Tuesday, March 15, 2022

March 15, 1930 – The infamous fake documentary Ingagi premieres.

The success of the film prompted RKO to make King Kong.

Ingagi was the brainchild of Nat Spitzer, of whom little is known except that he was born July 11, 1876, and had spent most of his life as a circus promoter. He started Bull's Eye Studios in 1919. From 1920 to 1921, he produced a dozen comedy shorts starring Billy West and Gale Henry. When that venture collapsed, he tired his hand at a comedy western feature film in 1925, The Heir-Loons. It bombed.

In 1930, Spitzer formed Congo Pictures. He decided to make a sexploitation film to revive his career. After coming up with the story, he hired sometime screenwriter and playwright Adam Hull Shirk to write the script.

The idea was to cull footage from previous documentaries no one would remember. The highlight of the film would be the "discovery" of an African tribe who worshipped gorillas. Once a year, the tribe turns a woman over to a male gorilla, who has sex with her.

Gorillas were a relatively new species at the time. The first gorilla bones were only collected in 1847, and the first live gorilla only spotted in 1861. A dozen dead specimens and a handful of live ones made an appearance over the next 40 years, but it wasn't until the 1920s that the "homeland" of gorillas was located and scientific study made of them. Even then, the prevalent idea was that gorillas were highly violent.

Faux documentaries were unheard of at the time. Ingagi was really the first. Anthropological documentaries were well known, and included Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life (1925; a nomadic Iranian tribe moves to find grass for its cattle), Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness (1927; a Thai boy grows up), and The Silent Enemy (1930; the cultural ways of embittered Ojibwa).

Fake documentaries like Africa Speaks! (August 1930; monsters, disfigured tribal people, and a faked scene of a lion ripping a man limb from limb), Ubangi (1931; a fake investigation into a 1924 expedition whose filmmaker was killed by a charging hippo), The Blonde Captive (1931; a fake investigation into "humans most closely related to Neanderthals" which discovers a blonde European woman living with Australian Aborigines), Virgins of Bali (1932; two virgin women lounge about in the nude prior to their marriage and deflowering), and Wild Women of Borneo (1932; half-naked women lounge about smoking [!] and enticing men into sex) would all come later.

Released in both silent and sound versions, Ingagi stole 16-year-old documentary footage from the film Heart of Africa and a few shots from Chang and spliced it together with contemporary footage shot at the Los Angeles Zoo. The "native women" were African Americans hired from Central Casting. The "pygmies" were local Black children made up to look like adults. Legendary gorilla portrayer Charles Gemora not only played the part of the rapist gorilla, but also designed his own suit at the whopping cost of $1,000. (A lever attached to his lower jaw moved the ape's mouth open and caused the lips to snarl.)

There was no real attempt to make the contemporary footage look old. It was crisp and clean. The costume given to the uncredited actor portraying "Sir Hubert Winstead" didn't even match that of the real explorers in the 1914 footage.

The "monstrous" new species, the Tortadillo, found in the first half of the film is little more than a leopard turtle to which scales, wings, and a tail have been obviously glued.

Spitzer got RKO Pictures to screen Ingagi at several of its theaters in March 1930. It made $1 million.

The uproar over Ingagi was fairly strong. The Federal Trade Commission investigated the film for fraud. Spitzer admitted that 85 percent of the film had been shot in Hollywood. (He later backtracked, claiming 85 percent of the film had been shot "by" Hollywood). Moralists persuaded Will Hays of the Hollywood Production Code office to ban the film because it featured so much nudity and was suggestive of bestiality.

Usually, these types of sleazy, no-budget films were booked only by the most marginal of theaters, the kind that showed venereal disease films, nudist camp exposés, and sub-Monogram level pictures.

Now that the Hays Office had barred studio-owned theaters from screening the film, independent theater owners realized they had a gold mine on their hands.

RKO sold the distribution rights to Road Show Pictures. Congo Pictures created a special trailer explaining the controversy surrounding Ingagi, and handed out ballots asking audiences if the local theater should screen it. The answer was a unanimous "YES!" It made another $3 million in 1931 and 1932.

Byron P. Mackenzie, the real big-game hunter and documentarian behind Heart of Africa, sued Spitzer for copyright infringement. He won $150,000.

Charles Gemora also sued, claiming Spitzer owed him $20 in wages. He won, too.

Monday, February 21, 2022

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who was a real bully. This man was highly respected in the school system, and a noted figure in his local church.

But he was a bully. He called students names, he shouted in class, he threatened students.

As a gay youth in the early 1980s in Montana, I could hardly come out of the closet. And I showed no interest in girls. So this teacher began calling me "numb-nuts". I don't really recall when it began, but it was a constant throughout the three years I had his class. I guess I didn't act "manly" enough for him. I should have been talking about pussy and hitting on girls who didn't like me.

In retrospect, he did a lot of damage to me. What he did was essentially call me "faggot" every day.

I somehow dredged up this memory over the weekend, and have been feeling sick, humiliated, ashamed, and violated ever since.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

My neighborhood has its own email list-serv. (ooooh, how late '90s!)

Almost no one around here shovels their sidewalk, or does their own driveway. Most rely on a guy with a truck with a plow attached to the front. These guys are almost always on contract, usually $250 or $300 a year or higher.

The upper-middle-class and wealthy cheapskates around here don't like that. It doesn't seem to snow enough for them, and they feel they're being robbed.

When the storm of January 16-17 was coming, there was a huge amount of chatter on my neighborhood list-serv about hiring a one-off plowing job. They wanted (i) repeated plowing of their driveway throughout the storm; (ii) each person had a specific place to put their snow; and (iii) each person had restrictions on what the plow could do (don't hit the begonias, plow the front of my turnaround but not the rear).

Someone suggested "Joey, Inc." (not its real name), a guy with a snowplow whom they had used last year to great success. Moreover, he was cheap.

It turns out "Joey, Inc." was a freelancer. To earn enough money to live on, he amassed a huge number of jobs.

The day of the storm, "Joey, Inc." got stuck in someone's driveway over in Shaker Heights. It took him the better part of Jan. 17 to find someone to pull him out.

By then, my neighborhood list-serv was chock-a-block with "Where's Joey?" emails. Some had expected as many as four plowings between midnight and 6 PM, and yet had seen only one (shortly after 2 AM).

The bitterness about "Joey, Inc." has been the topic of conversation all week. It just won't stop.

We received more snow on Jan. 18-19 and again Jan. 21.

The level of fear and rage reached hysteria levels. "I expected Joey, Inc. to plow for the entire snow event! Snow is still falling every other day!!! I don't see Joey!" Lawsuits were threatened.

Finally, this morning one of the people on the list-serv called out everyone, calling them selfish, bitter, hate-filled, privileged people.

Suddenly, no list-serv traffic. ROTFL!!!

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Having paid property taxes and a portion of my federal and local income taxes, I can definitely say I'm poor as a churchmouse for the next 30 days.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Heinen's, the northeast Ohio grocery store chain, is cutting back hours due to staffing shortages. All stores are currently operating from 8 AM to 8 PM, but will begin closing at 7 PM on January 10.

Heinen's pays cashiers $10-$11 per hour. Deli, bakery, and produce workers are about $1-$2 an hour higher. Departmental assistant managers make around $14-$21 an hour, depending on the department and the length of service.

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) is the national grocery store trade association.

The FMI says the average supermarket had weekly sales in 2020 of $585,250.

If Heinen's hired 10 workers at 35 hours a week, paid them $20 an hour in wages, and added another $6 an hour in benefits, Heinen's would incur a cost of $9,100. It would raise prices on the average item sold by 1.6 percent.

The price of chicken thighs would rise from $6.49 to $6.59 per pound. A dozen jumbo eggs would cost $2.25, not $2.19. That fresh-baked honey-wheat bread would be $3.64, not $3.29.

Not much of a price increase to ensure excellent staffing. Yet, Heinen's -- and thousands of other employers -- won't do it.