The Short Fake Life of Charles Hampton
Christmastime is a magical time, a time for those who dont know how to socialize at parties to socialize at parties. So last Saturday night, as part of its subliminal party-socialization-training services, the Fake Gallery on east Melrose held its First Annual Fake Christmas Party four hours of 20-minute tours, with each audience member given close personal attention from powerful, dedicated comedians in character as their favorite archetypal partygoers.
After entering through the National Mule Gallery around the corner, I was greeted by a man wearing an I Wasnt Invited T-shirt (Troy Devolld), who applied a sticker to my chest: "Hello!" my chest now said. "My name is Charles Hampton!" I felt pretty good about this, until I was guided into a dark hallway where Fake Security (Mike West) informed me that I wasnt on the list. But Im Your In (Mike Timpson) made up a story, and soon I was past security, down the hallway and in the dubious company of You Still Owe Me Money and I Like To Avoid Confrontations (Steve Hurley and Chris Hobbs), who, after some brief and stilted banter, parted to allow me passage into the Fake Gallery proper.
Inside, the place resonated with the festive cacophony of holiday music forced through blown speakers mounted high above, as the crowd of performers worked on the audience-in-progress. I Think Im Going To Hurl (Laura Milligan) offered me a red plastic cup and guided a stream of red wine into it, straight from the box. The adjacent bathroom door opened and out popped the top half of Im Coked Out of My Mind (Pat Healy). "Charlieee!!!" he bellowed, waving me over. "Charlie Hampton! Dude! Charlie Hampton! Hey, man, how you doin?! Come-on-in I-cant-take-it-out-there its-crazy-come-on-in-whats-been-goin-on-Charles-Charlie-Charlie-Charlie-Hampton?!"
"Im all right," I said. "Howre your kids doing?"
"Theyre with their mom this weekend."
"I was hoping. Bleeding stop?"
"Yeah, thats-all-over. And-Carries-in-Special-Ed, which-is, like, maybe, like, better-better, because shes shes shes-gettin-taught-more-and-probably-gonna-end-up-a-lot-smarter, but-Im-gettin-my-thing-together-gettin-my-G.E.D.-and-I-feel-fuckin-great-like-energized-for-the-first-time-and-its-like-the-holidays-and-do-you-know-Craig? Craigs-like-this-really-cool . . ."
"Yeah," I said. "I better go meet Craig now."
"HEY, MAN!" someone shouted from across the room. "HEY, MAN! I RECOGNIZED YOU!" Looking up, I saw that it was, in fact, I Recognized You From Across the Room (Charles Ezell), heading this way through the crowd, a beer in each hand, squinting to read my name tag. Instinctually, I ducked behind the nearest Im Still Not Talking to You (Ebbie Parker) and made my escape; unfortunately it was into the path of I Make Inappropriate Confessions (Melinda Hill).
"I have a yeast infection," she confessed.
"Garlic-clove suppository," I recommended.
"But I have hepatitis C, too," she confessed. "Im not gonna live that long."
Jesus. I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to find Im Looking for Weed (Blaine Capatch). "Hey, Charles. Whats going on? Did you ever end up talking with . . ."
"I GOT YER BACK, CHARLIE HAMPTON!" I Recognized You From Across the Room recognized me again, this time from just a few feet away. Here he was, beer in one hand, beer in the other, recognizing the shit out of me. "Charlie Hampton! Buddy! Yeah! Got your back, buddy!"
"Come find me later," said Im Looking for Weed, and he split. And then everything happened at once: Im Carrying Your Child (Suzy Nakamura) approached and requested, politely, at least $500 a month until our impending spawn turns 18; I Have No Internal Editor (Dana Gould) detailed recent difficulties with urination: "When I sneeze, I pee a little bit. Its like the lips of my urethra are about as elastic as two little pizza crusts. So what I do is, I swallow bouillon cubes and dried gelatin."
Let Me Give You Some Unsolicited Career Advice (Bil Dwyer) could no longer contain himself. "Hey, Charles," he said, smiling broadly, stepping in between I Have No Internal Editor and me. "You know, my brother books celebrity impersonators, and I think youd be a perfect telemarketer for him. Dont you think? Youd be great at that. And that money is sooo easy."
The word telemarketer thats always my signal. Mentally, I stripped naked, donned my Hello, I Must Be Going bathrobe and headed for the back door, only to find it tragically blocked by Im Trying To Drag You Into My Argument (Eddie Pepitone), who proceeded to drag me into the argument he was having with No, Im Trying To Drag You Into My Argument (Sean Conroy). Something about Hubbles Law, JonBenet Ramsey and either Jamie Lee Curtis or Curtis Mayfield.
"No. Jamie Lee Curtis. But he thinks and this is what kills me he says the universe is not expanding. Like its finite."
"See what I have to deal with all night?"
"Do you believe the universe is expanding?"
"Well, yeah. The farther away a galaxy is, the faster it recedes, right?"
"Yes. But were all in the same spot we were before."
"But do you believe JonBenet Ramsey was garroted by her father?"
"Yes. Garroted, she was."
"How can the universe be expanding if JonBenet Ramseys father didnt garrote her? Thats what I wanna know."
No one, it turns out, can ever really leave a fake Christmas party.
My phone rings at 10:30 A.M. "Where are you?" whines the voice on the other end. "You were supposed to be here at 8 oclock."
The voice belongs to David Hart, a.k.a. David Nkrumah Unger Liebe Hart, the infamous producer of the truly bizarre public-access puppet show once known as The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Show. (Hart has since removed the word science from the title to appease Christian Scientists.)
Ive known the deeply religious puppet master for years, and every few months or so, I forget what a pain in the ass it is to get suckered into driving him somewhere. On this morning, I agreed to chauffeur Hart around town so he could earn some cash painting Christmas decorations on store windows.
The disheveled 49-year-old puppeteer throws a toolbox and a ratty suitcase into my car, both filled with paint cans and brushes.
"I havent had a girl since 1994," Hart informs me on the way to Little Armenia. Ive heard this a thousand times. Hes even written a song about his decade of celibacy, appropriately titled "I Havent Had a Girl Since 1994." Harts abstinence is not for lack of trying; he hands out cards with his phone number to any woman he finds attractive. For a time, he was banned from the La Brea Tar Pits because female passers-by complained he was sexually harassing them. He went to court over the issue: "The judge said that as long as I didnt touch any of the women or rub up against them, it wasnt sexual harassment."
Our first stop is an insurance agency, where David asks the receptionist if he may speak to the manager and then offers to draw a portrait of her.
The manager gets off the phone and says, "No paint this year it ruined our windows last year." David explains that the paints are water-soluble, but to no avail.
Next, he tries a gift shop, a grocery store, a motel, a Chinese restaurant, a pizza joint, a few gas stations and an International House of Pancakes. They all turn him down.
Hart swears that he had all of these jobs lined up. "Its like The Twilight Zone. Either the managers arent in, or they changed their minds. The same thing I go through with women I go through with businesses."
Dejected, Hart calls the Religious Science 24-hour prayer line, the no-cost alternative to the Christian Science church, which charges $20 for spiritual guidance. David explains to me that the Church of Religious Science is a spinoff of the Christian Science church.
"Im trying to get work doing Christmas decorations, and everyones turning me down," Hart tells the spiritual-hot-line operator, who then prays for David for approximately three minutes.
David says he just received a call from a pizzeria near the La Brea Tar Pits that desperately wants Christmas decorations. But when we arrive minutes later, the man doesnt know what Davids talking about.
We walk over to the Screen Actors Guild. A young woman exits the building who in no way resembles Sally Field. "Youre very beautiful," says David. "You look just like Sally Field." She walks past us.
SAG headquarters is also a no-go.
Undeterred, we head to Culver City. Finally, the owner of a homebrewing company is kind enough to hire David. David negotiates a fee of $125. Our prayer-line prayers have been answered. But, as they say, "Be careful what you pray for; you just might get it."
It takes David more than two hours to paint a few windows. The entire time he bitches about the model-train store across the street where he is no longer welcome. He claims he is banned because he refused to become a born-again Christian. Hart begs me to go over there and confront the guy. When I refuse, he blames Bushs presidential victory on people like me who wont fight against conservative Christians.
Davids interminable bickering is briefly interrupted when a female jogger, wearing loose-fitting short-shorts, runs past. David considers approaching her but, in a rare moment of restraint, says, "I cant mix business with pleasure. Shell say that some guy on the sidewalk harassed her."
Davids paintings are actually pretty impressive. He depicts a snowman, a Christmas tree, candy canes, snowflakes, and Santa Claus drinking a beer, rendered in glorious splashes of red, white, blue, green, black, orange and yellow.
"My artwork is unique because no one else paints Santa with blond hair, and all of my characters have mittens with three fingers," says the artist. "Also, Im the only one who does blue snowmen."
I ask David why he placed umlauts over all of the vowels of the words Häppy Hölïdäys.
"Because Im part German," he responds.
Hart finally finishes his masterpiece, but not before the suns gone down. Harts patron seems genuinely pleased and even offers an extra 25 bucks.
All I Want for Christmas . . .
I love David Sefton, UCLA Lives executive director. Hes married and straight, but hes queenier than I am. When he sees my sparkly holiday outfit, designed especially for me by British bad boy Alexander McQueen, backstage at "A John Waters Christmas," he lets out such a shriek that my fellow performers Phranc, the hot folk-singing cardboard cobbler (wholl be bringing back her Gertrude Stein musical tribute Phranc-n-Stein soon), and Latina lesbiana comic Marga Gomez are forced to cover their ears.
Im the last-minute replacement for the San Franciscobased performance artist Extreme Elvis, whose GG Allinlike antics of throwing his feces into the audience was deemed a tad much for Westwood. Remember, Divine only took a dainty bite of excrement in Pink Flamingos she didnt fling it.
At the pre-performance meet-and-greet, Mr. Sefton, who used to be the director of Londons Royal Festival Hall, is acting all getting-Gerties-garter meeting Waters alumni: the lanky Matthew Lillard (Serial Mom), hustlerish Brendan Sexton III (Pecker), the majorly gorgeous Adrian Grenier (Cecil B. Demented and TVs Entourage), and a radiant Ricki Lake, wearing no makeup and her hunky new Rican beau Apollo as a fashion accessory. Looking youthful and stylish as ever is the great Mink Stole with date, the gifted actor Dennis Christopher (Chariots of Fire).
The charming Mr. Waters, wearing a red crushed-velvet smoking jacket with striped green dandy pants, looks like a patrician elf-chihuahua. John loves Christmas, and admonishes students to perform fellatio on their teachers and provide anilingus to librarians as a Christmas present. He also says that books make the best gifts, and cautions that if youre dating someone who doesnt read books, you should end the relationship. His favorite tome of the moment is Call Me Lumpy, by a minor cast member of the old 50s sitcom Leave It to Beaver. Whats on his Christmas wish list? The end of capital punishment; a gift basket of cigarettes, poppers and porn; a single leaf of arugula; and a three-pack of tighty whitey deconstructed underwear with skid marks designed by Comme des Garçons Rei Kawakubo.
After the talk, Mr. Waters graciously mingles with fans, signing the arm of local filmmaker Augusta (The Velvet Hammer Burlesque). Being the troll that I am, I cant help but pinch the buttocks of a group of voluptuous male coeds waiting to pay homage to Baltimores leading native. I was momentarily distracted by the young and buff actor Ryan Reynolds, from the new movie Blade: Trinity. Unfortunately, Ryans beard, I mean fiancée, Alanis Morissette, was cock blocking me at every turn.
Maybe next Christmas.
With love from the city of L.A.
While Councilman Eric Garcetti was preparing to wave to the crowds along the Hollywood Christmas Parade route, a team of 48 officers from the Los Angeles Parking Enforcement Bureau were spreading cheer to 600 of his constituents in a neighborhood where the median annual income is less than $25,000. No doubt the vast majority of those ticketed and towed simply failed to notice on a Sunday the temporary no-parking signs (which, according to the city, were posted on the 24th). The citation fee is $60; the amount required to get your car out of impound within 24 hours, $168.50. All in all, it was a good days work for the Parking Enforcement Bureau, the city of L.A. and the private towing firm Hollywood Tow. Which begs two questions: Could the city do a better job of warning residents about the temporary no-parking? And if they could, would they want to? A Garcetti spokesman said the office was looking into possible mistakes made, and also whether fewer streets could be cleared in the future.
Number of cars impounded: 570
Number of citations issued: 600
Cost to each individual cited and towed: $228.50
Total generated: $132,045
Amount to city of Los Angeles: $60, 225
Amount to Hollywood Tow: $71,820
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