FESTIVAL OF FEINDISHNESS: BARNABAS COLLINS

Boo ProductionsA little bit ago, when I was consistently writing my blog and working my book and supplying you with much needed hits to feed your villainy addiction, I solicited input for who my next villain should be. My good friend, Miss Melodee, read what I said about Lestat the Vampire and suggested I tackle one of her personal favorites: Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows.

So I will. And I’m going to owe my friend a hearty apology too.

I don’t know much about Dark Shadows. I remember it was a show that I clicked past when it was on TV in the late 70s/early 80s while trying to find my next episode of Silver Spoons—I loved that Ricky Schroeder and his in-house model train. Or maybe I flipped past it on my way to Friday Night Videos (yes, I’m hitting you with all the old stuff!) Either way, I never watched the show. So when Melodee suggested it and my wife said, “Oh yeah, I remember that!” I decided to give it a try.

And folks I genuinely tried to give this a fair shake. But boooooooo!! This ranks among some of the lousiest things I have seen. Seriously. And I’ve seen some raggedy shit: Escape From LA, Wings, TJ Hooker, my son’s 5th grade choir concert where they sang Rhythm Is Gonna Get You—poorly. I have a high tolerance for poor cinema but DAMN!

Before I go too far, I should probably introduce our subject for the evening: Barnabas Collins. From what I could surmise from the show and the movie, Barnabas was a well-to-do English guy come to the New World to exploit it. He fell in love with a woman, much to the chagrin of his housekeeper (who was a lot less Mrs. Garrett and a whole lot more of the red-haired chick from American Horror Story—go ahead and look her up, I’ll wait). Anyway, the housekeeper loves Barnabas from afar while Barnabas loves some girl same Josette. But instead of spitting in his coffee or refusing to give him turn down service or whatever, the housekeeper becomes a witch, murders his whole family and drives Josette to jump off a cliff.

Did you read that?

Your girl was so caught up with Barnabas that she learned dark magic to kill everything and everyone he loved. Oh yeah, then she cursed him to be a vampire so he’d have to live forever without the one he loved the most.

This is fucked up! That meant I was intrigued. I got my popcorn, some red Kool Aid and was ready to dive in. Now I had high hopes: Dark Shadows has had two television series since the 60s and was a just released as a major motion picture. But I was fair, went straight to the source material and tried to watch original series on Netflix. Guys, that shit lasted 17 minutes. I got as far as some dude looking entirely too old to be arguing with his dad about where he’d been and then he was digging in a mausoleum for God-knows-what and I threw that shit out my Instant Queue. Didn’t make any damn sense. This isn’t…I thought…it just sucked. Maybe I’d have better luck with the movie.

Now I really couldn’t go wrong: this movie is starring Johnny “Sparra!” Depp and Michelle Pfieffer’s sexy tail (she’ll always be CatWoman to me). Directed by Tim Burton. It even had Hit Girl from Kick Ass. This had to be awesome, right? And look at the material. Short of watching Johnny eat a bunch of people at a construction site, this was the most inane piece of drivel I’ve seen in a LONG time and I watch Maury on the regular. This is an actual line from the movie, “Mom, I’m a werewolf, no need to make a big deal about it. Woof.” She actually said Woof.

I sat through this garbage because I said I would. Because I swore there had to be something redeeming about it. I mean this was 2 hours I can NEVER get back just so I could watch Johnny Depp yell at the TV, kill a bunch of hippies, and fight with a witch who got killed by a chandelier? And if you thought I spoiled the movie, that would be supposing there was something worthwhile to see. I’m going to find some TJ Hooker

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Festival of Fiendishness – CATWOMAN

I’m no fan of cats. Aside from rampant allergies that make my eyes swell shut like I was popping shit to Clubber Lang, I think cats are assholes. They show love when they want, rip up your shit under the auspices of keeping their claws sharp, and they have no qualms about biting the hand that feeds them (literally). And they’re kinda nasty: “Fuck water,” says the cat, “my spit is juuussstt fine.” Ugh.

But there is one little kitty that I have a soft spot for—and she’s today’s dastardly diva: Catwoman.

Now, this post is not about the horror that was the Catwoman movie—Halle Berry in that outfit was the ONLY good part of that ridiculous piece of cinema (but it was a really good part). This is about Selina Kyle, cat burglar, Batman villain, and the Dark Knight’s friend with “benefits.”

There are a couple origin stories for the femme fatale in the skintight outfit: the Tim Burton/Halle Berry movies have her undergoing a transformation caused by cosmetics and chemicals; Christopher Nolan’s flick with Anne Hathaway doesn’t delve much into details but frames her as Rhianna-style good girl gone bad; the comics give her a much more hardscrabble upbringing: former prostitute who becomes a cat burglar (and a damn fine one at that) to escape that life and make a better one for her sister. One version of the story even has her killing her sister’s assailant and becoming a thief to maintain her freedom. My favorite version has Selina looking to Batman as her inspiration for her feline alter-ego.

Ladies, I don’t care what Cosmo or Vanity Fair or Teen Beat tells you: men like bad girls. And Catwoman is a bad, bad girl. Every time you see her she’s sashaying her sexy tail across the screen, leaving every male smitten with the “lap dance look,” taking what she wants, and, by the time guys snap out of it, she’s gone.

Whether it’s Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer or Anne Hathway, what makes Catwoman special (besides the outfit) is that she’s her own person. Murky morality aside, she’s going to be who she’s going to be; she’s going to do what she’s going to do. And there is nothing anyone—not even the Bat—can do to change that. This character, more than any of the villains I’ve explored, focuses specifically on that one facet that makes all of us unique: none of us all wholly good or wholly evil. The dichotomy (yes, there’s that SAT word again) between Batman and Catwoman is interesting: they are more similar than different. No matter how you look at it, Batman is a good guy who does some questionable things; Catwoman is a bad girl who commits crimes for good reasons. They’re not so different.

More than her self-acceptance and comfort with her moral ambiguity, Catwoman is honest. She doesn’t pretend to be more than what she is: a woman using all her abilities and assets to reach her individual goals. There is no global domination, criminal empire aspiration here. She’s a grassroots, Robin Hood-esque style of anti-hero and her populist, self-serving approach is almost admirable. And this, this inspirational quality, makes her one of the most dangerous villains out there and one of the best villains ever.

Coming up, I’m going all Heroic on ya! Sylar (the villain from Heroes) is next on the Festival!

Festival of Fiendishness: VICTOR KIRIAKIS

You didn’t know I could go all soap opera on ya, didja? Didn’t think I had it in me, huh? Well, I was a latch-key kid in the summers in the 80s and one of the benefits/penalties of that was my sister LOVED Days Of Our Lives. That meant, for one hour every day, I was immersed in the “I thought you were dead” – who is that baby’s father? – I have cancer – what happened to my man’s eye? world of Bo and Hope and the Brady family. I can’t look away from a story (or a Lifetime movie for that matter) so I was hooked pretty quick. In that time, I watched the host from the Biggest Loser grow up, learned to give a shit about what happens to Deirdre Hall (and pick her out of a line up) and was introduced to the coldest dude named Victor ever, Victor Kiriakis.

Over the last 25 years or so, Victor’s been busy. He started out as kind of a small time thug, running a prostitution and porno ring (and this was the 80s, mind you). He graduated up to building an international crime syndicate, “buying” a former CIA operative so he could fool with his memories and taunt make the Brady family think their son was back, and evading child support for Bo by forging a legal document stating he was sterile at the time of conception. As an aside, how do you get that document? How do you fake a fertility test on the off chance someone’s gonna hit you up for child support 20-some years in the future?

Now, there is absolutely no way I can sum up a 20 year run on a daytime soap opera in 500-600 words but there are some highlights:

  • Remember that drug/porno/prostitution ring? Victor discovered another dude had killed a woman and blackmailed the killer into taking responsibility for the drug/porno/prostitution ring
  • He ordered a woman to be shot when she came into town and then blackmailed her into leaving town AFTER she got shot. Doesn’t say much for the shooter though, huh?
  • Ran a number of campaigns in stealing people’s money including a jail break and a false kidnapping
  • Drugged his nephew to make him impotent
  • He framed another chick for a murder his daughter committed
  • Helped his son bury a woman alive—and tried to kill that same son in an elevator accident
  • Kidnapped a dude and then wouldn’t give him insulin for his diabetes

Victor has done a litany of foul stuff, from the petty shit like drugs and prostitutes to real shit like blackmail, kidnapping, and murder. BUT HE LOOKS SO COOL DOING IT! My man always got a drink, a 3-piece suit, and that lovely mane of silver hair. Even when you think he’s doing good things, he’s got that “I’m a cobra and you are my prey” look.

Here’s what I love about Victor: he’s the Godfather in a tiny little town in Portland and we got to watch him in action for the last 30 years. And he has wonderful hair. And he’s Jennifer Aniston’s dad.

That’s my word! Next up, Catwoman is gonna purr her sexy tail across the Festival.

Festival of Fiendishness: ANNIE WILKES

Writers are pretty much the top of the food chain: we have few natural predators. Our imaginations and Wikipedia keep us, for the most part, out of harms way. We spend the majority of our time in a seated position, scribbling on pads or tapping at keyboards. The most likely hazard of the writing profession is carpal tunnel. And severe caffeine withdrawal. And chairs with poor lumbar support.

And fame.

Fame changes everything. Sure you want people to read your stories, until they start leaving negative comments and reviews. Or pressuring you for the next release. Or taking your ass hostage and tying you to the bed until you resurrect their favorite character you killed in the last book.

Yes, my wicked little readers, today’s villain is the Queen of Literary Terror and the sexiest thing in denim cotton floral print frock, Annie Wilkes from Misery, played by Maxim 100 beauty, Kathy Bates.

Your girl is avid fan of the Misery Chastain romance series. When she finds out the author, Paul Sheldon, has killed off Misery herself, thus ending the series, Annie is hotter than Twilight fans finding out Kristen Stewart was stepping out on Robert Pattinson. So my man’s car accident that leaves him with two broken legs in the middle of a blizzard down the street from Annie’s house is “fortuitous.”

She does what anybody—and especially a “number one fan”—would do: she bundles Paul up, takes his raggedy ass to her house, and, rather than call the police or the paramedics or even the fucking WonderPets, Annie proceeds to torture the shit out of him until he agrees to write another Misery Chastain book bringing Misery back to life. And I’m talking about withholding care and pain meds or cutting off his thumb when he gets mad about a letter missing on the typewriter. This can’t end well, right?

So while he’s writing, Annie takes a couple trips into town. This gives Paul a little bit of time to go investigating, and he does, Shaggy and Scooby-style. Sneaking around on wobbly legs looking for clues, Paul finds out that Annie absolutely is getting coal in her stocking: your girl is a serial killer in a jumper and has been killing people for years. When Annie finds out about Paul’s little excursions into her private life, she decides to “limit” him. If you watched the movie, this is the part where she ties homey to the bed, places a wedge of wood between his feet, and BREAKS HIS ANKLES WITH A SLEDGEHAMMER! Annie ain’t 100 percent And this is tame compared to what she did to my man in the book: cuts off his foot and cauterizes it with a blowtorch. What kind of shit?

And she goes out like a G: she kills a cop by running him over with a lawnmower (read that again: she rain him over with a LAWNBOY!), takes a typewriter blow to the head, gets choked out and takes a header into a mantle. But she still won’t die! After going two rounds with Paul Sheldon Michael Meyers-style, Annie finally dies while trying to start her chainsaw. I think I heard 50 Cent singing “I don’t know what you heard about me” at the end of the movie.

Annie Wilkes is awesome because she’s a romance-novel reading, Country Living magazine dressed hot pocket of unmitigated crazy. Sports figures, celebrities, and rock stars have the corner on fruitcake fans; you don’t ever hear about authors becoming a victim of their fans. Annie Wilkes teaches us that fame is fame is fame is fame and there’s enough crazy to go around. For all my author friends, I bet you’ll take that one star review over the alternative, huh?

Next up, like sand in the hour glass, so are the days of our lives (yeah, I’ve seen a soap opera before. I’m man enough to admit it)—Victor Kiriakis comes to the Festival!

Festival of Fiendishness – MOMMIE DEAREST

For the record, I’m scared of wire hangers after this chick. And I’m a grown ass man. I can’t be the only person taking plastic hangers to the dry cleaners, can I? Really? Just me, huh? So, if you can’t tell (or didn’t read the last post), today’s fantastic fiend is the Mother of Year herself, Joan Crawford AKA Mommie Dearest.

This is the first time one of our fantastic villains has actually been a real person. But Joan Crawford ain’t no slouch. She signed a contract with MGM in the 1920s and then punked them into making her a star. Your girl was headlining movies in the 30s. She was an Academy Award-winning actress with a career spanning more than 50 years. And she was a PepsiCo board member. Homegirl wasn’t no joke.

But it ain’t these accomplishments we’re interested in, is it? Oh no! That ain’t how it works over here. We get to poke fun at the portrayal of Joan Crawford from Mommie Dearest, the motion picture based on her daughter’s autobiography.

In the glorious 80s there was little more on TV than Afterschool Specials, Farrah Fawcett burning up her abusive husband in The Burning Bed, and the Dukes of Hazzard. And the freaking Schmoo—do you remember this thing? Could change shape, was on a cartoon with Fred and Barney…Anyway, in the 80s, TV was still a family sport. And it was in this spirit that, as a group, we watched CBS’ premiere of Mommie Dearest.

We should have known this chick wasn’t all together: the movie opens with Joan Crawford—the consummate film star of her day—on her hands and knees with a bottle of Comet scrubbing the floor while her TWO MAIDS look on. What? I don’t know about you, but I’m not paying somebody to stand there and watch me do the job I just paid them for. That’s where the nonsense starts.

Your girl is a little obsessed with her image so she adopts two kids, Christina and Christopher. But things don’t do so well. Joan loves Christina (who she adopts first) and showers her with fantastic parties and gifts. In one scene, while Christina is opening all her wonderful gifts, Joan tells her to choose the best one and then gives the rest away. As a kid, I was like “Wait, what?” You know giving a child’s gift away is like child abuse, right?

But then the abuse actually starts. Joan is a bit of a drinker, right? She also has a couple control issues. And a touch of the competitive spirit. This makes Ol’ Joanie not necessarily the best candidate for parenting—in fact the adoption agency turned her down. So when she tries to have a friendly competition with Christina in the form a pool race, she dusts the child (horribly), tells her to pull herself up by her bootstraps, and then locks Christina in the pool house when the little girl gets mad. Then Christina decides she wants to be glamorous like her mother, right? Sneaks in a puts on her mother’s makeup. Most of us would laugh it off, maybe take a couple pictures and post it on Facebook, right? Not Joan the Softie. Joan snaps, goes ballistic and cuts off the kid’s hair.

Normal shit, right?

And you know about the wire hangers, don’t you? Joan strolls in Christina’s room and finds a dress hanging in the closet on the wrong brand of hanger and LOSES IT! Snatches the child out the bed while her brother looks on. Did I mention they strap my man to the bed? How far is the bed from the floor that they gotta strap your ass to it? Anyway, it’s like 2 in the morning, Joan beats Christina with the wire hangers, fucks up her bathroom and tells the kid to clean it up. Throws some Comet all over the tile and says, “Figure it out.”

Joan Crawford—Mommie Dearest—is awesome for a number of reasons: she didn’t give a shit about anybody, man, woman or child long as she got what she wanted; truth be told, Joan made her own way in a world that tried to put her in a box based her gender and her physical beauty; and, in the day and age when people try to compare the parenting styles of mamas of different racial and ethnic groups (which is my nice way of comparing and contrasting black and white mamas), Joan Crawford beat that child’s ass with a wire hanger. That’s some shit.

OK folks and folksettes, that’s my word. Up next in the Festival, the scariest fan a writer could have: Anne Wilkes, or the chick with the sledgehammer in Misery.

Festival of Fiendishness: THE VAMPIRE LESTAT

In the midst of this heavy promo season, I’ve come to a realization: as awesome as I am (and I am awesome), you’re not actually interested in all that. I know it; you can admit it: you want your villains, right? Still liking the darker stuff, are we? Well, as your Master of Malevolence, I am here to serve. And to get donuts—didn’t know donuts were part of the gig, did you? That’s why I’m in charge.

Anyways, today’s marvelous miscreant is the vampire who put emotion in the emotionless, who showed us being a vampire is not all blood and bad news—it can actually be powdered wigs and puffy sleeves: Lestat.

Now, I am admittedly not a vampire fan. I know, I know, I did a whole post on Dracula but truth is, I’ve never really been into the whole slightly-effeminate, let-me-bite-you-on-the-neck, turn into a bat bullshit. What you always got was a pale, gangly white dude with a funny accent who couldn’t figure out how to run when the townsfolk came. Note: when you see a mob with torches, RUN. It never, ever ends well.

Not that Lestat doesn’t meet that stereotype—he absolutely does: he is a gangly white guy with blond hair from France. What makes Lestat interesting or even relevant is his grander purpose. We are introduced to Lestat and Louis—a terribly effeminate Brad Pitt and a Tom Cruise in a horrible wig—on a New Orleans slave plantation in Interview With The Vampire and we see Lestat turn Louis into a vampire in a discussion over the value of life. Louis wants to die; Lestat gives him an eternal life that is dependent on killing others instead.

Kinda fucked up, huh?

So that earns my attention. But what I like about this character is that he makes us explore the darker side from the darker side. You never think about if it is good or evil to take a man who wants to commit suicide and turn him into a vampire. Or if vampires even consider good and evil. And I’m not talking about the current spate of eco-friendly, “vegetarian,” sparkly-ass vampires (you know what raggedy shit I’m referring to); I’m talking about the goodness or evil of saving a child from death, only to give her an immortal life as a murderous child. Lestat ponders these things, wonders if he has a soul, wonders if God exists and, if so, what He must think about vampires.

I’ll ignore his penchant for high fashion and the ludicrousness of a vampire heading up an 80s hair band (seriously? Nobody said, “Um, Miss Rice, this idea, um, SUCKS?”). I’ll just focus instead on his investigation of life itself. When you consume humanity, when you live off of it, you begin to look at it differently. There’s discussion of his sexual preference (highlighted by the abovementioned penchant for high fashion—in the books, Lestat is considers himself bisexual). From our perspective, this matters; from his, life is life. When you are eternal, you are able to look at things from a much larger context. From a more external perspective. I think that’s what Lestat gives us.

I’m still not a fan. I think Lestat is a cruel “prince” of a character who neither understands the full implications of his powers on others nor really cares about them. I think he’s awfully self-centered for something that has existed for so long. But Lestat gave me, as a writer, the ability to see from another’s perspective. I write angels from their perspective—I couldn’t have without his blueprint. For that, I rank him AWESOME.

That’s my word! Up next, the reigning champion of the Mother Of The Year award: Joan Crawford AKA Mommie Dearest!

My Top Ten Heroes #OBSummer #Books

So the next magnificent miscreant in our repertoire is…wait, what? Heroes? Did I read that right? My Top Ten Heroes? Yes, friends and foes, after all this time pouring over the dastardly deeds of about 50 of my favorite baddies, it’s time to give a brief – and I mean BRIEF – introduction to my all-time favorite do-gooders.

But you know I’m not doing that nonsense here, right? Oh no! As part of the Orangeberry Summer Splash, the good folks over at WeFancyBooks are hosting my first ever Top Ten Heroes list. Swing by and pay them a visit!