Monthly Archives: January 2021

“THE NEW BLACK” (“Shababnikim”)— Four Students

“THE NEW BLACK” (“Shababnikim”)

Four Students

Amos Lassen

In many cases in Israel, the religious and the secular do not go to school together. We meet four students in Jerusalem who study at a Yeshiva, a place where religious studies and taught. Gedalya, is on the straight and narrow, while the other three prefer to study and play in the park or go to a mall.

They are known as  Shababnikim,  a Hebrew slang word for religious youth who stray. However Shababnikim don’t leave the community and instead stretch the limits of appropriate behavior and while forgoing intense study. While we are too suppose that none of the four have not yet experience having sex, they all want to and it is here that the comedy begins. Watch for this new comedy to be screened on American television. I have known guys like this and so many memories came back to me while watching it.

“ASIA”— An Intimate Drama


An Intimate Drama

Amos Lassen

In “Asia”, Israeli director gives us a  wrenching portrait of maternal love.  Asia (Alena Yiv) is aRussian immigrant mother who is lonely and exhausted  with her daughter Vika (Shira Haas). Sheworks long hours as a nurse at a Jerusalem hospital and is still young and attractive despite her careworn manner. She spends her free time getting drunk at singles bars or having occasional sex with a married doctor colleague (Gera Sandler) in his car

Seventeen–year-old Vika hangs out at a local skate park with her friend Natali (Eden Halili), smoking pot, drinking and flirting with Roy (Or Barak).The first indication of Vika’s health issues come after Natali has taken her to the hospital when alcohol causes a bad reaction with her medication. Her mother has warned her about this but Vika’s natural curiosity about sex and her desire to fit in with her peers causes her to ignore that warning. While Asia is at work one day, Vika is at home with Roy, chugging cognac and making out, until her mood suddenly changes with what could be simple nerves or a physical warning that her body is shutting down.

A doctor’s visit reveals that Vika suffers from a degenerative disorder that already is compromising her motor skills and will eventually affect her breathing,

Where at first there seems almost no communication between Asia and Vika, things begin to change and there are short exchanges. Asia seems understand her daughter’s future when she helps the home-care worker of an elderly neighbor with dementia. Her anxiety over Vika’s condition is influenced by her impatience with the teenager’s disposition.

Vika’s illness gives her very limited mobility. Asia is unable to maintain her hospital workload while caring for her daughter, who refuses to allow her friends to see her, She gets help from young male trainee nurse Gabi (Tamir Mula) whose kindness toward Vika prompts Asia to make an unusual request of him: “There are things I can’t give her that you can.”

Dignity and compassionate humanism in an inescapably bleak scenario comes to the fore and there is a divinely  delicate understatement here,  Asia is fully in touch with her desires whereas Vika’s physical connection may stay unknown. This unspoken communication between a mother and her daughter about the needs of their bodies is something we rarely see on screen.

There are tender moments between the two and we get a somber snapshot of a bond in which the ultimate trust and love are shown where previously there seemed only distance and mutual incomprehension.

There’s an air of something slightly desperate about Asia, accumulated, presumably, down the years as she imagined everything others were doing that she has missed out on while being a young mother to Vika. This is coupled with a sense of longing, a desire for connection, not just in terms of romance, but also with her daughter, with whom she has had only short interactions.

This is a loose and intimate approach to the relationship, that unfolds in moments with a sense of uncertainty about the progression of the illness as it also begins to make its presence felt in the mother/daughter relationship.

Vika begins to need increasing amounts of help but it is the emotional connection between her and her mother does not want to let this happen.  Vika\is never shown as a victim as director Pribar explores how difficult it can be to sustain your own personal rebellion when your body is undertaking a mutiny of its own. This is a kind of coming-of-age for Vika and  a coming-of-maturity for Asia and a reconciliation with loss for both women.

“ADORATION”— Blind Love


Blind Love

Amos Lassen

Belgian auteur Fabrice du Welz’s “Adoration” looks at deep and obsessive love that manifests in some terrifying behavior. Two teenagers who are somewhat innocent react differently to the adult world that doesn’t seem to want them: one does so with care and shyness, the other with rage and blood.

Paul (Thomas Gioria) is a shy and navigating the world mostly alone. He lives with his mother on the ground of the psychiatric hospital where she works, and spends much of his time with the birds that he cares for. One day, he spies Gloria (Fantine Harduin) as she screams and runs from her nurses. He learns that she has some serious problems and is told that he must stay away from her.

He, however, did what young teenaged boy do when told to stay away from a pretty teenaged girl. When we first meet Paul, he is caring for an injured bird and he turns that same gentleness and tenacity to Gloria, who tells him she is being kept against her will, so her uncle can have access to her large fortune. Paul and Gloria’s first steps come to a deadly climax, and they go on the run becomes a journey.

We follow the two through forests and down rivers and their love for each other blooms. The film explores that love as they slowly explore their feelings. They explore based upon what they have heard other people do and are the most loving when they stop being children.

However, the exploration becomes rocky, inconsistent and even dangerous. It seems that perhaps Gloria is correct about her uncle, but her instability becomes clear after she is off of her medication. She suddenly turns on Paul, injuring him (but is quickly apologetic) but Paul is too young to know how to deal with it. They spend a few days with a kind couple, who seem to reflect what Paul and Gloria could become, but Gloria turns on them as well, violently. Paul soon realizes that he is in over his head, but he is also in love, and sometimes the only way to deal with a mad person, is to become the same.  

The actors turn in gorgeous performances. They find just the right balance between the innocence of childhood and the pressures of adulthood— the time  when one has knowledge but not maturity. We feel the strength of their attachment and fear for them at the same time. 

When off her meds. Gloria has a hypnotic dream sequence where we see the terrifying depths of her illness. Paul awakens to realize that this summer romance is doomed by her increasing madness and his pledge of eternal love cannot be kept without his being destroyed. When Gloria reveals her evil side, mistrusting everyone and using Paul by exploiting his gentleness, it is heartbreaking.

Warped obsession takes over Paul’s innocent life. He is swept up by Gloria’s vulnerability. He is entranced and determined to get to know her despite warnings from the medical staff at his mother’s workplace. He sees Gloria’s desperate bid to escape from the institution as an exciting game. Once on the run with her, he becomes intoxicated by her manipulative personality and feral beauty, and is determined to serve her needs and wishes even when Gloria leads him into emotionally and physically dangerous territory. Confused by his adolescent feelings, he is more than eager to follow Gloria’s misguided instincts. We see that this “amour fou” will damage him forever.

While the film is a fantasy, it becomes a convincing nightmare as the teens continue their journey into darkness. In her delusional madness, Gloria sees everybody as a threat and Paul is is blinded by the power of his feelings for Gloria who merely uses him to serve her needs.

“Testimony” by Paula Martinac— Facing Discrimination

Martinac, Paula. “Testimony”, Bywater Books, 2021.

Facing Discrimination

Amos Lassen

History professor Gen Rider is  tenured at Baines College, a private school for white women where she teaches “Negro” history in 1960s Virginia. However, she is also dealing with the end of a  long-distance relationship with another woman, something she has kept hidden deep inside.

When a male instructor is arrested for having sex with another man in a park, the town is beset with “homosexual panic” and begins a “Know Your Neighbor” campaign. The investigation following the arrest threatens Fenton, the gay theater director who is one of Gen’s friends at the college. Gen realizes that she, too, is vulnerable especially when mysterious gifts, including a pulp novel and romantic card, are left for her.

Most of us have never faced “homosexual panic” and what we read here, we can be glad that is the case. Gen really feels that when, upon beginning a new romance with another woman, she is seen kissing her by a neighbor who reports her. Gen must decide what is more important to her— her career or her private life.

“Testimony’ by Paula Martinac is Gen’s story, a story of discrimination and civil rights and it reminds us that our community has suffered greatly in the past. It was very different back then and I remember it well having also been an academic at the time and even though I was in a society that was much more accepting, we still felt the need to hide who we were or risk the chance of losing our faculty positions. Professor Rider was dedicated to her career and worked hard at it. Here she was at a Christian female college and she was teaching a minority history to white women. She was well aware of the danger of being out and that suspicion could cause great harm. She not only worries about herself but about her friends and colleagues as well. Yet, there came that night when she gave into her feelings and then has to defend herself. In the process, she learned the power of hatred and homophobia.

This is such an important look at how we once had to live and it is beautifully told in gorgeous prose. While this is fiction, it could very well happen today in places with an uneducated populace and those who are willing to destroy. It certainly comes to us at a time when we really need to be reminded that there are many who refuse to accept people as they are.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH ON REVRY — Revry Celebrates BHM All Month Long With Films, Series, and Music Videos. 

Revry Celebrates BHM All Month Long With Films, Series, and Music Videos. 
Los Angeles, CA – Jan. 22, 2021 – Revry celebrates Black History Month with an entire February calendar highlighting incredible Black Queer content made by and for the community.  
“Black History Month is a time to celebrate the rich heritage and contributions of Black Americans. It is especially poignant in this moment in history because we are so divided as a nation,” says Black Revry Co-Founder and Army Veteran, LaShawn McGhee. “Taking the time to highlight Black Americans and more specifically Queer Black American voices that unappologeticlaly explore the Black Queer experience is a necessity, and I’m proud to be able to do that through Revry.”
To kick off Black History Month, Revry will premiere three new powerfully entertaining documentaries on February 1st: We Can’t Breathe, Voguing the Message, and Heavenly Brown Body. Throughout the month, brand new content will continue to premiere including series like Miseducated, Boys Hurt Too, His Story and Exhale. In addition, Revry Originals will also be featured including Linish about international trans DJ phenom; the Australian comedy Little Sista; To Be Me starring Emmy winner Kim Estes; and the powerful intersection of Black and Queer conversation series, Amplify Voices.  
The global Queer TV network, 75% founded by people of color and 50% Black women, has already been specifically championing Black voices with its existing Black Lives Matter curation of films, series, and music videos. This month is an opportunity for audiences to find even more free Black entertainment playing on Revry’s Live Linear channels and On-Demand at
The full calendar of events is below, including hyperlinks on titles available to watch immediately. 
Monday, February 1, 2021
We Can’t Breathe – During a global pandemic, the killing of one man sparks the biggest social movement in history. In Los Angeles, a queer black woman is determined to capture the movement through her lens, so she hits the streets, camera in hand. What she discovers is a diverse world of impassioned protesters from all walks of life, coming together to make themselves heard.
Voguing the Message – A pre-Madonna primer that raises questions about race, sex and subcultural style, and traces the roots of this gay Black and Latino dance form, which appropriates and plays with poses and images from mainstream fashion.
Linish – A Revry Original documentary following the life of the legendary and inimitable DJ Lina Bradford.
Heavenly Brown Body – This Grand Jury Prize for Short Documentary at Outfest 2020 uses the poem “Litanies to my Heavenly Brown Body” by poet Mark Aguhar (she/her) as the text for a queer liturgy with mysterious seers who use the words of the poem as the liturgy for their ritual of cleansing and healing,
Friday, February 5, 2021
Single Record – After reaching his dream of having a hit song, a talented and arrogant rapper learns that his record label will drop him if his next song isn’t a hit. His desperation to save his career will force him to confront his identity, sexuality and bring him to new lows that could cost him everything.
America in Transition – America In Transition, an award-winning, Sundance-backed Revry Original documentary series, explores the community, family, and social issues of trans people of color across the United States – capturing real life for a veteran turned activist, an immigrant seeking home, a woman living with HIV healing from trauma, and a model navigating family life.
Sunday, February 7, 2021
Trade – ‘Trade’ tells the story of two men, one a streetwise hustler, the other a straight-laced lawyer, who meet and form a relationship that brings to light who they really are
Miseducated – It’s time to relive, reimagine, and reblog the gay high school experience. Anton tries to avoid the often isolating halls of high school by dropping out. But his best friend Dillion makes the decision tough, reminding Anton that inside and outside of the halls, all they have are each other.
Boys Hurt Too – Following the death of Jake his brother Bobby and best friend Colt struggle to move on from the high school legend. They soon begin to learn about the monster Jake truly was.
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
My Trans Life Season 1 – Being trans is a mental, physical and emotional journey and MY TRANS LIFE showcases inspiring trans individuals on their journeys of acceptance. From preparing for major surgery, to tackling love lives, to campaigning for equality, MY TRANS LIFE follows transgender people facing the world in the body they were meant to be in.

Friday, February 12, 2021
To Be Me – To Be Me tells the story of a young, mid-western African American who struggles with their gender identity. Played by Kate Rose Wilburn, a non-binary trans female, along with Emmy award winning actor Kim Estes as their father, this Revry Original series is here to shed light on the under represented and supported subject of gender identity. 
Sunday, February 14, 2021
Her Story – Her Story is about two trans women in Los Angeles who have given up on love, when chance encounters give them hope. Violet is drawn to Allie, a reporter who approaches her for an interview. Career-driven Paige meets James, the first man she’s considered opening up to in years. Will they risk letting what they are stand in the way of being loved for who they are?
His Story – In this novel series we enter the fantasy of Noah and Chris, two step brothers who get a reality check in a story of lust.
Gina Yashere: Laughing To America – Filmed live in San Francisco, CA, UK’s premier Black female comedian, Gina Yashere, has come to America! Her unique take on being a cultural insider and outsider never fails to raise the roof as she gives us her take on the news gripping the nation.
Threesome – A poly couple, Vanessa & Justin, search for the perfect woman to join their relationship, which proves easier said than done. Along the way, they must navigate through sex addicts, crazy women & the negative opinions of friends in this comedic digital series.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
My Trans Life Season 2 – Being trans is a mental, physical and emotional journey and MY TRANS LIFE showcases inspiring trans individuals on their journeys of acceptance. From preparing for major surgery, to tackling love lives, to campaigning for equality, MY TRANS LIFE follows transgender people facing the world in the body they were meant to be in.

Cheetah in August – A riveting story about a former high school track athlete whose distorted views on love, negatively affects the people closest to him.
Clash – A critique on the lack of QPOC representation in UK television and film, highlighting inequality and the absence of media engagement with Britain’s colonial past.
Friday, February 19, 2021
Amplify Voices – Amplify Voices is a Revry original series determined to pass the mic to incredible humans you should know more about, and embrace conversations and debates that achieve heightened intersectional understanding across the Queer and POC global community. 
Little Sista – In this Revry Original series, commitment-phobe Charmaine must learn to grow up when she is paired with an at-risk youth in a Big Brother, Big Sister programme.
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Exhale – New – In such chaotic times, viewers escape into the tranquil world of Exhale. As viewers relax they sit back and witness as Marion’s cheating ways interrupts his zen. 
Change in the Family – This documentary chronicles the transgender-transition of Zo Thorpe and the sympathetic response of his family. This is a story of celebration, health, and unconditional love. A much-needed portrayal of trans and gender-nonconforming lives in America.
She – “She” follows Tanesh Nutall, a 50-year old black transgender woman from Rahway, New Jersey. In February 2016, Tanesh was confronted by a city employee for using a women’s restroom in Downtown San Francisco. Throughout the film, Tanesh seeks justice and make amends with family members that were not accepting of her gender identity. Not only does “She” discuss queer people in urban spaces but one’s ability to accept themselves despite the odds against them.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
My Trans Life Season 3 – Being trans is a mental, physical and emotional journey and MY TRANS LIFE showcases inspiring trans individuals on their journeys of acceptance. From preparing for major surgery, to tackling love lives, to campaigning for equality, MY TRANS LIFE follows transgender people facing the world in the body they were meant to be in.
Vintage: Families of Value – Claiming a space for representations of lesbian and gay African Americans, three sets of queer siblings, provide an unprecedented opportunity for black families to address issues of sexuality, identity, and personal history.
Friday, February 26, 2021
Suicide Khale – While having lunch with another couple, new couple Jasmine and Penny stumble upon an anonymous suicide note and proceed to work to uncover the identity of the author.
Missed Connections – Two strangers meet and form a bond at a festival, but they forget to exchange contact info. As they search for one another and through viral posts, they navigate their careers, lives, and society’s expectations of them as Black, female, and transgender.
Scales – Remy and his two best friends have an epic breakdown in their journeys of finding stable relationships outside of each other.
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Don’t Break Yourself – Everybody’s gotta work. Calen and Tye decide to work smart. Tired of retail, Calen hatches a plan to keep his rent paid while Tye searches for a way to save his dying moving business. Along their journey the two are bonded by their struggle.
Giving Me Life – A dramedy series about six Black and Latinx friends of diverse sexualities as they struggle to live and love in New York City.
Watch Queer TV 24/7 with the first LGBTQ+ digitall cable TV network. Revry offers free live TV channels and on-demand viewing of its global library featuring LGBTQ+ movies, shows, music, podcasts, news, and exclusive originals all in one place! Revry is currently available globally in over 250+ million households and devices and on seven OTT, mobile, and Desktop platforms. Revry can also be viewed on nine live and on-demand channels and Connected TVs including: The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus, Comcast Xfinity X1, Dell, XUMO TV, Zapping TV, STIRR, TiVo+, and as the first LGBTQ+ virtual reality channel on Littlstar (available on PlayStation devices). The company–an inaugural member of the Goldman Sachs Black and LatinX Cohort–is headquartered in Los Angeles and led by a diverse founding team who bring decades of experience in the fields of tech, digital media, and LGBTQ+ advocacy. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @revrytv,




A Death Sentence

Amos Lassen

Melissa Lucio tells the camera that “The State of Texas wants to kill me” in the opening minutes of Sabrina Van Tassel’s documentary “The State of Texas vs. Melissa. Lucio”. She has been on Texas’ death row since 2008 for the killing of her 2-year-old daughter.

Lucio’s story is not new— every year, Black and brown Texans appeal death sentences because of poor trial defense, a history of abuse and poverty, and mental health issues, all of which should keep them from being executed. Some are probably innocent but he state nor the courts rarely side with the prisoner. Texas is the state with the highest number of executions in this country.

Lucio, from Harlingen in South Texas, is believed to be the first Latina woman sentenced to death in Cameron County. Her case is filled with ineptitude and corruption. Ironically, the film shows us the natural beauty of Texas alongside its messed-up legal system Texas’ unfiltered natural beauty alongside the cruelty of its legal system through interviews with Lucio’s family (her now-grown children, her siblings, and her mother) along with interviews with her appellate attorney, her trial attorney, and a private investigator. We see other parts of the story are told through film footage that includes arious interviews following the child’s death and clips from Lucio’s near-seven-hour interrogation and of her children being asked to discuss their home life. We see that the children are calm, nervous, and well-behaved  yet Lucio’s trial defense attorney insisted her kids were wild and would not have behaved in a courtroom. 

Director Van Tassel who both wrote and directed the film focuses on Lucio and her family as well as gives us a look at poverty. We also see the inhumanity of the  death penalty.  We cannot help but wonder whether Melissa be on death row if she were white or wealthy, if she could’ve afforded a lawyer who called even a witness to speak on her behalf. It seems that poor lawyering is part of the criminal justice system and it has failed failed Lucio or, at worst, framed her for a death she didn’t commit.

“Are you a cold blooded killer or just a frustrated mother?” One of three cops demand of Lucio during her interrogation; they ask her to show them how she beat her daughter. She repeats, “I don’t hit my children.” Her confession, which acts as the film’s prologue, showcases how the system treats poor brown women. Though it’s a gut-wrenching story, The State of Texas vs. Melissa, works hard to offer viewers the smallest semblance of hope.

Melissa has been a death row inmate for the last 11 years, convicted of beating and murdering her two-year old daughter Mariah. She is waiting for her final appeal. Her story is an example of justice that has been rendered incorrectly. Her case was filled with questionable strategies by her lawyer, uneasy and unfair interrogations and a legal system that opposed her from the start.  

Melissa was molested at a young age, married at sixteen, attached to problematic and manipulative men, and later was either homeless or living in various of two-bedroom apartments with her large family. She was an easy target for a conviction that villainized showing how society often turns troubled victims and the poor into just another number on a prison roll. We see footage of her interrogation during which authorities denied her food and water and showed her pictures of her dead daughter’s bruised body.

From the first sequence, we see that a false confession was forced by the police team during which she was uncomfortable and did not believe what she is saying. It is hard to believe that either she would have done this or that she could even do this and not other children in her home be effected by it.  This is a clear case of a mistrial. Melissa had  no representation to help her be judged fairly and her social class, gender and race made it that much worse.
It isheartbreaking to see the lack of support she receives from her family or closest friends. Her mother and kids have done nothing to get her help or to try and appeal the cases. Everything that Melissa is doing is through her own research and communication.

Here we really see the systemic issues that remain in the legal and justice systems. The film makes a strong case that the death penalty should not exist especially due to the irreversible nature of the process when many innocent people have been exonerated after their time has gone.

“MEAN MAN: THE STORY OF CHRIS HOLMES”— The Last True Rock ‘n Roller!


The Last True Rock ‘n Roller!

Amos Lassen

From iconic guitar player to construction worker, Chris Holmes has been an iconic guitar player and a construction worker— he is a man whose life is filled with  highs and lows. After he lost the publishing rights of his own songs dealt with addictions, he had to start over as he lived with his mother in law’s basement in Cannes, France. Now he feels that he is ready to go to Europe with his new band. In this films we are with him as he  meets many fans and shows once again that he is still a showman just as he was once a young rockstar. This musical journey is his story that uses the parallel stories of the rise, fall and rebirth. 

“Mean Man is a new documentary about the  former W.A.S.P. guitarist. W.A.S.P. was a savage band that was mistakenly categorized as a glam band, something it never was. At most, it reflected a glam band with big hair and animal print leggings but there was nothing glamorous about that. Band members were were tall beasts who, by the end of their shows were usually covered in sweat and fake blood. They looked and sounded like a nightmare.

At the center of the band were, Chris Holmes and Blackie Lawless, the creative genius who was mysterious and private.  He focused on the band’s ‘brand’ and direction. When he was not onstage, he was soft-spoken and intelligent. He wrote most of the lyrics and made himself the face of W.A.S.P. during the Eighties. Holmes was seen  as the mascot and sidekick to Lawless. He brought the wildness.  Lawless was the brains of the band and Holmes was the heart.

There was always more to W.A.S.P. than met the eye. Holmes’s guitar playing was world-class. His guitar tone was all his own – raw and nasty and he was years ahead of what many black/extreme metal artists would do years later. Seeing  him play on stage was an experience. But Holmes had demons. He was an alcoholic who had no self-esteem. But this is a story of redemption and we see that Holmes is now in his 60s, sober and happily married, living in France and he has found his place, touring in Europe with a new band.

We see Holmes as someone who’s become comfortable with himself and his fame. He admits that he had no desire to be a rock star and he has  hung up his guitar several times and taken menial jobs in construction, etc. He’s happy to play guitar but does not know how good he is.

There are a couple of tragic anecdotes about friends he’s lost to alcoholism and he talks about how rejection of his Mormon upbringing led him to use drugs as a teenager. We never learn why he went into hiding for so long but then we do not really need to know that.  He seems to have found the best way to express rage is through his performance and still thrashes around onstage.

This is a story unlike the usual rock survivor stories. Holmes never bemoans that he could have been great. He shrugs it all off, straps on his guitar and plays brilliantly. He has had a rough life but he is still here.



A Special Collector’s Edition

Amos Lassen

“The Mary Millington Collector’s Edition is a apecial collector’s edition (numbered and limited to 3,000) that includes 5 disc Blu-ray releases of “Come Play with Me”, “The Playbirds” and “Confessions From the David Galaxy Affair”. It comes with an 80-page booklet, brand new extras that include short films/documentaries and an. audio commentary.

However, if you are expecting hardcore European porn, you will be disappointed.. This collection presents the softcore British produced titles she was featured in up to the early 1980s. Today these titles would be rated R in North America for nudity and suggestive explicit sex. The purpose of this collection is a tribute to her work and focuses on the tragedy that was her life.

There are five blu-ray discs and a color booklet included in the set. Discs 1-4 each are the four major softcore British titles she was featured in. Each disc also contains clips from some of her hardcore 8mm titles (no hardcore action included!), and at least one short documentary on each disc. Disc 5 is the 2015 produced documentary of her life and I found it to be the interesting title of the set.

Mary Millington’s untimely death before age 35 was tragic. She dealt with a lot of demons throughout her life and these  probably contributed to her tragic outcome. The documentary aspect of this collection highlights the human faults that may be attributed to a life associated in the porn industry.

This is not a set for everyone, of course. If you don’t mind 1970’s and early 80’s English cheeky nudie films, you will find it to your liking.

“THE EL DUCE TAPES”— Behind the Singer


Behind the Singer

Amos Lassen

 Filmmaker Ryan Sexton took his camcorder into some of the seediest clubs and the filthiest apartments in Hollywood in the 1990s to film hours of footage of the offensive Shock Rock band The Mentors and their lead singer, El Duce. 

It took 30 years before the long forgotten and unseen footage was found. As it was pieced together a picture of the man under the black executioner’s hood emerged and we can see his offensive acts and controversial views and what they have to say about today’s America.

“The El Duce Tapes is “one of the best music docs to come along in a while. Funny, honest, grotesque and fascinated by a pot-bellied miscreant most would run a mile from, the film is a thought-provoking foray into anti-commercial art and outsider lifestyles.”

Eldon Hoke once made a cameo appearance in Nick Broomfield’s “Kurt & Courtney” and we could tell that he was a strange person. Under the nom de guerre El Duce, he was later killed on a train track. His untimely death was recorded as misadventure.

Directed by Rodney Ascher and David Lawrence,the filmis hinged on the discovery of archive footage. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as a young actor, Sexton began recording concerts and interviews with El Duce and The Mentors, on video camera.  The Mentors wrote and performed songs primarily about male sexual dominance. El Duce describes their genre of music as ‘rape rock’. The sang odes to golden showers, with profane lyrics. They became a cult band, with male and female fans coming to their shows in dive bars and clubs. With strange names such as Sickie Wifebeater, El Duce, Dr. Heathen Scum, they performed wearing black executioner’s hoods. The Mentors were crafting transgressive art.

Hoke is seen as an emotionally damaged man headed for self-destruction and behaving badly. Yet beneath the black hood b and provocative statements about women, Hitler and other controversial figures, he was a guy with self-esteem issues that only alcohol could temporarily alleviate. He came from a conservative middle-class background in Seattle, and was a rebellious kid and a man who could not deal with his demons. Hoke had fantasizes about being an American dictator yelling that he would “build a Berlin Wall which is actually a Mexican wall, and not allow any immigrants to sneak into this country.” He called himself an advocate of “The 4F Club, Find her, feel her, fuck her, forget her.”

The film begins with a quote from D.W. Griffith arguing for the freedom of movies to venture into dark areas. Did Hoke really believe the madness he screamed or was it just an attention-grabbing joke. The film suggests that Hoke might be the kind of artist born to outrage and go out of control. It explores the tension between a real person and the mask he wore. Was Hoke an untouchable pariah or “just a manifestation of a widespread culture.”

Near the end ofthe film, Hoke sometimes shares his toxic misogynist, neo-Nazi, barbarian persona and says that he has all kinds of friends including blacks and El Duce recalls high school vandalism like peeing in jars and spilling the contents on radiators, distributing little packages of feces wrapped in foil, and using vomit for whatever. “He was the “Number One Nuisance,” who also became hopelessly alcoholic.”

Steve (Dr. Heathen Scum) Broy tells that Hoke played in a child symphony. He was serious about music, and his fellow musicians were once aspiring jazz fusion musicians. His  transition from jazz to perversion was a “conscious sell-out,” Broy says. 

There are g revelations from Duce and his sister that their father beat them viciously with a paddle. Maybe El Duce’s fascist posturing was more about outraging his father who had created the napalm bombs that maimed, tortured, and murdered in Viet Nam.

Ascher and Lawrence give us a look at the underground music world in the 1990s and what it meant to love sleaze. The first 2o minutes are disgusting— we see El Duce onstage screaming about raping women and hailing Hitler. During interviews he yells, burps, blows raspberries, and chugs plastic bottles of malt liquor while yelling about hate, sex, and alcohol. At first, we think that the film that will just showcase the heinous nature of the band and their lyrics and that would make it impossible to watch but  the documentary begins to transition into a deeper look at the character of El Duce, his desire to create art, and what it meant to pursue that art.

The film does not justify his actions. It tries to understand why someone who was so talented on the drums and loved jazz fusion, entered a world of perversion and used his art was perversion, a way to entertain audiences and speak to them about life, even though it was a life most didn’t want to face. He loved to make people uncomfortable, no matter what it took. Yet, Despite the heinous lyrics and the joking about sexual assault, we get a bit of understanding the methods to his madness.

“Bangkok Burning”may Robin Newbold— Searching and Finding

Newbold, Robin. “Bangkok Burning”,The Conrad Press, 2021.

Searching and Finding

Amos Lassen

 In “Bangkok Burning”, writer Robin Newbold introduces us to Graham Floyd, a man who is deep in the closet and beset by anxiety issues. He decides he needs a change so he trades his apartment in London and moves to Bangkok, a city know for chaos. He meets Natasha, a trans schemes with whom he falls in love. This is the story of Graham’s struggle to find himself and of the dark side of desire.

Graham left behind his marriage and becomes part of the life of Natasha a “ladyboy, he met at a cabaret bar. Soon the two are in love. The book spans several years during which Graham’s life changes over and over. He had first met Natasha while on a trip to Thailand with his wife but after kissing her, he could not get her out of his mind. When he went back to England, he could not stop thinking about her and flees back to Thailand. He finds Natasha, buys a bar and sets her up in it. What he did know was that she had a group of friends that were something of a rogue’s gallery and exist outside of Thai society.

Graham is on a journey that takes him to the dark corners of his life and of his mind but he believes that he is living the life he was meant to live. He loves his new home and finds it addictive. Bangkok becomes a character in the story. It is, in the author’s words “hot, exotic, erotic, dynamic and it really does attack all the senses.” But that, we see is only on the surface.  The gay scene is not what it seems to be. Visitors see it as one of the freest places on Earth but there is little acceptance. Bangkok can be very cutthroat and unsentimental.

 Newbold sheds light on the dark world of ladyboys and we see how Bangkok became a destination for sex. Many of the hang-ups about. Sex in the Western world do not exist there and we see that the line between exploitation and the exploited is paper thin.

Quite basically this is the story of Graham dealing with who he is and it could be the story of any of us who live unhappily in a situation that does not fit who we really are. We see Graham’s flaws and we understand his pain of being in the closet. He has to free himself and make his own way and his own daughter who was killed as a teen in a car crash told him, before she died, to leave his wife and find himself. When he finds Natasha, all the feelings that he has longed for come to the fore and he finally realizes that the time has come to change paths. This is quite a decision for him and he becomes something of a hero.

This was, for me, a book that I could not put down and I read it in one sitting. While I did not suffer as Graham did, I saw something of myself in it making this more than just a novel but a total experience. It is beautifully written with wonderful descriptions and great insights. I totally recommend it.