Saturday, 31 December 2016

‘WALK ON GLASS’ BY LISA ROBINSON


 
By the late 1980s, after having had my filled of Robbins, Collins, Sheldon, I was ready to discover new authors. In came Lisa Robinson’s WALK ON GLASS (1983, Charter Books). I picked that one up during one of my hunts for used bookstores. After having amassed enough trashy paperbacks to fill at least two shelves in my reading room, I went back home and I started the novel right away. I remember how good a time I had with it. Like its many predecessors, it had something of a roman à clef. It would be interesting to see if the fun is still palpable after all these years. But what I do recall most is that WALK ON GLASS was penned by then-syndicated music columnist Lisa Robinson. I had glimpsed at her articles in some New York paper once or twice and thought them to be quite interesting. And since I’ve always been attracted to the glitter or not so glitter aspect of show business it came as no surprise that I found her novel to be just as fascinating. 

Indeed, the music industry is the main focus for this tale of love gone wrong during the rise and fall of a singer/songwriter. Unless I’m very much mistaken it goes something like this: she’s on top of the charts, meets the man of her dreams and—surprise, surprise—ends up being cheated on. Then she breaks—big time, so much so that you wish you could do a MOONSTRUCK on her. Snap out of it! But since we all know that without cupid doing his thing, novels like this one would barely exist, we suffer greatly with her and hope that she rises above. She does eventually, like any good heroine can. What’s even more rewarding, however, is that beyond her fall out, WALK ON GLASS is an insightful encyclopedia of who’s who in the music biz. Expect to be enthralled by this and by those inside scoops which in the end mostly reveal that screwing one another for a few bucks is certainly one’s main priority. I have no doubts that it still is today. 

WALK ON GLASS is sadly Lisa Robinson’s sole novel. I would have loved for her to continue on her path as a novelist. She is currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Her memoir THERE GOES GRAVITY: A LIFE IN ROCK AND ROLL was published in 2014 by Riverhead Books. I may check that one out, as you all should WALK ON GLASS.

 
 

Until next post—Martin 

1982 US hardcover



 

Monday, 19 December 2016

JACKIE COLLINS’ ‘LADY BOSS’ (1992)

 

Two years after the ratings success of LUCKY CHANCES, NBC gave the greenlight to the third chapter in the Santangelo saga called LADY BOSS. Again, the teleplay was going to be written by Collins herself and she was also going to co-executively produce the whole thing. The big difference is that Kim Delaney was going to replace Nicollette Sheridan as Lucky. Just as the character of Lenny was now going to be portrayed by sexy Jack Scalia. In fact, only hunky actor Phil Morris returned. If you recall, he played Lucky’s illegitimate half-brother lawyer. But truth be told, I couldn’t care less who was or who wasn’t going to be in it (this is how interchangeable those actors are). All I wanted is to see the end result which I finally did on that Sunday in October of 1992.

I was in a serious relationship at that time. Turned out the guy was one mean S.O.B. but back then I was in love. Or what I thought to be love. But moving on… I remember sitting my ass down after work and playing part one of the miniseries and I just couldn’t be happier. I had devoured Jackie’s novel the year prior and thought the adaptation was relatively faithful to the book. 25 years later I still find LADY BOSS to be grand.   

Kim Delaney is great as Lucky. She puts some much-needed spunk into the character. Nicollette Sheridan’s take is much too basic. Here we finally get a three-dimensional enough performance that is more relatable. Same goes for her other-half Jack Scalia. His Lenny is much more charismatic, much more at ease in his own skin, therefore more in control of his performance. Or is it just that I still have the hots for him? I mean, who wouldn’t? Look at the guy. Clearly he’s the perfect choice for a leading man.  
 

The whole whacky storyline in which Lucky infiltrates (disguised as a frumpy secretary) a Hollywood studio to expose the shady goings-on before taking it over works with a capital W. Of course this little game of hers does not bode well with her actor hubby, who, despite being unhappy there, is set against the idea of her becoming his boss. But Lucky being Lucky ends up doing what she wants, and of course the marriage suffers. The mini also features a Madonna-like star whose celebrity status brings her all sorts of problems, such as the presence of a low-life brother (!) who gladly sells stories about her to the rags. There’s also the presence of the late Joan Rivers as a Cindy Adams-like columnist who warns screen-legend Yvette Mimieux (in her last role before disappearing from the limelight) that her rich husband is screwing another woman. And yeah that is president-to-be Donald Trump making a cameo appearance. Add to the mix the recently departed Vanity who plays Phil Morris’ client-love interest and you got yourself one heck of a firecracker miniseries.  

Directed by THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT Charles Jarrott, with a catchy opening title theme composed by KNOTS LANDING Dana Kaproff, it is fair to say that JACKIE COLLINS’ LADY BOSS is stronger than its predecessor. Evidently the glam miniseries were fizzling out by then but from the looks of this one, it hardly shows. So I’m glad to report that the trend went out with a bang. We have yet to see this title graduating to the DVD market, however, but let’s not despair. HOLLYWOOD WIVES did eventually get there. So I gather that the rest of Jackie’s adapted work will see the light of day. 

 



 

Until next post—Martin

 

Monday, 12 December 2016

‘PRINCESS DAISY’ BY JUDITH KRANTZ


 
This week’s blog entry is dedicated yet again to the oeuvre of Judith Krantz, most specifically to PRINCESS DAISY, one of my favorite novels of hers. I was supposed to scrap anything regarding this author on account of the many homophobic references inserted in SCRUPLES. But the big trashy junkie that I am just couldn’t stay away. And truth be told, I’m glad I didn’t, for Judith Krantz is more than a bigot writer. She’s also one heck of a trashy storyteller. She knows how to lure her readers just the right way with her tales of the rich and the rotten, and PRINCESS DAISY is the perfect example. 

Indeed, Princess Margaret Alexandrovna Valensky has it all: loving parents, a title preceding her name and money that grows on trees—until tragedy strikes. Before you can say, oh here we go again, Daisy's charmed life is turned upside down when she is forced to face a painful past and an unsure future. And what a future it is, filled with beautiful people, royal settings, designer clothes and plenty of sex.  Suffice to say, PRINCESS DAISY is one hot read. Krantz creates an exciting bunch of characters; unidimensional, perhaps, but fun as they go at it without any filter just to get a piece of the happy pie. Yes, the author may spread it thick on the over-the-top scale, but who cares. The novel works, and that’s what’s important. It is as grand and as sinful as those secrets her heroine so desperately wants to hide. So go on, do as I did, forget about SCRUPLES and indulge in this one, for PRINCESS DAISY sure is classy stuff in escapism fiction. 

As you can see, re-reading this novel wasn’t as strenuous as I thought it would be. Sure, one of the antagonists is a sick and twisted individual who of course has homosexual tendencies, but this offensive depiction didn’t bother me as I thought it would this time around. Maybe the trick is to develop a thicker skin. Or to simply realize that villains in over-the-top novels are just as harmless as their creators if you don’t take them too seriously. Besides, the novel is from another era. I’d like to believe that people, including writers like Judith Krantz, have slackened on some of their beliefs since then. But with the re-enforcing of backlash toward minorities since Trump has been elected the next president, however, I may just end up eating my words.
 

 

Until next post—Martin
 

US Hardcover

 

 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

THE LONELY ‘NASHVILLE GIRL’


 
In the mid-2000s I had access to this TV channel where I could enjoy all types of exploitation films. It was called Drive-in Classics, and every now and then I would get caught up into some ‘70’s grindhouse movies.  Little films I would never have discovered had it not been for that now-defunct channel. So I owe big thanks to the folks behind Drive-in Classics for introducing me to this week’s featured title which since then has become one of my favorite flicks to watch.
 
Filmed in 1976 and picked up by Roger Corman for distribution, NASHVILLE GIRL tells the tale of a beautiful and talented songstress who desperately wants to become the next big thing in country music. So one day she packs up her bags and, with her precious guitar in hand, heads off to Nashville. She soon finds out that reaching for the top has many setbacks. Indeed, hardly a day goes by that she isn’t used by men. At first she recoils from them but soon learns that to make it in show business one has no way but to submit. Fortunately, this leads to a once in a lifetime chance to work with a legendary married country star who takes her under his wing and makes her sing with him to great success. But what starts out as a platonic relationship soon turns to brute force when he becomes obsessed with her to the point of raping her. Fed up with the ways of the world and now a country star herself she vows to make it on her own. As the credits roll we are left with the notion that she will get there.
 
Just like in THE LONELY LADY, SHOWGIRLS or VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, NASHVILLE GIRL uses the same Girl Caught in a Male Dominating World theme and delivers a highly enjoyable exploitation flick that has solid performances and some catchy tunes. Monica Gayle shines as the used, abused aspiring country singer who eventually becomes wiser as the film progresses. She may not have the aggressive spunk of a Neely O’Hara or the slutty way of a Nomi Malone, or even the naïve streak of a Jerilee Randall but boy does she hold her own. So good of an actress is she that she’s able to go beyond the clichés to make her character appear sympathetic. A tough job to do really when one is surrounded by nothing but sleaze. Moreover, what the film achieves in the looks department despite its meager budget is worth the price of admission alone. I’ll repeat it here: they sure don’t make them like that anymore.
 

The film was a solid success at the box office, mostly due to its appeal overseas. It was then re-released in 1980 as COUNTRY MUSIC DAUGHTER to cash in on the success of the Loretta Lynn biopic COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER. It took some 30 years for me to discover NASHVILLE GIRL, and though I had also seen and enjoyed the Sissy Spacek vehicle recently, it’s Monica Gayle’s performance in NASHVILLE GIRL that stuck with me. Which makes me wonder whatever happened to her? Her IMDb bio reports that she stopped acting in the late ‘70s, which is truly a shame, for her talent should have been celebrated in the subsequent years. I hear that she’s also a blast in SWITCHBLADE SISTERS. I need to check this one out ASAP.

  

You can still purchase NASHVILLE GIRL on DVD or Blu-ray wherever digital films are sold.


Original Poster
 

 
Until next post—Martin