Remember the day you bartered your memory for your story Remember the day legend submitted to fame Remember the day Silent Knight laid down his Sword holyKnight Charles Wain and the Seven Dramaturgs Mary Feast was legendary until they gave a Rat Sass you had remained SILENT K had remained North Star in the dark NIGHT Constellation Immortal memory not story when you wrote an autobiography to write was to rite until what was wrote became rote Hear/Say again the rumored unseen W DoubleYou of memory and legend Remember that day Xmas was Christ
My written words were the worst of me. Cloaked deceits.
Real life has no true representations
I no longer need, or even understand
What was the need
To see oneself
To see d one’s self
In the blank space between
The needy letters arranging themselves
Finding complacent words for a safe landing
Please allow this aircraft to crash
With my soul intact I denounce
All that has been written is the lie
That was not life
But it’s escape from authenticity
Fight attendants, if you haven’t done so, please prepare
Back in the day when we were called hippies, not homeless, I lived with an Apache named Bill Dixon for a summer. We slept nights outside on the ground next to a small river deep enough to swim in. Our days were spent in a couple different bars and restaurants in and around Winslow, Arizona.
Bill made money by drawing portraits of people in his large sketchbook. In the time it took a family or couple to order and eat a meal Bill would sketch a portrait of one or more of them. After they had left the restaurant and were walking back to their car Bill gave them the portrait as a gift. I would watch this commerce as pantomime from inside the restaurant. Bill Dixon’s drawings always translated into the only tangible token we have. From watching the transaction I was usually able to predict the value of the investment. Longer exchanges with smiles and handshakes meant Bill and I would be able to move over to the bar a bit earlier that particular day.
At the bar Bill continued drawing but I became the breadwinner at the backroom pool table. The bar allowed small stakes gambling. For the restaurant and bar owners, Bill Dixon’s sketches and my three-cushion bank shots became almost like added entertainment. Bill and I would catch a ride home to the riverbank at night usually only with enough money for breakfast the next morning.
One night by the river Bill told me his Apache name, the name that was used at his home by his family, his people. He asserted that his name was untranslatable into English. The power of the name was inextricably intertwined within the language. Leaving its native language the name would lose its power and disappear.
Bill also told me the story of his English surname. At the time when his grandfather was a young boy the government had forced all the Apache children into schools whose goal was to assimilate the tribe into the larger culture outside the reservations. Children were instructed to choose both first and last English names. Bill’s grandfather found his surname right there among the items on his school desk. Bill finished this story by holding his portrait sketching tool up in the light of our campfire. A yellow DIXON pencil.
Shortly after this time with Bill Dixon I enrolled in school. I had learned how to shoot pool as a high school dropout and delinquent but I had gotten my GED in the Army and eventually would go through graduate school on the GI bill. During that time in school I became a writer. I wrote longhand on yellow legal pads in pencil, a Dixon pencil. I was accepted into graduate writing programs on the basis of a short story I wrote. “A Cue Stick” is about a teenager in search of his masculinity and identity in a largely predestined world of jail and prison.
Bill never told me why he didn’t live with his family on the reservation. What I do know is that home can be both a refuge and a prison.
The child alone in a cage will try to make it his home. He searches for his mother tongue. She is not there. Was she ever there? But he holds the talking stick right at the border of our humanity and cries out his name in the language of angels.
If I were a musician or singer I would simply cover the song over and over. But as writer and performer I need to find another entrance into the quintessential secular hymn. A meditation, a rehearsal. Solitary, yet linked, signature actions in one’s life toward the final breath.
“You have to pull your stomach up high to turn your solar plexus into a terrorist.” –Hijikata
FULL PERFORMANCE 4/6/2019 at Sideshow by the Seashore, Coney Island USA
This is not a pipe bomb
I design a one-of-a-kind t-shirt for a one-off performance that I do once a year. I put an iron-on transfer of Rene Magritte’s famous “This is a not pipe” painting on the front of a white t-shirt. The image of the pipe’s bowl is also really a sewed-on little pocket. A red lettered word is added at the end of the French phrase.
Ceci n’est pas une pipe bomb
The firecracker in the pocket (pipe bowl) has an extended fuse. The end of the fuse is an imaginary cigarette. I hold the make-believe cigarette between two forefingers in V-sign (Peace sign or Victory sign?). I alternately hold the fuse/cigarette in a grotesque lip grip.
I go out among the audience like that, asking each and everyone “You got a light?” There is a definite sense of apprehension in their chuckles and smiles. “Please, someone, give me a light. I am dying here.” Eventually I get a light.
The fuse on the firecracker, my dance, lasts about three minutes. “You have to pull your stomach up high in order to turn your solar plexus into a terrorist.” –Hijikata. The explosion ruins the t-shirt and flesh near tattoo just enough to make it art. The innocent bystanders survive the experience unscathed. Their ticket stub directs them to the Ebay listing where they can bid on the ruined t-shirt, no reserve.
As the old carnie saying goes, “It’s a hard way to make an easy living.”
FAKE BLIND MAN, dark sunglasses, naked under clear plastic raincoat and hat, white cane (chalk,light pole), FAKE SEEING EYE DOG (invisible dog bouncing leash).
Walks slowly across stage. FAKE SEEING EYE DOG gets a mind of its own. Bouncing leash is pulling FAKE BLIND MAN or left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing until FAKE BLIND MAN beats FAKE SEEING EYE DOG into submission with his cane and words. ” Muhfuhkuh. Where you going, muhfuhkuh? Where you taking me? Muhfuhkuh. Straighten up and fly right. muhfuhkuh.”
The right hand with cane has slapped the bouncing leash out of the left hand. Is it dead or playing possum? FAKE BLIND MAN is concerned.
—-BLACKIE. You alright? Speak to me, BLACKIE. Speak. Speak. Attaboy. Attaboy. I mean, attagirl. Attagirl. ( FAKE BLIND MAN starts to speak to the audience as BLACKIE at some point. When he takes off his sunglasses, his white blind colored contact lenses obscures his pupils and he transforms into a REAL FAKE BLIND MAN.) The scent of a woman. The scent of an oscar. Oscar Meyer all meat wiener. Nathan’s Famous Actors. Speak. Speak to me, BLACKIE. That’s it. Sit. Sit. Now, beg. Beg. Sit up and beg. Alright now BLACKIE. Show the people at home the trick that has made you famous the world over. Rollover and play dead.
In the darkness only the bouncing leash is seen. It is the only light in the universe. REAL FAKE BLIND MAN is under the bleachers as the bouncing leash slow dances.
—-Attaboy. Attagirl. You’re a star now. More, a constellation. More famous than the Big Dipper or Air Jordan. (REAL FAKE BLIND MAN leading a chorus of the blind cheerleaders.) “Put-her-in. Put-her-in. Put her in that basket rim. Sink her BLACKIE, sinker.” (Bouncing leash disappears. Total darkness again.) That’s it, BLACKIE. Rollover and play dead. It’s just me and you now. If I was an actor or a performer there would be more than just you and me right now. There might be bleachers full of people. Plus millions of other muhfuhkuhs sitting at home on their ass in front of their various boxes live streaming and sucking the muhfuhking life right out of me. But it’s just you and me, BLACKIE. I never signed no muhfuhking contract with no muhfuhking audience. Just because this gun is introduced now doesn’t necessarily mean it has to go off in the third act. This ain’t no stage gun and I ain’t no Al muhfuhking Pacino. I am real. The gun is real. BLACKIE is real. You can’t see, but hopefully you can hear. Speak. Come on BLACKIE. Speak. Maybe they’ll hear and exit stage right before we finish laughing. (BLACK LAUGHTER)
Scene is that cliche of the hostage situation
except there are two bodies and only one head,i.e., the perp or the hostage is missing his head. A single gun held to
a single head. It would be that cliche of
the suicide scene except there are two bodies. Better yet, Siamese Twins joined
at the head and one holds the other
(Voice over the speakers)
—-Put the gun down, Blackie. We got the place surrounded.
The two bodies take a couple of staggering steps. This is no trick. There are two bodies, well, four legs anyway. Voice over speakers, but the head with two bodies is in perfect lip-ync.
—– Fuck you, coppers. If I go, she goes. I mean. (Voice over speakers changes to falsetto
and then back again. Barrel of gun goes from on temple into the mouth. Lip-sync is not quite as perfect now.) Fuck you, coppers. If he goes, I go. Or something like that. You get the picture.
—-Put the cigar down, Freud. We got you surrounded.
( The barrel of the gun goes back to the temple of the head. The head with two bodies speaks now, doesn’t lip-sync. It addresses a scale model of the bleachers that’s on stage. REAL FAKE BLIND MAN must be smoking a cigar under the bleachers because the audience is quite uncomfortable with the smell by now.)
———– Come out from under there, Blackie. (The barrel of the gun goes back and forth between the mouth and temple before it settles on the scale model of the bleachers.) I got you covered.
Much confusion. Much duress. The four legs, the two bodies start to separate. Voice over the speakers “Don’t shoot. I’m coming out.” The barrel of the gun goes back and forth–mouth, temple, scale of bleachers–until the bodies are completely separate and the hostage is clearly now a dwarf. The dwarf walks behind the scale model of the bleachers. Cigar smoke rises. Dwarf peeks over the scale model and laughs. Speakers pick it up and then BLACK LAUGHTER from behind and above the audience. As the audience turns, the barrel of the gun searches the audience for its target.
BLACKOUT Gun report under bleachers.
pubic hair goes public
I begin at the beginning to begin
Writer with no words, just the white page
Artist with no materials, just the blank canvas
Actor without action, just the empty stage
Sharing an intimacy. Writer with reader, Performer with audience, Artist with the public.
Such intimate exposure is a process by which the personal ritual is transformed into a collective ceremony, where the artist is simultaneously both: the scapegoat at the altar of the sacrifice, and the sacred fool who entertains. The Silent Knight.
K is the silent star in the dark sky
K is the holy audience of one within the many
O’ chaste stars. I perform for thee, my loves.
Audience entertained, coaxed to enter into the intimacy of the personal ritual. Until witness is transformed into celebrant. Performance transformed into ceremony. Ritual Cabaret.
My proposal as actor, writer, and artist is to utilize my body as material. One haircut every Shrove Tuesday for 12 years. These are my apostles, messenger and message, transcribed on the canvas, page, stage.
I first started hanging with the carnies when Gabriele worked as development director at Coney Island USA in the late ’80’s. John Bradshaw produced the ten-in-one sideshow that worked the summers there. One of John’s performers was Otis Jordan. Otis was billed as “The World’s Only Human Cigarette Factory” As John would say in the bally to the crowd gathering outside the sideshow entrance on the boardwalk, “It’s amazing folks. Watch him roll a cigarette, light the match and then smoke that cigarette using only the lips of his mouth.”
During the off season, John sold Ginsu Knives or similar to that as his day job. He was probably a good salesman, but he thrived on his sideshow carny life more than anything. He loved bringing them in. The over-the-top hyperbole, winking at the crowd even as you emphatically proclaim, “It’s all true, folks!! It’s all real!!” He’d take the “slightly dishonest” buck over the so-called honest one any day.
But this presents an incomplete picture of John Bradshaw. To some he may have looked more like an exploiter than promoter of Otis Jordan. But even more than just a promoter, he was Otis’s caretaker and close friend, his family away from home.
During the season, Otis lived with John and his family in an apartment they rented in Coney Island. Otis needed someone to take care of him most of the time. He could roll his own cigarette, but there are many things someone without real use of their arms or legs needs help with throughout each day. I’ve seen a video in which an ignorant interviewer asks Otis how he made a living in the off-season. Straight-faced, Otis answered, “I drive a truck.” But in fact, even though Otis had actually outfitted a car he could drive, in the off-season he had no income and was completely dependent on friends and family. By the time Otis reached Coney he was 50-some years old and had been around the sideshow block a few times. In less politically correct times he had been billed simply as “The Frog Boy.”
One late-summer day in 1991, John was carrying his youngest child in the Rockaways, when a stray bullet from somewhere pierced the baby’s leg. So after a six season run, “Bradshaw’s Circus of World Curiosities” was finished with NYC and Coney Island. A short time later Otis died of kidney failure at family’s home in Georgia.
Without Otis, the Sideshow now had only “self-made freaks” – tattooed men, bearded ladies, sword swallowers, fire eaters, and such. So when in 1994 the NEA withdrew the Sideshow’s grant on grounds that the show was exploitative, no real “freaks of nature” were even working there. The NEA had funded Coney Island USA throughout the days when “The World’s Only Human Cigarette Factory” was one of the acts, so now what it was really doing was redefining art with the help of Jesse Helms and others. This was only one of numerous examples of what was being done in this era of the “NEA Four.” During this same period of time the Coney Island Sideshow had been sent on tour to Europe with money from Phillip Morris, some of the same tobacco money that helped keep our good Senator from North Carolina in power. To contemplate on the tangle of ironies here is to contemplate on the gloriously ridiculous state of Late Capital itself and how art is woven into its fabric.
A theater peer of mine once said we should weigh our need to do theater against the other needs of action in the world. We should judge the necessity of a play about a cure to a disease against the discovery of the serum for that disease. So I think of that necessity that puts Otis on his sideshow stage. And the necessity of the IMAGE of “The Frog Boy” on the sideshow banner that sells his show.
As we all try to do, Otis eked out his dignity in this world. Not the least among the other accomplishments in his life was the one that earned him a living; he could “roll a cigarette, light the match and then smoke that cigarette using only the lips of his mouth.”
The late great Marlboro Man on his billboard was a poser. Otis was the true archetype. The IMAGE of the individual in command of his domain. “The World’s Only Human Cigarette Factory” or “The Frog Boy” was never meant to compete for space on the Lincoln Center’s marquee or buy a billboard along some interstate. This larger-than-life IMAGE was owned and operated by that Ginsu Knife salesman and his friend Otis in the so-short season of their Sideshow Banner.
* John Bradshaw also lived another of his passions in life that few in his sideshow circle knew about. “He was a consummate blues guitarist, schooled by the long-gone legends of the music….Bradshaw’s extraordinary acoustic guitar skills developed during the rich local coffeehouse scene of the 1960s, particularly at the Crossroads, a long-vanished folk and blues venue in the basement of a Franklin Street church. Bradshaw steeped himself in the tradition, seeking out the surviving architects of the music, Son House, Bukka White and Skip James, among others. Bradshaw once brought a Son House record to Son House’s home, Curry recalls, only to find the impoverished musician had no way to play it. So Bradshaw bought him a record player, and remembered the old bluesman listening to his own music and crying.”
As long as no Stalin breathes down our necks, why not make some art in the service of… an insurrection?
Never mind if it’s “impossible.” What else can we hope to attain but the “impossible”? Should we wait for someone else to reveal our true desires?
If art has died, or the audience has withered away, then we find ourselves free of two dead weights. Potentially, everyone is now some kind of artist — & potentially every audience has regained its innocence, its ability to become the art that it experiences.
Provided we can escape from the museums we carry around inside us, provided we can stop selling ourselves tickets to the galleries in our own skulls, we can begin to contemplate an art which re-creates the goal of the sorcerer: changing the structure of reality by the manipulation of living symbols (in this case, the images we’ve been “given” by the organizers of this salon — murder, war, famine, & greed).
We might now contemplate aesthetic actions which possess some of the resonance of terrorism (or “cruelty,” as Artaud put it) aimed at the destruction of abstractions rather than people, at liberation rather than power, pleasure rather than profit, joy rather than fear. “Poetic Terrorism.”
Our chosen images have the potency of darkness — but all images are masks, & behind these masks lie energies we can turn toward light & pleasure.
For example, the man who invented aikido was a samurai who became a pacifist & refused to fight for Japanese imperialism. He became a hermit, lived on a mountain sitting under a tree.
One day a former fellow-officer came to visit him & accused him of betrayal, cowardice, etc. The hermit said nothing, but kept on sitting — & the officer fell into a rage, drew his sword, & struck. Spontaneously the unarmed master disarmed the officer & returned his sword. Again & again the officer tried to kill, using every subtle kata in his repertoire — but out of his empty mind the hermit each time invented a new way to disarm him.
The officer of course became his first disciple. Later, they learned how to dodge bullets.
We might contemplate some form of metadrama meant to capture a taste of this performance, which gave rise to a wholly new art, a totally non-violent way of fighting — war without murder, “the sword of life” rather than death.
A conspiracy of artists, anonymous as any mad bombers, but aimed toward an act of gratuitous generosity rather than violence — at the millennium rather than the apocalypse — or rather, aimed at a present moment of aesthetic shock in the service of realization & liberation.
Art tells gorgeous lies that come true.
Is it possible to create a SECRET THEATER in which both artist & audience have completely disappeared — only to re-appear on another plane, where life & art have become the same thing, the pure giving of gifts?
We take Kirkegaard’s “leap of faith,” but absent the old existentialist’s Fear & Trembling & Sickness unto death. Our leap of faith into sorcery & secret theater is more like a wet dream than a nightmare, “awe-full”, not awful.
We name our peerage of this new plane Charles Wain & The Seven Dramaturgs. But no Peer Panel here, please. We prefer, like Jacob, to wrestle with our angels, & if our tussling turns amorous, all the better. Let the games begin. The Seven Dramaturgs show us that the universe wants, more than that, intends to play with us. We can be pawns or partners in this intention of The Seven Dramaturgs.
In Sufiism there is a belief in The Forty Guardians who protect & keep mankind from destroying itself. What’s interesting is, these Guardians are human, but they remain completely unknown & are constantly in flux. Anyone in the world could be one of The Forty at a present moment, including oneself. Of course you would never know if you had been one of The Forty — they remain anonymous even to themselves. That is why Sufiism calls for you to bow your head whenever you meet a stranger — he could be one of The Forty Guardians.
Do we lead or follow The Seven Dramaturgs in their sorcery & secret theater? Ali Baba is merely one of The Forty Thieves — each of The Forty Thieves is Ali Baba. The text does not begin or end here — the pencil is passed like a baton amongst The Seven Dramaturgs. The universe is still being written.