Thriller Night at Respectable Street: A Free Live Art Show in Honor of Michael Jackson

Artist Kevin Goff paints a portrait of Michael Jackson from his famous Thriller video

Last night I checked out a free art event at a club called Respectable Street (RSC).  Located at 518 Clematis St. in downtown West Palm Beach, RSC features a comfortable lobby, spacious dance floor, bar, and outside patio.  It is an ideal place to host an art show.  Two DJs blasted Hip Hop and Indie influenced grooves inside and outside while all things Michael Jackson were on display in the form of paintings, ceramics, and clothing.  They even had the Thriller video playing continuously from a projector that bounced the images off the wall (pun intended).

Billed as a night to celebrate Michael Jackson’s ground breaking 1983 music video, the arts and crafts show did not disappoint, attracting MJ fans clad in graphic tees, fedoras like the ones the King of Pop wore, and yes, the signature white gloves.  A painter transformed that gorgeous face of Michael’s that women of all ages fell in love with into the ghastly, ghoulish, green tinted mug of the zombie in the Thriller video.  Before our very eyes, this painter was like Rick Baker (the makeup artist who created the werewolf in the movie An American Werewolf in London and the first monster that Michael Jackson transformed into in the Thriller video) with a paint brush and giant canvas.  Magical!

As I caroused with a Yuengling in hand, I made my way over to each artist’s table to shop.  Every artist had their name written on a tombstone cutout above their booth to match the theme of the night.  One table that caught my eye was full of vinyl record nostalgia.  The creator had produced steno notebooks and planners with the front cover of classic album jackets, supported on the back end with the actual vinyl record of the artist.  She managed to cut the vinyl record in half and have it bound to the notebook so that it easily serves as a writing surface.  Brilliant!

Stephanie Zausner, creator of QT PIE DESIGNS, displaying some of her eco friendly accessories, clothing and jewelry

Everyone has their own memories of the Thriller video (perhaps we should call it a short film) and I suppose it means something different to each person.  For me, as a kid, Thriller was a chance to live vicariously through the actors.  I was not allowed to go to movie theaters because of the religion that I was raised in.  So when I watched Thriller for the first time, I was in awe of seeing those people in that second scene eating popcorn in a crowded movie theater, watching a horror film.

And yes, the undead with their chunks of decomposing flesh crawling out of the graveyard in search of unsuspecting victims were frightening, but nowhere near as terrifying as Vincent Price’s voice.  I would cringe when I heard him sinisterly proclaim: “And whosoever shall be found, without the soul for getting down, must stand and face the hounds of hell, and rrrrrrot inside a corpse’s shell…”  Whew!  I’m convinced now it was the way he pronounced his words that scared me so bad; that proper, standard, old English, King James Version of the Bible vernacular at once both tightened my tiny muscles and loosened my flimsy bowels.

What’s your favorite Thriller memory?

© 2012

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Lincoln

Last Thursday, I had an opportunity to attend a preview of Steven Spielberg’s new movie Lincoln, based on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, written by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Once we got by security which included being waved over with a wand and checking cell phones into plastic bags in exchange for claim tickets, a member of our group joked out loud, “Is Obama here tonight?”  Taking into consideration the present era of technological boom we are living in, I supposed the producers of the film and the owners of Muvico had legitimate concerns of potential piracy.  This is a Steven Spielberg film we’re talking about here after all.

For those of you who enjoy a great political drama, this is absolutely the film for you.  I was completely enthralled by Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Abraham Lincoln as the masterful politician who is able to dissect opaque laws and bureaucratic gridlock, while at the same time either charming opponents with amusing anecdotes or corralling wayward congressmen who are on the brink of abandoning once steadfast affirmations.  Day-Lewis’ brilliance as an actor shines through the screen as we see his Lincoln in continuous tumult, agonizing over his desperate attempts to be both a loving husband and attentive father, all while leading the nation in a time of civil war and social upheaval.

Sally Field as Mary Lincoln is equally powerful, always prodding her husband to not act hastily with respect to pushing legislation through what has proven to be a resistant congress, and firing subtle reminders to legislators of Lincoln’s preeminence.  When Mary bears down on Lincoln under the weight of the thought of losing another son, this time to the horror of war, Field’s intensity radiates, as she forces her husband into the hot seat over his promotion of the Union’s efforts to thwart the Confederacy.  He is forced into the awful dilemma of separating the prospect of victory from the cost of losing a family.

This film, which ultimately is an account of how the 13th amendment to end slavery in America came to be, in my opinion, could not have arrived at a more consequential time.  Today, when our country’s government is similarly divided by party affiliations, there are issues at stake which will affect all Americans.  The question that history will answer will be what issue defined the day: healthcare, immigration, gay marriage, unemployment.  Take your pick!  But the history books will also record the story of how our representatives in our nation’s capital responded to the challenge.  This time those representatives are made up of men and women of various ethnic and sexual orientations.  The story of how well they were able to put their differences aside for the betterment of the country will ultimately be the story of us.  And for that reason, Lincoln premiers as a cinematic herald for the times.

(Illustration at top is a drawing of the official White House portrait, also found in Student Handbook Including Webster’s New World Dictionary Volume 2 © 1984)

© 2012

It Is Better to Dance Than to Fight: I Did the Tango on Election Night

George (Owner of Exclusively Argentine Tango At George’s) and Marilyn do the Tango on election night.

It has been exactly one week since election night, when America reelected Barack Obama for a second term as President of the United States.  After taking some time to watch all of the pundits on political television weigh in on the election, I now feel like adding my two cents.  Actually, if it weren’t for Harry Reid, I probably wouldn’t be writing this article.

When the Senate Majority Leader appealed to Republicans for cooperation on looming challenges the government faces in the days ahead after the election, like the fiscal cliff, he used a fitting metaphor.  He said, “It is better to dance than to fight.”  And since I spent election night in a dance studio, watching voting results and my dancing partners’ feet, as to not step on them in my awkward attempt to master the art of Tango, I decided it would be appropriate to share my thoughts about this year’s election.

First I would like to say, my pain has been alleviated now that it is all over.  The constant negative political ads that aired on television like a bad reality show in syndication had me reaching for the remote, and depressing the mute button every ten minutes.  When I wasn’t trying to silence the television, I was trying to manage the constant cacophony of telephone rings from pollsters, some with a pulse and some automated.  Yet I answered every single survey with patriotic patience and sincerity, partly because for the first election in my lifetime, this year I chose to volunteer to register voters.

I know what it’s like to ask someone to participate in the electoral process and have them snub you like a debutante would a plebian.  I suffered quarrels with unregistered voters in front of Walmart over the alleged corruptness of the Electoral College and the dubious worth of one’s vote.  And despite the fact that it took Florida nearly a week to declare the state blue, I felt all gold inside, knowing I played a minuscule part in a winning election.

So let us dance.  Now that the election is over, it’s time to choose your partner.  And although Harry Reid was addressing members of the Senate and Congress, I would like to aim my comments at ordinary citizens; like the gentleman I saw driving a red pickup truck the other day on my way to work with a huge Confederate flag hoisted on his bed flapping in the wind.  We are not all going to like each other.  We are not going to agree on all of the issues all of the time.  But we all have to live together and find a way to work through our differences.  Maestro, strike up the band!

© 2012