Circus Redickuless: Show and Review: 12 Galaxies
Saturday February 24th, 10:00 (2007)
In 1994 I wanted to do something that would impact culture to a degree that I couldn’t understand, using a tool that no one else was using. I couldn’t figger out how to do that, so I started a circus instead. I couldn’t have ever realized that the two would intersect in such a confluence; I ended up living my thesis of “Art for all purposes” using an interesting template…. “No content” as “the content.” I sold people on the idea of providing nothing in the form of a circus show as a way to embrace the most inspiring show we could do. We would have no talent, thereby giving access to anyone.
Then, I toured the show for five years. Actually, you could say I dragged the show around for five years… kicking and screaming and biting. If you could add up the calories spent in throwing a circus, it would likely rival a small war. In the end, I guess it worked. I am proud that I and those with me ‘tipped’ the circus idea and inspired the THOUSANDS of small, independent circuses that popped up here and there shortly after we toured. And longly. And they still are. That’s in the end. But in the beginning, it was just us. And boy, was it lonely. Lemme ‘splain: I call a club to book the circus. The conversation usually went like this:
“Hello there, my name is Chicken John, I’m the director of a small, independent traveling circus that would like to play in your club. Do you have the night of April 23d available?”
GREASY CLUB OWNER:
“A circus? What kind of music do you play?
“Well, we’re not a band. We’re a circus. A full variety show.”
GREASY CLUB OWNER:
“If you’re not a band, what kind of music do you play?”
On and on it went. You would say to people that you were a circus, and they would imagine clowns playing the guitar. No, just the clown. No guitar. A 25 person circus with 5 vehicles and 3 dogs. A full three hour show with lights and sound and acrobats and it’s all terrible. We put the OOOP in TROUPE, but we haven’t any talent. It’s the show of schmoes… blab la bla… I would try to explain that we couldn’t actually do anything but that it was actually better. Higher art. That was at first. I of course stopped doing that because no one wanted to book that. I ended up prostituting the idea that, indeed, clowns play the guitar. Clown girls doing strip teases. With, of course, giant boobs. Yes, we juggle. No one got it. Not even most of the people in the troupe. Unbowed, I continued. I thought that I would crack the code. Figger it out. Collect bling. I was young.
I’m no longer young. But the idea of the circus was an odd Zeitgeist that I participated in. A renaissance of art. There were a small handful of people who had a proclivity for the old ways… and in 1994, if you remember, it was all about particle board and the Pontiac Fiero. Interesting thing about particle board, like plywood isn’t made of particles… but I digress. The destination was marked, and we all ran screaming towards it. But like an oasis in the desert, the destination kept getting farther instead of further… and we ended up REPLACING instead of changing culture. Capice? It’s not bad, but it’s terribly interesting. It wasn’t a hobby, something that we did while holding down jobs and paying bills. We wandered from town to town trying to get people to come see a show that championed the amateur and the improvisation of a group of idiots with no talent. Without a dollar in our pockets. Seasons melted into years. Affecting culture and living your life as art blurred into survival. It became Quixotic.
I guess I’m still doing the same thing. Kinda. All the people of the circus were affected by it, understand it and are still contributing in some way. A lot of years have gone by. All the circus people scattered to the four winds. A few of them are gonna come out and play Saturday night, at 12 Galaxies. Why Saturday the 24th of February?
Dammit the Amazing Wonderdog is turning 17 years old. This dog is better traveled then most people I know. She has had the most attention that a dog can possibly have. 25 people to throw the stick. Adoring fans. Her image on t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs and all of Hal Robins’ artwork for the circus. We named the production company after her. She was the only star of the circus. She had a theme song. She is now old. She had a little stroke thing, and is a little crooked. Listing, actually. I want Dammit to hear her song again. I want her to hear the roar of the crowd as she absolutely refuses to jump through the hoop. I want her to take home underage girls from Orinda after the show and tie them up and… oh wait, I do that not Dammit… I want her to do it again while she still can. And she can. Barely, but yes. She can.
Have you never seen Dammit’s act? Or Jarico’s? Did you know that the Bike Rodeo, the Black Label bike club and the Hard Times guys and Burning Man’s DPW were, at one time, soldiers that saluted one flag? That flag, ladies and gentlemen… was the Circus Redickuless.
An insult more then a concept, we took acts that generations of people honed to perfection and obliterated them with comedy and beer. With Jim Mason’s Vegomatic of the Apocalypse in the parking lot out back. A gang of angry drunk idiots on tall bikes and clowns that were molesting your girlfriend in the toilet. We were the island of misfit toys on tour. It was an experiment in freedom. In pre-9/11 America. I don’t think you could do that today. The touring part, not the performing part. You can see the performing part in everywhere. It tipped. ‘Other’ entertainments are now the norm.
As with the Odeon. When I opened the Odeon (the project after the circus) I only booked things that couldn’t find a home elsewhere. By the end of the Odeon’s usefulness, I was competing with all other clubs in SF for ‘my’ acts. Problem solved, time to move on. I’m not saying we were the only ones breaking that horse… I’m just saying that we helped. We’ll have to wait until HBO does the made-for-TV-movie of Steven Raspa’s life before we find out who was REALLY responsible for the ideas that ‘broke’ fun fur and fedoras… and I am not going to be the first person to write a book about something that omits a person or two because I’m an asshole. There are books. And a lot more.
There is a movie. Phil Glau made a 87 minute film (16mm). A tour chronicle. Tour de Farce. It won 17 film festivals. It’s hard to watch. You’re depressed when it’s done. He just put it out on DVD, with some “10 years later” footage at the end. Seeing Jarico a dozen years ago is magical. We were all children. Dannygirl, Michael Gump, Mark Miller… they will all be at the show. Also David Apocalypse, maybe Tall Who Is Paul, and if we’re lucky we may get author Brian Doherty (This is Burning Man) to do his famous “Human Human” act. Phil will be there with his new DVD. You won’t buy it, but you will feel comforted that you could Google it if ya really wanted to. It’s nice to have that kind of ‘access.’
The final nail in the coffin of the Circus was a 13 page spread in Spin magazine. I probably don’t have to tell you what happened after that… lets just say that we couldn’t live up to our own hype. As no one really can. Defined by a story, and no longer available to possibility, the honeymoon ended. No one could run away fast enough.
We all likely wish we didn’t, now.
Relevance? You want it to be relevant? You want a point to refer to, so you might understand what is so interesting about a circus with no talent that acted as a catch-all for idiots and savants with no social skills? “This is the only show of its kind!!! Do not settle for expensive imitations…” I’m not taking credit for the Daily Show here… ah fuck it. Yes I am. Incremental steps twards success. Fact is that if Scott Beale didn’t stop, drop and roll and figger out how to make a BBS board and wasn’t a fan of odd and unlikely variety arts, the new renaissance of art would have been a side dish served cold at raves and at warehouse parties that no one could find out about. Scott’s tactical advantage was not only was he presenting something new, but the device that he was using was new as well. And because he’s more interested in playing with tools than counting the money, me and you can freeze the clocks and converse here in cyberspace and huddle in our shelter safe from the machines. For now.
The Circus Redickuless was a great thing. Come witness failure defeated, mutated into something that can be argued as a sucsess that may or may not be amusing to watch.
To the unyielding SPEEDMETAL TAPDANCE
The bone chilling spectacle of the GREAT SILLOUETTO, shadow puppeteer
Your drink, while whistling to Dylan our supple, milky REVERSE STRIPPER
Dr. Hal brings you the truth of the future with OUIGI RAIDO
Our VEGAN GEEK will bite the head off a lettuce
As our JUGGLER astounds gravity
At our scantily clad TEMPORARALY TATTOOED MAN
To the sounds of the ODEON ALL STAR BAND
To the only star of the circus: DAMMIT THE WONDERDOG
Ringmonster CHICKEN JOHN sticks stuff up his nose and pulls it out his butt
I sent this to my pal Jim Mason, to see if it was too gushy to send out. This is his response, and a good ending to my bla bla… I hope to see you at the show…
“chicken, you lying whore of black truth. the circus was nothing like this. there was no magic of youth and wide open fields of creative discover. it was, in actuality, the most brutal, degrading, and generally smelly 3 weeks i’ve ever spent in my life. easily.
nothing about it was redeeming or zeitgeist altering. but somehow, through some typed incantations, you have proved yet again that withadequate verbal shamalama, the worst and most depressing of human degradations can be respun as high art and creative transcendence. refried bean cans scraped open on the sidewalk and all. if your mother only knew . . . go ahead send it out.