in honor of
Irving Penn & Annie Leibovitz
” A society without jaywalkers might indicate a society without artists.”
This is a freeze frame documentation of Gone…Up In Smoke! A student film by Daniel D. Teoli Jr. made in 1975 showing Barbara LeMay doing a partial reenactment of the ‘hoochie show’ she performed in the carnival. It was my final exam film for beginning filmmaking class at Los Angeles City College.
Unfortunately, when it came time to show the film for my final exam, the film department stopped me from screening it. The teachers said the school would shut down the film department if they allowed me to show it.
It was a different world in the 1970’s. Almost no one had tattoos or piercings. Being transgender was under the table. Tuition at L.A.C.C. cost $6.50 a semester and Cal State L.A. was $63 a trimester. For one tuition fee a student could take as many classes as they liked. Houses near the Pico / Fairfax district in L.A., that sell for a million dollars now, only cost $25,000.
The film was shot on Super 8mm and has gone through many cycles of degradation, although it was not that high quality to start with. I thought Gone…Up In Smoke! was lost, but it eventually surfaced after being stored for 20+ years in an outdoor garden shed at my mom’s house. When I found it, I put the film on VHS video by projecting it on a blank wall and recording it with a video camera. Years later I copied the video tape onto a DVD. For the stills you see here, I played the DVD and shot the images off the TV screen.
Synopsis of Gone…Up In Smoke!
Barbara is shown enjoying her birds. She hears a knock at the door. Richard shows up. She grabs Richard by the collar and tells him to sit down. He makes some advances towards Barbara which she rebuffs. Barbara does a little modeling for Richard. She powders her privates then hits Richard in the face with the puff. Richard has lunch while he watches Barbara model and dance around. After lunch he lights up a cigarette and offers it to Barbara. Barbara tells him she does not smoke, but is willing to smoke it ‘down below.’ The smoking is so intense that when Richard goes in for a close-up inspection he takes in a lung full of smoke. After watching Barbara smoke the cigarette, front and back, Richard is in for a shock and passes out.
I used the song Always sung by the Ink Spots for music to accompany the film. I had a more livelier version of this song to use for the original film, but it has been lost. Here is a similar version to play while you view the stills.
Filmmaking is tedious work. It requires a good deal of patience and usually lots of cooperation from others. Being kinda shy and having to deal with ADD and a dislike for tedious work, I could see making movies was not for me. The refusal of the film department to allow me to screen my film was also a big turn-off. I felt why should I waste my time making movies that no one will see. So, I gave up on film classes and went back to documentary still photography which proved to fit my personality and skills perfectly.
Only last month I realized what an opportunity I missed. Being friends with Barbara, I could have made an artists’ book just about her. Nowadays, with inkjet printing I pop out artists’ books like popcorn. But, back in the old days if we wanted to make a hand-printed photo book we had to do it with wet prints made in the darkroom. We would get 2 silver gelatin prints and dry mount them back to back to make a page. I did it one time to make a book called A Family Portrait. It is very time intensive and after that, I never made another book from darkroom prints.
I also didn’t have the’ book mentality’ in me until recently. I would get one photo I liked of a subject and then quit shooting them…I was satisfied. Barbara used to make costumes for the strippers and show girls, she had many interesting friends, her makeup and hair styling – all that could have been documented. Well, I was in my late teens and early 20’s when I knew ‘Babs’, so I just didn’t have the experience.
We can learn an important lesson from Josef Koudleka when it comes to our photography.
“What interests me is taking photographs to the maximum – the maximum that exists in a situation and the maximum that I myself can produce from it.” Koudelka goes on to say he will re-shoot a project repeatedly “to reassure me I have in fact achieved the maximum.”
From the 1981 book World Photography by Bryn Campbell.
Well, the original Super 8 film of Gone Up in Smoke has gone underground again – I tend to lose things a lot. But if and when it resurfaces, I will get a digital transfer made to post online. In any case, I’m glad a sample of Gone…Up in Smoke! survived and I was able to share some of it with you.
The photos below are of Barbara LeMay at an artist ball in Hollywood, CA. They are scans from beat up work prints, as the original negatives were lost. I had more photos of Barbara, but they got destroyed in 2001 from a flood in Ohio.
I found the lost film, had it digitally transferred and put a copy of the film on the Internet Archive. Here is the link:
Photos used herewith are from the following limited edition artists’ books by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
Gender Benders from the 1970’s
Peephole: Peering into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A.