I guess if we're actually going to review Street Asylum, the
1990 movie in
which G. Gordon Liddy appears briefly but always over-the-top-ly
former police commissioner turned law-and-order mayoral
candidate, we will
need to come up with something more substantive than the three
that are, for me, right now coming to mind: "Wow," "God, that
awful," and "Wow."
But where to begin?
Street Asylum is set in a seedy, crime-ridden Los Angeles. We
Los Angeles because 1) there are palm trees, and 2) because
two-thirds of the way through this baffling movie a character
cardinal mistake of actually deigning to identify the setting,
information an audience can, I've heard, sometimes find helpful
trying to figure out what part of the world they're even looking
until that point I was operating under the misguided assumption
the prostitutes, the pimps, et al. were plying their trade in
Arkansas. Remember that guy at the beginning of the movie who
himself to a television antenna on top of the roof of the
mentions having all these beautiful dreams for how his life
would turn out
but how instead he ended up in, of all places, Little Rock.
right then my hope that this indicated some virulent
basically knew no bounds. As it turned out, my hope that Street
even had a subtext was, well, hopeful. I suppose that's what I
taking a guy who crucifies himself on a TV antenna at his word.
on the subject, how did that guy manage to crucify himself?
So L.A.'s gone to pot, as it does in so many movies. The city is
out-of-control and only getting worse. On the streets there's
of violence and not much else. The criminals are all sketchy.
The cops are
all equally sketchy. Everybody looks as if they smell. They need
bath and a good scrubbing. Granted that's not all they need,
it would be a good start. Enter into this fray Jim Miller
was, we're told, police commissioner at some point, and now he's
for mayor on the Wipe the Streets Clean of All Vermin platform.
You want to pick up the story there?
What I like about your review is that you managed to do all the
scene-setting and character sketching while carefully avoiding
mention of plot. This leaves me, then, to attempt to begin
together some sort of story line. I have to say, up front, that
sure such a story line was presented in the film, but having
taken on this
task, and being one to fulfill my responsibilities, I plan to
though there were some discernable plot and that I was able to
That said, picking up where you left off with Candidate Miller
wipe-the-streets-of-vermin campaign, I find it important to note
Gordon Liddy has a particularly complicated relationship with
Liddy watchers will remember his childhood fear of rats and
unique way of
overcoming it by killing, barbecuing and eating one rat. For a
analysis of Liddy and vermin I recommend consulting Will, his
So, some guy has crucified himself or been crucified by someone
the roof of some building in LA, even though he identifies his
Little Rock. Our hero, Arliss Ryder (Wings Hauser, who once
detective on 90210), arrives on the scene, discovers the dirty
person, who is presumably part of the scum problem, and is shot.
In the next scene, Wings wakes up in some sort of medical clinic
by his new doctor (Marie Chambers) and his wife/girlfriend
(Roberta Vasquez, a former Playboy Playmate, apparently), the
character in the film identified only by her first name. This
first moment in which I asked myself whether or not this movie
actually porn. It had something to do with the quality of the
the way the doctor was leaning over Wings with the electro-shock
maybe the size of Kristin's hair. Anyway, I started thinking
sort of porn scene might come next and whether or not and in
G. Gordon would be involved. I got distracted and stopped paying
to the plot twists for a minute, but from what I gathered, the
removed the bullet and treated Wings with the electro-shock
and he headed home with Kristin.
Maybe I should let you write this part, Paul. I remember it
particularly baffling chapter for you. And my class is ending,
have to pick back up in structured finance.
I had to let you handle the plot. I had no choice. I was over
setting the scene, setting it all up, lavishing it with detail,
when, all of a sudden, I realized I was neglecting the vermin of
world, not to mention my sworn duty to eradicate it. Hope you
Today, luckily, vermin is not such a problem.
Street Asylum did seem like a porn movie, though, lord knows, it
Is there a word for movies that are like porn movies minus the
should be. The actors-there should also be a word for actors who
actors minus the acting-carried on with that whole
So Wings comes home with Kristen. Whether she is his wife or his
girlfriend or fianc or whatever is, of course, never established
creators of Street Asylum. Maybe they had too much vermin to
bother with such niceties. Anyway, Wings is exhausted. He's just
in the back, after all. He's had a grand total of
of medical treatment at a place that looks as if it housed less
equipment than the average elementary school nurse's office. But
world of Street Asylum, major back surgery is apparently an
procedure, so Wings is good and ready to hit the road running.
has, ever since she saw her dear wounded Wings in the clinic,
promising him TLC, but their plans are derailed when they're met
door of a khaki-colored bungalow by the never not intense
Quinton (Alex Cord). Cord looks like he could ably play Tom
The Tom Skerritt Story, provided the producers of The Tom
pooled all their money together and found they had no more than
spend and shared no greater ambition than to make something to
broadcast once as an after-school special.
The Captain has an offer to make to Wings. Wings, you're a good
very best, do you therefore want to become a part of my special,
and top-secret vermin-eradicating task force? Wings hems and
haws with the
Captain. Wings mentions, for example, that he has his special
lady (i.e. Kristin) waiting for him inside the khaki-colored
Wings also mentions the seemingly difficult to ignore fact that
JUST BEEN SHOT IN THE BACK. Probably Wings should at least have
bit of comp time coming, don't you think? A little sick leave?
single sick day be too much to ask? Don't police officers have a
and doesn't that union take care of this sort of thing? Anyway,
he doesn't want to be a part of any vermin-eradicating task
force. What he
wants above all else in the world is to get rid of the
who plugged him in the back. Well, the Captain, he is quick on
and nimble of mind, going a long way toward explaining why he is
captain, say, and Wings is just Wings, turns the tables on Wings
right, I hear you, that's why you have to be part of my
force. You want to get that guy, Wings? Wings does. Wings is
fired up, you can tell. Well, the captain says, he wants Wings
to get that
guy, too. Wings says okay, okay, okay, he's in. I say, Whatever.
What's next, Hadley? Should we have taken notes? Please tell me
need to watch Street Asylum again. Please tell me you remember
happens next. Was it G. Gordon's big press conference? I know
you have a
thing or two to say about that scene.
There is a word for porn movies without the porn.
the same word for G. Gordon Liddy movies without the G. Gordon
In considering where the review might go from here, I realize
this is the
point at which the movie became completely unmanageable. I'm
loyalty toward the chronology we've set up so far and a sense of
responsibility to provide some framework by which our readers
to understand what Street Asylum is all about.
I would like to say here that I read a number of other people's
the film, and none recount vaguely similar plot lines nor any
akin to the one I took in while viewing the movie, to the extent
plot was even slightly discernable. At least I know I'm not
failing to grasp the vision.
From what I can tell, G. Gordon Liddy was the police
commissioner, but now
he isn't. Instead he is running for mayor of vermin-ridden Los
Many people have read his candidacy as embodying an extreme
justice and fighting the forces of L.A. vermin. On the cover of
half of G. Gordon's face is removed to reveal a cyborg face
the three or so times G. Gordon actually appears in the film, he
be either a) campaigning for mayor or b) involved in some sort
disappointingly clothed yet sexually explicit scene involving
leather whipping him.
Just as an aside, I'll admit here that a naked G. Gordon would
redeemed the movie for me. It's not that I had ever thought to
before watching the movie, I'd really like to see G. Gordon
it's just that watching Street Asylum forces the viewer to fill
in so many
gaps that one inevitably leads the movie to places where it just
go. The mind just seems to search desperately for connections
random series of images. For me, the film would have all made
sense had G.
Gordon only been naked. I guess this just gets back to the
Anyway, in none of his appearances does G. Gordon do anything to
that he is actually a cyborg or, as another reviewer concluded,
of a drug cartel. He does however seem to watch a lot of the
unfold on a video screen labeled VBMX or something like that.
look a little like the videos they take in convenience stores to
shoplifting -- grainy and black and white. Of course it is 1990.
always unclear exactly where the cameras are and why G. Gordon
look at the videos and whether he is looking at them while the
events are actually taking place or some time later on. It was
unclear, at least to me, why he was watching them, what he did
other than auditioning dominatrixes, his relationship to the
Mony, whom he also watches on video, and exactly what qualifies
him to be
mayor of the city of vermin. And if he's so anti-vermin, and
vermin seem to be doing that's illegal involves a lot of
since G. Gordon seems to like hookers an awful lot, exactly
where does he
So I find myself avoiding the plot at every turn yet again. Back
police station, G. Gordon is declaring his candidacy. Someone
tomato upon hearing the news. This raises one of my biggest
the film: what does that tomato crushing mean? What does the
symbolize? Is the act of squeezing it until it oozes out between
fingers supposed to indicate how enthused he is about the Miller
candidacy? or something about his mental state? Why a tomato?
it's a soft, hand-held perishable item? Don't a lot of things
description? Are we supposed to think that perhaps he had
throw the tomato at the candidate but was so overcome by the
force of his
vermin-stomping rhetoric that he decided to keep the tomato to
crush it? Or maybe he hears the rhetoric, knows G. Gordon loves
especially hookers with whips, wants to throw the tomato but
that he'll end up in electro-shock therapy with a crazy doctor,
out at the last second, crushing the tomato as a manifestation
frustration with his own helplessness.
I have on my mind right now a single burning question: Why did
Liddy ever agree to make Street Asylum? Here are several
followed by my evaluation of their probability.
1. Liddy heard he'd be working with director Gregory Dark and
THE Gregory Dark? Say no more, I'll be there. Likelihood?
Incidentally, it turns out that Dark is a director of porn
the world with titles including White Bunbusters, New Wave
Hookers I, II,
III, and IV, The Creasemaster, The Creasemaster's Wife, and
Cheeks I, II, and III. (An odd thing about Dark is that he's
credited as Gregory H. Brown, Gregory Brown, Greg Dark, A.
Hippolyte, Alexander Gregory Hippolyte, Gregory Alexander
Gregory Hippolyte, which profusion of names makes it, I guess,
easy for one to ask for his work by name.)
So Street Asylum was Dark's attempt to make a regular-one
hesitates to say
"mainstream" here-movie. We were onto something, Hadley. Too bad
understanding of what regular movies require can be summed up
mathematical equation: Porn movie - porn = movie. Memo to Dark:
forgot to include in Street Asylum was a story. That's sort of a
term that, roughly translated, means "something that makes sense
about one-and-a-half hours."
2. Liddy heard he'd be working with former Playmate Roberta
said, Vasquez? THE Roberta Vasquez? Say no more, I'll be there.
Likelihood? More likely than explanation no. 1, but still not
According to another review of this movie, which, among other
devoted an entire paragraph to the reviewer's genuine admiration
work of Wings Hauser, culminating in the bold, some might say
statement that Wings Hauser doesn't get nearly as much respect
should for his great work, Roberta Vasquez is also a former
officer. Let me repeat that detail so that we can savor it for a
Roberta Vasquez is also a former L.A.P.D. officer. Pretty
detail, no? I want to give credit where credit is due here, so
to say that casting a former L.A.P.D. officer-turned-Playmate in
about L.A. gone to pot and the L.A.P.D. run amok is evidence of,
wit, than at least something bordering on a primitive form of
Second memo to Dark: Keep up the creative casting, my friend.
3. Liddy heard he'd be whipped by a series of leather-clad women
squealed ecstatically and then receive, for his consideration,
of cash money. Likelihood? Pretty likely, I suspect. Note: Liddy
ecstatically sounds not unlike an ornery sow in a 4-H show that
blue ribbon but still doesn't want to come out of her little pen
amount of corn and cajoling.
4. Liddy, who harbors untold political ambitions that will
be realized, and let's just thank goodness for that, thought,
least I can seek office in a movie, right? That's almost as good
seeking office in real life, which I've done. Hell, maybe
they'll even let
me win the election in the movie. That would be really great, to
finally. I'd love to be a winner for once. Likelihood? If Liddy
entire script he would have realized that the mayoral election
in the City
of Angels and Vermin was not in any sense crucial to the movie.
have noticed that there is, in the movie, no candidate opposing
staunch anti-vermin platform. How great would that have been, to
pro-vermin candidate running? Can you imagine the debates about
vermin? The mind reels at the possibilities. Liddy might have
that the movie does not feature any actual election. It might
on him that his character dies before any actual election can
electrocuted on a satellite dish at the hands of good old Wings.
brings me to.... the third memo to Dark: I am pretty sure, Mr.
it is not possible to be electrocuted on a satellite dish. What
dishes do is they receive electromagnetic signals. There is no
electricity flowing through the dish.
5. Liddy read the script for Street Asylum and thought, This
reflects my deranged worldview so totally that I simply must be
a part of
this picture. Likelihood? Well, now this is a tricky one. Street
is, despite appearances, not an ideal vehicle for Liddy's
paleoconservatism. Yes, it posits a police department and
is wickedly tough on vermin, and yes, being tough on vermin is,
historically speaking, a conservative position, but the police
and government in Street Asylum are utter maniacs, not upholding
law or order, and it's often a dicey proposition to distinguish
from the men and women in blue.
Take the case of that one main pimp, who, incidentally, doesn't
a credit on Internet Movie Database (ditto for Reverend Muny's
who, I'm sorry, deserves better from Internet Movie Database).
his second partner Sergeant Tatum, a.k.a. "Joker" (Sy
after this pimp for most of the movie. Wings and Tatum are both
vermin eradicators. They also both have electro-shock gizmos
their spines that put them under the control of the crazy doctor
turn, under the control of crazy Liddy. The electro-shock gizmos
times, cause them to turn into elite and beserk vermin
beserk and Wings not-beserk is, I believe, what may be known as
distinction without a difference though.)
Anyway, Wings wants the pimp to say who plugged Wings in the
back. How the
cops are so sure that the pimp can help them is unclear. They
pimp up and then they ask him questions and then, for good
slap him around some more. The pimp doesn't help them much. Why
just try to see if some other vermin can tell them what they
need to know
is also unclear. There doesn't seem to be a shortage of vermin.
break in the questioning, Joker ties the pimp to a rope and
end of said rope to the bumper of his convertible and then
dragging the pimp down the street around corners, stopping only
miles later. The pimp lives by the way. Being dragged over
pavement at 40+
miles per hour is apparently nothing a few patches of gauze and
yards of Ace bandages can't fix. Being treated for pavement
I'm guessing, at least fifty percent of his body is another
outpatient procedure, because, before you know it, the pimp's
back on the
streets. The next day he's caught raping one of the women who
him. Wings and Tatum beat his ass yet again.
My point is this: if Liddy wanted to make a movie about good
guys and bad
guys, Street Asylum was not really right for him. There's no
good and bad
here. In this L.A. they're all bad, and, politically, that's
conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat. If anything
it's just yet
another dystopic fallen world.
Some inkling of What Liddy thought of Street Asylum can be
gleaned from a
twelve-year-old gossip item in The Washington Post, which reads
Former Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy is starring in his first
film, a movie called "Street Asylum," costarring former Playboy
Roberta Vasquez. Liddy plays a psychotic police chief who is now
mayoral candidate in Los Angeles. But the stubborn Liddy has
refused to do
any publicity for the picture, which is to be released next
producers of the movie have decided to get even with Liddy for
his lack of
cooperation by donating part of the proceeds from the openings
American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that is not high
Liddy's favorite-group list. As the film's director, Gregory
explains, "We really feel that Liddy is out of line in not
film. He had to know from reading the script that it in no way
the conservative view of law and order that he holds so dear"
But I like best of all the explanation that you gave, Hadley,
wanted to make movies, but had no other opportunities available
There is something sad about that, pathetic even. The idea that
Hollywood know he was looking to act, and Hollywood let Liddy
know that it
didn't really care.... well, it almost makes me feel a twinge of
for the man. Or maybe that's just the electro-shock gizmo
implanted in my
spine telling me that it's time I sign off and go rage against
Did you know there is an entire website devoted to reviewing
featuring men being whipped? It's very thorough. Street Asylum
included, and it mentions G. Gordon Liddy bleeding. I don't
blood part. I guess the trick for him is not minding.
A lingering question I'm left with concerns the doctor. What
her motivation? Did she just hate vermin? Have a thing going
police chief? I don't remember whether or not she whipped G.
Gordon, but I
bet she would have. But more than all that, what was she doing
floor of what was presumably the men's room at the police
station with her
electro shock tool? Although she applied it to her own inner
did not immediately turn into a crazy vermin-chasing animal. I
certain, given the quality of a film like Street Asylum, that
cannot merely be chalked up to an excuse to see a hot woman with
pulsating appliance between her legs.
Another interesting case is Kristin. Was posing as a dominatrix
to whip G.
Gordon Liddy really the only way to save her man from the brink
insanity? Was it her idea? Did she just have that outfit on
My take on the issue of why G. Gordon decided to actually make
is that it has to all come back to the vermin. In order to
understand what motivates such a complicated individual as G.
must go back to his childhood, and especially his childhood fear
Now, I do hate to keep harping on this, but I think we can't
the power of vermin in the life of G. Gordon Liddy. Paul, in
answer the kinds of questions you've raised about Liddy's work,
I think we
would need to do a more thorough analysis, incorporating insight
from the screening of a more representative sample of Liddy's
you think you're up for it?