Radio Free Charleston’s very special sixty-ninth episode is online now! This is a departure episode for us, as we present an edited version of Timothy Rock’s 1992 documentary, “Go Van Gogh: The Sad Truth.” This film depicts the aura, the bubble of success that surrounded this almost-mythic band. It stars Go Van Gogh, themselves, Johnny Rock, Tim Rock, Stephen Beckner and Mark Beckner. It’s the kick-off of “Mark Beckner Month” here on Radio Free Charleston, as we celebrate the pending return to the Charleston area of Mark’s Nashville-based band, Hitchcock Circus. Hitchcock Circus will be playing at LiveMix Studio on May 30–their first gig in town since 1995. Every episode of RFC in May will feature Mark in some manner or another.
“Go Van Gogh: The Sad Truth” (which I believe inspired Al Gore to make “An Inconvenient Truth,” the copycat) uses interviews with the band to show just exactly how great they thought they were. It’s safe to say that no other band in the history of Charleston ever achieved the level of greatness that Go Van Gogh thought they had. Two complete songs are heard in this edited version of the documentary: “I Can’t Sleep At Night,” written by Tim and Johnny Rock and Jason Ashworth, and “Born 2 Late,” written by Mark Beckner. Aside from the music and interviews with the band, the film also presents interviews with “friends” of the band, to show the perspective of folks who weren’t necessarily drinking the Go Van Gogh Kool Aid. Needless to say, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.
Okay, so it’s really a mockumentary, completely tongue-in-cheek. It’s still a blast, even if the guys were in on the joke. Hey, we can’t all be Jesco.
Later this summer I plan to hold a Radio Free Charleston film festival, and a digitally-restored, unedited, version of this film will be on the bill. This episode is a rough cut, using an inferior transfer, just to see if it can be done. If it looks blocky on your computer, rest assured that it’s simply a stylistic choice that will be abandoned for the final remastered print, and not a bad transfer done by yours truly because he wasted his week off from the show screwing around with Johnny West toys and had to do all the work on this the day before it got posted. It’s uh…supposed to look that way so that it will bring the film into the modern YouTube era. Yeah. That’s It.
Special thanks to Timothy Rock for giving me carte blanche to re-edit his film for the show, “Do whatever you want. You can stick in CGI dinosaurs if you think it’ll make it any better. Could you stick in CGI dinosaurs?” Special thanks also to Stephen Beckner, for supplying the VHS copy of the movie that I used to edit this show, and to Steve Fesenmaier for supplying the copy of the movie that will be properly transferred for restoration later this summer.
This episode of RFC would not exist if not for Stephen. The elder Beckner is, of course, a frequent guest on Radio Free Charleston–I think he gets his mail delivered here now–and it was at a party thrown by Stephen and his lovely wife Amee where I first saw the film. At least I thought I was seeing it for the first time. I got this strange feeling of deja vu, like I’d experienced it before. Lance Shrader, who does double-duty in the film as himself and as “Dannie B. Devious” the band’s manager, would shoot me strange glances every time I said, “This seems so familiar.” Then it hit me: I ran camera on much of this film, and conducted most of the interviews. And we shot it at Lance’s parent’s house. In the original film, I get a special credit for “the bailout.”
It wasn’t that the experience was so horrible that I’d blocked it out. It’s just that, in my dotage, I have found myself forgetting some really cool projects that I was part of. Then when I see the films, I get a sort of “brain itch” until the memories come flooding back. You see, I’m actually much older than I appear on the show. It takes hours of hair and make up work just to make me look as good as I usually do, which, to be honest, is still pretty bad.
That reminds me: I need to get my cataracts dyed for next week’s show.
Anyway…I thought my loyal RFC viewers would get a kick out of seeing this self-parodying portrait of one of the top bands of the radio era of Radio Free Charleston. In fact, this is all part of a special observation, as this Labor Day will mark the 20th Anniversary of the debut of the Radio Free Charleston radio program. Radio was never the same in this town…until the show was canceled the following spring, and then radio turned to crap again.
In this film, aside from interviews with the band, you’ll get to see Lance Shrader, who is back in the area and making films that you might just see here soon, Julia Taylor (Cassis, now), then the girlfriend of Tim Rock, now a proud wife and mother of a darling little girl, Tommy Swish, whose real name is hiding somewhere in the back of my head with the broken brain cells, and me. This film features the debut of my bald spot, marking the end of my period of plausible deniability. This version is less than half the length of the original film, so we sadly had to excise interviews with Melissa and Gabrielle, and Jason Ashworth. Those will be in the full version of the film, and since that version won’t be subjected to the Gazette standards and practices, we won’t have to bleep Melissa.
So, check out this special episode of the show, which serves many purposes, not the least of which is allowing me another week before I have to dye the beard. It also gave me an out when it came to dealing with all the bands and filmmakers who wanted to come on “episode 69” and make jokes that The Gazz would force me to cut out anyway. “The Sad Truth” is an early version of the “guerilla filmmaking” style that we use on RFC. We just grabbed a camera and started shooting. The end result, I think, is pretty funny.
Next week’s show will feature…Mark Beckner (ta da) as well as the debut of “A Plant Ro Duction Mini Movie” and a musical guest to be determined later. The Go Van Gogh guys, Beckner and Rock alike, have been friends of mine for almost two decades, and “Mark Beckner Month” is a fun way to play up the music of my old buddy, with whom I used to hang out at the Footlocker in the mall, shoot the breeze, and leer at wimmins.
About the humor in this film, remember, you have to be truly humble in order to act so arrogant on screen. Olivier said that once, when I was giving him acting tips.