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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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 <>

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15 July 1991 (UK)  »

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Did You Know?


Jesco White: Well this is Jesse and this is my dear friend Wattie. Pull out a twenty when I rock for your party.
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Followed by Dancing Outlaw II: Jesco Goes to Hollywood (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

If You Wanna Get to Heaven, You Gotta Raise a Little Hell
4 May 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Dancing Outlaw (1991) This is about as much guilty pleasure as I can stand, as this is an enormously entertaining documentary. I absolutely love watching this, and have almost wore out the DVD. I have a copy that has been viewed several times, but I'm not too worried, as I could pay a fairly high price to purchase this online. I have taken a great deal of pleasure showing this to friends and family members, and feel like I am letting them in on a underground phenomenon that only a select few people know about. I suppose it's true, as this jewel has few online ratings or reviews on IMDb, and is a little known cult classic.

I feel almost certain that this is real and is not a scripted fake. This is fueled by the central character Jesco White, who is certainly one of the most interesting characters to emerge from West Virginia. His love of Elvis, mountain dancing (a mash up of clogging and tap), and his multiple personalities are ingredients that fuel an intoxicating blend of exploitive fun. Jesco seems to move between a few general personalities, as purported by his wife Norma Jeans quote from early in the proceedings "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." It is also obvious that Jesco and White have a less than ideal marriage, and their bickering and domestic strife is on full display. This documentary comes across as something of a testimonial insight into Jesco White and his history. He talks directly into the camera, and walks the viewer through is early life as a juvenile delinquent, his love of dancing, meeting his wife, and the daily strife he has endured.

The documentary does a good job of interspersing comments from his wife Norma Jean, Jesco's mother and their family. This is spiced with odd and unusually musings by the group, and serves as an unusual quote fest. An especially provocative look into the manic temper of White is found in his quote "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' sloppy, slimy eggs!" This is filled with unusual musings and interesting quotes from start to finish. I still have a hard time getting the Ozark Mountain Daredevil song "If you Wanna Get to Heaven" song out of my head, as Jesco mountain dances with this booming from a beat box as he crosses an old fashion swinging bridge. Surely Jesco has raised more than a little hell. An especially entertaining segment details the fight and subsequent shooting of his father D.Ray, as Jesco revisits the emotional turmoil that is a result. His bothers and especially his sister Mamie are also shown, as they mud bog and party to Lynyrd Skynrd blaring in the background. By the way, Mamie is the biggest and badest of all the Whites, and would surely be an interesting subject of a different exploitive documentary. This is great theatre as the viewer has full access. This is more for those looking to enjoy the extremes of White and his family.

Jesco White is something of a cult classic hero. His antics are both disturbing and entertaining. While watching this documentary, I am struck by concern that this is exploitive, and that Mr. White is plagued by problems that he has little chance of controlling. The tug and pull between enjoying this immensely, and being concerned that Jesco is being laughed at is a consideration.

This is not an objective documentary where a slice of life is shown of someone from outside the mainstream of American society. This is directly exploitive of Jesco White, his family, and their community. I'm fairly certain that most who watch this immediately label all who hail from rural Appalachia in a similar fashion as they do Jesco and his family. There is an implicit stereotyping at play that immediately kicks in when those from a more sophisticated or progressive communities are exposed to citizens from impoverished areas of the mountains. Almost every reference to this documentary is accompanied by "Redneck" or "Hillbilly" and a certain like minded stereotyping is surely applied. Many of the same groups who are quickest to apply such labels are the first to be outraged and rail at the stereotyping of other ethnic, religious, or racial groups. I have always found it strange that such a dichotomy is at play when attitudes and prejudices are considered, and that it seems to be politically correct to apply "hillbilly" or "Redneck" as an insult, while abstaining from other group labels. Rural Americans who live in the Appalachian Mountains are regrettably the last group that it is still politically correct to be made fun of.

Bottom Line: I would give this a 92. This is not for those who are easily offended, or deeply rooted conservatives, or made to feel uneasy by mature issues such as drug use or extreme Hell raisin'. Dancing Outlaw is exploitive, and deals with an extreme person that is probably suffering from some type of mental disability. If the viewer can suspend the reality of this characters plight and struggles, then this is great entertainment. If you cannot get past the problems that Jesco White has, then stay away. It may be an issue for some to suspend their concern for Jesco White, and just sit back and enjoy the ride. For those who don't see that as a problem, they will have a highly entertaining good time.

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