BOONTON, NJ—An exclusive, first screening of Living The American Nightmare was held Friday, June 10 at the historic Darress Theatre in Boonton, NJ, hosted by Pawl BaZile and Myke Hideous, and attended by around 100 guests.
It’s well understood that people who go into rock ‘n’ roll usually start out with a dream of success, measured not just in terms of dollars, but also of fame, recognition and independence. Exceedingly few achieve their dream. This movie reveals that sometimes what they achieve is more like a nightmare.
Rock music often serves to express the frustrations and to console the sufferings of adolescents, and it provides an opportunity to fit in with others having a similar sense of disaffection. All the more if that adolescent is stricken with a major illness. In LTAN we see what happens when a kid from Paterson, NJ, is cut down at an early age by a near-fatal case of cancer, then drawn into the punk music scene, with its themes of alienation and animosity toward the mainstream. Add to this his natural talent to compose and perform music, and Myke Hideous fit right in with that group of kids who dye their hair, their lips and their nails black, and who connect with each other via a specific type of music, one that sings the praises of horror to the beat of hard punk rock.
Myke, confined by illness, experiencing the effects of radiation, chemotherapy and narcotics, is shown having acquired a passion for self-expression and, unfortunately, also developed a self-destructive sense of artistic integrity. Out of all this was born his band, The Empire Hideous.
Credits declare that LTAN is based upon Myke Hideous’ autobiography, From The King Of An Empire To The Shoes Of A Misfit. Living The American Nightmare cinematically tells basically the same story, but enriched with a treasure trove of interviews of around two-dozen current or former members of every band from Black Sabbath to Type O Negative, from The Misfits to Mister Monster.
These famous and near-famous notables of punk, Goth and horror-rock convey their often bitter, eyewitness reports both on Myke’s checkered career and their own experiences as well, thus providing stories parallel to his. LTAN contains numerous takes of Peter Steele in the last interview he ever gave during the week preceding his death. A handful of writers and critics have their say as well, and there are occasional quotes shown on the screen from the likes of Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Nietzsche and Robert Frost. There’s a worthy soundtrack as well.
The movie also answers the following question: Who are these people, these darkly attired, morbid punk rockers with wild hair-dos, and movie-monster tattoos? What are they about?
Foremost among these in the local as well as the larger, general scene is a band of horror-rockers called The Misfits, and it is they who wind up recruiting Myke into their band. Myke’s tottering career suddenly skyrocketed when he was tapped to be the lead singer for these icons of the scene. LTAN tells the story of the stormy and eventually unsuccessful relationship between him and the Misfits, and of the nightmare that ensued.
LTAN gives us a close-up and gritty portrait of an artistic community that fascinates many. And it reminds us that perhaps there’s something else comprising their ideas of an American dream, some alternate motivation. Instead of a dream of success, their dream appears to live a certain self-determined lifestyle, scorning the mainstream and attaining self-esteem based on artistic integrity and the enjoyment that comes from performing music as they want to perform it.