SCREEDS AND SCRATCHES Things to do and think about in May
The Mommy's Curse
May 8 | "Mommie Dearest" — On Mother’s Day; Capitol Theater, 206 5th Ave SE, Olympia; 7 p.m.; Info: m.facebook.com/events/capitol-theater/mommie-dearest-on-mothers-day/515912486558176/
Anyone who has ever seen the film “Mommie Dearest” knows that Joan Crawford — whose real name was Lucille LeSueur — will never receive laurels for motherhood. But Crawford did get an Academy Award in 1946 for her role as a loving mother in “Mildred Pierce.” Her conniving daughter in that film, played by Ann Blyth, wasn’t about to win any laurels for childhood, either. Blyth played a spoiled brat fixed on climbing the social ladder and bent on high drama. As we know, drama — both on and off celluloid — is just written by two different scriptwriters. As in the case of “Mommie Dearest,” the drama performed by box-office star Joan Crawford in theaters, left the stage and went home with her. As her star began to fade, she became competitive and abusive to her children. The real-life script of the abuse was written in a book by her adopted daughter Christina Crawford. Then, to complete the circle, Crawford’s mother-from-hell role went back to the silver screen in 1981 as “Mommie Dearest.” Her part went to top box-office star Faye Dunaway. Apparently playing Crawford in that film opened a cursed mommy’s tomb. Soon after the movie’s release Dunaway’s star fell, too. Critics hated her performance. She had a hard time finding work because she was possessed by the spirit of Joan Crawford. She now regrets having made the film. To further the mommy’s curse, a 20-year-old Bettie Page once had a Hollywood screen test where the studio’s stylist made her up to look just like Joan Crawford. That test ended in humiliating rejection. Page went on to other heights as a pinup icon, proving that there is only one Joan Crawford. And that’s probably a good thing.
Pastiche of Transgression
May 6 and 7 | Pacific Northwest Burlesque Festival, 8 to 10:30 p.m., Capitol Theater, 206 5th Ave, Olympia; $20 to $30; info: https://pnwburlesquefestival.com/
Vivacious Vixens productions will sponsor two nights of sass, sans inhibitions and pretense at the First Annual Pacific Northwest Burlesque Festival in Olympia. The diverse cast of burlesque artists span the spectrum of shapes, sizes and cultures — making it a true variety show — so remember to bring your diversity lens as well as your positive bawdy image. For a clear view, bring your sinful spectacles. To see even better, go ahead and spring for the up-close VIP seats — where you’ll be sitting in one of the first four rows. Cheers!
Local History, SMH
May 8 | "Honor Thy Mother, The Untold Story of Aboriginal Women and Their Indipino Children"; Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave. Tacoma; 3 to 4:30 p.m.; tickets included with admission price; Info: washingtonhistory.org/event/honor-thy-mother-the-untold-story-of-aboriginal-women-and-their-indipino-children/
In the 1940s, Canadian Aboriginal women as well as young Native American women from tribes in Washington and Alaska made their way to Bainbridge Island to work in the Japanese strawberry fields. The women were survivors of the Indian Residential Schools that have been in the news lately after the unmarked graves of hundreds of First Nations children were discovered at the schools in Canada. In the U.S. the schools operated from the mid 17th century to the 20th century in an effort to “Americanize” or “civilize” Native American children. Somehow, snatching children from their parents was justified by the Euro-American culture of the time. And this was a culture that considered itself “civilized.” The young women who worked the farms on Bainbridge Island worked and lived alongside Filipino immigrants. Many married and had children of mixed heritage called “Indipinos.” Those children are now elders. The documentary “Honor Thy Mother,” interviews those elders about the racism they experienced while growing up on the now tony island west of Seattle. The women faced not only disenfranchisement from their local tribes, but the trauma of growing up in white society as mixed-race children.
An Elfish Storyteller
May 10 | An evening With David Sedaris; Washington Center Main Stage; 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia; 7:30 p.m.; Info: washingtoncenter.org/event/an-evening-with-david-sedaris/
The daily newspaper in the fun-sized metropolis of New York City once described David Sedaris as “a minor phenomenon.” One can only imagine what a kidney-sized milestone that must have been for Sedaris at the time. And speaking of the pocket-sized Empire State, it seems Sedaris was born there — in Johnson City, New York. JC is a suburb of the megalopolis of Binghamton in the state’s southern tier near the border of Pennsylvania. Johnson City is known for making shoes; however, before Sedaris’ feet grew passed elf size, he moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, which is a city that was surveyed in April 1792 by a man named William Christmas. It was there in Christmas’ town that Sedaris was inspired to write the “Satanland Diaries,” which propelled him to phenomenon-hood. Among other things, the “Satanland Diaries” told of his temporary gig as an elf at Macy’s department store during the Christmas holiday. It was just a small step toward becoming a phenom; many steps later, not many can fill those shoes. Yet, he’s still the elf who makes Johnson City, New York proud.
Still a Noble Laureate
May 24 | Today poet, singer songwriter and Nobel laureate Bob Dylan turns 81. Forty-nine years ago Dylan was cast as Alias Alias in a revisionist western directed by Sam Peckinpah called "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid." The film was panned by critics, as well as its cast and crew, mostly because of a post-production spat between Peckinpah and MGM that caused it to be dramatically cut to death in the editing room. One great thing came out of that movie though was the soundtrack. Dylan wrote the song, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" for the film. The song was a hit, even if the movie wasn't. It's since been covered to death — so to speak — by the likes of Guns 'N' Roses, Eric Clapton and the late, great Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention, who did an amazing live version just months after it was released. So use this day — Dylan's birthday — as a reminder that he's coming to Seattle's Paramount Theater on June 1 and 2. If you're a fan, and haven't seen him perform yet, who knows when — or if — Dylan will come around again. At 81, he may decide to retire.
Point and Shoot
May 30 to June 4 | Master Class in Photography with Sam Abell, Whidbey Island; 9 a.m to 4 p.m.; cost: $1,225; Info:whidbeyartscalendar.com/event/master-class-with-sam-abell/
During the heyday of newspapers there was actually a lot of work for photojournalists. It was good, competitive work but the pay really sucked. Those who excelled made their way to the larger papers, which offered better assignments and better pay; some papers actually had large budgets matched with an actual worldview that allowed journalists to travel to hot-spots around the globe. Those assignments were rare. Most of the work was ribbon cuttings, local Rotary Club dedications and countless hours spent searching for feature photos because there was no news to fill the space on slow days. Those who made it to the very top of the photojournalism game didn’t have to do that — because there were no slow news days at publications such as National Geographic. Their coverage area spanned the globe. Sam Abell was one of those photographers. He worked for National Geographic for 33 years covering stories all over the world. If you want to improve your skills and to learn from one of the best — and money is no object — sign up for Abell’s masterclass in photography on Whibey Island this month.
— Words and doodles by Jon Williams