Friday, December 12, 2008

Looking at What About Me

In his essay on the East Village in NYPress this week, Matt Harvey spoke with East Village filmmaker Rachel Amodeo. She wrote, directed and starred in What About Me. (What About Me was filmed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with a release in 1993.) I've been meaning to write about this presents a good opportunity.

Here's a passage on the film from Harvey's article:

Her film is a naturalist document of pre–Tompkins Square Park riot days. Filmed in black and white — and set to a score by [Johnny] Thunders and Bob Quine —Amodeo’s East Village is a claustrophobic, small town of decrepit storefronts, graffiti, peeling paint; cons, hookers, junkies, lowlifes. The kind of people Travis Bickle wanted the rain to sweep away. Her character is conned, raped, thrown out of her apartment and run over by a motorcycle; but somehow it’s believable. The East Village is seen as something to escape — not buy into.

She smokes crack with Nick Zedd in an unheated apartment and hangs out with bums warming themselves with trashcan fires. During filming, they tried to find real crack for the scene, but Zedd couldn’t find any, according to Amodeo. “That’s what the ’80s was about: dark lighting, and no electricity, experimenting with drugs,” Amodeo tells me in her hoarse voice.

Aside from Zedd and Thunders, the film features Richard Edson, Richard Hell, Rockets Redglare and Dee Dee Ramone, among many other familiar faces.

Here are a few shots from the film, some familiar scenes of past and present places along Avenue A, such as the Tompkins Park Restaurant on the corner of Ninth Street where Doc Holliday's is now:

There's an exterior shot filmed in front of Sophie's. Richard Hell is shown walking into the bar.... meet his friend Nick Zedd, though the exterior isn't Sophie's, it's, uh -- I forget.

And here's Dee Dee, in his lone scene in the film:

According to the YouTube description of this video, this scene was shot the day that Johnny Thunders died, April 23, 1991.

From Dee Dee's "Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones": "After we finished my scene, we called it a wrap and went over to Rachel's apartment to relax and smoke some weed. When we got there the phone rang. It was Stevie (Klasson), the guitar player in Johnny's band. "Rachel, he said. "John died. He's dead".(pg 232)

Dee Dee continues: "But I was still out of control. The reality is that methadone was not blocking my craving for street drugs. I shot up quarter grams of cocaine for a couple of days. Then I went over to the Continental Divide for a tribute concert for John... It was too much for me. I went down to the Bowery and got drunk. The next day I shot up some dope. I just didn't give a damn anymore." (pg 233)

Back to the NYPress article:

Amodeo lives in two-bedroom rent-controlled apartment near Avenue A with her boyfriend, gallery owner M. Henry Jones. The rent is cheap enough that she refuses to specify it. Hell has rent-controlled turf a block west, that he -— in her words -— is “so, so grateful for.” But most of the rest of her friends have vanished from the nabe. “I think, some of them had families and they all lived in one-room studios, and they had to move, others just vanished,” she trails off as if she wasn’t too sure. “It’s kind of scary.”

I ask her when the hood started to feel different for her, and she replies: “I think when Johnny [Thunders] died, it felt like a different place. Stuff was starting to open up.”

Thunders died mysteriously in New Orleans when the film was in post-production. In other words, by the time the film was released it was already a relic of another time. “God,” she adds, “people used to live in the storefronts.”


Jeremiah Moss said...

pretty sure the second pic with the coffee shop is leshko's. that was a loss.

Anonymous said...

Yep, that's Leshko's. Closed in 1999, right? And I'm not counting that new-age version of the place that was there for awhile.

Jill said...

Henry's store is SnakeMonkey on Ave A between 12th & 13th.

Jill said...

There's a difference between rent controlled and rent stabilized. Rachel's apartment is stabilized, as are everybody who rented after 1971. The differences are in the type of lease, inheritance rights and annual rent increase percentages.

JamesChanceOfficial said...

Have any of you guys actually watched this movie? I have it on my Netflix list but haven't pulled the trigger yet. Whats the scoop - crap or not?