Tender Buttons

140. "Tender Buttons"

- a collaboration between Jake T. Unclean & Tim Ore

- 1/2" VHS cassette

- 4:15

- '91


[November 16, 2005 note: It's been my thought for a long time now to write a "The Making of.." about this movie. Annotating this Movieography now prompts me to do so. SO, here goes:

I think Gertrude Stein's certainly one of the greatest & most original writers of the early 20th century. She's an icon of sorts to lesbians too. Of course, her writing is strange enuf so that, probably to most readers, it seems nonsensical or overly formal in its repetitiveness & abstractness - wch is precisely what distinguishes it. As such, the age-old "cunninglinguist" joke just had to pop into my mind. SO, the "Tender Buttons" vaudeo project was born.

I made an audio recording 1st to time how long it wd take just to read it, to find out whether it wd be feasible for me to read it in less than the 2 hr length of a VHS tape at SP while sucking pussy. It took 90 minutes. Then it was time to make the movie. My girlfriend, Jake T. Unclean, was game. But who wd I ask to be the cameraperson? If I were a regular pornographer that wdn't be a problem.. but I'm not. Picking anybody to assist w/ shooting this wd involve an intimacy that I'd never experienced before & wdn't necessarily seek out if it weren't for a project like this that I thought was just too funny to not do. SO, I asked my coworker & fairly new friend John to be the cameraperson. He was gay - wch gave the situation another angle, since I wasn't sure whether he'd ever been in such close proximity to a cunt before. 2 assistants were needed so John asked him friend Sherry - who I'd probably never even met before.

What a situation! My bedroom was small & didn't have a door. I'd built a loft to anble me to have a desk under the bed. The loft was just far enuf below the ceiling to enable people to sit upright in bed. & there were 4 of us. Me laying on my back, Jake crouched on all fours w/ her pussy over my face, John seated very close behind us w/ some no doubt shitty camera aimed in afirly tight close-up at my face & Jake's crotch & ass, the text perched out of shot on top of Jake's ass, Sherry next to John holding title cards that were to be placed between the camera & Jake's pussy at the relevant parts in the text. It was crowded & we had to stay that way for a continual take of the reading of the entire piece. Try it sometime!

Of course, a large part of the humor of it was that not only was I rendering the text even more difficult to understand than it already is because my tongue was stuck inside Jake or licking her clit or my mouth was sucking her or whatever but I was also making it more or less impossible for any orgasms to occur because I had to read the text

(no matter how garbled it was) &, therefore, cdn't really devote myself to pleasure-enducement. A double whammy of frustration. At least I finger-fucked her & frigged her too but it wasn't enuf! & it went on & on & on. A tribute to everyone's stamina. & there was Sherry, someone who didn't even know Jake & myself, dutifully placing the title cards. What was she thinking about all this?

When we looked at the playback, probably w/ Jake massaging her knees after such a prolonged kneeling, we weren't even that satisfied w/ the way it looked so we reshot some parts in greater close-up. The final edit is pretty sloppy & it's not even that good of a movie but I have screened it from time to time. One of those times was in 1992 at U.M.B.C. (University of Maryland Baltimore County campus) to a large group of students who were expected to write papers about the overall event. Below is an excerpt from one of those papers.

While reading it keep in mind that I made this movie because I think it's funny - not to be a "shock-jock". It is, in its perverse way, a tribute to Gertrude Stein. I expected other people to think it was funny too. I really wasn't prepared for just how prudish these students wd be. While they thought I was trying to shock them, I was the one who was shocked by how narrow-minded these people were! My interpolated comments are in [brackets]. This one introductory paragraph to one of the papers sums it up nicely:

"I want to start this paper by saying that I think I deserve an A on this paper, merely based on the fact that I attended this performance, participated monetarily and physically in the buying of the book ceremony, and have not missed one of your classes. [Like, duh, girl! Let me get this straight! Just for physically existing in the class you deserve an A? Forget whether you actually did ANY WORK? Whether you LEARNED ANYTHING? You are now ready to enter this society as a full-blown parasite on it - like most of your peers.] The mere fact that I am taking my, "end of the term, very precious" time to attend and write about what I considered disgusting pornography deserves an A+.!!!! [Ex-CUUUUSE me! You think you deserve an "A+" because you attended a performance/screening you were required to attend & wrote a paper that you were required to write? & you deserve that grade because you were offended by what you witnessed?! Excuse me, dearie, you might think you're a princess but I think you're a hopeless moron! I will say this, though, at least she wrote her paper! Many of the other students didn't even bother to do that! & they STILL EXPECTED "A"s - & they got them! There's much more to this story but that's a matter for another time & place.]


"A cunninglinguist joke. An excerpt from a 90 minute reading of Gertrude Stein's pioneering text read while performing cunnilingus. This was inspired both by the 'incomprehensibility' of the writing, furthered here by the muffledness of my reading, & my assumption that the 'Tender Buttons' of the title refers to clitorisies. Stein, of course, was a famous lesbian so my reading gives things a heterosexual slant."

- from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's program notes for the "Pavlovian Skinnerios at Eiszeit Kino" screening in Berlin, Germany: Dienstag - 17. Mai '94




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