I was recently telling the director of the West Virginia Library
Commission about the most honored series of films ever made inside the
state – WVPBS’ “A Different Drummer” series. Legend has it that it beat
out Ken Burns’ landmark series, “The Civil War,” at an international PBS
competition held annually in Ireland.
At least one of the films, “Dancing Outlaw,” has won an Emmy and the
film was recently chosen by Facets Multimedia in Chicago, the leading
distributor of foreign films on DVD, as “one of the greatest 100
American documentaries.” It was also chosen by Oxford American as one of
“the essential documentaries made about the South.”
Part of one film, “Dr. No,“ was shown on CNN after the Oklahoma City
Bombing took place – the film is about Dr. Richard Pierce, the author of
“The Turner Diaries,” a book found in Tim McVeigh’s car after the
bombing. Another film, “Dreams of Gesundheit” is about Dr. Patch Adams,
who was played by Robin Williams in the inspirational film, “Patch.”
“Heretics” is about two of the most famous nuns in the world, winners of
many awards, attacked by the Pope himself, and authors of a book, “No
Last summer the assistant director of the Port of Newark called me at
home at night after calling everyone else in the world – WVPBS, FCC,
etc. – trying to track down “A Glitch in the System,” a portrait of a WV
chemical plant owner, Elmer Fike. He told me that it was “the best
portrait of someone fighting the system he had ever seen….” He had
somehow seen it at a training workshop, and since he was retiring soon,
wanted to buy a copy for this staff as a legacy.
“Point Man for God” is an amazing profile of Bernard Coffindaffer, a man
obsessed with posting three crosses around the Eastern United States. It
won top place in a film competition sponsored by the Division of Culture
& History, with Les Blank as the judge.
Coffindaffer, like A. James Manchin, is dead. “Your Public Servant, A.
James Manchin” was used to make a second film by the same director, John
Nakashima, “A. James Manchin – the Final Accounting” that was shown
recently on WVPBS after Mr. Manchin died.
“The Amazing Dolores” is very much alive, but doesn’t like to travel.
This portrait of singer Dolores Boyd shows “a lady with a love for
fashion, her voice has been likened to that of Janis Joplin with a
phrasing of Van Morrison and an imagery similar to Captain Beefheart's.
She has the soul of Little Richard and the dance moves of Tina Turner.”
Mark Samels, director of several of the programs and co-worker on most
of them, is now the senior producer at WGBH’s “The American Experience”
series. He told me that a producer for Errol Morris, perhaps the most
interesting documentary filmmaker in the world today (“The Fog of War,”
“The Thin Blue Line,” “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control”), saw some of the
episodes and compared them favorably to Morris’ work. I myself have said
from the beginning that it is the single most interesting series of
portraits of local people that I have ever seen anywhere!
As I recall, they were only broadcast once – maybe twice – on WVPBS. I
know that one senior WVPBS official was outraged at the portrait of
Dolores Boyd. I know that its director, and director of the most famous
episode, and indeed, the most famous portrait of its kind ever made –
“Dancing Outlaw,” was given a week to leave his office at WVPBS. Now all
but one of the people who created the series is gone, most out of state
My hope is that these films will all be re-released – just as Daniel
Boyd’s WV 3 feature films are going to be re-released soon. Thankfully
WVLC has the ONLY complete public access set of the films – with a few
being found around the state, especially at the national award-winning
Pocahontas County Free Libraries system that specializes in
Appalachian/West Virginian films.
A Different Drummer SERIES
29 M. (each) 1989 VHS WNPB-TV Series includes:
AMAZING DELORES - 45-year-old Charlestonian, Delores Boyd has been
Delores” by musicians and audiences alike. A lady with a love for
fashion, her voice has been
likened to that of Janis Joplin with a phrasing of Van Morrison and an
imagery similar to Captain
Beefheart’s. She has the soul of Little Richard and the dance moves of
APPALACHIAN JUNKUMENTARY - They dot the mountains and valleys of
Appalachia-fields of old, decaying automobiles resting in this year’s
crop of weeds. This
documentary takes us to six Appalachian junkyards where dealers talk
freely about the junk
ARTHURDALE - Eleanor Roosevelt came to WV during the Great Depression to
help the poor
people. She helped found a community that was named in her honor. This
award-winning film by
Ross Watne is one of the best historical films ever made in the state.
It is also one of the best short
films on our country’s greatest First Lady.
DANCING OUTLAW - One of four American programs chosen for the 1991
Festival of New York at the Museum of Modern Art. Jesse White from Boone
County, WV calls
himself the “last mountain dancer” White believes that his late daddy
left mountain dancing as a way
for him to stay free.
DOCTOR NO - Dr. William Pierce, author of the Turner Diaries and one of
the senior figures of
the American ultra right and of the world white supremacist movement has
converted some people
with his violent racist writings. He is currently attempting to build a
new community in West Virginia
to further his mission to “save the white race.”
DREAMS OF GESUNDHEIT - Following graduation from the Medical College of
1971, Hunter “Patch” Adams, M.D. and his associates operated alternative
health care clinics which
treated over 15,000 people for free. For the last few years, he has
devoted himself entirely to
fundraising for a long-dreamed-about health community. His Gesundheit
institute is being built in
Hillsboro, in Pocahontas County, WV.
FLEABAG - For more than two decades Charleston WV’s beloved roughly
millionaire Frankie Veltri, who admits that he can neither read nor
write has helped and sheltered
the homeless. He shows you around his Holley Hotel, scheduled for
demolition by the City. “This is
not a first class hotel,” he says, “it’s a fleabag hotel. What you see
is what you get.”
GLITCH IN THE SYSTEM - Elmer Fike, former owner and plant manager of a
company in Nitro, WV, as been an outspoken opponent of government
regulations for years. This
fact, coupled with his business tactics and media exposure after
appearing on a CBS documentary
entitled “The Politics of Cancer” finally lead him to a battle with the
EPA. The EPA arrived at the
plant in June of 1988 and were overwhelmed with the task before them.
The cleanup estimate is 26
million dollars and 4 - 5 years.
HAMMER ON THE SLAMMER - On three separate occasions, professional prison
Donald Bordenkircher was called in to restore order after riots had
broken out at the WV State
Penitentiary in 1972 and 1979, and at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in
1976. Formerly U. S.
Director of Prisons to the Republic of South Vietnam under combat
conditions, this Coschocton,
Ohio native is known for his firmly established principles and
HERETICS - Former Catholic nuns, Barbara Ferraro and Pat Hussey are
Covenant House, a Charleston WV social services agency. Since 1985 they
have struggled openly
with the predominately male Catholic hierarchy over failing to recant
signing a petition asking that
the issue of abortion be opened to discussion by the Church. They have
authored a book about their struggles entitled No Turning Back.
MISTER D -PERIOD.- “Sug” Davis was born James E. Davis. He is a
self-taught man who is
capable of painting or drawing anything that comes into his mind. He has
turned his Charleston, WV
apartment into his own gallery where normal household items such as lamp
and window shades,
tables and TV stand all become works of art.
POINT MAN FOR GOD - In 1984, Bernard Coffindaffer had a vision. As the
millionaire lay recovering from open-heart surgery in a hospital bed, he
claims a voice told him to
erect sets of crosses across the Mountain State. True to his vision, and
exceeding it, nearly 1,500
cross clusters have popped up in 18 states, from New Jersey to Indiana
to Texas to Florida.
TED AND SARAH - Ted and Sarah Hotchkiss have left the “middle-class”
so-called “good life”
for a tar-paper shack in a remote hollow in West Virginia. Their
lifestyle is not unlike people in the
third world. “In this country,” says Ted, “it is better to be on the
bottom. If you can’t get very rich
then get very poor. But for God’s sake don’t stay in the middle.
YOUR PUBLIC SERVANT: A. JAMES MANCHIN - At 61, WV Treasurer of State, A.
James Manchin, prides himself as among the last of the great
constitution-thumping populists in
America. Never one to be contained by the rules he disagrees with,
Manchin pushes state government to the limits, usually followed by a
storm of controversy.
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