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'CAPTURED' & THE NEW DOWNTOWNERS
By STEVE LEWIS
BlackBook Magazine on March 31, New York 2009
I attended the screening of Dan Levin’s Captured, a documentary about the iconic chronicler of downtown culture Clayton Patterson, at Collective Hardware last night. All of the unusual suspects arrived to witness a world that has largely disappeared as a result of more than a decade of hardcore gentrification. The Lower East Side, where I learned to stand up, is full of defunct clubs, and squatted buildings have long ago been replaced by condominiums, co-ops, and baby carriages. At this point it’s too long ago to point fingers or even think what could have or should have been. Captured just shows downtown as it was without pulling punches, needles or blood. Nothing was hidden from a new generation who might not be able to imagine what it was like without this amazing film. My special friend, a pretty young thing from Southern California with more than a fair share of cerebrum lives on Essex Street, and she was awed by the changes and indeed by the history portrayed in this film.
In Captured, I saw my old pal Ray of Warzone and a half-dozen friends who have passed since the film was shot (mostly in the late 80s). The fundamental message that resonates with me is that Clayton—and to some extent myself—live in a world which we never wanted. The culture of those streets—where so much art, music, and fashion were created—has long since dissipated, and there has been no such creative cauldron since. But still, I argue that the scene is coming back right now. There are hundreds of small scenes getting so much less publicity than the 1Oaks, or as my special friend calls it, “1Jokes” and “miss-the-Marq(uee).” Now, I love the scene at 1Oak, and I used to love Marquee, but I understand my special friend’s point. The job of clubs at one point was to push buttons, push the boundaries of our culture, and to bring together different people with different talents to help develop fashion, art, and music. And it was also just a way that some people made loot. Sure, there was always money being made, but that wasn’t the ultimate goal. Collective Hardware continues to expose me to new art, music, film and culture, and there are intelligent conversations and brilliant people doing installations all over the joint. It is simply the best thing I have experienced in downtown culture in 15 years.
I caught up with Clayton, and this is what he had to say about the documentary. “Yes, I am pleased with the movie, but the real magic is that yes, it is my footage, but it is the three young men’s point of view and their vision for the material over the years that’s amazing. I had some serious people look at my footage but ‘the boys’ are the only ones who have been able to do anything with it. They are the magicians that made me look good ... without them the movie would be nothing. Dan Levin and Ben Solomon are the directors, and Jenner Furst is the editor—it is their point of view that attracts the young crowd and for me they are a total blessing.” Captured is available on Amazon and will be available in the iTunes movie store this week.
After the flick I went to Otto’s on 14th Street and caught the Lux Interior tribute. I wrote an obit about The Cramps’ frontman a couple months ago for this blog. I saw self-proclaimed rock ‘n’ roll terrorists, the Goon Squad perform, headed by my favorite misnomer Miss Guy; Justine D. and a half-dozen others played relevant sets of music in the front room ... yeah, no Beyonce, Kanye West, or any of that bull bore that most DJs are offering up. This Serato thing is cool, but I can’t help but wonder how much stuff never makes it onto those playlists, like Michael T. and Mistress Formika who were there and taking no prisoners. I did hear that Mistress is hosting an insane weekly party called “Hose,” which I’m afraid to go to—so I will. I saw people at the Lux tribute that I haven’t seen in years, including rockers all out of the woodworks or the copy shops that many have been exiled to. There was more life in these zombies than what I’ve ever seen in “hot spots” around town. Mother Chi Chi Valenti MCed a little in an outfit fit for the queen she is. There is something happening here—what it is ain’t exactly clear—but there is a huge underground scene, and no club is embracing it. Michael T. said it: The kids want to go out. I pogo-ed to The Cramps’ “What’s Inside a Girl,” and yes, I danced with Jenny and Vandam door-diva Cynthia Powell and a crowd of people I felt real comfortable letting my hair down around.