Showing posts with label hoax. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hoax. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Are You Experienced (Enough)?

Several news articles have appeared on the web this morning claiming that a roughly 11-minute video has been released for sale on the internet that shows the late Jimi Hendrix having sex with two women “in a dimly lit bedroom.”

Although the DVD version (and perhaps the version available for download, I don't know) apparently contains the testimony of two former Sixties groupies—one the well-known fellatrix Pamela Des Barres, the other Cynthia Albritton aka “Cynthia Plaster Caster” averring the authenticity of the footage—there is every reason to believe the video is a hoax, as “authentic” as the video purportedly containing footage of an alien autopsy. Whether Jimi Hendrix indulged in the ménage is not the issue here; I’ll leave that for others to fret over (assuming it makes any difference to anyone). However, the reasons for my suspicion that this video is a hoax are as follows:

1. Anecdotal Evidence:

A.) Vivid Entertainment Group (VEG) averred “in a press release” (i.e., a photocopied sheet of paper, not a sworn affidavit) that they consulted with many “experts.” Experts on what? The anatomy of Jimi Hendrix? (Are there such experts?) The period authenticity of the putative source materials, the alleged film footage—it was the pre-video time period, remember, when the footage was shot? The décor, meaning they can ascertain whether the location was Britain or America by means of furniture, wall fixtures, etc.? The aforementioned former groupies are among the so-called experts. VEG’s claim is that the former groupies, more so than anyone, ought to recognize the genitals of someone with whom they were intimate, even if that intimacy (of whatever sort) was forty years ago. After all, claims VEG, their chosen area of expertise was male genitalia.

B.) Vague, questionable provenance: Some news articles refer to a “tape,” although again if the event recorded actually took place forty years ago, it is highly unlikely that the footage was shot on video, but more likely film (one article I read did in fact refer to “8mm footage”). VEG purchased the “tape” from an individual named Howie Klein, who brought the “tape” to Vivid after he, Klein, acquired it from a collector “who found it.” How and where was it found? Where has the footage been stored for the past forty years, and how was it discovered? Who is the unidentified “rock and roll memorabilia collector” referred to in some news articles, and how did he (or she) acquire it? What was the method by which Mr. Klein authenticated the “tape”--or film--prior to purchasing it? Who is the cameraman who claims to have shot the footage? Why and under what particular circumstances was he hired (or designated) to do so? If the material object in question were a painting rather than very easily faked video footage, would its authenticity be unquestionably guaranteed by such a dubious provenance?

C.) The location of the ménage, “a dimly lit bedroom,” smacks of the “unidentified location” where, for instance, the alien autopsy took place. Moreover, the fact that the bedroom is "dimly lit" is suspicious, as it makes the identity of the individuals in the scene more difficult to determine. VEG claims the footage is forty years old, but unless the 8mm footage can be produced and can be subject to the same intense scrutiny as the Zapruder footage of the Kennedy assassination, VEG's claim has the same truth value as an opinion of belief.

D.) VEG lawyers allegedly hired “private investigators” to track down the man who claims to have been the cinematographer of the event. Even if this is true, it doesn’t “authenticate” the footage. There have been individuals over the years swearing to have seen dead alien bodies after the supposed Roswell UFO crash. Neither lawyers nor private investigators have access to the private contents of a person’s mind; all they can do is verify the actual identity of the person making the claim, and verify that this person, so identified, swears (believes) he or she is telling the truth about the matter. An individual may swear he or she is telling the truth about seeing the body of a dead alien, but this does not prove whatsoever the existence of the alien body. As many studies of perceptual cognition have revealed, what one sees isn't simply a matter of sensory apparatus (the eyes), but what thinks one sees (think of the famous example of the "duck-rabbit"). Perceptual ambiguity is precisely the issue here: who is that person in the footage?

2. Counter-Evidence:

A.) Kathy Etchingham, Jimi Hendrix’s long-time girlfriend, after viewing several still photographs of the footage, has told several newspapers, “It is not him.” Doesn’t she qualify as an expert?

B.) Charles R. Cross, author of the excellent Hendrix biography Room Full of Mirrors, who saw the footage while he was researching his book and dismissed it at the time as fake, also disputes the identity of the man in the "tape," claiming among other things that Hendrix was too painfully shy to have agreed to perform sexual acts on camera. Like Kathy Etchingham, he also claims the person is not Hendrix. Doesn’t he qualify as an expert? The fact that Mr. Cross saw the footage while researching his biography means the existence of the footage has been known for, at the very least, four years (the hardcover edition of his biography was published in 2005), and perhaps longer, but no one took it seriously.

C.) At the time (ca. 1968), most enthusiasts purchased unexposed negative for 8mm cameras in the form of cartridges containing a film spool three minutes in length. While it is possible the alleged footage could have been shot using several such cartridges, the color film in each cartridge, unless the conditions were extremely well-controlled, often would often develop with minor differences in contrast levels and color saturation. I haven’t seen the footage of the menage, but if it consists of one uninterrupted eleven-minute sequence, it’s likely faked. However, someone trying to pull off a clever hoax, knowing how amateurs purchased 8mm film stock at the time, might well have used computer technology to imitate different color and contrast levels in roughly three-minute segments.

3. Legal Status of the Footage:

A spokesman for Experience Hendrix, the Seattle company owned by Hendrix’s relatives that controls the rights to his music, said, “We’re in no position to verify [the tape’s authenticity],” meaning his company doesn’t claim to have anyone on staff with the competency (expertise) to very the authenticity of the footage--in contrast, to, say, VEG--meaning the company isn't saying one way or the other. The company's denial of expertise thus enables VEG legally to distribute the footage because as far as VEG is concerned, the person being filmed doesn’t have to be really Hendrix anyway, but merely a person possessing “Hendrix’s likeness.” Surprisingly, it seems that the rights to Hendrix’s likeness remains an unsettled legal issue--the loophole necessary to have enabled VEG to distribute the video.