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Todd Stephens Kicks off New Film Starring Udo Kier

Poster for Swan Song that has the words Swan Song in big letters over cutouts of women's faces from magazines

Faculty Todd Stephens shares his new Kickstarter page and writes about making his new film, Swan Song, starring legendary actor Udo Kier. Read his blog below and check out his Kickstarter page here:


Back in 1984, I walked into my small-town gay bar for the first time – The Universal Fruit and Nut Company. There he was, glittering on the dancefloor. Wearing a teal feather boa, fedora and matching pantsuit, “Mister Pat” Pitsenbarger was busting old school moves straight out of Bob Fosse. I was seventeen, and Pat was a revelation.

Dramatic black and white photo of a person standing outside in the bushes in front of a sign that says "The Universal Fruit and Nut Co"

Years later, when I set out to write my autobiographical feature EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, I immediately thought of Mister Pat. I went back home to hunt him down, only to discover Pat had just suffered an aneurism and was temporarily unable to speak. But his lover David told me stories…about how Pat was once the most fabulous hairdresser in Sandusky, Ohio…about his legendary drag performances…about how he used to shop at Kroger’s dressed as Carol Burnett – in 1967! This was a man who always had the courage to be himself, long before that was safe.

Character image from the film for Mister Pat shows a collage of photos over a text description that reads "formerly flamboyant but now frail retired gay hairdresser, pat is a quietly angry old queen with nothing left to live for. sardonic, impish, and soft-spoken, pat's magic hands once styles the most tasteful women of Sandusky by day and his own outrageous drag by night. over the years, pat's lover, business, and sense of purpose all abaandoned him. yet, deep beneath his nursing home sweatshirt still beats the hearts of Quentin Crisp, Iris Apfel, and Liberace." "Dare to be more"

The truth is, Mister Pat inspired me to write EDGE OF SEVENTEEN. I wrote a significant “Pat” character as my protagonist’s mentor, but midway through the shoot, the part got cut. I always knew my muse would return someday in my writing, and when he finally did many years later, I looked for Pat again only to learn he just passed away. Sadly, Pat’s legendary hand-beaded rhinestone gowns are all lost to time. Only a shoebox remains – filled with some tarnished jewelry and a half-smoked pack of Mores.

Director Todd Stepehns stands in front of a wall of collage faces, looking at the camera with his hands in his jean pockets.

My new feature film SWAN SONG is a love letter to the rapidly disappearing gay culture of America. As it has become more acceptable to be queer, what used to be a thriving community is rapidly melting back into society. Thanks to assimilation and technology, small-town gay bars like The Universal Fruit and Nut Company are becoming extinct.

SWAN SONG is dedicated to all the forgotten flaming florists and hairdressers who built the gay community and blazed the trail for the rights many of us cling to today. But, above all, for me this film is about learning that it’s never too late to live again.


Filed Under: Faculty Blog