Wednesday, July 4, 2012

From Marilyn Chambers to Meredith Vieira

In 2008, Rhode Island actor-director Frank D'Agostino directed former porn star Marilyn Chambers in her final film role, the small part of a cop in the coming-of-age drama Solitaire. Later this month, D'Agostino will premiere an altogether different project: a half-hour documentary wrapped around an infamous moment in Meredith Vieira's early broadcast career.

Vieira worked as a reporter from 1977 through 1979 for Providence NBC affiliate WJAR. Her report on some brazen, open-view marijuana use on the campus of Attleboro High School (mainly at an area nicknamed “The Pit”) became infamous for two reasons: firstly, she aired the somewhat ludicrous claim by a student that there were “200 drug dealers” on campus; secondly, the students, after getting wind of her hidden camera van nearby, almost tipped the vehicle over with a cameraman inside.

D'Agostino and collabrator Tristan Rudat revisit this media moment with archival footage and interviews of the now nearing-senior-citizen-age students, for a half-hour documentary tipPit, which premieres July 20th at the Lasallette Shrine Welcome Center in Attleboro, MA. The two previouly made another documentary about Catholic Church sex abuse titled Service at the Altar.

 

Per a report in Attleboro's The Sun Chronicle, there's no doubt a lot of toking was going on at the high school in the late seventies:
tipPit uses archival footage and interviews with long-time Channel 10 news anchor Frank Colletta, school officials and former students to explore all sides of a tiny moment in time that now looms larger in cultural memory. Colletta recalls on camera how his station received a tip of students baking up openly at the school. He largely sticks up for Vieira, a “good reporter” who went on to fame as co-host of NBC’s Today show and moderator of The View.
Ron Struminski, a retired broadcaster who was the school’s assistant principal at the time, feels differently about what happened. “Every time I see her (Vieira), I have to change the channel,” he said.

It's an interesting project for D'Agostino, who on IMDb and elsewhere generally prefers to list himself as Victor Franko, his own “tip” to the character played by John Cassavetes in The Dirty Dozen. At one point, D'Agostino was also a member of the Attleboro School Committee.

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