Written by John Haskell
Out of My Skin, 2009
Alan, the one who told me I should “come to L.A. and write about movies,” worked for the Los Angeles Times, and at the moment I was sitting with him, at a low table in a nostalgic bar off Wilshire Boulevard, talking about a piece he wanted about celebrity impersonators. I don’t know why Alan chose that particular bar, but I call it “nostalgic” because, whether or not it actually existed in the 1950s, it was made to seem as if, sitting at the low table, with the bamboo walls and the Polynesian masks, you were somewhere in the middle part of the last century. It was a cultural memento, or more accurately, a memento mori; the past it referred to, the playboy, beach-party aesthetic that came into being after World War II, had long since passed away. The photographs on the wall — publicity stills of movie stars like Dean Martin and Tony Curtis—were cultural souvenirs, bits of the past, and like the past, they were mutable. Because I’d been thinking about changing my own name I was aware, for instance, that Dean Martin was born Dino Crocetti, that Tony Curtis was Bernard Schwartz, and that Barbara Stanwyck, in her flowing gown, was originally Ruby Stevens.
© 2009 John Haskell; New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux