at the High, part 5:
The American Music Show
Films about refusing to play along
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 | 7:00 pm
Hill Auditorium, High Museum of Art
$14.50 admission | free for High Members
Film Love concludes its 2019 High Museum retrospective with one of our most popular programs, a tribute to the legendary Atlanta cable TV treasure: The American Music Show.
• A charming 1983 video tour of gay cruising sites in Piedmont Park;
• A be-mohawked RuPaul facing down racist hecklers while crashing a 1987 Civil Rights march as “Starbooty”;
• The singing Peek sisters caterwauling gospel songs while arguing onstage;
• An ever-expanding panoply of mythological characters from Odum’s All Double-Wide Mobile Home Park in Palmetto, Georgia;
• All with videotaped endorsements from the likes of Jimmy Carter, George Bush Sr., James Brown and Barbara Mandrell;
• And partly presided over by an Atlanta City Council member, who also happened to be Julian Bond’s brother –
There is nothing quite like The American Music Show.
This community access cable television program was produced in various Atlanta basements and living rooms and broadcast weekly from 1981 to 2005. A shambolic variety show, it featured drag queens from exotic-sounding Georgia locales, homegrown music videos, camcorder reports from 80s club culture, long-running characters performed by a devoted and gifted cast, and now-poignant segments taped on the streets of an Atlanta almost unrecognizable to us. In addition to all this, the show attracted a young RuPaul – then a denizen of Atlanta’s underground scene, now an international entertainment icon – who made dozens of early appearances on the show in many guises.
Hosted for a quarter-century by the unflappable Dick Richards and Potsy Duncan – along with James Bond, brother of black Civil Rights activist Julian Bond and a sitting member of Atlanta’s City Council – the American Music Show was delivered to the cable company each week on VHS tapes for broadcast. With its one-take aesthetic, elaborate set designs, and mix of anarchic humor and dark satire, the show is a classic of do-it-yourself media, and was a beacon for Atlanta’s underground, LGBT, and musical communities. A unique conjunction of southern culture, queer performance, black Civil Rights history, documentation of the city, and cable television as art medium, the American Music Show remains outrageous, visionary, and above all, an entertainment experience of "always low standards."
Working with over seven hundred of the original broadcast tapes held by Emory University, Film Love founder Andy Ditzler curates a program of classic clips and little-known gems, some barely seen since their original broadcast.
High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree St NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30309
Film Love at the High: The American Music Show is a Film Love event. The Film Love series provides access to great but rarely-screened films, especially important works unavailable on consumer video. Through public screenings and events, Film Love preserves the communal viewing experience, provides space for the discussion of film as art, explores diverse forms of projection and viewing, and illuminates connections between the moving image and other art forms. Film Love is curated by Andy Ditzler.
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