Student’s Guide to Helping the Homeless on Chimes St.

By Greg Fischer

Charles Napoleon is one of many people who roam day and night near LSU’s north gate, on W. Chimes St.  He goes by “Nap.”  Nap is homeless.

            Last night, temperatures were in the low 40’s.  Standing thin, at about five-nine, Nap sports a dark scruffy beard mingled with grays, blue jeans, tan hiking boots, a black skullcap, and a blue fleece pullover underneath a black-leather jacket.  He speaks slowly.  “Last night . . . I got wet,” Nap says.  Nearing 50-years-old, Nap offers the listener insights such as these:

“Plenty people just see a black man.”

“I look inside of someone.”  Naps eyes move away.  “Even if I’m not looking directly at you, I’m still able to see you.”

“If someone says to me, ‘I’m fine!’ and then walks off when I ask them how they are doing, I tell them ‘God bless and have a good day.’”

            Three weeks ago Nap asks for $30 dollars, saying that the money will provide a shelter for him for two weeks and begin rehabilitation for him.  He also asks for a ride to the corner of Tennessee St. and E. Polk St., where he says he needs to go.

            Later, a police officer working the desk at Baton Rouge city police, Highland Rd. precinct, tightly built, in uniform, with a flattop haircut and a retainer in his mouth gets permission to speak with me about E. Polk St.  At first he refuses to talk at all.  His nametag reads Hunter.

            “You sure the shelter was on East Polk St.?” Officer Hunter asks.  “There’s no shelter on East Polk Street.” 

            Nap after all, offers a car wash in exchange for the $30 dollars.  The offer is foolishly declined.

            “These streets are hard,” Nap says on the drive to E. Polk St.  “Some of these people, man . . . Shooting . . . And stabbing . . . And fighting . . . It’s hard to make it on these streets.”

            It’s one o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday in this old neighborhood, and a group of eight or nine youths are gathered in front of one house.  “How you think my hands got like this?” Nap asks.  “I use them to defend myself.”

            A manager at Reginelli’s, on W. Chimes St., says Nap was hired to wash dishes, but he was let go because he had to leave early enough in the evening to supposedly check into a shelter.  Nap’s feet are afflicted with gangrene, too, so it’s painful for him to stand for long periods of time.  Nap says he walks to Earl K. Long hospital for a treatment every month.

            “All this tissue in my hands is also decaying,” Nap says, while demonstrating by pulling up a worn thumbnail without any sensation.  Nap’s hands are puffy like big, dark clouds, with dry open sores. 

            “Lotion doesn’t do any good,” Nap says.  “I’ve used all kind of lotion . . . I don’t usually show people this,” Nap includes, before revealing an awful rash underneath his right bicep.

            The week after meeting Nap and giving him money, he appears at work and asks for another $10 dollars—this time for a shave.  In return, Nap offers a pocket knife.  But the knife is sketchy, decorated with a confederate flag and four confederate generals, and is wrapped in a fast food napkin, and is refused.

            During the past two weeks, Nap has come around two or three more times.  A week ago, he asks for a bag of potato chips.  That night, Nap claims he’s from Alexandria and he has been in Baton Rouge for only three months.  Later, his ID reveals a Tennessee St. address, in Baton Rouge.

            Just yesterday, Nap enters the Reginelli’s bar, soliciting and thus disrupting the manager.  “I found this last night in Raising Cane’s parking lot, sterling silver.  Don’t you have a girlfriend?” he asks.  He holds a woman’s ring.

            “I don’t like pawn shops,” Nap says.  “You give them something, but when you want it back, they want more money than they gave you in the first place.”  Nap understands interest well.

            According to Officer Hunter, students should think before giving their money to someone.  “[The police] don’t bother with the homeless unless they are knocking on someone’s car or something like that,” Officer Hunter says.  “We have better things to do.”

            “My father says that he’ll feed [the homeless] but that’s it,” Officer Hunter says.  “My advice is to help them out, but they’ll ask for whatever they can get.  Most of them just want a little crack, or alcohol, so just use precaution.”  Officer Hunter says finally that his favorite is the guy outside of the Varsity Theater with the guitar.  He adds that guy has permission to be there.

            Fr. Cary at Christ the King Catholic Church says that the LSU based church doesn’t deal directly with the poor, too often.  “We try to refer them to a parish in their zip code,” Fr. Cary says.

            “There are centers such as the Christian Outreach Center, the Convention Center, and the Ecumenical Center that offer help.  Also, ever since Hurricane Katrina, St. Joseph Cathedral downtown hands out MRE’s.”  Father Cary says.  He also makes a suggestion to check out the Bishop Ott shelter.

            Moving on, in terms of classifying someone on the street, (some people call them poor, some beggars, some bums, some say homeless) what is politically correct?  The definition of “stigma” in the Oxford-English dictionary is: A mark made upon the skin by burning with a hot iron (rarely, by cutting or pricking), as a token of infamy or subjection; a brand.

            The U.S. Census Bureau uses the word “poor” to describe those living below the poverty line, so maybe that is the term to use.  Nevertheless, there are definitely real ways to helping the poor.  And guess what?  Real options don’t cost a thing, either.

            The U.S. census bureau does not measure homelessness by zip code.  In fact, the best they have to offer is a “special report” from 1999 for the 2000 census that focuses on the issue of poverty.

            According to the census report, 19.6 percent of Louisiana residents are measured to live in poverty, down from 23.6 percent in 1989.  Of the four regions in the country, 40 percent of the nation’s people living in poverty live in the South, but the largest number of people in America also lives in the South.  Notably, the city of New Orleans ranked seventh, nationally, of the top ten cities with the highest poverty rate at 27.9 percent.

            Moreover, the median annual income for Louisiana households is $37, 943.  The national poverty line for a household of two people under 65 is just above $11,000.  Maybe it’s not as bad as they say then.

            In Baton Rouge, there are 19 shelters total, according to the LA Department of Education website.  Some of these are geared to help people with specific disorders, such as mental disorders, alcoholism, and substance abuse problems.  Some are geared towards rehabilitating specific genders, youth, and people who have been living with abuse.

            Alvin Smith has been the executive director of a program called Youth Oasis since 2004.  “Youth Oasis,” Smith says, “is referred to by the state (child protection, Juvenile Justice, and Mental Health), for Runaway Homeless Youth, or R-H-Y.”

            The former name of the Youth Oasis shelter is Kaleidoscope, located at 260 S. Acadian Thruway.  Cool name.  Kaleidoscope was founded in 1997.  Its maximum capacity is 15 people, ages 10-17.  There are two wings in the building.  One wing has ten beds, for females, while the males have five beds in their wing.

            “Our census varies between five and eleven [youths] on any given day,” Smith Says.  “We can have three discharges and four admissions on any given day.  We currently have 6 youth in the shelter, but we could be at 10 by the middle of the afternoon.”

            Additionally, Smith explains that there is no charge to stay.  “We have a federal grant that pays for the RHY youth,” Smith says.  “The state youth are paid by the state.  We never charge either state or RHY youth to reside at Youth Oasis.”

            “Kaleidoscope is licensed as an emergency shelter, which means that the maximum that anyone could reside here is 105 days,” Smith says.  “106 days and beyond designates a ‘group home,’ which we are not.”

            Smith adds that Youth Oasis, if at full capacity, will actually provide a place to sleep for someone until a space is made available for them at the shelter.

            “We make a significant difference in the lives of the youth we serve, at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives.  And for many of the youth whom we serve, the only other alternative is the street,” Smith says.  “We make it a point to develop supportive relationships with the youth, so that the youth knows that wherever they are, they have people at Youth Oasis who care about them.”

            For adults, perhaps the largest shelter in Baton Rouge is the Bishop Ott Day Center/Night Shelter, located at both 1623 Convention St. and 2550 Plank Rd.

            Bishop Ott is a Catholic charity that sleeps a total of 56 single men and 36 single women with children over the age of five.  Carl Taylor, assessment counselor and night shelter supervisor, works at Bishop Ott going on 12 years.  Taylor is tall with a serious grimace, but with a warm heart.

            On a tour of the shelter, the time is three o’clock, so the dormitory style quarters are empty.  Check-in begins at four.  A group of men are gathered outside, waiting to be let in.

            The walls at Bishop Ott are painted gray and navy blue.  The furniture in the activities room does not match—some of it is old—but the TV is a new widescreen, with cable.  The room also contains three computers equipped with the Web.

            “It’s nice!  Bishop Ott is nice, man,” exclaims Chimes St. sketch artist, John Babun.

            Everything is in fact, impeccably clean, from the floor, to the beds (each one made up with blankets containing the Clinton-Massie Falcons emblem), to the bathroom facility.  Bishop Ott provides all the toiletries one man could possibly need.  Taylor says the shelter provides soap, towels, toothbrushes, razors, etc. to guests.  A sign reads “No talking after eight in the men’s dormitory.”

            Showers are individualized, too.  The best part is that it is all free.

            “We have a pharmacy,” Taylor says, “a kitchen, a dining hall, eight thrift stores, three shelters, a day program, a dental office, health care, a pro bono law firm . . . free, all free.”

            “Cases vary, people may need a couple nights until they can catch the bus to the next city or state,” Taylor says.  The Bishop Ott location on Convention St. is almost located right around the corner from the Florida Blvd. Greyhound Bus Station.

            “There are people who are down on their luck, people who have been burned out, waiting to get their funds in order so they can get into another place, people who have chemical issues, meaning that every penny they get is going to go toward that, which means they can’t get a place to stay,” Taylor says.  “We have everything we need here to be functional.”

            People can check into Bishop Ott from four o’clock to eight o’clock in the evening.  There is no drug or alcohol screening.  “To me,” Taylor says, “it is futile to do that.  Most clients or guests obviously have some other problems.”

            Taylor says that the shelter actually feeds lunch to as many as three to four-hundred people each day, seven days a week, with the help of high school Beta clubs, Scouts, and families.

            According to Taylor, unlike Bishop Ott, the Salvation Army Transient Lodge, located at 7361 Airline Highway, charges $7.50 per night and doesn’t allow you to store any of your belongings during the day.  Taylor says it can be hard for guys who are finding work at labor halls, which hire today and pay today, to have to carry luggage around with them.

            Friday, Nap does not show up to get the address to Bishop Ott from me at work, like he said he would.  Instead, he showed up at my doorstep yesterday for it.  I told him that’s about all I can do for him.  Later that night, he was still on Chimes St.

            “You can pass by someone on the street and think he needs a place to stay, and he doesn’t think that way,” Taylor says.  “The will to do what you need to do is the only thing we don’t give.”

**Below is a narrative slideshow of the places and faces in this article**

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A Different Way to Give

By: Lindsey Bertaut

The economic sitution has many people wondering how they will afford to give this holiday season. One way to help out  is to give your time, rather than money.

BraveHeart Children, Inc. is a non-profit organization that works closely with the Department of Social Services to help more than 3,000 Louisiana children in foster homes.

Lindsey Bertaut caught up with some volunteers working on BraveHeart’s holiday program. Watch the story below!

Watch the clip below and listen as BraveHeart’s Carolyn Meineke explains how the organization was founded.

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Expensive Night In?

By: Lindsey Bertaut

From the Great Depression to today, the economy can greatly impact pop culture. So how much is the current economic crisis affecting the everyday behavior of American people? It seems people stay home more, but are they spending any less?

Watch the story below

Still confused about the economy? Dr. Richardson breaks it down and offers some words of encouragement.

Guy Gaster, Director of Marketing for LSU Athletics, explains some ways to make LSU events easier on your wallet.

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Will Obama Aid African Nations as well as Bush Administration?

Greg Fischer, MC 4500

Real Time
Bar patrons at Reginelli’s Pizzeria on Chimes Street slowly gather to watch, with low-key differences in opinion, the unfolding Presidential election on the big flat screen.100_36091
As Senator Obama pulls ahead one patron munches on a large “Tony’s Play” pizza and sips a two-dollar pitcher of Abita Amber beer.  He goes by Todd Smith.  Smith waits for his son who’s studying next door at Highland Coffees with a tutor.
Smith says he was once mildly prompted by his friend, former Louisiana State Representative, Woody Jenkins, to perhaps challenge incumbent democratic Louisiana Congressman, Don Cazayoux, but that it wasn’t too big a deal.
Smith is a Baton Rouge native and republican voter.  Self employed, he works in rental properties and other ventures.  He’s come to the bar routinely for a few weeks.
Smith has on a white LSU polo shirt and a nice, friendly smile.
“It looks like you and me aren’t going to get along,” Smith says.  He says the issue he is most concerned about is the democrats’ taking Christianity out of American schools.  But before long, he pays for his dinner and leaves.
Afterwards, Hannah Campbell, an LSU printmaking grad-student sits at the bar.  She spreads out a bunch of art supplies.  Drawing and sipping on a rum and coke, she waits for her boyfriend to meet her.  She says he knows all about politics.  She’s from Georgia.  Blake Sanders, Campbell’s boyfriend, arrives shortly after.
Sanders is a young-looking professor of printmaking at Tulane University, from Iowa.  Together the two excitedly watch the live MSNBC broadcast over a “Smokin’ Chicken” pizza and a two-dollar pitcher of Abita Amber beer.
“Printmaking is a ‘democratic medium.’  You make multiple copies to give to everyone,” Campbell says.
The topic of U.S. foreign aid in Africa is brought up.  Sanders says that Obama returning to the aid of the Darfur region of the Sudan, plagued by genocide, remains to be seen.
During Obama’s live acceptance speech, a million people are somehow rumored to be gathered in Chicago’s Grant Park graciously welcoming the 44th President.  A few more drinkers are now gathered at the bar, too.
The actual number of people that gathered in Grant Park, according to Monica Davey of The New York Times, is 240 thousand.
Meanwhile, on Ivanhoe Street someone cries tears of joy at a Champagne party.  Another partier waves an American flag in the air for thirty minutes.  If Obama would’ve lost the election, rather than Champaign, tequila shots would’ve been served.
The topic of Africa is not on everyone’s mind—maybe not on anyone’s.  What about Obama’s?
Africa
Despite President Bush’s overall low approval ratings and the first African-American President-elect’s victory, American foreign aid in Africa may actually decrease over the next four years; a sad and strange-seeming fact.
In an article dated Sunday, December 31, 2006, Michael Fletcher, a writer for the Washington Post, describes the often overlooked effort by the Bush Administration to aid Africa.
“The President has tripled direct humanitarian and development aid to the world’s most impoverished continent since taking office and recently vowed to double that increased amount by 2010—to nearly $9 billion,” Fletcher writes.
Fletcher says that the Christian evangelicals found out about diseases like AIDS and malaria in impoverished African nations and that’s what sparked President Bush’s increased aid.
“Bush has increased direct development and humanitarian aid to Africa to more than $4 billion a year from $1.4 billion in 2001, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  And four African nations—Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt and Uganda—rank among the world’s top 10 recipients in aid from the United States,” Fletcher writes.
Dr. Kevin V. Mulcahy, LSU political science professor and executive editor of the Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, explains that we must first distinguish between Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa.  Northern Africa, part of the Islamic world, is a completely different story.
“For example, Egypt, along with Israel, is the largest recipient of American aid, principally military and such economic assistance to shore up America’s principle ally in the region,” Mulcahy says.
“It might be noted that the U.S. ranks last among industrialized societies per capita in foreign aid.  The Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands rank at the top.
“By the way, this shortfall is not corrected by private charities such as the Red Cross or Catholic Charities,” Mulcahy says; so much for progress.
Obama’s father, a native of Kenya, returned there in 1982 and died in a car accident.  Obama must feel ties to at least this region, right?
“Wrong,” says LSU political science and international studies professor, Mark Gasiorowski.  “Africa will be a very low priority.”
“Since Obama hasn’t made his blackness a focus in his entire Presidential campaign, he won’t start now.  I don’t think he will do anything significant in Africa, unless a crisis flares there, for example in Sudan, Somalia, or Congo,” Gasiorowski says.
Fourth year PhD student in political science, Justin Ulrich, explains those places are historic areas of European colonialism, not to mention the richness of natural gas in Somalia.
“Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea will be the main preoccupations, along with improving relations with Europe and Russia.  That’s plenty,” Gasiorowski says.
Invisible Children
A few weeks ago, a screening of the film “Invisible Children” was shown on a Monday evening at LSU.  “Invisible Children” is a gripping documentary created by three American students about the tragic results of an ongoing 21-year war in the Northern Uganda region in Africa.
The war leaves hundreds of children alone, with no parents in sight and no other option but to stick together.
The cause surrounding the film is gaining momentum. Released over a year ago, the film is on the road, touring universities, and it is not slowing down according to LSU horticulture senior, Matt Bruce.
Bruce, 29, is awaiting a second phone interview from the “Invisible Children” group to intern with them beginning next year.  Bruce hosts two specialty shows on 91.1fm, KLSU.  One is a reggae show called “Serious Business,” where he goes on air as Ras Ebisu.
“I was first able to catch [“Invisible Children”] in April 2007, when I was on student exchange in Hawaii.  It was through an organization known as Revo (short for Revolution) which raises money through art and music and focuses on issues in Africa,” Bruce says.  “Revo raises awareness that there are others in need of help.”
Bruce later initiated a Revo in Baton Rouge.  He’s white, so his dreadlocks kind of stand out.  When asked why he studies horticulture, Bruce replies, “Access to food is certainly a social issue.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to link the two.”
A Baton Rouge native, Bruce is positive about Obama’s win over McCain.  He expresses no concern about a halt in progress in Sub-Saharan African nations.  Perhaps Bruce is correct.
naaaaa-051“If Senator Obama wins, he will relate to all people of color,” Dr. Herman O. Kelly of the Manship School says.
One thing is for certain, America voted rather convincingly for a President this year.
“North Carolina hasn’t voted blue since ’76, Indiana since ’64, Virginia since ’64,” Ulrich says.  Perhaps it was the youth vote.
“In sum, foreign aid in general and aid to Africa in particular are virtually off the screen in American foreign policy.  Whether or not the Obama administration changes this policy orientation remains to be seen.  Given the current low levels, foreign aid could not help but go up,” Mulcahy says.

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Is Obama’s “Change” Possible?

Barack Obama moves into the White House and takes on a waivering economy, two live wars and a very divided Congress.

Local political experts think his chances of success are dismal. LSU professor Wayne Parent thinks Obama will do “OK” but is ecstatic about what this election means to the world. He says not only did the election increase participation among African-Americans and Latinos, it also increased the world view of our country.

And LSU professor Kirby Goidel says Barack Obama will most likely spend the next two months trying to decrease expectations of his “change” platform. “Washington is a difficult place to get things done,” said Goidel.

Watch the story below

What do you think?

With Tuesday, November 4th in the history books, our new president now faces reality.

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Pop Culture Pendulum Swings Back to the Teen Flick

by Greg Fischer, MC 4500

Three exceptional high school teen flicks were released within the past year: “Superbad,” “Juno,” and “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.”  The timeliness release of these movies along with recurring actors reminds moviegoers of the ‘80’s John Hughes teen flick-era.

 “Based on her work [in ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’] and in ‘Charlie Bartlett’ from earlier in the year, Kat Dennings could develop into a kind of 21st century Molly Ringwald,” writes Colin Boyd, a movie blogger at Get the Big Picture.

Additionally, actor Michael Cera, 20, starred in each of this year’s best high school movies.

Everyone remembers Molly Ringwald from her roles in “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club,” and “Pretty in Pink.”  A local ‘80’s cover band named after her is almost a sure sellout at the Varsity Theater. Remarkably, all three of those films were released within the same year by writer/director/producer, Hughes.

Give the Hughes teen flick-era one or two more years and include three other big titles: “Weird Science,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and “Some Kind of Wonderful,” and you have one ‘flippin’ sweet’ DVD bundle.

Why is the teen movie back?

“I never knew that it went out of style,” says Zachary Godshall, an English professor.  Godshall, in his third semester at LSU, teaches screenwriting.  He’s written and directed four short films and two features.  His film “Low and Behold” entered the Sundance Film Festival.

“I do enjoy most of John Hughes’s films,” Godshall says, “in particular, ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles.’

“The reason so many teen movies are made is probably because it is cost effective, and people do like the genre quite a bit.  Just research budgets, and see how teen movies compare to special effects movies.”

 The latest special effects film to watch for, the next volume in the James Bond movie collection, “Quantum of Solace,” scheduled to be released November 14, has an even bigger budget than “The Dark Knight,” which spent $185 million.  “Solace” spends $225 million.

Listed at number three on the highest grossing films of all time is the 1977 “Star Wars.”  However, long before “Star Wars,” George Lucas made a hit high school teen movie called “American Graffiti” (1973).  “American Graffiti” was made for a relatively low budget of $777,000.  It has since generated a profit of $115 million!

Budgets and gross profits of movies can be intimidating to see.  Possibly the biggest movie budget in history was for last year’s summer blockbuster, “Spider-Man 3”: $258 million.  Compared to “The Dark Knight,” the profit figure from that movie isn’t too great, just under $337 million.

“Juno” was made with a seemingly meager budget compared to those big special effects films, just $7.5 million.  However, “Juno” grosses—are you ready?—$143,492,840.  If “The Dark Knight,” say, then grossed four times the budget that the film was made for, how many times more was the budget returned for “Juno”?  A toughy, on ten fingers.

“Superbad,” nearly as well as “Juno,” generated $121.5 million from a $20 million budget.  “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is still playing on 2,421 screens.  Alive and well, it was shot for $9 million and has already more than doubled that figure.

To greatly illustrate the point, the “Blair Witch Project” spent only $60,000 to generate a gross profit figure of $140.5 million!  “Napoleon Dynamite,” generated $44.5 million, on a budget of $400,000!  Never wonder again why so many teen movies are made.

 What’s up with “High School Musical”?

Many writers refer to it as a “pop culture phenomenon.”  They’re right.

“High School Musical” reminds older moviegoers of “Grease.”  Unlike “Grease,” the movie is marketed to the “tweens,” which Marisa Meltzer of Slate magazine writes are the age group from 8-to-12-year-olds.

“’High School Musical’ offers guilt-free escapism of the highest order . . . What’s more, there’s nothing remotely threatening  about it; its leads are pleasantly cute rather than pant-wettingly gorgeous; nobody ever stays miserable for more than 30 seconds, and its plot is as devoid of sex as Cliff Richard’s bedroom,” Nick Levine of UK-based Gay Spy, writes.

Moving on, the third part in the trilogy premiered last week in Los Angeles.  The official release date is today.  Better score tickets in advance, though.  Part 3 is the first to be released in theaters.  The first two were “DCOMs”, or “Disney Channel Original Movies.”

For “High School Musical,” the budget was $4.2 million.  For part two, the budget grew to $7 million.  The budget for the third and final part is up to $33 million.  Just last week “High School Musical” was performed on stage in Baton Rouge.  It was a hit.  It looks like Disney won’t be cutting their losses with this project anytime soon.

“It’s the most-watched US cable broadcast of all time.  It’s been re-enacted in more than 1500 high schools and community theaters across the United States, and its soundtrack became the world’s biggest-selling album of 2006,” Levine writes.

 Parts 1 and 2 sold more than 15 million DVDs and 13 million soundtracks, making it the biggest screen franchise in the world, according to “The Early Show,” on CBS.

To top it off, Meltzer adds that it was also the first full-length video feature available on iTunes.  What comes to mind next is a line John Goodman says to Jeff Bridges in the Coen brother’s movie, “The Big Lebowski.”

“Eight-year-olds, dude.”

But while the buying power of eight-year-olds may only be a recent discovery in Hollywood, teenaged moviegoers have proven their worth to filmmakers since the 1950’s.

History of the Teen Movie

“Hasn’t the teen movie always been around and popular since the ‘60s?  If not before?” professor Godshall asks.

Before 1978 and “Grease” and even way before 1973’s “American Graffiti,” there was American International Pictures, or AIP.

AIP made B-movies for teens as far back as the 1950s.  These movies were shown at theaters which are today as dead as Latin, the drive-ins.

 In a 1998 article by Patrick Goldstein for the Los Angeles Times, aptly titled “A Teen Movie Machine,” Goldstein interviews Sam Arkoff, co-founder of AIP, for a glimpse into a past life of the teen film genre. Arkoff died on September 16, 2001. 

“Years before Hollywood began its pursuit of free-spending young moviegoers, Arkoff and his partner, the late James Nicholson, had a tight grip on the pulse of teen movie habits,” Goldstein writes.

While Arkoff’s partner, James Nicholson, should not to be confused with actor, Jack Nicholson, the actor (“One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “The Shining,” “Batman”) actually got his start with AIP.  In fact, so did big film names such as Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Francis Coppola, David Cronenberg, and Dennis Hopper.  Arkoff says back then these guys were struggling and worked for cheap.

“In teen culture, trends come and go at lightning speed, often leaving Hollywood far behind,” Goldstein writes.  “AIP’s production schedule was far faster than today’s movies, which are often two years in the making.  A typical AIP film cost $300,000 and was shot in a week.

“The company often made 25-30 pictures a year, most with budgets that would barely pay for a movie star’s personal trainer today.”

Additionally, Arkoff tells that in the ‘50s the drive-ins were held with low regard in Hollywood.  AIP broke serious ground at the drive-ins.  Into the ‘60s, some drive-ins did $50,000 to $60,000 a week during the summer.  The summer blockbuster had not yet been invented.

Arkoff explains that they never made a movie until there was a catchy title.  The titles often matched the recent trends, including, “Diary of a High School Bride” and “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.”  For instance, when the Beach Boys were at an early peak in popularity, AIP made beach movies with titles like “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.”  AIP beach films starred actors such as Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.

Morover, the newspapers used to airbrush the navels of the girls before running ads for the movies back then.  This infuriated Arkoff to the point that he wrote to several papers, “What the devil is obscene about a navel—if you keep this up, modern youth will never realize the function of a bellybutton!”

In fact, Walt Disney once called Arkoff and yelled at him for having Funicello featured in a bikini.  “She was Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club darling,” Goldstein writes.

But Arkoff explains that there was never any real obscenity in AIP’s films.  “There was no dope, no whiskey, no four-letter words, and no nudity; just some beer drinking and, of course, bellybuttons.

“We helped teenagers discover who they were.”  Well said, but boy how the times change.

How Politics effect Pop

 “The economy and movies are always intertwined,” local movie industry worker, Beau Cheaney

Mama, I want to sing!

Mama, I want to sing!

, says.  Cheaney, 30, has a degree in graphic design from the Art Institute of Houston.

 

Cheaney worked as art director for the film, “Mama, I Want to Sing,” nearly a $10,000,000 production which hasn’t been released, in post production now for three years.  So needless to say, Cheaney feels just a little jaded about the movie industry.

Cheaney is, however, positive about the way the local movie industry creates jobs for people across Louisiana.  He explains that most local movies are actually being made for just under $1.5 million.  Anything over that figure, and the workers need to be unionized according to law.

“I grew up watching John Hughes’s films,” Cheaney says.  “I’ve seen them all a thousand times, and I love them.”

“I’d ask [John Hughes] why he stopped making them if I had the chance,” Cheaney says.  Interestingly, Hughes might actually answer that it was because of the economy.

 The American Popular Culture Magazine, online, features a 2006 article, by Geoffrey Baker called, “Social Mobility in Reagan-Era Teen Films: From Inaugural Optimism to the Invention of Generation X.”  The article unwraps the storylines of two John Hughes era films, “Pretty in Pink” (1986), and “Some Kind of Wonderful” (1987) for explaining what was happening during Reagan-era politics.

 The two films tell a larger story of the shift in the social attitude of teenagers from the early 1980s to 1987.

“In the year between ‘Pretty in Pink’ and “Some Kind of Wonderful,” something suddenly made it permissible for a poor boy to choose a poor girl and acceptable, even heroic, for people to keep their “proper” station,” writes Baker.

The biggest economists of the day, according to Baker, all prophesied a positive future for the American economy in the beginning of Reagan’s Presidency, so the social attitude of people reflected this.  “The PG-13 rating, introduced in 1985, testifies to an increase in movie-going teens at the time,” writes Baker.

In a nutshell, Hughes, in “Pretty in Pink,” originally shot the movie to where Molly Ringwald’s character, Andie Walsh, decides at the end to forget the rich guy she thought she wanted to be with for the less endowed, Ducky, played by Jon Cryer.

Test audiences hated the ending so much, that Hughes was forced to rewrite the ending so she ends up with Andrew McCarthy’s character, Blaine, after all.

The same goes for “The Breakfast Club” (1985).  The poor guy, Judd Nelson, gets the rich girl, Ringwald.  “Hughes had a definite formula working for him with these films,” Baker writes.

 “Early in ’87 the Dow wavered, finally climbing to record heights in September.  The following Monday, however, it suffered the largest single day loss in history, twice the drop of 1929 which lead to the Great Depression.

“Reagan’s approval ratings dropped, coupled with the Iran-Contra scandal, as well as news of Wall Street scandals,” Baker writes.

What happened in American government changed the attitude of teen movies forever.  It makes sense. 

Baker tells that the late ‘80’s films, “Say Anything” and “Heathers” were much more about teen angst than optimism.  Baker illustrates the ‘90’s teen flick as belonging to Richard Linklater (“Slacker,” “Dazed and Confused”), Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Mallrats,”), Larry Clark (“Kids”), the birth of grunge music (Nirvana, Pearl Jam) and the song, “Loser,” by Beck.

The ‘90s pop art shifts to a much greater disillusionment, kind of like the shift in American literature from ‘Realism’ at the turn of the 20th Century, which was by in large optimistic, to ‘Modernism’ 20 or so years down the line, often revealing post WWI angst and workers union struggles.

One thing is certain.  More American universities should have Popular Culture departments.

. . . Slinky’s

To conclude with a reflection on more recent politics affecting the teen movies of this decade, Pamela Sandoz, owner of Slinky’s bar on Chimes Street is glad to help.  Sandoz says she’s actually 12 hours shy of a political science degree.

“That’s what I studied before I decided not to grow up,” Sandoz says.

Originally, from Abbeville, Louisiana, just south of Lafayette, Sandoz admits she was once an extra on the set of the color rendition of “The Blob,” and that you can actually see her in the movie.

Slinky’s bar is open nightly, and usually entertains professors, grad students, law students and whoever else.  Sandoz recalls John Hughes’s movies as the “teen puberty movies.”

“Anthony Michael Hall took forever to grow out of a typecast.  He is finally a good actor,” Sandoz says.  Some film critics are already beginning to call Michael Cera a typecast.

Two important things were brought up by Sandoz.  “I’m always talking to students and I’m amazed that they no longer consider oral sex, or even anal sex to be sex at all.  Before the Clinton era, kids didn’t know what a blowjob was,” Sandoz says.

That is certainly one idea, especially when considering the “American Pie” movies were released in the late ‘90s.  Next, in “Juno,” Sandoz points out how young the main character looks.  “Years back, that would have been denounced, like when Calvin Klein ads were under fire for child porn years back.”

Most recently, you might swear after seeing “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” that it is finally safe for teenagers to roam the streets of New York City all night long.  Homosexuality is probably at an all-time taboo-low, too.  And teens would rather be out watching live music, than simply getting drunk and trashing someone’s out-of-town parent’s mansion.

Optimism and disillusionment are the yin and the yang of pop culture.  Hopefully in another 20 years a new American popular culture scholar will be able to make perfectly clear what is really happening now by comparing the good teen flicks of today.

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Youth Vote a Potential Force this Election Year

By Greg Fischer, MC 4500

Just a few years ago, in fact only since the 1972 election year, have 18 to 20-year-olds been allowed to vote in America.  And yet, they don’t.

Today, the Youth Vote is generally referred to voters, ages 18-24.  Statistics show that an initial spike (meaning when young voters actually exercised their right to vote) occurred during the Vietnam War, in 1972, when it is believed that the voting law was changed over the military draft age being 18.  If only the same logic stood for the legal drinking-age?

But since 1972, 18-24-year-olds have gradually shown less interest overall in the political process.  This year however, the youth voter turnout will be much greater compared to the overall, historic timeline.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE, released a study in July 2005, showing that in the 2004 Presidential Election citizens ages 18-24 came out to vote in numbers greater than even the 1976 Presidential Election.

In fact, 3 million more young people voted in the 2004 Presidential Election, compared to 2000.  The report however maintains that it certainly has yet to be seen if this is, in fact, a new trend, or rather merely a temporary spike.

I.  Celebrity Factor

In a close race, people say that John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in the 1960 Presidential Election because Nixon refused makeup for the television screen at the 1960 Presidential Debate.  Of course, 18-year-olds could not yet vote in 1960, but young people pay attention to style today.  This can be seen at any “Indy Dance Party Night” at a club near a University, especially if you are refusing to turn on your TV these days.

Moreover, according to the CIRCLE study, another spike in young voter turnout occurred in 1992, when Bill Clinton was elected.  President Clinton is often considered attractive.

Now, be certain, in the current Presidential race Barack Obama is being called the “celebrity candidate.”  On the other hand his opponent’s running-mate, Sarah Palin, is not only the first ever female vice presidential candidate, but also a former beauty pageant winner.  The heat is on.

But wait a second, how did the number of youth voters spike so greatly in 2004?  Neither President George W. Bush nor John Kerry holds a torch in a looks competition with these other candidates.  Thus another question must be posed.

II. Why do we vote?

Historically, we vote for many different and often strange reasons.

Justin Ulrich, a fourth year PhD student in political science calls to mind the Chicago Political Machine.  During the Machine’s hay-day in the 1930’s, the phrase was coined, “Beer and a Ballot,” pertaining to a common practice when on Election Day it was perfectly legal for party members to hand out a beer or sometimes rum punch to voters granted they vote a certain way.

But Ulrich, a young voter, is yet nowhere near apathetic about American government.  An Obama campaign poster rests in his bedroom window, facing Highland Rd.  A native of Pennsylvania, Ulrich exercises his right to vote by sending in an absentee ballot.

Within the realm of Political Science, Ulrich is an American government specialist.  He studies economic voting, or how changes in the economy year to year effect which party that the actual voter will turn out and vote for, or against in some cases.  He has presented a couple papers, in Chicago and in Philadelphia.

“I think the idea we all like to have is, if everyone goes out and does what they are supposed to do, and vote, we’re going to have the best government that the people actually think that we should have,” said Ulrich.

He says that in swing states such as his home state, Pennsylvania, likewise in Ohio, that in 2004 a big push came to get the young voter involved.  But even with the spike that occurred, that it is still not nearly what it should be.

Dr. Herman O. Kelly, Manship School professor of Racism and Sexism studies in the Media and pastor of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 1358 South Blvd., says people have a responsibility to their community to vote.

Dr. Kelly "keeping it real"

Dr. Kelly

 

Dr. Kelly believes that in this Presidential Election, more people are going to vote to implement change.  “The younger generation is a visual generation,” said Dr. Kelly.  “The candidates that use internet sites to campaign are going to attract more votes from the youth.”

“People vote once they get educated that their vote counts,” said Dr. Kelly.

“I look at the people that died, especially African American people who died or struggled to win the right to vote so it’s almost like a burden that I have to carry,” said Dr. Kelly.  “When I don’t vote, I feel guilty.”  That’s a pretty good reason to vote.

“I think the Republicans know that they are in trouble,” said Dr. Kelly.  “They are doing whatever they have to do to keep their interests at hand.”

“Historically, we know that older, wealthier, and better educated people vote at higher rates because they are more likely to see connections between politics and their lives and the lives of their communities,” said Dr. Robert Kirby Goidel of the Manship School, as well as a professor in the political science arena.  This begs another question.

III. Does the youth vote matter?

“Potentially, the youth vote could decide the next President,” said Dr. Goidel.

Dr. Goidell, also director of public policy research, says that government is highly responsive to groups of voters.

“You can see clearly policy shifts, for example, in favor of older voters, who always vote at high rates, and when African American voters were effectively enfranchised.  If young voters vote in large numbers, it will make difference in policy.”

Two young people in particular, understand this all too well.

“The number of voters in the 18-24 age group rival the number of registered voters in the 65 and older group, which is traditionally thought of as being a very high participation group,” said Louisiana Secretary of State, Jay Dardenne.

Dardenne recently spoke in front of an LSU audience in the Holliday Forum, just before introducing a screening of the film 18 in ’08, released this year and centered on the youth vote.

The creator of 18 in ’08 is one guy who realizes the importance of voting by what Secretary of State, Dardenne, referred to as “the millennial generation.”  He is 19-year-old, David D. Burstein, a student at Haverford college in Pennsylvania.

Burstein is touring over 20 universities around the country before the coming election cycle, showing his film, getting young people to register to vote, and stressing the power of the youth vote as a whole.

“When I was younger, my parents would read me The New York Times and talk to me about current events.  My path down the road of politics found me debating the pros and cons of the 2000 Bush/Gore matchup over the sixth-grade lunch table and slowly becoming a C-SPAN junkie,” writes Burstein in one article.

The film lasts just over, or just under, a half-hour long.  Burstein says all he did was “cold call” to get interviews.  In fact, Burstein claims to have interviewed “over 60 Congressmen, Senators, presidential candidates, policy makers, activists…young and old.”  These interviews include faces such as Richard Dreyfuss, John Kerry, and James Carville.

18 in ’08 and Burstein have registered 23,000 people to vote.  Coming in October, Burstein will begin a similar program with the same goals called “Trick or Vote.”

Another young person who understands the importance of the youth vote is 21-year old candidate for Baton Rouge Metro Council District 12, Brett Jackson.  The next youngest candidate for Baton Rouge Metro Council is 28.

Jackson is a finance student at LSU and also a campus leader in the LSU student government as a senator.  After he graduates next year, he will begin working on an MPA—a master’s degree in government and non-profit administration.

Jackson is from LaPlace, LA and went to Jesuit High School in New Orleans.  He is an openly gay democrat.  He has a real chance, come the October 4th election.  He faces Jim Benham, former councilman, R.J. “Smokie” Bourgeois, owner of “Georges” restaurant, and Will Gladney, a physician, all three conservative republicans.

“[18-24] is statistically a very large voter block, almost as much as the ‘generation x’ voter block, so that if it was mobilized it would be a powerful force,” said Jackson.

“I think a lot of young people see the change as in their best interest.  A lot of the policies now are geared toward the older generation, the richer people, and it’s very hard for a young person to have accumulated so much wealth at a young age.”

So, despite MTV’s “Rock the Vote” and similar organizations often being considered a huge failure, no one feels like it is a bad campaign, in and of itself.  In fact, these groups, all easily accessible via the WEB, were praised by everyone interviewed for this article.

“The more people who register, the better,” said Jackson.

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