I say, “Somehow, I know not why, the idea of sitting through two hours of a movie revealing the intimacies of life inside a German insane asylum has zero appeal for me.”
So it goes for two hours. We eat, and drink coffee, lost in our thoughts, a couple of artist/writer types with nothing to keep them going but some dismal hope that the future will work out better than the past. But what future? We’re pushing 60 — the future is Forest Lawn.
She mentions Paul Bartel. Paul wrote and directed Eating Raoul. He died two years ago, but we continue to speak of him. Why? Because Paul, for years, had promised a sequel to Eating Raoul, and Mary was to star as per the original — at a salary of $75,000, which would have been $72,500 more than she received the first time around.
One day Paul called. He said, “It’s set. I am making the movie. I have the money.”
The next day he dropped dead.
The check arrives. It’s always the same — $21, and I always give Paul, the waiter, $4 because my mother was a waitress, and I tell Mary to give me $12, and she fishes around in her wallet mumbling about money, waiting for me to relieve her agony. Sometimes I do because, as she once said, “When they stop buying your lunch — or paying for your drugs — you know you are finished.”
I pay the check, and we get in line at the bakery counter to buy an apricot macaroon for the dog. In front of us is a guy who catches sight of Mary pacing back and forth in her way, and he says, “Aren’t you Mary Woronov?”
He brightens up, and so does she. She can turn on the charm when she wants to, and let’s face it — you must defer to your fans.
We head home. Mary wants me to see a painting she’s working on. She lives in a courtyard-type situation with a driveway down the middle and parking in back. You enter via a small room — a study area. There are books, paintings, memorabilia, souvenirs and artifacts gathered during her travels. The room has a thoughtful quality to it that is satisfying. It’s philosophical.
On her easel stands a large canvas, 60-by-72 inches, two people fucking. Well, you could say two people fucking or you could say: hideous creatures engaged in mortal combat. It could go either way. There is a green creature and a red creature. The green creature is on top looking up at the viewer in a disturbed way, out of this creepy landscape — a poisonous yellow sky above, with a tree below bearing some sort of nuclear fruit near a low stone wall she has managed to make look evil. The colors are wild — amazing.
Mary and I stand there before the painting, its two vile creatures with repellent skin tone banging amidst a piteous landscape.
“Uh-oh, looks like the game has started,” says John Cassidy. He scrutinizes the movie quote that a colleague has written on a company marker board: “Before you go any further — I think you should know you’re not alone.” A smile of recognition stretches wide across Cassidy’s bulldog features.
“Do you know it?” he asks me. Not a clue.
Cassidy, following procedure in which quotes are added until the movie title is guessed, writes another line: “The Lone Ranger rides again — Yahoo!”
“How about now?”
“Uh.” I’m getting sheepish. “The Lone Ranger Rides Again?”
Cassidy laughs — I’m way off.
You’d never guess from the drab stucco exterior of this three-story building — let alone from the fluorescent functionality of its interior, give or take a few posters — but this is a place that could set any film buff’s heart fluttering.
Hollywood’s Film Technology Company, Inc., a lab that specializes in restoration work, is where many of the world’s great broken, scarred and decomposing films come when their corporeal beings need saving. Over its 30-year history, the company has worked on thousands of television shows and films, from home movies, to orphaned curios, to classics such as King Kong, Mildred Pierce, Battleship Potemkin and Citizen Kane.
Sometimes the lab acts as an intensive-care unit. When the footage of Ernest Shackleton’s miraculous 1914 Antarctic expedition arrived, the celluloid — later incorporated into George Butler’s documentary Endurance— was so brittle there was only one chance to run it through a special printer to save the images. Other times, when a film’s condition is stable, Film Tech acts like a primary-care physician. This is where Casablancacomes for its checkups.
Cassidy, who is a film timer, determines the proper exposure for every shot of a film so that when a new print is developed, the final product will have a consistent look. It’s painstaking work that leaves Cassidy little room for awe in the face of historic celluloid, especially when he’s threading something like the original camera negative for It Happened One Night through the spools of his analyzer deck. “I don’t get too emotional,” he says. “You can’t be on pins and needles and still do this job.” Still, Cassidy admits, “Sometimes I do have to stop and say, ‘Oh wow.’”