Vincent D’Onofrio – Has He Really Been Overlooked This Much?

Source: Vincent D’Onofrio – Has He Really Been Overlooked This Much?

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Collecting Advice: Don’t Make This Mistake With A Collection

I am posting only briefly to say that I am minorly traumatized by recent events that happened in the actual physical location of The Vault.

Upon opening a giant (4 foot long, i.e. so big it had handle openings cut into its ends so it can be moved) cardboard footlocker-sized box of posters I have not looked in since 2003, I discovered the remains of what was a rodent ‘condominium development’. I say the remains, because the mice responsible were evicted well over 2 years ago (their food source was eliminated as soon as I became aware of their presence in the house). So I wasn’t confronted with any actual mice or their corpses.

What I did find were some destroyed posters, thoroughly chewed and shredded. Color me upset and mildly grossed out.

Most of the posters I lost were thankfully not VDO related…in fact the only posters like that affected were my 3 US single sided styles A B & C posters for ‘The Cell’. Thankfully these weren’t expensive posters and will not be hard to replace (in fact I will probably go ahead and spend a little extra for the double sided versions I had wanted in the first place). But the mess that had to be cleaned up was not fun and took me several days to straighten out. And I lost some of my other lesser movie posters and many promotional and concert music posters (from an earlier collecting phase) which I liked and was saving to get framed at some point so I’m kind of mourning their loss and frustrated that it was so easy for the mice to ruin them.

At least I had the good sense to store the most important and/or valuable posters inside thick walled poster tubes with plastic end caps…mice were unable to enter these at all. The posters either not in tubes or in a few cases in partially capped tubes towards the bottom of the box were the ones that got shredded into confetti. But I have definitely learned not to store anything “shreddable” and “organic” like paper or wool or cotton in cardboard boxes in the basement (the same mice destroyed a few sweaters of mine stored in cardboard wardrobe boxes, the kind you get from a moving company that have a metal pole from which you can hang hangers and the same offending handle openings cut into two of its sides).

I think what happens with the violated cardboard boxes is some of the mice enter through the handle holes, get stuck in the boxes and shred up anything between them and getting back out of the boxes. They all eventually figure out how to escape but they leave a lot of damage in the aftermath.

This not so subtle wake-up call prompted me to upgrade every kind of item I am storing related to VDO that will fit into the following nifty storage container made by Sterilite:

Sterilite Wheeled Footlocker

I have invested in 9 of them so far and have plans to buy at least one more (for VDO TV appearances and movies on DVD, VCD, VHS tapes and laserdiscs which are currently split between 2 18 gallon Rubbermaid tubs). Unlike the locker pictured in the photo, the ones I found are black with a white handle although they also come in a deep blue with a silver handle. They strike me as extremely rodent-proof, easy to move around and easy to store. They’re not exactly cheap, but they are easy to find in my area and give me piece of mind should critters decide to try and move into the house again (living in the country this is always a strong possibility). And transferring everything into what I think of as safer containers has made me better organize and catalog what I have. So this is something of a blessing in disguise. I just wish these had existed when I started collecting…they would have saved me some grief (but then so would me packing away the posters more carefully in the first place).

I still need to find something more suited to posters that are more than 4′ in their smallest dimension (things like banners and subway sized posters) but I have some ideas about how to better protect those than with only capped cardboard tubes stacked on their ends in lidless plastic Rubbermaid tubs.

So I and the stuff are going to be okay. In the relative scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal and it could have been worse. And 99.8% of my VDO stuff is unaffected although it’s been eye opening to find that I needed to get so many of these footlockers to house 6+ years worth of collecting efforts.

Still I don’t understand why the mice picked my collection to shred when they could have done the same to papers stored in cardboard boxes with handle holes…those they left untouched…go figure.


Music “Don’t Ask Me Why” Acoustic Version by The Eurythmics (from the promotional only ‘Acoustic Eurythmics’ CD Sampler released in 1989)

Wow! VDO Vault Celebrates 36,000 Hits on VDO Photos on Flickr.com

Some of you out there must really be bored and/or like looking at VDO-related pictures on Flickr.

As of sometime during the morning of Tuesday August 14th 2007, the VDO Vault photo account at Flickr.com reached over 36,000 hits. This is a pretty big landmark considering the 35,000 mark was passed less than two weeks earlier.

This means that since I started a Flickr account back in January of 2005, approximately 2000 visits each month are registered there of people looking at photos of the collection. That works out to something over 60 views a day.

I don’t really pay close attention to the numbers of people visiting this blog, the audio files I maintain at musicwebtown.com or the videos I have posted to YouTube. This is probably because Flickr makes it comparatively easy for me to keep track of page views there (everytime I log in I see the statistics). But they are high enough that I figure someone other than me is amusing themselves with what I do. So I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and keep somebody besides myself pre-occupied.

Anyway yesterday in honor of the 36,000 milestone, I posted a several more photos of Japanese items in my collection. There is one whole new set of items to look at: Japanese movie programs (or more correctly their covers). That brings the total number of photos you can browse at Flickr to 938. If I get a little more motivated this month, I might shoot for bringing that total number of photos up to 1,000 (or more). Since it is summer though and most everyone is spending time outside, I have slowed up a bit, well, that and I have been staking my claim to some more Web 2.0 real estate for the VDO Vault ‘brand’ as well as vegging out a bit and enjoying the weather.

And FYI there’s been another 150 hits in one day at Flickr even though I’ve been really slow to get this blog entry written and posted!

Music to goof off by: ‘Foolin’ Around’ by Freddie Mercury

Fan Folly FeeBay Auction of 2007: ‘Salt On Our Skin’ German Press Kit Worth $510.01?!?!

Yikes!

Well some fangurl with a far greater limit on her credit card than amount of common sense just ‘won’ a German press kit on ebaY for $510.01 (that’s *before* shipping)!

I don’t follow feebay auctions all that religiously, but that’s got to be some kind of record. It surely breaks the $400+ ‘Guy’ press kit record I blogged about several months ago.

In my case, I got my first German ‘Salt On Our Skin’ press kit back in 2001 for what I though (then) was a hefty $25.00 including shipping. Of course mine came with the booklet (which I have yet to upload an image of because it won’t fit on my scanner, it’s the size of a vinyl record album or a laserdisc) 2 more black and white 5×7″ photos than what the high bidder will receive (6 vs. 4) plus 13 different slides (the winner is not getting any slides but at that stupidly high price, she should be getting everything I got hand-delivered to her by VDO himself).

My second copy of the same kit only has one photo and 2 slides and thus cost me $10.00. However that one has already been passed on to another owner who wisely wishes to remain anonymous.

Looks like VDO has become more popular and profitable than I would have predicted…boy if I had the email address of the winner I could *seriously* cash in (I do have other extra press materials etc acquired at less spectacular prices from many different countries that I put away for many reasons, just one of them being an educated guess that VDO’s popularity would soar thanks to LO:CI)

But I’ve at least scanned the photos so that if you’re not the auction ‘winner’ you don’t have to spend muy mucho $$$ to see them for yourself…they’re in my 100th flickr photo set at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vdo_vault/sets/72157600298064868/

One of the nicer ones this winner isn’t getting is:

Appropriate music ‘Deeper And Deeper’ by Madonna (as in the winner is putting herself ‘deeper and deeper’ in debt to a soul-stealing corporation)

Stuff To Hear: The *Original* Soundtrack To’The Winner’

Well in today’s mail I received what I presumed might be a mythical object. Luckily this object is actually 100% real and I now have a copy in my hands (which will be joining others of its kind very soon).

Behold the CD soundtrack to ‘The Winner’ as Director Alex Cox intended it to be:

The story behind my “relentless” search for this CD is that many months ago I learned from Alex Cox, the director of ‘The Winner’ via an answer to an email of mine, that the way ‘The Winner’ was released in most every region is a butchered up, badly edited and incorrectly scored film. In fact if you look at Alex Cox’s website entry for ‘The Winner’:

http://www.alexcox.com/dir_winner.htm

you will see that Alex Cox doesn’t really count it as a film he directed because of just how bad a job the film’s producers did in reediting ‘The Winner’ and changing it’s score behind Cox’s back.

Luckily the Japanese had the good sense to let Cox try to reedit the film and put back Dan Wool, Pray For Rain and Zander Schloss’s soundtrack and gave the film a special theatrical run as the Japanese flyer (chirashi) here shows:

Anyway after much searching and following a cryptic clue on Pray For Rain’s website (where unfortunately Dan Wool and Pray For Rain do not have any mp3 files from ‘The Winner’ available for listening), I finally located what I presumed was something that didn’t exist, a commercially available release of the correct music for ‘The Winner’

The full soundtrack (Toho/Coeur Records CR-0011 if you feel inclined to order a copy for yourself from Japan) is available for your listening enjoyment is here

http://www.musicwebtown.com/vdovault/59419

But you know me, I can’t help posting highlights in my blog entries

Lights Of Las Vegas

Relentless (Main Title)

Phillip Meets Joey

$10,000 De Recompensa

Finally this makes some sense of something that’s always intrigued me about the trailer for ‘The Winner’ (a version of which you can see over at VideoDetective.com)

http://www.videodetective.com/titledetails.aspx?publishedid=8282

This CD explains why the trailer actually has good music (Cox’s intended humorous good music was used) and the film’s music is just awful (the producers put in a cheap crappy substitute soundtrack).

Oh and if I were Cox I’d disassociate myself from what was released everywhere but in Japan…the soundtrack to ‘The Winner’ as the rest of the world has experienced it is only outdone in awfulness by the soundtrack for ‘It Don’t Pay To Be An Honest Citizen’. Frankly a lot of ‘It Don’t Pay’s’ problem is that the sound mix is bad; the soundtrack drowns out a lot of important dialogue which I presume is a problem of the film having such an extremely low budget that the director couldn’t afford to fix the sound problems in post-production. With ‘The Winner’ the problem is apparently artistically challenged interfering producers with zero sense of irony or humor.

Stuff To Collect: It’s Richard Belzer’s Fault or How I Got Into An Expensive Collecting Habit

Mood music ‘Someone To Talk To’ by The Police

Well in between gathering articles to do some blog posts on the renewal of CI and it’s move to USA (and whether or not VDO will be back next season…given his Herculean effort to deal with the fangurl aria of a script that was the basis of the CI ‘Endgame’ (and briefly stated I think the CI writers should stop catering to fangurl tastes and getting their script ideas from fangurl forums, actually *watch* a LOT more old episodes of CI and then follow their own instincts in writing next season’s scripts), I’ve been doing some fun stuff like talking via email to other cool people with equally cool blogs, such as Carey Henderson’s Speakeasy(x)

This post from Carey entitled Does Any of This Even Make Sense? really struck me as clever and hillarious, especially this part:

“Every Sunday night, Bravo runs Law & Order: Criminal Intent all evening. If you’ve been around me long enough to know that I pretty much only wear black shirts, then you’ve been around me long enough to know that I am a Vincent D’Onofrio fan. Very much so.

He’s sort of a strange cat—private, prone to his principles and not given to jumping into any particular role unless it somehow gives him an opportunity to stretch his acting legs. When you’re pretty and Johnny Depp, Hollywood loves you for that. When you’re average-looking and not Johnny Depp, Hollywood looks at you sideways. So, unless you’re damned good at what you do (as D’Onofrio is), the roles are usually less than forthcoming.

Back to that in a moment.

Watching Bravo is like seeing the goings on of another species on another planet unfold. There are more bratty, strange, spoiled, eccentric, gay, grandstanding, flamboyant people on that network than at a Truman Capote reading by way of Elton John concert. I’d like to think that those particular personality traits don’t lump together and spell out any particular subset of society, yet Bravo seems intent on making folks like me who work for a living and generally have rather placid decorating and fashion sense believe that this is the case. A few times watching the network and the average straight man might begin to think that three or four times a week gay men gather on the couch, nab the razor shears and French architecture magazines and bitch for three hours about straight people and their lack of any sort of sense beyond the innate ability to make everything dull and misunderstand women.

I doubt this is true. But from watching Bravo, as the old Mighty Mighty Bosstones song stated, that’s the impression that I get.

At any rate, Dick Wolf has to be getting close to Aaron Spelling status, as far as the amount of television shows he currently has running that are sometimes indistinguishable from one another. To the unfamiliar eye, the Law & Order franchise must seem a lot like fast food burgers. There’s the original, SVU, CI and Trial by Jury. Most of the roles are filled by attractive people doing attractive things; some saying excellent lines (not all to the credit of the staff writers. Orbach ad-libbed some of the best lines on television during his best days on the original series). The subtleties of the shows are there, and after a few veiwings of each become clear. Yet, on the outset, it seems the format is too close to call.

There’s the familiar Law & Order gavel sound (CLANK-CLANK!), then the black screen,

[black screen with caption ‘Apartment of George Killeddead
South Bronx’]

and, apparently, every fourth apartment in any complex throughout the entirety of New York contains a dead body. The dumpsters contains sexual crimes victims once every other Thursday. If you do watch the shows with any regularity, then you also know a few things: Det. Eliot Stabler is always pissed, Capt. Cragen is going to get in Stabler’s face any second now, Jerry Orbach could deliver a sarcastic quip about the deceased’s religious misgivings at a Catholic funeral that would make the Pope chuckle and Det. Goren is going to solve the case; probably by applying a generous mixture of reverse psychology and library card prowess.

Despite all of the predictability of these shows (and you can nearly set your watch by it), there are subtleties that make almost every franchise worth watching. Trial by Jury isn’t much, but watching Fred Dalton Thompson drawl and stand his ground with unequivocally stereotyped Southern sayings (“Well, she wanted me to jump down, turn around, pick a bail of cotton”) is almost worth watching the show in and of itself. Almost.

To be honest, I watch Criminal Intent for similar reasons, that is to say: D’Onofrio. The writing for his partner, Eames, is rather dull, with the occasional one-liner to redeem her. I often wonder if she’s not written this way purposely to showcase Det. Goren. (Late in the series, sometime last year, Goren and Eames left the show, another set of detectives coming on. They resurrected Detective Mike Logan, played by Chris Noth. Not a particularly exciting move. The series took on the dull luster of flat latex sprayed atop Kilz.)

Goren is always thinking, always plotting the next move. For him, the entire hunt for the criminal is a mind game, his impressive memory and library card his weapons. I love the character, with his quirks and moods, though I always am brought back to the realization that no one is that informed in that many areas.”

Well Carey and I have been emailing each other back and forth, and in between the emails, I have been reading his blog and laughing out loud at the humor in his posts, nodding along when I read his dead on the money observations about life. He’s blessed with a far better sense of humor than mine and brevity. And his writing’s good, damned good if you ask me. Plus the dude has a lizard named after Peter Frampton (which appeals to me as my own 2 cats are named for a couple of musicians as well) and he writes and plays his own music on the guitar (there’s some great tunage at his site you should give a listen to). Oh and did I mention his photography…he can take a mean picture when the spirit moves him or his witty and insightful horror film reviews?

Anyhoo our email exchange has been fast, friendly and furious and he was more than kind enough to link to the blog here so I figured I’d give him a plug in this post as well. He’s a VDO fan I can easily talk to, maybe because he’s got so many interests besides VDO.

So today’s lazy Sunday afternoon post is dedicated to Carey and also lets me get into a topic on how I went from the small time to the big time of collecting…all apologies to him if this post isn’t as fun and interesting and well-written as I hope Carey (and others) will find it.

Carey writes in a post entitled Law and Order and Whatnot

“In the end, I’m fairly afraid that Goren might be gone from television. Oh, perhaps they’ll keep him in the back of their minds, maybe resurrect the character three years from now on the next installment of whatever Dick Wolf manages to come up with in order to bring the franchise back to life. Or maybe Homicide: Life On the Street will come back and Goren will bug the hell out of Munch as his partner. One can only hope not.

And I don’t know if D’Onofrio would even show up for that.”

Oh goody…now that Carey’s brought up Homicide: Life On The Street and Detective John Munch that leads me right into the discussion of this object with which I am obsessed, known simply as ‘The Chair’:

Sometime back in April of 2001, well before Law & Order Criminal Intent began airing I found the bedraggled looking item above listed on FeeBay. The picture of it was far grainer than mine and frankly by that time most people didn’t give a flaming one about H:LOTS anymore. But I was intrigued by this description:

“Here is Richard Belzer’s chair from the entire time he was on Homicide Life on the Street. He sat in his chair more than any other actor…drinking room temp water….reading the Post….. NOW YOU CAN !!! You’ll never be as funny but now you can sit in the same Telescope, highboy (36″ to seat) solid dark wood, director’s chair and read 6 newspapers every morning just like MUNCH did… Munch, John: (Richard Belzer) [Regular: 1-7] Witty, sardonic detective. Divorced three times (and a fourth time after Homicide’s last episode.) Grew up in Pikesville, where he was in love with his neighbor Helen Rosenthal. Graduated around 1961, making him about 54 at the start of season six. Why did [I] drag this chair on the streets of Baltimore eveyday for 6 years? I was the Prop Master on Homicide for six years (91 episodes) and will send a ***NEW IMPROVED***CERTIFICATE OF AUTHENTICITY. Want other rare, one of a kind film, movie, and TV props go to IMDB and look at my resume… We have a web [site] coming soon! GOOD LUCK!!”

Okay so there’s a good reason this chair was in rough shape…it was used (and abused) in the making of seven great years of TV. It had a low opening bid (you couldn’t have bought a new highboy style director’s chair for what it was initially listed for) and it was being sold by the show’s prop master (who clearly wasn’t a master photographer) on his own initiative . But it sure was intriguing…

So I put in a bid in that was in line with the cost of a new highboy-styled directors chair plus maybe a hundred dollar premium for the chair’s ‘history’. And little did I know that I would win the beast (my first time spending three figures in front of the decimal place for an item of entertainment memorabilia), nor was its ‘premium’ as a bit of entertainment memorabilia all that large. Despite some very fuzzy pictures, my instincts told me I had gotten a great bargain and a unique item.

In the process of figuring out how to get The Chair shipped to me, the prop master and I struck up quite a pleasant conversation of how (at that time) things were humming along very nicely on ebaY and how the great Homicide sale of 2000 in Baltimore (when H:LOTS wrapped production, most of the items used in the making of the show were sold in an open to the public sale held in Baltimore on the show’s Fells Point sets) had proceeded and what had been sold there. He graciously offered to send along many extra materials including a prop business card for Detective Munch to me to further verify The Chair’s authenticity.

When The Chair arrived in it’s cleverly homemade box (skillfully fashioned out of several of the post office’s free smaller Priority Mail cartons and their free Priority Mail tape) I was beside myself with elation. Sure The Chair’s frame has a broken hinge, a missing castor, scratches, dings and dents in its wood frame, a fabric seat bottom whose stitches are loosening, a slightly schmutzy seat back…but for heaven’s sake it is 100% the real deal. Over seven years, Da Belz *actually* sat in it, learned lines in it, joked with the cast and crew from it. It was a holy relic of TV production if you happened to be into good if culty and obscure TV shows. And it was mine. M-I-N-E mine.

In talking to other H:LOTS fans online, I was able to locate more material to authenticate The Chair including these 2 pictures:

Two of my favorite people and one of my favorite objects: Richard Belzer seated in ‘The Chair’ next to Homicide:Life On The Street writer extraordinaire Jim ‘Yosh’ Yoshimura (who apparently is sitting in someone else’s chair) somewhere on location in Baltimore.

Richard Belzer seated in ‘The Chair’ next to Callie Thorne somewhere on location in Baltimore.

Then not even 2 weeks after the conclusion of the auction for ‘The Chair’ something happened on ebaY which made me forever believe the online auction site had ‘jumped the shark’ and was on the road to becoming FeeBay, a place hostile to small sellers with authentic items and the collectors looking for the ‘real deal’.

Behold ‘The Anti-Chair’ (and feel free to boo and hiss)

Here is a brand new lowboy director’s chair that has the Law & Order Special Victims Unit name on its seat back and the signatures of Richard Belzer, Dann Florek, Mariska Hargitay, Michelle Hurd, Ice-T, Stephanie March and Christopher Meloni. This chair was auctioned off on behalf of the Today Show and some charity trying to cure colorectal cancer but as a bit of entertainment memorabilia it is an attractively fabricated and photographed fraud.

You see while you might get seven actor’s autographs on a nice new chair, what you don’t get is the sense that this chair ever had any more contact with any of them including Richard Belzer than the amount of time it took for each of them to sign a piece of fabric with a silver Sharpie/fabric pen and then go on about their main business of acting. And other than the signing period, I doubt the entire Anti Chair ever saw the inside of an SVU set or any outdoor SVU shooting location…for one thing that low frame makes it impractical for use on a set.

Seeing this chair with no history sell for more than twice what I paid for The Chair made me extremely glad I got my chair but sad that the buyer of The Anti Chair basically bought themselves a fake. Oh sure some worthy charity got more than $500 (I’m assuming that 100% of the sale price of the chair actually went to the charity, but these days you never know), but frankly that winner would have been better off just writing out the check to the charity and going to the NBC store to buy some cheaper SVU themed thing. Sure The Anti Chair was all over TV on the Today program for a week or two, but did its winner get to know someone on the crew who was willing to swap stories about his experiences in making great TV for what little I knew then about how people buy and sell on ebaY, much less make a friend who sent along some nice extras? That’s doubtful.

Yes the biggest problem I have with FeeBay today is its willingness to jump through the hoops that Corporate America places before it in order to gain the mega-powerful’s business and it’s soulless, utterly devoid of character merchandise and all at the expense of the smaller ‘just folks’ sellers with interesting things to sell and smaller but more fascinating stories.

Sure I occasionally browse FeeBay (it’s perpetually screwed up search engine makes that an extremely frustrating experience). And on a rare occasion I find a truly unique item worthy of being fought for, won and added to a collection. But mostly today it’s a poorly run crapfest that dupes those who don’t know any better into overpaying for fakes. And that’s depressing given how personal and fun it used to be before the shareholders became more important that the users. I am sad to report that the big thrills to be had at ebaY are mostly gone.

But for entertainment I can always go sit in The Chair and read a book or just cogitate on what it was like to make ‘the best damned show on TV’. I’m so glad that VDO got to be a part of that legacy (even if it was only one guest appearance).

Oh and you can blame Belzer for my expensive collecting tastes…there *really* is nothing like owning a production used item.

Richard Belzer Head Shot

Stuff To Read: Gothamist Interview With Jacob Burckhardt, Director of ‘It Don’t Pay To Be an Honest Citizen’

Music ‘Doubleplusgood’ by The Eurythmics from their 1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother) album (which was supposed to be the soundtrack for the 1984 film ‘1984’ but wasn’t used by the director Michael Radford. Go figure…)

Excellent news from Gothamist…the director Jacob Burckhardt is putting ‘It Don’t Pay To Be an Honest Citizen’ out on DVD (finally!)

Here’s what the DVD looks like (thanks to the film’s director Jacob Burckhardt for sending me one so quickly and also for the release party poster and flyer)

Thanks to Gothamist (again!)

Original article at Gothamist’s Interview With Jacob Burckhardt, Director

April 30, 2007
Jacob Burckhardt, Director

Jacob Burckhardt is a second generation observer of New York life. His father, Rudy Burckhardt photographed and made narrative films during the ’50s and ’60s of city life and his New York School artist friends. In ’84, Jacob made a fiction film about his bohemian life in Brooklyn casting the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and Beat novelist William S. Burroughs in small parts, as well as a young neighborhood thespian named Vincent D’Onofrio as a mugger. Burckhardt had lived in Red Hook from ’73 to ’80, long before the Fairway moved in, and thought it seemed ripe for filming. Now, his lo-fi, autobiographical movie is getting a DVD release and in honor, the Two Boots Pioneer Theater in the East Village will be screening It Don’t Pay To Be an Honest Citizen! on Tuesday at 7 p.m. followed by a beer and pizza reception. Gothamist recently corresponded with Burckhardt about his experience shooting on the mean streets of Brooklyn in the early ’80s and why pigeons are the best kind of New Yorkers.

Do you feel like your filmmaking style was influenced by your father’s photography?

I would say my filmmaking style was influenced by his filmmaking style. Work fast, don’t let your collaborators get bored. All you need to make a movie is a camera and some film. There’s a lot of inspiration in what’s happening in the streets around you. Don’t be judgmental, just appreciate it.

How did you cast most of the people in your film? Most of them seem to have an unstudied, naturalistic, “folks from the neighborhood” quality.

There were few people in the movie who were “professional” actors. William and Allen weren’t trained at all, but had incredible presence. I held quite a few auditions for the main part, and Reed Bye was the least professional and the most real. He is a poet–I think this is the only dramatic role he has ever done (I still don’t know if he was acting or just being). A lot of the small roles were guys I knew from around the neighborhood or friends who I thought looked good in the part. The ferocious greasy spoon counterman is Rackstraw Downes, a well known painter. I think the guy who said the title line “It don’t pay to be an honest citizen!” might have been a friend of the actual muggers.

Was the story of a young filmmaker getting mugged and trying to use neighborhood justice to get back his stuff based on personal experiences?

It is almost completely based on personal experience. One evening in 1978 while I was living in Red Hook I stopped at a cash machine on the way home late at night. Two kids followed me home and mugged me in my doorway. The cops caught them almost by accident. And so on. As the days went by and events unfolded, I was somewhat scared of course, but at the same time I realized that I was encountering a whole world that I had only read about, and some of the things people were saying to me were pretty funny, and I started to write it all down, and it became a short story (unpublished) and later this film. Most of the better lines, including the title of the movie, were actually said to me.

How did you end up casting Ginsberg and Burroughs in your film?

I was telling a filmmaker friend of mine that for the Mafia boss I needed someone who is old and physically not very strong but psychically totally dominating, like William Burroughs. He said, why not ask him? I could think of no good answer to that, and got in touch with Burroughs, and he was interested. He did the part perfectly, except for his Midwestern accent. An unknown (at the time) actor named Vincent D’Onofrio was a bartender at the Ritz, a club that has since turned into Webster Hall, and somebody I knew who worked there put us together and he tried out for the lead part. He wasn’t right for it–too big and tough looking–but he was a good actor so I asked him to play one of the muggers.

What other kinds of projects have you been working on lately?

After this one I made another feature called Landlord Blues. Then it became apparent that as budgets get bigger and bigger, fundraising and business become larger and larger parts of filmmaking. So I went back to making shorter movies, some I like to call “poetic documentaries” for want of a better term, and a series of comedy collaborations with Royston Scott, the latest of which is Tomorrow Always Comes, which has its own website, http://www.tomorrowalwayscomes.com. On June 15 I will be doing a show at Roulette involving live mixed sound and music with 16mm (Not video!) projections.

Where’s your favorite place to see a movie in the city?

In the old days I used to like places like the Selwyn on 42nd street where they would show first run movies, unadvertised, at reduced prices. There was an amazing dialogue between the audience and the film. I remember seeing 48 Hours there, and most of the guys in the audience were young black men, and whenever Eddie Murphy sassed Nick Nolte they roared. There’s a similar spirit at Anthology Film Archives–not the rowdiness, but the engagement. People go to those odd or exotic films because they want to get involved with them.

Which New Yorker do you most admire?

The pigeons, because nothing fazes them.