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Andy Warhol’s ‘Chelsea Girls’: The druggy draggy morally-bankrupt cult film that scandalized America
01.23.2017
03:46 pm

Topics:
Art
Movies

Tags:
Andy Warhol
Nico
Paul Morrissey
Mary Woronov


The iconic movie poster by famed illustrator Alan Aldridge. Warhol once remarked that he’d “wished the movie was as good as the poster.”

Chelsea Girls was Andy Warhol’s first “commercial” success as a filmmaker. Co-directed by Warhol and Paul Morrissey, the film consists of twelve improvised vignettes (two were semi-scripted by playwright Ronald Tavel) featuring the druggy, draggy, seemingly morally-bankrupt freaks who constituted Warhol’s entourage and inner circle.

The film was shot in summer and fall of 1966 in the Hotel Chelsea, at Warhol’s “Factory” studio and in the apartment where the Velvet Underground lived on 3rd Street. Brigid Berlin (“The Duchess”), Nico, Mario Montez, Ondine (“The Pope”), Ingrid Superstar, International Velvet, Rene Richard, Eric Emerson, Gerard Malanga, filmmaker Marie Menken, Ari Boulogne (Nico’s son), a gorgeous young Mary Woronov—who danced with the Velvet Underground as part of “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable”—and others are seen in the film’s three and a quarter-hour running time (the film unspooled on 12 separate reels). Most cast members are listed by their own names as they were essentially playing themselves.

Chelsea Girls was booked into a prestigious 600 seat uptown cinema in New York and actually distributed to movie theaters across the country. In 1966, it’s unlikely that middle America had any idea that people like this even existed. Film-goers in Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington, San Diego and yes, even, Kansas City probably got their first exposure to actual drug addicts, yammering speed-freak narcissists, homosexuals, drag queens and a dominatrix when they watched Chelsea Girls. To Warhol’s delight, the film was even raided by the vice squad in Boston. The theater manager was arrested and later fined $2000 when a judge found him guilty of four charges of obscenity.
 

 
Movie critic Rex Reed said “Chelsea Girls is a three and a half hour cesspool of vulgarity and talentless confusion which is about as interesting as the inside of a toilet bowl.”

Tell us how you really feel, Rex!

The film was presented as a split screen, running simultaneously on two projectors (examples below) with alternating soundtracks. It was a mixture of B&W and color footage. Edie Sedgwick’s vignette was removed from Chelsea Girls at her insistence, but was later known as “The Apartment” or “Afternoon.” A section originally screened with Chelsea Girls called “The Closet” (about two “children” who lived in one, with Nico and Randy Bourscheidt) was cut and later shown as a separate film.
 

 
A young Roger Ebert reviewed it for The Chicago Sun-Times:

For what we have here is 3 1/2 hours of split-screen improvisation poorly photographed, hardly edited at all, employing perversion and sensation like chili sauce to disguise the aroma of the meal. Warhol has nothing to say and no technique to say it with. He simply wants to make movies, and he does: hours and hours of them. If “Chelsea Girls” had been the work of Joe Schultz of Chicago, even Warhol might have found it merely pathetic.

The key to understanding “Chelsea Girls,” and so many other products of the New York underground, is to realize that it depends upon a cult for its initial acceptance, and upon a great many provincial cult-aspirers for its commercial appeal. Because Warhol has become a social lion and the darling of the fashionable magazines, there are a great many otherwise sensible people in New York who are hesitant to bring their critical taste to bear upon his work. They make allowances for Andy that they wouldn’t make for just anybody, because Andy has his own bag and they don’t understand it but they think they should.

 

 
Ebert hits the nail squarely on the head. Chelsea Girls is actually a fucking terrible “movie.” If you view it as “art” or as an important cultural artifact of the Sixties (it’s both) or even as a historical antecedent to Keeping Up with the Kardashians, then you can give it a pass, and probably should, but if you’re expecting to be “entertained,” well, hold on, you’ll need to recalibrate your expectations. Only a few parts of the film are actually engaging (Ondine’s speed-freak monologues; Brigid Berlin poking herself with speed; the “Hanoi Hannah” section with Mary Woronov) the rest of it is… boring.

It looks good and parts of it are “interesting” because you can only hear what’s happening on one side of the split screen and so the silent side becomes somehow more intriguing, but, oh yeah, this is a boring thing to watch. It’s still very cool, but it’s still very boring, if that makes any sense.

Chelsea Girls used to be next to impossible to see since its original release—at least until it got uploaded to YouTube—usually screening just a few times a year around the globe. I caught it myself in the (appropriately) sleazy surroundings of London’s legendary Scala Cinema in 1984. There were probably six people there, including me. I admit to falling asleep for a bit of it, but I think everyone probably does. Thank god that was when you could still smoke in movie theaters!
 

 
Pssst, don’t tell anyone I told you this, but the entire film can be seen here. Probably the best way to watch it is to hook your computer up to your flat screen and do something else, sort of half paying attention—maybe clean?—while Chelsea Girls is on in the background.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The photographs of pioneering Japanese surrealist Kansuke Yamamoto
01.23.2017
01:01 pm

Topics:
Art
Heroes

Tags:
Japan
Surrealism
1900s
Kansuke Yamamoto


A photograph by Kansuke Yamamoto, 1950.
 
Future photographer Kansuke Yamamoto’s father, Goro Yamamoto, was a talented photographer himself. The elder Yamamoto had an affinity for “Pictorialism,” or the artistic practice of distorting or manipulating a photograph in perhaps a painterly manner. Yamamoto didn’t initially follow in his father’s footsteps when it came to photography, and preferred to spend his young years writing poetry. At the age of seventeen Kansuke relocated from his birthplace of Nagoya to bustling Tokyo to pursue studies in French Literature at Meiji University. Already a huge fan of surrealist-style poetry, at this time it is very likely that the young artist first saw the various surrealist works of art that had just started to make their way to museums and galleries in Japan. Inspired by what was happening around him he would quickly become the co-founder of the Dokuritsu Shashin Kenkyukai or “Independent Photography Research Association.” The organization was formed due to the disdain many Japanese-based photographers had for the limitations of Pictorialism. The group’s magazine Dokuritsu (or “Independent”) would be the first publication to showcase the young Yamamoto’s photographic works.

It is important to note that the artists who produced surrealist-style work during this time were routinely persecuted by the Japanese government and ran the risk of jail and imprisonment if they were deemed annoying enough by the authorities. Despite this, Yamamoto had already fallen under the spell of surrealism and it would become his artistic calling card for the rest of his life. When Japan removed itself from the League of Nations in 1933, harsh rules such as the “Peace Preservation” laws were put in place. If you’ve ever heard the term “Thought Police” used before, its origins can be traced back to this time in Japan as this moniker was used to describe the law enforcement, or the “Tokko,” whose members worked tirelessly to remove freedom of the press, free speech, and free assembly. Undaunted and unafraid of the consequences, Yamamoto and others would carry on.

Until his death in 1987 at the age of 73, Yamamoto would form many more surrealist-based groups and became a mentor and inspiration to aspiring artists who were members of the Chubu Photography Federation of Students. Much of Yamamoto’s work is included in the 2013 book Japan’s Modern Divide: The Photographs of Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto. I’ve included examples from Yamamoto’s vast body of work dating from 1932 to 1970 below. Some are gorgeously NSFW.
 

Self-portrait, 1950.
 

‘Stapled Flesh,’ 1949.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Thrill to ‘The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor,’ forgotten comic book hero

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#7 April 1974.
 
Excuse me while I drool. I know it’s not polite but really what else can I do? Having missed out on this classic comic book horror series The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor the first time around, I really don’t have much choice. You see, being landlocked on a distant island far, far off the coast of America, Doctor Spektor never made house calls to my neighborhood comic book emporium in Edinburgh or even Glasgow. There were lots of Spideys and Hulks and Avengers but much less of my preferred taste in the Boris Karloff’s or even the Cryptkeeper’s ghoulish delights to keep my boyhood imagination suitably fevered.

And look what I missed….

The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor was the brainchild of one Donald F. Glut—a whizzkid filmmaker who made a total of 41 amateur movies during his teens and early twenties. These mini-movies featured “dinosaurs, the Frankenstein Monster, teenage monsters, Superman and other superheroes”—basically anything that took his fancy. Though none of these films were blessed with any real script they did achieve enough “notoriety”—mainly through the pages of Famous Monster of Filmland—to allow Glut to rope in actors like Glenn Strange—the man who filled the Frankenstein’s monster’s boots after Boris Karloff moved on—to take part on his features. Strange starred as (who else?) the Frankenstein Monster in Glut’s The Adventures of the Spirit in 1963.

Glut’s last amateur film was his take on Spider-Man in 1969 which was a seriously loopy Ed Wood-like film.

But anyhow….

His apprenticeship in home movies earned him a career as a scriptwriter for film and TV. He wrote novelizations of films, too—most notably for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. He also wrote storylines for comic books like Marvel’s Captain America (1978) and X-Men Adventures (1993) as well as DC’s House of Mystery (1974-81) among many, many other titles. Since the mid-1990s, Glut has been carving a niche as a writer/director of exploitation horror films like The Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula (2001), Countess Dracula’s Blood Orgy (2004) and most recently Dances with Werewolves (2016).

But we don’t need to know that. What we do need to know is that Glut created the sophisticated Doctor Adam Spektor—occult detective and monster hunter. (Imagine having that on your business card…) Spektor along with his Native American assistant Lakota Rainflower investigated strange goings on in the weird and terrifying supernatural world of vampires, werewolves, ancient curses and swamp creatures.

Now having just about caught up with—or rather having enjoyed a prescription of—Doctor Spektor’s marvellously thrilling adventures I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for Glut and artist Jesse Santos’ work. Look at these covers—just look at ‘em. They are awesome, aren’t they?

The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor ran from May 1973 to February 1977. And while there has been a pale reboot since, here’s a gallery of Santos’ excellent cover art for Glut’s debonair hero who almost manages to make wearing a bolo tie and a goatee beard seem cool.
 
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#9 August 1974.
 
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#23 December 1976.
 
More fabulous covers, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Sign of the times: This candle perfectly sums up how we all feel today
01.23.2017
10:51 am

Topics:
Amusing

Tags:
candle


 
Well, maybe not all of us exactly, but certainly many of us feel this way. What you’re looking is the Middle Finger Candle by Cool Material.

The “Middle Finger Candle” sounds too nice and polite to me. I prefer to call it the “Fuck You Candle.” I need this candle in my life. You, too?

It measures at 8.7” x 3.5” x 3.2” (it’s similar in size to a real hand) and has a 12-hour burn time. You can get it here for $42.95.


 

 
via So Bad So Good

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Some of the best (trust me, they are tremendous) protest signs from the Women’s March


One of the many signs I saw and photographed during the Seattle ‘Women’s March,’ January 21st, 2017.
 
On Saturday I spent the better part of the day walking the streets of Seattle with a few of my “delicate snowflake” friends and approximately 175,000 other like-minded women, men and children during our Women’s March. The event, which was the largest protest in the history of the city, was by far one of the most powerful and empowering things I have ever personally experienced in my life. And while it’s not an alternate fact that our work is just beginning, judging from the numbers of people who collectively participated in the massive march in Washington DC, and the local support marches around the globe, there is still room for hope.

Many of the images of the signs in this post, were taken by yours truly and by friends of mine, old and new, who I walked with in Seattle. Others were culled from the Facebook page Pantsuit Nation and I’ve done the best I can to attach locations to each photo. While I have plenty to say on the subject when it comes to why millions of people took to the streets all over the country and the world, I’d much prefer to let the images of the protest signs that marchers carried with them on Saturday do the talking. So to the new administration and our new Commander-in-Grief, get ready because you haven’t seen anything yet. Viva la VULVA!
 

Seattle Women’s March, January 21st, 2017. Photo taken by a member of my marching group.
 

Seattle. Photo by Cherrybomb.
 

A 91-year-old retired doctor protesting in Los Angeles.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘The Ballroom Blitz’: The teenage rampage that inspired Sweet’s greatest hit

01sweetballr.jpg
 
Well now, I suppose you could call it art out of chaos. That in a sequinned nutshell is the story behind Sweet‘s “The Ballrooom Blitz.” For glam rock’s catchiest trashiest most lovable song was inspired by a riot that saw the band bottled off the stage at the Grand Hall, Palace Theater, Kilmarnock, Scotland, in 1973. Boys spat and hurled abuse while girls screamed their loudest to drown out the music. Hardly the kind of welcome one would expect for a pop group best known for their million selling singles “Little Willy,” “Wig-Wam Bam” and of course their number one smash “Block Buster.”

Why this literal teenage rampage (the title of another Sweet hit) ever occurred and what caused such unwarranted and let’s be frank unnecessary violence against such four lovable glam rockers has been the focus of much speculation over the years.

One suggestion was the band’s androgynous nay effeminate appearance in figure-hugging clothes, eye-shadow, glitter, long hair and lipstick—in particular the gorgeous bass player Steve Priest—was all too much for the sexually binary lads and lassies o’ Killie.

Bass player Priest thinks so and has said as much in his autobiography Are You Ready Steve? But this does raise the question as to why an audience of teenage Sweet-haters would pay their hard-earned pocket money to go and see a bunch of overtly camp rockers they hated?

Money was tight. After all this was 1973 when the country was beset by cash shortages, food shortages, strike action, power cuts and three-day work weeks. People couldn’t afford to waste their readies on some pseudo queer bashing.

Moreover, homosexuality was out and proud, Rocky Horror was on the stage, Bowie was the androgynous Ziggy Stardust, teen magazines were giving boys make-up tips, and the #1 youth program was the BBC’s music show Top of the Pops—on which Sweet appeared to have a weekly residency.

Another possible reason for such fury was the virulent rumor Sweet didn’t play their instruments and were just a “manufactured” band like The Monkees. This story gained credence as the famous song-writing duo of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who wrote and produced Sweet’s hit singles were well-known to prefer using session musicians to actual members of a given group. It was just easier and faster to leave it to the pros.

The sliver of truth in this well-known rumor was the fact Sweet only sang on their first three Chinn-Chapman singles “Funny, Funny”, “Co-Co” and “Poppa Joe”. It wasn’t until the fourth “Little Willy” that Chinn and Chapman realized Sweet were in fact way better musicians than any hired hand and so allowed the band to do what they did best—play their own instruments.
 
02swetfro.jpg
Give us a wink…
 
Chinn and Chapman may have blessed Sweet with their Midas hit-making skills but it came at a price. This unfortunately meant the band was dismissed by London’s snobbish music press as sugar-coated pop for the saccharine generation. A harsh and unfair assessment. But this may also have added to the audience’s ire.

In an effort to redefine themselves with the public Sweet also tended to avoid playing their best known teenybopper hits when on tour. Instead they liked to perform their own compositions—the lesser known album tracks—and a set of standard rock covers. A band veering from the songbook of hits (no matter how great the material) was asking for trouble. As Freddie Mercury once said after Queen made their comeback at Live Aid, “always give the audience what they want.”

But it was the album tracks that gave Sweet and glam rock itself its distinct sound. The credit for this must go to Andy Scott’s guitar playing (his six-string prowess was often favorably compared to the talents of Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck), Steve Priest’s powerful bass and harmonizing vocals, and Mick Tucker’s inspirational drums (just listen to the way he references Sandy Nelson’s “Let There Be Drums” in “The Ballroom Blitz”). Add in Brian Connolly’s vocals and it is apparent Sweet were a band with talents greater than the sum of their bubble gum hits might indicate.
 
More plus a short documentary on 24-hours in the life of Sweet, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Early photos of Boy George, Steve Strange & more at the club that launched the New Romantics

01princessjgeorge78.jpg
DJ and singer Princess Julia with George O’Dowd aka Boy George.
 
Billy’s was a nightclub in Soho, London, where every Tuesday for most of 1978 two young men—Steve Strange and Rusty Egan—ran a club night playing tracks by David Bowie, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk. The club was in a basement underneath a brothel. From this small cramped space a new generation of artists, writers, performers and DJs first met up and planned the future together. Punk was dead. It was uncool. It had gone mainstream. The teenagers who came to Billy’s wanted to create their own music, their own style and make their own mark on the world.

Among this small posse of teenagers were future stars like Boy George, Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), Marilyn, Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), DJ Princess Julia, Jeremy Healy (Hasyi Fantayzee), Andy Polaris (Animal Nightlife) and an eighteen-year-old Nicola Tyson who would go onto become one of the world’s leading figurative painters.

It’s rare that someone is savvy enough to ever take photographs of a nascent cultural revolution. But Nicola took her camera along to Billy’s and she documented the teenagers who frequented the club that launched the New Romantics and a whole new world of pop talent.
 
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A blonde-haired Siobhan Fahey with at friend at Billy’s long before she joined Bananarama and later Shakespeare’s Sister.
 
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Club host Steve Strange (in cap) with an unknown friend.
 
See more photos of Nicola’s photos, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Like the ‘Wicker Man’ on heroin: Nico and a young Iggy Pop in ‘Evening of Light,’ 1969
01.20.2017
01:29 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Iggy Pop
Nico


 
Promo video for Nico’s “Evening of Light” directed by François De Menil in 1969, but probably finished much later. There was a tantalizingly brief clip of this in the Nico: Icon documentary. Not the album version of the song appearing on The Marble Index, this alternate take was released as part of The Frozen Borderline: 1968–1970 compilation in 2007.

The story is told in Richard Witts’ (fantastic) Nico biography, Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon, that De Menil, heir to the Schlumberger Limited oil-equipment fortune via his mother’s family, who knew Nico via Warhol associate Fred Hughes, had become besotted by the Teutonic ice queen and proposed making a film with her.

At this time Nico was having a brief affair with a 21-year-old Iggy Pop, who she had met through John Cale, then producing the first Stooges album in New York. (Iggy once revealed to a French interviewer that Nico taught him how to “eat pussy.”) Nico told De Menil that he had to follow them to Ann Arbor, Michigan if he wanted to do it. De Menil obliged, shooting the film behind the house where the band lived.

The way Witts tells the tale is that De Menil seemed to want to get revenge on Iggy because he was Nico’s boyfriend, directing the Stooge to wear white mime makeup and frolic around in a doll-strewn field to embarrass him, but to my mind, this film—and Iggy’s participation in it—is absolutely stunning.
 

 
In an Australian interview Iggy told his version of how the film came to be:

“There were no videos and I didn’t know why she wanted to do this. She had a friend from a very, very wealthy dynasty called the de Menil family who are patrons of the arts in the USA. They have a couple of collections in Houston, they’re very powerful there, it’s oil money. They also contribute to the arts and the major museums in New York City.

“One of the sons, François, was a Nico fan. There was a nexus in New York between the disaffected and super rich kids and the Warhol group, where the art was interested in the money and the money was interested in being arty. She was supposed to do a film with this guy for a song called “Evening Of Light.” She told the guy at the last minute “actually, I’m going to Ann Arbor to live with The Stooges.”

“So he had to drive out with all of his stuff, which was very, very scarce at the time, there were no local rentals for this sort of stuff, and we did this video in a potato field for this beautiful song “Evening Of Light” that she sings accompanied and produced by John Cale, who throws all his art school tricks at this song and very effectively.”

“To me it evokes the old Europe, the feeling around twilight when the church clock is ringing six and the kids are playing in the square and there’s a kind of a peace at hand and a kind of a crack between the worlds and a kind of a feeling that you’re part of this ongoing generation of Euro culture. That’s how I heard it. John was astute enough to make sure this all musically collapses into some pretty scary violence.”

That it does…

Turn it up loud for the full effect!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Look Look,’ the XTC home video companion
01.20.2017
10:47 am

Topics:
Music
Television

Tags:
XTC


 
Before YouTube’s algorithm served up the XTC home video Look Look a few weeks ago, I knew of it only as the last line in the discography that concludes Chris Twomey’s fan bio Chalkhills and Children. The lone entry under “VIDEO,” sharing the book’s last page with Johnny Japes and his Jesticles’ single, “Bags of Fun with Buster,” its position in the band’s oeuvre is unexalted. But Look Look deserves better: it brings together all the videos (or “promo films,” if you prefer) XTC made between 1978 and 1982, the period of quality encompassing White Music and English Settlement.

I don’t remember seeing any XTC videos other than the one for “Dear God” when I was growing up, though I was always searching for them. MTV was too busy making our country stupid with a diet of shit and garbage. (Waiter, I can’t eat this shit—it tastes like garbage! But I did catch “Towers of London” maybe, once, late at night?) Released in PAL format in the UK and NTSC in Japan, never issued in the US, Look Look did me no good until it surfaced on the web.
 

 
The tape is about to turn 35, so I would not hold my breath waiting for it to come out on DVD. Anyway, its considerable charms are well-suited to YouTube. These low-budget videos are livened up with such props as bounce houses and banks of TVs, such special effects as rear projection and chroma key, and such unlikely characterizations as Andy Partridge’s evil clown in “Making Plans for Nigel” and Colin Moulding’s straitjacketed puzzle-factory dweller in “Ball and Chain.” Snippets from interviews with Partridge and Moulding set up a few of the clips. Oh, and look look for Richard Branson in the “Generals and Majors” video, playing one of the song’s villains.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Screw our president’: Protesting kid explains why he started fire at alt-right Trump celebration
01.20.2017
10:20 am

Topics:
Activism
Class War
Heroes
U.S.A.!!!

Tags:
Connor


 
A large protest raged outside the National Press Club in Washington, DC, last night where the alt-right’s “Deploraball” celebration was being held. Some protesters started a fire to burn signs and chanted “Nazi scum” as hundreds of Donald Trump’s biggest fans entered the party.

Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins asked one young protester named Connor— dubbed a “fire-starting child” on Facebook— about the fire.

“My name’s Connor and I actually kinda started this fire,” the boy responded. After Jenkins mistakenly called him “Carter” the young, media-savvy kid set him straight.“It’s Connor,” he repeated, then informed the Fox lackey that he started the fire because:

“I felt like it and screw our president.”

Connor is my new hero.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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