Come Fly With Me Nude is the story of mutual muses Dom Casual & Bella Hagen, two San Francisco artists struggling to find their audience in a world grown increasingly homogenized. They are also struggling with some personal issues that – whether they realize it or not – fuel their art. Bella never quite confronted the heartache of having to abandon her dream of following in the high-heeled footsteps of her showgirl mother, Sparkle (“the poor thing just didn’t get my height!”); Dom has yet to confront his homosexuality. In their mind’s eye San Francisco looks as it did in the late 50s, complete with “music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air”. The Beat Movement is still alive and well. Dom & Bella intend to see to it.
Before their meeting, their individual artistic endeavors produced a steady stream of failed gallery exhibits (for Bella) and theatrical stage shows (for Dom). But they persist and realize that together they can write and “interpret” poetry, the likes of which the world has never known. Even their solo artistic endeavors soar as a result of their having found in each other a muse. When a television executive offers them a shot at commercial success, Dom & Bella have wildly different reactions – threatening to destroy their artistic partnership.
As we candidly follow the characters’ struggle to gain recognition and redemption — interspersed with powerful performances by their fellow poets — we witness them persevering through their alternative lives as they head towards crisis and – finally – triumph over adversity.
CFWMN first emerged in 1993, as a response to the proliferation of poetry ‘zines in San Francisco at that time; most of which were filled with rantings that would be better left in a diary. Or a therapist’s office.
Diane Karagienakos Todd Pickering wrote (and performed) “Beat” poetry on bar-naps over drinks after their restaurant job in North Beach, subjecting coworkers and fellow after-hour drinkers to their “art”; often to bribes of free drinks if they’d stop — and a great deal of laughter. They knew they were on to something. These poems were compiled into the book, “Come Fly With Me Nude”. Over 40 copies were sold both at the North Beach Festival, and at City Lights Bookstore, not coincidentally owned by Beat icon Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
During 1998-2000, while Diane was living in Australia, she and Todd wrote a series of letters in the voices of mutual muses Dom & Bella. Thus was born the stage show, “Come Fly With Me Nude”, which began as a reading of these letters. First performed in January 2003, the monthly show was a fundraiser for the film project. Their willingness to push the envelope with each successive performance lead to a full-length show, which won Best of the 2004 San Francisco Fringe Festival, as well as winning in the “Best Musical Comedy” category.
The show is an assault on the experimental theatre we’ve all had to sit through and not laugh at, because it wasn’t meant to be funny. It’s a love letter to SF; to the artists, intellectuals, and Beats whose spirit and influence can still be felt in the streets, alleys, bars, and coffeehouses of North Beach; to people who wear black and berets and smoke and discuss philosophy over coffee at 8 am; to the people of the world who have the courage to follow their dream, and who make the world a more interesting place. Okay, and we’re also having a poke at artists who lack an inner critic, who take themselves (and their art) entirely too seriously.
Let it not be lost that Dom & Bella are, even more than artists, humans. They hurt when they are rejected. They rejoice at the inspiration they get from life’s everyday banality that the rest of us overlook. It is first and foremost a story of perseverance, of overcoming adversity, a story of the human spirit, and the power of friendship.
THE LOOK OF THE FILM
Our movie opens and closes with Dom & Bella being interviewed on the talk show “The Art of Conversation”. It’s clear they are successful artists now. But how did they meet? How did they become the world-renowned artists sitting before us? This is what segues’ us into the narrative of the film, which is a flashback of one year earlier. As we all tend to romanticize our memories, so do Dom & Bella. But being artists, they really romanticize their memories. So their telling of their story is seen in black and white, in the cinematography style of the French New Wave films such as The 400 Blows, Breathless and Sundays and Cybele. The movie was shot on mini DV at 24p to give a more film-like feel. Once distribution is secured, the movie will be blown to 35mm film, and this will make this a more seamless process.