Friday, June 18, 2010

PEEPING TOM'S PARADISE (flash fiction)

It was the night of my bachelor party, and my dad Nick reminded me that fate has a way of fucking with you when you least expect it.

"Take it easy," he said. "You remember what happened to me. My stag party was a disaster."

I smirked in that way of letting him know that bachelor parties were different now. Plus we didn't call them stag parties any more. What was with that?

Oh sure, guys still may get together and act like primates with all sorts of dick measuring, but I've never been to a bachelor party that felt... dirty. In fact, I've been to some groom send-offs that felt more like glorified man dates. They were almost gay. There was the five-course meal at the four-star racetrack bistro; the serene boat ride along the lagoon with microbrews and cognac; and then there was the chalet rental skiing the Vermont mountains with five of my best friends.

Flaming redheads with big bosoms didn't jump out of a cakes anymore and for the most part, none of us ever came home with lipstick on our collar. And if a go-go bar fell into the equation, believe me, it was such a buzzkill once the overpriced drinks and steep cover were factored in. Lets face it, I can see a girl shake her ass in a thong on MTV. I don't need my bachelor party for that.

In Nick's day, though, there was no Music Television and the hottest it usually got was seeing an outline of a possible nipple through Annette Funicello's bikini top in whatever "Beach Blanket" film she was starring in. Well, that and the pygmees in National Geographic. Proof positive as to why stag parties were an event.

* * *
When it was time to bid farewell to Nick's single life, his buddies spared no expense. The beer would be Löwenbräu. The music Charlie Parker and the premium hooch would be Canadian Club. Dad's half wit cousin Noodle said that he would supply the entertainment in the form of a little black and white gem called "Peeping Tom's Paradise." Dad told me that all night Noodle bragged to the guys that he had to order the nudie flick from a tiny store in Chinatown.

"In the back room," Noodle would boast as of that actually meant something.

The tradeoff to such stag party riches? The guys couldn't afford a hall so again, cousin Noodle (thinking he was using his) convinced Nick to ask my grandmother if it was okay to have their small soirée out back in the garage. She said that as long as they kept it down and none of the boys got rambunctious, it should be fine.
* * *

And so it came. Dad's big night started out just like thousands of other stag parties of the day. Cigars were smoked over sports scores and 10 pizzas were on there way be there just in time for Noodle's Betty Blue film.

Beforehand, though, Nick got a few presents and was even shocked that Noodle gave him a wallet. Nick wondered what Woolworth's he stole it from and after examining it, jammed the billfold into his back pocket.

By the time the natives were on their second slice, it was clear that Cousin Noodle didn't know a good goddamn about loading an 8 mm projector. After some razzing and propping the projector on my grandfather's old workbench, the guys were in for their treat.

As "Peeping Tom's Paradise" flickered to life on a dirty bedsheet perched along the garage door, mouths were agape.

"Man, is she built like a brick shithouse," Noodle said to the gang, many of them agreeing and nodding silently to themselves.

The poor man's Bettie Page -- Betty Blue -- didn't find much success beyond skin mags like "Adam" or "Escapade." Within them, however, she was indeed the star and shutterbugs like Russ Meyer would turn her into an enchanting temptress who blurred the line between innocent and sophisticated.

The stupor from a trifecta of Canadian Club, pizza dough and stogie smoke made the guys pretty numb. So numb in fact that no one smelled smoke.

And even though the stag film clocked in just under three minutes, it took only half of that for the projector to be engulfed in flames. Noodle missed a few sprockets feeding the film into the projector and the super thin cellulose nitrate was incinerated by the projector's bulb.

The growing fire was a heat catalyst sitting on my grandfather's workbench which had all sorts of turpentine and paint products. Everything burned quickly and the flames were extra dangerous because cellulose doesn't need oxygen in the air to keep burning.

The guys scattered and Nick darted inside to fetch his mother.

Four alarms and a few hours later, my grandmother's house was reduced to smoldering embers and while no one was hurt, Nick became known as the boy who burned his mother's house down.

And his fiancée certainly didn't want to marry that. Nick got married a few years later and I was born after three older brothers.

* * *

"Just be careful," my dad said. "Watch out what you do."

" I just think we're going to dinner, Dad. Maybe hit the bar after."

"Trust me," he said. "And whatever you do, if someone gives you an empty wallet, throw that fucker out. It's just bad luck..."

* Click after the jump for the actual short film "Peeping Tom's Paradise," starring Betty Blue. Obviously it comes with a minor NSFW warning since the flick is no more than PG-13 by modern standards.

Bookmark and Share


  1. Nice work, you got the narrative tone just right. I think this sort of accident did actually happen repeatedly in the UK at illegal gatherings to show blue movies in the 50's & early 60's.

    marc nash

  2. Ha! Great story. I am not a big fan of bachelor parties either- at mine my glasses got broken by the stripper's leathery, silicone stuffed boobies.

    Things went downhill from there...

  3. Great voice, as usual, Anthony. I wonder how many "stag" parties actually ended up this way, in with some other near disaster. You know something bad is going to go down when a redhead jumps out of a cake.

    Lots of nice little details in this too.

  4. Anthony that was just GREAT! I loved every darn part of it! Funny as hell! And I can hardly wait to show Dave the 'skin flick' at the end. Loved it, loved it, loved it!
    Where DO you find this stuff????

  5. If that's not a true story, than I'll be damned. It reads like one that's been told at family gatherings for decades. Just great, as usual.

  6. I think 'stag' parties, the outcomes anyway, would make a fabulous anthology! And this would make the first chapter- nicely told in that slick voice of yours.

  7. This was such flawless execution Ant. I do enjoy the fact that I can come up and see you every Friday. You're a great gritty writer. I dig this style. And that film? You're right. I've seen this on prime-time tv.

  8. I like Dad/Nick's advice the most. Always give newlyweds cash.

  9. Great piece of flash as usual, Anthony. Stag do's, as they are still called in the UK, are pretty much a modern version of that with out the house fire. They mostly involve a trip to the "titty bar" and then copious amounts of beer. Nice work.

  10. Loved this, Ant! Beautifully detailed and the film cracked me up...yeah, times have changed alright.

  11. Ha! Poor guy, especially since the fiance ditched him. Idiot cousins just never get it right. Great setup and delivery, too.


  12. This was great, and as Marc says the narrative tone is spot on.

    I think you've invented a time machine, you always transport me to times past so well.

    I didn't realise they used to be called stag nights in the US. They're still called stag nights in the UK. And hen nights for the women. Although when I got married I had what I termed a "gazelle night" as I'm a bit of a tomboy and just wanted to go out for some beers

  13. Great voice here. And an inside look at what bachelor parties really are like. "Microbrews and cognac" oh my! Peace...

  14. I so wish I'd commented before watching the clip 'cause now all I can think is "wiggle, wiggle..." :)

    Truly great piece of work here Anthony. I just love your voice - so original, and, well, great.

  15. This most definitely sounds like a true story - well done, anthony! :-)

  16. This is a brilliant memoir tone and a fantastic story. I don't remember when I've enjoyed hearing about someone's house burning down so much.

    A terrific storytelling job and a great, fun read. I had a great time with this.

  17. I don't know how you can always leave me smiling. I laughed out loud at "brick shithouse", and it's not the first time I heard it, but it kills me everytime.

    I love your voice, always. Great story.

    Sorry I'm a little late.

  18. Just the thought of those cigar smoking fellas sitting around in a garage loaded with turpentine soaked rags makes me laugh. That Betty Blue film is quite amusing - the way she keeps looking around as if disturbed at the thought of someone WATCHING!


Say something... Anything...