Ready To Swing?
The best documentaries open a door to a world you never knew existed – or were afraid to explore for yourself. They also shed light on some of your favorite Artists in candid moments:
At times, they even reveal things an Artist, like Mick Jagger, doesn’t want you to see. And finally, the best documentaries introduce you to fascinating people who live uniquely fascinating lives:
Here are three of my favorite documentaries: one looks back at New York in the “swinging 70’s”, one captures a “very raw” Mick Jagger, and the last is a love letter to the power of creativity, no matter how talented those Creators are….
Let’s get started with a look at one of the most legendary legal sex clubs in New York history!
Well, this is without a doubt one of the craziest, dirtiest chapters in American history – the legendary New York “swinger’s club”, Plato’s Retreat!
This is a fascinating look at “Plato’s Retreat”, a LEGAL Manhattan sex club for straight couples that existed in New York from 1977 until the mid 1980s, and Larry Levenson, the club’s impresario.
This documentary is full of great archival material as well as new interviews with Larry’s, writers, reporters, and even former clients of the club. This legal sex club was a phenomenon in its time, and by the late 70s, the club was in “full swing”!
As always, places like this could never survive, and the documentary looks at all of the factors that led to the club’s demise.
RULES FOR THE “MATTRESS ROOM!”
Look at these rules! “No One Admitted Fully Clothed.” Can you believe this was a legal, legitimate business?
This was a public orgy – and this is a fascinating look inside this business, the owner, and the people who participated – like this couple below, now much older, who willingly discuss what went on inside the club!
Here is an IMDB user review, whcih I think does a terrific job summing up the documentary: “American Swing” refers to the “wife-swapping” phenomenon that swept through middle-class suburbia in the 1970s. And no figure did more to popularize that trend than Larry Levenson – the “King of Swing” as he came to be called – whose “live sex club,” Plato’s Retreat, located in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, served as the epicenter for so much of the action.
Let it be stated right up front that this eye-opening documentary is not for the prudish or the easily offended, for its footage is graphic and its language raw, often akin in its look to crude 1970’s porn. Directed by Matthew Kaufman and Jon Hart, the film features interviews with many of the now-aging club regulars who happily regale us with tales of their personal escapades there. A number of celebrities who frequented the club, as well as certain reporters and broadcasters who covered the beat at the time are also interviewed.
“American Swing” is most interesting as a social document, showing how the “free love” ethos espoused by the hippies in the 1960’s expanded into the mainstream a decade later.
This is a really fascinating look at a bygone era – not so long ago, when the “sexual revolution” tuned into a sexual free-for-all!
You can see more of these by clicking here:
And speaking of orgies, time to go on tour with The Rolling Stones!
The “unofficial” Rolling Stones documentary: “Cocksucker Blues”
“Cocksucker Blues” is the legendary, unreleased documentary film directed by the noted still photographer Robert Frank chronicling The Rolling Stones’ North American tour in 1972 in support of their album “Exile on Main St.” It is notorious for many reasons, which we will get into here…
The cameras follow The Stones from the stage to the tour bus – and as you see here, it goes along with Mick Jagger and his then-girlfriend Bianca, as they take a limo to a show…
After the documentary was finished, The Rolling Stones saw some of the decadence that was captured, and they refused to release the final product. After all of these years, you can see why: there are many shots of the band in the midst of things that – well, show what it like to be on the road with the greatest rock-n-roll band in the world at the time: when the road was filled with sex, drugs, rock-n-roll – and more sex and drugs.
“Cocksucker Blues” is also the commonly recognized name of a Rolling Stones song – which is officially called “Schoolboy Blues” – that was recorded in 1970. Mick Jagger wrote this song to be the Stones’ final single for Decca Records.
The Rolling Stones were upset by the film’s portrayal of them and sued to prevent its release. According to wikipedia, the film is under a court order that only allows it to be shown once a year with the film’s director, Robert Frank present in person.
There are places online that will sell copies – I cannot attest to whether this is a legal practice or not, but when you see the candid, authentic scenes backstage, you can understand why it isn’t on Netflix – most legendary is a scene when Keith Richards is dozing off backstage – and you don’t need to be a great Detective to understand WHY he’s “nodding off” –
Also shown are scenes of the rest of the entourage enjoying the fruits of the band’s success – and there isn’t anything that fun about watching “roadies” hanging out backstage – but this is rock at its rawest…
If you chance upon this documentary in its uncut form, it’s worth a look – it’s not a great movie, but a fascinating one for the decadent world it captures…
The Rolling Stones were a great band of course, and now let’s look at a movie that tells the story of the next generation of “Artist”:
Behold America’s next great Horror film Director, Mark Borchardt!
On the northwest side of Milwaukee, Mark Borchardt dreams the American dream: for him, it’s making movies. Using relatives, local theater talent, slacker friends, his Mastercard, and $3,000 from his Uncle Bill, Mark strives over three years to finish “Covan,” a short horror film.
His own personal demons (alcohol, gambling, a dysfunctional family) plague him, but he desperately wants to overcome self-doubt and avoid failure. In moments of reflection, Mark sees his story as quintessentially American, and its the nature and nuance of his dream that this film explores.
Here he is relaxing with his best friend, Mike Schenk…
Mark: Do you think this is a little bit cathartic for you?
Mike: Uh, very cathartic, Mark.
Mark: Do you know what cathartic means?
This is the story of a guy with a dream: to make a horror film. The only problem is, he has no money…
Mark Borchardt: [Reacting to an IRS notice threatening a lien on personal property for delinquent funds due] Luckily it’s just $81.00. What are they gonna take, ya know, like my “Night of the Living Dead” book?
Mark Borchardt: “Coven,” man, we gotta get this sucker done, though. Seriously. Last night, man, I was so drunk, I was calling Morocco, man. Calling, trying to get to the Hotel Hilton at Tangiers in Casablanca, man. That’s, I mean, that’s, that’s pathetic, man! Is that what you wanna do with your life? Suck down peppermint schnapps and try to call Morocco at two in the morning? That’s senseless! But that’s what happens, man. ”
I was lucky enough to work with Mike and Mark on a project….G4 showed “Night Of The Living Dead” on Halloween night, and staged the whole thing live from Wisconsin…
The culmination of the live broadcast was Mark directing a 4-minute live horror sequence. It was amazing, he pulled it off, and we all had a great time…and they were terrific to work with!
I wish Mark and Mike the best, and you should check out this documentary to see how the love of film permeates every scene – a real slice of true Americana!
Read about more fascinating documentaries by clicking on my story here:
And if you want to see how Australians are “down under”, then check out these documentaries that are more outrageous by clicking here:
Enjoy some truth in storytelling today!
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