Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Harold Lloyd doll: I got my mojo working

NO! This is NOT my Harold doll, notnotnotnotnot. This is a horrifying clip depicting a Harold Lloyd windup toy from the 1930s, one that actually appears to still work. The Harold we see here has a sad affliction, some sort of seizure disorder that causes explosions of frenetic movement. He doesn't walk so much as flail along. Toys like this are worth plenty, and are uniformly hideous. I've even gone into this subject in past posts, and frankly I'm pretty sick of it.

So we know that Harold toys have existed for a long time. There were even Harold dolls, sort of, which consisted of two flat pieces of oilcloth sewn together with a uniform pattern stamped on them.

But soft! What's this??

It's a Harold with features, a face, hair, in three dimensions even. And glasses.

A Harold complete with white straw boater and bowtie. A soft and cuddly Harold, unlike those tin things that scare the hemoglobin out of me.

A Harold with blue eyes and glasses and hair like he had, sort of wavy and slicked-back.

A Harold who can doff his hat.

A sitting Harold.

And, most importantly. . . a Harold with SADDLE SHOES!

I am not too shy to tell you that I made this doll myself, and with no pattern. He evolved under my hands. I had certain feelings when I began this project. I'd been thinking about dolls and writing about dolls (and if you're following this blog, you'll be tired of the whole subject by now) and their strangeness, creepiness. There's something eerily powerful about a human making an image of a human. It goes back to the Venus of Willendorf or something. It has juju, cachet, mojo, power.


I feel like I lost track of my mojo a long time ago now, and I want it back. It's funny that, though I initially got very excited about this project, I then fell off it for a while and didn't particularly want to do it.

I think it was the misery and despair of realizing that no one seems to have the slightest interest in publishing my novel, The Glass Character, a fictionalized treatment of Harold Lloyd's life and loves.  Part of me died when that happened, for I had so many hopes for it and STILL think it's the best thing I've ever written.

It dropped with a clunk. It was like throwing a pebble into the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.

So I needed Something. I don't believe in voodoo or anything (though obviously some people do), but I wonder if I might be able to beguile a sort of reverse voodoo here, to have some sort of power over somebody's attention or perception or influence or something.

To get someone to notice.

Harold got noticed, believe-you-me. He stood out. Part of it was his fierce ambition, part of it his sleek and slightly vulpine good looks, blue eyes crackling with intelligence and life force.  A hell of a lot of it was a talent that was surprisingly slow to bloom. Even by his own admission, some of it was "luck", whatever that is, which is maybe what made him so incredibly superstitious.

(I just remembered something from several years ago, a very strange story. My granddaughter Caitlin, then only about five, found my DVD set of The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection. She saw the photo of the man with the glasses and his hair standing on end and looked at me strangely, then asked, "Grandma, is that you?"

"Yes," I said. "It's me."

"Can we watch this?"

"Of course. But we'll just play the good part."

So I put on Safety Last, the climbing scene, and all through it she was totally absorbed. Every once in a while she'd say, "Ah!" or "Oh!" when it looked like he might fall. At one point Ryan, only about 3, mosied in, put his hands over his eyes and said, "He's gonna faw! He's gonna faw!" He watched the rest of it through his fingers.

But after the clock-hanging scene was over, the spell seemed to be broken. "That's not really you, is it, Grandma." It wasn't a question.

"No, it isn't. It's a man named Harold Lloyd. I wrote a book about him."

A little while later I could tell she was still thinking. I asked her what she was thinking about. Then she looked at me and said the most remarkable thing.

"You're Harold Lloyd, and Harold Lloyd is you.")

You can't throw your heart over the jump and have your horse get halfway over it and get impaled on it and throw you off so that you land on your head and are paralyzed for life. So much for THAT adage. And it's NOT true that "you can do absolutely anything you want in life, so long as you keep on trying". That's the biggest piece of bullshit I've ever heard, and do you know what? I hear it EVERY DAMN DAY, along with "everything happens for a reason" (childhood cancer? Random shootings? The Holocaust?) and "God never gives us more than we can handle" (so then why are our prisons and mental hospitals always full to overflowing?)

And here I go into a rant again. I need my Harold doll, someone to watch over me. And though I know this sounds incredible, his eyes, the rather rudimentary blue eyes that I embroidered on myself, DO appear to follow me around through those glasses, the glasses that made Harold who he was.

I made him. I made his face, his eyes, his body, his shoes and hat. Without me he'd be bits of yarn in a basket, nothing. He is me; he is mine.

"I'm Spartacus!" "No, I'M Spartacus!"

It's hard to believe that the music I waxed rhapsodic about yesterday is from a ballet called Spartacus. I've never even watched the movie, which is supposed to have homosexual under/over/whatever-tones, with a few deleted scenes from the Roman baths that are probably restored to the DVD.

All I remember is that stupid scene where Kirk Douglas is standing there and some guy yells out, "Hey, Spartacus?" and everyone else takes a step backward. Or something. I see it over and over again on those Top Fifteen Thousand Greatest Motion Picture Moments that I can never resist watching, bad as they always are.

Anyway, let's not be silly here. If you are serious about your music, which I always am, you will want to hear more than the glowing and gorgeous excerpts from this work that I posted yesterday. I so associated this piece with The Onedin Line that I assumed the music was composed to describe a great seagoing vessel, kind of like in Scheherezade where, in the last movement, "the ship goes to pieces on a rock surmounted by a bronze warrior".

But it ain't, ain't that at all, it's Spartacus, that sweaty guy with the big dent in his chin. I will try to put all that aside, because this music is truly remarkable. Not only that: with the help of someone from YouTube, I found the best version, the one that's excerpted in The Onedin Line. Now you can hear the whole nine minutes if you want to, or not. But I recommend it.


Aram Khatchaturian (whose last name sounds a bit like a chicken dish) is mainly known for that infernal Sabre Dance which you used to hear on Ed Sullivan during the plate-spinning act. It's circus music, and believe me, he is capable of far more than that. And just look at him, he was an absolute god when he was young, with those olive eyes, bow-shaped lips and serious demeanour.

I also found a picture of an Ashot Khatchaturian, a pianist I think. I had hoped he was a son or grandson or something, as there does seem to be a resemblance. No more can classical artists come on stage in sweaty crumpled white shirts, stringy hair and suspenders. They have to be seductive. This guy is, but they keep saying the other Khatchaturian is his "namesake". Could be that in Armenia, the name is as common as dirt.