Total Badass is a documentary about Chad Holt, a musician/cokehead/writer/recidivist who has a huge dick (it's a popular conversation piece in the film) and raises guinea pigs for show. Apparently, Chad is something of a local legend in Austin. He's been in about 30 bands, publishes his own magazine, Whoopsy, and is sort of like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, but with a thicker mustache and more cocaine.
The film follows Chad in his day to day life, which consists of making music, selling drugs, getting blown, and publishing his magazine. There's other stuff in there too, like his kids, who seem surprisingly well adjusted considering who their father is, and Chad's friends, who seem to idolize him and pity him at the same time. It's a ballsy move to make a feature-length documentary about the life of one of your friends, but director Bob Ray has pulled it off nicely. Through the copious amount of illicit substance abuse, and the confusion surrounding the decision to laugh at Chad or plead for better government care for the mentally disabled, Bob has created a totally unapologetic profile of the ubiquitous hometown hero.
Vice: Hello there Bob, why did you decide to make a film about Chad Holt?
Bob: I’ve known Chad since the mid 90s. He and I were neighbors when we were living on campus at The University of Texas and he was the local weed dealer. He would sell quarter pounds and stuff like that. We had lots of parties together and just sort of raised hell together. We were both in bands and he had his little weed empire there. I had my hub of friends and we’d use my apartment as the sort of HQ for hanging out and getting drunk and whatnot, and Chad was the same for his group. We all had sort of creative endeavors going on, so when I made my first film, Rock Opera, I took inventory of what I had access to that could possibly be used in the film. Turned out it was mainly weed dealers and bands and shitty houses and dive bars and stuff. So I had Chad play the weed dealer and he insisted on bringing three pounds of weed to the set because he didn't want to use any prop weed. It was sort of an integrity thing for him. Basically, he does all this crazy stuff that you see in the documentary and he writes about it in his magazine Whoopsie. A lot of it is about sex.
Yeah, I remember one story he read in the film where he jerked off on a candle in a room full of women and put it out with his jizzums.
Yeah, exactly. He's really open about things most people would maybe have a tinge of embarrassment about. He also writes about his weed dealing in his magazine. Basically, I tend to have four or five projects that I would happily do, and I gravitate towards the one that I can do. I read Chad’s article on guinea pigs, and to picture perverted Chad in a room full of people who raised Guinea Pigs was just hilarious to me. So I was just like, we need a documentary about this guy.
Yeah, but I was very upset that there wasn't more stuff about the guinea pigs in there. You played up the guinea pig beauty pageants in the trailer, and I sort of felt deflated when I didn't get as much as I was expecting.
It was a bit of a bait and switch there. The guinea pig show that's in the film was the last one that he did. There was a scene where one of the guinea pigs that was close to him died along the way and he carried it in his arms and buried it in canvas with his flashlight in the backyard.
Exactly, I was just thinking about that scene yesterday. I think it didn’t work because of his mustache. You know in documentaries, and, really in all films when you have something like that it has to make sense emotionally to put it in, and it just didn't feel right because of the mustache. So yeah, that's why we had to cut that scene. With the trailer we’re just trying to lure you in with something, then kind of pull the rug out from under you.
Well, can you at least tell me a little more about the guinea pigs now? He raised them and entered them in what were basically dog shows for guinea pigs?
Yeah, he would go to shows all over Texas. They’re sort of like dog shows, except for breeding I guess. They evaluate their feet, their ears, their butts, and their fur coats.
I’ve never heard of breeding guinea pigs for show. Is that a widespread thing or is it just a Texas thing?
I had never heard of it either. Apparently they do it with rabbits as well. It’s mostly 14-year-old girls and old women. So it’s just weird that Chad, this drunk adult perv, is in this room with old women, 14-year-old girls, and guinea pigs.
How does one get into the guinea pig game?
His girlfriend was into it, so he just kind of went along with her. I think he just got hooked on it.
Right. Moving on, at the beginning of the film I thought it was just going to be a funny, lighthearted documentary about a guy who does blow all the time or whatever. But when his family was introduced I began to see Chad in a totally different light. It became more sad than anything. Do you think people are going to pity the guy and be kind of like wow, this guy, who's a father and has actual responsibilities, is totally fucked up?
Probably, I think it depends on what you bring into the movie, you know, your personal experience. For me, there’s something noble about how he adapts enough to take care of his kids and also maintains his integrity, or his artistic drive, whatever you want to call it. I think part of his “art” is just how he lives his life, and I think he's maintained that while still being able to care for his kids. But I definitely think there are going to be people who see him as a sad, misguided soul who's just looking for meaning. Then they might argue that the meaning is in his family and maybe it’s selfish to pursue art over that. It really speaks to a struggle that a lot of people have, about what their life obligations are and what their desires are and how to juggle those two things.
He does a sort of ridiculous amount of illegal stuff in the movie. Do you think that could come back to bite him in the ass?
I think it could. His lawyer saw the movie and I asked Chad what he thought of it, he was like, "Dude, my lawyer’s in more legal trouble than I am. He doesn't give a shit." What we have on camera is a guy snorting white powder and smoking a plant, so I don’t know how you can prove anything from that. Also, I don’t know if Chad really cares about the repercussions of his actions.
He's sort of a free spirit type huh?
Yeah, I don’t even know that Chad would be upset if he got arrested for something that he believed was OK, especially if it bolstered him as an artist or gave him more credibility or celebrity. I mean that’s just my opinion though, I don’t know if he’d admit that.
Can you tell me a little bit about his magazine, Whoopsy? Does he publish that?
Yeah, he’s the publisher. He started it with a friend named Becky Hayes here in Austin. He wrote a column in a zine called Lincoln Review. It was really funny--just a true life account of him going to Mexico to buy pills at the whorehouse and almost fucking a dude who had his penis tucked between his legs to act like a woman. And that's the type of stuff he writes about in Whoopsie. Things like that just sound unbelievable, but he goes into such detail and has a way of turning a phrase that just cracks you up. I think just the honesty of it is what really attracts a lot of people to it. You can sort of witness a slice of life that you wouldn’t want to be near for fear of filth and disease and whatever else getting on you.
You get to live vicariously through his articles.
Does he have any other artistic endeavors besides his band and writing?
That’s pretty much it. I mean, he’s been in like 30 bands. He dresses up and throws himself around and gets beat up at the shows.
He was arrested for selling a bunch of fake wristbands at SXSW. What was that all about?
Yeah, I guess he made a lot of them. I’m not sure how many they found, but yeah, he got in a lot of trouble. He's got a whole story of the night he knew the gig was up, if you will. He was walking to a bar and saw the line—just a two block long line--for a Spoon show. He saw them pulling off everyone's wristbands because they were fake, and he knew it was over. He was just sweating bullets until they found him. He was selling them for like 10 bucks each, and they retail for like 150.
He’s kind of reckless with his crimes, and not because he’s not smart. If he doesn’t feel like something's wrong, he just won't cover his tracks. Like he bought those wristbands with his girlfriend’s credit card. He didn’t take the necessary precautions that a crime lord or a career criminal might take.
Yeah, I wanted to ask you about his mental capacities. At times he seems like a really smart guy, and the little bits of his writings that you get to sample in the film seem well written. But other times I was like, “This guy’s got to be borderline retarded.”
He’s a hell of a strategist, and he always got good grades in school. He was in advanced classes and things like that. But yeah, he’s just kind of like a fuck-up I guess, in a way.
It seems like he’s really self-destructive.
I asked him one time if he wanted to get busted, and he said he didn’t. But he deals weed out in the open and writes about it. And I agree with him--weed shouldn't be illegal, but it is. He just does things in broad daylight. When we voted for Clinton in Clinton’s re-election, we smoked pot in the voting booth.
You did what now?
Haha, yeah, it was here in Austin. We were smoking and walking to the polling station and Chad was like, “Hey, you want to smoke in the booth?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure Chad, whatever.” I thought he was kidding, but when we were in the booths I hear the lighter go “chk chk,” so I was like, “Alright, I guess he’s doing it.” He reached out and handed the pipe to me and I reach out to grab it, but he let it go too soon, or I didn't grab it, and it dropped and clanked on the floor. But I hit it and then I was like, “Where the hell do I blow the smoke?” I just blew my smoke in the ballot box, hoping it would contain the stench long enough for us to get the hell out of there. I mean, he did stuff like that all the time.
Wow, OK. You said in your email that you're bringing him on the road with you for the screenings. Are you worried he's going to get you arrested?
Yeah, a little. I know that when he went to New York City he took a pound of weed with him in the car and sold it while he was up there to fund the trip. I don't have time to get arrested though, I don't want him to hide weed in my car and get arrested for it. He can't go into Canada because he's a felon, so I'll have to leave him in the states for that part of the trip.
For screening dates and locations, go to crashcamfilms.com