Friday, March 09, 2007

Nazis and Pornstars and Gangstas, Oh My!

Louis Theroux apparently had a show in Britain on which he would interview bizarre subcult figures in the USA. Crazy Yanks and all that. He eventually followed up with a number of his subjects and collected his experiences in Call of the Weird. He does get a nice sampling of fringers, including Deep South Gangsta rappers, UFO cultists, Ike Turner, pornstars, prostitutes, Nazis of a few flavors, including teen sensations Prussian Blue, and pyramid scheme fleece artists. I'm sad he missed out on the eco-freaks of the Pacific Northwest and the cable access performers. Portland alone is chock full of nuts including the late lamented Jim Spagg.

The book could just be a cataloging of the odd, but this one works because of the vulnerabilities of the characters and Theroux's sympathetic treatment of them. Theroux clearly wants to find these people again and see what happened to them. In many cases, they have left their former trade, such as Earth Defender (vs. UFOs) or prostitution for new means of support. None of these people have particularly nice lives. Most people would consider the people he meets as freaks, but he helps us see them as people. Horribly deluded people in most cases, but people nonetheless.

The topics won't appeal to everyone. The porn chapter is a bit explicit, but what will really get people are the full kickin' racists. These aren't the casual racists that tell a rude joke when drinking, but the kind preparing for the race war. Theroux lightens the mood with humor, ( one of the skinheads has a bumper sticker that says "My Boss is an Austrian painter"--- sure it's evil, but I laughed.) but humor only goes so far with people with views this repugnant.

All in all, a fun read for those fascinated by those who follow REALLY different drummers. Europeans may shake their heads and mutter about Americans, but come on, there are 300 million of us. There have to be some outliers in there somewhere.

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