Where on the spectrum of loyalty and betrayal does song begin? And where does it end? I think each writer has to decide this over and over.
In the seventh installment of BOMBlog’s reprints of [ 2nd floor projects ] editions, William E. Jones, George Kuchar, and Curt McDowell reflect on An Uneven Dozen Broken Hearts. This article contains explicit language.
WE ARE NOT AMUSED
by William E. Jones
I hate The Beatles. As Futurama’s mock-cuddly monopolizing capitalist Mom would put it, they make me want to puke my face off. I suspect this has some connection with “Love Me Do,” the first single by the Liverpudlian mop-tops, released in the land of my Mom’s people (England) on the day I was born. Astrologers may impute cosmic significance to this coincidence, but as I know less than nothing about such matters, I attribute my perpetual resentment to years of brainwashing.
My earliest memories of commercial radio broadcasts are of The Beatles. They were truly unavoidable during their existence as a recording entity, and instead of fading away after their dissolution, they only seemed to loom larger in the public mind. There were the solo careers, the publicity surrounding various lawsuits, and with a crushing inevitability, the continued broadcast of their music out of a sense of mourning. Around this time, popular music began to look back on itself—always a bad sign —with various nostalgia crazes, revivals, and worst of all, the enshrining of the “greatest” in monstrous social Darwinist play lists and anthologies. For a moment in the mid-to-late 1970s, Punk would dissipate some of this fatuous piety, but the disturbance of business as usual was only temporary. I mention piety, and that is precisely what it was. The Beatles, their music, their images, their achievements, their chart positions, ad infinitum, became a new catechism for people who really could have been doing better things with their time, like making Molotov cocktails or teaching their children how to read.
In strictly practical terms, brainwashing was an impossibility, as the CIA (and the various North American psychology departments it funded) eventually discovered. The Communists were never capable of foisting Manchurian candidates upon us. Pure coercion did not lead to pure obedience. Pleasure was a far more effective tool of domination, as the great figures of public relations had known since the 1920s. The Eastern Europeans came around to this position some decades later. The Slovenian rock band Laibach released their version of The Beatles’ Let It Be in 1988, just before the definitive collapse of state socialism in the East. Laibach’s previous efforts embodied an unironic worship of authority taken to such an extreme that it became—so their fans claimed—something else. But there were no clues that it was all a send up, no moment of respite from the numbing seriousness, nothing to make timid Westerners feel smart and superior. When Laibach chose The Beatles as the heroic figures at the center of their English language debut, it came as a surprise to those expecting Stalin or Hitler, but it shouldn’t have. Compared to the greatest (i. e., biggest selling) popular music group in history, authoritarian leaders were mere amateurs in matters of transforming human consciousness.
Twenty years before Laibach exuberantly “murdered” The Beatles’ songs, Curt McDowell presented the Fab Four dead on the slab. In his painting, all four Beatles have their chests cut open for an autopsy. Their remains are expressive and do not have the look of morgue meat. Paul clutches his abdomen, as though he felt the coroner’s incision. (Or perhaps Linda’s vegetarian cuisine did him in.) John has his arm around Paul, who inclines his head toward John’s. Ringo seems to be sniffing Paul’s armpit, or perhaps he is getting closer so as to be included in John’s embrace. Only George strains to get away, as though the prospect of a group hug was too much for him. McDowell painted this post-mortem tribute to The Beatles during his first semester at San Francisco Art Institute, around the time he realized that his true métier was filmmaking.
We know the approximate date of the work because of a pendant painting of a calendar page reading November 1968. During this month, McDowell saw a copy of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s album Two Virgins, which had recently been released in the U. S. The cover featured a photograph of John and Yoko in the nude. Within the mass of John’s untrimmed pubic hair, one can clearly discern his untrimmed penis. McDowell noticed this and revised his painting accordingly. He added a foreskin to John’s penis, but not having seen the other Beatle members, he left them alone. In the painting they appear circumcised.
Born in the region of the United States where circumcision is most common, McDowell may have been unaware that English baby boys are not routinely circumcised unless religious parents insist upon it. He used his own penis as a model for The Beatles’ penises, as can been seen in the photographic studies that McDowell and a friend made in preparation for the painting. This localized gesture of self-portraiture accounts for the curious uniformity of length and width—something extremely unlikely for any four unrelated men—in the painting’s four penises. It hardly seems possible that McDowell, who first came to San Francisco from Indiana in 1965, had not seen or touched a whole variety of foreskins before making this painting. Perhaps he had simply never had sex with Englishmen.
By performing a painterly mutilation of The Beatles’ genitalia, McDowell has unwittingly transformed three of them into Jews. He thus calls attention to the circumcised man closest to the boys, Brian Epstein. Manager, owner of a chain of record shops, master manipulator and mother hen, Epstein is widely regarded as one of the two chief architects of The Beatles’ success, along with George Martin, who produced their records. A depressive, frustrated homosexual with a weakness for rough trade and a mother with the exquisitely improbable name of Queenie, Epstein was a product of his age. Until the last month of his life, he lived the criminalized homosexuality that had been bequeathed to England by that vicious old Queenie herself, Victoria. Reputedly madly in love with John—a love that some say was once consummated unhappily—Epstein experienced a closeness with The Beatles that was necessarily platonic. He could never lounge around naked with “the boys,” feeling John’s arm around him, casually enjoying physical intimacy. In a sense, McDowell’s painting corrects this slight and dispels the homosexual panic by presenting three circumcised men, three Epsteins, who lie with John, each waiting his turn for a hug from him. With open chests, they have exposed their hearts completely to each other in a utopian, if lifeless, fourgy.
In 1967, Brian Epstein asked an English homosexual of another stripe, Joe Orton, whose plays Entertaining Mr. Sloane and Loot had recently scandalized London theatregoers, to write a film vehicle for The Beatles. Orton seemed like a properly subversive choice to sustain the film career of a pop group that had quickly become an institution. A working class kid from Leicester, Orton escaped from provincial council flat hell with a scholarship to RADA, then escaped from school with an older man named Kenneth Halliwell. Not content with the domestic joys to be obtained in an Islington bed-sit, Orton constantly prowled for sexual hookups around London. Never in the closet, always on the make, Orton was the model for a generation of gay men who would leave homosexuals like Epstein in the dust. That is the myth, anyway. In fact, Orton lied about his age, and was a year older than Epstein. The two of them might even have frequented the same cottages, or public rest rooms, in search of sex. Unfortunately, neither lived to see what followed the decriminalization of homosexuality. The two died within a week of each other in 1967, Epstein by accidental barbiturate overdose, and Orton famously at Halliwell’s hands.
Like the penises in McDowell’s painting, The Beatles in Orton’s screenplay, Up Against It, are almost indistinguishable. Orton didn’t even bother to give them separate names. They act as a team, and at one point, they end up in bed together. Brian Epstein was not amused. To give Orton “notes,” Epstein called him on holiday, while in bed with Halliwell and a couple of Tangiers’ handsomest boys.
Epstein: As I understand it … [The Beatles] are all in bed with each other. No no no no no no.
Epstein: Why? Because these are normal, healthy boys.
Orton: I take it they all sleep together.
Epstein: They do not.
Orton: Ooh, but they’re all very pretty. I imagined they just had a good time. Sang, smoked, fucked everything in sight, including each other. I thought that was what success meant.
Epstein: Mr. Orton, success means… well, it means respect for the public. Besides, one of the boys is happily married.
No one could possibly know what, if anything, actually transpired between Orton and Epstein. The dialogue above is from the film Prick Up Your Ears, based upon Alan Bennett’s script, an adaptation of John Lahr’s Orton biography, which was based in turn upon literary agent Margaret Ramsay’s Orton diary typescript, which derived ultimately from the original diary of Joe Orton. The scene as it was imagined for cinema might contain not even one iota of truth. The version that can be substantiated by historical research is blandly prosaic: the Up Against It script was returned without comment. Orton’s response to The Beatles and their manager: “Fuck them.”
The fictionalized scene may be untrue in detail but not in spirit. Paul McCartney once talked about the aborted Orton film project in an interview with Roy Carr:
The reason why we didn’t do Up Against It wasn’t because it was too far out or anything. We didn’t do it because it was gay. We weren’t gay and really that was all there was to it. It was quite simple, really. Brian was gay… and so he and the gay crowd could appreciate it. Now, it wasn’t that we were anti-gay—just that we, The Beatles, weren’t gay.
Paul, who may well hold the record for number of instances of the word “gay” in a single utterance, could simply not stop making himself perfectly clear. Brian Epstein, it seems, was not the villain of the piece after all.
In one of his few large-scale paintings, Curt McDowell managed to accomplish what a modern English dramatist, buckets of Hollywood money, and sadly, the man who loved them most could not accomplish: he got The Beatles to lie down naked together for all the world to see. And he had to kill them to do it.
by William E. Jones
I once brought up the topic of Curt McDowell’s films in conversation with an administrator at Art Center College of Design, where I have worked in an adjunct capacity for the last few years. A student had told this administrator that I taught an avant-garde film course, and he asked me if I had shown any of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster films. I said no, and he ventured the opinion that Barney had “really raised the bar in experimental filmmaking.” I asked, “In what respect, production values?” He responded, “Yes, but in other ways, too.” Caught a bit off guard by someone skeptical of his latest diktat, he asked what interested me. I mentioned Curt McDowell and offered a brief but explicit précis of his film Loads. My conversational foray left this man temporarily speechless, so I continued to talk about my course. Whatever thoughts crossed the administrator’s mind as his eyes glazed over, it was clear that he was a man who had learned the main lesson of the great “cultural producers” of the era. What mattered in art was not what a marginal character like McDowell had to offer, frisson mixed with a faint hint of nausea, exchanges of bodily fluids, cheap thrills; what truly mattered, even to a guy who named his masterwork after a testicular muscle, was access to money. If one could see where the money went, in art as in Hollywood movies, then high seriousness and legitimacy would follow. This conversation took place during a boom in the art market, when people at art schools could talk like film industry executives without being laughed at. Perhaps now that the great gaseous bubble of cultural production is getting deflated, another conversation can begin.
A while later, around the time of a precipitous decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, I showed Curt’s films to my avant-garde film class. The students’ reactions, as expressed in their discussions and weekly writing assignments, ranged from the indignant to the unabashedly enthusiastic. A student in the former camp had this to say:
I would be shocked if McDowell wasn’t a sexaholic. I still can’t believe that Curt filmed his sister getting screwed, the thought of it really creeps me out. Also, I think I would be very happy if I never saw another man get raped, or a man receiving a blow job from another man. That kinda rubbed me the wrong way. Oh well, the films we saw this week were pretty cool and I enjoyed them a lot.
I wonder if Curt would have recognized the writer’s attitude, and how many people reacted this way in the 1970s and ’80s, when he was around to present his films in person. Curt probably would have been surprised to learn that the writer of the comment was a young person, all of 19 years old. Perhaps Curt would also have been shocked at the new “generation gap” that has arisen between young prudes and their libertine elders.
One of the films on view in my class was Nudes: A Sketchbook (1974). When Curt made it, everyone he knew considered sex a cheap way to have fun rather than a potentially addictive activity. (Is there such a thing as “sex withdrawal”? Do people who suffer from it get delirium tremens or the like?) Regarding the charges of rape and consensual sodomy leveled against Curt, he does seem to take advantage of a few men in the film: while one man shoots a load on his sister, Curt can just about be discerned in the shadows playing with the man’s ass; Curt reenacts groping a hunky young letter carrier who passed out at a wild party he stumbled into; a man, in another charmingly crude reenactment, gets knocked unconscious in a dark passage, then gets his own dark passage explored; a male friend receives Curt’s oral services while perusing a girlie magazine. When I called the bait-and-switch tactic in the last scenario “the oldest trick in the book, a porn film staple,” one student loudly declared that nothing like that had ever happened to him. (A shame.)
Despite the bluster and protest, Nudes: A Sketchbook, as well as the other films I showed, clearly spoke to some need in the students. In keeping with Art Center’s sexual harassment policy, I told the class that anyone offended by the content of Curt’s movies could take flight, but no one did. The student who wrote the comment above, in unconscious imitation of Sarah Palin, mentioned that films of certain activities “kinda rubbed me the wrong way,” but then in a surprising and contradictory concluding sentence admitted, “I enjoyed them a lot.” Either the woman threw this in as a sop to an old, perverted instructor, or it took her pages of prose to get to the five words she really meant.
Curt McDowell had no use for such evasion and disavowal. He arrived in San Francisco from Indiana in the ’60s, went looking for what he wanted, and offered no apology whatsoever for getting it. The great George Kuchar was one of many to be ensnared by Curt’s considerable sexual charisma. In the book Reflections from a Cinematic Cesspool, George describes his welcome as a new arrival from the East Coast:
The first student I ever laid eyes on was the underground filmmaker Curt McDowell. He was sitting on my desk, wearing cut-off jeans and swinging his bare legs in the stuffy setting. He had on a tee-shirt and woven sandals of straw, looking very much like a big boy with a huge appetite for cinematic knowledge (and for his teacher).
That meeting led to other meetings outside the classroom, and before too long, Curt (the “satyr” as he is called in the book) and George (the “secret pervert” as he calls himself) were a couple. It is hardly surprising, considering the satyr’s appetites, that tears and anguish quickly followed. As George explains, “Curt and I were going together, and perhaps we fondled too many sticks of dynamite for our own good.” This brief summary of their affair leads me to another student comment that is worth noting:
Dear Mr. Kuchar,
I am in love with you. When I say that, I am not implying that sort of intellectual love that goes along with deep admiration for a predecessor’s work. I mean love… . I realize that you are older than I and homosexual. I am not a man, but it is said by enlightened people that true love is unattachment, that because you love someone so much, you want what is best for them, including loving someone other than yourself. I think you, George, would agree with this. I accept my fate. I am miserable, unhappy with unrequited love. I am letting you love whomever you must for your own happiness, thus creating my own misery. The only choice left is to delve into my own work—thus devoting myself to you even more.
This student, echoing and expanding on sentiments expressed in Reflections from a Cinematic Cesspool, has summed up George’s dilemma. The traits that draw this woman to her beloved are precisely those that will break her heart, but by taking refuge in art, she can indulge (and redeem) all the wretched, maudlin excesses of misdirected lust.
Curt, the satyr himself, was no mere Lothario counting his conquests. He had his own dramas of unrequited affection, and he returned to them over and over in his films. Perhaps Curt’s films do not approach the grand, romantic passions that pervade his teacher’s works, but they have a raw power in their directness. There is an aching pathos in Curt’s halting delivery of unadorned autobiographical monologues. He is unashamed in his sexual behavior but reluctant to make his account of it. He knows that by telling his tales, he is revealing dark undercurrents in the daily erotic life of a gay man who wants what he can never truly have.
From the evidence of his films, it seems that Curt’s greatest pleasure was in giving straight men pleasure. As George Kuchar memorably put it, Curt enjoyed “lapping up cream filled Ding Dongs.” Never one to shrink from a challenge, Curt loved nothing more than blowing (and rimming) guys who couldn’t care less whether he got off. Curt applied himself to this service with an almost evangelical sense of mission. Today—when young Republicans go to jail on charges of “criminally deviate conduct” for sucking off their sleeping bunkmates—Curt would be called a compulsive fellator, and would gravitate to any number of websites, 12-step groups, or places where recently released convicts congregate. During the 1970s, Curt was a sexual pioneer, making movies about practices that most men preferred to keep quiet, then as now. Curt found his own fun, and most importantly for him as an artist, he also found a number of men who were vain, indifferent, or desperate enough to be filmed while they reached their climax.
Curt McDowell, like Pasolini before him, did not conform to society’s expectations of the abject, straight-chasing homosexual. Curt and Pier Paolo both knew what many men engaging in these sexual games eventually learn: within the surrender of giving pleasure without taking any in return, there is a species of control. The man with the rock hard cock in need of relief thinks he calls the shots, but every moment is staged and directed by the man doing the draining. As the title character of Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge confides to her journal:
The sailor who stands against a wall, looking down at the bobbing head of the gobbling queen, regards himself as master of the situation; yet it is the queen (does not that derisive epithet suggest primacy and domination?) who has won the day, extracting from the flesh of the sailor his posterity, the one element in every man which is eternal and (a scientific fact) cellularly resembles not at all the rest of the body. So to the queen goes the ultimate elixir of victory, that which was not meant for him but for the sailor’s wife or girl or simply Woman.
Cineastes from the days of silent cinema to the latest pay-per-view scenes on the internet have treasured the knowledge of this elixir and transformed it into art. PPP, whose oral escapades with the young men of the Friuli lost him his job and his membership in the Communist Party, fled to the slums of Rome, where for years he profited from his obscurity, avidly consuming cruel tales of working class life and rivers of working class spunk. (It’s hard to miss the admiring descriptions of men’s crotches occurring throughout Ragazzi di Vita once the details of Pasolini’s life are known.) Alas, Pier Paolo never got around to directing a cum shot, but there is little doubt that he was capable of imagining one as hilarious and profane as the shot of the devil’s asshole expelling priests at the end of Canterbury Tales.
The cum shot, that staple of porn—straight, gay and bi—cannot satisfy the truly devoted cum pig. All that juice spilling onto bellies, butts and faces goes to waste. A memorable, if atypical, scene from the early ’90s gay porn video Doin’ Hard Time features a fat, hairy, balding photographer seducing his model. He devours the model’s cock so avidly that when the magnificent youth finally ejaculates, only a thin white foam limning the greedy queen’s mouth is visible. Such a mistake was not allowed to occur again in the oeuvre of Latino Fan Club auteur Brian Brennan. The scene reminds us of a central contradiction in filming sex: what feels (and tastes) good does not necessarily “read” on camera. In a recurring shot in Loads, Curt plays with this contradiction as he fellates one of his tricks. Curt nibbles on the head of a man’s cock, waiting for it to erupt, and even though his eyes are closed, his hesitation seems to indicate a thought. He asks himself, do I coax this cock to shoot a wad on my face, or do I just get things over with and take it all down my throat? The answer, after some teasing, is the one that makes the most sense for the film. The suspense is broken at last by a thick line of semen spurting over Curt’s nose and forehead.
Coitus that plays well and the moment that is camera-ready have won out in the present era of immediately accessible porn. Boys who have been watching money shots in movies for several years before their first real, physical sex act wouldn’t think of ejaculating during intromission. This is what Larry Clark discovered in the course of interviewing young men in Impaled, his contribution to the art/porn film Destricted. A band of guys from the Inland Empire, some aspiring porn actors and others just up for a good time, tell Clark that they imitate what they have seen since childhood: shaved pubic hair, lots of tattoos, and a preference for shooting cum on (rather than in) their partners. If a few of them have tasted semen, they aren’t admitting it to Clark, the director who has taken an interest and might make them stars. Only an old pro, actress Nancy Vee, cops to her pleasure in lapping up seed. She makes Daniel, the MILF-loving male talent of the movie, groan in ecstasy, but when the climactic moment arrives, we get to see very little spunk. Nancy, with a fiendish grim, admits, “I swallowed most of it.” She chuckles because she has done a naughty thing, but she knows that she can get away with it. Impaled is a documentary, and the cum shot is not the dramatic and economic necessity that it would be in a real porn movie.
During the late 1970s, another MILF had her say about swallowing. Citrus spokesperson and free-lance moral entrepreneur Anita Bryant recognized a threat in semen consumption, which she understood to be a kind of cannibalism. “The male sperm” as she put it, is the essence of life with the greatest concentration of blood in the body. In her 1978 Playboy interview she decried the vampiric sin of drinking cum. Pasolini did not live long enough to read this condemnation of his favorite pastime, so we are deprived of the pithy response he no doubt would have made in the pages of Corriere della Sera; but gay men in San Francisco pounced with relish upon new pronouncements from this Baptist virago. Curt McDowell’s rejoinder to Bryant’s pseudo-medical rationale for gay-bashing came in the form of the film Loads. Made in 1980, Loads followed the success of the “Save Our Children” campaign but preceded the first wave of AIDS panic. In that transitional moment, around the time the jovial fascism of Ronald Reagan got him elected president by a landslide, it was still possible to make a case for cum guzzling. Curt never wrote a manifesto extolling the beneficial effects of drinking cum on filmmaking. He put his convictions into practice, and the results inspire fascination, discomfort, and admiration (in almost equal measure) in contemporary audiences. This polarizing effect is strongest among those spectators whose childhood president was Reagan, the man who told us that big city perverts were really some sort of vermin to be ignored, demonized, even killed. Like all skillful grifters, he did it with a smile on his face.
In the days when The Rocky Horror Picture Show played every weekend in major American cities, eager spectators/participants would shout the question, “What’s your favorite high protein drink?” and from the film, Frank N. Furter would answer, “Come!” Now that swallowing during oral sex hovers between the categories of “possibly unsafe” and “unsafe” sexual activity, and many men must perform the calculation of how many hours ago they brushed their teeth before performing fellatio, jokes about the nutritional value of jism tend to fall flat. The juice extracted from so many anonymous cocks can no longer serve as a rejuvenating force for cinema, at least outside the sequestered world of porn. Perhaps the lack of semen swallowing among high-profile directors is the real reason movies are so anemic these days. No matter how much liver these boys eat (or how much money they have access to) their silly macho pablum fails to exude any real energy. To take only one example among many, it is impossible to imagine Michael Bay swallowing another man’s cum. In his office decorated with pictures of his most famous ejaculations—movie explosions—Bay can probably muster little more than masturbating and licking a watery load from his fist after an afternoon of screaming into a megaphone, jettisoning it to the ground, then starting all over again with a new megaphone. The throat that barks can never get the soothing balm that all those grips and gaffers have percolating inside their bulging pants. The man who blew up Alcatraz doesn’t have the goods to direct The Gospel According to Matthew, and if he ever saw Loads in the course of his education, what he took from the experience has been buried too deep to benefit his filmmaking. Michael Bay attended Art Center, but he graduated before I arrived to teach there. If he had swung his bare legs in my direction, I doubt I would have given him so much as a second look.
by Curt McDowell
[All dialogue, except where noted, is voice over by Curt McDowell.]
I met this… bodybuilder at the coed baths, and he was there for women, which was real obvious. He was very friendly to everybody, and there weren’t very many women to go around. Eventually he took second best. And I didn’t mind, because I really get… turned on by straight men. Anyway, I asked him if he wanted to make some money, and he said, “Doing what?” and I said… “jerk off on film.” And he said, “Sure.” He came in, and I didn’t know what to have him do. I wasn’t prepared for anything, but I just sort of walked around the room taking movies of him while he jerked off looking at sexy pictures of women. And he had a really terrific… chest and… ass.
But he started a chain reaction, because then his buddy wanted in on the action. We went to the park together, and he was very shy and very straight, and he didn’t understand why I wanted to film him peeing, especially from lying underneath his legs. There was something really sexy about having him wear my underpants, which I did, and… . The thing I liked about him the best was just his masculine attitude about the whole thing. It was… he wasn’t condescending or anything, but you know, he really had to think about women to get hard, and that somehow turns me on. I’m not sure what it is.
Then I moved into a new studio, and… I remember seeing this guy walking down the street outside my windows, and… . His pants were riding real low on his hips, so I could see the crack of his ass as he walked. I ran downstairs and went up and followed him down the street, and kept following him, just to imagine myself fucking him while he’s walking. Because the way his butt cheeks moved back and forth, I could just picture my dick up there. I’d like to be on a sling hanging from his back fucking him while he walked down the street if I could. But I’d settle for capturing him on film, just… showing me his wares, basically. The only time he felt uncomfortable was when I asked to film his ass, which was the original thing that appealed to me, especially when I filmed myself and then filmed his ass and my hand running up and down it. That really turned me on.
Then a guy who came to try out for a film… he said that he really wanted to preserve his tattoos on film. He… he… and he… he was very sexy… also had to think about women while I was blowing him.
When I got bored, Darren and I picked up a guy in a mini adult theater, and he was like a crude little monster of a boy.
Then there was the one who was really uncommunicative. I directed him to say “suck it.” He said “suck it” so realistically that I sucked it with gusto.
All these men, well, they all have a certain… a big turn on for me, and I’m… a big, thick… and now I’m thinking about…
I loved watching him walk down the street.
His asshole was so sweet… now he is about done…
… and uh, and uh… . Oh, I would have loved to have fucked Gary.
… and… and… and… uh… and uh… and uh… and… and…
It’s such a beautiful, thick ass. I would have loved to have stuck my dick in there.
Cameraman: Rolling… Do you like how wide a shot it is?
Curt: Uh huh.
Fuck his ass.
by Curt McDowell
Well I went into the park today in California, but it seems like I fell asleep for a while. I had shirt off, my shoes and stockings off, and I slept for a short period of time, but I got up and I was getting dressed… putting my shirt on and my stockings and shining my shoes a little bit, trying to get them to look a little better, because I’m a very fussy guy. But I saw, I noticed somebody watching me about ten feet away, fifteen feet away, so I finally got dressed, I got up. He put his shoes on and he came towards me and he said he knows me from the bus and said, “How would you like to earn some money?” And I said, “A-okay.” I’m all for it. I’m broke, and I don’t have no money, right now at the present time, so I said okay. So we went for a little bus ride, so forth and so on, and from the bus we went to a trolley car, and we finally hit his apartment. As youse already heard all what I said, and I meant every… meant all of it. I speak the truth. I say what I feel, and I write what I feel. As you know, I’m writing a book, Black Is… Black Is… Black and White. I hope youse buy the book. I think it’ll be a good seller, and I just need some bread to publish the thing, and it might turn out good. And I don’t believe in phone calls, and I don’t believe in letters. I believe in person to person, like I said before. I just wanted you to get that straight. So I sort of did this thing. He bought me a pack of cigarettes, which I thank him for, and he gave me a Colt 45, which I thank him for. Not that I’m trying to publish things, but it was… he was very… he was… he was a very nice and kind person, and I appreciate it so very much. So I talked for a little while, and I took off my clothes for a while, and he sort of did me… he sort of done something, and the feeling was great. I hit my climax. It took quite a while, but like I said, I’m in damn good shape, so picture me if I was with a pussy, a nice warm juicy pussy. And all I could say, it was great, it was fabulous, it was fantastic. And I tried to do my best on the film. I hope youse like it, and all I can say, I thank him for everything he done for me today. I don’t do this. What he done to me, I don’t do it. But, being it’s a film, and you have to do it, and it’s all right when the cunts strip off their clothes and dance and so forth and so on, prostitutes, so… . Actually, I don’t think two cents of what I done, and I’ll show it in front of a priest or a nun, because I’m proud of what I have done or what I have said. And I did it with a feeling of what I said, and actually, I don’t think two cents of it, and I could care less what the public thinks. I could give a flying fuck less. So I hope youse like the film. Now I want to… well, that’s all I have to say about that. And all I could say, a few things, like I said, I’ll talk at the end. I wish I was black. Black is beautiful. It’s not my favorite color, blue is, I’m sorry, sisters and brothers. As I said, I wish the Lord could come off the cross and change things. I mentioned before earlier all what I said, and there’s a few other little things to say, like a sentence or two, but I am so hungry I’m getting pains in my stomach. I got to eat. So I hope youse like it, and I’m a wonderful person, and all youse blondes, just look me up in California. I’ll be waiting for you. It’s up to you. I’m not forcing you. So I could say, I hope youse like the film, and a word to the wise, as they say, love the one you’re with. And for now, I’ll see you. My name is Ronnie. So long.
*A REMEMBRANCE OF CURT MCDOWELL
by George Kuchar*
Curt was curt, cute, controversial, and not celibate. He was a barrel of laughs and a roller coaster ride to hell and back. Life for him was a fast track to fast times that included devilish detours into forbidden erogenous zones. He explored all those zones with a zealous zeal: painter, pornographer, poet of the plebeian and the perverse; you name it (or sing it since he also wrote songs) and it all rings true. Call him a Frisco fornicator or an Indiana-born iconoclast and you only skim the surface of what this entity was into. Everything that he did get into was usually greased up for maximum penetration and the ease in which he entered the lives of every Tom, Dick and Harry was breathtaking. They also spurted into him the essence of his creativity: a joy in corporeal connections and a sharing of human juices to oil up the machinery of movie making. Curt McDowell gave the paying public what they craved in darkened theaters nationwide. His was not a cinema of dead meat: His beefcake was hot off the streets and the cheesecake was equally tart and titillating. All of this was served in a blue plate special that was generously filled with obsessions immune to none. They might not have been your particular obsessions but we, as “sinners”, knew their kin.
The canvases he produced were beautifully rendered and revealed a true artist that used all his varied protuberances to maximum, imaginative potential. He also designed costumes, wrote screenplays, and graced the silver screen with his satyr-like presence. I humbly take my hat off to this very talented titan (although he’d usually suggest lowering the trousers).
On the occasion of the exhibition, CURT MCDOWELL—AN UNEVEN DOZEN OF BROKEN HEARTS at [ 2nd floor projects ] San Francisco, 14 February to 29 March 2009
About [2nd floor projects]:
Since establishing [ 2nd floor projects ] in San Francisco in 2007, I have featured twenty-six writers in the exhibitions, with eight writers forthcoming in 2011. My programming includes commissions to writers throughout the country to produce an edition: essays, personal narratives, interviews, poetry, or mixed-genre pieces in the form of handcrafted broadsheets or chapbooks. From early on in my art practice, I have been interested in trespassing disciplines. These visual, theoretical, and narrative crossings perhaps address an interstitial space of engagement with the artists’ works from the writer’s point of departure. A distal approach rather than the traditional essay model, such as an exhibition catalogue. For each exhibition, I design and print in-house a limited run of 100 on archival papers. The writers are also invited to give a reading during the course of the exhibition, or to send a recording if they are not in the area. [ 2nd floor projects ] participated in the NY Art Book Fair in 2009 and 2010. BOMBlog will be re-publishing these pieces regularly over the next several months.
—Margaret Tedesco, Director
*William E. Jones is an artist and filmmaker who grew up in Ohio and now lives and works in Los Angeles. He has made two feature length experimental films, Massillon (1991) and Finished (1997); several short videos, including The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography (1998); the feature length documentary Is It Really So Strange? (2004); and many installations. His work has been shown at the Cinémathèque française and Musée du Louvre, Paris;
International Film Festival Rotterdam; Sundance Film Festival; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Museum of Modern Art, New York. His films and videos have been the subject of retrospectives at Tate Modern, London, in 2005; at Anthology Film Archives, New York, in 2010; at the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna, and at the Oberhausen Film Festival in 2011. He was included in the 1993 and 2008 Biennial Exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. His work was on view in the Nordic Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009, and his work will be seen in the exhibition Untitled (Death by Gun) at the 12th Istanbul Biennial in 2011. Jones has published the following books: Is It Really So Strange? (2006), Tearoom (2008), and Selections from The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton (2008), Heliogabalus (2009) and Killed: Rejected Images of the Farm Security Administration (2010). Halsted Plays Himself is forthcoming in 2011. The blog Amber Waves of Brain is a collection of his writings. His work is exhibited by David Kordansky Gallery and Galleria Raffaella Cortese. He has worked in the adult video industry under the name Hudson Wilcox, and he currently teaches film history at Art Center College of Design under his own name.*
Where on the spectrum of loyalty and betrayal does song begin? And where does it end? I think each writer has to decide this over and over.