Like the headline says, sometimes the New York Times surprises me. A.O. Scott examining Blake Edwards’s 1964 Pink Panther comedy, A Shot in the Dark, the second film in the series (with Peter Sellers) is one of those times.
Some people like to raise hell, some people like to document the hellraising. Fortunately for this interview, writer Robert Sellers is a member of the latter group. Sellers is the author of Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole, and Oliver Reed, as well as Hollywood Hellraisers: The Wild Lives and Fast Times of Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty, and Jack Nicholson and An A-Z of Hellraisers: A Comprehensive Compendium of Outrageous Insobriety. In this email interview we discuss both books and more. My thanks to Sellers for his time, as well as John Karle of St. Martin’s Press for helping to arrange the interview.
Tim O’Shea: Would you say with the 24/7 news cycle mixed with the fact PR people can no longer sweep heavy drinking under the table as easily, is the era of celebrity hellraising done to a certain extent?
Robert Sellers: I think so. Our hellraisers were lucky in that their misbehaviour was only witnessed by a select few, so tales of their debauchery have become almost mythologized. Today celebrities’ every involuntary movement is recorded on some tosser’s mobile phone and then put on You Tube in a time span that’s shorter than their dick.
O’Shea: What attracted you to documenting the partying ways of these four actors (Burton, O’Toole, Harris & Reed) in particular?
Sellers: These guy’s bad behaviour was laced with a bit of style and humour. Take the time O’Toole was refused a drink after hours so he simply pulled out his cheque book and bought the pub. There was a jaw dropping audacity about their pranks and a twinkle in their eyes that made the public forgive them almost anything, which you just don’t have with today’s celebrity yobs. Also, back in those wilder and better days drinking was very much a macho culture; a chap could hold his booze and all of these hellraisers could drink each other under the table. Today it’s almost a prerequisite to appear everywhere completely out of your head and hopeless. The new breed of bad boy is not terribly sophisticated. Burton et al could always turn on the charm, pissed or not; this new lot can hardly string a sentence together.
My mother, Lois McIntosh O’Shea, died suddenly on September 16, 2010. Her obituary, written by my brother, Brian P. O’Shea, can be found here. This past Saturday, September 25, her funeral was held. The following text is the eulogy I gave, written in conjunction with my six siblings.
She was many different things to people through the course of her life. But at the end of the day to us, her children, she was a storyteller. So to celebrate her life, my siblings and I have compiled stories that I’m gonna tell ya. I’d say I’ll make it brief, but A) that’d be a lie; and B) a person only gets one chance to celebrate his mother’s life–unless he’s Frank McCourt.
Mother’s intelligence and creative mind served her well in her 84 years. She loved books long before getting a job in any library. She passed that love on to all of her children, a trait any bookstore near our respective homes can verify.
She had a love for, and a vast knowledge of, history.
In terms of education, back in the early 1940s, she won a scholarship to The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. Soon after arriving there, she appeared in the college newspaper in a picture documenting the school’s new foreign students–one student was from South America, one from Cuba and then Mother–from the foreign land of “the South”.
“After David Markson died earlier this year, many books from his personal collection started showing up in random places on the shelves of The Strand, New York’s great repository of used (and new) books. There was a bit of uproar at the time (if there can be a bit of uproar) from those who wondered how it could possibly happen that an acclaimed American writer’s books ended up in the hands of various Strand diggers rather than a protected home, perhaps in the academy. No one seemed interested in investigating whether this was simply Markson’s desire. But Craig Fehrman has …”
Go follow the links. And make sure you visit Fehrman’s blog, because growing out of his initial piece, NPR expanded upon his idea and interviewed him as well (which he links to at his blog). I may do a follow-up post on Markson.
So the other night (September 23), Joaquin Phoenix (sans crazy hair and beard) came back to the Late Show with David Letterman to explain his faux documentary/examination of media and celebrity, I’m Still Here. I am of two minds, part of me wants to see the intentional train wreck, the other part of me hates hates hates the trend of the past few years of filmmakers making joke projects, but neglecting to inform the people they encounter about the joke. Yea, I’ll be waiting for the DVD on this one, if even then. Worth watching for Letterman mocking Phoenix and making him uncomfortable as Letterman does best.
In other Letterman news, on September 17, Letterman hosted a conversation regarding social media with Twitter cofounder Biz Stone at Letterman’s alma mater, Ball State University. The discussion was “part of the David Letterman Distinguished Professional Lecture and Workshop Series, established by the university in 2008″. The video from the event can be found here. Honestly, Letterman is the last guy (given his penchant for privacy outside his show gig) I would peg for a social media discussion. But there you are. Still I don’t expect to see tweets from Letterman any time soon. But, in the meantime, writer/actor Steve Martin is on Twitter–and he’s as funny in this medium as one would expect.
Writer/artist/storyteller of many mediums Dean Haspiel is easily the busiest creator I know. I relish any chance I get to interview him. As always, we had multiple projects to discuss, some of which are allowing him to flex his writing muscles increasingly more (with work like his first prose novel, Post-Disaster Adventure Chronicles), much to his delight. Haspiel is welcome to share his great level of candor any time he can spare a moment, as he always is an easy (and enjoyable) interview subject for me. Just to create a level of suspense, I chose not to ask who the nude centerfold is the upcoming DEAN HASPIEL: The Early Years.
Tim O’Shea: Would you agree that to a certain extent, in addition to being a collaborator with long-time family friend and CUBA: MY Revolution author Inverna Lockpez, that you were almost a pseudo-therapist for her. What I mean is, this is clearly a painful story for her to tell and by sharing it with you and getting in on paper/published, there’s some level of catharsis.
Dean Haspiel: Besides the possibility of providing entertainment value, art is therapy with the hope that the brave act of artistic expression yields emotional catharsis. I think CUBA: MY REVOLUTION was a major purge for Inverna Lockpez; a way for her to scrutinize and understand what happened to her years ago. And, in fictionalizing and sharing her story, I think it can allow for her to let go of some of her real pain. Whenever I artistically scrutinize the horrors and beauty of the truth, my goal is to entertain yet disperse the results upon others so that the many can share the burden of the one. Some things are just too difficult to handle on your own.
Audio drama is a craft that I’m glad to see alive and well, and aiming to adapt to new technologies. One current example is Starstruck, soon to be released by The AudioComics Company. As described at the site: “Buck Rogers meets Barbarella meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy… The Off-Broadway Sci-Fi Comedy Masterpiece that spawned a comic book revolution comes to audio October 31! Written by Elaine Lee with Susan Norfleet and Dale Place, featuring characters from the comic by Lee and Michael Kaluta. First on compact disc, and pay-per-MP3s downloads, Starstruck rides the airwaves later this fall!” To mark the impending release, I interviewed AudioComics Company’s Lance Roger Axt and Bill Dufris.
Also as noted at the website: “Starstruck compact discs will be $22.95, not including tax and postage and handling. These are 4-panel 2-disc eco wallets … The cut-off date for CD orders is October 20, 2010. Your CD will be mailed directly to you on November 3, 2010, so when you place your order, make sure you write down your correct mailing address. Compact discs will be mailed first class USPS … Please note that these CD’s are not available in direct maket comic book stores or big box book stores like Borders, this is an item you can only purchase from the AudioComics Company webstore. And unfortunately these are only available in the States, but for our overseas Starstruck fans, the MP3 downloads are forthcoming, and worldwide. Info on MP3 downloads to come next month.” As Lance told me prior to finalizing this interview: “AudioComics has been a five year journey which is now finally taking shape, and I’m pleased to say that Bill and I have, beyond this inaugural production, at least ten other comic-to-audio projects to keep us busy between now and the end of 2012!” My thanks to Axt and Dufris for the interview. Also, please be sure to check out the AudioComics page on Facebook.
Tim O’Shea: First off, Lance, I saw your post about attending San Diego–can you talk about how much you enjoyed meeting Stan Freberg?
LANCE ROGER AXT: Some people came to San Diego to see Tron or Green Lantern footage, others wanted to see the cast of True Blood; me, I wanted to meet Stan Freberg. And I’ll tell you something, I can honestly say that I was humbled to be in his presence. It’s been brought up on many forums and comments pages, especially in the wake of the passings of Frazetta and Williamson, to appreciate the artists who are still with us. In my case, those artists are people like Stan Freberg, the Firesign Theatre, Yuri Rasovsky, Tom Lopez of ZBS. These people took radio drama out of the golden age, the “old timey” way of writing and acting, and showed audiences that with audio there are no limitations…so, yeah, meeting Stan was a real highlight of my first trip to SDCC. Not to mention he was the nicest, most approachable person, both he and Hunter. It’s hard to find the words now…the sound man’s gone silent.
Hopefully folks remember when I interviewed Chelsea Crowell about her music. Back in that interview in June, I intentionally did not mention who she was related to, out of respect of the fact the mere mention of the names could easily derail the focus on the musical discussion we had. But now, thanks to a tweet by her mother (and the fact I double-checked with her mother to make sure it was OK I wrote about it here), it’s of interest to discuss here relations, at least partially.
Currently Crowell is in the studio, recording her next release, and as you hopefully know, music does not get made for free, people.
If you look to your right, this is just one of the items that Crowell has inherited from her family and has decided to sell to help defray the costs of her next release. When you visit the items that Crowell has for sale at 1stdibs.com, you will see that they are things she has inherited from her late step-grandmother, June Carter-Cash as well as from her mother, Rosanne Cash.
Again, I don’t mention the family connections to minimize Crowell’s efforts, but in fact to hopefully help fund her musical pursuits.
Speaking of Crowell’s music, in her August newsletter to fans she discussed how the recording process has gone so far:
“Last we left I was high on the hog of a promising endeavor. Damn that hog, though I remain a vegetarian, that tall swine decided that hard work is best done sitting ground level. L.J. Hutchins of Cleft music and I have been working very literally sitting on the floor since June. Two mics, one for the gut string Gibson I refuse to part with and one for my vocals sitting cross leg-ed on his studio floor, hammering out sometimes hammered s**t and sometimes concluding a day with ‘did we get that one? I think we got that one…’ Every song so far has been live takes of the straightforward way in which they were written. Alas, embarking on a sophomore solo record means you just might be embarking on a career instead of a hobby. But let’s be honest, we have not been feverishly wiping our brows at the end of every seven day week. In short, this record is taking longer than expected because of a few incidents of the unexpected (love it when you can make it work using the same word twice in a sentence) . Rest easy to all three of you that care, all the material is there, either not fully mixed or just still a demo waiting to be flushed out.”
Here’s hoping these items for sale help her to get her music to the masses in a timeframe and a format that works best for her and her growing audience. (And if I’m lucky, I’ll get to interview her again when it comes out).
As I’ve been saying, the Fall TV season has begun its slow launch. And I can think of no better way to get a glimpse of the whole fall season than checking out TV Worth Watching’s Fall Preview. Enjoy.