Spectral Jayne Mansfield in Newark: Single Room Furnished (1966/1968)

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It’s like 24 Edward Hoppers per second as Jayne Mansfield takes a late-night urban stroll here. I’d love to locate this scene in Newark, to use it as an argument for a romantic approach to the city that is almost never taken by its various cultural representations. IMDB even lists a sole location for Single Room Furnished, and it’s the ol’ NWK.

Alas, I don’t think this is Newark. Single Room has a convoluted production history, sutured into the very structure of its bizarre opening, in which one distributor logo (Crown International, they of the delightful “drive-in cult classics” full of suburban lust and ennui, and occasional straight-up surrealism) is followed by an awkward introduction from the ever-slimy Walter Winchell (!!), and then after that another logo, before the opening credits. Continue reading

Ferguson/Newark/Gender (/Chicago/Brooklyn/etc.): a semester of smut and symposia

Oh dear: we’re a fourth of the way through 2015, and I haven’t posted a damn thing; it’s an internet desert up in here.

The reality is, I’ve just been overwhelmed to the point where blogging, the whole point of which is to be a fun mode of writing (in contrast to the soul-killing slog of generating publishable scholarly prose—or maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve had a few rejections lately and had thus toiled fruitlessly on the apparently unpublishable), has felt more like a burden. But I also have a backlog of Newark films to write about, so here’s a clearing of the pipes, mostly an excuse to post some cool images.

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We kicked off this semester at Women’s & Gender Studies by bringing Pop-Up Museum of Queer History founder Hugh Ryan and Vice photo editor Matt Leifheit to Newark to discuss the life and art of David Wojnarowicz—a great presentation that finally got me reading the copy of Wojnarowicz’s book Closer to the Knives, which I’ve had sitting around for nearly a decade.

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Then there was my run of smut-related events. I was honored to have an essay (“Queer Smut, Queer Rights”—okay, kind of on the nose, but I must have been in a terse and bitter state when I wrote it) in this new collection, New Views on Pornography: Sexuality, Politics, and the Law, edited by Lynn Comella and Shira Tarrant, with great pieces by people I really dig, like Carolyn Bronstein and Mireille Miller-Young. Lynn and Shira have been getting the word out in ways that put my own pathetic promotional efforts to shame, including a nice interview (albeit one saddled with an awful clickbait title—though isn’t everything these days) in Salon.

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I also got to venture to DePaul University in Chicago to give a talk sponsored by the American Studies Department, which had a poster I loved dearly and was the first time I’ve ever been introduced with a reference to OMGcatrevolution, courtesy department chair Amy Tyson.

Next, I participated in a panel, “Documenting Sex: Passionate Collections,” at the NYC Porn Film Festival in Brooklyn. Our discussion of archives may have lacked the flair of the Tila Tequila sex video (also screening at the fest!), but it drew a surprisingly packed house, with a cool and engaged crowd, so kudos to Richard John Jones for planning and executing a rockin’ series. Also, there was a fun article about it in Brokelyn, with one of the only pictures of myself I’ve ever liked. Mostly because of Priapus letting his stuff hang out above us.

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(Apparently the Godz of Lulz have spoken, since we also made it into Mashable, with another delightful shot, albeit one that forces a certain contrast between physique models and panelists):

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For reasons beyond my comprehension—okay, “filling dead air,” I believe—radio station NJ101 interviewed me about why New Jerseyans looked at so much porn during a snow day. I mean, I spend my time in archives and have no idea why people do anything, but I tried. “Maybe people in New Jersey were more disappointed by the failed snowstorm and needed something to compensate” was the best I could do.

(Finally, thanks to a Google Alert that rarely goes off, I also got to see my debut in the Latino media, in an article about average penis size. Okay, it just quotes something bland I said to the Temple student newspaper several years ago, but whatever, I was all, “hey, I’m famous” for a good fourteen seconds).

One thing that brought me great delight was collaborating with Women-in-Media Newark, which ran a remarkable Women’s History Month film series (as they do every year). I had long hoped to do a screening of Janie’s Janie, the early 70s feminist documentary that I wrote about a few years ago, and last year we were set to do it with W-I-M and the Ironbound Community Corporation (whose origins are documented a bit in the film), until a really unfortunate fire at the ICC derailed it. So kudos to Pamela Morgan at W-I-M for sticking with the idea, because the series opened with this at Aljira in downtown Newark, and drew a big, enthused, eclectic crowd. Everyone from Janie’s daughters to the singer of the theme song (who performed it!) was there, and I introduced the film and moderated a panel with Peter Barton, the co-director, Nancy Zak from the ICC, and artist Alyson Pou. The whole thing was pretty exhilarating.

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Lastly, the WGS symposium: Ferguson/Newark/Gender had been planned for early March, then canceled because of a tragically misplaced snowstorm. It was a colossal bummer—presenters had flown out from Pittsbugh, L.A., and elsewhere, and the non-event was heartbreaking.

It took some serious juggling, and not everyone was able to make it back, but we still held a rescheduled version yesterday. Check that amazing poster, courtesy Christina Strasburger and Eric Ortiz.

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I’m hardly neutral here, but I thought it was pretty great. Nyle Fort and Darnell Moore offered brilliant comments on the need to expand current resistance narratives beyond police brutality to the less visible, but daily, state violence against people of color, with Moore pushing the crowd to really begin imagining how a liberated black future might even look. On the second panel, Elizabeth Parker from the Puerto Rican Community Archives at the Newark Public Library spoke on the politics of preservation and historical memory, I talked about a lost gay left in Newark that hasn’t been written about much, and Kwame Holmes delivered a fascinating new analysis of the sexual politics of urban crisis and riots, which left black sexuality itself trapped in a structural queering of sorts. I’m not doing justice to the complexity of any of this (there’s some great live-Tweeting of it courtesy Andy Lester at the Rutgers-Newark WGS Twitter), but my head is still spinning from it all. It was an honor to be involved with such important activists and scholars, and I’m profoundly grateful we were able to pull this off after the disheartening cancellation last month.

Some pics, courtesy Tim Stewart-Winter (who generously moderated the second panel):

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And with that, I’m caught up at last–Newark film blogging to resume shortly, finally!