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‘Dog Day Afternoon’: The true story
04:06 pm


Al Pacino
Sidney Lumet

The suspenseful 1975 crime drama, Dog Day Afternoon, was nominated for six Oscars—including one for actor Al Pacino’s ultra-intense turn as “Sonny Wortzik,” based on the real-life ill-fated Brooklyn bank robber, John Wojtowicz. It is justly considered one of the classics of Seventies cinema, but what of the actual story behind the events portrayed in the film?

From what I can tell, Sidney Lumet’s film, from a screenplay by Frank Pierson (A Star is Born, Cool Hand Luke, Soldier’s Girl), and based on reporting from LIFE magazine, was essentially pretty accurate to real-life events. John Woitowicz, a bisexual man and former bank clerk, convinced two accomplices, 18-year-old Salvatore Naturile (who was killed by the FBI) and Robert Westenberg (who fled the crime scene when we saw the first police car show up) to help him rob a bank. The reason for the heist, which was poorly planned and partially based on something in The Godfather (which Woitowicz had only seen that morning) was to obtain the money to pay for a sex-change operation for Wojtowicz’s partner, a pre-op transsexual named Elizabeth “Liz” Eden (played in the film by Oscar-nominated actor, Chris Sarandon).
Wojtowicz, writing The New York Times in an unpublished letter from his jail cell after the film was released, described his reasons for the bank robbery:

“[...] I did what a man has to do in order to save the life of someone I loved a great deal. His name was Ernest Aron (now known as Ms. Liz Debbie Eden) and he was Gay. He wanted to be a woman through the process of a sex-change operation and thus was labeled by doctors as a Gender Identity Problem. He felt he was a woman trapped in a man’s body. This caused him untold pain and problems which accounted for his many suicide attempts. I met him in 1971 at an Italian Bazaar in N.Y.C. after two years of separation from my female wife, Carmen, and two children.

Ernest and I were married in Greenwich Village in N.Y.C. on 12/4/71 in a Roman Catholic ceremony. We had our ups and downs as most couples do, and I tried my best to get him the money he needed for his sex change operation he so badly needed. I was unable to obtain the funds for his birthday on 8/19/72 and so, on Sunday, 8/29, he attempted suicide while I was at of the house. He died a clinical death in the hospital but was revived. While I went to get his clothes, he was declared mentally sick and sent to the Psychiatric Ward of Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. I went to see him and I tried to obtain his release on 8/21, but was told he would not be released and would stay there for a long time until he was cured.

Soon 8/22/75, along with two others, I began what I felt was necessary to save the life of someone I truly and deeply loved. No monetary value can be placed on a human life, and as it says in the Bible - “No greater love both a man then to lie down his life for another.”

On August 22, 1972, Wojtowicz, Naturile and (at first) Westenberg attempted to rob a Chase Manhattan branch on the corner of East Third Street and Avenue P in Gravesend, Brooklyn. What was supposed to take ten minutes turned into a fourteen hour stand-off and hostage negotiations with police, and saw hundreds, if not thousands, of onlookers showing up to gawk at the events. For about two days Wojtowicz became an unlikely sort of media anti-hero.

John Wojtowicz was sentenced to twenty years in prison, but got out after fourteen. A photograph of Wojtowicz with Liz Eden (who was able to get a sex change operation out of the $7500 fee that Wojtowicz made from the film) after his release can be see here. Liz Eden died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1987. John Wojtowicz was living on welfare in Brooklyn when he died of cancer in 2006.

The trailer for Dog Day Afternoon (note The Living Theatre’s Judith Malina as Wojtowicz’s mother):


After the jump, Harry Reasoner reports on the Brooklyn bank heist gone wrong on ABC News in 1972

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Idea’: Incredible pop-psychedelic Bee Gees TV special, 1968

There was a time, long, long ago—as ridiculous as this might sound today—when being a Bee Gees fan was something one didn’t admit to in polite company. By the mid-80s, the Brothers Gibb had more or less been relegated to the “guilty pleasures” category and their second career wilderness. If you liked them, it had to be, you know, “ironic” or something.

But fuck that. It was around that time, when I was in my early 20s, that I personally started to go absolutely nuts for their music. In my world, only an asshole doesn’t like the Bee Gees. If you don’t like the Bee Gees, best to keep it to yourself around me if you want to retain my respect for your musical tastes. It’s like admitting to being secretly Republican.

I’m serious. I’ll just cut you off!

That said, as big of a Bee Gees fan as I am—I have nearly everything—I was never, ever able to get my hands on a copy of their 1968 Idea TV special from German television. This morning, while looking for something else entirely, I came across some pop art style promo clips for two of their songs that I’d never seen before and they blew me away. I assumed that these were from the wonderfully art-directed French TV series Dim Dam Dom, but upon doing a little searching around, I found that they were were in fact from Idea and that the entire special was on YouTube in very high quality. It’s phenomenal!

The German Idea TV special coincided with the release of the Bee Gees’ fifth album, Idea, in 1968 but was actually shot in Belgium. At the time, they were actually a five-piece band, the brothers Gibb along with Vince Melouney on guitar and vocals and Colin Petersen on drums. Their special guests are Brian Auger and The Trinity with Julie Driscoll (who are incredible) and Lil Lindfors, a Swedish singer who performs “Words” in Swedish.

It was directed by Jean-Christophe Averty, who also directed three of my very favorite things ever: the short film “Melody” aka “Histoire de Melody Nelson” starring Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, his WILD (and technically advanced) adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, and the incredible 1966 documentary A Soft Self-Portrait of Salvador Dali, which is hands down the very best film ever made about the painter. Averty has had a long and distinguished career in French TV, film and radio. The art direction, which owes much to the Beatles’ then-new Yellow Submarine, was done by the grand Guy Peellaert, the Belgian artist best-known for his cover for David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs and the Rock Dreams book.

The whole thing is amazing, but here’s the title number to whet your appetite. If you don’t get high from watching this, I can’t help you.

After the jump, the entire Bee Gees’ ‘Idea’ TV special…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
After ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’: A gallery of Peter Blake’s pop art album covers

The ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ tableau
British pop artist Peter Blake still receives copies of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the mail with a fan request to add his signature and send the iconic cover back by return of post. It’s because the cover to Sgt Pepper’s is Blake’s most famous artwork, one made in collaboration with his then wife Jann Haworth.

In 1967, the year of Sgt. Pepper’s, Blake was the leading light of the British pop art movement, exhibiting alongside his fellow talents Pauline Boty, Derek Boshier, R. B. Kitaj, Peter Phillips, Richard Hamilton and David Hockney (until he moved to Los Angeles). What made Blake’s work special then (as it is now) was his ability to create an iconic and identifiable style of representation (through collage, paint and installation) that fully captured that swinging decade. His mix of pop culture ephemera (pop stars, soccer players) together with the semi-autobiographical self-portraiture (of artist as lapel-badge wearing kid in grey short trousers) maintains a traditional narrative form within a highly individual and modernist style.

Blake has continued to produce iconic and memorable art over the decades, and long after Sgt. Pepper’s he is still in great demand as a designer of album covers. This selection ranges from his early work for Liverpool Poet Roger McGough, to his work for his former art school pupil Ian Dury (Blake was, by the singer’s admission, his most important mentor) to Oasis and Paul Weller. Blake has also worked with Eric Clapton on three separate projects though briefly thought he had lost the job on his first Clapton commission (24 Nights) when he ‘fessed up to “Slow Hand” that he couldn’t abide long guitar solos.
Roger McGough: ‘Summer with Monika’ (1967).
The Beatles: ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ cover designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, 1967.
Pentangle: Sweet Child’ (1968).
The Who: ‘Faces Dances’ (1981). Designed by Peter Blake, with portrait paintings of The Who band members by Bill Jacklin, Tom Phillips, Colin Self, Richard Hamilton, Mike Andrews, llen Jones, David Hockney, Clive Barker, R. B. Kitaj, Howard Hodgkin, Patric Caulfield, Peter Blake himself, Joe Tilson, Patric Proctor and David Tindle.
Band Aid: ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas Time?’ (1984).
Paul Weller: ‘Stanley Road’ (1995).
Various: ‘Brand New Boots and Panties—Tribute to Ian Dury’ (2001).
In 1962, director John Schlesinger approached Peter Blake to make a documentary for the BBC about British Pop Art. From the outset, the pair did not get on—Schlesinger had ambitions to make a movie (he did, it was called Billy Liar). Schlesinger left the project and was replaced by the young Ken Russell, who was fast becoming the star director at the BBC’s Monitor arts documentary series. Russell and Blake hit it off immediately and the two developed the documentary into something bigger and better. Russell brought in artist Pauline Boty, who he had wanted to make film with, while Blake brought in artists Peter Philips and Derek Boshier. Under Russell’s directorial guidance the four artists collaborated on a dazzling and highly original film that captured elements of each artist’s personality. The title Pop Goes the Easel was apparently Blake’s suggestion, but the film’s style is all Russell.

More Blakean covers, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Watch it now: Spalding Gray’s 1986 monologue ‘Terrors of Pleasure’
10:57 am


Spalding Gray

I was re-watching And Everything Is Going Fine the other day, Steven Soderbergh’s touching tribute to Spalding Gray, and it made me happy and sad all over again. So many of Gray’s monologue works are hard to get ahold of, especially the early ones, which may literally not exist anywhere. It got me hunting around for whatever I could find on YouTube, and I discovered a pretty solid Spalding Gray monologue movie I hadn’t heard of before.

Terrors of Pleasure has the distinction of being the other monologue that Spalding Gray performed at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center in 1986—it alternated with the far better known Swimming to Cambodia, which was filmed by Jonathan Demme as a movie for release in 1987. That movie was for many people the “gateway drug,” if you will, to the endlessly entertaining world of the New England WASP neurotic who before then had toiled in the downtown performance scene for quite a while with experimental theater outfits such as the Wooster Group. Afterwards his filmed monologues such as Monster in a Box and Gray’s Anatomy became much better known than, say, Sex and Death to the Age 14 or 47 Beds. (Like Swimming to Cambodia, Terrors of Pleasure could be considered a 1986 monologue that was released in 1987.)

This movie of Terrors of Pleasure is an odd duck. Directed by Thomas Schlamme (who later became more prominent as a key collaborator of Aaron Sorkin’s), it features a technique of filming brief vignettes (with hired actors, location scouts, the whole deal) of the story Gray is telling, which is primarily about the misadventures Gray and his longtime girlfriend Renee Shafransky invite when they impulsively buy a small cabin in a rural outpost near New York City (although there is a significant tangent of Gray auditioning to co-star opposite Farrah Fawcett in a movie). 

Terrors of Pleasure is very funny indeed—it might be Gray’s funniest, hard to tell. At the core of the narrative about the cabin is an audio recording, played by Gray with a boombox, of the seller of the house attempting to strong-arm Gray into buying—it’s an amazing clip but one wonders if it was real, a question that maybe too few have asked in connection with Gray’s monologues. I suspect that a lot of them were pretty far from literally true even as they probably remained scrupulously true in a psychological sense. The recent troubles of performance artist Mike Daisey, whom I’ve seen perform several times (I saw Gray do his thing twice), haven’t really raised similar questions about Gray’s work—although the filmed clips in Terrors of Pleasure very much expose the absurdity of many of his stories. The literalization of actually seeing the characters of his stories hectoring him or intoning their ridiculous utterances should at least give the skeptical viewer pause.

Two other quick things that are odd about Terrors of Pleasure—the laugh track, which I suspect was taken directly from the audience but was merely amplified, is a choice that wouldn’t be made the same way today, we can be certain of that. And for some reason the monologues ends almost mid-sentence. It doesn’t cohere to an end and then fade out or anything, it pretty much just cuts to a “Directed by” screen for Schlamme, who apparently was the one who made the weird decision to cut it off so abruptly. The YouTube video matches the length of the official release, so that isn’t the problem.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
R.I.P. Jack Bruce of Cream
09:22 am


Jack Bruce

This morning, the home page of the great British blues/rock bassist Jack Bruce announced his passing, of unspecified causes.

Bruce was of course best known as the bassist and singer of Cream, the heavy blues-rock band of the late ‘60s that is justly credited with contributing to the invention of heavy metal, and which also featured guitarist Eric Clapton and completely insane drummer Ginger Baker. After that band’s dissolution, Bruce was the only band member not to join Blind Faith, instead pursuing a career playing bass in jazz and blues trios, and working solo, and notably, he was the bassist on almost all of Lou Reed’s high-watermark album Berlin.

Just six months ago, Bruce released his first solo album in over ten years, Silver Rails. It will presumably be his last word, though there will surely be some posthumous blood-from-a-stone compilations in the offing. There’s excellent background info on Bruce’s early career (and terrific recent interview footage with him) in the must-see Ginger Baker documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, which is streaming on Netflix. The 1969 documentary on Bruce, Rope Ladder To The Moon details his early solo career. You can watch it here. Among other great performance moments to be seen here, about 17 minutes in there’s some SCORCHING live footage of Bruce playing upright jazz bass with Dick Heckstall-Smith and John Hiseman of the British prog/jazz/rock band Colosseum. The song is “Over the Cliff” from the 1970 LP Things We Like. Naturally there’s Cream footage included, as well.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Bizarre 80’s public access TV gone insane: ‘Unwind With The Sweeties’
09:12 am


cable access
The Sweeties

The eighties were so weird. Even at the time we thought that era was bad, but looking back I always am blown away at how truly amazing that decade was.

It was a time of learning about so much wild stuff because there was suddenly a “critical mass” interest in the “weird” past and tons of CD reissues of… virtually everything. And we were all digging it up—and digging the shit out of it—just as it was about to be dumped, burned or lost. In this pilgrimage was also a great sort of confusion of the decades, known by myself and friends as the “eighties/fifties.” Loads of bands were “eighties/fifties” in great and horrible ways (think DEVO or B-52s as opposed to, say, the Stray Cats). Add onto all this the emergence of cable/public access TV and its availability to anyone with an idea (and follow-through).

My friends in LA and I (in NYC) would trade the weirdest stuff we could find and tape off air. At that time (and still, amazingly enough) my West Coast friends were members of Redd Kross, White Flag, filmmaker and Painted Willie drummer Dave Markey and a whole lot of the insane genius people they hung around with. When our almost mirror image of them (New York-style) collided, it was always amazing.

One of the biggest public access obsessions of my West Coast tape-trading pals was a show called Unwind with the Sweeties. Two bizarro “fifties/eighties” entities with odd faces attached to wool ski-masks pulled completely over their faces, who called each other “Sweetie.” They did boring and mundane things like go to the mall, the bakery, or sometimes, sitting in their cool junk-infested set, they’d just drift into kooky daydreams, or do nothing at all AND IT WAS AMAZING!

They were shrouded in mystery and we all tried to find out who they were. We really went all out, at least my LA buddies did. But we never found out any information about the Sweeties! Nothing! How perfect is that? Like the Residents in a dada situation comedy.

I got to thinking about writing this piece so of course I googled them. There wasn’t much, but there was what seemed to be a blog that was done by them all these years later!  The first couple of entries were funny and what I expected but suddenly, things became very very dark.

Oddly, written in a similar tone as the Sweeties’ first entries were sicker entries with illustrations straight out of a Mexican tabloid. This was like a horror film. I cannot imagine what the hell this is all about and though I’m curious it also really freaks me out. I would not look if you don’t want to see a mutilated dead body, yet the text is written in their “voice” and is actually quite funny. There’s also a link to their Facebook page which does not seem to exist.

More on the mystery of The Sweeties after the jump…

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
Long live the Ramones: Incredible unseen early Ramones news story!
08:10 am



Just when you thought there was nothing left to see, that you’d watched every Ramones clip YouTube has to offer, up pops something like this. A veritable ten-minute rock and roll history lesson from the Ramones. The fact that they were put on TV this early in the midwest is shocking enough, but for an extended story that is quite unedited, where their message comes across loud and clear, a message that holds true to this day and forever, well, it’s just something else. It’s so exciting for me to revisit the open and endless possibilities of that time, to see the group embraced by small town weirdo hippies turning punk right before our eyes as the whole country got bored of so-called “rock music” and disco! And the local news (or maybe this was a local PBS newsmagazine, it’s hard to tell) totally getting it!

We see the band performing three numbers at the Red Lion in Champaign IL and signing autographs at the local Musicland store (‘mema them?). Johnny Ramone does most of the talking and he is already looking forward to retiring! Beyond great! Major thanks to whoever found this, it’s only been up on YouTube for a few weeks. And to think that I just received a gold record for the first Ramones’ LP (thank you Linda Ramone!) which took 38 years to happen. THIRTY EIGHT YEARS to sell 500,000 copies! I will never understand this. U2, who have a song about the Ramones on their new “download thing,”  had it put in 500 million iTunes subscribers pockets in one day. It’s not fair! But in the end it all came true as the Ramones become what they always knew they should be, one of the top most influential bands of all time… I just hope they can see it happening from whatever juvenile delinquent heaven they’re rehearsing in. Long live the Ramones!

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
Mingus, Monk and more: Portraits of jazz greats painted on drum skins
05:54 pm


Charles Mingus
Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk drum skin art by Nicole Di Nardo
Thelonious Monk
Twenty-seven-year-old Toronto based artist Nicole Di Nardo says her desire to paint portraiture on drums skins was inspired by “tondos” or “circular” works of art whose origins have been traced as far back to 500 BC in ancient Greece, then were popularized again during the Renaissance in the 14th century and in the 15th century by Sandro Botticelli. Di Nardo gives used drum skins she obtains from the Humber College of Music in Ontario a new life by hand painting images of jazz greats, especially drummers, on skins that have been worn in a way that helps illustrate the musical passion that drove her subjects to create their music. Here’s a little bit more from Di Nardo’s bio on her creative process:

I source skins that are beaten to the point of near uselessness by eager young musicians. I then repurpose the skin by selecting it based on its unique design, which corresponds to the portrait I wish to render. I am interested in painting portraits of musicians who have fire in their bellies, those that reach a transcendental state while performing which is reflected in their expression. During these moments, I believe the tarnish of life fades away and the human spirit is evident most clearly.

Di Nardo’s subjects also include a few rockers like Janis Joplin and Tom Waits, but it’s her portraits of Charles Mingus, legendary percussionist Max Roach, and modern day timekeeper Questlove that really shine. Di Nardo’s works run around $180 dollars each over at her Etsy store.  Images of Di Nardo’s works follow. Dig it, Daddy-O.
Charles Mingus drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Charles Mingus
Max Roach drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Max Roach
Elvin Jones drum art by Nicole Di Nardo
Elvin Jones
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The Beginning of Doves: EARLY live Marc Bolan performance from 1967

John Peel intros this early on—and I do mean really early on, he’d just left John’s Children—performance by his chum Marc Bolan’s brand new “little group,” Tyrannosaurus Rex.

After a single disastrous gig with a four-piece rock group, Bolan slimmed the act down to just himself and wild-man bongo player Steve Peregrin Took.

The duo are seen here performing in the legendary psychedelic nightclub, Middle Earth in late 1967. Tyrannosaurus Rex were one of the most regular acts to play the club, along with Soft Machine, Tomorrow, The Deviants and the Graham Bond Organization.

The number, “Sarah Crazy Childe,” was a John’s Children b-side written by Marc.

If there’s an earlier clip of Tyrannosaurus Rex, I’ve not seen it.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Mashup fun with Derek Jarman’s 1976 Sex Pistols footage
04:04 pm


Derek Jarman
Sex Pistols

So I was searching YouTube, like one does, for interesting obscure music stuff to watch (and post to DM, of course), and lo, laid before mine eyes in the related videos column to the right of a Sylvain Sylvain video was “Sex Pistols - 1976 02 14 Butler’s Warph (sic) Earliest Known Footage,” shot by no less a luminary than the legendary underground filmmaker Derek Jarman! Now, for all I know, there may be earlier extant Pistols footage, but one way or the other, I don’t care, as the stuff is captivating. The young band is captured here in its initial burst of brash glory at a time when punk was still too young for its tropes to have become tedious clichés, and a technical happenstance rendered the footage absolutely lovely—as the captions will inform you when you watch it, Jarman shot this on Super-8 film at a nonstandard frame rate, rendering the footage soft, choppy, gauzy, and otherworldly.

When I muted the sound to answer a phone call, I noticed something—absent the Pistols’ music, it kind of reminded me a little of the video for “Here’s Where the Story Ends” by the Sundays. (If you don’t know it, click the link and take a few minutes to check it out, it’s a very pretty pop song that begins to border on shoegaze. It was popular among the 120 Minutes set in 1990, and it holds up quite well.) So suddenly, I was on a mission. I opened some new browser tabs and tried playing a couple dozen shoegaze, indie, dream-pop and post-rock songs along with the silenced Sex Pistols footage.

There are far worse ways to kill an evening.

I found something out rather quickly—there’s such a thing as too slow. Stuff I tried by Slowdive, Mogwai, and Godspeed You Black Emperor just didn’t work well at all. The music that seemed to work most satisfyingly was dense and trippy, but still uptempo. I encourage you to do some searching on your own—and please post your wins in the comments, of course, as I’d love to try them out—but I included some embeds that I liked in the hope that might start things rolling. Oh, and tiresome punk purist fogies getting ready to agonize at me about how HORRIBLY WRONG it is to play a Lush song over this precious heavenly golden dewdrop of rebel history? It’s a bit of fucking fun, lighten the hell up. I MEAN IT, MAAAAAN.

Here’s that Pistols film, to begin with, and a pile of alternate soundtrack options follows. I don’t even have to tell you to try playing them all at once, right?

It continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
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