Pratt Profile: Local Film Legend George Figgs

Posted In: State Library Resource Center, Pratt Profiles
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By Tom Warner

Series: Pratt Profiles

George FiggsHow many people can say they’ve picked out movies for Jesus Christ at their local library? Well, the folks in Pratt Central's Sights & Sounds Department (SAS) have had that honor—regularly, in fact!

OK, technically Pratt library regular George Figgs (pictured right) isn’t the historical Jesus whose birthday Christians celebrate each  December 25th—he's much too young, for one thing (even though he is an AARP member!) and he was born in Hampden rather than Bethlehem—but he played the Messiah in John Waters' 1970 cult film Multiple Maniacs. It’s not exactly the most historically accurate portrayal, either, but look it up in the Internet Movie Database and there it is plain as day: "George Figgs, Jesus Christ."

George Figgs Jesus Christ

That’s a pretty lofty credit for any actor, but it’s only one feather in George's signature hat (yes, George always wears a stylish hat)—and certainly better than his scarecrow role in Waters' twisted Oz short Dorothy, the Kansas City Pothead.

Besides being a regular "Dreamlander" player in all of John Waters’s feature films except Cry-Baby (though in less-lofty roles ranging from an asylum inmate to a "Neuter"), the multi-talented actor-artist-writer-projectionist-film curator/historian is also a regular at Pratt Central, where he loads up on as many documentaries and foreign films as he can carry back to the light rail stop (not to mention anything to do with his beloved Edgar Allen Poe, about whom he’s written a screenplay).

Watch George Figgs as a hairdresser in John Waters' Female Trouble (1974):

His movie mania is a holdover from his days running his arthouse "temple of celluloid," the Opheum Theater, in Fells Point from 1990-1999 and "Orpheum George" (as he's known around town) is still an avid cineaste and an iconic fixture in the local arts scene; just last year the 66-year-old film buff curated the acclaimed three-day, 10-film RetroCineFest at the University of Baltimore and is currently planning a film revival series in partnership with Station North's Autograph Playhouse. (And he also appears in Jeffrey Schwartz's new documentary, I Am Divine, talking about his dearly departed friend Glen Milstead, better known as John Waters superstar "Divine.")

George Figgs represents the kind of patron for whom Pratt Library's free services are ideally suited during these tough economic times. As a retiree on a fixed income, George can neither afford to join NetFlix nor to see movies at the Cineplex. That’s why he loves the fact that he can grab armfuls of free DVDs at Central, which he calls "the best deal in town for the financially challenged!"

"I have to live on Social Security and food stamps" George says. "I can’t afford to go see new releases or even revival films at The Charles unless I get a pass." Luckily, George is a fan of the kind of films Sights & Sounds prides itself on—classic film noir crime dramas, award-winning documentaries, and a wide range of foreign films from around the world. He still has his VCR, so he can further utilize our large, and often-overlooked, eclectic collection of VHS tapes.

And when he's unable to make it downtown, George likes to stream movies on his laptop at home, using our handy guide to the best sites to "Watch Movies, TV Shows and More Online for Free."

Besides checking out our films, George takes full advantage of our reference services, as well. Since we subscribe to the entertainment industry pay service IMDbPro, which lists contact information for over 10,000 companies and 65,000 individuals, George was able to get legal clearance for all his RetroCineFest film screenings via the studio phone numbers and emails we found there. And he was elated when, eager to have famous independent movie director-producer Roger Corman read his Edgar Allen Poe screenplay, we not only got him an address to mail his script to, but a direct phone number that enabled him to talk to Mr. Corman in person!

We're elated to serve a Baltimore film legend—and so glad he takes advantage of all the free services available at the library!

More on George Figgs:

I worked at Video Americain in the mid to late 90s. George was always a really cool guy, and some of my fondest memories where at the Orpheum Theater. I'm glad to hear the Pratt is giving back a guy who gave so much to the film community in Baltimore.
Posted by: Morgan Stanton at 6/10/2013 10:43 a.m.

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