"Thank God for film archivist Dennis Nyback. If not for his encyclopedic knowledge of rare films and his tenacity for acquiring them, we would never have the privilege to view some astounding works of cinema." Kim Morgan


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The Dog Show/The Bike Show 2002

by Dennis Nyback

Published in Otherzine Issue five

THE DOG SHOW

Sunday, July 27, was BRING YOUR DOGGIE TO DOGGIE FILM SHOW DAY at the Clinton St. Theater. Yes, doggie films for an audience of at least forty-five dogs and their owners. If you were there you’d have been in dog heaven. A very nice assemblage. big dogs, small dogs, one in a doggie wheel chair, and no un-attractive women brought in as a joke. The dogs were very well behaved. They were also appreciative. During certain scenes a bark of approval was heard. At least I assume they were barking in approval. Other than having several dogs around while growing up, I don’t know that much about them. The house lights were left up a little so the dears wouldn’t get confused in the dark.

The program appropriately started with Puddy the Pup (1936) in…………………………..SCAT CATS! Apparently most of the dogs were illiterate as the title card did not get the response it deserved. The second film was Shep The Farm Dog (1940) a nice black and white oooold educational. This one elicited barks when Shep would run directly at the camera. That sort of action seemed to draw most of the dog’s attention. The next film was Step Lively (1919) starring Harold Lloyd and an un-credited Boston Terrier. Harold tries to steal a hot dog and the Terrier makes his life miserable for the next ten minutes of this one reel short. This one got a big round of applause by the humans. Then came Washee Ironee (1934) with Pete the Our Gang dog (and the rest of the cast). Too bad a lot of these Our Gang shorts can no longer be seen due to their suppression in the interest of erasing evidence of America’s past stereotypical treatment of blacks.

There was then a ten minute break in case anyone needed trip to the toilet or the nearest tree.

The show resumed for the relieved attendees with Tippy The Town Dog (1957) an amazingly dumb and wonderful educational, in Kodachrome. A not too bright ten year old wheedles himself into the ownership of a stray mutt. The title character than runs off. The suspense is incredible as we follow the boy in search of Tippy and follow Tippy’s near misses with automobiles. There is of course a happy reunion at the end.

The triumphant end of the show was provided by Teddy At The Throttle (1916) starring KEYSTONE TEDDY! Also in the cast were Gloria Swanson, Bobby Vernon and Wallace Beery. I’d call Teddy a Great Dane. He absolutely steals the show when he leaps from a second floor window, dives from a cliff into a raging river, and vaults into the cab of speeding locomotive to save Gloria’s life. The audience erupted in barks, cheers and applause at the end of the program.

The mess left behind was much lighter than that left by the people who come to Rocky Horror. The best thing was: a good time was had by all.

BIKE NITE

In the middle of July I was asked to take part in an interesting event. A rabid bicyclist named Gail Buteau decided to have an outdoor circus and film show. She rounded up a traveling three person circus. They were from New Orleans and were driving around the country in a re-fitted bread truck. It was kind of like an old time medicine show. I would provide the films. They would feature bicycles, circus acts, jazz and dance. The electricity for everything would be generated by seven bicyclists pedaling like mad. A local artisan who makes things out of junked bicycles built the device. It involved two automobile alternators, a car battery, a thousand watt inverter, and a bunch of bikes linked together with chains and gears. To put on a good show I decided to provide a twelve foot pull down screen (no frame to support it), a projector, films, a 1950 Bell and Howell Power Speaker (c.1950 Bell and Howell with a built in 25 watt tube amp), a standard speaker, and everything needed to hook it all up.

The show was Thursday, August 22. I would guess 300 in attendance. It was the same night as the protest against President Bush appearance in town, which siphoned off a lot of the intended crowd. No one at this event got pepper sprayed. Most of them arrived on bikes. Children arrived on foot and in strollers, many clinging perilously to the seat attached to their parent’s Schwin. A few had the temerity to arrive in an automobile. They all loved the films, the circus acts, and the vegetarian food sold from a cart. I ended the show with the finale from Stormy Weather, the all-black Hollywood musical from 1943, in which the Nicholas Brothers come down the huge stair steps landing in the splits at each tier. No crowd can resist going wild over that. It is probably the single greatest thing ever put on film.

I had arrived at the site at five in the afternoon with no real plan to hang the screen. I knew I would use the truck that belonged to the circus. I knew I would need something to put on the roof of the truck to add height. What that something would be was the mystery. I thought I would find something by walking around the neighborhood. A couple of shopping carts would have worked. There were several construction sites, but everything of use was locked up. The site was a grassy, vacant lot at the corner of 20th and Alberta in the slowly gentrifying black section of town. I finally found six milk crates that I was allowed to borrow from a food co-op five blocks away.

To set up, Ed, the owner of the circus got up on the truck. I tossed up the milk crates. I handed up the screen and he set it across the milk crates. He hung on to the screen frame while I pulled the screen down and tied it to the wheels. He then stretched bungee cords from the top of the milk crates to the edge of the trucks roof. Voila! As long as the wind didn’t kick up it would be ok. The seven bikes provided ample power. There were plenty of riders, taking turns. I would run a ten minute film, then Ed or the girls would do an act, not always involving fire, which gave the pedalers a chance to rest and change places. Other than the crowd tromping over everything and accidentally unplugging the power speaker once, the show went smooth as silk.

Ed was front man for the circus, assisted by Rose and Mary. They were darn cute. They did a few tricks, using fire, hoola hoops, etc. The emcee for the night was a man on very tall stilts. He didn’t fall over once. The most popular event was bike jousting. Two riders at each end of the arena were mounted on ten foot tall bikes. They brandished long, padded lances. They sped toward each other and tried to dismount the other. They did it several times. No one was killed.

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