Last month I had the pleasure of attending the Crumb/Mouly gabfest at the Carpenter Theater. It was my first time inside the newly renovated theater. As far as what I thought of the new face on what was the old Loew's, it looked nice but I'll have to go back and see the place when it's not so crowded.
Still, I'm happy to say a substantial audience turned out for the originator of Zap Comix, R. Crumb.
As Crumb is an artist I greatly admire, but don't know, personally, it was gratifying to see that he seemed as I have perceived him to be. His onstage conversation with with his old friend, Françoise Mouly, a New Yorker art director, was quite entertaining.
At least it was to a guy who still has a precious stack of Zap Comix in the top drawer of a sturdy oak file cabinet, only a few feet from his keyboard.
Anyway, to read more of what I thought about the show that night please click here. However, the reason for this post is to call attention to a video I found this morning.
It is a half-hour excerpt of the same basic presentation, with noticeable differences, so it was fun to watch. But this was recorded at their San Francisco show. The show here in Richmond was maybe a little over an hour, with about 20 minutes of questions from the audience and Crumb's answers.
Although I've never met Crumb, I did receive a post card from him in 1980. It was when he was living in Winters, CA. I had written to him six or seven weeks before the arrival of his brief message:
Dear Terry Rea:My letter to him was probably sent to an address in one of his comic books. In it I had asked him for permission to use Mr. Natural as the mascot for the Biograph Naturals, the theater's softball team in the Fan District Softball League. I didn't want to rip off his character without his permission.
Your letter was only just lately forwarded to me.... So, that's why this is so late...
So use Mr. Natural if you still want to use him.... Okay by me...
-- R. Crumb
While I had wanted to put Mr. Natural's image on our T-shirts, the note from him came too late. Our shirts just said "Biograph Naturals" on the front. So, once Crumb had said we could use his dormant character -- he had stopped drawing The Natch in 1977 -- I made a five-foot-tall foamcore Mr. Natural and we took him out to the game to see what would develop.
At the end of each game we would hold up our Mr. Natural and chant, "Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? Fred! Fred! Fred!"
What the other softball teams didn't know was that Fred was Mr. Natural's first name. Nor could they fathom why in heaven's name we were doing that ritual ... which was nothing but a goof on any sort of sports chanting.
So, some of them figured we were mocking them. And, of course, when you think you're being mocked ... then there's no end to the clues that you might be right. Naturally, we didn't do much to quash those fears. Fred! Fred! Fred!
Finally, one team, known as the deTreville devils, got their fill of it. They kidnapped Mr. Natural when some of us were too busy catching a post-game buzz and they set fire to him. For proof of this claim, click here to watch a short video I made a year ago, using some visual souvenirs. There's a quick shot of poor Mr. Natural in flames.
Yes, the devils had their fun that night. Some of them told me they even pissed on the smoldering ashes. So what! I made another big foamcore Mr. Natural the next day, and he finished the season without further injury ... Fred!
Even though I didn't use Mr. Natural on the team's T-shirt, I sent one of them out to Fred's creator, anyway. Later, the team adopted Natural Bridge as its mascot. I did do a softball T-shirt with that image on it.