Kevin Dunn, professor of political science at HWS, was recently featured in The Florida Times-Union for a documentary he produced based on his research of the global punk movement and the politics of resistance. The documentary called “My Life is Great: The Stevie Stiletto Story,” debuted in Jacksonville last weekend, where Dunn grew up and where Ray McKelvey, a.k.a. Stevie Ray Stiletto performed.
“The premiere went very well — full house for both showings with lively, supportive crowds,” says Dunn.
The full article about the documentary follows.
The Florida Times-Union
Jacksonville punk rocker Stevie Ray Stiletto on film: ‘My Life is Good’
New documentary shows decades of highs and lows for Jacksonville punk legend
Matt Soergel • October 8, 2009
Kevin Dunn is a professor of political science at a college in upstate New York, and his big research project is on “the global punk movement and the politics of resistance” (it’s not a matter of right or left, he says, but of the time-honored punk ethos of Doing It Yourself).
Credit that project to his teenage years as a punk-rock fan on Jacksonville’s Westside.
That’s when he discovered a much-tattooed showman with a wicked sense of humor and a self-destructive streak wider than the St. Johns River: Ray McKelvey, known to many as Stevie Ray Stiletto.
For 26 years, McKelvey headed up an ever-changing lineup of Stevie Stiletto and the Switchblades, leaning over a battered mike stand as he belted out two-minute punk anthems. He drank himself to the edge of death. He took heroin and crystal meth. He toured all over. He made heads turn in San Francisco and Europe.
But for most of the time, he kept three-chord, driving punk alive at dive clubs in Jacksonville, as well as in downtown Jacksonville Beach back when it was known – in a name irresistible to punks – as the Blighted Area.
Jacksonville needed Stevie Stiletto, says Dunn. And so did he, as a teenager buying cassettes at Edge City, catching shows at the Cedar Hills Armory and the 730 Club on Dellwood Avenue.
Now Dunn has returned the favor, finishing a documentary called “My Life is Great: The Stevie Stiletto Story,” which will play at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday at the 5 Points Theatre.
Dunn, 42, is a professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. He sports earrings and his hair is still upswept into a punkish ‘do.
To make “My Life is Great,” he started with many hours of interviews and concert footage amassed by Doug Milne, a Stiletto fan who now works on video productions for the PGA Tour. Dunn took it from there.
“I thought it was really important to Ray, and to my teenaged self, to get this finished,” he said.
Stevie and the Switchblades never became national punk heroes, though they were good enough, flamboyant enough, said Dunn.
“They had their moments of possibility. But they were saddled with being in Jacksonville, out of the punk scene. When they lived in San Francisco, they were close, but they undermined themselves – Ray especially, with his heroin and drinking problems.”
As “My Life is Great” makes clear, those problems were epic.
Throughout the film, his friends and family offer tale after tale of the dubious choices made by a man they call a “dysfunctional genius” and a “happy-go-lucky lunatic.”
McKelvey, too, talks frankly about his addictions, which a few years ago took him right to the edge of death: His liver shut down, his body swelled his skin turned yellow. Doctors told him he had days left.
Yet he’s still here, sober for years and, somehow, still alive.
Stevie Ray Stiletto is 51 years old now, with a gentle handshake and a soft voice – though it’s likely you’ll first notice the tattooed arms and the mop of tangled black hair hanging over a face that shows every one of those years of hard living.
“It’s odd, 25 years on,” said Dunn. “Ray has weathered, he’s a lot older. But because he’s not drinking and drugging, he’s a lot softer. The nice Ray that you would see occasionally during the drinking-drugging days, that’s what you see all the time now – that really nice, sweet guy who’s always there.”
McKelvey said he’s in good health now. He rides his bike. Writes his songs. Plans another tour.
He said he never thought anyone would want to make a movie about him, about the band. But he does reckon, looking back on those old days, that there’s plenty of material for a movie.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said.
Then he gave a little laugh. “Well, I wouldn’t have drunk myself into cirrhosis, but then half the people I know are dead from the same thing. But I try to help younger people now.”
He paused, and offered his hard-earned wisdom to the punks of today: “You don’t realize it when you’re young, but it comes back to get you.”
There you go – a public service announcement from Stevie Ray Stiletto. The man knows what he’s talking about.