My Dinner with Jimi
review by Carrie Gorringe, 20 June 2003

Seattle International Film Festival 2003

If SIFF offered an award for the most unabashedly fun film played during the festival, Bill Fishman's My Dinner With Jimi would win hands down, as it skillfully envelops two seemingly contradictory ideas --  broad humor and subtle observations about the 1960s counterculture and those who shaped it -- in one seamless package.  Howard Kaylan, lead singer of  The Turtles (best known for their 1967 pop hit, "Happy Together") reminisces fondly, and with as much accuracy as he can muster (recalling the old saw about not having lived through the '60's if you could actually remember anything about them), about the time he and his bandmates toured London, and their encounters with the crème de la crème of the British rock world, among them Graham Nash, a very zoned-out Donovan, an acidulous John Lennon, Brian Jones and, of course, Jimi Hendrix.  The Jimi Hendrix that Kaylan encounters is on the verge of international stardom – at the time of their meeting, Hendrix was two weeks away from his legendary coming-out at the Monterey Pop Festival – and in love with the measure of fame and social acceptance that he has received in England;  he was not yet the self-described, paranoiac "fugitive from public opinion" that he would become in less than two years, although the seeds of self-destructive behavior were already on display.  Quite taken with Kaylan, Hendrix invites him to a dinner that consists of a greasy spinach omelet, with French fries plastered with malt vinegar, all washed down with copious amounts of scotch and Coca-Cola, followed by brandy.  Without giving too much away, the dinner has a rather disastrous --   and hilarious -- finale.

Yet the film is more than just a steady stream of personalities;  it may be a docudrama (as screenwriter Kaylan himself slyly noted after the screening, poetic license is an author's perogative, especially if you weren't completely compos mentis at all times during the period in question), but the film's hyperactive visual style and its subtle, subtextual, meditations on what made the so-called Summer of Love tick – so subtle that they seem almost like throwaways --  lift it above the average I-was-there mindset that often mars these types of memoirs.  Two scenes in particular – including a "discussion" between Frank Zappa and "Mama" Cass Elliott in an LA deli, and the frenetic attempts of Kaylan and his bandmate to avoid the draft by creatively flunking their army physical – are both standouts, as are the actors who have the potentially thankless task of embodying people whose every gesture is so famous that one false note would give everything away;  instead, the portrayals are so exact that they border upon the eerie. As of the time of writing, the film does not have a distributor (it was produced by Rhino Records).  It should.

Seattle International Film Festival:



Directed by:
Bill Fishman

Royale Watkins
Jason Boggs
George Wendt
Brett Gilbert
Sean Maysonet
Kevin Cotteleer
George Stanchev
Brian Groh
Quinton Flynn
Ben Bode
Nate Dushku
Lisa Brounstein
John Corbett
Bret Roberts

Written by:
Howard Kaylan

NR - Not Rated.
This film has not
been rated.






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