The Film School Dropouts Master the Art of Bad Taste

Disgusting cinephiles Veruca Bathsalts and Jerry Lee's film series at the Roxie Theatre goes right up to the line, then throws up on it. But for, like, art.

Bastard children of drag-queen impresario Peaches Christ, Veruca Bathsalts and Jerry Lee are trashy nightlife creatures who work exclusively within the medium of poor taste. The self-described “queer punk film nerds” began screening free movies at El Rio a couple years ago, and the event turned into a  monthly event, complete with a drag pre-show, called Film School Dropouts. They’re taking over the Roxie Theater this Thursday, Feb. 22 at 9:15 p.m. with a screening of Tom DeSimone’s 1986 cult classic, Reform School Girls

SF Weekly caught up with Lee and Veruca — boy name Seth Shubin — over tater tots at Wes Burger ‘N More to watch them bicker playfully about their curatorial vision and discuss the times they may have been kicked out of a movie theater. 

This conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Are you film school dropouts?
Jerry Lee: Not exactly. I did go to school and I did study film, but I finished school before I finished the film aspect of it.
Seth Shubin: I didn’t go to film school, but I went to community college for art and dropped out early on.
JL: “Community college art school” sounds counterintuitive.
SS: I went to a performing arts high school my freshman and sophomore years, and when I went to college I was doing everything I’d done during my freshman year, so I was like, “Fuck This.” I was also trying as hard as possible to move out of my mom’s house. But basically, we’re two nerdy queer punk dudes who wanted to have a fun way to get drunk and show our favorite weird movies. We’ve been keeping it up as a monthly, but about five or six months ago, Peaches Christ came to us and asked if we wanted to expand it into a bigger thing. So we decided to partner with the Roxie, which is really appropriate for us because it’s small.
JL: They’ll let us make a little more of a mess, we think.
SS: We can keep it punk rock and wild and fun.
JL: We’ll see how mad they are at us after the first one.

Have you ever been escorted out of a movie theater?
JL: I’m trying to remember if it happened more than once. I once tore a ticket in some guy’s face at a screening of — what the fuck was it? Halloween 5, the one with Michael Myers?
SS: The one with Michael Myers? Oh, the one with the little clown child?
JL: It was the really bad one. My friend didn’t have a ticket, so there were some people making noise and some other people complained, so they just stopped the movie and checked everyone’s ticket.

So you were caught up in someone else’s assholery? You weren’t making a ruckus.
JL: One of my five friends didn’t have their ticket anymore so they kicked us all out.
SS: When I was young and Hannibal came out, the whole movie theater got evacuated due to fire. But that has nothing to do with getting kicked out. When Titanic came out again, I watched somebody get into a huge fight in the first five minutes in the middle of the afternoon.
JL: Who fights at Titanic?
SS: People on their cell phones.

How would you describe your curatorial vision?
JL: It’s pretty trashy.
SS: Pure trash.
JL: I think what’s really great is that we have a little bit of an age difference, so I have —

Don’t giggle.
SS: He keeps saying this, that’s why I’m giggling.
JL: We have different ideas of what is truly trashy sometimes. Often, we let each other take the lead on the next film. We have this list of films we agree on, so it’s like “I picked the last one, and you pick this one.” It’s this fun back-and-forth. I don’t think that Seth would ever play Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama.
SS: I told you I owned a copy of that! It got stolen from me when I was 21. It was in my laptop that got stolen off the counter. I love that movie. But no we have a very similar taste and almost always agree on everything. However, he’ll pitch things that are a little more ’80s and I’ll pitch things that are a little more ’90s. Then sometimes we meet in the middle, like 1985-90.

Tell me more about Reform School Girls.
SS: This is a great movie that we did originally at El Rio a couple years ago, a screening of it with Brontez [Purnell]’s short porn film that he made for Naked Sword called 100 Boyfriends Mixtape. It’s total trash, total women in power, Wendy O. Williams from The Plasmatics who we both love.
JL: Anything that has Wendy O. Williams in it.
SS: It’s pure mayhem. Innocent girls being kept down and eventually they revolt. My favorite thing is that I can think of a handful of movies we’ve shown where it was like “That was weird, that was dumb,” but almost every person I know when we came to see this was like, “I never heard of this movie, but it was my favorite fucking thing in the world.”
JL: People were losing their minds, which is great because it’s open to the public, so any old Joe Schmo can come in.
SS: On top of the fact that we totally screened a porn right before it that had fisting.
JL: That’s fine, I worked on that movie.

(Film School Dropouts)

Are you doing a short before this one?
JL: No, because our pre-show is a bit longer than we typically do. We only have about 20 minutes, so we’re doing an extended drag version of the movie.
SS: Originally, we did a lot of featuring of local filmmakers when we could, but now the big thing is a live entertainment experience.
JL: And some audience participation.
SS: We’ll have a fun little contest that we’re not going to reveal too much about. Come to a wild and crazy movie experience and then go have fun afterwards. Perfect timing: It gets out at 11 p.m., and you can go out and go to the bars.

Describe Veruca Bathsalts’s performance.
SS: Pure trash. As tater tots fall out of my mouth.
JL: You should do a number with cheese queso tots. I bet you can figure it out. Veruca has to be the Wendy O. Williams character. I’m taking the backseat like I usually do, playing the straight man — so to speak. I’m playing the character who just gets abused the whole movie, so I’ll be doing a lot of sad faces.
SS: You’re still going to have a big role.
JL: My role is a combo role, because the main character is a little lackluster. But all the supporting girls are out of control.
SS: We’ve written the pre-show for this, and we’re not doing anything about the actual main character because she’s kind of boring. Not boring, just lackluster, it’s all about the supporting roles.
JL: It’s all about the villainesses.

They’re the focal point. One’s eye does shift. Are you going to die onstage?
JL: I’m not going to die, although there will be some things done to me. This one is going to do her own stunts. The Roxie’s going to shut us down!

Is there fire?
JL: There’s no fire. We drew the line there. What we’re doing is very safe, it’s something you would do at home.
SS: It’s definitely going to be a big step up from what we were doing at El Rio.

Have you ever died on stage?
JL: I did a Legend number with someone once at The Stud and I was the unicorn and I got killed.
SS: I think I killed you in that Courtney Love number. I just smashed plates near your face and threw you out of a crib. I think there’s a recurring thing in our relationship here.
JL: It’s true.
SS: Sorry ’bout it. I love you.

In the interest of picking at scabs, have there been movies you don’t want to do or vice versa?
JL: I was sort of on the fence about Wild Thing but it turned out to be OK. I was like, “I need to watch it again before I can sign off on this.” And I never did. So, fine, let’s do it. And I was like, “This movie has 25 endings. The credits are rolling and there’s still fucking plot twists. What the fuck?”
SS: I can’t think of anything we’ve ever done that we’ve regretted. There’s a lot of movies that we want to do, that we’ve both been obsessed with for the majority of our adult lives, and we really need to sit down and watch before we screen the, because we fear they might upset the general public.
JL: They don’t hold up sometimes. You forget how insensitive they can be.

You’re talking about race and gender sensibilities?
JL: That and body stuff. All of it.
SS: We’re both very aware.

There’s a fine line between exalting glorious bad taste and trolling people.
SS: I’m obsessed with Showgirls. It’s a fantastically trashy movie, but everybody knows there’s that one shot at the end that’s going to upset everybody.
JL: I want to change our name to Trigger Warning.

Who are your favorite directors?
SS: This is something I feel like we agree on overall.
JL: We both have a thing for Greg Araki. The one screening we did in the theater since we started was a 2oth anniversary of The Doom Generation at the Clay Theater. We did a pre-show for it where we just curated a bunch of drag performers like, “This is the movie you’re doing an homage to.”
SS: Jerry and I basically stood on stage and chain-smoked cigarettes in leather jackets.
JL: I threw dildos at the audience because I got a donation of dildos.

A dildonation.
JL: Exactly. What I really wanted was to have the audience bobbing for severed penises as an homage to the movie, but the Clay wouldn’t let me fill a kiddie pool up with water on stage because it’s too messy. So I just pelted the audience with dildos.
SS: Greg Araki. John Waters, obviously. That’s where Veruca’s aesthetic came from. Todd Solondz. We’ve never done a Todd Solondz. There’s one that we’re talking about. Sam Raimi.
JL: Sam Raimi is genius.
SS: We did Drag Me to Hell, a really amazing night. Always love a scream-puke-vomit everywhere.
JL: I personally am a fan of Dario Argento, although we haven’t screened any of his stuff yet. It’s ripe for a comedic sendup.
SS: I feel like it’s almost too good. It’s not trashy. It’s actual art.

Film School Dropouts screen Reform School Girls, Thursday, Feb. 22, 9:15 p.m., at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St. $15,

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