By JERRY BARMASH
For a brief moment in the late 1980s, 55-year-old Morton Downey Jr. found the stardom that eluded him for his entire career. But as quickly as he shot to fame, he burned out.
In a new documentary by Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller, and Jeremy Newberger, Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr Movie examines that dramatic rise and fall with the backdrop of trying to duplicate, or to outshine, his successful parents.
The film, being distributed by Magnolia Pictures, was released last Friday mostly to smaller art houses as part of a smaller theatrical presence. However Evocateur, screened at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, is also available now on TV via On Demand and for downloading through iTunes. He anticipates the film will reach Netflix customers in the short term, and ultimately could be shown on cable.
With a direct lineage to politics-themed Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and the trashy Jerry Springer and Maury Povich, Kramer tells Tuned In that the timing was right for Downey’s story to finally be told. He says the three filmmakers are “recovering Mort fans.”
In 1987, Bob Pittman, who founded MTV, approached Downey about coming to television. Downey had begun turning heads as a right-wing radio host, and over-the-top guest. This was the era of kinder, gentler fare, with Phil Donahue still ruling the roost.
“It was like if you gave someone psychotic their own talk show,” Kramer says. “He was the most brutal, abusive host in the history of television.”