Friday, March 27, 2009



It was great when it all began. I was a regular Frankie fan. But it was over when they had the plan … to start working on a remake.

Those who have experienced the midnight madness of chanting “Lips! Lips! Lips!” and doing the “Time Warp” will recognize that paraphrased verse from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” – simply “Rocky” to fans – the B-movie spoof with the longest-running theatrical release in cinema history.

Since “Rocky” opened in 1975, millions of fans have flocked to theaters around the world dressed as the movie’s characters – “sweet transvestite” Dr. Frank N. Furter, servants Riff-Raff and Magenta, and squeaky-voiced Columbia, among others. Now MTV is looking to cash in on that cult following with a made-for-TV remake.

And I thought “Flavor of Love” was their worst idea.

Using the original screenplay by Jim Sharman and Richard “Riff-Raff” O'Brien, who’s declined to give his blessing, the revamp will be produced by original “Rocky” executive producer Lou Adler. (Cough-sellout-cough!)

As a former fan club member who did my 11th grade speech class report on “Rocky,” I am not amused. Neither are the devotees who have mounted a campaign against the TV movie at

For the uninitiated (“virgins” in fan lingo), “Rocky” is a so-bad-it’s-brilliant hodgepodge of camp, sci-fi, rock’n’roll and debauchery the likes of which cannot be sufficiently captured within the confines of this column. Just take my word when I say Tim Curry looks disturbingly hot in fishnet stockings.

But the real story is the fans. “Rocky” spawned a subculture that’s been the subject of countless print and broadcast news items. Donning costumes and acting out scenes, moviegoers have “remade” the film every weekend for the past three decades. Audience participation is obligatory at “Rocky,” one of the few movies where talking back to the screen not only is accepted but encouraged. Thanks to a cool big brother, I already knew the lines to yell (plus many unprintable ones I learned on my own) before my first “Rocky” outing in June 1981 – coincidentally, the same year MTV debuted.

Apparently, MTV is unclear on the concept of “cult films,” which by definition are innovative and non-mainstream – two phrases that no longer describe MTV, which is far more “TV” than “M” these days. Many cult films, including “Rocky,” were commercial and critical flops before avid fans made them underground hits. How, then, can the filmmakers recapture a magic that was purely accidental?

And how will they work modern technology into what was decidedly a period piece? With the advent of cell phones and GPS, Brad and Janet no longer have an excuse for being lost or needing to use Frank N. Furter’s phone. Furthermore, how will they finesse the original’s numerous indiscriminate couplings in this era of safe sex?

No casting decisions have been revealed, but with MTV at the helm, we could very well see Frank N. Furter as interpreted by Justin Timberlake. Though I gotta admit, he does look disturbingly hot in fishnets. *

* OK, so those aren't fishnets in the linked photo, but glossy nylons = close enough!

Friday, March 13, 2009



It’s apparently of little import that legendary snake-chasing Irishman St. Patrick didn’t really purge the Emerald Isle of serpents and in fact, wasn’t even Irish, because every March 17, many Americans can be found in bars, taverns, clubs and pubs, hoisting mugs of lukewarm green beer in his name.

Depending on which source you trust, St. Patrick was born in Wales or Scotland, sometime between 340 and 387 AD, and while he accomplished many impressive feats, reptile extermination wasn’t one of them. That yarn was spun to explain the absence of snakes on the island and it’s certainly more colorful than the scientific truth: Ireland has always been snake-free, first because of the most recent ice age, and after that because the frigid seas surrounding the country prevented snakes from migrating.

The fact that the popular folktale is load of blarney doesn’t stop Americans – some Irish by heritage, others “Irish for a day” – from celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with gusto. It’s been observed in Ireland as a quiet religious holiday for centuries, with many businesses closing for the day, but leave it to the U.S. to turn it into a boozy extravaganza! Irish immigrants in Boston first celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in 1737 and the first parade on record was held 25 years later in New York. By the late 19th century, the parade had become a way for Irish-Americans to show off their cultural pride, numerical strength and political might, a role it retains today.

For most of us, St. Paddy’s celebrations center around the color green – those unfortunate enough to get caught not heeding “the wearing of the green” – be it an article of clothing, a button or a shamrock – often find themselves on the receiving end of a stinging pinch!

However, blue, not green, was the original hue associated with the holiday. The change came some time in the mid-18th century, when it was considered a sign of Irish nationalism or loyalty to Roman Catholicism to adorn one’s clothing with a three-leafed shamrock. Over time, the three-leaf clover gave way to the four-leaf variety – considered lucky because of their rarity – that’s now a ubiquitous symbol of St. Patrick’s Day.

Good luck is something we all can use, so if you want to up the ante and boost your chances of having an extra-fortunate St. Paddy’s Day, there are several “charms” you can rely on, in addition to four-leaf clovers.

Rabbits and hares are associated with spring, a time of blooming flowers, fertility and plentiful crops, so seeing the long-eared critters hopping through the fields was a sign of luck to come. Consequently, the foot of a rabbit has long been considered a lucky amulet, though the rabbit population undoubtedly would dispute this belief.

Another universally recognized bringer of blessings is the horseshoe. In days of yore, many people, including my grandmother, hung a horseshoe in their homes to attract good luck for the family residing there. Others hung the shoes on the doorframe to invite good fortune inside.

Almost all forms of currency have at least one superstition associated with them. The most common is the belief that finding a penny on the ground, especially if it’s heads-up, will bring good fortune, hence the rhyme, "Find a penny, pick it up, and all day long, you'll have good luck."

Rainbows also are considered lucky and if you happen upon a real one, be sure to follow the prismatic arc to its end, because as everyone knows, there’ll be a pot of gold waiting for you. Sure, you might have to grapple with an ill-tempered leprechaun to get it, but hello – it’s gold!

Many people designate their own lucky items. It could be the socks you were wearing the night you met your true love or the shirt you sport at every bowling night. Whatever trinkets, talismans and charms you choose, be sure to give a tip o’ the hat to St. Patrick on March 17 by displaying at least one shamrock for the day. But remember: Never iron a four-leaf clover, because you don't want to press your luck.



The term “poser” is anathema to most pop stars, but there are those who let their "fake" flags fly with pride. Take, for instance, Spinal Tap, arguably the most successful fictional rock band in music and movie history. They’ve performed on “Saturday Night Live,” played Carnegie Hall, and appeared in animated form on “The Simpsons.”

They even reunited to raise awareness of global warming in the SOS/Live Earth concert series two years ago. (Nevermind that they thought the warmth was caused by wearing too many clothes.) Now, David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) are hitting the road again to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their mockumentary, "This Is Spinal Tap,” with a 30-city trek beginning April 17 in Vancouver.

This time, “the world’s loudest band” won’t be blowing out eardrums with their trademark cranked-up-to-11 volume. Dialing it down to about 8.5, they’re going acoustic and packing away the shag hairpieces for their “Unwigged and Unplugged” tour. No word yet on who’s signing on to play drums, but whoever he is better be blessed with nine lives, as Tap is known to go through percussionist like Pam Anderson goes through husbands. Only Mick Fleetwood has emerged unscathed, avoiding spontaneous combustion, choking on vomit of unknown origin and other grisly fates that befell the band’s two dozen other drummers.

In addition to Spinal Tap, many other faux-rockers boast more impressive careers, more checkered histories and often, more talent, than a lot of real bands. Here’s a non-comprehensive alphabetical list of ersatz entertainers, most of whom you can watch perform live, thanks to the miracle of DVD (asterisks denote bands with the same names as their TV shows/movies):

The Archies – “The Archie Show”

Autobahn – “The Big Lebowski”

The Barbusters – “Light of Day”

Barry Jive and the Uptown Five – “High Fidelity”

The Blues Brothers*


Citizen Dick – “Singles”

The Commitments*

Crucial Taunt – “Wayne’s World”

Dewey Cox & Band – “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”

Dingoes Ate My Baby – “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV show)

The Dreamettes – “Dreamgirls”

Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem – “The Muppet Show”

Eddie and the Cruisers*

Fat Albert & the Junkyard Band – “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids”

The Five Heartbeats*

Hedwig and the Angry Inch*

Jesse and the Rippers – “Full House”

Josie and the Pussycats*

Leather Tuscadero & The Suedes – “Happy Days”

Mystik Spiral – “Daria”

N.W.H. – “Fear of a Black Hat”

The Rutles (think Monty Python meets the Beatles) – “All You Need Is Cash”

Sexual Chocolate – “Coming to America”

The Soggy Bottom Boys – “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

Sonic Death Monkey – “High Fidelity”

The Stains – “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains”

Stillwater – “Almost Famous”

Venus in Furs – “Velvet Goldmine”

Wyld Stallyns – “Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure,” “Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey”

The Wonders – “That Thing You Do!”