Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic and “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” scripter Roger Ebert joined legendary legal eagle Elmer Gertz and an adoring public in wishing Russ Meyer a happy 72nd birthday March 21 at Chicago’s International Cinema Museum.
Nattily dressed and deeply moved, Meyer – aka “the rural Fellini” and “the Walt Disney of porn” – told Ebert, “Without your enormous contribution, the film would’ve been zilch.”
Meyer is a fan of Chicago, where his “Vixen” played for 58 weeks straight at the now defunct Loop theater, and where Gertz successfully defended him and the pic against zealous censors, paving the way for racier passages in mainstream Hollywood films. The helmer’s chesty cult actioner “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” opens Friday in Chi.
Ebert shared his favorite story concerning a Meyer detractor: “One of his critics, who at the time was head of the Citizens for Decent Literature, said, ‘More than anyone else of his time, Russ Meyer is responsible for the decay of moral values in America.’ And Russ told me he wanted that carved on his tombstone, and that underneath should be carved, ‘I was glad to do it.'”
Ebert capped the anecdote by revealing that the outraged citizen in question “was Charles Keating, who is now serving time in a federal penitentiary for having plundered hundreds of millions of dollars from savings and loans – partly to provide massive breast augmentation surgery for a series of secretaries and friends.”
Meyer’s next pic, which he described as a “takeoff on ‘Supervixens'” whose title, “The Bra of God,” was provided by Ebert, begins lensing this fall. “I’m back to what I do best,” the unreconstructed fan of outsized body parts declared. “Big bosoms and square jaws.”