I managed to hit the jackpot over at Merrill’s. He loaned me Science Fiction Serials of the Sixties and Seventies, and something I was really wasn’t expecting: a video cassette of the entire series of The Nowhere People, which he’d managed to record off Z-Channel back in the eighties. “You’re in luck, Frank” he said, “it’s really hard to get your hands on nowadays. There’s a small clique of diehards who have been trying to get it released on DVD for decades now, but always to a big nada from Warner Bros. You know, you might be on to something with this. It was a really weird show, and it got a bit of a reputation, you know, in certain circles”. Merrill had a habit of talking portentously about “certain circles” in a way that made me seriously question the quality of his mental health. I decided to humour him. “What do you mean?” I says. “Well, I hear things from time to time from certain people. These people are well placed within the industry. They tell me that there have always been.….hidden dimensions to the entertainment business that most people aren’t aware of”. He paused, and I knew he was really going to go off on one.
“Certain votaries of Tibetan Buddhism believe that if an idea or an image is meditated upon with a sufficient degree of concentration, it may become what is called a thoughtform, or tulpa – that is, a purely psychic construct which has been willed into a temporary physical existence. Underlying the notion of the tulpa is the suggestion that, just as the conscious mind effortlessly weaves together the world of appearances, a sufficiently powerful act of the imagination can create new objects and entities from the same materials with which our minds craft the illusion of the material world. The Tibetan sages claim that while most tulpas are constructed consciously by enlightened initiates, others emerge as demons from the unconscious resentments and obsessions of the uninitiated.”
“Imagine if something like this were really the case, what kind of power would lie in the hands of Hollywood? Unlimited access to the imagination and dream-lives of millions of minds across the globe – the ability to fertilize those minds with specific images. There are very powerful groups of people in Hollywood who believe that human history is not shaped by rational ideas, or abstract linguistic formulations of any kind. Rather, the cultural aspirations, the realities of human societies, are shaped by the unconscious dream-lives of those societies, and by a perennial language of symbols which has been with us since the cave-art of the Palaeolithic period. Though their outward forms may change, the contents of this symbolical language remain fundamentally the same in every era – the underworld, the heavens, and the earth between, populated by gods, monsters, heroes, and therianthropes. These symbols have passed from the Cyclopean monuments of the Megalithic era, through the oral and written records of later mythologies and religions, right down into the modern world, where they have come to life again in the maligned spaces offered by comic books, science fiction novels, and horror movies. These images are very ancient, and of a very mysterious provenance and efficacy. There are people in Hollywood who seek to control their dispersal for occult purposes….”
“Oh, come on, man, you’re pulling even my leg…”
“You can take it or leave it, but I’m just telling you what I’ve heard. Did you know that when Steven Spielberg was trying to get Jaws off the ground, he was told out of the blue that he could make Jaws, and any other damn picture he wanted, as long as he adhered to certain conditions? And when he asked what those conditions were, he was told to drive out to an old corral up on Mulholland Drive, and wait there until nightfall. And he followed the directions they gave him, and sure enough, there was this old cattle pen, this spectral old corral that was full of muddy huff prints, but not sight nor sound of a steer for a ten mile radius. And Spielberg got out, and walked into the middle of the Corral, half-scared and half-thinking he was being put on, and he waited there until nightfall. And sure enough, just when he’d had enough waiting around, and was about to head back to the car, he sees two figures approaching him from the opposite end of the corral. Now one of them was a very pale, rather unpleasant looking redneck dressed like a cowboy, and the other was a little girl in a gingham skirt, with hair like Ronald McDonald and far too much make-up”.
“Now, in the esoteric lore of Hollywood, these are two well-known figures: The Cowboy and the Orphan. There are five in all: the Cowboy, the Orphan, the Prospector, the Mexican Flower Lady, and Grammy. They say that everybody who ever makes it in Hollywood will encounter one or other of these figures, prior to hitting the big time. The Cowboy and the Orphan are the negotiators and deal-makers; they ask for specific favours, and only appear to major power players. The Prospector is a strange anachronism that appears from time to time at bus-stops and late-night dinners; it is said that he frequently appears to actors who are destined to experience a meteoric rise, followed by swift, tragic death. Significantly, both James Dean and Heath Ledger spoke of encounters with anachronistic gold prospectors prior to their deaths. Grammy is the most enigmatic of the five; she gives gnomic advice in passing which only makes sense years after the fact, after some appalling tragedy has struck. You could be floating face down in a crimson swimming pool before the full import of Grammy’s words hammer home……But of all the five, an encounter with the Mexican Flower Lady is dreaded the most…….She creeps up on you, and you never hear her coming…….you could be sitting at your favourite terrace on a beautiful afternoon, not a care in the world, and suddenly out of the background ambient noise, the dreaded words take shape: flores, flores, flores para los muertos……you’re finished in Hollywood when you hear those words”.
“Anyway, the Cowboy and the Orphan meet Spielberg out in that corral, and the Orphan says “Mr. Roque is very pleased with your work. We feel that that you will prosper in this industry. There are certain conditions, however, that you must adhere to in order to insure your continued success.” “What do I have to do?” Spielberg asks. Somehow, he knows. Everybody in the entertainment business knows that a pact has to be struck in order to really make it. “From time to time” the Cowboy says “you will be called upon to insert certain images and ideas into your pictures. You will not mind, because these images will already be familiar to you from your dreams. Mr. Roque simply requires that you realize certain forms which you have already intuited.” And the Cowboy hands Spielberg a manila envelope, and then he and the Orphan walk off into the darkness of the Hollywood Hills. So later on, when Spielberg drives home and looks in the envelope, what do you think he sees?”
“Detailed concept art and character sketches for both Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET: The Extra-Terrestrial.”
“Oh, come on…”
“It’s absolutely true. The images of the aliens in those movies are by no mean new. In 1937, Sir Max Mallowan was excavating a mound called Tell Brak in the Khabur Valley of Eastern Syria. He discovered a temple which contained thousands of alabaster idols – small figurines with extremely large and prominent eyes. Mallowan dated the idols at about 3,000 BC – the period when writing had just begun in Mesopotamia. The purpose and origin of these eye-idols have never been adequately explained – and it’s no accident that they bear more than a passing resemblance to the design Spielberg used for ET. There are no accidents in Hollywood.”
It sounded like old Merrill had gotten a little too close to the cheese-cake. As I was driving home from 6623 Whitley Terrace, my eyes kept staying over to the video cassette of The Nowhere People he’d loaned me. It was probably just his crazy talk rattling my nerves – but there is something palpably sinister about a blank video cassette. Later on, when I asked Lucas if he’d ever seen a video cassette before, he told he had – in a Japanese horror picture called The Ring. That didn’t ease my nerves any.