May 24, 2013

LA Plays Itself




I know about as much about gay porn as I do about black scholars, but I can state without hesitation that Fred Halsted (Sextool, A Night at Halsted's)—an ultra-masculine leather-fag who once advocated a form of fierce fag fascism and once directed a homo hardcore flick with an all punk soundtrack—is easily the greatest queer pornographer who has ever lived, with his debut feature LA Plays Itself (1972) being his celluloid magnum opus. A virtual blue-collar Kenneth Anger with a muscular physique, working-class ethic (he once worked as a gardener for Vincent Price!), and a brutal and predatory sexuality, accidental arthouse auteur Fred Halsted would express all of these things and more in LA Plays Itself, a naughty and no-nonsense piece of gritty celluloid nature worship and severe sexual sadism that is known to repel even the most unrepentant of sodomites, especially of the sack-less sissy sort. Described by none other than literary outlaw himself, Mr. William S. Burroughs, as follows, “This film breaks all the stereotypes! I recommend it for all audiences!LA Plays Itself is certainly like no other porn flick made before or after it and it is certainly not for the faint of heart or those that subscribe to the modern politically correct LGBT lunacy that pervades throughout mainstream American society. Beginning as a sort of celestial Californian völkisch flick of a lonely hiker spotting and blowing a naked hippie blond boy and concluding as a homoerotic horror nightmare where a naïve young pretty boy is bound and takes a large fist to the rectum, LA Plays Itself is ultimately an aberrant arthouse shocker, so it makes it all the more strange that auteur Fred Halsted described the film as an, “autobiographical homosexual story.” A man that was routinely anally raped by his own stepfather while a mere adolescent and who would apparently later be raped again as a muscle-bound macho man adult, Fred Halsted was the real deal in terms of the sort of sadomasochistic leather-fags depicted in William Friedkin’s sodomite slasher thriller Cruising (1980). Indeed, LA Plays Itself even left alpha-surrealist Salvador Dalí thunderstruck, apparently stating regarding the fiercely fetishistic flick that it was “new information for me,” but it also left politically active leftist fag poofs irrevocably disgusted, which is indubitably a good thing when it comes to art. As Fred Halsted described for the San Francisco publication Kalendar regarding an East Coast screening, “In New York City, I invited all the gay liberationists, writers and other artists. I thought, 'Jesus, here I’ve made this great gay liberation film, L.A. Plays Itself. They can’t help but love it.' I was there and I was happy and then the curtain went down and they started to boo and hiss and stomp their feet. I thought, 'my god, is this a gay, liberated audience?'” Indeed, probably the only gay porn flick that will strike fear and disgust in both homos and heteros, as well as males and females, LA Plays Itself is the seemingly magical, if not blatantly somewhat amateurishly assembled, result of an audacious novice artist who has no pretensions about going all the way, fist in ass and all. 




 The Los Angeles featured in LA Plays Itself is quite different from the largely Mexican metropolis that exists today. Opening with a shot of a sign for the city limits of Los Angeles, boasting a population figure of a mere 2,535,700 (as opposed to 3,792,621 in 2010) lost souls, LA Plays Itself soon scans the seemingly exotic forests of the the Los Angeles area that seem in stark contrast to the polluted and festering concrete jungle one typically imagines. Off-screen narration of an East Coaster proclaiming that “Lost Angeles Stinks” appears, but homo hero Fred Halsted comes to the city’s rescue and bashes New Yorkers, which is no doubt a noble sentiment on his part. After a number of scenic and soothing Buttgereit-esque arthouse shots of butterflies, salamanders, spider webs, and pretty plants set to the sounds of Japanese koto music, a naked Aryan hippie man (Rick Coates) with blond hair bathing in the sound is approached by a hunk hiker (Jim Frost) and the men engage in oral and anal sex when not prancing along gayly in a stream. The sex scenes begin to take a quasi-psychedelic form when butt-darting is superimposed over pink flowers and caves and boulders over buggery, thus symbolizing the peaceful pansies the mainstream gays have always attempted to project to mainstream society. Of course, the ugly reality of urbanization unfolds when a bulky bulldozer rolls by some flowers and aesthetically displeasing power-lines are revealed over a car-infested freeway. While Fred Halsted found his greatest source of solace in nature and the wild, even once admitting the happiest period of his life was when he was a gardener for Vincent Price, the filmmaker developed his fame/infamy in the urban S&M netherworld and LA Plays Itself is no different as the second part of the film reveals how a boyish Texan becomes the bitch boi of a strikingly sadistic sodomite with an unhealthy fixation with rope and forceful fists in assholes. After driving by billboards for cinematic cult classic Performance (1970) co-directed by Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell—an assumed favorite of Halsted's—a porn theater for three erotic flicks, including 101, Acts of Love, and Infrasexum, one is introduced to the “New Kid in Town”(played by the director’s real-life boyfriend/torturer Joey Vale). Apparently, a debauched dramatization of his autobiographical affair with Vale, Fred Halsted offers to show the new kid “the ropes” of L.A. and soon he is quite literally tying him up with them and bounding him in unpleasant positions au naturel. Forcing the new kid to climb steps naked while being brutally whipped, Halsted rules the roost with an iron-fist to the point where he is quite literally fisting him full force. The tortured Texan also licks Halsted’s dirty black boots like a common dog obeying its egomaniacal master.  In the end, a Texan is dead, which is a small price to pay in Halsted's wicked and wanton world where one is bound for pleasure. Whether its peaceful twinks engaging in sodomite splendor in the grass or lunatic leather-fags engaging in lethal lechery, LA plays for keeps. 



 In an interview with a bleeding heart homo fellow named Mikhail Itkin who saw it fit to constantly contradict the interviewee, Fred Halsted stated quite stoically, “What Nazism is saying, though, is: you’re Aryan, you’re white, you’re better. Gay supremacy is very similar to that. So I think it’s a new kind of fascism—which I wholeheartedly endorse…I really do think we’re superior and that thesis is fascistic. I don’t believe in equality, and I think it has been proven that at times when you have a great renaissance in culture and the arts, it’s always gay peole who are leading the whole thing. We are now starting such a renaissance again.” Indeed, the second half of LA Plays Itself features such ultra-masculine martial prowess, butch body worship, and a master morality philosophy as an expression of a sort of quasi-fag fascism of the aesthetic sort and is a far cry from the mainstream fairy faggot shit that now comprises mainstream ‘gay culture.’ Indeed, while Halsted was ‘gay married’ (i.e. in a long-term yet sexually promiscuous relationship) to Joey Vale, it is highly doubtful he would have promoted the sort of bourgeois-buggers-adopting-babies bullshit and effeminate homosexualization of mainstream society by slave-morality-driven celebrities who collect Negro and Asian children from around the world. An unclassifiable piece of potent idiosyncratic filmmaking, LA Plays Itself offers daunting dichotomies between soft hippie homos versus sadistic sodomites, man versus machine, the organic jungle versus the urban jungle, and sexual tenderness versus erotic torture that let's the world know that not all pansies are pink! A hypnotic horror flick for homosexuals and heterosexuals alike, LA Plays Itself is probably not going to get anyone off unless they are quick shooters and/or masochists who love botched orgasms, but it does make for a mesmerizing masterpiece of the cinematically macabre sort.  While a film like Brokeback Mountain (2005) projects the message that manly men who love men are just misunderstood romantics who are unable to reciprocate their love because of an unjust and so-called 'heteronormative' society, I think LA Plays Itself offers the hard truth when it comes to alpha-fag musclemen.  After all, there is no peace, equality or understanding in taking a huge clenched fist in the pooper, no matter how much poof puffery is shoved in one's face by the mainstream media.



-Ty E

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