Monday, February 7, 2011

Valet Girls (Rafal Zielinski, 1987)

I've often wondered: Is there such a thing as '80s overkill? Of course, I find the idea that anything, let alone a movie, could be deemed "'80s overkill" to be positively absurd. In my mind, everything, from the way we comb our hair to the way we dance, could use a shot of '80s-infused whimsicality. However, as I began to watch the totally resplendent Valet Girls frolic and flicker oh-so garishly before me, the thought that this film might be too '80s for some people briefly popped into my brain every so often. Seconds later, it dawned on me, who are these "some people," and why am I letting them, no doubt, a non-unionized collection of culturally bereft philistines, ruin what was, quite possibly, the most satisfying cinematic experience I've ever had? Fuck them. Wait a minute, most satisfying cinematic experience ever? High praise, for sure, yet not only is Nana Mouskouri mentioned in an early scene, but so are Agnes Moorehead ("You remind me of a young Agnes Moorehead"), Vanity, and, wait for it, Pia Zadora! Yeah, that's right, Pia Zadora, and not in a negative way, either. (People who flippantly besmirch the divine Miss Zadora make my skin crawl.) At any rate, by nonchalantly uttering the names of these four legends aloud, this agile slice of '80s fashion pornography inadvertently put itself in the great pantheon of under-appreciated works of mind-blowing art that begin with the letter 'v.'

Glistening alongside the likes of Liquid Sky, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Valley Girl, Voyage of the Rock Aliens, Killer Workout and To Live and Die in L.A., Valet Girls joins a select group of films that are set during 1980s. Okay, I know, you're thinking to yourself: "Aren't there are literally thousands of films that were set during the 1980s?" Actually, that's not true. You might find this hard to believe, but there are only a handful of films floating around out there that can be truly call themselves "an '80s film." You see, most of the films that were made throughout that particular ten year period we like to call "the '80s," while, from a technical point of view, were indeed made during the decade in question, they were, however, not set there.

In order for a motion picture to be truly called an '80's film, it has to fully embrace the flavour of the decade. In other words, you can't just point to the date it was made and declare your film to be an '80s film. Let me put it this way, if your film doesn't feature the colour pink (or its chromatic cousins magenta and fuchsia) in any way, shape, or form, it's not an '80s film. Now, some misguided individuals like to boast about the "timelessness" of their non-'80s film. What they mean by this is that it doesn't contain any instances where the decade's unique idiosyncrasies end up dominating the overall temperament of the film in question. Basically, it doesn't make them cringe with embarrassment. Well, in the case of Valet Girls, it's a film that comprises nothing but those instances.

Drenched in everything that made the '80s such a demented and glossy delight, the film is about three parties that take place at a mansion in Malibu. Three parties?!? I won't lie, that doesn't sound like a lot of meat for one to sink their plot-devouring teeth into, but the film does have plenty of surprises sprinkled here and there that will leave you bewildered and enlightened. Bewildered, I can see. But enlightened? Come on! Well, I might as well come out and say it: Valet Girls is the sole reason feminism was able to hang on as a force for cultural change during the dark days of the Kajagoogoo decade (I'm tired of saying "the '80s"). With date rape and four-down football gaining a considerable amount of traction within the misogyny community at the time, this film, along with other like-minded endeavours such as My Chauffeur and Tomboy, managed to make female empowerment cool again.

Who by chance is saddled with the unenviable task of making feminism hip again? Three valets named Lucy (Meri D. Marshall), Rosalind (April Stewart), and Carnation (Mary Kohnert), that's who. Working for the "Valet Girls," a car parking service run by Danny (Matt Landers), a lingerie fanatic with a thing for lace and pink fingernails, the Brooklyn-born Lucy, a plucky car-parker who dreams of becoming a new wave superstar with black fingernails, and Rosalind, an English psych major who attends UCLA (I'm assuming she goes there, unless she likes to read Sigmund Freud outside Murphy Hall just for refried giggles smeared in monkey shit), get booted from a valeting job at an upscale restaurant; a tubby jackass (Charles Cooper) learns the hard way that you shouldn't mess with chicks from, yeah, you guessed it, Brooklyn.

Mildly forlorn, the two charm their way into a party being held at a mansion owned by Dirk Zebra (Jack DeLeon), an important mover and shaker in the festering cesspool that is show business. The party, featuring the expressive Magie Song (Dr. Caligari) and The Fibonaccis (credited here as Sexy Holiday) as the swanky shindig's poolside entertainment (they perform "Slow Beautiful Sex" and a cover of "Purple Haze"), follows Lucy and Rosalind as they schmooze the hell out of the eclectic crowd. (I spotted a Nina Hagen lookalike who had a gutless worm on a leash and a couple copulating near a barbecue.) All their aggressive schmoozing pays off when the gals land themselves a valeting gig at Mr. Zebra's next party. In reality, Mr. Zebra falls under the spell of Rosalind, and who wouldn't? She's radiant and her an eye-popping gold blazer was off the charts in terms of garment visibility. Anyway, this upsets a trio of male valets from Fraternity Parking, who, after being fired ("no more gorgeous girls and free cocaine"), plan to exact an elaborate revenge on their female rivals at Mr. Zebra's next party (the guy, as we soon find out, likes to throw his share of parties).

Now a threesome–Lucy and Rosalind are told by their boss to show the ropes to a "new girl" named Carnation (Mary Kohnert), an aspiring actress from a small town just outside Biloxi, Mississippi–the Valet Girls are gearing up to valet a party at the Zebra compound with a pajama theme. The ambitious, highly entrepreneurial (she sells her demo tapes outside Tower Records) Lucy hopes to grab the attention of music producer Alvin Sunday (Michael Karm), a sleazy scumbag who uses sex as a bargaining chip, while Carnation is enamoured with a smarmy TV actor named Lindsey Brawnsworth (Jon Sharp), a smoothing talking reprobate who likes to hold impromptu casting sessions with his pockmarked penis. In case you were wondering, the refined Rosalind doesn't want anything from these people, as she thinks they're all a bunch of lecherous pustules.

Performing her song "Reachin' Up" twice with the intention that Alvin might hear it, Lucy, despite the positive reaction from a bus boy she thought was Alvin (Lucy's vision is a tad blurry without her glasses) and the crowd gathered by the pool (they even engage in reach-centric audience participation), is shocked to discover that sex, not talent is what fuels the music industry.

The pajama party ends with the implementation of a massive sabotage campaign generated by the boys from Fraternity Parking (complete with prop severed arms, live insects and tons of fake vomit) and the girls being told that they will never park in this town again (they get blamed for the chaos that ensues). On the bright side, Carnation learns the proper way to snort cocaine, finds out what dildos do, and realizes that her love for Archie Lee Samples (John Terlesky), her homesick Mississippi boyfriend, is eternal. Oh, and the girls gain an ally in the form of Mrs. Zebra (Patricia Scott Michel), a woman who has grown tired of her husband's shameless philandering.

When the time comes for the film's third party, it's the girls' turn to cause some havoc at the Zebra estate. Employing disguises, Lucy (white leopard print coat), Carnation and Rosalind (thick glasses and paisley-coloured hippie dresses), the Valet Girls, with the help of Archie Lee, who, for some reason, is dressed like a French maid with a Dolly Parton wig, infiltrate Dirk Zebra's 50th birthday party (his seventh 50th birthday party in a row) with relative ease. Boasting a black and white theme (everyone in attendance is dressed in a combination of both colours), the comely party crashers plan to disrupt the proceedings by humiliating Dirk, Alvin Sunday and Lindsey Brawnsworth in front of all their coked up peers. In other words, a very public "fuck you" from all the women they have degraded over the years.

While April Stewart and Mary Kohnert have their moments, the majority of our rooting interest is directed towards Meri D. Marshall as the feisty Lucy (she plants her knee in two male crotches before thirty minute mark). A singer in real life (check out her monster jam, "My Obsession"), Meri has an energetic stage presence that oozes authenticity. There's no acting involved when she belts out the lyrics to "Flyin' High," "Heartless Love" and the aforementioned "Reachin' Up" (all, by the way, written by Bob Parr). It's safe to say that Meri probably saw this film as a genuine opportunity to advance her music career. Whether she succeeded or not is irrelevant, as her performance in Valet Girls is a testament to power of dreams.

There's no denying Meri D. Marshall's talent as a singer and a gutsy troublemaker, yet I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the shape of her delectable gams in this film. You'd think her legs would be the last thing on my mind–you know, when you take in account the flashy blazers, teased hair covered with radioactive glitter, subplots centered around black nail polish (her boss wants her to wear pink nail polish), and a brief training montage. However, her fleshy protuberances were, at times, the only thing I could think about. Encased in black fishnet stockings, her legs, particularly during Dirk's pajama party, were positively divine. I didn't help matters that Meri's character had a habit of mock kicking things every now and then. And, as everyone knows, there's nothing sexier than a woman with great legs who likes to kick stuff.

Dressing the film's stars and an innumerable amount of extras in a complex array of trashy yet stylish outfits, costume designer Kathie Clark (Angel) is the true heroine of the Valet Girls universe. Cobbling together a vast collection of negligees, pink suspenders, new wave tutus, pajamas, stockings, piano key scarfs, irregular lingerie, lace leggings, shiny blazers, and, of course, an industrial size hamper full of fingerless gloves, Miss Clark must have worked her butt off during the production of this film. Bringing the same visionary spirit she brought to the atypical ensemble she created for Diane Franklin to wear in TerrorVision (her overall look is still the embodiment of new wave fashion), Kathie should be proud of what she accomplished in this film; a costume designing tour de force if I ever saw one.

Unabashed–seriously, this film doesn't know the meaning of the word "abashed"–in its depiction of a vacuous wasteland where career boosting intercourse and nasal cavity destroying narcotics are the only true currencies, esteemed filmmaker Rafal Zielinski (Screwballs), making excellent use of his much celebrated eye for colour, creates a world filled with pastel vistas and lace-covered thighs. In order to mask the sheer righteousness of his film's feminist outlook, Rafal peppers every other scene with moments that will placate the genital-based urges of all the undiscerning heterosexual men in the audience.

If the car parking adventures of Lucy, Rosalind (a.k.a. Connie Lingus), and Carnation aren't enough to command the bulk of your attention, be sure to keep an eye out for Elizabeth Lamers as Grueling Greta (the boxing gloved singer of The Grunts); Elise Richards as an actress who fornicates with a male valet played by the devilishly handsome Steve Lyon; Bridget Sienna as Dirk's housekeeper (you might remember her as the cleaning lady George Costanza has sex with in the Seinfeld episode, "The Red Dot"); Rebecca Cruz as Egypt Von Sand Dunes (a singer screwed over by Alvin Sunday), Kim Gillingham (Captain America) as the valley girl-accented lead vocalist for an up and coming band called The Chemistry Set; an actress, get this, named "Pinky," who is credited as "New Wave Clone;" Ron Jeremy; Richard Erdman as a drunk waiter who says "don't mind if I do" three or four times over the course of the film; Tony Cox (Bad Santa), who plays Lucy's de facto manager; and Kenny Sacha as Tim Cheesemen, a pushy screenwriter.

A veiled satire about the turbulent relationship that exists between the men who wield power and the women who must service them to get ahead, screenwriter Clark Carlton attempts to expose the evils of the Hollywood dream machine, and does a tremendous job doing so. While some women do end up becoming prostitutes when they comes to L.A., the one's who enter the entertainment industry aren't that different than their streetwalking cousins. Whether it's a hooker turning tricks in an alleyway off Wilshire or an aspiring actress choking on a producer's schlong at a party in Malibu, they both earn their money by getting jizzed on. To reinforce this dichotomy, there's a shot of a seemingly random prostitute in a pink top standing on the street corner. Which might seem gratuitous. Yet, upon further inspection, you'll notice the lacy outfit she is sporting is eerily similar to the one's the female valets are forced to wear. Signifying, that at the end of the day, we're all prostitutes.

video uploaded by Xysmatascruff


  1. this and radioactivelingerie are my top 2 blogs.

  2. I watched and enjoyed this on netflix instawatch... thanks for the heads up one it. I made me think of Scenes from the Goldmine and The Running Kind wich are both 80s LA music industry flicks, along with the TV series Party Down and the Noah Baumbach fllm Hi Ball which also used the series of parties as a setting.

    I know this is cheesy 80s comedy, but it's about time for someone to make a film revisiting the lives of the people in these films circa 2011

  3. @Nadoone: Thanks, Nadoone. :)

    @Iren: I've always wanted to see Scenes from the Goldmine.

    And judging by the blurry poster on IMDb, The Runnin' Kind looks amazing.

  4. Yum Yum: I am going to be covering both Scene from the Goldmine and The Running Kind on my blog later in the year.... I think the Running Kind will be something that you like.

  5. Holy shit this movie is entertainment. You're rocking to some 80's fashion and sounds, and there's a quick cutaway of Ron Jeremy dancing, just as an example.

    I contend that Elise Richards plays a nurse in the W.A.S.P. video "Love Machine", but I have been unable to confirm it. Unfortunately, this and Trick or Treat are her only movie roles. Too bad. She has amazing eyebrows, but Hollywood seems to be a bit anti-eyebrow.

    Scene From a Goldmine is a bit like Satisfaction but L.A. glammed up a bit. If that doesn't sell you...

    It is on Netflix instant watch in the U.S., but I don't know if Canada gets the same titles. Hopefully, when you search for a movie on instant watch in Canada, a prompt doesn't come up saying "did you mean 'Strange Brew'? 'Cause we got that one eh. It's good! You should watch that instead." P

  6. At first I thought Ron Jeremy's appearance in Valet Girls was limited to one scene. But subsequent viewings have proven me wrong, as he's in the background of almost every scene.

    I couldn't help but notice that one of the Valet Girl scenes you uploaded featured Elise Richards. Anyway, your off-beat contention explains why you uploaded that particular scene.

    Yeah, it seems Hollywood frowns upon utilizing people with interesting eyebrows.

    I wonder if they have Nightdreams 2 on Netflix instant.

    Bob and Doug should be on our money.

  7. If Bob and Doug were queens, I think we could make that happen. They just need to loosen up a bit, maybe a Moosehead keg instead of a 12 pack. ;)

  8. I am surprised -- nay, shocked into semi catatonia -- that you did not review nor list Graydon Clark's "Joysticks", which is an '80s classic. You may want to give it a watch. (Of course, if you saw Joysticks but just didn't like it, I fully understand...)

    PS: My now ex-wife played one of the punk females that assisted the evil King Vidiot with his various and sundry exploits.

  9. I'll definitely add to "Joysticks" to my "to see list."

    Oh, and when I do, see it, that is, I'll make sure to keep an eye for the female punk henchwoman.