Friday, October 06, 2006

TO THE 50'S, BY WAY OF THE 70'S, WITH A PEEK AHEAD TO THE 90'S

Ok. It's Friday, it's morning, I've been scrolling through IMBD. Which, of course, can mean one thing only: it's time for the Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day. We've had Thank God It's Friday, Gus, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Car Wash & we've even had Escape To Witch Mountain (known as "The Kim Richards Retrospective," which to no surprise generated the most comments of any of these). And now, continuing on the musical, rather than comedic or stupendously stupid, theme that's emerged over time, may I present for your coffee-supping enjoyment, today's FSMOMYOTHD:

American Hot Wax
Hot Wax meaning that which was used to make LPs . . . or 45s, or 78s. Anyone remember the "16" setting on old record players? Has anyone ever seen a 16? Oh, and remember how much fun it was to alter the speed and play songs at all kinds of speeds? Records at 78 speed always sounded like The Chipmunks, and at 16, it was like one of the teachers from a Peanuts cartoon was right there in your house.

Anyway, like most of the movies I use here, I saw American Hot Wax only when it came out, in 1978, and I don't remember a lot. It was pretty much a fictionalized account of trailbreaking rock n' roll DJ, Alan Freed, and his efforts to break through red tape, racism, fear of "youth culture," and other what-not, to bring a "Rock n' Roll Show" to Brooklyn's Paramount Theater. I actually saw it with my mother, while in Florida visiting my 94 year-old great-grandmother, one year before she died. Amazingly, I also saw the original Alien a year later in Florida with my mom, visiting that old warhorse for the last time. I was one of those weird kids who wasn't afraid of old folks at all; but man, did that first Alien scare the shit out of me. Wow.

So, American Hot Wax was about Freed and 50's rock, a subject I knew a little about from my parents, but like your average 10 year-old, this wasn't my area of expertise. So what do I remember from the movie? Well, for starters, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins all appeared contemporaneously in the film. And performed. It was the first time I ever saw Chuck Berry do his Duckwalk. I thought Hawkins was hilarious, coming out of a coffin. It was also the first of many times that I though, "So what's the big deal about this guy?" as regards The Killer.

And as to the actual film, I can say I remember two things, and two things only: early in the movie there was a scene of some young kid, lying on his bed, listening to La Bamba (also the first time I ever heard it), smoking a cig, talking to everyone about how great Buddy Holly was. Needless to say, as soon as I saw a kid not much older than me smoking, I thought it was cool.

And the other thing? One of the stars of the flick was Laraine Newman, who I'd just seen for the first time earlier that year, when I discovered Saturday Night Live. With Belushi, Ackroyd, Radner & Murray all on board and in their primes, I can't say I gave much of a crap about Newman, but there she was nonetheless.

And that leads me, as always with these pieces, to the best part. The Cast. And, as you'd expect, it's got some fun stuff: 20 year-old Fran Drescher, in only her second movie appearence. Before we start ragging on her (a valid reaction, I'll admit), let's not forget she was Bobbi Fleckman in Spinal Tap. Jay Leno (making his second appearence in the FSMOMYOTD). Pat McNamara (a real member of Simmons' "That Guy" club. Among other roles, he played Hope Davis's & Parker Posey's father in The Day Trippers, opposite the always hilarious Anne Meara -- wife of Jerry Stiller & father of Ben). Cameron Crowe (!), as "Delivery Boy." Almost Famous, indeed.

Also, Melanie Chartoff, a name you may recognize. Apparently, her first role was as Nadia Samarra, in a 1978 Wonder Woman episode called "Screaming Javelin." Hmmm, can't say I remember that one. She was also on the cast of Fridays, that semi-awful SNL ripoff that we all pretended was worth watching in the early 80s when the original SNL cast moved on to bigger, better things. (Or to career death.) Fridays: basically Crazy or Cracked to SNL's Mad. So who the hell am I telling you this about this non-star? I'm about to get to it. Because she played Principal Grace Musso on one of the early FOX shows that I used to watch in the early 90s (in addition to the obvious examples, The Simpsons & Married With Children). And what show was that? Why, it was Parker Lewis Can't Lose. Basically, Parker Lewis was a somewhat less cool Ferris Bueller type. A fuck-up, but a fuck-up with style. He was smarter than everyone else, and everyone else tried to trip him up. That was pretty much it. The show wasn't on for long, and I have no idea if anyone else liked it. But I can remember "preparing" to watch it with my roommate every week (in that way that 23 year-old waiters "prepare" to do anything that involves quick cuts, wild camera work, bright colors, and snappy dialogue), and laughing my ass off for a half-hour straight. It was funny, creative, clever, and of no social relevence or importance whatsoever.

Anyway, Melanie Chartoff played Principal Musso, the sneakily attractive older woman who was obsessed with bringing Parker down. She played it with a mixture of ineptitude and evil, like a female version of Matthew Broderick's character in Election. In a show full of fine comic turns, she fit right in. The interplay between her and the kid who played Parker was great.

Whew. And that's that. I'm exhusted. You must be asleep. Finally, if you've been a big TV viewer, take a little gander through the rest of the American Hot Wax cast. Many of the actors in the bit parts appeared on noteable shows. I think maybe 71% of this movie's cast made it onto Seinfeld eventually. And, as a bonus, we have Olivia Barash. Who? I have no idea, but seven years later she was in Tuff Turf, which I talked about last week, so it deserves mentioning.

7 Comments:

Blogger Marked Hoosier said...

I never heard of the movie...

Wonder if it is at the video store?

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

My guess is gonna be No. But hell, nothing surprises me anymore.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Thrillhous said...

You could probably find it on netflix.

Mike, you know way too much about movies. Scarry.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Thrill, you give me way too much credit (or derision, depending on how you meant it).

I can explain the {ahem} erudition of these posts on four notes: I. M. D. B.

Without Google, Wikipedia, IMDB, & Baseball-Reference.com, I'd be so lost I wouldn't know the way home from the corner of my own block.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Melanie Chartoff, I watched Fridays just because I thought she was hot.

And I also liked Parker Lewis. I can't believe anyone else remembers that show. I still remember Abraham Benrubi (Jerry from ER) with the lunch sack that said "Lary's Lunch."

But before dismissing Fridays, remember, Larry David and Michael Richards got their start on that show.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Larry David and Michael Richards

I'll admit that until recently I didn;t remember either of them. But I saw a clip recently. The funniest thing is that back then, Larry David had hair like Kramer.

George's personality & Kramer's looks. Meeting him, circa 1981, would've been something else.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

Nice trip back to Parker Lewis. It appeared to be a cheap Ferris Bueller ripoff, but they elevated it -- and you and your roommate -- a little higher.

Fridays. Damn, I forgot about that. Just checked on Wikipedia to see who else was in the cast, and two thirds are so nameless they don't even have entries.

6:09 PM  

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