This year’s most charming family film has pasty-clad breasts, head-thumping bouncers and a wide enough variety of booze and drugs to subdue even the rowdiest motorcycle gang—it’s called Red Dog and, in case you couldn’t guess, it’s all about the legendary house of ill repute located at 6417 N.W. 10th in Oklahoma City.
As I sat down to watch the flick—which recently had its premiere at South By Southwest earlier this spring—I was fully expecting a tribute to nothing but titties and tassels but, instead, got something far more heart-wrenching, as Dick put his own heart—and his mother’s heart—on screen for everyone to see, as they recounted their numerous highs and even more lows growing up in the neon light of the notorious strip club.
“It’s obvious that I have a personal connection to the Red Dog and my mom and our relationship to it… it’s kind of a weird origin story,” Dick said. “But I was truly just interested in my mom as a compelling human. The fact that there was this notorious regional setting, like a titty bar there, was interesting ground for a family-oriented documentary.”
The “craziness” of his mother’s anecdotes drew Dick to the story initially, but over the course of listening to these raucous stories of the Red Dog’s heyday, he started to notice a theme developing, not only with his mom but everyone else that agreed to sit down in front of the camera: family dynamics and the universal aspect of family dysfunction. By the middle of production, Dick had found his angle.
“I don’t use that word—dysfunction—just because I come from a broken home in a lower economic class,” Dick reiterated, “Dysfunction happened in the fucking Roosevelts. But how that dysfunction plays out and the love in-between is every bit as interesting as the more salacious stories that happened. Family and relationships are everything. It’s what gives all the anecdotes weight and purpose.”
Dick’s mom, Kim, is like many of the women that, as we kids get older, see our mothers unabashedly turning into—brash, hilarious ladies lighting one cig after another, recounting tales that years earlier they would’ve been embarrassed to admit; basically, they’ve put in their dues as mothers and wives and don’t give a damn about what anybody thinks anymore.
Dick believes that everything, from breakups to bad decisions, is easier to talk about in retrospect when “you’re on down the road.” And Kim has got plenty of them, from bad dudes to badder drugs, but it’s something that, nowadays, Dick takes in stride, especially since he’s a loving father with his own kids to worry about.
“I have yet to interview one person whose arc didn’t get really dark during their tenure at the Red Dog,” Dick remembered. “Of course everyone’s arcs can get dark in any profession, but the truth is my mom really leaned on my former stepdad (Randy) to help her kick heroin and clean up her life. That kind of vocation can often lead to a lifestyle I wouldn’t want my kids to have to endure.”
Red Dog, which was co-directed by Casey Pinkston, is finally coming home to Oklahoma City, playing the upcoming deadCenter Film Festival, in what is expected to be sell-out crowds. But, even after the fest is long over, given the documentary’s evergreen subject, Dick and the rest of the crew of Red Dog expect it to be a homegrown cult film for years to come.
“There was a time I loved the place as a patron,” Dick surmised. “But I have new hobbies now—like making movies and music. What compelled me about the place to begin with was that it was this peculiar sexually-charged nexus for characters looking for something. I think it’s still that. It’s lost a bit of luster, but Hell, maybe we’ll get this thing on HBO and it’ll return to its glory. At the end of the day, everyone has a story and I hope that people watching the movie get that from it.”
Pics courtesy of Luke Dick. For more info on the Red Dog film, including screenings, click here.