I had only just found out about Donald Fagen’s autobiographical tome Eminent Hipsters (Viking Adult) when I checked into the Palm Springs Hard Rock Hotel, an intriguing redone edifice just off the center of town. A guest’s room at this resort can be identified by its more traditional number, or alternatively, by its accompanying classic record album and I just happened to be assigned #318, or Steely Dan’s Countdown To Ecstacy (1973), with its vaguely Francis Bacon-like cover painted by Fagen’s then-girlfriend. The man undoubtedly would be offended by any suggestion of coincidence, and heaven forbid one would utter ‘serendipity.’ Hipsters, in terms of his life, appears to bookend his glory and high drama years with the first incarnation of Steely Dan from 1972-1980 — it’s a kind-of Godfather Part II, to a Godfather that has yet to be written.
Highpoints include an ‘interview’ with film composer Ennio Morricone, and a short story “Class of ’69”, which details much of the period around his time at Bard College, when he met his Steely Dan partner Walter Becker, and other events occurred that could be adjudged to have inspired a number of the band’s songs. One such event was a drug bust engineered by none other than G. Gordon Liddy, echoes of which can be heard in the lyrics to Ecstacy’s single and long-time FM staple “My Old School.” Much of the rest of the band’s second album deals with the contrast between the proto-new age spiritual seekers (“Bodhisattva,” “King of the World”) and post-slapstick sleazeballs (“Razor Boy,” “Show Biz Kids”) that could be found in Los Angeles, by 1973 Fagen (and Becker’s) new home.
Thus I have an appropriately blasphemous recommendation for viewing on a shivering winter’s day — Love Me Deadly (1973), released in the immediate wake of The Exorcist’s success. This story of a woman with a troubled past who is drawn into a cult of necrophiliacs frequenting a Hollywood-area funeral parlor is perhaps more entertaining for its cynical edges, the gay bars of Santa Monica Boulevard and galleries of Melrose Avenue. It is interesting that the film’s Canadian female lead, Mary Charlotte Wilcox, eventually went back to her native land to write (and occasionally perform) for SCTV (1981-1984) and later be ordained as an Anglican priest. All three of her (living) male love interests are creepy in a totally different yet realistic ways: chief creep Timothy Scott (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Days of Heaven), over-bearing groovy guy Christopher Stone (The Bionic Woman, The Howling) and slick straight-man Lyle Waggoner (The Carol Burnett Show). Along with a great soundtrack provided by pianist Phil Moody, at one time Mae West’s musical director, one could easily imagine Fagen with his scraggly mane and mirror shades having a cigarette, snark and head bop on the corner in the background of any of these scenes. WATCH NOW
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