But seriously, folks: I’m actually writing this just a few hours before the official advent of spring and have been ruminating on purification and rebirth and other things that seem to go with the season. Like second chances and forgiveness, budding flowers, infant smiles, caresses of the sunlight, and the glory of naked chicks.
It is also time for Spring Cleaning, which, as far as this column goes, involves discharging my mind of a handful of tenacious annoyances or matters of the heart that have of late drained much of the gusto from my rugged virility. Or words to that effect.
My soul shivers every time I am reminded that the Disney organization is in the process of remaking Mary Poppins. The industry tries to cover its shame by the usual ruse of using the term reboot instead of remake, making it sound so tech and now and… (burrrp!)… cool. Wow. The Mary Poppins reboot is coming along great, movie fans, and promises to be the biggest hit of the year—a brand new vision for all the visionaries of this brand new age!
Pardon me while I puke.
The original Mary Poppins is one of the rare perfect examples of artistic creativity and whatever artistry is involved in the remake is pathetically misdirected. Why not create something entirely original? Oh, yeah—it’s just easy bucks from a brainless public who don’t understand that the original film has lost none of its magic and charm and heart in over 50 years and shouldn’t be commodified so crassly. It’s magic, babe, and will always be magic. Mess with it at your own peril.
One movie I have no qualms about recommending to anybody is already a couple of years old but I just caught up with it a few months ago and it has stuck with me ever since, randomly attacking me and wounding me with smiling tears. It’s a documentary entitled All Things Must Pass and is all about the glorious, lamented institution we all knew as Tower Records. Bruce Springsteen is shown recalling “…the thrill of being surrounded by music.” Elton John’s feelings are not that far removed from my own as he comments, “It was one of the greatest tragedies of my life, to be honest with you, when they closed down.”
I must have visited the Sports Arena store at least once a month since their opening in 1972 until the day they closed. When they opened their video annex across the street, it just made every visit longer and that much more of a thrill. It was a small city of wonderfully kind people, all dedicated to helping you gorge on music, movies, books, and magazines; it was ground zero for successful immersion into pop culture. Classical music was stocked as carefully as the oeuvre of the Partridge Family. If they didn’t have what you wanted, they’d get it for you. When a new album or movie was due to be released on a Tuesday, they’d stay open a bit past midnight on Monday so you could put your hands on that sucker fresh out of the womb!
All Things Must Pass does include one brief shot of the Sports Arena store, although it remains unidentified. They were all pretty much the same, and I say that with admiration and gratitude. I have two personal Tower Records stories that seeing the movie has made me cherish all the more.
The first took place in the seventies as I was driving up to Los Angeles for a bit of important business. I had the radio on and it was up around Oceanside that I heard for the first time a song that was so absolutely nauseating that it thrilled me unlike anything I had ever heard. And during the rest of my northward drive, the same song played at least twice more. By the time I reached Hollywood, I was a bit delirious, and my first stop became the Tower on the Sunset Strip, where I purchased the incredibly grotesque 45 of Alicia Bridges’ “I Love the Nightlife” b/w “Self Applause.” The B-side was even more appallingly grotesque than the A-side, and the record is a beloved memento that I still own today.
Then, in the early nineties, the Tower off El Cajon Boulevard near College had a remarkable cardboard display promoting the video release of the film Silence of the Lambs. It was a large 3D construction of a straitjacketed Hannibal Lecter standing behind prison bars and smiling malevolently. A lovely girl I knew from a flower stand had adored the movie and told me about the display, and it was clear to me that she desperately wanted that display for her own home and her own life. I went out to the store one evening and talked about the situation with the beautiful manager, who let me have the display, bless her gorgeous heart. So I was able to give young Christine Cook her coveted keepsake, and she was so grateful she gave me a very valuable (!) Nagra tape recorder that had once belonged to an aunt of hers. I still have it and it’s glorious.
Which is my long-winded way of trying to express how evocative All Things Must Pass truly is. There is so much love in the story, and humor, joy, and pain. All of it gone now. We may have small pieces of it, because we were there, but it’s all in the past. As founder Ross Solomon so aptly explains, “Let’s talk about what to do in the future… It was here, we were part of it, we all fell in love, and then it went away…”
Ah yes, speaking of love… my latest celebrity crush began a couple of years ago as I watched the sad, continuing decline of what was once one of my favorite television series, Grey’s Anatomy. Several new characters were being worked into the story lines, and when I first saw the face of one of them, my heart howled and my brain screamed, “Lo, ‘tis Linda Darnell returned to earth and become flesh!” My eyes beheld for the first time a young actress who seemed to be the physical reincarnation of one of Hollywood’s supreme Golden Age beauties; one who magically jump-started one eight-year-old boy’s hormones when he watched 1940’s The Mark of Zorro on Channel 8 many decades ago.
The new young actress was named Camilla Luddington and I would learn later that she’s another Limey who does a perfect American accent and that she had recently starred as Princess Kate on some Cable docudrama. What most struck me was her physical resemblance to Linda Darnell—I don’t mean that she reminded me of Darnell—this was the most incredible physical duplication I have ever beheld in my life outside of identical twins and it still freaks me out every time I see her.
This year she’s been given a lot less to do on this deteriorating show, but each appearance is a thrill that guarantees my delicate heart an extra pat per pitter. My friend Archy in Germany notified me of Miss Luddington’s notable appearance throughout season five of the old Showtime series Californication so I ran out and tracked down a set for my archives. I’m thrilled to say that she is now the standard for this spring’s quota of unclad damsels—thank you Lord; I have seen your masterpiece and I thank you. And Camilla: call me.