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UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Andrew J. Kuehn Jr. Foundation present

Camp Out! A Queer Program of Comedy Shorts

What Really Happened to Baby Jane
September 10, 2020 - 4:00 pm

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A presentation from the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project Collection

Tap dancing phalluses, coconut shell brassieres and a smuggled kielbasa join together for a program that revels in that elusive art of kitsch aesthetics known simply as “camp.” First fleshed out in Susan Sontag’s landmark 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp’” and further defined as a distinctly queer sensibility by Moe Meyer in The Politics and Poetics of Camp (2010), it’s that heightened, ironic atmosphere that unites all five of these short-form works from the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project collection. Each its own celebration of exaggerated gender performance replete with self-aware winks at their constructed realities, not a single work stops for even a microsecond to take itself too seriously. The program begins with four films made between 1984 and 1997 before looking back to the pre-Stonewall campsterpiece What Really Happened to Baby Jane (1963) from the Los Angeles-based underground filmmaking group the Gay Girls Riding Club.

The Butch/Femme Polka (1997)

This shot-on-video musical medley features a trio of lesbians who sing and dance their way through a laundry list of dos and don’ts for their ideal lady lover. 

Color, sound, 3 min. Director: Maureen Brownsey.

Mister Sisters (1994)

Sunning in their backyard, two self-identified dykes commiserate over the awkward complications that can ensue from presenting as butch before they embrace the possibilities as envisioned by Wilhite in a deliriously transgressive fantasy sequence.

Color, sound, 12 min. Director: Ingrid Wilhite.

Fun with a Sausage (1984)

A well-placed kielbasa stirs up comic confusion from Castro Street to the inner sanctum of the Left-handed Lithuania Lesbian Collective in late Bay Area filmmaker Ingrid Wilhite’s playful spoof of gender and sexual boundaries.

Color, sound, 16 min. Director: Ingrid Wilhite.

Halloweenie (1985)

Bill Daughton, editor of the 1984 documentary Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community, directs this non-fiction short about a young man who resurrects a controversial costume from his College of the Holy Cross co-ed days for the annual Greenwich Village Halloween parade. The short was nominated for the Gold Hugo Awards at the 1986 Chicago International Film Festival.

Color, sound, 12 min. Director: Bill Daughton.

What Really Happened to Baby Jane (1963)

Beginning in early 1960s Los Angeles, the Gay Girls Riding Club was a social club for gay men that, in between its famed Sunday brunches, drag balls and other local outings, included amateur filmmaking among its collective activities. Drawing on the inestimable talent of its members, many of whom worked in Hollywood, the Club specialized in lovingly detailed, drag recreations of popular movies. The Club’s hilarious take on Robert Aldrich’s grand guignol of fame helped to establish the Crawford-Davis vehicle as a key camp text by both lampooning and celebrating its excesses with devilish flair.

B/w, sound, 32 min. Director: Connie DeMille via Gay Girls Riding Club.

Total running time: 75 min.

Outfest UCLA Legacy Project Screening Series