Josef von Sternberg’s “The Blue Angel” always made an impression on me, due to the fact that I had a major crush on Marlene Dietrich when I was a teenager. I identified with the character played by Emil Jannings, in that I too had a hard time receiving attention from a female. Or perhaps, not the right type of attention. Throughout my years, I must have seen that film in almost every format possible. What I love about it is how the Professor (Jannings) was in a position of power and influence, and then struck down by a great beauty, and therefore loses his stature in life, where he ends up in his once classroom, dead from remorse, clenching his desk… I love that.
As Oscar Wilde once said “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Which is perfectly valid in some cases, but I tend to be on my stomach, face-face with the pavement. Failure is something that I find totally fascinating. I feel that if you don’t experience the moments or days of failure then you haven’t really lived. To wake-up and to face a major disappointment on a day-to-day basis, is exactly what I call living in real-time.
My favorite author, Max Brand, wrote a novel “Destry Rides Again,” about a cowboy who is good with a gun and a pair of fists, but everything else is questionable, especially when he loses his horse and even worse, his saddle in a game of cards. To rub more salt into his open mental wound, he is framed for a robbery he took no part in, and eventually goes to prison for six years. When he gets out early for good behavior he swears revenge on the jury that convicted him wrongly. Brand also invented Dr. Kildare, which sadly I never read “The Secret of Dr. Kilkdare.” Nevertheless, I am fascinated with Brand, because as a writer I’m totally in love with the fact that he wrote 500 novels, and his total literary output is approximately somewhere between 25,000,000 and 30,000,000 words. My current count so far this year, is 44, 683 words, which mean I’m heading towards my favorite role in life - a failure.
The sad thing is that I will not have the ability (so far) to go down the depths of my collapse compared to the ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, whose failure after the “The Rite of Spring” (Le Sacre du printemps) was pure depression and madness. The production was on a rocky start as Nijinsky choreographed the original production of the ballet, that led to a riot in Paris on its opening night. It has been reported that the composer of the music for this ballet, Igor Stravinsky wasn’t totally solid with the idea of Nijinsky as the choreographer. Yet he went along with Sergei Diaghilev, who championed the brilliant dancer. When Nijinsky went off and got married behind Diaghilev’s back, he refused to use his choreography for future productions of “The Rite of Spring.” Eventually this led him to a spiral of madness, where at this time he did write a brilliant journal “Diary” that captured the twisted relationship he had with Diaghilev. I too keep a journal, but it reads like a shopping list. So, as we both approached the bottom of the emotional well, Nijinski, although a failure, is a much better artist than me. And that makes me feel even more of a failure.
When I first arrived in Tokyo in 1989, it was the same time that Hibari Misora passed away from pneumonia at the age of 52. I never heard of her before this visit to Japan, and I was struck by the attention in the media when she died. If one to compare Hibari with another, it would need to be Judy Garland. She was a child star who made recordings as well as films. She is very much (and rightfully so) the Queen of Enka. The tragedy of her life is quite dramatic with such incidences such as a fan throwing hydrochloric acid on her face, but luckily it didn’t cause scarring or loss of her sight. Also her brother Tetsuya Katō was prosecuted for gang-related activity, which led her to be banned from Kōhaku Uta Gassen for the first time in 18 years. This is to this day a very popular music program broadcast over the NHK network. Misora was so offended by this action that she refused to appear on NHK programming for years afterwards. On top of that she was diagnosed with avascular necrosis brought on by chronic hepatitis.
At the time of her death, I didn’t have a cent or yen on me, yet I just wanted to focus on writing and nothing else. But the people above had a specific influence over my life, in that in many ways, all of them had either hardship or lived in a manner that was damaging to their career or talent. I wanted to eliminate everything from my life and just have my talent come through - and in my death, I want to be acknowledged as an artist that had a tragic life, yet his writing lived on to influence generation after generation. Sadly, at this time, this is not the case.