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October 02, 1997 - Image 19

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-10-02

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1OB -The Michigan Daily Weekeni Magazine - Thursday, October 2, 1997

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The Michiga aily Weekend 1M

E3State of the Arts

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IS THE 'PARTY' OVER?

1 Books Feature 22 .::5::v
Memoir explores real-life crime

Once upon a time, "Party of Five"
was a quality show, a breath of fresh air
compared to "90210," "Melrose Place"
and all that other trash on television.
Yes, the memory is a hazy one, but it's
still there. When the show first began,
Charlie (Matthew Fox), Bailey (Scott
Wolf), Julia (Neve Campbell), Claudia
(Lacey Chabert) and Owen (Steven and
Andrew Cavarno), mourning over the
loss of their parents who had died in a
car crash, had to bond together and pull
through a financially and emotionally
trying situation. Season upon season,
fans looked forward to the Salinger
drama because, for the most part, it was
a real one, especially compared to the
other shows on television.
In the good years, Charlie's loved and
lost twice - once with Kirsten, whose
battle with depression was real and
emotionally wrenching for her, and
once with Grace, a political and domes-
tic nightmare.
-Fans have been deprived of Charlie's

and Kirsten's wedding; they've been
with Julia through her teen-age crises,
pregnancy, college doubts and the
choice between two boys; they've seen
Bailey through high school and his rela-
tionship with Sara (Jennifer Love
Hewitt); Claudia through musical anxi-
ety and prepubescent woes; Owen
through his baby/toddler years.
Last season arguably started what I'd
like to call "Party of Five": The Bad
Years, the move from a bittersweet
drama, heading toward other steamy
trash that we love to hate on television.
Oh, "Party of Five," once-heart-
warming-to-watch Salinger clan, what's
happened to you?
Let's see - this season and last, we,
as an audience, have been beaten to
death with Bailey's alcoholism prob-
lem, the end (or maybe not) of his rela-
tionship with Sara and the lingering
aftermath of his drunk driving accident.
Long gone are the days of Julia the
teen-ager. Now she's married to

Griffin and the two practically bore us
to tears on the screen because their
biggest problem pertains to who is
going to cook dinner and who is
going to vacuum the house. It seems
as if the show didn't know what to do
with the season finale last year, so it
married her off in
desperation.
Now, this sea-
son will pay the
>c o ns equ e n ces .
> < Lucky for us.
Claudia,
decked out in a
near-Jennie Garth
'do, enters high
school and we are
left to wonder
Jennifer Petlinski what that means.
Daily Arts Editor Uh oh ... is she to
follow in the con-
fused, mildly slutty path of her older
sister? Probably. If the show continues
down the path that it is headed.
And let's not forget the whole abuse
thing with Owen's teacher. Gotta pull in
the abuse somewhere because other-
wise people won't watch, right? While
the show's at it, it might as well throw in
a little cross-dressing with Owen. That's
realistic and engaging. Yeah right, and
Donna Martin is still a virgin.
Why is it that the moment television
brings a quality show to audiences it's
bound to ruin? It's as if "Party of Five"
can't continue at its own level, go at its
own pace because then it will get tram-

pled by the questionable advances other
shows have made.
Let's take a look at the "other dra--
mas" in question: On "90210" every-
one's already slept with everyone;
there's been drugs, diet pills, engage-
ments, two graduations, divorces and so
much more. Now Kelly's been shot and,
whoa, is that big news, especially since
she can't remember who anyone is any-
more. That's about 10 episodes worth of
problems. At least ...
On Melrose Place (to tell you the
truth, I haven't watched the show this
season - except in passing - because
it has gotten so completely ridiculous),
they've all slept with each other at least
five times; there's been incest, murder,
marriage, alcoholism, psycho people,
psycho people and did I mention psy-
cho people? Not to mention enough
electric guitar to add more drama to any
one of these subplots.
So maybe we can forgive "Party of
Five" for getting so terrible. Look at
what it's up against. Which of these can
be the drama of all dramas? Which will
top the list?
Already, "Party of Five" has made
some "advances," supposedly adding to
the dramatic nature of the show. The
most important one I see so far is the
excessive use of the colon.
Yeah, the colon. Two small dots is
really all it is. But let's deconstruct it in
the context of the show. Do these sound
familiar? Julia, Charlie, Owen, Claudia
and Grace give Bailey a night he will

never forget on "Party of Five: (notice
the colon here) Intervention." Or how
about this one? Bailey goes to court and
faces the consequences on "Party of
Five: (here it is again) The Verdict."
Suddenly, these "colon" shows become
"very special episodes of 'Party of
Five."'
But if, there's a colon in every
episode, which may arguably be in the
near future, then what's so special about
that? "Days of Our Lives" and other
soap operas use the colon to hype up
4peir trash. Come on "Party of Five"
can't you stay the way you once were?
Sadly enough, I just may be able to
predict where this is headed. And is my
prediction really as far off as it seems?
Bailey and Sara move in together, but
Sara starts sleeping with the doorman in
their new apartment building on "Party
of Five: Double Trouble Sex Games.'
Claudia becomes a 32 B on "Party of
Five: Blossoming."
Owen's teacher brings whips and
chains to the Salinger house and starts
to beat Charlie on "Party of Five: S &
M is fun stuff."
Julia and Griffin can't have kids
because of Griffin's "problem" on
"Party of Five: The Gun Ain't Loaded."
All VERY SPECIAL episodes, mind
you.

I - I

Sunday, October 19
8:00 pm
Hill Auditorium
Tickets available at the
Michigan Union Ticket Office
Charge by phone 763-TKTS

By Jessica Eaton
Daily Books Editor
To be a writer, you need to write
about what you know. But what hap-
pens when all you know is crime, death
and unresolved investigations?
You become a crime novelist, of
course. James Ellroy is the author of 13
books, including "L.A. Confidential,"
recently released in a film adaptation
starring Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger
and Danny DeVito. Taking place over
eight years of Los Angeles history,
"L.A. Confidential" tells the story of
police department scandal in the 1950s
as seen through the eyes of three mem-
bers of the LAPD.
Ellroy has roots in crime investiga-
tion established years before any of his
novels were published. Ellroy's memoir,
"My Dark Places," recently published
in paperback, is the account of his life
and his personal experience with crime.
Ellroy was 10 years old when his
mother was raped and murdered. He
had spent the weekend with his father,
and received the news stoically.
"When my mother was murdered in
June of '58," Ellroy explained to The
Michigan Daily, "I hated her, I lusted
after her, I was very much my father's
son, I was in his sway completely. He
brainwashed me against my mother and
at the time of her death my greatest
desire, since my parents were divorced,
was to live with my father exclusively.
And on June 22, 1958, that wish came
true."
It was years before Ellroy turned
back to face that incident. He went to
live with his father, where he was left to
take care of himself, and immersed
himself in the fantasy world of true
crime stories. He neglected school and
the simple childhood social life in
exchange for dreams of dead women
and grotesque crimes. Eventually, he
dropped out of school altogether.
"I drank, I used drugs, I broke into
houses, I sniffed women's undergar-
ments, I did county jail time in my late
teens and 20s. I slept in parks, I stole
anything that wasn't nailed down ... I
got sober when I was 29 and started
writing books."
And in 1994, he decided to make one
of those crime books nonfiction. With

Books by James
Ellroy:
4 "Clandestine," 1984
* "The Black Dahlia," 1987
+ "Suicide Hill," 1988
+ "The Big Nowhere," 1989
4 "White Jazz," 1992
* "American Tabloid," 1995
+ "My Dark Places," 1996
the help of homicide detective Bill
Stoner, Ellroy went back into his moth-
er's file to uncover her past and, essen-
tially, uncover his own.
"When I opened the first page of her
crime report,"said Ellroy, "I realized ...
this isn't over. I had understood her
death intellectually, but now it was as if
a little gear clicked and I could under-
stand it fully for the first time. I could-
n't afford to take two years off and play
homicide detective. There had to be a
book in it ... The killer was irrelevant;
this was all about the search for her."
Ellroy spent 18 months reinvestigat-
ing his mother's death 36 years before.
As he phrased it, "it's been a wild ride,
this ride toward confronting (my) moth-
er." Throughout the research and writ-

ing process of "My Dark Places" how-
ever, he never found the dark milieu
morbid or depressing. "And (this wild
ride) continues. She continues to inhab-
it a large part of my thoughts. I am insa-
tiably curious about her life. I'm con-
vinced that the more publicity my book
gets, the more I will learn about her.
And I want that information."
Is Ellroy obsessive? Yes, and he read-
ily admits it. His obsession, he asserted,
blunted the horror that he would have
felt as a child, and it made him a more
effective novelist. However, when asked
if he ever thinks hypothetically about a
life with a different childhood, he recog-
nized himself as an "efficacy-minded
guy" and denied fantasizing.
"This is the way it's all played out,
and I can't bring my mother back;"
Ellroy said. "I'm pleased with the way
things are. I don't have any regrets; I
think that you regret the things you did-
n't do, not the things you did"
And with that straightforward atti-
tude, Ellroy has nothing to regret at this
point in his life. He now lives in Kansas
City, Mo., with his wife, and next plans
to write a sequel to "American Tabloid,"
Time Magazine's 1995 novel of the
year. He has the basis of a major motion
picture to his credit and is in the process
of becoming one of the greatest crime
writers of the century.
"I was a happy man before I started
writing "My Dark Places," ElIroy said,
"and I'm a happier man now. I never
felt I was a victim ... I have a great
life."

Hear me out, "P05.' If any of these
actually do become realities, then I am
no longer watching your show.
You have the chance to save yourself.
Go back a few years; stay original; keep
the bittersweet edge; don't be too over-
dramatic. And lose the colon.
-- E-mail Jen at petlinsk@,umich. edit

I

West Side
Book Shop
since 1975
Used & Rare Books
Bought & Sold
113 W. Liberty (1/2 block W. of Main St.)
: 995-1891

I

UNIVERSITY SECRETS:
YOUR GUIDE TO SURVIVING A COLLEGE EDUCATION
Author: Robert D. Honigman

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for Start-up High Tech
Firm
Experienced with:
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" Visual Basic Send Resume to
MS Access P Box 4267
Ann Arbor MI 48106-4267

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The author is a long time contributor
to the Daily, and his book contains
many chapters of U-M lore.
Check it out at:
http://www.tir.com/-honigman

Open 7pm - 2am 7 days
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It's Worth the Trip!

.:.::::::::: ::::::.:::::::. ::::::::. ::::::::::::::::........ _
::.::::::::::::::.:::.:::::::::::::::._:::::::::::.:.
..............................................................:;,.;: a: :"
is 3Yk.. >.
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Omsk ok AM 0 .

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FOR A COLLEGE REP!

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