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Night Crawler 

Wednesday, Mar 12 1997
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The warmth of a Tuesday night in spring and the promise of never-before-seen "sexploitation" has brought all the would-be hooligans out of hiding. A group of six or seven gathers outside the Transmission Theater, checking out the broads and flicking Lucky Strikes into the gutter. Their motorcycle jackets and uniform 2-inch cuffs are straight out of The Wanderers. Unfortunately, 11th Street is not. Between smokes and off-color barbs, the gents decide to ogle a little blonde sporting a French twist. When Miss French Twist turns out to be a short man with a five o'clock shadow, the lads take it in stride. "That's the way it goes," says one, leaning coolly against the bricks and running a 4-inch comb through his greasy do. "The selection is probably better inside."

The greaser is not mistaken. Tonight's "Vice Party" -- presented by August Ragone and Memphis' Big Broad Guerrilla Monster -- promises music, movies, and mayhem for the crowd, but more important, it promises an opportunity for the ladies. Neo-sexploitation director John Michael McCarthy is looking for girls -- future starlets who won't mind baring a little flesh for the sake of Super 8 -- and by the looks of the turnout, McCarthy will have more than a few busty vixens from whom to choose.

"Oh, I don't know what I'm going to say to him just yet," says 25-year-old Nicole Stroope as she adjusts her bright red, vinyl pedal pushers. "It just sounded interesting." Stroope, known in burlesque circles as Miss Cherry Jubilee, is one of the prettier girls in attendance -- what with her well-coiffed Bettie Page and her perfectly manicured eyebrows -- but still, there is some very stiff competition.

"I'm a dancer," says Lola Sweet, a recent L.A. transplant who has had more than one, "but I've done a little porn. Just a little." Miss Sweet laughs "sweetly" and saunters past one of the three large movie screens depicting naked women almost masturbating. In the background, Ragone spins some classic swing.

"It's vintage porn," says a handsome 28-year-old over his cocktail. "That makes it art."

McCarthy, looking like a younger, straighter, blonder John Waters, takes the stage, and, cigarillo waving, announces his need for big broads. "Of course there won't be anything in it for you, but ...." The crowd, which now fills all of the theater seats as well as most of the bar area, laughs appreciatively and the projector rolls.

The first presentation is a McCarthy short, Jack the Dipper, which centers around a construction worker who, feeling challenged by his foreman, fornicates with heavy machinery. The second presentation is the feature-length The Sore Losers, which features a wholesome-looking killer from another dimension and his sociopath dominatrix cohort, who have an unfortunate run-in with Guitar Wolf (the Japanese noise rock band cleverly disguised as "The Men in Black" from outer space). Like Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Sore Losers lends itself well to a nightclub atmosphere complete with hard booze and burning cigarettes. At times the script is tedious, barely driving the action, but for the most part it is very funny, and much to the chagrin of future directors in the audience, the movie already smacks of "cult classic" status.

As the chairs are cleared from the dance floor in preparation for the first band, McCarthy makes one final bid for auditions. "Just so you know that I'm not a creep or something," he says turning toward a female supporter, "I've been happily married for eight years now. I just want to see you naked and film you on Super 8. That's all."

His call for babes seems a waste of breath, for no sooner has McCarthy stepped from the stage than his table is swarmed with beauties in a variety of suggestive attire. McCarthy takes care of business quickly, passing out release forms and giving an address where the photo shoot will be held on the following day. "The photographer will be a woman," he assures. Then McCarthy turns on the charm, smiling at each girl, talking to them individually, drawing them out as any good director would.

"You don't have to dress like a man to have control. If you take your clothes off, men lose control."

"This is not pornography. It's sexploitation -- no penetration."
"It will be like nothing you have ever done before."
"There's a billion ways to shoot a woman's crotch that will keep her from feeling uncomfortable."

"Some of the men that help finance my projects think that they will be surrounded by naked women. I never allow them on set."

"You're 25? Time's running out."
While the spiel is not unique, it is nearly impossible to find fault in McCarthy's approach. There is no denying the talent behind Sore Losers. Neither is there denying McCarthy's queer grace, his campy savor-faire. In fact, when he tells me in confidence that he wishes his wife were here, I am more than ready to believe him. Bullshit detector be damned.

Send comments, quips, and tips to crawler@sfweekly.com.

By Silke Tudor

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Silke Tudor

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