<b>IN VINO VERITAS:</b> Rock Hudson starred in John Franken­heimer’s <i>Seconds</i>, along with some grape-stomping Mountain Drivers au naturel

FILMING SECONDS: I see that the 1966 cult film Seconds is finally out on DVD, showing Rock Hudson and the Mountain Drive tribe frolicking at a to-hell-with-clothes wine stomp.

Sue says we still have the VHS director’s cut somewhere, showing a lot more flesh than what was released on tape to the public back then.

I wasn’t there, but the word was that things got so rowdy that Hudson got tossed into the tub amid wine, grapes, and nudes. It seems that director John Frankenheimer heard about the Mountain Drivers, notorious for their bohemian lifestyle, hot tubs, do-it-yourself homes, “pot war” pottery sales, and all-around fun.

Barney Brantingham

Frankenheimer apparently thought filming a wine stomp, complete with a parade of the offbeat inhabitants in peasant costumes and a ritual roasting of a pig, would not only be an audience pleaser but also show Hudson in his role of a supposedly happy-go-lucky guy who’d fled the confines of middle-class life, thanks to a weird Frankenstein-like makeover.

The story is dark, but the Mountain Drive segment was a blast. You can see a couple of photos from the bash in Elias Chiacos’s 1994 book, Mountain Drive: Santa Barbara’s Pioneer Bohemian Community.

“Some mischievous extras threw Rock Hudson into the grape-filled vat,” Chiacos wrote.

According to Chiacos, Paramount Pictures made a deal with the Mountain Drivers, bringing in an eight-foot vat and tons of grapes and providing folks $5,000 to stage the stomp. The money was to be held in trust and loaned to needy residents.

“The film crew had a field day among the uninhibited locals and a good time was had by all,” according to Chiacos.

For decades, the black-and-white VHS version has been relegated to cult status and hard to find. Now Seconds is available in DVD and Blu-Ray in a new restoration from the Criterion Collection. The fun is limited to the wine stomp, however, because it’s something of a horror story, unwatchable for many.

In it, actor John Randolph plays Arthur Hamilton, a New York banker for whom life, while comfortable, has lost its meaning.

Then, unexpectedly, an opportunity arises for a new beginning with a new face, new friends, and a new woman ​— ​a second chance at life, so to speak. Thanks to plastic surgery, it’s Rock Hudson who emerges — all arranged by a mysterious outfit that calls itself The Company. It’s a twilight-zone movie, and Hudson has his regrets, much too late.

GIVE THEM AN F: Do we need even more proof that Congress is run by idiots who should be flunked back to grade school? Exhibit A: Their blind budget-cutting in Washington means, among other things, that 53 vulnerable low-income children in Santa Barbara County won’t get seats in Head Start. There, these kids, 3 to 5 years old, would be in line for classes in English and other subjects to prepare them for kindergarten. They’d also be screened for vision and hearing problems and other disabilities.

Who are these 53 kids? I asked folks at the sponsoring Community Action Commission (CAC). Some are from immigrant families. Last year, of the 1,323 children who got Head Start school readiness education ​— ​along with support services for their families ​— ​78 were foster children and 80 were from families that were homeless at times. If anyone needed a boost up the ladder, it’s them. About 200 ranged in age from toddler to 3.

Kids also got dental screening, and 419 were treated for decay. One boy was found to have serious astigmatism. He now wears glasses. “If this had gone undetected, we feel he would have had many problems learning,” his mother told the CAC staff. “We owe a big thank-you to everyone.”

Meanwhile, parents of the 53 left-behind preschoolers desperately wanted the Head Start child care so they could seek full-time work or full-time education. There are about 1,000 more families on the Head Start waiting list.

More bad news is written on the blackboard. “We’re expecting more cuts in September,” one staffer told me.

Do the morons in Congress actually think they’re saving money this way?

SPEAKING OF BOOKS: Santa Barbaran Paul Gallender has written an exposé about heavyweight Sonny Liston’s allegedly taking a dive in a 1965 bout with Muhammad Ali. Title: Sonny Liston: The Real Story Behind the Ali-Liston Fights (sonnyliston.net).

Monte Schulz, who runs the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, also takes (computer) pen in hand. His newest book is Naughty, a sort of James M. Cain California story of murder. It’s fiction, based on the true story of Iva Kroeger and her husband, Ralph, accused of killing Mildred and Jay Arneson in 1962. (It’s to be published in September by Fantagraphics Books.)


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