This video project I did with Claire Burch in 2004 was when I first started realizing I was losing my touch, artistically.
Before that I felt I had pretty good mastery of my artistic facilities. I would come up with a concept for an artistic project. And the final product was usually pretty close to how I had originally envisioned it. Maybe not always 100% — there were usually a few mistakes, or things that I could have done better. But usually at least 90% close to what I had been aspiring towards.
There were a couple reasons why this project went south. 1.) I was going through a nervous breakdown in my personal life. And I’d recently had a couple of bad drug experiences that had damaged me physically and mentally. So I wasn’t as sharp as I had been.
And 2.) Claire was in the process of switching from the video format to the computer format. So it’s like she had to learn everything all over again, starting at square one. And she was also starting to go blind (not an asset for a videographer). And she was also dealing with some heavy fallout from her previous video project — she had spent several years filming these complete street lunatics, and they remained a constant source of turmoil in her life.
So it was one of those deals where we were lucky just to produce ANYTHING. Let alone something good.
The original concept was that Claire would amass the footage, and I would edit the thing. But it really didn’t turn out that way. The whole thing turned out pretty half-assed.
I had Claire film all these great scenes — almost none of which made it into the finished film. For some inexplicable reason. I had Duncan filmed in front of the Berkeley Inn lot — where he had lived and created TELE TIMES. And I had Duncan talking about his time in an L.A. nuthouse in the late ’60s. And how the head shrink had told Duncan that he would likely spend his whole life in the nuthouse, and that he should reconcile himself to that fact. Which would have made a great intro for the film. Showing where Duncan had come from. And how far he had traveled to have the fabulous life that he had.
Then I filmed Duncan talking in front of the People’s Park mural we had painted — with portraits of many of the street people that made TELE TIMES what it was. So that would have really brought the characters to life.
Then I filmed a scene of me and Duncan at Krishna Copies on Tele & Dwight. Reenacting how I had first met Duncan way back in 1978. He was in there printing up TELE TIMES. And I was in there printing up some of my comics (and the rest, as they say, is history).
I also had this great keyboard piece I had written and recorded that would have been perfect for the soundtrack. But Claire couldn’t figure out how to get it on video tape. So instead she ended up using this other song by me that was completely inappropriate.
But that’s how it went. To this day it agitates me when I think about it. The big one that got away. It mostly just ended up with me and Duncan sitting there like two talking heads. Me interviewing him like it was a talk show.
I remember this former college basketball player talking about playing in the NCAA Championship game. And in the last 10 seconds the game is up for grabs. And at one point the ball is up in the air. And if he got that rebound they would have won the championship. But for a variety of reasons he didn’t get the rebound. The other team got the ball. And won the Championship. And decades later he STILL constantly replays those final 10 seconds in his mind. What he could have done. What he should of done. And he can still remember every second — every micro-second — as clear as a bell in his mind.
That’s what it’s like when an artistic project slips away.