June 26, 2014
“Noir” is a life one wants to live, and something that we are drawn to, but other times ‘noir” finds us. Culture, its politics, and alienation is pretty much the ingredients that make a great ‘Noir’ narrative. It is equally a genre that is highly visual. We can just use the word “Noir.” and we have a very clear picture what that could mean. For some, it is femme fatal dressed in something black and white. For others, it could be a scary version of architecture. For me, it is a combination of both, but generally I never have a problem with a femme fatal. In fact, as a species or type, I like them a lot. When I heard about Barbara Graham, the accused and executed killer, who was a “seagull, ” a prostitute that hangs out near navel bases, and basically had a bad hard life that is nothing but crime and vice. Including her parents, who were just like her, ruthless as they come. There is something sexy about that, and Barbara was stunning, wrong, and therefore sexually appealing to me.
Barbara and her equally wicked drug addicted boyfriend and their other friend broke into a house owned by a woman who was reported to have a great deal of jewelry and cash. They couldn’t find the money, and eventually killed the old woman. The thing is losers never win, and of course they were arrested. It was pointed out that when the police arrested Barbara, she was only dressed in her panties, which in the 1950s must have been the hottest thing to read in a newspaper. Barbara’s last words at her execution was "Good people are always so sure they're right, ” which strikes me as the perfect noir thing to say as you are about to leap into the unknown. What is fascinating about her is not Barbara, but how the world responds to her. In reality, her life was totally wasted since her birth, yet, our culture needs the Barbara Graham to sort of keep us in line. Or at the very least, on the same moral ground, which of course murder is bad, sex is not good, unless it is with socially responsible adults, and most importantly, God forbid if hard drugs are involved. Nevertheless all these taboos are almost like pornography to me. What we really desire is to belong, whatever that family or society is correct or not -we need to be part of someone else’s dream, fantasy, reality, and live through their lives.
Peter Lorre was someone who had a series of problems in his actual life, that included a serious addiction to morphine. Yet, he pretty much worked till his death. A year or two before he passed to the great beyond, there was a German actor by the name of Eugene Weingand, who resembled the great Lorre and tried to change his name legally to Peter Lorre Jr. Lorre objected to it and also the studio American International Pictures which had Peter Lorre under contract. The court ruled that Weingand was just trying to cash on Lorre’s name, and refused his case. When Peter passed away, Weingand claimed to be the son of the actor, and even though he lost his case, he still used the name “Peter Lorre Jr.” When he died in Texas, he was hosting a horror show under the Lorre Junior name.
My name “Tosh Berman” is also under suspicion due that there is another Tosh Berman out there who got a series of bad press, and by no means have I met, or do I know him. Yet, the causal reader on the Internet may confuse the two identities. It should be clear to everyone that the only crime I admit to is a bad sentence here and there. Over the years, I have been attracted to the writings of Colin Wilson, who documented all sorts of horrible crimes, as well as writing a classic called “The Outsider.” Although I prefer his “Adrift in Soho, ” but that’s here or there. But what is interesting is that he pretty much spent his entire life and career focusing on those who went across the line between taste, honor, sex crimes and murder. Overall I much admire his work, and yet, as a writer and one who is attracted to the darkness that is out there, I still try to keep at least one toe on the light.