Recently ballistic plastic design advanced to a level where Crackro-American people could be filmed in the wild. So, Julien Nitzberg lived spent a year among a Clan of mountain folk in order to examine the habits and rituals of Jessco White aka “The Tap Dancing Outlaw” and his kin.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia studies each member of the White family tree with detail and empathy reminiscent of William Faulkner’s treatment of the Snopes Family. Follow the White Family Tree up from the roots of tap dancer D. Ray who knew 52 more tapdance steps than any other dancer through the trunk of Jessco who kicked those steps until he was the most famous man in West Virginia to the present branch of hyperactive great grandchild, flicking the camera off and vowing to commit patricide.

Nitzberg examines the traditional rituals of mountain folk such as “Mousey” White’s mission to rape her husband upon release from jail. We are also allowed to witness the mourning rites of this Noble Clan which may include murderous “rampage” accompanied by a three-day shootout with police, or run into traffic and “just get run over.” For the Whites there is no in between.

The music and choreography are original. The costumes are excellent. The dialogue is comparable to the best of Rudy Wurlitzer.

Please take the time to see this groundbreaking documentary before domestic stabbings, crushed-up pills and unsupervised gunplay kill off the last Rebels in an increasingly conformist society.


Categories: "Do the Math" column by Dave Reeves, Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in with Stephanie Smith.


  1. It’s a long shot but I think we just maybe related. My Great Grandfather, James, supposedly came from West Virginia. Although White is a very popular last name, when I saw the picture of D Ray my jaw dropped. H was the spitting image of my dad John (Jay) except D Ray was pretty beat up. But the eyes, ears and hair…wow. I wonder if the family knows about a James leaving after the Civil War for Chicago.

  2. I am a distant relative of the Whites. After watching with my dad, I was joking that I bet we’re related, because his mother’s last name was White, and from Boone county, WV. My dad’s sister sent an email saying, “Unfortunately it is true, we are related to them, as 2nd cousins.” Unfortunately? We were laughing our asses off. This explains so much about why my family is so fucking crazy. Proud to be a WW of WV!

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