How do you properly pay homage to a visionary like Russ Meyer? I wanted to post a blog entry that just said something like, “Boobs. Big, huge ones. Ginormous, cantilevered boobs,” (“cantilevered” being one of Meyer’s favorite descriptors for the ideal rack). But that would be departing too radically from the rest of the Greatest Dead Angelenos series, and in truth, there’s more to say about RM and his legacy.
Born Russell Albion Meyer, (March 21, 1922), in San Leandro, California, Russ Meyer was seemingly destined to become a director. He got his first movie camera at 15 (an 8mm his mother pawned her wedding ring to purchase). He served as a combat camera man in World War II (and later enlisted some of his fellow-combat cameramen to work on feature films with him), made industrial films, and shot pin-up photos, including several Playboy centerfolds. But we know him best as “the King of the Nudies,” the title inscribed on his tombstone, or as others would have it “King Leer of Hollywood” or “the King of Sexploitation.” He was king of something, clearly.
Films such as Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Mondo Topless, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (BVD), and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens would serve to inspire a generation of filmmakers and bands (Mudhoney, the Cramps, Quentin Tarrantino, Queens of the Stoneage, White Zombie, John Waters…).
Meyer made two movies for the studios (20th Century Fox): BVD and The Seven Minutes (labeled “Watchably Unwatchable ” by one IMDB reviewer), but most of his films are the work of a true independent. Of course, he had collaborators, the most famous of which is probably Robert Ebert, who helped write a handful of Meyer movies including BVD and the never-completed Who Killed Bambi? a film about the Sex Pistols commissioned by Malcolm McLaren and abandoned after one day of shooting because of money (lack thereof).
Nonetheless Russ Meyer made plenty of money from his movies over the years. They cost little to make and he owned the rights to almost all them. A murdering trio of strippers (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!), a man on the run assaulted by nymphomaniacs (Supervixens), an all-girl rock band consumed by addiction, sex, and violence (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls). What’s not to like in a Russ Meyer movie? BVD even has a character purportedly modeled after Phil Spector who, you guessed it, murders his houseguests.
And the thing is, with the killing sprees, the orgies, and the drug taking, the incest and abortions–it’s all just a romp. And that, ladies and gents, is what makes Russ Meyer one of the top ten dead Angelenos. He gets LA’s sunshine gothic ethos. Hell, he helped create it. The Wikimedia outline for the Russ Meyer entry has these three topics in a row: usage of satire, big breast fixation, and female empowerment. If that’s not LA, I don’t know what is. Bless you Russ Meyer for arming your porn stars.
Meyer died at home in the Hollywood Hillls September 18, 2004 from complications due to pneumonia.. He is buried in Stockton beneath a tombstone that reads: “King of The Nudies/ I Was Glad to Do It.”
Still hungry for more Meyer lore? Well, lucky for you, RM put together a three-volume memoir A Clean Breast, described on the RM Films site as “a Tinsel Town debauch replete with classic films and the most cantilevered women ever to undulate over the Earth’s surface.” Of course, there are plenty of pictures of Kitten Navidad, Melissa Mounds, Pandora Peaks, and all of the other lovelies. Boobs. Huge ones. Ginormous, cantilevered boobs.