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March 20, 2008

Showbiz and Seediness

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --


Ah, Alexandra Dupre, my heart and my muse ...

(Here's the website of the NY Post, where I found the image above.)

I don't know about you, but Friedrich von Blowhard and I are both having an awfully good time following the news stories about the Jersey rapper-wannabe-turned-callgirl who was caught with NY's ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer. Here's the latest bulletin.

It's the story that just keeps on giving, isn't it? Not since the Amy Fisher / Joey Buttafuoco case have I been quite as happy buying taboid newspapers. My favorite detail to emerge so far: On her MySpace page, Alexandra made reference to incidents of deprivation and abuse at home that prompted her to run away to the big city.

In actual fact, Alexandra grew up prosperous on the New Jersey shore. So much for the deprivation angle. As for the abuse? 1) Alexandra was given a Porsche by her stepdad, 2) Alexandra proceeded to crash and total the Porsche, and 3) her stepdad then refused to buy her another Porsche. This appears to have been the incident that Alexandra transcoded into "abuse." Rough life!

It's funny the way some people who want a sexier, hotter existence than they have in the 'burbs turn their biographies into melodramas that, funnily enough, just happen to justify running off and joining a fast crowd. Why do they bother mythologizing their backgrounds? Seems like a lot of bother to me.

Still, as silly as she is, Alexandra is also pretty sexy. Apt FvB comment: "This girl really missed her era. She should have been a temple prostitute in ancient Sumer!"

I wrote FvB a response I'm going to reprint here. Quick word of explanation: I'm not exactly responding to FvB's remark. Intead, I'm treating myself to a rant that was prompted by some recent adventures with performers. BTW, I like performers! What follows should in no way be taken as a diss.

Sign me up for a spell in ancient Sumer! Somewhat more straightfacedly, I'd maintain that the temple-prostitute thing is a prominent side of showbiz. (And when it isn't, it should be.) This Spitzer girl lived out the hooker thing more than most do, god knows. But bits and pieces of hooker-ish-ness are commonplace in showbiz.

The girl who comes to the city to make it ... And she can't stand living in a studio apartment in the boonies ... So she moves in with a director ... Or she works her way through a lot of young bankers ... Not uncommon!

Sleeping with producers, sometimes deliberately to get roles, sometimes not so deliberately, but maybe it results in roles anyway ... Sometimes the bankers and producers and actresses actually like each other, and living together is convenient, and life seems to be taking a nice turn, so ... And somehow the bills get paid. Is it kind to look too closely at how that happens?

Plus there are shadey guys everywhere (nightclub owners, haha; guys who throw parties for money; "photographers"; "managers", etc) who prey on these girls. They're always eager to give these girls chances to meet important people and make some easy money. And since these girls are often unschooled naive rubes trying to find their way in life and in a very uncertain field, they're often grateful for the, er, help.

By the way, have I mentioned that not only are performers often sexy-looking people, they often really do have powerful sex drives? And if people with math gifts are allowed to make livings putting their math gifts to work, why shouldn't people with sex gifts be allowed to put their talents to profitable use?

Also to be taken into account: A lot of the girls, whatever their actual performing talents, are driven at least as much by desires 1) to be loved (or at least applauded) and 2) to wind up in a comfortable life (but not get there via the usual patient, square ways) as they are by arty or expressive needs. They often want to be sexy, loved, and taken-care of as much as they want to perform, let alone "contribute to culture." So sometimes -- make that often -- the talent takes a backseat while they land a rich hubby or b.f.

I don't hold any of this against the girls, by the way. Life in the performing arts is really, really hard. It's nerve-wracking with a capital N and a capital W, and as insecure as can possibly be. And remember: These girls often don't have a lot to offer beyond their looks, their vivacity, and their instinct for what might work with audiences. Oh, right: Maybe they can act, or sing, or dance too.

As far as I'm concerned, one of the main problems with showbiz today isn't that so much of it is seedy. Seedy's OK by me. It's that many of the young women coming along these days approach showbiz as though it were -- or ought to be -- a reasonable career choice. They're unrealistic, even prissy, where the business is concerned.

One explanation for this: A lot of actress-dancer-performer wannabes these days aren't the scrappy and determined poor and working-class kids they usually used to be. Instead, they come from "nice" homes and "nice" schools. Inevitably they feel entitled to have reasonable careers doing respectable-type productions. They think that they should be able to succeed by dint of earnest talent and diligent hard work. I mean, isn't that how life works?

A-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Er, sorry, honey: showbiz ain't the law. And you aren't in Nice-ville any more. Basic fact of life: There are thousands of girls as talented and pretty as you are. Besides, given how beauty-. youth-, and sexiness-centric showbiz is, you've got all of about ten years to make your mark. Now, get out there and fight!

Translation: It's often a good thing for an actress / singer / dancer / whatever to ditch the respectability. She really should take her top off, suck some dicks -- always remember to bag it, girls! -- and to sleep around not just for fun but for advancement.

For one thing, the girl who doesn't probably won't get anywhere, and if a career is really desired ...

For another, it isn't necessarily bad for a performer to participate in -- and open herself up to -- the seedy side of life. It does rough you up a little, but not always in a bad way. If you can mix a little worldliness in with your sweetness, your enthusiasm, and your responsiveness, you've got a package that many people will find appealing.

Let's face it: Whatever the historians, profs, and critics say about skill, talent, etc, one of the main reasons we love and hate (and are fascinated by) performer-gals is that there is a little bit of the temple prostitute in them. And bravo for that, sez I. Would you really want it any other way?

From my point of view, another major thing that screws matters up these days isn't wannabes shacking up with convenient boyfriends or turning a few tricks. Where showbiz goes, I'll take rowdy, opportunistic, sex-driven, and desperate over yearning-for-respectability any day. It's agents. The actresses are understandably terrified, and they think they need guidance, so they glom onto their agents, who promise the girls that if they follow instructions they'll wind up with big careers.

Sadly, these days everyone's worried about Disney and soccer moms. Agents work to heighten the girls' anxieties. Why, there's a possibility out there of big residuals from doing voice-overs for Pixar! You wouldn't want to jinx your chances by doing trashy roles now, would you?

The result is that agents are keeping their actresses from doing far-out roles, and that actresses are making decisions and choices with future squaresville mainstream success in mind.

But here's a sad fact: In 99% of these cases, the mainstream success will never come.

So the girls -- instead of pitching themselves into the kind of horror-movie, crazy-theater, strip-and-bleed productions that might mean actual jobs and paychecks, and even win them fans -- wind up doing nothing, or, even worse, doing lots of really boring work.

Result #1: The actresses don't make a mark -- and then the clock ticks a few more times, and their moment has passed. They haven't made fools of themselves, sure, and they haven't done anything they'll regret later -- but they also haven't done any memorable work, and they haven't made it as performers either.

"You're protecting your career?" you want to shout at these young things. "What career?"

Result #2: Our own pleasure is diminished. Think of all the outrageous performances and the crazy-scrappy productions we audiences are missing out on!

Semi-related: Kristin Davis played a prissy good girl on "Sex and the City." In reality ... Performers, eh? Roissy has been following the Spitzer / Alexandra story too. The Rawness takes on the callgirl topic.

It's all too good.



posted by Michael at March 20, 2008


I've been enjoying the Alexander epic, too. It's got everything. Gold plated asshole of a lawyer runs for governor on a Puritan/feminist platform... gets busted for banging a hooker.

I can answer your first question. The poor, abused girl fairy tail has become the standard tactic in the aftermath of the feminazi propaganda system in schools. I raised two daughter who went through high school and college during the height of the PC craze of the 90s.

Every girl was encouraged by the women's studies department to come up with a story of physical and sexual abuse, and accusing your father got you special honors in the victim status race. Lying about physical and sexual abuse became epidemic. The rewards for lying were better grades, sympathy, drama queen points and a battering ram to use against boyfriends.

So, Alesandra was just following the standard script.

Men are suckers for this line, especially when delivered by a whore. Men love to think the worst about other men, and they love to think that they are white knights saving the damsel in distress. Men always think that it's the other man who's going to be taken down, so playing out the feminist crusade seems like a no brainer. You might destroy a competitor, and you might get some pussy in the process. Spitzer embodied this phenomena perfectly.

In Woodstock, you'd be hard pressed to find a leftist woman who doesn't claim to be the victim of physical and sexual abuse. Read the Ulster County crime reports and you'll discover that they are simply lying. One of Woodstock's music clubs was shut down as a result of this hysteria.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 20, 2008 1:26 PM

I had something to say, but Shouting Thomas is a hard act to follow. I agree with him on the hysteria thing.

But I think this "Guidette"* is not even good looking and her story is just cliche and boring. I definitely don't think she deserves the long post you devoted to her. Amy Fisher was sexier; Jessica Cutler was more cunning. This girl just looks dumb and sleazy.

* I'm Italian, and I can come out and say it.

Posted by: Days of Broken Arrows on March 20, 2008 2:30 PM

My best estimate is that Ashley's Warholian 15 minutes of fame are at 14:55 and the clock continues to tick. If she's expecting to become rich and famous from l'affaire Spitzer she's sorely mistaken. In a year or two she'll be nearly forgotten.

Posted by: Peter on March 20, 2008 2:38 PM

ST -- Fun musings. I saw a lot of competitive victimization some years back. Middle-class and upper-middle-class kids sitting around trying to top each other with tales of abuse, bad parenting, being dissed, etc. It was as though they'd been schooled to do this, the way previous generations had been schooled to crank out term papers. Judging from your comment, I guess they had been.

Days -- I love the word "Guidette" and wish I had some Italian in me so I could use it. But I'm surprised you find her boring. St. Tropez ... A $4000 a month apartment ... Moving into prostitution while still a teen ... I dunno, strikes me as worthy of comparison to Amy Fisher. The Cutler scandal never did it for me, but that's probably just me. But gotta admit it was a great little moment in pop sociology. I have enjoyed some of the celebrity sex-tape moments ... Hmm, we ought to develop a canon of great recent moments in cringe-making, flamboyant tabloid-worthy misbehavior. I wonder who else would be on it.

Peter -- So true. Ashley ought to sign contracts for a quickie tell-all book and a nude cover shoot fast, then make sure the checks don't bounce.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 20, 2008 2:39 PM

Hello Michael
If salacious tabloid fodder is your game then I think you would be hard to beat the full transcript of the Heather Mills - Paul McCartney judgement.
Available here and many other places online.

For my money, it is the best official read since the 9/11 report was published.
McCartney was all set to settle for £55 million but then at the last minute Prince Charles solicitor persuaded him to fight. She halved the figure - and got a drenching from La Mills, as reward.
The Daily Mail is the best combination of shoehorning in as much dirt as the boundaries of middle-market propriety will allow.

Barry Wood

Posted by: Barry Wood on March 20, 2008 3:33 PM

I agree with Days about the boring guidette comment. Maybe its because I'm from the Tri-State area, but trashy chicks like her are a dime a dozen in Jersey and Brooklyn. It shocks me that Spitz would pay that much money for her. Back in my clubbing days you could score a chick like that with a 40, a blunt and premium cable TV at your apartment. Or in a nightclub, just order bottle service, give her a bump of blow when she saunters over and you fingerbang her in the bathroom 10 minutes later. But like Days, I grew up around these types of chicks, so maybe that's why I'm so unimpressed.

Posted by: T. on March 20, 2008 4:00 PM

Michael, have you ever read the call-girl novels of Tracy Quan, the ones about Nancy Chan, high-priced hooker? I dig TQ's work for Salon, both for her clear-eyed view of sex and for her wit, but her NC stories really bring out something of what you were talking about when you mentioned the need of these girls to be loved.

Now, Nancy was definitely a smart, hard-edged roguish lady, but even she adored being pampered, worshipped, looked after, "kept" by her clients. She even ended one of the novels by challenging the reader to deny that they too would love to be treated the way she is (all this while a client is gently stripping her of her panties).

TQ (former hooker herself, of course) is also pretty upfront about how undamaging the hooker thing can be. But, since she's got a spine of tungsten, perhaps she's not one to turn to for stories of victimization.

I also dig the fact that TQ grew up in my home town (clio's current home too). I wish I could run away to NYC just the way she did. Sigh. I don't think anybody would be willing to spend any money at all for my fifty-year-old body. So Ottawa it is.

Posted by: PatrickH on March 20, 2008 5:52 PM

Before modern contraception, stunning temple prostitutes would've gotten the genes of some of the smartest and most industrious men in the area, assuming the man's position reflected these traits at all.

We know that IQ is crucial to all sorts of positive life outcomes -- smart kids pretty much raise themselves, even more so than ordinary kids. You wouldn't have the powerful guy there to father them, but that rarely matters apart from material support -- which you would've already collected if you were a pro.

This has to be part of the reason why there's such a high proportion of hot and above-avg IQ females where the ancient civilizations were: Italy, Turkey, Greece, Iran, Near East, northern India, etc. They were the first to develop agriculture and civilization, so this dynamic has had much longer to play out.

Posted by: agnostic on March 20, 2008 6:29 PM

Aaargh. I do like this blog, but what a powerful lot of nonsense some of you do pump out.

Agnostic: In the first place, there is today considerable doubt among scholars about whether "temple prostitutes" actually existed. [See this article; its feminist tone will certainly lead most of you to distrust it, but I have seen other sources that make the same argument; just can't find them on the web.] New archeological discoveries and improved knowledge of ancient languages is rendering scholars' earlier speculations about prostitution in the ancient world obsolete, apparently. Misreading of ancient texts seems to have been a large part of the problem.

In the second place, if "temple prostitutes" existed, were they numerous enough to have any impact on the genetic stock within their societies? In the third place, how many children are such women likely to have had? Between contraception, abortion, child-exposure, and becoming sterile through repeated exposure to STDs, not very many, I suspect.

Michael, why assume that an anonymous source telling a story about someone in the news is telling the truth? Might the story not be from a spiteful ex-lover, a jealous rival, or simply people who enjoy the thrill of repeating scuttlebut for the fun of being able to say that they grew up with someone who is now in the news? I'm sure it's perfectly possible that what's-her-name invented her abusive background to give herself a little local colour, but that bit of gossip makes it no more or less likely to be true.

Finally, words cannot express how alarmed I am by this pernicious notion emerging out of the Gene worshippers that the most intelligent children can raise themselves. They can't do so today, and certainly they couldn't 500 years ago. Aside from any other concerns, there was the health factor: many children died as the result of inadequate care in the nursery, especially when it became fashionable in early modern Europe for mothers to send their children to be "wet-nursed" by professional nurses who lacked adequate milk to feed all their charges. I agree that children probably don't need the sort of obsessive care that is now lavished on them by over-involved parents, and may in fact be harmed by it, but that's quite a different matter from saying that children can raise themselves.

Posted by: alias clio on March 20, 2008 7:35 PM

Clio -- I assume that anyone over the age of 5 who's following a breaking tabloid story takes more or less everything that comes up with a grain of salt! Besides, you did notice that "appears to be" that I was careful to insert into that paragraph? ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 20, 2008 7:49 PM

All right, Michael, point taken!

Posted by: alias clio on March 20, 2008 7:55 PM

Well, call them temple prostitutes or something else -- the ancient version of Alexandra Dupre. Stunning girls who would ingratiate themselves with the powerful to milk them for both genes and material support.

That's the good thing about evolutionary theories -- the nitty gritty may not be important. Whether they were at a "temple" with the "priestly caste" or with some other group of powerful smarties, the effect is the same. Maybe they're called courtesans rather than prostitutes; again, the effect is the same.

Point is: happened there for much longer than in Finland.

I don't think this is the only reason, which is why I said it's part. Belly dancers are another example of the female performer who gets genes and material support from a powerful guy. Also has gone on longer in the Fertile Crescent than in Finland.

I'd have to look more into ancient history to get enough of a feel of it to do a back of the envelope calculation, but it wouldn't take much for 3000 - 4000 years of this to raise the looks of the region by the equivalent of, say, half an inch for height.

Just think of it in caricature form: powerful elite keeps a large harem (de facto or enforced), and survival of offspring depends on amount of material support they get (true everywhere agriculture is adopted), so that the kept women's kids do better than the kids of a farmer / forager couple, who are always on the brink of starvation.

On what basis are the powerful going to choose their kept women? Just ask Genghiz Khan. Even when the powerful choose smart women for wives at later stages in civilization, they still mess around as much as possible with ambitious pretty young things.

Posted by: agnostic on March 20, 2008 9:44 PM

"So the girls -- instead of pitching themselves into the kind of horror-movie, crazy-theater, strip-and-bleed productions that might mean actual jobs and paychecks, and even win them fans -- wind up doing nothing, or, even worse, doing lots of really boring work.

Result #1: The actresses don't make a mark -- and then the clock ticks a few more times, and their moment has passed. They haven't made fools of themselves, sure, and they haven't done anything they'll regret later -- but they also haven't done any memorable work, and they haven't made it as performers either."

There's a documentary, Some Nudity Required that is relevant. While acting in "horror-movie, crazy-theater, strip-and-bleed productions" might yield a living wage, at least until a woman's looks are gone, as these kind of bottom of the barrel productions use actresses solely for their sex appeal, it is likely to be degrading, dispiriting work that is a professional dead end. That's probably why agents disrecomend it. The wages are low, maybe even nonunion, which doesn't net an agent much, unless they have a lot of girls as clients.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on March 20, 2008 10:37 PM

This has to be part of the reason why there's such a high proportion of hot and above-avg IQ females where the ancient civilizations were: Italy, Turkey, Greece, Iran, Near East, northern India, etc.

What evidence do you have for the "high proportion" part? IQ scores in those areas aren't any higher than in, for instance, northern Europe or East Asia, and in some cases are lower. Are women in those areas particularly "IQ endowed?"

As for the hottness factor, that's too subjective to be useful.

Posted by: Peter on March 20, 2008 10:38 PM

Peter L.W. -- So true. On the other hand, there's also Jaime Pressley, who started out showing a lot of t&a in "Poison Ivy 3" and now has a nice network gig, and Barbara Crampton, who started out doing Stuart Gordon campy-shockers and wound up with a long run on (I think) "Dynasty." It's a fine line, god knows, and I do sympathize with the performers' worries about it. At the same time, I think they over-worry it. Better to take a chance and lose than not to take the chance at all, it seems to me. As for the girls trapped forever in low-rent horror (Julie Strain, Misty Mundae, etc), my impression is that many of them aren't really actresses -- that if they weren't working in low-rent horror they'd be working as strippers. (Nothing wrong with that!) But as you point out, it's a very dicey business, no matter which direction you head in. Unless you're Meryl Streep, of course, and everything just kinda falls into your lap.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 20, 2008 10:54 PM

Agnostic, there was a difference between being a concubine (and probably the inmate of a harem), and being a prostitute in the ancient world. The former belonged to one man alone; the latter usually belonged to a brothel and had to serve many, although there were supposedly independent courtesans in ancient Greece (heterae). The latter weren't necessarily well-supported by powerful patrons, either. The words you use do make a difference...

Rape and abduction/rape probably had far more impact on genetic diversity in the ancient world than either concubinage or prostitution, at least in those regions that were subject to repeated invasions, although again, they probably didn't provide women with much in the way of financial support. Nor did they have much effect in several of the regions you name - Turkey outside Constantinople, northern India, and Iran, where the rugged terrain and lack of a coast discouraged easy invasion. In fact, those areas contain some of the more ethnically homogenous peoples of the world even today, I believe. Italy and the coastal regions of the Near East are another matter.

Posted by: alias clio on March 21, 2008 1:54 AM

There's a famed 1940s song called Laughin' on the Outside, Cryin' on the Inside. Now, thanks to touchy-feely social trends, it's all reversed. They are Cryin' on the Outside, Laughin' on the Inside.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on March 21, 2008 10:03 AM

This post, along with Michael's post about down-and-dirty '70s pictures and PatrickH's related comment about '70s women (I love them too!) has put me in an exploitation-movie kind of mood--which is a mood I like a-plenty.

I had a nice email conversation with a friend not too long ago about the joys of '70s exploitation actresses. I spent most of it name-checking the many lovely, fearless ladies that have provided me with some low-down viewing excitement and pleasure over the years, as well as lamenting the fact that these types of actresses just aren't around anymore. Michael's comments regarding the effects of agents and careerism on current actresses has me thinking about this all over again.

Hmmm...sad to think that movies today haven't given us anyone to take the place of Pam Grier, Roberta Collins, Barbara Steele, Edwige Fenech, Camille Keaton, Monica Gayle and countless others. Barbara Crampton is another good one. Has a cuddlier woman ever been assaulted by zombies?

Even the more respectable actresses of that era, women like Susan George and Colleen Camp, could act in memorably unpredicable and vibrant ways--almost as though they were laying their sass, their verve and of course their bodies on the line in a winner-takes-all sort of bet.

This sort of performing is sexy, of course, but there's something endearing about it as well. In fact, it's not off-base to say I feel genuine warmth and affection for all of these ladies. I feel like they've put themselves on the line for my pleasure, and maybe arrived at something elusive, even sort of (gasp!) spiritual, in the process. That's surely the horndog in me talking--but, hey, the horndog in me is a spiritual sort of guy.

Maybe YouTube (or some more scandalous equivalent) will step in to fill the void. Or maybe the online scandal-zines and sex tapes have already taken up the slack. Funny how B-level actresses have been usurped by the A-level stars. It's just that now the A-level stars do the scandalous stuff on home video and in front of the paparazzi rather than on film.

There's something lost though, as even a Lindsay Lohan sex scandal feels more scripted and airbrushed than, say, Caged Heat.

Posted by: Ron on March 21, 2008 10:05 AM

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