Ellis & Barnes: Serious Mothers!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"WHAT AM I, A MIRAGE?" - Why I Love Goodfellas So, So Very Much

Hi PPPA Believers! It's been a while and Biz and I have been away. Biz is currently in Paris, France (with Elephant Larry Super Pin-Up Stefan Lawrence!)taking in all the striped shirts, bike-baskets filled with baguettes and people playing accordions while saying: "Haugh! Haugh! Haugh!....Leee-oh-verrrs!" I've been getting ready to open a new show with the 3rd Floor ( so my time for checking in with all nine of you out there...(Jason Cupcake Keller!)...has been treated like the "Last in Line" (<--Dio anyone?)

My birthday movie for the past six years or so has been Goodfellas. I made the decision to only watch it once a year so I wouldn't watch it 365 days in a row. I'm doing everyone a favor by actively trying to avoid becoming some kind of Goodfellas Rain Man. I never want our celluloid relationship to get to the point of me falling asleep or getting bored, so Annual Goodfellas it is. Sometimes I'll throw North by Northwest on as well - another film which gets me cranked on scenery, colours, dialogue and all-around 'perfectness'. For a while they were both neck and neck, but Goodfellas just recently knocked North by Northwest to the number two slot. It had to be done.

I love a drunk Cary Grant, saucy Eve Marie Saint and a mistaken identity caper just like the next Joe, but you can't beat a film which makes you feel literally clammy, hungover, inebriated, high, starving, full, terrified, beat-up, pale, weak, angry, sexy and full of the following laughs: (manical, slight guffaw, evil, genuine) at once and after only ingesting a Pepsi while viewing.

To me, Goodfellas is a five senses adventure.

Let's get this out of the way: I mean no disrespect to The Godfather. I love The Godfather, but I'm never really in the mood to watch it. It's an absolute masterpiece but speaking in musical analogies, I consider The Godfather to be The Beatles while Goodfellas is The Rolling Stones.

September of 1990, I lived in Oakland, California when Goodfellas was released in theatres. Oakland is no Beach Boys California in Autumn. There's a hell of a lot of fog, shitty giant Cadillacs and Pintos and 1970's dive bar after dive bar on every block. 1990's Oakland was the perfect place to shoot 1960's-70's period pieces without renovating houses or storefronts...or even (at times) people. I loved living there because of this. Oakland was a beautiful untouched time-warp and even though it seemed to encapsulate everyone's very last pick on a Time Machine trip (no one is going to say: "1974 shitty neighborhood in Oakland - and step on it!") The beauty was all in the authenticity. There was nothing kitschy, just house after house of original frames and wallpaper - the kind of wallpaper that Young Retros would kill for these days, but at the time were laughable due to the fact that it didn't feature 'Rad!' purple geometric shapes.

After my very first encounter with Goodfellas, I exited the historical Lake Theatre (an Art Deco wonder), ran back to the box office and bought another ticket for the very next show. This is the only movie I've ever done this for.

There was something extremely cool about coming out of a movie and then strolling across the street to grab a drink in a bar where you swear Billy Batts just got (kind of ) whacked. The icing was that the jukebox had girl groups on it; The Ronettes and the Shangri-Las! 1960's girl groups was what I was listening to at the time. After seeing the movie a few more times, that's when I really started to notice Oakland as 'Goodfellas' New Jersey' - even though the furthest east I'd ever been at the time was Idaho.

I had to leave the apartment in the morning when it was dark to get to work, and every time I'd drag my clomping shoes toward my car, the most startling thing was the eerie silence underneath my footsteps, the pneumonia inducing fog, and the dank streets: this was bone chilling Whacking Weather. This was it. I'd asked too many times about where my money was, and now (while on the way to get a danish) they were going to give me a blanket party and toss me in the weeds. I was sure of it.

Taking the side streets toward the freeway, I "recognized" the many house-a-likes of Henry and Karen Hill, the Tiki bar Henry and Tommy burned down, Caddys, Caddys, Caddys! and about ten guys every morning who looked like Stacks Edwards all lined up waiting for various liquor stores to open. It was a real Goodfellas heaven.

After a while, I wouldn't listen to anything but "Layla" during this short drive. It just seemed so incredibly appropriate. Certainly not crazy. Or obsessive.

I can't imagine any other film affecting me this way - it seemed to creep into all of my senses, making me feel drunk and OD'ing on nicotine even if the only thing in my system was caffeine. Every time I watch the morning of the helicopters, I feel the Jedi mind trick of Goodfellas, making me feel literal physical symptoms of someone who feels extremely unwell. I'm telling you - no other film effects me this way and this is largely due to the incredible working 'marriage' of martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker - whom I believe to be is the best film editor in the Universe. His zooms and her cuts weave and bob about each other like a prize fighting dance worthy of Jake Lamotta's championship belt. Their shorthand with each other must be amazing.

I can't write a gooey love letter to Goodfellas without mentioning the little things near and dear that keep me crushing like a sixteen year-old on Davy Jones. Basically I'd like to share a malt with these things: Lorraine Bracco's goose-honk laugh, the first shot of grown-up Henry Hill - from his shoes to his ice blues leaning on the hood of his car, Catherine Scorsese as Tommy DeVito's mama, fixing the boys a full pasta meal at 3AM while Billy Batts clings to life in their trunk outside, the back way into the Copacabana while Henry gently guides Karen through the kitchen - sweetly making sure she doesn't run into any knives or trays of food, Debi Mazar's Priscilla Presley hair, the entertainment centre hidden behind a gaily coloured remote control rock wall in the new house, all of the clothes, all of the furniture, the way Henry says Karen's name, the way Karen lashes out at Henry the second time he stands her up, the freeze-frames during narration, the absolute, absolute attention to detail, a dream soundtrack ripped from my brain and the beautiful mess that starts out with Henry Nilssen's single bass line from "Into the Fire" punctuating a black title card that reads: "Sunday, May 11th 1980" and ends with what feels like a sucker punch to the gut.

Next week will be another Annual Goodfellas. I can't wait. I'm ready. I've waited. And I've been good. Coming across the occasional Channel 12 Sunday Afternoon Goodfellas I have resisted parking there as they replace every other word with 'friggin' or 'motherfather'. I'll be thirty-nine years old with a plate of penne and still just as excited about the Lufthansa heist as ever.

I guess could watch The Godfather trilogy to tie me over until next week. But I'm just not on the mood.


Friday, November 16, 2007


I can't stop laughing at the headline.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

For Liz From the Pool

Hello Riders of the Pony,

It's been a while. How about Biz and Stefan's Halloween? I'm convinced that the kids they gave this Halloween experience to the other night will remember it as one of the coolest things to ever happen to them. They will. Sometimes the best memories as a kid were moments with an adult you crossed paths with briefly, but you never forgot them.

This whole thing reminded me of Liz From the Pool.

Liz was the life guard at our local pool and she was beyond cool. She would give me a spoonful of honey if ever I saw her (she swore by its benefits), she had gorgeous boobs I hoped to grow for myself one day and she always had the scent of Sea & Ski SPF 8 Lotion jumping off of her active golden skin. Liz was a Breck girl who wasn't afraid to get her hair wet and who would probably be up for anything (i.e breaking in to an abandoned house by the light of a full moon to tell ghost stories...stuff like that.)

One morning, my mother told me while rushing around trying to get it all together (on her way out to get her hair frosted I would imagine, which took a whole day back then) that Liz was taking me and some of the other Tadpoles (our swimming group for the six and under set) to see "The Apple Dumpling Gang". What? I was going to the movies with Cool Liz? I was going to the movies with Cool Liz! I'm pretty sure that every kid who went to "The Apple Dumpling Gang" in that group strategised a grand plan to be the one ending up sitting next to Liz in the theatre. In the car, I went over my plan meticulously: I couldn't be almost had to be accidental. Running into Liz was something that happened from time to time, but a whole afternoon of "hanging out"? This had to count!

When we saw that Liz had also invited a few friends of hers, (I'll call them Christine McVie from Fleetwood Mac and The Two Peter Framptons) we knew that the jig was up: this was probably a paid arrangement and she probably asked Fleetwood Mac and the Framptons along to help her keep sane while she watched a kids' movie with a bunch of chlorine scented brats. Our hearts sank a little, but it was still "great to be nominated".

What actually happened though was better than any of us could imagine: Liz made all five of us feel like her special dates. She never showed once that this might have been a drag. Fleetwood Mac and the Framptons couldn't have been nicer as well; they made sure that Liz sat in a seat where we all kind of felt like we were sitting next to her because she talked to all of us before the movie started and joked with us in her semi-tough chick rasp and laugh like a machine gun. The Framptons bought loads of treats (I'm pretty certain they were high) and we spent the whole of "Apple Dumpling Gang" passing tubs of popcorn and boxes of Razzles back and forth while giggling. Best Date Ever! (For a six year old.)

After the movie, she took us to a nearby park - the date wasn't over! She played tag with us while Fleetwood Mac and the Framptons tossed a frisbee around and before we were picked up back at the theatre at the designated time, we just sat on the grass for a bit "rapping about life, man" with Frampton #1. Liz put my hair in French braids (the oldest and most successful bonding technique in the book) and let me wear her mirrored sunglasses. The day was glorious.

And then suddenly, Liz was no longer at the pool. Not long after our day out, she moved. She didn't tell us she was moving, but taking "her Tadpoles" to the movies was her way of saying goodbye. My mother came clean after I asked where she was. She told the parents to not mention the move to us, but she wanted to make an effort to do something special. I cried for about a week.

She didn't have to take us out, no one asked her. On her own she made the decision to create an amazing day and Liz asking her friends to come along wasn't a move to keep her sanity, but to make the day more fun for us. I don't know if Liz remembers the time she made a small group of six year olds feel like Rockstars for a day, but I sure do.

And I'll never, ever forget it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

"You Made Me Drop My Soda Last Year!"

Well kiddies...its the day after Halloween and I know your are DYING to see what Stefan and I did this year to scare the bejesus out of babies and old ladies.

I would like to start off by saying that I swelled with pride as I arrived home at 4PM to see half our decorations set up and a group of people...both young and old...gathered outside our place talking about how badly we scared them last year and wondering what we were doing this year. (see post from previous halloween.)
I walked up and said the old"Oh, nothing too scary planned this year."

One woman said "Yeah right. You made me drop my soda last year!"

Awesome...we are "that house!" A little dream for me has come true.

Stefan did the major theming this year...Voodoo Priestess raising her Zombie prince to bring candy of the dead forth.

Ladies and gentlemen....may I present Madame Bizella and Her Zombie Prince.

Hooray! It was awesome!

So here is how it worked. Kids would come up and I would rise from the table and cackle "Are you here to trick or treat?" The kids would come up thinking "give me my candy...why is this crazy lady coming at me without candy?"

Then I would start my "voodoo chant." Its terrifying...get ready for it...

Hoodoo Voodoo Halloween
Listen to the demons scream
Come to where the dead do meet
Arise my zombie, give us treats!
Are you terrified yet?
Then, from behind our door gate, Stefan the Zombie, would throw himself against the door, moan loudly and then storm out bearing candy and groaning.

Here is Stefan behind the gate...

And here he is obeying my commands to give treats! MWA HA HA! cough.

We scared one little girl so badly that she dropped her bag of candy and took off running down the street. FANTASTIC! Her mother couldn't stop laughing. Of course, the trick or treaters are slim on our street so there was a lot of standing this...beware the bleeding skeleton and extension chord of DOOM!

And occasionally having my zombie slave refill my goblet with wine...I mean baby's blood. Spooky!

And then comes the next wave!

We had a group of adults (one being the "you made me drop my soda" woman) who kept bringing their friends to watch "the show." They'd also wrangle kids who were doing the store trick or treating up the street to come down our way, which was great. People would start gathering around to watch us scare the next wave. We were video taped several times so watch out Youtube! HA HA HA. We made one woman literally throw her candy straight up in the air. There were lots of "aye miras!" and "Oh shits!" is one of my favorite kids. "Hoodoo Voodoo Halloween, listen as the demons scream..."

You can tell he is petrified with fear...right? Here is a zombie....scared yet?

I am sure he is sucking on his sucker to keep himself from screaming...not because he is just enjoying a sucker.

Look at him and try not to be terrified yourself by his ghoulish costume!


cough. ahem.


Beware my zombie, else he eat your brains!!!!

I swear he'll eat your brains! Your giggles of terror will not save you!

Stop being so delighted by this most horrifying display of fiendishness and devilry!

Here comes more victims! MWA HA HA HAAAAAAAA!

Please Pirate and Spiderman Devil Princess (she totally has spiderman paint on her face), don't scare my zombie! is my all time favorite picture of the night!

This is beyond sweet!
By 7:30 we had blown thru 8 bags of candy and the trick or treaters had pretty much dispersed, so we broke down camp and went inside and gorged ourselves on the remaining 18 peices of candy...

And watched Law and Order: SVU. (please note the new floating shelves...which are terrifying cause they are a pain to put up and will probably fall out anyday now ripping a giant whole in the wall. Its SCARY!)

How zen....

Yes...thats a not engagement ring...its my grandmothers and when I feel like relaxing in the apartment I like to wear a diamond. Who doesn't? I never wear them out anwhere cause I am weird and feel weird doing so (I know, back to therapy), but I love wearing a diamond around in jeans and a tank while shoving my hand into a pumpkin filled with kit kat bars.
Happy Halloween!