Movie Review: Wanted: New Talent! The Walt Gollender Story
Life is art. Whether or not we’ve created anything that may be called “art” in our days on this planet, we are, at any given moment, the sum total of our lives up to and including that moment. All of us are here as our own little piece of the grand puzzle of life.
Mike Z is a guy who is known for making fake documentaries, or as he calls them hoaxes. He makes no bones about this. He’s not someone who goes around denying what kinds of films of directs. You may watch one of his films and be fooled that they are true documentaries, but they are soon revealed to be fictions and he will gladly tell you about their phoniness. His website even lists them all.
Mike Z is also a filmmaker whom when he sends you an email that he’s sending you a new movie, a one-hour film about “show business,” you greet that news by calling in sick to work for a week, sit by your front window and hurl vicious, cruel and abusive epithets at the mailman until he brings you that goddamn DVD! This isn’t just any DVD. This is an event!
Then, when you’ve finally gotten and are done watching that sucker, you pick your jaw up off the ground after having been totally blitzed by an hour of pure reality-expanding brilliance and send Mike Z an email to blubber your praise in as incoherent a manner you can because your mind can’t even completely process what you’ve just witnessed yet.
And he has the nerve, the sheer balls-out audacity to say that The Walt Gollender Story is not a hoax, that Walt is indeed a real person. And you don’t know! You don’t fucking know! Mike Z has no reason to lie to me. (that I know of…) Am I the victim of his biggest, most demented hoax yet? Or do I just believe the guy? Yes, Walt Gollender is a real person and he’s just told me the story of his life.
Walt sits patiently, for an hour, and describes not his entire life, but the parts he feels are relevant. He alludes to several times to a traumatic childhood, which would be fascinating to hear, but, dear listener, he doesn’t want to go into that business.
His life starts sometimes in the ’40s when he becomes obsessed with Al Alberts and the Original Four Aces. As for myself, having been raised in southern New Jersey, the name “Al Alberts” comes with the implication of his legendary Sunday morning Showcase show out of Philadelphia. But that’s a business I don’t want to get into here…
Walt’s obsession with Alberts gets him thinking that he’d like to get into music, too. But not as a performer, but as a songwriter and as a professional “talent scout.” Scouting, though, also involves talent shaping: Finding a singer, pairing him with a great song, pressing a record and getting it on the radio and “up the charts.” After failing to find success in 1963 with a crooner named Jimmy Miller and a Walt-penned cha-cha tune, the budding musicman is not discouraged and moves on to other businesses, chiefly cheap recording studios where young hopefulls can belt their little hearts out.
The tale of Walt’s life is littered with copious amounts of detail, including addresses, diners and other sundry locations of his past (but not too far past). Yet, amid all that detail the later years of his career are sketchy in my own memory. I remember the places he talked about, but not totally what went on there. Walt returns continuously to how he somehow got the writers of the song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” together, but I’m still not so sure how he did it.
But, does it matter? Walt is very chipper throughout the entire piece, but one can’t help but feel that there’s a rueful lilt in his voice that there is no grand claim to fame in his life. But we don’t need justification of our actions. It just matters that we have our own peace with them. Walt’s peace should be that he’s so damn fascinating to listen to. The film is simple on the surface — just a close head-shot of Walt with some old photographic cutaways thrown here and there. But the yarns Walt spins about his life is a robust, complex work of art.
More on this film: Watch This Underground Movie Online