Zappa Rides Again

By Mary Campbell

Daily Intelligencer, Doylestown, PA, December 28, 1979 [1]

This time, it's a movie to praise non-normality

Frank Zappa, not a name which leaps to mind when one hears the word "normal," has made a film which he thinks should be seen by whole families, attending together.

That doesn't mean, however, that Zappa wants to leave the world of the weird and unusual. The point of his film, "Baby Snakes," is to praise non normality and to ask normal and non-normal folks to have tolerance for each other.

"There are a lot of things people can do that's not normal that is of benefit to society," he says. "This is my message. For instance, inventors. Here is some guy they think of as the town nut. Who is to say he is not going to come up with something great, of benefit to society? He has got a right to be as weird as he wants to be.

"Often times people who have handicaps or are of an unusual ethnic background are considered not normal and reviled. One of the things I hate most about American society is the idea of normality being such a great cherished institution. It is really a primitive belief that normality is grand. It is merely okay.

"My advice to people who are not normal is: Try not to hate people who are normal. There has to be an educational process that will improve relations between the two species."

Zappa says, "This is a wholesome family film. I think you'd be amazed at the results if families would see this film together and talk about it later. I think it would bring them closer together. I'm not kidding. I'd take my family to see it. I'm a very strict parent."

The film uses clay animation and live characters, including Zappa playing himself. He laughs and insists it definitely is not "a day in the life of Frank Zappa."

But back to the question of normal and non-normal people: he says, "The simplest things can get you branded as not normal and this can make people very unhappy.

"I've experienced it – a lot of hostility. I don't think it has affected me the way it has some other people They have stopped working on their inventions or whatever and opted for a gray isle of normality so they wouldn't be rubbed the wrong way. I didn't.

"Of course I had ulcers from the age of 15 to 23. They're gone now. I decided it would probably be better if I gave them to somebody else."

Zappa now is 39 and has two sons and two daughters, the oldest 12 and the youngest four months. Her name is Diva "because of the loud quality of her voice. She's audible at 300 yards. The girl can sing.

"My oldest boy, Dweezil, is a sports fanatic, one of the really normal things. He is a real good baseball player, and all the rest of the kids respect it because he is good on the team. He is not normal by any stretch of the imagination but he doesn't advertise it. I think he has found a viable solution to the problem of going to school in America.

"I always hated sports. I didn't have any interest in playing or keeping scores of national games. My nationality was Italian, Greek, Arab and French. I didn't like beer and I didn't drive. You can be branded an alien for those things alone.

"But on top of that if you liked contemporary music by Edgar Varèse and rhythm 'n' blues and had a beard and wore a parka to school, that increased your problems. That's why I decided to make this film.

Zappa was born in Baltimore and moved with his family to Florida, then California, going to high school is Lancaster, in the Mojave Desert.

Besides the film, Zappa recordings have been pouring out this year. The most recent is "Joe's Garage, acts II and III," a double album, out in November, "Joe's Garage, act I", out in September, and "Sheik Yerbouti, " a double album, out in January, all on Zappa Records, distributed by Mercury.

"'Joe's Garage' was planned to be a three-record package," Zappa says. "The economy was so bad I didn't think anybody could afford it. But I made the release schedule close together so people wouldn't lose continuity of the story."

In Europe, he says, "I've got a little bit of a problem. There's a surprise hit single, 'Bobby Brown Goes Down,' from the 'Sheik Yerbouti' album, No. 1 in Scandinavia and 'Joe's Garage' is just
released as a single. I'm blocking up with product This is unusual in my case – the first time it has happened."

Also, this year Warner Brothers' Discreet label released two records by Zappa. "Orchestral Favorites" and "Sleep Dirt".

The only other feature movie Zappa was in before the new one was "200 Motels" in 1971. The soundtrack was on United Artists. "I was in it 20 seconds. The role of me was played by Ringo Starr."

He produced, directed, edited, composed music, wrote continuity, is in and paid by "Baby Snakes." He says, "After I'd been working on it for two years and spent $400,000 on it, I was looking for somebody to put up the completion money. I couldn't get anybody interested so I saved my nickels and dimes and finished it myself. By opening it in New York and when lines start to form around the block, somebody will become interested in picking it up for nationwide distribution. I expect to more than make my money back."

1. This article by Mary Campbell, AP Newsfeatures Writer, was published in some local newspapers in December 1979 and January 1980 under different titles.

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