By the late 1980s,
after having had my filled of Robbins, Collins, Sheldon, I was ready to
discover new authors. In came Lisa Robinson’s WALK ON GLASS (1983, Charter Books). I picked that one up during one of my hunts for used
bookstores. After having amassed enough trashy paperbacks to fill at least two
shelves in my reading room, I went back home and I started the novel right away.
I remember how good a time I had with it. Like its many predecessors, it had something
of a roman à clef. It would be interesting to see if the fun is still palpable
after all these years. But what I do recall most is that WALK ON GLASS was penned by then-syndicated music columnist Lisa
Robinson. I had glimpsed at her articles in some New York paper once or twice and
thought them to be quite interesting. And since I’ve always been attracted to
the glitter or not so glitter aspect of show business it came as no surprise that
I found her novel to be just as fascinating.
Indeed, the music
industry is the main focus for this tale of love gone wrong during the rise and
fall of a singer/songwriter. Unless I’m very much mistaken it goes something
like this: she’s on top of the charts, meets the man of her dreams and—surprise,
surprise—ends up being cheated on. Then she breaks—big time, so much so that
you wish you could do a MOONSTRUCK on her. Snap
out of it! But since we all know that without cupid doing his thing, novels
like this one would barely exist, we suffer greatly with her and hope that she
rises above. She does eventually, like any good heroine can. What’s even more rewarding,
however, is that beyond her fall out, WALK
ON GLASS is an insightful encyclopedia of who’s who in the music biz. Expect
to be enthralled by this and by those inside scoops which in the end mostly reveal
that screwing one another for a few bucks is certainly one’s main priority. I
have no doubts that it still is today.
WALK ON GLASS is sadly Lisa Robinson’s sole novel. I would have
loved for her to continue on her path as a novelist. She is currently a
contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Her memoir THERE GOES GRAVITY: A LIFE IN
ROCK AND ROLL was published in 2014 by Riverhead Books. I may check that one
out, as you all should WALK ON GLASS.
Two years after the ratings success of LUCKY CHANCES, NBC gave the greenlight to the third chapter in the Santangelo
saga called LADY BOSS. Again, the
teleplay was going to be written by Collins herself and she was also going to co-executively produce the whole thing. The big difference is that Kim Delaney was going to
replace Nicollette Sheridan as Lucky. Just as the character of Lenny was now
going to be portrayed by sexy Jack Scalia. In fact, only hunky actor Phil
Morris returned. If you recall, he played Lucky’s illegitimate half-brother
lawyer. But truth be told, I couldn’t care less who was or who wasn’t going to
be in it (this is how interchangeable those actors are). All I wanted is to see
the end result which I finally did on that Sunday in October of 1992.
I was in a serious relationship at that time. Turned
out the guy was one mean S.O.B. but back then I was in love. Or what I thought to be love. But moving on… I remember
sitting my ass down after work and playing part one of the miniseries and I just
couldn’t be happier. I had devoured Jackie’s novel the year prior and thought
the adaptation was relatively faithful to the book. 25 years later I still find
LADY BOSS to be grand.
Kim Delaney is great as Lucky. She puts some much-needed
spunk into the character. Nicollette Sheridan’s take is much too basic. Here we
finally get a three-dimensional enough performance that is more relatable. Same
goes for her other-half Jack Scalia. His Lenny is much more charismatic, much more
at ease in his own skin, therefore more in control of his performance. Or is it
just that I still have the hots for him? I mean, who wouldn’t? Look at the guy.
Clearly he’s the perfect choice for a leading man.
The whole whacky storyline in which Lucky infiltrates (disguised
as a frumpy secretary) a Hollywood studio to expose the shady goings-on before
taking it over works with a capital W. Of course this little game of hers does
not bode well with her actor hubby, who, despite being unhappy there, is set against
the idea of her becoming his boss. But Lucky being Lucky ends up doing what she
wants, and of course the marriage suffers. The mini also features a
Madonna-like star whose celebrity status brings her all sorts of problems, such
as the presence of a low-life brother (!) who gladly sells stories about her to
the rags. There’s also the presence of the late Joan Rivers as a Cindy
Adams-like columnist who warns screen-legend Yvette Mimieux (in her last role
before disappearing from the limelight) that her rich husband is screwing another
woman. And yeah that is president-to-be Donald Trump making a cameo appearance.
Add to the mix the recently departed Vanity who plays Phil Morris’ client-love
interest and you got yourself one heck of a firecracker miniseries.
Directed by THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT Charles Jarrott,
with a catchy opening title theme composed by KNOTS LANDING Dana Kaproff, it is fair to say that JACKIE COLLINS’ LADY BOSS is stronger than its
predecessor. Evidently the glam miniseries were fizzling out by then but from
the looks of this one, it hardly shows. So I’m glad to report that the trend went
out with a bang. We have yet to see this title graduating to the DVD market,
however, but let’s not despair. HOLLYWOOD WIVES did eventually get there. So I
gather that the rest of Jackie’s adapted work will see the light of day.
This week’s blog entry is dedicated yet again to the
oeuvre of Judith Krantz, most specifically to PRINCESS DAISY, one of my favorite novels of hers. I was supposed
to scrap anything regarding this author on account of the many homophobic
references inserted in SCRUPLES. But the big trashy junkie that I am just couldn’t
stay away. And truth be told, I’m glad I didn’t, for Judith Krantz is more than
a bigot writer. She’s also one heck of a trashy storyteller. She knows how to
lure her readers just the right way with her tales of the rich and the rotten,
and PRINCESS DAISY is the perfect example.
Indeed, Princess Margaret Alexandrovna Valensky has it all:
loving parents, a title preceding her name and money that grows on trees—until
tragedy strikes. Before you can say, oh
here we go again, Daisy's charmed life is turned upside down when she is forced
to face a painful past and an unsure future. And what a future it is, filled
with beautiful people, royal settings, designer clothes and plenty of sex. Suffice to say, PRINCESS DAISY is one hot read. Krantz creates an exciting bunch of
characters; unidimensional, perhaps, but fun as they go at it without any
filter just to get a piece of the happy pie. Yes, the author may spread it
thick on the over-the-top scale, but who cares. The novel works, and that’s
what’s important. It is as grand and as sinful as those secrets her heroine so
desperately wants to hide. So go on, do as I did, forget about SCRUPLES and indulge
in this one, for PRINCESS DAISY sure
is classy stuff in escapism fiction.
As you can see, re-reading this novel wasn’t as
strenuous as I thought it would be. Sure, one of the antagonists is a sick and
twisted individual who of course has homosexual tendencies, but this offensive depiction
didn’t bother me as I thought it would this time around. Maybe the trick is to
develop a thicker skin. Or to simply realize that villains in over-the-top
novels are just as harmless as their creators if you don’t take them too
seriously. Besides, the novel is from another era. I’d like to believe that people,
including writers like Judith Krantz, have slackened on some of their beliefs since
then. But with the re-enforcing of backlash toward minorities since Trump has
been elected the next president, however, I may just end up eating my words.
In the mid-2000s I had access to this TV channel where
I could enjoy all types of exploitation films. It was called Drive-in Classics,
and every now and then I would get caught up into some ‘70’s grindhouse movies.
Little films I would never have discovered
had it not been for that now-defunct channel. So I owe big thanks to the folks
behind Drive-in Classics for introducing me to this week’s featured title which
since then has become one of my favorite flicks to watch.
Filmed in 1976 and picked up by Roger Corman for
distribution, NASHVILLE GIRL tells
the tale of a beautiful and talented songstress who desperately wants to become
the next big thing in country music. So one day she packs up her bags and, with her precious
guitar in hand, heads off to Nashville. She soon finds out that reaching for
the top has many setbacks. Indeed, hardly a day goes by that she isn’t used by men.
At first she recoils from them but soon learns that to make it in show business
one has no way but to submit. Fortunately, this leads to a once in a lifetime
chance to work with a legendary married country star who takes her under his
wing and makes her sing with him to great success. But what starts out as a
platonic relationship soon turns to brute force when he becomes obsessed with
her to the point of raping her. Fed up with the ways of the world and now a
country star herself she vows to make it on her own. As the credits roll we are
left with the notion that she will get there.
Just like in THE
LONELY LADY, SHOWGIRLS or VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, NASHVILLE
GIRL uses the same Girl Caught in a Male
Dominating World theme and delivers a highly enjoyable exploitation flick
that has solid performances and some catchy tunes. Monica Gayle shines as the used,
abused aspiring country singer who eventually becomes wiser as the film
progresses. She may not have the aggressive spunk of a Neely O’Hara or the
slutty way of a Nomi Malone, or even the naïve streak of a Jerilee Randall but
boy does she hold her own. So good of an actress is she that she’s able to go
beyond the clichés to make her character appear sympathetic. A tough job to do
really when one is surrounded by nothing but sleaze. Moreover, what the film
achieves in the looks department despite its meager budget is worth the price of
admission alone. I’ll repeat it here: they sure don’t make them like that
The film was a solid success at the box office, mostly
due to its appeal overseas. It was then re-released in 1980 as COUNTRY MUSIC DAUGHTER
to cash in on the success of the Loretta Lynn biopic COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER. It
took some 30 years for me to discover NASHVILLE
GIRL, and though I had also seen and enjoyed the Sissy Spacek vehicle
recently, it’s Monica Gayle’s performance in NASHVILLE GIRL that stuck with me. Which makes me wonder whatever
happened to her? Her IMDb bio reports that she stopped acting in the late ‘70s,
which is truly a shame, for her talent should have been celebrated in the subsequent
years. I hear that she’s also a blast in SWITCHBLADE SISTERS. I need to check this
one out ASAP.
You can still purchase NASHVILLE GIRL on DVD or Blu-ray wherever digital films are sold.
delicate subject here: Jackie Collins. I still have a hard time coping
with her passing. In my eyes she was going to live forever.But
moving on: the moment I found out that a three-part TV adaptation of her
grandest oeuvre CHANCES was happening I got goosebumps all over. Finally after
all these years someone has had the good sense to greenlight this project. The HOLLYWOOD
WIVES miniseries was long gone and its proposed sequel HOLLYWOOD HUSBANDS never
got made. So it was only natural that the next step should be bringing CHANCES to
the small screen. Of course I had already read the novel and its sequel LUCKY
on which this proposed miniseries was to be based. In my mind both books should
have had separate identities but I was willing to accept whatever Hollywood had
When LUCKY/CHANCES finally aired on NBC in October
of 1990 it came as no surprise that I was in heaven. Seeing it all materializing
right before my eyes proved to me right then and there that indeed there was a
God and her name was Jackie Collins. I finally could enjoy something that was
right up my, and her, alley. I recently re-watched the miniseries and let me
tell you that contrary to the reruns of TV’s SEX IN THE CITY it does age well
despite a few noticeable flaws, starting with the overall look of the film. Oh
don’t get me wrong, everything is glammed up to the hilt, whether the focus is
on the swinging ‘20s, the flower-power era of the ‘60s or the glamourous days
of the late ‘70s—early ‘80s. No, what I’m referring to is the prosthetic
effects used on the actors to age them. I never realized how foamy and phony
they all looked. They almost distracted me from all the drama: drug addictions,
sexual situations, Machiavellian manipulations, you name it. And dead bodies, so
many dead bodies: in the streets, in swimming pools, in exploding cars...
Make no mistake,I am all well aware thatLUCKY/CHANCES is a direct rip-off of Mario
Puzo’s THE GODFATHER with its tale of rival Mafiosos in Vegas that traces 40-some
years, but to soap fans everywhere it’s still must-see TV. Nicollette Sheridan,
fresh from her KNOTS LANDING days, gives it all she’s got as Lucky Santangelo—the
mobster’s daughter who wants to prove her worth as a business woman—and comes
out relatively unscathed. She may not be the greatest actress alive but she
does have her moments in the lead. So do most of the cast like Grant Show, Michael Nouri, Audrey Landers and Sandra Bullock in one of her first roles. Of course
they all look sensational with their chiseled faces and saccharine smiles. You
do not venture into a Jackie Collins novel or a TV adaptation expecting any
What made me
cringe a little, though, is realizing how stale and clichés some of that dialogue
appears despite Collins having written the teleplay. Actor Vincent Irizarry barely
helps either as kingpin and ladies’ man Gino Santangelo. His performance is as
amateurish and stiff as that fake moustache he sports during the mini’s second
half. But most of all I blame this on my advanced years which have made me more
cynical towards what is supposed to be good or not. As camp appeal goes however
LUCKY/CHANCES (as the HOLLYWOOD WIVES mini which has been too harsh a review on this blog) is by far one of the
best thing to watch on TV besides THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS or THE ROYALS
on E! It may be far from being artsy fartsy but, boy, does it deliver. Now, the
only thing left to say is this: when is JACKIE
COLLINS’LUCKY/CHANCES coming to
DVD in North America, Mr. Distributors? When?!!!
Click here to read all about its adapted sequel, the LADY BOSS miniseries.
Like many of you I was introduced to PEYTON PLACE during the height of its
popularity as a prime-time soap in the late '60s. I was very young then but I remember
catching it quite a few times, having no idea that it was based on an
international bestseller. Fast-forward to the mid-‘80s and wouldn’t you know, I
ended up with a copy of the novel itself. It was right in the middle of my
trashy phase and I couldn’t go on without tasting the merits of that infamous title.
I made it in a jiffy, so much involved I was in it. The novel seemed barely my
cup of tea in regards to the lack of glitz and glamour but it made up big time by
delivering one heck of a compelling story.
Indeed, those looking for a little change in their
reading experience may have come to the right place when it comes to this 1956
soaper set in a small town during the 1940's. Protagonists Constance Mackenzie
and teenaged daughter Allison lead off a colorful cast of characters whose
secrets and sins end up having major consequences. Nearing the end of the novel
the story verges to a legal drama, but the involvement factor still reigns as
the reader gets caught up deeper into the whole scenario. Grace Metalious'
narrative goes from the lyrical (any setting description) to the very real (a
character's rape, among others). Some revelations seem rather tame nowadays
(Constance's big adultery secret, for example), but, as a whole, PEYTON PLACE still stands the test of
time thanks to a talented author and its universal appeal.
Of course I had to catch the film adaptation after
reading it. Took me a while (VHS commercial tapes weren’t as easy a grab in
those days unless living near a big video rental store) but when I finally did,
it was pure magic. But more on that in an upcoming blog entry, just like I plan to
draw attention to PEYTON PLACE's sequel RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE one of these days. In the meantime get yourself a
copy of this timeless classic and move it up on top of your reading list. It’s
I’m always a
sucker for bad girls in cinema. Give me a Neely O’Hara, a Nomi Malone, heck
even a Bette Davis in an awful wig (BEYOND THE FOREST) and I’ll be your film
buff for life. It’s no wonder that I fell for Gina Lollobrigida’s character in
the delectably bad GO NAKED IN THE WORLD
distributed by MGM in 1961. In it she plays Guilietta, a high-priced call girl
who loves swinging her curvy derrière and hanging out in hippie joints. When
she gets stood up by an old coot one evening she meets handsome Anthony
Franciosa who has no idea that she’s a lady of the night. Strange, for you take
one look at her and you connect the dots quite easily. But I digress.
When the script
calls for them to fall madly in love, loud papa Ernest Borgnine hits the roof
and with good reasons. He’s had her many times over, so did his friends and
associates. To paraphrase Elizabeth Taylor’s character in the award winning (!)
but rival BUTTERFIELD 8 (another MGM film), she’s the slut of all time. When he
reveals this to Franciosa, sonny-boy cries liar but soon learns the truth and quickly
ends the relationship with Lollobrigida. Miserable as any manly man of the ‘60s
can be, he drowns his sorrow in cheap booze and hotels until he decides to face
his problem head on. So he kills his dad. No, just kidding, but it’s not that
farfetched of an idea since their relationship can only be described as very volatile.
Son wants to be his own person, dad wants him to be more like him...
Like I said, Franciosa
sobers up.He soon rekindles his
relationship with Lollobrigida (he’s in LOVE, people). Before she quits the
business she warns him how hard it’ll be for him to get used to the idea of her
past life. He acts as if it’s nothing at all but we the spectators know better.
Our hunch is quickly confirmed when loud papa shows up in Acapulco where the
two have moved to start anew. He bribes Lollobrigida to stay away from his son.
She refuses but quickly changes her tune when she realises that, hooking or not, she will always
be trouble for Franciosa. So she kills him. Nah, she instead pretends to go
back to her old ways. This is the best part of the film. She flirts, she
drinks, she dances (she even gets gang-raped off camera) all in the space of a
few minutes while Franciosa looks like a kicked dog. Later on, unable to live with herself any longer and all clad in white (wouldn’t you know? repentance), she throws
herself into the ocean to forever be with her maker. Anyway, so ends her misery
and ours who are this close from running screaming from the room.
GO NAKED IN THE WORLD is based on the Tom T. Chamale’s
novel and directed by MILDRED PIERCE screenwriter Ranald McDougall (helped by
non-credited Charles Walters). As much as I enjoyed the film, I came away from it
with a splitting headache. I blame this mostly on Borgnine’s constant shouting which
made me lower the volume on my remote and put on the close captioned. Bombshell
Lollobrigida may have top billing for this but it’s Franciosa who carries the
film, which is a shame since the whole reason to catch this flick is to see her
in action. In fact, she should have put
her foot down and convince the high rollers to use her more, like any good
sleazy chicks in high-budget films should. Just ask any other celluloid bad
girls, Stanwyck, Davis, Taylor. THEY knew how to make the most of it. Judging
by the shaking of her bonbon in that next to last scene of the film, I’m sure
Lollobrigida could have succeeded just as well. Nonetheless, give this film a
try. It has its moments.
Robert McCammon has always been one of those writers
labelled a-must by fans and reviewers alike, and with good reasons. His ‘80s
novels and his subsequent ones have all managed to impress for their classic
blend of chills and thrills. Even those considered sub-pars by the author
himself have been given the seal of approval from around the globe. So it comes
as no surprise that his latest is no different. Called LAST TRAIN FROM PERDITION (Subterranean Press), a follow-up to I
TRAVEL BY NIGHT published in 2013, we find yet again the vampire gunslinger for
hire but on a new mission: to locate and bring back home a wayward son of a
wealthy gent. Accompanied by his female human sidekick, he’ll stop at nothing
to accomplish his mission while trying his best to contain his vampire urges. His
main goal however is to return to life of humanity, and if he plays his cards
right, meaning finding the queen bee who has turned him into a vampire, it
might certainly happen. In the meantime he puts up a fight, draws his gun whenever
he has to (which is often) and tries his best to stay afloat in a universe so
filled with baddies and bloodsuckers.
I admit, I never had the chance to read the first
novelette, so I had no idea what I was really getting myself into other than
the fact that it was to be the second installment in a historical horror
western trilogy.Thankfully McCammon summed
up the previous plot before moving on. Declaring that I was totally in love
with this effort would be a total lie, since I never had been too fond of
western horror. BUT I got to admit that storywise it is pretty involving, and
the action is almost nonstop. For some strange reasons I was reminded of 30
DAYS OF NIGHT while reading this, probably because of its vampire theme and the snow-covered
Montana setting. While limited on gore but with plenty of dreadful moments to
spare—even more so in the second half where a train is at a standstill while
things with fangs are on the attack mode—LAST
TRAIN FROM PERDITION is worth checking out, especially if you’re into
strong narrative and vengeful Cowboys and Indians. I for one will definitely give
the last installment a go, most probably when stuck in between sleazy novels,
since we all know that a good healthy balance in reading choices does a mind
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Yvonne Navarro’s 1993
debut novel AFTERAGE
is a well-crafted vampire story with a twist. The twist being that it is barely
a vampire novel in the traditional sense. Set in Chicago, where the population
has almost dwindled due to a vampire invasion, the story revolves around the
ongoing battle between good and evil. In one corner we have the struggling
humans trying to survive the plague as they seek refuge and other survivors. On
the other corner, we have the rulers, the villains themselves, led by evil
queen Anyelet, who yearns to control what’s left of the remaining population.
Both want freedom but none are equipped enough to go for it. Fangs and stakes
are barely the point in this novel. The focus is more on the interaction
between characters. Navarro makes sure her people are equally well-defined and
the setting is rich in flavor before moving on to the next stage, the action
And that’s where some
readers may get miffed. Nothing major really happens before the last 30 pages
or so. Oh, you may get a teaser here and there; heck, you may even drool over
the novel's sudden turn into dark fantasy territory, but an edge-of-your-seat
page-turner this is not. Navarro goes rather for the gloomy atmosphere and in
the end it pays off quite well. Some scenes are rather unsettling if
not darkly beautiful. Topped by short chapters divided in many sections, AFTERAGE even adds
a celestial apparition to shake things up. This may not always work as it
should (this presence is never really explained as it comes and goes
as it pleases) but it gives the reader another reason to enjoy this
effort. Bottom line: if you dig slower but always intriguing plots à la quiet
horror, you’ve come to the right novel.
AFTERAGE is available wherever digital books are sold.
It has been a
while since I ventured into the world of V.C. Andrews. The last time I did so was in 2004 with the
first in the Gemini series which I enjoyed tremendously. Why then did I fail to
check out its sequels? I have no clue, except to say that perhaps I got
sidetracked by the many glam novels that have been coming my way. So when THE MIRROR SISTERS (Pocket Books) suddenly became available on NetGalley for an honest review I said
what the heck not and dove right into this thing.
THE MIRROR SISTERS tells the tale of two identical twins who are brought
up and home-schooled by their cray-cray mom. Dad is around but prefers to make
himself scarce—which is clearly understandable considering the family atmosphere.
I mean who would want to confront this obsessive-compulsive impossible woman? One
day he bows out and the twins, without a fatherly presence in the house, suffer
even more greatly at the hands of mommy dearest, especially when their hormones
hit the roof and they are tossed into the real world. Add a sibling rivalry, a
sisterly switcharoo, a kidnapping of one of the twins and you’ve got yourself
one intense VCA read you’ll devour in no time.
Indeed, reading THE MIRROR SISTERS made the impossible
happen: my fervent intention of going back to VCA. Yes boys and girls, I’m
seriously thinking of visiting or revisiting every series written by the
original author or those now ghostwritten by Andrew Neiderman. That’s how much
I had fun with his latest. Those expecting a dark tale of family angst may be
pleasantly surprised. All the ingredients are there: secrets, lies, sins,
jealousy, manipulation… Neiderman even manages to incorporate some of Andrews’s
infamous gothic mood. Just have in mind that like any first VCA book in a series
this reads like a YA novel—even though the first person narrative is clearly told
by an adult—and I’m pretty sure THE
MIRROR SISTERS will be a breeze to go through. But who am I kidding here.
It’s V.C. Andrews, people. Either you dig her or you don’t.I do.
THE MIRROR SISTERS is now available wherever digital or printed books are
I would love to
say that I’m up-to-date with Avery Aster’s impressive backlist but, alas, life has
a way of throwing some unexpected curveballs, and before you know it, you find
yourself way behind schedule. Nothing would please me more than to spend my
free time getting into this author’s oeuvres but let’s face it: there are too
many novels, films, miniseries that strike my fancy and so precious little
time. A title I did manage to get into, however, is his latest in the Manhattanites
series, AMANHATTANITE’S CHRISTMAS, offered by NetGalley in exchange for an
honest review. So without further ado:
Reality star and
songstress Neve Adele is on a downright spiral. The only thing that can save
her failing career, not to mention her once-lucrative empire, is taking part in
the much-publicised Celebrity Newlywed Boot Camp on TV. Problem is she’s
husbandless—until sexy Sheldon Truman enters the picture. He’s a recovered
alcoholic fighting for custody of an autistic child and he needs the cash.When the two hook up, major fireworks—on and
off screen, but will their union last? But more importantly, how do they go
about winning this thing, especially when Neve’s longtime nemesis and expert
schemer Tara Storm is part of the cast?
It goes without
saying that I had a ball reading AMANHATTANITE’S CHRISTMAS. The author
clearly knows how to entice and deliver. His duo-team protagonists are
sympathetic ones and their involvement with one another makes for some torrid
entertainment. Told in the first person with either character’s point of view
in alternate chapters, the plot moves along real nicely to a satisfying if too
abrupt of a conclusion. I would have taken another 100 pages of this work in a heartbeat
instead of the two very ‘smexy’ excerpts offered at the end of this novel. That’s
how good this fifth installment of the Manhattanites really is. Let’s just hope
the author has plans later on to deliver a longer version, just like he did
with his first two novels in the series.
AMANHATTANITE’S CHRISTMAS is now available digitally on Amazon.
heydays of the ‘80s soaps, publishing firms around the globe took advantage of
the glitz and glamour faze to publish their own versions of sin and sex among
the rich. From first-time authors to established ones, nothing could stop them
from delivering glam-related novels such as this reviewed title. Michael Korda
was already a big thing in the industry, having worked as an editor/publisher
for many years (Jacqueline Susann’s THE LOVE MACHINE is one of his doing). So
it came as no surprise when he finally dabbled in commercial fiction writing in
1982. The title was WORDLY GOODS, and though it was a relatively successful
book, it took QUEENIE a few years
later to finally put him on the map as a top novelist.
Korda's fictionalized account of Anglo-Indian actress Merle Oberon's claim to
fame in Hollywood's golden era is a delight from cover to cover. Naming her
Dawn Avalon and putting her at risk when she is wrongfully accused of murder, the
character flees India to London where, as Queenie Kelley, she becomes a star of
stage and screen, while trying her best to stay incognito. Effectively
narrated, Korda's story takes you back to a time when studio kings were
enthralled by their star pets, as Queenie Kelly was by many, but especially by
writer/director David Konig. Their union during the making of his film is as
enchanting and as riveting as the entire novel itself.
Oh yes, I
definitely was a happy trooper when it first came my way in 1986. It was around
the start of my trashy period phase, and I couldn’t have picked a better title.
Secrets, greed, sex, opulence, topped by a strong narrative and likable
characters, I mean what more could a trashy bookworm want? Finding out also
that the novel is actually based on the author’s relative (she’s his aunt) definitely
put the cherry on top. That same year, a miniseries based on the novel was announced.
It was to be broadcast on ABC, and I made sure to catch it when it aired. I
have watched it many times since then. Of course there will be a further blog
entry dedicated to it. In the meantime do as I did, pick up QUEENIE and spend a few hours in the
glamorous world generated by Korda, then watch the TV adaptation to get up to
speed. We’ll compare notes.
I passed on the
chance of seeing 54 when it was
first released in theaters in August of ‘98.Have no idea why. The theme and its star were surely a big attraction
but for some strange reason I decided to wait for the DVD. When I did catch the
film, however, I became an instant fan.How could I not be?The glam, the
music, the shirtless guys… Did I say shirtless guys? Kidding aside, I really
enjoyed the film. It brought back many memories. No, before you even ask
yourself, I never visited the club. I was a bit too young then, and when I was
old enough to even go the fad was over and done with. But the memory of the disco
era still lingers with me after all these years.
I was aware that the
film was heavily cut due to its explicit gay content, yet this hardly made a
dent in my appreciation of it despite the nasty reviews. Mike Myers came out of
it unscathed as club owner Steve Rubell, and I quite agree with the critics: he
is very good at what he does in this. But what interested me more at the time was
the presence of sexy Ryan Phillippe as the newbie who quickly moves up the ladder
from busboy to waiter. Suffice to say he was—and still is—quite delectable in his
very states of undress. But even more than that, the guy can act, with or
without clothes. So do the rest of the cast, especially Breckin Myer who plays
down-on-his-luck Greg. His character’s desperate need to make something of
himself gives us some fine movie moments. And even though the producers tried
their hardest to erase the homoerotic tension between those two boys, it was
still there, ready for the pluckin’.
So imagine the
joy I felt finding out that an uncut version of 54 was heading to DVD and Blu-ray. I already knew about the man-on-man
action footage that existed between Phillippe and Breckin. I had even seen a
rough cut of it on YouTube, and what was there was more than two guys just getting
it on. It turned out to be very emotional as well. Of course this made me want
to see the film even more. To make a long story short, I finally sat down and saw
the finished product and let me tell you, the film is far different from what
we’ve come to know.
foremost, the added 44 minute footage focuses furthermore on Philippe’s character’s rise
to “fame”. Through him you see a better view of what’s really going on behind closed
doors which, of course, ends up being rather explicit (hetero sex, gay-sex,
drug-intake…), but also adds a certain reality to what the club and its patrons
are all about. To make room for this, director Mark Christopher made some cuts here and
there and he also took out all of the reshoots the studio insisted he make at
the time, which include the bowling lovey-dovey scene between Ryan Phillippe and
Neve Campbell and their climactic exchange in the cold. In return you get an
ending that has a complete new twist. Quite abrupt in its handling, I must say,
but satisfactory nonetheless. Gone also is the grand finale scene involving the
cast as they all gather for one last night of disco dancing. Of course this means
that the performance of the song IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND by Stars on 54 is
MIA, alas—though we do hear the catchy tune during the end credits.
If you are a super
fan like I am you’ll even enjoy the few minute supplements which explain how
this new version came to be. All in all I completely dig this reboot, but I’d
be lying if I said that I’ll never need to watch the cut version again. I like
that last scene too much. Still, check out this new 54.It is all what it’s
cracked up to be and more.