On the (Rest of the) Net.

bridesmaids baking

Women and baking: from social capital to comfort. [The Guardian]

Witches rode broomsticks, yes, but differently than they are traditionally depicted. [Broadly]

Equality vs. liberation in the wake of Michelle Payne’s Melbourne Cup win. [Daily Life]

Why does it always come down to the question of children for professional women? [Harper’s]

Annabel Crabb’s Kitchen Cabinet counter-intuitively attempts to make the people who dehumanise our most vulnerable people more human. [New Matilda]

My story about wrestling fandom and armchair criticism features on Tim Kail’s Work of Wrestling podcast.

ICYMI: “The Dark Side of Hollywood.”

Image via Bitchin’ Lifestyle.

The Dark Side of Hollywood.

hollywood sign in ruins

Ever since reading Dominick Dunne’s Another City, Not My Own—a fictionalised account of his time spent chronicling the O.J. Simpson murder trial for Vanity Fair—a few years ago, I’ve been fascinated by the dark side of Hollywood. You know, the Tate–LaBianca murders, the Black Dahlia mystery, the strangulation murder of Dunne’s own daughter, Poltergeist actress Dominique, at the hands of her former partner… The list goes on.

Recent pop cultural products that tap into said fascination include The Black Dahlia novel and subsequent film, the Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone­-helmed Gangster Squad, and the first season of American Horror Story, which renewed my interest in the macabre underbelly of Los Angeles and prompted me to book a Dearly Departed Tragical History tour of the city as well as visit the Museum of Death on Sunset Boulevard on a trip there a couple of years ago. (Warning: extremely graphic contents abound in the Museum of Death. I was so overwhelmed by the objects on display that I had to exit the gallery space, so only those with a strong stomach and dull imagination should give their patronage, as there are no refunds.)

Despite not being a fan of horror movies due to my overactive imagination, I somehow thought the Museum of Death was a good idea. After all, they had crime scene and autopsy photos of Nicole Brown Simpson and JFK, respectively, among other morbid memorabilia such as serial killer artwork and letters, which I do have an interest in. But the Museum of Death also houses the decapitated head of the Bluebeard of Paris, graphic images of bodies in various stages of death, and an effectively frightening layout that saw me having to leave after ten minutes. The overwhelming watermelon­-scented cleaning products that seem to be favoured by much of America’s hospitality and tourism industry and that wafted through the museum elicited in me an aversion to the aroma. It just so happens that watermelon-­flavoured gum is also my sister’s breath ­freshener of choice and now whenever she’s chewing my heart races, I start to perspire and I feel a headache coming on. Sisters: they really know how to push your buttons.

When my companion was done touring the museum while I sweated my anxiety out and chatted to the proprietors in the gift shop, she escorted me back through to the Hollywood section, much of which I’d already seen online and was prepared for, with my eyes closed lest I happen upon something grisly and be (further) scarred for life. Having recently read prolific filmmaker, actor and author Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, which delves further into famous Tinseltown deaths, prior to my visit I recognised many of the objects on display at the museum as being donated by him.

When it comes to Anger, though, some might argue that certain details in his books are fabricated. The following day, on the Dearly Departed Tragical History tour, it was alleged that when destitute actress Marie Prevost was found dead in her apartment of acute alcoholism in 1937, her body was not partly eaten by her dachshund, as Anger wrote, but that the pet was merely trying to rouse its master by nipping at her. It is true, however, that an IOU for $110 to Joan Crawford, who ended up paying for Prevost’s funeral, was among some of her belongings. In the wake of Prevost’s death, the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital was set up to prevent similar fates for others in the industry. Speaking of stars forking out for their peers funerals, it emerged on the tour that Frank Sinatra was quite generous when it came to interments. He ensured that Bela Lugosi, who played the original Count Dracula, Judy Garland and Sammy Davis Jr. were all given fitting farewells in the wake of their troubled demises.

It is also alleged by Hollywood historians, most recently Jackie Ganiy in Tragic Hollywood: Beautiful, Glamorous, Dead, that Anger’s account of Lupe Velez passing out and drowning in her toilet bowl is trademark Anger sensationalism. It is more likely that Velez died making her way from her bed, where she ingested hundreds of Seconal pills in a suicide attempt, to the bathroom upon her body rejecting the overdose. This theory was cemented in with the first publication of Velez’ crime scene photos in the 2012 book Beverly Hills Confidential: A Century of Stars, Scandals and Murders by Barbara Schroeder and Clark Fogg.

Another Hollywood legend that’s seemed to gain traction despite its unknown origins is death ­by­ jumping ­off ­the Hollywood sign. In actual fact, as pointed out by Dearly Departed tour guide Brian (but is also easily found in many a Hollywood history exposé), Peg Entwistle was the only person to ever have committed suicide­-by­-Hollywood­-H in 1932.

Entwistle was a Broadway star who migrated West to make it in the movie business. She married fellow actor Robert Keith who neglected to mention he’d previously been married, a union which produced a son, Brian Keith. Entwistle’s unwitting stepson would go on to star in the original Parent Trap and TV series Family Affair. Another tragic young suicide would haunt Brian in his later years, though; his daughter committed suicide in 1997 at the age of twenty­eight using a gun he gave her. Brian, suffering from lung cancer, emphysema and grief, would use this same gun to end his life two months later.

Tour guide Brian made mention of this family curse as we drove through Hollywood, but the only other reference I could find comes from James Zeruk, Jr.’s book, Peg Entwistle & the Hollywood Sign Suicide: A Biography.

In addition to the marital abode of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio; the “Nightmare on Elm Drive” property, as Dunne so accurately wrote in an account for Vanity Fair, where the wealthy Jose and Kitty Menendez were slain by their own sons, Lyle and Erik; “the cheapest house in Beverly Hills”, as Brian put it, previously owned by American Idol’s Simon Cowell; and Johnny Depp’s secluded abode overlooking Sunset Boulevard, another house featured on the tour was that in which Lana Turner’s teenaged daughter (allegedly) stabbed to death Turner’s lover, mobster Johnny Stompanato, during a domestic dispute in 1958. It is widely believed that Turner was the one who committed the crime but the star reasoned that no jury would convict a young girl endeavouring to protect her own mother. Dunne, in his pictorial memoir, The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well­-Known Name Dropper, writes that he lived around the corner from Turner when the murder took place. As we drove past this Beverly Hills property whose history helped form the bedrock of Hollywood’s golden age, I eerily noticed children’s toys and bikes strewn across its front yard. I wonder if the current owners are aware of the debauchery and tragedy that occurred in their family home years earlier?

Speaking of, a suite of homes even the shrewdest real estate agent would have trouble moving happens to be situated across the street from Lea Michele’s modest pad and only blocks away from where I stayed during my vaycay.

In 2004 screenwriter Robert Lees, best known for his work on Lassie, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and with Abbott and Costello, was decapitated by a drug­-addled, breaking-­and-­entering homeless man Kevin Lee Graff in his home on Courtney Avenue at the age of ninety-­one. The horror story doesn’t end there, though: Graff then took Lee’s severed head and entered the neighbouring residence of Morley Engleson and murdered him before stealing his car to make a getaway. The following day Graff was noticed by guards at the entry to the Paramount Pictures lot due to his erratic behaviour and was picked up by police. He is currently serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Brian also cruised by famed Mexican eatery, El Coyote, which isn’t so much known for its food as its clientele. Its biggest claim to fame is that Sharon Tate’s last meal was eaten there before her murder by the Manson Family. But after eighty years of service, there must be something else about the place that keeps ’em coming back. (It was at this point on the tour that I found out I don’t just dislike coriander [or cilantro, its Mexican derivative]; I’m allergic to it, as is tour guide Brian. The allergic reaction manifests itself as a soapy or metallic taste when consuming the herb. You learn something new every day!)

The apartment building where budding ingénue Rebecca Schaeffer was shot dead by a stalker in 1989 is located in the Fairfax district of L.A., also the home of the famed outdoor shopping mall and celebrity hangout The Grove. After hearing the story of how overzealous fan, Robert Bardo, obtained Schaeffer’s address from the Department of Motor Vehicles by paying just $1 to access their records, we stopped at The Grove to revive our blood sugar and relieve our bladders. Laws have since been put in place to prevent such access to DMV records.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom behind the scenes of the golden age of Hollywood, though: when Mae West’s landlord at the exclusive Ravenswood apartment complex barred her boxer boyfriend, Gorilla Jones, from the premises because he was black, she bought the whole building and abolished his ruling! Fun fact: the current phone number for residential enquiries is the same number that was listed as West’s in the phone book way back when, before her death in 1980.

Unless you include TMZ presenter David House, who gave an intimate tour of Hollywood’s hotspots to myself, my friend April and two other patrons on my first rainy day in L.A., and a former World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar I’d met through friends earlier that year, I didn’t encounter any celebrities in Tinseltown. Dearly Departed tour guide, Brian, wagered that the most opportune time to get up close and personal with your favourite celebs is Halloween: hire a car, bring your kids or borrow someone else’s, get gussied up and go trick or treating in Beverly Hills. As door knocking in the neighbourhoods featured in Star Maps is illegal every day except October 31st, All Hallows Eve not only blurs the line between the living and the dead, it blurs the line between the famous and the non­-famous.

Related: Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne Review.

Image via Epic Times.

On the (Rest of the) Net

I wrote about your heroes letting you down. [TheVine]

I’m going to be contributing a link roundup for feminaust on the first Monday of every month and guess what? My first edition went live this week. Much of it is links I’ve already posted here over the past week, but head on over and check it—and feminaust—out anyway.

ICYMI: If these links didn’t sate you enough, I’ve posted the best of Aussie and Kiwi online feminism in December for the 80th Down Under Feminists Carnival.

How to be alone as a woman:

“To be alone is to be eccentric. To be alone and a girl is to be nuts.” [Spook Magazine]

How to find a feminist partner. [WaPo]

Is Kanye West this generation’s John Lennon? [Junkee]

How can women “act their age” in Hollywood when Hollywood won’t let them? [Junkee]

We need to change the language surrounding sexual assault prevention. [Daily Life]

2014 was the year that TV changed… for the better. [Junkee]

Elle magazine asked male celebs the questions women get asked on the red carpet: “It feels invasive.”

Make fun of The Nanny all you want, but it was actually pretty progressive television for its time. [TheVine]

The rise of the viral public marriage proposal. [Buzzfeed]

The difference between flight attendants and stewardesses, or, why you shouldn’t call modern-day flight attendants stewardesses. [Flight Club]

How the costuming in Selma helps illustrate the dawning of the civil rights movement. [The Root]

Ed Sheeran is a NiceGuyTM. [Pitchfork]

The Lebanese-American porn star getting death threats for performing in a hijab. [Salon]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes in defence of Hugo Schwyzer’s inclusion in feminism. Brilliant; it’s kind of what I wish I had written.

On Katherine Heigl’s failed career and women in Hollywood:

“Much has been said… about how Heigl herself has created the fiasco that has become her career—her alleged difficult behaviour on set, her unpopular public statements about the projects she’s involved in, her perceived irritability—but this has more to do with media gender bias than Heigl herself. For instance, Daniel Craig and Matt Damon have recently taken to making increasingly brash public statements about projects they’ve worked on, their personal politics and views on modern society—and no one has criticized them, questioned their box-office viability or used their gender to explain their remarks. Like Sean Penn, they’re men in an industry dominated by men—and unless they’re saying something overtly racist, they can say just about whatever they like, and in the case of Charlie Sheen, they might even be applauded for it.” [HuffPo]

Rick Morton attempts to dissect the “frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex” that is Rick Santorum. [MamaMia]

Madonna and black culture. [Steven Stanley]

The latest trend in YouTubing: asking viewers if you’re ugly. [Jezebel]

Rachel Hills on the launch of Sunday Life’s daily website, Daily Life, its viral pet name #DailyWife, and how women’s issues are relegated to the “lifestyle” pages:

“… I’ve wondered why everything pertaining to women is classified under ‘Life and Style’, and I’ve wondered why ‘lifestyle journalism’ is so often boiled down to advertorial for fashion and beauty products (answer: probably because the associated advertising is what pays for writers like me). I’ve wondered if the fact that writing related to gender politics is usually published in ‘Life and Style’ or colour magazine supplements contributes to the perception that… female journalists write pointless ‘pap’.” [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Why atheism is akin to being a pariah in the U.S. [Slate]

And now for the Chris Brown portion of the program…

Russell Simmons is a Brown apologist and compares his assault on Rihanna to the problems of Disney kids. Yeah, except Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Demi Lovato never hurt anyone but themselves. [Global Grind]

Why Brown’s behaviour sucks, this time from a psychological point of view. [Slate]

We failed the young ladies who tweeted they’d let Chris Brown beat them:

“We failed you when Charlie Sheen was allowed and eagerly encouraged to continue to star in movies and have a hit television show that basically printed him money after he shot Kelly Preston ‘accidentally’ and he hit a UCLA student in the head when she wouldn’t have sex with him and he threatened to kill his ex-wife Denise Richards and he held a knife to his ex-wife Brooke Mueller’s throat. We failed you when Roman Polanski received an Oscar even though he committed a crime so terrible he hasn’t been able to return to the United States for more than thirty years. We failed you when Sean Penn fought violently with Madonna and continued a successful, critically acclaimed career and also received an Oscar.

“We fail you every single time a (famous) man treats a woman badly, without legal, professional, or personal consequence.” [The Rumpus]

One of my favourite professional wrestlers, straightedger CM Punk, challenges Brown to fight someone his own size. [Jezebel]

And ANOTHER stand up guy challenges Brown to a fight! [Deadspin]

Hollywood Pregnancies—There’s Something in the Water.


You might remember a few years ago, in 2007, when it seemed like every celebrity was pregnant, and some surprisingly so. Nicole Richie with Harlow, Christina Aguilera with Max, Nicole Kidman with Sunday, Gwen Stefani with Zuma, Angelina with the twins, Jessica Alba with Honor, Jennifer Lopez with her twins… it was just never ending!

I was surprised back then to never read an article on the phenomenon. (Then again, I wasn’t as immersed in the fledgling blogosphere at that time and kept my celebrity trend reading to the weeklies and monthlies.) Now I finally get to write about it.

Opening up this week’s Who (and Famous, which came out today, asserting that Blake Lively’s pregnant. She probably just ate too much Thanksgiving turkey. Leave her alone!), a spate of celeb mums-to-be greeted me from its pages. Kourtney Kardashian, Jessica Simpson, Beyonce, Hilary Duff, Jennifer Garner, perhaps Kate Middleton. Now this is a high-profile list! Babies by Jessica, Beyonce and Kate have been long awaited, so expect to see a lot more of their bumps in the media. That’s not to mention how often we’ll see their offspring in the pages of the glossies after the births!

I love few things more than bump-watches and babies, so I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the growing stomachs of these celebs. Especially Beyonce, who, after appearing on Sunday Night a couple of months ago, sparked a faux-bump furor over her creased belly. Do we have another Katie Holmes-Suri saga on our hands?

Related: Beyonce: Countdown to Overexposure.

Images via Who, The Hollywood Gossip.

Aliens’ Ellen Ripley as Everywoman.


From “Sigourney Weaver on the Legacy of Aliens & Her Sequel That Hollywood Won’t Make” by Eric Larnick on Moviefone:

“I feel like Ripley is all of us; I don’t feel like she’s an action hero. She is called to reach down and find the resources to fight in every way possible. To me it’s about all of us. There’s a Ripley in all of us. I think that’s why people love the movie and the series. She’s not a special person, she’s an every-person, and we are put into these circumstances where we have to protect others and not give up…

“What’s so exciting about women in action is that women bring a different focus to the action and it comes from a different source… Every woman you see, in her kitchen or wherever else, has a secret action heroine in her; just wait til something happens to her children or husband, then you’ll see it.”

Women in the kitchen. Hmm…

Elsewhere: [Moviefone] Sigourney Weaver on the Legacy of Aliens & Her Sequel That Hollywood Won’t Make.

Image via Moviefone.

Movies: Male Body Image in Captain America.


Captain America begins with the runty little Steve Rogers getting knocked back again and again for army enlistment because of his size. The CGI was done so well that a lot of people commented that they didn’t even know it was Chris Evans’ head seemingly Photoshopped onto a scrawny body.

It’s hard to rectify the pre-Captain America Rogers with the post-Stanley Tucci experiment Captain America. Evans looked so odd for the first half an hour or so, which is a far cry from the other films we’ve seen him in: Not Another Teen Movie and Fantastic Four, where he was predominantly shirtless and acting like an arrogant douchebag.

And as much as I preach that looks don’t matter, once I’d seen CGI-Chris Evans, I could not get that image out of my head!

It seems Peggy Carter had no problem forgetting Rogers’ humble beginnings, though. Carter had only a short interaction with Rogers before he became a muscle-bound superhero, and only began to show interest in him after the fact. Granted, five minutes of conversation, which Rogers admits is the longest amount of time he’s ever spoken to a woman for, isn’t enough to get to know anyone. But the look in Carter’s eyes was noticeably different after he emerged from the super-soldier machine (lust, awe), than before he went into it (pity).

If we want to send the message that women should be valued for more than just what they look like, shouldn’t we be sending the same one about men? Indeed, all people should be assessed based on what they offer the world and the people around them besides eye candy.

Sure, the reason Rogers was allowed to enter the military after the experiment is because his physical capabilities were enhanced. Fair’s fair. But it seems Carter fell in love with the man behind the Captain America mask; the exact same man Rogers was before the experiment. The man Dr. Erskine chose for the experiment because of these traits. The baby blue eyes and the muscles just enhanced that.

I’m not going to pretend that physical attraction doesn’t matter; it does. But psychological attraction is the connection that will stand the test of time.

Anyone will tell you that the archetype of the comic book nerd identifies with superheroes because they’re usually the underdog. People walk all over them, not recognising them for who they are until they get a magic ring, or bitten by a spider, or made into a super-human in an experiment and can show the world what they’re made of.

But why do they have to undergo a physical transformation for these traits to be acknowledged? If comic book heroes teach us anything, it’s that courage comes from within. Captain America certainly teaches us that. If only Hollywood adopted this strategy, too.

Related: Captain America Review.

Will Boys Be Boys When it Comes to Objectifying Women?

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Male Models. Inside Their Straaange World.

Images via IMDb.