In the mid 1980’s I met Frank Zappa. Actually Frank Zappa was not his real name. His real name was Jim Goodwin, but for a variety of reasons he wanted people to call him Frank Zappa. We were college students at the time in Missoula Montana. Frank was from Texas and was always talking about his best friend in Texas named Rick Linklater. Now this Rick Linklater was really Rick Linklater. Yes, the Rick Linklater of film fame. Only this was 1985, and Rick was not yet famous.
I finally got to meet Frank’s friend Rick when he visited Missoula from Texas. At the time, he had an 8mm movie camera and was intent on becoming a serious filmmaker. Though I could tell he was very smart and a serious, genuine guy, I didn’t expect he would “make it”. Well, obviously I was wrong and obviously he did! One thing I learned from the short time I hung around with Rick in Missoula was that he had a very good memory. You can see this in his film Dazed and Confused in which he gets subtle details of late 1970’s life down just right. Anyway, by the early 1990’s I had essentially forgotten about Rick until his movie “Slacker” came out. A friend of mine told me he heard a radio interview with Linklater in which he credited the inspiration for the famous “Madonna Pap Smear” scene to me! Frankly, I couldn’t exactly remember what I might have said….
Some time passed and I found out that Rick had written a “making-of” book about the movie Slacker, entitled of course, Slacker, published by St. Martin’s Press. (ISBN 0-312-07797-1) On a sidebar on page 26 Rick recounts:
Since I get asked about it more than anything else, here goes: I’m sitting in a bar in Missoula, Montana, in August 1985 and I get in a conversation with a very witty and scientific pharmacy student named Matt Crowley. The conversation leads to the future of pornography upon which he speculates could very well be Madonna pap smears. The next day he shows me his Autoerotic Asphyxia file. He is clearly the nation’s foremost researcher/authority on this sex practice that accidentally (?) kills between 500 and 1000 people a year – typically young white males of average or above average intelligence. I run to Kinko’s and copy his entire file for future reference.
The concept of Madonna’s pap smear stays with me for years and eventually manifests itself physically in the film via Teresa Taylor. As a commodity, it is no doubt worth even more now than when I first heard about it, which says more for the staying power of the rock god herself than anything else. As for Matt, years later, while flipping through “Loompanics Greatest Hits” (Articles and Features from the Best Book Catalog in the World), I come across an illustrated article by him on, of course, Deadly Sex Thrills.
An interesting review of the film includes this quote:
Of course, there are some pure comic satiric moments that still hit home: The sequence featuring a woman selling what she claims is “Madonna’s Pap smear” may be the most acute comment ever on the ludicrousness of celebrity worship.
The segment from the film on YouTube.