Saturday, December 31, 2011

Noir: 'Weegee: Murder Is My Business' Captures Gritty 1940s New York

Arthur Felig, AKA Weegee (a bastardization of Ouija, as in the board--a pseudonym chosen for his almost clairvoyant ability to arrive at crime scenes before the police) may be Gotham's most storied photojournalist.

After a short and miserable tenure as a Hollywood paparazzi, Weegee returned to his native New York as a freelancer for numerous publications including the Daily News and Daily Mirror in the 1930s and 40s.
His photos, ideal for those tabloids in which they were featured, offer a look at a lost, gritty and crime-ridden New York replicated in countless film noirs. And Weegee's speciality? Murder.
The cigar-chomping P.T. Barnum of photography, Arthur Fellig was a photographic opportunist who mixed fantasy with reality. A  self-aggrandizing showboat who understood what sold, he prowled the nighttime streets of New York City getting the people what they wanted: murder, fires, car crashes and socialites. And he did it by any means necessary — paying off cops, moving bodies and staging scenes to look authentic. The gritty, shadowy streets he captured came to define the urban jungle of Manhattan that Hollywood imagined onto celluloid.
It was his mystical ability to be first on the scene that earned him the nick-name of Weegee — a phonetic bastardization the Ouija Board. On the obscure LP “Famous Photographers Tell How,” released in 1958, Weegee speaks of clawing his way up the ranks of news photography. Half rose-tinted boasting, half instructional for aspiring snappers, his thick accent relates time spent hanging around Manhattan Police Headquarters waiting for the teletype to rattle off the evening’s subjects. His operation would grow more sophisticated to include police scanners next to his bed, the trunk of his car for developing film and a typewriter for writing captions.
Download:"Weegee" mp3
by Weegee, 1958.
from Famous Photographers Tell How
out of print

His advice mirrors the contradictions evident throughout his photographic archive. “The easiest kind of a job to cover was a murder. The stiff would be laying on the ground. He couldn’t get up and walk away or get temperamental.” This casual street slang and gallows humor is indicative of one facet of Weegee’s career. Taking advantage of the time a body remains at the scene he could arrange shots that carried a  punch-line. In a 1942 photograph above, we watch as policemen cover the victim of a car accident with discarded newspapers. Behind and above the gathered crowd of morbid curiosity seekers is a theater marquee advertising the night’s double-feature — Joy of Living. An over-exposed face cranes his neck to be in on the joke.
Cheap shots were easy sales, but Weegee claims to have fought for humanism. Covering a tenement fire in Harlem we see not the flames and  embers or firefighters battling a blaze. Two women, a mother and daughter, stare grief-stricken into the night. Gripping one another, anguished tears threatening to fall, they are helpless as another daughter and her baby remain trapped on the top floor. “To me that symbolized the lousy tenements, everything else that went with them,” says Weegee. For all his manipulation, this image feels authentic. In the end, some may feel betrayed by his meddling, but the drama of his work is still impressive and widely influential.
In later years Weegee was a celebrity photographer who dabbled in distorted images and flirted with Hollywood fame. He was what would later be called a paparazzo. He published books, both collections and autobiographical, and gave lectures. His status as a photographic pioneer is both irrefutable and problematic, and this nine minutes laid on wax provide a little additional insight into the complex issue of what is real in photography.
Thanks to Boogie Woogie Flu for posting this excellent audio gem.
Check out a sampling of Weegee's photos below and for more, don't miss "Weegee: Murder Is My Business" opening at the International Center for Photography on January 20th. The exhibit will draw from the museum's extensive Weegee Archive and will include environmental recreations of Weegee's apartment and exhibitions.

Weegee’s 'Naked Hollywood' at MOCA 

Los Angeles Times Culture Monster


In 1947, Weegee relocated to Los Angeles to take on the equally formidable Hollywood scene.
 In conjunction with the Getty-sponsored Pacific Standard Time exploration of postwar L.A. art, the Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting "Naked Hollywood: Weegee in Los Angeles," billed as the first exhibit here devoted to work he produced in Southern California, including photos from his 1953 book "Naked Hollywood."
On view are his photos of striptease artists, costume shops, billboards and distorted images of movies stars such as Marilyn Monroe. Nearly 200 images, some never before seen, are drawn from the International Center of Photography, the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York and private collections.
 Soon after his arrival, Weegee quickly realized what a strange culture Hollywood was and set about developing a trick elastic lens in response. It would stretch and twist an otherwise glamorous photograph into something grotesque, revealing the ugly side of celebrity.
"He was deeply critical and cutting in his attitude toward stardom," said Richard Meyer, curator of the MOCA exhibition and an associate professor of art history and fine arts at USC. "Fame itself is a type of distortion. It's created through manipulation of images."
 Weegee wasn't considered a paparazzi in its current 24-hour stalking form, but he did capture stars in unflattering moments and unusual angles. One example is a 1951 photo of a voluptuous Elizabeth Taylor consuming her meal at an awards dinner. "Distorting the image of a star was his way of bringing them down a peg for their excesses," noted Meyer.

Weegee was also fascinated by the phenomenon of fandom, snapping countless photos of onlookers waiting to see stars at movie premieres. He'd zoom in on their awestruck and often devastated faces when they didn't get an autograph after waiting all night.

Despite his disdain for the culture of celebrity, Weegee experimented with filmmaking and often injected himself into the business as an actor, consultant and set photographer (for example, on Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb"). "His aspirations of becoming a rich and famous star were never realized, so he moved back to "civilization," what he called New York City, in early 1952, said Meyer. He was the inspiration for Joe Pesci's character in "The Public Eye."
 The self-taught photographer was born Usher Fellig in 1899 in what is now Ukraine and died in 1968.
The show runs through Feb. 27.
Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 South Grand Avenue  Los Angeles, (213) 626-6222. General Admission: $10
 -- Liesl Bradner

Friday, December 30, 2011

Noir: Road To Goodisville 2012 - Be Sure You Are On The Bus!

Retreat to Goodisville 2012.  January 7th.  10AM.
The Lost Bar Of Atlantis

Noir: A Morass of Aberrant Psychology and Obsession

"In fact, the craftsmanship (David Goodis) mastered in all those years of turning out fiction for the pulps was sometimes all that salvaged his books from a morass of aberrant psychology and obsession." --James Sallis
Black Friday is proof absolute of Sallis' comment. It's a crime novel only by default. Here we have the typical Goodis loser loner protagonist, this time named Hart who is on the run from a murder charge. Through a cosmic coincidence he is taken in by a murderous big time burglar named Charley. And his gang.

The story arc deals with a pending huge burglary of fine art and jewelry that Hart will be allowed to join in if he can prove to Charley that he is a "professional"--i.e. a man who never kills for passion but only for money. Loopy at this measure is Goodis makes it go.

But please don't confuse this heist with the book's real import. I remember reading a lot of August Strindberg in my college days as a wanna-be playwright. Goodis has pulled a Strindberg. What a feckless loveless hopeless cast of oddballs and freaks he offers us.

The gang doesn't like Hart so we have scenes of frequent intimidation except for the gangster who starts to like Hart because Hart finds the man's artistic skills impressive (or claims he does), Then there's Freida the obese sad crazed dangerous vamp of Goodisworld. Repellent as he finds her he has to sleep with her because she needs the kind of sex her man Charley can't deliver. He's impotent most of the time. Hart is using her--he literally grimaces when he touches her--but she falls in love with him and Charley figures it out. Charley is not happy.

Then there's Myrna the forlorn faded woman whose brother Paul Hart killed because he seemingly had no choice. She despises Hart at first but eventually they come together. The interplay of all these relationships accounts for seventy-five, maybe eighty per cent of the novel. I couldn't stop flipping the pages though several times I wanted to. This is the only book I've ever read that makes Orwell's Down and Out In Paris and London read like a B'way musical. It's past grim. It's a violent ward of wanton treachery and despair. 

It's as close to Grand Guignol as crime fiction gets.

The French love David Goodis, The Grand Guignol!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Noir: Alien Cathouse is not just for Illegals!


Have you ever dreamed of traveling to distant planets, meeting exotic alien women and having sex with them?
If so, you -- and possibly Captain Kirk -- are the target audience for brothel owner Dennis Hof's newest Southern Nevada business venture.

The reality television star and outspoken sex merchant recently bought a rundown bordello 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas and unveiled plans to renovate and reopen it with a science fiction theme.
He is calling it Alien Cathouse and promising "girls from another world."
Hof has turned to an old friend to plan the costumes and decor: Hollywood Madam turned Pahrump resident Heidi Fleiss.
"She's the chief alien design queen," he said.
Hof purchased the brothel and adjacent gas station, bar and convenience store on U.S. Highway 95 from notorious longtime Nye County brothel owner Maynard "Joe" Richards.
The store is being rebranded as the Area 51 Alien Travel Center and will feature its own line of merchandise emblazoned with little green men and women.
It's all an attempt to cash in on the property's location just south of the federal installation formerly known as the Nevada Test Site -- though nowhere near the actual Area 51.
Hof, whose Moonlite Bunny Ranch east of Carson City is the setting for a long-running HBO reality show, expanded his adult empire into Southern Nevada last year when he bought Richards' two brothel properties in the tiny town of Crystal, north of Pahrump.
With his latest acquisition, Hof now holds five brothel licenses, the most ever by a single owner. He hopes to add one or two more in the near future.
"Unless they're married, I don't want anyone in Nevada having sex unless I get a cut of the money," he said with a laugh.
Only one of Hof's two brothels in Crystal is open for business. The other is still awaiting a face-lift, but that work is on hold until Hof and Fleiss can find a cable network -- possibly Cinemax -- willing to turn the renovation into a reality show.
The Alien Cathouse is expected to open for business in a month or two, after Hof and Fleiss oversee the complete transformation of the old bordello, which he described as a "disgusting, terrible place" without a single window.
All the rooms at the new place will be spacious suites, Hof said.
Nye County officials have issued him a temporary brothel license while he undergoes a routine background check.
"They just did this 14 months ago," Hof said. "The only change is I made $2 million. I can't see the problem there."
Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo isn't expecting any complications either.
He said this is the first time the county has issued a temporary license, but it made sense in this case because of Hof's recent background check and his clean operating record.
"He is in a very unique position," DeMeo said of Hof.
Nevada is the only state that allows houses of prostitution. About two dozen licensed brothels operate in seven rural counties. Three other counties allow them but don't have any right now.
Prostitution is illegal in the state's population centers of Clark and Washoe counties.
Hof's alien theme is already well past the probing stage, but important details -- whether the working women will be painted green, for example -- are still being decided.
When Hof talks about the idea, it comes out sounding like a series of bumper-sticker slogans: "Sex from another planet" and "Alien Cathouse girls do it different," to name a few.

He did confirm one thing: There will be alien costumes made for employees at the travel center and the women in the brothel.
It's unclear whether the costumes will be for everyday use or for promotional events and special occasions.
George Flint is a Reno wedding chapel owner who lobbies on behalf of Nevada's licensed brothels. He thinks a brothel with a space alien theme is a great idea, and he thinks Hof might be just the guy to pull it off at a time when most Nevada brothels are barely scraping by.
Flint used to dislike the self-anointed "pimp-master general" and his headline-grabbing antics, but he has developed a new respect for Hof.
"There are times he still scares my diaper off," Flint said, "but he has a stamina that's hard for me to believe."

Noir: Robert Polito on David Goodis in Goodisville!

Mark Your Calender Today.

Robert Polito | David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s  
When: Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 7:30PM 
CostFRENo tickerequired. F341. 

Polito and Boxer at the Goodis House in East oak Lane

Polito in Goodis's austere bedroom in East Oak Lane.

2012 Philadelphia Book Festival

An editor, poet, and critic, Robert Polito is Director of Writing Programs at The New School and the author of National Book Critics Circle Award winnerSavage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson, which untangled Thompson the author from his trademark psychopathic characters and grim tales of failed lives.. Polito's new book is a landmark volume that collects five great novels from the height of noir cult favorite noir David Goodis's career. Born in Philadelphia, Goodis made a distinctive contribution to American hard-boiled crime fiction with his jazzy, passionate novels of mean streets and doomed protagonists, including Retreat From Oblivion and The Moon in the Gutter.

 Polito and Boxer at Goodis Gravesite

Noir: R.I.P. Wilbert Al "Stomp" Russell

AL RUSSELL JUST didn't want to quit.
At age 90, he was still considering getting back to the piano and belting out his signature R&B and jazz vocals for a grateful audience.
After all, he'd been doing it since the eighth grade. Why quit now?
But Wilbert "Al" Russell, founder of musical groups that performed all over the country and in England and Ireland at their height, a composer and self-taught piano player with a rich tenor voice, died of cancer on Christmas Eve. He was 90 and was living in a Wynnewood nursing home, but had lived in West Philadelphia since 1946.
Although most of his career was spent with two other guys in trios, in recent years he was a solo act. From 1986 to 2009, he was wowing the crowd at Vincent's Restaurant in West Chester. He quit only because the restaurant closed.

Al founded the Do Ray Me Trio (sometimes spelled Do-Re-Mi), which made music, some written by Al himself, from the 1940s through the '70s. Al went solo after the other members of the trio died.
Although the trio was in demand performing in nightclubs, theaters, restaurants and other venues, it rarely electrified the musical world with a hit - except in 1948, when Al's song "Wrapped Up In A Dream" was No. 2 on the R&B charts for 19 weeks.
Al was born in Columbia, S.C., to Isaac and Emily Russell. In eighth grade at Booker T. Washington High School there, he began playing the piano and singing. He performed on radio shows on WCOS in Columbia.
Eventually, he met other musicians (all of whom sang tenor) and they formed the Al Russell Trio. They played across the country, eventually settling in Los Angeles.
The trio got into some trouble with the Ku Klux Klan in 1945, recording a song in L.A. called "Dig, Mister K. Kay Kay." Los Angeles disc jockeys refused to play it, fearing reprisals, and the song was lost to history. 
The trio made numerous recordings around the country, and in 1947, members changed the name to the Do Ray Me Trio. It started as Do Ray and Me (Al being the Me), but various other spellings showed up as it went along.
The group performed frequently in the Philadelphia area and in Wildwood, N.J., often opening for entertainers with bigger names, including Harry James and Louis Armstrong. 
The makeup of the Do Ray Me Trio changed over the years, and members began dying, leaving Al as the last man standing.

Services: 11 a.m. tomorrow at Tabernacle Evangelical Lutheran Church, 59th and Spruce streets. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be at Fernwood Cemetery.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Noir: Retreat To Goodisville 2012 Thoughts

Jayne Mansfield had 10 good reasons to be happy about filming THE BURGLAR in the summer of 1955.  She got to work with young Paul Wendkos, Lou Kellman, Deedee Bennett, Dan Duryea, Martha Vickers, Ruthie Wendkos, Mickey Shaughnessy, John Facenda and DAVID GOODIS.  We are certain you will be just as happy some 57 years later, for like Ms. Mansfield, you will be in the company of some of most noirish people alive today!  

Jayne Mansfield, circa 1955

  For all of you lucky enough to have secured a spot on the bus for the RETREAT TO GOODISVILLE (RTG) 2012 tour on January 7th, 2012 at 
10:00 AM prepare for a noir adventure.  We guarentee that you will not be disappointed.  All of your prurient interests in Noir/Philadelphia and therefore David Goodis will be realized.  Meet at the The Lost Bar Atlantis, Frankford and Hagert Streets, Philadelphia.  

 For all of you that have procrastinated or avoided committing to the bus, all is not lost.  You will have the opportunity to follow the RTG 2012 bus.  Just meet us at The Lost Bar Atlantis on January 7th, 2012 at 10:00 AM.  Driving instructions will be avaliable for a nominal fee of $10.00.

 Not interested in the bus tour?  Meet us at The Lost Bar Atlantis, Frankford and Hagert Streets at 4:00 PM.

Noir: NPR with Swierczynski


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. For lovers of crime thrillers, movies with creepy plots, low lighting and suspenseful music, we have a different way to get your fix. Author Duane Swierczynski likes his crime stories splayed across the page in comic book form. He recommends three books that take you beyond the police tape. It's for our series Three Books in which we ask authors to recommend books on one theme.
DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI: I'm pretty much a snob when it comes to true crime stories. I want something vivid, but I also don't want eight pages of shocking photos or a garish cover with a mug shot of some dude who needs a sandwich, a shave and a hug.
I want my tales of real-life mayhem to be well-researched and with the weight of history behind them but also move with the speed of an action film, which is why I love it when true crime stories are told in graphic novel form. Here are three of my favorites.
Eliot "Untouchable" Ness famously tangled with one of history's greatest villains: Alphonse "Scarface" Capone. And then he went off to Cleveland and ended up hunting someone even worse: that city's notorious Torso Killer. In "Torso," Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko make stunning use of newspaper clippings, crime scene snaps and period photography, making "Torso" seem less a traditional comic book and more like a great flick that somehow ended up on paper instead of celluloid. And while the creators supply their own best-guess ending, the killer was never caught. You can tell they breathed in endless gallons of microfiche copier ink to absorb every grisly little detail.
For a decade now, Rick Geary has been serving up delightfully grizzly novels, tackling such infamous cases as the Lizzie Borden murders, Jack the Ripper and the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. But my favorite is "The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans," about a now-obscure maniac who roamed the streets of 1918 New Orleans and liked to chop up his sleeping victims with a you-know-what. Geary walks us through each murder in spare, sober detail and saves a nasty little jazz-fueled twist - which I refuse to ruin for you - right in the middle of the book. This killer's identity was never revealed, and the puzzling questions Geary asks at the conclusion will chill you as much as the gory murders.
Is it strange to call a graphic novel about a vicious psychopath both gruesome and heartwarming? Jeff Jensen's the "Green River Killer" also happens to be a tender meditation on his own father, Detective Tom Jensen, who led the 1982 task force charged with taking down the man suspected of killing at least 48 women. But this is not a whodunit. Early on in the book, Jensen has a suspect in custody. I never thought I'd say this about a serial killer story, but I finished it feeling both gutted and uplifted.
With true crime and comics, the old cliche is true: A single image can be more expressive than 1,000 words of prose. It almost makes me wish that writers would bring along an artist the next time they step into a blood-splattered crime scene or a dusty newspaper morgue.
SIEGEL: Duane Swierczynski is the author of the novel "Hell and Gone." You can comment on his essay at our website. Go to Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

Noir: Sacrosanct Religulous

"Wow, Jesus just [expletive] #TimTebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere ... Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler "Hey, Buffalo's killing them," Maher tweeted .

Tebow tweeted , "Tough game today but what's most important is being able to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas everyone GB3."
Go Broncos
God Bless
Good Brew 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Noir: Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells!

Santa Claus helps close out the "100 Year Anniversary of the 1911" by playing one chorus of "Jingle Bells" with the Colt 1911 Series 80 Government model. Ammo is .45 ACP Winchester 230 gr FMJ, approximately 98 rounds. 

Noir: the FILM noir that was 2011!

Can you see the Noir theme through the years?  The human condition fascinates, captivates and defines us! Here's to another 100 years of it!






Noir: The noir year that was 2011!

How Noir will 2012 be?  One thing is sure - NoirCon 2012.  Make Noir history!

Occupy Space!
Pepper Spray LEGO style!
Lego Royal wedding
Royal Wedding LEGO style!
This is the most humble day of my life
Ruppert Murdoch with pie on his face - LEGO style!
Occupy Wall Street
OWS LEGO style!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Noir: R.I.P. Kim Jung Il

Did you know Kim Jong Il was already a master equestrian marksman at the age of five?
Kim Jong Il was very fond of running, tree-climbing, hide-and-seek, playing soldiers, horse-riding, reading, playing the organ and singing. He liked playing soldiers best, and as a commander he always led the game with skill and won it…
Kim Jong Il was very fond of horse-riding. At first he rode with the help of his parents. His mother would adjust the saddle and the stirrup to suit his height, and give him the neccessary warnings about riding a horse. By the time he was five years old, Kim Jong Il was able to ride without help, and never once fell from a galloping horse.
His father led him to like guns, with the advice that a good horseman should also be a good marksman.  His mother bought him an airgun and carefully guided his training in marksmanship. One day, Kim Jong Il saw his mother in a shooting stance with a pistol in hand, while inspecting the rifle range for the guards, and he said he would like to try his hand at it.  She extracted the cartridge from the pistol, showed him how to aim and pull the trigger, and then said:
“You must not start shooting without a definite target. You must have a noble aim before you start shooting.”
“The day I shot my rifle for the first time during the armed struggle against the Japanese, I made up my mind to fight for the revolution to the end under the General’s leadership and destroyed many enemy soldiers. I have kept to my pledge and safeguarded the General at the risk of my life, holding this pistol firmly in my hand.”
Kim Jong Il practiced shooting with the pistol every day. After many days of such practice, he got an opportunity to display his skill. With everyone watching him, he aimed at his targets and pulled the trigger. Bang, bang, bang! The three shots hit his three targets. Kim Il Sung hugged his son and exclaimed, “Excellent!” He then encouraged the (note: five year old) boy to practice shooting on horseback.
At birth, the country hailed him as their new divine leader.
A few woman soldiers and a small unit of the KPRA who were at the Paektusan Secret Camp at that time were the first to congratulate the birth of Kim Jong Il. Wishing him to become the lodestar that would brighten the future of Korea, the hailed him as the Bright Star of Mt. Paektu. Hearing the news of his birth from the messengers who had been to the Paektusan Secret Camp, the small units and groups and political workers operating in many areas were overjoyed at that event and inscribed the words on thick trees everywhere they went, to spread the news of his birth.
The news of Kim Jong Il’s birth spread rapidly, by word of mouth, throughout the country, like a legendary tale. On learning the fact, the enemy became concerned and tried to suppress the public excitement generated by the news.  A Japanese police document… said that the propaganda about the birth of a heaven-sent boy at Samjiyon in the vicinity of Mt. Paektu had caused great confusion in public sentiment in wartime.  An extract from the document reads as follows: “Since it is predicted that the heaven-sent boy will become a general who will bring independence to Korea, Korea will certainly become independent in the near future…”
Holding his son close to his heart, Kim Il Sung gazed intently as his lovable face for a while, and then told his wife that they should bring up the baby and their other children to be heirs to the revolution. He emphasized that he wanted to see the children carry forward the red flag of revolution which was hoisted on Mt. Paektu.
Kim Jong Suk made every effort to bring up her son, living up to the expectations of her husband. She taught him to be a sturdy son of the nation, to be a strong man who would shoulder the future of the Korean revolution.
Kim Jong Il’s film theory writings are pretty classic.

 “In the capitalist system of film-making,” he writes early on, “the director is called ‘director’ but, in fact, the right of supervision and control over film production is entirely in the hands of the tycoons of the film-making industry who have the money, whereas the directors are nothing but their agents…. The director is shackled…. he is a mere worker who obeys…”

“In socialist society the director is an independent and creative artist who is responsible to the Party and the people for the cinema…. The director is not a mere worker who makes films, but the commander!”
“In socialist society the director is an independent and creative artist who is responsible to the Party and the people for the cinema…. The director is not a mere worker who makes films, but the commander!”

“Artistic guidance to individual creative workers must always be specific.”
“It is only when production is well organized that it is possible to make an excellent film in a short time and with a small amount of manpower, funds and material.”
“The director must have confidence in himself and aim high and work boldly.”

Kim Jong Il issued a series of 3D stamps celebrating the birth of Prince William