Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Marble Bar Redux @ 2012 SoWeBo Festival

It's just not SoWeBo without the Motor Morons!

"I had a great time at the Sowebo festival yesterday! The Redux stage proved that it doesn't matter how old you are, you can still rock out! I got there just in time for the Pleasant Livers, and then watched Thee Katatonix, Motor Morons and Ben Watson's World Media War and everyone was fantastic. So good to see so many of you there!"
- Amy Linthicum, Girl Reporter (via Facebook post)

As usual, Amy Linthicum says best what I can only flail at with my forked tongue. But my tongue must flail, so here goes...Yes, SoWeBohemian Festival 2012 was a blast - and a true blast from the past for those 80's Punk/New Wave relics like us who still fondly remember the Marble Bar (which closed its doors in 1985), the Galaxy Ballroom and its associated renegade musical spirit. The Marble/Galaxy contingent were treated to their own "old timey sounds" area, the "Marble Bar Retrospective" on the Redux Stage - where co-stage managers Sam Fitzsimmons (Motor Morons) and Fred Collins (Motor Morons, Pleasant Livers) oversaw the day's entertainment. They were ably assisted by emcee Robyn Webb, who introduced the day's numerous acts and kept the rock rolling smoothly.

Steptoe T. Magnificent & MC Robyn Webb schmooze backstage

Before making our way down to the Way-Back Machine Stage, we ran into a number of librarians - you see, the SoWeBo Festival brings out all sorts of oddballs, not just crazy artists and musicians!

Oddballs of every stripe abound at SoWeBo!

Street-walking librarians we encountered included my fellow long-suffering Pratt pal Mike Rios...

Mike Rios and Amy Linthicum rock the green Earthtones look

...and ertswhile Pratt staffer and current award-winning Library Technician Layne Bosserman.

Tom hugs Layne, hoping her award-winning library skills will be absorbed via osmosis

By the time Amy and I weaved our way through a hot and sweaty crowd of badly tattooed freaks, hat-and-beard bearing hipsters, blotto redneck locals in wifebeaters and baseball caps (who make Hampden's indigenous inbred community look positively upscale), and scamming street panhandlers ("Scuse me mister, my car broke down and I need 50 cent..."), we were able to catch the tail end of the excellent instro-rock trio The Tritons (whose past members have included the illustrious 'n' industrious Balto Arts power couple Jenny Keith and Chris "Batworth" Ciattei). (And how appropriate that a band called the Tritons features a three-pronged lineup!)

The Tritons' surf-rock made waves at the SoWeBo Festival

Watch The Tritons play "Everybody Up."

Looking around, I immediately spotted Canary Man (aka "Bowtie" Bob Nelson, "Baltimore's Oldest Hipster") - a splendiferously attired middle-aged man who looks like Truman Capote after a Tom Wolfe fashion makeover.

Canary Man: I love this guy!

We usually spot this eye-catching character at the Friday night Belvedere Square soirees, where he's always sports spiffy neon-bright sneakers and a matching jacket. Today's ensemble featuring bright yellow kicks, matching jacket, and a bowtie (the tied kind, not the clip-on variety retards like me have to buy!) - but the true capper was his pair of blue searsucker shorts. This guy leaped straight off the pages of a P.G. Wodehouse novel, and I would not be a bit surprised if his nickname was Tweetie (second choice: Bertie). Color me jealous - and yellow with envy!

The Beatoes ("I'm Too Ugly for MTV") were supposed to be up next, but apparently there was a last-minute cancellation, and in their place we got The Pleasant Livers. The Pleasant Livers did, however, feature a Beatoes member in their ranks - guitarist Charlie Chadwick - so there was a tenuous connection, although a lot of melody was lost in the translation.

Fred Collins preheats his Easy-Bake Oven during Pleasant Livers set

The Pleasant Livers are kind of like the Motor Morons without the industrial tools, but with the same Red Room/High Zero cacaphony-is-fun musical aesthetic. And both bands feature the maniacal singing and stage energy of Fred Collins, who pointed out during his intro that in case people hadn't heard of the band, they should - after all, they were voted "Best Live Band" in 2008 by the Baltimore City Paper. I don't know everybody in the band, but besides Chadwick and Collins (who not only sings but also bangs an Easy-Bake Oven over his head), I spotted Jason Willett from True Vine Records plucking the bass and my fellow St. Paul's School for Boys alumnus Bob Wagner banging away on the drums.

The Pleasant Livers come from the "Land of Pleasant Living"

For some reason, a group of local inbred white trash rednecks gathered stage front to wave their annoying Pirate flag, spill beer, and show off their unimaginative Skater/Yo Boy fashion (wifebeaters, caps, spiked belts, and Prison-grade tattoos).

Unfortunately, these inbred local yokels came from the Land of Peasant Living

I suspect it's part of their mating ritual, wherein they hope to attract impressionable young females who find the allure of a heterosexual beer-drinker with a Pirate flag to be simply irresistable. (I wonder if the boys know that those all-male Pirate crews engaged in a (w)hole lot of friggin'-in-the-riggin'?) Then they can have unprotected sex, breed little stoop-squatting rugrats, and start the whole minimum wage slave cycle all over again. Idiocracy in action!

And, speaking of overgrown babies, the Pleasant Livers opened with a song called "Big Headed Baby," which you can watch below.

Watch Pleasant Livers play "Big Headed Baby."

Thee Katatonix: Straight Outta Howard & Franklin, Yo!

Kool Kats Trio: Charlie, Andy & Adolf

The highlight of the day for Amy and I was seeing my old band Thee Katatonix, who totally rocked the block. I don't recall ever hearing them sound better, though Charlie Gatewood swears he never got his guitar in tune (what do I know about being in tune - I was a drummer!). Full disclosure: I was a Katatonic from 1979-1980, when the band was a joke; the band on display today was three-quarters of their best edition - Adolf Kowalski (guitar & vocals), Charlie "Mr. Urbanity" Gatewood (lead guitar & vocals), and Big Andy Small (drums) - the group that recorded their finest-ever platter, 1984's Divine Mission LP (on the UK Spud label). They were well-augmented by latter-day bassist Ed Linton, who ably filled the shoes of those who preceded him (Danimal, Rockin' Saint Anthony, Beautiful Tony Belle) while playing a mean (and cool-looking) Hofner bass guitar.

Adolf K. strummed tunage from Back in the Day (photo by MultiElvi)

Thee Katatonix were a big deal in the mid-'80s, getting regular airplay on the local radio stations and gigging everywhere from New York to San Francisco and even crossing the pond to tour the UK. And they're still (for some reason) kind of a big deal in Germany. Starting with the (now out-of-print) Divine Mission LP, the Kats embarked on a succession of critically-applauded tours and released a string of great neo-psychrock singles and compilation LP tracks, none better than Mr. Urbanity's "Daisy Chain" and "Ordinary Sunday" or Adolf's "Walking Home Alone." These tunes, and most of the tracks on Divine Mission - "Fungus" (a much-improved holdover from my days in the band), "Beltway Beat," "Shake Shake," "Maison Le Rock," "Formula for Our Happiness," "Divine Mission" - were pulled out of storage for the grateful ears of the fans in the audience, many of whom remembered first hearing them being tried out on the Marble Bar and Galaxy Ballroom stages.

And with the words, "What a drag it is getting old," the Kats even played a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Mother's Little Helper" (with Adolf's guitar fills quite nicely mimicking Brian Jones's sitar-sounding 12-string electric slide on the original).

Watch Thee Katatonix play "Mother's Little Helper"

Though dedicated to the soon-to-be septugenerian Mick Jagger (and, tongue-in-cheekily, to local musician Mark O'Connor), it could just as easily have been dedicated to the aging former Marble Bar cronies in the crowd - whose faces this day included Mindi Siegel, Rod Misey, Bob North, Carol Underwood, Jon Pinder, Rob Weadon, Billy McConnell, Joe Goldsborough, Robin Linton & Patti Jensen (both former Marble Bar bartenders), and so on and so on.

SoWeBo Peeps @ Redux Stage (photo by Ed Linton)

Another face in the crowd belonged to Dave "Steptoe T. Magnificent" Wilcox, whose right arm belonged to Bill Dawson. I'd be remiss not to show off Steptoe's new tattoo which he got courtesy of Mr. Dawson when the former Null Set singer was in town for the Baltimore Tattoo Convention.

Steptoe takes up arms for ink

But enough talk. MC Robyn introduced the band with the words, "All the way from Howard & Franklin...you know 'em, you love'em, you can't live without 'em...Thee Katatonix!" And then they were off on a journey through the past, with travel accomodations for stops along the way booked far in advance courtesy of the Congress Hotel. I taped their whole set; following are some of the videos I've uploaded so far.

Watch Thee Katatonix play "Fungus."

Now somebody named zydanny (with a much better camera, I must add) also videotaped "Fungus," as shown below. I like this version because the cameraman actually used the right white balance, plus it has lots of crowd shots.

Watch zydanny's version of "Fungus."

The second song the Katatonix played was called, appropriately enough, "Second Chance."

Watch Thee Katatonix play "Second Chance."

"Second Chance" is a Charlie Gatewood song dating from his days in Dark Carnival (not to be confused with Detroit's Dark Carnival, a band featuring ex-Destroy All Monsters singer Niagra and ex-Stooges guitarist Ron Ashton), a trio featuring Big Andy Small on drums and Ken Malecki on bass. I believe it was originally released as the B-side of the 1989 Merkin Records single, "Book of Love" (another song incorporated into the Katatonix setlist).

Dark Carnival 45 (Merkin, 1989)

Next up, the boys performed "Maison Le Rock," my favorite song from their out-of-print 1984 LP Divine Mission. Adolf advised the crowd to scarf up any copies of this album they find on eBay or in used records stores, because legal entanglements prevent the possibility of any further pressings or a CD release.

Watch Thee Katatonix play "Maison Le Rock."

And speaking of Divine Mission, the band followed "Maison Le Rock" with a medley of Charlie's "Shake Shake" and Adolf's "Beltway Beat" - the first two tracks from that album.

Watch Thee Katatonix play "Shake Shake/Beltway Beat."

Then Charlie sang "Ordinary Sunday," his outstanding tune that originally appeared on the Baltimore indie rock band compilation 8 Essential Attitudes (Frantic Records, 1985).

"8 Essential Attitudes" LP

I remember seeing the band - then featuring "Beautiful" Tony Belle on bass - play this song back in 1985 on the late-night local dance show Shakedown, highlighted by cheesy "psychedelic" solarization overlays. (Click here to see that TV clip.)

Thee Katatonix on TV dance show "Shakedown" (1985)

Time may fly, but it still holds up as a stellar song 27 years later!

Watch Thee Katatonix play "Ordinary Sunday" at SoWeBo.

Charlie followed that up with perhaps his finest moment, "Daisy Chain," which was the A-side of Thee Kats' critically-lauded 1985 single on UK Spud (Adolf's "Home Alone" was the flipside - both tunes are available on 2009's Thanks Hon: 30th Anniversary CD).

"Daisy Chain" 45 (UK Spud, 1985)

Though this live rendition lacked the single's signature keyboard ending, it was still pretty grand.

Watch Thee Katatonix play "Daisy Chain."

Thee Katatonix wound down their Divine Mission timewarp hit parade with, appropriately enough, the title song "Divine Mission." Suffice it say, Mission accomplished!

Watch Thee Katatonix play "Divine Mission."

Oh, and before they concluded their set, Adolf dug out an old romantic ballad, "The Adventures of Cindy on I-95"...

Watch Thee Katatonix play "The Adventures of Cindy on I-95."

...and another quickie from Divine Mission, "Formula for Our Happiness," which Charlie co-wrote with German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche (who once quipped, "A formula for my happiness: A yes, a no, a straight line, a goal.").

Watch Thee Katatonix play "Formula for Our Happiness."

It Just Wouldn't Be SoWeBo Without the Motor Morons...

It really wouldn't, would it?

The Motor Morons find the right tools for the job

As dusk approached, the Motor Morons took their rightful place on the Redux stage. The usual suspects were all on hand - singer/industrial tools-player Fred Collins, steampunk-firestarter Blade, drummer Craig Stitchcombe, bassist Sam Fitzsimmons - plus Ben Watson, filling in for usual Moron guitarist Tommy Tucker (Tom DiVenti).

Hail, hail - the gang's all here!

Watch Motor Morons play "6 Simple Words".

The Motor Morons music may be somewhat abrasive (sparks will fly!), but their shows are always marked by at least one outburst of beauty: Sam Fitzsimmons always pay tribute to Mark Harp - the late great local guitar hero (and former Motor Moron) who tragically passed away in 2004. Fitzsimmons slips off his bass, straps on Mark Harp's guitar and plays "I Couldn't Get High," pointing upwards as he concludes, a reference to the fact that his departed friend got high in the sky in Rock & Roll Heaven. Motors Morons always pay a little respect to the Big Man.

Watch Motor Morons play "I Couldn't Get High."

Like most musicians who were around in the '80s and '90s, Ben Watson played in one of Mark Harp's innumerable bands. So Amy made sure we showed our props to Big Ben and his latest musical ensemble, World Media War.

Ben Watson's World Media War

Got Blues? As Sherlock Holmes would say, "It's elementary, Watson!" As the frolicking hot chicks and gay guy in too-skinny jeans in the video clip below attest, this trio's blues-rock is truly dance-a-rific!

Watch Ben Watson's World Media War kick out the jams.

Sure, it's nothing new or avante-garde, just good ole blues-boogie jamming (a la Cream, Stevie Ray Vaughn, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Jimi Hendrix) from a band tighter than the mod pants I just split on Saturday at work. But it works for me and even the video I shot of the band came out tinted blue somehow Coincidence? I'm just sayin...

Rod Misey (shadowed by Canary Man)

As the night neared its close, Rod Misey handed me two CDs of radio interviews he conducted on WCVT back in 1979 and 1980 with Baltimore's two "Ick" bands - Da Moronics and Thee Katatonix. I gave him one of Johnny Thunder's infamously brief (abortive?) 1980 show at the Marble Bar, which ended when a "fan" hit Johnny in the head with a beer can. I couldn't wait to get home and listen to Rod's CDs. God, how great would the day have been if Da Moronics could've reformed to play on the Redux Stage! (After all, they were the band that inspired us when we formed the original Kats at Towson State College back in 1979.) And with that we were off - Amy to get some sleep before getting up early for work the next day, me to listen to some more audio blasts from the past.

Goodnight SoWeBo, and thank you! You truly rocked our socks off!

See also these Katatonix/Marble Bar Links:
Katatonix.com (Official site)
Thee Katatonix videos on YouTube
Still Katatonic After All These Years
Thee Katatonix - Thee Basement Tapes (1979)
Cover Your Ears! (Katatonix cover songs)
Glory Hole - The Marble Bar (City Paper)
Marble Bar Poster Art

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Cartridge Family

Film & Zine Celebrate the 8-Track
by Tom Warner (City Paper, May 29, 1996)

Russ Forster's "8-Track Mind" zine: shaped like its subject matter

More articles from my back pages, recently scanned in...this one was about Russ Forster's zine 8-Track Mind and documentary film So Wrong They're Right, which celebrate both 8-track players and tapes and the devoted subculture of "Trackers" who covet them. (8-track cultists include members of the band Gumball, who own some 25,000 8-track tapes; their 8-track collection had been previously documented by Chip Rowe in the Washington City Paper and in Rowe's fanzine Chip's Closet Cleaner.) Forster's So Wrong They're Right made its Baltimore debut during a one-night-only screening on June 2, 1996 at Skizz Cyzyk's Mansion Theatre. At the end of my interview with Forster, he cautioned that the 8-track collector's lifestyle is not for everyone - it's for nonconformists who are sick of being told what to hear and how to hear it. "So what if the tape unravels and grinds to a cacaphonous halt in the player?" he asked. "I'd rather feel pain than feel numb." (The numbness came in 2001, when Forster published the final issue of 8-Track Mind.)

A sidebar to the article listed what Forster called "the 8-track Hall of Fame" - the eight 8-track cartridges most coveted by collectors. Metal Machine Music - Lou Reed's record-contract-breaking exercise in dissonant feedback, which was ideally suited for the endless-loop format of the medium - topped the list (as shown below):

Related 8-Track Links:

You can still buy the DVD from Other Cinema:

Watch So Wrong They're Right trailer (YouTube)

Watch "World's Largest 8-Track Collection" (YouTube)

As of 2010, this obsessive collector had amassed 500 8-Track players and 61,837 8-track tapes. Wow.

8-track Heaven (www.8trackheaven.com)
Founded in 1995 by Chip Rowe, Malcolm Riviera and Abigail Lavine (who passed away in 1997)

The Bob interviews Tommy Keene

"Can You Hear Me?" - The Bob, Fall 1996

In the fall of 1996, Jud Cost of The Bob (a great music mag named after a Roxy Music song and which used to include rare flexi-disc singles) conducted one of the best-ever interviews with indie rocker Tommy Keene. The piece, entitled "Can You Hear Me?" (interestingly, a recent Keene CD career retrospective used the imperative statement title You Hear Me), was particularly enlightening about his early pre-solo days playing with Nils Lofgren's little brother Mike Lofgren as a drummer in the high school circuit band Blue Steel, working with Richard X. Heyman in The Rage, and his brief involvement with Suzanne Fellini and Pieces during his New York City period. I ran across this issue while doing a little cleaning in my den and scanned it in as best as I could below.

The Bob interview, left side page

The Bob interview, right side page


The Bob: I've heard you got into pop music at a tender age.
Keene: Yeah, I'm from Bethesda, Maryland, outside of D.C., and I saw a lot of shows at a very early age. My dad took my brother and me to my first concert when I was eight, the Dave Clark Five in 1967, and the opening act was Neil Diamond. Then we saw the Buffalo Springfield and the Beach Boys. I saw the Who in 1968, with the Troggs opening, on the night that LBJ announced he would not run. I remember Townshend doing his spiel when they did [the anti-cancer song] "Little Billy" and people throwing hundreds of cigarettes on the stage. Soon, as my older brother got his license, we were off and running, driving to New York and Philadelphia to see everybody.

The Bob: Did you pick up the guitar as a kid too?
Keene: I started playing classical piano when I was about five. I was better than I am now. When my piano teacher had a heart attack I got disinterested and picked up the guitar and the drums. And I wound up playing drums from age 11 to 17. We had a three-piece called Blue Steel, and we played a lot of Rory Gallagher, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, and the Who. We did a condensed version of Quadrophenia, complete with tapes of the rain [laughs]. And we'd do "Obscured by Clouds" by Pink Floyd, with two little tape recorders running through the PA, each playing one droning note. We made a lot of money when I was in high school, playing dances. Victor Coelho was a pretty amazing guitar player for being 14 years old. He sang lead and I sang backup vocals. We got into the English glam thing totally, did lots of Mott the Hoople. We even had the outfits.

The Bob: Did you get to open for any of your heroes?
Keene: The original Blue Steel had a guitar player named Mike Lofgren, whose older brother was Nils Lofgren. I saw Grin very early. Nils, about a decade before me, had been a great athlete and had dropped out of high school. He organized this benefit to send the soccer team from Walter Johnson High School to Europe for the summer. That was the big gig for Blue Steel, opening for Grin.

The Bob: Any other interests in high school?
Keene: I was getting into theatre. Couldn't decide if I wanted to be an actor or a musician. I'd done some plays in high school, like Bye Bye Birdie and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and they looked on me as more of an actor than a singer. Then I went to University of Maryland and started playing more guitar in bands, doing cool stuff like New York Dolls. Around 1977 I met Richard X, Heyman, a great songwriter from New Jersey, and that was the start of the Rage. We were only around for about eight months. We'd play '60s things like "Lies" by Knickerbockers and Richard's originals. He'd written about fifteen-hundred songs by then.

The Bob: Who was the top dog in D.C. at the time?
Keene: The big band in town was the Razz. I saw them in this bar on Wisconsin Avenue called The Keg. They'd take obscure covers like "Have Your Seen My Baby" by the Flamin' Groovies or "Our Car Club" by the Beach Boys, or medleys of things like Them's "Mystic Eyes" and "It's Not True" by the Who - and make them part of their own. I befriended their bass player, Ted Niceley, in a parking lot outside the bar one night, and asked if we could open for them. And they were blown away. They said "Where'd you guys come from?" We had this whole shtick down with our Beatle-y outfits. We were different. Nobody in D.C. was that, although in L.A., the Pop, 20/20, and the Knack were happening simultaneously.

The Bob: How did you jump from the Rage to the Razz?
Keene: The guitar player for the Razz quit, and they asked me to audition. It was a hard choice to make because the Rage was really getting good, but I joined the Razz. They were the biggest local band around, played Max's and got written up in Trouser Press. We opened for the Ramones, Patti Smith, and Devo, and had some major-label interest. It lasted about a year-and-a-half. Before I was in the band, they were supposed to open the first U.S. Sex Pistols show, in Alexandria, Virginia, but it was canceled because of visa problems.

The Bob: What happened after the Razz ran its course?
Keene: Richard Heyman called me about backing up Suzanne Fellini - me on guitar and him on drums; she had the song "Love on the Phone," kind of Blondie meets Pat Benatar - for a six-week European tour. So I got the job, and he didn't. They put me up in the Gramercy Park Hotel. This is really exciting - I'm in New York - and a little frightening, because I didn't know anybody. The music wasn't really my scene, but hey, I'm making money and I'm traveling.

The Bob: You stuck around New York for a while?
Keene: Yeah, I went to Hurrah one night to see this band called the Urban Verbs and met a guy named Matt. We wound up forming a group called Pieces, which meant I stayed in New York for another year. We did a few showcases, but once again, I wasn't that happy with the music - mainly his trip. The Rage had done a couple of my songs, but that was Richard's vehicle. I'd had a crash course in songwriting with the Razz when I replaced the songwriter. And I started aat the beginning: "Like, how do you write a song?"

The Bob: Time to do your own thing?
Keene: When Pieces was winding down, this guy who worked for management and really liked my voice asked if I'd heard the Big Star stuff. And I said, "Well, sort of." So he gave me the two records and told me to go back to D.C. and form my own group. And in 1981 that's what I did with Ted Niceley and Doug Tull from the Razz and a guitar player named Michael Colburn. I did a bunch of demos that became the Strange Alliance album, which came out in '82 on our own label, Avenue Records. By our third show we opened for the Jam on their last tour. Then a North Carolina label called Dolphin who wanted to broaden their base put out my EP Places That Are Gone.


And so began the Tommy Keene solo years. Or as Paul Harvey Jr. used to say...

"And now you know the rest of the story. Good day!"

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Dynamic Duo of Pixilation

The Pixilation Exhilaration of Len Janson & Chuck Menville

This Sergeant is Swell!

A teacher came into the library the other trying to track down a 16mm film we used to own called Blaze Glory (1968). She described it as a live-action parody of Westerns that used a frame-by-frame, stop-motion animation technique called pixilation (which may have been "invented" in 1952 by Norman McLaren in his Oscar-winning short Neighbors) and was a great classroom exercise in judging who's the hero and who's the villain. We no longer have this film, but it turns out we have two more 16mm films by the same LA-based directors: Len Janson and Chuck Menville. The films in question are the motorcycle gang parody Vicious Cycles (1967) and another Western spoof, Sergeant Swell of the Mounties (1972). Not only does the Enoch Pratt Central Library own these films, but we have screened them in the past as part of our periodic "Film Shorts" programs.

Unfortunately, little has been written about these talented filmmakers.

Wikipedia entry for Chuck Menville:
Menville was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 with aspirations of becoming an animator. There, he got a job with Walt Disney Productions and served as an assistant on the 1967 film The Jungle Book. Unhappy with the climate at Disney, Menville soon branched out into writing, and began a long working partnership with his friend Len Janson.

During the mid 1960s, Menville and Janson co-produced a series of short live-action films, among them the Academy Award-nominated Stop Look and Listen, an innovative stop-motion pixilation experiment in which the main characters "drive" down city streets in invisible cars...In the mid-1970s, the team began a stint at Filmation, during which they brought their irreverent style to Star Trek: The Animated Series. (Menville authored an episode titled "The Practical Joker" for that series, which is now seen by many within Star Trek fandom to have been the genesis of the holodeck.)...Menville died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in Malibu, California in 1992.

Wikpedia entry for Len Janson:
Len Janson is an American animator, writer and director whose career in animated cartoons and live-action motion pictures spanned several decades beginning in the 1960s. He began work as an in-betweener at the Walt Disney cartoon studio. By 1965 he had become a story man with his first screen credit in Rudy Larriva's Boulder Wham!. Soon after, he teamed with Chuck Menville to produce a series of live-action films which used the pixilation technique. By the early 1970s, Janson and Menville had become major names in the animation industry and welcome storytellers at studios such as Filmation and Hanna-Barbera. Their partnership ended with Menville's death in 1992. Janson remained active for a few more years, mainly as story editor for Sonic the Hedgehog. He also wrote episodes of Baywatch Nights.

Even more unfortunately, Janson and Menville's humorous independent exercises in pixilation have never come out on video or DVD; but, thanks to the Internet and the researching skills of the folks at Cartoon Brew, they can still be seen.

Here we go, then!


directed by Len Janson and Chuck Menville
MGM, USA, 1967, 10 1/2 minutes

This one shows up on Turner Classic Movies occasionally because it's now part of the Warner Brothers archives. It was nominated for an Oscar in 1968 (Best Short Subject, Live Action).

IMDB description by jhailey@hotmail.com
A man wearing suit, tie, black-framed glasses, and a hat, leaves his house in LA's San Fernando Valley and heads off in his car. Except his car is him, seated on the ground - he moves via stop motion. He's careful and methodical, but when a cigar-chomping hotshot cuts him off, he engages in a bit of passive aggressive driving. We watch one of the drivers get gas, receive a citation from a cop, and deal with a flat tire. The two rival drivers are eventually in quite a race, which ends when one hurls off the road. At the end, a woman in gold slippers puts a tip in the driver's hat.

IMDB reviewer Wes-Connors adds:
With a hat resembling Buster Keaton's, well-suited Len Janson walks out of his sunny southern California home, breathes in some fresh air, and whistles himself into an imaginary car. Through "stop/action" photography, he appears to be hitting the road. Elsewhere, wearing a hat like James Cagney's, sporty Chuck Menville lights up a cigar, vainly checks his appearance, and unsafely shaves while driving. After guzzling some gas, Mr. Menville is pulled over for a speeding ticket. Continuing to speed, he causes problems for Mr. Janson, who tries to drive more safely. The painstaking trick photography got this entertaining short safety film nominated fro an "Academy Award". It was admirably written, directed and performed by Janson and Menville.
Watch Stop, Look and Listen


directed by Len Janson and Chuck Menville
Pyramid Films, USA, 1967, 7 minutes

The leader of the badass Vicious Cycles gang is played by Len Janson, while Chuck Menville portrays the leader of the goodie-two-shoes Mild Ones Scooter Club.

Watch Vicious Cycles


directed by Len Janson and Chuck Menville
Pyramid Films, USA, 1969, 10 minutes

A stop-motion pixilation spoof of old-time westerns in which actors appear to ride non-existent horses. A stagecoach is robbed by the villain, heroine Annabelle Twitterheart is abducted by The Pig-Nosed Kid, and Blaze Glory eventually recovers both the heroine and the money.

Watch Blaze Glory


directed by Len Janson and Chuck Menville
Pyramid Films, USA, 1972, 16 minutes

A pixillated romp across the great Northwest in which Sergeant Swell of the Mounties (riding an imaginary horse) repeatedly rescues Emmy Lou from Billy the Creep and a trio of unlikely Indians led by Chief Silly Savage in a spoof of old Western movies.

Watch Sergeant Swell of the Mounties Part 1

Watch Sergeant Swell of the Mounties Part 2

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Adolf Kowalski's "Maryland Musician" Column

Back in the '80s, I used to love reading Adolf Kowalski's column in Maryland Musician. I used to clip 'em and save 'em each month, but can't seem to find any these days. I think they were discovered by the stink bugs and squirrels in my attic who lacked an appreciation of fine literature (except as snacks). I did manage to salvage this column from 1988 called "It's the Little Things or Kiss My Axe," wherein Adolf says you don't have to have some tricked-up Guitar Magazine-lauded superguitar to be superbad; anything will do as long as it's got six strings. (I was gonna say, "and know how to play," but Half Japanese dispelled that fallacy!)

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The New "Harry" (May 1991)

20 Years Later: Same Town, Same Needs

Volume 1, Issue 1, May 1991

Going through the bottomless piles of papers, magazines, and assorted rubbish/detritus in the firetrap I like to call Tom's Toxic Townhouse (see picture below)...

Tom's Toxic Townhouse

...I ran across the May 1991 premiere issue of the "new" Harry. Harry was Baltimore's "underground paper" of record from 1969-1972 that was rebooted by Tom D'Antoni in 1991, probably because he didn't feel Baltimore's putative alternative press (i.e., the City Paper) was up to snuff.

As he wrote in the masthead of this debut new Harry, "This newspaper exists because a lot of people want it to...This is the first issue. It's a start. It's the first attempt at realizing the ideals set on the page before this one..." (see below):

It's Time: The "Harry" Mission Statement

Along for Harry's brief reemergence on the scene were writers like Tom Nugent, Skeeter Snyder, and future Creative Alliance honcho Megan Hamilton; poets Tom DiVenti, David Franks, and Sandie Castle, and illustrator George Wilcox (artist brother of musician David "Steptoe T. Magnificent" Wilcox). These names, and countless more, appear in the May 1991 Harry masthead, as shown below:

"Harry" Masthead

Harry's editorial tone is typically combative and confrontational, with D'Antoni getting right to it on the first page, reprinting his January 17, 1991 letter to the City Paper - "We don't need you...We're sick of you. There were a lot of people who went to jail (I'm one of them) for the freedom you squander every week. Go somewhere else and play it safe. This town is in big trouble. You treat it like you're making a John Waters movie. This town has a lot of great talents. You haven't found them. This town has thousands of great stories waiting to be told. You missed them. This town cries for a paper that speaks by and for the people who live here. You act like your bags are packed and you're waiting for the phone call from something better" - right next to former City Paper founder-editor Russ Smith's reply, Both pieces are shown below:

D'Antoni and Russ Smith square off!

Below Smith's letter, D'Antoni adds: "When the City Paper published this letter, the neglected to inform their readers that it was written by their founder, and former publisher, who sold the paper to a company from Scranton, Pennsylvania and skipped town the next day. He currently publishes a similarly mean-spirited paper in New York City."

Here's poet-musician Tom DiVenti's article "Confessions of a Freak":

Tom DiVenti: "Confessions of a Freak"

The paper notes that DiVenti sold copies of Harry when he was a 13-year-old back in the '70s!

For film fanatics, here's Keith Tishkin's review of the East Coast Independent Film Festival, curated by George Figgs and screened at his old Orpheum Cinema theater in Fells Point:

George Figgs' "East Coast Independent Film Festival" at The Orpheum Cinema

From May 6 to May 12, Figgs screened new local works by Dan Bailey, Alan Price, Phil Davis, Steve Estes, Rebecca Barton, and tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE, as well as older local films by Steve Weiss, Chris Mosner, Peter Walsh, Jill Johnson. A third program screened the "funky, futuristic" films of New York director Alyce Wittenstein. Many of these local films are only available as 16mm prints at the Enoch Pratt Central Library. Tishkin's review gave a lot of ink to Chris Mosner's award-winning Towson State University student film project, Home Movie (1990). Home Movie is a 45-minute documentary about Mosner's drug-addicted brother and the effect his self-destructive 20-year habit has had on his Lutherville family. It screened at the 1990 Baltimore Film Forum (honoring winners of the Baltimore Independent Film/Video Makers Competition) and I recall Skizz Cyzyk screened it in 1995 as part of his Mansion Theatre Film & Video Screening series. (Home Movie is available in both video and 16mm formats from the Enoch Pratt Central Library.)

The new May 1991 Harry included an eight-page insert called "Old Harry" which reprinted some of the best pieces and comics from vintage issues past. I like the photo of the 1971 Harry staffers:

"Old Harry" insert section

The 1971 Harry staff depicted in the photo are (left to right): Unknown neighborhood kid, Christianne Cottrell, Glen Ehasz, Alan Rose, Thomas V. D'Antoni, Michael Klahr, Anita Monique (Dolores Deluxe), Patrick Jake O'Rourke, and Emily Jenkins. "Dolores Deluxe" is, of course, the designer wife of John Waters artist/production set-designer Vince Peranio.

OK, back to digging through my trash, er, archives!

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

My 2012 Maryland Film Film Journal

Friday, May 4, 2012

My attendance at the Maryland Film Festival has dwindled over the years, as a combination of financial and scheduling issues (and the eventual availability of many of the films on NetFlix or cable television - for those of us that can wait) has tamped down my enthusiasm for the festival. This year I only saw two documentaries and a shorts program. The docs were great, the shorts presentation a 50-50 hit-or-miss proposition, which is to be expected with shorts programs. I would have liked to have seen the Bobcat Goldtwaite (God Bless America) and Todd Solandz (Dark Horse) films, but they were either screening too late or for too much, so I will catch them on the inevitable second run on NetFlix or the Sundance/IFC cable channels. The word from my friends and co-workers was that Jafar Panahi's house-arrest document This Is Not a Film, Edward Tyndall's psychotropic non-narrative doc Reconvergence, the Jeffrey Dahmer docu-drama Jeff, Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights (I loved Arnold's Red Road and Fish Tank!), and the Alloy Orchestra-accompanied Expressionist silent From Morning Till Midnight were great. I will look for them in upcoming NetFlix queues.

That said, it's still a fun festival and, I realized, could almost be nicknamed The Video Americain Alumni Film Festival. The past and present Video Americainers who have staffed the festival include current programmers Eric Hatch and Scott Braid, not to mention Skizz Cyzyk, Scott Wallace Brown, Rahne Alexander, Joe Tropea, Gabe and Trin Wardell, Kevin Coehlo, etc., etc, etc..

As usual, I skipped the opening night shorts (sorry programmers, $35 is still too steep to see a 60-minute shorts program, even if there's crackers and cheese and brew at the post-screening nosh-and-gab soiree!) and went straight from work on Friday night to The Charles Theater, which serves as the MFF's Official Ground Zero. My long-suffering girlfriend Amy and I were hoping to get into the "Passion of the WTF Shorts" program at 7 p.m., mainly because my face was originally used as a model for one of the characters in my filmmaker friend Laurence Arcadias and Juliette Marchand's stop-motion animated short Tempest in a Bedroom - no, it was not a horror film, despite a character design based on my mug! - which began development in Baltimore and was shot last year in France.

This animated comedy by Arcadias (Co-Chair of the Experimental Animation department at the Maryland Institute College of Art) and Marchard (a former MICA animation instructor now based in France) pokes fun at class struggles and sexual attraction and tells the story of a couple who have everything - except a satisfying sex life. I know it involved lots of behind-the-scenes work, from using actors to create puppet faces and building model armatures to creating green-screen compositions and other special effects. I had missed an earlier free screening at MICA and was curious to see how my talented friend's short, which got partial funding from French television, turned out. But, sacre bleu, it was not to be!

Tempest in a Bedroom (Laurence Arcadias & Juliette Marchand, 2011, 11 minutes)

Walking across the Penn Station car park, we ran into Scott Huffines (nattily attired in a KISS t-shirt) and his stylishly dressed missus Kristin Miller, who were on their way in to see their pal John Waters' special presentation of Barbara Loden's '60s indie-cult film Wanda.

A scrum of fans line up for the annual "John Waters presents" screening

While I like most of the films he picks and always love hearing him talk (about anything, not just films), the "John Waters presents" screenings are always packed to the gills and I hate crowds; besides, you have to be both picky and meticulous when it comes to scheduling films to see at a festival, and Wanda came out on DVD years ago and has even aired on the Sundance Channel periodically. I knew of its existence long before, thanks to the praise heaped on it by fanboy (and erstwhile Dreamlander) "Orpheum" George Figgs.

A vaclempt George Figgs genuflects before the genius of Barbara Loden

Like me the first time I used the Penn Station lot's pay machine, Scott overpaid the machine, so he gave me his ticket that was good for 24 hours free parking, as he and Kristin were heading off to the Bahamas the next day after hanging with JW (ah these Essex Jetsetters - how I envy their Haute-Hillbilly Highlife lifestyle!).

Scott KISSed his parking meter money goodbye!

WTF is up with WTF???
Amy and I made our way across the street to Tent Village and were all set to purchase the 3-for-$20 film deal, but the volunteer chick at the ticket tent confused us, saying that the WTF Shorts program was on "Standby Only" alert.

After a long-winded explanation, we gleaned that meant kind-of-soldout. Thanks to the All Access Pass geeks who, in effect, buy the right to see every film at the festival, the MFF peeps used some kind of algorithm to calculate how many people could theoretically attend each screening (so every All Access person is assumed to be going to any given screening); it's a necessary (but stupid) calculation, I guess, but it turns out it the screening wasn't sold out at all. The girl at the tent confused us because she thought the screening was at 7:30, indicating we had to wait to find out the status of tickets sold half an hour before the program, when it fact the films were set to start in 10 minutes. Whatever. We had to think fast and, since she wouldn't sell us tix to the WTF Shorts screening, we grabbed tix for Wild in the Streets - not to be confused with the 1968 Youth Rebellion film with the same title (in which anyone over the age of 30 was put in "forced Retirement" concentration camps and fed LSD)...

Watch trailer for the 1968 "Wild in the Streets."

...at the Wind-up Space, two blocks away, booking manically to make it by post time. We made it, and saw that former Video Americain Charles Village manager (and full-time film-and-soccer enthusiast) Kevin Coehlo was there to introduce the director of...

Directed by Peter Baxter, USA/UK, 2011

Shrovetide football is a real ball (& nose & head & ribs) buster!

One game, two days, 3,000 people. The ancient Shrovetide football game is the lifeblood of English market town Ashbourne and the origin of soccer, rugby and American football. It traces its roots back to Pagan times when the head of a virgin was chopped off and kicked around town for sport; but as everyone in the Midlands knows, virgins are as scarce as central heating these days so a leather ball became the new standard bearer.

Watch a clip from "Wild in the Streets."

I hate writing film synopses (bother!), so here's my friend Barb Wilgus' description from her annual MFF Journal:

Wild In The Streets [dir. Peter Baxter] covers Shrovetide Football, which is the forebear of rugby, of soccer, of american football, and which is largely extinct. One town in England, Ashbourne, has continued this game for centuries, passing the tradition from generation to generation. Basically the game goes thus: the two sides of the town, divided into Up’ards and Down’ards [determined by which side of the brook one lives on], over the span of two days [Shrovetide and Ash Wednesday], mash into a huge town-wide contest to get a large leather ball [in the origins of the game apparently it was the severed head of a virgin- oh, those Brits] across town to their side to score a goal by banging the ball three times on a large, centuries old metal plate of some sort. Each side’s goal is 3 miles from the town center. Whomever has the most goals scored at the end of the two days wins. That’s really all I can describe about the game itself, which seemed most like rugby, but with hundreds and hundreds of people playing at once [the whole town! Really!], with no rules other than “get that ball to our side”. Watching this raucous battle unfold, you can palpably sense the history, tradition, and deep pride of community and place inherent in keeping the game alive. Tough, bloodied, grown men actually burst into tears, overcome with emotion from scoring a goal, a life’s achievement here, raising them to the status of legend.

The muscle in the game is meted out by "Huggers," while pace is provided by fleet-footed "Runners" (I think I'd be a runner!), but other than a 10 p.m. curfew opening night, there's a scarcity of rules other than getting the ball to one of two goals by hook or by crook, whether Over Under Sideways or Down.

Afterwards, director Peter Baxter (founder of the Slamdance Festival) explained that Shrovetide's Up'ards vs. Down'ards contest is the Ur of local British "Derbies" (a "Derby" being a sporting fixture between two local rivals, particularly in the same town or area) and pointed out that it derived from nearby town of - yup, you guessed it - Derby (which is in the same county as Ashbourne, Derbyshire. How utterly appropriate!).

Though he now lives in Los Angeles, Baxter grew up in Ashbourne and admitted he was a Down'ard who was born south of the river that divides the town. When someone asked whether outsiders ever crashed the Shrovetide party, he revealed that a Japanese man named Aki flies in every year from Tokyo to partake. Amy loved that there was a (tenuous) Japanese connection to this year's festival, which had hardly any Asian film representation other than one 4-minute film in the WTF Shorts program!

Baxter also corrected me when I asked if the film's football-loving narrator Sean Bean was a West Ham supporter, informing me that Bean is a Sheffield United supporter. (Turns out he has their logo tattooed on his arm, sits on the Sheffield United board of directors, and may have caused manager Neil Warnock to quit when he berated the gaffer after United were relegated). (Sheffield United's derby, of course, is with crosstown rivals Sheffield Wednesday!)

I really loved this film, which concentrated on the likeable people of Ashbourne who - even though they may bust a few neighborly noses and break a couple of riverside rival ribs during Shrovetide, always kiss and make up afterwards as if nothing's happened; we felt like we were invited into the homes of the friendly peeps who participate in Shrovetide football and I personally felt like I was watching an episode of the character-rich Brit coms Shameless or Doc Martin. The only problem Amy and I had was, being late arrivals, sitting way in the back where (being little Ewoks) we had trouble seeing over the heads of the people seated in front of us on the hard (uncomfortable) wooden seats. It was a little like watching an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, albeit without the snarky commentary. The sofa in the back was comfortable, but made us sink down even farther in our seats. Amy's tailbone was sore and I ended up standing for half the screening.

MST sight lines at the Wind-up Space

Leaving the Wind-up Space, we ran into our painter-turned-seamstress friend Jenny McBrian (visit her etsy store at jennyjen42) and her boyfriend Ashley (such a British name!), who was sporting a bright green-and-yellow jacket that I instantly recognized from watching the Fox Soccer Channel.

"Is that a Norwich City Canaries jacket?" I asked him.

"Why yes it is," Ashley replied proudly, and we talked about how good Norwich City F.C. was in this, their first season back in the English Premiere League after a six-year absence. They've already famously beaten Tottenham and Sunderland (and tied an under-achieving Liverpool) and Ashley was looking forward to their clash at Arsenal the following morning (which turned out to be a veritable goalfest, ending in a 3-3 draw). Ashley told me Norwich's star Irish international Wes Hoolahan is called "The Irish Messi." (Hmmm, on an unrelated note, my house is sometimes called The Rodgers Forge Messy.) High praise indeed. Of course, Norwich's non-footy star remains native singer-songwriter Beth Orton (aka, the Bummed-out Badlands Angel of Love).

Speaking of derbies, Ashley told me that Norwich's biggest regional rival is Ipswich Town, with whom they have contested the East Anglian derby 138 times, the most recent derby resulting in a famous 5-1 thrashing of the Townies; as a result, Ashley noted that the Canaries now spell Ipswich as "1p5wich"! The Canaries fan song "On The Ball, City" is regarded as being the oldest football song in the world. I wonder if songbird Beth Orton knows it?


Saturday, May 5, 2012

We spent the afternoon walking through the Flower Mart before heading up to the Wind-up Space for our second attempt at "The Passion of the WTF Shorts" program...

5 p.m., @ Wind-up Space

We missed Ryo Hirano's Hietsuki Bushi, Jillian Mayer's I Am Your Grandma, Matt Lenski's Meaning of Robots, and (again!) Tempest in a Bedroom. Of the remaining films we saw, we absolutely HATED Craig Butta's ugly, meandering (13 long watching-paint-dry minutes!), gratuitous sex-filled While Henry Sleeps and the the stupid Transitions (a 4-minute viral video that overstayed its welcome by about 3 1/2 minutes), and thought At the Formal and Crown were meh and obvious.

The Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke

Surprisingly, I really liked Jilliam Mayer and Lucas Leyva's visually imaginative The Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke, starring Luke "2 Live Crew" Campbell, which was a very loose variation on Chris Marker's La Jetee (a film that supplied the same source material for Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys). Instead of Paris (La Jetee) or Baltimore (where much of 12 Monkees was filmed), this was a Miami-based adaptation telling of Luke's rise to fame with 2 Live Crew and his eventual downfall following a nuclear apocalypse that turned Miami into a radioactive wasteland. As the lone surviving soul brother, Luke is captured by dorky honky scientists and tasked with repopulating Miami with Funk. It was funny and I liked the cartoony set designs, which reminded me of cult Midnight classic The Forbidden Zone.

Watch the "Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke" trailer.

We also liked the trippy animation of Abby Luck's The Observer, though I had trouble figuring out what it all meant - it reminded me of one of those "cosmic" college acid trips where you were certain you had a profound experience but couldn't say exactly what it was you learned.

Abby Luck's "The Observer"

The MFF program description reads "A curious citizen triumphs over the reign of a greedy king by spreading word about a new way of life. After the passive villagers are poisoned by the king's ideological vomit, the Observer seeks the truth in a mysterious forest." Um, yeah...what you said! (I defy anyone who watched the short to tell me that's how they saw it!)

And we were initially intrigued by Carlos Puga's doc short about Richmond's moped gangs, Satan Since 2003, which followed the exploits of the Hell's Satans and their battles with The Terribles.

Hell to the Chief: Hell's Satans Gang Leader

That is, until I learned some of the scenes were actually phony, like someone throwing a Molotov cocktail, burning a rival gang member's bike, and staging a hit-and-run accident. But what do you expect from a director who cut his teeth on one of those MTV "reality TV" series? God, I fucking hate mockumentaries! Why not lose the irony and 86 the snarkiness and make a real doc about a real subculture; mockumentaries have a limited shelf life - why not make something that has lasting value?

Directed by Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos
USA, 2011
6:30 p.m. @ Charles Theater 5

Having just seen - and been blown away by - the nuanced "cult" feature Martha Marcy May Marlene, I was looking forward to seeing this documentary about Father Yod (rhymes with "road" and is the diety alias of Jim Baker) and The Source Family. This cult, or commune if you prefer, didn't grab headlines like Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple or the Manson Family because they didn't kill citizens or each other. They only ate health food, had lots of sex and babies, and made lots of records. But like all alternative "spiritual commununities" headed by a charismatic "father figure," they inevitably featured a homo erectus using his power in a "family" to sleep with multiple women - almost always of the much younger, textbook-vulnerable variety. It seems to go with the Power Trip turf. (Where are the matriarchal cults, ladies???)

Father Yod strikes a Hugh Hefner pose with his posse of "spiritual wives"

The Source was directed - and hosted - by Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos, who may very well be the most beautiful filmmaking team in the history of cinema. (OK, Freaks in Love's Skizz Cyzyk and David Koslowski run a close second!)

SOURCE directors Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos

Though Maria Demopoulos has a background in integrated media and directing television commercials, this is her first feature film. She seemed to be the techie nults-and-bolts side of the project.

Jodi Wille's background is as a book editor and what her Wikipedia entry calls "cultural event producer." She's known for collaborating with individuals interested in documenting offbeat American subcultures. In 2005, she formed Process Media (www.processmediainc.com, specializing in books about "American subcultures" and outre musicians like Roky Erikson, MC5, Moondog) with Feral House publisher Adam Palfrey, and came to this film project via her interest in Father Yod and his Ya Ho Wa 13 records. And, of course, thanks to Isis Aquarian, who was the official photographer and archivist of the Source Family. Isis wrote a book called The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, which is available from Process Media.

Isis Aquarian's "The Source"

Here's the Process press release for the book The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod:
"It was 1972, time of the cult-occult-commune explosion. By day, the Source Family served organic cuisine to John Lennon, Julie Christie, Frank Zappa and others at the famed Source restaurant. By night, in a mansion in Hollywood Hills, they explored the cosmos through the channeled wisdom of their charismatic leader, Father Yod. Father was an outlandish figure who had 14 'spiritual wives,' drove a Rolls-Royce, and fronted the rock band Ya Ho Wa 13, now considered by collectors to be one of the most singular psychedelic bands of all time.

The Source Family’s true story - kept secret for over 30 years after Father’s spectacular hang-gliding death in 1975 - is revealed here by the Family members themselves, with over 200 photographs and a full-length CD of rare Ya Ho Wa 13 live performances and Family recordings."

The Source Family was just one of hundreds of alternative communes/cults that thrived during in Southern California during the ‘60s and early ‘70s hippie era. It was formed by Jim Baker, an ex-GI, award-winning martial artist and health food fanatic. He opened a successful health food restaurant called The Source (it was parodied in Woody Allen's Annie Hall), experimented with various branches of mysticism and philosophy, and surrounded himself with over 100 followers at the commune's peak. Before moving to Hawaii (anticipating some sort of Apocalypse, just like Manson anticipated his "Helter Skelter" race war) and cutting themselves off from society, the Source Family counted major celebrities among their friends (Steve McQueen, John Lennon, Marlon Brando!) and released dozens of self-released psychedelic rock albums. Even Sky Saxon of The Seeds was a Source follower (see reunion show flyer below)!

Yahowa 13 headlined over Sky Saxon!

Looking at Jodi Wille's Facebook page, you can see she's genuinely interested in alternative spiritual paths, and brought a sympathetic ear to the project which, as she explained in the Q&A after the screening, was needed.

"Isis initially wanted this film to be a whitewash," Wille explained in answer to a question about how family members reacted to the film, adding that certain Source members (they still exist) still hold onto secrets about some ritual that binds them for life. As any good documentarian knows, getting to know your subjects and getting them to trust you is the most important aspect of the undertaking. It appears these filmmakers were successful. Wille and Demopoulos' even-handed treatment of the material - presenting Yod/Baker as a genuinely charismatic (albeit flawed) personality without "whitewashing" him as a deity - is a great accomplishment. Too many films "dumb it down" and insult their audiences' ability to think for themselves. The Source, like life itself, was not a black and white cartoon; it was filled with multiple shades of gray. They may have worn tunics, togas and beards, but have you looked at nuns dressed like penguins (or the Pope's get-up) lately? From a distance, all religious/spiritual orders look kinda hokey.

Yod Hog: Father pimps his ride with four of the Yahowa 13

I found Isis to be the most interesting member of the family. She was dating a famous photographer before she joined The Source, and quickly assumed the task of being their official photographer and archivist; though she lamented having to document everything - which as any camerman knows means removing yourself from being "in the moment" for the "sake of preserving the moment" - God (Yod?) knows, we probably wouldn't have this film or her book without her efforts. Her material provides the backbone of this fascinating documentary. (And hey social media fans, Isis Aquarian is on Facebook, so be sure to "Like" her.)

Isis Aquarian today

My girlfriend Amy commented later that she was most impressed by the long-lasting relationship between two fellow family members, Electra and Orbit. Though at one point Electra was bequeathed to another lover (Mercury?) on Father Yod's orders, she went back to and remains to this day with her lover Orbit. (Amy's a romantic at heart!) Jodi Wille later added that another Source couple, Electricity and Harvest, have now been together for 30 years.

By the way, I love the Source Family names (everyone's surname is "Aquarian," as in "Electrity Aquarian")...at the Q&A afterwards, another Source family member came out of the audience to talk about his experiences. His name was Explosion, though he explained that he uses another name to board airplanes. He lives in Silver Spring and is actively involved in regional theater. He also had a Super 8 camera back in the day, and said he recognized some of his footage in the documentary. Explosion had a nice Father Yod/Rick Rubinesque beard, which made him look like someone you'd see at the Dutch Farmer's Market. (Though I've read that Isis thinks only George Clooney could portray Father Yod in a Hollywood treatment of the Source Family, I'd throw pop producer Rick Rubin's name into the hat too, just for the beard! Now that's a Hollywood feature I'd like to see!)

When Father Yod started calling himself a god and partaking of polygamous relationships, his relationship with his followers became somewhat thorny - though many followers to this day still subscribe to his teachings. Explosion seemed to suggest that there's even a Source presence today in Lutherville! (No, it's not John Waters - he moved away to a more posh neighborhood!) But his death in 1975 from a hang-gliding accident (hardly the stuff of folkloric martydom -yet somehow strangely appropriate for a Southern Cal-based commune!) made it hard to carry on. Father Yod, like Elvis, had left the building.

Highly recommended.

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