I recently saw this little gem of a film Mondo Hollywood (dir Robert Carl Cohen, 1967) and who should I spy in the background there but Sky Saxon of The Seeds! Well, I’m pretty sure it’s Sky Saxon but I’ve not seen any other reference to him having been in the film so do correct me if I’m wrong.
Anyway, I would recommend seeing this film if you like the 1960s and eccentric characters. What I like about Robert Carl Cohen’s film is that instead of it just being sensationalist and any excuse to throw in a few bare breasts (although there are some!) somehow he has found interesting characters and people who you want to know more about. There’s also a bit of politics thrown in, but in an accessible sort of way, with vox pop interviews and opinions from the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade and a Peace Rally.
Apparently the film met with some criticism at the time of release, but this story about the banning and the subsequent lift of the ban is quite amusing. That’s film censorship for you:
The film is available on DVD so you will be able to find it and I’m sure you’ll want to after you’ve heard about some of the subjects:
- Gypsy Boots – I’m not totally sure what this guy does other than hanging out and trying to get himself noticed at film and sports events but he seems to do a bit of singing and dancing, sort of, when he’s not eating carrots or satsumas
- Estella Scott – I love this lady, she’s a really nice person: a hard worker (“a good worker”, as she puts it), a supportive mother and wife, and someone who does charity work to help under privileged children to go to college to make them into “better men or women of tomorrow”. Here’s the proud mum at her daughter’s wedding:
- Mr Lewis Beach Marvin III – described as a millionaire, this guy is a committed vegetarian who hangs out with his monkey friend Mister President in the garage he sleeps in and on his mountain (he owns it!) in Malibu where he has a place he calls Moonfire. Apparently he later fled to Panama, but I have read elsewhere that he died there under “suspicious circumstances”, gulp!
- There’s a group of beauticians and hairstylists in the film – they’re all kind of experimental in their approaches to hair and beauty, it has to be said. Jay Sebring, who was later murdered by the Manson Gang, has been working on a revolutionary new approach to covering up hair loss that seemed to involve marker pens, paper and sellotape but the results actually were very good:
- Sheryl Carson, the beautician, likes to paint bodies and also embraces the “Are you a boy or are you a girl?” issue that was rife in the time of the long hairs:
Looks a bit like The Divine David to me!
Sheryl Carson said that she developed kits of body make-up and when she was into LSD she so wanted to get the colours of the crayons inside her that she made a crayon sandwich and ate it!
Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon were visiting Hollywood at the time the film was made so there’s a fair bit of footage of her hanging out at Universal Studios to meet the stars, here’s “Princess Meg” (as the Americans call her) with Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Torn Curtain:
There were plenty of film stars hanging out, of course:
Nancy Sinatra and Michael Caine
Bobby Jameson – a singer/songwriter who seems to be quite full of himself, I think, and not really that good. Just my opinion, of course, but he was hyped in the 60s and he’s certainly worked with the big names. The most impressive thing for me is that he worked with Curt Boettcher. Bobby seems to have left home and gone back again lots of times and he’s either starving or being touted as a star – he doesn’t seem to like either of these situations. I’m not quite sure what Bobby does like – he seems to be a bit troubled. “I am not free, no one is free,” he says. Then, to top it all he gets taken to court for spilling a milkshake in his own lap in a restaurant. I’m not sure he’s a “dangerous criminal to society” but apparently he’s accused of “disturbing the peace” – they heard his music, then?
- Here’s a “very, very popular” exotic dancer with the rather dubious name of Hope Chest:
She seems to be popular with guys like this:
- One of my favourites now – Theodore Charach, an actor who fancies himself as an Orson Welles type (“a boy genius”) and who declares he is “still searching, searching for an image that will set the world on fire”. He seems to have plumped for the monster image because kids have monster birthday parties – going for a type of Monster Mash delivery on the recordings he makes. Are you ready for Teddy and his friends?
Here’s Teddy with Mrs Helen White, who was a silent movie actress and appeared in Erich von Stroheim’s The Merry Widow
- Peanuts – a cute transvestite, who is called Peanuts “I guess because I’m so tiny” and who gets “turned on” by the clothes at Frederick’s of Hollywood:
- A topless waitress – just because that’s what they do in Hollywood. This lady says she thinks you can’t get a job “unless you’re gonna show your knockers” – health and safety, ladies, health and safety!:
- At Topanga Canyon there’s a lecture on LSD, or a “psychedelic session” if you will, hosted by Richard Alpert, PhD. Here they talk about perceptual alterations and travelling with the mind:
- And here’s dancer Vito with his strange pal who seemed to like hanging out at the waterfall posing all casual, like:
Vito has a much younger, gorgeous wife called Szou and a cute young kid called Godo, who sadly died that year
- Here’s Valerie Porter, described as a B-Movie actress (although I can only find one credit for her on IMDB, Three Blondes in His Life, dir Leon Chooluck, 1961) but she seems to do sculptures of Pan and also engages in kinky role plays with her friend Mary Ewalt Guggenheim. Very rum!
I don’t know if Valerie has a high opinion of herself but she says: “Everything bores me to death. The only thing I find interesting is myself.” Well!
Here’s a round up of a few other bits and pieces:
Gail, who later married Frank Zappa
Nat King Cole’s beautiful daughter, who was Princess of the Month at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Luncheon
Helen and her friends have tea parties and try to help young people in the arts to develop their careers
Jimmy Carl Black of The Mothers of Invention
DJ Rodney Bingenheimer
Just because I like him I’m going to end with a few more pictures of Theodore Charach, who later wrote an expose of the Robert F Kennedy Assassination – maybe he found his image that would set the world on fire after all:
The Beast of Sunset Strip
See Mondo Hollywood as soon as you can!