Friday, February 26, 2010

Go Ask Alice - a toupological analysis.

Go Ask Alice is a 1973 TV movie based on a book of the same name published two years earlier. The book, written by "anonymous" purports to comprise of extracts from a fifteen-year-old girl's diary that chronicles a horrifying descent into drug addiction and prostitution. Bill Shatner, in a relatively small role (though curiously receiving top-billing), portrays Alice's father.

The plot goes thus: Alice is a middle-class girl in a middle-class family living in a middle-class neighborhood. For no reason that is explained in the movie, a chance puff of a joint leads to a monumental spiral of drug addiction.

The whole Pandora's box is opened: marijuana, LSD, cocaine, uppers, downers, heroin, which leads to dropping out of school, homelessness and even prostitution. Those "damn dirty hippies" do nothing but force an endless array of drugs upon this poor girl.

It isn't long before Alice is quite literally eating out of a dustbin and walking around with a tear in her shirt (a sign that, you know, she's become a bum...).

Fortunately, Alice encounters a "with it" Catholic priest (played by Andy Griffith), who "digs where the girl is at". As a result, Alice decides to go clean.

She then meets a non-hippie - a Jock whose straight, clean ways also offer a way out.

However, while babysitting for a junkie friend, Alice drinks soda that has been spiked with LSD. The hell from which she had thought she escaped returns. She locks herself in a cupboard and almost cuts her fingers off.

By the end, Alice has again gone clean, but remains just one pill away from returning to the old life. At the end of the movie, we learn that she died of a drug overdose anyway for some reason - probably designed to try to make the movie feel really powerful.

The way that this girl's story is told in the movie is so crass, so shallow, so two-dimensional, that we were immediately reminded of the classic 1936 anti-drug movie Reefer Madness. We don't doubt that fifteen-year-old girls could meet such a fate, but rather it is how this story is told here that led to instant doubts among our team of toupologists as to the veracity of the "real life" diary on which this tale was based.

So it came as no surprise to learn that the authenticity of the original book has been seriously questioned. Apparently, it is actually (and we most certainly agree) a work of fiction, written by a zealot, barely capable of concealing some deep-seated personal issues (or simple profit motive, or need to proselytise) that led them to pass off such work as being real. The real author is one Beatrice Sparks about whom you can read here.

Go Ask Alice comes off as being written by "adults" - a caricature of teenage drug abuse, designed to be watched by youngsters to terrify them into just saying "no". In truth, the movie is so shallow, it's likely to actually serve the opposite effect - making teenagers want to take drugs, if only to numb the pain of watching such condescending, patronizing nonsense.

And where are the parents in all of this? Bill Shatner and Julie Adams, who portray the girl's mother and father, are so completely detached - docile, yet well-meaning - that this instantly raises yet another red-flag about the story's authenticity. They can only watch from afar as their daughter, for no reason whatsoever, descends into a world of pushers and pimps. That is a deliberately manufactured contrivance that seems increasingly odd as the movie progresses: Alice runs away, then returns, the weak parents don't even seem that bothered. Again, we're not saying that parents can't be this bad, but rather this clichéd, in terms of how they are written. Curiously, for a movie that espouses the socio-political credo of "personal responsibility" (which would gain a strong footing in 1980s America) the idea of anyone sharing in the responsibility for what happened to Alice, particularly her parents, is entirely absent from this movie.

Similarly to Reefer Madness, Go Ask Alice has attained a kind of cult following for its sheer kitsch value.

On the plus side, the movie contains a decent soundtrack of contemporary-era music (as the late comedian Bill Hicks would no doubt point out, all written by musicians that were very high at the time).

Now, to the hair...

Neither Bill Shatner, nor his hair, really have very much to do in this TV movie. The way these wishy-washy parents are written, all they really do is watch events unfold, completely powerless as their daughter is possessed.

Interestingly, Bill Shatner, apart from the usual toup, wears not only a mustache, but also glasses.

The hair round the back and sides is particularly long for Shats, while conversely, the toup at the top is relatively light for this era:

Meanwhile, the actor's performance as a weak, bumbling father, is (again) deliberately understated and pretty effective considering what he was being asked to portray. At one point, the hair moves a little as Bill Shatner removes his glasses:

And that's about it. Perhaps the toup was telling the audience that it likely won't be moved much by Go Ask Alice - or was the actor trying to underscore, via the toupee, a weakening of his character's rigidity?

Due to both its awfulness and a music rights clearance nightmare akin to The Wonder Years, one shouldn't expect Go Ask Alice to be released on DVD any time soon. However, it is pretty easy to find on the Internet - Go Ask Alice really has to be seen to be believed, and by "believed" we certainly don't mean that it should be believed in any way!

Alice is hated by the junkie majority for going straight.

On a separate note, we at Shatner's Toupee express our heartfelt condolences to Walter and Judith Koenig for the tragic death of their son Andrew (1968-2010).


  1. A ten bucks toupee. Another low point in BIll's career.

  2. Harlan Ellison wrote a short story that was based on meeting Andrew Koenig when Andrew was a young boy (pre-Growing Pains). Reading that story back then as kids, we wanted to know Andrew not only as the inspiration for the story, but as Harlan described him in the foreward: as a bright, inquisitive kid who seemed very genuine.

    Most recently, I became re-acquainted with him through his appearances on The Young Turks, a politically-oriented program where Andrew frequently talked about the political conditions in Burma. At some risk to himself, he even traveled to that country in support of the citizens subjugated by the repressive regime in power over there. So as an adult, he showed some of the same great qualities that we first read about and which were so impressive then and now.

  3. By this time Bill Shatner was no longer a leading man. He was a TV dad with a bad toupee.

  4. I don't know if the creative types behind the old Comedy Central series "Strangers with Candy" ever saw "Go Ask Alice", but they were obviously mining the same vein.

  5. hahaha this is awesome - the shat looks great with a moustache!!!

  6. Bad adjusted toupee and glasses = not a good combination

  7. Watched this in the 1980's, it was one of the first things I'd seen Shatner appear in that wasn't Star Trek or TJ Hooker. Great movie that's very funny, although it's almost mandatory that the viewer be either drunk or stoned to fully appreciate it.

  8. As an avid reader of the this blog, I must say that the ratty lost years are being well covered. But we need more TJ Curly years. I think that this period wasn't covered as it deservs.

  9. Paulo, thanks for your avid readership and also your comment. We most definitely will have some more analysis of the "TJ Curly" period in the future. -ST

  10. I bought this DVD. I have almost every Shat DVD you can get. I have quite a Shat collection. However, the picture quality of this movie is so crap that you really can't enjoy the full experience of His Holy Hairlessness

  11. Wow! Shatner looks surprisingly great with glasses and a mustache!

    For a similar movie that did make it onto DVD (and that you can buy at the dollar store) check out /The Death of Richie/ (1978). Sadly, no Shatner in that one, though I did find /Incident on a Dark Street/ (1976) at the dollar store, which also features Shatner in a mustache.

  12. WICKED good book i am like in love with is <3 have to sh the move definitively

  13. I KNOW it does start like that. its starts at 14 or whatever age with weed or whatever and goes further and further until you are caught in the life and addicted to worse drugs, like the more ur around dope more comes and its all fun but before u know it ur trying heroin, or u start doing something every weekend then during the week then everyday cuz u have to for no reason, its just the way it is. then u meet drug dealers prostitues bums just that life. if ur lookin for drugs ur guna find em, but if ur looking ur guna do it ALL. its a fucked up life but its the ONLY life a drug user can live, cuz drugs cost a price..MONEY ofcourse and YOURSELF. So it doesnt matter if the book is true or false cuz its true events, thats really wut it is like. they also fuck up ur head. u see them ppl on the streets everyday. sad but true. u dont believe it then try it.