BANKS OF THE LITTLE MIAMI
VOLUME 10 CONTENTS
AURORA ANTONOVIC has literally been published hundreds of times across the globe. You'll quickly understand when you've finished reading her compelling contributions to this volume. Her insights and feelings are part of the passion that drives us to write. Add to this the skill with which she writes and you'll understand even more...you'll see why we read. In this issue she gives us some insight into the life of a writer. She quotes someone in Espresso as saying: "Good poetry should be like this, enjoyed over and over again, and too much is never enough." What a coincidence...this is said over and over about her work! One does not tire of genius.
MAUREEN BOYLE is from Derry City, Northern Ireland. She graces this volume with a most poignant poem about the human cost and impact of a famine that altered history. She gives immortality to those about whom she writes. Her beautifully crafted poem will create a haunting picture and you'll realize the pain suffered by those whose memory she honors.
BRUCE REEVE is a Canadian photographer of immense skill. I'm tempted to simply direct you to his contributions with the words: "You've got to see these." I'd do that and leave it go at that if I thought you could hear the awe in my voice. There is a kind of magic that follows when Bruce picks up a camera. He completes his compositions with a beautiful recognition of color and texture. You find yourself reaching to touch his creations.
NEIL REID can write for us any time he chooses. We're pleased to have his works to ponder and dissect. His poems are like some kind of very special gold mine. Every time you go in you find yourself going deeper and coming out richer. Writing from San Jose California, he has again presented us with some wonderful gifts. We're fans. It only seems to get better. For this volume he has also shown us another side of his talent. In NEIL REID PAINTINGS we enjoy another form of artistic expression. Beautiful!
IMDELSANTO writes from Rhode Island with a well earned depth of feeling and a keen insight into life with all of its sorrows and triumphs. The proof is in the poems she has allowed us to present. This is real life folks. There is nothing light and fluffy here. Her words and sense of timing will keep you riveted to the page. You will be moved by the word pictures she paints. If her powerful poems aren't convincing enough of her artistic gift, she has also shared a most powerful photograph PHOTO IMDELSANTO with us.
PAT LARSON has honored this journal before with her poetry. She makes an editor's job easy. And she makes it enjoyable. Writing from Wisconsin she has again crafted some wonderful work. This is a poet's poet. She maintains a web site that is nothing less than classy. TOPAZ TWIN is a site where you'll find various poetic forms and some of the richest expressions imaginable.
NICK ZEGARAC is a bona fide genius. We'd like to think of him as our resident movie expert but that doesn't do his intellect justice. While he does know more about Hollywood than anyone we've ever encountered, he also has (and can eloquently express) deep knowledge and understanding on a multitude of topics. He is preparing movie scripts and if there is any justice (and if the Hollywood moguls have any sense), he will be on the world's stage before long. In this volume he provides a true intellectual examination of a Hollywood key concept: Titillation of the Typecast: Defining Stardom in the age of Celebrity.
CHET ROL was a Norwegian American who was a largely self educated man. Out of his life and travels came this painting originally done in Oil.
Our Cover. Gulf Of Mexico Moon...a photo by Bill Stockland. Copyright © 2005
Titillation of the Typecast:
Defining Stardom in the age of Celebrity
by Nick Zegarac
When one considers the machinery behind stardom there are two quantities that are essential for its creation and maintenance; ‘the look’ ? that is, the concreteness of physicality (the star’s body, face, musculature, shapeliness, etc.), and ‘the feel’- that intangibleness that is distilled through press releases as the star’s ‘personality’; something theologians have perhaps more definitively identified as ‘the soul’. In delineating between these two components ?‘the look’ and ‘the feel’- a key not of distinction is that ‘the look’ is manufactured. ‘The feel’ is not. Accentuation of physical attributes through make up, hair style, and in extreme cases plastic surgery, are perhaps necessary accoutrements, as is refinement of ‘the feel’ through honing in the craft of acting. But the essence of ‘personality’ or ‘soul’ must first be in place and thereafter function in symbiosis with ‘the look’ to complete the essence of star quality. Hence, ‘the feel’ is infinitely more important to the longevity of a star’s stardom than ‘the look’. For ‘the look’ need not be elegant or even remotely attractive to be popular.
As example; there are few who would disagree with the assessment put forth herein, that Moe, Larry and Curly of The Three Stooges are not handsome men by any standard of masculine beauty, but especially by those set of criteria ascribed through Hollywood’s standardization of masculinity. However, the impact The Three Stooges have had on the collective consciousness of pop culture is not only monumental, but it has been successful in generating a lasting iconography akin to or synonymous with the art of slapstick. Thus, when one thinks of slapstick comedy today, one is frequently drawn to images of the face poking and hair pulling that The Stooges made justly famous.
To be considered a star then, one must possess both ‘the look’ and ‘the feel.’ However, ‘the look’ may be malleable; ‘the feel’ is not. ‘The feel’ or ‘personality’ of any given star must be both fixed to and yet set apart from the ordinary. It must transcend regularity and defy any and all attempts to liken or compare it to mannerisms and behavior that society might find familiar in the everyday. ‘The feel’ therefore lies in a star’s ability to become that admirable oddball in a world of otherwise generalized normalcy.
The Art of Being A Screwball
The most accomplished of classic stars were such oddballs. Their unique ‘personalities’ could never be confused, either with one another or the man on the street. For example: it is impossible to imagine anyone quite like Cary Grant, except Cary Grant. He did not simply materialize, either overnight or out of nothing, but rather, he was the deliberate product of a manufactured studio ‘look.’ The actor was often fond of jesting that “everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.” But consider that while Grant’s ‘look’ was in keeping with the vein of handsome leading men like Clark Gable, it was Grant’s ‘personality’ that set him apart from his contemporaries.
During Hollywood’s golden age, studios were perhaps more intuitive of the importance of both ‘look’ and ‘feel’ before making a decision on whether or not to sign a particular talent to their roster. This delicate process of selecting stars from an infinite pool of hopeful starlets was both an art and a craft; one that inevitably was reflected in the longevity of careers from that same period in Hollywood’s history. For example; Joan Crawford’s tenure in films spanned nearly six decades.
However, from the vantage of our present pop culture this intuition has degenerated from constructive critique into distilled exploitation. Vintage Hollywood has inadvertently become the catalyst for a sort of plagiarized nostalgia. ‘The look’ rather than ‘the feel’ has been made more the desirable reflection - often to reasonably good, if fleeting, effect. The result today is that celebrities are masquerading as stars. They have become reliant on pre-established iconographies. Their emulation, while thinly disguised, has become more easily and readily disposable than the source material; hence the marketability of celebrities and the art they emulate has become the desirable commodity in the film industry today. To copy is better than to create.
Today’s postmodern reflection on Hollywood’s golden period is all about reconstituting art rather than framing a venue for new art. Consider the popularization of classic stardom through contemporary songs; Elton John’s Candle In the Wind (Marilyn Monroe), The Eagles’ American Rebel (James Dean) or the Kim Carnes’ ‘Bette Davis Eyes.’ These are summary clichés of superstardom. In the last example, Carnes justly identifies Bette Davis’ large and peering oculars as the actress’ trademark while quietly disregarding the mannerisms and behavior ? ‘the feel’ generated through Davis’ performances - her ‘personality’ then ? that is in fact more responsible for Davis’ enduring legacy than her eyes.
In keeping with this advanced state of disposability, the faculty most esteemed and sought after by today’s Hollywood celebrity is the ability to assimilate rather than to create an image for themselves. Today’s celebrity, in absence of conceptualizing originality ? that rarest of qualities associated with genuine stardom ? is driven to plagiarism; not only of bits or portions of stardom, in an attempt to make these their own through reconstitution, but wholesale annexation of ‘the look’ ? though not ‘the feel’ - of any number of old time stars. Therefore, it is not enough for today’s celebrity hair or costuming to ‘suggest’ stylistic elements from an almost forgotten age. Such mimicry is expected to some extent and, more to the point, generally revered as homage by way of cheap flattery; the overlapping mutations and trends are a forgone right of passage for every generation that comes after the one that has established ‘the look’.
However, the postmodern celebrity emulation goes far deeper. It consumes an image in a sort of immodest idol worship. It latches onto the idea of copying without directly acknowledging the original as its inspiration. In an absorption that is never fully realized ? as no two people, regardless of similarities in physicality can ever truly be identical - the celebrity is a knock off of the star, one that distills the galvanic and establishing presence of a star into mere façade, but without the lure that made the original justly desired and even more deservedly famous. Hence, what is occurring in Hollywood’s celebrity status today ? as with the example already made clear by the Kim Carnes song, ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ - is no longer trend-setting, but retrofitting. The celebrity adopts a star’s motif without actually possessing star quality.
Madonna, Monroe-ism and our justification for being in love with a copy
Madonna is perhaps the most shameless and unapologetic of these postmodern copycats, though there have been, and are increasingly, others who seek their fame from plagiarizing the past. At varying moments in Madonna’s career she has cannibalized the iconography of Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo and most obviously and frequently, Marilyn Monroe. However, the impersonation is not flattering and, even more to the point has only served to remind us of the original. Specifically, the effect of Madonna’s frequent bouts with Monroe-ism is an awkward blend of familiarity and jarring disjunction; the observation of the former, in crude gesturing and gyration, deflates the elegance, charm and, above all else, innocence that the latter seems able to exude without pretension. To identify Madonna, in her ‘Material Girl’ video as a Monroe knock off of ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ does not carry over or translate into qualifying Madonna as a successor or even reasonable facsimile of the Monroe mystique. On the contrary, such comparison offers little in the way of a lasting or positive flattery.
As an audience, our reminiscences are all in Monroe’s favor, even as we recognize the inferiority of translating her image frommega film star to pop singing princess. If, as rabid fans, we admire the original, in this case ? Monroe, then the recognition of her induction into this celebrity’s bastardization is worse than bittersweet. It is empty and disposable. But even if we are inclined to perceive the ‘material girl’ copy as clever, such acknowledgement is short lived because it stems from an absence in Madonna’s own ability to generate genuine stardom for herself rather than from her ability to successfully absorb Monroe’s image. We therefore scoff at Madonna’s attempt to ‘pretend’ at being Monroe, and mark it feeble and shameless at best. We discount Madonna’s audacity in placing her pedestal too close to Monroe’s as celebrity cheek, and, we perceive even her suggestion that she might act as the surrogate of our collective memory as blasphemous.Yet, only with the passage of time do two great shifts in popularity mark and separate Monroe’s genuine stardom from Madonna’s celebrity status. The first shift occurs with the almost subliminal excision of Madonna’s interpretation of Monroe from our collective consciousness. From the vantage of twenty years removed, Madonna’s emulation in the ‘Material Girl’ video appears more dated, shallow and disappointing than perhaps it is or had been, even upon its debut. The assessment is made of the copy that it is only a copy. We disregard any initially perceived cleverness on Madonna’s part as merely a good idea redone in bad taste.
However, the second shift in popularity is far more damaging to the postmodern age and the longevity of artistic achievements in general. If Madonna’s iconography is a disposable regurgitation of Marilyn Monroe then her emulation of that fixed past, and the inevitable reevaluation of ‘Material Girl’ as inferior to ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,’ has identified an artistic void in our immediate present for generations that will reflect from a vantage fifty plus years removed from the here and now. It is readily acknowledged that a remake of anything is inferior by its very essence of being a remake; that a copy of anything is less desirable than the original. What is perhaps less readily acknowledged is the fact that copies rarely attain the same longevity or staying power as their basis of inspiration.
Ponder a moment on who will be the deity of human sexuality in 2050; Marilyn Monroe or Madonna? The established longevity of Monroe ? nearly seventy years after her arrival in Hollywood and almost fifty years removed since her death - seems to point to an obvious answer. Using the iconography of Monroe, it is possible to perceive that the artistic reflection made in ‘Material Girl’ had grown from a fixed embarkation that was even in Madonna’s prime nearly fifty years removed in that mutation from original to copy. That discrepancy between the original and the copy has only grown more obvious since.
But the void of a pop artist establishing herself in no one’s reflection but her own has presented the immediate currency of artistic achievement with damaging repercussions and more than a handful of questions. How far back will future generations have to reach for inspiration in their art? Monroe’s star quality iconography has become both timeless, in its original appeal, and timely, in its bountiful reincarnations by celebrities who seek to assimilate rather than create a new image for themselves. Like the postmodern age, that currently finds itself looking back in quaint reflection on every conceivable trend from the retro model of the Volkswagen Beatle to the return of bell-bottom pants, the current status of celebrity is haunted by more resilient specters from its shimmering celluloid past.
Absence Makes Our Hearts Grow More Forgetful…Not Fonder
Today’s cinema landscape is therefore populated by common people with a bank account playing at being immortal. In the wake of this unlimited bastardization of stardom itself, is it any wonder that the movies have resorted to churning out more sequels, prequels and remakes in place of what was once considered a boundless vista of new ideas? The expectation of cinema goers circa 2005 has gradually been eroded so that in place of something new our anticipation is geared toward seeing something already familiar. Ergo, we do not go to the movies any longer to be entertained. We go to be critical ? or not ? or to simply sit in the dark and ponder the differences and similarities that link the past with the present, either critically or in passing. Instead of being moved or at least shaken from our complacency, we are slowly being taught to wallow in it. And when the final fade out has occurred, we leave the theatre just as empty and unfulfilled as when we entered it, and with no great bounty of praise or disdain, but a strange absence of either and a forgetfulness about what we have seen that makes any recommendation to friends or family as easily and quickly futile and forgotten as from the reflection of the next week or, in some cases, even the next day.
Yes, the movies are in a bad way. For they, and those responsible for making them, have defused their spicy inspiration into nondescript pabulum that is arrogant, charm-free and brazenly moot. What the movies present to us now is no longer fodder for the mind or heart but a convolution of how far removed from either appendage their flickering images have regressed ? far more silent today than any early dumb-show of Charlie Chaplin’s, and far less memorable, for they require an artist of Chaplin’s caliber to carry off that invisible performance and make it their own. As such, and in conclusion, the words of narrator Frank Sinatra, in the compendium ode to the grand Hollywood musical - in ‘That’s Entertainment!’ ring eerily and disappointingly true for the past and the current state of America’s film heritage, “You can wait around and hope, but I’ll tell yah. You’ll never see the likes of this again.”
Copyright © Nick Zegarac
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Summer Time 1970
By Chet Rol
Copyright © Bay Front Press
Acquired From The Estate
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Contact Bill Stockland with your submissions and proposals. Banks Of The Little Miami is a not for profit journal of the arts published by Bay Front Press as a place for intellectual expression in many forms. We invite your participation. Banks Of The Little Miami is privately funded and accepts no financial contributions of any kind. Our artists retain their copyrights. Our goal is to present art for the sake of art. We reject glitz and glitter in our presentation...feeling instead that the works of our artists stand on their own. One would not gild a lilly or otherwise detract from the beauty of a masterpiece by displaying it under neon arrows.
VOLUME ONE AUTUMN 2003
VOLUME TWO LATE AUTUMN 2003
VOLUME THREE WINTER 2003-2004
VOLUME FOUR SPRING 2004
VOLUME FIVE SUMMER 2005
VOLUME SIX LATE AUTUMN 2004
VOLUME SEVEN 2005
VOLUME EIGHT JUNE 2005
VOLUME NINE AUTUMN 2005
VOLUME TEN WINTER 2005
VOLUME ELEVEN SPRING 2006
VOLUME TWELVE AUTUMN 2006