When fans substitute their idol’s public life for their own real life, the result can be mesmerizing, starkly depressing, banally weird, and even occasionally salvific.
Yesterday’s double bill of For the Love of Dolly and Camp Michael Jackson gave the audience more creepy, revelatory, and celebratory moments than reasonable. The afternoon show’s two documentaries, part of Frameline’s 30th Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender film festival, focused on the fans of Dolly Parton and Michael Jackson.
While the films each dealt with over-the-top, true fanatics, the level of discomfort I felt watching the films was significantly different.
The opening film showed a selection of Micheal Jackson believers who camped out in Santa Maria to cheer him on, to catch a glimpse of him, to talk, to touch, and to be in his presence. Their desperation and their ability to not see the sickness of their savior made my skin crawl. The people who gave up their jobs — their lives — to live in hotel rooms so that they could take their daily chance at getting an observer seat in the courtroom, could chant at the courthouse barricades, or could cheer Jackson’s returning SUV at the gates of the Neverland Ranch all were beyond depressing or pitiable. They were at the “ick” level, and yet fascinating to follow on the screen.
The Dolly fans, on the other hand, had for the most part a core of health or redemption in their obsession. They chose a basically good person for their compulsion, and many times we could see how their Dolly focus lifted themselves out of their untenable personal life to a place where reasonable living and love were possible. Their gonzo star-struckness served a real purpose, and damn if their craziness didn’t add to their real lives.
For the Love of Dolly also had the production values. Original score music by Harlan’s beau Doug Hilsinger, the direction, the image quality, the titles, the editing, the use of archive film each worked. It was a quality story told well.
And, of course, the afternoon was another “why we live in San Francisco” experience. How fortunate we are to be able to wander a mile from home and see interesting films, one of which has music by someone we know. Kinda fun, too, to come home and see that the documentaries are in the Internet Movie Database and that Doug has a filmography record as a composer.