David Dees Was Clairvoyant
October 1, 2021
Yeah, I think he liked it. Interestingly, for a hermit, he's kind of vain--he was 67 or something, and he looks way younger. I asked him about that and he was like, 'Oh, it's 'cause I get plastic surgery, I got to LA and I get nips and tucks and my eyelids done.' I was like, 'What? You don't see anybody, ever, and yet you're going out every few years for expensive surgery?'
And were you aware if he knew he was terminally ill at that stage?
I had asked him if he smoked marijuana at some point, and he was like, 'Oh, I used to but I stopped because I sorta had a scare, I think I might've gotten cancer but don't worry about it, I cured myself. I looked up online how to cure cancer and I saw a YouTube video that said just drink a lot of baking soda every day.' So that's what he did. He had pretty early-stage skin cancer and he didn't do anything about it for years and when it got to stage 4, he realised he was probably dying and should seek medical attention. But it was way too late. There weren't any hints of it while we were there, at least.
Did you have any expectations of what he'd be like that proved to be wrong?
Totally. I didn't expect him to be so... He's very personable and charming and also pretty sweet. Me and my cinematographer were going there expecting it to be creepy and we'd want to get out of there as soon as we can. But most of the time he was just talking about how he loves animals and art, and it was only every so often he would pull himself into the darker conspiracy stuff.
(left, Dees with his Scientology e-meter)
That was more in the editing phase when I had to strike that balance. The whole point--at least for me, making a film about someone who's on the margins--is to create a connection between them and the audience so you don't immediately dismiss them and judge them; instead, you try to understand the psyche. So there was that part of it, but then it's like I don't agree with pretty much anything he's saying, most of his art is awful and kind of disgusting in what it's portraying. It took me months of trying out different edits to find that balance. Also, there's the idea that maybe he has mental illness of some kind, and it's how overt do I put that idea in there?
And you mentioned that there was so much stuff you couldn't include, like Scientology and transgender content. What did you end up cutting that you would've loved to include?
Yeah, so part of the Scientology stuff was that he was best friends with L. Ron Hubbard's son, the founder of Scientology, and they would skateboard together in Los Angeles (laughs).
Yeah, in the 80s and 90s. So, David got pretty high up in the ranks of Scientology before he got sick. The fact that he got sick--because you know Scientology just keeps milking you of your money--meant that he couldn't afford it and didn't have the energy to do the studying, and that's why he fell out. But it was just too long to tell that story in a short film. And the second thing is it became really clear that he was obsessed with this idea that almost every person in Hollywood is transgender, starting from the 1950s. For example, he would say Elvis Presley is a woman and Marilyn Monroe is a man. And Arnold Schwarzenegger is actually a woman. Basically any celebrity I would bring up, he'd say, 'Oh no, that's definitely a woman or a man. As an artist, I'm trained in anatomy and I know certain things about features that are tells that you can't hide if you're transgender.'