Jackie Hell: Used-Up Beauty
David Latimer's stage persona, Jackie Hell, stars in unhinged spectacles—with bleary dancing and words, and strange songs that are upsetting and hilarious. Propelled by jerky energy, unrealized fantasies, and violent drugs, Jackie's character has "a grotesque figure," and to evaporate into her, David rings his body with taped-together pillows. "If I add to myself, I can't see myself," he says, and he sustains this transformation with a collection of Jackie-appropriate masquerades.
Lyrics sometimes address her fashion requirements directly. "Expensive" describes a specific outfit, worn to an all-you-can-eat shrimp scampi buffet at Red Lobster: a beige jacket with matching pumps—the better to strut through another abasing journey with. The song's callouts inventory treasured items: butterfly tattoos, cans of Almond Roca, yellow silk roses.
To shape his vision, David draws from Looney Tunes, Elizabeth Taylor in her "glamorous bender" stage, and "the real version of Jackie Hell," a woman with "big teased-up hair" he'd see, pairing sweatpants with high heels, and "everyone was always trying to ignore her because she was crazy... We didn't know her name, but we called her D'Lulu." He shops for Jackie at Value Village, Pretty Parlor, and Red Light, watching for chunky faux-pearls and rhinestone-bejeweled cruise wear. Kicky and seductive, a giant T-shirt dress is netted with latticing cutouts, and clicky beads festoon the hem. For fantasy slumber parties: an oversized Alf T-shirt, layered with a hookery baby-doll duster in tomato orange.
Finishing the looks, Jackie's headwear accessories include a sequin-caked visor or a dime-store clown mask set to a jaunty angle and worn as a hat. Her wig is ravaged, half falling off, and manages to appear matted and wind-wild at once. It represents the condition of her soul: "I would wear it backward, so you could see the tag on my forehead."
Jackie perpetuates a used-up beauty, which is more powerful because it shows what's been lost. Her presence recalls Jean Nathan's book, detailing a chance street encounter with the fading Dare Wright: "The look on her face was blank. She was wearing high heels and a tight black dress. It looked like it was left over from the night before." And Jean Stein's book describes gorgeous Edie Sedgwick, who "went through stages where she was very unclean" and inside she was broken: "Sex to her... was about as useful as when I gave her a bath or combed her hair or helped her across the street; I was like a Boy Scout. But she was very drugged. How much can a dead body enjoy a piece of sex?"
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