Quote of the Week

The Insect Trainer’s main character, Guasti Q. Guasti, is convicted of murder after farting so powerfully that a woman falls from her chair, hits the floor and dies. The play is characteristic theatre of the absurd, full of non-sequiturs and jarring stage action. Carey was hard at work rehearsing the play before his passing and created a philosophical tract about the virtues of flatulence. Carey’s son Romeo is planning a revival of The Insect Trainer, due to premiere in Los Angeles this spring. Romeo hopes to take the production on the road.

For all of Timothy Carey’s antics, he remained a devoted family man with a wife (only one) and six kids and endless dogs, cats, chickens, and horses. He lived out his life in the quiet suburb of El Monte, preferring the company of his animals to the unearthly world of Hollywood society. As he admits, he “made lots of fast enemies” during his career, but readily forgave his antagonists, as they were often just not ready to appreciate his uniqueness.

James B. Harris, the crusty producer/director who had many a run-in with Carey over the years acknowledges, “I know he’s so bizarre and I don’t think it’s gratuitous. I think there is enough humanity in this man. I think he could make a scene better than anyone else.” This humanity described by Harris encompassed a sympathy for the underdog: Carey was a supporter of Palestinian and Native American rights. The romantic equation, the ability to triumph despite the odds, played a great part in his art and his outlook.

– Alex de Laszlo, “The Wonderful Horrible Life of Timothy Carey”, Uno Mas magazine, 1996

Insect Trainer flyer

Quote of the Week

Part 2 of director Alex Cox‘s tale of his encounter with Timothy during the filming of his student film Edge City (aka Sleep is for Sissies) (1980):

Clearly, Timothy was right for the part of the mysterious, mythological madman, the wisdom-dispensing grail-o-matic at the end of Roy’s desert quest. I offered him the part, making it clear that there wasn’t any money, this being a student film. He told me this was fine. What was important, he said, was somewhere he could be quiet and prepare, on set, before we filmed. This was a reasonable (if inconvenient) request; in my head I saw myself pitching a tent, in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Timothy also thought that some of his observations, particularly regarding farts, might fit the character of Beauregard. I couldn’t have agreed more. How much film would it use up? Not that much. I could always cut the fart stuff out – though, if Timothy said it with the passion he evidently felt, it would probably be better than the lines I’d scripted.

I spoke to him a couple of times at his home in El Monte. The LA County Fair was held in nearby Pomona, and Timothy urged me to attend it, in particular so I could marvel at its enormous pigs. I said I’d try, and returned to issues of the shoot: costume, location, date, etc.

My plan was to shoot our showdown on one of the trails above Will Rogers Park. This was then an unspoiled and wild part of LA, whose canyons and roadless areas had so far defeated the developers. If you got deep enough into it, and looked the right way, all you could see was desert hills and the ocean. I was giving Timothy the directions to Will Rogers when he hit me up for cash. And he didn’t mean gas money, he meant a fee.

I’d already explained I had no money, that the film was being made via a ‘UCLA waiver’ by which Screen Actors Guild members could work for no money without breaking the guild’s rules. I reminded Timothy of the waiver, but he was now unwavering. ‘You must be able to come up with something,’ he told me, ‘even if it’s as little as 10,000 bucks.’

$10,000 was more than the entire budget of the film. I told him I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t pay for anything, beyond gas, food, film, and his fucking tent.

I saw him only once thereafter, a couple of years down the line. I was going to a screening at the Hitchcock Theater on the Universal lot. And there was Timothy, sitting in the guard’s booth with the guard, singing and playing the guitar. He fixed me with an intense gaze, and serenaded me as I passed.

– Alex Cox, X Films: True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker (I.B. Tauris, 2008)

Edge City (1980) in four parts on YouTube

 

 

Quote of the Week

I was a child laborer, as were my brother and four sisters. The family property rests on a half an acre with three buildings: the family residence, a guesthouse, and the studio. The studio was alive with production work for many years, and on the property was a bustling menagerie of more than a hundred farm and exotic animals that included chickens, ducks, geese, goats, horse, cats, dogs, birds of prey, and a monkey. The animals were the responsibility of the children, supervised by my mother and father. […]

Like a farmer’s son, I felt compelled to follow in my father’s footsteps, or at least to facilitate the journey he had hoped to make as a filmmaker. As his right hand man toward the end of his life, I managed his career and helped produce and write projects with him. We were as close as a father and son could be; but I knew there were things about my father I would never comprehend or reconcile. I felt I had complete access to him in ways only a father and son could share. It was during these final years that a crystallization of understanding was formed which gave me the ability to better understand the underlying meaning in his artistic efforts. In The World’s Greatest Sinner, he was an outspoken smuggler. He had the ability to cultivate the shocks and hyperbole of tabloid headlines. Nothing escaped his scathing irony. His work was an antidote to complacency during the Cold War. American hypocrisy was always a major target. And to take on the subject matter of sex, religion, politics, and rock ‘n’ roll, he knew that he was playing a game so big that he wasn’t going to screw it up.

– Romeo Carey, “Making Sinner, A Work-In-Progress,” from Dead Flowers (Vox Populi/Participant Press, 2011)

Byron and Romeo

My husband Byron with Romeo Carey in Timothy’s El Monte studio, before the stone wall that Tim built himself, June 2013

Quote of the Week

Setting up an appointment with Carey was tricky. He is, for one thing, a recluse. On the other hand, as a benched performer, he craves attention. Finally, Romeo Carey, the actor’s [then] 32-year-old filmmaker son, smoothed the path for a series of encounters at the modest Carey family bungalow in the L.A. suburb of El Monte, not far from the Santa Anita racetrack. The neighborhood, quiet and working class, seemed far in psychic miles from Hollywood.

I’ll say it was a gas meeting Carey and get that out of the way. The character and the actor meshed seamlessly, and he responded to my interest like somebody who’d been in solitary and couldn’t stop talking once he started. If he was often over-the-top in his comments, he also seemed painfully insecure, even as his long index finger jabbed the air. He struck me as a man of high ideals, however curious—at once a show-off and a fragile dreamer. He answered my questions perched on a mock throne in his cluttered backyard studio, once again wearing his glittery Sinner costume. To add to the general bizarrerie, Romeo Carey filmed portions of the proceedings for a documentary-in-progress.

Grover Lewis, “Cracked Actor”, Film Comment Jan/Feb 2004; interview conducted in 1992

Tim's El Monte studio, from the Dead Flowers book

Timothy’s El Monte studio, from Dead Flowers (Vox Populi/Participant Press, 2011)

 

Pic of the Day: “The Boy and the Pirates” promo still

We celebrate Valentine’s Day by, firstly, wishing Timothy’s youngest, Germain, a very happy birthday! And secondly, by posting this absolutely lovely and relatively rare promotional still from Bert I. Gordon‘s The Boy and the Pirates (1960). It’s Tim in full-on pirate mode, complete with musket, earring, and “AAARRGH”.

The Boy and the Pirates promo still

I have only seen this particular still once before, at Tim’s studio in El Monte during my visit there a while back. It was particularly noteworthy because Tim himself had decorated it in his own inimitable way. He had drawn lines coming out of the musket barrel, and written alongside it “FART POSE”. I could not stop laughing. I hope we all get to see that particular photo some day soon…

 

Quote of the Week

Perhaps the most notorious recording made during the PAL Studio days was the soundtrack to one of the greatest independent movies ever, The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962). The movie was written, directed, and produced by Timothy Carey, who had previously acted in The Wild One (1953), East of Eden (1955), and two movies directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Killing (1956) and Paths of Glory (1957). Despite being made very cheaply – much of the action was shot in Carey’s garage in El MonteThe World’s Greatest Sinner was certainly ahead of its time. Carey plays a messianic rock’n’roll singer who invokes riots, while the ensuing political takeover predates by several years movies such as Riot on Sunset Strip and Wild In the Streets. The score was produced in November and December 1961, with Zappa recording a 20-piece chamber ensemble and a 55-piece orchestra at the Chaffey College auditorium, as well as an eight-man rock’n’roll band at PAL. (Zappa later made an off-color remark about the movie on The Steve Allen Show – on which he also ‘played’ a bicycle – effectively ending his relationship with Carey.)

Domenic Priore, Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock’n’Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood (Jawbone Press, 2007)

Frank Zappa with Tim at the TWGS premiere

Frank Zappa with Timothy at the Sinner premiere

 

 

The Tweet’s Lady of Pasadena Report.

Well, it’s been an amazing trip so far. Saturday night Romeo Carey, my husband and I headed out to the desert and met up with the splendiferous Don Calfa, who showed us through his memorabilia-packed double-wide trailer and happily shared his memories of working with Timothy in Peeper (1975) and their subsequent friendship. He is a card and a character, and I’m happy to now be able to call him my friend.

Don Calfa and me

Sunday afternoon brought us together with the delightful Joey Sinko, who generously assisted Romeo in filming our interview with the legendary Seymour Cassel. I am happy to lay at least one oft-told rumor to rest: There was no animosity between he and Timothy during the Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) shoots. They were simply two inveterate scene-stealers who sometimes got on each other’s nerves. It happens even in the best of families. “I loved Timothy. He was wonderful,” said Seymour. And I’ve made another friend.

Seymour Cassel and me

Monday my husband and I attended the Stanley Kubrick exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Utterly amazing in every way! There wasn’t a whole lot there in the way of Tim, but what was there was choice. I was especially intrigued by a page from the original script of The Killing (1956) that featured a scene with Tim’s character, Nikki Arcane, that did not appear in the finished film. I wonder if this was actually filmed and then not used, or if it ever even got filmed?

Page from The Killing script

Display for The Killing, Kubrick exhibit, LACMA

Display for Paths of Glory, Kubrick exhibit, LACMAPlotting out shots for Paths of Glory

Tonight we are heading down to El Monte to visit Tim’s studio, so stay tuned for more reports as they come! This is Tweet’s Lady of Pasadena signing off for now. Toodle-oo!