Sea-Wanderers of the Deep: A Story of Whale Watching Along the California Coast

mother-baby-blue-whale-newport-beach Photo Credit: Mike, The Cheap Route

When I was about twenty, my mom and I took my mom’s younger sister and her family to Newport Beach to go on a whale watching tour along the coast. I remember the tremendous creatures that gracefully came up for air in an elegant herd as our boat, the Catalina Holiday, sailed slowly within a mile from shore. Were they humpbacks or blues? They were great and powerful mysteries wrapped in deep blue. I also remember one of my cousins missing the whole thing because he was down below, feeling sick as a dog. Haha!

Just as important, I recall vividly when we hung out by the pier, seeing all the people, many of them swimming and playing in the water. I remember watching this very pretty Asian girl in a one-piece swimsuit walking out of the waves. She didn’t seem to notice me but I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Then, suddenly, I remember the roar of excitement when a school of dolphins was spotted leaping out of the water, one behind the other.

They were heading northward, I knew not where. Maybe they were following the whales. Some people thought they were sharks and ran out of the water! But they were dolphins and everyone stopped to watch them. They were wonderful. They were like playful spirits that unexpectedly sprang from the depths of the ocean. I’ve never seen such a sight again, yet I remember it all like yesterday. Whale Watching   Photo Credit: Marilyn T Martinez

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The Heart of Texas Is the Heart of America: Postmodern Cowboy Culture On Stolen Indian Land

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Photo Credit: David Martínez

Sitting along the banks of the other Colorado River, Austin is “deep in the heart of Texas,” as Alvino Rey and a host of others once sang. It is also in the heart of what was once the Tonakawa homeland, who called the area “Round Rock,” and whose neighbors were the Comanche and Lipan Apache. Perhaps when the Spanish, Mexican, and American settlers were taking turns invading the region there were still open plains and roaming coyotes of which the old song sings and which the Indigenous people knew firsthand. However, when my wife and I visited for the first time recently this summer, Austin was a sprawling metropolis, which, at least in the 6th Street area near the University of Texas campus, was abundantly proud of its “weirdness.”

Good food and great music complemented the extreme heat and humidity of our mid-July trip. And in case you’re wondering about Austin’s claim to weirdness, especially in comparison to, say, Portland or New Orleans, you need look no further than The Museum of the Weird, which is dedicated to freaks and oddities throughout modern history, including the Minnesota Ice Man and Texas Bigfoot!

As for music, we enjoyed everything from seeing The Sniffs perform at the Water Trough, which is part of the Lone Star Court to seeing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Moody Theater for a taping of Austin City Limits. In-between was an arduous but worthwhile trek from Congress to Lamar to checkout the merch at Waterloo Records.

In a word, Austin was a blast! Be it the food at Thai Passion or Swift’s Attic, chocolate shakes at Hut’s, shopping for Ultraman action figures at Toy Joy, or waiting for the bat’s to swarm out from under the Congress Street bridge, you’ll have a memorable time. Like other cities in otherwise very conservative states, Austin maintains an unexpectedly liberal environment, which, I suppose, is commonplace in areas where there is a college or university nearby. In any case, come for the music and take back memories of the people. You may not see much of the Old West, but that’s okay, the “Old West” was Hollywood bullshit, anyway. Instead, go to The Jackalope for a beer and burger then head down to the Mexic-Arte Museum for a soul enriching experience.

My Austin Photo Album On Flickr

From Austin to Eternity: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Performing On Stage at the Moody Theater

 

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[photo credit: Scott Newton, Austin City Limits]

Like many, I only heard of Nick Cave because of his iconic performance in Wim Wenders 1987 film Wings of Desire. During those late Cold War days, a mere two years before the Wall finally fell in the German capital, seeing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds pour their hearts out in “The Carny” and “From Her to Eternity” was the essence of Berlin, of Europe after the War, and of a world gloomily divided between East and West, not to mention faced with the threat of nuclear annihilation. Little did I know back then, as I watched the movie on VHS with some friends, that twenty-five years later I would see Nick and his band perform in a very different time and place from the one captured in the Hotel Esplanade.

The occasion was a taping of Austin City Limits, an historically important American public television program, which has been the source of numerous live music performances since the mid-1970s. The place was the Moody Theater on the northwest corner of Lavaca and 2nd Avenue, in downtown Austin, Texas. The time was this summer, specifically Sunday, July 20, 2014, starting at 8pm. As for the performance, it was nothing short of astounding, as if Wenders were directing the light and movement from somewhere off-stage.

At precisely 8 pm the house lights lowered and the throbbing beat of “We Real Cool” started bumping, sending a wave of excitement around the room. A cameraman standing on stage suddenly pointed his handheld lens at the hallway leading up to stage left. As I sat on the second-to-top row of the floor-level bleachers, I waited intently for the band to appear. The beat continued as the Bad Seeds walked toward the stage single-file, in the middle of which I spotted Nick Cave, whose combed-back straight black hair made him instantly recognizable, even from behind. As the band members took their positions, a roar of exhilaration erupted from everywhere in the theater. “I can’t believe I’m actually here!” I thought to myself as Nick Cave swaggered to center stage, smiling and pointing at the audience.

“Who took your measurements
From your toes to the top of your head?
Yea you know
Who bought you clothes and new shoes
And wrote you a book you never read?
Yea you know”

This was better than anything I imagined. This was even better than what I saw in Wim Wenders movie. This was real life, and it was mine to experience.

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[photo credit: David Martínez]

From my vantage point I could see all of the Bad Seeds clearly from back to front. George Vjestica on twelve-string guitar stood closest to me, behind whom was Barry Adamson on keyboards, to the left of whom was Martyn Casey on bass, then Jim Sclavunos on drums, in front of whom stood Warren Ellis on lead guitar and violin. Nick Cave, of course, covered all the lead vocals, as well as playing occasional piano. Conway Savage sat in periodically to play additional keyboards, as well as lending his voice. Together they performed as a single organism, pulsing with a primal life force that wreaked beautiful and sonorous havoc throughout the roughly ninety minute set.

At the same time, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are a force of nature that also possesses a poetic and, some might say, a religious conscience, which was especially evident in “Jubilee Street,” another track from Push Away the Sky (2013).  What begins as a ballad to a prostitute turns into an exuberant cry for redemption, as the beat transforms from a languid tempo to a raucous climax, which worked the audience into a revivalist frenzy.

“I am alone now, I am beyond recrimination
Curtains are shut, the furniture is gone
I’m transforming, I’m vibrating, I’m glowing
I’m flying, look at me
I’m flying, look at me now.”

Speaking of the audience, one of the facets of the night’s performance that I could see with fascination were the reactions the audience members were having to every song and every move that Nick made on stage. Everyone was ecstatic and they were ready and willing to go wherever each song sung led them, be it the spiritual heights of “Jubilee Street” or the contemplative tunes of “Mermaids” and “God Is In the House.”

For me, though, my life was complete when Nick announced in the middle of the show, “I wanna tell you about a girl.” My spine tingled with elation as the thumping chords of “From Her to Eternity” filled my heart and ears. “It’s the song from Wings of Desire!” I excitedly told my wife, Sharon. She smiled and said “Oh,yeah!” when she recognized my movie reference.

“I read her diary on her sheets
Scrutinizing every little piece of dirt
Tore out a page and stuffed it inside my shirt
Fled out the window,
And shinning it down the vine
Out of her nightmare and back into mine
Mine! O Mine!
From her to eternity!
From her to eternity!
From her to eternity!”

As the song reached its melancholy end I sincerely felt special. It was not simply that we had won tickets, although it was mind-blowing to know that we were among over 4,000 people who requested tickets, out of which only 200 were awarded. It was also more than the fact that we were attending a taping of a show, Austin City Limits, which I had heard about since I was in high school. On the contrary, it was the realization that I had waited my whole life for this particular experience. In other words, I did not know how much my spirit needed the medicine of this music, performed live, until I was thoroughly engulfed by it all. In a word, I felt transformed.

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[photo credit: Sharon Suzuki-Martinez]

For an account of my experience at acquiring tickets to Austin City Limits, please see “The Limits of My Austin City Experience: Attending the Taping of a Classic American Public Television Program”

The Limits of My Austin City Experience: Attending the Taping of a Classic American Public Television Program

 

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[photo credit: David Martínez]

What was noteworthy about the Austin City Limits concert experience was that, not only was it the first time I saw this particular artist, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but also it was my first experience with attending a television taping of a live musical performance. When I was a nineteen year old community college student in southern California I went to a taping of the Joker’s Wild with my cousin, which was simply a matter of showing up for our teacher’s scheduled appearance, who was a contestant, standing in line, sitting in a waiting area, and waiting until it was our turn to sit in the audience. The ACL experience was nothing like that.

For starters, if you are not one of the “Friends of Austin City Limits,” which is a paid membership currently ranging from “Friends with a View” ($4,500) to “Friends on the Mezz” ($24,000), then you have to rely on the ACL ticket giveaway system, which is described as a “lottery.” The tickets are free, however, there is no guarantee that you will get a pair. About a week prior to the scheduled performance the web page announcing the taping will display an online form in which you provide your first and last name, in addition to an email address.

In the case of the NCATBS taping, the online form was made available on Monday, July 14 at 10 am (Arizona time) for a Sunday, July 20 concert. As for submitting your name and email multiple times, the ACL web page discourages you from doing such a thing, stating that all additional submissions will be eliminated. So, you are advised to request tickets once and leave it at that. Since I sincerely wanted to go to this show I abided by the rules. Nevertheless, I thought I detected a loophole. Specifically, I assumed that what ACL was trying to deter were multiple ticket requests from the exact same name and email address. However, I had three email accounts. So, I thought, why not use all of them? I also asked my wife, Sharon, to request tickets, too, whom I knew had at least two email addresses.

One of the more frustrating aspects to the ACL ticket giveaway system is that you are not informed right away if you have won tickets. After Sharon and I made our collective requests, we, or I should say “I” anxiously awaited word from ACL. That Monday morning, my wife flew off to Monterrey, CA for a writer’s retreat she had planned a couple of months earlier. In fact, she did not even bother putting in her request for tickets until she got to her hotel. As for me, I kept checking my email even though I already knew from ACL’s FAQ page that they would not distribute tickets until about two or three days before the show. Still, we do live in an online high-speed era in which instant notification is the norm. Nonetheless, in spite of my wishful thinking, I checked my email repeatedly to no avail. Then, early Thursday morning, July 17, after a restless night, I got a text from Sharon, who was still in Monterrey drinking her coffee before heading to the airport for home. “Hey I just got nick cave tix!!!!!”

The only way you find out if you have won tickets is when ACL emails you with the good news. The only way you know that you are not a winner is if you have the presence of mind to look at the same page you submitted your name and email address, where there will be a notice in red letters stating that all of the tickets have been distributed. Do not expect an email from ACL informing you of your bad luck!

Anyway, we had tickets! Sharon only put in a single request and she won! I got zippo for my clever attempt at submitting three times. In any case, what you have to do next is scramble to make travel arrangements. Fortunately, we had the presence of mind to make hotel reservations ahead of time, which we made just before putting in our ticket requests. For better of worse, after getting Sharon’s text, I groggily looked for last minute flights to Austin from Phoenix, of which there were several, but all at times I really did not want to travel. They were all either way too early or way too late, or required layovers that made for crazy long travel times. In the end, I wound up selecting flights straight from the airline’s web page, which cost obscenely too much, but at least they were decent times and were direct flights.

On the day of the show, we were staying at a hotel that was an easy ten-minute walk from the venue. Also, since we had arrived the day before, we had all day to look around the downtown Austin area, which included taking the opportunity to see firsthand where we were going later that night. What we learned was that nothing is obvious about where to go and what to do. What we also learned, which was equally important, is that the locals are pretty friendly and helpful.

When we got to the corner of Lavaca and 2nd, we immediately spotted a large gift shop displaying several ACL items, which stretched across the southwest block from Lavaca to Guadalupe. Naturally, we thought we would find the entrance to the Moody Theater at one end of the block or the other. When it was apparent that our quest for the theater entrance was to no avail, we went into the gift shop, where my wife asked the sales girl for directions. She proceeded to direct us to the other side of the street, pointing out the ticket window, then telling us that the theater entrance was around the corner from there, up a flight of stairs.

After browsing around the gift shop for while, where Sharon found “a lot of cute things,” we eventually left the premises, crossed the street at Guadalupe, then started walking back toward Lavaca. Along the way, we went up to the ticket window, which displayed a poster for the Saturday night NCATBS performance, complete with a “SOLD OUT!” sticker. We wondered if we were supposed to pick up our tickets here? Sharon then read a copy of the email she received from ACL, which told her:

“Please look for the acltv.com winner line signs on the street level at The Moody Theater (310 W. 2nd Street, Willie Nelson Blvd.). We will begin handing out passes at 6 pm. Please do not arrive before 6 pm. Doors to the Music Porch area will open at 6 pm and drinks are sold at the bar. We cannot guarantee admission if you arrive after 7:45 pm. Taping starts promptly at 8. The passes will be under your full name and you must present a photo ID.”

With that, we headed to the northwest corner of Lavaca and 2nd, where a bronze statue of Willie Nelson stood or, rather, sat on a pedestal, resting his acoustic guitar on his lap, complete with beard and braids. What you will see when you are standing before this landmark is a flight of stairs leading up to the Moody Theater entrance. “Okay,” we said, “at least we know where the theater is now.”

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[photo credit: Sharon Suzuki-Martinez]

Finally, at about a quarter to six, we walked over to the theater. Like most rock shows we have attended, there was already a line of people. As we waited we were still wondering at what point we get our tickets. Eventually, in fact, right at 6 pm, the line began to move. When we got to the bottom of the stairs the line was divided up alphabetically: A-L to the left, M-Z to the right. It was at the top of the stairs where an ACL volunteer was waiting with a clipboard, who then took Sharon’s driver’s license and matched her name with the appropriate one on her list of ticket winners. Once confirmed, we were both given ACL wristbands.

With our coveted wristbands fastened we went into the patio where a large crowd was mingling, buying drinks, and checking out the merch table. Still, we wondered about our tickets. How were we to know where to sit? As I was selecting an ACL tee shirt, Sharon asked for more info. What she found out was that we had to go stand in another line. The Friends of Austin City Limits mentioned earlier had their own entrance, while us ticket winners were segregated elsewhere and would only get to enter the theater after the Friends, which meant waiting in line from 6 to 7:40 pm.

Fortunately, we stood in line behind two women who had attended ACL tapings before and assured us that everything we had experienced so far was normal. When Sharon asked about how you know where to sit, one of the women informed us that you could sit anywhere that was open, which was good to know since we changed our seats three times before the show began, trying to find a decent view. With quick thinking and a jump on the rest of the crowd pouring in, we managed to find just the right spot.

For a review of the performance, please see “From Austin to Eternity: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Performing On Stage at the Moody Theater”

A Quiet Old Man in a Noisy Mid-Town Bar: My Encounter with William S Burroughs

dead roads

Image source: Colorado State Historical Society Library, Holt, Rinehart and Winston

During my mid-twenties I was a philosophy graduate student at Stony Brook University, which back then, during the late 80s, was still called the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Like most of my peers I pursued as many opportunities as possible to head into the City, where an endless array of bars, clubs, museums, restaurants and other assorted haunts awaited exploration. In my case, rock clubs and out of the way eateries were priorities, which I typically enjoyed with a buddy of mine, Steve, who was an undergrad at NYU. Most often, we hit up a variety of mid-town joints for shows headlining bands that certainly none of my friends back in the Philosophy department ever listened to, such as Overkill, Fates Warning, and Fields of the Nephilim. The list goes on, however, some of the names have now faded from memory.

One thing that hasn’t faded was one of the bars we hit before heading to a club not too far from Steve’s apartment at 8th and Broadway. It was still lighted when we entered during the late spring semester around 1987. The place wasn’t too full but bustling with college age kids and young professionals. It was the weekend and everyone who was out had something to do and friends to accompany them. All except an elderly man sitting alone at one of the wooden tables. Because of his age and attire, he stood out dramatically from the noisy and youthful crowd gathered throughout the premises. At the same time, he didn’t look the slightest bit self-conscious. On the contrary, he looked deliberately alone and contemplative as he occasionally sipped from the drink in front of him.

When I first spotted him after entering to look for a place to sit, I thought that he must be one of the countless elderly I’d seen everywhere in the City, who had lived here most if not all of their lives and were perfectly at one with their densely urban environment. As we got closer the elderly man, who was dressed in long sleeves and black trousers, sitting with his legs crossed, sensed our approach and looked up. Our eyes met. His face looked familiar. Who was he? Equally important, did he know me or think he did? When he gazed at me the look of reverie he had a moment earlier quickly metamorphosed into a look of pleasant surprise. At this point in my life, I was accustomed to standing out in a crowd due to my mix of Indigenous and Mexican traits, complete with long black hair, which I always wore loose and which reached halfway down my back. So, maybe what I thought was a look of recognition was nothing more than the mild enchantment of seeing something unexpected.

As for me, I can’t even begin to imagine the expression on my face as I studied this man’s unexpectedly familiar features, then slowly realizing where I’d seen his face before. Although at the time, I’d never read any of the Beats, I certainly heard of them. Indeed, if you bothered learning anything about 20th century American literature, you inevitably encountered the prophets of hipster cynicism and outrage, who were inspired and disturbed by the empire of gluttony, profiteering, and war mongering that was Uncle Sam’s plutocratic democracy, in which the poor, minorities, eggheads and queers need not apply. In other words, what I slowly realized was that I was looking at William S Burroughs. Kerouac, of course, had died ages ago and there was no mistaking Ginsberg for Burroughs. As for Ferlinghetti, I didn’t even know his name back then. It was Burroughs. But nobody seemed to recognize him but me.

Unfortunately, I was too quiet and reserved to approach anyone, least of all anyone as legendary as Burroughs. Meaning that my story doesn’t include a chat with the author of Naked Lunch, complete with an autograph and a picture of the two of us. The only evidence I possess isn’t evidence at all; only a vivid memory that has turned into mere anecdote. In fact, I’m not sure anymore if I even told my friend Steve about it. Consequently, that moment lives on suspended in time. It was as if entering the threshold of that establishment was the portal into a parallel universe, in which only I could see what was happening. Yet, I knew it was real. What I didn’t know at the time was that Burroughs had an apartment at 222 Bowery, not far from my friend’s apartment and very close to CBGB’s, which may have been where we were headed that night.

Looking back on that fleeting encounter now, what makes the memory so meaningful after all these years is the fact that what made Burroughs particularly interesting to me were the Indians on the cover of The Place of Dead Roads. He stood out the most among the Beats because of this. Between that and the hardback covers to Cities of the Red Night and The Western Lands Burroughs evoked in my mind an enigmatic mythology in which oral tradition and Psychedelia merged into stories that were more dreamlike than linear. Nonetheless, my connection to Burroughs was perfectly linear. More to the point, not only did he have a place below Houston Street, a few blocks from my friend’s place, but also Burroughs divided his time between New York and Lawrence, Kansas, where he eventually died in 1997 (the year I defended my doctoral dissertation). My connection to Lawrence, KS, in turn, was through my mother, who went to Haskell Indian School, where she graduated in 1952.

At this point, as I conclude my story, I should make clear that I’m not trying to claim that my encounter with Burroughs was a product of destiny or any kind of divine influence. Despite the connections enumerated above, the encounter—if indeed it was him—was purely the result of chance. Yet, it’s the kind of happenstance that lives on in memory precisely because it was special, and it was special in large part because it brought together strands from our respective lives into one unforgettable moment that made sense. In the end, I like to think that I picked up something from that unspoken meeting that has grown in power over the years. For a brief moment in time I was walking the same path as Burroughs, our eyes met, and I carried something from his regard with me ever after, something which was added to the mementos I’ve gathered from other people during other encounters, great and small.

She Fought the Law!: Youthful Lessons Straight from the Street

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Image Source: Cops, Fox Network

The very first time that I saw anyone get in trouble with the police, I was about ten years old. My dad and I were standing on our driveway, shooting the breeze, when we suddenly heard tires screech, followed by a loud crash. “What the hell?” my dad said, straining to see through the bushes blocking his view. At first, we had no idea what happened, until from out of nowhere we saw our neighbor Denise running toward us.

“Hey, Denise!” my dad called out. “Are you alright?” Denise ignored my dad’s question, neither looking at him nor slowing down to talk.  Instead, she headed straight to the house next door to ours, where she disappeared, slamming the front door behind her.

“I wonder what’s with her?” my dad wondered aloud.

“Beats me,” I said. “Let’s see if we can see what happened.”

We walked to the corner of our street, where we could see a half-block away a large station wagon that had slammed into a telephone pole.

“That’s Julie’s car,” my dad said without a shred of doubt.

“Oh, yeah,” I responded, as I slowly recognized the now mangled Country Squire. Julie was Denise’s housemate. They were both students at the local university and were sharing rent on a tiny two-bedroom house.

“Man, that car is wrecked!” my dad said with that been-there-done-that air of authority he had when talking about hard-luck things like this. Out of the twilight we heard a siren peeling down the road. Moments later a patrol car arrived, stopping behind the abandoned station wagon. At which point, neighbors started gathering to gawk at the commotion. My dad and I stayed at the corner. I wanted to take a closer look, but my dad said “no.” “Aw, man!”

As we watched the policeman examine the damage, my dad decided he’d better go next door to talk with Denise. He knocked on the door several times before Denise finally appeared with her German shepherd. Lily recognized my dad and started hopping up and down, sniffing at him. But Denise held her tightly by the collar. I watched them talk for a couple of minutes before my dad joined me again.

“She’s been drinking,” my dad told me. “That’s why she ran. I told her she should go over there, otherwise the cops are gonna go after Julie, but she’s too scared.”

Just then a car drove up. It was Julie. As she got out of her friend’s Ford Mustang she had a perplexed look on her face. She’d arrived from the opposite end of our street, so she was unaware that her station wagon was sitting smashed up against a telephone pole a mere fifty yards away.

“Hey, Julie!” my dad called as he went over to tell her what was going on. It had grown considerably darker by now, yet I could tell from Julie’s body language that she was alarmed and anxious. When my dad finished his account of what happened to Denise, Julie began walking briskly to her car, where it was surrounded by neighbors and now two police cars.

I think Denise must have been peeking through the curtains because, not long after Julie walked away to see her vehicle, she went hurrying to catch up with her friend.

My dad and I continued to stay clear as both Julie and Denise spoke with the police. Eventually, I saw one of the policemen put cuffs on Denise and place her in the back of his patrol car. Meanwhile, Julie kept talking with the other policeman. The more she talked the more animated she became. I could see the policeman gesturing at her like he was being stern about something. Julie, even from a distance, was clearly agitated.

“Don’t argue with the cop, Julie! Don’t argue with the cop!” my dad said, obviously knowing what was about to happen. The cop then grabbed Julie by the arms, swung her around and slammed her on top of the hood of his car, cuffing her. The neighbors milling about at the scene simply stood and stared as Julie was arrested and placed in the other patrol car.

“I knew that was going to happen,” my dad said matter-of-factly.

I don’t think I really understood what was going on. Since we watched from afar, Julie and Denise’s arrest seemed unreal as it transpired under the brightness of the streetlamp. I watched intently but silently as the two patrol cars drove away, leaving the crowd behind to disperse as the excitement quickly dissipated. My dad and I were back inside our house when a tow truck noisily impounded Julie’s forlorn and demolished station wagon.

Although I don’t recall what became of Julie and Denise, other than the fact that they were at some point replaced by another pair of college students in the house next door, I do remember their arrest vividly. It stands out, not only because it was the first time I’d seen such a thing with my own eyes, but also because they were both college students, not to mention middle class and white. However, it wasn’t their whiteness that made their arrest remarkable to me, it was their status as college students. In fact, I remember thinking, “How can you go to college and wind up in jail like that?” Obviously, I had a lot to learn.

The Thin White Duke Stumbles: Watching Bowie as the Goblin King

labyrinth[image credit: Jim Henson Productions, Lucasfilm]

When I first saw Labyrinth back when it was released in 1986, I saw it in a nearly empty theater in southern California. I went mostly because of David Bowie, whose acting in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (1983) and The Hunger (1983) led me to expect “Jareth, the Goblin King” to be another of Bowie’s uniquely disturbing but artfully portrayed characters. Unfortunately, Labyrinth was not only a movie directed by Jim Henson, of Muppets fame, but also the Bowie he cast as the main protagonist wasn’t the one who gave us Heroes, Low and Station to Station, but rather the one who left us perplexed with Let’s Dance, Tonight and Never Let Me Down—80s Bowie! Needless to say, as I sat in that theater alone, I struggled at reconciling my image of Bowie, which was drawn from years of innovative music and film, with the two-dimensional character before me, who was little more menacing than Count Chocula. Still, even though none of the songs are memorable—which is nothing short of shocking for a Bowie project—there’s something memorable about the images, be it the Labyrinth itself, the Shaft of Hands, or Hoggle and Ludo. Also, Jennifer Connelly as “Sarah” was the kind of girl that appeals to people who yearn for escape and the dream of adventure through stories about goblins, faeries, giants and princesses. Apparently, the latter describes me, even as I watched it again twenty-eight years later.