Archive for the The EXPERIENCE! Category

Flash Panic!

Posted in A Life in the Day, Cool places in New York, The EXPERIENCE! on 27/08/2010 by todcrouch

Flash in the Panic!  12 writers, one page each!

August 25th, Nowhere Bar 8 pm.

I was asked to read for Charlie Vasquez’s Panic Reading Series, which is always a fun experience.  The fun and challenging part of this particular event was using only one page and one side to tell a story.  I read from “The only life I ever intentionally ruined”, but the other pieces stood out far more.

Some of the highlights from this particular line-up gave the right amount of sizzle or hilarity.  Rachel Kramer Bussel, hostess of the In the Flesh Reading Series, read  about being inspired from a Brookyln bar called “Cokey’s” (Yes, that’s exactly what its name implies) by opening a cupcake shop that provided oral satisfaction to women, both above and below the belt.  The exceedingly handsome Tomas Rafael Montavalo curled the toes of many with his poem about taking it, twisting the plot with a strap-on.  Gabrielle Rivera blew my mind as she came late to the mike from the bathroom (her friend still waiting inside) and blasted us with a hilarious story called “Fingerbang”, recounting her first fingerfuck in a bowling alley.  Garrett Ford read a lovelorn scene from one of his previous plays and Charlie Vasquez read from his new book Contraband.  Matthew K. Johnson read a sexy little piece, with the help of some expanded margins, with his relatable brand of compelling sexual anxiety.  Newcomer to the mike was the Nowhere Bartender, Patrick Kelleher, who told of us of his first day on the job at East Village gay bar fixture Boiler Room in the 90s.  Bar Manager John Williams closed out the show by unfolding this endlessly enormous page, still sticking to the guidelines–he could have read for hours off of it, but surprised us with something short and sweet.

we ran smoothly.  Whereas Charlie usually introduces us with a brief bio, he asked us where we were from and the direction of our work.  I explained by background and how I was usually long-winded, then looked up to see Charlie completely disappear from my side.  The fast and loose outline we went in was a nice change of pace, in the building suspense of what and who we would experience next, ourselves included.  

I was under the impression that a page would last a minute, but among the writers we ran smoothly.  I know I’m leaving out some people–I have to get better at recording these events as I attend them.  At the reading,   Kierkergaard’s dog ate Shroedenger’s Cat.

Brion Gysin is Alive and Well and Living on the Bowery

Posted in A Life in the Day, Cool places in New York, Nerding Out, The EXPERIENCE! on 27/08/2010 by todcrouch

He is that he is, and is that he is he.

Brion Gysin: Dream Machine

New Museum 7/7/10–10/3/10

http://www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/422

As one of the most intriguing contemporary artistic Shamen of the 20th century, who believes as Brian Eno does– that art serves a purpose we have not evolved into yet.  As a painter, a novelist, a magician, a subversive, inventor and a restaurateur, he never really achieved commercial success, and still chugged along as though life was just another short-term gig,  just passing through.

I was first exposed to Gysin through my love of Burroughs, where I read  Gysin’s “The Process”, which was a most uncomfortable book to read, only because it was the first novel that ever read ME.    There’s the old Nietzschen phrase of staring  into the void that stares back, but to capture this in book form is downright pornographic, or retro-voyeuristic–like watching yourself being watched like a cam2cam, but about fifty years before computers.

I wandered into the New Museum on the Bowery, nearly a contradiction of terms, to chat up the ticket taker and make my way to the second floor, where Brion’s work commands respect.  Split into several rooms on the second floor, one stands amid the encased and numerous notebooks while being assaulted by one room of his film, “Towers Open Fire!” while in another room, his public performance of his sound poetry plays to a slide show in a darkened room.  The guests seemed to have little in common, save for this obscure artist of word and image.

Gysin made a point in an interview conducted by Genesis P. Orridge-Breyer wayback when where he mentioned that his paintings were best viewed when stoned, since he was stoned himself while creating it.  Thereby the art, when viewed by the stoned, recreates the mind-senses of the artist in the viewer and acts as a clean telepathic link between time, space, and mind.  Of course it sounds like hippie talk until it happens to you.  Surrounded by the paintings and collages resemble floor plans, architectural layouts, Max Ernst-esque landscapes–mixing in with lines of Arabic, French, or English.  But I’d researched all this before and other people are better at hyping up art.  I was here for The Dream Machine.

Epileptics need not apply.

In a small black room in the middle, various throw pillows surrounded the cylindrical twirling object. An art school girl sat with headphones to my left, while an old New York hippie sat smiling opposite, also wearing headphones, as The Museum supplied music which enhanced the kaleidoscopic qualities of the vision-creating device.  Calligraphy lined the inner chamber.  I sat down before the legendary object and closed my eyes.  I was unusually self-conscious about partaking in this, the way some would submit themselves to an i-doser tune.  The flicker device allows the mind to enter a dreamlike state, giving the individual waking dreams.

Like this on an Imax in strobe effect.

It was almost a shame to end it.  For a few minutes after, I felt as though my eyes were still vibrating from the experience.  There’s a few sites online that claim to be digital Dream Machines, by turning flickering a white screen, but these often feel harsh as opposed to the smooth contours of the original.

I left, alone into the bright streets, but somehow feeling Gysin walking with me through New York, taking his favorite roads, mapped out by a painting.

Charles Ludlam Comes Out of the Closet!

Posted in Cool places in New York, Film/TV, Nerding Out, The EXPERIENCE! on 24/08/2010 by todcrouch

Charles Ludlam On Film Anthology Film Archives, August 19-22

On August 19 I went to The Anthology Film Archives (which houses such awesomeness as the original reels of Maya Deren, Harry Smith, and Stan Brakhage), where I watched two recently discovered films by Charles Ludlam.

No, they don't have Matt Damon in them.

What you should know about Charles Ludlam: He was a big deal in the New York theater scene in the 60s and 70s by founding the Theater of the Ridiculous.  His style of transcendental camp could be compared by a neophyte such as myself to Joe Orton with more cross-dressing.  He is not Robert Ludlum, author of such crap as the Bourne Identity.

Worst. Drag Queen. Ever.

Everett Quinton introduced these two rare films, who had two of Ludlam’s movies sitting in a closet for decades.  With the help of the MoMA, Filmmaker Ira Sachs and Butt Magazine’s Adam Baran,  these rare arty-facts were first shown at the ongoing IFC Queer/Art/Film Festival and this was a rare occurrence to view these reels without having to claw the eyes out out of every queen to get a ticket.

I generally hold a certain disdain for New York sentimentality which infects many old-schoolers, lamenting the days of cheap rent, brutal muggings, murderous junkies,  and war-zone street scenes (my disdain is most likely based in envy), but when Everett Quinton gave his introduction to these films, it took a different angle, as he told us the behind the scenes anecdotes of the films were were about to watch.  He explained how the eccentric woman who ran the Coney Island Wax Museum loved making a Sambuca with coffee, and when a scene called for a match being lit in the wax museum (obviously forbidden), Everett would ask the owner to fetch him a Sambuca with coffee, which she would happily leave the room for.  Roll film, strike the match, shoot the scene, extinguish.  Everett and Charles were just two gay kids with a camera, having fun and making art–the dream assholes like me come to the city for.  The halcyon glint in his eye didn’t need explaining.

Everett hesitantly explained that there were problems with the movies, as Ludlam took a Proustian route in his final days as AIDS chipped away at him; he edited himself to death.  Surely, as I watched them, my inner cinematographer came out, noting scenes lasting too long or which plot-point needed further clarification.  But shit like that didn’t ultimately matter.  A friend of mine took his mother to a gallery where she saw a Rothko and she said, “I could do that”.  My friend said to his mother, “Yeah.  But you didn’t.”  It was very much the same vibe.  The lights  dimmed and we were all in for something special, something excavated only for us.

Charles Ludlam doing his cover of the CCR song, "Lookin' out my back door".

The first of the two silent black-and-white film was Museum of Wax, starring Charles Ludlam as an ex-con who breaks out of jail to find his girl abused by a gap-toothed beast of a man.  The film was rescored by the same dude who did the original, Peter Golub, who provided a dark ambiance rather than overdoing the standard mickey-mousing of setting a note to each step, giving the movie the feeling of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari among cracked wax statues of babies and b0ld lighting with strong shadows.  Museum held true to its roots, where actors clutched chests in despair, wistfully looking into the upper left corner of the screen, hoping for mercy, wringing  worried hands, and spying menacingly through doorways at the lusty betrayals endured before meting out the harsh lighting of wrath.

The second film, The Sorrows Of Dolores, was a riff off The Perils of Pauline, but this time around Pauline was Everett Quinton in drag.  Expressive and versatile, Everett donned a curly, platinum blond wig and inhabits the role of damsel-in-distress.  Based off the serial format rather than any of that Syd Field crap, every five minutes Dolores encounters some new harrowing ordeal (which is about as New York as it gets), whether it be a Cinderella-esque upbringing, sold into the white slave trade, being pimped out by a matronly queen bee, hilariously courted by a giant gorilla, or the triumphant Christmas prodigal ‘son’ happy ending, The Sorrows of Dolores rings true to its predecessors, leaving us all fully aware of the resilience that can only be expressed with a man in a wig.

As I left, I scoped the crowd.  The men were all survivors of this bygone era.  A man sitting next to me could have been twice my age, and I thought, “Back in the old days, you’d have to watch porn in a Times Square theater with a lot of other guys, and these cats remember those days before VHS or the internet.  How sad men my ‘youngish’ age must look, so removed from such experiences.  If these men were in a theater together 30 years ago, there wouldn’t be a dry pair of denim shorts in the house.”  Moments such as this proves AIDS can’t kill history if, as victors, we  write the history of our victorious battles, just like Charles Ludlam.

Meet the Lady: A Tribute to Pearl Bailey

Posted in Nerding Out, The EXPERIENCE! on 21/08/2010 by todcrouch

On August 18th, I had the chance to understand what Meet The Lady was about.  I previously visited the website created by Tom Blunt to find a most curious mixture of women–fierce or fail be damned.  These women are not your typical collection of pin ups, but odd dreamers of their own innocent world.  So when I had the chance to clarify this obtuse feminine mystique, I couldn’t resist. The central lady of celebration was Pearl Bailey (and not Minnie Pearl, as I thought), a black performer who started in vaudeville and made her way as a solid supporting actress in such films as Carmen Jones, Porgy and Bess, St. Louis Blues (which also showcases the talents of Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole, and a very young Eartha Kitt) as well as the lead in the all-black performance of Hello Dolly.    Between clips, Mr. Blunt played the “straight” man to the boisterous comedienne Roslyn Hart, who plays in The Shells Show at Joe’s Pub as a stock analyst who decides to become a cabaret singer.

But why, of all people, celebrate Pearl Bailey?  A marginal actress with a long list of albums didn’t seem to justify a full evening honoring her until you scratch the surface of whatever you could glean from a wikipedia page.

She never played the Grand Ol' Opry.

Actress Cassandra Freeman read two excerpts from Bailey’s autobiography, “The Raw Pearl”, which provided memorable insights to Bailey’s daring character.  Colin Shepard also read a hilarious short piece about how Pearl Bailey smuggled Truman Capote out of LAX among her entourage.

What set this night apart from a sentimental “Remembering Pearl Bailey” showcase at the 92Y Tribeca Cultural Center was everything included in the $12 ticket:  Not only were there free cookies made from the Pearl Bailey Cookbook (which also served as a prize for guessing how many theater references were in her finale on The Muppet Show), but the hosts called their mothers on stage (which should be done more often) to ask if they remembered Pearl Bailey.  They even played a small humorous game show, showing various photos from the Meet The Lady website, where two contestants had to guess the back story for the women shown.

Edna St. Vincent Millay's not-as successful younger sister. She had some light verse published, but that's about it.

After cookies, clips, calls to moms, captioning, rewards, and readings, as my first Meet The Lady event, I have to say I left feeling full of experience.  It had an anything-can-happen vibe that one would expect from an Andy Kaufman set.  As the unscripted phone call to Ms. Hart’s mother carried the warning, “She’s had a stroke.  And she’s Southern.”  I silently cringed that this would be one of those disasters only live theater provides–but Mama Hart sang us a little song and we all gave her rousing applause.  You always feel good when someone puts poor old mom on speakerphone so she can hear a room full of people clapping for her.  It turns out Meeting the Lady is not as mysterious as originally believed.

Check out Meet the Lady at:

http://meetthelady.tumblr.com/page/1