Thursday, May 01, 2003
YORKVILLE; X-FILES EPISODES
posted 11:29 PM
"MY CITY WAS GONE"
I've often said that what happened to my teenage bohemia was the equivalent of having had the Trump Tower built on St. Mark's Place. Actually it's a little less clean-cut, as retail Yorkville, prior to the Summer of Lurve (as seen in that footage) aspired to the then-status of Gerrard "Village", a stretch of Gerrard, on either side of Yonge, that had been Toronto's beat bohemia in the 50's. By the mid-60s, all that was left were a couple of jazz clubs and a few arty antique shops selling whimsical Victoriana of the sort recently made popular by the Beatles. The merchants and club-owners who sought to popularize Yorkville were trying for a more pedestrian-friendly but nonetheless commercial "Village" situation, and banking on the architectural charm of what had originally been a sort of tower hamlet of the city proper. Their agenda was bushwacked by the hippies, though, a year or two after people like the Buffalo Springfield and Joni Mitchell had gotten their start on Yorkville Avenue, in venues like the Riverboat and the Myna Bird. By the time I came along, you couldn't make a buck for the damned kids wandering up and down (my first experience of the Children's Crusade). Real estate values, I'm sure, tanked briefly. Though two years later you could still have bought a perfectly fine brownstone for what you'd pay for a mid-rung BMW today.
When I first met Keanu Reeves, and we found ourselves talking about Toronto, he told me that he had played, as a child, in the excavation for the Four Seasons Hotel, on Yorkville Avenue. I was long gone to Vancouver, by then, but had been shocked, on subsequent visits, by the truly remarkable ferocity with which the ambient zone I remembered had been malled over. In retrospect, this had everything to do with Yorkville "Village" having been, in the first place, a developers' simulacrum of the West Village, briefly invaded, in my day, by a social simulacrum of the East Village.
As the tide of "weekend hippies" washed back out, many of the more organizationally-inclined habitues were sucked up into the astonishingly Ballardian (as in HIGHRISE, it seemed to me) tower of Rochdale College.
The genuine ambients swam down into the twisty, virtually ungentrifiable streets of Kensington Market instead, and away from the Cronenbergian, acid-totalitarian creepiness of Rochdale, and I've regarded Toronto, ever since, as a city somehow uniquely blind to its own psychogeography.
A LITTLE X-CLARIFICATION
Both episodes were co-written with Tom Maddox, with Chris Carter making his accustomed final pass on each one (which invariably, in my experience, helped). The difference, though, was that KILL SWITCH was shot here in Vancouver, with the original local production team at the very top of their form. X-F episodes were, at that point, priced at around a million per, the most expensive individual episodes in the history of US episodic television. And that million USD translated into way more in our local pesos, plus the crew had started out getting optimum looks for way less. I was delighted with everything except Visigoth's eye-makeup. By the time FIRST PERSON SHOOTER was written, X-F had moved back to Los Angeles, but the truly excellent Vancouver crew were busy here with HARSH REALM, Chris Carter's ambitious and highly promising but astonishingly short-lived third series, which was subsequently strangled in the cradle by the network. By the time FPS was ready to shoot, Chris (I'm guessing) had a serious chip on his shoulder re the recent killing off of HARSH REALM, and worked part of this out on the network by making sure that FPS, at around three million, was an astonishingly pricey episode. The gaming set alone cost more than most low-budget features. Somehow, though, this expansion of budget resulted in a more generic feel. KILL SWITCH was more fun, both to write and to see shot. (I was working out some ideas for HARSH REALM episodes, and was deeply disappointed when the series was cut. Writing for a show shot in your home town is huge fun.)
REVERSE SOUL-DELAY; YORKVILLE BILL FOOTAGE; SADIE FROST, SHOPPING
posted 5:20 AM
EXIT PR PROMO TUNNEL
Back in Vancouver, where it's 4:11am. So somebody must have reverse soul-delay (though I never find it as interestingly altered a state, coming this way). My absence, blogwise, probably had more to do with a sense of returning to civilian life than it did with access. Both hotels had 24-hour hot-and-cold running access, but I found myself more interested in going out and experiencing sense of place than coming back to report same. The hotel in London actually had a Dell laptop leashed to an easychair in the lobby, always on; best arrangement of its kind I've seen.
The PR tour is now officially over, though I still hope to make up the missed date in Toronto at some point.
THAT CBC ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE
Yep, that is indeed me, though nothing I'm saying there, at such painful length, is even remotely genuine. They were offering $500 for someone to monologue about the summer of lurve, etc., and I was (1) somewhat articulate, and (2) wanted desperately to get my ass out of Yorkville (the local Haight equivalent, then, though if you look at the place today you'd have a hard time imagining it). In a universe where a furnished bedsit on Isabella Street (comfortably far from the site of this taping) rented for $25 per week, $500 was serious money. That isn't my girlfriend, by the way, but another media-opportunist, someone who smelled CBC money and welded her unshowered hip to mine as soon as she saw the cameras. They paid her, too, though not as much, as she didn't have a speaking part. So there are multiple layers of irony, in this ancient footage. I'm not, in spite of what they say, from Vancouver; I'm from Virginia and rightly anxious not to be recognized as such. I'm thoroughly fed up with the particular Children's Crusade being examined here, and want nothing more than a ticket out of it. My love-beaded sweetheart is someone I only know well enough to cordially dislike.
What this experience did for me, I recall, other than provide a fresh bankroll for my Excellent Adventure, was to instill a basic distrust of television news: you could go on CBC television and lie through your teeth, and badly. I hadn't known that. Somehow I'd assumed that they'd have someone checking for veracity.
Historical CBC fashion note: The guys who shot this were actually *in uniform*. The producers wore carefully-pressed gray flannel slacks, navy blazers with gold buttons and scrambled-egg CBC *crests* on their breast-pockets, white shirts, ties (probably the CBC Old School stripe) while the cameramen and technicians wore crisp khakis and CBC-logo golf jackets. The technicians would probably have gotten in trouble if they'd worn bluejeans instead of khakis, and the producers would never even have thought of doing it.
If the subculture depicted (or quasi-depicted) in this footage seems utterly silly to you, you might consider that CBC television crews, today, probably don't have dress-codes. The Sixties, so called, did change a few things, and sometimes, definitely, for the better.
As to whether I could have imagined some future technology dredging this up and stapling it to my public persona, yes, indeed, I probably could have, and I suspect I may have vaguely dreaded exactly that. I do know that I was slightly uneasy, years later, when they re-ran this footage and a friend recognized me, and uneasier still, further on, post-authorhood, when someone at CBC figured out that that was in fact me. In the meantime, though, I guess I've gotten used to it. And all things considered, I'd say it was definitely the right thing to do, as it paid for the luxury of my very own bed, a bare lightbulb, and second-hand Pan SF paperbacks. Things a boy needed.
SADIE DOING MOLLY
Diehard Molly-casters might take a look at Paul Anderson's first film, SHOPPING, which features an interestingly Mollyesque turn by Sadie Frost. Anderson told me, when he gave me a cassette of the film, that he'd been thinking of Molly as he developed this character, and that he'd sent Frost off to a movement instructor, in Paris, to be taught "to walk like a man". (SHOPPING, mind you, isn't a film you'd be likely to rent otherwise. A micro-budget first feature about ram-raiding teenagers, the best thing it has going for it is this one odd but definitely special effect -- Sadie Frost walking like a man you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley). I haven't seen it for years, now, but I remember thinking at the time that Frost was easily the closest thing I'd seen to my own idea of Molly. Sad to say, she's likely a little too old for the part now. Sadder still, Anderson told me (I hope I'm remembering this correctly) that Frost's father was a martial-arts expert of some kind, and that she was already a very convincing scrapper. Saddest of all, she actually came within *this* much of signing on as the Molly-analog in JOHNNY MNEMONIC, but then didn't. I'd had fingers and toes crossed, but it didn't happen.