The way I remember this is that after David Franks died, in 2010, I was asked by a BalTimOre writer to contribute to a memorial about him to be published. I then wrote this. A highly edited one or 2 paragraphs were all that made the cut - anything controversial about David was removed.
However, given that this is dated 2004, it must've been written while David was still alive. I have a very vague memory that he'd just gotten out of the hospital from something serious & that the person who asked me for the piece probably wanted testimonials that would cheer David.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm a person who liked David & his work very much. To me, removing the controversy is like reducing him to an idiotic stereotype - something he wasn't.
As a young experimental writer in the early '70s,
I ventured into Baltimore searching for something
I wasn't likely to find much of. At the Theater Project there
were open readings. I was disastisified w/ them for much
the same reason I wd be now. They were more group therapy
sessions than they were environments for language to thrive in.
Too many confessions of sex & coffee & booze & cigarettes
& too little thought about other uses words cd be put to.
Then I heard (or heard about) David Franks. He read the mistakes
from those correction tapes that were used in typewriters.
You'd backspace to your mistake, put the tape w/ white ink
over it, retype the mistake to replace the red or black w/ white,
backspace again, remove the tape & type what you wanted there instead.
Wonderful! David let the erratum speak for themselves.
He taught English Lit at the Maryland Institute of Art.
I wasn't a student there (& didn't want to be) but I attended
his class twice. He noted my unpaying presence & okayed it.
We talked about a project of mine that involved people
in different places performing the same actions at the same times:
"Attempting 2 Score Sum Action 4 Daily Living".
He asked if I documented it & I sd I didn't want to. He asked if
that was for spiritual reasons. No. That's when we started getting
to know each other. I was a harsh judge: When David cdn't
remember the word "palindrome", I stopped attending his class.
He was eventually "let go" from there. I'm sure he was one of
the best teachers they ever had - but too controversial, eh?
I mean, I hear he even broke glass in the classroom.
Better than the breaking gas from the mouths of many teachers.
One of my favorite stories about him is about a performance
he gave in an auditorium somewhere in Southern Maryland.
He came out in front of the audience in a wheelchair w/
a blanket over his lap - after we'd had to wait a bit.
In a pathetic voice he explained that he was late because his mother
had just attempted suicide (this was based on a traumatic incident
in his childhood) & because of other miseries. He'd planted
Bonnie Bonnell & Jayne DeSesa posing as 'lesbian hecklers'
in the audience. They started harrassing him w/ things like:
"Who gives a fuck about your problems, asshole!" He pulled
out a blank gun from under the blanket & pretended to shoot them.
They 'died' somewhat unconvincingly. Then he put the gun
to his head. As David told me at the time, he didn't realize
that blank guns shoot wads of paper. At close range to his temple,
the fired wad stunned him & blood started to flow. His recently
estranged ex-girlfriend was in the audience. Some people
saw this act as a ploy to get her sympathy. It may've even
worked. It was VERY DRAMATIC (in a uniquely imaginative
sort of way). People flocked to David's aid & he was rushed
to the hospital. Many were extremely angry & repulsed by
this apparent abuse of their emotional sensitivity. I thought it
was fantastic! One of the best performances I'd ever seen!
After that, David told me over the phone that he'd suffered
from synesthesia as a result of the head wound. Hearing colors,
seeing sounds. I don't think he was happy about this. It was
a bit much. But what a way to get there!
David wd call me anonymously & talk about migrating
off-planet. I recognized his voice. Getting anonymous phone calls
at the time was somewhat of a norm in my life. I was co-running
the TESTES-3 phone stn. He asked whether I'd want to be selective
about who cd join our space colony. I voted for leaving it open.
He wanted selectivity - specifically Julie Newmar (a voluptuous
actress who played a robot on a tv show). He lusted for her.
These were fascinating conversations.
I've always liked David's work because he's managed to pack
emotionally difficult material into formally clever presentations
that often transcend simple expressiveness. He composed a piece
to be played by foghorns on tugboats in the Baltimore harbor.
He snuck into the Social Security Complex in Woodlawn (world's
largest group of government bldgs?) back in the day when only such
places had photocopiers & fucked the glass of one of them until
he came. Photocopying merrily away all the while. My kind of guy.
We collaborated on "Hairballs, Wigs, & Weaves for Skinheads"
in 1990 - our parody of misunderstood white supremacists.
The organizers of the anti-racist rally we presented it at were
a bit afraid of what we might say - we might be, heaven forbid!,
POLITICALLY INCORRECT. Professor "Footlong" Franks'
sound-byte made it to the tv news.
Even little incidents w/ David are memorable to me. I remember
a time when we were in a bar in Fells Point & some friend
probably asked him to get a drink for them. Immediately
getting into the role of high-priced waiter, he draped
a cloth napkin over his arm & bowed before getting to the task.
My friend Joan Lobell once told me about David & her being
in Fells Point & about his entangling her in a drama when they
invaded an apartment where someone had just overdosed.
David wanted Joan to film the ODed girl's friends' attempts
to rouse her naked in the shower - or something like that.
He just plunged right in. The friends were not pleased.
David & Paul Sharits were buddies. David's the guy in Sharits' 16mm film
"T.O.U.C.H.I.N.G" who flirts w/ threatening his own tongue w/ removal
by scissors. Both Sharits & Franks have treaded a thin line between
self-destruction & intensively urbane commentary. Franks even toured w/
Root Boy Slim & his Sex Change Band (who had the 'hit' "Boogie 'til you
Puke") to be "beat up on stage" (whatever that meant).
In 1992, David made a Philosopher's Union Member's Mouthpiece
that I shot as part of a series that I was making w/ the PXL-2000
Pixelvision camcorder. His was the 70th. His subject?
Temperance. Apparently drinking was getting him into
trouble so he stopped. His text is a thoughtful monolog.
Don't misunderstand me, not all of David's work & life is
sensationalist &/or morbid thrills. He has a CD published by Pyramid
Atlantic called "Musical Words" that many wd find pleasant
& non-confrontational. David's far from being a one-trick-pony.
If you're looking for someone w/ ideas & unique & poetic
ways of presenting them to you, look to David Franks.
- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE; December 9, 2004E.V.
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
idioideo at verizon dot net
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE as Interviewer index
to the tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE movie-making "Press: Criticism, Interviews, Reviews" home-page
to the "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - Sprocket Scientist" home-page
to the "FLICKER" home-page for the alternative cinematic experience
to find out more about why the S.P.C.S.M.E.F. (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Sea Monkeys by Experimental Filmmakers) is so important
for A Mere Outline for One Aspect of a Book on Mystery Catalysts, Guerrilla Playfare, booed usic, Mad Scientist Didactions, Acts of As-Beenism, So-Called Whatevers, Psychopathfinding, Uncerts, Air Dressing, Practicing Promotextuality, Imp Activism, etc..
for info on tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's tape/CD publishing label: WIdémoUTH
to see an underdeveloped site re the N.A.A.M.C.P. (National Association for the Advancement of Multi-Colored Peoples)