Archive for the ‘musings’ Category
Art schools – stone buildings – Scottish Neo-Classical architecture – whiskey sauce – neeps – getting swept along in a novel (when it suddenly kicks off) – curtains – photography – autumn – autumn colours – Friday evenings – teaching – learning – Spitfires – small breasts – French accent – reading the newspaper over breakfast – prunes – heritage – story structure – Curtis Mayfield
Kicked off the day at 06:45 in my office (third booth to right) at Mel’s Diner on Sunset, ready for a shoot north of LA [see LA Woman]. Nothing like a good diner omelette to get you fuelled up for porno production. The PA, Beatrice, picked me up and took a cool route out past Laurel Canyon onto the freeway. We picked up the producer-director, Ronan McCloskey, on the way.
We drove back to the gated community, the big innocuous house, and waited for the arrival of the ‘new girl’. She came through the white picket garden gate carrying her cloth bag of costumes which included an electric blue bra and various short dresses – none were used in the end, everything was selected for her by the boss-woman. Shortly after the boss-man arrived, casual in his jeans and T-shirt, looking relaxed, not at all thrown by the fact he was going to be nailing this 22 year old on camera within the hour.
We began shooting. As the producer-director was a bit short-handed and was self-shooting he asked me to do sound and then that morphed into doing the interviews. I had a ball – it’s been a while.
The wife&husband dynamic duo who were making this porno explained this was a very straight-forward kind – the Interview Video. The new girl gets interviewed, has some photos taken, does a “tease” (ie takes off her clothes) and then gets screwed on the couch (only two weeks old, shouldn’t we get some more easy to change covers?) The couch ends up getting covered in fake tan. The New Girl is wearing fake tan because she’s trying to cover up an injury from her first porno which was only 18 days ago. This is her fourth. Her knees are scabbed because she was doing a reverse cowgirl and got really bad friction burn off a rug. She’s done her best to disguise the wounds.
I get a chance to chat a bit by the pool before things start. She’s from the middle of the country and has flown to LA (her first visit) to do her debut five sessions of porn. She is using the money to pay her way through university. She wants to become a psychiatric nurse. She earns enough in this hour and a bit to outstrip two weeks normal work on double shifts.
Interesting details come out of the convo. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a stripper when I was quite fucked-up (in a good way) on my stag night, upstairs at El Parador. I can’t recall a word of that exchange (I couldn’t within two hours of it) but the vibe was similar to this. This New Girl has had body confidence issues. She doesn’t seem to see the probable connection with this new activity of taking all your clothes off, though I try to see if she’ll acknowledge the link.
She takes all her clothes off. Good body, even prettier face. The whole thing’s interesting to see – once. But somehow sad.
The stills are incredible – the boss-man/male performer is so close he must have the widest lens ever. From two inches from her arse how the hell is he getting her smiling face in?
When the time for sex arrives we withdraw to the other side of the white garage where the horses are. I read my book about Bob Dylan and Blood on the Tracks in the bright California sun, relieved to have a bit of another world and culture.
After the scene the boss-couple strip off the couch cover and I interview them. He has a natural gift for getting hard on camera and has a big dick. That’s how he got into porn while still a student in his native Europe. (She referred to this capability as “strong / strength” during our intro chat the day before.). She modelled, lost her clothes along the way, then felt the urge to have sex with guys like this on camera. She reads avidly and has a fine collection of books lying around the room in whose corner the fucking took place. She’s got a signed Richard Dawkins book of which she’s proud.
He is charming and friendly, animated and very helpful. She is pretty and practical, cares about story-telling and delights in her young family. I learnt a good lesson a while ago during my sabbatical about books and covers. This experience is related. I don’t feel compelled to make judgments moral or otherwise. These are decent people and they have a very professional attitude and pride. The same is true of the New Girl – she really wants to do a good job.
The second New Girl is postponed because the boss-man was feeling light-headed towards the end of the scene. The New Girl had talked during her interview for us about how she has clear boundaries about what she won’t do and she listed them – cream-pies (she politely explains what that is), group sex, ‘torture’, anal, etc. “Do you do anal in your own sex life?” asks the boss-man with disingenuous charm and out of the blue. She confirms she does. “I thought so.” “How did you know?” I asked with disingenuous charm. “I licked her ass-hole during the scene.” It was a point-of-view scene so he was filming it and licking away at the same time. It must be a bit like playing Twister. His question coming out of nowhere somehow punctured a veil of politeness or euphemism which us outsiders maintained. Anyhow, the second New Girl is coming tomorrow. Just as well, reckon I’d had enough for one day.
Watching and filming him saying goodbye to ‘Olivia’ was fascinating – slightly awkward given what they’d just been up to. We too took our leave and headed back to cold beer and guacamole out back of a Mexican on Sunset. An all-round exotic day…
Well, that was an interesting day. Got weirder and weirder. Started out from the rock-steeped Sunset Marquis hotel (shades of Joe Strummer and The Stones) past the Hockneyesque pool with my colleague Jody to explore the Sunset Strip. (Had already done half a day’s work in the overlap zone between PST and BST.) We checked out the Viper Room (I watched Running On Empty two nights ago and was reflecting on River Phoenix’s premature passing) and Whiskey-a-Go-Go (shades of Jim & The Doors). Pulled into an old-school bookstore and picked up some vinyl including Five Leaves Left, featuring a photo on the back by Keith Morris whose original hangs on our stairs at home.
[I’m writing this post at the junction of Mulholland Drive and Laurel Canyon (shades of Crosby and Young), driving out to a film shoot in Hidden Hills.]
Peeled off into Beverly Hills where we checked out residential LA with its fake-grass and fanciful flowers. Short pit-stop for an iced coffee where we people-watched – a male jogger with no top and tight lycra bottoms leaving nothing to the imagination, jogging being the operative word; a woman all in black with her friend all in white, Spy vs Spy, too old for their Porsche, faces distorted through Beverly Hills surgery. Then on to Melrose where we landed in the middle of a paparazzi ambush of Hollywood actress Hilary Duff, in a sheer shirt, carefully showing off her black lacy bra to the media collaborators (in this Princess Di style ‘accidental’ encounter going about her everyday business).
So far so LA LA. Then we hook up with the director and PA of a short form series I’ve got shooting out here about the LA underworld. The PA can’t start her car without breathing into a breathalyzer device (very Lynchian) due to a past DUI. Every time she does a sharp manoeuvre, like rounding a tight bend, the thing goes off and she has to do a test on the fly. All a bit Blue Velvet.
[Now on Ventura Freeway, shades of America (the US band that made it big from Kentish Town). She’s sitting beside me now as I write, device across her lap.]
We head out for a meeting with our key interviewee, a porn star made good through the family-run porn business she’s set up – both she and her hubby are leading stars. She’s pretty and delightful, lives in a gated community north of the city, loves reading and horses. She showed us around the house and facilities, all set up to be optimized for porn shooting – the pool, the living room, the out-buildings. Up in the office were the costumes – tiny skirts and huge heels. She shows us an 11-page script for a two and a half hour movie – the sex only takes up a line, the actors aren’t great with dialogue she explains. She opens the porn cupboard under the stairs – baby oil, condoms, hard drives, medication.
Back in the house we have a flowing chat which ranges from the impact of having a porn-star husband on their sex life (don’t ask if he’s done two scenes that day) to the two-weekly blood and urine tests (darn, there goes my hopes of a porn-star career, phobic about blood tests), from the reaction of her family to her vocation to her preference for working with only the four or five stars she actually fancies, from the rise of a Viagra generation of stars without the “strength” of the previous generation like her husband to her passage from nudie pics to porn films which she really felt a pull to do. She revealed that that cliché of young girl shows up in LA to became a starlet and drifts into porn is the wrong way round – girls with a bit of porn experience suddenly take up acting lessons and think why not take a crack at it. She described the experience of working with newbies who show up with a yeast infection, not fit for action, and little knowledge of their own bodies or sexual hygiene due to their roots in low socio-economic groups. All this over coffee at the dining table, not your everyday convo but a suitably weird adventure.
The crew and I repair to the bar of the Sunset Marquis to plan the shoot the next day. Two casting couch films. New girls. How LALA is that going to be …?
To be “at sixes and sevens” is a British English idiom used to describe a state of confusion or disarray.
6/7: Ten years ago last night I was at a Greek restaurant in Primrose Hill with my Best Man celebrating our native city having been awarded the 2012 Olympic Games. It was a balmy summer night and we were high on it.
Earlier in the day I’d been in a meeting room at Channel 4 with my then boss, Heather Rabbatts, whose husband was a key player behind the London 2012 bid, specifically the use of London’s youth to capture the spirit of the proposition. We stopped mid meeting to switch on the telly and tune into the result announcement. “The International Olympic Committee has the honour of announcing the games of the 30th Olympiad in 2012 are awarded to the city of………. London!” Hugs were hugged, champagne was broached. 7/7: The next morning – a decade ago this morning – I was in the gym in Pimlico before work. I was watching the screens vaguely whilst running and suddenly some kind of power problem seemed to be hitting the tube system. As I jogged on the power surge turned gradually, uncertainly, into something altogether darker… A few hours later saw me walking from Horseferry Road via Camden & Kentish Towns to Muswell Hill. Up to Kentish Town I was with a commissioning editor from Drama, I forget her name after these years but I have a hazy notion of red hair. She lived really near my younger brother off Prince of Wales Road. I’ve no real memory any more how I got from there to Muswell Hill, but I arrived just in time for my older son’s art exhibition which was happening that afternoon and was the object of my cross-London journey. He had created art – the opposite of Hasib Nobody, who was the same age (18) as that son is now when he bombed Londoners. We walked back among other walkers who combined sadness and shock with determination and resilience – an unspoken solidarity which was the opposite of Mohammad Nobody, Shehezad Nobody and Germaine Nobody (age 19). They bombed Londoners caring only for the future of their own black souls, ironic since their only future was ash, alone in their eternal shame. In the wake of their zombie crime no real mark was made on London. Its diverse population just grew. No Muslims were assaulted. It grew into the most popular city on the planet.
As I walked home from work tonight I went to have a look at a Supermarine Spitfire mark 1A, the hero of the Battle of Britain alongside the 18 and 19 year olds who flew them, risking their lives to defend their country against Fascism with no thoughts for their own futures. The plane is to be auctioned for charity thanks to a US philanthropist in two days time, the eve of when the Battle of Britain started 75 years ago this month, 10th July 1940. At lunchtime I had popped over to Tate Britain whose walls are pockmarked by the bombs that dropped on our city later that summer as the Blitz began. The cowardice of 7/7 made less impression on this city than those bits of shrapnel that took little bits of stone out of the Tate’s walls. Inside those walls today I saw a work by one of the two greatest artists of the 20th Century – Three Studies for Figures at the base of a Crucifixion. The mouths according to Francis Bacon are of Hitler and fellow Nazis spouting bile and hollow propaganda – the kind of thing ISIL and Al Qaeda pour into the ears and vacuum headspaces of young Muslims and rootless converts. Painted 4 years after the Blitz kicked in it captures the bestial depths humanity can plunge to – but in an act of creation and human brilliance which is the opposite of 7/7. It’s an act of love and – as we all know – love is stronger than death.
The creative process is a cocktail of instinct, skill, culture and a highly creative feverishness. It is not like a drug; it is a particular state when everything happens very quickly, a mixture of consciousness and unconsciousness, of fear and pleasure; it’s a little like making love, the physical act of love.
– Francis Bacon
Me and my friend were walking, in the cold light of morning
Tears may blind the eyes but the soul is not deceived
In this world even winter ain’t what it seems
Here come the blue skies, here come the springtime
When the rivers run high and the tears run dry
When everything that dies, shall rise
Love, love, love
Is stronger than death
– The The
I just came home to this note from Enfant Terrible No. 1. It indicates that his Catholic education stuck to some degree, however little time he has for formal religion. It’s also a sign that his Music Education stuck to some degree because it refers to the borrowing without express permission of the paternal CDs (ranging from Curtis Mayfield to Siouxsie & The Banshees) in order to flesh out a newly broadened music collection. For nearly a decade we had wall-to-wall rap and then suddenly the dam has burst and The Enlightenment has flowed.
The beginnings of this are documented below in Passing the Baton.
I want to pick up the thread this day last week on Father’s Day, as good a one as ever occurred.
I get up relatively early (for a Sunday) to take said Enfant Terrible to his weekend job, teaching little kids rugby at a local school (the school where The Kinks went back in the golden era). Before leaving he handed me this home-made card:
Inside are written the wondrous words: “continue to musically educate us”. In the meantime from The Cure to The Doors, from Diana Ross to The Boss, they’re working their way through the goldmine.
Once back to the house I go for a run in St Pancras & Islington Cemetery (do your jogging or you’ll end up in here), listening to Inheritance Tracks from Radio 4. Here are mine from 3 years ago, but I think de facto at this point the one I’ve bequeathed may be Sympathy for the Devil. I was listening to the lyrics the other day while watching Crossfire Hurricane with Enfant Terrible No. 2 and they really are brilliantly epic for a young man of Jagger’s then age.
When I get back from my run I clean the bird shit off the car and pick up all the litter on Maurice’s allotment beside my house (Maurice is rarely able to get here any more due to old age taking its toll and Luis, the Portuguese fella who looks after the massive plot for Maurice, just doesn’t get the idea of litter/rubbish – it’s a cultural thing, either OK for possible recycling or weirdly invisible.) So a couple of physical activities for the greater good, always feels good. The original Forgive-Me-Father was a great advocate of service as the path to happiness.
In the afternoon we went down to our annual local festival, the East Finchley Community Festival in Cherry Tree Woods. I did a short stint on the stall of The Phoenix Cinema, where I am a trustee. Little kids were drawing discs to use in a Zoetrope type device, watching their work back as animation. The rest of the time I was mainly by the main music stage where the highlight for me was a bunch of geezers of my vintage playing tracks from my music collection, as raided above, like Song from Under the Floorboards and something by Talking Heads which now escapes my silver-fox vintage memory.
While I was sitting there the solution to a mystery came in over the airwaves. I’d bought a vinyl copy of Born to Run at Alan’s the day before. On the cover was a name that looked more like a signature than a name written to assert ownership of the record.
I whacked this photo online and drew it to the attention of my best man, a Springsteen veteran and connoisseur – he took 9 minutes to work out whose signature it was (he had a book signed by the same person) – it was Eric Meola, the photographer of the famously stark no-nonsense black&white Born to Run cover. So not a bad acquisition for £7. I told Alan the story on my way home from the festival on this beautiful summer evening and he shared the piquant addendum that the copy had come from the collection of singer Paul Young (of Q-Tips, Band Aid and solo fame).
In the evening the ETs gave me my Father’s Day present, a subscription to Spotify on which was prepared a playlist called ‘The Enlightenment’ consisting of loads of songs I’d shared with them over the years which they now really appreciated. It was clearly the product of many hours work, including the use of Shazaam to identify unnamed tracks I had put on early birthday compilation cassettes for them.
We went up to Highgate for dinner together, unbooked and last minute as I prefer. It was chilled, great larks. On our return we set up a collaborative playlist called ‘3-way Music Education’…
Watching/photos of diving. Flowers. Roof top views (Mediterranean). Chicas with black hair. Sea breeze. Church bells. Tortilla. Long lunches (Mediterranean). Generosity by children. Records. Record shops. Tranquility. Fountains and water in gardens. Watching movies with the Enfants Terribles. Saracens. D’s laugh. Sparrows. Playing Top 3s en famille. Handstands under water. Community.
Blues guitar. Cafe con leche. The Sagrada Familia (especially the coloured interior light). Sitar at sunset. Crema Catalana. Back in Black (memories of driving to school with JRT). Dappled sunlight in Spanish squares. Flamenco singing in real-life. Parrots (especially escapees in London). Sharing Peking crispy duck. Curvy architecture.
Palm trees. Browsing flea markets. Rum’n’Raisin ice cream (especially in South of France, seriously alcohol-soaked). Waves. Working away quietly with someone sleeping in the room. Chalky old-school mineral (Vichy) water. Collecting things. Collections. Traditional shops. Fresh sheets. Beautifully designed playing cards. Harbours. Breasts. Siestas. Playing backgammon in the shade after lunch. Strolling the city at sundown. Teaching your children stuff. Deep sleep.
Today is Record Shop Day. I’ve been frequenting mine (Alan’s in East Finchley) plenty recently so I’m just making an internal nod to indy record shops and I’ve just played a classic record Spiral Scratch by (the) Buzzcocks (albeit not on vinyl, I’m in the wrong room) – the track I played is Boredom because I’ve been thinking about it a lot yesterday and today.
I’m living in this movie
But it doesn’t move me
I’m the man that’s waiting for the phone to ring
Hear it ring-a-ding-a-fucking-ding
You know me, I’m acting dumb
You know the scene, very humdrum
Boredom, boredom, boredom
I was just out jogging, listening to a podcast with Irish writer John Banville talking about Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe. Banville, under his low-brow pen-name Benjamin Black (which I don’t much like – as fake as they come, a bit like Julian Barnes’ Dan Kavanagh), recently wrote a Marlowe book at the request of Chandler’s estate, The Black-Eyed Blonde. Marlowe stories usually start with the gumshoe sitting bored in his down-at-heel office waiting for something to happen, usually a dame walking through the door to give him a knight-errant mission.
Then late last night I was listening to a radio programme from BBC Radio 4 called The Buchan Tradition about John Buchan, marking the centenary year of The 39 Steps. Richard Hannay is bored in London at the start of that ripping yarn when lo and behold a spy dies on his living room carpet and the adventure begins.
That’s also often the case with Sherlock Holmes – he’s bored out of his brain, coked off his face, ennui has well and truly set in when a character shows up at 221b with a juicy mystery to solve.
One of my favourites, a resident of The Shelf of Honour, The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers, opens with the protagonist bored in the “dead and fermenting city”, London in the dog-days of late summer. When the opportunity crops up to sail around the Baltic and North Sea coasts, in spitting distance of imperial Germany, with an English eccentric in an Aran jumper, it’s the perfect cure not just to boredom, but also to the complacency and materialism of modern life. One of my favourite scenes is when Carruthers, the narrator, can’t fit his trunk through the opening into the Dulcibella, the boat he is due to go off for a trip in and he has to dump most of his stuff (which he never really needed).
Recently I watched again one of my all-time favourite movies, Apocalypse Now, with Enfant Terrible No. 1 (a convert to The Godfather movies). Damn it’s good. Great. Nearly perfect. It opens with Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) bored to near-death in a hotel room in Saigon. Waiting for a mission.
Saigon…shit. I’m only in Saigon.
Every time, I think I’m gonna wake up back in the jungle.
I’m here a week now. Waiting for a mission. Getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker. And every minute Charlie squats in the bush…he gets stronger. Each time I looked around…the walls moved in a little tighter.
There’s boredom as debilitating ennui as in Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. But there’s also boredom as a motivator, a prompt into adventure. The question is whether in real life the blonde walks through the door or the spy expires on your carpet? Does the ring-a-ding-a-fucking-ding really come?
I’m standing on the terrace of the Château Grimaldi in Vieil Antibes (aka le Musee Picasso). Below is an expanse of azure sea punctuated with dozens of white sails travelling in various incomprehensible lines as they race from whoknowswhere to somewhereelse. I couldn’t be happier being back in Antibes/Juan Les Pins. I’m here for the MIP TV market/Digital Emmys, my usual reason for being in this neck of the woods, but as a veteran of such things, I know to stay in Juan rather than Cannes.
Juan-les-Pins has two particular resonances for me – my European grandparents and jazz. The former, a Germano-Polish alliance, used to come here in the 50s and 60s as it was à la mode, the In place. They both enjoyed gambling so I expect the casino was a significant attraction. The latter I suspect was not unrelated to this modishness as it was the golden age of modal jazz and other such modern experimentation. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen stuff about Miles and Coltrane playing here. This hotel (I’m now on the balcony of my room at Le Grand Pavois as my phone ran out of juice at the end of the first paragraph) has a Sidney Bechet room. Somewhere near the patch of sea I can see through the pines is a commemoration of the international jazz festival they used to hold in town.
A quick bit of Googling shows that Trane played at the festival in 1965 and a live LP was recorded, and Miles played here in July 1969. That probably makes the Trane performance within 6 months of the release of ‘A Love Supreme’.
A bit more Googling reveals that Coltrane, Tyner, Garrison & Jones (the recorders/creators of ‘A Love Supreme’) were the band who played in Juan on 26/27 July 1965 and they played A Love Supreme, Impressions and Naima, which makes it I believe the one and only live performance of ‘A Love Supreme’, one of my favourite records, the opening track of which I’ve left a request to have played at my funeral (on the way in).
Back in the land very much of the living, today has been a pretty blessed one. The taxi driver who picked me up in Nice had a PhD in history of art from the Sorbonne and taught there. Cue interesting conversation about Fragonard, Boucher, etc. The hotel room they put me in is a corner room and because of its odd shape is big enough to play football in and has this huge sweeping balcony hugging the curved corner of the building where I’m now sitting in the golden rays of the evening sun in just a clean white towel (refreshing after the London winter).
So I dumped my coat and baggage, changed into shorts and my Save Ferris T-shirt and headed over the hill to Old Antibes. Steak frites for lunch with a glass of rosé. Crêpe citrone and café crême. Reading The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell), my book club choice. Then into the back streets by the marché provençale to the Musée Picasso, like an annual pilgrimage. It’s one of my favourite places.
I delighted in revisiting the fabulously Mediterranean ‘Joie de Vivre” (1946) which Picasso painted in the building after the war and about which I’ve written at length. This time the work that really stood out for me was ‘Nu Assis sur font vert’ (1946) which is a good example of Picasso capturing the human body in geometric, sculptural forms.
From there I passed a happy hour reading, snoozing, listening on the small harbour beach beside the marina. A walk over to Jaume Plensa’s Nomade sculpture (2010) on the harbour wall. Pleasant memories of one of my best days at Channel 4, rounding the corner of a wood to see for the first time ‘Dream’, which Plensa made as part of the ‘Big Art Project’ series. I met him that day.
On the late afternoon walk home I had one of the best ice-creams I’ve ever had (rum & raisin and coffee if you want to know).
The feeling that came to me walking over that hill on the way out at noon was that for all the crap going on in the world (and there’s no end of it) we need to stay in touch with the joys of living and appreciate them each and every day. That’s the only way to live. Otherwise it’s a road to madness.