27 January 2016

A Salute to 1960s Exploitation Cinema: Oedipus Ram, Act Eight


A Toon Tragedy
inspired by Sophocles' Oedipus Rex
Directed, Staged and Written by
DC Hampton Jacobs
Original Characters and Archie Fan Art Images
Created and Drawn by
Stuffed Animal

Hillary Joon, the mistress
Donna Dante, the wife
Fernández Grillo, the French movie director
Haslam Bey, the manager
Avis Poindexter, the fan
Quincy Zen, the record producer
Funk Truong Dow, the fuzz guitar fiend
Ryss Montebello, the reality TV star
Andy Yoshida, the music director
Saddam Sharma, the father
The White Lady
and the star
Ramsay Khalid Sharma


The career of Indian actor/singer Ramsay Khalid Sharma is in free fall! Acute drug addiction has made him unreliable on the movie set, on stage and in the recording studio.  A shocking sex tape scandal gets him labeled "box-office poison". Returning full-time to music, Ram records a lackluster new album that gets the worst reviews he's ever had. An attempt @ drug rehab fails for the second time, but his actress wife finds a promising screen project for him: A Chinese Civil War drama originally filmed in the 1930s. Ram insists that the pre-Code classic be remade as a musical.  Donna Dante funds the expensive production herself and stars in it with him. Critics savage Bitter Tea as the worst movie of 2073, and it lays an egg @ the box office! While recording the soundtrack, Dody learns of her husband's affair with record producer Hillary Joon. Following a violent confrontation, she demands that he move out of their Mumbai home; Hillary breaks up with him as well.

Ram reconciles with Hillary over Christmas, and they take an apartment together in Bangalore.  When he removes his leather "bracelets of submission", the symbol of his love for Donna Dante, his mistress is elated!  "He's mine now," she tells herself.  @ Hillary's urging, Ram makes a sincere attempt to kick cocaine, and his use of the drug does decrease.  It looks like the Rad Asian Manchild has finally cleaned up his act and is ready to make a new start! 

In the spring of 2074, Donna Dante forwards a call to him from noted Spanish director Fernández Grillo.  A fan of Ram’s previous screen work, Grillo offers the down-on-his-luck actor a featured role in his new film. “Can you dance flamenco?” he wants to know. “I’m a fast learner,” Ram replies. Dude is as good as his word, too, learning the basics of the Andalusian dance in a month's time.

The director's new film is called Chez Mort d’Amour (The House Where Love Died). The hard-to-follow plot revolves around Grandinetti, a revered flamenco teacher. Now an old man, he gathers all of his former students together in an abandoned church. The maestro announces that he hasn’t long to live.  "Before I die," he thunders, "I command all of you to dance for me once more!"  This flamenco “final exam” takes up the balance of screen time.  Ram plays Coq au Vin, a mysterious dancer who apparently never studied under Grandinetti. He isn’t on screen for very long, but makes a strong impression with his aggressive style.


Little seen outside Europe, Chez Mort d’Amour won't sell many tickets. However, like all of Fernández Grillo’s films, it will draw an avid cult following. The most talked-about scene is an extended nude dance sequence: Prior to the picture's release, rumors fly that Ram appears in it.  In fact, he doesn’t, and disappointment registers heavily on Gay websites!  However, his fans get a consolation prize: He sings the movie’s theme song, a French translation of Pattie Brooks’ 1978 Disco hit “The House Where Love Died”.

After a money dispute, Grillo will fire the composer originally contracted to score his film.  Ram offers to take the assignment and the director eagerly accepts.  Surprisingly, the ex-Bollywood soundtrack king is able to complete it with little difficulty: Hillary Joon is with him in the studio again, along with baby Geoffrey, and they exert a calming influence. What’s more, dude finds that flamenco music inspires him to creative heights:  In contrast to his music for Bitter Tea of General Yen, the soundtrack to Chez Mort d’Amour will be hailed as a minor masterwork!


Belter Music BSTK-u493
Fondation/Foundation (RK Sharma)
Comité des Amoureux/Commitee of Lovers (RK Sharma)
Mains/Hands (RK Sharma)
Le Tonnère et La Glace/Thunder And Ice (Levant, Sharma) 
- chanteur, Tamarindo
Danse Erotique/Naked Dance (RK Sharma)
Sans Merci/Ungrateful (RK Sharma)
Dénouement (RK Sharma)
Chez Mort d’Amour/The House Where Love Died 
(Baker, Felder, Harris, Levant) 
- chanteur, Ram
Bande du Film
Chez Mort d’Amour
Chef de Production:
Fernández Grillo
Arrangée et Dirigée par
Ramsay Khalid Sharma
Realizée par Hillary Joon
Ingeniuers du Son:
Jacques Chenault + Yanni Xavier
Enregistré chez Gang Studios, Paris
vente en la Union Européene

By the time Chez Mort d’Amour hits European theatres, Ram’s cocaine cravings have returned with a vengeance! He starts hitting the crack pipe on a regular basis and also experiments with Vivo, a new designer drug. The combination dials his volatility up to dangerous levels; one harrowing night, he trashes the apartment he shares with Hillary! That and subsequent rage-filled outbursts drive her to the limits of her patience.  Babe is also frustrated by his refusal to divorce Donna Dante; Ram clearly has no intention of marrying her up. 

He cuts an English-language version of “The House Where Love Died”, along with three Retro Pop remakes not heard on the movie soundtrack; they'll be released as a club mix on the Spanish Belter label.  @ the recording session in Paris, Hillary breaks up with him again. “Lately I’m scared of you, and so is Geoff," she sobs. “Your drug paraphernalia is scattered everywhere! I love you, but I won’t have our son growing up in that environment.” Her words break his heart, but dude can’t argue with her reasoning! Ram agrees to pay Hillary child support.  She and Geoffrey return to Bangalore; he relocates to the United Kingdom.


Belter Music 2905u79
Chez Mort d’Amour/The House Where Love Died 
(Baker, Felder, Harris, Levant)
Non Merci/No Reply (Lennon, Levant, McCartney)
Enfin Le Coup/Laugh, Laugh (Elliott, Levant)
Angélique (Levant, Mann, Sharma, Weil)
The House Where Love Died
Dirigée par Ramsay Khalid Sharma
Realizée par Hillary Joon
vente en la Union Européene

In England, Ram acquires a new manager.  Haslam Bey is unique in many ways, not least for being a Gay Muslim who was born Jewish!  Haslam is also an energetic, think-outside-the-box kind of talent promoter.  He decides to re-invent Ram as a turbaned Punk Rock revivalist.  

The Rad Asian Manchild starts gigging @ clubs in Liverpool, starting from scratch in terms of repertoire. Ninety percent of his live sets consist of vintage Punk covers: The Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop", Blondie's "11:59", The Dead Kennedys' "Nazi Punks F*ck Off", "Psycho Killer" from Talking Heads.  The Clash hit “Rock The Casbah” enters his stage act @ this time. Ram also specializes in blistering updates of classic Rock and Disco tunes like Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”, The Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman” and Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty.”


The quality of his performances vary, depending on how stoned he and his backing musicians are! Haslam Bey hooks him up with Lexxideath, a Hell-raising all-girl band.  They play several dates together and their sets are well-received; but just as Ram starts to build up a following, he misses gigs. When he does show up, dude is liable to be lost in a drug-induced fog.  Several times, he tumbles off the stage! 

Then there are times when the backing musicians don't meet his expectations and he simply refuses to sing. By the spring of 2075, most club owners consider Ram too much trouble and refuse to book him anymore. “I really don’t give a sh*t,” he shrugs. “The g*ddamn gigs didn’t pay that much anyhow!”

Haslam Bey doesn't give up.  @ his suggestion, The Rad Asian Manchild morphs into a dance club deejay. Ram favors a blend of Disco, Punk and traditional Asian Folk music which is sometimes jarring to the ear!  In the 2080s, this kind of mix will catch on big-time; those who recall his UK club sets will hail him as a pioneer of "Asiacore". However, clubbers in the mid-seventies aren’t ready for this new style: "Lay off that Chinatown bullsh*t! We want Thrash Disco!" His spins are seldom popular, and before long, dude is obliged to vacate the deejay’s booth.


Ram’s last major gig is in the United States: He substitutes for a last-minute cancellation @ the 2074 Burning Man Festival. In reference to the festival’s notorious hippie aesthetic, Haslam quips: “That's one venue where audiences always dress more outrageously than the acts! That is, when they’re dressed @ all . . . get ready to see t*ts, ass and d*ck galore!” Ram gets into the spirit of the event: He grows his hair long and takes the stage in Mongol warrior togs.  Encouraged by the crowd, he’ll see fit to remove most of the costume during his performance!


Dude performs his club repertoire, along with a few new songs suggested by a fan. Avis Poindexter will have caught one of Ram’s earliest Liverpool dates. He’ll remember it as “one of the few times I witnessed stardom in person! Ram Sharma's stage presence just hypnotized you . . . he had us all eating from the palm of his hand.”  

@ the time, the Kentucky native will be putting a Heavy Metal band together. That band, Prism Bytch, is now backing the Rad Asian Manchild @ his Burning Man gig. Avis is thrilled! Ram bonds quickly with the big blond guitarist; by the end of the gig, he's progressed from adoring fan to respected colleague and friend.

Among Avis Poindexter’s suggestions is “Shining Star”, the Disco-era Earth, Wind + Fire classic. “F*cking awesome!” is his excited response to hearing the Bollywood arranger’s radical reworking of the tune. An extended jam version drives the pagan revelers wild! 

The Burning Man crowd also grooves to Ram's renditions of "Hot Stuff", Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" and Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation." He closes the show with "The Lights Of Night", performed for the first time in many months.  As the nearly-naked singer belts his showstopper ballad against a gorgeous setting sun backdrop, everyone feels magic in the air. 

Ram's entire set goes down a storm!  So well, in fact, that a bootleg recording soon surfaces. When the live cover of “Shining Star” breaks for an underground hit in the States, dude is predictably upset; but an elated Haslam Bey senses the opportunity for a long-overdue US market breakthrough.

Ram's former label, Santi Music, now has a stateside imprint.  Haslam convinces Santi USA to give Ram a singles deal. Then he asks Avis Poindexter if he’d be interested in producing his client. “Are grits groceries? F*ck, yeah!” is the eager reply. Avis proceeds to book a session @ Gold Key Studios in Dublin, Ireland. With Prism Bytch backing him up again, Ram cuts a studio version of “Shining Star” that has "smash hit" written all over it! “This is a totally fresh sound for me,” he enthuses.


But Santi USA isn’t impressed at all! Their A & R chief turns thumbs down on the track.  In desperation, Haslam Bey contacts Chaiwat, producer of Ram's last two albums, and asks him to cut a new version of the song. Fed up with his former colleague's lack of professionalism, the old man declines; but he refers Bey to his protégé, Quincy Zen. The former sound engineer is now a producer in his own right, with a production company and a roster of up-and-coming acts signed to it.

Quincy isn’t impressed with Prism Bytch, either.  Instead, he wants to pair Ram with his newest act, an Asian Pop trio named Scramble. Avis Poindexter is crushed, but reacts selflessly. “Go for yourself,” he urges his idol. “The arrangement you wrote kicks major ass!   You don’t need my band to make it a hit.  We can work together some other time.” Reluctantly, Ram flies to New Dehli and meets up with Scramble; sessions convene @ Empress Audio, Quincy Zen's studio of choice.

His working relationship with Funk Truong Dow, leader of the trio, is as sour as his collaboration with Avis was sweet!  The fighting starts when Funk rejects “Shining Star” out of hand. QZ suggests another dance oldie Ram likes, “Gimme Some Lovin’”. Funk grudgingly approves, but insists on burying the track under layer after layer of guitar distortion. "More!" Funk insists.  "I'm gonna shred this motherf*cker until they scream for 'mercy'!"

Finally, Ram puts his foot down. “Too much fuzztone f*cks up the rhythm,” he declares.  "We're not overdubbing any more."  Funk explodes: “Kiss my Cambodian ass!” “I'm not about your Cambodian ass,” the singer retorts, “and I'm not about that sh*tty guitar sound, either!”

Ram and Funk clash incessantly; the stress of their interaction drives Ram to his crack pipe. His singing voice sounds worse than ever! It takes five grueling studio dates to get a decent take of “Gimme Some Lovin’”, but Quincy Zen’s post-production makes it sparkle. Everyone seems satisfied, and Santi USA anticipates a monster club single. Then @ the last minute, Scramble’s management blocks its release! The collaboration falls apart amid much cursing, screaming and recrimination.

Haslam Bey is caught in the middle; Ram blames him for everything that’s gone wrong. They exchange heated words @ Haslam’s London office, which climaxes in a frightening confrontation! High on Vivo and completely irrational, Ram suddenly brandishes a pistol and points it at his manager. Haslam is terrified!


Waving his arms and screaming like a wild man, Ram calls him an “incompetent Jewish f*ggot!” Then he points the gun at his own head and pulls the trigger several times. Haslam’s secretary screams! The barrel is empty, but she faints at the sight of his mock suicide. 

As Haslam rushes to her aid, Ram stares @ the firearm with a confused look on his face. Seconds later, he leaves. Later in the day, he phones the office but has no clear memory of what happened. “I feel the need to apologize,” he stammers, “but I’m not sure what I did.”

Haslam has had enough!  He and a mortified Ram agree to a parting of the ways. Years later, the frustrated promoter will recall: “Ramsay Khalid Sharma is easily the most talented star I ever worked with.  Singing, dancing, acting, deejaying, arranging and producing music: Dude could do it all!  He was a total b*tch to deal with, though, and I finally had to break away; but I think Ram was far more abusive to himself than to anybody else.”

Christmas of 2074 finds the Rad Asian Manchild with no manager, living in a rundown Manchester flat, thousands of miles away from his wife and children. Ram and Dody are still in contact; there's never any talk of divorce.  Periodically, she sends money for him to live on. More often than not, he blows it on parties, party girls, orgies and visits to crack dens! Sometimes, he works as a record date sideman, but those calls are now few and far-between.

One of the last deals Haslam Bey made was for Ram to appear in a Rhumba Picture. Rhumba will be a British studio specializing in the kinds of low-budget exploitation flicks that proliferated in the 1960s. Critics howl @ the studio’s releases, but they are hugely popular with West Indian immigrants. In the summer of ‘75, director Xan Ruggles offers Ram a second-billed role in his remake of Kitten With A Whip. Reality TV star Ryss Montebello will star in the part originated by Ann-Margret in 1964.

Who should be contracted to provide the soundtrack music but Ram’s Liverpool backing band, Lexxideath? They insist on working with him again, and he ends up singing on all eight of the songs they cut. Rhumba Studios is a subsidiary of Rumbalero Music, which controls a vast catalog of Retro song hits. Mandated to record Rumbalero copyrights, music director Andy Yoshida cherry-picks tunes written by his favorite songwriters: Jeff Barry and Carole King. His selections will be divided evenly between two vinyl EP sides.


Buena Vista BVST 2pu340r
Once In A Lifetime
Did You See Her Eyes?
Baby, Baby
(Jeff Barry)
You Turn Me On, Boy
Road To Nowhere
Wasn’t It You?
So Goes Love
(Goffin, King)
Original Soundtrack Recording
Kitten With A Whip
Lexxideath featuring Ram
Music Supervision:
Xan Ruggles
Produced by Lexxideath + Andy Yoshida
Sound Engineer: 
Sheamus Hastings
Recorded @ Gold Key Studios, Dublin
released in the EEU

The tracking sessions @ Gold Key Studios degenerate into a drug-and-alcohol-fueled bacchanal! Andy Yoshida quickly loses control of the situation, but a better-than-average soundtrack album emerges from the rubble. Future generations of Rock critics will declare it Ram’s best film recording! What’s left of his once-rich baritone blends well with Lexxideath’s wild Funk Punk riffing; Jeff Barry’s “Lila” and Goffin and King’s “Wasn’t It You?” both rate some UK club play. For the most part, though, the release is ignored.


The new Kitten With A Whip only bears passing resemblance to the original. Ram plays Chester Li-Fong, a businessman trapped in an unhappy marriage. Dude meets up with Lila (Delilah) Tompkins, a juvenile offender, teenage hooker and wannabe dominatrix. The plus-size prostitute dangles her jail bait, he bites, and she subsequently makes him her sex slave! 

When her pimp, a scary dude named Duggy Smoke, comes looking for her, she orders Chester to kill him. Totally under Lila's spell, he slits Duggy's throat! This bloody crime triggers a string of BDSM-tinged murders, all of people Lila believes have wronged her in some way.

Like a black widow, Lila Tompkins always kills her mate! By the end of the movie, she's found a new slave, this time a rich man; but she’s fallen in love with Chester. Lila regards any kind of tender feeling as weakness, so she forces herself to eliminate him!  After one final, super-intense BDSM lovemaking session, she strangles Chet in a gruesome sequence. Kitten is one Rhumba film that garners decent reviews, mainly due to its stars’ strong on-screen chemistry.


Unfortunately, it’s also one of the rare Rhumba releases that loses money! Ram’s disruptive behavior on the set is one of the main reasons. Xan Ruggles is a no-nonsense director: For the most part, dude gets what he wants from his petulant leading man, but they lock horns repeatedly. Predictably, Ram retaliates by not showing up: he stalls the production for nearly two weeks!  

Apoplectic @ the delays, Rhumba exercises a termination clause in his contract. Ryss Montebello intervenes and convinces the studio to reconsider. “He’s a bloody good actor,” she argues. “Working with Ram Sharma will make my own performance better!” She’s right, and the reviews confirm it.

As the film shoot winds down, Hillary Joon contacts Ram. Her hushed words shock him to the core: “I have the HIV virus. You need to get tested.” He does, and to his horror, the test comes back positive!  A follow-up screening leaves no doubt about the diagnosis.  Frantic with worry, he reports back to Hillary. "Get Geoffrey tested as soon as possible," he pleads. “Don’t worry," she assures him. "He's negative!” “Thank God,” Ram sighs.

There’s an awkward silence.  Neither of them says what they’re both thinking: Hillary got the virus from him.  Since their involvement, she hasn’t been sexually active with anyone else!  “Please take care of yourself,” she sobs, and abruptly ends the phone call. "Dhikara hai!" he rages in Punjabi.  "The White Lady is to blame for this!" Deeply shaken, Ram vows to kick his cocaine habit once and for all; but this promise will prove as impossible to keep as his father’s long-ago vow to become heterosexual.


In early 2076, Hepzibah Baumgartner, director of catalog A & R for Vox Sound + Image, contacts Donna Dante. Vox now controls the catalogs of The Archies and The New Archies. Hepzi has uncovered guitar tracks that the late Archie Andrews intended for a solo project; she wants to re-construct the album from session notes. “Wouldn’t it be rad if the surviving members of The New Archies got involved?“ she asks Dody. “I know it’s an off-the-wall idea, but I’ve always regretted that the two Archie groups never recorded together. This would be the next best thing!”

As it happens, Donna Dante always longed to record with The Archies. She agrees to take part in the album reconstruction, as do Lana Suzuki, Mal Hypster and Rikki Ninja. Dody contacts Ram and asks him to take part as well: “After all, you were a member of The New Archies, too!” Hesitantly, he agrees to attend the overdub session she books @ Rajah Studios. Husband and wife won’t have been in the same room together for nearly two years!

Dody isn’t sure Ram will show up, but he does. Dude is genuinely glad to see her again, and the feeling’s mutual. They enjoy collaborating with their ex-bandmates Chi and Susu (in Boston) and Ninja (in Milan) via Skype link. Archie’s twenty-year-old guitar tracks are amazing, and everyone feels inspired. Ram chooses not to sing (predictably, his voice is in bad shape) but provides his wife with strong accompaniment on guitar, electric piano, trumpet and violin. Dody still marvels at how effortlessly he can switch between instruments!

They lose track of time passing; a planned four-hour session stretches into a twelve-hour marathon. Their overdubs finally complete, Ram and Dody sign off the webcam. Both are exhausted, but they can’t bring themselves to say goodbye. The estranged couple drifts into halting conversation. Ram admits that he’s still fighting cocaine addiction, but says nothing about his HIV status. Dody raises the possibility of them patching things up. Seconds later, they’re kissing voraciously!


They retire to the bedroom downstairs, leaving a trail of discarded clothing behind. While their lovemaking is passionate, both draw the line @ penetration: Still hurt by Ram’s infidelity, Dody isn’t ready to resume conjugal duties in full. Of course, Ram has his own reasons for abstaining; but they find BDSM play as stimulating as ever. He ejaculates just from her applying a razor strap to his naked torso. "Oooh, baby," he moans, "I've missed this so much!"

At dawn, he tenderly takes his wife’s tear-streaked face in his hands. “I want us together again so bad,” he whispers, “but The White Lady is still standing between us. I can’t come home yet, Dody. Not until I break up with her forever!”

Babe tries in vain to change his mind, but not even for their children's sake will he reconsider: "It's best they don't see me like this!"  @ Dody's insistence, he spends the next day getting re-acquainted with his eldest son Vijay and daughter Roxanne; but then he returns to Europe.  

Dude feels torn apart inside, but knows he made the right decision. He’ll see his wife again in the spring of 2077; they fly to the States to defend The New Archies’ legacy from vicious allegations (for details, see the Cartoons + Castanets feature "Archie-f*cking-MANIA!").  After that, they’ll be separated for another two years!

Just one month later, Ram is on a weeks-long cocaine binge in Paris. The day comes when he finds himself broke and stranded; he appeals to friends for help, but not even Donna Dante will bail him out. “This is one time too many,” she fumes. It doesn’t take long for him to decide what to do: Selling his body for sex will bring money to leave France and score more coke besides! Dude has no qualms, because he’s done it before . . .

Ram prefers playing gigolo to rich older females, but hooking up with a male is quicker; men are the main clientele for prostitutes of any gender. He goes to Porte Dauphine Metro station, well-known in French Gay circles as a reliable cruising area.  Most tricks think twice about approaching him: Ram's coke cravings are coming on strong, and he's visibly sweating and trembling!

But exactly @ midnight, he hooks up with an elderly Indian john. “Pas de préservatifs!" the man insists. "No condoms!"  “Bien, mon chéri, that will cost you more”, Ram drawls. They negotiate a higher fee and retire to a Montmartre hotel room. There, they complete their sordid business transaction. Few words are spoken, but Ram feels a vague twinge of recognition; he ignores it.

The john, half-inebriated when they meet, gets totally sh*t-faced with Ram's eager encouragement! Dude passes out. Ram pounces on his money belt, bent on stealing and hacking his debit card; it's something else the actor/singer-turned-crack whore has done before! To his delight, he finds a fat roll of Euros in addition to the card. 

 Other items among the john's possessions attract his attention; to the end of his days, he will never forget them! As he recognizes the name on the passport and glimpses old family photos, his blood runs cold!  "Marjana!" the lapsed Sikh hisses in Punjabi. "Dear Lord, this can't be true!"

KIC Image 0002


The two won’t have seen one another in many years. Saddam will have put on much weight; his son will have lost lots of weight and be sporting shaggy green hair. The elder Sharma is too drunk to recognize anybody; yet, how could Ram not know?

Feeling a wave of nausea, he rushes into the bathroom and is violently sick for several minutes. But he dares not linger!  Half-crazed with horror and disgust, Ram flees the hotel room.  However, dude doesn't neglect to take the bankroll with him . . .  

Dawn finds Sharma the younger in a Clichy bathhouse, trying in vain to scrub his shame away. Dusk finds him strung out on cocaine again.  This time, though, there’s no euphoria; dude barely feels anything at all.  From now on, drug highs will be elusive.  In their place Ramsay Khalid Sharma will find a haunting sense of guilt that proves impossible to escape.


As for Saddam Sharma, all he’ll recall of his Paris encounter is the robbery and the tremendous hangover he wakes up with!  He’ll remain mercifully ignorant of its shocking nature. However, his incestuous reunion with Ram proves to be the first in a string of catastrophes: The month after he returns to Islamabad, Saddam unwisely embarks on an affair with a closeted imam. The affair is discovered, both are expelled from their respective mosques, and they barely escape getting stoned to death!

A fatwa is issued against the elder Sharma, forcing him to flee for his life. Never again will he live in Pakistan. No more can he hide his sexuality behind a hypocritical Holy Man façade! By the end of 2077, dude is a homeless, alcoholic immigrant living on the streets of Barcelona, Spain. During this time, Saddam Sharma also learns that he is HIV-positive.