Kool Kat of the Week: Dangerous Curves Ahead with Atlanta’s Tori Rodriguez as She Bends it Like Bettie and Releases Her Inaugural Bettie Page Fitness Workout Video

Posted on: Aug 1st, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crewdvd cover image for web
Managing Editor

Tori Rodriguez unleashed this past week, the first in a series of Bettie Page fitness videos,Bettie Page Fitness: Total Body Strength & Cardio” on DVD (digital version also available), which can be purchased on the Bettie Page Fitness website. Tori, local psychotherapist, wellness coach, freelance journalist, singer-songwriter (as Aneles) and all-around Bettie aficionado, is the social media editor for several Bettie Page (1923-2008) websites including BettiePage. Three more videos are on the horizon, so shake a tail feather and keep your eyes peeled! For a peep show of stills from the first video, take a peek here.

Experiencing Mary Harron’s 2005 film, THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE for the first time ignited the unquenchable flame leading Rodriguez to becoming enraptured with the life of Ms. Page. Not only has Rodriguez written oodles of articles exploring the life, times and images of history’s notorious bombshell Pin-Up [“The Pin-Up Model’s Guide to Body Confidence” – REFINERY29, Feb. 2015; “Male Fans Made Bettie Page a Star, but Female Fans Made Her an Icon” – THE ATLANTIC, Jan. 2014, just to name a few], she’s also worked alongside Academy Award-nominated director, Mark Mori, during Atlanta’s kick-off screening of his documentary, BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL (2012). Mori’s documentary headlined Rodriguez’s BettieFest at The Plaza Theatre in December 2013, which also included her debut tribute to Bettie Page, “Bettie Loved.” Rodriguez’s current Bettie-venture, and labor of love, Bettie Page Fitness, encompasses a desire to reinforce positive body image while stepping away from conventional female role labeling and embracing Ms. Page’s ability to reconfigure and redefine societal views on health and beauty.

ATLRetro caught up with Tori Rodriguez for a quick interview about her Bettie Page affection; her new series of “body-positive” Bettie Page fitness videos; working with Academy Award-nominated director, Mark Mori; and the influence Bettie has had on the life of women in the past and present.

bettie fit ab still for promo with logoATLRetro: We see that you are an all-out Bettie Page lover, and who wouldn’t be? She was gorgeous, ferocious, independent and strong! Can you tell our readers a little about your first introduction to the “Queen of Pin-Ups”?

Tori Rodriguez: A dear friend who knows me well, who knows I have thing for radical women, suggested we watch THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE, in which Bettie is played by Gretchen Mol. Immediately after watching it, I started learning everything I could about the real Bettie–and of course, she was even more mind-blowing than the movie demonstrated, though I think Mol did an excellent job.

You wrote an article for THE ATLANTIC titled “Male Fans Made Bettie Page a Star but Female Fans Made Her an Icon.” What do you think Bettie symbolizes to women then and now?

I don’t think many women back then knew about Bettie, because they generally didn’t have access to the men’s mags she appeared in. But today she represents all those wonderful traits you mentioned, and she’s so free, confident, authentic and joyful. All of those are things that people struggle with, so it’s compelling to see a counterexample to what we assume is normal and inevitable. She’s also insanely hot, but still imperfect–a little cellulite here and there, bags under the eyes at times, imperfect teeth by today’s standards–which makes her confidenceThe-Notorious-Bettie-Page even more inspiring! And it reminds us that we can also be beautiful even in our imperfection. It’s more about how you embrace and work with what you’re blessed to have.

Why do you think her popularity has only increased over time?

I think it’s because those traits are timeless and universally appealing. One of the most important ways in which Bettie is inspiring is that she rejects false dichotomies–the commonly promoted and accepted notion that women can only be one thing or the other. She’s strong and soft, sexy and sweet, smart and silly, sexual and virtuous; all kinds of seemingly conflicting roles. So, in fact, we can be both, neither, everything, at different times. And she’s always so sure about whatever she’s doing–even when it’s like, “Who would ever think of doing that?!” Ha!

Would you say that the widespread burlesque revival, rife with “liberated sexuality” and “unflinching body positivity,” has kept Bettie in the limelight longer than most sex symbols/icons of her day? And why?

bp fit video still 2That’s a good question, and I’d be curious to know more about that. I do know that, yes, many in the burlesque community absolutely love Bettie and definitely support her legacy. I think she stands out and her legacy endures because of those unique characteristics mentioned above, and because of her depth and range of expression compared with, really, any other model ever.

Who, besides Bettie, are your other vintage role models?

Of course there’s Marilyn Monroe, who I know much less about, but plan to learn more. I do know she was much smarter and more interesting than people might imagine. I adore funk singer and producer Betty Davis, ex-wife of Miles Davis, who influenced changes in his sound and look. I’m a complete and utter fanatic for Jackie Wilson; he’s a huge influence on me as a singer.

In December 2013, your alias/band, Aneles, released its first single, “Bettie Loved,” through Sneer Records, which was performed live atBetty-Page-Reveals-All-poster Atlanta’s screening of Academy Award-nominated director, Mark Mori’s BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL. Can you tell our readers a little about the song and its importance?

It’s funny you ask because the song plays during the credits at the end of the workout in my video! It was such a huge honor getting to sing it at the screening of BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL. It all started when I learned that Bettie loved Western movies, and for some reason I thought “Bettie loved Westerns” (which is the first line of the chorus) would be a cool, simple line that would capture something specific and colorful about her personality. I wrote the whole song from there – lyrics, melody, vocal arrangement – and I felt compelled to make it a true tribute song, a bio in a nutshell that, if someone hears it now or in a hundred years, they’ll have a clear idea of who she was and why she was and is important, especially to and for women. I was fortunate to get to meet with Mori around that time, who has always supported and helped facilitate all my Bettie-related projects, starting with letting me create BettieFest, which I organized around the screening of BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL. It’s a documentary about Bettie’s life, which she narrates. It’s captivating and visually stunning – nonstop photos of Bettie, many of them previously unreleased – and it really captures her personality and spirit, while giving her the opportunity to tell the story that had only been told on her behalf.

Will there be additional Bettie-inspired tunes in the future?

I’m sure I will write more Bettie-inspired songs in the future!

Photo by Wayne Ackerson

Photo by Wayne Ackerson

The first video in the Bettie Page Fitness series, “Bettie Page Fitness: Total Body Strength & Cardio” will be available on DVD on August 4. Can you tell our readers a little about the workout and what to expect with the workout?

Amazingly, production finished ahead of schedule, so I released the DVD this past week! When I designed the workout, I based each move around specific photos of Bettie–all of which appear in the video. She’s either doing an exercise move or just a pose that resembles one. I also incorporated lots of moves and tips to work toward the excellent posture, balance and core strength that she had. Viewers will get a fun and challenging total body workout while being encouraged and entertained with photos of Bettie throughout.

How many videos will be in the series? And how can our readers get a copy of the DVD so they can empower themselves, Bettie-style?

I don’t know how many videos there will ultimately be in the series, but I already have three more planned. I’m strongly leaning toward yoga for the next one; inspired by this article I wrote about Bettie and yoga in June 2014, for “You Beauty”, which you can read here. Readers can order the DVD or digital version of the video at Bettie Page Fitness.

You state that your workout videos embody a “body-positive workout,” inspired by Ms. Page. Can you explain a little about what this means and give a little detail about Bettie’s views on body image?

It’s a body-positive workout in several ways. One is that I encourage viewers to respect their body’s limits, to challenge themselves but not overdo it. The point is to be healthy, feel alive and enjoy our bodies like Bettie was and did and not to punish or push ourselves too hard. It’s also body-positive in that the point is not to look like her or anyone else, but to be inspired by her to be the best version of ourselves. I haven’t read anything about Bettie’s view on body image specifically, but she’s known for defending nudity as natural, and she loved to take naked “air baths” as she called them!

Pin-Up Tori Rodriguez, Photo by Bettina May

Pin-Up Tori Rodriguez, Photo by Bettina May

What’s next for Tori Rodriguez?

In addition to making more Bettie Page Fitness videos, I’ll continue in my roles as psychotherapist and wellness coach, freelance journalist, blogger and social media editor for the BettiePage website and related sites, and singer-songwriter… and I’m sure I’ll find more pursuits to have fun with!

Anything else you’d like to tell ATLRetro readers about yourself and your loyalty, appreciation and love of Bettie Page?

I take great pleasure and privilege in finding new ways to honor Bettie’s life and legacy, and I hope everyone enjoys my labors of love!

All photos courtesy of Tori Rodriguez and used with permission. Photos of Bettie Page used with permission by CMG Worldwide.

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Splatter Cinema, Enjoy the Film and the Cinevision Screening Room Paint Wall Street Red With an AMERICAN PSYCHO!

Posted on: May 11th, 2015 By:

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Splatter Cinema
and Enjoy the Film present AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000); Dir. Mary Harron; Starring Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Chloë Sevigny, Willem Dafoe and Jared Leto; Wednesday, May 13 @ 8:30 p.m.; Cinevision Screening Room; Tickets $10 (cash only); Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Splatter Cinema has returned—this time backed by a successful Kickstarter campaign to pre-fund this month’s screening. Once again teaming up with ATLRetro Kool Kat Ben Ruder’s Enjoy the Film and the Cinevision Screening Room, Splatter continues into its seventh year of savagery with its mission still intact—to deliver the buckets of blood and delightful scenes of slaughter that make life worth living. This time around, Christian Bale drenches the screen with gore in Mary Harron’s turn-of-the-millennium classic AMERICAN PSYCHO!

Sometimes the most annoying question a movie geek like me can face when talking about an adaptation of a novel is this: “How does it compare to the book?” My gut reaction is that it’s a pointless exercise to compare the two. One speaks in a written language, one visual. They use completely different modes of expression. The only thing the two media really have in common is that they tend to be storytelling ventures. But beyond that, it’s like comparing rhubarb to a Jackson Pollock painting. You can do it, and even say that one is better than the other, but it’s kind of a fool’s errand.

american-psycho-book-cover-01However, since I’m feeling foolish, let me just say for the record that the film AMERICAN PSYCHO is far better than the novel. How can I say that? Easy. I can’t stand the novel, yet I love the movie. I dunno. Maybe I don’t like rhubarb.

Requisite plot summary: Patrick Bateman is a young Wall Street banker in the late 1980s that kills people in his spare time. The casual ruthlessness needed for success in his job extends to his personal life, in which he sees people as nothing more than walking slabs of meat, their lives holding no more importance than their business cards.

Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel was something of a cause célèbre at the time of its publication, having been rejected by Simon & Schuster before being picked up for a trade paperback release by Vintage Books. Widespread outrage over the book’s content (specifically its gratuitous depictions of violence against women) generated acres of press coverage, vehement debate and calls for the novel to be pulled from distribution. Being curious about all the hubbub and brouhaha, I picked it up. And the chief impression that the book left was just how banal and glib it all was – shallow depictions of a shallow life punctuated by shallow descriptions of nauseatingly graphic violence. It seemed completely cut adrift from itself, accidentally being a prime example of what it ostensibly criticizes. Unlike, say, Chuck Palahniuk, Ellis never reveals anything beneath the surface of his cipher-esque characters. Whereas the nameless, catalog-shopping narrator of FIGHT CLUB becomes increasingly complex and interesting over the course of the story’s development; Patrick Bateman just simply is what he is. And for a character with more depth, that may be all you need. But for a character that doesn’t extend beyond the mask of humanity he wears, it’s not enough. And in a work in which nobody else lives beyond the surface, which doesn’t even seem to believe that anything beyond the surface even exists, it simply comes off as a lazy portrait (or even an embrace) of a lifestyle rather than a pointed critique of that lifestyle.

On top of that, its jokes fall flat and its vaunted scenes of violence seem shoehorned in for nothing more than attention-grabbing shock value. (In fact, Ellis held off on writing any of the violent passages until he finished the book, going back to research serial killers and write depictions of murder and AmericanPsycho_B2_Japan-1-500x698mayhem to insert into the narrative at a later date. And it feels like it.) And the novel never seems to know precisely what its target is. Is it about how desensitized we’ve become to violence? Is it about Patrick Bateman as the perfect distillation of capitalism, making mincemeat of others in order to advance in the world, as a kind of slasher film equivalent of WALL STREET’s (1987) Gordon Gekko? Is it about the glib surface-living culture of the 1980s? Is it simply a reflection of the life and mindset that Ellis admits to living at the time of the novel’s writing? Ellis never seems sure, and couches his indecision (which ends up feeling like he just doesn’t care what it’s about) in quasi-literary pretension and stylistic fakery.

I really hate this book, in case you haven’t caught on.

So when I heard back in the day that it was going to be made into a movie, I was less than excited. I mean, Hollywood had managed to turn Ellis’ similarly shallow morality tale, LESS THAN ZERO (1987) into a movie with even less depth than the novel. But then the news came down that the adaptation was both written and directed by women—not just women, but, gloriously, feminists!—something that I (correctly) hoped would bring a certain sense of smart irony to the film, given the absolutely rampant misogyny of the novel. To make matters even better, their screenplay was chosen over one written by Bret Easton Ellis himself. The check marks in the “plus” column were soon vastly outnumbering those under the “minus” heading.

And the movie succeeds on almost every level in which the novel fails. The screenplay by director Mary Harron and GO FISH (1994) screenwriter Guinevere Turner brings the latent humor lurking in Ellis’ novel to life, while amping up the sense of sickening horror surrounding Bateman’s crimes, which are so blandly and matter-of-factly depicted in the original source. Rather than embracing the attitudes of the novel, the film slyly and wittily american-psycho-2000transforms the book’s depictions of women into a comment on male vanity and competitiveness. Meanwhile, Christian Bale’s performance also manages to transcend the source material, giving us a Bateman with an intensity and (at times) frenzied energy that belies his character’s detachment and superficiality. And the end result is a film that is focused. All of the things that felt like directionless elements in the novel—the misogyny, the over-the-top ultraviolence, the preening narcissism, the steady divorcing of the protagonist from “reality”—now have an aim and a purpose: to show Bateman as the perfect embodiment of an American dream gone sour. Climbing atop and feeding upon the corpses of those beneath him, devaluing anyone that stands in his way, and growing further and further out of touch with the rest of the world and yet he succeeds. Not in spite of his particular brand of American psychosis, but because of it. This is what is expected of you, the film seems to say, and then openly mocks the society that calls for it. Maybe it’s because Mary Harron is a Canadian and can view America from a skeptical distance while still being close enough to grasp the details—the same quality that I think helps to make Jen & Sylvia Soska’s similarly themed and titled film AMERICAN MARY (2013) work so well. Or maybe it’s that the intervening decade has allowed Harron to take on the 1980s Yuppie culture with a more knowing eye than the still-too-close 1991 novel. But no matter the reason, Mary Harron’s film captures a particular type of mindset from a particular age perfectly and then skewers it with wit and perfect technique, leaving us to identify its lingering traces today.

So no matter how you may have felt about the novel, there’s no need to fear that this adaptation doesn’t do it justice. If you loved Ellis’ book, you’ll find a movie that easily snares the essence of what you find rewarding in it. If you loathed the novel, then you’ll find a movie that does exactly what Ellis was splattersticker (2)likely trying to do, and does it miles better. And you can’t ask for a better team of people to bring this film to you—Splatter Cinema always makes their screenings fun, and Ben Ruder knows how movies ought to look on the big screen. So get there early, get your picture taken with Patrick Bateman and maybe enjoy some Huey Lewis & the News while you’re waiting. It may not be hip to be square, but if you’re not there, that’s what you’ll be.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com.

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