The teen sex comedy is a genre of film that isn’t quite like anything else. The best films of the genre end up being endearing coming-of-age stories that make us laugh while letting us know that we’re not alone in going through an awkward phase. These are the films that stick with us and become our favorites, movies we re-visit time and time again, and films we are eager to share with others.
Most teen sex comedies aren’t these films.
The overwhelming majority are trashy, little films that promise nothing more than 90 minutes of skin and lowbrow, raunchy humor. The humor is often hit-or-miss with even the funniest of these films having a short shelf-life and a good chunk end up becoming pretty problematic pretty quickly. And still, in spite of all their sleazy faults, many have just enough charm to win us over. We usually end up forgetting most of them, or they bleed into one, but when we do accidentally re-discover these films we get a kick out of them all over again.
Or we realize they were truly awful and become confused as to why we ever liked them in the first place. Either way, it’s a good time.
If you spent your formative years up late watching Up All Night you know exactly what I’m talking about and likely fell in love with many of the same movies I did. I’m talking about your movies like Squeeze Play, The Swinging Cheerleaders, and The Beach Girls.
Which brings me to Mike “McBeardo” McPadden’s upcoming book, Teen Movie Hell: A Crucible of Coming-of-Age Comedies From Animal House to Zapped! The book, which can be pre-ordered now, discusses all the teen comedies that many of us likely rented from our local video store or stumbled upon at 2:30 AM on Saturday night while flipping between channels. It’s a comprehensive book that covers just about anything you can think of in the teen comedy realm.
As is often the case with these sort of things, not all the good stuff could make it in. One unfortunate tidbit that was cut, was Mike’s interview with Jimmy McDonough, the co-editor of Sleazoid Express. For those that don’t know, Sleazoid Express was a zine that circulated on the streets of New York City in the ’80s. For a five-year period, Sleazoid Express covered the grindhouse film scene in NYC, with a heavy focus on 42nd Street.
By and large, all movies covered in the zine were horror and exploitation, but a few teen sex comedies made the cut. One such teen sex comedy was 1982’s sleazefest, Pink Motel. Being the weirdo that he is, McPadden is a bit obsessed with this movie and so when the time came to speak with McDonough he dedicated his conversation to this classic. While the interview did not make it into the final draft of Teen Movie Hell, McPadden has passed it along as an exclusive for That’s Not Current readers. The interview is presented below.
Pink Motel: Last Stop on the Sleazoid Express
by Mike McPadden
From 1980 to 1986, the Xeroxed neutron bomb Sleazoid Expressset standards for both film journalism and perilously extreme lifestyle documentation that I have since spent decades aspiring to come near.
Founded by genius/libertine/miscreant Bill Landis, Sleazoid Expressreviewed the latest trash flicks playing NYC while also documenting its publisher’s noxious misadventures in and around the hellhole theaters that showed them.
From issue one, Sleazoid Expresswas puke-pit perfect. Then Jimmy McDonough showed up in its pages and, somehow, managed to improve on that perfection.
After the duo disbanded, Landis stewed for the better part of 15 years before mounting a photocopied revival that led to a proper book titled Sleazoid Express(St. Martin’s Press, 2002). In 2008, he died from acute Being Bill Landis.
McDonough, meanwhile, established himself in 2003 as Humanity’s Greatest Biographer via the one-two haymakers of The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan(Chicago Review Press) and Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography(Anchor Books).
Since then, McDonough has composed definitive volumes on Russ Meyer, Tammy Wynette, and Al Green, and he co-wrote John Fogerty’s memoir. At present, McDonough is a collaborative confidant of visionary filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (The Neon Demon, Drive, Valhalla Rising). You must visit their mutually mind-blowing website: bynwr.com
Throughout all this, a single question has gnawed at my brain: Why, oh, why did my two Sleazoid heroes each write lovingly — but not in detail! — about the skunky 1982 teen sex comedy Pink Motel?
In Sleazoid Express, you singled out Pink Motelas a good and worthwhile film. But then, as far as I can tell, no full review of it ever followed. What happened?
I can see the review in my mind’s eye. On the front page. But I’ll take your word for it. We were far from reliable in those days. Or even conscious.
What do you remember about initially seeing Pink Motel?
It was in some crap neighborhood theater, not 42nd Street. There were a string of weird theaters outside of 42nd Street that played all sorts of weird low-budget fare throughout the area. And we made the rounds. Maybe it was the little Hoboken two-screen theater in a little commercial plaza near the Path train [ed. note — The Fabian]. I loved that one. We saw The Human Tornado there. Or maybe it was the State in Jersey City. This great burger joint was nearby, Tippy’s Charcoal Haven…but I digress.
There were even ads in the newspaper for Pink Motel. Just imagine—some poor misguided soul invested in prints and an ad campaign. You might as well set money on fire.
What was it about Pink Motel that initially struck you in such a positive fashion?
Yeah, what was it? It was just so threadbare and devoid of any entertainment value. It laid there like a rock, almost defiant about its lack of talent and inspiration. But you can say that about virtually all entertainment now, high or low. So Pink Motel was really ahead of its time. It was a forerunner, a harbinger of things to come. Somehow Pink Motel knew nothingness was the way of the future. And here we are. Everything feels like Pink Motel now, even if some saintly auteur is the one making it.
Screenwriter M. James Kouf went on to write (or co-write) Rush Hour, National Treasure and was a creator/producer/screenwriter on the TV series Grimm. Does he wake up at 3 AM in a sweat reliving Pink Motel? Somebody should ask.
Did you go to see other teen sex comedies that came out during the Sleazoidera? (I remember some of them bouncing around Deuce theaters for months).
No. It was only because Pink Motel’s ad campaign called out like a distressed siren on the rocks. It gave off an aroma, suggested a freakish anomaly. I still own the poster, with its ‘sexy’ couple climbing the motel sign, done in a style of art more suitable for selling RVs. It looked like a relic from another era, even when it was new in 1982. I had it on my wall forever. You could stare at it and feel…the melancholy of the ages.
How did Times Square audiences react to R-rated teen sex comedies in contrast to other genres of the era: slasher horror, kung-fu, hardcore porn?
I don’t recall them being around that much (aside from the inescapable crowd-pleasers like Animal House), but that might be my utter disinterest talking.
I imagine Landis constantly griping about the mere existence of such films. How did he react to any teen sex comedies you saw with him (other than Pink Motel)?
Landis only went to two that I have any memories of, and that’s because I dragged him along: Pink Motel and another tragic impression of an actual movie, Teen Lust.
Floating around at roughly the same time (although apparently made much earlier—1978), Teen Lust was directed by painfully familiar Asian thespian James Hong, and one of its stars—slack-jawed blonde, bland bombshell Perry Lang–went on to direct a lot of TV. Both should kiss the blarney stone for being allowed any sort of career after this offense.
Equally, as lead-footed as Pink Motel in terms of any kind of rhythm (cultural or otherwise), Teen Lust is (for better or worse) is the far raunchier of the two, and oozes a certain garish, sweatin’-to-the oldies ’80s sheen.
Unflattering nudity involving ugly gym outfits, alleged ‘teen’ humor written by smutty, clueless adults, a couple of written-and-recorded-for-$300-in-my-home-studio songs carelessly tossed in (I’m told the theme music from The People’s Court lurks there as well)…consider these as plusses compared to the barren moonscape that is Pink Motel. But both movies inhabit the same peculiar no-talent zone, at least in my mind.
Revisiting Pink Motel, how does it play now?
Watching it again after all these years I found myself contemplating suicide. It has nothing to offer. No, less than nothing. This was a movie that thought a surefire way to success was to add a few meager scenes with Phyllis Diller and Slim Pickens as the motel managers, yet doesn’t even allow them to utter one amusing line. Diller not only isn’t funny, she appears to be in pain. As does Pickens. I feel for them, even in death.
Do not watch this movie under any circumstances. Lance a boil. Make spin-art at the fair. Teach a child to read. But don’t watch Pink Motel.
Yeah, I championed this piece of shit, what can I say. I was on drugs at the time, officer. Non, je ne regrette rien.
Still like the theme song, though. That recycled “Shaft” riff and those lyrics are a plethora of riches—for instance, “American tradition/Keeps you in condition.” An unknown singer, giving her double-tracked all and deserving of an actual career. Was life better for this person after her brief check-in at the Pink Motel? Was her pay more than fifty bucks? Did she do it as a favor for a musician boyfriend on his way to rehab? Was there any joy or reward for any of the denizens connected to this sad creation? These are the sorts of questions that trouble my mind.