The following piece is the introduction to my zine SPACE AGE ASH TRAY #2: The Xanadu Issue; it is a collection of some writings I've done on the subject of this movie for web sites and for my zines.
I'm putting up the entire introduction piece here as I'm quite proud of it. It quickly and simply clarifies the pains and pleasures of this scenario.
Doin' The Xanadu-Rag
Things weren’t looking so good for the musical movie Xanadu as the opening weekend of August 8, 1980 was getting closer. Rumors of its chaotic production (budget implosion, script revisions a’plenty, etc.) were running rapid within the industry. Timing wasn’t helping either as the mainstream disco fad was crashing so quickly that the studio moved up the release date from December to August halfway through the production just to beat the imploding expiration date.
….then there was the Disco Question. The film and the soundtrack were touted as everything BUT disco, yet it was too close to the wreckage to go out without a scratch or a dozen. It did start pre-production as a “cheap roller skating fad” musical, but when Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly signed on, the producers knew that with this sudden star power they had to shift gears away from the mirrored ball as much as they could with very little time they had left, hence the “chaotic” vibe on the set. Plus, all those roller skates and flashy outfits made it an ever steeper up-hill battle.
Fingers were crossed tightly when the film was set for release for that fateful weekend; the publicity and airplay behind this package were in full-blast mode in hopes of beating the critical mass that would greet the film. The studio didn’t even bother with a critic screening prior to the opening. It was becoming quite clear to a lot of people that the jig was up; for both the fad and this movie.
However, I for one didn’t care at all…..
Even though I heard a little of the drama going on with Xanadu, I couldn’t wait to see this movie! You might was well count me in as one of the many who were seduced by the music, the art deco styled ads and Olivia’s booming eyes staring upon me. It had already delivered its version of urban Oz in my mind already.
To put it as basic as I can and not to repeat myself from the introduction piece from Space Age Ash Tray #1 here, all I remember from that first screening on August 10, 1980 was that I was dizzy with enchantment and had discovered My Film for that moment and for the rest of my Space Age days. I ended up seeing it three times in a row that very day!
Xanadu is a major yet unlikely pillar of many things of the Space Age Ash Tray; it boldly combined elements of the post-WW2 culture; big band music from the 40’s, cultural optimism of the 60’s, pop music of the 70’s and bits of everything else in between filling in the cracks. It was a noble experiment that dared to go big like many films within this era, but as mentioned before, it was near the end and both time and room was running out for Xanadu and its muse to flourish within this Space Age galaxy.
For this second issue of this zine, you’ll find some pieces I have written about Xanadu over the years, some of which were for web sites and my perzine; how it managed to survive, its relationship to the outside world and its steady fandom. The latter was, admittedly, had been on my mind in the early days of the internet and of the Xanadu site I opened with Otis Fodder . As the isolation between fans melted away with the ‘net becoming bigger, I was beginning to deal with people who were bigger fans than me. This was equal parts exciting and scary. ‘Xanadu Ahoy, Suckas!’ reflects this early duality of mine; bouncing between the fun and The Fear at a moments notice.
Now that my equilibrium has settled on this matter, experiencing various levels of dedication to this much-neglected title are both humbling and reassuring. A recent screening in Westwood, CA had brightened my heart considerably and I remember walking home from seeing the picture for the umpteenth time and talking to other fans as if the sidewalk was made of clouds….much like that walk home from my first official day of Xanadu!
Please note that the fans described in this issue are good productive people, each living their lives large and happily as possible, much like fictional ones of Kira, Sonny Malone and Danny McGuire. Besides, there are fans of other arenas out there to worry about, like neo-con ‘Republicans’ and Donald Trump; that variety tends to do a whole lot more damage on the human race than, say, the Star Wars prequels and old school fans committing emotional hari-kari over them….much less those of us who still visit Xanadu.