Last Saturday I was spending the afternoon with my friends Mike and Jean Pierre. Mike, an old friend from my first semester in college, got his name after his famous or should i say infamous impersonation of Michael Jackson´s moon walker dancing steps. His real name is Carlos and if you´d ask me, i would totally say that I’ve never seen somebody quite like him imitating the late Michael Jackson. In other words, Carlos got soul! Even when he ain’t be moon walking for me or my friends anymore. He will never admit in public that he is damn good dancing, but that´s another subject. The fact is that i don’t know whether he got religious or retired, but he made it clear that those days are gone.
I met Jean Pierre, the cousin of my college sidekick Jose, maybe 2 semesters after i met mike. he first became friend with my cousin, but our path crossed somehow i can´t exactly recall (maybe the love for music and movies) and we became friends too.
In college, I think, it’s a lot easier to make friends. i believe that books, movies, television, fast food, mad/crazy teachers, coffees and music make the people come together more easily. Wait! ain’t that a Madonna song?. Anyway, in my case, the friends i made in college is the same people who stuck with me over these last ten years, and hopefully they will be my friends for rest of my life.
Anyway, we were spending the afternoon in my place and we started talking about books. Mike brought two books for Jean Pierre and he gave them to him. I was checking out some cool movies mike had in his backpacking and before we knew, we end up talking about the American writer Bret Easton Ellis.
In case you don’t know Ellis, some of his novels are Less than zero, Lunar Park, Glamorama, American Psycho, etc. Mike was talking about Ellis´s new book Imperial Bedrooms and how great the book and the trailer was. (Yes, they made a trailer of that book, can you believe it?) I didn’t know about the so-called kick-ass trailer, so I decided to check it out online while we were still discussing about Ellis personality (or what we thought his personality was like).
The trailer was loaded 100% and I pressed play! - It really looked like a great movie trailer and my jaw was way down. It was awesome! The editing, the voice over, the music... but hold onnnn! -I yelled. I saw a picture of a devil, a black devil in the trailer and that image looked too much familiar.
-Ain’t that a photo taken here in Caracas? (My hometown) I asked them.
-No way. Mike said. It must be some fancy design from California- he thought.
-it looks like a photo I’ve seen in Magnum photos I said. I think it´s a Chris Anderson photo, from a book named "Capitolio".
They both looked each other without saying anything. Making me sound crazy.
After a couple of minutes searching for the photo of "the devil" online, we finally found it. It was a Magnum Photos taken by Chris Anderson in La Vega, a poor slum here in Caracas.
But you might be asking yourself, who is that devil I am talking about? - Well, as many of you know, the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez Frías, is a leftist politician. Chavez supporters are always participating in marches and political meetings and they are always making up new outfits/costumes to express something creative and original while they´re cheering their leaders. I guess it’s also a way to stand up from the crowd.
Anyway, the first time I saw that guy (The famous Devil) he came out from nowhere. His whole body was painted in red and he was wearing some kind of tiny black men´s swimsuit. He was dancing and screaming like he was in flames or something. But don’t get me wrong, he was really happy and enjoying what he was doing.
An alternative photo of the same devil. Ariana Cubillos-AP/ Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.
His head was the center of attraction to most people. 2 big fat horns and a red spongy afro made him look way too spooky to many children and his tail was the final touch to make you think he was the real deal. That´s Fantastic, I thought.
But why does he use a devil costume? I can think of at least 3 different meanings.
First, to many Chavez Supporters and also to a lot of people around the world, the figure of devil means capitalism, a way of life opposed to Chavez government. Second, Here in Venezuela, or at least to Chavez and supporters, the devil´s representation is related directly to former EEUU president George Bush. A president with not so many good critics around the globe. But not only W. (as Mister Oliver stone calls him) get a kick in the butt in this situation. The devil works as a form to express that evil is among us, referring maybe to those whom live their life worshipping foreign lands and giving less importance to their own fatherland. The so-called "vende patria o apatriados", in English is something like Unpatriotic persons or stateless persons.
Note: The different meanings and analogies written here are part of several testimonies of people I’ve heard while I’m covering political meetings as a photojournalist. This is not an attempt to assure you that this is right or wrong. It’s up to the reader´s mind to decide what to believe or accept.
Official wallpaper provided on Bret Easton Ellis official site / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.
Having said that, beyond any meaning in terms of any political effects this figure causes, I find pretty amazing that an ordinary man from my hometown, was in the right time and place to be photographed by Chris Anderson in La Vega, Caracas. Who took the photo and published it in his book called "Capitolio". And later somebody saw this picture in Capitolio and proposed it to be the photo cover of Ellis latest Book Imperial Bedroom.
Photo comparison between the book's cover and original photography taken by Chris Anderson/ Use only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.
All of this, because one man gave up his real identity and played the role of the devil that day, fooling all kind of possibilities that his face would be posted on Beverly Hills as a promotional image from a book by an author who perhaps he never heard of.
A street in California with an advertising piece of Imperial Bedrooms / Used only for purposes of illustration/nonprofit.
His big fat horns and his personality brought him fame and fortune in a different way we all expected, without giving up on his soul, as the old tale tells. Ain’t that something?
I guess the red devil will catch us all on the flip side! mmmm...or just maybe Mister Ellis, who wrote on twitter after he found out about the famous American Writer J.D. Salinger death the following:
Ok! just kidding folks! do not take it so seriously! - Here Ellis breaks Silence On His Public Celebration Of J.D. Salinger's Death. ( In case you want to read the "some kind of explanation ")
See you on the road friends. Hopefully not on the highway to hell as AC/DC wrote some time ago.
Bret Easton official site here!
Written by Jesus Rodriguez.