Note from JMM: This was a long, leering, lampoonish "Making Of" piece that I wrote for Screem Magazine back in 1996. Ye editor didn't cut a word and even allowed me to design the actual page layout. That layout appears on the right while I have popped in some new photos here that show some of the Making Of moments I'm referring to. SCREEM got distribution in big bookstores which always blew my mind since it was really just a glorified fanzine (with surprisingly good cover art - Rondo Hatton on my issue (with a compositional nod to Famous Monsters). There was no review or mention of TEENAGE TUPELO on the sparse cover although I got my crazy ad placed in the back pages which may have directed traffic to distributor Something Weird. The article must have left the handful of people who bought the mag scratching their heads, and that's just what I wanted. I apologize for censoring cleavage, but it seems that one must pay for naked pictures of my friends. That opportunity will present itself one day with the glorious future edition of the much awaited artifact known as the TEENAGE TUPELO DVD.
SCREAM QUEEN IS DEAD but the STARLET LIVES FOREVER!
The Making of Teenage Tupelo by Blue Light Visionary JMM
Photographs by DAVID THOMPSON
In the summer of 1994 Big Broad Films (later to be renamed as Guerrilla Monster) was working on "Trashus Traileris", the color movie within the black & white movie "Teenage Tupelo". Topsy Turvy, the German speaking twin who leaves Tupelo and makes it as a sexploitation star (living the supposed good life in Memphis) - while her country "sister" twin has been knocked up in rural Tupelo (the realization of what wild sex can bring you: an unwanted pregnancy). D'Lana Tunnell plays both Topsy Turvy and her twin D'Lana Fargo.
It was the last day of shooting....
That morning we had no location for the days work. I called ace trouble shooter and fellow writer Rusty White to help me out in a pinch: I had no mansion in which to shoot my gala touchie-feelie with Femphis' best & brightest, (namely, staret's D'Lana Tunnell and Margo Gone). The scene was from "Trashus Traileris", the movie within TEENAGE TUPELO and had to occur in a master bedroom of enormous proportions to play up the poverty angle to come.
Rusty's father was a judge and owns an exclusive house on Barksdale. His dad would be golfing (of course) for a short while in the afternoon.
We saw our window.
Neil Shapiro (the jewish guy who worked on his car in "Damselvis, Daughter of Helvis") was to play a postal servant who gets transformed into a worm for his sins (because he's a man). I always get the actors to run errands before the shoot. It beats rehearsing. So Neil drove to the store and picked up the necessary props: a beach ball, a pith helmet, and some soapy bubbles. Big Broad provided the bull whip.
Since this was the last day of the two week shoot schedule, everyone was a little edgy. I noticed this when I had to lecture the gurls on "how to do it" when it came to the torrid hootchie-cootchie scene in Judge White's master bedroom.
Right about the time the judge was driving his nine iron, I was politely arguing with D'Lana about immortality and the importance of a well placed tongue. These starlets were doing their dam-dest to prove that all women are not lesbians. I remain unconvinced.
Most Memorable Line: "I don't think she wants me to touch her there."
Rusty was to run up the stairs when he saw Dad coming up the drive. This fail-safe method worked well SEVERAL times. Eventually everyone collected in the kitchen for a wonderful pizza that the White Family paid for (!)
Yes, I was ashamed.
TOPSY TURVY RULE #1:
We drove immediately to the next location. The basement of the "Gorotica" house: 596 Meda in the swinging Cooper-Young neighborhood of Memphis. The scene was a doozy: Harry Dach (who also played the hash brown cook in the cat fight scene) was now playing the last man on post-apocylpse earth, de-evolved into sheer testosterone. Ivory undie wearing manhater Topsy Turvy had previously enacted the enola gay (and we do mean "gay") and blown away the world in a raging atomic blast. The caveman in the basement is the only man left on earth. In a a fit of irony (once removed), Topsy Turvy's only pal "number one sidekick girlfriend" breaks the lesbian code by sneaking down into the basement to do the big nasty with the brute. Just when the saliva hits the grime, in walks Topsy Turvy, uber-femme to the hilt to break it up and give "number one sidekick girlfriend" an off-camera death.
The basement scene was originally written as starlets running to each other in a field of daisies (in slow motion). Arms lovingly extended. Each girl adorned in bra, panties, garters, and high heeled shoes. (D'Lana is quite good at walking on any terrain in her high heels, even cow pastures - and when her shoes are off, she still tip-toes).
The original starlet for this field of daisies scene was going to be D'Lana's beautiful Dallas friend Katie. She was the one who kept me hangin' til the last minute trying to make up her mind about the topless nudity. When she finally did fink out, I had maybe two days to find her replacement (Starlet Sopie Couch). Since Katie changed her mind so many times I have since dubbed her "180 Katie".
All these elements forced the scene to change over time until finally we weren't in a field, we were in a basement! But the basement scene is one of the best in the entire movie.
In the great "Plan 9" tradition, "Number One SideKick Girlfriend's" death was off camera because it came to me later in the edit. Also, I knew there was no way I wanted to try and talk Margo Gone out of her top again. I ran out of the proverbial "Take Off Your Top" Cards it seems on the last most 'nuded' day of filming.
"Margo" and I went 'way back' so there was lots of argumentative chatter before the filming began and Harry Dach caught it all with his video camera. Therefore the "basement tape" from this ordeal is called "Keep Your shirt On" and can be had for a measly $25.00 PPD. An optional title for Candadian sales is "Seen The Bullwhip Anywhere?"
See for yourself how Margo returns to her feminist roots while standing there in bra and panties. Listen to our lively banter while looking at her lovely ass. (hey, I'm trying to create a warm and fuzzy feeling here). (editors note: this vhs tape has since been lost).
After that particular mind blower, Darin Ipema (cinematographer and longest hair), Paul Woodard (it was his basement), Harry (Hairy), Dave Thompson (Pan-American sound guy), and myself (JMM) collapsed on the lawn.
The thought had occurred to me that a simple video movie about underwear clad women who tote big guns at the end of the world seeking out the last of the cavemen might be cool. "TOPSY TURVY AT THE END OF THE WORLD. And she could keep her lipstick in the barrel.
(This movie would eventually be known as Superstarlet A.D.)
TOPSY TURVY'S MANHATER RULE #2
In June we had no time to finish the required basement sex scenes. So late summer found us back in the basement with Darin, Dave, and me waiting and waiting for starlet Kristen Hobbs to doff bra for posterity. With starlets D'Lana Tunnell and Dawn Ashcraft standing there topless as jaybirds it seemed there was nothing that could withstand good old fashion peer pressure.
The next thing you knew, Kristen was fulfilling her contractual obligations! Chained to the basement wall and kicking with her shiny boots of leather.
It's always at this point in the story that I grow a little misty eyed. Sure I was standing in the muck and mire of a filthy dungeon, completely broke, (did I mention the holes in my pants?) but by god, I had something here! I knew in my heart that naked women were where it's at!
And it didn't matter that I had no script for this particular scene.
Chains rattled, kisses were thrown, and bananas were eaten (by cartoon lips). A moment of cinema that could only be defined as Andy Warhol meets Andy Warhol.
And if there had been a script it would have read: "Deposit peel in Capital Clinker. Exit, clutching bottom stuff." And the Playboy magazine seen briefly in the chair is from my birth year of May, 1963 (featuring the Malcolm X interview).
TOPSY TURVY MANHATER RULE #3:
TEENAGE TUPELO owes a great deal to Rita Mahon, Big Broad's first lady of business. A real Grandma all the way. Rita passed away friday morning, December 9th, 1994 at 10:15 a.m. at Saint Francis hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Rita as originally slated to play "Ms. Rita", but did not feel up to it when June rolled around (the part was given to Ms. Vella who then played "Ms. Vella", the local church 'busy-body').
Rita Mahon appeared in an unfinished film called "Over the Water" that starred her nephew John Candy. It was Rita who incorporated Big Broad Films into existence way back in March of 1993. Kim and I sat at her kitchen table the night we were to sign the papers. At that point no real decision had been made on a company name. Rita charged through the kitchen brandishing a glass of sherry and shouted "Make it something BIG and BROAD!"
Be it ever thus.
The french maid of "Trashus Traileris" was played by Starlet Dallas Derringer. Starlet Dawn Ashcraft, Dallas, photographer Jim Cole, and I went out for Japanese one night and Dallas told me the intriguing story of the day Elvis died. Dallas's father worked in the funeral trade in Pontotoc, Mississippi (home of Elvis's mother Gladys) and was headed to Memphis the day the Lord called our Lord home. I must stop this story here and now to reveal that I, JMM, have had serious reservations about the whereabouts of Elvis. But I trust Dallas, and what she revealed to me - I took completely to heart.
Her Father had to make a stop where Elvis's body was being kept (already in the throes of an autopsy). He inquired as to whether all the commotion of that August 16th was true. His old friend ushered him into the blue room.
Dallas's father saw with his own eyes the body of the man laid open wide before him. There was no question. He related this to her and I too, now have peace of mind.
TOPLESS IN TUPELO
I had envisioned Starlet Sophie Couch racing across a deserted Tupelo train yard pursued by has-been singer and treacherous lout Johnny Tu-Note. Her bra was loosened, her life, her cleavage, in her own hands. Darin Ipema and I set the mid-day shot up and rehearsed only once when suddenly plain-clothes policemen surrounded the box car. Seeing sexploitation glory blazing all around me, I calmly told Sophie to put her top back on, and to stay in the box car where she would be out of harms way should the grips take maverick action into brave new worlds.
My ace in the hole was Tupelo police captain Russ Witt, who was allowing us to stay at his house. However, at that moment he was not there - and mentioning Captain Witt's name did very little. It was probably a very bad thing to do considering ANOTHER police captain was standing in front of me, and clearly resented the competition. He said, "There's more than one police captain in town, son."
I explained what we were doing and I recall apologizing for not realizing the residential section was in plain view to our east. The cops (including a very vocal Officer Patterson) huddled together trying to decide what to do with our rag tag bunch. Apparently an East Tupelo resident had called in to say we were doing "some sort of porn thing" outside in front of God and everybody! But not even God probably knows the vast differences between satanic porn and righteous life- fulfilling sexploitation.
Suddenly (and to my surprise) my cop buddy (he married my wife's high school friend) pulled in. Earlier in the week, he had given us a truckload of confiscated beer. But now in trying to help us, he was just a powerless DUI cop. I appreciated the good word he put in.
Eventually Officer Patterson walked back over. After many stern cautions he uttered this remark which shall reverberate in the halls of men's clubs and stag parties forever: "Boys, there's Nudity and there's Art. And I'm not saying which is which. Just let me know where I can find a copy of this movie when it comes out."
MIKE CURTIS; SUPER 8 / SUPERMAN
Actor Chris Connor plays the theatre manager in TEENAGE TUPELO. The theatre manager character (who always stands in a Superman pose) and later is seen having "sex" with Topsy Turvy is actually based on an old Tupelo friend, Mike Curtis. I met Mike when I got a job at the Tupelo Malco theatre chain in 1983 (thanks to boss Bill Tawry). Mike managed the Malco Twin theatre and by 1984 I would manage the old Lyric Theatre (ten years before we shot TEENAGE TUPELO there - and ten years earlier (as a kid) I would see "BLACKULA, BEDKNOBS & BROOMSTICKS, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, and LEMON GROVE KIDS MEET THE MONSTERS during the early seventies at the Lyric!)
Mike was the second largest Superman collector in the world (next to rival Danny Fuchs up north). Mike Curtis also played "Cousin Floyd", an obscure "Sivad-style" horror host on early 70's television in the Jackson, Tennessee area. Mike also owned "Crystal City", the first (and last?) comic book store in Tupelo (on a gravel road in East Tupelo on the way to Nettleton to be specific). I recall the smell of cat piss and the opportunity to hear my very first Bowie ("Diamond Dogs"). My surreal (one time) experience lasted much longer than the store. When watching "This Is Elvis" watch out for the comic book spinner rack. It's Mike Curtis. Ironically, boyhood Elvis would have been buying Captain Marvel, Jr., Superman's rival.
Mike Curtis was as important an influence on me (as was Chuck Moonchow). Mike was / is an American eccentric who identified so strongly with pop culture that it became his true identity. The "secret identity" was the day job. Someone to love and respect, to learn from, and at the same time: satirize. To have BOTH Mike Curtis and Chuck Moonchow in a room together at the same time might be like having Latka and Jim from the tv show TAXI together in the same scene. Too much information.
Bespectacled Mike Curtis always ALWAYS wore a Superman belt buckle and always ALWAYS struck a Superman (hands on hips) pose even if he was just talking about the weather or making a grocery list. When Superman premiered in Tupelo in 1978 (I attended with Chuck Moonchow and his sister CANDY), we missed Mike Curtis's triumphant performance only by one night: Mike dressed as Superman, attached himself to a wire connected to the Malco theatre some fifty feet in the air - and skidded into the side of the building. Mike was wearing a superman suit and AUTHENTIC George Reeves cape. In fact, I met Kirk Alyn (the silver screens FIRST Superman and Blackhawk) at a funky little Tupelo comic and film festival in 1980 at a Ramada Inn, and come to think of it, that's where I first met Mike Curtis.
Likewise, actor Chris Connor always ALWAYS strikes a Superman pose, and although our close-ups of his Superman belt buckle didn't turn out so well on Super 8 film, he wore it in all his scenes. It is the theatre manager (the man behind the curtain) who gets to have "sex" with a super-starlet, Manhater Topsy Turvy.
AN EXAMINATION OF COLOR SEQUENCES IN TEENAGE TUPELO.
Johnny Tu-Note is one take on Elvis. Topsy Turvy is another.
Elvis Presley came back from the Army but his rebellious edge did not return. This is the essence of Johnny Tu-Note. This is the idea of the 'bad career move'.
Johnny Tu-Note might as well fade away in scene fifteen (his death by high heels in a box car) because his worldly travel has not given him wisdom. He is leaving his influence on D'Lana Fargo in the form of their unborn child. Then he is spent.
Enter Topsy Turvy. Her worldly experience (even if it was only going 100 miles to Memphis to make Exploitation pictures) has left her wise to the ways of Man. She uses her goddess-given sexuality as her superiority over Men. Be it ever thus.
Johnny Tu-Note is in the first half of TEENAGE TUPELO, Topsy is in the last half. Both characters exert influence on D'Lana. Both are flip sides of the ID coin. Johnny Tu-Note being kicked to 'black and white' death by high heel shoes is Topsy dropping the 'color' A-bomb on all Mankind.
I wanted the voice of Topsy Turvy to be German. This would show the intense difference / background between Topsy and her country twin-sister D'Lana (although they don't think much differently).
But there is more here: Topsy's German accent represents Elvis's tour of Germany while in the Army. The idea of going someplace far different than your home and actually coming back different ... changed. Even if the place you went off to was only ... Memphis.
So it was I met German speaking Konnie Daniels in 1994. Although she was sixty-seven years old, the pitch of her voice reminded me of a german teen-ager.
Almost a year later I called Konnie and asked if she remembered me and my request for her voice-over work. She did. Konnie knew nothing about TEENAGE TUPELO or TRASHUS TRAILERIS but arrived and began to watch. Two hours later she had perfectly lip-synced all of Topsy's lines (as originally voiced by D'Lana Tunnell) Konnie didn't mind putting words into the mouth of a platinum blonde floozie in undies living in a bombed out trailer park.
Before Konnie left us she talked about her background, which involved World War 2. Konnie told us her Father was killed by the Third Reich. Her brother, a Nazi pilot, was shot down and killed. She and her Mother were kept in an internment camp as her country was annexed by Germany, then Russia.
As an eleven year old girl, she saw Hitler ride into her hometown.
"AND NOW BEFORE ME, THE DAWNING OF A NEW DAY. THIS WASTELAND THAT LIES BEFORE ME NEED NOT HALT ME IN MY QUEST. SOMEWHERE, OUT THERE, A GIRL CAN ROAM FREE IN A POST-APOCALYPTIC WORLD, DREAMING OF HER PERFECT SOUL-MATE. AFTER ALL, GIRL MEETS GIRL, GIRL LOSES GIRL. NO ONE IS MARKED FOR LIFE.