Shut Up, Little Man!

Some Notes Toward a History of Shut Up, Little Man!

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“Little Man, Look at What You've Done Here” — The Shut Up Little Man play

with the cast
Mitchell and Eddie Lee with the cast

One evening I received a call from Gregg Gibbs, a Los Angeles painter and fringe actor. Gibbs, along with his friend Charles Schneider, had done a short performance based on the Shut Up Little Man dialogue at a small cafe in Los Angeles. He and Schneider had now made an arrangement with the Kim Light Gallery, an established and well-respected art gallery, to put together a full-length play based on the recordings. Gibbs was calling to secure rights to the play and to see how involved Mitchell and I would like to be in the process. I agreed to be a creative consultant and to curate a documentary exhibit to augment the play. I flew out to Los Angeles and began to put together my exhibit in a small gallery adjacent to the main stage. I enlarged photographs of Pete and Ray and the Pepto Bismol Palace; I framed a letter from the landlord warning Peter and Raymond that they would be evicted if they did not stop yelling. I displayed some of the paintings and comics that Shut Up Little Man fans had made and sent to me, and I filled a glass case with cheap vodka that I had purchased at O’Looney’s and Kool 100 cigarettes from Walgreen’s.

The Shut Up Little Man play was composed essentially of transcribed lines from the recordings, assembled by Gibbs in an order that suggested some sort of dramatic arc. There were no lines in the play that were not on the tapes. The only inventive segment that the “script” called for came at the climax, a rather gruesome scene wherein one of the boys murders (or dreams that he murders) the other by cutting open his belly.

still from play
A still from "The Shut Up Little Man Play"

The cast was fairly strong. Gill Gayle, a remarkably intense and (appropriately) diminutive little man, proved to be a very convincing Raymond Huffmann. Gill had played Charles Manson in the cult favorite play, Timothy and Charlie. Liam Stone, a charming older gentleman with a penchant for Quentin Crisp, was to play Peter Haskett. Liam accentuated the bitchy queen side of Peter. Bob Taicher, the producer for Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain and a writer on Santa Sangre, was to be Pete and Ray’s sullen Nam vet roommate, Tony.

It is difficult for me to write about the “director,” Gregg Gibbs, because my Mommy said, “if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” And, about the only nice thing I can say about Gibbs is: His rich parents had a nice house, a nice house in which he at thirty-something, still lived. Other than that nice little thing I said about him, he was essentially a poster boy for pure megalomania — a self-obsessed reefer-puffing egotist, well-versed in the high Hollywood art of flattery and inflated praise (as long as there was something he wanted from you): “Eddie baby, you’re a total genius,” “Eddie, you have created one of the most important works of the century!” Once or twice his flattery was so excessive, I said: “Um, actually, I just pushed the record button on the tape machine.” After watching Gibbs eviscerate a stagehand for bumping into the stage and leaving a two inch mark on its surface, I quietly assembled my exhibit and got out of there as fast as I could, agreeing to return for the opening of the play. I left Los Angeles and flew up to San Francisco to spend two days with Mitchell and to find Peter Haskett, the piece of fuckin’ shit.