Category Archives: Dearly Departed

Dearly Departed, plus Club Tropicana, The Interview

I’ve lost another one of my favorite freaks. One of my childhood crushes–this time, he wasn’t androgynous, like Prince or David Bowie, but he sure as hell was one gay “filthy f–ker,” as he himself once said.

We wore out the WHAM! Video Hits tape. Like, we watched the Careless Whisper video–my sister and her best friend, and her younger sister, who was my best friend– and each played different roles, and then rewound it and replayed it, rotating the roles. Every fourth time you had to be “Andrew’s Fingers” (anonymous guitar strummer) but every fourth time, you also got to be The Slut, and whip your hair back in passion, so it worked out.

I know all the words to Wham! Rap. My sister and I performed the song, with most of the dance, for our horrified children at last spring’s family talent show.

I don’t think I had one sleepover where either Labyrinth or George Michael didn’t come up at least once.

David Bowie was my introduction to sexual awakening. Prince was my introduction to owning your freaky-deaky. George Michael was the soundtrack behind all of that.

He, like Bowie and Prince, was a freak, too, but he was afraid to be out about it. He was outed, but it’s hard to remember that because the moment it happened, he lived out, proud, with no apologies. He donated to charities quietly, and shouted his celebrity to the rooftops when he needed to get attention.

He was a mensch. He was out and proud. He was politically active. When he broke into his torch songs, he had a voice that could melt steel.

Everything She Wants and Freedom ’90 are two of the greatest pop songs ever written. (The video version of ESW, of course.)

This one time, though, he made kind of a this-side-of-terrible song, with a video that was more or less an excuse for Andrew, Pepsi, and Shirley to join him in Acapulco. And, as shindancer once said, one night many years later, I got drunk on pina coladas, tracked him down in London, and interviewed him about the video.

(OK, I didn’t. That last part is a lie, up to and including the pina coladas part. I would never drink that many pina coladas.)

Here’s the original post. Because we must remember George Michael as all of these things: as a mensch, as a gay man, as an activist, as a brilliant songwriter, singer, and performer, and as a mostly-naked guy drinking at a poolside.


SlumberPartyMovies recently had an opportunity to interview George Michael about his epic video, Club Tropicana, which has always puzzled me on a few counts.

SPM: Great to meet you, George! Long time-listener, first-time interviewer. Let’s jump right in: Why weren’t the credits in the Wham! The Hits VHS version?

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GM: Look at two beautiful women in matching slouchy shirts clip-clop along a darkened path and forget your question.

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SPM: Who the fuck is this guy?

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GM: Look at me posing with a white wine spritzer and forget your question.

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SPM: Where is the place where membership’s a smiling face, where strangers take you by the hand and welcome you to wonderland?

GM: Beneath the Panama.

SPM: Wait, like south of the Panama, or underground, or what?

GM: No, sorry. I meant they welcome you from beneath their panamas. Like hats.

SPM: Oh, so where is it? Acapulco? It must be Acapulco, right?

GM: Look into my eyes and forget your question.

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SPM: Who the fuck is this guy?

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A: Look at me showering and forget your question.

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SPM: Why is it that all that’s missing is the sea, when you’re clearly sitting on the beach in this scene? And you talk about soft white sands and blue lagoons?

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A: Look at me showering and forget your question.

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SPM: Why is Andrew Ridgeley wearing long jams, and you’re in a white speedo?

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GM: I am Greek and he is not.

SPM: That’s fair. But his hair is clearly better than yours.

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GM: Look at these women’s crotches and forget you ever thought that.

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SPM: Who the fuck is this guy?

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GM: Look at us me angry in a cowboy hat and forget your question.

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SPM: Do the girls stop and pick you up or leave you stranded?

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GM: Look at me shaving naked and forget your question.

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SPM: OK, so you’re pilots and they’re flight attendants? Why did you act like you didn’t know each other? Or were just surprised that they’re really hot in bikinis? Do you know each other or not? And are you on furlough or something, which is why you’re a pilot and permitted to drink all day and bake in the sun for a week? and honestly, I know it’s the 80s, but it’s a little sexist that you guys get to be pilots and they’re attendants.

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GM: Look at Andrew showering and forget your question.

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SPM: Forget my question? That’s a weird thing to say! No!

GM: Then look deeply into my eyes and forget your question.

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SPM: Where are you going on those donkeys?

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GM: Look at us shirtless, playing the trumpet, and forget your question.

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SPM: Forget my question? That’s a weird thing to say! No!

GM: Look at us in pilot uniforms and forget your question.

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SPM: Wow! Looks like that’s all the time we have for today. Thanks, George! You’re a true SlumberPartyMovie god.

GM: I know.

Fish-Faced Enemy of the People Has Passed On

While everyone else is talking “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles,” and “Willy Wonka,” we must not ever forget the beauty of Gene Wilder’s Blue Blanket Freakout.

NOTE: TCM hates us and the WordPress embed isn’t working. So click here for A Minor Compulsion.

I’m sad. But he lived a full life, and had Alzheimer’s, a cruel disease. And rather than sinking into a 48-hour funk of sadness, I fully plan to laugh my ass off well into the night tonight.

We’ll miss you, Leo Bloom. I hope you’re dancing around a fountain with Zero and Gilda right now.

Prince: Tonight, You’re a Star. And I’m the Big Dipper.

Man, this year has sucked.

Every post we’ve done in 2016 has been mourning those we’ve lost–and the last post was bidding farewell to Vanity, one of Prince’s girls. I admitted in that post that I’m not as much of a “Purple Rain” film aficionado as my fellow Lerlines (who I hope will be able to fumble through their sparkly tears to share with us their favorite moments, again), but I did love Prince. He fell squarely into the David Bowie he-makes-me-feel-funny sensual attraction, with the same androgyny, beauty, slender build, and eyeliner.

(Men: wear eyeliner. Seriously. You’ll get some.)

“Purple Rain” was part of the soundtrack of my childhood, but by the time I actually passed my David Bowie-induced puberty, and hit high school and college, Prince had pulled together the New Power Generation and released some of the best dance singles to come out of the early 90s (and there were a LOT of dance singles). Nothing got my ass on Bubba’s dance floor faster than “Seven.” Seven was bizarre and fantastical, and kind of religious and sort of made no sense, and goddamn, was it a hip-grinder that got the pelvic regions in contact with other pelvic regions? Yes, yes, it was. I’m pretty sure anybody who danced to “Seven” can say they got to second base.

There was also “Cream” and “Diamonds and Pearls.” But the Prince I really loved? That was the Prince whose songs were the opposite of metaphorical. The AppleJack-honest, in-your-face, “I am a sexy muthafucka,” THIS SONG IS UNQUESTIONABLY ABOUT THAT THING THAT ALL OF MY SONGS ARE ACTUALLY ABOUT.

One of his greatest songs –yes, I said it, I’ll put it up against Nothing Compares 2 U and Purple Rain–is “Gett Off,” a song that is unapologetically, 100% about orgasms. Specifically, women having orgasms. Specifically, Prince ensuring women get orgasms. Which I’m pretty sure he can do by raising one perfectly-crafted eyebrow.

What other song so effortlessly ties together a hip-thrusting bass line, rap, hip hop, soaring vocals, and James Brown funk? What other song has lyrics that are both domineering (“Now bring your big ass round this way so I can work on that zipper, baby”) and submissive (“I’ll only call you after if you say I can”)? It’s celebratory (“I like ’em fat! I like ’em proud!”) and insulting (“You better be happy that dress is still on. I heard the rip when you sat down.”).

It compares stripping down a woman to opening an ALMOND GODDAMNED JOY. (Did anyone ever see him eat a candy bar? Or video it? Please, share. The world needs that now.)

What other song so perfectly personifies Prince that he can say, straight-faced and OMG you giggle but you SO BELIEVE it: “Tonight, you’re a star. And I’m the Big Dipper.” (Nananana! Nananana!)

So let’s walk through the video. Note: the screenshots are VHS-blurry, so I recommend watching the video carefully, several times, to fully internalize its majesty.

Diamond and Pearl are auditioning for something. Diamond is wearing one of the best baby doll dresses ever to come out of the 90s, and good god, I still want to wear it all the time. (Halloween costume idea!)

Diamond wants the gig and is all in. Pearl ain’t so sure, especially after Diamond gives her a fake name.

The double doors open, and…

Why, hello to you, too.

Why, hello to you, too.

I watched that scream several times yesterday. I’ll watch it again now.

Diamond, of course, knows what her biz is and runs right up to Prince to start in. He enjoys it. And we cut over to Tony M, with amazing hair. He’s wearing what seem to be elbow-length black gloves. Why? I don’t care. His voice is butter.

Yes, you can call me after.

Yes, you can call me after.

(BTW: I cannot adequately express how excited I am that this hair is coming back. One of my first-grader’s classmates has a high-top fade and I have to control myself from giggling and clapping every time I see him.)

THEN we cut over to the effortlessly majestic Rosie Mays, with a soaring voice and her fabulous refrain “Let a woman be a woman and a man be a man.” It could be ironic–when has Prince ever let those two things be distinct entities?–but we know what’s for reals: it means we have complimentary parts that fit together nicely, so let’s make them fit together nicely, shall we?

Has champagne satin ever looked so good? No, it hasn't.

Has champagne satin ever looked so good? No, it hasn’t.

So Prince and Diamond get down for a bit, and we see all the gorgeous characters dancing all around… and then, “Oh, no, little cutie, I ain’t drinkin!” And he totally ditches Diamond and goes after Pearl, who seems mildly disgusted by the whole thing. So what’s he do? He strips her down like the ALMOND GODDAMNED JOY. That’ll teach her.

Parking meters sound uncomfortable, but in this case, I'll make an exception.

Parking meters sound uncomfortable, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.

Tacky and overeager as ever, Diamond runs up to try to win back his attention, and then darts off, pouting–which is when Prince throws the shade:

“So here we are, here we are, in my paisley crib. Whatcha want to eat?”

“Ribs!”

“Ha, toy, I don’t serve ribs. You better be happy that dress is still on. I heard the rip when you sat down.”

A few items of note: 1) Prince’s paisley crib is decorated with human furniture.

Have a seat on my humans. They like it.

Have a seat on my humans. They like it.

 

2) Appreciate the shade.

Honey, them hips is gone.

Honey, them hips is gone.

Incidentally, that woman in the back is letting loose a gorgeous scream. I’m not sure if she’s laughing or horrified. Is she Pearl, and found a coverup? I’m not sure. The red dress makes the whole thing very Lynchian.

And then he gets down and the sex starts. All over. I’m not going to ruin it with blurry screenshots. Watch it, several times. Today.

Take note:

1) OH MY GOD.

2) Dance moves.

3) Flaming torch orgy.

4) Drag harlequin.

5) COME ON.

6) Sexy flutes.

7) The guitar. Always, always, the guitar.

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.

David Bowie of the 80s and Jazzin’ for Blue Jean, the Longform Video

In my 9th grade art class, I learned two things: how to draw a portrait using a grid, and that I sucked at art. I drew two portraits, one of Paul McCartney and one of David Bowie. I hated the McCartney one because I’d made one eye bigger than the other (a horrible premonition of my first passport photo?), but when I made a mistake on the Bowie one, I just just added a bunch of colorful abstract squiggles a la his Blue Jean makeup, and it came out looking cool. So cool I put it on my wall and kept it there until I felt silly for having one of my drawings up on the wall despite my suckiness as an artist.

When I first found out that David Bowie was not immortal, I thought of two things. The first was that drawing and the second was an article I’d read about the critical atmosphere around Bowie in the 80s. I can’t find the article, as it’s lost to the ephemera of the Internet, but the gist is as follows: In the 80s, music critics had accused, either outright or by insinuation,  Bowie of being a sell-out, sold to the shallow materialism of the decade: his lemon-haired, slick-suited Modern Love persona held up as proof. However, the writer (whose name, publication and/or serial number is also lost to the ephemera) claimed that with hindsight, it could be said that the 80s hadn’t claimed Bowie; Bowie had claimed the 80s. He wasn’t changed by the decade; he had become the decade and thus changed it.

bowie 4

Now, thinking about the bizarre, deft way in which Bowie lived his entire life, including his untimely death, as both a life both well-lived and as one long piece of performance art, I get it. Bowie was, and still is art. Bowie the artist, Bowie the man, even Bowie the skewed image drawn by a 14 year old girl with public-school issued pencils and craypas: all of it IS art. And while I sympathize with critics of the 80s who were so ready to write Bowie off as a washed-up sell-out, I think they should have been more hip to the art he had become while critiquing the artist he was.

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Take Jazzin’ for Blue Jean, the longform version of Bowie’s Blue Jean. It begins with Working-Class Bowie standing high above the street, putting up a poster of his alter-ego, Screamin Lord Byron, and ends inside a metal-screened elevator, rising ever higher above a broken-fourth-wall scene: higher and higher, but still caged, like Bowie’s career, caged in by the 80s even as it rose above it. Watch the video for yourself and pay close attention to the part where lovable loser, Working Class Bowie tries on a series of 80s fashions before finally settling on borrowing a slick suit from his well-dressed flatmate.

Not Lemmy. Not Lemmy!

Lemmy from Down and Out With the Dolls

You’re my Lemmy in the closet, baby.

I mean, like. We all knew Lemmy, despite his amazingness, was a living thing, and therefore would one day cease to live. But it was still a shock to read of his death today — almost as much of a shock to read that he was 70. And while of course his main legacy is Motörhead, his muppet-like appearance and gruff voice made him an absolute treasure as a personality.

The Lemmy I’ll always remember is the Lemmy from Down and Out with the Dolls (2003 in the U.S.), a scrappy movie about a messy band that lived together in one big house and basically screwed up everything ever. But it wasn’t just the four women living there; the lead singer had a lodger living in her closet.

That lodger, of course, was Lemmy — er, Joe, a sort of mountaintop guru of rambling wisdom. As the boyfriend dude says in the trailer, “I like your advice, but I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

To which Joe/Lemmy replied, “Well, that’s your problem, innit, chief?”

But yeah: “Don’t forget us. Our name is Motörhead. We play rock ‘n’ roll.”