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B-movie star

For as long as I’ve been living in downtown San Francisco, there's been a man singing at the corner of Powell & O'Farrell. Almost every day he stands there, belting out old standards like “It Had to Be You” and “Moon River,” with a microphone and instrumental accompaniment (taped). It's pleasant, and I think of him as "the Crooner."

Today, though, instead of crooning, he was preaching about Jesus. He was handing religious tracts to anyone willing to take them, and asking people, “Have you heard the gospel?” 

Dude, there is no-one in America who hasn’t heard. The Bible isn’t exactly underground literature.

Hearing music from Grandad's time always added something nice to my walk to work, so this is a double subtraction: We've lost the songs, and instead we get something that makes the world worse — yet another street preacher.

With the Whoremonger at Powell & Market ("American women, stop your whoring ways!"), and Bearded Brimstone at Ellis & Stockton ("Repent, ye sinners, repent!"), and now the Crooner not crooning at Powell & O'Farrell, I can't even walk a block without hearing the gospel. 

He had a tin can for donations when he was singing, but this morning he didn't. That means someone is paying the Crooner to pester the pedestrians. It's an annoyance, but I'm trying not to be mad at him. Most of us sell our souls to make a living.

♦ ♦ ♦

After I'd sold mine for eight hours, I went to dinner at the Sincere Cafe, and a triple feature of Arch Hall Jr movies at the Roxie.

Maybe you're thinking, Who the heck is Arch Hall Jr? He was a B-movie star in the early 1960s. I saw him in a movie a while back, and it was strange — both the movie, and Arch Hall Jr. Everything about that movie is gone from my memory, except that Arch Hall Jr was in it, and he was strange. So of course, I had to come to the Roxie tonight.

The Choppers (1961) is a dated drama of teen hoodlums in Nowheresville, a bunch of toothy brats who never go by their first names — everyone’s ‘Cruiser’ or ‘Torch’ or ‘Nails’ or whatever. These tough kids talk like tough kids always talk in the movies, and their big crime is stripping cars for parts to sell to the local junkman. It’s a quaint memento of a time when the police and press cared about such petty crimes. If they ever did?

Arch Hall Jr

The movie does answer a question, though — Arch Hall Jr was kinda funny looking and not a very good actor, so what is it that made him a movie star? Arch Hall Sr was the movie’s producer.

Next up, The Sadist (1964), with Arch as the bad kid gone worse, on a maniacal killing spree across the western United States. Sorta like Natural Born Killers, I guess, only singular, not plural. The story begins with three teachers on their way to a game at Dodgers Stadium, and it’s not giving away too much to say they won’t be watching baseball this afternoon.

Arch plays the lunatic, emoting all over the place like a junior James Cagney, and to my surprise, it works. Tension builds to a frenzy, a crowded theater was hushed, and your humble fat slob got so close to the edge of my seat I could hear the springs buckling under my butt.

I therefore withdraw my "not a very good actor" wisecrack. Arch Hall Jr is no Lawrence Olivier, but he's believable as a sadist.

The last and least film of the night was Wild Guitar (1962), a goofy show that maybe lets Arch be Arch. He rides his motorcycle to Hollywood, finds fame and true love within the first ten minutes, and sings and strums his titular wild guitar. It’s like an early Elvis movie, but Arch ain’t Elvis, baby.

From Pathetic Life #5
Friday, October 7, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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