Monday, September 29, 2014

I met the Pope once.

I met the Pope once. We arrived at his gig, an outdoor mass in a large grassed amphitheater in Auckland NZ at about the same time. He had his Popemobile, I was wearing stilts and leading a phalanx of curious children presumably attracted by my oddness and sense of purpose. I’d gone formal, black pants and tails. His crowd filled half a large grass bowl. His Pope mobile, a vehicle representing an almost satanic lack of faith in divine providence was slithering along one side, making it’s way backstage while I crested the brow of the hill the stage was facing, children strung out beside and behind. These were olden times 86 thereabouts. The social contract was benign. There may have been snipers trained on me but they didn’t make themselves apparent. My temporary underage disciples and I instinctively formed a tactical arrowhead formation. There were 15 of us with a couple of hundred yards to cover and the Popes gang, their backs turned as they craned at a distant stage for a glimpse of an elderly Polish demigod, numbered in the thousands. The under 14’s around me breathed long and deep and stole glances at the sky. It was a good day to die. We halted some distance from the back of the crowd as his Popeness popped and locked his way onstage. [The correlation between geriatric movement and rudimentary breakdancing at extreme slow speeds is INDISPUTABLE.] I don’t know how good his eyesight was but I’m guessing an 11ft man dressed in black surrounded by children standing alone and apart in the outfield about 150 yards away dead center might not have escaped his attention. Which was my purpose that day. I lived nearby and was young and well trained in the art of subjugating public places for comic affect and thought it would be fun to try and catch the Popes eye just as an exercise in social elasticity. There’s a distinguished history of Clowns fucking with Popes and I wanted in. I like to think we peered at each other in a contrived yet nevertheless profound search for meaning before he began warming up his crowd in Latin. I moved closer, right up to the back of the crowd, it would have appeared, on my stilts, that I was standing on their shoulders. They began handing me cameras to take Pope-pics for them. I had become one with the congregation and communed with them in one vast universal love…for Pope-pics. So now the tall dark clown at the back was engaged in a barrage of flash photography. I shot the Pope many times. After about five minutes of popearratzi freelancing I figured both the Pope and I had seen enough of each other, I stopped, turned my back and strode back the way I had come Across a large empty space, up a hill and away.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Funky the Clown

 Funky the Bear was a guy in a bear suit. A cartoonish bear suit, the fancy dress variety rather than the authentic grizzly.

Funky was an artist, in that he created his own reality and projected it. Funky didn’t fit in, the world just had to adapt. Funky was funny and Funky was a clown.

The first time I came across him he got arrested. It was hilarious and I was lucky enough to see it unfold from beginning to end. I was ambling into the city [Perth Australia], passing through a large pedestrian plaza where the Art gallery and Museum reside, there was a fenced off area where one of Perths many variations of Arts festivals was eventing.

As I walked into the area I came up behind two mounted policemen staring intently at an apparently drunk and antisocial bear who over the next few minutes staggered and fell, took wild swings at those who stopped to assist and who at one point began to take waste wood from a construction project and throw it into a public fountain.

Whether it was contrived or not it certainly appeared that this bear was simply out of control.

While we watched another , younger policeman arrived and watched with us, the bear was running amok about 100 meters away. The two mounted cops ordered the unmounted fresh faced cadet to “Go and deal with that.”

The bear had just swung another length of 2x4 into the fountain, over-rotated and fallen on his face then got up again when the Cop, about 20 feet away and approaching yelled. “Hey, stop!”

Funky turned and then did a classic cartoon doubletake, his arms thrown out wide, jumped into the air, spun 180 and landed running away, heading for the art event enclosure. It took only seconds for the policeman to catch up with him, he grabbed Funky by the shoulder but the bear kept running anyway. He ran the short distance up to the fence, missed the entrance point by a wide margin and ran straight into the chain link fence, froze a moment fully spreadeagled then slid dramatically down the fence to lie in a heap. The cop was now standing over him and a crowd was forming. Funky had done his best to make it look like the policeman was overreacting with violence at a poor man in a bear suit.

Trying to wrestle back the initiative the young improvising policeman thought it best to put an end to this antromorphic charade by yanking the bears costume head off. A good idea except the suits entry point was through the crutch and the head was not of the removable type.

The cop strained at yanking the bears head off and the bear milked it by throwing his arms out and exaggerating each attempt made at ripping it’s head off.

The now surrounded young cop had moved on to brandishing his handcuffs only to find they didn’t fit round a bears wrists when the crowd, now surrounded him, began to voice their disapproval, adding to his woes. I presume the mounted cops were spectating stoically from a distance while howling with laughter within.

“You can’t arrest him ! He’s a conceptional artist!” someone barracked.

“You have the right to remain fluffy!” another yelled. [OK I admit it, that was me.]

The typically Australian disdain for authority was given full play, no-one took it that seriously, the fact that the cop carried a sidearm meant nothing. He was embarrassed and stressed and trying to arrest a bear therefor the crowd became bear champions instinctively.

Funky the bear put the policeman out of his misery by standing and head held low in shame offering his hand for the cop to take and lead him away, he shuffled meekly away, being towed by a policeman, the crowd good naturedly booing.

I heard later he was taken to the nearby station and mug-shots were taken with his costume still on before simply being let off with a warning. He was actually that year the official mascot of the festival so prosecuting him would have simply been more trouble than it was worth.

I saw him an hour or too later inside the enclosure and was impressed by the amount of expression he could muster inside that suit. He would dance until he attracted children then run away from them and lead them in a simple game of ‘catch the funny bear’ until he worked out who might be a parent and then he would rush up to them and drop to his knees and clasp his paws together in supplication, begging that the parents take their kids back.

He was funny, he was bitter and antisocial and trapped in a bear suit and that was his character.

Some months later I heard of his hijinks when paid to do roving atmospheric work at the grounds of the main Perth University.

He had thrown a rock at some reticulation pipe and burst it and spent part of his gig being chased around by the gardening staff. He’d run indoors to hide and walked into a full lecture hall mid lecture from a door at the front of the class. The lecturer looked at him and the amassed students looked down to him from their tiered seating. A moment frozen in strangeness as he entered. Funky then walked slowly and slyly towards the blackboard, picked up a piece of chalk in his paw. Turned and wrote slowly and deliberately F..U..C..K on the board, then sprinted from the room.

We became friends when, at a later time I met the man who filled the costume.

Funky was funny and Funky was a Clown.