"Different Drummer" Dancing Outlaw (TV Episode 1991) Poster

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Unforgettable red-sploitation which stands out as something great, regardless of the director's motives...
David1 March 2004
A very unique, zero-budget public TV documentary never officially released on video becomes a rampaging classic of red-sploitation...hmmm.

It's entertaining - completely absorbing in fact, and Jesco White is almost beyond description - John Waters or David Lynch would give up a limb to invent a character so stunningly complex, yet so absolutely bypassed by whatever constitutes contemporary life in America (as seen on TV). When I first saw this, I kept thinking this had to be an elaborate piece of performance art conjured up by some enterprising West Virginia college kids, but this is the real deal. The director attempts (in the most feeble fashion) to add a bit of cultural-anthropological value here, but for the most part this is a total piece of let's-ridicule-the-rednecks exploitation; you can take or leave it on that basis.

BUT - it's also unforgettable, hysterical, and completely surreal in it's entertainment value - not nearly as artful as the similar VERNON, FLORIDA or GREY GARDENS, but just as timeless. So - as a fan of this unique artifact, I'd guess I'm just as low and elitist as the director; oh well...
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This documentary changed my life!
dbspencer77727 August 2003
This film definitely belongs in the library of any cult collector. This documentary exploits the happenings of a small town West Va. resident named Jesco White, and his immediate family. You can look at this movie as a serious work of art or just a cheap redneck exploitation film. There were several parts in the movie where I found myslef wondering if it was really improv or scripted. It is so insane that it has to be authentic. Jesco is a multiple personality/gas huffing/mounting tap dancer (clogger) destined to take his fathers shoes and carry on the family name. Personally, Jesco has too many interests and doesn't do his father justice. It shows footage of his father dancing at mountain arts festival. He is truly talented for this almost forgotten form of dance. And his accompanying banjo player isn't that bad either. The film portrays how to fill the lazy days in their Boon Co. town. Full of family get- togethers, a little music, and stories about the good ol' days when he was doubling up on huffing gas and glue. This film is very hard to find, but definitely worth the money. I also own Dancing Outlaw 2, which outlines Jesco being discovered By Roseanne Arnold and co., and being escorted to Hollywood to appear on the show. Not as informative and captivating as the first one. If you do manage to see this one, snatch it up and relish the moments. One of the best documentaries that I have seen. I give this movie 4/5, even if you are sober.
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If You Wanna Get to Heaven, You Gotta Raise a Little Hell
Chris McAfee4 May 2011
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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One of the best documentaries ever, really....seriously....
SpookyTooth3 September 2002
Growing up in West Virginia, my little sister had shown me "The Dancing Outlaw" almost a decade ago. We thought it was the greatest thing ever filmed. Several years later, I moved far away and forgot about it, until this one day when I over heard some random people discussing it in a restaurant.

I kept hearing, "Jesco" and "Mountain Dancer", so I leaned over and asked them about it. They said the documentary of his family was shown the night before on Louisiana Public Television.

I couldn't believe it, so I went out and found a copy of "The Dancing Outlaw" (which wasn't easy). After about 10 or so years, not only does it appear to have been filmed yesterday, but it had the same great effect on me as it did when I was a teenager. Everyone should see this documentary to experience a unique and entertaining family. You'll watch it over and over again. Really....seriously...... 10 out of 10.
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Excellent! You won't believe these people are real.
lferguson3 November 1999
The backwoods of West Virginia can only be experience first-hand. If you can't make the journey, then watch this video. It's frightening, funny, but never, ever staged. These people are real - no pretense, no script, no acting. This is how they live. I'm a West Virginia native, and "Dancing Outlaw" is a long-overdue Appalachian documentary that can only been seen to be believed.
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The legend and enigma that is Jesco White
Steve Pulaski27 January 2013
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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magellan33322 March 2002
This documentary is quite possibly the most engrossing piece of work I have seen in a long time. It takes one in because it is so real! It is the story of Jesco White, a resident of West Virginia who claims to be the best tap dancer in all of Appalachia. None of the people featured appear to be coached or even putting up their best front. The documentary features Jesco, his wife, his mom and brother. There are others who make brief statements. As one watches it, it will be hard to believe that the comments made are the actual thoughts and beliefs of these mountain people. Lines like, "I was going to rob her, but fell in love with her" and "When Jessie is Elvis, I am not allowed to say anything, but just sit here and enjoy the entertainment" will leave you shaking your head in disbelief. If you can find this gem on video, snatch it up and take glimpse into the Appalachian culture.
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Jesco rules - too bad he was RIPPED OFF!
clays_r_us_15 January 2001
This show is absolutely fabulous. Jesco reveals his true nature and guides us through the hidden world of Boone County, WV. The sad story of his Daddy will make even the toughest viewer weep. Unfortunately, Jesco didn't get to benefit financially from the video. Maybe someday Jesco will get his own camcorder and dubbing machine and make his own series of videos he'll sell himself over the internet. Then he can benefit totally from his art.
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He is a king, on top of the dog house!
GodlessG27 February 2000
This is a great documentary about a man that has it all. A wife with MANY years of wisdom, a trailer fit for a king and yes, if that wasn't enough, his very own Elvis shrine. Though a bit naive, Jesco has hopes of making it to Hollywood with his fancy mountain dancing. How much longer can the mountains of West Virginia hold back our determined Jesco? Oh Jesco, we love you!
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A truly unique individual from a sub-culture not often seen
coach-2313 May 1999
Jacob Young does a great job in presenting jesco white, "Dancing Outlaw" not only as eccentric character, but also shows a side of American life not often exposed to the general public. One cannot help but feel empathy with jesco even though his life and lifestyle is far removed from most viewers. And yet, it is hard to believe that people really live like this. I can only hope to see jesco "elvis" white in person some day!
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Downright surreal!
yomistahman17 November 2003
The Dancing Outlaw is so convincingly incredible in every possible way. The kin, the trailers, the mood, the entertainment, the tale of how Jesco nearly forgot his gold-rimmed shades, Jesco's three personalities; himself, Elvis & and the Devil! The theme alone - Jesco White the second greatest tap dancer of the Appalachians, his old man being the greatest (with archive footage to prove it), is insane!!! Are you kidding me? Is this documentary for real? My arms were bruised from the pinching and my belly aching from laughter after seeing Jesco in action. The movie is just shy of being as down home as the field recordings John & Ruby Lomax did for the Library Of Congress. Back in 1939 mind you. This stroke of genius from Jacob Young should - if not already - be filed under the L.O.C.'s Southern Mosaic series.
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derek-5310 November 1999
If there is anything that has been commited to video that will scare the bejeezus out of God-fearin' christians (muslims, jews, satanists, agnostics, atheists, solipsists, etc., etc.), this is that moving picture. This documentary, far and away, takes the cake for the most bizarre, horrifying and jaw-splintering bit of "reality" that anyone, anywhere, has ever seen. I can't recommend this video enough -- there is no other video I've ever seen ("Vernon, Florida," "Atomic Cafe," "Sherman's March," and "Hated") that has scared the pants off me. Enter the world of Jesco White (alias, Jessie; alias, "Elvis"), and rest assured, your world will never again feel quite so innocent, nor quite so warped.
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