Sean Penn Challenging Charles Bukowski to a fight – a Joe Eszterhaz story

Charles Bukowski once told Sean Penn at dinner that Madonna, his wife, smelled like ‘she sucked donkey’s cocks all day’. Penn leaped up and challenged him to a fight. ‘Sit down Sean,’ said Bukowski, then in his seventies. ‘We both know I can take you.’ –
paraphrased from Joe Eszterhaz’s The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood. (Shorter and snappier).

This feast of scandalous hilarity is served in bite-sized portions, each with its own headline, ideal if you have lost your attention span, as I have. He couldn’t have made it any easier other than showing up to read it to you. Which might be a daunting prospect as Eszterhaz is what polite people would call ‘larger than life’ though many would use something shorter and pithier. The egomaniacal author of Basic Instinct, Flashdance and Jagged Edge mostly likes starting fights.

The Bukowski story is headlined ‘Sylvester Stallone Fights Like A Sissy’. A dispute on F.I.S.T led to Eszterhaz challenging a man fit enough to credibly portray the world boxing champion for many years. Eszterhaz was hoping his greater experience in barroom brawls would carry him through. Which is why he told Sylvester Stallone that he fights like a sissy. Eszterhaz’s father then advised him, ‘by all means challenge him, but I have seen Rocky, I have seen him fight. He will beat you bloody.’

As an armchair hardman I like the way Eszterhaz has claimed macho kudos here, without having to get into the ring, also winning sympathy from the reader by mocking his own reputation as an outrageous asshole. Throughout this book he is an entertaining host although the message is dubious – might is right and be a bigger bastard than everyone else. For balance there’s plenty of wisdom from the likes of Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder, also fascinating gossip throughout.

You may have wondered who elected screenwriting guru Robert McKee as the three act Moses, the Eternal Overlord of Story. Eszterhaz enjoys telling us that McKee only ever had one television movie produced. And that he apparently said, unwisely, ‘If you’ve only one story, get out of town!’ Well, Eszterhaz’s movies may not be critical favourites but they have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars so far. And he’s taking Showgirls’ kitsch afterlife as vindication.

Endings are always difficult. Want to know exactly what Eszterhaz’s sometimes ambiguous finales really mean? You won’t find out here. He always tells people to watch the film again, ever eager to sell another ticket. So Basic Instinct ends how you think it ends. Never mind if, say, Jagged Edge doesn’t feel right, a lot of crime stories now sacrifice everything for the twist, the more unlikely the better. Roger Ebert, a much more perceptive writer and an infinitely better human being, gets it in the neck from Esterhaz, for having pointed out the flaws in Jagged Edge and Basic Instinct: a story which works both ways is bogus (see various reviews at He’s very good on how bad Joe Esterhaz is, without being needlessly cruel, as Esterhaz would have been). But then the dollars Esterhaz’s fakes generated were real. And Eszterhaz may be a macho blowhard but that doesn’t invalidate his central point: nothing can happen without a script. Auteur theory is bullshit. Pretentious, too.

Catch the Monkey pics

Twig, a Hastings boy who moved to London in early 70s, told me he knew someone who threw monkeys at people, in the hope of getting a cute action-packed snap, or smudge, then sold it to whoever caught them.
Unfortunately one time he threw the monkey under a car. girland monkeys

pic from West Marina to Hastings Pier Facebook

Wodehouse Noir – Kyril Bonfiglioi

Wodehouse Noir - Kyril Bonfiglioi

(Sorry it’s overlit. Pretentious fountain pan and notebook are there to hide some coffee mug stains)

Kyril Bonfiglioli wrote dark crime narrated by a wicked (old and new senses) degenerate. There’s coal black humour, romance, erudition and plenty of the old ultra violence, all of it informed by his various lives as an art dealer, bon viveur and spy. Stephen Fry and Julian Barnes are fans as was the film director Michael Powell, who planned a biopic of the Krays with Bonfiglioli (correspondence in The Mortdecai ABC).
Johnny Depp is currently filming the fourth in the series The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery.

There’s something of Flashman about Charlie Mortdecai, he has been described as an experienced coward. Like Flashman he’s handy enough when he needs to be, indeed ruthless.

All The Tea In China has one of Mortdecai’s ancestors embroiled in an exotic globe trotting adventure – fast, furious and funny. His books read like no one else’s. To adapt Dick Emery the narrators may be awful, but you can’t help liking them.

The Psychopath Test Jon Ronson – Entertaining & Illuminating

I got 18 out of 20 on the test itself, the one used throughout the madness industry. Part of me wants to man up and get the other two points but I’m stuck with empathy and remorse. I’d review the book if it weren’t for my Narcissistic Personality Disorder, suffice to say if you were ever worried about being nuts check out the people who make the rules, also the undiagnosed business & banking creeps, ‘no planers’ like transvestite spy and Messiah David Shayler, (who thinks 9/11 was done with holograms). Then there’s the Haitian death squad butcher, a ham fisted criminal profiler partly responsible for the Colin Stagg debacle, L Ron Hubbard and a man who pretended to be mad to avoid a prison sentence then couldn’t get out of Broadmoor. He was kept in because of the test. And pretending to be sane was ‘just what a psychopath would do’.
Ronson, perceptive as ever, nails the pathologising of common personality traits. Essential reading.

New Camille Paglia speech: refreshing after decades of the prevailing horseshit.

Nature versus nurture chick fight.

“Last week I attended a debate at American University between dissident feminist Camille Paglia and AU gender scholar Jane Flax. The topic: “Gender Roles: Nature or Nurture?” Flax gave a polite and respectable defense of an exhausted idea: “gender is a social construction.” But Paglia stole the show. She deftly reminded the audience that Mother Nature tends to get the final word—and is not a feminist. I watched the faces of astonished and fascinated undergraduates as Paglia shattered the sacred icons of contemporary gender studies. By the end of the evening, even three sullen hipsters sitting next to me seemed to be won over.

Paglia, a professor of humanities, is that rare intellectual who knows and loves high culture but also appreciates rock stars, drag queens, and soap operas. She has written brilliantly on art history, poetry, film, as well as sex and pop culture. When London’s Victoria & Albert Museum launched its record-breaking show of David Bowie’s costumes (now touring the world), Paglia was asked to write the catalog essay on Bowie and gender. She describes herself as a pro-sex, pro-porn, pro-beauty feminist. She is also an openly gay woman who loves men and who deems women’s studies intellectually bankrupt. My favorite Pagliaism: ”Leaving sex to feminists is like letting your dog vacation at the taxidermist.”

One critic referred to Paglia’s first book Sexual Personae as “a red comet in a smog-filled sky.” That is an equally good description of the author herself, and it was thrilling to catch a glimpse of her at American University last week.

Paglia’s complete opening remarks are attached below. Here are a few high points:

On women’s studies:

Women’s studies programs were rushed into existence in the 1970s partly because of national pressure to add more women to faculties that were often embarrassingly all-male. Administrators diverting funds to these new programs were less concerned with maintaining scholarly rigor than with solving a prickly public relations problem. Hence women’s studies was from the start flash-frozen at that early stage of ideology. . . . No deviation was permitted from the party line, which was that all gender differences are due to patriarchy, with its monolithic enslavement and abuse of women by men. . .

On passive male academics:

Male academics, sensing which way the wind was blowing, were reluctant to challenge the new power structure and shrank back out of fear of being labeled sexist and retrograde. History will not be kind to their timidity and cowardice.

Boys in school:

Our present system of primary and secondary education should be stringently reviewed for its confinement of boys to a prison-like setting that curtails their energy and requires ideological renunciation of male traits. By the time young middleclass men emerge from college these days, they have been smoothed and ground down to obedient clones. The elite universities have become police states where an army of deans, sub-deans and faculty committees monitor and sanction male undergraduate speech and behavior if it violates the establishment feminist code. The now routine surveillance of students’ dating lives on American campuses would be unthinkable in Europe. Campus gender theorists can merrily wave their anti-male flag, when every man within ten miles has fled underground.

The hazards of gender-neutralized men:

Extravaganzas of gender experimentation sometimes precede cultural collapse, as they certainly did in Weimar Germany. Like late Rome, America too is an empire distracted by games and leisure pursuits. Now as then, there are forces aligning outside the borders, scattered fanatical hordes where the cult of heroic masculinity still has tremendous force. I close with this question: is a nation whose elite education is increasingly predicated on the neutralization of gender prepared to defend itself against that growing challenge?