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In Store; freaking on found footage

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A resale shop near the corner of Damen and Montrose, Chris and Heather's Record Roundup and Collectibles bears more than a passing resemblance to the museumlike apartment of its owners, cartoonist and filmmaker Heather McAdams and her husband, musician Chris Ligon. McAdams readily owns up to it: "Maybe an hour before, that thing you're looking at was in our house." Tired of hauling their finds to collector markets, the pair opened the store in November to accommodate their overflow of retro art, rare movies, country-and-western kitsch, yard sale bric-a-brac, and even records. "We opened the store to alleviate the guilt we had from buying all this stuff and never having company over," says Ligon.

The wild assortment of merchandise also calls to mind McAdams's wacky found-footage films. She traces her taste in marginal Americana to her father's 16-millimeter screenings of such SF movies as The Deadly Mantis; later she scavenged old U.S. government titles from a film lab in Washington, D.C., and merrily disfigured footage of a droning bureaucrat to create her own short Scratchman. She cherishes these cinematic discards, like the Mexican laxative commercial she discovered while teaching a class on humor in film at Columbia College.

"You might have the only surviving print of something," she marvels, "but it's too shrunk to go through the projector. That's it, that one will never be shown again." When she and Ligon checked out a Wisconsin archive for circus footage to use in her film Comes to a Point Like an Ice Cream Cone, the condition of some of the stock was listed as "turned to goo." McAdams has harvested clips from some of her reels, but many others have been left intact. At Record Roundup she and Ligon sell assorted 8- and 16-millimeter films. Drive-in speakers and 35-millimeter trailers sell for five bucks.

This Saturday McAdams and Ligon will kick off a series of biweekly film screenings at the store, drawn from their personal collection. The opening lineup includes Private Party, which McAdams made by blowing up a silent, Super-8, black-and-white home movie of an African-American dance party. On the same program are Solarized Devo, shot by her film school friend Darrell Moore during that band's 1978 concert at a Schaumburg strip mall, and vintage "soundies" featuring Maxine Sullivan and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

An idiosyncratic feminist sensibility emerges from McAdams's celluloid salad: an unflinching beauty in a knife-throwing act, a double-jointed acrobat exercising in her chiffon culottes, a hair-coloring commercial with the tag line "Arise brunettes, take what is rightfully yours," and a trailer for The Big Doll House ("They're young, they're beautiful, and they're all killers"). "I almost feel like an archaeologist when looking at some of this stuff," McAdams says, watching footage of an anonymous stripper from the 50s. "When that woman's dancing, you can feel that embarrassment, that awkwardness. You're right there at the moment. Where is she now?"

The first installment of "Chris and Heather's Li'l 16mm Record Roundup Film Jamboree" also features live music by Ligon. The program shows twice, at 8 and 10:30, this Saturday at Record Roundup, 2034 W. Montrose. Admission is $6. Call 773-271-5330. --Bill Stamets

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Heather McAdams, Chris Ligon photo by Nathan Mandell.

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