In the words of Johnny Russell, “there’s no other place I’d rather be than right here, with my red necks, white socks and blue ribbon beer.” Although you can certainly swap out “white socks” for “White Sox” if you’ve been to the 500 level at Guaranteed Rate Field- certainly a red neck or two to be found there.
Red neck culture is more relevant than ever, and in 2016 we learned just how powerful a voting block hillbillies truly are. You can ignore them all you want (after all much of what they stand for sociopolitically is morally deplorable and egregiously regressive), but you do so at your own peril.
Here in Chicago, a place so blue that it makes us forget how almost everything else in Illinois is deeply red, you don’t get a lot of real opportunities to learn about red neck culture. Tuesday, June 18th presents a golden opportunity as “Joe Bob Briggs: How Rednecks Saved Hollywood” screens at the Music Box Theatre (3733 N Southport Ave).
It’s all part of next week’s Cinepocalypse Film Festival at the Music Box Theatre
The festival, (full line-up and ticket info here) which runs from June 13th-20th, centers mostly around films of the macabre, but it also has a specific theme this year- heavy metal music. There’s also a lot of ‘90s nostalgia films, but this red neck documentary is certainly is a category and genre all its own.
The story is told by John Bloom, who is better known by his alter ego, “Joe Bob Briggs,” a nationally syndicated “drive-in movie critic” whose sardonic takes on B-movies was featured on The Movie Channel and then later on TNT.
A former Daily Show correspondent, the Little Rock native (who currently resides in New York) now has a show on AMC.
The show consists of about 200 video clips and stills over the course of a really rapid two hours.
“It’s comedy, film history, history, it has a cult element, it’s a complete show that is hard to characterize,” Briggs told us in an exclusive interview by phone on Tuesday.
“It’s a one of a kind show that I’ve done all over the country.”
Joe Bob Briggs is also an accomplished investigative journalist, actor, and author. He’s published nine books and earned himself a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize by UPI for his work on 9/11. And he’s greatly looking forward to his first visit to the Music Box- a venue that he’s been told, repeatedly, would serve as the perfect place to do his show.
“It’s obviously a cult movie temple, because everyone regards it as the place that I should talk about cult movies,” he said.
“So I’m stoked to see and do the show there, cuz I know it has this hard core cult audience.”
Here’s some of what you’ll take away from “Joe Bob Briggs: How Rednecks Saved Hollywood,” with some insights from performer himself.
-The identity of the first redneck in history; the precise date the first redneck arrived in America, the most sacred redneck cinematic moments. (I do hope this includes some Texas high school football movies)
-How Thunder Road, the Whiskey Rebellion, the tight cutoffs worn by Claudia Jennings in Gator Bait, illegal Coors beer, and the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash combined to inspire the greatest movie in the history of the world (the greatest movie in history is revealed as the end of the show).
It’s true, “Daisy Dukes” were not first popularized by Catherine Bach on the Dukes of Hazzard, as Jennings’ film predates the series by at least a half-decade.
These types of shorts, which can be accurately described as “denim underwear,” are very much in vogue these days, and according to Briggs, go much farther back than the late ’70s.
“The shorts so tight they cut off circulation in your vagina really goes back to the late ’60s,” he said.
“It was kind of a red neck variation on the brief fashion trend known as hot pants. Red necks took it one step further and did it with cut-off denim.”
“The best exemplar of that was Claudia Jennings, who did a series of red neck movies, and always had those tight, cut off jeans on.”
As for the Whiskey Rebellion, you may remember that from A.P. U.S. History class in high school, as it involved George Washington quelling an insurrection that began in western Pennsylvania in 1791, and didn’t end until 1794.
“Rednecks are the only people in the history who went to war over alcohol,” Briggs articulated, “and that war lasted longer than WWII.”
“And it is the only war where the sitting President actually led an army into battle to put down the rednecks, and two of the red necks were captured, tried and sentenced to death.”
“Alcohol figures mightily in the history of the red neck.”
Today, there is actually a Whiskey Rebellion festival in Pennsylvania- a long weekend celebration of food, fun, booze and historical re-enactors. For further education on red neck and red state culture, I recommend the following materials, in addition to viewing the Joe Bob Briggs body of work.
I would highly suggest attending at least one Indianapolis 500 race in your lifetime, and in doing so, please focus on the following elements of the greatest spectacle in racing:
Also listen to this podcast on former President Andrew Jackson. In this episode of “The Dollop,” you’ll learn how today’s #MAGA movement, which claims it will clean up the insiders of D.C. and make the government work for the people instead of the elites, is absolutely old hat.
Jackson just demonized other ethnic groups (well, he also vilified some of the same ones as Trumpers) and the Jacksonians, similar to the Trump train, rallied behind him due to their shared views that certain races of people were subhuman.
Also, listen to Garth Brooks’s 1993 country chart topping redneck ditty “AHBA: American Honky Tonk Bar Association”
Pay attention to the lyrics, which seem at first seem like good-timing diner and dive bar prose, but actually sound like they could have been penned by Karl Rove, Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee.
Brooks really should have cut that line about welfare.
Finally, after you leave the Music Box, you don’t have to go very far for an actual honky tonk. It’s called Wrigleyville North, and although its name screams Lincoln Park Trixie, it’s actually a Jim Bob Cooter Bubba kinda place. It’s just steps from the Sheridan red line, just south of Irving Park Road.
Perhaps you’ll even hear the band play Waylon Jennings’ “Mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.”
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.
Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, also contributes to Chicago Now. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.
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