Please no smoking in the blogosphere.
Please no smoking in the blogosphere.
To coincide with his appearance at this year’s Hay Festival, in Wales, film director, writer, stand-up comic, artist and all-round-good-guy, John Waters has compiled a list of “10 things every role model needs”:
1. History. You can’t have a one-night-stand role model. No one can become a role model in 24 hours. It helps a lot if you knew them when you were young, so they sort of grow or fester with you, like Johnny Mathis was for me.
2 Be extreme: all my role models have to be. They have to be braver than I’ve ever been. Even to survive success is hard, no matter if it’s widespread success like Johnny Mathis had, or Bobby Boris Pickett, who his whole life just had to sing one song [The Monster Mash]. Today too many people are trying hard to be extreme. For the people I admire it was natural, and they turned it into art.
3 Style. You can have bad style, but you have to have some style. That’s why I wrote about Rei Kawakubo, who reinvented fashion to be damaged and to be everything you hoped it was not when you bought an outfit. And she quadrupled the price. That’s a magic trick.
4 Be alarming – I think that’s important. And it’s different from being shocking. Alarming threatens the very core of your existence, it doesn’t just shock you – but you don’t know why it makes you nervous at first. You know, St Catherine of Siena drank pus for God. That was important to me because I thought: I want to be her, I don’t want to be half-assed! If I was going to be a Catholic, it would have been before the Reformation.
5 Humour. It’s very important to be well-read, but I never understand why people are so sure their partners have to be smart. What kind of smart do they mean? I’m not interested in talking about literature in bed! I like people who can make me laugh. Humour gets you laid, humour gets you hired, humour gets you through life. You don’t get beat up if you can make the person that’s going to beat you up laugh first.
6 Be a troublemaker. All art is troublemaking, because why go through all the trouble of making it if you don’t cause a little stir?
7 Bohemianism. Bohemia saved my life. And by bohemia I mean all sexualities mixed together, and people who do what they do not to get rich – freedom from suburbia. People who want to fit in but don’t are losers. Bohemians are people who don’t fit in because they don’t want to.
8 Originality. Someone unique like Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West, is an easy role model to have. She could fit into any of these categories – her outfit looked like Comme des Garçons, and anybody who could scare children like that… The problem was, I wanted to be her. And as I turn 65, that has sort of come true.
9 Neuroses. I think it helps to be neurotic. Neurotic people always end up being in the arts. If your kid fits in while in high school they’re going to be a dull adult. I still see a few people I went to high school with, but the other ones, when they come up to me I say: “I’m sorry, I took LSD, I don’t remember you.” It works, because then they aren’t offended personally. It’s really just manners.
10 Be a little bit insane. That’s different from neurotic. You can stay home and be neurotic. You have to go out to be insane. You can be a little bit of both, but both need to be joyous. As long as you can find a moment of joy in even your worst behaviour, it’s something to be thankful for.
John Waters and Divine appear on Andy Warhol’s cable TV show in 1981. The late Van Smith, make-up and costume designer on Waters’ films, is seen working on Ms. Divine during the interview.
The always amusing Waters talks about his early influences (Herschell Gordon Lewis), his film making style and screens some cool clips from his early movies.
John mentions his book “Shock Value” which was at the time about to be published. One of my favorite memories is the day that he and Divine signed my copy at a bookstore in Greenwich Village. Two of the classiest trash mavens I’d ever met.
Part two after the jump…
Tura Satana died yesterday of heart failure, in Reno, Nevada. Satana had a brief but iconic career during which she was an exotic dancer, starred in the ground-breaking cult film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, dated Elvis Presley and became a cinematic icon.
Satana began her career as a dancer at 14, and was a victim of the brutality and sexism endemic at the time, as she explained in 2008:
“At the age of 15 I became an exotic dancer in the clubs of Calumet City, Illinois, because I had left home due to a bad situation stemming from when I was raped. Instead of the guys who raped me going to jail, I was sent to reform school because they paid the judge one thousand dollars to get off. So I went instead, supposedly because I enticed them to rape me.”
Satana went onto appear in numerous TV shows and films, including The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Billy Wilder’s Irma La Douce, but it be for iconic role in Russ Meyer’s classic 1965 film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! for which she will always be remembered. In the film, Satana played Varla, a sexy, voluptuous anti-hero, who proved:
“A woman, like my character, was able to show the male species that we’re not helpless and not entirely dependent on them. People picked up on the fact that women could be gorgeous and sexy and still kick ass.”
Satana also said:
“There are a great many similarities between Varla and myself. Varla was an outlet for some of the anger I felt growing up. She was also a statement to women all over the world that you can be a take-charge person and still be sexy. She also showed the women world-wide that women don’t have to be weak, simpering females. They just go after what they want and usually get it.”
John Waters once described Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! as:
”The best movie ever made, and possibly better than any movie that will ever be made.”
Born in Japan in either 1935 or 1938 (dates vary), Satana worked her way though a variety of minor TV roles, including appearing with Dean Martin in Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed?, before being chosen by Meyer for Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. Filmed in the desert outside Los Angeles, in temperatures often over hundred degrees, Meyer claimed that “She and I made the movie…” and that Satana was “very capable”:
“She knew how to handle herself. Don’t fuck with her! And if you fuck with her, do it well! She might turn on you!”
Satana went on to make The Astro Zombies (1969) and Ted V. Mikels’ The Doll Squad (1973), after which she was shot by a former lover. Satana then worked as a nurse, until her cult celebrity led to her return to acting this century with Sugar Boxx, Rob Zombie’s animation The Haunted World of El Superbeasto and Astro Zombies: M3 Cloned.
An announcement on her official web site reads:
My dear, dear friend, you have no idea how much you will be missed…
In 2008, Satana talked to Zuri Zone about her cult status:
“I’m thrilled with the status Faster Pussycat has received when it was first released and at all the additional releases. I think the popularity that it has is because we gave them something that they really wanted to see. I also hope that it is because it shows that women don’t have to be weak and helpless to be sexy. We can be in control and still be feminine. I think that I remain a cult figure even after 40 years because the public like what they see on the screen. At least on the film, I will be forever ageless.”
Bonus clip from ‘Faster, Pussycat!’ after the jump…
I do not want to know what John Waters is thinking here, but I’ve got a penny for scarf-wearing man’s thoughts…
(Coincidence? I think not.)
R. Couri Hay talks with Divine, John Waters, Mink Stole and David Lochary at Anton Perich Studio, formerly ‘The Factory’, in 1975. This must be a promo outing for Female Trouble. The video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but this is 58 minutes of pop culture history and well-worth watching. Waters is amusing as always, Divine looks Garboesque, and it’s rare to see see David Lochary and Mink Stole being interviewed. Rich kid R. Couri Hay was a contributor to Warhol’s Interview magazine and gossip columnist for The National Inquirer in the mid-to-late 1970’s.
We’ve sorta banned the word “rare” here at Dangerous Minds, because, let’s face it, nothing’s really rare anymore in the digital age. Nothing. Something might be “seldom seen” (we’ll be using that one a lot at DM) but “rare”? Nah, not in this century, bubbee. If there was ever more than two copies of something made, trust me, it’s out there somewhere in cyberspace, and can be located and downloaded with a little effort. Some of the seriously specialist “art house” and “cult movie” torrent trackers have shit so obscure and previously hard to find, that the word “rare,” especially when it comes to digital media just ought to be retired.
How rare or scare can something you don’t even need to move your ass off the chair for (and is normally free, for that matter) be???
It used to be that certain things were difficult to see, but no more. What about, say, the X-rated Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues. Once one of the rarest of the rare (at least for a watchable copy) during the heyday of the 80s VHS tape trading underground, you can now probably find close to 10,000 torrent files out there in the hinterlands of the Internet. It used to be on YouTube, for fuck’s sake. And again, it’s gone from “rare” to… ahem… free.
Warhol films? That’s easy.
Whenever I’m trying to get across to someone new to the idea of what bit torrent has to offer and exactly what kind of cinematic rarities are out there, the example I usually whip out is Jack Smith’s campy, pervy underground classic from 1963, Flaming Creatures. How many celluloid copies of this film ever existed in the first place? We know that some prints were seized in police obscenity raids, but considering how few places there ever were, historically, to legally be able (and willing) to screen such a confrontational film—subterranean Times Square pre-Stonewall gay porno theaters is the answer—I’d wager fewer than five prints maybe? Flaming Creatures was the limit test case for a rare cult movie. Outside of some institution showing it, or snagging a personal screening as a film scholar at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan, you could pretty much forget about ever seeing Flaming Creatures.
Until fairly recently. It was even shown on French television.
When Flaming Creatures and another of Jack Smith’s films, Normal Love, were posted on Ubu website, I recall thinking that the paradigm of “rare” was well and truly dead. Another legendary movie that I’d always wanted to see was the At Folsom Prison with Dr, Timothy Leary film, and that I was able to embed in a blog post here last week. Like I was saying, nothing is rare anymore and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Which brings me to George Kuchar and Mike Kuchar, deviant twin filmmakers whose work also used to be difficult to view, but not anymore. The Kuchar Brothers were among the original indie mavericks of 60s cinema. But if you are thinking in terms of a young Martin Scorsese or Roger Corman, guess again. Troma before Troma, would be closer to the mark.
The Kuchar Brothers made silly, smutty, no budget, overblown melodramas and Sci-Fi epics that were part of the “Underground” film movement of the time. Their nearest contemporaries were Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger and Stan Brakhage, but the space between a Douglas Sirk drama and Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space would seem to nicely define the campy aesthetic continuum the Kuchar’s films exist in. John Waters claims the Kuchar Brothers were bigger influences on him than Warhol, Kenneth Anger or even The Wizard of Oz in his introduction to their (amazing) 1997 book Reflections from a Cinematic Cesspool.
In a time long before YouTube, the Kuchar Brothers borrowed their aunt’s Super-8mm camera at the age of 12 and began making their films: poorly-acted, cheapo productions as much parodies as homages to the Technicolor movies they grew up watching in the 1950’s. The sweetly oddball Kuchar sensibility was also informed by the SF underground comix scene (via friends Art Spiegelman and Zippy the Pinhead creator Bill Griffith) when George ended up teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. George, the more prolific of the twins, has made over 200 films, mostly with the help of his SFAI students, with memorable titles such as I Was A Teenage Rumpot, Pussy On A Hot Tin Roof, Corruption Of The Damned, Hold Me While I’m Naked, Color Me Shameless and House Of The White People. His best known film is probably the short, Hold Me While I’m Naked.
Mike Kuchar, often in collaboration with his brother and his brother’s students, made films with tiles like Sins of the Fleshapoids, The Secret Of Wendel Samson and The Craven Sluck. He also made an amazing short with Dangerous Minds pal, Kembra Pfhaler called The Blue Banshee and collaborated with gay German underground auteur Rosa von Praunheim.
These days, rare no more, the films of the Kuchar Brothers can be purchased on DVD, downloaded for free from Ubu’s website and are posted on YouTube. There’s even a documentary, 2009’s It Came From Kuchar, which you can stream on Netflix’s VOD. Below, 1966’s Hold Me While I’m Naked:
Below, the trailer for Jennifer Kroot’s documentary, It Came From Kuchar:
The Day the Bronx Invaded Earth: The Life and Cinema of the Brothers Kuchar (Bright Lights Film Journal)
George & Mike Kutchar (Vice)
What with John Waters seemingly everywhere these days (Salon, the NYT, Fresh Air) as he promotes his new book, Role Models, I thought it’d be a fine time to revisit one of his former film muses, Edith Massey.
Along with Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce, Massey was a stock player in the Dreamlander universe, and a key contributer to that trilogy of Waters films I and many others consider particularly essential: Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living.
Watching those three films growing up (and watching them, and watching them), Massey always struck me as being infinitely stranger than larger-than-life drag queen, Divine. Maybe it was because I somehow grasped that “drag” was, by definition, “performative,” and thus safer than the whacked-out maternalism that Massey so artlessly channeled. In fact, whereas Divine’s acting method might be described as quotation-marks-within-quotation-marks, Massey seemingly acted without the cushion of any marks whatsoever—quotation or otherwise.
Massey’s life after Waters was perhaps no odder than her life before it, and its trajectory has an arc straight out of Dickens: from orphanage to reform school, from freight train rider to brothel madam, and then, as these things sometimes go, to Hollywood.
Of course, no Massey entry would be complete without the infamous “Egg Man” moment from Pink Flamingos. That follows below:
After a battle with cancer and diabetes, Massey passed away in Venice, California, in 1984. That was 2 years after Massey and her band, called, naturally, Edie and the Eggs, released the below Rodney on the Roq staple, Punks, Get Off The Grass:
Author, filmmaker and bad taste-booster, John Waters, is out making the rounds promoting his new book, Role Models. He’s also featured in this weekend’s NYT Magazine, “Questions For…” section. Some snips:
There’s a chapter on Leslie Van Houten, one of the so-called Manson girls, who was convicted of murder in 1971, when she was 21, and who you argue should be released.
I do believe that. Today she is the woman she would have become if she had never met Charles Manson. Leslie is a good friend and someone who has taken full responsibility for the terrible crime she participated in.
What about the families of her victims, who don’t want her released?
They can never be wrong in their arguments, and I would never criticize their viewpoint.
Where is she being held?
The California Institution for Women, in Corona, Calif., an hour east of Los Angeles. Every year I visit her on Oscar morning. I go from her prison to Elton John’s dinner party. I guess, oddly, that sort of sums up my life.
Is there anyone you would actually kill if you knew you could get away with it?
I find it repellent when people do yoga exercises at the gate in airports. I want to kill them.
There are little things that get on my nerves, like people who have reading material in their powder room. When you go in someone’s house, and next to the toilet they have a huge basket of magazines, I find that repellent. I recommend against straining while reading.
A much younger Waters also showed up in ‘81 on Andy Warhol’s TV. Part I of it follows, with links to the other segments below:
Previously on Dangerous Minds: Andy Warhol’s TV
Despite its Jason Pierce score and Werner Herzog subplot, Mister Lonely, Harmony Korine‘s feature film from ‘07 left me bored and disappointed. Its opening moments had a sense of poetry and provocation (see here), but all that was quickly squandered as Korine, striving to broaden his film’s appeal I’m guessing, attempted the distinctly non-Gummo feat of “establishing his characters.”
Korine’s new film, Trash Humpers, premiered this week in Toronto and, fortunately, it looks like he’s left very far behind him the burdens of character development. The trailer follows below, but I’m finding even more intriguing this Variety review which opens thusly:
Pity the festival-going fool who stumbles unawares into Harmony Korine’s patently abrasive, deliberately cruddy-looking mock-documentary “Trash Humpers.” All others—that is, those familiar with Korine’s anti-bourgeois oeuvre and know what they’re in for—will have a glorious time.
Named for a band of cretinous vandals in old-folks masks who favor gyrating against garbage cans (and worse), “Trash Humpers” is a pre-fab underground manifesto to rank beside John Waters’ legendarily crass “Pink Flamingos.” Theatrical distribution is virtually inconceivable—though, in part for this reason, any fest devoted to maintaining its rep among cult-film completists will simply beg for it.
In Daily Variety: Trash Humpers
Etsy user darkvomit sells original oil paintings, kinetic art and Christmas card sets. From his listing:
“The Pope of Trash” by Kelly Hutchison (aka “Dark Vomit”). Original oil painting… Gesso…Painted… then varnished on wood panel. Measures 26 inches by 31 inches with the gold frame (frame comes with purchase) Ready to hang on the wall as is. Signed and dated by artist.