Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve post-op Robert update.

So Robert has his operation yesterday and got out of the recovery room today, He'll be in hospital maybe a week. Mostly because they can keep him in bed while Kumi doesn't stand a chance of keeping him in bed and not pulling his fucking trolley down the road collecting rubbish or mowing the lawn or bleaching the roof.

The operation was 6 hours. The doctor bumped him up from early feb and took a day off her holidays for this. She's the best there is at this particular operation. So they got everything they could ferret out out. six hours is a lot of hunting stuff down. They moved a jugular and took some muscle out but he was always a pencil neck anyway. He can move his head still and get this, he still talks. Also eats through the hole in his face same as we all do and not a tube into his gut. That was always a worry.

So he's going to get well and the chances of a full recovery are much better than before when he had rudolfs nose growing out the side of his neck. Rudolf has left the building.

He will be home in a week or before maybe two weeks on the outside and he'll spend a bit getting over the operation but all the news is good.

Once he's healed he really has no say in who descends on him. He and Kumi run a beach-house rental they own. Just book it under an assumed name and they'll be none the wiser and pleased at the income. Then he can party when he wants and you can party when you want and the world will rejoice in your pedestrian taste in drugs and definitions of bon homme.

I may get in trouble for that last paragraph, they might not want to rent it out because he and she have high standards of upkeep before and after guests. Oh well.

In short, Robert had a six hour operation and after recovering for better or worse should return to his old self.

That's a new year gift in a package not aging quite as rapidly as it was.

Ronald McDonalds Daughter?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Robert update.

Robert's getting operated on thursday 30. Could go light, in which case he's bedridden 10 days or it could go heavy in which case they take half his neck out.
That is all.

Monday, December 20, 2010


My inner life is my own but also a bi-product of a disease I have. A disease that has come close to killing me and a disease that has cost me more than I thought my soul could afford.
Here I am

Spare a thought for Robert Nelson who gets operated on tomorrow.
I'm online from my desk at my desk and will continue wtiting.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cops, One perspective.

So I'm on one side of the island and Roberts on the other at present, and then very shortly he's off to another island to perhaps have his neck removed and a universal joint inserted so that he can freak kids out doing Exorcist impersonations at parties for big cash. Parents are finally waking up to the fact that their kids are going to be as fucked up or worse than them and the market for stylized mental trauma is still incredibly underdeveloped. Both Robert and I are pioneers.

Anyway, he'll either add to this or he won't


Cops are called 'The Man' for a reason. In my opinion the majority of street performers are arrested precocious children and very very few of these will ever win a direct confrontation with the constabulary. Keno has, he simply out-witted them, surrounded himself with his audience. Ducking down, crawling out from the middle of the crowd that he'd got to pack around him, picking his moment and running away.
But he was a genius, we can't all be genius's although there's nothing that says you can't presume that until proven otherwise.
You can certainly try to use your audience against the authorities however it's an all or nothing gambit and bear in mind the difference between a battle and a war. You may win the battle, but the war's still probably on.

Also to consider is if it's one or more authority figures. More than one and they'll reinforce each others positions and the rule of thumb is, like a chain being as strong as it's weakest link so to a situation becomes less liberal the more conservatives are involved. Police are conservative by function.
But with the solitary cop you at least have the capacity to go mano-mano in liberal/conservative combat.

I'm not going to suggest any tactics myself. You want to contest a representative of law and order you'll have to wing it on your own. Good luck.

Anecdotal Olympics to follow.

Good cops... Horse riding cop in Glasgow in my first “Fuck it! I'll do it in the drizzle” show.
Rides past with his raincoat on, the bottom half of which spread out behind him over the horses Haunch.
He approached and grinned and reaching back , swept his coat away and patted behind him as if to invite me on. [I was on stilts.] 
I made a show of accepting then becoming intimidated by the horse and he simply rode on. I recognised he had given me permission by playing with me and there's nothing better than arriving at a place and having that one potential deal-breaker, the law, put to rest.

Another was in Dublin I met my first uniform as he came up after a show, the street-kids I was employing knew him, there was some respect there I noted.
I explained that I had informally got them working for me, made things easier, pointed out the new lad now with a sleeping bag I'd paid for. Told the cop that I was just improvising with the situation but seemed to be doing more good than harm.
He nodded and said "All power to you then."
Which you have to admit is encouraging.
He then assured me that I had no need to worry generally as even if I could see no uniforms about there were plainclothes looking for pickpockets in my audience consistently.

Bad was Julia, a cop who worked Covent garden where I'd fly pitch. She was just the most deeply evil cop I'd ever met. She's get into my psychic romper-room and stomp on my precious fucking toys.
She'd bail me up and say things like,
“You're just like the people selling ear-rings.” 
She passed the guy who was beaten to a pulp and screaming while in a coma in a way that had everybodies hair on the back of their necks risen and merely glanced at him then looked at me and said 
“As if we don't have enough problems.”

Cops, mileage may vary

Success. What is it? One perspective.

Success; What is it? [Dons Guru-helmet]

Success is measured by each molecule of time spent in the conscious process of self realization.

That's the short answer.

If you use performance to realise yourself then either blatently or subtexturally you must celebrate some primary truth about your journey in doing so. 

Most if not all truths are shared in the soup we call the human experience. 

The human experience is bigger than any one artist can contemplate let alone reflect so to be successful it is probably best to specialise.

Laughter is both a personal and shared truth that actually celebrates futility rather than being overwhelmed by it. Most people just think it's a reaction to funny stuff but at it's core it celebrates the profound comedy of our attempts to master the human condition. Be it wit or slapstick or Rob Torris capturing his audiences applause in a small box, laughter is a reaction to a conceit that we presume mastery over circumstance. We don't and laughter is the acknowledgment of this on an instinctive level.

Success can also be measured as being at peace with the decisions you make from the choices you give yourself.

Money is liquid choice. The choices you make with it are more reflective of you than any amount in itself. Both money and others opinions of yourself can be the after-effects of success as I've defined it.
If you try to define success exclusively by these terms you will invariably end up hating yourself. 
Others opinions of you are secondary at best. 

Your opinion of yourself is the yardstick by which you measure success and while I have my guru-helmet on I may as well chuck out some heavy artillery. Just as the words that you use in the thoughts in your head are the cradle of your emotions, so too are the concepts that you use in your show the cradle of your audiences experience. You provide the right cradle and the experience is the baby and a baby is a composite creature. [When two people love each other very much they have a special hug]

For various reasons you may hate yourself already and simply project your cynicism in pursuit of money and others opinions much like a shovel used to dig a deeper grave for yourself in your own wastelands. Welcome to the excessively distractive core of western society.

As with most things the real nutrition is out on the peripheries where holy clowns like Rumple gibber. I use holy in a spiritual rather than religious sense obviously. Rumple is holy because in an idiotic world the devoted idiot is king. Rumple wants for nothing because Rumple simply makes one choice at a time. He's not a fucking deity rather he's been in the moment most of his life.
I wonder how liberating that must be, as well as exhausting but here's another truth.

Life is unilaterally exhausting for everyone, being fulfilled and exhausted is the ideal. That's why people with disposable incomes do physical things they don't have to, climb or swim or whatever. Exhaust yourself in the exploration of the most kick-ass show you are capable of conceiving is my advice.

As a performer success is the ability to share your experience via the amplification provided by the tools you have honed at your disposal to your own satisfaction.

Now stop asking me profound questions. If you inquire of me about love I may just have to hunt you down and kill you. 

[Takes off Guru-helmet,]

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

'Hecklers'; Two Perspectives.

Robert Nelson / Butterfly Man

Friend or foe; a heckler can be either one. How you deal with a heckler being the determining factor. Yes, even an abusive drunk can become an asset to your show… all I had to do was drop my pants and sing Jambalaya with a wino in Halifax once; we killed ‘em.

The most difficult situation for me was getting heckled too early before I established my character and got the audience on my side. Actually, that wasn’t much of a problem either probably because I was always looking for trouble and more often than not, I found it.

Something about me just pisses people off. Not a great thing when you’re trying to win over a crowd. Looking like a bald Jiminy Cricket with two insects stuck to his skull does have its disadvantages. But look at it like I do, use your imagination and never look in a mirror. In my mind I’m a young Jack Nicholson who’s a great fukin’ juggler.

Hecklers surrounded me during my very first street shows in New Orleans and in some ways they became my security blanket for an otherwise rather banal juggling act. They breathed life into my show and made me who I am… the king of dicks (some say).

I never knew why I was so good with hecklers but it was probably because I like them so much. I treated them mercilessly; like I would my best friend… maybe that’s why I spend so much time alone these days. Aw, it’s probably because I live so far away… yeah, that's gotta be it.

Hey, like ANY volunteer, the secret to turning it all around with a heckler is to: LISTEN TO WHAT THEY SAY. If a performer can USE whatever the heckler says… well he, more often than not, turns that potential tragedy into comedy and, unless I’m mistaken, that's what clowns are supposed to DO, right?

Gazzo and I went head-to-head once in ’88 and his line “The best part of you went down yer fatha’s leg!” was countered with my, “At least I got a father and not 100 suspects.” Gazzo was left drooling and I’m not saying there is any connection here but he had a stroke exactly 7 years later.

Yes, I would’ve been nothing without hecklers. Think Rumble without his nose, think Martin without his wit, think Gazzo without his balls… wait, strike that last one, too easy.

The only danger, and if you are savvy, you can use that, is when facing your possible death. I picked on 4 badass guys biker guys one night and went though the first two before I looked at the third. The third had an American Indian looking head whose face looked like an LA freeway interchange of wrinkles and scars. I saw his alpha+ personality and with simply a squeaky “OK!” went on to the 4th guy instead. It worked; my proof lies in the fact that I’m still alive today.

There are a plethora of heckler anecdotes that swirl in my brain when I think about this topic.Someday, remind me to tell you about the guy who heckled me in Dundalk and the three days that followed. I still get cards from his girlfriend.Or, better yet, listen to others make up their own bullshit tales about me; even I don’t believe I did some of that shit. Of course, I did do a lot of drugs in the early ‘80’s and that's all kinda a blur… so.

I wrote a story once about being heckled by 40+ stand-up comics. It was the ultimate test for me and I passed with flying butterflies… in fact, the lines delivered back and forth that day were so memorable they could be put in a book. 

Oh wait, I did that once. I wonder what happened to that.

It must be around here… somewhere.

Martin Ewen / Lurk


I don't speak while performing so hecklers can never usually get the better of me although one time in Perth some smart-ass kid with a couple of friends passed by and smirked and out of the corner of his mouth said, “Dick on a stick.” and they fell over laughing and it hurt my feelings and I wanted to torture him to death over weeks.
Cos I'm very sensitive like that. That was over a decade ago. NEVER FORGET!

If you talk in your show I guess it's a live by the sword, die by the sword kinda thing.
The only wisdom I have if your show is aggressive is that you will notice that they guy who mouths off at you is never the leader. The leader is happy where he is. It's always the omega or someone in the lower half of the pecking order. By mouthing off they want to elevate their position and cutting them an new a-hole simply cements their position. You pick on the alpha and you are in for a disproportionate response. He or she will defend their status to the death. I'm speaking of passing people rather than heckles coming from a fixed audience. A fixed audience is your omega and you are alpha so it's you who have to defend to the death in that situation.

Because I don't talk I have the advantage in that I can be more obscene and graphic in response to any language or comment made. If they are teenage I mime popping pimples, I pull my pants out and look down then weep. A roll of the eyes and a couple of wrist flicks proclaims 'wanker' in any language. I then move on, if required, to illustrating the tiny size of my hecklers penis as compared to the size of their mouth. Most people realise they simply cannot win at this point.

David Holder and I along with Chris and Peter from Hoopal held an impromptu heckling workshop while hanging out in Lyttelton during the Christchurch Buskers fest one year.
Here's the winning heckler response. I'll leave you guessing whose it was.

“No, no leave him, he's got a right to be angry.
You see earlier today I was actually at his mothers place, yeah that's right, I was at his mums place and I was pissing on her face, [gasp] Oh come on, you people, let me explain. I wasn't actually pissing on her face, no I was just visiting and went to the toilet and she had all these magazines in the bathroom next to the toilet
and the top one was 'The Face', it's a British magazine, you might know it. And anyway it's embarrassing but I kinda sprayed a little and it hit her magazines there by the toilet and the top one was 'The Face'.
That's all, I mean I wasn't actually pissing on her face.
[perfect pause, then offhand..]
No, no, she was tied up in the bedroom covered in dogshit.”

Beat that!

Monday, December 6, 2010

'Volunteers' Two perspectives.

Robert Nelson/Butterflyman

“Pick me! Pick me!” said the performer as he raised the hand of a rather nondescript member of the audience. I laughed a little and so did the rest of the crowd. It was the first time I saw anyone select a volunteer that way. Maybe I laughed a little less because I saw a little more.

Picking a volunteer can be risky business for sure. You just never know 100% of the time but a seasoned performer knows what to watch out for. Never, I repeat never, use someone who appears too eager. It usually means they have their own agenda and more often than not, they aren’t funny. That and anyone with dreadlocks, don’t ask me why.

Someone too shy or reluctant is just as much of a problem. If you get that vibe, pick someone else and quick… because it can be a real bummer if your choice adamantly refuses to participate. It lets the air out of your comedic balloon pretty quickly and usually has a viral effect on the next selectee. 

You might wonder why volunteers have such power over your act and the answer is simple.
A volunteer, once engaged, becomes the representative of every person in your crowd. Whether they consciously realize it or not, every member of the audience sees themselves up there and well, if your volunteer sucks… nuff said.

Even more important than picking a volunteer is how you USE a volunteer. Watching and listening is an absolute MUST. Many performers mistakenly ignore their volunteer and use them as they would any inanimate prop. Ignoring your volunteer is the same as ignoring your crowd and can have demoralizing results across the board.

Besides, you never know. I mean, you just never know. Some people just have IT. They have that indefinable quality that just comes alive when in front of a crowd. Where most people freeze, they know exactly what to do and like a great performer play their role perfectly. I used a cop once who should have had his own sit-com. You really don’t want to miss out on things like that, you really don’t, so you must LISTEN. There’s gold in them thar’ hills.

Always make eye contact with your volunteer before during and after you use or “abuse” them. Either way you want them to feel like the star they are. The way they feel about being up there is the way everyone will feel and hopefully part of their joy will be generosity. I got five bucks from a guy in a wheelchair once who pulled a knife on me during the act. To this day he’s the best volunteer I’ve ever had.

Sometimes you just aren’t lucky and the volunteer is an absolute jerk or worse, a jerk that thinks he or she is “entertaining”. Good gawd, I wanted to kill this one blonde I once used, I should have known better. The line: “No, no, its MY fault… I picked her!” still resonates in my head.

So, yeah, it’s a roll of the dice but you can load them, so the odds are in your favor. Just remember that in choosing a volunteer you let your instincts be your guide, but when using them then your means to an end is clever setups and failsafe jokes. Paying attention pays off.

And last time I checked, people will pay for a happy ending.

Martin Ewen/Lurk

Volunteers are the swapped spit in the sloppy French kiss that is a street show.
I have a form of psychic Herpes so I tend to keep my distance. I don't kiss my audience, my audience exist to watch me sodomize random passers-by. The tighter they are the funnier it is.
[Ha, I'm so full of shit.]

Volunteers denote the level of trust your audience is prepared to have for you. They are your audiences ambassadors sent out into a strange land in the hope the natives are friendly. They are brave folk prepared to take a risk and should be afforded every respect for this.
That's not to say you can't play with them however you want.

Picking your volunteers is an art in itself. There's a skill in picking people best suited for your needs that is part intuition, part experience and part guesswork.
Like the concept of props there's the potential of amplification at stake. You want someone who has some energy. Sometimes you want a serene type who will survive what you're about to subject them to. Other situations may require individuals whose enthusiasm and ability to take direction makes them OK to take the ball and run with it improvisationally. The risk with seeking live-wires is that some simply have no sense of place. They are unschooled in dealing with the amount of attention you provide them, they become unmanageably excited.
Whatever they are it's you that got them up there and it's your job to keep them safe, they represent the audiences trust in you so you can't abuse them with anything in your heart but affection if you want to get rid of them. They lend you validity.

Some quick 'Don'ts' and 'Nevers'
*Don't pick the bouncing out of their skin person.
*Don't be a sleezebucket with pretty girls it just makes everyone uncomfortable you stupid horny loser.
*Never make them less than they were before you called them up.
*It helps to make some form of physical contact initially. It's calming in a primate way.
*Don't think that you are better than them, you can act like that but never think it.
*Whether guys or girls, if they are in a group of three, Never pick the omega [lowest status], they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by sabotage.
* Always give them some chance to play, even if it's just you setting them up with an easy comeback.
*Always thank them afterwards and give the audience that opportunity too.

Volunteers carry with them a degree of risk however the rewards when they supply the return can be awesome. The right volunteer can carry a show, give you impulse after impulse to work with and show both to you and the audience the very point you are trying to broadcast. That having fun sometimes just means trusting yourself. If your volunteer is given the chance to eclipse you in playfulness let them take it, be amazed. The audience may learn to love you but they automatically love the volunteer.
The more fun your volunteer has the bigger your hat. Just don't get too cynical. I know it's hard but just try OK?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

'Props' Two Perspectives.

Robert Nelson, Butterflyman
From flying pigs to frying pans, everything can be used as a prop. Imagine anything and everything used in unimaginable ways and there you have it… its a prop.

The catalyst transforming these objects seemingly only the performers intent. The object, any object, becomes useful in perhaps a totally different way from the way it was originally intended.

My God!, I saw a guy use a bag, a small paper bag, fergawdsakes, not only a prop but also as a glimpse into the psyche of his soul. As a prop, he initially used the bag to cover the wine bottle filled with water he used to hydrate himself during the show.

The bag became his prop when he used it to not only imply he was a wino but also when, after using it to “hat” the crowd, he ceremoniously stuffed it down the front of his pants simulating a rather large penis.

The kicker for me, really, was that the final 20 minutes he did after stuffing his pants he did altruistically, for his audience only asking nothing in return. That told me more about him as a person than anything else. But I digress.

Props can handicap you for sure. Anyone packing their six footer+ unicycle for a plane trip knows exactly what I mean, but that’s not the real handicap I’m talking about. I’m talking about how a physical object, no matter how creatively it is used, is no match for using words alone to stimulate an audience’s imagination.

It is obvious a prop forces you to focus on it rather than on anything else and your creativity is thereby limited to its physical presence. But in limiting your freedom, it does have the distinct advantage of focusing the audience’s attention, particularly if it is sparkly and shiny, ask any Indian.

Hey, I know that was rude but it could’ve been worse. I could’ve said, “ask any black guy”. I didn’t say that because, well, that shit’ll get your ass kicked.

Anyway, all I really have to say, and I’m saying this as a prop comic myself, is that whatever you use as a prop do it with integrity. Use it to say something about yourself even if its just “I’m funny”.

Masturbatory fire twirling and technical ‘whatever’ when used “just for show” is boring to me. I like it when performers use a prop (even if its another person) to make a point or say something, hopefully something more than just “look at me, look at me”. That’s all I’m saying, is that too much to ask?

OK, never mind, go blow a six-foot flame out of your ass on a 20 ft. unicycle. Go ahead and throw a bunch of sparkly shit in the air and catch it between your legs. Or, dare I say it, go ahead and stretch a wire between two tall buildings and walk across it with a pole. Because, if that’s all you do, then your affect on your crowd will be amazement only and they’ll remember you until they get to the parking lot.

If, however, that flame, wire or sparkly shit is used in a way that says something about YOU, then your audience will remember you forever.

P.S. Philippe is a hero to me, not because of what he did but because of who he was.

Martin Ewen, Lurk

Props are objects you use, you lay your hands on them or refer to them and they become props, you stop using them and they turn into costume or backdrop or nothing at all. My definition is contentious, get yourself a sub atomic microscope and go looking for any protons of 'I give a fuck'.

Questions remain, for example are my stilts costume or a prop?

A red nose is costume not a prop, unless you actively use it, and Charlie Barnets money padded groin is costume that used to be a prop. If he touches it or uses it it's still a prop, if he doesn't it's costume.
Volunteers are props, that plane passing overhead is a prop, anything at all you use during your show is a prop.

Some performers go light and some go heavy on props. Anthony Livingspace and Rob Torres are at one end, able to turn up with a small case and from it pull small objects that are dense in theatricality, multi-purpose improvisational objects that help amplify their characters.

That's what a props purpose is, to amplify your character, to give you the opportunity to show your commitment to the pursuit of some relationship either with yourself or the audience.

On the other end of the prop scale are the pole-merchants and apparatus junkies.
I use stilts and makeup so I fall into this category. I know why I do it, because it separates me from the world and my show is about building a bridge back.

I can only guess why others do it but the TMO principle, [Tall Metal Object] is so self evidently cash rich that if liquidity is your goal you'd have to be subintelligent to pass it up as a means to your end. Even so I've seen some performers cashing in on the TMO who are dumber than plankton and it still works.
Alakazam is the crown prince of the TMO, deservedly so. He already had skills and personality, I remember seeing him work in Sydney when he was still earthbound, but he showed what a well chosen prop could do as an amplifier when he suddenly morphed and in earnings, audience satisfaction and popularity literally dwarfed us all. Unlike myself Al has never had a bad word to say about anyone. In fact it's too humbling to speak of him so I'll move on.

Sometimes your relationship with your props can be used as a metaphor for your relationship with your audience. Peter Post is a master at this. He fails and fails and fails. He never gives up, he tries to but his suicide attempt itself fails. His props are his enemy and his subtextural cunning is that his despair makes his audience his friend.

One of my props is a hand held mirror. I use it to amplify the conceit I have for my character and the disdain I have for my audience. Another is a single juggling ball which I make a big deal about before simply passing from one hand to another. It's purpose is identical with that of the mirror.

Each prop is a means to the end of defining your character and your relationship with the audience which is why I always thought technically brilliant jugglers might as well just use a blackboard and chalk and scribble advanced equations as an alternative to using objects to do the same thing.

I use props as bridges. I establish relationships with them then subject audiences to that relationship.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

'Baling' Two Perspectives

  • To bail or not to bail… is that the question? Well, far be it from me to tell others what to do but it seems to me that, short of death or the threat of physical violence, there is never a good excuse for a performer to bail on a show.

    Now, I’m not talking about before you commit yourself, I am talking about after you are already committed. And you know when that is, that’s right when you have officially started “performing” i.e. when you address your audience.

    I’m not talking a huge audience, I’m not even talking about 4 winos sitting on the one and only bench around who were there already and drunker than I was. Once you commit, you commit, that’s it. Its unwritten contract which, like I said, cannot be broken no matter what.

    Ok, I did mention death or the threat of physical violence. Then, I can justify taking the sole purpose of your existence, transporting your audience toward unreality, away. Otherwise pal, you are doing it for yourself and bailing only because you have no balls, guts or honor.

    Bailing is for pussies. And pussies have no business in this business. 

    Would you like to hear that your surgeon decided not to continue with your kidney transplant because the nurse handed him the wrong forceps? Or maybe your kid’s teacher decided to quit because your little Johnny was a little dumber than the other kids and couldn’t quite grasp string theory on the first go around. How would you feel about that?

    I don’t care how bad it gets. You can be sitting there on the edge of the stage, the whole audience booing you because you just made an old man’s ear start to bleed internally by fucking with his hearing aid and you must continue despite the shame. The show must go on, it has to; it must. 

    Death, or the threat of it, can be justified, for sure. I bailed three times in my 30+ years as a busker, all three for exactly those two reasons.

    When a gun is pulled out during your show it is kind of difficult to turn that reality into enchantment. A gun brings an audience back to reality quickly and to my knowledge, no clever line has yet been written to prevent the collective horror of the crowd. Believe me, I tried, including, “Come on asshole, make my day!”

    Finding out one of the members of your audience was dead and not just snoozing can have a similar affect on your crowd. Mentioning to the paramedics after the fact that you were killing the crowd might get a wry smile as they drag him onto the gurney, but little else.

    Similarly, a small fist-fight, even when its between two clowns, can be so disruptive to an audiences psyche there is little left to do but bail. Although, I must say I quite enjoyed watching their white faces smeared with blood, but maybe that was just me.

    So, that’s it. For me, it’s a big NO-NO to bail except with a potentially mortal consequence and I’ll believe that until the day I die. Which could be very soon I’m told.

    See what I did there?


    Baling; to bale,
    --The act of abruptly canceling a show during the performance itself--

    Street theater creates audiences in public through a variety of means and for a variety of reasons those same audiences can be abruptly dismissed.

    It's relatively rare and understandably disconcerting from an audiences point of view. Whatever trust they have lent is summarily shattered as they come to realize that they are just part of a mob that up to that point was merely useful to the performer before he or she simply changed their mind and deemed them useless.

    I'd suggest everyone's baled at least once but would be interested to see if there were indeed performers who have finished every street-show they have ever started.

    Here are some examples. Ends of the spectrum.

    Pompedu center Paris, a French mime is articulating something so vague and French that only he has any clue whatsoever of what any of his esoteric arm waving and face-pulling represents.

    Some well meaning citizen steps forward and drops a coin into his hat but unfortunately the small coin in question is the final straw.

    The mime exploded, stomping off his small plinth uttering a long string of patented French verbal indignance. Reaching into his hat, grabbing small handfuls of currency he threw them away in disgust on the pavement. Glaring at the audience, mostly bemused, he packed up furiously, muttering venomously before stamping off, in his own self indulgent mind his dignity intact. A perfect example of a dramatic beggar with a superiority complex.

    I laughed at him, silly french dickhead, throwing a hissy fit, spitting the dummy and presumably actually setting out that morning to do street theater with the expectation that by days end he'd be carried around on the shoulders of an adoring public based entirely on the strength of his painfully enormous and demonstratively brittle ego. Clueless to his true function, which to my mind is the dramatic seduction of strangers.
    Instead he merely exposed his tiny metaphoric artistic dick and was outraged, OUTRAGED!! That the world had not immediately formed a line to suck on it.

    He chose to blame strangers for his own failings because simply being pathetic in public was a truth he could not bear. I know this because I've employed a similar mindset in times before I was prepared to take responsibility for my failures as well as my successes.

    On the other end of the scale.....

    Fly-pitching out of Covent garden at the corner of the Opera-house across from the Shakespeare Pub I had a focused crowd when three guys stage right exited the pub arm in arm. What it was an ambush. The two on the ends grabbed the guy in the middle and began their assault . They were actually in my circle. I and my audience could only watch as the victim took a few before being beaten to the ground. He was then dragged to the gutter only feet from me and in front of my mixed late afternoon audience.

    They wedged his head into the gutter itself so there was nowhere for the incoming force to be dispersed and then both beefy guys lay-ed into his head with their boots like they were chopping wood, alternating well aimed boot after boot into his head before running off leaving the guy howling with the lose vocal cord pitch and timbre only a traumatized person in a coma can emit, the kind of sound that raises your primate hackles the kind of sound unique and rare and truly literally spine-chilling.

    I baled. I sat down without explanation, it wasn't required. I had no more defense against this horror than anyone else. What audience remained were in deep shock and even those who had fled earlier had enough brutality added to their worlds to make my small role and laughter itself irrelevant and redundant. They drifted away as police ran up far too late to do anything but stand guard over this guttural howling brutally damaged man until an ambulance could arrive.

    These are the extremes. You bale because you simply on the day accept defeat and sometimes that defeat, if you look honestly, is yours and other times it's simply circumstantial. Mostly I've noted it's simply a defense against sucking any more than you know, on the day, you already do.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mardi Gras; New Orleans, Full Draft.

I drove 1100 miles
New York
West Virginia
finally Louisiana.

The serpentine ash-felt slithered under the vehicle.
I went mad, I came too, I went mad again.
I listened to a great deal of country and western music.
'She thinks my tractors sexy.' impressed me with its irony.
Country and western people only pretend to be dumb so that they can outwit you.
People down south prefer to defensively feign stupidity and people from up north are all $50 hats on 99 cent heads, don't get me started on east and west.
I'm not from around these parts.

Flipping the dial on the radio, Fleetwood mac, Eagles, Johnny Cougar, Christian rock and preachers disingenuously selling 'non conformity', power ballads with dumb white trash lyrics blaming the wife for the whining husbands lot in life.
It may as well be the 70's except all the car ads are for Japanese and Korean cars.

Stopping at Waffle House I wait 20 minutes to be noticed and a further 20 to be served a coffee and ham sandwich that costs about a week of third world labor. (about 300 pairs of Nike or US$4)

A statistic on the plastic coated menu pointed out that the hamburger buns sold over a year by this particular chain of gastronomic fiends, if stacked, would be the height of 7 Everests..
Is it not enough that I am sold masquerading pap with the taste equivalent of white noise without being bombarded in my weakened state by da-da surrealist statistics?

Am I not already risking enough here in the belly of the beast as I drive from one end of the country to the other through this winters most violent blizzard to report on the disparities of a nation driven on one hand to the brink of WW3 by an obviously out of control Attila the Presidential Foliage while on the other, deep in the south, in Louisiana, masses of Americans prepare to celebrate their culture in New Orleans by drowning their shallow brain-pans in cheap beer and purchasing peeks at woman's breasts with beads?

Yes I am going to Mardi gras, because its the only sane thing to do in these troubled times and also because its actually an adaptation of a Catholic pre-lent ritual and I happen to be a deeply religious person. Spiritual bankruptcy be damned.
Also because my life is a succession of vivid horror stories and I've been told that the streets of New Orleans during these festivities are awash with excrement and vomit.
I think my pantomime character will be at home there as it takes scenes of such cumulative mindlessness and excess to afford me even the smallest comparative self regard.

I am presently snowed in at a truck-stop and overweight men are sneering at me as I stumble about muttering in a sleeping bag with legs.

Arrive and stop to reside on a street. apparently suspiciously close to the action called Bourbon.

‘Bourbon’ is historical in that it is French for ‘Lose all motor functions in a public place.’
Bourbon street is Walt Disney as a lecherous alcoholic, crack smoking social architect.
I like the new Walt.
I am led down the street and bump into various bit players.

Its a little like LA in that everyone has a polished 15 mins of standup rather than a personality.

Some great material, a great jailhouse story from a guy called Thaddeus about holding cells and how out of every 40 inmates forced to share a room, you’ll always get the crazy who rips his clothes off and covers his body with his own shit and how you could learn from that and perhaps dab a bit of your own behind your ears in a potentially violent situation.

Got a couple of wary glares from a tripper, wild-eyed and blinking in a bars doorway,
Yeah right,
You've overloaded your system with hallucinogens, dampened it slightly with 6 hours of drinking, you're overstimulated, confused, your ego’s been chemically peeled and you're holding me responsible?
(I relented and lent him my mobile so he could ring his mum)

I was led to Jackson square, where, at 3am in the morning I could make architectural assumptions based on projected population densities.
After running new data through my patented Street performers, “All Possible Contingencies™” software on my laptop I configured I have a 34.596 % chance of getting out of this alive.

I went back and went to sleep, briefly forsaking the dreams of others.

I woke, lying on a couch with my laptop clenched to my chest.
It had all been a dream, birds were singing.
Birds were singing? I lived in a frozen bird-less wasteland.
It all came flooding back.
I was in New Orleans where the sun was shining and there was no snow at all, ever and plants were green and grass grew.
It was astonishing, I removed my skis and got off the couch.

Jackson square held a magician who held 15/20 people a time, also an escape personage, his stage edges taped, waiting...always waiting, straightjacket displayed.
As well as four hundred and fifty people with tables and earnest expressions, who, if you gave them money,could look into your futures.
A Dixie Jazz band at one end and a CD retailing unit on guitar up the other.
There's construction to contend with too.
Its too early, I postpone myself.

My friends and I retire to a condemned warehouse in a slum.
They prepare a cart. Then get permits and stop off at a warehouse and pick up $6000 wholesale of beads for the first few days.
These beads range from 50 cents to $5 each wholesale and each is a currency, a kind of accepted inducement for woman, from all backgrounds (except Amish) and all walks of life (except Presidents wives) to bare their breasts in a public place in a unique fertility display native only to these shores.

Qualities required for a successful bead salesman are as follows
Highly aggressive
Fairly intoxicated
Easy to please, an ‘any breast will do,’ attitude infused with the venal cheer of a pre-op plastic surgeon.
A bead salesman should ‘Just Be There’ in the words of an accomplished bead seller and multi-breast veteran.
‘You have to be a dapper dandy’ he adds
It strikes me that this focused Jill-average (joes sister) sexual tension is not something to be taken lightly.
It makes me wonder if in fact beads are the answer.

Beads, especially in America have always been a metaphor for a swindle.
Beads are what condescending white people give to natives.
“Thank you for your civilization with real estate attached ,here's a necklace, please die now.”
Breasts as public real estate, only in New Orleans.

Well last night was canceled due to flooding and a tornado warning so everyone stayed home, played cribbage, talked to their plants or drank heavily from a reclining position.
Today (sat) everything's back on track with parades starting 2pm and going through till round midnight.
So I wander about and really, what can I tell you?
Lots of cheerful drunk people, mostly overweight, bedecked and festooned with beads. I ask myself. how am I going to do this? Catalog a drunken archetype a day?
Get into trouble every day and write about it? Just fling 6-700 words off the top of my head a day and hope?
And why? (and hope for what?)
These people, these confused, drunk, celebrating people are at least in one place at one time, responding to marketing (and their own inner demons) trying to immunize themselves from an aching, all pervading existential loneliness by accepting the lie that you can observe mass crassness without participating in it.

Mr and Mrs Ohio, both 55, stagger about pretending to be detached until Mrs Ohio, wishing she had never married her shoe polish chemist husband, receives an invitation offered by a 27 year old New yorker on a balcony, who is himself a deeply sad improvisational vehicle, to expose her breasts for a moment in return for a larger than average string of beads.
Everyone just wants to be loved.
And there, in that bright shiny moment, insecurities, like matter and anti-matter meet, and are annihilated.

I am a group dynamic connoisseur, I amble looking for nodes, there are 2 basic group dynamic focal points.
One's breasts; large circles form as a woman (well qualified) bargains for her selected bead, confirms transaction and then in a blaze of flashing bulbs, achieves her desire.

The second is arrests; The bouncer has him by the throat, pressed up against a wall, you wonder if this will be one of those sad, “He died from oxygen deprivation” gigs as you see him,the punter, slowly lose the will to participate before, hurrah, suddenly 8 cops burst through, saving his life and adding humiliation, massive bruising and a police record to his holiday itinerary.

Being a total non conformist I am sober, which is alarming, but interesting from an alcoholics point of view, these people are amateurs and doomed. (I’ll catch up later)
I have to work tomorrow as I’ve put it off long enough, I’ll do Jackson Square early enough to only get tourists and before the less than cosmetically deranged get out of bed, and I’ll do Royal st. later on, to rub the locals faces in me.
I have nothing else to tell you,
But I need you to love me.
(cackling laughter starts here)

I went to ‘Freaks and Ho’s’ it's a bar.

Staff were advertised as either, sexy freaky or trashy.
Obese strippers and tossed dwarfs.

The bar holds a couple of hundred, there’s two small stages at the back ends on which a succession of topless large woman perform.

It can distort the pace of striptease when what is yet to be revealed is so hard to conceal and that's all I have to say about that.

The staff were either heavily pierced (which is freaky or trashy depending on your upbringing) or wore fishnets and visible bras (which is sexy or trashy depending on whether you were a breach birth or not)

The punters were mostly locals as the bar is a couple of blocks from Bourbon St., your usual smear of curious detachment as we all hung out for as long as it took to see a big guy throw a little guy across the room.
And after 3 hours or so a large fat man (strangely non naked) announced the main event of the evening, a gym mat was unrolled and a tiny man with a full face helmet, extensive padding, a cape and a handle in the middle of his back (who I’ll name Timmy trajectory) was introduced to thunderous applause.

Heres the gig, prearranged strongmen compete against each other to throw a dwarf as far as they can for cash. They have 2 throws each.
The crowd line the throwing lane baying and hooting as the MC dredges enthusiasm from an over mined resource. I suspect what’s being celebrated is a bent but understandable form of non-dwarfism.
I really really wanted Timmy trajectory to go high rather than long as I had noticed an overhead fan that could have provided a quality of entertainment that was otherwise lacking. But sadly the sight of a caped dwarf spinning uncontrollably from a ceiling fan as people tried to dislodge him with brooms was denied us.
Instead he was merely hoisted a matter of yards underarm and the difference in distance between the competitors was about a foot. Timmy seemed to enjoy himself and hung out at the bar afterward s receiving more attention from sexy, freaky, trashy people than he would, in my opinion, have got if he hadn’t been flung across the room.
So one one hand we see exactly what a lonely dwarf might do for company and on the other we get to see ourselves as sad, pathetic and cruel with a bottomless appetite for distraction.
Could be worse, Tomorrows another day.

The evenings pass, I decide to observe until fat Tuesday, it's ugly, not dangerous just ugly and I am predominantly off-put by the drunken tourists and the identical drunken tourists they have come to see.

I have an ideal base. My friends the bead salesmen are resident on Bourbon St and they work hard day and night while I rove about watching people piss and puke and leer and bellow and I watch various arrests before returning to the pad to watch 'Cops' which is showing people getting arrested here the year before.

So onto Fat Tuesday where all the smaller community local based crews take over the side-streets and bars. I could smell the authenticity as the slick polish of the long established crews were usurped by smaller low budget locals who mocked them. It struck me that that was what it was originally about surely. Mocking the establishment. As a clown myself I'm drawn to this type of affair and so I put my gear on, stilts, makeup, and joined them to celebrate ourselves rather than simply provide gawkers with disposable incomes an opportunity to close one eye and focus on glitz too big to miss.

I was adopted by each crew I joined, welcomed and offered booze and food. This to me was the real Mardi Gras and I was glad I'd saved my energy for this last long day. This was the year before Katrina, I doubt the city will ever return to pre-disaster days.
Next visit I'm aiming to see how the place is on a normal week. 

New Orleans has a spirit unique to itself, it teaches people how to party together, it's still and I guess always will be the all encompassing gleeful glad-handing drunken rascal of America that sells more guilt free hangovers than pretty postcards. In my own way I was charmed.