Friday, October 6, 2017

THE LONELY LADY 1983

In interviews for his 1974 adaptation of Henry James’ Daisy Miller, director Peter Bogdanovich is fond of recounting that he chose somber-faced actor Barry Brown for the role of self-serious Frederick Winterbourne because Brown was the only actor in Hollywood who looked like he’d actually ever read a book.

In a similar vein (but at the entirely opposite end of the spectrum), one of the most egregious of the countless missteps taken in bringing Harold Robbin’s relentlessly trashy 1976 novel The Lonely Lady to the screen was to cast in the lead role of Jerilee Randall—gifted English major, novelist, and aspiring screenwriter—an actress who not only looks as though she’s never read a book, but upon encountering one, might be overheard asking, “How does it work?” 
Of course, because that's what intellectual writer-types do

The actress is Pia Zadora: the pint-sized kewpie doll who sought to set movie screens ablaze in the early 1980s with her scorching sensuality, only to see out the decade as a household name via punchline—a female Rodney Dangerfield who got no respect.
Although Zadora had been in the business since childhood (her film debut was in 1964s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians), as an adult she fairly burst on the scene out of nowhere, ubiquitously showcased in high-profile gigs that placed her front and center like a star. The only problem was that absolutely no one knew who she was.

Like that other pop-culture question mark with the exotic name, actress and Alberto VO-5 pitchwoman Rula Lenska, Pia Zadora’s assumption of fame ultimately became what she became famous for. Thanks to the bankrolling of her billionaire industrialist husband Meshulam Riklis (age 54 to her 23), Zadora became the TV and print ad face of Dubonnet, a recording artist, a Vegas headliner, posed nude for Penthouse. and earned “introducing” billing (and a controversial Golden Globe win) for her widely panned starring role in the 1982 Orson Welles film Butterfly.
She was everywhere and did everything, but genuine stardom always managed to elude her. Indeed, if stardom could be bought, she whould have been; but public consensus was that she was little more than competent as a performer, and as an actress she was (per the New York Times) “spectacularly inept.
Hey, Looka Me! I'm A Writer!

But deep pockets don’t read reviews. So, while Hollywood was still giggling over the fact that Pia Zadora was awarded the New Star of the Year Golden Globe over Elizabeth McGovern, Howard Rollins, and Kathleen Turner, sugar daddy Riklis was ponying up more than half the budget for his five-foot inamorata to star and get above-the-title-billing in a film adaptation of Harold Robbins’ The Lonely Lady.
Pia Zadora as Jerilee Randall
Lloyd Bochner as Walter Thornton
Anthony Holland as Guy Jackson
Bibi Besch as Veronica Randall
Jared Martin as George Ballantine 
Joseph Cali as Vincent "Vinnie" Dacosta

A member of that rarefied, they-don’t-make-‘em-like-this-anymore club of tantalizing cinema trash reserved for such gems as Valley of the Dolls, The Oscar, The Other Side of Midnight, and  Showgirls; The Lonely Lady is a film to be cherished. For in everything from content to execution, it exhibits that one essential quality shared by all craptastic classics—a surfeit of ambition, pretension, and ego supported by a scarcity of talent, budget, and good taste.  
Pared down and retooled considerably from its unwieldly and often incoherent source novel (Robbins credited cocaine for his writing prolificacy), the screenplay for The Lonely Lady is attributed to the contributions of no less than three writers. A rather astonishing fact given the banality of the results, but it does go a long way toward explaining why the lead character comes across as a tad schizophrenic

Borrowing from the popular “three working girls” format of movies like The Pleasure Seekers, Three Coins in the Fountain, The Best of Everything, and Valley of the Dolls, The Lonely Lady consolidates these three standard female tropes: the pragmatist, the romantic, the maker-of-bad-decisions -- into a single character: Jerilee Randall. The serious writer saddled with the name of an ‘80s aerobics instructor.
When The Lonely Lady was released in September of 1983,
Pia Zadora felt the burn of unanimous critical censure
 

Jerilee is inserted into your garden-variety showbiz cautionary tale depicting Hollywood as a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog business which exploits the talented and corrupts the innocent. The Lonely Lady’s ostensibly feminist angle (don’t you believe it) is that Jerilee, unlike the victimized heroines of Jacqueline Susann novels, has no interest in being an actress, model, or singer; she has brains and ambition and only wants to succeed behind the scenes as a screenwriter. But true to the genre, Jerilee just also happens to be sexually irresistible to all she meets, male and female, so sexism, misogyny, and her overall hotness prove to be major hurdles to overcome on her path toward being taken seriously as a writer.
Leaving no cliché unturned, The Lonely Lady charts Jerilee’s struggle to hang onto her innocence and principles while making that brutal climb up that Mount Everest called success. Surviving assault, impotent husbands, horny producers, philandering matinee idols, drugs, alcohol, abortion, lesbianism, and sanitariums (not a nut house!). When she reaches that peak, Jerilee stands there waiting for the rush of exhilaration to come. But it doesn't, and she's all alone. And the feeling of loneliness is overpowering... 'cause she's The Lonely Lady. (Thank you, Anne Welles.)
Vinnie Goes for the Big Pocket Shot

By the time The Lonely Lady limped to movie screens, public tastes and mores had changed significantly in regard to these Harold Robbins/Jacqueline Susann/Sidney Sheldon-style sex-power-glamour sleaze and cheesefests. Nighttime television—in the form of soaps (Dallas and Dynasty) and the miniseries (The Thorn BirdsWinds of War and Princess Daisy in 1983 alone)—had completely co-opted the no-longer-shocking genre. The boom in the availability of vhs and cable porn rendering Zadora’s frequent nude scenes and so-called steamy couplings quaint, if not downright passé.

Thus, The Lonely Lady arrived on the scene looking like an artifact from another era. A low-budget, Cinemax-tacky take on the glossy soap operas of the ‘50s and ‘60s, with nothing new to say about Hollywood, relationships, or systemic misogyny (what could the movie say about the exploitation of women when the willing exploitation of its leading lady was its sole raison d’être?).

Worse still, it arrived with virtually none of the usual compensations movies like this offer: exotic locales, glamour, beautiful people. First off, the men. Seriously, you’d have to look far to find a less appetizing and charmless roster of male co-stars. It’s a virtual parade of receding hairlines, flabby middles, and hairy backs. Sure, the movie might be trying to make a point about the kind of slimeball our Jerilee has to fight off (several of them uncannily resembling Harold Robbins), but even the film’s so-called hunks are an uncommonly bland and unprepossessing bunch. 
What Becomes A Legend Most?
Jerilee marries a millionaire and gets a fur coat 

As for glamour, Zadora gets to strut around in a few becoming Armani gowns, but by and large, The Lonely Lady has the look of a cut-rate “supply your own wardrobe” production.
No, Jerilee didn't just appear in a production of Anne of Green Gables. This pigtails and pinafore getup is the film's weak attempt to make 28-year-old Zadora look like an innocent teen, while simultaneously camouflaging her "charms" (to be unleashed later, full throttle). Incredibly, the two middle-aged gentlemen flanking her are supposed to be teenagers, as well. The one on the left offering a bit of plot foreshadowing by thrusting a conspicuously tumescent wiener in Jerilee's face.

And say goodbye for any hope of this Italian-American co-production offering any escapist glimpses of faraway places with strange-sounding names. There’s the unspeakable splendor of San Fernando Valley; Beverly Hills as viewed from one interior restaurant set after another; and picturesque Rome stands in for Los Angles in a chintzily-rendered movie industry awards event populated by about 30 enthusiastic and poorly-dubbed fans (the movie doesn’t even give the fake award a name, it’s simply called The Awards Presentation Ceremony).
Let's Have Lunch...& Dinner...& Brunch...
Ingenuity not being one the film's strong suits, The Lonely Lady
 stages no less than five scenes in restaurants

In light of the film’s blitzkrieg of bad acting (you expect poor performances in films like this, but The Lonely Lady seems to be trying to set a new precedent), risible dialogue (Vinnie [clearly naked with two just-as-visibly naked women] to Jerilee: “Hey doll, we’re naked!”), and the irrefutable sense that nobody involved in this slapdash production is very much invested in it (get a gander at the cover art for Jerilee’s two novels); there’s no denying The Lonely Lady fails miserably as a movie. 
WTF?
These are supposed to be the covers of Jerilee's published books.
Who the hell was her publisher, Fisher-Price?

But The Lonely Lady is invaluable in illustrating the difference between a showcase and a vanity project. A showcase is intended to present a performer in the best possible light, emphasizing their strengths and minimizing weakness. A vanity project is a vehicle so ruled by ego and delusion that the performer, in so overestimating their talents, winds up only calling attention to their limitations. The Lonely Lady is a four-star vanity project.


WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS MOVIE
For connoisseurs of cinema claptrap, what’s not to love? I largely look back on the ‘80s as a nightmare decade for movie fashions, hairstyles, décor, music, and flat, washed-out cinematography; therefore, The Lonely Lady gets off on the right foot (which is to say, the absolute wrong foot) almost immediately with an absolutely dreadful theme song (sung by Larry Graham) playing over an amateurishly shot title sequence. And, like a Malibu mudslide, things just keep going down from there. 
The Night Belongs To Michelob
The Lonely Lady is loaded with subtle mise-en-scene

The Lonely Lady episodically chronicles Jerilee’s pursuit of a writing career as a semi-pornographic Pilgrim’s Progress in which we’re invited to ponder the unique problems faced by an intellectual woman burdened with the dual curses of flawless beauty and low self-esteem. Because the film shares with us but a single example of Jerilee’s writing skill (and it’s a doozy), we must take her brains and talent on spec. However, the film is generous to a fault in treating us to scene after scene of Jerilee being the world’s biggest creep magnet, or compromising her sexual integrity for the sake of her ambition.
A scene from Homeland, the laughably awful-looking film-within-a-film for which Jerilee contributes
this single line of dialogue. Magically transforming a B-movie into an Oscar contender

The wrong story (over-familiar to the point of formulaic), starring the wrong actress (it's as though the film's real star refused to show up and they shot the movie with her lighting stand-in), at the wrong time (even ‘60s audiences would be hard-pressed to find it shocking); The Lonely Lady is a pungent potpourri of miscalculations, poor judgment, and ragingly bad taste. Small wonder it has earned the reputation of being the Showgirls of the ‘80s.
Every trash movie made from a trash novel needed its exploitation setpiece. Valley of the Dolls had a cat-fight wig-snatching, The Other Side of Midnight had abortion-by-coat-hanger, and The Lonely Lady had assault by garden hose.  That's Ray Liotta (possessor of the phantom crotch above, as well) making his inauspicious film debut. 

I particularly like how The Lonely Lady’s half-hearted efforts to be a scathing, feminist indictment of Hollywood’s rampant sexism and misogyny is consistently at cross purposes with the film’s desperate attempts (by way of clockwork-consistent nude scenes) to convince us that its wee cherub of a leading lady is a smoking hot sex symbol. 
Let's Make A Deal
Current headlines reveal that after all these years not much has changed in terms of systemic sexism in the film industry. Too bad The Lonely Lady merely treats the issue as fodder for sensationalism

PERFORMANCES
It could be said Ms. Zadora dedicated her career to
making sure no one would ever refer to her by that name

There's no getting around it. Pia Zadora's performance here most definitely calls into question the credibility of her Golden Globe win, while emphatically cementing the validity of her multiple Golden Raspberry Award wins (although she lost 2000s Worst Actress of the Decade to Madonna).
In truth, Zadora is so unconvincing and inexpressive in the film, it's pushing it to call hers a performance at all. But on the plus side, it's not one of those pitiably bad performances that makes you feel bad or embarrassed for an actor. In the tradition of Patty Duke and Elizabeth Berkeley, Pia Zadora's awfulness is so robust and zestfully devoid of anything resembling technique or skill, it achieves a kind of guileless purity.
Words can't come close to expressing the full-tilt comic lunacy of Zadora's worth-the-price-of-admission nervous breakdown scene. Form her going-for-broke emoting to the acid-wash graphics and tilt-a-whirl not-so-special effects, it's a Golden Turkey instant classic.

THE STUFF OF FANTASY
If The Lonely Lady works on any other level than simply high-octane camp, I'd say it works best (as he places tongue firmly in cheek) as a disquietingly self-referential exposé. The construct of the entire film places the viewer in the position of scrutinizing the Pia Zadora phenomenon through the guise of meta-fiction.
Take for example the fact that The Lonely Lady is about an author no one takes seriously simply because she doesn't look like what people expect writers to look like. Well, didn't I begin this essay stating that very thing in regard to Ms. Zadora...that I found her to be miscast because she doesn't "look" like a writer to me? What does that even mean? Sure, she can't act, but she's not believable as an author because she's petite, has a kewpie doll's face, and a teenager's voice?  Sexist much, Ken?

On top of this, the movie keeps throwing Zadora's real-life circumstances into the mix. Like Zadora, Jerilee just can't get no respect. She marries a wealthy man old enough to be her father who proves instrumental in getting her into show business. A place where her success is never believed to have been rightfully earned. By the time the film finishes on the confrontational note highlighted in this screencap, I thought to myself, "Pia's playin' head games with us!"


THE STUFF OF DREAMS
As much as I adore The Lonely Lady for its wholesale lack of redeeming value, and how I thank the gods of cinema dross that Pia left us all this wonderful, enduring gift before retiring from acting; I must also add that I have become a big fan of the Pia Zadora of today. Like so many stars who once took themselves so seriously in their youth, only to mature into fun, easygoing personalities able to take a joke (Raquel Welch, William Shatner, Cybill Shepherd, Candice Bergen); Pia Zadora has learned how to laugh at herself.
Carla Romanelli plays a Sophia Loren-type Italian actress (complete with Carlo Ponti-esque husband) who, like everyone else in the film, finds Jerilee impossible to resist. I never realized screenwriters were so sought-after

After abandoning acting and the whole sex symbol hype (and Meshulam Riklis after 16 years) Zadora pursued what was always her strongest suit, singing, and, in a few cameo roles, revealed herself to be a natural light comedienne. She's been active and good-natured in promoting the DVD release of The Lonely Lady (which includes a spirited interview) and harbors no illusions about either the film's quality or her performance in it. She's so cool with the film's renewed cult status and everybody hailing it as one of the best of the worst, it's as though she's given us all her blessing to enjoy a great guilt-free laugh with her, not at her.


BONUS MATERIAL
Back in 1976, Variety announced that Susan Blakely (The Towering Inferno) was slated to star in The Lonely Lady.

Pia Zadora's 1983 semi-hit pop song (it charted #49) is played twice in the film
In music video she seems to be channeling the Landers sisters HERE

Harold Robbins dedicated The Lonely Lady to Jacqueline Suzanne, and many believe the character of JeriLee Randall to be based upon her. In a November 1976 issue of Pageant magazine, Robbins denied this claim and stated he based the character partially on Peyton Place author Grace Metalious.

As per the Evita lyric—"My story’s quite usual: local girl makes good weds famous man” 
Pia Zadora's story is nothing new. From William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies to Bo and John Derek; stardom by benefactor is as old as show business itself.
One of the more amusing examples is the forgotten Dora Hall, wife of Solo Cups magnate Leo Hulseman who funded his wife's late-in-life career to the tune of giveaway albums and TV specials in the 1970s.
Listen to Dora Hall sing "Floozy Little Suzy Brown"

Pia Zadora has said she is most proud of these two comedic cameo film roles.
As a beatnik in John Waters' Hairspray (1988) - See it HERE
As herself in Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994) - See it HERE


The late actor Kenneth Nelson appears briefly in The Lonely Lady as hairdresser Bud Weston. Fans of The Boys in the Band (1970) will remember him as Michael, the role he originated in the 1968 Off-Broadway production.


Copyright © Ken Anderson

27 comments:

  1. Argyle here. OMG, I'm so behind. I will catch up!! I have not even read this one yet, but just the screen shots of Ms. Zadora suggest a theory that she and this film were the true start of our current national nightmare.

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    1. Ha! You're the first, Argyle, but it's funny how many of the following comments begin with "Oh My God!"
      This film was definitely the start of something, but most certainly it was the end of Ms.Zadora's brief film career.

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  2. Oh my GOD! I haven't seen this since it was on pay-cable back in the mid-'80s. All I really remembered (and who could forget it) was poor Pia being violated with a garden hose. I get sense memories of it every time I water my plants... I also had that image of her up on the (fake) Oscars stage delivering the infamous line of dialogue. I ache to see this again, this time in its wide-screen, high-def glory. Your write-up was, for me, one of your all-time funniest with so many hooty tidbits!! Rula Lenska, the "fur coat," the wiener, the inexplicable book jackets (made even more horrendous by the fact that they're placed beside "real" books!) The whole thing was wonderful to read. I'm surprised you didn't mention - for the young'ns who come here - Steve Allen's famous (and controversial) jab at Zadora, who even then good-naturedly accepted it and played into part two of the gag... Even though this looks wondrously dreadful (and Joseph Cali seems pretty hot to my eyes!), I'm glad you recognized how terrific she's been in the wake of it to realize her shortcomings (not just referring to height!) and concentrate on the things that she CAN do well. She comes off as sweet enough that one ALMOST feels bad about making fun of her star vehicles. I have GOT to get this DVD. Thanks for the hysterical tribute to the movie!

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    1. Hi Poseidon
      I saw this for the first time on cable TV, too. I'm always very sorry I never saw it on the big screen, but when I imagine how I would have enjoyed hearing the audience's response, the more likely scenario is I'd have been in the theater alone.
      I actually don't remember the Steve Allen joke- I Googled something...was it that Night of 100 Stars thing when he said "If a bomb dropped on this place tonight, it would be a great break for Pia Zadora"?
      If so (and how had I never heard this before?) what was part II of the gag?

      I'm glad you enjoyed this piece, and indeed the film never looked better (although that '80s soundtrack is possibly the worst I've ever heard). There are so many more delights to be found that I didn't get into. The Blu-ray is a purchase that pays multiple dividends.
      And to be honest, had Zadora not actually landed more or less on her feet, funny, seeming to be a very nice woman, good-natured and wiser for all she's been through, it would be painful laughing at the ineptitude of this movie. Her own dismissal of it as a "real turkey" makes it a guilt-free guilty pleasure. Hope you enjoy the DVD when you get it (it features both the TV and theatrical versions) and thanks for the kind comments!

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    2. Yes, at "Night of 100 Stars II," Steve Allen made that remark about Pia, and it became a pretty well-known zinger. The following year, at "Night of 100 Stars III," Allen (along with his wife Jayne and sister-in-law Audrey Meadows) mentioned the incident and then proceeded to introduce Pia, who performed at the event to substantial applause. I guess part three might even be that when she later continued to try to eke out a screen career, she did a cameo in "Naked Gun 33-1/3: The Final Insult" as herself, performing at an awards ceremony, and sang "The Could Be the Start of Something"... penned by Steve Allen!

      One oddball thing about her is that she always spoke in a sort of airy, breathy, almost-childlike voice and then when she sang it was with this full, low, powerful sound! LOL I'm still not sure I've completely forgiven her for demolishing Pickfair, though, either... (First she claimed it was due to termites, then later said it was because of a ghost...!)

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    3. By the way... I can't decide whether to clobber you or thank you for introducing me to the heretofore unknown Dora Hall. Sweet Baby Jesus in the Manger...! I wasted at least an hour yesterday looking up and listening to her sometimes fun/sometimes scary covers and watching parts of those lunatic TV "specials!" She was like a 1970s Mrs. Miller, though with a better voice (by a skosh.) :-P

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    4. Hi Poseidon
      Thanks for clearing up the Steve Allen thing. it's really great joke, but I'm sure it hurt. I'm glad things were sort of mended over in such a public way. And knowing the Allen connection makes Zadora's Naked Gun bit all the funnier.
      like Jim Nabors, Pia Zadora's singing voice was really not keyed into her speaking voice.
      Wonder how her career might have turned out had she just not pushed so hard in such inappropriate vehicles. She needed something protective like Ken Russell's treatment of Twiggy in "The Boy Friend." Zadora's stature and chubby cheeks always struck me as ideal for a period musical-comedy vehicle like "Chicago." The sexpot/serious-actress angle was so forced and not very convincing.

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    5. Poseidon
      Oh, and how about that Dora Hall!? I remember from my youth, and her TV appearances were always greeted by "Who is she?" She begs for the "Poseidon" treatment on you blog. I'm not sure how many people know of her, but she and her story are such a curiosity. I see her and it's like watching Judge Judy if she were bitten by the variety show bug.

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    6. How about a cinematic vehicle like "Florence Foster Jenkins!" Meryl Streep could carry that off, too, with one vocal cord tied behind her back!

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    7. That's not a bad idea! Especially since her late-in-life attempt at fame is so unusual (if not downright bizarre) and so few people know who she is. The whole "stranger than fiction" aspect of her pseudo-celebrity would make an amusing film.
      And yes, Streep would nail it.

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  3. Ken-OMG! I have been dying to see this one for years but it is NEVER on TV, not available for rental...I guess I will have to bite the bullet and buy it sight-unseen. The only time I have ever done this was after reading your review of Dinah East, and I am SO GLAD I did...so history may be about to repeat itself. I have a feeling this is one I will love to hate--or hate to love!
    -Chris

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    1. Hi Chris
      If you've never seen this, I'd say by all means go and get yourself a copy. It's a can't-lose disaster on its own, but if you watch it with others, it's a home-run. Just hilariously bad. Plus, it's only 90 minutes long - pure exploitation. Not one of those 2 1/2 hour slogs with delusions of being epic. Treat yourself!

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  4. I doubt that watching it could be half as rewarding as reading such a review, Ken. You continue to outdo yourself. What a howler haha!

    So there's this guy in the park yelling "Pia Zadora! Pia Zadora!" and I asked if the star was nearby. Turns out that his dog's name was Isadora.

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    1. That joke! Ha! I thought I'd heard every Pia Zadora joke there was from having to live through that time, you guys are introducing me to new material!
      Thanks very much, Rick for reading this post. And of course I'm pleased as all get out that you enjoyed it. It was fun to write.

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    2. Ken I'm actually quite fascinated by the subgenre (?)of men who star their paramours in lavish and covertly objectifying cinematic vehicles.
      With a nod to Muses and Svengalis and "Citizen Kane", I took a telling cue from Cher, with regards to 1969's "Chasity". She claims that the original script was quite good, and that Sonny Bono completely bowdlerized and sanitized it to a state of pointlessness.
      With that in mind, a look at all these epics yields up leading-man choices who read onscreen as consistently impotent. The leading ladies seem to function exclusively as unattainable objects, for consideration and not much more. Their footprint on the film is nothing more than the footprint of the man who put her there.
      The chutzpah of it all should serve as part of the entertainment!

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    3. I find it somewhat fascinating myself. The gender inequality that has always been a part of show business is writ large in these instances of men showcasing their paramours. The Cher thing totally makes sense,as Sonny always did come across as controlling.
      I consider folks like Roger Vadim and to a lesser extent, John Derek- men who present their wives/lovers in ways identical to the one preceding and to come. I suppose it always say volumes more about the male than the woman, but as you note, perhaps it explains why the men cast opposite these women are often so singularly unappealing.
      I like the idea of considering it as a subgenre of film. Would make a fascinating book!

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  5. Hi Ken,
    First Cybill, now Pia, why am I getting the feeling Elizabeth Berkeley is next?!
    Like Poseidon, I saw this once on cable back in the early '80's late one night. And like Pia, I felt like I needed a cathartic shower afterward!
    I love Pia's 'breakdown!' William Castle would have been proud!
    I agree with your comments about most of the leading men. Lloyd Bochner, always the elegant creep, from the get-go. Ever see him in 'Sylvia,' with Carroll Baker? But I too thought Joseph Cali was cute when he was a rising star for five minutes and Jared Martin was ruggedly handsome as Dusty or Rusty on Dallas.
    Ken, you're on a roll...Showgirls, next!
    Rick

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    1. Hey, Rick
      I'm not sure if I'm on a roll highlighting actresses of questionable talent, or those whose careers were given a leg-up by their bed partners.
      So you saw this one on cable TV, too? makes me wonder just who DID see it in a theater.
      You hit the nail on the head in your William Castle reference!
      I've never seen the film "Sylvia," but I'm aware of it as being a kind of must-see for lovers of camp?
      And score two points for Joseph Cali in these comments! He kind radiates reptile to me, but I can't say I minded rear-view nude scenes.
      As for "Showgirls" i HAVE written about that one,a bout five years back. Elizabeth Berkley somehow read it (be careful what you post on Twitter!) and wasn't amused. Thanks for checking this out, Rick!

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  6. Well, I've never seen this, but that sure was fun to read. I love the way "When The Lonely Lady was released in September of 1983, Pia Zadora felt the burn of unanimous critical censure" reads like the deadpan caption of a 9th grade history textbook.

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    1. Thank you, MDG!
      I wondered how many (perhaps those unfamiliar with the 80's aerobic mantra "go for the burn!") would make the connection between that quote and my earlier observation that an author with the name Jerilee Randall sounded more appropriate to an aerobics instructor.

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  7. Joe Grifasi! Right in the middle of the "Naked Gun" clip linked above. His face - and his unquestionable skill - is the linchpin for several decades of perfect moments in the cinema. Miss Zadora might have done well to pay more attention to this actor who knows his special place in the business. All of her career woes can be traced right back to that problem; ambition filling the place where your talent would have been.

    I probably saw her in the Bus and Truck company of APPLAUSE. She played the 'Bonnie' character, the gypsy who sings "Applause." (WTF was Lauren Bacall thinking when she let the title song be given to a chorus girl?) Patrice Munsel played Margo and my main recollection of the production was that she sang all of Bacall's songs up an octave. Yee haw! I suppose Pia Zadora was fine, neither great nor obviously lacking. That would be right for Miss Zadora, but otherwise... no recollection at all.

    Her father was a violinist and her mother did wardrobe on Broadway and at Lincoln Center. She was a show business brat, even appearing with Talullah Bankhead on Broadway. Michael Bennett cast her in "Henry, Sweet Henry." She was one of the little girls in the Broadway production of "Fiddler on the Roof." Her resume is the real deal filled with real credits. But she fucked up when she slept with a rich guy to get a break. It never works. I remember Liza Minnelli being interviewed when "Cabaret" opened. An idiot interviewer said, "Vincente Minnelli. Judy Garland. Movie royalty. That must have opened a lot of doors for you." Liza smiled and replied, "Of course, it did. But when I walked through the door, I had to sing." The most fabulous "Fuck you" of all time. Pia undoubtedly has more money, so not every choice was a poor one. But maybe film is just not her destiny.

    Look for Pia in the royal blue coat. Completely out of step with the other girls at the most exacting moment in the choreography. As Anita Loos wrote, "Fate keeps on happening."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lyv67Peo4w

    Also interesting to note in "Poor Little Person," Alice Playten is the 'Hello, Dolly!' original B'way cast Ermengarde and she is joined here by Joyce James who became Joyce Ames when she played Ermengarde in the movie with La Streisand. Also you will find Baayork Lee and Priscilla Lopez from the original cast of "A Chorus Line." Two of the other young women subsequently followed Priscilla Lopez as Diana in ACL. Lots of talent in that little group of girls.

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    1. Hi George
      With accuracy you pinpoint the source of a great deal of Ms. Zadora's self-inflicted career woes: she never had a realistic enough grasp of her abilities.
      She always struck me as having the kind of middle-of-the-road talent typical of beauty pageant contestants and sorta stars like Susan Anton. Not horrible, but not exceptional, either.
      just to imagine ANY production with Patrice Munsel makes me laugh outright, but that great Ed Sullivan Show clip you provided really solidifies what I've always imagined about her stage career: a level of unexceptional professionalism you tend to find in touring companies of shows.

      That clip is really great. Bringing back memories of Alice Playten as the TV commercial darling for her Alka Seltzer ads (Marshmallowed meatballs...).
      Also love the Liza Minnelli quote.
      Really enjoy getting the benefit of all your theater knowledge, and the clear-eyed references to Zadora's "situation" is one every young hopeful needs to take to heart - you put it beautifully: "ambition filling the place where your talent would have been."

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    2. If Miss Munsel amuses you... try this on for size.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1V7Ofd_V1hw

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    3. That's wonderful! Patrice Munsel was one of those personalities I was vaguely familiar with during my childhood; her name a running joke in my family, my elder sister always referring to herself by the name whenever she was going to act especially dramatic. Alas, i never had the opportunity to see her live. Let alone in the presence of Pia Zadora. You're a lucky guy!

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    4. Argyle here. Thank you GWT for that Anita Loos quote: "Fate keeps on happening." Endlessly ponderable. Everyone talks about karma, but that gives it a slightly sinister, slightly jaundiced spin that lifts it above the banal.

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  8. Perfect timing with the Weinstein scandal. My further thoughts on the matter will not bear fruit.

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    1. Sad but true. What was at one time viewed as over-the-top melodrama turns out to be tame compared to Hollywood reality.

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