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From Tlingit carver Nathan Jackson’s 20-foot totem pole to the modernist stone-and-metal sculptures of Chiricahua Apache– born artist Allan Houser, Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is full of works by native artisans.
And lots—and lots—of signs indicating which works are, in fact, “NATIVE MADE.”
In the building’s first-floor Chesapeake Museum Store, for instance, you’ll find all sorts of “jewelry, textiles, and other works by Native artisans,” according to the museum’s Web site. Among them: Nachanulth carver Tom Patterson’s red-cedar wren mask, listed at $3,000, and a black jar by Santa Clara Pueblo potter Margaret Tafoya, which is priced at a whopping $22,500.
But not every item boasts the same tribal cred. In fact, upstairs in the Roanoke Museum Store, there’s all sorts of Native American– themed merchandise that’s not quite so authentic.
Take the colorful 32-by-44-inch “muchacho robe,” listed at $55. Or the $95 sun-motif denim jacket. Or the $60 deep-violet “commuter bag.” Or the matching $20 compact-disc carrying case—perfect for packing up that $15.98 copy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings’ Beautiful Beyond: Christian Songs in Native Languages.
Though “[i]nspired by the vivid colors and intricate designs of local and southwest Native American tribes,” according to their labels, the robe, bag, and CD case were all manufactured by Portland, Ore.– based Pendleton Woolen Mills Inc. Hence the “NON-NATIVE MADE” disclaimer printed in small type in the bottom right-hand corner of the shop’s “Pendleton Sun Signs” placard.
But all this origin-specific labeling isn’t just about the museum’s being politically correct or customer-friendly. It’s also about obeying federal law: The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, which Congress passed in response to increasing sales of tribal-looking knockoffs, strictly regulates how these goods can be marketed.
Under the act, “[i]t is unlawful to offer or display for sale or sell any good, with or without a Government trademark, in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States.” And the law strictly defines an Indian as “any individual who is a member of an Indian tribe, or for the purposes of this section is certified as an Indian artisan by an Indian tribe.”
The labeling regs lend at least a slight edge to the native artist com-peting with non-natives—often in the same galleries and markets—
“for his own cultural identity,” notes Alutiiq artist Jerry Laktonen. “I think it has probably helped quite a bit as far as giving us a foothold in the market,” says Laktonen, whose hand-painted ceremonial paddles sell under the “NATIVE MADE” label at the Smithsonian for $1,500 a pop.
“We comply to the letter,” says Linda St. Thomas, spokesperson for Smithsonian Business Ventures, the institution’s money-making arm that oversees the museum’s stores and Mitsitam Café. Not that the Smithsonian has much choice in the matter: Violating the act just once can result in a fine of up to $1 million—almost half the more than $2 million in sales the museum has raked in since opening on Sept. 21. A repeat offense could bump that penalty up to $5 million.
Naturally, the museum takes its arts-and-crafts labeling very seriously indeed. “Everything that is by Native Americans has to be labeled as such and verified,” St. Thomas says. “And we have letters of authenticity from all the makers. So where we say it’s made by Indians, we have the letters to back it up.”
And when authenticity is in question, the museum attempts to clarify. Above a rack of $18 bracelets and $35 necklaces, for instance, there’s this fine-print disclaimer: “This jewelry is assembled by Navajo people, however, the components are not handmade or produced by Native Americans. Turquoise used may be stabilized or synthetic. We offer this alternative for our visitors who wish to purchase a more affordable remembrance from the National Museum of the American Indian.”
Yet there appears to be at least one discrepancy the museum has overlooked: Under a “NATIVE MADE” sign advertising “Northwest Coast Crafts” hang an abundance of black $18 baseball caps embroidered with a red eagle logo.
A label affixed to the outside of the hats indicates that they were designed by Kwakwaka’wakw and Salish descendant Maynard Johnny Jr. But another label sewn inside the brushed-cotton-twill hats clearly reads, “Made in China.”
“That’s a mistake,” says St. Thomas. “It should have a tag that says that it’s not native-made.”
NOBODY IN THE CLUB, IT’S HISTORY…SORT OF
When the board of the beleaguered City Museum of Washington voted to close all its exhibits last month, Chair Thornell Page cited Congress’ failure to provide an expected $1 million subsidy to help keep the institution afloat.
He didn’t mention that the museum had also just lost some significant local funding: the $10,000 to $12,000 in rental revenue it was getting each week from area party promoters.
Back on Oct. 2, the old Carnegie Library building began hosting a Saturday-night party called Muse (Show & Tell, 10/15). “The only weekly event of its kind,” according to promotional materials, “MUSE provides the perfect pleasure palace for hip trendsetters and architects of style looking to break from the mundane club scene.”
Not so perfect, it turned out: Organizers pulled the plug on the weekly-party idea after only five weeks. “It was very labor-intensive,” explains promoter Howard Kitrosser. “Too much load-in and load-out of all the stuff”—sofas, bar supplies, and DJ equipment.
Muse will continue, Kitrosser says—but not on a weekly basis. “We’ve just found that people responded better if we do, like, once-a-month special events,” says Kitrosser, who notes that the event saw its biggest turnout for its Oct. 7 concert afterparty featuring embattled R&B crooner R. Kelly.
As for future special events: Muse will earn a little scratch for the City Museum on Dec. 17 and Dec. 31, but not again until February 2005.
PORNO FOR TYROS
Oakton, Va.–based videographer Dan Leal recently earned accolades for what any film critic could accurately call a cinematic masturbation piece. Yes, Porno Dan’s D.C. Debauchery 2 was nominated on Nov. 11 for a 2005 Adult Video News (AVN) Award in the Best Amateur Release category.
The flick had already received some advance publicity from Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher’s July 17 profile of Leal, which described his then-upcoming D.C. Debauchery series as “featuring scenes of group sex filmed inside District nightclubs.” (“At the point we spoke, I hadn’t seen that film,” Fisher notes.) As it turns out, however, the videos were shot almost entirely within the comforts of Leal’s own suburban town house—which isn’t too different from anybody else’s suburban town house.
Note, for example, all the dust that’s stirred up from Leal’s bed during opening act Petra’s first four-way—exactly the kind of homey touch that likely snagged Leal—er, Porno Dan—his first-ever award recognition from the adult-film industry and placed him on a list with such big-name nominees as Arnold Schwartzenpecker, Boo D. Licious, and Seymour Butts.
Not bad for an amateur.
Wait: Make that not-so amateur. Leal, 34, is a full-time porn producer. As CEO of MEC Multimedia, he develops all sorts of smut for Internet and video viewing—“public nudity, flashing tapes, insane party tapes and our specialty of Amateurs Doing It for the First Time,” according to his company’s Web site.
Earlier this year, Leal signed on with Tucson, Ariz.– based Old Pueblo Distribution in a deal that brings him nationwide exposure and pays him nearly 60 percent of every Porno Dan– produced video sold, he says. He’s also gained sponsorships from several sex-toy and lube makers.
But Leal’s own professionalism doesn’t matter to AVN. Says Managing Editor Mike Ramone: “Amateur adult fare is that which features nonprofessional, unknown performers; frequently is produced with a modest budget; and unlike most adult productions, much of the time is not made in L.A.’s San Fernando—aka Porn—Valley, but rather in other parts of the country.”
Ah, but D.C. Debauchery 2 happens to feature a professional, well-known performer: Brittany Andrews, widely acclaimed for her Fran Drescher impersonation in Wicked Pictures’ smutty 1998 spoof The Fanny—which earned Andrews her own AVN Award nomination for Best Actress. Andrews is also the self-described “CEO/Producer/ Director/SuperStar” of her own corporation, Los Angeles’ Britco Pictures.
Her photo is featured front and center on Debauchery 2’s cover. And her performance on the DVD even includes a shameless plug for one of Leal’s sponsors’ products, a post-coital moist towelette called Cumkleen.
But according to Andrews, even her participation doesn’t disqualify Leal’s DVD from the amateur competition.
“It’s all about the style of production,” she says. “It’s the way that it’s shot. It’s a low-budget, more reality-styled kind of film. It’s not the big-production, polished, star-studded kind of film, where there’s, you know, a big budget, with great set design, wardrobe, and script. I mean, the majority of the girls in [Leal’s] films are complete no-names.”
“There’s really no such thing as an amateur in porn,” Leal explains further. “The second you start getting paid, you’re not really an amateur. And if you’re not getting paid, who’d want to do it?
“I guess some people might wanna do it,” he adds. “But I think it’d be pretty slim pickings.”
Price Club: Stretching your dollar at D.C.’s night spots
Venue: The Brickskeller, 1523 22nd St. NW
Item: 1.5 liters of Leute Bok
Cost: $45.95 plus tax and tip
Buy this big-ticket bottle of Belgian double-bock ale for the language lesson alone: According to the Global Beer Network Web site, “‘Leute’ means joy in Flemish, and ‘bok’ is of course the ‘he-goat.’” Hence the hepped-up, hollow-horned mammal licking a hops plant plastered on the bottle in a bold neo-medieval-style label.
You’ll be feeling full as a goat, too, after downing more than 50 ounces of the dark-red brew, which features a hefty 7.5 percent alcohol content by volume. “It has a very aromatic taste, not too distinctly sweet, yet full and mild in the mouth,” according to the Van Steenberge brewery Web site.
Sure, you could also get pretty mild in the mouth by ordering the cheapest beer in the house: a $2.75 can of Schlitz. But you can swill Schlitz at the Velvet Lounge for $2 a pop if you wanna be cheap. This is the Brickskeller, which, according to its latest beer list, boasts “[t]he Largest Selection of Beers Commercially Available ever presented on this entire planet.”
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