Haven't blogged in a while; finally finished with the press screenings for the Tribeca Film Festival. Wound up seeing more than 60 "films". A number of art events, such as the Bucksbaum Award reception at the Whitney Museum. Ran into a lot of people, very interesting discussions. A book party for Callie Angell's "Screen Tests" book at this new place 230 Madison Avenue. Larry had a great time at that party, i was less amused, primarily because that morning i had gone to see the press screening for "Notes on Marie Menken" and at one point Gerard Malanga looks at a piece of film which has been in storage, which is now disintegrating. The film shows Marie Menken and Andy Warhol filming each other (Malanga describes it as "jousting" with cameras). The Menken and Maas families have put everything in storage, but Marie Menken and Willard Maas are no longer "known", and there is no "estate" with the money to adequately preserve this material. (One fascinating bit of information: Marie Menken had been an abstract painter in the late 1940s-early 1950s, before she concentrated on filmmaking; she was one of the first artists to show at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery.)
After the screening of the documentary "Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis", Jim Fouratt walked out of the screening exclaiming how wonderful it was, Amy Taubin was far less amused (to put it mildly), i was interested in the material about Jack's childhood... his mother had abandoned him as a child, and the letters she wrote to him as an adult (where she's sending him checks, and trying to apologize) were very sad. Jack refused to forgive his mother (an indication of his relentless hostility, and perhaps an indication of his constant need to demonize people, to set people up as "relatives" and then to claim that they exploited/abandoned/destroyed him, as in the case of Jonas Mekas, who became "Uncle Fishhook"). At one point in "Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis", there's a section about Jack's interactions with Andy Warhol.
During Callie's remarks, she said that researching the Warhol films had been a real portrait of he 1960s, and that she enjoyed getting to know many of the people who had been in the films. Yet one of the things about Warhol was that he (initially) wanted to prove himself a "serious" artist, and so he wanted to know artists with "reputations". Of course, Warhol was also snobbish: of the Judson Dance Theater choreographers, the one Warhol chose to film was Lucinda Childs, and not Yvonne Rainer or Deborah Hay or Simone Forti. My own views on Warhol are colored by the fact that, of all the experimental/avantgarde/"underground" filmmakers that i met in 1969-70 through Jonas Mekas, Warhol was one of the two who was unpleasant/nasty/rude. So that colors my view of Warhol: i met him and didn't like him.
I wonder if Callie ever talked with Kenneth King. Gerard Malanga wasn't at this party: certainly, he was crucial to Warhol during the 1960s.
I'm watching a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where a young man is talking about how his mother has betrayed him. Then there's a psychologist who comes on, to tell him that, for all intents and purposes, he doesn't have a mother, and he has to grieve, and he has to get counselling to deal with the loss. Because his mother's refusal to acknowledge that he had been abused by his stepfather, and his mother's decision to side with his stepfather over him, is like a death. Is this supposed to be meant for me? My mother's done it again. I always said that, if one of her idiot family told her to kill me, she'd kill me. She doesn't care. My mother can't even face the truth about her family: how her father was one of the vicelords in Chinatown during the 1920s and 1930s. On Celebrity Fit Club, Gunnar Nelson says that his mother was born without the "mother" gene. You certainly can say that about my mother. My sister goes crazy because she thinks my mother is going to change and suddenly become all warm and caring about us. As if! An indication of the way my mother thinks: when my cousin Elinor died, my mother was furious that her sister Anne (Elinor's mother) hasn't called her first. Uh... maybe Auntie Anne was feeling terrible because her daughter had died, and if she was thinking of people to call, maybe she would be thinking of her son (Elinor's brother) and her grandchildren (Elinor's children) before she thought of her sisters. But when we tried to explain this to my mother, it was a concept totally foreign to her. Every Saturday for... i don't even know how long, my mother goes over to her sister Mary's, and Auntie Anne and her husband Suey come in from Flushing to play mah jong. Well, that week, we told her, maybe you shouldn't count on playing mah jong this Saturday. My mother's response: why not? We tried to explain that maybe Auntie Anne would be feeling so terrible, she wouldn't want to come in to play mah jong. We're trying to explain to our mother that, for normal people, if their children die before them, it's usually a very shattering experience. But my mother looked at us like we're crazy.
Turns out, of course, my mother's lack of emotion was matched by her brother-in-law: Uncle Suey was not going to let something like his daughter's death deter him from his routine. During Elinor's funeral, Uncle Suey kept telling Auntie Anne to stop crying, to get a grip on herself, to stop carrying on. There was a moment when i wanted to slug him: let the woman cry, her daughter died, this is probably the worst thing that she could ever experience. Anyway, my mother was right: the mah jong game went on as scheduled.
I often wondered why my father married my mother. I know why my mother married my father. My paternal grandfather was rumored to be rich. Actually, my grandfather kept saving up money, and the minute he had enough, he would send for another relative in China. My grandfather kept doing this: sending for them, and setting them up in various businesses. My father estimated that, in all, there were about 50 relatives from China that came over here because of my grandfather. Of course, when he died, some of the relatives felt cheated, because they expected some money... but he had already spent it on them! My father estimated that my grandfather spent about 20 to 30 thousand dollars per relative! I don't know if my mother ever said she loved my father. I know my father loved my mother, and thought she was beautiful. I remember my father once saying, i must be crazy because i love her so much. The one thing that shook my father's faith in his love was the realization that my mother was a terrible mother. I remember my father once trying to justify some particularly stupid thing my mother had done to me, and finally he gave up, and said, look, your mother doesn't understand how lucky she is, you're good kids, really good, and she doesn't understand that, and she's not really the motherly type. My mother built up this whole fantasy about her damned family: how did i know that, when my sister and i were born, her father was still alive! I have no idea when my maternal grandfather died, but i always assumed that he must have died before my mother was married, because there's no picture of him from the time of my parents' wedding on.
Our birth was a big deal in Chinatown: we were twins. And there was a big baby party for us. And there are a lot of photos of us, with our paternal grandparents. But i have no recollection (at all) of ever meeting my mother's father.
And my mother has totally distorted the family history. She goes on and on about how my (paternal) grandmother never helped her at all. Excuse me? My grandmother started to babysit me from the time i was... well, my grandmother would love to take me to the park (until i was ten, we lived on Baxter Street, opposite Columbus Park). But my father explained that my sister was a more colicky baby, and so my mother had to take care of her. Which (evidently) made my mother furious. But my sister grew out of this by the time she was about two, and then my grandmother would take both of us.
And then my brother was born, when we were four. It is hard to remember exactly (and my mother has just chosen to forget everything), but i know that within the first three months, my brother had to be rushed to the hospital. And when he came out... he clung to my mother. It was the strangest thing, because my brother learned to walk and talk very early on, and he was a very independent child, and he would argue with my mother all the time. But the minute he got sleepy, my mother had to be there. If he woke up, and my mother wasn't around... he would scream and cry and get into hysterics.
But once my brother was born... my mother told us that she had her tubes tied, so she wouldn't have another baby! Three was enough for her! (In fact, three was too much for her.) We didn't even know what it meant, but my mother told us, "I had my tubes tied, so I wouldn't have another baby!" (Is this appropriate to tell a four-year-old? But then, when did appropriateness deter my mother?) And from that point on, my sister and i spent most weekends with my grandparents. And my grandmother's idea of fun was to take us to the movies! So every Saturday, we went to the movies with my grandmother!
Yet in my mother's mind, my grandmother never did anything to help her. (I think taking your two kids every weekend for almost three years is not nothing.) Yet she mythologizes her father, who threw her out of the house and then had nothing to do with her.
But that's my mother. Her family is perfect, everyone else is so much garbage.
And she's pathological. When my (paternal) grandmother was sick, i would (of course) visit her in the hospital every day. I mean: every single day. I didn't miss one! Even if it was only for a few minutes, i made sure that i made an appearance. But one day, my mother got into hysterics, and demanded that i stop going to see my grandmother, because "she never helped me, and she always favored your uncle Edmund and not your father". In fact, she had thrown this fit with my father, and made his life hell, because he was trying to help his mother. (That's my mother for you: it's always a choice, and if you don't do what she wants, then you don't love her, you don't care... i mean: this was the man's mother, for chrissake, and if his mother's in the hospital and he wants to visit her... but my mother made my father's life hell.... and so he told me, i can't go as often as i want, because your mother gets too upset, but you keep going.) My mother threw this fit, and i comforted her, and i made a promise that i would do as she wanted... and then i went right ahead and kept on visiting my grandmother. But she nagged and screamed and whined at my father, to get him to stop visiting his own mother! What is she? But my mother has no conception of normal human feelings. And she's just getting worse!