Finding Terrors of Pleasure Again

Spalding Gray: Terrors of PleasureIn 1990, I started graduate school up in Oregon. My wife and I were frightfully poor. I was getting $833 per month as a Research Assistant. And half of that went to rent. So we bought a little black and white television at a garage sell for two dollars. That was our entertainment. We were, however, scraping by. Just. I remember my wife was donating blood from time to time. We were talking about doing plasma (You could do that three times per week!) and maybe sperm. But at the end of that school year, I was awarded an National Science Foundation fellowship, which I had until I graduated. In addition to everything else, it included a $1,200 monthly stipend.

It was like we had hit the jackpot! We actually went out to movies occasionally. But mostly, we bought a color television and a VCR. And we were renting video tapes. The only thing I really remember renting was Spalding Gray: Terrors of Pleasure. I had seen Swimming to Cambodia in the theater as an undergraduate and really liked it. So this sounded good. This is right before Monster in a Box came out, so there was nothing else around by him. Unlike Swimming to Cambodia, Terrors of Pleasure was pretty much just a comedy. And we both loved it.

I’ve looked for it since then, but have been unable to find it. Well, it is available on VHS. And it is available on an audio cassette. But that’s it. Typical. The same thing is true of another film that I loved with another wife, Medicine River.

The thing about this is that I haven’t been sure. Was it really all that great? In the case of Medicine River, I owned the movie on VHS and so saw it a number of times. I know it is one of those great little gems that somehow fell through the cracks that is loved by pretty much everyone who sees it. But I had only seen Terrors of Pleasure once. Maybe I only liked it due to my exuberance following my fellowship announcement. Who knows?

Well, today I found it on YouTube. And it is quite good. It is very funny. There are two aspects that I don’t especially like. First, they shot footage that goes on top of parts of the monologue. It’s fine, but absolutely not necessary. Who knows? It may have been necessary to cut it together. The other issue is that it doesn’t finish so much as stop. It is hard to believe that the monologue really ended there. I suppose I can kind of see it. But I can’t help but think that much was cut from this monologue. For one thing, it is only an hour long. In general, theatrical productions have to be at least an hour and a half. Maybe Gray did some other monologue with it. I really don’t know.

Regardless, it is quite a lot of fun to watch—well worth an hour of your time.

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