By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
A reporter from an art magazine takes notes while everyone else listens politely. Finally Earl comes in and announces that it's showtime, and we head down to the theater. Built in 1936, it once held 800 seats, but Quick has torn out a bunch of the front rows and replaced them with a few old sofas. The room's size, instead of lending a grand and nostalgic air, makes it feel hollowed out.
Once a week or so, Quick hosts a night like this, inviting a few friends and friends of friends over for a screening of Donut Men, which was finished in 1997 and is still searching for a distributor. The film is the work of dozens of people, some of them known, such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, many of them not. Actors and producers and musicians, bigwigs and buddies, people with connections, people with money -- even Quick's close friends find it hard to explain such a strong show of support for the peculiar vision of someone almost entirely unproven. "Beeaje is a vortex of activity," Earl ventures. "You just get sucked right in."
Quick himself takes the celebrity attention in stride. "I'm an Aries and Quentin is an Aries," he says. "Were a lot alike."
One of Quick's biggest fans is Mark Ordesky, president of Fine Line Features, who says he is drawn to Quick's "aggressive irreverence." He has one of Quick's line drawings, titled Decisions, hanging in his office. It's a sort of stick-figure version of The Scream. Below the figure is the line: "If you can't handle living your life now, you can always wait for it to come out on video." Ordesky says the piece captures perfectly the tensions he confronts each day. "If you do the job that I do," he says, "your whole job is about grappling with decisions."
As for Donut Men, Ordesky is unsparing in his praise. "When I first saw the film, it reminded me of filmmakers Fine Line had cut its teeth on -- Waters, Herzog, Godard -- filmmakers clearly marching to their own drummer," he says. "It's not a direct comparison, but he's got a full aesthetic. He is not aping any particular genre. He's definitely on his own wavelength."
The only light in the theater, a green-shaded banker's lamp on a table near the sofas, clicks off. The room goes black, and the onscreen part of the evening's show begins. Donut Men can best be described as slapstick black comedy. Shot in black and white, it follows the antics of two boy rebels -- one of them, named God -- who impersonate L.A. motorcycle cops for a day. "In eight hours," they vow, "this town will have a new asshole." They coax a jilted bride off a suicide ledge and then shoot her, rob a blind Indian shopkeeper, dis the Westside ("where white people have more hair than brains") and beat up a Mexican man selling oranges from a shopping cart. They make "homo" jokes, but wear lipstick and exchange erotic caresses. They apprehend a bank robber, steal his take and then, through their own greediness, lose the cash, which ends up in the hands of two of their victims. "In a fucked-up world," Quick's character concludes, "it's the antihero who will become the ultimate hero."
The green light clicks back on and the audience sits. Wordless. Perhaps stunned. It's a mercurial movie, by turns clever, crass and dull. But questions of artistic merit are beside the point. Because once you've been inducted into the world of Beeaje, it's impossible to separate the film from the art from the books from the life story -- from the all-around production that is Quick, Inc.
"The funny thing is," Ordesky muses, "five years from now what he's doing will be recognized and established. But it's a hard trail to blaze."
Remove the condom from your spirit, infect people with creativity and let the epidemic reign.x
THE SUNDAY AFTER THE SCREENING, A FAULTY extension cord sparked a fire in the middle of the theater. Quick wasn't there, and neither was Earl. When smoke began pouring out of the building, a neighboring shopkeeper called the fire department.
Just as firefighters broke in through the glass front door, a woman named Ondi Timoner happened to be driving by. A documentary filmmaker with a fledgling production company called Interloper, Timoner is an admirer of Quick's work, especially a kinetic sculpture called the Table of Contents, which she describes as a "dream meter."
The work, which is set up in a small room off the theater lobby, consists of a large black sphere -- Timoner likes to think of it as a crystal ball -- anchored at the center of a chrome-topped table. Eight metal legs extend from the sphere, each attached to a miniature message board embedded in the tabletop. Various messages repeat across the boards in glowing red LED letters to an eerie, carnival-like tune, which turns out to be a recording of Gypsies blowing into bottles. "Vulnerability is the price one pays to open the gates of inspiration" is the message that affects Timoner most deeply. "If you're not vulnerable you can't be inspired," she says. "I would say it like that, but he says it poetically. He's the kind of artist whose work spurs on other artists. He's like a magician."