Headless Body In Topless Bar

on March 22, 1996 by Sean O'Neill
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   A New York Post headline, "Headless Body in Topless Bar," has gone down as one of the kickiest tabloid headlines in history, but here are the facts behind the case: In April 1983, a maniac named Charles Dingle walked into a strip joint and shot the bartender in the head. There were no customers, but he took the three women present hostage and raped one, a dancer; when a mortician happened in, she was forced to dig into the bartender's head in search of the bullet. When that failed, Dingle made her decapitate the corpse and hand him the head, wanting no evidence left behind.
   The headline was a giggle; that anyone could see fodder for a comedy, even of the blackest variety, in such a grisly incident is almost beyond belief. Writer Peter Koper and director James Bruce have played fast and loose with the facts; the murderer's race has been changed from black to white, and customers have been added, only so that this tragedy could be played as a feature-length encounter session with the criminal forcing each character (aka "tired archetype") to reveal deep secrets and provide a few laughs along the way. That they fail miserably is no surprise, for this is the most wrong-headed exercise to come down the pike in quite some time.    Starring Raymond J. Barry, Jennifer McDonald and Paul Williams. Directed by James Bruce. Written by Peter Koper. Produced by Charles Weinberger, Rustam Branaman and Stephen Falick. A Northern Arts release. Comedy. Unrated. Running time: 105 min.
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