To be bad is good.…and to be good is simply boring!

We have repeat­edly men­tioned Mal­colm Mclaren one way or another on pre­vi­ous arti­cles like Chip­tune, Paris is Burn­ing and more recently Alan Moore’s Fash­ion Beast. For us, here at The Remains, every­thing Mal­colm said rings true. Mal­colm was an entre­pre­neur, musi­cian, pro­moter, band man­ager, designer, writer, and much more…but mostly a vision­ary, and it was time we ded­i­cated a post to him.

For the Punk move­ment of the70’s in Lon­don he was a GOD! He was the one who encour­aged Vivi­enne West­wood (his girl­friend at the time) in 1971 to join him and open the cra­dle for his rev­o­lu­tion, their own cloth­ing store in Lon­don called “Let it Rock”  spe­cial­iz­ing in teddy boy clothes. Mal­colm said later that they opened the store for  “the sole pur­pose of smash­ing the Eng­lish cul­ture of deception”.

He lat­ter renamed the shop “Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die” but the new style was not suc­cess­ful and he closed the shop, depressed and dis­il­lu­sioned about the future.

In 1975, McLaren reopened and renamed the shop SEX, sell­ing punk and S&M inspired cloth­ing. In Decem­ber 1976, Sex was renamed “Sedi­tionar­ies”. In 1980 it was reopened under the name “World’s End”.

They were spe­cial­iz­ing in rub­ber and leather fetish gear, sell­ing extra­or­di­nary T-shirts and the famous bondage trousers, all while defin­ing punk fash­ion for a new generation.

Mal­colm ven­tured into music, man­ag­ing the Amer­i­can “New York dolls”  and in 1976 he pulled together a band to go with the clothes in the store, a band that became the wildest punk rock band in his­tory  -  “The sex pistols”!

Accord­ing to McLaren “The sex pis­tols pro­vided the sound — Anar­chic, shrill, garage-like to the clothes. It was more impor­tant the way they dressed and how they looked”. Punk cul­ture took over and a new fash­ion era had begun with Mal­colm McLaren and West­wood lead­ing the way  with cloth­ing that was ripped, safety-pined and dis­tressed in any way pos­si­ble resem­bling the aggres­sion that British youth was look­ing to express! 

Malcolm’s influ­ence was best described by music jour­nal­ist Jon Sav­age, who wrote “With­out Mal­colm McLaren there would not have been any British punk. He’s one of the rare indi­vid­u­als who had a huge impact on the cul­tural and social life of this nation”. 

Over the years Mal­colm was con­tin­u­ously  involved with art (the medium he was
orig­i­nally trained in), movies (made few doc­u­men­taries), music (always seemed to have a new “hot” band), and off course fash­ion, while always see­ing the last two intertwined!

Malcolm’s per­sonal style was a true resem­blance of his per­son­al­ity, eccen­tric, bold  and eclectic.…mixing col­ors, pat­terns and unique cuts and textures.…somewhat Japan­ese inspired.
He lived by his grandmother’s motto:
“To be bad is good.…and to be good is sim­ply bor­ing!”.…..sounds like his grandma was the real vision­ary leader of punk culture!

Watch below a trib­ute to the inspi­ra­tional man­ager and artist who rev­o­lu­tion­ized the music busi­ness in the 1970s with the Sex Pis­tols and punk fash­ion. McLaren died on April 8, 2010.


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Based on John Geiger’s book Chapel of Extreme Expe­ri­ence, Nik Sheehan’s FLicKeR is a fas­ci­nat­ing voy­age into the life of artist and mys­tic Brion Gysin and his leg­endary inven­tion the dream machine, a device that projects stro­bo­scopic light, pro­vok­ing a “drug­less high” and cin­e­matic hal­lu­ci­na­tions. In this Hot Docs world pre­miere Shee­han cap­tures the dynamic, super­nat­ural world of Gysin, the queer cul­tural ter­ror­ist who fused sci­ence, magic and art to expand human con­scious­ness and tran­scend mate­r­ial reality.

Gysin’s biog­ra­phy is dif­fi­cult to con­dense, but he grew up in Edmon­ton before rein­vent­ing him­self as a bohemian glo­be­trot­ter who went on to become the unac­knowl­edged genius behind some of the most inter­est­ing devel­op­ments in the 20th-century avant-garde. He died in 1986. Shee­han casts him as a rad­i­cal artist intent on har­ness­ing “the vision­ary poten­tial of light” (as Geiger puts it) to rev­o­lu­tion­ary ends. Gysin was not a man but, like the machine, a way of per­ceiv­ing the world — pure energy. He even tried to make him­self invisible.

It’s incred­i­ble that nobody’s made this film before,” says Shee­han, whose pre­vi­ous cred­its include God’s Fool about writer Scott Symons and the ground­break­ing AIDS doc­u­men­tary No Sad Songs.

I was sur­prised how anx­ious peo­ple were to open up and talk about Gysin because peo­ple have so many dif­fer­ent views of him.” What is so com­pelling about FLicKeR is that Gysin remains mys­te­ri­ous and ephemeral through­out, no amount of talk­ing could ever explain him.

Sheehan’s film is pop­u­lated with a who’s who of pun­dits, coun­ter­cul­tural fig­ures and Gysin con­fi­dantes, remind­ing you that rock ‘n’ roll has always gone hand in hand with the most out-there shit: Mar­i­anne Faith­full, Iggy Pop, Ken­neth Anger and Gen­e­sis P-Orridge all wax poetic on Gysin, magic and their most mem­o­rable trips, as do younger devo­tees like Lee Ranaldo and DJ Spooky. How did Shee­han land all these stel­lar inter­vie­wees? “That’s the mag­i­cal ques­tion,” quips Shee­han. “It’s a very inter­est­ing group; they go back a long time. And because they’re cult fig­ures they’ve obvi­ously built up all these defences. So it was a very com­pli­cated and long and ded­i­cated effort to bring every­body online.”

The film is also chock full of bril­liant archival footage, par­tic­u­larly of Gysin, his art and his intensely fruit­ful and influ­en­tial col­lab­o­ra­tions with William S Bur­roughs. We visit the “Beat Hotel” in Paris where these sedi­tious kooks built a poor-man’s lab to trans­form the world through all man­ner of strange exper­i­ments in per­cep­tion. “That’s one of the things about Gysin and Bur­roughs and these guys, it’s this com­bi­na­tion of the silly and the sub­lime,” Shee­han says. “We have to remem­ber how incred­i­bly brave they were. They did not accept what soci­ety was offer­ing — it was all lies. And they were very moral, good peo­ple in their way. With Nazi Ger­many they saw what could hap­pen to a gov­ern­ment [if] we get a lit­tle too trusting.

That ele­ment of rebel­lion has some­thing really serious.”

Shee­han feels Gysin’s gay­ness was fun­da­men­tal. “A shaman to me is always a pan­sex­ual being,” says the gay Cana­dian film­maker. “These guys all came out of that period where queer was really hard­core, it was part of their rad­i­cal art — and of course it was illegal.”

Shee­han says his film “wasn’t so much a biog­ra­phy of Gysin or a story of the dream machine as a story of the dream machine as a biog­ra­phy of Gysin — the way the two fuse together. I think [the pro­duc­ers] were expect­ing it was just going to be this cute story about this spin­ning lit­tle machine, not these crazy queer mystics.

The dream machine is [Gysin’s] ulti­mate work, this end-of-art thing that went beyond some­thing you made to some­thing you cre­ated indi­vid­u­ally in your own head.”

One chal­lenge that Shee­han encoun­tered was how to rep­re­sent this inter­nal, neu­ro­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non on screen, so there are many shots of peo­ple pressed up close to the device, eyes closed, nar­rat­ing their expe­ri­ences in ecsta­tic tones. It calls to mind Eric Emer­son in Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls who just “groove[s] on myself” as coloured lights play over his body, a tran­scen­dence through nar­cis­sism. The dream machine isn’t much to look at — sort of like a twirling lamp­shade — so you have to take people’s word for it. But whether you can imag­ine what they are see­ing or not, the ideas behind the machine are what matter.

One of the things I really wanted to do is put things in the present tense, to give it some rel­e­vance,” says Shee­han. “The idea of try­ing to build a machine to change your world, we’re doing that all the time, aren’t we?

The Beats came to fruition in the late ‘50s in the Eisen­hower years where the world was pet­ri­fied by the bomb and con­for­mity was every­thing. Well, where are we now? We live in this time when we recently had this rightwing Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment, which turned into a tor­ture state. There are weird par­al­lels. It was the old mes­sage: Don’t trust the man, he doesn’t always have your best inter­ests at heart. And the dream machine is the per­fect metaphor for this: Get rid of tele­vi­sion, get rid of cin­ema, make your own inner movie, be your own per­son.”

In its enthu­si­asm for this long-gone cul­tural moment and its most beguil­ing cat­a­lyst, FLicKeR has great poignancy. At one point P-Orridge sug­gests that the con­trol that Gysin and his com­rades were fight­ing against is now dif­fuse and all-pervasive, and that rather than deserv­ing to be lib­er­ated by the ulti­mate mind trip, the inert pub­lic now “deserve to have their bot­toms smacked.”

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Sam Buttery Plays Leigh Bowery In Taboo

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In Jan­u­ary 1985 Leigh Bow­ery started the now infa­mous poly-sexual Thurs­day disco club night “Taboo”. Orig­i­nally an under­ground ven­ture, it quickly became London’s Stu­dio 54, only much wilder, extremely more fash­ion­able, and with­out the masses of celebri­ties – although these came flock­ing in later. For every­one step­ping through the doors it was a truly unfor­get­table experience.

Mark Davies wrote a book which later became a stage musi­cal with lyrics by Boy George, and music by George and Kevan Frost.

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Set in an aban­doned Lon­don ware­house, the partly imag­ined story takes place in the loca­tion of what was the city’s most fash­ion­able night­club, the now-legendary Taboo (1985–87) of the title. Boy George is fea­tured as one of the club’s reg­u­lars. The show also focuses on George’s life prior to and after achiev­ing fame.

The show pre­miered in London’s West End at the Venue The­atre on Jan­u­ary 29, 2002. Now in Sep­tem­ber 2012, Direc­tor Christo­pher Ren­shaw revived the show in a “site spe­cific” form in Brix­ton Club­house in South Lon­don. The pro­duc­tion was based on the orig­i­nal show with book by Mark Davies, but included sev­eral changes to the orig­i­nal soryline.

In this revival, Sam But­tery plays iconic 80s per­for­mance artist Leigh Bow­ery in Taboo, the story of bill-topping per­form­ers who defined a gen­er­a­tion, includ­ing Steve Strange from Vis­age, the inde­fin­able phe­nom­e­non that was Leigh Bow­ery, the one-man entre­pre­neur extra­or­di­naire Philip Sal­lon. And then of course, there’s Boy George, trav­el­ling from squat to super-stardom  from rock to rock bot­tom. The show inter­weaves some fan­tas­ti­cal facts of the 80s with a clas­sic love story of ambi­tion, pas­sion and betrayal.

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Watch below a doc­u­men­tary about the FABULOUS Leigh Bow­ery and the orig­i­nal Taboo for your enjoy­ment. Shown dur­ing the spring of 1986 while Leigh Bow­ery was run­ning his infa­mous night­club Taboo, this doc­u­men­tary put Leigh on the map. A witty, provoca­tive and inspir­ing film that includes a Bodymap fash­ion show, rare footage of Taboo, and inter­views with Michael Clark and Lana Pil­lay, this doc­u­men­tary also reminds us what Leigh was like before he met Lucian Freud.


The Greatest Theremin Player, Clara Rockmore

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Clara Rock­more (March 9, 1911 – May 10, 1998) was a pio­neer in elec­tronic music. Her artistry and tech­nique on the theremin put her in the same league as some of the other leg­endary women instru­men­tal­ists of 20th cen­tury — musi­cians like pianist Dame Myra Hess, the great Pol­ish harp­si­chordist Wanda Landowska.

From a very early age, Clara was an accom­plished young vio­lin­ist but as it turned out, she even­tu­ally had to aban­don the instru­ment because of chronic phys­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties due to child­hood mal­nu­tri­tion and she took up the theremin. Later in her life she said that Leon Theremin saved her “musi­cal san­ity” by intro­duc­ing her to the theremin. She had extremely pre­cise, rapid con­trol of her move­ments, impor­tant in play­ing an instru­ment that depends on the performer’s motion and prox­im­ity rather than touch. She also had the advan­tage of work­ing directly with Léon Theremin from the early days of the instrument’s com­mer­cial devel­op­ment in the United States.

It is easy to under­stand why Leon Theremin, the inven­tor of the instru­ment that bears his name, was deeply in love with Clara. Apart from being bril­liantly tal­ented as a musi­cian and therem­i­nist, she was strik­ingly beautiful.

Clara Rock­more died in the spring of 1998 leav­ing a small but impor­tant legacy of her record­ings which include The Art of Theremin (pro­duced by Robert Moog in 1977) and a stun­ning, live, 1945 per­for­mance of the Con­certo for Theremin and Orches­tra by the Amer­i­can com­poser Anis Fulei­han (with the orches­tra under the direc­tion of the great Leopold Stokowski). Both these record­ings have been reis­sued on CD.

As a com­ment posted here says: Woah, a theremin sounds like a cross between a ghost woman hum­ming to her­self, and a vio­lin made out of jelly…


Taking Off

Famous first Amer­i­can film of Czech direc­tor Milos For­man. It tells the story of a group of par­ents whose chil­dren have run away from home. The par­ents take the oppor­tu­nity to redis­cover their youth.

It fea­tures a num­ber of mem­o­rable set pieces, includ­ing an open-mic record label audi­tion which is weaved through­out the film, fea­tur­ing a num­ber of female singers (includ­ing a young Carly Simon and a haunt­ing acoustic bal­lad by a then-unknown Kathy Bates) per­form­ing old stan­dards, folk bal­lads, and rock songs; a meet­ing in which a group of gen­er­ally middle-class con­ser­v­a­tive par­ents are taught how to smoke mar­i­juana; and a rau­cu­ous but sweet game of strip poker played by the adults.

Whether Tak­ing Off is car­i­ca­ture or dead-on is, pre­sum­ably, all a mat­ter of per­spec­tive and dis­tance. But it’s def­i­nitely hilar­i­ous: A dead­pan Buck Henry effort­lessly dom­i­nates as a mil­que­toast, and the sup­port­ing weirdos are all aces. (In his first on-screen appear­ance, Vin­cent Schi­avelli leads a pot-smoking tuto­r­ial for con­cerned par­ents want­ing to under­stand their run­aways bet­ter: “That’s called ‘bog­a­rt­ing’ the joint, and it’s very rude.”) It’s also a true New York movie.


Brian Butler’s Magick Act

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For the Los Ange­les artist Brian But­ler, magic (or “mag­ick,” as the case may be) is as mod­ern as tech­nol­ogy. Cer­tain teach­ings may be ancient, he notes, but that doesn’t make them any less rel­e­vant. “In the mod­ern world of com­put­ers, the same ener­gies are still oper­at­ing,” he says.

But­ler was pre­mier­ing his film, “The Dove and the Ser­pent,” at the LAXART Annex in Hol­ly­wood last year, and a gritty, glam­orous crowd had gath­ered to watch a live musi­cal per­for­mance fea­tur­ing the leg­endary under­ground film­maker Ken­neth Anger.

Ini­tially drawn together by a shared inter­est in Aleis­ter Crow­ley and the occult, But­ler and Anger have worked together for more than a decade, But­ler pro­duc­ing Anger’s last few films and act­ing as cre­ative direc­tor of the trippy short he made for Missoni’s fall 2010 cam­paign. Anger appears with Vin­cent Gallo in Butler’s film “Night of Pan,” and the two also formed the band Tech­ni­color Skull.

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The Dove and the Ser­pent is a med­i­ta­tion on alchemy; the title ref­er­ences the Her­metic prin­ci­ple “as above, so below.” Filmed at a cas­tle in Nor­mandy, France, with some friends he rounded up dur­ing Paris fash­ion week last fall, includ­ing Dash Snow’s sis­ter Car­o­line and the cin­e­matog­ra­pher Edouard Plon­geon, whose fam­ily pro­vided the locale, the two-and-a-half minute piece is beau­ti­ful, hyp­notic and vaguely sinister.

Shad­owy fig­ures shape-shift and meld with the ele­ments, occult sym­bols flash and fade, and there is some cov­etable fash­ion on dis­play, includ­ing a Masonic robe and an ivory silk gown by the Lon­don designer Qasimi.

The Bartz­abel Work­ing is a per­for­mance based on a cer­e­mo­nial evo­ca­tion of the spirit of Mars, first writ­ten and per­formed in Lon­don in 1910 by Crow­ley, the rit­ual later became part of Los Ange­les his­tory in 1946 when Jack Par­sons con­ducted his own ver­sion of this rite with the inten­tion of plac­ing a Mar­tial curse on a pre-scientology L. Ron Hubbard.

For his rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of this his­tor­i­cal per­for­mance, But­ler con­jures Bartz­abel, the spirit of Mars, evok­ing on the site that was once home to late sci-fi author Ray Brad­bury and cur­rently com­prises L&M Gallery. And bel­low is also a lit­tle gem of a video by Mr. But­ler for The Black Lips



Don’t Deliver Us From Evil

Two Catholic school­girls (with the help of a retarded gar­dener) pledge their lives to Satan and a life of evil. Never released in the United States and “banned” for blasphemy.

“…we renounce for­ever Jesus Christ and all his works…”

Influ­enced by their read­ing of for­bid­den books, they decide to explore the world of per­ver­sion and cruelty.

Once they have stepped over the line, they find it impos­si­ble to stop. Soon they are con­tem­plat­ing the ulti­mate evil act.

It’s a film that should be viewed only by those with very open minds.


Even Dwarfs Started Small (Werner Herzog, 1970)

In an unadorned room of a police sta­tion, a dwarf is seated on a chair, hold­ing an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber in his hand. He is pho­tographed and then inter­ro­gated about acts of vio­lence he com­mit­ted dur­ing a revolt.

The story thus turns back in time, to when the dwarfs, detained in a cor­rec­tion facil­ity, took advan­tage of the director’s absence to rebel. Once they take the head­mas­ter hostage – he does noth­ing but laugh and shout dec­la­ra­tions of revenge – the group is free to act as they please.

The set­ting is dis­tress­ing and sin­is­ter, where each event is more sur­real than the last: the dwarfs sink into acts of van­dal­ism and gra­tu­itous cru­elty to things and peo­ple, in a crescendo of frenzy and madness.

Sub­ti­tles in Eng­lish avail­able (CC)

Liberace — Behind The Candelabra

Steven Soder­bergh is in the midst of his final jaunt behind the cam­era, in pro­duc­tion on the Lib­er­ace biopic “Behind The Can­de­labra”, with Michael Dou­glas as the famed per­former and Matt Damon as his young lover. Lib­er­ace was famed for being the world’s highest-paid enter­tainer at one point, and enjoyed his for­tune with an extrav­a­gant lifestyle. Soder­bergh revealed that while plans are still com­ing together for the movie, which is set up at HBO, he hopes to take it to Cannes on May 2013.

The movie is based on the book “Behind the Can­de­labra: My Life With Lib­er­ace” writ­ten by Liberace’s lover Scott Thor­son who met him when when he was sev­en­teen in 1976. Lib­er­ace had promised Thor­son, who was raised in fos­ter homes, that he would adopt and care for him and even­tu­ally the per­former incor­po­rated his lover into his lav­ish Las Vegas stage performances.

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Liberace’s story is tragic and his rela­tion­ship with Scott Thor­son was not less extrav­a­gant than some of his out­fits. Lib­er­ace always pub­licly denied that he was homo­sex­ual and insisted that Thor­son was never his lover. He went to great lengths until his dead from AIDS to cover his sex­u­al­ity. To get an idea of how eccen­tric their life was, read the fol­low­ing excerpt from an inter­view with Scott Thor­sonon on Larry King Live that aired on August 12, 2002:

Thor­son: Well, he brought the sur­geons in. I picked him up in my Rolls-Royce. I drove. They were in Las Vegas. I picked him up and brought him to a Las Vegas man­sion on Shirley Street. And Lee was intro­duced to the doc­tor and he says, “I want you to come with me.” And Lee walked him through — went into the — you know, into the bed­room and said — there was a pic­ture of Lib­er­ace. Oh, I guess he was prob­a­bly in his 30s, Larry. He says, “I want you to cre­ate Scott to look like me when he was younger; so he looks like my son.” He wanted me as his son. But at the same time, he wanted me as his lover.

The romance ended due to the pianist’s sex­ual promis­cu­ity and Thorson’s drug addic­tion, which led him to con­tract Hepati­tis C. In 1982, Thor­son filed a $113 mil­lion law­suit against Lib­er­ace, with the pal­imony suit being the more famous part. But in 1986, the pair report­edly set­tled out of court for $95,000, two cars, and two pet dogs.

Scott rec­on­ciled with Lib­er­ace on his death bed, and a year later pub­lished the book Behind the Can­de­labra: My Life With Lib­er­ace on which the film is based.

Watch below a short clip of Liberace’s Entrance to a las vegas show, fea­tur­ing all the glam­our and glit­ter only Lee Him­self could pull off.… Frea­tur­ing Scott Thor­son as the lim­ou­sine Driver.

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TV Party: The Sublimely Intolerable Show

Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party blew the dust out of New Yorker’s air ducts for four odd years from 1978 to 1982. The hour-long live, unscripted show took advan­tage of New York’s early-ish cable access world — a world man­dated by a deal that cable net­works could have their lit­tle monop­o­lies as long as the pub­lic was granted free access to a cer­tain per­cent­age of air­time. It’s a deal still going on all across Amer­ica today, and after watch­ing a lit­tle TV Party, you’d be a damn fool not to get involved. You see, TV can be fun, and you can make it! As for TV Party — essen­tially a show­case for what O’Brien and friends thought of as cool — it’s not for every­one. But those who like bizarro tele­vi­sion, the down­town New York scene of the day, or cult movies and TV with a cap­i­tal C (Liq­uid Sky or Robin Byrd’s porno talk-show, for instance) will get a seri­ous kick from this exper­i­ment in ‘social­ist TV’ — the TV show that’s a party, but it could also be a polit­i­cal party.

The Sub­limely Intol­er­a­ble Show aired Jan­u­ary 8th 1979, with O’Brien (writer, Warhol-ite and once New Wave gad­about) loosely hold­ing the reins — flog­ging the horse or let­ting it stum­ble down rocky inclines, how­ever he, his guests, audi­ence or callers saw fit. Aired in black and white, the night’s guests included Comp­ton Mad­dox and John Moses play­ing weird gui­tar tunes, Klaus Nomi singing opera, and Andy Sher­noff cov­er­ing the Beach Boys, (backed by Tish and Snooky of Manic Panic fame). Down­town direc­tor Eric Mitchell plays a clip of his movie Kid­napped while plug­ging the New Cin­ema The­ater, direc­tor David Sil­ver and Kate Simon do ‘White Peo­ple Talk About Reg­gae,’ and finally Deb­bie Harry, Chris Stein (also of Blondie and later offi­cial co-host of TV Party) and Richard Sohl help O’Brien with the viewer call-in seg­ment while pass­ing a joint.

Accord­ing to O’Brien’s TV Party web­site, David Let­ter­man once told Paul Scha­ef­fer on air that “TV Party is the great­est TV show any­where, ever,” and for those of us now corn-fed on the GMOs that are Two and a Half Men and their ilk, it’s hard to argue. The show thrives on O’Brien’s heart­felt dif­fi­dence (hard to man­age, true) and an anything-can-happen dan­ger­ous­ness that’s impos­si­ble to fake. It appears effort­less because in many ways it was, semi-professionals aided and abet­ted, and total ama­teurs did lit­tle things like; oper­ate cam­eras and run sound. In fact the first five or ten min­utes of Sub­limely Intol­er­a­ble have no sound at all, noth­ing but ran­dom pops (as peo­ple scurry to fix the prob­lem) and (also accord­ing to the TV Party web­site) Jean-Michel Basquiat typ­ing super-graphics like “Oh no! No sound! Fuck!” Top-notch scen­ester enter­tain­ment makes up for defi­cien­cies O’Brien encour­aged. Mad­dox and Moses’s pre-ironic ironic num­bers bub­ble dan­ger­ously, with O’Brien and Deb­bie Harry et al danc­ing in lab coats. Klaus Nomi’s unearthly soprano aria and equally alien demeanor are stun­ning and bizarre. Sher­noff is cool enough — while point­ing out how even the most insipid Beach Boys song comes with a super-sharp chord pro­gres­sion — and direc­tor Mitchell seems baf­fled and is baffling.

White Peo­ple Talk About Reg­gae rides a dan­ger­ous edge; the audi­ence mocks, Simon and Sil­ver seem defen­sive talk­ing about the ‘music of uplift­ment,’ and then a joint starts mak­ing the rounds. The joint stays for the ‘viewer call-in’ seg­ment which always closed the show. It’s emblem­atic of the off-the-rails genius of the show. Sure, the tech­no­log­i­cal aspects are junk, and per­for­mances or inter­views hit-or-miss, but let­ting uncen­sored live callers on the air is pure gold. O’Brien and crew are unas­sum­ing in their great­ness — they’re the cool kids at school who’ll actu­ally accept you (even though you know you’re a total geek) just because they’re self-secure — shin­ing as they wade through call after call ques­tion­ing their sex­ual prac­tices and eth­nic­ity. This stuff is not for the eas­ily offended, but it’s a tes­ta­ment to the power of a slick hand will­ing to let the chips fall wherever.

The first 10% of this show sums up what we don’t get on TV any­more. Tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties. TV Party was live and impro­vised, and this meant casual dis­as­ter. This early episode gets off to an artis­ti­cally ago­niz­ing start–the sound per­son is late, over­dos­ing on drugs or both. Or it was the bro­ken down equip­ment. Once the sound kicks in the show gets lively. Comp­ton Mad­dux, a droll singer song­writer, is backed up by Deb­bie Harry and Glenn; the unique futur­ist soprano Klaus Nomi does one of his post-modern arias; Adny Sher­noff, of the Dic­ta­tors, plays the Beach Boys’ “Be True to Your School” backed up by pom pom girls Tish and Snooky, the Manic Panic design­ers. Down­town leg­end direc­tor Eric Mitchell announces the open­ing of the now famous New Cin­ema the­ater and shows a clip from his film “Kid­napped” with Arto Lind­say, Dun­can Smith and Anya Phillips. Brit direc­tor David Sil­ver and pho­tog­ra­pher Kate Simon do the “white peo­ple talk about reg­gae” seg­ment. Blondie’s Chris Stein and Deb­bie Harry and the Patti Smith Group’s Richard Sohl drop in to smoke a reefer and take calls from all the cra­zies in cable land. Chris explains all this isn’t chaos, it’s art.