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Monday, September 23, 2013

Play Misty for Me

I think that in a world that is filled with playlists, mp3 players, iTunes, and Sirius Satellite Radio, there is still a market for classic radio stations.

What I mean by “classic radio stations” are the radio stations that we grew up listening to when we were children.

I remember years and years ago I used to have a collection of blank audio cassette tapes on hand because whenever I would listen to the radio and a song was playing that I absolutely enjoyed, I would grab a blank tape, stick it in my stereo, and press the red record button. Back in those days it was the only way to record your favourite song, as my childhood took place in an era before recordable compact discs, Napster, and the iPod.

(Wow...Napster. Remember that site? Seems like ages ago.)

But admit it. If you were born before 1990, there's a good chance that you've done this at least once. Let's face it. As a kid, records were not cheap. Back in my teen years, albums were available on CD and cassette format, and although cassettes were on average five dollars less than a CD was, they were still worth a hefty chunk of change.

(And back in those days, most of my money went towards renting video games at the local corner store.)

Therefore, recording songs off of the radio was a cheap, inexpensive way to make sure that you had one of the best music collections ever at a third of the cost.

And, for what it was worth, my choice of radio stations certainly helped me build up my collection.

Just going back to my own childhood, I can remember the many different radio stations that I listened to while I was doing homework, or playing with toys, or reading a book, or whatever activities that I was doing in my bedroom during my formative years. The main one was PAC-93, a station that was based out of New York State, which at the time played Top 40 music from the 1980s and 1990s. It has since changed format since its heyday, but it was a great station to listen to if I wanted the current hits at the time. After all, they did play Casey Kasem's Top 40 every single weekend! But I also listened to a station known as KOOL-FM based out of Ottawa, which added a little Canadian flavour to the weekly playlist of songs played. As well, a station that was known as MIX 96 would air Kid Kelly's “Backtrax USA”, which played some of the most recognizable songs from the 1980s (and later 1990s).

For the most part, the radio stations I listened to would play the majority of songs that I liked a lot, and I somehow ended up filling at least an entire 6 pack of blank cassette tapes with some of my all-time favourite songs (well, at least they were my favourite songs at the time that they were most popular).

But one of the most frustrating things that could happen was when you got home from school, turned on the radio, and one of your favourite songs was already half played. You couldn't very well record half a song, now could you? And unless the song was within the Top 20 on the charts (which meant that you would hear them played at least once every couple of hours), you could spend the entire day listening to the radio in hopes that maybe, just maybe, the disc jockey would play the song again.

This is where those All-Request radio shows came in handy.

Several radio stations often have an all-request lunch hour in which you would be able to request your favourite songs to be played on air. As well, PAC 93 always had an all-request show that aired between 10:00pm and 1:00am where night owls (like myself) could place a song request. And sometimes, calling into the request line was the only way you could get that last song necessary to complete your ultimate playlist on a series of audio cassettes.

I know that I have called request lines several times wanting to hear particular songs. Not all of my requests were honoured as several hundred people often called into the station all wanting to hear songs of their own. But the songs that were played, I really enjoyed hearing. And I'd switch up the song requests as well. Some people may have been content requesting the same Spice Girls, Hanson, or Backstreet Boys song over and over again, but I liked to request different songs each time I called in. Songs that didn't have the words “you are my fire”, “Mmmbop”, or “Zig-a-zig-ah” in their lyrics.

(I liked the obscure stuff.)

Well, here's a situation for you. What if you were a disc jockey, and you had the same person calling your station over and over asking for you to play the same song each and every call? Would you panic? Freak out? Probably not. You may find it a bit strange, but you brush it off. After all, I'm sure that many teenagers are calling radio stations right now, wanting to hear the latest One Direction hit over and over again.

Now, what would you do if the person who was obsessed with a particular song also developed an obsession with you? Staring at you, following you, even sneaking into your bedroom and crawling into your bed. Now that's something that you'd find disturbing, right?

Well, as it so happens, that last scenario I described happens to be the main plot of today's Monday Matinee. It's a film of suspense, thrills, and horror as one simple music request turns vicious and potentially deadly.

All because of four simple words. “Play Misty for Me”.

Play Misty for Me” was released in theatres on November 3, 1971, and not only did it have Clint Eastwood as its star, but he also directed the film! The film also starred Jessica Walter (best known for her role as Lucille Bluth on “Arrested Development”) and Donna Mills (best known for her role as Abby Cunningham on “Knots Landing”).

The film had debuted one month earlier at the San Francisco Film Festival, and by November was distributed nationwide to glowing reviews, grossing ten million dollars at the box office plus an addition five million generated from rental sales at video stores. Not bad for a movie that only had a budget of three-quarters of a million dollars.

So, what's “Play Misty for Me” all about? Well, I'll give you a hint. It's widely speculated that this film served as the inspiration behind such films as 1987's “Fatal Attraction” or 1993's “The Crush”.

It's all about what happens when a simple crush or admiration towards a person goes too far. And, it's a film in which the adored becomes the victim of psychological stalking.

And to think that the film started off so innocently too.

Eastwood plays the role of Dave Garver, a radio disc jockey who works at KRML on a nightly radio show in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. His specialty? A lot of smooth jazz records with a little bit of poetry reading on the side. I suppose it fits, right? After all, a song basically takes a poem and places it against a musical background.

Anyway, after a long night's work, Dave likes to kick back with a couple of cold ones at his favourite bar. And it is here where he happens to come across a young woman named Evelyn Draper (Walter). Now, at first meeting, Dave sees nothing unusual about the meeting. If anything, he thinks it is purely coincidental that they crossed paths at his favourite bar.

So, Dave, being a nice guy, offers to bring Evelyn home. But it's here where Evelyn reveals the truth. She actually didn't just wander into the bar on her own. She sought him out. Truth is that she's called his show before. Several times. And each time she called in, she would request the same song.

Misty”. A jazz classic that was first composed in 1954 by Erroll Garner. Beautiful song, isn't it? The song will certainly clash with the actual personality traits that young Evelyn will soon display. But early on in the film, Dave is smitten by Evelyn, and they spend the night together.

But don't think that Evelyn will be content with a simple one-night stand. Oh, no. She wants more than that. Much more.

Shortly after their first romantic encounter together, Evelyn manages to find out where Dave lives (an amazing feat given that back in 1971 nobody had Internet access) and shows up unannounced, which makes Dave very nervous. Dave later gets angry when Evelyn later disrupts a business lunch that he is attending because she believes that the woman who is seated with him is someone he is seeing.

Dave decides that maybe getting into a relationship with someone who obviously has jealousy issues is not the best way to go and he tries to let Evelyn down gently. But Evelyn decides that she won't have any of it and actually attempts suicide inside his house. And when Dave rejects her too many times, she actually goes as far as breaking into his house, destroying some of his possessions, and later attacking poor Dave's housekeeper who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The end result? Evelyn is sent away to a mental institution for her crimes, and Dave resumes life as normal. He even rekindles the old flame that he once shared with ex-girlfriend Tobie (Mills). For a few months, everything is going well, and Dave thinks that the nightmare is over.

But, little do Dave and Tobie phone call will change everything. And as Evelyn requeste Dave to play “Misty” for her, Dave realizes that he has to protect his new love from her. But unbeknownst to Dave, Evelyn has found another way to creep back into Dave's life. And by the end of the film is one giant confrontation that puts all of our key players at risk.

But I won't reveal how this plays out. I instead recommend that you seek out this movie and watch it for yourselves. It's a psychological thriller seventies style, and I absolutely was glued to the edge of my seat the whole time.

Now, how about a little bit of trivia for you? If you want, you can scroll up and play a little bit of “Misty” while you read!

1 – Clint Eastwood has made a huge living as an actor and a director. Did you know that “Play Misty for Me” was Eastwood's directorial debut?

2 – Eastwood's debut as a director was quite successful on a financial standpoint. Not only was the film finished four days ahead of schedule, but he was also under budget by fifty thousand dollars!

3 – All of the concert scenes were filmed at the Monterey Jazz Festival.

4 – The film is set in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Fifteen years after this film was released, Eastwood would actually be elected mayor of the community!

5 – The film was shot in just twenty-one days!

6 – The events in “Play Misty for Me” were allegedly based on a true story, as radio personality Jean Shepherd was also stalked by a female fan.

7 – Steve McQueen was offered the lead role in the film, but he declined. His excuse? He didn't like the fact that the female lead had a stronger part than the male lead!

8 – Jessica Walter was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her performance in “Play Misty for Me”, but lost to Jane Fonda.

So, that's our look back on the film “Play Misty for Me”, as well as my memories of requesting songs on the radio so I could record them.

And, just as a disclaimer...I never did develop any crazy crushes on any of the disc jockeys I listened to. You know...just to make that clear.  

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