Wednesday, January 15, 2014
A Good Heart,
I had a friend in Japan, daughter of a Yakuza warlord, very complex individual, but this story's not about her. She spoke 7 languages, some better than others. This stories about the phrase she used before introducing me to folk. Her English was serviceable but pared down to the bone. She could sum up a person simply by letting me know he/she 'has a good heart."
I've met many street performers, mixed bunch all in all but the best of the best to me were those whose shows radiated 'good heart'.
Vince loved his mum, it would be approaching his turn on the pitch in front of the Bank on the Stroget [Europes longest pedestrian street, Copenhagen] and we'd know where he was. There were 3 pay phones [pre-internet-gather round children] at the side of the Bank and Vince would often be there talking to his mum. They were best friends and had grown up together alone in some slummy council estate in Liverpool. We'd signal he was up next and he'd say bye to his mum, hang up and shortly thereafter take the pitch.
I suppose the best way to describe his show was 'warm', he so genuinely loved his work and simply used structures to create and project an atmosphere of seamless mirth. All the jokes were on him, he failed, failed, succeeded, built tension, released the laughter, celebrated whatever time and place and audience his show inhabited and finished with a flourish.
Bog-standard on the face of it but elevated into something more because he had a good heart and people resonate with that sort of thing.
To be a clown of any sort you need to have an inner man-child, I hide mine behind carefully fabricated layers of cynicism, you mock me at your peril but Vince was a gentle soul and so we teased him.
He had a woman in his seated front row once who's laugh was one of those gifts for a show, loud and true and contagious, she was there with a girlfriend right from the start of the show and towards the end, the crowd having grown significantly, she suffered an epileptic fit front stage left. Vince made the choice to simply steamroll over that event, her friend had laid her down flat and let her convulse and his split second decision worked. The crowd were aware of the disruption but trusted his judgement and refocused on him. Afterwards she thanked him for carrying on and he thanked her for her beautiful laugh.
So anyway we teased him, suggesting there was something in his show that was perhaps triggering. The juggling perhaps? The music? Best be careful! He knew we were joking but there was still a small element of genuine concern.
The next day we reminded him to be extra careful and the dark comedy gods smiled because the little Moroccan boy who's father used to drop him off every day with a stool and a portable keyboard and who used to beat him when he didn't make enough money who was playing 50 yards from his show chose that day to himself suffer an epileptic fit.
We went and helped him out, we're not heartless, just cruel, because after Vinces show we told him what happened and suggested his powers were expanding by the day. Fortunately it ended there and after a few days free of proximity-epilepsy we pronounced him cured.
The next season Vince was nowhere to be found, the news was he'd snagged a cushy gig as a TV children's presenter back in England. He would have been perfect for that. He was genuine and had a good heart. Kids are very sensitive to that sort of thing.
A couple of years after that I was told this story about Vince and his mum.
He'd worked in TV and the first Christmas following he'd gone home to his mums. She still lived in the council flat he'd grown up in. Still paying rent, still getting by.
He gave her her present, it was a shoebox containing new and quite lovely and expensive shoes.
She responded with her usual selfless diatribe. Bear in mind she'd worked tirelessly, multiple low paying jobs, just to bring him up.
"oh these are too much…I can't , no really, I mean it, they must have cost so much!, take them back, I couldn't possibly… you spent too much. etc.
Vince just smiled, HAVE I MENTIONED HE HAD A GOOD HEART?
"Just look in the shoes mum."
Inside one of the shoes, folded up, were the deeds of her house. She now owned it.