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Far from Beads and Glitter: I Helped Organize a Pride March 30 Years Ago and It Was the Most Frightening Night of My Life

by Legendary Lew

Recently, there have been reports of corporations co-opting Pride Parades and non-profit groups using the events as marketing tools. In an astute article written last year, Nico Lang wrote about the problems of taking Pride events for granted. Marches were direct actions focusing on violence and intolerance against LGBT people. A case in point was the protest march I helped organize.

Thirty years ago, I lived in Rochester, NY, a young gay man not too long out of the closet and wondering how I can make a difference during the first wave of the nation’s AIDS crisis. President Reagan wasn’t mentioning AIDS and, at first, had health advisers so inadequate some of them believed HIV could be acquired via toilet seats. Through the AIDS panic, attacks on LGBT people skyrocketed nationally in a few short years.

It was in this climate that the Rochester chapter of the activist group ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) decided to have a protest march on Stonewall Day in 1987.

We had no celebrities, no major politicians, no corporate sponsorship. This was a bare bones event and a serious reminder of the rights not yet gained. As the media spokesperson during that march, I can tell you, it was the most frightening night of my life.

I agreed to be a designated monitor for the group, heading up the back to keep the marchers close together. It’s commonplace that potential assailants seek out march stragglers as targets for harassment.

The hostility towards us, a group of people peacefully marching for rights, was the most intense I have encountered in any protest before or since, and I’ve been to at least 30 different rallies. Hours before the march began, we received a voicemail message stating there would be snipers on nearby roofs ready to shoot us. Across the street from our starting point, a red pickup truck entered a parking lot. Out of the vehicle emerged three young men carrying baseball bats. One of the armed individuals wore a T-shirt with “I Hate Fags” emblazoned on the front.

Since there were about 70 of us marching, we had to use the sidewalk. Don’t ever underestimate how ironically safe it is to march on the street. A street can offer some buffer, but when forced to march on sidewalks, you have many more interactions, good or bad. You are literally inches away from a sucker punch.

How bad was that night? We had eggs thrown at us, rocks hurled at us, people passing by in cars and yelling out obscenities. But we also had some very brave people join us during the march and at the end rally of 120 people.

The night’s most disturbing sight was the hatred of a man who brought his son and daughter, both no older than about 8 years old. He was screaming at the top of his lungs about how we were all going to Hell and all the et cetera that comes with the typical anti-gay faction of presumed Christianity. Screaming bigots cloaking themselves with the false armor of Biblical verse was nothing new. But I felt sorry for the children who had to be subjected to his psychological abuse. I will never forget the terrified looks on their faces.

You may be reading this and thinking, “Wow, we’ve come a long way since then!” You would be partially right. A lot of good has happened over the last thirty years in regard to Pride marches.

Companies are evolving in their LGBTQIA stances and policies. Huge billboard ads, TV and magazine ads celebrating LGBT couples were unheard of just a short time ago. Straight allies are marching with us and demanding equal rights. After a straight male friend marched with me in a Pride parade many years ago, I told him it was my proudest moment of our friendship.

With unity, however, comes responsibility. It’s one thing to recognize equality and attach your company’s logo or associate your non-profit’s mission to it. It’s entirely something else to co-opt a Pride Parade for marketing purposes.
A Pride Parade is not a tool to hide polluting industries and contributions to anti-gay politicians–an incredible irony, since the first pride marches were counteractions against the concealment of the closet. It’s not a marketing scheme template designed to attract more millennials hungry for music festivals.

A Pride Parade should reflect the ongoing struggle from outside our communities and call for a look at the rifts inside them as well. This is a continuous movement that will hopefully remain true to its roots now and for future generations. It’s not for any one entity to seize for their own purposes.

Remember the basic common courtesy when you are invited to a party. You’re the guest. Not the host.


Legendary Lew is the co-founder of The Underground Multiplex. An out gay man for over 35 years, he hosts Mediatrocities, Strike That Line! and has presented award-winning midnight movie screenings. He’s also a movie critic and game inventor.


Results of March 2017 Board Game Night at The Thrillo Pad

by Legendary Lew

We had a good group for our March edition of The Thrillo Pad Board Game Night. I made a brief video discussing how it went down and the general consensus of the classic board game, “Showdown Poker” by T. S. Lowe.


Muslim Ban Protest at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport

by Legendary Lew

I arrived at O’Hare Airport too late last night for any protests. However, I made it there tonight. Here’s a group of pictures of the crowd. There were easily hundreds there on a very cold Sunday night. I’m proud of Chicago! #NoBanNoWall

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The Underground Multiplex Reaches Its Goal!

by Legendary Lew

It’s tough to know what to write here. On Thursday, I had just finished uploading and distributing a video about how we fell short of our goal of $820 and along come a couple of fantastic souls (one, a great pal Paskal and the other, an anonymous donor) to put us over the top.

Now, as of this writing, we’re at $1020, two hundred dollars over the top!

When we reached the goal, I was utterly speechless.

I believed for years that each person needs to find where he or she “fits.” I moved to the Chicago area 15 years ago believing this area was the place for me. Tonight, I’ve been proven correct. I have fantastic friends from across the country and even overseas. I do have to say, though, that people here in Chicago and the surrounding area have been really true to my heart. They came through for me in volunteering and being there for me.  I give a special thanks too for the folks back in my home state area who remember me.  All of you are truly a joy in my life!

And now, the task of building a show is on! In the next two months, we’ll be acquiring the equipment stated in the GoFundMe campaign, plus continuing production of Vital Media, Mediatrocities and (fingers crossed) upcoming book set for Dec 2017.

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Remembering a True Indie Giant: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Herschell Gordon Lewis (Courtesy: MUBI)

Herschell Gordon Lewis (Courtesy: MUBI)

by Legendary Lew

Herschell Gordon Lewis, the famed exploitation filmmaker dubbed “The Godfather of Gore” passed away on Monday. Varying reports have him aged at 87 and 90.

Lewis practically invented a movie sub-genre that still exists today: the gore film. With his early grindhouse box office success of  The Adventures of Lucky Pierre, a nudie film, Lewis wanted to move on to a style of movie that Hollywood wouldn’t or couldn’t touch. He came up with the idea of the gore film with the infamous Blood Feast.

The low-budget horror film tells the story of an Egyptian immigrant who runs a catering business and plots a feast of dismemberment and brutality. But many people who have seen the movie won’t remember the story line nor even care. That’s because Lewis inadvertently, but ingeniously, brought forth the cult party film–the type of wallpaper movie you can screen while chatting with a bunch of your friends until someone hushes the crowd saying, “Wait! Wait! You gotta check this out!”

Blood Feast was not the drive-in movie you would think to take your date to in bloodfeastthe 1960’s. It was the movie you would drive miles on a dare with partying buddies packed in your car. Reports surfaced of theater lines stretching for miles to see the movie.

Lewis tapped into young peoples’ thirst for the outrageous and scored big with that film, plus Two Thousand Maniacs!, probably his best.

He was a marketer of film in truly the greatest sense. Yes, he went for the bucks and admitted to doing so. But with films like Color Me Blood Red, The Gruesome Twosome and The Wizard of Gore, Lewis knew how to entertain the audience with his audacious gimmickry. There was no pretense to his films. They were poorly acted, dimly lit, sometimes set in high schools with sets that matched. That last point was especially true with his kids’ films (The Magic Land of Mother Goose and Jimmy, the Boy Wonder). Lewis also sporadically returned to sexploitation as well with a few of his lost films recently released on DVD and Blu-Ray.

two_thousand_maniacs-1964-mss-poster-06But his independent spirit in these movies was true. Ironically, Hollywood eventually became quite influenced by Lewis’s gore films, banking on sub-genres like the 80’s splatter films (the Friday the 13th series) and the more recent torture porn films (Saw, Hostel). These latter films intensified the depravity, but also removed the true sense of fun by moralizing slut shaming (promiscuous women in slasher films tend to have the most torturous, drawn-out deaths). Hyper-realism in torture porn films, with hanging slaughterhouse hooks and blood-stained walls, intended to shock. However, the gimmicks never scared me. The spooky touches simply became annoyances, especially when added with bad actors screaming like the “emoting” exercises of a community college’s Acting 101 class.

Lewis went his own way and knew when to stop making films, concentrating on other pursuits. He may have gone about making movies as a purely capitalist enterprise, but his movies show a sense of cheesy pleasure. Watching those works of creative joy, I never felt as though he was giving me the business.

lew-win_20160713_205425Legendary Lew is the co-founder of The Underground Multiplex and former personal video consultant of almost 20 years. He’s a writer, producer and host of the podcast “Mediatrocities” and the upcoming “Vital Media” series.



3 Lessons From the Box Office Failure of Ghostbusters 2016

Courtesy: Funny or Die

Courtesy: Funny or Die

by Legendary Lew

The news is now out that the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters is a box office failure. Reports are coming in that the Sony Pictures feature, directed by Paul Feig, will end up as much as $75 million in the red.

Finger-pointing is bound to bubble up like the flasked, hate-laced goo in Egon’s laboratory and, indeed, it may be signaled by Feig’s promise to never direct any future classic movie reboots.

Well-covered on social media is the tussle between pro and anti- 2016 Ghostbusters, sliming each other with accusations of misogyny, racism and shameless pandering to women. After Cinemassacre’s James Rolfe posted a video stating he would not watch the 2016 Ghostbusters based on what he perceived (along with 1,000,000+ viewers) as a poor trailer, he was attacked in social media unfairly as being misogynist. Coming to his defense was Comic Book Girl 19 making some very good points about how the criticisms against Rolfe were misguided. About halfway during her video, she brings up more valid points regarding Sony Pictures and its enterprise, so I urge you to watch her video as it’s really worth watching:

I would like to go further, however, because we’re now wading through another flood of social media outrage on Twitter, this time over remaking Ocean’s Eleven as the new release, Ocean’s Eight, with women in the leading roles once held by George Clooney and Matt Damon.

If you’re one those numbskulls bitching about how a once male-dominated movie remake can’t be good because women, you’ve no idea what the real issue is. If we don’t get the lessons right about what’s going on with blockbusters nowadays, we’re doomed to have this social media nonsense repeat, so I would like to offer:

3 Lessons We Should Learn from the Ghostbusters 2016 Failure

1. Ghostbusters is Not Strong Movie Franchise Material

I can just hear all the clicks as people turn away from the page at this point or hurry down to breathe dragon fire in the comments, but hear me out.

If a movie is to be timeless, then it must be able to stand on its own merits over long periods of time. It’s completely reasonable to re-evaluate certain movies considered classics but showing signs of poor aging. A few examples I can think of are Gone With The Wind, The Graduate and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. (BTW, the reverse can be true as well with such movies as Buster Keaton’s The General, It’s a Wonderful Life and White Dog.)

Ghostbusters should go through an honest re-evaluation. Peter is introduced as a con-artist who delights in torturing students and is a sexual predator to female college students and eventually to Dana. Some of the special effects, such as the dogs, are great. Others look cheesy nowadays, reminding me of the now-hilarious squid attack scene in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Yes, CGI has advanced since 1984.

Egon and Ray are one-dimensional characters, a major flaw that Ghostbusters 2 tries to correct with a copycat script. And speaking of GB2, didn’t the first GB establish that the quartet of buddies were news worthy heroes in NYC and even get the mayor possibly reelected? If so, why then de-establish the GBers and have them go through the very same plot devices a second time? How many times are they going to be incarcerated or isolated before they’re dramatically called up for services when the city goes to Hell?

I find it totally understandable that Bill Murray had major trouble with the series. The first GB was mildly entertaining with some good special effects and Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis stealing every scene they’re in. Sony should have left well enough alone.

2. Sony Pictures is Remarkably Irresponsible

I agree with Comic Book Girl 19 that Sony saw the value in generating a sexist and racist fight on social media regarding GB 2016. Who thought that removing damning reviews from Sony’s YouTube account and leaving vehemently sexist and racist comments was a good idea?

This irresponsibility follows a long line of incredible blunders Sony’s made over the years. James Spaltro made the infamous claim as director of infomation security in 2007 that spending significant amounts of money in cybersecurity wasn’t necessary. Making such a claim was an unintentional challenge to hackers. Playstations were hacked four years later, causing an outage for as many as 77 million accounts. Then, in 2014 Sony went through a catastrophic hack that released private emails and personal information of many Sony employees. Some former employees stated that Sony’s cavalier attitude towards cybersecurity was a disaster waiting to happen.

The hacker group, Guardians of Peace, claimed the action and eventually caused an international incident regarding Sony’s pending release of the comedy, The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. Washington got involved when the Guardians of Peace threatened to bomb theaters showing the bomb (believe me on this, I’ve seen it).

Earlier this year, Sony settled a class action lawsuit for $8 million brought on by employees whose information was compromised in the massive hack.
If all that weren’t enough, Sony is now in the middle of another hack-related lawsuit, this time by the production company of the film  To Write Love on Her Arms. The drama, involving a teenager’s battle with drug addiction and depression, was dropped from theatrical release consideration after the hack exposed the movie to piracy online. Sony’s response so far has been to claim they “had no obligation…to take any anti-piracy measures whatsoever.” They may have the legal edge, but this sure doesn’t make them look good.

Allowing a Ghostbusters PR campaign to feed off what Comic Book Girl 19 calls a “false flag” feminist issue gave Sony hope that people would read GB 2016 as a women empowering film, when in fact, it’s simply a cynical, lazy attempt to target women for on-screen ads. This is right in line with their history of callous business attitudes.

3. Sony Pictures Really Doesn’t Give a Shit about Ghostbusters Fans

The final point is the most depressing one to me.

You can currently watch the recently released documentary, Ghostheads, which shines the spotlight on several diehard GB fans and what the movie means to them. The stories are all warm-hearted: a GB group that visits young cancer patients in hospitals; a woman who quelled her alcoholism after becoming a fan; and a few stories of how family members connected to each other, thanks to the movie.

All of these stories are good and could have made for a fine film. However, like ghosts hidden in paintings and water pipes waiting to be released, Sony’s specter hung over the entire project waiting to spring in at the right moment.
That moment came at the end of the doc, when 60 GB fans were invited to the Hollywood studio screening of the first trailer. They each received a paper certificate and a lapel pin. Now, keep in mind, the people invited did the PR work for Sony on a stalled franchise that the company had no idea what to do with for a long time. Those fans, through their work and dedication to the film they love, helped Sony make a ton of money.

A paper certificate and lapel pin? Hell, they should have been flown first class to Japan and met the president of Sony.

What I’ve posted here is not meant to discourage you from being a fan of Ghostbusters. If the movie means a great deal to you, indulge in the fantastical pleasures. Bond with your children and grandchildren as Peter, Ray and Egon set out to save NYC from ghosts. Socialize with other fans who’ve had their lives changed by the film. There’s really nothing wrong with that.

My point is that Ghostbusters is a classic case of a movie viewed as merely consumable product by a company that doesn’t care about what the movie has meant to so many millions of people. The way Sony handled this property and their own history of bad judgments prove it.

Many of us have had childhood memories and family bonding involving corporate products. Our example was dinners with Kentucky Fried Chicken, long before their current trademark change to KFC. They were fond memories, but not so much that I’m walking around dressed like the Colonel (or a chicken for that matter). The reason is that at some point, either understood immediately or occurring later, we, like most people, can separate ourselves enough from the product to have proper perspectives on how its presentation is designed to manipulate us.

But what do you do when your deep connection to a company’s damaged product is broken? In the case of KFC, I learned how unhealthy the ingredients were. The solution was easy, because there are alternatives. You can seek out other restaurants serving fried chicken or prepared in healthier ways or even make your own chicken dishes at home.

In the case of Ghostbusters, owned by a company that has a hold on your memories, who you gonna call?

Mediatrociities Podcast #23: Dylan Reeve of “Tickled”

tickledby Legendary Lew

This episode of Mediatrocities features Dylan Reeve, co-director (along with David Farrier) of the hit documentary, “Tickled.” You’ll want to give a listen, because you’ll learn something about me you’ve never known before.  We talk tickling contests, strange festival happenings, lawsuits, abuse of power and what it’s like to be part of a male/male tickling community. By far, the most personal discussion I’ve ever given.

Check for local screenings here: