My Artist Date blogs tend to write themselves.
I don’t plan it. It just happens.
A flood of memories rushes in. An experience with my ex-husband. A story from my childhood. Some person or situation from my past popping up in full Technicolor like a carnival whack-a-mole.
The experience of the Artist Date — a planned, solo flight of fancy with the express purpose of filling me, my creative coffers — wakes up some dormant element of my history and connects me to myself, to art, the artist and the world around me.
It is both a self-involved deep-sea diving excursion into my own unique story and the recognition of the universal experiences that knit us together in an infinity scarf of humanity.
Until today, watching Desperate Dolls, a play written by my friend’s husband, at the Strawdog Theatre — Artist Date 97.
No story. Only feeling.
Enter three girls trying to make it big in Los Angeles, the sleazy but lovable B-movie director who gives them a shot (along with campy “showbiz” names) and a creepy-powerful, sexually frustrated devil-villain called Captain.
There is a late 60s-early 70s motel room with perfect period attention to detail. And screaming. Lots of it.
I covet Matchbox’s body — flat belly and perfect ass — snugly held in white panties and a matching bra. Pretty Sexy’s Go-Go boots and thick, fluttery false eyelashes. Sunny Jack’s belt buckle and mustache.
The thoughts are random and fleeting, in no way connected to my past. Only Sunny Jack’s grainy girl films — wanna-be starlets rubbing suntan oil between their breasts to bossa nova swing; kicking ass, or more literally, kicking balls of some Snideley Whiplash of a pervert chained to a tree — evoke any sense of the familiar.
A tip of the hat to John Water’s early films. Think Mole McHenry performing a do-it-yourself sex change in Desperate Living, Babs Johnson eating dog poop in the final scene of Pink Flamingos.
It is only later that I think about my friend’s brother turning me on to these films the way my cousins turned me on to pot when I was 12, or my father returning one of them to the video rental store before I had watched it . A liquor salesman with a strong stomach and a good sense of humor, he was horrified after just 10 minutes.
In the moment I am only conscious of my stomach tightening with the uncomfortable knowing of what comes next and wishing I didn’t. Sick anticipation and the inability to turn away.
No story. Only feeling.
My sympathetic nervous system — the “fight or flight” reflex that makes my heart race and the soles of my feet sweat — fully activated.
“I love the idea of exploitation movies. Movies conceived and relying on our basest human emotions and the things that attract us to most art…” writes Anderson Lawfer, Desperate Dolls‘ Hugen Artistic Director. “This is a style that doesn’t get done on stage because of the outrageous violence and sexual situations, but why not? We all love it.”
I used to love it. I chased that sympathetic nervous system hit, rushing toward roller coasters, scary movies, and without really knowing it, crazy drama. I lost my taste for it some years ago when it became clear that real life provided more than enough opportunities to exercise my body’s stress response.
But for one night, I can embrace it — grateful for the reprieve from my mind, from my memory, and the self-inflicted, heart-pounding insanity I once craved.