Monday, November 24, 2014

Paul McCartney: The Wilderness Years

If he wasn't a Beatle, then who was he? What was he? These were questions Paul McCartney had never had to ask himself, but he was asking them now. It was 1969, the year he’d made the legal moves to dissolve the Beatles, feeling he’d been left by his bandmates with no other option, and the resulting identity crisis left him despondent — genuinely and severely depressed. This was also a time when many had the notion that McCartney was dead, and they had good reason for thinking so. Sometimes, McCartney himself had to wonder.
This was the beginning of McCartney’s 1970s, a period he spent “struggling to escape the shadow of the Beatles, effectively becoming an outlaw hippie millionaire, hiding out in his Scottish farmhouse before traveling the world with makeshift bands and barefoot children. It was a time of numerous drug busts and brilliant, banned, and sometimes baffling records. For McCartney, it was an edgy, liberating, sometimes frightening period of his life that has largely been forgotten.”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Phil Hartman's Mr. Potato Head Blues

If you're just looking at photos, it's easy to forget just how versatile Phil Hartman was. But in the moment you're actually watching him, he seems as plastically protean as a human can possibly be. Because although the characters Hartman played on Saturday Night Live during his remarkable run—1985 to 1994—ranged from Bill Clinton to Frank Sinatra, Phil Donahue to Donald Trump, Eugene the Anal-Retentive Chef to Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, Ed McMahon to Charlton Heston, he never looked like anybody up there so much as Phil Hartman himself. All Hartman needed from the costume department before resembling Clinton, reports Mike Thomas in his terrific new biography You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman, was "little more than a suit, a lush silvery wig, and some basic makeup that highlighted the tip of his nose and lightened his eyebrows."

With so little altered physically, it's easy, when watching him in action, to intuit the transformation occurring in every behavioral realm. Hartman himself was perfectly cognizant of this phenomenon, calling himself a "Mr. Potato Head." As he described it: "When you are so average looking, when they put a wig on you and some glasses, if you alter your face and your voice in any way, you can look a lot different."