Mr. Earl (Todd Butler), Dick Richards, Potsy Duncan, and Col. Lonnie Fain (Paul Burke) on The American Music Show, 1990

How to Live in the City:
The Story of The American Music Show

#3: Performance Practice

Friday, November 10, 2017
8:00 pm
at Eyedrum

The third screening in Film Love’s American Music Show retrospective shows how producer Dick Richards and his collaborators created a unique space to facilitate the show’s multiple levels of performance.

In the mid-1980s, The American Music Show morphed from an irreverent and subversive talk show into a weekly psychosocial theater in which recurring characters negotiated the political, cultural, and personal landscapes of America from a decidedly queer, urban, and southern perspective. Producer Dick Richards specialized in creating the conditions for chaotic homemade spectacle, assisted by a bevy of gifted performers willing to go beyond good taste (or sometimes any taste) in order to combat the many demons of American politics and culture.

In the contained and private space of Richards’ living room studio, the performers had wide latitude. A 1985 episode centers on a "taste test" for New Coke, with convalescent center patients as the tasters – a dark satire on the absurd nationwide hype that greeted the Coca-Cola company’s mid-80s attempt to change its recipe. (The skit also functions as a sly comment on the very idea of testing for "taste.") An additional camera taped the production of this episode, and the footage was used to create a making-of documentary. This making-of doc is itself yet another satirical performance (with a mock voiceover extolling the show’s high production values), and at the same time it is genuinely revealing of the show’s creative process. The original episode will be shown alongside its performative documentary double.

These two selections are accompanied by clips of a typically frenetic 1990 episode taped on location at Lurleen’s Beauté Box. It centers on a classic recurring character, the hair stylist Mr. Earl (portrayed by musician Todd Butler of the legendary Atlanta bands Opal Foxx Quartet and Smoke), and the attempts of a census taker (Rosser Shymanski) to interview him and the mysterious Conjurewoman (David Goldman). All this takes place among the usual overlapping multivocal chaos of co-hosts Dick Richards, Potsy Duncan, Col. Lonnie Fain (Paul Burke a/k/a Duffy Odum) and Bud "Beebo" Lowry, who simultaneously co-hosts the show while operating its trademark roving camera. This episode is a tribute not only to the performers, but to Dick Richards’ genius for conjuring the queer conditions for performance to thrive.

88 Forsyth St SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303

How to Live in the City: The Story of The American Music Show is a Film Love event. The Film Love series provides access to great but rarely seen films, especially important works unavailable on consumer video. Programs are curated and introduced by Andy Ditzler, and feature lively discussion. Through public screenings and events, Film Love preserves the communal viewing experience, provides space for the discussion of film as art, and explores alternative forms of moving image projection and viewing.

Film Love home page

Frequent Small Meals home