Daze & Nights IIIe
THE ROAD Runs On Through Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan,
New York, and Capitol Airways.
Part IIId : The Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe attracted favorable
attention in Los Angeles at the tiny Century City Playhouse, earning
a laudatory review in the L.A. Times. The daily grind of driving
long distances on the freeways for mere survival money took its
toll on all of us, though. When a specific theatrical agent declined
to represent us, and frustrated Mark Nelson's main goal in coming
to the City of Angels, the group concentrated on school shows, sometimes
three a day, for the rest of the California Tour, except for a concert
at Loyola-Marymount University. Amsterdam's Festival of Fools had
confirmed our booking, and we pointed the bus eastward for a coast
to coast drive to JFK Airport in New York City.
'Hobart' the Bus, VWs, and Another Concert at the University of Utah.
From the very first day the Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe toured in
the bus, this postcard of the Friends Roadshow in Amsterdam was displayed
right next to our driver's seat. It went with us all the way to Colorado,
California, and New York City. (Left) Hobart the Bus, parked off of
upper E Street in Salt Lake.
Great Salt Mime Troupe had a lot of work ahead of us in order to be
ready for a tour of Europe. We rested for a few days after returning
from Los Angeles, and then began our tasks. Hobart the Bus had sprung
a leak or three, and water seeped in. George, Carrillo, and Zupan
changed all the foam rubber and carpeting inside, and caulked the
seams outside. I then tuned up my red Volkswagen and put it into the
hands of Carrillo, who took on the chore of organizing the upcoming
tour from Friends Farm -- Jango's base near Detroit, Michigan. Many
company members had already given up their apartments, and stayed
in Patsy's home overlooking the city. Matthew took our passport pictures
there. We got our paperwork together, plus the packs and clothing
we'd need on the journey ahead. We also tried to create material suitable
for an international audience, and reworked our existing dances and
at the Art & Architecture Building
We might have
felt pretty weary and isolated at times, as we learned what THE
ROAD really meant, but we convinced many people along the way that
we were the 'real thing' and they came through for us when we needed
them the most. Mark Nelson's allies in ASUU Programs sponsored a
concert for us, and Bruce Fugit from the Dance Department furnished
all the lighting equipment we needed. My friend Lennox Tierney waived
the auditorium fee, and we put on a very good show, despite an experiment
or two that we left out later. Challenges abounded -- we noticed
that our performances were getting faster from familiarity and we
wanted to readjust the act so that we were neither rushing nor padding
things. Patsy rejoined our group, and Debra was still dancing for
us -- along with the joy of their participation came the responsibility
to create material which matched their talent. Which meant Katie,
our busiest performer, had even more to do as a choreographer --
without rehearsal space, or even a home address. Tension was mounting!
call it a benefit concert, although it was, but my last Mime Troupe
poster in Salt Lake City honored the many 'angels' who helped us
as we made our way in the world.
took my VW Super Beetle to Michigan, about two weeks ahead of the
rest of the group.
his red VW Kombi in a convoy with
Hobart, the primary Mime Troupe Bus.
Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe was still gathering members -- Road Angel
Barbara McCarthy, Katie's childhood pal, came out from California
to do what she could. George fell in love with a woman named Chéri
Burke. He asked if she could accompany him, promising that she'd pay
her own way. What could we say? George had been our greatest single
benefactor, and a truer friend would have been impossible to find.
He still had his VW Van, so their privacy was no issue, and we had
learned the value of having a second vehicle in the convoy besides
big, unwieldy, Hobart the Bus.
So in April 1975, two years after the Mime Troupe began as a workshop
by Daniel Sonkin in the concrete halls of the Art Department at the
University of Utah, we left Salt Lake City on a journey to the other
side of the Atlantic Ocean. After wintery Wyoming, our first stop
was Denver, Colorado, where we lingered for about a week as guests
in a large house and yard in the suburbs, thanks to relations of John
Fischer. The Mime Troupe did some workshops at a local school where
John's sister taught classes. It was warm, and we enjoyed our stay,
but we didn't play any real shows during our time there, although
George was looking really hard for opportunities. Cultural highlights
I remember were Star Trek reruns, Linda Ronstadt's big breakout
album Heart Like A Wheel, and trivial, but outspoken, disagreements
about the quality of the very popular J. Geils Band.
had been a photographer before he danced at the University of Utah,
and he shot passport pictures for the entire Mime Troupe, including
me, in March of 1975.
to Winter -- Trekking Across the Great Plains
The East Front
of the Rockies -- Denver, Colorado
still beckoned --- One sunny morning we packed up and headed east
on Interstate 75 towards Kansas, Missouri, and St. Louis, where
we needed to pick up a Trouper's birth certificate.
Midday, the sky turned gray, and a swirling snowstorm surrounded
us. A raging wind blew steadily from the north. Our windshield wipers
were running at full speed, but we could barely see well enough
to drive. I was one of two spotters at the front, helping the driver
check the edge of the road, traffic ahead of us, plus George and
in the VW van. We knew better than to stop -- our gas tanks were
full, and there were abandoned vehicles here and there to remind
us what would happen if we didn't keep moving.
It was still daylight when we crossed into Kansas with the storm
behind us. Hobart was encrusted with snow on the whole north side
-- all the way up to my elbow in places as I knocked it off. The
south side was only wet with predictable slush and road-dirt.
is (in)famous for heavy snowstorms in the spring which can be well
over a foot deep.
heroic Quest for the Missing Birth Certificate took us through Kansas
City, and onward to St. Louis. I drove George's VW Bus that night,
and saw dawn breaking over farms and back roads as we found the R.F.D
address out in the fields of Eastern Missouri. We were all legal to
travel to Europe, but had to make one more overnight trip through
Illinois and Indiana before approaching Friends Farm, near Milan (pronounced
MY-lun) between Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan.
Dining With Friends, Sleeping With Friends, and Every
Other Darn Thing -- With Friends
The final trek
to Milan, Michigan in April. We would travel to New York via Ohio
and Pennsylvania in May.
-- a memory-view featuring an old tree in the back field where I'd
practice my juggling.
Farm had been the headquarters of the American Friends Roadshow for
more than a year. There was a freeway entrance nearby, and the rural
area was peaceful, but not isolated at all. A big central farmhouse
anchored the property and several outbuildings added to the available
housing. Jango also rented space to a couple of mobile homes on the
property. We never met any of these renters, and could only guess
about what they thought about the constant comings and goings they
saw. We parked Hobart The Bus in their driveway, and made the place
our home for a couple of weeks.
Ridout's magnificent European Friends Roadshow poster.
Originally painted on glass in 1973, we had first seen it in
George hung a copy on the wall of his place in Salt Lake for
The very first thing that went on after our arrival was a jam
session -- Joe Lovano and another man showed up who had been
in a European Jazz group called Bumbalee! They were gigging
in nearby Detroit, and liked to play Wayne Shorter tunes, and
explore the reaches of Funky Fusion Jazz. We unloaded the instruments
and amps and our musicians started playing -- for hours on end.
I thought the whole thing was totally COOL, Although I was very
tired, I spoke with Jane Hunt, who was sitting next to me. We'd
remembered each other from LaCrosse the previous summer. Jane
was a singer with a big bluesy voice, originally from Los Angeles.
Most all of Friends' other woman singers had left, and she bent
my ear about formerly - optimistic days, which brought dozens
of Americans and Europeans flocking to Jango's home turf of
Michgan, then turning into months of anxiety as the Oil Crisis
drained the U.S. economy -- especially around Detroit.
Among the pictures I remember seeing on the walls was a photo
of sax legend Boots Randolph, the brash, full-color Friends
Roadshow poster, next to an understated black and white composition,
resembling a playing card, with former Friends co-star Nola
Rae wearing a clown nose -- a delightful red dot in the the
center of the poster. I was also impressed by the signed Picasso
print hanging discreetly in the living room.
Curtis describes the musical scene better than I possibly could:
very glad to meet and hang out with Sean Bergin at the farm.
He was and is a very passionate and worldly player and took
it upon himself to mentor me. I was very green around the gills
he helped me find my way as a player through the next several
years. Sean is still a fixture in the Amsterdam music scene.
While we were there, Joe Lovano stayed at the farm for a night
or two while he was playing at a jazz club in Detroit. I think
Sean had gone to hear him and invited him back to the farm to
stay. He was a relative unknown at the time, but since then
he has come to be a major tenor saxophone player in the jazz
scene of the last 20 years to the present. The mime troupe band
was rehearsing, and he sat in. We played Dizzy Gillespie's "A
Night in Tunisia", and he took a solo over multiple choruses
that left us all astounded by his technique, ideas and musicianship.
The rhythm section finally ground to a halt as everyone stopped
playing but him. He just kept boppin" away. We were simply
of Helena from a later Friends Roadshow gig.
Unlike Europe, prestigious venues like theaters and colleges
were slow to embrace the feel-good art of Friends Roadshow,
and the company found themselves chugging from various taverns
to bars, just to pay their ever-mounting bills.
The current band consisted of American Davy Norkett on piano
and keyboard bass, Englishman Cedric Curtis on electric gutar,
and South African Sean Bergin on Saxophone. English drummer
Chris Kelly quit and moved away about a week before we arrived.
The performers up front were mostly Americans -- Jane sang,
Carl Holmer did stunts and sang, Rick Parets was an ace stand-up
comedian who sang too. Michael Novotny was an imposing comic
actor with great prescence, who often acted as MC when Jango
Edwards wasn't running the show. He sang a gut-busting version
of Carl Douglas' Kung-Fu Fighting, a major hit at the
I haven't mentioned beautiful Helena Van Danzig yet -- she was
an ex-ballet dancer from England who had been in the London
Friends. She could do anything onstage with an easy grace, and
was de facto manager of the company. Sean's English wife
Janine ran the homestead at Friends Farm -- their little daughter
was named Thembi, after the song on a Pharaoh Sanders album.
A Diversion: Friends Roadshow's Album Collection
There was a small, but tasteful collection of records
at Friends Farm. A brief sample is shown above:
(L to R) The Pair Extraordinaire was a funky combination of singer
and string bass player; Cream was long - disbanded, but far from forgotten;
Grover Washington Jr. was just starting to climb the heights of popular
Heigh Ho! Heigh Ho! It's Back To Work We Go!
made arrangements with a Detroit bar named The Filling Station, one
of the venues on his circuit, to introduce our act to Michigan over
a weekend when Friends was traveling elsewhere. The Mime Troupe was
pretty nervous about the whole thing, but we needed the work and experience.
One disturbing fact was that we couldn't fall back on Friends' tried-and-tested
bar material, since the upcoming crowd had seen it already. George
led the way as MC of Clown's Cabaret, and we did our goofiest mime
scenarios. We had a few rough spots during the first night, and the
owner sat us all down to say "You're not the Friends Roadshow!"
We deserved better than that, and knew it -- the next night was remarkable
for its high energy and confidence. We didn't change things much,
fundamentally, but Katie used the occasion to try out more characters,
and different costumes. The owner even congratulated us, as if he
thought he had something to do with it -- well maybe he did, if standing
up to him counted for something. On one of those nights in downtown
Detroit, perhaps the second, we suffered a malfunction in the electro-mechanical
system of Hobart The Bus. We couldn't go any faster than about fifteen
miles an hour. At first we thought of bedding down, parked on the
street until morning, but we changed our collective minds in an hour,
were never threatened or anything.
Filling Station bar was decorated with various steel and enamel souveniers
from the petrolium industry.
limped all the way to Milan in the far right lane of the freeway
by the early morning light, and David Zupan totally rewired Hobart
The Bus' engine in Pontiac, Michigan later that week.
Back at Friends Farm, we scrambled to pack what we needed for our
upcoming tour of Europe. Our preliminary itinerary had not only
Amsterdam, but the Hot Theater in The Hague before the Festival
of Fools even started. After that event, we had an opportunity to
tour rural Southwest England with Footsbarn Theatre -- they had
traveled to Tabarka, Tunisia with Friends Roadshow, and Michael
Novotny was a founding member of the company. There were contacts
made with Dublin, Ireland, and Edinburugh, Scotland. Try as we might,
there were only two more gigs in the USA ahead of us -- an outdoor
appearance at the University of Michigan, and an actual theatrical
concert at a high school in Jackson, Michigan, arranged by Stuart
Curtis' family. We visited the famous Blind Pig tavern in Ann Arbor,
but never played or jammed in that space. John Fischer DID sit down
at the piano, though, and noodled around a little. "There's
sure been a lot of blues played in B-Flat on this thing," he
In between the delightful jams at Friends Farm, we watched late
night rock concerts on TV to keep up with the times. Besides Funk,
as played by the influential Ohio Players, we were impressed with
the awesome lead vocalist of The Stylistics, and classy presentaion
of The Natural Four (I Got Work To Do). Curtis Mayfield was
always excellent, but we noticed how the producers spliced footage
of people rubbing their eyes, children sleeping, and even a Bassett
Hound yawning, as it got later and later. Alice Cooper's Welcome
To My Nightmare video special was a flop, but we enjoyed the
bonehead horror flick Willard, rats and all! I personally
practiced my own juggling tricks outside, behind the house, under
a large tree, and spent a lot of time in Novotny's studio, making
graphics, plus throwing darts in the music room with thoughts of
English pubs running through my mind. There was ONE special afternoon
where Friends Roadhow and Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe spent a rare
day-off together, playing football (soccer), drinking beer, and
Another Diversion: More Road Albums -- On The Radio and Off The Radio
And (The McCoys) introduced Rock N' Roll Hootchie Koo
on their first album, but the songwriter, Rick Derringer, also sang
a version of Steve Winwood's lament from the road -- No Time
the Bus wasn't wired for stereo. AM Radio had to serve us as
we drove from place to place. One or two musicians had cassette
tape players, but we heard most of our recorded music on the
road as guests at people's houses -- either from FM Radio, or
vinyl long-playing records. The three albums pictured below
are just a tiny fraction of what we heard.
I've given everything that was mine to give, And now I'll turn
around and find that there's no time to live.
Jackson Browne's Late For The Sky featured a Magritte-inspired
cover with lettering by Rick Griffin, and a sensitive violin by guitarist
David Lindley, but two songs hit a chord of familiarity for me --
For A Dancer:
Into a dancer you have grown, from a seed somebody else has thrown,
Go ahead and throw some seeds of your own ...
Browne still performs this paean to youthful idealism in his live
shows -- Before The Deluge:
Some of them were dreamers, some of them were fools ... As their
hands reached for the golden ring, with their hearts they turned to
each other's hearts -- for refuge.
Tom Rush was popular when I was in high school, but the public had
largely forgotten him by the 70's. One afternoon I spied a copy of
The Circle Game -- with songs by contemporary stars Jackson
Browne and Joni Mitchell, who were "unknowns" when the album
was recorded. Hearing the first recorded versions of those fabulous
songs was a pleasure for every listener:
And they tell him, take your time, it won't be long now -- 'till
you drag your feet to slow those circles down!
Are We Ready For Europe Yet?
Laura was part
of the Jackson Area Dance Council, and had arranged for the Alvin
Ailey Company to appear there too. Her daughter Martha Curtis was
a first-rate modern dancer, as well as being Stuart's sister.
final two performances before take-off were diametric opposites.
Jackson, Michigan was the kind of venue that we did best --
a dance concert with new and old material, featuring a magnificent
creation by Katie which utilized all of our trained dancers
in circular motions which took them high and low around the
stage, accompanied by a lushly-arranged rondo, written by John
Fischer, which swirled and tumbled like cascading falls in a
river. Our audience was quiet and deeply appreciative of all
The Mime Troupe parked Hobart at Road Angels Laura and Charles
Curtis' house when we were in Jackson. They treated us fabulously
-- Laura Curtis helped arrange our performance at Jackson High
School as well.
The long-arranged showcase at a theater festival in Ann Arbor was
an anxious event, even before we arrived. Matthew had spent much of
the night awake at Friends Farm, printing photos for our press kits.
The concept of "showcase" meant that we were supposed to
impress promoters and agents, but the organizers were extremeley vague
about who would be there to see us -- relations between them and "fringe
performers" like Friends Roadshow and ourselves became even more
vague as the date approached. Our show was good -- George, Carrillo,
and the band performed with particularly high energy and skill in
an outdoor brick courtyard with a small crowd present, who searched
their programs in vain for our name. (Good thing we had a banner on
display -- see below.) All but one or two of the festival staff were
indoors, as were all the journalists, promoters, directors, producers,
and agents who were supposed to see us. The one write-up I saw about
this festival dismissed all its outdoor performers in a single sentence.
I'll never know if beautiful Helena actually did her topless fire-eating
routine which Jango had planned for the Friends Roadshow performance,
or not -- but the solitary critic never mentioned anything like that!
and the Lettering Brush
our layover in Denver, Colorado, I got orders from David Carrillo
to paint a large banner, which would be used at an outdoor appearence
at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. It was very good news
that we were booked in a theater festival at such a prestigious
venue, but kind of bad news for me -- I had made one successful
banner for the group in Los Angeles, and one total failure in Aspen.
Both of them had taken a great deal of labor, and the process of
making those kinds of things was the kind of commercial art I'd
always hated to do.
Fortunately, I had time to research this project, so after buying
a proper brush at the University of Denver one day, and looking
through the bookstore for a manual which could teach me something,
I saw that Dover Books, the great publisher of public domain material,
had reprinted Helm Wotzkow's Art of Hand Lettering in a handy,
durable paperback edition which fit my meager budget perfectly after
spending twenty-five dollars for the brush. (Which I still own!)
There was no way of practicing on the bus, but I hit my lessons
hard when we arrived in Michigan. I chose "swash capitals"
for our banner, and painted the 10 foot by 4 foot monster on the
stage at the high school in Jackson, where we practiced, and later
performed our last full concert in America that year.
As we embarked
for Europe, the Great Salt Lake Mime Troup consisted of six dancers/mime
performers and five musicians: (Left to Right) Paul Blackwell, Matthew
Child, John Fischer, Katie Appenzeller ('Duck'), Stuart Curtis, George
Kugler, Gregg Moore, Jan Fogel, Patsy Droubay, David Carrillo, Debra
Ryals -- plus five support people: (Inset L to R) Barbara McCarthy,
David Zupan, Chéri Burke, Michael Evans, and Mark Nelson.
Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Manhattan, and Queens.
the night of our departure, I parked my Volkswagen at Road Angels
Laura and Charles' house in Jackson, and took Amtrak to the train
depot, where Hobart The Bus picked me up for the final drive to New
York City and JFK Airport. I can remember seeing the house of Friends
Farm from the freeway, and wondering if I'd ever see it again. (No,
it was sold in 1976.) There isn't much I can tell about our headlong
dash to the Atlantic Coast -- I slept during the day, and kept the
driver alert at night. I recall a few flashes of the massive Pennsylvania
Turnpike, and the squalor of Newark in the sunlight. My memory of
the lights of Manhattan in the twilight from Jersey City is still
vivid -- we stopped for dinner on the famous island, and made our
way eastward. Hobart was parked at JFK until our flight was almost
ready to go.
Airways' flight crews took excellent care of us before, during, and
even AFTER our charter flight to Brussels, Belgium.
remember a long wait at the terminal while George, and a few others,
drove back into the city to store Hobart The Bus. Our charter flight
would leave about sunset, and we had all day to ponder the next
chapter of our lives and careers.
Whatever the other Mime Troupers were doing or thinking, I frankly
enjoyed walking the halls of the airport, looking at the modern
art with which Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Mayor John Lindsey
had stocked the public buildings of New York.
I took turns standing guard over our vast pile of equipment and
luggage while others took off to see what they could see. One of
the last additions to our prop pile was an oversized sombrero which
we'd purchased in Tijuana, Mexico the previous January.
"I bet they don't see anything like THAT over there!"
We loaded everything onto the conveyor belts, and sighed with relief.
have no idea what kind of plane we boarded, but remember that there
were three seats on either side of a long, long aisle, and many rows
of them. The ventilation system was bad at first, but they took care
of that by the time we started moving. Our flight crew was totally
awe-inspiring! I'd flown before, between Salt Lake and Los Angeles,
but that was a very short trip at 600 miles an hour. Our flight attendants
were all women, and the term 'stewardess' was rapidly falling into
disuse. Somehow they settled a very restive cabin full of tourists
with soft words and an ocean's worth of alcohol. Almost everybody
on board was asleep after the first hour or so, tucked in with pillows
and blankets if they wanted them.
I was one of the few exceptions, and enjoyed speaking with curious
Europeans and Americans about our theater company, plus the adventures
we were facing. I remember sketching a little, and talking with Mark
Nelson. The flight attendants were very kind to me, especially when
I declined more booze. I ate better than most everyone on the aircraft,
and was ready for our landing after a short nap. Matt Child was our
most experienced traveler, and I followed his lead. We were last off
the plane, but had everything we needed.
The last thing
I saw as we flew out of New York City was the relatively new World
Jet Lag on the Train through the Lowlands of Belgium and Holland
people got off the plane in Brussels, Belgium and over half of our
luggage went on to Frankfurt, Germany. Hoo Boy! David Carrillo was
hoping to lay down his temporary leadership, but it was not in the
cards that day. I had lucked out, and got all of my clothes and toiletries
back, so there were enough items to keep everyone warm and dry for
a few days, with the help of other fortunate individuals. We were
still exhausted, disoriented, and jet-lagged -- with an overland journey
to Amsterdam, Holland ahead of us before we could rest. Somehow we
found our way to the train station, where Mark Nelson and John Fischer
bought our tickets and got directions for Amsterdam -- which included
a transfer in some city along the way, the name of which I've long
While we were waiting for our second train, a small foraging party
went searching for a nearby grocery store, and luckily found one.
A real sit-down meal was welcome to us all! Unfortunately, the extra
energy might have affected some folks' good judgement, and another
small group literally went running off to do some sightseeing, despite
loud protests from George, Mark, John, Carrillo, and myself. Our train
came and went, but we had to sit and wait until our impulsive tourists
returned before we could do anything at all. Fischer and I then went
to the stationmaster's office, and learned that a train with an identical
destination was due in an hour, and our tickets were still valid.
We were happy for the good fortune, but enduring the long, fuming
silence in the waiting room was no fun. While daylight remained on
the train, I noted how modern the houses of Belgium seemed, and remembered
that the country had been devastated during both World Wars.
memory-sketch of Nico's poster in De Melkweg.
was about 10 PM in Amsterdam when we finally arrived at Centraal
The Mime Troupe kept the company and remaining luggage close
together, and desperately tried to contact our hosts at the
'Milky Way' nightclub. Lord knows -- it's likely we looked like
a collection of old rag dolls by then, but a long-haired young
man from De Melkweg eventually drove up in a big van, and took
us, and our possessions, to their makeshift guest dormitory
in De Rosenstraat. Before
we finally went to sleep, we actually went to see the famous
club we'd heard so much about from Jango, Helena, and Novotny
-- I remember peeking into the Theater Zaal alongside Katie
and watching swirling dancers through a haze of hashish smoke.
There were posters everywhere telling who'd performed and when.
One especially caught my eye that night -- Nico from the old
Velvet Underground had played there previously, and she looked
beautiful on the silkscreen. We sat down in the Milky Way's
restaurant for a much-needed meal. Across the table from me
was the friendly face of Ted Van Zutphen ("Dutch Ted"),
who we'd met when he was with Friends Roadshow in LaCrosse,
Wisconsin. I told him I was happy to be a guest in HIS country
for a change. Katie was excitedly talking to Patsy, saying "We
can do anything we want in there," meaning the theater.
As we later walked towards the nearby Rosenstraat, Katie smiled
through her exhaustion and said: "We're here at last"
to Carrillo and myself -- the same two guys who'd initiated
this whole thing, along with Jango, at the International Mime
Festival ten months earlier.
happened to our missing luggage? Capitol International Airways delivered
everything to the door of De Melkweg two days later. There was an
awfully lot of stuff when it finally arrived, and I frankly hate to
think about what COULD have happened had we actually tried to haul
it all ourselves between Brussels and Amsterdam. In retrospect, I
worship all the goddesses of Capitol for their life-saving intercession
on behalf of foolish Troupers like me and my friends.
To be Continued in Part