No, the Cleaning Didn't Kill Me...
It made me stronger! :-) I did end up with some sinus and allergic responses, but what else is new? That'll teach me to clean!
The Return of the Phantom!
Yay! The Phantom of the Opera movie finally came out, and I finally got to see it. I've seen it twice, once by myself and once with Mum. I'm still a Michael Crawford fan, but I like Gerard Butler, too. Not just because he's cute. :) I know many of the critics don't like it, but phhhhbbbbbttt.
Now, you have to understand how long the Phantom has been a part of my life. I was a fan even before the musical. When I was in my early teens, I confronted the fact that I was too easily scared, often by things like the dark or spooky stories. Back then, there were still local channels that showed old movies on TV in the afternoon. This was before those stations were taken over by sitcom reruns, courtroom shows, talk shows -- at this time, I think Oprah was still starting out in Baltimore! One day, I realized that one of the D.C. channels (Channel 7) was showing horror movies. I decided that if I watched some of those, I could get a handle on my fear. I think I had been exposed to some horror movies because after watching "Star Wars," I ended up reading a lot of books about SF movies, special effects, etc. I realized that I could handle them! (Luckily, they were showing Universal and Hammer movies -- I don't know what would have happened if they had showed "Buckets of Blood"...)
One of the movies I saw during that time was the 1943 (Claude Rains) version of "The Phantom of the Opera." I don't remember all that much about the first time I saw it, although one of the lines really struck a chord (heh heh) with me. At one point, the Claude Rains Phantom tells Susanna Foster that she shouldn't be afraid of the dark because the darkness can be your friend. Maybe I was just ready to get over my fear, or maybe it was that voice
, but I started to look at the dark in a new light. It also helped that Dad came back from work while I was watching that, recognized the movie, and remembered watching it when he was a teen-ager.
After the first time I saw the movie, I didn't really think about that much. But then, one day at the public library, I saw a book on horror movies, and I decided to take another step and check that out. I found a still from the Claude Rains "The Phantom of the Opera" in there, and it brought back some of my memories of the movie. I also decided to learn more about the movie, decided I really liked that Claude Rains guy, etc. I also somehow managed to see the Lon Chaney, Sr. version somewhere along there, although I don't know how. Perhaps through a miracle.
And of course, I also decided I wanted to read the Gaston Leroux novel. Today, that doesn't sound too hard. You can download it from numerous web sites, and there are lots of editions available, from mass market paperback to nicely illustrated to annotated. Back then, however, you couldn't even find it in the library, let alone in the bookstores. Dad had to check it out from the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, and even they didn't have it on their shelves. They
had to get it from the stacks in the basement. I'm surprised they actually let anyone check it out -- I wouldn't be surprised to learn it was a first American edition as the pictures of those editions I've seen on eBay and ABEbooks look familiar...
I enjoyed the book, and Dad loved it, too. We often made jokes about going five cellars down or about the Punjab lassoo. I liked the phrase "rosy hours of Mazenderan" for some reason. We even used some of the characters from the book when we were playing 20 Questions on long car trips. Once, Dad was playing, and I was trying to guess. I asked "Is it a person?" He shouted "Yes! How did you?... Wait, what did you say?" And I repeated, "Is it a person?" I think he wiped his brow when he said, "Oh, yes. It's a person." I guessed along -- and then before long realized his person was the Persian
! That's why, when I asked "Is it a person?" he thought I had guessed it in one question!
During this time, I tried to write stories based on the Phantom, although not much came of it. (Take it easy on me, I was only in junior high at the time!) I went on to try writing other things, but I never forgot the Phantom. Also, I liked any version I could get. Yes, even the "kinder, gentler" Phantoms. And for all the unsympathetic aspects, I certainly felt sorry for Erik. Maybe that's because there's something of Erik in all creative geeks who were unpopular at school. ;-)
And then the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of the musical came out. I got the record as soon as I could. (Later, I bought the CD as well.) I managed to tape as many possible Michael Crawford interviews as I could. I used to have these on a special tape, although I think the tape has since died. I even bought the hard cover "Compleat Phantom of the Opera" book, thought that was more than I liked spending on a book back then. (Gee, that's a habit I should remember.) And as you might guess, I started trying out various "Phantom" ideas again. I wanted to do a kinder, gentler Phantom. I wanted to do it as a love story. I wrote an outline. Actually, I wrote three, all in the same cloth-covered journal. And in each one, my version of the Phantom character was named... Moonstone! (Yes, I have loved that name for a long time, just like the name Gorok. I actually have three early stories with heroes named Gorok, and it was a little freaky to read a scene where Gorok had the hots for a woman
Now, here we are, years later, and the new movie is out. My brain nudged me and said "Remember that outline?..." I had glanced at it not longer ago, probably when Cleaning, so I was sure I could find it. Hah! I had some memories that it was in a fabric-covered journal. But the only journals from that time I could find were unrelated. (One contained a very promising unfinished romantic SF novel outline based on Middleton and Rowley's "The Changeling.") I risked sinus problems (again!) and looked for those bloody Phantom outlines. It panned out, and I finally found it (along with that freaky story about the straight Gorok). Then I started reading it again, curious, and well, driven.
Y'know, it wasn't that bad, except for the parts that were stupid or dull or stupid or contrived or stupid... Well, you get the picture. I wanted to bring that character back -- with a new name, of course. So I started writing notes on the original, with a purple pen. (Note to self: Find a brighter purple pen next time, this one was too hard to read.) It felt freeing
to be able to write in a notebook and not have to worry about batteries, getting the Palm to undestand my Graffiti strokes, etc., just like old times. Once I had taken the notes, I decided to do yet another version of this outline. But first, I had to rename that character. And should the heroine really be named Raven? Probably not. After several eons, I finally set to work outlining the story of Shade and (cough, cough) Pandora. Sorry. I couldn't help it. After much frustration, I was going to stick to Raven, and my CD went to the unmasking scene from the Phantom of the Opera broadway show, and suddenly, Michael Crawford shouted "You prying little Pandora!" Well, what could I do? An angel of music
was singing it, so surely it was a sign from heaven... Anyway, I bloody well needed a name so I could get on with my outline. Even if it meant (gasp)! taking a hiatus from Moonstone and company for a while. (Don't worry, my brain is still turning over new leafs in that story.)
Now, I'm 14 pages into the outline, and I'm having fun
. Once I've finished the outline, I'll type it up. (There are a couple of people who would like to see it.) Then I'll go back to Moonstone. Unless a hand reaches up from the cellars of the opera and yanks me five cellars down... And no offense to Lon Chaney, but that hand had better be attached to someone who looks an awful lot like Michael Crawford. Or Gerard Butler.