Monday, July 28, 2008

How Did I Miss This?

So last night (Sunday) Turner Classic Movies was showing Muscle Beach Party, the second of AIP's Beach Party films (beach party films being a particular guilty pleasure/closet obsession of mine--ask me about it sometime*) and for the life of me I couldn't remember the name of the actor playing bodybuilder "Mr. Galaxy" Flex Martian. I knew his name wasn't really "Rock Stevens" (as billed), that he'd played a character in the original Mission: Impossible series (Willy the strongman), and his first name was Peter (Peter Lupus, as it turns out), but other than that I was drawing a blank.

Well, as you can see (and as I so often do), I immediately consulted Wikipedia, which for a trivia junkie such as myself is the informational equivalent of heroin binge, and there I went progressively deeper into serious geekmode by scanning such peripherally related topics as Back to the Beach, a 1987 parody/homage, Dwayne Hickman, Bob Denver, and Maynard G. Krebs.

Now, the Maynard G. Krebs entry took me into a somewhat different direction. Apparently, there is this book that came out in 2003 deconstructing the story of Gilligan's Island:

Gilligan's Wake.

Sounds pretty cheesy, huh? Well, maybe not. From a review by Richard Romeo:

"Gilligan’s Wake is told in seven long chapters, each focusing on a different castaway – and if you know the old theme song, the order will come as no surprise. Appropriately, the novel begins in a madhouse, where Carson echoes the layered prose of Finnegans Wake through the bebop, thorazine-addled consciousness of a poor guy who thinks he’s Maynard G. Krebs. As this pre-Gilligan ("and I remembered what the G in my old name had stood for..."**) beatnik receives shock treatment, the novel’s main symbols, themes, and secondary characters emerge in a frenetic and surreal overture, from the Maxwell House Coffee clock outside the window to Richard M. Nixon, pregnant (yep) in the room next door. After shocking “Maynard” into a new level of consciousness, Carson turns to the Skipper, spinning a small war story involving PT boats, a certain naval commander named McHale, a dead Japanese soldier, Nixon (again), and a seemingly invincible, certain soon-to-be president. Thurston Howell III arrives next, a hilarious, buffoonish member of the upper class, harboring a secret love of jingoistic action comics and pining away for his Lovey. Like Coover, who brilliantly mustered up the soily, pathetic inner workings of Mr. Richard Nixon in The Public Burning, Carson shows Howell to be oblivious to the Cold War machinations revolving around his well-insured head as he helps Alger Hiss get his first government job. After so much mawkishness about his darling “L.,” Lovey’s chapter is a chilled martini flung in the face. A shallow socialite with a vague Electra complex, she wanders across a jazz age panorama, cultivating a heroin addiction and falling into a dysfunctional affair with The Great Gatsby’s Daisy Buchanan. Although the idea of a lesbian affair between Daisy and the future Mrs. Howell might seem a bit too-clever on paper, their scenes have a brutal honesty that cuts right through the intertextual high-jinks, exposing the emptiness and brittle despair at the center of their sad lives."

(see also "The Minnow Found Again" by David Kelly)

How on earth did I miss this? It'' me!

Yet another link added to my ever-expanding wishlist.

*Oh, all right. Just a little. When I was a kid one of the (damned few) TV stations we received in those pre-cable days used to show these movies on Sunday mornings and I was fascinated by them. Remember: I was living in a small Southern factory town in the middle of Virginia at the time so anything involving California beaches, surfing, and Kustom Kulture seemed impossibly exotic and appealing. Plus, I thought Eric von Zipper was the funniest thing since Beany & Cecil even though I didn't have a sufficiently multicultural background (in either instance) to catch all the jokes.

**Walter. Yes, I know.


Capcom said...

Good post.

My dad, also from Indianapolis, went to college with Pete Lupis. He used to like seeing him on MI.

I always got a kick out of Maynard on Dobie Gillis. :-) It's interesting what you say about growing up in Virginia and TV then. I grew up in Sacramento and from what was on TV when I was kid, I used to think that the entire US looked like California and the Ponderosa ranch.

G. W. Ferguson said...


Only online could I run into somebody who knew somebody who knew Peter Lupus!

Yeah, I suffered several bouts of cognitive dissonance when I realized my teen years were in NO way going to resemble an ongoing California beach party. Probably just as well!