How to Live
in the City:
The Story of The American Music Show
The first retrospective of the twenty-five year landmark of television history
Curated by Andy Ditzler
There is nothing quite like The American Music Show. This community access cable television program was produced in various homes in Atlanta and broadcast weekly from 1981 to 2005. It was a mix of shambolic talk show, drag queens, exotic Georgia locales, homegrown music videos, camcorder reports from 80s club culture, long-running characters performed by a devoted and gifted cast, and now-poignant segments taped on the streets of an Atlanta almost unrecognizable to us. In addition to all this, the show attracted a young RuPaul – then a denizen of Atlanta’s underground scene, now an international entertainment icon – who made dozens of early appearances on the show in many guises.
Hosted for a quarter-century by the unflappable Dick Richards and Potsy Duncan – along with James Bond, brother of black Civil Rights activist Julian Bond and a sitting member of Atlanta's City Council – The American Music Show was delivered to the cable company each week on VHS tapes for broadcast. With its one-take aesthetic, elaborate set designs, and mix of anarchic humor and dark satire, the show is a classic of do-it-yourself media, and was a beacon for Atlanta's underground, LGBT, and musical communities. A unique conjunction of southern culture, queer performance, black Civil Rights history, and cable television as art medium, The American Music Show remains outrageous, forward-looking, and above all, an entertainment experience of "always low standards."
Working with over seven hundred of the original broadcast tapes held by Emory University, curator Andy Ditzler hosts the first major retrospective of The American Music Show, taking place throughout 2017 and 2018. Ten screenings feature classic clips, full episodes, and little-known gems, many unseen since their original broadcast. They reveal the successful effort by a diverse group of people – straight and queer, men and women, black and white, midtown and OTP – to construct their own form of entertainment, broadcast their experiment to like-minded (and not so like-minded) souls, and preserve it all on the VHS tapes that define how to live creatively in the city.
Screening 1: How to Live in the City (Highlights)
August 25, 2017, Whitespace (Inman Park)
Screening 2: Early Years
October 5, 2017, Gallery 992 (West End)
Screening 3: Performance Practice
November 10, 2017, Eyedrum (South Downtown)
Screening 4: A Day in Forsyth County, a Night at Mardi Gras
November 17, 2017, Atlanta Contemporary (West Side)
Screening 5: National Holidays
December 1, 2017, Whitespace (Inman Park)
Additional screenings TBA
Thanks to Ben Crais and Austyn Wohlers for their assistance with this project.
How to Live in the City: The Story of The American Music Show is a Film Love event. The Film Love series provides access to great but rarely seen films, especially important works unavailable on consumer video. Programs are curated and introduced by Andy Ditzler, and feature lively discussion. Through public screenings and events, Film Love preserves the communal viewing experience, provides space for the discussion of film as art, and explores alternative forms of moving image projection and viewing.