Sometime in early ’92, I noticed Wesley Snipes in the crowd of people watching the voguers late on a Sunday morning at Sound Factory. Nobody paid him any mind. Told later, my friends thought I’d had some kind of wishful hallucination, but here is the smoking gun. Check out Wesley’s moves at the 3:12 mark. Werk!:
Came across these playlists from the summer of 1982 on Discogs. They’re by the members of British band 400 Blows and I guess were included with their first single release, Beat the Devil. Not sure what the genre name of choice is these days for bands like 400 Blows…punk/funk? Industrial funk? Andrew Weatherall included their “Black & White Mix Up” (mixed by Mad Professor) on his excellent “Nine O’Clock Drop” compilation. Anyway, I thought these lists give a flavor of the eclectic influences that informed this scene back then; it’s not often you see Imagination and Throbbing Gristle on the same playlist…
Watched this again the other day, it’s just as important a film now as when Marlon Riggs made it. I was vaguely thinking about starting some kind of letter-writing campaign to the distributor to encourage them to release it on DVD, but it turns out an enhanced home DVD version is scheduled for release next year. Kudos to Frameline, although I hope they charge a whole lot less for it than they do for the educational versions!
The scene in which Marlon Riggs does an accelerating montage of the obituaries of black gay men who had died of AIDS at the time the documentary was being made (1988/9) is chilling and incredibly depressing; Marlon passed away in 1994, Essex Hemphill a year later. Although new treatments that became available in the late 90s have helped reduce what seemed like endless deaths, a five-city US survey in 2005 found that 46% of black gay men tested positive, just a horrifying number (and one that the recently formed National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition is trying to do something about). The tragic loss of the incredible Willie Ninja last year was a horrible reminder that this is a crisis that is far from over. The ability of mainstream America to turn a blind eye to it is, to me, genocide by neglect.
This screenshot is from the film’s footage of Willie Ninja vogueing fiercely on the NYC streets.