James Pickett's performances in William Girdler's early pictures helped make those films shine. Pickett acted in three of Bill’s Louisville efforts, creating some truly standout characters in the process. He’s best remembered by trash fans for his role in the exploitation classic Three on a Meathook. As it turns out, his later role of humanitarian and award-winning writer proved far more significant.
James Pickett III was born December 17, 1949 near Louisville, Kentucky. He first gained local fame by playing Daniel Boone in a Louisville pageant. He began working behind-the-scenes at Actors Theatre in his early twenties. Through his association with the theater, he landed a bit part in Girdler's debut feature Asylum of Satan. He also provided some of the "gore" makeup effects that appear in the 1972 film. His talent and personal charm impressed everyone he worked with, most especially Girdler.
Pickett graduated from groaning ghoul to leading man for Girdler's second film, Three on a Meathook. In the role of Billy, the gentle would-be homicidal maniac with a bladder control problem, Pickett virtually steals the screen with his overstated country naivete. His sweet backwoodsey performance has earned him a special place in the annals of slasher film actors. Appearing alongside the always-incredible Charles Kissinger (also an Actors Theatre alumnus), Pickett holds his own rather well despite his relative lack of acting experience.
James Carroll Pickett, 1988, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1124019)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitalIn Zebra Killer, Pickett makes an about-face from the lovable character of Billy. He plays Mac in the 1973 feature, an insane serial killer who stalks his victims while disguised as a black man. He drools, he rapes, he weeps ... occasionally all at the same time! It almost appears as if much of his nutjob banter is ad-libbed, but it's very convincing just the same. He breathes life into what should have been a forgettable role, and he consequently dominates the film.
James Pickett moved to California in the mid-70s. He never appeared onscreen again after Zebra Killer. However, he enjoyed an auspicious career as a playwright, poet, and community activist while living in LA. His distinctions include serving as Writer In Residence at the Beverly Hills Playhouse as well as awards from Drama-Logue and The LA Weekly. His critically acclaimed plays toured nationally and internationally. One of his plays titled Dream Man was adapted into a 1991 film produced by Kevin Glover (Reality Bites). Pickett also started the Gay Men's Writer series at A Different Light Bookstore. He was co-founder and executive director of Artists Confronting AIDS (ACA's other co-founder Michael Kearns stars in the film adaptation of Dream Man). Pickett additionally founded and produced the STAGE benefits for AIDS Project Los Angeles.
James Carroll Pickett died from complications related to AIDS on July 4, 1994.
One can't help but wonder if he knew that his film roles had earned him a cult popularity adjunct to his success in California. Perhaps he viewed his onscreen efforts as unremitting dreck that he preferred to forget. But to anyone who enjoys and cherishes the early films of William Girdler, the death of James Pickett is sad news indeed.
Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality by Patrick Moore
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Beacon Press (January 14, 2004)
Amazon: Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality
The radical sexuality of gay American men in the 1970s is often seen as a shameful period of excess that led to the AIDS crisis. Beyond Shame claims that when the gay community divorced itself from this allegedly tainted legacy, the tragic result was an intergenerational disconnect because the original participants were unable to pass on a sense of pride and identity to younger generations. Indeed, one reason for the current rise in HIV, Moore argues, is precisely due to this destructive occurrence, which increased the willingness of younger gay men to engage in unsafe sex.
Lifting the'veil of AIDS,' Moore recasts the gay male sexual culture of the 1970s as both groundbreaking and creative-provocatively comparing extreme sex to art. He presents a powerful yet nuanced snapshot of a maligned, forgotten era. Moore rescues gay America's past, present, and future from a disturbing spiral of destruction and AIDS-related shame, illustrating why it's critical for the gay community to reclaim the decade.
Acts of Intervention: Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS (Unnatural Acts: Theorizing the Performative) by David Roman
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Indiana University Press; 1St Edition edition (February 22, 1998)
Amazon: Acts of Intervention: Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS
Acts of Intervention examines the ways that gay men have used theatre and performance to intervene in the AIDS crisis. It discusses dramatic texts and public performances—from cabarets and candlelight vigils to full-scale Broadway productions such as Angels in America and Rent—that have shaped, and been shaped by, the history of AIDS in national, regional, and local contexts. Román examines mainstream as well as alternative and activist forms of theatre, including solo performance, community-based projects, mixed-media events, activist demonstrations, and AIDS educational theatre initiatives.
Acts of Intervention traces the ways in which performance and theater have participated in and informed the larger cultural politics of race, sexuality, citizenship, and AIDS in the United States during the last fifteen years. The book discusses not only how the theater has provided a forum for gay male response to the epidemic but also the degree to which those responses have in turn shaped the ideological formulation of AIDS. Román offers a new method for mapping the relation between AIDS and representation by combining interpretive strategies from performance theory, gay and lesbian studies, critical race discourse, and cultural studies.
This book is dedicated to writing the history of theatrical interventions in the AIDS epidemic, including performances whose official history has been largely neglected or forgotten. Because many early performances about AIDS left little or no documentation, the task of constructing an AIDS theatre historiography confronts immediate problems and limitations.
Acts of Intervention argues that the history of AIDS performance is located at the juncture of memory and disappearance, of mourning and survival, of representation and its impossibility in the context of epidemic loss.
Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories by Patrick Merla
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 1, 1997)
Amazon: Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories
In stunning essays written especially for this collection, twenty-nine noted gay writers recount their true "coming out" stories, intensely personal histories of that primal process by which men come to terms with their desire for other men. Here are accounts of revealing one's sexual identity to parents, siblings, friends, co-workers and, in one notable instance, to a stockbroker. Men tell of their first sexual encounters from their preteens to their thirties, with childhood friends who rejected or tenderly embraced them, with professors, with neighbors, with a Broadway star. These are poignant, sometimes unexpectedly funny tales of romance and heartbreak, repression and liberation, rape and first love defining moments that shaped their authors' lives. Arranged chronologically from Manhattan in the Forties to San Francisco in the Nineties, these essays ultimately form a documentary of changing social and sexual mores in the United States--a literary, biographical, sociological and historical tour de force.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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