Straight Life

On Saturday, I’m filming a four minute section from Straight Life by Art Pepper. Eight years ago, I was asked to read it at a cabaret night hosted by Alan Fraser, a jazz saxophonist from Charlbury.

Art Pepper (1925-1982) was one of the greatest ever alto sax players. He was a man with genius accompanied by human flaws. He lived a life. It involved, jail, heroin, drink and three wives.

The bit I read, the speech Alan gave me, is about performing. About how, whatever shit is going on in your life, however bad your life is, whatever is dragging you down, you leave it all behind and go up there and DO IT.

I love it. I’ve done it as an audition piece for many years. For many years I did it without success, although people generally did like the piece. More recently, I have performed it as an audition speech with varying degrees of success, and also as a performance piece at various spoken word evenings run by friends.

I’ve been waiting for the time to be right to film it to use as a showreel piece. Shamus Maxwell, a film director friend is the man for the job. I’ve got the location, The Fir Tree on the Iffley Road. It should be shadowy and flickery, with wood panels, signs for tobacco and alcohol from the 1950s. That’s the Fir.

I thought I should ask permission, so I tracked down Laurie Pepper, Art’s third wife. Fifteen minutes after I sent my email, she replied, saying ‘Hell, yeah’ She said that she was making a film of Art’s life at the moment. A major studio was involved, and Johnny Depp was being lined up to play Art, but then the studio started playing with the script, and they weren’t interested in her input. Laurie said, It’s Art’s story, it’s her story, and she pulled out and is now filming it herself, putting chapters up on YouTube as she goes.

Because Art’s life was a drug and alcohol-fuelled trip, and at times very surreal, she said she might weave my piece into the film if it works, or at least link my film to hers on her website. If it’s ok with me. I got straight back to her and said… ‘Hell, yeah!’
Art Pepper gets it right