Whoops, two cinema posts in a row, albeit cinema of a further-flung variety. If you want to read about great Will Smith movies or a list of the ten greatest romcoms, you won’t find that bullshit here.
Whilst doing further research for the impending Cop Shoot Cop book project, I decided to revisit the genuinely remarkable extracurricular activities of “low-end” bassist, Jack Natz. As I’ve mentioned before, along with beating his bass up for proto-NYHC bands like The Undead and Virus and, later, The Black Snakes and Cop Shoot Cop, Natz branched out into underground filmmaking, lending his talents to the then-burgeoning school of aesthetics quite rightly dubbed the ‘Cinema of Transgression.’ His most notable role –- if you can call it a role, really –- is in his bandmate Richard Kern’s “Submit to Me Now.” I spoke about Kern about a year ago circa the anniversary of his collection, “New York City Girls,” but Kern was a fellow member of the Black Snakes, and later worked with Cop Shoot Cop on many a project, notably their video for “Room 429.” Kern, of course, also did videos for Sonic Youth (“Death Valley `69"), King Missile (“Detachable Penis”) and even Marilyn Manson (“Lunchbox”). Conversely, Cop Shoot Cop provided the music for some of Kern’s things, like the not-at-all grandmother-friendly “X is Y”
With regards to “Submit to Me Now,” as its title rather indelicately suggests, it’s really not something for every audience. Comparable to the work of other members of the Cinema of Transgression, Kern’s films are willfully difficult for the viewer (although, some viewers may beg to differ). During Natz’s sequence, he basically wraps a metal chord around his naked torso (tastefully tattooed with the legend “We Are All Crucified”) until he bleeds profusely. It’s not delightful, but if you’re curious, you can see it in its entirety here (although you can just check out Natz’s star-making turn right here).
Natz also joined an ensemble cast for a similarly inclined film from 1985 by Tommy Tuner and Dave Wojnorowicz called “Where Evil Dwells.” It’s a gritty, black & white piece that’s frequently hard to discern, but you can clearly see Natz appear in one scene wherein a gaggle of bedraggled youths hang an effigy off a freeway overpass for the purposes of causing a car accident or two. There’s also a lot of depravity and senseless violence and overall weirdness through the rest of the film. Oddly, its impenetrably low-budget aesthetic only makes proceedings that much more disturbing. Just in time for Halloween … watch it here.
A year later, Natz co-directed and co-starred with one Cassandra Stark in “Wrecked on Cannibal Island.” Despite the swashbuckling title, the film is actually a tormented slice of domestic disharmony on the Lower East Side of the mid-80’s, featuring Natz as one troubled and abusive half of a star-crossed couple going through, shall we say, a considerably rough patch. Again, it’s not a date movie, but – if you’re up for it – you can watch it here.
While it doesn’t feature Jack Natz, another Cinema of Transgression film caught my eye recently, that being Tessa Hughes-Freeland’s “Baby Doll” from 1982. This particular film intrigued me in that in was filmed entirely at a long-shuttered strip bar in TriBeCa called the – wait for it – Baby Doll Lounge on the northeast corner of White and Church Streets.
I actually stopped into the Baby Doll, at one point, for a depressing beer with a friend in the early 90’s after a Jonathan Richman show at the Knitting Factory. While it wasn't quite as comfortable as the comparatively “Cheers”-ish Billy’s Topless on West 24th and Sixth Avenue (also long gone), the Baby Doll Lounge still didn’t feel as abjectly evil as the more squalid "adult entertainment" centers around “the Deuce” and Times Square. Most of those, of course, are gone now, too. Just a few steps down the street from the Baby Doll Lounge, it should be noted, was the much scarier establishment, Harmony Burlesque. No beers there … only dimly lit lap dances in a subterranean room filled with easy chairs that, if they could talk, would have doubtlessly told anecdotes worth a lifetime of nightmares.
Anyway, Hughes-Freeland’s film paints a fittingly grim portrait of life at the Baby Doll. While quite far removed from anything resembling a “feel good” vehicle, the film is intriguing when you think that the space it was shot in is today a posh-o Italian restaurant called Petrarca. Watch "Baby Doll" here.
Harmony Burlesque is also long gone, although – as Jeremiah noted a while back – its sign still hangs above its former door.