Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sort Of Related: The Corpse Wore Pasties, by Jonny Porkpie (2009)/Ladies of the Chorus (1948)

First things first. Is that a cover or what? Nice work by artist Ricky Mujica.

Second things second. I won an advance copy of this book, which will be published late next month, in a Hard Case Crime contest on Twitter. That should keep those FTC bastards off my back.

Jonny Porkpie – I will now go all New York Times and refer to him as Mr. Porkpie – is the burlesque mayor of New York City. This is a self-appointed position, and had I known that I would have claimed it. Therefore, I now declare myself to be the burlesque comptroller of New York City. Wait ‘til you see my ledger bit. Classic.

The book opens with a letter from Mr. Porkpie to Hard Case impresario Charles Ardai, explaining that everything that follows is true. That’s right, Mr. Porkpie is the detective in his own novel. He’s running a burlesque show when one of the performers, known and loathed for stealing other people’s acts, is murdered onstage. The police view Mr. Porkpie as the prime suspect, and thus is he forced to hopscotch around two of the five boroughs interviewing women in various states of undress in order to clear his good stage name.

Mr. Porkpie keeps the action rat-a-tatting along with hoary old jokes, comparing everything to either a G-string or an overstuffed corset. The plot is as thin as a dancer’s veil, but that’s not why you’re reading this book. It’s a lark, and a fun one, with Mr. Porkpie getting into and out of silly, sexy trouble. But not too sexy; Mr. Porkpie is happily married to burlesque performer Nasty Canasta – one of the cover models, FYI – and their relationship is the best thing in the book.

TCM recently aired the oddball burlesque musical Ladies of the Chorus as part of their salute to director Phil Karlson. Marilyn Monroe is one of the titular gamines, working the line alongside her own mother (Adele Jergens, all of nine years older than her screen daughter). Marilyn bumps and grinds her way to the top of the circuit, and a rich boy from Cleveland falls in love with her. Adele tries to kibosh their nuptials, knowing that society types won’t cotton to one of their own wedding a ... burlesque queen.

There’s virtually no conflict in the movie. It’s like the plot of a social hygiene short – Burly-Q&A – padded to (almost) feature length. On the plus side, there’s a character named Bubbles and another who delivers her sole line – “Awww, shut up” – repeatedly. The entire movie is on YouTube, as are individual numbers like the bizarre “Every Baby Needs a Da-Da-Daddy.” The visual quality is poor, so I won’t embed it. But I will link to it.