“_I Was a Male Yvonne de Carlo_, which stars Smith himself, takes its title from one of his live performances: I Was a Male Yvonne DeCarlo for the Lucky Landlord Underground, staged in the early 1980s. Shot mainly during the late ‘60s and edited a decade or more later, I Was a Male Yvonne de Carlo is one of several films and slide shows that feature the filmmaker as a mock celebrity. It opens with the excerpt from No President originally called ’Marsh Gas of Flatulandia’ – several minutes of black and white footage of steam escaping from manholes segues to an interior scene of various creatures emerging from dry ice vapors – then shifts to show the filmmaker, clad in a leopard skin jump suit, attended by a nurse as he sits amidst the detritus of his duplex loft on Grand and Greene Street.
“Smith waits under the visible movie lights, drumming the fingers. A fan presents him with a black and white glamour shot (Smith in profile, posed with a sinuously curved dagger) to autograph as the Warhol Superstar Ondine, dressed entirely in black leather, snaps his picture. Violence erupts as the nurse takes out a whip to discipline the star’s fans. When a female creature pulls out the same dagger depicted in the glamour shot, Smith jumps up and shakes the weapon from her hand. The action is post-scripted with footage of a steam shovel patrolling the rubble where the Broadway Central hotel once stood.” –J. Hoberman, http://canyoncinema.com/catalog/film/?i=3383
Jack Smith was raised in Texas and, after making his first film Buzzards over Baghdad (1952), moved to New York in 1953.
Smith was one of the first proponents of the aesthetics which came to be known as ‘camp’ and ‘trash’, using no-budget means of production (e.g. using discarded color reversal film stock) to create a visual cosmos heavily influenced by Hollywood kitsch, orientalism and with Flaming Creatures created drag culture as it is currently known. Smith was heavily involved with John Vaccaro, founder of The Playhouse of The Ridiculous, whose disregard for conventional theater practice deeply influenced Smith’s ideas about performance art. In turn Vaccaro was deeply influenced by Smith’s aesthetics. It was Vaccaro who introduced Smith to glitter and in 1966 and 1967 Smith created costumes for Vaccaro’s Playhouse of The Ridiculous. Smith’s style influenced the film work of Andy Warhol as well as the early work of John Waters, and while all three were part… read more