfully written book about horrible, less than human beings that happen to make movies. I wish I never read ERRB or for that matter Evans book as they made me dislike movies I previously really enjoyed due to the actions of their creators. Because of that I’m giving ERRB 4 giant orangutan, double eye poke, fuck yous. It’s the right thing to do. I don’t want to do it because it is a book but it is so woeful I can’t help it.