Ssshhhh. Keep it down. It’s the real deal. Come closer, and I’ll lay it on you.
Truth is, I’ve been sitting on this one for a long time, coupla decades or more, really. Yet, I know it’s a sure thing, just gotta get the timing right. I see it as surefire, just a matter of the right mini-moves. Of course, I need a partner, a money person with the right artistic vision, that’s why I’m finally coming clean, so we can scoop up the rights together. As far as I’m concerned the right partner could also help me dash off the screenplay, which oughta just about write itself. You see, it’s all there, no fat, no finery, no fakery; it’s all right there on the pages already. No doubt about it, David Helton’s 1969 burst of brilliance (originally published by Simon and Shuster), movingly entitled King Jude: A Rock N’ Roll Tragedy, is just poised and shimmering in the showbiz twilight zone, ready to fill in yet another essential link between sweaty rock muzak and head-scratching, eye-balling cinema, shading in the blanks between, say, Peter Watkins’s 1967 Privilege, Paul Schrader’s 1987 Light of Day, and Allison Ander’s 1996 Grace of My Heart.
The Pitch: Laconic, lanky, Joe Buck type (Jude Lukas) drifts to New York in the mid-sixties, drinking and playing cards by daytime, sticking it hard to his NYC gal Claire when she gets home with the groceries and booze bucks from a hard day of nurse duties. Shares cold water flat with a slightly older drifter, a soused hipster with an academic background named Stanley, who occasionally sticks it to his girlie, the long-legged Francine, who keeps giving Jude the eye behind everyone’s back. During one of the group’s nightly drink fests Francine lets it loose that Claire is a fake nurse, and a real whore and this sends the laidback Luke into a momentary psychological crisis, with the attendant self-examination. Turns out Luke is the son of a wicked guitar picker from Lumley, Texas, and Luke (who has twelve fingers and a special homemade guitar) decides that in order to keep sticking it to Claire on a private basis, he might have to whip out his holy guitar and play music for money even though Daddy constantly taught him music was for the soul, not for dough. Luke reveals it all in some early just-as-dusty version of CBGB’s and astounds everybuddy in hearing range with his otherworldly picking and deep down country yodeling and redneck soul. But some fingers gets blown off and he quickly forsakes the big city scene and the probable sinful intersection of music and greenbacks and even ditches Claire, retreating back to Lumley with a few less digits and a(also shot out) missing lung, where he scratches bad poetry in the sand with a stick from a Texas tree. Two years down the road, Francine, who still has the Jude itch, ditches now husband Stanley (newly minted with an M.A.), and sets off by bus and hitchhiking and a quick survival screw with a southern policeguy, to find ‘ol one-lunged, poetry scribbling Luke. Even though he looks like he’s sixty and he won’t even discuss poking her, Francine tricks Luke into home fashioning another magic guitar and whispering his branch-scratched words onto a home recorder. Quickly, it’s Hitsville, USA, and Luke reluctantly heads back for a one time only New York, New York gig, and he finds out the confounding news that Stanley has qone queer and that the contempo rock and pop fans are mostly girls who buy vials of blood and semen from their fave rave music makers to swallow down in bedroom rituals. Pre-gig, a concerned (but still extremely laconic) Luke hears kiddies listening to his spook sound on a radio in the park and finds out they don’t distinguish between his soul-baring whisper rock and the gum commercials that follow, and he gets more disillusioned then back when his fingers and lung got shot, and as part of his pre-concert reparation he manages to redo Claire once for old times and finally do Francine for new times then he goes out on stage and tries to reason with the screechy, hepped-up girlie minions, and they wind up slicing him up with pen knifes. THE END.
I’m thinking one of the David’s, Lynch or Cronenberg or maybe a throwback, low-budget, guerilla-style opportunity for Marty Scorsese. The possibility even exists that Soderbergh or QT might want to produce it and guide one of their special up-and-comers through it, or maybe Todd Haynes may feel like mining the same genre once again, although logic dictates that he usually rests up a decade in between rock efforts (Superstar in 1987, Velvet Goldmine in 1998, I’m Not There in 2007). It’s a winner alright, pure potential movie magic, and the right filmmaker could make it as hypnotically ethereal as Dreyer, as powerfully pungent as Fuller, or as artfully poetic as Welles. The weird part is that I knew it (Knew It) long before I became a full-fledged film maven or a smarty pants rock nitcrit--- I’ve been holding onto to it since I ordered it from Scholastic Books, back in junior high school right along with Jonathan Eisen’s The Age of Rock 1 & 2—still holding onto the very same 95-cent 1971 Pocket Book.
First two sentences of the book: “Jude came up from the subway and a flake of ash settled into the corner of his eye, His right eye.” Nuff said. Now’s the time.
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