Blood on the Wall$: A Film in 21 Parts
Editor’s Note: Barry Michael Cooper broke onto the national stage when his 1987 Village Voice cover story “Kids Killing Kids: New Jack City Eats Its Young,” which detailed Detroit’s drug underworld, was adapted into the groundbreaking film New Jack City. He then authored Above the Rim and Sugar Hill, while continuing to write journalism, and his articles occasionally appearing on our pages. His latest project, Blood on the Wall$, continues his arc of gritty, urban stories, this time however, in the form of 21 episodes shot on a hand-held cam that we’ll present to you as he drops them on us.
The fiery words he wrote were both a monument and a mockery to the life he lived: burning down his existence in effigy…
About five years ago, I accepted the fact that I had fallen off.
Let me be clear: I knew I fell off in 1998, when I couldn’t sell a script, couldn’t get a call-back from a studio, producer or a manager, and my agency–William Morris–decided to drop me, all because I slapped a call girl in the lobby of the Sofitel on Beverly Boulevard, a call girl who I had a relationship with and promised to blow up like MJB.
Oh, of course I was married and had two young children while I was why?-lin‘ out in Hollywon’t. Don’t let me forget that.
Only problem was, the coin-operated Hollaback girl couldn’t sing. Oh, she was throaty and her skill set was Jenna Jameson impressive, but her cover of “Real Love” was like a tabby on Vicadin scraping it’s proverbial nails against a blackboard.
Real talk? The scythe of Hollywon’t will carve the gut-bucket of your wants into a bottomless abyss, if you let it. Your wants pirouette on an ego driven loop, a sexy beast of a hamster on an iced-out circular treadmill in a ballet of bad taste. I wanted to direct a hit movie. I wanted to get a million for a script, like the hot new white-kids-on-the-screenplay-auction-block, who were repped by CAA and UTA (I never sat on any “M”s and barely any “T’s”, for that matter). I wanted to place a song on the Sugar Hill soundtrack. I wanted to be Spike Lee, Paul Schrader and Dr. Dre.
And I almost became a Phil Spector of myself.
So like I said, I knew I had fallen off.
I now accept it and in fact, I embrace it.
It’s good thing, to be washed-up: to be washed up means I get a fresh start, at least that’s how I look at it. Being washed up means getting a Providential cleansing from the noxious fumes that Biz Markie I.D.’d as “The Vapors”, and the grotesquely-hip define as having a gassed-up head. So being washed-up is the rinse cycle in God’s laundry-mat. Or maybe I’m just rationalizing, something I do quite well. When in doubt, spin like Earl Monroe. Yes, that’s an Ol’ Head’s attempt at a pun.
A lot of people ask me, “Bmc, what happened?” There are many answers, many long gazes at the Damoclesian sword I foolishly sat under in the self-furnished parlors of blind ambition.
I can talk about the time I cussed out Wesley Snipes and producer Marc Abraham at one of the banquet tables at Le Petit Four on Sunset Boulevard, while Teri Garr and Jon Lovitz–sitting at an adjoining booth–looked at me like I had just lost my mind. Wesley said he wanted the dope boy gear in “Sugar Hill”–we were four months away from principal photography–to be bow-ties and suits. I replied no, that it was bad enough that Nino Brown and CMB were giving out turkeys on 126th and St. Nicholas in Star Trek jackets. Nicky Barnes and Guy Fisher didn’t get down like that, so Romello and Raynathan were going to be analogous to Rich Porter, AZ, and Alpo in their sartorial splendor. Motorcycle jackets, baggy Versace jeans, Frye boots. Then Came Bronson-meets-Fist Full Of Dollars-meets-Teddy Pendergrass circa the cover of “Life Is A Song Worth Singing”. Some real uptown, scramblin’, cutting edge, Harlem ish.
Marc Abraham then interrupted me and said that Wesley wanted to start a new trend.
I looked at both of them like they had six heads.
That’s when the eff-u‘scame out.
And the sword began its winding twirl above my pointedly ignorant head. Like I said, I have many F. Scott-like anecdotes, many of what he so sagely called “hours of profound human change,” while watching gin-soaked dreams spiral down the toilet of regret. Or bidet, depending on your income bracket. “Too much flossing/too much Sam Rothstein”, Proust-Jigga recently opined, but look, for-for real for real, I am saving that for a collection of essays.
For now, I bring you Blood On The Wall$.
A visual roman-a-clef if you will. A Gee’d off/Cristal’d-out version of a Nathaniel West cautionary tale. The Day of the Roach (=Me).
The story had been in my head for 10 years, and initially it was my take on Polanski’s The Tenant. I wanted to place it in the world of Philadelphia Hip Hop, and was going to do it with Kurupt, Dr. Dre, and 3xDope’s Chuck Nice. But that didn’t work out, and the story kept revolving in my head, and by the time I met Baltimore painter Larry Scott–who very well may be that next guy like Picasso, Basquiat, and Bacon were all that next guy at the entrance of their career–I wanted to freak it and place it in the art world. It is also Larry’s iconic-ally powerful artwork that you see in Blood On The Wall$. His images establish residency behind your eyelids long after you drift off to sleep. The mark of a true visionary.
Is this jawn–Blood On The Wall$–loosely based on moi? Hmmm…well I never smoked crack. Last time I got high was 26 years ago, when I thought I was buying a fifty of guppy-skin (fishscale) and the kid running the errand for me came back with a dirty, stomped-on-5-times, weak tin foil of rock blo-zaine that was probably cut with Ajax, and that’s why my nose bled for a few hours. But no, even though the protagonist is an arrogant, condescending emotional siphon named “Cooper Michaels,” who was an award-winning reporter that went on to parlay one of his investigative pieces on two undercover detectives in Philadelphia called “Filthy”, into the hottest network policier in the 90s starring Dr. Dre and Kurupt, and then gets sucked-down into the belly of Hollywont’s beast, only to be spewed-out like a chewed up has-been whose flavor has long since been forgotten, the resemblance between “Cooper Michaels” and Barry Michael Cooper is purely coincidental.
You can say that Blood On The Wall$ is the story of a guy looking for redemption in an investigative magazine piece: the murder-suicide of the up and coming painter Swiss William$–the self proclaimed “Jay-Z Of The Art World”–and the mysterious art dealer he kills, Kwame Pierre Addo, on the day of Williams’s show at Addo’s influential New York gallery in Chelsea. In trying to piece together the scatter-shot clues of this crime, Cooper Michaels attempts to reassemble the self-destructive jigsaw puzzle of his painfully fractured life. Larry Scott, Jonathan Peter Jackson, Courtney Wheeler, Jeff Redd–yes, You Called And Told Me Jeff Redd, who danced with Halle Berry in her first music video for the movie Strictly Business, that Jeff Redd–rising New York stage actor Brent J. Cooper, the talented Jessica Jordan, my friend Nur the Cabdriver, and Baltimore’s own music/film team the Sparkplugz–Nativ Sunn and Jordan Ocean–give nothing short of amazing performances. Most of all of these people are first time actors, but you wouldn’t know it.
They all are that good. Thank you, guys!
Luv is Luv to Randall Hurtt, who managed the Xandos on 31st and Charles for allowing me to have free reign (and doppio espressos).
Blood On The Wall$ is my homage to the great indie filmmakers of the 60s: William Greaves, The Maysles, Andy Warhol, John Cassavetes. The look of it is raw and amateurish and real. In many ways, Blood On The Wall$ is also a love letter to my adopted hometown of Baltimore. A big up to Donna’s Cafe (31st and St. Paul and Madison and Charles), Xandos on 31st and Charles, the BMA, the corner bus stop at North and Bentalou in West Baltimore, the waterfront at Thames and South Bway in Fells Point. I created BOTW$ as an indie feature and it has gotten warm responses at the American Black Film Festival in South Beach in ’05, the Johns Hopkins Film Fest in ’06, and most recently at the NewFilmmakers Summer Series last month (18 July 07) at the Film Archives in New York’s East Village. The episodic nature of the story arc allowed me to retrofit it as an 18 part web-series for the net. Check it: I want instant feedback, so please don’t hesitate to let me know how you feel. Love it our hate it come on with it. Written responses at City Paper, or You Tube and Dailymotion are welcome.
Now, let’s get it in. Presenting Blood On The Wall$.
Luv is Luv to my Main Man Mike Wright–the Greatest Actor of his generation–for setting it off like Strafe on the Right Side!
Luv is Luv to Tim, Matt, Char, Brent, Mollie, Dad, and most of all Ma. You know why.
Luv is Luv to Joseph Marrone, Spike Lee, Michael A. Gonzales, Lauren Coleman&Ann Brown, Michael Caruso, Ace&Tim, Nelson George, Robert Townsend, Bill Woods and Barney Oldfield, Andre Harrell, Dr. Carl Taylor, Busy Bee, Dr. Dre and Kurupt, Gary Harris, George Harrell, Jeff Redd, Larry Scott, Adam Kidron, Jake Paine, Andrew Knyte and Sandra Rose. They didn’t need bifocals to see. Thank you.
Luv is Luv to Lee Gardner, Tim Hill and Bret McCabe for looking into the future and not blinking.
Luv is Luv to all those who love me and all those who hate me, too. I appreciate it.
Barry Michael Cooper (Bmc)
17 August 2007