Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains by Lezah

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I was lucky enough to recently see one version of the legendary film 'Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains' which was part of the Terminal City Festival last week. The film was made by Paramount Pictures in Vancouver in 1980, then was almost immediately shelved and subsequently got lost. Rumours abounded. The mythology surrounding it grew. Neither the writer nor (most of) the actors in the film ever saw a print. It has only recently resurfaced, popping up on late night TV, in art film houses and at film festivals. Mojo recently featured the story of the film in their Punk Special Edition (March 2005) and a documentary has been made on the film.

So, why all the hubbub? Well, this film is significant for a number of reasons. Aside from the Vancouver connection, which of course is (somewhat) important to people like me and understandably less-so for people elsewhere in the world, L&G,tFS is noteworthy in that it is the story of three young girls who form a band and 'make it big'. Prior to this film, the animated Josie and the Pussycats was probably the only thing young girls could identify with in this subject area. This film has been (at least in part) a big influence on the Riot Grrls scene. As well, the other band who is touring with The Stains in the film (called The Looters) is comprised primarily of members of The Sex Pistols and The Clash. In addition, the film is not totally corny (as many film and TV shows of the time) regarding the whole 'punk' thing: Carolyn Coon, author of '1998' (a compilation of pieces she wrote on British punk that had previously been published in Melody Maker) and some-time manager of The Clash, was hired as a consultant to keep things fairly authentic.

Anyway, the plot is not too bad. Written by Nancy Dowd (who also wrote the screenplay for Slapshot), the story revolves around two parentless teens who finagle their way into being the opening act for the opening act of a headlining band's nationwide tour. When the headliners can't finish the tour, The Looters take their place and The Stains get some unexpected exposure courtesy of a pro-feminist reporter. The Stains lead singer, played by Diane Lane, encourages her audience to not 'put out'. But when The Looters' lead singer, played by Ray Winstone, tells the fans a little story, Johnny Rotten's words, "Do you ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" ring true. The fans rebel, and therein lies the mystery: apparently there are a few versions of this movie floating around out there, and so the ending I saw might be different from the one you saw. If you see the film, you'll have to tell me what happens... I'm curious if the ending is any different from the one I saw.

But regardless of the ending, the message is clear: don't sell yourself short. Do what you believe in.

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