In the realm of a gritty director breathing new lives into their acting careers, Corey Feldman seems closer to the spectrum of Danny Bonaduce and Lindsay Lohan than Robert Downey, Jr. or Tab Hunter.
Feldman is four years removed from his tell-all memoir, Coreyography, and ten years removed from The Two Coreys, his semi-scripted A&E reality series with co-star Corey Haim and then-wife Susie Sprauge that documented the former child actors’ attempts to revive their careers, with the latter season focusing almost singularly on Haim’s struggles with loneliness, addiction, and surviving childhood sexual abuse.
The Two Coreys is the only thing I immediately recognize of Feldman or Haim from outside their self-aware parodies on Robot Chicken or Feldman’s role in The Fox and The Hound (1981): I saw The Goonies (1985) once in 2010 and have never bothered with it again; I’ve seen bits of Gremlins (1984) but not in order; I’ve meant to see Stand By Me (1986); and I watched The Lost Boys (1987) with my boyfriend the week before Feldman’s show at Dante’s. While watching the film, I caught this line from Kiefer Sutherland’s character (who, coincidentally, sold out Mississippi Studios last month):
“Now you know what we are, and you know what you are. You’ll never grow old, and you’ll never die. But you must feed.”
One friend asked me not to go, saying we shouldn’t support this train wreck. Another said, “Happy Straight Pride!” sarcastically as I entered Dante’s on the last night of Portland LGBTQ+ Pride. I felt bad leaving my dad on Father’s Day. I was genuinely confused by how many Facebook friends wanted me to go.
But I had a hypothesis to test: I theorized Angelic 2 the Core, the album Feldman was promoting on his viral 2016 Today Show appearance as Corey Feldman’s the Truth Movement, is based on a profound grief based on the very public deaths of Haim and Michael Jackson, being processed by an emotionally stunted sexual assault victim/public figure whose origins read like a much darker Bret Michaels by way of teenager achieving international stardom before age 18, and that his backing band, the Angels, are part of a team of people taking advantage of said grief. After what I witnessed, though, I think I’m only half right.
Feldman’s Jackson-inspired attire, and the Angels’ stage costumes that included LED wings and non-synchronized white negligees reminded me of not the best and not the worst burlesque performances I’ve seen around Portland.
The music felt like performance art based on a stream of consciousness and an endurance test that exists in a bubble where the feminist progress of the last forty years never happened. Feldman and his Angels, a quintet of female musicians including his new wife, Courtney Anne Mitchell, played some of Feldman’s original music, which included a song from Dream a Little Dream (1989), a movie I’ve never heard of before my research for this review.
Feldman’s discography was the first hint my hypothesis would not flesh out: it’s consistent with the self-aware/self-indulgent, late ’80s/early ’90s rock that Feldman’s performed since 1992. They were played alongside a cover medley of some of the most essential songs in the rock canon, including the Beatles, Cyndi Lauper, and Little Richard. The Angels, including their newly 21-year-old guitar player, performed original material unassociated with Feldman that was virtually inaudible. The 21-year-old played a guitar medley that bounced between more of the American canon, which I recognized as including Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” At some point, someone played an electric violin on what I think was “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King, and I thought Feldman was personally testing my patience with acts I could only dream of but never dare perform on a paying public.
The line wrapping around the block to get into Dante’s was my next indicator that my hypothesis would not have my intended outcome. I am still baffled by how many people paid money to see Corey Feldman. Again, knowing Feldman primarily as a self-aware reality TV oddity, I completely underestimated how many people are die-hard fans of ’80s public figures, no matter how far removed from their legacy they are. If that wasn’t the case, New Kids on the Block, Poison and Paula Abdul would never book a venue. It just didn’t occur to me that at least a dozen people would wear LED/feathered halos, buy Corey Feldman t-shirts or rock out to Corey Feldman’s Truth Movement, let alone enough people to form a line outside the venue. It felt like Election Night 2016: The Concert, where outrageousness and name recognition triumph over technical qualification.
My final clue came when Feldman announced an incorrect number of years since Haim’s death when I thought he was calling for either a moment of silence or recognition for his late colleague. Feldman said Haim has been dead for five years, but it’s been seven. As someone still affected by a close friend’s death eight years later, I’m shocked Feldman would get that number wrong, especially given that Haim’s death is the device which frames much of Coreyography. According to my boyfriend, who wore a Lost Boys t-shirt he bought before we started dating, Haim was also responsible for Feldman’s teen heartthrob status. Watching The Two Coreys, Haim unquestionably dominates the show.
Ultimately, though, Corey Feldman’s show doesn’t read with the same apparent depth or self-loathing as BoJack Horseman. The Angels are in a symbiotic relationship with Feldman: not outright exploiting the public figure, but allowing themselves to be used as a symptom of the system that physically and emotionally tortured icons from Judy Garland to Carrie Fisher to death, a system that thrives to this day. Feldman claims to work with the Angels to save them from the predatory cycle demanding youth in Hollywood, but it’s not readily apparent what Feldman does differently than the figures he denounces.
Corey Feldman is doing this because outrage views still drive ratings, and the people who bought tickets to make fun of him spent as much money as the people who came to root for him. A Coreyography snippet provides a clue: “In our business there are always ways to make money. Sign fifty autographs at twenty dollars apiece and you’ve got yourself an easy grand. Show up to a screening of The Lost Boys and you might make several times that.”
Corey Feldman is traumatized and needs attention, positive or negative, to fulfill Kiefer Sutherland’s 30-year-old screen promise: You’ll never grow old, and you’ll never die. But you need to feed.