Saturday, October 31, 2015

Thrill Me

You know how sometimes you get a feeling like someone is going to spring big news on you?

Apparently that was the friend I invited to lunch at Lucy's, who came convinced I was going to announce I was getting married. She was wrong, but the lunch was mighty good.

So was the dinner, but that was solo and at Bistro 27 where the new chef, an alum of Heritage, Rogue Gentlemen and Six Burner, has revamped the menu most appealingly.

This is very good news for me since it's within spitting distance of my apartment a neighborhood joint and I'm a big fan of eating.

I could have hit repeat on pan-seared fresh artichokes and pancetta with olive oil and baguette, or an even more unique starter, baguette slices spread with chocolate, orange liqueur, sea salt, orange zest and tarragon, both savored while observing costumed revelers shambling down Broad Street.

The bartender tried to impress me with his Halloween costume - the briefest of gym shorts, tube socks, a white boy 'fro wig and striped headband - which sounded suspiciously like a '70s basketball player. He seemed to expect me to be appalled, but I let him know I actually preferred shorter shorts on basketball players back in the day.

Michael Jordan ruined that for everyone, male and female, who likes men's legs.

You know how sometimes you need to appeal to your mind and not just your mouth?

My high culture came courtesy of the VMFA where they were showing "Enough to Live On: The Arts of the WPA" to a sold out crowd that was just a little long in the tooth.

And I'm not being judgmental. People who were alive when FDR was president were asked to raise their hands and it was a decent number of people.

They were the ones who'd had a president cool enough - never mind the cocktail and cigarette holder in hand in so many of his photographs - to say things like, "My administration will be remembered not for its relief but for its art."

Because I'm fascinated by that era when the government took on the responsibility of keeping artists employed during the worst depression in our country's history, this documentary was right up my alley.

Fact: Sometimes jobs for the sake of jobs is exactly what this country needs. Hello 2008.

Or, as someone dead said, how can a finished citizen be made in an artless world? It's stirring to learn that we were once a culture who though that the way to rebuild society after widespread financial ruin was through sharing the experience of art.

Forget amber waves of grain, I'm talking murals in post offices and libraries.

But of course, it wasn't just muralists. There was the Federal Theater Project and the Federal Music Project and my personal favorite, the Federal Writers' Project. Even when times are good, there's never any shortage of unemployed actors, musicians and writers, no?

I would have loved to have been part of the America Eats Project, chronicling regional cuisine. Or part of the oral history project that transcribed the memories of slaves and their children, who were rapidly dying out at that point.

The brilliance of the government sending out photographers to document the misery of subsistence farmers and the rural poor during the Dust Bowl years in order to determine how to best address the problem seems inconceivable now.

And you know what else does? The poster division of the Federal Art Project, all those nameless graphic artists who created the posters that conveyed messages to the American people and inspired them to action, to a collective purpose.

That kind of cultural uplifting is unthinkable in the 21st century, when we don't want our government telling us what to think or do.

By the time I walked out of there, I was inspired to learn more about the many facets of that era, to read more about the intricacies of how a creative class was kept afloat through a period that could have ended our country's artistic output.

So naturally I had to follow that with schlock, and not just any schlock, but an '80s homage to B movies, slasher films, zombie flicks and science fiction, all rolled into one big-haired, campy package.

And because Movie Club Richmond was showing it at Hardywood, I'd be watching it to the unappealing stench of hops.

The trade off was I ran into a favorite Beer Betty and thoroughly enjoyed commiserating over the gross incompetence of a shared idiot.

You know how sometimes you get a feeling that something you would have passed by at one time might be far more appealing at another? "Night of the Creeps," which I obviously ignored in 1986, was calling my name tonight.

What began on sorority row in 1959 ("I'll even let you fondle my dress!") quickly moved to pledge week 1986 ("What is this, a homicide or a bad B-movie?"), a time apparently just as politically incorrect as it was corny.

Need proof? A hardened cop who repeatedly answers the phone and greets people with, "Thrill me." An Asian character made to appear like a simple-minded twit. Humor at the expense of a handicapped student. Bathroom wall graffiti reading, "Stryper Rules." Gratuitous female nudity with distinct tan lines and decidedly un-augmented breasts. A "PARTY" sign in a dorm room, because college boys need reminders to party.

So. Much. Bad. '80s. Music.

Also, surprisingly funny, often suspenseful, disgustingly gory and a veritable fashion show of hideous formal dresses of the era. I'd just about blocked them out until being reminded tonight. Impossible for the audience not to talk back to ("Wait, did the dog call the police?").

Let's put it this way: I can see why "Night of the Creeps" has become a cult classic. Not sure I could have seen that in '86, but there it was tonight.

So deliberately bad that it was good. Or, as the late, great FDR said, "It is fun to be in the same decade with you."

All except the Stryper part.

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