An average guy who works in a movie theater, plays in a rock band and likes video games, Wyatt Cusick, the singer for the not terribly well-known San Francisco band Track Star, is the unlikely obsession of Owen, who has devoted a whole fanzine to his existence. It's called Wyatt Riot.
“He is an enigmatic role model for dozens of dumb kids like me,” says Owen in issue No. 1 of Wyatt Riot. “Wyatt represents the kind of listless, oversensitive and undermotivated types of boys that play pinball at two in the afternoon and steal laundry detergent from their roommates. Yes, Wyatt encompasses, um, well, I'm pretty much making this up as I go along, to be totally honest. I just think Wyatt is kind of funny and I like his band and I found this swell picture of him eating a hamburger and I know more about him than I probably should and well, I thought up a clever title and that's more than most fanzines have going for them.”
Each issue includes “Wyatt Fun Facts” like “When you think about it Wyatt kind of looks like Ollie North!” and “Wyatt is kind of a mooch (so I hear).” “Wyatt Sightings” details dreams about Wyatt, and quotes from Wyatt's ex-roommates and former co-workers: “He was always really quiet. We would call him 'Quiet Wyatt'” and “Honestly, I can't remember a damn thing about him.”
Never boring, all four issues of Wyatt Riot are a hoot from start to finish, thanks to Owen's understated wit. Though the whole thing is a sarcastic send-up of magazines like Tiger Beat, Owen is seriously obsessed with Wyatt. “Originally I was thinking he'd be a neat guy to be friends with, but I think I've totally demolished any opportunity of that,” says Owen. Not long after Owen ran off 20 copies for friends, word of the zine reached Wyatt, who saw a copy and was not amused.
“And then the thing happened where I went to the Clay [Hotel] to get my roommate an application, and Wyatt was working,” writes Owen. “There was a sick quiet in the lobby of the Clay while the manager went upstairs to get the application, and it was just me and him there, and I swear I heard his brain say, 'Oh no!'”
There's nothing particularly stalkerlike about Wyatt Riot, nor is Owen gay. He admits that it was mostly the scandal and publicity that the zine caused that fed his obsession. One night Wyatt even crept into his subconscious. “So, I had this dream where me and Wyatt were hanging out, havin' a real blast, laughin' up a storm,” writes Owen. “At some point, I offered Wyatt some pie. I handed Wyatt an entire pie and he made like he was going to stick his bare foot into the pie. 'No Wyatt!' I said. 'You're supposed to eat the pie, not stick your foot in it!' We laughed and laughed.”
In issue No. 3, Owen makes the bold move of showing up at Wyatt's work and giving him a bagel. “I'm Owen. I wrote a fanzine about you,” he says. “I know,” replies Wyatt. “Sorry,” says Owen as he runs out the door. “Are you okay? You were totally shaking,” asks Owen's friend Sharky. “Do you think he noticed?” wonders Owen.
So who the hell is Wyatt, and is he worthy of all this adulation? Wyatt Cusick sings plaintive, Lou Barlow-type songs for his band, Track Star, whose latest record, Communication Breaks, is a varied collection of ringing Wedding Present-like rhythm guitars, abrupt dynamic shifts and anguish-filled lyrics. For nerdy, pink-cheeked indie kids in ugly polyester shirts, Track Star is indeed something to get excited about. One would hope that these same kids would catch the irony in Wyatt Riot and have a good laugh, humor that's lost on Wyatt, who refused to be interviewed for this story, saying he in no way wanted to encourage Owen.
Owen decided to quit with issue No. 4 – he was tired of being the freak at Track Star shows. He also realized his preoccupation with Wyatt was getting a little bit out of control. “Once I was on the 22 [bus], and I saw a guy who I could have sworn was Wyatt,” writes Owen, “except he didn't appear to be afraid of me and Wyatt is most definitely afraid of me and plus this guy was wearing different shoes and Wyatt always wears the same shoes.”
Issues No. 1-4 of Wyatt Riot are available for $1 each, or stamps. Write to: 2770 Ohio Ave., Redwood City, CA 94061.