In 1982, DEVO, a band whose very existence at times seemed to be a prank on the music industry, had the brilliant idea, in the true spirit of de-evolution, to use one of the demented love poems of failed Ronald Reagan assassin, John Hinckley Jr., as song lyrics. Mind you, this was only a year following Hinckley’s attack which wounded Reagan, Reagan’s Press Secretary, and two Secret Service agents.
Hinckley was one of the most infamous names in the news at the time as the man who had tried to murder the president in a deranged attempt at wooing actress Jodie Foster.
Needless to say, DEVO’s record label, Warner Brothers, was less than thrilled with the idea of having to write royalty checks to the criminally insane man who tried to kill the President.
The song, “I Desire,” which appeared on DEVO’s fifth studio album, Oh, No! It’s DEVO, was adapted, with permission, from one of Hinckley’s poems—much to the chagrin of Warner Brothers and, as it turns out, the F.B.I.
As Mark Mothersbaugh recalled, “[Hinckley] let us take a poem that he had written, and we used it for the lyrics and turned it into a love song. It was not the best career move you could make. We had the FBI calling up and threatening us.”
In the book Are We Not Men? We are DEVO, Mothersbaugh states that “if people told us we couldn’t, that just gave us all the more determination… you know, Spinal Tap syndrome,” with Alan Myers adding, “I thought ‘I Desire’ was a good song. I think that was the cool thing. That was one of the better songs that came out on the last few records… I think that art is art.”
This week a seller on eBay listed the first royalty check stub sent to Hinckley from Warner Brothers along with an accounting statement and a letter explaining to Hinckley that his one-half share of the royalties for “I Desire” amounted to $610.22.
The seller, as of this writing, provides no provenance for the item, but we are assuming it is probably legit as who would forge such an item and sell it on eBay? This item certainly has an appeal to both fans of DEVO and fans of people who tried to kill Ronald Reagan.
It was recently the birthday of one of my lifelong best friends, Bill Bartell (1961-2013)
Bill aka “Pat Fear” was a walking, talking anomaly, a living Robert Anton Wilson conspiracy theory, a wisecracking character out of a Firesign Theatre sketch, a Discordian trickster imp of the perverse. His credit card even said “The Illuminati” under his name (for real, I swear!). Bill also went by the names “Kixx”; “Sitting Bill”; “Pat ‘Slowhand’ Fear”; “Billy Jo Gun Rack,” etc., etc., and these are just the ones that he used on records! I can’t even imagine the secret pseudonyms he used “off stage.” I also can’t actually believe that he is not still alive. It seems like some kind of shitty cosmic joke. The world that doesn’t get to know Bill is a sad world.
Bill did so much for our culture, mostly by ridiculing it. He was a super mega ultra fan of so many disconnected things. He lived to tear down so many idols. His band White Flag was formed originally solely just to piss off Black Flag (one of his favorite bands). Bill pissed many people off, which was his life’s mission or so it seemed.
He was just SO good at it!
Bill’s side project, but really his life’s work as it was so open-ended was a grouping called Tater Totz. This project dealt with Bill’s obsessions. As it grew, many people from his obsessions wound up on Tater Totz records. Who? Man, so many! Always Redd Kross of course, but also members of the Runaways, Germs/Nirvana, Partridge Family, Sonic Youth, Lovedolls, Tesco Vee, El Vez, The Zeros, The Posies, Jimmy McNichol (!!??!!), Hole, Sator, Starz, Zeros, Melvins, Shonen Knife, Go-Go’s, Adolescents, Pandoras, Roman Coppola, Circle Jerks, Frightwig, Chemical People, Sin 34/Painted Willie, myself and just about everyone else who came into Bill’s orbit. The main focus of Tater Totz was Bill’s Yoko Ono obsession, followed closely by his interest in Os Mutantes, the Beatles, Blue Oyster Cult, even a mashup of John Lennon and Queen. Their greatest moment, in my opinion, was when they showed up at a Beatlefest convention and did all Yoko Ono songs, driving the Beatle nerds to violence and riot! They literally chased them out of the building and down the street like the villagers did to poor Frankenstein’s monster! Part of this is on YouTube and can be seen here on Dangerous Minds (link at bottom of this post). Bill, of course, immediately put it out as a double seven-inch bootleg EP called Live Hate at Beatlefest, one of the best titles ever, obviously.
Bill Bartell also single-handedly turned the entire world onto Os Mutantes, a bizarre Brazilian band from the 60s whose first LP his sister, an exchange student there, brought back to him in the Sixties. Bill went around throughout the 80s with a Walkman with Os Mutantes on it and plopped the headphones on to everyone he met.
This is in fact, how I met him.
He also did this to his buddy Kurt Cobain who, when he got famous, and toured in Brazil, went on the news and asked where Os Mutantes were, and said that his friend Bill who “has a mustache” told him about them. He then held up a drawing he did of Bill. This, from the then biggest rock star in the world! Os Mutantes, who had broken up for decades have publicly stated that their resurgence was totally due to Bill and they came from Brazil on their own dime to play at his memorial in LA.
Kaufman wrestling Deborah Croce on the Staten Island Ferry. Photo: Bob Mantin
As as true of Lenny Bruce, Andy Kaufman’s most noteworthy live appearance occurred at Carnegie Hall. The date of the gig was April 26, 1979, and the show could fairly be described as the most complete summation of Kaufman’s career. He ended the evening by taken many dozens of the audience members out for milk and cookies and continued the “performance” the next day on the Staten Island Ferry, treating the random stragglers who showed up to ice cream cones.
The show was filmed and released as a VHS cassette at some point, and now we’ve got a pretty decent upload on YouTube. I won’t reveal any of the gags here—you can see those for yourself—but will supply a few observations.
The show opens with Tony Clifton singing the National Anthem (badly) and then regaling the audience with a few observations and another song until he is forcibly removed from the stage. We’ve all had two solid years of observing Donald Trump in excruciating detail; I don’t think Trump’s similarities to Tony Clifton have been emphasized enough.
The opening act is the Love Family, a cloyingly sweet family who sings “The Age of Aquarius.” Kaufman apparently encountered them at Venice Beach in L.A. The choice of opener shows the tougher side of Kaufman’s humor—it seems that the Love family members were genuinely crushed when the audience started showing its displeasure with the act. According to Gregg Sutton, a friend of Kaufman’s, “For the first time in history, the audience wanted more Clifton!” (Crushed or no, they gamely rejoined Kaufman at the end of the show for a second round of bows.)
Robin Williams, who participated in the show, captured something essential about Kaufman’s milk and cookies stunt when he called it “P.T. Barnum meets Jung”:
“People who were heavily into hardcore drugs were going, ‘Oh, this is nice!’ This wasn’t party till you puke—this was milk and cookies! It was Howdy Buddha time.”
“My idea of fun is what puts most people in jail.” —PJ Proby
The entire point underlying this blog is to impart enthusiasm for the given subject matter. Sharing something extraordinary, remarkable or even just plain fun with the audience. Life’s too short to focus on lameass things. And to have to write about things you don’t even like? Nope, not how we really want to spend our days. Plus, why would you, the reader want to read about something mundane? Of course you don’t want that. You want awe-inspiring. Or at least things with cute cats and Twin Peaks-themed pot pipes. It’s our primary job here at Dangerous Minds to entertain you. Sometimes it’s simply to distract you from all of the bad shit going down…
You’ll get all of the above, in spades, I reckon, in the form of Texas-born rock and roller, PJ Proby, the entire package. He’s admittedly a pretty obscure figure. Frankly not even the most archly jaded rock snobs have probably ever heard of the guy. The subset of crate diggers who have actually heard the sound of the man’s truly phenomenal voice is smaller still. (His classic albums have hardly existed in the CD age.) I’ve been obsessed with him since the late 80s and have long wanted to make a documentary about him. Frankly I’m not really sure if I am acquainted with anyone who knows or cares about him like I do. (Maybe you do, but I don’t know you, do I?) Considering the intense megawatt talent the man possesses, all the lucky breaks that he’s had over his six decade-long career, and all of the immortals his orbit has collided with, PJ Proby should be, as he’s said himself—and I agree with this wholeheartedly—at least as famous as his one-time drinking buddy Tom Jones. That was not to be, although it coulda been and shoulda been.
When Tom Jones was just starting out, he was often accused—unfairly I think—of copying Proby’s act. In many ways PJ Proby and Jones are performers in that same general mold: powerful belters, macho, sexy, equally at home singing heart-breaking lonely boy ballads or bellowing balls-out rockers. When Proby’s infamous onstage trouser-splitting stunt occurred in Croydon (more on this below), it was in fact Jones who hastily replaced him on the package tour he was embarked upon after Proby was summarily banned from most of the live stages in Britain. If you like early Scott Walker, or the big ballady material Dusty Springfield excelled at, or even Nick Cave, then PJ Proby is probably in your wheelhouse. His records are easy to find—usually for really cheap—in used record bins. Every one of them is a mixture of filler and hits, but when he connects with the material, something sublime happens. I think he’s one of the all time greatest talents in rock and roll history, but few people would know that in 2017, or care.
PJ Proby was born James Marcus Smith on November 6, 1938, in Houston. His great-grandfather on his mother’s side was the outlaw gunfighter John Wesley Hardin and his father was a successful banker. He was educated at the strict San Marcos Military Academy, but even at school he was known as a bit of a hellraiser and was early on convinced that he was a genius and destined for greatness of some sort. His showbiz ambitions started early with local preteen appearances singing country music. He met Elvis Presley on that circuit when he was just 12 or 13 and Elvis at one point dated his step sister, Betty. But this was just the start of Proby’s improbable, Zelig or Forrest Gump-like ability to always be where the action was. Even at that age, he just was warming up, but already in the right places at the right time and always with the right crowd.
After moving to Hollywood in the mid-50s to become and actor and/or a singer, Smith took the name “Jett Powers” and recorded the single “Go, Girl Go!,” which is best known today as a song that the Cramps dug. (Jett’s backing band the Moondogs included Elliot Ingber/“Winged Eel Fingerling,” later of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, on lead guitar). Signed to a songwriting and performing contract with Liberty (along with the likes of Leon Russell and Glen Campbell), he recorded under the name Orville Woods so that the public would think he was black! Additionally Proby made a living working as a bodyguard for closeted gay entertainers like Rock Hudson, Liberace and Tab Hunter (by his own account, brutally dispensing anyone who dared hassle one of them in a “gay bashing” manner). Proby also recorded “vocal guides” for $10 a pop so that performers like Elvis could more efficiently make use of expensive recording studio time. (He did twenty such vocal guides for Presley, mimicking his singing style in a full-throated manner that was said to have amused the King.) In early 1964 Jackie DeShannon and songwriter Sharon Sheeley (who’d been his best friend, Eddie Cochran’s, fiancée) introduced Proby—then bearded and wearing his hair extremely long as he was hoping to play the part of Jesus in a musical—to Jack Good who was visiting from London. The meeting would change the course of his life.
Good, the prominent TV producer and manager who gave the world Shindig!, Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele, Billy Fury, Marty Wilde and others of Britain’s first wave of rock and roll stars (he’s also the guy who convinced Gene Vincent to don that Richard III garb) is alleged to have grabbed Proby’s ponytail to see if it was real. Soon afterward, Good’s secretary called from London and offered the complete unknown a spot on the Beatles’ upcoming television special “With the Beatles.”
Upon his arrival at Heathrow airport Proby told reporters of his intentions for Great Britain: “I’m going to fight all your men, fuck all your women and steal all your money. Then I’m going to buy myself a yacht and sail off into the wide blue yonder.”
When the show aired, Proby immediately became extremely famous, the very definition of the overnight sensation, even if his fame was to be short-lived. A single, “Hold Me” was recorded and rushed out so quickly that a stray vocal was inadvertently pressed into the record’s fadeout on the initial run. The song became a smash, reaching #3 in the UK charts. He racked up more hits with utterly histrionic (and almost insane-sounding, yet mesmerizing) cover versions of West Side Story‘s “Somewhere” and “Maria,” as well as with a song the Beatles had tried unsuccessfully to record for the Help! soundtrack, but that none of them could adequately sing. They opted to gift the song, “That Means a Lot,” to someone with the pipes who could, their American pal (well at least Lennon liked him) Proby. Incredibly, George Martin even arranged the song for him!
PJ Proby performs the castoff number from ‘Help!’ that Lennon and McCartney gave him, “That Means a Lot” on ‘Hollywood A Go-Go’ in 1965. If you are not mazed by this, I cannot possibly help you.
What insane luck, right? Soon Beatles manager Brian Epstein set up Proby with a UK package tour, co-headlining with Cilla Black. That’s when things got a bit out of the egotistical young rocker’s control: At a date in Croydon, Proby clad in his trademark tight velvet jumpsuit and looking like an 18th century dandy, was doing his James Brown-inspired stage act (the likes of which still staid post war Britain had not yet seen) and slid across the stage, tearing his pants around the knees and upwards from there. The crowd of teenaged girls went utterly mad, but the incident caused a stir in the media getting Proby on the radar of Britain’s self-appointed moral censor, Mary Whitehouse. When Proby did the same thing two nights later it was widely reported that he’d done something lewd in Luton. The Daily Mirror wrote that he was a “morally insane degenerate” and urged parents to keep their children from attending one of his shows. Whitehouse called his “thrusting” obscene but Proby claimed otherwise and available photos seem to corroborate his side of the story. He was kicked off the tour anyway and banned from the ABC theater chain and BBC radio and television. This was a good decade before the Sex Pistols, of course. Proby had a few more semi hits, but without radio play his star quickly faded. He later said of the incident:
“I was Britain’s Errol Flynn, the rough mother of pop. I was Jimmy Dean all busted up. I was Marlon Brando. They wanted rid of me.”
Canadian audiences were still able to thrill to Proby live in concert, while his work visa was yanked for a time in the UK
Back in Hollywood, Proby had his sole Billboard Hot 100 Top 30 hit with the infectious cajun-spiced rocker “Niki Hoeky.” He bought a mansion in Beverly Hills and married one of Dean Martin’s daughters. When he found out that she’d been having an affair with his car mechanic and saw them walking together hand in hand, he discharged his gun in the air several times to intimidate them. He soon found himself surrounded at gunpoint by much of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department and did a three month stint in a holding cell before moving back to the UK. He recorded his Three Week Hero album in 1968 with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones, then of the New Yardbirds, but soon to be rechristened Led Zeppelin. It was the very first time all four of them would be inside of a recording studio together.
There are all kinds of crazy PJ Proby stories involving Jack Daniels, bankruptcies, guns, underage girls, more guns and more Jack Daniels. Every once in while during the 80s he’d turn up again in some completely insane or scandalous situation. He went through six wives. He worked as a shepherd on a farm before running off with the farmer’s daughter. He recorded some totally off the wall covers of songs like “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” “Heroes” and “Tainted Love” for the Manchester-based Savoy label, there was at least one fairly lurid television news piece about him…
I tried to catch Flaming Dragons of Middle Earth at a local art gallery a few months back, but I blew it. You really gotta be on time for events of this magnitude. By the time I got there, it looked like a garbage truck had crashed into an art supply store. There was glitter, paint, feathers, sweat, piss and melted crayons everywhere. The room smelled like burnt rubber and semen. The joint was filled with creeps, crazies and zonked-out dreamers, but I had no idea if any of them were in the band or not. You couldn’t tell where the aftermath ended and the afterparty began, but the star of the show had definitely vanished. “The kid in the wheelchair split,” shrugged the disappointed art-school chick in the lime-green cardigan. There was more than a little unrequited lust in her eyes.
Danny Cruz, Dragon King
Flaming Dragons formed in 2007 in Turner Falls, Massachusetts (don’t bother looking it up, FDOME are definitely the most exciting thing about the place). Every Thursday at the Brick House Community Resource Center, Danny Cruz—a resourceful young dude with muscular dystrophy, a fearsome scruff of facial hair and a seriously banged-up wheelchair—would jam with whoever was around on whatever instruments they could scrape up, eventually creating a bowel-loosening neo-hard rock, aggressively psychedelic spazz-punk sound that Cruz likes to call “Mud Lightning Metal.” And who are we to argue?
The cover of FDOME’s 2014 opus, ‘The Seed of Contempt’
The band has been going strong ever since. The members change constantly. There’s been a wizard on bass and a kid with Down’s syndrome on drums. Doesn’t really matter. All of it channels through cosmic shaman Cruz, who turns his ragtag noise crew into a life-affirming blast of pure holy light. They have a clutch of official albums released on OSR records and piles more unreleased or unofficial or just waiting patiently to be born. They often perform in unsuspecting art galleries or community centers or public access TV stations in Western Massachusetts and no one is the same afterward. In between gigs, Cruz hits up YouTube and pontificates on chemtrails (hint: it’s aliens!) and whatever other urban ailments he’s feeling that day.
If his band didn’t play freeform jazz metal, he’d probably be the new Roky Erickson. At the very least, he’s the new Eugene Chadbourne. If you haven’t been covered in feathers and buckets of paint lately, I’d suggest maybe you catch a show.
I’m going to be brutally honest with you right now—I am both intrigued and deeply confused by my recent discovery of blog entry by an alleged psychic medium who calls herself “Divine Jacqueline.” The entry, which was posted back in 2011 claims to contain messages from the great beyond from musician Jeff Buckley. If you recall, Jeff died at the way too young age of 31 after drowning in the Mississippi River in 1996. I’m a huge fan of Buckley and had the good fortune to see him live just before his untimely death in an intimate setting in Boston, and to this day the experience ranks as one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever seen. While I’d love to believe that Jeff Buckley is communicating with us while he’s chilling out with other members of rock’s heavenly choir, I simply don’t. And most of the stuff that Divine Jacqueline insists is the word of Jeff is, as you might imagine, straight-up bizarre and more than difficult to swallow. Mostly because I’m shit-sure that Jeff fucking Buckley would ever admit to liking the song “My Sacrifice” by Creed. Because nobody really actually likes that song (alive or dead) or Creed for that matter. Hell, even Creed probably hates it. And that’s a fact.
According to Divine Jacqueline, Buckley now goes by the name “Scott Moorhead” which is a combination of his stepfather’s last name of Moorhead and his middle name which he went by when he was a child. Of the many, many wild statements the Divine Jacqueline makes on her Blogspot site, I have extracted a few of the stranger ones that she has “received” from Buckley about how he spends his infinite time in the afterworld. You might want to lie down while reading what follows as I found it both helpful, as well as necessary:
Jeff says that “What Is And What Should Never Be” is Led Zeppelins’ greatest masterpiece. In fact, Buckley wishes he wrote it himself [DON’T WE ALL?].
Two of Buckley’s closest companions on the other side are author James Joyce and Edith Piaf. While he was still alive, he routinely received “messages” from other deceased musicians like guitarist Randy Rhoads, John Bonham, and Jim Morrison. Jeff also hangs around with musician Roger Voudouris and says that we should all pick up the singer/songwriter’s 1979 album Radio Dreams.
Jeff enjoys “reaching out” to people on earth like actor Brad Pitt. Though he doesn’t communicate with them per se, he just likes to “inspire” them. He also likes to connect to those on earth he had past lives with by phone. Though he “hangs up” when you answer because he was really just expecting to hear your outgoing message on the answering machine, and didn’t think you’d actually pick-up the phone. He also needs us to know that he will not speak to anyone (including psychics) through Ouija boards or seances. So quit it.
Jeff loves the Creed song “My Sacrifice” and often sings it himself these days.
Jeff Buckley LOVES Kate Bush! Who knew?
Okay, I can dig the idea that Jeff Buckley is spending time with Edith Piaf and enjoys the musical stylings of Kate Bush but man, the insinuation that Jeff Buckley is up there in Heaven singing a fucking Creed song is an insult to Buckley and to people with functional ears.
The American political system has long produced colorfully aberrant and utterly quixotic recidivist candidates for public office, whether they’re tenacious delusionals with lunatic fringe appeal like Lyndon LaRouche, satirists engaged in performative protests like Pat Paulsen, or memetic stars of the internet era like Vermin Supreme or Jimmy “The Rent Is Too Damn High” McMillan. Hell, a total goddamn freakshow candidate defied all conventional wisdom to occupy the highest office in the USA, but few such candidates ever succeed electorally, and since pretty much every region has at least one, they can (mostly) be safely regarded with indulgent affection and granted local-color oddball status, however bonkers their platforms may be.
Toledo, OH has Opal Covey, not just an Evangelical Christian but a self-professed prophetess who has attempted five Mayoral runs on the basis of her belief that God told her she’d be elected Mayor, which of course could still happen eventually. In 2015, she received less than 1% of the vote but nonetheless insisted that she won, and promised that if she wasn’t sworn in, “…destruction is gonna come. And I’m standing back and I’m gonna let it happen.”
Covey is also noteworthy for utterly bonkers interviews in which she speaks in tongues, and for her singing, which sounds like Tiny Tim losing his grip.
A shot of the living room in the Marilyn Monroe-themed house in Dublin currently up for sale.
If your dream has ever been to move to Ireland and live in a house that was once owned by Marilyn Monroe’s number one fan, then you may finally get to live out that very strange and oddly specific fantasy. Nearly every wall of the 1,200 square foot, three-bedroom, one bathroom house at 44 Harelawn Drive in Clondalkin, Dublin is covered in images of Marilyn and has been painted in blinding pop-art style colors.
To say that the home is tasteless would be an understatement—just looking at the photos included in the listing nearly gave me a seizure. And everywhere I look, I see Marilyn’s famous mug looking right back at me. According to the listing, the decor inside this little slice of heaven is described as “quirky.” But since the home is located so close to the pleasant-sounding Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, I’m sure someone will express interest in making this their new digs. But will they keep this zany decor? And while it may seem like a deal to some people, the current asking price is around $230,000 USD (or €185,000). I’ve posted images of the Marilyn Monroe house of horrors below.
The plain, rather normal looking exterior of the Marilyn Monroe house.
This room is purple. Very, very purple.
The stairway leading to the second floor of the Marilyn house.
Circus banners for ‘Spidora’ and ‘Olga the Headless Girl.’
Originally conceived in the late 1800s by London-based vaudeville illusionist Henry Roltair and hugely popular at Coney Island in the late 1930s, “Spidora” was a disturbing illusion featuring the head of an actual woman with the body of a giant spider. When it comes to the equally disturbing “Headless Girl” sideshow attraction, we have a man from Hamburg, Germany purporting to be a physician called “Doctor Heineman” (aka Egon Heineman) to thank for “Olga the Headless Girl” which he debuted at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 to a crowd of stunned onlookers. But which macabre human/animal hybrid was the bigger faux freak? Before I let you the reader decide, let’s dive into a little history lesson on both bizarro illusions before we slug this one out.
According to details in Joe Nickell’s 2005 book, Secrets of the Sideshow, he saw an early iteration of Spidora at Coney Island when he was a kid. The Spidora illusion was wickedly popular and Nickell recalls the words of the carnival barker prepping the crowd for what they were about to see:
Step right up folks and meet “Spidora,” the Spider-Girl! Born with the head and face of a beautiful girl and the body of an ugly spider, she survives in total misery, for no man could ever love her.
The barker would also note that Spidora who made her living as a sideshow attraction and, just like a real spider, ate flies and other insects. There were several adaptations of Spidora, some more believable than others. At worst you saw a woman with her head protruding out of a box with a spider body crudely attached to her. At best you would be treated to an expertly crafted spider web made of white twine and spider body and legs made of fake fur. The legs would also include tubing so that the girl playing Spidora could make the legs appear to move on their own. Spidora’s actual body would be concealed behind a wall in a box in which her spider web, spider body, and head were macabrely displayed for curious onlookers to ponder before moving on to the next attraction. Spidora inspired many other human/animal hybrids such as the “human butterfly,” and “snake girl” illusions—and as I’m sure many of our readers will recall a character from Tod Browning’s 1927 film The Show “Arachnida - the Human-Spider,” played by the gorgeous Edna Tichenor.
The “Headless Girl” routine was a rather terrifyingly realistic looking illusion, especially given the time period in which it came to be. When Olga was displayed in a store window in London, shocked onlookers recoiled at the headless torso of a woman with tubes running from her throat to a contraption that supposedly controlled her food intake. As with Spidora, Olga would also be copied by other illusionists who called her “Tina” and the classier sounding “Mademoiselle Yvette” who all claimed that the woman—despite not having a head—was being kept alive by the feeding tubes and unexplainable technology. As you will see in the photos, the headless girl act is optically baffling. To help bolster the authenticity of the headless girl, many of the attractions would include backstory as to how the poor thing lost her head—such as a shark attack or an unfortunate showgirl who parted ways with her head thanks to a truck.
According to one of my favorite spots on the Internet, Sideshow World, the headless girl illusion continued to appear around the U.S. and the world through the 1980s and a version even made an appearance at Ozzfest in 2002. And as I’m a huge fan of all things Ozzy, it is that last bit that has me giving the edge when it comes to creepiness to Olga, and her many headless counterparts/knock-offs. I’ve included photos of both strange illusions below as well as a vintage footage of a headless girl illusion being performed at Coney Island. Stay sinister my friends.
Lee Godie (1908-1994) was an outsider artist who spent three decades living rough on the streets of Chicago—with the occasional respite in a flophouse when she had cash.
When you read about Godie there’s always the sentence that states she “spent almost 30-years homeless” or “lived on the streets for nearly thirty years.” The “nearly” and “almost” make it sound cosy—make it all sound like an heroic failure—as if she didn’t quite succeed in living rough for the full thirty years—as in the way we say—she nearly came first in the race or she almost won the lottery. One night sleeping rough on the streets is hell enough for anyone—especially in those cold Chicago winters where the temperature can drop to -30 in the windchill and the radio broadcasts give advice on breathing in through the mouth and out through the nose to prevent nosebleeds.
Somehow Godie managed to live and work while she was homeless between the 1960s and 1990s. She made drawings and paintings with whatever materials she had to hand. She then sold them to commuters on their way to work—but only if she liked the look of you. If she didn’t—then Godie rolled up her portfolio of pictures, put them under her arm, bid you “Good day” and moved on to the next potential buyer. That’s an enviable, if bloody-minded determination.
For Godie chose to live on the streets. She had money—enough to keep her dry, warm and snug. But she preferred living rough. Why? No one seems to be quite sure. At night, in sub-zero temperatures Godie slept on “a concrete bench…clutching her large black portfolio” of artworks. How Godie ended up homeless is open to conjecture. What is known she was married twice and had four children. After the deaths of two of her children, Godie began her life living on the streets in the 1960s.
The drawings and paintings were usually done while sitting on a park bench or on the steps of the Arts Institute. But perhaps her biggest and best known artworks was a series of selfies she made using a photo-booth as her studio.
For these self-portraits Godie dressed-up in her thrift store clothes and posed with props bought from Woolworth’s with the money she made selling her paintings. A Godie painting that was sold for $30 bucks back in the 1980s can fetch over $15,000 today. Godie’s photographs show her playing different roles—the child, the muse, the rich sophisticate like those 1920s Daisy Buchanan flappers she seemed so enamored by in her paintings.
When a newspaper story about Godie—the eccentric homeless artist—appeared in 1988—her daughter Bonnie Blank made contact. One day she was seen sitting beside her mother drawing pictures. On one occasion even sleeping rough with her. Eventually the daughter introduced herself to her long lost mother. Not long after this, Godie was admitted to hospital suffering from dementia. On her release, she went to stay with Bonnie where she remained until her death in 1994.
More of the Lee Godie’s photobooth art, after the jump…