L Magazine's "CAUSTIC" Cabaret Debate and A Good Review
Last Tuesday, I was invited by the L Magazine to be a featured speaker in this month's episode of Caustic. Caustic is a cabaret style debate which takes place at Bauhaus (I think the venue is going to change) and basically, two people get drunk, debate a silly issue, and get drunker.
I debated on Saturday night this topic, which I'm still not sure is exactly correctly defined as such:
"The character that NYC plays in films of the 50's vs. films of the 70s, and which one is better, specifically focusing on the movies The Apartment for the 50s and Mean Streets for the 70s."
Something like that.
Anyway, I dressed up as a 70s character and my opponent as a dapper 50s gentleman and we battled away. It was a lot of fun, there was a good turn out, the event was sponsored by Grand Mariner, which meant free drinks and I think I might have won, but I'm not really sure. I definitely won the first round, lost the second, and the third was undetermined.
They are going to print our debate in the next issue of the L magazine, so if you get a chance, pick one up and read it. It's under "Caustic" and I'm Jessica Delfino. I defended the 70s and focused on Mean Streets. Below is my debate speech, which you may read if you like, or just wait until it comes out in a few days in L, a free publication.
If you've never read or seen or heard of L magazine, it's sort of a listing magazine, it's handbill sized, and it is distributed via those plastic news paper boxes on the streets. I think it is great. It has lots of listings which are helpful, I suppose, but the writing in the L is really very good. Rebecca Schuman, who writes a recurring feature called "Nothing To See Here" is a funny smart-ass, and then there are really cute little inserts through out the magazine about bits and pieces of New York that maybe you have thought about or maybe you never gave two turds about before hand.
For example, here is an excerpt from, "Uhhh, Geronimo?" in the latest issue of the L magazine, about the Steeplechase Park Parachute Jump in Brooklyn:
You've seen it: that towering structure off to you right as you take the Belt Parkway to the airport; a bizarre edifice looming over the right field wall at Keyspan Park; a soaring steel mushroom the color of the Golden Gate Bridge casting a shadow over the Mermaid Parade.
It is the Steeplechase Park Parachute Jump, better known as "Brooklyn's Eiffel Tower." Originally designed by by Naval Air Commander James Strong to train paratroopers in the fine art of jumping out of airplanes, he converted the concept by popular demand, into an amusement park ride. (more in the L magazine.)
ALSO, I got a nice review in a magazine based out of Miami called "Ego Trip." This is what they had to say:
Musicians are often heard talking about "keeping it real," which is painfully ironic when they are saying this from the confines of their G4 jets or million dollar tour buses. Jessica Delfino, a refreshing independent multifaceted performer, (singer, songwriter, musician and artist) is keeping it real - real as a motherf*cker! Her Dirty Folk Rock album is just that: menstrual cramps and bad cunnilingus, amongst other female genitalia-related things. Catchy jingles and Delfino's innocent voice mask wickedly hysterical lyrics that may be shocking to some, but if you don't like them, move to Weston [Florida] and listen to Britney Spears.
Now, without further ado, my Caustic debate fighting words:
WHERE IS THIS "URBAN DECAY" YOU SPEAK OF????
I'm sick of old day New York being fancied as some kind of precious, golden, glory-filled promise place.
The fact is, the New York of the 50's is the New York of today. Sure, some things have changed, but only superficially. Tin garbage cans have been replaced by fancy plastic, but they always were, still are and probably always will be overflowing with garbage and dead babies.
Hobos always did and still do light fires in subway tunnels, just now we call "hobos" the homeless and make fun of them.
But in Mean Streets, how is decay represented? Via white men liking black strippers? They always have and always will. Via Italians cavorting with jew girls? Everyone knows religious chicks put out.
Urban decay is a myth. There is no such thing as back in the old days. There are no old days. That song "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen? It's a sham, a farce, and a shitty song.
Some of you like that song, and of course you do, because human beings are sentimental by nature and cling to the past. But things aren't getting worse, they've always been bad. The New York of the 50s starring in The Apartment, The New York of the 70s starring in Mean Streets, and the New York of today starring in this room and all around us are one and the same.
It's a New York we are all very familiar with. A New York where indians still drive all the taxicabs. A New York where every residential building still has that one crazy lady of vague, uncertain foreign decent. A New York where gentrification proves we are all still afraid of black people. A New York where the mob is still run by Italians. A New York where white men still love black strippers. A New York where a lot of jewish people still live.
Mean Streets streets weren't so much mean as.....well....., "eh". It's just that no one had ever portrayed the topics addressed in Mean Streets as graphic or wrong up to that point in film. In The Apartment, suicide and adultery were made to be light and funny, using the help of black and white film, loveable actors and bowler hats. In Mean Streets, violent gang activity and black breasts were "portrayed" as troublesome, but we have learned that America loves violent gang activity and bases hit tv shows upon the theme, and black breasts are still making headlines as well.
Other "concerns" mentioned in Mean Streets were laughably lame. Hoodlums blowing up mailboxes never constituted as a threat to our society, did it? And furthermore, I am not afraid of anyone who refers to themself as a hoodlum. And so what if you could buy fireworks on the street? That's kind of cool. And who cares if "freaks" shot up in bathrooms? They still do! That is not decay, that is good manners. Where else are junkies supposed to shoot up? We haven't designated shooting up sections in restaurants or coffeeshops yet. Is that the fault of urban decay?
Mean Streets was scary in the same way that gold teeth were scary to white catholics in '85. It was the newness that invoked fear and the insinuation of "changing times". Not the gold teeth. Gold is precious! So are teeth!
The Apartment is a film that is typical of many 50s era productions. It pretends that the 50s were pretty and safe - something that is simply not true. The people of the 50s were just as incestual, unfaithful and unjust as the people of any other era, such as, say, the people written about in the bible, for example.
In The Apartment, married men cheat on their wives, the main character is a sleeping pill addict and a pervert who looks up personal information of his crush and gains access to her social security number and more. An example of difference, if you want one, is that now there are laws against that kind of behavior, which is known today as "stalking." What 's that word that means the opposite of decay?
In closing, urban decay is a load of horse shit, people. It's just a load of crap. Things aren't getting worse, they've always been shitty. It's just that now shitty things are finally getting noticed.