Monday, August 15, 2005


I have a savant-like talent, I guess one would call it a talent, maybe a tendency, for remembering obscure actors and then bothering my friends with lists of other movies they've been in. Like we could be settling down to watch such and such and I'll see a name in the credits and I'll go, "Oh wow, Jimmy Lee Goldstein! He played the lion-keeper's assistant in Kickboxing Catholic Girls from Outer Space, Part II!" or "Sujata Prawrvadhi! She played the flight attendant who spills the coffee in Gem├╝tlichkeit at 30,000 Feet!"

To which the response is usually some variant of that's nice, shut up, or too bad you can't make any money with that.

Anyway, sitting here this morning sipping my precious, precious coffee and reading da news, I come across a review of a new jukebox musical based upon the later work of John Lennon. Apparently, the musical is crap. Didn't see that coming. Lennon's late career is definitely spotty, though it contains some genuine masterpieces, but let's just say this fad of shoehorning rock and pop repertoires into Broadway sing-alongs appeals to a...certain sensibility. And it's not a rock n' roll one. I imagine John sitting in his little breakfast nook up in rock n' roll heaven, drinking his tea, flipping through the paper, reading this review, and throwing up a little, in his mouth. Or maybe he's delighted about the attention. Probably both at once. He was a complicated man.

What caught my eye, however, was the name of the director of the show, Don Scardino, who I of course remember as the city-slicker hero of the 1976 horror classic Squirm, in which a small southern town is infested by a plague of flesh-eating mutant earthworms, as if you couldn't immediately figure that out from the title.

This film occupies a special place in Duss family history. When we were kids, my brother Brian and I watched it on Channel 11 some Saturday afternoon when we probably should have been outside playing, and were good and grossed out by it. But here was my master-stroke: from that time on, whenever we'd be sitting at the dinner table and my notoriously picky-eater brother would be faced with some new culinary concoction of our mom's that he wasn't quite sure about, I would mutter "Squirm," which would immediately conjure up for him images of undulating mounds of slimy, ravenous earthworms devouring screaming yokels, and would, without fail, kill his appetite. Dead. He'd get mad and complain that he didn't want to eat, and my parents would make him finish what was on his plate, and he would whine in protest and I would turn and smile evily into the camera. It was the perfect crime. It got so that I wouldn't even need to say the word, I could just look at him across the dinner table and nod, and he'd know exactly what I meant, and would get grossed out again just the same. It's good to be the older brother.

So, ladies and gentlemen, Don Scardino: from battling mutant earthworms to directing a schmaltzy Broadway adaptation of John Lennon's not-greatest work.

Your morning weirdness.

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