Hocus Focus

Have Gut — Will Travel or Go West, Young Mike or Darth Vader, My Ass
Chapter 11

MESCAL, AZ -- All is not what it appears in the movies.

Take Popeye. His grotesque, ballooned arms must have made for lousy circulation, but in hundreds of films there is not one admission of his critical blood pressure and never is he shown pursuing a reduced salt regimen.

Frankly, I am surprised the guy isn't dead. He even defies the laws of ticks.

Every character in those comedies is beyond unhealthy, but due to Hollywood magic, make-up sorcery, ace lighting, and tailored clothes (uncredited to Miss Edith Head, costume designer and Olive Oyl's stunt double), the stars are visions of vitality.

This mirage was all accomplished long before the days of CGI computer effects, so that's the real Popeye and company up there pulling off the charade.

But those actors are true physical time bombs.

The aforesaid wafer thin Olive, studio publicity machine notwithstanding, is a binge and bail eater. She munches diuretic pills like popcorn and for a time she was in seclusion and recovery at the Betty Boop Clinic.

A conspiracy of sorts sent her away, allegedly pointing up the company ladder to Adolph Zukor, Paramount's founder, and, inexplicably, Mae Questel, an incessant stalker of the pretty star, believed to impersonate Olive in bar bets and her own acting career.

The public never knew of the troubled heroine's absence from the Popeye series. The cameras continued to roll, however, with "Olive" seen only from the rear or in long shots via the able mimicry and insouciance of sibling stand-in Mary-Kate Oyl.

On the flip side, as in obesity and, well, hamburger flipping, is sidekick Wimpy, who maintains a nonstop feeding frenzy of triple decker Big Macs, Big Boys, and Whoppers, sometimes gorging on all those delicacies at the same meal for which he will gladly pay you Tuesday. For dessert, there's Cool Whip and White Castles and a meatball shake.

The man's a gargantuan fatty grease clot with a derby.

Popeye-intolerant nemesis, Bluto is another bubble about to pop. His monstrous rage is not due to jealousy pangs for the fair lady O., as we are intended to believe. Instead, medical records reveal a lifelong blockage in his bodily caverns has made the lad a morsel hostile. Rebelling, after decades of agony, he changed his name to "Brutus," which, of course, is Latin for "Bluto," meaning "brooding cheese."

And then there's the sad "adoptid infink," Swee' Pea, already at risk. In diapered babydom, there's no such thing as swee' pea. Ever. That's a given. Ever.

Why the child would be burdened with such a name borders on abuse, certainly mental cruelty.

Furthermore, executive doctors report no cure for the swee' deficient. The kid is doomed.

So, as you can see, all is not what it appears in the movies. I've offered five examples without the necessity of mentioning old chestnuts Lassie, classically portrayed by a male.

That all brings us back to our travelogue. There's another deception on display among Mescal's recreated western scenery. The house "occupied" by Kurt Russell, alluded to in Chapter 10, belonged to his character in "Tombstone," Sheriff Wyatt Earp.

My wife reminds me of a scene where the audience visits the home of a second brother Earp, located a significant distance across town.

Earp houses in Tombstone. Photo copyright 2003-2004 Mike Durrett, all rights reserved.

Not so in reality, the two dwellings exist side by side on the same expanse, much like the old and new Kirstie Alley.

From the Earp houses, the view of the town. Photo copyright 2003-2004 Donna Durrett, all rights reserved.

Within the motion picture, there's a sense the Earp homes are situated on otherwise undeveloped real estate far from town, but as you can see in this reverse view, they are scarcely one block from the main street and the saloon.

From the town saloon, the view of the Earp buildings in the distance. Photo copyright 2003-2004 Donna Durrett, all rights reserved.

In this wide reversal of the reversal, photographed from the saloon entrance, one sees the dizzying view of the Earps' spreads in the suburbs, behind the stable and the pawn shop. What a country! Add Yakov Smirnov and move over Branson.

Next: Chapter 12 | Rewind to Chapter 1
Photos copyright ©2003-2004 Mike Durrett and Donna Durrett. All rights reserved.

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