Coming of Age

1976–1985: Punk to Pomo, Basquiat to Breakdancing

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March 10, 1980

One of the many vital things about the dance upheaval of the '60s was that choreographers began to think about perception and to goad (often with alarming literalness) audiences into seeing dance differently. I doubt if—pre-Judson—we would have known what to make of a piece like Blauvelt Mountain, made and performed by Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane. Now when we sit in the open, dimly lit space of ATL, looking at an uneven wall of cinder blocks and the figures of two men in black huddled in front of it, we are prepared for—well, perhaps, anything. . . . The theatre becomes an urban clearing in which some rite inexplicably vital to us all is taking place. We do not demand to understand the "meaning" of what they're doing at every second or strain to hear a sotto voce conversation the way we might in a large proscenium theatre; we do not sigh over repetition or wonder if carrying bricks is dancing. We do delight in noticing that we can never see the "same" movement twice, that it is always changing either because of context or because of humanness. And we see the performers at close range—close to eyes, minds, hearts.

There is something immaculate about the rhythm of Jones and Zane together. In move-stop, move-stop sequence of beautifully chosen simple poses on the floor, they make their changes with such economy that you see no extra little preparations or adjustments. Suddenly they have moved. But not with shrillness or mechanical precision—with the power and control of big cats. Jones, with his long limbs and lithe body, is a master of flashing through space and yet seeming to caress the place he lands, as if he can invisibly grade down and refocus his own impetus.

One of the things that the two appear to be most interested in is the changing appearances of things that are superficially the same. Jones's move-pose sequence is one thing when he performs it while Zane is running through another phrase, another thing when he performs it with Zane's complementary floor sequence, another thing when the two separate in space, another when he is faster and tireder. And with each alteration, the movement becomes more interesting; by the end of the evening it could be famous.
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Death of a Playmate

By Teresa Carpenter

November 5, 1980.

This article won the Pulitzer Prize and inspired the Bob Fosse film Star 80.

It is shortly past four in the afternoon and Hugh Hefner glides wordlessly into the library of his Playboy Mansion West. He is wearing pajamas and looking somber in green silk. The incongruous spectacle of a sybarite in mourning. To date, his public profession of grief has been contained in a press release: "The death of Dorothy Stratten comes as a shock to us all. . . . As Playboy's Playmate of the Year with a film and television career of increasing importance, her professional future was a bright one. But equally sad to us is the fact that her loss takes from us all a very special member of the Playboy family."

That's all. A dispassionate eulogy from which one might conclude that Miss Stratten died in her sleep of pneumonia. One, certainly, which masked the turmoil her death created within the Organization. During the morning hours after Stratten was found nude in a West Los Angeles apartment, her face blasted away by 12-gauge buckshot, editors scrambled to pull her photos from the upcoming October issue. It could not be done. The issues were already run. So they pulled her ethereal blond image from the cover of the 1981 Playmate Calendar and promptly scrapped a Christmas promotion featuring her posed in the buff with Hefner. Other playmates, of course, have expired violently. Wilhelmina Rietveld took a massive overdose of barbiturates in 1973. Claudia Jennings, known as "Queen of the B-Movies," was crushed to death last fall in her Volkswagen convertible. Both caused grief and chagrin to the self-serious "family" of playmates whose aura does not admit the possibility of shaving nicks and bladder infections, let alone death.

But the loss of Dorothy Stratten sent Hefner and his family into seclusion, at least from the press. For one thing, Playboy has been earnestly trying to avoid any bad national publicity that might threaten its application for a casino license in Atlantic City. But beyond that, Dorothy Stratten was a corporate treasure. She was not just any playmate but the "Eighties' first Playmate of the Year" who, as Playboy trumpeted in June, was on her way to becoming "one of the few emerging film goddesses of the new decade."

She gave rise to extravagant comparisons with Marilyn Monroe, although unlike Monroe, she was no cripple. She was delighted with her success and wanted more of it. Far from being brutalized by Hollywood, she was coddled by it. . . . " Playboy has not really had a star," says Stratten's erstwhile agent David Wilder. "They thought she was going to be the biggest thing they ever had."

No wonder Hefner grieves.

"The major reason that I'm . . . that we're both sittin' here," says Hefner, "that I wanted to talk about it, is because there is still a great tendency . . . for this thing to fall into the classic cliche of 'small-town girl comes to Playboy, comes to Hollywood, life in the fast lane, and that somehow was related to her death. And that is not what really happened. A very sick guy saw his meal ticket and his connection to power, whatever, etc. slipping away. And it was that that made him kill her."

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