Saturday, June 29, 2013

It's official (almost!)

OK, backstory. I've been saving this title card from Girl Shy for a long time now. Like, about three years. That's how long I've been trying to get a deal for my novel about Harold Lloyd, The Glass Character.

Three years, when it took me a year and a half to write.

The trudge through this wilderness of hopeless hope was in stark contrast to the unmitigated pleasure of writing about him. The Glass Character isn't a Lloyd bio, nor is it even written in HL's voice (which would have been impossible, I think). Third person was too impersonal. So I found myself writing in the voice of Muriel Ashford, a young Hollywood hopeful completely obsessed with the idea of meeting her idol, Harold Lloyd.

The two intertwine, smack together and pull apart. Their lives bisect, then whirl in opposite directions. Some editors felt a little cheated. "Hey, I thought this book was about Harold Lloyd!" So who's this chick? But there was no other way for me to write ABOUT him than to write AROUND him, through the eyes of the obsessed and adoring.

So! At long last, Thistledown Press, a respected Canadian literary publisher, said YES to The Glass Character, and now comes another challenge (or series of challenges): to prepare the book for publication in the spring of 2014.

You'd be thinking I'd be jumping up and down by now, but I'm mostly tired and relieved. The next part will be a lot of hard work. I've done this twice already, and though the first experience was enjoyable and fulfilling, the second one was pure hell, a nightmare of miscommunication (when there was any communication at all) and abandonment by those who were supposed to be on my side.

I already have scads of ideas, and will have to come up with a lot more, as to how to get word out on this one. The old-fashioned book tour has become something of an anachronism, and it's not hard to see why. I used to wonder why it was worth it to fly five hours to Toronto on your own dime, stay in a hotel on your own dime, go to a 45-minute reading at a book store that you had to arrange yourself, and then sell maybe ten copies (before flying home on your own dime). Every writer has a heartbreak story about giving a reading and having practically no one show up (as if our egos need to be assaulted any further: and why are writers always described as having "fragile" egos, when enduring such humiliation takes so much strength of character?).

So I will have to use the internet in all sorts of ways, to try to contact all sorts of people It vexes me, always has vexed me, that people incessantly say "it's who you know" and "you need to make the right contacts", when all the contacts I've ever made, no matter how spectacular, always end up saying to me, "Well, best of luck with this!" before showing me to the door.

Maybe I don't wag my ass enough, maybe I'm not bold enough, but being treated like a pest is humiliating and yet another assault to the ego. 

Never mind, it's a YES!, the other side of rejection. For a long time I had these two title cards printed out and kept them back-to-back in a page protector, keeping the "do you call that thing a book?" side facing outwards and hoping that some day I could flip it over to the glorious "YES!"

So I finally flipped! Wish me luck. (And the "almost" refers to details still being worked out. Watch this space for more.)

Friday, June 28, 2013

"Oh, you nasty man": lovely (pre-Code) Alice Faye

"This is Harold Lloyd": Kevin Brownlow's brush with greatness

I HATE HATE HATE transcribing material from books - it's the sort of thing I had to do back in 1973 when I was a secretarial student - but there it is, if I want to post this I have no choice. It's part of the introduction to a great book about Harold Lloyd, one of my earliest sources, called Harold Lloyd Master Comedian, written by Jeffrey Vance and Suzanne Lloyd. 

Kevin Brownlow, need I tell you, is undoubtedly the world's foremost expert on silent film, and some say he almost singlehandedly rescued the medium from the brink of oblivion at a time when nobody knew or cared. In the early '60s he was an earnest young film student who was already beginning to realize that rescuing and restoring silent movies would be his destiny.

"When I was young and saw Lloyd's best-known film, Safety Last!, uncut and in an excellent print, together with Dr. Jack, in a Wardour Street film library, I was encouraged to write a fan letter to the great comedian. One day I planned to write a book about the silent era, and with this in mind I asked him questions about his career. Lloyd did not reply. He was a successful businessman, after all, hardly likely to have the time to answer letters from fledgling film historians. A pity, but there it was.

By then I had left home, joined the film industry, and was living in a bed-sit in Hampstead, North London. It was Saturday, June 2, 1962 - my twenty-fourth birthday. I was sleeping late, having a most delightful dream. D. W. Griffith was conducting me through the corridor of a spacious clapboard building somewhere in the United States (I had not yet been there). It was a home for retired movie people. He gestured at one door and mentioned the name of a famous film editor; at another, a great cameraman. Before we had time to meet anyone, a telephone began to ring at the far end of the corridor. We set out toward it, and I woke up, realizing the phone was ringing in my corridor. I staggered out of bed, down the hall, and picked it up.

"This is Harold Lloyd."

I was young enough to have friends who played practical jokes, and I had often been taken in. But there was an authenticity about the voice that, coming out of my dream, caused me to hesitate. It was indeed Harold Lloyd. He was in London for a few days; was I free for lunch? Come over to the Dorchester. . . how about 11:00 o'clock?

What better birthday present could any film historian have? Nonetheless, I was apprehensive. Many comedians are dour and humorless offstage. I remembered meeting Groucho Marx, after a scintillating appearance at the National Film Theatre, in which he had us all in fits, and being astonished at his coldness. He had done his act, and now he was off - that was it.

Lloyd, by contrast, was charming. He was in his late sixties, still good-looking, with a dazzling smile, and a naivete reflected not so much in what he said as in how he said it. He spoke with the inflection of an eager midwestern youth, with a smattering of "Gees" and much laughter. The glasses were now permanent. When we shook hands he used his left, and I saw that his right hand was missing both thumb and forefinger. Not until later did I learn about the bomb that had shattered his hand and nearly wrecked his career during a still photo session.

Lloyd put me at ease, answered all my questions, and behaved exactly as I wanted the characters in my dream to behave. He conjured up the challenge and excitement of making pictures in the silent days with effortless ease; his heart lay in that era, and he soon recognized that mine did, too.

Lloyd had that effusive, hail-fellow-well-met manner that in younger people makes me instantly suspicious. With many, it is simply a sign that they have read Dale Carnegie's How to Make Friends and Influence People, and it reveals them as door-to-door salespersons, real-estate agents, or film producers. With Lloyd, the sincerity and bonhomie were genuine, It was as though he was the model on whom Dale Carnegie based his book."

There is more, oh-so-much more, including Lloyd talking about his Glass Character - yes, he really did call him the Glass Character, though no one could quite figure out why he used the singular when everyone else said "Glasses". 

DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY? Do you, do you? It's so I'd have a better title, a much more poetic title for my novel than The Glasses Character, which would have been totally lame (just kidding!). Thank you, Harold Lloyd, for handing me that, and for all  the "Glass pictures" you made that will stand forever as hilarious works of art.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


As I went out one morning (with a nod to W. H. Auden)

(Author's note. I'll be damned if I remember writing this, but it has to be mine because I can't find it anywhere else. As I Walked Out One Evening by W. H. Auden is perhaps my favorite poem, so maybe it got the juices flowing. In any case, I must have borrowed some imagery here and there. Auden I'm not, but we must wade in.)

As I went out one morning

Walking the primal road

My shoulders were bent over

With an invisible load.

And down by the creek where the salmon

Sing all day in the spring

I heard a man with holes in his clothes

Say, “Love has no ending.”

I wondered at his heresy

He wasn’t supposed to speak

Of things he did not understand

And shouldn’t even seek.

“I love you, Lord, I love you,”

the ragged man proclaimed,

although his face was badly scarred

and his body bent and maimed.

The man was clearly crazy

For as he spoke his rhyme,

The salmon danced in the shallow stream

In fish-determined time.

I didn’t try to love him

But I loved him just the same

For he broke the diver’s quivering bow

And called his God by name.

“Oh tell me, man, oh tell me,”

I cried in my anguished state,

“What is the secret of the world?

Where is the end of hate?”

And all at once his face had changed

To an evil, ugly mask

His body had become the hate

About which I had asked.

“How stamp this mask into the mud,

How keep despair at bay?”

“You can’t,” he told me, grinning,

“But my God can point the way.”

“How dare you speak of God, you wretch,

When God’s abandoned you?

How dare you use the Holy Name?

He doesn’t want you to!

Your life’s just spent surviving

With the sidewalk as your bed

And taking poisons in your veins

And scrambling to be fed.”

The man just stood in leaves and mulch

While the salmon sang and spawned:

“Just see the other side of me

And tell me I am wrong.”

Another face appeared just then

A face all beaming bright

Its eyes were streaming like the sun

With pure mysterious light

“You blinded fool, you stand before

A drop of mist made rain

An eye that Paradise looks through

That holds both joy and pain.”

“I cannot understand you, for

You play such games with me!

How can you masquerade as God

And tell me how to see?”

“No one knows how Life began,

From Nothing came our birth.

A stir of seething molecules

Sparked all the life on earth.”

“Don’t tell me, wretch, you are the one

Who made this world come true!

Imposter, get out of my road,

I cannot look at you.”

“Just so,” the man said, streaming light,

“For no one knows the why.

But you will be forever changed

By looking through my eye.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My last family reunion

Sometimes it gets a little intense.

What you do while you're waiting (for something you REALLY want)

This was a pre-code 1930s cartoon, featuring a familiar player. . . who was soon to announce a new character. . .

Yes, it's true. . . Popeye rode piggyback on the sultry, near-nude Boopster until he convinced the world he was sexy enough to have a series of his own.

Very nice. . . but why does everyone keep bouncing up and down?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hark the Harold

Short takes, just a few before I go to bed. . . why he was the sweetest, the smartest. . . 

And tomorrow, I may have News.

Cartoon Harold!

Jack of Spades. . . 

A man who deserves to be severely kissed (and kissed, and kissed. . . )

When gay really ISN'T OK

A Mother's Horror Story

From a web site called PFOX:

My precious son was raped by a boy in the neighborhood when he was 9-10 years old.  It happened after he returned home on the bus when I was still at work, an hour or so before I got home. I thought this older, nice teen was giving my son attention, playing ball with him, etc. -- as he never got that attention from his own dad. Even though I spoke to my kids, read books on "bad touch" etc. & was an educator--it didn't "take" with this one son. I've had well meaning Christians condemn me as not doing enough & that I'd not been a good mother or my boy "would have told me" when it happened. But I have peace that this accusation is absurd--as I was in a living hell with an abusive husband & I gave every ounce of love to my children that I could. However, I was married when not a Christian & his blood dad is a non-believer who did drugs & had a huge anger problem, putting us "in fear" in our home.

I came to Christ shortly after our marriage & did all of the Christian training of the kids myself, standing for almost 20 years for the marriage. My other kids are all strong Christians.....but my son fell away from the Lord during high school. This happened when a gay drama "teacher" (not certified but hired under adjunct faculty with other gays) became too "familiar "with my boy---later I found out he proselytized him along with those gay teachers into the hidden world of homosexuality (1990's).

No one listened to me when I complained to the principal & school district about this gay man’s behavior towards my teenage son at school.  Instead, the school began to use my son as a "poster boy," writing articles/editorials on being gay & accepted at their politically correct high school. His dad (who was gone when my son was 15.. ..& divorced me), and a group of liberal parents in the acting/drama world encouraged my son that "he was gay or bi". This, after he broke up with his girlfriend when he was 15--deeply distraught & crying for weeks over the loss.

There are so many stories I could share in retrospect as I ponder "what could I have done differently". Yet, today, I know I did all I could with what I knew as a loving mother---but no one would listen to me at the school. In addition, I knew little about the dark world (& it IS DARK) of homosexuality as I'd not been exposed to anything like this in my life. But now I have spent more time in the gay bars, clubs (as I go with my son, counsel kids over a dinner, have them over to our home, etc) than the average older Christian. My present husband & I have spent countless hours counseling & loving this community of hurting individuals....& it is a privilege--in spite of not always being easy. 

My son, who is now an adult and whose life thus far has been ravaged, had been my strongest Christian kid--shared Christ at school, sang worship with me, was a straight A student, leader & dynamic believer. He is still friends with the gay teacher--who was finally fired with a district cover up--as he apparently was caught doing drugs with his students.

This gay teacher still holds my son captive...stalking and finding him in other states and now back in our city—he had moved my son into his home.  This teacher has gone back on drugs and stolen from my boy (last year). We have rescued my son from this guy's home...& now this man went thru rehab again pulling our boy back into his clutches this year.

Our son is like a "stockholm syndrome child"----feeling sorry for this former teacher & saying. "he was there for me & cared about me when I was young & hurting". Our son has swallowed the whole party line of GAY EVANGELISM & believes it all--even only attending gay AA meetings with his "people". It is similar to a cult. It's all sick/drama/victim mentality & perversity...full of drag queen stuff as well.

(Transcript of text: "I make choices everyday (sic). Where to eat. What to wear. Who to see. But as a gay man I never thought I could change WHO I was. Until I realized change was a choice. . . and I chose to change from gay to straight. It may not be a decision you want to make, but you should know thousands of us already have. Please respect our choice.")

ONLY GOD........
Only God will hold your molecules together in the grief of it all. Only God will have every answer to each situation & in those times of confusion, help us continue to walk by faith and not by sight. Only God will comfort us through the deepest of sorrows. Only God can make a way where there is no other way. Only God loves our son, daughter, spouse-- more than we do, as our loved one.  Only God will bring the perfect conclusion of the matter. Only God will bring Peace amid the storm. Only God can take the perversity, insanity and constant death of the homosexual agenda that is ravaging lives, families and our culture to its end game- BECAUSE OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA, THE BEGINNING AND THE END, THE FIRST AND THE LAST IS OUR OVERCOMER, AND HE HAS THE FINAL VICTORY.

-- PFOX mom of a sexually abused son

This is a dramatic cutdown of a piece that just went on and on, from a site called PFOX, standing for I-don't-know-what. The other day I posted about Exodus "ex-gay" ministries folding because the founder suddenly realized after 15 years of damaging people with guilt trips that "maybe this ex-gay stuff doesn't work quite as well as we thought it did". But obviously, the agenda hasn't disappeared.

The way gays are demonized in this piece is pretty horrific, but this is a woman who needs someone to blame for the fact that her kid is fucked up. Being gay isn't the problem. She seems to believe he has as much individual will as a jellyfish, so easily is he taken over by demonic influences like high school drama teachers.  She takes no responsibility for how damaged he is and sees her rampant right-wing version of Christianity as the cure for everything that she perceives is wrong with him.

All through reading this amazing rant and tearing out chunk after redundant chunk so I could post it, I was reminded of Sheldon Cooper's fundamentalist Christian mother on The Big Bang Theory. It's never spelled out that Sheldon is gay (though Jim Parsons seems comfortably "out"), so his mother doesn't have too much to work with except his physics-induced atheism and extreme attachment to his Mee Maw (grandmother), who calls him Moon Pie. Now, does that sound heterosexual to you?

Moving on.

In spite of much rhetorical fancy dancing and the legions of gay ministers in the United Church, I don't think the gay/Christian schism will ever entirely heal. In fact, I think it could get wider as the BLT-with-a-side-of-fries community (sorry, I can't ever remember all those initials) becomes more visible. Even "tolerant" Christians (and what does it mean if I "tolerate' you? Really, that I can barely stand you) stop short of believing God is "OK" with all this, that it isn't a sin.  The Bible tells us to stick to the good old model, the Adam-and-Eve, penis-in-vagina, John-Wayne-on-a-horse idea that kept our civilization strong ever since Adam toted his Flintstones lunch pail to the gravel pit.

Supposedly. It has always interested me however that there is not one word against homosexuality in the New Testament. Not one word FOR, either. Jesus must have had more important matters to attend to.

Homosexuality has always been around, persecuted to one extent or another because people don't understand it. Now that a percentage of gays and other BLTs are "out", the more conservative faction of society is even more baffled because they aren't used to seeing men marching in parades with fake boobs and hair extensions. 

I had an issue with drag queens - namely, that they were way more feminine than I am, though I have actual boobs - until I decided to forget my envy and just enjoy their joie de vivre and dazzling fashion sense. I may not get it, I mean really understand why they do it, but why do I have to? I've seen some pre-Stonewall footage of gay protestors, and someone must've told them they all had to wear suits and ties (even the women). It was so dull, passersby probably thought they were just a bunch of disgruntled Rotarians.

At a certain point you have to ask yourself if sexual orientation is really our call, if we have the right to dictate how somebody else "should" feel about other people. I like what my daughter, a TV news reporter, once said. "Why should we disapprove when it's something that has no ill effect on us whatsoever?" What horrific damage will be done if people of the same sex like to hang out together, go to the gym, fall in love, get married, adopt children and. . .WOAH! That's where a lot of people put on the brakes.

But the thing is, as the definition of family becomes more soft-bordered and inclusive, it will happen. In fact, it already is. As usual, celebrities (who are, of course, the epitome of stability intelligence and good taste) lead the way. What will the long-term social impact be? Hell if I know. But it has to be better than having the shit kicked out of you for having Justin Bieber on your lunch pail.

YouTube at the opera: the bad, the good and the sublime

The things you find while snooping around YouTube. This morning for some reason, maybe because it's Monday and awful out, I found myself digging around in videos of operatic bloopers - just an awful thing to do, sadistic, for opera is like figure skating: one slip of the blade and you're spinning around on your ass.

There were several categories. Quite a few, actually. An obvious one was singing off-pitch, invariably flat, and usually all the way through the piece. One wonders how someone with a trained singer's ear can do such a thing, but there they were (professionals, I mean, like Pavarotti, Roberto Alagna, and even the legendary Callas), slipping farther and farther off the wire like some floundering Wallenda.

There were the gargled or yodelled high notes, usually afflicting tenors who probably should have realized they were off their game. Sometimes that little bit of muscle at the back of the throat just won't cooperate, and can't be coerced.  Sopranos tended to shriek like squeezed chickens. There were elaborate choruses which were completely incoherent: SOMEONE had started off on the wrong foot, thus making proper entrances impossible while the conductor tried frantically to get everyone back on board. In one case, I swear I heard him skip several bars, but to no avail. 

There were complete silences. I mean, stunned and stunning silences in which the singer just stopped what they were doing in total disorientation. In a couple of cases the tenor (it was always a tenor) would shout out an excuse to the audience, something like, "Don't blame me, blame Puccini!" Almost worse were the "saves", the singer deciding to skip the triple-axel and sing something far less challenging.

The lyrics to these disasters all translated to approximately the same thing: "I should have cancelled, I should have cancelled. . . " Knowing when to cancel is a fine art in itself, but too many performers seem to want to go on with the show even as the ship sinks under their feet.

Though the videos contained their usual near-complete lack of information (where, when, even WHO), you could sure tell what theatre you were in. It was not hard to get the good folks at La Scala going, not just shrill whistling and booing but standing up and yelling things like, "Dog!", "This is murder!" and "Off the stage, charlatan!" North American audiences seem to be a little more restrained, but there is something limp and even baffled about the applause after such a fiasco. And definitely disappointed.

Having said all that, I'm not posting any bloopers today. I've had enough of them and felt a high degree of schadenfreude (thank you, Matt Paust) while listening to them. I suddenly thought of the glorious Flower Duet from Lakme by Delibes, once worked to death on airline commercials and elsewhere, but now beginning to heal and regain its lustre. And I found this one, and within two seconds I was crying, all thought of bloopers erased.