Morning names: Hai Karate, Dirk Diggler

(The Dirk Diggler section has some plain talk about men’s bodies — penises here, penises there, penises everywhere — so some readers might want to skip that section.)

Yesterday morning, the cheap men’s aftershave of the 1960s, Hai Karate, with an ad campaign that’s hard to forget (nerdy guys karate-chopping away hot models who were irrestistibly drawn to them by the powerful fumes of their Hai Karate). And then this morning, at the tail of an elaborate  character-rich dream, the dream me discovered he was actually the son of Dirk Diggler, the supremely porn-named porn star character in two movies (the mockumentary The Dirk Diggler Story and the dramatic narrative film Boogie Nights).

(#1) The Hai Karate logo: the kanji ‘east’ (as in Tōkyō) plus the rising sun of Japan

(#2) Mark Wahlberg as DD in Boogie Nights

The scent of Hai Karate. It’s not pheromones, but a citrus aroma suspended in alcohol, that drives the ladies crazy:

(#3) 1967 print ad; you can watch a 1970s UK tv ad with model Valerie Leon here

Hai Karate was a budget aftershave sold in the United States and the United Kingdom from the 1960s through to the 1980s. It was reintroduced in the United Kingdom under official licence in late 2014 by Healthpoint Ltd.

The fragrance was originally developed by the Leeming division of Pfizer and launched in 1967. As well as the original Hai Karate fragrance, versions named Oriental Lime and Oriental Spice were soon introduced. It competed successfully with such other brands as Aqua Velva, Old Spice, Jaguar, English Leather, British Sterling, Dante, and Brut before fading away in the 1980s.

Hai Karate is best remembered today for its television adverts and its marketing plan, with a small self-defence instruction booklet sold with each bottle to help wearers fend off women. In the UK spots, a stereotypical nerd covers himself in Hai Karate and is promptly seduced by a female passer-by played by British starlet Valerie Leon; similar ads ran in the US as well. All of the spots contained the catch phrase “Be careful how you use it”. (Wikipedia link)

The karate of Hai Karate is of course the name of the Japanese (originally Ryukyan) martial art:

(#4) kara te ’empty hand’

The hai of Hai Karate is the Japanese ageement particle, often translated as ‘yes’, but more accurately as something like ‘I agree with you, that is correct’.

And then there’s the red rising sun, as on the Japanese flag:


Dirk Diggler and his diggler dirk. Yes, the name is totally loaded phallically — well, it’s a porn name in a parody of a porn biography, so what do you expect? (Wish I had remembered more of the dream, beyond the fact the other male character in it discovered that his actual father was someone at least as remarkable as Dirk Diggler.)

From Wikipedia:

The Dirk Diggler Story is a 1988 mockumentary short film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It follows the rise and fall of Dirk Diggler, a well-endowed male porn star. The character was modeled on American porn actor John Holmes. The film was later expanded into Anderson’s successful 1997 breakout film Boogie Nights.

Dirk Diggler (Michael Stein) was born as Steven Samuel Adams on April 15, 1961 outside of Saint Paul, Minnesota. His parents are a construction worker and a boutique shop owner who attend church every Sunday. Looking for a career as a male model, Diggler drops out of school at age 16 and leaves home. Jack Horner (Robert Ridgely) discovers Diggler at a falafel stand. Diggler meets his friend, Reed Rothchild (Eddie Delcore), through Horner in 1979, while working on a film.

Horner slowly introduces Diggler to the business until Diggler becomes noticeable within the industry. Diggler becomes a prominent model and begins appearing in pornographic films. Diggler has critical and box office hits which lead him to stardom. The hits and publicity lead to fame and money, which lead Diggler to the world of drugs. With the amount of money Diggler is making, he is able to support both his and Rothchild’s addictions. The drugs eventually cause a breakup between Diggler and Horner since Diggler is having issues with his performance on set.

After the breakup, Diggler tries to make a film himself, but it is never completed. He then attempts a music career, which is successful, but leads him deeper into drugs because of the amount of money he is making. He then stars in a TV show which is a failure, both critically and commercially. Having failed and with no work, Diggler returns to the porn industry, taking roles in low-budget homosexual films to help support his habit. On July 17, 1981, during a film shoot, Diggler dies of a drug overdose.

The film ends with a quotation from Diggler: “All I ever wanted was a cool ’78 ‘Vette and a house in the country.”

The Dirk Diggler Story was expanded into Anderson’s 1997 breakout film Boogie Nights with a number of scenes appearing almost verbatim in both films. Two actors had roles in both films; in Boogie Nights, Robert Ridgely played The Colonel, a pornography financier, and Michael Stein had a cameo appearance as a stereo store customer. The main differences betweenThe Dirk Diggler Storyand Boogie Nights are the mockumentary versus narratives styles in the former and latter films, respectively; Diggler’s stint in gay porn in the first film versus his prostitution in the second; and Diggler’s dying from an overdose in the first film versus his happy return to his former roles and lifestyle in the second.

The mockumentary was generally not well reviewed. From the Doomrocket site, “Uncultured: The Dirk Diggler Story”:

Aside from also planting the seed for what would eventually become Dirk Diggler, Anderson introduces us to a beta form of the most lovable yet moronic sidekick, Reed Rothchild, played fucking flawlessly by (also unknown) Eddie Delcore. Although thirty-one minutes is less than little time to tie in much beyond a surface story, it is inferred that Dirk and Reed had a romantic relationship and, in the ten minutes that Delcore is on screen, there is absolutely no doubt that this gigantic man loves Dirk. Deeply. Without question, Delcore is the show stealer, and his interpretation of Rothchild is respectfully reflected in John C. Reilly’s later depiction.

(#6) Eddie Delcore as Reed Rothchild

… As for The Dirk Diggler Story: the writing, the direction, acting, editing, what-have-you, well… it’s shitty, all of it.

On the second version, in the Wikipedia summary:

Boogie Nights is a 1997 American drama film written, produced and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. It is set in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley and focuses on a young nightclub dishwasher who becomes a popular star of pornographic films, chronicling his rise in the Golden Age of Porn of the 1970s through to his fall during the excesses of the 1980s. The film is an expansion of Anderson’s mockumentary short film The Dirk Diggler Story (1988), and stars Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heather Graham.

Despite its impressive cast, I was repelled by the moral universe of Boogie Nights. Not about the world of porn film-making — I write about that all the time, with considerable sympathy for the people who make their living in the business, and an analytic eye for the genre, but also with clarity about its pitfalls and failures. But about its combination of titillation and cheap moralizing. In considerable detail, from The Stranger website on 10/12/16, in “Jamie Hook on Boogie Nights: America Fears Cock”, 25th anniversary, originally published 10/16/97:

In the press kit for Boogie Nights, Mark Wahlberg informs us, “I put the script down and thought, ‘Well, this guy is a genius.'” Newsweek speaks of “A filmmaker with an enormous talent for making movies”; Filmmaker calls the movie “a virtuoso accomplishment.” Perhaps it’s Oscar time for Marky Mark, whisper others. Behind it all, the prodigal director: Paul Anderson, 26-year-old genius. Jesus Christ, what a sad nation.

Boogie Nights tells the story of lonely dreamer Eddie Addams (Wahlberg), a boy with little more than a huge cock to guide him through life. No less an authority than his mother tells us he’s stupid, in case we’d had doubts. But Eddie is a tragic hero: he’ll be someone, you just wait.

Sure enough, his huge cock soon attracts the attention of Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), a soulless, cauldron-born producer, who gives his magnificent member a purpose in life. The cocaine and money start flowing; Eddie renames himself Dirk Diggler, and starts using his huge cock to fuck porn stars (Julianne Moore, Heather Graham) in dirty movies. His cock is big and tireless: soon he is Dirk Diggler, Millionaire. He owns a mansion and a yacht.

Ah, but we know Anderson is a genius. He is therefore loathe to ignore the precedents of Sophocles and Aristotle: Pride goeth before a fall, and so fall Dirk must. In the movie’s Oedipal second act, we follow Dirk to his tragic fall, in a pickup truck in a West Hollywood parking lot, washed up, coke-addled, trying to inflate his huge cock for $10 for what appears to be a damn queer. The monument will not be erected and so Dirk must be brutally fagbashed by bullies. Then: the requisite bloodbath, and a happy ending. Applause, critical praise — fucking dipshits.

What makes Boogie Nights worth leaving the country for is the terrifying smugness with which it slouches toward simple moralizations. In its heart Boogie Nights holds a cold, twisted chastity, redolent of repressed puritanism and abject judgment. When Interview magazine calls it “one of the most morally responsible films of the decade,” we should pause to question what indeed that morality is.

It is worrisome that the only “sex scene” in an epic about sex is dumped on Nina Hartley, a true-life porn star; it is distinctly grotesque that her action merits her being the first in the film to have her head blown off in a two-for-one plot point and act of Holy Retribution. Her death is merely the first in the film’s drunken weave down the moral high road. If not death, it’s drug addiction, or poverty, or a beating. The message writ large in lightning: Slutty Behavior begets Misery, Pain, and Death.

Boogie Nights is a shining example of the mediated experience Hollywood is so good at delivering to an opiated nation. You may be titillated by the premise, aroused by the faux porn, caught up in the heady, cocaine-drenched flush of success… but then you will be whisked into dysfunction, massaged into guilt, beaten into submission, and finally cleansed by the Holy Water of the Happy Ending.

And there’s a final insult: We never see cock. Not Dirk’s, not anyone’s. We should. The entire movie is about how far a huge cock can get you. By god, it should fill the wide-screen, it should blast off into the auditorium in Surround Sound — but it never happens. Americans, it seems, fear cock. Thus, a two-point-five-hour epic about a huge cock ends in a flaccid shot of a counterfeit. It’s fake: a piece of wax, poorly grafted onto Marky Mark’s little motivator. A dildo. A red herring.

Don’t see this movie. Don’t advance the march of darkness. Instead, go straight to Starlight Video, Capitol Hill’s newest and friendliest (outside Toys in Babeland) adult video store, specializing in vintage smut. Sergio, the owner, didn’t think much of Boogie Nights either, but he will gladly guide you to a film called Eruption. Filmed on Hawaii and starring the legendary John Holmes as an insurance agent gone bad, the film features gloriously bad acting, pointless and aimless action sequences, and a more honest, if less recognizable, boogie soundtrack. It is stupid, but it is not evil. And, in a curious way, it is real, at least in one significant aspect: John Holmes really did have a huge cock.


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