a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


The temperamental Jack Smith


Flaming Creatures
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

I met Jack Smith maybe in late 1960 or early '61 as before he made Flaming Creatures, he was around. They were just planning but it was made just around the time when I met him. On the roof, closed movie theatre, just sort of further on Avenue B where the Charles Theatre was. I was doing programming at Charles Theatre and also helping the managers, they needed some workers to sell tickets and so I got Jack Smith. Jack Smith for some time was our ticket seller and also at the same time the guy who... the editor, main editor and writer of the Mad magazine, was also a ticket seller. That was the beginning of the Mad magazine. And that's where I met Jack for the first time, and, of course, you know, he kept bumping and seeing... he spent... hung around Film-makers' Cooperative and, of course, argued with other film-makers and Barbara Rubin always had to make peace between them, and also I lent him my Bolex for he shot Normal Love with my Bolex.

And we were I would say good friends. I visited him on his Grand Street loft; that's where he lived for some time, a loft where he removed the ceiling and made it into like a theatre space where he made performances, in some of them I was caught myself sometimes because he worked with, you know, just with people, not with actors. And our little problems began when Anthology Film Archives opened and we purchased the print of Normal Love. Of course, I'm, you know, jumping here because first, you know, our premiere opened Normal Love to the public and was arrested for it sentenced to six months...

[Q] 'Flaming Creatures'.

Flaming Creatures. Did I say... what did I say?

[Q] You said 'Normal Love'.

Oh. Yes, so we continue with Jack Smith. In '60... December '63, of course, I took it to Belgium, Knokke-le-Zoute and that's where you know the L'Affaire Flaming Creatures took place. It's a long story. Then I came back and decided to show it to the public and that's where I was arrested and later sentenced for six months suspended sentence. And we were still in, sort of, good relations with Jack Smith, until later he said that he was very unhappy that he was not permitted to be in the court and testify, you know, to tell the... you know, to talk about the Flaming Creatures because he said if I would have told them they would have believed me, that is... is Jack Smith and I would not have been sentenced. But the the main defence lawyer, Emile Zola Berman, looked once at him and said, 'No, no, no, please, please, don't let this guy in'. And he blames me for... but it was not my decision because... plus, they had... he had... was not... there was no case against him, it was against me and Ken Jacobs who was also arrested at the same time, so he had no... nothing to do there.

Jonas Mekas (1922-2019), Lithuanian-born poet, philosopher and film-maker, set up film collectives, the Anthology Film Archive, published filmzines and made hundreds of films, all contributing to his title as 'the godfather of American avant-garde cinema'. He emigrated to America after escaping from a forced labour camp in Germany in 1945.

Listeners: Amy Taubin

Amy Taubin is a contributing editor for "Film Comment" magazine and "Sight and Sound" magazine. Her book, "Taxi Driver", was published in 2000 in the British Film Institute's Film Classics series. Her chapter on "America: The Modern Era" is part of "The Critics Choice" published by Billboard Press, 2001, and her critical essays are included in many anthologies, mostly recently in "Frank Films: The Film and Video Work of Robert Frank" published by Scalo.

She wrote for "The Village Voice" weekly from 1987 into 2001 both as a film and a television critic. She also wrote a column for the "Village Voice" titled "Art and Industry" which covered American independent filmmaking. Her first weekly film criticism job was at the "SoHo Weekly News". Her writing has also appeared in "Art Forum", the "New York Times", the "New York Daily News", the "LA Weekly", "Millennium Film Journal", "US Harpers Bazaar" and many other magazines. She is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Online.

She started her professional life as an actress, appearing most notably on Broadway in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie", and in avant-garde films, among them Michael Snow's "Wavelength", Andy Warhol's "Couch", and Jonas Mekas' "Diaries, Notebooks and Sketches".

Her own avant-garde film, "In the Bag" (1981) is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Friends of Young Cinema Archives in Berlin.

She was the video and film curator of "The Kitchen" from 1983-1987.

She has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from N.Y.U. in cinema studies. She teaches at the School of Visual Arts in both the undergraduate and the MFA graduate programs, and lectures frequently at museums, media centers, and academic institutions. In 2003, she received the School of Visual Arts' art historian teaching award.

Tags: Flaming Creatures, Charles Theatre, Normal Love, Jack Smith, Barbara Rubin, Emile Zola Berman, Ken Jacobs

Duration: 4 minutes, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010