Sex-Crazed Cinema
Five hours with Russ Meyer

Iasked Russ Meyer which directors influenced his films. Without missing a beat he said: "None, but tell them Chester Floodbank."

See also...
... by John McCormick
... in the Crave section
... from September 15, 1999

Starting tomorrow, the recently refurbished Egyptian Theater (under the auspices of the American Cinematheque) will screen a series entitled Faster, Pussycat! The Sex-Crazed Cinema of Russ Meyer. The 14-film retrospective should be as outrageous as the filmmaker himself. Hollywood Boulevard certainly hasn't seen tits like this since the Pussycat Theater down the street closed.

Located just under the Hollywood sign, Meyer's Lake Hollywood "manse" is a tasteful, gray A-frame in a wealthy neighborhood. The first time I drove up to this house nine years ago, it was painted fluorescent green, with bright orange trim. The colors were so bright, Meyer said the painters donned sunglasses before they opened the paint cans. Did his current gray house color indicate he had finally mellowed at the ripe old age of 77?

Guess again. I found the maestro barefoot, dressed in Ralph Lauren chino shorts and a Beyond the Valley of the Dolls T-shirt. He was sporting a gold, diamond-encrusted Rolex, a gold "RM" signet ring, and a gold bracelet with "Russell" engraved on it. Meyer had converted his already cluttered living room (which houses the museum of Russ Meyer) into a perfect square of tables covered with light boxes strewn with slides of naked, gravity-defying women. He sat in the middle of this square, like some demented lighthouse keeper, scanning his wealth of gargantuan-breasted flesh.

I asked Russ what he was up to. "The Russ Meyer Millennium Calendar," he leered. I picked up a slide, which was labeled in Meyer's big block-letter handwriting. It said "Splayed Tits and Cunt." It was an accurate description.

He asked my opinion of another slide. A naked, large-breasted ingenue was in a hot tub with what looked like whip cream all over her mouth and tits. I told him the whip cream looked curdled. He responded, "That's symbolic." I asked him if there was a unifying theme to the calendar. He said, "Yeah, tits," then added, "You have to understand, my job is to get people through the night."

As Meyer toiled away selecting photos, I asked if he was excited about the upcoming retrospective at the Egyptian. "I wouldn't miss it for the world," he said. "I'm going to go down there and kiss everyone's ass... And what I want you to do is wear a sandwich board advertising the films in front of the theater. You'll walk down Hollywood Boulevard handing out photos of the girls saying 'Take a nude picture home to mother.'"

Appropriately enough, the series opens with Meyer's black and white masterpiece, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! The premiere will feature appearances by its star Tura Satana, as well as Meyer. Because it's not unusual for Meyer associates to end up on his "non-person" list, I asked if he was still on good terms with Satana. He replied "Sure. She'll probably hack me in the joint."

As Meyer folded up his work for the day, he asked, "You don't mind if I have a cheery cherry bim, do you?" He proceeded to have a beer and two scotch and sodas. He told me he couldn't drive anymore because of a DUI, recently acquired following his sister's death. As we wandered from one cluttered room to another I asked if he was going to change into long pants to go to dinner. "There's nothing wrong with these shorts, except my dick leaks into them occasionally." To appease me, he put on shoes, or "ground grippers" as he calls them.

Amidst hundreds of photos on the wall, I spotted a portrait of Russ with Hugh Hefner. I asked if they stayed in touch. Russ answered, "I've been banned from the Playboy Mansion. I was up there with Melissa [Melissa Mounds, Russ' former paramour] and she started showing her pussy around. I liked it. If you're going to do something, do it big. But they sent us home in a limo."

I mentioned that Hef is supposedly a big fan of Viagra. Meyer looked at me stolidly and said, "It doesn't work."

Arriving at the restaurant, we stopped at the bar, where Russ had a bourbon and soda. I'd heard from a mutual friend that the negatives to three long-out-of-print Meyer titles (Erotica, Europe in the Raw, and Heavenly Bodies!) had been found in a large safe that stood in his backyard. Meyer nodded. "We're going to put them out on video, but they're not up to the Meyer standard." When I asked about the mammoth autobiography he's been working on for years, A Clean Breast, he said, "It's done. Dave Frasier [who wrote Russ Meyer -- The Life and Films] is proofing it."

During dinner I did my best to hold Meyer at bay. He was okay as he drank a gin martini at the table, but when our food was late, he insisted that I "go throw a hand grenade into the kitchen." To placate him, I pretended to go talk to the maitre d', but I really went to the bathroom. Luckily our food arrived in my absence. As we ate, Meyer spotted a slim woman crossing the room and alta voce commented, "She's built like a hoe handle. I like big women. Women that are in charge, that push everyone around." He frequently escorts "cantilevered" starlets, like Kitten Natividad, to the eatery, then prods them to "bare a bosom or two" because "you get better service."

Exhausted, I drove home, listening to random Meyerisms playing in my head: "Sex should be like chopping with a meat ax" and "By and large, my favorite color is orange." The world would be a far more interesting place if there were more Russ Meyers. But whether the world could handle any more is another question.

The Russ Meyer Retrospect runs at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood from September 16th through the 25th.

John McCormick is a screenwriter whose credits include Living On Tokyo Time, Russ Meyer's The Bra of God and John Woo's forthcoming King's Ransom.