Jack Daniels and I were hanging out late last week at the 500 Club when in she came. No one was particularly hungry, but when the Tamale Lady's there, the Tamale Lady's there, so we ate. And along with my cheese and rajas 'male, she passed me a flier. “Virginia, it's your birthday next week?” It was, and to celebrate, her traditional fiesta/documentary is going down at Zeitgeist Mon/21.
Writing about the Tamale Lady is frustrating, because what angle, exactly, are you going to take? She makes delicious tamales? Well obviously. She is nice to punks, and hooligans? Anyone who has ever taken a bench at Zeitgeist can tell you that. I went ahead and enlisted her documentarian, Cecil B. Feeder, to help make this blog post interesting.
“I love her tamales, I always have.” Great, thanks Cecil. Actually, he did have a theory as to her continued late night allure. “I think she's human enough to know that it doesn't matter what people think of you – it's what you think of yourself.” And if what you think of yourself is drunk and hungry, well than you've found your savior in Virginia “Tamale Lady” Ramos.
Feeder will be screening his 2004 film on Virginia's life, “Our Lady of Tamale,” on the patio wall of the Zeit at Monday festivities – the same place he debuted the movie six years ago, on the night that big wooden “Tamale Lady” plaque was first erected near the front door inside the Zeitgeist bar. Where'd that thing come from, anyway?
According to Ramos, the plaque was made for a SOMarts benefit for a man with cancer many years ago that she catered. After the party, she took it home, but when she showed up for her film debut/birthday party, she found the sign hanging near Zietgeist's formidable selection of draft beers and famously surly bartenders. “I said 'who brought my board in here!' ” Ramos told me. Turns out, her kids had put it up there to honor her. “I'm telling you, I don't know why they bring it out here!”
She kind of wanted it back. But to be honest, it looked nice up there, and Ramos concluded that the man for whom the original benefit had been thrown (who has since passed away), had engineered its placement in spirit. “I realized he wants to keep it over there, because he wants people to know my name,” she says. A tamale lady's work, she realized, is never done.
A word about Mr. Feeder's involvement – after seeing his flick Meter Maid Me Massacre (introduced on his Youtube as “ “The Gone with the Wind” of kung fu zombie movies”), Ramos approached him about making a documentary of her life. What exactly drew Ramos to Feeder's vision of parking ticket revenge? Has Ramos had issues of her own from past times improperly parking her tamale wagon?
Well, we're not really sure. “I always thought she was ambitious, you know?” Feeder told me over the phone. “At the time, I had just started making films. I thought about it and I said, 'you know what Virginia, I don't think we can make a straight documentary - but we can make a rockumentary!' ”
And a rockumentary was made.
Our Lady of Tamale is comprised of scenes from the life of Virginia, backed by over 50 songs composed by local musicians especially for the occasion. They debuted it at the Zeit in honor of her 50th birthday party – a tradition that continues on Monday, with another screening of the film, some additional Feeder shorts, and a performance by his band.
Oh, and there will be free booze, according to Feeder. “Speakeasy and Zeitgeist are donating beer, four kegs flowing until they're gone!” Some of the proceeds from the night (should those kegs be tapped), will go to Feeder's plane ticket to Bolivia, where he's in the midst of filming a documentary about an Engineers Without Borders project in progress.
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