Celebs Behaving Badly

Copyright © 2016 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

So you know how I always humblebrag about all the famous people I’ve met, and then instead of spilling I veer off into an Emily Litella-ish rant about Soviet jewelry? Thought you might enjoy some actual celebrity dirt, so here you go.

(This is part of a series. See Celebs Behaving Badly: CalArts Edition and Celebs Behaving Badly: Burbank Edition.)

Bridge Over Bongled Water

When I was 13 I was a rabid Simon and Garfunkel fan. They performed at my town’s convention center, back in ye olden days when concert security was one guy with a flashlight. If you knew where the stage door was, you could ambush the objects of your teenage lust. Which is exactly what I did after S&G’s concert.

At the time I had a business painting pictures of cute things on river rocks that I sold in boutiques. Most people used them for paperweights. So I painted Simon’s and Garfunkel’s portraits on two rocks, which I presented to them as they ran in terror to their waiting limo.

Simon was actually quite gracious about being handed a heavy blunt object. Of course he was confused and thought me insane, but he smiled a lot. Garfunkel was further away; I had to throw his rock to him. Apparently this sort of thing happens to him a lot. Perceiving that I was throwing a rock AT him, he picked it up from where he let it crash to the ground and nailed me with it. I’d never heard an adult curse like that before.

Bonus round: Years later, my mother-in-law reported seeing Garfunkel get into another limo with his wife. She was so clutzy (or hammered, your pick) that my MIL could see her tonsils from up her skirt. Along with everyone else on that well-lit, crowded Manhattan street. Stay classy, Art.

Art Garfunkel and Mrs. Garfunkel step out.

Art Garfunkel and Mrs. Garfunkel step out.

The Man Who Fell Into My Floorthru

Back when actor Candy Clark was still lukewarm from American Graffiti, I lived in Los Angeles. My boyfriend at the time was her brother. Her boyfriend at the time was Nick Roeg, the director. To give you an idea of how tight we were, she claims to not remember me even though I was her sister-in-law for, like, eight years.

Call that what you will. I call bullshit. In a 2015 interview about The Man Who Fell to Earth, Clark said this about one of her doubles: “They hired this older actress and I thought, wow, that David Bowie is pretty brave — he was making out with her and she was about 60 years old.” The older actress whose name Clark couldn’t remember was her mother.

So Candy invited herself and Roeg to my place one Thanksgiving. I was young and broke and lived in a modest apartment in West Hollywood, when WeHo was still a hellho. Lenny Bruce lived there too, but not at the same time. My landlord swore it wasn’t the apartment where Bruce died, but I think he just said that so tenants wouldn’t bug him about the angry ghost in the coat closet.

Anyway, there wasn’t enough food to go around at this party, or even chairs. Clark arrived wearing a dress that took up my whole living room and Roeg, who clearly wished he was someplace else. (He was directing Clark and David Bowie at the time in The Man Who Fell to Earth — a time Bowie called “singularly the darkest days of my life”* and this was yet another kind of activity Roeg didn’t enjoy.)

Apparently they had no place else to go. They hijacked my intimate party, holding court in my parlor with most of my guests crowded around them like a trash fire. I spent the evening with my besties on a couch as far away as we could get without leaving.

Bonus round 1: Around this same time, Clark reportedly also swapped fluids with David Bowie , Ed Ruscha, and Mikhail Barishnikov.

Bonus round 2: Clark subsequently was incinerated by a hack-phobic demon in Amityville 3-D (1983) and ingested by The Blob (1988). Somehow she survived to sell autographs at hot rod rallies.

Bonus round 3: When Clark was shooting The Man Who Fell to Earth, I visited the set and met the incomparable Rip Torn. He’s very nice, and handsome.

Schadenfreude Bacon points: Roeg directed Art Garfunkel in the awful Bad Timing (1980).

*Bowie said this on VH1 Storytellers, S4 E7, aired 10-18-99.

Candy Clark takes a meeting.

Candy Clark takes a meeting.

I Am Tootie Hear Me Roar

When I lived in L.A. I worked at a store in Hollywood. One day showbiz poobah Jeff Wald swaggered in and screamed at everyone for no reason. (Wald managed Sylvester Stallone, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, George Carlin, Donna Summer, Flip Wilson, and a mountain of nose candy — $100,000 of it per year, in 1980s dollars.) He was dressed like a pimp. Everyone ignored him.

Eventually he left. Not for nothing, but we were relieved. In 1983 he tried to kill his ex-wife’s fiancé with his Maserati, with their 10-year-old inside. Helen Reddy (the ex) trashed Wald’s car with a mop while Wald’s bodyguard encouraged him to shoot her with his .45 stashed in the glove. I was never a Reddy fan before that. Wald also broke into Reddy’s house (kid in tow), breaking doors and windows and fleeing with $35,000 worth of stuff, including a Chagall print and a shotgun.

The well-traveled Wald was arrested for shoving the shotgun into the mouth of a Sahara Tahoe picketer, and he knocked out Rod Stewart for making him wait for a hotel room in Hawaii.

When Wald ODed in 1986, the only hospital that would admit him was Cedars-Sinai, and only because he’d built them a clinic.

Schadenfreude Bacon points: Wald married Candy Clark.

Jeff Wald and Helen Reddy

Jeff Wald and Helen Reddy making friends.

Royal Pain

You remember Jane Powell, the MGM contract starlet from so many forgettable films of the ’50s. No? Probably the most famous were Royal Wedding and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and that’s not saying much.

She was about 50 when we met, and very tiny (her Wikipedia stats say 5’1″, but that’s wildly optimistic). I was an indie fashion designer at the time. One of my customers, Wanda, owned a boutique on Sunset Strip, and one of Wanda’s friends was Jane. Actually, it was more like Jane waddled in one day and started ordering Wanda around.

Anyway, I had made an awesome custom dress for Wanda, who was a size 4. Jane saw it and wanted it. Not one like it. She wanted the exact same dress, cut down to fit her size 0 frame. Understand that this dress was engineered without any straight-line seams, like a baseball, in two difficult fabrics (silk and suede), to fit someone much bigger.

Wanda and I got into a big fight about it. She said she’d never hawk my stuff again if I didn’t do this thing. So I did it. Rebuilt the custom dress for Wanda into a custom dress for Jane. There was no CAD then, and a lot of the work involved hand stitching. It was the most elegant pain in the ass I ever attempted.

Fast forward to the fitting. Jane hated it. One of her hips was higher than the other, causing the hem to hang unevenly. It could’ve been fixed easily, but she decided to use it as an excuse to throw a temper tantrum and storm out. Hey, when Hollywood stops calling, how else ya gonna get any attention?

There was no way to resize it to fit a normal human, or even Wanda. And that’s how she got stuck with a size 0 custom dress that would fit no one ever. She hung it up in her store, but I have no idea if she ever sold it because I never spoke to her again.

The dress I made for Wanda and Jane.

The dress I made for Wanda and Jane.

How Wanda saw Jane (left); How Jane saw Jane (right).

How Wanda saw Jane (left); How Jane saw Jane (right).

The skirt I made for Jane (left); Jane's skirt from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (right).

The skirt I made for Jane (left); Jane’s skirt from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (right).

Fun Fact: In 1981 Jane Powell’s estranged husband, unemployed producer David Parlour, sued her for $3,915 monthly alimony, $1,200 monthly rent, $25,000 in attorneys’ fees, and $3,000 for an accountant to check Powell’s books. Powell claimed to be “dumbfounded.”

Greatest American Hero

I used to be a USOC-licensed bicycle racing official. I worked many races where Lance Armstrong competed as a junior drug monkey, before he won 47 Tours de France. The officials would arrive at the race venues all excited to be there, for they loved their sport. Then they’d obtain the start list and see his name on it, and go “Ohmygod Lance is here ugh.”

Lance Armstrong smells a fart.

Doug McClure or Troy Donahue (I can’t tell those guys apart)

Okay, this isn’t really my story, it’s my friends’ story which makes it hearsay, but it’s true and too funny to leave out.

Couple of my friends in high school, Laurie and Susan, they were like twins. Creepy alien twins, but cuter. Went everywhere together, had secret codes only they knew, laughed hysterically at stuff nobody else thought was funny. They were adorable.

I don’t remember how the following situation came about, but one night they were in a bar, in a state where the drinking age is 21. It was a bowling alley or something. They were maybe 17 at the time.

Also darkening this bar was red-nosed ’60s icon Doug McClure, or Troy Donahue. (Google them.) Although his showbiz shelf life was long expired, he alas had not and was still inadvisedly hitting on jailbait. He badgered Laurie and Susan relentlessly. They thought this hilarious and blew him off, repeatedly. He was obstinate, and kind of angry. He kept sniffing them and they kept ignoring him until eventually their ride came and they split, laughing hysterically.

Doug McClure and Troy Donahue. You figure it out.

Doug McClure and Troy Donahue. You figure it out.

Grouch-In-Chief

There was a restaurant I loved in New York that I visited a lot. Felidia, on 58th Street. They serve Italian food. Not the spaghetti and red sauce kind. The other stuff.

One night I was there with the better half, quietly enjoying a fabulous meal until the party at the next table got out of hand. Damn, they were loud. Look-At-Me loud. Someone at the table would say something, and then someone else would crush any spontaneous social interaction by demanding (loudly), “What do you think, Morley?” And then famed Canadian newsreader Morley Safer would hold forth interminably about something nobody cared about. Very loudly. Then they’d start all over again.

We would’ve scrammed early but the food was too good to wolf down.

Above: In his 2009 60 Minutes interview with Vogue boss Anna Wintour, Safer called her a bitch four times.

Princess Boogedyboo

One day I was standing on a long line at a big post office in Manhattan. The woman in front of me was squirming and twisting relentlessly, slinging her bags around, dropping stuff and picking it up, and generally having shpilkes over absolutely nothing. While everyone else waited quietly, she looked around nervously, like she expected them to assault her. Nobody did. Nobody cared. In fact, few people have ever been ignored so definitively. At length I realized she was Phoebe Cates.

Related posts:
No Degrees of Separation | My Date with Kevin Bacon
End of the Eighties | Walter Monheit
Joan Jett, the Queen of Rock’n’Roll, Finally Gets Crowned
Memo from the Dead Zone | 1986 World Cycling Championships
Doesn’t Harley-Davidson Make Training Wheels?

Photo Credits:
Art & Kim Garfunkel © 2004 Mitchell Levy/Globe-Photos
Candy Clark © 1976 British Lion Film Corporation
Jeff Wald & Helen Reddy © Hollywood Reporter
Jane Powell’s uglyass skirt & Christmas photos © 1954 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 
Lance Armstrong © 2015 EPA/European Pressphoto Agency
Doug McClure © 1962 National Broadcasting Company
Troy Donahue © 1960 Warner Brothers Pictures
Phoebe Cates © 1994 Ardican Films

Text and all other photos Copyright © 2016 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved
I make no money from this blog. If you find it interesting or useful, please buy my book Dead Spot. The Kindle version’s only $5 and you’ll love it! Thanks.

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Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

HELP WANTED | The Myth of the Mighty Bicycle Messenger

Back during The Great Bike Boom of the 1980s, I wrote for an assortment of cycling publications. Mostly I covered racing.

At that time there was this inexplicable American obsession with big-city bicycle messengers — or rather, the idiosyncratic romantic heroes Americans imagined they were.

I knew many New York City bike messengers and was mystified by the out-of-towner’s fascination with them. Romance, my ass. We were in a recession, and they were just a bunch of good kids making a bad living the hard way. In 1987 Cyclist magazine asked me for a report. Here it is. Enjoy!

HELP WANTED
Originally published in Cyclist Magazine, August 1987

Copyright ©1987 ©2014 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Kevin Bacon making a delivery.

Kevin Bacon making a delivery.

Let’s start this thing off with a fairy tale that came true. The prince is Nelson Vails — Olympian, film star, and officially New York City’s most famous ex-bicycle messenger.

Popular legend holds that Vails was snatched from obscurity by Fred Mengoni, the US Bicycling Hall of Famer who founded GS Mengoni USA. That’s the NYC farm team that produced international champions Alexi Grewal, Leonard Harvey Nitz, Mike McCarthy, Steve Bauer, and George Hincapie.

The story goes that one day Mengoni spotted the Harlem native chasing racers on a beater bike in Central Park. Profoundly impressed, Mengoni was moved to buy Vails his first good racing bike. The rest — Olympic stardom, product endorsement deals, film role, nice house in fancy neighborhood — it’s all history now. From ghetto to Gollywood on the express track.

Vails became the first African American to win an Olympic cycling medal (the silver), back in 1984. He also won a gold medal at the prestigious Pan Am Games in 1983. Not for nothing, but Vails’ messenger nickname was The Cheetah.

In the press, Vails’ story sold like ice water to bedouins. Hollywood couldn’t resist. So instead of making a movie about that, Columbia Pictures pandered to the appetites of drooling yahoos enraptured with idealized urban rebels (or the idea of them, anyway). The result was the fawning 1986 tribute to bicycle couriers, Quicksilver, about a fictional white stockbroker played by Kevin Bacon. Vails had a cameo. He played a bicycle messenger.

The best part of Quicksilver is the exciting opening action scene: a street race between Vails on a bike and Bacon in a cab. (Saw it or not, you know who won.) The movie goes downhill from there. New York Times reviewer Walter Goodman wrote: “Quicksilver is as much fun as a slow leak.”

No doubt about it. Bike messengers are hot stuff. But are the genuine items really the scruffy-yet-lovable street urchins portrayed in the media? Or are they slumming yuppies like Kevin Bacon, or sports champions in training, or something else? Who the heck becomes a bicycle messenger, anyway? And does the reality live up to the hype?

Nelson VailsNelson Vails delivering the bacon.

☆☆☆

At a spartan loft space one flight up from Park Avenue’s glitz, you’re welcomed into Amazing Racing Messengers by a scrawled Kilroy with a hole in the plaster instead of a nose. A crazy quilt of receipts, bike frames, posters and flags is the backdrop for Stella Buckwalter, a former racer. She looks like a fashion model, talks like a corporate executive and manages the business like an air traffic controller.

Most messengers, including Buckwalter’s, work part-time, furnish their own equipment and get a commission. Buckwalter’s are independent contractors who keep the standard 50 percent of what each trip nets, which is about $10. Buckwalter feels they don’t get compensated enough and loads them down with quarters out of her own pocket, she says, “to make sure they call for pick-ups.”

Not far away from Amazing Racing Messengers is its competitor, Born to Run. On the surface it seems antithetical to the standard courier company model. There are no random arrangements of tire tracks and chain grease. Floating amid glowing oak floors and pristine white walls is the only decoration: a landing strip of a desk covered with phones. Born to Run looks like an art gallery, sans the art.

“We just moved in,” apologizes owner Shelly Mossey, a former messenger with some great stories to tell.

While back office decor may differ, the function served by bicycle messengers stays the same. Or as Mossey puts it, couriers accommodate “anybody who can’t fax their package across town.”

Even with the proliferation of telecommunications and overnight air delivery, the cyclists’ immunity to gridlock and AT&T strikes makes them tough to beat.

Road to Riches! (Not)

Just so you know, messengers don’t get rich doing this. For 40 or so miles of daily riding, the average week’s messenger pay is a modest $250 to $300. A little ambition guarantees $450 to $600, and $1,000 weekly isn’t impossible for top earners.

But employee turnover is rapid — a messenger’s career is as spasmodic as a cabbie’s driving. And while they may have transformed communications, New York’s 3,000-plus messengers haven’t endeared themselves to the man on the street.

Despite superior bike-handling skills and a competitive attitude (plus any bull you’re asked to believe by Hollywood about stockbrokers-turned-messengers), these are not all middle-class bike racers.

The reality is that a relatively lucrative job with limited educational requirements is flypaper to immigrants and the underclasses. The racer look is often just vigorous posturing by wannabes with every reason to emulate athletes and no reason to take a driving test or learn vehicular law. Language comprehension and social graces are not givens, either.

The picture New Yorkers see frequently looks like this:

• A messenger zigzags the wrong way down a one-way street and then peels south on Madison Avenue, which goes north. He hits a pedestrian, who lies unconscious in the intersection. As a crowd gathers, he takes off without so much as a wave. Don’t want that pizza to be late!

• Joey is famous for his delivery uniform and style, which includes a hockey helmet complete with goalie’s mask. “He’ll ride the wrong way up Fifth Avenue, weaving in and out,” laughs Mossey. “At full speed. He’s totally crazed!”

• A non-English-speaking messenger drops off a package at the wrong address. The client is desperate. The frantic dispatcher tries to reconstruct the messenger’s trip. “Where did you come from?” he asks the messenger. The reply: “Cuba.”

• A messenger cuts off a bike commuter, hops a curb, scatters a gaggle of terrified pedestrians, and is stopped. A shouting match ensues. The messenger reaches into his pants as if to seize a weapon. Lycra doesn’t lie, clearly indicating the limitations of his defense options. Bewildered but relieved victims close in.

Despite the inherent chaos, it’s wrong to assume all messengers are guerillas. You’re just as likely to find gentle folk who can’t abide suits, or need flexible hours for auditions or classes. A cross-sampling of employees discloses lots of moonlighters from other trades: musicians, students, writers, artists, models — yes, even bike racers.

One of the latter is Craig Cook, a USCF-licensed junior racer. At 17 he’s more articulate and self-assured than your garden-variety teenager (or even your garden-variety racer). He looks like a choirboy from the waist up and a power sprinter from the waist down and doesn’t wear weird outfits.

Initially Cook was attracted to messengering by its mystique. That was before the pick-up that turned out to be a stack of dining chairs.

“But it also looked like a way to combine race training with a summer job,” he says. Now he finds that riding in fits and starts all day is stressful, and after-hours laps and Saturday races feel redundant. “By the end of the week,” Cook admits, “you’re sort of sick of bicycles.”

An interesting messenger subset is the small but growing contingent of women invading what’s considered male territory, because of the risks. One of them is Julia Ashcroft. Her purple locks are souvenirs from her last job, writing for a rock music publication in London. This American adventure junkie shifted to bike messenger mode, she says, “because the pay is better than a staff journalist’s, and I love riding.” She also loves the undeniable glamor of being a road warrior.

That last part, of course, comes with a downside.

Wild Kingdom

“It’s not an easy job, and it’s dangerous. It gets pretty wild for them out there,” insists Buckwalter. She estimates Amazing Racing Messengers’ crashes at one per week, “mostly minor. We try to get them to wear helmets.”

Trouble is a messenger’s shadow. Car doors open unexpectedly. Pedestrians cross against the light. One time a chicken-playing bus driver intentionally broadsided Mossey.

“Compare it to skydiving,” he suggests, remembering a messenger who lost two front teeth in an accident. “Take your eyes off the road for one second, you end up under a truck.”

Cook was prepared for bad surprises like oversized deliveries and rushes, but not certain others, like getting hit by a limousine that ran a light.

Casualties, which have doubled over the last five years, are a touchy subject. Sizable taxes and licensing fees are derived by the local government from commercial delivery activities, and the city doesn’t want the negatives publicized. But in 1986 there were 2,629 injuries and 7 fatalities in bike/motor vehicle accidents in New York. Pedestrians in the wrong place at the wrong time numbered 617, one of whom checked out permanently.

Who’s minding the store? The city claims courier services are responsible for insuring their messengers. Services claim their messengers are responsible for insuring themselves.

Just call it a free-for-all, because that’s what it is. Tired of dodging two-wheeled projectiles, irate citizens and businesses lobbied for citywide bike control several years back. City Council members and even Mayor Ed Koch jumped in, although Koch would jump into a vat of boiling Afrosheen if a camera was there. Steady streams of damning legal documents flowed between lobbyists and City Hall. Guess who was hired to deliver them.

The upshot was a toothless commercial regulation passed in 1984, Local Law 47. It requires company uniforms on messengers and identification plates on their equipment, so they can be more accurately fingered in the event of mishaps.

With messengers pretty much left to police themselves, compliance is unsurprisingly lax. Improvised head protection and comic book onesies rule. A courier named Juda authored and distributes a handout entitled Safe Cyclists Code [sic] in a sincere (if bone-headed) attempt at self-government. The Code dispenses jewels of advice like this one: “Don’t run red lights or ride against traffic without giving everyone else the right of way.”

So are couriers above the law, or what? Let’s just say they’re in a grey area of enforcement. This fact contributes substantially to their fearlessness, or foolhardiness, depending upon your vantage point.

One fellow sure to take the long view was standing on Wall Street recently, minding his own business, lost in thoughts of blind trusts and insider trading when one of Mercury’s own zoomed out of nowhere. Pedal and knee connected in a mighty crunch. David Stockman, former bad-boy budget director of the Reagan administration, went straight to the hospital. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Legends die hard, especially ones about blue-collar workers in day-glo Spandex. Andy Warhol said that in this, the Electronic Age, everyone will be a celebrity for 15 minutes. It’s been a long trip from anthropological footnote to media darling, but for better or worse, the bicycle messenger’s quarter-hour has arrived.

Team Breakaway Courier — real messengers, really racing.

Team Breakaway Courier — real messengers, really racing.

New York City’s 1992 Team Breakaway Courier. From left to right: Craig Cook, architect; Mike McCarthy, 1992 World Pro Pursuit Champion; Kurt Gustafsson, competitive skier; and Rafe Diaz, MIA. Photo © 2014 Kevin Hatt

☆☆☆

Sydney Schuster rides bikes, lifts weights and battles computers in New York City. She was hit by a bike messenger once. He is expected to recover.

Text Copyright © 1987, © 2014 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved
Photo of Nelson Vails © 2014 Nelson Vails
Photo of Team Breakaway Courier © 2014 Kevin Hatt
Photo & Video from Quicksilver © 2014 Columbia Pictures

Breaking: A new documentary about the life of Nelson Vails will premiere in New York City on February 15, 2014. It’s called Cheetah: The Nelson Vails Story. For tickets, go to Vails’ info page.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll really like my book Dead Spot!

DEAD SPOT on AmazonSydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.

Film Review | Road to Hell

road to hell title

The Long-Awaited Film by Albert Pyun

Movie Review Copyright ©2014 Sydney Schuster – All Rights Reserved

roadtohell_IMDB.43123343

I watch an awful lot of movies. I own very few. One of them is Streets of Fire, the 1984 cult rock drama by Walter Hill about a mercenary soldier, Tom Cody. Another is Cyborg, the 1989 martial arts horror extravaganza by Albert Pyun starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. So when I heard years ago that Pyun was making a sequel to Streets of Fire, it stayed on my radar like gum stuck to my shoe.

I finally got to see it this week. Let me just say this: It is stunning.

Road to Hell, as it’s called, certainly lives up to its name. A largely self-financed labor of love, it was in production for five years and survived many setbacks before finally making its maiden tour of film festivals in 2012. So far it’s won three Best Picture awards: Yellow Fever (Belfast), XIII Costa del Sol Fantasy Film Festival (Spain), and the PollyGrind UnderGround Film Festival (Las Vegas, where it also scored Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Song, and Best Visual Effects). It recently began general theatrical showings. At its first screening, Road to Hell grossed enough to make Indiewire’s box office chart, and was the only independently distributed film in the bunch.

If you get the chance to see it, do not hesitate. Go!

That said, Road to Hell is not what you’d expect. If you’re a Hill fan, keep in mind that it’s an homage, not an official sequel. If you’re a Pyun fan, you’ll love it no matter what. One viewing tip: If you never saw Streets of Fire, watch that first and you’ll appreciate Road to Hell even more. (Rent it. It’s $3 on Amazon.) For fans of both Streets of Fire and Pyun, Road to Hell is totally worth the interminable wait.

So what’s it about? Okay, first let’s review. When we last saw our hero Tom Cody (Michael Paré), it was 1984. He’d just rescued the toothsome Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) from rubber-clad kidnappers and was leaving to attend a war, apparently because he liked guns more than her. Go figure. And she was leaving their slummy ’hood, The Richmond, for rock superstardom. Fair enough.

MSDSTOF EC108

STREETS OF FIRE, Michael Pare, 1984, (c)Universal Pictures

Plotwise, Streets of Fire is your boilerplate morality play with the usual suspects. The only characters with any emotional depth are Cody and his sister Reva (Deborah Van Valkenburgh). The rest are one-dimensional, almost cartoon-like. Or as Pyun explains it, “Cody was all about Ellen and Ellen was all about Ellen.” Which is perfect here, because anything more complex would just muddy an effort of this scale. Sort of the way Ben & Jerry’s flavors all have one too many ingredients so you buy Haagen-Dazs chocolate chip instead, just so your head won’t explode.

Why pay $3 to watch this? I hear you asking. Well, Streets of Fire has singing and dancing. It has brawls and car chases and motorcycles, and stuff exploding everywhere, and the obligatory mash scene is extra steamy. It has a huge cast of talent who became famous for doing something else. The action’s artily set against other-dimensional backdrops of garish 1950-ish tableaux mixed with 1980s hair and semiautomatic weapons.

You might guess a formula like that would never work. You’d be wrong. Not to mention the soundtrack is so bitchin, it had a life all its own. There are songs by Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Ry Cooder, Leiber and Stoller, Link Wray, Bob Seger, and Meat Loaf’s wife, Jim Steinman, produced by Jimmy Iovine. The Dan Hartman hit “I Can Dream About You” made Billboard‘s Top 10 chart. In 2007 Vanity Fair rated the film’s score Number 6 on its Best Soundtracks Ever list. Simply put, Streets of Fire is a pre-CG sensory feast.

A rock & roll fable, Hill called it. Others called Streets of Fire the first music video. MTV didn’t exist yet, and Hill famously said in interviews that he filmed all the concert scenes by the seat of his pants, having no precedent to follow.

“It’s cut in time with the music!” oozed viewers who’d never seen A Hard Day’s Night. “You can’t use my song!” snorted Bruce Springsteen when told Hill didn’t want him to sing it. “It wanted to be a comedy and it turned out to be a drama,” costar Rick Moranis groused to Empire magazine. “What is this crap?” said just about everyone at industry screenings.

Nobody got it. One reviewer picked on the stars’ noses. (“…the smallest noses in show business history; perhaps this is why, when their faces meet, so little happens.” — Susan Dworkin, Ms. Magazine, August 1984)

It opened the same week as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Doom being the operative term here, box office was half what the film cost to make. ($14.5 M cost, $8 M gross.) And so Streets of Fire bombed resoundingly, thus claiming its rightful place in the pantheon of Eye Candy Rock Movies We Love, Now.

According to Hill, Streets of Fire was to be the first film in a Tom Cody trilogy. When it tanked at the box office, The Bombers Strike Back and Return of the Sorels sank with it. (Paré claimed the sequels were abandoned because everyone involved left Universal, who owned the rights to the franchise and wouldn’t play nice.)

For three decades, Streets of Fire fans waited patiently for someone to salvage the wreckage. Albert Pyun is their Argo.

Pyun, for those who don’t know, apprenticed to Akira Kurosawa in the 1970s and debuted as a feature film director in 1982, with The Sword and the Sorcerer, one of the top-grossing indie films of all time. His 50-some movies include the horrorfests Nemesis (1992) and Infection (2005), which won best picture and best director awards at VI Semana Internacional de Cine Fantástico y de Terror de Estepona. In 2013 he received the Indie Genre Spirit Award at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival.

Pyun first met Paré in the 1990s. Both were making movies for Cannon Pictures then, albeit not together, and racking up industry cred — Paré was upcycling his image to action hero after a decade of mostly forgettable TV roles and romance films, while Pyun was establishing himself as a director who could quickly make profitable movies, often two at a time.

houston knights & women's club 3

Michael Pare in “Houston Knights” (left) and “The Women’s Club” (right)

“We discussed the Road to Hell movie with Paré in 2007, in Spain” at a film festival, says Pyun’s longtime collaborator, Cynthia Curnan. “Albert and Michael had wanted to work together for a long time.”

With Pyun directing, Curnan writing and producing, and the preternaturally handsome Paré in nearly every scene, they started shooting Road to Hell in 2008. The result is more a tribute to Streets of Fire than a followup: not so much singing and dancing, way more violence and blood, all of it set against staggeringly beautiful scenery.

But that’s Pyun’s forté. Shocking visual effects, coupled with edgy dialogue by Curnan that makes you believe ordinary people can triumph in extraordinary circumstances. Like Streets of Fire, Road to Hell is way, way ahead of its time.

Much of the film’s carnage is suggested rather than shown (probably as a result of budget constraints and lost footage — I’ll get to that). There’s a lot of outside-the-letterbox mayhem and sex. Personally, I like this approach. It leaves more room for the characters to develop and the plot to run on its own wheels. A great director is one who presents stories as well as he does entrails.

I don’t want to give away too much plot here. Me, I thought I knew what to expect and still had a visceral reaction at key moments, so I’ll let some other reviewer mess up that pleasure for you.

Suffice it to say that Road to Hell didn’t win PollyGrind’s best effects award for nothing. Much like Streets of Fire, many scenes have mesmerizing other-worldly backdrops. Every color-saturated shot is carefully framed, almost like a postcard — a picture postcard from Hell.

Hell Valley, that is. That’s where we hook up with Cody again, returning from his precious war with a bad case of post traumatic stress disorder. He still has too many weapons. Hell, he is a weapon.

Having had 29 years to reconsider his earlier poor decision, he’s now on his way back to The Richmond to reconnect with the hot girlfriend who got away. Along the way he meets two new characters: Caitlin (Clare Kramer) and Ash (Courtney Peldon), a pair of fetchingly underdressed misanthropes having car trouble on Route 666.

The women are luminous and electric, even while changing a tire that’s bigger than they are, and so reprehensible it’s hard to feel sorry for them. They’re loud and pottymouthed. They kill people for fun. Caitlin thinks she’s found her soul mate in Cody.

Kramer simmers in her role. She was my favorite villain — the mean, funny, fashion-victim god Glory — in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and she makes a good baddie here. Peldon cooks, too. Her best moments come when she realizes her use-by date has expired, and she utters barely a word. It’s all on her beautiful, horrified face.

Speaking of meaningful looks, one part I was compelled to rewatch several times is the scene where Cody meets Caitlin and Ash. Look carefully. You’ll see the face of a softer, younger Cody, the one who wants to believe in love, in a pitched battle with harder, older, no-bullshit Cody who’d rather just kill. Paré’s face actually changes, then changes back. It’s more than acting (bygones, Michael) and it’s not a digital manipulation.

The technical explanation? “A camera malfunction damaged all the shots,” says Curnan. “We had to wait for technology to advance to fix them. We couldn’t afford to rotoscope each frame.” Five years after they started, they were reshooting and repairing scenes. This sequence was among them. What you see is an epic Jekyll/Hyde duel between a 40-something Paré and a 50-something Paré, duking it out for realsies.

And it’s freakin’ awesome. There isn’t a makeup artist alive who could believably achieve what Pyun accomplished here. That he arrived at it while making lemonade out of lemons is the stuff of legends.

If you don’t understand what I mean, or think I’m full of crap, or both, I refer you to 1989’s Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!, in which a then-30ish Paré alternated between a 20ish Eddie and a 40ish one wholly via makeup, and succeeded at neither. Clare Kramer had an alter ego in Buffy who was more believable, and he was a guy. Not for nothing, but in 1977 Luis Buñuel ingeniously used two actors (Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina) to play one character, Conchita, in That Obscure Object of Desire. No makeup magic there and no one laughed, either, at least not when they weren’t supposed to.

My point is, there are ways to do this sort of thing believably and too often it isn’t, due more to lack of imagination than budget. Film history is littered with detritus from failed id-versus-ego slapdowns. (The Curse of the Werewolf? The ShiningMary Reilly? Sybil? Anyone?) I say do it right or go home, and Pyun nails it.

Among Road to Hell’s other visual treats are the spectacular Nevada desert, subbing for purgatory here with enhancements recalling a bad acid trip (and cleverly referencing Streets of Fire‘s original artwork).

Road to Hell

Streets of Fire posterAnother thing I liked immensely is the juxtaposition of multiple timelines in the present (Cody’s, Ellen Dream’s, and Reva’s) with the Ellen Aim flashbacks. The present-time scenes are all different styles: a graphic novel look for Tom Cody, a cinema verité one for Ellen Dream, and a documentary feel for Reva Cody. They’re knitted artfully with the happy-fuzzy uber-romanticized memories of Ellen Aim. When they all collide at the end, you know exactly where you are.

Anyway, Van Valkenburgh reliably reprises the role of Reva. She does a fine job of tethering the day-glo present to a noir past necessarily relegated to viewer memory. It’s good to see her again. Ellen Aim is played by the sexy Anita Leeman. Other characters from Streets of Fire are mentioned but never shown at all (except for Cody’s sidekick McCoy and arch enemy Raven, briefly and gorily). As always, Brick Bardo (Scott Paulin) is in the mix, too.

Michael Paré of course plays Tom Cody. Michael Paré rocks Tom Cody. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else in that role, ever. If there’s ever a sequel to the sequel, they’ll just have to wheel Paré out and let him gum the scenery. That’s how much he owns the part.

The Cody in Road to Hell is disillusioned and surly, seeking some type of redemption while questioning whether he even deserves it. He’s so discombobulated, he even toys with the idea of badgirl Caitlin as a viable alternative to Ellen, I guess in case his childhood sweetheart who’s probably an altacocker now doesn’t work out. Caitlin’s hot. She’s there. She gives MRE new meaning. So what if she’s depraved?

Granted, it’s a lot of story packed into a compact space and I’ve only told you half of it, like I promised I wouldn’t. Pyun and Curnan cleverly manage to convey all this in terms of biblical allegory. Don’t worry. It’s fun, not preachy.

The unique concept gives an interesting spin to a plot that, in the hands of lesser storytellers, could easily be not so special. I dare you not to love the backstory exposition humorously offered by Gabriel, of all people — yes, the archangel given the unenviable job of telling the Virgin Mary that the rabbit died. Joei Fulco plays the part — yes, she’s a woman. Instead of a horn, this Gabriel wields a mean guitar and modern slang. Her mission: Snatch Cody from the jaws of hell. Woot!

One of many other scripty things Curnan does especially well is sandwich very funny quips in between body blows. Consider this one, delivered ominously by a grinning, up-to-no-good Cody: “I’ve hunted up here. I hunt wabbit. The two-legged breed.” And this, blurted by Ellen Aim’s eternally disappointed daughter (Roxy Gunn) during a confrontation about to turn postal: “I needed you my whole life, asshole!”

Streets of Fire fans will delight in the strategic reuse of signature lines throughout Road to Hell. There are slick cross references, too: a flat tire that changes everything; OTT bondage; Ellen suffers idiotic fan questions about her creative process. Her band sports the same name as Torchie’s band, the Blasters. Cody coldcocks chicks. He even mentions his “dark side,” a sly wink at another Paré cult musical, Eddie and the Cruisers.

Much to the relief of everyone except Springsteen, there’s finally an actual song called “Streets of Fire,” written for the movie by musical director Tony Riparetti and sung the hell out of by Fulco. The whole score is quite good. Two Jim Steinman songs from Streets of Fire were dusted off and performed again, this time by Gunn, and arguably better: “Nowhere Fast” and “Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young.” Gunn is a guitarist and vocalist who wrote and performed many of the film’s excellent tunes. Vegas Rocks! Magazine called Road to Hell “one of the best music-driven films of the year.”

I love Pyun’s willingness to take big chances on relative unknowns, a kind of artistic bravura that really pays off here. Newcomers Fulco and Gunn pull double duty supplying both pipes and pivotal character portrayals, and never miss a beat. Fulco, amazingly, is only about 15 here and has since moved on to leading roles in feature films. She’s going to be a huge star. Quadruple-threat Gunn also has a big career ahead. Her band The Roxy Gunn Project is a favorite on Vegas stages, with a rapidly growing fan base. Both Fulco’s and Gunn’s lungs should be gilded and enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Best of all, Road to Hell has a twist ending you’ll never expect. I foresee it winning a lot more awards. And fans. Go see it. You’re welcome.




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Road to Hell official website
Road to Hell on IMDB

Content of this blog Copyright ©2014 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved.
Road to Hell material Copyright ©2014 Albert Pyun Movies and Curnan Pictures ★ Images used with permission
Streets of Fire photo of Michael Paré and film poster art © RKO Universal Pictures

I make no money from this blog. If you find it interesting or useful, please buy my book Dead Spot. The Kindle version’s only $5 and you’ll love it! Thanks.

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Wine Snobism (and how to defeat it)

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

People often ask me: What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Why, the drinking, of course! Not much point in one without the other.

Besides, there’s nothing else to do around here except ride my bike to my fave beach bar, eat something I shouldn’t, drink margaritas and laugh at drunken tourists. If I’m on deadline or the weather sucks, I drive my cute little sports car to the local package store. Nothing fancy about it, just a reliable source of cheap and cheerful table wine.

The only other thing to do around here is watch movies. Remember Sideways? When that was the hot satellite flick, every booze store in the state was invaded by armies of toothless goobers who’d only ever drunk Bud until the week before, and now were overnight experts on pinot noir — experts driven to educate me about a wine I don’t particularly like. Thanks, Fox.

So because of one dumbass movie, giant islands of pinot noir miraculously replaced everything I went to my package store for. Keg of tequila for mixers? Problem. Six-packs of Heineken? Problem. Obscure sub-par pinot noir from Albania? How many truckloads you want?

“Where’s the tequila?” I asked the store owner. “All the agave crops — they was wiped out by droughts!” he lied. “Can’t get tequila no more.”

Why can’t there be a movie about Jimmy Choo, or goat cheese, so I can walk into any store in this backwater and get THAT?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll drink an expensive pinot noir, if someone else pays for it. I do have a refined palette — we don’t drink swill here at Casa Loco. That’s for cooking (not my department). But I’ll openly drink jug wine or stuff from a box with a spout, if it tastes okay. That’s why, when some tractor jockey tries to lecture me on fine bordeaux, I just run away with my 2-for-1 malbecs, giggling hysterically.

I just loves me some good wine. Hate wine snobs.

I’m no expert, but I used to do a lot of wine reading back in ye olden days when I made way more money and blew much of it on choice vino. I lived in a place then where that was easy to do. Plus my father-in-law who was in the business frequently laid $100 bottles of divine barolo on us. I can still taste them. A good thing, because I’ll never drink that again. I could afford nebbiolo now, which is to barolo what weasel is to ermine (i.e., same thing, different season), but nebbiolo isn’t sold here in Hooterville and never will be.

Wine is actually a very interesting subject. I spent many joyful hours talking to my father-in-law and assorted New York City wine purveyors about, you know, wine stuff. I heard awesome gossip. Like, many fabulous Australian wines were in fact South African, back during the apartheid boycotts when most countries wouldn’t buy South Africa’s pencils (or anything else). And the carmenere grape was considered extinct until a shitload of it was discovered in a South American merlot field in the 1990s, and now it’s the signature wine of Chile. And the Italians, legendarily prolific wine producers, didn’t export any of it ever until the 1980s. Why? Because they drank it all.

I am not making this up. But better to drink wine than talk about it. And as far as I’m concerned, heaven is a great $7 bottle of wine. Yes, they do exist, and rooting them out is half the fun. The bargain wines of Spain and Portugal are highly underrated. (Try a dao. Do it today!)

Cabriz Dao

Cabriz Dao

I’ve never had bad cheap Argentine or Chilean wine, either, or Oregon or Washington State wine. And if you’re a fan of the (ridiculously overpriced) California zinfandels, try an Italian primitivo. Same grape, lower price point. Do you like beer but must impress your snotty friends? One word: gewurztraminer. Hard to say, easy to drink with its upscale lager-like flavor.

Here are some tasty cheap wines ($10 and under) currently making me very happy. Cheers!

Foral de Lisboa (Portugal – castelao, touriga franca, syrah)
Palo Alto Reserve (Chile – cabernet sauvignon, carmenere, syrah)
Los Dos (Spain – syrah, grenache)
Mandra Rossa Fiano (Sicily)
Nativa Terra Reserva Carmenere (Chile)
Castello Monaci Piluna Primitivo (Italy)
Lamarca Prosecco (Italy – okay, it’s $13, but it’s sparkling, dammit!)
Le Grand Noir GSM (France – grenache, shiraz, mourvedre)
Casillero del Diablo Malbec (Chile)
Natura Malbec (Chile – organic)

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

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No Degrees of Separation | My Date with Kevin Bacon

NO DEGREES OF SEPARATION
My Date with Kevin Bacon

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Anyone who lives in LA or New York (and I’ve lived in both) bumps into famous people all the time. Me, I’ve seen more famous people than the LAPD.

Most of the time I’m underwhelmed. When Walter Wriston was still CEO of Citicorp, I made him give me an office building. When someone introduced me to Elvin Bishop, I asked him why he was late. I ignored Nicolas Roeg at a party at my own house. I got stuck on a post office line behind Phoebe Cates acting all paranoid about people making an embarrassing fuss, but no one gave a crap. You get the picture.

Anyway, you know how, when you unexpectedly run into someone famous, there’s a beat or two during which you know you know this person but can’t remember why? Well, that didn’t happen yesterday when I was in the art supply store, shopping for crazy handmade papers with names like Mango:natural slate. The aisle was very narrow and I’m very wide. Someone who wanted the Marbled momi:volcano I was blocking said, “Excuse me.”

I looked up. Blow me down! It was Kyra Sedgwick. With her was her mate, hat pulled over his eyes and looking down, apparently hoping nobody would ask him to do the Footloose dance.

Go figure. One second I’m fingering weird paper with garbage mashed into it, the next I’m looking into the smiling face of The Closer. And, um, Mr. Closer. In a store that writers and actors totally don’t need, in a city where none of us lives.

Fun facts: She’s a tiny lady with a huge grin that lights up her whole face. He dyes his hair black so fans won’t recognize him (no problem — I’d totally hit that). My half of our conversation: “Uh, sure!”

So it’s official. I am now zero degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. Everyone I know moves up five (except my friend Lew who knows Kevin’s sister, and my actor ex-boyfriend, a Kevin Bacon look-alike who lost every part he ever auditioned for to … Kevin Bacon). Plus, I have a big honking girlcrush on Mrs. Bacon. No one’s ever been so nice about telling me to get out of the way.

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

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Doesn’t Harley-Davidson Make Training Wheels?

In 1991 Spy Magazine asked the multi-talented Paul Rudnick to write an epic feature about celebrity faux rebels. They asked me to write the sidebar about faux rebel bikers. Because I had a huge file about this sort of thing plus industry friends who were inclined to gossip, mine was the stress-free (and admittedly much shorter) assignment, submitted by deadline. Rudnick’s was not.

The magazine told me they weren’t going to pay me until they got the feature. A month passed with no paycheck, then another.

Rudnick is a celebrated novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. He authored (among many other things) the screenplay for The Stepford Wives and satiric film reviews for Premiere magazine as “Libby Gelman-Waxner.” In 1991 he was a regular Spy contributor, and an awesome scribe in early bloom as the Hot New Showbiz Thing. He had more stuff on his plate than a Denny’s Grand Slam.

I’d never met Rudnick, but he was listed in the phone book so I called and asked him what up. (This was before the Internet, when people had to actually talk to each other.) Nicest guy in the world! So mean with a keyboard, so sweet to a struggling freelancer. He asked Spy to pay me immediately, and by god they did!

Rudnick’s delicious main article was called “Everybody’s a Rebel.” It was the cover story for the March 1992 issue, which came complete with lick-and-stick biker tats. What follows is the part I wrote. You can see the entire article as it originally appeared here.

And thank you, Paul.

Doesn’t Harley-Davidson Make Training Wheels?
Copyright © 1991 © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Like the leather jacket, the motorcycle has outgrown its humble beginnings as an item of utility: Bikes are now fashion accessories, props for tediously long ad supplements, and the subjects of custody battles. They’ve inspired charity drives (Harleys for the Homeless!) and preemptive movie-contract clauses (a tradition begun when Warner Bros. forbade Steve McQueen from riding his Triumph to the set of Bullitt). But just as the amateur owners of fancy, professional-quality cameras often don’t know how to work the things, possessing a bitchin’ bike doesn’t necessarily mean one knows how to operate it properly. Herewith, a collection of notable motorheads with varying degrees of road competence.

DAN AKROYD rides a police bike with red lights, siren, and dashboard scanner tuned to police frequencies. He recently hosted a legal-aid benefit for convicted drug trafficker Sandy Alexander, a former Hell’s Angels president so cretinous that even the Angels have disowned him.

GARY BUSEY, an anti-helmet-law lobbyist, sustained temporary brain damage when he crashed his Harley into a curb in 1988. Though he claimed to have been doing 50 mph, a witness said he was cruising at a walking pace. Afterward, Busey told the press he still wouldn’t wear a helmet. He was subsequently fired from the film Cadence because he couldn’t remember his lines. Last seen on talk shows saying he’d reconsidered the helmet thing.

DAVID CROSBY, the ex-inmate and firearms buff, broke his leg, ankle and shoulder when he lost control on a curve in Encino, California, in 1990. He claimed his new Harley’s throttle had stuck open.

The late MALCOLM FORBES, who at one time owned 72 bikes, once suffered a collapsed lung and a concussion and broke two ribs. Nine days later he felt well enough to crash a balloon.

BILLY IDOL ran his Harley through an L.A. stop sign and into a car in 1990, breaking his leg and arm. As a result, what was to have been his first major film role (as a roadie in The Doors) was greatly reduced. [Update: because of his injuries, Idol also forfeited the role of the T-1000 cyborg in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which was so memorably performed by Robert Patrick.]

BILLY JOEL, who owns two motorcycles, dresses way down when he takes his bikes in to be serviced to assure that he won’t be overcharged. (One dealer says he once mistook Joel for a bum and chased him away from a $14,000 BMW.) In 1982, driving his Harley illegally with a learner’s permit, Joel collided with a car in Huntington, New York, and fractured his wrist and thumb.

JOHN LARROQUETTE broke his collarbone in a dirt-biking accident in Malibu in 1991. “He’s more embarrassed than hurt,” said a spokesperson, who added that some of his Night Court wardrobe had to be altered “to hide his wound on the set.”

JAY LENO owns 15 bikes, and his two-garage home is equipped with a motorcycle elevator. Around 1977 he trashed a Honda CBX, and in 1991 he fractured his leg when he made a U-turn and was hit by another motorcyclist.

JUDD NELSON drives a bike with “SCUM” painted on it.

MICKEY ROURKE’s mechanic says Rourke “doesn’t care how his Harley runs, as long as it’s loud.” Other biker qualification: hires men to rough up people who look at his woman.

BROOKE SHIELDS was introduced to biking in 1987 by a 420-pound Undertaker (his club, not his profession) whom she met in a topless bar. “She didn’t even bitch about being sore afterward,” he told Outlaw Biker.

ROBERT SINCLAIR, the 59-year-old recently retired CEO of SAAB Cars USA, wiped out at around 100 mph in 1988, breaking his hand and melting his face shield.

KEN WAHL claims that were it not for a teenage motorcycle mishap, he might have become a pro baseball star instead of embarking on the career (gas-station attendant) that led him to acting.

😜😜😜

In the Not For Nothing Department: Yes, Harley training wheels do exist!

In the Not For Nothing Department: Yes, Harley training wheels do exist!

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

I make no money from this blog. If you find it interesting or useful, please buy my book Dead Spot. The Kindle version’s only $5 and you’ll love it! Thanks.

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The Stiff That Wouldn’t Die | Eddie and the Cruisers

This is a story I wrote around 1992. It’s kinda long, but if you like showbiz dirt, stick with it.

It was never published but got thisclose three times. The first magazine decided I didn’t bash celebrities hard or fast or famous enough. The second magazine changed hands before the piece could run, and it got lost in the shuffle. The third magazine, whose content typically derived from repeating other mags’ reportage, demurred because they didn’t understand where the quotes from named sources came from. It’s called “getting an interview,” dogs — bite me!

The story appears here in its original 1992 form, except for a few updates and outtakes too good to leave out. Therefore, some information will seem dated. It is what it is. Real good!

A hack director wants to make the Springsteen story. A desperate band wants a recording contract. A bad actor tells everyone he’s a rock star. A bargain-hunting backer gets a surprise windfall. What do you get?

The Stiff That Wouldn't DieCopyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Go ahead—name one good thing about movie musicals.

That’s right. Unless you’re a Julie Andrews fan, you can’t. That’s because most musicals are on autodestruct. They cost too much. They rarely turn a profit. They age badly, and they ruined Elvis. Often, stars as untalented as they are famous must be dubbed surreptitiously. Poor Marni Nixon is still apologizing because bad swimmer Natalie Wood really wanted to sing in West Side Story.

Sadly, movie musicals often launch stars from other media into the footnotes of film history. Remember Light of Day with Joan Jett? The Allnighter with Suzanna Hoffs? One Trick Pony with Paul Simon? Didn’t think so.

Drifting in this swamp of flotsam is a pair of floaters that were all this and worse. They were low budget and looked it. Their plots defied credulity. The first one’s music was blatantly anachronistic. How the cult bombathon Eddie and the Cruisers got to be the innovative musical of the 1980s is really two intertwining tales of how Hollywood steamrollered a perfectly good novel twice, and a small-town bar band rescued two panting dogs from B-movie hell.

guitars

It all started around 1980, when former Ashley Famous (now ICM) talent agent Martin Davidson decided he could make a better dead rocker film than 1978’s The Buddy Holly Story, or even 1979’s The Rose. Davidson had a hook. His dead rocker would be Bruce Springsteen.

Davidson, you may remember, was immortalized in the Julia Phillips Hollywood tell-all You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again as a writer-screwing philistine. [At a party, he screamed at people that Charles Webb, who was cheated out of screenwriter pay for the Oscar-winning film adaptation of his book The Graduate, deserved to be a shoe salesman in the East Village, which he was. — ss]

After co-directing the sleeper hit The Lords of Flatbush in 1974, Davidson optioned the novel Eddie and the Cruisers, an entertaining yarn about the premature dispatch of an enigmatic rock‘n’roll idol. He then convinced Canadian investors Aurora Film Partners to give him $7 million to film it.

652855

It was a perfectly good book, but because Davidson couldn’t leave well enough alone and Aurora was essentially an investment outfit, Eddie wound up as a tax shelter for dentists.

The production values say it all: Actors’ mouths sing when the soundtrack doesn’t; a boom mic swoops through a shot; props move by themselves; a car drives into oncoming traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel. Lines of dialog howl. “You got your Edsels, Norges, Dumonts — and Eddie Wilson, together at last, creating our own incredible monument to nothing!” Sheesh.

The book Davidson adapted deserved better. Former Wall Street Journal reporter P.F. Kluge authored the lively mystery about a fictional 1950s New Jersey band and its Rubic’s Cube of a front man, Eddie Wilson. Strictly a seashore cover band at first, the Cruisers switch to original material and catch fire. Mistakenly thinking he’s Mozart, Eddie embarks upon an overly ambitious, ill-fated musical experiment. He and the session tapes disappear, and the grumpy Cruisers disband at their career apex.

Thanks to a fairly convoluted plot line, everyone is hounding the surviving Cruisers now, two decades later. The story’s narrator is former keyboardist Frank Ridgeway (Tom Berenger), whom we find mired in a midlife crisis, brooding about his year as a Cruiser and searching for Eddie’s lost tapes. Frank’s sojourn is rudely impacted by bad people who are also chasing his maguffin.

From 1980 to 1982, everyone involved with the cinematic Eddie was chasing something too — a film start. Along the way were financing delays, two fired screenwriters, and an unusable score by, of all people, Joe “You Light Up My Life” Brooks. Brooks was canned [and indicted on 11 counts of rape] and the screenplay was finished by Davidson and his sister Arlene, with uncompensated and uncredited assistance from Kluge.

In another time-honored Hollywood tradition, the final script diverged wildly from the source material. For example, the 1950s flashbacks moved to the 1960s. Eddie’s groundbreaking jazz fusion foray morphed into a post-medicated-Beatles style concept album. The book’s linchpin, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, became Arthur Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell.  A homicidal Rolling Stone writer and his oversexed girlfriend were replaced by one character, an insipid Diane Sawyerish TV reporter who never takes notes (Ellen Barkin). In the book, the missing tapes are in someone’s sock drawer; in the movie they’ve sat in a junkyard for twenty years, miraculously undeteriorated.

From the time he sold Martin Davidson the film rights to his novel, Kluge never really expected his creation to survive intact. “If a butcher buys a cow,” he says he told friends, “is he gonna make changes?”

On top of all that was the Eddie problem. Kluge’s character was a skinny, no-frills Buddy Holly sort. Davidson’s unswerving vision was Bruce Springsteen.

The director denied having a fixation, claiming in interviews that Dion and Jim Morrison were his true inspirations. But someone sent Springsteen a script. And Springsteen’s then-girlfriend, actress Joyce Hyser, was a finalist for the part of Eddie’s girlfriend. Davidson even asked Springsteen’s sound-alike friend, Southside Johnny Lyon of the Asbury Jukes, to produce the score.

No one was bothered that Springsteen, then 33 but not dead, was a tad hoary to play an 18-year-old. No one considered that he might be a budget buster, too. Or that the E Street sound was neither technologically nor historically possible in 1962. In any case, Lyon declined, Hyser lost, and Bruce never called back. [Southside Johnny did record three songs for the film as himself with the Jukes, all of which were cut out.]

A more cost-effective unknown won the Eddie role. Twenty-four-year-old Michael Paré looked like a Calvin Klein ad, had an intractable Brooklyn accent, and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Paré’s main talents were effecting a smug superciliousness and filling out jeans nicely, the only skills Davidson apparently figured a rock star needed.

Paré had twelve lines of dialog. But he — and not top-billed Berenger — got the star treatment: a feature in Interview, fashion layouts in Vanity Fair. He careened over the top in interviews, claiming he was a Culinary Institute of America grad (he dropped out halfway through the program), Tavern on the Green’s head chef (just a cook, says Tavern), and a top Zoli model (the agency has no payroll record of him). [An actual top Zoli model of the era told me he saw Paré at some go-sees; that’s apparently as far as he got.] Paré also allegedly studied acting with Uta Hagen. Judge for yourself.

On the dork side: Michael Paré helps model Nancy Donahue with a chiropractic adjustment.

On the dork side: Michael Paré helps model Nancy Donahue with a chiropractic adjustment.

In 1981 the Irish guy with the French name played an Italian kid in ABC’s “The Greatest American Hero,” and a Brooklyn kid in the TV movie Crazy Times. [Paré told Seventeen magazine he also was a crowd scene extra in The Chosen and Fort Apache the Bronx.] This was his entire resume when he was cast, without a test, as rebel wasp Eddie Wilson.

Michael Pare and another woman on Greatest American Hero.

Michael Paré and another woman in “The Greatest American Hero.”

Arlene Davidson boasted to Cosmopolitan magazine that Paré didn’t need to test. “We took one look at him and knew we’d found our Eddie.” [Whatever. In the Seventeen story, Marty Davidson says he thought Paré was “a breath of fresh air” when they first met. After filming started, Davidson tried to fire him.]

Long story short, in the end it took three people to build Eddie Wilson. Paré merely supplied the Thighmastered body. The virtuoso lead guitar licks were provided by Gary Gramolini, and the rhythm guitar work and suspiciously Bosslike singing voice are John Cafferty’s. Both musicians are from a Rhode Island-based band called Beaver Brown. The other members — don’t call them Cruisers, thanks — are keyboardist Bobby Cotoia, bassist Pat Lupo, saxophonist Michael “Tunes” Antunes, original drummer Kenny Jo Silva, and new drummer Jackie Santos.

The band honked around the same club circuit for twenty years with (and managed to outlast) the now-defunct E Street Band. The two white groups with black saxophonists and whisky-voiced front men have been compared relentlessly.

“When you have a group of people the same age, who basically listened to the same radio frequencies at the same time, there are certain things that you all draw from,” Antunes explains without even waiting for the question he still hears every day. “We think of it as a compliment.”

The main difference can be summed up pretty quickly. Cafferty is one of the great underrated vocalists of the century. By comparison, Springsteen croons with all the mellifluousness of a garbage truck on pick-up day. Bruce singing anything makes you want more beer. Cafferty singing “Drift Away” makes you weep in it.

Rolling Stone called Beaver Brown “perhaps the most popular bar band on the East Coast.” Nevertheless, the group couldn’t get a recording contract during its first decade. Bands that sound like Springsteen, recording poobahs kept telling them, don’t sell.

Then in 1982, along came Martin Davidson. He had a deal with Scotti Brothers Records for a soundtrack album for Eddie and the Cruisers. Scotti Brothers is best known for supplying Stallone film soundtracks to your neighborhood bargain bin.

The Scotti sibs are Ben, Fred and Tony. Ben’s an ex-football star (Redskins, Eagles, 49ers) and pugilist (he KOed teammate John Mellekas during an argument over who killed JFK). Tony was a colorful casualty in the granddaddy trash film Valley of the Dolls, and more recently oversaw the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures. Fred’s the one who got permission for Weird Al Yankovic’s Coolio parody “Amish Paradise” that Coolio claims he never gave. All three Scotti brothers exec-produced the tranny comedy mess He’s My Girl. The Scottis know talent. They planned to release the Eddie soundtrack through CBS — Springsteen’s distributor. All they needed was musicians.

Left: Tony Scotti & counterculture casualty Sharon Tate. Right: Ben Scotti gets his arabesque on.

Left: Tony Scotti & counterculture casualty Sharon Tate. Right: Ben Scotti gets his arabesque on.

Fred Scotti in 2007 (left). Kenny Vance (right).

Left: Fred Scotti in 2007. Right: Kenny Vance.

Beaver Brown, Davidson’s fourth choice in his attempt to invoke Springsteen (unless John Mellencamp and Alex Chilton also declined [as it turns out, Rick Springfield was a contender]) was recruited by Davidson’s long-suffering musical director, Kenny Vance. Vance was with Jay and the Americans once. Check it out: His is the tenor singing voice of Cruiser bassist Sal Amato (acted by Axis carmaker shill Matthew Laurance). [Laurance made German car ads for American TV.]

In a neat in-joke, Vance also plays Lew Eisen, the despotic mogul of the film’s Satin Records — the kind of creep you know Vance has met a few times for real. (This was actually the most inspired casting of the whole production, in a tie with Martin Davidson as Barkin’s clueless news colleague.) [Fun Fact: Davidson also gave himself a role in The Lords of Flatbush. Because he’s, you know, just like Hitchcock!]

Vance/Eisen hasn’t heard “Revolver” yet and rebuffs Eddie’s artistic experiment. Vance gets the enviable cinematic task of telling Paré/Eddie he’s no musician.

Eddie takes the news personally and drives his ’57 Chevy off a bridge. He doesn’t bob up with wacky Kennedyesque excuses and a limp date, so everyone assumes he drowned. Except the next day, the Cruiser tapes maligned by Eisen inexplicably vanish from the studio. Is Eddie really alive? Duh.

The movie relies heavily on flashback to 1962-1964, when the Beatles still backed Tony Sheridan and the Boss still hid girlie magazines under his bunkbed. Here the soundtrack falters only in that stylistically, some of the songs couldn’t have been performed that way at that time. But the music is great, as its cult-like legion of followers still attests. That includes “some real rabid fans from Japan that fly to the United States to see us play,” says Beaver Brown bassist Pat Lupo.

“Marty pretty much gave Kenny and the band a free hand in the music,” says Lupo. “He liked us a lot and he trusted us. Marty took a big shot in giving us as much creative control as he did. We had never scored a film before.”

To help with the visual cues informing the film’s period look, Vance recycled Southside Johnny Lyon as his technical adviser. Lyon was tasked with shaping six unknowns into the onscreen Cruisers, a massive feat considering four weren’t musicians and two weren’t  actors. The latter — cabaret hottie Helen Schneider and Beaver Brown saxophonist Michael Antunes — turned in the only authentic performances as band members: Schneider as Eddie’s dishy squeeze Joann, and Antunes as Wendell Newton, a doomed character from the novel whom Davidson admitted to Rolling Stone that he rewrote with E Street’s Clarence Clemons in mind.

The period costumes were covered by expert shopper Sandy Davidson, Martin’s wife. In bowling shirts, skinny lapels, and pre-Spandex stretch knits, all the Cruisers look correct. All of them, that is, except Eddie. Somebody dressed Eddie like … well, like John Cafferty.

Cafferty’s trademark rolled-sleeve black Ts, tatty jeans, and Cuban heel roach-chasers are the exact same not-very-’62 costume Paré wore in the film. Arlene Davidson says the vintage outfits worn by the rest of the cast looked stupid on Paré’s overpumped chassis.

“We were forced to use the only clothes on hand that fit,” she recalls. “The T-shirts and jeans are what he looked best in.” So it was just a coincidence. Really.

No one would go on record about the very special relationship between guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Cafferty and pseudo-guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Paré. In a press release, a quote attributed to Tony Scotti lauded the “tremendous collaboration between … Michael Paré and John Cafferty” — a collaboration, say insiders, that consisted of Paré catching exactly one of Cafferty’s performances, which he left early and then parroted shamelessly.

Officially everyone scoffs at any rivalry. But Paré stated in many interviews that he “played” Cafferty’s music. (The only “playing” by Paré was in the rooftop scene where the Cruisers perform “On the Dark Side” for the first time, accompanied by a loud and painfully off-beat whumping sound. It’s Paré’s foot.)

Paré did, in fact, make an album of his own. An album, in fact, that you’ll never hear. It consists of nine songs in which he pathetically apes Cafferty, who (among other things) can hit every note and doesn’t sing through his nose. [And btw, there’s no “playing” by Paré on his album, only “singing.”] The producer shopped it around for years before finally giving up.

Cafferty doesn’t like to talk about Paré. Pretty much all that’s on record is what he told Rolling Stone in 1983: “It’s really hard for me to deal with the fact that ‘Tender Years,’ my most important song, is in a film and somebody else is lip-syncing it.”

Tender Years singles

But one memorable night in 1991, he made up for years of silence. At a gig at the Lone Star Roadhouse in New York City, a free-range no-brainer asked him, “How did that guy in the Eddie movies write all those great songs?” Cafferty went ballistic. “That guy,” he exploded, “didn’t write nuthin’!”

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Cafferty and Paré collided head on and fast, creating their own incredible monument to nothing when Eddie and the Cruisers was released in September 1983. Promotion was cryptic and minimal. The ads were all pictures and no words. Roger Ebert called the film “all buildup and no payoff.”

Variety crowned it “a mish-mash of a film.” The New York Times deadpanned: “Eddie’s final declaration … stretches the material’s potential for melodrama to its limit, and beyond.”

Other reviews proclaimed it flat out stank, with Rolling Stone using four pages to say just how much. “A dumb, hackneyed melodrama,” wrote Steve Pond. “Isn’t it a little early to make The Bruce Springsteen Story?”

1980s advertising for Eddie and the Cruisers - UK poster (left), US newspaper ad (right)

1980s advertising for Eddie and the Cruisers – UK poster (left), US newspaper ad (right)

The film opened in only eleven cities, shrank to two after five weeks, then disappeared. Filmgoers were more interested in seeing Risky Business and Return of the Jedi. According to Variety, Eddie grossed just under $1.7 million, or about 24 percent of what it cost to make.

The soundtrack went begging too, at first. It was released as an Eddie and the Cruisers record, with Paré on the cover instead of the band that made it. Some of its ten Cafferty/Beaver Brown cuts smack of E Street circa 1977. Others, however, pay delightful homage to Elvis Presley, Dion, and Bobby Freeman.

In July 1984 HBO began a 26-time national run of the Eddie movie, and 17,000 soundtracks sold within a four-day period. Rather unexpectedly, it was soon number 9 on Billboard’s album chart.

The press was all over the then-12-year-old band, hailing them as overnight sensations. In early interviews, Cafferty dismissed his iconic song “On the Dark Side” as “a vehicle for actors.” A year later that stoogemobile reached number 7 on Billboard’s singles chart and number 1 as an MTV music video. It’s still his biggest hit. [In 2015 Spin ranked it number 14 on its 50 Best Fictional Songs of All Time list.]

In August 1984 the soundtrack went gold. By October it had gone platinum. Eventually it sold over 3 million copies, although no one was sure to whom.

Citing what they called an “independent study,” Scotti Brothers claimed Eddie had an astounding 90 percent recognition rate among film viewers age 12-24 following its cable debut.

Perhaps. But the most compelling thing about what happened is actually this: Before Eddie, cable was considered solely an instrument for squeezing the last dollar out of Hollywood flops. Post-Eddie it was perceived quite differently — as a powerful sales tool for direct marketing. Putting it another way, you may very well have Eddie and the Cruisers to blame for the Home Shopping Network.

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Eddie and the Cruisers is singular in moviedom for another reason: It’s the only dead rocker picture with a sequel.

Released in August 1989, Eddie and the Cruisers II — Eddie Lives! picks up the story where Eddie I dumped it. Eddie’s body was never found, it turns out, because he swam to Canada and got a day job.

The Davidsons weren’t involved with the sequel, which the Scotti brothers commandeered.

According to P.F. Kluge, the Scottis didn’t like the first script they’d commissioned from screenwriter Zev Cohen. They hired Kluge to cowrite a replacement with executive producer Jim Stewart. The Scottis didn’t like that script, either. Kluge says they had Cohen rewrite the Kluge/Stewart script. Then they retooled Kluge’s sequel fee by deducting his screenplay fee from it — after they’d grossed $18 million from Eddie I soundtrack sales.

Eddie’s creator is admirably restrained about being treated like an ATM by the Scottis. “I don’t resent their making money out of it,” says Kluge. “I hope they’re satisfied with the work they do.”

Although Variety called it “one of the most commercial indie pics since Dirty Dancing,” the work in question is exactly what you’d expect from seven producers, a splatter pic director (Jean-Claude Lord — Visiting Hours, The Vindicator), and Aurora, which got in on the action again mostly to take advantage of a new 166 percent Quebecois film tax write-off. It shows.

eddie 2

In Eddie II it’s 1984 or thereabouts, and “dead” Eddie has become a legend. The lost experimental tapes have turned up at last. The same unscrupulous music company exec who called Eddie a jerkoff in 1964 is now issuing recordings of “new” Eddie material, a la Jimi Hendrix. Cha-ching!

Eddie’s really torqued now, and he’s dying to tell someone he’s not dead. His passion for life renewed, our hero straps on a new girlfriend named Diane, slathers on some hair product, and organizes a new band with a black saxophonist who play music ahead of their time. Bloodsucking opportunists glom onto Eddie. He goes looking for a bridge in a used Chevy. Diane convinces him that music is more important than greedy sleazebags. Eddie triumphs.

Eddie II lasted about four weeks in theaters, grossing (according to Variety) five figures or less. Scotti Brothers won’t talk about it. The film then retreated to video and cable.

People who wouldn’t be caught dead watching it in movie houses apparently felt more benevolent at home with their blinds drawn. Eddie II spent three months on Variety’s Top 50 video rental list. The soundtrack recording sold over 500,000 copies.

Michael Paré reprised the Eddie role. John Cafferty and Beaver Brown wrote and performed all ten new numbers for Eddie’s ’80s band. The soundtrack album cover has a photo of Paré “playing” them.

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The band’s popular Eddie catalog alternates traditional rock‘n’roll with smoldering, throbbing stuff about death, resurrection, and devil women that Cafferty wrote to order for directors in the habit of requesting abstruse nonsense. (“Music with Eddie’s pulse” was one such directive.)

Still, it’s all solid stuff, and the Eddie scores stand as a textbook example of astute soundtrack craftsmanship. They transcend being just good music as they adroitly cover details the scripts leave out, such as plots, and what might have constituted artistic rebellion against stultifying Eisenhower-era Top 40.

What happened to Beaver Brown’s careers then, or didn’t happen, is weird. They made two other albums with Scotti Brothers, who didn’t bother promoting either one. Two singles from the first LP, “Tough All Over,” made the Top 20 anyway. The other album, “Roadhouse,” was even more textured and sophisticated and gone in a blink.

tough all over, roadhouse[Author’s update: In 1997 Cafferty sued Scotti Brothers Records in a landmark federal case for copyright infringement, false advertising, unfair competition, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. He wasn’t paid royalties for an album of live performances and other records (Scotti Brothers claimed they gave them away to customers). Cafferty also claimed that the release of previously unreleased Beaver Brown music and rerelease of Beaver Brown albums as Eddie and the Cruisers records were breaches of contract, and forced him to unfairly compete against himself. He asked the court to order Scotti Brothers to return his property. Cafferty lost the case, and Scotti Brothers (now All American Communications) retained ownership of his recordings.]

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We are now left with one nagging question: Would today’s discriminating moviegoers, after sorting out seating arrangements with their Glocks, be receptive to Eddie III?

The Scotti brothers are certainly ready. Like Satin Records, they keep releasing music outtakes from the first two movies, without notifying the band or paying them.

Beaver Brown’s Pat Lupo says, “I really don’t know what their plans are. Then again, you’re talking to a band member. We’re probably the least informed of anybody.”

Asked if he had news of Eddie III, P.F. Kluge replied, “Good Lord, no!”

Michael Paré was too busy making straight-to-video flicks to return calls for this story, but back in 1989 he claimed in an AP interview that Eddie III was a done deal. He has since appeared in many non-Eddie films naked and on a Spy Magazine list of celebrity prostitutes.

[Fun Fact: Paré portrayed a demonic rock star who gets BBQed by Satan in the 1995 crapfest Raging Angels, directed by the incomparable Alan Smithee.]

Arlene Davidson, the frequent target of low-wattage admirers bearing Eddie scripts, says it’s a short bus she won’t drive again. “There was nothing to work on on Eddie II — no real story. The movie had nothing to say. No way will there be an Eddie III.”

[In 2015 Paré told the Washington Post he’s writing a script for Eddie III himself.]

eddie and the cruisers iii posters

Meanwhile, Beaver Brown still plays clubs. Kluge still writes books and teaches college in Ohio. Martin Davidson went on to direct the box office turkey Heart of Dixie. Scotti Brothers keeps releasing Cafferty/Beaver Brown albums with silly fake concert photos of Paré on the covers. [And Kenny Vance produced an Eddie and the Cruisers stage musical in 2001 and kinda forgot to notify all the movie people about it.]

In 1991 Scotti Brothers issued a CD called “The Unreleased Tapes.” It featured “lost” Eddie songs (four Cafferty/Beaver Brown numbers lopped off the last soundtrack) and a super-special bonus, presumably to save money by not buying new material from Beaver Brown: gripping dialog from both movies! It’s deja vu all over again.

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Above: Michael Paré and Matthew Laurance explain the magic.
“We were horrible. Southside Johnny worked with us as a band. He would get really upset.”


Above: John Cafferty and Beaver Brown performing on American Bandstand in 1986.


Above: Michael Paré 1989 interview about Eddie and the Cruisers II.
“I take [the band] out on the road. We put together a whole new bunch of songs. [They never actually played them. — ss] We had two weeks to rehearse.”


Above: Michael Paré 2012 interview. About Eddie and the Cruisers II (17:35):
“The director came to me and said, ‘I can’t stand this script or the music in this movie.’ And I had to work for this guy for seven more weeks knowing he hated the fucking movie. You can’t print this.”


Above: This is Michael Paré’s demo reel. Eddie Wilson isn’t on it.

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Read this interesting scholarly post by Oxford University Press about Eddie and the Cruisers!

Text copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved.

I make no money from this blog. If you find it interesting or useful, please buy my book Dead Spot. The Kindle version‘s only $5 and you’ll love it! Thanks.

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Photo of Michael Paré and Nancy Donahue © Vanity Fair.
Photo of Michael Paré in The Greatest American Hero © Stephen J. Cannell Productions/ABC.
Eddie and the Cruisers book cover © P.F. Kluge
Photos of Tony Scotti and Ben Scotti © Twentieth Century Fox, © Philadelphia Eagles.
Photo of Fred Scotti © Kevin Cable and David Rossi.
Photo of Kenny Vance © Kenny Vance and Josh Aronson.
Advertising photos © Lee Barnes and © NaturesJoy’s Clippings Pinups Books.
Album covers © Scotti Brothers Records/All American Communications.
Eddie and the Cruisers III movie posters © Kevin Matterson (left) and © Jeff Webber, Andrew Huff, Shylo Bisnett for Gapers Block (right).

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.