Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Let's Go Camp-ing!

You know, this past weekend I really did go camping. Far from roughing it, like these guys, I was at a site with a gorgeous pool and a large lake (at which I watched the sun set.) While I was with friends in an air-conditioned pop-up, there were other friends – hardcore regulars there – who have a huge trailer with bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom/shower, a Keurig coffee maker and even a widescreen TV! And outside is a luscious screened-in gazebo with padded furniture, a chandelier, draped fabric stretching across the ceiling and an oscillating fan. That's my style! I call the gazebo “Jeannie's Bottle.” LOL

But, nostalgically cute as the guys above are, we really aren't going to ruminate on that sort of camping today. No, we're going to flip through some photos that I've amassed over the last few months that seem campy to me. I hope you get a kick out of them. (This is going to be another one of my infamous, disjointed efforts, I'm afraid, regardless of the fact that I try to keep things in some degree of order.)

Camp represents different things to different people. Sometimes I don't even think I truly get what it is or, if I do, I just don't know exactly how to explain it. To most people, the photo shown here would be considered campy, a 1957 movie featuring burlap-clad, cellulitic “early”-women pawing all over some hapless gent. (Looking at his face, I can totally sympathize with his pain!)

For me, campiness is just when something is meant to be taken seriously (or reasonably seriously) and winds up preposterously “off.” It's also when the particular time and the trappings of the given era stand out so much that they interfere with the intent of the art and give the piece an offbeat, loony quality. Take this 1955 shot of Miss Lana Turner, for instance. It's meant to be a legitimately enticing photo of her, barely clad and preparing to dress, but the overwhelmingly static, sterile quality of the photo (Lana looks positively waxen!), along with the garish color palette, gives it a campy quality to me.

Then there's young Robert Wagner, starring as Prince Valiant (1954), sporting the hilarious wig that he seemed never to be able to live down (he once claimed in jest that Dean Martin spoke to him for quite a while before realizing that he wasn't chatting with Jane Wyman!) While it's true that the comic strip hero that inspired this movie did have similar hair, sometimes things get lost in translation, especially when the hair is shellacked in that 1950s way. I enjoy this picture because of the way its staged inside a cross. And do check out the length of that massive sword of his!

Publicity photos in general are a decent source for camp. We all know Miss Shirley Knight as a heavyweight actress who delivers the goods almost every time she steps before the camera, but early in her career, she was forced to do the whole starlet thing, with an array of cutesy outfits, poses and props. This one in particular is a hoot, especially thanks to the way she opted to caress that rather phallic bottle.

Carol Lawrence, the original Maria of Broadway's West Side Story and later the spokesperson for General Foods International Coffee, morphed into a cabaret-style entertainer, sometimes with her then-husband Robert Goulet and sometimes not. Here, the mother of two shows off a rather impressive figure (and a kicky little jumpsuit complete with ostrich feathered hem on the legs.)

Never one to be outdone, we go from ostriches to octopus (or is it octopi?) with Miss Mitzi Gaynor. I can just picture Mitz standing with her back to the camera and then whirling around as fast as possible to get that certain effect of the strips of fabric fanning out around her. I must say, too, that she shows a tremendous sense of balance here (assuming that she didn't careen to the floor immediately after this was snapped!)

Connie Stevens can be good for some camp value, rarely more so than in this 8x10 glossy from an unknown project.  I don't think the palm trees in John Ford's The Hurricane (1939) got this much abuse!

I don't know what the occasion was for Brad Davis (of Midnight Express fame) to pose this way, but there's definitely something campy about it. A brilliant actor, he did some really fine work on stage and on screen, but wasn't able to fully overcome an abusive childhood and resultant drug addiction (and then when he eventually did, he found that he'd contracted AIDS.) Few people have lived as wild a life as Davis did, though he paid a heavy price for it when he died at only age forty-one via assisted suicide.

This publicity photo for the prime-time soap Knots Landing (1979 – 1993) features Miss Donna Mills, Ted Shackelford and Joan Van Ark in a three-way clinch. Their overheated expressions are somewhat amusing, but this isn't really any worse than countless other daytime soap promo pictures. What was funny to me was the decision for one of the ladies to leave a big mouth-shaped lipstick print on the bottom hem of his shirt near his crotch!

Practically the entire movie Myra Breckinridge (1970) is campy as it deals superficially and outrageously with a man (Rex Reed) undergoing a sex change into a woman (Raquel Welch) and then exacting revenge on those – and their kind - who thwarted him beforehand. One of the most memorable scenes involved Welch sexually humiliating cowboy stud Roger Herren (who possessed what columnist Joyce Haber dubbed “the butt of the century.”)
Herren, who'd only appeared briefly (and uncredited) in one prior movie, disappeared from the cinema landscape after this, but remains an object of desire among man film fans. What a handsome hunk he was!
It's a far less sexy note that we land on next, but I had to include it. Have you ever seen a more hilariously artless publicity shot in your life? Dennis Weaver's hit TV show McCloud (1970 – 1977) was all about a western sheriff transplanted to New York City, where his take-no-prisoners, good ol' boy ways confounded the established norms of the police department there. His dual worlds collide in the rudimentary artwork shown behind him.

Much ado was made over the wet t-shirt that Jacqueline Bisset sported in 1977's The Deep and that may be what inspired costar Nick Nolte to create this sand sculpture and cozy in next to it for a photo op. Note the utter lack of detail that went into the face! Far more time and energy seems to have been given to the tits...

Christopher Atkins' follow-up to 1980's star-making, but exploitive, The Blue Lagoon was the hysterically cheesy Pirates of Penzance-flavored mess The Pirate Movie (1982), with singing sensation Kristy McNichol... Here, he shows off his color-coordinated trousers and boots, while the Lagoon hairdo remains. 1983's A Night in Heaven (which had him as a college-student stripper banging his teacher Lesley Ann Warren) completed the trifecta and it was soon off to TV and lesser film projects.
When I came upon this next series of photographs, I was dumbfounded. I couldn't figure out what they were from. Based on this one, I thought maybe Barbara Eden was playing a white woman captured by Arapaho Indians.
Then I thought maybe she was a blind woman being romanced by the older, but still suave, Gene Kelly.
In this one, I wondered if she was playing a wife having to deal with her husband's brain injury.
Then I thought, were Barbara Eden and Gene Kelly paired together on The Love Boat and I didn't know it??
I'm really still not used to Babs with the top of her hair slackered down and covered with this headband. Here eyes come off as gargantuan with this look.
As it turns out, Eden and Kelly were paired in a 1970 TV special called Changing Scene. It was the first of four that Kelly did. They focused on the emerging mod movement and Kelly sang “Feelin' Groovy” while Eden warbled “Windmills of Your Mind.” Inexplicably, the finale of the special had everyone involved singing the title song from the Broadway hit “Mame!” Now if that isn't campy, I don't know what is...

Another oddball pairing (though I doubt they actually worked together but merely had their songs pressed into one recording) can be found on this cheap, cheesy album cover. I mean, have you ever, for any reason you'll admit to, connected John Davidson to George Maharis? (They did appear once at the same time on The David Frost Show in 1970, perhaps it was to promote this “album,” but I doubt it!) One of the songs Davidson sings on it is the theme from Valley of the Dolls!

Speaking of him, I ask you... WHEN will you ever come across a more heinous photo of John Davidson than this craptastical head shot? Jesus!! It's like he came in eleventh in the Tyne Daly look-alike contest.
Back to 1967's Valley of the Dolls (another film that is almost entirely camp throughout) for a minute, I thought this cartoon depiction of the female stars was fun. Put that on Saturday morning TV and I'll be there with my bowl of Trix, watching intently!
There were a few amusing publicity shots for that flick. It wasn't enough for Patty Duke to be sent to a sanitarium, she had to be placed in a bed next to a huge bottle of booze!
Even that wasn't enough. She was then photographed next to a ginormous, looming bottle of red pills (or “dolls,” if we're going to follow the terminology that author Jacqueline Susann attempted to create, but which never really caught on.)
For the incrediibly beautiful Sharon Tate, it was next to impossible for her to take a bad picture (but, oh, how they tried!)  Even a silly hairdo and an awkward pose cannot disguise her radiant loveliness.
As Anne Welles, Barbara Parkins played the most sensible of the three featured girls, though even she eventually had her problems as well. Regally elegant throughout, it is thus a shock to see these publicity photos of her cheesily dancing around.
Of course, nothing in the original comes near to being as outre as the in-name-only sequel Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), which is stuffed from end to end with weirdos and over-the-top sets, fashions and personalities. Edy Williams is shown here.
No fan of “out there” '60s cinema can afford to miss this lunatic excursion into the offbeat.
It had originally been envisioned as a true sequel to the prior film, but ultimately wound up as its own animal altogether.
The young man in the fur bikini, hogtied above, is Michael Blodgett, a once-hot actor-turned-writer who later married Meredith Baxter. They divorced in 2000 and she came out as a lesbian just under a decade later.
For the hell of it, I'm going to toss in this publicity shot from the 1981 rendition Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls with Catherine Hick's as Ann (no “e” now for whatever reason), Lisa Hartman as Neely and Veronica Hamel as Jennifer. Campy in its own right, this is actually one of the most demure representations of the project. As it wears on, we get Jean Simmons and Bert Convy in a preposterous nautical musical number and Hartman in a shocking pink, new-wave punk wig!
Heading into theaters in 1969 (after Valley of the Dolls, but before Beyond...) was another wild-looking movie called The Gay Deceivers. It concerned two draft-age young men who pretend to be gay in order to avoid being sent to Vietnam. They ultimately have to move in together (into a gay-friendly apartment complex) where the landlord and his partner (seen here) are two of the most extraordinarily stereotypical queens ever.

Played by Michael Greer (who specialized in portraying biting, bitchy types – see also Fortune and Men's Eyes from 1971) and Sebastian Brook, these two make a lot of people now, gay or straight, cringe, but at least the movie was addressing an issue that had heretofore been all but ignored in the movies and doing it in a somewhat positive way. (I didn't see it, so I can't be sure, but it's entirely possible that 2007's I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry was not a whole lot more “enlightened” than this movie made four decades prior!) Brook, by the way, (the dark-haired one on the right) had also had a small role in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

The '60s are such a great place to find campy clothing and hairdos. When Dean Martin did his series of four Matt Helm spy films, his cover was that of a men's magazine/calendar photographer, which afforded him the chance to ogle some curvaceous and amusingly done up females. Here, he meets up with twelve girls, one for each month (one of whom apparently had something in her eye that day?) along with his faithful secretary. The secretary, in the middle with the fun, brunette up-do, was a young model named Beverly Adams. But you know her better, if at all, as Beverly Sassoon, the wife of Vidal Sassoon, who was featured in many ads for his hair product line.

In this era, it was the more unusual the better, hence this model sporting a telephone bikini. Unfortunately for her, you couldn't put these types of phones "on vibrate!"
One film, Murderer's Row, had Martin working with Ann-Margret, the quick-shimmying daughter of an important figure, who gets kidnapped and held for ransom. One scene has him attempting to keep up with her on the dance floor of a way-out discotheque. Notice that the band in this scene is Dino, Desi and Billy, consisting of Dean Paul Martin, Desi Arnaz Jr (on drums) and Billy Hinsche (who could claim no show biz bloodline, but his sister was once married to a Beach Boy at least!)

Now, we head into what I'll call the Joan Collins Collection. Miss C. is one of my favorite people. The venerable 1950s actress, who was able to reinvent herself and reinvigorate her career, becoming a household name in the process, appeared in more than a few things that could be considered campy. She earned her stripes, if she didn't have them already, when she played the seething villainess Nellifer in Land of the Pharaohs in 1955.

Never one to play it safe with clothes and styling, she often embraced the latest trends in fashion, making some of her photos quite campy (but ever fun!) in retrospect. Did you think that Victoria and Angelina were the first moms to scoot around the globe with their kids while dressed to the nines?
Here, she and sister Jackie upstage the nude artwork behind them.
Dig this effing belt, bitches!
This look almost defies any caption.
There's something hilarious about a half-nude Darren McGavin and her being given direction in the 1978 flick Zero to Sixty as he struggles to keep her aloft. Meanwhile, a crew member is slinking behind a sheet of diffusing film at the nearby window.
One of Joan's least favorite projects involved working in the swampy Florida Everglades on the $2.99 creature feature Empire of the Ants (1977), a rotten, nearly-forgotten film that was dredged up to newfound popularity in 1982 when she hit it big on Dynasty.
Then we have this mightily-airbrushed promo shot for the 1984 telefilm The Cartier Affair, costarring David Hasselhoff. Just what in the name of God is going on with his arm? It looks like it belongs to Ioan Gruffudd from Fantastic Four!
When Collins was reining supreme on Dynasty, the writers got the big idea that her character, Alexis Morrell Carrington Colby Dexter, should actually become a real queen on the show! The plan was to have her marry her daughter Amanda's father-in-law, King Galen of Moldavia.
Thing was, the whole Moldavian storyline (involving Amanda's wedding to Prince Michael and having the ceremony interrupted by gun-wielding terrorists) was so unpopular that further plans of it were scrapped, leaving the sequence in the photos shown above and below (reportedly from a dream and not an actual crowning) un-aired.
This last photo is less campy than just downright hysterical, but where else was I going to use it? It's a trading card from somewhere other than the U.S. of The Big Valley's Lee Majors. Not only is it a dreadful photo, about one step above a mug shot, but he's misidentified in it. And not only is he misidentified, but the person whose name he's been given is misspelled on top of it! The first time I saw this I almost collapsed on the floor laughing, especially since there's a (somewhat) newly-coined word called “shart,” which is a combination of shit and fart and is not a very pleasant term to say the least! LOL

That's it for now. I'm packin' up my camp gear and moving on to the next subject! Be back again soon.


joel65913 said...

Fun as always. Joan Collins always swung from being a hot mess to looking classy and I love her for it.

I have to admit to seeing Zero to Sixty on purpose through Netflix instant watch merely for the chance to see the actress who played Violet in Willy Wonka grown up, it was her last acting job and lets say a great thespian was not lost to the world. The whole picture was dreadful but beside Joan, Darren and Violet the pic also features Sylvia Miles at her most strident, Lyle Waggoner(!?) the briefly popular Hudson Brothers, who are awful and saddest of all Gordon MacRae in a throwaway role a million miles from Carousel and Oklahoma! So its fun in a train wreck sort of way.

Connie Stevens is a constant walking talking camp explosion with that overfrosted hair in some style approximating a long shag decades after it went out of fashion and clothing taste that leans heavily towards the too tight and very loud.

So many other great things in the article, love the Valley of the Dolls cartoon, the Susan Hayward/Helen Lawson character is priceless! And that John Davidson "glamour" photo is horrifying, the worst thing about it is the thought that he had to approve it and did. Yikes!!

Ken Anderson said...

I am completely floored by the images you are able to find, the pertinent points of interest within them (the young lady with something in her eye in the Matt Helm pic cracked me up for some reason), and their broad range of awfulness. While the John Davidson is perhaps the most terrifying, I have to say I absolutely adore the Shirley Knight one. Such a serious actress (then) it's a hoot to see her in this bizarre pic. She she actually looks like she's been caught "doing" something to that penis bottle, and her hand couldn't be more inappropriate.
Lastly, I took great in seeing the lady in the phone bikini, because (as a longtime "Hazel" fan) I recognize her as the last employer of Shirley Booth's buttinsky maid in the final season, I think. She was so prim in that show, it's a riot to see her all mod and everything.
I wish your blog was a TV show on LOGO or something (like a gay MST3K)'s always so much fun for me (and quite a camp history lesson!)

Scooter said...

I know this is off point and purely tangential but I've always liked Darren McGavin!

Poseidon3 said...

Joel and Ken, thanks for the great comments and information! I saw Zero to Sixty in a ratty, grainy, cropped print on Encore Action years ago. Now that widescreen HD is much more popular, I'd like to see it in its true format and with a better quality picture, though I'm sure it's still pretty bad. Ken, that's very interesting about the telephone model.

Scooter, I presume you've seen Airport '77, in which I find McGavin one of the most likeable, dependable people and in which he has some amusing offhanded lines. He had a reputation for being petty and difficult (and tangled badly with Burt Reynolds during their show Riverboat), but whether justified or not, created amiable characters on screen.