01.16.13 THE TEN BEST NOIR FILMS EVER MADE
The 11th Annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival is returning to the historic Castro Theatre January 25 – February 3. This greatest of all noir festivals will be screening 27 films, including three never before seen 35 millimeter restorations, so what better time to announce my list of the Ten Best Noir Films Ever Made.
1. THE KILLING – 1956
Directed by Stanley Kubrick and based on the amazing book Clean Break by Lionel White, Sterling Hayden masterminds a racetrack robbery with a great ensemble cast featuring noir regulars Elisha Cook, Jr., Marie Windsor and Ted DeCorsia. This is not just the best film noir, it is frame for frame the best movie ever made.
2. BOB LE FLAMBEUR – 1956
Also known as Bob The Gambler, this French caper film directed by Jean-Pierre Melville offers a perfect blend of substance and style. To be more precise: it’s cool as hell. Bob, played by Roger Duchesne, masterminds a casino heist only to complicate matters by hitting a winning streak at the tables during its execution. Stanley Kubrick called this the perfect crime movie.
3. THE BIG COMBO – 1955
A well-insulated mob boss (Richard Conte) makes a monkey out of an obsessed cop (Cornel Wilde) until the flatfoot changes strategy and goes after him through his girl. Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman as homosexual henchmen were light years ahead of their time.
4. ASPHALT JUNGLE – 1950
Sam Jaffe portrays perhaps the most fascinating criminal mastermind ever as robbery and double cross propel the action of this character driven caper. Director John Huston sets a gritty urban tone, softened a bit by Marilyn Monroe in an early screen appearance.
5. DOUBLE INDEMNITY – 1944
A woman getting her lover to kill her husband for insurance money is a pretty pedestrian set-up, unless Billy Wilder is directing a script he wrote with Raymond Chandler. Add on-screen sexual chemistry between Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, and this movie explodes.
6. THE KILLERS – 1946
Based on a Hemmingway story, director Robert Siodmak provided the blueprint for future filmmakers to rise above cops & robbers cliches. This cautionary tale of double cross and murder made stars out of Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner.
7. BLAST OF SILENCE – 1961
Starkly cold and purposely slow moving, this Allen Baron tour de force traps you inside the mind of a hired killer and doesn’t let go.
8. BORN TO KILL – 1947
Walter Slezak and Esther Howard provide humorous counter balance as psycho Lawrence Tierney murders his way into San Francisco society.
9. 711 OCEAN DRIVE – 1950
Edmond O’Brien is few peoples’ idea of a leading man, but that works to his advantage as he plays a telephone repairman who cashes in big by creating a hi-tech communication system for a national bookmaking syndicate. But greed quickly blinds this cocky average joe to the fact that he is in way over his head.
10. THE NARROW MARGIN – 1952
Tough guy cop Charles McGraw guards a mobster’s wife on a cross country train trip so she can testify before a Los Angeles grand jury. Co-starring noir darling Marie Windsor and directed by the much underappreciated Richard Fleischer (Armored Car Robbery, Soylent Green, The Jazz Singer).
12.12.12 THE 10 BEST THINGS ABOUT LAS VEGAS
Even day-shift strippers are hot
The bars never close
Elvis has left the building
12.05.12 MAYWEATHER AND PACQUIAO AGREE TO FIGHT
MAYWEATHER AND PACQUIAO AGREE TO FIGHT
Las Vegas, NV, December 5, 2012 – Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will fight May 11 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. The contract was signed early this morning, meaning that after two years of trash talk and lawsuits, the long anticipated fight is finally a reality.
Many boxing insiders feel that agreement to the megafight was reached due to the fact that both boxers are scared to death to get into the ring with rising challenger Killer Kong (26-0, 26 KOs), a vicious brawler who once killed an opponent and vows to do it again every time he sets foot in the ring.
The buzz in boxing circles is that the thought of having to fight Killer Kong has put the fear of God into both Mayweather and Pacquiao. And apparently the only thing the two rivals have ever agreed upon is that fighting each other will postpone indefinitely either of them having to fight Kong.
Neither Pacquiao, who is preparing to fight Juan Manuel Marquez Saturday night at the MGM, or Mayweather has commented publicly about Killer Kong. But one veteran trainer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that “Floyd gets scared as a little girl at the mere mention of Kong’s name”.
Kong, who wears a necklace made from the teeth of fallen opponents, fights Saturday on the undercard at the MGM, and if the undefeated brawler scores another vicious knockout, the public will stop caring about the megafight or the fact that this story is a spoof. The public will be screaming for either Mayweather or Pacquiao to fight Killer Kong. And they won’t care which one of them is carried out of the ring.
Catch the blow by blow account of Killer Kong’s latest fight in the novel Vegas Knockout
11.03.12 DOUBLE DOWN SALOON CELEBRATES 20 YEARS
Anthony Bourdain recently named the Double Down Saloon in Las Vegas one of the top 5 bars in the world. And who could disagree?
Always expect the unexpected at this legendary punk rock dive. This 24/7 clubhouse for the lunatic fringe which is the birthplace of the fabled Ass Juice (Bourdain’s favorite) as well as the Bacon Martini. Where chaotic murals and disturbing videos assault your senses, while some of the biggest names in punk, surf and garage perform on the mighty Double Down stage.
Almost from the start people called Double Down the happiest place on earth, and finally all that fun could no longer be contained within four walls. In 2006 at second Double Down Saloon was opened in New York City’s East Village.
The 20th anniversary party will be held at the Double Down Saloon in Las Vegas November 22-25. Four nights of midgets, mayhem and music featuring the Boss Martians, the Heiz (Japan’s most exciting live band), Las Vegas favorites the Vermin plus much more. And, as always, it’s free to get in.
SHUT UP AND DRINK
10.15.12 BLOODCOCKS UK TOUR ANNOUNCED
Staying true to their promise of never playing in America, the Bloodcocks UK are going to the actual UK. Dates have just been announced for the Las Vegas band’s Gunther Goes To Gatwick Tour which opens November 8 in Leeds, England and closes November 17 in London.
Bloody, Gory, Gunther and Annie made their bones cranking out irreverent songs about monsters and every imaginable bizarro sex kink. And along with fan favorites Godzilla Go Go and Green Chick Twist, the tour will include new songs Chick Fight, Bag Of Cheerleaders and Three Hole Romeo from their upcoming CD on SquidHat Records.
Buy a plane ticket or buy a CD. Bloodcocks UK are not to be missed.
09.20.12 ROD STEWART ASSAULTED ON STAGE IN LAS VEGAS
ROD STEWART ASSAULTED ON STAGE IN LAS VEGAS
Pie In The Face Interrupts Caesars Palace Show
Las Vegas, NV, September 20, 2012 – Five people were arrested in Las Vegas Wednesday night for storming the stage at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace and striking singer Rod Stewart in the face with a pie. Blinded by banana crème, the stunned Stewart stumbled about the stage as his assailant grabbed the microphone and finished crooning “You Wear It Well” as the capacity opening night crowd of 4100 cheered wildly as they thought the stunt was part of the show.
Las Vegas police spokesman Sergeant Harry Kagel issued a statement saying that charges of aggravated assault and criminal trespass were pending against the five who gave their names as Jimmy Dot, Swanky LaBeef, Poontang Johnson, Jenn O.Cide and Dr. Zombo. Kagel added that further investigation led police to believe that disruption of the show was a publicity stunt designed to promote a roving cabaret of curiosities known as the Jimmy Dot Circus. Still further investigation will reveal that this entire story is a spoof.
Stewart spokesperson Maggie Maynard threatened legal action against the casino for lack of proper security, and added that the singer was undecided about whether or not to cancel the remaining eight shows of his Colosseum residency scheduled to run through October 7.
Read more about the Jimmy Dot Circus in the new novel Vegas Knockout.
09.10.12 EXTREME BOOK PARTY – P Moss reads Vegas Knockout
09.04.12 5 MUST-READ LAS VEGAS BOOKS
Las Vegas is the most iconic city on earth. And to understand what makes it tick, you first need to understand the circumstances of its history. Understand the people who gave the city its personality and set in motion the evolutionary process toward what the former railroad water stop would eventually become.
Las Vegas’ brief history has been misrepresented in movies and on television to the point where most people believe the sensationalized fiction to be fact. These five non-fiction books offer a good head start at setting the record straight.
THE MAN WHO INVENTED LAS VEGAS by W.R. Wilkerson III(Ciro’s Books, 2000) — This book effectively debunks the myth that gangster Bugsy Siegel built the Flamingo Hotel and gave birth to the Las Vegas Strip.
THE GREEN FELT JUNGLE by Ed Reid & Ovid Demaris (Buccaneer Books, 1963) — Providing documented evidence, this book caused a sensation as the first to expose Las Vegas as a front for organized crime.
BIG JULIE OF VEGAS by Edward Linn (Walker Publishing, 1974) — The ultimate casino insider covers all the angles with anecdotes from the wild 1960s high roller junkets to the Dunes.
HOWARD HUGHES: Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue by Geoff Schumacher (Stephens Press, 2008) — This biography does a great job of separating fact from fiction in chronicling the life and times of the ultimate Las Vegas legend.
CASINO: Love And Honor In Las Vegas by Nicholas Pileggi (Simon & Schuster, 1995) — The notorious tale of betrayal and greed among the mobsters who screwed up a sure thing and changed the casino business forever.
07.04.12 WHY DO WRITERS OBSESS ABOUT THE GREAT LAS VEGAS NOVEL?
Is To Kill A Mockingbird a better book than The Great Gatsby? Is Catch-22 better than The Grapes Of Wrath? Even in a society obsessed with winning, most people (awards committees not withstanding) have figured out that you can’t debate the merits of apples and oranges to find the best banana. That one writer’s work cannot be anointed as being better than all the rest, because subjectivity demands that such comparisons are simply not possible.
So why do writers obsess so much about creating the great Las Vegas novel?
The logical answer would be that it’s a challenge. A challenge discussed often when Las Vegas writers gather formally or over drinks. A challenge documented every so often by publications like the Las Vegas Weekly, Las Vegas CityLife and the Las Vegas Sun. A challenge of conquering the ultimate blank page, not unlike efforts by those who set out to be the first to climb Mt. Everest or swim the English Channel. And since no truly great Las Vegas fiction yet exists, overcoming that challenge will make any writer’s great Las Vegas novel the great Las Vegas novel by default.
John O’Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas and Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children are generally regarded as noteworthy Las Vegas books, but they are certainly not great Las Vegas books, if for no other reason than because with a little tweaking the stories could have been set pretty much anywhere. Slide a couple rungs down the ladder to memoirs by writers who passed through, and you will discover that just because Beth Raymer’s Lay The Favorite is about to become a major motion picture doesn’t mean the book was particularly insightful. Then completely fall into the crapper with the likes of Joe McGinniss Jr. who, in writing Delivery Man, didn’t even give the city enough thought to get the streets right.
Don’t get the impression from this that all books set in Las Vegas are lacking in quality. Far from it. There are many entertaining reads including James Ellroy’s partially-set-in-Vegas The Cold Six Thousand, where his skewed world view is as much a hallucinogenic adventure as anything in the classic Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Though I would call Hunter S. Thompson’s book less a novel and more an example of how truth is so often stranger than fiction.
So why do writers obsess so much about writing the great Las Vegas novel?
The real answer is that Las Vegas is a blank slate with little literary history, making the challenge an attainable goal. But as the last microcosm of the American Dream, Las Vegas’ first great fiction won’t be a postcard or a love letter or a memoir of somebody’s pit stop on the way to someplace better.
The first great Las Vegas novel will be written by somebody who lives it. Somebody whose daily existence picks at a scab that will eventually unlock the spiritual undercurrent that drives a city that is like no other. And that novel will be justly applauded until somebody writes a better one. And eventually somebody will write an even better one than that, sparking the inevitable debate about which of those books is the best. Momentarily forgetting that you cannot compare apples and oranges to find the best banana.
06.10.12 HOW LAS VEGAS BECAME A STAR
Beautiful leading lady opposite a ruggedly handsome leading man. Bad guys, comic relief, a little music ….. the whole formulaic magilla. Not unlike any other murder-infused love story of 1952. Except that this movie fueled America’s burgeoning curiosity about a mythical oasis where vices were virtues. Where fantasy was reality and a man could change his life with one silver dollar.
The Las Vegas Story was not the first movie to showcase Las Vegas, but it had something going for it that its predecessors definitely did not. Howard Hughes as producer (uncredited) and a budget that afforded Jane Russell, Victor Mature and Vincent Price. Movie stars instead of actors. A step up in class for Hughes’ RKO Radio Pictures, an outfit that generally cranked out movies on the cheap. But Hughes been hot for Jane Russell’s 38D rack since casting her in The Outlaw nine years earlier. And he had been buying up land in Las Vegas even before that, so the man who was himself larger than life upped the ante to glamorize both his leading lady and the town which fifteen years later his casinos would monopolize.
People in the early 1950s had heard enough chatter and seen enough celebrity-infused glossy magazine spreads to know that the fantasy backdrop of The Las Vegas Story was not far from reality. It was the first movie in which America saw Las Vegas dressed in its Saturday night finest. The gowns and the jewels. The lights and the action. The cozy elegance of the casino. And the money. All that money. The Hollywood make-believe was a bit over the top, but not by much. Popcorn munchers were begging to be seduced and this movie did not let them down.
Things were on the upswing in America. The country had gotten past the Great Depression, a double-edged war, and was settling into the pedestrian prosperity that would become Eisenhower’s 1950s. Working stiffs now owned houses, and were no longer restricted to summer vacations of taking the kids to see Aunt Marge. The average American family now had the wherewithal to branch out. To explore. To live. To actually visit the fantastic places they had only read about in magazines or seen at the movies, and Las Vegas was at the top of the list.
Las Vegas extolled the virtues of recreational endeavors that other American cities demonized as scandalous. The town was dangerous yet safe. Elegant yet affordable. Offered mom and dad the perfect opportunity to dump the kids with Aunt Marge and aim the Oldsmobile toward a place where they could rub elbows with movie stars and sports heroes, then catch Bing Crosby for the price of a steak. The glamorous Las Vegas of 1952 was definitely within reach of everyone, and The Las Vegas Story promoted tourism to the masses better than any ad campaign. Sex and celebrity. Action and fun. Riches beyond your wildest dreams. All within reach to anyone who walked through the door. Moviegoers were hooked.
The Las Vegas Story is not unlike any murder-infused love story that might be made today. Beautiful leading lady opposite a handsome leading man. Bad guys, comic relief, a little music ….. the whole formulaic magilla. But then as now, with any movie set in Las Vegas the screen is big enough for only one star. Las Vegas itself. Howard Hughes knew that, much to the chagrin of Jane Russell’s 38D rack.