This Sunday, October 1 at 1 p.m., Out On Film and Atlanta artist Matthew Terrell will present a screening focused on queer Southern History. “Three Decades of Queer Atlanta: The American Music Show” shows a fascinating archive of material that captures the vibrant, influential queer scene that has dominated Atlanta for decades.
The American Music Show (TAMS) was a public access TV that ran on Atlanta basic cable from 1981-2005. Although not explicitly about queer life, many of the creators of TAMS were LGBT, and they injected into the show a distinctly queer aesthetic. TAMS is not polished or at all fancy; in fact, the creators seemed to revel in the low-budget look they cultivated. Every week Dick Richards, Potsy Duncan, Bud Lowry, and James Bond would gather and write, design, record, and improvise a new TAMS episode—always on a budget of $5. The queer aesthetic comes across in the campiness—think cheap wigs and tacky psychedelic wallpaper—and the subject matter—drag performances and tours of gay cruising trails. TAMS is also distinctly Southern, with Church Lady chic and thick country accents pervading most of the videos.
Although the creators didn't know it at the time, they were making one of the most thorough archives of queer Atlanta history: RuPaul's first lip synch. Jayne County when she was just starting in Atlanta punk clubs. Lady Bunny developing some of her signature dance moves... It's not just the people that TAMS document, but also the places important to queer Atlanta. TAMS provides some of the only glimpses into famous clubs like Backstreet and Weekends, and its clear that this city has been on the forefront of the queer scene for decades. Look through the videos and you'll see flyers, photos, advertisements, ad other artifacts that may be long gone, but will live on in perpetuity online via TAMS.
Queer people often lack generational memory. We don't learn our history in schools or churches, and the outside world has often worked to erase our contributions to culture. To understand our history, our identity, what it means to be queer in a heterocentric world... we often have to search it out. We have to find the people that remember what life was like 30, 20, even 10 years ago. The advent of AIDS erased many of the people who carried our memory and our history, and subsequent generations often had to reinvent what it meant to be queer. TAMS bridges this gap in memory. It provides us an understanding of the people and places that came before us, that paved the way for our current queer freedoms. My hope is that more people will browse through the TAMS archive and learn about their queer Southern history.
Please consider coming out to “Three Decades of Queer Atlanta” during Out On Film.
“Three Decades of Queer Atlanta - The American Music Show”
Sunday, October 1 at 1 p.m.
Landmark Midtown Arts Cinema
931 Monroe Drive, Atlanta
Tickets for Out On Film screenings can be bought here: http://www.outonfilm.org/tickets
(For an individual ticket to this event, which will be $11, select buy now for individual ticket, then select Sunday, click on the 1 p.m. box for The American Music show... this will take you to a transaction page)
Materials provided by Funtone USA Archives, Robert Coddington, and Dick Richards