The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

August 25, 2009

Bubba Cromer

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Bubba Cromer.  In many ways, Bubba is Columbia’s own little personification of the gothic South.  He is our color chartreuse; our fried Moon pie.  Both our Bible salesman and our Joy Hopewell, to Bubba we are all good country people.  Bubba Cromer is what would happen if John Waters and Andy Griffith had a child.  More than anything though, I am a fan of Bubba Cromer because he is ours — and everyone knows how I feel about loving our own.

I recently wrote an article about Bubba for Lake Murray Magazine and it was published just a few days after he had found out that his beloved dog, Biscuit, who is pictured with Bubba alongside the story, was diagnosed with cancer.  We lost our golden retriever Bradie a few years back from the same diagnosis, and the crack that started in my heart that day hasn’t stopped spreading yet.  Bubba called me to thank me for the story, but had a hard time keeping his voice about him as he expressed his kind thoughts.  This is another reason that I’m a fan of Bubba’s.

The State hasn’t put the article online yet and I’m not sure that they will.  So here’s my own copy of the story, and you’ll notice that I included the website for Bubba’s films.  (It was cut from my story.)  If you don’t already have your own copy of  The Long Journey Home or The Hills Have Thighs, then now is a good time to do some shopping.

 

A Coach Cromer Production:

 Filmmaking with South Carolina Attorney – James Bubba Cromer

 

By Cynthia Boiter

 

            When considering the case of James Bubba Cromer – former South Carolina State Representative, novelist, attorney, recipient of the Governor’s Order of the Palmetto, Bigfoot aficionado and Reading Clerk for the South Carolina House of Representatives – it’s not always easy to take seriously this southern boy extraordinaire.  Goofy, tall and sweet-cheeked, with a drawl like molasses and the manners of a Baptist minister, Bubba Cromer may be the kind of award winning enigma it’s tough to take seriously.

            But seriously folks, you should.

            Over the past three years, Cromer has written, produced, directed and starred in two independent Southern cult films:  The Long Way Home:  A Bigfoot Story in 2007 and, released earlier this year, The Hills Have Thighs:  An Appalachian Comedy.    While The Long Way Home has won numerous awards including Best Narrative Feature Film at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival in 2007, and The Hills Have Thighshas also been received with significant acclaim, neither of these films is what one might expect from an ersatz southern politico with a law office downtown and a resume replete with offices held and awards earned. That’s because on paper Bubba seems like a typical successful southern guy.  In film though, he’s really something different.

            Bubba’s films are exercises in comedic absurdity, embracing the extremes of loony-ness and going beyond the quirky, all the while telling loosely entertaining tales.  His casts of neo-gothic characters fall one notch below freaky with everyone from snake handlers to drag queens to an Appalachian gangster with a penchant for hallucinogenic plants.  Names like Drip Drywall, Velveeta Adams, Tree-Tree Davenport and Pooter Brown dot the scripts, if scripts there be, and scenes take place, for the most part, in and about the funny side of the Blair Witch Woods.

            Suffice it to say, a Coach Cromer production is no more a typical independent film than Bubba is a typical South Carolina attorney.  

            A 1980 graduate of Dreher High School, Bubba attended Clemson University and the University of South Carolina School of Law.  As the prize for winning a best legs contest at a South Carolina bar – the drinking, not the judicial kind – Bubba was flown to Hollywood ostensibly to be cast in a California Wine Cooler Commercial.  Instead, the ever resourceful Bubba used the free trip as an opportunity to shop himself to Hollywood law offices where he was successfully hired as an associate at a Los Angeles law firm.  After two years on the west coast however, homesickness got the best of the Southern boy and, as Bubba says, he sucked up his pride, tucked his tail between his legs and hauled his sad self back home.

            The next few years would find Bubba practicing law, writing a novel, serving two terms as the only Independent member of the South Carolina General Assembly since Reconstruction, and being elected as the Reading Clerk for the South Carolina House of Representatives for ten years straight.  Interestingly enough, throughout it all, at no time did the future filmmaker even entertain the idea of making a motion picture.

            According to Cromer, it was almost four years ago when he and his parents were having cocktails at his family’s mountain get-away near Brevard, North Carolina when “yet another ridiculous Bigfoot Documentary crawled across the television screen.”

            Exasperated, Bubba declared to his father that even he “could make a better Bigfoot Movie than that!”   

            To which his dad replied, “Well son, here’s a hundred dollars that says you can’t.” 

            It was based solely on this dare that Bubba took on the initial filmmaking project from which The Long Way Home:  A Bigfoot Story sprang. 

            “I never expected that making a movie could be so much fun; so satisfying,” Bubba says.

            Influenced by innovative and favorite filmmakers like John Waters, David Lynch and Christopher Guest, Bubba plied the praise and criticism he received from both patrons and professionals on his first project into his second venture, The Hills Have Thighs, focusing more intently on quirky comedy.  The result is a mystery movie that Bubba himself describes aptly as “a piece of my warped and twisted mind.”

            Does that mean that the filmmaker-slash-attorney doesn’t take himself any more seriously than his loyal following is prone to do? 

            Actually, yes.

            “My films, I take seriously,” Bubba explains.  “But taking yourself too seriously is a dangerous road upon which I have no intention of traveling.  People who take themselves seriously are seldom very happy.”

            To that end the storyteller offers up the tale of one of his favorite moments in his short filmmaking career.  It was earlier this year at an advance screening of The Hills Have Thighs in Charleston and a hundred people were squeezed into a sixty person-sized room to see the premier.  The movie was well underway when a group of six disgruntled viewers made a commotion of haughtily leaving the theater in protest, slamming the door behind them.

            “The room was quiet for a moment after the slam, and then suddenly the remaining 94 viewers erupted in applause,” Bubba recalls.  “I knew then that I had my audience.”

            Seriously.

 

(For more information about Bubba Cromer’s films, including sneak peeks, viewing and ordering information, visit his website at http://www.thehillshavethighs.com.)

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August 19, 2009

Miriam Barbosa and The South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company

I had the opportunity to spend an hour this afternoon watching a rehearsal by Miriam Barbosa’s new group, the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company.  Miriam gathers her dancers into a small but nicely sprung space that is just by her Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis studio down an alley off Lady Street. 

The company is rehearsing a program they have scheduled for next month at the Koger Center.  They’ll be performing two exciting pieces.  The first one on the docket is the Maple Leaf Rag — the last piece Martha Graham choreographed  before her death — and the piece that was inspired by her 1989 visit to South Carolina.  Miriam dances the principal part to music by Scott Joplin, but her other dancers are amply used in this whimsical number that is fun and upbeat and not nearly as somber as many of Graham’s other choreographic works.  It makes me happy to think that this was the music and these were the movements last on Ms. Graham’s mind before she shuffled off to the next realm.  Happy, peaceful and fun.

The second number the company will be performing is a re-do of one of Miriam’s pieces, Catharsis, on which she collaborated with local visual artist Marcelo Novo.  I saw a lot of what I’ve come to recognize as classic Barbosa choreography in this piece — fullness, strangeness, lyricism, and athleticism.  It’s almost as if the limited dimensions of the dance floor aren’t enough for Barbosa, so she takes her dancers into the air and actually suspends a few of them them in flight above the stage.  This dance was harder to visualize in the studio but Miriam let me watch the video of a previous performance done in 2006.  She’s changing up her costumes a bit and has Barry Sparks, Columbia’s great thaumaturge of all things light and sound, doing her lighting, so there’s even more to look forward to from this performance.

But probably the most exciting thing about my experience this afternoon was seeing a number of familiar faces from other local dance troupes working together on the floor.  There was Maurice and Misha and Eddie from William’s house; and Sergei and Julia from down at John’s; English from up at the university — just to name a few.  It was a cooperative dance in a city that is full of outstanding dancers, but hasn’t always been known for letting them share their talents with one another — or with us, their audience.

Kudos to Miriam Barbosa for bringing these artists together and making this company happen.  And kudos, too, to Marvin Chernoff and Chuck LeMark who are standing behind her as she does so.  I look forward to seeing the performance on the night of September 17th at the Koger Center — and I look forward to seeing what else this company can bring to our city’s stages.

I’ll be writing more on the South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company in the next issue of Stir Magazine — in the meantime, for more info take a look at their website at www.scdanceco.com.

August 6, 2009

The Productive Writer, Mark Plessinger, Bohumila and the FOM Series, the White Mule (& Van the Man!)

Yes, it’s been a while since I blogged, but that’s because I have NOT been being the Reluctant Writer lately:  I have been being the Productive Writer!  And it feels great!  

The beer book is coming along nicely as we plow through the early days of Bob’s beergrimmage — the time before we had actually decided to write the book — and reconstruct the route and stories and beer experiences we enjoyed during this time of year, two years ago.  (Much of the book after that period has already been written — so we’re sort of writing the beer beginnings at the end.)  It has been exciting reliving those thirty some odd early days of beer exploration with Bob and the wonderkins and I’m pleased with how the project is progressing.

In the meantime, I do want to share with you an upcoming event that I’m going to have to miss.  But first a little background.

Mark Plessinger is a local optician and business owner who shares my love of art for art sake and recognizes the importance of placing a limelight on new and exciting local artists.  His business is called Frame of Mind and it is located on Main Street across from the art museum.  There you will find the most spectacular spectacles with a decidely European flare.  But more than that you will also find a little something extra.  Whether it is the work of Anastasia Chernoff or Claude Buckley or Pamm Collins, Mark and his wife Wendy always have a gallery of  new and intriguing art hung amongst their wares.   They call these revolving monthly shows the FOM (Frame of Mind) Series and this week they’re bringing someone extra special.

Bohumila Owensby is a designer of fashion and jewelry and the key word in describing Bohumila’s work is innovative.    After winning second place in the Columbia Design Guild’s 2008 Runaway Runway show she walked away with first place in 2009 and people haven’t stopped talking about her yet.  Her original jewelry designs are also featured in the gift shop at the Columbia Museum of Art.

Mark chose Bohumila as the featured artist for August in his FOM Series, and the opening night reception is tonight, August 6th from 5:30 – 8 PM.   There will be light refreshments, something special to sip on, an assortment of Columbia’s loveliest folks and, best of all, Bohumila! 

Do not miss this wonderful free event! 

And when you find that you are able to tear yourself away from Mark and Wendy and Bohumila, just slide your sassy self next door into Main Street’s newest bit of coolness, the White Mule (formerly Jammin Java) where yet another art exhibit awaits you, complete with an Ed Hardy wine tasting. 

Sadly, I will not be joining you for either event, but don’t cry for me.  I will be enroute to Obamaland where I will be spending an intimate evening with one Van the Man Morrison who is going to flat out rock my gypsy soul, just like back in the days of old, and sail my sorry ass into the Mystic.  Have mercy.

So in my absence, please enjoy the gifts that these amazing artists and generous business owners have for you on this wonderful summer night.  Give them back your time and attention.  Being a part of the creative act is one of the most stimulating, humanizing and, yes, precious parts of being alive.  And the opportunity is waiting for you, right there, on Main Street, Columbia, SC.  Damn — did you ever think you’d hear those words?

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