Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dreams of 1976

JLP portrait

I don't watch a lot of TV... mostly the same shows [Law and Order reruns, CSI reruns... get my drift?] but I DO watch a lot of movies and last night, I caught the last hour of TAXI DRIVER which was released in 1976. I first saw it upon its release in a theatre when I was a college student. Impressionable as all 18 years olds can be, "Taxi Driver" confirmed my desire to move to NYC. It was alive with danger.

Robert DeNiro was 33 years of age in that film and looked even younger - fresh and almost innocent and naive as the complicated "Travis Bickle." In his impressive body of work, the elder statesman version of DeNiro wears a more knowing face, full of experience,understanding and just plain life. Travis Bickle, at the end of "Taxi Driver" is called a hero for saving Jodie Foster's teenage hooker character "Iris." The start of DeNiro as anti-hero character, perhaps... although he's a brilliant villain [check the remake of "Cape Fear," another Scorsese/DeNiro effort], to me, he's the ultimate anti-hero as a mobster ["Godfather 2," "Casino," "Good Fellas"] and most certainly iconic as the hero who takes a fall ["Raging Bull," perhaps the pinnacle of the Scorsese/DeNiro oeuvre] and perfect as a nut job - not as violent as Travis Bickle, but just as unhinged and dangerous ["King of Comedy"].

The two DeNiros - the somewhat innocent and the later rather experienced one - reminds me of the two reactions I always receive when exhibiting this portrait of Jeffrey Lee Pierce. So many people are taken aback by his youthful innocent dreamer's gaze, while others prefer the familiar image of his bleached blond fucked up genius glare of his later years.

It is no wonder to me that last night I dreamed it was 1976. The co-star of nearly all Scorsese's movies is NYC, and in "Taxi Driver," it is no different. NYC, despite its tony Park and Fifth Avenues, its glitterati, etc., is portrayed in all her seedy grittiness in the bulk of Scorsese's early work. It is the same NYC that I first visited and then moved to. It wasn't until the early 90s that the "Disney-fication" of Times Square took a forever-changing foothold on the city.

NYC in the mid/late 70s was the perfect breeding ground for musical and artistic experimentation and its no wonder punk rock came out of it. Over on my coast, we too had a perfect clash of cultures and in the shadows of all that bright California Sun, we birthed a noir version of punk rock perfectly epitomized by fans of the seminal punks.... guys like Jeffrey Lee Pierce, who would conscript his friends to join him as performers on stage.

72PLZ-congo

None of these images - Jeffrey's portrait, nor the one of Pleasant and Kid Congo Powers - were made in 1976. In 1976, Jeffrey and I were 18... Pleasant and Kid were younger. We were all fans --- of The Ramones, Blondie and a whole lot more NYC and UK punk bands, and Jeffrey delved into the heart of American blues too.

Yet, last night, I dreamt it was 1976, and there was a Gun Club and they performed in my dream... it was Jeffrey, Kid and Terry Graham in the dream.

Who knows what inspires dreams. I dreamt it was 1976... a time where anything and everything seemed possible and a time when all our heroes and anti heroes were young and baby-faced, despite the menace their work might later reveal.

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