Friday, July 1, 2011

Thursday Night in the East Village: Epix Movie Free-for-All presents "Raging Bull" introduced by Don King at Tompkins Square Park

We got to Tompkins Square Park around 8 p.m. on Thursday to see the first in what's called Epix Movie Free-For-All screenings -- this one, of Martin Scorsese's classic Raging Bull, starring Robert DeNiro as Jake LaMotta, and introduced by the still-around, best-known boxing promoter ever, Don King.

When we got there, the band Odetta & Gryphon were playing -- well, at the moment they were asking if anyone in the audience could re-string a guitar. Actually, they were quite good, and fetchingly winsome, and it had been a long time since we'd seen anyone successfully play the musical saw.

Epix is a giant company, or seems to be, that we had never heard from before. Epix is sponsoring a series of screenings of movies in city parks this summer, and we guess this was the first. They certainly were spending money here on all sorts of stuff. There as an additional screen in the grassy space, weird but mystical attractions for kids (a Wii-type video game booth, a baroque little carousel, video screens, free cotton candy), lots of attractions for adults, too, and probably never so much corporate presence in Tompkins Square Park of '60s counterculture corporate revulsion history.

They seem to be a premium TV channel sort of like HBO with movies and exciting live events. After Odetta & Gryphon left the stage (we'd missed an earlier band, Raging Bluegrass), an announcer/MC announced the many, many winners of what seemed like actually valuable prizes in a contest. The winners seemed happy. The MC at one point called the venue Thompson Square Park.

The great and legendary Don King lived up to his reputation by delivering a bombastic, rambling, hyperpatriotic talk (he carried a mess of flags, of which we could name only those of the good old U.S.A. and Israel) about Raging Bull, which he called a masterpiece "not just about boxing but about life" although he seemed to think its moral could be boiled down to something like "don't be so jealous about your woman."

He wore a star-spangled denim jacket, his hair looked whiter and more subdued, he pronounced "pummeled" with the accent on the final syllable, he quoted the Bard of Avon (we hope young'uns understood that that meant Shakespeare), and was just so adorable and charming that you immediately wanted to adopt him as your grandfather. One of our grandfathers used to smoke cigars in the park, too.

And, of yes, he praised the Epix people and their mission a whole lot. Did we mention their visionary leader, Mark Greenberg? From what we heard last night, he is a fine person and we hope he soon will be leading the polls among presidential candidates in the Iowa Republican caucuses. We're not kidding.

There was a really nice short beforehand, I Never Blamed the Beautiful Game, presented by the fine organization, Rooftop Films, which also should be running for president, or at least governor of Maine. The only drawback to tonight's event is that it seemed to have discombobulated Tompkins Square Park's venerable mentally ill residents, some of whom had the tendency to pop up here and there, sometimes in pairs, to rant a little. Well, they're certainly entitled, and Jake LaMotta would have approved.

Of the main event of the evening, Raging Bull, we can add nothing. It's amazing. We first saw it on December 31, 1980, New Year's Eve, at Century's Fresh Meadows Theater (you can read our book A Year in Rockaway: 1980, currently ranking #3,841,187 on Amazon bestsllers, to find out more).

We knew immediately back then that it was one of the greatest films ever made, and we're grateful to Epix for giving it to us as a gift, along with Don King and all the other stuff, here in the East Village on this beautiful night thirty years and six months later. If we ever get cable TV, we'll definitely sign up for Epix. And you should too, people. You'll never get them down, Ray. Ya hear us? Never get them down.

Youtube video courtesy of insidehoops

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