When Tim Connelly called to tell me that one of the game’s original pioneers, filmmaker Russ Meyer, had died last Saturday at the age of eighty-two, I was at a loss for words.
So I called old Dave Friedman, another one of the originals, now living in Alabama. Dave’s 81, and even though he’s gone blind in his old age, he’s never at a loss for words. Any man that once earned a living selling used elephants around the country is the kind of guy you might want to talk to when you’re looking for answers to some of life’s tougher questions. Dave was my “go-to” guy, back in the day.
“You heard about Russ Meyer?” I asked.
“Yep. Here’s a quote, from me: Russ fought the good fight from Normandy Beach to Charles S. Keating.”
“Okay – got it,” I said. “I’ll get it over to AVN; I know they called you.”
Ol’ Dave must have passed that comment around to about a dozen people that same day, because it was up and running on more than one site later that day. But ol’ Dave always had his own way of getting the word out — especially when it came to hyping either his old films or this industry’s. He was pushing porn right up until the late 1980s.
“How well did you know Russ?” Dave asked.
“Not very well at all; I met him once for martinis, back in 1970,” I told him. “I came out here to the Coast from New York to shoot a film (Going Down With Donna), and as soon as I got to Hollywood, I called him up.” I continued, “I called him cold and he didn’t even know me, and he took my call.”
“That was Russ, alright,” Dave confirmed.
“I told him I was a big fan of his and that I had shot a few “sex-ploiters” in New York, and I was out here to shoot my first West Coast film. And three hours later we’re drinking in The Rainbow Bar and talking about his films.”
I can still remember Russ asking me questions about the business, and what was going on in New York. Fuck, I didn’t know what to tell him. I was trying to get my ass into the loop that he had created nearly on his own, since 1959.
I believe I was watching his films as far back as 1960. I think the first one I saw was Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! when it played at the Rock Hill Theater in Kansas City. I was just 21, and already planning my move to New York.
|More on Russ Meyer|
|Roger Ebert Remembers Meyer|
I’m not the only one around who can recall the films of this legend. What both his critics and his competition back in the ‘60s regarded as “cheap, porno crap” has now become a topic for film students and cult classic film festivals.
Everyone in this business today, as well as those in the game who have since passed on, have been effected from the films of Russ Meyer: even Alex deRenzy.
I remember the first time I saw his Cherry, Harry and Raquel, when it ran on 42nd Street in New York City. It was around 1963, I think. And even in those days, advertising these kinds of films was touchy. Furthermore, this film was about the sexual antics of not two but three people together.
I can even recall the copy from the film’s poster, which read simply: “Contemplate the possibilities…”
As well we should. The films of Russ Meyer laid the groundwork for us to keep expanding our possibilities for generations to come.
So in that old carnival hustler Dave Friedman’s carnie jargon, may the spirit of Russ Meyer be forever blessed with “dry lots and red ones.”
Henri Pachard is a veteran adult director as well as a masterful storyteller who graciously pens a column for AVNInsider each week.
Click HERE to view AVN's Exclusive Russ Meyer Interview from 1983 and Picture Gallery.