Netflix and Jesco White

August 19, 2011 by Brad McElhinny
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The Netflix Instant Pick of the Week on the blog Filmhash is “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia,” which reminded me that I still haven’t seen it.

I’ve seen “Dancing Outlaw” a thousand times, and, in fact, gave a VHS copy away as a VERY thoughtful wedding gift once 20 years ago. I’ve seen Jesco White perform live three or four times. I was thrilled and horrified once to see him at the Foodland on Bigley Avenue in Charleston, pushing a grocery cart with a wary look on his face. I’ve even gone to Jesco’s home — for journalistic purposes — talked to him for a while and got a hug when I left. I found him to be guarded but welcoming, kind but troubled, infinitely quotable but ultimately nonsensical and talented but wasted (in a figurative sense). That’s why he’s a fascinating character. I enjoy him but feel sorry for him.

So the more thought I’ve given to Jesco, the more I’ve not wanted to watch “The Wild and Wonderful Whites.”

To be blunt, I’m afraid it’s a hicksploitation movie.

The review on Filmhash is actually pretty good and gets into that notion.

The resolve of the people of Boone County is unmistakable. In fact, they wish more attention was payed to the good that can come from tucked away corners of the world, and not families like the Whites. A county official is interviewed for the film and tells the story about a local kid getting a full-ride scholarship to MIT. “Why aren’t they following him around with a camera,” he asks. The answer of course is simple. Why is Jersey Shore watched by millions? I understand the frustration of the good citizens of Boone, who pay their taxes and wish that the stereotypes associated with the “backwoods” of Appalachia would stop being reenforced by probing documentarists. But I also think that at the very least The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia aims to capture a moment in time about a group of people that are slowly disappearing under the weight of their own fame and self-destruction. Like it or not, the Whites represent a unique portrait of Appalachian life, and I think they deserve a place in film memory.

Have you seen Wild and Wonderful Whites? What did you think?

Meanwhile, I was sorry to read on Jesco’s official webpage that he’s not feeling well. I went to the page looking for live appearance information. Jesco was supposed to have dates late this month in Charlotte, N.C., and Spartanburg, S.C., but those sound like they might be in doubt:

Jesco has been a little under the weather lately. He’s been having some stomach problems. As he told me yesterday “I don’t know if it’s cancer … or where I’ve been drinking since I was a young kid”. Regardless … he’s hesitant to go to the doctor. So, we’ll keep you posted. Cartoon Network has been calling … wanting Jesco to come back to Atlanta and do another episode of Squidbillies. Jesco appears to be interested … but he’s just a little ‘down’ and not sure what he wants to do. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that he decides to do it.

Stuff you'll get shoved in your locker for saying

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4 Responses to “Netflix and Jesco White”

  1. KatyNo Gravatar says:

    I spent Friday night in Peytona. Oh. Yes. I. Did.

  2. Jill MalcolmNo Gravatar says:


    Thanks so much for the mention! I watched ‘The Wild and Wonderful Whites’ a few months ago and it made me interested in seeing ‘The Dancing Outlaw’ (I checked and there doesn’t even appear to be an entry for it on Netflix which was disappointing). I understand by your personal encounters with Jesco White, that you may be hesitant to watch ‘The Wild and Wonderful Whites’ but I was surprised by how multifaceted his personality came across on screen. Like I mentioned in my post, he is the most fascinating person to watch and listen to in the documentary. Thoughts are with him and his family.

    Thanks again,
    Jill Malcolm and Ryan Silberstein of

  3. bradmcNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks Filmhash!

  4. bradmcNo Gravatar says:

    I agree with you, by the way, about Jesco having a multifaceted personality. His personality is actually quite magnetic and he also has a real way with words. Unfortunately, as he seems to say himself sometimes, a lot of that has been wasted through substance abuse and mismanagement. Thank you again for commenting here.

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