Sunday, July 19, 2009

Helena Kallianiotes: Any Time Any Place, Sugarpuss!

Helena Kallianiotes first began her show-biz career as a belly dancer in Hollywood, sometime during the mid-60s. Around that time she befriended Jack Nicholson, before he'd made the jump from Roger Corman disciple/trainee to super-stardom by way of Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces. That friendship helped to land Kallianiotes her first movie role, an uncredited bit part as, guess what, a belly dancer, in Head, the Monkees' 1968 attempt at a sort of scatter-shot, psychedelic Hard Days Night, which Nicholson co-produced. Here Kallianiotes simply shimmies along in trippy double exposure to the Monkees' "Can You Dig It."

Palm Apodaca, the lesbian hitchiker obsessed with “filth” in Five Easy Pieces, was probably the biggest role of Kallianiotes’ acting career. However, her rendition of Jackie Burdette, the hard-assed roller derby bruiser opposite Raquel Welch in Jerold Freedman’s Kansas City Bomber, 1972, has got to be her real tour de force. Any time, any place, sugarpuss! The second clip below shows the KCB trailer, HK appears about a minute into it.

Meanwhile Kallianiotes’ true love remained dancing, and during the early 70s she was the resident belly dancer at the Intersection, a Greek restaurant in North Hollywood. Perhaps her real talent, though, has been for tagging-along, and being a "friend to the stars." Around the same time that she worked her way onto the cast of Bob Dylan’s Renaldo & Clara, she also moved into Jack Nicholson’s guest house, became his property manager, short-order cook, confidant, and the “houseguest who never left.” In turn, Nicholson backed many of Kallianiotes’ various business ventures over the years. One of these, a sort of 80s, West Coast version of Studio 54, the celebrity-only skating rink Skateways, was surely inspired by Kansas City Bomber. Ever compassionate toward the plight of the famous, wanting to provide her friends with an exclusive haven away from the papparazzi, Kallianiotes hired pop-artist Ed Rushca to paint “No Press or Photographers” over the front door of the skating rink, and, according to Kallianiotes “If I saw a flash go off, I’d skate over and smash the camera.”


Anonymous said...

I knew Helen in Boston where she lived prior to going to California. Your description of her is accurate she had a way of befriending all the right people but in California that would be a definite advantage.
We were all bikers together. She had a lot of friends but when she left Boston we never heard from her again. She had a rough upbringing so I guess she wanted to leave that behind.
Before she left she said she was going to be an actress. We all laughed but she did it so good luck to her.

Bob Pomeroy said...

"We were all bikers together."

What kinda bike did she ride?

Anonymous said...

She had a bronze Triumph. Even rode a scrambles race on a 125 Harley back in the day.

Anonymous said...

Her backseat dialog in Five Easy Pieces is the best performance in the film. Nicholson's diner rage and every other performance in the picture takes a back seat to her.