Who’s calling the shots?

•March 22, 2012 • 16 Comments

Skipper and I headed out early Monday morning to the NASA facility at Wallops Island on the outer banks of Virginia. During the two hour drive from Richmond, he mostly lectured me about my errant use of one of the company’s 16 mm Arriflex cameras, used without permission ,to shoot a scene for my film. The night before he caught me returning the gear to the studio after I finished. Reverend Al Stewart owned the camera, and used it mostly for his Religious films. The Reverend would have been furious if he knew I had taken it without permission. Al was the type of guy if something went wrong on one of his shoots, he would stamp his feet and then cry.

Did you ever do something for art that just ain’t right? I’d been using the bell- tower of the city hall as a vantage point to take progress still shots of the new post office being built across the street. It was part of my job. The clock works inside the tower was a glorious array of dusty large cogs, gears and wheels with a spiral metal staircase leading to the pinnacle where the silent bells hung dormant . I put an actress in the Victor Hugo world and achieved an erie atmosphere on film.

You had to love Skipper. He had seen action in WWII at Pearl Harbor and became head of the US Navy Signal corp photograph unit. He’d seen a lot, so an over enthusiastic employee with filmmaking aspirations was not too outrageous. After all it was a motion picture company.

Our job for the day was to film test of the US weather plane taking off and landing. A new concept in runway grooving was being tested for hydroplaning and has since been adapted for highway use. There was a NASA fire battalion standing by to hose down the test strip of runway. The massive weather plane sat quietly in position at the end of the strip and the Bell Helicopter used as the camera platform for filming was off to the side of the runway.

Skipper introduced me to the head honcho and headed off to the Officers Club to schmooze with his buddies, make deals and drink the day away.

Weather Plane

Weather Plane

I was shown the intricacies of using the Tyler camera mount from the ground flight crew and learned how not to fall out of the open portal of the helicopter. My legs were outside of the copter, using the landing struts as foot braces, I positioned myself  in the seat of the floating pod equipped with a pylon for the cantilever boom arm for the camera. After checking the zoom and focus controls – I strapped in and was ready to go.

” Tiger, tiger ready for take-off,” the Pilot answered the flight crew chief’s call.

“You set back there?” The  chopper pilot asked me over the headset.

“Roger that, standing by.”

Bell Helicopter

Bell Helicopter

With deafening, screaming jet engines the big plane started to move, we were flying parallel. close to the ground; the turbulence was incredible. I was rolling film close-up of the wheels of the monster plane as it gathered speed and lifted off the tarmac. Our copter set down amidst the kicked up sand and debris from the rotors – as the  giant fixed wing plane banked  out over the Atlantic. Jack, the copter pilot, and I cooled our heals as the ground crew wetted-down the runway again with fire hoses.

A hundred mile loop and half an hour later, the four engine jet was on an approach course for the landing. Jack and I got going and met her about a mile out over the ocean. The ride was smooth, and the blue sky made a great background for the plane as I started rolling just before she landed and carefully zoomed into a close-up of the wheels as they touched down and sliced through the water on the grooved test area of the runway. Beautiful!

The behemoth giant rolled to a stop and the copter set down.

“How was that for you?”  Jack called over the headset.

“Affirmative, good for me.” Resisting any wise-cracks about the alternate times when that phrase is used.

“You want to do it again?”

“Sure!”

LR-1967 photo by J Dongieux

LR 1967 photo by J Donjieux

It was at that moment that I realized the power of motion pictures. They (the pilot, Jet and ground crew) were waiting for my report to see if they would repeat the procedure. After the hour it took to turn around the operation for a second take, we were ready again to repeat the performance for a second time.

This time, when Jack asked for a camera report, I said:

“I had a focus problem on that one,. Can we do it again?” I lied.

The third time was the charm and after I confirmed that the take was good we broke for lunch. Jack said we could grab some sandwiches from the cafeteria and shoot over to  Assateague Island and have lunch with the wild ponies. I could get used to this.

The giant Dragonfly scared the wild horses off some distance; it was great

Wild horses of Assateague Island

Wild horses of Assateague Island

watching them galloping as we landed. Jack was a gent. He didn’t seem to mind I couldn’t talk fishing with him like  the other guys who worked at Wallops. It was the main topic of most of the discussions with the guys there. I did offer some levity for Jacks behalf: “You ever see a one armed fisherman?” He shook his head and I put one arm behind me a stretched out my other like a trophy boast. “He caught a fish this big!” Jack rolled laughing. He said he couldn’t wait to lay it on the other guys when we got back.

The afternoon tests were with an iced down runway – the preparations were substantial. Dump trucks full of the stuff lined up for their turn to deposit their load, as the ground crew spread the crushed ice with rakes. The pavement was warm from the May sun and the crews worked swiftly before too much of the product could melt. The first test went smoothly as the huge tires shot ice out like Tiddlywinks. Now that I knew the drill I called for another take as a safety and the different departments went to work to  make it happen. I had already decided, as we jockeyed for the return landing, not to ask for a third take because it was just too much work for everyone.

As we set down after the final landing, the “wash” from the egg beater rotors was fierce. I could feel my already tattered pants legs unraveling up to my knees. Then it happened – the extreme turbulence  blew the cover of the magazine off, exposing all the footage from the day’s shooting. Jack was the first I told of the mishap and in his professional nonplused way he said, “We’ll just have to do it again tomorrow.”

I saw Skipper coming towards me from his car and he was miffed: “Why did you do so many takes? Do you know how much it cost each time that plane takes off?” I didn’t, but I was more concerned with telling him the bad news. He seemed to take that in stride more than the $4,000 cost of each take off. I felt like a politician cavalierly spending taxpayers money.

The next day’s test went unblemished and I curbed my enthusiasm and didn’t ask for more than one take each of  the two test.

As we finished up, Skipper said, “You “can-out” the exposed footage and I’ll put the camera away.” I was sitting in the open door of the back of his car with the changing bag on my lap, down-loading the exposed footage, when Skipper, taking the zoom lens off the camera dropped it on the concrete. An award silence – and then he looked slowly up from the shattered glass to me and said, “You see, that could have happened to you over the weekend.”

RUSTY HALOS

•May 9, 2017 • 1 Comment

 

RUSTY HALOS

    L.V. Revene & Sharon Mitchell 2015

To complete a circle and go beyond just intersecting arcs takes time, much time. Time, the equalizer, ticks the same for each of us. What we do with our time is a measure of our worth. Saving time, an oxymoron. We can no more capture time than catch lightning in a jar. Shortcuts, not withstanding, the best value for our time is spending it wisely. Time tames even the mighty tiger.

Gd, George Pane &LVR

        L.V.R. & George Payne 2015

Back in 1971 I happened to be involved in making X rated film loops. At the time it was another film gig sandwiched in-between commercials, industrials and some feature film work. Sure the subject matter was more interesting than shooting French fries or A Day in the Life of a Residential Roofer, but as far as I was concerned it was film work just as was the hokey horror feature film that I was shooting around the same time.  Beyond the technical, lighting and camera work were the X people of the “adult genera”. A rare breed of free wheeling unabashed, unashamed and uninhibited individuals, willing to bare their bodies and share their souls publicly while engaging in the most intimate of human activity. This was a time when watching someone eating breakfast cereal was considered vulgar in a TV ad and it was just not done; can imagine the public response to a guy eating a women and the kind of reaction that would elicit?

MARTY, JAMIE AND ME (1)

 Jamie Gillis, Marty Hodas & L.V.R. 2009                                                    photo courtesy of the Rialto Report

The stable of adult talent was varied, some one time experimenters and others were regulars who made sex films their livelihood. They all had one thing in common, disregard for the status quo. The 70’s were times of general rebellion against the antiquated norms that had fallen behind and not kept up with social evolution of the populous. The masses had had enough of the stogy Victorian ethics, bad politics, antiquated laws and “rules”.  People exercised their will to view what they wanted, not led by their governors. The sexual pioneers were viewed not only for their bodies but for their rebellious, flagrant disregard for the norm. The hypocritical distain by judgmental, self righteous people , while taking advantage of themselves watching these films, seemed lost to the fact that these people, who they judged, supplied them with the means to pleasure themselves where risking the legal and moral consequences to supply a basic need and desire for the undersexed husband, the lone-sole without a mate and the just plain horny dude or dudess’. The audience was huge; the demand both gay and straight was a lodestone for people on both sides of the camera, the players behind the marketing and the consumer showing the 8mm loop on a grungy sheet in the pine paneled basement wall; while the rest of the world was wrapped in the arms of Morpheus.

Annie Sprinkle. 2015

Imagine, if you will, revisiting some of the more  prominent  performers from the 70″s era some 40 years later. Still in the capacity as lensman, a comfortable situation for all, the interviews for Gerard Domiano’s documentary about his father, Jerry, and the people who worked in his films, had an intimate flavor rarely achieved on camera. Gerard did diligence and had clips of scenes from the films the players were in. The flood of recollections from the different individuals, kick- started by seeing the films, was like watching an intricate web of a culture’s interconnections and relationships. More than a trip down memory lane, the reunion with my former colleagues provided a glimpse of how people had fared over the years. That’s the ultimate question, right? What will become of the wayward actors? I’m happy to report most are in far better shape that those at my 50th high school reunion. These, I realized, are the survivors. They were then and they are now. Many of the stories are of interest to fans and  professional socialist as well. The porn star brand had not been invented there was a whole subcultre that made way by performing not only in a sex act but in life itself.

The Mulberry Street Gang

•March 26, 2017 • 1 Comment

The Mulberry Street Gang

In New York City in the 1890’s, on the corner of Mulberry and Houston Streets, an extraordinary handful of people held forth from their various corners. The means they used to project their feelings and aspirations were all radically different from one another and also a departure from anything the world had ever seen before. They were each also preoccupied with the inequalities and injustices that characterized life for the average person in their time and they were each determined to change the course of their society’s history. What is amazing is, they each did. Each needed to re-define what could be, even should be. What they each realized was, that making such a breakthrough required them to invent a new medium, so fresh that it could convey their fierce determination to their fellow creatures, where mere words could never work. What a crew they were.

Puck

Joseph Keppler

Joseph Keppler, Austrian immigrant artist and founder of PUCK magazine, 1877-1917. Descendant of Johannes Keppler, 17th Century planetary scientist and author of Harmonices Mundi. Drew the pictures, sold the ads, wrote the copy. Got Presidents elected and corrupt trusts busted. Invented the color comic book.

Photos

Jacob Riis

Jacob Riis, Danish immigrant writer and photographer, pioneer in the use of documentary photography as a tool of social improvement. Wrote “How the other half lives”, important muckraking exposure of society’s underbelly. Took TR with him as his body guard and got him worked up about unacceptable living conditions etc.

Theodor Roosevelt, the new Police Commissioner, given the job of taking on a department which was the headquarters of most of the criminal activity taking place in the city, primarily bribes to ignore illegal activity. He eventually found that he had to start a whole political party to upset the status quo.

Inventor.

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla, Serbian immigrant scientist and inventor of AC current and the induction motor, the power of Niagara Falls, the radio, neon and fluorescent lighting, the electric starter in your car etc. He stated, as his goal, to make life easier for all of us, to remove the burdens, and not just of the few.

Writer

Mark Twain

Mark Twain, his friend Samuel Clemens, who loved all of the strange toys in Tesla’s laboratory and liked to visit him to play with them. While Tesla was lighting the world, Twain was getting the world to lighten up.

 

 

What unites these folks, aside from their temporal and geographical proximity, is the courage it took to take on the cruelest elements of their society, with nothing but their extraordinary courage and determination to arm them. Each knew that they had to re-invent the language, add another dimension, shuffle the cosmic deck and sit in the dealer’s chair to be able to make a difference. They fed off of one another’s willingness to take on the most deeply-entrenched forces of their time, and, incredibly, each managed to prevail, at least for a time.

It was a black and white world back then but Tesla used colored light and multi-hued lightening flashes and Keppler used off-color humor and color inks, to transform our world. They saw the future and realized that we were headed to a place where verisimilitude was going to be essential and we would not get there without a full measure of truth-telling in the process. PUCK magazine took on the most powerful people and forces in the society, dressed them in ladies clothes or portrayed them as animals, pulled them off their pedestals as rudely as humanly possible. Tesla took on Thomas Edison, the titan of titans, and humbled him by proving that he didn’t know what he was doing.

Twain was the first stand-up comedian. There were some before him, and lecturing and giving talks was a common event in the pre-electronic universe, but his version was unusually pertinent, moved issues and changed results and he used a sharpness of humor and genius for the unexpected that is still on display on Colbert and Jimmy Fallon’s beats. They named the official humor prize after him for good reason.

TR is hard to fit into this picture until you realize that he took the edginess of PUCK and the social sensitivity of Riis and revolutionized politics in his time with concerns for nature and the common man, busted trusts and attacked monopolies. He was immersed in the angry righteousness of these two immigrant firebrands and it worked against his earlier macho experiences and transformed him into a different person.

The sum total effect of the creativity and compassion of these three pattern-smashing immigrants and two classic Americans, and the work that they did, has contributed mightily to whatever remnants of humanism that have survived the century long onslaught, through wars, depressions etc. on our empathies. That they shared the same space and time, must have had some contacts and surely had great influence upon one another is remarkable, verging on amazing. The energy that they contributed to and drew from this location is clearly evident in our own, now ubiquitous, color-saturated technologies, and our reliance on sassy humor to give us essential relief from the many hazards of this existence, points up how powerful their contributions to our welfare have evolved.

Nolita has emerged as a key incubator for new clothing designers. Bordered on the east by the formerly-shabby, but lately ultra chic, Bowery, and with the historic PUCK building, recent home of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, at its NorthWest corner. There are $60 million penthouses being sold there. It is a small but very influential neighborhood. Part of the Little Italy Historic District and abutting Chinatown, it is almost entirely low-rise tenements so this possibly 14 story building is unusual. Houston street, was first called “North” street, when it was the northernmost border of the early city. The name is thought to be derived from the Dutch Huis Tuin, House Garden.

This property, 49 East Houston Street was directly across the street from the laboratory of Nikola Tesla at 48 East Houston Street.

http://puckpenthouses.com/about/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2017/03/25/the-crazy-amazing-life-of-immigrant-nikola-tesla/2/#3ec2b5028a6b
https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/objects/street-arabs-in-night-quarters-0
http://www.thirteen.org/metrofocus/2012/03/teddy-roosevelts-battle-with-the-deeply-depraved-new-york-of-yore/
http://historybuff.com/mark-twain-and-nikola-tesla-were-buds-y65xDmZNq2XJ

We only do it for the stories we can tell.

•April 8, 2015 • 1 Comment

Life in a Film Can - proof #2

Ask any professional: doctor, musician, plumber, undertaker or filmmaker the best, worst, funniest, or saddest experience they have had in their career and they are sure to come up with some interesting or even outrageous stories.

Human nature supplies an abundance of anecdotal material experienced during interaction with others in any field of endeavor. As a filmmaker some of the people I have dealt with are well-known personalities, others are not at all in the public eye, but they all supply a wealth of material that is the foundation for my book Life in a Film Can, the second in a three-part series.

final-wham-bam-cover-19

Book one, Wham Bam $$ Ba-Da Boom!, involves stories from the Seventies, Mafia influence in the X rated, illegal cash based business; which fostered criminal activity much as the Volstead Act (Prohibition) served as a catalyst for the rise of organized crime. With the legalization of adult material, albeit at the discretion on a local level, legitimate businesses enter into the world of titillation, exploitation and purveyors of heretofore illicit material.

LVR shooting NY skyline C. 1985

The reader follows the pyridine shift away from the traditional movie houses to the newly evolving cable and VHS markets of the mid Eighties. Bigger budgets, better talent for independent films, typified the movies made for the new burgeoning markets. Life in a Film Can tracks the incremental changes on the sets of pivotal films and why, how and what for the pictures were made. Behind the scene accounts of the people involved, in a first hand narrative, the reader experience the climate in an era when not only adult films went through a transition but the movie industry as a whole changed expediently to what we are familiar with today.

LVR W: MM look alike CV' Hollywood Hot Tubes. 1985

Both books are for sale in print or e-book at Amazon.com. 

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Larry+Revene%27s+books

All other electronic formats can be purchased at Smashwords.com.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/534086

Bessie Coleman (painting #1 of 13) “Influential Women”

•December 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Film Fables

Bessy Coleman

Bessie Coleman
1892 – 1926

“Don’t take no for an answer.”

Tragedy stuck Bessie Coleman down at the young age of 34, but not before she left her indelible mark as the first black aviatrix in the world.

Born on a cotton farm in Atlanta, Texas, Bessie was part of the great migration north with her family – settling in Chicago in 1915. Motivated not to suffer the menial jobs available to Negroes in those days, she set her sights on higher goals, just what the goals were, she did not know at first. She had seen movie footage of airplanes soaring through the sky and fantasized about being the captain of such a craft. Her brother, John, returning from World War I, spoke of the “superiority of French women” who were learning to fly. The kernel of possibilities was planted and sparked the imagination of Bessie to become a…

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Camille Claudel (Painting #13 of 13) “Influential Women”

•July 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Camille Claudel 1864 - 1943

Camille Claudel

1864 – 1943

“A revolt against nature: a woman genius”

It would be a mistake to assume that Camille Claudel’s reputation has survived simply because of her once notorious association with the sculptor Auguste Rodin. Her early work is similar to Rodin’s in spirit, but shows an imagination and lyricism quite her own, particularly in the famous Bronze Waltz (1893). The Mature Age (1900) whilst interpreted by her brother, poet and diplomat Paul Claudel, was a powerful allegory of her break with Rodin. One figure, The Implorer, was produced as an edition of its own, and has also been interpreted as not purely autobiographical, but as a more powerful representation of change and purpose in the human condition.

In the early years of 1900, Claudel had patrons, dealers, and some commercial success.

After 1905 Claudel appeared to be mentally ill. She destroyed many of her statues, disappeared for long periods of time, and exhibited signs of paranoia – subsequently diagnosed as schizophrenia. She accused Rodin of stealing her ideas and of leading a conspiracy to kill her. She  had an unwanted abortion of his child, demanded by her mother, who did not approve of her career in the arts, or her relationship with Rodin, who was in a 20 year marriage. In 1906, after the wedding of her brother, who had supported her until then, he returned to his diplomatic duties in China, and Camille lived a secluded life in her studio.

Her father, who approved of her career choice, tried to help her and supported her financially. When he died in 1913, Camille was not informed of his death. On March 10, 1913 at the initiative of her brother, she was admitted to the psychiatric ward. The form read that she had been “voluntarily” committed, although her admission was not signed by her, only a doctor and her brother. There are records to show that while she did have emotional outbursts, she was clear-headed while working on her art. Doctors tried to convince the family that she need not be in the institution, but still she was kept there.

Camille Claudell died on 19 October 1943, after having lived 30 years in the asylum at Montfavet. Camille was never visited by her mother and only once by her sister. In September 1943 her brother Paul, who did visit his sister, albeit infrequently, was informed of his sister’s terminal illness and with some difficulty crossed Occupied France to see her. He was neither present at her death nor her funeral. Her mother died on 20 June 1929 and her sister did not make the journey to Montfavet to Camille’s funeral. Camille’s remains were buried in a communal grave at the asylum.

(painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014

Minny Temple (Painting #12 of 13) “Influential Women”

•July 12, 2014 • 2 Comments

Minny Temple #2

Minny Temple
1845 – 1870

“I am not a candidate for adoption. I am very fond of my liberty.”

As Edward Wagenknecht, creator of Eve and Henry James, says, “Isabel had at least one important nonliterary source in Jame’s cousin Minny Temple.” James loved Minny’s “precociousness, brashness and independence of sprit.” More than a love of a cousin, James was passionate about Minny. But just as the character in James’ The Portrait of a Lady, Ralph Touchett, could never marry Isabel Archer due to close blood ties, so was Henry James thwarted in his unrequited love of Minny Temple. Nonetheless, Minny supplied James time and again as a model for his literary female characters. Author Fred Kaplan remarks: “ Minny attached life. If she was reckless, it was a recklessness that excited James.”

An atypical Victorian woman, Minny defied the narrow constraints harnessing the role of females of her generation. Inquisitive and explorative, she was bound to challenge the world around her. A tribute to Minny’s independence, her willfulness is immortalized for so many readers of James’ novels. Her tenacious approach to life sculpted the personalities of subsequent generations of young women by giving them an alternative example to the prescribed social expectations of her day.

Minny Temple died of tuberculosis at the tender age of 25, no doubt a crushing blow to her fondest admirer, Henry James. Is it possible that her loss is the reason James never married? He certainly endowed many of his created women with her sprit. She was a major influence on him and a presence he imbibed in much of his writings.

(painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014

Isadora Duncan (Painting #11 of 13) “Influential Women”

•July 11, 2014 • 1 Comment

Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan
1877 – 1927

“Farewell, my friends. I go to glory!”

By the end of her life, Isadora Duncan’s performing career had dwindled and she became as notorious for her financial woes, scandalous love life and all-too-frequent public drunkenness, as for her contributions to the arts.

At the beginning of Isadora’s career, she broke with dance conventions. Duncan traced the art of dance back to its roots as a sacred art. She developed a style of free and natural movements inspired by the classical Greek arts, folk dances, social dances, nature and natural forces, as well as an approach to the new American athleticism which included skipping, running, jumping, leaping and tossing. She founded dance schools, based on her technique in the US, France, Russia and Germany. She was lauded throughout Europe for her fresh approach to the art of dance. She sustained herself and her family by performing in public as well as private venues.

There is some speculation the nude woman in Eadweard Muybridge movement photo studies (Nude descending a staircase) is, Mary Isadora Gray, Isadora’s mother. Both Muybridge and Isadoria’s mother were living in San Fransisco at the  time of Muybridge’s photo studies.  Joseph Charles Duncan, Isadora’s father, was a banker, mining engineer and connoisseur of the arts. Soon after Isadora’s birth, her father lost his bank and was publicly disgraced. As a result the family became extremely poor.

Isadora’s childhood was an unhappy one. There was strife and divorce, her mother insisted her father was a demon in human garb. Her mother disavowed the religion in which she was raised, and she espoused  the atheism of Robert Ingersoll. These elements shaped Isadora’s childhood. When  eventually meeting her father, Isadora found him to be a charming, lovable poet. Passing years softened the intolerance of childhood, but Isadora Duncan never lost her contempt for the institution of marriage as she knew it. When she was twelve years old, she made a solemn vow that she would welcome love when it came, but she would never marry.

Isadora engaged in many romances with both men and women, and seemed to create scandals wherever she went. She was a noted renegade throughout her 50 years of life. Perhaps this added to her reputation as a non-traditional dancer. She adopted communism and was expelled from the US as a result, but this too she jettisoned when that ideology turned out to be false.

No stranger to tragedy, Isadora lost her two children to a freak accident not unlike her own tragic death. She was strangled to death when her long flowing scarf, which she was noted for, caught in the spokes of the open-top car in which she was riding. Her children and their nanny were drowned when the driver of their car forgot to set the hand brake when he got out to crank the car in order to start it. The car rolled into a river.

She will forever be known as the “mother of modern dance” – a claim that she no doubt would have relished.

(painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014