November 17, 2014
Some years back I was approached by the filmmaker Russ Meyer to help him with a script that was written for him by the now-famous architect Rem Koolhaas. His script is called “Hollywood Tower” and it is about a group of rich Arabs who buy up the rights to a Hollywood archive, with plans to build a giant computer, which they can choose any dead (or live) star and put them back on the screen. The second level of the narrative is about the Nixon administration who focuses on getting out-of-work actors, including Lassie, get jobs in the movies - and the last is about Russ Meyer shooting a porn film. Meyer thought it was too large of a project, especially the first and second segments. He felt that it should only focus on the part of him making a porn film. I convinced Russ that he should forget the part with the Nixon administration, and focus on both the first layer of the film and the part of him making porn. I convinced him that we could use the narrative about movie stars replacing the porn stars in his erotic romp. He loved that idea. Of course we didn’t have the rights, and as far as I know there is no giant computer that can use stars who were in specific films and put them into the new Russ project.
Nevertheless he suggested using specific stars, but we can’t (of course) mention their names. I did research and I came up with two possibilities, or use both in the film: Frank Fay and Peter Cook. I also wanted to add Rem’s point-of-view as well. I find architecture sexy, and there is something very seductive about Mr. Koohaas’s approach to his favorite subject matter. I even began to think that perhaps Prada can provide production money for this film. I remember reading a quote from him which he stated that “a building has at least two lives - the one imagined by its maker and the life it lives afterward - and they are never the same.” Which I think is the basis for his first part of the Russ Meyer film. To re-cycle a building as something else, why not also make stars into porn actors?
But really, it is not the actual footage of the stars, or the film itself that is in question, but the subject matter of memory and what is true and false. Last night I had a dream of my deceased father, where I acknowledge in a sense that he died. The truth is (my truth mind you) is that I never accepted his death. I just feel he left and went out to get a newspaper and didn’t come back. In other words, I’m still waiting by the window to hopefully take a view of him walking back home. It won’t happen of course, and I intellectually know that, but emotionally I don’t accept his death. So putting a ‘dead’ star in Russ’s film is sort of like denying death. Architecture is the same. When I walk around Downtown Los Angeles, and look at old buildings like the Bradbury, Mayan, Brockman, and the Biltmore Hotel, I think I’m seeing death, even though the buildings are in use, to me they’re dead.
Peter Cook, the great British humorist, and Frank Fay, the vaudeville comedian, were both, even when they were alive, sort of death-in-waiting. One can sense that their life is really an act of an instinct, where eventually it will burn down, and then out. So I thought it would be interesting to “cast” these two in the Meyer film. Frank Fay is of interest, because he was married to Barbara Stanwyck, and it has been reported that their lives together were the inspiration for “A Star is Born. The wife’s career went up, while at the same time the husband’s goes into sharp decline. The film didn’t happen, because I think the subject matter of the script was too bleak for Russ, but nevertheless it was the only time that I really dealt with the subject of death in my work and life. Meanwhile, before I go to sleep at night, I still look out the window hoping to get a glance of my father coming back home to me.