We should send him “Get Well Soon” cards – fire up your typewriters!
I’d just visited the closest Goodwill a couple of days ago and something bugged me about a thing I saw there, so I had to go back. You see, I’d seen a large gold-colored metal suitcase locked up in the glass “good stuff” case and asked the clerk what it was. “Some kinda band instrument” was the reply, and I passed on making her pull it out and open it. That was a mistake.
See, it gnawed at me, and the more I thought about it, the more it looked like one of those metal suitcases that photographers stored their really good lenses in. I had to go back, not really expecting it to still be there 2 days later. When I went in, it was *an entirely different* gold case that caught my eye, one instantly recognizable gold tweed suitcase that says “1950′s Smith-Corona”. And indeed, that’s what it was:
Types good, no stickiness, even had a good ribbon – but badly water-damaged in the back and missing the right platen knob. Not worth the $30 they wanted in that condition.
So I give the Silent a pass and move on to the glass case, where the curious *other* gold suitcase still awaited. This time I got the clerk to clear a path and haul the thing out so I could see for myself.
Imagine my surprise and delight:
A healthy mix of Nikon lenses and filters and stuff that appears to date from the 60′s-70′s. The lenses are pre-auto-anything, fully manual ones, complete with ring-set F-stops. Very exciting. This is the big, heavy, all-metal, fully manual type of glass that I remember from my High School Newspaper and Yearbook days in the early 80′s. I took a risk going for Nikon F-mount lenses, but I’d just read Streamlines Deluxe’s post where he has fun with an M42-mount lens mounted via adapter to his Canon D50, and I felt it was worth the gamble if I could find a Nikon F to Canon EF adapter. Turns out to have been a good gamble – that appears to be an easy conversion requiring a $15 bayonet adapter, and I have one already winging it’s way here.
In the photo above, note the Agfa Lucimeter-S. No, that isn’t a Satan-Detector, it’s a fantastic old light meter in perfect, still working state. There’s a pack of magnification lenses, and a Vivitar 2x Tele converter:
That’s, what – 6 lenses of various kinds in less than a week, all from local thrift stores, and at a price that just one would set me back on eBay. I wonder if my Typewriter Bone works on camera gear now too? :D
Typewriter lovers are possibly the only people who are in danger of doing this:
I’ve got the Olivetti 21 cleaned up and ready to trade/sell, and yesterday I dropped by Mesa Typewriter Exchange to see if Bill would swap me the old Hermes Ambassador that he has collecting dust on his back shelf for it. No dice on that one – as soon as we pulled the Hermes off the shelf (heh, all 45 pounds of it), he started polishing the old sticker residue and paint emulsification off of the face of it and convinced himself that the Ambassador belonged on his “project list”, and that it would be a good replacement for the SG-1 he keeps on his desk.
Curses! Foiled in my attempt to get ahold of the Rolls-Royce of desktop machines. I had finally decided that I was willing to add a non-portable to my collection and figured that if I was going to go large, I oughta go for the slickest, largest, most featureful beast on the planet. I was even willing to take a chance on one with years of grime and dust on it, with a rock-hard platen that had deep gouges and would certainly need recovering – a total long-term project machine, in other words – just as long as it was the one I wanted. ahh, well – like the Stones say, you can’t always get what you want…
So, now the Ollie 21 is headed over to a nice Biker fellow who saw my glass display case of typewriters at the office and inquired if I had a “newer” machine I’d like to sell. Perhaps this will be an interesting reversal of Joe Van Cleave’s Ollie 21, where his was owned by a biker who traded a motorcycle for it. We’ll see.
And just for fun, I noticed a familiar machine while watching “That Touch of Mink” last night, and took a screenshot:
There’s been some uncertainty about what typewriters were used in the movie “Naked Lunch” by David Cronenberg. I’ve remembered them as a Smith-Corona Super-5 body from the 50′s (Bill Lee’s Clark Nova), a 60′s Olivetti Lettera 32 (Tom Frost’s Martinelli) and an Oliver (Tom Frost’s Mujahideen arabic machine). Recently I got into a conversation over the Clark Nova with the friendly local typewriter repairman, and he said that he thought that the Clark Nova was a Voss. I couldn’t for certain deny it because it’s been a couple of years since I last saw the film, and I wasn’t paying close attention to the machines back then.
So, to answer the question once and for all, I did some screenshots of the 3 primary machines from the film, since a Google image search turned up nothing.
Well, there’s the first glimpse we get of the Clark Nova in the pawn shop window, and clearly it’s a late 50′s Smith Corona Sterling (no “racing stripes” and you can just make out the “STERLING” on the backplate). The keys are funky, though. Not at all like the keytops that are supposed to be on a Sterling of this vintage. Let’s take a closer look…
Ahh, there we go, now we can see that the keytops are actually the glass-top tombstone keys from a mid-40′s Royal. Maybe an Arrow or a QDL. Cronenberg must have put a little more money into this prop than he did with the others, because it seems he’s cut the keys off of both the Sterling and a Royal and attached the Royal keys to his prop machine. Ooh, boy – doesn’t that chrome “Clark Nova” badge gleam?
And now, Clark Nova from the top:
So, how about Tom Frost’s machines? What typewriters gave their lives in service to make the screen adaptation of William S. Burroughs’ “unfilmable” novel? When first we meet Tom Frost, he’s cradling a familiar-looking case:
The Martinelli is doomed, however. Once she is alone with Clark Nova, he eats her. Frost is unhappy of course, and kidnaps Clark Nova, leaving the bits of the Martinelli behind. Later, Kiki brings Lee and the remains of the Martinelli to a metal shop, where she is thrust into the coals.
and out of the coals comes The MugWriter:
Later, it becomes apparent that MugWriter is an illusion, because Martinelli appears again. The hot coals treatment seems to have worked, after a fashion:
That actually looks more like an Olivetti Lettera 22 to me, rather than a 32, so I got one wrong. It looks like the only changes made to this machine were the replacement of the badge with one that says “Martinelli”. Possibly at least 2 were destroyed for this film. How about Tom Frost’s other machine? How did that one fare?
The Mujahideen looks like it’s probably an Arabic-language Oliver (No. 9 maybe?). I can’t tell if there were any changes made to the machine for prop use in the film. When we see Bill Lee and Joan Frost typing on it, it does print Arabic letters and types right to left.
Sadly, the Mujahideen gets a little too rambunctious, and it ends up “jumping” out of the window onto the street below:
In the end, even Clark Nova gets it. It seems that Tom Frost is no better at taking care of typewriters loaned to him than Bill Lee is.
There are other typewriters in Naked Lunch, primarily in the first Interzone Cafe scene. Let’s see how good you guys are at identifying them. Please state your guesses in the comments and we’ll see who’s really good. :D
So there you have it, the Typewriters of Naked Lunch, exposed!