I recently spent a pleasant afternoon in a theater watching the new hockey movie Goon, and although it was completely entertaining and I recommend it to fans of hockey/brutal comedy/Canadians, it couldn’t hold a candle to the ultimate hockey movie, Slap Shot. Full disclosure: the first time I watched Slap Shot, I was just a kid. I had no idea what was going on–the only memory I retained into adulthood was of the ultimate goon-trio, the Hanson brothers. Little else made sense. In hindsight, I never should have been allowed to see this movie as a kid, as it’s one of the most vulgar, foul-mouthed, violent sports movies ever made. It also has that 70s movie magic going for it–thoughtful, raw, subversive–and later screening it as an adult I’ve come to realize that it’s a really special movie about rust belt America around the time of the steel mill decline in the late 70s. Even more strange, I found out that this amazingly vulgar (and genius) movie was written by a woman, Nancy Dowd. In interviews she has revealed that the movie was based partially on her own upbringing in a mill town, and partially on her brother Ned Dowd who played for a minor league hockey team (the Johnstown Jets) in Western Pennsylvania during the 70s.
Even more of a mystery is what has happened to Ms. Dowd in the remaining years. After a few writing gigs–Slap Shot, SNL, and an Oscar for Coming Home–she all but dropped off the map. Where has she gone, and what happened? I had very little luck digging around to see what she’s been up to lately (other than selling her Caribbean home). But I must make mention of one of her great (largely uncelebrated) triumphs, a little film called Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains. It’s finally available on DVD, after years of being out-of-print and only shortly viewed on late-night cable in the 80s. It’s a sloppy film–but so good, and so ahead of its time. The film is rumored to be loosely based on the career of UK band The Slits, and follows a group of working-class teen girls in Western Pennsylvania who decide to start a girl punk band and go on the road–even though they can’t sing or play instruments. Notably, it stars a very young Diane Lane, Laura Dern, and Ray Winstone, as well as Paul Simonon from The Clash and Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols. It has also been credited with inspiring many ladies in the Riot Grrrl movement such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Sleater-Kinney. It’s not a great film, but its music and forward thinking ideas make up for any amount of shoddy moviemaking.
How strange that one lady wrote a film that is one of the greatest sports movies ever made, another that inspired a generation of girls to start a movement, and another that won an Oscar, and then totally dropped off the map. Where have you gone, Nancy Dowd?
Not gonna goon it up for you,