Daze & Nights IIIb
THE ROAD Winds On to Southern California.
of Part IIIa
: The Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe tested its new material at The
Highlands near Aspen, Colorado with amazing success, despite a handful
of problems. The bus needed a little more work so that everyone could
stretch out and sleep, but David Carrillo, David Zupan, and George
Kugler were up to the task.
Last Performance for 'The Regulars' at the SunTavern
The Sun had
helped us put a sharp edge on our skills. Debra stayed in Salt Lake
to dance for Patsy's senior presentation, but rejoined us in March.
Utah winter day was almost as dark as the previous night, and I sipped
one last beer in that old railroad tavern before my trip to sunny
we got back to Salt Lake City, the Sun Tavern asked us to perform
there for its regular clientele once again before we left for San
Diego, the first city on our tour of Southern California. I borrowed
some lighting equipment from Van Hanson of the Human Ensemble, and
had to get it back to him before we left. We also bought a Melodica
for John Fischer from Dave Fagiolli's roommate, and cleaned out the
Main Street studio. Everyone had to find storage for their possesions
with friends and family, because we would all be gone for quite awhile.
Most of the group
left ahead of Mark Nelson and myself once the bus was ready. Mark
drove to San Diego in his own car, and he and I switched drivers
as the other slept. We hadn't have all that much in common before
the Mime Troupe, but through many conversations we discovered that
we had both worked with a dancer named Frances during the RDT Video
Workshop in 1973 -- I had supplied Ravi Shankar's Sound of the
Sitar album, and an LP with Stockhausen's Kontra Punkte
on it. Mark mixed the two together at the student radio station, and
Frances did a strong solo dance with video feedback generated from
her movements and the music. It was the best piece that came out of
the workshop, and we were both proud to have been part of such a good
Rogers Sang: "I'm Going To California, Where They Sleep Out Every
at Southwestern College in Chula Vista. We performed our first large-scale
concert in Southern California at their nearly-new theater.
The hills of
La Mesa, above El Cajon Boulevard, where we first parked the bus outside
the home of Katie's brother Robbie, near San Diego, California.
used by us for the last time, promised much more than conventional
Mime at Southwestern College.
in San Diego usually means clear, sunny days, and they were very welcome
after the dark winter weather in Salt Lake Valley.
We stayed east of the main city of San Diego, in the hills of La Mesa.
Katie's brother was our host, and we used his connections as a teacher
to help us find much-needed rehearsal space in a junior high nearby,
we also used his hot water liberally. Our sleeping bags were spread-out
between the bus and the house. Rituals and patterns of meals and rest
evolved during touring.
Debra had stayed in Salt Lake, so Katie and Jan were the only women
on the bus. I'm not saying we guys were a totally insensitive bunch
of idiots, but I'm not claiming the opposite either.
Mark had booked Southwestern College and San Diego State. School shows
started right away, thanks to George, but we needed more work!
We got rehearsal
space at a nearby junior high for most evenings, and an increasing
list of school shows.
College was located in the little town of Chula Vista, in sight
of the border between Mexico and the United States. They liked old
movies -- a 16mm copy of Singing In The Rain was circulating
around the classes in the Theater Department. We didn't run up walls
like Donald O'Connor, or hoof around in puddles like Gene Kelly,
but I figured that Marilyn Monroe's image would help attract this
particular crowd, so I modified our Sun Tavern poster with her face
redrawn in stark black-and-white from the cover of Norman Mailer's
best-selling biography, and it WORKED. I enjoyed making a couple
of "Warhol Walls" by multiplying the image in certain
locations on-campus, but we needed the posters elsewhere, and I
could only indulge myself to a limited degree. After this concert,
I retired Marilyn because we needed to advertise our uniqueness
and originality, but the two times we recruited her were a lot of
The campus boasted a number of new buildings, including the massive
white edifice which was the home of their theater. I've forgotten
the professor's name, but he acted like a gruff east-coaster on
the outside, yet possessed a heart of solid gold. "Some of
these Mime people we get here are really lousy!" he said with
a level, challenging gaze.
I was still wrung out by the long journey from Utah, but looked
right back into his eyes and told him "Our company will do
things you've never seen on a stage before," with an easy confidence
which I never lost during all the years I spent with the Mime Troupe.
I had variatons of that conversation many times, and gave the same
assurances with no reason to regret them afterwards. Our first tech
rehearsal in that big theater was a new challenge to me, but the
calm technician in charge made everything comprehensible, if not
easy (it wasn't). When the dancers finally took to the air after
a LONG wait, the professor smiled, and kept smiling whenever we
featuring Matthew, Georgeio (twice), and Katie onstage in Southern
College concert's greatest importance was that it was our FIRST
performance in California. It was roughly divided into two halves
-- 'serious' pieces at first and Clown's Cabaret after the
intermission. The first part wasn't all THAT serious, and we also
transitioned into some highly-charged Modern Dance during the second
After the emotional climax was finished, and the audience was profoundly
hushed, George introduced David Zupan as our fire eater. He was
broad-shouldered, short, but muscular, and was assisted by tall,
thin David Carrillo on the huge dimly-lit stage while the band played
suspenseful music. After a couple of big blowtorch-like plumes of
flame, he tried a trick which Jango had suggested when he taught
us the basics back in November -- Carrillo brought out a bowl of
lamp oil with a flaming coat of lighter fluid riding on top. The
upper level burned at a lower temperature, so the effect was stunning
when Zupan sipped from the vessel and launched another arc of dragon-breath.
I had spent hours arranging permission for this segment over the
previous days. Katie's mother was in the audience, and thought that
it was something we didn't need, when we respectfully asked her
opinion. As it was, Zupan's final stunt resulted in some of the
lighter fluid entering his lungs. He gradually developed a serious
pulmonary inflamation which laid him up in the hospital and could
have killed him. On occasion, Carrillo continued fire-spitting for
us, with a bit more subtlety, but nobody tried the lighter fluid
trick again. Katie's mother was correct, and we gradually retired
that whole sideshow act.
Sundays In Balboa Park -- Street Theater at the Botanical Gardens!
had rules which didn't allow certain instruments, but our band had
everything they needed to make fabulous music outdoors and still be
with rehearsing for previously-booked shows, and lining up schools,
we were also on the lookout for new places to play. Street theater
had previously worked well for George, but the extreme cold in Aspen
discouraged the rest of group to various degrees. When we heard
that Balboa Park allowed open-air performances outside the Botanical
Gardens, we grasped at the opportunity anyway, and it turned out
to be a fabulous way of spending Sunday afternoons. We earned some
spending money, made contacts for new jobs, and met some wonderful
One person who sought us out in the park was local Mime star Don
McLeod -- he had previously led a progressive rock group called
the Mime & Music Machine, which toured with barnstorming
acts like the early Fleetwood Mac and Deep Purple.
He was very supportive of what we did, and continued to make a career
in show business with his considerable physical skills long after
we lost touch with him.
We all learned to "Do Street" by repetition and practice.
My job was to made sure we had flyers of upcoming gigs, and to hand
them out to interested parties. If someone was spoke about hiring
us, I'd direct them to George or Mark.
We played half-hour sets, with half-hour breaks outside of the Shade
House. During down times, I wandered off and juggled on my own,
drumming up customers for the next show. I had a touch of white
makeup on my face, so that I'd fit in, but wore generic 'civilian'
clothes instead of costumes.
Jango's silly routines came in VERY handy as we worked the enthusiastic
crowds of weekend visitors. The dancers didn't demonstrate their
best moves, but learned a vast amount about comic timing with short
routines, punctuated by George's rapidly-improving announcing, and
shamelessly stolen National Lampoon jokes. The band's music was
solidly entertaining, and they even clowned around a little.The
group also made a point of driving the bus down to the Pacific Ocean
and enjoying that fabulously warm weather, which lasted all of January
1975 in San Diego.
of the finest people we met at Balboa Park was a young San Diego State
University student named Karen. She was performing as a solo clown,
and asked if she could shake my hand. When I gave my consent, she
took my wrist and gently rocked it back and forth, my hand shaking
in response. OK -- at least I thought that joke was funny. By the
end of the day, she invited the whole Mime Troupe to stay at her house.
We parked our bus outside and she cleared space for those who wanted
to sleep inside. It was very kind of Karen to treat us like Robbie
had treated his sister's friends, when we weren't even related. We
troupers stayed with her several times during our sojourn in San Diego.
It impossible to overstate how much we owed to Road Angels, like Karen,
who generously helped us out along our way.
Shade House at Balboa Park from the west. (Right) Pacific Ocean
beaches near La Jolla.
San Diego State University -- Concerts at the "Back Door"
*(L to R)
Stuart Curtis, Gregg Moore, Matthew Child, David Carrillo, and George
Kugler in Southern California.
was a moment at the beginning of one of our sets where the dancers
would leap from the stage and visually
introduce the band as they kicked the tempo of the music higher,
and Stuart launched a soaring sax solo.
Diego State University was a godsend to us, and our expanding network
of supporters. For one thing they allowed us to use the showers at
the gym whenever we wanted, and saved Robbie and Karen's hot water
heaters from going empty many times. Mark Nelson had booked us for
a couple of weeks at a small concert hall called the Back Door,
which was downstairs from the busy Aztec Center at the center of the
campus. It was a long, somewhat narrow place with a raised stage at
the far right corner. Unfortunately it was too small for the dancers
and the band, so we set up the musicians on the floor in the other
corner. They had a small, but reasonably-powered PA system, and we
borrowed a channel to set a microphone on Jan's drum kit. We noticed
from the booth that she was muffled by the stage and amplifiers.
San Diego State architecture. The Back Door was downstairs
in the 'modern' Aztec Center. (Right)
of the places we worked in during the mid-70's needed two people to
operate the lights in an average theater -- one in back, switching
the lights, and pushing rheostat faders up and down, according to
cues given by another person with a view of the stage, namely me.
The Back Door's lighting was wired to a console in the sound/light
booth on the other side of the hall from the stage. The stage manager
was a student employee named Jeff, or Steve, or something -- I have
obviously forgotten his name, but he was known as Lord Lumen,
and I've never forgotten THAT. He was enrolled in the Modern Dance
Department at SDS, and I learned a lot about operating solid state
thyristor-controlled systems from him.
A View from our Audience of the Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe:
January 28, 1975 -- Daily Aztec
San Diego State University
Schultz (Compare the original article
in PDF form)
As the audience begins to filter in, a fine six-member band sets
a relaxing mood with light jazz. Then, ever so gradually, two or
three mime artists begin to interact with the audience. After a
while yo realize that the show you've been waiting to see has already
started. The nine performers of the Salt Lake City Mime Troupe (sic),
which should be named the Salt Lake City Circus, quickly overwhelmed
audiences last week at the Backdoor with an amazing combination
of traditional mime, vaudvillian comedy routines, juggling, clowning,
song, dance and music. And every bit of it was superb.
The opening set consisted of traditional mime -- some of the best
I've ever seen. The mime artists -- Matthew, Katie, George, and
David (the troupe is known professionally by their first names only)
-- run through scenes depicting an indoor track meet, a boxing match
in which the microphone goes down for the count, and Olympic medal
winners who suddenly become fighters, then arm wrestlers, and then
ping-pong opponents. But the order of the scenes is unimpoertant.
They change so swiftly and fit together so well that it is hard
to tell where one ends and the next begins. Not only is their mime
hilarious, but also very moving. In portraying the classic emotions
of love, hate, sympathy, pity, and loneliness they also take a piece
of your heart.
The highlight of their mime set occurs in the "Puppet"
segment. David finds a puppet, played expertly by Matthew, and humorously
manipulates his strings, pretending that the puppet is his friend.
In a sensitive and moving scene David gives Matthew his own heart
so that he, too, may live. ("Puppet" illustrations
an intermission and some less traditional mime, the band steals the
show for a while. Consisting of Paul on guitar; Greg (sic) on bass,
trombone and tuba; Jan playing one-handed drums (she had a cast on
her right wrist, but still outplayed many drummers); John on keyboards
and trumpet, and Stewart (sic) on sax, flute and clarinet; they play
everything from hardcore blues to jazz to hardcore rock and roll --
and play it to perfection. In fact, they're laced so tightly together
it's amazing they can still breathe. Now if this isn't enough Katie
sings like Lydia Pense (of Cold Blood) and David can charm an audience
as well as the Kinks' Ray Davis, the result: everyone in the place
was on their feet dancing and having a good time. The Salt Lake City
Mime Troupe's good vibes are totally contagious.
But the show's still not over. After a short break comes the circus
set, where George as M.C., introduces a number of freak shows and
outrageously funny acts. The band members make fun of Hare Krishnas,
Matthew portrays a man who talks backwards, and Katie, Matthew, and
David are the Marvels in a great spoof of 40s song and dance. George,
portraying Georgeo (sic) the clown, highlights this segment of the
show, however, with his tricks and coy, silent humor. Especially entertaining
is his juggling of a grape, an apple, and ahead of cabbage, while
simultaniously eating the apple.
After more than three hours of solid entertaiment, George apologetically
announces the end of the show. The nine performing members of the
troupe, all accomplished artists and professionals, have enjoyed the
show as much as the audience. But exhaustion takes over, and they
reluctantly head back to their "house" -- a converted school
bus. Nobody likes to see a show this incredible come to an end.
You probably think it sounds like the Salt Lake City Mime Troupe's
performance was one of the best live shows I've ever seen. And you're
Schultz was very perceptive. His compliments were welcome, and we
used them in our publicity for a long, long time, but he touched
on a couple of observations which were more profound than he might
have known. The members of the troupe DID enjoy the show as much
as the audience, but exhaustion was becoming a problem, and could
literally "take over" when we least desired it. The bus
was suitable for sleeping -- barely, but most of the seats had been
removed to make it so, and travel could be tiring, especially if
we went north to Santa Barbara and back in one weekend. In retrospect,
we were starting to "live for the show," while defering
some important personal issues, which would arise in various forms
Dare to Compare! The Alwin Nikolai Dance Company Perform at San Diego
We got a break
on tickets, and I watched the concert with Frank Sanguinetti's daughter
from Salt Lake.
company was Major League, but Katie's choreography would help our
group climb to Triple-A.
who's Sanguinetti? He was director of the Museum of Art at the University
of Utah. I had taken Art History classes from him, even. His daughter
recognized my face from the Art Department, and we saw Alwin Nikolai's
company perform together. Except for the 48 hours surrounding this
event, we never had contact with each other -- moving in completely
different social circles. The Mime Troupe joked afterwards about
dancing in sleeping bags, referring to the abstract costumes we'd
seen onstage, but it was a good experience to see how far Modern
Dance had come in bringing lighting, movement, and music together.
We were all thinking of ways we could out-do the masters once we
got the chance. Lord Lumen had watched the performance too, He and
I chatted as we worked -- we'd both enjoyed the isolations which
had been pioneered by Nikolais and later-independent Murray Louis.
He said words to the effect that we had a a good thing going too
-- Nikolais was successful because he reached into himself, but
we'd have to find our own way to success by being whomever we were.
Grossmont College, Shows & More Shows, and the Bus Gets Its Own
One Sunday at
Balboa Park a couple of young people who were members of the student
government at Grossmont College saw the Mime Troupe performing.
They spoke to Mark and George, and we set up a de facto partnership
where the Mime Troupe did a series of free lunchtime performances
at the Student Union advertising a full concert on the weekend,
where we would then sell tickets and earn some much-needed money.
The student government built a big raised stage. The splintery plywood
floor drew some uncharacteristic complaints out of poor Katie. We
recruited a man from their theater department to flip switches in
a blind closet while I used whispered cues and hand gestures during
the show -- responding to the action based on the music, and shadows
on the back wall. We frankly wondered if our gamble would pay off,
but the concert was a winner -- David Carrillo sat Matt the Marionette
on his knee and greeted Gross-em-out College to wild laughter.
-- the Student Union is at the far left.
our engagement at San Diego State University, Matthew Child declared
that the bus needed a name: "How about something like Hobart?"
If it was so moved, it was seconded and passed without any objections,
or any real parlimentary procedure at all. The reader may ask: "Why
Hobart?." I say: "I don't really know!"
HOWEVER -- there was a Hobart Street in San Diego, just off El Cajon
Boulevard, near the SDS campus, and if my memory serves me well,
we drove down that very street on our way to Road Angel Karen's
bungalow. I never asked Matt if there was a connection between the
street's name and our bus, though.
school shows, we played a private party or two, at least one bar,
plus some recreation halls while we toured around San Diego. Mark
Nelson had gone ahead of the company to Santa Barbara. David Zupan
was with him, right out of the hospital. People told us the Mime
Troupe could actually base themselves in San Diego if we stuck around,
but we had other bookings further up the coast. Our marching orders
were to tell new prospects that we were heading for Europe, but
that we'd be back next year. Road Angel Robbie agreed to accept
the Mime Troupe's mail while we were gone. At the right is part
of a letterhead I drew for office purposes -- minus Robbie's old
To be Continued in Part