FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH | CROWE’S UNDERCOVER HIGH SCHOOL MASTERPIECE

sean penn fast times at ridgemont high spicoli sean penn cover

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) remains one of my favorite teen / high school films of all time. It brilliantly captures the cultural touchstones of a generation, and the glory days of youth long gone by– before we were slaves to technology and all this social media bullshit.

A young Cameron Crowe, then a freelance writer for Rolling Stone magazine, went undercover as a student at Clairemont High School in San Diego, CA to write a book (of the same name), which he also adapted for the film. In Fast Times we get to witness a bevy of young Hollywood stars already in the making– Sean Penn (who totally stole the film, and birthed an army of Spicoli wannabes in high schools across the country), Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates and Jennifer Jason Leigh. There are also early appearances by relative unknowns at the time who would go on to major stardom– Nicolas Cage, (then Nicolas Coppola), Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, and Anthony (Goose) Edwards. Fast Times’ soundtrack was also groundbreaking, featuring a quintessential blend ’70s & ’80s rock & roll artists, that to me, will forever be connected with the film. I mean, who can hear “Moving in Stereo” by The Cars without instantly thinking of that hot, hormone-raging pool scene? Epic.

Haters gonna hate, but eat this– In 2005, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. If you’re of this era it’s definitely a film that still resonates and makes you want to roll a fat one, throw on your Vans, hit the arcade, grab some tasty waves, and meet some babes.

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AMERICAN GRAFFITI | THE EPIC FILM THAT REIGNITED HOT ROD CULTURE

I was chatting with my friend Don about epic car films, and Two-Lane Blacktop quickly came up. He’s a major car and quickly segued to American Graffiti– correctly stating that it was the same ’55 Chevy (built by Richard Ruth of Competition Engineering of Sunland, CA) for Blacktop that Falfa drove in George Lucas’ classic American Graffiti. Well there were actually two ’55 Chevy hot rods from Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) that were used in American Graffiti (1973). Both were built using Richard Ruth’s own ’55 Chevy as the blueprint. Producer Gary Kurtz (Two-Lane Blacktop & American Graffiti) had visited Ruth who took him for a pulse-quickening ride in his big-block hot rod. That same evening Kurtz promptly ordered three cars from Richard Ruth– two exactly like Ruth’s, and one stunt car.

Two original cars would survive to live another day in George Lucas’ American Graffiti: 

Main Car 1– Equipped with a 427 crate motor, M-22 Muncie, 4.88 Olds rear, fiberglass front end, doors, and trunk lid, straight axle front suspension when built and later modified and used in American Graffiti.

Stunt Car– All steel-bodied car equipped with a 454 crate motor, TH 400 automatic, Olds rear of unknown gearing, modified for American Graffiti. It was used for interior shots as it was equipped with an auto tranny and drove smoother than a stick.

Shot of Mel’s drive-in from the 1973 classic, “American Graffiti” — Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis Mel’s drive-in was actually out of business, and was reopened just for the filming of American Graffiti– then promptly demolished after filming was finished. American Graffiti was George Lucas’ semi-autobiographical teenage tale (Lucas grew up in Modesto, CA during the heyday of cruising and hot rods) that starred a treasure trove of young talent– Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, and the list goes on. It also created a huge resurgence in American 1950’s & 1960’s culture–  inspiring a long string of films and TV shows, most notably “Happy Days.” Hot Rod magazine even listed the ’55 Chevy and ’32 Ford deuce coupe (the true stars of the film) at the top of their list of most influential hot rods of all time.        

Paul Le Mat in the George Lucas’ 1973 classic car film, “American Graffiti.” George Lucas had  the license plate on the ’32 Ford hot rod read: THX-138. This was a reference to THX-1138, his 1971 sc-fi flick. Later in his Star Wars saga, the yellow airspeeder Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan use to chase bounty hunter Zam Wesell is said to be a tribute to John Milner’s iconic coupe in American Graffiti.

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REQUIRED VIEWING | STATE OF GRACE GARY OLDMAN AS JACKIE FLANNERY

“Looks like it’s time to kick some Guinea ass.”

–Gary Oldman as Jackie Flannery

Ask any hardcore Gary Oldman fan what their favorite on-screen performance is, and most won’t have to think twice– the loveable, loyal, lunatic Jackie Flannery in State of Grace. Directed by Phil Joanou (Rattle and Hum), released quietly in 1990, and largely overshadowed by another epic gangster flick that hit theaters that same week– Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Due largely to Oldman’s mesmerizing performance (one of the finest actors of our time), today State of Grace is considered by many mobster movie fans to rank up there with the best of the best.

Gary Oldman as badass Irish gangster Jackie Flannery in 1990’s “State of Grace”

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TSY STYLE HALL OF FAME | ICONIC PHOTOGRAPHER GORDON PARKS

“I had a great sense of curiosity and a great sense of just wanting to achieve.

I just forgot I was black and walked in and asked for a job

and tried to be prepared for what I was asking for.”

–Gordon Parks

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Gordon Parks (1912-2006)  — The iconic photographer, artist, director, writer, activist, and musician.

From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

During his 93 years, Gordon Parks led an extraordinary life, and bore witness to some of the most amazing events of the 20th century– often chronicling them through the lens of his camera.  Most of us who lived in the 1970s know him as the director of Shaft, the groundbreaking film that featured a black leading man whupping ass, bedding beautiful women– and all without as much as ruffling the collar of his trademark black leather trench coat.

However, Gordon Parks was much more than  Shaft. During his lifetime he was a friend to famous artists, musicians, athletes, politicians, fashion models, actors, and general movers and shakers– he seemed to know everyone who was making history in one way, shape, or form.  Parks also made his mark in photography, literature, film, music, and social activism.  I can also say from experience he was one of the most stylish and charming New Yorkers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Gordon Parks filming “The Learning Tree”, Fort Scott, KS, 1968. — Photograph by Norman E. Tanis.

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THE BROODING BAVARIAN BOMBSHELL | ’60s & ’70s SEX ICON– USCHI OBERMAIER

Keith Richards with German model/actress Uschi Obermaier during the Rolling Stones’ 1975 Tour of the Americas. –Photo by Christopher Simon Sykes/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The sexy German model was with the Rolling Stones on their ’75 tour, and bedded both Mick & Keef. Uschi later rated the boys, saying, “Mick is the most charming man in the world, but Keith is the better lover. He just knows the anatomy of women…”

When Anita got word of Keef’s tryst with Uschi, she furiously charged at him, and grabbed him by the hair and screamed, “You f*cking messer, You’ve been messing with this bird!”

Uschi makes it clear that she and Keith loved each other– and that while Anita often lamented over Keef’s lacking libido, Uschi, by her account, had no problem keeping her man in bed for days at a time. “With me, there was never a problem.”

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December 18th, 1968– The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards with Anita Pallenberg in a departure lounge at London’s Heathrow Airport. –Photo by Central Press/Getty Images

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ROBERT MITCHUM, PT. I | A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH HOLLYWOOD

 

“There just isn’t any pleasing some people. The trick is to stop trying.”

–Robert Mitchum

I can’t say it any better than Mr. Kinsley–

“Bob Mitchum was one of the good guys. He was a smoker of cigarettes and cigars, a drinker of Irish and Scotch whisky in large quantities, and a smoker of hashish and sinsemilla marijuana joints the size of White Owl cigars. He did 2 months in jail in 1949 for smoking pot when the cops set him up through an informer. But he was a tough guy too, “rode the rails” as a boy, and was on a chain gang in Georgia at 14 for vagrancy, escaped, and later had 27 fights as a professional boxer. His sardonic comment on the California jail was: ‘It was just like Palm Springs — but without the riff-raff.'”

“He was born in 1919 and he died, of emphesyma and lung cancer, in 2001. How did this talented actor and hell-raiser survive for nearly eighty years? He must have had leather lungs, a cast-iron stomach and the metabolism of a uranium burner. Or somebody up there certainly liked him, and kept him going, with his jokes and his storytelling, his sense of humor and his sarcastic jabs at fellow actors.”

–Peter Kinsley, The Storyteller

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1955– Robert Mitchum in ‘The Night of the Hunter’  –Image by © Corbis. Many consider Robert Mitchum’s portrayal of Harry Powell (The Preacher) to be his finest. Based largely on the real-life murderer Harry Powers, AKA “the Bluebeard of Quiet Dell” who terrorized West Virginia back in the early 1930s. Convicted of killing a widow, her three children, and another widow– Powers was hanged to death on March 18, 1932, at the West Virginia Penitentiary.

“People think I have an interesting walk. Hell, I’m just trying to hold my gut in.”

–Robert Mitchum

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THE BRUCE LEE HOLLYWOOD POSSE | TINSELTOWN’S ELITE UNDERSTUDIES

 Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee, circa 1972.

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There are certain moments in life that you never forget.  Oddly, I still remember the evening when as a kid I got a glimpse of Bruce Lee on the tube in Game of Death. It was the immortal scene where Lee, at all of  5′ 7″, squares-off against 7′ 2″ basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his unending Plastic Man-like reach. My heart was pounding out of my chest, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the sinewy, screaming, leaping Bruce Lee– I’d never seen anything so crazy and exciting in all my short life. He seemed more full of life, energy and determination than anyone I’d ever seen– yet, I was watching a man onscreen who had already passed away. It seemed almost unbelievable that he was gone– I think that pretty much sums up the effect he had on a lot of people.  He was so skilled, entertaining and charismatic that you couldn’t take your eyes off him, because if you did– you might quickly miss out on something that’s never been seen before. You were sure there was no one person in the world that could take Bruce Lee out. He seemed to be invincible onscreen– which makes his mysterious passing all the more ironic.

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Bruce Lee Kato Green Hornet

Original caption from 1966– Bruce Lee, who plays Kato in ABC-TV’s Fridays, (7:30-8 P.M., EST) springs into three of the basic positions of Kung Fu, the ancient Oriental art of self-defense of which Bruce is a master.

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There’s an interesting bit about Bruce Lee’s relationship with another Hollywood icon he hung out with– Steve McQueen. Among the many stars that Bruce Lee counted as his pupils and friends (James Coburn, James Garner, etc.) none were bigger than McQueen. Obviously both were highly competitive guys, so when Bruce Lee’s star began to rise it caused notable tension between the two that almost destroyed their friendship.

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TRIED & TRUE STYLE | THE WHITE SHIRT

Montgomery Clift white shirt

Montgomery Clift

Recently a certain reader took issue with my asserting the classic & indispensable style of the white shirt. And I quote–

“My God, How boring and predictable, a white shirt? Please… These rules are for men who don’t have a clue and just want to leave their house half decent without embarrassing themselves. This I don’t have a problem with, when it’s for convenience, comfort or not having to THINK at all about what to wear, but don’t confuse it with style.”

Huh…  Montgomery Clift– seeking convenience and comfort?  No, I don’t think so.  Errol Flynn– on a quest for decency and concerned with not embarrassing himself?  Somehow I don’t think he was all that worried about it, buddy.  Maybe Johnny Depp appeals to you more?  Bingo.  White shirt.

So let’s set the record straight once and for all–

The white shirt is for guys, what the little black dress is for our lady friends. It is absolutely a style icon in itself, and it can provide the perfect backdrop for the expression of style by letting it’s accompanying accessories sing.  Done.

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