Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Screaming Hot Dog Express to Trip City, Track 47—All Aboard!

April 7 is a special day in the United Provinces of Ivanlandia.

April 7 is not only the birthdays of Francis Ford Coppola and Billie Holiday.

Twenty-five years ago today, something special, something magical, something…mind-expanding happened in the United Provinces of Ivanlandia…

Sure, the Anti-Gravity Society had something to do with it, but we’ve never regretted taking the plunge.

Which makes it all the more wonderful that the seventh day in April can be written:

[click on the quotes to see who said what]

"Marijuana is the flame, heroin is the fuse, LSD is the bomb. So don't you try to equate liquor to marijuana, mister, not with me. You may be able to sell that jazz to another pothead, but not to somebody who holds some sick kid's head while he vomits and wretches on a curbstone at four o’clock in the morning. And when his legs get enough starch into them so he can stand up and empty his pockets, you can bet he'll have a stick or two of marijuana. And you can double your money he'll turn up a sugar cube or a cap or two. So don't you con me with your mind expansion slop. I deal with kids every day. I try to clean up the mess that people like you make out of 'em. I'm the expert here, you're not."

“I did LSD in the hospital, never on my own. I did it in a controlled environment to try to find things out about myself. A psychiatrist told me I should take some LSD trips.”

According to Easydreamer, the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation put out “Screaming Hot Dog” in 1969. Damn, I wished I’d been a fly on the wall during that pitch meeting…

“I first dropped acid when I was 18…”

"Always that same LSD story, you've all seen it. 'Young man on acid thought he could fly, jumped out of a building. What a tragedy.' What a dick! Fuck him, he’s an idiot. If he thought he could fly, why didn’t he take off on the ground first? Check it out. You don’t see ducks lined up to catch elevators to fly south—they fly from the ground, ya moron, quit ruining it for everybody. He’s a moron, he’s dead—good, we lost a moron, fuckin’ celebrate. Wow, I just felt the world get lighter. We lost a moron! I don’t mean to sound cold, or cruel, or vicious, but I am, so that’s the way it comes out. Professional help is being sought. How about a positive LSD story? Wouldn't that be newsworthy, just the once? To base your decision on information rather than scare tactics and superstition and lies? I think it would be newsworthy. 'Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. That we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we're the imagination of ourselves...Here's Tom with the weather.' "

The most beautiful tripper in the universe—I understand what she’s saying; do you?

“The Pranksters had what looked like about a million doses of the Angels’ favorite drug—beer—and LSD for all who wanted to try it. The beer made the Angels very happy and the LSD made them strangely peaceful and sometimes catatonic, in contrast to the Pranksters and other intellectuals around, who soared on the stuff…. The Angels were adding LSD to the already elaborate list of highs and lows they liked, beer, wine, marijuana, Benzedrine, Seconal, Amytal, Nembutal, Tuinal. Some of them had terrible bummers—bummer was the Angels’ term for a bad trip on a motorcycle and very quickly it became the hip world’s term for a bad trip on LSD. The only bad moment at Kesey’s came one day when an Angel went berserk during the first rush of the drug and tried to strangle his old lady on Kesey’s front steps. But he was too wasted at that point to really do much.”

“…more important than reading the Bible six times…”

“That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling ‘consciousness expansion’ without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him too seriously…. All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours, too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped to create…. a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody—or at least some force—is tending the Light at the end of the tunnel.”

"I don't like any of the stronger psychedelics. I would never take LSD... I hate it…I've tried it. I just hate it. I don't like the feeling.... It makes me nervous. My coordination isn't good and there's a metallic taste in my mouth and there's nothing I like about it. I've taken mescaline, psilocybin. The only one I've been able to use with consistency is cannabis."

Watch this one all the way through, it’s worth it.

"If God dropped acid, would He see people?"

“The whole LSD, STP, marijuana, heroin, hashish, prescription cough medicine crowd suffers from the Watchtower itch: you gotta be with us, man, or you're out, you're dead. This pitch is a continual and seeming MUST with those who use the stuff. It's no wonder they keep getting busted.”

A classic—check it out. I miss EBN.
EBN: Psychoactive Drugs
Watch this one all the way through, it’s worth it.

“Psychedelics had become an issue of general interest. Black-market LSD seemed to be readily available in all parts of the country and for all age groups. Self-experimentation with psychedelics flourished on university campuses, and many large cities had their hippie districts with distinct drug subcultures. The casualties from the psychedelic scene were making newspaper headlines; almost every day one could read sensationalist reports about psychotic breakdowns, self-mutilations, suicides and murders attributed to the use of LSD. At the same time, the psychedelic movement was profoundly influencing contemporary culture - music, painting, poetry, design, interior decorating, fashion, movies, theatre and television plays.”

“I think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have this substance LSD. It is just a tool to turn us into what we are supposed to be."

What do Peter Fonda, Vincent Price and Jackie Gleason have in common?

They’ve all played characters that have dropped acid in movies!
(The Trip, The Tingler, Skidoo)

Personally, I feel every fan of Psychotronic movies or the Cinema of Weirdness needs to see Skidoo: it’s like the hajj to Mecca—everybody’s gotta do it at least once. Just because.

Don’t bother watching Skidoo on pan-&-scan like some bootlegs do it and how it was broadcast on TCM in January: In fact the film really needs to be seen in a theater, so you can feel you’re in it—maybe one of those new giant home video systems could reproduce that feeling—because the framing of each scene is important, and the widescreen allows room to breathe.

Of course, all this is tough as Skidoo is not on DVD, and rarely screened. I’ve been lucky enough to catch Skidoo twice in a theater, once at the Museum of Modern Art (no lie), and then at the Film Forum—where they screened the flick’s workprint, grease pencil marks and all. That was weird—and utterly fascinating.

Skidoo is hardly flawless, but so what? It’s great.
Skidoo is earnest in its misguidedness: these are Hollywood squares trying to make sense/fit in/appreciate/make a buck off of the youth culture…and failing so spectacularly that it falls through the anti-matter universe and returns pure gold.

The whole endeavor is like the document of some South Seas cargo cult—they understand how much of these strange gifts work, but they’re not sure why.

I mean, Carol Channing’s striptease makes you want to throw up—it’s a scene that’s painfully long—and that’s brilliant!

The Trashcan Ballet is also long—but because it keeps getting layered with weird opticals and winds up being just so gosh darn sweet, you wish it wouldn’t end.

The scenes of hippies hanging out have a real documentary quality to them—but “spoiled Hollywood brats playing hippy” documentary feeling.

I love, love, love the intense close-ups of Jackie Gleason when he’s tripping: the Great One, indeed!

And not only are the credits by Saul Bass (or a very good lookalike style-wise, since he’s not credited), the flick’s got a whole soundtrack by Harry Nilsson! Slap your forehead, what else do you want?!?

And check out this site to witness a true Skidoo-head.

The film is not “so bad, it’s good”—Skidoo is great because it is what it is. Dig?

It’s one of late artist David Wojnarowicz’s favorite films (I was told by a friend of his in conversation), and that’s a fact I find awesome—and makes some level of sense if you’re familiar with Wojnarowicz’s work.

And then a flick like The Tingler is not a LSD movie, per se—but it is a film whose characters take LSD. And then a weird lobster crushes your spine—unless you scream, SCREAM, SCREAM!!!

Of course there are flicks, like Yellow Submarine or El Topo or 2001 that many say seem like they were made by and for regular LSD users—but that sort of reductiveness is counter-productive in the appreciation of art and weirdness for its own sake, I feel.

Besides, the truth be told, all films can be said to be made by and for regular LSD users, right? It’s the old false reality/Plato’s cave/are-you-watching-the-screen-or-is-it-watching-you whammy.

LSD has had, in contemporary society, quite the Jekyll-and-Hyde reputation, first being touted as a great psychiatric cure-all (and in the espionage world as the ultimate truth serum), then, after its criminalization, as a chromosome-damaging mind melter.

Meanwhile, taking LSD combines three aspects of genre movies: sci-fi (ingesting some new strange chemical to discover something new), fantasy (the trip itself), and horror (reality, or, on the other hand, what the trip does to you, blah-blah-blah-mom-&-dad-were-right).

Although entertaining and gratifying, films about taking drugs never seem as satisfying as films that were either influenced or appear to have been influenced by drugs. Like humans, films should only use LSD as a means to an end.

And as cool as they may be, can The Trip, Psychedelic Sexualis, and Psych-Out stand up against 2001, Apocalypse Now or Videodrome? Against Watchmen? I haven’t seen that movie yet, but it sure looks lysergic.

And the best—i.e. consistently entertaining, timeless—flicks specifically about LSD made at the time when acid was making headlines tend to be the ones that are violently, almost psychotically anti-drug, like those two great Dragnet episodes about acid, “The LSD Story” (usually known as “Blue Boy”) and “The Prophet.”

Now those are far trippier than Psych-Out could ever hope to be. But of course, that’s because Jack Webb had a philosophy.

Not to say that diamonds can’t be found here and there…
In Psych-Out, there’s a great moment where Jack Nicholson confronts Dean Stockwell. Their characters are both in the same rock band, with Nicholson playing the ambitious stardom chaser, and Stockwell as the one who’s sick of it all, especially the “plastic hassle” of the fame game.

Take a step back now. They’re both playing themselves as they were at that particular moment of history:
Nicholson’s star is rising, but so far it’s just been B-movies and the occasional bit part on The Andy Griffith Show, and
Jack knows he’s got to keep working hard to grab that big brass ring.
Going back to Neptune City, New Jersey, a failure is not in his game plan.
(But isn’t it neat to think that Jack Nicholson grew up on Neptune?)

Meanwhile, Stockwell is tired, his career waning; he’s been a child star, a teen idol, and as an adult (like pal Russ Tamblyn), he’s now only taking these funky roles that allow him to keep his long hair and act all freako.

Forget it Jake, it’s Tokyo
Horrors of Malformed Men, sort-of recently released to DVD, also sure looks like it was made by folks who’ve dropped some acid—but that’s neither here nor there: as with Yellow Submarine or El Topo, this movie is beautiful weirdness.

It doesn’t matter if a movie doesn’t make sense as long as it keeps your interest, and Horrors of Malformed Men is one of the most unique exploitation movies ever. The script is convoluted and crazy, but there’s a psychedelically lurid visual style, and plenty of nudity and violence to keep your attention.

Lysergically schizophrenic, that’s what this movie is.

Basically, if you’re interested in the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, John Waters or David Lynch, check out Horrors of Malformed Men.
Director Teruo Ishii is called an “exploitation auteur,” and I was grateful.

Watching Horrors of Malformed Men, I realized that in the hands of a “serious artist,” this movie would have probably been dull and ponderous—that you need the B-movie maniacs and weirdos to keep things hopping.


  1. Your neighbor at the timeApril 7, 2009 at 9:33 PM

    Happy Anniversary, Ivan.

  2. Is that you Coach Popovich?
    Sorry about all the noise...

    GO SPURS!!!

  3. Although I can't read, I love your blog. You have some sexy gymnastic women, and the men are beyond belief! Where do you find such creatures? Oh yeah, do you have a thing against women wearing vinyl, because I didn't see a single one. Just wondering what some of your problems are.