|HE MIGHT SLING SHIT AT THE AUDIENCE, BUT EVEN EXTREME ELVIS DOESN'T SUPPORT THE WAR ON IRAQ.|
|By Matthew Sheahan||
In his New York debut last May, performance artist eXtreme Elvis drank his own urine from a pint glass and charged around a city block in nothing but a dog collar, led by a fan holding a leash.
A week later, eXtreme Elvis -- EE for short and visible at left -- handed out soiled condoms from his East Coast tour. One of the lucky recipients was actress and comedienne Jeanine Garofalo. While he didn't repeat his San Francisco stunt of urinating on "Toys for Tots" donations, he did stick a bottle up his ass while singing "Heartbreak Hotel."
Before he was extreme, EE held down a
variety of posts. He taught English in Japan, founded a sketch comedy
duo, played in a punk rock band and performed for children as "Corny
the Magical Clown." Most interesting, however,
is the fact that EE worked as a full-time peace activist in California.
This career in peace activism was cut short after animal rights crusaders were less than enamored with his performance of "Love Me Chicken Tenders." Apparently, he flung chickens around on stage after they ate chicken feed from his body. And if you hadn't guessed yet, EE's taking a cue from G.G., as in G.G. Allin, the pioneer in this genre of feces-fueled performance rock.
The Black Table never saw this performance, but given EE's take on animal rights, clearly he has something to important say on Iraq as well.
BT: Would it be a mistake for the United States to wage war on Iraq?
EE: Yes. First of all, I don't buy any kind of direct connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Bush and the hawks are trying to draw this really lame connection, namely that because Bin Laden supports Iraq in a war against America, therefore Hussein has given support to Al Qaeda. That's ridiculous.
Besides, I think most people realize that we can't have a war on terrorism. There's only so much we can do to prevent twisted, suicidal zealots from trying to blow shit up. Even if a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda could be proven, I think that a war in Iraq is economically, strategically and morally wrong.
I mean, how much money is this gonna cost us? The Congressional Budget Office says as much as $21 billion for an air war and almost $275 billion for a ground war followed by a five year occupation. How many people -- Iraqi and American -- are going to die? And are we really going to be any safer from chemical, biological and nuclear weapons at the end?
After all, the last biological terrorism in this country was supposedly perpetrated by an American. Funny we don't hear about that whole postal anthrax investigation anymore. I guess we should just forget about that.
BT: As a former full-time peace activist, how do you assess the current anti-war effort?
EE: There's an opportunity to build a broad-based movement in opposition to the war. There's a lot of potential, but not a lot of time. A friend of mine who's very active in the movement, describes it as a mile wide, and an inch deep. Part of the problem is that some of the loudest voices in anti-war organizing are total maniacs like Ramsey Clark and the International Action Center. I don't support censorship or rooting out the Commies, but I do think it means that mainstream organizers and people of conscience have to take a more active leadership role.
On the other hand, I think it's nauseating to see windbags like
BT: Are the American people irretrievably on the side of George W. Bush and others who favor war with Iraq?
EE: I have no idea. And I really don't care. Bombing the hell out of Iraq is wrong and its stupid and its dangerous. My guess is the hawks want to rush us into conflict because there is this fairly widespread uncertainty about the war and people tend to close ranks once troops are committed and American lives are at stake. But basically I don't care if a majority of Americans support it.
BT: Do you feel that peace groups in particular and the left in general, are disconnected from average Americans? If so, what can be done to change that?
EE: Disconnected from average Americans? You're talking to a guy that strips naked and throws shit at people.
Here's the problem: I think the press needs to hear a lot less from folks like Ramsey Clark and Sean Penn and eXtreme Elvis and a lot more from grassroots activists. Let's hear from folks in the military who may not relish the prospect of facing nerve gas in a ground war. Let's hear from homeless people about how they feel about unprecedented federal subsidies to companies like Lockheed Martin. Let's hear from anti-Saddam, pro-democracy activists in Iraq and ask them if dropping bombs on their schools and clinics is going to help advance their cause.
BT: Have your artistic ambitions ever conflicted with your progressive political views?
EE: Well, I find this whole discussion a little artificial because I feel like all of my ideas are better expressed in performance.
I think an artist's primary responsibility is to make good art. That
I rarely do something on stage *unless* it challenges my own political and moral sensibilities.
BT: What was the most effective campaign you ever undertook as a peace activist?
EE: You must have me confused with someone else.
BT: What can peace activists learn by the tactics and arguments used by the Bush administration?
EE: Learn to appeal to the emotions. Keep it simple. Take the moral high ground.
BT: What advice do you have for leaders of peace groups today?
EE: I would really like to see them using this opportunity of mainstream opposition to the war to draw attention to large and long-term issues. Things like the huge amount of waste and fraud in military spending, which comes at the expense of social programs. I'd like to see a real effort to fight for our basic civil liberties, which have been taken away at an alarming rate.
There's this whole climate of media-driven fear. Turning on the evening news, it's like a whole new reality show. I'm disgusted by the terror alert color coding system. It's like some kind of perverse weather report and it's all about making people afraid of something we have no real control over. It's an instrument of control.
BT: What new things can we expect to see from eXtreme Elvis?
EE: I'm taking a brief tour of the South in March to play Memphis for the first time and also New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We're planning a full U.S. tour in August and I'm also currently in pre-production on an eXtreme Elvis aerobics workout tape.