Category Archives: Articles
This was a fun one: an interview with my old pal, Jessie Jones, who I first met seemingly yesterday when she was a teenager, a member of Feeding People, and now have to stand back and admire as a full-grown solo artist!
Truth be told, the interview we did at Sage to prepare for this article went on FOREVER. What ended up in print is only a small portion of the rambling talk we had about all the crazy stuff she’s gone through in such a short period of time, including working in a factory in a rural town, hiding out from Bigfoot, and trying to escape society by moving off into the woods.
Of course, the L.A. RECORD folks had to trim even more off to get it to fit in the magazine, but there’s one fun part at the beginning that I wish had stayed!
… and since I wrote the darn thing, and ONLY because I like the original intro enough that I think it’s worth sharing as an outtake, I’m reprinting my original beginning to the interview here. You can read this first and then jump into the article, or just go to the article now if you think I’m already long-winded enough.
She may look it, but Jessie Jones is no longer the same shy, young singer from Orange County with the bold, weathered, jazzy old woman’s voice that she was when D. M. Collins first interviewed her in 2011. Back then, she sang with the psychedelia-tinged, Burger Records-approved garage band Feeding People, who then seemed to be just approaching the lip of the cusp of the edge of greatness. Instead, they quickly burned out; but Jones never truly faded away. After a few years in wandering the country trying out dead end jobs and engaging with supernatural phenomena, Jones re-emerged in full force in 2015, first on a triumphant tour co-singing lead vocals with Death Valley Girls, and now, as of this month, with her first solo album, which has been tickling the fancies of folks from the bowels of Gnar Burger all the way to the corridors and clicks of NPR. She speaks now, again, to D. M. Collins, who has convinced her to join him for a very candid interview at the vegan restaurant Sage in Echo Park, a place so opposed to animal cruelty that even the arachnids have started getting cocky…
FUCK! FUCKING FUCK! I giant spider was just in my mouth! Oh my fucking god. Did it bite my lip? It just, like, swung whole into my mouth! I didn’t swallow it; it’s climbed somewhere back up on the umbrella and disappeared….
JESSIE JONES: Maybe it’s trying to bless you?
Jessie, you are such a witch! People think you are this innocent little lamb, but you are a witch! Is that giant spider your “familiar?”
JESSIE JONES: I have weird relationships with spiders. Sometimes when I’m about to make a really drastic decision, I’ll wake up with like six spider bites! Their symbolism is tied up with the mythology of the Fates, the makers of destiny.
So, that reminds me, I’ll forgive the spider, because I have a confession. Remember when I interviewed Feeding People in my backyard in 2011 [in issue #104 of L.A. RECORD, e.d.]? You were all so young and so charming; it was obvious the band was going to implode horribly, and soon. I should have said something. Do you forgive me for not warning you that your life was about to go to shit?
JESSIE JONES: Um….. yes!
Yay! She forgives me! That apology on my part was far more than casual conversation. Glad she’s not mad at me for not trying to “save” her from the future fate had waiting for her. Then again, that spider certainly did act suspiciously, as if bewitched…
Okay, with the above original text out of the way, feel free to hop to the actual article and continue reading.
And in honor of labor day, please make sure to savor her words when she starts to describe some of her experiences out there in the “eye of the storm” of capitalism. This part of her responses really struck me as both insightful and beautiful, while at the same time, you know, scary as hell:
“South Carolina, when I was just living in the middle of nowhere—that’s where it hit me: there’s so much poverty, such a lack of education, and not a lot of opportunity for people who are born without any guidance or any money. Just seeing how capitalism and consumerism really exist only when you’re in the eye of the storm. And when I was working weird jobs and stuff for companies in weird factories to keep existing, and I could see like, all this crap is coming from China. And I’m sending it to some person’s house in like Anaheim or Chicago, but they don’t see what’s going on behind closed doors. It’s like I could finally see how big America was, how small I was, how small my little bubble in Orange County was. And I had to talk about it, I guess. I had to get it out.”
-D. M. Collins
Everybody who’s anybody in Los Angeles has at least one Kim Fowley story, and I’ve got a million of them. Here is the first of my three most memorable. (Art by Elana Pritchard.)
Number 1: “Did you RAPE her?”
About half a dozen years ago, I was on this real strong hating rape tip—a tip I’m still on, and I think everyone should be. I mean, I hate all rape, even the kinds our culture regularly makes fun of for no good reason, like prison rape. “Oops, dropped the soap!” Ha ha. Fuck you, you rape sympathizing asshole.
Confession time: this isn’t just a hypothetical for me. When I was in my late teens, I was sexually assaulted, or, you know, technically raped, by an older guy. Despite what some might say about there not being degrees of rape, I would consider it a light rape—he just fed me full of free drugs until I didn’t know what the hell was going on, and then fucked me, when I had specifically gone over to his place adamant that I didn’t want to touch the guy.
It was only once, but it screwed me up for life. I became a crystal meth addict for about five years of my life, and to this day I still don’t know if I’m straight, or bi, or if I’m scared of sex with men because of what he did, or if I should be straight but am seeking out sex with men as an attempt to burn that trauma out of my system, or what the fuck is going on. (But don’t cry for me, Argentina–I am having a very good time figuring it out!)
And I was an adult, and male—I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a minor, or to be a woman, and have that experience in a culture that celebrates rape and trivializes it and blames the victim for wearing low-cut blouses and too much rouge.
But anyway, regardless of that one time, I am definitely bat shit crazy. And one night, about a half dozen years ago, during my usual “find any excuse at all to stay up all night and be exhausted in the morning and possibly get fired” rages, I finally got around to watching Edgeplay, the movie about the Runaways. It’s a total dish-all, no rumor left un-festered romp through the lives of the then-young women who made up the membership of the Runaways, L.A.’s first semi-punk band and a pioneering all-female band that still influences people today, especially 50 year old dudes in Japan.
Kim Fowley, if you don’t know who that is, was their manager. More than anything, that’s the reason why us hipsters—and yes, WE are the fucking hipsters, not some anonymous “them” out there listening to Mumford and Sons—that’s why we even know who he is. And in that film, Edgeplay, the story of the Runaways, there’s a part where some of the Runaways strongly insinuate that Kim Fowley had sex with them while they were minors.
This really fucking bugged me. It bothered me. It TORTURED me, because Kim Fowley was a pop-cultural icon that I really wanted to respect.
I knew that Kim Fowley was gross, and probably a perv, and had been emotionally abusive even with people I kind of know, e.g. his former assistant. But sex with a minor … that’s rape, right? A minor can’t consent. Legally, that’s certainly rape, and ethically… well, these girls might have been as young as 13. That’s beyond rape. That’s child abuse.
And then one night around 2010 I found myself at the L.A. RECORD Christmas party at Bedrock Studios in Echo Park. It was huge, and full of everything: bands and DJs and pinball machines and a creepy Santa Claus with up to 7 hot girls on his lap all night. I myself was full of ecstasy and little bit of mushrooms and maybe some cocaine and a heaping helping of free alcohol. I was lit up like a Christmas tree, wandering around all the various sound-proofed rooms.
And in one room was a little Burger Records pop-up. Sean Burger (if you don’t know who that is, just check any recent Spin Magazine or L.A. Weekly or the NY Times) was sitting there behind crates and crates of old records, chillin’ like a rock star and letting drunk people blow a small fortune on old copies of Johnny Thunders and Parliament/Funkadelic records.
After I was four sheets to the wind, I found myself becoming one of those people, thumbing through the records, regaling Sean over and over again about the production credits of each one, and the ones I liked, and the ones I hated, pausing every 30 seconds or so to pull out a goodie and say, so everyone could hear, “AHA! I HAVE this one!”
And then I came to the Cherie Currie solo record. Actually, it’s not her, but her and her sister, but it was repackaged all weird and had her in red leather on the cover looking all young and hot. And I paused for a minute, and I held up the album to Sean there, and I said, “I think Kim Fowley raped her. I think Kim Fowley fucking RAPED her.”
And Sean, who is a classic stoner and therefore far more relatively sober than I will ever be, calmly replied, “Well, why don’t you ask him? He’s right there.”
And I turned around, and right there in the hallway, right behind me, was fucking Kim Fowley. He was talking to some young girl, who seemed really impressed with him, and maybe a little charmed, and that made me all the more suspicious and enraged.
And so I took the Cherie Currie album and walked right out the door, right up to Kim Fowley, and I pushed it in his face, interrupting his conversation, and I said, point blank, “Did you RAPE her?”
His response was instantaneous, and unemotional. “I never touched her. Anyway…”
And he went right back on with his conversation with the young lady! I didn’t know what to do. I was deflated.
And the thing was… I instantly believed him. Kim Fowley is many things: a braggart, a hustler, a meanie. But he’s not known for being too dishonest about his proclivities. I don’t really know the man’s soul, but I think if he had done something sexual with the Runaways, he might not have called it “rape” … but he wouldn’t have passed up a chance to say something creepy and self-aggrandizing. Whatever he called it, he would have admitted something.
And it got me thinking, “Am I just wrong about this anyway?” I mean, I hate to say it, but all my rock and roll heroes, e.g. David Bowie, e.g. Angie Bowie, e.g. Chuck Berry, e.g. Mark Lindsay, e.g. every 60s band-member you can think of, even Allen Ginsberg, had probably ridiculous amounts of sex with very young groupies, and I doubt they asked for ID first.
And on the other hand, some of my favorite authors and rock celebrities were underage groupies, people like Cynthia Plaster Caster and Suzy Shaw and Pamela Des Barres and Cameron Crowe, who (aside from Cameron) spent their entire post-adolescences seeking out sex with older men and don’t seem to feel the slightest regret, or need to apologize, for acting on what their classmates could only fantasize about. Would I be demeaning them by saying their fond recollections, their trophies, their seemingly very enthusiastic choices, don’t count? It would have been perfectly legal if they had just married their conquests first, or got legalized permission from mom and dad (e.g. Pele Massa and Ted Nugent). And if I don’t think marriage is needed to legitimize love, why would the lack of marriage de-legitimize teen lust, the kind I would have totally wanted to expend on David Bowie if he’d just visited me my teens (especially in his Labyrinth outfit)?
Yet was I a creeper for even having these thoughts? Were these the same apologetics that we’ve been hearing in regards to Roman Polanski, and Jimmy Page, and Tupac Shakur, and Julian Assange, simply because people liked their work?
Well, after years and years of just talking about it to people at bars, I finally did some thorough research on the Kim Fowley story that had so upset me. And it turns out Kim Fowley did NOT have sex with the Runaways…
But this one time, he did have them all sit in a room together while he had sex with an adult woman in FRONT of them, to show them “how to fuck.” And that is really, really, really, really fucked up. And despite the fact that Joan Jett stayed his life-long friend, and that Cherie Currie let him move in with her during his dying days, and despite the fact that as a teenager, I would have loved to see a live sex show, exposing minors to a sexual act is child abuse, right? There’s just no getting around that. They may have forgiven him, later, and he may have eventually recanted how he treated the Runaways. But there is no excuse for child abuse. Some of the Runaways ended up having real problems later in life, and I’m sure that having the man who was basically their guardian have sex in front of them did NOT help with that.
But I dunno. This all happened in the decadent 70s, which does not excuse it, but does explain it. There are monsters far worse from that era who’ve been roaming around in Thailand and neutral portions of Europe. And the Runaways DID forgive Kim Fowley. And he did apologize. And maybe, in a world where we still make a mockery of the rape and torture of young men in prison, a crime we all know about and do NOTHING to stop even as we laugh at the victims, maybe I can let an old man who just died of bladder cancer off the hook for this horrible, horrible thing he did.
It’s not because he’s famous, or that I like his music, or that I kind of knew him, or that his crimes were so long ago. It’s that, ethically, I think, I THINK, it’s the right thing to do. But I think I’ll be figuring this out for many years to come.
-D. M. Collins
I first became aware of Mary Gaitskill in the mid-late 90s (I believe my professor, T.C. Boyle, made it assigned reading), and I fell in love with her fiction immediately; in particular, I loved the story “Secretary” from Bad Behavior. It’s a grim a-morality play which shows us, almost as if overhead, from a place of horror, the degradation of a little lost girl whose creepy lawyer boss sees in her someone he can manipulate, degrade, and engage in a form of “consensual” dominance/submission that her depression and self-loathing perhaps give her no other choice but to endure.
The following week, when I made a typing mistake, he didn’t spank me. Instead, he told me to bend over his desk, look at the typing mistake and repeat “I am stupid” for several minutes.
It’s a far cry from the movie Secretary, the adaptation of the story that came out in 2002 starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader, which is a helluva lot sunnier. In it, Gyllenhaal plays the little lost girl, and Spader as her boss somehow uses S&M to make her blossom as a person.
As a perv, I do like that Secretary was a great PR piece for my people. It helped to normalize kink for the squares, even going so far as to endorse it as a potentially healthy avenue for sexual release, one that most of us in at least subtle ways already participate in through our daily lives (I see Mad Men as also being very kink-positive about dominance games, too, though I think many critics miss that point).
And I am soundly in the James Whale’s Frankenstein camp, (no pun intended), and hold similar opinions about movie adaptations of books as I do about cover versions of great songs–you’ll never be able to capture the same magic in a new format, so please, do change things from the book! Give us an excuse to love those characters all over again in new contexts and with even new tones and lessons than the original piece may have intended. This is why I don’t mind Stanley Kubrick not including Anthony Burgess’ last chapter in his adaptation of A Clockwork Orange: Burgess ended his novel with a lesson on the power of maturity and old age to cure the savagery of youth, but while that’s an inspiring idea, doesn’t the ever-maddening Alex of Kubrick’s version ring equally plausible?
But though I love movies that rework fiction, something seemed a little false, a little too naive, about Secretary. It seemed to be missing some important point. And I don’t think I realized what that nugget of truth was until reading Charlie Latan’s essay about 50 Shades of Grey in Flaunt.
No one seems to be talking about Secretary when reviewing the recent film version of 50 Shades of Grey (just kidding, the smart people are), though clearly Secretary was an influence not only on the film, but likely also to the book that it’s based on. There are so many similarities that Buzzfeed made a list, and Hollywood Reporter tried to top that with a trailer mashup. I haven’t seen the film, but according to Latan, 50 Shades of Grey stops just short of actually giving its characters the believable back stories, emotions, or chemistry of Secretary, but at its base is the same idea: a young, impressionable girl meets a richer, more established boss, and soon an inappropriate S&M relationship blooms in which the controller/”sadist” is the rich successful dude, and the submissive/”masochist” is the poor little lost girl.
And therein lies the rub.
If you have ever been in a good ol’ jolly S&M experience, or full-on master/slave relationship, the fun part is that it’s all play, and that its core, no one is emotionally abusive or truly forcing themselves on another. Whether you engage in S&M with a life partner, a third-party, or even pay for it at a dungeon, at the end of the day everyone is meeting on more or less equal footing.
You can spank your wife all you want in the bedroom, but only because she wants it too (or enthusiastically wants you to do something to her she “doesn’t want” which is still enthusiastic consent); and afterwards, you still have to take out the trash and be a good husband.
And yeah, sometimes there seems to be a gender component, e.g. I as a male seem to get “roped” into being the one who does most of the tying up and spanking in my relationships. But even that is not me truly dominating–I might actually prefer to be the one on the receiving end of this stuff, but I play the role my partner wants me to, at least half of the time. Maybe we’re acting out gender roles in the bedroom almost as a way to exorcise them fully from real life, or maybe I’m just better at tying knots because I was an Eagle Scout. But whatever the case, it’s always me and another person who I care about and who cares about me and who is truly free to leave whenever she/he wants.
(AN ASIDE: Yes, this isn’t always so cheerful. I was even once in a relationship where my partner wanted me to punch her, choke her, say horrible shit to her, and “rape” her as part of sexual intimacy. These are not my preferences, and at times, her predilection was the farthest thing from a turn on I have ever experienced (I actually cried over it once). And yet, for psychological reasons driven by cruelties committed upon her in her past, this dark sex play seemed to really help her to work this shit out in the bedroom. She needed it, and it was not her fault that she needed it. And so on occasion, I would oblige. But this was not my being abusive–this was me trying to help my girlfriend cope, and to get off sexually. The rape was never really rape, because she enthusiastically consented to it, and the “abuse” never went past what she could take, or what I could take. And it started and ended in that space of play, and did not bleed into our “real” lives, or my treatment of her when it came time to figure out what Thai food restaurant to go to or whose friend’s party we’d attend. We were equals. I had no true power over her except our affection, and even that was shared.)
Secretary might have been about a shared affection, but its main characters were not equals: one was a successful boss, one an emotionally battered secretary. Though the bazillionaire dom in 50 Shades of Grey may be almost a Tony Stark cartoon compared to Spader’s lawyer, there is a reason that sexual harassment laws exist. And it’s no different in a law firm than with a high-powered CEO: the relationship between employer and employee is never equal.
Writ large, the relationship between our upper class and those who are financially struggling, those in the dwindling, ever more desperate middle class, is not equal. This is why I struggle with my views on prostitution: on the one hand, I think a person should be able to do whatever they want with their sexuality, including selling it, or offering money to someone who will help them get more experience with it. Yet I worry that women who are not “forced” into prostitution as literal slaves are often doing so because there is a dire economic need that is not their fault. It is their last resort, not their enthusiastic choice.
And as sugary as a fairy tale princess story might seem, are they much different? All damsels are helpless to stop the forces that shape their lives, be they witches, evil step-sisters, or… the heroic princes themselves, whose love is mandatory if the princess is to survive. Sound like Pretty Woman much? This is not the consent of equals. And any story that cranks up a boss/employee power relationship into one of love and consent is masking, rather than revealing, the dark nature of economic sadism that our society’s 0.1% power players commit upon us on an ever-increasing basis, a sadism that is making the middle class vanish. Charlie Latan gets it just right:
Anastasia Steele is the perfect stand in for such a vanishing class … As anyone working a salaried jobs knows, options are scarce. Bend over, and forego your identity to the cruel calculations and staggering organizations of an interested corporation. They’ll whip you, and buy you a nice lunch, fly you across the country for a meeting. Sounds strangely familiar to Ana’s tutelage with Grey. In the process, one develops a social identity that is left behind if one leaves the arrangement (sexual or professional). Essentially, if you take a hike, you are like the fictional Ana, you cease to move the narrative forward.
While I applaud Secretary for being a fun film that attempts to speak well of kink, by placing its relationship in the context of employer and employee, it misses this more important point, one that Gaitskill’s original “Secretary” doesn’t. If in Orwell’s 1984, the future is “a boot stamping on a human face—for ever,” our present is one in which our bosses make us lick their boots, and then trick us into thinking a few dirty coins make this a good thing. We shouldn’t be using James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhall to make this relationship of power inequality look, even in a minor way, like that’s something that can be reworked into a positive. No wonder Gaitskill called the film adaptation of her work “the Pretty Woman version, heavy on the charm (and a little too nice).”
-D. M Collins
P.S. You may have noticed that I didn’t bother mentioning the names of the directors of 50 Shades of Grey or Secretary, nor the author of 50 Shades of Grey. I probably should have, but A) personalizing this might dilute my thesis into ad hominem attacks, and B) it was hard enough spelling “Gyllenhall” half a dozen times, and I want to quit naming people while I’m ahead.
Okay, so clearly this is NOT the worst rock and roll writing of all time. That distinction would probably have to go to one of the many critics in the 50s who predicted rock’s demise, condemned it as satanic, prurient jungle music (I mean, they were right, but those are the good parts), or worse, completely ignored it.
But, much like the artists here who cover classics of old, this writer chooses to do all three of the above sins. And unlike the jazzbos and flat-topped moral watchdogs of the past, Joe Robinson somehow does them as a rock fan, which is the part that aggravates me most.
I mean, hell, some of these covers, like the Clash’s “I Fought the Law,” are good. But better than the originals? Better than the versions that came out in a time when they subverted a paradigm, rather than played with its impact in a modern setting?
Of the few songs on here, such as Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” where the author is correct that the cover is better, does he realize how sad it is that Cash is covering U2 at all? And why is Jane’s Addiction even on the list? And WHO THE FUCK LET A FAN OF THE FOO FIGHTERS IN HERE? COVERING CREED?!? I …. I… whoo, um… sorry, but I’m a nerd, and I don’t get why Dave Grohl is still respected about anything. Grohl doing a parody of Creed for being over-the-top Alt would be like Celine Dion satirizing Barbara Streisand.
Even with Grohl’s annoying vocal guffaws, we like the Foo Fighters frontman’s shortened run-through a million times more than what, sadly, is one of the biggest rock hits of the ’00s. But hey, maybe that’s just us.
Maybe it’s all just you? This is a list made by my college roommate in 1996. And you are a dullard who should lock himself in a room and play live John Cale albums at yourself over and over again until you can reemerge and come to the world free of the desire to declare Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” to be better than anything.
But I will admit one thing. Despite the fact that I, too, might be playing favorites rather than being a good rock writer, I do admit to loving that Frente cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle.” Better than the original? No … but would I often rather hear this version? Does it remind me of my debate team classroom, and going to high school in Oklahoma, and of a time when I was a young angry man just discovering that I had a side that, sometimes, preferred the gentle to the bombastic? Absolutely.
“Six Best Songs that Sound Sexier with Scottish Accents?” Now, that I’d want to read!
The short Q&A is over; is there anything else director Sterlin Harjo of Tulsa would like to tell the international audience in Amiens, France, before we watch his acclaimed indie shorts “Goodnight Irene” and “Barking Water?”
“Yes,” Harjo tells us, as his French interpreter, Andy, waits to translate. “My interpreter is single, so if there are any young ladies in the audience tonight…”
The English speakers in the audience laugh, Andy turns as red as a French wine, and he never actually translates it for the French speakers. But the sentiment’s clear enough: Amiens may be a sleepy town showcasing serious works this week at its modest cultural center, but hey, there’s still a role for irreverence here.
This November’s Festival International du Film D’Amiens, in its 33rd year, teeters on that delicate tightrope between provincialism and relevance, shocking visuals and campy wonders. Among the categories in this year’s festival are “Mexico SF,” which brings brave fans of vintage science fiction a cavalcade of black and white aliens and robots that would make Ed Wood blush, all battling it out for the supremacy of the world with masked wrestlers and buxom onesie-wearing women.
But the category of films that is drawing some of the most viewers is “Tulsa Oklahoma Cinéma,” a retrospective festival within the festival that includes everything from depression-era films starring Henry Fonda and Will Rogers to Tom Cruise vehicles directed by Ron Howard and Francis Ford Coppola. And let’s not forget the work of Tulsa’s original bad boy, Larry Clark, represented here with screenings of nearly all his great films, from Kids to Bully to last year’s Marfa Girl.
Of the all the directors being showcased, only Harjo has shown up in person. Has he enjoyed any of the French and international films he’s seen so far?
“Well, the only film I’ve watched so far has been The Outsiders, which was filmed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, ha ha! But I’ve been really inspired by it. I’ve seen it a hundred times, and seeing it on the big screen… you can’t keep your eyes off Matt Dillon. And then they kill him! More than any film, that movie has inspired me, because I saw it at such a young age.”
The populace of Amiens seems to agree. The Outsiders screening he’s referring to was utterly sold out, even though the quality of the print was a little suspect. They even had to pause for ten minutes halfway through to rethread the film, since one reel was spliced in upside down (later in the week, they’ll be displaying The Outsiders: The Complete Novel, a director’s cut that stays truer to author S.E. Hinton’s original vision).
Other films in the series have been equally popular with the populace of Amiens, regardless of theme or style. The under-age sex and violence of Larry Clark’s films sold out quickly. And even a 10 a.m. screening of a 1930’s Will Rogers film, Judge Priest, has a healthy mob of viewers.
Why so much interest in Oklahoma, and particularly Tulsa?
“Tulsa was invited to the film festival through its sister city relationship with Amiens, which was officially signed in 2005 as part of Tulsa Global Alliance and the mayor-to-mayor relationship through Sister Cities International.”
I’m talking with Judy Glenn, Vice President of Tulsa Global Alliance and a fantastic French speaker. She’s here to help coordinate speakers and entertainment for the festival, as well as to help shepherd about a dozen members of Tulsa Global Alliance to the festival and through Amiens itself. The TGA members are here to watch films, sample some local cuisine, and represent the best of Americanism (although some of the older ladies in the group talk rather loudly during a few of the screenings).
“One thing that intrigued us about the festival,” Glenn tells me, “was how they look through our history through French eyes, how they look at the story of Okies going to California, movies from the 30s, the 50s, the Outsiders, Rumble Fish … and the film industry has truly come back to Oklahoma now, through fresh new filmmakers and even the film industry in the soundtracks. The music of Woody Guthrie has inspired a lot of the works that were chosen.”
There are definitely some Dust Bowl films in the line up. But other than the fact that Oklahoma or Oklahoman directors/actors are featured, these films have little thematically or stylistically in common. Maybe that’s part of the appeal, variety versus homogeneity.
“You also have some archival material.” Now I’m talking to Terry Cearley, former education liaison of the Circle Cinema Theater in Tulsa, which has hosted its own French film festivals in recent years.
The façade of the Circle Cinema actually appears, briefly, as a location in some of the Coppola films showing this week! But Cearley is more interested in the festival’s documentary footage, film snippets plucked from the more forgotten corners of history. “Some in part may have been generated outside of the state, but the subject matter pertains to Oklahoma history, including materials relating to the black community of Oklahoma and some of the events leading up to the Tulsa Race Riot as well.”
The Tulsa Oklahoma Cinéma category has some of the oldest, rarest footage in the festival, and some of it was presented as a complete surprise. Perhaps as a counterbalance to make the Will Rogers film Judge Priest more palatable to modern eyes (the film co-stars perhaps the most offensive black character actor of all time, Stepin Fetchit himself), viewers of the 10 a.m. screening were first treated to a “short,” a brief reel of some unedited, silent snippets of life in the African American communities around Tulsa in the mid-twenties. Starting with what appeared to be a church group walking to a baptism or wedding, it included scenes of kids in ties and bowler hats filing out of Booker T. Washington High School, the fronts of stores, a shot of Tulsa’s original Greenwood district (before a highway bisected it), and people milling around piles of brick and rubble left over from the Tulsa Race Riot of five years earlier.
“It’s very much just raw footage,” Terry Cearley explains, “but it’s a part of our history. And it hasn’t always been the most flattering portrayal of our city. But the extraordinary nature of our history, whether it’s our Western heritage, or our racial heritage, or simply the pull of talent that originated from our state—there are a multiplicity of ties here, but they all relate back to our city.”
Are we giving the French the wrong idea about Oklahoma? Can any foreign city, filled with people who don’t know all the nuances of Oklahoma’s historic treatment of African Americans and Native Americans, understand the catharsis in these films as well as the blame and finger-pointing?
Sterlin Harjo questions whether we Tulsans know our history any better than the French do. “One of the ladies from the Tulsa coalition asked me what tribe I was from. And when I said ‘Seminole and Creek,’ she asked me if that was one tribe or two, which I thought was funny, because Tulsa was founded by Muskogee Creek people, and it’s a Muskogee Creek word … at this point, I’m sort of over the Oklahoma thing. I’ve been there, I’ve made films there. But that’s just where I’m from. I don’t get any extra support because I make films there. I get pats on the back and people thank me that I’m there. But whatever, I could be anywhere.”
Will Harjo really leave Tulsa for more cosmopolitan muses, as did Larry Clark, or Todd Lincoln (formerly of the Tulsa Overground Film Festival), or the dozens of other people in film and music and the creative arts who leave for more welcome pastures every year? (Full disclosure: I’m one of them, having left Tulsa for USC in 1995 and remained in Los Angeles ever since.)
Certainly Oklahoma could learn from Harjo’s films, and from the entire collection of films showing in Amiens. This is a great festival, and if you squint just right, you almost feel like these movies belong together, like we have a tradition worth being proud of. If the film loving community of Tulsa could bring some of this energy back home, foment it, and keep it, perhaps someday we might not need to go abroad to appreciate our own film history or to champion it from out of state. Flawed or not, consistent or not, this is our legacy to claim.
D. M. Collins
Go read it.
Thanks and thanks and thanks again to Brother Bobby Bones, who first introduced me to Shuggie’s music.
-D. M. Collins
Read it here.
-D. M. Collins
This interview with YACHT was published on the website months ago now at this point. But it just came out in the street edition of L.A. RECORD, and so it’s as good a time as any to blog about it here. It was a lovely interview of a fun, very smart band.
By the way, if you haven’t read Claire L. Evans’ science blog, Universe, you are billions and billions of kinds of a butt-munch. Go check it out. My science knowledge is pretty decent for a lamebrain who wakes up in his own spittle every morning, but I find this kind of rampant Renaissance (Wo)Manism quite humbling … and inspiring.
Somehow I was pulled into interviewing Tim Heidecker at the last minute for L.A. RECORD. I’m not saying I was unprepared, but I had only about 24 hours to get this together. He and I didn’t have my famous chemistry, and he had no interest in talking about the sexual inappropriateness of David Liebe Hart, but I still got some great answers out of him, largely about his recent album. Read it here.