Author Archives: Jody

Vanity, Tearing Up the Neon in Seventh Heaven

If you haven’t seen Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, stop reading this, go to Netflix, and educate yourself. I’m not kidding, Go. GO NOW.

OK, now that you’ve seen the finest example of Berry Gordy producing a kung fu musical set in Harlem,  we can pay proper homage to our dearly departed Vanity.

Vanity’s one of many women who fall into the “Prince protege” category, and she’s not much different than the rest. She was stunning, moderately talented, had legs that ended somewhere around her neck, and performed in a movie that’s adored by those of us who watched it to tatters in the 80s, and little understood by pretty much everyone else.

I was always more of a “Last Dragon” girl than a “Purple Rain” girl–probably because my mom nearly drove off the road once when she actually heard the lyrics to “Erotic City” and we were never allowed to watch it, and my dad loved both “Shogun” and Bruce Lee, so there you go.

“Purple Rain” may have had Morris Day, but “The Last Dragon” had Shonuff. It also featured the line “Directa your feetsa to Daddy Green’s Pizza,” not to mention Faith Prince, who sang a series of hilariously bad music videos, including one called “Dirty Books,” which I thought until just now was actually called “Dirty Bugs.”

But we’re not talking about all that. We’re talking about Vanity, she who had absolutely  perfect skin, sculpted cheekbones, dancer’s legs, amazing hair, and a stunning smile. Her performances were all completely over-the-top, tempered with a comfortable magnetism that came through in every fabulous roll of her perfectly eyelined-eyes, every arch of her flawless eyebrows, every long-fingered Tina-Turner-like point at the camera. The concept that she hosted “Soul Train” was so convincing, I was always bummed she never actually had her own live dance show.

Alas, despite her magnetism and beauty (or because of it?), the 90s were not kind to her, seeing her through the crack addiction and subsequent kidney failure that eventually killed her a few days ago.

I hope your heaven is as amazing as Seventh Heaven was, and I hope you meet the Master in all his golden glory.

David Bowie Moved the Stars for… Me

Since the inception of SlumberPartyMovies.com, we’ve had to say goodbye a few times. Harold Ramis got me choked up. Roger Ebert hurt a lot. I shed a few tears with him.

Losing David Bowie breaks my heart.

Typing that sentence, in fact, led to a torrent that required me to shut down this document, go to my work bathroom to compose myself, then head back out with my head down and my hair in my face. That’s happened a few times today.

None of us knew he was sick. He never seemed old. To the contrary, David Bowie always felt eternal. Yes, yes, his art is eternal, yadda yadda, but we all knew he’d never go, right? He would look distinguished and wise and beautiful, and then he would open that wide mouth and laugh like he could swallow the world, and look like joy. And that would go on forever.

David Bowie wasn’t some rock god in the way people think of all the men who fell around him back in the early 70s. He was a rock saint. He knew the power of music, and he understood the importance of his talent. He understood that the experience of great music isn’t just the words, the notes, the arrangement, the staging, the story, the voice, the instruments; it’s all of it, and the whole of that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

He knew he had a gift, and he was a responsible steward of his gift: he became a craftsman, too, experimenting and writing, always seeking perfection. David Bowie gave, and gave, and gave to us, knowing that anything less than perfection in all those aspects of rock music would be unfair to us, and unfair to his own capacity for greatness.

David Bowie knew his music could touch and help people, and I really believe that’s why he kept doing what he did: because doing anything less would be cheating us and himself. The proof of that was in his last act for his fans: a final farewell album and video that was autobiographical, even though we didn’t know it. He told us he was dying, but we wouldn’t believe it.

My personal story of David Bowie is one that’s still evolving. My parents listened to Motown and the Beach Boys, so David Bowie (beyond Blue Jean and China Girl) weren’t in my house regularly. I’ve only really been pursuing his work in the last 15 years; Hunky Dory is still my favorite, but I’m slowly growing a collection of all his work. I’m grateful I came to him this late in life, because I can spend the next 40 years making up for lost time.

Here’s one of my favorites from Hunky Dory, the sweetest lullabye ever written:

Except… yes, you knew this was coming. I wasn’t familiar with his music as a kid. Not until he found another creative genius who gave his own perfect gift compulsively and teamed up to make Labyrinth.

I’ve already done some posts on Labyrinth, of course. I also posted about My Very Bowie birthday over at my own blog. But let’s take a moment to talk more about Jareth. Like most girls my age (especially those of us who loved Muppets and fantasy and were pretty sure that there MUST be some other world just over the hill, if we said the right words, we’d make it there, and we’d escape this boring life, really we would!), Jareth marked my early sexual awakening. I was 11 when Labyrinth came out, and puberty was still two years away. I wasn’t conscious of I felt the first time Jareth shows up in Sarah’s parent’s bedroom, other than a confusing blend of yearning and fear. He was threatening, and I liked it.

Oh, you didn't?

Oh, you didn’t?

Jareth was domineering. He was a terrible person. He was bored and carried a riding crop like most people carry… well, no, no one carries anything like he carries a riding crop. He was supremely confident, and he seemed to really, really desire… Sarah? Her orders? To rule her? Seven minutes in the masquerade? He’s overbearing and bossy and generally would make a horrible boyfriend in any context. But some part of me knew, 30 years ago, that he’d have been a wildcat in the sack.

Is it any wonder Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey took off? Even so, that Grey guy has nothing on Jareth. Does he sing? I haven’t read the books, so I’m pretty sure he doesn’t sing. I know Edward doesn’t sing. He’s stalkery, like Jareth, sure, but I’m also pretty sure he never shows up in a bitch-ass cloak made out of snowy owl feathers, so suck on that, Edward. TEAM JARETH.

Jareth pretty well embodies all that’s safe and scary and alluring about sex when you’re on the brink of puberty: it’s adult, it’s threatening, it has massive consequences. On the flip side, you’re the only thing an intense, confident man desires; he’ll be your slave (if you’ll be his) and he’s MAGIC. Like, an actual magic person. Who is also a king. And horribly manipulative, and man, are you gonna regret it in the morning…

… but there’s an escape clause. And that escape clause is not ever, ever, ever, giving a man like that any power over you. No matter how sexy and convincing is his argument, no matter how good he looks in tights: ultimately, you have the power. You get to say yes or no. And you should use that power.

And so she does. And she’s safe, at home, with all the best parts of him, and none of the scary ones. Lesson learned: fantasy is best when it’s dangerous. Reality should be safe, and good.

I grew up to marry a guy who looks great in eyeliner (although I wish he’d wear it, like, all the time, instead of only when my friends ask him to be in a video), but who is the direct opposite of Jareth. In fact, any time I’ve ever dated a guy who showed any Jareth-like qualities, I dropped a Sarah right quick, no-powered them, and they blew off like Hedwig on an express delivery.

That said: most fantasy romances I enjoy (and I read a LOT of them) have Jareths. For instance:

  • Black Dagger Brotherhood: ultra-stud vampires who are possessive macho men, but ultimately bow to every command of their mates.
  • A Discovery of Witches, featuring another ultra-possessive, domineering vampire in love with a kick-ass witch who doesn’t let him push her around.
  • My favorite romantic lead on Buffy? Spike, of course. With his blond hair and eyeliner and British accent, his morals were so screwed, he tried to rape her once.
  • The new Sherlock, who’s a self-described sociopath and an asshole to just about anyone who looks his way.
  • Howl’s Moving Castle, which I don’t even have to explain; I’ll just show you a pic of the petulant wizard who lives in Baba Yaga’s walking castle.
My 5-yr-old daughter noticed the resemblance, too.

My 5-yr-old daughter noticed the resemblance, too.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

In closing… well, back to tears, now. There would be no Jareth without David Bowie. There would be no Labyrinth without David Bowie. For me, Jareth is David Bowie, and David Bowie is Jareth, and now, some part of me knows I’ll never have that chance to follow the Labyrinth past the Goblin City, to see his lined, perfect face, begging me to stay.

I feel as though a piece of my heart is gone. And I know you do, too.

Friday Morning Videos: The Neverending Story

Stuck in a long meeting and complaining to a friend, she mocked that I was in the Neverending Meeting. And what better way to get through a long Friday meeting than by muting and watching a little Limahl?

The upside: it’s one of the better movie-based videos to come out in a decade that was all about movie-based videos. Hits all the highlights: the child-empress, the Rock-Biter, the cracking Ivory Tower, the Nothing, etc., so on. But you also get the unrequested bonus of Limahl.

Limahl, facing away from a mirror because he doesn’t really want to see himself under that hair.

The fantasiallet.

The fantasiallet.

Limahl chair-dancing in a library that has a wall screen.

Flatscreens in 1986 cost $400k.

Flatscreens in 1986 cost $400k.

And more chair-dancing.

JAZZ HANDS.

JAZZ HANDS.

Limhal, getting really into his long vowels.
limahl_longvowels2

More long vowels.
limahl_longvowels

Limahl, on a very thin ipad.

More hand-dancing.

More hand-dancing.

Limahl, ducking from a flying very thin ipad

It's the iPhone 7! Dear god, my pockets are too small!

It’s the iPhone 7! Dear god, my pockets are too small!

.

Liladies lilove Limahl.

Friday Morning Videos: Touch Me

No, not that one. The other one. The one by the singer who used to be an adult film star, until she briefly told us all about naughty girls needing love, too. This one.

I get paid in AquaNet.

I get paid in AquaNet.

Oddly, the guy who gets almost as much screentime in this video as Samantha Fox is her keyboardist, whose fringed jacket is rivaled only in “Can’t Buy Me Love” for its fringiness. But he’s an adept spinner, isn’t he?

I don't really play the keyboard. I just spin in front of it and hit the "o noise" button.

I don’t really play the keyboard. I just spin in front of it and hit the “o noise” button.

Just when you think this is going to be an excruciatingly boring concert vid, this guy, who got lost looking for the bathroom at CBGB’s, unexpectedly finds himself on stage, getting humped by a former porn star. Lucky punk.

Well, I DID have to pee.

Well, I DID have to pee.

So moved by the wandering punk, Samantha takes a moment to coach us on proper orgasm-faking, because one can never be too good at that, amirite, Lerlines?

Who stuck that mic up the hole in my jeans? Steve!

Who stuck that mic up the hole in my jeans? Steve!

And then there’s the whole thing where she swings out over the crowd from a rope…

It worked for David lee Roth.

It worked for David Lee Roth.

…and then cools off with a tabletop fan beside from the stage, drinks some water, and throws it in her guitarist’s face.

You should see what else is on her rider.

You should see what else is on her rider.

Happy Labor Day, folks! And happy belated birthday to the other Samantha in my life, who, to my knowledge, has never done any of the things in this video, except probably sing the song whilst wearing a denim jacket.

When That Perfect Girl Goes

Last, we were watching the “Beach Ball” episode of Bubble Guppies, a little romp in which Cinderella’s a bartender lobster at a beachside cabana, and her name is Sandy.

Life after Rydell.

Life after Rydell.

The evil brunette lobsters don’t want her to go to the Beach Ball.

We're lobsters, and we dance!

Bartenders are SUCH low-class lobsters!

As the episode commenced, we had this conversation.

Three-year-old: “Who’s Sandy?”

Five-year-old: “Sandy is that girl in the real-people movie. Grease.”

Me: “Yes… Yes, she is.”

FYO: “She was good except when she went all curly-haired and wore black. That was weird. Why did she do that?”

Good thing Rizzo's my size, or these pants would be even less comfortable.

Good thing Rizzo’s my size, or these pants would be even less comfortable.

Me: “Well, that was weird. Because she was trying to be something she wasn’t for a boy.”

FYO: “But maybe she really liked that.”

Me: “That’s true… In which case, it’s OK. If she really did, deep down, want curly hair and to wear all black. But if she did it just for a boy or anyone else, that’s not OK. But if she really did  like it…”

FYO: “…”

Me: “Is that too much?”

FYO: Sigh.

When I was five and watching Grease, I thought Sandy’s transformation totally kicked, because she got a great song out of it, and clearly John Travolta liked it, so it must be right. Then I turned twenty and was all, WTF, what’d she do that for? She went all slutty just to get a guy. So uncool. And now, my five-year-old has me realizing I’ve been judging Sandy’s life choice too harshly.

Hmm. Maybe what I really need is a home perm from a Lock of Fury dropout.

Hmm. Maybe what I really need is a home perm from a Lock of Fury dropout.

It reminded me of a blog (to which I will not link) on Slate, I think, where the writer had deep reservations about Elsa’s makeover at the end of “Let It Go.” It sexualized her, it said, and it also was expressing that for a girl to get her power, she has to have a slinky little walk and let her hair down in a way that the boys will totally love. (This writer also said the song is setting up Elsa to be the film’s villain, which makes me wonder if we watched the same movie.)

She's here. She's fabulous. Get used to it.

She’s here. She’s fabulous. Get used to it.

After two theater viewings, multiple DVD viewings and countless “Let It Go” YouTube replays, I have come to the satisfying conclusion that Elsa got into her bangin’ slink-dress because she could. She spent her whole life barricaded away by sucky parents, her hair all scrinched up on her head, wearing giant regal dresses that probably weighed a ton, covering up every bare inch of her body so she didn’t accidentally shame the family with her horrible secret. So what’s she do when she busts out of that? Gets herself a light, flattering, dramatic gown that allows her freedom of movement and doesn’t make her feel like a prisoner in her own body. I’d have done it, too. In fact, I did do it.

Elsa’s physical manifestation is her final fuck-you to her parents and fear: I will be who I want, do what I want, and I will look how I want to look. She’s not just exhibiting her talents, she’s wearing them out there, plain as day. It’s the equivalent of the emo teenager finally having the nerve to wear eyeliner to school, the man who finally busts out the high heels, the woman who realizes she can wear anything she fucking wants because it’s her body, and she can.

So I offer my sincere apologies to Sandy. I’ve been slut-shaming you all these years, and it took a five-year-old to expose it. You wear whatever the hell you want. After all, I never judged Danny for lettering in track. Shame on me.

Viva la Revolution!

Thirteen years ago to this day, a college friend of mine took me to a party next door to the most pretentious grocery store in San Francisco, where I met fellow SlumberPartyMovians Melinda and Karen.

It was a Bastille Day party. Melinda was bent over her oven, pulling out a tray of French fries. I mentioned that they were Fronch! Fries! And she said she also had Fronch! Toast! And Peru! And an epic friendship was born.

It wasn’t until about two weeks later, when Karen said “The Chauffeur” was the sexiest Duran Duran song ever, that my official self-adoption into their family was complete, but suffice to say: June 2001 was a very good month.

Friday Morning Videos: SCOTUS #2, The Bamboozin’ and Smackin’ Edition

A mere six days after Shindancer’s beautiful post about her Louise (and my grand-Louise) we got some pretty crappy effing news from a bunch of old men who think that it’s OK for some purveyors of cheap Chinese sparklies to break the law and not provide their adult female employees with Plan B, because the science in their brains says the morning-after pill might destroy a future Christian of America.

Thus followed a few days on Facebook wherein folks longed for the beauty of ten years ago, back before all this partisan rancor, when we were all aligned against the terrorists and everyone was afraid to mention maybe there weren’t WMDs in Iraq, and gays couldn’t get their icky marriage all over our government, and “changing the conversation” wasn’t anything women talked about, because it was before a couple of criminals in Steubenville thought it’d be totes fun to sexually abuse a girl and then like txt it all over, and the town was all, “But football!”

Darn we the people and our pesky voices.

One wonders if back in the chambers, this video maybe plays on repeat, all the time, with the Quintet of Contraception nodding along with Mr. Man, and then sighing mournfully at the end and the hysteric hyperbole of the womenfolk.

 

 

Meanwhile, Salt, Pepa, Spinderella and the guy in the hat were freaking in the next room.

Salt n’ Pepa might disagree, but this week, in my heart, there’s only one true judge, and that’s Ginsberg.

 

** I know it’s not Friday. But tomorrow is a holiday–the birthday of our great nation! So it’s a holiday Friday.