At her funniest, musician/actress/performance artist Ann Magnuson skewers pop and celebrity culture like nobody else. And there’s a lot of that skewering on her new album, Dream Girl, Magnuson’s third LP following the strangely underrated The Luv Show and Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. Magnuson will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Dream on.
Magnuson: I had a dream where I am back in my hometown of Charleston, W.V. I am suspended in mid-air over the Kanawha River. The river divides the town in two. On the north side, down in the valley, is the city. And on the mountain to the south are the woodsy suburbs; an area most of us just call The Hill. I am hovering about 50 feet over the murky water, very close to the bridge we used to drive over every day. From my vantage point, I can see a TV show is currently being shot in a house perched on the embankment, just at the base of The Hill. It’s a nondescript, working-class house overlooking the river, sitting on the other side of the boulevard that runs parallel to the train tracks.
Through the open garage door I see an old 1960s Maytag washer and dryer. It’s kind of messy in there, and I see there is some newly sprayed obscene graffiti on the wall. Looks like things are degenerating in this neighborhood. Just like everywhere. “Pillbillies” have been stealing silver from old ladies’ houses further up The Hill. Everyone is either tweaked out on Fentanyl or Fox News. But the city is abuzz because Jen is in town. She also grew up here. Now she is back starring in this TV show. She flew in on her private jet to play a simple housewife who lives in this simple home, simply struggling to make ends meet in a simple state that will unanimously vote Trump for president. (There is already Emmy talk.)
I’ve been hired to play one of the older ladies in the neighborhood. A group of us are rehearsing a scene. We’re all wearing Mom Jeans—Mom Jeans with muffintops. Not Jen. She may be portraying a simple but honest mountain mama with few options in life yet her forehead is wrinkle-free and her figure Pilates perfect. No muffintop on her. Or on these once beautiful West Virginia hills. The mountaintop removal company financed by the Koch Brothers has set up shop. A noxious rust-brown sludge fills the creek (pronouced “crik”) that flows into the river.
I’m not all that excited about this part I’m playing but think, maybe this means I might make enough to be eligible for the SAG-AFTRA health insurance? That is, if the star’s agents don’t suck all the money out of the budget and leave nothing for the supporting cast, which is usually the case.
I look to the west. The sun is setting behind the clouds. It’s spectacular and so dreamy. It’s in color but not really. It’s more black and white with a hint of blue-green and splashes of orange-red. It may have been digitally treated, like a David Fincher film. But this is better. Much better. Wait! It looks like a Rocky Schenk art photograph! It’s heartbreakingly beautiful. So beautiful it makes me cry. The feelings that swell up from deep within give me hope, hope that you can go home again. Back to my childhood home up on The Hill, to a time before the mountaintops were removed and West Virginia went Crazy-Ass Tea Bagger Open-Carry Wacko. The state went deep red, and that makes me very blue. But this sunset has changed everything. I’m back to being happy now! Happy to be home!
Then I wake up, confident that the image I saw in the sunset was indeed a Rocky Schenck photograph. I looked again. Yup, I had seen it the day before, in his new book, The Recurring Dream. I also read about it in American Photographer, which featured Rocky’s incredible video of Adele’s “Hometown Glory.”
Rocky is an old pal. I’ve been in two videos he directed: Redd Kross’ “Annie’s Gone” and Jerry Cantrell’s “My Song.” Both are pretty dreamy; one kooky Sid ‘n’ Marty Kroft dreamy, the other sexy-psycho Old Hollywood dreamy. Rocky dreams a lot too. His art is also inspired by dreams. Now his dream-inspired art is inspiring my dreams. Wow! Thanks, Rocky!
Rocky Schenck/Hometown Dream Story c 2016 Ann Magnuson