No satisfaction

Keith Richards fails in the manly art of self-abuse; Merry Pranksters drive on the left.

Published April 24, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Brace yourself for a real shocker: A close reading of the April Vogue reveals that Courtney Love may once have ingested illicit substances. This disquieting revelation is blurted by Love to Vogue's Joanne Chen after the writer joins the head Hole for a none-too-relaxing yoga class. In the course of the story, and once the obligatory Love eruption cools to a smolder, the two seem to form a deep spiritual bond (the article's titled "Spiritual Love"). Then, in a moment of profound candor, Love asks Chen, "Did you know I did drugs?" Golly, no, Courtney, but so brave of you to open up about it.

'Tooned or not, Love was fine indeed playing Althea Flynt in "The People vs. Larry Flynt," so why isn't she being cast in the role she was born for: Janis Joplin in Paramount's upcoming film biography of the blues singer, "Piece of My Heart"? Instead, non-singer Brittany Murphy, who first came to prominence as the unfashionably dressed transfer student in "Clueless," will play Joplin. Guess that's why they call it the blues. And that's also why they call it Hollywood.

Could we please be excused from this scandal, please? Last month, Seattle's Internet Entertainment Group (IEG), the elegant gang who brought you Tommy and Pam-Pam doing the horizontal bam-bam, among other tantric feats of daring, and the excruciatingly tedious Dr. Laura Schlesinger in a state of full disclosure, offered up the Rolling Stones' own Capt. Pissgums, Keith Richards, naked as on that frightening day he crawled from the primordial ooze.

According to IEG, Richards, who recently told USA Today that "there's fin de sihcle weirdness going on," appears on the members-only Clublove site in nude beach pix taking advantage of himself. Clublove describes the action, or lack thereof, as follows: "Keith Richards appears unable to get a rise on the beach. Richards' stoned gaze as he contemplates the lifeless manhood pinched between his fingers might serve as the ideal photo for a public service announcement titled, Your Penis on Drugs." Real nice, folks. Can't we afford Mr. Richards just a modicum of respect after all he's done for the universe?

But then the celebrity humiliation sweepstakes -- often self-imposed -- are a perpetual motion machine. For example, His Royal Randyness, Hugh Hefner, 72, is now dating not one, not two, but -- count 'em -- three! bodacious blond balloon smugglers who look to be, oh, well, out of high school, fer sure. Their names? Brandy, Sandy and, you guessed it, Randy.

Speaking of the last remnants of a once-flourishing civilization, a new souvenir of same has recently become available. The hellish Franklin Mint, in league with Harley-Davidson, now offers "Bobby, the little biker baby ... Mommy and Daddy's little daredevil in diapers," a "hand-painted porcelain" second cousin to Chucky sporting a leather vest and a red bandanna head wrap. But somebody in marketing dropped the wrench when they failed to get legendary Oakland Hells Angel president Sonny Barger to sign and number each one. And to make matters worse, C.A. Swanson and Sons has announced that it's bringing back the original TV Dinners, the famous foodlike product first introduced in 1954. "It's part of American culture," said Swanson president Murray Kessler. "We're proud of who we are."

So is Hannibal Lecter, and he's coming back, too. After 10 years, author Thomas Harris finally got off the dime and has completed a new novel, "Hannibal," the sequel to "Silence of the Lambs," his book that spawned the movie that made it impossible to ever again masticate fava beans in quite the same way.

Why have Marilyn Manson and Michael Jackson never been seen in the same place at the same time? Yeah, you know what I'm thinking and I know that you're thinking it, too. Anyway, Manson, a musician, a performer (fer crissakes), who the dimly lit dunderheads of denial and deflection have decided should bear some responsibility for the heartbreaking awfulness earlier this week, brought his show to the nation's capital recently. The review in the august Washington Post, though not (surprise, surprise) enthusiastic, deemed Manson "hard to take too seriously." While just yesterday, Reuters reported, Sascha K., founder of the techno-rock band KMFDM, whose music has been linked to the two alleged killers, spoke with more eloquence than any of Goth rock's detractors: "We are sick and appalled," Sascha K. said, "as is the rest of the nation, by what took place in Colorado ... From the beginning, our music has been a statement against war, oppression, fascism and violence against others.''

Pop music may be going to the Visigoths, but there is a glimmer of hope among upcoming movies. Stanley Tucci is directing and starring in "Joe Gould's Secret," which began shooting in mid-March and is based on the story of the same name by Joseph Mitchell. Mitchell, who was on the staff of the New Yorker for 58 years until his death in 1996, was a wonderfully precise, idiosyncratic journalist. In a profile of Mitchell by Mark Singer in a recent New Yorker, Mitchell explains why he stopped writing in 1964: "Well, they said that those people I wrote about were crazy. And they might have been. But they weren't dangerous-crazy like the people who get written about now."

Besides being a hell of a writer, what made Mitchell such a good journalist was that he listened as well as he spoke. "The only people I do not care to listen to," Mitchell once said, "are society women, industrial leaders, distinguished authors, ministers, explorers, moving picture actors (except W.C. Fields and Stepin Fetchit) and any actress under the age of 35." Also appearing in Tucci's film will be Isabella Rossellini and Glenn Close, both over 35.

Now, we return to the strange days of yesteryear, remembering that when the going gets weird, the weird most certainly get going -- in this case all the way across the Atlantic. Yes, it's absolutely true, maybe. You can't keep those Pranksters down on the farm. The Further expeditions of the legendary intrepid trippers are about to add another chapter with a Merry Prankster buscapade through Britain this summer. In what's being billed as the "Search for the True Merlin," the once-and-future psychedelisauruses are shipping their vintage bus with the are-you-coming-on-to-that-stuff yet? paint job to England on June 8 for arrival in Tilbury on Aug. 6, where they hope to be "greeted by the Queen and the Queen Mum." Perhaps they'll settle for what remains of the Spice Girls.

Many of the usual suspects will be aboard the great International Harvester of fools, including ringmaster and Lord High Cuckooman Ken Kesey, along with original Pranksters Roy Sebern (the Thomas Edison of light shows), Ken Babbs, and myriad other tie-dyed souls. Throughout the odd odyssey, the Intrepid Trips Web site will carry reports on the day-glo pilgrims' progress as they bring their gospel to England, Scotland and Wales, which means we no longer have to sprain our brains over that old "Are you on the bus, or off the bus?" conundrum. Once a prankster, always a prankster, albeit a digital one.

By Douglas Cruickshank

Douglas Cruickshank is a senior writer for Salon. For more articles by Cruickshank, visit his archive.

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