The Polka Dot Man

The Polka Dot Man, 1982


For whatever reason, Berkeley has always attracted it’s fair share of weird characters.   I often wonder why there are so many nutty people in Berkeley.    Is it that, for some reason, the nutty people are drawn to Berkeley??  Or is it that something about Berkeley drives people nutty??  Who knows.  I’m too nuts myself to figure that one out.


One of the many strange characters is a guy who was known for many years as the Polka Dot Man.  The Polka Dot Man has been bizarrely displaying himself on the Berkeley campus since the early 1980s.  He would sometimes go years without talking, like a deaf mute.  Often he’d sit unmoving for hours at a stretch in weird postures.  In a newspaper interview, he said he originally slipped into this catatonic state while tripping on LSD in a Texas jail.  He became fixated with the drain-hole of the urinal, staring at it for hours.  And that was how he got locked into the “polka dot” concept.  For years he wore a bizarre, clown-like costume covered with polka dots.

The Polka Dot Man existed in this weird mute-deaf-dumb catatonic state for many years.   Then one day he was sitting on the sidewalk in front of a building that happened to catch on fire.  This fireman started screaming at him: “GET UP!! GET UP!!!”  For some reason, the fireman yelling at him, ordering him to get up, pulled him out of his catatonic state.  He began talking normally to people again, and was relatively normal for several years after that.

The human mind is a peculiar thing.

The Polka Dot Man, circa 2016








One thought on “The Polka Dot Man

  1. I graduated from UC Berkeley in ’85. I was one of only a few Male students dot man would talk to probably because he liked talking to girls and I had a girlfriend. I was doing a beer run to7/11 for the ’85 Superbowl and bumped into him on the sidewalk. I ended up inviting him back to our house to watch the game which he did. We were always friendly after that. Tonight I watched the “Joker” and it cast my mind back to dot man and how a small act of kindness went a long way.

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