The Enduring Hustle

by Zbigniew

“Bob Fosse’s Vancouver is a distant suburb of Los Angeles, on the periphery of wealth and fame; a grey and gritty expanse of working class neighbourhoods, strip joints, and fast food outlets.”

Elvy Del Bianco, “Star 80”, World Film Locations: Vancouver

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The closure of the Dairy Queen at 2109 East Hastings Street represents no aesthetic loss: the pseudo-milk/sugar product dispensary franchise’s primary features include an interior colour scheme last updated in 1976 and a pervasive stench of rancid oil and low-wage desperation.

Innocuous and quotidian but infamous.

Working a shift at said DQ in the late 1970s, a very young Dorothy Stratten (nee Hoogstraten) is discovered, or targeted, by local hustler/pimp/sleaze/business type Paul Snider.

The encounter is depicted in Bob Fosse’s mostly true-to-life Star 80, filmed at the same location with Mariel Hemmingway and a greasy-perfect Eric Roberts:

Stratten quickly moves from Playboy centerfold, to B-movie maven to aspiring serious actress, but it doesn’t end well. Sratten’s “wholesome, fresh, young and naïve” rising star is utterly destroyed by Snider’s emotionally stunted, cash-and-status-hungry monomania. A loser relegated to the sidelines, he kills her and himself, interfering with her body in the interval.

Star 80 is presented non-linearly, flipping back and forth in time and space, between the Los Angeles fleshpot spectacle and a soggy Vancouver backwater of scumbags. These transitions make for some strange juxtapositions. In particular: a dissolve that takes the story back from the aftermath of Stratten’s murder in LA superimposes Snider’s bloodied face on the Vancouver skyline.

That’s all in the past. The sleazy hustle is upscale. Paul Snider’s ilk have moved on to bigger stakes and ditched the Trans Am for something German, while the humble franchise yields to “secure market rental.”

Paul Snider