Friday, February 1, 2013

Paul Williams Reminds Us That He's "Still Alive" With New DVD

Any chance that I can get to remind readers that Smokey and the Bandit was the longest running film in my hometown for two decades, I take.

But the decision to brag about this very telling statement of my former zip code today is less to do with the mustached brilliance of one Burt Reynolds (get well soon, Rey Rey!) but the overlooked cameo of Paul Williams, the Coors loving Little Enos Burdette who helps dream up a plan to have two dimwitted rednecks risk the lives of motorists throughout the southeastern United States, just so they could bootleg some scab beer that isn't available in their area.

Williams was omnipotent throughout the 70's, appearing in a plethora of variety shows, comedy cameos, and what seemed to be a permanent seat in Johnny Carson's Tonight Show guest line up.

He was unique looking, which made him easy to ridicule somewhat, particularly if you didn't know that Williams was a hugely accomplished songwriter and musician.

I remember my dad cluing me in on this when I got a copy of Three Dog Night's "Just An Old Fashioned Love Song" single, penned by non other than the short dude with blonde hair and glasses from Omaha.

By the 80's, Williams seemingly disappeared. He remained in hiding for many years, popping up ocassionally on an episode of Walker Texas Ranger or collecting paychecks for voice-over work.

His abscence caused one fan to take note, to the point where he actively sought out Paul Williams and filmed the results.

The subsequent film looks intriguing, but judge for yourself from the carefully selected words detailing this look at an Academy Award winning composer, Paul Williams:

Paul Williams was everywhere in the 1970s - on records, the radio, TV and movies - but he suddenly walked away from it all, and a new generation of pop music lovers has no idea who he is. Director Stephen Kessler sets out to remedy that situation in Paul Williams: Still Alive. Kessler's "fascinating" (Entertainment Weekly) and "endearing" (Paste) film about his journey to find his musical hero will bring the songwriting genius to longtime fans and new listeners alike when it arrives on DVD on February 5, 2013, from Virgil Films. 

Even if you don't know songwriter Paul Williams, you know his timeless classics, such as the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" and "Rainy Days and Mondays," Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen," Three Dog Night's "Just an Old Fashioned Love Song" and the Muppets' "Rainbow Connection." Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and David Bowie, among other giants, have recorded his songs. He has won Grammys and an Oscar, made his own hit records, had a busy acting career, including starring in Smokey and the Bandit and Brian DePalma's The Phantom of the Paradise, and made 50 appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. But where has he been for the last 20 years? Stephen Kessler (Vegas Vacation) wanted to know, so he set out to find Williams. 

The result is an exhilarating film about a fan finally meeting his hero and getting him to open up about his career and why he seemed to simply give it all up. The revelations in Paul Williams: Still Alive will stun and move fans, particularly when Williams opens up about his personal struggles and his triumphant return to the music industry as the president of ASCAP. A wistful musical journey that will reintroduce a new generation to Williams' soulful classics, Paul Williams: Still Alive is the charmingly self-narrated story of what happens when a nostalgic filmmaker finally catches up with his hero.

1 comment:

Your Humble Proprietor said...

"The Phantom of the Paradise" is an insane movie made more insane by the fact that Brian DePalma directed it. I'm pretty sure it's the only film Paul Williams ever starred in where he portrays a satanist although he and Big Enos did seem to share an unholy bond.