From co-directors Silas Howard and Erin Greenwell comes "Golden Age Of Hustlers," a remake of an iconic song written by legendary punk transsexual chanteuse Bambi Lake, about the 1970's gay hustler scene on Polk Street in San Francisco during the pre-HIV/AIDS era.
Featuring Tony award-winning artist and performer Justin Vivian Bond, the song and video aim to give the viewer an insider's perspective of this important moment within the timeline of queer history.
In order to better understand this compelling video and what went into making it, The Huffington Post chatted with Howard and Greenwell to discuss the 1970's gay hustler scene invoked by this work, the involvement of Justin Vivian Bond and the video's historical queer significance.
The Huffington Post: Why did you decide to recreate this iconic song with Justin Vivian Bond? Silas Howard: I heard Justin Vivian Bond cover the song years ago and was struck again by the authenticity and poetry of the song and JVB's emotive rendering of it. I knew Bambi Lake, who wrote and originally performed the song, from San Francisco in the mid 90's and was excited to watch a new generation embrace the song with a passion similar to my own. This is a part of our history that often falls off the grid.
What moment in time does this song capture? Howard: The song takes place in the mid-1970's, an era Bambi describes as an innocent, "golden age" of hustling in a pre-AIDS San Francisco. Yet she side-steps romanticizing the era, honoring the loss of many in a community living on the edge of social acceptance. In this way I feel the song is timeless, speaking not only to the AIDS epidemic but also the crises of a diminishing landscape and the collateral cost for certain creative rebels.
How did you choose the individuals featured in this video? Howard: The way we chose the cast was a direct expression of the intergenerational love for the song (each connecting to various aspects of the song's content on different levels). The magic on set was kinetic. It's hard to describe how rare and just damn fun it was to have different generations of artists, icons and downtown "dahlings" sharing the "green room" (which was in reality, a hallway, but oh what a hall it was).
Erin Greenwell: It was important to work with performers who were queer and in the NYC performance/music community because of JVB's history with the Lower East Side and Bambi's history with San Francisco. The same way the song notes the different characters in the song, we wanted to cast people now who the community already knew and felt close to.
Why is this song historically important to the queer/trans community in the modern age? Howard: I'm obsessed with the idea of queer and trans lineage and how the past and future can live in the same room. Perhaps it's in part due to coming of age in the midst of loss from AIDS, that I feel a kinship to the mentors gone too soon. Though Bambi wrote the song in the early '90s, in a community of "misfit" queers, sex workers, transsexuals, queers and punks, it speaks to a modern time in that many of us still look for places where all parts of ourselves can find home. I'm grateful to Justin Vivian Bond for carrying Bambi Lake's legacy forward, allowing us access to learn from Bambi as a performer and a punk transsexual icon of an older generation, who prevailed and created art that represented an experience of living outside the "mainstream." I think of the music video as a kind of love letter from our past to the next generation. Greenwell: When we projected the stock footage of Bambi Lake and San Francisco in '80s/early '90s at the video shoot I remember a lot of the cast and crew not in the shot gathering around the monitor and crying. It was this understood sadness around how few and far between we've been seen in art, how much we fight to make art and how grateful we were to be presenting images of ourselves, as far back as Bambi being projected with a current day Justin Vivian Bond. We feel the song honors those before us and emboldens those coming after us to believe in their worth.
Check out "Golden Age Of Hustlers" above.