For five decades, the late Milton Jacobson ran the Stone Burlesk, a legendary Detroit burlesque house that ran a mix of live dancers, vaudeville-style acts and naughty short films. When he died, his grandson Matthew inherited what amounts to a history of 20th century adult entertainment — thousands of vintage film loops, untold hours of audio recorded inside the club, ancient playbills and posters, and other sexoterica.
Now Matthew is barnstorming the country, recreating a night in his granddad's theater with the help of modern-day burlesque performers and selections from Milton's treasure trove. He'll be at The Belcourt presiding over tonight's "A Night at the Stone Burlesk" at 10:30 p.m., raising funds for a documentary on the now-defunct club. We caught up with Matthew en route to Nashville, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions by email (and share some remarkable photos and ads) as his caravan of curvaceous comeliness wends its way toward Music City.
What would a typical night at the Stone Burlesk have been like in its glory days, and did that change over the years?
What someone would experience inside the Stone on a given night definitely depends on the era in which they walked inside. In the early days there were dancing girls, comedians, and a small rag-tag band playing the music the girls would dance to. Little by little, the comedians were replaced by more burlesque dancers, the band was replaced by a jukebox, and gradually the live girls were replaced by films of girls. In the beginning, the films were very tame and campy by today's standards and would play only during the dancer's breaks. As the years went by, the films got racier, but the girls still had to abide by strict regulations. It soon became obvious that people were coming more for the movies.
Another big part of the show, in the early days, was the giveaway of various sundry items to patrons who happened to be carrying a hard-boiled egg, a tomato from their garden, or some other random item that my grandfather would ask for from the stage. As a result, people would come to the show with bags of produce from their garden and various items from their drawers in the hopes that they would have whatever my grandfather would get up on stage and ask for in exchange for prizes. We are doing something similar for our show.
Well, Josh Hawkins, a New Yorker by way of the Volunteer State — whose belt buckle-y shape he abstracts into a minimalistic parallelogram — has made some posters you might like, and he will sell them to you on the Internet.
In addition to the Nashville edition you see here at right, he's got 11-by-17 visual odes to the Opry, The Ryman, the Marble City and the year 1796. They're spiffy, well executed and would look good hanging on a wall near your Noguchi coffee table.
Available at The Brain Freeze on Etsy.
Bottle Rocket: Midnight June 22-23
Fantastic Mr. Fox: 10 a.m. June 23, 9:45 p.m. June 24
At The Belcourt
As Wes Anderson fans around Nashville wait with bated breath for his much-acclaimed latest Moonrise Kingdom to finally hit the Belcourt next week, the theater will be unspooling what I consider his best films: his 1996 debut Bottle Rocket and his previous film, the 2009 Roald Dahl adaptation Fantastic Mr. Fox. Hopefully, this will keep all you hipster wolves at bay for one more week.
Bottle Rocket will be shown as a midnight movie this Friday and Saturday night, which makes sense considering the cult rep it gained when it was first released in the mid-‘90s. Set in Anderson’s native Texas, Rocket features co-writer and future Anderson collaborator Owen Wilson as a wannabe career criminal trying to corral his friends (his brother Luke Wilson and Robert Musgrave) into becoming a team of well-oiled outlaws, in hopes of winning the respect of a landscaping thief (James Caan) and joining his crew for a big heist.
Dismissed by audiences as another Tarantino knockoff upon its release, Rocket now seems like the perfect, deconstructive antidote to all those cynical, skuzzy crime tales that came out post-Pulp Fiction. Much like the filmmakers who made those films back then, Rocket showed a crew of guys indulging in their desperado fantasies. Of course, once they find out when it comes to committing to the criminal life, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. (No wonder this is one of Martin Scorsese’s favorite films.)
A bumbling bandit is also front and center for Anderson’s version of Fox, which The Belcourt will be playing this weekend as a Saturday-morning kiddie matinee. The director gets George Clooney to voice the title character, a furry family man who reverts back to his bird-stealing ways by raiding nearby farms, raising the ire of the vengeful farmers and putting his family and neighbors (which includes Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox, Jason Schwartzman as their ornery son and Bill Murray as Fox’s badger attorney) in harm’s way. Despite its stop-motion animation, Fox is Anderson’s most relatable working-class film since Rocket. The man took a beloved children’s book and made the liveliest, most sympathetic study of male midlife crisis that didn’t star Jack Lemmon.
Essentially, Bottle Rocket and Fantastic Mr. Fox both deal with the same thing: delusional but dedicated protagonists who believe that putting themselves in dangerous situations will bring some sizzle and excitement to their lives. Ultimately, reality comes knocking them upside the head, reminding them that living a stable, humdrum existence every day is adventurous enough. Say what you will about Wes Anderson as a filmmaker who often paints detached, twee portraits of the miserably overprivileged, the man knows when to keep it real when the time calls for it.
Yowzah! Step right up, Music City, and prepare to have your eyes popped, your gobs smacked and your knobs polished by this hooterrific homage to the decadent days of grindhouse burlesque! For one night only Friday, June 22, at 10:30 p.m., a sudden and inexplicable rip in the space-time continuum — by which we mean a 16mm projector, a stash of vintage smut and some gorgeous gals with an allergy to undergarments — transforms The Belcourt into Detroit’s legendary bazoom showroom the Stone Burlesk, one of the country’s most venerated purveyors of pulchritudinous phenomena.
The story goes that owner Milton Jacobson bequeathed to his grandson Matthew his lifetime’s work — a monumental assemblage of several thousand vintage erotic film loops spanning the 1940s to the 1970s. Better still, he passed along untold hours of audio footage from behind the green-with-envy doors of his club. Want to hear a dancer’s saucy banter, the greasy swing of a fleabag orchestra, or a live pitch for racy French postcards? Oui — which translates as, “Hells yeah!”
Raising funds for a documentary (which sounds awesome), Matthew is now flying Grandpa’s kite and taking the Stone Burlesk experience to lucky cities across America. Tonight, Nashville, you get the birds! And the bees! And the quadruple D’s! In between on-screen samples of the (skin)house special, there’ll be belly dances, magic tricks, feats of erotic endurance and fully packed cigarette gals with whom you just might Strike Lucky!
But wait! Did we mention, live in person, the blooming buds of Rose Hips, the acrobatic Lux-O-Matic, or the wild wild Freya West? Stop banging on the doors, they’ll let you in! Just $25 gets you a one-way ticket to hell — but oh, what a ride on the bullet train! Click here for more info.
But when I decided to leave New York for Nashville a few years ago, I got very serious about reclaiming my Southern roots. I ditched Grizzly Bear and LCD Soundsystem and started listening almost exclusively to Silver Jews and Lucinda Williams. I pushed all my cute silky dresses aside and broke out thrifted plaid button-ups I'd been carrying around since high school. I started drinking out of mason jars, and even developed a (sort of forced) appreciation for iced tea. And I got an almost instinctual urge to do completely out-of-character stuff like garden and pick berries and make quilts.
So when I read that Ben Venom was coming to town to talk about the quilts he makes out of old heavy metal T-shirts, and that he'd be teaching a class on quilt-making while he was here, I was practically foaming at the mouth. Not only is he an amazing quilter, but he's subversive! There are boobs and pentagrams all over his work! And even better — he's from Georgia, you guys. Don't let that “San Francisco-based” moniker fool you. He's an expat Southerner, just like I was. Surely this was a teacher I was meant to learn from.
The festival runs through June 30, and in an effort to spread the love (and expose folks to places that may be out of their normal routine), shows are at a different venue each day: Mad Donna's (10 p.m. Friday, June 22), The Listening Room (8 p.m. Saturday, June 23), Centennial Park Sunken Garden (4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, June 24), Exit/In (9 p.m. Monday, June 25), Nine48Jazz (7 p.m. Tuesday, June 26), Hard Rock Cafe (6 p.m. Wednesday, June 27), East Side Performing Arts Coop (Thursday, June 28), Family Wash (Friday, June 29) and The Rutledge (Saturday, June 30). There's also a dance and guitar workshop at 2 p.m. June 30 at Global Education Center. (Disclosure: Yours truly is playing the Family Wash show June 29.)
The complete lineup pasted from the Fringe Festival site, after the jump:
In a release, ECD representative Laura Elkins said the TV series is expected to hire some 350 Tennessee residents as crew when it begins shooting here next month — a source of major concern, at a time the state's film workers have been migrating south to incentives-rich Georgia. Of all the projects a state can land, episodic TV is among the most prized, as a long-running series can provide years of work and create almost a small economy in itself.
On top of that, Nashville will handle much of its music scoring, recording and publishing here.
The pilot, written by former Nashvillian Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) and starring Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere and Powers Boothe, has been getting solid buzz, including a plug from USA Today recently as one of the fall's hottest TV prospects. Next up, Elkins says, is an independent film called The Identical shooting in Tennessee this September.
Below, the full Nashville release.
Not since a long-ago commercial for a car show promised us a peek at Eleanor — hello? the ’73 Mustang from the
only original Gone in 60 Seconds — has a chance to see cinematic vehicular transport in the metallic flesh gotten us so jazzed. Tomorrow at the Berry Hill Walmart Supercenter, 2421 Powell Ave., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Bat-Pod (pictured above) and Tumbler (below) from the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises will be available for public viewing. And we get to drive them around the lot!
OK, not really. But the first 50 people in line who show up in dressed as a Dark Knight character will receive passes to a special advance screening of the ultimate chapter in Christopher Nolan's Batman saga. The Tumbler Tour is free and open to the public.
The feature isn't available on the GQ website yet, but the PDF is available right here.
The brutal military rule that displaced millions of Burmese citizens may be receding into the past, in the wake of the 2010 elections that swept in a reform government. But outbreaks of sectarian violence remain a threat, as seen in recent reports of bloody clashes between Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslim minority (some of whom have recently found new homes in Middle Tennessee) that triggered a state of emergency in Rakhine state.
The half-hour documentary Crossing Midnight details efforts to help the estimated 1 million people seeking refuge in the Eastern Burmese jungles by someone who knows their plight first-hand: Dr. Cynthia Maung, who escaped the armed suppression of the 1988 student rebellion to form a clinic and compound that has aided internally displaced persons for more than 20 years. Directed by Kim A. Snyder, whose recent doc Welcome to Shelbyville explored tensions in Middle Tennessee between immigrant communities and locals, the film screens at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, 2298 Rosa Parks Blvd., 6 p.m. tonight as part of the ongoing World Refugee Day celebration.
Tonight’s post-film panel, moderated by WNPT producer Will Pedigo, includes Amy Richardson from the Vanderbilt Institute of Global Health; Carol Etherington, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders; Dr. Morgan Wills from Siloam Family Health Center; and Ye Win, a Burmese refugee and refugee caseworker. The screening is free and open to the public; click here for more details.
If Norman Rockwell was depressed about anything, it was about the level of social injustice…
Highlights for me: -Deacon is very Thinking Face. -You are not David Bowie and this…
Yea!!! I just watched Ep. 5, 6, and 7 on Comcast Demand--> Put "Chasing Nashville"…
How about "WeHo"?
Franco's role in the action turkey HOMEFRONT is essentially his SPRING BREAKERS character without a…