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That time I glimpsed Claudia Cardinale…

Somebody on YouTube posted some pictures of Claudia Cardinale here, the wonderful Italian actress, and I remembered the time I glimpsed her in passing for about two or three seconds. When I was in college in the Midwest the early ’70s, I got a summer job in New York City as an NBC page. (Even though it was supposedly only for the summer, I’m sorry I didn’t try to hold onto that gig instead of going back to school. Who knows, I might’ve ended up working on Saturday Night Live as a writer, or doing any number of other interesting things. But thinking conventionally as I was wont to do in those pre-porn days of my life 😉 , I went back to college at the end of the summer…)

Anyway, one of my duties was sitting at the information desk. Late one afternoon the elevator doors opposite my desk opened and out came Claudia Cardinale, who’d been upstairs taping an appearance on The Tonight Show. She wore a black dress that showed so much cleavage that they had to keep her in a tight closeup during the show, which I saw later (they were more strict about bustlines on tv in those days). Her hair was long, wavy and in a similar shade as in the picture below, and her skin had a golden hue. She was gone in a flash around the corner, but I can still see her famous smile as she exited that elevator…that smile, one of the greatest in all cinema, I think!

She certainly was one of the great erotic icons of the ’60s and ’70s. Nary a lad can be found who didn’t thrill to her feisty performance in The Professionals!

Here is a link to a good interview with her from ten years ago, which I found via this site where I found the pic above.

And I found the pic below here.

 

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Elegy for a post office box…

On April 27, 2022 I ended a relationship of about forty years.

I closed a post office box I’d first opened circa 1982.

At the time I’d gotten it, I lived in a walk-up apartment right in Times Square, on the same block where the old offices of the show biz newspaper Variety had been located; where one of the top burlesque agents of the 1950s once had his headquarters; on the same block where the fictional public relations flack “Sidney Falco,” played by Tony Curtis, had his home/office in the 1957 film noir masterpiece Sweet Smell of Success; and a block away from where the great model Bettie Page had lived in the ’50s in an apartment I once read described as “turbulent.” In the building where I lived, I had a tiny mail box in a vestibule that had no security or locked front door (since there were businesses like a rehearsal studio and a musical instrument repair shop upstairs too), so to get packages of any size I needed a secure p.o. box, which I got nearby at Rockefeller Center.

The great Gil Elvgren seems to have done pinups that can match almost any theme!

In the ’80s I ordered things such as my first videocassettes of obscure horror and noir films from companies like the great Sinister Cinema and had them sent to the box. And, in those days when mail order was still a big part of the erotica business, I collected leg art photos and magazines from the likes of Elmer Batters and other creators and vendors of fetish or femdom themes.

When I moved away from Times Square in the ’90s, I held onto the box as it still was convenient to get mail, although I used it less and less. I mostly got announcements and catalogs connected to the movie memorabilia shows I liked to attend before the pandemic, and hope to get back to attending sometime soon.

In recent years I held onto the box because I told myself it would come in handy if I ever decided to conduct a mail order writing workshop to make some extra money, but I never went ahead with that.

I also simply liked to walk over to Rockefeller Center and check it now and then. The post office was near the yearly Christmas tree so I always took a look at that. Its location also gave me motivation for a decent walk (I still live in Midtown) and was also nostalgic because my first job in New York City, in summer 1971, was as an NBC page at the studios at 30 Rock, so I just liked to go over there. In a lot of ways the interior of the complex has changed, but in others it remains the same–for example, the fantastic mid-20th century murals in the main lobby are still there–and also I’d walk by the place where the tourist information desk used to be, where fifty-one years ago I’d sat and sometimes see celebrities such as Claudia Cardinale come out of the elevator after doing Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. I even met a girl once when I was working that desk, and we had a nice evening together wandering around the area. I remember she was a vivid redhead like Ann-Margret, but with a much bigger butt. She wore a summery dress and we sat for awhile at the fountain in Bryant Park as the sun went down…

Anyway, when I went over to the usual p.o. box location near 49th Street earlier this week, it was gone!  Renovation work had started in the last couple of weeks in that underground concourse near the famed ice skating rink, and the entire post office had been relocated over to 51st Street in the building upstairs. When I went to check my box at the new p.o., my key didn’t work, because all the boxes had new locks. I was going to renew it again (I always renewed at the end of April) and get the new keys, but the price had been raised quite a bit so I decided it was time to give up the box, which I really didn’t use very much at all anymore.

Ah, but it used to be fun to get videos of obscure Mario Bava movies like The Devil’s Commandment from Sinister Cinema (in business online here) and copies of the late Elmer Batters’ leg art zine showing up in my box!

Obviously this is not a picture of me at my p.o. box–it would be far less photogenic!–but rather a pinup by the wonderful Gil Elvgren (I did a Google search on “pinup art with postal theme”). You can get this art for yourself at Zazzle here in various forms like posters or refrigerator magnets or postcards. (I’m not connected to this site, just giving credit for my source of the image!)

As a side note, it’s great to see the proliferation of pinups in recent years. Back in the ’70s and even the ’80s, the stuff was still rare and hard to find in any forms!

 

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Fiction breeds hope amid the chaos of our reality

Reading fiction seems to be my best way of escaping from the oppressive weirdness of our reality, the utter strangeness of the mental, emotional, and physical landscape of our current era.

The books are not comforting in their storylines–I like a lot of noir, mostly–but they give me hope because they are reassuring in their artistry, in their authors’ commitment to rise above humanity’s baseness and portray life with honesty and compassion.

Two I enjoyed recently, one from almost thirty years ago and one just published at the end of 2021, exemplify to me the best qualities of storytelling.

Richard Matheson’s THE GUNFIGHT from 1993 (I read it in this 2009 paperback edition) tells how in a Texas town in 1879 a girl’s careless lie to make her boyfriend jealous sets off a wave of gossip that leads inexorably to a gun battle to defend her honor. In particular the novel shows some truly loathsome human specimens who, smug in their self-righteousness and stupidity, are ready to direct others to carry out a pageant of death in the name of manhood and insulted innocence. It’s an old story, perhaps, but master Matheson brings to life all sides of the conflict spiraling to the inevitable tragic conclusion. The suspenseful chapters leading to the showdown show Matheson in top form, with the strong silent and admirable former Texas Ranger John Benton (easy to imagine Randolph Scott or Gary Cooper in the role) trying to figure out a way not to kill a young man against whom he holds no grudge but is forced to fight by the twisted backward demands of the society he lives in. Brilliant novel, a wonderful read. You can find it on Amazon here in ebook and hard copy formats.

Jay Cameron Parker’s MACHINE OF WAR from 2021 is a novel I stumbled on through a chance encounter on Twitter and couldn’t put down. It’s also available on Amazon here in ebook and paperback format. (I get no compensation from this link or the one for the Matheson; I’m just trying to spread the word about books I like.)

A young veteran, Tom Armstrong, returns to his Illinois hometown from World War 2, damaged by his experiences but still in prime fighting form when it’s called for. (Imagine a young Robert Mitchum in a movie version of the role, particularly the strong but vulnerable character he played in 1950’s Where Danger Lives.) Tom Armstrong doesn’t want to fight anybody, but circumstances thrust him into a crime scene from the first page and then into a larger tragedy involving another veteran who also came back damaged from the service as well as from earlier experiences. Adding to this powder keg of pain is the moral corruption of certain individuals in the town, and we get a story of noir intensity set in 1946 that leaves us feeling the terror of human vulnerability and the necessity for love to combat its endless onslaught on the spirit. Yet there are flashes of wry humor in the story too, with just the kind of lines Mitchum himself would have delivered so wittily and well. What a book! With this first novel, Parker shows himself the equal of a legend like Matheson in his ability to tell an unputdownable story of mystery and suspense. And the mystery angle is quite twisty and unpredictable.

After I read HOTEL ROOM (see my previous post here), I wondered what memorable novels I would come across to follow it up. I knew I’d find them eventually, but maybe not right away–but I did. HOTEL ROOM remains in a class by itself, unforgettable in a uniquely dramatic way and dealing with the topic of prostitution in 1950s New York City with unusual honesty for its era (it was published in 1953); but THE GUNFIGHT and MACHINE OF WAR are its equals in insightful characterization, gripping plot, and evocative atmosphere. These novels especially bring to life the small towns in which they take place.

More and more in these crazy times, I read fiction to remind myself people can rise above insanity and chaos with art and compassion. And as ever, I read to deepen my own knowledge of fictional craft as much as to be entertained and think about life. I always want to keep learning how to tell my own stories better and better.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2022 in Amazon.com, ebooks, Kindle, New York City

 

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The hell in her hotel room…

Do you love film noir? Then imagine this cast: Montgomery Clift as a vain but charismatic pimp named Eddie; Marilyn Monroe as Marie, the naive small-town girl turned prostitute who loves him and whose sexual favors he peddles to johns; Joseph Cotten as Thomas, their most addicted customer and hanger-on; and Richard Conte as Joe aka “Mr. Brown,” the gangster who runs the major vice racket in town.

Picture the setting: New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in the early 1950s. If you’re a noir fan, you’ve no doubt seen loads of black and white footage and photos of that area in that era: the gritty asphalt and skyscraper jungle; the dark rain-splashed streets, the lonely warehouses, the bleak side street hotels.

The film, of course, does not exist, but if Natalie Anderson Scott’s remarkable 1954 novel HOTEL ROOM, originally published as The Little Stockade, actually had been filmed, this would have been an excellent cast.

The beautiful cover art is what initially drew me to the book, along with the story about prostitution in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen of the ’50s.

If you’re familiar with The Big Combo, the 1955 noir by Joseph H. Lewis, you know that Richard Conte did indeed play a top gangster called Mr. Brown in that production. But The Little Stockade came first. Maybe screenwriter Philip Yordan read the book and borrowed for his script the idea of the evocatively bland name for a menacing crime overlord? Just thinking out loud here; it’s possible.

The phrase “the little stockade” refers to the work of the pimps who peddle their girls independently of the major vice operation in the city, known as “The Big Stockade.” And “stockade” is right. The primary female character, Marie, is kept in the hotel room where she services customers as if it is her cell in a prison.

Much of the book takes place in a squalid all-night restaurant in the Thirties between 10th and 11th Avenues called “Steve’s.” It reminded me a lot of the diner that was an important setting in The Deuce, the recent HBO show about the ‘70s/’80s NYC porn business. Maybe David Simon and his writers read HOTEL ROOM and were inspired to pay it homage and utilize a similar setting in their portrait of a demimonde full of pimps and prostitutes?

Steve’s is where the various hookers, policemen, and other pimps hang out, and where Thomas (who would be perfectly cast as Joseph Cotten), a newly divorced, “respectable” middle class man from outside the city, has been steered by a Broadway bartender in Thomas’ quest to taste the sleazier aspects of life now that he’s on his own. He becomes basically addicted to Marie after Eddie introduces them, and gradually becomes almost like Eddie’s go-fer as well as a steady trick. There is a strange symbiosis between Thomas and Eddie that is not explicitly homoerotic but the author subtly makes the point that Thomas is as enslaved to Eddie as Marie is.

There is nothing light-hearted about the obsession that Thomas, one of Marie’s “johns,” has for her. It is tragic for both, yet leads Thomas to a strange heroism in the end.

The hotel and room where Marie works are so well-described, especially the lonely winding corridors leading to the room, that you almost feel like you’re walking down those halls yourself.

Eddie is a dandy, a snappy dresser who lives not with Marie but with his family elsewhere in the city, who maintains the fiction with the sadly gullible Marie that she is his fiancee, and that once she helps him with her body to get out of a dangerous debt, they will be married. Eddie, who reads psychology books and likes to discourse in a pseudo-intellectual way about the craft of being a pimp (although he never calls himself that), charges way above the going rate for Marie’s services, attracting an upper-class clientele, until one day Mr. Brown comes calling to tell Eddie his days running a little stockade are over, and he’ll be working for the Big Stockade from now on. (This is not a spoiler; the reader sees it coming.)

So, this is a bare bones description of one of the most unforgettable novels I have ever read.  I couldn’t put it down for two days, and it concludes in a shocking but inevitable act of self-sacrifice and redemption that is ultimately very moving.

Recently the critic Andrew Nette wrote on Crime Reads here about George Simenon’s “hard novels” and how they often portray middle class protagonists walking on the wild side of low life, usually with dire consequences. I didn’t think of Simenon when I read this book, and it is not at all like Simenon in its style, but Thomas could be one of Simenon’s characters, certainly. He loses his way in sexual obsession, although he is essentially a good man. Another memorable character in the novel is Janet, Marie’s aunt (in a film she could have been played by Joan Bennett or Laraine Day), who has come to the city to find her niece, and who suspects the truth of what is happening. She sits day after day in Steve’s restaurant, reading a newspaper and waiting for her chance to save Marie. She’s another fascinating character, ambiguous, driven, who becomes friends with Thomas–even though she knows that he is one of Marie’s johns.

Truly, this is a book of admirable complexity that deserves to be remembered. It was written by the Russian-born Natalie Anderson Scott (1906-1983). Her real name originally was Natalie Sokoloff, which she Americanized on the advice of her agent; she wrote quite a number of now-obscure books, including a bestselling 1947 novel about alcoholism called The Story of Mrs. Murphy.  One thing that stands out is Scott’s lack of judgment about her characters, viewing them dispassionately as she incisively delineates the tragic obsession of a prostitute’s insatiable customer, or the menacing business-like attitude of a Mr. Brown. She shows the way the prostitution racket of the time worked via journalistic details that move the story forward at the same time. The long scene where Mr. Brown confronts Eddie about coming into the Big Stockade would have been amazing in a film, something Elia Kazan could have had a field day directing. Conte would have been perfect as Mr. Brown, the antagonist of an Eddie played by Montgomery Clift in a villainous yet complex role unlike any other Clift had ever played; and in fact, Conte’s character in The Big Combo is very much like the Mr. Brown of HOTEL ROOM which, for all its blandness as a title, is perfect for this absorbing novel. Maybe Stark House Press can look into reprinting it?

There was always something of the victim in Marilyn Monroe’s screen persona (I think of the strangely passive expression she gave Joseph Cotten as he murderously approached her when she was cornered in the climax of Niagara), and it would been have both a challenge to her as an actress, and intriguing to the audience to see her, in the role of a young woman manipulated and befuddled into sexual slavery by a handsome, silver-tongued man on the dark night side streets of Manhattan.

Finally, I just want to mention that I had never heard of this book until I saw this post on Pulp International here. Although I’m always pledging to myself to not buy any more books (!) as I certainly have more than enough (well that’s what I tell myself), the beautiful cover by Rafael DeSoto and the novel’s Hell’s Kitchen setting were irresistible, so I sought out a reasonably priced copy of the 1955 Popular Library paperback online. I’m glad I did. (Although the “come-on-and-buy-me” paperback art does not accurately portray the somber sadness of Marie or the faux-elegant villainy of Eddie.)

I hope HOTEL ROOM aka The Little Stockade by Natalie Anderson Scott can once again find the audience it deserves.

 

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Be dominated in the privacy of your home!

If you enjoy looking at and/or reading my blog, savor one or more my ebooks too. They are available in the Amazon Kindle stores worldwide. Most of them are only $2.99 (or the equivalent in your country’s currency) and you can download them right to your phone, tablet, ebook reader or computer, to be read with the free Kindle app.

How two apartment house neighbors explored femdom desires safely during the pandemic in NYC 2020

For fans of femdom erotica, my stories and novellas offer “armchair encounters” with some of the most potent dommes anywhere. These are femmes fatale I’d like to meet myself but, quite honestly, I probably couldn’t handle them (based on what I learned from the experiences I did have in real life)! So maybe it’s better I dream up stories instead. 😉

And so, like myself–especially if you’re on a limited budget or don’t want to get entangled in real-time with temptresses who could drain you of your very essence 😉 –you don’t have to leave the privacy of your home to feel yourself under the spell of fascinating, controlling women who will do everything that comes into their mischievous minds!

Experience, in the comfort of your imagination, the hard points of their spiked heels, hear the spicy snap of their humiliating words, and inhale the aromas and taste the liquids of their recently “alpha-male”-pleasured bodies as they parade their accomplishments in brazen cuckoldry before their obedient “beta” slaves! My stories are designed to linger in your mind, too. Long after you finish them, you’ll be wondering what could happen next to the men who fall into the seductive webs of these mistresses. Chances are, you’ll identify with those men or, if you are a woman, you’ll want to dominate those submissive males yourself.

TAMARA takes you back to 1978 NYC in all its sleazy allure

My most recent book, TAMARA, ETERNAL DOMINATRIX, is a special treat with a cover by the renowned British artist of femdom fantasy, Sardax. Read more about his creation of the cover here. It’s only $5.99 and, at almost 75 pages long, can give you an evening’s worth of femdom erotica reading pleasure! It takes the average reader about 90 minutes to read, or about the length of time you’d spend enjoying a good classic movie.

Two of my other recent books, SO YOU WANT ME TO DOMINATE YOU? and THE SLAVE YOU WERE MEANT TO BE, are also novella length and can easily provide an hour or two of kinky adventure.

She took him deeply on a journey into the intense fantasies he yearned to explore

I have 29 femdom-oriented erotica ebooks so far to choose from. With the current snowstorm that hit the Northeast, I spent time over the weekend on Twitter promoting SUBMIT IN THE SNOW, a very short tale (at only 99 cents too) that shows a kinky angle on a walk in the drifts during a previous NYC blizzard.

Some guys want dommes brandishing whips, but others want something a little different…

So head over to your “local” Amazon Kindle site and check out my ebooks tonight!

 

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Odd Habits of the Pandemic Era

On one of my daily walks. Fun fact unrelated to this post: the building in the background is where Bela Lugosi briefly lived circa 1950 when he was touring in plays on the East Coast.

I live alone, so even in ordinary times I have leeway to indulge my eccentricities, such as whether or not I’m going to get undressed or sleep in my clothes.  For example, I basically live in my office. A writer friend of mine once described a previous pad of mine as “charmless” and I regrettably agreed with him. My current abode is the same; it is functional. Standing in the center of my studio apartment is my desk, with computer and printer, almost like the bridge of my personal Starship Enterprise; and arrayed all around it are my books, files, and magazines. Near the window is a futon couch which I periodically make into a bed for sleeping purposes.

Or not. Meaning, in the last few months a habit I only indulged on occasion has become far more frequent: falling asleep in my clothes and simply stretching out on the futon.

Sleeping this way has always been a kind of cheerfully rebellious gesture on my part. Coming of age in the ’60s in a comparatively bland middle class Chicago Jewish neighborhood, nodding off like this after a night out and having my respectable optometrist father seeing me sprawled on the couch on his way to work, made me feel I was quite the fringe character. “Why don’t you act normal for a change?” he’d say, or something to that effect. I’d merely grunt an excuse as he went out the door. What I wanted to say, but didn’t, was: “I do act ‘normal’ most of the time, so can’t I get a break now and then?”

In some respects I moved to New York City in 1973 partly to get away from standards of acceptable behavior. I eventually became a professional porn writer and editor; that certainly filled the non-conformity bill. Even in college, though, from the late ’60s to early ’70s, sleeping in my clothes in the student lounge after a night of drinking (3.2 beer, so it took a lot) felt defiant too. I would wake up around dawn and grab the early bus to nearby Cleveland to go see softcore skin flicks at the Standard Theater and browse the legendary Kay’s Bookstore on Prospect Avenue for finds like Truffaut’s book on Hitchcock or an out-of-print novel by Errol Flynn.

Maybe my return to this habit would have come about with age, or laziness, or enjoying the voluptuous pleasure of simply falling asleep without any muss or fuss: after all, I have to move a few books around and make up my futon with a sheet and comforter before I can properly go to bed. But I’ve been falling asleep in my clothes, or deliberately going to sleep in my clothes, much more often in the last several months of the pandemic.

And last night I think I finally discerned why it has become so frequent.

I had decided to get myself some takeout food for my Christmas dinner, after a relaxing day spent reading, taking a walk, and chatting with people on the phone. I called in my order and was told to pick it up in ten minutes. When I got to the restaurant I was shocked to see how many folks were waiting there; usually there would be no more than one or two. But there had to be at least twenty people milling around; masked, yes, but still in fairly close proximity.

The kitchen was backed up and, expecting to get my order at any time, I ended up standing there hopefully yet anxiously for twenty-five minutes. When I left, I felt stressed-out. Yes, I’m fully vaxxed and boosted, but it still made me nervous. Standing around there were so many customers and deliverymen—so I thought, will I be okay? Omicron is supposed to be quite the tricky and transmissible little fella.

I went home and, after doing my usual hand washing for a minimum of twenty seconds while singing “The Road Is Open Again,” my favorite uplifting Depression era tune (which got me through the 2020 election nightmare), I ate my dinner and tried not to ruin my meal with worry. What was done was done. I hoped I would be all right. I was masked, I am vaxxed, and what else could I do? It didn’t pay to not enjoy my food after going through a crowd scene to get it.

As I ate, I indulged one of my pandemic-era “pick-me-up” habits: the amusing comedy of horror host Svengoolie as he screened Earth Vs. the Spider on his weekly Saturday night show on Me-TV. Then I read a 1950s era noir novel I’ve been enjoying (they’re short but I savor them slowly to prolong the time travel-like pleasure). And then finally it was time to go to sleep.

I stood up and looked down at my futon couch and realized I didn’t want to make the bed or get into the t-shirt I usually sleep in. I wanted to doze in my clothes: flannel shirt, sweater, venerable (tattered) sports jacket, jeans, and socks. I would remove my shoes and take everything out of my pockets as a concession to at least a modicum of comfort, however.

Why don’t I want to get undressed? I asked myself, for the umpteenth time in the last few months. And then it all crystallized. If I were just in t-shirt and shorts, under the cover and stretched out on the sheets on my made-into-a-bed futon couch, I wouldn’t be ready. But ready for what? For whatever it was I had to be ready for: the next day in all its usual freelance writer ups-and-downs but living too with the scary smidgen of uncertainty I felt from standing for twenty-five minutes in a humanity-crammed takeout joint. If I acted “normal” and made up the bed and got down to my underwear, I wouldn’t be dressed and ready for the unpredictability of Omicron. Or maybe, staying dressed while I slept would give me strength to ward off the danger. As if somehow sleeping in my clothes would give me an edge, an advantage. I knew it was irrational thinking and bordering on ridiculous, but that was what I felt.

I told myself to make up the bed and get undressed, but wait a few minutes. First I would read some more pages of the novel, then get up and assemble the bed. But that turned out to be my sneaky decision not to do it. The book, as good as it was, lulled me into dozing, and the next thing I knew, I’d fallen asleep for at least three hours with the lamp on the nightstand still on (nightstand? a tv dinner tray table, to be accurate). And prematurely waking up, I was still too exhausted to move the books and get the sheets and…well, go through the whole tiresome routine.

So yes, I slept in my clothes once again on Christmas night, ready for anything—or maybe only wishing I was. But next evening, I forced myself to make up the damn bed!


Oh, I was so absorbed in editing this post that I almost forgot: HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone! I hope 2022 is a better one for us all. 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2021 in adult magazine business, Erotica, New York City

 

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Nightmare Alley and the Long Con of the Movies

There was a nice example of old-fashioned style movie ballyhoo near Columbus Circle this week (12/15/21), heralding the opening of the new version of the carnival noir story Nightmare Alley, starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara and many others…

Recently, with all the hoopla over this version by Guillermo del Toro, I watched the original, helmed by Edmund Goulding, for probably the fourth or fifth time in the last twenty years. Back in the days when it still wasn’t commercially available on DVD  or VHS, friends in the movie memorabilia scene provided me with a copy taped from television so that I could catch up on this legendary but obscure Tyrone Power film, and it’s intrigued me ever since.

And my reaction to this viewing  of Nightmare Alley was mostly, but not completely, the same as before. It is a film of entrancing imagery and melodrama, with a dynamic roster of memorable performers from the top to the bottom of the cast. From Joan Blondell’s warm-hearted Zeena, to Ian Keith’s drunken Pete, to Helen Walker’s devious “Lilith Ritter, Consulting Psychologist,” this is a hot fudge sundae of a cinematic treat.

Joan Blondell, as Zeena, watches the approach of her lover Stan

Helen Walker, as Lilith Ritter, skeptically observes “The Great Stanton” read minds

Nonetheless, in spite of my affection for it, this 1947 version of William Lindsay Gresham’s novel about the carnival mentalist who becomes a big-money spiritualist has always struck me as a bit schematic, more like a ballad about a lost soul than a developing arc of character; if you’ll indulge me in spoilers—and stop here and come back later if you won’t—Stan Carlisle aka The Great Stanton is doomed from the beginning.

The Great Stanton (Tyrone Power) doing his blindfold mentalist act. Interesting detail: in the shadowy distance, we see what looks to be a statue of the goddess Diana, the Huntress, with her hound…

Yet I noticed some new things this time. Although he is a charlatan preying on the emotions of the wealthy and mournful, elderly people grieving over children and lovers lost, to a great degree Stan (in the person of charismatic and impossibly handsome Power) delivers the goods. Until he crosses the line due to escalating greed, his victims get the spiritual consolation they seek. They really make emotional and philosophical breakthroughs under his tutelage.  The film doesn’t draw undue attention to their process, doesn’t underline it, but just efficiently dramatizes it—particularly in the scene in the magnate’s cathedral-like garden where the old man’s spiritual yearning reaches its peak just before the whole charade collapses into confidence game chaos.

So yes, Stan cons his victims—but they are also receiving the solace they seek. They’re not just getting the sizzle, they’re getting the steak too. Their souls are being purged of pain, awakening to new hope. And then this time it struck me that Nightmare Alley becomes a metaphor for the long con of cinema itself.

A long con, versus a short con, is the confidence game that takes awhile to develop, in which the rewards to the trickster (and to the prey) are cultivated over an extended period of time. Don’t the movies do this to us, too? With a successful film, the box office booms as our dreams are fulfilled.

As “The Great Stanton,” Tyrone Power’s brimming allure for his prey (despite the fact that his manipulative insincerity is clear to the viewer of the film, or should be) strikes me as a long con on its own. How readily we all fall prey to his promises here, or to similar ones in other movies with other performers—becoming captives to the romantic dream of the movies, their magic, their fulfillment (however transitory) of our yearnings. We get what we want and need. Yes, cinema can be spurious—as Carlisle is revealed to be when his wife breaks down during the crucial moment of deception in the garden—and cinema can delude us, lead us astray, make us dissatisfied with the way things are—and we can even sense this is so (as perhaps Carlisle’s victims might sense his fast shuffling, unconsciously), but we come back for the sensuous confidence game of the movies time and again.

Movies themselves are a minx, a temptress, or a homme fatale; even getting our cooperation in our own derailment and destruction, if we’re not careful.

Recently I viewed the 1949 film noir Too Late for Tears again.  Although Lizabeth Scott is the star, and dazzling in the evil of her portrayal, what brings me back to the film more—besides Dan Duryea, who could be entertaining when reading the phone book aloud—was Kristine Miller, who played Scott’s sister-in-law. A lovely actress, I found myself so drawn to her wholesomeness and intelligence and beauty, to the point where an intimate conversation between her and Don DeFore felt like a proxy encounter with her myself. The scene seems photographed and edited to make the viewer fall in love with Kristine, if that is his wont; it is an illusion, of course, confined to the two-dimensional world on the screen, but how real it seems, and how the susceptible viewer thinks, “If only I could have met a girl like that at the right time, how different my life might have been!”

Kristine Miller (1925-2015) didn’t make a lot of movies or tv shows, compared to some other actresses; but certainly enough through the late ’40s and ’50s  to keep me searching for more for quite awhile! 😉

So cinema is a long con for me. From Kristine Miller in Too Late for Tears to Jean Simmons in Spartacus and Elmer Gantry; from Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger to Susannah York in Tom Jones; from Nancy Gates in Some Came Running to Elke Sommer in A Shot in the Dark; from Pam Grier in Foxy Brown to Mila Kunis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall—there has been a long line of intoxicating appealing women who have taken me to a place of wonder, physical and worldly but perhaps even verging on the spiritual, that I have to remind myself is fiction, that these are actors and storytellers and cinematographers and directors who are guiding me to a fulfillment that is no more real than the cities and towns constructed with fronts only on the backlots of the great studios of yore.

But don’t misunderstand me. I am not being judgmental, only descriptive. I love movies and eagerly gobble them up online and on television. I view both favorites and unfamiliar flicks on a daily basis much as filmgoers did back in the ‘30s and ‘40s when they went to shows at the local bijous several times a week.

But I am a “mark,” to use the carny lingo, for a pretty face. And I keep looking for them in movies and elsewhere.

What are you a mark for?

And can you resist the lust, languor, and loveliness of cinema’s long con?

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2021 in Erotica, Femmes Fatale

 

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YouTube Is My New Grindhouse

The grindhouse is dead? No. Long live the grindhouse!

“Grindhouse” theaters, often ramshackle or rundown, where audiences would go see movies regarded as “edgy” or “junky” or “disreputable,” have largely vanished physically with the “improvement” of downtown business districts where these places once flourished, such as Chicago’s Loop or Manhattan’s 42nd Street. But the grindhouse concept is alive and well and evolving in a whole new venue: YouTube.

When I first moved to New York in 1973, I became besotted with the allure of the grindhouse. The Apollo. The Selwyn. The New Amsterdam. The Liberty. The Anco. The Empire. The Times Square. The Victory. They were grungy 42nd Street theaters occasionally showing current Hollywood fare, but most often older stuff dredged up for its lurid, violent appeal: Macho Callahan, an especially grim Civil War prison escape drama starring David Janssen, comes to mind.

 I didn’t have any money, I couldn’t find interesting jobs, my college girlfriend (with whom I’d moved to the city) called me a “male chauvinist pig” in the feminist cry of the era, and in my dispirited frame of mind I was drawn to the dilapidated emporiums on 42nd Street where I could find solace with other outliers–those of the cinematic world, both films and fans, with whom I identified as some kind of reprobate.

 Looking for crummy gigs I didn’t want and had no affinity for—I guess my plan was to become a writer or nothing, basically—I’d go to the employment offices armed with classifieds circled in the want ads; but then, finding no work, I’d head to the public library, where I’d fall into the same habit I had in college, daydreaming and browsing in the stacks. In those days, I hadn’t yet accrued an unwieldy personal library of my own, so I needed the NYPL. My sisters back in the Midwest had wanted children; I’d wanted books.

 And so, partly to avoid my girlfriend’s rants about wanting to castrate her boss (who was also a male chauvinist), I found myself gravitating to the triple bills of schlocky movies shown on the Deuce (which is a term, popular now in nostalgia circles, that I never used then, always referring to it as 42nd Street or just “Times Square”). I was in my early twenties, fresh from a high-minded liberal Ohio college, and frightened and sobered by the fact that the world didn’t care a damn about me or my ambitions or convictions. Would I be consigned to existence as a children’s shoe salesman or temporary office worker or, most boring gig of all, sitting at a Telex machine I could barely operate in a Wall Street office?

 I can’t really remember now all the movies I went to see, but a few were kung fu flicks like Five Fingers of Death, Deep Thrust, and Triple Irons; Pam Grier movies like Coffy and Foxy Brown; a Mexican horror film called Night of the Bloody Apes, and a Micky Dolenz shocker entitled The Night of the Strangler; and a gangster double bill of Young Dillinger, starring Nick Adams, and Al Capone with Rod Steiger. I didn’t much go in for the X-rated fare, with which the uninformed populace automatically identified 42nd Street, but which to me was a very minor part of its cinematic landscape and appeal. (I found my porn elsewhere in peep shows and adult bookstores, and plenty of it…obviously, since I eventually became a writer and editor for sex magazines and an erotica ebook publisher.) I was more enthralled by ultra-schlock items like The Thing with Two Heads starring Ray Milland and Rosey Grier, which called forth some of the funniest responses from any audience I ever heard in any venue. The guffaws around me dimmed my awareness of how smelly the Anco Theater was.

 Today, almost fifty years later, after a career in a publishing niche that was ravaged by the Internet, leaving me hustling for scraps of work online,  I find myself in a similar position of instability, on top of all the anxiety brought about by COVID. (At least I just got the booster.) And my psyche is teeming with a similar desire to seek entertainment off the beaten track, where like-minded souls gather on the fringe at any time of day or night. Sure, I have cable and can watch Eddie Muller do his Noir Czar thing on TCM; he’s great. But more and more I want to go to YouTube to see what unexpected things I can find, and to read the comments from all the other folk there.

 The grindhouse is a state of mind; it was never just the movies, good or lousy, or a drafty cavernous old theater with an ill-stocked refreshment counter, a dank men’s room, lit cigarettes flung down on the orchestra seats from the balcony, and cats (or worse) walking across the stage underneath the screen. And nowadays the grindhouse experience, besides the films themselves watched from the comfort of my futon couch and on my phone or tablet, is also the cup of cheap soup eaten while seeing Dan Duryea in the 1950s British quickie Terror Street: a thrifty $2.00 dinner instead of a ten-spot for an Eighth Avenue moo goo gai pan combo.

 Long before I had TCM, I was a habitué of memorabilia shows (still am, and waiting for them to resume post-COVID), picking up cassettes and then DVDs of long forgotten films, getting a more thorough and fun movie education than ever before. Noir, sword and sandals; serials, more noir; westerns, horror, more noir. Sitting in front of my old school tv set with the analog VCR/DVD player, I reveled in a grindhouse experience in the ‘90s and early 2000s: feeling like a guy knocking on a speakeasy door and knowing the password, and watching the likes of Timothy Farrell (if you haven’t seen him as “Umberto Scali” in Dance Hall Racket with Lenny Bruce, it’s time to catch up—it’s on YouTube now) or Alison Hayes or John Carradine in their respective low-budget epics.

 The Creature with the Atom Brain with Richard Denning. Bullwhip with Rhonda Fleming and Guy Madison. Son of Samson with Mark Forest and Chelo Alonso. Or The Glass Web with Edward G. Robinson and one of my favorite femmes fatale, the under-heralded Kathleen Hughes as “Paula Ranier,” who had “barbed wire around her heart.” These were just a few of the gems I saw when the VCR/DVD combo was my venue of choice.

Well, “Paula” and her seductive shenanigans can be found online now (see the illustration on top, from The Glass Web trailer). The grindhouse experience goes on and for me has largely shifted to YouTube (although nostalgia film channels like MoviesTVNetwork also show a lot of forgotten classics too). Let’s see what gems—or turkeys, I don’t care, I can quickly scroll elsewhere—await me 24/7. Last Friday night I treated myself to a double bill of Condemned to Live with Ralph Morgan (B-movie star brother of Frank “The Wizard of Oz” Morgan) and Western Pacific Agent, with Kent Taylor and Mickey Knox—the latter a John Garfield type whose career was derailed by the blacklist but who gave quite a performance as a psychopathic thug in this forgotten 1950 film; maybe it was his only chance to be in the spotlight in Cagneyesque gangster mode, and he was terrific. I hope another of his forgotten performances will surface on YouTube. I devoured Campbell’s Chunky Beef Soup with Country Vegetables as I enjoyed that lineup. Yessir, the grindhouse lives on.

And I need it.

 

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Carry a porn writer in your purse!

Looking for new clients as ever, I made up this list which I posted recently on Twitter. Print it out and keep it in your pocket or purse and you’ll always have at hand a reputable source for the words you want…need…and perhaps even crave! 😉

 

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The Ever-Optimistic Freelance Writer

A few days ago I had a dream that the sculpture below had been removed from where it has stood in midtown Manhattan for several years. When I encountered the sculpture again the other day, I was a bit startled; the dream had been so realistic that my mind was tricked into believing, just for a moment, that the art shouldn’t still be there; that it had been dismantled and shuttled away, leaving only a sad empty patch of sidewalk in its wake. But no, no, there it was, still standing after all!

Freelance writers keep going on hope, don’t we? And optimism.

In my case, it’s optimism about continuing at what I do best: writing, editing, and creating erotic material. Yes, I can handle other topics as well–I once wrote an article about the history of sneezing, of all things, among a goodly number of non-pornographic creations–and when I get the chance to delve into other subjects, I relish it. But I focus on seeking work in the field at which I have specialized for decades. 

More than ever, in this ultra-competitive economic environment, online entrepreneurs need good writing to achieve their goals. They need clear prose that can be easily understood, that can make potential customers want to reach into his and her pocket for that credit card and order a video or ebook or OnlyFans membership or whatever else they are passionately seeking.

Although I have long-term steady accounts for whom I’ve written Twitter and video descriptions for years, I am always looking for new clients on a freelance basis. So what do you need?

I write…

CLIP DESCRIPTIONS AND TITLES (Very important that they press all the right buttons to get the sales!)

TWITTER (Order a package of catchy promo tweets or I can write an entire feed)

eBOOKS (I can ghostwrite them for you under your own brand and byline and you can sell them on Amazon Kindle)

VIDEO SCRIPTS and SCENARIOS (Yes, Dommes already get these from their custom clips fans, but you can take them to a new level with a professional writer, exploring themes and ideas to bring your online persona to an even greater charisma)

COLUMNS and ARTICLES (I draw on my extensive knowledge of current porn trends, vintage erotica, femdom, mainstream movies, Hollywood history, and noir films and paperbacks)

PRIVATE FICTION COMMISSIONS (What would you like to read about–in an erotic story for your eyes only?)

BLOG POSTS (I write opinion pieces, historical anecdotes, and fiction to order)

INTERVIEWS/PROFILES (Need something for your website that will tell your fans more about yourself? I did pieces like these for the top magazines in the adult field such as Leg Show, Swank, Black Tail, Penthouse Variations, and Hustler)

WEBSITE, VIDEO, or BOOK REVIEWS (I can do these for your blogs or pay sites)

MAGAZINE EDITING (I was the editor of adult magazines like Cheeks, Girls Over 40, and Leg World)

Basically, if something has been printed on a magazine page or shown up on a screen somewhere, I’ve written or edited an example of it, or two or three or four or five hundred examples at some time or other. Scroll through this blog, or my earlier one The Horny Time Traveler here, to experience the range of my writing (and picture editing, since that was a large part of supervising adult magazines too).

Check out this link to see samples of recent work I’ve done, and then, when you know what you need, contact me at editorneilxxx@yahoo.com, or via direct message at Twitter here.

I hope to hear from you soon, and look forward to more projects…YOUR projects, taking on new challenges, in the field I’ve enjoyed working in for so long!

—————–

P.S. Just want to emphasize once more that if you need other kinds of writing, don’t hesitate to ask about them too. Perhaps you want an article about the history of sneezing?

So I’m always ready for non-erotica assignments as well.

And now for my daily stroll to get some exercise and to contemplate the eternal truths under the great big sky over Manhattan! 😉

Hell’s Kitchen, Tenth Avenue, NYC, September 2021; photo by Irv O. Neil

 

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