On Friday, the Film Society of Lincoln Center screened 1970's awful-enough-to-subvert-its-own-camp Myra Breckinridge. (I have a very complicated relationship with this movie: when I watch it, my emotional state is a perpetually motive vacillation from love to hate.) The showing was preceded by a live chat between Simon Doonan and Myra herself, Raquel Welch. She was such a bitch. Simon opened with an anecdote about watching Raquel on a motorcycle during the '60s, biting the air and introducing the notion of sexuality to him. It took him five minutes to get that out because Welch repeatedly denied that it was she on that motorcycle. She claimed it was Ann-Margret. I'm more inclined to trust Doonan on this one (he's the pop culture encyclopedia!), but fine: If he was wrong, he was wrong. She was unduly condescending about this, though, at one point talking about how captivating our hallucinations can be. She seemed to mean it as witty banter, but it was just cutting. I couldn't help but wonder if the entitlement that comes from being a fawned-over legend for decades and decades obliterates the nuance necessary to pull off pleasant nastiness.
Welch also bristled when Doonan compared Myra Breckinridge to Showgirls, finally saying, "I don't do nudity," as if that were what he was implying in the first place, and as if Showgirls isn't at least 10 times more entertaining than the movie Welch claims to dislike but regularly shows up to discuss (she has a solo commentary on the Myra DVD – it's entertaining, and far be it from me to begrudge anyone profiting off her bomb, but she makes a lot of time to protest too much). Much of her Myra discourse involves trashing her dusted-off co-star Mae West, who by all reports was terribly unkind to Welch, refusing to appear alongside her on screen and dictating Welch's wardrobe. Well, Welch gets the last laugh by virtue of having outlived West, so HA! (I guess?)
Granted, I admire a good bitch. The utter lack of political correctness Welch exhibits by speaking ill of the dead (pirouetting on a grave, even!) is breathtaking. That said, what she doesn't seem to get is that West is by far the best thing about Myra – West's Old Hollywoodness is one of the few things about the film that actually flatters Gore Vidal's pillaged source material, and she's weird enough to be a standalone freak show. The peak of her performance is a completely needless musical number, a medley of "You Gotta Taste All the Fruit" and "Hard To Handle." You haven't lived until you've seen West bring her trademark snarl to an Otis Redding standard. She feels herself up better than anyone else could possibly hope to.
Happy Valentine's Day!