Posted on January 31st, 2012 2 comments
Mod/Noir Movie Monday is back, after a brief detour due to the New Year, some crazy happenings, and too much booze (or not enough).
This week we have a somewhat obscure doozy from the early 1970s, a time when movies were in that transitional period between Ocean’s 11 and Jaws, when a film maker could hire Jack Nicholson, Scattman Crothers, Ellen Burstyn and Bruce Dern on a shoestring budget, throw in a bunch of quirkiness, some natural breasts and a TON of location shots of Atlantic City before the casinos invaded…then have that movie become an iconic time capsule of the end of the “old Atlantic City” era, right down to the interior shots of the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel, doomed to the wrecking ball seven years later.
is about a con man (Dern) who asks his brother (Nicholson) to help him start a resort in Hawaii. There’s not much about that storyline going on that’s worth paying any attention to. What you’re watching this flick for is atmosphere, images, and lifestyles that are long, long gone and mostly forgotten.
Most of the movie takes place in and around the Blenheim part of the historic Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel. Like most things historic in Atlantic City, someone (probably) got paid off to allow it to be imploded so a POS glass and steel casino could be built in its place (but that’s a rant for another post). Anyway, you’ll get a lot of eye-candy of old Atlantic City, including the boardwalk auctions, shots of the piers, the interior of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Convention Hall, interiors and exteriors of some of the great hotels, and even a few cool old cars. Overall, the skyline of Atlantic City in 1972 didn’t look too much different than it did in the 1920s or 1950s…so it’s a fun glimpse into the past.
What? Is the movie any good? Well, that depends on your tastes, of course. If you like movies from this era at all, you’ll probably dig it a lot. Don’t look for a lot of action, suspense, or deep storyline…this move is about characters, and some intense acting (the acting is very good). It’s basically a slice of life kind of thing, and the characters make it interesting to watch (remember, in this kind of movie the buildings, the boardwalk, the beach are as much characters as the people). It’s sometimes depressing, sometimes funny. You guys who read my posts know I don’t get all “in depth and analytical” about flicks, so if you want a “deep” convo about how groundbreaking or historically important the film is, check out this blog.
Food and Booze: There’s a great scene where they’re eating in Captain Starn’s Seafood Restaurant, which was one of the world famous restaurants right on the boards in the Atlantic City Inlet. They’re entertaining potential investors….so I’d say a nice whole Maine lobster with black butter and Filet Mignon tips, rare would be appropriate. And might I suggest pairing with a 1972 vintage Baron Philippe de Rothschild Sauvignon Blanc…or, for that real old Atlantic City flavor, fried flounder and a Michelob!
My Take: Although I was born in Philly, my family moved to and operated the Star Dust Motel on the Black Horse Pike in West Atlantic City from 1969 to 1973. Like everything kool and old, it was torn down in ’73 and is now an empty lot. I grew up 10 miles west of Atlantic City, but my family hardly ever went there…it was in pretty sad shape in the 1970s, and known more for gang violence and other crimes than as a fun tourist destination. We went to the boardwalk once when I was very young…I have vague memories of looking up at the Marlborough-Blenheim, seeing the rides (but not going on them) on Steel Pier, and driving by The Knife and Fork Inn. We went again when Resorts opened as the first Casino in the old Haddon Hall Hotel (one of the few survivors) in 1978, and I have a few memories of that.
I was only four years old when The Traymore was imploded, but remember hearing about it, remember my parents saying how sad it was. In 1988, I stood on the boardwalk and watch a crane take apart the last bits of the burned-out, crumbling Steel Pier. A few months my buddy Steve and I sneaked into the back of the house at Resorts, went up to the ballroom and watched the Steeplechase Pier burn to the ground (it was directly across the boardwalk…we could feel the heat inside Resorts).
That same year I got a job working as “the balloon guy” for a display company that had 400 semi-permanent Mylar balloons decorating Resorts for its 10-year anniversary. Two years later I was working as a costumed character (kind of like Mr. Peanut) for The Shops one Ocean One, a mall built on the pilings of the original Million Dollar Pier, and eventually became Tourism & Marketing Director. I learned a lot about Atlantic City history while there, not realizing I was living it, and making it, every day. The owners went out of business in 1990, and it eventually closed in the early 00’s, was bought by Caesars, and turned into a high-end Vegas-like shopping mall connected to the casino.
So much of old Atlantic City is gone now…all the hotels, except for The Dennis, that were in The King of Marvin Gardens are gone now, replaced by new casinos. Captain Starn’s in long gone. Marven Gardens (they spelled it wrong in the movie) is still there, in Margate, but is never shown in the movie. All of the piers are either gone, or have been completely rebuilt as modern structures except Central Pier, which still retains its original facade, although badly stuccoed and gaudily painted. The city is an insane mix of mega-modern casinos and decaying 100-year-old buildings, and will eventually become fully modern…so enjoy The King of Marvin Gardens, one of the only remaining glimpses of this great City’s past.
Here’s a short clip from the beginning of the movie…
-Tiki Chris Pinto reporting from the Warner Theater, on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City c. 1972 (metaphysically, of course).
Posted on January 21st, 2012 3 comments
On a cold, damp night in the early winter of 1960, an orchestra of 16 men, including a violin section, warmed up for a recording session in a small studio in Chicago, Illinois. They tuned up, and waited for the girl singer to show up…a young, pretty girl who had an R&B hit a few years before but hadn’t turned many heads since. The producer was a little worried that she might not even show up…she had a thing for heroin…but she walked in from the cold on time, and ready to sing.
She didn’t even need a warm-up; she’d already done that in the cab ride over to the studio, damn near breaking the glass in the side windows of the Checker.
She walked up to the mic, cool and professional, adjusted the hight, and smiled at the engineer. “At Last, Take One”, he said softly into his mic, and the bandleader raised his baton to start the orchestra playing a song that had been made a hit almost 20 years earlier by Glenn Miller’s big band, a ballad standard that had been played a million times in the original, ballad way. Until tonight.
The violins came in, and the girl singer closed her eyes as the intro soared. She took a quiet, deep breath, and on cue, she belted out the two words that would make her a star for the rest of her life:
That girl was Etta James, and no one had ever heard that big band ballad sung in such a soulful, lilting way before. With that one song she became one of the pioneers of the modern style of Rhythm and Blues, so much so that a half a century later the most popular singers of the time would do their best to imitate that style.
Today, January 20, 2012, Etta James left this plane for that big orchestra in the sky. She was 73, and considering the fate of many of her contemporaries, she lived a long and pretty damned good life.
Thanks for the music, Etta. You’ll always live on as one of the greats.
-Tiki Chris. (Note: Please don’t take this stylized post as fact. This is just the way I imagine that recording session may have gone. It’s true that “At Last!” was a tune that was originally recorded by Glenn Miller’s orchestra for the movie “”Orchestra Wives” in 1942, and became one of the band’s biggest hits. It’s true that no one ever sung it quite like Etta James, and that she pretty much set the style for vocalists like Beyonce and Mariah to copy. The rest is purely speculation. For more info on Etta James visit www.facebook.com/EttaJames.
Posted on January 6th, 2012 No comments
There’s a tinge of brandy in the air on this steamy night in Tikiland. The darkness is so thick and cruel that even the mice don’t want to step out for a crumb. A door creeks open in the darkness, and a man in a black trench coat and tilted fedora carefully picks his way through the tables until he reaches the bar…
For those of you who dig Noir style movies and fiction, I’ve got a real treat for you tonight:
“A Flash of Noir: Flash Fiction & Short, Short Stories with a Twist” by yours truly, Tiki Chris, is now
For a limited time, for Kindle!
A Flash of Noir is a collection of flash fiction and short, short stories, laid down old-school style by master mystery writer Christopher Pinto. Writing in the genre of gumshoe detectives and sultry dames, creepy horror and hep cat jive, Pinto has put together a series of mostly one-page, 60-second reads that will transport you to another time…a darker, more sinister time.
From smokey bars in New York City to the tropical islands of the Florida keys, A Flash of Noir takes you for a spin through the seediest gin joints and darkest alleys. One minute you’re speeding down I-95 in a hot rod, the next you’re tasting cheap whiskey in a basement tap room where the women are heartless and the men are unforgiving. Gangsters, cops, private eyes, strippers, murderers, phantoms…plus a few comedy pieces to keep you from wanting to slit your wrists.
Over 40 stories of crime fiction, ghost stories, retro fiction and short beatnik poetry plus noir-esque original photographs by the author make this a fast, fun read. There’s even a flash written entirely of song titles…see if you can list every one!
AND THOUGH MONDAY, IT’S FREE!
All you need is an Amazon account and a Kindle or Kindle Reader App on your phone, ipad, computer, etc, and you’re all set! Just click this link, A Flash of Noir, to download this groovy tome for free.
BTW: Did I mention it’s free?
You’re going to need something cool and noir-ish to sip while reading this book. What could be better than a cocktail named after Humphrey Bogart? Now, this wasn’t his kind of drink (he was mainly a Scotch man), but we can certainly picture this concoction as the house drink at Rick’s Cafe Americain in Casablanca.
• 1 1/2 oz. apple brandy
• 1 oz. brandy
• 1/4 oz. lemon syrup
• 1/4 oz. lime syrup
• 1/4 oz. vanilla vodka
• Chilled cocktail glass
• Lemon wheel, for garnish
• Lime wheel, for garnish
Pour all ingredients except the wheels into a shaker and shake with crushed ice until a frost forms on the outside of the can. Strain into cocktail glasses, and garnish with the wheels. Serving on a silver plate with .45 caliber bullet adds a nice touch.
-Tiki Chris, reporting from the bar at Rick’s, c. 1944
Posted on January 4th, 2012 No comments
Tonight, Wednesday, January 4, 2012, 6pm-8pm
Mai Kai Polynesian Restaurant and Tiki Bar, Fort Lauderdale, FL
If you’re in South Florida this Wednesday, be sure to stop by The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale and meet yours truly, Tiki Chris P. and Hawaii’s own Everett Peacock for our first book signing together!
It’s a rare treat to team up with Everett Peacock, author of the Parrot Talks series and other Hawaiian tales of fiction. I will be selling and signing paperback copies of the Tiki world’s official murder mystery, Murder on Tiki Island, along with my Wildwood Murder mystery Murder Behind the Closet Door, while Everett’s books will include The Parrot Talks in Chocolate, In the Middle of the World’s Most Wonderful of Oceans, Tiwaka Goes To Waikiki and Death by Facebook.
The Mai Kai is the world’s most famous, oldest-standing, unchanged and theerfore koolest original mid-century Tiki bar in the world. Built in 1956, it just celebrated its 55th anniversary as the Tiki world’s Mecca. Millions of people have made the pilgrimage to Fort Lauderdale, FL to pay tribute to this temple of Tiki, and have done so by imbibing strong, vintage-style tropical drinks, enjoying incredible exotic foods, watching the authentic hula dancers and ending the evening off with a trinket from the gift shop. Now, that gift shop includes works from today’s Tiki artists from all over the world. The newest addition is a collection of Tiki-related books, including those groovy tomes mentioned above.
Everett Peacock lives on the island of Maui, in the state of Hawaii, USA. His books have delighted thousands of people, telling tales of the Hawaiian Islands and their interesting inhabitants. His works range from the very lighthearted and uplifting The Parrot Talks in Chocolate, to the spooky paranormal mystery Death by Facebook. All of his works transcend our everyday existence, blending the metaphysical with human reality. His books consistently achieve five-star reviews on many book review sites…and I personally recommend them to anyone who digs Tiki, Hawaii, parrots or cocktails served in coconuts.
I, Tiki Chris Pinto, live down here in sunny South Florida with my wife Colleen, just a few miles west of the sparkling beaches of Fort Lauderdale and the rum-soaked delights of the Mai Kai. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and my successes included several murder mystery stage plays, the 5-star rated novels Murder Behind the Closet Door and Murder on Tiki Island, and a collection of flash fiction entitled A Flash of Noir. Murder Under The Boards: The Atlantic City Murder Mystery is the novel that’s currently in the works, and will feature my recurring paranormal mystery theme along with my recurring flawed protagonist, Detective Bill Riggins. (For those of you who dig books by Stephen King and Mickey Spillane, you’ll flip for these titles).
Both Everett and I will have several books on hand for sale, and will also sign copies of books you’ve already purchased. Hell, we’ll even sign books we didn’t write. Why not!
Hope to see some of you kool kats and kittens at the Mai Kai tonight!
All of our books can be found on Amazon.com, in print and for Kindle, and for Nook. For more info visit StarDustMysteries.com.
-Tiki Chris P., reporting from the Molokai bar.