The Wrecking Crew @ The Ross

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It is good to take time out to honor one’s parents. It’s in the Bible, and practically everyone can recite the 5th commandment: honor thy father and thy mother then you will live a long, full life in the land. I have no doubt that documentary filmmaker Denny Tedesco will live long and prosper – ok, so I borrowed a line from another movie but you get my point.

Tommy Tedesco

Tommy Tedesco

Tedesco’s documentary The Wrecking Crew pays a heartfelt homage to guitarist Tommy Tedesco, his father and an honored member of the Wrecking Crew—a group of talented session musicians based out of California who made possible those riffs and lines and music chords that when heard played, we immediately recognize the artist and the song! Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys recalls, “They were the ones with all the spirit and know-how.”

Carol Kaye

Carol Kaye

Quiet as it is kept, the Wrecking Crew is so named because when these musicians arrived in Los Angeles, those talent already onboard thought the session musician would ruin the music business. Yes, Tedesco has pulled back the curtain to expose the skill, imagination, and genius behind the hits of the 1960s and 1970s that we know as the California sound. Remember Henry Mancini’s theme music for the “Pink Panther”? That’s saxophonist Plas Johnson from New Orleans; how about the drum beats in “Da Doo Ron Ron” the famous classic by The Crystals and “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes? That’s Hal Blaine! How about that soulful bass on hits such as “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” “California Girls,” “The Beat Goes On,” themes to Mission Impossible and Batman? That’s the legendary Carol Kaye on bass—the only woman in the group! Ok, one more: Remember Sam Cooke’s soul stirring “A Change is Gonna Come”? Guitarist Rene Hall arranged that song, and its socio-cultural import still rings true today.

Tony Plas

Tony Plas

It took seven years of fundraising to midwife this project but Tedesco successfully assembled a roundtable of the crew, and each one gives thoughtful testimonials on what it was like to be a part of music making history. There are narratives from heavy hitters in the music industry such as Cher, Herb Alpert, Nancy Sinatra, Brian Wilson, among others, who reveal their own profit from these session musicians but Tedesco always maintains a monogamous focus on the Wrecking Crew themselves and on those who can talk about them and the era of the 1960s and 1970s as well.

Hal Blaine

Hal Blaine

While Tedesco surely immerses the audience in the culture of the times, The Wrecking Crew is totally personal. These musicians talk of their discipline and their sheer dedication to their music—even if it meant not receiving credit on the album on which they worked. The fluff of The Monkees and the Patridge Family as well as respected bands as the Byrds and Simon and Garfunkel are just some of the bands the work of the Wrecking Crew goes uncredited. Tedesco does not stop there: the crew uncovers why!

The Wrecking Crew plays through July 2 at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

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Dior and I @ The Ross

Raf Simons examines one of his creations

Raf Simons examines one of his creations

I come from a family of women that worked with their hands. My Aunt Georgia crocheted dolls clothes that would make Scarlett O’Hara green with envy. My fraternal grandmother had only a third grade education but she could spin a piece of fabric into a creation that looked as if it came straight from the racks in the designer couture houses. My maternal grandmother’s artistry formed the warmest quilts. My mother taught me to sew by stitching doll clothes, and every summer, I would add to my wardrobe by sewing clothes for the fall and spring school year. Needless to say it was a daunting task because, as mom would say, “you’ve got to put your mind on it so that your sewing will come to you.”

... on the runway

… on the runway

Dior and I is a documentary that “puts its mind” onto the world of designer dressmaking, and the time and talent it takes to get that creation to come to trust that the designer will get it right. Written and directed by Frederic Chenge, the film Dior and I throws the audience into the haute couture world of the late French Fashion Designer Christian Dior whose name defines French couture. The film opens with footage of a shadow of a Dior model walking on concrete swirling in one of the designer’s creations. There are film clips of Dior, himself, surrounded by women advisors and models. Enter Belgian designer Raf Simon as the new creative director of the Dior house 55 years after the designer’s death.

seamstresses study a design

seamstresses study a design

Simons is a bland personality with hardly any demonstration of flair or panache, and one wonders how such a choice can pull off a fashion show of Dior standard in just eight weeks. When he arrives, however, he makes sure to introduce himself to the seamstresses who will be responsible for pulling together his designs. From there, the audience is thrown into the world of fabric, fashion design, high fashion models, and the fashion show—all produced for the benefit of the rich and famous, and Parisian fashion enthusiasts.

Chenge, however, fails to generate insight as to why Simons was chosen to head the House of Dior and at this specific moment in time. Much is left unexplained, most notable the blatant lack of racial diversity among Simons’s models. There is a dearth of interviews to fill in many of the gaps in the storyline.

putting it together

putting it together

The documentary’s pleasure, nevertheless, is found in the day-to-day work of the people who make all of that fashion magic possible! The camera focuses on the seamstresses in white coats who have to pin pieces of patterns together to bring about that Simons’s artistic vision. It is a joy to see their determination and their focus on the discipline of dressmaking. One seamstress reveals, “I started as an intern at Dior and decided to stay for a year or ten now it’s been 39 years. It has always been my wish.” These behind the scenes vignettes are refreshing as we witness their handling of the fabric with their hands and read the printed designs they are given to create. Along the way, we are up close and personal with those laborers whose handiwork create the stunning backdrops for the photo shoots which are walls and walls plastered from floor to ceiling with roses of red, apricot, pink, maroon, and yellow and white orchids. As one seamstress remarks, “it is beyond Alice in Wonderland. It is absolutely incredible!” The dialogue between Simon and his advisors over what is wrong and right with a dress fills the decision-making with intense moments. All of these elements produce a, well, so-so runway sequence of fashion design.

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