Monday, March 13, 2006


Raver Madness, a shockingly true tale (Part Three)

And Disco Inferno... a story of youthful folley and misadventure at the hands of the zippies

Your Messiah will arrive much later than expected.

"I am Oz, the Great and Terrible. Why do you seek me? L Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz

THERE were always elements of the messianic about Clark's mission. Part of his charm and allure was in recasting the yuppie as a hippie holding a computer with an innocent vision of dancing outdoors on the grass amidst a bigger dose of millennium fever than most. Indeed there is nothing wrong with being characterised as some kind of holy man carrying a laptop computer while riding on a donkey, even if this makes you look like the Jesus Christ of rave culture as Time or Newsweek would have it, (Christopher Columbus as I still maintain) it is another thing altogether to actually tout oneself as G-d or to claim to embody the spiritual physicality of a Christ without stopping to consider that there could well be a pantheon of gods out there that include Buddha and even the Zoroastrian embodiment of the god Mazda?

We arrived one night at -- Terence McKenna's ex-wife, Kat Mckenna's houseboat in Sausalito somewhere, and we are instantly thronged by worshippers who insist that I am Krishna and Fraser is like God. They all circle us like pixies at a fairy wedding and dance and sing a song too horrible to imagine. I think it has something to do with Fraser's birthday, but I am too stoned to remember anything more than that.

It would be a while until the infamous "Smells like Zippy Spirit -- the stillbirth of a supertribe" piece in OUTside Magazine was published, along with the terrible quote "I'm just a guy. Jesus was just a guy, too, of course." I could never figure out exactly why Hampton Sides wanted to pronounce the Zippies "Dead on Arrival", but then you have to figure in the exploitation angle. The fact that none of us were getting paid, and as the "new supertribe" multiplied, so did the number of promoters eyeing his bank account.

Being so close to a superego like Clark, can be dangerous. It is one thing to stand next to a real Saint, a Mandela or a Tutu, and to get a wiff of actual greatness, but being situated next to Clark, at any time of the day, was, as the saying goes, "like being absorbed by an unstable supernova about to explode,"He had the ability, armed with a concoction of psychedelic folklore, to make even the smallest detail seem completely trivial and yet "oh, so significant", to literally mesmerise your mind, hypnotizing you with his bardlike, rhyming verse -- yes the man as so many critics like to tell us, had the real gift of the gab, and was indeed some kind of stoned leprechaun spouting poetry and persuading you that things were, far from being stillborn and over, just about to start .

When the "Here come the Zippies" story was breaking on the West Coast of America during 1994, Bill Griffith, the creator of a cartoon character named "Zippy" expressed his concern that people like myself were simply "cashing-in". Even though I could not afford to wash my socks, we were "cashing-in", perhaps on Zippy himself?

"I've always longed to be a Mascot" says Zippy the Pinhead in the comic strip - "Yippie, its Zippie", about a "bunch of weirdoes who guzzle mashed enzymes and get communal and stuff" "Good!" says Zippy's ultra-rationalist partner Griffy, "Fantabulous! Now I'll get this out on th' Internet and we can start licensing - I see 'Zippie' screensavers, 'Zippie' flavoured teas! 'Zippie' clam dippies!! You'll be huge!!."

While it seemed to an ultra-rationalist as if Clark was making money off the odd appearance, cadging a dollar here and there, and generally mooching his way around while conning masses of hysterical new age wannabes, all of whom wanted to be in on the action, he was far from being a Sai Baba or Maharaji. In fact being Jesus Christ was not all that desirable, since one of the side-effects of being cast as an impoverished beggar on a donkey was that the apple power-book was always out of date or on loan, a simple prop. Indeed a marketing opportunity that failed to alert brand managers or the faithful to some potential high-tech shenanigans that could conceivably have enriched those whose lives depended upon making money.

Clark raised the issue of his status as "guru" one night.

"I'm reading 'On the Guru Trail', what do you think? he asked

"Dunno." I said. We haven't eaten for days."

Aside from the enormous marketing opportunities which failed to materialise, and the claim to a demographic that could be measured in the hundreds of thousands, and which still today measures something in the absurd region of a 300 million plus audience on the Asian Subcontinent (if you believe Outlook India), there were the association with technology companies that were exploitative, the media which exploited us, and the expectations that if we were not already being exploited, or exploiting those teen spirits, then who the hell were we to even ask for money?

When Clark eventually left for England, he went home to a council flat and a welfare cheque. I on the other hand, had to rough it back in Africa, a "third world country" which sometimes makes India look like a summer camp on a hot day.

Picture a scene in a boho cafe off Height St, Clark surrounded by hordes of teens who all want a piece of zippy nippy, and the promoters of this zippy spirit who all want a piece of teen. Either way, I'm stuffed. Whether I like it or not, I still end up being some kind of purveyor of jail-bait at the end of a publicity hook that had threaded sharky school-moms who only wanted Fraser for dinner. Cut to the Moscone Centre techno fair, innocent me, accosted by adult techno-tourists, and still I go down in the history books as, " a new species of gibbon" to use Hampton Sides' phrase, a "new age groupie".

Yet another appearance at the same venue, packed to capacity with San Francisco's youth. Fraser laughs and shows me the cartoon. I am introduced to an overfed, leering man in a suite as "a zippy" and still I can't even get a drink. Eventually all I manage is a glass of mineral water -- apparently zippies live exclusively on a rare minerals mined at the bottom of the ocean. They don't eat meat or drink wine like you or I.

The crazy thing in this image, is I imagine my beatific facto-facto girlfriend there too. I imagine her, fending off the teenagers, the both of us, escaping from this weird scientific laboratory from the fifties. Dissected. Redirected. Injected. All because of the west coast fantasy industry. The need by the media to possess your soul and to literally own a piece of the new energy without actually paying for it -- the new media the new techno resource -- and all because of Clark's original sin -- the neat switch that created Zippy as the supposed antidote to the Yuppie and the result into Jesus Christ with a laptop computer on a donkey. Ashes and sackcloth beating a bible of "ravelations" on your forehead. Son -- You can be a technopagan and still work in an office if you want to. Girl -- you can be an office party and still live in the wilderness. We can all liberate our desktops from the dance floor. We can all club ourselves conscious, at least if there's still something conscious left to club for.

Continued in Part Four

[ copyleft 2006, some rights reserved, please request permission to republish from the author, at]

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