Provincetown Film Festival, 2001
Is it my fault? I couldn't make a screening of the documentary, Southern Comfort, at the fabulous 3rd Provincetown International Film Festival. How was I to know, when I met the genial Southern Comfort star at a fest party, that Lola Cola was not a transvestite but a transsexual? I referred to Lola as "he," only to be corrected by Lola's female lover: "Lola is a she!"
Oops! And I hope I wasn't too much of a pill when I requested a fan for my hotel room to drown out the disco from the basement leather bar. Alone of the guests, I needed my sleep. Don't get me wrong: I had cool moments, smiling back when cruised by a bearded nun outside a sing-a-long screening of The Sound of Music, and sharing a heart-to-heart with a drag queen from Minnesota whose nightclub act, he/she (???) explained, encompassed Celine Dion and Reba McIntyre.
To find out what was really hopping at the Provincetown Film Festival, I checked in with filmmaker John Waters, who has been coming to P-Town for 37 years. A booster of the Festival, he'd agreed to appear on a "Filmmaking on the Edge" panel, and also to introduce a favorite movie. No Tarkovsky for Waters. He chose Baxter, a 1991 French flick about a bull terrier who bites people who are sentimental about dogs.
Mostly Waters was giddy about the upcoming evening with 60s songster Connie Francis, appearing at Town Hall with a new 35mm print of her superhit movie, Where the Boys Are. Waters ran through headlines of Francis's "Who's Sorry Now?" tragic life: a controlling father, a rape, failed marriages, a brother murdered by the Mafia.
As we talked, Waters was deep into playing Volume Four of Connie Francis's Greatest Hits. Over the CD sounds, Waters defended Dancer in the Dark, which I mostly hate, as a sublime kitschy melodrama ("Catherine Deneuve as a factory worker! I loved it!"). Waters's 2001 obsession is Jenna Bush, the latest of his hussy bad girls: "She wore a toe ring to court! She was totally defiant!"
Oh, the Provincetown Film Festival. It was total fun, jubilant audiences everywhere, and a great triumph for, among its management, ex-Brattle directors Connie White and Maryanne Lampke.
Is there a better spot on earth for a sing-along Sound of Music than uninhibited P-Town? Hilariously raunchy things were yelled out, and boos and hisses throughout for Christopher Plummer's Baron Von Trapp. Who in the predominantly gay and lesbian audience could abide such a fascistic patriarch? Yet he was forgiven when (a closeted artsy side?) he joined in song with his psychologically battered children.
I was happy to introduce retrospective screenings of septuagenarians animator Faith Hubley and documentarian Albert Maysles. "I don't like Hitler... I don't like Walt Disney," is the way Hubley (a sexy 77-year-old! Trust me!) introduced herself to me. I know exactly what she means.
At the screening of Maysles' 1976 classic Grey Gardens, concerning the symbiotic relationship of an utterly eccentric East Hampton-residing adult mother-and-daughter, a man in the audience explained his desire to make this documentary into a Broadway musical. "It's up to Edie," Maysles said, of Edie Bouvier Beale, the surviving daughter (also Jackie Kennedy's weirdo cousin), who lives in Florida. "They wanted to make a Hollywood film with Julie Christie as Edie. Edie was horrified and said, 'The only person who can play me is me!'"
On to Connie Francis. Frankly, there was some trepidation about her appearance. She'd never heard of Provincetown! Also, she's not in the best of health, five weeks with a broken foot. Would she be the good sport who could justify the $25 ticket price?
Not to worry. After a bevy of tanned muscle guys pranced through the audience in bathing suits, Connie hobbled in. CHEERS! She was definitely moved by the reception. "What a joy it is to be here tonight. Welcome to the groovy Provincetown Festival!" she said. Then the film rolled, the mostly boring, inanely written Where the Boys Are, only vaguely improved by the beautiful new 35mm print, made for the festival (Connie White's effort) at a cost of $15,000.
Back on stage, Francis recalled how little she wanted t make the movie. "I'm a singer, not an actress," she told producer Joe Pasternak, who took her to locations in Fort Lauderdale. "He told me there was a boy in every tree. I didn't see them. I'd rather go to the Jersey shore." Her father insisted she make the movie. "I didn't attend the premiere. I didn't like the way I looked, sang, acted. But Where the Boys Are was my Gone With the Wind. The rest of my movies - Follow the Boys, etc. - were downhill all the way.
"I really have a lot of nerve being at a film festival!"