Quote of the Week

Timothy Agoglia Carey is directing a play in Hollywood this month about death by farting [The Insect Trainer]. He’s been acting in films since 1951, was in classics with Brando and Dean, worked several times each for Kubrick and Cassavetes, was in the exploitation classic POOR WHITE TRASH [aka Bayou pre-exploitation] and made a movie that would be a cult classic if only people could see it – WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER. In various books, the 6’4″, now 65 year old [sic – he was actually 61 at the time of this interview] Carey has been called “a heavy eyed character actor, often a loathsome villain”, “totally without attractive characteristics, repulsive looking”, and “the least lovable actor since Rondo Hatton“. He’s also considered a great actor and his fans in the business include Jack Nicholson, Peter Falk and Brando. Here, often in his own words, is the Timothy Carey story.

Psychotronic Video magazine #6, Summer 1990; interview by Michael Murphy and Johnny Legend, research by Michael J. Weldon

Timothy with Michael Murphy, 1989

Timothy with Michael Murphy, 1989

Quote of the Week

THE WORLD’S GREATEST SINNER (1963)

Music like the worst nightmare the Cramps ever had.

Timothy Carey – the charismatically malevolent “heavy” of The Killing, The Wild One, Paths of Glory, and East of Eden – single-handedly made this film between 1960 and 1963 in and around the town of El Monte, outside Los Angeles. Its plot centers on forty-year-old Clarence, who quits his job at an insurance company so that he can don the mantle of a rock star and run for public office as God. Carey’s portrayal of a rock star in a gold suit backed by a ragtag Mexican band is so fantastically bizarre that it puts Salvador Dali (Carey’s idol) to shame. During his main performance, which is sour and atonal, Carey falls to his knees and screams, “Please! Please! Please!” (Without ever having seen or heard of James Brown!)

The World’s Greatest Sinner isn’t a music movie per se, but its soundtrack stands out. For the background music, Carey hired a young, unproven local odd-ball, Frank Zappa, to compose a full orchestral score. Their association was short-lived, however. Appearing on the Steve Allen show playing a bicycle, Zappa made disparaging remarks about the film that earned Carey’s lifelong enmity.  (Still, they both made cameo appearances in the MonkeesHead.) Although this crude but uniquely imaginative undertaking was ignored by major distributors when it first came out, history has heaped kudos on The World’s Greatest Sinner – and on Carey for his bravery, wit, and vision. Fans, take note: Still alive, Carey makes occasional film and TV appearances. He also pops up at showings of his films at revival houses around L.A. In early 1991, he was completing a stage play, The Insect Trainer, about a postal worker killed by a fart.

Art Fein, from Hollywood Rock: A Guide to Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Movies by Marshall Crenshaw (HarperPerennial, 1994)

The World's Greatest Sinner

Video of the Week: “Paths of Glory”

This week it’s short and sweet. We feature Timothy’s classic line from Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957). Also appearing are Ralph Meeker and Joseph Turkel.

I honestly believe that Tim’s play The Insect Trainer was, at least in part, his attempt to make amends to the cockroach.

Video of the Week: “The Insect Trainer”

Our video this week is a small glimpse into Timothy’s play The Insect Trainer, which he had originally conceived as a novel. He was working on bringing it to the stage at the time of his death in 1994. As usual, it just leaves you wanting more.

You can purchase The Insect Trainer DVD over at Absolute Films. It features Tim with the cast in rehearsal, and scenes from the actual production that was staged after his death, with his son Romeo in the lead role. So what’s the choice, my friends: fart in a crowd, or die alone in a corner? Live long, live healthy, and let thy arse make wind!

Quote of the Week

All of Carey’s collected stories to this point are borne of the humility of working class underdogs who dream of artistic expression. There’s Menudo, the 52-year-old Mexican singing cowboy from his teleplay, My Casa Is Yours, who still wants to become a pro soccer player. There’s the title character in Fiore – written with his wife, Doris – a car wash attendant who plays detective in a local murder/necrophilia case to win the reward money for a girl’s art school tuition. In Commercials, another teleplay written with his wife, an ad exec teams up with an anti-establishment, dog-loving street entertainer. Then there’s songwriter Cass Matthews from Greenwood, who finances his 25,000 acres of alligator sanctuary by recording hit pop records in Memphis.

All of these characters constitute a clear autobiography, embarking on impossible schemes, risking public ridicule and physical injury in pursuit of their personal ideals, and none more so than Carey’s alter-ego, The Insect Trainer‘s main character, Guasti Q. Guasti. Guasti represents all of Carey’s loneliness throughout his career, directly tied to the rejection he repeatedly faced amongst those whose art he shared. The booting off of location sets, the months spent developing a character only to be whittled down to a few moments by the time it hit the big screen, doing a screen test and not getting called because someone easier to work with would come in and use Carey’s test as a primer, having idea after idea shot down…these are the elements that went into creating Guasti.

Ara Corbett, “Rebels With a Cause: The Timothy Carey – John Cassavetes Partnership,” Filmfax magazine #56 (May/June 1996)

Quote of the Week

In a letter to Carey (dated January 22, 1994), Ray Carney, a professor of film and American studies at Boston University, wrote:

“Re: The Insect Trainer script–What an extraordinary, weird, wonderful, bizarrely unclassifiable work you’ve created. In the Joycean, Swiftian, Salvador Dalian vein, you violate all of the taboos, cross all of the boundaries, break all of the rules, and–ecstatically–take us to places almost never even dreamt of in drama before. The script is a ‘gas’ in the other sense of the word: It’s hilarious–as well as humanly touching and moving. It’s a celebration of eccentric, non-homogenized, non-normalized humanity. An expression of love for the lost and forgotten feelings and impulses of life. A recognition of some of the sadness and loneliness of all originals, pioneers, inventors. In short, you break up the mental and spiritual constipation that afflicts both art and life. You free the spirit. The laughter and thoughtfulness you provoke, if we let ourselves be affected by them, shake us out of our zombie-like trances of conformity. This is an awesome piece of work. Bravo. Bravissimo!”

Prof. Carney’s letter is a fitting epitaph to the amazing talent and spirit of Timothy Carey.

— Harvey F. Chartrand, “Timothy Carey: The World’s Greatest Director!”, Filmfax Plus magazine #102 (April/June 2004)

Quote of the Week

“First I’d take a big fart in front of them. That’s always a big help. I always thought if you really want to be a good actor, you’ve got to be able to fart in public. That, to me, is the most important. If you are so inhibited that you can’t fart, I don’t mean around your friends, I mean just a fart, out loud somewhere. I don’t mean the ‘silent creeper,’ everybody does that; I mean fart out loud! Just that you can do it and not be afraid of it. Humility is very important.”

– Timothy on preparing his cast for The Insect Trainer, as quoted by Sam McAbee in “Timothy Carey: Saint of the Underground,” Cashiers Du Cinemart #12 (2001)

Quote of the Week

This week’s quote is another that isn’t by Timothy, but about him:

“It’s very sad that Tim never got to make The Insect Trainer. It really was the pinnacle project of his life. Tim worked on it for many years. Many actors wanted to work on The Insect Trainer with Tim, because it was like going to a workshop with a great actor! You remember Tim’s great line from The Insect Trainer: ‘Live longer, live healthier, and let thy arse make wind.’ Who in his right mind would ever write a play or make a film about farting? Tim would, but it wasn’t just some sophomoric joke or adolescent regression. The Insect Trainer is rather a mature realization of the dangers of suppressing our emotions, especially for men. I mean, we cough in public. Why can’t we fart in public? Who decides these things? But Tim would ask, ‘Why would you suppress your body from functioning?’ I would call Tim a liberator of feelings, rather than an intellectual.”

– Filmmaker Gerry Fialka, from “Timothy Carey: The World’s Greatest Director!”, Filmfax Plus magazine #102 (April/June 2004), article and interviews by Harvey F. Chartrand

Pic of the Day: “The Devil’s Gas” revisited

Today’s pic is another from The Devil’s Gas (1987), the surreal short film written and directed by Timothy’s son Romeo. It was essentially Tim’s last film performance. He portrays Professor Petro, lecturing on Salvador Dali‘s famous essay on farting, and looking rather like Dali as well.

Timothy, always the iconoclast, took the subject of flatulence to heart. “Farting is no joke,” he often said. It was a natural function of the body, like a cough or a sneeze, and nothing to be ashamed of. His play The Insect Trainer was an expansion of this idea. “Live longer, live healthier, and let thy arse make wind!”