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Who were the
Bleacher Creatures
of Manhasset High?

In the fall of 1980, I entered 10th grade in Manhasset High School with two of my best friends gone. One was asked not to return, the other opted for private school. Naturally, I was open to making new friends that school year and, lo and behold, starting on day one I did.

Courtesy of a seating arrangement in Oceanography class, I become fast friends with a new kid named Bruce McDowell. Bruce was from Missouri, had a quick wit, a talent for the guitar and a refreshing perspective on school, popularity and how pursuing it was a fool's errand. He also managed to ingratiate himself in with a crowd that I had little connection to but had a notorious reputation within the school walls. 

This would be the Bleacher Creatures, the stoner crowd. Every morning before school they would gather behind the football field bleachers and get stoned. While I never participated in that ritual, I did, however get an inside view of this clique and made new friends quickly.

I also became acutely aware of the different layers within this crowd, starting with the newbies - those of us who were coming in from the outside. The base - people like Bruce who had been a casual stoner for some time, knew where to score, and made drug use (of all forms) part of a daily routine. And then there were the ones I called the ghosts - the addicts, who's involvement with others in the group was, most times, transactional – and this included people who clearly should have stopped a long time ago, as well as a few on the fringes who were either heroin addicts or acid casualties. While many of us had fun together hanging out, going to parties and getting wasted, there was always an element of danger that lurked somewhere right beyond our view, and it was that potential for tragedy that always kept me wary of not going too far down that road.

By the school year's end I had a falling out with Bruce, much of it due to a stoner he befriended who was a bit jealous of our friendship and even threatened to kill me at one point. I decided I had better things I could be doing. We went our separate ways for the remainder of high school and that was that.

Years later, during the summer after first year of college I ran into Bruce behind Manhasset Deli. We had a good long talk and I looked forward to running into him again sometime in the future. That unfortunately would never happen. Bruce died at 40 of a brain aneurysm. He wouldn't be the only one from that crowd to have an early demise. Several were gone in their early to late 20s.

This film was shot in late June 1986, edited over several months on a Steenbeck flatbed 16mm editor, A/B rolled and processed for a final print by the end of the year. My goal? To create a fictional document about that crowd I knew, something no After-School special or TV movie like Go Ask Alice could ever seem to get right. I hoped to show this world, warts and all, realistic as it can be, and let an audience decide what to make of it.


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