By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The malfunctioning cinematic code of the weekend’s films: Nothing is certain, strange things end up badly, and the sound is too loud. Much like fastidious rock fans or antique-book hoarders, grindhouse cinema fans — whose singularity of vision drives their eyes toward subjects other than the proscribed or recommended — are passionate to various faults and rabidly supportive of a world that most people rarely see.
Two films in, nearly-blind-and-deaf producer David F. Friedman regaled the assembled with tales of his years making exploitation films. Now almost completely removed from the integral parts of motion pictures, Friedman instead maintains what films often replace: memory. He lamented the lost sense of satisfaction at seeing customers emerge from one of his many "nudie cuties" at one of his Pussycat Theaters and disgustedly hurl popcorn in the manager’s face. He then revealed the hucksterism of the campfire storyteller: "Under 18 — you wouldn’t understand it! Over 85 — you wouldn’t be able to stand it!"
As bleary-eyed festival producer Eric Eichelberger juggled nudie loops and the manager’s ever-watchful curiosity, evangelicals outside dragged wooden crucifixes along the boulevard sidewalk, and feckless children handed out soup to the grindhouse faithful.
"Are you a believer in Christ Jesus?"
"No, I’m Jewish."
Back inside, the cavalcade of films continued to unspool: Street Trash, with its hyperkinetic late-1980s meditation on survival among the dissolute and the dissolved by way of immediately toxic Tenafly Viper liquor; She-Freak, with its exposé of carny life and the seedy perils of angering human oddities unto messy endings; and the duality of sordid Italian gut-munching nihilism/optimism in Burial Ground and The Man From Deep River.
The experience of spending days immersed in these films is a bit like a man shut into an all-yellow room. Its totality of experience means madness at the sight of the indelible sun or other lightstruck manifestations of mainstream cinema. As the night stretched into a chorus of snores, the amount of respect the audience had for one’s personal space was impressive — one could easily run out for a smoke break without fearing one’s chocolate-chip bundt cakes would get pilfered.
Early Saturday morning, on her way past the Vine, a woman with fried hair and hoop earrings stood utterly transfixed before the eye-clenching posters for Swedish Wildcats while the pall of cigarette haze blossomed around her. Presently, quixotic news wafted along the floating curls of carcinogens that the Mission Drive-In Theater in Montclair is due to be re-launched as the Tiki Drive-In, offering slasher films and hot-rod fare to the gods of the ozone.
Through the afternoon, Mary Woronov, gracefully statuesque and cordial, signed memorabilia inside the lobby of the Vine for true believers as Rock ’n’ Roll High School screened — her presence a stark contrast with the deaths of three out of four Ramones. A strange and walloping emptiness overcame me as I watched her walk unrecognized down the Boulevard when she finished.
When Roger Corman appeared, several fans flung themselves prostrate upon their prostates before him in rapt worship of their low-budget liege. He spoke of his Poe adaptations; about cameos for Francis Ford Coppola; about Tom Cruise remaking Death Race 2000, Paul Bartel’s violent schadenfreude-laden future vision of NASCAR; the falling dollar recapturing foreign-filmed movies; and the diminishing returns that come with graphic mutilation.
Early Sunday morning, still hours before sunrise, the rock band Mucus imploded due to a cut set; many middle fingers were extended, and the manager was mortified. Rain fell. It didn’t wash away the scum on the streets, but instead bestowed a glimmering sheen to its tawny coat as the grindhouse groundhogs scurried away into the night when the doors finally closed.
Wearing Your Cause on Your Artfully Torn Sleeve
"Are they launching a new line?"
This is what the fashion editor asked me when I invited her to TreePeople’s Thursday-night fashion show at the Knitting Factory.
"Then is it a fund-raiser?" she asked when I told her I didn’t think the environmental group was going into the fashion business. "How much?"
"It’s free," I said.
She declined the offer — something about plans to congratulate Marco of MarcoMarco on his first year in business — but made me promise to report back. "If it’s a new line, I should know about it. Otherwise, why is TreePeople having a fashion show?"
Fair question. Fashion in the developed world depends on people (women, mostly) throwing things out before they wear them out. So it’s doubtful an organization with a 31-year track record of conservationist conversion would get itself tangled up in fashion.
Officially, the event was to launch a "green is the new black" ad campaign sponsored by AdZoo, a branch of the American Advertising Federation, and LA.com that each year helps a nonprofit organization get its message out through billboards. TreePeople was chosen this year from 30 applicants for the distinction, and the resulting "Environmental Makeover" campaign shows high-fashion models in runway attire wielding spades and shovels and slogans like "support the environment that supports you" and "time to dig deeper within yourself."