Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Blame it on the rising temperatures, the bitter end of our Obama Era honeymoon—or maybe it’s just the fact that they’re getting ready to take away our fucking cigarettes—but it seems like everyone is in a particularly bad mood this week. Suddenly everyone has a very loud bone to pick with someone, whether it be Sarah Palin taking a bold stand against humor or Bret Michaels picking a fight with the totally not awesome, definitely not hot Tony Awards set-piece that said, “Whassa going on?” to his face. That sense of pent-up anger and growing hate has become so pervasive, why, it’s even started creeping into our summertime fun vacation spots like the Holocaust Museum! But seriously, folks, what the fuck is wrong with you? Why’s everybody so angry lately? Is it endemic of some larger social problem, or is it (to flatter ourselves a bit) just the poisonous influence of our own cynicism? Perhaps we would all do well to try and redirect our efforts toward engendering charity and goodwill, rather than always focusing on the negative… But nah, that sounds like a lot of work for a bunch of assholes who won’t appreciate it anyway. Fuck it. Let’s just do some Friday Buzzkills.

Besides, you know, you could go your whole life trying to bring some semblance of happiness to the world, seeking only to entertain and maybe even inspire, and you'd still end up with your bones picked clean by the buzzards of prurient interest, some of them even handfed by people you thought were your loved ones. Witness the increasingly Grand Guignol-esque sideshow developing around the late David Carradine, whose already-horrifying death last week has slowly but surely developed into a tale from the crypt for ghouls both malignant and well-intentioned as details continue to creep out from ill-informed sources, and speculation as to its actual cause continues to build.


Not helping matters any: Carradine’s all-too-happy-to-help ex-wives, who are currently in the “sell embarrassing stories to TMZ” stage of grief, and have recently become the chief suppliers of all the sordid details of their late lover’s “sexual deviancy.” On the heels of last week’s Smoking Gun post of the divorce filings from Carradine’s most recent ex, Marina Anderson (which accused Carradine of practicing “deviant sexual behavior which was potentially deadly,” as well as engaging in “an incestuous relationship with a very close family member”), this week Carradine’s third ex-wife Gail Jensen gave TMZ approximately 40 percent of its non-“Whose Butt Is That?”/”Kate Gosselin Is A Bitch” content by telling them all about Carradine’s “Christ-like obsession with auto-erotica”—a story based not, incidentally, on his belief that auto-erotica would heal the sick and feed the poor, but on the one time that she came home and found him tied up in, as Chris Cornell would dub it, his "Jesus Christ pose."

Because refusing to feed the tabloid machine with defamatory private details of your late ex-husband’s life is a luxury no one can afford right now—and especially when it would be totally déclassé to serve an amuse-bouche of awfulness like that without an abominable aperitif—Jensen all-too-happily “dropped more personal bombshells” in yet another interview, this time with NY Daily News’ Patricia Towle, claiming that Carradine would make frequent trips to the hardware store and “spend days planning to construct elaborate sexual devices.” However, she later clarified that what she meant was that Carradine loved being tied up—but “it was never sexual.” Glad we got that cleared up before people jumped to the wrong conclusions!


And just because the world is full of people who know that the price of personal liberty is eternal vigilance (by rubbernecking opportunists), TMZ also asked the owner of adult store Susie’s Delights, where Carradine was reportedly a regular, to plug her store by way of sharing with the world the “David Carradine Sex Toy Shopping List,” a bounty that included “women’s lingerie, stockings, a few pieces of bondage equipment, and three bondage DVDs.” You know, for Journalism. According to the owner, Carradine placed the order a few weeks before his death, and talked to her “for almost an hour,” during which he revealed that “he was upset because he felt his wife was unhappy with him.” (Because if you can’t unburden yourself to the owner of the sex shop you frequent, who can you unburden yourself to?) [*Guilty, complicit sigh.*] Yup. This entire story has officially turned into one long episode of CSI: Miami that not even a well-timed joke from that commenter with the David Caruso shtick can save…

Thank goodness then that that No. 1 Stephen Sondheim fan God rarely forgets to send in the clowns—much-needed merrymakers like formerly tolerated actor-turned-slightly-classier-version-of-Michael Lohan, Jon Voight, who this week appeared at a Republican fundraiser and accused President Obama of being a “soft-spoken Julius Caesar” who wants to take all the world’s leaders to a playground, where they’ll swing on the swing-sets and play doctor behind the slide until the UN catches them and threatens to tell their mothers. Or something. Then, the next day, Voight managed to make Bill O’Reilly look like a sober voice of reason by telling Fox's immovable object that he is convinced that Obama is a closet Marxist whose inability to respond to Kim Jong Il—by doing, uh, “something”—has put us all in danger, and predicting that we're headed toward an unparalleled economic disaster. All of this, of course, is based on quotes Voight pulled from “Soviet news agency” Pravda (which, in actuality, has basically become the National Enquirer of Kremlin-disseminated propaganda) and the kind of deep understanding of economics and foreign relations that can only be gleaned by starring in films like Baby Geniuses 2 and doing whatever it takes to get your estranged liberal daughter to notice you, even if it means decrying you in public, because at least that would mean you’re talking again.

Anyway, thank you, Mr. Voight, for not only providing some comic relief in these otherwise somber times, but for proving that it’s not just liberals who are prone to offering fuzzy, reactionary solutions to the world’s problems based solely on the fact that they have ready access to a microphone. If nothing else, it makes for a nice counterbalance with the typically humorless statements released by GLAAD this week, who recently launched a campaign against the upcoming Bruno: The Search For Curly’s Gay Panic by calling it “problematic in many places and outright offensive in others,” and demanding that the filmmakers add a disclaimer to the beginning letting the audience know that most homosexuals do not use babies as “man magnets” or participate in cage matches just so they can pull down their opponents’ pants and give them a big ol' homo kiss.

Yes, good thing that GLAAD always knows just how to pick its battles, because otherwise, how would all of those middle-American dumbfucks know that what they’re laughing at is in actuality an outlandish spoof about homophobia, and not a cinema vérité documentary about wacky gays? Yes, better to presume everyone’s stupidity right up front with a condescending title card (“WARNING: SATIRE”), which will certainly cause those minds to open up and hearts to grow 10 sizes too big within all of the misguided members of the paying audience who somehow think Bruno is an accurate representation of the entire gay culture. If only there were some way to convey the idea that this film is, in fact, an act of parody perpetrated by a known provocateur—say, with a months-long marketing campaign, or an insanely popular film and/or television show that established his particular form of comedy years ago. But yeah, probably better to be ridiculously prudish about it. After all, that strategy has seemed to work pretty well for the people who hate gays, right?


The again, maybe GLAAD is right: We’ve long since established that we’re all basically children, unable to sit still through “grown-up” movies unless they involve superheroes or other properties we’re already familiar, which is why almost every movie currently in development is a remake or based on some fetishized version of your childhood intended to pat you on the head, rub your tummy, and make you feel like you’re back in footy pajamas and you don’t have to face the big, scawwy world because every day is Saturday morning. That means that not only are we getting a new Schwarzenegger-less Conan The Barbarian from remake “master” Marcus Nispel to bring about the lamentations of the women (and everyone else), we’re also in serious talks to take former “thespian” Liam Neeson, shove a cigar in his mouth, and ask him to play “Hannibal” in the big, dumb, and loud update of The A-Team from Smokin’ Aces director Joe Carnahan.

Still, for an example of the way the Hollywood Dream Factory has more or less done away with the “dream” part for now, at least until imagination becomes slightly more economically viable, look no further than Robert Rodriguez: Once considered the maverick answer to a staid and bloated industry for inventive, dynamic work like El Mariachi, Rodriguez’s upcoming slate is virtually nothing but reheated hash, including a Predator reboot, a sequel to Sin City, a feature-length version of that one-note Machete joke from his own Grindhouse, and, as he announced this week to MTV, a live-action version of The Jetsons, a project he’d like to start shooting as early as next year in order to ensure that every single cartoon ever created gets the big-screen treatment before the world ends.


But hey, maybe we’re just being cynical. All these people really want to do is entertain, and what with so much of that aforementioned negativity in the world, is that really such a bad thing? Perhaps we would do well to heed the example of Jim Carrey, who—in between accusing the world’s doctors of perpetrating a global plot to inject your kids with 10CCs of autism, stat—recently found the time to have a “spiritual awakening,” which inspired him to join the Global Alliance For Transformational Entertainment, a burgeoning group of celebrities seeking to effect global change through “spiritually positive entertainment.” For his part, Carrey had the realization that “my thoughts were just an illusory thing” and that he “was no longer a fragment of the universe—I was the universe.” (Oh, and also, Dumb And Dumber is not just two hours of fart jokes, but rather a “study of pre-egoic innocence.” Watch it again!) As Carrey exemplifies, GATE is primarily a collection of New Age-obsessed celebrities who want to spread the positive vibes, man, through “transformative” works that stress spiritual growth and the importance of embracing “The Now” rather than dwelling on past and future. It should also be noted that its core contingency is rich and powerful people whose "Now" consists mainly of being rich and powerful, and whose future is probably of little concern, so long as they stay rich and powerful.

Oh, but there we go again, taking a cynical view about the power of positive thinking, simply because it’s the philosophy most frequently propagated by people whose lives are already pretty fucking swell. What’s wrong with us, anyway? Maybe it’s all this week after week of dwelling on bad news that’s gotten into us. If only there were a less objective, meticulously whitewashed version of the day’s events that we could use to view the world the way our happier betters do, i.e. through a pinhole surrounded by fluffy clouds and fluffier bunnies. Fortunately there’s Sears and AOL, who recently took time out from supplying the world’s grandparents with comfortable slacks and e-cards to develop Good News Now, an aggregate news site that Sears’ chief marketing officer Don Hamlem says “addresses the fundamental need for fulfillment and joy.” Obviously, that makes GNN the polar opposite of Friday Buzzkills—or our mortal enemy, if you want to get dramatic about it—which means it’s now become our duty to mock them mercilessly. So let’s look at some of their top stories and see if we can’t take a giant, pessimistic shit on them, ay?

Montgomery teen nears perfect school attendance record for 13 years: A story of a girl whose home life—marked by a strict “no-TV rule” where she was allowed to “sit in our room and read, that was it”—and inconsideration for others (she admits that she often came to school sick just to keep up her streak) celebrates never missing a day of class, a compulsion that’s made her a borderline-OCD, Type-A personality and set her up for what sounds like an inevitable mental breakdown, all for what is essentially the honor of earning the world’s greatest “participant” ribbon. That’s good news!

Mother delivers her own baby after hospital rejection: After being turned away by two hospitals in a row, a pregnant woman was forced to painfully deliver her own baby in the passenger seat of her car while pulled over on the side of the highway. How heroic and inspiring! And also a terrible condemnation of the medical system! Say, that’s some gooood news!

Tourist survives dangerous train ride: An Alaskan college student, on vacation in the Australian outback, got off during a brief stop to stretch his legs, lost track of time, and was forced to run after the train when it took off without him. After his banging on the windows of the dining car went ignored by the other passengers, he managed to jump into a stairwell where he clung for dear life as he suffered freezing 70mph winds while wearing only a T-shirt. Finally a crew member heard his desperate cries and stopped the train to recover the young man, who by this time was described as “having white skin and blue lips.” But, uh, he didn’t die horribly! Now that’s what we call good news!


Mmm, spiritually refreshing! Perhaps we’ll have to check back in on GNN from time to time, if only to remind ourselves that not all the news out there is horrible. Sometimes it’s just not as horrible as it could have been!

In Memoriam:

Highly regarded as a “singer’s singer,” Kenny Rankin had a warm, smooth tenor that made him a favorite of both the soft-rock and jazz crowds, but his résumé was far too varied to be dismissed so easily: He got one of his first big breaks playing guitar on Bob Dylan’s epochal Bringing It All Back Home, followed not long after by a Tonight Show appearance that so impressed Johnny Carson, the host wrote the liner notes for his 1967 debut Mind Dusters. He would go on to appear on Carson’s stage more than 25 times. Other brushes with greatness included a stint opening shows for George Carlin and the ringing endorsement of Paul McCartney, who so loved Rankin’s arrangements of Beatles tunes like “Blackbird” that he asked Rankin to perform a medley when McCartney and John Lennon were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Rankin’s commercial peak came in the 1970s, when Helen Reddy’s version of his now-standard “Peaceful” became a hit, and Rankin recorded The Kenny Rankin Album live with a 60-piece orchestra. Following a Christmas album released in 1999, Rankin slowed considerably after developing lung cancer. He died from the disease earlier this week at the age of 69.

As the most prominent of the “Nazisploitation” B-movie genre, Ilsa, She Wolf Of The SS has remained a grindhouse touchstone, frequently name-checked by lovers of trash cinema and championed via homage by directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie. Still, few know that the infamous tale of an S&M-obsessed Nazi woman was helmed by a former teenybopper actor, Don Edmonds, who grew up playing the goofy sidekick in “beach party” films like Gidget Goes Hawaiian and Beach Ball. After fully abandoning acting for the director’s chair, Edmonds capitalized on Ilsa’s success with the drive-in crowd by helming its even more outlandish sequel, Ilsa, Harem Keeper Of The Oil Sheiks, as well as the “kung-fu serial killer” thriller Bare Knuckles and rock ’n’ roll slasher fick Terror On Tour. In the ’80s, Edmonds more or less went “legit” as an executive producer, helping to get films like Short Circuit and True Romance made, but he never lost touch with his cult fanbase, turning up at scores of appearances at conventions and grindhouse film festivals right up until he was diagnosed with liver cancer earlier this year. Edmonds died this week at the age of 73.

Though he was only 27, Johnny Palermo had more than 30 film and television credits to his name, including a recurring role as the big, dumb, and loveable “Frank DiPaolo” on Everybody Hates Chris and a regular gig on Nickelodeon’s Just For Kicks. In the last year, Palermo also turned up in bit parts on the shows Rules Of Engagement and How I Met Your Mother, and had recently completed work on the forthcoming mob comedy Pizza With Bullets. Earlier this week, Palermo was riding with his girlfriend when they had a serious car accident in North Hollywood; both she and Palermo were killed instantly.


Have a super weekend!

[Friday Buzzkills is taking a week off for spiritual transformation. It will return June 26.]


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