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The casting ouch

What were they thinking when they put these people in movies? By Dave White
/ Source: contributor

Ever heard of Glen Jacobs? Maybe not. But the Truman State University graduate and former third grade teacher has branched out into acting. And his first starring role? A serial killer in the movie “See No Evil,” opening this week and — sigh — not screened for effete movie-reviewers like me. First “Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector” and now this one. When will the discrimination end?

But I digress — let’s get back to talking about Glen. He’s also worked as an actor in another job before this one: modeling skimpy outfits in the World Wrestling Federation, where he was a heavyweight champion (he’s 6-foot-9 and not exactly wiry) and tag team champ whose signature moves were the Chokeslam, The Tombstone Piledriver, The Big Boot, The Tilt-A-Whirl Slam and the Diving Clothesline. No, I don’t know what any of that means either. But they all sound awesome and violent, don’t they? His wrestling personality was named Kane. Maybe now it rings a bell. Or maybe it still doesn’t.

Because I’m not allowed to see Kane’s debut until opening day, I can’t pass judgment on his acting ability. But I think he was pretty smart to kick it all off with something that feels like an R-rated extension of his first gig. The Chokeslam can’t be much different than chopping up stupid teenage actors. Then again, movie history is littered with the blood-bruised career detours of non-actors who decided to say yes when their agent called and said, “Hey guess what, Britney?  I got a script for you … yeah it’s called “Crossroads” and you can more or less play yourself … no there’s no role for Federline, sorry.”

So bad it’s goodWhen Britney Spears starred in “Crossroads,” I prepped by watching her go on “Oprah” to promote the film. I knew that when poor dumb little Brit explained to Oprah that her boa constrictor-draped performance of her hit song “I’m a Slave 4 U” on a recent awards telecast was meant to evoke “the jungle,” and Oprah’s expression turned from pleasant to vaguely murderous, that this was a movie I needed to catch ASAP before it stumbled out of theaters. It was a coming-of-age drama that visually communicated a character’s miscarriage with a slow-motion shot of a dropped keychain down a flight of stairs. My little group’s howls of laughter made the other people in the theater not like us very much. Both of them. It was Britney’s “Cool As Ice.”

You don’t remember “Cool as Ice”? Oh c’mon sure you do. You must have at least heard about it in passing, even if it was while sitting down on the sofa one night back in 1991 and seeing the commercial for it and thinking, “No way,” and then forgetting you ever knew about it. That’s what most people did. It starred Vanilla Ice.

In the film, Vanilla was part of a colorfully clad gang of rebel bikers. When they break down in a small town, he falls for the mayor’s daughter — who disapproves of his good girl hanging out with a man who shaves words into the hair on the back of his head — and tells her to get rid of her jock boyfriend with the now-classic “Ricki Lake Show” romance advice, “Ditch that zero and get with the hero.” Then she gets kidnapped and only Vanilla can save her. Guess what the best thing is about this movie? If you said Naomi Campbell singing the theme song over the opening credits then you guessed correctly and you win my used laserdisc copy of the film.

Kate Smith, Liberace and morePutting famous non-actors into mind-bendingly bad movies isn’t a recent trick. Because, you know, it’s Hollywood. They didn’t invent the idea of being mercenary. They just perfected the practice. As for the unfortunate stars in question, can you blame them for consenting when someone tells them they oughta be in pictures? Would you decline respectfully? No. You wouldn’t. You’d jump through whatever hoop they held in front of your face. Oh, it’s on fire? And I have to dive through it into a thimble of water? Okay! Let’s go!

If you’re old enough to remember Kate Smith — which means you sort of had to be alive in 1933 — then you might remember America’s big-voiced and big-bodied sweetheart singer’s starring role in “Hello, Everybody!” It was the most expensive movie made up to that point (it cost $2 million) and set records for lack of business. It seemed no one wanted to go see Kate shimmy and wave her arms around or participate in production numbers to songs called “Pickaninny Heaven.” I’ll leave the racist details of that one to your imagination.

This movie isn’t on video or DVD and is rarely screened. For good reason. It might make Liberace’s screen debut look good by comparison. It was called “Sincerely Yours.” In it the lady-killing stud goes deaf right before a concert. While medical science works feverishly for a cure, he has to deal with not one but two women who want him badly. Then he plays the piano a lot. It is on video, believe it or not, and I recommend picking it up the next time you’re in Las Vegas. They have a Liberace museum there and the gift shop is well-stocked.

Other notable dudsYou could program a good-sized film festival with cinema-bortions starring Cindy Crawford (“Fair Game”), Meadowlark Lemon (“The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh”), Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child (“Freddy vs. Jason), Rowdy Roddy Piper (Hell Comes to Frogtown”), Run DMC (“Tougher Than Leather”), Colleen from season one of “Survivor” (“The Animal”), Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson (“From Justin To Kelly”) and Jermaine Jackson (“Voyage of The Rock Aliens“). In fact, an entire day’s worth of programming could be wrangled out of Shaquille O’Neal’s body of work (“Kazaam,” “Steel,” “The Kid & I”). I don’t even have space in this article to talk about Madonna. “Body of Evidence” alone would take all day. So I won’t.

Or, if you’re short on time and nerve, you could just taste all the colors of the rainbow with one viewing of Mariah Carey in “Glitter.” It congeals all the sadness and ineptitude of the preceding list into one short movie-musical whose peaks include psychic songwriting, magical cats, and a sequence in which Mariah Carey’s head appears to explode in a shower of fireworks. It’s incredibly satisfying and probably taught its star a few life lessons along the way. Like how maybe next time she should stick to her strengths, take a page from Kane’s career-management book and play a singing serial killer.

Dave White is the author of “Exile In Guyville.” He blogs at .