Thursday, March 26, 2020
Shake It Up, Shake It Down: Rene Bond in DISCO LADY
If you have more than a passing familiarity with the Beatles, you probably know that "Abbey Road" is their real final album. While "Let It Be" came out later, "Abbey Road" was recorded after those sessions and is the Beatles' proper farewell as a band. What does this have to do with Rene Bond and DISCO LADY? Well, as it turns out, a lot actually.
Ever since I have been writing about Rene Bond, I wondered how I should handle DISCO LADY. I had never seen it, but I was aware Rene had a small, unbilled cameo. I chose to consider it a "Rene Bond movie" in the same way INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS or FLESH GORDON are Rene Bond movies. Namely, she was in it, but it was not really essential to her filmography. Well, now I have seen it, and I would like to officially revise my earlier position.
Rene Bond is not the star of DISCO LADY. She isn't even listed in the credits and has no dialogue. But DISCO LADY is absolutely crucial in Rene's filmography. Why? Because I believe it is her "proper farewell" to adult films, and her acting career in general.
To explain, Rene's actual last film is TEENAGE FANTASIES II which was released in 1980. However, it appears Rene's scenes were filmed in 1977. TEENAGE FANTASIES II is hosted by Rene, but not narrated by her. At least one sequence is lifted from another movie (ORIENTAL TREATMENT) entirely. Whatever TEENAGE FANTASIES II was originally intended to be, the final product is somewhat different.
This brings us back to DISCO LADY. It was most likely filmed in early 1978, and released that same year. It was almost certainly shot after the Rene scenes for TEENAGE FANTASIES II. In fact, my theory has long been that Rene dropped out of TEENAGE FANTASIES II before it was completed, necessitating the patchwork which finally came out a couple of years later.
THEORY: Rene Bond was no longer appearing in adult films, or indeed any movies, when she shot her scenes for DISCO LADY. Considering Bob Chinn doesn't mention working with her during the production, and makes a point that the female talent in the movie was not high profile so as not to attract undue attention from the LAPD, I further speculate he didn't even shoot her scenes and that they were done by AD Jeffrey Fairbanks. Even though she doesn't take her clothes off, much less have a sex scene, Rene Bond was reasonably well-known from adult films and stripping in the Los Angeles area.
So if Rene was out of films at this time, how did she wind up in DISCO LADY in the first place? There are two likely candidates, and they are equally plausible. One is Alan Colberg, who directed Rene in FRANKIE AND JOHNNIE...WERE LOVERS and plays the pimp in DISCO LADY. The other is Ric Lutze, who was of course Rene's one-time boyfriend and frequent co-star. Either one of them could have gotten on the phone and invited her to dance as an extra. It probably sounded like a fun night. She even wore her own dress! It's notable that in the two scenes where Rene is visible, she is dancing with Colberg in one and Lutze in the other. Those were her friends, and those were the people with whom she felt comfortable enough to cut loose.
This is why I consider this film absolutely crucial to Rene's filmography. Whether she knew it or not, this was goodbye. Well, until her run on the BREAK THE BANK game show, but she was a "civilian" in that context. This would be her swan song as far as acting goes.
As much as I love TEENAGE FANTASIES II, it was and is a wildly imperfect finale to Rene Bond's career. She doesn't look her best, her voice is only in two different takes of the same scene, and it just doesn't tie together the way the original TEENAGE FANTASIES does. I wonder if she was even aware it came out?
I'd prefer to remember Rene Bond the way we last see her in DISCO LADY. She's dancing and having a good time. She's laughing at Ric Lutze's antics, and for a moment, maybe it felt like it was still the early 70s and they were both comparatively innocent. That infectious smile is on her face, and I can't help but smile too when I see it even after all these years. It's the proper farewell that TEENAGE FANTASIES II is not.
In summary, TEENAGE FANTASIES II is Rene Bond's "Let It Be" and DISCO LADY is her "Abbey Road." I realize how utterly incongruous that comparison sounds to an outsider. However, I firmly stand by it.
Thanks to Lee Jones, Charles Devlin, Shawn Langrick, Michael Elliott, and Mike Bishop for their help on this post, whether they knew it or not.
Buy this release (with HARD SOAP, HARD SOAP) directly from Vinegar Syndrome!