The Glamour and The Squalor Tells the Story of a Guy Who Helped Make Legends
When most of us remember the iconic bellowing chorus of the song “Loser,” I’m a loser baby / so why don’t you kill me!, the first superstar we will think of is Beck. Yet, no one thinks of the man who put that name in our heads to begin with.
Director and producer Marq Evans’ documentary film The Glamour and the Squalor, screening at Northwest Film Center’s Reel Music Festival, paints a portrait of the life of Marco Collins, a revolutionary Seattle radio DJ. Collins’ warm personality, rebellious tenacity and prophetic taste in music helped invent himself as an icon, alongside the legends he instigated the rise of: Pearl Jam, Beck, Nirvana, to name very few.
Collins’ story is told with an honest hilarity and punk rock attitude, yet with enough tenderness and drama for one to be emotionally invested in a surprisingly intense way. Collins’ wide impact on Radio and contemporary music is first established before exploring intimately the man’s personal demons, especially his relationship with family and his near-lethal taste for narcotics. In this way, Collins’ life story parallels greatly with the rock-star mythos. Marco Collins is presently very likable based on his interviews — honest, intelligent, charming — but hearing of the struggles and the impact on those around him is heart wrenching.
While done with artistic integrity, Squalor embraces silliness and irony with animated sequences reminiscent of the recent Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck. There is this omnipresent tone of comfortably earnest, like a late-night, inebriated conversation with a beloved friend.
The narrative of the film is splattered with small tales worthy of urban legend: Tapes are stolen, benders go haywire, and disputes break out on stages and in alleyways. Collins and his friends are able to tell these stories in a personable enough way to bridge the gap between the relatable and the fantastic, but it’s really how these moments tell an even greater story — the social, political, and musical story of an America that was very real only a couple of decades ago and still permeates today. A story of a society still hindered by its fear of what’s different, and the way real and true outsiders of these societies, as they always have, let their frustrations eventually lead them to personal empowerment, such as indulging completely to the music they love.
By the time Collins gets his personal act together (sort of), too much time has passed for his professional life to be what it once was. Some of this is due to his infamous drug history, but also due to the fact that the entire music landscape of what he knew through Radio has virtually been depleted by this unfathomably massive thing called the Internet. While Collins takes these challenges in stride, since he does not want to give up a career with music, other aspects of modern life have changed things for the better for him.
Collins is a gay man who had not officially come out for a large part of his life. The conflict this stirred with his policeman father plus how he had to deal with a music community still largely homophobic is key to his story. When the documentary makes a brief foray into Collins rallying for the first same-sex marriage passing of Ref. 74 in Washington, the result is an emotional catharsis for both him and the audience.
What makes this film feel so vital is its closeness — literally. Shots of Seattle street scenes and skylines fill the screen, the same skyline that has become iconic to the Northwest. Rain, traffic, and being in transit feels just as real on screen as it does when you step out of the theater.
Collins shares the Northwest viewer’s little universe, and through Glamour and the Squalor, one can see how big that universe has expanded. It feels good to be a part of it.