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Jim Henson's 1986 film "Labyrinth"

My girlfriend is pretty awesome. Don’t tell her I said that because then she’ll get all high and mighty and shit. Still, it’s true.

Last weekend she surprised me with tickets to a screening of Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth.” The Silent Movie Theater here in town is hosting screenings of a slew of Henson’s work every Friday and Saturday night in July. It’s the type of shit Muppet nerds like myself drool over.

After some of Henson’s fairy tale-inspired shorts and commercial work, the audience was treated to a screening of “Labyrinth.”

Now, my dad took me to see this in theaters when it was released in 1986. Since then, I’ve probably seen it two or three more times, but always in VHS quality on a small-screen television. Also, it’s probably been ten to fifteen years since I saw it last in any way, shape or form.

That means it had been twenty-three years since I saw it on the big screen. And, wow, seeing it again after all these years has opened my eyes to quite a few details I missed before:

1. Ludo is artist Ron Mueck – Mueck, an Australian artist, is primarily known for his hyper-realistic (and oddly sized) sculptures of humans. Here are a few of his pieces:

Ron Mueck

Ron Mueck

Ron Mueck

But Mueck got his start in model making and puppeteering with Henson. Thing is, I knew Mueck was involved in “Labyrinth,” but I always thought he performed the voice of the dwarf-goblin character Hoggle. (This was actually done by Jim’s son, Brian.) In actuality, Mueck handled the voice work and the puppeteering for both Ludo and a Firey. This means it was Mueck who said, “Smell bad!” about a thousand times while standing in the Bog of Eternal Stench.

Which brings me to my next discovery:

2. The Bog of Eternal Stench is full of assholes – Yeah, I knew it always made fart noises and that stinky sludge would bubble up from the depths of… wherever. But seeing those “holes” on a big screen made me realize that they really look like assholes! It’s not just brown water bubbling up from a hose, folks! This means that someone had to actually physically make these things! I can see this guy’s boss now: “Hey, Ralph! How are those Bog of Eternal Stench assholes coming?”

3. David Bowie’s wiener could be tiny – I used to mistake his huge cod piece as a bulging package. But that’s misleading because, in reality, he could have the tiniest wiener on Earth. You know, like placing a diamond ring in a television box.

4. The labyrinth is covered in glitter – Literally. I kept thinking of that scene in “Little Shop of Horrors” when Audrey uses spray glue on a floral arrangement, and then haphazardly throws a handful of glitter over the whole mess. Oddly enough, “Little Shop” also came out in 1986. Must have been a big year for the glitter industry.

5. Jennifer Connelly was young I remember being young and thinking that she was too old to be playing with dolls. And now I’m old and think that she’s too young to not be playing with them.

6. Elmo is a Firey – One of the Fireys is voiced by puppeteer Kevin Clash, who also does the voice of Elmo on “Sesame Street.” If you listen closely, though, you’ll notice that it’s Elmo’s voice being used long before he was even created.

7. The baby, Troy, is actually artist Brian Froud’s son – Which is good, because dancing with David Bowie in tights would surely make a serial killer out of any normal child.

8. The Henson Company’s puppeteering is at its peak – This might seriously be the zenith for the Henson team when it comes to how they handle their puppeteering. Matched only by what they accomplished in 1982’s “The Dark Crystal,” this is the company’s work at its finest.

9. The best scene is when Sarah falls down a hole and has a conversation with the Helping Hands – Seriously. Check it out for yourself:

10. It’s honestly a good film – Yeah, parts of it are cheesy, and a lot of it is steeped heavily in the now-laughable decade of the eighties, but it still holds up as great storytelling with interesting characters and amazing visuals. A lot of the crap made today could learn something from the structure of “Labyrinth.”

Dance, magic dance,


PS: A funny side note: During the opening credits, people in the audience would clap as each contributor’s name popped up onscreen: Jim Henson, followed by clapping; Brian Froud, followed by clapping; etc. Then George Lucas’ name popped up. One guy booed loudly, and the rest of the audience supported his cause by bursting into laughter. Awesome.


When I was younger, there were three people I gladly would’ve drowned a baby to be able to meet.

Those three people were (in order of “most awesome” to “third-most awesome”): Jim Henson, Paul Reubens and Hulk Hogan.

Yeah, go ahead and laugh. What do I care? Fact is, those three guys influenced my childhood more than anyone else (outside of my family, of course).

As I got older that list changed, mostly because Jim Henson died in 1990. (Of course, I met his son Brian and got to interview Frank Oz back in the day, both of which are pretty awesome consolation prizes.)

For awhile my list had two people on it, but over time Jim Henson would be replaced by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. I know, that’s a weird replacement, but I’ve been listening to Reznor for more than half my life now and have followed his career at every turn. As I’ve said before, I’m an insanely proud Nine Inch Nerd.

Still, I don’t think I even realized how huge of a dork I was for Reznor until just this past weekend.

Every Sunday night we cook a big dinner at our place for all of our friends, but this past Sunday we decided to cancel it and instead head out to two events.

The first was the monthly Channel 101 get-together, hosted by “Monster House” scribes Rob Schrab and Dan Harmon. They screened eleven five-minute video shorts, and then each person voted for their top five favorites. Some of them were hilarious; others weren’t.

But it was still an awesome start to a great night. I had an amazing Hawaiian burger and two Stellas in my gut by the time we left, so life was most definitely good.

The last video rolled, we voted, and then headed out the door to our second and final stop of the evening: a Mexican restaurant on Sunset Boulevard called Malo. We had eaten there before a few months earlier on a Monday when they offer up $1 tacos! Awesome.

But our reason for visiting that night wasn’t cheap Mexican food. Every Sunday night, Malo features a trivia night that is hosted by Har Mar Superstar (also known as Sean Tillman).

If you’re not familiar with Har Mar, here’s a video for his song “D.U.I.”:

So, as you can probably tell, the night was already shaping up to be an interesting one.

We got to Malo a little early and headed upstairs to the lounge. To my surprise, the room was already crowded with people. I tried to enter but a woman walked in front of me and said, “This is a private party.”

Fair enough.

I headed back downstairs to the bar, but just before I did I saw a guy out of the corner of my eye. I thought to myself, “That guy looks like he could be in Nine Inch Nails.”

Let me be clear, I didn’t think he actually was in Nine Inch Nails, but he was dressed in such a way that being a member of Nails wouldn’t have been a stretch.

I got down to the bar just as Har Mar was walking in; I walked up to him.

Justin: “Man, I’m glad you’re here. I thought we were in the wrong place for a minute.”

Har Mar: “No, you’re in the right spot. They’re just wrapping up a private party up there. They’re having a birthday party for someone from Nine Inch Nails.”

Justin: “Oh, cool.”


Har Mar: “Yeah, they’re cool guys. Trent is even up there.”

Justin: “Wow.”


And then it happened: The scene in a movie where the person’s brain finally catches up with his or her surroundings. Like, “Didn’t you know? This is a gay bar.” And then he looks around and sees guys making out with guys, girls making out with girls, etc. It was that exact scene, but instead of gay guys and lesbians I looked around and saw Nine Inch Nails.

Christ, there was Robin Finck just standing there staring back at me. Holy balls.

Har Mar ran upstairs and I grabbed my girlfriend’s arms violently.

Justin: “Did you hear what he said?!?”

She was excited for me, much like parents get excited for their kids when they see Santa at the mall. It’s not a big deal to them, but they’re happy you’re so retarded over it.

Trent Reznor is my shopping mall Santa Claus.

But I digress….

I ran to the car because, for some reason, I had brought my camera but had left it in the trunk. I ran back faster than I’ve ever run before.

This isn’t a joke because, as my friend Kevin can attest, I don’t run. Ever. For anything. I think running is just some fucked-up, bullshit version of walking and I refuse to do it.

Except that night. That night was run-worthy.

I got back inside, handed the camera to Kathy, and headed back upstairs to the lounge. I wanted to see if I could tell what he was wearing so I could keep an eye out for him when he eventually left.

I turned a corner up the stairs and stopped dead in my tracks. Standing at the top of the stairs, heading right down toward me, was Trent.

I spun around and ran back down the stairs, grabbed the camera, turned it on, handed it to Kathy, and whispered, “He’s coming.” I was excited. Kathy was embarassed. I didn’t care.

Trent was five stairs away. Four. Three.

This was it. I either had to say something now or forget the whole thing.

Justin: “Trent, um… I don’t mean to be rude but… could I get in a picture with you quick?”

Trent: “Sure.”

Trent’s Brain: “Leave me alone, you creepy bald man. I’m full of tacos and want to go home.”

Justin’s Brain: “He smells good; great cologne.”

Justin: “Maybe that’s just his natural scent.”

Trent: “What?”

Justin’s Brain: “You said that outloud! Shut up! Get your picture and get the fuck out of there!”

So we both stopped, turned, and:

Trent Reznor and Justin Shady at Malo

Just before that shot was taken, I put my arm on his back. I don’t know why I did that because I never would just do that to a stranger. I remember thinking, “I shouldn’t do this. I shouldn’t touch his back. That’s creepy. He probably doesn’t like this. Should I take my arm away? And if so, would that then be weird?”

I was shaking worse than Katherine Hepburn on a Tilt-A-Whirl.

Kathy suggested we take another shot. Trent said, “Get my good side this time,” and turned his back to the camera. I giggled like a school girl on a playground who had just heard the funniest joke ever from the dreamiest boy ever.

Once again, we stopped, turned, and:

Trent Reznor and Justin Shady at Malo

Once again, I must be clear here: I have no clue what I’m actually doing in this photo. I admit that I like to pose awkwardly in photos because I think it’s funny, but this is just weird.

First, I’m pointing. At what, I have no idea. But I felt the need to point at something. Second, I’m looking at him out of the corner of my eye, almost as if I’m afraid he’ll run away if I turn my head. Or, like a ghost, that he’ll dissolve into nothingness if I look elsewhere. And I look fat and creepy from the Hawaiian burger and Stellas I had downed at the previous stop.

Still, he stuck around for a few seconds. I told him I was looking forward to his upcoming tour with Jane’s Addiction. He said he was, too. I babbled something else I can’t remember. He smiled and nodded and humored me. And then, he left.

So intercoursing cool.

You see, I’m not typically like this with celebrities. I’ve met a fair amount of them over the years, even have a few friends who are fairly famous, and I don’t geek out like that ever. I used to when I was younger, but it’s been a long, long time since I had that little control over my own mind and body.

It was weird, man. Very weird.

We headed upstairs and started trivia night with Har Mar. As if all of this weren’t already enough to write about, the night got even weirder.

We were two questions away from ending our trivia time with Har Mar when two girls walked in.

Girl #1: “Can we play?”

Har Mar: “There are only two questions left, but sure.”

The girls had friends who were already playing, so they just joined their team. It was at this point that our friend Karen leaned over and said, “That’s Kirsten Dunst.”

I turned, looked, and sure enough: Kirsten Dunst had crashed trivia night with Har Mar Superstar. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: L.A. is a fucking weird town.

We all left Kirsten alone, but I have to admit that I thought about approaching her. I had it all planned out in my head. I would walk over to her with my camera in my hand and say:

Justin: “Excuse me, Kirsten?”

Kirsten: “Yes?”

Justin: “Hey, I don’t mean to interrupt or anything, but–“

Kirsten: “Oh, you want a photo with me? Sure!”

Justin: “That’s nice of you, but no. I just wanted to show you this picture of me and Trent Reznor.”

Guess I’ll leave that one for when I finally meet Paul Reubens.

Death, you can take me now,


Old Poop!