Once more with whinging

It has yet to spawn a full on blogosphere geek tantrum though that may be just a matter of time, but the news is out tonight via Mike Fleming that “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy is “eying” a remake of, you guessed it, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Now, it’s anyone’s guess how much this story may be a cannily opportunistic exaggeration to pump up the ratings of the upcoming 10/26 “Glee” episode paying homage to Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien’s odd little musical. Russ Fischer is certain an actual film would be a “fool’s errand.” I don’t want to reiterate my standard defense of remakes in theory (though not always in practice, lord knows) for the millionth time, but I will say there’s absolutely nothing holy or perfect about this particular original. I actually think that “Rocky Horror” in a funny way became enormous not so much because it was partly great, but because it was also badly flawed. The first 30-45 minutes of the film are a complete hoot and really did touch a huge socio-political-sexual nerve, but the second half becomes increasingly morose and dull. Hence, the need to dress up, yell funny stuff back at the screen, throw stuff, etc. I certainly wouldn’t mind a version that actually worked without audience participation — like an actual movie.

On the other hand, there is one thing that any remake by anyone will find impossible to top, and that’s Mr. Tim Curry.

What a performance. Not that Barry Bostwick or especially Susan Sarandon were exactly chopped liver  — I’m also a pretty big fan of the late Charles Gray, who played the narrator about as perfectly as you could imagine. Meat Loaf wasn’t bad either, and I had a bit of a crush on Nell “Little Nell” Campbell’s tap-dancing Ruby Keeler homage, Columbia. (On the topic of redheads — I’m for them.) Where was I? Ah, never mind.

  

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RIP Larry Gelbart

large_LarryGelbart photo web

An important chunk of entertainment history left us yesterday with the death of Larry Gelbart at 81. Gelbart was gifted both working alone and as a collaborator with other writers. It probably helped that relatively early in his career he labored alongside Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, and Neil Simon on comedian Sid Caesar’s classic early variety shows. In the sixties he graduated to Broadway and the movies. With Burt Shevelove, he cowrote the book for the Broadway musical/Zero Mostel vehicle, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (later filmed by Richard Lester) and the hard to find all-star cult British comedy, “The Wrong Box.” A Chicago-born graduate of L.A.’s Fairfax High (right across the street from Cantor’s Deli), he lived in England for a time, working with another nice Jewish boy named Marty Feldman at the height of his English television fame.

He became much better known in the seventies as the primary writer during the early, funnier and more politically pointed days on the television version of “M*A*S*H.” I get to write about him because he made a mark in movies that’s too important to ignore, writing several good ones, and some not so good. He’ll probably be most commonly remembered for his work on “Oh, God” with George Burns in the title role, and what is probably Dustin Hoffman’s best performance in “Tootsie,” which is something of a comedy classic. He also co-wrote with Sheldon Keller the vastly underrated and all but impossible to see spoof of early Hollywood (specifically Warner Brothers) films, “Movie, Movie,” directed by Stanley Donen and starring George C. Scott, Eli Wallach, Trish van Devere, and Barry Bostwick. (A likely model for “Grindhouse,” in that it was also a double-feature complete with fake trailers.) It more than made up for the regrettable but profitable “Blame it On Rio,” written by Gelbart and also directed by Donen, which starred Michael Caine, Joseph Bologna and an extremely young Demi Moore.

In the nineties, he divided his time between Broadway plays like “City of Angels,” a musical spoof of classic hard-boiled detective novels, and pointed TV movies like “Barbarians at the Gate” — a tongue in cheek version of a nonfiction book about the buyout of Nabisco — and 1992’s “Mastergate,” an unbelievably witty parody of the hearings that invariably follow major Washington scandals.

Mr. Gelbart never stopped writing until almost the end, and was easily one of the most respected and beloved writers in all of show business. 81 isn’t exactly young, but we could’ve used a few more years of his presence. It’s a sad weekend for the world of funny.

Below, a great moment from “Tootsie.”

More about Mr. Gelbart’s illustrious career here, here, here, and here.

  

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My Most Memorable Interviews of 2008

I recently went back and counted up how many interviews I’ve done for Bullz-Eye since I first came aboard the site, and I was astounded to find that – counting both one-on-one conversations as well as teleconferences – the number tops 200. Wow. Anyone who thinks that I don’t work hard for my money, I say to you that the figures speak for themselves. Looking back at the list of folks with whom I’ve chatted during the course of the past year, I find myself thinking the same thing I think every day of every year: it might’ve sucked to do all of that unpaid freelance writing for all those years, but it was totally fucking worth it. And with that bold statement, allow me to present a list of the interviews from 2008 that still remain fresh in my mind…for a variety of reasons.

* Best-received interview of the year:

Tom Smothers. I’m used to hearing from my friends when I do an interview that they enjoy, but I heard from several complete strangers that really loved the conversation Tom and I had about everything from the censorship of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to the night John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were thrown out of the Brothers’ show at the Troubadour.

“Harry comes in with John Lennon. Well, he told John Lennon, ‘Tom likes hecklers. It helps him. It gets him through his show.’ And every time there was a silence, they were hollering out things like, ‘God fucks pigs!’ I mean, it was really filthy! Blows were thrown, and it just got wild. The next day, I got flowers and all kinds of apologies from Lennon and from Harry Nilsson.”

* Most politically-incorrect interview of the year:

Tony Clifton, the former alter ego of Andy Kaufman that’s now being performed by Bob Zmuda. To say that Clifton works a little blue is the understatement of the century, but it’s more than just dirty jokes; his whole act is one where he unabashedly says things that he knows will piss people off…and if you don’t know it’s an act, then it’s really gonna piss you off.

“Some people say that, with the repertoire I’ve got and with the rapport between the band and me, a few people have quoted it as being like Buddy Rich. I call ‘em like I see ‘em, just like Buddy. But Buddy was coked up most of the time, and I don’t do that. I prefer the Jack Daniel’s. I’m fucked up most of the time during the show. I have fun with the band. I call ‘em niggers. And I got a few Japs in there, I call ‘em Nips. I got everything mixed up in that band, like I say. I call ‘em the way I see ‘em. Listen, lemme tell ya this: you know why I get away with it? ‘Cause I got black people in my family. Yeah. And I’ve got the rope to prove it. Look, the blackies are good. They’re good for the sports and for the music. See, the Jews are good at making the money…or at taking the money from you.”

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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The original Brad is none too thrilled about MTV’s “Rocky Horror” remake

When asked his opinion of the news that MTV was planning a remake of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Barry Bostwick, who played Brad Majors in the original version of the film, hadn’t heard anything about it…and once he had, he was none too thrilled.

“Oh, really? That’s a waste of money,” said Bostwick, in an interview with Bullz-Eye.com done in conjunction with his upcoming Spike TV film, “Depth Charge.” “That would be like saying…and understand that I’m not making this as a total comparison, but it would be like saying, ‘Hey, let’s go remake ‘Casablanca’!”

“How are you going to remake it?” Bostwick asked. “Every time it was done on stage, I thought it showed the flaws of the piece. I think it’s a one-off; I don’t think you can repeat that. I mean, look at the sequel, ‘Shock Treatment.’ I never saw that, but it was a miserable failure…even more of one than ‘Rocky Horror’ was when it first came out! That one wasn’t even re-discovered and turned into a cult hit.

“I think films like (‘Rocky Horror’) are stand-alones and brilliant for what they were at the time they were done,” concluded Bostwick. “You should just leave those things alone.”

  

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