Monday, January 14, 2008


Marjoe Gortner. He played the psycho badguy in the 1978 movie, When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder. Starring Hal Lyndon. He was in the Evel Knievel movie, Viva Knievel. In which a little boy throws down his crutches and cries out: "Yer the reason I’m walkin', Evel! YER THE REASON!" Starring Evel Knievel. He played the psycho National Guardsman in Earthquake! Starring Charlton Heston. The house I grew up in was in that movie. Heston drives by it on the way to his movie home, in the Hollywood Hills. There’s our house! That’s all I remember Marjoe from, but I do remember him.

He was a child-preacher. Lookit.

I don’t really have much to say. It just totally creeps me out. These little performing children, approximating so amusingly the gestures that some adult has drilled into them. The intonations and phrasings. Like performing animals, or computer-generated lip movements on talking babies. Like dead little JonBenét, who’d be a senior in high school now, looking just like a real woman. Hold still, JonBenét, while I put your lipstick on! No, it’s not pornographic in the slightest. But I did once catch a glimpse of a photo of a child, a little boy I think, being anally raped -- so it appeared. (Do not, say, mistype “hotmail” when you’re going for email.) I had to ditch that computer. And yes, I am so completely capable of murder. Perversions. So many perversions.

The name Marjoe derives from a combination of the names of his parents. Mary and Joseph. Git it? They must have been geniuses. Marjoe dropped out of the Pentecostal preaching business as a teenager, and shacked up with an older woman in San Francisco, then became part of the Hippy movement. Then he started preaching again, and in the early ’70s filmed an exposé of the conman tricks common in that circle. It won an Oscar, and apparently has been found and revived for the art house audience in Manhattan.

Ah well. I don’t know why it bothers me so much, that clip. It is true that I was for a time in my early formative years a little performing homunculus, so cute, so talented. What could be wrong about being made to learn a skill? I wonder sometimes though why I have to feel so deeply the pain of other people. I wasn’t ever strangled to death. I wasn’t anally raped, that I remember.

It’s Marjoe’s birthday today. He’s 64.


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