In contemplating Clarence Reid's career touring the world as septuagenarian soul singer/rap inventor/pussy lover Blowfly, it's hard not to think of a tired old circus lion. Occasionally he roars, but more often he sleeps and eats. Reid's fate seems well beyond his control, but as long as there are stages, someone will keep trotting him out onto them—in full glittery superhero get-up—for puzzled audiences who have a vague curiosity about the living legend growling obscenities before them. Also, much like a lion, he really needs someone to trim his claws—you can hear Reid's comically long, yellow fingernails tap against piano keys when he plays. It's pretty gross.
Reid—an underground soul/rap legend who has been releasing raunchy, satirical songs for over 40 years—would probably enjoy that last critique. In the film, when his young collaborator Otto von Schirach tells him, "You were disgusting" after a performance of the duo's Egyptian-themed song, "Mummy Fucker," Reid just smiles warmly and thanks him for the compliment. It's one of many tender-via-twisted moments that make The Weird World of Blowfly an unexpectedly feel-good affair (others include a genuinely haunting rendition of his R. Kelly send-up, "I Believe My Dick Can Fly," and a shot of Reid playfully serenading a nurse with a song about syphilis).
It can't all be warm and fuzzy. The Weird World of Blowfly's tour documentary elements are filled with predictable misfortune: Reid's management is disorganized, his shows are under-attended (especially in Eugene) and the band only makes money on its occasional trips to Europe, where it must endure taunting and middle fingers from hundreds of disappointed teenage metal fans. While director Jonathan Furmanski steers us primarily along the bumpy road of Blowfly's present tense, it's his historical reflections that make the film worth watching. The man himself is a fascinating enigma. Interviews with Reid's ex-wives, ex-girlfriends and children—especially his well-spoken and forgiving daughter, former WNBA player Tracy Reid—are as close as we can get to understanding the man's thought process. Many questions, including the central one—why did Reid leave a relatively successful singing and songwriting career to sing tunes like "Shitting On the Dock of the Bay" and "Spermy Night in Georgia" as his full-time gig?—remain unanswered.
But then Reid seems to get a kick out of his contradictions. Early in the movie, we are shocked to see the godfather of filth flipping through the tattered pages of a well-worn travel Bible (the dirtiest book of all, he insists) while declaring his faith in God. But when he's asked later if he'll be headed to heaven or hell, Reid—or, rather, Blowfly—decides to roar. "Ah, I wouldn't give a fuck," he laughs. "If they send me to hell, they'll be making a huge mistake."
81 SEE IT: The Weird World of Blowfly screens at the Hollywood Theatre at 9:15 pm Sunday-Thursday, Oct. 16-20.