Drive-In Entrepreneur Josh Frank Wrote a Book About Porn with Pixies' Frontman Black Francis
Thank the gods for people like Josh Frank. Blue Starlite drive-in owner is one of those creative types constantly making cool shit for us schlubby consumers to sit back and enjoy.
Writer, director, and owner of Blue Starlite Drive-In Josh Frank.
Writer, director, and producer, Frank is the author of Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies and In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers. Additionally, Frank recently made his directorial debut for the Pixies' music video "Greens and Blues," released March 4. Frank's latest publication, The Good Inn, is a book and screenplay adaptation written in collaboration with Pixies' founder and frontman, Black Francis.
The book is a mixture of a to-be-completed movie soundtrack, storyboard drawings from Steven Appleby, illustrator for the Pixies' album Trompe Le Monde, and lyrics by Francis. The book tells the story of the only survivor of a French battleship explosion who later finds shelter at The Good Inn. He soon begins an affair with the innkeeper's daughter and falls into a surreal world where art and war co-exist. The soldier awakens to find he is the lead in La Bonne Auberge (The Good Night), the world's first pornographic film. Frank and his collaborators hunted for original stories behind the making of early pornographic film, resulting in the book's blend of real-life events and fiction.
Fans can get a taste of the work firsthand at a special event Friday, May 2, at Turn-Based Press at the Downtown ArtHouse, where Frank will read from the novel, sign copies, and present a gallery show of prints created from Appleby's illustrations, published by Turn-Based. We chatted with Frank about writing, movies, and what's coming up for his mini urban drive-in.
Cultist: Describe a bit of how your books come together. What do you enjoy most about the process?
Josh Frank: I got to spend time with one of my greatest musical heroes, telling a story that fascinated him and creating something original with him. That was just incredible. We became friends over the years, but we hadn't worked together on something. That was huge. Also, I'm obsessed with lost history, finding stories that haven't been told; that sort of dig deeper into our pop culture history into the layers that don't get revealed. That's actually what started my book writing. People who talked about the band The Pixies, I realized that this band I grew up listening to, there's a lot of stories about them, but they're all pretty much rehashed. I started trying to find the deeper story.
The second book about Peter Ivers, it's sort of the same thing. The story of rock television and punk music and Hollywood in the '70s and '80s had been told, but through this guy Peter Ivers, I found a deeper history, and I got to tell that one. So, when Charles (Thompson, AKA Black Francis) came to me about the first narrative pornographic film, it was a similar thing. There's not a lot about the under layers of it, so when I started looking, I was even more excited by how it hard it was to find really anything about it. It was a real mystery. Most of the people involved had been dead for 50 or 60 years.
Why early pornographic film as a backdrop? How has that influenced modern film work?
Well, it's funny, someone the other day mentioned this new movie by Lars von Trier, Nymphomanic. I hadn't really put the two together, but it's actually quite a good example of an auteur taking erotic ideas and sex, what would normally be considered quite pornographic imagery, and putting it into a story. This doesn't happen a lot. I think, in a way, it's kind of shunned. The more sex there is in a movie, just because it's there, if you're not careful, it might be considered pornographic. Where does that come from? Does that come from our own problem? Is that our own social issue? Because sex is like eating, it's like sleeping. It's a part of our regular life, but when we tell creative stories about it, it borders on pornography. That wasn't something I was really thinking about when we started [the book], but as it was being written, and I discovered some of the lost anti-heroes of the genre from the early 1900s who were exploring it, these guys were struggling to bring sexuality to cinema. They were running up against these problems for the first time.