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Shoot!

Radar Station looks for adventure on a video set

Here's a major truth about journalists: We pray for evil to befall other people. Oh, we're not malevolent, just lazy. No one wants to write (or read) a story about kittens playing with a big ball of yarn. Now, kittens chewing the eyeballs out of the skulls of little children in a burning orphanage -- that's a story. Stuff like murder, rapeand bombings writes itself. Everyone in the biz, even a weak sister of a journalist like a music writer, secretly wishes they were a war correspondent.

So when I heard that someone shot up the video shoot for J-Kwon's "Hood Hop," the first thing that went through my mind was: Why wasn't I there? Oh, the copy that would have spilled out! "On the front lines of the Fifth Police District, our man on the scene dodged gales of hot lead to get the real story on gangland clashes in the St. Louis music scene. In a move some consider to be a breach of objective journalism, this reporter literally disarmed one assailant to save the lives of countless onlookers." Or something like that. Even though it now looks like just a little bit of random gunfire, probably inspired by being stuck in traffic, I was sorely disappointed that the opportunity to be a crime writer passed by.

Sure, I was at the Fall concert at the Creepy Crawl earlier this month, which was so bad it ought to be considered a crime against humanity, but I never get to cover real crime.

I wasn't going to make that mistake again, so upon hearing that Murphy Lee was going to be filming a video for his song "Hold Up" this past Friday, I knew I had to go.

For those of you holding your breath in anticipation of thrilling gunplay, you should know that the Murph video went off without a hitch. No drive-bys, no ninjas, no paratrooper robot assassins. Damn. Maybe J-Kwon and the other St. Louisans planning video shoots in the Lou ought to take note of a few things:

1) Murph filmed his video in one of the palatial homes on Lindell across from Forest Park. While that does increase your chances of crazed joggers going nuts from dehydration and running amok, very few of them are packing heat.

2) Security was tight at the shoot. I had to talk my way past a few security guards before I was allowed on the set. Although, now that I think of it, no one asked me for ID until I was well inside the action, and no one ever searched my book bag for heavy artillery. So next time you want to shoot up a video, impersonate me.

3) J-Kwon filmed "Hood Hop" at a vacant lot next to a liquor store. Don't do that.

Without the adrenaline of bullets to energize the set, I had to make do with the more prosaic thrills of showbiz. The house was modern in style, both gorgeous and tacky. The same could be said for the women used as set dressing. They lounged around the pool in the backyard in short shorts and high heels, heavy make-up and heavier bling. With their small clothes and big booties, they were every feminist's worst nightmare and every rapper's dream. Around them, the dozens of people it takes to film a three-minute video clip buzzed, moving cameras, adjusting angles and looking just as busy as the ladies looked languorous.

The sad secret of things like video shoots is that they sound a lot more fun than they are. In fact, they function pretty well as a metaphor for life: long stretches of repetition and monotony punctuated by brief thrills. At first, suddenly realizing that you're standing next to Nelly feels pretty cool. Watching Nelly, Murph and the rest of the St. Lunatics mouth the words to a 30-second snatch of song over and over again for 45 minutes is pretty damn dull. When the performers took a break, I was told by a matter-of-fact publicist that I couldn't have any interviews. She said it was because of the tight schedule, but watching the stars sitting around drinking Pimp Juice (being pushed heavily in the video), I suspected that it was because she didn't want me asking Nelly about the multimillion-dollar lawsuit the group Vokalfiled against him earlier in the week, claiming he stole the name for his clothing line from them.

Which, to be fair, was my plan. So it was back to watching the extras prance around the pool. That wasn't horrible, but still, this is why we pray for gunfire. Music writers in New York City are so lucky.


B-Sides: Longtime RFT freelancer Roy Kasten is the bomb. You know it, I know it. Now the world at large is going to know it. Roy's wonderful piece on Nina Simone, "Wild Is the Wind," originally published in these pages last April 30, has been selected by Da Capo to appear in The Best Music Writing '04. (You can read the piece at www.riverfronttimes.com/issues/2003-04-30/music3.html/1/index.html). It's great to see Roy getting the props he deserves.

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