Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Whenever I hear the word 'culture,' I bring out my checkbook."


Over the years, one of the great joys doing radio, print and stage has been the collaboration of working with many fine artists. It has been a real kick to hatch so many comedic schemes with like-minded individuals who have the abilities to share your vision in forms that I could not accomplish. Illustrators and photographers became friends, working together on the agreed upon goal of creating a cosmic giggle. It is a pleasure to think of those collaborations.

Dave Fontana, or David Fontana or Banana Fontana, was a dear friend of mine who did much of my initial artwork. Dave is a talented musician. It ran in the family. His father was Elvis Presley's drummer. Dave had multiple talents. A musician of varied styles and very low key and humble about his dad. I was impressed by his illustrative talents. Dave was a surrealist, which I dug. He did far out ink drawings at the drop of a hat. I still have some of them and hope to dig them out of the Charles Foster Kane archives and share them here. He did the RKO-like painting on my Space Pirate Radio album. His brother Paul Fontana did the cover photograph. Dave Fontana worked with me on my play Casanova's Lips. He did all the psychedelic artwork on the program. The artwork also appears on the book version of the play, including the artist's lovely self-portrait in the letter C: the artist as a banana moon. And the photograph of Casanova and his Hugh Mingus lips ("the jazz great Hugh Mingus? He was really big wasn't he?") was again taken by Dave's brother, Paul. I am very pleased with the final results of that endeavor. Dave went on to many career successes, including playing experimental music in Germany. At one time, when Daevid Allen of Gong was not as busy as he is currently, I believe he slept on Banana Fontana's floor. Daevid Allen spent a period of time in Santa Barbara and I remember all of us drinking wine at my apartment. A pleasant bohemian memory with friends. Thanks Daevid, but especially thank you David for making it all happen.

Mike Merenbach was my longest running artist friend. I met him through a sci-fi fan publication and found a talented comic book artist screaming behind a retails clerk job. He took my ideas regarding the mythical Space Pirate character and turned it into a series of comic book illustrations. He had a wonderful understanding of the history of comic book art and was able to adapt that style to the concepts of Space Pirate Radio. We started with the 8th anniversary (pictured) and then worked together on a series of poster contests for significant following anniversaries. I hope to also share them here. The 10th anniversary poster was quite evocative, but the 12th anniversary was probably the most satisfying. Each anniversary was unique, relating to the year in question. The 13th anniversary poster spotlighted superstition and bad luck. Again, it will be easier when you see them upcoming. I will come back to this subject again because so much was involved in the poster contests for Space Pirate Radio. Mike also did cartoons featuring some of the characters from Space Pirate Radio, including the Green Neon Motel featuring front desk man Grungie Steinberg and Chef Bruno Languini. Great stuff. It was fun to work with him for so many years.

My final poster art (which you can see on the first entry) was done by a young comic artist named Autumn Turkel. I met him through my comic book store contacts and was impressed with his new take on the genre that was happening at that time. I hired him and the poster for the 20th anniversary was a fitting way to wind up the tradition. Again, more on this to come.

Finally, a word of thanks to the many other photographers that I worked with, mostly on outlandish ideas for the local papers. The Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara was the home of many struggling students who wished to become professional photographers. Quite often their assignments included photographing people of a certain profession and it was through this serendipity that I met many individuals who could combine their assignment with doing something off the wall. Gary Alessi was one of the first people that I met from that school and he did the back cover photos of my record album. There will be many examples of their work upcoming in these entries of delirium. My thanks to all of them.