photo & text by nacrowe
nostalgia is a weird thing.
i get it. its comforting for people to have an unrealistic memory regarding the past. they delude themselves into believing that the past was this halcyon period where people were more authentic and pure, probably due to a lack in modern technology. its a misguided revisionist delusion of hipster proportions and, of course, it is bullshit.
in his expose on the scandals of the stars of early cinema at the beginning of the 20TH CENTURY in HOLLYWOOD BABYLON (PAUVERT, 1959), cult filmmaker KENNETH ANGER essentially eviscerates any quixotic notion regarding the purity of that period. it salaciously examines the supposed exploits of major players from that era including CHARLIE CHAPLIN, FATTY ARBUCKLE, CLARA BOW, MARION DAVIES, BUSTER KEATON, JEAN HARLOW, MAE WEST, ERROL FLYNN, LUPE VELEZ, LANA TURNER and the supposed various misdeeds carried out by them or their affiliates, including rape, murder, drug abuse, "communist" infiltration, violence, theft, etc.
rereading this book, which was originally published in 1959 but then subsequently banned for over 10 years (my copy is the 1976 first edition DELTA repressing), reminds me of TMZ. although that may be a slight insult to TMZ since on balance they usually report facts accurately. their interpretation of such may be suspect. i dont know if HOLLYWOOD BABYLON is accurate and i have my doubts, but at the very least it is a gossipy window into a touchstone of AMERICAN culture, the entertainment industry, which tends to operate on different rules of morality than mainstream society. i guess power and influence does that to you, even way back then at its infancy during the pre-PRODUCTION CODE era.
as a cinephile, ive always found it interesting when we collectively give celebrities a pass for grave misdeeds, whether that be MEL GIBSON (anti-semite), JERRY SEINFELD (dated a teenager when he was 39), STEVE JOBS (denied paternity of his daughter), PEYTON MANNING (tea-bagged his female personal trainer), JOHN LENNON (abandoned his child) or even ALBERT EINSTEIN (racist against asians). perhaps projecting our dreams and emotions on humans is futile act since inevitably they will let us down and mirror our own fall from perfection. they are human after all.
and maybe that was ANGER's aim with his notorious book of gossip from a previous generation, to showcase their humanity. and to kill nostalgia.