This Music Leaves Stains is the first book I’ve had published but it is far from the first book I’ve tried to get published, or thought about trying to get published. Here now, an annotated history of never realized JG2 works.
Untitled Dead Kennedys Biography (2002) – Stalled during the research period thanks to several factors (college course load, punk rock politics, my debilitating lack of experience). I covered the nuts and bolts of this failure for Crawdaddy! in a feature called “Give Me Convenience, Give Me Death, Just Tell Me Your Real Damn Name.” The most interesting aspect may be that I put a letter in the mail addressed “East Bay Ray, San Francisco” and it actually reached the correct guy. Your tax dollars at work.
Star Wars Ruined My Life (2005) – Ten chapter essay collection covering the weirder aspects of Star Wars fandom, including my own struggles with George Lucas’s intergalactic money printing machine (#firstworldproblems). Hired a literary agent but no publisher on Earth was interested. I didn’t have a “built-in audience,” which meant my blog statistics were not impressive enough to warrant anything. This era was the beginning of “co-opt every popular thing from the Internet to stave print’s death!” I’m sure my medium talent was also an issue (I know the manuscript lacked punch / direction). I absolutely cannot remember why but for some reason I e-mailed Jay Mohr about this book; he sent a very encouraging reply peppered with some of his theories on Boba Fett, which justified my struggle.
Untitled Oral History Of My Middle School Experience (2005) – An interesting twist on the adolescent memoir (I think): interview a bunch of people I grew up with to see how their worldview around that time differed from mine, turning the whole thing into an oral history with several narrative tracks. My lit agent loved this idea and really ramped me up about it, but then Star Wars Ruined My Life didn’t go anywhere. Representation cut me loose and without a cheerleader I cooled on the concept. Compiled about a chapter and a half, though, and several people I hadn’t spoken to since 1994 taught me a lot about where we grew up and life in general.
Untitled Field Guide To Discontinued Soft Drinks (2007-08) – New Coke, Pepsi AM, OK, DnL…I thought the world needed a comprehensive encyclopedia of every soda that’s ever fallen off the figurative / literal map. Unfortunately, the stories behind these drinks are all more or less the same (they failed because they were bad and nobody bought them), and when it came down to pitching this book few people understood what exactly what I was talking about. “Oh, like a coffee table book with pictures of the sodas?” No, a field guide. Like for birds. Maybe this idea is terminally flawed.
Untitled “Gong Show” Episode Guide (2006) – An excuse to track down average weirdos and hear about their experiences on the greatest televised competition of all-time. I think I concluded too many former “Gong Show” contestants / employees would be dead, and I also worried about the book’s marketability. Chuck Barris was hot in ’06, but how long would that last?
Untitled “Simpsons” History (2009) – At the time a lot of rumors were swirling about “The Simpsons” finally coming to an end. That didn’t happen, but I abandoned this idea mainly because I heard Morgan Spurlock was making a “Simpsons” documentary. Had I known his end product would be some gimmicky forty-five minute nonsense instead of the in-depth feature length “Simpsons” doc we deserve maybe I wouldn’t have jumped ship.
My Life Is A Screenplay! (2010) – The high school teacher who semi-successfully sued 20th Century Fox for plagiarizing his Christmas comedy script read my post about Jingle All The Way being a cursed property and e-mailed me with an offer to co-write a book about his life. I had just started work on This Music Leaves Stains so I had to turn him down. There also didn’t seem to be much else in his life aside from “I sued a movie studio and won but then they took the money back.” Also, that title. Woof.
Naturally I reserve the right to resurrect any of these properties at a future juncture. You never know when Chuck Barris might be hot again.
I caught some of Sinbad’s recent stand-up special “Where U Been?” last night, and it gave me pause to consider the ridiculous, often windbreakered comedian’s entire filmography. One entry struck me as particularly notable as it seems to be unquestionably cursed. Indeed, everyone involved in this 1996 production has experienced some kind of major tragedy in the years since, and it has to make you wonder if the Devil himself was involved.
Of course I’m talking about Jingle All The Way.
In case you’ve forgotten, Jingle All The Way is the “classic” Christmas comedy in which Arnold Schwarzenegger runs all over the Twin Cities attempting to secure a “Turbo Man” doll for his loving son. Along the way, he tangles with the likes of Robert Conrad, Martin Mull, Phil Hartman, and the aforementioned Sinbad as another desperate father in search of “Turbo Man.” American absolutely rejected this mad-cap holiday caper, and for years the film’s title was synonymous with “painful, unfunny entity that will fail to improve finances or mental well-being.”
Let us now run through some of the misery and pain that has befallen Jingle All The Way’s principles in what I like to call “The Curse of Turbo Man.”
Jingle was probably the biggest dud of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s latter-day acting career (until the following year, when he played Mr. Freeze in the cataclysmically awful Batman & Robin). The Austrian Superman only appeared in a handful of other movies before retiring from Hollywood to pursue a career in politics. Clinching the governorship of California, at first Arnie proved to be rather effective and popular. By 2005, however, “The Governator’s” approval ratings began to plummet as he wandered from one political gaffe to another. Rumors of the Schwarz’s return to acting have generally been met with the stink eye.
Sinbad hasn’t appeared in anything as high-profile as Jingle All The Way since the film’s release. In 2007, a rumor swept the Internet that the portly comedian had died of a heart attack. Surprisingly, this did little to help his flagging popularity. Sinbad filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2009; a short time later, he put his million dollar home up to alleviate his tax burdens.
On May 28, 1998, famed “Saturday Night Live” impressionist Phil Hartman was murdered by his drug-addled wife Brynn in the couple’s Los Angeles home before she turned the gun on herself. Jingle All The Way would prove to be the actor’s penultimate film.
Being married to Tom Hanks, I suppose Rita Wilson doesn’t need to do all that much to survive. However, for the purposes of this curse it should be noted the largest roles she’s secured since JATW include Caroline in Gus Van Sant’s wretched Psycho remake and Jenna in Old Dogs. Woof.
Jake Lloyd traded up career-killers by moving from Jingle All The Way to Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. As young Anakin Skywalker, Lloyd turned in such a miserable, grating performance it made every other horrible actor in that film seem tolerable. Trouble on the set of 2001’s Madison branded Jake “difficult” to work with. That’s not exactly a reputation you want before high school (especially if you’ve only worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jar Jar Binks). Jake Lloyd is currently attending college and probably hoping he won’t die before he gets a chance to redeem himself onscreen.
Robert Conrad was involved in a serious car accident in 2003 when he slammed head-on into a Subaru being driven by a 26 year old. Conrad was convicted of drunk driving, was sentenced to six months house arrest, and lost his license. The other driver would eventually die from their injuries.
In March of 2001, 20th Century Fox was ordered to pay high school biology teacher Brian Webster $19 million after it was determined the studio plagiarized Jingle All The Way from Could This Be Christmas?, a script Webster wrote and submitted to 20th Century in 1994 (the decision was reversed on appeal after it was determined Jingle’s script existed prior to CTBC?).
Seems like the only person to totally buck the Jingle curse was Brian Setzer, who contributed four or five songs to Arnold’s holiday misadventure. Brian and his rag-tag orchestra saw their popularity skyrocket during the late ’90s swing revival; nowadays, he mades good bank every December recording and releasing the few holiday hits he hasn’t already 1950’d up.
If you can think of any more examples of the Jingle curse, please, hit me up. Let’s malign this movie into the ground.