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By Jacob Katel
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Before a burst of maniacal laughter on Clarence Reid's answering machine, the musician — better known as Blowfly — devilishly declares, "I'll get back to you once I'm done banging this bitch."
An unprepared caller might be offended. But for a true Blowfly fan, this kind of dirty talk from the legendarily potty-mouthed singer induces waves of excitement. Even his answering machine's got attitude.
At age 72, Blowfly remains a magically profane wordsmith and impish cult figure. He still has the enthusiasm of a child who just learned to say shit. And in the claws of this postmodern poet, a song like "Soul Man" becomes "Hole Man," while "Should I Stay or Should I Go" mutates into "Should I Fuck This Big Fat Ho." These ingeniously filthy parodies have the power to remove even the most well-embedded stick in the ass.
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As a teenager, movie director Jonathan Furmanski discovered Blowfly by digging through the vinyl stacks at a record store. And now 20 years later, he has teamed up with him to weave an account of the man's bizarre and fascinating life in the new documentary The Weird World of Blowfly. So far, the film has screened at festivals such as South by Southwest. And next week, it will show at O Cinema in Reid's hometown of Miami.
This is a movie that will blow your 305 mind. Beginning with a DJ Le Spam cameo and ending with a collaboration between Blowfly and Otto Von Schirach, Furmanski's film has a real feel for SoFla's most magically sleazy city, setting the glamorous and dismal scene for the story of this uniquely notorious legend with gritty street shots of Miami Beach, Overtown, Hialeah, and downtown Miami.
At 7 years old, Reid had trouble reading and spelling, but none memorizing. With his grandmother, he committed to memory one of the longest psalms in the Bible, boasting that "the rest of them have to write that shit down."
Now a dirty old man, Blowfly boasts a memory that's still sharp and he regularly tours to make ends meet. He takes the stage dressed in costumes that look like something a half-blind seamstress might make for a very funky luchador, with a sequined mask hiding his age and a skeezy superhero's purple cape trailing behind him.
A fairly recent tour of Australia helped develop a legion of new Blowfly fans on the other side of the world. "They loved it over there. Unlike many artists, I do a lot of different things, and they love me," he proudly notes. And apparently, a rendition of "Suck Me Tender," a riff on Elvis's "Love Me Tender," really charmed the Aussies.
Of course, Reid is infamous for having created the first rap song, 1965's "Rap Dirty." But he is also a gifted and prolific songwriter who has penned lyrics and produced albums for soul legends such as Sam & Dave as well as TK Records greats Gwen McCrae, KC & the Sunshine Band, and Betty Wright. Sadly, though, in order to pay off debt, he sold the rights to his catalogue of songs in 2003, ending any royalties he might have collected. So today, suffering from poor health, he has to take the Metrobus for transportation.
Yet despite the man's personal struggles and hardships, The Weird World of Blowfly isn't a miserable, hopeless film. "What I wanted to do was let Blowfly's humor be the humor of the film," Furmanski says. And the skeezy superhero himself is excited too, mentioning his show at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino this Wednesday and joking, "I call it the Hard Cock Club."
A conversation with Blowfly is a whirlwind of commentary, both clever and controversial, peppered with references to Paris Hilton and Fidel Castro, political opinions, and queries about "your mother's" zodiac sign. For every answer, he knits together a story, each more nuanced and intricate than the last. And many of these tales devolve into minilectures. "Of the top ten money-making people in the world, almost half of them are uptight," he says before launching into a rant about the Michael Jackson molestation accusations and finally ending the sequence by tossing off a ditty to the tune of "My Prerogative," singing about the most famous fan of the golden shower: "Everybody's talking, talking all about R. Kelly/Why don't you motherfuckers let him live?"
As far as contemporary rappers go, Blowfly has the utmost respect for lovable dad and sometime pornographer Snoop Dogg. "All men, we be dogs," he explains. "Alpha males, hounds from Hell." Meanwhile, an entire roster of hip-hop and punk legends reveres Blowfly, including Public Enemy's Chuck D, Ice-T, Fishbone's Norwood Fisher, and the Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra, who has helped produce Blowfly albums for his Alternative Tentacles label.
For his part, Furmanski was captivated by the "duality between Clarence and Blowfly." On the one hand, Clarence Reid is a religious man who prays before he eats and always carries a Bible. But on the other, Blowfly sings "The Girl Wants to Fuck" while a naked booty jiggles inches from his face.
This personality split is the essence of Blowfly's appeal. And Reid readily recognizes its strange power, describing himself as "part nigger, part German" while reinforcing the dichotomy with rambling tirades about Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, and Jesse Owens — not to mention his promise, "I'm gonna do something clean about your mama, 'cause she good news. The bad news is you're gonna be that special chick on my next album."
He's a trickster, a charmer, and an antagonizer. But Blowfly is a star, and he will always shine brightly, even when he bravely struggles through this crazy, wild, weird world.