Aug 25, 2015
Every time I think back to my legendary 1979 lunch with film director Russ Meyer at the Dutch Kitchen in Gainesville, Florida, I can’t help but smile. He had stopped in at the movie theaters where I worked my way through college, the Royal Park Cinema 4, and told our manager, Jim Symons, that he was hoping to generate some press for his latest film, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens, starring the pneumatically endowed Miss Kitten Natividad. Lucky me – Mr. Symons told him I wrote for Gainesville Magazine and was also studying film at the University of Florida. We were introduced and Meyer invited me and my pal (and assistant manager) Allen Solomon to the greatest business lunch of our lives.
RUSS MEYER podcast excerpt: "(I asked) a boy in the audience, 'What did you think of the film?' 'I've always been a fan of yours,' he said, 'but you spent so much time in the courtroom and you didn't spend an equivalent time on people screwing.' He said it exactly that way."
Over burgers, fries and Cokes (at a restaurant Allen’s father had literally opened for the chain years earlier), Meyer regaled us with behind the scenes tales of the life of a happy pornographer.
The more our young jaws dropped at his descriptions of cinematic sex, the more he enjoyed talking with us. I found the audio from this interview a few years ago and am presenting it publicly on Mr. Media for the first time. It is, admittedly, crude and lascivious at several points and not recommended for anyone easily offended or under the age of 18. If that describes you, please stop listening now. Thank you. Meyer, the director of everything from Jacqueline Susann’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (written by film critic Roger Ebert), The Seven Minutes and Up! to Faster, Pussycat! Kill!... Kill!, Fanny Hill and Pandora Peaks, lost his virginity in the Army thanks to a prostitute procured by Ernest Hemingway. He told many of his secrets in a three-volume memoir, A Clean Breast: The Life and Loves of Russ Meyer. And as of April 2015, Will Ferrell was reportedly attached to play Russ Meyer in the film Russ & Roger Go Beyond, directed by Michael Winterbottom. Josh Gad was being discussed to play Roger Ebert. Russ Meyer died on September 18, 2004.
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(Here is the text of the Gainesville Magazine profile I wrote following lunch with Russ Meyer.)
Ernest Hemingway gave this man his start. In a manner of speaking. As producer of twenty-three mostly sex-oriented films, Russ Meyer Is probably the world's happiest pornographer. His latest epoch, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens, is the latest in his series of romps with big breasted women and male fantasy. It opened In Gainesville last week, so Meyer came to town courting the press and spreading his "Vixen" gospel. Meyer's mother gave him his technical start in film when she bought him his first camera years ago, but Meyer received his spiritual direction from American author Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway and Meyer evidently met in the Army in the early 1940s. where Hemingway arranged the services of a prostitute for Meyer. The woman came through the liason with a new disciple, and another young man left his virginity with the United State Armed Forces.
RUSS MEYER podcast excerpt: "I always have seven endings. You can leave anytime, because it's hard to come down after steeplechase (sex). How do you come down? 'The End' never got anybody a laugh. It's much more satisfying to hear people laugh. Mention the title 'Jaws of Vixen.' People break up!"
Talking with Meyer is an eye-opener. The man tests his listeners with wild, often frenzied tales of filmic sex and opportunity. He is a man who gave up any intention of doing "straight" films after two flops in the early 1970s. Seven Minutes dealt with censorship. During a marketing test in the midwest, Meyer sat in an audience on opening night. "(I asked) a boy in the audience, 'What did you think of the film?' 'I've always been a fan of yours,' he said, 'but you spent so much time in the courtroom and you didn't spend an equivalent time on people screwing.' "He said it exactly that way." Twentieth-Century Fox quickly dropped distribution of the film.
Another "straight" movie met with an equally dismal reception. Meyer was working in that field following the success of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the sequel to a Jacqueline Susan novel of the Sixties. "After B.V.D., they thought I could do anything. Maybe they were wrong. "There's something to be said for making the best Russ Meyers film made," says Meyer, who claims he has four films (Vixens, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Cherry, Harry and Raquel, and Supervixens) among the top 200 grossing movies of all time. "I am happy in my plight," he says. "I am obsessed with the bosom. I'm obsessed with sex... I make a lot of money at it. "I have no interest or desire anymore to make a straight film. It would not hold my attention like getting a semi hard-on when I'm filming Miss Natividad (star of Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens) bouncing up and down on somebody's bones. I'm in a great position. I get great broads. I make money. I make slick films," he adds. A Russ Meyer film, he claims, is something Al Capp (creator of "Li'l Abner") might have created. It centers around a buxom, sexually aggressive woman, and a nice, klutzy, inexperienced guy with some sort of sex problem. The Vixen's job is to correct the problem. Roger Ebert, pen name "R. Hyde," is a frequent collaborator of Meyer's. This is surprising; Ebert is also co-host of PBS-TV's "Sneak Previews" series. Also surprising is the complete scripting of every action and expression during a Meyer film during its sexual activities. "I'll have a paragraph that says Vixen goes and whips open a shower curtain and she has an exchange of dialogue with her brother. Then she gets in the shower, and then... "The next thing we see is them in bed. And the actress looks at it, and she sees a single-spaced, written sexual description of how she's reacting, how she's debauched, depraved, needful, incestful. It helps the girl. And if she's bright at all you don't have to go through that phony bullshit of the director sitting down and directing people." Meyer adds that his actresses are in his movies because of their vast sexual experience. Russ Meyer wants to be known as a pornographer. In fact, he craves the title. He wants to be insulted for it, considering such verbal abuse to be accalim for his act. The man who has photographed Playboy centerfolds, married two of them, and fathered one illegitimate son with a woman he continues to meet quarterly at Disneyland, still has not been able to achieve his ideal casting: "Dolly Parton and Jonathan Winters." Beyond sex and an on-again, off-again affair with violence, Meyer wants to put laughs in his movies. "I always have seven endings," he says. "You can leave anytime, because it's hard to come down after steeplechase (sex). How do you come down? 'The End' never got anybody a laugh.
"It's much more satisfying to hear people laugh. Mention the title Jaws of Vixen (the next Vixen sequel). People break up!" Beneath the Vally of the Ultra Vixens may well be Meyer's most successful film to date. He has achieved acceptance on many levels, he acknowledges, as evidenced by his increasing collegiate involvement. Meyer has been speaking with cinema students in California and Florida, and has received a film fellowship from USC. "On one hand of the ledger I'm respected in the Los Angeles community as being a maverick, and a very skilled filmmaker who goes against the grain; has the crassness to go out and say I'm going to compete with Streisand and Newman, or play right next door to their films, and I do." On the other side of the ledger they say of him, "Russ Meyer? Iccck."