Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Damned's 40th Anniversary Tour Hits the Baltimore Soundstage



The Damned w/The BellRays & Ravengers
Baltimore Soundstage
124 Market Place, Baltimore, MD

"Ladies and gentlemen, how do?" 

(May 9, 2017) - It's a Tuesday night, but the Baltimore Soundstage is packed to the rafters with a horde of rock and roll enthusiasts of all ages and colors (except for clothing: a uniform Clubland Black - didn't you get the memo?) - to see the first and longest running punk rock band in the History of the World (Part 1): The Damned. In fact, it's their 40th Anniversary U.S. Tour, one that initially was set to feature all the songs from their first album, Damned Damned Damnedbefore the band decided instead to play fave selections from their back catalog. I'm glad they changed plans; although their debut is one of only two Damned LPs I ever owned (the other was 1980's The Black Album, plus I think Marc O'Connor made me of tape of their third - and best album - 1979's Machine Gun Etiquette, and I had their Christmas EP There Ain't No Sanity Claus), I think the "Playing An Album In Its Entirety" concept has run its course; see Buzzcocks, Devo, Megadeath, et al.)

Damned Damned Damned (Stiff Records, 1977)

Back in 1979 when I was in punk band called Thee Katatonix, our confrontational style (really just a front for musical incompetence - at least on my part) led some fans (also known as "victims" - it's a fine distinction sometimes) to liken us to the then-reigning Punk Rock Signpost, The Sex Pistols. (Perhaps you've heard of them?)

"Nah," I recall Kats singer-guitarist /lead assailant Adolf Kowalski saying in response to the comparison. "The Pistols are way more slick. We sound more like The Damned, 'cause they're not political and play really loud and raucous just like us." (Wait - we weren't political with songs like "I Sure Miss My Foreskin" and "I Hate DC"?)

The Damned released the first UK punk single (Stiff Records, 1976)

Almost 40 years later, The Damned still revel in playing loud and raucous music, but they also evolved into something bigger, better and more sophisticated after Captain Sensible switched from bass to guitar on Machine Gun Etiquette. The group added keyboards and a more overtly pop polish to the raw power exhibited on their 1977 debut album Damned Damned Damned. Sure, the Pistols got all the glory (and deservedly so - they were great!), but they were gone in a flash, done and dusted by the end of their ill-fated American tour that ground to a halt in San Francisco in January 1978. By comparison, the Damned were the true pioneers, a band of "firsts" in class. The Damned released the first-ever punk single on Stiff Records on October 22, 1976 ("New Rose" b/w "Help") - beating Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch EP by several months - the first punk LP (Damned Damned Damned in February 1977), were the first UK punk outfit to tour the States (April 1977), and were also the first UK punks to reform (after a brief hiatus following their second album, 1978's Music For Pleasure which, may the record show, contained a non-political song called "Politics").  And four decades later, they are still making Noise Noise Noise that's Neat Neat Neat!

Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible: Damned to keep the faith with the masses

Yes, original members Brian James (guitar) and Rat Scabies (aka Chris Millar, drums) are long gone, but Captain Sensible (Ray Burns when he's at home) and singer Dave Vanian are still piloting the boat along with additional crew, whose ranks now number dancing keyboardist (and Mark Volman lookalike) Monty Oxymoron, bassist Stu West (who replaced Vanian's wife, Patricia Morrison, after she gave birth to daughter Emily in 2004) and drummer Pinch (Andrew Pinching).

Monty Oxymoron and Stu West

Go West, Young Damned: The Captain and Stu make do

Monty as Monolith (awesome photo by Jennifer Beetz)

I Fall?
And the Captain still refuses to abandon ship; after a nasty fall from the stage May 4 in Toronto (as shown below - and no, it wasn't during of performance of the Damned Damned Damned song "I Fall"), Sensible sustained a broken rib and had to cancel a couple of shows in Montreal and Boston (since rescheduled to later this month).





But tonight he was back and, as befitting his unfortunate recent fall from grace, was resting his sore bones atop a nasty-looking (albeit glow-in-the-dark) toilet that looked like it was borrowed from the props department of Trainspotting. (By the way, the graffiti on the front of this throne was later revealed to say "The Eagles puked here"! I'm sure they won't be the last!)

40 years after their debut album, The Damned's career is far from being flushed down the drain. In fact, their popularity, like this toilet, overfloweth.

Fan Club: Children of the Damned
Among those in attendance this night were Skizz Cyzyk (of Garage Sale, Go Pills, Stents, etc., etc.), his sweetie Jen Talbert, Scott Wallace Brown (of Awkward Sounds of Scott & Skizz, Tralalas), Julie Smith and Greg Brazeale (of Go Dog Go!), Joe Maravi, Karen Karen, John Rouse, Laurie Rollins Anderson, Layne Garrett-Bosserman and her son Sean, Amy Pelinsky, MaryAnne Tom, Mike and Janet Ramsey, Johnny Alonso and Shane K. Gardner, whose photographs from the show are truly amazing - check out his Damned good pics at Rock N Roll Socialite.


Captain Sensible (Photo by Shane K. Gardner, Rock N Roll Socialite)

We tried to hang out with some folks but, being vertically challenged Ewoks, had to scurry about to find a spot where we could actually see the band. Wherever we stood, some girl in storm trooper boots or a 6-foot punk with an additional 6-inch high red mohawk would move in to block our view. Suddenly, I felt my neck locked in a half-nelson by someone's arm - turning around it turned out to be Adolf Kowalski, whose other arm was extended more gently around the nape of my wife, Amy Linthicum (his ertswhile classmate at Dundalk High).

Coffin Cuties Magazine

Adolf was there to interview the band with Mike Hearse of Coffin Cuties Magazine. Adolf is an "Image Consultant" with Coffin Cuties. I don't know what that means, but it gets him into big events like this, so who cares, right? Adolf had been there since 3 o'clock that afternoon, but hey, that's the price you have to pay if you wanna have Captain Sensible emerge from his trailer, toothbrush in hand, and greet you by spewing a big gob of blue toothpaste four feet in the air. (Adolf loved it - dental hygiene is important!)


Coffin Cuties cohorts Mike Hearse and Adolf Kowalski with actor-rocker Johnny Alonso

Coffin Cuties maestro Mike Hearse poses with The Damned

Adolf graciously extended his largesse to Amy and yours truly, and we joined him and his girlfriend Jennifer Beetz (a talented artist and ace photographer who took some great shots this night) up in the VIP Lounge to the right of the stage. We suddenly felt like Studio 54 royalty. And, more importantly, we didn't have to stand on tippy-toes to see the band!

Luminous Amy Linthicum Warner: "I like being this close. Now Dave Vanian can see my new striped rockchick jacket!"

We were near enough that we could get these up-close-and-personal shots of the Full Monty Oxymoron, a maniacal madcap maelstrom of boundless energy and impressive dance moves (check out his custom-cool choreography during "New Rose"):

Monty: Hair Up!


Monty: Hair Down!

Indeed, we were close enough to see the not-so-little jokes the roadies play on the band (as shown below).

The roadies got creative with their sweat towel origami. That sure looks like a giant white dick (wait, is that an oxymoron?)(No offense to Monty Oxymoron.)


Let's Wait for the Blackout
I had to work late that night, so we missed the two opening bands, but apparently that was no great loss (Skizz Cyzyk: "The last band was like a set of cliches. And they were all bad cliches!"). So we waited...for the blackout. We waited for...the Damned! And as the venue went dark, the opening chords of "Melody Lee" filled the air and The Damned kicked out the jams for the next 90 minutes with a well-selected program of songs representing all their phases over the last four decades, with an emphasis on Damned Damned Damned ("New Rose," "Neat Neat Neat," "Fan Club"), Strawberries ("Ignite," "Generals," "Stranger In Town") and especially Machine Gun Etiquette ("Melody Lee," "Love Song," "I Just Can't Be Happy Today," "Anti-Pope," "Machine Gun Etiquette," "Plan 9, Channel 7," "Noise Noise Noise," "Smash It Up"). They also added some spice to the mix with a cover of Love's "Alone Again Or" (from 1986's Anything) and Paul Ryan's "Eloise" (which they've really made their own now). The Captain even downplayed his larger-than-life presence by neglecting to include most of his popular solo career songs like "Say Wot" or his cover of "Happy Talk," though he did sneak in his cover of Elton Motello's "Jet Boy, Jet Girl" during the first encore (at least according to Setlist.fm).


The Damned get psychedelic thanks to Jennifer Beetz's photo wizardry (Photo by Jennifer Beetz)

I thought they also performed "Looking at You" and Amy thinks they may have done "Nasty" as well - or maybe our recollections just got a contact high from Jenny Beetz's psychedelic tinkling of that photo above? (Hmmm, as the President says, we'll look into that.) (The Baltimore Post Examiner review included "Nasty" in its list of songs performed. It seems individual recollections of this show follow a Rashomon model. I'm just saying...) Speaking of "Nasty," does anyone else remember The Damned playing it on the cult '80s Britcom series The Young Ones? It's worth reprising here:





And the Damned did slip a political snort into their set when Dave Vanian - looking these days like a cross between Timothy Carey and Ghoulardi and wielding a beautiful old-school microphone - dedicated "Generals" (from the Strawberries LP) to Our Commander in Grief.

Anyway, here's how the Damned's Baltimore Soundstage show went down, according to the folks at Setlist.fm (the Setlist Wiki) - though I think they missed a few that I added, like "Fan Club" (see video below), so maybe the order isn't exact (it's only rock 'n' roll, so let's not quibble over the details)...

Noise for Heroes/Music for Zeroes Setlist:
  1. Melody Lee
  2. Generals
  3. Disco Man
  4. I Just Can't Be Happy Today
  5. Alone Again Or (Love cover)
  6. Love Song
  7. Machine Gun Etiquette (Second Time Around)
  8. Street of Dreams
  9. Eloise (Paul Ryan cover)
  10. Ignite
  11. Stranger on the Town
  12. Plan 9, Channel 7
  13. Wait for the Blackout
  14. History of the World (Part 1)
  15. New Rose
  16. Neat Neat Neat
    Encores
  17. Jet Boy, Jet Girl (Elton Motello cover)
  18. Fan Club
  19. Nasty
  20. Noise Noise Noise
  21. Smash It Up (Parts 1 & 2)
  22. Anti-Pope
Following are some songs I know they played, because I taped them: "Noise Noise Noise," "Neat Neat Neat" and "Fan Club."

Noise Noise Noise:



Neat Neat Neat:


Fan Club:



As Mike Hearse put it, this show was seriously sick! Indeed, The Damned truly Smashed It Up!




And on our way out, we heard that the Orioles had battled back from a 4-1 deficit in the 8th (to Max Scherzer!) to beat the Nationals in the 12th inning by 5-4! Who says "I Just Can't Be Happy Today"? Not me. It makes me glad to say it's been a lovely day - and that's OK!

Many thanks to Adolf, Mike Hearse & co. for letting us hang with them. Be sure to check out the next issue of Coffin Cuties for a mother lode of interviews, reviews and pics of The Damned; for "sneak peeks," check out the Mike Hearse and Coffin Cuties Facebook pages.

Related Links:
Baltimore Post Examiner review
Damned Show: Rock N Roll Socialite
The Damned (Official web site)
Coffin Cuties
"Melody Lee" (SixtySecondsSteve video)
"New Rose" (mikeywolves1 video)
"I Just Can't be Happy Today" (mikeywolves1 video)
Captain Loves Bon Jovi & The Jam (mikeywolves1 video)

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Year's Model: Genie Vincent Remembered


Charm City Cover Girl Eugenie Vincent (photo courtesy Mike Milstein)

A friend messaged me today via social media, asking if I recalled a record album that featured erstwhile Baltimorean and fashion model "Genie" Vincent (not to be confused with the crippled rockabilly legend, Gene "Don't Call Me Genie" Vincent), whom we knew from hanging out at Towson State University in the early 1980s. 


I didn't remember much about "Genie" (birth name Eugenie Vincent) other than she was extremely tall (5 foot 11?) and slender (hence the modeling career) and that my ex-wife and college bandmate Katie Glancy knew her from TSU. (Katie's convinced she appeared on some Steve Winwood record that I had, but I haven't been able to solve that mystery.) I only recall seeing Genie at Oddfellows Hall music shows, having graduated from TSU in 1980, though she was friends with a number of TSU undergrads like Leslie "Leigh" MillerMike Milstein (another college bandmate), Mindi Siegel and Marty Benson

Others knew her from her days at Baltimore's former hippie enclave, Baltimore Experimental High School (504 Cathedral Street, down the street from the First Unitarian Church). As Rafael Alvarez once described it in a 2013 City Paper profile, BEHS was known for turning out "some of the most creative, some of the most successful, and some of the most dysfunctional high school graduates in Baltimore." 

Genie was certainly one of the more successful grads and went on to work with a number of creative talents. She ended up crossing the pond to model in Europe, where Malcolm McLaren must have discovered her because the album she appeared on was none other than the former Sex Pistols manager and Sex boutique co-owner's 1984 opera-meets-R&B mashup, Fans. (Thanks go to the recollections of tattoo artist, music promoter and Waverly Brewing Company co-owner Bill Stevenson for remembering Genie's appearance on this record!)



Front cover of Malcolm McLaren's "Fans" LP (Charisma, 1984)



Genie Vincent (left) appeared on the back cover of  McLaren's "Fans" LP



According to her Internet Movie Database (IMDb) filmography, Genie later appeared in Mary Harron's 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol, though local fanboy Robert J. ("Beefalo Bob") Friedman adds, "But if you blink, you'll miss her." She plays one of Warhol's Superstars and, though her role was fleeting, Bob insists, "She'll always be a superstar to me!"


"I Shot Andy Warhol" (1996)


Her IMDb credits also include the 1996-1997 television series The Anti-Gravity Room, 1998's Anarchy TV (which, in addition to Genie, featured another Baltimore actress, Mink Stole), and Zoltan (great name!) Alexander's 1993 film short, Skinned.


"Anarchy TV" (1998)

Genie also apparently collaborated a number of times with legendary former Baltimore artist-provocateur tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE and his Neoist cronies. (tENT briefly taught a "No No Umbrella Class" at Experimental High in the fall of 1981; perhaps that's where they met.)


The No No Umbrella Class outside Acme Food Market


In October 1981, Genie worked with tENT on two "events" at the Toronto Public Works Festival. First, there was the "Seatbelt Violation Public Works Promotion," which tENT described in "Mere Outline 1981" thusly:

Eugenie Vincent & I were tied to the roof of a rented car to attract attention to us while we drove around the city with signs advertising the festival we were to participate in & "HOMEX" - the magazine that 1 of the drivers, Ricki Kilreagan (the other driver being Sin-Dee Heidel), was editor of. After 20 minutes or so, we were stopped by a cop, who was eventually joined by 2 others. The cops tried to figure out what they could charge us with & eventually decided on "seatbelt violation" - much to the general amusement.


Seat Belt Violation event, Toronto Public Works Festival


This was followed by a "Neiost Night" performance at Toronto's YYZ Gallery. As tENT describes it: 


As an impromptu contribution to the "Neoist" night at the Gallery, Eugenie Vincent stripped, with her face wrapped with toilet paper (so that no photographs could be used to incriminate her in case she were to run for political office later), & lay on the floor. Unwanted left-overs from a very authentic Chinese meal we'd had earlier (cow's lung or some such) was spread out on her chest & abdomen. The audience was told that whoever ate the most food off of Genie without using their hands would win a free Chinese dinner. Of course, we knew that it was unlikely that anyone would want to eat any more chinese food after undergoing this experience but we figured that at least a few people in the audience would want to eat this slop off of the naked girl. I, most likely, conceived of all this & acted as judge. Ricki Kilreagan attempted to play some sort of kitsch tv music. Sin-Dee Heidel probably assisted in some way or another. 2 or more guys from the audience tried to eat the food off of Eugenie. I think everybody but 1 guy dropped out repulsed by the food. The remaining one who would've won pulled out a pocket knife in a frenzy of sexual aggressiveness & started scooping up the food with it. He was disqualified as a result & no-one won. To top it off, a sleazy Yugoslavian Photographer chased Genie around, still naked with toilet paper wrapped around her face, photographing in an "artistic" frenzy. This same photographer documented Skin Transfer (#51) - telling us "I believe in you" but refusing to give us copies of the photos. Hhmmm..





Neoist Night antics, Toronto Public Works Festival


Genie's Chinese food leftovers modeling performance reminded me of my old band Thee Katatonix's first-ever show at Towson's Oddfellows Hall back on April 27, 1979. For our debut, frontman Adolf Kowalski convinced some young woman to lay prostate on the stage, covered with a garbage bag, while he showered her with the remnants of a dissected stuffed teddy bear doll (his version of a punk pinata?) and spat beer on her. I think the trade-off was she got in free and got some beers (besides the ones spat on her). Who knew then that Adolf's abusive antics were actually high-concept "performance art" that would have impressed Neoists in Toronto galleries?


Bag Lady suffers for art's sake at Thee Katatonix's debut gig, Oddfellows Hall, April 27, 1979

Adolf spays a stuffed animal

The audience was floored. Literally.



"Don't get up on my account"


But I digress...OK, back to Genie.

I think Genie also appeared in issue 2 of a art zine affiliated with British Neoist Stewart Home called SMILE. SMILE would later inspire tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE's film Transparent SMILE, which is part of the Enoch Pratt Free Library's 16mm film collection.



SMILE #2


We Dream of Genie

A number of people in the Marble Bar Facebook group remember her a lot better than me, and everyone agrees that she was a sweet soul, someone really worth knowing. Or, as Bob Richardson posted on The Marble Bar Facebook group page, "I remember her. How could one forget?"

More Genie Vincent recollections follow:

Robert J. ("Beefalo Bob") Friedman recalled: "I was extremely fond of her. A down to earth person for such a glamor-puss."

Marty Benson: "I remember her from before she went to Italy. She was a very sweet Experimental High School girl, or she hung out with that crew. Very friendly and down to earth."

Leslie Fuquinay Miller: "She and I were best friends for a year or so. We hung out in DC almost every night and slept on the second floor of the Union every morning. We used to get dressed up and eat at Au Pied De Cochon in DC. We saw The Circle Jerks and lots of other punk bands together. She was always such a sweetheart. I remember that she had to sneak into her going-out clothes at her mom's apartment or house. It's fuzzy. Lotta years gone by."

Mindi Siegel: "She taught me how to do the 'Huntington Beach' on the second floor of the [TSU] Student Union."

Amy Linthicum first met Genie when Leslie Miller brought her to a party at the Glen Burnie house where Null Set's Mark Harp and Lou Frisino lived with Marble Bar doorman Ron DeNunzio"I remember her wearing an earring made out of a bent fork, and a furry coat in an unnatural color." 

Lou Frisino: "Yes, she was at one of the wild parties there on Cody Drive. Genie kissed the wall in my foyer. That lipstick was on there for many years, lol!"

Alex Layne: "I remember a party out at her parents house in Timonium or someplace.. the Bludgeons played.. D.M. on drums.. I always thought she was hot, but she was a bit older, out of my league."

Robyn Webb recalled another Genie performance similar to the her Toronto Public Works Festival collaboration with tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE: "I remember when she and someone did some kind of performance at the 8x10...might have actually been part of a [Larry] Vega show...they were scantily clad, in just the most minimal lingerie, and Dickie [Gamerman] flipped out, in fear of his liquor license, as they were nearing titty bar territory in their gyrations and ministrations...I think Keith Wortz was there...or under a ladder, while Genie and someone (Jenny Beetz maybe?) did her thing while Keith read poetry..."


A "Larry Vega Show" at the 8x10 Club



Dave Sarfaty was at that 8x10 Larry Vega Show and added, "I think Dickie was more 'flipped out' that Keith was on stage than pretty girls in their underwear!"


Keith Wortz


Tom DiVenti suggested that 8x10 owner Dickie Gammerman was also "freaked because he thought they were underage."

***

Rumor has it that Genie moved back to Baltimore after living abroad and in Mendocino, California for many years. Those in the know, know. But if she hasn't made contact with her other former Baltimore friends in the social media age, then it's probably for a reason. Perhaps, like Garbo, she wishes to be alone. Maybe the former cover girl wishes to remain undercover. Respect. This has been merely a look back at a local gal made good.


***

S'more Pictures of Genie:


Cassandra (Julie von Rintein) and Genie Vincent (photo from Robert Friedman)


Genie Vincent models a feathery coat that Bjork would love

Genie Vincent glamour shot



Genie photo (courtesy Robert J. Friedman)



Genie, Martini & Rossi (photo courtesy Robert J. Friedman)



Genie black and blue (photo courtesy Robert J. Friedman)





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Thursday, March 09, 2017

China Girls On Film

Who Are the Mystery Girls?: Celebrating Countdown Reel Girls


Countdown to Ecstasy: China Girl on film leader

One of the thrills of being an audio-visual librarian at Enoch Pratt Free Library is working with 16mm films and spotting the occasional "China Girl" (or "LAD Lady," short for the "Laboratory Aim Density" industry standard created by Kodak's John P. Pytlak) on film countdown leaders. How these women got the sobriquet "China Girls" remains unknown; it's particularly unusual since most of the female subjects were white, not Asian. ("China Girls" might be a reference to the colorful flower print blouses Chinese girls wore at the turn of the 20th century, or to the "Shanghai Girls" advertising cards that came with Chinese cigarettes.) Needless to say, the term has nothing to do with the David Bowie (or Iggy Pop) song "China Girl."

Have your highlights lost their sparkle?And the midtones lost their scale?Are your shadows going smokey?And the colors turning stale?Have you lost a little business to labs whose pictures shine?Because to do it right – takes a lot of time.Well, here’s  a brand new system. It’s simple as can be!Its name is LAD – an acronym for Laboratory Aim Density.– John P. Pytlak

A recent article by Sarah Laskow ("The Forgotten 'China Girls' Hidden At the Beginning of Old Films," January 17, 2017) for the wonderful Atlas Obscura blog profiled these hidden faces that were never meant to be public and renewed my long-standing fascination with them. As Laskow writes:

Few people ever saw the images of China girls, although for decades they were ubiquitous in movie theaters. At the beginning of a reel of film, there would be a few frames of a woman's head. She might be dressed up; she might be scowling at the camera. She might blink or move her head. 
But if audiences saw her, it was only because there had been a mistake. These frames weren't meant for public consumption. The China girl was there to assist the lab technicians processing the film. Even though the same person's face might show up in reel after reel of film, her image would remain unknown to everyone except the technicians and projectionists. 
For many years photo labs would produce unique China girl images; around a couple hundred women, perhaps more, had their images hidden at the beginning of films. As movies have transitioned from analog to digital, though, China girls are disappearing.


Who are the Mystery Girls?

But not in Rockville, Maryland, where Colorlab is not only one of the last full-service film labs operating in the country, but has also revived the practice of making in-house China girls because there's no standardized "LAD lady" for the newest version of Kodak film.

And now there's renewed interest in these mystery women thanks to Rebecca Lyon and the Chicago Film Society's Leader Ladies Project, which has collected and posted around 200 China girl images (including  rare ones showing men, mannequins and even people of color). Below is a picture from the Leader Ladies Project collection that actually shows an Asian woman in the film leader for Nagisa Oshima's 1968 film Death By Hanging. (Since it's a Japanese film, she's probably not literally a "China girl," but close enough!)

"Death By Hanging"'s Leader Lady

Then there's the 2008 short film by Julie Buck and Karin Segal called Girls On Film that reflects on the anonymity of the test subjects by using an old "making it in Hollywood" movie soundtrack.




Buck and Segal described their film as follows:
Girls on Film is about 70 unknown movie stars. Despite appearing in countless films, they were never actually meant to be seen by the movie-going public. In fact, these women are so enigmatic that in most cases we do not even know their names. This film is a tribute to these forgotten women.

Officially known as color-timing control strips, these anonymous female film studio workers were affectionately dubbed "china girls" by the industry. The images in this show were meant only for use by the processing lab to match color tones in the associated film. 

Initially heavily scratched and faded, each images has been enlarged, restored and edited until these unknown and formerly unseen women resemble publicity snapshots of well-known film stars.

Jean Bourbonnais, a former projectionist at the National Film Board of Canada, compiled the heads and tails of numerous 35mm international films into a 16-minute-plus montage called China Girls. Bourbonnais addressed the mystery of these unknown leader ladies with a decidedly feminist slant, calling them "the voiceless workers of a proto-sex industry, entertaining mostly male lab technicians over the course of the working hours, similar to the pin-ups or sexy girl calendars found in most car repair shops or other blue collar male-dominated fields of work, China Girls are there to brighten up a gloomy day."

Hmm...I never thought of China Girls as the equivalent of a Snap-on Tools calendar hung in a film lab technician's workshop, but Bourbonnais makes an interesting point.


A China Girl answers the Hot Line: "A call for President Trump? Please hold, Mr. Putin!"

Speaking of Girls On Film...Years ago, I discovered China Girls thanks to John Heyn (of Heavy Metal Parking Lot fame). John also directed a short film called Girls On Film that celebrated these unknown women who appeared at the beginning of film reels and were used by lab technicians for color quality control. And it still holds a special place in my heart, no doubt because John used an obscure pop song by the Passions ("I'm in Love With a German Film Star") as his accompanying soundtrack.



Here's John Heyn's description of his film:

GIRLS ON FILM is an experimental film that captures the fleeting images from countdown leaders of old film prints. The "china girls" who appeared in these unseen film frames were posing for far less than aesthetic purposes and more for technical reasons. Their fleshtones and accompanying color-charts helped the film lab technicians calibrate the color-rendition of the film stock. The soundtrack is the 1981 new wave hit "I'm In Love with a German Film Star" by The Passions.

I recently discovered another China Girls montage set to an obscure pop soundtrack. Called "Lili On the Web" - in France, China Girls are called "Lili," perhaps after the traditional name for film slates used in Technicolor shoots -  it uses April March's song "Chick Habit" (itself an English cover of the Serge Gainsbourg composition "Laisse Tomber les Filles" - or, "Leave the Girls Alone" - which was originally sung by in 1964 by France Gall) as a musical backdrop. "Chick Habit" was also used in the film soundtracks of But I'm a Cheerleader and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof.


lili on the web from BkTs on Vimeo.

And on that note, I bid thee farewell with this knowing wink (or is it a blink?) from a vintage China Girl:



Related Links:
Leader Ladies Project (Chicago Film Society web site)
Leader Lady Project (Facebook page)
The Forgotten "China Girls" Hidden At the Beginning of Old Film Reels (Sarah Laskow, Atlas Obscura)
Countdown To Ecstasy: China Girls (Accelerated Decrepitude)
China Girls, Redux (Accelerated Decrepitude)
16mm Leader China Girls (Brian Durham, YouTube)
China Girl (Jean Bourbonnais, YouTube)
Lili On the Web (Vimeo)


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Monday, November 14, 2016

"New Sounds for Silent Films" screening at Walters Art Gallery

New Sounds For Silent Films
Music by Jamal Moore, Ami Dang, and WUME
November 10, 2016 @ Walters Art Museum



The Walters Art Gallery, in partnership with the Maryland Film Festival, presented three short films from the Enoch Pratt Free Library's 16mm film archives as part of its "New Sounds for Silent Films" live music program. In conjunction with the museum's special exhibition "A Feast for the Senses," musicians Jamal Moore, Ami Dang, and WUME created and performed new scores for the three "silent" films (actually, though mostly lacking spoken word, they all originally featured musical soundtracks or sound effects). Regardless, the event organizers couldn't have picked three better "trippy" films to stimulate the senses. Films included: Moon 1969, Asparagus, and Time Piece. The screening was free for Walters Art Gallery and and Maryland Film Festival members.

About the films:

Moon 1969
(Directed by Scott Bartlett, USA, 1969, 15 minutes, color, 16mm)




This is the film Scott Bartlett made with Michael Hollingshead, the guy who turned Timothy Leary (among others) on to acid with his infamous mayonnaise jar filled with 5,000 hits of pure Sandoz LSD. In it, blurred television tapes of the Apollo 11 moon trip, alternating explosions of blank and color film, music, the voice of an astrologer discussing "all-ness," love, and the stars, and abstract film patterns combine to create what the director describes as a "cosmic mind flight" and "a space-age sermon celebrating the joys of metaphysical love."


Images from Moon 69


In his study of 1960s American experimental cinema The Exploding Eye, Wheeler Winston Dixon wrote "[Scott Bartlett's films] exemplified San Francisco's preferred form of cinematic discourse for a later generation of artists, poets, writers and videomakers...The visual structures of Bartlett's films influenced the images we see on MTV today, as well as the digital special effects employed in many contemporary feature films."

According to Paul Brawley of the American Library Association, "The interrelated convolutions and spasms of image, color, and sound that filmmaker Bartlett creates is the cumulative effect of his pioneer work using negative images, polarization, television techniques, computer-film, and electronic patterns all compressed into a visual punch that directs one where he normally would not go with a film - on a trip in search of the human soul."

Gene Youngblood of the Los Angeles Times adds, "Moon 1969 is a beautiful, eerie, haunting film, all the more wonderful for the fact we do not once see the moon: only the manifestation of its powers here on earth, the ebb and flow of the waters.. fiery rainbows into a cloudy sky... men and rockets transformed into shattering crystals... creating a picture if the cosmos in continual transformation."

During his life, Bartlett was sponsored by such filmmakers as Francis Ford Coppola. Yet today, despite their undiminished impact and undeniable influence, Bartlett's films are seldom shown. Pratt also owns Scott Bartlett's OffOn (1968), The Serpent (1971), and Medina (1972). Barlett's films are also available through Canyon Cinema. (Scott Bartlett, USA, 1969, 15 minutes, color, 16mm)

Check this title in the Enoch Pratt catalog.

Asparagus
(Directed by Suzan Pitt, USA, 1979, 19 minutes, color, 16mm)


Suzan Pitt - Asparagus (1978).avi from anastasios on Vimeo.


This "candy colored animated nightmare" rocked audiences upon its release - it ran theatrically with David Lynch's Eraserhead on the Midnight Movie Circuit - and catapulted Suzan Pitt to the front ranks of indie animation. From its opening scene of a woman defecating an asparagus spear into her toilet bowl to the concluding set piece (also very Lynchian and reminiscent of the theater scene in Muholland Drive) in which the artist opens her Medusa's box to release rare wonders before a claymation audience, stunning cel animation propels its blank-faced protagonist into a world of Freudian symbolism and Jungian archetypes. Winner of the grand prize at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival.


Freudian symbolism in Asparagus


Suzan Pitt later worked on some Peter Gabriel music videos. On February 15, 2008, she made a Baltimore "Pitt" stop to present a special screening of Asparagus (on 35mm!) and other works at the Maryland Institute, College of Art.

Tom Warner with Suzan Pitt at MICA, February 2008


Suzan Pitt Web site: home.earthlink.net/~suzanpitt/

Check this title in the Enoch Pratt catalog.

Time Piece
(Directed by Jim Henson, 1964, USA, color, 9 minutes, 16mm)



Time Piece is a 1965 experimental short film directed, written, produced by and starring Jim Henson (credited as "The Man"). The film depicts an ordinary man moving in constant motion, in a desperate attempt to escape the passage of time. It is noteworthy for being a non-puppet, live-action Jim Henson production.

Watch a short clip from Jim Henson's Time Piece.



Time Piece received several film festival awards, including the Blue Ribbon Award from the American Film festival in 1967, and was nominated for an Academy Award in the "Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects" category in 1966. In 2008, it became available at the iTunes store.

According to Muppet Wiki:
Henson began the project in the spring of 1964 (initially titling it Time to Go) and continued to work on it for nearly a year, between commercial projects and various Muppet television appearances. The short film premiered on May 6, 1965 at the Museum of Modern Art and was distributed through Pathe Contemporary films to arthouse theaters and the film festival circuit. It played in New York City along with the French feature A Man and a Woman
The surrealist film, which runs slightly less than 9 minutes, follows a nameless man who lies in a hospital bed awaiting examination by a doctor through a wide range of experiences. Mundane daily activities are intercut with surreal fantasy and pop-culture references. The relentless passage of time is a recurring motif, both visually, through various clocks, and aurally, through a rhythmic percussion soundtrack which "ticks away" throughout. Key set pieces include an examination of workplace drudgery, a prolonged dinner sequence (intended as a spoof of a scene from the film Tom Jones), and a nightclub visit satirizing the striptease (including a dancing roast chicken and a marionette skeleton). The man also rides a pogo stick, shoots the Mona Lisa, escapes from prison, and gradually applies a coat of pink paint to a living elephant. He assumes different costumes and identities throughout, from Tarzan to a cowboy, and repeatedly utters the only dialogue in the film, a plaintive cry of "Help!" from increasingly incongruous and perilous positions. 
Apart from the rapid montage cutting and superimposition of objects, Jim Henson used animation heavily to create an impressionistic feel. He personally animated scenes of moving patterns, anticipating those later utilized in various Sesame Street inserts. Don Sahlin supervised the use of pixilation and reverse motion to further "stylize" the movements.



A number of Henson Associates employees appear in the film: Frank Oz (as a messenger and in a gorilla suit), Jerry Juhl, Don Sahlin, and Diana Birkenfield. The rest of the cast and crew were made up of New York "bohemian artists" including portrait artist Enid Cafritz (as "The Man"'s wife)...

Enid Cafritz as Jim Henson's wife in "Time Piece"


...burlesque stripper April March (not to be confused with the musician "April March," real name of Elinor Blake, recording under that name)...


April March, "First Lady of Burlesque"


April March in "Time Piece"


...Broadway dancer Barbara Richman, and drummer Dave Bailey.




Check this title in the Enoch Pratt catalog.


Related Links:
"Pitt Stop: Animator Suzan Pitt Visits MICA" (Accelerated Decrepitude, February 15, 2008)
"Time Piece" (Muppet Wiki)