For most Labor Day weekend means only two things: the nearly unbelievable end of summer and barbeques. If you’re anything like me (and reading Filthy Dreams pretty much proves you are), barbeques, particularly in New York City where people seem to think kale equals a barbeque, are something to be endured rather than enjoyed.
This Independence Day, I fled into a darkened Dirty Looks screening of the camp classic Myra Breckinridge to watch Raquel Welch as Myra, a male-to-female transsexual, rape poor meat-head Rusty while wearing a stars-and-stripes bikini. Why I almost stood up and started belting out the Star Spangled Banner!
Inspired by my barbeque defection, here’s a list of transgressive, trashy, demented and thoroughly queer underground films and videos you can watch to help you endure the family vacation, block party, barbeque madness.
1. Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis (2006)
Documentary Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis delves into the decadent aesthetic genius of early 1960s queer underground film forefather Jack Smith from his obsession with admittedly awful silver screen siren Maria Montez to the controversy surrounding his most famous film Flaming Creatures to his utter refusal to fully complete another film in order to maintain creative control of his artistic output and his eventual death from complications from AIDS. An inspiration to filmmakers such as Andy Warhol who put Smith in his films as a nod to his influence and also nabbed some of Smith’s original Superstars like beautiful drag queen Mario Montez, the documentary reveals Smith as entirely devoted to his singular exotic aesthetic, which leads him to launch performances in his New York apartment, decorated to look like a film set of an Arabian city. Smith would even complete hours long performances even if nobody showed up.
Once you’ve watched Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis, make sure you watch Flaming Creatures and Normal Love to round out your queer decadent utopic dreams.
2. Nick Zedd’s They Eat Scum (1979)
Cinema of Transgression filmmaker Nick Zedd’s first film and cult classic They Eat Scum has been lauded as one of the best titles in cinema by Pope of Trash John Waters. Do I even need to say anything more? Made in response to the media’s overreaction to the nihilistic tendencies of punk music, Zedd creates an even more nihilistic band of delinquents led by Donna Death as Suzie Putrid who with her band The Mental Deficients spew chaos, cannibalism and eventually cause a nuclear meltdown. There is so much more to this sleazy, campy, punk transgressive film such as Suzie’s transvestite brother but I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
Last thought for the film, I’ve always dreamed of shouting Suzie Putrid’s monologue at CBGB at some karaoke night: “Shut up! I hate you, you zombies…We will be the END of life on this planet.” Who’s with me?
3. Richard Kern’s Stray Dogs (1985)
Another pick from the hallowed, sleaze-filled halls of the Cinema of Transgression, Richard Kern’s Stray Dogs is part of his Manhattan Love Suicides series, which includes his collaboration with Nick Zedd, Thrust in Me, discussed previously on Filthy Dreams. Starring David Wojnarowicz, whose connection with the Cinema of Transgression (at least from my perspective) has been less researched than his later, more activist works, as well as Lower East Side avant-garde legend Bill Rice, Stray Dogs takes a disturbingly hilarious look at the depth and intensity of obsession as Wojnarowicz’s character literally explodes from his pent-up lust for Rice. Particularly for fans of Wojnarowicz’s art, Stray Dogs provides a funnier and dare I say, lighter glimpse into Wojnarowicz’s creative personality beyond his now iconic rage and outspoken voice.
4. DeAundra Peek’s “I Eat Out Of Cans”
If you absolutely have to go to a barbeque this weekend, might I suggest a quick way to have that party come to a screeching halt by playing DeAundra Peek’s “I Eat Out Of Cans.” With a voice like an angel that has been hit by a truck, DeAundra’s white trash drag act terrorized public access viewers on “DeAundra Peek’s Teenage Music Club” from the late 1980s through the 1990s. Follow suit by terrorizing your relatives and loved ones with DeAundra’s ode to canned food!
5. Mac DeMarco’s “My Kind of Woman”
A new find (Thank you, Marion), Canadian singer Mac DeMarco’s eerie Brian Eno-esque pop, which he calls “jizz jazz,” is perfect for a lost long weekend of late nights, cigarettes (DeMarco is obsessed with Viceroy cigarettes and even has a song “Ode to Viceroy”), drag and rock and roll night clubs. DeMarco, whose live shows have been called “raunchfests,” captured my attention with his video for “My Kind of Woman,” which opens with DeMarco alluringly smearing on red lipstick on his oddly makeup-strewn face. Following DeMarco’s bizarre drag routine, the video takes a strange turn. So watch, listen and kiss your weekend goodbye as you sink into a new-found Mac DeMarco obsession.
We wanted to include Boylesque sensation Go Go Harder’s foray into porn on Cocky Boys but we’re all too broke to pay! Happy Labor Day!!
Any chance you’d review “Blood Orgy of the Leather Girls”? Every time you mention Nick Zedd — and it’s been twice now, I do believe — my heart skips. But I confess, it’s only due to the associations of a 13 year old me.
I’ve never actually seen that though I’m looking at the description now and I’m shocked that I haven’t! I’ll definitely have to watch it and review it. I’m glad somebody’s heart also skips a beat with Nick Zedd. I love him in a way like I love John Waters. He’s been important to my love of trashy, campy cinema.
I’m curious to read your impressions. 😉 They’re not artists that “fit” even emotionally for me… which is why my heart skips, I think.