- Size: 9 x 12
- Date: February 18, 2012
- Medium: Oil and acrylic on canvas.
Victor-Hugo Vaca II chose this work of art to represent the first chapter in his “Happy Art Series” which went on to become a chapter in the planned seven part, “Crackhead Jesus Series“, which inspired the award winning film, “Crackhead Jesus: The Movie“.
“The Rock & Roll Legend of American Vinyl All Star Band Rep. Bill Johnson, His Girlfriend Melissa And Her Son From The Able Academy For Handicapped Children”
Mr. Bill was a friend of mine. When he needed shelter, I housed him. When he needed food, I fed him. One day, Mr. Bill called to ask a favor of me.
“The All Stars are getting together again, would you like to be part of the reunion?” He asked.
I recalled the thrill of being on stage, in front of thousands of cheering fans in Fort Myers, Florida, using my gift of synesthesia to interpret wavelengths and frequencies of music in color on canvas, with rock & roll legends, who collectively, sold over half a billion records worldwide.
“Is it going to be like the first time?” I asked.
“Yes.” He answered. “Only this time, it will be to benefit handicapped children. My girlfriend’s son has autism. He attends the Able Academy in Naples. I wondered if you wouldn’t mind working with them the day before the show at the school. The band is going to be there and so is FOX News. At the concert, I’ll make sure the stage is set up properly. If you don’t mind, we’ll bring the kids up and let them paint with you during one of the songs. You can stay with the band at the beachfront mansion I rented and I’ll cover your travel expenses. What do you say, can you do it?”
“Sure.” I answered.
“Oh, and after we perform for the children in Naples, we’re scheduled for a gig in Fort Myers, at the opening game of spring training for the World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox.” Mr. Bill paused before continuing. “So, you’ll be there too, right? You can create three Modern Art Music Movement paintings to commemorate the All Star weekend.”
“Yeah, sure, no problem. I’ll be there for all three MAMM Jams”
After hanging up with Mr. Bill, I got a phone call from my best friend Todd in New York, a huge Orthodox Jew that looks like an albino gorilla wearing a yamaka Orthodox Jew. He’s a wrestling champion, nicknamed, “The Hebrew Hammer”, who plays the harmonica with chutzpa and soul.
“My friend just invited me to a VH1 Fashion Week Party full of notable celebrities, he’s one of the performing artists, so it’s going to be VIP all the way, you want to come? VH1 gave him a suite at the Times Square Marriott, there’s plenty of room, you can be my guest.” Todd said.
“I would love to.” I answered, before realizing that the dates conflicted with the bond I had given to my friend Mr. Bill for sake of the children at the Able Academy. “Why don’t you join me in Fort Myers for an All-Star MAMM Jam with former members of Boston, Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Third World, The Wailers and The James Brown Band, to benefit mentally handicapped children? I’ll tell Mr. Bill I’m bringing you as my guest and you can stay with me at the beachfront mansion he’s renting for the band.”
“You sure it’s going to be alright, remember, I’m Kosher, what about Shabbat?”
“ Dude, they’re rock legends, not anti-semites.”
“Alright, I’ll buy my ticket to fly down to your Labyrinth of Creativity on the beach near Miami. I’ll rent a big car for us to drive across Alligator Alley together, as long as you make sure I can celebrate my Weekly Holy Day.”
“You got it, Todd. I promise.”
So began my covenant with the Able Academy kids and my friends, never realizing that my commitment would lead to a series of events that left me afraid of charity and suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
CHAPTER ONE: THE SPECIAL ARTIST FROM NYC
I signed an autograph for Snow’s daughter talked to his manager, invited them all to the event in Fort Myers and next thing I knew, I was being asked intimate questions about my career as a “maverick artist” on a soundstage, in front of a television camera. According to Todd, who watched the show on a monitor backstage, the half-hour interview was “perfect”.
Outside, the weather was beyond nasty, torrential downpours and lightning strikes peppered the day and were forecast deep into the night. My trip across Alligator Alley to Fort Myers would be a dangerous journey. Thunder struck as Todd and I exited the television station, making a mad dash for the rental car, through deep puddles, under umbrellas that failed to keep us dry. Soaked, we began our adventure to the west coast of Florida, in the name of charity.
Halfway over the treacherous road that cuts through the Everglades, I received a text message from Mr. Bill advising me that Skunk Baxter, formerly of the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, had arrived at the Fort Myers beachfront mansion with his grandchildren, which meant there was no room for Todd and I.
There are no U-turns or exits on Alligator Alley, it’s one- way in and one-way out so, we had no choice but to stay the course. The weather was grave, as we drove cautiously through the darkness of night with little road visibility, in spite of glaring high beams, that only shined light on our immediate predicament. I could not respond to Mr. Bill’s untimely message in the midst of such severe weather because of our remote location, in the middle of the Everglades, which offered no cell phone reception.
After a grueling five and a half-hour road trip, Todd and I made it to Mr. Bill’s home near the Henry Ford and Thomas Edison estates in Fort Myers. My cell phone battery was dead, so I knocked on the door and asked Mr. Bill’s housekeeper to notify him of our arrival. I smiled at Todd, when I noticed the framed painting of, “Cristomujer”, which I had personally signed and gifted to Mr. Bill when he last stayed at my home as a houseguest, hanging prominently on his living room wall. Todd and I looked at framed photographs of Mr. Bill standing side by side with every single United States President since Richard Nixon and other notables in the music and entertainment world, as his voice carried over the cell phone speaker of his house-keeper.
“Don’t send them over to the beach house.” Mr. Bill said, unaware that he was on speakerphone.
“Shall I set them up here?” The housekeeper asked, with an embarrassed look on his face.
“No! Let them sleep in the fixer-upper.”
“But, there’s no beds or furniture, there’s no hot water or locks on the doors. Are you sure? There’s plenty of room here.”
“I don’t want them staying at the house, do what I tell you.” Mr. Bill said firmly before ending the call abruptly.
“I thought you said this guy was your friend?” Todd asked.
“He is.” I said, with a confused look on my face, as I dripped onto Mr. Bill’s wooden floor in front of his housekeeper, who looked back at me with pity.
“There’s a mattress in the garage. The garage is full of junk. If you guys help me, we can take the mattress out, put it in my truck, and you both can sleep on it over at the fixer-upper.”
An hour later, after wiping cobwebs and spiders off a stained mattress in the middle of a thunderstorm, we arrived at what appeared to be a crack house near the Edison Estate in Fort Myers. There were no blinds, shades or window treatments for privacy. Puddles riddled rooms in fluid Rorschach shapes from leaks in the ceiling. A blood red stain covered the kitchen floor in the manner of a human body drawn by Keith Haring, which made the place appear like a crime scene.
“You’ll have to climb through the window.” Mr. Bill’s housekeeper announced before exiting through the dank garage.
“I thought I heard you say there was no locks on the doors.” Todd interjected.
“Well, I don’t have keys for the padlocks used to secure the front and back exits, so, you’ll have to climb through the window if you really got to get out, otherwise, just come and go through the garage.” Mr. Bill’s housekeeper said in visible breaths that sliced through the pungent smell of mildew permeating the carport. “Doors broke, so it’s always open.”
“Are you serious?” Todd asked, looking at me sternly.
“Oh, and the toilets don’t work.” Mr. Bill’s housekeeper paused before adding, “And, I wouldn’t drink the water either, it’s brown.”
Todd and I were out of there, back into the storm, without a place to rest, hours before I was supposed to perform for handicapped children in Naples and thousands of classic rock and Boston Red Sox fans in Fort Myers.
After Midnight, we showed up at the beachfront mansion, where we were initially supposed to stay. I called Mr. Bill, to let him know we were outside but he didn’t answer the phone. Minutes later, he responded with a text message that read, “You can’t stay here. Don’t ring the bell, you’ll wake the band”.
Todd and I stared in disbelief, through buckets of rain being scattered by windshield wipers, at a huge RV that could easily sleep a dozen people, parked outside the beachfront mansion, while I contacted my manager to explain the situation.
“Can you find us a hotel?” I pleaded.
Half an hour later, my manager called back to say that all hotels in the Fort Myers area were booked. She said she would try to find us a hotel within a hundred mile radius and call back once she had secured a room for us.
In that time, Todd received a call from his friend, who had just finished performing at the VH1 fashion show in New York City, he was on speakerphone, so I could hear every detail of how awesome the event was and how amazing the star-studded after-party was going. I slumped into the seat as Todd stared down at me. I felt like such a shmuck.
“Why don’t you guys fly over on the red eye? There are hot models everywhere! I’ve got a suite at the Marriott Times Square for the weekend, the party’s just begun!”
Finally, around 2 a.m., my manager called with reservations for a hotel in Naples, not far from the Able Academy, where I was supposed to arrive at 8 a.m. to rehearse for my 9 o’clock performance with the All Stars in front of FOX News cameras and a roomful of handicapped children. The hotel was about two hours away, according to the GPS. It would cost me $287.00 to rest my head for a few hours, or I could hop on a flight with Todd and be in Manhattan, cavorting with A-list celebrities and models all weekend.
“It’s up to you.” Todd said. “I can drive us to the airport or to the hotel. Mr. Bill doesn’t sound like a very good friend and I don’t think he’s going to honor his word. Let’s cut our losses and get out of here.”
“Yeah, but I promised these kids. My manager says they’ve been studying my work for weeks and are looking forward to meeting me.” I answered, not sure why I cared, since, I don’t have children of my own and I much prefer partying with women than I do playing with kids. My instinct told me to get on a plane to New York and live like a party animal for the weekend but my heart told me to do the right thing and stay for the youngsters at the Able Academy.
Darkness shifted from crimson to amethyst before turning azure in the heaven above, shining a bright light in my eyes through the window shades, as the alarm went off, two hours after falling asleep. Todd stayed in bed; there was no waking him up. My brain was mush from lack of rest and my body ached from being trapped in a car for over ten hours. When I arrived at the Able Academy, the director of the school told me that Mr. Bill had just called to inform her that the All Star Band was not coming and since the band had cancelled, FOX News decided to abort the affair as well.
I had never worked with handicapped children before in my life. Without a clue, I told the director of the school to follow my lead and we would make something special happen for the rising generation. I determined the disabled kids would get a MAMM Jam, with or without Mr. Bill and his All Star Band.
“The show must go on”, I thought, through all the confusion. So, I grabbed some canvas, paints and brushes, out of the trunk of my car; found a radio and some strobe lights and hustled into the Able Academy as a text message from my manager came in, reminding me not to be late for the “Boston Strong MAMM Jam” , honoring victims of the Boston bombing at the Boston Red Sox Spring Training opener in Fort Myers at noon.
I told the school director that I only had two hours before having to rush over to the stadium. She said it wasn’t enough time to spend with all the kids and that they would be disappointed because they had spent weeks examining my work in anticipation of my arrival.
I suggested doubling the number of youngsters I would work with at a time and she said that would be impossible because mentally handicapped children could be uncomfortable and unpredictable in large groups. She warned me that even with the most experienced of teachers and professional counselors, they could get violent or unruly. I told her we didn’t have a choice and so my spontaneous adventure in art therapy with the special kids at the Able Academy began.