We lied to the casting agent to get the job: band members in the film Radioland Murders.
John was a master of the stand-up bass. Mike played the trombone. At five in the morning we exited the house, got in a shitbrown 1982 Cadillac, and drove to the studio. George Lucas had arrived to direct the end of the film, and there was a "buzz" on the set. Grips and electrics chowed breakfast burritos and bacon and eggs off the catering truck.
We got in line, moving with incredible patience, just a hand's reach away from victory, from the steaming vats of hash browns, biscuits, omelets...and then it crumbled. A production assistant had spotted the advance, kindly removing us from the procession and directing us toward the extras' tent. Ah, it was only a matter of time before we would once again gaze upon our bright-eyed colleagues. A potpourri of senior citizens, idiots savants, hopeless aspiring actors, and genetic mutants, puncturing and drop-kicking each other over a table of glazed doughnuts and water. All dressed in 1930's period attire.
Opening the flaps of that tent was a moment that cannot be explained. Suffice it to say that there come those points in life when you get a dose of perspective, look around, and ask yourself the big question: How did I end up dressed in tum-of-the-century formal wear in a tent in North Carolina, baked out of my mind, and about to be exposed as a bogus big band musician?
It was on that day, in the parking lot of Carolco Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina, at five-thirty in the morning, that we hit rock bottom. But it was also on that day, in the midst of the existential ennui, that we resolved, once and for all, to conjure the idea that would spring us, forever, from the impoverished, Kraft-macaroni-and-cheese lifestyle of doom.
The concepts were remarkably crisp, considering the circumstance. Plans for a roving troupe of bingo operators, foraying amongst the extra tents and hosting games for the bedraggled masses. A long-needed innovation designed to alleviate the stress of watching other guests eye your previously claimed cheeseburger at summer cookouts--Burger Flag, small, golf-course-looking toothpick flags with all the major names printed upon them, simple and ready to stick in your burger once you throw it on. Imagine, your burger, grilling away nicely with a little BILL or JENNY flag in it. Go ahead, have a game of softball, taunt young infants, sneak into the woods and masturbate. Your burger is safe.
And there was one other idea: an extremely high concept for a book that no one would publish. A book for all our friends and roommates--the couch-ridden and irreparably baked. A book that reviewed movies in terms of their quality when seen high.
The bingo troupe wore off after we stopped smoking bowls. Burger Flag still seems to make sense somehow. But the Baked Potatoes
thing had potential. We typed up a proposal, sent it to an editor we knew at Doubleday, and waited for the reply. A year ago, we had assembled a collection of short stories with him, and this new idea really upped our stock as literary hopefuls.
They liked it, but were tentative. Was it legal? Wasn't the whole country into this "say no to drugs" thing? How are the "couch-ridden and irreparably baked" going to get up and buy the book? This last one was an especially good question. "Couch-ridden" is not the market you are going for when writing your book proposal. Shit. They wanted evidence that there was broad support for the cannabinoid cause. Cheech and Chong? Signed assurances from this girl who lives in our garage? The president got baked? They would think about it and have a decision on Friday.
Well, this was a victory in and of itself and certainly one worth celebrating. We got high, paced around the house, and fantasized about the possibilities. Finally, a chance to skewer every no-talent hack in the country for all to see. David Hasselhoff, Roger Ebert, Larry King, run for cover. A chance to call out the bad-seed shwag films of all time and venerate the true masters. A chance to expose the travesty of a ruse
of a sham that the whole evils-of-pot paranoia really is. Attention America:
Everyone gets high! Our roommates looked on with a great sense of pity.
At three P.M. that Friday, the phone rang and we got the news. We had been removed from the band. It wasn't our playing, mind you; they just wanted to take a different musical direction. An hour later, Doubleday called and gave us the nod. How does it feel to be sitting in your living room at four P.M. and Doubleday calls to publish your pot book? Quit your job, get exceedingly baked, call your parents and hang up when you realize what you're about to say. Then get baked. Goodbye Dominoes Pizza! Good-bye golf caddie! Screw you, world. It's time to get fried and watch movies for a year!Baked Potatoes
was a reality.Saturday Night Fever
***1/2When I dance, why do I look like a pregnant cow?
There was a time when life was all about the classics. The Love Boat
, Mission: Impossible
, Starsky and Hutch
. A time when an honest cat could wear a turtleneck. When a bicentennial quarter meant something to a kid. For God's sake, Billy Joel sounded decent. Almost.
Now all you get is tummysizing and John Davidson in a Hawaiian shirt. That's what it's come to. The star of That's Incredible!
relegated to late-night info-hell.
There was a time when Baked Potatoes roamed the fields with pride, numerous and majestic like the great caribou. A time whre potnocentricm was not about separatism. Only now are we rising like the phoenix from our basements and ghettoes and venturing again into the light.
Things were different in the seventies, and films were one of those things. Saturday Night Fever
? Enough said. The disco, the lapels, John Travolta, and that well-placed one-hitter of The Nanny
, Fran Drescher. The whole decade was stoned--the filmakers, the actors, the government. And hence the work endures.
1977 (119 min.) John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney, Barry Miller, Donna Pescow, Dir.: John Badham.sex, lies and videotape
***Baked Potato visits old college bud, snakes his wife.
James Spader carries one key. Lives out of his car. Into kinky videotapes. That's a hero we like to see. Steven Soderbergh deserves and award. Sure he got that Behind the Palme d'or thing, but what does that mean?
We're talking about the latest gemola in Tinseltown. The thing the Scientologists are mad over. The treasure that Spielberg's been bucking for. BP Development in conjunction with BP Merchandising in conjunction with the Baked Potato General are proud to announce the Hash Brown, just like the Oscar but with long hair, stockier, and made entirely of potato and tofutti. An awards event that rewards true baked merit, an event to honor and praise the Baked Potato films of the year.
And Soderbergh is certainly worthy.
Five characters, five locations, low-budget indie bombshell, sex, lies
is generally credited as one of the first crossover "art" films to spank the modern mainstream. People have sex, people betray each other, people fall in love. The usual human slop-fest but extremely well-drooled.
1989 (100min.) James Spader, Andie MacDowell, Peter Galagher, Laura San Giacomo. Dir.: Steven Soderbergh.
Excerpted from Baked Potatoes by John Hulme. Copyright © 1996 by Wexler Hulme. Excerpted by permission of Main Street Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.