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James Robert Baker; Satiric Novelist, Cult Filmmaker

November 15, 1997|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

James Robert Baker, novelist and filmmaker whose over-the-top satire enthusiastically blended humor with rage and violence, has died. He was 50.

Baker, perhaps best known for his novel "Tim and Pete," committed suicide Nov. 5 in his Pacific Palisades home, said his friend Ken Camp.

The writer's other books include "Adrenaline," about two gay fugitives, "Fuel-Injected Dreams," a sendup of the rock music industry, and "Boy Wonder," which satirized the film business Baker came to loathe.

Trained at UCLA film school, where he won the Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award, Baker began his career as a screenwriter. He left after five years, steeped in experiences he would use for "Boy Wonder."

"I felt like a door-to-door salesman going to all these pitch meetings," he told The Times in a 1993 interview, describing film executives as "rabid, hideous morons."

Baker's fourth novel, "Tim and Pete," told the story of a gay couple in post-riot Los Angeles who fall into the company of an assassination-prone group of AIDS kamikazes. Their motto is: "If I get AIDS, I'm going to take someone with me."

A self-described anarchist, Baker denied that he was advocating such action. "I think assassination does change things. . . . But I'm not really calling for violence," he said. "It's a novel, not a position paper."

But the rage that Baker clearly felt over gay-bashing and the loss of friends to AIDS permeated his writing.

Another hallmark was graphic sex and bad language, or, as he described it, "raunch with intelligence."

"I'm just trying to capture the way people really talk and think," he told The Times. "I want to write like Keith Richards [of the Rolling Stones] plays guitar. . . . Using genteel prose to describe sex is the equivalent of doing [a Stones album] on a harpsichord."

Baker estimated that his books, which received mixed reviews from critics, sold about 25,000 copies each.

A fifth book, "Right Wing," about a conservative philosopher and would-be presidential candidate, was published on the Internet.

Baker was also known for an underground film, "Mouse Klub Konfidential," about a Mouseketeer turned gay bondage pornographer, which scandalized the 1976 San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Undaunted, he followed that with another film cult favorite, "Blonde Death," about parricide in Orange County.

Brought up in Long Beach, Baker is survived by a brother, Douglas, and his partner, Ron Robertson.

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