A handful of images of the current goings-on in the airports of America. This is where we’re at, saw it for myself while traveling over the holidays. How do these pictures make you feel? It seems almost too obvious to state that I find this security theater horrifying and deeply depressing. We’re too stupid to take care of our sick and poor and we’re too stupid to be bothered by random public humiliation. What’s next?
More groping of the elderly, the infirm, children and nuns after the jump…
Network 7 was a love it or loathe it British TV series from the 1980s that changed television for good. Launched in 1987, it ran for two series, until 1988, and was aired on Sundays between 12 and 2pm, on Channel 4. There had been nothing like it, but there have been plenty of copies since.
Devised by Janet Street-Porter and Jane Hewland, Network 7 gave a voice to British teenagers and twenty-somethings, sowed the seed of Reality TV, and put “yoof culture” at the heart of the TV schedules.
Strange to think now, but back then youth TV was limited to roughly three shows: the educational Blue Peter, which was a cross between homework, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides; Top of the Pops, the legendary chart run-down show, hosted by Jimmy Saville and “Hairy Monster” Dave Lee Travis; and The Tube an anarchic live music series from Newcastle. And that was that.
Set in a ramshackle warehouse in London’s Limehouse, Network 7 changed all this by taking its audience seriously and offering feature items, news stories, music and interviews on issues that were topical, relevant and often ground-breaking: from exposes on bank card fraud, to Third World debt, AIDs, bulimia, bullying and gangs. Network 7 was also radical in that it was presented by “yoof”, and made stars of Sebastian Scott, Magenta Devine, Sankha Guha, Jaswinder Bancil and Trevor Ward.
It was easy to see why Ward was the best of the bunch, for he didn’t try and be a traditional presenter, something all the others did (and often badly). No, he was himself, and tackled each story with his own clever and original take. Trevor Ward was the main reason for watching Network 7, it was like having a young Hunter S. Thompson presenting a TV show - for Ward brought a steely journalistic edge to what was basically a day-time series presented by young things.
I contacted Trevor to find out how he got started:
I was working for Mercury Press agency in Liverpool in 1987 under the brilliant and inspirational Roger Blyth when I was 26. Network 7 was a brand new Sunday morning show, like a thinking-man’s Tiswas. About halfway through their first series, they said they were looking for a reporter. The following week, they repeated their appeal, but this time they said the applicants had to be Northern. So I sent in my CV and was invited down to an interview on the set – a load of reconditioned caravans in the middle of a big warehouse in East London. Janet Street Porter and Jane Hewland gave me a merciless grilling and I drove home convinced I hadn’t got the job.
The next day, a researcher rang me and said I was on the final short list of three, and that we would be expected to come down to London the next Sunday to do a live audition on that day’s show. The viewers would vote in a live telephone poll for who got the job.
I thought it was a brilliant idea, even though there was a one in three chance it could end in nationally-televised humiliation for me.
That week’s show was coming live from a Rock against Racism festival in Finsbury Park, and we each had to find a story during the programme’s two-hour running time to present to camera in under a couple of minutes about half an hour before the end.
I thought it was pretty obvious that it would have to be a PTC rather than an interview if we were to successfully sell ourselves to the viewers in such a short timespan, so I harvested a load of juicy anecdotes from a bunch of bouncers and turned those into a script which ended with about six of them carrying me off camera. I was unaware of what the other two were upto, and later found out they’d chosen to interview people from worthy causes represented at the festival.
Anyway, I got almost half the votes, so was declared the winner at the end of the show.
You can gather from this why Ward was the show’s highlight - he approached stories in an interesting and intelligent way. Every fuckwit would have gone all hang-wringing and worthy, but not clever Trevor, and that’s why he is so good.
My first live story on Network 7 was on its Death Penalty programme. Network 7 was brilliant for pioneering viewer interaction, and viewers were regularly asked to vote on a range of issues. That week it was the death penalty and whether a particular Death Row inmate –whom we had a live satellite link with – should die. I was handed the London, studio-end of things. It was incredibly nerve-racking. My first piece -to-camera (PTC)– at the top of the two-hour programme – was a two—and-a-half-minute walking/talking shot – an eternity in TV time - referring to various modes of capital punishment – all without autocue.
That was the other thing about Network 7 it engaged with its audience, it was like a social network for news stories, features and information. And by god did they pump that screen full of information - from what was coming up, to the temperature in the studio. Even so, for a generation it was compulsive viewing, and opened the gates to more accessible, more informative, more entertaining TV.
Janet Street-Porter went onto to win a BAFTA for Network 7 and was then appointed head of “yoof” TV at the BBC, before, more recently, returning to journalism. Trevor Ward continued as a journalist (writing for Loaded, The Guardian, and working as an editor on the Daily Record) and presenter, and is now a highly respected writer, producer and documentary-maker.
There aren’t many clips of Network 7 out there, and sadly none with Ward, but the few that are do give a hint of what the show was like. This selection ranges from opening titles, an item on gay youth and “coming out” (which was highly controversial subject back then), Madonna in concert, and an interview with The Beastie Boys.
More clips of ‘Network 7’, plus bonus French & Saunders spoof and Trevor Ward documentary, after the jump…
James Dean interviewed by actor Gig Young for an episode of the Warner Bros. Presents TV show during the filming of Giant, and just thirteen days before his untimely death at the age of 24 on September 30, 1955. It says all over the web that this is an speeding PSA, but that’s not accurate, although they do discuss the topic. Instead of saying the then popular phrase “The life you save may be your own,” Dean ad-libs the cryptic line, “The life you might save might be mine.”
This segment was never aired for obvious reasons, but was added as an extra feature to the DVD release of Rebel Without A Cause.
Cinefamily, here in Los Angeles, is probably the single best art house cinema in America (or maybe it’s a tie with Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse). When such a hallowed venue decides to deviate from their normal mission of screening novel cinematic fare 365 days a year, in order to show just one single film for an entire week—they never show most movies even twice—this movie is, in all likelihood, fucking amazing.
Combining the gripping, unpredictable tension of a prime Polanski thriller, the perfectly-executed production design of a Wes Anderson contraption and the dangerous freaky-deakiness of a David Lynch nightmare, Dogtooth is easily one of the most unique filmic creations of the last few years, spinning forth from the dark imagination of new Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos. Topping critics’ lists as one of the best films of 2010, Cinefamily is proud to bring a full week-long of one of the coolest films you’ll see in 2011!
On par with Antichrist and Enter The Void for sheer audacity, this hyper-stylized, intoxicating mixture of physical violence and verbal comedy is the story of three teenagers perpetually confined to their parents’ isolated country estate, and kept under strict rule and regimen—an inscrutable scenario suggesting a warped experiment in social conditioning. Terrorized into submission by their father, the children spend their days devising their own games and learning an invented vocabulary (a salt shaker is a “telephone,” an armchair is “the sea”) — until a trusted outsider brought in to satisfy the son’s libidinal urges starts offering forbidden VHS tapes(!) as a key to the outside world.
Fully utilizing every last inch of onscreen space, Lanthimos paints the blackest of portraits here using austere, antiseptic visuals, and elicits total warped commitment from his entire cast, resulting in an indelible immersive experience into a claustrophobic emotional netherworld never before seen. Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, 2009, 35mm, 94 min.
Some of the YouTube comments posted beneath the trailer said things like:
“This movie sucked every peace of joy out of me.This is one of those movie that really have a deep impact. Still I liked it,the message is brought to the viewer in such a way that it crawls deeply in your soul. God I think I will need therapy after this.”
“The movie is totally sick..raped my mood.”
“Christ and I thought my parents were overbearing but these guys their love for thier children hinges on sociopathic.”
“One of the most disgusting films ever. It made my guts turn upside down. I am very confused about what people found in it.
Intrigued yet? The film starts tomorrow at Cinefamily, 611 N. Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, California
Jesus being the first Vampire and George W. Bush looking to find the Holy Grail and drink his blood to become immortal (under orders from Hitler) - yeah, that has potential to be pretty wild, especially when you throw in Vlad The Impaler / Dracula, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and the Pope.
‘Wow. So what happens?’
A lot of “shocking things”.
....there’s Christ having sex with himself, the Pope anally raped, female dolls mutilated and tortured, alongside plenty of racism and desperately offensive dialogue. But Zebub blows any sense of taboo-busting with a very long and apologetic introduction in which he explains that none of this should be taken seriously and that no offence is meant, not even to the President (Bush at the time). C’mon Bill, have the courage of your convictions!
‘Jeez…no wonder they used dolls.’
‘And he got paid for this?’
‘I’m in the wrong job.’
‘Is it any good?’
Not really. Here’s David Flint’s review:
Unfortunately, any potential is lost in a mix of really, really shoddy production values and the sort of clumsy shock-value humour you might expect to come out of a fourteen year old metalhead trying to upset his parents.The only good thing here is the cover art (and possibly some of the soundtrack).
‘Okay. Maybe I’ll give it a miss, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the trailer just to be sure.’
In 1970 Charles Bukowski flew from L.A. to the state of Washington to read his poetry before a bunch of students at Bellevue Community College. It was only his fourth public reading. Students videotaped the event but it was largely unseen until the late 80s when it began circulating among Bukowski’s fans. Titled “Bukowski At Bellevue”, the video is crudely shot and the tape itself damaged and battered with age. But the technical deficiencies (and a case of the nerves) don’t obscure Bukowski’s sardonic humor, wiseass growl and diamond-hard imagery. Here’s Buk before he became an international literary superstar.
Part of the pleasure for me in watching “Bukowski At Bellevue” is seeing the students in the audience and recalling what it felt like when I first discovered Bukowski in my mid-teens. His words hit my frontal lobes like a syntactical blackjack, slapping me out of my suburban stupor and propelling me into the life of a poet and provocateur. For that, he will always be my hero.
While the video occasionally freezes like a drunk wondering where the fuck he’s at, the audio is not affected.
John Sex was a New York City-based performance artist, male stripper and disco singer who was a stand-out personality of the East Village art scene of the 1980s. He’d sing schmaltzy Vegas numbers in glittery smoking jackets, shiny Ziggy Stadust-esque zip-up jumpsuits, 10-inch platform heels, and assless leather pants. His trademark was his bleached blond hair which stood straight up on his head in an exaggerated pompadour which he said was held aloft by “a combination of Dippity-do, Aqua Net, egg whites, beer, and semen.” He also had a pet python, named “Delilah,” and a suit made of 500 light bulbs. In his X-rated version of the Sinatra standard “That’s Life,” he’d sing “I’ve been a hustler, a hooker, a honcho, a hero, a dike and a queen.”
The “character” of John Sex was not all that much off from the “real” John Sex, but more of a mythical version of himself as an omnisexual rockstar parody or phallocentric version of Tom Jones. He couldn’t turn it off if he wanted to, which I can assure you, he did not. He would often claim that his parents were immigrants who “Americanized” their original Irish surname “Sexton” to “Sex” so they would fit in better, then adding “and if you believe that one…” The real story is that during a period of “rampant promiscuity,” Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi renamed art student John McLaughlin, the nice Catholic boy from Long Island who was everything his mother never wanted him to be, “Sex” and for obvious reasons, I think the name just stuck!
John Sex with Ann Magnuson, early 1980s
John Sex was a smart, super creative, fun, funny and endlessly inventive guy. Everyone loved him. There was absolutely no reason not to. John was a total sweetheart, a great raconteur and he always had the best showbiz stories and gay gossip you ever heard. He is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. There was constant laughter when he was around. You can see a little bit of what John Sex was like in this clip shot by video artist Nelson Sullivan. John and his friend Craig Vandenberg (who often played John’s washed-up showbiz loser father in shows they’d do together) trade lines in the basement of the Pyramid Club, warming up before a performance there. His boyfriend, Willfredo, the guy with sunglasses, is seen taking pictures about 2:45 in. You can see the performance itself here.
With his female backing singers, The Bodacious TaTa’s (Wendy Wild, April Palmieri, Micki French, Myra Schiller and others) and wearing his exaggerated showbiz finery courtesy of his friend (and sometime TaTa) fashion designer Katy K, John Sex played to nightclub audiences at venues like Club 57, the Pyramid Club, Danceteria, Limelight, The Palladium and The Saint. Many of his shows would end with him stripping down to a glittery jock strap, or beyond, during a song called “Jet Set.” Some of his other notable numbers were “Hustle With My Muscle” (see clip below), “Sex Appeal,” “Bump and Grind It” and “Rock Your Body,” a song he did with noted hip hop producer Man Parrish, that I made a music video for in 1988 (see bottom clip).
“Hustle With My Muscle” directed by Tom Rubnitz, This was shot at the Area nightclub in 1986 when the theme of the decor was something like “rednecks” or “trailer trash.”
John Sex only released two records during his lifetime. His sole non local news or NYC cable access TV appearance might have been on the short-lived talkshow hosted by comedian/actor Richard Belzer in the 80s, but I could be wrong about that. He was in the Cars video for “Hello Again” directed by Andy Warhol. He did a notable ad for LA Eyeworks that was widely seen in a lot of magazines in the mid-80s. He was also included, with a very memorable performance of “Hustle With My Muscle” featuring ejaculating prop penises, in the underground film Mondo New York which is often still seen on IFC and the Sundance Channel late at night. This is how most people hear of him these days. There was not exactly a large body of work left behind when John died of AIDS related illnesses in 1990.
In 1982, I visited New York on a 36-hour long school trip to see Broadway plays. I bought an issue of the Village Voice that I *studied* for the next year, because the back pages and apartment rental listings told me everything I needed to know to be able to make my way from my hometown back to the Big Apple. In that issue was an Amy Arbus portrait of John Sex and Katy K that was really striking. I recall thinking “Hey it’s the guy in that picture” the first time I saw John in a nightclub. He was one of those people who was a celebrity, but only in lower Manhattan. The whole Warhol “Superstar” glamor also rubbed off on John, who was friends with the artist.
I don’t really recall how John and I met, but when his “Rock Your Body” record came out, I proposed that I direct a music video for it and he enthusiastically accepted. This was another of the videos I co-directed with my friend Alan Henderson, and in fact it was the first one we did togther. [I’ve posted about the one for Bongwater’s “Power of Pussy” here and the one for The Beme Seed’s “God Inside” here.]
John had a lot of fun ideas (surfing on the wave of his own hair, the flying carpet bit were his) and this spurred Alan and I on, too. Since we were shooting everything on “green screen” we were able to attempt many of these ideas, despite the budget essentially being pretty much nothing. It was shot and edited at Windsor Digital, the high tech video post production house where both Alan and I were employed at the time. We had a limited amount of time to shoot this, so certain things worked out better than others.
I can’t recall exactly what all of the late 80s video devices were that we used to edit it together, but at the time they were mostly newly introduced and the gear there cost way into the millions. Very few people would have had access to this stuff at the time and here we were two young guys (I was 22 at the time) who could get our hands on them, so we used ‘em. To record, one of us would have to run to the control room and hit record on two machines simultaneously and then run back into the studio. Alan basically taught himself effects editing on the project and now works for Fox Sports. We did all kinds of things, just experimenting, to see what would happen and what it would look like. A colleague and friend of ours there, Laurie Salladay helped out with some Paintbox work.
The peeling banana effect was achieved by taking a banana held in place by a nail and peeling it slowly and scooping out the meat as we pulled the skin away in a cheap and cheerful version of stop motion using frame by frame analog video animation (hardly optimal, to say the least). The digital video device known as the Quantel Mirage (everyone who knows what that was just smiled to themselves) wrapped the next scene in the shape of a peeled banana, tucked it in and then out it jumps, on the beat, in a cheesy jungle homage to the Velvet Underground! At least that is what I think we were thinking…
The bit where John is in the car, that car was taken from a still frame from a VHS tape of Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill and then colorized on a device called a Quatel Paintbox. It was layered like this: random footage we had shot out the window of a moving car; the back seat, John (who was supposed have have a prop steering wheel in his hand, but we forgot it and had to use a film reel); then the top layer of the car.
John’s hair gave us tons of trouble, as you can see in the final product, because the lights would go right through it, and fuck up the clean silhouette of the green screen footage (which was recorded on a separate reel of videotape as a black and white “keyhole” and then matted together later with a third video recorder). This wasn’t something that we counted on and we were often limited with what footage we could use because of this.
Today, you could do this all on After Effects with minimal effort, but in 1988, I can assure you that you’d have to have been a fucking maniac to attempt this stuff.
(The videos for Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance” and Boy George’s “No Clause 28” gay rights protest song were the first ones done on this equipment, as I recall, and you can see how similar they are if you follow the links). I’m not posting this because it’s so great or anything—this is a no budget video done by two young guys in their early 20s—I’m posting it because it’s of interest, hopefully, to a lot of people, who would have no exposure to John Sex otherwise, and who are interested in the East Village scene of the 1980s. John Sex was one of the seminal personalities of that era in New York City and it would be a shame if he’s forgotten.
Incidentally, we shot the video on the first day of the Tompkins Square Park Riot, August 6th, 1988 and as I returned home late that night, I fell asleep in the cab. When the driver stopped and told me he could go no further, I woke up to find my entire neighborhood on fire and cops everywhere. Good times!
When the video was finished, we were thrilled and shocked that MTV picked it up. They even did a story about it on MTV News. After a few months of the video circulating to nightclubs via the RockAmerica VJ tapes, John called me up one day to tell me that his asking price as a “track act” (i.e. nightclub performer with backing tapes) has risen to $3500 per gig and that he was getting offers to play in discotheques and gay clubs in places like Miami Beach and Atlanta.
Sadly, his newfound success was not to continue for much longer as John was diagnosed with HIV. I don’t think any of his friends were really that surprised—he was a pretty randy fellow—but boy were we all saddened. It just seemed colossally unfair. Someone blessed with such charisma, good looks, smarts… so funny and so sweet. I can still recall how numbed I was when I heard the news he was sick. AIDS was still terra incognita back then, the idea of John dying slowly was a depressing thing to contemplate. He wasn’t the first friend of mine to get sick and he wouldn’t be the last.
John Sex’s last public performance was at the Mars nightclub in New York in 1989. I was the doorman of the upstairs VIP room at the club—Vin Diesel worked the front door—and saw the show. He was still a high energy performer, but the medication he was taking made him puffy and his hair had started to fall out and so he was obliged to cut off his trademark hairdo, fashioning the hair that was left into a jeweled crown.
Whenever I was around John in the last year of his life, he always seemed to be in generally good spirits, all things considered and would even indulge in “gallows humor” at his own expense (like when he made me take about half of his record collection home with me, because he wasn’t going to be needing it). The last time I saw him, I stopped by his apartment (which always smelled heavily of curry because of the Indian restaurant downstairs) on St. Marks Place, with my then-girlfriend, Jesse (She is the blonde seen in the X-ray glasses bit of the “Rock Your Body” video). His tiny place at that point was set up like a hospital room and he looked terrible. His hair was nearly gone and he looked like a baby bird. Still, he was as mentally sharp as ever, and although it was obvious he was going to die soon, at least around me, he didn’t dwell much on it conversationally.
Jesse and I had a lot of shopping with us and John insisted that we leave it at his place so we didn’t have to carry it around all day. When we left him, he was full of energy and alert. When we came back about a bit later, he had an IV drip in his arm and seemed to have no idea who I was. I don’t recall how many weeks went by, before John passed, but it wasn’t too many. He died the day before my 24th birthday, on October 24, 1990.
John, Paul, George and…Jimmie? It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, does it? But for ten days in 1964, Jimmie Nicol was one of The Fab Four, drafted in to replace Ringo Starr on The Beatles first world tour.
Starr had collapsed with tonsillitis, and rather than cancel the tour, producer George Martin decided to call in a temporary replacement - Jimmie Nicol, an experienced session musician, who had played with Georgie Fame and jazz musician, Johnny Dankworth, amongst others. Lennon and McCartney were fine with the idea, but Harrison was a bit shirty, and at one point threatened to walk off, telling Martin and Brian Epstein: “If Ringo’s not going, then neither am I - you can find two replacements.” It was soon resolved and within 24-hours of the initial ‘phonecall, Nicol was playing drums with the Fab Three in Copenhagen. He later recalled:
“That night I couldn’t sleep a wink. I was a fucking Beatle!”
The next leg of the tour was Australia and Hong Kong, and Nicol soon found himself at the heart of Beatlemania. Fans screamed his name, his photograph was sent around the globe, and he was interviewed as one of the band by the world’s press. Nicol later reflected:
“The day before I was a Beatle, girls weren’t interested in me at all. The day after, with the suit and the Beatle cut, riding in the back of the limo with John and Paul, they were dying to get a touch of me. It was very strange and quite scary.”
He also gave an inkling into The Beatles’ life on the road was like:
“I thought I could drink and lay women with the best of them until I caught up with these guys.”
Ten days into the tour, Ringo had recovered and quickly reclaimed his place. Nicol was paid off by Epstein at Melbourne airport, given a cheque for $1,000 and a gold Eterna-matic wrist watch inscribed: “From The Beatles and Brian Epstein to Jimmy - with appreciation and gratitude.” It was like a retirement present. Within a year Nicol was bankrupt, owing debts of over $70,000, and all but forgotten. So much for his 15 minutes of fame.
“Standing in for Ringo was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Until then I was quite happy earning thirty or forty pounds a week. After the headlines died, I began dying too.”
Nicol went on to play with Swedish guitar band, The Spotnicks, but by the late sixties he quit pop music and relocated to Mexico. It was later claimed he had died, but as the Daily Mail explained in 2005, this was false:
At 66, his square-jawed looks have given way to grey jowls, the smile oblieterated by missing teeth. Anything that might remain of his Beatle haircut is tied back in a scruffy ponytail. But he still has his principles. Despite the lucrative rewards of today’s Beatlemania industry, he staunchly refuses to cash in….
It has even been reported that he died in 1988. This week, however, after a difficult search, I confirmed reports of his death are greatly exaggerated. One morning he could be foind visiting a building society, eating breakfast in a modest cafe, then returning silently to his London home. At this flat you could see sheet music through one window but no sign of any drums. He didn’t answer the door when I rang. If he got my messages about the new book, he didn’t reply.
When I eventually made contact, the conversation was predictably brief: “I’m not interested in all that now,” he said. “I don’t want to know, man.”
Here is footage of The Beatles’ tour of Australia and Jimmie Nicol’s time as the fifth Beatle - the Beatle who never was..
Rare clips of The Beatles on tour, plus Jimmie Nicol interview, after the jump…