Danny Fields on publicizing artists: “Encourage them to be miraculous. You don’t know how fabulous you are.” Danny Fields on art: “Look at it, and let the looking at it be what you are doing.” And Jac Holzman, president of Elektra Records, on Danny Fields: “Danny is the sand in the oyster which you hope would grow into a pearl.”
Who is Danny Fields? Like a transgressive Forrest Gump, he is at the nexus of pretty much every major alternative moment in rock and roll from the 1960s to the ’80s. He hung with the Warhol crowd, he encouraged the signing of the MC5 and the Stooges, he was the Doors’ publicist (temporarily, until he hid Jim Morrison’s car keys after a night of massive drug ingestion), and he managed the Ramones. His friends were the “smartest, funniest, most interesting people.” Not bad for a self-described “faggot from Brooklyn.”
Danny Says is easily one of the most entertaining films of the year. Chock-full of rock stars and salacious stories, it carries a barnstorming energy that matches the type of music Fields obviously loves. He holds court in two specific interviews that are interspersed throughout, and comes across as smart, catty, sentimental and very, very, very funny. He is clearly thrilled to tell the story of his life, but he also has great affection for the artists he championed.
His home is a shrine to all the folks who’ve come and gone. Every good Jew has the family picture hallway, and Fields is no exception, except his wall is filled with the likes of Morrison, Alice Cooper, and Edie Sedgwick. John Cameron Mitchell recounts with pride the moment he visited Danny and found a picture of himself there. Of course, if Fields thinks you’re terrible, he’s not going to hold back. His takedown of Johnny Winter and Edgar Winter is priceless.
And the footage. My God. All the classics are here: Iggy Pop smearing peanut butter on his chest or Morrison getting arrested in Miami. But to see the Ramones at one of their first shows arguing onstage about what song they are going to do next, or any of the footage of the incendiary MC5, is a real treat. And some of the phone calls Fields recorded are a hoot, such as him and Nico chatting casually or him and Lou Reed chattering like hyperactive kids after seeing the Ramones for the first time.
If you’re wondering why I’ve spent most of the review describing people Fields championed as opposed to championing Fields himself, well, that’s the way he likes it. He states his purpose for putting people in the spotlight thus: “Look at this. This is who you should be looking at.” And he has done that multiple times, and the world is a better place because of it.
If you are not a rock and roller, you will still find Fields compelling. He’s the guy who gets to talk as long as he wants at parties because he’s so goddamn entertaining. If you are a rock and roller, this is required viewing as much as Gimme Shelter or The Last Waltz or Dig or The Decline of Western Civilization. Simply put, Danny Says is essential viewing.