Yesterday was a good day. I slept extremely well, got up, answered some emails and printed some things out that I needed to sign and scan and send back, data entered, and then made condom packs. Once I was finished with my work-at-home duties for the day, I went to the gym. Yes, that’s right–one more time for those in the back: I went to the gym again. It was a lovely late afternoon–early December is so lovely here, Constant Reader, you have no idea–and so the walk was nice. People out walking their dogs, dogs running around having a good time in Coliseum Square, a nice coolness…it’s so lovely here once the blast furnace of the summer is over.
I also wrote for a bit–not one of my better writing days, alas–and so took a break and read Donna Andrews’ Murder Most Fowl for a while until it was time for us to watch last night’s batch of episodes of Gossip Girl. The last three episodes of the reboot–although I suppose it’s really more of a sequel series than a reboot–have dropped, but last night’s was rather lame; the season is sputtering its way to the finish line, which is a shame, since it started so well with guns blazing–and we’ve come to the conclusion that we much prefer the OG. We saw the first two episodes of Season 2, and are all in once again; despite the fact that the season one finale was such a disappointment. New characters, new romances for the characters, and lots of new drama, which is wonderful. I still can’t believe we didn’t ever tune in when it was originally airing.
Today is another work-at-home day, mostly data entry but with some condom-packing perhaps later. Yesterday’s condom-packing movie was another entry in the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, and I decided to check out Shaft, the original from 1971 starring Richard Roundtree–who was sexy as fuck. I’ve never seen the original Shaft movies; there were three of them in total (Shaft’s Big Score, Shaft in Africa) released in the 1970’s, and while it’s terribly dated now, it still holds up as entertainment. And one cannot really dismiss its importance as a film, given the time in which it was produced. Here we have, in 1971, six years after the Voting Rights Act and other important civil rights legislation, a complex Black private eye as the hero of a crime film; it is a mere four years after the Oscar-winning In the Heat of the Night, with Sidney Poitier as a Philadelphia police detective solving a strange murder in rural Mississippi and having to deal with the horrific racism of the region. The film was a huge hit at the time, and it’s famous “Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes won the Oscar and was a huge hit record; I believe the entire soundtrack also sold extremely well. The character of John Shaft was created by a white writer named Ernest Tidyman–no #ownvoices there–who also co-wrote the screenplay (he also wrote the screenplay for that same year’s The French Connection–he was definitely having a good year); and published a number of novels featuring the character. Just as Virgil Tibbs and In the Heat of the Night were created by a white writer named John Ball–the novel the film was based on in that particular case was problematic–so was John Shaft; but in looking up Tidyman, I also saw that he received an Image Award from the NAACP. The plot of the movie is pretty straightforward; the Mafia is trying to muscle in on a Black mobster in Harlem, so they kidnap his daughter, so he hires Shaft to find and rescue her. The NYPD is concerned about a possible mob war between to the two rival syndicates, and also is pressuring Shaft to give up what he knows and get involved. It was very much a film of its time; I always love seeing movies film on location in New York during that time, when the city was much grimier than it is now, and its success may have been integral in the development of what came to be known as the “Blaxploitation” film in the 1970’s–when studios realized there was a big audience for films about the Black experience in America, with strong Black lead characters, giving rise to the careers of Black stars like Pam Grier, for one–and some of Chester Himes’ novels were given the Hollywood treatment. Are there any books, I wonder, about this period? Why did they stop making these movies? (They must have stopped making money, which is usually the reason Hollywood stops making any kind of film) I must make a note to do some research.
I also worked on cleaning and organizing last night, so there’s some finishing up to do here in the kitchen/office. I also had to answer some questions regarding the proofs of my story “The Snow Globe” (which will be in the upcoming anthology Murder is Magic, co-edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley), which was nice; I was very glad that story finally found a home somewhere. It was originally, of all things, a Halloween story that morphed into a Christmas story–I’ll write more about it when the book comes out–but the opening line came to me one Halloween night as I stood on the balcony of the Parade watching all the costumes down below on Bourbon Street, when someone dressed as Satan came out of Oz. The costume was totally slutty-gay; a guy with a phenomenal body wearing red boots, a red bikini covered in sequins, horns, and red body paint. Wow, I thought, Satan has a great six-pack, and laughed, because I realized it was a terrific opening line for something–short story or a book or something–and pulled out my phone and texted it to myself so I wouldn’t forget. It sat in a folder called Satan costume for many years…until I realized I could turn it into “Santa” and turn it into a Christmas horror story. And the rest, as they say, is history.
All right, it’s time for me to get back to data entry. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and will check in with you again tomorrow.