Wednesday, March 27, 2024

B.o.Y.: The Women of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Part XIX — Erica Gavin, Pt. I (1965-71)


"Using unknowns you avoid highly exaggerated salaries and prima donnas."
 
To repeat ourselves: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Russ Meyer's baroque 1967 masterpiece, one of only two movies he ever made for a major Hollywood studio (in this case, Fox), is without a doubt one of the Babest movies ever made. While we have yet to review it here at a wasted life (if we did, we would foam at the mouth in raging rave), we have looked at it before: back in 2011, in our R.I.P. Career Review of Charles Napier (12 Apr 1936 – 5 Oct 2011), and again in 2013 in our R.I.P. Career Review for the Great Haji (24 Jan 1946 – 10 Aug 2013) — both appear in the film — not to mention in almost every Babe of Yesteryear blog entry the past 1.5+ years.
 
"This is not a sequel. There has never been anything like it!
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In Haji's entry, we were wrote, among other things, the following: "Originally intended as a sequel to the 1967 movie version of Jacqueline Susann's novel Valley of the Dolls (trailer), Meyer and co-screenwriter Roger Ebert instead made a Pop Art exploitation satire of the conventions of the modern Hollywood melodrama, written in sarcasm but played straight, complete with a 'moralistic' ending that owes its inspiration to the Manson-inspired murder of Sharon Tate and her guests on August 9, 1969. Aside from the movie's absolutely insane plot, the cinematography is also noteworthy — as are the figures of the pneumatic babes that populate the entire movie. For legal reasons, the film starts with the following disclaimer: 'The film you are about to see in not a sequel to Valley of the Dolls. It is wholly original and bears no relationship to real persons, living or dead. It does, like Valley of the Dolls, deal with the oft-times nightmare world of show business but in a different time and context.' [...]"
 
"Any movie that Jacqueline Susann thinks would damage her reputation as a writer cannot be all bad."
 
Russ Meyer films are always populated by amazing breasts sights, but Beyond the Valley of the Dolls literally overflows its cups in an excess of pulchritude that (even if somewhat more demurely covered than in most of his films) lights the fires of any person attracted to women of the curvaceous kind that preceded today's sculptured plasticity. The film is simply Babe Galore. 
And so we continue our look at the flesh film careers of the breasts women of the Babest Film of All Times, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The size of the women's breasts roles is of lesser importance than the simple fact that they are known to be in it somewhere, and so far we have looked at the cleavage known unknowns and mildly knowns in the background and the headlining semi-knowns in the front for too many monthly blog entries — with more breasts babes to come. Our entries focus on their nipples careers in film, if in a meandering manner, and we have slightly less than another half-year to go before we're finished drooling with the project.* 
* One set of love pillows Babe we don't look is she who is an American National Treasure: the Great Pam Grier. Though she had her film debut in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls unseen somewhere in the background of the opening party scene and therefore should be included, we feel that a Wonderment of her caliber deserves an entry all of her own — a Sisyphean task we might one day undertake.
 
So far, we have looked at the T&A careers of the following women of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls:
Part I: The Non-babe of Note — Princess Livingston
Part II: Background Babe — Jacqulin Cole
Part III: Background Babe — Bebe Louie
Part IV: Background Babe — Trina Parks
Part V: Background Babe — Lavelle Roby, Pt. I (1968-76)
Part VI: Background Babe — Lavelle Roby. Pt. II (1979-2021)
Part VII: Killer Babe — Samantha Scott
Part VIII: Background Babe — Karen Smith
Part IX: Background Babes — The Five Mysterians
Part X: Background Babe — Gina Dair
Part XI: Background Babe — Cissi Colpitts, Pt. I (1970-80)
Part XII: Background Babe — Cissi Colpitts, Pt. II (1981-88)
Part XV: Background Babe of BVD — Veronica Ericson
Part XVII: BVD — Edy Williams, Pt. II (1968-82) 
Part XVIII: BVD — Edy Williams, Pt. III (1983-90) 
 
And now: 
Erica Gavin

Erica Gavin, one of the most naturally beautiful women to appear in a Russ Meyer movie, was born in Los Angeles, CA, as Donna Graff, on 22 July 1947 to Madeleine [Louise Rosenstiel] and Fred Graff (2 Jun 1920 – 6 Sept 2008). Fred was a Bronx-born actor (see: Cry of the Werewolf [1944 / trailer] or Union Station [1950 / trailer]) whose short career was killed by the blacklist of the McCarthy era. Her childhood in Silverlake, as described at her website, does not seem to have been an untroubled one, and she led a wild life that easily could have made her a member of Club 27. She was out of the family house by 1964 and living with her artist boyfriend Bob Gavin, whom she eventually married so as not to have to testify against him after a drug bust. 

By 1966, he was in jail on tax evasion charges and the underage Donna, in need of an income, she got herself a fake ID as the of-age "Erica Gavin" — Gavin being her married name, Erica being the name of her mother's best friend's daughter — and began working for an agency, Models A Go-Go. While working as a topless dancer at Losers, she became friends with Bebe Louie, not to mention the Great Haji and Tura Satana. The latter two both told her she should meet Russ Meyer, but her eventual involvement in Vixen! (1968) resulted when she responded to an actual casting call she read in Variety while at waiting in a dental office. The rest is history, you could say, though for years she seemingly fell off the face of the earth after Caged Heat (1974)...

Ms. Gavin has since resurfaced. To learn the more details about up and downs of her life, may we suggest the Bio chapters at her website: Growing Up in Silverlake, Hollywood Teen, Rock 'N' Roll Adventures, Evolving Sexuality, Addiction Hell, The Fashionista, The Mansion Connection and Erica Does Europe. Currently, we await the publication of her autobiography, Vixen: My Life and Movies.

 
 
Red Line 7000
(1965, dir. Howard Hawks)
At the tender age of 18, Erica Gavin possibly had her first known film job as an uncredited and unnoticed extra in Red Line 7000, a racing film that is generally considered amongst of the most forgettable film projects of the Hollywood directorial legend, Howard Hawks (30 May 1896 – 26 Dec 1977), the man who brought us classic fluff (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes [1953 / trailer, with Jane Russell], Hatari! [1962 / trailer], etc.) as well as some really good stuff (Scarface [1932 / trailer], To Have and Have Not [1944 / trailer], The Big Sleep [1946 / trailer], etc.). She plays a girl in a nightclub scene — don't blink, and you still won't see her.
Opening credits to
Red Line 7000:
Red Line 7000, based on a story thought up by Hawks (cars and babes and manly men — shattering new concept) and was scripted by George Kirgo (26 Mar 1926 – 22 Aug 2004), whose only real scriptwriting credits of note (at least as far as a wasted life is concerned) is that of Voices (1973 / full movie), one of those obscure "slow burn" horror films that enjoy a positive cult reputation because it is such an head-scratcher (if only because most people are too stupid to see the expectable "twist" ending as early as they should), and the original film pilot to Get Christie Love! (1974 / trailer).
Trailer to
The Crowd Roars (1932):
"[Red Line 7000] has been called a loose remake of Hawks' earlier racing pic, The Crowd Roars (1932 / trailer above), which is also distinctly 'lesser Hawks'. [...] Red Line is still Hawks down to its rims, but it lacks an axle — there's nothing there to hold the wheels on. None of the women are exactly Hawksian (Charlene Holt aside), they're far too masochistic and self-abasing, and the men are all unattractively stunted, at least on some level. It's the first movie, for example, in Hawks' canon where a 'good guy' hits a woman. Worse, it's James Caan! [That's James below, supposedly — not from the film.] He gets jealous over his new girlfriend (Hill) while shouting 'Slut!' at her because she slept with his on-track rival, albeit before meeting him. Usually that's enough right there to warrant a man getting killed, or at least pistol-whipped into releasing Walter Brennan. Here the girl seems to be more concerned with the condition of her man's knuckles than her black eye. These women soak up abuse, and go running to clean up their own blood so their man won't slip on his way to another woman's boudoir. It's sickening, and worse — un-Hawksian. [...] James Caan's whole thing of how he only wants to sleep with virgins and not any 'second hand' stuff seems like a problem made up by a man who was pushing 70 in the age before Viagra, angry at his libido for giving out right before the arrival of 'the pill'. [...] [Acidemic]"
"A number of characters will periodically appear in this ensemble piece [...]. Mixing and mingling, this speedway crew engages in a melodramatic series of romances and feuds, not all of them related to racing, and not all of them of much interest. [CutPrintFilm]"
The plot to the man-centric, ensemble soap opera on wheels, as supplied by Mark Deming at All Movie: "Legendary director Howard Hawks revs up and hits the track in this drama about race car drivers and the women who love them. Pat Kazarian (Norman Alden [13 Nov 1924 – 27 Jul 2012] of Killers Three [1968 / trailer], Good Times [1967, with Edy Williams] and Cutting Class [1989 / trailer]) is a racing driver who also oversees a team of racers, among them Jim Loomis (Anthony Rogers) and Mike Marsh (James Caan of The Way of the Gun [2000]). Jim is engaged to marry Holly McGregor (Gail Hire of Batman [1966 / trailer]), but after she arrives in Daytona to be with her man, Holly learns Jim died in a crash. With nowhere else to go, a shattered Holly takes a job at a restaurant owned by her friend Lindy (Charlene "Miss Maryland 1956" Holt [28 Apr 1928 – 5 Apr 1996]). Ned Arp (John Robert Crawford) is tapped to replace Jim, who quickly makes a reputation for moving fast on the track. He also becomes known for moving fast with the ladies, which doesn't please Pat when he learns Ned has his eyes on Julie Kazarian (Laura Devon [23 May 1931 – 19 Jul 2007] of Chamber of Horrors [1966 / trailer]), his younger sister. After a few early successes, Ned breaks off from Pat's team, and Dan McCall (James 'Skip' Ward [12 Sept 1932 – 27 Jun 2003] of The Mad Room [1969 / opening credits]) steps in in his place. Dan arrives with his girlfriend, French beauty Gabrielle (Marianna Hill of Black Zoo [1963, with Michael Gough], the weirdness that is The Baby [1973 / trailer], High Plains Drifter [1973 / trailer] Messiah of Evil [1973 / trailer], Schizoid [1980 / trailer], Blood Beach [1980, with Lavelle Roby], and more), but soon finds himself infatuated with Holly. Mike begins to fall for Gabrielle, and becomes angry with the shabby way Dan has treated her, going so far as to take his anger out on his teammate on the track. Red Line 7000 includes plenty of superb racing footage and some unusual rock and roll interpretations of classic folk songs; keep an eye peeled for George Takei (of Ninja Cheerleaders [2008]) in a minor role."
Accident in
Red Line 7000:
"Hawks hired a no-name cast in a bid a) to become a star-maker, b) to prove he did not require the marquee wattage of the likes of John Wayne and c) to show he could make a movie cheaply. He failed on all three counts. He probably didn't think he was taking any kind of gamble at all, as a male approaching 70, in trying to depict the lives of people around 50 years younger. James Caan, in his sophomore outing, comes out best, but that's not saying much since he has very little to do except growl and look broody. Marianna Hill is also believable. [...] And what possessed him to stick in a song sung by a character (Holly, played by Gail Hire) who cannot sing — she talks the lyrics — with a backing group made up of waitresses, I can't begin to guess. [Magnificent 60s]."
From the film –
Holly (Gail Hire) "sings" Wildcat Jones:
 
 
The Initiation
(1968, dir. William Wellburn)
Should not be mistaken with the only slightly less-obscure lower echelon Golden Age slasher The Initiation (1984 / trailer), or the Eurosleaze The Initiation (1970 / poster below).
No, this forgotten late-sixties independent semi-sex film seems to have made it to Germany, where, if we are to believe Filmdienst, it was released with the titles Sex-Roulette and Wenn die nicht kann, nimm mich mal dran! Wellburn's The Initiation is considered a lost film (so check your attic!) and features a cast of unknowns, most of whom have disappeared like the movie itself. Even the director, William Wellburn, has also disappeared into the sunset: his only other known, supposed film credit (as Bill Welburn) is an editing credit on David L. Hewitt's nano-budget and fun bad film, Journey to the Center of Time (1967, trailer below).
Trailer to
Journey to the Center of Time:
Scripted by unknowns Tom Parker and Ron Sands, it is safe to say the movie was not based on Liverpool Library's publication of the same year (below), Winston McElroy's The Initiation... McElroy's real name is unknown, but he wrote more than a few sleaze books in his day. 
In 1971, Tom Parker went on to form Topar Films, Inc, which specialized in releasing grindhouse filler like the white-coater Aphrodisiac! The Sexual Secret of Marijuana (1971 / full film), Juan Piquer Simón's Supersonic Man (1979 / trailer), Derek Ford's Keep It Up, Jack (1974), Bruno Mattei's Private House of the SS (1977 / trailer), and I. Robert Levy's Can I Do It 'Till I Need Glasses? (1977, with the Great Uschi). Parker is known to have also directed an occasional no-budget-no-talent one-day wonder porn flick such as Positions (1970) and The Erotic Artist (1971). ["Erotic Artist is ugly, boring and rubbish. (SexGoreMutants)"]
Cinematographer Robert Caramico (10 Dec 1932 – 18 Oct 1997), the second [known] husband of Pat Barrington — his first known job was her film debut, Orgy of the Dead (1965 / full film) — shot such fine films as The Black Klansman (1966), Blackenstein (1973 / trailer below), Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive (1976), and The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977, with Edy Williams and Marilyn Joi and Cissi Colpotts). Caramico also "directed" that early, tacky mockumentary of sorts (as in: sex film) that is Sex Rituals of the Occult (1970 / full film).
Trailer to
Blackenstein:

As is the case with Red Line 7000, Ms. Gavin makes no reference to this film on her website. She supposedly played a character named Jan. The most common plot description around, found pretty much everywhere, doesn't mention her character: "Chuck Johnson (Sean Ohlen) arranges erotic orgies in the family guest house while his curious younger sister Tangi (Denise Lynn) peeks through the window. Older brother Kelly (Rick Strausser) returns from a tour in Vietnam to an erotic homecoming planned by Chuck. Tangi finds Kelly in his room shooting up, but she still sees him as a hero."
Assuming that the earlier mentioned Filmdienst is talking about the same movie as we are here, they offer a somewhat different plot: "A clique of young guys use psychological pressure to convince innocent girls to give up their virginity as part of a special ritual during a Happening. A trashy film that tries to create an alibi for itself with its framing narrative. Avoid."
Denise Lynn (a.k.a. Denise Nettleton Jacobs) made her film debut in Bill Dewar's early and possibly lost nudie-cutie Bachelor Tom Peeping (1962 / soundtrack), a.k.a. Bachelor Tom and His Bikini Playmates (poster above), which supposedly also features the acting film debut of the legendary Marsha Jordan (as "Bouncy Bouncy"), a name we mention (whenever we can) so as to have an excuse to present a filmclip of Ms. Jordan lounging...
Marsha Jordan lounging around:
 
Vixen!
(1968, dir. Russ Meyer)

"We decided to stop doing this when we were 12."
Vixen's brother Judd (Jon Evans)
 
"Meet Vixen! Hailing from the erotic wastelands of British Columbia, Vixen has it all. She's promiscuous! She's racist! She has boobies! She might be bipolar! She can pilot a single prop airplane! Vixen is the girl you never knew you wanted, and smut pioneer Russ Meyer brought her to the big screen in 1968 with a measly $76,000 budget in the aptly titled Vixen! Fueled by controversy and the brand new X rating, Vixen! grossed over $6 million, making Russ Meyer a millionaire [...] [Your Stupid Minds]" 
Trailer to
Vixen!:
"A bacchanalian orgy of indiscretion, nudity, and unrestrained, unrestrainable sexuality, Vixen! is porn without the penetration. But it's also much more than that — a film packed with Sadean notions of vice and virtue, sexual power struggles, and a wild finish that makes less sense narratively than it does tonally. Vixen! is, like all of Meyer's best work, a powerful sort of primitive art — art that must be experienced to be fully appreciated. [Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies]"
Erica Gavin's first starring role, and usually claimed as her film debut, this is a mid-career masterpiece from Russ Meyer — although the racist tirades Erica Gavin's character occasionally spouts put the movie in the somewhat hard-to-digest masterpiece mode ala D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915 / full movie) — thank god Vixen! at least eschews blackface.
But then, Vixen! is very much an extremely button-pushing and often uncomfortable movie. One of the first films (if not the first) to be given an X-rating by the MPAA, much like the similarly once X-rated Midnight Cowboy (1969 / trailer), Vixen! is a strong R at best. (Nevertheless, it is allegedly still banned in Cincinnati, Ohio.)
The "plot", as explained by Roger Ebert: "The story line is barely strong enough to hold the scenes together; it involves a bush pilot (Garth Pillsbury of Malibu High [1979 / trailer], Mistress of the Apes [1979 / trailer] and the torturous Miss Melody Jones [1973 / trailer]) and his wife (Vixen, portrayed admirably by Erica Gavin) who take another couple on a fishing weekend in Canada. Also present are Vixen's brother (Jon Evans of Song of the Loon* [1970 / scenes]) and his black friend (Harrison Page of Carnosaur [1993] and Beneath the Valley of the Dolls [1970]), a draft evader protesting what he believes is a racist war. The Irish Marxist (Michael Donovan O'Donnell, below with the Great Uschi from The Magic Mirror [1970], of Angels Die Hard [1970, with R.G. Armstrong] and Satan's Cheerleaders [1977, with Jacqulin Cole] and more), wanders in later from somewhere. There is also a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman (Peter Carpenter** [25 Jul 1939 – 2 Apr 1996] of Love Me Like I Do [1970 / scene / some music below]) who wanders off somewhere."
* "Song of the Loon (1970), based on the 1966 novel of the same name, was one of the first feature films created by and for gay men. Richard Amory (18 Oct 1927 – 1 Aug 1981) wrote both the novel and the screenplay, and Shan V. Sayles – owner of several gay male theaters, including San Francisco's Nob Hill Cinema – produced the film. (OAC)" Song of the Loon appears to be Jon Evans' last known speaking role. 
** After his debut in Vixen!, Peter Carpenter, born Nathaniel Joseph Carpenter, a natural at playing "a horny, muscular man who will stop at nothing to get laid", seemed to be on his way to a successful exploitation career with the double feature Blood Mania (1970 / trailer) and Point of Terror (1971 / trailer), both of which he produced, wrote and starred in. But then, while doing the publicity tour to the latter, he disappeared. What happened to him and why he "mysteriously" disappeared remained contested and unproven for years, with varied reasons given for his "early death", like massive cerebral hemorrhage and/or pneumonia. The unluckily now defunct blogspot Eerie Midnight Detective Agency did their detective work and discovered that he simply turned his back to Hollywood, moved to Alhambra and, like Harry Reems years later, went into real estate. Whereas Reems died of the Big C, however, Peter Carpenter died of HIV/AIDS.
The couple that arrives for the weekend, Dave and Janet King, is played by Robert Aiken and Vincene Wallace a.k.a Vincene Cradduck a.k.a Vincene Wallis. Vincene, a pin-up model (see below), appeared in a variety of softcore sex films, including Pinocchio (1971, with the Great Uschi and Karen Smith) and H.G. Lewis's Ecstasies of a Woman (1969), before disappearing into the woodwork... until the great detectives at the Rialto Report found out where she went and what she did — see: Vincene Wallace: Vixen's Vixen – No Longer the Bridesmaid (23 April 2023). 
Robert Aiken, who may or may not have begun his career as "Ford Dunhill" in the Hollywood movie This Earth Is Mine (1959 / opening), supposedly co-wrote Sandra: The Making of a Woman (1970, with the Great Uschi) and also appeared in Lee Frost's anti-classic Love Camp 77 (1969 / trailer) as well as Gary Garver's intriguing sexploiter And When She Was Bad... (1973 / Hollywood Blvd). He, too, has since disappeared into the woodwork. 
"Vixen! thrives off of the lustful energy of Gavin, who unfortunately only starred in a handful of similar films [...]. If you were to consider Vixen! Gavin's tour-de-force, you likely wouldn't be mistaken, for the natural, climactic energy and fervor she brings to any given sequence acts as a tentpole for the whole project, which is loose all around, purposefully so. Her and Meyer, working with a script co-written by Anthony James Ryan (17 Jun 1921 – 15 Apr 2006), breed life into what could've been just another marginally titillating softcore drama and infuse it with era-specific commentary and erotica that show just what the genre is capable of in the right hands. [Steve Pulaski]" 
A version is heard in the movie —
French Girl in Manhattan (by Peter Thomas):
"You've got to hand it to Russ Meyer. One minute we're watching a virtually plotless sex romp, the next minute we're involved in a tense hijack with communism versus capitalism diatribes coming from all sides. It's a magical transformation really, yet it all fits together and if you're familiar with the Meyer approach, it's not a surprise. I love the way he melds action, violence and sex into a heady mixture. The sex in this film is the main focus, and Erica Gavin can certainly pretend to be an animal in heat quite well. There is a lot of growling and grunting, particularly in the 'Judd scene'. We're not talking hardcore-explicit, but the director uses softcore to maximum impact. Of course, Vixen! has all the quality of Meyer film, which includes the photography, complex editing and constant sixties music running throughout. The sex-obsessed dialogue is a treat, co-written by Anthony-James Ryan. [Girls Guns & Ghouls]" 
We here at a wasted life will admit that we do indeed find Erica Gavin's eyebrows in the movie an odd affection that we're forever undecided about — although they in no way diminish her unique facial beauty. But, for that, we always found that Gavin, in Vixen!, has what could well be described as a perfect body. All the more curious, to say the least, regarding what she says in the documentary we look at later, Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies (2020), of how seeing herself naked on the big screen affected her: "Well, it didn't really affect my professional career, but it affected me personally because when I went to the premiere, the first time I saw myself that big on a giant screen, I started picking my body apart, and I didn't like the way I looked. [Collider]"
Over at Rock!Shock!Pop!, she went into a little more detail: "I became afflicted with an eating disorder and during its reign of terror over me, my weight went from 135 pounds to 76 pounds. To this disease, I almost lost my life. I guess you might say I did lose my life as I had come to know it. I think it started when I went to the premiere of Vixen! and saw myself on screen. I was so big, just so big in every way, I think I just wanted to have my being disappear and so I went to work at it and accomplished it, almost. I wanted to be invisible."
In 1969, at the infamous Dragon Art in Florida, as evident by the advert below, they hit the public with a triple whammy! Vixen! hit the screen as part of a triple feature with two other Russ Meyer films, his earlier classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965 / trailer) and his somewhat less artistically successful Good Morning... and Goodbye! (1967 / opening titles below), the film that preceded Vixen! 
Opening titles to
Good Morning... and Goodbye!:
Famously enough, Vixen! was a box office hit and made Russ Meyer a millionaire. Hollywood — specifically: 20th Century Fox — took notice of the budget to returns and came knocking on Russ Meyer's door. And thus he came to direct Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
 
 
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
(1970, dir. Russ Meyer)
Russ Meyer pulled Erica Gavin in for his follow-up to Vixen!, the camp masterpiece that is Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. As the lesbian Roxanne, one of the most likeable characters of the movie, she hooks up with Casey, one of the members of The Carrie Nations, played by undoubtedly one of the most beautiful woman in the film, the legendary Cynthia Myers (12 Sept 1950 – 4 Nov 2011), who unbelievably enough was not Playboy Playmate of the Year in 1968. One of the great injustices of life, up there with Trump's presidency.
Gavin is seen on the poster above, still half-asleep, giving head to the gun that is about to end her life. In regard to the filming of that scene, she once said: "That was tough. For one thing it really hurt my mouth. See, that's the kind of things that Russ loved. The more uncomfortable you were the more Russ loved it." 
Trailer to
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls:
The plot, as found at AFI: "Tired of playing to high school audiences, Kelly (Dolly Read), Casey (Cynthia Myers), and Pet (Marcia McBroom), members of a rock trio, travel to Hollywood, California, accompanied by Harris Allsworth (David Gurian), the band's manager and Kelly's lover. There, they are befriended by Kelly's Aunt Susan (Phyllis Davis), an advertising executive, who, despite the misgivings of her lawyer, Porter Hall (Duncan McLeod), decides to share with Kelly the family fortune. At an orgy the band is discovered by the effeminate entrepreneur host, Ronnie 'Z-Man' Barzell (John La Zar), who rechristens them 'The Carrie Nations.' Among lovers quickly acquired at Ronnie's party are Lance (Michael Blodgett), a boorish gigolo, who enters into a liaison with Kelly; Emerson (Harrison Page), a law student who wins Pet's love; and Roxanne (Erica Gavin), a lesbian designer who captures Casey's heart. As the celebrated trio perform on national television, Harris, distraught by Kelly's infidelity and Casey's impregnation by him, hurls himself from the catwalk. He is rushed to the hospital, where Dr. Scholl (Dan White) informs Kelly that Harris can look forward to life as a paraplegic. Realizing that Harris is her true love, Kelly devotes herself to his care. Touched by Casey's plight, Roxanne arranges an abortion. Ronnie invites Lance, Roxanne, and Casey to a private party, at which costumes are distributed. Dressed as Superwoman, Ronnie attempts to seduce Lance, who is attired in a loin cloth. Rejected, Ronnie binds the gigolo. After revealing that he is, in fact, a woman, Ronnie bears her breasts, brandishes a sword, and chops off Lance's head. She then plunges a gun into the sleeping Roxanne's mouth and fires. Terrified, Casey phones her friends, who rush to her rescue but arrive too late. As Emerson and Kelly attempt to subdue Ronnie, the gun discharges, killing the transvestite. During the fray, however, the crippled Harris is miraculously cured. In a triple wedding ceremony, Kelly and Harris, Pet and Emerson, and Aunt Susan and an old love are united."
In an interview she gave when she was 37 years old, Gavin was rather circumspect regarding Edy Williams, saying: "There wasn't anything to like or not like [in Edy]. We shared trailers. That's pretty much all I should say. [...] I have a picture of Edy, Russ, and me at their wedding. It looks more like Russ and I are the couple. She's just doing her pose. She's something else. I guess she sort of went downhill."
She also spotlights a quick visual transition in the film which is pretty typically Meyer: "That's his style of editing. Everything is very slick, quick, and fast. For instance, when Casey is going for the abortion in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls the doctor comes in with his bifocals. He's like okay put your legs up in here then Russ cuts to the eggs frying in the pan. Everything is quick and bright which I think is brilliant. It catches your attention." 
In regard to the topics of Meyer's films, Gavin points out: "Russ always took whatever was timely. In Vixen! it was the Communists and with Dolls it was definitely a knock-off of the Manson murders. He always sort of went for whatever was current. If he had been doing a movie around the time of OJ, he would have had that whole scenario too. You know the Arthur Lee song, I think it's Seven and Seven, goes 'The news today will be the movies of tomorrow' — and it's so true." 
Arthur Lee (& Love)'s
Seven and Seven:
Going by what she says at her website, Ms. Gavin was rather a fan of Arthur Lee (7 Mar 1945 – 3 Aug 2006): "[...] In Europe we went to a Love concert, and we went backstage afterward. I started hanging out with Arthur. I gave him head in one of the bathrooms [at the concert hall], and we ended up having wild sex back at his hotel. It was a three-day fling — I was having a great time!"
For more insight into the making of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls from Erica Gavin's viewpoint, check out this article cum interview at her websight.
 
 
Captain Milkshake
(1970, writ & dir. Richard Crawford)
Let's look at this film as a HUGE maybe, if not a definite not. Erica Gavin has yet to mention this movie in any of her interviews we've read, and it is not listed on any filmographies that we have found anywhere, but over at DVD Party they reprint an article, written by Elliot James, on the "film" Erika's Hot Summer (1971, we look at it next) from Score magazine, a publication that "specializes in photographs of women with large breasts, either naturally larger or augmented", in which James writes about "the one, the only ERICA GAVIN, star of Russ Meyer mega-hits Vixen! and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. One of those girls the camera truly worshipped, Erica lit up the screen in Jonathan Demme's prison pic, Caged Heat (1974) [...] as well as such obscurities as Captain Milkshake, The Rebel Jesus (1971), and the berserk Sexy Shocker, Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973)." 
Trailer to
Captain Milkshake:
For the sake of the doubt, let's look at the "re-discovered" counter-culture flick in which, if Gavin does appear anywhere, she does so uncredited and to date unnoticed. (For that, however, Russ Meyer regular Stuart Lancaster [30 Nov 1920 – 22 Dec 2000] shows up in a credited role.) Indeed, on the film's website, she is never mentioned... ditto in Michael Weldon's The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film (1983), where Weldon, a man who would surely have mentioned Ms. Gavin had he seen her, doesn't: "Marine Geoff Gage is introduced to drugs and free love while home on leave. He breaks off with hippie girl Andrea Cagan and returns to Vietnam, where he dies in action. Music by the Steve Miller Band, Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Kaleidoscope. With David Korn, Ronald Barca, and Belle Greer." 
The 2022 catalog to the Viennale Film Festival offers a synopsis that makes the film sound a bit more historically relevant and interesting: "Captain Milkshake was the first dramatic film to deal with the controversial issues around the Vietnam War: Paul (Geoff Gage), a young marine on leave, comes home to discover the anti-war movement complete with free love, cheap grass and a flower-child peace activist named Melissa (Andrea Cagan). Still haunted by flashbacks from his trip to Vietnam, Paul finds himself caught in the midst of changing times. Both his conservative relatives and the new brand of privileged counterculture chums now seem equally naïve to the realities of war, and Paul's world turns upside down. Originally released in 1970, Captain Milkshake was quickly pulled from distribution. Unfortunately, Captain Milkshake is a causality of a war between Crawford and his distributor. Decades later, Crawford has only recently regained the rights to his own film. [...]." 
From the film,
The Kaleidoscope perform Lie to Me:
"[...] Captain Milkshake gets lots of points for vibe. Excellent black-and-white photography grounds the picture in cinematic professionalism, providing a strong baseline for freakier visual elements. Some of the editing (credited to costar Korn) is also impressive, especially an exciting montage set to an acid-rock cover of Who Do You Love? That one scene, which has enough editorial whiz-bang for an entire episode of The Monkees (1966-68), encompasses everything from lava lamps to motorcycles to sex. And even if the film's acting is mostly quite tentative, some scenes land simply because the hippie ethos is conveyed so effectively. In one choice bit, Thesp (David Korn) imitates John Wayne's voice during a speech while hippie chicks play America the Beautiful on kazoos. (Every 70s Movie)" 
Quicksilver Messenger Service
(music from the film):
"Geoff Gage" didn't really do much of nothing after Captain Milkshake, but for that Geoffrey "Geoff" Binney went on to appear in a few small parts in a few fun films: Hot Potato (1976, with studmuffin Jim Kelly), Edward D. Murphy's Raw Force (1982 / trailer), and Under Crystal Lake (1990 / trailer). Andrea Cagan has gone on to becoming a successful author and ghostwriter, but before she started helping people put their lives down on paper she also made a few fun films, namely: Teenager (1974 / full movie) and The Hot Box (1972 / trailer). The latter film is also why she appears as a talking head in Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010 / trailer). 
 
 
Erika's Hot Summer
(1971, "writ." & "dir." Gary Graver)
Erica Gavin "plays" Erika. Over at her official website, Erica explains: "As for Erika's Hot Summer, I think Models-A-GoGo got me the job to work on a film I think it was one day maybe two days work for $50, may be $100 a day. I can't remember the original working title but it certainly was not Erika's Hot Summer. Well, the footage shot had been canned and put on the shelf. They most likely ran out of money. After the huge success of Vixen!, Hot Summer was sort of pieced together with the hiring of additional actors and actresses and writing a script to incorporate the footage they had of me, close-up. And VOILA! There it is... Erika's Hot Summer starring yours truly. So if the film seems fragmented, it is."
Over at the infamous Dragon Art Theatre, the year it came out (1971), the "film" got paired once with the film that caused its exhumation, Vixen!, as well as with the pro-porn "documentary" Danish & Blue (1970), which, contrary to what many people think, is not the movie Danish Blue a.k.a Sex and the Law (1968). The following year, again at the Dragen, Vixen! got paired with Bethel Buckalew's Southern Comforts (1971 / full film), which we looked at briefly in Harry Novak (R.I.P.) Pt. VIII
A clip from
Danish Blue a.k.a Sex and the Law (1968):
As Erika's Hot Summer was produced by Paul Hunter (RIP) and distributed by Harry Novak (RIP), we've looked at it before, more or less writing: An "early sexploiter by Gary Graver (20 Jul 1938 – 16 Nov 2006), who went on to do dozens of hand-helping visual aids of gynecological detail under the pseudonym of Robert McCallum. The Erika of the title is no one less than the great Erica Gavin [...]. Erika's Hot Summer also features Playboy December 1972 Playmate of the Month Merci Montello (that's her below). Plot? Well, basically, Erica vs. Merci for the heart and wiener of 'Steve' (Walt Phillips), a fuck-around photographer."
Over at DVD Party they reprint an article written by Elliot James on the "film" Erika's Hot Summer from Score magazine, which "specializes in photographs of women with large breasts, either naturally larger or augmented"; in the article, James writes: "Despite the title, Erika's Hot Summer is something of a cool, languid entry in the sex-film sweepstakes, an effect abetted by the wistful, melancholic music of Robert Hirth and his ever-present theme song, Erika (which is pretty good, actually) [listen to it here]. All of it reminiscent of the bluesy, coffee-house style of Kenny Rankin. Compared to today's porn-erotic cinema (or is it videma?) in which gals are directed to suck jiz from the freshly sodomized asspipes of other girls, a virtually plotless picture like Erika's Hot Summer looks like Titanic (1997 / trailer). Photographer Steve (Walt Phillips), a blond cabana boy bimbo-type, gets it right, left, and center from his beautiful, fawning models. Hey, just because he has a mirrored ceiling and has a home studio doesn't mean he's trying to snag them. [...] One look at Erika on the beach and Steve's pounding heart is nailed dead center [...]. Therefore, you will see many leisurely minutes of a smitten Steve cavorting romantically with his beloved Erika amidst California splendor just like a '70s Breck shampoo TV commercial. [...] And be happily advised: this is the only film in which all of Miss Gavin's breathtaking charms are revealed for her eager-to-stare fans." (Obviously, James had yet to see Vixen!)
While the film is softcore, the overdubbed dialogue during the sex scenes is 100% bad hardcore porn. Valet of the Ultra Vixens "found this 'film' hilarious, for all the wrong reasons", admitting that it wasn't a film they would "recommend to anyone with a more sophisticated sense of humour, and less masochistic tendencies": "Gavin's 'character' [...] has no on-screen dialogue... she just spends her time grinning like a goon, laughing at nothing, sloppily eating ice-cream, and playing with random sticks and flowers... mindless behaviour which you could charitably ascribe to a naive and romantic spirit, or less charitably to severe learning difficulties! The film-makers' attempt to cobble all this together into some sort of narrative is clumsy at best, and the story's rushed, pseudo-'shocking' denouncement is one of the most ridiculous things [...] ever seen..." 
 
Sunnbrella uses the film
for their music video:
We couldn't find out much about Robert Hirth, the man behind the bad movie's mostly terrible tinkle-tinkle free jazz background "music" (but for the surprisingly good if typically tacky funky main track [listen to it here]). He worked on two other Paul Hunt films, The Harem Bunch (1969, with Maria Arnold and Kathie Hilton) and Wild, Free and Hungry (1969). There was, however, an obscure jazz guitarist around towards the end of the 60s named Robert Hirth who worked on a pretty damn good if unknown album, Sunset Painter, by a pretty good if unknown vibraharpist named Lynn Blessing...
Lynn Blessing performing An Awakening 
(composed by Robert Hirth):
As for Playboy Playmate Dec 1972 Merci Montello, a.k.a. "Mercy Rooney" since she was married Mickey Rooney Jr. (as in: the son of legend Mickey Rooney Sr.) at the time she posed, her brief career consisted of only duds, of which this one is the worst. Her "best" would be her last movie, the pyschotronically fun Beverly & Ferd Sebastian film, The Single Girls (1973). She has pretty much dropped off the face of the earth since then, far enough off to warrant the classic question: "Whatever happened to Mercy Rooney?" 
The Single Girls
full film, if you sign in:
As for Walt Phillips (1938–2022), who plays the manly man of Erika's Hot Summer, his true claim to fame was as a surfer and surfer documentarian. "He was big and blond, loud, outgoing, onstage, behind the camera, in front of the camera, always in motion, always putting something together. Phillips made surf movies and published a surf magazine. He had his own TV show. He even cut a record. [A 45 with Barry Young (27 Jun 1931 – 2 Dec 1966): Teasin' Baby backed with Surfin' Annie.] Phillips was 'Mr. Surfing,' according to a profile in Surfing Illustrated, published and edited by—yep, Walt Phillips. A classic overachiever, in other words, and I wonder how much of that had to do with the fact that in 1960, at age 22, Phillips took a loose board to the head while surfing, was in a coma for a month, and spent the rest of his life with a metal plate in his skull. [Instagram]" Both he and Paul Hunt can be found pontificating in...
Mondo Mod
original trailer:
 
 
The Rebel Jesus
(Sorta 1971, dir. Larry Buchanan)
Perhaps one of Erica Gavin's oddest projects that sort of exists, but not really anymore. At her website, she mentions: "Some guy from Texas put up something like $100,000 to make the movie. I was the only girl in the film, and believe it or not, I played the Virgin Mary! I don't remember having any dialogue. They flew us to Tunisia, and during the three or four weeks there, the food was so bad I got very sick. They had to put me in the hospital in Rome to recover. It was a nightmare; nobody knew what they were doing. I'm not even sure if they ever finished the movie." 
The guy from Texas was the legendary and self-proclaimed schlockmeister Larry Buchanan (31 Jan 1923 – 2 Dec 2004), famous for a whole slew of truly terrible but sometimes fun no- and low-budget non-faves like the "feature films" The Naked Witch* (1963 / trailer below) and Mistress of the Apes (1979 / trailer), and "TV movies" like The Eye Creatures (1967 / trailer), Zontar, the Thing from Venus (1967 / full movie), Curse of the Swamp Creature (1968 / trailer), and Mars Needs Women (1968 / full movie). Though his movies, many of which are now in the public domain, are generally considered the worst of the worst, as a filmmaker he was actually a tad better than, say, Jerry Warren (10 Mar 1925 – 21 Aug 1988 — see: Teenage Zombies [1959]). 
* To give credit where credit is due, Buchanan and those involved with The Naked Witch stole the basic plotline of that movie from a 1952 Finnish film, The Witch / Noita palaa elämään (trailer). 
Trailer to
The Naked Witch:
The Rebel Jesus was indeed a "finished" film at one point: way back in 2009, the great blogspot Temple of Schlock even located a newspaper advertisement of its "world premier", saying: "Although The Rebel Jesus was awarded a Bronze Medal for 'Low-Budget Feature' at the 1973 Atlanta Film Festival and Buchanan gave it a limited four-wall release in 1974, the filmmaker considered it unfinished and continued to work on it right up to his death in 2004. It's now titled The Copper Scroll of Mary Magdalene (2004)."
None of the articles that ToS reprints mention the presence of Erica Gavin in the cast. The plot, basically, is that of Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988 / trailer), but instead of it being a dream, it's "real": Christ survives and runs off with Mary Magdalene for a life of wedded bliss and worldly experiences.
A little online research brings to light at least one apocryphal tale about the filming of The Rebel Jesus, told by forgotten regional exploitation distributor & producer Claude Alexander* in an interview in Cult Movies magazine #14 (1995). He incorrectly states that Buchanan made the movie in 1960, so the story might be better than it is of any veracity: "[Larry] took his troop to Tunisia to shoot this religious picture about Jesus' lost years. Well, Larry finds out that this actress he had taken was on dope and Christ they have to hold up shooting while she's sick. This girl died on Larry when he only had a couple of scenes left to shoot, so he just propped her up and shot them — and those are the best damn scenes in the picture because they didn't have the Buchanan influence!" 
While not much can be found about Claude Alexander online, Brian Albright's book Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990: A State-by-State Guide with Interviews does offer an interesting and tragic bit of trivia in its entry on The Naked Witch: "Producer Claude Alexander was involved in a car accident in 2002 that killed his then girlfriend [84-year-old] Peggy Moran, an actress who had appeared in The Mummy's Hand (1940 / trailer) [...]" and Horror Island (1941 / trailer) and The Mummy's Tomb (1942 / trailer). Claude Alexander, a protégé of Kroger Babb, remains elusive and obscure, but he seems to have died around 2007.
The veracity of Alexander's tale may leave much to be desired, but some congruities to reality are nevertheless visible: Gavin was a bit of a freewheeling enjoyer of substances in her day, and she did get ill while on the shoot in Tunisia — but, of course, she did not die there.
Jesus will Survive:
As The Rebel Jesus metamorphasized into the apparently never-completed and now-lost The Copper Scroll of Mary Magdalene, changes seem to have occurred in the cast. While Erica Gavin is still occasionally listed as being in the film in an unnamed role, she definitely does not play the Mother Mary: that role seems to have been usurped by the possibly more age-appropriate Roberta Haynes (19 Aug 1927 – 4 Apr 2019), below not from the film. Garth Pillsbury, who plays Gavin's husband in Vixen!, also has a role in Copper Scroll as someone named Quintar. Indeed, Pillsbury acted in many a Buchanan film, if usually in small parts. 
The Christian heavy metal band Joshua Perahia, which appears to have had a song titled The First and the Last featured in the movie, released a music video in 2011 to their song Something to Say that seems to use film material from The Copper Scroll of Mary Magdalene, a movie "concerning everybody's favorite whore with the heart of gold [Metro Silicone Valley]". 
Joshua Perahia —
Something to Say:
As for the Jesus of the film, he was played by Gene Shane a.k.a. Duece Barry — possibly a.k.a. Gene O'Shane a.k.a. Gene Otis Shane (11 Jul 1936 – 21 Aug 2017) — in what was to be his last known film role (as Gene Dhane, at least). Earlier film projects include Jack Starrett's directorial debut Run, Angel Run! (1969 / trailer), Stephanie Rothman's The Velvet Vampire (1971 / trailer), and Michael Levesque's anti-classic WTF biker film, Werewolves on Wheels (1971 / trailer below) — cult films, one and all! As Gene Otis Shane, his other notable film credits are even lower echelon: Larry Buchanan's Bergman imitation Strawberries Need Rain (1971 / trailer) and the two Al Adamson disasterpieces — did he ever make anything else? — Hell's Bloody Devils (1970 / trailer) and Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969 / trailer). 
Trailer to
Werewolves on Wheels (1971):


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