Friday, September 15, 2017
And now I've just heard that Basil has passed away the day before yesterday, September 13, at age 88 (though some Internet sources list him some 20 years younger), in time for him to have sent me that waking thought. No cause has been reported.
Upon the death of Boris Karloff in February 1969, Warren Publications wisely arranged for Gogos' return, and his elegiac portrait of Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein Monster for the cover of FM's Karloff Memorial issue (# 56) proved an instant classic. Looking back, in some ways, this cover and issue were my introduction to the mourning process and something in me, now, wants to relight its beautifully rendered candle for Basil.
The return of Gogos to the covers of FAMOUS MONSTERS was the beginning of a second and even longer streak of classic cover paintings: Jonathan Frid as DARK SHADOWS' Barnabas Collins; Fredric March as Mr. Hyde; Hurd Hatfield as Dorian Gray; Vincent Price in HOUSE OF WAX. But within the year, the magazine resorted to another recycling, this time of Lon Chaney's razor-toothed vampire from LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, FM's cover for #20 reformatted for #69. As fans, we patiently awaited the next Gogos cover. His last for the magazine came with an extraordinary portrait of Prudence Hyman as Hammer's THE GORGON for the cover of FM 179, in 1981. In a terrible lapse of judgement, a photograph of Arnold Schwarzeneggar from CONAN THE BARBARIAN was allowed to intrude upon and share the composition.
Since his passing was announced on Facebook last night, I have seen countless postings on my news feed by artists who have said, in their own ways, much the same thing - and I realized from this outpouring of gratitude that Basil Gogos was not just a seminal cultural figure but a germinal one; he presented to us largely untapped territory that was there for everyone's future mining. And the most wonderful thing about this influence of Gogos is that everyone he inspired paints differently; no one really paints like him. Basil remains unique. What his students derive from his example is permission to paint monsters with love and empathy and joy and absolute freedom.
Valé to the great Gogos, who taught so many of us how to see in the dark.
(c) 2017 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.
Posted by Tim Lucas at Friday, September 15, 2017
Monday, September 04, 2017
- Miles Davis, to a fan expressing his wish that he go back to playing ballads
At the end of Episode 16 of Showtime's TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN, we saw Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) briefly rescued from mid-life marriage to a man who was something less than the man to whom she once aspired by an invitation to dance. She then returned to her husband's side and a reality-shattering crash through that illusion into what appeared to be a confrontational collision with her own makeup mirror. I spent the past week wondering where this scene would take us. In a way, it took us nowhere, because we don't see Audrey again in the miniseries' last two episodes; then again, this scene tells us exactly where we are headed.
As with the original series finale, the general response I've been seeing has been disappointment, even anger, sometimes followed by a slowly blooming acceptance and enthusiasm. The disappointment, I believe, comes from a thwarted authorial impulse: it didn't go where we wanted it to go. But as characters in the story have been saying, "The past dictates the future." Therefore, any attempt to return to the past is a sentimental urge, a romanticism doomed to failure or, if indeed such contact is made, we run the risk of monkeying with our present vantage point in the future. Which is exactly the trajectory of the final chapter. In the last moments, when Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) asks "What year is this?" I don't think he's asking which year he's inhabiting. Rather, he's questioning our expectations of the narrative, our demands for clarity and a happy ending - even a satisfying reunion. Why did we want to go back to a murder scene? What did we want to undo? Or do? Were these characters not supposed to change - though we, their creator and television itself has?
And finally, Cooper is also asking the wrong question, which points to a suggestion of his condemnation to another long detour through mystic circles - his penance for his ego in assuming superhuman responsibilities and a god-like role in setting everything right. When Cooper and Diane (Laura Dern) risk "changing everything" by riding the electrical coordinates to new identities, they soon lose each other and Dale finds himself alone in the American west, in the city of Odessa. It's not only the name of a Ukrainian city, but the feminine form of Odysseus or Ulysses, the hero of Homer's THE ODYSSEY, and finally a Greek word meaning "full of wrath." (The ODYSSEY connection to Cooper is quite interesting, particularly if we consider the interpretation that it took Odysseus so many years of wandering to return home because he didn't want to go home.) The Cooper whom we see cruising the streets of this melting pot American city is neither the all-good Cooper of the original series, nor the Bad Cooper, whose negative energies have been conquered by this point, or at least redistributed. As earlier events have shown us, Cooper's efforts came very close to saving Laura retroactively - indeed, he does seem to prevent her murder, at least on one plane of existence - but in doing so, he interfered with her own karmic destiny and sent that compulsory drama elsewhere to find its fulfillment.
But he has not yet learned this lesson, and when he sees the fateful name Judy on a restaurant sign in Odessa, he follows the sign to a breakfast interrupted by the modern-day equivalent of an Old West shootout, as he butts in to save a stranger's honor. The melting pot signs (Odessa, Maersk, etc), the open carry laws, people living in accordance with romantic ideas of freedom in a conspicuously unfree word... Lynch's purpose here is plain - this is the America we now I habit, viewed through a pair of THEY LIVE eyeglasses, as it were. Cooper continues to take lawful responsibility for Laura Palmer's metaphysical fate by tracing Judy to her lookalike counterpart - an apparent kook and murderess whose name is not Judy but rather Carrie Page (Sheryl Lee) - and hoping to discharge the evil energies riding her existence by introducing her to her mother (Grace Zabriskie), who is dealing with devils of her own. But it's no longer her house... for the rather obvious reason that "You can't go home anymore." What Cooper may suddenly be inhabiting outside the Palmer house is not a different year, but a different tense - namely, reality. (This reading of the ending would appear to be supported by the casting of Mary Reber, the real-life owner of the Palmer House property, as its present owner Alice Tremond.)
In short, David Lynch and Mark Frost have addressed themselves to the fact that art is a thing of process and progress that does not move in reverse; only the longing of the human heart does that. In so doing, it may well motivate the creation of art, but such art is usually wrenching in its torment, bringing us to terms with more innocent times that were never really so innocent, the nostalgic songs that closer scrutiny reveal to come from places of real pain, the high school sweetheart who got away and fired a bullet through the brain of the fellow lucky enough to catch her. Because what such investigations usually signify is that the present, our present, is in some way unsatisfactory - but if we dare to move back, we risk changing or losing connection with where we were.
The original TWIN PEAKS series still exists, and that experience can be repeated to the heart's content, leaving THE RETURN to warn us of the myriad dangers awaiting anyone careless enough to rifle backwards through the spent pages of life.
(c) 2017 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.
Posted by Tim Lucas at Monday, September 04, 2017