Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Billie Livingston's "Cease to Blush"

Billie Livingston is a fiction writer, poet, and sometime essayist. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, she grew up in Toronto and Vancouver, and has since lived in Tokyo, Hamburg, Munich and London, England. Her first employment was filling the dairy coolers in a Macs Milk. She went on to work varying lengths of time as a file clerk, receptionist, cocktail waitress, model, actor, chocolate sampler, and booth host at a plumber's convention. She lives in Vancouver.

Livingston is the author of two novels and a book of poetry. She has been shortlisted for the Journey Prize for fiction and the Pat Lowther Award for best book of poetry by a Canadian woman.

I asked who she would like to see cast in a film adaptation of her latest novel, Cease to Blush. Her reply:
When I’m in the middle of a book, I use my crow brain a lot. I take pictures of things and places so I can load them onto my laptop and refer to them as I write; I scribble down strangers’ conversations and stick their words in my characters’ mouths. Actors are easy to swipe because they’re always hanging around on my TV so I often make them act out what’s in my head to see if it will work or not.

When I was writing Cease to Blush, Angelina Jolie’s public and film personas often came to mind for the book’s narrator, Vivian. Especially a few years ago, Jolie seemed to be a bit of a train wreck, a flamboyantly rebellious and self-destructive woman yet one who had an obvious native intelligence and a scared, swollen heart. Every move she made struck me as a big F.U. to the world. That’s Vivian all over.

Vivian’s guy Frank is a little tougher to cast. Book reviewers often referred to Frank as the “sleazy” or “creepy” boyfriend but I would say Frank is just your average jerk. He’s is a bit of a gluttonous good-time Charlie who wants whatever he can get away with, but deep down he’s a lover not monster. Jack Nicholson in about 1972 would have made a really good Frank. Vince Vaughn might work. But he would have to play it straight, not goofy. Maybe Mark Ruffalo.

Cease to Blush deals with Vivian’s discovery that her recently deceased mother, Josie, was a burlesque dancer in the 1960s who went by the name Celia Dare and was rumored to have had affairs with Bobby Kennedy and Johnny Rosselli (the mobster who once ran Vegas and Los Angeles). For Bobby Kennedy, I would love to haul William Devane out of 1976 and drop him into it. Johnny Rosselli was known in his circle as “Don Juan” and “The Silver Fox” in the 50s and 60s. George Clooney perhaps? Ol’ George would be pleasantly weird casting since Josie/Celia Dare burlesques Rosemary Clooney, crooning “Come On a My House” whilst stripping in a San Francisco coffee house. Ol’ Clooney is probably a little young though and not the right temperament. Ray Liotta would likely be more in the right direction.

For the Josie/Celia Dare part, I’d need a twenty-something woman who could sing and dance — someone charismatic with the capacity to play from 16 years old to about 28. Emily Blunt might be up to the task. She can act and she’s been singing with Michael Bubl√© lately. But can she dance?

And last but perhaps most crucial, Annie West, the ballsy burlesque stripper from California would have to be Shirley MacLaine. If I could splice time, I would love for 1960s MacLaine to play Annie as a young stripper and contemporary MacLaine to play old but still ferocious Annie.
Read more about the author and her books at the official Billie Livingston website.

--Marshal Zeringue