Different Drummer

Dancing Outlaw (15 Jul. 1991)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary
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This documentary short, produced for West Virginia public TV's "Different Drummer" series, introduces us to Jesco White, a hard-living, tap-dancing Boone County resident whose repeated ... See full summary »


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Title: Dancing Outlaw (15 Jul 1991)

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Episode credited cast:
Wattie Green
Dorsey White
Jerry White
Jesco White
Norma Jean White


This documentary short, produced for West Virginia public TV's "Different Drummer" series, introduces us to Jesco White, a hard-living, tap-dancing Boone County resident whose repeated run-ins with the law have interfered with his dream of becoming as renowned a "mountain dancer" as his late father, D. Ray White. We meet Jesco's three distinct personalities; the gentle and loving Jesse, the violent and dangerous Jesco, and the extremely strange Elvis. We also encounter various members of Jesco's family, all nearly as eccentric as Jesco himself. You will ask, "Are these people for real?" Yes, they are. Written by Marty Cassady <martyc@bev.net>

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15 July 1991 (UK)  »

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Norma Jean White: Jesse can be three people: He is Jesse, he is Jesco, and he is Elvis. Jesse is the most beautiful man that I could've ever loved. But Jesco, he, - he's somebody else. He's the devil in hisself. Uh, nothing satisfies him - he can't be happy. Nothing you do for him makes him happy.
Jesco White: [in flashback] And I took the butcher knife and put it up to her neck. I said if you want to live to see tomorrow, you better start fryin' them eggs a little bit better then what you a fryin' em - I'm tired of eatin' ...
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Featured in The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (2009) See more »

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The legend and enigma that is Jesco White
27 January 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

NOTE: This is a review of the twenty-eight minute excerpt of PBS's Dancing Outlaw, which can be found on Amazon Instant Video or Youtube.

Dancing Outlaw was a documentary done by the Public Broadcasting Service in 1991, profiling known Boone County, West Virginia resident Jesco White. White's family has been notorious in West Virginia for being lawless, societal deviants who engage in dangerous activities that have not only been harmful for them, but have had severe repercussions for the county and the state itself. The entire White family was given a documentary called The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia by Jackass stars Jeff Tremaine and Johnny Knoxville and was a film I went on to call "important" and "vital viewing." Dancing Outlaw has a micro-view when compared to that documentary, exploring its subject in a detailed and elaborate manner like we expect it to. White was the son of Donald Ray and Bertie Mae White, and grew up in a crowded household. D. Ray was an infamous tap-dancer, who knew fifty-two unique dances that allegedly no one else knew of or could mimic quite like him. Frequent video footage from the documentary Talking Feet shows an extremely focused and talented White dancing and letting the rhythm of the taps run through his energized body.

Then in 1985, tragedy struck, when D. Ray and his sons, Jesco and Dorsey, were shot with a shotgun by an angered friend, leaving D. Ray dead and Jesco and Dorsey critically injured. What followed was a promise, by Jesco himself, that he would allow his father's spirit and love for tap-dancing live on by putting on his father's shoes and replicating the sound and rhythm brought forth by him.

Norma Jean White, Jesco's wife of many years, tells us Jesco has three active personas; Jessie, Jesco, and Elvis. Jessie is beautiful, sweet, charming, and a devoted man. Jesco is a rowdy, uncontrollable monster that can be abusive and vulgar, and mainly comes out when Jesco has had too much to drink or took part in too much inhaling (Jesco recalls one time he held a knife to his wife's throat because her eggs were sloppy and runny). Elvis, on the other hand, comes forth when Jesco's obsession with the king of rock and roll is triggered, and he heads up to his lair which is completely decked out with Elvis bobbleheads, posters, signs, clothing, pictures, license plates, hats, albums, vinyls, you name it. There's even a recording microphone hanging from the ceiling so Jesco can record covers and sing along with Elvis as he pleases. The man is a producer of fine talent and a heavy admirer of it.

Even at its concise and heavily-shortened twenty-eight minutes, Dancing Outlaw could pass as a complete documentary. It shows Jesco's attitude towards fame and family devotion, what he find important about his passion, his personal life, his uneven marriage with the woman he loves, and how his family views him in the many lights he is under. Director Jacob Young does a smooth job of showing what we want and giving us additional materials, and splicing that in a twenty-eight minute special isn't easy. The soul and wit is present and so is the fun.

Starring: Jesco White. Directed by: Jacob Young.

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