RETRO REVIEW: TAB HUNTER: CONFIDENTIAL Traces a Star’s Journey from Teen Idol to Cult Icon

Posted on: Nov 18th, 2015 By:

tabhunterconfidential-posterTAB HUNTER: CONFIDENTIAL (2015); Dir. Jeffrey Schwarz; Starring ; Tab Hunter, Debbie Reynolds, John Waters; Opens Friday, Nov. 20Landmark Midtown Art Cinema; Trailer here.

By Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

TAB HUNTER: CONFIDENTIAL opens Friday Nov. 20 at the Landmark Midtown Arts Cinema. This enlightening and wonderfully fun documentary  chronicles the long career of actor Tab Hunter and the struggles he dealt with as a gay man in a time marked by intolerance.

In this day and age, people love to insist that celebrity culture has reached ludicrous levels of influence on our daily lives. They say that Kardashians rule the world around us, and this bastion of scandal- mongering and celebrity worship would never have been seen in “the good old days” before Twitter and TMZ. But as TAB HUNTER: CONFIDENTIAL shows us, that presumption could not be further from the truth. This compelling and charming documentary follows film, television, and recording star Tab Hunter from his highs as a teen heartthrob to the lows of family tragedy and a career crisis, all while being closeted for the majority of his working years. Now in his 80s, Tab gets to look back on his tumultuous experience in Hollywood and remind audiences that the cult of Hollywood was just as prevalent in the past as it is today.

tabhunterconfidential_002_Tab_ShowerBased on his memoir of the same name, the film showcases Hunter’s life from his childhood as the son of a German immigrant and an abusive, absent father, to his early (illegal) entry into the Coast Guard at age 15. After being discharged, Tab spent his time horseback riding, which led to him meeting Hollywood agent Henry Wilson and kickstarting his career in film. He served to be little more than eye candy in his first few roles in movies like ISLAND OF DESIRE (1952), which was lambasted by critics (Hunter himself acknowledges his lackluster performance in the film). He nonetheless continued to work, and eventually found success with BATTLE CRY (1955), a war drama based on a bestselling novel. As he went under contract with MGM, Tab quickly became a household name, and teenage girls became infatuated with him. MGM fueled this obsession by pairing him off with Natalie Wood, another MGM star. The two went along with the charade for their sake of their careers, but as Hunter playfully notes in the film, the “couple” had each other’s backs when it came to secrets: Wood was secretly dating bad boy Dennis Hopper while Hunter pursued his first long-term relationship with PSYCHO (1960) star Anthony Perkins.

Tab Hunter and Allan Glaser.

Tab Hunter and Allan Glaser.

The segment in the film that touches upon Hunter and Perkins’ relationship is both touching and heartbreaking. It’s clear from the way that Hunter reminisces that the two really did share a special connection, but the combined strain of homophobia and competing careers sadly prohibited any possibility of a successful romance. After he was nearly outed by a gossip rag in the height of his stardom, Hunter was put under immense pressure to keep his sexuality under wraps and continued to star in typecast roles for MGM. When these conditions proved to be too stressful for Hunter, he made the costly decision to break his contract with MGM, and his subsequent failure to establish himself in non studio productions led to his departure from mainstream Hollywood. He spent a number of years performing in dinner theatre shows and pursuing his love of horseback riding. He appeared in John Waters’ Odorama classic POLYESTER (1981) opposite the fabulous Divine (who he would later reunite with in LUST IN THE DUST [1985]), a move that brought about a resurgence in his popularity. Hunter met his long-term partner Allan Glaser (who produced CONFIDENTIAL) during the production of LUST IN THE DUST, and the two continue to share their lives together in California to this day.

tabhunterconfidential_006_Tab_SwimsuitThe beauty of Tab Hunter: Confidential lies within its refreshing optimism and the endearing nature of its subject. Even when discussing the struggles of his career, Hunter is joking and cheerful, and the portions of the documentary that touch upon his mother’s struggles with mental illness are laced with love and compassion. Hunter, unlike many of his peers who were in a similar situation of dealing with a homophobic Hollywood, ended up with a happy ending. It’s a real treat to be able to watch him express his love for life and remembrance of the past. And if you still believe that Hollywood is at its most scandalous today, be sure to check out this film to see how little has really changed since Tab Hunter’s heyday.

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Kool Kat of the Week: David Richardson, a.k.a. “Baby Doll Schultz,” Glams and Hams it up with Chris Buxbaum during Their “Schizophrenic Photogenic” Opening Party at Luckie Street Gallery!

Posted on: Jun 25th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor/
Contributing Writer

Get dolled up in your sleaziest glam get-ups because David Richardson, a.k.a. “Baby Doll Schultz” and Kool Kat Chris (Beat) Buxbaum [December 2012; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Chris Buxbaum, here] have a phantasmagoric ballyhoo of sizzlin’ sights, sounds and tastes awaiting your deviant little hearts at their “Schizophrenic Photogenic” opening event invading Luckie Street Gallary this Saturday, June 28, from 7 to 11 pm! So, get scandalous and strut your stuff down to the Luckie Street Gallary for a night of mischief and mayhem!

David has been rockin’ the glammed up club scene since the early ‘80s, donning provocative style and inventive transformative creations, birthing the evolution of his stage persona, “Baby Doll Schultz”!  In the late ‘80s to mid ‘90s, he was a member of Elaganza, a comedic drag troupe that performed at Atlanta hot spots: the White Dot, Blake’s, Backstreet, the Metro and various other clubs that have since closed. He’s performed with ATLRetro’s sci-fi vaudeville Burly-Q faves, Blast-Off Burlesque, was a member of The Anatomy Theatre, a band that combined electronica with performance art and even had the opportunity to portray his idol, Divine during performances at The Plaza Theatre’s screenings of John WatersFEMALE TROUBLE (1974) and PINK FLAMINGOS (1972)!

ATLRetro caught up with David for a quick interview about his love of dramatic costuming, his stimulating past performances, his love of John Waters and his upcoming rockin’ art show, “Schizophrenic Photogenic,” with Chris Buxbaum . And while you’re gettin’ voyeuristic with our little Q&A with David, experience Baby Doll Schultz in action with his former drag comedy troupe, Eleganza at the Metro, performing a parody of Tammy Faye Bakker, here.

ATLRetro: Your taste for the glamorous drag scene erupted in the early ’80s when you began getting dolled up while clubbing and performing at some infamous ATL hot spots, such as the White Dot, Blake’s, Backstreet and the Metro. What drew you to this energetic sub-culture of erotic and phantasmal proportions?

David Richardson: The fantasy and possibility that is inherent in nightlife has always had a lot of appeal for me. You can be anything or anyone you wish to be, if only for one night. You’re not required to be real or politically correct or anything. You can be a different person every night if that is your desire. The donning of makeup and dramatic attire is freeing in the sense that it allows one to play a character and inhibitions are lowered, thus allowing you to be more yourself and more the way you would like yourself to be.

Having rocked the glam club scene of the early ’80s to the ’90s, would you say the scene has changed? Any nostalgia for the old days? What would you say has improved?

The scene is definitely different now. There aren’t as many large clubs and 24-hour clubs are extinct. The average club-goer doesn’t put as much effort into their look now as back then, when everyone seemingly strived to be a fashion plate. That’s not to say it isn’t vibrant and fun today, because it is! The thing I miss most about the old days is the music; maybe because it was all new to me, but I prefer older music. Somehow it seems more meaningful. What I really dig about clubbing now is the young drag queens. They are really great. The makeup is more extreme, the looks are more fashion forward and they seem totally prepared when they hit the stage. I can’t tell you how many times I stumbled onto a stage, not knowing the words to my song and not having worked out a routine of any kind. Luckily my improvisational skills and the spontaneity of the moment saved me on more than one occasion!

You’ve shared the stage with our sci-fi punk vaudeville pals, Blast-Off Burlesque.  What was your favorite performance with them, and why?

My favorite was when we performed BARBARELLA (1968) at Dragon Con 2013 in the Glamour Geek Revue [See performance here]. It was my first time at Dragon Con and I loved it! There was such a sense of wonder and joy at Dragon Con; the dedication to costuming and achieving perfection in a look was completely evident. I got to play the “Great Tyrant”, complete with a golden unicorn horn. I made the costume for that show, which was covered with hundreds of hand-sewn feathers and took a full month to make. I am very proud of that look! I have loved every performance with Blast-Off Burlesque, but our show at Dragon Con 2013 was extra special!

Can you tell our readers a little about your glory days as a drag performer with the troupe, Eleganza?

We (Eleganza) lampooned the ‘70s and ‘80s, with our best shows being thematic. For example, we had a “Fashionquake,” where each member made a mini-collection with two models sporting fashions made of trash and disposable materials. All of our fabulous fashions were destroyed in the finale when an “earthquake” hit the club. We also had a STAR WARS night where all of the numbers were of a sci-fi nature. That night culminated in me wrestling a heckler, who was a collaborating performer planted in the audience, in a kiddie pool full of pork and beans, no less. We also had “The Joey Heatherton Bleach Marathon”, a new-wave night, a show that was a homage to the LOVE BOAT and our “Beautify America” night, where we did makeovers on audience members who we then attacked with cans of shaving cream. The troupe even created a feature length video, directed by David A. Moore, called HAVE YOU SEEN KRYSTLE LITE?, which premiered at Backstreet. The other members of Eleganza were Trina Saxxon, Clive Jackson, Superchic, Krystle Lite, Lurleen and Judy La Grange. We even had Lady Bunny as a special guest one night. Our performances were all pretty irreverent and unpolished, but we had a blast and did it with enthusiasm.

What can you tell our readers about your ’90s band, “The Anatomy Theatre”? And your rock opera play, “The Asylum” that you’d perform at the Masquerade?

The Anatomy Theatre was the brain child of my friend Myron, blending electronic music with performance-art theater. “The Asylum was an electronic rock opera of sorts set in an insane asylum. Myron was “Dr. Boris” and another friend, Carla, was “Nurse Needles”. They cured the patients by killing them. I played “Harold”, a psychosexual. My cure was electro shock therapy in an electric chair. Stacy, another friend, got a lobotomy with a power drill in the show while our friend Scott was given a scalpel to eviscerate himself. It was replete with gore and black humor. We performed the play three times at the Masquerade. Myron released two self-produced cassettes and performed numerous times, even opening for The Legendary Pink Dots and Frontline Assembly.

You’ve stated that you had the opportunity to play your favorite idol, “Divine”, on a few occasions during The Plaza’s screenings of FEMALE TROUBLE and PINK FLAMINGOS. What about her do you admire? Are there other drag queens you’d like to impersonate?

When I was a kid, I remember reading a review of PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) in the newspaper and it really fascinated me. I didn’t get to see the film until a decade later, on home video, and it got me hooked on John Waters and Divine. What inspires me most about Divine is the absolute fearlessness and ferocity she projected. She also showed me that big girls don’t have to hide in the shadows but can shake it up there with the best of them. I was really honored to play “Dawn Davenport” and “Babs Johnson” with Blast-Off Burlesque. It would be fun to impersonate Lady Bunny because her look is so iconic and recognizable.

You stated that in the late ’90s you withdrew from the rowdy nightlife and became ‘domesticated’.  It seems you’re back, and better than ever! What was the catalyst that drew you back into the fabulously raucous flame of female impersonation?

(It was a) Midlife crisis, I guess. I was wondering if my best years were behind me and decided not to withdraw quietly into seclusion. I returned to my passion, dressing up. I believe that my looks now are more accomplished and thoughtful, and I find inspiration everywhere. I even dream of outfits and concepts to hybridize into my collection of characters.

How did you and Chris (Beat) Buxbaum meet? You two seem to have a vibrant artistic relationship; one that screams out in the wicked art you two create. How did you become Chris’ saucy and sinister subject?

I met Chris Buxbaum back in the late 1980s. We had a ton of mutual friends. We didn’t actually start working together until about three years ago when he was photographing the fabulous performers of “Sukeban, a very creative group of individuals performing at My Sisters Room in East Atlanta Village [FENUXE, November 2010]. His photographs at “Sukeban eventually became his “Transformers show. From there, he approached me with the “Schizophrenic Photogenic project and naturally, I was intrigued. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a big old camera hog and a ham! It all seemed so natural and easy.

I also participated in a MODA (Museum of Design Atlanta) event with Chris and Kool Kat Caryn Grossman titled, “The South’s Next Wave: Design Challenge” [December 2012; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Chris Buxbaum and Caryn Grossman, here]. During this event, an interior designer was paired with an object-maker and given a color theme to produce a vignette installation. They (Chris and Caryn) were paired with a fabulous cake-maker and given the color blue. The vignette was inspired by Marie Antoinette in a futuristic rococo boudoir setting. Our team went on to win the challenge, which was decided by patron’s votes for their favorite vignette.

What can our readers expect when they come to ‘Schizophrenic Photogenic’ at the LUCKIE STREET GALLERY?

A Happening! A Warhol Factory-style event is the goal of our opening. I’m very pleased and proud of what we have accomplished. The photos are stunning and hopefully each character depicted tells a story. We are encouraging patrons to attend decked out in the most extreme glamour-sleaze looks they can get their hands on. The best look will win a prize!

Do you have anything special planned for ‘Schizophrenic Photogenic’? A little rockin’ hell-raising and deviant shenanigans, maybe? Give our readers a little taste of what mischief and mahhh-velous mayhem they may find themselves mixed up in!

I will be getting into face for the bulk of the opening at a pink satin vanity, adding and layering more and more until my face is completely covered. I plan to be a cross between Liz Taylor in the film BOOM (1968) and Incan Princess Yma Sumac. A silent film, LA BOITE DE BIJOUTERIE, shot by Milford Earl Thomas, will be playing on loop for the duration of the night. There will also be live music performed by Weary Heads, featuring Chris’ son Henry Buxbaum on vocals and bass along with his band mate Andrew Boehnlein. Usually a very feedback noisy band, they are doing a special unplugged set that may include some glamorous and sexy covers. Drinks will be provided by Jennifer Betowt and Deep Eddy Vodka will be featuring four different flavored vodka cocktails!

What’s next for Baby Doll Schultz?

I fully expect the world to entertain me with experiences not yet anticipated! Foregoing such, I will create my own experiences, continuing to explore the magic of transformational costuming. There are many upcoming events which I will attend in order to support the creative efforts of others, but, as of now (for me) I am in the hands of vagabond winds and will set sail to whatever destination they take me.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you? And what’s the answer?

I wish someone would ask, “Are you bringing Disco back?” to which I would reply, “I’m bringing sexy back!”, but really, just kidding (I am bringing Disco back)! But seriously, to answer the question, I wish someone would ask me if I enjoy what I do. Too often I get asked where my ideas come from and how I come up with what I do. The answer is innate to who I am, so my looks and outfits come out of my experiences and what I want to portray. And the answer to whether if I enjoy what I do is a resounding, “Yes, yes, yes!”

Can you tell folks something about you that they don’t know already?

I am a big time movie buff; my favorites are the Italian Giallos of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Anything by Dario Argento of course, and there are also some wonderful offerings from Mario Bava. Any of the Giallos starring Edwige Fenech are stand outs for me!

All photos courtesy of Chris Buxbaum and used with permission.

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Fatty Claus Got Run Over By a Reindeer: A John Waters’ Christmas Finds Cheer in the Season’s Kookiest Carols and Whacked-Out Stories

Posted on: Dec 11th, 2013 By:

Forget a War on Christmas! A John Waters’ Christmas, Thursday Dec. 12 at Variety Playhouse, prefers X-Mas and puts a refreshingly raunchy “X” into it with a darkly comic adults-only one-man show of holiday mayhem and mischief. The variety show pays homage to the tradition both of the holiday album and the TV special, but for those who cringe at listening to Christmas carols, Waters digs out the most cringe-worthy of holiday tunes. But he delivers the kitsch with the mastery he’s known for as a twisted storyteller and showman, sharing anecdotes as much as music – offbeat stories drawn from his personal holiday experiences and a voracious appetite for scouring the media. From all accounts, the result is the absolutely perfect  glam/gross-out gift we expect from the director of PINK FLAMINGOS (1972), the odoramic POLYESTER (1981) and the knock-it-out-of-the-closet hit HAIRSPRAY (1988).

In a recent TIME Magazine interview about the tour, Waters laments so many lost opportunities for Christmas albums from Pussy Riot to rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard. He seems genuinely giddy that Johnny Mathis has a new one out! But that’s Waters’ charm–his absolute enthusiasm and embrace of the tacky, the trashy and the odd–and sometimes even the insanely mainstream. If Pia Zadora ever recorded a holiday tune, you know Waters would be proudly playing it. And since she’s now torch-singing in Vegas, who knows?!

Waters’ Christmas live show takes off from his own 2004 compilation of hellacious and hilarious holiday tunes, from ditties that celebrate Santa’s weight like “Here Comes Fatty Claus” by Rudolph and Gang and the jazzy, jingly “Fat Daddy” by Paul “Fat Daddy” Johnson, Baltimore DJ and the “300-pound King of Soul,” to the twangy, whispery  “First Snowfall” by Chicago lounge-core band The Coctails. There’s also “Little Mary Christmas,” by Roger Christian, who co-wrote Jan and Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve” and several Beach Boys tunes,  head an excruciating sentimental and horrible tale of a crippled orphan named Mary who finds new parents on Christmas Day. Tiny Tim, perhaps the most frightening pop star ever, creepily croons the worst ever warped version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and Waters, never afraid to push our racial comfort boundaries, also includes the chirpy and controversial “Santa Claus is a Black Man, a soulful revision of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” sung by AKIM, the daughter of  Grammy Award-winning songwriter/producer Teddy Vann with his Teddy Vann Production Company. It wouldn’t be Waters, without indulging his inexplicable love for the ear-shatteringly squeaky with Alvin and the Chipmunks‘ “Sleigh Ride.” Oh, and nothing may be more horrifying than Little Cindy’s “Happy Birthday, Jesus (A Children’s Prayer). Little Cindy apparently also released such singles as “If Santa Was My Daddy” and the B-side “It Must Have Been the Easter Bunny.”

What else can we say about John Waters except that we’d be happy to listen to him read the phone book! Because we know by the 10th name, he’d have an anecdote to unleash which would make us laugh and maybe gag, too. After all, this man is the master of the gross-out from his one-time comment that every filmmaker can afford a barf scene to Divine devouring dog poop. With that in mind, to get you into the Merry Mondo spirit, here are five more things you may or may not know about John and Christmas!

1) His favorite Christmas movie is the B-horror CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980). From the TIME interview: “It’s about the guy who is so obsessed with Santa Claus that he gets a job at a toy factory and spies on all the children to see if they are good or bad. And then he gets stuck in a chimney on Christmas Eve. It’s really good. It’s hard to beat CHRISTMAS EVIL.”

2) For the past five years or so, he’s tried to make a kids’ Christmas movie called FRUITCAKE which had Johnny Knoxville and Parker Posey attached to star.

3) John hates the Easter Bunny. (Source: The Gothamist).

4) Don’t give John a fruit basket for Christmas. “I can buy a pear, you know? It’s not so hard to find a pear. I think gift baskets should be drugs or cigarettes, things you’d never buy for yourself. I don’t take drugs or smoke cigarettes anymore, but I think a gift basket filled with them would terrific.” (Source: Oh, No, They Didn’t)

5) He sends out lots of Christmas cards. Over 1,700 according to TIME!

ATLRetro hopes to see you Thursday at the Variety! For $35 general admission or $100 VIP tickets, click here. Oh, and don’t forget to wear a “nice” sweater!

Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Retro Review: Sometimes Filth Can Be Divine! PINK FLAMINGOS Nest at Blast-Off Burlesque’s TABOO-LA-LA at the Plaza Theatre!

Posted on: May 30th, 2013 By:

Blast-Off Burlesque’s TABOO-LA-LA presents PINK FLAMINGOS (1972); Dir. John Waters; Starring Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey, Danny Mills and Mary Vivian Pearce; Saturday, June 1 pre-show entertainment starts @ 9:00 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Ages 18+ only; Tickets $12; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

It’s time once again to push across the boundaries of good taste and delve head-first into the outré, the out-of-bounds and the delightfully wrong as Blast-Off Burlesque and the Plaza Theatre bring us another heaping helping of TABOO-LA-LA!

This is it. The film that put John Waters and Divine on the map. The film that made Baltimore famous. The filthiest film in the world. PINK FLAMINGOS.

It’s crude, it’s angry and it wants to rub you the wrong way. It wants to offend you. It wants to provoke you. It wants to push you face-down in the ugliness that lurks just under the surface of everything and laugh at you. It will poke you with a stick. And you don’t know where that stick’s been.

All that, and it’s hilarious to boot.

“I’m all dressed up, and I’m ready to fall in love!” – Divine / Babs Johnson

The entire film is centered on the fact that Divine (played by Divine, as only she could), who is living under the alias of “Babs Johnson,” has been named the Filthiest Person Alive. This angers her arch-nemeses, Connie and Raymond Marble (Mink Stole and David Lochary). The Marbles are running an entire criminal empire entirely dedicated to being filthy. They force their gay servant Channing to artificially inseminate kidnapped women. They then sell the babies to lesbian couples. Then, the money they make from their black market baby ring is used to push heroin to elementary school students and fund their chain of pornography shops. Meanwhile, Raymond has a nice sideline going in flashing unsuspecting females and then stealing their purses. Understandably, the Marbles think that they are more deserving of this major award, so they set out to destroy Divine and unwittingly start a war that can only end in the destruction of all life on this planet. Or at least the lives of a few people in the Maryland boondocks.

PINK FLAMINGOS' Egg Lady (Edith Massey).

PINK FLAMINGOS takes the unusual step of making its heroine someone who has no moral qualms with killing anybody or everybody who dares look at her the wrong way. Someone whose raison d’être is summed up in the quote “Kill everyone now! Condone first degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!” Divine is not just an anti-heroine, but an anti-human. You are dared to root for her, and you acquiesce because you fear that she may hack you to pieces with an axe for not doing so.

From a sex scene in which a live chicken is crushed to death to an orgy of oral sex spurred on by licking furniture; from one woman’s insatiable love of eggs to an anal sphincter singing Surfin’ Bird; from a trailer fire to, yes, the actual on-screen consumption of dog shit…PINK FLAMINGOS is not for the weak of heart, stomach, mind or constitution.

This was John Waters’ third feature film after MONDO TRASHO and MULTIPLE MANIACS, and featured his much-beloved Dreamland Productions ensemble. To get a handle on the Dreamlanders’ retro-trash aesthetic, imagine the B-52’s if they’d joined the Manson Family. Driven largely by a lack of money and a surplus of a camp sense of flash, their thrift store style was cemented by the Baltimoreans’ shared memories of the city back when it was the hairdo capitol of the world, and their sensibility shaped by Waters’ fascination with those who live outside the law. The Dreamlanders’ performances are all perfect. They exist beyond criticism. There’s nothing natural about them, but there’s nothing natural about the characters either, so who are we to judge? And while it’s not Waters’ most technically proficient film, its raw and blunt stylistic approach is the only thing suitable to capture the intense taboo-shattering of the subject matter. Anything prettier would take away from the transgressive attitude on display. And, quite literally, you can’t polish a turd…

Divine archnemeses Connie and Raymond Marble (Mink Stole and David Lochary).

Did I just say “taboo-shattering?” Because that’s what TABOO-LA-LA is about. And as such, this film practically screams to be shown. Because as transgressive and deliberately offensive as this film is, it’s also unbelievably positive. Remember, this was a mere three years after the Stonewall riots, where drag queens, lesbians and poverty-stricken gay street kids were on the front line against armed squadrons representing a society that would rather beat them down. In the wake of this, John Waters dared to turn a drag queen named Divine into a larger-than-life symbol of rebellion against anyone who’d dare take away anything that she claimed as hers. And in becoming the Goddess of Bad Taste, Divine was almost saying, “so you think all of us outsiders—drag queens, lesbians and gay men—are disgusting? Let me show you what disgusting really is, you prigs.”

It’s not just a fist in the face of a world that deserves it. It’s a celebration.

And it’s a celebration that Blast-Off Burlesque and TABOO-LA-LA are fully prepared to bring off the screen and into your faces. Enjoy complimentary cocktails in the lobby starting at 9 p.m.! A titillating live stage show featuring Blast-Off Burlesque, Baby-Doll and Poly Sorbate! A Filthy Fashion Contest and Sexy Doggie-Doo Eating Contest with prizes provided by Libertine and Cherry Blossom Salon! A raffle for PINK FLAMINGOS artwork by Zteven! And then, AS IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH, the movie itself! How can you NOT go? If you decide to go anywhere else, know that I and my gang of fellow filth fanatics will sneak into your home and lick your furniture so that it will reject you when you return.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some hard-boiled eggs to eat.

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

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Blast-Off Burlesque’s TABOO-LA-LA and the Plaza Theatre Ask: Have You Visited Your MOMMIE DEAREST Lately?

Posted on: Apr 4th, 2013 By:

Blast-Off Burlesque’s TABOO-LA-LA Presents MOMMIE DEAREST (1981); Dir. Frank Perry; Starring Faye Dunaway and Diana Scarwid; Saturday, April 6 @ 9:00 p.m.; Ages 18+ only; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

The historic Plaza Theatre and Blast-Off Burlesque have joined forces once again for another round of TABOO-LA-LA! This time, take a trip to the Golden Age of Hollywood via the excesses of the early ‘80s, and watch as Faye Dunaway goes gloriously over the top in the role of Joan Crawford in MOMMIE DEAREST!

“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE

In 1978, Christina Crawford published her memoir MOMMIE DEAREST, in which she revealed the private face of her mother: Tinseltown legend Joan Crawford. Rather than the standard glowing Hollywood biography, Christina’s told a sordid tale of alcoholism and abuse that few suspected lurked behind the carefully stylized façade of Joan Crawford’s public image.

While many of Joan’s closest friends called Christina’s claims into question—that though her mother’s alcoholism was undeniable, the abusive acts chronicled by Christina were embellishments—other long-time friends of Joan’s said that they had witnessed some of the events of abuse and supported Christina’s side of the story. Whichever side is closest to the truth, though, the fact remains that the enormous success of Christina’s book created an entirely new public perception of Joan Crawford, helped to usher in the phenomenon of the “celebrity tell-all” biography and resulted in a film that quickly became known as a high camp classic.

Now, I’ve long held a particular philosophy when it comes to film: the most important question that should be asked when evaluating a movie’s worth is “was it entertaining?” By typical standards, it’s hard to make the case that MOMMIE DEAREST is a good movie. The tone is pitched far too high for it to be taken seriously as a biopic. Faye Dunaway somehow manages to overact before even speaking a word. (In fact, the only real reference she makes to the movie in her autobiography is to say that she wished that director Frank Perry knew how to rein in his actors’ performances.) But despite all of this, the movie works and has gained a cult following because it’s just so giddily entertaining.

Faye Dunaway in one of the more crazed moments in her performance as Joan Crawford in MOMMIE DEAREST. Paramount Pictures, 1981

Because MOMMIE DEAREST draws from the classic Hollywood film and the made-for-TV movie, the movie feels more like an exaggerated melodrama than a traditional biopic. Characters are abstracted to fit into particular stereotypes (the repressive and tyrannical family head, the resolute and self-sacrificing heroine). Themes center on familial turmoil and emotional struggle. Emotions within the film are heightened to an almost surreal point. However, when you’re dealing with a persona as tightly wound and stylized as Joan Crawford, to abstract what is already something of an abstraction of a “real person”—while wildly amping up emotional levels to the John Waters setting—results in something close to (if not smack dab in the middle of) caricature. And while caricature is likely not what Frank Perry or Faye Dunaway was intending, the resulting cartoon is 10 times more captivating than a realistic depiction.

For instance, it requires a facile skill and considerable contemplation to film scenarios that turn a harrowing depiction of child abuse into something hilarious. It’s a fine line to tread between hysterical tastelessness and offensive tastelessness. But in the celebrated “no more wire hangers!” scene—a fractal-like smaller moment that perfectly captures and represents the larger whole—Frank Perry falls bass-ackwards into hilarity without even trying. He’s like the Fool in the Tarot deck: blissfully stepping off a precipice into the jaws of a grand journey while his attention is drawn elsewhere, unwittingly creating a sublime parody of the melodrama without even thinking about it.

Meanwhile, what can be said about Faye Dunaway? She’s one of the great actresses, whose performance in 1967’s BONNIE AND CLYDE helped define the “new Hollywood” of the late 1960s and ‘70s, portraying one of the defining actresses of the “old Hollywood.” And she physically transforms herself into…not Joan Crawford, but the idea of a Joan Crawford. A concept of what a Joan Crawford might be. She’s all eyebrows, lips, nostrils and shoulder pads, fueled by viciousness and liquor. A ranting, raging simulacrum of a human being. It’s a role that Divine was practically born to play, but somehow I doubt that even the divine Divine could pull off the required over-the-top theatrics of the part while maintaining the gravitas that comes with an actress like Dunaway in the role. It’s the only thing that keeps the performance from flying through the ceiling as it is.

Christina Crawford (Diane Scarwid) and her MOMMIE DEAREST put on a cheery public face. Paramount Pictures, 1981

Shortly after the film was released, Paramount realized that nobody was seeing this film because of the story’s real-life compelling drama; they were seeing it for the unintentional comedy it had become. A month into its release, they changed promotional tactics, telling audiences to “meet the biggest MOTHER of them all!” Even that same year, rock band Blue Öyster Cult took advantage of the inherent comedy of MOMMIE DEAREST and released their single Joan Crawford from the album FIRE OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN. The song details the resurrection of Joan Crawford as a harbinger of the apocalypse and features the voice of a zombified Joan calling out “Christina, Mother’s home! Come to Mother!”

Blast-Off Burlesque brings the inadvertent work of genius that is MOMMIE DEAREST to the Plaza’s big screen in a celebratory bash as gloriously over the top as the film itself. DJ Westwood-A-GoGo will be spinning tunes in the lobby, where patrons can enjoy complimentary cocktails and mingle before the show begins. Once seated, the audience will be treated to a riotous performance by Blast-Off Burlesque, with guest performers Kristiva Diva, Poly Sorbate, Chico Nunez, and the Baphomettes. Audience members are encouraged to dress like their favorite character, and to enter contests to win prizes provided by Libertine and Cherry Blossom Salon.

So get dolled up in your old-school finery and get down to the Plaza on Saturday, April 6. You wouldn’t want to get on this Mommie’s bad side.

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

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Retro Review: The Sweet Scent of POLYESTER: Blast-Off Burlesque Taboo-La-La Presents John Waters’ Most Odor-ific Cult Classic

Posted on: Dec 1st, 2012 By:

POLYESTER (1981); Dir: John Water; Starring Divine, Tab Hunter; Plaza Theatre, Saturday, December 1 at 10:00pm; presented by BLAST-OFF BURLESQUE’S TABOO-LA-LA in ODORAMA. Trailer here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

Let’s start with a question. What if I told you that, on Saturday night at the Plaza, you had a chance to experience a film in ODORAMA, a process that lets you scratch-and-sniff a card to experience with the, um, aromas of the movie you’re watching, aromas that include such delights as model airplane glue, skunk and flatulence? Does that sound like your idea of a fun weekend night?

Those of you who said “yes, please!” already know John Waters and his film, POLYESTER, playing as part of the regular TABOO-LA-LA series presented by Blast-Off Burlesque. You guys are going to be there anyway. For those of you who *ahem* politely declined, the burden now falls to me to change your mind.

John Waters is kind of a maniac, but movie nuts and those with a taste for the trashy have long considered him their maniac. Waters is a true indie, a guy whose tastes and warped sense of humor never stood a chance of playing in Hollywood, and so he made his own Hollywood in Baltimore, churning out a handful of homemade movies starring his friends, a company of actors who took to calling themselves the Dreamlanders. Perhaps the most famous Dreamlander was Divine, an actor who performed in drag and rose to fame as Waters’s muse, due equally to Divine’s incredible charisma and willingness to waltz into the darkest corners of Waters’s imagination. Divine starred in all of Waters’s early Baltimore films, never more famously (or infamously) as in PINK FLAMINGOES, which uses as its money shot a scene where Divine consumes dog shit. Did I mention that John Waters movies aren’t for the weak-stomached?

Baldly nasty content is what earned all of Waters’s early films an X-rating, when he bothered to have them rated at all. Waters sold himself as a master purveyor of camp, trash and kitsch, and his films can be endurance tests for the timid. So, Waters had to seek his audience, growing them like a culture through word of mouth. Many people watched Waters’s films with jaws dropped and raced from the theatre to tell friends who, of course, could never believe such filth existed at the cinema… and so they bought a ticket to find out for themselves. A passionate few liked what they saw and became fans for life. Waters’s movies owned midnight crowds back when late-night movies were for the deranged and the dangerous, but then a funny thing happened somewhere along the way: once the shock value numbed, fans noticed the actual craft and talent present both behind the camera and in front of it. Despite his image as the gleeful outsider with the pencil-thin moustache looking to tear down the system, Waters was the real deal, and as experience improved his work, his films became less pointedly offensive and more simply on-point. It was time for John Waters to go mainstream.

Enter POLYESTER, the film universally recognized as the transition from Waters’s early days with the Dreamlanders to an artist whose work could eventually be mined by Broadway (his hit 1988 film HAIRSPRAY eventually became a Broadway show, and then a movie musical, with John Travolta in the part originated by Divine. Times, they do change.) POLYESTER is John Waters’s take on the suburban aesthetic and weepy melodrama of Douglas Sirk, with Sirk’s painterly Technicolor tossed aside for garage-sale chic. Divine stars as a housewife named Francine Fishpaw whose marriage falls apart while her kids spin off in a variety of unsavory directions. To fully describe the plot would risk giving away many of its lightly-shocked laughs, but the movie isn’t afraid to explore. The more over-the-top the tragedy—and believe me, this clears the top by a half-a-foot–the more laughter Waters drags from the audience.

POLYESTER was the first John Waters film that could sit comfortably at the multiplex, and his first to receive an R-rating, bringing his work and his fans reluctantly blinking out into the sun. No matter which version of Waters you enjoy the most, generally everyone can agree that POLYESTER is one of his best and most accessible. In fact, The AV Club named POLYESTER as the ideal gateway into the director and his work.

And then there’s ODORAMA, the gimmick Waters cooked up to let his fans know that mainstream success wasn’t going to change him. In a nod to the showmanship of the great huckster William Castle, viewers of POLYESTER were handed scratch-and-sniff cards to keep up with the overactive olfactory system that helps Francine through the film’s plot. Now you can smell what Francine smells, and although the odors are rarely pleasant, the whole idea is just on the right side of wacky to lend the proceedings a heaping helping of charm. It’s Waters saying that it’s OK not to take his movie so seriously; he certainly doesn’t.

Blast-Off Burlesque is handing out ODORAMA cards for Saturday night’s viewing of POLYESTER, and they’re sweetening the deal with their usual variety show of burlesque performance and contests. The Dreamlanders would be proud.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game writer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He writes at www.thehollywoodprojects.com and hosts a bimonthly screening series of classic films at theaters around Atlanta.

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Taboo La-La! Blast-Off Burlesque Stirs Up Some FEMALE TROUBLE, John Waters Style, At The Plaza This Saturday!

Posted on: Nov 16th, 2011 By:

By Melanie Magnifique
Contributing Blogger

FEMALE TROUBLE (1974); Dir: John Waters; Writer: John Waters; Starring Divine, Mink Stole, Edith Massey; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. July 23; 10 PM; free makeup, meatball sandwiches (while supplies last), costume contest, Filthy Fashion makeovers with prizes from Libertine! Special guests include Patricia Lopez, Poly Sorbate, Babydoll & Baltimore’s own Elle Devene; age 18 & over only; trailer here.

This Saturday night, Blast-Off Burlesque will serve up a veritable cornucopia of camp while hosting John Waters dark comedy, FEMALE TROUBLE at the Plaza Theatre as part of their sin-sational new cinema series—Taboo La-La! Before viewing the film in its original 35mm format, moviegoers will be able to compete for fantastic prizes in costume and makeover contests, as well as enjoy performances by Blast-Off and their very special guests, Patricia Lopez, Poly Sorbate, Babydoll and Baltimore’s own Elle Devene.

Released in 1974, FEMALE TROUBLE tells the story of Dawn Davenport (played by infamous drag queen, Divine), a bratty bad-girl who lives a hard-knock life of juvenile delinquency, experiencing sexual assault, subsequent single motherhood, employment in the sex industry, obsession with fame and victimization by sensationalists masquerading as artists. Did I mention that it’s rated NC-17?

Blast-Off’s Co-founder (and ATLRetro Kool Kat), Barb Hays, says the film’s caustic content fits right in with the sprit of Taboo La-La. “You know, the Plaza Theatre used to show adult films, so we decided that we would host a series which paid homage to its roots,” she explains. “They can’t show X-rated stuff anymore, but there’s plenty of great films out there which push the boundaries of societal taboo as decreed by the MPAA.”

Melanie Magnifique. Photo credit: March Turnley

Hays adds that now is a crucial time to support the Plaza Theatre. This week Plaza Owners Jonathan and Gayle Rej announced that they are looking for a buyer forAtlanta’s oldest cinema, adding that they do not wish to close, and are seeking individuals or organizations which might preserve the landmark theater as a historical site. Since purchasing the theater in 2006, the Rejs have focused on event-centered films with live audience-interactive elements, including Splatter Cinema, the Silver Scream Spookshow, Flicks & Giggles, Summer Camp, Art Opening and a Movie and Taboo-La-La! In 2009, the Plaza Theatre received nonprofit status.

Supporting the Plaza Theatre is a rare chance to do something special for this community and gifts of all sizes will make a big difference. The Plaza Theatre Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization and all gifts are tax  deductible. All funds generated will be used toward restoration, furnishings, equipment, operations and community initiatives for The Plaza Theatre.

Saturday’s events kick-off at 10 p.m., and the first 50 people in the door will receive free makeup! They can also eat meatball sandwiches (while supplies last), and the most beautiful, glamorous audience member in the costume contest will win a basket of makeup! The winner of the Filthy Fashion makeovers will win prizes from Libertine!

Are you willing to die for Art? As Dawn Davenport says, “Being executed will make you famous, like winning an academy award.” Put on your biggest hair and your cha-cha heels! The bad girls are back in town!

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