Culture vulture

Innocence at work

Innocence at work

Photo By Andre Welling

Culture Vulture has seen some pretty gosh-darned scary things while inhabiting this flying blob of cosmic mud, but few have been more personally intimidating than the view past our garage into a back yard that seems to be sprouting with a vigor rivaling that of Jack’s legendary beanstalk.

I ain’t kiddin'. Between the ever-pouring rain, a work schedule that keeps me busy till after dusk six days a week, alien visitations and a bout of walking pneumonia that’s been lingering for weeks filling my lungs with a thick and buttery goop that creates what sounds like a combination piccolo orchestra and scuba-diving soundtrack whenever I take a deep breath, the idea of getting out there and pushing a mower around just hasn’t been attractive.

So I have grass that would have done one of my daddy’s cow pastures proud. I’m talkin’ about grass higher than a 6-foot-2 man’s knee. Grass with blades long and wide enough to serve as gift-wrapping ribbon. Grass so big, lush and green a lawn mower will just lie down and start crying at the sight of it.

And then there’s that weed. Something like those shaggy things in Day of the Triffids, only this one is in full color, with a fleshy, purple stalk from which spouts tier after tier of white-veined, nettle-rimmed leaves like bent and blunted machetes, all surmounted by a tassel of swelling ochre buds on the verge of opening into a corona of malignant yellow blossoms. It’s as though H. P. Lovecraft himself teamed up with the Jolly Green Giant to transform my back yard into some sort of festering alien jungle.

The Culture Vulture family dogs, Sam and Stella, add their own element of menace, of course, in the form of cleverly concealed and devastatingly vile excremental landmines. But, on the other hand, they love to run rampant back there in their own private plot of untrammeled nature, so it will be a sad day for them whenever it finally stops raining, and the shears, weed-eater and mower are brought out to reduce their luxuriant playground to the close-cropped, lumpy lawn that they usually poop on.

Speaking of anachronistic weirdness, Culture Vulture, through the miracle of modern marketing, recently obtained a triple-DVD set of genuine, proto-porno films starring Bettie Page. Page, for those who haven’t been previously exposed to her body of work, was the preeminent early 1950s pin-up girl: a pale, black-haired temptress with a distinctive set of bangs and a girl-next-door charm who performed in a bunch of now infamous bondage flicks and strip-tease films and cheesecake photo shoots for a guy named Irving Klaw, and later for a woman photographer named Bunny Yeager.

The films are pretty innocent and not very glamorous by today’s standards. Young women in granny panties and heavy-duty brassieres dance around in high heels and stockings, lounge in an ordinary looking 1950s living room, fluff their hair and occasionally tie each other up and give each other spankings. Looking directly into the camera, which probably would have been too intimidating a move for their repressed and guilt-ridden audience, seems to have been taboo.

Bettie Page is on the verge of a new round of notoriety with the release of The Notorious Bettie Page, starring Gretchen Mol in the title role. It may be a fine and entertaining film, but it’s kind of a dorky state of affairs that our cultural sexuality has regressed to the middle of the last century.