Spanking Without a Cause

Kevin Killian



You can imagine all this glamorous Hollywood talk left me restless, unfit for serious work. I went down to my office after leaving the L-Shaped Room and just droned through my day, ending about fifty EBay auctions and getting some really good prices for about half a dozen items. I remember we were selling JFK’s own wallet, the one he was actually carrying when he got dunned down that awful day in Dallas. That transaction sticks out because later on we got into a beef with the buyer who was apparently, a leather expert who swore this couldn’t have been manufactured any earlier than 1966, when they first started adding pebbles to brown leather. I let my trusty wingman Eugenio handle the resulting flap. Oh boy! Sometimes I was glad we were located in a tiny country hamlet hundreds of miles from anywhere, because so many of our buyers were probably aching to get their hands round our windpipes. Well, not all of them, naturally. In fact it takes a rare bird to actually sit there with an autographed photo of Jayne Mansfield in your left hand, and one of Fidel Castro in your right, and realize, the same man made both signatures. And most people don’t care to examine their own dreams with any real, what, care. I don’t blame them, I was the same way.

I just sort of sat in the corner, laptop on my lap, and watched the new DVD Adam had gifted me with, the way you might tip a waitress a quarter or whatever. It was, he said, his adrenaline-charged rain-streaked Nicholas Ray tribute, Spanking Without a Cause, with Avery in the James Dean role. They had commandeered San Francisco’s science museum, the Exploratorium, for a single night of filming, in which Adam Radley made it seem like the planetarium in Griffith Park. I’m not into spanking myself but the sight of Avery getting it once again, under a blanket of fake stars glittering on a ceiling high above, was oddly touching. The LA-based filmmaker and photographer William E. Jones had been assigned by Artforum to report from the set of Spanking Without a Cause and I read his article on line over a TV dinner. “Radley stages the knife fight with what looks like authentic 1950s switchblades that—zip, flip, snip—hack away at Jim’s blue jeans until they’re a hula skirt of blue denim rag, and his white briefs glow with arcane knowledge from beneath the shredded blue curtain. When his dad appears in a frilly pink apron and wet rubber gloves in the door of Jim’s bedroom, Radley’s camera reacts like Medusa, freezing on the menace of those long wet gloves. The dad sits down at the edge of the bed, bends a sullen Jim over his knee, inches his palm over the upturned butt. ‘Jim,’ he asks, almost casually, ‘do you think that the end of the world will come at night time?’”

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