Save the Planet
A CONVERSATION WITH LARRY WESSEL
Motherís Day 2002
A more endearing-and enduring- aesthetic terrorist I have yet to meet. Southern California native Larry Wessel has plumbed the depth of that region over the course of his three decade-plus career as a filmmaker. His crazed passion for art in all its various forms eclipses your average devotee. A perusal of his list of loves and hates is in itself an undertaking, as that list is several yards long.
I became aware of his work as a teenager, reading old issues of the Film Threat Video Guide. But we were not to meet, nor was I to experience the artworks themselves, until roughly a decade later. Larry bought a videocassette Iíd advertised on eBay, and the name rang a bell. ďAre you Larry Wessel the filmmaker?Ē, I asked.
Within a week, Larryís documentaries, among them Taurobolium (perhaps his most notorious) and Song Demo for a Helen Keller World, showed up in my mailbox. I watched them, and immediately realized what Larry Wessel represented: the freedom to express oneís world-view through the moving image, at almost no cost. That package was followed by another, with Ultramegalopolis, Sex Death and the Hollywood Mystique, Tattoo Deluxe, Sugar and Spice, and Carny Talk.
Wessel is also an accomplished collage artist, having assembled some of the most graphic and unnerving technicolor spectacles since Francis Bacon. His work in this medium has appeared in countless publications (most notably Hustler- where Larry was a regular freelance contributor), and provides a view of the human id as potent as anything by Joel-Peter Witkin or David Lynch. These hellish masterworks are based primarily on themes of sex, death, psychosis, disease, and ultra-violent rage. A few pieces come to mind which evoke a sense of psychological violation. The cover of this very book is a fine example, but outright tame compared to his assaultive meditation on the red light district of Tijuana, Mexico.
The films are micro-budget documentaries, mad, voyeuristic, and unflinching studies of low-life aberrants in Los Angeles (with the exception of Taurobolium, which showcases Tijuana bullfighting). Larry is obsessed with images, more so, Iíd assume, than with literature or music, and his compassion for his subjects knows no bounds. I contacted him after watching several of the films, about the time and place of the interview. I was living in the LA suburb of Glendale (without transportation), while Larry resides in the South Bay, at least an hour and a half away. He graciously chose Damonís Steakhouse, only a five minute walk from my home, and it was there that we embarked upon a heated discussion which was to leave us both exhilarated and ejected from the premises.
Gene Gregorits: When did it first occur to you that you were going to go ahead with an idea to make documentary films, despite the fact that you didnít have very good equipment?
Larry Wessel: I started shooting video when this artist approached me. His name was Raymond Pettibon. A mutual friend of ours introduced us. He came over and I was living in a guest house at the time. And he wanted to see my films. I had made short films prior to that. He said that he had written screenplays, and he was very curious about the kinds of films I made and stuff. So he had heard about them, and I had some of these things that I had already transferred into VHS. These are things I shot in 16mm and Super 8 when I was a lot younger. I showed him these things and he just laughed his ass off. We had a really good time. And he told me that I have to shoot these two screenplays he had written. That he was going to buy a camcorder and everything, so we could shoot them. So what he did was, he went out and he bought a VHS camcorder. This was approximately 1986. The screenplays he had written werenít really screenplays as such. They were just dialogue. They were just batches of dialogue, that he had written. One of them was called Weathermen 69/The Whole World Is Watching.
GG: YOU did that?!
LW: I didnít do the one that youíve seen.
GG: I never saw it.
LW: Well anyway I did the one that nobodyís ever seen. The other film I did with Raymond was called Sir Drone. The Weathermen dealt with the terrorist group, from the 60s. A real, very real terrorist group. And the other one was an LA punk band. It was supposed to be the story of a punk band. A comedy. Anyway, he said ďman weíre gonna make these!Ē I had never shot video before. This is how I dove into it. For the next year and a half, I shot these two films, simultaneously. The Weathermen was completed first.
Somewhere down the line, Raymond got really impatient with how long it was taking. He decided to bail out. I just kept shooting. Then he told me he wanted to collect all of the videocassettes and edit the thing himself. He didnít trust me to edit the films. I thought that was really strange. He approached me. He had never made a film before. And I had spent almost my whole life making movies. I started when I was 11. So I very reluctantly put all the videos in a box, when I was done shooting. Gave him the collection of tapes. Then I hated myself for doing it. For the next several days I was really pissed off that I had relinquished to him all of these tapes, that I figured he was probably just going to tape over or destroy. I was also really uncomfortable with an amateur dealing with all of this really great material. And so one day I decided that Iím gonna go over there and get these tapes back. So I went over there, knocked on his door, and luckily he wasnít there that day so I didnít have to confront him. His mother was there, and I told him I came to pick up the videocassettes, and she gave me the whole box. I ran off with them, grabbed them and took them home. Got a telephone call at work the next day from Raymond. He was really pissed off and wanted the tapes. When Ray came down to the set of the films, he would stand there and never say anything. I just thought he was really quiet, a real sullen guy. Later, a lot of the other people in the film reported to me that he was a hardcore heroin addict. And he was loaded on heroin the whole time. Thatís why he was so quiet, why he sweated all the time. I was just very naÔve and didnít realize that, thought he was just an introverted artist.
LW: But I respected him, I looked up to Raymond, and I thought that this would be a good thing, hooking up with Raymond. Thought this might pull me into the limelight a little bit, get me some attention. But the exact opposite happened. He ended up hating me. Anyway I got the original footage, and he re-cast the films, re-shot them in just a few weeks. He did a quickie job, released them both, very quickly, and so I was stuck with all this unedited footage of two films that, to this day, I still havenít put together because of the bad memories associated with them.
GG: Did you ever shoot another fiction film after that?
LW:Yeah. I shot this little thing called Lipstick Liz, which is like a music video based on a poem by Robert Service. I shot that. Mainly I wasnít very interested in fiction after shooting the Raymond things, I started thinking in terms of documentary. At that point I borrowed a really crappy cameraÖit was a compact VHS camcorder that I got from a schoolteacher that I lived next door to. And I started shooting stuff in Los Angeles. Thatís how I shot the Robert Williams video. Thatís why it looks so awful. But Iím proud of the fact that itís a very entertaining video and the budget was five dollars.
LW: I spent an hour with Robert Williams and ended up with an amazing tape. That originally was going to be an opus, entitled Yucky Secrets. I had gathered these amazing people. A prostitute had told me all these great stories about her past. Williams. Transvestites. All these great people. It was going to be a six hour opus. Then I decided it was absurd to make a film that was six hours long. The only really great storyteller I had met was Robert Williams, so I decided to weed out everybody else and just release it as Robert Williams telling stories. It started with that. The look of the Robert Williams film was so awful that I started saving money. At the time, see this was 1990. The best formats I could afford were Super VHS and Hi8. I had heard that Hi8 degraded really easily, and that scared me so I bought a SuperVHS camcorder and started videotaping kids doing graffiti art. One day I was visiting my friend Brendan Leech, and he was showing me these photographs he had taken while watching the bullfights in Tijuana. That made me decide, completely, that I wanted to do a bullfight documentary. That I wanted to go to Tijuana. For the next three years, thatís all I did. I went to every single bullfight for three years in a row, in Tijuana. I sat everywhere in the arena. I went all over, including the slaughterhouses. I documented everything that happens at the bullring. I became totally obsessed with bullfighting, and that was truly my whole world. I joined Los Aficionados de Los Angeles, which was like the oldest bullfight club in America. Itís in Los Angeles. Every book I read was about bullfighting. I ended up with a vast library of books on bullfighting. All the ephemera. The posters. The music. The paintings. Anything having to do with bullfighting, I had to have it. It was a total obsession until I finished editing the documentary, and then IÖquickly lost interest in it. That seems to be a recurring thing. As soon as I finish what Iím doing, I move on to the next thing. I become obsessed with something else. (booming, demented laughter)
GG: (laughing) You told me you drain the life out of all your favorite albums, too. How long does it take for a record to wear out for you?
LW: It depends upon the strength of the record. This happens to me every time the Cramps put out a new record. It becomes my favorite record. I listen to the goddamn thing, and that record becomes the soundtrack of my life. On the average, with a record, a solid two months will be spent listening to it while I do artwork, drive my car, or whatever.
GG: Iím exactly the same way. Hey, about Pettibon, those films that came outÖthere were reallyÖcrappy, right?
LW: Oh, totally awful! I think his films are totally the opposite of what good cinema should be. GARBAGE! Theyíre unwatchable. He has absolutely no sense of how to direct actors, he doesnít use real actors, he uses his musician friends. Thatís a real mistake. I thought his album covers were well rendered. Now heís a successful and popular artist, and just quickly, arrogantly, knocks these babies out. Makes money. I donít know how he gets away with it. I went to a gallery showing of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art. There were 500 pieces in the show and I failed to see one that I liked. In fact, it fired me up so much that I had a drawing he had done. I bought it from him when we were friends for $150. I went directly to his dealer and sold it to her for $2250.00. A really good investment as far as Iím concerned. That money went right into that bank, towards my Macintosh G5 and Final Cut Pro.
GG:This tape is fucking up.
GG: You know this is essential for me. Iím taping over Eddie and The Hot Rods.
GG: You know who they are?
LW: I sure do. I didnít know they made more than one record. I have their first record.
GG: Teenage Depression!
GG: (long, inexplicable laughter)
LW: Well, I kept it! I still have it in my collection. I never throw anything away.
GG: You gave me a list of your favorite movies here. But Iíve lost it already.
LW: I wanted to give you that because you always ask people about their favorite movies.
GG: Have you seen Spider-Man yet?
LW: (laughs) No. But itís funny-Iím a directory assistance operator, and we give out movie showtimes. And thatís all people want to see! Spider-Man. Every other call, literally, is a Spider-Man call!
[Gene and Larry begin laughing very loudly. Heads are turning and the manager of Damonís Steakhouse is staring at me.]
LW: See, usually that indicates that itís gotta be really awful. I donít know. Iím worried now.
GG: You should see it. Itís great. Or maybe I was just really desperate that day.
LW: As far as all the comics go, I was never really into them as a kid. But of all the superheroes, I always liked the Spider-Man comics the best, because the compositions of the Spider-Man comics were so beautifully done. They were like film storyboards. Have you seen The Loved One?
GG: Not yet. Had it for over a year. One of many, many, many films Iím dying to see.
LW: Jonathan Winters is in it. Liberace is in it! Theyíre all morticians. Just incredibly wonderful and dark. My favorite comedies are all dark comedies.
GG: Your documentaries are all dark comedies too.
LW: Itís true. Even the horror films I made when I was a kid-I always do them straight, seriously, knowing that people are going to find great enjoyment and laugh. But I never set out to get laughs. Ever. It just ends up that way. People laugh, and a lot of times out of nervousness! (laughs) But I never set out to be humorous or to do anything as a joke.
GG: Ultramegalopolis kind of worried me.
LW: Yeah. Ultramegalopolis is almost too dark. I went into a really serious depression after making it. It really put a spell on me that was very hard to shake. Itís a very grim look at Los Angeles. Well...it just propelled me into a Nietzschean abyss. I fell in, and almost wasnít able to scramble out of it.
GG: Okay, letís just start at the beginning of the film. It opens with one of the creepiest men Iíve ever seen in my life. This guy whoís doing some schmaltzy lounge actÖwhatís his story?
LW: Heís a very interesting street performer I met on the Third Street Promenade. At the time, I was shooting on the streets of LA., thatís where all the great street performers were at, and where they were making money. He was one of them. And he was doing these really dark song parodies about Los Angeles. I thought, ďman, this guy is just made for my movie.Ē And when he did the OJ song, I didnít have my camera with me at the time. I said ďListen, I gotta get your OJ song!Ē-which is done to the tune of ďMack The KnifeĒ.
ďJuice The KnifeĒ is his version of it. I said, ďI gotta get that on tape!Ē Iíd been trying to figure out how to open the film and I decided I had to open it with that. The OJ case was a national and international obsession. I was obsessed with it too! Thatís all I wanted to watch was OJ. I followed the case every day. I had to put that in there. And he said, ďwell, Iím going to be performing for an old folks home on FairfaxĒ and he welcomed me to film him doing his performance. And that song, man [starts laughing]Öhe saved that song for the very end. I shot his whole performance, and gave him the tape, but I kept that one song, to open Ultramegalopolis.
GG: That is followed by a scene which really gave me the creeps, which was like a New Wave Freako Dance Jam Luncheon Party. Or something like that. It was just really unpleasant and weird and ugly. I was bothered by it!
LW: It is a scene of people dancing to the song by Soft Cell called ďSex DwarfĒ. Which has always been one of my favorite songs. The bride was a porno actress who went by the name of Lakeeli. And she and all of her friends were these porno actors who were doing these punk rock porno films. She actually made a living doing these bondage films, being a punk extra in movies, and stuff like that. I really admired her. When she invited me to her wedding, I knew it would be full of very colorful characters, and I was really, really glad I did. It is one continuous shot that Iím really proud of, because it keeps pulling focus, and then focusing on another insane character. Almost everywhere I pointed my camera, I was rewarded with this incredible image of decadence and beauty. That was how the film opened before I found the OJ guy. In a way, I got the idea by watching a film by a San Francisco filmmakerÖummmÖ
GG: Charles Gatewood.
LW: Charles Gatewood! I saw this Charles Gatewood film that began with a dance scene. I always thought of dance as a celebration of life. I thought it would be great to open and close the film with a dance. He did this very effectively in one of his films. I forget which one. I copied him.
GG: I noticed that in a lot of your films, you tend to let the camera roll for extremely long periods of time, without cutting. Some of the shots in the John Trubee film are just unbearably long, they just go on and on. Whatís your idea behind the extra-long shot?
LW: In my mind, my films are an antidote to the short attention span. I find that todayís youth, due to a lot of television programming and MTV, especially video gamesÖ
GG: Donít forget Requiem For A Dream!
LW: Well, Requiem For A Dream is an exception because I think it is really, really, really well crafted. I really admire the editing of that film. Thatís a particular movie I know that you have problems with, but I really super-enjoyed it. But there are exceptions to everything, and I donít think I can generalize about everyone having a short attention span, even. But- I donít have a short attention span and if Iím observing something-the sight of a beautiful woman, or the sight of a man with no arms and no legs breakdancing, I am frozen in my tracks and I become hypnotized by it. I think that there are moments in life where we need to be still. And observe, to soak up this kind of energy. I know what youíre saying, about shots-in the John Trubee movie especially-being overly longÖwell, no, I donít know what youíre saying! What shots are overly long in the John Trubee film?
GG: A lot of them! Shots of the mixing board, or the control panel go on and on. Itís almost like a raw tape. It was like a raw, continuously rolling tape of a practicing session.
Was that the intent?
LW: The thing is, it isnít just raw footage. It was actually edited believe it or not from about-I donít know how many Trubee hours I have, but with that one, it was shot over the course of 7 or 8 days. I had maybe 20, 22 hours of footage. Itís a 2 hour film. I think that a lot of feature films are 2 hours and people are willing to sit in a movie theatre for two hours, and see some hogwash, some emotional pornography from a director like Steven SpielbergÖwhy canít they sit through one of my films. But the thing with John TrubeeÖ
GG: I like him! Everybody else hates him. I thought he was extremely funny and extremely right on.
LW: I do too! Heís a really good social commentator. For me, I was completely enraptured with the whole recording process, because Iíd never seen it before. I had never been inside a recording studio. The whole intent of the movie, besides documenting John Trubee-a relatively unknown underground presence- and me wanting to preserve his act on video, was my interest in the creative process. A lot of people, I think, when they hear a recording, they donít appreciate all the hard work that goes into the music. Itís the same with a film, or painting, or anything else. Thereís a lot of work that goes into it. I wanted to show that. But maybe I showed too much of it. I donít know. I was happy with it when I finished it. Thatís the way I am. Iíll leave it alone.
LW: What did you say that pissed off Harry Dean Stanton?
GG: Youíre interviewing me now?
Waitress: Did I wake everybody up?
Waitress: I apologize.
LW: Iím a little confused about the salad. Didnít it used to be the bowl on the table, andÖ
Waitress: It is!
LW: Well, then someone took it, because that bowl is empty.
Waitress: You ate it.
LW: (pointing at me) He didnít get enough salad.
GG: Hey, itís fine. Nevermind. Drop it.
Waitress: If you want more salad, you have to pay for it.
LW: (indignant) Oh reallllly?
Waitress: Yes. Itís not an endless, you knowÖ
LW: Oh, itís not a bottomless salad bowl?
LW: Oh, I thought it was. Okay.
GG: Actually, it was Hubert Selby. I kept asking him stupid questions or something. That night I got into a fight with another guy, which was pathetic. Kelly Dessaint said, ďGene is the ultimate master of extreme hyperbole and vociferous pontificationĒ. Selby said, ďOh, you mean heís an asshole?Ē Iím thinking, ďKelly, I just made a jerk out of myself in front of Hubert Selby Jr. Youíre not helping.Ē Iím thinking this, right? Not saying it.
GG: Have you ever made a jerk out of yourself in the presence of a Great and Famous Man?
LW: Well, when I was 18 years old, I got to meet my hero in life, who is Alfred Hitchcock. I was going to film school. USC. Sophomore. I found out that Hitchcock was going to be a guest speaker, and that I would have to join the cinema fraternity to be able to see him, because he was speaking for them. Any non-member would not be admitted into this meeting with Hitchcock. I didnít want to miss it so I joined the goddamn club. I never joined anything in my life. I donít like clubs and groups and things. I joined just so that I could meet my hero. I bought myself a really nice pad and paper, a really nice illustratorís pen, and I went to Universal Studios, where he was going to present an award to Albert Whitlock, who was the guy who did the matte paintings for some of his greatest films.
So as Iím approaching Universal Studios, I see this dark green limousine, and I knew that it was Alfred Hitchcockís limousine. He was afraid to drive, he had a paranoia of the police, and thatís why he never got a driverís license. So he was driven around in this dark green limo. I was so excited that I was right behind his limo at Universal Studios. I didnít follow him too closely or anything, and the limo pulled off, then I pulled off in another direction. When I wound up in the banquet hall, where Hitchcock was going to give his speech, and present Whitlock with an award, I saw him at the end of this really long room and he was drinking Screwdrivers in rapid succession. I saw him drink about three screwdrivers just standing there. Gawking at him. Mind you, Iím only 18 years old and Iím really enamored with Alfred Hitchcock. Iíve seen all of his movies at least twice at that point. I walked right up to him and just before I got to Hitchcock another person approached him and started talking to him, and in my youthful arrogance, I interrupted their conversation and I said ďMr. Hitchcock, youíre my favorite director! Iíve seen all of your movies at least twice, could I please get your autograph?Ē Because I knew that he would draw a picture of himself, the logo that you see at the beginning of the Hitchcock Presents showÖI knew he did that for an autograph and I just had to have one of those. I asked him if I could shake his hand. He held out his hand, and I grabbed his hand, and he clutched it, he put a death grip on my hand and slowly pulled me towards him. And it was like a tracking shot! A slow tracking shot in a Hitchcock film! And I started trembling, and I got closer and closer to his face, and he said ďAllllll right. But I hope I NEVERÖ have to doÖ.anotherÖoneÖofÖtheeeeese.Ē He drew this portrait of himself and handed it to me. Right at that moment I was ready to completely piss my pants. I took the picture and scurried away, so happy that I had met him and got his autograph. That was really the most embarrassing encounter I have had with a celebrity. I donít think I left a very good impression on Hitch. (laughs)
GG: What was that you just said about Pettibon?
LW: I mentioned being disappointed. Celebrity disappointment. If you could call Raymond Pettibon and John Gilmore celebrities, and I guess they are as far as the underground pantheon of gods go, I guess they would be two. Two that are known. My relationships with both of them turned out to be very disappointing.
GG: Gilmore was in Sex, Death, And The Hollywood mystique. In fact, he is the centerpiece, the connecting thread of the film. Gilmore was very cool, it seems, during the making of the film.
LW: Oh yeah. Initially he was really friendly and he flew me out to Albuquerque, to talk about the subjects of all his books. In fact, the whole thing started with a telephone call from his publisher, his LA publisher, Stuart Swezey. He called me up and he asked me if I would like to do a documentary about John Gilmore. I had just gotten into reading his book Cold Blooded, about Charles Schmid, The Pied Piper of Tucson. And Schmid immediately became my favorite murderer. Of all the serial killers, he had such an amazing story! And I think Gilmore did a really good job of chronicling this guyís story. I was excited about the prospect of doing a film about this writer.
The next thing I know, Iím getting faxes from John Gilmore that ďthe books are on the way!Ē Heís gonna send me a pile of his books to read, and sure enough I get his books in the mail, I read them, really enjoyed them. I sent him my documentaries, and he tells me how much he enjoys my documentaries. He told me weíre on the same wavelength and that me and him fit like a glove and that this is going to be great. Iím pretty happy and positive about the whole thing and the next thing you know, Iím on a plane out to Albuquerque, and Iím shooting John Gilmore. It seemed to go great for a while. He came out to LA, and I shot a lot of stuff of him in Los Angeles.
GG: Like in the Hollywood Forever cemetery. You interviewed him with two girls groping and kissing right behind him. That was funny. A very tabloidal touch, those punk girls kissing, I thought.
LW: Yeah, I was looking for a new direction, to do something different with documentary filmmaking and the documentaries I had done previously. I also wanted to get away from that whole cinema verite thing that I was hooked on. I was trying to weave a little fantasy into the doc. I thought it would be good to have a lesbian encounter spontaneously occur in the cemetery.
GG: DURING THE COURSE OF THE INTERVIEW!
LW: Yeah, yeah!
GG: Ha ha ha ha!
LW: I thought it would be great, you know?
LW: Of course, this was happening throughout the course of the film, and I think itís really enjoyable, and fun. John did too. He was really into it. I later suggested that we shoot in the Angeles Crest Forest, which is the dumping ground for all the serial killers in LA. He thought that was great and that we should find somebody who he could come across, just walking though the forest. A pretty, dead girl. I happened to know a beautiful blonde. We did a scene with her in the forest, which was just a knockout. Thatís how I ended the film. Not to ruin my own movie, but the film ends with John digging a shallow grave for this prostitute who you see throughout the course of the film. Her story is told simultaneously with Johnís.
LW: Kelly Monroe.
GG: What happened to her in real life?
LW: She basically cleaned up her act. Sheís no longer hooking, or doing drugs. Sheís got a very respectable job now. Sheís totally happy with the film. Sheís grateful that I changed her name to protect her anonymity, and her reputation. I even told her that if she wanted me to remove all of the footage, that Iíd be totally happy to do that. Because I had no intention, and I never do have any intention of hurting anybody when I make a film. I never do a hatchet job on anybody. I try to stay out of the film as much as possible. In her case, I didnít want to embarrass her, or cause embarrassment to her family. So I changed her name to Kelly Monroe. She gets a big kick out of the movie, and considers it almost like a past life of hers. She considers it to be a totally different person than she is today.
GG: Sex Death and the Hollywood Mystique was originally going to be a documentary about John Gilmore. When did it blow up into a more widespread overview look at Hollywood?
LW: Well, the thing wasÖand this is really critical to John Gilmoreís getting pissed off at me-
Waitress: Everything alright here?
LW: Yeah. Great. But I always felt that during the course of the film that I had total artistic license to do pretty much whatever I wanted. That was Johnís attitude throughout the filming. That he liked my previous work, and was totally happy with whatever I did. And I felt free to do whatever. And so I had a lot of issues with Hollywood, myself, that I wanted to explore, that I felt would make the whole film much more interesting than just keeping the camera on John the whole time. To be honest with you, I donít think that John is the most enigmatic of all authors when it comes to live readings. For example, William S. Burroughs had a definite personality. Itís enjoyable. Matter of fact, itís almost more enjoyable to hear Burroughs reading Burroughs than it is to read Burroughs alone. Itís even better. Itís the same with Henry Miller. I can think of a number of different writers who actually have wonderful personalities. Who are actually able to add color to their own words. Well, John isnít one of these writers. Heís great on the page, but when he starts reading his own work, for me, it became boring. So, when weíre dealing with the subject of fame, and Hollywood, and celebrity, youíre really dealing with subject matter that is bigger than just one person. Itís an entire industry. During the course of shooting John, I started shooting other people. Particularly this prostitute friend of mine, and Forry Ackerman, and the filmmaker Curtis Harrington. Their stories all merge together at a certain point, and I realized that I could tell four simultaneous stories and in the end have them all come together. And it would be much more than just telling one personís tale. It would be a much bigger thing. Thatís what I wanted to do. I wanted to just say it all about Hollywood, in one big swoop, then move on to the next thing. Because I didnít want to have to deal with Hollywood again. So thatís my film about Hollywood. Which is bigger than John Gilmore. In fact, John did a lot of writing about Hollywood but never was able to break through as an actor, and thatís one of the central tragedies of John Gilmore. And of a lot of people who live in Hollywood.
GG: Back in the sixties, and maybe sometimes now, even male actors faced the casting couch, in that clichť sense. Even guys have to fuck for their roles.
LW: I find all of that to probably be very, very true. Iím always reminded by the comment that Rock Hudson made when the press started asking him questions about AIDS and homosexuality and everything. What Hudson said was that you could count the straight people in Hollywood on one hand. So what he was suggesting was that 95% of everybody in Hollywood is queer. Well, I donít know if thatís true, and I donít know if thatís an exaggeration. I assume that that is an exaggeration. I think that maybe John hooked up with the wrong crowd, and maybe he was exploited by this meat rack situation. Thatís really too bad. I canít digest the idea that 95% of everyone in Hollywood is homosexual! To me, that is unimaginable. I think that has more to do with the sour grapes of somebody who didnít make it.
LW: Itís threatening, that whole concept of having your agent get on you, about anyone that gave you an audition coming on to you, that must have been awful asÖ
GG: As a young man!
GG: No, let me finish! Your films really have been an inspiration to me becauseÖI didnít realize that you could make a good film with totally amateur equipment. Your cameras sucked for the first couple of movies you did, and yet theyíre still entertaining, theyíre still cool. Thereís this illusion that you have to have top of the line stuff to make a watchable film. Sometimes you havenít got a choice, you use whatís available and itís good to be reminded of that fact. YOU COULD MAKE A MOVIE WITH PIXELVISION IF YOU HAD TO!
Guy behind me: HEY! Lower your voice, would you?
LW: I absolutely agree with you! I really think itís a pretty shabby excuse, and I hear it a lot, that people need a certain BUDGET, and have to have a CERTAIN ACTOR in their movie in order to make a film. They spend their whole lives wasting time.
GG: Okay, you said the most important thing of all is to just get out there and start shooting.
LW: Absolutely! Donít wait for the gravy train to come and donít wait for investors. Thatís nonsense. You just have to make due with what you have. Even if it requires stealing. Werner Herzog stole his first camera from a German television crew to make his first film. You just have to do whatever it takes to make movies, and just to shoot material. Eventually, youíll get great footage for your documentary. (laughs) Or whatever you want to do! I donít think waiting around for money is a good idea. In fact, money has never been an issue with me. Iíve been poor my whole life. Iíve had to work a fucking 9 to 5 job since I can remember and itís never really bothered me. I hate to think that Iíve acquiesced into this 9 to 5 existenceÖbut for me, the small amount of money I make as a telephone operator is enough to get by on. Luckily, I did work for a wealthy woman, who gave me a very expensive-in fact two very, very expensive digital cameras. So Iím the proud owner of a Canon XL1 now and a little Sony digital videocamera. Using that, I am able to shoot incredibly sharp images, and Iím so happy about that. But still, four thousand bucksÖthatís a lot of money. But at the same time, it really isnít a lot of money. If you look at it in the context of Hollywood, it might be somebodyís lunch expense or something like that. Four thousand dollars for a cameraÖI think everybody could save for a while and buy one of those. Buy a Canon XL1 or a Sony VX2000. Get a three chipper, you know! Shoot sharp and true! Then you donít want to do anything else. Itís great!
GG: Youíre trying to get a G5 computer?
GG: Thatís great because right now, your movies have to be dubbed off on decks, right?
GG: When everything is digitized, you can put your stuff on DVDs.
LW: Yeah! Iíll be able to release everything on DVD, and release perfect images. And I wonít have to worry about generation loss or any of that nonsense. So, we are in the digital era right now. I think that even the one chip cameras shoot really sharp! And thereís really no excuse for anybody to not do their own thing digitally, I think. At one time, when I was going to film school, I was really snobby about film vs. video. I thought video sucked, and that film was the way to go. But as I went along and got older, I slowly realized that it is just so fucking prohibitive and expensive to shoot film that I saw very little point in choosing this expensive medium. Itís like sculpting in gold when you could just sculpt in wood. You have to fit your budget! Itís still going to be a great work of art, no matter what you make it out of.
GG: Whatís the first documentary you ever saw?
LW: I remember seeing Nanook Of The North as a kid. I remember really enjoying every minute of Nanook of The North, which is considered one of the very first feature length documentaries. By Robert Flaherty. To this day, itís just an amazing documentary. Thereís a lot of films that Iíve seen, that arenít even documentaries really. I donít know if youíve seen-well, Iím sure that you have, GeneÖthe R.Bud Dwyer footageÖ
GG: Aw man! Whyíd you have to bring that up? Yeah, and I RUE THE DAY!
LW: This man held a press conference for his own suicide, and it was shot by all the media but they refused to show it on the air!
GG: I used to live in a room not even two blocks away from the building where he blew his brains out.
LW: (laughs) Amazing! That piece of footage circulated around the underground pretty fast, and this was long before I got a copy of it. I remember the shock and total fright of seeing that for the first time, and then after thatÖ
GG: Well, you see that, and after you canít say or do ANYTHING! You just sit there. And itís quiet. For quite a while.
LW: Oh YEAH! (laughing hysterically) Itís a total crowd pleaser as far as Iím concerned. What I really like is that this cameraman zoomed in and got the details. He didnít just turn his camera off or do what he was told, to walk away. He got in there and he showed what was important to show. And when you see the blood draining out of poor Budís nose, you realizeÖ
GG: Like a goddamn water faucet on full blast!
LW:Oh my god! You realize that suicide is really a spectacular thing! And itís even more spectacular than any motion picture depiction of it! Especially any Hollywood depiction youíve ever seen. So that piece of footage, to me, is a real document, and to me, is an extraordinary documentary in itís own right. And itís just a simple series of images of a guy committing suicide.
GG: What did you learn from that as a filmmaker? Or I should ask, what films shaped you as a documentarian?
LW: There were two things that I grew up watchingÖon PBS, incidentally. This is during the late 60ís and early 70s. And one of them was an amazing television series called ďAn American FamilyĒ. And it involved a family in Santa Barbara called the Louds.
GG:Lance Loud and the Mumps. Maaaan. (laughs)
LW: (laughs) Right. You kind of remind me of Lance Loud. (laughing) You have this Lance-look.
GG: Youíre crazy. (laughing)
LW: I also noticed that your fingernails are bitten down to the blood like his were.
GG: (giggling like a mongoloid)
LW: Thereís something about your personality-
GG: -what personality?
LW: -that initially reminded me of Lance Loud. Anyway I became totally fascinated with the cinema verite documentary about the Loud family. At the same time, every single year, a documentary by a guy named Frederick Wiseman would come on the television and these were films that were just so bold and unnerving and shockingly violent, it made everything else pale in comparison. There was a film called Hospital, that took place at a New York metropolitan hospital, and youíre watching people dying in the waiting room! While they were being asked to fill out their insurance papers with chopped off fingers and this kind of thing.
GG: Iím eating, Larry.
LW: INCREDIBLY VIOLENT! INCREDIBLY VIOLENT AND FUCKING REAL!
Guy Behind Me: Iím getting the manager.
LW: And to me, this was like the real stuff! I became addicted to reality. Wiseman was a filmmaker who didnít narrate his films. He didnít add music. And he didnít quick cut to prove a point, or to grind an axe. He just really wanted to show institutions for what they really were. By hanging out long enough, he would get these amazing scenes that would play out in front of him. Theyíre all dramas. Theyíre all these beautifully constructed dramas that have the illusion of being reality. And thatís the beautiful part of watching a Frederick Wiseman film. And he is the MASTER! A lot of people use that term cinema verite, and they donít even like to. Itís a phrase that causes a lot of derision. I attended a retrospective of Herzogís stuff, and I really liked Herzogís documentaries, and his films. But he just absolutely loathes cinema verite! He came on stage saying that he wanted to be the pallbearer of cinema verite! He wanted to bury it. And he was really passionate about how much he hated it! I just shrank in my seat. Iíve always loved what Frederick Wiseman has done, what they call cinema verite. But what he does is so far and above and beyond and better what anybody else doesÖI think there must be aÖ
GG: Öcategory separate from verite for him.
LW: There really should be! And I think heís a master of it. I would watch his films, and I could only see them once. This was before videotape. And even now you canít get his stuff on video. If you want it on video, you have to tape it off the television, or pay some amazing amount of money for a 16mm print. You can rent them for hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
GG: Or you can just buy a bootleg.
LW: I donít know whoís selling bootlegs of these babies, but Iíve never bought a bootleg.
GG: Oh I donít mess with those things either, you know. Thatís very wrong.
LW: I have taped them off TV, for my own enjoyment. His masterpiece is Titticut Follies, which I saw at a psychology class at USC when I was a student. It just blew my mind. Itís his most extreme. The most extreme Frederick Wiseman documentary. His films, theyíre all about hospitals, the military, asylums. He did a film called LAW & ORDER about the Kansas City police!
LW: It beats COPS by about 20 years. COPS never shows you police brutality or anything. It doesnít show interrogations or what really goes on at police departments. But Wiseman showed it! And it was GREAT to see this stuff in the 60s when everything on television was a lot less censored! PBS was actually really exciting! It had a lot to do with me being young and impressionable and all that, but it really seems to me that PBS has gotten totally conservative. Theyíve self-censored a lot of really good material. It is very rare that you see something as awe inspiring as that on PBS today. Thereís another film he did called Near Death which is very good. Near Death is to me, among his better later films. Titticut Follies is the first film he ever made.
GG: Iíve seen half of Titticut Follies. It is impossible to sit through.
LW: Oh god! It is relentlessly TERRIFYING!
Guy behind me: HEY!
LW: From beginning to end! By the end of it, you feel like you are trapped in a mental institution and you canít get out! And youíre next in line for the electro-shock treatment! Itís just horrendous! And it is so horrendous that it was banned by the state it was filmed in. The United States Supreme Court ruled that the only way the film could be shown-this is in 1967-to the general public, was if they took a psychology class at a major university. That was the only way you could see the film. As luck would have it-
LW: -I went to USC, and the film studies were a joke, but I took an Introduction To Psychology course taught by Dr. Scott Frasier.
GG: From the TV show?
LW: And he was a GREAT psychologist! He did a lot of pioneering studies. His lectures were fascinating and humorous. He made everybody watch Titticut Follies. After that course, I was completely enamored of him. (laughs) Another film that he showed, and I would like to get my hands on thisÖI donít have the title of it, maybe youíve seen itÖitís a film that he showed us which demonstrated the power of hypnosis. There is a film out there, itís for medical students, in which a woman is hypnotized into singing ďRow row row your boatĒ while she gets a caesarean section. The whole thing is filmed. People were passing out in the audience. It was AMAZING! Also one of the most powerful documentaries Iíve ever seen.
GG: Unbelievable. Letís get a...fuck, what were they? That drink you know the one. They make it so good here.
LW: Oh. Well, weíre here at Damonís. They make Mai Tais from scratch. Theyíre just absolutely delicious.
GG: Letís get one.
[Note: I turn to slide out of my booth, and blocking my route to the urinals, at the end of the table, is The Old Hag.]
THE OLD HAG: Sexual crap!
LW: Excuse me?
TOH: Youíre PERVERTS!
LW: Are you our waitress?
TOH: No Iím NOT! Iím at that table over there! I saw him talking with his mouth open! You two are talking trash, while eating! And he was chewing with his mouth open! What kind of talk is that?
GG: Weíre sorry, weíll keep it down.
TOH: What is this? I donít understand how you canÖ
GG: Heís a filmmaker. I have to do this for a magazine. Iím interviewing him.
TOH: Sexual CRAP! Iím going to see the manager!
GG: We freaked them out. We should get out of here.
LW: Oh Gene, that horrible old HAG! Oh, am I talking too loud?
GG: Yeah, come on, letís just get out of here.
LW:Yeah, why canít people mind their own damn business? Thatís one of the central problems of our modern age. People donít mind their own fuckin business!
LW: Thatís 99% of the reason I despise all of humanity. But William Burroughs talks about this. See, thatís one of the first rules of being a Johnson. The first rule of being a Johnson is to mind your own business.
GG: In order to be a Johnson and not a Shit.
LW: Yeah, thatís right! See, she was a perfect example of a Shit. An anti-Johnson.
GG: She can hear you.
LW: Oh fuck, man. Theyíre long gone. They split. I think they got fed up. Did we have anything about sex in our conversation at all?
GG: No, not at all.
LW: As long as we donít talk about the FIST FUCK movie, weíll be-
LW: -okay. (laughing) I was trying to think, when I was in the bathroom back there, if there was any sexual content to our conversation. I donít recall even mentioning the FIST FUCK movie I saw when I was a kid.
GG: SHHHHH! Youíre going to get us thrown out of here!
RESTAURANT MANAGER: UmmmmÖokay. Look. You guys have to keep it down. People are complaining.
GG: People are complaining?
RM: Thatís what I said.
GG: Okay, well thatís fine. Because, the thing is, I am trying to do an interview, and those people out there-
GG: -are too loud.
RM: What do you mean?
GG: I mean, weíre going to need a quiet table. This is intolerable.
RM: Yes, I understand youíre-
GG: Right. This is for a magazine.
RM: Right. But you really have to lower it.
GG: Weíll keep it down.
LW: Weíll keep it down.
GG: Alright, donít you think we should- (laughing)
GG: She saw you chewing with your mouth open.
LW: This reminds me of another incident. Oh wait, nevermind. Gene, listen, this great film I just saw, itís called Nil By Mouth. Gary Oldman directed it, and he purposefully did not put himself in it because he wanted the film to be very, very realistic. This is one of the most brutal and extremely violent movies Iíve ever seen. I thoroughly enjoyed it so much, that just out of nervousness, I would burst out laughing. And the audience was just intensely quiet and disturbed by the film. I remember this guy sitting in front of me threatening me every time I would break out laughing. It was such an awkward situation. The girlfriend I was with insisted that we stay. I just couldnít help myself. Iíd just burst out every time something brutal and violent would happen, just out of nerves! It was an extremely intense film! So you see, this kind of incident always happens to me and itís one of the primary motivations for me to stay home and just not go out in public. I really donít enjoy the GENERAL PUBIC at all!
LW: You know?
GG: I rarely go out myself. Never. Some things are just purely sick and evil, and going out too often is one of them.
LW: Thatís the way to be! (laughing) One of the things I never learned in life is to think before I speak, and I hate to think that Iím one of these people that have diarrhea of the mouth. I have no control, you know what I mean? I just let it flow and whatever happens, happens. People, they get upset! They want to kill me! So be it.
GG: You shouldnít say diarrhea in a restaurant.
LW: Well, William Faulkner used to piss people off in bars and he would hang out with Ernest Hemingway. When people were ready to beat him up, he would just turn to Hemingway and say, ďDeal with him Ernest!Ē
GG: (laughs) Well donít look to me. Your new film is about collectors and you have a lot of Bukowski-related footage.
GG: Hey you know what? That reminds me, you met Bukowski.
LW: I was lucky enough to have met Bukowski on two occasions, and one was a reading of his at Cal State Los Angeles. It was wonderful. He brought an 8-pack of Budweiser with him to the reading. At the time, they had an 8 pack. I donít think they do anymore. Bottles. He just laid the pack on the lecturn he was standing at, and said, ďAs soon as these are gone, Iím out of here.Ē And he goes, ďWatch, theyíre all going to laugh.Ē And he opened up one of the bottles, jerked his head back, and drained the entire beer. Until it was totally empty. He looked at the crowd and said ďThis is going to be a short reading.Ē Everyone exploded with laughter. I love Charles Bukowski. He is definitely one of the gods in my personal pantheon, and Iíve read all of his books. He made a big impression on me when I was 16, and incidentally, GeneÖand this is how I met you too! Well, should I even mention-shit, I shouldnít even mention that.
GG: That would be very bad for me.
LW: Well, that also led me to this film I caught on PBS, who I shouldnít mention because I hate that organization. (laughs) Back in the 60s and 70s, they were alright. But they showed this Bukowski documentary by Taylor Hackford that really shook me up. At the time, I was reading Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales Of Ordinary Madness. The City Lights collection. That made an enormous impact on me Gene. And I almost immediately became an alcoholic! He was just so romantic about drinking. I was definitely ready, and I take full responsibility. But Bukowski made it easy. I admired his style so much, and the brevity of his prose. He was a genius. None of my friends who are writers and who are publishers have any respect for him. Not many people I know like Bukowski. Itís refreshing that we share a common interest in our favorite writer. Also, we share the same birthday.
GG: You were born on November fifth?
LW: No, Bukowski and I were both born on August 16th. Which I really enjoy. If anyone ever asks me if a celebrity was born on my birthday, I tellíem that Charles Bukowski was born on my birthday, and Elvis Presley died on my birthday. So every time my birthday comes around, I stay home and watch television. The only thing thatís on are old Elvis movies all day. Oh yeah, and pilgrimages to Graceland.
LW: Itís weird that they never report on those pilgrimages to Green Hills Memorial Park where Bukowski is buried.
RESTAURANT MANAGER: Excuse me, butÖ
RM: Iím afraid so.
GG: Letís get out of here.
GG: That was a close call. Weíre lucky they didnít get nasty.
LW: Theyíre lucky we didnít get nasty.
GG: Youíve been watching The Wild Bunch.
LW: I love that film.
GG: I know that is kind of your special place here in Glendale. Will they ever let you back in there? What was it called?
LW: Oh, Damons. Yeah. Iím very disappointed in them, because Iíve taken some good dates there, and never been given the bumís rush before. But tonightÖman, that was just another matter.
GG:THANK YOU! Could I get a coffee with this? So, you were telling me about TijuanaÖ
LW: Like I said, I spent three years going to all the bullfights in Tijuana, but I never went to the red light district. It never occurred to me. I was so obsessed about bulls. I wasnít thinking about sex!
LW: Well, one of my sidelines is that Iím also an artist. And I got an assignment from Hustler magazine to illustrate an article about the red light district in Tijuana. I had to see for myself. I read the article and said, ďTHIS IS AMAZING! Iíve been going there for three years and didnít know about this?Ē So I went down there with a camera to photograph all of the signs, the cantinas have these almost low budget Vegas signs, these cheap signs that indicate all the bordellos in the red light district. I went down there to photograph them for the illustration that I did for Hustler, this article about Mexican prostitution. Of course, I knew I would have to sample the prostitutes there.
GG: Jesus Christ, man.
LW: This one bar, Adelitaís itís called. If youíre on the internet and you do a search on Zona Norte and Tijuana, youíll learn all about Adelitaís. Itís the most wonderful cantina and bordello in Tijuana. That is a place where a man who likes to drink, doesnít ever want to leave. A man who likes beautiful women never wants to leave. A man who likes music, never wants to leave. Ever. It reminds me ofÖ
GG: IÖwonít go there. Iíd die!
LW: It is so wonderful! It gives you a whole Under The Volcano feeling. You will become John Huston as you drink your third Tecate and your third shot of Tequila. Sam Peckinpah! And itís heaven. The combination of the loud music, the dancing, the beautiful girls, the booze. You DONíT want to leave. The outside world just isnít as goodÖas the interior of Adelitas. Especially if you love Mexican women.
GG: Theyíre that good, huh?
LW: Never had one?
GG: Not that I can remember.
LW: Well, youíre married now.
GG: Thatís right.
LW: Iím sorry.
LW: But arenít you married to Lydia Lunch?
GG: Thatís right.
LW: I mean, well, shitÖyou canít have it any better than that.
GG: Thatís right.
LW: She is the sexiest human being on Earth.
GG: Thatís right.
GG: You sir, will be the ruination of my good fortune. Donít take me to Adelitaís. Theyíll haul out a corpse! (laughs)
LW: No no no. I donít want to interfere with your marriage. Believe me, and I will not give you any more enticing descriptions of the heaven I found south of the border. Iím sorry Gene. I donít want to tamper with your domestic bliss. At all. I could only report that I am a very lonely son of a bitch myself, and very horny all the time. And I love Mexican women. I love Mexican culture. Music. Booze. I might wind up in Mexico at the end of my days. I donít know. But I fantasize about that all the time. Have you seen Under The Volcano?
GG: I started reading the book, by Malcolm Lowry. I donít think I will finish that book now you bastard. Anyway, it was once the property of a man who died. It may be haunted.
LW: Itís one of the few times in the history of film where you see a good adaptation of a book that you like. Thatís one of them. Itís a very romantic film about the Day Of The Dead in Mexico.
GG: Doesnít the protagonist of the book die of alcoholism? Didnít the author commit suicide?
LW: Yeah, see? It has all the great elements of romanticism.
GG: FAT CITY! Have you seen Fat City?
LW: Oh yeah. Fat City is one of the greatest films of all time. John Huston is the only filmmaker I can think of who hasnít made a bad film. Theyíre all perfect. My personal favorite is Treasure Of the Sierra Madre. When I met Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, he confided to me that it was one of his favorites as well.
GG: Now look. We mentioned him before but I got sidetracked byÖthe Old Hag, I think. John Trubee. I want to go back to him. People HATE this guy. Why is that?
LW: Well, take that song for example. ďMany Whores Copulate For MoneyĒ is one of his new songs.
GG: ďMany Whores Copulate For Money.Ē (laughs) Does he mean opposed to whores that copulate for free? I havenít met any of them.
LW: Yeah, see? Itís a line that doesnít quite make sense. (laughs) And I have a big problem with it, because of course, as you well know, I love whores. And I donít have a problem with whores copulating for money because thatís basically the deal, isnít it?
GG: (shrieking, repulsive laughter)
LW:The only true relationship you can have is the relationship between john and whore. Thatís a relationship Iíve certainly had with a number of prostitutes and believe me, I think it is the most honorable profession that there is. John Trubee, what he is getting at is something else, but I have problems with that lyric. Itís really interesting when you read these accounts of serial killers, how they really hate prostitutes and they go after them. Their victims are prostitutes. And I always thought that those people should get the worst kind of death penalty because to prey on a prostitute, to me, is just the most horrible of all crimes. They do civilization a great service. They do. To me, the whore is holy. And people like Mother Theresa are the most unholy. And the opposite of what I like in a woman.
GG: Christopher Hitchens wrote a book called Missionary Position, a book about Mother Theresa, who was the Ghoul Of Calcutta.
LW: Of course. And I would put Princess Di in the same boat. Anybody who puts on that ďgood guyĒ badge. I just assume the opposite right off the bat. And itís just unconscionable to think that they would be against birth control and things that would really improve every situation in civilization, especially with the poor. LA is just getting more crowded and the freeways are obsolete. And to think that there are forces in the world that promote pregnancy and breeding, to me is EVIL in and of itself.
GG: It is extremely sick, I agree with you. ďThe sickest of all sick thingsĒ as Bukowski might say. (laughs)
LW: Yeah. (laughs)
GG: And letís not forget the great Bill Hicks who remarked upon the miracle of childbirth, and any ďmiracle babychildĒ. ď25,000 sperm to one egg? Gee, what are the fuckin odds?Ē What a great miracle, really.
LW: Another fucking hydrocephalic, blocking traffic. God. People are just so fucking stupid. And ugly. There is, there really is this unspoken law of averages, and it really seems like 95% of just everything I can think of is just garbage and should be gone. The Earth would be better off for it. That includes humanity who are basically mealworms. Itís really a shame that people take up so much space and thatís part of the reason why I make art, and films. I need to give my life meaning and without that, it would have none. I would just have nothing.
GG: Well, yeah and then what would you do? What would I do? Weíd have to commit suicide! (laughs)
LW:Well of course Iíd have to commit suicide, which is totally an honorable thing to do. My father is a big fan of Kevorkian , and you know, I think that he is just one of those ghoulish people too. I think he enjoys killing people. Iím really glad that the fucker is behind bars. Suicide should be a choice. It should not be made for you. And to me, he crosses that line. Suicide is the last freedom that you have. It is totally a personal freedom, and if that is taken away from you, this is not a society worth living in.
GG: Why donít you make a movie about it?
LW: (laughs) Yeah, suicide would be a great subject for a film. Totally depressing, and nobody would want to see it! (laughs) Thatís a subject that nobody likes to talk about.
GG: If you get the right people for the film, you never have to worry about getting sued, because theyíll all be dead.
LW: People talk about it being a cowardly act and I never understand when they say that. Itís natural to want to check out when you canítÖokay, Hemingway killed himself when he couldnít create anymore. Whatís wrong with that? He couldnít do it anymore. Thatís what he lived for. The written word.
GG: I had plenty of reasons to take myself out, but I always thought, what a stupid thing to do when your enemies are still alive.
LW: Itís better that you stay alive, because itís just a thorn in the side of all those who hate you. Think of the enjoyment you will have creating pain for them.
GG: Believe me, I truly love it.
LW: I donít want to get married.
GG: Gee, I never woulda guessed that about you.
LW: When I saw Eraserhead, that was the final nail in the coffin. Any fantasy about getting hitched and having kids, that movie really did it to me. I watched it over and over again. Lynch doesnít like talking about his movies, he wants them to remain mysteries. I go along with that too. Thereís a great Belgian artist by the name of Magritte and he felt the same way! He distanced himself. Even though he is considered a surrealist, he distanced himself from all the other surrealists, because they all liked to psychoanalyze their own artwork, and talk about the subconscious. At the time, Freud was considered the pioneer of psychology, so they all looked to Freud to the answers to their creativity. Magritte didnít want to talk about any of that nonsense. To him, his paintings were to be left mysterious. He believed in mystery and magic and thereís something to be said for that. I kind of go along with that too.
GG: It gets more the opposite all the time. Thereís almost an international ban on mystery and respect for things in that sense. You are forced to see every detail, in everything. From a woman, to nature, to anything. Nothing is ever left to the imagination anymore. That bugs the shit out of me. I hate that porno is so big. I hate that every single fucking act and speck of flesh has to be shown. Whatever happened to modesty?
GG: Iím dead serious.
LW: Well, itís like these menís magazines. The menís mags up until the seventies were highly erotic! Women werenít given gynecological examinations of their cervixes in full color. All of that is very interesting medically, but erotically doesnít really do much.
GG: Well, hardcore porn is supposed to be erotic. All of it is supposed to have some power. To me, I have to be demented on coke to even watch that shit. Itís really fucking ugly and sickening.
LW: Itís a turn-off.
GG: Itís a BIG turn-off because it strips beauty out of sex and thatís what most people want, being immune to anything thatís actually meaningful in the first place.
LW: Another thing is that I have always fantasized about going to New Orleans, and itís been a big thing since I was a kid. I always wanted to do the Mardi Gras thing. Well, I started renting these ďShow your titsĒ videos, trying to get my interest level up, and it did the opposite! You see so many tits, after a while, what you do, you start to criticize the tits! Not all of them are that attractive, and it becomes a let down after a while. Pretty soon, I put the kabash on the whole trip. Iím not even going to go to Mardis Gras now. If I go at all it wonít be for ďshow your titsĒ, itíll be for the architecture, or for the cemetery tours. Maybe a tour of the jazz clubs or something like that. The idea of being around a huge crowd of college students, and just everybody in the world showing their tits off, is to me, more horrible sounding than enticing.
GG: Drunk college students. Thereís a turn-on. About as sexy as rectal cancer.
LW: Yeah, I agree. The death of everything good in a child is when they go to college. There really was a conspiracy to destroy my creative spirit at USC. I thought that I had to go to film school, I thought that was the next step to Hollywood. I believed with all my heart that I was doing the right thing. I got three scholarships. Now, I think it was the biggest mistake of my life! I totally got de-railed by it. I think the only good I got out of my college education were the other courses I took outside of film. I had seen all the movies that they were showing in film school. Iíd already made films. I knew how to make a film. So it was no big thing to make a film with other students. But there was always coercion involved in collaborating and emphasizing this collaborative process of film. And that just BLEW MY FUCKING MIND. Because I envied my best friend, who went to art school in San Francisco, who would actually sit down in class where there was a bag of marijuana on a table. In drawing class. The students would chip in to buy pot and then smoke it in class! I thought, ďthis is amazing! This is going on in art school and I am learning to collaborate with all of these knuckleheads who donít know anything about movies!Ē I thought, ďman, I took the wrong path. I should have gone to art school.Ē I should have gone to San Francisco where everyone was getting high and having fun, getting laid, instead of being with these spoiled rich brats at a major institution where the professors were all engaged in this horrible conspiracy to destroy anyone and everyoneís creativity. Individuality was [smacking his hand] not to be tolerated. It was like going to church. It was HORRIBLE! My folks didnít raise me in any kind of religion, so I didnít like that kind of mob mentality in a supposedly creative environment. I was taught to be a free-thinker. From the beginning. I was never baptized. Their attitude was, if I want to get caught up in religion, thatís up to me. I could find it on my own. But they werenít going to force any shit on me. Or any kind of ďismĒ.
GG: I consider any college, and especially big schools such as USC and NYU to be the absolute death of individuality and creative thought. People are aghast when I say that, because the opposite is supposed to be happening there. But college students are the most disgusting, mediocre, pretentious, dry, dead people Iíve ever met.
LW: Absolutely! Captain Beefheart said it best. ďThe smart fish leaves the school.Ē
GG: Rick Strange said, ďSchools are for fishĒ. Thereís never been a truer sentiment passed around. Take ďART SCHOOLĒ for example. That, to me, is an oxymoron.
LW: And itís true. You are the masturbator of your own fate, and you can discover all the books you want to read on your own. Anybody can research what interests them. And thatís what Iíve been up to my whole life. I donít need anyone else telling me what to do. And this whole collaborative process of filmmaking to me, is just a sham! And also this idea of the ďindependent filmmakerĒ and these ďindependent filmsĒ. What is that? Those are just like low-budget Hollywood movies. And theyíre high budget, they cost millions of dollars!
GG: Low budget Hollywood, or expensive indie, whatís the fucking difference?
LW: Theyíre wearing this badge that says they are independent, but itís utter bullshit.
GG: Hal Hartley and Todd Solondz, SUCK MY DICK!
LW: (laughs) Itís odd, you know. The films I make are true independent films. Iím the only one making them. I am the director, I am the cameraman, Iím the editor, I write the thing, I interview everyone. I do everything myself, you see. Thereís no one else involved. It should be that way.
GG: Well Larry, you can NOT make movies that way. Maybe your films you can. Maybe documentaries can be made that way. But you canít make a feature length fiction film that way. Thatís absurd.
LW: Yes, and thatís why I make documentaries.
GG: Larry Wessel, the Misanthropic Cameraman.
LW: I canít deal with other people and I canít deal with anyone messing with my creative thought. Iím more of an artist than a filmmaker and I canít imagine anybodyÖlike a committee getting together with Picasso to decide that he shouldnít put a third eye in the middle of a womanís forehead if he doesnít fucking want to. Itís absurd, this idea of somebody guiding his hand as he makes a painting. I donít see that. I see one guy, one canvas, one vision. The minute you collaborate, you infuse your project with the evil entity known as compromise.
GG: In Ultramegalopolis thereís a great storyÖone of your interview subjects saved Charles Mansonís life. He also vividly describes going up to a prisoner, who is being escorted out of prison, with the guards all around him. He goes right up there, right behind, and begins to stab the guy until he stops breathing. He seems like such a nice guy.
LW: (laughing) This is part of the reason I do documentaries. Anything can happen. You just have to be patient enough and keep shooting until something great happens. And these miracles happen all the time. This is another instance of what keeps me going. I was visiting the Goddess Bunny, who is this amazing polio stricken transsexual, and she always lives with hustlers. They help her pay her rent so she can spend her welfare checks on booze and live a lavish lifestyle.
GG: Yeah. That sounds faaaaaabulous, honey.
LW: I was visiting her, videotaping the Goddess, and this hustler who was sitting next to her, kept interrupting the conversation. He had some really amazing things to say about the California Youth Authority. So I turned my camera on him, and just let him go off. He was great! I had no idea that it was leading up to this, but he ended the whole dialogue by telling me that he saved Charles Mansonís life. That he was cellmates with Charlie Manson. And he was in an art class with Charlie when a Hare Krishna prisoner walked up to Charlie, splashed him in the face with a flammable liquid, and torched him with a Bic lighter. Manson was on fire. Andrew, my new friend who I was videotaping, told me that he covered Charlie with a blanket, smothered the flames. And saved Charlieís life. Anyway I got this amazing confessional from him, just because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Itís these sort of situations that I find myself in, that make me continue being a documentary filmmaker, because these wonderful things happen when you least expect them. In a way, Lynch has described the creative process as fishing, and I look it the same way. You must have the patience of a fisherman to catch those big ones. If you sit around long enough, the big ones will nibble on your line and bite eventually. Itís worth it in the end. And the only way you can afford to do that is to shoot miles and miles and hours and hours of footage.
GG: And that is only videotape.
LW: Thatís the beautiful thing about videotape. You can do that.
GG: My last question. Is there ever a topic you wanted to cover but couldnít? Is there anything that was not within your means to document, even with video?
LW: There are actually two things I would love to do, but they would definitely require investors.
GG: And maybe a crew. You never know.
LW: And I do have proposals for these, written up in the event that they ever happen. But I would love to do a documentary about Mexican murder magazines, to hang out with the Mexican police and newspaper crews, who show up at crime scenes. I find that endlessly fascinating. Iím a big collector of Mexican murder magazines.
GG: I saw that image on that Brujeria CD cover, from a Mexican death mag. The severed head. See, that cover, and all that Mexican gore, thereís just a certain kind of death that happens in Mexico that repulses me more than death in any other culture. I went to that hideous Museum Of Death once, in Hollywood, and I saw those pictures from Central and South America, and it was about the most negative, pointless, disgusting morbid, nihilistic and completely negative fucking display Iíve seen in my life. Thatís one thing I do not enjoy looking at. Itís like staring at road kill, only the faces are uglier.
LW: But on the other hand, GeneÖI donít think that everything is yin and yang and has two sides, because I believe there are more than two sides to a coin. In Mexican culture, death is part of life, and I think a more realistic look at death will make you realize that it is indeed part of life, and there is no life without death, and they can co-exist. They can not exist without each other.
GG: Yes, but the excrementality of it is uglier and messier in those magazines. Yes, we know that rotted bodies stink. Everybody knows you shit your pants when you die. This is all pointless and morbid shit, why wallow in something that is completely wretched?
LW: I am opposed to censorship of any kind, especially when it involves death. Death is a very important subject to deal with and one of the essential problems with our culture is that we fail to deal with the realities of death. We see it every night played out in the form of these fictional cop shows on television, where people are getting shot constantly, and people like to bitch and moan about that. But we never really see actual death. Case in point is the R. Bud Dwyer suicide. Viewers never saw him bleed. You saw him pull the gun from the brown paper bag and that was the end of the broadcasted footage. To me, although it may initially be unpleasant, it is very, very important in society.
GG: The thing is, death in Mexico, as shown in those magazines, is uglier than American death, because in Mexico, you may not get shot in the head, you may be hacked to death by three or four swinging machetes. Death in Mexico is often a brutal and uncivilized death. To get shot in the head is America is civilized by comparison to Mexican and South American brutality.
LW: If you canít afford a gun, you use a machete. Itís poverty that you object to.
GG: You donít have to be an animal just because youíre poor.
LW: Oh Gene, poor people are so filthy and disgusting and dirty that you donít want to look at them!
GG: Thatís not true. What are you talking about?
LW: (laughing) This thing of being hacked up with a macheteÖ.I fail to see the difference between being hacked up with a machete and being shot execution style in the head with a bullet.
GG: Thereís a BIG difference!
LW: But the end result is the same, is it not?
GG:Look, death is ugly, and the only places that can make it even uglier than it isÖare places like Mexico where human life is cheap and there is no dignity in death. I can deal with death, but Iíd rather not see the pornography of death, which is something thatÖ
LW: (laughing) No, no. Go ahead.
GG: What? Youíre shaking your head, making faces at me. Am I drinking too much?
LW: No, youíre saying things that I totally, violently disagree with. Youíre making value judgments about Mexico. Youíve made so many rapid fire denouncements, that I would have to have you rewind the tape to disagree with each point. But I disagree. I see more honesty in the reportage of violence south of the border. I see more comfort in death. I see an acknowledgement that death is a way of life in Mexico, and thatís absent in America. Here everything is so sanitized and I think itís really dangerous to hide death from people. I mean, for instance, kids in America grow up today thinking that a hamburger comes from a hamburger patch in McDonaldland. I think thatís incredibly dangerous.
GG: I agree with you about that. I have nothing against Mexico! I wasnít making an anti-Mexico statement. But selling the pornography of death there makes the entire culture appear creepy and violent. It makes it seem to me, as someone who knows this gorenography that youíre talking about, that it would be impossible to die a dignified death in Mexico! Death does not have to be getting beaten to death with a hammer or taken apart by a nail gun. But this is the visual commodity that sells the stuff youíre so interested in.
LW: Letís go back to the part about it being totally undignified. I totally disagree. It couldnít be more dignified than it is in Mexico. They have a Day of the Dead in Mexico, where the dead are totally deified, and treated like one of the living. They are given meals in the cemetery. Families have picnics in cemeteries in Mexico. They totally respect death.
GG: Whatís dignified about shots of severed heads being carried around by the hair, like on that Brujeria album cover?
LW: Brujeria is the product of an artist who lives in San Francisco! Thatís a white middle class guy!
GG: Youíre kidding?
LW: No Iím not kidding. That is not real! I mean, I love it, but itís like a transvestite. Itís a totally manufactured conceit. Brujeria does not come from a cocaine cartel south of the border. Itís some cat in S.F. whoís having fun with the iconography of drug violence and Mexican tabloids and everything.
GG: Yeah but the gore and hideousness on those tabloids comes from deaths which are often drug related and in a country whose economy is hugely supplemented by money which comes from narcotic sales. Drug money.
LW: Yeah, because they have to be.
GG: Drug related deaths are often the ugliest. In a country where drugs are an essential part of the economy, you run into the worst ways to die, the scariest and most gruesome kinds of dying.
LW: And all the Mexican reporter does is report what he sees. To hide that from the public is more pornographic to me, than to show it. And to equate the truth with pornography is really wrongheaded. I donít think you really mean it, but pornography is something thatís done in order to make money. Steven Spielberg is the biggest pornographer of all, because heís an emotional pornographer. All of his films are completely without soul, without life.
GG: Are Mexican death mags not the pornography of death?
LW: Well, it could be argued that yes, the tabloids exploit death in order to make money. You could criticize all yellow journalism and throw it all away. But they also report death uncut on the news. Youíll see the body that got hit by the train on network television. And on Mexican news in Los Angeles. Itís part of the reason why I watch that news.
GG: But eventually, it just becomes an end in itself. ďHow much meat and gristle can we show before the lens gets wet.Ē Iím not in the habit of poking dead animals with a stick just to see how many bugs come out.
LW: But Gene, Gene, Gene! Weíre all made up of blood and bones, thatís what we are. Thereís nothing ugly to me about a corpse or a dismembered body. To me, thatís what weíre all made of. It is what it is. Itís not pornographic, itís reality.
GG: Yeah, we are made of flesh. Living flesh.
GG: Not a pile of rotting shit. People arenít piles of rotting shit. Well, actually, most of them are. They just donít know it. Youíre right. I give up. But I wonít succumb to an attitude which respects putrefaction and rot. And another thing-fuck it. No more tirading. Iím sorry.
GG: So anyway that was one project you wanted to do.
LW: Iíd love to do that but it would be very dangerous and perhaps a suicide mission for me to even consider it. Another thing I want to doÖmaybe someone out there will do it for me so I donít have to and can just enjoy watching itÖbut I would LOVE to document all of the amazing violent amusement parks in Asia. They support all of the temples. I donít know if you know about this or not, but there are these bizarre low budget Disneylands all over Asia, that depict all the torments and tortures of the afterlife. And theyíre just phenomenal! You can see a little of this in Shocking Asia and a few Mondo films, but nobodyís ever done a comprehensive documentary on the way that hell is depicted in these theme parks, for children!
GG: I know, Iíve seen those Hell comics byÖ
LW: Hideshi Hino?
GG: Yeah! Panorama Of Hell. You know it?
LW: I love it. I loved Guinea Pig too.
GG: Ehhhhhhhhh! Whyíd ya have to mention fucking Guinea Pig?
LW: One of the people you interviewed in Sex & Guts 3 criticized Guinea Pig. But I absolutely love it to death.
LW: I have a good story about that.
GG: The one about Charlie Sheen?
LW: Oh no, fuck Charlie Sheen. Heís an idiot. But the same thing happened to me. I got invited by a group of Narcotics Anonymous kids to show six hours worth of gore films at one of their raves. I donít know why they wanted to do this, but they asked me to show the most explicit and violent footage I had. These kids were all ex-junkies. They were all sober so they were drinking JOLT cola. They wanted to see something really wild, and I have a reputation for having underground videos and everything. I put together a compilation for their rave. And it included Hideshi Hinoís Guinea Pig.
GG: Whoah. Wait a minute. Hideshi Hino did Guinea Pig? Youíre fuckin kidding.
LW: Yeah he made those and he starred in one as well.
GG: Wait, he plays the samurai, who dismembers that girl?
LW: Yeah! Thatís Hideshi Hino. Thatís his first film. In fact, thatís the most popular one, the one that everybody likes.
GG: The Flower Of Flesh and Blood.
LW: Thatís it. Itís really well documented in a great book called Killing For Culture.
GG: Itís a supremely depressing book. I love it butÖwell, you know my attitude.
LW: They covered my film Taurobolium in the book, which Iím really proud of. So I thought nothing of putting Guinea Pig on the reel, along with raw bullfight footage I had shot and other things. I forgot what else was on there, but pretty innocuous stuff, as far as I was concerned. Anyway, the very next day I get a call from the police department telling me that somebody had complained, at this party I had shown films at, that I was showing snuff movies. I couldnít help but laugh. At the time, that German case hadnít happened yet. There has been a documented case of a real snuff tape in Germany, but at the time, it was still urban myth.
GG: What about Charles Ng?
LW:Him and Leonard Lake made those movies for their own personal enjoyment.
GG: Technically not snuff because it wasnít meant for the public.
LW: Technically not snuff, no. Just home movies for themselves. They werenít made as pornography for distribution. Snuff has always been an urban legend. Iíve studied a lot of police psychology and forensics, and I know a lot about the police. Theyíll believe anything. Thereís a lot of nonsense in police literature. One of their mistakes used to be the belief in the existence of snuff films. There has never been a case, ever, until very recently, in Germany, involving a snuff movie. Anyway, the cops accused me of showing a snuff movie, and ďdid I know what this guy was talking about?Ē I said ďyeah, I probably know what youíre talking about. Itís a film called Guinea Pig, by a Japanese manga artist named Hideshi Hino. He says, ďwill you loan it to meĒ? I said Iíd gladly loan it to him but I wanted the copy back. I lied to him. I made a copy of it because it was hard to get at the time and I was afraid theyíd confiscate or lose it. At the time, it was banned all over Japan. You couldnít get this film anywhere. That was because of a serial killing in Japan that was blamed on this film because it was found in the collection of the killer. They blamed his crimes on this film. Anyway the cop wanted to see it. I made him a copy and brought it down to the police department. I got a call a couple days later. ďIs this Larry Wessel?Ē ďYeah.Ē ďWe have your film, you can pick it up now Mr. Wessel.Ē Before he could hang up, I said ďhey wait a minute. What did you think of the special effects in that film? Theyíre pretty amazing, huh?Ē He said, ďyeah, they were pretty amazing alright.Ē He says, ďthey were too amazing. Personally Mr. Wessel, I have a real problem with you showing this film to the general public and I would appreciate it if you would never show this film to the public again. You got me?Ē I said, ďyes sir!Ē Then I went over there and I picked up my movie. But I just couldnít help but laugh to think that this guy, or anybody would be fooled by this movie.
GG: WellÖitís raw. Itís shot on video. The effects are completely convincing, why wouldnít they think it was real snuff? I had to watch it once just to see it, but as far as entertainment, it was like watching the Operation Channel. It was nauseating. Itís by no means entertainment.
LW: Gene, I HAVE TO disagree with you! I found it highly entertaining, full of dark humor. Thereís all kinds of really funny shots in it, where heís using a really rusty hammer and chisel, and the blood is hitting him in the face. Thereís a lot of really dark humor. The very fact that Charlie Sheen would be fooled by it and call the FBI and complain about a snuff tape at that party is absolutely hilarious.
LW: You know about Reverend Steven Johnson Lebya?
GG: You do love the creepy stuff donít you? Anyway, Iíve seen his pictures but I have even more scars than he does. Here, see?
LW: I hate to say this, Rev., but I just met a guy, andÖwell, youíve met your match now!
GG: Just so I donít end this on a self indulgent note, letís try and get back to you for a quick second, if that would be okay?
LW: (still laughing)
GG: You know, it beiní the LARRY WESSEL INTERVIEW and all? Itíd be nice, thanks, if we could do that.
LW: Well, Iím finding you more fascinating by the minute. After seeing this amazing constellation of scar tissue on your chest-
GG: Yes, Iím very talented, I know. Could we talk about the bulls now please?
LW: My curiosity is totally piqued to the max. Maybe if you agree, we could do a documentary about you! (laughing uncontrollably at me)
GG: Larry, Larry, Larry. You got me all wrong. Iím actually a decent guy. I believe in taste and decency, you know. Not all this death stuff. Iím serious. Iím one of these, ahÖ
LW: (laughs) Yeah. (laughs) ItísÖhahahaÖitís very interesting to see this guy completely covered in scars, self inflicted scar tissue complaining about Mexican murder magazines and Guinea Pig. I love you even more Gene, and Iím totally fascinated with your world views.
GG: This countryís going down the tubes, Larry.
LW: Well, thank god that we have Sex & Guts, to warn everybody and to shine a light on our dire situation.
GG: Iím wondering now. Is that a political, social, or artistic light. Personally, me, speaking as myself, I think it would be all three of those.
LW: Let me just add something to this. I certainly hope that those self inflicted wounds are not a precursor to suicide because I like the good work that youíre doing and I want to see you continue to do it and live to be a very old man. Like myself. Weíll have lots to discuss and laugh about when we do finally decide to let them pull the plug on us. (laughs)
LW: Heís a real artist, you know.
LW: Oh my god, I wish I had one novel in me. AndÖand this is a really odd thing to say, but I think of the films I do as novels. I think of them as a new way of looking at something and Iím always trying to make the great American novel. And I think that I did something with bullfighting, which you havenít seen yet, but I urge you to see my film Taurobolium. I am the first person ever to document bullfighting the way it really is. There are fictional accounts of it that are really good, like The Bullfighter & The Lady, for instance. But yeah, Iím the first person to document real bullfighting.
GG: Even though Hemingway was a great writer, it is hard to get a total sense of it in The Sun Also Rises.
LW: Hemingway did it in writing. The Sun Also Rises is a great novel. Especially his book Death In The Afternoon, a book I read in the third grade. I was eight years old. So Iíve been fascinated with bullfighting ever since I was a child. And I never got to see a live bullfight until 1990. But I used to see them on television all the time. They used to show them, live from Tijuana. Then they put the kabash on it. They made a deal with the FCC to stop showing bullfights on television. Thereís been active censorship involved in the depiction of bullfighting in America. Across the world, thereís an active effort to end bullfighting. Iím totally opposed to that. I consider myself someone who believes in animal rights, but to a degree. I eat meat, I wear leather, I use products that are tested on animals. Without animal testing we wouldnít have great breakthroughs in medicine. We must do that.
GG: But which kinds of animals? When it comes to that, itís like why rabbits as opposed to dogs. Why dogs as opposed to gerbils.
LW: To me, people would be the perfect animals to experiment on. I have no qualms with that.
GG:This isnít about either of us being a misanthrope here. Itís like this: you take an animal, and you torture it, you do whatever you do to it. Anything that doesnít feel good to an animal, terrifies it. It doesnít understand pain, which makes that trauma twice as hideous for it. Anything that hurts, will confuse and warp an animal, dysfunction it, because it has no sense of context, reason, or motive. That, to me, is worse than torturing a human being, who at least knows why. So this woman is stabbed to death, so this man dies in the hospital, so this little boy falls off a fucking cliff and breaks his neck. At least any of these three human beings would know that they were being attacked, that they were sick, that they fucked up. An animal doesnít know whatís going on around it when itís being poked and shaved and the sick shit scientists do in test labs. Again, youíre walking along and a van stops, a guy with gloves and a mask grabs you, as a human being, you may know that youíre fucked. Unless youíre fucking stupid, you know that the world is a bad place and that these things happen. Sure it sucks if they happen to you, BUTÖIíd prefer that to being a small creature trapped and not understanding why these things are happening to me, why I am in this cage, and why I canít be left alone. To me, thatís infinitely scarier than what people do to each other. You know what I mean? Thatís why human beings are better to test products on. One, they are evil, and two, things can, at the very least, be explained to them. ďWeíre going to put this shit in your eyes, and itís going to hurt. But weíll give you a thousand dollars and a lifetime supply of shampoo.Ē
LW: I can think of several people Iíd like to have eye tests performed on. But getting back to bullfightingÖ
GG: (laughs) Sorry.
LW: I think that the animal rights groups are misdirected. They should really be going after McDonalds, and they should really be going after the people who produce meat. To me, that is the ultimate in evil as far as abuse of animals is concerned. I mean, the destiny of a bovine is pretty bad no matter how you look at it. A cow does not have a decent life. However, in the bullringÖand believe me, my film Taurobolium can be enjoyed by bullfight enthusiasts and anti-bullfight crusaders alike. Because all it is, is a depiction of what it really is. Iím not glamorizing the act either way. But bulls that make it to the ring actually live twice as long as those that get ground up into Big Macs. And to me, the way bulls and cows alike get treatedÖwe have these fairy tale ideas of what farms are like, but theyíre not like that at all.
GG: No. Theyíre torture chambers.
LW: Theyíre like concentration camps.
GG: Especially if youíre a veal. Youíre locked in a cage and you have shit being forced down your throat until your belly is swollen and youíre sick, then theyíre back in ten minutes doing the same thing. Theyíre force fed. This is going to be a very pleasant interview for the public.
LW: And I shudder to think about what gets ground into those meat patties. These animals live their entire existence penned up and crowded together in these horrible confines, and a bull that makes it to the arena for a bullfight, has been raised on open land. Gets to eat what it wants to eat. It lives twice as long. So my question to the animal rights activists is, whose destiny is preferable? The fighting bull or the meal bull? Personally, Iíd rather be a fighting bull and be given the opportunity to kill a human being.
GG: Makes sense to me. If this interview could possibly end on a redeeming and uplifting and socially acceptable noteÖIím thinking of becoming a vegetarian! Soon.
LW: I tried eating only vegetables and Iím on a very strict diet now. I only eat fish, chicken, and turkey, in combination with vegetables and fruit. Iíve been losing weight drastically. I think all red meat should be abolished. It causes cancer. But I have to say to these animal rights people, please, stop going after the bullfights. This is an ancient tradition and should continue. I actually was very much on the fence about bullfighting until I finished the film and realized what an amazing thing it is. I promote it as an art form and respect it as such.
GG: Letís end this with a quote. Do you have a favorite aphorism, or quote?
LW: Ernest Hemingway said, ďWatching a bullfight is like having a front row seat in a war.Ē Pablo Picasso said, ďA good Spaniard goes to church in the morning, goes to a bullfight in the afternoon, and to the whorehouse at night.Ē
GG: Itís all bullfights with you, isnít it?
LW: Pretty much, Gene.