About the Author
Zoë Tamerlaine Lund
~ A Biographical Sketch in the First Person ~
I was born February 9, 1962, in Manhattan. I now have a firm base in my birthplace, having spent the intervening years living in Europe and on both coasts of the United States. I've been married to my husband, Robert Lund, for more than five years. He is a prominent computer electronics engineer in the broadcast industry, developing innovative video postproduction software and hardware; he is also a talented keyboard musician.
I have divided this text into two sections. The first concerns my recent work -- as a writer, and as an actress. In my case, it is therefore a revelation of my personal history, character, and preoccupations. (The 490 Trilogy is not featured here, as it is discussed elsewhere, in ample detail.) The second part is a chronological overview of my life. It is important to read Part Two in the context of Part One.
Any work cited herein is available for reading or viewing; any event or accomplishment mentioned in these pages is open to queries or discussion.
~ 1 ~
Though probably best-known for my acting, writing has always been my priority, and I have concentrated my time in that field, sometimes even at the expense of my acting ambitions.
To me, the most important recent development in my life is the completion of Book One of the 490 Trilogy. Inasmuch as you have a great deal of material on 490, including Book One itself, Chapter One of Book Two, and Synopses of Book One and Books Two and Three, I will concentrate here on my other current works.
My screenwriting career has been quite successful. I have received many commissions, have written other scripts on "spec", and one of my favourite screenplays, The Bad Lieutenant, was filmed a few months ago, (October-November, 1991), in NYC. The Bad Lieutenant stars Harvey Keitel, was directed by Abel Ferarra, and was produced by Ed Pressman. Though unusual in form and content, the film was produced within the Hollywood mainstream, and is destined for major distribution. Keitel understood the script immediately, and knew that it was a contemporary Christ-story, told within the high action context of a "policier". A middle-aged police Lieutenant, diving deep and deeper into degradation and "corruption", and seeking he-knows-not-what on the other side of radical transgression, at last finds epiphany, authenticates his Catholic heritage, commits an ultimate acte gratuit, and dies for our sins.
Along the way, "LT" (our hero's personal tag) encounters many characters, the most important of which are a Nun, a Junkie, and Jesus Christ. In their diverse ways, these three provoke him to pursue his odyssey and resist the temptation to find an easy way out. The Lieutenant first meets the Nun in his official cop capacity, as she has just been raped by two youths. LT intentionally overhears her confession, and discovers that she adamantly forgives her assailants. More, she feels that she herself has sinned. She was merely flesh in their hands, she gave nothing, and she wasted the opportunity to use an intimate, God-given part of herself as a vessel of the spirit -- a part which she will never use again. LT is also challenged by the Junkie (my role), who allows him no excuses. She ministers to his needs, and seems to channel conscience and pertinent visions into his dreams. In her final meeting with LT, she speaks to him while he's in the trance of a "nod": "Vampires have it easy; they feed on others. We have to feed on ourselves." The Lieutenant must not choose escape, even though, when the deed is done, "They'll just forget about you tomorrow." In these heroin dreams, we see LT's personal vision of The Passion. LT finally confronts his living Saviour, face to face in a desecrated church. (Christ is portrayed by Paul Hipp, the actor who starred as Buddy Holly on Broadway. He's sensational.) The entire drama takes place during the seven days of a baseball Series, and within the narrowing tunnel of the Lieutenant's mounting gambling debts.
Every participant in the production gave it his or her all, many crossing boundaries hitherto untried. This film promises to be rather controversial. However, I believe it will find a large audience. Harvey Keitel's performance is exceptional and will be recognized as such. He did things in this film that he has never done before and may never do again -- from full frontal nudity to the consummate baring of his soul.
I acted the role of the heroin addict, whom I call "Magdalene". As author, I was present on the set every day and participated significantly in the direction, as well in as other aspects of the production. I traveled to Los Angeles to oversee the final editing.
Other screenplay commissions include an adaptation of Erskine Caldwell's The Last Night of Summer, for Life International, an important European film production company. I was told to do a very inventive adaptation and to follow my own original ideas. I was also expected to remain faithful to Caldwell's intent. Resolving this seeming contradiction was a challenge and yet I am quite pleased with the final product. The drama takes place in 1959 and 1969 at once, and is both a thriller and a dramatic phenomenological study of the difference between sight and vision. I also explore the potential of film to convey the world of a blind man as it has never been done before. This is what I love -- when lively drama can entertain and at once plumb philosophical depths.
I was also engaged to write The John Holmes Story, a screenplay loosely based upon the life of porn-star John Holmes. It was a vehicle for Christopher Walken, who committed himself to the project. The completed script doesn't focus upon the infamous L.A. murder case in which Holmes was tangentially involved. Rather, it shows, through ample flashbacks and fantasy sequences, a man's dead reckoning on the last day of his life -- a moral accounting that provokes an unconventional epiphany. (Not the predictable "Too much screwing makes you dead.") I found the seed of the drama in the fact that, apparently, Holmes did not infect others with AIDS (even his wife remains healthy), nor did any of his partners become pregnant. He fathered neither neither death, nor life. Peculiar, for a man whose endowment is the stuff of legend. I found the ramifications of this to be very interesting. Somber as this may sound, the texture of the piece is erotic and comical, hallucinatory and picaresque -- it's about all of us, not just Mr. Holmes.
It was fascinating to go to Los Angeles to do research and interview its resident porn community. I met some good and unusual people, many of whom knew Holmes intimately.
I have recently completed a lengthy Treatment of a new screenplay, entitled Kingdom for a Horse. This drama concerns one Johnny Smith, a man who has dedicated his life entirely to his dreams, studying them with monastic asceticism and a scientist's fervour and expertise. This forty-five year-old thirty-year heroin addict and medical school expellee is about to give up on his life-long quest to concretely interpenetrate dream and reality. Then, as the film opens, he discovers the unavoidable fact that he has contracted poison ivy -- in a dream. On a following night, he dreams that he is walking a street in the East Village of the 1860's. He spots a pharmacy and goes in, eager to take advantage of that era's friendly drug policy. Johnny buys up all the over-the-counter laudanum and feelgood stuff he can find. When he awakens the next morning, a bag of nineteenth-century cure-alls is on his table, his girlfriend has disappeared from his bed, and someone is banging on his door. Dazed, he lets in what turns out to be a cell of Black revolutionaries. When he looks out the window, he understands why these men could hardly be other than militant. In short, the world is utterly changed -- all because he copped some laudanum in a dream of the 1860's. Johnny must now solve the puzzle of why all this came to pass, and find out how to turn things back to the way they were. It all becomes a bit more complicated when he discovers that our world is really not that much of an improvement over this alternate present-day. We're just better at oppression. He also finds that reinstating today's reality may demand from him an ultimate sacrifice. The hallucinatory action climax is surprising and poignant.
I am inventing a special slang appropriate for this alternate time-line. This is a fascinating project.
Kingdom for a Horse is comical and terribly sad, dead serious, even as it doesn't take itself too seriously. I think it will make a provocative and entertaining film, and so do other people. There is already important interest in funding the complete script and ultimately, the production.
I am also actively involved in writing The Houseguest, a trilogy of episodes in one film. All three tales will use the same central cast of three characters. Only one character, however, the "Professional Houseguest" who rambles from place to place, will retain the same identity. The other two characters, though recognizably the same actor and actress, will change their personality in each episode -- rather disconcerting for our hero! The first episode, written by the director, has already been shot. I've been asked to write the final two parts of the trilogy.
In that first episode of The Houseguest, I acted a starring character, "Marla." I will be featured in the other two episodes of the trilogy as well, though my character will appear in varying avatars, as described above.
I have recently completed another screenplay, working-titled Violent Hope [Free Will and Testament - RL]. This one is my baby, and I have had great pleasure writing it, even while working on the more immediately lucrative projects enumerated above. Violent Hope is a political action thriller, taking place in New York during the morning of a dignitary's motorcade down Fifth Avenue. This visiting Latin American head of state is a woman. Her feminist and democratic reputation masks a more sinister reality. Though she is certainly the drama's villainess, she is nonetheless fascinating, sensual, and indeed, likable. The drama's "heroes and villains" are equally three-dimensional and there are paradoxical and incestuous bonds between protagonists and antagonists. All the major characters have converged on the Avenue with diverse and to-the-death purposes. As the drama progresses, crises confront them all, forcing choices that become more torturous with every descending block of the inexorably moving motorcade. As it approaches 59th Street, many lives -- and destinies -- are on the line. The entire film takes place the morning of the motorcade, but plentiful flashbacks let the audience discover what brought each disparate character to this fateful rendez-vous.
In Violent Hope, I have attempted a perfect union of moral reckoning and physical threat. A veritable Bible of universal questions and choices is explored -- not in lengthy monologues but in life-threatening action. And the drama is all the more profound for its edge-of-your-seat suspense.
In addition to these and other screenplays, I am writing a novella entitled Mobiles. It is the story of one woman's night in an after-hours bar, and her dreams and memories as she awaits the dawn. This contemplative and poetic piece has a sudden, high-action climax -- rather shocking and gory. The novella explores the peculiar connection between underworld and underground, within the context of one woman's personal history which is now in a state of interregnum.
I am also writing a Trilogy of short stories, of which Crusaders' Square and Luna are in progress. Crusaders' Square is based upon a personal experience in Milan. A companion and I had been doing some filming in the area. One evening, our 35mm movie camera was stolen. We actually managed to have the camera returned to us -- by the thieves! But this was only after we had completed a four day and night odyssey into the underworld of the La Brera district. Luna, is based upon by observation of the behavior of nurses in an AIDS ward. While seeing a friend who was seriously ill, I watched a peculiar phenomenon which repeated itself during many separate visits. The door plastered with the most warnings concerning contagion and susceptibility, belonged to a fellow named "Luna". To enter his room, the nurses and doctors were obliged to dress in veritable space-suits, and most of the time, Luna communicated with the nurses via a sort of speaker-phone. Luna's voice, an exceptional baritone with a foreign accent, was heard over the speaker many times a day. He was often delicately seductive, and the nurses responded. Their fascination with Luna was positively palpable. It grew from day to day. Finally, it became clear that Luna had become the hero of their fantasy lives. Luna concerns a particular nurse, on a particular evening, who actually goes to Luna -- and without a space-suit. It is ultimately revealed that this was a fantasy -- or was it?
There are many other literary pieces worthy of description here, but these few ought to give you an idea.
As an actress, I have been in five major dramatic films to date, four as the star. I define my role as "supporting" in The Bad Lieutenant, only as it is really Harvey's show. All roles save Harvey's are supporting ones. I have second billing, after Harvey.
Of the films listed below, only The Houseguest is incomplete, though it has been distributed as a short feature and as such, has received considerable acclaim.
The first three have already achieved theatrical release, and have received excellent reviews (see my Resumé and Press Excerpts). They are all available on commercial video-cassette, or directly from me. MS. 45 is considered a cult classic. Special Effects, co-starring Eric Bogosian, is appreciated as a satire on the film industry, and at once, is the writer-director's personal take on the death of MM and the JFK assassination . Exquisite Corpses premiered at the Bleeker Street Cinema, New York, in April-May 1989 to critical and public success. The run was extended several times. Exquisite Corpses is a black comedy about a macabre cabaret in which I play the part of a chanteuse. In the midst of the plot's rowdy goings-on, the film also explores a gay man's self-realization. My song and dance numbers represent a new step in my film career, and a contemporary opportunity to apply the intense musical studies central to my youth.
The Houseguest is a film of superior quality, already screened as a short feature on cable and in select theatrical and other venues. Further distribution awaits the completion of the feature-length Houseguest trilogy.
The Bad Lieutenant will premiere this Spring (1992) at Cannes, and it is thought to be a major contender for an award. The film will be released theatrically in the US this Autumn. I possess a video-cassette of a good rough edit. It is available for private screenings. I will soon receive a copy of the final edit.
I have also been featured in various other projects, including a filmed interview for the documentary Heavy Petting, a feature that explores the history of sexual development (or lack of it) among adolescents in the recent American past. Several interesting, well-known people were interviewed about their personal experiences, and this footage was intercut with actual "sex ed" films from the 50's and 60's and other relevant material. I understand that my testimony was used as a sort of foil for the other pieces, due to the unorthodox nature of my teenage years. (The Voice said "Cult star Zoe Lund gave the weirdest interview." Inasmuch as participants included Burroughs, Ginsberg and other people who've long borne the rubric "weird", I can only take this as a compliment. It's a bit sad, however, as my interview was actually quite straight forward.) The film received acclaim at the Cannes Festival and was released to critical enthusiasm.
My television acting experience includes a Guest Starring role on Miami Vice, and a "regular" Principal Role in the television series Hothouse, an ABC-Lorimar production which premiered in the Summer-Fall of 1988. The series completed its first season, but was not to achieve lasting success. The combination of "high-brow" drama and soap-style intrigue in a ritzy mental hospital (white columns in the country, lots of dappled shade) was not to the public's taste. I rather thought it wouldn't be, but the ensemble experience was rewarding and enjoyable. Apparently the series has now found new life on European television screens.
~ 2 ~
I was raised as a music prodigy, and from a very young age it was expected that my life would be dedicated to composition and the piano. This conflicted with my passions for writing and politics, which were already manifest in my early childhood. Despite my success as a musical whiz-kid, and though I was primarily a composer rather than an interpreter, I became increasingly frustrated with the indirectness of musical expression. I won national contests and played my original pieces on tour, but I felt I had things to say. In words.
Throughout my schooling, I received notice for my writing, won awards, and was published in many collections of young peoples' poetry and prose. I was given special permission to end each school day at 11:00 A.M, going home to write music, practice the piano and clarinet for hours, and study privately with prominent composers and pianists. In spite of my shortened class days, I maintained an official responsibility to a heavy course load, and still managed to skip two grades and graduate high school with honors.
By the time I graduated, two years early, yet still frustrated by the feeling that it had been a waste of time, I suspected that something was askew with my choice of music as a career. Familial politics (my mother was a professor in the sculpture department) necessitated spending my Freshman year at Mount Holyoke College. This occurred despite my acceptance at all the other schools to which I had applied, and regardless of my wish to remain in New York City. The tedium of Holyoke was only interrupted by events such as my being raped by my Russian professor. I made the most of my year, however, taking a Senior course load that included study at other colleges in the area, spending weekends in New York City, being politically active, and starring in musical theatre shows of my own composition and direction. My original music set to my own words, even in an exciting dramatic context, still struck me as abstract and unfulfilling.
Encouragement to change my plans came from many respected sources. Professors with whom I studied creative writing and literature told me I ought to be a writer, my poetry and prose were published in various college anthologies, and I won the Freshman Creative Writing Award. Musical composition began to feel obscene. I had something to say directly, and the means to say it -- thus, a responsibility. To write words and words alone.
This resolve coincided with the growth of a rather intense political commitment which obtains to this day. It has, however, been tempered by a healthy sense of irony, in which form I believe it is all the more "correct" and challenging.
During my second year of college, I transferred to a prominent music conservatory in Manhattan, trying one last time to make something of my twelve years of music study. My sojourn there lasted two months, and I left having firmly decided that writing and political activism were my life.
At sixteen, I had left college some years before most people enter it.
About this time, I met an older man who was to change my life. Quite brilliant and some thirty-five years my senior, he was a French/Polish filmmaker and writer. He, from a lifetime of experience, and I, from youthful intuition, had both come to the same conclusions about our destinies as writers. Concentrating on writing rather than on the hair-raising guerrilla filmmaking for which he had become well-known, this man had set aside several years to write a book. Meeting me, he decided to collaborate. The book's plot and structure were conceived in our first discussions and Curfew: USA was born.
During this period, I was suddenly picked off the street and swept into the world of film. I previously had had no ambitions to be an actress, thinking it a silly life. The people who suddenly called me a beauty surprised and appalled me. I nearly didn't do the film, but after much thought, I finally consented to star in Ms. 45, deciding I shouldn't pass up the experience. I often stayed up all night between days of shooting to work on Curfew: USA. After the film's completion, I returned to an hermetic existence with my co-writer. We did little else but write.
Travelling through Europe, we encountered many dangerous, even bizarre, and politically charged situations. All the while, despite our hardships, my collaborator enforced the discipline of writing every day. It became a joy. This period educated me more than any college could have. Returning to the States, we lived in New York and Los Angeles and wrote, wrote, wrote.
I had nearly forgotten about my acting experience when Ms. 45 suddenly caught up with me, and I discovered that the film had caused quite a stir. The rave reviews astonished me, as did the moving reception from the audience, who identified with the metaphor of rebellion offered by my character. I had suddenly attained the status of starlet. This provided access to the press. I gave a panoply of politically explosive interviews which were challenging and controversial, yet popular. I guess journalists found me an unusual scoop; they came in droves. (I possess several thick -- and amusing -- scrapbooks. And they keep on growing.) The press focused far more often upon the novel and screenplays we were writing than upon my acting career. The acting was becoming a "handle", useful for surfacing more serious things.
I also set off on the lecture circuit and spoke at UCLA, Harvard, UMASS, Mount Holyoke (how could I resist?), USC, NYU, Smith, Amherst, Hunter, Hampshire and others. I was invited to speak on a variety of topics, including Myth in Politically Engaged Literature, Politics as Morality in Action, serious film-related subjects, and more show-bizzy starlet stuff. Jimmy Baldwin, then a Visiting Professor at Hampshire College, said that I was the best thing ever to have hit the school. The night we spent talking together was one of the most moving and memorable of my life.
During this period, in addition to writing every day, I starred in Special Effects, guest starred on Miami Vice, modeled high fashion, wrote for underground magazines, and accelerated my political activity. I also became a "personality", and was featured in gossip columns and those journals which cover the nightlife. (I have since ceased to "go out" with such avidity, though I still attract the paparazzi and can get into any nightclub free, for all that that is worth.) This jigsaw fit together remarkably well.
Meanwhile, my collaborator stayed far in the background during my public venues for reasons he considered licit. I tried to understand his security concerns, but thought it was all a bit overwrought. He still wishes to remain anonymous -- thus the awkwardness on these very pages of not including his name.
We had developed a romantic relationship as well as a working one. The words we wrote had an eerie way of realizing themselves in our lives -- whether this meant love or danger. I am not ashamed to say that when we first met, when I was seventeen, my role as a co-writer was one of apprentice. By the time our major book was completed (we wrote several screen-plays and many articles as well), I had definitely come into my own.
Our relationship had been a unique one, very beautiful but very painful. After seven years of living and working together, it became clear to me that I had to leave him. It was a very traumatic, but necessary, severance from which I had to struggle to recover. I could only hope that our relationship could modulate -- that we could maintain our mutual respect, as friends and as writers.
We had had our book typeset and intended to publish it ourselves. (Only one established publisher had ever seen the book. Indeed, it had been accepted and was going to press. Then the editor went mad, taking himself for a prominent character, and the project was scuttled by mutual agreement. After that incident, we decided not to pursue the conventional route.) Unfortunately, our book remains in manuscript form because the Compugraphic discs were lost in the flurry of our separation. From the vantage of the writing I've done since then, I know the book would need quite a bit of editing. I'm ready to do that. But only after I've completed the 490 trilogy, the novella, Mobiles, and the short stories, Crusaders' Square and Luna.
I possess a sizable legacy of film footage shot by my ex-collaborator in the years before he knew me. When we separated, he became quite self-destructive. I rescued this cache of film, representing much of his unfinished life-work, before he could throw it, as his note said, "To The Dumpster!" Now it squats in a room in my home, and I have serious plans for much of it. It includes all the footage described in the 490 Trilogy. Most of it concerns underground movements in the US during the Sixties and early Seventies. Many recognizable people appear, from Genet to Diana Oughton. There is also documentary footage of nodal events in the Sixties (Columbia, Chicago, etc.), material from Latin America, (the Amazon is featured), film of Paris during the soixante-huit, and images of America in the Fifties. Some reels are documentary, others are docu-dramatic, or wholly fictional. There is a large body of peculiar erotic footage, featuring "Sixties Nudies", where naked, body-painted women -- and some men -- make bombs, dance, clean their weapons, and trip. It's quite a flashback.
My ex-collaborator and I have been separated now for more than six years. I am very happy with my husband, Robert, and am living a very productive life. 490, The Bad Lieutenant, and all the other achievements of the last six years, have been accomplished entirely on my own. My solitary deeds are very satisfying, but I am indebted to this still nameless man who helped form me as a writer and find my destiny. My wager was successful -- he and I remain good friends and he is on excellent terms with my husband who respects him as I do.
I have had a complex and somewhat strange life thus far, of which this document truly reveals very little. I have experienced both monastic security and actual life-danger, creative joy and the fervor of active political extremism, hippieish promiscuity and chaste discipline, clandestine anonymity and fame, underground and underworld, imprisonment and freedom, the street life and aristocratic milieux. I suppose I am an extremist (in France, they call me "Saint-Demon"), yet every day and every page reminds me that the opposite poles may be closer than they seem, and I can't help but delight in those moments of synthesis. I am grateful for all that has happened, and, though somewhat more settled now, it's not over yet. And through it all, I've been writing every day.