Casablanca Redux

Bro Joe. To keep the flotsam and jetsam of humanity that have been rounded up in a sorry collection known as my Facebook friends amused lest they unleash their collective angst unto the world, I occasionally create clever illustrations featuring their membership to mollify them into lucidity (much like one would distract a rampant plains gorilla with a shiny object). This week's fun was a scene from the film classic Casablanca featuring the glorious Mara Marini as Ilsa Lund, myself as Captain Louis Renault (the Claude Rains role), Tom Ashworth as the piano player Sam (replacing Dooley Wilson who, according to the movie, was the only black person in Africa at the time), my beloved Pug Winston, Misty LaRue, Tawdry Baubles and Glenn "Piece of Shit" Simon as barflies enjoying Ashworth's rendition of As Time Goes By (although the look on his face makes it seem like he's desperate to finish so he can get to a toilet), Bro Joe as a mysterious dude in a fez, and the immortal Humphrey Bogart in his signature role as the broken hearted Rick Blaine. Everyone was delighted to be included in the image save Joe, who grumbled "Thanks for making me the guy in the fez. I thought I would get a lousy part, like Rick." This brings us to the delicate alchemy of movie casting. Casablanca is the immortal classic that it is largely because of its perfect cast. This is especially true in the case of the character Rick Blaine, in which Bogart brought the perfect blend of cynicism, world-weariness and antihero danger that no other actor was capable of. Would Mr. Blaine be the iconic figure he is today if he had been played by chipper Ronald Regan (as was announced in a studio press release prior to production)? Or if George Raft had accepted the part when it was offered to him before Bogart?

“Casablanca” starring Humphrey Bogart, Mara Marini, Jon Mullich, and various supporting players

Joe as Rick Blaine wooing the object of his desire
The answer is unquestionably "no," but at least Messrs. Reagan or Raft in the role wouldn't require a wholesale reworking of the script. With Joe as Rick Blaine, it's another story. Ilsa would be haunted by the trauma of an alcohol-soaked weekend in Paris with Rick - a lecherous freak she met on a dating website when she was on the rebound after getting a false report about the death of her husband Victor Laszlo in a concentration camp. Ilsa submitted herself to Blaine's drunken perversions (shown in gruesome flashback but cut out of the final print of the film because none of the shit that Joe's into could get past the Production Code in 1942) but leaves him stranded in the rain with a black piano player he suspiciously has with him at all times (with Bogie as Rick no one gave a thought to the idea that he and Sam had something homoerotic going on on the side; with Joe in the part there would be no escaping it) and returns to Laszlo, realizing that a dull life as the first lady of Czechoslovakia is better than a reprobate like Rick crawling on top of her and performing unspeakable acts of perversion while she clamps her eyes shut and fantasizes about Errol Flynn.

The climactic ending in which Ilsa runs off with Ugarte and Victor Laszlo commits suicide
Rick buys a café in Casablanca that he lives at the top of with the same black piano player raising everyone's eyebrows as his roommate, but every time Rick approaches the place's bar he is denied service because he's already smashed. Then one night his heart leaps to his throat when Ilsa walks in with Laszlo (which he is clued into when the piano player plays "their" song from Paris, which is now - at Joe's insistence - Jizz In My Pants by The Lonely Island) just as Nazi storm troopers bust in looking for Ugarte (the low-life played by Peter Lorre) and the letters of transit. They fail because Ugarte can't stomach coming into Rick's Place because with Joe in the role, he considers Rick to be the one guy in Casablanca to be more of a parasite than he is. So he hides out at the the Blue Parrot, the headquarters of Signor Ferrari (played by the full-figured Sydney Greenstreet), where the authorities can't find him because he hides in Ferrari's massive butt crack. Ilsa tracks Ugarte down and begs him for the letters but he'll agree to it only if Ilsa becomes his sex slave. Ilsa figures that nothing could be worse than submitting to Rick's perversions so she agrees and runs off with Ugarte, leaving Laszlo so despondent that he kills himself and the Nazis win World War II.

Sophia Loren and me in one of the god-awful romantic comedies she made in the 1960's. The result will be Armageddon, but what the hell.
So you see, it's best not to screw around with the casting of classic movies. It's a nice ego trip to think of ourselves as James Bond or Scarlett O'Hara but we risk ripping a hole in the space/time continuum if we were to go through with it. Even so, I've got the boys at Jonny® Labs working on a Twilight Zone-type machine that will put me in a movie - any movie – where I was romantically entangled with either Sophia Loren, Myrna Loy or pre-1940 Olivia de Havilland. I suppose it would mean the end of the world but it would be totally worth it.



Boadie, an Irish terrier that my pug Winston and I encountered in the park last Saturday. I might not have noticed Boadie were it not for the woman who owned him on the other end of his leash, a beautiful young lady who I came to learn (in the course of our long conversation) was a yoga instructor named Natalie. I rarely encounter anyone in my jaunts to the park save for a gaggle of children who want to meet Winston and the odd homeless guy pleading with me to toss him a spare Milk Bone, so I considered catching Natalie's attention to be a rare perk. Or so I thought until I realized that as our conversation intensified, Boadie began having his way with Winston, mounting my little pug's rear and pumping away like he was an oil derrick that had just tapped into the Ghawar Field in Saudi Arabia. I was anxious to project a sense of suave joie de vie for Natalie so I laughed it off until I saw the look of desperation in Winston's eyes and Boadie angrily thrusting his fully engorged dog meat in the direction of the bull's eye under Winston's curly tail. Just as I was about to pull that little bastard off of my pug Natalie hastily ended the conversation and hustled the terrier out of sight, and I realized that we had been had. The pair had obviously set up some kind of arrangement where Natalie would distract responsible dog owners such as myself as Boadie got his twisted kicks by sexually assaulting innocent little cornholes belonging to sweet little doggies like Winston. I have no idea what Natalie gets in return for serving as Boadie's distraction; perhaps that night they go to a singles bar where attractive young men pet the terrier while she has her perverse way with their unsuspecting backsides. If that's the case, I'd like to know what watering hole they pull the scam at so that I can share Winston's pain. Yes, I love him that much.

Stephanie Fredricks, who exclaimed on her Facebook wall "Ugh. If it's not one douchebag it's another." I feel Ms. Fredricks' pain but she obviously fails to understand that while a douchebag can come in all shapes and sizes so that their victims won't realize that they're dealing with one before it's too late, the contents of a douchebag always remains the same: vinegar and water. So to identify a douchebag before it can do any harm, you need merely notice a pungent acidity which leaves an unpleasant taste in your mouth and a transparency which can be seen through no matter how much sweetener it tries to dress itself up with to seem more palatable to the people who attempt to take it in. Once those internal ingredients are brought to light, a douchebag can't disguise itself no matter how it tries to present itself as something other than what it is. And once the vinegar and water are squeezed out of it, not only has the douchebag lost all of its power to do harm but you end up feeling daisy fresh. At least for the next 28 days or so.

My friend Tiffany Caccoyannis, with whom I have long had an understanding about the meaning of the freely-used expression "that's your opinion and you're entitled to it." Ms. Caccoyannis once used it on me in one of our frequent disagreements and I pointed out to her that the phrase's actual meaning was "that's your opinion and you're entitled to it even though you are completely, 100% full of shit." Ms. Caccoyannis' current opinion that she is entitled to regards the quality of Baz Luhrmann's recent remake of The Great Gatsby, which she loved. I finally caught up with it last weekend found that Mr. Luhrmann's visual opulence and cinematic bag of tricks couldn't communicate the unfilmable aspects of the novel. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire made a game try at playing characters that are shallow and underwritten but Carey Mulligan was hopelessly miscast as the object of Gatsby's obsession (why Gatsby thought he could reel in a genteel and refined woman like her by throwing out-of-control orgies every night makes no sense; the part needs an insane seductress like Angelina Jolie in her phase when she was making out with her brother and wearing Billy Bob Thornton's blood in a vial around her neck - or more on the mark, it needs Zelda Fitzgerald). Another well-intentioned swing and a miss at what has always been an unhittable cinematic pitch. I vocalized that opinion to Ms. Caccoyannis and she informed me that I was entitled to my opinion, not needing to add that I was completely, 100% full of shit. You've got to be careful when accepting entitlements because sometimes there's language hidden in them that will bite you in the ass if you're not careful.

Jesse Merlin in “Exorcistic the Rock Musical Parody Experiment”
Jonny Award winner Jesse Merlin, who stars in Exorcistic the Rock Musical Parody Experiment, a musical parody of the 1973 horror classic The Exorcist opening this Saturday night. I first met Mr. Merlin when he played the captain in my production of U.S.S. Pinafore, a musical parody of the science fiction classic Star Trek and he has since performed in Re-Animator: The Musical (a musical parody of the 1985 horror classic Re-Animator) and Silence! (a musical parody of the 1991 horror classic Silence of the Lambs). I'm not sure what draws Mr. Merlin to all these musical parodies of horror classics but if Exorcistic follows in the footsteps of the others, it should be a damned fine theatrical experience. And if Mr. Merlin makes a persuasive exorcist, I might just have some work for him driving out all the evil spirits in my life that force me to vomit pea soup on frequent occasions. Unfortunately, the primary evil spirit who's irritating me at the moment is Jesse Merlin so I'm not sure how he's going to be able to stick around long enough to drive himself out of the area. It's one of those mind benders which usually feature in the plot of horror classics which are ultimately parodied in musicals starring Jesse Merlin. They should probably sign him to a contract now. Tickets are available here.