William Jones, Charming Man

Photo by Wild Don Lewis

Call it “Moz Angeles.” SoCal has more Morrissey devotees per square foot than any place on Earth. And the vast majority are Latino. For the last two years, filmmaker William Jones has been documenting, through black-and-white photography, this subculture within a subculture. Jones, himself a fan of the Smiths when they were still together, became interested in the Latino aspect of Mozmania through his boyfriend: “When I asked him, ‘What did you do after you graduated from high school?’ His answer was, ‘I laid in bed for a year and listened to the Smiths.’” This display of devotion re-ignited Jones’ passion for the Smiths, and eventually led him to the annual Morrissey conventions in L.A. as well as the now-defunct club London Is Dead, which played all Morrissey all the time.

He started taking photos of clubgoers. “A Moz-impersonator drag king encouraged me to get a pompadour, and I did, and found out people were much more willing to be photographed.” Jones, who’s also conducting video interviews for an eventual film, finds that he gets a different answer from every person he asks: Why is Morrissey such an icon to Latinos? Theories range from relating to the Irish immigrant to the fetishization of working-class culture to the sexually ambiguous persona to traditional machismo. He feels that KROQ has more than a little to do with it, having been the only mass-market radio station to play the Smiths then and now.

Over the past year, Jones has concentrated more on taking portraits of people in their rooms with their Moz shrines as well as of the tribute tattoos that take the Morrissey phenomenon to a whole new level. (Jones has a solo show, “Is It Really So Strange,” coming up in February at Golinko Kordansky Gallery; his progress on film and photo projects can be tracked on www.shiftlessbody.com.) “There’s a couple who have a child that was born on Morrissey’s birthday. They had Morrissey sign their wrists and went to a tattoo parlor and had them filled in. And there was the winner of the tattoo contest at the last Morrissey/Smiths convention. He won with a picture of Candy Darling, from one of the Smiths’ singles, sort of impressionistically rendered on his forearm. You see, it’s a little more complicated than people might give them credit for.”

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