Stanze's Two-Step

Master of extreme video gore scandalized by shocking profile of his work

Jul 10, 2002 at 4:00 am
A friend writes:

"The Riverfront Times has become a trashy tabloid masquerading as a newspaper. Your fist-in-the-air, defiant-but-uneducated 'journalism' is an embarrassment to this community.... The RFT has proven that the St. Louis media lacks the maturity to objectively and intelligently write about what I do."

One is forgiven for guessing that Archbishop Justin Rigali wrote these words, expressing moral indignation at yet another gratuitous "fuck" carelessly tossed into RFT copy. Perhaps it's a restaurateur from the Hill, outraged by another barbed food review that compares the taste of grated Parmesan cheese to Boraxo and bran farts.

Surely it must be Cardinals principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr., peeved about this paper's continual pissing in the punchbowl of his favorite charity -- himself, his partners and their ceaseless desire to get public money funneled into a new stadium.

Maybe that favorite Speedloader whipping boy, rookie Mayor Francis Slay, finally got fed up with the incessant drumbeat of criticism about his anemic record and the thuggish ways of his minions. Takes more than maturity, objectivity and intelligence to write about what Frankie the Saint does, though -- an electron microscope and a gallon of Visine are the only hope.

Grand guesses all. But they each draw a "nope" and a "no sir."

None of those upright and uptight St. Louis citizens is the friend in question.

The man who penned this mighty blast is Eric Stanze, the most successful filmmaker in St. Louis, a man of deliberate anonymity in his hometown but well known in film circles for his excruciatingly gory splatter 'n' horror videos [Eddie Silva, "Bloodwork," June 19]. Seems Brother Stanze is a bit piqued with the RFT over a graphic profile of himself and his violent work.

Stanze takes umbrage at a story that juxtaposes a serious consideration of him and his crew with unflinching descriptions of several unblinkingly horrifying scenes from his videos -- a woman shredded to ribbons while being dragged down a gravel road behind a pickup truck, her wounds salted by her torturer, is one; a butt-rape with a broomstick is another.

Strong stuff, just south of a snuff flick, released to a limited audience of aficionados of the ultragory and horrific. No argument from the Speedloader about maintaining Stanze's unfettered right to work this narrow, bile-inducing avenue of expression. It's still a semifree country, Jack, with quasi-free speech, despite Attorney General John Ashcroft's attempts to shred the Constitution in the name of homeland security.

But Stanze's strident, whiny Ladue-matron imitation is just a little hard to take. Makes you want to holler -- or slap him upside his shiny, shaved noggin.

Take a gander:

"We came off like mean-spirited, nasty pornographers with a mission to offend.... Not only did this make it seem as if we sit around focusing on porn and gore, but it left out the things that really matter to us: the teamwork we display when we make a movie and the genuine support we show each other as we try to make our artistic voices heard."

Time for a pop quiz. While watching your basic blood-splattered broomstick butt-rape, do these three phrases -- teamwork, support, artistic voice -- automatically pop into your brainpan? If so, Josef Mengele is holding for you on line two, long-distance.

Something about some boys from Brazil.

Another gem: "In the article, Mr. Silva lovingly detailed some very nasty stuff in lurid, through-the-keyhole detail. He did not give the context for these scenes.... As a result, the reader did not understand what we do or who we are... they just got a faceful of porn and violence.

"I also criticized Mr. Silva for printing such adult material in a free paper that can be picked up and read by anyone, of any age. Children read that story.... My movies are marketed to a specific audience that is forewarned of the content. Your paper is free and distributed on a mainstream level. Including adult material in that article was astoundingly irresponsible. And very amateurish."

Kindly allow Mr. Nesbitt's alter ego, the Speedloader, to lovingly fit that shoe full of porn and violence on your foot, Mr. Stanze -- and throw down on your attempt to ride a high horse of ridiculous moralizing and hair-splitting. To suggest that labeling and limiting the distribution of your work somehow puts you on a higher plane of propriety and righteousness than the RFT is rank horseshit.

Good of you to remind us that the paper is free and widely distributed, available to a wide demographic array of readers. But those same readers turn to the RFT for aggressive, hard-hitting stories they rarely find in the Post-Dispatch, are accustomed to the paper's in-your-face approach and hit back hard when they feel a line has been crossed. And that is a mark of something all too rare in this era of freeze-dried media pap -- a readership that is fully engaged with the paper they read; delighted, outraged, disgusted, amused and bemused by what they find inside.

Your work and this paper, Mr. Stanze, are both entries in that grand game known as capitalism. It's worth noting that one of your videos, I Spit on Your Corpse, I Piss on Your Grave, jumped from number five to number three on the bestseller list after the RFT ran that story on you. But hold the thanks for later.

Atlas shrugged, and Ayn Rand is proud.

If there wasn't a market for your videos, they wouldn't sell, and you wouldn't get the money to make more of them. If the RFT didn't sell ads, its readers wouldn't get hard-hitting stories of depth and context on subjects as diverse as political queen bee Joyce Aboussie, sexual harassment in the Overland Police Department or yourself and your crew of video artists.

And, yes, the RFT runs those nasty sex ads in the back of the book where Savage Love resides, but they hardly measure up to the megashock of the gore and sexual violence found in your work.

Sex sells, right?

So does violence.

And death is inevitable.

Another inevitability is the convenient target those sex ads make for high-hatted moralists and folks with little else to do in life except traffic in wild conspiracy theories. If the Speedloader had a dollar for every instance he has heard these tired bleats, he'd have enough money to buy up every paper in the chain that owns the RFT and make it his personal fiefdom.

All that said, the most chapping aspect of your complaint is its misunderstood-artist pose. You may fancy yourself an artist with worldwide chops and reputation, but you come off like a St. Louis homeboy, full of the same sanctimonious clucking and posturing that occurs any time the unvarnished truth gets told in this town of tight-asses and two-faced whiners.

Better that you make your videos and stand tall behind them, as you do on the cover of the RFT. The Speedloader will back that stance to the hilt.