John Waters was seated in the row behind us last night at the screening of Bruce LaBruce's Otto, or Up With Dead People at MoMA. I say this not so much to dish celebrity sightings because that wasn't the effect, or it was and was something more, and was only a piece that contributed to the overwhelming feeling I had last night at this event. I think it might be difficult to overstate the importance he played in my development artistically and otherwise. As a teen, I watched his movies, earlier ones, over and over again, obsessed with them. He helped make me weird, encouraged my weirdness. The making of those earlier films fascinated me, that this gay weirdo could get his likewise weird friends to act out his insane movies, and that the result, though incredibly low budget, was amazing, amazing because of that low budget aspect, because it was filmed in backroads Baltimore locales, because there is something real and fresh and not canned about it all, and that he showed his stuff in local cinemas that would, midnight showings, incredible drive for his art. But this is a digression. The point here is that John Waters means a great deal to me and I have seen him around town before but never been seated so close to him, and so even before the movie started I got pretty fucking nervous and giddy, thinking about this my life and my heroes, I thought about being young and watching his movies and what they meant to me then, so incredibly much, and here was that person responsible for them and me seated so calm and casually right in front of him rather than screaming and jumping up and down, trying to get him to understand the effect he has unknowingly had on my life, and I thought about this line of queer artists in the room, Waters behind me, and up at the front of the room, LaBruce.
Terence Koh was in the audience also. There were some other recognizable big queer artists in the room and then in the front row, I spotted Bruce Benderson. I hadn't talked to him since our big blowup in Miami a year or two ago and got incredibly nervous again, though for different reasons, dreaded him yelling at me or something else awkward occurring.
The movie was really good, reminded me a lot of Raspberry Reich in its thematic concerns and in its structure. But the thing that I was distracted quite a bit by in this theater were thoughts of ambition and of place. In some ways, I felt like a fake, felt like someone that had sneaked into the party. I was surrounded by all these talented artists who were creating work and who had contributed so much to this dialogue I have spent so long listening to rather than jumping into. I felt like I shouldn't be there, that I had contributed nothing, made nothing significant, nor even really insignificant, and was just some hanger-on, a groupie to this big band. And I don't want to feel like that feeling ever again. I want to be in the band, want to be the band. The moment was one of revelation, of my age, of my talent, and of my laziness, and it made me so determined. It is beyond time to get serious, and yes I have lots of distractions in my life right now, among them needing to find a place to move, a new job, Spanish classes, and the need to think of a Halloween costume, but there are always distractions, and it's time to move.
I need to keep this theater in my my mind in these coming weeks and years. I need to explain why it is that I should be sitting there in the company of all these talented artists, need to explain what it is I think I am doing seated in that audience there.
I have consumed a lot of really amazing art this week and it has all inspired me in different ways: Charlie Kaufman's Synechdoche; a lot of work at MoMA, especially Nan Goldin's "Ballad of Sexual Dependency"; the Queer Zines exhibit at the NY Art Book Fair, which has an amazing catalog that I am reading now; and The Judy Experience playing at Starr Space.
I feel so overwhelmed these days in a really good way. I am still lonely and still confused about my loneliness. I am sleeping little, waking up early for work, like six am, and staying up late. There are thoughts of all these consumed cultural products in my head, the two movies I just saw, both so incredible, and there are thoughts about what I should be doing and those thoughts are going to have to start taking dominance. I don't know if I am accurately conveying what that experience in the theater meant to me, but it meant and still means a great deal, was a kick-in-the-ass moment that I needed, and I've got that in mind as I chase other things in mind.