She's best known for Coal Miner's Granddaughter, an off-kilter, coming-of-age sex comedy that was a hit in the 1991 S.F. International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. Now, Cecilia Dougherty premieres her latest video, My Failure to Assimilate, which examines the private conflicts of two lesbians: a writer/schizophrenic/heroin user and a Cuban American raised in Puerto Rico now living in Kansas (got that?). Expect the mundane, the unnerving, the high-minded and the comic to coexist. In Dougherty's Joe-Joe (1993), the filmmaker and Leslie Singer take turns impersonating gay playwright Joe Orton, contrasting the notoriety achieved by gay male personalities with the invisibility of most lesbian artists' private lives. Dougherty never glamorizes the underground, seeking instead to tell "the high price of becoming visible on one's own terms." My Failure to Assimilate is presented in conjunction with the University Art Museum exhibition In a Different Light, which attempts to highlight the queer experience in the 20th century. Failure and other works (including Joe-Joe and The Drama of the Gifted Child) play Thurs, Feb. 23, 7:30 pm, at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant. Admission is $5.50; call (510) 642-1412.
You might call her a female Russ Meyer with Velveeta pulsing through her veins. But it's not the cheesiness of her soft-porn cinema that gives Doris Wishman such camp appeal -- it's her self-serious approach and you-gotta-have-a-gimmick directing style, which produced the delectable Double Agent 73 (with the aptly monickered Chesty Morgan in the title role as a spy with a camera implanted in one of her breasts). Working in the testosterone-fueled world of nudie flicks, Wishman wrote, produced and directed 25 of these genre gems in the '60s and '70s. Four of them are featured in Doris Wishman's Odd and Original Sexploitation Films, a two-part mini-retro-spective presented by S.F. Cinematheque. Nude on the Moon and Double Agent 73 screen with original trailers at the Roxie (3117 16th St) on Fri, Feb. 24, 11:30 pm. Bad Girls Go to Hell (in which an ashtray doubles as a weapon for the titular heroine) and A Taste of Flesh unspool at Artists' Television Access (992 Valencia) on Sat, Feb. 25, 8:30 pm. Tickets are $6; call 558-8129.
Earlier this year, Billboard named folky locals Box Set to "the honor roll of America's unsigned talent" and already the major labels have come calling. The band got its start at the Owl & Monkey Cafe, a Sunset District coffeehouse famous for a strong commitment to the local singer/songwriting scene -- its popular open-mike night has been a magnet for struggling musicians. Now Box Set is making a return engagement, along with Will Johnson, David Sobel, Midnight Radio and Andy Pearce. Pat Nugent hosts this music appreciation night at the Owl & Monkey (1336 Ninth Ave) on Sat, Feb. 25, 7:30 pm. $10 gets you in; call 665-4840.
Excavating the future of Los Angeles, author Mike Davis (City of Quartz) uncovered a handful of dusty books that led him into the heart of the Southland's spiritual starvation, texts like Louis Adamic's Laughing in the Jungle (1932), the "autobiography of an immigrant in America," and Nathanael West's Day of the Locust (1939). Playwright David Mamet, trying to unlock the linguistic chains weighing down fin-de-sicle America, cracked a collection of crusty work songs and unearthed "Oleanna," the ode to a failed utopian community that crystallized his polemical power play of the same name. On Fri-Sun, Feb. 24-26, like-minded bibliophiles can root through the ash heap of history at the 28th California International Antiquarian Book Fair. Offering first editions, archival selections and pulp fictions alongside the first public viewing of the Clarence Darrow Collection -- which includes the crusading attorney's personal letters to luminaries such as Sinclair Lewis and FDR -- the book fair unfolds at the San Francisco Concourse, Eighth St & Brannan. Admission is $5-10; call 775-3330.
William O. Goggins