Strap it on

Pub date July 5, 2006
WriterCheryl Eddy
SectionArts & CultureSectionTrash

CULT MOVIE It’s finally here. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Fox Home Entertainment), a top contender in my sordid little mind for the greatest movie ever made (next time you see me in a bar and have two or three hours to kill, I can give you the complete list) has arrived in splendid, special-edition DVD form. Has Hollywood ever been so satirically skewered? Has a single film ever crammed in so many genres — musical, comedy, melodrama, youth-gone-wild, slasher? Has the Bentley vs. Rolls sex question ever been so definitively answered?
From its opening, mind-blowing tease to its hilariously somber coda, Russ Meyer’s brilliantly colored, brilliantly bizarre 1970 classic (scripted by Roger Ebert, it was Meyer’s first major-studio release) stands well enough on its own. But in this two-disc package you also get commentaries (one by Ebert, one by cast members); a giddy making-of doc; featurettes spotlighting the film’s rockin’ tunes, groovy dialogue, and more; and screen tests featuring future Carrie Nation members Cynthia Meyers (Casey) and Marcia McBroom (Pet).
But it gets better, superwoman. This week, pry your sweaty claws off your BVD DVD and look on up at Peaches Christ, who’ll be hosting a reunion of stars McBroom, Erica Gavin (Roxanne), and John La Zar (Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell). Midnight Mass unspools two nights of gentle people and mayonnaise on the big screen, and the cast — currently on a mini–promo tour that also includes stops in Austin, Los Angeles, and Phoenix — will descend on Amoeba with Peaches for a DVD signing.
“This is gonna be so much fun for me,” La Zar enthuses over the phone from LA. “San Francisco is my hometown — I was raised in the Richmond District, 36th Avenue right off Fulton. This will be the first time I’ve worked in San Francisco since [I performed with] American Conservatory Theater in 1967.”
Cast as the Phil Spector–ish, flowery-tongued Z-Man after he was spotted by 20th Century Fox scouts doing a play in Hawaii (“They needed a young man who could do kind of a weird classical thing”), La Zar isn’t surprised BVD has enthralled a new generation of fans. “It’s a youth film, isn’t it — there’s still a rebelliousness to it.”
La Zar reveals he wasn’t initially fond of the film’s most memorable line — “This is my happening, and it freaks me out!” — later aped in the Ghost World comic and by Austin Powers, among others. “I thought the line sucked, but Russ Meyer shamed me into it. He said, ‘You’re an actor, aren’t you?’ And lo and behold, that’s what I’m most famous for in the film!”
Prior to BVD, Hollywood native Gavin starred in Meyer’s 1968 smash, Vixen! “I was much smaller than most of his women, but he figured maybe women could relate to me better,” Gavin says, speaking from her SoCal home about the famously breast-obsessed director, whom she recalls with great fondness. “He was a big teddy bear — tough on the outside and mushy on the inside.”
Gavin, who’s thrilled that BVD is receiving such grand DVD treatment, remembers how excited Meyer was while making the film. “The budget was huge for him. He was like a babe in toyland — he had all these resources at his fingertips.”
The film has endured, she thinks, because of its humor. “It’s almost like, no matter what generation, it’s so silly — almost like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Spinal Tap. It’s not a comment on today, or life as it is. It’s really life as it isn’t. It’s cuckoo!” (Cheryl Eddy)
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls reunion show
With Erica Gavin, John La Zar, and Marcia McBroom
Fri/7–Sat/8, 11:59 p.m.
Bridge Theatre
3010 Geary, SF
(415) 751-3213
Sat/8, 2 p.m.
Amoeba Music
1855 Haight, SF
(415) 831-1200