"WHAT I DO IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS OR YOUR DAMN COMIC READERS!" -EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE ACTUAL WOMAN JOE MATT'S "THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA" WAS BASED ON, DANI/FRANKIE, FROM HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL COMIC THE POOR BASTARD! RICK TREMBLES MOTION PICTURE PURGATORY EXHIBITION AT LA GALERIE FOKUS! INTERVIEW WITH FILMMAKER FRANCOIS MIRON ABOUT HIS LATEST FILM (STARRING ME)! POETRY CORNER: JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN'S "LENNY BRUCE IS DEAD"!
All contents © 2000-2001, Rick Trembles
UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION STRICTLY FORBIDDEN
July 26, 2001
"WHAT I DO IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS OR YOUR DAMN COMIC READERS!"* Exclusive Interview with the actual woman Joe Matt's "THE GIRL FROM IPANEMA" was based on, Dani/"Frankie," from his autobiographical comic THE POOR BASTARD! *quote from Joe Matt's ex-girlfriend in THE POOR BASTARD, Drawn & Quarterly Publications, 1997. (Pictured below: Dani/"Frankie," today)
One of the pivotal moments of Joe Matt's renowned Canadian autobiographical comic, THE POOR BASTARD, is when girlfriend Trish learns of his obsession for a coworker friend of hers, "Frankie." Trish had already suspected she was his type, but after discovering his (comic book) work in progress detailing his lust for Frankie, their already brittle relationship collapses further, one panel after the next. I recently interviewed the woman Frankie was modeled after, Dani (also dubbed "The Girl From Ipanema" by Matt after his "ultimate song of desire & unrequited love"), about her thoughts on being turned into a cartoon character. Dani/Frankie's presently a textile artist living in Montreal & also works the bar at The Miami (on St-Laurent & Roy).
Snubdom: Joe Matt depicts himself avoiding you on the streets of Toronto after his comic was published for fear that you might've read about yourself in it & resented him for it. Was this the case & have you ever confronted him?
Dani/Frankie: I only found the comic by accident around '92 after I'd moved to Montreal.
Snubdom: So he was just being paranoid.
Dani: Yeah & that's what makes me laugh because had I known about it then I probably would've shown some hostility & confronted him on it but I had no idea of the comic's existence until a few years later. The year his girlfriend Trish & I were working together at the daycare was probably either '89 or '90 & he got published a little after that. The person that pointed the comic out to me, it came out of a bar conversation, we were just chatting & she said, "holy shit, I recognize you from somewhere." She swore that I was the protagonist of a comic book she just bought the week before. I said, "it can't be, you must be bullshitting me." Then she mentioned the author & my skepticism started breaking down because I had known Joe & I explained to her that I had a background with his friends. I thought it was quite plausible that there was something to it but I was also resistant to the idea that this person could recognize me from any rendering. Let's say there was the slightest possibility that this comic did exist & that I'd been a character in it, I couldn't believe someone who hardly knew me could recognize my likeness. So I was still skeptical & she said, "well, I'll bring it to you next week," because she was pretty damn excited. So she tracked me down & gave me a copy. I was pretty overwhelmed about the fact that I could recognize myself. And more & more people I know have discovered it. It's so weird, I mean just the other night I was at a bar with a couple of friends & this woman said isn't that "Frankie"?
Snubdom: During Joe Matt's initial encounters with you, he visually depicted himself in his comic emitting sort of expletive signifiers like sweat droplets, the shakes, floating hearts & thought balloons. Did you actually see any of these things floating around his head in real life? Was it perceptible in reality or was it truly unbeknownst to you that you might've been an object of desire to him?
Dani: Cut & dried; actually, no I didn't. And in contrast, Joe's rapport, or demeanor if you will, with me was always ranging from hostile to aloof & indifferent. He was very antisocial. At the time I figured he was just a bit off because he was insecure. Hostile, but not in an overtly aggressive way. Not outgoingly hostile, he was just never really there. And never really nice, just nonresponsive & I thought just a bit superior & condescending. But I definitely didn't see the human equivalence of infatuation. He probably came across as nervous sometimes too but it was all linked to his personality because he seemed pretty introverted & not very friendly. So if he were ever nervous around me because he had a crush on me, I didn't put it in that box. I just figured he was a nervous guy to begin with. I can't even imagine him humming The Girl From Ipanema.
Snubdom: In the comic, after Joe Matt's girlfriend Trish reads his work in progress & discovers how he's been secretly infatuated over you, she's outraged even though it was depicted earlier on in the comic that she could tell he was attracted to you. How did your relationship with her differ before & after the strip?
Dani: It didn't really differ for the most part because I hadn't seen the comic. I suppose it's interesting to me that Trish had some idea he was infatuated with me during the course of the story & she never let me know. That would've also coincided with the course of our working relationship but it never came up between us. She never once inserted any mention of the fact that her boyfriend was attracted to me. We saw each other 5 days out 7 for about 6 weeks & during that period of time, on a weekly basis, the 3 of us (with Jeannie, another coworker) would go out at the end of the week & have drinks, a relatively close relationship. I was already a bit close to Jeannie so the 2 of us got to know Trish a bit better. Trish occasionally confided in me her frustration & unhappiness with Joe & wondered what to do about it. In retrospect, one of the funny things, in terms of the content of their relationship revealed in the comic, was that at the time she was sort of feeling like nothing about the relationship was any good except for the sex. Jokingly, that was her sentiment, but it was really obvious to both Jeannie & I that she had a lot of pent-up anger towards him, which he wasn't even allowing her to give value to. So this is the kind of information I was getting from Trish. All the while it was completely unbeknownst to me that he had been creating a comic in which I'd been put right in the middle of those issues. I always assumed it was unbeknownst to her at that point too. Trish was also insecure about the sort of things that Jeannie & I were trying to help her through; to be stronger about defending her own identity & not give Joe so much power. All the things she's sort of portrayed as in the comic; nagging & creating some of his unhappiness, I think she was in danger of internalizimg that & we urged her to separate herself from it because she was insecure about it. If she had found out about me during the course of that time I think I would've known because her relationship with me probably would've changed. I imagine she would've shown some sort of discomfort. But at the same time, even before we started working together, the comic portrays her as being aware of the fact that I'm someone he notices on the street. But that never came up between us. After we worked together I think I saw her just a couple of times & haven't seen her since. I always imagined that she probably would've gotten out of the relationship sometime soon because it didn't seem repairable at all. I can say on a one-sided level, after reading the comic for the first time, Trish was definitely at the top of my head as someone in my thoughts. What weirded me out the most was the question of how it must have affected her & how much it affected the course of their story, their life unfolding in this comic as the episodes fit together, one thing affecting the other. I definitely thought about Trish & wondered how our relationship would've been altered had I been aware of any of this at the time & it kind of troubled me. From what I remember, she was always dissatisfied about how she was portrayed in the strip. If she was portrayed in a more likable or respectable way, it's all relative, but she probably would've been more OK about being in the strip. She didn't seem to want to be there period. She was annoyed that her repeated requests to be left out of it were just completely ignored & not taken seriously. I imagine many comic characters are based on composite images of people we know & they're not always necessarily clearly autobiographical. But if I were writing biographically, personally I'd feel more comfortable having my subjects' blessings & finding out their feelings about their representations before publishing it. But in regards to the method in which I finally found out I was in Joe's comic, & knowing how Trish was an unwilling participant, I've just sort of taken it for granted that ethical treatment doesn't figure very often in the medium. The whole issue of Joe putting Trish in the strip without anything close to a blessing & then also putting me in there without even asking. I wonder how many others he's gotten disapproval from.
Snubdom: In the comic, Joe Matt's cartoonist friend Seth advises him that it's better to lie than tell a girlfriend you've been attracted to another girl or what your masturbation fantasies are but Matt argues that honesty is the best policy in a relationship. This same honesty was transposed onto a relationship with the public once a tell-all comic emerged from it. Did this noble stance endear you in any way to his cause or did his so-called "honesty" come across as exploitative?
Dani: Definitely exploitative on a simple concrete level. He represented me in published images & is making money from it. The least Joe, or his publishers, Drawn & Quarterly could have done was send me a complimentary copy of the book rather than have me find out the hard way I was implicated. There was no honesty with regards to me. I definitely don't see it as any kind of noble stance in terms of laying the story out on the page. I'm implicated in elements of Trish's being distraught whether the role I play in unintentionally mediating their relationship was for better or worse. There are connections between her nonpermission & my nonpermission like my complete lack of access to voice an opinion, whether it would've been "OK, this is OK with me, go right ahead, no hard feelings" or, "I'm damn outraged & want to sue you & don't publish these images" or whatever. I had a range of concerns like "can you have some respect for the way I feel or at least acknowledge the way I feel if you're going to put me there?" All those kinds of issues. I think she had access inside their relationship to vocalize those issues but he just didn't take her seriously. But I never had access, particularly after it was already out there. I'm not motivated enough to track him down & say, "hey buddy, you big loser, you poor bastard, you fucking bastard," whatever. All I can do after the thing's out is complain or sue. I mean, it's been recommended to me that I could probably sue him even though he changed my name. It never even occurred to me to do that. I don't know whether there are any precedents for that kind of thing. To me, it seems problematic because it's a creative narrative & it's ink on paper as opposed to photo images. I'm not so interested in pursuing that, but it makes me laugh that it may have been a possibility. I probably would've been more interested in pursuing it in the immediacy of my first contact with the comic, because I initially felt really strongly against it. I probably would've wanted that option back then but I could care less now.
Snubdom: During a daydream sequence, you appear in Joe Matt's bedroom offering to help him masturbate but he spares you from any indiscretions, declaring you too perfect to degrade yourself for his "cheap fantasies." Did this reassure you in any way or did it just seem like a cheap shot at offsetting the fact that you were the lurid object of his desires & he had ulterior motives for preserving your dignity?
Dani: It elevates me & it's slightly annoying but I think it's mostly an attempt at taking some of the luridity out of him. In a fantasy sequence that appears earlier in the comic he goes all the way with other girls. That, juxtaposed with this scene makes it therefore unnecessary to go all the way with me because if he needed some portrayal of that kind of fantasy, he's already put it out there, over the top. And it foreshadows this possible scene with me, but he's gotten all the gratuitous stuff out, so no need to repeat it. So it's convenient the way those 2 scenes are connected.
Snubdom: Joe Matt obviously retained the masculine nature of your name "Dani" with the pseudonym "Frankie" in the comic so it could ring true. How did you feel about such a thinly veiled protection of your identity & do you think this halfhearted effort was made to avoid legal repercussions?
Dani: I'm the only one with a pseudonym.
Snubdom: He found you the most unapproachable.
Dani: It was probably just to protect himself from whatever my reactions might be. Now we know. By all respects, everyone thinks it's me & it clearly is me. The entire narrative is truth-based. To a certain extent I think it's distorted but most of the events & situations actually happened & I know that for a fact & everybody else does, so it is weird that he even bothered to change my name. I think that stems mostly from his own fear. After all that "honesty" he couldn't go all the way.
Snubdom: Joe Matt made a great deal about how "Frankie" was such an awful name (presumably because of its masculine nature which "Dani" also holds) & he could never go out with girl named like that. Despite declaring you "too perfect to degrade yourself for his cheap fantasies," he seemed not only to feel comfortable deriding your name, but also passing judgment on a man (Efrim of Godspeed You Black Emperor) that he's put off by that he sees you walking with, by muttering "Christ, what a gorilla & he looks like the jealous type too." How was your response to this? How was the man's response?
Dani: He was offended. He found it insulting. His feelings were much more acute & defensive but he was furious to say the least, about how absurd the characterization was. One; his likeness was so cheesy, & two; this characterization as someone who's jealous & possessive, the summation of his character as a big beefcake who has no words & no living expression on his face, as a blockhead to be afraid of, it was just a really, really flat characterization. That little section is telling of Joe's position. It drives his plot. It's one of the most distorted corners of the whole picture, of the whole comic to me. But it's purpose is simply to position him as a persecuted victim. It's definitely one of the spots where he uses the most creative license in creating an untrue version of events.
Snubdom: From a narrative perspective, the comic is interesting in that what transpires within the story changes the course of events as the story takes place (like when Trish discovers the portion about you, it alters their relationship). Your objectivity towards the comic may be compromised, being a key player in the story, but has the passage of time allowed you in any way to distance yourself from it & find a renewed appreciation for it, as, if nothing else, a time capsule for nostalgia's sake, back to a certain period in your life? Or has Matt's skewed take on events irreversibly perverted the truth & tarnished your reminiscences?
Dani: I'm able to look at his work now & find some appreciation for the visual aspects of it, if not the story-lines & his characterization of himself as what I consider to be an uninteresting person. Make that less than uninteresting, considering my personal knowledge of him. I have very little respect for him but I can't say that I hate his work as much as I used to. Time capsule? I definitely wouldn't want this episode to be a time capsule for that period in my life. I've got better nostalgic icons for that period, but it is interesting that whenever I think of this work and/or see images of it, it performs some sort of reflection-trigger to, not necessarily those specific moments about some of these people I was far from friends with, but it does throw me back to that neighborhood & that period of time in my life & it's weird to have something like this do that when it's not at all created by me & it's not just a simple object that belongs to me but something completely from somewhere else. Since it contains me, it does have some value to me & makes me reminisce on that period. I can laugh at it but it's also moreso a reminder of the time I actually finally found the comic than the period of time portrayed in the comic, which I guess was a couple of years later. It's reminiscent of my first couple of years in Montreal & having something so strange happen in bar where someone I recognize that I hadn't yet become friends with says to me, "I recognize you from a comic book." You know, I always go back to that first moment & that's a funny story. I was seriously overwrought by certain issues & now they're much farther removed from my reality. But there's definitely a long-lasting tarnish.
Snubdom: When you think back on Trish & Jeannie does the comic unavoidably interfere?
Snubdom: So it has affected your reminiscences & not in a good way.
Dani: No, not in a good way. If I ever come across Trish or Jeannie again this'll be my first opportunity to engage on the topic with either of them. That's the unknown further part of this story, as to how the comic has affected my life. Heretofore, I've only ever discussed it with people who were not affected by the story at all, just friends seeing it from a completely different perspective. Some things have been irreversibly affected by this portrayal, such as the possibility that I may have had a different future with Trish, which I'll never know about. The reason we lost touch was possibly because of her finding out about Joe's infatuation with me, which I wasn't made aware of. Those kinds of things.
Snubdom: She might not want to dredge up memories you're unavoidably rooted in.
Interview © 2001, Rick Trembles
July 19, 2001
RICK TREMBLES MOTION PICTURE PURGATORY EXHIBITION AT LA GALERIE FOKUS! (Click image for larger version)
I wallpapered the Fokus with about 125 of my Motion Picture Purgatories, filling up the whole main wall from top to bottom. It looks pretty crazy. It's quite the assault on the eyeballs. Wish I could do a word count on them all. At the official vernisage Friday, my band The American Devices will be playing an "unplugged" set without drums or vocals because the place is too tiny to accommodate amps. Considering our reputation for being a loud band, rehearsals have been sounding surprisingly great with Andre Asselin on standup bass & bow. Chris Burns is also gonna sit in with 12 string guitar. Opposite the main wall I put up a sample Purgatory from start to finish (pencils, inks & print) accompanied by the following text:
"Ordinarily, I start off by sitting through whatever weekly Hollywood turd the Montreal Mirror orders me to "review" with flashlight & notepad in hand to annoy the hell out of whatever theatergoer's unlucky enough to sit next to me. I write my text via word processor & transcribe on paper (no I don't have a cartoon letter font, they're all hand-scribbled one by one). I draw pencil roughs & then retrace in refined inks w/a light table. All original art's on 11X17 inch white bond inked black w/PILOT hi-Tecpoint V7 fine & V5 Extra fine pens. Gray tones (for print versions) & color (for online versions) are done digitally. If some of the 3 years worth of strips opposite this wall look paler than others it's because as time went by blacks gradually got filled in by computer. Occasionally, blank spaces were left for importing outside images. Originals are $50.00 each (frame not included)."
They're going for cheap 'cause I really need to unload a bunch & make some coin, go so buy a couple OK? La Galerie Fokus, July 13th to August 3rd (vernisage July 20th) 68, Ave. Duluth, est., Montreal, (514) 284-6642.
July 12, 2001
INTERVIEW WITH FILMMAKER FRANCOIS MIRON ABOUT HIS LATEST FILM (STARRING ME)! (Pictured below: The official poster for Resolving Power showing some of the dreary obsessions that make my character tick: a wrench, rotten liver in a jar & a map full of incoherent squiggles. I also did the film's animated sequences. Click here for production stills. Click image below for larger version).
Montrealer Francois Miron has been making experimental films for up to two decades & teaching optical printing & technical aspects of filmmaking at Montreal's Concordia University for half as long. Typically, his non-narrative films are drenched in complex optical printer animations (achieved by running film through a cumbersome machine that projects images directly into the lens of a camera for manipulating) & made up of altered found footage. But his latest offering's a departure for him, employing actors to illustrate his atmospheric tale of "the subconscious, the metaphorical, the absurd & the insane." Resolving Power's remarkable soundtrack he claims is "just a mix of different shit with wave editors using a computer. Stretching sound effects, reversing them, piecing bits of different electric sounds for the lightning FX & a bunch of ambiences I created." His soundscape also includes the music of Helios Creed (cofounder of legendary seventies pre-punk/post-punk futuristic/psychedelic San Francisco band Chrome), Jasun Martz (ex-Zappa, classical contemporary) & Peter Namlook (electro-ambient/contemporary). We put a lot of work into this, so go see the world premiere this Monday, July 16th, 9:45 PM at the Imperial as part of Fant-Asia. Coming to an experimental film festival near you!
Snub: Resolving Power peculiarly begins with what vaguely looks like eerie, artificial silhouetted tree leaves gently blowing in the wind. What's the story behind them? How were they done & what do they signify?
Francois Miron: They're hi-contrast film separation elements. They were used to create really complex optical printer color separation effects in an older film. I thought by themselves they looked like moving black & white organic puzzles. I was playing with that footage one day on the editing table & thought, damn, that would make a good intro.
Snub: After some titles, Rick Trembles' eyeball briefly appears, he walks towards the camera & then there's blank black footage for what seems like an overextended period of time. What's the significance of that (the length)?
Miron: Trembles is entering darkness, and/or a very dark film.
Snub: When Trembles picks up a piece of rotten meat on a beach, why were there no sounds of flies buzzing around during the shots of it surrounded by hovering flies? It almost reinforces the "silent" nature of the film. What kind of meat was it? How much did it cost?
Miron: I tried different sounds with that image, including flies, but the visual effect was not what I wanted. Having no sound effects made it more clinical. That's what I wanted for that. A clinical feel. The meat is cow liver, it cost like a dollar.
Snub: There's crowd sounds after Trembles picks up the piece of meat & puts it into a jar. Who are these people supposed to be?
Miron: People at an amusement park.
Snub: The meat flashback is followed by a shot of Trembles walking across a vast decrepit outdoor hall & into a doorway. Trembles is quite tiny & difficult to distinguish when viewing the film on video. Was this shot calculated more for 35MM widescreen where the character is easier to discern? Are there any more instances that struck you where the film differs from what was originally conceived, viewed in an unintended format such as video?
Miron: Yeah. All my films are constructed to be viewed in their original film format, in this case even more so. It was a huge effort to get this film done in 35mm, everything about it is meant for theaters. I never make any production changes even if I know it won't have the same effect on video, or even if the effect will be lost. I choose to preserve the stronger impact for the big screen.
Snub: When Trembles comes bursting out of a door too small for him, a rat can be seen in the background, but again it seems quite small & difficult to make out. Was this another instance of a shot being calculated more for 35MM widescreen where small elements are easier to discern?
Miron: Yes, but it's also subtle on the screen. I did want people to think; "what was that in the back? is it a rat?"
Snub: Resolving Power comes across as a contradictory mix of stark/bleak realism & film fantasy artifice. This is evident in the unnatural & almost comedic way Trembles twiddles the knobs of the control room. Why?
Miron: To be honest, I don't quite fucking know why. Clarity confuses me.
Snub: Trembles nods to Howard Chackowicz's character after receiving a scroll of "instructions" from him in two separate camera angles. Rather than matching on action by ending his first nod midway & cutting to the next nod shot halfway through its movement, the second shot resumes the nod from the beginning again before his head has begun to nod. This sort of breaks the smoothness, staggering the gesture & fracturing time & space somewhat by repeating the actions twice from the start. Was this to disorientate viewers in keeping with the peculiar timeline of a film filled with continuous flashbacks & reminisces? Or was it an homage to a particular technique?
Miron: Neither, I just felt like doing that. I thought it added to the surreal. It broke the time into surreal time. It's been done before in other films.
Snub: A sign labeled "UNTEGESHOB" appears. What does that mean?
Miron: Underground or lower level. I put it in German because they play my films constantly over there.
Snub: What was the significance of the squirming worms shot close-up?
Miron: I wanted to make an organic link-insert image-flashback to the map.
Snub: What kind of demon is Michael Will's character portraying?
Miron: The best way to answer this question is that we don't know what Michael Will is in the movie, except that he's a demon with flowers in a nightmare.
Snub: What was the location for the ancient dusty basement?
Miron: It was in a local schoolhouse rumored to be over 100 years old called FACE. The giant antique furnace during our long tracking shot had also been used differently in an American B movie. We found some old gels (lighting accessories) down there when we were shooting.
Snub: An anonymous hand shuts Trembles into the "Negative Room." Who was that hand supposed to represent? An adversary of some kind?
Miron: It's the hand of evil, betrayal & hypocrisy. It would appear that in the story it's Howard Chackowicz's character but it's not. As far as the Chackowicz & Michael Will characters are concerned, they only exist in dreams. That hand is NOT part of a dream sequence.
Snub: Wailing voices can be heard inside the "Negative Room" (the music of Jasun Martz). Are these the voices of hell?
Miron: Yes, kind of. They're supposed to be the voices of Michael Will's demon character. Actually, during shooting, before lights had been set up, gaffer Eric Gaucher went in there. It'd been a very long day & I told him to go set up lights there. He was in the dark trying really hard to get a clamp attached to something & he came up to me & said "am I in hell?"
Snub: When Trembles pulls down the switch to shut off the (literal, visual) negativity of the "Negative Room," the shot of the switch being pulled down is already no longer in negative mode. Was this to put across that the mere intention of desiring that the room no longer be negative was foreshadowing oncoming positivity before the switch was even pulled down?
Miron: Yes. I also have a dissolve of that shot from negative to positive but it looks like shit. The straight on positive shot works best.
Snub: The inclusion of icons triggering flashbacks to sequences taken both from the film thus far (previously seen) & Trembles' memories (new to the audience), suggests these icons are punctuations central to driving Resolving Power. Was there any special significance in the choice of icons or were they selected spontaneously as the film was underway?
Miron: No they were planned way before the film got made. They were symbols chosen for aesthetic reasons, the symbolism being nonsense.
Snub: The icons that emerge from the "Negative Room" light-box appear in this order: a wrench, rotting meat in a jar, the instructional squiggle-scroll & a corsage of roses. During the animated sequence of Trembles pulling things out of a toybox, the order of icons is: a miniature electric tower, a wrench & a functioning oscillator. Is there any method to this madness?
Miron: Yes, a very precise one that I will explain in the form of a quote by John Balance of Coil (a spin-off of Throbbing Gristle); "Someday your eggs will hatch & very strange birds shall emerge."
Snub: An alarm goes off in the control room & Trembles panics as the footage alternates between negative & positive. This is reminiscent of the negative room, where troubling flashbacks get triggered. Reminiscences in general seem to be associated with negativity, representing trauma for Trembles. What was Trembles' motivation for being so reluctant to reminisce, necessitating hostile outside factors to jog his memory?
Miron: In Ingmar Bergman's Hour Of The Wolf (1968) a man talks about guilt & all of a sudden starts walking on the ceiling. The motivation for my character is the same; mnemonic, adaptive, environmental gestures of madness. Of course I don't have the pretension to compare myself to Bergman, that would be ridiculous, but this film of his is one of my favorite films of all time.
Snub: Trembles begins to twitch out of control & the ambient soundtrack shifts to a more reassuring familiar rock mode, changing the characteristics of the film's environment somewhat. Is this an homage to any particular genre (the inclusion of rock on a soundtrack)?
Miron: It's an attempted subtle homage to 60's and 70's Italian horror films.
Snub: What's the significance of the climactic exploding eye?
Miron: Trembles has been radiated. Maybe this is a nuclear plant, maybe he will radiate everyone. One of the early original titles for the film was "The Radiated" after a Helios Creed song.
Snub: Did Resolving Power originate w/Creed's work having a bigger role in it?
Miron: No, he's seen my shit and likes it. In an earlier film of mine, Evil Surprise (1994), I used his music. For this film he said I could use anything I wanted, anytime.
July 5, 2001
POETRY CORNER: JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN'S LENNY BRUCE IS DEAD
Last time I saw Jonathan Goldstein was when he was packing up to move to Chicago to go work at public radio's This American Life. He was trying to unload stuff he couldn't bring with him. I scored OK. I got some old Penthouse magazines, a tall lamp & lampshade for my living room, an oversized framed color photo of an all-dressed cheeseburger, some nice white plates & a few vintage movie posters (Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968) presently hangs in my bathroom, cleavage protruding from plunging neckline w/2 red-tinted Band-Aids on her neck). Wonder if any of these knickknacks were backdrops to any of his writings one time or another.
I've been living here 3 years & I always complain there's never anything to do or anyone to visit in St-Henri (Montreal). He lived just a few blocks away from me & the only time I ever passed by was when his place was dismantled & packed in boxes. He just put out a book, Lenny Bruce is Dead. He wrote in Montreal for years. Some previously submitted poems to local zine Fishpiss reappear in Lenny Bruce. I never got the poetry section in Fishpiss because most of the poems didn't rhyme. Once, there was a fake poem I liked from a movie so I thought I'd pull a prank on publisher Louis Fishpiss by transcribing it in scratchy, anonymous-looking longhand & plopping it in his mailbox to see if he'd publish it. Sure enough he did & I was proud to see my forgery in print. I bet if he reads this he'll claim he knew all along it was a fake because he's not a very good sport. It was from the drug-crazed beatnik sequence in High School Confidential (1958) starring Mamie Van Doren. I signed it Phillipa Fallon (for the actress that did the excellent recitation) & submitted it to Fishpiss #3:
"My old man was a bread-stasher all his life; he never got fat. He wound up with a used car, a seventeen-inch screen & arthritis. Tomorrow is a drag, man, tomorrow is a king size bust. They cried "Put down pot, don't think a lot," for what? Time, how much, and what to do with it. Sleep, man & you might wake up digging the whole human race giving itself 3 days to get out. Tomorrow is a drag, pops, the future is a flake. Cool a fast short, swing with a gassy chick, turn on to a thousand joys, smile on what happened or check what's going to happen. You'll miss what's happening. Turn your eyes inside & dig the vacuum. Tomorrow: drag."
Goldstein's book doesn't read like a collection of "poems." It reads more like a collection of jokes. But instead of saucy punch-lines you get life's little absurdities, via deceptively unrelated paragraphs (& sometimes even single lines) accentuated by pauses producing peculiarly poignant punctuations. As pages effortlessly pass, we find ourselves following central character Josh through various girlfriends & reminiscences on family & friends (while slingin' junk food working at "Burger Zoo"). Goldstein's compared to Mordecai Richler on the flap (who just died this week). Lenny Bruce is Dead is all laid out in consecutive mini-chunks within consecutive mini-chapters, comic timing conventions manipulated to breeze readers thru a giggle-generating catalog of conundrums, I.E.:
There was a man in the mall who sold Mexican jumping beans. He kept them on a mirror under a bright light. They were little beans and they jerked around on the mirror. Chick said that each bean had a little angel inside and the angel had to shit real bad and that was what made the bean move. They were angels born inside little beans. Those beans looked like jerky little shit nuggets.
He liked jerking off to flappers. These women were all dead but their spirit lived on in his erection and when he came, they died all over again.
Josh blew bubbles from his ass. They were brown & looked like they had smoke in them. He prayed to god they wouldn't pop. It was his first date with Gina and he couldn't believe this was happening. He considered trying to pass it off as some kind of shtick. Someday we will laugh about this he thought.
He applied the flesh-colored lipstick to the tip of his penis.
Excerpts © 2001, Jonathan Goldstein
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