One of the great things about living in NYC is that there are so many great writers who are also talented performers. It is, I think, a peculiarly New York thing – the literary vaudeville circuit, if you will. From the witty urbanity of the Sedaris Family and their friends to the street-wise prose and pose of writers like Jim Carroll, there’s no shortage of smart, literate people with attitude doing their thing onstage.
Last night we went to the FEZ for a literary tribute to Charles Bukowski on the occasion of what would have been his 89th(?) birthday. Organized by Greg Gilderman, the evening featured readings and peformances from Jonathan Ames, Mike Daisey, Amy Sohn, Elise Miller, and Miss Bunny Love and literary rock band One Ring Zero.
I heard about the event from occasional Culturebot contributor Mike Daisey who turned in yet another of his hilarious extended, extemporaneous monologues. Riffing on Bukowski, describing his Brooklyn neighborhood populated by freelance writers, segueing into a story of college drunkenness and its effects on his relationship to writing seminars he had the audience in stitches for twenty minutes straight.
Jonathan Ames was his normal (if anything he does can be said to be normal) funny self. Inspired by Mike Daisey, he did a little extemporaneous storytelling and then went on to read a story from one of his books about a tryst with a young, admiring co-ed. He returned later to join the band One Ring Zero, who performed a song with lyrics he had written about the “Hairy Call”. For those of you who haven’t seen Jonathan live before (or missed his appearances on Letterman), the “hairy call” is this weird noise he invented with his misfit friends in elementary school. It sounds kind of like you would imagine a Mastodon or Pterydactyl might sound. Anyway – this band, One Ring Zero, takes lyrics written by authors like Ames or Paul Auster and makes lit-punk cabaret out of it. Very inventive and enjoyable.
The evening started with Amy Sohn. As I’ve mentioned before in different places, I’ve had this fascination with her since I first saw her read at an open mic at Surf Reality back in 1996 or so. Its neat to watch someone grow and change onstage and in writing over an extended period of time. Anyway, marriage seems to suit her. (She got married recently). She seems more relaxed and confident as a reader/performer than the last few times I’ve seen her and she easily won the crowd over with her very funny “Second Date” story.
I had never seen Elise Miller before, but she was great, telling a really funny story about a trip to Club Med with her father when she was 18. (You can read an interview with her at Culturebot contributor Rachel Kramer Bussel’s site.)
In an impromptu only-in-new york moment, actor Stephen Payne asked Greg if he could get up and do an excerpt from a play about Bukowski he had starred in, called Happy Hour In Hell. Payne did a great job, very Hank-like, reading an excerpt from one of Bukowski’s books and performing the poem “Bluebird” in that signature rasping voice, and halting delivery, beer bottle and cigarette (unlit, this is the new new york after all) in hand.
It was a great evening and I look forward to seeing more FEZ Readings in the future. I’m not sure if Greg keeps a mailing list or anything, but I think the events are pretty regular.