Kool Kats of the Week: DILBERT Does Demonic: Raising Corporate Hell with the Pretty Faces of Shane Morton and Chris Brown

Posted on: May 22nd, 2013 By:

Chris Brown and Shane Morton at The Lab. Photo courtesy of Adult Swim.

When Shane Morton, aka Atlanta’s Renaissance man of horror, and Chris Brown, mad mastermind of Macabre Puppets and the bloody musical SCARLET’S WEB (Dad’s Garage), first got involved with Adult Swim‘s  YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL, they immediately realized this grotesque and groovy gig was their dream, or should we say nightmare, job. The initial assignment was special effects makeup, but the show didn’t have an art director yet. It’s a story Shane has already told colorfully in several articles, but he asked them for a couple of days to film a make-up test to prove the pair could transform humans into demons in 45 minutes, then he got to work on sketches and models. Being old-school Ray Harryhausen fans, Shane and Chris wanted to do as much as possible with miniatures, but budgets and technological advances dictated a balance between digital effects for lava flows and heads spinning like Linda Blair and the old ways for blood spurts and HR Geiger-esque urinals. Still, the pair didn’t have to do much to convince everyone to let them take over much of what perhaps a little ironically is called the “practical” effects for the series.

“Maybe we were thinking too much about that,” Shane says, speaking about his passion for traditional effects from the monster FX Lab he’s built south of the city at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse. The undead Halloween attraction is one of many horror events he has nurtured locally and is a big force behind the transformation of Atlanta into Halloween-town, USA. “We did sculpt and cast all the horns themselves,” he continues. “We didn’t want to be just painting people red and sticking horns on them, and we didn’t want anything store-bought.”

Ever since the Middle Ages, comedies about deals with the Devil have proven a surefire hit. Think about such Retro cult classic movies as BEDAZZLED (The 1967 version, of course, starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore) and POOR DEVIL (TV, 1971), starring Sammy Davis Jr.  and Christopher Lee). YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL mixes in-your-face crassness and generous gore with office comedy, reimagining Hades as a contemporary cubicle-ridden setting. Demon Gary (played by Henry Zebrowski) is dedicated but far too much of a screw-up to earn a promotion. Yet it’s hard not to empathize with the well-meaning “associate” because we all like to complain about our bosses, but his, well, has to be worst because it’s Satan. The original live-action series is created and directed by Dave Willis (AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE, SQUIDBILLIES) and Casper Kelly (SQUIDBILLIES, HARVEY BIRDMAN: ATTORNEY AT LAW; STROKER & HOOP). The final installment of the six-episode run airs this Thursday May 23, 2013, at midnight.

Henry Zebrowski stars as Gary the demon in YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL. Photo courtesy of Adult Swim.

At the Silver Scream Spookshow, Shane’s homage to Retro spook shows of old, he regularly performs magic tricks as Horror Host with the Most Professor Morte. Whether transforming humans into monsters with make-up, conjuring up crazy sets or engineering a splattery gross-out nosebleed, Shane views his effects work equally as magic. A consummate showman, he “performs” for the crew and ultimately the TV audience. “When there is special effects stuff going on, everybody wants to be around to watch it,” Shane says. “You’re getting to see the trick in the magic trick. You’re getting to peek behind the curtain.”

Part of the magic on YOUR PRETTY FACE was having to be prepared for the unexpected every day on the set. The script served only as a loose guide because a great deal of improvisation happened, too, Shane says. With that in mind, he kept a “library of prosthetics” on set. At the AZA Lab prior to shooting, he crafted multiple “wounds and hanging eyeballs and sets of teeth, because you never know what these people are going to ask for.”

Shane and Chris started each day by getting the cast into make-up. As simple as it may seem to paint someone red and stick on horns, Shane notes that because the body is organic–yeah, people sweat and rub against things–there’s a nonstop need for  reapplication. “We were constantly touching up their noses, painting in their ears, touching their beards up, molesting them all day long,” Shane says. “You have to get intimate.”

That process became trickier when on location, such as for the third episode, Take Life By the Horns,” in which Gary found himself fallen into a ravine. That shoot involved dodging poison ivy and copperhead snakes and having to rappel camera equipment down the side of a mountain, Chris recalls.

After make-up, the pair would launch into preparing the special effects and any additional props needed for the day. Sometimes that could be blood or pus or a potion of extreme projectile vomit, also needed for the ravine shoot. “We had a limited amount of time, so I literally used a sump pump, like you use to bail water out of your basement,” Chris says. “I put together a big plunger and a giant syringe, and then opened the nozzle to spew out a rainbow collection, which included stew, cream of mushroom soup, I made some gelatin and crunched up into chunks. The smell quickly turned rancid so it even smelled like vomit.” In addition, Gary broke his leg from the fall down the cliff, and Chris had to create nauseating pus to spew from the wound. Yes, it did involve black blood, red blood and tapioca pudding!

Satan (Matt Servitto) gets a touch-up from Shane Morton. Photo courtesy of Adult Swim.

Shane and Chris are used to working wonders on a tight budget and schedule whether it’s for local theater or DEAR GOD! NO!, an over-the-top neo-exploitation movie involving bikers, Bigfoot and a Nazi mad scientist which scored awards at grindhouse festivals across the nation. While the budget was not huge for YOUR PRETTY FACE, it was much larger than the typical indie which allowed such treats as Chris was crafting Satan’s legs out of actual yak fur rather than a used gorilla suit. “The original talk was that Satan would be fat, over-the-hill, and extra lecherous like the demon in LEGEND (1985) as if time has caught up with him,” Shane says. “We were really gung ho for that, but we loved the look he ended up with.”

A secret ingredient underneath Satan’s furry legs was spandex tights, that could easily be changed out if Matt Servitto, the actor who plays Satan, felt sweaty. A lycra lining gave four-way stretch which, as Shane notes, even allowed Matt to do David Lee Roth kicks in a photo shoot. As for costume maintenance, well, “it was like combing out a big dog,” Chris says.

Perhaps Shane’s favorite set pieces are the aforementioned H.R. Geiger-esque urinals, the bowls of which needed to accommodate the heads of demons who displeased Satan. Yeah, he pees on them, including sometimes poor hapless Gary. Originally they were supposed to be clean, standard urinals, but then Shane had the crazy idea to make them scary: “Everything in hell is monsters, so let’s make the urinals monsters, too!”

Shane Morton at work on Claude (Craig Rowin), Gary's over-dedicated intern in YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL. Photo courtesy of Adult Swim.

Shane went home and crafted a miniature model, brought it in, and got the greenlight to create a urinal that looks like an extra-large facehugger. He toyed with various color ideas but finally decided that the bathrooms otherwise would be spotless in Hell.

The demonic duo were impressed that the show really did follow through with Satan actually peeing on the demons’ heads. Of course, even with a program that prides itself on shock value, some things inevitably didn’t make the final cut. For example, Satan won’t poop on Gary’s face, even though the scene was filmed. “It will end up on DVD maybe,” Shane says hopefully. “Somebody getting pooped on or an arm hacked off is a good day at work! It keeps the energy up.”

Satan’s office is packed with props created by Shane and Chris, though it is not perhaps quite the devilish “greatest hits” collection that they originally envisioned. Instead of the trophies and plaques that have become de rigeur in executive offices, Shane wanted to include on the shelf Eve’s apple, Christ’s crown of thorns and Hitler’s head in a jar. And clearance couldn’t be gotten for Wall of Shame photos of Satan flashing a big grin with dubious celebrities such as David Hasselhoff and the Octomom. Still, those who look carefully will see many subtle Shane and Chris touches such as faces of tortured souls on the steel balls that click back and forth on the Devil’s desk. “Everything is pumped up a little bit because after all we are in hell,” Shane says. “Even the elevator switch looks like something scary.”

In other words, Shane and Chris had one of a helluva good time. At an apartment location, some little old ladies told the crew “they were going to pray for us because we were doing the devil’s work,” Shane says. “We joked every day and maybe it did get a bit old but ‘it’s really hell getting all this done today!’”

Shane holds up his own head, a prop he crafted for DEAR GOD! NO! Photo courtesy of Adult Swim.

As the season draws to a close, the pair are now just waiting to hear the final ratings and whether the show gets greenlit for a second season. If yes, they’re hoping for a bigger budget and the chance to play around more with more practical special effects over CGI–“to raise the bar,” as Chris says. “If we end up getting multiple seasons, it’s only going to get more extreme,” he adds. And maybe there’ll even be a cameo for that giant spider with the humungous nut-sack hanging on his back that turned out to be expensive to cast.

In the meantime, Chris will be working on the script for a $3-4 million movie version of SCARLET’S WEB. And Shane recently wrapped the indie feature, TALES FROM MORNINGVIEW CEMETERY. In it, he appears as Professior Morte, fulfilling the Cryptkeeper role, introducing the segments and holding the show together. He’s also involved in preproduction with director Jimmy Bickert for FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS, the much-anticipated sequel to DEAR GOD! NO! It will be filmed in 35mm widescreen hopefully by the end of 2013, he revealed, and include a lot more special effects and monsters. Look for Shane, or rather his Professor Morte alter-ego, at the 11th Annual Rock n Roll Monster Bash at the Starlight Six Drive-In on Sunday June 2. The movies this year are THE DEVIL’S RAIN (1975) and EVIL DEAD 2 (1987), not to mention six bands, scary shopping and Monstrosity Championship Wrestling! [ED. Note: Watch for Retro Reviews of both movies next week]

Editor’s Note: Shane and Chris are just a few of the talented local folk streaming by in the end credits of YOUR PRETTY FACE. More ATLRetro friends include producer Linda Burns (V/H/S, THE SIGNAL), set decorator/property master Laurie Garner, who’s played bass in so many Atlanta bands (She-Monster and Vietnam to name a few), and the indomitable Eddie Ray (SATANIC PANIC BAND OUT OF HELL and a previous Kool Kat to boot!).

ALSO: Learn some of the make-up secrets Shane Morton used in YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL at his Monster Make-up Class on Sunday May 26 in his Lab at AZA. For more details, visit the Facebook Event Page here.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Mad, Mad Music Radio: Col. Bruce Hampton Takes His Eclectic Talents to the Airwaves with Radio Free Radio on AM 1690

Posted on: May 13th, 2013 By:

Radio Free Radio; Hosted by Col. Bruce Hampton and Michael Holbrook; 7 p.m.;  first and third Thursdays of each month

By William Ashton
Contributing Writer

For a self-proclaimed “shy accountant,” Col. Bruce Hampton has made a spectacle of himself for more than four decades. He’s acted in an Oscar-winning movie (SLING BLADE [1996]), made 15 records (or so) and helped organize the H.O.R.D.E. concert tours of the ‘90s, but he’s mostly known as a performing musician, playing thousands of shows since the late 1960s.

A big, genial man, Hampton had a heart attack a few years ago, but he still plays 150 shows a year. He says that, at age “66 and above ground,” that’s plenty. “If I could go on at 8 p.m., I’d do more, but a lot of southern clubs start at 11,” he says. “It’s a young man’s game.”

Col. Bruce Hampton’s music is an unpredictable blend of blues, jazz and psychedelic rock, with a dash of funk and what not. Before the term “jam band” was coined, Hampton was jamming; he’s played  guitar and sang with The Hampton Grease Band, Aquarium Rescue Unit and Fiji Mariners (among others). A touchstone for many musicians in the jam-band circuit, Hampton was there for all but one H.O.R.D.E. tour in the ‘90s, he recalls.

“The only time I missed [H.O.R.D.E.] was when I went out with [the late blues musician] Hubert Sumlin one year, which was fine. We were in Louisiana one night when Sumlin offered to take us to the Crossroads [the intersection along Mississippi’s Highway 61 where blues legend Robert Johnson was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil]. We declined very quickly,” Hampton says. “It was a long way away.”

Col. Bruce Hampton (his legal name, he says) has recently taken his talents to the airwaves, playing music and sharing stories on AM 1690’s “Radio Free Radio” with former Hampton Grease Band member Michael Holbrook.  The show airs at 7 pm on the first and third Thursdays of each month.

“I’ve done occasional programs on AM 1690. Jon Waterhouse (from the radio station) asked us to do it every other week,” he said. “I do whatever Jon tells me.”

Hampton and Holbrook seem to have thousands of stories about life on the road, touching on encounters with everyone from Frank Zappa and John Lennon to Muddy Waters and Chet Atkins.

Playing with G.E. Smith led to Hampton’s sitting in on-air with the SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE band one night a couple of decades ago, when Smith was “SNL’s” musical director. Longtime friend Billy Bob Thornton cast Hampton in SLING BLADE – and Hampton’s band performs in Thornton’s forthcoming movie JAYNE MANSFIELD’S CAR.

Sometime this year, Atlanta fans may see Col. Bruce playing regularly at the long-shuttered Avondale Towne Cinema. Hampton is among those meeting with Avondale city officials, with a goal of reopening the venue under new management, he says.

“A couple of lawyers from Alabama are planning to reopen the venue, and music will certainly be a part of it,” said Hampton, who saw wrestling matches at the Avondale landmark when he was growing up in the Decatur area. “I’ll try to play there twice a month and have guest artists. We had a similar (residency) at Brandywine in the ‘90s and it was a huge success.”

Another successful outlet for Hampton’s talents are the summertime Jam Cruises, which gather assorted musicians – many from New Orleans – for musical voyages through the Caribbean.

Hampton seems surprised that he likes the cruises. “I dislike Disney World. I hate just about everything with a lot of people involved, but this is the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “There’s food 24 hours a day, music 20 hours a day. The musicians are the cream of the crop. It’s fascinating and great.”

Hampton’s own fascinating story is the subject of a 2012 documentary, BASICALLY FRIGHTENED: THE MUSICAL MADNESS OF COLONEL BRUCE HAMPTON; the DVD (with new bonus live footage) has recently gained distribution through Amazon.com after a couple of years of limited availability.

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Kool Kat of the Week: La Schaffer Ain’t Got That Thing, If She Ain’t Got That ElectroSwing!

Posted on: May 7th, 2013 By:

La Schaffer gets a bit anachronistic. Photo courtesy of La Schaffer.

Here at ATLRetro, we’re not so sure what to think about the new cinematic version of THE GREAT GATSBY, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Baz Luhrmann which hits theaters this Friday, but if it inspires more Roaring ’20s-themed social events, we’re ready to do the Time Warp back to the Charleston again. We’ve also been hearing quite a bit about a newfangled, Retro-inspired sound called “ElectroSwing”! Then we heard about Madame Nocturne’s ElectroSwing Soiree at Gatsby’s Prohibition Nightclub and Dessert Lounge in Midtown on Thursday May 9. Well, it didn’t take us long to decide that its organizer La Schaffer would sure make a swell Kool Kat of the Week.

La is relatively new to the event planner world, but has a background in design and nouveau cirque that intrigued us further. She has a pretty awesome day job as graphic designer for the Center for Puppetry Arts and is about to head to Georgia Tech this fall to pursue a master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction. She also works with the wacky Dad’s Garage troupe, performs with ELEMENT Acrobats + Circus Artists and helps out with marketing for Imperial OPA.

We caught up with La lately to find out more about her fabulous creative life and this week’s soiree. Here’s what she had to say!

ATLRetro: ElectroSwing is a rising new musical trend with events springing up around the nation. For the uninitiated, what is it and how does it relate to vintage swing music?

La Schaffer: ElectroSwing mixes swing and jazz with modern beats to create something that feels both old and new simultaneously. Often, the swing elements used are sampled straight out of the Big Band era, but they’re made to be a bit more accessible to a modern crowd when mixed with electronic dance music. ElectroSwing artists who create original compositions do an incredible job of recreating the core components of good old fashioned jazz and swing, so sometimes it’s hard to tell if something is old or new, and that’s part of the fun.

Does dancing to ElectroSwing require ballroom lessons?

I sure hope not, or else I’m in trouble! Part of the beauty of the genre is the versatility: You can sort of choose your own adventure and go the swing route, and listen to and pick up those themes, or you can stick to the electronic side and jam out that way. It’s all super catchy, so I think the bigger question is how not to dance around to it, in one way or another!

Gatsby’s sounds like an ATLRetro dream venue. What’s it like inside?

Gatsby’s has a great vibe and some fabulous decor. Much of the furniture is actually vintage. The tables are covered in old newspaper clippings. The lighting is dim and moody – mason jar light fixtures over the bar, red light lamps with dangling crystals, and a dance floor with lighting that can change with the occasion. There are little nooks and crannies to explore, and lots of fun old things on the walls to investigate. It transports you to another time while still being a bit playful. The space can be used for a variety of events since it has a huge dance floor. City of the South Theater even puts on productions there by turning the dance floor into a theater in the round (Here, have a plug for Sordid Lives, running May 11, 17 and 18!). It’s a very cool space to hang out in. It makes you feel a little mysterious.

Why was the 1920s way cooler than now?

As much of a big ol’ nerd and technophile as I am, there is something magical about the simpler days of past eras. I’m terribly guilty of the manufactured busy-ness phenomenon and the dreaded Fear Of Missing Out. Being so connected to everything sometimes makes it hard to concentrate only on what is right in front of us. I imagine it must have been easier to focus on your own experiences and accomplishments to some degree. Then there’s just the whole rebellious teenager phase of America. I’m not sure I’d want to live certain parts it – the smugglin’ and bootleggin’ – but it’s so fascinating to think about and imagine.

Are you a big fan of THE GREAT GATSBY, the book or the 1974 movie? Why do you think F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story is so enduring?

I actually just did a lot of reviewing recently while planning this shindig – reread the book and saw the 1970s movie for the first time. I hadn’t read THE GREAT GATSBY since middle school, when I thought I was just so super cool for carrying around my grandmother’s crackly, yellowed, 1940s paperback copy, instead of the school-issued copy. I certainly got way more out of it this time around. I think, aside from it being such a clear documentation of the era, the story endures the test of time for the same reason tabloids exist: People love train wrecks. It’s comforting to hear stories that are worse than our own mishaps. That aspect is timeless: Its craziness.

La Schaffer. Photo courtesy of La Schaffer.

Do you have any trepidation about the new movie coming out this summer?

Not even at all. I’m pretty confident from what I’ve seen so far that I, personally, am going to love it — I can’t speak for anyone else! I recently re-watched both ROMEO + JULIET (1996) and MOULIN ROUGE! (2001) out of excitement for THE GREAT GATSBY and realized just how bizarre those movies are. I was completely obsessed with MOULIN ROUGE! when it came out. I never really thought about how weird it was until recently, and how both it and ROMEO + JULIET  just require you to sit back, shut up, and accept this random element that it being thrown into an inappropriate setting: breaking out into song, using only Shakespearean English complete with iambic pentameter, or whatever it will be in THE GREAT GATSBY. I’m excited to see what twists he adds.

Who’s Madame Nocturne? I understand she’s a bit of an elusive hostess, not unlike Jay Gatsby?

It’s true! It’s hard to say sometimes if she’ll even show up to her own events. She keeps an eye on the big picture while the rest of us run around and do the dirty work of planning. She’s sort of quiet, but she’s very sweet if you get a chance to meet her. Keep an eye out for a petite lady in a fancy fur coat, which is her trademark.  She certainly will be overseeing the evening from her elevated vantage point, at the very least.

I understand there will be a cirque element as well. Can you talk a little about that and how does the cirque aesthetic dovetail with the 1920s?

It’s good old fashioned entertainment! What’s more ’20s than some razzle dazzle spectacle? It’s beautiful, graceful, and just a little bit dangerous. We’ll have aerial silks and lyra performances by ELEMENT circus artists + acrobats throughout the night.  Some of them may be by yours truly.

How should we dress? Any shopping tips for finding vintage suits or flapper dresses in Atlanta?

Dress however you’d like – whatever inspires you! Show up retro or electro. I expect we’ll see a lot of ’20s,’ 40s, cirque and steampunk-inspired styles, as well as some modern raver-wear, and “normies,” too. All are welcome! I wish I knew where to shop for vintage goodness. My home stock of costumes is embarrassingly abysmal, considering my interests. I must confess that my favorite ’20s dress – a lovely, lacy, drop-waist black and light pink number – is graciously loaned to me by Liz Singleton, the amazing Costume Designer at Dad’s Garage, which is one of my homes away from home. Other places I shop for vintage clothing include my parents’ basement, my friends’ closets and cheap costume websites… Eek.  Sad trombone sound goes here!

La Schaffer. Photo courtesy of La Schaffer.

When you’re not planning 1920s themed soirees, you have what most folks might call a pretty awesome day job as a graphic designer for the Center for Puppetry Arts. Can you share a little bit about what you do there?

Yup! I’ve been the graphic designer for the marketing department at the Center for four years now. I take care of things like ads, postcards, brochures, eblasts and our giant annual Season Guide. We just went through a huge rebranding, so that was quite exciting for me. It’s a great place to be – everyone’s really cool and playful, and it’s very much like a family. Plus, if I ever have a rough day, I can just go up to the museum and hang out with Dr. Teeth for a few minutes. He always knows what to say. I’m actually headed back to school this fall, though, so I’m sad to be leaving, but they won’t get rid of me that easily. I’ll be back to volunteer and generally continue to “contribute” ridiculous “ideas” at inappropriate times.

What other cool things are you up to?

Let’s see. I tend bar at Dad’s Garage; gym hop for aerial silks, tumbling, rock climbing and occasional parkour; help out with marketing for various cool groups around town; go to tons of theater; and travel as much as funding allows!

Will this be the first of a series of Madame Nocturne social events? Is there a Facebook page or Twitter feed we can like/ follow to make sure we don’t miss the next one?

It’s actually her second, but this event is a big step up from her first one. It is possible that this will lead to more, though! It will depend on how the event goes. We’ll see what Gatsby’s thinks. We were lucky enough to meet with The Artifice Club during the planning process, so who knows, maybe she’ll get in cahoots with them somehow, too. You can befriend her here to keep in touch!

Anything else you’d like to add about why folks should definitely come out this Thursday?

The better turnout we have, the more likely it is for Gatsby’s to play ElectroSwing regularly, and I think that would be a pretty great thing to have going on in Atlanta!

 

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Kool Kat of the Week: Watson, The Game Is Afoot! Investigating 221B Con with Founder Heather Holloway

Posted on: Apr 10th, 2013 By:

Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes. Painting by Mark Maddox and used with permission.

By Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

This weekend (April 13-14) marks the inaugural edition of Atlanta’s own “all Sherlock Holmes” convention, 221B Con at the Holiday Inn Select Atlanta-Perimeter at 4386 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. The name is a reference to the famous detective’s address at 221 B Baker Street, London, which is a few blocks from one of H.G. Wells’ apartments as well.

Making his debut in 1887’s A STUDY IN SCARLET, Holmes is one of the most well-known fictional characters in history. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s consulting detective appeared in four novels and 56 short stories written by Doyle, and countless dramatic and derivative works. Holmes fans are legion worldwide, with clubs and societies extant in just about every major city. Currently there are two popular television series airing featuring Holmes and his sidekick Watson in modern settings; the BBC’s SHERLOCK, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes, and CBS’s ELEMENTARY starring Johnny Lee Miller.

ATLRetro spoke with convention organizer Heather Holloway about the lasting impact of Doyle’s creation and to investigate what to expect this weekend.

ATLRetro: Tell me about your personal relationship with Sherlock Holmes. How did you first meet him? What’s your favorite story? Favorite film/television adaptation?

Heather Holloway: Sherlock Holmes and I met about three months into Mrs. Bright’s ninth grade English class.  I was 14, and the assignment was to read “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.”  Mrs. Bright told us how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle always knew the ending of the story before he wrote it so he could properly lay out the deductions and clues. That particular point struck me, as I had never given much thought to the plotting and structure of a story. Afterwards, I decided to read the Canon on my own and was pretty much hooked from there on out!

It is so very difficult to pick a favorite story.  I was recently rereading everything with two of the other directors of 221B Con, and it was pointed out that about two minutes into every discussion I would say ”This is one of my favorites!”  I suppose if I’m made to pick I would go with “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.”  It’s so gothic and creepy, complete with a wronged woman and a man, possibly, buried alive.

Heather Holloway. Photo courtesy of Heather Holloway.

Every time someone asks who is my favorite Holmes, I always say “the one in my head.”  It’s very difficult for me to completely get on board with a TV or film Holmes, because I was first introduced through the stories. I have a platonic Holmes and no one has ever completely lived up.  I suppose that is why my favorite film versions are YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES (1985) and WITHOUT A CLUE (1988).  They aren’t really supposed to be Holmes, so I have no cognitive dissonance.

What about the Holmes stories appealed to you, and what about them has made a lasting impression ?

I think the most important thing I have ever taken from the Holmes stories, and what sticks with me the most, is that prejudice is the death of mind.  Holmes observes, he doesn’t prejudge or allow petty beliefs to interfere with his process.  He takes what he sees at face value and interpolates from there.  If you believe you know the answer before weighing the evidence, you have already lost.  I think it’s a lesson many people today could stand to learn.

It’s been said that Mickey Mouse, Superman and Sherlock Holmes are the most widely known fictional characters in history. More than 100 years later, what makes Holmes relevant to a modern audience? Why has he not only survived, but thrived?

Sherlock Holmes is, to me, the great modern hero. There is nothing immortal or superhuman about his abilities. He has an approachable genius. He never claims others can’t mimic his abilities. While you might not see it at first, after a possibly condescending, explanation you realize that you could have seen it.  Sherlock Holmes will be beloved so long as society admires effort and genius.

Why a Holmes convention?

Sherlock Holmes fans have been banding together for years. The only thing unique about 221B Con is the fact that it is a con.  Most gatherings, while a ton of fun, are more academic in nature; big catered dinners and keynote addresses. The other convention directors and I wanted an event with a more relaxed atmosphere.  We wanted regular fans to be able to speak, not just professors and biographers. Hopefully, we’ve hit a happy medium between fandom and academia.

What will happen at 221B Con? Who are the guests and speakers? How can people get more information?

We have over 40 hours of programming scheduled, including a live podcast by The Baker Street Babes, a performance by the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company and dozens of wonderful panels.  We will be joined by several author guests including the Edgar Award-nominated author Lyndsay Faye.  You can visit www.221bcon.com for more information, or follow us on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.

Lucy Liu as Watson and Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes in CBS's ELEMENTARY.

Finally, it all comes down to this, doesn’t it – Benedict Cumberbatch or Johnny Lee Miller?

Benedict Cumberbatch FTW.

Anthony Taylor is a writer and an expert on retro-futurism, classic science fiction and horror films and television, and genre collectibles. He is the author of ARCTIC ADVENTURE!, an official Thunderbirds™ novel based on the iconic British television series by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. His website is http://Taylorcosm.com.

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Kool Kats of the Week: Shelby Hofer and Stephanie Pharr See Through to the Wacky – and Politically Incorrect – World of a Child’s Imagination

Posted on: Mar 29th, 2013 By:

A truly unique theatrical experience lets you See Through back to the Seventies into the secret life of 10-year-old Jenny Rose at the Erikson Clock in Castleberry Hill. Shows run Thursdays through Saturdays, and the good news is that it has just been extended  through April 6. Toss in the description of a “multilevel, fully immersive theme camp without so much of the mud or the dust” and more than two dozen visual artists, dancers, musicians and actors. The environment is fluid. Things change. No two nights are alike. We hear there’s also food, drink, live music and guest stars as visitors interact with Jenny Rose and her imaginary friends through the rooms that make up her life. And all for just 20 bucks (advance tickets at http://m.bpt.me/event/339179), but be there by 8 p.m.because latecomers won’t be admitted

Well, we’re not exactly sure what’s going on, but it sure sounds like fun. We already knew that Shelby Hofer, artistic director of PushPush Theatre, one of the architects of this adventure and mastermind of Jenny Rose’s character, was a Kool Kat. But to get a bigger picture of all the project’s creative sides, we decided to make it a dynamic duo this week and also catch up with visual designer Stephanie Pharr.

ATLRetro: Who’s Jenny Rose? Shelby, I understand you took part of the inspiration for her from your own childhood in the 1970s. 

Shelby Hofer: yeah, I guess it was the ‘70s. (laughs)  Well, sure, I’m in there. but a lot of other stories and imaginings and ideas – some very present – are in there, too. However, some things from my actual childhood are in the show. Jenny Rose is an extremely curious and precocious kid. She can’t sleep for thinking. We all experience this as a kid. There is no way she is going to sleep, and when everyone says “Not now, Jenny,” or “Go to bed, Jenny,” she builds a world where she can get her curiosities dealt with. In this case it’s a talk show during an adult party, and her guests are imaginary dolls, animals and real people from the party- also in her imagination – but real. Get it?  In her room i have some of my dolls, books, pillows and my brother’s vintage Hulk Hogan action figure, a book about how Mommy had a baby, and an easy bake (same idea, new version). If I can get my act together, I will cook something in there during the show as a party gift.

Stephanie, how did you get involved with See Through, and what excited you about it?

Stephanie Pharr: Sharon Dennehy put together an awesome group of artists to bring See Through to life.  When I was asked to be apart of this curious project, I was excited to explore the concept, to push boundaries but mostly to co-create with artists such as Orion, Kris Pilcher, Patty Lacrete and JD Koth.

Something as cool and different as See Through suggests an amazing anecdote of how it all came together. Shelby, how did it get started, what’s the Erikson clock, and how did you get involved?

SH: I wrote a script called the “Johnny Show” about two little girls – one imaginary, under her bed – having a secret talk show when told to go to bed. I got a small grant from Idea Capital to finalize it, then Tim {Haberger] wrote the “back story” to the party. After some readings of both, some research on immersive theater, hybrid shows with artists – and a longing to do a live version of [PushPush’s] GRFX digital series,which will also feature multi-disciplined artists as part of a much larger narrative – we decided to take the project from a standard stage play and open the door to its evolvement much wider.

We like things that can grow with time, and with more people involved than just us.  We like to get creative minds together to make things that are slightly out of our control. It’s more interesting and keeps us challenged [and] growing. Plus, [PushPush] got a grant from the NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] for our GRFX media project and didn’t want our space costs to eat it up.  So we got the chance last fall, and we moved out of our former tin building that we’d been in for 10 years. It was a beastly month, but we got free of being landlords and facility mangers, and got out into the world more. Literally. We took a show to the Goat Farm (THE BLACK GLASS), to LA and to Berlin.  Also to Castleberry – the Erikson Clock Building. which we absolutely loved. It’s really an amazing historic building, and the Mass Collective and Nelson Gallery folks have done a great job restoring it. I’m in love with the windows. They are SeeThrough. We’ve created a gigantic maze in there – my hub is a writer-director-builder and builds amazing sets – that is super cool.  But when it’s wide open and it’s just the nelson gallery – it’s stunning. We expect to build worlds there a lot now, but we’ll be producing shows at many other places, too, including the Plaza Theatre.

Stephanie, you designed Jenny Rose’s playground. Without revealing any big spoilers, can you give us a little sneak peek into your head as you conceived the installation?

SP: For See Through, I dreamt up an imaginary playroom for a fantastical character, Katherine.  Jenny’s imaginary friend Katherine resides in this trans-dimensional playroom, an experience of a young girl’s warped fears, desires and memory.

With See Through, Shelby, you’re trying to creating something more than theater, more than a gallery show, something new. How do you describe it to people?

It’s a pop-up theater and visual arts experience. It’s a sexy-angle-clothes-mad-at-Jesus-party. It’s a hybrid gallery performance. It’s a celebration of story and family. It’s a community therapy session and a feast for the eyes and soul. It’s about losing your keys and shoes, and the importance of traveling over arriving.

Stephanie, did you, like Jenny, have an imaginary friend growing up, and if yes, how did that influence you creatively?

SP: I played with worms as a child; those were my imaginary friends. They mostly told me lies. I believed them most of the time.

Is the playground interactive, Stephanie? Will audiences get to play in it and how?

SP: Katherine would love to have you over for a cup of tea in her playhouse, no appointment necessary.

What’s the funnest thing to you personally about See Through that either you contributed or someone else did, and why?

SP: The conversations I’ve overheard in the line to “7 minutes in Heaven” are the most entertaining thing about the show thus far.

SH: Well, there’s a hilarious door handle in [Jenny’s] brother’s room and my weird uncle in the adjacent. And there is something special for me in each room that captures the essence of the original themes. This happened organically with each of the artists who are all really great at what they do. I had a fear we’d end up bending the story to what the artists created, but it has not happened that way.  We are all starting to gel and connect our ideas, and each show will be different because of that.

But back to the funny, there’s a question that I sometimes ask in the show which always cracks me up: “If you were a Christian and also a little horny, how would you ask a boy to smoke a cigarette with you?”  This related to the story, but the question is fun, and so are the answers. I wish I could be a fly on the wall for all of it. As Jenny Rose, I’m out there some, but mostly i’m banned to my “bedroom” for the final part of the experience. Tim always cracks up during the section about my rape whistle and how you are supposed to use it. And the “pervert” section. That’s from my childhood, too, and that whole Wayne Williams era. This show will not be for the easily offending. I think we could go much further with the politically incorrect, but it’s not about that really. It will add to the humor for sure, and most fare well, but it’s about something deeper.

Shelby, what exciting can you share about your work with PushPush, or any other solo/group projects, in the near future?

This show is a live beta, if you will, for our GRFX Digital Series. It’s a story about a comic book/digital arts company trying to diversify and evolve into the 21st century. It’s about exploring story and celebrating culture and arts. We are behind here in Atlanta on many levels. This story basically mirrors [PushPush’s] efforts – locally and globally – in exploring story and trying to push boundaries, and the challenges of creating art with many minds. It’s hilarious and meaningful, and if it could be birthed in Atlanta and grow with a worldwide audience, it could be a game changer. Its for the “TV,” but what is that anymore? By next year, I’m hoping we can watch the first episodes on a curated digital network, like with a Roku or something. It’s a big story, and there are three seasons.

It’s very exciting. We did readings of it in Atlanta, LA, Berlin and New York over the winter, and everyone had a blast with it. It’s a rich story that is very important right now, plus it will be a distribution platform for a wide variety of artists, from animators and illustrators, to musicians and dancers. One scene involved a wanna-be writer getting coffee for the staff, talking up his new “story” idea, and winding up smack in the middle of a public dance performance – like walking through Piedmont Park right through a performance and talking way too loud – being danced with, dropping bagels, etc.  He makes a mildly racist comment while shoving a Starbucks muffin in his mouth, and the crowd and dancers come to animated life and interrogate him in a wonderful way.  Anyway, I digress.

Stephanie, what’s next for you?  

I’m moving to Iceland in the spring and hope to start a puppet theater with the money I’ve just been granted from the Merman Manor Folks Fund.  

 

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Kool Kat of the Week: Dancin’ to His Own Boylesque Beat: Russell Bruner Takes Off His Top Hat and More at Southern Fried

Posted on: Mar 20th, 2013 By:

Russell Bruner, Reigning King of Burlesque. Photo credit: Insomniac Studios

Stars both of the Burlesque Revival and of classic tease arrive in Atlanta this week for the third annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival Thurs. March 21-24 at  the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria. Read our full festival preview here.

Just a quick glance at the line-up suggests this year will be just as good performance-wise as the first two, if not even better. But we have to admit that we’re especially excited to see Portland, Oregon’s Russell Bruner, reigning King of Burlesque, at the Free Range Burlesque show on Fri. March 22, after seeing him perform at our own Kool Kat Kitty Love‘s first Sultry Sunday of the year back in January. Male exotic dancers may be notoriously boring, but dressed in a pin-stripe seersucker suit, top hat and debonair curled moustache, let’s just say Russell wasn’t just sexy but sassy–really capturing the spirit of the tease in ways that most male dancers simply don’t. Of course, that underlines the essential difference between burlesque, or in this case “boylesque,” and striptease/exotic dance. Burlesque comes from vaudeville and variety and is all about having fun–which, well, they say gals love a guy with a sense of humor.

A little online research revealed that Bruner is a Vancouver, Washington native and Mormon-raised boy who eschewed football for the cheer squad and comes to burlesque via swing dance (He won a trophy at the Balboa Tempo Marathon in 2006) and a stint as the acrobatic Villain of Portland’s Wanderlust Circus. Needless to say, we had to make him Kool Kat of the Week just to find out more about what drew him from a tech career with a dancing hobby to a professional performer, how he developed his unique style, his influences and his act at SFBF!

So you were working for Intel, your job ended and you ran away to join the circus? Is that basically how your career in burlesque/variety got started? 

Well, the electrical engineering field wasn’t too bad. I enjoyed the work, but kept thinking about how if I was ever going to do performance art, I should do it before I get any older.

Russell Bruner, Master of the Hat and Cane Routine. Photo credit: Adam Scherer.

Just about every lady I know thinks there’s nothing duller than watching a Chippendale. You have a completely different look and approach to dancing off your clothes. To what extent do you think that playing against the expected is the key to your success? 

You’re right, I’m no Chippendale. I cater to the audience as I understand them with what I have to offer. I’m not playing against the idea of the Chippendale; I’m just more turned on by men like Gene Kelly, Tom Waits and Ray Bolger.

Your routines remind me of a cross between Fred Astaire – who also danced with a hat rack in a famous number and you’ve said is an inspiration -to ‘20s comedy cinema actors like Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. Did you grow up on classic movies with dance and comedy numbers or when/how did you discover them? How influential are they on your routines? 

I didn’t see very many movies or see much television growing up, but there was this great movie place that I discovered when I first moved to Portland that’s called Movie Madness. They have nearly everything with Fred Astaire, WC Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, etc. I’ve since taken advantage of the inspiration found there, and in other sources that have old vaudeville acts film.

Were you at all nervous when you first stripped down? Any advice to men who want to do burlesque but are a little shy about it? 

I was nervous about it. Any time I do something in front of an audience for the first time I’m always concerned about things going well. If someone is shy about performing, I think it’s normal and shows they too have concern for doing well.

Who are your inspirations, either male or female, classic or revival, in burlesque?

Aside from the mentioned persons of yesteryear, for males, I am inspired by Leapin’ Louie Lichtenstein, Armitage Shanks, the Stage Door Johnnies, Burlesquire, Tod Alan, Evil Hate Monkey, Mr. Gorgeous, Waxie Moon, Captain Kidd, Curtis Carlyle, Dahktur Sick, Jonathan Burns, Scott Maxwell, Luther Bangert, Nanda, Neil E Dee, Funny Eddie Dot Com, Bobbie Burlesque, Bellini Twins, Charlie Brown the Juggler, Donny Vomit, Scotty the Blue Bunny, Ben Delacreme, Jasper St. James, the cast of Meatfest in LA, the Boxers are Brief Boylesk, William Batty in Wanderlust Circus, and many others. All those are variety performers and not necessarily burlesque. The women that inspire me is a much longer list, so let me get back to you on that when I have more time to list everyone.

Russell Bruner. Photo credit: PEZ Photo.

Where/when was your favorite performance and what made it so special?

My last performance with the Carnivalesque Tour at State Theater in Falls Church, VA, was a recent favorite of mine. It was special because it was the last show of a great run. I had a lot of fun working with Gilded Lily Burlesque & Co., and I really enjoyed the spacious stage with a nice wood floor. I really enjoy performing on stages with nice wood floors.

Without ruining any surprises, what can you tease us about your performance at SFBF? 

I think we’ve already given away that it involves working a hat rack like Fred Astaire. So other than hanging my hat up, you’ll also see some nice cane work.

What’s the secret of coiffing the perfect moustache? 

I use beeswax. I’m constantly running out of it or losing it as I’m on the road a lot, so I’m constantly using different products that have beeswax in it, and I use a woman’s personal trimmer that looks like a vibrator to trim it. And I just futz with it a lot. I stopped making circles at the ends because I can never get them to match so now I do more of a Salvador Dali type of styling.

Finally, what question do you wish someone would ask you to do but they never do? And of course, what’s the answer? 

I do wish I’d be asked to perform my partner acts more often. It’s harder to fit it in the budget for promoters and sometimes the stages are too small, but I enjoy doing partner acts the most. I would love to perform partner dance acts more often on the road.

 

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Kool Kat of the Week: Freaks, Geeks and Playing with Teeth: Aileen Loy Is Ready to Sing the Music of the Devil…Well, Till Someone Loses An Eye

Posted on: Mar 6th, 2013 By:

Aileen Loy, performing with Till Someone Loses an Eye at the Star Bar on Jan. 10, 2013. Photo credit: Jolie Simmons.

ATLRetro has had our eye on Atlanta visual and performance artist Aileen Loy for a long time, and now seems like the perfect time to catch up since her band Till Someone Loses An Eye will be playing Sunday March 10 in a three-month second Sunday series at the Corner Tavern in Little Five Points. The unique nine-person ensemble also will be opening for self-described “rockabilly-porno-metal with a country twist” Fiend Without a Face  and Ricer on Wed. March 6 at the Star Bar. Other band members include  Sam McPherson and Michael A. Robinson (L5P Rock Star Orchestra/DRACULA THE ROCK OPERA); Meredith Greer (The Chameleon Queen); Steve McPeeks (Art of Destruction)Frank Anzalone (Walk From the Gallows)Brigitte Warren (Wicked Geisha Ritual Theatre); and Dee Dee Chmielewski (DRACULA).

To call Aileen an eclectic talent would be an understatement for her passions definitely are eclectic and her talent unquestionable. Her singing voice is unexpectedly deep for a woman and has often been compared to Tom Waits. her costumes are always the very spirit of Bohemian and often feature bones, whether she is in full Mexican skull-face Day of the Dead regalia or  a skintight black pants fronted by a human pelvis and skeletal legs. Still to call her a goth would be selling her short. She certainly displays a passion for the macabre, but she also equally embraces the playful, including the recent Renaissance of carnival/circus culture and even a gypsy steampunk edge. Till Someone Loses An Eye lists its influences as Waits, Nick Cave and Gogol Bordello and its interests as “rusted metal, old time circus culture, cheese sandwiches, small rocks, freaks, geeks and miscreants.”

When she is not making music, Aileen crafts cool, creepy jewelry using prosthetic eyeballs and teeth, and she has experimented in film and just about every type of artistic media. If that’s not multi-talented, we don’t know what is. But enough talking about Aileen, let’s get talking to her.

ATLRetro: Seeing your artwork and listening to your music, we can imagine you being closer to Wednesday Addams than Cindy Brady as a little girl. How old were you when you started down the path to the darker side of creativity, and what pulled the trigger?

Aileen Loy: That’s a fair cop – I was a pretty serious and awkward little girl. I’m not sure how to answer the rest of that question but there was probably a library card involved.

Aileen Loy plays a mean harmonica with Till Someone Loses an Eye at the L5P Halloween Festival 2012. Photo credit: Stephen Priest.

Who/what were some of your early inspirations musically and visually that still influence your work today?

Johnny Cash, Tennessee Ernie Ford, a lot of classical music. My parents had a weird assortment of albums when I was growing up, so I’d go from listening to SONGS OF THE GUIANA JUNGLE, Lord Kitchener, those odd Reader’s Digest collected works of *insert western classical composer or awesome polka guy, here*, lots of Bollywood, Johnny Mathis and a good dose of Kitty Wells, Dolly, Willie Nelson. Rock and roll was kind of special because I got to discover that on my own. Those were the albums we played when the folks were at work or at my friend’s house. Dad went on a “Rock and roll is the music of the devil; we must burn all rock albums and rid the world of it’s horrible influence” phase, so most of my albums stayed in my room hidden safely behind the Mozart and Ravi Shankar. It was an odd time.

Why do you think circus and carnivale culture has made such a comeback and is seemingly in a renaissance in the independent arts scene from burlesque to steampunk to modern-day proud-to-be-freaks shows?

Good question and I don’t really know. I’ve always been drawn to it because it seemed like a magical amorphous place, where one can, not only be exactly what one is, but is encouraged and expected to be fully that – to gain power and reflect competence and heart through what others might view as “freakish.” It’s a place where no one expects tidy and convenient truths. Fantastic stuff. I think I definitely would have felt safer in there as a kid.

Your vocals have often been compared to Tom Waits, which is unusual for a woman. Did you work to create your unique singing voice or did it just come natural?

I’ve always had a little froggy voice, and the vocalists that I really loved had such huge resonance. You could feel them in your chest! So, yeah of course I wanted to sound like them. That would be me, age 5, trying my damnedest to sing Johnny Cash, and eventually I could. I had a voice therapist tell me that I have the physiology for it . My vocal cords are similar to a male’s. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to train that low.

Aileen Loy fronts Till Someone Loses An Eye at 7 Stages during Day of the Cupcake, Oct. 8, 2012. Photo credit: Jolie Simmons

Tell us about Till Someone Loses an Eye, your latest band. Why the name? And what makes this band special and unique musically?

I thought the name was funny. It could be a threat, an eventuality, or an aspiration. The band is personally interesting to me because everyone has such a widely different back story and vibe from one another, and it informs the music in a pretty cool way.

At an Artifice Club performance in fall 2012. Photo credit: James Curtis Barger.

You list some of your collaborators as “heads of mischief.” What do you mean by that?

I was being glib when I wrote that, just trying to fill a page and get it up. But now it’s very apparent to me that it’s absolutely true on its face, no explanation needed. Lovely troublemakers, all of them.

You’re playing twice this week. Wed. March 6 at Star Bar and then Sunday march 10 at Corner Pub, which is going to be a once-monthly event on second Sundays. Do you have any special plans for either show? Why should folks come out?

Wednesday’s show we’re playing with Fiend Without a Face and Ricer, two reasons right there to come. Second Sundays, we have the whole night to do whatever we want. We could play two full sets just us, or have another band open, or musicians sit in for a song or two. This Sunday, the band, Tulsa, is coming through from SXSW and will be doing an early opener set at 8:30.

A vintage stag pocketwatch sporting a prosthetic eye designed by Aileen Loy.

What are you up to in the visual arts right now? Last time I checked you were making beautiful jewelry involving teeth.

Still plugging away, trying to up the scope of the teeth jewelry a bit and take it to a logical conclusion, not sure what that is. I’ve got a few new projects brewing, but it’s still to foggy to talk about them with any kind of intelligence.

What artistic or musical accomplishment are you most proud of so far, and why?

I’m just happy I’m doing it. Neither was particularly supported when I was growing up, so I kind of always found my own way around. Definitely, a late bloomer.

Finally we had to ask. What’s your favorite whiskey and why?

Is there ever a bad whiskey?

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: A Pop Culture Birthday to Remember: DeWitt Dawson on the Lost Art of Wrestling Management and Crowning the Champ of Monstrosity Championship Wrestling Fri. March 1 at Famous Pub

Posted on: Feb 28th, 2013 By:

Our BFF blog Wrestling with Pop Culture is celebrating its second anniversary with the biggest, baddest Monstrosity Championship Wrestling match yet this Fri. March 1 at 9 p.m. at Famous Pub in Toco Hills. The horror-movie-inspired league is crowning its first champion, Professor Morte and the Silver Scream SpookShow gang will be on hand for scary shenanigans and Metal Gaga will be providing unforgettable entertainment with heavy metal versions of Lady Gaga hits. Oh, and lest we forget, you’ll have another chance to win a Pine Street Market box of meat and other fun prizes in the raffle! All that and more for only $10!

The night’s fearsome and fun festivities include semifinal matches pitting the Phantom against “Bona Fide” Fred Yehi and Papa Marko against “The Undead Luchador” Supernatural! Witness a queer bar brawl where previous Kool Kat Johnny Danger and Dragula take their fight against the intolerant Alabama Wolfman and Kentucky Wolfman all over the bar! Quozzy Quozzbourne promises to bring a St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun to the party, Dark Mon vows to preach his own Easter sermon, and well, they tell us there’s much, much more.

We interviewed Jonathan Williams, the monster-mind behind Wrestling with Pop Culture, last year for WWPC’s first birthday, so this time we asked him who else will be the Koolest Kat in the bar. He suggested DeWitt Dawson, better known within wrestling circles as “Double D,” who will be managing Fred Yehi in the MCW tournament and also manages some of Georgia’s other top wrestling talents from Universal Independent Wrestling in Villa Rica, NWA Atlanta in Locust Grove, etc. After all, as Jonathan notes, “managers are kind of a lost art in wrestling.” So it was a special treat to ask DeWitt not just to go behind the scenes for a preview of this Friday’s action but also about what it takes to be a wrestling manager, what he loves about the sport and how he became a master at his craft.

ATLRetro: What role do you play as a manager?

DeWitt Dawson: Simply put. I am the eyes, the ears and the mouth for my charges. I am the best foot forward outside the ring, so all they have to think about is what goes on inside them ropes and turnbuckles. If they need to be somewhere, Double D gets ’em there early. If they need to leave somewhere, Double D gets ’em out before the first blue light hits the scene.

How do you select the men you manage?

I am looking for folks who can benefit from my counsel as much as I can benefit from their talent. Nothing under the sun is free but bad advice, and the ole Alabama Icon don’t give out nothing but golden nuggets of wisdom. So that must be repaid with championships. I am not here to manage folks who might get it, or who can get it done. I only open up my waiting arms to them that need that extra push to not just be good, but to be great.

Who do you manage?

Little darling, my clientele is not hard to validate, but I ain’t going to make it that easy on you. The bricks that are building Double D’s Empire are ever increasing. If you really want to know who I am managing, start taking stock of the titles that sit on the waists of the champions in this state, and I bet you won’t have to look far to see Dewitt Dawson somewhere close by.

What attracted you to professional wrestling?

Honey, you would have a whole heap less work if I told you what didn’t attract me to this business, ’cause I can honestly say that I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in love with professional wrestling. One of my earliest memories is a young Double D huffin’ and weezin’ trying to catch his breath in the wee morning hours having my first asthma attack. I didn’t know up from down or Hell from Heaven, and the only way my lovin’ mama could get me to calm down was to tell me that she bet all the wrestlers that I loved so much were up getting ready to be on TV that Saturday morning. That settled me right down, and you can bet your last money that I went to the emergency room and got back home in time to see Ko Ko B Ware on the TV that morning.

I guess [as] a youngern,  it was the crazy characters that I loved – the Ultimate Warriors, the Stings and the Blue Blazers of the world. As I got a little older, I was infatuated with the talkers – the American Dreams and Nature Boys. After that it was the showmen – The Heart Break Kids, the RVDs and the Eddie Guerreros. These days, it is the driven ones who ain’t making a penny over the bare-ass minimum, but they still go out there and put on a hell of a show for the people – the Shane Marxes, the Jagged Edges and the Demigods of the world.

From whom do you draw inspiration?

My inspiration comes from the folks I mentioned just now and from the red clay and white fields of the great state of Alabama. Everybody wants to know why I sound the way I do and say things that they ain’t never heard before. Simply put, it is because these roots run right through the cotton fields and contradictions of Alabama the beautiful. I draw as much inspiration from my brother The Pretty Boy, and Donnie Tidwell, and my uncles, and my mama nem as I do Dusty Rhodes and Shawn Michaels.

How is wrestling different now than in your youth?

I know a lot of people will tell you how everything has gone plum to Hell with wrestling over the last few years, and they make some fine points. But when you get right down to it, good wrestling is the same as it ever was. You tell a good story, somebody gets their ass whipped, and you do it all again the next week.

Which crowds are your favorite?

A paying one. What other kind of crowd is there? Hell, I got a closet full of shotguns that ain’t as loaded as that damn question. But if you got balls big enough to ask it, I got balls big enough to answer it. The only thing that a wrestling crowd needs is passion and a little bit of sense. As long as they got their eyes focused on the action and their mouths open and yelling at who they don’t like and cheering who they do like, they will be just fine. They ain’t got to know every damn hold under the sun, and they ain’t got to be able to name all the damn Villanos to have a good time so long as they ain’t dumb enough to try to put their hands on me and they don’t [think] they’re smarter than everybody else there, then I bet they have a good time.

Why aren’t you a nicer man? Have you considered therapy?

I am as gentle as a pussy cat in the right environs. When I settle into here at the ole home place and I pull off my boots, pop the top on a Paul Bryant beer, cut on them ole Drive-by Truckers, I tell you I am as sweet as pumpkin pie. Because of that, I don’t have no reservation about raising pure hell every time I am anywhere near a squared circle, and the only therapy I need is to see my Empire bathed in the gold of champions.

What are your ambitions in wrestling?

My only ambition in wrestling is to give this business half as much as it has given me and to burn a trail in Georgia that makes General Sherman look like a lightning bug in a damn super nova.

What appeals to you personally about Monstrosity Championship Wrestling (MCW)?

On any night at a MCW show, you ain’t got clue 1 as to what in the blue Hell is going to come through that curtain next. It might be one of the best technical wrestlers you ever laid eyes on, or it might be some kind of half-dead zombie-assed sasquatch monster. You might not know whether to clap your hands or clinch pucker your assshole. It is just like ole Double D; you don’t what you are going to get, but you know good and well it is going to be entertaining as all get out.

What are you looking forward to the most about MCW this Friday?

Aw honey, that is simple. We are going to crown our first champion, and that is always a special occasion in any wrestling show’s history. When you look at the folks that are still kicking in this tournament, then you know it is going to be a champion who is plenty worthy.

Why should even someone who is not a big wrestling fan attend?

Well, if you like drinking cold beer, your ort to be there. If you like womerns who ain’t bashful about showing you a little of that thang, you ort to be there. If you like that damn banging and clanging or some kind of heavy metal outfit, you ort to be there. If you like boxes of meat, you ort to be there. And if you would like to hear the golden voice of the best damn commentator that you have ever heard in your long-legged life, you damn well better have you asses front and center.

A special thank you to Kool Kat Chuck Porterfield for his help with this article.

All photos are courtesy of DeWitt Dawson. All rights reserved.

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Kool Kat of the Week: The Beating Heart of Art: Garrett DeHart and His Poe-Inspired Short Film IF I AM YOUR MIRROR

Posted on: Feb 22nd, 2013 By:

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Atlanta native filmmaker and photographer Garrett DeHart is the mastermind behind one of the most inventive short films ATLRetro has seen in recent years: IF I AM YOUR MIRROR. An adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the film takes Poe’s lean exercise in mounting paranoia and expands it into a fractured document of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the years following the Civil War. Beyond the narrative twists taken with Poe’s themes, the film dramatically stylizes the world its characters inhabit – presenting it as a living Victorian-era oil painting imbued with the blood, spit, dirt and murk both of the time and of its main character’s mind. The portrayal of that lead character by the late actor Larry Holden in one of his last roles, is a triumph: in turns fierce and fragile, proud and pitiable. Currently available for viewing online, this immersive 18-minute epic is well worth your time.

In honor of this horrific accomplishment, ATLRetro goes Really Retro with this week’s Kool Kat.  We spoke with Mr. DeHart about his experiences making the film, the techniques behind creating the images, his influences, his local ties and much more.

ATLRetro: IF I AM YOUR MIRROR has a remarkable visual style, resembling an oil painting come to life. Were there any particular artists that inspired the look of your film? Filmmaking-wise, who influenced you on this particular project?

Garrett DeHart: I’ve always loved Poe, and  I had been playing around with a process to make live action film look like an animated oil painting. I thought the color and composition of Romantic painting, the predominant painting style of Poe’s time, was very well-equipped to tell a story inspired by Poe’s voice. I added a bit more dirt, grim and blood, and I think, with that, it’s a style that lends itself well to my voice as well. I did research on Romantic painting as a whole, but was really drawn to the paintings of Eugène Delacroix, J. M. W. Turner and Thomas Wilmer Dewing.

As far as filmmakers, the process was, of course, inspired by Richard Linklater‘s WAKING LIFE.  I loved what he did, turning live action into animation, to create a world of dreams, and really loved the look of his Rotoshop films. But I really wanted something that had a bit more texture and grim to it, and also wanted something that I could do myself.  After I saw WAKING LIFE, I started working on the process and used it in my film THE PROBLEM WITH HAPPINESS (2004) a 70-minute film that was projected on three discrete screens and had an accompanying seven-piece live band playing the score. We had 300 people at Eyedrum for the premiere and then later played The Earl before the band broke up. It was a sci-fi film in which the protagonist’s world slowly turns into a moving oil painting. I was never really happy with the effect that I was able to produce for that film and so I kept playing around with the process. The narrative was inspired by the films of Terrence Malick and Lars von Trier.

Could you describe how you came to create MIRROR’s striking look? How long did it take to bring such a heavily-stylized project to fruition?

The actors were shot on green screen at a small studio at Georgia State University. Aside from a few chairs, luggage and miscellaneous props, everything else was added in post. I developed a process through Photoshop to stylize the actors’ frames and ran each frame of each element in a scene through Photoshop to add the effect. Many of the shots have multiple layers on each actor, and the layers were then rotoscoped in to create lighting effects, shadows and a greater depth of field with the paint effects. The backgrounds were developed from stills, paintings and created graphics. Those backgrounds were then layered and animated in After Effects. Some of the shots have hundreds of layers in them. The final shot of the film took over 30 hours to render. I pushed the capabilities of After Effects in working in a 2D for 3D world. I did all of the post for the film on my MacBook Pro. The computer was running full speed around the clock for over two years. I’m typing this now on the same machine. The whole process took a bit over two years.

You also directed DOGME #55: A PICNIC AND A STROLL. You’re obviously not frightened by taking on a wide variety of styles, as MIRROR is about as far away from the Dogme 95 philosophy as possible! Which turns out to be more difficult (or, alternately, more fulfilling) for you as a filmmaker: following the self-imposed restrictions of the Dogme 95 movement, or the technical demands of an effects-heavy film like MIRROR?

I was really inspired by the Dogme 95 manifesto. I really like the idea of using real people, instead of actors, when possible, and breaking down the spectacle of lighting and score, and using a handheld, cinéma vérité camera style to get to some truth. I think my tendency would be to lean more towards a Dogme esthetic, at least in the way in which I direct actors. Now that I think about it, It might be compelling to try and develop one of Poe’s stories as a Dogme style film.  But I don’t think even Von Trier or Vinterberg ever made a truly pure Dogme 95 film, and while I think there are some very important ideas in the Dogme 95 movement, I’m really most inspired by very stylized expression in films. I also love the graphics and effects and the spectacle of fantasy and horror films.

I did MIRROR for my graduate thesis and I really wanted to experiment with this effect that I had developed. They have a great studio at DAEL (Digital Arts Entertainment Laboratory), and I wanted to utilize the GSU facilities while I had the chance to access all of their equipment for free. We shot almost everything in the DAEL blue-screen studio at GSU and got to utilize all of the studio equipment.

I’m not sure which style is harder as a means of telling a story well. I know which takes longer.

How did you come to work with the late Larry Holden, and how was your experience working with him on MIRROR?

I met Larry on the set of another film a few years prior to my film. My friend had written him a letter, told him he was trying to make his first feature and asked if he’d be willing to be in the film. Larry drove across the country for that film, so when it came time to make my film, I thought he would be perfect for the role [and] I wrote him and asked if he would star in the film.

Larry was an amazing cast member to have on set. The experience and vitality he brought to the set really energized everyone working on the project. For most of us on set he was the biggest name we had worked with, but he was incredibly humble and was really dedicated to working with and teaching everyone on set. He had been in Christopher Nolan’s films and a lot of TV, but he was making his own films whenever he could, and when he had time he would travel across the country, for little more than expenses, to help and teach those who were trying to learn the craft. He stayed with some friends of mine up the street from my house during the shoot.

He was not only incredibly influential to all of the crew that he worked with for less than a week, but many folks in the neighborhood became very close with him in that time as well. My neighbors traveled across the country to go to his funeral. I was not able to make the trip at that time. It’s an incredible loss. He was an amazing artist and an amazing person, and we all feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend some time with him.

Poe’s stories are known for how streamlined they are, which makes adapting them almost impossible without necessarily expanding on the source material, or deviating from it in some way. MIRROR provides a particularly novel take on Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” How did you decide on your approach to the source material?

Initially I had planned to shoot a straight version of “The Tell-Tale Heart” told through the lens of Romantic painting, with voiceover. I had all the pre-production done and was ready to shoot and make that film. As I got Larry Holden interested in and then brought him onto the project, he convinced me that “The Tell-Tale Heart” films had been done enough and that it might be more interesting to take Poe’s story and its themes and let those inspire a new story. After some research, I realized that while a modern “Tell-Tale” done well could be really compelling, he was right and that I needed to develop something new: something that would express my voice. So I dug in, and with the help of a couple of friends, developed a script that I thought respected Poe’s legacy but might expand on who his characters were and the world they may have inhabited.

Garrett DeHart on set of IF I AM YOUR MIRROR.

I had the blueprint of all that pre-production I had done for the Tell-Tale script, but I was convinced we were making something new now—something certainly more challenging for me. So it wasn’t really a difficult process in deciding what to add or subtract. Poe’s story works really well in its minimalism and focus. He excludes all details that don’t lend directly to the development of the protagonist’s obsession and insanity. I was working on a new project; a film inspired by Poe. I think that “inspired by” gave me the freedom to expand on Poe’s ideas and imagine circumstances that may have brought his characters to the situations they experience in his story, and in that imagining I was creating my own story, a story that explored some slightly different, maybe more contemporary themes.

My first edit of the film we shot was almost 50 minutes. It was really more about pacing than it was about cutting scenes. But many of those quick shots, that last only a few frames, were 5, 10 or even 30 seconds long in the first cut. I was really working from the inspiration of Malick and Von Trier in the pre-production process. I imagined the film as a very slow, melodic PTSD nightmare. But as I worked with the film more and more, I found something of a thriller in it, and it seemed a bit pretentious to let the scenes linger like they were. I loved the 30-second wide, static shot of the train driving across the horizon, or 30 seconds of his wife walking through a burning wheat field, or a 5-minute flashback of the Civil War, but as I lived with the film day and night for two years, I realized this was a short, not a feature. I felt the audience might find it a bit tiring, and I wasn’t sure the long shots and extra scenes were really helping to propel the narrative. I’m happy with the decisions I made in cutting the film down.

Being an Atlanta-centric website, I’m required by city ordinance to ask: what local talent should we be keeping our eyes peeled for in the film? Any notable locals toiling behind the scenes that we should be aware of?

We had an amazing turn-out for crew from GSU grad students and for extras from all over the Atlanta area.

Shane Morton (aka Professor Morte of the Silver Scream Spookshow) was incredibly helpful on set. He did a lot of makeup work on the actors in production to help the paint effect along when we got to post.  He’s always working on cool projects. He did some effects and stars in the TALES FROM MORNINGVIEW CEMETERY horror anthology. He’s always planning and working on Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, and they are in development on FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS (The sequel to DEAR GOD NO!).

If you’ve seen any Atlanta independent film you probably know Barefoot Bill (aka Bill Pacer), the Old Man/Evil Eye. Bill is always auditioning in Atlanta when he is not working on his one-man Ben Franklin show. He”ll be doing the Ben Franklin show at AnachroCon this weekend and March 2 at Duluth Historical Museum.

Mari Elle, the wife in the film, is now in LA but comes back to Atlanta to audition for films. She’s in town this week auditioning so catch her while you can. She is fantastic.

Steven Swigart and Chris Escobar were a huge help during production as the anchors of the production team. Chris is now the director of the Atlanta Film Festival and recently made a documentary short, shot partially in Colombia, about the ripple effects of family choices. Steven is making mini-documentaries for a university.

Jeff Ballentine, who let us borrow his large Civil War re-enactor wardrobe, is working on post for his own Civil War film.

What led to your decision to release the film online, rather than pursue the typical festival route? What has the reaction been thus far?

There’s a misconception, I think, that filmmakers are giving their work away for free when they put it online. The truth is that most filmmakers don’t make any money from their films; in fact, most spend hundred or thousands of dollars just trying to get the film seen in festivals. I made IF I AM YOUR MIRROR as my graduate school thesis project, so I wasn’t expecting to make money on the film. I wanted to create a film that exemplified my capabilities at the time, and I feel this film does that. MIRROR, at 18 minutes, is long for a short film and does not easily fit into an established genre. Therefore, it would be difficult to place it in festivals.

The festival circuit, while important, seems to me, just another way to suck money out of the truly indie filmmaking market. At $20 to $50 per entry, it’s just so much time and money that could be spent on the next project. And while seeing a film on the big screen is, of course, a far better experience (I screened my film at the Plaza Theatre and the trailer at the High Museum as part of WonderRoots Best of Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series), reaching an audience is really the most important thing, and the potential audience on the web is immense. Tapping that audience is, of course, the key, and that has been somewhat difficult, but I’m doing everything I can to self-promote the film through online media like ATLRetro. The critical response has been great and the film has gotten a lot of attention but, sadly, that has not really translated into as many viewers as I had hoped.

If you like the film, please support independent cinema, and pass it along to your friends and social networks.

This past October, I saw the 7 Stages production of DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA, and when I saw your film later at the Plaza, there were a few effects shots in the video projection that looked familiar—primarily some shots of the train and the train station itself. Given the overlap in talent between these projects, I have to ask: were these your handiwork?

Yes. Rob Thompson was in MIRROR and asked, when they started to develop DRACULA, if they could use some of the footage for the backgrounds of the rock opera. I adjusted a few of the shots and gave them longer takes, and I’m very happy that MIRROR helped to fill in some of the space of the Dracula rock opera.  We’ve talked about the possibility of doing a music video/short with one of the songs on the soundtrack that will be released this month, but we haven’t had the time to work it out yet.

Are there any future projects on the horizon we should be looking out for?

I’m hoping that getting IF I AM YOUR MIRROR out into the world will facilitate connections with other writers and filmmakers and lead to new projects in the near future.  I’m in development on a Steampunk character study, short film with a style inspired by Wong Kar-wai and Gaspar Noé, that I hope, when complete, I can crowd-source into a TV series or web series. I’m looking for some writers to help in the expansion of that project. Again, if you like the film, please support independent cinema, and pass it along to your friends and social networks.

You can like IF I AM YOUR MIRROR on Facebook and check out the webpage; www.ifiamyourmirror.com.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

All artwork is courtesy of Garrett DeHart.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Darcy Lemmonier and Minette Magnifique Invite You and Your Lover to Cupid’s Pajama Party

Posted on: Feb 15th, 2013 By:

Atlanta burlesque beauties Minette Magnifique shimmy into something more comfortable during Cupid’s Pajama Party, their Valentine’s Day show Fri. Feb. 15 and Sat. Feb. 16. This time we have to say we are extra tempted by the location, which is the beautiful Le Maison Rouge at Paris on Ponce. In addition to performances by this tempestuous troupe known for their creative playful interpretations of the Retro art form, special guest stars include magic by our favorite zoot-suited man of ATLRetro fashion Chad Sanborn and an act by Ninja Puppet Theatre.

For an advance peek behind the curtain, we tracked down the delicious Darcy Lemonnier, who kindly agreed to be our Kool Kat of the Week.

ATLRetro: How did you discover burlesque? 

Darcy Lemmonier: I never knew much about burlesque till I started doing a little research. The whole idea of it made me a little scared.

When did you start performing and what was your first act/show?

It was about 2.5 years ago at a restaurant and lounge called Ziba’s in Grant Park. My very first piece I did was very European-inspired about the art of smoking and I was lounging around waiting for my lover.

Why the name Darcy Lemmonier?

I’ve always loved the name,  “Darcy.” The name was actually one of my favorite characters in a show I grew up watching. She played the part of a sweet young girl, but she had a dark side and she portrayed a big tease in the show.

Is there any story about how you become part of Minette Magnifique? 

Well the story itself is pretty short. I was a model for Pin Up Girl Cosmetics first and eventually became a performer. the owner of the company who happens to be a dear friend of mine said I had a great face burlesque and she roped me in to becoming part of the troupe.

In your opinion, what makes Minette Magnifique stand out/different from other local burlesque troupes/groups?

Minette is a group of fun, easy-going girls. I think our style along with our comedic edge helps to set us apart. We love to have fun and show our crowds a good time.

Who are a few of your burlesque role models, both classic and revival era? And of course, why?

Josephine Baker hands down. Shes was amazingly talented and dazzling to watch. I also love Dita Von Teese. Her take of classic burlesque I love and admire and shes beautiful with some of the most fabulous costumes.

Do you consider yourself to have a certain look/style? If yes, what is that and how did you develop it?

At first, I found myself trying to pinpoint my style, but after some time, I found that Darcy’s style tends to be more vintage with a lot of mod colors. Lots of black, silvers, and whites with a bit of Josephine’s richness thrown in.

How do you prepare a new act? Does the idea for the act come first or are you given a theme for a show and then come up with an act?

Our troupe usually goes with a theme for each show and we work around that,. It helps to give the pieces we create a story.

Without giving away any major spoilers, can you tease a little about your routine for the Valentine Showcase?

Let’s just say I find love, but I find it leaving me alone at the altar, hahaha. That’s all I’m going to say.

Why is watching burlesque together the perfect date night for a couple?

Burlesque is sexy, and it gets the blood pumping. It’ll give her some new ideas of teasing, and men love to be teased,  ha! But truly it’s a great time and should will be enjoyed by both.

Why is Crown your favorite cocktail?

I’m a girl who loves her whiskey, and Crown is the smoothest going down.

What do you do when you are not Darcy?

Hide in my bedroom till she is ready to come out and play.

What else would you like folks to know about you?

Darcy has big plans for Atlanta and she hopes everyone is ready for the ride.

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