"This is hell," said Small Steve, gazing out the passenger window of the '70 Plymouth. "Lenny, of all people, I should have guessed you'd know where to find hell on earth."
"And it's perfect for our needs," I said. "We need wasteland. Barren, uninhabited, little traveled. How many cars have we seen in the past ten minutes?"
"Three, I think. I wonder what they're doing out here?"
"Being left alone, which is what they want. Out here, never involve yourself in other people's business. If they share, that's fine, but never get nosy and ask. Now tomorrow, when we visit Slab City, those people are fairly neighborly, and don't even mind strangers that much. Both the location and the people will be perfect for a market scene I want to do. Almost all our fuck scenes will be shot on BLM land --- where we're at right now --- so we won't be having anyone be nosy. I'd be surprised if we even saw a BLM officer the entire time we're shooting. We'll need to cuddle up with county sheriffs and probably CHP, 'cos they're going to be controlling traffic for us while we do all our road and chase scenes. I figure we can get away with shutting down the road for twenty minutes at a time for shooting on the highway. We cut, let cars through, and start again. Location shots like in Salton City and Slab City will be determined by daylight."
We were bulleting up Hwy. 78, aiming for a track called Walter's Camp Rd. We'd come up on Ogilby Rd. from I-8. I'd promised Small Steve I'd show him the American Outback, total dead lands, and he was getting it. His mind would be blown when we reached my goal, a spot on the Colorado River named Gilmore Camp, a place with a small market, a single marine gas pump, and maybe ten inhabited trailers. Another good location, showing all that water running through the desert. We'd figure out a use for the place.
The previous day we'd visited Carrizo Gorge, Ocotillo Wells, Plaster City, and the Superstition Mountains. Steve was duly impressed by knowledge of so many places hostile to human habitation. Today we were visiting the river, Glamis, and Salton City, on the west shore of the Salton Sea. Salton City was poised to be a ritzy place back in the Fifties, like Palm Springs only with water skiing. What people forgot was that the Salton Sea is essentially a giant puddle, nothing feeding it, and no runoff. It was created by a massive breach in the Coachella Aqueduct, entirely man-made. As the sea sat there, slowly evaporating, the water got more and more saline, killing off the imported sport fish. The shoreline shrank away from the marinas. And god damn, did it begin to stink.
Salton City had all the roads paved into the desert for would-be vacation home owners. The marina had a good motel and four-star restaurant, plus a nightclub with Vegas-level acts. When the bottom fell out everything was abandoned, left to be eaten by the desert. The decrepit state of the marina area is what appealed to me. So did the paved-and-barren residential areas, blocks of vacant lots and streets. When it came to permission for shooting in the area, I didn't have a clue as to where to start, beyond talking to the county and finding out if anyone owned the land at all.
Glamis is a wide spot on Hwy. 78 out in the sand dunes. I was hoping against hope that we'd be able to get some shooting done around there, with the dunes in the background. The problem was the dunes were massively popular with off-roaders. They came with their sand rails and dune buggys and ATVs and motorcycles to gun around at high speed. Even if we found a clear place to shoot, the sound of all those small air-cooled engines buzzing around might get intrusive. Oh well, it was an entertaining place to stop for a soda and snack.
Gunning down Walter's Camp Road, I passed Walter's and continued on. We had the river on our left, to Steve's amazement. Arriving at Gilmore Camp, I was elated: the place was even more threadbare and decrepit than I'd remembered. Plenty of packed sand to park apocalypes vehicles on, plenty of area for my band of female land-pirates to play in the water naked.
Steve and I walked into a low building that was a combination of store, diner, and camp office. A greasy beer-gutted guy in his fifties played backgammon with an elderly woman at the diner counter. We took seats and nodded in greeting. Chubby swung himself in our direction and said, "He'pya?"
I said, "Yeah, two Millers and an order of fries."
This brought on a scowl and a pause. "Do I look like a goddamn fry cook?" I was asked.
"Around the eyes, yes. Okay, two Millers and two of those bags of Fritos. Or are you not a goddamn clerk, either?"
Both Chubby and Steve were glaring at me. Chubby turned away, uncapped two bottles of beer, and put two bags of chips in front of us. The beers foamed over the top and ran onto the counter. "Thank you," I said. "Tell me, is Gilmore Camp your place?"
"I'd like to film part of a dirty movie here. You like naked women?"
Chubby grinned. "Much as I like broads any other way."
I said, "In about eight weeks I'd like to use this place. We'd want it to be all to ourselves, though. No boat launches, no campers, no fishermen. We'll be filming naked women playing in the water and hanging around on the sand bar south of your dock. And I'll give you a hundred dollars for the day, plus you get to watch us work. You get to look at beautiful naked women all day."
He leaned his hands on the counter. "A hundred bucks?" he queried. "Yah, right. I know what you Hollywood porno types are worth. Try five hundred."
I looked doubtful. "Gee, I dunno," I said. "Well.... I think we'll get some good footage here, it'll be worth it. Okay, five hundred. But we get the place to ourselves, no interruptions. Here's my business card, could I get one from you? You'll hear from me in about four weeks."
The man pulled a strip of receipt tape out of the register and wrote, "H. Colson/Gilmore camp" on it, with a phone number, then handed it to me. "So. Naked women, huh?" he asked.
"Probably about eight of them," said Steve.
"You said you're making a dirty movie. Ain't there gonna be screwin'?"
"Um, that's up in the air for this location. We're not sure how we'd fit it in the story line."
H. Colson asked, "So, you know who Becky Page is?"
"Absolutely," Steve and I chorused.
"Tell you what. If you can somehow get Becky Page's autograph for me, you can use my place for $400, okay?"
I gave a nice honest smile and said, "So tell me, what would it be worth if Becky Page were here? You got to see her live and nude all day, and you could speak with her?"
Chortling, H. Colson said, "You could use my place free.... But don't kid me, you goddamn kids don't know Becky Page. Go lie to somebody else."
"In eight weeks you'll know if we're liars or not. Don't spend that five hundred just yet, though. Come on, Steve, you need to see the metropolis that is Glamis."
Small Steve remained silent until we were rolling back up the track. Then he said, "I thought we agreed with Angel that we'd pay $1000 for private locations like that. What was that all about? Why did you lowball the guy?"
I answered, "I lowballed him because he irritated me. Hell, we just saved $1000. That's money we could put into our 'take everyone to the water-slides' fund, or at least go towards drinks in El Centro. Mr. Colson will be very surprised when Becky Page walks up naked. Hopefully he doesn't go all to pieces, it's sad to see a grown man cry and beg."
We got back to pavement and I opened it up. We stopped at the market in Glamis and were appalled by the noise, especially on a Monday. I asked the cashier if there were every any days when no one was around, and was laughed. "Bud, they're here on Christmas," he said. "Every day of the year they're out there trying to kill themselves, or each other. I think they're all idiots, but keep my mouth shut, I make a living off of them."
We continued on the 78 through Westmorland, then connecting with the 86 north to Salton City. Steve was aghast at the curving residential streets, some of which had the sun-baked remnants of homes on them. A few were still occupied. We drove around the residential area (Sea Haven Ave., Sea Nymph Ave., Treasure Dr.) then headed for the marina. Fences had been erected around the crumbling motel and nightclub. The air had a fishy spoiled death smell to it. We walked along the fences and considered. What could we achieve here? Things actually didn't seem as destroyed as I remembered.
We poked through Desert Shores and Salton Sea Beach, but found them surprisingly populated, mostly by single wide mobile homes. We saw two people in each neighborhood. All four stopped and stared as we went past, until we were out of sight. Steve observed them and asked, "Does the desert attract crazy people, or are people driven crazy by the desert?"
"Both," I replied. "People who are unbalanced, like me, are attracted to the desert because it is at best indifferent to human habitation, and usually hostile to it. Those that come here and live in it end up being consumed by the strange wanderings of their own mind, because there's nothing to distract from those wanderings."
I turned around and headed back south, in the general direction of our motel in El Centro. I'd promised Steve we'd cruise the area around our motel for a bit, so we could find someplace besides Denny's for dinner, which is where we'd had our last three meals. Lo and behold, a Mexican place right around the corner, we could walk from the motel.
Steve and I agreed to meet downstairs in fifteen minutes. I went to my room, washed my face, and freshened up with the glass pipe. I lit a cigarette and went down to the office to ask about reservations, and if there was a discount if someone was reserving a block of rooms for an extended period. 25% off ten rooms or more if staying longer than a week. It was a quiet place, with a pool, centrally located, and a Circle K three doors down. This place, The Villa, might become headquarters during our shoot. Steve came down and we went to dinner.
So what the hell am I up to, that I need wastelands and naked women? I'm making what will be the most out-of-bounds hardcore porn movie ever made. To oversimplify, imagine "Road Warrior" with fucking. There would be aspects of my movie that would beg comparison to "Road Warrior," which was fine with me. I like post-apocalyptic adventure, and I like car chases, so dammit, they were going into my movie.
The plot is as follows: we're in a post-apocalypse wasteland, where everyone must scavenge to survive. There's this (mostly) female band of pirates who don't scavenge, they steal, waylaying groups of scavengers and taking what they want.... Including men. The men are sexually exploited, then turned loose. The pirate queen has a problem: sex with her is so intense it causes men to lose their minds, making them become gibbering idiots. The pirate queen leaves a trail of broken men in her wake.
One day the pirates chance upon a younger guy with a hot rod. They chase and capture him. The pirate queen takes him into her lair and has sex with him all night, but in the morning, he's fine. The pirate queen has found her match, and she is overjoyed. The scavenger isn't so keen on the idea of being a sex slave. He explains he's heading towards a place called the Summerlands, a fabled place of water and food, an Eden. He ups and and escapes, retrieving his hot rod and taking off. The chase is on. He is recaptured. The pirate queen offers him the chance to co-lead her band if he only stays with her. He tells her that if she wants to be with him, she must go with him to try and find the Summerlands. Otherwise, kill him. The pirate queen considers her life and what she is, and agrees to go with the scavenger, turning over the reins of power to another pirate. They go off in the hot rod, happily ever after. The final shot is of the two having sex in a mountain meadow, implying they made it to the Summerlands. The end.
Okay, when I first thought this up, I got way too excited. I was just getting into pre-production of "Bewitched II - Stroke of Luck," the sequel to our record-breaking feature "Bewitched." On further consideration I dismissed the pirate queen movie from the front of my mind, it would be far too expensive. The largest budget I'd ever had was $650,000 for a single feature. The others were around $400,000. With the custom cars, stunt work, location shots, a stunt double for the pirate queen, helicopter rental, plus feeding and lodging all those people while we shot the thing out in the desert, we were looking at several million. No way would my boss and capo approve that.
I didn't know that Angel, my boss and owner of Inana Productions, had a dirty little secret: he was a rabid fan of the whole "Mad Max" franchise. We talked on our last day of production for "Stroke of Luck," and he asked if I had anything new in mind for our next feature.
"Aw, I had an idea, but it'll never work," I said.
"Well, what was it?" Angel asked. "Cough up."
I gave him the plot outline, and explained that we'd need at least fifteen customized vehicles, stunt drivers to handle them, stunt people, and all the other expensive hassles that would go into making this movie. Angel sucked in air and asked, "Do you think this thing would be over six million?"
I said, "I was counting on it being closer to four million. There's some shit I really have no clue about, like how much stunt men cost, or how I'd locate a stunt double for the pirate queen. I'd want Bekka in that role, by the way, she's already got her rep as Wonder Woman...."
"Lenny, I want you to make this movie. It will be the most exciting thing anyone has done for the next five years, or until you get your next brilliant idea. Do your best to keep it under six million, we can afford it. If you can get it done well with four million, great, you'll be getting a hell of a bonus if you do. But I want this feature made. Where would you do your shooting, Owens Valley? Mojave?"
"Wouldn't need to go that far," I said. "Imperial County has lots of deserted highway and desert moonscapes for the look we're after. And I can guarantee they'll be simpler to deal with when it comes to shutting down roads while we film."
Angel said, "Okay Lenny, starting Monday you've got a week off. Me and Vinny can cover the office for you. I want you to do nothing but relax and not think about any aspect of Inana. Relax for seven days, then start doing all the research you need to so you can pull this project together. So where were you going to have the vehicles built? Find a customizer in Hollywood?"
I said, "Actually, I'm friends with enough psychotic mechanics that if I told them I needed 'Road Warrior' cars, they could provide them. I'd want at least some of them street legal, so we're not having to pay to get every single one hauled on scene. Ooh, I should call DMV and find out their policy on unregistered movie cars, stuff we're gonna just junk when we're done shooting."
"Tell you what, I'll contact the Screen Actor's Guild while you're on break and learn what I can about hiring stunt people, and how I'd find a double for Becky Page. What sort of things would our stunt double be doing?"
I chuckled. "Oh, you know, jumping from one vehicle to another at high speed, surfing on the hoods of cars, that sort of thing. And I want a woman doing the stunts, not some guy who's Bekka's height and has a Becky Page wig on. Bekka won't be wearing a hell of a lot through this feature --- this is porn, after all --- and I want the change from performer to stunt double to be seamless. I don't think we'll have to hire honest-to-god stunt drivers except for some shots. Hell, the performers can do their own driving, I'm sure Bekka will insist upon doing her own driving, in whatever vehicle I put her in."
"And what vehicle will our pirate queen have?" asked Angel.
"Hoo boy. I'm still thinking over the vehicles. One thing that bugged me about 'Road Warrior' was that gasoline was a scarce resource, but everyone drove these hulking V8s. Something lighter and zippier made more sense to me, like a modified Honda. The pirate band needs eight vehicles: six raiding vehicles, a support vehicle, like a rolling shop, and a big truck for hauling around their booty. Like a moving van. And the pirate queen's lair is in there, everyone else sleeps out on the sand or in their vehicles."
"You said before that the pirate band was 'mostly' women. Who are the men?"
I said, "There will be, like, three of them. Basically, they're concubines. They are expected to please any woman who asks them to. I haven't decided how they got there, whether they were captured and suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, or whether they voluntarily ran away with the pirates, fleeing whatever situation they were in. But there's a lot of role reversal, with the men being objectified and their worth being determined purely on their, uh, physical attributes."
"Any idea for a male lead?" asked Angel.
"Yeah, that kid Roach. I know he's young, but he's got the mohawk, he's in great physical shape, he's hung, and he just looks like a scavenger, you know? He's kinda ugly, with all that acne scarring, and that actually helps."
"Can he act?"
"He can act, and he can fuck," I assured Angel. "Shit, he's got more on the ball than Stallion does, in both fields. And Roach is no dummy, either."
Angel said, "Good, good, when I come down I'll have to watch him work. How is your new fluffer? And how is Rita working as a performer?"
I answered, "Dawn is doing okay. She complains about feeling bored and useless, she was expecting to have a dick in her mouth more of the time. She's a great script girl, though. Dawn still can't believe her luck that she's getting the money she does for what labor she does. Her and Roach seem to be working out great as roommates. And Rita is doing fine. She has been trying to get rid of her barrio accent, and does great when speaking lines. But she wants it to flow more naturally, not be something she has to think about. In general, though, she's working out great. Her tits are obvious, but I'd never really paid attention to what an awesome little body she's got on her. And her performance is stellar. She's aggressive, she's seductive, and she's friendly. She's an asset."
"So how many are there in this pirate band?"
"I'm thinking ten or twelve, including the men. I'll need to do a bit more hiring. Let's see, we've got Bekka, Ellen, Elspeth, Tawny, Gayla, Jackie, Donna, Rio, Pill, and I'm probably going to have a young girl named Feather, just eighteen, as a new hire. Does that leave me one short? For males, we've got Eddie, Chip, Dale, Vince, Stallion, Tex, Roach, and maybe Andy. Andy's always been an irregular, he works as a realtor and will check in to see about doing a couple loops when things are slow for him, grocery money. I'm sure I can talk him into working a couple days. Okay, if I'm counting right, we'll have all our primary roles covered. I'll still need to hire actors, people with non-sexual roles, schlubs the pirate band interacts with, robbing them or whatever. I'll hit up the drama clubs at local colleges. The only SAG people I want are the stunt folk."
"Don't worry about stunt men and women, I'll handle that end," said Angel. "Okay, remember, starting Monday you're taking a week off. I want you rested and sharp for this project, get me?"
"No problem, Angel," I said. "I may do what Bekka has suggested and take a road trip by myself, just get in the Fleetwood with a week's worth of clothes and head out, no destination. If I end up in Arcata and feel like watching TV in a motel for three days, great. But the whole idea is that I'm not using my brain for much of anything, I'm just coasting. The most intellectually taxing part of my day should be signing credit card receipts."
"That's what I want to hear. I'm gonna take off, okay? Ciao, Lenny."