Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato’s Favorite World of Wonder Clips (VIDEO)
Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato pick the 17 most memorable projects produced by their documentary company.
The only drawback of publishing a big, heavy coffee-table book is that you can’t include video clips—at least not yet. So think of this collection of clips as a companion to The World According to Wonder, out Tuesday.
1. ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ (2000)
To this day, people tell us how much they love this film. Tammy Faye truly changed our lives, and to have known her was such a gift. One day while filming we decided to visit Heritage USA, the amusement park that Jim and Tammy built at their PTL ministry. The day we visited, the park was abandoned, and there were chains across the entrance. Tammy got out of the car, removed the chain, and roamed the park. She had not been back since the scandal that brought them down. It was all highly emotional, and we walked around in silence until Tammy came upon a table and chairs, and she just couldn’t resist putting them back in their place. It was like a Bergman film. Interesting tidbit: RuPaul narrates the film.
2. ‘101 Rent Boys’ (2000)
We filmed Tammy Faye by day and 101 Rent Boys by night. Today the hustlers of Santa Monica Boulevard have all but disappeared and gone online, but at the end of the last century they were still there. In this film, we decided to pay 101 of them not for sex but for their stories. Sex workers are people too, and as smart and sensitive as they are marginalized and disrespected. One of our interviewees blew us away when he made the case that religious ecstasy and sexual communion are cut from the same cloth.
3. ‘Party Monster’ (Documentary, 1998)
We filmed Michael Alig and James St. James cooking special K in James’s apartment—a few blocks away from our old 9th Street East Village apartment—before Michael’s arrest for the murder of Angel. At one point during our sit-down interviews they decided it was time to do some drugs, so we just kept filming. Three interesting details: 1) the poolside interview with James was shot at the Chateau Marmont. We managed to get a key to the pool when we first moved to L.A. and used to hang out there, pretending to be guests; (2) during the K-hole sequence, if you look closely, you can see some flower gardens. These were actually at Martha Stewart’s home, Turkey Hill; (3) the person in the plushy pig outfit is Michael Alig.
4. ‘TransGeneration’ (2005)
This series aired on the Sundance Channel and followed some incredibly inspiring students going through gender transition while at college. There is something so real, raw, and honest about this clip, watching Lucas, his mom, and his brother hang out at home talking about his transition, in such a matter-of-fact way. It’s the casualness of it all—the cat, the bare feet. Longtime WOW director/producer Jeremy Simmons made this series. His keen eye does not miss a thing.
5. ‘Showbiz Moms & Dads’ (2004–05)
Before Toddlers & Tiaras, before Honey Boo Boo, before Dance Moms, there was Showbiz Moms & Dads on Bravo. Working with David Perler, we assembled an awesome cast. We adore the Klingensmiths! There were some questions about whether to cast them in the series, but Shane and his mom were always a personal favorite. A few years ago, after the series aired, Shane came and spent a day in the office, having decided that his future would be behind the camera rather than in front of it singing “Hot Hot Hot.”
6. ‘Showdog Moms & Dads’ (2005)
Lauren Zalaznick suggested it might be fun to expand the Showbiz Moms & Dads brand, and Showdog Moms & Dads was born. The day this piece of tape was shot, showrunner Todd Radnitz rushed back to the office to share it with us! And with good reason. There was just one problem. How did it fit into the narrative of the story we were telling? It didn’t feature any of our key characters and it didn’t directly connect with any of our story arcs. At which point we realized it didn’t really matter. Dog bit my vagina!
7. ‘Million Dollar Listing’ (2006–12)
We’ve always had a thing for real-estate agents. Without question, they live the life. Josh Flagg’s grandmother Edith is a rock star. She was responsible for bringing polyester to America. Imagine the 20th century without it. For us, she’s responsible for bringing comedy, heart, and smarts to the Los Angeles series of MDL. And you gotta love the way she tells her grandson Josh the way it is.
8. ‘RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race’ (2012)
It is simply impossible to pick a single clip from RuPaul’s Drag Race, so we picked one from the All Stars season. Raven and Jujubee were best friends and partners throughout the series, but then they had to go wig-to-wig lip-syncing to the Robyn song “Dancing on My Own.” Tears, sweetie! Tears! The entire control room was crying. It was an unbelievable moment. And to watch RuPaul watch it—to see him absorbing the unfolding drama and emotions—reminded us that at the heart of RuPaul’s Drag Race, what you find is … heart. It also reminds us how lip-syncing is truly an art that can be more authentic than a live performance. There was no choice in the end but to keep them both. RuPaul loves a happy ending!
9. ‘Wishful Drinking’ (2010)
The opportunity to take Carrie Fisher’s one-man show from the stage to the screen was impossible to resist because of her abundant and infinite genius. In this clip, she heads to the blackboard and does her magic. This has always been so many people’s favorite part of the show. We can’t take any credit for this, but we can give thanks and props to Sheila Nevins, who gave us the chance not only to work on this project but also on many, many other HBO docs.
10. ‘Inside Deep Throat’ (2005)
There were so many stories to tell with this film, and oral sex was the least of them. There was the Linda Lovelace story, the story of the mainstreaming of porn in the ’70s, and there was the Mafia story. Frankly, no one wanted to talk about any of them, but especially the Mafia connection. You see, the mob produced and distributed the film. We finally persuaded one of the film’s distributors to talk to us. While he was quite comfortable telling us all about it, his wife was dead set against it. We visited their home in Miami three times to speak with him, always trying to catch him while his wife was out. No such luck.
11. ‘Becoming Chaz’ (2011)
Believe it or not, we never planned to interview Cher for the film. Believe it or not, Cher said yes the day after we asked her. There was just one hitch. We had to get to Vegas from New York that night to do the interview. And that would have been fine, had not a summer storm rolled in and shut down the airport. Although we arrived hours late, she was gracious enough to do the interview in the small hours of the morning. And in this aha moment, she explains in ways we all can understand what it must feel like to be transgendered.
12. ‘The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (2011)
The challenge about making this film for Sheila Nevins at HBO was that none of us had any idea when or if this heinous law would ever be repealed. Over a number of years, we followed the political twists and turns, with special focus on the Herculean and heroic efforts of SLDN, led by Aubrey Sarvis. In the end, we completely lucked out with timing, and the film aired at midnight when the repeal of the law went into effect. When Admiral Mullen testified, it was one of the most memorable moments of our lives.
13. ‘Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam of Crystal’ (2008)
We set out to make a film following this savvy madam as she started a new life and built a new kind of brothel, where women were the clients and men the escorts. Instead we ended up following a woman in the throes of drug addiction, living alone in the desert. It was one of the most difficult and disheartening projects we have ever worked on, until the day Heidi introduced us to her next-door neighbor, another former madam who lived in a trailer with a collection of exotic birds. When she died, Heidi took the birds under her wing. And then the most amazing thing happened. Heidi fell in love—with Dalton, a parakeet.
14. ‘The Fabulous Beekman Boys’ (2010–11)
Sometimes the littlest moments, like a goodnight kiss, are the most important. It was so simple, so sweet, so ordinary. But two men kissing on screen was also a network no-no. Thankfully, Laura Michalchyshyn, our patron at Planet Green, prevailed on everyone to see common sense. So the kiss stayed in. Since then, of course, the Beekman boys have gone on from strength to strength and won The Amazing Race. The message that two men in love are no different from any other of God’s creatures in love is just one of those truths that should be held self-evident. One day it will be.
15. ‘Finding Sarah’ (2011)
For years we had wanted to work with the duchess because she was such a firebrand and, we felt, completely misunderstood. After the humiliation of the News of the World exposé, we thought there would be no way she would let cameras into her life. But she let us film her journey back from the mire of scandal and the brink of despair for OWN. And what a journey it was. Everyone who worked on it was touched by her courage and learned so much.
16. ‘Made in the USA’ (2005)
After the success of our Channel 4 U.K. series Manhattan Cable, in which we packaged clips from the wild and wacky world of New York’s public-access shows, we ventured out all over the States looking for the same kind of shows in other cities. In Minneapolis we found Ol Yeller. To this day his naked primal scream rings in our ears, the televisual equivalent of Munch’s Scream. It is a piece of surpassing minimalism that has profound resonance. Anyone who has had it up to here with demanding talent, network notes, and the other joys and vicissitudes of this mercurial business will find their good humor and perspective restored by watching this clip. Perhaps.
17. ‘In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye’ (2012)
If you think Grace Coddington is the only interesting fashion editor, think again! In this documentary for HBO, we got to meet every living fashion editor, past and present. There were so many interesting editors and so many interesting moments that we sampled some of our favorite soundbites, and with the help of Lucian Piane turned them into a song that we used to score the end credits. “It’s All About the Butterfly” is available on iTunes.