Las Vegas Grind Vol. 6

As I am sure you’re aware, I am a sophisticated man of the world, who derives no pleasure from rummaging through the trashcan of popular culture. But still, I bravely troll through the filth on your behalf. I like to think of it as a public service. After all, who would you rather hear about sleazy subcultures from? Permission to Kill, or some old geezer in a mac!

Today we enter the secret world of the ecdysiast – or if you prefer Burlesque Queen, Show Girls, Bump and Grinders, Stripteasers, Strippers, Exotic Dancers, Erotic Dancers or Lap Dancers. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to to it!

I am now at an age where going to a Strip Show doesn’t hold the lure that it once did. I am no longer the pimply youth attracted by bright lights and sins of the flesh. Now, most likely, I would be considered the ‘dirty old man’ in the corner. A figure to be scorned, pitied and ridiculed. However when I was younger, on the odd occasion I was known to frequent such establishments. My years at art-school encouraged me to admire and appreciate the female form, and if that’s a crime I’m sorry!

But the shows I went to back then, were positively primitive to the big clubs they have in the city these days. The shows I went to were mostly in hotels and pubs, with the blinds drawn down and doors locked, while an anemic girl would writhe around on the pool table (usually armed with a bottle of baby oil and shaving cream). If she was the fearless type, she may launch herself onto the bar and strut around from on high, allowing the punters ample opportunity to see the goods on display. It was nothing like a Paul Verhoeven film. Despite the rustic and slightly seedy setting, rest assured, I was dressed immaculately in a dinner suit, sipping a ‘Creole Scream’ (with one olive), because then, as now, I am a complete gentleman and a class act. The music back then, in these venues was always the same – a mixture of cock rock, Billy Idol and Prince. And of course let’s not forget Berlin – their song Sex (I’m a…) was a classic.

But times have changed. Strip Shows are big business these days, with lavish glittering establishments, with rock-concert standard lighting, and powerful sound systems blasting out the music at levels that make conversation impossible. Smoke machines spew out coloured plumes, keeping the atmosphere hazy enough to make sure that you cannot focus on the naughty bits – the actual ‘naughty bits’ that you paid good money to see. And furthermore, adding insult to injury, you have to take out a small loan just to buy a drink. Strangely enough, although the setting has changed, the music these days (in the fair city of Melbourne at least), still seems to rely heavily on 80’s cock rock. Bon Jovi’s Bed of Roses and Poison’s Every Rose Has its Thorns are still routinely given a good workout. But poor Billy Idol and Prince seem to have gone by the wayside.

But Strip Shows had a life long before my days (well, duh?), and pre-recorded music was not the norm. Often they had bands playing alongside the girls. That’s how the Beatles started! Of course the punters weren’t interested in the music, they came to see the girls, however many of these bands were tight little units. Admittedly the environment they were in, and the backing they were expected to provide, didn’t allow for too much variation, with most of the numbers not too far removed from the standard twelve bar blues. But to make their tunes just that bit more exotic – and strippin’s all about exoticism as much as eroticism – the performers would throw in a crazy organ solo, a fevered sax break, or even a bongo rhythm that made the tracks sound Middle Eastern or Tribal African. The soundscapes they created were attempting to conjure up visions of the ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, ‘Primitive Jungle Love Rites’ or any other secret sexual fantasy world, including B & D – which gives us songs like The Whip, by The Creeps. But I am getting ahead of myself. Allow me to introduce you to Las Vegas Grind.

I first discovered the Las Vegas Grind series many years ago, very, very late at night, on vinyl, owned by a friend who had an absolutely staggering record collection. And as you have no doubt you’ve guessed, this series is devoted to old time stripper music. Bluesy, swingin’, wild stripper music! The albums are compilations featuring some underground nuggets and obscure performers. I doubt that you’d have heard of any of the artists presented (I hadn’t), but don’t let that dissuade you.

This review looks at Volume Six, the last in the series (but it could easily apply to all the albums), and this one is available on CD. The availability of the series does tend to fluctuate a bit, and finding some of the early albums is hard, but to be honest, unless you really, really love dirty stripping sounds (and I can appreciate that), then you probably only need to hunt down one album in the series to fill that seedy void in your music collection.

Let’s get down to brass tacks then shall we. Las Vegas Grind: Volume Six has twenty-six tracks – almost all killer, no filler. Highlights include Ray Gee and his Orchestra, with The Slouch, which features a cheesy slice of organ (imagine being at a baseball game), with suggestive ooohs and aaahs over the top, which fade into smooth harmonies. Bowlegs dish up One More Time, Part Two which is a piano (or should that be ‘Piana’) blues with a scat narrative over the top and some mean tenor saxophone. Johnny Little John & Guitar presents Johnny’s Jive which is a jangly guitar driven rocker, with some wild sax running alongside, and hammond organ spiraling along under the surface. The El-Capris get all primitive on our ass with Safari which is a rumbling tribal number with a hip shakin’ bongo beat. Omay Kay’s Turkish Coffee could come straight out of the Arabian Nights with a sound so familiar you’ll think you’ve heard it before – but can’t remember where. Freddy Scott and the 4 Steps take a page from the Wilson Picket handbook (via early James Brown) with Same Ole Beat, and The Ramrocks On the Rocks is Tequila in all but name. The Jaguars track, entitled, er… Jaguar taps into The Batman sound, and Ronnie Isle’s Wicked is straight ahead fifties, greased hair rock and roll. Of course I could mention a lot more, but music is not really an literal medium. It really needs to be heard to be appreciated.

As you can imagine, lyrics aren’t really are big part of this music. It is more about the musicians hitting a regular go-go groove and riding it. But many of the songs have lyrics of a sort. Sometimes they simply have a phrase repeated at the end of each twelve bars (such as ‘Tequila’). Here we have phrases such as ‘Cold Slaw’, ‘Spunky Onions Boy’, ‘Kaput’ and ‘Jaguar’. Bowlegs attempts a running commentary during his number, The Slouch, with ‘Holey-moley look at that over there’, and Johhny Little John reassures the listener that ‘It ain’t nothin’ but a titty’. With such silly lyrics, or I think ‘vocal stylings’ may be a better phrase, sometimes these numbers come close to being novelty songs, but as I have suggested, it really is all about the groove, and creating a mood and beat to which the girls can ply their trade.

Somehow listening to this music makes the strip shows of the past seem innocent and fun. I am sure that they weren’t and it was still about making money, and fleecing the customers. However, there is a sense of energy and spontaneity in these recordings that make it seem that a visit to a strip club was a visceral heart pounding adventure, rather than a soul sapping, mechanised money extraction system, like today’s clubs. I guess that’s a sad reflection on our times and how homogenised it has become.

Las Vegas Grind: Volume Six was released by Strip Records, Germany in 2000.

Las Vegas Grind Vol. 6

Senorita Scorpion

Below is a press release from the good people at Pro Se Press, for their latest release, The New Adventures of Senorita Scorpion from their Pulp Obscura line. For those not familiar with Pulp Obscura, as the title would suggest, these are stories based on some of the more obscure characters for the golden age of pulp.

* * * * *

A fearless Avenger for Justice atop a blazing steed! The explosive blast of six-guns filling the air, punctuated by the sharp crack of a whip! A mask protecting the identity of someone fighting for Right in the Old West! All the elements to make a fantastic Pulp story came together decades ago in tales crafted by a prolific Pulp Writer. Now PULP OBSCURA, an imprint of Pro Se Productions in conjunction with Altus Press, proudly presents three new tales of this groundbreaking character from Pulp’s Golden Era!

Pulp Obscura’s THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SENORITA SCORPION, featuring Les Savage, Jr.’s Masked Mistress of the Range is now available, adding another stellar star to the lineup of classic, but often forgotten or underrated heroes now living again in Pro Se’s exciting imprint!

Created by Savage in 1944 for Action Stories, Senorita Scorpion is in fact Elgera Douglas, a young lady who became a legendary outlaw defending her family’s land and legacy, the fabled Lost Santiago Mine. Beautiful and deadly. A crack shot. A Fast thinking, daring fighter who is ruthless to those who threaten the land and people under her protection!

“Senorita Scorpion,” stated Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, “is a wonderful character on several levels with so much potential. Masked heroes in the Wild West have a special place in the heart of fans of all sorts, from Pulps to old time radio to television and beyond. Senorita Scorpion fits right into the category. Then add in the fact that not only is this a female lead character created at a time when that wasn’t done very often, but that she was written to be as strong and capable as the very men she stood against. Les Savage, Jr. gave Pulp fiction a heroine that is just as relevant now as she was in the 1940s and we’re definitely glad to be a part of continuing her adventures!”

Nancy A. Hansen sends Senorita Scorpion into action to the ringing of THE BELLS OF ST. FERDINAND! Andrea Judy demonstrates that some jail breaks simply need A WOMAN’S TOUCH! And Brad Mengel posts a fantastic bounty with WANTED: SENORITA SCORPION! Three great writers bring a classic Pulp character galloping back to life in three daring tales of hard riding action and bold adventure!

From out of the Past comes New Tales of Classic Characters from PULP OBSCURA! With editing by Percival Constantine, an amazing cover by Mike Fyles and Format and Design by Sean Ali, ride alongside the mysterious blond bandit of the Old West in THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SENORITA SCORPION!

Available from Pro Se at Createspace or Amazon.

Coming soon in Ebook format!

Also, get two volumes the original adventures of Senorita Scorpion by Les Savage, Jr. reprinted in exquisite collectible editions from Altus Press. Volume 1. Volume 2.

Senorita Scorpion

LEE: An anthology inspired by actor Lee Marvin

Authors: Scott Phillips, Heath Lowrance, Johnny Shaw, Jenna Bass, Adrian McKinty, Jake Hinkson, Ray Banks, James Hopwood, Erik Lundy, Eric Beetner, Luke Preston, Nigel Bird, Ryan K. Lindsay, Andrew Nette, Cameron Ashley and Jimmy Callaway.
Publisher: Crime Factory
Published: March 2013

This weekend sees the launch of LEE, a new anthology of stories inspired by the life and films of Lee Marvin. ‘Inspired’, yes this is fiction – but it’s Lee Marvin fiction – and fiction doesn’t get any tougher than that!

Marvin needs no introduction, being one of the 20th Century’s most iconic actors. And we all have a favourite Marvin film… be it, The Dirty Dozen, Death Hunt, Point Blank, The Killers, Cat Ballou, The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance, The Big Heat, Gorky Park, Paint Your Wagon, The Professionals, The Big Red One, Hell in the Pacific, … or even Delta Force.

For this anthology, I contributed a story called ‘Trust’, and it’s inspired by the film, Sergeant Ryker (1968). Firstly, if you’re not familiar with Sergeant Ryker, it has an unusual production history. It was originally a two-part TV production, called The Case Against Paul Ryker for the Kraft Suspense Theater, which aired in 1963.

When Marvin became a superstar, after winning an Academy Award for Cat Ballou, and lauded performances in other movies, such as Point Blank and The Dirty Dozen – some smart egg in Hollywood decided to turn the TV production into a movie; adding a few simple action scenes to the story (which don’t feature Marvin). It was then released in 1968 as Sergeant Ryker, hoping to ride on the coat-tails of Marvin’s success and surging popularity.

Sergeant Ryker is a courtroom drama, set during the Korean War, where Marvin’s character stands accused of treason, a hanging offense. The man standing between life and death is an Intelligence Officer, played by actor, Murray Hamilton.

Murray Hamilton may not be a household name, but he was a very popular and familiar character actor. His most famous role, is of course, the mayor of Amity in Jaws and Jaws 2.

Murray Hamilton with Roy Scheider in Jaws.

It is also common knowledge, that Lee Marvin was Steven Spielberg’s first choice to play Quint in Jaws, a role that ended up being played by Robert Shaw. So the conceit of my story is that the two actors, Marvin and Hamilton get together, share a few drinks and talk about big game fishing.

What could possibly go wrong?

I am pretty excited to be included amongst the amazing troupe of writers assembled for this anthology, including a few of my Fight Card colleagues, Eric Beetner and Heath Lowrance. I haven’t had a chance to read the full book yet, but the word is that this collection of stories is amazing, so if sounds like your cup of tea, then I’d act early, as I have an inkling that the first print run, may just sell out!

“This collection of short fiction puts legendary actor Lee Marvin smack dab in the center of the action where he belongs.”

— Dwayne Epstein, author of Lee Marvin: Point Blank

“This collection delivers. The writing is pungent, sly and muscular, dark and comic, and all of it has a tremendous energy. A love of film and love of noir is evident in every story. This does Lee proud.”

— Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap and Dead Europe

LEE is already available to order from the Crime Factory site, and I am sure it will be available from other outlets (such as Amazon) soon.

“And here’s to Swimmin’ with bow legged women!”

LEE: An anthology inspired by actor Lee Marvin

American Ninja 4: Annihilation (1990)

Country: United States
Director: Cedric Sundstrom
Starring: Michael Dudikoff, David Bradley, James Booth, Dwayne Alexandre, Robin Stille, Ken Gampu, Jody Abrahams, Franz Dobrowsky
Writer: David Geeves (James Booth)
Music: NictenBroek

Sheik Ali Maksood (Ron Smerczak) has a grudge against the West. He also has a nuclear device that will fit into a suitcase (which he allegedly intends to set off in New York). The US President sends a team of Delta Force soldiers, to the un-named African country, where Maksood is hiding out, to retrieve the weapon.

However, what the Americans don’t realise, is that Maksood also has a army of Ninja training at his secret base. The ninja surround the Delta Force team, picking them off one by one, until only four remain. They are captured, and a video tape is send to the US, saying unless the government pays a 50 million dollar ransom, the soldiers will be killed.

A rescue mission is launched and G-6 agent, Sean Davidson (David Bradley – the ninja from American Ninja 3), and his sidekick Carl Brackston (Dwayne Alexandre) are sent to the un-named African country to rescue them. They parachute in and meet their contact, who happens to be a boy named Pongo (Jody Abrahams).

Maksood’s chief of security is a mad sadist, named Mulgrew (James Booth – who also worked on the script under the name David Geeves). Mulgrew hears about Davidson and Brackston, and goes searching for them (with the aid of an army). In a small village, our heroes are given shelter by a WHO nurse named Sarah (Robin Stille). Mulgrew’s search proves fruitless.

American Ninja 4
Michael Dudikoff is Joe Armstrong - American Ninja #1

But of course, Maksood also has an army of ninjas on hand, and they quickly track down our heroes. A fight ensues, with American Ninja, Davidson, killing many of the attacking ninja. But he can’t hold them all off. Davidson, Brackston and Sarah are captured and taken to Maksood’s fortress. However, Pongo manages to flee.

At the fortress ninja training is taking place, and it is revealed that Maksood has a whole variety of different colour coded ninja – red, blue, yellow, black… and my favourite the white nuclear ninjas.

American Ninja 4
David Bradley is Sean Davidson - American Ninja #2

So with Davidson’s capture, what will G-6 (and for that matter, the American government) do? They call on Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff – the star of the first two American Ninja films). Armstrong has retired from the ninja trade, and now works for the Peace Corps as a teacher. He just wants to be left alone. But once he hears how his friend, Davidson, has been captured, he has little choice but to go in and rescue him.

American Ninja 4
Evil Ninja have the American Ninja surrounded

But even the original American Ninja needs some help, so, with the aid of Pongo, he teams up with a gang of outcast rebels, who look like rejects from the Mad Max 2 – The Road Warrior. They storm Maksood’s fortress and much ninja mayhem ensues.

American Ninja 4
One of the numerous 'falling ninja' in American Ninja 4

The first American Ninja was only a B-Grade, low budget affair – albeit hugely enjoyable (I like the second film best). Applying the law of diminishing returns (and therefore diminishing budgets), then it is fair to say that American Ninja 4 probably had less that a shoe-string budget. But most of that non-budget is up on the screen to be seen – mostly ninja uniforms, haircare product and explosions.

American Ninja 4
White 'Nuclear Ninja' load the atomic device on a helicopter

It is interesting to see both American Ninja together in the one film. David Bradley as Sean Davidson is clearly the superior martial artist – his fight scenes are more convincing than Dudikoff’s. However, Dudikoff, as Joe Armstrong, has the screen presence that Bradley lacks, and the film feels more alive in the second half when he is on screen.

The film isn’t high art and never tries to be. It simply tries to deliver a modicum of martial art entertainment and generally it succeeds (well, at least for undemanding viewers – and I guess I am one of those).

American Ninja 4: Annihilation (1990)