Paris Review interviews James Ellroy

(Photo by Liz Mangelsdorf, The Chronicle)

Nathaniel Rich interviews James Ellroy, the author of such classics as LA ConfidentialAmerican Tabloid, White Jazz and My Dark Places, for the Paris Review. It’s one of the longer interviews I’ve seen with Ellroy and rewards a complete reading:


And what about the LA of the fifties has a hold on you?


A lot of it is simple biography. I lived here, so I was obsessed with my immediate environment. I am from Los Angeles truly, immutably. It’s the first thing you get in any author’s note: James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. I was hatched in the film-noir epicenter, at the height of the film-noir era. My parents and I lived near Hollywood. My father and mother had a tenuous connection to the film business. They were both uncommonly good-looking, which may be a hallmark of LA arrivistes, and they were of that generation of migrants who came because they were very poor and LA was a beautiful place.

I grew up in a different world, a different America. You didn’t have to make a lot of dough to keep a roof over your head. There was a calmness that I recall too. I learned to amuse myself. I liked to read. I liked to look out the window.

It’s rare for me to speak about LA epigrammatically. I don’t view it as a strange place, I don’t view it as a hot-pot of multiculturalism or weird sexuality. I have never studied it formally. There are big swathes of LA that I don’t even know my way around today. I’m not quite sure how you get to Torrance, Hermosa Beach, Long Beach. I don’t know LA on a valid historical level at all. But I have assimilated it in a deeper way. I had lived here for so long that when it became time to exploit my memory of the distant past, it was easy.

Whatever power my books have derives from the fact that they are utterly steeped in the eras that I describe. LA of that period is mine and nobody else’s. If you wrote about this period before me, I have taken it away from you.

For the interview in full, go here.


Interview with Morgan White, director of the Rep

Toronto documentary director Morgan White spent several months filming Charlie Lawton, Alex Woodside and Nigel Agnew as they struggled to manage the now-closed Toronto Underground, which was arguably Toronto’s most interesting rep theatre experiment in years. Documentary The Rep is the result of his efforts. Toronto Film Scene editor-in-chief Krystal Cooper recently featured an interview with White that is worth reading and can be found here

What was the best part of making the film?

I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people making the film, many of whom I call friends. Meeting Alex, Nigel and Charlie, and getting to know them and call them friends, will always be the best part of this whole project.

The most frustrating?

Not surprisingly, the guys from The Underground! It’s very hard to spend most of your time with the same people, following them with the intention of getting to the deepest part of their personality. Sometimes that proved to be a challenge, and one that was both frustrating and exhilarating.

For more info on the rep, including screening times and episodes from the original web series, follow this link.

The Easy Rider Runs Wild in the Andes: Dennis Hopper and The Last Movie

Brad Darrach (previously mentioned here for his book on Bobby Fischer Bobby Fischer v. The World) on the challenged shooting of Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie in Peru:

Peru has painfully learned to live with earthquakes, avalanches, tidal waves, jaguars, and poisonous snakes. But Dennis Hopper was something else. When the director of Easy Rider arrived in Lima several months ago, a reporter from La Prensa asked his opinion of marijuana (illegal in Peru) and “homosexualism.” Taking a long reflective pull on an odd-looking cigarette, Dennis said he thought everybody should “do his thing” and then allowed that he himself had lived with a lesbian and found it “groovy.” No remotely comparable statement had ever appeared in a Peruvian newspaper. The clergy screamed, the ruling junta’s colonels howled. Within 24 hours the government denounced the article and issued a decree repealing freedom of the press.

You can read the rest of Darrach’s 1970 Life article “The Easy Rider Runs Wild in the Andes” here.

The Secret World of Serge Gainsbourg

An older Vanity Fair piece from Lisa Robinson entitled “The Secret World of Serge Gainsbourg“. Definitely worth a read. Here is an excerpt on the house he lived in until his death:

Except for two pianos which have been removed, the house remains exactly the way it was on the day he died. The walls are covered with black fabric. The floor of the main drawing room is black and white marble. “Cluttered” is an understatement, but each thing is precisely in the place that Serge put it—and there are hundreds of things. Every surface is covered with ashtrays, photographs, and collections: toy monkeys, medals from various branches of the armed services, cameras, guns, bullets, police badges from all over France, pictures of the women who sang his songs—Brigitte Bardot, Anna Karina, Petula Clark, Juliette Gréco, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Adjani, Marianne Faithfull, Françoise Hardy, Vanessa Paradis—and, most prominently, his lover of 13 years and Charlotte’s mother, the British actress Jane Birkin. There is a larger-than-life-size poster of international sex kitten Bardot, whom Serge first met on the set of a movie in 1959. Later, they carried on a clandestine affair while she was married to playboy Gunther Sachs, and recorded the steamy duet, written by Gainsbourg, “Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus.” Framed gold records—for albums featuring songs such as “La Javanaise,” “Ballade de Melody Nelson,” and “Love on the Beat”—are on the walls and the mantel above the fireplace. There is a bronze sculpture of a headless nude that Charlotte tells me was modeled on her mother, a statue of the Man with a Cabbage Head (the title of one of Gainsbourg’s greatest albums), Gainsbourg puppet dolls, tape recorders, a black lacquered bar with a cocktail shaker and glasses, a Jimi Hendrix cassette, framed newspaper stories, and empty red jewelry boxes from Cartier—”He loved the boxes,” says Charlotte. There are photos of Serge with Ray Charles, with Dirk Bogarde, with his last girlfriend, Bambou, and their son, Lulu. The small kitchen at the back of the first floor has a 15-inch black-and-white television set, candy bars and two cans of tomato juice in the refrigerator, opened wine bottles, and, in the cupboard, cans of food from 1991—except, says Charlotte, “the ones that exploded.”

Upstairs, on the second floor, in Serge’s skylit study, there is an IBM electric typewriter even though he never typed, books about Chopin, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Fra Angelico, and Velázquez, and a copy of Robinson Crusoe. Photos of Marilyn Monroe line the dark, narrow hallway, including one of the star dead, in the morgue. There is the room Jane Birkin called her “boudoir” and what Serge called “La Chambre de Poupée” (the doll room) after Jane left him, in 1980. The bathroom has a very low bathtub, modeled after one Serge saw in Salvador Dalí’s apartment, and bottles of Guerlain, Roger & Gallet colognes, and soap from Santa Maria Novella. His toothbrush is still there. The master bedroom has blackout curtains, a mirrored wall, and twin gold female heads with pearls around their necks at the foot of the black, mink-covered double bed. Chewing gum and mints are next to the bed, and on the bed are dried flowers that have been there since he died. In the large hallway closet: his white Repetto jazz shoes, ties, and pin-striped suits. The house is a shrine, but it’s not creepy, and one can imagine how stylish, even decadent this all must have seemed in 1970 when Serge and Jane moved into what was their family home and later would become the solitary lair of Gainsbourg—singer, songwriter, musician, painter, actor, director, smoker, alcoholic, romantic, ladies’ man, and revered national figure.

For the rest of the article, click here

And here is Serge performing “L’homme a Tete de Chou” live in ’88.

Atlantic piece on the fake magazine covers in Blade Runner

In “The Fake Magazines Used in Blade Runner Are Still Futuristic, Awesome“, Alexis C. Madrigal, of the Atlantic, digs up the facts on the fake magazines featured in Ridley Scott’s sf classic Blade Runner:

In this case, clip art from a computer in the early 1980s was used to make magazine covers that were printed and then filmed in a classic movie. These things were forgotten for decades until sometime during or shortly before 2009, someone (Kevin) started to reconstruct them for his friends in an Internet forum about the movie. Some forumgoer used them as a Kindle screensaver; another was going to print them out and frame them, according to a forum posting.

“I need to talk to this Kevin!” I thought.

For the rest of the piece, click here.

For all of the covers, follow this link.