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California Tour -- Los Angeles
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Theatrical Daze & Nights IIId
THE ROAD Runs On Forever, And Los Angeles Never Seems To Run Out of Roads.

Summary of Part IIIc : The Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe spent the first half of February 1975 in Santa Barbara, California. Looking ahead, we agreed to split our forces -- four of us would work on preparations in Los Angeles while the rest of the Troupe drove Hobart the Bus back to Salt Lake for about ten days. We would re-convene in LA: David Carrillo, George, and Mark drove down to the city, and Mike (me) took a Greyhound to meet my hosts in Pasadena.

El-Lay: Swimming Pools, Movie Stars -- And Itinerant Artists On A School Bus

Our USC poster was drafted in blue pencil, like this re-constructed image. To finish it, I drew dots with my rapidiograph pen, listening to Burning by The Wailers.

Once I found my friends and settled in as a guest of Paul & Karen McCarthy and Al Payne, Mark Nelson found ME, and we got to work setting up our initial gigs, and trying to find new ones -- paid and unpaid. Al drove me out to his workplace at California State University in Allhambra. Mark and I also visited UCLA without success, but the City of Los Angeles permitted us to do street shows in some prestigeous public venues.
Nelson had contacts at the University of Southern California (above), who set up a performance where we shared the receipts. Student Activities arranged a joint venture like Grossmont College had done -- there were posters to draw, print, and post, plus the hall needed preparation for dressing rooms and lights. Mark and I also stuffed envelopes at the Century City Playhouse with Ivan, their manager, while the Kinks sang "road" songs over the P.A. I painted a banner for the marquee at Paul's house -- luckily he had the room!

We mostly needed some kind of a place to park Hobart the Bus when the rest of the group arrived. After a lot of searching, I was present when Mark's future wife recalled a friend named Martin, who both worked at a junior high school and had a ranch house in a canyon near Tajunga, in the north-eastern part of the L.A. area. Their friend generously opened his house to us, and arranged rehearsal space at his school too. As we were getting ready for one of our first shows in Griffith Park, we got a call from Friends Roadshow confirming that we were booked at the Festival of Fools in Amsterdam, Holland.

In overcast weather before a street show in Griffith Park, early on during the Los Angeles tour, we got the news that we were booked in The Netherlands!

Road Angel Martin's place near Tajunga was a relief from LA's hustle. Katie first sang Sitting Here In Limbo while rehearsing at the junior high where he worked.

The Century City Playhouse was a small theater, restricted in size by local rules too complex to discuss here. Weekends were devoted to another play, sponsored by Actor's Equity, and we had to share the space again, like Santa Barbara. We coated a large flat with black photography paper and masked off the entire stage behind us. I used some different colored gels, and a few specials again, but left the other group's lights untouched. Dressing rooms were no problem. Loading in and out was easy, and the lighting booth was efficient.

Recognize THIS? We used Clown's Cabaret as our public theme again and played mid-week in Century City at a 99-seat venue, run by a delightful group of exiles from a Santa Monica alternative theatrical ensemble.

The Show MUST Go On -- So The Show DOES Go On!
The remainder of the company arrived in Los Angeles after a rather hectic trip to Salt Lake City. Katie had been honored for her courage at the Dance Department, but there were mostly domestic tasks on everybody's agenda. Besides Hobart the Bus bringing the Mime Troupe, Dave Zupan delivered my Volkswagen to me so that I could take care of my stage management tasks without interfering with Mark's mad scrambles around the city. David Carrillo and George had borrowed occasional motorcycles from friends, so we needed the extra vehicle very much. Road Angel Martin's Tajunga hideaway was a godsend, but we also stayed at Katie's parents' house, and with her sister. The Appenzeller Clan were amazingly gracious Road Angels throughout our Southern California tour, and Katie's childhood friend Barbara became a special Road Angel too.

We're wonderful, we're marvelous, we're the wonderful, wonderful Marvels! (L to R) David, Matthew, & Katie in 1975.*

The earliest incarnation of "The Marvels"
(L to R) Patsy, Matthew, & Katie circa 1974.**
The Marvels was a novelty number which started as an idea of mine -- a nightclub act which would spend all their time introducing themselves. Katie, Patsy, and Matt made it happen, and took it much further. Matthew's mother had been in Vaudeville, but I'm not sure how many of her memories shaped this loon-out, if at all. Cliche songs like Frankie & Johnny, Ain't She Sweet, and Sunny Side of the Street knocked 'em dead during Clown's Cabaret.

Misses missing and missed!
Patsy Droubay was still taking care of her family in Salt Lake City while the Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe was touring in Southern California. Debra Ryals had done very good work for us in Aspen, but she had committments to meet when we got back to Utah.
Jan was the only woman in the band, and Katie was our only woman dancer when we were gigging in San Diego and Santa Barbara, although Debra visited us a few times. Matt had been one of the best male dancers at the University of Utah, so he kept pace with Katie. David Carrillo not only had to take part in the choreography without an obvious partner, but he also did whole sets with the band, singing, playing, announcing, and other 'front man' duties. To say that we missed Patsy and Debra is an under-statement.
Patsy had not let her responsibilities stop her creativity, however, and she choreographed a dance that featured Debra Ryals in a duet with lean, lanky stained glass artist Paul Fisher, who we knew from Hillside Avenue.
The video-tape of their piece cheered us up greatly in Los Angeles, as did the great news that Debra would be rejoining us in March, just when our Pico Boulevard engagement hit full stride and the L.A. Times reviewed our show. (See Below)

Patsy Droubay (Left) choreographed a dance for Debra Ryals (Right) at the University of Utah in early '75.**

"... their approach is rooted in the dance, which

... affords them exceptional command of their bodies."

One More View of the Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe from the Audience:

Lawrence Christon                             Stage Beat                       Los Angeles Times (1975)

Kinetic Mimetics at the Burbage (Original Article in PDF Form)

The Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe at the Burbage Theater is a group of gifted young performers out of Utah consisting of four mime players and a jazz quintet. Purists may deride their liberal use of music and occasional narrative, but unlike several other mime troupes hereabouts, their approach is rooted in the dance, which affords them exceptional command of their bodies.
As they are mostly in their early 20s, their material may be described as a mimetic counterpart to what was a while back known as Stoned Humor. Their routines transform themselves quickly and with eloquent and spontaneous ease, and are performed quite innovatively. They're a little ragged in spots (particularly in a lame ending to theier Clown's cabaret segment which inadvisedly brings some shuffly musicians into the act), but chalk that up to immaturity. They have the rare virtue of being hip.
If they can hang together (they're traveling as a collective so idealistic that they eschew names) they will be extraordinary. 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Century City, 839-3322. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. until March 13. (Photo Caption: Members of the hip and eloquent Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe.)

Two "shuffly musicians" (L to R) Paul Blackwell and Gregg Moore On The Sunny Side of the Street.^

"Stoned Humor" ?! Mr. Christon maybe remembered Delinquent Dave getting Katie busted by Matt the Cop.**

When Lawrence Christon was attending our performance, he sought me out in the booth at intermission, and was smiling! He told me our show was "very unique," and asked about our background. I told him how we met at the University of Utah Dance Department. The L.A. Times review immediately brought in some much-needed business. We had been doing shows at various schools around the area too, and there were more of them being booked every day. We didn't do very many unpaid street theater performances after the first week or so.

On The Scene In 70's Los Angeles -- Peers and Allies
These web pages may just be all about us, but there is much to say about what was going on in the rest of the town while we were trying to make our mark. There were a couple of women who had toured with the Friends Roadshow doing stand-up comedy in small clubs as The Lady Friends. They were very sweet, and remembered us both from LaCrosse, and the ill-fated trip to San Francisco. Ivan arranged for the Mime Troupe to see them perform in Beverly Hills at a nightclub called The Daisy. Besides us, there weren't too many customers on hand. They did sing a beautiful song with taped accompaniment, mixed by Carlos Munoz, who was playing keyboards for the Beach Boys at the time. The only contemporary celebrity we ever saw on our tour happened to be at The Daisy that night -- Jim Brown, the great NFL running back turned action-movie star, but his table didn't seem to be too impressed with our Lady Friends that night.
The reason we even in The Daisy was because of friends of Ivan known collectivly as the Mystic Knights of the Oingo-Boingo. They worked various odd jobs, and helped the Burbage Theatre Ensemble with printing posters, and distributing them around the vast L.A. area. They also performed regularly in Beverly Hills, and won the audience with their high-energy shows. There were almost a dozen in their group, featuring guitars and horns, and doing broad theatrical stunts like playing Duke Ellington songs from the 20's in gorilla suits, and constant blackouts with scenery and costume changes. One of their co- leaders came down to the Playhose to see our show, and even sat in with our band. We had done the same with other musicians and singers, but Danny Elfman would later turn Oingo Boingo into a successful Rock act, and take his own career even higher by writing some of the best, and most popular, movie soundtracks of the late 20th Century.

The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo were very supportive of our efforts. Brilliant Danny Elfman came to our shows, and jammed with our musicians at times.

Ivan and Leonard were the even-tempered managers of the Burbage Theatre Ensemble, making many things possible even outside the doors of the playhouse.

Antonin Hodek and I finally saw each other again, six long months after we met at the International Mime Festival.

When I arrived in Los Angeles, Road Angel Karen generously rearranged her schedule to drive me around the maze of freeways, since she was on spring break from San Diego State University. Her family lived the San Fernando Valley, so we had lunch there, and I tried to pay back the infinite debts I owed by introducing her to some of the few contacts I knew in the area.
Kindly Antonin Hodek was the first on my list. He made friends with me immediately when I arrived at the International Mime Festival the previous summer. Karen and Tony got along fine, and stayed in touch for awhile. Hodek laughed about the Mime Troupe's plans for Europe, since he'd spent so much time and effort relocating to the United States.
There WAS an active "Mime Scene" in the Los Angeles area, as one would expect. Marcel Marceau and Claude Kipnis did concerts while we were touring the place. (Matt saw Marceau -- good show!) Jack Albee cleared the way for our group to perform outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. There was no money in it, but the exposure was invaluable. We were in good company -- Bobby Shields was there a few years before us, and Robin Williams would be there a few years later. Treacher / performer / stuntman Richmond Shepard called himself "America's Foremost Mime," and gave us personal encouragement. He organized a Los Angeles Mime Festival later that year, which included Joan Merwyn (from LaCrosse) but we were very far away by then.

James Donlon had been one of our inspirations and mentors since Daniel Robert sent the dancers in the Mime Troupe to Brigham Young University to see the Menagerie Mime Theatre -- a San Francisco ensemble of four young men who worked visual magic onstage with their flowing movement.
When we saw Menagerie again at the International Mime Festival in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, there were only Bob Francesconi and James Donlon performing, but they were stars of the American contingent, including Bobby Shields and Noel Parenti -- also based in the San Francisco Bay area. Shields' wife and partner Linda Yarnell stuck around LaCrosse to take advantage of the learning opportunities at the festival, while Bobby went elsewhere. The very physically imposing Shields did teach one informal acrobatic workshop before he left, demonstrating methods of falling without injuries.
Donlon was on hand throughout the festival, and taught classes for people of varying backgrounds and abilities. He took time out to preview and critique the Mime Troupe's concert. Katie especially valued his opinions, which were quite positive in LaCrosse.
We somehow got in touch with Donlon, and he came to see us once more at the Century City Playhouse. He was audibly displeased by Jango Edwards' influence on our material -- although he praised certain individual details of the concert, the overall shape and direction was NOT to his liking. He also spoke of performing in places which presented an artist in the best possible setting. He arranged for us to see his one man show at a college in San Fernando Valley. It was divided into two sections, like our show, with the initial set consisting of short scenarios. The second part was entitled We Are All Clowns, where Donlon incorporated lessons learned from Swiss clown Dimitri, Czech ex-patriate Citor Turba, and other Europeans. The pleasant theatre scholar Bari Rolfe, co-director of the International Mime Festival, was in the house, and we had another LaCrosse reunion.

James Donlon invited us to see his one-man
show "We Are All Clowns."
It was an exhausting period of time. We tried taking trips to the beach, or going to Ojai Canyon, but the daily grind of driving long distances on the freeways for mere survival money was taking its toll on all of us. We enjoyed a few good times at the Century City Playhouse, and awe-inspiring moments in front of young students, but we also suffered some too-empty houses, and bad shows at critical times, when we just couldn't overcome our exhaustion. The lows seemed to overwhelm the highs when they happened, despite the gains we had made in the tough City of Angels. When a specific theatrical agent declined to represent us, it frustrated Mark's main goal in coming to the city. The group voted to forego an additional week at the Century City Playhouse in favor of doing school shows, sometimes three a day, for the rest of our tour in California.

Avant Garde and Commercial Artists -- My Personal Friends In A Wider World
Jack Kirby was a prolific artist who actually helped create the Comic Book Industry in the late 1930's. He and his partner Joe Simon generated hundreds of pages of well-drawn action-filled pages for the major publishers. In the early 1960's Kirby teamed up with Stan Lee to create the Marvel Comics Group which successfully competed with the long-established line of DC or 'Superman' comics. Among the characters Kirby created were Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Mighty Thor, and The Avengers. He was also a patient man who befriended me when I sought him out after he'd moved to the West Coast, developing his own line of "New Gods" comics for DC.
He was very encouraging when I told him about the Mime Troupe, and the originality of what we did, saying words to the effect of ... you can only win when you do something new.

Jack and Roz Kirby graciously let me drop in on them in L.A.
(Above) A treasured self-portrait of Jack Kirby as Ben Grimm.
(Left) A gift from Jack, in trade for copies of my humble posters.

Variation on Orphus No. 5 -- Intaglio print by Paul McCarthy from his undergraduate days at the University of Utah.

Going Boldly Where No Man Has Gone Before, Or Since, Or Likely Ever Will!
I met Paul McCarthy when he was a graduate student at the University of Utah. I was a rank freshman in the Art Department, with very little going for me except for limitless determination and a rapidly-expanding collection of comic books.
Paul was one of the most open-minded people I ever met in my life. We became friends when I joined his huge "Upriver Skool" project -- a multi-media freak-out that filled the Union Ballroom with music, light, oversized art toys, and dancing craziness in the spring of 1970. The whole thing might have been a tribute to Ken Kesey and his legendary Acid Tests, but it was a tangible hometown happening which was also the best party of the year. I met leaders Michael Whipple, Mike Cram, and Al Payne during the build-up and extended take-down afterwards, plus musician Kurt Setzer. We would all be allies and friends, to some extent, for many years afterwards. Paul and Al were with me when I first saw Kirby in California. They had moved to L.A. then. McCarthy and his wife Karen were raising a young son, and Al Payne was staying with them in Pasadena, when I called from Santa Barbara and asked if they could put me up for a week or so while I helped organize our tour in Los Angeles. They said yes, and treated me like family one last time. Mike Cram was still close to them, and dubbed some Reggae tapes, which sure helped me produce the banners and posters we needed for our shows.
Paul was just becoming famous for his extreme gallery performances and videos then. He blazed his own road in Concept Art over the decades, and has had exhibits in the Tate Gallery in London, among other places. What he does is indescribable -- but writers STILL try to tell about him and his art.

Our Final Farewell To The Motorways Of Southern California
We made a few appearences at Loyola-Marymount University near the beaches because of a young filmmaker who contacted us in San Diego, followed us to Los Angeles, and asked our performers to act in a film for him in whiteface.
On one of our last mornings before returning to Salt Lake, we were getting ready for an early morning street show on the Loyola-Marymount campus when the fuel cable broke on our bus, less than a mile from our destination. It could have been worse, but it was still bad -- there was about a fourteen inches of cable hanging in the engine compartment, but about six inches to go before it could reach the throttle. George and Zupan worked out a scheme where the former sat next to the engine, working the carburator while the latter signaled with the gas pedal. My VW was close behind them as we moved slowly in rush hour traffic. A police car smoothly cut in front of me at the first left. We were all praying that they wouldn't see George, but as we stopped at a sign, the rear door flew open and there was Georgio, with a very concerned expression on his half made-up face when he saw the cops -- who made a sudden, but smooth, right turn as they quickly drove away.

We did several street shows at Loyola-Marymount University, shot footage for a film unseen by us, and played our last formal concert in Los Angeles there.

Our Wintery Welcome Back In The Rocky Mountains
I lent the VW to Matthew Child so he and some of the other Troupers could take care of their personal business further up the West Coast. Mark Nelson drove his car in a convoy with Hobart the Bus as we wended our way back to Salt Lake City to get ready for our trancontinental journey to Friends Farm in Milan, Michigan, and the Festival of Fools in Amsterdam, Holland. Sunny green California springtime turned to overcast brown winter in the high deserts of Nevada and Utah. As we climbed towards 4000 feet we started driving through rain, which turned to snow on our second night out of L.A. I kept an eye on the right side of the road while Zupan steered the bus in near-whiteout conditions.
As we hit the pass above Payson, Utah the storm ceased, and we saw the Wasatch Front stretching out northward under a moon which was just past full -- lighting the entire way to Salt Lake, several hours further on in the post-midnight cold.
There would be more hard work ahead of us -- Hobart needed refurbishing, and our show needed adjustments for Europe, but the Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe had been tested in the crucible of the Real World, and was ready for whatever came next.
That is, after we ALL got some rest!

( To be Continued in Part IIIe ...)

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Photos and images by the Author, digitally reinterpreted from personal memorabilia. *From a B&W photo developed and printed by Matt Child. **Orig. photo thanks to Stuart Curtis.
PDF and ^ photo courtesy of Paul and Michelle Blackwell. Public Domain source material scanned from various sources,and digitally reworked by ME.
All Rights Reserved Michael R. Evans 2009  Email Me