meet jeff dowd. he was a member of the ‘seattle seven’ during the vietnam protester days. more recently he’s been a movie producer and helps get independent films distributed.
he really hasn’t produced anything super interesting, but jeff has a lot of friends in the entertainment business. he’s an easy going party guy, but he won’t go down in history as a great movie producer.
but he will go down in history as the basis for jeff bridges’ character ‘jeff lebowski’ in the coen brothers comedy the big lebowski.
the big lebowski didn’t do a lot of box office and opened to mixed reviews. at the time it came out, i was managing a 5 screen movie theater and i was excited to have the movie show at my theater.
i watched it several times and i downright hated it at first. then it grew on me.
it’s like raymond chandler meets cheech and chong. it’s a funny mix of crime drama, bowling, intrigue, sex (or coitus, if you will) and the most fully formed but nonetheless one-dimensional characters ever assembled.
the point of this blog is to show the full length documentary about jeff dowd, that was directed by jeff feuerzeig. watch it below.
and not the benevolent, emotional kind of touching. one story is from the uk, and the other from the us. let’s start across the pond.
meet jimmy savile. he is pictured above. he was a long-time british disc jokey and tv show host. he hosted a make-a-wish type show called jim’ll fix it and a music chart show called top of the pops.
he is sometimes described as having a ‘peter pan’ type of personality. this reminds of how michael jackson was also described, and in fact, described himself.
he died almost exactly a year ago. after his death, allegations of child molestation and rape were made against him by many victims. last december, a segment about the horrible allegations was produced about him, and the bbc declined to show it. now they are having to answer a lot of questions.
it’s almost hysteria now, with each day bringing new allegations to light. he may have had producers and assistants procure little girls for him to molest – at least that’s one allegation. apparently he abused many young women and children at the bbc offices.
now, the bbc is investigating nine of it’s employees for sexual abuse of various kinds. not just that they facilitated jimmy savile’s abuse, but that they engaged in it themselves as well.
the allegations against savile are piling up, almost comically fast. the number ’4oo’ has been bandied about. some have speculated that he was a member (or the center) of a child abuse ring. this ring is thought to include doctors at hospitals where savile volunteered. he was so involved in ‘charity work’ that he was given free reign – even keys to buildings where he supposedly gained access to mentally ill and even infirmed children.
personally, savile appears to have been a major prick. he was prone to angry outbursts, difficult to work with and very fickle. he was always ‘on’, portraying this aloof, often antagonistic persona.
there is one interview in particular where savile seems very hard to deal with. it’s a one off documentary show called ‘when louis theroux met jimmy savile‘. the full length episode was on youtube as recently as two days ago, but now i can’t find it. i linked the title to a torrent for the episode, which you can download in as much time as it’ll take to read this entry.
louis theroux is a british documentarian who works for the bbc. he has a quiet, disarming style. he tags along with subjects and allows them to reveal themselves – like the great nick broomfield does, but without a real agenda and not as aggressive.
in the episode, as he spends time with savile in several locations, louis can hardly ask any question that gets a straight answer. anything louis says is contradicted by savile, even simple observations like louis’ marvelling at the beautiful countryside. savile is gruff and gives little. early on in the documentary, when louis asks an innocuous question in the car, savile says something about suing him and ‘taking a few quid off him’. it’s downright odd. and this was 12 years ago.
he is intensely passive aggressive. at one point, when louis leaves the room, he says some snarky things about louie to the camera, as though louie wouldn’t see the footage? i wonder who did he think he was performing for?
at another point, savile has twisted his ankle while running. they go to the hospital and his leg gets a small cast. instead of calling family or friends, savile calls a photographer to take pictures of him mugging in a wheelchair.
savile also confesses to louie theroux that he’d never had a single girlfriend his entire life.
below, see the entire documentary exposure: the other side of jimmy savile. hopefully this video stays up, because i don’t think the bbc can get youtube to pull it.
the other story i’m going to share is closer to home and involves the boy scouts.
scouting was started in 1907 by lord robert baden-powell in the uk. the idea that grown men want to volunteer to help boys develop skills and character seems quaint and altruistic. but then again, for an adult man to go into the woods and spend time with boys he’s not related to does seem a little strange for one to want to do, too.
i was in scouting very briefly as a kid.
i was a chubby kid in 4th grade or so, and this kid (i think the scoutmaster’s son) kept teasing me and calling me names. every time he saw me he said something. i couldn’t take a drink from the water fountain without him saying something mean about me. after a particular meeting we were playing football in the field next to the church where the scout meeting was held. i could only take so much teasing and i just pounced on him. i beat his ass pretty good for a fourth grade fight, and i was not allowed back. so much for me and scouting.
that robert baden-powell himself may have been a pedophile has always been rumored. you can google around a bit for yourself, and there are a couple of books that point to evidence.
there’s always been something a little odd about scouting, in this way. and recently they finally came out with some stuff that confirmed a lot of people’s suspicion about the negative potentiality of the scouting model – that pederasts might be attracted to it.
they released over 14,000 pages of up-to-now secret files detailing the instances and problems with this issue. the boxes containing the documents are below:
that they are called the ‘perversion files’ is kind of perverted itself, but it’s a spot on name.
like the catholic church before it, the scouts covered up abuse for years. like the jimmy savile story noted above, allegations were whispered and then covered up. people were moved around. at least some were prevented from being active.
but how many stories like this do there have to be?
i can’t imagine being sexually attracted to children. i guess in that i am fortunate. i’d sooner slam my balls in a door, it’s that abhorrent to me – whether it’s little boys or little girls. but there are those among us who, for whatever reason, have this compulsion.
what i take from reading these horrible stories is this: you are not responsible for what turns you on. you often cannot help that. what you do have control over, however, is that you do not act on that impulse if it hurts or harms someone else, or if that person cannot consent.
both of these stories are still developing. i can’t imagine how awful the details will be.
i won this mitt romney doll in a claw game at the store. i was delighted because it was the one with his body. i’d previously won the one that was just his big head. they have obama versions of these same dolls but i’ve yet to be able to win those. anyways, i was immediately consumed with the idea of posing it everywhere that seemed funny. after the grocery store, we ate mexican food. mitt tagged along, because he’s a stuffed animal, not a sentient being, and had little choice in the picture matter. here’s what i did that night.
neil young journeys was made quickly, probably over a day or two. it consists wholly of neil young driving in a vintage car through the towns he grew up in as he heads towards a gig in canada.
it’s jonathan demme behind the camera, who is no stranger to great music documentaries. he’s not even a stranger to neil young, having already made two other concert films with neil.
demme is one of our great film makers, having made films like the silence of the lambs, melvin and howard, philadelphia and the manchurian candidate, as well as filming the spalding gray piece swimming to cambodia.
he’s made music documentaries featuring bruce springsteen and robyn hitchcock but he also has the distinction of creating, along with david byrne, one of the greatest concert films of all time, stop making sense.
this hardly feels like a proper documentary, but it is one hell of a concert film. the songs are staggered by the interstitial material of neil driving and talking. he wanders a now empty lot where a family home once stood, reminiscing with his brother. it’s interesting only because it’s neil young.
if the travel segments were just a video made by a nobody, it would be just as uninteresting. but because it’s a legendary guy like neil young, you somehow don’t mind sitting through it.
the concert footage is the real meat here.
it’s quite good. demme mounts a camera on a microphone stand, so neil seems like he’s going to smash his head into us as he chants ‘four dead in ohio’, over and over. part of me wondered what this would look like in 3-D, as i watched this in the theater.
all in all, if you are a fan of neil young or jonathan demme at all, go see this movie. if you aren’t, don’t bother. you won’t get it and you may be bored, though i can imagine some being won over to neil-young-fandom by the performance segments alone.
jerry lewis has always interested me. as a little kid, i saw some of his comedy and it was the kind of thing that might appeal to an 8 year old.
as i came to get into film as an adult, i loved his turn in martin scorsese’s the king of comedy, which also features one of robert deniro’s greatest performances as the fame obsessed rupert pupkin. there were several films he did as a writer/director that are quite interesting, including the bellboy, that i think are really important apart from what they ended up being.
it was during the production of the bellboy that lewis began to use video cameras and television monitors as a director so that he could review the film making as it happened. before this, directors would mostly have to wait until film was processed and watch ‘dailies’. this technique, called video assist, added an important dynamic to film making that has been used in just about every movie production since.
there’s another film of his, the day the clown cried, which is also very interesting. it’s a ‘lost’ film, because it is unavailable. but it was finished and certain copies do exist. i’ve heard harry shearer (purportedly one of only a few people to ever see the film in it’s entirety) recap the story of viewing it with jerry lewis himself at lewis’ house. it’s the story of a clown who works at a concentration camp. his job is to lure frightened children into the gas chambers. lewis wrote and directed the film and financed it himself.
i am not sure if he won’t release it because it’s disturbing or because he thinks it’s not good. the film was completed in 1972. maybe one day he will, or he’ll die and perhaps it will surface. it’s the thing of legend to us cinephiles.
anyways, jerry lewis is a legendary comedian (though perhaps not to a lot of people’s taste), a decent actor, an important film maker and, if you’ve ever seen him interviewed, alternately nutty, goofy, blowhardy, self-important and grandiose.
and then there’s the telethons.
for some reason, jerry lewis got involved with the muscular dystrophy association in the 1950s and began raising money for them. i do not think that anyone in his family has the disease.
and in the 1966, he started what would become a tradition – hosting a nearly 24 hour telethon to raise money for the muscular dystrophy charity. celebrities from all walks of showbiz, and people from all over the country would take part either in los angeles or las vegas, or at satellite locations all over the country.
they would have a cutaway to local news people in these satellite centers. local celebrities would show up. people from various companies and civic organizations would bring giant, novelty checks and in a monotone, nervous delivery announce the amount. i assumed our local news anchor must have known jerry lewis. what must that be like, i wondered?
people would man telephones. you’d see them behind all the activity plugging away, talking to people. there’d be the occasional banter with the head phone person. it was always delightfully awkward. there was a giant tote board where they’d announce how much money they’d raised so far. they were fighting an awful disease, and the money would go for a cure.
as has been discovered, muscular dystrophy is hereditary. so, i suppose if people who had the trait would adopt instead of making more children, that would suffice. but the heart wants what it wants, i suppose. and so the disease and the telethon keeps going.
this was really my first exposure to jerry lewis. my family, and particularly my grandmother, thought jerry lewis was a great man for doing this telethon. it was only after the telethon exposure did i ever see one of his goofball movies done under hal wallis.
for a while, i only knew him as the telethon man. i remember us kids would go in and out and play, but we’d always come back to the telethon. eat something, back to the tv. go to sleep. wake up…. is it still on? sure enough.
ed mcmahon was often present, often seemingly drunk. my favorite part were the late night escapades. jerry often had to be either drunk or a little high off pills because things could get a little sketchy. i remember an adult once someone waking me up to watch a particularly goofball segment and we rolled on the floor with laughter.
we weren’t just making fun. when they would roll out some kid in a wheelchair who would tell his story, we would get quite sad. sometimes we’d pick up a phone and pledge ‘just 5, 10, or 20 dollars’. we were 10 years old. what would happen is that a week or so later we’d get a thing in the mail asking us to send in the donation. of course we had no money.
i imagine some people would get that form and send in more than they pledged, but as it turned out, a lot of people were like us kids watching the telethon. we meant well. we sure wish we had money to give. but when the form came to submit the check, we’d just toss it and bury our grief in the metal garbage cans outside.
jerry lewis hosted this telethon from 1966 t0 2010. then, it was abruptly announced by both the muscular dystrophy association and jerry lewis that he would no longer host the show. the show got immediately shorter. it was cut to six hours in 2011, then a pre-taped thing this year that was only three hours long.
the reasons for jerry lewis’ departure were never made clear. while he did have some health problems, he’s actually better now than he was 10 years ago. he did the telethon when he was sick, when he was as fat as a ballon because of pulmonary fibrosis. it’s kind of strange that nobody has given a reason he is no longer involved with it.
labor day was originally picked for the telethon because tv stations in the 60s and 70s had nothing going on during that time slot. this was a huge block of time that they simply donated, an act that, in this increasingly corporate climate, they are probably less likely to be able to make anymore. maybe jerry lewis, as is his custom, didn’t want to compromise style or length or make significant changes.
i guess there will never be a proper telethon again. that’s probably for the best…. but it made for some interesting tv.
below, see a reel of blooper-ish material from the many telethons:
here, see an interesting on-air reunion of jerry lewis and dean martin that frank sinatra staged on the telethon. what these two guys were, went through and did to each other, is a great story unto itself:
and finally, see jerry lewis sing his trademark sign-off song for the telethon, you’ll never walk alone.