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‘The Day the Clown Cried’: Behind the scenes of the infamous Jerry Lewis film
03:24 pm



This is a guest post from Tabitha Vidaurri, a writer and comedinette from Brooklyn

In 1971 Jerry Lewis infamously directed and starred in a film about the Holocaust titled The Day the Clown Cried.  For reasons that are still unclear, Lewis chose to depart from his trademark slapstick formula and play the role of Helmut Dorque, a German circus clown who ends up leading Jewish children to the gas chamber.

The film was never finished or released for obvious reasons (not even the French were behind him on this one). Apparently Lewis has refused to talk about Clown in interviews, which I find odd—you’d figure a comedian famous for falling down and making stupid faces would jump at the chance to discuss his utterly humorless movie about a clown in a WWII German concentration camp!

In the behind the scenes footage (see below) we get a glimpse of Lewis fulfilling his duties as a director: leading the film crew, checking the cameras, and dancing around wearing a neck brace. Ambient sound has been added to enhance the overarching sense of alienation, except it isn’t really necessary because this is footage of Jerry Lewis talking to Nazis.

This slideshow of rare production stills shows a gratuitous number of photos of Lewis in full clown makeup, and to escalate the creepiness of him posing with children he presumably later leads to their deaths, the sequence is set to doo-wop music performed by Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners.

Since the videos are absent of dialogue, here’s an excerpt from the script  to give you a little taste of the abyss:

(screaming at top of voice)
Come back, damn you, come back.  The
children… they’re laughing.  They’re
laughing. I am a clown.  I am a clown.

He turns back to the children and again bows.  He quickly leans down, looks at his reflection in the puddle, and scoops up a handful of mud which he plasters on his nose to make a bulbous, artificial proboscis.  He turns back to the children and in pantomime, pretends to see a fly buzzing about and tries to swat it.  The imaginary fly buzzes closer.


As the “fly” lands on his nose.  He looks cross-eyed at the mud blob, then swats at it.  The blob falls off.

To cleanse yourself of this massive, historical failure I suggest taking a shower and then watching The King of Comedy.

This is a guest post from Tabitha Vidaurri. Follow Tabitha on Twitter


Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Sex, guys & videotapes: Meet Amy Gwatkin, London’s most transgressive artist (NSFW)
04:09 pm



“They’re being brave and so am I,” explains photographer/artist Amy Gwatkin in her impeccable Queen’s English, sat in her white walled studio, pretty much bent double in her chair with nerves.

We are watching unedited footage for her new film installation Risk Assessment, which opens tomorrow night in Dalston. On the screen, in black and white, a fleshy, pale, aged man’s shoulder twitches and shakes with an effort that can only be called self-explanatory. “We’re being brave together—the one cannot exist without the other, the voyeur needs the exhibitionist, the exhibitionist the voyeur.”

“I’m not exactly an artist,” she continues. “Most of the year I spend interviewing people about shoes… photoshoppping already beautiful teenagers…” The otherwise employed fashion photographer (whose work has recently appeared in Dazed & Confused, EXIT, and The Independent, among others) pauses, letting us acknowledge what looks a lot like the old man’s petite mort. “But for a month of two every year I have the chance to make something that isn’t for anyone else—and I keep on coming back to this project involving naked men. First of all photographing them, now filming them.”

In 2010, Gwatkin posted an ad in the notorious casual encounters section of Craigslist (the world’s favorite sexual sewer). It read, “Exhibitionists Wanted.” Out of over 90 responses, she picked out ten that didn’t immediately scream “murderer”—EXCESSIVE CAPS LOCK AND BAD SPELLING BEING THE DEAD GIVEAWAY THEIR (sic)—and set about photographing these masturbating strangers, at their homes, at her studio, and even in the bushes of Hampstead Heath.

She then spent weeks with the resulting images, “obsessively” photographing, zooming in, and reprogramming them, in a way she concedes was partly about distancing herself from the subject and the experience. “The effect it created was almost overwhelming, like a vortex. At some point all the men became an amorphous mass. It was difficult to differentiate between the bodies.”

The resulting “vortex”—144 black and white prints forming a large, neat rectangular collage—was titled Nothing Happened (an allusion to the kind of questions she was asked whenever she described her work-in-progress). When I first laid eyes on this unique, powerful work of art, at the private view two years ago, an enthralled crowd milled about beneath it all night long, as if it were a stained glass window in a cave.

Gwatkin considers Risk Assessment her most significant work since. If in Nothing Happened, the participants’ bodies and identities were smudged and even obliterated, here they are given much more autonomy. Gwatkin acknowledges that she in turn is no longer hiding from the experience, the taboo. Everything is, to put it mildly, a lot less oblique, though Risk Assessment never fails to still somehow straddle that not-famously-fine line between the beautiful and the grotesque.

Now you can enjoy the linked, well, “teaser,” exclusively prepared for Dangerous Minds. Be warned, it’s pretty strong stuff.

Risk Assement runs as part of the show “FOR” (also featuring the work of Bella Fenning and Anna Leader), at SixtySevenA, at City Studios, 67a Dalston Lane, London E8 2NG, Tuesday 12th March 6-9pm, and runs until 28th March. By appointment only.

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
‘I do not wish…my nose nailed to other people’s lavatories’: Dame Edith Sitwell on ‘Naked Lunch’
07:41 pm



It was John Willett’s review of William S. Burroughs Naked Lunch, in the Times Literary Supplement, that led poet and writer, Dame Edith Sitwell to make her famous statement about the book, in 1963.

Willett was a writer, critic and, most importantly, translator of Bertolt Brecht’s plays. His translations so impressed the playwright that it led to their collaboration on the Berliner Ensemble’s historic 1956 London season. Yet, for such a seemingly radical critic and writer, Willett hated Naked Lunch and made his thoughts well known in a review headlined “Ugh!”:

“[Naked Lunch] not unlike wading through the drains of a big city . . . [It features] unspeakable homosexual fantasies . . . ...such things are too uncritically presented, and because the author gives no flicker of disapproval the reader easily takes the ‘moral message’ the other way…..If the publishers had deliberately set out to discredit the cause of literary freedom and innovation they could hardly have done it more effectively…”

Appearing not long after the controversial trial and publication of D. H. Lawrence’s infamous Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960, it seemed to many of England’s older and moneyed class that their world was under very real threat from the Barbarians at the gates.

One such figure, was Dame Edith, who upon reading Willett’s review fired off the following missive to the TLS:

To the Editor of the Times Literary Supplement

[published 28 November 1963]


I was delighted to see, in your issue of the 14th instant, the very rightminded review of a novel by a Mr. Burroughs (whoever he may be) published by a Mr. John Calder (whoever he may be).

The public canonisation of that insignificant, dirty little book Lady Chatterley’s Lover was a signal to persons who wish to unload the filth of their minds on the British public.

As author of Gold Coast Customs I can scarcely be accused of shirking reality, but I do not wish to spend the rest of my life with my nose nailed to other people’s lavatories.

I prefer Chanel Number .

Edith Sitwell, C.L.

What Dame Edith failed to grasp was that to a generation of young, free-thinking individuals, this letter was the perfect encouragement to go and buy the book.

Though Mr. Burroughs and Mr. Calder had made no small an impression at the Edinburgh Festival in 1962 (though arguably upstaged by the legendary spat between Communist poet Hugh MacDiarmid and Beat writer Alexander Trocchi), it is fair to say, this letter was amongst the best publicity they could have had for Naked Lunch.

Edith Sitwell is sadly neglected today, and her poetry, biographies, and one experimental novel are now mainly left to the reading lists of academics. Yet once, Edith and her brothers Osbert and Sacheverell, were the English Avant Garde—but time, fashion, politics and a World War soon usurped their position.

The poem mentioned in her letter, Gold Coast Customs (1930), was Sitwell’s own (almost Ballardian) tale of the horrific barbarism lurking beneath the artificiality of civilized humans in the city of London.

The following clip is of Dame Edith discussing her life, her parents and Marilyn Monroe, in 1959.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

‘Whaur Extremes Meet: A portrait of the poet Hugh MacDiarmid


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
A song of praise to the future: John Butler’s new speculative animation ‘Acrohym’
07:49 pm



For twenty-years, artist John Butler has been the driving talent behind an incredible array of short animated films and science-fiction series. As one half of the Butler Brothers, John has produced, written and animated original, speculative fictions that examine the nature of our relationship with Government, Military and Corporations through technology.

Animations such as Eden, The Ethical Governor, T.R.I.A.G.E. and Unmanned have reinforced John’s dystopian view of the world, where technology is primarily developed as a means of control, war and exploitation.

The future being shaped by computer technology tends more towards a world of anonymous depots, owned by companies like Amazon, where whey-faced workers trudge endless miles through giant product mazes, being told what to do and how long they have to do it by their own personal navigational computer—rather than the much vaunted promise of personal liberation.

‘I don’t think we’re doomed,’ says Butler, ‘But we are stuck with it. I think the self checkouts in supermarkets indicate where we are going, towards a cybernetic transaction space. They should give us a discount since we’re doing all the work now.’

Butler’s latest animation Acrohym is a satirical ‘song of praise’ to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency):

...the most exciting arts commissioning agency in the world today.

Acrohym stands for ‘Advanced, Central, Research, Organization, High-Yield, Markets.’ The kind of buzz words promoted by PR reps and technocrats, who are currently destroying language and democracy.

Butler is fascinated by this and the way in which organizations like DARPA, have become like art/science patrons developing new technologies for the military, while at the same time creating their own language.

‘I liked the idea that DARPA seemed to think of cool acronyms first and work backwards from that. Things like the FANG (Fast, Adaptble, Next-Generation Ground vehicle) challenge, the Triple Target Terminator (T3) and the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition ( MAHEM). They ruthlessly torture language to create a new form of technocratic poetry.

‘I think weapons design attracts the brightest minds and can draw on limitless funding, so it’s no wonder they make such fascinating stuff. It is an art form of sorts, increasingly so, as the systems become more baroque and dysfunctional, like architectural follies.

‘Form Follows Funding is the first Law of Procurement.

‘I think Defense is the seedbed of all research, but it eventually trickles down to the civil sphere. If private enterprise had created the internet, it would be a lot of bike couriers with USB sticks. Only a military project could have had such a long range investment strategy.’

John is working on his next project, but I wanted to know when he would be makinga full length feature film?

‘As soon as I’ve secured Ministry of Defense funding.’

More of Butler Brothers’ work here

Previously on Dangerous Minds

John Butler: ‘T.R.I.A.G.E.’

John Butler: ‘The Ethical Governor’


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Nuggets’ on video: Sixties garage rock, proto-punk megapost (Part 1)
11:22 am



The other day I was listening to Lenny Kaye’s immortal Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 box set and it occurred to me that there must be YouTube clips of many of the groups represented there, even ones you might not expect. Sure enough, this was the case. Not everything on the Nuggets box can be found there, but what is available is a great treat.

Here’s the original album, or at least what I could find of it. I highly recommend toking up and hooking up your computer to your HDTV for these and rocking out. Big fun.

The Electric Prunes miming to “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” on American Bandstand:

The Standells do “Dirty Water” on The Mike Douglas Show, 1966

Quite a bit more “Nuggets” after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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