Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois on August 28, 1992 · Page 47
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois · Page 47

Chicago, Illinois
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Friday, August 28, 1992
Page 47
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Chicago Tribune, Friday, August 28, 1992 Section 5 3 Tempo A lost generation If brother is happily wed, don't interfere Ann Landers is on vacation. This is one of her favorite columns from the past. ear Ann Landers: My youngest brother, D , Dennis, waited until he was 38 years of age to marry, and then ne selected a woman who has a master's degree but doesn't know enough not to put a wet towel on a mahogany table. I can't stand to see the way his "brilliant" wife "My producer had to borrow money from his mom. And we worked in fits and starts in fall and winter of '90, around the schedules of the actors and other personnel," he says. "I operated the camera myself. But I must say that other underground filmmakers helped us out a lot. Jon Jost lent me his camera equipment and donated leftover film stock. Then a grant from the American Film Institute came through at the last minute." When "The Living End" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, it was hailed as a breakthrough film, a defiant, impassioned statement about being gay and HIV-positive in the '90s. The tempestuous romance between a rebel without a cause and a sensitive writer is played out against the backdrop of an urban wasteland populated by intolerant misfits. "Their volatile relationship gradually takes on a metaphysical meaning, like the virus itself," Araki says. "Their escape from the law is really an existential, psychological journey. At the end of their emotional showdown, they are stranded with the ocean to their backs facing uncertainty and despair, like most of us." The thematic concerns of his films notwithstanding, Araki doesn't like to be labeled a "gay" or "AIDS" filmmaker. "I don't work or socialize with gays exclusively," he says. "One of my producers is a heterosexual female. One of the leads in 'The Living End' is straight. I'd say I'm interested in any social milieu that involves both gays and non-gays coping with life. ' For his next feature, made on a slightly more generous budget and to be released early next year, Araki took inspiration from Godard's "Masculine-Feminine." "With a twist, once again," he says, smiling wrily. "The relationships are gay and lesbian and totally confusing. My films are not autobiographical, but they are very personal. ' Ted Shen is a Chicago free-lance writer. Gregg Araki's 'The Living End' puts a twist on B-movie staple By Ted Shen Luke and Jon are in love. A pair of gay desperados who just tested positive for HIV, they embark on a fatalistic journey to nowhere. The plot of Gregg Araki's third feature, "The Living End," now playing at the Music Box Theatre, is straight out of the Hollywood B-movie tradition of outlaw-couple-on-the-lam. But with a twist. . "The characters are from my generation, the lost generation desperately trying to survive on the fringe of the mainstream. And they happen to be gay, just like me," he says. Along with Douglas Coupland, who wrote the cult favorite "Generation X," and Richard Linklater, director of the underground classic "Slackers," Araki has been a compassionate chronicler of the sexual politics of the disenfranchised punk subculture in its 20s. "We're very cynical," he says. "We feel a certain weariness towards the naive optimism of the Reagan era. For us, AIDS is the major issue. It's foregrounded in bigotry. It heightens the insecure feelings we have about sex, love and trust." A third-generation Japanese-American, Araki, now 31, grew up in a "cheerfully normal yet socially oppressive" suburb of Santa Barbara, Calif. "I dated girls and did all these other high school things," he recalls. "But being Asian and secretly gay, I felt like an outsider, a rebel. I was drawn to the punk rockers and the motorcycle gangs. I couldn't wait to move to L.A." He got his chance enrolling in the University of Southern Califor- Filmmaker Gregg Araki: "AIDS is the major issue. It heightens the insecure feelings we have about sex, love and trust" movies," he says. "My first two features were shot black-and-white, Super-8 and dubbed afterwards. They each cost about $5,000. We'd move into a location without permission, shoot quickly and move out before anybody noticed. The working conditions are usually horrible. I've been lucky in getting the right people for the crew. And actors who don't mind kissing each other on screen." "The Living End," Araki's first movie in color and sync-sound, came in under the $25,000 budget. But getting it made was a struggle. nia's cinema school in 1982. While there, he discovered European filmmakers who dealt with characters and themes dear to him. "Jean Luc Godard and Rainer Werner Fassbinder saw through the absurdities in human relationships, the all-consuming irrationality of love," he says. "Yet they celebrated the possibility of romantic redemption. Their films are my touchstones." Araki also took up their guerrilla style of filmmaking. "To maintain my independence as an artist, I can't afford to make expensive Anil LSrtdOrS boils the vegetables until mmmlm they are mushy. When she serves steaks, they are either burnt to a crisp or bleeding. Dennis lived with me until he married. Every shirt I ironed looked like it was brand new. Now he wears the same shirt for three days in a row and he looks like a tramp. His wife probably never heard of a needle and thread. Last night when they came here for dinner, Dennis' cuff was pinned together no button. Should I offer to teach the woman a few things? My dear brother never utters one word of complaint. He is so in love, he's unconscious. What is your advice, Ann? I'll do as you say. A Sad Sister Dear Sis: MYOB, dearie. If Dennis is happy the way things are, that's all that matters. Your offer to help may be interpreted as criticism or, worse yet, interference. It might even make you persona non grata which means "plenty unwelcome" as the woman with the master's degree will explain. Woman needs help, but not his Dear Ann Landers: I'll cut the gobbledygook and get to the problem. I'm 54 and married, and 1 own my own business. I have good insight into my problems (booze is No. I) and am well aware that the tyranny of a ruthless father damaged me emotionally at an early age. A very pretty 23-year-old woman works in my office. "Lois" is unmarried but confided that she had a "heavenly affair" with a fast-talking chap who promised marriage, then scrammed. She lives at home with a timid mouse of a mother and a punitive, domineering father (like mine). He has filled Lois with the fear of hellfire and damnation since he learned of her affair (by accident) and refuses to let her forget it. You may not believe this, Ann, but I see the same pressures building up in this girl's life that ruined mine. My primary concern is to help Lois become a well-adjusted person. She is a normal woman who needs a normal outlet. I must admit that 1 would benefit from a romantic liaison also, since my wife is a bit of a bore and complains of recurring back trouble. I am writing to you because I think you are a practical and realistic person who will give me some up-to date advice. A letter (or even a Confidential at the end of your column) saying, "OK, bub," would help a lot. Thank you. Synergistic Male in Houston Dear Syn: Mighty generous of you to want to help the girl out, but an affair with a married alcoholic (old enough to be her father, yet) is not my idea of "a normal outlet." AH I can see is more trouble for her. Lois needs the courage to break away from her family. If you really want to help, urge her to get some counseling. The county and state mental health groups in Houston are excellent. When planning a wedding, who pays for what? Who stands where? "The Ann Landers Guide for Brides" has all the answers. Send a self-addressed, long, business-size envelope and a check or money order for $3.65 (this includes postage and handling) to: Brides, co Ann Landers, P.O. Box 11562, Chicago, III. 60611-0562. (In Canada, send $4.45.) How jazz and jazz buffs survived the Nazi era Book review Different Drummers: Jazz In the Culture of Nazi Germany By Michael H. Kater Oxford, 274 pages, $24.95 Reviewed by John Litweller Author of "The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958" affairs with non-Aryans and, while Nazi block wardens prowled the streets outside, listened to smuggled American records (with innocuous German labels pasted over the real ones) and foreign radio stations. A few saw no contradictions between Nazi beliefs and their love of jazz. Many others, though, danced recklessly in the face of death: Prison, the army front lines in Russia or special concentration camps for Swings awaited them. Others perished in death camps, where inmate musicians played for dancing SS men and women in idle gas chambers. Occasionally Kater's disgust at the Nazis and their collaborators breaks through his plain style. It is ominous that at last year's Berlin jazz festival, German jazz artists found it necessary to publish their opposition to their country's current revival of racism. The tragedies, martyrs and quiet heroes of "Different Drummers" might serve as a warning as well as a history. nerve to ban jazz altogether. Radio stations in Western Europe that broadcasted swing music were forbidden, but many Germans listened to them. Goebbels saw to it that German radio competed by including ersatz jazz on its "light music" programs, leading to virtually the only amusing episodes of "Different Drummers. For Goebbels initiated a national contest to create a uniquely "German jazz," divorced from its African-American heritage, and hundreds of musicians participated in this fiasco. The heroes of Kater's book are the jazz fans themselves. They were typically young, middle-class, upwardly mobile and relatively well-educated. Mostly apolitical, they were nonetheless in conspicuous revolt against official mores and attitudes. To them, the Nazis were most contemptible for being squares. They formed clubs, called themselves names like Swings and Har-lems, became Negrophiles, had love spective he's concerned with how jazz survived those years in Germany, illustrated by stories of many individuals whose love of the music remained a glimmer of hope in the enveloping darkness. The Nazis despised jazz, which "symbolized everything that was insidiously evil in a Jewish-Negro plot to undermine Germanic culture." Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels controlled German culture. His bureaucracy set up rules that deprived most jazz musicians of the chance to make a living. Jazz was banned from the radio, and in 1937 records of "non-Aryan" music were banned. Stooge critics and professors wrote anti-jazz polemics; storm troopers and Hitler Youth goons spied on jazz musicians and listeners, trampling phonograph records and ripping horns from mouths. Yet Goebbels never quite had the Throughout most of the 20th Century, jazz music has been a metaphor for freedom freedom of expression, sexual freedom, freedom from artistic conventions, even political freedom. Perhaps nowhere else have the links between jazz and the spirit of freedom been more evident than in Europe, especially Germany during the Nazi era. The significance of jazz to German youth, amid the Nazi horrors, will be the subject of a Disney movie, "Swing Kids." Michael Kater wrote "Different Drummers" from a different per- Fischer Floridian gives African-Americans their own flag the two men would get together, and about Fischer's belief that much of the world's troubles can be traced to the two groups. Gross also tells of Fischer removing fillings from his teeth, so as not to pick up errant, potentially manipulative radio signals. Otherwise, Fischer sounds pretty normal. According to Gross, he loves playing table tennis, eating Chinese food and walking in the park with a pair of headphones. Gross' wife, Marilyn, describes Fischer as warm, respectful, affectionate and impossibly spoiled. Furthermore, he's not a textbook bigot. "Any Jew can be my friend," he once told Ron Gross. The two men are no longer in contact. In 1982, Gross committed the unpardonable sin of discussing him with a local chess writer, and Fischer "fired" him. It didn't come as a surprise. "Bobby fired his mother twice," says Gross ruefully. Mysterious return No one can really say just why Fischer chose this summer to break his self-imposed exile. The dissolution of the Soviet Union may have calmed his fears about the KGB, and the recent deaths of three people once close to him Mikhail Tal; old mentor and adversary Sammy Reshevsky, a leading U.S. grand master; and Lina Grumette, a Los Angeles chess organizer and surrogate mother may have touched his heart. The unfortunate choice of the civil-war-torn Yugoslavia as the site the match is sponsored by a Serbian businessman does nothing to enhance Fischer's image as a humanitarian. He insists that the matter is just chess related, and that he isn't interested in the political implications of his visit. L.A. Times columnist Peters does say that Fischer, a lifelong bachelor, has a chess-playing Hungarian girlfriend named Zita Rajcsanyi who is encouraging him to play the match. And there is always the matter of money $3.35 million to the winner, $1.65 million to the loser. Still, it's hard to imagine that Fischer would be motivated by material considerations, after shunning fame and fortune for so long. He is a man who had the world at his feet, yet chose to turn his back. In the background, and perhaps more relevant, is the gnawing question of whether Fischer can rise once again to the pinnacle of the chess world. There are experts who think he can. He was never really beaten, as they point out; he simply relinquished the title. By many accounts, he still considers himself the world champion. The odds will be against him. World-class chess, like any all-encompassing activity, is a young man's game, requiring a brilliant mind, physical strength, an iron will and the stamina of youth. We lionize a George Foreman merely for standing up to an Ev-ander Holyfield, but would we do the same for a Bobby Fischer? Not likely. Fischer retired as a chess deity, but who will tremble if he returns as a mortal? Not ' current world champion Garry Kasparov, not Boris Spassky, and certainly not the orphans of Sarajevo. Max Jacobson is a Los Angeles area food and travel writer, freelance journalist and onetime chess player. J. Continued from page I Nack, who profiled Fischer in a 1986 Sports Illustrated article, staked him out at the Los Angeles Public Library, then watched him board a local bus, not daring to approach him. Says chess master Hal Bogner of Pasadena, a distributor of chess-related computer software, "It's irresponsible to dig up tidbits and lurid details, which create an incomplete picture of a man's life. Fischer is a human being, just like you and me." No doubt. But what we do know paints a fascinating, if not always intelligible, portrait of a troubled, gifted man. Anti-Semitic drive Fischer was born in New York City in 1943, and raised by his mother, Regina Pustan, a physician of Jewish extraction, a onetime "Ban the Bomb" activist and an allegedly domineering force in his life. He never knew his father. Perhaps coming from a medical family accounts for a lifelong obsession with health and fitness, an obsession shared, it should be mentioned, by a disproportionate number of top chess masters. It is less clear how his right-wing, virulently anti-Semitic views came about, much less the penetrating fear that the KGB might try to infiltrate his mind. Onetime friend Ron Gross, a chess master and retired teacher now living in Cerritos, Calif, was continually kept abreast of an "international Zionist and Jewish Communist conspiracy" whenever 1 4 HOLLYWOOD, Fla. Vincent W. Paramore knew that Old Glory never told the full story of his family's experience. Colors taken from the Union Jack. Thirteen stripes for the original colonies. The Stars and Stripes told a tale of European heritage, and Paramore wanted his people, those Americans who draw their roots to Africa, to have a banner they could rally around. "The Haitians have a flag," says Paramore, 29, of Hollywood. "The Cubans have a flag. When you drive down the streets you see Italian flags and American flags crossed on cars. Everyone else has a flag." Shocked by a flag-less Martin Luther King Holiday parade on television in 1987, Paramore set out to find his own African-American design. Five years later, his patented creation incorporating the Ethiopian, American and black nationalist banners has generated a growing business of flags, T-shirts, bumper stickers. Two years ago he turned full time from rare-metal commodities to sell his "African-American Unity Flags" at parades, conventions and meetings (phone 305-927-3751). "When children receive this flag they say, 'Mr. Paramore, this makes me feel important. It makes me feel proud of what I am,' " Paramore says. Knlght-Ridder Tribune : " ii iil lnMIMfflMMtelzleii Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky are dwarfed by a giant depicting tneir moves at tneir mamn in meiaim.

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