Authors: Terry Southern
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Literary, #Film & Video, #Performing Arts, #Fiction Novel, #Individual Director
for the great
Poetry is not an expression of
personality, it is an escape
from personality; it is not an
outpouring of emotion, it
is a suppression of emotion—
but, of course, only those who have
personality and emotions can
ever know what it means
to want to get away from those
T. S. Eliot
The Sacred Wood
“. . .
now dig this
. . .”
HEN SHE SAYS,
now dig this,
says . . .” and he broke up laughing, a strange, rasping laugh, for maybe the fourth time since he started what was shaping up as an interminable story, “. . .
says: ‘Listen, who do I have to fuck to get
this picture?!?’” And he began his final laugh, his boss laugh, the kind that quickly, smoothly, turns into a monstro
The way some people always laugh till they cry, he would always laugh till he coughed. In many respects though, he was considered quite a grand guy, tops in his field, etcetera, etcetera—and about seven people listening to the story either laughed or coughed along with him. Actually, what he was was a curious kind of opportunistic film-producer—Sid Krassman his name, a hairy, chunklike man—at ease in every B-phase of the medium, from
Girls of the Night
“just so long as it puts some flour in the barrel,” as he was a bit too fond of saying. “Put
in the barrel, you crooked cocksucker!” was an occasional riposte on the part of certain outrageously deceived participants in his projects, as they delivered a terrific straight right to his mouth, followed by a whirlwind flurry of chopping blows to the head and shoulders.
me?” Sid would reply with a sly grin when queried later about the quality of the attack. “Sure it hurt me—ha, ha, I cried all the way to the bank!”
Among those who took advantage of the terminal-type cough to steal away to a more active, and less demanding, corner of the party was Les Harrison—handsome, forty-three-year-old vice-prez of Metropolitan pix, whose father more or less owned the studio. Les, or as he was more often called, “the Rat-Prick” (tonal emphasis being on the word “Rat”—so that it was pronounced
Prick”), had had quite enough of this “compulsive loser,” and simply shook the loose ice cubes in his glass as he stood to indicate,
that be needed a refill.
Sid stared after him, almost wistfully, as though he felt he’d really blown it, since in his heart of hearts he had hoped to show Les that a certain Sid Krassman possessed some kind of secret knowledge, something that could hold seven people spellbound, or at least speechless, for seven minutes. By analogy and extension, this could apply to a seven-million-dollar picture, which Les was capable of springing for. So Sid was somewhat brought down by the departure.
Among those who remained, however—less out of volition than lethargy and a supremely invulnerable detachment—was Boris. “Boris,” “B.,” “King B.,” as he was variously known, was a film director, and he was the best in the biz. Of his last ten films, seven had won the Golden Lion at Cannes, the Golden Palm at Venice, and whatever other festive and critical acclaim one might think of. Besides this they were all smash at the box. The genius, beauty (and hard-ticket appeal) of his work was so striking and undeniable that it had finally penetrated even the bone bugbrow of Hollywood itself. So that his two most recent pictures had copped the coveted Oscar—and, in short, he was swinging. Except that by now he was very tired. He had seen too much, though he was only thirty-four, and yet he had not seen what he was looking for. He had made twenty pictures—all of them dealing with the three things no one understood. Each of the films was completely different, and yet, to him, they were somehow all the same—like chapters in a fantastic soap opera that can never be finished because the end has not been written. The films were concerned with (what in his interviews he occasionally referred to as) the “Big Three,” or in lighter moments, the “Wig Tree”:
Death . . . Infinity . . .
Origin of Time.
These posed interesting questions all right—though his ceaseless inquiry had often earned him nothing more than the dubious sobriquet of “dirty creep,” “Commie fag,” and especially from the panicked Hollywood contingent, “crazy ass-hole,” but, much worse still, the ineffectualness (in his own mind) of the films had exhausted him. He felt that his delving, his probes, had come to nothing—a glimpse here, a glimmer there, a startling 600-millimeter shot into a fathomless crevice of absurd wonder—but nothing to go ape about, although he was surrounded by people who did just that. And now, for the last two years, he had been profoundly idle—not even reading books, much less anything from the deluge of scripts that arrived daily at an office he never visited.
Although he was thought of as a “director,” he was really a
—in the tradition of Chaplin, Bergman, Fellini—an artist whose responsibility for his work was total, and his control of it complete. In certain instances, however, despite his acclaim, his films had met interference. Movie houses had been closed in Des Moines, in Albuquerque, in Temple, Texas . . . and in the staunch little Catholic town of Chabriolet, France, there was a warrant out for his arrest. “Obscene,” “indecent,” “immoral,” “pornographic” were the charges. The studio chuckled, of course—what did they care about a handful of red-neck religious-nut hunkies (“They’re whackin’ off to it, fer Chrissake!”) in the general world market—but it gave the B. curious pause. In the idleness of his past two years he had sat still for the showing of several so-called stag-films, and had found them so pathetically disgusting, so wholly lacking in either eroticism or conscious humor that now he occasionally wondered if this wasn’t, in a deeper sense, true of his own work. He was thinking of this at the moment, not hearing Sid Krassman, whose stories he already knew too well, when their hostess, the incredible Teeny Marie, beckoned him with an elaborate wink and a lascivious smile, followed by rounding her glistening lips, inserting two fingers and pumping them vigorously in and out with great slurping sounds, while allowing her eyes to roll back wildly in a monstrous simulation of ecstasy. The sheer grotesquerie and unexpectedness of this vignette caused the cute starlet who was talking to Les Harrison nearby to drop her mouth agape and turn away. “What in God’s name was that?” she whispered in urgent alarm. But Les only chuckled. “Why that’s our delightful hostess,” he said, taking the nifty by the arm. “Come on, we’ll get her to drop on you.”
“Huh?” she said, going all wide-eyed and suspicious. A pretty girl had to be very careful at one of these Malibu bashes.
Teeny Marie. Actually her name was
Marie, but this had gradually altered into the endearing diminutive, mainly because of her childish, indeed almost birdlike, delicacy. A scant seventy-eight pounds she weighed, and a reedy four feet nine she stood—when standing, which was not too often, since she mostly seemed to crouch, to spring, to slither . . . to move with a weird crippled-animal grace, which may seem all the more remarkable, or perhaps more understandable, when considered against her infirmities. For truth to tell, she was a rather artificial person; inventory-wise, from tip to toe, and in rough chronology, it was like this: severe malaria as a child had made her totally hairless; carcinoma had taken her breasts; and finally she had lost a leg, her left, in an auto crash outside Villefranche-sur-Mer, and an eye, her right, during an incredible “dart-fight” in a Soho pub. What was one hundred percent true, pure, and all her, however, was her
And her mouth was boss beauty; her lips were like young Rita Hayworth’s—a composite of Hayley Mills and Muhammad Ali; and her teeth were the ones used in the “Plus White” commercials—perfect. Small wonder then that Teeny Marie, in over-comp for real and imagined inadequacies, should develop an oral orientation and a vivaciousness, which was, in combination with her one fantastic eye ablaze, quite astonishing to behold.
B. managed a smile of genuine, if somewhat wan, bemusement. On an occasion several years ago, in a moment of morbid curiosity he had actually gone to bed with Teeny Marie, to observe her in disassembly. Now the image returned: she hobbling wildly around the room, scrambling about like an eccentrically wounded creature, tiny bald head glistening, child’s scrawny chest, a flat surface of scar tissue, her detached limb held outthrust in front of her to simulate an outlandish phallus, teeth blazing in a surrealistic grimace of hilarity, and shrieking at the top of her voice:
“Put the wood to me, B!”
Now, as she jostled her way through the guests, administering a goose here and a pinch there, Les Harrison attempted to intercept her and introduce her to the cutie-pie starlet. “Teeny!” he shouted, twisting his face into the same mocking nightmare mask of ecstasy as her own, “for Christ’s fucking sake you’ve simply
to meet my Miss Pilgrim! She’s
keen to give you some head!”
Miss Pilgrim blushed terrifically and turned her wide eyes up in exasperation and annoyance. “Oh
“All right, Teeny,” he continued impatiently, ignoring the nifty, “come on now,
show us your thing!”
But there was no delaying Teeny Marie; she darted past them toward B., only pausing to throw one frozen smile of exaggerated insanity at the couple, demanding gaily: “My thing?
She reached the cluster around B. and Sid Krassman just as the latter was concluding another studio story of questionable taste—this time detailing the persistent theft of panties, dance belts, leotards, body stockings, etcetera, from the dressing room of a certain celebrated beauty—the precious garments then being returned with the reinforced and highly absorbent crotch crudely torn out. After all manner of security measures had been thwarted (“obviously an
” quipped Sid with a coughing guffaw), the girl was persuaded to let the all-important section of the articles be tinctured with strychnine—the end result being that a complicated Crowd-and-Crane sequence was suddenly disrupted when an obscure electrician, known simply as “Al, the Pal,” plummeted headlong from a sixty-foot catwalk above the set, crashing in the midst of it, his face purple with poison-seizure, his coarse member stout and spurting—a bit of beige and scalloped Danskin panel still protruding from foaming blue-black lips.
“Well, anyway,” the actress had remarked (according to Sid), while dabbing at her great tear-filled eyes, “at least he wasn’t no lousy
Which is more than I can say for
of the creeps around here!” adding this last with a cross and narrow look at her own leading man—he whom the public regarded as a Don Juan of exceptional prowess.
As Sid completed his anecdote, Teeny Marie cavorted on the periphery of the small group, repeating her frantic suck-simulation and grimacing madly—to the distraction of one or two persons who didn’t quite know where she was at, simply thinking of her as their gracious hostess—a bit eccentric perhaps, but a very important member of the Malibu film colony.
she screeched at B.
“Soirée du film blue!”
And she gestured with elaborate urgency toward the part of the house where the projection room was.
“Hey, that’s great, huh, B.?” said Sid, nudging Boris and grinning absurdly. “I ain’t had a hard-on in two weeks!”
Boris nodded. “Terrific,” he said, almost inaudibly.