RIP Tura Satana

I was very sad to learn yesterday of the death at age 73 of a true grindhouse legend and an early icon of female empowerment. I had the good fortune of having a couple of longish chats with Tura Satana, the legendary star of Russ Meyer’s 1965 grindhouse tour de force, “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” and other light classics of exploitation cinema. We both appeared in my friend Cody Jarrett’s women-in-prison opus, “Sugarboxx,” though she actually got to speak. She enjoyed talking about the old days and I certainly didn’t mind listening.

One-quarter Japanese, Filipino, Cheyenne-Indian, and Scots-Irish, her story included a childhood stay in Manzanar, one of the internment camps where all Japanese-Americans on the West coast were illegally forced to spend World War II. She was a victim of a childhood rape who, she said, eventually tracked down all her attackers. That anger would later find an outlet in her work, to say the least.

faster-pussycat-kill-kill-tura-satana1

Her performing career began with notoriety as an exotic dancer and martial artist. A gig posing erotically for photographs by aging silent comedy superstar Harold Lloyd led Lloyd to suggest a career in movies. She eventually made a brief appearance in Billy Wilder’s “Irma La Douce” and that was followed by her bone-crunching interpretation as the villainous/anti-heroic Varla in Russ Meyer’s insane mix of sexual innuendo and, for the time, shocking violence. She would likely have appeared in later Meyer films, but she was unwilling to do the kind of nudity that was his usual calling card. A certain amount of tragedy followed her later in life and her 1970s career was cut short by a bullet wound, her children, and a second career as a nurse.

Tura wasn’t Dame Judi Dench, but then Dame Judi is no Tura Satana. She was one very cool, very brassy woman who held an audience’s attention in a way that was entirely unique to her and entirely unforgettable.

For more, please do check out some of the links at MUBI and also Kimberly Lindberg’s really great 2007 tribute and bio. After the flip, I have a few key moments of Satana.

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Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour: Top 10 Quotes from Day 3

Day 3 of the Winter 2011 TCA Press Tour ran me ragged, moreso than any day which preceded it and, I feel rather certain, than any day to follow. Very rarely has it ever come to pass that I schedule a day full of one-on-one interviews and have every single of them go off without a hitch, and you can probably already guess that yesterday wasn’t an exception to that rule. I should probably just be happy that I got some of them, though: the way things were looking, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I was going to get any of them.

The last day of the cable portion of the tour began with breakfast with the members of the Rainbow Networks: WEtv (“Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best” and “Braxton Family Values”), IFC (“Onion News Network” and “Portlandia”), and AMC (“The Killing”). Shifting ballrooms, we next listened to A&E (“Breakout Kings”) and Lifetime (“Seriously Funny Kids” and “Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy”), but…do you detect a trend here?…we soon moved back to the other ballroom to get the scoop on stuff from Hallmark (“Goodnight for Justice”) and Starz (“Camelot,” “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” and “Torchwood: Miracle Day”). Lastly, it was – oh, dear – back to the other ballroom again. This time, however, HBO kept us sitting still for the duration of the afternoon, giving us looks into “Mildred Pierce,” “The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway,” “Cinema Verite,” “Game of Thrones,” “Too Big to Fail,” and “The Sunset Limited.”

My problem, however, was this: I had to keep bowing out of this panel and that in order to participate in various roundtables and one-on-one interviews. Worse, one of the roundtables – stand up, please, Tommy Lee Jones – was shifted from a perfect location on the schedule into a spot which utterly disrupted almost all of the interviews that followed. In the end, though, I did manage to participate in two roundtables for “Game of Thrones,” including one with author George R.R. Martin, I and two other writers sparred with Mr. Jones (surviving the encounter without having any of my questions ridiculed or dismissed outright has earned me some sort of entertainment journalism merit badge, I feel certain), and still managed to chat one-on-one with the too-sweet-for-words Eve Myles (“Torchwood: Miracle Day”) as well as John Hannah and Peter Mensah (“Spartacus: Gods of the Arena”).

The evening event was brought to us by Hallmark, and it took place at the Tournament House…as in the Tournament of Roses…in Pasadena. It was a pleasantly low-key event which began with cocktails and featured a classy sit-down dinner. What I’m saying, basically, is that it was old-school in all the right ways, including familiar TV faces like Doris Roberts, Marion Ross, and Marilu Henner, who regularly found herself holding court about her superior autobiographical memory. I also had an opportunity to sit down and chat with 11-year-old Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper on “Mad Men.” What a little sweetheart.

Okay, that’s it for the Day 3 wrap-up. Time for your daily dose of my favorite quotes…

1. “I knew that I was doing a lot of plastic surgery, because Melissa, one time, called me when (my grandson) Cooper was four years old and they had ‘Return of the Mummy,’ and he ran to the TV and went, ‘Grandma, Grandma.’ But I think plastic surgery come on, guys. You know. How many people have you interviewed…if you had a stitch for every if you had a dollar for every stitch in the face of someone you’ve interviewed, you wouldn’t be sitting here. You know what I mean? It’s part of our business.” – Joan Rivers, “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best” (WEtv)

2. “It is literally impossible to be more ridiculous than Fox News or MSNBC. It’s actually impossible. It’s happened multiple times that we’ll be kind of talking and brainstorming a joke in the writers’ room, we’ll get excited about it, and then it’s literally on the FoxNews.com website. So I think we have to kind of embrace that closeness. And the excitement for us is not being a parody of 24-hour news, but we are real news. Those are our competitors in a kind of slightly different world, and I think that believability is also part of what’s exciting about it. We’ve had online cases where, for example, last year there was a case where we published a story about Neil Armstrong now saying that the moon landing was a hoax, and all these papers in Bangladesh picked it up. There was a story about the Make-A-Wish Foundation being bankrupted by a child who wishes for unlimited wishes, which is pretty out there. It went on MySpace, which is kind of the Internet hub for morons, and we got this letter from the Make-A-Wish Foundation that was, like, ‘We’re getting hundreds of e-mails every hour, people who are concerned.’ So how ridiculous those things are, I think, really kind of opens up a lot of doors for us.” – Will Graham, “Onion News Network” (IFC)

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Rock and roll gender wars

More in my series of clips featuring fake bands from the movies inspired more or less by Aldous Snow and Infant Sorrow, the band in “Get Him to the Greek.”

As Roger Ebert notes in the DVD commentary to Russ Meyer’s “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” it was kind of progressive to make a movie about an all-female rock band in 1970. They were certainly rare as hens-teeth in real life until  several years later the Runaways, the Go-Gos, and finaly the Bangles broke the rock and roll gender barrier. I’m not sure how inspired any of them were were by the Carrie Nations, the fictional band in the film directed by Meyer and written by Roger Ebert, but this opening sure shows Meyer’s remarkable filmmaking approach and a hint of what kind of dialogue you can expect when you let a movie critic write a movie. (A later scene features the immortal words spoken by a Phil Spector-esque impressario: ‘This is my happening and it’s freaking me out.” That’s Ebert, baby.)

By 2001, of course, women in both real and cinematic rock bands were hardly unusual. On the other hand, there weren’t too many rock and roll band transsexuals, and there was just one victim of a botched sex change operation. Below, Hedwig and the Angry Inch explain the meaning of their name. It’s not necessarily an experience for the faint of heart, but it sure is rock and roll.

  

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An entirely shameless post

In which I shamelessly plug the new exploitarama from my long time friend and cohort, Cody Jarrett. “Sugar Boxx” a women-in-prison low-budget extravaganza of sex, mayhem and other tried and true filmic values premieres tomorrow night, September 5th, at midnight at the Sunset 5 Theatres on the eastern edge of West Hollywood. Those lucky enough to be in attendance will be treated to sexy nudity, a great score (by The Millionaire of Combustible Edison and Steven Adler, formerly of Guns ‘n Roses), gratuitous violence, nudielicious sex, a line of hilarious-yet-pithy dialogue 40% written by me as well as brief flashes…of me (in a nonspeaking role!), nudity, Russ Meyer superstars Tura Satana and Kitten Natividad and the smoking-hot stars of tomorrow (and reality TV), foul language, a little violence, and some more or less nude lesbian sex.

You can see just a hint of that below:

The show is likely to be crowded with famed cast members (including me!) and may well sell out, so buying your tickets early is a good thing. You may still be able to do so here. And, if you can’t make it — acceptable excuses include living thousands of miles from greater Los Angeles — the absolute least you can do is to check out the Sugar Boxx Facebook page as well as the fabulous official website which will no doubt help keep you informed as to various means of viewing this soon-to-be-enormous masterwork.

  

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