Sunday, January 04, 2009

R.I.P. (another)

I get the feeling that I risk becoming the blog's official grim reaper and people will begin to avoid my posts for fear of learning of the death of another person that made the planet a bit more fun.

Bill Landis died in late December of a heart attack at the age of 49.

I first came across the name Bill Landis when I was reading Jimmy McDonough's biography of maverick filmmaker Andy Milligan, which I cannot help but recommend highly. There's this part where he admits that he first heard of Milligan while looking at posters from his films on the walls of Bill's apartment. So, as a collector of questionable one sheets myself, I was intrigued enough to wonder who this guy was and if he still had the posters. A quick google and I was onto something special.

I'll avoid a detailed biography since, again, those can be found elsewhere. A quick shot can be found here. But for those not in the know, Bill Landis published a Xeroxed zine that detailed and reviewed the 'lesser' films that played the dingiest of sleazy cinema screens in the prime era of New York City's 42nd St./Times Square sanctuaries of degeneracy. Sleazoid Express. What a name! Toronto had its own similarly intrepid film reporter in Hal Kelly and his Trash Compactor magazine of the late 80s/early 90s. We can't thank these people enough for doing this and helping turn us all on to some great, filthy gems from the comfort of our most comfortable chairs. Do some searching. Your own google may turn up many, many interesting tidbits as outside of Sleazoid, Bill led an interesting life with many jobs and hobbies, mostly focused around the prurient interests so at home on 42nd St.

This was the last thing I got from him, a collection of his writings for various periodicals all copied and stapled together, along with the special issue of Sleazoid that properly maligns and exposes 'Bloodsucking Freaks' filmmaker, Joel Reed. I wasn't smart enough to get into him back when it was really fresh.

That's Bill, front and centre.

Anyway, after reading the bit and doing my google, I contacted him to find out if maybe he had posters to sell and trade and although his own collection wasn't for sale (or maybe gone already) he did still dabble here and there and I was lucky enough to score some nice pieces from, or through, him. My biggest letdown being just a day short for the one sheet to the much sought-after (by me) roughie, Forced Entry. Live and learn and respond faster to sales emails in the future.

I did also manage to score the Sleazoid Express book (a smattering of issue highlights published in one handy format that profiles several classic, and now gone, cinemas and the films that played there) and his unauthorized biography (who didn't have a falling out with this guy?) of Kenneth Anger directly from him. And I finally got to see (and also got the poster!) Mona, normally considered the first theatrically released hardcore feature, courtesy of a DVD-R from him. I'd been reading about that film, it seemed, forever. And while it couldn't possibly live up to my expectations, I could at least read about it again and not feel such longing!

The last time I heard from him, it was in December of 2006 and he was doing an article for a big magazine about grindhouses and was looking for some poster images to accompany the text. I sent him some and he never got back to me and then I saw he was consulted for his top 5 films that played Times Square in the era for Time Out's special issue that coincided with the release of the uninspired Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse effort. I'm assuming that was the project.

Anyway, I was glad I contacted him and had brief correspondences whenever he had a list of posters to trade or sell and it's terrible that we lost him at such an early age. A lot of fantastic stories were his legacy and it's incredibly sad that we won't be hearing any more of them.

Here he is with his wife, Michelle Clifford in the Playland photo booth in 1986.


Jesse said...

This news really sucks. 'Sleazoid Express' was an essential.

Michael said...

Totally. It's a real benchmark. Also, for me, was the Incredibly Strange Films book. Why is it so rare to find people who take these films a bit more seriously?

Colin said...

Reading the Milligan book now. It came recommended by two pals. Heard earlier about Bill's death from friends I made from when I did zines. Maybe Hal told me first. Sad news.

McBeardo said...

I also had some pretty interesting involvement with Bill. Here's my take:

Michael said...

Oh, that's a fantastic article, McBeardo. I am going to reading you religiously now as well. Thanks for that.

And, yes, that one commenter is right in the fact that the Sleazoid about Joel Reed did get finished. Or, at least, I received a version of it. I'll have to dig it out.

Anonymous said...

I knew Bill for awhile and he was a complete and utter asshole... a public masturbating drug addict psycho period. Not supprised he died in his 40's. Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

Same here. A useless ass hole. A bad writer full of misinformation. Couldn't sniff Reed's ass.

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