Last night's film was 1974's "Willie Dynamite", which may be the only time viewers will be treated to the spectacle of the titular mean, badass street pimp being portrayed by "Sesame Street" regular Gordon (the bald black guy with the beard). I have to say that this film was actually pretty terrific.
Willie Dynamite is a top notch pimp, by his own admission and by that of his harem of hookers--he runs his operation out of Manhattan's "finest hotel" that appears to be a Days Inn. But that's okay, his hookers aren't much to look at either and I found it a bit shocking that the swarms of Shriners and Japanese businessmen keep paying them. Perhaps they're paying the hookers to leave quietly and not disrupt their Silent Majority Convention? These hookers clearly are not at the level of Jane Fonda in "Klute", who might be enough to make any man violate his "no time travelling to 1971 to sleep with fictional hookers" rule. But Willie Dynamite's hookers are all the more impressive because despite their frightening appearance they seem to make him a lot of money.
During a meeting with his fellow pimps, who are arguing in favor of forming a sort of cartel to back one another up in the face of the police and split up territories around the city in which to do business, Willie Dynamite gives an eloquent defense of free enterprise and capitalism, and for a moment I thought I was still watching last week's Republican Convention. (If Willie Dynamite just said "I built that!" I might have choked on my soda) He balks at the deal, so we know he's going to have trouble with the other pimps later.
(Here I should mention that the pimps would have a lot less trouble with the police if they didn't dress like such obvious pimps. The loud colors, floppy hats and canes, the garish fur--they might as well wear "Arrest Me" signs. Why not a nice pair of khakis and a golf shirt?)
Then of course Willie ends up getting harassed and run in by some cops, and his money frozen at his bank by the IRS. Two things--first, we learn in the courtroom that his actual name is "Willie Dynamite", so he either had it legally changed or was born to Mr. and Mrs. Dynamite; and second, do pimps really keep their money in banks? Do banks have special "pimp" accounts? On top of his other misfortunes, a hooker version of Norma Rae tries to unionize his ladies! She even calls herself the "Ralph Nader of hookers" which is interesting because I thought Ralph Nader was the "Ralph Nader of hookers." I guess this means that this agitator-prostitute plans to become irrelevant in a couple decades, and then run as a third party candidate and put George W Bush in the White House.
Where the film really shines is that unlike other "pimp" films of the era, "Willie Dynamite" does a good job showing the antihero down on his luck and falling apart, and though he gains humanity as the film develops he is also shown as a ruthless and oppressive lout. Still, if I were the director I would have put in a scene where Willie Dynamite has a conversation with Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird while figuring out what to do with his hookers.
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