Sunday, August 23, 2009

To clarify the "incident" at my Seattle signing. NSFW!


The signing at Upper Playground & 5024SEA in Seattle was going great. From the beginning, There was a steady line of old fans, art collectors, local kids and fresh faces that all waited patiently for me to chat with everyone, draw everyone sketches and let me ramble nervously about why I draw naked dudes with spider arms and happy faces.
About 2 hours into the signing, as I was drawing something (probably a weird worm with wings and a boner or something) for a local husband & wife, I noticed toward the back of the line stood an awkwardly tall man with an even larger presence thanks to his sloppy and spiked mowhawk, resembling a gutter-punk version of Lurch from the Addams Family.
I didn't think twice.

(The first appearance of Lurch, in the gray hoodie)

20 minutes later, as he moves closer in line, I notice he has a large safety pin piercing the bridge of his nose/eyebrow region.
Once again, I didn't think twice about it.
Another 20 minutes go by, and he is now standing only a few people away. I then notice that the safety pin that is jabbed through his brow is freshly infected. We make eye contact and he grins at me like a wide-eyed car salesman.
While drawing and chatting with a group of 3 Seattle skaters, I now notice that there is an older gentlemen in his early 50’s next to Lurch wearing an old Andy Warhol t-shirt and a hand painted sport coat, looking simultaneously artsy and friendly. And he also appears to actually be there WITH Lurch. After 2 more people come and go, Lurch and Warhol start walking up side by side, but Warhol succumbs, steps aside and lets Lurch approach me first.

Lurch’s demeanor, though he said nothing, was that of a street magician. A shit-eating, soulless grin adorned his face, his eyebrows arched in the spirit of a mime about to show me a fake flower. I glance to my left. And Warhol is standing aside patiently, looking at both Lurch and I with a similar grin, or perhaps that of a proud father.

As with every other person that stood in line, I put my right hand out and said "It's nice to meet you, thanks for coming out, what's your name?" Lurch said nothing, but shook my hand limply while his grin, though now weakened, was still twisted across his face like a hand-drawn roadmap. I let go of his hand, and in true street-mime form, he produced a dirty, 3-inch razor blade from his left hand and showed it to me as the lights from the gallery caught the one spot on it that wasn't filthy. It sparkled for an instant, mimicking every cheesy Photoshop lens flare. I glanced to my left once again and still, Warhol was standing with the same anticipation as I was.
"Ok, I'm game," I thought to myself, "you and this Warhol dude are going to show me a trick or something like some lame Criss Angel shit. Ok, cool."
Unbeknownst to me, however, there was no trick. The exact words escape me because of what followed instantly after, but he said something along these lines in a mixture of both excited yet calming tones:

"I've been waiting to show you something amazing".

Within 3 seconds, Lurch rolled up his stained black t-shirt, exposing the lower half of his torso, placed his left hand with the razor blade over the right side of his speckled and girlish beer belly, stared through my eyes, pushed in the blade almost the entire 3 inches, and gracefully sliced it horizontally across his stomach almost the entire length of his torso. There was no blood at all. The skin, tissue, and 2 inches of fat, however, separated from itself as if a tiny Moses had been living in this dude’s beer gut and the razor commanded Moses to part his red skin. Still, no blood.
"You see??!" Lurch said, in a tone reminiscent of Francis Dollarhyde’s 
from “Red Dragon”.
I was confused.
"You see how it separates?!” Lurch continued. “You see how beautiful it can be?"
I was still bewildered, but overwhelmed with both curiosity and amazement. “Shit,” I thought, “I always figured Criss Angel was a fucking hack but if this is what it looks like in person than holy shit I retract my statements.” I wanted to see him finish the trick!
"Yah man, that's pretty crazy", I said, surprisingly calm, not horrified or scared in the least.
"That's not all. It works here too."
He then practically teleported the razor to his right hand, rolled up his left sleeve and dug even deeper into his wrist, slashing violently twice, carving a lanky number "11" along a 40 degree slant on his entire forearm. Immediately upon this action, the blood-race was on. Almost to the exact millisecond, his blood began hastily oozing out of all 3 wounds simultaneously, as his stomach incision caught up with his wrist, which was much more immediate. Lurch’s grin was permanent and he looked at me for approval, like an obedient Labrador with a fresh dead mallard in his mouth. 3 things flashed in my head at that moment. #1: The scene in Nightbreed where the crazy bum slices his face off in front of the doctor. #2: Edwin Neal’s hitchhiker character in the original Texas Chainsaw. This guy is a fucking nutbag. And lastly #3: Why was no one around me freaking out? Why was no one tackling him or yelling. Granted, Lurch was facing me and no one else, with the exception of Warhol could have fully experienced it, but clearly everyone else could easily tell what was going on as blood pooled on the floor. And because that #3 thought entered my head, and because of the sheer ridiculousness of what had just occurred, I did something that I kind of hate myself for.

I’m overcritical of clichés in movies. Especially in horror movies. Overused clichés, especially ones that I am convinced NO HUMAN WOULD DO, ruin good horror movies for me. My most hated cliché? Easy. The one where the group gets separated in a crisis situation and then strange noises or lights or voices surround the lone straggler, and their reaction is "C'mon, this isn't funny. You better stop joking around." As if ANY actual friend of theirs would be so diabolically evil as to choose a severe time of crisis to pull a practical joke on them in the dark. No, no ones ever joking, you asshole, there's a fucking killer on the loose and they are going to kill you.
Well, I now officially hate myself for the simple fact that I have to back track on my previous statement regarding that cliché. Because whether it was a defensive reaction, adrenaline, or shock as to what the fuck I just watched occur 12-inches away from me.... I clichéd. I looked at Warhol and said out loud,"Dude this isn't funny, this joke needs to stop, it's fucked up." I continued to treat it as a joke, and pulled out my iPhone and camera and began taking photos, all the while saying, to no one in particular, "C'mon guys, where's the punchline, what's the joke? I don't really get it". While posing for photos that I made a horrified onlooker take, a bleeding Lurch was muttering things under his breath, and I, still joking, reacted to his mutterings by saying "Are you fucking CURSING me, man? Awesome."

When I made eye contact again with Warhol, though, I saw he was genuinely horrified. He was stiff with shock and backed up to the wall. I then realized the reason no one was doing anything was because, in all honesty, what the fuck ARE you supposed to do with a possibly Hep-C infected 7-foot monster who just sliced open his midsection and is waiting to die at the feet of whoever is standing there?

I snapped out of my shell-shocked goofy mode and, as calmly as I could, mentioned to Lurch that he should leave. At this point, finally, one of the guys in line that caught on to what was going on, ran to the front of the store to get help, and within an instant, Jay, Lil’ Jen, Jeff, Sam, Watson, and the rest of the Upper Playground staff had somehow managed to not only block off the entire blood soaked floor and table, but escorted Lurch out of the building without getting blood or AIDS on any of the other people still brave enough to hang around. I stood there, alongside Sean from Zerofriends and Warhol, staring out into the crowd of onlookers, with an empty, confused stare and a dopey sarcastic half grin that Punky Brewster would be proud of, and said, “Well, It’s not the WIERDEST date I’ve been on.”
Ten minutes later the room was disinfected, the table was removed, and the area was blocked off and we moved into the store sales-floor and I continued drawing and meeting people and the remainder of the night was a lot more intimate and relaxed, all things considered. I mean, everyone who I met after that was there for the incident, so we all had some kind of bond to chat about as I was drawing and talking to them. Especially Warhol, who turned out to be a really well-respected local Seattle installation artist who just happened to be standing in line next to him. We laughed as I accused him of being Lurch’s “handler” the whole time.

Warhol (look at that O.G. shirt!) and Lil' Jen, the manager of Upper Playground Seattle.

Having to jump back into “drawing” and social mode so hastily was a little weird, but it at least distracted me from freaking out over everything that COULD have happened, and how I SHOULD have reacted to the situation. I have never seen anything like that happen in that sort of setting, and it was surreal to say the least. In turn, I acted surreally.

I don’t think the dude was a fan of mine, and I doubt he even knew who or what I was there for. I simply think he was just some mentally fucked guy who saw a line of people and wanted some attention. The 2 additionally weird things about this was that A.) he waited in line for AN HOUR. He didn’t barge right up and do it. And B.) He didn’t have any other visible scars on his stomach or arms. He wasn’t a “cutter”. After all was said and done, like at the end of that movie 3’ O Clock High, everyone started talking about him in a fantastical way. “I heard him say he was on his way to prison.” “He had a whole POCKET full of razors, he was showing them to me.” “I’ve seen him around here before, I saw him eat a pigeon, I swear.”

Sean (from Zerofriends) helped the rest of the U.P. staff escort him out when the incident happened. As the police and ambulance showed up and dressed Lurch in a Hazmat suit and handcuffs, Sean managed to ask Lurch why he did that. And regardless of what rumors were true or not, he replied simply,
“I wanted to show him something unpredictable.”

For what it’s worth, I am not sharing this with you to glorify it, although, in a time of shock, that’s exactly what I did, out of confusion. I am simply telling what happened as there has already been a lot of speculation. This was a sad incident, and I in no way wish for something like this to happen at any of my future shows, or at any one’s shows. I hope the dude gets the help and the attention that he was looking for. And in reality, behind my “laugh-it-off” defensive shell, this whole thing scared the fuck out of me.

A full update of the amazing show will follow this soon, I just wanted to get this out of the way to clear anything up.

Thanks for listening, and thank you to anyone who helped with the situation and was brave enough to hang around afterward and keep the love in the air.