A desiccated rose

Turning my head slightly to the side, I couldn’t help but smile to myself. In the car next to me, would she have smiled too?

Funny. The metaphor wasn’t lost.

The autobiography? Hasn’t been finished. You have no idea.

An outstretched hand leads the way. Following the flashlight’s beam and heading down the stairs, it’s time to go back.

Seascape ’82. That’s what the cover says; was what I saw. What a strange secret I’ve kept. All these years, I thought someone was watching. Instead, I’m the lead.

Far away, I kid myself that she’s peeked too. And me? Left rummaging in the basement, looking in a book. It’s usually kept just safely out of reach. Except for tonight.

In between the pages, the wax paper cocoon is a silent tomb. It’s a thirty-something haunting.

I put it there; then.

Now I look in the mirror. Same person, different shell. No longer of the sea, the change in seasons has parched the skin. In my hands tonight though, the rose I hold has dried out too.

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Rock Lobsters

We were at a party looking for them. And while most of the time we got skunked, sometimes we’d get lucky. They were the best bait for catching things. But that was a long time ago.

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Maybe under this one. There is a connection somewhere.

I’m just trying to find it. And I keep looking around and inside hoping to find some light in the dark.

Films from a time-period, in (dare I say) a type of style . But why these films?

Kids do funny things to pass the time and our summer free-time was spent looking for crayfish. We called them rock lobsters. We were kids then.

You already knew that, right?

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Hey. Yeah you. See the mug above? The one with the dame. Well that’s Richard Conte, the boss, see? The dame? She’s Jean Wallace. Some catch huh?

Later when I started turning over other things, I came across Conte in a number of noirs. Always seeming to play the heavy mixed-up in some racket, I thought I’d seen him somewhere outside those shadows.

Racking the same brain that fades, it hit me. He was Barzini from The Godfather, a film he appeared in many years after his film noir heyday.

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Here was a clue and perhaps a bridge. A rock turned over.

Another mug. This one of Old Spice shave soap in a medicine cabinet. With a brush nearby. That was poppy’s way. He was a bridge too.

And another clue; more rocks.

So what’s the angle? That no one’s on the level.

Now it’s in another time in another place and in another form.

A frame.

And a good one. Thank you Mr. Kubrick because the mug below is hidden by a mask in this frame. Nothing but a two-bit hood. And Sterling Hayden was a good one too in The Killing.

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But you’d take the mask off the hood and you’d get another peek.

Cuz that’s the mug again. In another scene from The Godfather. This time he’s the tall guy in the middle about to take a slug from Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino to his right.

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Sneaking up.

So you see, it ain’t just chasing dames and broads.

It’s about finding things and getting closer. It was a rock lobster.

Don’t mention it.

Dames, Tomatoes, Heels, and Joes (with a side of cad)

Dames

Tomatoes

Heels

and Joes

with a side of cad

Some real broads too

On the level

Yeah, see

Let him have it

cuz that’s quite a dish

Real swell

Gee wiz

What a gas

take a powder

with the bread

and don’t forget the dough

So start this heap

sharp or you’ll get a

bum rap

Hey, get a load of that tomato. What a dish. You’ll never pin that on me Mac. Why, it’s a sure thing. On the level pal. In this joint, things are swell. Give me another one will ya?Make it a rye before I gotta scram out of here. 

Nothing but dames and broads, heels and cads.

It’s a sure thing. All square. Any dope yet? Look sister, the brute down the pike beat it. He’s lying face down with a couple of slugs in him. So long baby. Get in my jalopy and get off the wagon. I gotta hunch that she’s a cagey dame playing footsies. 

Doll yourself up and I’ll be seein ya. You really send me, so don’t get so sore. No I haven’t lost my marbles. So stop making cracks.

Now beat it.

The First Amendment

It’s a right, they say. One of the freedoms, so I’m told.

Fortunately she smiled at me once. And she spoke to me too. Freely.

My brush up against beauty and fame was an extinguished candle on an obscure New York City street.

Trying my hand at stand-up comedy in the late 1980’s, I responded to a newspaper advertisement looking for those too willing to trade in time for chance. All I had to do was work the lights or pass out some programs or sweep up afterwards. In return, I’d receive some training in the art of improvisational comedy. Training that didn’t stick, but at least was planted.

The place was called The First Amendment.

Wedged into and hidden among the alleyways within the Greenwich Village and Little Italy regions of New York City, it was a past-its-prime noir-like comedy lab. Here was a greenhorn with a chance to assimilate into the comedy subculture. A chance to be someone. A chance indeed. That assimilation, was a reserved table on its periphery. Direction, or lack of; and self-confidence, or lack of, would be my governor. But that’s a ticket to another show.

On this or that day, I stood outside the club acting as a sort of sentinel. Poetic license and justice mixed with a chaser of selective embellishment allows me to paint the day as a grey one. And that’s when she sauntered by; a real life star walking past a hope to be one day.

Lauren Hutton smiled at me. It was a long time ago, but it helped get me here.

Our frozen moment gave me some freedom.

Straight Down the (thin) Line

The line.

It’s strange. And thin too.

Coming of age in the mid 1970’s, I had heard her name. But she was one of those old movie stars. She was “in the pictures,” as my grandparents would say, that they watched. And those pictures were watched during the week, in the afternoon, or late at night as they lay in bed for the evening. I’d be wondering what to be when I grew up. Or if Linda would like me.

To me though, she was a star in name only. I don’t even remember seeing any of her films back then.

My first Barbara Stanwyck encounter was The File on Thelma Jordan, an underrated film noir from 1950. And I only watched that for the first time about five years ago. Since then, I’ve gone back and seen more of her acclaimed pictures. Not all, of course, but enough to realize that she earned the reputation.

She was a star.

Transition to:

(Right about here the rules say that I should include a mini biography of her life to sort of validate things. To show that I’ve put the time in. Done my homework. But I won’t because I’ve got excuses.

And then I’d follow that up with a review of Double Indemnity. Because that would be something new. With my own spin. But I won’t do that either).

Instead, I’ll let her do the walking. Because like her, “inside this stupid body…”

 

 

Walking to Hollywood: Podcasts for Noir Heads

Walking alone off the beaten path, I get to travel to Hollywood. In spirit at least. Along the way, I’ve found it beneficial to take with me a collection of go-to podcasts. Time and attention, the commodities most of us have too little of, can be impediments to the podcasting world. But because walking is a pretty regular retreat for me, I’ve found a way to circumvent these two thieves.

Here’s a look at one film noir podcast that helps me get there:

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Out of the Past: produced by academic colleagues Richard Edwards and Shannon Clute, this podcast is the standard bearer of, in their words, the “canon of film noir” podcasts.

The series debuted in 2005 and ran until 2011. There were a few random episodes after 2011, but for all intents and purposes, the series ended with Episode 53: Out of the Past Act II.

Clute and Edwards cover most of the films from the noir Golden Age, in addition to discussing many “neo-noirs.” Each episode runs approximately 30-45 minutes in length and they don’t rely on the over-production audio gags too often heard in many podcasts today. These are two colleagues who know and respect their material and never speak down to their audience.

Listening to this podcast became my baptism into the world of film noir. I had always been interested in the films of this, dare I say “genre,” but the hosts helped me come to terms with what I found so intriguing about these classics. Their podcast takes a somewhat scholarly approach to the material without in any way coming off as pedantic. The episodes are easy to listen to and very approachable for all fans of these groundbreaking films.

As a side note for the many podcasters out there, both men were able to parlay the success of their efforts into new career directions. Richard Edwards is currently the Executive Director of iLearn Research at Ball State University and Shannon Clute is Director, Business Development & Strategy at Turner Classic Movies. So keep following your passions.

Here are links to some of my favorite episodes:

  1. Episode 1: Out of the Past
  2. Episode 2: Double Indemnity
  3. Episode 19: The Killing
  4. Episode 30: The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Man Who Wasn’t There
  5. Episode 39: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang