Streetwise (1984 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Streetwise (1984 film).jpg
Directed by Martin Bell
Produced by Cheryl McCall
Written by Cheryl McCall
Starring Baby Gramps
Tom Waits
Release dates
  • 1984 (1984)
Running time
91 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Streetwise is a 1984 documentary film by director Martin Bell.[1] It followed in the wake of a July 1983 Life magazine article, "Streets of the Lost", by writer Cheryl McCall and photographer Mary Ellen Mark,[2][3] Bell's wife.[4]

According to Mark's accompanying 1988 book, eponymously titled Streetwise,[5] McCall and Mark traveled to Seattle specifically to reveal that even in a town that billed itself as America's most livable city, there still existed rampant homelessness and desperation. After making connections with several homeless children during the writing of the article, Mark convinced Bell that the children were worthy of his making a documentary based on their lives. McCall and Mark were also instrumental in making the film. Streetwise follows the lives of several homeless teenagers, although it focuses most on 14-year-old Erin Blackwell, a child prostitute who goes by the name of Tiny. Much of the time, Tiny stays at the home of her alcoholic mother, Pat, who seems unfazed by her daughter's prostitution, calling it a "phase".


Mark photographed many of the children throughout the filming of Streetwise and published a book of the same name in 1988. The photographs are captioned with quotations from the film. The transcript of Bell's film appears at the end of the book, with only minor differences.

Plot summary[edit]

Streetwise portrays the lives of nine desperate teenagers. Thrown too young into a seedy, grown-up world, these runaways and castaways survive, but just barely. Rat, the dumpster diver; Tiny, the teenage prostitute; Shellie, the baby-faced one; and DeWayne, the hustler, are all old beyond their years. All are underage survivors fighting for life and love on the streets of downtown Seattle, Washington.


The film was acclaimed by audiences. On Rotten Tomatoes, the audience gave it a score of 98%.[6]

What became of the kids[edit]

(Corresponds to the order of the cast list)

  • Dewayne Pomeroy: As shown in the movie, he hanged himself in July 1984, the day before his 17th birthday. Some of the street kids held a balloon release and planted a tree in Freeway Park in his memory. Plaque 21394 on the ground at the Pike Place Market says "Dewayne Pomeroy 1984".[7][8]
  • Justin Early authored a book, Street Child: A Memoir, based on his experience as a homeless child.[9]
  • Lou Ellen "Lulu" Couch was stabbed by a man at an arcade on 1st and Pike Street during a fight in December 1985.[8] Her last words were, "Tell Martin and Mary, Ellen Lulu died". Plaque 21393 on the ground at the Pike Place Market says "Lulu Couch 1985".[7] Approximately 319 people attended her funeral.[citation needed]
  • Roberta Joseph Hayes fell victim to Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer. Ridgway's 44th victim, 21-year-old Hayes disappeared February 7, 1987; her remains were found September 11, 1991.[10][11][12]
  • Shadow is a security guard.[10]
  • Erin Blackwell ("Tiny"): When Streetwise was nominated for a 1984 Academy Award for documentary,[1] Tiny attended the Oscar ceremony with Bell and Mark. Despite Tiny's celebrity, however, her life did not radically change tracks. Mark has returned to Seattle to photograph Tiny many times since 1983, and photographs of Tiny have appeared in Mark's later books, which reveal that in the years after the Streetwise projects, Tiny continued her prostitution, became a drug addict, and gave birth to nine children fathered by several different men. In the mid-2000s, however, Mark and Bell's 23-minute film Erin revealed that Tiny had cleaned up and settled down with a husband and her minor children.[4] As of 2005, the Mary Ellen Mark Films web page devoted to the Erin films indicated Erin had ten children.[10][13]


On November 20, 2013, Mary Ellen Mark and Martin Bell launched the Streetwise: Tiny Revisited project on Kickstarter. The project exceeded the funding goal of US$60,000 (about $61,000 in 2016) by the time funding closed on December 20, 2013.[14] Initially, the project was intended to focus solely on Tiny, but with additional funding, it is envisioned that other survivors, such as Rat, Shadow, LeMar, Patrice and others will be included in the final film. A new edition of the book Streetwise will be published in conjunction with the film, currently estimated for release in late 2015.[15] A book version of Streetwise: Tiny Revisited was published in the fall of 2015 by Aperture.[16][17]

In March of 2013 a Streetwise Facebook group was opened up in hopes of finding the kids from the documentary. Almost all the main characters (and some minor characters) were found. The group has recent pictures of Rat, Munchkin, Tiny, Justin, Lillie and many others. There are also memorials set up for the kids who are deceased. Old videos and pictures of the kids were found and posted. As of 2015, over 1,700 fans and Streetwise alumni participate and post in the group. Both Martin Bell and Mary Ellen Mark (posthumously) commented that they greatly enjoyed seeing all the kids they filmed over 30 years ago.


  1. ^ a b "NY Times: Streetwise". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  2. ^ Berman, Eliza (26 May 2015). "See Mary Ellen Mark’s Most Memorable Photo Essay". Time. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Cheryl McCall (Text), Mary Ellen Mark (Photographs) (July 1983). "Streets of the Lost: Runaway Kids Eke Out a Mean Life in Seattle". LIFE MAGAZINE. 
  4. ^ a b Miller, Brian (October 4, 2006). "Where She Is Now: Once the teen star of Streetwise, Tiny's tale is continued after 22 years". Seattle Weekly. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  5. ^ Cheryl McCall & Mary Ellen Mark (photographer) (1988). Streetwise. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0812212681. 
  6. ^ "Streetwise (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "Streetwise: Postscript". Mary Ellen Mark website. July 18, 1987. Retrieved July 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Bygrave, Mike (February 2, 1986). "On the Streets Where They Live". London Sunday Times (London, England). Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  9. ^ Early, Justin Reed (June 20, 2014). "Book Summary". Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d Lafreniere, Steve (June 30, 2008). "Mary Ellen Mark (interview)". Vice (New York, New York). Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  11. ^ Berger, Knute (March 20, 2014). "Seattle's creepy Donut Shop: The inside story". Crosscut Public Media. Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Prosecutor's Summary of the Evidence, Case No. 01-1-10270-9 SEA; State of Washington vs. Gary Leon Ridgway; in the Superior Court of Washington for King County" (PDF). King County Prosecutor's Office. November 2003. Retrieved November 11, 2014. Roberta Hayes (Count XXXIV) 
  13. ^ "Greene House Studio: Erin". Mary Ellen Mark Films. Retrieved July 2013. 
  14. ^ Mark, Mary Ellen; Bell, Martin (November 20, 2013). "STREETWISE: Tiny Revisited". Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  15. ^ Brodeur, Nicole (February 2, 2014). "Mary Ellen Mark revisits 'Streetwise' 30 years later". Seattle Times (Seattle, Washington). Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  16. ^ Grimes, William (26 May 2015). "Mary Ellen Mark, Photographer Who Documented Difficult Subjects, Dies at 75". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ Mark, Mary Ellen; Allende, Isabel; Irving, John (October 2015). Tiny: Streetwise Revisited. Aperture. ISBN 978-1597112628. OCLC 910702782. 

External links[edit]