Saturday, March 15, 2014

Almost Famous


Lester on Lister is no more. Everything was set for a gala opening night performance at the Cinegrill in Los Angeles, but the tickets just didn’t move the way we’d hoped. Five hundred dollars a seat is a small price to pay for such quality stage entertainment and we were even throwing in a free souvenir agar plate with my initials in Serratia marscesens on the field.  Obviously the audiences of this country are complete philistines when it comes to advanced artistic ideas on the relevance of bacterial culture to their everyday lives. My major backer, Padilla's Bail Bonds and Bounty Hunting, pulled out last night saying an audience of three just wasn’t worth their time; and just before the deal with HBO to commit a performance to tape for their late night programming.

I am a survivor and I'm still here and I have met adversity head on many times in the past. I wasted no time in calling my brilliant director, Peter Sellars about a new project. We have already been in touch with my darling, Bob Mackie, Mark Morris, Tharon Musser and other theatrical gods regarding a new project – Vicki on Ricki : a one woman show celebrating the life and times of Ricki Lake and her impact on modern thought and culture. Bob Mackie has already come up with sketches for an absolutely elegant fat suit for the first act.

Despite the bad news this week, Norman and I did venture out to the cinema this past weekend to return to our usual pattern of Cineplex film viewing. This time, we caught Cameron Crowe's new movie, Almost Famous . For those of you not of the boom generation, Cameron Crowe was a teenage prodigy who wrote extensively for Rolling Stone magazine in the 70s. Amongst his rock journalism, he did a lovely undercover expose of modern high schools that became the basis for Fast Times at Ridgemont High . Later, when he finally grew up, he married Nancy Wilson of Heart and became a movie writer/director with credits such as Say Anything and Jerry Maguire .

Almost Famous is the cinematic equivalent of a memory play or a roman a clef with Crowe looking back with fondness at his maturing process as he toured, at the tender age of 15, with early 70s rock bands, working as a free lance journalist. The fictional group Stillwater is a composite of The Eagles The Allman Brothers Led Zeppelin and other bands of the time. Patrick Fugit, a perfectly lovely gawky adolescent, plays the Crowe character, William Miller, on his journey from suburban San Diego to adulthood, traveling with Stillwater on a bus named Dolores.

Both Norman and I loved the movie. The casting is perfect; from Frances McDormand as the worried but interesting Psychology Professor mom back home, to gorgeous Billy Crudup as the lead guitarist, to the always interesting Jason Lee as the lead singer. The real revelation, however, is Kate Hudson, Goldie Hawn's daughter, as Penny Lane, the groupie with whom young William bonds and who acts as his guide to the Alice and Wonderland world of a band on the road. This is a star making part and Kate Hudson handles it beautifully without a false note, showing the hard edges and unique vulnerabilities of her character.

The writing, as is usual with Crowe, is sharp, character driven, and full of wonderful little touches and the production design makes all those who were young in the 70s, long to return to those halcyon days when sex, drugs, and rock n roll weren't nearly so deadly as they are now. It’s a shame this film hasn’t been a bigger hit as it’s much better than most of the dreck Hollywood vomits our way.

'Tiny Dancer' sing along. Rainbow shades. Gratuitous Fairuza Balk. Swimming pool leaps. Heterosexual underage group sex (off camera). Gratuitous Jung references. Fuzzy T-shirt photographs. ‘Spinal Tap’ moments.

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