Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Star On Earth -- A Star In Heaven

Years ago, I received one of my favorite gifts, a copy of Todd Hayne's movie Superstar. The movie, all about Karen and Richard Carpenter, is banned by the Carpenter estate (for unauthorized use of their songs) because of its unflattering portrayal of both Karen and Richard, portrayed not by actors but by Barbie and Ken dolls. The elegiac voice of Karen is interspersed with scenes from the Holocaust, wars, and clinical explanations of anorexia nervosa. The main plot plays like strict biography -- the rise and fall of this duo, each with creepy voices speaking through the dolls. As both of the dolls got sicker and more battered by life and the claustrophobic environment of their family, their faces are filed down into sharp edges, black circles are colored underneath the eyes, and the Karen doll is seen reaching for big scary looking boxes of Ex-Lax and bottles of Ipecac. Where to start? What's not to love?! My tape has a fuzzy quality and is interspersed with snippets from the eighties television show, Webster, a time that seems oddly marked by shows where African-American men with serious pituitary disorders play in the role of child/man to an older white authority figure as some sort of advisor/comic relief/disturbing social stereotype.
The person who procured this gem for me said he could find anything. It took him a year to find this movie, the hardest task he'd ever had in this regard. During this time, he was attending classes to cure him of his homosexuality, a religious program called Exodus, as in Exodus from the land of sin and disease, according to their ratty brochures that looked like wedding invitations gone awry. Do you want to find your perfect self under the garbage heap of desire? You bet I do! The program suggested that sexuality was a crucifixion and that it could be changed. File that under the category of not fucking likely. Which leads me back to the movie and Karen's perfect voice. The most affecting scene sums it up -- the Karen doll singing "Top of the World" and fainting in front of an adoring Japanese audience. So much had been sacrificed to the pursuit of beauty and perfection already that almost nothing was left, just the ethereal sound of someone who had managed to put her pain into a beautiful song about a love she would never experience.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Of course, all you have to tell me is that something's not normal and I'll go for it!!" Karen Carpenter
Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Safe
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!


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Anonymous said...

Great story, m. I identify with Karen Carpenter as she weighed only a little less than I do.
Good morning, great post.

Alluring pic. So... red.
I'm impressed.

Would write more but class demands the presence of my flesh.

TV Guide said...

Nineteen more days until the last day of the Sopranos!

Karen Carpenter said...

We've only just begun!

A.J. Soprano said...

I feel sickened and battered by life also, Michelle. My shrink has me on Lexapro and I think it's working at times. I'm taking some college courses and I'm beginning to think that Wordsworth was right when he said that getting and spending we lay waste our powers. In his day he was as famous as John Grisham is today. Thanks for all your support of the Sopranos. It was really sad that my cousin Christopher Moltisanti died in a car crash in the last episode. His death has affected my whole family. There are only three episodes left and I hope you watch. Thanks again for your support, Michelle.

Detroit Native said...

Go Red Wings!!!Beat da Ducks!!!

the walking man said...

For some all of life in this place is a crucifixion. Darfur, Somalia, The Palistine, the ill with no insurance other than an emergency room visit just before they die. And the list goes on and on.

What kills me is when anyone says any type of sexuality short of pedophilia is something in need of a cure, just cracks my ass up and releases at least one nail from the tree. Fucking an animal like a sheep or a mule might push the limit but I sit on the fence on that one because it harms the animals psyche.

You could have that film transferred to disc you know unless you think the graininess of it ads to it charm.



and to you I occasionally go out to war with on this blog thank you for not making the dragon come out yesterday. Peace and civility are much better so thank you again.

Pope Benedict XVI said...

Crucify the buggers!!!

Charles Gramlich said...

The image of Karen's voice becoming more ethereal as she wastes away is a poignant one. I never thought of it that way.

the walking man said...

"Pope Benedict XVI said...
Crucify the buggers!!!"

Ted Taggert said the same your pontificate

paul said...


Wichita-Lineman said...

Great flick

Our friend Mr. Record loaned me his DVD copy a little over a year ago. I always loved the part when Karen accuses Richard of his other lifestyle, which infuriates him. What a voice. My grandmother played their Christmas album year after year, but unlike most Christmas, it never lost its flavor.

Peace, love, and Rock-n-Roll

Eric said...

The final lines are always the most important. Karen's final lines and your's rose together for a long and gorgeous sentance.

Anyway, I had "Close to you" humming through my head all morning in physics lab, swinging lead-weighted pendulums on fishing line around and around, someone else timing it with a stopwatch. No fatalities, though I did hogtie one dude's ankles when I threw them like bolas. Just kidding!

I had Carpenters stuck in my head. It was an oddly tranquil day in downtown Detroit. Green and red shades of memory coloring the morning's grey.

Anonymous said...

I think I identify with Karen Carpenter most when my chest hurts after eating a triple whopper value meal with a large chocolate shake. You may laugh now, and you may laugh far longer than I. But that many calories, and you can go quite a while before you have to eat.

Cash said...

That one's a keeper.

What You Don't See said...

My worst nightmare when I was a kid was being attacked by a swarm of bees. It was barely out of the fucking Seventies when I saw my first swarming bee movie. Remember those doomsday disaster flicks where whole towns with get cocooned in spiderwebs and even William Shatner's shitt sense of dramatic timing couldn't save them? Or remember those movies about killer bees in the Astrodome being blown up by nuclear weapons after being frozen at the end, or the walking beehive-man, who would open his mouth and swarms of bees would envelope his enemies? Remember those sad wastes of celluloid and pink ticket paper rolls?
They were my fucking babysitter.
My nightmare of bees attacking me came true last summer. Surveying property on Detroit's west side, by Evergreen and Joy, I always knew the only thing to be afraid of was what you don't see. Not the people walking around or talking in groups or driving to and from where ever they go. I've been down there there a million times and have only been robbed at gunpoint twice, and one of those times was by a house full of cops and I wasn't surveying, either.
Win some, loose some--what fuckin ever.
I wasn't with my normal crew that day. I was with this kid who could barely drink legally and whose face was filled with ink and had these metal studs on his eyebrow ridges. He was named Steve Runion. Everybody called him Onion. He smelled like one was the worst fucking part, I shit you not one bit. He reeked like grandma's outhouse by the onion patch, right?
So I was bustin my ass so as not to get caught down wind from old onion boy. I ran with the pvc tape up this nice finished wooden railed front porch, and Onion went to the other side to get a number across the porch. I felt clusters of tingling on my back and neck at the same time as I hear Onion yell "bees!", loud but clipped short. Anyone I know seeing death's jaws closing in for the kill would probably not feel like having a god damned conversation about what it felt like to be about to die.
But anyway, these bees were all over us. Onion was running toward the porch steps, the rails too high to hurdle. The bees poured up out from between the wooden beams right over where we had to run to get away. He was way closer, but I was motivated, right? I was Jessie fucking Owens running to show Hitler who the man was. I was a kid all of a sudden, and the only thing faster than me was the wind.
I blasted by him and down to the street stripping off my shirt and swinging it around. A bee had stung my forehead and cheek and one got my earlobe perfectly on the top. My back, arms and hands were covered with stings. A bee was in my shoe, humping my ankle with its little poison injecting two step.
At least I wore jeans to work, so my legs were alright. Onion had on Pistons basketball shorts, the silky kind my girlfriend wears to bed, but Onion seems to think work for him to survey land in. He's quite a fucking fashion plate, for a reeking, tattoed-faced guy.
Anyway, his legs were covered with stings, way more than I had, even counting all over.
It might have been a nightmare, but nightmare's don't end, they only disappear into their hive, in the cracked walls and under porches. The stings itched a bit and fell silent on my nerves. But the nightmares go to where you can't see them, somewhere that they just might become dangerous again, lying in the darkness to do you harm one more time, even if they are one less in number.


eric said...

Hi, m. Had to make up for those lousy anonymous responses of mine ealier. Hope this will do the trick, or at least entertain you. Yes I was really attacked by bees and it sucked as bad or worse than described.

Where the poems better than this?

Susan Miller said...

"File that under the category of not fucking likely."

Why do I love this one sentence? I don't know, but I do. It makes me smile. Truly, I know little about the Karen Carpenter story but it does sound as if she was trying to fit into someone else's view of what she should be. So maybe that's why I like that sentence.

eric said...

She was! That was the problem. People like her brother and father had encorached on her life so much that the only control she had left was what she took into her body or not. She controled the only thing she could, but was still trying to make everybody happy. So sad. It's the next day, m, and I'm still digging thes one. Great stuff.