24th & 25th June, 2004
Rod 4/16/04 Photo by Billy Iz
A Thought for Today
Immortality must be terrific, no one's
ever complained about it.
BELLINGHAM’S A LIFE WELL - LIVED
Today we begin a new feature by San Francisco’s talented, one of a kind
columnist and author Bruce Bellingham.
Bellingham (he prefers the family moniker because he hates the name
Bruce as much as I dislike Rodney) is the brilliant, slightly off the
wall but always on the mark scribe whose work regularly appears in Bay
Area newspapers and is often picked up here.
That ‘often’ (unless he breaks both index fingers) will now become once
a week as Bellingham turns in the first of his A Life Well Lived
features. You might observe that this initial outing could just as well
be titled “Attack of the Killer B’s”
All hail Bellingham and welcome.
- RM 06/24/04
I wanted to begin a new series of pieces for Rod McKuen's "Flight Plan,"
which I call "A Life Well-Lived." They are really reprints of obituaries
from the London Telegraph newspaper. The paper publishes the greatest
obits in the world. I was once asked in a television interview here in
San Francisco, "Bellingham, what's up with you and obituaries?"
Well, first I check to see if my name appears on the pages. Truthfully,
they tell the stories of people -- almost invariably people I wish I had
known while they were alive. The real objective is to tell the stories
of accomplished, remarkable people while they're still living....
Failing that, we play catch-up with the cosmos. This is the death notice
of Max Rosenberg, a producer of horror films. I select this one because
horror movies have always been close to my heart -- they are the myth
and lore that endure through the ages. That is, they address, provoke
and terrorize our secret vulnerabilities. Yet they comfort us by
articulating our inner fears for us. They are swell. And they are fun.
Max Rosenberg, son of a Bronx furrier, was a class act. As was his most
famous discovery, Peter Cushing who gave class to the role of Dr. Van
Helsing in the "Dracula" movies, as he did as Dr. Baron Frankenstein
he’d worked with the great and grand Vincent Price. I like the
promotional tag-line for the 1970 film, "The House That Dripped Blood":
"Terror awaits you in every room." That reminds me: I have to clean up
my Nob Hill apartment one of these days.
Max's work harkens back to the sweet, now-vanished age of the drive-in
theater. Such innocence that era evokes. I hope Max had as much fun as I
suspect he did.
Bruce Bellingham, San Francisco
MAX ROSENBERG (1914-2004)
Max Rosenberg, the film producer who has died aged 89, specialized in
low-budget horror flicks for the teenage market, creating such B-movie
classics as The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dr Terror's House of
Horrors (1965), and The Beast Must Die (1974); with strong commercial
instincts and an eye for young talent, he fostered the careers of
Terence Stamp, Donald Sutherland and Tuesday Weld, and established Peter
Cushing as a household name in horror.
The son of a furrier, Max Rosenberg was born in the Bronx on September
13 1914. Young Max was educated at City College, New York, after which
he attended St John Law School at Jamaica, New York.
He broke into the film business in 1939 when he obtained a job at the
New York arm of Warner Bros. as a buyer and distributor of foreign
titles and art films. Six years later he teamed up with Joseph E Levine
(the man behind the cult classic Godzilla) to form Motion Picture
Ventures, an art-house distribution
company. But by the early 1950s he had joined forces with Milton
Subotsky and the two men had a successful spell producing children's
television shows, including an award-winning series entitled Junior
In 1956 Rosenberg and Subotsky produced Rock Rock Rock, the teen musical
film which introduced a 13-year-old Tuesday Weld to cinema audiences.
Rosenberg, however, had little admiration for the picture, describing it
as "a bunch of songs connected to a stupid plot". In fact it was horror
films that "mesmerized" him, an enthusiasm he shared with Subotsky.
In 1957 the pair decided to try their hand at horror, and traveled to
England to make The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) after their
blood-curdling script received a lukewarm response in Hollywood.
Produced for $500,000, it made $7 million at the box office and started
a revival of the gothic horror films which had been so popular during
In 1962, having made City of the Dead (1960), Rosenberg and Subotsky
formed Amicus Productions in England, which became the main rival to
Hammer. They then embarked on a wave of low-budget films that included
Dr Terror's House of Horrors, The Deadly Bees (1966), They Came From
Beyond Space (1967) and Torture Garden (1967), starring Beverly Adams.
In 1965 and 1966 he worked with Peter Cushing on Dr Who and the Daleks
(1965) and again on Daleks Invasion Earth: 2150 A D (1966). Scream and
Scream Again (1969) with Cushing, Vincent Price and Christopher Lee was
followed by The House That Dripped Blood (1970). With a tag-line that
read "TERROR waits for you in every room", The House That Dripped Blood
assembled one of the largest groups of horror film actors, from Peter
Cushing and Christopher Lee to Ingrid Pitt and Roy Evans (as The
Rosenberg's other films were no less captivating; Girl of the Night
(1957) was about a sensitive, lonely call girl called Bobbie who is
manipulated and ultimately used by her Madame. Others, such as Jamboree
(1957), a basic non-plot movie centered on chart hits, and Just For Fun
(1963), with Alan Freeman and the band The Tornados, became hits with
the youth market.
His pictures were particularly suited to the "drive-in" movie market in
America, and the teenage audiences delighted in the copious quantities
of blood and gore supplied by Rosenberg's films. But in a break with his
usual subject matter, Rosenberg also made a film version of Harold
Pinter's Birthday Party (1968) starring Robert Shaw, Patrick Magee and
Dandy Nichols. Latterly he produced Bloody Birthday (1981) and a remake
of Cat People (1982).
His cousin Doris Wishman, a fellow horror movie producer who was
responsible for Satan was a Lady (1975), died last year.
In his latter years Rosenberg continued to rise early and traveled each
day to his office on Wilshire Boulevard, often lunching with Billy
Wilder and the actor-turned-producer Arthur Gardner. Dressed in Savile
Row tweeds, Rosenberg still cut a dash in his eighties. A voracious
reader, he would devour at least five books a week.
Max Rosenberg died on Monday, June 14. He is survived by his longtime
companion, Arlene Becker, and two daughters.
© 2004 by The London Telegraph. All Rights Reserved
ALMOST THE LAST WORD
This section usually contains a fun, funny or ironic item shared by a
friend. There is nothing funny (as in ha-ha) about another contribution
from Bellingham, this one from The Marina Times.
THE QUIET CRISIS
"It's a hard world to get a break in: All the good things have been
Those lyrics to the Eric Burdon and the Animals tune from the 60s,"It's
My Life." came to mind late last month when I ran into Benoit Ballon on
the sidewalk on Chestnut and Divisadero here in San Francisco as he was
packing his things into a moving van. So did my favorite Animals song,
"We Gotta Get Out Of This Place."
"Where're you going?" I asked.
"Austin," he replied in his unmistakable French accent.
"Austin? What's there?"
"A new life, an affordable life."
Benoit, who has lived in the Marina for ten years and managed Mathray's
wonderful flower shop, said, "I had a good job. My wife had a good job.
But it cost us $20,000 a year here to keep our son in child care. We
can't do it anymore."
Up on Nob Hill, where you can count "For Rent" signs until sleep
overtakes you, a young lady was shlepping her things to a U-Haul.
"Where're you going?" I asked.
"Portland," she replied.
"What's in Portland?" I inquired.
"Nothing," she said, blandly.
She just had to get out of this place.
What accounts for the hemorrhaging of San Francisco residents from the
so-called "City That Knows How"? The economy has not recovered here as
it has in other American cities. "We are languishing in San Francisco,"
said a community leader who asked for anonymity. "I don't know what it
will take," mused Benoit Ballon. "Maybe another Gold Rush." But they
only seem to come around every 150 years or so. The last one was the
dot.com explosion. I wouldn't hold your breath about another Gold Rush.
Panning for gold has been replaced by panhandling.
The middle class, the backbone of San Francisco, is vanishing. One would
be hard-pressed to see a more vivid example in America where the gulf
between the haves and the have-nots has deepened.
"You are an eternal optimist," Father William Myers of St. Anne of the
Sunset Church, said to me the other day. I was astonished. I guess he
said that because I have put my plans to move to Antarctica on hold.
Besides, it can be plenty chilly here -- and I'm not talking about the
morning fog. When people say to me -- just because I lose a gig – that I
might consider relocating, I'm a little puzzled. I've lived here 34
years (yes, I know, a newcomer). Where am I going to go? To give up on
the city now seems a little indecent. Besides, I just figured out how
the BART ticket machines work.
San Francisco has an energetic, young, imaginative mayor. But he needs
support -- from his constituency and from Washington. But Washington
does not like us. Helping us would be tantamount to providing foreign
aid. Let me amend that: foreign countries look better than San Francisco
to the current administration. It's amazing how politics gets in the way
of governing. Here's a another song, "There's A Place (for us)." Yes,
it's from West Side Story and we live on the ultimate West Side.
The Animals tune, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," was the most popular
song among American troops in Viet Nam. If they re-released it, I'm sure
it would do very well in Baghdad today.
I pray that more help will come to Baghdad by the Bay some day soon. As
voters, we know what can be done about that. To ignore the future of
families and schools is nothing less than suicide. Teachers at Marina
Middle School dig into their own pockets for crayons and pencils and all
that. Can you imagine? When you take music, art and sports programs away
from kids, you're asking for trouble.
I know why they've cut football programs in many Bay Area schools: the
teachers need the helmets.
As we approach the July 4th holiday, it reminds me that the present
administration has treated the Bill of Rights like an invoice. Whether
you wave the flag or burn the flag, the Founding Fathers fought for the
right to do either. As for this ludicrous attempt to add an amendment to
the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages, well, if Thomas
Jefferson had heard of this, he would have never left his beloved wine
cellar. So, it is a hard world to get a break in -- but not all of the
good things have been taken. For the time being, they simply have fallen
into the wrong hands.
Bruce Bellingham is the author of "Bellingham by the Bay." He may be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
See why I love my buddy Bellingham’s writing? Once the lighting and
plumbing are completed at our new Stanyan House site Bellingham’s A Life
Well Lived will inaugurate the library of that august mansion but for
now join him on The Flight Plan every Thursday and Friday.
Sleep warm and I’ll be back on the weekend with some “stuff.”
RM 6/22/2004 6:PM PDST
on the Stanyan House logo to buy Rod McKuen books, CD's and lots more
Click on the heart logo to
subscribe to the Rod McKuen mailing list
Catch Rod McKuen live!
Click on the links below for details of
concerts and appearances.