Reading something about Jonathan Demme today. Many know him from Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, The Manchurian Candidate and other modern Hollywood classics. You may not know that he also directed Something Wild with Melanie Griffith in 1986, for which I worked as a storyboard artist (back in the days). This was a pre-cosmetic surgery Melanie Griffith, who was genuinely cute, and had sexy sagging breasts in a sex scene rather than the all too familiar half tennis balls we see on screen these days. She was also prone to sex calls with her estranged ex, Don Johnson, who was in Miami exploring Vice at the time (this I know because my ex was one of the Assistant Directors).
But the story I want to tell isn’t about Melanie or even Ray Liotta who had his break out role as the midriff-wearing bad boy on the film (and who seemed greasy to me at the time, because he had to grow up into a really greaseball Good Guy before I took notice I suppose---after which I became a dedicated fan). Remember Liotta in Hannibal (aka Silence of the Lambs 2) where he played Paul Krendler [Paul Krendler: Jesus, Starling, what are you doing sitting in the dark? Clarice Starling: Thinkin' about cannibalism.] became the open-skull soup course in a Hannibal Lechter banquet while still chatting with Clarice---in a scene that cannot ever be erased from memory??
Well, anyway. I was the storyboard artist for the music video that accompanied the film, with the irresistible fine Young Cannibals, just off their first album, the anthropologically titled, the Raw and the Cooked. They were hot.
This was 1986, and I’d spent a bit of time with Two Tones [and the poet Kenny Fries] in London some 7 years before, so I was a pseudo-blase fan whose knees went rubber on a long elevator ride with Roland Gift during preproduction.
That’s right: Jack Waters’ doppelganger). We all scrambled into a van to go scout locations for the video, which was sort of measure of how lame eighties music videos could be (kudos to anyone who can make Roland Gift look dull---but take a look for yourself:
http://www.pichd.net/play.php?id=MMERPNrprkk&name=Fine Young Cannibals 'Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)'.
The driver sat next to the DP on this scout (---it wasn’t Tak Fujimoto, who shot the film itself, but an Israeli guy whose name I can’t find anywhere on the web---Leslie Pope, you listening?---), and Demme has the second row seat, while I sat in the third seat, sketch pad in hand, like a goofy extra from some Jerry Lewis film, straight-backed and crossed ankles, very mum. We were driving to Westchester to see an old movie theatre. The DP started to tell a story about someone they had in mind for the video, an extra who was apparently very large and florid—good on camera, explaining that she was unavailable for the shoot, because (the DP reported) she made more at her second job, as a phone sex maven. Demme was lying down in the second seat at the time, hands behind his head, chuckling at the idea of it.
“Lots of unexpected people do phone sex,” I peeped. No response. “For example….me.” “YOU?” said the DP, turning around in the front seat to face me now. “Well yes, I do it for extra money. At strange shifts, late night, early morning, just because it does pay well, yes.”
Demme chuckles now at the even more improbable image this conjures. The DP is all ears, he wants to hear more, thinks it’s hysterically funny.
“Yes, I go by the name Desiree, as a matter of fact.”
Quiet pause. Perfect comedic pause. Then Demme bolts up from his seat and says “YOU’RE Desiree????”
Why yes, that's me.