Reluctant ichthyosaur is coaxed into position for the filming of Amazons of Malaya sometime in the early 1930s
Part-time Buddhist and full-time fantasist Orson 'Palm Trees' Palmer reveals more in my speculative noir Zen City, Iso...
“Psst. Hey, Palm Trees...”“What?”
“You awake, chum?”
“You know what Mohawk said this afternoon?”
“He reckons you used to be a film star back in London.”
I take the bait and sit up on my elbow. “Film star? Not ruddy likely. I was involved in films but I was nothing more than a glorified bullshit salesman really.”
“What’s that when it’s at home?”
“In my youth I used to work for a bloke called Reg Strode. He ran a small film company near the Crystal Palace, distributing south of the river. I helped with the publicity. He only did three films, Amazons of Malaya, Amazons of Hawaii and yes – you’ve guessed it – Amazons of Timbuktoo. He used a bunch of girls from a local glue factory who he blacked up and dressed in grass skirts. The explorer was always this ex-music hall bloke called Bertie Bridges and Mohawk – before becoming a sailor – was roped in as the muscular witch doctor. Strode had a mistress who worked in the Hornimans Museum in Forest Hill and he used her to borrow props from the Peoples of the Empires display. Nicked a monster from the local park, too.”
“So what did you do then?”
“Like I said, I was the bullshit salesman. For Malaya I had this shop dummy done out native style with her knockers showing and arranged for it to be nicked from outside the Penge Picture Palace. That got in the local papers. And for Hawaii I got two petitions going, one to get it banned and one to let it open. But my finest hour was Timbuktoo when I got a picket going to protest the lewd content and threatening the public good. Needless to say it was standing room only in the Palace.”
“You’re a card, all right,” says Taff. “You must have made a mint.”
“Not on your life! Shortly after Timbuktoo closed Strode did a runner and none of us saw a shilling. The Amazons went back to the factory, the Witch Doctor joined the Navy and the Explorer ended his days kitted out as Percy the Penguin flogging popcorn on Brighton pier.”
“What happened to you?”
“That is highly valued biographical information and only given on a need to know basis, Taff.”
It all goes quiet for a bit and I close my eyes.