Tuesday, November 11, 2014


At the height of their popularity, Lily Tomlin and John Travolta combined their considerable clout — and lookalike shag hairdos — to bring their careers to a halt with the screamingly funny melodrama MOMENT BY MOMENT about a Beverly Hills matron’s fling with a studly young gigolo. Written and directed by Tomlin’s longtime collaborator Jane Wagner, the movie commits two fatal errors: This ripe-for-parody trash is (inexplicably) played straight-faced, and Travolta’s character is (even more inexplicably) named "Strip." Everytime Tomlin speaks his name, she seems to be asking him to peel — even when he’s already naked, as in the hot tub scene that made audiences cry with laughter.

Travolta: "I love you. Do you love me?"
Tomlin: "Strip . . ."
Travolta: "You don’t love me?"
Tomlin: "Oh, Strip . . ."
Travolta: "I’m not good enough for you, is that it?"
Tomlin: "Strip! This is ridiculous. Oh, Strip!"
Travolta: "When you’re ready to admit you love me, you can have me, but not until."
Tomlin: "Strip!"

Names are not, however, the only problem. Tomlin’s meant-to-be-heartbreaking (but-we’re-afraid-they’re-side-splitting!) telephone conversations with her estranged husband go thus: "Trish," says the husband’s voice, "we’ve got to talk . . . What about the pool filter?" Tomlin replies, sadly "What about it?" "What do you want me to do?" he asks. "You decide," she says, before collapsing in tears.

As embarrassing as all this is, Tomlin never stoops to Travolta’s level. He agreed to be photographed from the waist down while tugging off his pants so the camera can lovingly stare at his, uh, bathing suit as he bumps ‘n’ grinds his way down into the sea. (And what was he thinking of when he agreed to call Tomlin such catchy nicknames as "Miss Ultra-Frost" and "Miss Fabu-Lash"?)

What was anyone thinking of when they decided not to cut out the howler scene in which Travolta says, "I’ve had it with cheap sex, it leaves me feeling cheap," and Tomlin replies, "I’ve never had cheap sex before — I was sort of looking forward to it."? Then there’s the foot fetish show at an art gallery, where Tomlin informs Travolta, "I don’t like to see you drink so much at your age," and he responds, "I’m not so young as I used to be — and this party’s going to turn me gray overnight." (It’s amazing that the movie’s reviews didn’t do just that.)

After they fight, Travolta says, "I’m splitting. Pretty soon you’ll be old enough to be my grandmother." "Where will you go?" Tomlin asks. Travolta runs through his options: "Maybe Vegas. A rich lady asked me to go to St. Tropez," then adds, in the film’s only believable moment, "I got offered a porno movie." When he’s gone, Trish runs through the house, calling "Strip, Strip, Strip, Strip!" then, embarks, wide-eyed, on a drive through Trailer Park America to find the hustler she loves. We located this rare gem on Universal HD cable network. It has never been released on home video. Write your congressman!


  1. Oh, one of the most deliciously bad movies ever...I can hardly believe it was written by Jane Wagner, who gave Lily her brilliant play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, which I saw on Broadway.
    This soapy melodrama is pure late 70s ennui...but Mr. Travolta does look delectable in his Speedo.
    I've read that Travolta turned down the lead role in American Gigolo...he picked this turkey instead.

  2. I echo your astute observation regarding Wagner and her brilliant play, (I too saw the show on Broadway and once again in Boston. Wonderful stuff!) And yes, Travolta does indeed look fine in his Speedo.

    Travolta did turn down the role in 'American Gigolo' which rocketed Richard Gere to sudden stardom. Although, sitting in the theater watching that film, I remember being alternately amused and mostly bored by the whole affair. Model Lauren Hutton's attempt at acting has never caught fire (see 'Once Bitten.' Yikes!) and I am convinced that the film got a boost from the moody direction, Gere's half-in-shadows-don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it full frontal nude scene, his wardrobe and the hit song 'Call Me' sung by Blondie.

    But you have given me an idea for a future post ...


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