"Accelerated Decrepitude" - March 1, 2012
The pointless ramblings of an aging hipster on a collision course with his own mortality.
Name: Tom Warner, Almost Hip Guy
Location: Baltimore, Maryland, United States
[tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE interpolation: Tom Warner's article is certainly one of the most thorough ever written about a small portion of my life & I THANK HIM FOR IT! BRAVO!! Despite this, there're a few errors here & there which I want to correct & a few other things that I want to comment on. These corrections & comments will be interpolated in bold in brackets in the same way that this note is.]
Thursday, March 01, 2012
His Name Is Not Legend: It's tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
The Greatest Hits & Assorted Bits of Michael Tolson
"Let's face it! I'm from Baltimore. That translates into WORKING CLASS SUBHUMAN MORLOCK." - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
[This quote was meant as my comment on the low esteem that people from working class cities are held in by ruling elites. Unfortunately, it's also a comment on the low self-esteem of people living in such cities. I'd walk down the streets of BalTimOre wearing my zipper pants & people would say: "You must be from New York!" which I took to mean: "You can't be from BalTimOre because everybody here is too dumb to make anything truly creative!" But read H.G.Wells' "The Time Machine" to further understand the "Morlock" reference. Support your privileged life-style on the backs of slaves long enough & the slaves just might come along & eat you.]
It seems everyone in Baltimore who is even remotely associated with the arts or its cultural underground has a story about Michael Tolson, the man with a brain tattooed on the back of his scalp (in offset green and red for the benefit of those wearing 3-D glasses - see it starring in his "Brain Waves Goodbye" YouTube video) who is better known as "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE" (a name he chose to answer the question "What's your name?"), "Tim Ore" (as in the imperative statement/proper noun "BalTimOre"), and/or "Monty Cantsin"
[Each name represents a specific contextualization for the activities done under its umbrella. As such, the name "Michael Tolson", eg, has no relevance here. "Monty Cantsin" is a neoist collective identity name for the activities of an Open Pop Star.]
(as in some convoluted "neoism" reference too taxing for my little squirrel brain to comprehend - one reviewer likened defining neoism as akin to a dog chasing its tail). Or, for convenience's sake, simply "tENT" for short.
tENT: a brain in vein
"Irreverent and even obnoxious, habitually wearing a jump suit made out of zippers, tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE, (the man with a brain tattooed on his scalp,) has been one of Baltimore's premier outsiders for over a decade," Dan Schiavone observed in 1992, noting that he was best known "for his confrontational and often belligerent performances, films, and videos..." That sounds about right. Though his name may not be legend to the mainstream, his deeds and his work certainly are legendary to those in the know - the tENT cognoscienti.
GROWING PAINS: a pre-"tENT"ious Michael Tolson in costume of his design, School 33 studio. Baltimore, MD. Circa 1979. Backdrop and photo by Paula Gillen.
[I started using the name "tentatively, a convenience" in 1975 & started writing it in tOGGLE cASE in 1979. As such, Warner's pun's beginning: "pre-"tENT"" is inaccurate. As for the "pre-"tENT"ious" part? It's an example of what passes for 'wit' in BalTimOre (&, of course, elsewhere) to always try to demean the subject by taking advantage of any cheap shot opportunity. Warner, to his credit (IMO) generally refrains from this technique here but, apparently, 'couldn't resist it' in this instance.]
Although he's written at least 10 books, directed 50+ films,
[I'd actually made 368 movies as of the writing of this article - 100 of which are features.]
published a shitload of articles and reviews both on paper and online, and given roughly 400 film-music-spoken word performances over the course of his career, tENT considers himself a mere footnote in the greater scheme of things (much to his discontENT).
[Yes & no. I've always structured almost everything that I do as a puzzle for the truly-motivated to navigate & assemble. As w/ all hermeticism, any door should lead to another door, any question should lead to another question. As such, I expect, & find highly desirable, a substantial amount of obscurity.
But I'm also a CRITIC & I CRITICIZE THE CRITICS. I am, in fact, a practioner of Institutional Critique & have been for many decades - something that has consistently terrified most critics & historians. After all, such behavior is considered potentially praiseworthy when coming from people who are ultimately identified with the intelligentsia of the Art World (this reinforces the common delusion that such people are both glamorous & deserving of said glamour) but it's completely unacceptable when it's coming from a working class lunatic fringe character such as myself.
I highly recommend the work of Hans Haacke as an example of Institutional Criticism in action. For an example of how my own writings on "Institutions of Higher Burning" have been received, browse through the "Museums" & "Doctors" topics. To quote one museum employee responding to my critiques: "I hope you will die in some quick way. Like getting hit by a car. Like getting stabbed by some jigaboo."]
In fact, footnotes is the name of his 500-page (unnumbered) book that archives his life's work and whose stated purpose is "to bring the picture together somewhat." Or, as the book jacket proclaims, "footnotes collects 32 years worth of material by the jack-off-of-all-trades known (sometimes) as tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE. It rewrites, comments on, & excerpts from his 1st 9 books - covering everything from concrete essays to mad scientism to practicing promotextuality to scripts to rebuttals of critics to lists to autobiography, etc.. using texts, drawings, photographs, etc.. A MASSIVE compilation relevant to film & video making, performance, experimental language use, neoism, & much, MUCH more.." Besides being a valuable archival guide to tENT's massive body of work, it's also a sometimes bitter-toned argument about why he matters - tENT definitely has a major chip on his shoulder about his lack of recognition by his artistic peers and this may be one of the reasons he left Baltimore (where he felt artists were treated as "working class subhuman" morlocks) for Pittsburgh - which despite being another working class city has an arguably much higher profile arts scene (e.g., the Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museums, etc.)
The Gruesome Twosome
Footnotes is a fascinating tome and definitely "brings the picture together" about many of tENT's prolific projects, exploits, and adventures. Interestingly enough, two of his most notorious projects involved Ivan Stang's Church of the SubGenius (the "parody religion" organization that satirizes religion, conspiracy theories, UFOs, and pop culture), reflecting just how influential this pop cultural phenomenon was in the 1980s. The Church's iconic figurehead was J. R. "Bob" Dobbs - a Mitt Romney-looking cartoon of a smiling man with a pipe in his mouth that was based on some 1950s clip art - and members sought not Nirvana but the attainment of "slack," typified by the avoidance of work and anti-materialism. (Hmmm...I wonder if The Cars' song "Gimme Some Slack" was a SubGenius reference?).
Gimme Some Slack!: SubGenius Icon Bob Dobbs
Of course, tENT's biggest media splash was the national news story that followed his antics during the 3rd annual World SubGenius Congress in Baltimore on the weekend of September 16-18, 1983.
tENT, then 30-years-old, not only attained Sainthood in The Church of the SubGenius for his performance,
[Actually, I was sainted in the Church as soon as I joined it in January, 1981. This was because of the quantity & intensity of what I sent to Rev Ivan Stang.]
a mention in the RE/Search Pranks! book, and international infamy (with news stories appearing as far away as Peru) - but a year's probation, $20 in court costs, and a warning to steer clear of railroad property, as well! tENT calls the incident "The [T he] Poop & Pee Dog Copyright Violation Ceremony" and goes into exhaustive detail about the concept behind this historic (or is it hysteric?) moment, to set the record straight.
The other SubGenius-related project involved inserting subliminal images of Bob Dobbs (among others) into porn film loops at the peepshow parlor where tENT (as Tim Ore) and his cohort "Dick Hertz" (aka Richard Hansen) worked in the '80s, which resulted in a "hoax peepshow movie" he called Balling Tim Ore Is Best.
An account of the gruesome twosome events - #1 and #2 with a bullet on my tENT Greatest Hits Playlist - follows...
*** #1: The Poop & Pee Dog Copyright Violation Ceremony ***
World SubGenius Congress
September 18, 1983
Chessie System Railroad Tunnel
1000 South Howard Street
Just before 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, September 18, 1983, police were called to the Chessie System railroad tunnel in the 1000 block of South Howard Street (near the 400 block of West Camden St.) to investigate what appeared to be "a pagan ritual."
[I couldn't find any good quality photos of this incident, so I've inserted the above photo of my colon (taken during a recent colonoscopy) to represent what the underground train tunnel probably looked (and smelled) like on the night in question. - Tom Warner]
The Baltimore Sun's Ann Lolordo reported, "As they entered the tunnel which leads into Camden Station, police heard a loud banging sound, like cymbals crashing. Then, police said, they saw a dead animal hanging from the ceiling and a man standing in the dark tunnel, his naked body covered with 'a glowing paint.'"
tENT aglow during SubGenius ceremony (photo from "footnotes")
That was tENT, of course - or "Michael F. Tolson of the 1000 block South Charles Street," as a police report would later refer to him.
"I've never seen anything like it in my life," said one police sergeant, a 26-year veteran of the force. "I'd rather run up against a man with a gun than that situation."
(Ann Lolordo, The Sun, Sept. 19, 1983)
Thirty-five other people (or "SubGenii") were also in the tunnel, which stretches underground for roughly three miles between the Mount Royal and Camden railroad stations, dancing to the rhythmic pulse of a thunder sheet as tENT swung a dead dog around his head. Musician (and SubGenius Reverend) Mark Harp (a tENT-collaborator who made a limited edition recording with him of the night's event called "t he Inner Scoop of t he Poop & Pee Dog Copyright Violation Ceremony") and City Paper writer Pamela Purdy were among those in attendance. According to tENT, High Performance magazine editor Linda Burnham was also there,
[The High Performance site linked to by Tom above shows a cover w/ a Stellarc artificial arm on it - that's the relevant issue with Linda's article on the SubGenius Convention. Burnham was invited to give a talk to the MAP (Maryland Art Place) board of directors while she was in BalTimOre. She told them something to the effect that my 'performance' represented 'the future of performance art' - after she left, MAP personnel were informed that Burnham would 'never be welcome there again'.]
but "the reporters who were there weren't allowed by their papers to publicly proclaim their presence - it was too embarrassing!"
[Specifically Pam Purdy of the Baltimore City Paper & Mighael Hagen of the Philadelphia Inquirer.]
"We put the handcuffs on him and of course we put a pair of trousers on him," Lolordo quoted the police as saying. They then cleared out the other revelers, who were invited to the event by Tolson, and arrested him for trepassing.
Lolordo's account continues:
Mr. Tolson, who has produced other performance pieces on some unlikely stages in Baltimore, said that the show was part of a convention of "The Church of the Subgenius" - which is not, he stressed, a religious cult of any type.
"First, we were not praying to the dead dogs. Secondly, I'm not the leader of a cult group. I may have an audience who's interested in what I'm doing. But I'm not their leader."
Yes, two dead dog carcasses were used in the show, Mr. Tolson said, but he added that he found them in the tunnel.
tENT was certainly no stranger to the tunnel, having held previous events there - one as recently as New Year's Eve 1982. In fact, a picture of tENT - flanked by his friends Dave Bakker and Randy Hoffman - emerging from its manhole entrance appeared on the front page of the January 1, 1983 edition of the Baltimore Sun, accompanied by an article "Artists 'borrow' downtown tunnel as site for party."
Baltimore Sun front page (January 1, 1983)
Other attendees at that New Year's Eve soiree included Laure Drogoul (whose tiger stencil print adorned a room off the tunnel)...
Laure Drogoul digs the underground scene (photo from "footnotes")
...and MICA performance artist Sin-Dee Heidel, shown below wearing her Condom Wrap:
Sin-Dee Heidel (photo by Paula Gillen)
In footnotes, tENT recalls, "On New Year's Eve, Randy, Dave, & I (as Tim Ore) placed highway cones around the manhole & used a meathook (which bent) to lift the heavy, concrete coated, manhole cover. Dave & Randy were dressed as construction workers with hard-hats & shirts that had ID tags on them that read "Balto Co." Friends were invited down into the hole & down into the club & beer was provided. 2 truck drivers who stopped to ask for directions were invited down the manhole. They were dubious at 1st until they saw the spandex wrapped Sin-Dee Heidel emerge at which point they decided to descend." (Going by the pic of Heidel above, can you blame them?)
But I digress...
Over at the News American, Joe Nawrozki's article "Police bewildered by bizarre tunnel ritual" (September 19, 1983) picks up our story:
Baltimore police today are still attempting to unscramble an incident Sunday that put them somewhere between "The Twilight Zone" and "The Naked and the Dead."
Michael F. Tolson, 30, of the 1000 block of S. Charles St., was arrested for trepassing early Sunday morning inside a Chessie System railroad tunnel near the 400 block of W. Camden St.
But like one officer in the Southern District said today "That one is still the talk of the station house."
Police were called to the tunnel about 3:40 a.m. Sunday about trespassers. On their way inside, they were met by a woman who seemed rather unsettled. "I just saw something horrible and immoral."
Apparently, the first police to arrive on the scene were either frightened or bewildered by what they saw and left to get help, returning with about 20 officers. One Southern District policeman characterized the incident as part of a "Devil Cult" ritual. In the News American article, tENT countered that the ceremony was merely a SubGenius ceremony and explained that the Church of the SubGenius was "the ultimate cult group with a sense of humor...It takes elements from every cult group - the UFO cults, the greendemons of the Hollow Earth - to make a safer place for weirdos to live in. It's a joke, but it's a serious joke."
tENT went on to say that the church pokes fun at capitalism, the corporate dehumanization of people, the mental and physical uniforms that people wear, and "other things that are too depressing to think about...It's also a good excuse for a party. Sometimes life is so miserable that it gives you hope to think that UFOs will come and save you. It's an extreme hope, like any religion."
tENT: "Shock is an important thing." (News American, Sept. 19, 1983)
tENT added "It was a joke for certain people, and it also maximized the creepy effects of the space. Shock is an important thing in it. But most people see things with stereotyped vision. The police had never seen anything like it, so they stereotyped it into a devil cult."...
To which police spokesman Sgt. Mike Bass is quoted as saying (with colossal understatement) "We're not sure what we have here." (Joe Nawrozki, The News American, Sept. 19, 1983)
(David McQuay, News American, Sept. 20, 1983)
In the followup story "Cult performer arrested in rail tunnel" (News American, Sept. 20, 1983), the News American's David McQuay reported "The ceremony consisted of Tolson hanging up a pair of dead dogs, which had been run over by trains several months ago, and screaming things at them while he was stark naked and covered with white greasepaint. He pummeled the corpses with a stick and jumped around while strobe lights flashed, a smoke bomb smoked, and a tape loop played the sounds of his pummeling the dogs."
Still, McQuay wrote, "Let it be known that Michael Tolson has nothing against dogs. 'Actually, I'm a dog lover,' he said. 'When I was a kid, some of my best friends were dogs.'"
tENT later recalled hearing of people "threatening to kill me b/c they think I've killed the dogs. I didn't kill the dogs, trains apparently had. Why didn't these same people threaten to blow up trains? This, in a neighborhood where people blinded street people w/ bleach for fun."
With apologies to Rashomon purists, following is tENT's version of that night's events, taken available from footnotes as well as item #60 in his online archive "A Mere Outline...":
A wire was stretched across the train tunnel thru an eye hook & 2 partially truncated & mummified dog corpses that I'd found there that had apparently been run over by trains were hung from the wire on either side of the tracks. A metal sheet with instructions for using Black & Decker power tools with a No Copyright symbol spray-painted on it was suspended between the dogs. The dogs were painted white with the words "Poop" painted on 1 of them & "Pee" painted on the other & glowing cyalume light sticks were placed between their rear legs. The walls of the tunnel were spray-painted with non-intersecting (except for, perhaps, the occasional accident) squiggly lines which I associated somehow with native Australian dreamtime culture. A strobe light flashed, someone made the dogs dance by tugging on the wire, & Ron Cummings manipulated & played tapes that he'd made of him beating on the dead dogs. I was naked except for my shoes & socks & I had white squiggly lines painted on me. I danced & gyrated wildly & beat the dogs & the thunder sheet with a club. The dogs were on fire & exuded what one might call a "foul" smell. I had been entrusted with the sacred head of Arnold Palmer by a representative of the Bloody Head Launcher's Society which I had set on fire & which I was also beating about the tunnel.
Source of inspiration: "Pee-Dog" underground comic
The title of this ceremony was a reference to "Pee-Dog" comix by Jay Condum & Gary Panter & "Poop-Dog" comix (which was a friendly rip-off of "Pee-Dog") by the Reverends Ivan Stang & Sterno Keckhaver. Eventually a large quantity of police came (from the railroad cops, the city police, & the nearby federal reserve bank guards) because 1 of the attendees reported having witnessed something "horrible & immoral" & I was arrested. When the "news" found out about this (it was done partially as a publicity stunt anyway) they "reported" that I was a "Cult Leader" who was "praying to the dogs" etc. Very little attempt was made to actually find out who I really was or what I actually was doing & when I was interviewed what I actually had to say was considered too weird to quote. I was quoted both in the newspapers & on tv as saying things that I hadn't said by people who hadn't even been present at the time when I'd supposedly said them. The cop who'd arrested me bought a photo of this ceremony from me. Another cop who'd allegedly been on the "force" for 26 years was quoted as saying in the newspapers "I'd rather run up against a man with a gun than a situation like that!" The beat goes on..
The media circus continued through tENT's court appearance and subsequent sentencing exactly one month later (October 19, 1983), which resulted in one year's supervised probation, $20 in court costs, and a warning to stay away from railroad property ("I was told not to go to the tunnel again" he told News American reporters).
(AP story, The Sun, October 21, 1983)
(Washington Post, October 20, 1983)
(Evening Sun, Oct. 23, 1983)
But my favorite clipping, reproduced in footnotes, is this Associated Press story "Bizarre: Odd Dance Brings Probation," which appeared in the Annapolis Evening Capital.
(Annapolis Evening Capital)
I love the quote that reads:
The police report described Tolson as "extremely wild," but the young man was polite and soft-spoken when he appeared in court.
"Do you have any problems or anything?" asked the judge.
"No," said the defendent [sic].
"Have you ever been to Spring Grove (a state mental hospital)?" asked the judge.
"No," said Tolson, who was represented by a public defender.
The same article describes tENT showing a photograph of the ritual to railroad police and others who gathered outside the courtroom after the hearing in Southern Ditrict Court.
"All the cops and railroad officials were really quite amused about it," he was quoted as saying.
Other media coverage of the ceremony
As I said, this incident crossed the Mason-Dixon line to spread (inter)nationally. Following are some additional media citations.
From Rev. Ivan Stang's "THE CHURCH OF THE SUBGENIUS(TM) - The Greatest Joke (?) Ever Told" (http://www.subgenius.com/bigfist/classic/classics/Churchpranks.html):
The press and TV media usually bend over backwards in NOT collaborating with us. They don't recognize the value of a straight face. In stories about the Church they always describe it as a 'joke' -- with one most notable exception, the infamous Dog Corpse Art Escapade of Saint tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE (aka Tim Ore, Monte Cantsin and Michael Tolson) of Baltimore. During the 1983 World SubGenius Convention, he invited 40 Subs to a no-tresspassing underground tunnel connected to the city train system, where they witnessed perhaps the worst smelling performance art piece in history: clothed ONLY in white greasepaint, tENTATIVELY performed a ritual using two decapitated, rotting dog corpses as props.
The worst smelling performance art piece in history?
[Ok, this represents the same type of humor exercised by people who laugh at serial killer movies. But would they be laughing if the serial killer got to them? Or to their family? Or loved ones? Probably not. Obviously, these remains were once a living human being. Did this happen in wartime? I don't know the story behind the photo but I prefer to actually have sympathy for the victim & those who might've cared about them rather than to turn it into a joke. I AM SO UNCOOL!]
This was an homage to the Church-approved characters of Poop Dog and Pee Dog of underground comix fame... but the cops who arrived in 6 squad cars and dragged tENT off to jail didn't see it that way. Neither did the wire services. The story went far and wide -- we have clippings from Peru -- and describes tENT as the 'leader' of a perverted sex cult. The sensational aspect of the story was amplified because the papers implied that tENT had killed the two dogs for his art piece, whereas he had actually found them in the tunnel already decapitated by the train. He merely immortalized them. This was the first time most people ever heard of the Church of the SubGenius.
From Paul Mavrides' "PRANKS interview" (http://www.subgenius.com/bigfist/answers/articles/X0037_Mavrides_Pranks_Inte.html):
The other time a SubGenius group got on the wire services involved a performance artist in Baltimore named Tentatively-a-Convienience, who had discovered a railroad tunnel containing a number of dog corpses that had been hit by trains. So he staged a SubGenius ritual performance which consisted of him naked, painted with white designs, beating these dead dogs that were hanging by their legs. He got arrested, the wire services picked up the story, and about two dozen papers reported that the Church of the SubGenius prances around naked beating dead dogs with sticks as part of their cult ritual
From SubGenius member J. Hoffman (dr foo)'s "tRAUMATICALLY A cONVEYANCE" http://www.subgenius.com/subg-digest/ancient/0479.html):
I've heard this story a few times. It even made the wire services, and was discussed in the admirable ReSearch issue dedicated to Pranks and Pranksters (probably one of the funniest publications ever printed.)
Apparently, in Baltimore, many cats and dogs die in the depths of the subway system. tENT was in a subway station/tunnel, was/wasn't naked, was/wasn't painted all over with day-glo colors, had/hadn't tied a freshly-killed/already-dead dog to the end of a rope/leash, and was/wasn't swinging the dog around over hIS head while hE did/didn't dance, wildly.
There, that should cover all the possibilities, and account for what the folk-process may have added to an already spectacular event.
The cops did arrest hIM. The wire services did pick it up, and I first read about it in The Globe. The story was a small filler (one or three grafs), but it did find room to mention that (approximately) "The Church of the SubGenius is a religion that encourages its members to obtain `Slack.'"
AP was an unwitting carrier of a small beacon of hope and encouragement on an otherwise dark day. SubGs all over the country saw it over their Sugar Dipt Coco Weasels and grinned, "There's more weirdness out there!" Many thoughtful Pinks said, "A painted guy is dancing in the nude, in a subway tunnel, swinging a dead dog over his head. So why am I worried about the Discover Card bill in so strange a world as this? Why don't *I* slack off today, tell the boss my monkey died, and just go bowling?"
tENT's tunnel escapade was later cited by Van Smith as one of his most notorious pranks in the Baltimore City Paper's 1998 April Fool's Day feature "These Foolish Things" (April 1, 1998):
(City Paper, April 1, 1998)
*** #2: Balling Tim Ore Is Best***
"Balling Tim Ore is Best"
by Dick Hertz & Tim Ore (i.e., tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE)
(August 1985, 16 minutes, super 8 -> 1/2" VHS cassette)
In 1985, tENT and Dick Hertz were employed as "Peep Mechanics," responsible for assembling the 8mm and Super-8 films projected in peepshow booths on Baltimore's "Block." Under the name Tim Ore, tENT and Dick Hertz created this a hoax peepshow movie that featured such things as a thru-the-keyhole view of animation of vegetables having sex, as well as images of Bob Dobbs and tENT himself. The pair snuck it into an actual peepshow booth, where it ran (unbeknownst to the management) for two weeks. Thanks to curators Jytte Jensen and Steve Anker, Balling Tim Ore Is Best eventually made its way out of Baltimore's Block to be included as part of the "Big As Life" series at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC on February 15, 2001.
"My purpose, at least, was to fuck w/ the way capitalism diverts & profits off of even the most basic drives," tENT explained.
Yeah, but "Balling Tim Ore" is best-er!
The backstory, according to tENT:
My friend "Dick Hertz" gets a job as a "peep show mechanic" editing peep show movies for 2 places in BalTimOre's 'Block' porn district. He brings me into the job & we scheme together to do something to take advantage of the environment. For 6 wks we work, unbeknownst to the management, on our own super-8 movie called Balling Tim Ore is Best. This edits together our footage w/ the pre-fab footage that we usually edited for the peeps. Our movie deliberately subverts the building to a climax structure that peep show movies usually have. After all, most of these movies are designed to assist guys (or pervert & exploit their need) in jerking off. We snuck the film into a peep show & showed it for 2 wks before swiping it back. Our movie leads them on & then detumesces & diverts their expectations. B/c of this, & other projects of mine, I'm branded a "pornographer" & at least one person tries to prevent a screening of my work by trashing some of it..."
Then, in a bitter aside, he adds:
Now, is Balling Tim Ore is Best an avant-garde work? Yes, if one considers how expanded cinema it is to make something site-specific like this & to put unusual content in a very rigorously content-restrictive environment. &, yet, will you ever witness it in a collection of "American Avant Garde Film 1947-1986"?! Highly fucking unlikely! SO, will it eventually be historicized under "transgressive"? That's also unlikely I think! More likely, Dick & I will be written off as a coupla weirdo pervert creeps - despite Dick's being what's becoming more & more coopted by academia: a trannie.
[Again, is it a "biiter aside" or an example of Institutional Critique? I prefer the latter explanation. In many of my Institutional Critique writings I try to point out how culture becomes canonized in class-based societies. I'm an anarchist & I feel that it's important to expose how mainstream critics either avoid or demean work that they're afraid of because it threatens their class privilege. I represent what I call Criminal Sanity.]
Recalling the stunt, collaborator Dick Hertz said "It was hilarious, and in fact, it was the birthplace of Larry Vega, who was loosely based on our boss, Sam Greenberg."
"The Larry Vega Show," 8x10 Club, Baltimore, early '80s.
Sam Greenberg was a legendary fixture on Baltimore's Block. According to the City Paper (Van Smith, "What's Around the Block," 2/2/2000), Greenberg made a splash back in April of 1991, when he paid porn star Christy Canyon $10,000 to appear at the Sweden video bookstore for a promotional event. (See Michael Olesker's April 23, 1991 Baltimore Sun article "Fantasies turn porno actress into movie queen" for details.) I wonder if Greenberg knew he was the inspiration for The Larry Vega Show? [As "Larry Vega," Dick Hertz hosted a fake TV talk show in the Galaxy Ballroom of the Congress Hotel and, later, at the 8 X 10 Club. Larry's co-stars were "Corky Niedermayer" (aka Mark Harp, who also portrayed Oprah Winfrey), "Stoc Marcut" (Scott Marcus as Dr. Ruth, Tom Snyder and others), and "Morry Fine and his All-Blind Orchestra," as well as a Who's Who of area artists and musicians (including Boy Meets Girl/Elements of Design bass player Ira Kessler as a shirt-shredding Incredible Hulk and Henningers Tavern co-owner Kenny Veith as "Buzz Bourbon"!). As Scott Carberry recalls, "Larry's show was deliberately vulgar & politically incorrect glorying in moronic tv spoof humor. His stock phrase was 'What the hell ya gonna do?'."]
Block buster: "Balling Tim Ore" gets private screening treatment
Hertz continues: "We cut it together at our [Hertz's and Mark Harp's] house on 25th st. Harp and I also shot a whole roll of Bob Dobbs heads, and Tent and I would splice them in subliminally to all the films...heaven only knows how many pervs get a boner when they see [Church of the SubGenius's Bob Dobbs lookalike] Mitt Romney today....as we toiled there, changing the films and fixing the projectors and video gear, the muzak would play all day on a loop...among the songs was Frank [Sinatra]'s version of "nice work if you can get it"....it was surreal hearing that song while watching a 45 year old whore in a schoolgirl getup chowing down on a giant black cock....Tent eventually released a version of the film featuring that song as the soundtrack."
Dobbs & Romney: The Spurting Image of One Another?
Finally, tENT framed the faux peepshow movie as an homage to him - as our "God of Fertility" - by the City of Baltimore and Mayor William Donald Schaeffer, as excerpted from footnotes:
Employed as a "Peep Mechanic" recently (assembling peep-show "specials" for 123 projectors from stock footage from the porn place's film library) I was pleasantly surprised to note that the day day before i quit this job the city of Bal Tim Ore honored my having worked there (apparently unknown to the management) by putting into one of the booths an approximately 20 minute sex ad for myself (& my co-worker: Dick Hertz) entitled Balling Tim Ore Is Best (a clever variation on the city's official bumper sticker: Bal Tim Ore Is Best) - always pleased to spend my generous hourly wage of $4.23 which I received for my mandatory minimum 48 hour work week, I paid to watch this film to make sure that it adequately conveyed my awesome sexual abilities - I am pleased to report that it did so quite well with such scenes as those of: a dildo spurting real sperm onto a suggestion box (the shot of which consisted of a rubber cunt, my face spinning & contorting with simulated vomit on it (apparently filmed with a hidden camera by one of my voyeur admirers), & animation of vegetables & various other objects fucking on a Hustler centerfold - as seen through a keyhole matte - all alternating with genrous helpings of cum-shots, bondage, urolagnia, angelic homosexuality, special effect blow-jobs, & elderly men consorting with the younger generation - therefore, I want to thank Mayor William Donald Schaeffer an the Citizens of Bal Tim Ore for paying tribute to me (their God of Fertility) & want them to know that, even though I don't love them, I am, as always, more than willing to "stick it to them." - TIM ORE
Ouch! That barb cuts like a knife, but (as Bryan Adams once crooned), it feels so right.
This cinematic prank was a forerunner of Tyler Durden's subversive projectionist antics in (the 1996 Chuck Palahniuk novel and 1999 David Fincher film) Fight Club.
Tyler Durden goes for the burn
[Ha ha! One friend of mine thought that the movie "Seven" (starring Brad Pitt) might've been inspired by me but I've always thought that "Fight Club" (also starring Pitt) was more likely. I'd love to know whether "Fight Club"'s author, Chuck Palahniuk, or the director, David Fincher, were deliberately making reference to me because Pitt actully dresses as a sort of tame version of what I was like in the late 1970s & early 1980s. Additionally, I've worked as a projectionist since 1996 - 3 years before "Fight Club" was released.]
You know the scene: the one where Tyler explains how he inserts subliminal pornographic images into mainstream family films:
In a cinema projection booth, The Narrator (Edward Norton) introduces his friend Tyler (Brad Pitt). The latter sits hunched over a reel of tape.
"Let me tell you about Tyler Durden," The Narrator begins. "Tyler was a night person. While the rest of us were sleeping, he worked. He had a part-time job as a projectionist. See, a movie doesn't come on one big reel. It comes on a few. So someone has to switch projectors at the exact moment one reel ends and the next begins. If you look for it, you can see two little white dots come into the right hand corner of the screen."
Two little white dots come into the right hand corner of the screen.
"In the industry," Tyler interjects, "we call them cigarette burns."
"That's the cue. They switch projectors, the movie keeps going, no one in the audience has any idea."
Tyler: "Why would anyone want this shit job?"
The Narrator: "Because it affords you interesting opportunities."
Tyler: "Like splicing single frames of pornography into family films."
"So," The Narrator continues, "when the snooty cat and the courageous dog meet in reel three, that's when you'll catch Tyler's contribution."
On screen, something fleshy and engorged flashes past. In the audience, a small child begins to cry; its mother looks round anxiously.
"Nobody knows they saw it. But they did."
Similarly, nobody knows just how much of tENT's work is out there. But it is. But few bother to read the small print, the footnotes.
*** Related Links/Further Readings ***
to books by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE (goodreads)
to 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..
to tENT's Personal Favorites
to "Press: Criticism, Interviews, Reviews"
to "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - Sprocket Scientist" home page
to Complete Movieography
to tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE's tape/CD publishing label: WIdémoUTH
Labels: baltimore, Church of the SubGenius, dick hertz, footnotes, pee and pee dog copyright violation ceremony, tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE
posted by Tom Warner, Almost Hip Guy @ 11:00 AM
Great article! It's always good to see tENT get some recognition, especially since he deserves it more than most of the subversive artists everybody hears about.
I was at that Subgenius Convention in 1983. It was the same weekend and right upstairs from the I Hate 98 concert. I heard about the plans to go into the train tunnels afterwards. I've always regretted that, being a suburban high school student at the time, I went home instead. However, my teachers read the story in the paper, and knew I was into "that Subgenius thing," so in their minds, I was in that tunnel.
Many years later, tENT showed Balling Tim Ore Is Best at the Mansion Theater. It's been awhile since I've seen it, so I may not be remembering it correctly, but the funniest parts I remember were the dog eating a Milkbone Dog Biscuit out of somebody's rear end, and a sequence involving tENT masturbating while looking through binoculars at Dick Hertz masturbating while looking back at tENT through binoculars. tENT's live narration during the screening also made it quite memorable.
[THANK YOU SKIZZ! Skizz's general niceness & ability ot appreciate other people without having to 'cover his ass' by being snide is something that distinguishes him as an extraordinary person. He's also a remarkable filmmaker, film programmer, & musician.]
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Shayn Fargesn said...
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)