Driggling with Larry Clark: Morgan Lane Bennett Tells All

May 6th 2024

If there was a Mount Olympus for transgressive art world elders, Larry Clark would sit alone at the summit on a throne. At age 81, he’s amassed a body of work so vast, shocking, and influential that it’s hard to even grasp. The 1971 publication of his photo book Tulsa shattered countless taboos, documenting youthful sex, drug use, and occasional violence in a manner so frank and graphic that it changed the game forever, ushering in new wave of imitators proudly flaunting their strung out, debauched, lifestyles for the world to see. In 1995 he caused a nuclear-grade meltdown at Sundance with the premiere of his debut film, Kids, an NC-17 portrayal of underage skaters in Manhattan acting as bad as humanly possible. Bully (2001), Ken Park (2002), and The Smell of Us (2014) only solidified his reputation as an unrivaled, blue chip, freak-auteur. Despite his highly publicized accolades, scandals, struggles, and triumphs, Clark remains a somewhat shadowy character. R.W. Fassbinder famously stated "I hope to build a house with my films. Some of them are the cellar, some are the walls, and some are the windows. But I hope in time there will be a house.” This analogy begs the question, what type of house is Larry Clark building with his filmography? And could there be a secret “driggle” room in it?

Throughout the years, I would occasionally hear whispers of an extremely rare and mysterious Larry Clark short, featuring a man known simply as The Driggler. These hushed voices, always from highly credible insiders, claimed the video showcased an eccentric, shirtless, figure rollerblading down the Pacific Coast Highway, bouncing three rubber balls in an intricate, artistic, almost hypnotic manner. “Once you’ve seen it you’ll never forget it” they asserted. There was one major problem, though. The video didn’t exist. At least it didn’t exist according to basic google searches, IMDB, cinephilic torrent trackers or in any of the countless surveys of Clark’s output. There was no trace of it. Zero.

Miraculously, Driggling (2005) had been gathering dust in broad daylight for the last fifteen years, parked at the bottom of Morgan Lane Bennett’s YouTube channel, with a mere handful of views and likes. Its official description reads, “Driggling is something that I have done for almost ten years. It's just what I do. One part dribbling, one part juggling, one part speed skating. With the help of director Larry Clark and some other good friends I have finally put it on film. I am currently shopping the concept to ad agencies for $trictly arti$tic rea$on$.” Upon careful review, I’m happy to report the video is as singular, bizarre and unforgettable as I had hoped. I tracked Bennett down through his hypnotherapy business in California, and we zoomed at length about this elusive gem.

Driggling (Larry Clark, 2005)

Morgan Lane Bennett: Man, I appreciate you reaching out. I figured this would all be lost in the sands of time.

Michael M. Bilandic: It’s my pleasure. Maybe we could start at the beginning. How did you come up with the concept for Driggling?

MLB: I first started rollerblading when I lived in New York in the mid-90s, just to get around town. Then I moved back to Santa Monica, where I'm from, and started zipping up and down this amazing bike path. But there's only so many times you can do that. So one day I had this racquetball and I just started bouncing it. I don't think this is the correct use of relativity, maybe it's a Newtonian relativity, but I’m throwing this ball in front of me, and the next thing I know it's in my other hand, and I'm also moving. I added another ball and then it became more of a meditation on throwing with both hands, an ambidextrous sort of thing. Then I was like, could I do three? I had juggled three balls when I was a little kid, but I never got into juggling. It didn't really have anything to do with dribbling. I did this for probably five or six years.

MMB: What years are we talking? You uploaded the video in 2009.

MLB: Yeah, but this was definitely earlier. I want to say we filmed Driggling in 2005, and I’d probably been doing it for four or five years before that. So I did it, let's say, from like 1999 to 2005. It was just my jam. And I was the only one doing it. As far as I knew it was unique in the world. I was always hoping somebody on the path would stop me and go, “Hey, you're amazing. We want to put you in Cirque du Soleil. This is fantastic.”

MMB: I’m shocked they didn’t.

MLB: So in about 2002, I became a personal trainer and one of my first clients was a guy named Larry Clark. I’d never seen Kids. Then I saw it and I'm like, "What the fuck is wrong with you, dude? You’re a weirdo.” But I gotta say, he’s the sweetest guy. You would never know what a deviant he is. I trained him probably five days a week for, you know, five years at least. And towards the end of that I was like, "Dude, you gotta help me film this thing, You gotta help me with this thing.” So, in between projects, he finally did. I want to say it was right before Wassup Rockers (2005). I was with Larry for all the Wassup Rockers stuff. I was like “You gotta help me. Maybe it's something, maybe it's nothing. Maybe someone will show up in fifteen years and make it a thing.” I know that, as far as his art, it wasn’t something he pushed. I mean, I don't know how much he pushes any of his art because he's Larry Clark. He doesn't have to, like, try.

Bennett and Larry Clark
Bennett and Larry Clark

MMB: Well, there’s a big title card that tells us it’s directed by Larry Clark.

MLB: And it is. Yeah.

MMB: The act of putting his own name on it, with that credit, means a lot. I had a couple of friends who were like, “How do you know it’s directed by that Larry Clark?” I was almost sympathetic to them for a split second, because, sure, there’s no additional corroborating evidence of the production online anywhere. But I was also like, “Guys, have you ever seen a Larry Clark film? Of course this is one.”

MLB: Oh, it’s definitely Larry. So he got his friend, a cinematographer, a kind of helper guy, to work on it.

MMB: I noticed one of the cameramen listed in the credits shot Impaled (2006), Clark’s contribution to Destricted (2006).

MLB: I came up with the title for Impaled. You can put that in your paper. Larry was talking about “I'm doing this thing with this girl and I don't know what to call it” and I go, “How about Impaled?” And he's like, “Yes!“ It’s good that you mentioned that.

MMB: It's a great title and a great short. Tell me about the logistics of the Driggling shoot.

MLB: Well, we all show up to the beach and are like “What are we doing?” So we just figure out the various angles; going by the side, on the front and on the back. At the thirty three second mark you can see Larry standing in the back of my buddy's pickup truck, which he had just bought. So he's filming. We just rolled up and down the bike path in North Santa Monica. There's a big parking lot there that was empty.

MMB: The POV shot is amazing.

MLB: This is before GoPros. I don't know when GoPros came out, but for that shot there was a lipstick camera that had been headbanded to my head. Remember the lipstick camera? We just rode up and down doing our thing until Larry was like “Okay, we got the shots. Good enough.”

MMB: How would you describe his directing style?

MLB: It's so funny, the real Larry Clark touch was right before we started shooting, he goes “Take your shirt off.” And I'm like, “Okay, Larry, I'll take my shirt off.”

MMB: Sunglasses on. Shirt off.

MLB: And my giant basketball shorts from the early 2000s. It's so good.

MMB: You shot it in an afternoon?

MLB: Yeah.

MMB: And was there a wrap party?

MLB: It wasn't like that. I might have bought some beers for people, but Larry didn't drink. So I probably didn’t. I don't even remember who edited it. It was either him or someone else. The song that I had wanted to have play was “More Bounce to the Ounce” [by Zapp & Roger]. But of course that was copywritten. So it ended up being just this royalty free music, which is fine.

MMB: In your mind, what was the best case scenario for a project like this?

MLB: Honestly, it was kind of like a spec for a commercial. How could Nike not slap a shirt on me after seeing it? I'm like, “What is wrong with these brands?” I was dabbling in the commercial world, trying to get commercial work. I'm like “Guys, check this out.” I thought at some point, someone's going to find this. And yes, it's Larry Clark, so shouldn't that make everybody care? I wanted to get rich from Driggling. But that didn't happen. I'm still slightly heartbroken.

MMB: I can’t believe nobody bit. I saw some photos of your early modeling work, by the way. There was an Airwalk ad, Face Fishing.

MLB: Face Fishing? Good on you, man. Ha!

MMB: In it, you’re doing a handstand over a creek of some kind and pulling a fish out of the water with your teeth, while wearing only shorts and a pair of Airwalks. It has a high concept, novelty sports flavor, similar to driggling. Would you say Face Fishing influenced driggling at all?

MLB: I had already been driggling by then, actually. That campaign consisted of a bunch of weird sports that don't make any sense, like Orange Golfing. It was just dumb sports, extreme sports that were stupid. I remember doing handstands in the Malibu Creek River over and over and over again with a plastic fish in my mouth. Yeah, that was a classic. Funnily enough, about that ad, years later, I'm going down the bike path in Venice, and there’s all these t-shirt shops there, and I see a bootleg version of that image on a shirt. I was like, “Wait, that's me! Someone made a shirt of Face Fishing? Like Airwalk?” I was like, “Okay.” I still have that damn shirt. I’d totally forgotten about that until just now.

Face Fishing
Morgan Lane Bennett in the Airwalk Face Fishing ad campaign (L) and accompanying t-shirt (R).

MMB: Did you ever pose for any Larry Clark photos? I was positive your connection to him was going to be through the modeling world.

MLB: I never shot anything with Larry other than Driggling. I wasn’t quite his genre of subject. I helped him with getting in shape and getting out of pain. I went to various events of his and all that stuff, but I never shot with him. He doesn't really shoot healthy people. That’s a bad way to put it. It's funny just thinking about it. It makes me miss Larry again because he was just the nicest damn guy. You’d never know that he had this like dark artistic streak, which is amazing. He was just a super solid guy. I'm not gonna say a normal jazz cat, but he loved jazz. He loved skating. He liked working out. And then, you know, he filmed his weird stuff, which is not not my taste, but good for him. I got my Tulsa book and I got a couple of pieces of art, and I’m just grateful to have known him.

MMB: What do you think he wanted out of Driggling?

MLB: Probably just to get me to shut up. For at least a year I was like, “Bro, come on. What if we both did this thing?” I think he was just being a mensch. If he thought it would do anything for him, he would have done something with it. I never, never took offense at that. It's not like I was like, “Go to your talk to your manager and have your agent send it out.” He didn't have any of that stuff as far as I knew. And then, for some reason, I don't remember what it was, he just decided to go back to his studio in New York. And then that was kind of it. I did check in not too long ago. I was like, is he still alive? He's still alive. As far as I know.

MMB: So what made you stop driggling? Did you ever get any serious injuries from it? I directed a feature called Jobe’z World (2018), about a middle-aged, drug-dealing, rollerblader in downtown Manhattan. And let me tell you, every time we shot the skating scenes I was in total fear of the lead actor potentially wiping out. Or worse. He messed his wrist up pretty bad in pre-production.

MLB: I never ate shit. Not once. Now, there’s times when you go off into the sand, because there's sand on each side. If somebody's being crazy, I can end up going off into the sand. But you know, it never raspberried. There was never a broken wrist or anything. And I was going really fast. And I'm not wearing a helmet and I'm not wearing knee pads and I’m not wearing wrist guards. So I’m thankful. Nor did I ever hurt anyone. I'm sure I ended up having minor, I wouldn't say collisions, but there were some jackasses in the way, not paying attention, like, stopped or something. But no one ever got hurt. Including me.

MMB: That’s unbelievable. So why did you call it a day, then?

MLB: Eventually the bike path got swarmed and swamped with people not paying attention. I'm going probably twenty miles an hour-ish. I'm going fast. And there's no breaks. So there's only so many times I can save some kid's life or save somebody's kid's life. It kind of lost its juice for me. And then I stopped doing it. Also, I was getting back pain from not stretching enough afterwards, because I'm hunched over and I'm doing the thing and using my butt and all this stuff. So I was getting a little pain. But honestly, it was the crowding. But I still do do it sometimes. I bought a new set of rollerblades, not speed skates. I do it in a neighborhood, on a long street that's flat, every now and then.

MMB: Oh wow. Salute.

MLB: Look, I’ve still never seen anybody else take it there. And honestly, man, I am very grateful. When it's all said and done, I know that I did a unique thing. And it was kind of cool. And I think it tripped a lot of people out. They were like, what the fuck is that?! I wasn't doing it to blow minds. I was doing it because that was what my brain needed to do, to feel what it needed to feel. I am very grateful to you for reaching out and putting the effort in and in tracking me down.

Bully screens tonight, May 6, at the Roxy as part of the series “It Boys.” The screening will be preceded by the World Theatrical Premiere of Driggling, introduced by Michael M. Bilandic and co-presented by Screen Slate.