If you enjoyed this piece, please consider subscribing to the premium version of JG2LAND. Exclusive content (like my review of the 1995 horror movie Rumpelstiltskin or my look back at the Paul Shaffer devil sitcom “A Year At The Top”) can be unlocked for just $2 a month.
Sally Kellerman Was Punk Rock
This review originally appeared on The Classical Mess, a Substack I was doing a few years ago before I found out they gave money to bigots.
Actress Sally Kellerman — you loved her in M*A*S*H, Brewster McCloud, and Meatballs III: Summer Job. Like many stars of stage and screen, Kellerman also had a passion for music. One of the more interesting subplots in her 2013 memoir Read My Lips: Stories of a Hollywood Life concerns Kellerman’s quest to be accepted as a singer, often at the expense of her bank account and her ego. Neil Diamond invited Kellerman to lunch after seeing one of her concerts; his review was comically blunt.
“You should never sing again,” he told her. “It’s not your thing. You really can’t do it.”
Anyone who’s heard Kellerman’s bluesy 1972 LP Roll With The Feelin’ can tell you she had a unique, besotted bluster that handled like a ten cent carnival ride. She was never mewling and retching like Darby Crash, though, so Diamond’s critique feels harsh. Kellerman’s reaction to Neil was definitely punk rock. She refused to let him obliterate her. “I was going to ignore Neil Diamond and keep on chasing my dream to sing.”
And so Kellerman did, establishing a musical body that occasionally bled into her screen work. If you dare to watch Sally play a live action version of cartoon femme fatale Natasha in 1992’s cable tv movie Boris and Natasha you’ll be treated to her Bon Jovi-ish rendition of “It’s Good to Be Bad” over the ending credits. Kellerman doesn’t comment on this song in Read My Lips but she does refer to Boris and Natasha director Charles Martin Smith “a darling guy” and defends the final product as “pretty good.”
Read My Lips cycles through all the other highs and lows of Kellerman’s life with varying degrees of reflection (expect more on working with Robert Altman than her appearance in the “Star Trek” pilot). It’s all presented with honesty, humility, and humor, which I would also describe as very punk rock. I’m forced to agree with the Elliott Gould pull quote printed on the dust jacket.
“It’s totally human, and you have to love it.”
Unsolicited Ga Ga Goo Goo On Look Who’s Talking
– our collective conscious appears to dismiss Look Who’s Talking as “the talking baby picture Travolta made on his way back up” or “the talking baby picture Alley made on her way back down”; what an extreme surprise it was to learn this is an Amy Heckerling film and not [I was going to make a joke here about whoever directed Air Bud but it turns out Air Bud was directed by Charles Martin Smith—am I expecting too much from this world?]
– the central gimmick of Look Who’s Talking, the thing that got people in the door in October of ’89 after a summer of Batman and the Ghostbusters and “Weird Al,” is Bruce Willis providing the Garfield-esque inner monologue of the infant; there are times this is amusing, but more often are wide swaths where the Willis narration is pointless and asinine and makes you wonder if they tried at first to make a normal comedy hanging on Travolta and Alley’s fun chemistry but something was lacking so they decided “talking baby”
– “talking baby” is a misnomer as the baby is only such for the middle part of the movie; before that, Willis is giving voice to a sperm as it swims toward an egg (the special effects are just as mind-boggling as the Beach Boys music cue) and then an in utero fetus (which bears a striking resemblance to the murderous infant from the 1974 classic It’s Alive); toward the end of Look Who’s Talking, Bruce Willis is cracking wise over a toddler who seems old enough to actually form his own words; this is probably why they brought in another baby for the sequel, who is voiced by Roseanne
– George Segal plays the smarmy, shitty, married businessman who keeps Kirstie Alley’s character as his long-suffering mistress until he impregnates her with the Bruce Willis baby; if you’ve ever wanted to see the old fella from “Just Shoot Me” give it to the lady from “Cheers” you’ll get a little pleasure
– Abe Vigoda plays the somewhat out to lunch grandfather of John Travolta’s character; not Vigoda’s finest hour but the “please help my grandpa get into a better nursing home” subplot does pave the way for a few succulent morsels of humanity (not to mention the climatic white knuckle car chase through what we are meant to believe is Manhattan)
– there is a montage in Look Who’s Talking set to the Talking Heads song “And She Was”; I wonder how David Byrne feels about that today
– this talking baby picture is better today than what I remembered of it yesterday; that said, talking baby, talking sperm, talking sperm partying to Beach Boys, talking fetus, George Segal aardvarking, gratuitous Travolta / baby dance sequence set to “Walking on Sunshine,” gratuitous crossover of Travolta’s personal interests (his lunkheaded Jersey cab driver is also a recreational airplane pilot)
– thank god this is not the Look Who’s Talking movie where Travolta and Alley sing a parody of “Fight For Your Right to Party” about toilet training