Steve Buscemi Remembers Maggie Estep

Spoken word artist Maggie Estep (1963-2014) passed away this month. Steve Buscemi recalls directing her 1997 interpretation of Lou Reed's "Vicious."

In 1997, my brother Michael introduced me to his good friend Maggie Estep, the spitfire spoken word artist extraordinaire.

She was interested in having me direct the music video for her sublime interpretation of Lou Reed's "Vicious," from her powerful second album, "Love Is a Dog From Hell." Much of the album set her spoken word rants to music, but this reversed the process, drawing out Reed's lyric slowly until it seemed like one of Maggie's poems.

Honestly, I was a little intimidated by Maggie, the intense stage persona, not to mention the violent wit she employed in her previous video "Hey, Baby." She could not have been more down to earth, and her easy-going manner put me at ease.

Maggie was amazing to watch, captivating in a slightly demented Audrey Hepburn kind of way. I remember being impressed at how effortlessly she fell sideways out of frame, combining elegance and slapstick in one shot.

And then there was that close-up of her laying in the gutter, head resting on the curb like a pillow, a single tear falling from her eye as the rest of her alabaster face remained remote and slightly expressionless.

In a quick shooting day of many highlights, the one that stood out for all of us, but especially for Maggie, was when Reed himself casually showed up to appear for a cameo, his presence like a calm yet potent dream in the middle of a hectic day. Maggie, writing in her blog post from Oct. 27, 2013, the day Reed died, remembered: "I was nervous as hell. We all were... I only exchanged a few words with him. I was terrified."

I hadn't realized at the time how unnerving it was for Maggie, who I considered to be fearless. But she was vulnerable, just like the rest of us. Her abrupt departure at age 50 punched a hole in our hearts. But for me, Maggie will never fall out of frame.


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