Never heard of him? You’re not alone! But when I tell you that he’s the director of Nunf*cker, you will surely say “Oh! Yes!! Of course!!! I’ve been meaning to rent that!”
Now, whether underground filmmaker J.X. Williams is real or fake, I don’t know and don’t particularly give a damn, which is why I just spent a couple of hours trying to figure it out. But the fact that the hoax has now continued for several years is fascinating — as is the fact that the hoaxster(s) chose as a name for his/her/their/its fictional exploitation-filmmaker the name of a prolific collective pseudonym used to write gay smut. That’s lent credence to some hilarious claims in this Rumpus interview which pretty much spells it out if you read between the lines. So does this, which is by Lawrence himself — and it’s pretty inspired.
Back to the beginning: When, for some reason, I started getting promotional emails from “The J.X. Williams Archive” a few years back, it’s not so much that I thought I was being hoaxed as that I didn’t, for one damn instant, think I wasn’t being hoaxed. I still don’t, but I am confused as to just what the point is.
Purported to be an underground director of Mafia-financed nudie films and grindcore exploitation flicks, the guy sounds too much like what Kilgore Trout would have become, if Kurt Vonnegut had been a sex addict and hardcore alcoholic with organized crime connections and a taste for the ponies.
Is he real? Is he a hoax? Deceptology says “hoax,” of course. The New York Times is slightly less convinced, but still comes down on the side of hoax. I don’t really care. But the achievement of filmmaker Noel Lawrence is that he got IMDB to list Peep Show as a 1965 release — rather than the clip show it is.
The other cues that J.X. Williams is a hoax? None of the cat’s other movies have IMDB entries or Wikipedia pages, in this age of being able to find information about anything. There’s no information whatsoever about them anywhere on the web except as put out by the J.X. Williams Archive and various other J.X. Williams-related sources. Williams nonetheless looks to the casual eye to possibly be (maybe) something approaching (maybe) real. And (maybe) alive. Except he’s not.
But if he was alive, or real, then it only makes sense that, just like the former-nun street hooker who sets out to avenge the mob murder of her beloved pimp, J.X. Williams would be pissed.
And he would apparently be pissed at himself, because the IMDB entry for J.X. Williams claims that Williams himself was born under the name of the director of the J.X. Williams Archive, Noel Lawrence, which is who Williams is pissed at.
Incidentally, the Wikipedia page, which drips with artful pomposity, is obviously written by someone in on the joke — and who’s clever enough to cite only print sources, none of which are links. The page for J.X. Williams is also tagged “Collective Pseudonyms.”
Like I care? I don’t. I just don’t have a god damned thing better to do with my time then track down mob-related J.T. DiCarlo hallucinations. With this hallucination, however, as far as I can tell, no one’s trying to get laid or even get rich. It’s all just freakin’ weirdness, which seems like it would meet with approval from the master of deception himself, Orson Welles, whose brilliant and bizarre F is for Fake is a classic example of a movie that’s not a movie about a person who’s not a person…or is he?
In the case of J.X. Williams, this weeks’ fandango stems from a screening of Williams’s films at the Slamdance Film Festival on Wednesday, curated by Noel Lawrence (who appears to be Williams). A post on therealjxwilliams.blogspot.com (sooooooooooooooooo convincing) goes like this:
For those who follow my work, you may be familiar with an unsavory “curator” by the name of Noel Lawrence. He edited a book about me in cahoots with an obscure French rock critic and has often screened “Peep Show” and other movies at museums and cinematheques in Europe.
Until now, I have suffered this fellow. He was a pest but a persistent one so I occasionally indulged him. I gave him a few crumbs for his book and lent him some very valuable film prints from my private collection. However, Mr. Lawrence has repaid my generosity with calumny and betrayal!
Noel recently asked my permission to screen my films “at a festival in Utah” in January. Naturally, I was very excited to be a part of Robert Redford’s powwow in Park City. Strangely, Noel seemed evasive when I asked about breaking bread with the great thespian. Now I have learned that Mr. Lawrence will be showcasing my work at a doppelganger festival that bears no connection to Slundance but happens at the very same time.
Even so, I only requested that my hosts provide me with the standard perks of a visiting auteur such as a five-figure appearance fee and a limousine from the Salt Lake City airport. In fact, I even waived the usual “hookers and champagne” clause from my contract. Noel avoided my calls for some time. When my personal assistant finally reached him, he informed me that this “film festival” will not even get me a room at the Motel 6 for my stay.
Mr. Lawrence, you are a fraud and a cheat. This offense shall not go unanswered.
Bear in mind I do not advocate a boycott of the screening. In fact, I urge your attendance as this may be your last chance to see these films. I will be confiscating my prints after the screening and locking them up in a secure location that Dick Cheney could only dream of. Instead of preventing this show, I propose to add a special bonus attraction to the festivities. After Lawrence finishes presenting my films, I will come on stage and personally beat the shit out of this craven curator.
Okay, so…as pure guerrilla theater…well, that would make for pretty good guerrilla theater, I’ll admit, to have a man beat the shit out of himself onstage, a la Edward Norton in Fight Club.
Suspiciously, this post comes to my attention only through an email from Lawrence, where he says in too-polished prose that smacks of in-joke:
I assure you that this matter is just a tempest in a teapot and I am in no actual physical danger. Actually, I find the situation rather amusing.
Most importantly, the screening will happen just as planned and scheduled.Thank you for your notes and calls of concern though. Rest assured J.X. is just blowing off some steam.
I get even more suspicious given the too-cute wording of the caveat at the J.X. Williams Archive (run by “Lawrence”)which provides a link to the blog:
It had come to our attention several months ago that someone identifying himself as J.X. Williams was posting messages on an Internet blog. Other writings attributed to Mr. Williams were posted on the Wikileaks website but taken down upon request of the Archive.
Upon further research, we can now affirm this blog is indeed authentic.
Nice. This shit is out of Sun Tsu, bubba.
Or am I just old and cranky? Could my suspicion about this enterprise stem from just an error of user-entered data in IMDB and my own bad attitude?
Right. I’ve heard that one before. I’m as smart as Fredo Corleone — can’t fool me. By the way, in “his” “post” on his “blog,” Williams cites a “book” that is in French, which I understand is a “language” spoken by “people” who “live” in some “country” supposedly called “France.” So is the linked page for the French critic who supposedly co-wrote it with “Lawrence.”
Are any of these people real? Is France real? Is this one of those situations where all your friends decide just to fuck with you they’re going to tell you, “Oh, you’ve never heard of Boner Patrol? Oh, they’re the cooooooooolest baaaaaaaaaaaand, man. You’re totally uncool for not having heard of them.”
‘Cause that’s how it feels. J.X. Williams is Boner Patrol.
But wait! Here’s supporting quotes about Williams from the “press,” courtesy of the screening’s description: Wednesday:
“A spiritual vortex of sub rosa Americana.” – Paul Cullum, The New York Times
“Underground movies cannot dig much deeper than those of J.X. Williams.” – Steve Dollar, The Wall Street Journal
“A musician friend once observed that the most intriguing artists don’t just create individual pieces; they’re iconic figures who project a philosophy or personality, a life force that becomes a conceptual umbrella covering everything they make. J.X. Williams, a cult filmmaker, conspiracy theorist, enemy of the Mafia and the FBI, and all-around outlaw visionary, is that sort of figure.” – Matt Zoller Seitz, Salon.com
…okeedokee. How can you argue with NY times articles that use Latin phrases, or guys from Salon calling someone an “outlaw visionary”? You know when Salon says (or maybe didn’t say) someone’s an outlaw visionary, it’s time to break out your ultra-trendy silkscreen rig and make some L.A. Death Trip t-shirts to wear to to the poetry slam so you can roll your eyes disgustedly and say “Oh, you’ve never heard of him?” when someone less cool than you asks what the fuck kind of asshattery that is on your t-shirt. Of course, if you made the guy up to begin with, that makes you even surer to be in on the in joke, while everyone is is not.
Anyway, here’s the short version of who the fuck this joker is supposed to be. It’s paraphrased from the Wikipedia article and a few other sources, including my own vast knowledge of who the fuck Johnny Rosselli is:
Probably best known for two of his later exploitation movies, 1975’s L.A. Death Trip and 1978’s You Axed For It!, filmmaker J.X. Williams’s past includes, according to his Wikipedia article, includes being blacklisted from his job in the Writers’ Division of RKA Studios when he refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, in the heady days of 1947.
Williams supposedly thereafter got involved with mobsters like Johnny Rosselli, the Chicago mobster who for a time ran Las Vegas for the Outfit. Rosselli put Williams “in charge of directing and distributing mob-funded nudie and pornographic films,” most of which have been lost. During this period, he is said to have claimed to continue working as a ghostwriter, writing (supposedly by his claim alone) some 72 produced films he was never credited for.
Williams started directing on the exploitation circuit in with 1965’s Peep Show, about a mob conspiracy to addict Frank Sinatra to heroin. His subsequent exploitation films included I, Jezebel (1966), E.S.P. Orgy (1967), Mondo Vietnam (1968), The Phantom of the Cinema (1969), and 1970’s The Virgin Sacrifice, said to be “a three-hour long Satanic horror epic.” Then came kaboom! (1973), L.A. Death Trip (1975), and You Axed For It! (1978). (You Axed For It! is also the title of a 1985 Mentors album.)
He also reportedly kept directing porn movies during this time, including the one a Wikipedia contributor claims is “Considered one of his best.” Yes, it’s true. You remember 1979’s tearjerker other than Kramer vs. Kramer? That’s one of his. I’m referring, of course, to Nunf*cker.
And as I was saying, if you’re at the Slamdance Festival in Park City, Utah, you can supposedly hit the presentation by J.X. Williams Archive curator Noel Lawrence. Does that lend credence to the idea that Peep Show is the only real movie on the Williams resume? Who the hell knows? Who the hell cares? Somebody does, and somebody does, but I’m no less in the dark the deeper I dig:
But the description at the Slamdance site goes a little something like this:
In this film program and live presentation, the J.X. Williams Archive opens it vault to screen a collection of rare cinematic artifacts from its holdings. Many of these fragments come from feature films that vanished decades ago. Others offer a sneak preview of works currently undergoing restoration. Alongside these rarities, we also will screen J.X. Williams’ underground classic “Peep Show” (1965).
The page also has a helpful bio of Williams, much more concise than mine:
J. X. Williams was a legendary bottom-of-the-barrel director in the fifties and sixties, pushed even lower by his Commie leanings. In the early sixties, he fell in with the Chicago mob, helming a number of shakedown films used to extort dough from debauched politicos and celebs. After a legal settlement in 1981 with several major film studios over copyright disputes, Mr. Williams moved to Zurich, Switzerland and retired from filmmaking. He is infamous for his reclusiveness and distaste for the public eye.
Is any of this real? Was there ever even a film called L.A. Death Trip, or has everyone from IMDB to some French people and some guy I’ve never heard plus AN ANONYMOUS BLOGSPOT BLOG conspired to mislead me as to the true nature of the underground exploitation grindcore renaissance of the 1970s?
Who knows? Who cares? Why bother?