Thursday, 23 February 2012

Q & A with Brian Scott Mednick

Brian Scott Mednick is the first man to write a biography of Gene Wilder. His book "Gene Wilder: Funny and Sad" has been a huge success and earned him many rave reviews.
The Rebel: What was the last thing Gene Wilder did / has there been any news from him regarding new projects? Is he pretty much retired for good?
Brian scott Mednick: "Gene has not made a feature film since 1991's Another You, his last film with Richard Pryor. He appeared in three successful made-for-TV movies in 1999, but aside from his two guest appearances on Will & Grace in 2002 and 2003, which won him an Emmy Award, Gene has basically retired from acting. He spends his days writing in his study at home in the Stamford, Connecticut home Gilda left him in her will. Since writing his memoir in 2005, Gene has written two novellas and one short story collection. He is currently working on his next book entitled Humoresque."
(Above: Wilder on the set of Will & Grace)
The Rebel: How good do you think My French Whore is? Would it work as a film? Do people only like it because it's connected to Mr Wilder or is it a good book?
"My French Whore is a very good book - like Gene himself, it is quirky, funny, romantic, and utterly charming. It was based on an idea Gene had for a screenplay in the late 1960s called Hesitation Waltz. Gene actually sold the film rights to My French Whore and has written the screenplay but insists he will have no role as producer or actor. Unfortunately, I think it is currently in development hell as I have not heard anything recently about the film's production status. I think most people who have read My French Whore did so because of their admiration for Gene, and indeed, it is hard not to picture him as the protagonist."
The Rebel: When I read Wilder's autobiography I remember disliking the way he wrote about his relationship with his step daughter. There seemed to be something quite undignified about mentioning her in a negative way. Did you attempt to contact her to get her side of the story? What's your take on their relationship?
"Gene adopted his second wife's daughter from a previous marriage. Her name is Katie and she was very close to Gene. Sadly, she was a very emotionally unstable person and she has been estranged from Gene since 1986. Gene was baffled as to why she refused to speak to him, but it turned out she was dealing with some health problems in New York at the same time Gilda was being treated for ovarian cancer in L.A. Apparently Katie was jealous that Gene did not shower her with the same attention he did Gilda."

The Rebel: Wilder often talked in interviews about being shy. He said he was too shy to play Sid Ceaser etc Are you a shy guy?
"Well, most funny people are really shy. The comedy is often a mask for the shyness. It is funny that you mention Sid Caesar because Gene played a part based on Caesar in the London stage production of Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor in 1996. People who know me well always think I am kidding when I say I am really shy, but yeah, I consider myself shy. Not as much now, but certainly when I was younger."
The Rebel: What are your top ten Gene Wilder moments? Which bits from which of his films never fail to move or amuse you?
"There are so many, it is hard to narrow them down, but I would say my favorites, in chronological order, are:
The Producers - the little blue blanket scene.
•Start the Revolution Without Me - the scene where Gene is asked what his name is and he slowly erupts into a classic Wilder explosion of comic rage.
•Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask - he really loved that sheep.
•Blazing Saddles - his first scene where Cleavon Little discovers him hanging upside down in his jail cell.
•The Little Prince - his exhilarating Lerner & Loewe number.
•Young Frankenstein - too many scenes to narrow down.
•The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother - two scenes in this film are maybe the funniest things Gene has ever done on-screen. One is where he drops a box of chocolates and tries to cover up by stuffing them in his mouth. The other is when he and Marty Feldman escape being sawed in half and wander into a cotillion, not realizing that while they were not sliced to bits, the seats of their trousers were.
•Silver Streak - the scene where Richard Pryor tries to get Gene to pass for black by rubbing shoe polish on his face.
•Stir Crazy - the scene where Gene and Pryor are being escorted in a prison line to their cell. After being hit in the stomach by a guard, Gene proceeds to freak out, doing everything from spitting on the guard’s belt, riding him like a horse, and acting like a squirrel. Teamwork is truly defined as Pryor restores him to sanity, only to need him to do the same for him when he begins to lose it.
•Hanky Panky - Gene and Gilda had a great bit where they are flying in a small plane and Gene refuses to accept that the pilot is dead and he must land the plane.
•Haunted Honeymoon - this is a wrongly maligned film that has many hysterically funny scenes, the best being Gene pretending the butler's legs are his when confronted by cops in the basement.

The Rebel: If you had been invited to attend a screening of Funny About Love before it went on general release and asked if you felt any changes were needed to be made what suggestions (if any) would you offer?
"Funny About Love does not rank as one of Gene's greatest films, but it is not as bad as most critics at the time made it out to be. I am not sure what changes I would have made. It's a cute film with some very funny moments, but it's a film that relies heavily on Gene's charm to carry it."
The Rebel: Have you ever seen the French film that inspired The Woman In Red (Pardon My Affaire) are there any French films you are a fan of?
"I saw Pardon Mon Affaire, the film that Gene remade as The Woman in Red, and I honestly did not like it. I thought Gene's version was funnier, had a brisker pace, and much better performances. The Woman in Red is a film that really holds up - and how could you not love the Stevie Wonder soundtrack?"
The Rebel: I read somewhere that Trading Places was written with Wilder/Pryor in mind. Do you think it would have been a better film with Murphy and Akroyd replaced by Gene and Richard?
"Trading Places is a great film and has probably the best performances Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd have ever given. It's a dynamite script, but I am admittedly prejudiced and think Wilder and Pryor could have made it even better. Pryor dropped out of doing the film to instead make The Toy with Jackie Gleason. Murphy, who was cast in Pryor's place, didn't want to work with Gene because, according to Murphy biographer Frank Sanello, "he feared being too closely identified with Pryor's screen persona." Murphy had helped Paramount Pictures score a major hit with 48HRS., so when he lobbied to get Gene replaced with Dan Aykroyd, the studio acquiesced."
The Rebel: Which of Wilder's leading ladies do you consider the most attractive?
"Gene has had many attractive leading ladies - Jill Clayburgh, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, JoBeth Williams, Kelly LeBrock, and, of course, Gilda. If you want to talk about pure physical beauty, Kelly LeBrock would have to be my answer. I interviewed her for the book and she is also one of the nicest, most down to earth people you could ever hope to talk to."
(Photo Above: Gene / Kelly)
The Rebel: Why should people buy your book?
"Because if they don't they will get swine flu! But seriously...it is a very honest portrait of a great artist's life and career. The nicest compliments I have gotten about the book have been from people who aren't necessarily huge Gene Wilder fans who said they found the book so interesting and entertaining. It also has twenty-two pages of great photos, some of which are extremely rare. It's available from Amazon.com in both hard copy and Kindle versions."

(Above photo: Brian Scott Mednick with Gene Wilder at a Gilda's Club event in 1993)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

"Friends & Family" exhibition in Hoxton, sat 25th feb 6pm till 11pm

33-34 Hoxton Square is the place to be this Saturday. "Friends & Family" is a special exhibition curated by Adrian, Kai and Kenny Schachter.
Check out the line up of artists for the show:

Stuart Gurr, Rachel Harrison, Ricci Albenda, Rob Pruitt, Brian Clarke, Zaha Hadid, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Keith Tyson, Barry Reigate, Robert Chambers, Maria Pergay, Arik Levy, Martin Usborne, Tom Dixon, Vito Acconci, Franz West, George Condo, Josh Smith, Joe Bradley, Paul Thek, Sigmar Polke, William Pope.L, Marc Newson, Richard Artschwager, Peter Hujar, Misaki Kawai, Brendan Cass, Richard Woods, Donald Baechler, Keith Coventry, Lars Whelan,Hester Finch, Cain Caser, Muir Vidler, Jasper Joffe & Harry Pye, John Isaacs, Keith Coventry, Marianne Vitale, Simon English, Rod Clark, Mary Heilmann, and Adrian, Kai, Gabriel, Sage and Kenny Schachter, Ilona Rich, Kevbe Otobo, Tom Gould, Harry R├╝dham, Alfie Caine, George Morony, Eleni Khouri, Tom Harwood, Ollie Wink, Antonia Osgood, Louis Norman, Matilda Wyman, Jessy Wyman, Katie Wyman, Calum Knight, Eugenie Clive-Worms, Emmanuelle Zaoui and Savannah Murphy.

There will be musical Performances from Liz and the Ligers, Richard Kilstock, Rebecca Shamoon, Raff Law, George Gardner, Timmy Delaney,Jonah Freud, Natasha Darby, Jasper Hunt and Ishan Kapoor.
(Photo by Aleks Wojcik)
The highlight of the evening is likely to be Jasper & Harry's 99p shop In their bid to give everyone the chance to become an art collector Joffe & Pye will be selling artworks for just 99p each!
Things you'll be able to purchase for less than a pound include old 7 inch singles with new designer sleeves...
(Above: Stevie Wonder)
(Above: Elvis Costello)
(Above: Frankie Laine)
(Above: Birken & Gainsbourg)
(The Specials)

Friday, 17 February 2012

"She Doesn't Care" curated by Liam Newnham

A date has been set for "She Doesn't Care". This group show, organised by Liam Newnham, opens on the 5th of April.
The 90% confirmed lineup for the show is:
Wayne Horse, Sickboy, Nathan Cash Davidson, Edward Fornieles, Ben Cavers
Sweet toof, Tek 33, Barry Reigate, Nemo, Jasper Joffe, Harry Pye, Cedar Lewisohn, Adam Christensen, Run, Ben Young, Daniel Schwitzer, Gordon Beswick.
The venue for the show is EB & Flow Gallery in Shoreditch. EB & Flow was created by Margherita Berloni and Nathan Engelbrecht after they met each during their Art Business studies at Sotheby's in London. The gallery was established to specialize in emerging artists.
Harry Pye's contribution to the show will be a homage to Jean Dubbufet...

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

David Shrigley

(Image above: A nice lady gives David Shrigley some flowers. The chap in the cap is none other than TV funnyman Harry Hill. Image below: me enjoying the free drinks)
I've always been a Shrigley fan. Last week I went to Old Burlington Street to see his solo show ("Arms Fayre") at the Stephen Friedman gallery. This show co-incides with David's major show at the Hayward which recently got a 5 star review in Time Out. The Independent rightly described the show recently as being: "Weird, funny, abject, silly, savage, moral and engaging." I wouldn't be too surprised if he was up for the Turner Prize soon.
Shrigley's work also appears at the 100 Mothers show which opens at the Contemprary Art Space Chester on the 8th of March.
(Above: Mother by David Shrigley)

A company called Polite have made a series of greetings cards which feature Shrigley's work. My favourite one expresses his love/hate relationship with public art.
David can seemingly turn his hand to anything - The show at Friedmans features ceramics, animation, and even a bit of taxidermy. He has also made work for "Art on the Underground" - It was funny to come out of Shrigley's Mayfair show and then see more of his work on the way home. Slowly Shrigley is taking over the world which is fine with me.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

David Hockney at the Royal Academy

I kept seeing posters for Hockney's "A Bigger Picture" show whenever I used the escalator on the underground. Every time I looked at it I felt a bit depressed.
The poster doesn't make me want to see the show. I think it makes Mr Hockney look as though he's painting a terrible backdrop for a low budget panto. At Tate Britain they often display the iconic Bigger Splash painting that helped make Hockney a household name. When you see the actual painting it's a real disappointment, it looks so much better when it's reproduced as a poster or postcard. So often now, whenever you pick up the London Evening Standard there are dull as dishwater rants from Hockney about cigarette smoking in public places. His contributions to the Tate's show of Turner's Watercolours were a bit poor. And there also seems to be an endless stream of less than essential Hockney books flooding the bookshops such as "Dog Days".
So... I went along to the R.A today with fairly low hopes and I'm glad to say I thought aspects of the exhibition were fantastic and I came away thinking that the show as a whole is definitely worth queuing up in the freezing cold for.
In 1964 Hockney claimed he felt he had to get away from England because he felt it was grey and dreary and, in order to be inspired, he needed to have the space and light you get in California.
All these decades later David Hockney now delights in being able to see the beauty he missed in his youth and says the landscapes in Yorkshire give him a "spatial thrill." He's also a man who loves his iPad...
Hockney: "What's really good about the iPad is it's speed. No other medium using colour is as fast, meaning you can capture quick lighting effects like nothing else. The spring is just spectacular this year, and I am getting it down."
(Above: "Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire" by Hockney, 2011)
This time round, the paintings - some of which are 6 meters long - have to be seen to be believed and the postcards can't capture their power.
(Above: Wheat field near Fridaythorpe, 2005)

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dance Craze

"Dance Craze: Rude Boys On The Road" is a new book available from acidjazz.bigcartel.com for about £8 or for about £6 if you go to FOP (just off Charing Cross Road).
It's written by Garry Bushell who made his name writing for Sounds magazine from 1978-85. Garry wrote the original Dance Craze magazine, was the first journalist to see The Specials play live and was the first journalist to interview Madness.
I rate this book, it's a pleasure to read and there's lots of great photos. I asked Mr Bushell to answer a few questions about 2-Tone via e-mail...
The Rebel: John Bradbury plays drums on both sides of the first 2-Tone single (Theme from Selecter and Gangsters) and he was also the composer of the last ever single released on the label. Do you rate him as a drummer?
Garry: "John’s drumming was perfect for the Specials. Sparse but solid. JB also played a key role personally in the whole 2-Tone phenomenon."
The Rebel: What was your take on Bernie Rhodes? Ultimately do you think of him as a good guy or a bad guy?
Garry: "Bernie was a chancer, not really someone you’d trust. He had been a used-car salesman and it showed. Tony Parsons, who knew him better than I did from the Clash days, used to call him “the lying printer”. Bernie so wanted to be McLaren it hurt, but he wasn’t as bright, I didn’t think, or as lucky. (He was Malcolm’s driver early doors.) The Specials thought he was a bad guy, obviously. To me he was more of a wannabe Machiavelli; a clown."
The Rebel: Madness and The Specials both did covers of old Prince Buster and Dandy Livingstone tracks - do you tend to prefer the 2-tone versions of songs like Enjoy Yourself, Rudy, Madness, Wondering Now etc more than the original?
Garry: "No! The originals were best."
The Rebel: How good a dancer are you? Are there any songs like Do Rock Steady that never fail to make you get up and dance?
Garry: "I dance like John Travolta in that film... the scene where he’s machine gunned in Pulp Fiction. ‘A Message To You Rudy’, ‘One Step Beyond’ and ‘Lip Up Fatty’ all work for me though. As do ‘Liquidator’/‘Long Shot Kick De Bucket’ etc they’re always guaranteed to get me on my feet, not that anyone who want to see that."
The Rebel:When was the last time you met or chatted to Jerry Dammers? Do you discuss music and politics with him or do you just talk about old times?
Garry: "Blimey, years ago. I’d love to see Jerry again; a genuinely fascinating bloke. I fancy seeing Spatial AKA live but acknowledge I’d be in a minority."
The Rebel: Can you imagine Buster Bloodvessel making a comeback? Do you think there is still a good album left in him?
Garry: "Yes. I think he could have a hit single again, with the right song. It’s a shame Doug and Nick Welsh fell out so badly because with Buster’s charisma and Nick’s song-writing ability they could have taken Bad Manners back into the jolly old zeitgeist. Doug fronted the Buster’s Ska Battalion charity single last year which could have charted with a bit of promotion. Came down the studio in Forest Hill with a home-baked cherry pie, which he generously dished out, and his dog, which wouldn’t stop barking along to the music. Crazy day."
The Rebel: "Do you like anything Terry Hall did post Fun Boy 3? Did you buy his solo stuff like Home, Laugh etc?
Garry: "I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t buy any of it. A bit too wet for me. What’s Wrong With Me was okay, but I’d rather listen to Jennie Bellestar."
The Rebel:Who at Sounds shaired your enthusiam about 2-Tone? Were there any journalists who just didn't like them?

Garry: "Dave McCullough was into the Specials early doors, and so was Sylvie Simmons over in LA. I remember Pete Silverton reviewing the Bodysnatchers before they were signed, in his typically semi-sarcastic style. Eric Fuller, who was a big reggae purist, took against the bands, accusing them unfairly I always felt of ripping off Jamaican artistes."
The Rebel:Are there any bands around now that remind you of 2-Tone legends?
Garry: "Yes. Buster Shuffle from Hackney are good; and I like what King Hammond is doing – it’s just a shame he’s doing it on such a small scale these days. P45 are promising. I really like the sound of the Upsessions. The Dub City Rockers’ new album is worth hearing, not 2-Tone especially but ‘Trojan City Love’ is a great great song."
The Rebel:What's the best reason for buying your book?
Garry: "Three reasons: nostalgia, laughs and unseen pictures. Actually four reasons: you can also amuse yourself spotting the proof-reading errors..."
The publisher wanted to reprint my original Dance Craze mag, but I think this has turned out far better than that would have done because I’ve gone back to my notes and diaries from the time and expanded the pieces I did back then. I’ve tried to capture the fun of the period."

The Rebel: Which of the 2-tone acts were the best live band?
Garry: "For me, Selecter because they had so much energy live (and because I was besotted with Pauline). Can I add that their song ‘Celebrate The Bullet’ is worth going back to - an under-appreciated thing of beauty."
The Rebel: Who is the nicest person or most likeable person you've met connected with 2-Tone?
Garry: "Tough question. A lot of nice people: Lee Thompson, Dougie, Charley Anderson, Neville Staple and Lynval are all diamonds. And I do like Rhoda, even though she can be a bit prickly – she came round my house once and demanded I throw someone out! Okay, it was Dave Courtney and opinions vary, but it was my house and I’ll have who I like there. I’ll go for Judge Dread because he was always funny. And because he winds up the po-faced."