David Beaird seems like the least likely person to direct a teen sex comedy. Or a boner movie. Or a lemon popsicle.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, he made his way to Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama and by the age of nineteen, he was already being hailed by The Chicago Tribune as “a young man who will one day be a consummate and famous actor.” He won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in the play The Hot L Baltimore and soon after founded the Wisdom Bridge Theatre, which was inspired by a subtitle he read on a painting: “The bridge to wisdom is in the continual asking of questions.”
David, his obituary suggests, used his plays to ask questions. At Wisdom Bridge, he staged avant-garde versions of Cyrano de Bergerac and Twelfth Night while staging his own story of Socrates called Dignity and even a stage version of the comic strip The Wizard of ID. Due to health issues, he left the theater n 1977 and headed out west, which led to him directing movies.
According to an article in The Los Angeles Times around the time this was made, The Party Animal would be the movie that would start his Hollywood career.
“I found out that I could only sell this sort of film and only on the basest of terms. It was my breakthrough,” said Beaird.
One movie in and he as already showing signs of burnout: “This is movie making at its most crass. It’s no great accomplishment to achieve nudity and violence–you can buy them.” He also referred to the “great, gulping appetite for tastelessness in this teen-oriented genre.”
“I’ve watched grown men of 50 or 60–top executives in a major film company — sit around in three-piece suits and argue for half an hour about whether or not to put a whole nipple onto the widescreen. And I heard some of them say with a very straight face that perhaps only half a nipple would be far more tasteful.”
Even with all those nipples on screen — or half nipples — David tried to get his sister Joanna to bring her teenage son to watch the movie, as he was the target audience. She refused and told the paper, “I’m really angry that a man as talented as David has to make a movie this junky just to get started in Hollywood. It makes me very, very sad.”
He may have complained to his sister that she wouldn’t allow her child to see his movie, but he was going through issues of his own getting it completed. The producers made him go back and shoot more nudity, a fact that he found embarrassing. He recalled, “I was shamefully forced to go back to my cast and ask them to debase themselves.” But then he got naked too, just to show them that he wouldn’t do anything they wouldn’t do. That said — wasn’t he in a position of power and had the choice to do this and still get paid?
His next film — also for the same producers, International Film Marketing (the people who brought you Surf II, Night of the Demons, Too Scared to Scream, Scared Stiff and Sole Survivor) — was 1982’s Octavia, the modern-day fairy tale of a blind girl who is abused by her father and eventually assaulted by a convict. Now, The Los Angeles Times article claims that was second, but IMDB says it was made in 1982, and we all know that IMDB is totally the absolute truth, right? Right.
Also: This film and Octavia list Alan C. Fox as both writer and executive producer, going as far to say that The Party Animal was based on a story by Fox. So that’s who to blame.
The movie that most would know Beaird for would be 1986’s My Chauffeur, which has Deborah Foreman fall in love with Sam J. Jones, who is the son of her boss, played by E.G. Marshall. It’s a screwball comedy that seems out of step with the raunch of the 80s and has a great cameo by Penn and Teller. He followed that with Pass the Ammo a year later and man, that movie has a cast I’d love to see in a movie (Bill Paxton! Tim Curry! Annie Pots! Night Slasher Brian Potts?!? Anthony “Serenghett” Geary?!?) and It Takes Two the year after that, also with Anthony Geary in the cast.
Again, we go back to the obituary and learn, “His films had commercial success and led to other offers, not all of which he wanted to pursue.”
Leaving the movies behind, David founded the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks. There, he wrote the play Scorchers when he wasn’t teaching acting, giving newcomers the chance to work in his theater in exchange for their tuition.
Movies weren’t far away, however, as in 1991 that play became a film directed by Beaird. Starring a cast that includes luminaries like Faye Dunaway, James Earl Jones, Denholm Elliott, Jennifer Tilly, Luke Perry, Patrick Warburton and, yes, Anthony Geary, it also featured David’s lifelong friend and collaborator, Leland Crooke, delivering the opening soliloquy.
He also created the Fox series Key West which ran for 13 episodes in 1992. In the series, Fisher Stevens wins the lottery and follows Hemingway’s inspiration to the Florida town and a future as a writer. Working for network television didn’t seem to work well for Beaird, who went all in and wrote, directed and produced the series.
While he made one more movie in 2008 — The Civilization of Maxwell Bright — what is astounding is that one of Beaird’s plays, 900 Oneonta, played the Old Vic in London, New York City’s Circle Repertory Theater and LA’s Odyssey Theatre.
Reading of the life of this film’s creator, I was struck by just how much people loved him. And how much he loved life and being creative. His page is filled with stories of how he treated and mentored people and says that he “went out of his way to encourage and celebrate the creativity of others and sought, in his own relaxed and tolerant way, to support his friends and family.”
It also says, “He had faith in his personal artistic vision and tried to protect it from whatever self-styled experts or critics said.”
Well, he’ll never read this. But if he does, if there’s some other world or reality that allows the dead to read — or care — about long-winded nerds writing about teen sex comedies at 2:37 AM when they should be in bed, well, maybe he’ll like the fact that I spent some time considering his life and how it can inform mine.
And I can’t believe the same guy I just read about made this movie.
Pondo Sinatra (Matthew Causey, now Dr. Matthew Causeym a senior lecturer in the School of Drama, Film and Music at Trinity College Dublin who received his B.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts, M.A. from New York University and his Ph.D. from Stanford University) arrives at his first day of college as a literal pun come to life. He falls off a turnip truck in a joke you’ll see coming for miles.
This also feels quite strange right from the beginning, as it’s structured as both a comedy where the camera can move and change shots, but also is set up as a documentary of the life of Pondo after he’s become famous. This strange break of the rules of filmmaking continues throughout the movie, but even in the life story of Beaird, it’s mentioned that he didn’t realize that he was the one who said “action” or “cut” at this stage of his career. He’d only done plays, so who knows how he was approaching this.
Note: Thanks to The Unknown Movies, I’ve also learned that Beaird wasn’t alone in the director’s chair. Harvey Hart, who was directing TV all the way back in 1955, was also on hand. It’s unclear to what capacity, but Hart was a vet, working on stuff like Dark Intruder, The Pyx, The Starlost and episodes. of Columbo, Peyton Place, The Wild Wild West and more. My theory is that one or the other of the directors shot the interview footage and edited pieces together, which explains why some shots at the end are reversed and why some bits seemingly start or close with no explanation. I really believe there was just no coverage and someone said, “Oh well.”
Back to Pondo.
There’s nothing our protagonist — B&S About Movies secret: If I hate a lead character in a movie, I refer to them as the protagonist, not the hero. Go back and read older reviews with that knowledge — wants to get laid. He wants to have sex so bad that he’d “sell his soul for a piece of ass,” at which point a blonde woman who never speaks in the movie perks up and hey, maybe she’s Satan.
He gets coached in the ways of wooing by Studly (Tim Carhart, who shows up in everything from Beverly Hills Cop III and Ghostbusters to Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh and Black Sheep) who tries everything to get Pondo in the sack with a willing partner. He even does that scene from Cyrano — a callback to Beaird’s days of Chicago stage directing — by coaching him through trying to win over one lady in the woods.
It’s easy to see why Pondo can’t get any. He’s in his mid 20s (spoiler, he’s 26, even if his tombstone says he died at 22) is always wearing a rebel flag shirt, has a room filled with rebel flags and just looks like he smells of pimento olive sweat. Amazingly, he’s played by someone who would grow up to write scholarly pieces like “The Ethics and Anxiety of Being with Monsters and Machines: Thinking Through the Transgenic Art of Eduardo Kac” but here we are.
Studly’s teachings are also supplemented by lessons from a janitor named Elbow (Jerry Jones, who the arty side of me would know from The Long Goodbye, but come on, he’s in all of Rudy Ray Moore’s movies), but that doesn’t really work either.
This movie is more kaleidoscopic than episodic, but it’s that too. At one point, we’re in a male strip club for no reason and one guy — sans kneepads — does the wild spinning jump that almost broke Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing and the irony is that this guy is dirty dancing three years before that movie is not lost on me — and then just as soon we’re watching Pondo on stage performing the song “Party Animal” before he sees the devil. Again.
Upset that he can’t get any while Studly is in the middle of a menage a trois, he decides to hang himself, but his friend says that he will try.
Pondo is getting looked at by a nurse (Joan Dykman, perhaps the only person I can think of that is in both sex comedies like this and Weekend Pass as well as a Cassavetes film, Love Streams) when he tells her his hooter is broke. Wait…that’s not what you call a penis, right? This movie confounds me because it literally has moments where it tries to deconstruct comedy without ever following or establishing the rules. Like, the Cyrano scene, does the girl know Studly is talking to Pondo? She can see it, right? And in this, doesn’t the nurse realize that Pondo should perhaps be in a place where people can work on his mental health? This is why PCPs use the seven-question GAD-7 (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) test now.
Also: Pondo has on a rebel flag polo. Where is he buying these? The weird van near my house that puts up fifty hate-filled right wing shirts every weekend and people line up and I scream really insightful things but I’m driving too fast and all they hear is unintelligible screaming and that’s their language and they think I’m on their side?
The nurse then fixes his balls with malley.
Everywhere you go on this campus, women are sunbathing, on waterslides, doing aerobics and even if they’re reading, they just wink at you as if to say, “I’m just kidding, I think this book makes me look nerdy smart hot, don’t you?” All of this while The Convertibles’ “She’s Just a Girl” plays as if we’re in on the joke but you can never be sure.
Another threeway for Studly and another suicide attempt for Pondo, but they can’t understand one another. He takes the gun out and kills one of the girls and apologizes. Studly says, “It’s alright,” and no one reacts. Is this a real universe of a ZAZ universe? The movie never tells us.
After chanting, “Hound dog is gonna eat that pussy” and learning what the word means, Pondo goes to an all-black party which is exactly where you don’t want this movie to go. Of course, he shows up in an outfit that Huggy Bear would think was too far. Like this is sub-Anthony Michael Hall in a blues club racism here. While we can only assume that Pondo is being murdered, Studly has a snake-charming belly dancer performing for him.
Pondo is army crawling into a panty raid situation. If you were wondering, would Pondo dress like a woman and play strip poker with a whole bunch of ladies and look Peter Scolari unconvincing, then yes, you are correct. Will this be the scene my wife will wake up and just shake her head? Probably yes.
Again, after the strip poker doesn’t work, Pondo claims he will sell his soul for a piece of ass. Comedy works in three and there’s Satan again, but of course, there’s no payoff.
Pondo gets a punk rock makeover and looks like Quasimodo and I have to admit, this movie has brutalized me — y’all are brutalizing me, I sang — to the point where a scene of our protagonist being chased by villagers with torches and pitchforks made me laugh. Then, an Elephant Man reference? Do you need to change references like that?
Pondo goes to a bordello and somehow is still Quasimodo. This movie is a cartoon the entire time and now, it decides not to be. Pondo then breaks the fourth wall, for the first time, and says, “Damn. All dressed up with no place to go.”
More male gaze antics and hey, slow-motion running too because the padding at this point is obvious. I really have the feeling that this is nearly two movies: an art film by Beaird and Fox and Hart thinking, “Anyone can make one of those teen sex movies.” Maybe somewhere in between?
Finally, after Studly and Elbow have a heart-to-heart, it’s time for Satan and Pondo to meet as he has nightmare visions of women and stares at himself in the mirror. He later says, “I see that girl everywhere I go. I’m even dreaming about her.”
They still don’t meet.
Pondo goes to a party where he shotguns a beer, rolls a gigantic joint that he lights with a torch, takes an entire bottle of pills and then drinks a can of Coke.He then brings out a gigantic mirror and fills it with more coke than the entire budget of Scarface and cuts it with a butcher knife before the cops arrive to watch him do a mountain of it. The cops then do what cops do and beat him into oblivion.
He wakes up covered in coke and now, yes now, Satan appears.
Then he is raised from the dead in a vampire movie-looking like moment that appears lit by Mario Bava and directed by Gregory Dark before waking up in his bed.
Pondo can’t ride a bike.
Pondo goes to Sex ‘R’ Us, which is pretty forward for a porn store, advertising gay, bondage and TV. For some reason, the film goes to black and white here while he looks at realistic cocks. You may think it’s because this is supposed to be some kind of security footage, but I also think it’s a Sam Raimi trick where if the phalluses are in black and white and not flesh toned — like how the Deadites have multihued blood — they could still get an R. Meanwhile, the front desk guys debate the SALT missile talks and one sounds like Marlon Brando.
If my theory holds up about two different movies, this would be, I think, the Beaird art movie side, as this is one long stage scene between two actors that completely breaks the film. It has almost nothing to do with the film for a very long time until Pondo asks for help with women and buys the MX missile of vibrators.
Somehow, Pondo has an attractive girl in bed with him and he’s dressed like Napoleon. As The Buzzcocks’ “Why Can’t I Touch It?” plays– a song about not being able to trust your own senses — he blows the bomb up and you figure everyone died. Again, the movie breaks the rules it never established in the first place. If he can get this girl, why isn’t he just sleeping with her? Why does he have this outfit on? How did we get here?
Pondo is back alive and at the dean’s office. This would be when the movie remembers it’s a teen sex comedy and needs some homophobic humor. What’s wild is that the dean’s secretary is played by Leland Crooke, the very same lifelong friend of Beaird that he wrote the long soliloquy for in Scorchers. He knew the guy since they were in Chicago, even appearing in Cyrano all those years ago. And here he is, playing the most mincing of roles in this aberration of a film. But hey, Hollywood.
The dean is a woman and she’s rubbing the missile dildo.
Professor Schmidt is lecturing the class while a blonde winks at him. This teacher is played by Frank Galati, who wrote The American Clock and The Accidental Tourist. He’s also a Chicago theater veteran, as he was in plays at the Wisdom Bridge Theatre and directed many at the Steppenwolf Theater. Pondo asks what an aphrodisiac is and he tries to make one in the lab. The first batch takes all the hair off the head of a girl.
Pondo stays in the lab, like some kind of mad scientist, and keeps trying out his formulas on another woman. One spray even turns her into an ape.
Again, if he can get these girls into a car and on Lover’s Lane, what’s holding him back?
Two women sneak in and Pondo accidentally has his formula switched out for gas pills before Studly sets him up with Sophia Sophia (Lucy Roucis, who sadly died of Parkinson’s Disease; she’s the stand-up who makes Anne Hathaway laugh and accept her condition in Love and Other Drugs), an Italian student who is dressed in a white suit like something Sylvia Kristel would show up in.
For some reason, we are now following a traditional narrative and Pondo feeds her the pills, thinking they are going to get him laid. Instead, as you can imagine, they make her ass sound like The New York Ripper.
Only King Frat has a fart scene that seems to last longer and someone dies in that one.
I misspoke. She lights a match and the car explodes.
Pondo is back in the dean’s office and all of the women that he’s hurt — which gradually pans back to reveal the bald woman, an ape, the burned-up Italian woman, someone bandaged, a woman with a beard, a werewolf, a skeleton with arms folded, one that looks like Bernie Casey from Gargoyles, The Old Witch from The Haunt of Fear and one that looks like Figrin D’an from the cantina band and did you know the music they play is called jizz? Man, George Lucas doesn’t even know how funny he can be.
“Not a pretty sight, is it Pondo?” asks the dean.
He gets thrown out of school and goes back to the lab to clean up. As he’s pouring the chemicals down the sink, the devil or Miranda (Susanne Ashley, who was in Private Passions, No Justice with Cameron Mitchell and Camille Keaton and a cameo from Donald Farmer, and an episode of Dream On, a show that gave you clips from old movies and at least one guaranteed nude scene) makes the chemicals work. Holly, a girl who just minutes ago scoffed at him, slaps him around and takes him right there in the chemistry classroom.
There’s a montage of them being tender, followed by her attacking him, which again made me laugh. But when Pondo cleans off the formula on his hands, he washes away the chemicals that got him laid. He gets back to the lab just in time to save what’s left of it before Elbow pours it down the sink.
Pondo drinks the entire formula and pours it on his head. Soon, he’s wearing sunglasses and a satin tiger head jacket as women crawl to be near him. The song that plays, “Rain” by Dream 6, is awesome. Oh Dream 6? Yeah, that would later become Concrete Blonde.
More on the soundtrack soon. I promise.
As Miranda looks on wearing all red, Pondo walks confidently through campus as lights turn on in each building. Women leave the beds of their lovers, even Studly loses his women to Pondo and can only watch. Why is there a Napoleon poster here? What was the lost subplot about the French leader? All we can do is wonder.
Pondo yells, “I’m a party animal!”
Pondo doesn’t look as cool as he used to and is back to his rebel flag look. But as Studly takes notes and tracks how his powers work like Elizabeth Sullivan using a stopwatch to track Miracleman’s speed in the Alan Moore revival. Even at a half mile, his powers can lure any woman in.
Also: The Untouchables are playing “The General” at a party.
They go to I Phelta Thi, where the hottest women on campus live and no man has ever made it to the third floor. A leering maniacal Pondo does it while Studly can only watch and track his time. In the middle of all of this sweaty sex, the movie still has time to make fun of a larger woman.
Ah, the 80s.
I mean, ugh the 80s.
Pondo goes to see the dean and is nearly assaulted by the secretary who tries to hypnotize him and then pulls out a tube of KY Jelly. The new dean is a larger black woman, allowing two jokes about weight in a row.
All Pondo wants to do is sleep in class and read comic books, but women can’t leave him alone. As Miranda looks on, he’s chased by so many women that it seems like either Richard Lester or George Romero directed this scene.
“I have been greedy. I am like King Midas; everything I touch turns to poontang!,” laments Pondo.
The movie has just remembered that it’s supposed to be a documentary as talking heads explain what happened to Pondo.
Pondo is hiding in a laundromat filled with heavy women because this movie decided to go all in on weight humor. Once they realize he’s in their midst, elephant noises play.
Then we see Pondo’s grave.
“For a white boy, he did alright,” muses Elbow.
Studly lights a cigarette, cool guy again in a leather coat.
Pondo is reincarnated as a bunny with a rebel flag in its fur.
Miranda watches the same road that Pondo came in on as The Buzzcocks come back to play us out.
I would never say The Party Animal is a good movie. It’s a confounding one. I have no idea how it even adds up as I feel like the scenes I enjoyed were because I had been Stockholm Syndromed into laughing. Yet I didn’t hate the time I spent with it.
Where it really succeeds is the soundtrack. Beyond the songs I mentioned, it also has “I Don’t Mind,” “Harmony In My Head” and “Everybody’s Happy Now” by The Buzzcocks, “Right Side of a Good Thing” and “Roman Gods” by The Fleshtones, “War Across The Nation” by Chelsea, “
The UK video release has a different soundtrack slightly, as the male strip club scene has “Roman Gods” by The Fleshtones in the American cut but “Radio Free Europe” by R.E.M. in the UK. That same song is used in the porn store, which has no music in the American version.
Yes, the first movie to ever use a R.E.M. song has it in a porn scene. They must have felt like Bono and The Edge when “I Will Follow” scored an abortion scene in The Last American Virgin.
The soundtrack was never released, but someone has made a Spotify playlist here. There’s also a Mystic Record spunk/hardcore compilation called The Party Animal that came out in 1984 that has No FX playing “Ant Attack.”
I have no idea how the soundtrack happened, but some facts I did learn were that the movie was “filmed in a shut-down college in Illinois, near the Iowa border” and that a lot of the visuals from this movie — especially when Miranda appears — look a lot like Steve Miller’s video for “Abracadabra.” The same director of that video, Peter Conn, did the video sequences in RoboCop and George Clinton’s video for “Atomic Dog.”
I leave you with alternate titles and close off the story of David Beaird.
In French-speaking Canada, this movie was called Campus Aphrodisiaque (Campus Aphrodisiac). In Finland, Mielessä vain… which means Just In Mind… France saw it as Un tombeur de folie (A Crush of Madness) while it was Selskapsløven (The Company Lion) in Norway, El otro mujeriego en la fiesta de los animales (The Womanizer At the Animal Party) in Peru, Towarzyska bestia (A Sociablle Beast) in Poland, The Real Man Is a Wanker in Russia and Party Animal – Der Typ, der jede Bluse sprengt (Party Animal – The Man Who Blows Every Blouse) in Germany.
Obviously, this movie is why the world hates America.
Now for that story.
When The Party Animal made more than $1.5 million in its first two weeks in Los Angeles and Texas theaters, International Film Marketing offered Beaird six figures to make Revenge of the Party Animal.
He replied, “Never!”
You can watch this on YouTube and download it from the Internet Archive.