Why Kill Yourself...

...just because you missed yesterday's issue of the SF Chronicle, which includes this great Matier and Ross story about a filmmaker who hoodwinked Golden Gate Bridge officials into allowing him to film a year's worth of footage at Fort Point, only to reveal later that he was really just there to film the 19 people who jumped to their deaths from the bridge:

Eric Steel initially told officials he planned to spend a year filming the "powerful and spectacular interaction between the monument and nature" and that his work was to be the first in a series of documentaries about national monuments such as the St. Louis Arch and the Statue of Liberty.

Last week, Steel sent an email revealing that he had footage of most of the year's bridge jumpers, but describing the project in the same pompous terms:

Steel says his goal is to "allow us to see into the most impenetrable corners of the human mind and challenge us to think and talk about suicide in profoundly different ways."

Fans of the Faces of Death films will recall that the narrator of that infamous series always took the same tone of professorial, for-our-own-good seriousness when introducing scenes of inscrutable Orientals eating the brains of live monkeys. Steel is now requesting interviews with bridge employees about the suicides, and as the kind of reporter who gets into a cold sweat just calling an entry-level flack to request a press release, I have to say I admire his chutzpah. A GGNRA spokesman, blaming those pesky "free-speech guidelines," doubts the feds will be able to stop Steel from completing and showing his film.

It's the pride of every Californian that the Golden Gate Bridge's pedestrian area remains remarkably free of nets, high fences, and other barriers to jumpers. A couple years ago, Tad Friend described this phenomenon, and the strange silence of both officials and local residents about how common Bridge suicides really are. Although officials worry that Steel might inspire copycat jumpers, my concern is that more attention to this topic will eventually drive park officials to put up some sort of unsightly barricades. The suicide-readiness of the Golden Gate Bridge is a luxury I have not (yet) availed myself of, but it's nice to know it's there.

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  • ||

    I guess I think only a fucking slime bag would try to make a dollar, or pretend there is some artistic value, in filming people's suicides. It's like cheap snuff flick. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't see the humanity or compassion in it at all.

    But then again my best friend killed himself so maybe I'm biased.

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    You may indeed be biased, trainwreck, but it's about as human of a bias as one can have. However, since i believe that there is great value in the pictures of people jumping from the WTC (maybe not artistic, but definitely human and historic), I'm willing to give the filmmaker the benefit of the doubt to see how he treats the subject matter in his film. I highly doubt it'll be with funny sound effects and a laugh track.

  • CodeMonkeySteve||

    I agree, keep "easy access" to the water, if for no other reason than as a vehicle for Evolution.

    However, as suicide techniques go, I'm certainly no fan of "sudden deceleration", when there are so many other methods which are more reliable and less painful. Mmm, nitrous oxide ... yummy.

    Hell, I'd even web-cast it for 'em.

  • ||

    I guess I think only a fucking slime bag would try to make a dollar, or pretend there is some artistic value, in filming people's suicides. It's like cheap snuff flick. Maybe I'm wrong but I don't see the humanity or compassion in it at all.

    I think that depends on what this guy ends up doing with the material. If he takes it the "faces of death" route, then you're right. If he however takes his film the way the HBO took "Facing AIDS", then I think you are wrong.

    Time to reserve judgement.

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    "fifty-four per cent of the respondents opposed building a suicide barrier."

    In arguably the most "compassionate" city in the most "caring" state, they do not even have the heart to erect a barrier to these suicides, despite the fact that most of those 26 who survived the fall regret jumping in the first place.

    These are the same people who hold Smith & Wesson accountable for most murders. Yet the city does not show "reasonable" restraint in limiting this tool of suicide.

    They must enjoy the show.

    (for the record, I don't want to see any barriers either)

  • ||

    Dude, a fall from this could ruin your whole day, not to mention your appearance. (I've never done an HTML tag before, so I'm trying it out).

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Having listened more than once to Billy Joel's "Don't Forget Your Second Wind," I know what an excruciating topic suicide can be.

    I like to think that 54 percent figure represents a vestige of the city's (exaggerated) do-your-own-thing spirit, rather than heartlessness.

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    Not to sound heartless, but would someone who commit suicide on another man's or public property be guilty of a form of littering?

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    Captain, in the case of the Golden Gate Bridge, it would be ocean dumping without a permit.

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    sage,

    is it just me, or is there someone jumping off that bridge in the photo - check out the black dot in the hi-res image just underneath the middle- probably not, it looks too big, but intriguing

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    It seems to me one issue here is that he lied in order to get access for his project. Not sure what the penalty should be for that, but as a libertarian I have no problem in principle with imposing penalties for fraud.

  • ||

    Tim-
    I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I know this, but the song you're thinking of is You're Only Human (second Wind). Track thirteen on Greatest Hits, Volume Two.

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    And Second should be capitalized.

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    "I like to think that 54 percent figure represents a vestige of the city's (exaggerated) do-your-own-thing spirit, rather than heartlessness."

    I was thinking of "Ode to Billy Joe." The song was all about thoughtless heartlessness. Billy Joe jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, you know.

    http://www.swopnet.com/music/ode_to_bj.html

  • Matt Welch||

    BTW there is a French version of "Ode to Billy Joe," by (I believe) Jacques Dessin (chk/spl). It works pretty well.

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    If you put barriers on the GGB, the suicides will just step in front of CalTrain.

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    I bet the Golden Gate bridge is much higher off the water than the Tallahatchie bridge was, with so much of the great Southland being so flat.

    What a way to go. I've read that hitting the water from that height would feel something like going through concrete.

    There was an interesting article about this whole subject some years back in some rag, I can't remember where it was. In some sort of alternative publication.

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    Douglas Fletcher: You're probably thinking of "Jumpers" by Tad Friend, in the New Yorker (Oct 13, 2003). Basically, hitting the water at that speed from that height pulverizes your gizzards and shoves your broken ribs into your lungs. Then you drown. Good times!

  • ||

    Maybe that was the article, but I don't recall reading the New Yorker anytime lately. Though it is forming in my head that it could have been on the Arts & Letters daily site, they might have linked to it.

  • ||

    Yep. A&L did do that.

    Hey, are you suggesting the New Yorker isn't an alt rag?

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Hey geniuses, the Tad Friend piece is linked in the original post for this thread!

  • ||

    You don't think we actually read your articles before we post on them, do you, Tim?

  • ||

    Really.

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