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photo: sternWesley Willis: The Daddy of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Candid video footage shot in Wesley Willis’ hometown of Chicago is the focus of this rock joyride. Wesley Willis: The Daddy of Rock ‘n’ Roll begins on a public bus. Wesley and another passenger debate “Who’s more suicidal—Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain?” as his song “Chronic Schizophrenia” plays in the background. In the hilarious following scene, Kinko’s store clerks help Wesley with word processing his lyrics for “Suck a Hyena’s Dick.”

Wesley’s daily shenanigans are captured in uniquely Chicago locations as he makes flight reservations at the Vanguard Airlines ticket counter, sells his CD at Dr. Wax Records, and records tracks at Ghetto Love Recording Studio. His visit to Sullivan House appears to be a touching reunion with teachers and counselors who remember him from the past. Wesley proudly tells everyone at Sullivan House that now he’s a famous, successful rock star.

A hysterical trip to the Chicago Zoo shows Wesley’s fascination with animals. His focus, though, is collecting the names of exotic animals so he can write obscene songs with culinary sexual overtones about them. Parents with young children looked stunned hearing Wesley’s ribald recitals on the zoo’s tour shuttle with “Outburst” in the background.

Understanding Wesley Willis means knowing the connection between his physical and mental health problems and his musical and artistic compositions. The film’s sympathetic director/editor, Daniel Bitton, weaves these elements throughout his documentary. On Wesley’s trademark headbutt greeting that left a permanent mark on his forehead, he confesses, “I like headbuttin’ ‘cuz I’m crazy.” Bitton shows Wesley using a prescription sedative strong enough to “sedate an elephant.” Shots of his ink drawings of Chicago and animals he writes songs about reflect his “hellrides.”

The movie concludes with concert footage of Wesley, which is a fitting memorial. Having personally made a video of Wesley’s performance in Houston this year, I was hoping for more concert footage. At only fifty-seven minutes long, the rockumentary leaves Wesley fans wanting more, but still gives more than expected.

–Ted King

George Wendt and Norm photo: shutterbugKING OF THE ANTS

I remember getting the press release for Stuart Gordon’s KING OF THE ANTS, which was going to be premiering at The Alamo Downtown. The heading was in huge capitol letters, something to the effect of DIRECTED BY THE RE-ANIMATOR’S STUART GORDON, WHO WILL BE THERE LIVE AT THE PREMIERE! Towards the bottom, I noticed something a bit smaller. Star George Wendt also in attendance. I remember thinking: NORM? Fucking NORM is going to be the fucking Alamo, are you shitting me? I called up Shutterbug on the spot. When he answered the phone, all I could say was NOOOOOOOOOOORM!! We got to meet George Wendt and Stuart Gordon. It was great.

The movie was actually pretty good too. Highlights included, but were not limited to: A girl with a big old cock. Norm’s severed head. Norm’s severed head being burned. Several blows to another guy’s head with a golf club. Norm drinking a beer. One of the Baldwin brothers who I didn’t even know existed. A girl with a big old cock.

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