Pia Zadora in The Lonely Lady

Thoughts on the film:

The early 80’s .. who can forget the era of Zadoramania?

Pia Zadora was chosen as the “worst actress of the eighties” by the Razzie voters, and that was an amazing accomplishment because she did not achieve that dishonor through a spate of consistently awful performances throughout the decade, nor did she achieve it with an eleventh hour 1989 stinker that was still fresh in the voters’ memories. She did it all with two performances from early in the decade: her jailbait/incest performance in Butterfly, and her incredible “I fucked my way to the top” speech in The Lonely Lady. She basically disappeared from view after The Lonely Lady, but that speech, this performance, and this movie were all so bad that even her seven years in hiding were not sufficient time for the Razzie voters to forget her by the end of the decade.

The Lonely Lady was nominated for eleven Razzies in 1983. That represented 110% of the highest possible number, because they only had ten categories. It won six Razzies, a record at the time, including all the important ones: worst film, worst director, and worst screenplay. Two decades later it was still regarded highly (lowly) enough to be entered into the elite group nominated as the Razzie’s “worst drama of our first 25 years.” Battlefield Earth was the winner, and the other nominees were Mommie Dearest, Showgirls, and Swept Away. Impressive company, indeed.

The Lonely Lady begins outside a Hollywood awards show, as broadcast by “TV.” This is not NBC-TV or CBS-TV or any other brand, but just generic TV. There’s even a logo for the powerful “TV” network! As for the actual award show, it’s also unbranded. You can tell it’s not the Oscars because: (1) they didn’t call it that; (2) it takes place in a high school auditorium covered by paper signs.

More like the Grammys.

Nah. Nicer than the Grammys

In that opening scene, we see that Pia Zadora has been nominated for the award for the best original screenplay. The atmosphere around the ceremony reminds her of her first award ceremony, so many years ago, back in high school, when she received an elaborate statuette as the “outstanding English student,” and made her first acceptance speech.

Do you sense a flashback beginning?

Years earlier, in pigtails and a gingham dress, the subtle hints that she was an innocent rube, Pia delivered that first, too-sincere acceptance speech, rambling on and on about presenting important ideas in an honest way. A teacher, who was obviously as bored as I was, interrupted her speech and humiliated her. This was the first in a string of humiliations which would fill her life, and eventually spur her on to the Unspecified Award for her Hollywood screenplay.

The next major humiliation came on the same night, after the big senior bash, when she was raped with a garden hose. (“I’m gonna give you something special!”) Although Pia obviously went to Holy Innocents High School of the Arts and Virginity in a poor California community, her rich and psychotic assailant was from Beverly Hills, where he presumably attended Norman Bates High. The psychopath was played by a young Ray Liotta. Maybe choosing to end up the big evening in private with Ray Liotta was not the best life choice. You’d think she might have suspected this after she showed Liotta her “outstanding English student” award, and he offered the witty riposte that “it looks like a penis!” Luckily for Zadora, Ray was interrupted in the early stage of the hose-raping by Mr. Famous Screenwriter, who nursed Zadora back to health and married her the next morning.

Or maybe not.

Anyway, he married her soon thereafter, but this marriage had a few problems. To begin with, she was in high school and he was middle-aged and impotent. (Hey, it’s a Harold Robbins story.) I guess they might have worked through that, except that the sex was the best thing about their relationship. She re-wrote his latest script without asking his permission, which caused him to go ballistic until he realized she was right, so he used her re-write and took credit for it. The last straw came when he threatened to rape her with a garden hose, as kind of a nostalgic trip back to the night they met. (“Or is this is more your kick?”)

Zadora figured that since she could improve the scripts of Famous Impotent Screenwriter, she could probably make it on her own, so she wrote a screenplay and set off confidently to make it in Hollywood, still wearing her best calico dress. Of course, each person who read her script agreed to give it very serious consideration – as soon as Zadora finished sucking his dick or eating her pussy. After the oral sex, there was always the ol’ brush-off, except for occasional post-fellatio cuddles with garden hoses, and then later with ever larger hoses. Once it got around that she was really into hoses, then the guys with the big nozzles started to show. You’d think Perhaps Zadora should have figured out this scam after falling for it a couple of times, particularly when her prospective mentors would show up for a script meeting in a fire truck, but she fell for the same scam again and again. Of course if she had wised up sooner, the film’s running time would then have been less than feature length. In fact, if she had figured out the drill in a logical amount of time, the running time would have been less than the length of a Nike commercial.

She did love one man after Mr. Famous Impotent Screenwriter, but he was Mr. Gay Director, so she seemed to be batting zero in the ol’ romance department. Finally, Zadora went insane, and in her feverish, insane dreams she saw all her exploiters spinning around her keyboard.

She cleverly deduced from the “people in her life spinning around on a keyboard” metaphor that her subconscious mind was telling her to write the story of her own life, so she wrote the very story which we are now watching, and that leads her (and us) right back to the Unspecified Awards Show seen in the opening scene. Yeah, as if the very script we are now watching could be nominated for a screenwriting award.

Let’s cut to the chase. Despite the fact that the film she has written is this very film, one of the worst screenplays of all time, she wins the Unspecified Award for Best Screenplay. This allows us to see and hear some things which we aren’t likely to experience in reality.

  • The first is Pia Zadora holding a real award (not a Razzie or a Golden Globe).
  • The second is her memorable acceptance speech, in which she declaims, “I don’t suppose I’m the only one who’s had to fuck her way to the top,” then sets down her award and walks out of the auditorium alone, into the anonymity of the night, while the crowd jeers, the credits roll, and the singer sings the haunting “Lonely Lady Ballad.”