Hollywood Dreams

The saga of Billy Yeager, a wannabe rock star who turned rejection and hoaxes into an art form. Now his story has become a feature-length movie. We think.

Perhaps the most compelling figure to emerge in the saga is Yeager's girlfriend, Maria, who doesn't enter the film until the third act. An oliveskinned Hispanic woman, she confronts the camera with a penetrating gaze and a serenity that belies any characterization of long suffering.

Often behind the camera recording the antics of her man, on-screen she is Yeager's constant foil. Through her incredulous open-mouthed reactions and double takes, Maria serves as a barometer of normalcy, tempering but never hindering Yeager's flights of fancy.

Maria is the star of the film's most amusing moments, scenes far removed from the overarching issues of fame and stardom that would seem the purview of Jimmy's Story. It's her turtle crawling at the edges of shots. Her obvious devotion to Yeager turns the movie at one level into a love story.

The maturation of Yeager's music is another revelation of the film. His grooves comprise a vital score, always supporting the often-obscured fact that he does indeed have a sound he's been trying to get people to listen to for all these years. Vignettes shot in black-and-white 16 mm illustrating songs like "Train of Pearls," "Little Buggy," and "The Last Wave" would not look or sound out of place on MTV.

Only the director's cut is extant as of this writing, and major tightening is planned. The support of the Alliance for Media Arts, Aaron Morris, and the Cultural Development Group implies it has potential. It has been submitted to the Sundance Festival, whose response is expected December 1. Those who think Yeager is just a nut will probably remain discursive and mock his efforts.

Believers to the left, naysayers to the right, all just par for the course to Billy Yeager. He has completed a goal, one that gives closure to so many missed goals of the past. Few artists are lucky enough to arrive at such a juncture.

Maybe one shouldn't ascribe luck to someone who has been so unlucky. Buried in the liner notes of Yeager's self-released album from 1982, there is a cryptic reference to Jimmy Story. It could mean Yeager had the idea for the son-of-Hendrix scam that long ago. He may have been consciously filming the story of his life all this time. Did he really know what the hell he was doing? "I knew, but I didn't know," he says.

Billy Yeager is for real, and he doesn't need to prove that any more by staging a hoax. But he can't help himself, insisting he will indeed promote the film as a posthumous document finished by a suicide note from a dead artist, even though he gives up that ruse before the end of the movie. Seems like it will be hard to float that one for very long. But in case someone wonders: Billy Yeager is not dead. His film, so full of life, is proof of that.

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