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Ghostbusters Book Graveyard
Here’s a collection of factoids, stories, and rumors I couldn’t squeeze into A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever (on sale now where ever fine books are sold).
— Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep both attended the Yale School of Drama in the early ’70s and a blurb in Spy magazine 20 years after the fact claimed these two students had beef; an anonymous source called it “an unspoken feud” but a feud nonetheless because Streep got all the play parts over Weaver; Weaver was apparently iced out for being too tall and too weird (it is said she sewed up her own “elf costumes” to wear around campus); as another source put it, “Sigourney and Meryl have never been friends…Sigourney has always been annoyed by Meryl’s great lady act”
— between 1974 and 1979, Ghostbusters composer Elmer Bernstein had a mail order soundtrack club where he re-recorded other people’s film scores; these re-recordings included Franz Waxman’s The Silver Chalice, Alfred Newman’s Wuthering Heights, and Miklós Rózsa’s The Thief of Baghdad; Bernstein’s son Peter he told me his father lost money on this project but Elmer didn’t care because he was doing it for the love of the music; Film Score Monthly released the entirety of Bernstein’s soundtrack club recordings on CD in 2006
— Walter Peck actor William Atherton used to claim that the philosophical teachings of Aesthetic Realism “cured” him of homosexuality; Atherton performed live testimonials about it around New York City and even went on “Donahue” in 1981 to discuss the “permanent” change he and hundreds of other followers made to heterosexuality (watch the episode here); obviously this was extremely controversial and many derided Aesthetic Realism as a dangerous cult; I’ve heard that Atherton himself eventually felt hoodwinked by the whole thing and disavowed it, which I hope is true; Aesthetic Realism still exists but they stopped promoting a “cure” for being gay decades ago
— in 1983, “Tonight Show” staple David Brenner filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros, Matty Simmons, Harold Ramis, and John Hughes for stealing the idea for National Lampoon’s Vacation from a 1979 script Brenner wrote called Goodbye Grandma; Brenner claimed he submitted his script to “one or more” of the defendants beforehand and he sought nearly $40 million in damages; it’s unclear how this was resolved
— according to Ghostbusters editor Sheldon Kahn, the levitation rig used during Sigourney Weaver’s possession scene belonged to Ivan Reitman’s old pal Doug Henning; I attempted to confirm this with Henning biographer John V. Harrison (author of the awesome book Spellbound: The Wonder-filled Life of Doug Henning) but he wasn’t sure; I also e-mailed Henning’s widow Debby but she never responded
— the hare krishna acolyte seen at the end of Ghostbusters is a guy named Stephen Friedland who had a recording career in the 1960s under the name Brute Force; no less than George Harrison was a fan of Brute and tried to get his quasi-obscene novelty ballad “King of Fuh” out on Capital Records and EMI; when those labels blanched, the Beatles pressed up 2,000 copies of “King of Fuh” on their own label Apple; it is apparently the rarest Apple release in existence
— because every aspect of his life was covered by the press, I can tell you Michael Jackson saw Ghostbusters on July 5th, 1984 with his brothers in Kansas City; the Jacksons were in town to play the first three shows of their Victory Tour at Arrowhead Stadium; considering how much acrimony erupted between the Jacksons during this tour, it’s possible Ghostbusters was the last non-contractual outing they all enjoyed together
— Tracey Ullman was complaining about the scripts she was being offered during a 1985 interview with The Toronto Star when she went on a rant about Ghostbusters, calling it “childish” and “rubbish” and a “who’s got the biggest willie” movie; this culminated in Ullman saying that Harold Ramis was “as funny as anthrax”; in all my years of research, this was the meanest thing I ever saw anyone say about Ramis; comedy is subjective, of course, and I don’t find Tracey Ullman very funny (I like her singing though)
— Mel Brooks asked Ray Parker, Jr. to write some music for Spaceballs but Parker turned Brooks down because he was, and I quote, “too busy fooling around, doing something, chasing girls or waterskiing”; yes, he regrets this
— if you’ve seen the 1988 film Storm Warriors starring Mark Keyloun, Marlise Richards, and Gozer herself Slavitza Jovan, consider yourself lucky because it was never released; in fact, Storm Warriors was axed shortly after the trailer debuted at Cannes; the ad they ran in Variety for the film has me intrigued so let’s hope an unearthing occurs soon
— Ivan Reitman said once or twice that Julia Roberts auditioned for Ghostbusters II when it appeared Sigourney Weaver wouldn’t be coming back; Roberts was 21 at the time, so as a love interest for Bill Murray that was probably a little too Blame it on Rio
— in 1990, Dan Aykroyd had a project with Al Franken and Tom Davis called “Nixon in The Navy,” a five part comedy series about Richard Nixon’s military service; he imagined they’d put it on basic cable
— I wanted to interview the women who wrote the 1995 movie Casper for my book because I had questions about Dan Aykroyd’s cameo as Ray Stantz; they said no, we have nothing to say, it’s just a silly joke people blow out of proportion; that’s not a direct quote because they asked not to be quoted
— Ghostbusters: The Video Game mastermind John Melchior told me a little bit about working on Simpsons: Hit & Run, specifically that Hank Azaria was the easiest “Simpsons” actor to work with and that Harry Shearer threw a fit and walked out mere seconds into his first recording session when he saw a grammatical error in the script
Stop The Presses
Steven Spielberg’s 2017 newsroom drama The Post signals early that it will be cliché-ridden hokum. As the production company logos vanish, we see military choppers hovering over a steamy jungle while Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Green River” takes off in the background. Pairing Creedence with footage from Vietnam was overdone 30 years ago; any first year film student would be docked a letter grade for such a boring, obvious move. Of course, by the time The Post is over the viewer has been so assaulted by the plain and the literal that they might forget there ever was a scene in Vietnam.
I’ve read that Spielberg considered The Post an act of resistance against Trumpism, a counter-attack on “fake news” that for some reason absolutely had to come out when it did. One might argue the story of Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers, and The Washington Post’s fight to print the shocking truth about the Vietnam War is more prescient now since Trump decided to cap his anti-media, fib-laden presidency by swiping classified documents. At any rate, The Post was flung together very quickly, without pulp or artistry, condemning it to die in the shadow of All The President’s Men (still the greatest film ever made about the freedom of the press).
Tom Hanks does not transform into Bill Bradlee, the gruff editor pushing to serve honesty to Washington Post readers. Meryl Streep does not transform into Katharine Graham, the beleaguered Post owner trying not to tarnish her legacy. All you see is Hanks and Streep vying for more Oscars with nothing but cold wet ham for dialogue. The Post’s supporting players fare no better. The front page story is on their faces: I’m doing this because it’s Spielberg.
Only Bob Odenkirk rises to the occasion in the lynchpin role of reporter Ben Bagdikian. A much better film could have been made out of the story threads wherein Bagdikian secures the bulk of the Pentagon Papers from Ellsberg. Odenkirk’s comedy partner David Cross is in The Post too, looking like the saddest version of Martin Balsam you can imagine.
The most laughable part of this whole cornball affair is that it concludes with a Marvel-style cliffhanger at the Watergate Hotel. Oh no! A burglary? Cue the typewriters! Even more pathetic are the final frames, which have Spielberg copying one of the most indelible shots from the start of All The President’s Men. Working on Ready Player One at the same time as this film must have given him brain damage.
At least Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman don’t cruise by in the DeLorean.