Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Of Mickey, Gérard and The Ugly Tree

By now, I'm sure you've heard about the passing of the great Mickey Hargitay at age 80. He's earned his place in the cult film pantheon on the strength (and audacity) of his pre-Z Man performance as The Crimson Executioner in THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR (1965), and also for his latter day roles in Mel Welles' LADY FRANKENSTEIN (1973) and various Renato Polselli hallucinations, including the unparallelled THE REINCARNATION OF ISABEL (1973).

But when I think of Mickey Hargitay, I now think of three other things first. I think of the way Jayne Mansfield turned dreamy and answered "yes" when she Mystery Guested on WHAT'S MY LINE? and was asked if she was married to someone in show business. I think of the great movie MR. UNIVERSE (1988), in which two Hungarians journey to America to meet the most famous actor in the world -- Mickey Hargitay -- and end up driving cross-country for the pleasure, only to first encounter Mickey as he's carrying out the trash; it's one of the best movies ever made on the subject of celebrity. And I think of the moving shot of Mickey wiping away proud tears as his daughter Mariska accepted her well-deserved Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Dramatic Series for her work on LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT in 2005. In the last year of his life, Mariska also made Mickey a grandfather. He suffered great tragedies in his life, but I feel certain that he died a fulfilled and grateful man.

Word has also reached me of the death, on September 9, of screenwriter Gérard Brach, which also demands acknowledgement. Brach was the principal collaborator of Roman Polanski on all his best work, having scripted REPULSION, CUL-DE-SAC, THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, WHAT?, TESS, and even some of the later works, the best of which was 1992's BITTER MOON. He also wrote WONDERWALL, Marco Ferreri's BYE BYE MONKEY, THE NAME OF THE ROSE, and the recent RENEGADE (2004), based on the Lieutenant Blueberry comics of Jean "Moebius" Giraud. A marginal career indubitably, but one that embraced much greatness in its time.

One is torn, as ever, between wishing to pay proper homage to these names as they leave our company, and not wishing to turn one's blog into a serial necrology. In a gesture toward balancing the scales with some glad tidings, permit me to share some happy news: I'm now a published poet.

Earlier this year, as a visitor to the now-discontinued Anthony Burgess discussion boards, I made the acquaintence of a number of creative, literary-minded people and encouraged the penchant for poetry demonstrated by one of them. I strongly advised this fellow, a Mancunian named Simon Rennie, to send his work around to poetry magazines and he followed through, submitting a selection to the Manchester-based poetry magazine THE UGLY TREE... and they were accepted. Simon, in turn, encouraged me to follow suit, saying what fun it would be if the two of us were to appear in the same issue someday. And now that day has come, as both Simon and I appear in THE UGLY TREE #13, now on sale at their website. I have only one poem in this issue ("Crapulous Elektra"), but I am told by esteemed editor Paul Neads that three more will follow in #14, including one entitled "Mario Bava."

It makes me smile. In all the years I've spent online, this may be the only time where my attention to a discussion board has paid me back by extending my achievements as a writer. It's a joy and a surprise to have attempted something new like this and succeeded.

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