Extraterrestrial Venereal Disease
Persis Khambatta. I spent Friday night with my longtime nemesis Jesse Merlin watching a revival screening of 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, one of the most god-awful films ever made which was mercifully so bad that I found myself howling all the way through it like an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. There were many things to be annoyed by in the pathetic reboot of the original Star Trek TV series but perhaps the most annoying thing was the way the producers used Ms. Khambatta, one of the most beautiful women in the world at the time. She played Lieutenant Ilia, an alien from the planet Delta where they are so sex-obsessed that they have to swear an oath of celibacy if they want to join Starfleet (the military having gotten a lot more strict on the matter since the days when they'd just make a few cautionary venereal disease training films for the troops to watch before they ship out). So the producers decided to project this mystique of white hot sexuality by shaving her head (Ms. Khambatta famously to submit to having her dome completely chromed before taking the role) so that it looks as if she had just undergone chemotherapy and putting her in an androgynous, unisex uniform (the hideous costumes in Star Trek: The Motion Picture were a far cry from the rockin' awesome miniskirts and go go boots of the original series).
As lovely as Ms. Khambatta was even while competing with the unflattering appearance she was saddled with, it was hard to buy Mr. Sulu and Mr. Chekhov tripping over their own dicks to flirt with her when she made her first appearance on the bridge with her scalped noggin and aquamarine Doctor Dentons. But maybe that was the point and the Deltans are so goddamned hot that they have to shave their heads and put on baby blue sweat suits to nullify the overwhelming pheromones they release to keep the Enterprise from turning into an Axe Body Spray commercial. If that's the case, I hope Starfleet at least took the precaution of showing Sulu and Chekhov a cautionary venereal disease training film before sending them to the final frontier. If you think Chlamydia is bad, imagine what you can catch from having unprotected sex with a green woman. Maybe that's why William Shatner was rumored to be such an asshole.
Speaking of bad sci fi films, Star Wars: Rogue One, which I finally got around to watching on Saturday. I was alarmed to discover that the film was by far the most boring thing I saw over the weekend (which is a bold statement, seeing as I saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture the night before) so that by the second half I was far more interested in looking at pornography on my phone than I was in the Rebellion's incessant plotting to blow up the Death Star (you'd think that with the entire universe at their disposal, the Empire would be up to some different shenanigans on another galaxy). By then, I only occasionally looked up to watch the awful CGI-rendered resurrections of Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher from the first Star Wars movie (or the fourth, depending on which insane chronology you like to follow) that looked like animations from Grand Theft Auto next to the real people they were supposed to be interacting with. I was so underwhelmed by Rogue One that I was stunned to learn while brunching with my nemesis Glenn "Piece of Shit" Simon the following morning that he liked the thing, even while admitting that the CGI renderings of the of Grand Moff Tarkin and (especially) Princess Leia were less than convincing. It then occurred to me that there may have been an upside to wasting two and a half hours of my life watching Star Wars: Rogue One because if I can figure out a way to generate a CGI animation of myself, Mr. Simon might be so taken with it that I can save hundreds of nightmarish hours sending it to brunch with him instead of having to sit through those hellish Sunday morning rituals with him myself.
Speaking of Glenn "Piece of Shit" Simon, Glenn "Piece of Shit" Simon, who was surprisingly highly amusing at brunch, especially when he was doing his vaunted impression of my Star Trek: The Motion Picture companion Jesse Merlin. For those of you who have never met Mr. Merlin, you have my heartfelt congratulations. Anyone who has had the experience of meeting him will never forget it as the first thing they are confronted by is a one-of-a-kind basso profundo voice which is so goddamned deep that (as Mr. Simon put it) it can recreate the experience of Sensurround, the marketing gimmick that made it feel like the ground is shaking to promote the 1974 film Earthquake. Throw on top of that Mr. Merlin's obsessions which range the gamut of Doctor Who, the music of Yoko Ono and Gilbert & Sullivan, and the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini, and then mix in Mr. Merlin's sinister personality and you have one compelling weirdo that Mr. Simon can imitate down to a tee. After regaling us with his Merlin mimicry for several hours, it was determined that he had enough material for a one-man show along the lines of Hal Holbrook's Mark Twain Tonight!, albeit one that is disturbingly perverse and eerie. On that point, Mr. Simon and Mr. Merlin's personalities intertwine so it will be impossible to determine where art ends and reality begins. It will almost be like seeing the works of Mr. Merlin's favorite filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini except without (if you have ever watched the director's masterwork Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom) any scenes of someone being forced to eat a brick of human fecal matter. Although I can say from personal experience that after spending any length of time in Mr. Simon's presence, the audience might not be able to tell the difference.
Again speaking of Glenn "Piece of Shit" Simon, So You Want to be a Vampire, part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival of short plays currently being produced in my town that Mr. Simon is presently appearing in and which I recently saw. It is a fine production but in the true manner of vampyres, the thing started at 11:30 at night. I realize that for the young people this is just when the evening is getting started, but I consider myself to be something of an anti-vampire who you will never see when the moon is up. I was afraid that if I went out that late, I would end up like John Carradine's interpretation of Dracula who would disintegrate into a pile of dust the minute he was hit by the sun's rays. Fortunately, I survived my nocturnal outing and got the added pleasure of witnessing Mr. Simon (playing the sadistic father of one of the play's main characters) being torn apart by a chain saw. For obvious logistical reasons, Mr. Simon's death by chain saw needed to be simulated but I would encourage the producers to act it out for real if they want to ensure a full house on closing night. If you want to put asses in seats you have to give the public what they want, and I can't think of anything more crowd-pleasing that watching Mr. Simon being brutally vivesected by a power tool. And when you get sexy vampires thrown into the mix, it's just too good a deal to pass up.
Speaking of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, my irritating associate Micah Watterson, who I saw appear in another Fringe show Roughly Hamlet in which Mr. Watterson spends 45 minutes alone onstage acting out the titular character's solo moments from Shakespeare's masterpiece. I am compelled to grudgingly admit that Mr. Watterson is nothing short of brilliant in it, I must also point out that I once played Hamlet myself in a complete production of the play back during the period when the crust of the earth was beginning to cool off (it was so long ago that I believe it may have been the world premiere) and I never considered it anything but a one-man show. Oh, there were actors onstage in the roles of Polonius and Ophelia to hand me cues but I never considered them anything but an irritating but necessary evil (especially irritating when the audience misguidedly preferred their performances to mine). Not only that, but the goddamned show ran three and a half hours long whereas Roughly Hamlet runs a comfortable three quarters of an hour. If I had come up with Mr. Watterson's idea to cut out the other characters, I would not only have saved myself the competition from the other actors but I would have gotten out early enough to hit the bar early. If there's anything that pisses me off in life, it's when someone comes up with an idea that rightfully should have been mind if only I'd had the wherewithal to think of it at the time. The rest is silence.