Death of a Ladies Man
by MOLLY LAMBERT
Look, I have Reichian therapy in my background. Early on, I had problems with that most common kind of impotence, being quick, suddenness, which is actually a kind of jitter from holding on too hard and not feeling things, which is part of what we’re talking about. It’s all about actually feeling it, not in some locality but in the larger sense of the experience passing through your being. In my lifetime, from World War II on, the world got freer, just by nature. And then [AIDS] came along, now we have the Death Fuck.
- Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson is Erectile Dysfunction. He always has been, in all his films. He is the walking cinematic representation of impotence. The complete embodiment of the concept of Flawed Masculinity insofar as I've come to understand it. Did you know that an obsolete definition for the word impotent is "incapable of self-restraint"? It pleases me more than I'd like to admit watching The Hot Pole hit the brick wall known as Andropause so hard.
At a 1970 Hollywood party, a stoned Dennis Hopper turned to George Cukor - a gentleman of the old, studio school of moviemaking and the director of such classics as Adam's Rib and My Fair Lady-- and muttered, "We're going to bury you. We're gonna take over. You're finished." - from "Aging Bulls" Reason Magazine's review of Peter Biskind's book about Hollywood in the seventies.
See what I'm saying about Jack? The man IS the lack of an erection. Which is why he's so singularly obsessed with getting them onscreen. He finally got to whip out a huge black dildo in The Departed. You can sense Nicholson's glee at finally being free to be a Dirty Old Man, to turn out exactly like his buddy Marlon Brando. Since About Schmidt, he's become one of my favorite Jungian archetypes, the Man in a Flapping Open Bathrobe.
1981, when he was making The Postman Always Rings Twice, with Jessica Lange — a highly sexed-up piece that nonetheless features no nudity whatsoever. Jack, however, was dead set on making it "one of the naughtiest movies" and decided that the solution lay in showing an erection — "this kind of bulging railer" — through his 1940s pleated pants. To that end, he asked director Bob Rafelson to craft him a conventional prosthetic, but no one took him seriously, so when the day to shoot the scene arrived, he found himself empty-handed and irritated. Said Rafelson, "Well, jeez, if you’re so red-hot about this, go upstairs and see what you can do there." And so Jack did, "whipping away," he says, until he realized that some things were beyond even him.
I can only think of a few other Men In Flapping Open Bathrobes right now, Grady Tripp in Wonderboys, and Clare Quilty in Lolita, and the O.G. MIAFOBs King Lear and Job. Isn't Grady the name of the caretaker of The Overlook Hotel in The Shining? Jack's always come off like an arrogant cad, bathrobe flapping open proudly. Now he's a regretful old man in the same old frayed bathrobe, which has lost its matching belt.
Dustin Hoffman has what we call Jewish Overtalking Syndrome:
I've been doing movies since 1967. Have I been involved in movies that had scenes that made this exchange look like nothing? And did we hear stories of Jack Nicholson throwing a television set across the room trying to kill Roman Polanski in Chinatown? Did Bill Murray not pick up the producer who was running Universal and throw her into the lake on What About Bob?" The names keep coming: Gene Hackman, Mel Brooks, Robert Duvall. "We heard these things constantly. And shouldn't that happen if it has to happen? Yes.
Oh plz Dustin, stop trying to get Bill Murray in trouble just because there is not a YouTube video of Bill throwing Laura Ziskin into a lake. Even if there were a video of said incident it would probably be really funny and win him even more cool points for referencing the scene in Purple Rain where Prince makes Apollonia bathe in the rivers of "Lake Minnetonka."
A sidenote, Tom Schulman, who wrote the screenplay for What About Bob also wrote Dead Poets Society, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and both wrote and directed 8 Heads In A Duffel Bag. Did anyone sense an artistic continuity between those four movies? I am becoming more conscious of things like this all the time.
I heard a rumor that the flop Very Bad Things, a movie Comedy Central rotated in a continuous loop during the nineties with 8 Heads In A Duffel Bag, was based on a true bit of Hollywood lore. The story being that some seventies film luminaries, presumably including Polanski, Nicholson, and I think Robert Evans, had a hooker overdose or something at their place and they buried her in the desert Gram Parsons style.
Were there points in the seventies at which Roman Polanski deserved to have a television thrown at him? Certainly. Jack Nicholson still deserves to have a television or two lobbed at him for the pathetic way he treated Anjelica Huston. But everyone loves Jack, even I like him these days now that his Erectile Dysfunction has really kicked in and his palpable sadness about his impending death pours out of him in every interview.
A Pack A Day Habit Makes Jack A Sad Boy:
Having been said to have smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for most of his life, Jack Nicholson has confessed he's worried his smoking habit may have affected his health. "It is not so much that you fear that moment when somebody comes in and says, 'That's it. You're dead. You smoked too much,'" Jack tells the Los Angeles Times. "Well, that's not the real fear. The real fear is going through the process now and thinking, 'I'm dying of stupidity."
He's also desperate to fall in love again now that he's in his wintering years. His personal "bucket list" is "One last big romance." (uh, Lara Flynn Boyle's still probably free?) God Jack that's so cute I just want to squeeze your face! What a funny old man you've become. Did you not see the great film Carnal Knowledge, which you starred in?
I understand the eternal appeal of blunting your sadness with decades of drugs, drinks, smoking packs of cigarettes and whores. But you're so clearly a cool guy underneath it all who just wants to snuggle and gab. You are so dulled from overuse that you've started suffering Sexual Fantasy Block. Maybe you should scale it back a bit and see if that doesn't help.
Is anything more pathetic and poignant than bachelors going through Male Menopause? Somebody send Jack the last three seasons of The Sopranos. He's like an Irish-Catholic version of a Phillip Roth character. Not quite so stubborn, sadder and more willing to admit his mistakes, guilty as fucking fuck. The Irish are a loud, drunk, weepy, guilty, people.
Look, I remember myself as a teenager, so I know I’m not going to be the first parent that ever outsmarted a teenager, and I’m not trying. All I’m going to say is, everything they say is bad for you, pretty much it is bad for you. - Jack's advice to his teenage children.
Here's a rather nice quote from Dustin Hoffman:
One of the constants in my life is that I've never been bored, ever. Depressed, yes. I've been very depressed. I think it's a natural condition. I think we want life to be more than it is, somehow. But I don't know how you can be bored. Sometimes, you will be with someone who you feel is boring and I, as an actor, would say, 'What is the quality that makes that person boring to me?' And that's interesting, to deconstruct it.
Mike Nichols' floppedy The Fortune, starring Nicholson and Warren Beatty as con men, still isn't out on DVD. The studios banked on the stars for success and only gave Beatty the greenlight for Shampoo as part of a deal where he'd also make The Fortune.
My favorite strange but true fact about Jack Nicholson; during the publicity blitz for Chinatown, one reporter digging up Jack's background found out that the woman who had always claimed to be his sister was actually his mother, and the woman he thought was his mom was really his grandmother. Jack had been told his father was dead, but he was alive and drunk in New Jersey. But then it turned out his (grand)mother had probably been knocked up by her manager rather than her husband. Oh Irish-Catholics.
Jack Nicholson's Strange And Reprehensible/Incomprehensible View Of Women:
"These issues between men and women are not psychological. Look, remember what a gland is. Most of these are glandular issues. A gland is what allows that mother to lift that truck off a child. Whatever intelligent design is, it's not going to leave the continuation of the human species up to fashion-crazy, flitting mentalities. It's in those glands. The infatuation cycle of 18 months hasn't changed a lot since the monkeys. Look at the numbers. Eighteen months is nine months doubled. A woman's entire system is set so that when you're having that procreative act with a woman, you're dealing with a being whose actual cycle is nine months. It doesn't have to do with her brain. It has to do with her entire bodily system, which is there to overcome the brain. We don't legislate this stuff. We don't out-think it. You cannot change these fundamental things that we are as human beings--but you can adjust to it."
'Cunt is an acronym.’ ‘For what?’ ‘For can’t-understand-normal-thinking.’ Heh, heh, heh.
God that sounds like one of the grossly outdated sexist jokes from Mad Men. Bleccccch.
Jack on Catholicism:
"I've a very Catholic Irish grandmother, one of the Lynches. She is the root of the family, although my immediate family were failed Irish Catholics. So I had to haltingly investigate Catholicism by myself because nobody asked me to go to church. I was the oldest kid in my First Communion classes. In my opinion, if you're going to be theocratic, Catholicism is the most intelligent belief system. [My family was] Irish, and it manifested itself from an early age. I could always express my opinion, like everybody else, and things got talked about. I wasn't inhibited by anything."
Does anyone really mind that the old Easy Riders and Raging Bulls are being gradually replaced and restocked with Feminist Friendly Hollywood Good Boys like Will Smith and Ryan Gosling? I know I sure don't! I guess I'll be bummed out when my kids are like "Fuck you mom! We're going to the endless slumber party at the White House! President Miley Cyrus was right! Everyone over 30 should be shot point-blank in the face!"
Jack On The Dim Prospect of Finding True Love So Late In Life:
A little later on, both our composures regained, Jack lights up a cigarette, and through an occluding haze I ask him, “Do you think you’re a good guy?”
He doesn’t hesitate. “Yeah, I do. I’m pretty consistently well-intended. It’d be hard for me to recall where I’ve been underhanded.”
“Don’t you think cheating on your girls is kind of – ”
“I didn’t. I didn’t think so, no.”
“You didn’t think what?”
“That it was underhanded. I knew, for instance, when I got married, because of my libido – I was silently emanating to the above, ‘This does not mean there’s not going to be other women in my life. I’m taking certain vows here. [But] between you and me, let me be at least clear.’ There have been many times I’ve been totally sure, not having been put to the test, that it would be no problem for me to be, uh, what do you call it?”
“Monogamous. Yeah. But many times I’ve thought, ‘This is impossible for me.’ Someone once said, ‘It’s not loving that you miss. It’s being loved.’ I don’t have that primary sense. I haven’t given up hope, but most of my friends think I’m a little goofy in that area, which is why I knew I would be singular at this point in my life.”
Awwww....Oh, Jack. Look if you're serious about romance and ready to grow up for the last few years of your life, maybe you ought to call your great friend Diane Keaton. Your scenes in Reds together are so hot that you manage to easily outsex Warren F'ing Beatty and Something's Gotta Give was clearly made just as a ploy to set you up with her again.
You genuinely respect Diane's character and intelligence. That's probably more than you can say about any of the other women in your life including your sister/mother and grand(mom). Chances are good she'd probably tolerate (and might very well be way into) your fantasies about Eleanor Roosevelt. Give it a shot. Stranger love stories have happened in Hollywood.
Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She tumbls here.
"Four Years" - Pete Yorn (mp3)
"Thinking of You" - Pete Yorn (mp3)
"Shotgun" - Pete Yorn (mp3)
"Relator" - Pete Yorn & Scarlett (mp3)
"Country" - Pete Yorn (mp3)
"Last Summer" - Pete Yorn (mp3)