Tag Archives: Alaina Capri

MEYER MONTH – Top Ten Biggest Meyer Girl Bustlines

17 Mar

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HONOURABLE MENTION – June Mack
Unbelievably I can’t find any record of June Mack’s measurements anywhere but it’s safe to say that her enhanced boobs were some of the most unforgettable in all of Russ Meyer’s films. Known for playing Junkyard Sal in Beneath The Valley of the Ultravixens, Mack was murdered shortly after filming finished taking a bullet for a friend.

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HONOURABLE MENTION – Alaina Capri
With a 42E bustline, Capri just misses the top ten by making number eleven. She famously had a misunderstanding with the director and refused to work with him again after he showed much more of her flesh on the big screen then he alluded he would.

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#10 – JUNE WILKINSON – 43E
Naturally busty Wilkinson was shot numerous times by Meyer in the 1950s with many of his photographs gracing the front covers of pin up magazines. Meyer called Wilkinson and asked her to be in his first feature The Immoral Mr. Teas and she accepted, appearing uncredited in a brief cameo in which only her breasts appear.

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#9 – TEMPEST STORM – 44E
Tempest Storm’s naturally conical breasts instantly captivated a young Meyer who took numerous pictorials of the star in the 50s. This eventually led to Meyer shooting her in his first foray into filmmaking, French Peep Show.

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#8 – CYNTHIA MYERS – 39F
One of the best known Playboy playmates of the 1960s, it comes as no surprise that Russ had his eye on Cynthia long before he cast her as Casey in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. During her modelling career she featured on the now infamous front cover of Playboy’s December 1968 issue where she was dressed as a Christmas tree.

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#7 – LORNA MAITLAND – 42F
Lorna Maitland wasn’t the original choice for the lead role in Meyer’s gothic picture Lorna. In fact, Meyer fired the actress originally cast for having too small a bust after he saw photographs of Lorna on the first day of shooting. Maitland was promptly hired.

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#6 – USCHI DIGARD – 44F
Naturally busty Digard found her large boobs attracted a lot of attention and subsequently starred in numerous exploitation films before moving into porn.

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#5 – CANDY SAMPLES – 46F
A prolific pornography star of the 70s and 80s, Samples had cameos in both Up! and Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens.

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#4 – KITTEN NATIVIDAD – 34G
Meyer’s paramour for a long time, Natividad first had implant surgery when she was 21 to aid her Go-Go dancing career. Sadly for Kitten, she had a double mastectomy in 1999 after developing breast cancer. It transpired that the silicone used in her implants was of industrial grade and she has since has corrective surgery.

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#3 – ANNE MARIE – 67 inch bustline
Whilst her exact measurements elude me, there’s no denying that Ann Marie’s eye-popping 67 inch bust is a sight for sore eyes, made all the more impressive by her minuscule waist.

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#2 – DARLENE GREY – 36H
Arguably the most voluptuous girl to have ever appeared in one of Meyer’s films (and yes, they are natural), British Darlene Grey also has the distinction of being rejected by Playboy for being, er… Too big.

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#1 – PANDORA PEAKS – 42J
The older Meyer got, the bigger in size his breast fetish got culminating in his last film and leading lady, Pandora Peaks.

MEYER MONTH – ‘Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers!’ (1968)

7 Mar

Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers isn’t your atypical Russ Meyer film. A picture that feels like a small slump in his career, Finders has none of the sleaziness, fun and venomous swipes of its predecessors Common Law Cabin and Good Morning… and Goodbye!. Nor is it as exciting and charming as its successor, the certificate challenging Vixen!. Sadly, this is a feature that feels like the director switched on autopilot and stopped caring, creating a picture that feels like a dull thriller television movie then a tantalising sexploitation escapade.

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Kelly (Anne Chapman) and Paul (Paul Lockwood) are an unhappily married couple, cheating on each other and generally being miserable in each other’s company (and in typical Meyer fashion, it is the husband’s sexual inadequacy and neglect that has forced the wife into adultery). Paul owns a bar and has a mistress Claire on the side (Lavelle Roby). Anne, unbeknownst to her husband, occasionally dances at said bar when he isn’t there and shows the punters a lot more than she shows him. On this one particular night however, the two of them get caught up in a heist job, headed by a man named Cal (Duncan McLeod) and things get… well, remotely interesting?

You’d be forgiven for assuming it all sounds a bit drab, because, quite frankly, it is. Now don’t get me wrong, I am under no illusions about Russ Meyer as a filmmaker and certainly do not consider him in some mythical, underrated ‘best filmmaker of all time’ in some semi-quasi Orson Welles kind of way. But Finders is without a doubt one of his weakest films. It’s tiny cast and minimal locations just aren’t enough to pull itself out from the ghastly shadow that is a terrible script. Full of badly written one-liners and dialogue that lacks any kind of emotion, the picture essentially feels like a made-for-television movie, with some added tits. And even then, there isn’t as much breast as you would have thought for a Meyer picture. Everything feels a little, well, lacklustre and probably at the expense of the plot’s restriction to allow much else to happen.

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What doesn’t help the picture is that its cast is one of the most forgettable out of all those used in Meyer’s filmography. Leading lady Anne Chapman, to bluntly put it, has none of the looks or charm of any of the other Meyer girls. Whilst it feels horrible to say she isn’t pretty, it’s just simply that there is nothing about her that makes her memorable; none of the natural good looks of Alaina Capri, the feminine caricature of beauty that Babette Bardot had or attitude that Tura Satana possessed. She certainly attempts to make the most of the main role that she has but is easily upstaged by Lavelle Roby who has a considerably smaller supporting act. Roby manages to ooze confidence, sex appeal and authority in the maximum of ten minutes screen time she is given, giving the role of brothel owner Claire much more of an impact than that of Kelly. When she turns up at the end of the picture in a cream mac and go-go boots touting a gun at the male cast, you almost wish Meyer had taken her character and made another film (Roby was cast two years later in Meyer’s first studio release Beyond the Valley of the Dolls). One can totally imagine the likes of Roby, Capri, Erica Gavin, Haji and Kitten Natividad going up against each other in some gang war-esque melodrama about their character’s sex lives.

The male cast is also just as mixed. Duncan McLeod (another cast member who would also later crop up in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) is brilliant as the heist mastermind Cal, managing to effectively display his boredom for the job alongside his sadistic attitude to dealing with hostages. Robert Rudelson as his partner Feeny is a different kettle of fish altogether, playing the role of a complete nut job of a maniac with so much cliché that you wish he was written out of the script altogether. Sadly for the other two male cast members, Paul Lockwood and Gordon Wescourt, their fate is very similar to that of Chapman’s. With no personality or good looks and minimal acting ability, they are instantly forgettable. Even the director himself makes more of an impact in a split second cameo at the start of the film, leering over the bar’s topless dancer.

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Not that the film doesn’t have its clichéd Meyer moments, with the major sex scene being a highlight amongst the directors filmography. Underwater shots of bodies bumping and grinding against each other (which I will admit are beautifully lit) during sex are inter-cut with cars smashing each other at a derby. Yes its frenetic, yes it’s fast, but it’s also Meyer adding his ‘social redeeming value’ and moralisation to the story. The sin of the act of adultery is equatable to death. Not only does the editing get Meyer’s moral message across but diminishes the intensity of the characters orgasms, making it less of a target for obscenity persecution by the censors.  It’s worth fast forwarding the film to that one scene alone, probably the most entertaining and humorous part of the whole film which is only beats the ‘chest shaving’ scene to the top spot. In this, Paul gets his chest shaved at Claire’s brothel by one of the prostitutes who recounts her Amish childhood and incestuous relationship with her brother (flashbacks to her dressed in full Amish costume included). Meyer at one of his most random and equally un-arousing moments, it’s a scene that manages to equally appear quite innocent, as if the two were having sex for the first time. Apparently this was one of the directors favourite scenes and he was practically smacking his lips whilst shooting it.

Meyer had noticed the trend at that time of films switching from playing at drive-in theaters to hardtop indoor cinemas, one way of ensuing that those ‘tough’ moral types couldn’t catch a peek at what was screening and kick up a fuss. Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers turned out to be a huge hit and even found itself playing at legitimate cinemas by May 1969. It’s booking into Philadelphia’s first-run Randolph Theatre (replacing the MGM release of The Shoes for the Fisherman which had tanked) is a significant breakthrough for Meyer as a filmmaker as up to this point in his career his films had usually played art-house cinemas. That didn’t stop people trying to get him into trouble, even though they weren’t very successful… There were at least two incidents, one in Louisiana and one in Missouri, were the court ruled in Meyer’s favour after prints of Finders were seized for being obscene, without a prior adversary hearing determining if it actually was.

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Not one of the directors best but worth a watch for his unconscious attempt at doing somewhat of a serious film, the noir feel of Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers is one that could have been capitalised more on with a different cast and the final result eclipsed by the rest of his filmography.

MEYER MONTH – Alaina Capri, M(e)y(er) Kind of Gal.

17 Mar

Out of all the numerous women to have graced Russ Meyer’s filmography, only one stands out miles in front of the others for me. As soon as I clapped my eyes on Alaina Capri I knew that she was my Meyer girl. A figure to die for with curves in all the right places, a perfectly coiffed beehive, bedroom eyes laced with feline eyeliner that I can only dream of being able to do, a mouth that reels off sardonic, acid-tinged one-liners that cut through the air like a knife. Capri, like many of the other Meyer women, was one of a kind but sadly only starred in two of the directors features. Oh, how I wish she’d done more.

Not a great deal is known about Capri. One of eight children, Alaina was born Aelina Tuccinardi on June 13th 1939 and grew up in Inglewood, California. At one point during her teenage years she won a Miss Muscle Beach competition and had her picture published in the local paper. None other than Russ Meyer saw this picture and wound up taking photographs of a then sixteen year old Tuccinardi on a Malibu beach. In volume three of his autobiography A Clean Breast there is a picture of Alaina on a beach. Wearing a swimsuit and clutching a beach ball, she shows signs of becoming the woman in the Meyer films that so many people will remember her for. The photograph is not credited to Meyer, nor does it say that this was the original picture in the newspaper that Meyer first saw so it’s hard to determine its source. Needless to say, she looks adorable and could have quite easily wound up becoming a model with the looks she had.

Eventually Tuccinardi ended up at UCLA studying acting. Whilst there, she fell in with music impresario Oliver Berlinger who renamed her Alaina Capri and put her in a female pop trio called The Loved Ones. There is very little information around about the trio and it would seem that the name ‘The Loved Ones’ was rather popular during the 60s and 70s with bands and singers. The only article I can find that says anything about them is The Spokesman-Review dated June 9th 1966. Capri and her fellow singers, Arleen Starr and Suzanne Covington, all sing and dance ‘modern teen dance steps‘. The rest of the review suggests that they weren’t of much interest… Before flying off to do a gig in Japan, Berlinger saw an advert by Russ Meyer looking for buxom women. He sent in a photo of Capri and Meyer got in touch straight away to say he wanted her to be in his next film.

Capri had no acting experience aside from an uncredited walk on part in the 1957 release The Delicate Delinquent (which you can view here). The year 1967 saw Alaina and Russ Meyer team up twice for the features Common Law Cabin and Good Morning and… Goodbye!. First up was Common Law Cabin aka How Much Loving Does A Normal Couple Need?  which saw Capri play Sheila Ross, the sexually frustrated wife of a Doctor who wants male attention and makes sure she gets it. Incredibly bored with her straight-laced and dour husband, Ross goes after two other men, sleeps with one of them and eventually gets murdered at the end of the film. In Good Morning and… Goodbye! Alaina plays a similar role, that of Angel, the wife of an impotent farmer whose sexual shortcomings force her to be a sexual predator and sleep with other men in town. Luckily in this film, and thanks to a forest nymph, the film ends happily with everyone able to finally have the sex they want.

It goes without saying that Capri is one of the few women to have starred in a Meyer film who has any sort of genuine acting ability and it’s incredibly disappointing that he didn’t use more of her. Alaina has a natural sassiness that allows her to deliver lines with the perfect timing and a fantastic sting. Tura Satana could beat and knock you down with her words. Capri’s delivery is more like a venomous snake; one bite and your ego is slowly infected until you can’t take anymore. That coupled with the fact that she was one of the most naturally beautiful women that Meyer ever found and put in one of his films makes for an unforgettable double whammy. It says a lot when someone who only ever made two films can make such a memorable impact like hers. Interestingly, Meyer originally wanted her for a role in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls but she had just given birth.

Sadly, it was at the hands of Meyer that Capri decided to not do films again. During filming Good Morning and… Goodbye! Capri got the impression that the film would only allude to nudity (this was also apparently written in the script). Once she saw the film and saw that Meyer had included a lot of her, she got really upset and left Hollywood. Despite having fallen out, Meyer always respected her wishes for privacy and never once gave out her information or details. She even hid her film past from her children whom she only told in 2005 after being interviewed by Jimmy McDonough for his biography on Meyer (they’d already worked it out as youngsters). Currently residing in Malibu, Capri has enjoyed a career as a teacher. I would give anything to have lessons in being a woman from her…

MEYER MONTH – Jimmy McDonough interview

9 Mar

Writer Jimmy McDonough is a big deal in the world of Russ Meyer. This is the man who wrote Meyer’s biography, a feat that probably wouldn’t have happened when it did if Meyer hadn’t have been unwell. Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer is an illuminating portrait of the director with some great stories from all of those who were nearest and dearest to him. The book has been a bible for me since it’s release and I’m very grateful to Jimmy for taking some time out to answer some questions and talk about the great man. To say that this is a personal life-greatest-moment for me is an understatement and my sincerest thanks go out to the guy. His latest biography, Tragic Country Queen, on Tammy Wynette is out now and previous biographies include Neil Young and Andy Milligan. The film rights to Big Bosoms were bought last year and a biopic is currently in the works with director David O. Russell linked to the project.

How did you first become aware of Russ Meyer and his career?

At some point I spied an old girlie mag calendar with photos Meyer had snapped of Lorna Maitland and June Wilkinson. Kablam!  His photos were so much better than nearly all the competition.  There was an X factor present–a crazed euphoria, a palpable sense of whoopie…One felt it in the grinch, as RM would say.
 

What was the first thing of his that you saw and what were your first impressions of it?

I think it was Supervixens at an Indiana drive-in when I was a teen.  Seeing Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens during its theatrical run at at a decript old Jersey City movie palace is what really blew the back of my head off, though. The way the camera just locked onto Kitten Natividad and didn’t let go.  The barrage of closeups: lips, eyes, breasts, radios, pinatas, and the wiggling wheel beneath a bedframe.  An insane attention to the details, down  to the garish set painting.  Meyer appears in the end of the film, addressing the audience as he packs up his film equipment.  The guy came at you with the con-man confidence of a car salesman who has you in a bear-hug and won’t let you leave the lot until the deal is sealed.  It felt so personal, so maniacally single-minded. Once the lights came up I felt as if I’d hallucinated the whole thing. Everything about the film was wacko.  Yet it’s strangely heartfelt.  Beneath was a tribute of sorts–a love letter to Kitten.  
 
How have these impressions changed over the years (for better or worse) and did doing the research for the book radically change how you felt about his work (film or photography)?
 
Not that I can think of.  Doing the book only enhanced my appreciation of his work.  And underscored how undeniably cuckoo RM was.  Crazy family + combat photography + big bosoms + industrial photography + fear of insanity…it all made sense, really. 
 
Where did the idea for the biography come from?
 
It was in the back of my mind for years.  I had worked in the exploitation business for that other RM exploitation king on the opposite coast–Radley Metzger–and knew the lay of the land.  My first published book was on Andy Milligan, who was the grimy, gritty low-down opposite of Meyer in every way.  I wanted to go to the glossy end of the exploitation spectrum, say a few more things and get the fuck out.  Plus I knew the book would be a million laughs.
 

Was it something that you’d always had in mind after discovering Meyer?

Yes.  I spend a long time thinking about projects before I do them, because once I jump in I won’t quit until it’s done.
 
What was or is so special about Meyer that made you want to undertake the project?
 
I am attracted to people who are helpless in the face of an obsession. I can relate. Obsessions drove Meyer.  And in the end they did him in. For better or worse, I see certain things in the same way as RM.  Not everything, thank Christ, but…certain things. My wife Natalia could be a Meyer star. All the right curves…long, flaming red hair…the same bad attitude.  She could hold her own with any of the Faster, Pussycat gang, believe me.
 
During the project, did you at any time feel like you may have taken on too much, in terms of trying to contact those closest to him, going through his extensive archives, the fact that he was, at the time, ill?

No, I wish I had found more interviewees, actually.  I never went through RM’s archives, unfortunately.  This was a completely unauthorized project.

 
Did you have any real difficulties along the way, in terms of contacting people or getting permission from his estate?
 
It took a bit of time to convince some people of my sincerity.  A zillion nutcases have chased after these women.  I actually had a number for Uschi and when I left a message I got so carried away I probably sounded like perv #4,567.  I’m not 100% certain it was still her number but when I called back a few days later it was disconnected.  Needless to say I never got to speak to her.  A great loss for the book, unfortunately. I sought no permission from the estate nor was any granted.  
 
Was there anyone in particular who really needed to be persuaded or talked around into contributing? You mention in the book how difficult it was to try and arrange meeting with Erica Gavin and how Alaina Capri had abandoned the business all together and never really talked about her time with Russ.
 

I specialize in difficult characters.  Look at my books. Gavin is the Howard Hughes of the Meyer women, and the most psychedelic. She’s impossible to pin down on anything, even going to the Quickie Mart.  But once gotten Erica was fantastic.  She even flashed her cans at me, albeit in a brassiere.  That chick should write a book–she’s been a lot of weird and wondrous places. Alaina was nervous about talking after all these years.  She didn’t want to be laughed at.  I hope I did her justice. Capri’s tops in my book.

Do you think (without sounding incredibly cruel) that his illness worked in your favor at the time of compiling research? 

I had no idea what kind of shape RM was in when I started the research.  I thought about chucking it once I knew the extent of the situation.  His friends encouraged me to plow ahead, though, which was inspiring.  But I have to say if RM had been in cognizant of my project there is no doubt in my mind that after my third question he would’ve punched me in the nose and unleashed the lawyers.  Believe me, I would’ve loved to have picked that strange brain but Meyer wasn’t an introspective guy.  I think he would’ve find my approach to be an assault on the fantasy.  Needless to say I don’t see it that way.  The women are what interested me, anyway.  They hadn’t talked all that much. RM had ample opportunity to tell his story and spent three self-published volumes doing so–A Clean Breast.  What an achievement–over a thousand pages and nary an insight to be found.  Fantastic photos, though.

On ‘A Clean Breast’, do you think (if he’d completed it) his original idea of doing an autobiographical film would have been somewhat more insightful?

The bit of The Breast of Russ Meyer floating around is just fantastic.  That was the last Meyer project of any interest, in my opinion. Insightful?  I don’t know if Meyer was capable.

Did his illness or seeing him ill change your view or opinion on him in any way?

I felt for RM.  Again, in the end his obsessions were his undoing.  He’d become a feeble mark begging for mammary salvation, a pathetic john who’d empty his wallet to snuggle up to any big tit.  Curiously it was a position not all that far from the weak males he’d mocked in his films.  And then Meyer lost his mind–literally.  The details are in the book, and it really is like something out of one of his mid-period films.  His old screenwriter John Moran couldn’t have penned a more sordid tale. 

Do you have a favourite/s Meyer girl and did your opinion of her change after you met her (if you did)?

Tura and I really hit it off.  I mean really hit it off. Had circumstances been different…Kitten was absolutely fantastic.  I nearly proposed to her after six questions.  Unfortunately I was already married at the time.  Hanging out with Erica Gavin was a mind-bender.  They were all great and it was a thrill of a lifetime meeting them.  Is there a grifter in the bunch?  This is the world of Russ Meyer, what do you think?

What do you think it is about them that have made them so endearing amongst Meyer/film/sexploitation/cult film fans?

Their spirit.  Dare I say they seem almost pure and innocent these days.

Do you think that that’s part of the charm of Meyer’s work, that by today’s standards of explicitness there’s a great deal of innocence in some of his portrayal’s of sexuality and some of his characters themselves?

Yes. The humor, which doesn’t always work, is another big part.  Sex can be such a heavy, oppressive topic. Meyer lets you laugh at it.  

Did any of them disappoint you in any way in reality?

No.  If anything they were even more impressive.  Life hasn’t been easy for them and they’re not easy dames to live with. Forget the physical attributes, these women vibrate with an energy that could charge 1000 Teslas. There’s a blinding light behind the eyes. Never a dull moment!

What do you think it is about Meyer himself that has kept the girls so loyal and proud of their work and association with him?

However much an asshole Meyer could be, he immortalized these women.  How flattering is that?  Last time I checked nobody’s building me a shrine.

There are a number of instances documented where he has fallen out with his actresses or treated them badly at some point. Is there anyone you think he was particularly harsher on?

Oh, I don’t know, everybody got the short end of the stick sooner or later.  Meyer’s right-hand man George Costello was banished forever when Meyer discovered he’d been consoling Erica Gavin behind his back during the making of Vixen.  During the shoot RM had a secret stash of Treesweet orange juice and Costello was brazen enough to filch one can and slip it to Gavin behind the boss’s back.  RM took this as a great betrayal and never spoke to Costello again. Meyer made little plaques commemorating each film.  And what was on the Vixen plaque?  A can of Treesweet orange juice.  A symbol of Costello’s treasonous behavior.

Did any girl surprise you in any way in reality?

Tura was ultra-right wing, which didn’t exactly surprise me, but it did crack me up.  Very patriotic, loved Reagan and Bush, torture and kill the terrorists, etc. She was very loyal, very sweet and had a way of getting to you. She signed her letters “Always” and she meant it. Tura was just too big for the movies. Too bad.

Out of all the girls featured in his films, who you do think is or are the most memorable/most typically Meyer/most overrated or underrated? Are there any that you think he should have worked with more or less? 

I just wish there was more of all of ’em.  More Tura, more Lorna, more Uschi, more Kitten, more Alaina, more, more, more…I’m not a big Edy Williams fan but she certainly clawed out her place in the Meyer oeuvre.  RM wasn’t interested in helping his stars build a career.  He was always lusting after next year’s Cadillac. I really, really wish Eve had done more film work.  And I wished somebody had properly interviewed her.  What a dame.  

I’m sure some will consider this heresy, but Beyond the Valley of the Dolls isn’t my favorite, either.  I admire the achievement but it’s a little too chilly, a little too arch for me.  Give me Mondo Topless/Common Law Cabin/Faster, Pussycat…

RM’s last couple of films are just an embarrassment.  His taste was of course vulgar, but exuberantly so.  At the end it turned grotesque, tired, creepy.  The women seem factory-made, joyless. You feel embarrassed for the guy, cringe at his pathetic fetish.  This wasn’t the case previously, at least not for me.  He made it all seem fun.  And funny.

At what point do you think his career really peaked?

In 1968 Vixen made a pile of dough, so much so that a desperate 20th Century Fox came knocking on Meyer’s door to make Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.  A Hollywood studio INVITED an exploitation filmmaker into the kingdom and let him run amok.  Unheard of!  The joke was definitely on them for once.  And the moolah was in the Bank of Meyer!  Fantastic.

Mentioning Eve Meyer, how important do you think she was in relation to Meyer’s early career? She seems to have played a big part on the finacial side of business, helping Russ out on a few occassions…

From what his friends told me, Eve really understood Russ.  And could stand up to him.  Eve was a very sharp dame and a fantastic businesswoman–she distributed his films.  I think RM’s life can be split into BE and AE.  Russ seemed increasingly rudderless After Eve.  But nobody was going to tell RM what to do.  Look where it got him.  Heaven.  And hell.  Had he been a little more humble…but who wants a humble Meyer anyway? His life was like his movies.  Absolutely nuts from beginning to end.

Women are the obvious topic to discuss when it comes to Meyer but he also had a lot of male friends and actors around him from his service during WW2 and the films he made. Which of them stand out as being the most memorable and loyal towards him?

Undoubtedly the most loyal was Anthony James Ryan AKA The Handyman.  He helped create the movies, appeared in them, and cleaned up many a Meyer mess.  He was loyal until the end.  He knew how crazy Russ but was loyal until the end.  A hell of a guy, Ryan.  I loved visiting his dusty old photography store to shoot the shit. Little bits of Meyeribilia were everywhere, like shots of Kitten Natividad appearing in a local parade.  I’d rather have a colonoscopy than attend such an event, but a parade with Kitten.  Now that’s exciting.  I hope she threw candy to the kids from the back of the Caddy.

How much of an impact do you feel Meyer had on cinema in terms of depicting sex and sexuality on screen?

He kicked down the door and did it with panache and wit.  However crude and bizarre the point of view may be, RM was there first.  He fought many an expensive battle in court defending his films.  Everybody who came after benefited from his ballsy and brazen approach.  To what end, one may ask.  Nowadays anything goes and how dull is that?

As an independent filmmaker, do you think he is successful in what he did?

Are you kidding me?!?  The guy saw his demented fantasies come to life on the silver screen, had incredible broads throwing themselves at his feet and he made a shitload of dough–the kind of loot that allows you to tell the world to take a fucking hike.  He circled the globe attending tributes to himself.  And outside of the films for 20th Century Fox RM owned everything he created and controlled how it was presented down to the minute details.  He got away with everything,  answered to nobody.  I don’t know about you but I’d trade places in a second.

The bulk of sexploitation is really tedious unwatchable crap.  Dave Friedman was a hell of a guy, but his posters and trailers were far better than most of actual movies. And that’s in keeping with the exploitation con.  Moviemaking was no laughing matter to Meyer.  He gave it his all.  Experiencing Meyer’s work is akin to listening to Little Richard belt out “Keep A-Knockin’.” A runaway train–you either get on board or get the hell out of the way! 

RM nearly killed himself getting shots as a combat photographer in WWII; he nearly killed his cast and crew making these films.  Nobody told me making these films was fun.  Raven De La Croix tore up her feet running like a maniac barefoot and naked through the woods.  You think Meyer cared?  Naaah. RM demanded take after take.  He just wanted it to look good.  So somebody dies, so what?  Filmmaking is war!

My one wish is that Meyer would’ve made a 3D movie.  But the medium wasn’t technically ready for somebody like Meyer.  Could you imagine if he were still around?  Scorsese made Hugo.  Meyer could’ve done Huge-O.

Do you think the content of his films has stopped him from being celebrated or his achievements in independent filmmaking from being recognised at all?

Not really. Love him or hate him, Meyer was recognized as his own genre.  Sure he was vilified by the conservative and the humorless, but RM demanded and got different consideration than most smut peddlers.  Meyer was also lucky–powerful critics like Roger Ebert (it must be said, a fellow tit man) championed him in the mainstream press.  And being hilarious and endlessly quotable made RM great copy and earned him endless ink. He was great at playing all the angles and knew controversy only enhanced box office.  He’s been fully absorbed into our culture–these days you can buy Faster Pussycat t-shirts and lunch boxes at the mall.  Unfortunately the films themselves have become harder and harder to show theatrically or buy in a store and that, I think, has been the worst thing for his longevity.  Nobody’s really promoting or taking care of his work, except for draining the last easy dollar to be made.  Go look at the website for RM Films.  Is it still 1982?

Is there anything about him personally and professionally that you think he isn’t but should be remembered for?

I just think he should be remembered, period.  Everybody agrees that the estate has missed the boat.  No Blu-Rays containing state-of-the-art transfers of his films?  Meyer would’ve been on top of that from the get-go.  Rumors that the negatives are rotting away?  It’s a disgrace.  I think RM would be appalled at the state of his archive.  This is a guy who turned his own home into a museum to himself–where are all his treasures?  Why can’t the world experience them?  There should be a Russ Meyer Museum.  How great would that be? You think people wouldn’t visit, write about it, put it on TV?

It does seem a real shame that for someone who embraced the VHS market so early on, his films haven’t been transferred to BD yet. Who is in charge of his estate? I know that Arrow had some difficulties when they released his films on DVD which seem to be the best and most definitive way of getting hold of them.

Meyer’s secretary and contractor joined forces to become the, ahem, finely-tuned machine that runs the empire.  Everything I have to say about the estate is in the book, specifically the “Janice and the Handyman” chapter.  I’d rather not give them any more attention, they’re a bit internet-excitable when it comes to me.

In regards to his house, the descriptions of it in the book are incredible. What was it like being in that environment where Meyer is literally coming at you from all directions?

I was never in the house, unfortunately.  All my knowledge comes from those who had been there.
 
What do you think of the homages and imitations of Meyer’s work that are raising his profile? Have you seen films like ‘Pervert!’ and ‘Bitch Slap!’? What, if you’ve seen them, do you think of Tarantino and Rodriguez’s references to his work in ‘Death Proof’ and ‘Planet Terror’?
 
Haven’t seen any of these and don’t feel compelled to catch up.  That whole referencing-films-past has become a little cliche, don’t you think?  The TV set on in the background showing Kiss of Death?  You’ve seen a few movies, we get it.  Go teach a class. If I need a jolt of Meyer I just turn on Mondo Topless for ten minutes. What’s that line from The In Crowd–“The original is still the greatest.”
 
In terms of his treatment of women (both on screen and off screen in his personal relationships and friendships), how much do you think he cared for/respected the opposite sex?
 
As great and fun a guy as RM was, he treated everybody like crap sooner or later. There was always suspicion, a plot, a betrayal. Women were certainly no exception.   And yet despite himself he recorded a certain greatness about them, however absurdly specific it is.  I think this talent was beyond his control.  Obviously he never got over dear old mother Lydia.  Interesting that a frequent Meyer POV is a low-angle, I’m-way-down-here-looking-way-up-there at these towering femme infernos.  A child’s eye view, perhaps? It should come as no surprise Meyer came from a demented family.  He was surrounded by a couple of crazy women; enemas were involved.  Need I say more? 

What do you think his honest opinions on male/female sexuality were? 

As Jane Hower–one his last paramours–told me RM was “very straightforward–hug, kiss, touch put it in.”  There’s a picture in the book of Meyer’s spartan bedroom  that says it all. Box of Kleenex on the nightstand, no-frills bed…It might as well be army barracks.  Sex to Meyer was like backing up a Mack truck, dumping a load and  heading straight back to headquarters to hang out with the fellas.  A very old-fashioned guy.  To him oral sex was a commie plot.  Just the word “sexuality” would’ve been met with derision from RM. He couldn’t have cared less about anybody’s needs except his own. “Making love”? “Sensuality”? That was for sissies, Yes-Dear men.  Meyer approached sex the way he tore into a steak: not a lot of finesse and blood dripping off the knife.

How do you think Meyer will be remembered in 50 years time? What do you think people will see as his legacy by that point?

He was a complete original.  How many filmmakers are?  Not many, if you ask me.  A minute or two of Meyer and you know you’ve fallen through a hole in the universe.  A little more interesting than another Spike Lee retrospective or the complete oeuvre of Jonathan Demme.

Lastly, I don’t know whether you can or can’t talk about the film? Not in terms of where it is in production or who is being considered for casting but your view on it. Did you ever think that this would be an opportunity that would happen to you and how deserving do you think Meyer is of a film biopic?

I can tell you that the actress attached to play Eve Meyer was my first choice–she’s a dead ringer for Eve and can convey the mountain of moxie required. Some very talented people are connected to the project.  But it’s Hollywood.  I’ve been through this before.  Of course I wish them the best.  How will they recreate those women, anyway?  CGI, or your dread porn cyborg types?  I hope not.  These were one-of-a kind women.  Hard cups to fill. 

MEYER MONTH – Top 10 Russ Meyer Women

5 Mar

Director Russ Meyer was defined by the female form, building a successful and profitable career on his personal breast fetish. The first thing you remember about Meyer’s filmography, after the initial reminisce of the pictures in their own right, are the beautiful and glorious women who have graced his celluloid. However, it wasn’t just those who starred in his films that had an impact and influence on the man himself and here I present the Top 10 Women in Russ Meyer’s life and career…

#10 – LORI WILLIAMS
My second favourite Pussycat next to Tura Satana in Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Williams is memorable for being the most girl next door dancer out of the bunch. Whilst Satana has the classic stinging one-liners, Williams has lines that are dripping in innuendo and lust as she tries her best to seduce The Vegetable and even got royally drunk whilst filming the dinner scene. Those drunken slurs are real folks!

#9 – USCHI DIGARD
Undoubtedly the star of Meyer’s 1970 menage a trois Cherry, Harry & Raquel!, Digard was the last minute savior for the film when the lead actress left the shoot early and Meyer had twenty minutes of footage left to film. Digard appears in intercut scenes memorable for having nothing to do with the plot and only wearing an Apache headdress. An actress loyal to Meyer until the very end, Digard appeared in cameos in his later films whilst having a career on pornography.

#8 – LORNA MAITLAND
The star of Lorna (1964) and Mudhoney (1965), Maitland entered Meyer’s filmmaking world at the time when he started to move from shorts, scenario films and burlesque movies to pictures that had more of a structured plot. Alongside Satana, Maitland ranks as one of the most iconic women from his gothic period, with Meyer using the only colour stock footage of her in his mondo documentary Mondo Topless (1966).

#7 – ALAINA CAPRI
One of the few actresses to appear in Meyer’s film who was not only genuinely beautiful but actually had some acting ability. Capri only starred in two of the director’s films which were both released in 1967, Common Law Cabin and Good Morning… and Goodbye!. With hips that shook perfectly when she walked and a mouth that could give off acid tongued attacks, Capri is only second to Tura Satana in her sassy attitude and deadly looks.

#6 – TEMPEST STORM
The burlesque queen captivated Meyer with her voluptuous form which led to the  two working together on numerous photo shoots, pictures of which were distributed and published in girlie magazines. Storm was the subject of Meyer’s first film, The French Peep Show (1952), for which the director got his first credit as Director/Cinematographer. Produced by Pete DeCenzie, the film is presumed lost having been out of circulation since its theatrical release.

#5 – ERICA GAVIN
Star of the first couples-porno Vixen!  (1968), Erica Gavin is the reason Meyer wound up at 20th Century Fox making Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in 1970. Gavin’s incredibly good looks and ability to appeal to both men and women made Vixen! one of Meyer’s most successful films of all time, arousing the interest of the major studio. Gavin is brilliant as the ‘sexual healer’ Vixen and was given a memorable role in Beyond… as lesbian fashion designer Roxanne, whose on-screen relationship with Cynthia Myers just sizzles with eroticism.

#4 – KITTEN NATIVIDAD
With a cleavage that rivaled Tura Satana’s, the narrator of Up! (1976) and star of Beneath the Valley of the UltraVixens (1979), Natividad went on to become Meyer’s on-off partner for the fifteen years. Probably one of the only women Meyer really did love, second to wife Eve, Kitten and Russ had some serious chemistry. Incredibly loyal to Meyer until the end, she nursed and looked after him at times when his dementia became worse and even visited and cared for his mother Lydia in the final years of her life.

#3 – EVE MEYER
Meyer’s second wife and pin-up beauty queen, Eve was an important factor in Meyer’s early filmmaking career. An intelligent business woman, Eve helped cut film deals as early as Meyer’s first picture The Immoral Mr Teas (1959), co-financed Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) and helped to bail Russ out of financial trouble to ensure that the successful Vixen! got made. The producer of thirteen of Russ’s pictures (under the banner of Eve Productions) both during and after their marriage, Eve was the lead in his 1961 feature Eve and the Handyman in which she is truly mesmerizing. A gorgeous Playboy Playmate (June 1955), Eve sadly passed away in 1977.

#2 – TURA SATANA
Arguably Meyer’s most iconic actress, Tura Satana epitomised the director’s vision of a glamorous Amazonian statuesque woman. Whilst she only ever starred in one of his films, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Satana is without a doubt the most iconic of all the women to ever be cast in one of his films. She is on fire playing the murderous, highly sexually charged and venomous Varla in the film that is usually one of the first seen by Meyer virgins. If you’ve never seen the film, chances are you’ve seen Satana as Varla whose influence can be felt in Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007), Lady Gaga’s music video for Telephone and the countless female leads with attitude across the film world.

#1 – LYDIA MEYER HAYWOOD
As much as I love Mother Monster, it really is all about Mother Meyer. This is the woman who, as legend goes, pawned her own wedding ring so that Russ could go and buy his first camera, the UniveX Cine 8, starting an obsession with film that lasted the rest of his life. Lydia was very supportive of Russ’s ambitions and endeavours, letting him develop his pin-up photography in the family bathtub, but none of the women Russ ended up with were ever any good for him in her eyes. Upon her death, Russ would visit her gravesite every Christmas. A fiercely independent woman, this was the one girl who Russ never got over.

Whilst more a personal Top 10 then a definitive list, notable exceptions include Meyer regular Haji, Cynthia Myers, June Wilkinson, Phyllis Davis, Candy Samples, Edy Williams, Marcia McBroom, Raven De La Croix, Shari Eubank, Babette Bardot and Dolly Read amongst a plethora of others!

MEYER MONTH – Meyer and me.

1 Mar

Over the years, one thing has never changed. The reaction I get from people when I tell them that my favourite director is Russ Meyer. It’s a strange mix of disbelief, hilarity, disgust, shock, surprise and complete bewilderment. The impression that I get from these people is that they don’t believe me, as if I’m saying something just to get a response out of them. What usually follows is a barrage of questions; ‘Are you serious?’, ‘Really? Russ Meyer, what’s so great about him?’, ‘How can a girl like you like his movies?’. The thing is, no-one has had more of an influence or effect on my life than the man himself.

I still remember vividly my first Meyer experience. I was ten and watching Channel 5 not long after it had launched in the UK. The station, which now plays nothing but CSI repeats, used to have awful soap operas on during the day and softcore pictures playing during the night. No doubt the plethora of tits and ass that I watched during this time contributed to the love and interest I have in human sexuality and sex in cinema now, but it was the first picture of this kind that I ever saw that stuck with me for years. That film was Meyer’s 1968 release Vixen!.

I can remember everything about that night. Sitting in my room now, as it is in 2012, I can picture exactly how it was back then in 1998 and can see my ten-year old self sitting in the dark, my wide eyes illuminated by the television screen. Firstly, I was mesmerised by the gorgeous Erica Gavin in the lead role, her long dark hair and cat-like make-up a look I’ve wanted to achieve ever since. Secondly, I was hooked by what she was doing. I’d not long before had sex education at school but it was nothing like this! What seemed monotonous, gross and distinctly biological (in terms of the emphasis on ‘having babies’) looked magical and enjoyable. Plus she was making it with a woman! That was something they didn’t tell us about at school! I’ll never forget that mix of surprise, excitement and awe that came with the knowing that I was watching something I shouldn’t have been.

Amongst all the films I watched, and trust me there were a lot, the images from Vixen! were the only ones that ever stayed with me. I never forgot about that beautiful woman in the yellow bikini who would come and haunt my dreams over the following seven years, my first ever girl crush. During my teens, I went through a phase where I was totally into feminism and women’s rights and I hated men (for no absolute real reason either, thank God that changed…). I’d read book after book after book on female politics and commentaries on society, with one thing always sticking out for me; the conflict between groups of women who would argue over female sexuality. I read articles that blasted women for enjoying sex, having lots of it and letting themselves be used by men as male tools of consumption. Then I’d go and read another on how women should be allowed to express and explore their sexuality to whatever degree it suited them. As a teenager, I found it all a bit confusing. I didn’t want to be used and I didn’t want a slutty reputation, but at the same time all the experiences I was having were pretty damn rubbish. I continuously kept thinking about how much fun Vixen looked like she was having. How could that be wrong? I couldn’t understand why something inherent in all species and a key part of human character was considered so negatively when it came to women. Needless to say, all this reading and thinking ended up leaving me with a huge interest in human sexuality, which rivals only my love for film…

Which is where Russ Meyer and my moment of enlightenment finally come in. When I hit seventeen, I spent one whole summer doing nothing but watch movies. I rented films every day, bought dozens of TV guides and went through a tonne of Biro pens circling films to record. It was then that I stumbled across what I thought was one of the best film titles I’d ever heard, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. There was no way I was missing that. Except that I did, sort of, in that I missed the first half of the film, tuning in at the exact moment where lesbian lovers Casey (the fabulous Cynthia Myers) and Roxanne finally get it on. I watched the second half all the way to the end, my heart thumping and a big smile across my face. For me, this was a film. There was sex, violence, beautiful women, gender bending men, fantastic music, drugs, morality tales, horror and true love all wrapped up in this terrific satire on the 1960s as a decade. As soon as it finished I got straight on Amazon and bought the Criterion steelcase edition knowing that this was going to be one of my favourite films until the day I die, and that the woman who played Roxanne looked more than a little familiar…

Once the DVD turned up, my love affair with Meyer began. Where the hell did a film like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls come from and who would direct such a picture? I did my research, a lot of it, and started buying Amazon out of Arrow‘s brilliant DVD releases of Meyer’s films. I bought Good Morning and… Goodbye! and Common Law Cabin falling in love with lead actress Alaina Capri, marvelled at Meyer’s gothic soap operas of Mudhoney and Motorpsycho, came across the cult classic Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! which I’d read about in countless film books and bought a little film called Vixen!. I can’t begin to describe the surprise and amazement I felt when I realised that this was the film I’d watched all those years ago.

So where am I now? Six years after first proclaiming that Meyer is my favourite director and thirteen years after he first entered my life, at twenty-three I’m still being met with surprise and bewilderment! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that he made some of the best films ever, that he is one of the greatest directors or should have been lauded with Academy awards, but no other director has connected with me in the way in which he has. My interest in gender and sexuality sparked from those first images of his I saw as a kid. My love for sexploitation films, sex flicks and how sex and society has interacted and influenced each other both on and off screen is all his fault. I went to University with the purpose of writing about his work in assignments, and I made sure I did. If I ever went back, it would be on the condition that I could study and continue to write about his work in modules. This blog? Inspired by the man.

I know that for some people, Meyer is just a director who shot and sold sleaze. For me, he’s one of the most successful independent filmmakers in cinema history, he was a smart and incredibly savvy businessman, he showed intelligence and humour where he denied he did, he was incredibly talented at photographing women in all their unique beauty, he’s incredibly influential and responsible in terms of bringing in the amount of sex and nudity we see on today’s screens and he understood women. Where women scorn at his depiction and treatment of the female sex on-screen, I rejoice. As a curvaceous girl myself, I’m glad to have found someone who was so committed to putting big, buxom women on-screen. As a person, I’m thankful and love the fact that he was one of the first directors to openly show and explore a positive female sexuality, showing that women weren’t always passive, that female sexuality wasn’t always ‘vanilla’ and that we can rival a man’s sexual appetite.

I could go on but we’d be here all day. All I know is I’m set for life. Big bosoms and square jaws? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ten Things I Learnt About Sex from Russ Meyer

24 Jun

I’ve learnt a lot from Russ Meyer over the past eleven years, and no doubt there are a few of you out there who could do with learning a thing or two yourself. Filled with frequent mild adult content, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from me, I give you the Top Ten things I’ve learnt from the King of sexploitation himself. Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

1. Lesbianism always ends in tears.
It didn’t work out in Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and the lesbian couple in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls got murdered in the most phallic way of all; getting shot in the head via a gun blow job. Meyer himself even reduced actress Erica Gavin to tears filming the girl on girl scene for Vixen. It’s never worked out for me either.

2. Sex is always fantastic outside.
Need visual proof? Check out the outdoor fun the couples are having in Up!, Vixen and Good Morning and… Goodbye! Enough said.
 
3. Men love lashings of eyeliner and stockings on a woman.
Thanks to Meyer, I’ve never had any complaints. Men love something they can peel off a woman and who doesn’t like the look of bedroom eyes…?
 
4. Women think about sex just as much as men.
The biggest misconception in life is that men think about sex or are driven by it far more than women. Wrong. Thanks to characters like Varla (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!), Sheila Ross (Common Law Cabin) and Ashley St. Ives (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) I’m planning on making a career out of analysing it in cinema.  And that’s just the nicest way I could end this point…
 
5. Breast is best.
Meyer had the biggest breast fetish known to man and it influenced his whole career. He made sure he had everything on film from, in his own words, ‘small’ (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) to ‘normal and relatable’ (Vixen) to ‘the biggest’ (Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens and Pandora Peaks). He even made one film strictly on the basis of dancers getting to show their talent and boobs, Mondo Topless.
 
6. Germans are perverts.
Being German myself, I already know this. If you need proof, just go and take a look at Hitler in Up! or Martin Bormann in Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens.
 
7. Sex can sometimes equal death.
One I’m hoping I never get involved in… Meyer could see the link between sex and death long before the slasher film made franchises out of it. Most violently seen in Supervixens but also Lorna, Motorpsycho, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Up!
 
8. Fetishes are ridiculously fun.
Meyer knew that people liked to get off on different things. So whether its feet, body paint, outdoor fun, being spanked, leather, big boobs, domination, sadomasochism, same-sex, submission or kinky underwear, chances are there’s a scene in at least one Meyer film for you.
 
9. ‘Normal’ vanilla vaginal sex is great but sometimes only anal will do.
And if you don’t believe me, go and watch Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens.
 
10. Sex really does make the world go round.
If you didn’t realise it was everywhere before watching Meyer’s filmography then you bloody well will afterwards…