Thursday, October 27, 2011

Balls of Fury vy Jeremy Kinser from the Advocate

Balls of Fury: Inside Underground LGBT Culture
Twenty years after the landmark documentary Paris Is Burning, three new films examine the enduring appeal of underground LGBT culture.
By Jeremy Kinser

Paris Dupree’s death in August may have seemed like the end of an era, but her legacy endures. The founding mother of the House of Dupree, who helped provide a sense of community and family for disenfranchised urban gay people in the drag balls of Harlem, was immortalized in the documentary Paris Is Burning. More than two decades since its release, Jennie Livingston’s film is still not only encouraging young LGBT kids to express themselves but inspiring a number of contemporary filmmakers as well.

Paris’s obvious progeny is Leave It on the Floor, director Sheldon Larry’s narrative film about Los Angeles’s drag ball culture. It has been a sold-out hit in festivals across the country, and there’s talk of turning it into a stage musical. Most gratifying for Larry, however, is the seal of approval from Livingston, who reportedly told him she loved his film after catching a recent screening.

The ladies also get their due in Leilah Weinraub’s Shakedown, which is set in a black lesbian strip club in Los Angeles. What began as a chronicle of the club’s by-women, for-women performances quickly evolved into something more personal and meditative for Weinraub, who has spent eight years on a project some have dubbed the lesbian Paris Is Burning. Weinraub expects her film to be released early in 2012.

Most poignant is definitely The Sons of Tennessee Williams (which opened in select theaters in October), chronicling the rise of Mardi Gras drag balls against the turbulent backdrop of the civil rights era in New Orleans. Filmmaker Tim Wolff weaves a compelling narrative from often-heartbreaking interviews with the LGBT pioneers (the titular sons), glorious archival footage, and more recent clips from the 2008 anniversary ball.


  1. Paris is Burning is the most exploitative film ever made about an LGBT artistic community, and to include Paris Dupree in this article is a disgrace, he would turn in the grave, because he rejected Paris is Burning and the director Jeannie Livingston for its exploitation. I met with Paris about including him in the How Do I Look documentary and he told me "Wolfgang please don't take this personal, the reason I don't want to be interviewed is because of Jeannie Livingston film, robbing me from my title Paris is Burning", now why would we glamorize a director and a film that is rejected by the Ball community, doesn't anybody do any fact checking and are people all about writing stuff, where are the journalists?

  2. Mr. Busch,

    Please understand that your point is taken and no disrespect is intended.

    Yes, the history of Paris is Burning, Ms. Jeannie Livingston, & the ball community may be problematic but as for "fact checking", The Advocate's Jeremy Kinser stated what is evident in the community: Paris Dupree’s... legacy endures, drag balls were immortalized in the Paris Is Burning film & it still encourages LGBT people and inspired some contemporary filmmakers.

    What documentaries aren't "exploitative"? Ms. Livingston may have used Paris is Burning to her own advantage BUT the Ball community also used & still use Paris is Burning to its advantage.

    As far as "robbing" Paris Dupree of his title, would the makers of "Is Paris Burning (1966)" believe that Paris Dupree owed them?

    In response to "glamorize a director and a film" that is "rejected by the Ball community" this summer Ms. Livingston was brought out & applauded at the Latex Ball [affiliated with Luna Khan (who appears in How Do I Look)].

  3. Hello Mr., do you have a name? it always creeps me when I get emails from people expressing their opinion but don't have the guts to put their name to it. I love that.

    thank you for your responds, I respect your opinion and I always do respect peoples opinion. I had a discussion with Luna about this and so did ball historian Kevin Omni, to use the Latex Ball as an example only shows the lack of ball history on your behalf and using Luna to making it right for you is also very ignorant. The last time I checked was that Luna is one person and does not represent any issues relating to Paris is Burning, Luna was not in Paris is Burning and many members in the ball community don't know their history, very sad but true. Luna is sometimes looking for opportunities to build his resume and we have our difference of opinions about historic issues. Why do you think they closed the House of Latex? any idea? After having the discussion with Luna he has a better understanding of the overall ball history of which he had a lack of. Your example of "Is Paris Burning", is plain uneducated.

    To say which documentary is not exploitative is an insult to me, because How Do I Look was made by and for the Ball community, and nobody signed the agreement until the film was finished, this was also a result of Paris is Burning, I gave the community the opportunity if they didn't like the film they don't have to sign the agreement. But what do you know about that. Do you know that we go to universities for lectures and screenings? including Yale, NYU and Penn State.

    Why don't you invite Jeannie Livingston and Luna Legacy and anybody else you can think off and we have an open discussion about this matter at the LGBT community center. I invite Kevin Omni, David Ultima, Carmen Xtravaganza and Junior Labeija from Paris is Burning and we bring it all to the open. You don't have to take my word for it. The Ball kids would love to come out and have this opportunity they have been waiting for years. Would you be into it, put your money where your mouth is, I challenge you.

    At least we agree on one point, Paris is Burning is exploitative, I thank you for that statement.


    bcc Kevin Omni, Ball Historian