Go West

Hubba hubba: Ginger (Tina Louise) from Gilligan's Island is a movie star once again.
Courtesy of Barry Coffing

A full-frontal nude scene of Colin Farrell was famously cut from the final version of A Home at the End of the World, writer Michael Cunningham's touching tale about two best friends. It was deemed too distracting for test-screening audiences.

Most people reacted in one of three ways upon hearing this news. Some couldn't have cared less. Others moaned about prudish American values. And then others, most likely living in flyover country, had only one response: Why the hell don't we ever get to see any of these screenings?

Well, folks, now's your chance. Producer Barry Coffing is bringing down some of the cast and crew of West from North Goes South for several test screenings in Texas. We can't promise you any full-frontal action at the events -- sorry -- but you will get the chance to take part in the Hollywood experience: celebrities, comment cards and, um, Cajun food.


West from North Goes South

"It's not just a movie," says Coffing. "It's an event."

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There's a whole slew of activities planned to accompany the screenings, including dinners, actor appearances and performances by soundtrack musicians -- among them, Nick Randolph and Gael MacGregor.

Houston was chosen as the locale because both Coffing and writer-director Valerie Silver have lived here. Plus, they figured everyone in Hollywood is too jaded to give an honest opinion. Says Coffing, "Why not screen it in regular America?" (Hmm...we guess we'll let that comment slide since it came from a former Houstonian.)

But on to the movie: West from North Goes South is the story of West Jackson, a struggling painter who lives in Los Angeles with a sugar mama, played by Tina Louise. You might remember Louise from her role as Ginger on Gilligan's Island. (Pause for a moment of quiet reflection, please.) West has a crappy art opening and decides to pack up his stuff and head down to Miami, where he hopes he can revive his career and his love life. (What? Getting paid to hang out with Ginger wasn't enough for this guy?)

"He gets stuck in this small town in Alabama," says Shawn Thompson, who plays West. "His car breaks down and he can't get out."

And that's when things start to get weird. West encounters a madcap collection of townsfolk, played by a rather impressive list of has-been actors. La Wanda Page (Sanford and Son) portrays two greedy twins. Morris Day is their horny cousin. Larry Linville (M.A.S.H. ) takes on the role of an effed-up reverend. And Phyllis Diller plays a gun-toting convenience store cashier.

"She was so good," says Thompson of Diller. "There was no star nonsense with her at all."

We're sure Diller was a treat, but come on, man, what was it like to work with Louise?

"Growing up as a kid, Ginger was the hottie," he says. "So it was a lot of fun to meet her and everything. She was very sweet. She doesn't like to talk about Gilligan's Island, though. You don't bring that up."

Two screenings: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, August 26. The Balinese Room, 2107 Seawall, Galveston, 409-762-9696. $10 to $20. 7 p.m. Friday, August 27. Aida, 9371 Richmond, 713-789-1234. $20. Additional performances by Nick Randolph and Gael MacGregor: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, August 29. Cactus Music & Records, 2930 South Shepherd, 713-526-9272. Free.

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