Elvis is Dead

By Sam Mitchell

I’m a bit ambivalent when it comes to Elvis Presley, at least as an icon. His music never really resonated with me, although I like a few of his songs. More specifically, I like many of the song writers, which he wasn’t one of, and I certainly recognize that he’s a culture thief. When asked the elementary question, Beatles or Elvis, I always feel like I’m being trapped. The question always felt like and unwinnable test that represented a generational divide. One that supposes that there are no other musical options of importance, a frame argument designed by a narrow architect, the Kobayashi Maru for Baby Boomers. If made to answer I steadfastly reply The Beatles as they wrote most of their own songs.

Elvis’ persona is that of a hip-wagging, rock crooner with shiny pompadoured black hair. I imagine that the deal he made with Ol’ Scratch to become famous began in the womb. His twin, Jessie Garon Presley was dead at birth and perhaps Elvis was the cause. If he could have absorbed his essence in utero, then maybe he would have. Stealing a soul to make himself soulful. But really, if you are a not a fan, you need look no further than his hair. He’s a natural blonde, but who would know this? (Also, Garon, really? Elvis Aaron Presley. Jessie Garon Presley. Aaron, Garon?) I see nothing wrong with changing your look, but again if you’re a hater, it screams “exhibit a” for his appropriation of black music and black style. Again, his soul for soulfulness. Stealing aside, he was also a magnetic performer and song interpreter and people like performers. Last Friday, I read kid’s books to Henry’s second grade class and afterwards three of his peers came up to me asking for my autograph, while Henry smacked his forehead in disgust.

Elvis is an icon, whether respected or not, and for a person who just claimed to be ambivalent you may wonder why I have a gold statue of him in my house?

My first meeting with Elvis was when I was 10. Of course, I had heard of him, but my Mom’s cousin, Christian, was in the 1961 musical romantic comedy Blue Hawaii. The story was that Christian was to play opposite Elvis as his main love interest. It would have been her big Hollywood break, but before or during, Christian had had a nervous breakdown and the role was given to Joan Blackman. Christian is still in the movie as one of the court that can be seen dancing within a group of women who swoon for Elvis throughout the film. These two things were the most that I ever knew about Christian, a story about her proximity to him and then her being prescribed Lithium.

Mom’s cousin, Christian (far right)

Mom and I were both on summer vacation, she the teacher, I the student. We had close to three months to entertain ourselves on an educator’s budget. That summer she introduced me to all of the movies of Alfred Hitchcock and of Elvis Presley that were cataloged at Hightower Memorial Library. After the summer, I came away a Hitchcock fan.

My second run in with Elvis was in high school. I was ending a date with Hellen. The closest movie theater was in Griffin, 30 minutes away and after seeing a movie I don’t remember, we went to the only place that was open so we could get dessert, Shoney’s. If Shoney’s is what you remember, then the movie could have only been bad, but something did happen that made it stand out. As we were buckling in to the car to leave, a man who appeared to be in his 40s was holding the door open to go in with what looked like his date. He had black hair, mutton chops, collar was flipped up and he wore sunglasses at night.

Holy Shit, Hellen. Elvis is NOT dead. Do you see him.

He’s the spitting image, she replied.

And in a moment of magic, as if this clone heard us through the rolled-up windows, he turned toward us, one hand still on the door and one hand pointed to us. He made eye contact with me as if to say, Huh! – a musical grunt of appreciation. Hellen and I would have fallen out of the car if we hadn’t had our seatbelts on. Years later when I related this story to a friend of mine, who was a Griffinite, she said that she knew him. His name was Otis Spragins and he claimed for years that he was the illegitimate son of Presley. Otis was the reigning karaoke darling at WiseGuys Wings across from the Wal-Mart off the Expressway and it was almost believable considering his accurate impression and the fact that so many fatherless men in the south with some singing talent had claimed the same thing since the death of Elvis. If Otis didn’t have Elvis at least he had respect and wing bucks from his karaoke winnings.

Third Elvis Experience. I met my roommate Chuck at work. Chuck and I were two kids raised in rural areas who bonded over the fact that we had somehow found and secretly loved the music of English synth pop band Erasure. We were also born 5 days apart. His birthday was August 16th and mine August 21st. We decided to have a small birthday party at our house.

“Do we really want it to be a joint birthday party at our place?”, Chuck asked.

“Well, Elvis died the day after you were born. We could have an Elvis is Dead party. And we did.”

It was the 25th anniversary of Elvis’ death and this anniversary brought out more people claiming that Elvis was still among us. Our anti-Elvis party felt right. Regina, my girlfriend at the time and future wife, loved our parties as she had gone through a mild Elvis obsession phase in high school and especially had an appreciation for his earlier recordings at Sun Records.

After the summer,
I came away a Hitchcock fan.

We printed shirts for our “event” as we had access to a screen-printing press. Our first shirt was the Levi’s logo upside down with the letters in the logo transposed to spell Elvis. My second cousin Paul came dressed in a black wig and Vegas shades which everyone quickly borrowed. Friends quickly staged pictures of themselves slumped on the commode or the King’s Throne as it was called during the night.

“Gina do you mind if I drop this thing?”

Next year we did it again and by the third year we were charging admission at a small club in Decatur where Chuck would DJ on the weekend. By the fourth year we’d hear strangers discuss how cool they were because they had the t-shirt from the first year, they were lying, but it felt cool to have started something.

The final year it had become a hassle. The bar owner demanded more money than agreed on up front and more people that we didn’t know were there than we did know. Cousin Christian’s clambake scene played silently on a large screen behind us above the bar on a bed sheet. It seemed fitting to have her flickering image dancing us out for our last, secretive, public, joint birthday party. Elvis is Dead was dead.

Last year I was dusting the living room and almost dropped the gold bust of Elvis that adorns our mantle.

“Gina do you mind I drop this thing?”

“No!” she said incredulously.

“Why do you love this thing so much? Did it belong to an ex?”

Silence.

“Well, yeah. But that’s not why I like it. I like it for its intrinsic beauty that’s all. It’s kitsch.”

It was the truth. It been given to her in a way that had little meaning, but I still wanted to drop it. I had a remnant from my wife’s past relationship on display in my house, and in every home, we had owned, or apartment we had rented since the start of our union and I was never even cognizant of the matter. Our home decor was having an affair in my mind. When she said that it was from William, I didn’t press.

You see, William was the guy before me. William was the high school boy who was Regina’s first love. The person I could have been ultimately jealous of if she had ever gone back to. William was the subject of one of my first uncomfortable conversations with Regina’s mom where I told her to protect her daughter by not giving him her new phone number just because he said he’d kill himself if he she didn’t. William was the boy who gave Regina the gold Elvis bust he’d won at an auction, because he felt like he was obligated to bid on something and guessed that she still liked Elvis or didn’t. And like Elvis, William had overdosed. He was young. He was troubled, but he was loved.

Regina had attended the funeral, but his ties to her had already been cauterized.

So, when people ask if I’m and Elvis fan after seeing the gold shrine in my house, I sometimes say “sure”, and sometimes I say, “Oh, it’s belongs to Regina”. Or I tell them about my mom’s cousin the actor or how my shirts for my birthday party traveled around the U.S. in a design exhibit celebrating the art of the t-shirt, but I never tease about breaking the bust again and I’m always a little more careful when dusting. Elvis is an icon and in our house he’s a memory.

Form vs. Function

By Sam Mitchell

The following piece was performed at Write Club Atlanta in 2011.

All I have to say is that FORM WILL ALWAYS FOLLOW FUNCTION.

This one line should suffice. I’m sure you’ve all heard the legend of the one-word, college-philosophy exam. The one word, WHY? One confident student writes down a two-word reply, turns the paper in and walks out. The two words, WHY NOT?

I only wish that I were that bold.

FORM ALWAYS FOLLOWS FUNCTION. Here’s my paper, Thank you and GOOD NIGHT.

Like any paper I need to give attribution to the work that isn’t mine. The aesthetic wisdom that I have given you belongs to Frank Lloyd Wright’s mentor, Louis Sullivan. And even Wright’s most well known work, Fallingwater, serves a FUNCTION. It’s a home, a shelter; place to keep us dry from the rain, warm in the winter and until 3 years ago, a good investment. It’s a perfect example of FORM following FUNCTION.

But If you’ve ever paid attention to a body building competition, you’d realize that these athletes are trying to avoid this vital law. You might think that body builders are the ideal representation of how strength should appear in human form. The ridiculous posing and flexing only highlight the fact that you’re seeing men and women who have been starving and dehydrating themselves, so there muscles appear closer to their skin. Their waists and legs are skinny by comparison to their bee stung, swollen upper bodies. They are not the model candidates for pulling an airplane with a harness or placing Atlas stones on high platforms in record time. You clearly need a person named Magnus, Svend or Thor to do this kind of work; a person who still has fat reserves, a thick core and beefy, wide legs with a neck that matches in girth; someone who could defeat a bear in the wild with their naked hands. Speaking of bears in the wild. Bear Grylls may not be a hammer wielding Norse god, but I’m confident that he could get you safely through the woods to grandmother’s house. I don’t think that anyone with calf implants or an oiled chest could do that with ease that he could. Although grandmother better have mouthwash ready for you when you get there, just in case he’s made you drink your own piss after you’ve run out of water.

I’m obviously not a body builder, but I did start indoor Rock Climbing this year and what I realized is that women are naturally better than men. They aren’t trying to out muscle each other like men tend to do. They embrace the wall like a hug and move up the sheer surface with ease. Women climbers have “GO” muscles, not “SHOW” muscles. The first time I heard that comparison I thought back to my dad when he was working at the mill. My friend Brandon was interning there while going to school at Tech. Tired of hearing my dad rib him with phrases like “hey, egg head, for a smart guy, you sure are a dumb ass”, Brandon, in a show of machismo, challenged my father to an arm wrestling match in the work cafeteria to try to assert his dominance in the blue collar arena. Brandon, who appeared larger and more muscular, was stunned when he didn’t win. He hadn’t considered that my dad’s chopping wood every night and taming wild horses for fun had rendered his wiry frame with practical “GO” muscles that out performed his younger, “SHOW” muscles. This was probably then first time that a conflict had been successfully resolved through arm wrestling since the classic 1987 Stallone film, “Over the Top.”

Chopping wood and taming wild horses can build up an appetite. You might be craving the most savory, boneless duck, stuffed inside a boneless chicken, deep fried within a turkey, or a half pound patty of the fattiest beef served between two glazed doughnuts, or you may just want dessert. Marscapone sculpted over layers of shortbread, Styrofoam and wooden dowels made to look like Hogwarts.

But before you get to eat that turducken, the Luther Burger or that award winning Harry Potter cake that gets noticed as a fantasy / nerd masterpiece, we must simply face the fact that it is food. Food that we MAY NOT need to eat, but food that is still transformed into energy that allows us to FUNCTION, energy that allows Stallone to triumph in the World Arm-Wrestling Championship and finally win the respect of his estranged son.

FUNCTION triumphing over FORM is also apparent with some dogs. Hunting and working dogs are bred for their intelligence, speed and instincts. Show dogs are bred to be… PRETTY. When we screw with nature for the desire of aesthetics, sometime the results aren’t so great. We get ATTRACTIVE, PURE BRED canines with hip dysplasia and general poor health.

And Tim Gunn
need not critique
superhero costumes.

Look, I’m not suggesting that WE start breeding for FUNCTION. This isn’t Sparta. I don’t want anyone throwing their sick babies off cliffs or taking their 8 year olds to the wilderness to fend for themselves, even with the help of Bear Grylls.

Before the Spartans were practicing eugenics, early man may have been tired of stepping on his hot, blacktop driveway just to get his junk mail, so he started covering his feet in leftover cowhide. Then he fashioned waffle souls, pumps and even the Reebok pump. Now we have small museums and art shows dedicated to the shoe. We’ve taken an item of FUNCTION and have pushed it past its limits to the point where the design has started to devolve into footwear like Crocs.

Clothing has lead to fashion design. SO in turn, FUNCTION has again lead to form.

And Tim Gunn need not critique superhero costumes. Batman doesn’t wear a flexible band across his mid section to divide the blacks and the deep blacks of his crime-fighting ensemble. He needs his freakin’ utility belt for beatin’ up the Joker and holding his shark repellant.

In the beginning, before dogs, footwear and even Batman, the earth was a formless void. Some say that God quickened the world with his own word and hung the stars in the night sky. Whether you believe in God or not, we can all agree that they stars were here WAY before us. Is their purpose only to shine or are they also here to guide us at night like a map? Are they just the remnants of an enormous mass that still generate heat and light? I don’t know.

“We are all made of stars” to quote the popular astrophysicist Moby, who in turn, was quoting Carl Sagan when he said “We’re made of star stuff.” Meaning the atoms and elements that were floating along in outer reaches from billions of years ago are in our bodies right now. My ancestors, my future child and his children’s children are, on a basic quantum level, made from the stardust of our universe’s past. Every creature on earth, everything with matter, shares this with each other. To me, this is one of the most romantic ideas that I’ve ever heard.

The long dead stars, whose light we still may be seeing, may have a grander purpose than illumination. Maybe their real FUNCTION is to remind us that we are all the same. All the beauty that you’ve ever beheld, will ever behold in your lifetime and all that our decedents will ever see, feel or create is related.

Form cannot exist without function, but function’s FUNCTION, if you will, is to support beauty, just as the canvas of a beautiful painting cannot be supported without the frame that it is stretched over. So, to the Philosophy Professors who ask WHY or to anyone else who asks why do you feel the need to create? The answer is simple. We are human, the children of star stuff, simply,

IT IS OUR FUNCTION.

Marc Summers Energy

By Sam Mitchell

Dear Marc Summers (host of 1986’s Double Dare),

Thank you for entertaining me through the years with your hosting prowess. I’d like to think your presence on 80’s television made a subconscious, but positive impact on my life.

After reading a chapter of a new book to my nine year old, I decided to show him an episode of Double Dare on YouTube as the book had its characters going through a messy obstacle course which contained an oversized proboscis with slime-filled nostrils, a direct reference to your show.

When Double Dare began in ’86, I was the same age that my son is now. So much has changed in the 35 years since its debut.

  • The kids in the audience wore lots of pastel colors, mock turtlenecks and oversized prescription glasses.
  • The audience, as well as the contestants, all looked as if they had been delivered by a Wonder Bread truck.
  • At one point, contestants were asked to sit “Indian style”. I had to explain to my son that’s what we now call Criss Cross Apple Sauce and why.
  • Even the prizes by today’s account seem very underwhelming. Granted, the digital Franklin Electronic thesaurus dictionary combo would have been a disappointment to win then as well.

You were 35 that first year. The kids in the audience would scream like you were a heart throb on the cover of Tiger Beat. You weren’t. I’m not saying this to draw attention in a negative way or to be a slight. It’s just that you were a 35 year old game show host, not one of the Coreys.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that kids are hard to impress, especially mine. He found the show slow, as opposed to my wife who was screaming at the rerun with the same enthusiasm that I was. 

She said, “Oh, we could definitely be a winning team on Double Dare”,

to which I replied,

“Yes, but I’d rather be the host.”

So that you know, I do carry a lot fo “Marc Summers Energy” around in my day to day life. I have an “on” quality in my Zoom calls, enthusiasm for bad impressions, and have hosting duties on occasion.

The real reason that I’m writing you is not to mention your show from the 80s but to thank you for an interview you did in the 90s on Dateline. I learned that hosting Double Dare had been a dream answered, as you always had specific aspirations of being a game show host, but as someone who was taunted as a “neat freak” it must have been a specific kind of hell to have to go to work every day with the potential of being messy.

Before watching that interview, I had come to terms with my own penchant for neatness,  but never felt very satisfied with what had going on inside my head for over a decade.

Since I was seven years old I would do things that would outwardly appear odd to those seeing them, if they had. In my brain, these habits made perfect sense and were solvable puzzles to which left unattended would produce horrible consequences to my loved ones. Without having ever seen anyone perform the particulars I would: 

  • Turn the light switch off and on several times before leaving a room. 
  • Run the faucet hot and have the stream of running water touch each hand the same number of times before drying them off.
  • I would tap my feet on both sides of my shoes dozens of times before placing each foot in and lacing them, a time consuming effort that made me last in line.

And the ritual that I heard you admit to the interviewer was one that I did as well. You’d straighten the fringe of your rugs obsessively over and over and over. I was 8, 9 and 10 and doing the same things.

Horrors awaited my family if I did not obey these imagined demands. Being a child with a deep sense of justice, guilt, and no filter, I spoke to my parents about it. It made them… worry. At one point I think they even considered calling an exorcist or even worse in the 80s, a therapist. I eventually called these cerebral images tied to actions my “bad thoughts”.

Over the years, the problem became smaller and I had outgrown most of these “bad thoughts” as I attributed their waning to the increase in activities and having less idle time on my hands, but the anxiety had always remained in some form.

But after hearing your interview, I realized that I was not as abnormal and that I was not the only person in the world with this specific anxiety and a need for perfection. My brain was oversensitive to the lack of serotonin it produced and I now had a name for it and it wasn’t “neat freak”, it was Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I wasn’t the only person in the world like this, I was like 1 in every 100 people. This knowledge was a comfort I had not felt before and an understanding of myself that I hadn’t had. 

Your story was freeing to me and having THAT story immediately made any reoccurring OCD mannerisms more manageable. Well, that and my daily anti-anxiety meds.

I still catch myself straightening books and collections with a precision that others would never give time to, but I know there won’t be consequences for the people I care about if I ignore those self imposed conditions and as an added bonus these days, I can now put my shoes on a lot faster.

Why the Trump yard sign

Way after Election Day?

White supremacy

Living Buddha, Living Christ

By Sam Mitchell

I’ve made some really good relationships with people from Alabama. The first person that I met from Alabama, Regina, became my wife. The second person that I met from Alabama was often confused as my sister. I met both, my wife and my friend LeeAnn working for an apparel company in Atlanta. Because of our similar look and style, LeeAnn and I were automatically drawn to each other like one’s reflection in a pond. In our twenties, we both were lanky, had large dark glasses and wore backwards Kangol hats. Our similarities didn’t end with our physical appearance.

We were both raised in small, religiously oppressive towns. We both had chihuahuas and we both had ties to musical theater in high school. Her brother, who actually did look a lot like me, even went on to become a well-respected theater director after his stint as a cruise ship entertainer. This was the first instance that I had heard of anyone using cruise ship entertaining as a career stepping stone. I thought that it was only the final chapter for semi-talented triple threats, but I was proven wrong.

Over lunch, LeeAnn and I would wax philosophical on politics, our families, religion and the most taboo of all subjects, movies.

Movies were the language of bridge building, empathy machines, as Roger Ebert put it. We filmed a night’s worth of footage for the 24-hour film fest in Atlanta, but ultimately decided that we’d trash what we had. If we couldn’t spend more than a day making our film, then we’d do it later and do it the right way. Movies would be our way to rebel in spirit to the injustices around us and solve the problems of the world. If only we had the resources, but we didn’t.

As a lesbian from Hokes Bluff, Alabama, LeeAnn was familiar with the looks of condemnation that came from being open with her sexuality in the Bible Belt. I know that some preachers have their check lists, but at her own granny’s funeral, the granny who supported her the moment she came out, the pastor decided this service was the appropriate time to aim his own fire and brimstone using Old Testament verses to damn LeeAnne, her wife and brother for being gay. She took it in stride and knew that if she could, her granny might actually spring from the casket, slap the preacher, turn to LeeAnn and say, “Don’t you worry baby, he’s as lost as last year’s Easter egg.” This had the potential to be a scene in the movie we’d one day make.

LeeAnn was gay and I was accused of being so because I had aspirations of being an artist and refused to hunt woodland creatures with my southern brethren. So, having grown up in rural communities that quickly denounced those who were different, one can see how LeeAnn and I may have both been drawn to the western interpretations of Buddhism even though we had been raised with the Lord’s Supper. Maybe it was our personal rebellion.

Maybe it was because one could be a Buddhist without evoking the concept of dogmatic punishment. We had had enough of the Jerry Falwells, Jim Bakers and Jimmy Swaggarts of the world. Our particular favorite Buddhist writer was Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. The small, soft-spoken friend and contemporary of Martin Luther King, Jr. suited us just fine.

My great-grandmother Marche passed away shortly after LeeAnn’s granny died. In the ‘70s, Marche moved to Georgia from Connecticut to be near her family. Marche had been a psychiatric nurse during the war, a lifelong lover of the night sky, a fan Carl Sagan, and like LeeAnn's grandmother, had supported the family’s black sheep, my mother. Marche was the lone financial supporter of my mom’s efforts to go to college and to one day become a teacher. My mom was different because she was only the second person in her family to value a formal education and Marche became her cheerleader.

So, when Marche died, not having a church home, we used the funeral home’s “on-the-spot” evangelical preacher to perform the service. Though, not nearly as horrifying as LeeAnn’s experience, the pastor did use our time to also warn us of the everlasting fires of hell. We all laughed at the juxtaposition of what was happening and who Marche really was and vowed never to use what was the equivalent of a Drive-Thru funerary service again.

 

It is not impermanence
that makes us suffer.
What makes us suffer
is assholes.

At our next lunch, LeeAnn and I commiserated over the loss of our grannies and realized again that we had even more in common. The funerals of our supportive grandmothers were both held hostage by men of dubious ethics who used our family’s time for grieving for their narrow spiritual agendas. Thich Naht Hanh was quoted as saying “It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent, when they are not.” LeeAnn and I modified it to “It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is assholes.”

When LeeAnn’s 30th birthday was upon us, I was somewhat honored to be included in her birthday outing for tapas and pastries which sounded too much like Topless with Pasties, so that’s what we began calling our upcoming outing, LeeAnn’s Topless with Pasties Birthday Celebration. And I say honored because I was the only straight male to be included in her birthday outing. It’s not that this is impressive in itself or that I’m patting myself on the back, but in my twenties, I thought it amazing that I, having had been raised in a small town, not unlike Hokes Bluff, could now be in the “big city” eating hors d’oeuvres with my gay friends. And what’s more I knew that my conservative friends back home would be praying for me.

At our restaurant, I told LeeAnne that I had gotten her two gifts. Her first was the gift of absolute bluster. I asked her to pick any table in the crowded restaurant and that I would convince the patrons to come over to our table and serenade her with a birthday song. And to my word, I did it. It was great. LeeAnn pointed to a table of young women at a bachelorette party and I was off.

If I ever had to walk up to a table of women on my own behalf when I was single, I would have tripped over every one of my nervous words, but for a friend, I was all bravado. The inebriated women obliged by singing Happy Birthday to a most appreciative LeeAnn. Gift one was a success.

I had always considered myself a great gift giver, so what transpired next shook my confidence. LeeAnn then opened the following presents from her peers to much cheer from the chorus of friends that I did not know. I did not get the memo for what an appropriate second gift was. Here’s what I mean by appropriate.

  • Dancing Boobs Wind-Up Toy
  • Several DVD copies of various types of porn
  • Lips stick in the shape of a penis
  • Other things in the shape of a penis

My face was pallid. All of the blood had rushed from my extremities to support my racing heart. It’s not that these sexually explicit gifts made me turn red or embarrass me because I was prudish. But if I had known that there was a theme, I might have bought something a little more in keeping with the other birthday souvenirs.

I saw my meager, unopened, simply wrapped gift cowering behind the opened wrapping paper, and menacing sex toys and began to wonder if I could sneak it back to safety under the table.

LeeAnn saw the packaged book and the note from me and said out loud, “Oooh, the BEST for last.”

LeeAnn discarded the brown wrapping paper in front of eager eyes who were ready for the next laugh, who maybe thought if it’s a book at least be one like the “Kama Sutra” or the coffee table book “Sex” by Madonna.  She then revealed my gift to the party, a copy of a paperback book, completely non-sexual in any way.

The small assembly of friends looked on blankly. By the expressions some were disappointed and some a bit confused as to why the one straight male in their company would bring such a no-fitting gift. Was I judging them?

I’ve never been so embarrassed to publicly give someone a copy of the Penguin Classic, Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhaht Hahn. LeeAnn dismissed the looks with a wave, gazed through my dismay, leaned over and whispered to me as if channeling her dead granny’s accent, and said, “Honey, this scene has to go in our movie.”

When Rock and Roll Dies

By Sam Mitchell

David Carson is the crown prince of graphic design, maybe. He’s a surfer, or was. And he broke the rules. His looks, if you were to capture them with the what if these two celebrities mated are somewhere between David Cassidy and actor Bruce Greenwood and if there is a rock god equivalent of a designer, he is it. I witnessed his display of confidence (or cockiness) firsthand with my peers and one of my professors almost 18 years ago at the Engine Room, a then common meet up for the design department of the University of Georgia.

Did his status as an icon give him his impish awareness of self? I don’t think so. I believe it was always there and made him the rule breaking designer that he is.

For example, every magazine that you have ever seen probably has the bar code in the bottom corner of the cover. Working for RayGun magazine, a magazine he helped start, he decided to boldly move the barcode to the center, or left of center, or used it for a bit of carefully placed censorship. Can you do that? If you have the option without having your creative director bat their eyes, then it’s due to their awareness of Carson. His design moves were the perfect parallel and compliment to the punk/surfer ethos that he grew up in.

Related to his display of cockiness, Carson once famously changed the copy for an article to Zapf Dingbats, rendering it illegible, simply to express his dissastisfaction of the writing or maybe that of Bryan Ferry’s newest album. I would not be able to get away with this and would likely be whatever the design equivalent of disbarred is, but I’m not David Carson.

Graphic design will save the world right after rock and roll does. - David Carson

Notable Works

  • Ray Gun magazine (Art Director)
  • Blue Magazine (Co-founder)
  • Nine Inch Nails' Fragile (Design)
  • Infamous Bryan Ferry article design using Dingbats

Style

  • Grunge Typography

Time’s Up Buck

By Sam Mitchell

 

There was a show from the late 70s which was a remake. It was called Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It was about a very hairy chested, macho astronaut who woke up 500 years in the future after his shuttle was frozen. The plots of the show revolved around Buck Rogers saving the day through his obnoxious libido. The moral was that the future would really need more testosterone. I loved it, but would be embarrassed to share it with my six year old today.

Time’s Up, Buck
(as Told by Twiki the Robot)

You woke up on that pirate ship
From a centuries frozen nap.
You thought your trip was over
You said you’d lost your map.
You can’t walk the plank in space
So they sent you on your way.
And that’s when we found you.
It was your lucky day.

I immediately protested.
There’s no room for extra lodgers.
Well, let me introduce myself, he said
My name is Captain Rogers.
I was on a mission
And I guess things ran amuck
And please don’t call me Captain
My friends all call me Buck.

They placed me as your sidekick.
Robot and the troglodyte
You can guess which one of us
I didn’t think was bright.
You had the charm to spare
But your jokes were all offensive
You’d nod and wink and say
No need to be defensive!

And then it happened.
You made your last mistake.
Your hand was in the cookie jar.
It was all that I could take
You sexually harassed
Captain Wilma Deering.
And I said Beedee, Beedee, Beedee
Or were you hard of hearing?

It was a fatal accident!
I didn’t hear him scream abort
Or hear the buzzing danger sirens
It’s right there on my report.
He again became a block of ice
As he flew right out the airlock
No one said it would be easy
To be a toxic space jock.
My metal hand waved goodbye
I bet he was a pirate spy

And as for me and Wilma Deering
There will be no more buccaneering!