The origin of the phrase ‘he was redoing his bathroom’

Anyhow, there’s a section in the book where Campbell recalls a time a fan came up and congratulated him on an appearance in some TV show, I’ve forgotten which. Funnily enough, so had Campbell, and had to be reminded. When asked why he’d accepted the role (whatever it was) he finally remembered the part and responded with ‘I needed a new water heater.’

Several years ago, I read Bruce Campbells marvelously funny and entertaining autobiography, If Chins Could Kill.

If they could, this is the last thing you'd see before you died.

ICCK is a fascinating read, told by a man who’s been front and center in the Hollywood industry for over twenty years. I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Campbell a question at a screening of his film ‘The Man with the Screaming Brain.’ I choked, asked him some rambling inane bullshit, and he shut me down like he was Bruce Willis and there was 1 second until the bomb went off. It was kind of awesome.

Anyway, Campbell, a man’s man if you believe the Old Spice commercials (and we do–there are no Nonbelievers here) made a lot of fascinating points about being an actor in an industry that favors the lucky and attractive rather than the literate and mildly-attractive. He and David Duchovny apparently hung out on an X-files set making fart noises. Not quite up there with Sean Connery punching out Johnny Stompanato, but awesmome in its own right.

Anyhow, there’s a section in the book where Campbell recalls a time a fan came up and congratulated him on an appearance in some TV show, I’ve forgotten which. Funnily enough, so had Campbell, and had to be reminded. When asked why he’d accepted the role (whatever it was) he finally remembered the part and responded with ‘I needed a new water heater.’

This blew my mind.

My notion of actors living out of their cars for the love of THE THEA-TAH was forever shattered–which is good, because it was bullshit anyway. Actors, in other words, are people too.

Not in a ‘TMZ HAS EXCLUSIVE PICS OF LINDSEY LOHAN AT THE BIKINI WAXER OMG SHE HAS PUBES LIKE A HUMAN HOW AWFUL!!!’ but in a ‘Now where did I leave my phone, it was just right here‘ way. I love imagining actors in such situations–getting a craving for Taco Bell and then realizing they aren’t that hungry when they get to the drive-thru, so they order a drink and a single taco to save face; losing the number of the guy who trims their trees and spending a frustrating morning trying to remember his name, or at least what letter it started with; having cookouts, trying to decide if a pair of pants are ready to be thrown out or will last another few days, getting gum in their hair, dropping some freshly buttered toast and it lands BUTTER SIDE DOWN, etc. But most of all, I like imagining actors as people who sometimes do stupid things to pay the bills. There’s no malice in this, no jealousy aimed at a person who had the courage to pursue a dream and is having trouble making it happen–more, it’s just a fun mental exercise, another form of entertainment, if you will.

So often I will review a terrible film in which a respected or decent actor will appear, and wonder what the hell they were thinking. Since I know that sometimes in filmmaking the script that is written is a far cry from the finished project, I guess that had a lot to do with it. And sometimes you’ll wind up with someone Oscar-caliber making something terrible just for the fun of it, or the costumes or effects or chance to go somewhere foreign and exotic, or because they want to make movies their kids will enjoy. I’m pretty sure that 8 out of 10 films Nicholas Cage does are based entirely on his liking for the  wig he gets to wear. I don’t know these people, I just know their work.

But sometimes it’s nice to sit back, nod to myself and say ‘Ah, she was redoing her bathroom.’

The X-Files: Season 1

There’s still lots to love about the X-files. The patter, the Lone Gunmen, the infamous red Speedo, but in my opinion, most of the good stuff is to be found when Fox and Dana are doing anything but investigating aliens. Odd, considering the show’s intent.

From the Wayback Machine

Most of my memories of the X-Files are tied to watching them in high school, a time when I was incredibly shy, worked most weekends and read way too many books about aliens, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and other forteana.

Mulder and Scully have become cultural shorthand for ‘believer’ and ‘nonbeliever’ respectively; Mulder, driven by a need to find his missing sister who be believes was abducted by aliens, and practical, pragmatic old Scully, unafraid to call bullshit on Mulder’s theories and demand proof.

Something must be said about the progressive gender politics of the show; again, Scully is clinical, fastidious, and disinclined to flights of faith or the benefit of the doubt. She stands in direct contrast to Mulder, who is prone to making Herculean leaps in logic, draw conclusions from nothing more than a hunch, run off in the middle of an investigation in order to pursue a tangential lead, or damage his own case by not following procedure. Additionally, in several episodes I was pleased to see Scully physically take down fleeing suspects or attackers, a welcome change from the lip-service feminism in most high-profile movies and TV these days.

The X-Files was the Go-To show of the 90’s; it had a healthy anti-authoritarian attitude and personified the decade’s postmodern, question-everything flavor. Conspiracy theories abounded, Big Government was out to hide everything from alien abduction to the location of car keys, aliens were probing anything remotely anus-shaped, and people didn’t have casual sex with their co-workers.

The X-Files, as horrible as it feels to say it, does not stand the test of time for me. Too often Mulder and Scully find themselves struggling to solve a situation that could be resolved with a quick Google search–certainly it’s easy to dismiss the show as dated, just check out Scully’s shoulder pads. But that’s just nitpicking– the real problem is Mulder’s utter disinterest in applying objectivity to anything they encounter. There’s keeping an open mind, and then there’s Fox Mulder, who never met a candy wrapper he couldn’t conflate into some kind of paranormal occurrence. After all, tinfoil has many, many uses amongst the ‘aliens among us’ set.

After the Bush years, I found my faith in Big Government’s ability to keep secrets from the people had waned. Why believe in a cover up about aliens when there’s so much worse out there? A year or two ago, I found a blog kept by a sharpshooter who’d been to Iraq. His assignment had been to sit on a hillside and shoot anyone who came near some metal pieces scattered in a valley down below. The metal pieces were ‘components’ intentionally scattered by the military as bait, as they are often used to create IEDs; unfortunately, they also contain copper that children collect in order to sell for scrap, to make money for their families. The sharpshooter was instructed to kill anyone who came near the parts, and kill them he did.

This isn’t the sort of thing everyone thinks of when they’re watching a TV show: ‘how well does this show reflect reality as I know it?’  Of course there’s a temporary suspension of disbelief. This is the benefit of the doubt we give when we sit down to watch anything.

The best parts of the show for me, now and always, are the Monster of the Week episodes, where Mulder and Scully take down werewolves, vampires, lake monsters, weird flesh-eating bugs, giant leeches and such. The episode ‘Beyond The Sea,’ about serial killer Luther Boggs (played by Brad Dourif, one of my actor obsessions) and the death of Scully’s father, is an episode that is so moving that it stuck with me since the first time I saw it, in 1993. The scene where Boggs is walking down the hallway to the gas chamber, and he turns away and is guided back by the officers, not fighting, not violent,  but frightened like a child and simply wanting to get away, is heartbreaking.

There’s still lots to love about the X-files. The patter, the Lone Gunmen, the infamous red Speedo, but in my opinion, most of the good stuff is to be found when Fox and Dana are doing anything but investigating aliens. Odd, considering the show’s intent.