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FDL Movie Night: Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven

(Head’s up: language in trailer NSFW)

I loved the original “Showgirls” for its utter Showgirls-ness delivered by screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and director Paul Verhoeven. The classy nail artistry of the heroine Nomi Malone; “Goddess” star Cristal Connors’ drawling


and of course the slimy perfidy of casino hotshot Zack Carey with his utterly tacky dolphin fountain swimming pool which was the setting for one of the most ridiculous, and short, sex scenes ever.

But whatever happened to Penny, the naive stripper from Cheetah’s who took Nomi’s spot in valet/dancer Jimmy’s modern dance flop piece “Private Dancer”? Last we saw her, about a quarter of the way through “Showgirls,” she was pregnant by Jimmy…

Well, Penny’s back! And tonight’s guest, Rena Riffel who created the role of Penny, has written, directed and stars in Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven which takes us on Penny’s surreal odyssey towards fame and stardom via the television show Star Dancer, with appearances of classic lines and characters from the original:

Brown rice and vegetables…Wait ’til you hear Caesar sing!…I’m a dancer not a whore! You are a whore, darlin’

are back, as are familiar faces like Jimmy (Glenn Smith) who now prints tee shirts with stupid slogans; Jeff (Dewey Webster) is still stealing suitcases, while sleazy casino employee Phil is running a pawn shop–until he realizes his dream of opening a tiki bar. Plus, outdoing the the original, an understudy ends a star’s career–twice! But all of these are icing on the the very freaky cake that Riffel has baked for Penny.

After leaving Las Vegas and having her suitcase stolen by Jeff, Penny stumbles on a group of celebrity impersonators in a trailer park who take her with them to Hollywood. But during a bathroom break at the side of the road “Marilyn” murders her fellow travelers and sets off after Penny with a large bloody knife. Penny survives, but “Marilyn” doesn’t. Somehow Penny, who takes the murdered gang’s stash of cash, makes her way to a mysterious resort called Seven Sisters, first mentioned to her by Jeff, where “Star Dancer” is filmed.

Seven Sisters is a very creepy place, centering around the production of “Star Dancer” and immersed in occult lore where the powerful denizens appear to be members of a secret order that may or may not worship the devil and/or make snuff films. Either way, they definitely have orgies (one is a tiny parody of “Eyes Wide Shut”) and Penny unwittingly becomes a prostitute as she tries to claw her way to achieving her dream of becoming  the star of “Star Dancer”. Standing in her way is Katya, the crazed former Bolshoi ballerina who takes Penny under her wing (and into the pool in an hysterical send up of the pool scene in Showgirls), trains her in ballet and puts her in a “Star Dance” performance that riffs on the “Goddess” production central to the original “Showgirls.”

Psychotic Katya and Penny’s complex love-hate relationship deepens when the pair escapes to San Francisco, and Penny takes the necessary steps to prove she has what it takes to be a star–by greasing the bottom of Katya’s shoes. Katya falls, and Penny become the lead dancer at Phil’s tiki bar, incorporating ballet Alvin Ally, Joffrey and Juilliard moves into her routine, impressing her long lost love Jimmy who finally admits that she can dance.

Dark secrets, maids in stripper outfits working their way through detective school, references to David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” (in which Riffel appeared) and “Black Swan” as well as “Showgirls,” wiener eating ballerinas and yes, the obligatory “little person in a dream sequence” who reveals that Penny should

seek the Black Madonna. She has the answers you seek

all combine with a weird side trip into psychological and metaphysical horror along with commentaries on fame, the desire for success, and post-modern feminism to make this an ambitious and bizarrely successful spoof/homage, an auteur masterpiece of madness, mayhem, camp and comedy that pays a loving a phantasmagorical tribute to its inspiration.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.