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Nancy's Drug Problem


1971 00:08:35 United StatesEnglishB&WMono4:31/2" open reel video


In this short but provocative tape, recorded August 4th, 1971, Carol Vontobel “interviews” Nancy Cain who is speaking about her “coke addiction problem” under the pseudonym Nancy X.  Nancy’s addiction, the viewer soon learns, is not to cocaine but coca-cola. As such, the segment unfolds as a spoof, both playfully calling attention to the proliferation of depictions of, and conversations about, the pervasive use of drugs in the U.S. in the early 1970s.

Referred to as a “soft drug” for which there is no formal program for coping or combating addiction, Carol and Nancy’s dialogue about this type of “coke problem” pokes fun at the over-legislation of youth subculture by authorities seeking to contain it, while also gesturing towards the ways in which capitalist consumption of consumer products, such as coca-cola, are infectious. By maintaining their composure throughout the parodied interview, the Freex’s performance anticipates and resonates with today’s popularized form of parodied news reportage, such as the Colbert Report and the Daily Show. In effect, Carol and Nancy take on imagined personas of reporter and subject before the camera, but leave a message that remains open-ended, and characteristically lighthearted.

— Faye Gleisser


VDB Videofreex

Videofreex, one of the first video collectives, was founded in 1969 by David Cort, Mary Curtis Ratcliff and Parry Teasdale, after David and Parry met each other, video cameras in hand, at the Woodstock Music Festival. Working out of a loft in lower Manhattan, the group's first major project was producing a live and tape TV presentation for the CBS network, The Now Show, for which they traveled the country, interviewing countercultural figures such as Abbie Hoffman and Black Panther leader Fred Hampton.

The group soon grew to ten full-time members--including Chuck Kennedy, Nancy Cain, Skip Blumberg, Davidson Gigliotti, Carol Vontobel, Bart Friedman and Ann Woodward--and produced tapes, installations and multimedia events. The Videofreex trained hundreds of makers in this brand new medium though the group's Media Bus project.

In 1971 the Freex moved to a 27-room, former boarding house called Maple Tree Farm in Lanesville, NY, operating one of the earliest media centers. Their innovative programming ranged from artists' tapes and performances to behind-the-scenes coverage of national politics and alternate culture. They also covered their Catskill Mountain hamlet, and in early 1972 they launched the first pirate TV station, Lanesville TV. An exuberant experiment with two-way, interactive broadcasting, it used live phone-ins and stretched cameras to the highway, transmitting whatever the active minds of the Freex coupled with their early video gear could share with their rural viewers.

During the decade that the Freex were together, this pioneer video group amassed an archive of 1,500+ raw tapes and edits.

In 2001, the Video Data Bank began assembling this unique archive of original 1/2-inch open-reel videos, collecting them from basements and attics where the tapes were stored. A restoration plan was hammered out in 2007 and a distribution contract was signed between VDB and the newly formalized Videofreex Partnership (administered by Skip Blumberg).

The Videofreex Archive, now housed at VDB, chronicles the countercultural movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The  titles listed here are the first wave of an ongoing project to preserve and digitize important examples of this early video.

More About the Videofreex Archive Preservation

Also see:

Parry Teasdale: An Interview

Videofreex Official Website