McDonough, Jimmy 1960(?)–
McDONOUGH, Jimmy 1960(?)–
Born c. 1960.
Writer, biographer and journalist.
The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Andy Milligan, A Cappella (Chicago, IL), 2001.
Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film, Crown (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including Variety, Village Voice, Film Comment, Mojo, Spin, and Juggs.
Jimmy McDonough's first two published books are biographies of individuals known for their enigmatic personalities. His first work, published in 2001, is The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Andy Milligan, which examines the life of shock filmmaker Andy Milligan (1929-1991). A year later McDonough published the longawaited and highly anticipated Shakey: Neil Young's Biography, the first authorized biography of rock music legend Neil Young. The book, which McDonough actually began researching and writing in 1991, was held up in court for several years after Young, who originally supported the project, tried to use legal means to keep it from being published after it was completed in 1998. In addition to being a regular writer for the Village Voice, McDonough also has contributed articles to numerous entertainment, music, and popular culture magazines.
Some observers have called McDonough one of the most recognized music writers in America. "McDonough's writing is tough, probing, full of street-hustler style, yet hits with a cerebral impact," Jonny Whiteside wrote in a review on the MetroActive Music Web site. McDonough employs this unique style throughout his books. For example, in The Ghastly One, he describes Milligan as "one of those creatures who ride the midnight train" and "come from the land of the screaming skulls." In the book, McDonough explains that he was a fan of Milligan's films before he set out to write the book.
According to McDonough, filmgoers like himself are attracted to Milligan's movies in a similar fashion to the way people "gawk at car accidents, read lurid detective magazines, eyeball the dead two-headed baby in a jar." Milligan, who died of AIDS, shot almost thirty films between 1965 and 1988. Topics like sadism and misogyny are regularly explored in his films, which include The Naked Witch, The Orgy at Lil's Place, Torture Dungeon, and Depraved! McDonough explains in his book that Milligan first gained attention when his 1965 film Vapors included scenes of male nudity and rendered a frank view of homosexuality.
While Milligan's films may have been known for their shock value, McDonough points out that they were not recognized for their technical craftsmanship. "Andy slapped his movies together with nary a thought for pacing, with dialogue that sounds like it was recorded through a tin can, and stories that suffer from holes you could drive a truck through," McDonough writes. "When Andy's movies are bad, there's nothing—nothing—worse. … But scratch the dirty surface of Mil ligan's pictures and a very personal kind of poison seeps out of every frame."
Much of The Ghastly One includes verbatim interviews that the author conducted with Milligan before his death. In addition to analyzing Milligan's films, McDonough also describes the film-maker's destructive lifestyle, which included many of the same elements he explored in his films. A number of literary critics praised The Ghastly One, including Mike Tribby of Booklist, who called it a "strangely fascinating story." A contributor for Publishers Weekly felt the work reveals Milligan as "a man who could be alternately brutally honest, obstructionist, deceitful and quite kind."
McDonough's decision to write a biography about Neil Young stemmed from an interview he conducted with the musician in 1989 for the Village Voice. The oftenreclusive Young was so impressed with McDonough's subsequent story, he requested that the writer pen the liner notes for a twenty-fifth anniversary anthology of his music. The success of this endeavor led to Young asking McDonough to write an authorized biography of his life and career. After sitting through five consecutive days of interviews with Young, McDonough set about the task of what eventually became an 800-page manuscript. Despite his initial approval of the work, Young hired several lawyers in late 1998 to block its publication. As a result, McDonough filed a 1.8 million dollar lawsuit against Young, charging the musician with breach of contract. McDonough also sued to have the book published. McDonough won the case, which was heard in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, and the book was published in 2002.
McDonough again turns to a filmmaker's biography with Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film. McDonough offers a persuasive argument that Meyer is "the father of the modern porn industry," noted Mike Tribby in Booklist. Certainly Meyer is well known as the director of such sexsaturated films as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Meyer's formula included plenty of extremely large (and very naked) breasts, lurid settings, and B-movie stories in films that offered excessive titillation and low-brow entertainment. Still, as Christopher Bray observed in the New Statesman Meyer had a practiced eye for the nuance and construction of film. "Appearances—camera angles, compositions, cuts—were all that mattered to him," Bray noted. Despite his later projects, Meyer started out as a more conventional filmmaker. He displayed an early interest in filmmaking, winning competitions while still in his teens. During World War II, he served as a newsreel cameraman for Patton's army in Germany and France. After the war, he made industrial films for Standard Oil, but he also worked as a photographer for Playboy magazine in its early days. A meeting with strip club entrepreneur Pete DeCenzie resulted in a collaboration on the film The Immoral Mr. Teas, which netted over a million dollars on an investment of 76,000 dollars and five days' of shooting, Bray reported. Meyer's career was off and running. McDonough chronicles that forty-year career, plus Meyer's often tense personal life, his ups and downs in the film industry, the larger social context of Meyer's works, and the never-ceasing obsession with big breasts that became his trademark. The book also includes numerous stories and anecdotes from associates, stars, and friends of the maverick director. "McDonough tells Meyer's story well enough in this rather too long book," commented Bray. However, Bray also noted a wish for more discussion of Meyer's life away from the set and outside the movie industry. Library Journal contributor Barry X. Miller remarked that McDonough's examination of Meyer's films "is wonderfully brisk and dead-on as his text repeatedly demonstrates that Meyer's formula for success," as codified in the book's title, was a successful one.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Austin Chronicle, December 28, 2001, Marc Savlov,"Behind the Screens."
Book, May-June, 2002, Josh Karp, "Neil Young: Rockin' in the Free World," p. 23.
Booklist, August, 2001, Mike Tribby, review of The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Andy Milligan, p. 2073; June 1, 2005, Mike Tribby, review of Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film, p. 1738.
Entertainment Weekly, May 17, 2002, Troy Patterson, review of Shakey: Neil Young's Biography.
Library Journal, June 15, 2005, Barry X. Miller, review of Big Bosoms and Square Jaws, p. 72.
New Statesman, August 15, 2005, Christopher Bray, "Shooting Off," review of Big Bosoms and Square Jaws, p. 38.
Publishers Weekly, July 23, 2001, review of The Ghastly One, p. 57.
Variety, May 8, 2000, Jonathan Bing and Janet Shprintz, "Young Pulls His Support from McDonough Bio," p. 4.
Independent Publisher's Group,http://www.ipgbook.com/ (May 1, 2006).
MetroActive Music Web site,http://www.metroactive.com/ (May 1, 2006), Jonny Whiteside, "Broken Arrow: Neil Young's Biographer Goes to Court."
MTV News Online,http://www.mtv.com/news/ (May 2, 2000), John Gill, "Neil Young Sued by Bio Author."
PopMatters.com,http://www.popmatters.com/ (January 30, 2002), David Sanjek, review of The Ghastly One. *