Quote of the Week

Timothy Carey was by no means one of Hollywood’s greatest character actors. Character actors, great or otherwise, like Peter Lorre or Bill Kennedy, were less restricted by studio contracts and could perform in several films per year. Carey appeared in few significant films and even fewer gave him the opportunity to unravel his extraordinary personality and acting abilities. He was frequently fired and his roles got shorter over the years, which is the opposite of what happens to great character actors. I seriously doubt that Timothy Carey even wanted to be a character actor in those particular circumstances. He just wanted to be a great actor, and judging by the way he improvised – not only his, but often his co-actors’ performances too – maybe what he really wanted was the chance to be a great director. And thank god he gave himself that chance.

This is a tribute to a man who started as one of Hollywood’s most amazing character actors but never fulfilled a fragment of his potential in that area because he was too uncompromising, too different, too creative, too ambitious, and too tall. As a character actor he “died” very young, like James Dean or Montgomery Clift. In fact, he killed himself when he was barely thirty, when he committed the ultimate hubris for a hopeful character actor: he produced, directed, and distributed one of the most outrageous feature films of his era, and he also starred in it.

The World’s Greatest Sinner is the story of an insurance salesman who gives up his job, forms a political party and a rock band, and calls himself “God.” Timothy Carey was a character actor no more. Instead, he became a legendary director and a film god, before being crucified – but I think somehow that was part of his script. Otherwise he had a good life, a home and six kids, more opportunities to create, a great deal of friends and admirers, and he remained too uncompromising, too different, too creative, too ambitious, and too tall until the day he died in 1994.

Vassily Bourikas, “Cinema Justice,” from Dead Flowers (Participant Press/Vox Populi, 2011)

Video of the Week: Dead Flowers at PARTICIPANT INC.

Our video for this week is a look at the Dead Flowers art exhibit at the PARTICIPANT INC gallery in New York City, recorded by James Kalm on June 20, 2010. The show used Timothy’s work as a springboard for several performance pieces and other artwork exploring the iconoclastic creative spirit.

I think Tim would be amused to hear himself described as “one of the edgy avant garde actors” who was involved with “John Catslavetes.” At any rate, make of this what you will; performance art is way, way over my head. And don’t miss the Dead Flowers book!

Quote of the Week

I have always had a unique connection with my father, a bond that began with my very first breath. The spring of 1961 would be a trying year for my family. My father was in the throes of making his first feature film, The World’s Greatest Sinner, and my mother would give birth to twins: Romeo and Silvana. And as fate would have it, with little warning, my mother’s water broke; soon she was in full labor and unable to move. While waiting for the arrival of an ambulance, my head began to crown. Under duress, my father was cast in the role of the stork and delivered me into the world. Silvana would be born an hour later in a local hospital.

What is in a name? Romeo Timothy Carey is my given birth name. I proudly wear the title which owes respect to my father even though I know full well what matters is what someone is, not what someone is called. My early memories of family life run deep like veins in granite. I was fully aware at an early age that my father was different from most other fathers. Living in his shade was a life that I can only begin to describe as a parallel universe, as if looking through a magic kaleidoscope where simple adventures, day-to-day life, took on a circus-like quality that seemed to me to be bigger than life and never ending.

…I often accompanied my father on his trips to major Hollywood studios for acting work. I witnessed from the sidelines the awesome force by which he operated in a scene and how he worked with directors and actors. He was always highly respected and on many occasions his performances were followed by loud applause, and then there would be times when his acting performance would leave a path of discontent that would lead to him getting fired. He was living Shakespeare’s quote from Hamlet, “To thine own self be true.” He was living his own truth about what he thought he needed to do as a Thespian. In performing a scene he tried as much as possible to appease all involved, but in the end he more often than not disillusioned many. Directors and actors had no clue as to his motivations and found him to be insubordinate.

Allowing someone else to define how he was to act in a scene would have been living a lie. Truth is also love. The greatest act of love towards another is living a life that is truthful. To be honest with himself, knowing that he was in “process” and therefore need not have others’ approval. This is true freedom indeed.

– Romeo Carey, from “Making Sinner, A Work-In-Progress,” from the book Dead Flowers (Vox Populi, Philadelphia and PARTICIPANT INC, New York, 2011)

Happy Father’s Day, everyone!

Dead Flowers

The long-awaited Dead Flowers book is finally here! It stands as a record of the recent art exhibit at the Vox Populi gallery in Philadelphia that took as its inspiration the life, works and vision of Timothy Carey. There are several insightful essays on Tim, including a very moving one by his son Romeo.

If you are flummoxed by most performance art, as I am, you will remain flummoxed by the rest of the book. I suppose that Tim’s “uncompromising artistic vision” is the thread that holds these works together. The world of high art is a mysterious one to my mind, a land untraveled, and I won’t presume to speak with any authority on the subject. I’m just grateful that Tim’s work is being appreciated by a new generation.

Get yourself a copy of the book here. In the meantime, let my cat Sirius be your (sleepy) tour guide through the following photos. He also wants me to remind you to click to embiggen.

Dead Flowers, coming this summer!

Dead Flowers – Vox Populi/Participant Press- Edited by Lia Gangitano. Text by Gary Indiana, Antony Hegarty, Max G. Morton, Bruce LaBruce, Vaginal Davis, Eileen Myles, Ed Halter. pub date: 2011.

Dead Flowers
This should be great! Although I don’t think Tim really wished to be known as part of any “scene”; he just wanted to be able to express himself, his way. Still, very much looking forward to this.