Joe Queenan Takes on Tinseltown

by Manuela Hoelterhoff
Wall Street Journal

“Do you think Joe Queenan could NOT review my book?” We hear that
request now and again at the Journal. But we do our best to keep Joe
busy, though that still leaves him plenty of time to write for other
publications, on any number of subjects from the guitar to the slow
death of the Democratic Party. (I’m told he once totted up the
largest number of articles written by a human in one year. I don’t
doubt it. Writer’s block doesn’t afflict him.)
“If You’re Talking to Me, Your Career Must Be in Trouble: Movies,
Mayhem, and Malice” (Hyperion, 267 pages, $22.95) pulls together his
free-lance Hollywood pieces, mostly from that raffish upstart
magazine Movieline, in which he, among other things, identifies “an
obsession with head trauma as a principal theme in the work of
Oliver Stone” and endures an agonizing algebra lesson with an aging
child star.
Here are some excerpts:
Please describe yourself: “Basically, I was a journalist who only
dealt in troubled merchandise, who only got to meet movie stars when
they themselves had a gun cocked to their heads by their studios and
were literally forced to go out and do interviews with unpleasant
people. They were forced to do interviews with people like me
because they had megaduds in the can.”
Name One: Beastmaster III. “Not until we pass through the Pearly
Gates and meet our Maker will any of us ever know why God created
Ryan O’Neal, what pivotal role Mariel Hemingway is playing in the
Almighty’s master plan, and to what extent Satan himself was
involved in the final editing of Beastmaster III.”
Why do you often repeat unkind remarks about people who never
harmed you? Say the casting of Charlotte Rampling as an intellectual
marine biologist or Kathleen Turner’s weight (problem)?: “This is
not the result of an editing oversight. Rather, this repetition of
certain pejorative remarks stems from my personal belief that it is
impossible to remind the public too often that Diane Keaton is a
really awful actress, just as it is impossible to make too many
nasty remarks about short, bad actors related to Martin Sheen.”
Inspired by Woody Allen and his love for a nymph, you assembled
the “Home Nymphet Video Collection,” containing “Sunset,” “Sabrina,”
“Lolita” and “Voyager” — which starred Sam Shepherd as a
hydroelectrical engineer. Who should buy this collection?: “Despite
their absurd plots, their horrible scripts, their eighth-rate
acting, and Vincent Spano, these films, viewed as a unit, provide an
indispensable moral compass that horny, middle-aged men everywhere
can use when reaching a decision about preying on women who are old
enough to be their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or
nieces once removed by marriage. Had Woody Allen looked at these
films, or looked at them more carefully, he would have been less
reckless in making the decision to abandon Ms. Farrow and take up
with one of her numerous United Colors of Benetton daughters.”
What can you tell us about Susan Sarandon’s beliefs?: “…like
many people who have villas in Italy, apartments in New York, and
good jobs in Hollywood, Sarandon espouses innumerable political
causes. These include women, homeless women, homeless people in
general, victims of Central American political repression, AIDS
victims, Nicaraguan mothers, the poor, and various combinations
thereof. Environmentally sensitive readers, or manatee buffs ired by
the immense amount of press coverage more colorful aquatic species
seem to get, will be heartened to know that at no point during the
interview did Sarandon express any concern about the whales.”
Is Tom Cruise growing, as they say, as an actor?: “Cruise started
out as a generic heartthrob in All the Right Moves, Risky Business,
and Top Gun, but has since profited from the widely held notion that
appearing in Rain Man and Born on the Fourth of July demonstrated a
willingness to stretch. It is a measure of how spectacularly
infantile the movie industry has become to suggest that making a
film with either Oliver Stone or Barry Levinson constitutes a
stretch, since all we are talking about is Of Mice and Men Goes to
Vegas and a wheelchair Platoon. Still, it’s a start.”
For one of your articles you tried to re-create famous scenes
from movies, including the Julia Roberts character in “Pretty Woman”
getting picked up by Richard Gere as a business companion. What
happened?: “…none of the women I saw on Eighth Avenue bore even
a remote physical resemblance to Julia Roberts. Or, for that matter,
to Eric Roberts. If anyone had made a movie about any of these
tragic individuals, it would have been called Pretty Ugly Woman.
Moreover, it wasn’t always easy to establish whether the woman I was
talking to was actually a woman. Or a human.”
Is there anything we can learn from the movies?: “Music Box is a
brutal, disturbing film about an unendurable truth: that some of us
are the parents of fiends, that some of us are the children of

Ms. Hoelterhoff is the Journal’s books editor.

[This article is made available here by Dow Jones Co. for the
personal and non-commercial use of callers to this bbs, in the
hope that it will be of some help to those who are suffering
from the disease and others who are seeking to help them.]

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