Time gets tangled here. I don’t know what came first, if it was the TV series or the strange trip down artistic deployment. I believe it was the involvement in a strange show that I helped write and performed called Square Root Blit Two.
Strange was the word of the day when I came back to America in 1970-71. The Vietnam war was still raging. I was lost. I stayed at a friend’s house in Santa Monica where a beautiful girl held me tight all night. I wanted to be with her for a long time before but it never happened. Now, I’m back from India. As mentioned in earlier columns, I was looking pretty strange. Wearing my pharon, hair out to Jupiter and absent cleanliness. Probably why she held me so tight. Pity is a strong motivator sometimes.
Early in the morning, I was back out on the street. I had to be outside. My dad told me to go back to college. If I was in college he would pay the freight. My dad believed in education. He also believed in me. I went back to Callison College in Stockton, California, and met some folk who wanted to put on an experience acted out inside an inflatable bubble. These folk had done something before. Thus the Two at the end of the Square Root Blit.
I didn’t particularly like any of these new artists’ types. Too arrogant for my taste. There was one nice fella living with a woman in a stable relationship who seemed nice. The rest were pretty much about themselves.
I had acted before and written before. We put together a play of sorts that was acted inside a huge inflatable plastic bubble kept up by a wind machine attached at the back of the plastic bubble. A front door had been attached, I think it was wood, and we put stages around the audience, which was seated in the middle of the bubble.
Theater-in-the-round is an old concept but this was audience-in-the-round. Stage hands pushed the audience inside with non-electric cattle prods where they sat on the grass. The play took place around them.
We all wore jump suits of different colors and see-through plastic vests. There was music. Sculptures. Paintings. All inside this huge plastic bubble. I started the presentation about how I couldn’t handle the human race any more that prompted a chanting of “human race” with fellow actors running around the audience. I don’t remember much else, but if memory serves it was quite successful.
Of course, it was free. Everything in those days – 1967-72 – was free, especially performance art, which is what this was. I remember the last night had to be canceled because the wind kicked up, forcing the bubble to move, collapse and making the theatrical environment unsafe. I remember one of the cast members cut their hand or something. But for a few days, this was a big deal.
The rest of the time was drunkenness, women and bullshit. I would enroll in classes and never show up. My dad paid the bills because he thought I was going to college. I was enrolling and then messing about. I was sleeping in the hallway of an old house converted to apartments.
One day, the phone rang. I was called to a hallway phone. “Hello,” I said. “Hi,” my dad replied. “How would you like to be my stand-in for a television series I’m going to do?” I think that’s how the conversation went. By this time, I was sleeping in the bedroom of one of the dormitory manager’s apartments. She’d taking pity on me, I’m sure, and decided an affair was in order. That was not going to last. Bullshit and bluster takes you only so far.
Dad suggested I could do an independent study program in Los Angeles about the making of a TV series. It was a good idea and the college supported it. Probably wanted to get rid of me. Off to Los Angeles I went to work on a television series called “Temperatures Rising.”
Part Seventeen: Stand-in on TV series. Nearly getting fired. Setting my face on fire. Fun In L.A.