A Message from the director of GRAPHIC SEXUAL HORROR
24/03/2010 01:11 by Kier-La Janisse
Danke Schoen, Wayne Newton
12/12/2009 11:05 by Kier-La Janisse
I remember going to see Wayne Newton in Vegas circa 2005. I was with my
friend Dick Blackburn, a nympholectic record collector who spent most
of the day on the phone looking for obscure doo-wop and rockabilly 45s.
The place was packed, the audience remarkably broad in age, and I was
there out of a sense of obligation. We were, after all, in Vegas. Like
gambling, gorging on decadent buffets or applauding ridiculous
spectacles you wouldn't be caught dead supporting in any other context,
going to see Wayne Newton is just one of those things you do.
I'd heard rumours that he was losing his voice and I was expecting an older, stiffer version of the showman I'd seen so many times in old TV clips. And I was OK with that. But I was surprised: despite the fact that his voice had seen better days, he had the energy of a 20 year old (in fact, he had way more energy than most of the listless and droll 20 year olds I know) and it was contagious. He flat-out killed, no matter how much the song catalogue itself was an octogenarian stew of toe-tapping oldies.
And then Wayne, a fervent Republican, called for all the veterans in the room to stand up. I groaned; as a Canadian, I was not interested in the patriotic brouhaha. But as I sat in my seat waiting for all the old folks to seize their moment, I was taken aback by the sight before me: a room full of kids, all clearly teenagers, standing up. It was at this moment that the reality of the Iraq War really hit me.
When Newton started out in showbiz, he too was still a kid, taken in by veteran performers such as Jackie Gleason and Lucille Ball because he was an anachronism: his contemporaries were The Beatles and the Stones, and there was no place in the pop world for a performer bred on old-time showmanship. Other performers mocked him in their routines, with particularly famous feuds erupting from Johnny Carson and Totie Fields' recurring gay jokes. (Newton's homophobia is another matter entirely, but it's still pretty funny to hear of him telling the dumbstruck Fields, "the only interest I have in burying the hatchet is in your ass.")
In the '70s, Newton reinvented himself, losing weight but gaining a suave moustache, lowering his vocal register (as a kid I actually thought it was a woman singing Danke Schoen) and reclaiming the Aboriginal heritage he had been encouraged to play down in previous years. He revelled in his new image as a swashbuckling ladies man, an image effervescently on display in the "Dead Ringer" episode of the classic crime-fighting show VEGA$ (showing on 16mm film at Into the Music as part of the festivities surrounding Newton's visit to the 'Peg). Newton plays himself-turned-action hero, stalked by a homicidal Wayne Newton impersonator but not afraid to throw down with the delusional doppelganger; Newton's fists fly and his hair stays perfectly in place. (Ah, the '70s. I miss you.)
You have to understand, Wayne Newton has lasted for a reason. He has morphed into many characters through succeeding decades, maybe not always with grace, but most certainly with a vigilante resolve. He is, without doubt, a cultural icon. I don't agree with his politics, much of his music, or his plastic surgery. But I have tremendous respect for a man who will go to work day after day and do every show as if it's his last, even in the most strenuous of personal crises.
Newton is really the last of the Vegas bluebloods; in the 1950s and '60s, lounge performers there typically put on six shows a day, seven days a week. Over the past 40 years Newton has put on over 30,000 shows in Vegas alone. I don't think any of us can comprehend what it's like to work this much, this hard, and with a smile on your face the whole time. So just once before you go, Mr. Newton, I would like to say 'danke schoen' to a staunch individual, an ass-whupping performer and a fine gentleman.
- Kier-La Janisse (written for Uptown Magazine Dec. 10, 2009)
“PLAY MYSELF SOME MUSIC” : The Self-Made Magic of R. Stevie Moore
24/08/2009 19:36 by Kier-La Janisse
About five years ago my friend Rodney Perkins - ephemeral researcher, film critic and co-author of the book "Cosmic Suicide: The Tragedy and Transcendence of Heaven's Gate" - - put together a program of public access Tv clips called “Access Denied”, which played at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas. Among the hundred+ clips was one of a spiky-haired blonde weirdo doing a kind of lo-fi punk version of the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace”. I never knew who the guy was, and didn’t think to ask at the time, although time and time again I would think of this clip and laugh.
A couple years later I was looking at the Handclaps website (a great source for short-form music films), and I came on upon a program billed as an “R. Stevie Moore Video retrospective”. The name still meant nothing to me, until I read the description: “Often referred as the forefather of lo-fi home recording and DIY outsider art, R.Stevie Moore has maintained a remarkably low profile throughout a career which began in the early-1970s. Heavily influenced by the music of Brian Wilson, The Beatles, Mothers of Invention and the British Invasion, Moore’s self-released one-man band music is a virtuoso showcase and best proof for his enormous skill, traversing countless musical forms into nearly perfect pop songs.” Intrigued, I looked him up, only to find that he was in fact the very same spiky-haired blonde weirdo I had been enamoured with years earlier via my friend Rodney’s public access comp.
Now that I’ve spent more time with R Stevie’s back-catalogue (although with over 400 self-released cassettes and a dozen or so LPs and CDs it’s IMPOSSIBLE to catch up or consider oneself well-versed in his bizarre musical universe), I’m convinced that R. Stevie is one of the greatest songwriters of the last half-century. And he’s not particularly humble about it - in interviews he seems continuously shocked that people haven’t heard of him. His father was Bob Moore, famous Nashville session player (most notably for Elvis Presley), so R. Stevie grew up in a musical household, with early access to recording gear. But fame has eluded R. Stevie, who - despite the obvious Brian Wilson allusions in his music and singing style - is a wholly original and unique self-taught musician, who writes, performs and records almost everything himself. And he had an abundance of self-made music videos for his songs well before the advent of MTV. I don’t know where these videos would have played, if anywhere, but now you can find many of them on Youtube, which has resulted in a robust new fanbase for R. Stevie and his mail-order business.
He clearly relates to the obscure, misunderstood artist-type, evident by things like Jandek albums appearing in the background of his early music videos, the toys, dolls and varied pop culture ephemera cluttering up his apartment, his appropriation of political statements for an audience of one (in one video his guitar says on it: “This Machine Kills Fascists”, as did Woody Guthrie’s a generation earlier). And while there’s a weird pathos there in his lonely obsessiveness, there’s also a lot of downright hilarity and silliness. Even my boyfriend thought R. Stevie was pretty adorable.
You can read more about R. Stevie, and order copies of almost everything he’s ever done, from his OFFICIAL WEBSITE (here) , and I would recommend doing this as the money goes directly to him, and he’ll even likely send you a little personalized note with your order. But Cherry Red Records released a pretty great ‘introductory’ compilation called “Meet The R. Stevie Moore” in 2008, ad a follow up called "Me Too!" both of which we have on order for Into the Music, so if you don’t like mail-ordering just hang tight and we’ll take care of your R. Stevie fix. But I warn you, it’s addictive! One CD will not be enough! Soon enough you will find yourself trolling his website and clicking that ‘buy now’ button. But he deserves your love, so give it to him in abundance and without reservation
Holy crap! Christiane Cegavske has a BOARD GAME!
01/07/2009 23:28 by Kier-La Janisse
SEE/BUY the Boardgame HERE
why there are no Big Smash! events in July...
28/06/2009 19:19 by Kier-La Janisse
Fantasia's been around since 1996, so who knows if attendance was always like that - but when I started attending in 1999 it was already a megalith of a festival. So even if it took some time to nurture and create that audience, it still only took three years before the festival was hugely appreciated by Montreal movie fans. Talking to arts organizers and event organizers in Winnipeg, it seems the same can't be said of fans here. It's like you have to exist for a decade before anyone even knows you exist, and unfortunately not everyone has the funds to exist for that long without an audience.
I'm hoping that keeping my events small-scale for a while will help nurture a future audience without depleting my funds to the point where I'm using coffee filters for toilet paper and vice versa (again). But the goal is to create enough of a fanbase here for genre films and music films that I can eventually provide bigger and better events with fly-in guests and all kinds of perks for the audience. Nothing the size of Fant-Asia of course, I don't think our population could sustain something of that size, but a respectable genre festival would be nice.