Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Glimpse of Stocking - Elizabeth Gage

"Baby's getting sticky," she said with feigned surprise and disapproval. "Does it make you sticky to think such dirty thoughts about me?"

Pocket Books, April 1989

Recently I've strayed from my typical reading cuisine to sample old bestsellers of their time that were marketed toward women. One of the titles that I’d come across now again is A Glimpse of Stocking by Elizabeth Gage. I distinctly remember seeing it often enough in used bookstores but would skip right past it. A post at The Sleaze Factor, kindled my interest in this one. Then finding the dang book turned out to be not so easy. That’s often the way it is, you hear about a book, decide you’re going to look for it and come up short at the local bookstore haunts. So, I put it down on that list of “want-to-reads” that I always lose and moved on to other things. Then about a month back I found it in a used bookshelf, shoved on its side, spine down, so that all one could see was a brick of yellowed pages. Yep, it’s a thick one all right, sort of like your typical Clive Barker paperback.

A Glimpse of Stocking turned out to be a pretty good find. I got pulled in immediately to the story, which starts out in late 60’s Hollywood. The novel kicks off with a prologue that, like most prologues could be skipped, followed by short chapter detailing a disturbing tryst between an unnamed man and woman in a hotel room in 1947. Jump ahead 20 years to 1967 and we meet hopeful young starlet Annie Havilland arriving alone at movie tycoon Harmon Kurth’s mansion. There’s no doubt that Kurth is one of those villainous bastards who has no good intentions in store for our heroine Annie. She quickly realizes that she’s been lured into Kurth’s digs under false pretexts and, as she tries to leave, is brutally beaten and raped by Kurth and his valet. Used and discarded, Annie attempts to press charges and discovers that Kurth is one of those guys who has friends in high places, and that her word against his isn't worth a used condom on a dirt road. After an offer of hush-money is made and rejected, Annie discovers that her name is poison in Hollywood circles. So, it’s back to New York for her, to lick her wounds and plot her next course in life which will ultimately include vengeance on Harmon Kurth.

Christine is brought into the novel as a call girl of stunning beauty matched only by her capacity of self preservation. After a childhood of terrible cruelty and abuse, Christine makes a life for herself hustling playboys and wealthy scions with kinky tastes. And if she has to kill a few dickheads along the way, well then, buddy, that's just what she'll do.

It doesn't take much of a genius to know that Christine and Annie’s world will soon intersect, and in ways that neither one of them could dream of. Along the journey we’re entertained by a parade of characters ranging from noble to sleazy. Included in the bunch is a private investigator who, while essentially honest, isn't above keyhole peeping to get what he needs, a movie star whose seething sexuality and rebel-good-looks mask the fact he’s really just another shallow douchebag, a larger-than-life writer who can buck the rules in Hollywood to get what he wants, a talented stage actor who spirals right down into the basement industry thanks to the needle and the spoon, a socialite with a secret past, and a powerful movie mogul with a taste for torture. There are plenty of scenes to please that little perv hidden within everyone, and just enough violence to counterbalance the melodrama.

Oh, my friends, it’s the stuff of the best kind of trashy fiction you can get. Just the kind of book that is supposed to smell like musty paper and Kent cigarettes. Maybe there should be an app for E-Readers that’ll replicate that…

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cult Movie Classic - The Big Cube

Sorry about the delay in posts. I set a schedule for myself to do at least one post a week, then failed. Like all great intentions...oh well. At least I've gotten some good books finished in the meantime, in addition to another column for Dark Eclipse which you might want to check out if you're so inclined.

I've been meaning to throw out a post for a pretty cool movie I saw some weeks back on TCM. It's The Big Cube, from 1969 and stars Lana Turner, Karin Mossberg, George Chakiris, Richard Egan and Daniel O'Herlihy. It was directed by Tito Davison.

Karin Mossberg in The Big Cube
The big names in the flick are clearly Lana Turner and George Chakiris, and both play their roles to the hilt. Well, at least George Chakiris does. Maybe Ms Turner was cashing a check, but still, she is enjoyable to watch. As is Karin Mossberg for reasons which are readily apparent in the photo here.

Lana Turner stars as Adriana, a stage actress who retires from the stage to marry Charles Winthrop, played by Daniel O'Herlihy. Winthrop is one of those wealthy cats who makes his living flying around the world making millions. His daughter Lisa (Karin Mossberg) fresh in from school in Europe, takes an instant dislike to Adriana. Adriana is nothing but kind to Lisa, and fervently hopes the two can get along swimmingly. Instead, Lisa immediately falls into the sordid world of bored rich kids and their squalid kicks. She meets a real charmer named Johnny Allan, who notices the swanky jewels on Lisa's lovely body and decides his ship has finally come to port. Daddy is none too pleased with Lisa's savage friends and makes it loud and clear to her. But Charles Winthrop is quickly jettisoned from the story due to a boating accident. He leaves his fortune to Lisa, naming Adriana as executor of the estate. The only catch is that Lisa is not to marry her boyfriend Johnny. Seems old Winthrop has seen right through slimy Johnny's intentions with Lisa. Johnny (George Chakiris) is a medical student of dubious reputation. When not bedding his new rich girlfriend, he gets his kicks dosing people with LSD. It's all mad fun! Everything is all hunky-dory until he learns of the the condition that Lisa not marry him if she expects to inherit a dime of Daddy's wealth. He quickly convinces Lisa that everything is Adriana's fault. If Adriana had never come into the picture, why Lisa would have her fortune and they could be married. Damn that Adriana, damn her! Only one thing the lovebirds can do. That is, dose Adriana with LSD and drive her batshit. Lisa, bless her pretty (empty) little head, quickly falls into line, and together she and Johnny commence with a campaign of psychological warfare on kind and trusting Adriana.

There are plenty of campy, psychedelic trippy scenes in The Big Cube to enjoy, along with a nifty little strip-tease act by one of Lisa's pals. Karin Mossberg is lovely to look at throughout the movie, but can't really compete in the acting department with the likes of Chakiris and Turner. Still, it's kind of a fun movie to check out. I understand it's available in a camp classic box-set from Warner Bros. I've also seen it pop up on TCM a few times, so it shouldn't be too hard to catch at some point.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

All on Sunday - Don Elliott

The family shame was their only fame!

This is one I picked up about a year ago for the princely sum of $9 from a local book dealer. I'd already learned, thanks to the terrific Stark House Press that Don Elliott is really Robert Silverberg. Silverberg wrote dozens of these titles back in the heyday of smut paperbacks, two of which, Gang Girl and Sex Bum, have been re-issued for your pleasure by Stark House.

Ember Library Books, 1966
There really isn't a plot to All on Sunday. All of the events in the novel take place on a single day where the Hallowell family, Ken and Kate, and their children Avis and Johnny, go about chasing down their own afternoon delights with wild abandon. Ken Hallowell is a 42 year old suburbanite square, proud of his virility and his mistress, Laurel (more on her to come). He wakes up with a woody, next to his attractive wife Kate, early on Sunday morning. He debates a morning tussle in the sheets with her, before deciding to save his reserves for Laurel. After breakfast, he informs Kate that he's off for 18 holes on the links with his buddies. He throws his clubs into the trunk of the car and speeds off to Laurel's apartment like a kid tearing off to the candy store.

Laurel is one of those icy-hot babes that make an art out of twisting men like Ken around her finger. Within moments after his arrival, she has Ken kissing her feet, and begging her for it. Throughout their afternoon date, she'll have Ken on the ropes, alternatively teasing and pleasuring him, driving him (and the reader!) mad with desire. And she's got a special surprise in store for Ken that just might be more than his square suburban proprieties can handle!

Johnny Hallowell, Ken and Kate's teenage son, has an afternoon lined up with Donna, the butcher's wife. Donna is one of those babes with a kinky streak a mile wide. In no time flat she's initiating Johnny into the world of latex, leather, whips and bondage. It turns out Johnny is quite an apt pupil.

Avis Hallowell, the beautiful, virginal teenage daughter has an afternoon picnic planned with her boyfriend Fred. Avis is a little worried, because just the night before she and Fred had engaged in some heavy petting resulting in Fred's hand exploring under her skirt. Reluctantly, she put the kibosh on the necking, leaving Fred high and dry. She feels bad about it now, because she really wants to prove her love to Fred, but doesn't want to be that kind of a girl...or does she? Turns out, we all know the answer to that one, especially after Avis decides to wear her sexiest pink underwear under her tightest shorts, so tight they're ready to bust at the seams. Fred is about to have one picnic he'll never forget!

All of the Hallowells are off, leaving Kate home alone, bored and frustrated. Before marriage, Kate was a wild girl in the Greenwich Village scene, hanging out and getting high with her bohemian friends, sharing herself in numerous ways, even allowing one of her artist friends to make a plaster cast of her magnificent boobs. Since then, marriage has been nice and all, but lets face it, twenty years of life with Ken hasn't exactly measured up to the wild promise of youth she so fondly recalls. Kate is just tipping a bottle of sherry to help pass a lonely Sunday afternoon when the phone rings. Her old roommate Elinor is in town for the day and interested in swinging by to say hi to her old pal Kate. When Elinor shows up in taxi a few minutes later, we instantly know that Kate's afternoon is about to get a whole lot more exiting, like toot sweet! Turns out, Elinor is a writer of travel books which provide a jet set globe-trotting lifestyle that Kate could only dream of. But more than that, Elinor is also the woman behind a massive underground bestseller named The Women of Halfworld, a novel about Lesbians.

Elinor grinned. "Sure. That's how it was. I'm a Lesbian now, Kate. I gave up men ten years ago. Didn't you realize? I'm a dyke, sweetie."

And with that, Kate's suburban exterior is quickly shed, along with her clothes, leaving Elinor to initiate her into the wild pleasures of a love that shall remain unspoken.

All in all, All on Sunday was a fun book to read. I didn't go into it expecting a whole lot, and enjoyed the way Elliott (Silverberg) juggled the afternoon's events. Also, the writing was effortless. Even in a "cheap little smut book" like this, Silverberg shows just why his work, even his hack-work, is always readable. Better than today's self-indulgent stuff that is churned out by those oh-so-earnest young artistes with ivy-league credentials we're told to slaver over in reviews heard on NPR. Guys like Silverberg and others have already been there and done that, sweetie!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday Night Vinyl - Portrait of Leda

Leda sings blood music. D.H. Lawrence would have understood her. 

Columbia - WL 114, 1958
Well, if D.H. Lawrence would have understood Leda Annest, then he must have been some amazing kind of cat! This 1958 record Portrait of Leda by Leda Annest and Phil Moore is one of the more unusual albums I've found and taken home. I'd never heard of Leda Annest before picking this one up out of a box labelled "unclassifiable" at an old favorite record store I like to visit. I'd say it's somewhere between exotica and orchestra. The long liner notes on the back of the cover describe it best, "To listen to Leda is to hear the secret voices of the wellsprings of life come to the ear one after the other...I have seen a group of businessmen who listened to Leda together fall into consternation and embarrassment."

This must have been quite a platter to drop on that unsuspecting kitten invited up to a bachelor's apartment for a nightcap. It's got one objective in mind: Sex! Deep, dark, sloppy, wild sex! Leda's voice runs from the guttural to tortured to angelic, all in the space of three long tracks on this record. I'm betting, though, that when played for that neat little chick in 1958, there was too much going on in the dark for anyone to get up and flip the record over. The liner notes in back warn the listener that it's a record best played alone. To let Leda "find you, touch you, know'll be richer for it."

Some years later, a certain phony artist who married a well known Beatle tried recording songs with a similar method. She ended up making cats in heat fighting with screeching babies sound better. Unfortunately, she's the punchline for singing in the style Leda Annest does here. And it's a safe bet that more people know this certain Beatle widow than anyone remembering Leda Annest. That's a shame, because Leda is definitely the real deal when it comes to belting out savage, seductive siren wail of the "soul-psyche-soma."

Find Portrait of Leda, and play it at your own risk. Don't say you weren't warned.