In the 1980s, the predominant robots in popular culture were assassins (The Terminator) and heroes (The Six-Million Dollar Man), but not our friends. That changed when an imaginative law student, “Double Black Diamond Dave” Leventhal, introduced Casanova the party robot to the Los Angeles party scene. Again: In the 1980s, Angelenos partied like it ain’t no thang with a snarky, drinks-serving, bow-tie-befitted machine. And then VICE made a mini-documentary about it.
The short doc “The Life and Sad Demise of a Party Robot” (part of VICE’s California Soul series) visits Casanova where he sits, rusting, at Leventhal’s California home. Leventhal waxes nostalgic about how he saw an opening—something that the party scene was missing—and created Casanova without an engineer’s degree and with the kinds of components you could pick up at a hardware store.
Leventhal was a savvy marketer, too: To drum up buzz for Casanova, he finagled an appearance on The People’s Court, taking his best friend to task for “injuring” Casanova at a party. (He—the robot certainly seems to be male—was contracted for business engagements, bar/bat mitzvahs, and everything in-between.)
The most interesting part of the doc is when Leventhal talks about Casanova being an extension of himself: During the week he was a quiet law student, but attending parties as the robot’s plus-one slash handler, he could talk through his creation. “He could be the biggest flirt and the most sarcastic asshole,” he said. “Things that you wouldn’t dream of saying directly to someone’s face were absolutely hysterical coming from the robot.”
In many ways, the story of Casanova is closer to our modern narratives of robots than The Terminator. Casanova was an extension of Leventhal, not a separate entity. Their relationship was almost symbiotic, not unlike the notion of a cyborg, with different parts human and machine.
Except instead of Casanova becoming sentient and tipping off the Singularity, instead he just became outdated. The same accelerated expectations in the 1980s that led people to accept Casanova made them reject him in the ’90s when he just couldn’t cut it. Them’s the breaks—but relive Casanova’s heyday by watching the doc:
[via Laughing Squid]