Not all people are obsessed in creepy, stalkery ways.
Some people are obsessed like fans are obsessed – fan is short for "fanatic," after all – and they can develop a near-academic level of knowledge about their subjects of obsession. Which is why some of the best professors of things are often not part of academia at all (or have successfully gotten out of academia, much to everyone's gain). And when we're talking about "best professors of things," of course we're going to include Lashonda Lester among those worthies.
We've featured Lester before in the Chronicle, in her guise of stand-up comedian. But in this Thursday's Weird! True Hollywood Tales presents 'The Silver Sixties', she isn't going so much for the funny ha-ha as for the funny peculiar as she holds forth, with video prelude and visual accompaniment, about the likes of Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick and the whole Factory gang … about The Beach Boys and their connection with Charlie Manson … and about the related twists of circumstance and personality that flavored the Sixties with a sort of psychedelic tutti-frutti toffee crunch.
Thursday's show, in fact, is just the latest part of an ongoing series Lester started earlier this year. She's already presented shows about rappers, about wrestlers, about other storied and famous dead of this modern world.
"Yeah, It's a whole biography and pop-culture series," says Lester. "I come up with the biographies based on a theme, which is usually – you have to have died weird or tragic. Because that is so fascinating: The dark side of fame. All these people worked so hard to get to where they were, and then they end up dying in the strangest ways, and all this controversy around it for years and years. That's something I've been drawn to since I was a kid."
So, wait. No more stand-up?
No more gigs at the Velveeta Room? Cap City? Um, Applebee's?
"I still do stand-up," says Lester. "I love stand-up. But there are certain things I wanna talk about that just don't fit with stand-up."
And what got her started down this particular road of DIY showbiz show-and-tell?
"I was one of the presenters at the Encyclopedia Show, for that "Serial Killer" themed night they had. And afterward I was like, 'You know, this is kind of fun, talking about this dark shit. I think I could do this with real live people.' And it took me like two years to really develop the concept, and this first season is just running through and seeing what works and doesn't work, and then we'll come back in January and it'll be the official Season One Re-Do."
But it hasn't always been just her, just Lashonda Lester, onstage and providing the sensational 411 on these, ah, Famous Corpses of Filmland. She's had other talented locals up there presenting, too, right? Like for the wrestling show, that one that featured a bit about the Von Erichs?
"Yeah, the wrestling show was great. Blake Midgette did the Von Erichs and it was phenomenal, he did a terrific job. And we had some wrestlers at the end, just beating the shit out of each other, it was a cool show. But the last few times I've had comedians, I don't think they understand what I'm trying to do. Some of them do, but not a lot of them – they think I'm making fun of people? And that's not what this show is about. People tell me, "Oh yeah, I've heard about your show – you make fun of dead people!" And that is not what the fuck I do. It's a biography series – think of it as a live documentary."
So for this show … ?
"For this show," says Lester, "it's just me. Because the two topics I'm covering, I'm really really passionate about. And I feel I can do the stories justice because they're something I've studied for at least twenty years. I love Warhol, love the Beach Boys …"
And if you love them, too – or if you have a fascination for that whole riotous, hippie-happy era – then we're glad to offer you this link.
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