Hot words! Hot music! Hot movie! Hot dogs! That, in a nutshell, was my evening. The beauty was in the wackiness of it all.
Gallery 5, Chop Suey and the James River Film Society were hosting an evening of diverse (and free) entertainment and as Ward's e-mail so eloquently put it, "Why would you not come?" With no good answer for that, I had to go.
As luck would have it, I even had company. There are few people who go to as many lectures, book talks and other absolutely nerdy stuff as I do, but James does.
In fact, he gets a huge kick out of knowing about an event that I don't (it's only happened once, but I know he still revels in it). So neither of us was surprised to run into each other at such an unusual program.
Things were casual with veggies, cheese and crackers set out for munching, free popcorn for the taking and a couple of friendly dogs making the rounds of the room. Just another night at Gallery 5.
The evening began with music by Bearkat, a genre-spanning band fronted by Katy Pearson. She had just released an EP all about the devastation of a breakup and it showed in every heartbreaking song. A band member referred to them as "dark and bitter" and she replied, "like I like my chocolate."
She and the rest of her band were multi-instrumentalists, so there was a fair amount of trading off. You have to appreciate a band with a tuba and a toy piano and then there was an instrument new to me, the banjulele, part banjo, part ukulele ("I was hoping it would stay in tune like a ukulele").
The board she stood on had a tambourine on it so she could stomp and play tambourine without using her busy hands.
During one song, the guitarist was hitting such a high note that one of the dogs ran up on stage and began barking. What was music to our ears was obviously distressful to his, but pretty funny to the crowd. He left the stage when the note stopped but went off to warn the other dog about it, chasing and barking.
Tonight's reading was by Mike White, reading from his new book Impossibly Funky: A Cashiers du Cinemart Collection. The story he read was about Jean Claude van Damme and his questionable movie career and acting abilities. His pithy commentary about the actor's roles was spot on.
We were treated to a trailer of 1979's Disco Godfather about the club DJ who fought a war against PCP ("Move and I'll shoot your Afro off!"). Mainly the trailer showed a lot of people in polyester dancing to a pulsing disco beat while the DJ shouted encouragement ("Put some weight on it," whatever that means to dancers). Hysterical.
After that kind of nostalgia, I needed sustenance, so i stepped outside where Captain Slappy's Gourmet Hot dogs was fired up. One glance at the menu told me what I needed: the bacon-wrapped 100% all-beef dog.
Asked if I wanted fries or tater tots with that, I declined, citing my pig wrapped beef as sufficiently unhealthy. The guy said that his uncle had a theory that if you eat enough really bad stuff together, they cancel each other out. "And he's a doctor," the guy bragged. Well that changes everything.
I took my deep-fried bacon-wrapped dog back inside to enjoy while watching Mike White's film Who Do You Think You're Fooling? a full motion montage highlighting the uncanny similarities between the 1989 Hong Kong movie City on Fire and Tarantino's 1992 film Reservoir Dogs.
Entire scenes were lifted from one to the other, presumably because Tarantino assumed no one would notice. Once White's film went on the film festival circuit, it must have become hard not to notice but by then Tarantino's career was off and running. Steal and make it big!
Music followed from Skizz Cyzyk of Baltimore. With just a ukulele, his clever songs and a heartfelt delivery, he charmed the audience. More than once he mentioned how much in love he still is with his love of sixteen years; he sang the first song he wrote for her as a Valentine's Day gift when he was too poor to buy her a gift.
He also played a song she had requested him to, Radiohead's "Creep." You haven't lived until you've heard that song played to a ukulele with the tempo slowed down considerably. It's truly creepy (and I mean that as a compliment).
Tonight's main feature was 1974's Cockfighter starring Warren Oates and Harry Dean Stanton. And, oh, it was so 1974! The hair, the men's suits, the bralessness, the jeans, Stanton's two-tone platform shoes. Truly something to behold.
Another thing that stood out was that in the sunny outdoor scenes of the crowd watching the fights, almost no one had sunglasses or hats on to shield them from the sun. One woman had a newspaper shading her eyes and one used her hand and the rest of them squinted and baked in the sun. 1974 must have been before we worried about skin cancer. Ah, kinder, gentler times.
The film was unique in that Oates' character didn't speak until the last line of the movie (Told he drank too much and talked too much, he decided to shut up until he achieved his cockfighting goal), requiring the actor to convey everything wordlessly.
It was the scenes of the cockfighting, actually staged for the filming, that were tough to watch, so after a while, I didn't. I noticed the girl in front of me shutting her eyes during those scenes, too.
On the other hand, I'd never seen a cockfight, so now I at least have an idea how it goes down. This is why James and I do nerdy things: to learn.
As one guy summed it up on the way out, "Dogs barking and cocks fighting." Add in the bacon-wrapped hotdog and that's a helluva Sunday night.