Archive for May, 2014


Posted in Uncategorized on May 9, 2014 by kidkenoma

CH.1 PT.2

I’d actually lost track of Learner, at least until de Castro & Privette started this latest song & dance. I really had no clear idea if he was still in the business or even alive at this point. Learner was from the Coppola-Scorsese-Altman generation of would-be auteurs who climbed an arc of prominence and influence starting in the late 60s, rising to some fairly impressive peaks before crashing & burning by the end of the 70s or shortly thereafter.

Learner’s bleary, stubble-jawed hyper-realistic western & Mexican landscapes and other genre locations seethed with atmospheric menace and twisted sinister intrigue, juxtaposed with surreal glimpses of unraveling reality just hovering at the edge of the frame. This alone, with a body of work starting with ‘The King of Nothing’, followed by:

‘The Kenoma Kid’
‘Blood on the Saddle’
‘Thunder at the Well’
& ‘Circle Round my Skull’
should have secured his place in the pantheon.

From that point, Learner began his massive, over-ambitious quartet:

‘Line in the Dirt’
‘Fool’s Tornado’
‘Fire-Wheel & Turner’
&’Oblivion’s Water’

…which apparently, is still not finished, which if true would have to be setting some sort of world’s record, surpassing even Orson Welles’ ‘Othello’ as longest drawn-out production.

Learner’s feuds with Jim “The Smiling Cobra’ Aubrey at MGM, and severe alienation of many other industry kingpins, contributed to his image as uncontrollable bad-boy, and made each picture increasingly difficult to complete. On the other hand, the grizzled, bearded, booze-guzzling, coke-snorting, mirror-shaded bad-boy persona, was a more memorable and popular character than could be found in most movies, including his own.

There were interested parties willing to participate in financing motion pictures, largely for the photo-op chance to hob-nob with an actual legendary American celebrity independent out-of-control renegade out-law “cinema auteur”.

Learner hadn’t counted on this. He’d just wanted to rattle the suits, not become the poster-boy for boiling-over, unmanaged, collective rage, but it was the easiest, if not the only way that these films could get made…

“Goddamn it ,” as he was wont to say, “I’ve done some degrading and unpleasant shit to stay in this business-I’ve had breakfast with Sue Menger, lunch with Mike Ovitz, and sex with Julia Phillips, I’ve been thrown out of the office at Warner’s, by Ashley, Wells, and Calley, had meetings with Paramount brass until Stanley Jaffe bled from the nostrils, and Charlie Bludhorn foamed at the mouth, so it would be…imprudent of me to bitch about these weasels. Boring yeah, but a least they’re not spitting foam on me…”

As the years fly by and the information trickles in, to be sifted, analyzed and interpreted, preliminary speculation indicates that Celebrity might just possibly have (gasp!) a less than positive effect on human character, being, amongst other things, enticing, seductive, even addictive, which brings us to Learner who, partly to maintain his celebrity-madman status & partly to assuage his own paranoia, had taken to publicly blowing himself up. The Russian Suicide Death Chair: place six sticks of dynamite in two hopefully even rows, or seventeen sticks in a big circle, then lie down between them in a paper coffin or crouch fetal-like under a chair…the sticks detonate and form an eye-of-tornado type pocket, assuming all the sticks went off, you should be OK, maybe a little hard of hearing, but not too much more notably deranged than before. Once, up in Oregon, and at least once more at ‘Big H Speedway’ in Houston, Learner blasted his way to nihilist notoriety in front of God & anybody else that wanted to look.


“So what have you been doing? Finish that Frazier project?” inquires de Castro, carpooling on the way over to Privette’s.

“Ah, you know…reading a little William Carlos Williams, maybe some Ford Maddox Ford, doing a little snow and water-boarding. As you know, I’ve been wintering in Tuscany…digging the red-tiled roofs on the hillsides, savoring the bounty of the local vineyards, the antipasto, the tangerine orchards in bloom…the voluptuous allure of dusky Neapolitan girls straining in their Versace halter-tops to catch the last slivered rays of the surrealist popsicle sunset…”

“All right, stop it… I was almost buying it for a second,” You could kind of tell this was leading up to something…ah, right on schedule-”So Carmen tells me you were out at her place in Zuma…and you burned a bunch of screenplays?”

“We were running low on firewood, and I’ve been rethinking my format…how about graphic novels instead?”

“Which ones?”

“Just the seven.”

“What are you, fuckin’ nuts!? I never understood what ‘The Plaster Cramp’ 6 supposed to be about, but we could have easily sold ‘El Hombre Verde’ & ‘The Secret Mirror’…some of those could definitely have been movies by now-”

“Yes, Yes…It did pain me considerable to deprive The Industry of these humble offerings, but y’know, The Industry, if It could hear us, would say: don’t worry about Me…there’s always ghastly remakes of earlier films-particularly French New-Wave classics, and 60’s & 70’s TV sitcoms and spy-shows, sequals, prequals, comic books, cartoons, videogames, graphic-novels, and generic, mass-produced, cookie-cutter vehicles for past and present Saturday Night Live alumni-”

“But to just burn the shit-”

“Don’t think of those stories as gone, they’re just consolidated into seven chapters of the current work…”

“What current work?”

“The one we’re in now”

“In now?”

“Yes, so try to be interesting for a change…”

“What would be interesting,” says de Castro with an agent’s innate skill for letting himself off the hook, “Is for you to remind me once more, just where you hooked up with Learner and all this ‘O’Blivion’s Water’ nonsense, I seem to be a little fuzzy on the chronology.”

“Well…First, as we all know…all roads lead to Bob Evans…”


The Kid

When I first set eyes on Bob Evans, he was being wheeled through the Paramount offices on a gurney by his chauffer David Gilruth. Evans, on this occasion, was attired in black silk pajamas, and black velvet slippers with little gold foxes hand-stitched onto the toes. No indication of anything unusual about any of this, just the usual day to day apparel of choice, and preferred mode of transportation-at least until Gilruth got him to the limo.

As executive-production-assistant-intern-understudy, my duties had so far mainly consisted of going for coffee & bagels. And so, to wander those halls in that state of blissful ignorance, sipping morning coffee, thinking those happy thoughts, one might encounter Peter Bart, or Al Ruddy, and think to oneself: “These guys seem focused, competitive, efficient, yet still exhibiting some semblance of ethical human values…”

On the other hand, you could have an up-close and personal encounter with Evans, Frank Yablans, or Charlie Bludhorn. A very different story.

In an earlier incarnation as an actor, Evans had been selected to star in an Irving Thalberg biopic. This selection had been made by Thalberg’s widow, Norma Shearer, on the premise that Evans “looked the part”. There was common speculation that Paramount chairman/Gulf Western chief Charles Bludhorn had merely done the same, by hiring the egregiously under-qualified Evans to assume the duties of chief of production, while Bludhorn and his pals, like Michele Sindona, Paul Marcinkus, and Licio Geli, to name three, got on with the business of laundering Big Money, as it flowed in from Immobilare, Banco Ambrosiano, and such like…

Meanwhile, I was getting on with the business of screenplay courier. Seems routine enough; roll on out to Evans’ palatial estate, scoop this script and deliver to Peter Bart, possibly at a party. Say what you will about Evans, (and I will) nothing is ever routine with The Kid.

Parking my dilapidated Citron as unobtrusively as I can, I take the roundabout approach to a side door as specified in the instructions. I knock, door opens, and it’s Evans himself in full-stride, springing out the door, with some boobalacious halter-top honey young enough to be even my daughter in tow…

“…Uh, hey-glad you could make it pal…here, take this,” he hands me the joint he’s been smoking with his little companion. “Got a bit of a meeting going on inside right now, so just kind of hang out sort of low-key here for a minute will ya? Niki here, and I, are gonna go get David to bring the car around-we’ll be right back…”

They disappear around the corner of some hedges, and I’m left to finish the joint and ponder the Santa Ana winds now kicking up, rattling branches & rustling leaves in the eucalyptus trees, rows of which frame and bisect the estate.

Nothing too out of place…although Evans always seemed more like a booze, coke, and pills type, but a little weed and/or ludes goes a long way toward negotiating the pendulous charms of young coconut-butter basted So Cal female flesh. Wouldn’t you?

A couple of tokes later, I’m suddenly aware of voices traveling along the shrubbery in the opposite direction from where Evans and Niki just vanished.

…getting closer…think I’ll just sit sort of crouched-over on this quaint marble bench behind these overgrown rose-bushes bordering a row of cypress trees…here they come…almost in view…the first face to follow its voice around the corner is Charlie Bludhorn, followed by John E. Gray, then another individual later to be identified as Terrence W. Abbot, next, mob mouthpiece Sidney Korshak, and then…Henry Kissinger!?

Jeeziz…what next? A mummer’s parade with J. Edgar Hoover & Meyer Lansky? Some sort of narco-sting ambush gambit, deploying the full brunt of Division-5 and the brutally over-funded NSA?

That Evans was chummy with the Big K, was evident from the strategically placed photographs in his office of his cherished trophy-friends–Kissinger foremost among them–that given a pretext, Evans would show to just about anybody that would sit still for it. But it’s another thing to see the bastard oozing around the corner while I’m in the act of committing what was in those days a schedule-II felony.

From the context of what I can overhear, it’s apparent that these mooks are having a sidebar apart from the main meeting

Gray whirls on the others, more or less focusing on Kissinger, “All right Henry, I can squash this SEC investigation, but you guys owe me one, a BIG one…Sidney, you need to talk to Senator ****** for me, I’ll have some notes on your desk by closing tomorrow…” Voices drifting off as they re-enter the house through the door from which Evans had emerged.


Gilruth, as always, at the wheel…heading west down Sunset…

Our POV from back seat looking out toward 180 fish-eye lens perspective of windshield, thru which we can see palm trees sway & shiver in the balmy Santa Anas, disgorging fronds & widow-makers, blowing down to smite the vehicles of the less fortunate.

As we pan back toward the rear of the limo…The Irishman (who’s actually from Neptune) and The Kid are holding forth, while Niki & her nearly identical colleague Viki, are conversing in a completely self-contained, exclusively closed reference, pop-culture discussion among themselves, while blaring some early Wailers on a boom-box, as they roll joints of prime gold Columbian.

Kirschvasser & Cuervo await to refresh…

…that’s show-biz Kid-there’s a rhythm to it…ya can’t rush these things. I got rushed with ‘Drive’-that ain’t gonna happen on this one.

What was it called again? Moonfire? Mooncrap?

‘Moontrap’. It’s a Don Berry story, a western. Great stuff,
but needs honing. Got this kid Sharpe doing a rewrite, but
it’s goin’ kind of slow…that’s why I gotta scramble to keep
Kovaks and the Sylberts on the line…got Van Dyke Parks for the soundtrack…everything’s ready as soon as it’s writ, but no go till the script’s finished…Which reminds me, gotchyer telephone book right here…courtesy of Beener, 436 pages…not even close to finished.

So you don’t want it?

Beener wrote it on spec for The Pro when The Pro was all pumped-up about westerns-The Pro ain’t so keen on all that since Altman peed on his leg up in Seattle…so he just stops 400-plus pages into it, takes his name off it…I’m a chump-right? So I loan Beener money, and what do I get? A fuckin’ spare tire…The Pro’s sloppy seconds…

“O’Blivion’s Water?” This guy’s got water on the brain. Looks like ‘Chinatown’ on horseback to me.

Shit, I wouldn’t care if it was ‘Shampoo’ 7 horseback, if he’d just finish the fuckin’ thing for once.

What is this goddamn jungle music anyway?

Don’t believe I recognize that one…shit Kid, it’s another
generation, these chicks haven’t even heard of Aretha, let
alone Ruth Etting. That’s a humbling thought to keep in
mind…How old did you say these girls are?

I didn’t card them…what am I their father? Viki says she’s
nineteen & Niki must be at least that…

I’m just sayin’, that’s a lot of cotton candy to have on your plate with Ali flying in tomorrow night…Do me a favor, huh? Be a mensch and change the sheets, or get Gilruth to do it.

Yeah-yeah…I’ve got it covered, Niki, Viki, and Ali, all get frilly things…real high-end kinky lingerie from Suzy Creamcheese…everybody’s happy, no problems…The Kid will abide,The Kid will live & learn…

IRISHMAN (sings)
The Kid will crash & burn…

Which reminds me…

The Kid turns, hefting the massive screen-play which plops onto the unsuspecting lap of Cinco, who, until this second, had completely lost his place among temporal-spatial coordinates as the result of total cannabis saturation almost from the minute that Evans answered the door…

KID (to Cinco)
Make sure this gets to Peter Bart…we’re gonna drop you at this party-if he doesn’t show up, hand it to him in person at the office-under NO circumstances are you to turn this over to Frank Yablans or even let him see it-got that?

IRISHMAN (leaning forward)
There’s gonna be an amigo there by the name of Emilio, we’d like you to convey our regrets at having just missed him, but make sure he gets treated real good, OK? I knew
I could count on you pal…

The Irishman deploys The Smile, which has never been known to fail.

The limo is slowly losing its race with the solar orb toward the western horizon of orange & pink & darkening azure…lights twinkle on across the bay, the trees still swaying and undulating in slow motion like deep-sea flora…



Somewhere during the hazy ride to the beach I’d gathered just enough presence, or absence of mind to exchange phone numbers with one of the babble-on girls in the Limo. It had seemed like the suave Irishman-like thing to do. But now, I couldn’t for the life of me remember which one. Would it, could it, possibly matter? But there was nobody around to answer that question as the limo pulled back onto the Coast Highway toward the general direction of The Game…

It’s Bad-Boy night at Trancas Beach. I should have known that Bart would have the good sense & foresight to sit this one out. Pouring a shit-load of booze & blow into the likes of Gary Busey, Jan Michael Vincent, Don Johnson, and David Carridine, would seem to imply a fairly self-explanatory punch-line.

Feminine presence is slow in arriving due to the volatile possibilities just outlined. The primary exception to that paradigm being the Margolin-Kidder-Salt team that I knew slightly from parties at Nicholas Beach. Less formally known as Janet, Margo, and Jennifer, they always seemed to present an amiable and witty buffer to the accumulation of coke-dilated egos that occur as an oft-repeated motif at Malibu parties. In stark contrast to most party hostesses on the scene, their graciousness often extended even to those of us yet to achieve the various intermediate states of celebrity enjoyed by the majority of the guests (Scorsese, De Palma. Spielberg, etc.) Intelligent, articulate, opinionated actresses, eager to discuss literature & writing craft with anyone besides the morbid, suicidally self-absorbed Paul Schrader or the blustery shot-gun wielding John Milius.

Tonight at Trancas, out on the deck in the rear of the house facing the ocean, is an impromptu band jamming on a Hank Williams tune. There’s Busey on guitar & vocals, Rick Danko8on bass & vocals, Dennis Wilson-who seems to be having some difficulty in staying upright-on drums, with Jesse ‘Ed’ Davis & Ron Wood on guitars …noted medications consultant Kathy Smith lurks nearby.

Big commotion from inside…the guest of honor, Emilio Fernandez has arrived. A celebrated actor/director of the Mexican cinema, Fernandez also has a rep as a far, far Badder Boy than everyone here tonight put together. A larger-than-life man of passionately expressed aesthetic preferences, he has been known to occasionally kill disrespectful critics & uncooperative extras on movie sets. Rounding out the resume is a series of duels, bankruptcies, and volatile relationship entanglements, not to mention massive sombreroed Presence as an actor, and an astonishing body of directorial work.

The band (’Teddy-Jack-Eddy’ according to a slurred Busey when asked) is growling its staggering path through a John Lee Hooker song, sounding pretty good too, when suddenly:

Shots-broken glass-shouts-cries-sobbing panicked hysteria…

…inside: everyone scatters…

-Don Johnson headed for the side-door, exits through sliding glass window

-Schrader paranoically crouched beneath the dining room table fumbling for his piece…

-I can see Busey out on the deck, dive right over the rail and into the surf…

The storm had already passed even as I bolted into the den. Fernandez had holstered his pearl handled 44. and was standing transfixed by a full-face close-up of Maria Felix on the tube.

A shredded painting & splintered frame were strewn on the floor…I think it was a Schnabel-I really couldn’t tell.

As a man of highly refined aesthetic sensibilities, Emilio was bound by honor to deliver the coup-de-grace to the offending canvas.

I think it was Janet Margolin, who in the midst of all this had calmly walked over and flipped the tube over to a Spanish language station. Margolin was later heard to say, “I always regarded TV at a party as a crass declasse bummer; something we’d only put up with to humor Spielberg, but over there on channel 34 was an old Emilio Fernandez movie. Go figure…”

The motion is seconded by Harry Dean Stanton, who had been serenely chain-smoking out on the deck through the entire outburst…now steps to the microphone with an acoustic, to deliver a beautiful, aching rendition of ‘Las Golondrinas’…followed by an early Henry Porter tune.


So Bart would get the screenplay-just not that that night. A bargain would be struck, terms negotiated, a favor repaid…A call placed by Sidney Korshak from his usual table at the Bistro, sitting as always, equidistant between two phones, one of which would convey The Deal as pitched by Korshak, to interested parties who, having an aggregate IQ exceeding room-temperature, would acknowledge the futility of refusal, and accede to the terms without further delay. Learner would take possession of the screenplay, and I reasonably assumed that once having been fobbed off on Bart, “O’Blivion’s Water” would be out of my life, soon forgotten as we all move on to other things.

So much for reasonable assumptions…


“All right, let’s click up a few of the folks you’ll likely be meeting in the next few days…” Privette swivels the screen around to our line of vision, “Exactly what the practical function is for some of these individuals is frankly a mystery to me. A most unusual entourage…”

“OK, here’s Charles Kyd L’Maigne-early LSD chemist from the 60s Bay area culture…in the same circle, but never as famous or prolific as Owsely, much more low-key, hence difficult to indict or convict. Indeed, the one case filed against him, dried up & blew away when the Company-connected star witness for the prosecution took a brody.”

“Here’s Major Hector Arcana, ex-Air Force intelligence, former consultant to the Eviary & the Aquarium

“So I’m at my sister in law’s, right? A total fuckin’ Republican dingbat. At a regretfully inevitable social commitment, she starts going on about Clare Booth Luce or some shit, and I remember this entry in an antique encyclopedia I’d bought over the weekend at a garage sale that read:
Nor is Antichrist unknown to Mohammedan theology in which he is called Masth al Dajjal, the false or lying Christ…He is to be one-eyed and marked on the forehead with the letters CFR, i.e. Cafir or infidel.

“CFR, huh? Well…she’s got the same Encyclopedia Britannica right there in the dining room. As a patriotic Christian, I’m thinkin’ she must want to know, right? With any luck I thought, it should ruin her Thanksgiving. So, lo & behold, I go to look, and…there’s no entry. Everything else in the book is the same, except page 126, where that one specific paragraph is missing. The difference? My copy is 1904, hers:1919. Did a little googling, found that a preacher from Austin Texas, named Texe Marrs, has written concerning the very same entry. Reverend Marrs, who happens to be a retired USAF officer, who has taught psychology, political science, American defense policy, aerospace studies, and strategic weapons systems (nice resume Texe), claims in ‘Circle of Intrigue’ that in 1919, as the Council on Foreign Relations was forming, a certain Colonel House arranged to buy the rights to the Britannica, so as to expunge the offending material. Texe comes up a little short on documenting this assertion, but if you google on out to where the buses don’t run, you might come across that early photo of Col. House & Ezra Buckley III 9 shaking hands at the closing of a deal.”

1Corresponding Steely Dan songs for Chapter One: Babylon Sisters and Hey 19
2from TLS authors: One of the predecessors to Doc Sportello [from Pynchon’s Inherent Vice] would of course be Nick Danger, a psychedelic Chandler-style private eye on the second Firesign Theater album, who eventually morphs into Dick Private—Private Dicktective on Firesign spin-off album Roller Maidens from Outer Space by Phil Austin. A glance at the synopsis of this story is, I think, well worth anyone’s while—most…illuminating. Also reference private eye “Richard Privette” of the “post-Pellicano era” in TLS Chap. 1
3Terry-from-Lennox: Terry Lennox, murderer from Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, filmed in 1973 by Robert Altman starring Eliot Gould. The Long Goodbye figures prominently in the Theresa Duncan/Jeremy Blake mythos, being, purportedly, Jeremy Blake’s favorite film
4Engram Frazier:Ingram Frizer : killed playwright Christopher Marlowe. Engram: a neuropsychology term denoting means by which memory traces are stored, also used by the Church of Scientology for a recording of a painful memory not accessible by the conscious mind. Frazier: Sir James Frazer, author of The Golden Bough (1890), comparative study of mythology and religion, focusing on fertility cults and “death of the king” rituals.
5These lines reference part of the Jandek mythos: “He’d written seven novels, but after they’d been rejected by New York publishers, he’d burned all the manuscripts.” Not to mention the significance of the number 7.
6″The Plaster Cramp” is a title from “The Library of Babel”, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. Full text here:
7The Warren Beatty character in Shampoo, filmed in 1975, is a composite character based partly on hairstylist Jay Sebring, who was murdered at the Polanski/Tate residence along with Sharon Tate, etc at 10050 Cielo Drive, August 9, 1969.
8Rick Danko, of seminal group The Band, wrote songs with countercultural hero and prankster Emmett Grogan, who is thinly disguised as “Kenny Wisdom” in TLS Chapter 5. See also song “Brainwash” lyrics (quoted on Untermeyer’s blog, 9/23/09)
9A character from Jorge Luis Borges’ short story Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, an eccentric American benefactor who expands the scale of the Uqbarist enterprise to a full Tlönist encyclopedic undertaking. “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” is required reading for a full understanding of The Last Statue. Full text here:

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Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2014 by kidkenoma











“I have built a labyrinth…” -Ts’ui Pen

“Oulipians: rats who build the labyrinth from which they plan to escape” -Raymond Queneau

“History is a nightmare from which I am tryng to awake.” -James Joyce

“This is not a game…” – Jeanine Salla

“Everything in the world exists to be in a book.” -Stephan Mallarme

“This is not a novel.” -James Wood

“Everything you know is wrong…” -Ts’ui Pen