The Jordan Christopher Experience

You may be inclined, as I often am, to mix up Jordan Christopher (Jordan Christopher Zankoff, 1940-1996) with Christopher Jones (star of Wild in the Streets). No doubt the two did some scrapping over the same narrow patch of turf, and may I say it’s one I approve of highly: psychedelic era sex symbols…some kind of way-out cross between Jim Morrison, Elvis, and James Dean, mixing real acting ability, and rock star charisma. I find it astonishing that in neither case did it translate into something bigger and more sustained, but the vogue for this kind of thing ended up being very brief. But Christopher legitimately straddled both worlds.

Originally from Akron, Christopher first gained fame as a member of the rock group The Wild Ones, which was the house band of New York’s Peppermint Lounge (birthplace of the Peppermint Twist), and then of the Arthur, which was run by Richard Burton’s ex-wife and Kate Burton’s mother, Welsh actress and socialite Sybil (Williams) Burton. At her instigation, in 1965 The Wild Ones recorded the first version of the garage classic “Wild Thing”, which became a hit for The Troggs a year later. Christopher and Burton got married in 1966, and her influence is probably the greatest factor in Chritopher being anything more than a rock history footnote. He and his fellow Wild Ones appeared in one of my favorite movies The Fat Spy in 1966. This was followed by The Return of the Seven (1966, a sequel to The Magnificent Seven), and the Broadway show Black Comedy/White Lies (1967) by Peter Shaffer. Then three more films: Robert Guenette’s The Tree (1969), Robert Thom’s jaw dropping Angel Angel Down We Go (1969) with Jennifer Jones and Holly Near, and The Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker (1970), then back to Broadway for the original production of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth (1970). He was a regular on the TV series Secrets of Midland Heights (1980-81). He had a smaller role in Bob Fosse’s Star 80 (1983) but a decent sized supporting part in Natalie Wood’s last film Brainstorm (1983). That’s Life (1986) by Blake Edwards, was his last movie. His last screen credit was a 1986 episode of Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

The wild thing is (ha, I said “Wild Thing”), though Christopher’s films are far from a litany of blockbusters (in fact, some are about as obscure as it is possible to get), they are almost all extremely fascinating, offbeat, strange or otherwise worthwhile. He clearly strove to only do projects he found interesting, as opposed to ones that would make him rich and famous. In addition to the screen work he continued to work with his wife in theatre. It seems like a happy life. Sadly, he was only 56 years old when he was felled by a heart attack.