Posted on October 25th, 2011 1 comment
Hey rockin’ daddy-O’s and krazy little mamas! Halloween is right around the corner…And this time of year I get so busy with decor and parties, I don’t have a lot of ticks left to write posts. So here are some kookie, fun vintage spooky videos and cocktail concoctions for the season of the witch, to get you through the next couple of days…
Betty Boop and Cab Calloway, Minnie The Moocher
Squirrel Nut Zippers, The Ghost of Stephen Foster
The Nightmare Before Christmas, Oogie Boogie’s Song
Tiki Cocktails Recipes for Halloween (and some spooky movies!)
Posted on August 29th, 2011 2 comments
Noir at heart but filmed in Technicolor, The African Queen easily fits under Noir and Mod Movie Monday categories as it definitely deals with the darker side of humanity. Swing back to North Africa, 1914. News reaches a small German settlement that the Fatherland is at war. British missionaries are suddenly caught in the crossfire, and when Kathrine Hepburn’s character’s brother dies, she leaves the burning wreckage of her church with none other than alcoholic captain Bogie on his beat-up old jalopy of a steamer, The African Queen. Together they trek down a treacherous river full of all sorts of nasty things, including Germans with those funny little spikes sticking up out of their helmets. They catch wind that a German warship is anchored at the mouth of the river, and Hepburn does all she can (in the eyes of God) to sober up Bogie and get him to help her find a way to destroy the ship.
One of Bogie’s finest roles, he is very convincing as a gin-swilling roughneck. That may have something to do with the fact that while they filmed this flick in the jungles of Africa, Humphrey Bogart and director John Huston stuck to a steady diet of baked beans, canned asparagus and Scotch whiskey. There was a method to their madness…they were the only two from the cast and crew that made it through filming without getting dysentery or malaria. This included Hepburn, who drank only water and had dysentery so bad they had to keep a bucket next to the camera.
There is some great trivia on The African Queen at IMDB.
Just as the ’58 Plymouth Fury was a character in Christine and the pimped-out Dunham Coach Eldorado was a character in Superfly, so was the little steamer The African Queen (I suppose this turn of the name was to indicate the double meaning, as Hepburn’s character also acted like the Queen of Africa). The boat had already been in actual service for 4o years when they used it for the film, and went on for many years after working hard along the river. Today the boat is still in service…it’s docked in Key Largo, FL just off the Overseas Highway (US 1). It’s on display, looking very close to the way it did in the movie, and is available for charters. It’s really no where near as big as it looks in the movie. Kind of funny that it would end up in Key Largo, with Bogie’s connection to that island with his 1948 movie.
Booze: Gin. British Gin.
Here’s the trailer from 1951…
– Tiki Chris reporting from the jungles behind The Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar, South Florida
Posted on August 2nd, 2011 No comments
Here’s a very stylish, very cool flick…a movie that has “Dark” in the title, and it doesn’t get much more ‘noir’ than that.
starring Rufus Sewell, William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly and Richard O’Brien.
What the hell is going on in this movie? is what you’ll be asking yourself in the first 15 minutes. Very strange imagery throughout, the viewer is thrown into a state of surreal chaos from the opening seconds. Written and directed by Alex Proyas (The Crow, I, Robot) this sci-fi mystery combines visual styles from steampunk (real steampunk, not that plastic gears on blue jeans crap) to art deco to industrial to nautical, blending everything together in a crazy mash-up (and for good reason, which I will not divulge here…remember, no spoilers at the Tiki bar).
Kiefer Sutherland plays a very, very strange character in this movie, so far removed from Jack Bauer or the Lost Boys it’s hard to believe it’s him. Jennifer Connelly has a smaller part, but still manages to be one of my favorite chicks of all time. Rufus Sewell does a great job as a guy with amnesia who has no idea what the hell is going on (that phrase will pass through your mind several times, but don’t worry, it will all be clear by the end).
The story: Can’t say too much, because I don’t want to give anything away. The best thing about this movie is that it’s so far out there, literally far out there. Watching the ‘truth’ unfold is half the fun. Basically a guy wakes up in a bathtub, remembers nearly nothing, not even who he is, and finds he is being chased for a murder he doesn’t remember committing. Sound normal? Forget about it. It all goes crazy from there. Especially when he sees the city (which seems to exist only at night) change. I mean, like buildings coming down and new ones popping up. ‘nough said.
The reason this crazy flick makes it to the Noir Movie Monday spot is that the city, cars, clothes, everything…is all a combination of our recent past, mixing styles of 1920s art nuevo, 1930s art deco, mid century modern, doo wop, you name it. From a Horne and Hardart-style automat to 1950’s cars mixed with 70s cars and 30s clothes, the whole look and feel of the movie is vintage (which, as I said, is explained later in the flick). Add to that some very kreepy undertaker-looking kats, and Jen Conelley performing the steamiest version of “Sway” I’ve ever heard (it should have been longer) and a very original story, and you’ve got a winner.
What I really like about this flick is that it takes you to places you’d never expect, both physically and plot-wise. Everything is constantly changing, with the main character’s quest to find his identity (and what the hell is going on) the only constant.
Food & Booze: Hard to pull anything from the flick as nobody ever seems to actually eat or drink anything. But…just for fun, I’d go with the theme of the different eras, maybe homemade baked bread with a TV dinner and Kraft macaroni and cheese. Wash it down with an old fashioned followed by a slippery nipple. Catch my drift?
By the way…Richard O’Brien was Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Proyas wrote the part in this movie especially for him.
Watch this one with the lights off for the best effect.
Here’s the scene with Connelly singing “Sway”. Actually not sure if it is really her singing or not…according to the info on the video it is her, not the voiceover that was done in the released version of the movie.
-Tiki Chris reporting from the screening room at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Lounge
Do you like noir mysteries? Do you like what you read here? Then you should check out Stardust Mysteries, with my novels Murder Behind the Closet Door and Murder on Tiki Island!
Posted on July 26th, 2011 1 comment
A little known and underrated movie for sure, Delovely is the almost fantasy-like tale of the flamboyant (and very private) life of one of the most beloved songwriters to ever grace us with his insurmountable talent, Cole Porter.
With an outstanding performance by Kevin Kline, you’ll believe your actually seeing and hearing Porter himself from first few seconds of the opening scene. An incredible supporting cast includes Ashley Judd, Johnathon Pryce, and a stage-full of cameos by some of the “Biggest Names in Showbiz” including Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Sheryl Crow, Natalie Cole…the list goes on.
A portrait of Cole Porter’s life, the story is presented as a fantasy musical biographical stage-show being produced at the end of Porter’s life. He leads “the director” through flashbacks of his colorful life, and we learn about Porter’s previously very secret lifestyle through these scenes…filled, of course, with Porter’s songs woven into the story. The “Show” scenes are very noir, dark, often sad. The “Flashback” scenes are generally uplifting and jubilant. Great juxtaposition adds to the charm.
I don’t want to give anything away…it’s fun discovering things about this incredible man and his accomplishments and contributions, his marriage to the love of his life, and the hidden meaning behind some of his very risque lyrics (Let’s just say I’ll never think of “Your the top” and “Blow, Gabriel Blow” the same way again.)
The movie is a perfect little time capsule of 1920s-1950s America and Europe, with exquisite sets, costumes, and storyline that any vintage music lover will instantly love. Unfortunately the movie was not a hit; the box office was disappointing, critics and audiences are split down the middle on whether it’s a masterpiece or a long-winded semi-musical bomb. Who is right? Well, if you’re like me…and if you read this blog you are…then you’ll get it, and you’ll love Delovely.
My only complaint about this flick is that (probably for time constraints) some of the best songs are cut off, or just grace the background of a scene. But don’t worry, the soundtrack is available on Amazon.com.
Sit back with a bottle of champagne, a dinner of Chateaubriand, and if you’re the emotional type, a box of tissues, and enjoy this truly incredible movie.
Here’s the original trailer:
-Tiki Chris, reporting from the sound stage at Star Dust Studios, Florida
Posted on April 12th, 2011 2 comments
There haven’t been too many jazz musicians who’ve been nominated for an Academy Award. In fact, besides Dexter Gordon who was nominated for Best Actor for his leading role in ’Round Midnight, I don’t think there really are any.
Dexter Gordon started playing for Lionel Hampton’s band around 1940, at the age of 17. His career continued to grow as he played with such greats as Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Art Blakey and Billy Eckstine. He is credited as the THE first musician to translate the bop stylings and musical language of Parker and Gillespie to the tenor sax…And that’s a fact, Jack. And not so easy. You try playing a string of 1/16th notes that belong in the scale on a 1930’s tenor horn at 200 BPM, see how easy you think that jazz is. Whew.
Long Tall Dexter had a prolific recording career, churning out title after title of original tunes and standards. His 1964 album One Flight up had only four songs, but man did they swing.
Dex was the epitome of the Kool Jazz Kat: A sharp dresser with a laid-back attitude, and a smokin’ musician with a style all his own. His tenor stylings certainly did stand out from the crowd, from his unique blend of Parkeresque runs mixed with melodic passages to his deep, full, heavy sound. Anyone who knows even a little about Modern Jazz recognizes his playing by the fifth beat.
So it’s natch that they tapped the kat to play Dale Turner, the brilliant but alcoholic sax man who leads up the 1986 classic noir slice of life flick
Dale Turner’s character is based partly on pianist Bud Powell, partly on saxophonist Lester Young. Both musicians were extraordinary trend-setters (to say the least), moving flawlessly through the styles of big band swing to small combo jazz, bop, blues, and modern jazz. They both had success but never enough, and ‘the life’ eventually led to their demise…both dying from complications due to alcoholism while still young (Powell was 42, Young 40). Gordon does a fantastic job portraying a typical ’50s jazz musician…always practicing, always, partying, always looking for a new sound, always looking for a new gig.
Herbie Hancock won the 1987 Oscar for Best Music, Original Score. But Dex lost out to Paul Newman. Not too bad for a kat who never had a starring role in a movie before. To show you just how big a deal his nomination was, here’s the roll call for 1987 Best Actor nominations:
◦ Paul Newman – The Color of Money
◦ Dexter Gordon – Round Midnight
◦ William Hurt – Children of a Lesser God
◦ Bob Hoskins – Mona Lisa
◦ James Woods – Salvador
The movie itself is fantastic, if you dig jazz and want to see what things were like for jazz musicians in the ’50s, by an ’80s point of view. It features a few more real jazzers like Bobby Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter, and has a few scenes with Martin Scorsese. François Cluzet plays Francis Borler, a jazz buff who meets and befriends Turner. When he realizes his jazz idol is fallen angel, he tries his best to keep him on track. You’ll have to watch the movie to see how it goes.
My Take: I started playing sax for my own enjoyment when I was around thirteen. I learned the old fashioned way…by playing along with records, mainly of big bands, Glenn Miller, Dorsey, Shaw, Goodman, Basie, plus soloists such as Coleman Hawkins, Tex Beneke and Lester Young. Later I discover Sam Butera, and by the time I was 21 I had formed my own style based on these influences.
Then one night while digging the 4-piece jazz combo at Orsatti’s Restaurant in Atlantic City (c. 1992), I struck up a convo with the band leader, a trumpeter. I told him I swung and he invited me to sit in. So the next weekend I came back with my tenor horn, along with my own cheering section which included a couple of knock-out dolls, and played on pieces like Four, All of Me and Blue Bossa. I get free drinks all night for my two cents and it was a blast. After the set, a guy in the lounge asked me how long I’d been playing, and who I learned from. We got to talking and he asked me if I ever heard of Dexter Gordon. I said no (I was still learning a LOT back then). He said, “Man, you gotta check out One Flight Up. It’s life changing.” I laughed, but he was very nicely serious. “Do it man, One Flight Up, Dexter Gordon.” He repeated that a half a dozen times. I can still hear the kat’s voice in my head, clear as day. So the next day I went down to the CD store and picked up a copy.
The kid wasn’t kiddin’. Subtly, it was life changing. Four songs, going on forever, chorus after chorus and Dex still had something new to say. I found his sound to be so very kool, so deep, so very direct. He sounded like he was really having fun playing too, which is what really turned me on to his music. I immediately started playing along with his stuff, learning some of his techniques and working a little of his style into my own to come up with something new. Such is jazz.
A week later I went back to Orsatti’s (Which, by the way, was one of the last old-time 1940s Atlantic City landmarks that had survived until the mid ’90s without changing one bit, hence the lounge with the jazz combo) and found the kid there. “Well, was it life changing?” he asked, not even asking if I listened to the album. He just assumed I did, of course. “Yeah, you were right, I’m hip,” I replied. “Told you man,” he said, smiling ear to ear.
Orsatti’s closed up when the owners retired more than 15 years ago. Not sure, but I’m guessing it’s a parking lot or a strip club now. The band broke up long ago and I never saw them or the kid that turned me on to Dexter Gordon again, but I’ll always thank him for it. Listening to One Flight Up got me hooked on Modern Jazz and got me into bop and other jazz forms of the mid century variety. It helped expand my tastes to include more of the frontiersmen like Art Blakey, Oscar Peterson, Dizzie Gillespie and Woody Shaw. It’s been almost 20 years since I first listened to Dex, and over 30 since I fist picked up a horn. That horn and that music have become a part of who I am, whether I play for a crowd or just for myself, I am, and always will be, a Jazz Musician.
Here’s the Trailer from 1986:
-Tiki Chris, aka Zoot, reporting from the smokey stage in the basement bar off 49th Street somewhere in 1959.