Arts Desk

Wednesday: The Freex Come to Adams Morgan

It's no shocker that the counterculture video group that called itself the Videofreex formed at Woodstock in 1969. Co-founders Parry Teasdale and David Cort happened upon each other there—both carrying hunks of video equipment—and decided to join forces. Together—Teasdale relates in his 1999 memoir, Videofreex—they roamed the site, “[David] interviewing, me behind the camera taping festival-goers, stoned and straight, Marxist doctors and nurses running the free health clinic…a man and his sheep…”

Post-Woodstock, Videofreex blossomed into a collective, with eight other founding members. The group first occupied a Soho loft, where they put together a pilot for CBS about the turbulent times, featuring interviews with such figures as Yippie Abbie

The Videofreex, circa 1970, in their Soho loft. Standing (from left): Skip Blumberg, Chuck Kennedy, Davidson Gigliotti, Parry Teasdale, Mary Curtis Ratcliff, and David Cort. Seated (from left): Bart Friedman, Carol Vontobel, Nancy Cain, and Ann Woodward. (Photo by Bill Cox)

Hoffman and footage of Vietnam war protests and police brutality (it was summarily rejected by the network, though the head of programming called it “way ahead of its time”). The Freex then moved to upstate New York, where they lived in a 17-bedroom house until 1978, making more videos, running a pirate television station called Lanesville TV, and having a good time—“with and without the use of drugs,” says founding member Skip Blumberg, 64.

Blumberg, who now teaches film and video at Hofstra University, will be on hand Wednesday evening at a screening of Videofreex clips at the District of Columbia Arts Center in Adams Morgan. Joining him will be Eddie Becker, 60, a D.C.-based videographer who collaborated with the Freex, and Rhea Kennedy (an occasional contributor to this blog), 30, daughter of Chuck Kennedy, another founding member who passed away in 2004.

On the docket are excerpts from interviews with Hoffman and Black Panther Fred Hampton, as well as bits from Lanesville TV, including the Lanesville TV Newsbuggy. This segment shows a Videofreex member wheeling a baby buggy around town, interviewing locals about subjects ranging from feeding their pigs to their favorite yoga poses.

While the Videofreex’s work may look antiquated now, it was revolutionary in its day. “All of a sudden you could see interviews with crazy people with wild hair,” Becker says. “You didn’t see that on TV before; it was tightly controlled.” And Blumberg notes that though the group’s main goal was to have fun with the new medium, part of that fun involved serious goals, namely “to make the world a better place, to make it more fair, and to bring justice.”

For Kennedy, involvement with the Freex provides a link to her father and promotes her goal of restoring more of the group’s work. While the Video Data Bank has restored a number of Freex videos, there are hundreds, if not thousands, more in need of funding and attention. “It’s especially important to do this now, because the Videofreex are not immortal,” she says. “My dad’s already gone, and the other people who can tell us about the clips are not always going to be around, either.”

Blumberg is particularly glad for Kennedy’s involvement. “She’s going to be a Videofreek after I will be,” he says.

The "Videofreex Pirate TV Show Clip Screening" takes place Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the District of Columbia Arts Center, 2438 18th Street NW. To reserve tickets ($5 each), call (202) 462-7833 or e-mail info@dcartscenter.org. There will be an after-party at Sutra Lounge, 2406 18th St. NW.

Photo and video courtesy of the Videofreex.

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