The hands and
feet dangling out of the window of this gunboat Cadillac
belong to Jeffrey Strouth, the flamboyant, chain-smoking
star of American Fabulous. The film follows this master
raconteur as he spins his recollections of a whirlwind past,
while sitting in the back of a big-finned Caddy and occasionally
visiting the sites he's describing.
And what a harrowing, quirky, hilarious tale he has to tell!
Raised in a chaotic family dominated by a brutal, alcoholic
father (a mobile home salesman and part-time Elvis impersonator),
Strouth learned to survive by turning tricks as a teenaged
hustler in Ft. Lauderdale. His first gay friend was a toothless
transvestite named Miss Earl. Another friendship- with a
four hundred pound drag queen- was lost when, high as a
kite, he "accidentally" smashed a speeding car
into her apartment building and burned it to the ground.
Nothing in Strouth's tales is ordinary, and some of it is
extremely moving. For example, his detailed account of funeral
preparations for his sister, a suicide. He coiffed, gowned,
and made her up like a movie star, strewing rose petals
in the coffin, thus delivering an elegant touch of comfort
that had eluded her in life.
Strouth's reminiscences are fascinating because they are
honest and truthful, yet gilded with wicked humor. American
Fabulous is, in fact, a celebration of the rare, lost art
of storytelling. And of Jeffrey Strouth himself. Characterized
by the New York Times as "a tough Southern queen who
takes no prisoners," Jeffrey Strouth died of AIDS on
Gay Pride Day, 1992. Director Reno Dakota's award-winning
film serves as a raucous, loving memorial. It'll leave you
warmed by it's magic- like the burning glow of a stiff shot