Jack the Lad

And now it’s Tuesday.

Yesterday was a strangely low-energy day for me; it was kind of overcast all day and I never really did seem to kick into a higher gear at all.

I did manage to rewatch Body Heat last night, one of my all-time favorite movies, and am delighted to report that it does, indeed, hold up after forty years. And what a film. I saw it originally in the theater; drawn in by a great review I read in the paper that compared it to Double Indemnity, or said that it was loosely based on it, or something like that. I went by myself–I trained myself to go to see movies alone in my late teens–and it was a matinee so there weren’t many people there. I remember that opening shot, of William Hurt’s bare, sweaty back as he watched a fire in the distance from his bedroom window while his hook-up dressed behind him, sitting on the edge of the bed. I remember thinking how sexy he was, and once the character of Kathleen Turner appeared on screen, I also remember thinking how gorgeous she was, as well. I knew who she was–I knew her from her role as Nola on The Doctors, and I also knew she’d been fired from the show for being overweight….which was incredibly hard to believe as I watched her slink across the screen, saying my favorite line ever from a movie: “You’re not very smart, are you? I like that in a man.” I also knew she’d been replaced by Kim Zimmer–I knew all of this because flipping through the channels one day I stopped on The Doctors because Kim Zimmer was on screen and I thought to myself, she’s really pretty and kind of reminds me of Jane Elliott–who’d played my favorite character on General Hospital, Tracy Quartermaine–and at first I did think it was Jane Elliott. I used to read Soap Opera Digest in those days, and shortly thereafter they did a piece on Kim Zimmer, which was when I learned about Kathleen Turner. (Interestingly enough, there was a strong physical resemblance between Zimmer and Turner as well; Zimmer appeared in the film in a supporting role as well)

Body Heat blew me away that first time I saw it; I watched it again when it debuted on HBO, and I try to watch it again periodically. It showed up when I was searching through HBO MAX, and last night I thought, as I waited for Paul to come home, why not? It was very tightly written as well; although last night I spotted a couple of holes in the plot–but the cast was fantastic an it moves so quickly and inevitably to its climax that you don’t really have time to catch those holes until you’ve watched it numerous times. You also have a pre-Cheers Ted Danson as the assistant prosecutor who is a friend of Ned Racine, the low-rent shitty lawyer played by William Hurt, and a very young and beautiful Mickey Rourke as Freddy, the arsonist client of his who holds several keys to the plot in his sexy hands, and of course, both Hurt and Turner at the peak of their youth and beauty.

As I watched Body Heat again last night, something else about the film struck me: it was the first time I can recall seeing a film where the camera sexualized a man in the same way it usually sexualized a woman. Hurt was shirtless or naked at least half of the time he appeared on screen, and his body–which was, for the time, quite spectacular–was shot lovingly by the camera. One of the sexiest sequences I’ve ever seen on film was one shot, where Hurt’s hook up for the night is getting dressed and he is lying in bed, naked, with a sheet draped over his groin but his left leg is uncovered, and you can actually see his naked hip, and the curve of his ass on the bed; it’s an incredibly sexy shot, and not the kind of thing that was standard for a male in a film of the time. He was meant to be seen as sexy and hot; and I don’t remember ever seeing that before in a movie; men were usually considered to be hot and sexy by dint of just being male in movies…I could, of course, be wrong, but at least that’s how I remember it. And as the 80’s progressed, what I call the “gay male gaze” began to be used to shoot beautiful actors more regularly–think about how Rob Lowe was sexualized in almost every movie he made, and it became more of a regular thing.

Body Heat inspired me to start writing noir, quite frankly. I had already read some James M. Cain (Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Mildred Pierce, Love’s Lovely Counterfeit), but as much as I loved his books it never occurred to me to start writing in that style. Body Heat, on the other hand, inspired a story I started writing called Sunburn (which was used by Laura Lippman as a title for her own noir homage to Cain a few years ago and is one of my favorite noirs), which eventually was retitled Spontaneous Combustion, and now sits in my files, waiting to be written. When I first moved to Tampa, and went for a drive along Bay Shore Boulevard, the big beautiful houses lining the road also inspired me; one in particular seemed the perfect locale for the story of the middle-aged wealthy widow who falls for a hot young man, which kicks off the story.

I’m reminded of that idea every time I watch Body Heat, and as I watched it last night, I thought about the noirs I want to write–a queer noir quintet–and as I write this I realize Spontaneous Combustion isn’t one of them.

Interesting. And on that note, I am off to the spice mines.

She’s in Love with the Boy

Well, good morning to you, too, Wednesday!

Last night after I got home and worked for a while–“Festival of the Redeemer” is coming along nicely, as well as some other things I’m doing–and when it was time to take a break for the evening, Romancing the Stone popped up on one of my streaming services (goal: determine cost-effectiveness of every streaming service compared to usage; and start canceling subscriptions–there’s far more to watch than I’ll ever be able to catch up on) and I thought, “ah, I’ve always loved this movie,” so I clicked play. I hadn’t thought about the movie in a very long time, but it’s one I remember fondly; I love Kathleen Turner and this was before Michael Douglas soured on me (I don’t know why, am aware that it’s completely unfair and based on nothing but raw feeling), I think it was one of Danny Devito’s first big roles in film after his big break as Louie on Taxi. It was clearly intended to be an attempt to reach the audiences that turned out in droves for Raiders of the Lost Ark (this was a big time for action/adventure films of this type), but while it’s not Raiders, it has a lot of its own charm and appeal.

If you’re not familiar with Romancing the Stone, it’s essentially another one of those movies about writers that shows how little screenwriters know about actual book publishing, or even how the novel-writing process works. It begins with a bizarre yet funny scene from a Western, with Kathleen Turner doing a voice over narration. As her heroine and her love interest finally evade the bad guys and ride off into the sunset together, the film cuts back to Kathleen Turner, sobbing at her typewriter, saying out loud oh that’s good, and then typing THE END. She then celebrates finishing her novel with her cat, Romeo–because she apparently has no friends, no love life, nothing, despite being an international bestselling author. (I will say, however, that one of the things I do appreciate about this film is that her apartment in Manhattan isn’t anything special; it’s not even remotely as nice as the one Monica and Rachel share on Friends–and one would think an international bestselling author could afford something nicer, but it was nice to see a relatively realistic Manhattan apartment.) She is kind of a nerdy girl; little to no make up, hair pulled back tightly, baggy clothing. Of course, over the course of the movie as she falls in love with the Michael Douglas character as they travel throughout Colombia (and there’s another flaw in the film; she has to rush off to Colombia to try to save her sister, and bring the treasure map her sister sent her in the mail–yet rather than flying from New York to Cartagena–where her sister is–she flies into some interior airport and then has to catch a bus through the jungle to Cartagena; Cartagena is a major city with an international airport. She could have just flown there–but then she wouldn’t have wound up in the interior, met the Michael Douglas character, found the treasure, etc etc etc.) We also see, as she falls in love with Jack (Michael Douglas) her blossoming into her full womanhood; she wears her hair down and lavishly styled, sexier clothes, make-up, etc.–because of course a successful career woman can’t be a complete woman without a man.

Not such a great message for a romantic adventure film, really. And once she returns to New York–and quickly bangs out a novel based on her adventures in Colombia–you can see the difference in her is also lasting, despite the fact she and Jack have been separated, but she keeps hoping–a “hopeful romantic”, as she describes herself to her only friend, her publisher, played by Holland Taylor–that he’ll show up; of course he does, complete with his dream sailing ship which they talked about in one of their getting-to-know-you, falling-in-love down sequences, and roll credits. The boat is even named after one of  her most popular characters.

I did enjoy watching the movie again, frankly; despite its weird misogynistic messages. It was a hit, and even spawned a sequel, The Jewel of the Nile, which I also remember enjoying, and it also made me think about how writers are often (incorrectly) portrayed in films and television programs–particularly romance writers. Joan, of course, is one; so is the wretched misogynist character Jack Nicholson plays in As Good as it Gets, and of course, one of my favorites–the character Meryl Streep plays in She-Devil.

But for the record, I’ve never once typed THE END when I finish a manuscript, and they also always make it seem as though writers write a complete and finished manuscript that is publishable the first time through.

If only that were the case.

I did manage, as I said earlier, to get some work done on that short story yesterday instead of what I should be working on, but sometimes something like “Festival of the Redeemer” gets stuck in your head and keeps insisting on coming out rather than what you should be doing. This morning I am going to try to get some emails caught up–I’ve already folded a load of laundry, emptied and refilled the dishwasher–and then I am going to try, desperately, to get some work done on the Secret Project, and maybe another five hundred or so words on “Festival.” I’m worrying it like a sore tooth, frankly, and for some reason I just want to write this story, give voice to this character, see Venice through his eyes, and slowly develop how poisonous the relationship he’s in actually is, and why he’s decided to do what he’s going to do in Venice. This is tricky–of course, it’s always tricky when trying to figure out motivation for killing someone, particularly when the relationship is as young as the one in the story. I don’t know if the story will actually work, and I’m not really sure I am telling it correctly, but I am deeply enjoying writing it, even if there’s no market for it anywhere.

Oh, well. I suppose I can try to talk my publisher into doing a second short story collection next year.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Wednesday, everyone!

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I Knew You Were Waiting for Me

I am sick, and I hate being sick. I suppose after spending many hours in crowds, exposed to the germs of over a hundred thousand people, while also wearing myself screaming and cheering and jumping up and down, it’s to be expected, but it’s still incredibly irritating. You never think about getting germs when you’re at a football game, but if you think about it–what better way for a plague to spread than Patient Zero attending a packed college football game? One of the most chilling chapters of Stephen King’s The Stand was a chapter about how the superflu spread out from the east Texas town of Arnette–I will always remember about how one woman stopped at a bar for a sloe gin fizz and left a dollar tip “that was crawling with death.”

I don’t think I have some horribly mutated super-flu, but my eyes hurt and so do all of my joints…and my throat is even worse than it was yesterday. I’ve gone from Kathleen Turner to Brenda Vaccaro in just over twenty-four hours, and it’s weird. My ears and sinuses were also bad yesterday, but Claritin-D has seemed to clear that right up, thank you, baby Jesus–the sinus pain is the worst.

I think I’m probably going to make myself some chicken noodle soup for lunch today, and I’m also terribly dehydrated–so I clearly need fluids.

I did some thinking about my work yesterday as I sat in my easy chair, curled up under blankets and watching the Saints game before watching the replay of the LSU game on the SEC Network (we used to do this all the time; watch the LSU game on television on Saturday, and then a local network would rebroadcast it on Sunday, when we’d watch it again so we could enjoy it without all the tension and emotion of the live-watch; knowing how the game ended made it a lot easier to watch!) and I made some notes from time to time in my journal. I was paging through Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, which I hadn’t put away after my annual re-read, and it occurred to me that there’s a terrific line that runs throughout the book, repeated over and over again, which would actually make an interesting title for a story: “Mrs. Dudley Clears at Ten.” I literally have no idea what the story would be, or who it would be about, or anything other than that title, which pleases me so much. I always start with titles, as Constant Reader should already be aware; it’s difficult for me to write anything unless I’ve given it a title already.–even if it’s one that I don’t care for or doesn’t really work. I also riffed on titles for Scotty books yesterday; as long as I can come up with a title I’ll probably be able to keep writing Scotty for as long as I want to, or as long as someone wants to publish them, and as long as people want to read them. Part of the fun of reading all this New Orleans history is that it’s giving me ideas for short stories and for novels, which is really a lot of fun. (Just as I will  never have time to read all the books I want to, I will never have the time to write every book or short story I have an idea for. Sad reality–and one that I try to deny all the time.)

So, while yesterday sucked eggs because I was feeling poorly, at least the creative side of my brain was able to function and come up with some ideas and thoughts. I also thought some more about Bury Me in Shadows, and whether I want to go ahead and try to get it finished by the end of the month. (Saturday afternoon I realized it’s not as close to being finished as I had hoped it might be….I’m going to go sit in my easy chair with the manuscript this afternoon, after I eat my soup, and see if I can figure out what needs to be added…there’s a scene that occurred to me sometime over this weekend that I think needs to be added into the first chapter…I was trying to be oblique in the writing, but I think there are some things that need to be clarified so the reader isn’t thinking, oh, it was necessary for the story for this to happen even though it really doesn’t make a lot of sense as they continue through the story–which is a horrible thought to have as an author; that you’ve contrived something because it needs to happen otherwise there’s no story.

Just thinking about it makes my stomach clench.

And I just got a wave of dizziness, so I am going to go lie back down for a while.

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