Things you think of when you hear the name Dan Yemin: Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, Paint It Black, Armalite, Philadelphia, New Jersey. Things you don’t necessarily think about when you hear the name Dan Yemin but should: wicked smart psychologist with practices in Ardmore and Paoli, Pa. Engage him in political discussion and you will be met with a mix of warmth, emphasis and, above all else, one heck of a point or two.
TLA Video, with help from Philebrity.com and National Mechanics, has organized a new film series entitled the TLA Philebrity Screening Series. The premise: Philadelphia celebrities (or… philebrities!) present their favorite films at the National Mechanics bar on 22 S. 3rd St. So far, the series has included DJ/musician King Britt with The Wiz and Mayor Michael Nutter with, holy hey, Invincible. Last Thursday, Feb. 7, brought yet another combo—musician/psychologist Dr. Dan Yemin with Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
Yemin has written brilliant punk/hardcore tunes for acts like Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, Paint It Black and Armalite, and Dr. Strangelove’s socio-political and comedic tones have surely influenced his writing. While Nutter’s love of Mark Wahlberg may be debated from here until 10 minutes from now, there’s no doubt Yemin digs on Stanley Kubrick’s comedic masterpiece. As the good doctor would say of the film he saw for the first time in 1984, “We finally saw a cultural artifact as concerned with World War II as we were.”
“Rarely has such grim subject matter (total nuclear destruction of the human race) been treated with such sharp wit and intelligence,” he told Philebrity.com. “Politics and slapstick might seem like an odd combination, but I think it makes total sense given the absurdity of the ‘peace through strength’ philosophy that prevailed during the arms race, and the paranoia that was so rampant during the Cold War.”
After introducing the film, Yemin took a front seat for the film. National Mechanics is definitely a cool bar, featuring albino dogs, a piano and, oh joy of joys, $2 Yuenglings. But it’s still a bar, which meant that the first 30 minutes or so of the screening were perforated with conversations and cries of “Peter Sellers!” and “Clockwork Orange!” from the crowd. Folks calmed down eventually, though, allowing Dr. Strangelove’s biting sarcasm to prevail.
Forty-four years after its release, what could I possibly say about Dr. Strangelove that hasn’t already been said? Well, it certainly holds up. Terrorism may have supplanted communism for top American threat, but the overlaps are many. There’s a particular exchange between the characters Gen. Jack D. Ripper and Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake that hit me with a wave of laughter and disgust all at once.
After asking Mandrake if he had ever heard what former French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau said about war, Ripper explains, “He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training nor the inclination for strategic thought.”
Given the Bush administration’s push to find excuses to invade Middle Eastern countries for no gosh dang reason lately, Ripper’s lines are much more darkly humorous because of how bitingly valid they’ve remained.
At the same time, though, the film is too hilarious to become depressing. I cannot think of another movie where the humor actually had to be watered down so the crew could finish filming, but that’s just what happened with star Peter Sellers in two of his three roles. He originally performed President Muffley with a cold, and the result was so funny that other actors couldn't finish their scenes. Same goes for the title character—pay attention to the final scene, you can see actor Peter Bull (as the Russian ambassador) crack up a couple of times over Sellers’ contortions and gyrations. Throw in the facts that actor Slim Pickens performed his role like a straight drama and ended up being funny and that George C. Scott is just plain awesome and you have one of the greatest comedies of all time.
After the film ended, Armalite came on over the bar’s stereo, which was kind of funny, and TLA representatives handed me a copy of TLA Raw, a pornography catalogue, which was kind of not funny. I don’t want to hear the word “gape” ever again. The next TLA Philebrity screening is Thursday, Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m. The film, The Harder They Come, will be presented by Y-Rock programmer and WXPN drive time DJ Jim McGuinn. Visit philebrity.com/tlascreeningseries for more details.