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Welcome to Taurus Season
Nerds, Nicholas Cage, Anne Rice, Vampires in General
Happy Taurus Season. I celebrated by setting my alter up with fresh variety of rocks – all my earthy-colored stones and petrified wood, plus a pile of pyrite to call in earthly abundance and a bunch of red stones – my fave – because Taurus might not be a fire sign, but coming right after Aries, they’re charged with grounding all that blazing energy and keeping it burning. I burned some peppertree leaves I pulled from a tree in Ojai my kid was climbing (I said thank you) along with this incense mix dedicated to Saturn and some Frankincense. It feels like a more illustrious entry into a new sun sign, because it’s the full moon as well – both if our majors are ion Taurus! Which means I tore into a bag of Nerds Jellybeans I ordered from the internet and killed nearly the whole thing while working. I have been nurturing a sugar addiction since Easter, when I had to yet again impersonate a supernatural creature for the doomed delight of my child, who actually left the bunny a letter this year, asking if he/she/they could please make the egg hunt a little more challenging this year? I of course had to respond to the letter, which took me an hour, I took such pains to hide my handwriting I created an entirely new font. It looked vaguely like medieval signage. I did make the egg hunt more challenging, which meant that I had to find half of them myself, feigning surprise at every turn.
Not to rehash my Christmas crisis, but I again, it feels increasingly wrong to play these games with my kid, who in all other aspects of life seems like he’s eighteen years old, but only days before the spring holiday said, ‘I don’t agree that the Easter Bunny isn’t real. Because if it were parents, how would everyone know how to do it? It would have to be, like, passed down generation to generation.’ Uh, yup. He’s going to be so pissed at me when this jig is up. But for now, he was happy to get cherry-flavored cotton candy and his favorite flavors of Hi-Chew and some Nerds Gummies. But, I stuffed the plastic eggs with Nerds Jellybeans, thinking he loves all things Nerd, but, happily, it doesn’t seem to give a fuck about them, so I ate them all week long, cracking open the plastic eggs and gobbling them up. Then I felt bad – at some point he might look for them and think I’m a monster. These bespoke Jellybeans are made only for Easter, and I found like the last two in the world on the internet and ordered them. One for me, one for him, but both for me now that I’ve already eaten mine and am still hungry for more.
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Anyway, a snack binge seems like the best way to welcome Taurus season, as does fucking off mid-day to go see Renfield at the indie theater down the street. I’ve been seeing the ads on busses around Los Angeles – Nicholas Cage, who has endearingly embraced his ridiculousness, looking like a low-rent Halloween haunt vampire, and charmingly hapless Nicholas Holt, who I maintain a mild obsession with because of how perfectly goofy and evil he is in The Great. I have a friend who likes to donate blood, and they give her free tickets to this very theater every time she tosses them a pint, and she gave me a couple for my birthday this year, so a free vampire movie in the middle of a Thursday afternoon in Glendale seemed most excellent.
And it was! I had the theater completely to myself! I often say I had the theater completely to myself but actually there’s some loner dude sitting a row or so away or an elder in the front row, but this time it was ALL ME like I was an insanely rich person still on a high Covid alert and got to rent out the entire theater for my whim. The excitement the bus ads engendered was doused a little by seeing it’s 58% score on Rotten Tomatoes and its sad 3.9 on Google, as well as headlines like ‘Renfield’s Ingenious Premise About Standing Up to a Vampire Boss Bleeds Out’ and ‘Renfield is too Busy Worrying We’re All Stupid to be Any Good’ (ouch!). Reader, I liked it! I think I have already enumerated here how in love I am with just going to the movies, how I’ll enjoy nearly anything so long as it doesn’t offend wherever my feminism is on that day, which has a direct link to my hormones. Renfield did not offend my feminism! There’s like, no romance in it, and the female lead is Awkwafina, who I would watch eat Cheetos in an empty room and an hour and forty-five minutes. It might actually pass the Bechtel test – Awkwafina and her sister talk about their dead cop dad; Awkwafina and the crime boss Bellafrancesca (seventy-year-old diva Shohreh Aghdashloo in a smoking hot, wide-legged white pantsuit dripping with gold) talk about how they’re going to kill/arrest each other. Nary a heterosexual love vibe unless you count the bouquet of flowers Renfield offers Awkwafina after she pronounces him a hero, and the chemistry between Dracula and Bellafrancesca when they meet, a game-meets-game, love-at-first-sight moment suggesting some amorous blood-play in the future.
Anyways. Do you know the premise? In the original Dracula, Renfield is his bug-eating familiar, his slave, basically. I haven’t read the novel since I was a goth teen, but I think he’s pretty downtrodden and brain-dead, lives in a basement and eats bug? The film gives it a bit of a What we Do in the Shadows makeover, bringing these Victorian icons into 2023. The biggest critique, I think, is how much the movie actually owes to WWDITS, in particular to its true star, Guillermo (the fucking genius Harvey Guillen), a sort of Renfield-figure to a narcissistic vampire whose ‘want’ is to become a vampire himself and whose ‘need’ if to learn that he’s the Most Valuable Player in that house of undead ding-dongs. Like Guillermo, Renfield is under the thumb of an increasingly mega-maniacal ‘boss,’ Dracula, who looks like a cross between Bela Lugosi (heavy on the pancake) and a downwardly spiraling Marilyn Manson. Renfield begins as a sort of mopey, Robert Smith-esque goth haunting New Orleans, where the action takes place, and transforms himself by buying a sort of awful sweater (sort of both bright and pastel, with a patchwork vibe?) at Macy’s (lolz), and giving his studio apartment a Marcia Brady makeover, but covered with upbeat affirmation posters, like ‘YOLO’ with a pile of pancakes. He finds his way to this upbeat new lease on life via an Al-Anon / Codependents Anonymous-type 12-step group called DRAAG (Dependent Relationship Anonymous Addiction Group, which – as a person who belongs to such groups myself, didn’t do the worst job portraying it. It did have a ‘leader’, the way all 12-step-groups seem to in film and TV, even though the whole point of 12-step groups is they are anarchic, leaderless entities. But their leader is a big gay, so I did like that. But moreover, it did have a pretty authentic Al Anon vibe, and the people were interesting a sympathetic and not, like dolts and whiners or however Hollywood tends to. Director Chris McKay spoke to Variety about this, sharing that he actually met with people who attend CoDA meetings, “The thought of taking potshots at people with very real issues just seems so disrespectful. . . We really learned how the meetings were conducted and how they talk to each other in meetings and how much respect is shown.”
The best part though, is just how fucking gory it is, over-the-top bloody, like, pulling arms off a person and using them to bludgeon and impale. This version of Renfield gets vampire super-powers when he eats bugs, so like Popeye looking for a can of spinach, he’s turning over potted plants and traumatizing a child by gobbling his ant farm to kick ass. It is understandable, I suppose, if this does not sound like your cup of tea, and truly more intellectual movies - Hilma; How to Blow Up a Pipeline – were available at my local indie movie plex, as well as a more socially redeeming comedy, Polite Society. I want to see them all. But Renfield was perfect for my Taurus holiday, and now has me craving both a Nicholas Cage film festival, and a vampire film festival!
Oh – I met Nicholas Cage once! Kind of. I was drunk, and on cocaine, at the Lexington Club, the legendary lesbian bar in the Mission District of San Francisco. It was the 90s. Sometime towards last call a murder of strippers came in (A thunder of stripper? A pod? A pandemonium?) fresh from their shift at, I believe Mitchell Brothers. Mitchell Brothers was the nice strip bar; you had to be a classy bitch, devoted to the hustle, to work there. Not like the Market Street Cinema, which the punk bitches who worked there called The Enema, or even Lusty Lady, where you were safe behind glass and writing your women’s studies thesis between shakes. Anyways, the women were like, Nicholas Cage was at the club all night and invited us all to his house for an afterparty.
OH MY GOD I’m sure I shrieked, dazzled by the glamour of celebrity, something in short supply in San Francisco in the 90s (or ever?) ARE YOU GOING TO GO??? The dancers laughed at my naivete. No, they said, shaking their heads. To him, he was a john. And they were right – he was a john! After being paid dollars all night to sit on his dick, why would they want to go to his house off the clock? But to me he was Sailor Ripley from Wild at Heart; H.I. McDunnough from Raising Arizona, freaking Ronny Cammareri from Moonstruck. You can go, a girl kindly offered, and wrote down his address for me on a bar napkin.
I dragged my friend Carey back to my house so I could change. This was big! But really, I didn’t have anything worthy of an afterparty at a Hollywood actor’s house. It was the 90s, I was broke and dykey. I put on a crinoline as a skirt, a wide scratchy tutu, basically. I paired it with a child’s t-shirt and, I fear, a feather boa. In my cocaine mania I tried to convey the importance of this moment to Carey, This Isn’t Olympia, I said in a disparaging tone, as if San Francisco was, like, New York, and not a run-down fishing village no one paid attention to. Why was Nicholas Cage even here? Carey looked suitably insulted. I sprang for a cab – this was a night to remember. We’d stopped at a liquor store for beer on the way home, to counter the drying effect of the cocaine, and I stuffed some in my army bag for the road; we drank them while trying to hail a cab on creepy, abandoned Mission street. But we got one! But I had lost the bar nap with Nicholas Cage’s address. I thought I remembered it. I gave it to the cabby, who could not not overhear my endless cocaine chatter about our exciting night.
You going to Nic Cage’s place? the guy asked. That’s not his address. I’ll take you there. Whoa. What were the chances? This was clearly a charmed night! He let us out in front of a bland looking house on Gough Street in a part of the city no one lived in. No one I knew, anyway. There was a tall fence with a buzzer protecting the front stairs from the sidewalk, but it wasn’t at all fancy. Also, it was dark. The joint was not jumping. Still, thrills of amphetamine roiled my body. THIS IS IT, I shook Carey’s shoulders, and pressed the buzzer. Nothing. Pressed the buzzer again. Then – a crackle! A voice? Hello? HI! I’m sure I screamed. WHERE’RE HERE FOR THE PARTY? I tried to sound coquettish but maybe I was manic? I mean, I was very much a man-hating D.Y.K.E at this point in time, very Hothead Paisan, but I was ready to throw my entire identity in the toilet for Nicholas Cage. For the excitement of it. Hold on, said the buzzer-voice. We waited. And waited. Then the door opened. And out stepped – Nicholas Cage. In a bathrobe. He looked bleary – maybe we’d woken him up? He peered at us. I’m sorry, he said, in a voice that did sound a little doleful, but his voice always sounds doleful, doesn’t it? There’s no party here. Obviously, he wanted to check and see if we were people who had maybe given him a lap dance earlier. We were not. I was, like, Punky Brewster, but grimy, and Carey was about a week away from a gender revelation. OK! I yelled up to him. He had a kind vibe, I decided. It was still worth it, the eight dollars or so I blew on the cab ride, hauling ourselves out to the end of the earth, insulting my friend with my weird Olympia comment. Totally worth it! Nic Cage shut his door and went back to bed. Carey and I realized that we weren’t that far from the Tenderloin, and decided we should hit some porn stores and blow quarters on some video booths. But when we tried to do this, we were told women were not allowed in the video booths! We were outraged. Carey was hardly a ‘woman,’ whatever that is anyway, and I was a cocaine-fueled freedom fighter with a Sagittarius Stellium in the 5th house! I love to make a scene for justice! Like the white woman I still, in spite of it all, really was (still am) I demanded to see the manager. Of course there was no manager. I informed the porn store clerk that I happened to be a writer for the San Francisco Bay Times. And it was true. I occasionally pitched the paper something and they said yes. But I wasn’t, like, a staff writer, and the Bay Times - Goddexx rest its soul – wasn’t The Washington Post. I left determined to start a movement in San Francisco to get women into the video booths of the Tenderloin! I was so mad! The next day I woke up pretty wrecked, serotonin depleted, maybe anxious? In need of a bagel, some vitamin C? I let that issue go.
Anyways, here are some stills from some vampire movies I really love.
The original creep, Nosferatu. Isn’t fucking Robert Eggers (The VVitch) remaking this with fucking Willem Dafoe??? I’m going to DIE. The only thing hotter than Nicholas Cage in Wild at Heart iis Willem Dafoe.
Back to vampires . . .
Katheryn Bigelow’s Near Dark is really great, and has a fantastic scene in a dive bar when this monster here slaughters everyone very stylishly to The Cramps’ cover of Peggy Lee’s Fever.
I wasn’t allowed to see Love at First Bite, because it was too adult, which only made me more obsessed with it. i was about eight years old and would obsessively watch the trailers on The Movie Channel and then make people play vampire with me and bite my neck. Still do.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is SO GOOD. For some reason I thought it was going to be gay? But it’s not? I mean, it’s feminist, it’s Iranian, what do I want, everything??? She’s a skateboarding, Iranian girl Vampire for chrissakes. You should watch it.
If you haven’t seen Let the Right One In, just stop reading and go watch it. I haven’t seen the TV show because I am so devoted to the original. Should I?
So sexy! Is Only Lovers Left Alive glamoroizing vampiricism, or drug addiction? It’s Jim Jarmusch, so maybe both? I mean, I do like the vampire-as-metaphor-for-drug-addiciton, actually. And I do like Tom Hiddleston very much! This is the root of my obsession with Loki, loz. Oh and top secret: I spoke to someone who was in the Lokim writers room and the person confirmed that LOKI IS BI.
I was so very obsessed with Anne Rice’s vampire books. I read them out of order, Lestat first, so I always loved him more than Louis. Was this movie terrible? I can’t remember. Maybe it was bad then, but with time it’s become amazing? I heard the new one is great but haven’t watched it yet. Look at that bonnet on baby Kirsten Dunst! Sigh.
Also, I waited outside a bookstore in Boston for hours before an Anne Rice signing, certain it would be mobbed. It was not. It was me and my friends! Fucking Boston people. I had her sign the white satin lining on the inside of my black satin cape. We could have hung out with her all night but, per usual, got stuck dumb when confronted with the fact that those I worshipped were actual people. Still, outside the bookstore, we marveled at how no one was in there! (I console myself with this when no one is in there at my own book signings.) We decided to go back inside and ask her what kind of music Lestat’s rock band played. Anne Rice thought about it. She said, still thinking, Not Bon Jovi. We nodded - right, right, that would be so dumb! I was listening to The Doors a lot when I was writing, she said. Okay, The Doors. Didn’t really listen to them, but, I don’t know, it felt obscure enough to me, I knew that picture of Jim Morrisson with no shirt and the leather pants, okay that worked. We thanked her and left, again.
DEFINITELY FEELING THIS VIBE. Must watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula again, soon.
Container for so much teenaged horniness. Omg that’s Bill, from Bill and Ted!!!!! How did I miss that Bill is a vampire??? Anyway, The Lost Boys. Love its Santa Cruz mileau. I thought I was cooler than Star and was bitter that they liked her and not me, even though they were fictional characters and not real. Was this the patriarchy conditioning me to see women as rivals or what? Anyways.
What We Do in the Shadows, the movie. Possibly the show is better but it doesn’t matter, because the movie is so great. Plus it, has Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement. LOVE.
Okay, can’t think of anymore. Am going to dig the rest of the Nerds Jellybeans out of the cabinet where I ‘hid’ them from myself, which is not a real thing. Happy Taurus Season!
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