I’ve been meaning to write this since Wednesday night, but life has a way of interfering with the best plans and intentions.
Okay, so we’re watching American Idol Wednesday night, the absurd s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g of, as Ryan Seacrest himself put it, of “a ten minute results show into an hour program.” And at least they are padding the show with more than just the torture of the lowest vote getters – although they do that too, of course – and among the maxi-padding is a prerecorded package showing the luxury pad where the finalists are now living together.
I am only half watching when they show a medium-distance shot of a geometrically promiscuous architectual monstrosity that has a spectacular view of the Pacific (I know it’s the Pacific because the show is in L.A.).
Then the camera does a tracking shot pulling up to the gates of the house and into the driveway. I am stunned – this looks very familiar. I have the same weird dislocating feeling I had back in the mid-’90s when I was flipping through the channels and stumbled across an old girlfriend from college discussing her career as a photographer who specializes in dominatrixes and their dungeons on HBO’s Real Sex. Whoa, I didn’t even know she owned a camera.
Back to watching Idol: shots of the profligate, garish interior, the backyard with an unobstructed view of the ocean from some height, and the shape of the pool all tell me my initial reaction is correct.
Exactly 20 years ago, almost to the week, I was working for a small production company that did work with Japanese television. Mostly I was the U.S. correspondent for a Japanese pop music show called Super Station (not to be confused with Ted Turner’s network), for which I did interviews with about 30 rock stars in ’83 and ’84, including Sting, Duran Duran, Herbie Hancock, Stray Cats, Spandau Ballet, George Duke, Chicago, David Foster, Olivia Newton-John, and on and on.
In the midst of doing my pop music interview work, the company asked if I’d like to help out on the crew of an “erotic fantasy” short film being shot for Japanese television. They needed a production assistant-type plebe and the pay was pretty good, it would only take about two weeks, and I would get to drive several exotic cars that the production was renting up from Santa Monica to the location. So I said “sure.”
The plot was a retarded series of “dreams” involving a gaggle of scantily-clad and/or topless hotties that the star, a then unknown Grant Show (of Melrose Place fame – very nice guy, by the way), was having at various locations around this huge, grotesque house that we rented for the shoot in the hills above Malibu. In one of the scenes he is washing his fleet of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Maseratis (proudly driven by me to the location), and getting all sudsy with one of the honeys, who would materialize out of nowhere in the middle of the dream.
There were scenes in the hot tub, the pool, in front of the fireplace, all over the damn place, and it was all just incredibly stupid shit, and Grant and the ladies – one of whom was the future “Queen of Pay Per View” Becky LeBeau and her huge rack (not, um, work friendly) – clearly thought so as well, but gamely gave it their all.
Observing and being a minor part of the process was fascinating, though, and it really opened up my eyes to see how much time, expense, effort, expertise (the crew was professional and knew what the hell they were doing) and care went into making even the most godawful stupid shit: the director and “cinematographer” solemnly discussing camera angles, lighting and nipple exposure (only 1″ allowed on Japanese TV at the time, or some such nonsense) in the middle of the hot tub scene, for example, cracked me up hysterically.
American Idol 3 finalists: let it be known that your current domicile has been the home of foolishness such as I have described above, and ghosts of ghastly productions past perhaps linger in the shadows.
And no, AI fans, I will not tell you where the house is any more specifically than the precipitous and pricey hills above Malibu – those finalists don’t need you bugging them while they’re concentrating on being all they can be. You heard what Clay said about focus.
Life is really weird.