Saturday, June 21, 2014

Into the wilds with Wildman Fisher.

Wildman Fischer was my house guest.

Thanks to Kerin Lynch  

In 1987 I was an Artist in Residence at the Massachusetts College of Art.

One day at Mass Art,  I  found myself in another planning meeting for "Eventworks" a Performance and New Music Festival (I'd been involved for some years, bringing The Church of the SubGenius to Mass Art as the Boston Bob-a-lon. I also produced two performances by legendary Boston Psychedelic Punk band "The Girls").

Laurie McKenna was in charge of the festival that year and was in the pre-planning stage. We were talking about contacting the talent when she mentioned Larry Fischer, and as I was the only other person in the room  who knew his work, I expressed an interest in working on this performance. Accommodations needed to be made, so Laurie had planned to have Larry stay at her Boston apartment... but this was not to be.

That year Eventworks was also featured  Under-Ground
Filmmaker Jack (Flaming Creatures) Smith. 

I had some knowledge of the ordeal involved in hosting Mr. Smith, as I had witnessed an acquaintance's experience some years earlier.  Since it was the late 1970's Jack required a constant flow of Guinness Stout and cocaine, this meant he also needed  someone to lead him  from place to place.. I shared this information but Cassandra-like it went unheeded. Not surprisingly, Laurie decided that one high maintenance house guest was enough of an adventure and would not be hosting another.

So it fell on me to welcome Larry into the Zontar compound. We were still publishing the Magazine then but one of the Editors had moved to Western Mass to pursue an academic career, so luckily we had an empty bedroom.

Wildman Fisher didn't fly so he took the train from LA to Boston. I met him at South Station and was immediately struck by his warmth as well as the contradictions and energy of this person.  I was
already familiar with the symptoms of Bi-Polar Illness but Larry at this point in his life was experiencing mood swings every hour. This most likely was made worse by his nervousness anticipating his first and it turned out only East Coast performance.

I slept little over the next five days and Larry slept even less. Over the course of an hour he would swing from manic euphoria to paranoid depression. Larry had just recorded "It's a tough business" with
Rosemary Clooney, so in his high points he would speculate "What's next, a duo with Sinatra?" In his low points he would rage that Zappa had cheated him and was trying to kill him. In the space between the extremes the real Larry existed, an open insightful individual that has made his recordings loved to those in the know.

It fell on me to help Larry get through the highs and lows and to deliver a performance. Larry's anxiety was extreme. He was constantly threatening to bolt back to LA.  One evening we got a call from "Art Barnes" of Barnes & Barnes, who produced Larry's later albums checking in on him. This was of course Bill Mumy, but at this time it was not widely known. We knew but choose to play along. For a few days  all three of the founding editors of Zontar Magazine were able to enjoy the company of this unique  artist.

The performance was almost anti-climatic. Loose and chaotic, Larry none the less pleased the audience. I ran the theater soundboard and from there I continued my encouragement, (for instance advising Larry
not to play his recorded Rosemary Clooney collaboration a fourth time.)

The school wanted to video tape the show but, no matter what I tried, he refused to perform
with the camera recording . I did make a recording off of the soundboard but Larry made me sign a paper that I would never copy it, and I never have.

For several months after his return to LA, I received collect calls at 3 AM from Larry, checking in.

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