Wild Bill Horsecock
A film by Oliver Shahery
One of the films that epitomizes the point of this festival is Wild Bill Horsecock. It’s a film I saw a few months ago, when it screened along with something of mine at a certain notorious shoe-free TriBeCa penthouse. It’s a 16mm short about a busker in Nashville who had been accused of rape by several women. Multiple festivals pulled the film after protests by the women. This seems wrong to me—the film in no way excuses his behavior; instead, it’s an observational documentary that openly documents the accusations, and does nothing to imply that he’s innocent. It has essentially no narrative voice and no structure, and provides no answers. It should be seen. —A.M.
I’m not sure what to write about Oliver Shahery’s Wild Bill Horsecock. I interviewed Oliver at Remedy Diner on Houston, where he drank eight cups of black coffee and three glasses of red wine and talked to me about his short.
In brief, he went to karaoke in Nashville and this weird and sleazy busker with a stringy blond mullet got on stage and seduced everyone, including Oliver. Oliver started following Hayes Johnson around, shooting 16mm (Sean Price Williams had told him that to be a real film it had to be on real film). Hayes sang karaoke, sang on the street, put up PornHub videos of himself slapping his dick around, jerking off. He slept in his car, and Oliver slept there, too, until he couldn’t take it anymore. Hayes kept bottles of his piss around. He had something electric around him.
Women were drawn to him but women were mad at him. Some said he’d had hepatitis and not told them. Others said he’d raped them. Oliver found out about all that when Hayes started getting scream-y phone calls, sitting there, calmly, in the driver’s seat of his disgusting car. He included the calls, of course.
But when the film got into festivals, the women were mad at Oliver. Look at the Letterboxed for Wild Bill Horsecock: it’s all about how wrong it is to make a film about someone accused of sexual assault. They got the New York Film Festival to pull the short, and then Slamdance pulled it.
I asked Oliver why he did something that so obviously would get him into trouble. He’s young and smart and handsome and likeable. He has a lot to lose.
He told me that he hated the idea that films are supposed to make the world better. He hated the idea of making films about good people, in the good-person way, to accomplish “good.” It got darker. When I’d seen Oliver at KGB earlier that week, he seemed charming and unguided, like a marble rolling away. He told me that he’d recently broken up with his girlfriend and moved to Manhattan. He’d lied about his income while applying for the place, and had no idea how he was going to pay his rent. He was DPing that week, he told me; I asked for how much, but he was doing it for free. He told me, over all that wine and coffee at Remedy, that he had this desire to ruin everything in his life, to do the opposite of the right thing. It was like there was some dark and manic energy around him, some inexplicable will to entropy, to chaos, to extremes.
We talked about Oliver’s foot fetish. He paid $40 to go to hookah bars, where men sat in booths under mosquito netting and women showed their feet. I was kind of speechless and drinking a lot of coffee and I asked him to show me the porn he watched. There was one other party in the cavernous restaurant, and they were sitting right by us, looking suicidal (as couples usually look in restaurants). Oliver played me a PornHub video of a girl chatting with the soft, pale bottoms of her feet facing the lens. He kept the sound on, which I thought was very strong.
It was the last hot day of the year. I knew autumn was coming, and the end of something. I’d been in a strange state for months, like my real life was beginning and it disgusted me. I wanted to ruin everything. I was on a spiritual bender. I wanted it to be hot forever, I wanted everything to be a mess forever.
Oliver paid the silly, large tab for coffee and wine, and we headed out. I asked him what he was doing after the interview, and he said, “I’m going to buy an AC and jerk off.” Or I think he said that. Earlier that week, a friend had texted me he was jerking off and heading downtown, another had told me he was down to twice a day, and I wanted to think that everyone, now, as the world fell apart, as everyone around me proceeded in their terrible unhappiness, as the summer of my life cooled and dulled into stable desperation, was just going to jerk off and tell me about it.