Posts Tagged ‘Films’

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The “Lost Bohemia” Of Carnegie Hall

May 26, 2011

A documentary doesn’t have to be technically perfect, but if it has compelling personalities and is emotionally honest, well,  those stories win me over every time.

“Lost Bohemia” is one of those documentaries, now playing in a limited release.

It chronicles the accomplished, eccentric, spirited singers, dancers, photographers, musicians, actors and myriad other artists who lived and worked in studios located above Carnegie Hall…some for 40 years and longer.

Until, Carnegie Hall wanted them out.

Photographer Josef Astor, one of the residents, started filming his most colorful fellow tenants after he moved into the studios in the 1980s. He didn’t know then that 20 years later they would all be embroiled in a landlord-tenant dispute with Carnegie Hall that would last several years and result in each and every artist being evicted. Despite a charter by Andrew Carnegie himself providing for artist space above the incredible hall.

The documentary is worthwhile if only to see the charismatic photographer Editta Sherman, who held out as the last tenant until age 97 or so.

I saw the doc Sunday at IFC on 6th Ave and  I was reminded how this story has played out again and again: artists, who find affordable space and a supportive community, end up getting kicked out when there’s just too much profit to be made or efficiencies to be had, by the corporate ownership.

For at least three years I covered the battle between artists working (and a few living) in a warehouse on the waterfront of Jersey City, New Jersey. 111 First Street. I was there covering the case so much, in fact, I got asked by a couple artists  if I wanted to move in “off the lease.” But that would have put me in a conflict of interest.  But it was an intriguing idea.

In the 111 First Street saga, the warehouse was in terrible shape, a relic of the city’s industrial past and of no use except to the artists who did flourish in the gigantic studios and cavernous exhibit spaces. And it was located in a part of town no investor wanted to touch for decades. Until the 1990s when the local economy took off and 111 First Street became prime real estate for posh waterfront redevelopment.

So, the fight was on with the owners wanting the artists out and the artists claiming the demolition and gleaming hi-rise planned for the site went against the city’s arts district master plan.

It ended as well for the 111 First Street artists as it did for the ones in Carnegie Hall. In March 2005, I was there as the very last tenant turned in his keys and told the manager he hoped the big hi-rise someday collapsed on her head. Or something like that.

What makes “Lost Bohemia” stand out is the larger than life personalities of the artists whom most of us would never have known without this film. Some died over the years of filming.

I wonder how many artists are living this same story in cities and towns across the country right now?

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“The Accidental Pervert”: A Review

February 2, 2011

Of all things to forge a sacred bond between father and son…tossing a softball in the park, fishing together at a favorite lake, watching the football game on a Sunday afternoon… this is not a shared interest that you’d post pictures of on Facebook. Or document in the family photo album. Or brag about to the grandparents.

You’d be more likely to tell it to a priest. At confession.

In fact, that’s what “The Accidental Pervert” is like. A confession. Andrew Goffman reveals in his one man show that the tie that binds his family is a G string.

Pornography. A father’s legacy. A son’s obsession.

Goffman’s entertaining semi-autobiographical comedy (a true story in which names and certain details are changed to protect the un-perverted) is a trip down a XXX-rated memory lane.

As Goffman tells it, at age 11 he stumbled upon a box of pornographic videotapes tucked away in a closet, left behind by his father who had moved out after a divorce. Curiosity+hormones=the rest of the story.

“No one starts out to be a pervert,” Goffman rationalizes to the audience. But those tapes, a VCR and abundant hours home by himself, turned Goffman’s young life into the Ron Jeremy edition of an after school tv special.

Set in Goffman’s room, circa 1980 and complete with a recliner, Norman Rockwell prints hanging on each wall and Goffman in boxers and a t-shirt,  he speaks directly to the audience, animatedly recounting with the help of some provocative sound effects and props.. and a dose of humility, charm and self-deprecating humor…how porn took over his life, warped his image of women and set him up for the most unrealistic expectations.

By the time the nearly 90 minute performance winds to close, Goffman’s conclusion that it has taken marriage and fatherhood to get him to put aside his penchant for porn and to have a healthy relationship in the living flesh, hardly comes as a surprise. The noteworthy twist is his relationship with his father…this odd, but intriguing and unspoken-between-them connection he now feels toward his father through these videos.  This is where Goffman’s show finds its heart and while drama does not seem to come as naturally to him (Goffman is a former stand up comedian and the comedic elements of his script are more strongly written)  he  succeeds in taking the audience in some unexpected directions.

“The Accidental Pervert” is written and performed by Andrew Goffman and directed by Charles Messina. It runs through June at the Players Theatre located on MacDougal Street in the West Village.