For anyone who’s watched more than a casual sampling of early 1970’s Southern California smut you would be forgiven for, from time to time, feeling like you’ve been smacked in the face with a major case of deja vu. And not just because you start seeing the same performers in every other film (you do), or because there’s really only so many positions that the act of sexual congress can be filmed (at least effectively), it’s also because many of the locations and props, and even the furniture and bedspreads (yeah…) are used over and over. Some of these even take on a kind of mythical quality, with certain locations becoming almost Sacred-Profane Spaces (or would they be Profane-Sacred Spaces?) and the props taking on am (un)Holy Relic type of mythos.
And just like archeologists and anthropologist sift through the rubble of history for clues as to where El Dorado or the Fountain of Youth might have been, or where the Ark of the Covenant or even The Holy Grail might be deposited, some of us use these clues as fingerprints or DNA strands that are spread across dozens, even hundreds of films, to try to piece together a clearer picture of who and what and when and where all this smut occurred a half century ago…said another way, we watch a lot of old porn, but pay more attention to the furniture and pictures on the walls than the smut.
And there are a few of us who of course take things perhaps a bit to far (guilty), but we only do it so you don’t have to (or at least that’s what I tell my therapist…). But I’m by no means alone in this, in fact there are at least two massive threads on the Vinegar Syndrome Facebook group dedicated to documenting where props and locations are reused (the first one grew so enormous that it nearly collapsed under its own weight, and its successor is getting a bit creaky itself…). And over on the Ed Wood Wednesday site Greg Dziawer and Joe Blevins have scores of articles (The Wood Set Decoration Odyssey) devoted to the shared locations and props just within the Ed Wood Universe (although many are also shared among the broader early So Cal smut world).
Thus begins a set of featured articles exploring these Sacred Profane Spaces/(un)Holy Relics. And for starters we’ll look at a single picture, but one that’s captivated some of us for a long, long time.
The painting is question is one of a large-eyed lady in a large hat, Our Lady shall we call her, and she was becoming so common that some of us (OK, perhaps mostly just me) became somewhat obsessed with finding out who she was and who created her. She shows up in at least seven films, sometimes just lurking in the back ground, sometimes almost upfront and center, but at all times keeping a watchful eye, and what almost looks like a slightly disapproving smirk, on the always questionable proceedings going on in front of her.
Imagine if she could talk. But just who was this girl in the picture…
Our Lady shows up in at least seven known films, all of which we believe were shot at Jack Descent’s Cinema 35 Studio (in fact Jack Descent himself confirmed to Greg Dziawer that THE FAMILY and LOVE FROM PARIS were for sure shot there). This list was first compiled in early 2021, and while I believe it is complete, if we’ve missed any, or if you’ve spotted Our Lady in other films let us know!
Here are the seven known films:
- REFORM SCHOOL SEX, aka SCHOOL FOR SEX
- THE FAMILY
- UNKNOWN LOOP
- BIG HAIR ROMP
- LOVE FROM PARIS
- THE IMPOSTER
- 2 HOURS ON SUNDAY (aka PEACOCK LADY from SWV)
But wait, there’s more! Not only was Our Lady seen in all those above films, in at least three she’s hanging in the same spot on the same oh-so-70s wood paneling, with even the same ratty yellow, or is it red?, couch in front of her! So based on this we can assume that REFORM SCHOOL SEX, THE FAMILY, and that unnamed loop were all filmed very close together, if not on the same day. One-day-wonders never cease to amaze.
Oh, and an example of how these props tell their own story, that red-or-is-it-yellow couch which is also in those three films also shows up in KIDNAPPED! (that, plus 2 HOURS ON SUNDAY, makes at least two of Jim Haskin’s known films which were decisively filmed at Cinema 35. We’ll finally be getting to telling Haskin’s story later this year btw).
Well, after putting an entire legion of the finest Capri Show World Investigation Marmosets (TM) on the case, and after that first batch came back empty handed, we sent a second wave of CSWIMs out, and in April of 2020, this second group came back with The Answer! They had found Our Lady and even who created her. And they even had a clear, fresh version of her!
There she was, finally, in bright, unfaded colors, clear and unrumpled, a wonderous site to behold. No longer a blurry phantom in the background, we now could clearly see Our Lady in all her glory, and to me (and I could be rather biased) she was even more beautiful than I ever anticipated.
And now we knew: the original painting is called MONIQUE, and it was painted by Ramon Montini.
But who’s Ramon Montini, you may be saying to yourself…
It’s true Ramon Montini isn’t a household name, and probably never was, but old Ramon did have a good number of paintings and lithographs hanging on wood paneled walls in the late-mid-century period. While I found rather little about Ramon himself, other than that he was originally from Spain, I did find at least two sightings of Ramon and is work back in the 1960s in newspaper blurbs.
The first was as part of bank account gimmick, in which if you opened a new account at the Minnesota Federal Savings bank you could choose a FREE print from over 60 selections, two of which were Ramon’s, and one of which was Monique herself! So I have to hope that there must still be a few Moniques hanging in musty basements over out-dated and unused mini-bars up in Minnesota…
The second, from a news article from 1963, is potentially more interesting. It seems that paintings from the Portal Art Gallery in California would be exhibited in the Kailua Restaurant in Hawaii, with a view to not just showing them, but also, hopefully selling a few of them. And one of the artists who had paintings at the Portal which were going to be included in this deal was, you guessed it, Ramon Montini.
Digging deeper into this we find that the gallery, actually named the Portal Gallery and in Sausalito, was opened in 1963 by Terrence M Flynn. Flynn also owned the Educational Posters company, and it’s not too far a stretch to surmise that perhaps Educational Posters also was in the art lithograph and poster business, which could be where our version of Monique originated (I mean you don’t think the original was handing in Cinema 35, do you?). We also find that along side Ramon’s paintings were works by Picasso, Degas, Miro, Utrillo, Lautrec, and Dali! That being said the, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that our Monique, the original Monique, might have also been hanging along side works from those other great artists!
But then again, in 1966 thieves broke in and stole a single Picasso painting, Two Women, which does raise the question: if our Monique was hanging in that gallery how could those thieves could have left without her as well…
A few of Ramon’s other works share a strong resemblance to Monique, with a painting titled Mimi being a sure sibling (or more likely based on the same model). But then others, such as Matador and Moored Fishing Boats were strikingly different, showing that Ramon had some breadth to his talent. Many of these are still available in lithograph form from time to time. In fact there was even a litho of Monique available back in 2020, but the Capri Show World decorating budget couldn’t manage the going price at the time. But we are committed to having our very own Monique hanging here in the CSWC office someday, so if you see one out there don’t you dare try to bid it up, or Uncle Spicy will send the boys to work ya over!
Stay tuned for future Sacred Profane Spaces/(un)Holy Relics features, including a house that for a brief period in 1972 was ground-zero for a number of films and personalities, and had more than a few wicker-based Relics to enjoy…