, , ,

the persona of kim fowley is, to use his own vernacular, like lon chaney duct taped to david bowie, in the man who fell to earth / all that image compacted, he verbally hands you a live grenade while he swallows the pin and grins in meticulous disarray / he is too much americana for any one journalist, theatrical degenerate aside, melanoma scars tattoo his forearm, licorice like clark kent glasses, he whittles his roast chicken with a sculptor’s hint of royalty, and that is to be our first glimpse at the dropping of the guard into the belfry of a real life / to be all things at once is what honesty is, but to be all things at all is something the average joe cannot handle, not outside of the personal plushness of his own strip mall vaudeville needs anyhow


i was visiting the nomadic fowley in the sixty fourth year of his life in his 2003 sand dune haunt, redlands california / his quaint three bedroom craftsman baked in the sun, the vaulting ceiling making the tall man, gray hair slicked back douglas fairbanks style, appear normal, but then rendered the sparse bachelor furniture comically stunted / this was the first dwelling in his life that was not a dingy bare bulb swinging one room apartment, and i was to be one of the first visitors to see it from the inside, and yes i felt a little like geraldo, and fowley’s mind did seam a little like a place al capone might hide a stolen picasso / i drove and he waved me and my 73’ caprice classic through the streets of his ghostly flattened grovetown, destination the hometown café, to which he feasted daily on it’s middle american rest homian fare / he flirted with our tanya harding looking waitress, he held the big plastic menu, for the moment i saw a ‘moses and his tablets’ kind of thing, but that changed when he asked her if she had seen his web site, per his request / “did you see the gold records?” / he worked her as only a veteran producer could, and this was the beauty in the technique that becomes him, and that being when he asked her if she sang, she nodded affirmatively with a patented blank valley girl, ball-peen hammer in the back of the head response, one which was practically a flashing neon sign lighting an empty well / but he treated her like she was drew barrymore, and that was sweet, and indeed all things were possible on the fowley front, where comedy did often turn to dinero, and in time (which is now) record collectors would have to go to the emergency room with bloody knees attained from scowling record bins for the fleet of his lost works / he asked the quazi-germanic maiden if she would sing for us out in the parking lot after our meal, a verse and a chorus he said, and as we filed away after settling up, was genuinely surprised when she vaporized, aqua-velva colored eyes and all / show business without a sense of humor is to accidentally split the atom at the grand opening ribbon cutting of a meth lab


you are your tragedy’s child / fowley was the gangly off spring of two hollywood movie stars, douglas fowley, star of over two hundred talking pictures, mostly gangster noir, as well as the director of “macumba love (1960) / his mother was a shit bird B movie actress, playing the cigarette girl in the big sleep, and dumped kim on a foster home door stoop the first chance she got when her husband joined the fighting over seas / so now you can start to sense the ghostish waft of a swashbuckling silver-spoon street-fighter emerging before you / also the general origins of a gentle manstrosity that is just not going to fit in / cut into pieces he was confusing, and was not morphic in that sense, you needed his entire life, no single piece was any genetic portrait

we all have turning points in our lives, deaths, births, emotional titanics, that are more us than our work can portray, our creations more residue than indicator / it seems the more contrasting these events the more colorful the character, as every event of the fowley saga unfolds, it is clear he took his weaknesses, turned them upside down and inside out, ran them through a fuzz box, and paraded them around like a big soup can realization to andy warhol / when all is said and done, when his cult status is reduced to a small army of punk connoisseurs, he is still a man who has written songs with the byrds, cat stevens, warren zevon, and has produced everyone from, gene vincent, east l.a. tamale rocker chan romero, and the hollywood argyles, not to mention being the naughty stepfather/brainchild of the runaways with joan jett


this man does not have a personal life and in so he hangs nothing on his walls to prove it / all the material possessions stored are internal / the walls being blank become the empty land-lord-white canvas that he purposes his life to be, and to which he catapults his existence against / stacks of memorabilia hug against the carpet and molding, hap hazard gold records look like the toys he never had in the foster homes / he points at them, “i could put those up on the wall here” he says, “but then you’d hate me” / fowley recollects having a tibetan mountain top type revelation on the day that richie vallens perished in a mangled sesna / he was walking down a sun lit street and saw a beautiful latino woman watering her suburban lawn, crystal spewing from her hose and crying / upon an inquiry of her sadness she told him of the plane crash, and he felt a jolt of teenage enlightenment / he had to do something about it, and these fits of response to his own intuition tell more of the making of a true original than anything / for you might think that the first thing you would do upon this sort of reaction was to get a guitar and an old fender tweed and hit the garage band circuit, but not fowley, he went straight out and signed up for college with a major in criminology / as an artist i can see that as more creative move, and in that, more unpredictable, than anything bob dylan has ever written, and i like dylan

the occasion for my breaking dehydrated potatoes with fowley on this swamp cooler heat jumping inspiration of a summer day, was to submit some songs for an upcoming HBO pilot that he was working towards / it was to be a reality based talk show centered around the sole subject of death, with kim, who is a survivor of two forms of cancer and reoccurring polio, as the david letterman meets screaming jay Hawkins figurehead, with perhaps winona ryder dancing on a live feed from a jail cell go-go cage / the first guest was purported to be jerry lewis


before i left i tried to photograph him in his doorway flanked by the two bold blood red ‘keep out’ signs / other than that you might think it to be grandma’s house and smell curiously for a pie’s coiling scent on the sill / he agreed to the photo, slipped back into the house for a second, and re-emerged holding a big purple teddy bear and a child’s yellow plastic baseball bat / i didn’t ask, i just shot the picture like good journalist / i knew when i was knee deep in mythology, i whistled marlena dietrich’s “hot voodoo” under my breath, the single reflex and the mirrors closing on the camera woke me from my other-worldly thought / it was now past midnight as i pulled into the after hours daze of a night crushed redlands / i felt that i was sliding through a town that fowley didn’t know he knew, and a town that couldn’t in it’s wildest dreams afford to know him / but is that not the beauty of the unsuspecting, isn’t that indeed what fowley has been looking for and nurturing his whole life? / resounding in his neighborhood, a doo wop group of dog howls cried to be evaded / but kim had in retrospect way more history and imagery of ‘spring break sex’ perhaps than any whistle stop can fathom

patrick brayer

the fontucky mind museum (curator)

summer 2003

Brayer Fowley by Purcell.jpg

further studies:

The Mayor of Sunset Strip (DVD) directed by George Hickenlooper

The Runaways (DVD) Michael Shannon plays Kim Fowley

Lord of Garbage (the first part of Kim Fowely’s autobiography)