Kooks, Little Green Books And Zappa Blows Bicycle
By Jerry Hopkins
Los Angeles Free Press, July 8, 1966
Three years ago. A small office on Vine Street in Hollywood. An incredibly cluttered desk. No title on the door, but my boss, Steve Allen, says I am his "vice president in charge of left-fielders." At the time I am listed as Talent Coordinator on Steve's late-night show, but I am called the program's "kook-booker." I am responsible for uncovering and booking some of the show's more interesting people.
I held that job for two years, leaving to plow my way through the back lot and the "black" lot of Universal Studios. I lost contact with many of the people I met when I was with the Allen show, but not all of them. From time to time one of my "kooks" comes back into my life and brightens it.
It was through that show I met Vito and his wife Sue. Vito I still see, usually dancing at the Whisky or the Trip, or I go by his house on a Friday night when he is conducting one of his sculpture classes – a kind of terra cotta seminar.
As mentioned in an earlier column, it was Vito who turned me on to Cheyanne Schatz, an artist and writer and one-man band. I spent a day at the beach with Cheyanne a couple of weeks ago and then he sent me four of his Little Green books. He also gave me hell for saying the books were mimeographed. He says they are printed on an historic Schatz-o-graph. I will not argue. The books are delightful. "Fatman and Bobbin Meet the One Man Band." "Schatz's Monster." "Cheyanne Schatz and His Rocket Ship Trip to the Moon!" "Cheyanne Schatz vs. Chief Thundercloud." Four of a series.
The Little Green Books are really groovy and SHOULD be this decade's answer to the Big Little Books. Suspense. Adventure. Violence. Laughs. Illustrated by the author and available from Schatz Little Green Books, 346 No. Crescent Heights. L. A. 48.
Other "kooks" I see occasionally are Gypsy Boots and Professor Voss. Gypsy sometimes turns up on the Strip, but mostly he is doing a night club act in West Covina, running around promoting his autobiography "Bare Feet and Good things to Eat" and making good healthy noise.
Professor Voss is 86 years old and he lives in a bus with a couple of dogs and dozens of bins of nuts and dates. Professor Voss is a strong man and not too many years ago he pulled a freight car along a railroad track, pulling the load by tying a rope from the freight car to his hair. We didn't have any tracks on Vine Street, so on the Allen show Professor Voss had to settle for pulling three automobiles in the same fashion.
Last time I see the good Professor is the Fourth of July and his bus is parked in the field where Malibu Canyon comes into the Coast Highway. If you see the bus there, go talk with him. He does not get many visitors and he will tell you some interesting stories and maybe give you a sack full of dates and nuts.
Another "kook" I lost track of was the guy who came into the Steve Allen Theatre and looked me in the eye and said: "I play musical bicycle."
I said, "What?"
"I blow bicycle, man. I want to teach Steve how to blow bicycle."
I said okay, go get your bike and show me how it's done. Which is exactly what he did – "tuning" the spokes with a spoke wrench before plucking them. Then he blew a few notes across the open end of the handlebars. This went on for some time, with variations. The melody was intriguing, if less than consistent.
Two years went by before I saw this fellow again. Now he has a record out, and an album. The fellow's name is Frank Zappa and he is the leader of The Mothers. The album is called "Freak Out!" and it is two records (for the price of one) of psychedelic music, for lack of a better phrase. It is a good album. It has original selections titled "The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet" (being an "unfinished ballet in two tableaux" running 12:17), "Who Are The Brain Police?," and "Hungry Freaks, Daddy."
Even if you don't like psychedelic music, you should buy the album – just for the liner notes. "Hungry Freaks, Daddy" is written for Carl Orestes Franzoni and it says about Carl, "He is freaky down to his toe nails. Someday he will live next door to you and your lawn will die." The album also lists 184 people who "have contributed materially in many ways to make our music what it is ... please do not hold it against them." (The only groovy names not on the list are Billy Batson and Gale Sondergarde.) There are pictures of charter members of the United Mutations of Los Angeles. Lots of things like this. This is Frank Zappa' s gift.
Frank Zappa and Vito and Gypsy Boots and Professor Voss may be "kooks" in somebody's book. Not in mine they aren't. The "normal" people are the batty ones.