blather about dead film stars and a cocktail

I'm tickled remembering the summer of 2005 when I was making fake blog titles that mimicked bad ad slogans. Clearly I've stopped trying. Anyway.

I've been taking inventory of my personal DVDs. I don't have lots, and have bought many more for the family and/or individual kids than for myself over the years. But it's a semi-solid collection for how little money and effort I've put into it. There needs to be Nero Wolfe. And more movies starring my favorite old loves. I'd like to have Anchors Aweigh. I know everyone likes On the Town more, and I'd like that, too, but the other would come first for me. And then a couple other movies featuring Frank Sinatra. (As much as I love Guys and Dolls, I can never watch it without remembering Gene Kelly should be in there instead. Same with Pal Joey of which I have the vinyl soundtrack but not the film itself. But Sinatra acquitted himself well in those roles and a number of others.)

I would like to have the latest special edition of Singin' in the Rain. It was at Costco last year but so was An American in Paris that day and I had money for only one of them. Then Singin' in the Rain sold out so I never got it. It was my second choice and I lost the gamble on it. But I have it on the DVR right now. There are a few movies I record each year and keep around for months until the need for space bumps them off the list for awhile. The current crop is marked with a K here:

James Garner, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, what could be better? Well, the addition of Jack Lemmon, mainly. But I watch those three particular movies over and over again. Now, of course I love Singin' in the Rain? It has a couple of incredible musical numbers. But I honestly do love An American in Paris slightly more. It's a different kind of art, more what I'm into, is all. I like its contemporary time period and music, love love love the Gershwin, and how each frame was composed as a work of art. Love Minnelli. I liked it less when I was younger because it made me impatient. Now I think I could watch it go on for another hour if it liked to.

I love the Singin' in the Rain time period as well, but it's not one of the ones I'd like to quietly slip into for awhile. It's a different sort of treat for me. The movie also has more stress and anxiety than the other,  for which I have less patience than when I was younger. And I think the talky fashion show scene is pretty, but really no longer interesting to me. So they've switched positions in my heart, but not by all that much.

I watched An American in Paris twice yesterday, second time with the commentary on, and Singin' in the Rain today, and each fit its respective day beautifully. I painted a sort of modern jazz thing during the former, did some cooking and cleaning during the latter, pausing the TV to head into the kitchen for a new task from time to time. 

One task was to make simple syrup and squeeze lots of little key limes for the first gimlet of the season. It's a bit cold out, but was sunny all day, and the first buds are appearing on the dogwoods and other early bloomers in the neighborhood. In my backyard, the oregano has started to grow, and some of the mints. So it's nearly summer gimlet time, and I even had cucumber for garnish, but you can't see it in this photo. 

The thing to do is drink the gimlet, then eat the cucumber, made delicious by soaking in lime-enhanced gin. 


dream lover, part two

For a week or more, a couple months ago, I made a nightly effort before sleep to imagine a romantic scenario which could appear in a dream for me to enjoy, though not usually with a specific person, even from my giant catalog of dead actor loves and the dozen or so living ones I'd meet at the jazz club in the holodeck if only our paths ever crossed. But I kept getting distracted. I have so little focus lately, and so my thoughts would turn toward simply shutting my mind down for rest. Yet I always feel that if I could put myself in the right frame of mind, I could have many more such dreams, as I used to quite often. This morning's dream took me by surprise and now I feel rather unsettled and curious.

There aren't, by the way, certain defining characteristics possessed by every dream man except that he's fit, knows how to talk...well, that's about it, really. They've come in a variety of ages, heights, levels of confidence, etc., otherwise. This one was in that indistinct time of life one thinks of as 40, and was, shockingly, someone I recognized.

It's too late, you know, to remember more than impressions and sensations. I had to get up and get moving a little earlier than usual, and my focus was instantly removed. Our brains immediately put away all the unnecessary elements and then, too, reshape and define what we can't recall but wish to retain. 

So I remember this: he took me down, on a bed in the middle of a room, and made love to me. I remember the feel of his hands on my skin, light and firm and serious. I remember how his skin felt beneath my hands; taut, that is to say, perhaps slightly younger than my mind tends to conjure when I picture him (if you happen to be my age or older, you may know what I mean by that) muscular, but in a strong or sinewy sense, not overly large or overly developed. I don't remember some of the things you remember about a real man, like how the hair on his legs feels when they are intertwined with your own, or running my hand down the length of his spine to rest my fingertips in the hollow at the back of his waist. I wish I could remember that. I remember his scent. I remember my hands at the back of his neck, and recognizing the tenor of his voice, not fully polished, but soft, confident, and retaining that unique resonance which is so charming on screen. I remember my hand on his chest, just below the hollow of his throat, and I remember the way his eyes looked as he bent forward to kiss me, with one hand on my shoulder. 

When we stood, he was just perceptibly taller than me, his nose above my own, but he was speaking then, and I kept thinking about the way he sounded; I was really focused on it, and I felt completely drawn in and taken over. That sensation hasn't left me. Also, I hadn't before considered how dark his hair really was, but I kept touching it as he spoke, and then we would fall together, connected all over again. That happened two or three times. 

We talked a lot, like people who really know each other and have spent solid time together. But the only topic I remember is the lake nearby, and him telling me we'd spend a lot of time there. He was playful when he spoke, but when he touched me he became very serious. 

Well, the dream went bats, and there was a baby, and I was feeding it a bottle attached to my breast with some kind of Nuk nipple, and an old female celebrity whose identity I can't recall was talking about the silliness of Playtex bottles and when they were invented and we commiserated over that, which is strange, since my six kids were mostly all breastfed, with two short-term exceptions. And I remember thinking back then that those Playtex ones were a good idea.

And I kept drifting in and out of sleep, realizing in half-waking state what I'd just conjured and wanting desperately to go back to the more precious moments of it. 

Why did my semi-conscious brain choose this man as an object of desire? He wasn't on my mind last night. As I said, I've had many romantic and/or sexy dreams, and it's not usually anyone recognizable, which at the moment I'm thinking is a good thing, because in this case, I won't be able to look at him now without wondering if I know something of what it would have felt like to have his arms around me, but that doesn't, after all, make him any more real or corporeal, does it? 

Gene


Oh, how he sizzled

I discovered William Holden the day he died. I was in the 10th grade. Not a novice to gruesome celebrity deaths, at first I thought this one was just another crazy Hollywood dude gone wrong. I'd heard his name before but never took notice the way I already had with Grant, Cooper, Stewart, Cotten.

The first few movies of Holden's that I saw bored me a little, though it was easy to see that he had a handsome, affable charm. He just wasn't my type. 

Born Yesterday changed my mind first. I didn't appreciate Judy Holliday then as I do now (and I do, a lot!) but Holden's ease and sharp charm grabbed hold of me. 

Holdenhollidayframe
Holdenholliday
And now that I'm so much older and see many movies differently than I once did, I love him in Executive Suite, Picnic, Sabrina (did you know Joseph Cotten played the older Linus role on Broadway? I wish he'd done so in the movie as well, instead of Humphrey Bogart,) even Paris When it Sizzles, though that movie is not nearly as good as it should be. I don't recommend it unless you're being completionist about Holden or about Audrey Hepburn. It is a very pretty movie, to be sure.

My favorite Holden films are from what I believe is a visually captivating era. This is a still taken for Sabrina.

Holdensabrina

That era is known for creating overwhelming sexual tension on film, as well, particularly in the blue collar setting found in Picnic.

Holdennovakpicnic
I love him less in Stalag 17 and Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, but those are good movies I can recommend. When I saw The Moon Is Blue I was disappointed by it (kinda like they were in M*A*S*H,) but it's a piece of film history you may want to look into if you're a student of how the Code was applied in different eras. 

And I still have mixed feelings about Sunset Boulevard. I get why it's so good. But I just don't really enjoy it. However, Holden is so handsome and pathetic in it, the sets are perfect, Gloria Swanson is fairly awesome in her role, and the whole thing builds in a sort of thick intensity. If you can watch biting dramas, you have to see it. It's another important piece of film history.

Holdenswanson
When you think about it, William Holden appeared in quite a few important films. I've actually seen only about half of his films so far; he made 70 or so. There are at least a dozen more I hope to view.  Maybe I'll count them up sometime.

Watch this when you have a quiet moment in which to bite your lip:

 

Watch this, too, if you have time. It's actually the penultimate scene from Executive Suite, carefully worded to suit both your economic view and mine...and grippingly well-delivered.

My type hasn't changed much over the past 30-35 years, but I will say it's matured and better-developed. I don't miss being a youth who didn't understand how to appreciate this:

Holdenlandscape

William Holden was a long-time alcoholic and it did him in at the end, but he has an amazing film legacy for us to appreciate. Check it out in an interesting blog post here.

 


It's always fair weather...

It's been quite awhile since I did a nice long focus on one actor in particular. That's no longer so difficult to find; there are hundreds of blogs these days devoted to the daily worship of dead celebrity, and mine has long since fallen into an abyss of chaotic randomosity. But I've got someone in mind I always meant to talk about, and it's long overdue.

Nearly everyone in my dream lover pantheon is tall, with just a few exceptions. Only a couple so far, I think, are what I'd actually call short—under 5' 9". I just enjoy looking up at a man by a nice 4 or 5 inches or more. And it can be said that a man's height often has bearing on his personality—I'm more attracted to a tall bearing, so there it is. But let's face it;  some of these guys were just really tasty eye candy. How many of them could I say I truly admire? Ten? If so, here's one who definitely belongs on that list, even though his chin would probably rest just above mine.

When you encounter a man who stands tall no matter the length of his frame—no slouching and folding himself up to be less noticeable if he's tall, no anxious Napoleonic giddiness to make up for a lack of height if he isn't—it's usually because he's completely self-aware, at ease with himself, and with you as well. It's impossible to not take notice of such a man. When I was a kid we often referred to that quality as "je ne sais quois," but honestly, often you do know just what that certain something is. It's not mysterious or ineffable. It's an inner strength, expressed externally in this way and that. Sometimes it's expressed in a long beautiful jawline, set just so. 

Kellydinnerjaw
Sometimes it's expressed in his ability to defy gravity by the sheer force of his will.

Kellyairborne
Maybe it's simply that he knows exactly what you want and exactly how to give it to you. 

Kellycamerabreath

There can never be "another Gene Kelly," and that's not something that can be overstated. Whoever the next guy is, who stands tall in a crowd of lanky models, who can throw himself around a room with grace, elegance and humor, who can demonstrate kindness and yearning and bitterness all in the same line of dialogue, well, I hope I have the privilege of watching him work his magic. But standing in the same room or on the same set as this guy here is something none of us will ever get to do, and those who did were in the presence of a unique individual. 

 

 


Dream Lover, part one

this is about 1200 words. not for everyone. self-indulgent, but almost honest, and very much me. and there's a lot more to come. (other things to come include a short book review for my friend Alex, and a couple quick movie reviews this weekend. i feel like writing again, yay.)


First, the shoes. Proper shoes, from a time before men could get away with wearing so-called athletic shoes all day every day. Shoes that don't look quite right with jeans, because they were meant for something better. 

The digression spirals. It's a game I'm no longer very good at. At which I'm no longer very good. Further digression into concerns over syntax for sentences that were never going to be written, because they're all forgotten by morning. And then, as though I'm 17 years old again, bored in class and working over my list of requirements for the Composite Male, I suddenly start worrying about the feet inside the socks inside the shoes. Of course the socks are all right; a man with the correct shoes will naturally be wearing the correct socks. But what deficits do they hide? 

When you are 17, this can seem to matter greatly. When you are 45, it shouldn't even enter your mind. But it enters mine, because I can no longer easily trade in idle fantasy; reality intrudes and keeps me from sleep. Because that's all this is: an exercise for sleep, my own version of counting fire engines. 

The point is, or was, the shoes are a deal-breaker, or would be, should a situation ever again arise during which a deal might be struck. This is the theory, anyway. 

I've always been a very good sleeper. And whenever I have been not such a good sleeper, I play a game; the exact same game I have played for 30 years. Creating a man to find in my dreams. At 15, these men were most often major league baseball players, classic film stars, or exotic Mediterranean men who were looking for just the right girl to coax them fully into heterosexuality. I had no experience with men at that time, of course, or even boys. Externally, that was my Awkward Year. I had all the right clothes and shoes, but my skin and teeth were a mess, my hair frizzy and unmanageable, my countenance still sometimes too quirky for comfort—not yet balanced out by my growing inner confidence. I wasn't thinking about sex yet, at least not in the way I came to understand it later. That sort of hunger that takes hold of most of us just hadn't presented itself yet. I wanted to experience the tension that comes before the sex; the little tastes of pleasure that lead us toward more, though more of what I did not spend much time considering. It was largely about the drama, and it was also about the presentation. 

He'd have a short, sharp haircut with dark hair that set off his angular features and well-chiseled lips. He might have a slight early bit of grey over the ears. With strong, squarish hands, he'd be slim and possibly lanky, standing four to seven inches taller than me, and he'd know how to dress and how to walk in what he wore. 

My tastes in this regard have changed little, though the typical baseball player's physique has changed considerably, and I'm no longer interested in showing any man on which road his sexuality should naturally travel. He will have already sorted that out in the Navy, or college, presumeably.

The thing about the shoes is that it demonstrates a particular strength of character; one that fits well with my own, indicates an attention to detail, and also reveals a becoming sense of self-satisfaction. So it's not just one certain style of shoe, you see. It is a manifestation of personal style. But to think on this too long spoils the game, and that's the problem I'm dealing with lately. 

When I was younger, it was enough to compose a picture of someone with an attractive countenance, and then decide what I wanted to happen next. I'd drift off to sleep in the midst of a cool or cozy date, and not unoften, end up seeing it played out in my dreams. Lately, burdened with a sensation of being permanently stuck on an elevator going down, I keep stopping at the shoes, mind wandering off in no good direction, restless and bothered by the heat of the pillow. 

Because, of course, now I know what comes next. All the excitement, pleasure, joy, misery, pain, loss, confusion and loneliness. Neverending grief over what was, and what was, what is, meant to be. But at night, none of that should matter at all. At night, only the sleep and the dreams should matter. The dreams should be composed of anything I like, and not merely the unravelling knots of consciousness that tangled themselves through another endless, relentless day. Even if the combination Jimmy Stewart/John Slattery/Craig Ferguson of my creation doesn't appear during sleep, and he rarely does anymore, the counting still leads to a more peaceful rest. Only the numbers, worse than appearing out of order, keep getting stuck at one. 

So. The shoes. I chose them for him, and although he wouldn't have stopped to look at them twice, he's delighted with how they fit and how he somehow thinks he looks taller in the mirror. I warn him they'll take a little breaking in, but once he has, he'll feel like they always belonged there. He strides away with confidence, attracting the eye of a woman younger than me as he passes out of the store and sets off down the sidewalk. She catches up to him and I watch them both laugh as they disappear around the corner.

Well, that's hardly the guy, is it? I never even got to imagine loosening his tie and unbuttoning his collar. Just handed him off to someone younger, the same way it happens to women my age in real life. 

(No one ever tells you about that when you're 17, and that hunger begins springing to life. You think you'll be 17 forever, and, worse, you have no inkling of how much that hunger grows, demanding to be fed and to feed another in turn, only to learn that a man's hunger is often fickle, desirous of newer, if not always more raw, energy. Sometimes the hunger still comes alive at night, in dreams, and these are not the dreams of a girl fumbling through the newness of sexual identity. But neither are they, by now, the dreams that startled you awake, sated without quite understanding or remembering how. So, like Ernie counting fire engines, I surround myself with pillows and compose a scene that will never happen, but might happen, in the enchantment of sleep. It's a romantic scene I attempt to compose, but it is not the romance I had in mind before I'd ever experienced any of my own. And much less exciting than fire trucks.)

(Now, it's easier to love a dead celebrity than a live one, and if you're good to yourself, you never imagine the real person, only some character he played, or one you imagine him playing. Because let's face it; we now know too much about anybody famous to be able to imagine one of them as the guy with whom we spend an enchanting afternoon exploring the cemetery, or the art museum, or just sitting outside a cafe, sipping coffee, watching people walk in and out of the big beautiful hotel across the street before he whispers in our ear, "Let's go in.")

(Plus, a fictional man will always be wearing the correct shoes, if he's the man for me.)

 


Long, slow, self-indulgent cocktail: Jack Lemmon, Herb Alpert & a drop of Steve Martin

It's a day off for the kids because schoolkids are out whooping it up for Columbus Day. One of those beautiful October days that sneak in and trick you into thinking impending winter might not be so bad after all. All the boys have congregated for it elsewhere, and it's very quiet here.

So, after a weekend spent largely in bed with what would manifest itself as a simple cold in other people, but in me takes the form of a vague, sinking malaise, along with experiencing up-close the mysterious ebb and flow of life's energy in the form of a tiny cat, I decided to indulge myself. 

I'm cleaning the bedroom. It takes me all day, because I use it for catharsis. Dusting, rearranging, vacuuming, etc., just a little bit at a time, and in between bits, putting together the following:

Today's Love is still Jack Lemmon. I watched Cowboy (1958) this weekend, and How To Murder Your Wife (1965,) and lots of bits and pieces of other things on YouTube. Here's one of them. 

 

[I noted that in the Netflix reviews for Under The Yum-Yum Tree (1963,) which is a silly movie I meant to watch but they screwed up the Instant streaming for—and I think it was in a review for that movie, but could have been another—someone stated it wasn't credible for Lemmon to play a character who was such a swinger, with so many women interested in him. I guffaw. Surely this statement was made by a man, because so many men just have no clue what attracts women in reality.]

Then I scanned the May 1964 Jack Lemmon Playboy interview for your perusal, while listening to Herb Alpert, because that seemed right for the magazine. 

Lemmon1
Lemmon2
Lemmon3

 

I have 7 or 8 Herb Alpert albums on vinyl, but the songs in this post are from the Definitive Hits digital recording. 

whipped cream

A Taste Of Honey

 

Lemmon4
Lemmon5
Lemmon6
Lemmon7

When I was a young girl and teenager, Crown Center in Kansas City held these international festivals several weekends each summer. My favorite was always the Greek Festival. It was reasonably authentic, as there was a travelling group from actual Greece, who would go around and put these things on. One year, when I was 13 or 14, I met a boy there, who played bouzouki in his parents' band. He was just dreamy. We stared at each other a lot, then took a walk around the festivities, him speaking in broken English, me probably giggling too much. He squeezed my hand when we said goodbye. I don't remember his name; his last name ended in -olopoulos, but then, so many do, don't they? 

Going Places

Zorba The Greek

 

An actual living crush of mine made a gorgeously asinine tribute to Jack Lemmon:

 

Lemmon8
Lemmon9
Lemmon10
 

And, well, the fact is, when I was an even littler girl, I also had a deep giggly fondness for Herb Alpert himself. I would get really moony every time I heard this song. 

beat of the brass

This Guy's In Love With You

I still do. But then, I'm like that most days these days, anyway.