June 03, 2017 – Doug Stanhope

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What can I say about Doug Stanhope – people either know his comedy work or they don’t. Whether or not the name rings a bell, there’s a healthy chance you’ve seen him. He was a prankster on Spy TV, co-hosted The Man Show with comedian and podcaster Joe Rogan, and has an admirable collection of stand-up specials under his belt. He has also guest starred on Louis CK’s hit television show Louie, started his own podcast in 2013, has been collaborating with actor Johnny Depp, and recently drafted a book called “Digging Up Mother: A Love Story.”

When I moved to Bisbee, Arizona in 2011, I hadn’t ever heard of Doug Stanhope (although I realized after-the-fact that I had seen several of his works). During the annual Bisbee Home Tour, an elderly gentleman – who had been regaling me with treacherously graphic Vietnam war stories – told me about this interesting house he’d toured over in the Warren District – it was the Stanhope Compound. A few months later, my girlfriend and I were invited to a Superbowl party over there and all the pieces fell into place.

He was a gracious host. A pretty and relatively quiet guy, it seemed – a radical shift from his opinionated, anarchic, cynical stage performances. From everything I’ve gathered, he chose Bisbee because it’s a remote location, away from the madness of Hollywood. He spends a tremendous amount of time on the road, so it makes sense to have a quiet, sleepy, bizarre little high desert town to retreat to.

In the years since then, I’ve consumed just about as much of his comedy and writing as possible. His cynicism and outright rage at our political system, at social justice activism, and at art in general – almost always clutching a cocktail – absolutely resonates with me. I also found it refreshing to wander about the grocery store or stand in line at a local bodega for a cup of coffee and see a man like Stanhope – a successful performer and, by all accounts, a celebrity – milling about and saying hello to people just like anybody else; no grandeur, no need for a posse of sycophantic parasites, he doesn’t appear to treat anybody like they’re beneath him.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, check him out. I believe Beer Hall Putsch is still on Netflix, and there are plenty of clips on YouTube to dig through.

Today’s image was taken at The Bisbee Royale in the winter of 2012, during a stand-up performance filmed by the BBC. He returned to The Royale in November 2015 to shoot No Place Like Home, which you can watch here. He’s a genuine talent and I am very honored to have had the chance to wander around backstage and take his photograph.

Illustration of the Deadbeat Hero

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June 01, 2017 – The Song-Man

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I’ve been trying to pick some kind of theme for each month and, after looking through the endless archive of images I’ve collected over the years, decided that I would see if I could identify a month’s worth of interesting “music and theater performance” images to share. I’m not a veteran concert photographer and I’ve always have a difficult time getting good images; low light environments and a pitiful lack of knowledge regarding flash photography and artificial light, I’m sad to admit that the terrible photographs outweigh the good ones by a sizable margin.

Nevertheless, I have managed to squeeze-out a few good moments.

We begin today, on the first of June, with the image of a guitar-man wielding his instrument. I lament that I don’t even recall his name. All I recall is that he was an opening performer at a night club in Bisbee, Arizona – a one-man band whose performance was nothing short of mesmerizing. He made the guitar do things I hadn’t seen before, making it both a percussive instrument as well as constructing a melody. It was close to magic, what he was able to do, and the room fell completely silent when he began to play.

If you recognize this man, please add his name in the comment section at the bottom of this post.
“Performance June” has officially begun. See you all tomorrow!

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January 19 – The Old Aztec Theater

01-19 Art & Athletics post

“Unless we tell stories about ourselves, which is all that theater is, we’re in deep trouble.”
~Alan Rickman

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Winter-time in Kansas City is like summer-time in Tucson – the streets looks deserted most of the day, as if everybody packed in the middle of the night and fled without notice. Instead of tumbleweeds, the crisp air carries dead leaves and newspapers.

I went on a walk in downtown Shawnee, through the nearby cemetery and up towards city hall. The temperature has been hovering in the teens and twenties; needless to say, I didn’t see any other pedestrians, save for the poor pitiful fool dressed as the statue of liberty, promoting a tax prep service on the corner. There ought to be a law against that kind of cruelty.

Pictured here is the Old Aztec movie theater.

The Old Aztec was designed by the Boller Brothers architectural firm of downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Their designs ranged widely in size and style, from minor vaudeville houses to grand movie palaces. To date, about twenty surviving Boller Brothers theaters are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Old Aztec is clearly among the smaller houses, commissioned by Shawnee’s third mayor, Mr. Marion Summeror, and opened on Labor Day in 1927.

It was named Aztec in the 1940s after it was acquired by Dickinson Theaters. The current signage was installed in 1972 after the theater was purchased by the Pflumm family. Closed for renovations in the summer of 1975, the theater never reopened. There was a time in 2005 when the building changed hands again. Renovations began again, too. The outside has been finished, but the project stalled and the status of the theater is not known.

I like the way old towns feel, although that sense of Main Street life has largely melted away. This little intersection in Shawnee is surrounded by an ocean of strip malls and shopping centers, traffic congestion and highways. But for one block, you can dig your hands into your pockets, bury your head between your shoulders, and walk down the sidewalk against the wind. You can look up at the old marquis and consider a time, almost a hundred years ago, when people walked the same streets, through the threshold and into theater, to watch a silent film dance across the canvas screen of a true American movie house.

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