Four Lives

I think all of you dear, precious few who read this thing are fellow geezers, so all of you have probably already had the dreaded Procedure I underwent this week. On the whole, well… could have been worse. Everything seems to be hunky-dory down there and I got to see a picture of my colon, which looks not unlike the famous picture of the black hole.

Anyway… one of the reliable pleasures of my geezer life these days is reading the obituaries in the print edition of the Sunday Times. A well-written obit is a thing of beauty, a capsule biography that can be absorbed over coffee… unlike that fking Einstein book that I bought so casually and has been mocking me for the last decade.

This week there were four. The two on the first page were for relatively young people, starting with…

Buddy Duress, a small-time heroin dealer living on the streets of the Upper West Side who became a sensation in the New York film scene as an actor and muse for the movies “Heaven Knows What” and “Good Time,” which helped launch the careers of the filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie, died in November at his home in Astoria, Queens. He was 38. The death, which was disclosed only in late February, was from cardiac arrest caused by a “drug cocktail” including heroin, his brother, Christopher Stathis, said.

Buddy Duress — one hell of a moniker, that — was a stage name, one he adopted while making the first Safdie Brothers movie. His real one was Michael Constantine Stathis, born May 21, 1985. He had a troubled life and he had his reasons. In the article his lawyer is quoted thusly:

I represent so many people with the kinds of problems he had, and they always have excuses. Michael never did. It seems paradoxical to say that an admitted and convicted thief was honest, but he was honest. He was honest about who he was.

Duress/Stathis’s obit takes up about 9/16 of a page. Below the fold is this one:

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Reading Report, November 2023

Books Acquired:
The Crow Road, Iain Banks
Sixty Stories, Donald Barthelme
The Black Hole, Alan Dean Foster
Cyber Way, Alan Dean Foster
Midworld, Alan Dean Foster
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, Alan Dean Foster
Star Trek: Log Two, Alan Dean Foster
With Friends Like These…, Alan Dean Foster
Who Needs Enemies?, Alan Dean Foster
Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space, Robert Masters and Jean Houston
The Modern Drunkard, Frank Kelly Rich
Apricots on the Nile, Colette Rossant
Ringo: With a Little Help, Michael Seth Starr
Bagombo Snuff Box, Kurt Vonnegut
Welcome to the Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut

Progress Made:
Cyber Way, Alan Dean Foster

Books Finished:
The Black Hole, Alan Dean Foster
Look at the Birdie, Kurt Vonnegut


So, yes, I fell off the book-acquisition wagon pretty hard this month. But there were very good reasons for all of them, I swear.

How did I come to stockpile seven (7) books by the journeyman sci-fi author Alan Dean Foster? Well, recently I went down a (black) rabbit hole relative to the 1979 Disney movie The Black Hole, which I knew I saw when it came out but remembered very little about other than a crushing sense of disappointment. Could it really, I wondered, have been that bad?

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R.I.P. P.R. a.k.a. P.W.H.

Paul Reubens died this week, and while I was never a big fan of Pee-Wee Herman — who I found more annoying than amusing — I admired some of Reubens’ other work. Particularly his small but memorable role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which included possibly the most hilariously extended death scene in the history of cinema.

The normal and compassionate thing is to wish someone a quick and easy death. But I have to admit, I kind of hope Paul went out like this:

R.I.P. Alan Arkin

Last Thursday brought sad news of the death of Alan Arkin, who had about as full a life as a person in show business can have — acting, writing, and directing, and having kids who acted, wrote, and directed, while always coming across as a mensch.

He did an awful lot, including that memorable role in The In-Laws. (Highlight: Arkin dodges bullets as Peter Falk yells “Serpentine, Shel, serpentine!”) But my personal favorite is a movie called Simon, which was directed in 1980 by Woody Allen associate Marshall Brickman. Simon was not a hit at the time — in fact I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who saw it in a movie theater. But it got a second life on cable, where some of us kids who watched way too much TV ran across it and had our tiny minds blown.

Simon is a work of genius and Arkin is brilliant in it as a philosophy professor who is convinced by a sinister cabal of scientists that he’s from another planet. Bonus, it is like a top-level Woody Allen movie that Woody himself was not involved in, so we don’t have that to worry about. (I don’t know if Marshall Brickman ever adopted any kids, and I don’t want to know.)

By the grace of YouTube, Simon is currently available for home viewing free of charge. If I were you, I’d watch it tonight before that can change.

Requiem for a Heavyweight Hedonist

In my spin through the obituaries this week I came across one that began like this:

Irma Capece Minutolo, a Neapolitan beauty queen and opera singer whose relationship with the exiled Egyptian king and world-renowned hedonist Farouk I became fodder for gossip columnists around the world, died on June 7 at her home in Rome. She was 87.

This brought me up short because quite frankly it had never occurred to me that there was a world class of hedonism to aspire to. I’ve been a hedonist all my life, but I doubt I’ve ever risen above the local, or at best regional, level.

What does it take, I wonder, to achieve world-renowned hedonism? Surely a shit-ton of money helps. Beyond that, one must of course have the desire to indulge oneself to the highest degree, as well as the physical stamina to do so.

Sadly, I think that I will never reach planetary status because at 55, my capacity for hedonism is no longer what it was. Even were I to acquire great wealth — and to be honest these days I am already in a position to indulge most of my whims, which are trifling things by and large — the necessary appetite is simply not there.

This is probably a good thing. Scrolling down, one sees that Farouk “died of a heart attack at 45 in 1965, during a midnight meal at a French restaurant in Rome.” Which is not how you want to go out, unless maybe it is? Maybe he was eating an ortolan while getting a blowjob, and died a happy man who never suffered the indignity of decline. We’ll never know.

But on balance I guess I’m happy with my provincial hedonism. Most likely I will never be, like Farouk, the primary character in someone else’s obituary. Such is life.

Bring Out Your Dead, 2/19/2023

When Jerry Lee Lewis died last year, I wrote that “he was the last survivor of that first generation of rock stars.” But I was not aware at the time that Huey “Piano” Smith was still alive. Huey passed this week at the age of 89 — surprisingly young, considering that his big hits were in the mid-1950s. But he got started early, playing clubs and making records at the age of 15.

He was not quite as famous (or as infamous) as the Killer, and I’m not 100% sure that his music technically qualifies as rock’n’roll; it hews pretty close to New Orleans funk rhythms. But for that reason it is absolutely timeless and still sounds great today. I’m partial to “Rockin’ Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu,” but for our purposes here, let’s go with this lip-synced performance of “Don’t You Just Know It” from 1958. That’s Huey on the left.

Also on the Reaper’s list this week: Raquel Welch née Tejada. We don’t generally think of Raqual as Latina but she was; her father’s name Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo. Most of us probably also think we saw her naked, but apparently she never appeared nude in any photographs or movies. Playboy pursued her for many years, and she did eventually appear in its pages — in a bikini bottom with one arm tastefully covering her breasts. “She declined to do complete nudity, and I yielded gracefully,” said Hugh Hefner, probably lying; I’ll bet Raquel left a lot of money on the table in that deal, and good for her.

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