Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays: RIP Jacques Descent (1937-2018) by Greg Dziawer

Jacques Descent surrounded by some of the films he worked on over the years.

Jack in 2009.
I have some sad news to report to you this week. The dwindling number of associates and friends who knew and worked closely with Edward D. Wood, Jr. has decreased by one. Film producer Jacques "Jack" Descent—a man who had become my very best friend these last few years—passed away in the early afternoon of Tuesday, June 5, 2018.
Apart from his connection to Ed Wood, Jack lived an extraordinary life of his own, his career and accomplishments remaining largely unknown to this day. He reinvented himself again and again as a filmmaker and an inventor and a painter, among many other things, always a fearless pioneer. It was all about the deal, he frequently told me, self-identifying as more artisan than artist.  
In the last year, owing to some near-impossible circumstances, I found myself working with Jack on the post-production of a movie he'd shot and co-produced in 1974. The interiors had been filmed at the Cinema 35 Center, Jack's full-stack studio/lab at Hollywood Blvd. and Western Ave. in Los Angeles. Together, we sifted through more than five hours of raw 16mm superneg footage and an equal measure of quarter-inch Nagra sound reels, bringing this material back from the dead.  
Day in and day out, I saw how Jack had retained his hands-on managerial artistry, even a quarter century after retiring from the film business. I only regret that Jack never saw the finished film, which is now mere weeks away from completion. Beautifully shot, it reveals artistry of another sort. It was gratifying to see Jack gradually but ultimately accept that.  
OJ in his Bruno Magli shoes
Just two weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending the better part of five days with Jack as he lived out his last days. Despite the circumstances, Jack's mind was sharp and his outlook positive, still looking for the deal. The steady stream of stories and anecdotes became even more incredible. Paid out of his half of a film with Jayne Mansfield's last Cadillac. Meeting Jobs and Wozniak in 1974 and selling their first "product" before there even was an Apple. Buying a pair of Bruno Magli's in the same store on the same day as OJ Simpson bought the pair he allegedly wore. 
Jack was living in Beverly Hills at the time, he told me, and he wandered into the shoe store one afternoon. He knew OJ from around town, not a friend, just to say hello at restaurants. Jack spotted OJ, who was with a couple of other ex-NFL players.
"Hello, OJ. How are you?" 
As they conversed, OJ mentioned that he was buying a pair of Bruno Magli's. Although Jack had never heard of the brand, he figured why not? Different than OJ's lace-ups, Jack purchased a pair of leather slip-ons that day, more than a quarter of a century ago. They are now, surreally, in my closet. 
Decades prior, Jack shot Ed Wood in a fabled, gone-missing film called Operation Redlight, which Ed also scripted. The angora sweater Ed wore in that film hung in the front office of the Cinema 35 Center through the mid-'70s.

Jack's story has only begun to be told, a life well and fully lived. Endings are beginnings.

Relive Jacques Descent's life and career with these links: