I met Justin at an open mike night at the Nova Express in Los Angeles in 1994. He was 19. He lived in a one-room apartment with his mom. He told me, woozy drunk swaying back and forth, that he worked in a parking lot. That he spent his days drinking coffee and making sure that every car in the parking lot had a yellow sticker on the windshield, and that if someone parked there without the sticker he was supposed to call a number written down on a piece of tape on the wall by the phone in the little booth by the driveway entrance of the lot.
He worked there for two years and never called the number once. He wrote poems and stories in a notebook he carried with him everywhere he went. He dressed oddly, a mixture of cowboy and Goth. I told him I was throwing a circus, and if he wanted, to join. That I was going to go on a tour that would traverse the continent, and that he should come up with an act. He said he always wanted to be a magician. If you met him for five seconds, you would know why this is so funny.
Justin is clumsy. Less now than when he was a kid, but not like with him body as much as with his mannerisms. He’s naturally funny, whimsical and authentic. He’s charming. But he bumbles. And he drinks. A lot. Which amplifies the charm, the bumble and the clumsy. To say it can be amusing would be downplaying it. The guy is a natural born clown. It’s perfect. How he met me was just by chance. But man, did that work. He was buying 100% of what I was selling. He chose the name Jarico Reese as his “Magician” name.
I gave him the moniker: “If it’s magic it’s a miracle!
Ladies and Gentlemen: Jarico Reese!”
His magic act with the circus started out getting an audience member to cut their own shoelace in half with a scissor, which he would then duct-tape back together. Wearing a glittery turban and a red cape, he would levitate a Styrofoam cup (by jamming his thumb through it) as the audience groaned. He was the only person who lasted in the circus through all the tours. Actually, Dammitina as well, but I digress…
He was always helpful, cheerful, positive. He was super young, but willing to learn stuff. When he came to me he didn’t know how to use a screwdriver. By the last tour we used his bus and he was a decent mechanic. His act got better too. At the end, it was the best act in the show. Besides the dog, of course.
He would come out on stage and start to explain what he was going to do, and the band would interrupt him with a musical TA DA! He would turn and yell at them, explaining off mike (but you could still hear) that they had to TA DA! after he produced the magic act. Not before. Magic, then TA DA! “Got it?” The band would agree. Then he would continue to describe the act to the crowd. And the band would interrupt him again, the drummer blaming the bass player, the bass player blaming the horns, everyone pointing at everyone else. He would yell at them, tell them to smoke more pot. Tell them to get over themselves. Ask them what restaurant they worked in, that kind of stuff. The band would either blame, apologize or look aloof.
He would finally, after like 12 excruciating minutes of this interrupting, do a “magic” trick. No Ta Da!, no nothing. The band totally silent. The drummer was gone, the bassist was reading a newspaper, the horns were playing cards, the keyboard player was trimming his nose hairs in a mirror. Jarico would storm off the stage. I, your host, would slowly meander back on stage confused, and then just introduce the next act. It was SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE. And absolutely funny. Just brutal.
One night, after his act, Jarico was backstage punching a cement wall and verbally frustrated. He had been drinking. I asked him what was wrong. He told me that the band “Just pisses me off.” I asked him what he meant. He replied: “Every night, it’s the same thing. They just fucking interrupt me and they think they are such hot shit. Fuck!” I explain to him that this is the act. That’s what they are supposed to do, it’s funny. I remind him that he isn’t actually a magician, and that he can’t actually produce feats of magic. He replies: “Yea, I know. But it just pisses me off!” That’s some Method acting right there!!!
After the second tour, Jarico moved to SF. I got him a job at Ace Auto, and he became very dirty. He loved it. That year I invited the Hard Times Bike Club to join the circus. They only lasted two weeks, but they left all their bikes. Jarico took up the mantle, and bonded to the bikes. After the circus, I did the Odeon Bar and Jarico did the Cyclecide Bike Rodeo. He led his own troupe of misfit toys around the country, it was fantastic.
Jarico also did some modeling. Totally! Here is a fashion shoot he did! Didn’t see that coming, did ya?
Well time does go on. And Dammitina turned sweet 16 about ten years after the last circus tour. I decided to do a reunion show. I made the calls, booked the venue. We planned on doing a rehearsal at my house the night before, to go over the material and work some stuff out. I invited Jarico to come to the rehearsal of course. He came an hour late. Drunk.
“It’s time to practice my act!” he declared. We had already gone over it. The band knew what to do. But Jarico insisted he teach them how to do it. “OK OK OK. Here’s how it works…” he said to them, swaying back and forth with a cigarette between his lips staring intently at a styrofoam cup he was holding. “Here’s the beginning of my act, I come out on stage and” TA DA!! the band interrupts him, perfectly. “Hey, just stop playing for a minute, I’m trying to explain how the act works! Now. I come out on stage, then you guys” TA DA!! The band interrupts him again, he’s starting to get mad now. “Quit fucking around, man! You’re not listening to me, you gotta” TA DA!! The band keeps doing the act, perfectly. Amazing timing. But Jarico is too drunk to understand what is happening. And gets really, really mad… “Fuck this, I’m outta here! It’s the same shit! Ten years later, nothing has changed! Same fucking bullshit!” And storms out of the building.
We laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe. It was the single funniest thing I witnessed in my entire life. It was perfect. Thank you for that, Justin. I will never forget that night. He made the show the next night, we didn’t talk about what happened, he just showed up, did the show. He was great. Dammit did her act, jumped through the hoop, bit the bubbles… she still had it! We all did. Timothey was the best looking temporarily tattooed man we ever had. Look at this hunk:
Chuckles danced with her rat friends. All was right in the world…
My favorite photo of me and Dammitina is from that night:
Well, Jarico is doing alright. He has a son with his wife Linda and is thriving here in SF. Still the same jovial soul, always has a smile on his face.
If it’s magic it’s a miracle!