Shut Up, Little Man!

“What Did You Do During the War?” : Some Notes Toward a History of Shut Up, Little Man!

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“What Did You Do During the War?” — A drunken interview with Peter Haskett

We had not seen him face-to-face since 1989, when we had moved out of the Pepto. Time and the tide of endless booze had not been good to Peter. The fueled manic voice on the “Shut Up Little Man” recordings, the voice that pierced so many low-down nights, was now long gone. Instead, his voice intoned in a long slow almost Western drawl. In fact, all and all, Peter was excessively sloppy and slow. There was something mushy about him, like an over-ripe melon. That evening in the Owl Tree Tavern I kept thinking that he would simply turn to ectoplasm before my eyes. It was really quite sad.

Mitchell and I attempted to explain to him what had happened — the entire saga of the Shut Up Little Man phenomenon — over and over. He would stop and interrupt us, repeatedly denying that he and Ray ever fought(!), denying the Raymond would ever threaten anyone(!), and in general just proving himself to be the asshole the recordings always revealed him to be. In fact, it took more than an hour to tell the simple story (six times in all), because he did not believe us. Or at least he pretended not to believe us. I mean, Peter was a very smart man, excuse me lady, and we couldn’ t tell if he was just being coy, if he was just drunk (“that is not called being drunk”), or if he had really lost his mind.

Of course, Mitchell and I taped the Owl Tree Tavern interview. After the first hour or so of his refusal to believe our story, he began to obsess on sex. Specifically, he wanted to have sex with Mitchell and I, to suck our cocks, to get a hotel room, to show us his pornographic “book of cocks.” He made advance after ceaseless advance. Finally, after three hours of drinking and boozy discourse with the man whose ranting gave “Shut Up Little Man” its name, we said farewell to Peter in front of the tavern. Silently, we watched him stumble across the street toward his tenement; automobiles hissed by in the rain.

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