cracked rear viewer

Recently, TCM aired THE BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940, starring Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell. There was plenty of singing and dancing, but one scene in particular caught my eye:

Holy guacamole!! Who was this blonde cutie bouncing balls off her head and juggling plates with aplomb? Well, your Cracked Rear Viewer spared no expense to get to the bottom of this mystery! Her name was Trixie Firschke, and she was known as Queen of the Jugglers. She was born in Hungary in 1920 to a family of circus entertainers, and began learning her craft at the age of 11. Trixie and her family travelled across Europe, playing for capacity crowds and heads of state, including Adolph Hitler, who gave the young girl an autographed box of bon-bons (she later said she found him very scary!). In 1938, the clan moved to America except her mom and sick younger sister. Times…

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Artwork of the Day: Movies, Five Cents


Movies, Five Cents (1907, John French Sloan)

How long have movies been an important part of life?  Well, consider this.  The painting above, John French Sloan’s Movies, Five Cents, was painted in 1907!  It depicts what most of us, up until a few years ago, would have considered to be a fairly modern scene.  A group of people sit in a theater and watch a movie.  Well, almost all of them are watching.  The center of the painting is the one woman who is not watching the movie but who instead appears to be staring straight at the observer.  Is she watching us or has she caught us watching her?

Of course, today, things are changing.  There are so many new ways to watch movies that it’s hard not to feel that the whole ritual of going down to a theater to see the latest release will soon be as passé as dial-up internet or having a landline phone.  Right now, you look at this painting and you marvel at the very idea of being able to see a movie for five cents.  In the future, we may find ourselves marveling at the idea of actually leaving the house to watch a film.  We may look at this painting and say, “This painting reminds me of what it was like when movie theaters still existed.”  And then our children will say, “What’s a painting?”

That’s life.

Til then, I love this painting.  Movies, Five Cents is a prime example of the Ashcan School of art.  Inspired by socialism and Marxism and all that stuff, The Ashcan School rebelled against both impressionism and academic realism and instead, attempted to capture scenes of real life, especially among the poor.  John French Sloan was one of the leading artists in the Aschan School and he remained a fervent socialist for his entire life.

Is there a political subtext to Movies, Five Cents?  Honestly, who cares?  I’m more interested in trying to figure out what movie they’re watching.  It looks romantic!

Music Video of the Day: Cult Of Personality by Living Colour (1989, dir. Drew Carolan)

I was going to save this for Inauguration Day, but I decided to go with it now for two reasons. One is that it is one of my favorite songs and music videos, so I couldn’t wait any longer. The second reason is that I came across a music video where Ric Ocasek of The Cars walks on water while Uncle Sam and others grab at him and he sings the line “Got A Hold On You”. The water being in a pool at Paris Hilton’s family’s estate. That’ll do unless I find something else better.

I don’t have much to say except to watch it. I’ll share a little backstory on it though, courtesy of the book I Want My MTV.

Steve Backer:

“When Living Colour came around, it was a head-scratcher. ‘Cult of Personality’ seems like an obvious hit now, but let’s face it, four black guys doing rock n’ roll wasn’t your everyday thing. The reaction from MTV wasn’t so much resistance as confusion: ‘What do we do with it?”

Vernon Reid, Living Colour:

“When I saw the playback of ‘Cult of Personality,’ I was like, America isn’t ready for this. There’s footage of SS troops, shots of Mussolini. It’s very confrontational.”

Steve Backer:

“The fact is, I got Living Colour on MTV by threatening to withhold a new Michael Jackson video. I called Frank DiLeo, who’d worked at Epic Records and was managing Michael. The ‘Smooth Criminal’ video was about to come out, and we had to decide who’d get the world premiere. I told Frank, ‘I’m having trouble getting Living Colour on MTV. Can I tell them they’re not going to get Michael unless they deal with Living Colour?’ Frank was our former head of promotion. He understood. He said, ‘Do what you gotta do. I’ll back you up.’

So I went to see Abbey, whom I didn’t know well. I was ridiculously nervous. I had Living Colour in one hand and Michael Jackson in the other. Abbey said, ‘Backer, this is not how we do business.’ And I said, ‘It’s exactly how you do business.’ They put ‘Cult of Personality’ into rotation.”

Corey Glover, Living Colour:

“We owe most of our career to Michael Jackson.”

Here is a live performance they gave in the past 10 years or so:

I love the song. I love the music video. I love that they didn’t let them being black keep them from doing rock. We need more artists that don’t let skin color, gender, where they grew up, or any other thing like that keep them from the kind of music they like or might be good at.

If Living Colour is up your alley, then I recommend the album …For the Whole World to See by Death. They’re the all-black proto-punk group that didn’t have their record released in the pre-Ramones 70s simply because they wouldn’t change their name. There’s a documentary about them that I also recommend called A Band Called Death (2012).

Here is their song Politicians In My Eyes that goes along with Cult of Personality:

You can find out about the director of the music video at his website.