Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Rip Roarin' Time ...

And the Hunter S. Hunter Memorial Intoxicated Revelry Lifetime Achievement Award for 2010 goes to ... drum roll ...  Elmore "Rip" Torn!

Mr. Torn has not only built an enviable body of work in this arena over the course of his long career but is perhaps at the top of his game today, at nearly 79 years of age, when many of his contemporaries have slowed down, retired or passed on to their great reward.

From the knife-wielding confrontation with Dennis Hopper during pre-production of Easy Rider (after which he lost the part to Jack Nicholson, even though it was written specifically for him) to his inebriated hammer fight with Norman Mailer in 1971, right up to his arrest Friday night for attempted burglary of a Connecticut bank blind drunk with an unregistered gun, he's done it all.  Admittedly, this last masterpiece appears to be unintentional (the "breaking into the bank" part, not the "get smashed to beat the band" piece): he apparently thought he was locked out of his own house when he broke in.  But that only makes his talent instinctive, primordial.  There is no pretense to his handiwork.

Mr. Torn hasn't slowed down in his golden years, having turned the streets of Manhattan into his own personal pinball machine through much of the 00's, as demonstrated through numerous DUIs there.  My favorite performance of his involved him apparently going to a bar and getting hammered after picking up a Christmas tree and then attempting to drive home from the watering hole after last call, weaving through the streets with the evergreen tied to the hood of the car. 

Maybe it's telling that he has a degree in Animal Husbandry: he's been doing research into their psyche ever since.  "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man" - Dr. Samuel Johnson.  Hunter Thompson included it in the epigram to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and often used the quote when describing his work and lifestyle.  Fittingly, Rip Torn follows its creed as well.

Oh, Rip has also managed to find to squeeze in some movie and TV show appearances to pay for what has always been his first love, revelry.  In fact, he's as much a prolific actor as he is a batshit drunken loon.  Ironically, Torn often chooses to play the stable, in-charge character on screen, in sharp contrast to his real-life John Blutarsky / Raoul Duke proclivities. 

Still, Torn's career is not yet complete.  I'm speaking of course about his obvious pairing with Rip Taylor, the crowned queen of confetti and fellow master thespian.

I'm still waiting patiently for the Vegas act of "Taylor and Torn: Rip Squared" to hit the strip.  Or maybe a series of buddy movies with the two (a Lethal Weapon/48 Hours remake, perhaps; maybe Grumpy Psychotic Men?)

Or - yes, this is it! - a further re-imagining of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, with Torn as Raoul Duke - out of his mind on booze and drugs behind the wheel through Barstow, motoring toward Sin City - and Taylor as his wacky attorney Dr. Gonzo, riding shot gun and heaving ginormous bags of confetti out into the wind and onto the desert highway behind them.