Chicago’s Southside, early 1990s
Prologue: Lenny Wellis sat on a couch in his sister’s living room. The television was on, but he wasn’t watching it. He wasn’t able to pay attention to much of anything. His sister had been gone for hours, maybe days. When she got back, she would smell of liquor and possibly worse, and would be either far too glad to see Lenny or would be terse and silently resentful, depending on her state of mind and the drugs that had gotten her in that state. None of that was on Lenny’s mind, however. The only thing that he was aware of at this moment was the leaky faucet in the bathroom. Its drip was constant. It was maddening after a while. Wellis felt unable to do anything about it though and, instead, remained seated, almost fastened to the couch. The water began to hit the sink more forcefully, pounding with each drop. Wellis knew what came next. The water seemed to come out with more and more volume until it sounded like a waterfall that had just burst through a dam. Hellspit and Joykiller were in the room.
“You’ve been ignoring our whispers, Lenny, so here we are, you bum,” said Joykiller.
“No joy ride tonight.” Hellspit sank a claw into Lenny’s lungs, while Joykiller kept talking.
“That hurt? It should hurt. It should hurt assholes like you.”
Hellspit became a foul vapor, something like the nasty smell that came out of Lenny’s ass and armpits when he wandered the streets too long, begging for money, forgetting to come home.
“Hey Lenny,” Joykiller taunted, “Your sister’s out smokin’ weed, smokin’ crack rocks.”
Teeth, teeth that felt like the stray dog behind the church that bit Lenny after he tried to pet it in second grade, began to carry on the biting. He would have cried out if he could.
“You know what else Hellspit doesn’t like, jerk-off? He doesn’t like it when you play that music so loud that you can’t pay attention to us when we whisper to you while you’re outside or on the bus.”
John Brown had been busy all day, confirming the show’s contract, printing out directions to the venue off the Internet, making sure his performer took his meds and, of course, that his Lenny had eaten. Now, with a few moments respite, John watched the phenomenon he had helped to create.
At 6’6” and 325 pounds, standing under stage lights before a darkened auditorium, the chronic schizophrenic was an imposing figure. The fact that he sang songs like “I Murdered Your Family” and “I Can’t Drive” made him no less astounding and was undoubtedly the main reason Wellis drew large crowds. This particular evening saw the performer entertaining college students at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. As Wellis spoke or sang, “I shot your daddy last night/ he was a jack-off in the first place/” audience members, from frat boys to dreadlocked anarchists with multiple facial piercings, looked with disbelief and glee.
Anytime John watched Lenny in front of a large crowd, he was overwhelmed with the reality of just how far they had come. Lenny Wellis was no longer just another street musician from Chicago’s Southside accepting spare change in a Styrofoam cup; he was a counterculture icon. This night, like so many other nights, Wellis alternated between speaking and singing into a microphone, while his keyboard played preprogrammed melodies. Wellis added what was an unforgettable combination of gibberish, formulaic song writing, and high-grade obscenity. His recently released songs “Cut It/The Mullet” and his ballad dedicated to “Burger King’s Whoppers” had only improved Lenny’s mysteriously successful formula. John didn’t kid himself. He and Wellis were both very lucky to be where they were. Wellis’s fans delighted in something awful.
On this particular night, Lenny Wellis seemed to be basking in a sea of pale smiles.
“This next song is gonna kick your ass, Kalamazoo. It can really whup a snow-leopard’s ass. You can get it on my new album for ten dollars. Will somebody say ‘rock’?”
In unison, multiple voices roared “ROCK.”
“Can somebody say ‘roll’?”
The audience did not fail to respond. After a few exercises in group dynamics, some more derisive laughter, and a little less certainty as to who was running the asylum, both the crowd and entertainer were indeed ready.
“This next song is called ‘I Killed My Father Last Night’; it’s gonna whip a snow leopard’s ass!”
The keyboard demonstration entered into its programmed routine, and Wellis began his bizarre song:
“My father is a bum/ he tried to jack me for dope money/ he’s an asshole/ I shot him with my Smith and Wesson/ I shot my father last night/ I shot my father last night…”
After the song was finished, a woman in the audience shouted, “Play Cut It!”
Lenny made no eye contact.
“Play with my nuts; I don’t do them rerun songs.”
The adoring crowd erupted into cheers. Lenny went on with the show.
John smiled. He felt both elation at the mutual success he and Lenny were enjoying and relief at the lack of more serious outbursts that Lenny was occasionally given to, sometimes yelling at what others could not see, sometimes misdirecting his anger towards audience members, telling them to “go suck a hyena’s ass” or something similar. He would have managed such an incident, but there were no such theatrics on this night. As the keyboard continued playing, John speculated that Lenny was at this moment relieved in a way his listeners would never understand. Meanwhile the audience burst into laughter, held up flickering lighters to the air, and screamed with appreciation in a scene that rivaled concert-goers worked up into a frenzy after the performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” or Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.”
Twenty minutes later, after a few encores and trademark head butts, Wellis mingled with his audience in an effort to sell his own self- produced CDs, as well as his surprisingly skillful illustrations of the Chicago skyline.
John walked Wellis offstage and assured him, “That was really good, Lenny, your fans loved it. You did well.”
Wellis’s face betrayed no particular awareness of what had gone on or was happening around him.
“Did I do good?” he questioned.
John had gone through this ritual before and without any lost time emphatically responded that he had done “very good.”
He and Wellis sat down in a small room backstage that had only one chair, where Wellis, who was exhausted after the show, sat while some student employees and members of the stage workers union removed the show’s speakers and folded up other equipment.
The second question surprised John no more than the first.
“Did you get the money, Mr. Brown?”
It would be the only interaction in which Lenny would call John anything but “John.” John would reassure him that whatever Wellis had sold by himself during and after the concert, he could keep for himself, and that for his part, “Mr. Brown” had indeed picked up the performance fee.
As usual, Lenny made his feelings clear about the financial end of things: “Good, ’cause I need the money. The money is good. I can’t have the biters calling me no broke asshole.”
John assured him that the “biters” would do no such thing. With his concert over and most of their equipment put away, John tried to gauge Wellis’s mood before they headed back to Chicago.
“And how are you feeling, Lenny? Are you feeling good, ready for a road trip?”
“I am feeling good, but those assholes are telling me that I’m sick and gonna die, might start coughing up blood; they’re clawin’ up my insides, man.”
This too was part of the ritual of reassurances, and John knew enough to say something calming in regards to phantasmal “biters” while he checked his cell phone for calls he had missed or ignored during the performance. Just some friends and associates, nothing too high-priority. After a few minutes, he and Wellis headed back to his vehicle, a roomy, aged Oldsmobile ’98. On the whole, John thought things seemed to be going fairly well, the performance fee collected and the students of Western Michigan satisfied with whatever it was that Wellis did for them. None of this would have happened had Wellis not been able to once more withstand his invisible tormentors, the “demons” and “biters” who in the past had taken him on what he deemed a “hell ride,” which was Wellis’s attempt to describe a psychotic episode where he had been snatched out of this world’s reality only to be dogged by forces invisible as far as John could tell. For now, John relaxed behind the wheel as Lenny Wellis, the phenomenon he had helped to create, reclined in his passenger seat and prepared for the happy alternative: a two hour “joy ride” without tormentors, without teeth.
As John drove back towards Chicago, he silently reflected on his successes, his train of thought occasionally interrupted by the sleepy mumbling or hacking cough of Wellis. They had first met seven years ago outside of a coffeehouse on Lakeshore Drive. Wellis was singing over his keyboard and occasionally pan-handling change from passersby. He seemed to have an audience. John had walked by while talking on his phone, arranging a venue for a group known as “The Living Bush,” a group of technically skilled, thoroughly uninspiring twenty-somethings. After closing his cell phone, John decided to go inside to order an espresso. This time, he would not indulge his perverse curiosity or ambition regarding the singing street-person on the sidewalk. He didn’t need to understand his appeal.
He reminded himself that he already owned a small gallery of paintings of monsters, managed several quirky music acts, and supported a zine published by a guy who never bathed because he believed Americans were obsessively clean because they were guilty.
But as he exited, walking past the tall, rail-thin street performer, who was singing something about “Rock N’Roll McDonald’s,” his instincts as a connoisseur and promoter of alternative art took over. Teenagers, a few years shy of the nightclubs, had gathered around to witness the performance. After Wellis had finished a song, he received a hug from a young woman wearing a German Army jacket. She had blue hair. Some kid with a green Mohawk and pierced septum shook the performer’s hand.
John’s desperation to keep his finger on the pulse of Chicago’s alternative scene got the best of him. He had to know this guy.
“You have a following here,” John offered pleasantly.
Wellis blew chilly air and avoided direct eye contact, distracted for reasons not obvious to those around him.
“Would you like me make a song for you, man? You’ll love it, you’ll love it. It’ll really whup a mule’s behind with a belt.”
John said nothing but smiled and nodded his head in Wellis’s direction. Wellis looked off to Lake Michigan and announced it “would only cost you $50.” John laughed the way a father would laugh at the same proposal from one of his children.
“Well, maybe not this time.”
Lenny had pulled his hood over his head to warm his ears against the chill of the wind roaring off the lake and stood staring at John, arms folded, in a stance that hinted of menace. As he muttered something about “demons and broke motherfuckers,” John saw hints of a street kid looking for his next score. He was taken aback by being offered a surprisingly impressive sketch of the Sears Tower and the buildings surrounding it. Five dollars in his wallet, John was certain he would be able to buy a drawing. Wellis stared off into space and mumbled something about how his pictures really whipped a “cheetah’s ass” and then asked for twenty, although eventually he settled for the five.
John wasn’t ready to let this conversation end.
“So how long have you been a … singer?” he asked.
The conversation went on for some ten minutes, Lenny Wellis sometimes running off the rails and wheezing into incoherence. That frigid afternoon, John gleaned that Lenny was more than a little “out there.” He made music to drown out troublesome voices: “biters” or “demons.,” he called them Less clear was whether he knew just how awful his music sounded to the average listener and whether Lenny lived on the streets or just hustled on them.
In the weeks that followed, John the felt the germ of an idea growing. He drove by the same coffeehouse looking for Wellis and would more often than not find him. He invited the street musician to come back to his studio with him, offering to order a pizza and drive Wellis home later. Wellis became a familiar face to John’s buddies. John wasn’t entirely certain what they thought about him associating with a lunatic who couldn’t play the keyboard or hold a note, but still loved to sing. He had hosted receptions for disturbing body modification photography and allowed punk rock groups who specialized in screaming to use the gallery as a venue, but what Lenny Wellis did far exceeded all of those activities on the scale of weirdness.
In spite of any misgivings his buddies might have had, not one of them stopped showing up at the gallery, where there was little else to do but read old magazines, sit on floor cushions, look at the same old amateur art, and listen to the increasingly regular performances of one Lenny Wellis. Theirs was an implicit understanding that they were on the cutting edge of street art, no matter how boring that edge could be at times. On a whim, John recorded Wellis on a compilation/sample CD of different punk rock groups he “managed.” He uploaded the same music to file sharing web sites for hardcore and underground genres. Wellis’s tracks were downloaded with more frequency than he ever could have expected, keeping pace with better-known performers. John had only a few nightclub connections, but he was willing to wager his status as a promoter that Wellis could hold an audience. Wellis’s first gig was held at a bar near a university. It would have been a dive, but the locals didn’t frequent it, just drunken students who occupied its shabby booths and ordered cheap beer. Wellis was not the main attraction of the evening; rather, it seemed that the students were more interested in the $1.50 pitchers of Labatt’s. There were two rows of booths, and at the end, barely enough of a clearing for a solo performer to perform. Lenny Wellis was set up in no time, his keyboard placed on its stand and his sheets of lyrics clenched in his hand; he read off his lyrics and wailed away the choruses. Two soused fraternity brothers looked on in disbelief and then erupted into laughter. John thought that, without the distance between performer and audience, this would have amounted to laughing in someone’s face. Some mischievous women a few booths back yelled and pumped their fists in mock enthusiasm. A drunk walked up to Wellis in the middle of one of his songs and laughed so hard that he spat his beer on Wellis, who looked oddly luminescent. John got up and hurried towards Wellis, not sure how he would intervene, when Wellis once again astounded him.
“I’m rockin’ hard to the max. I’m on a joy ride.”
John didn’t have anything intelligent to say to him. “You’ve got their attention, Lenny.”
Before long, he opened some shows up for less interesting performers at larger venues. He was reviewed by alternative newspapers and underground publications. Although critics invariably raised the specter of exploitation, it was also clear that they were overwhelmed or, as one writer put it, “snake-fascinated.”
When he wasn’t with him at a performance, John helped Wellis with his personal affairs, budgeted his federal and state assistance, moved him into his own apartment, and encouraged him to deposit his then insignificant earnings as a performer into a bank account.
Lenny was not capable of consistently maintaining a schedule, nor did he have a driver’s license. He required someone to see him to and from concert venues and to handle his finances. John had soon found it was necessary to ask Lenny whether he had taken his medication and whether or not he was hungry, in which case, they would need to go to a drive-through fast food restaurant on the way to the show. Lenny’s weight began to reflect his hurried dietary decisions. At times while looking after Lenny, John couldn’t tell whether or not he was in business with Lenny or if he was just his chauffeur, but he was more than happy to have the opportunity to be attached to an increasingly popular act.
Presently, as they approached the Windy City, John looked over at Lenny, now awake and looking out of his passenger side window at the lake. They would be home before too long.
“Lenny, I need to talk to you about something.”
“Okay,” Lenny said, breathing heavily, as usual.
“I got a call from someone at Priority Records. I told her to speak with you, but he ended up speaking with me. She wants you to sign a contract, record an album, make a video and stuff like that.”
“Yeah,” Wellis said.
John was pretty sure Lenny liked how all of this sounded, but at this point he doubted if he was any longer surprised by developments in his music career. He suspected that Lenny, in his delusions of grandeur, had no idea how ridiculous it was that he had attained any success at all.
He wagered that the street kid in Lenny realized that a record contract with a label like Priority would put more money in his pocket, which meant sitting down in the booths at different restaurants, being able to buy CDs and not having to hustle the cold streets of the city so much.
“The thing is, Lenny, is that this is kind of like having a job. You’ll be a lot busier, flying across the country, getting interviewed, getting up earlier, going to bed later, and maybe having to eat different foods so you can lose weight and look better on television.”
John looked over at him briefly, with genuine concern in his eyes, before turning his attention back to the road. He had no intention of prodding Lenny into something he wouldn’t want any part of. Lenny muttered curses under his breath,
“Joykiller’s talking about how I couldn’t handle no job.”
“Yeah Lenny, but Joykiller is one of those demons who is always telling lies and bothering you, right?
“Just like when I worked at Greg’s over on The Southside cleaning dishes, then had to leave because the boss said I couldn’t cry at work.”
John kept on target: “It was Joykiller telling you that you couldn’t do that either, wasn’t it?”
“He shattered my joy ride,” Lenny nodded. “He can kiss my black ass! I am a rock star and I get lots of air plays, but I’m not working no job. Now, Joykiller keeps talking about the time my brother Roy said that I’m a dumbass.”
It always saddened John to hear about people from Lenny’s past mistreating or ridiculing him, especially when it involved his less than nurturing family. For a split second, he wondered whether or not they reacted to his singing the way Lenny’s fans did, with disbelief and laughter.
“First off, you’re not a dumbass! Secondly, your job, more or less, would be to make more music and talk with people about the music you made.”
Lenny muttered under his breath. “Ain’t taking me on no hell ride this time.”
Doggedly, John kept the conversation on track. “I’m going to give you a number so that you can call someone by the name of Avida Dollas and tell her if that’s what you want to do.”
Lenny was distressed at this suggestion. “You can call that lady up for me, John. I don’t know anything about this. Hellspit is talking about how I wouldn’t be able to figure this out for myself.”
John wasn’t about to tell Lenny that “Hellspit” was right, but he had anticipated this and knew that he would be the one who ended making the phone call.
In a week or so, John and Lenny were in a downtown studio located in a skyscraper. It was a place more suited to recording than any place they had ever worked in. Accessible as the studio was and as adept as these technicians were, things were not going well. John was panicked. He felt paralyzing anxiety at the thought of losing this opportunity. Lenny lumbered around like a bear in the space of the studio, more of a force of nature than a person who rode the bus and feared invisible menaces.
“You can all shut the fuck up!” he roared. “You are all, in Satan’s name, assholes!”
After futilely attempting to wish away what was happening, John did his best to placate the whirlwind that was Wellis. He told Lenny in a soft voice to “calm down” and looked over to Ms. Dollas to assure her that Lenny wasn’t insulting her or her technicians as assholes in Satan’s name.
“He’s talking to some demons he calls Joykiller, Hellspit, and… I forget the others.”
Dollas wasn’t unpleasant but neither was she shy.
“Is Mr. Wellis capable of focusing himself long enough to sit through a recording session, or do these types of things happen a lot?”
John silently reminded himself of how far he had come.
“Avida, er, Ms. Dollas, Lenny and I, well, Lenny has a following for a reason. Live performances and recording sessions are nothing new.”
Lenny continued to scream at beings hidden to the others.
Dollas bore down.
“John, babe, please look at this from my perspective. It’s certainly not typical for us to promote what’s called ‘outsider art.’ If I’m to get the dudes upstairs to give this their full support, I need to get back to them soon with the news that the project is, uh, viable, and happening.”
John remembered how he handled his schizophrenic charge during such outbursts in the past. He could do this.
“Okay, Avida, if you can do me this one favor and clear the studio, everyone out, for just five minutes, just five minutes, then I promise, I promise, we’ll be more, um, productive.”
Avida raised her eyebrows, and looked at Lenny, who was staring down the sound mixing technician. With a small nod, she indicated that the beleaguered technician and everyone else should exit. No one bothered to change the sign that read “Recording in session, please wait.”
A few seconds later, John had his hands on both of Lenny’s shoulders. He looked straight at his artist. Lenny was staring off again and muttering something about devils.
“Joykiller, Devilspit, and Soulcrusher are ripping me apart inside, man, it’s burning fierce. I got to go to the hospital. It’s burning fierce. Look John …” Lenny spat into his hand, and showed John a wet and bloody palm, “It seems like they won’t stop.”
John was taken aback by Lenny’s bloody hand. His first feeling was one of revulsion, but he wanted more than anything, he told himself, to make some music and get Lenny more opportunities. John decided it was in Lenny’s best interest to calm down enough to finish recording, rather than head to the Cook County Hospital for one of his many chronic ailments.
“Lenny, you remember how in South Bend, the demons told you your lungs were on fire and that you were going to hell soon, and but that wasn’t true?”
“The same thing happened on the southside, Champagne, and Ann Arbor too, didn’t it, more or less?”
John made rare direct eye contact with Lenny. He could feel Lenny’s tension dissipating.
“Yeah, and those demons lie, don’t they? When you first started taking joyrides and getting paid, those demons couldn’t say shit. Now if you can do some songs for me and rock a snow leopard’s ass, then you’re going to be a rock-star, not a bum. They’re the bums! They’re the bunch of assholes! Now if you can get back to making the rock and roll music, then we can take care of everything else later.”
Twenty minutes and four unmistakable songs later, Avida was ready to “go upstairs with the product.”
Lenny was now receiving small amounts of airplay all over the nation. Late-night disc-jockeys, college radio, and alternative aficionados passed around his disc, prizing their underground possession, eager to display it like middle-schoolers who wanted everyone to know they were cool enough to know how to roll a joint.
Six months after Lenny’s recording was released, John toured with the singer-songwriter, who was the opening act for the Toxic Event concerts, which catered to concert-goers looking for controversial or edgy artists, usually thrash metal or punk. Lenny had been astounding audiences not unused to bizarre or even deranged subject matter. He sang:
My sister smokes the rocks/ My sister smokes the rocks/ My sister is a loser/
She is a drug addict/ she has a good time at it/ she uses illegal drugs
On September 15th/ the police came to take her away for possession of illegal substances/ She is a bum/ she is in prison now/ My sister smokes the rocks/
My sister smokes the rocks.
After three more minutes of themed free association, the audience broke its initial silence and went insane, shouting praises and saluting Wellis with the horns of the devil. Towards the end of his set, Lenny performed what he referred to as the “Demon Song.” It was no more than a series of insults to his hidden tormentors, telling them to go, “Suck a snow leopard’s spermy dick/ suck a monkey’s asshole/ go fuck a zebra/ kiss a male hyena’s bootyhole”
For a split second, as the song wound down, John wondered if he had done the right thing by encouraging Lenny to put that song on his play list. As horrid and absurd as the song seemed to audience members, it had a very clear purpose in Lenny’s traumatized mind: to verbally abuse his demons into silence. Should he have discouraged Lenny from playing something so personal and so disgusting? His concerns were quickly stowed. A throng of rowdy souls grinned up at Lenny. Some self-conscious, others with looks of mild discomfort, but all smiling toothy grins. Lenny’s delusions had just gotten more complicated. He really was a rock star.
After the concert, John was backstage, intoxicated with his partner’s notoriety as well as Absolut Vodka, his one specific, self-indulgent rider to a contract which required that Lenny have club sandwiches, pretzels, and chocolate milk available to him in his dressing room. Lenny was sitting on a recliner, apparently asleep.
A few minutes later, an expected knock came from outside of the dressing room. John was used to doing interviews at this point. He was feeling particularly glib this evening. He had agreed with the journalist beforehand that she would first interview him and then do her best to interview Lenny.
“Tonya, yes, come in!”
She wasn’t bad looking. For the next few minutes the interview went like so many others. John felt especially loquacious talking to this woman, a bit uninhibited.
After summarizing how he had first met Lenny as well as what he knew of his background, he unnecessarily added, “So he was homeless for awhile, but now he’s the homeless guy who packs amphitheatres and makes people laugh.”
Tonya seemed nonplussed. She went back to her notepad and looked back up at John and asked, “Point blank, do you ever consider what you’re doing to be exploiting a mentally ill person?”
John felt a change in tone, but he was no less confident. It was not the first and would not be the last time he had heard this question asked.
“I’d been promoting independent visual artists and hard core, alternative music for years before I even met Lenny. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I was even able to pay off my fucking credit cards. I love Lenny, but goddamn it, what else do you think he could be doing? A lot of people would be pretty happy with what he has. I think he’s happy.”
John realized he just admitted more to this twenty-something with short black hair than he’d ever admitted to himself, but he didn’t care. He did care about Lenny. He was into art, but he was in business to make money. The die was cast. His charge erupted with a painful cough. John cringed ever so slightly, though he wasn’t sure if Tonya had noticed. He looked over at Lenny to see him up and crouched over a coffee table, scribbling out one of the dozens of songs he wrote in a day. It dawned on him that he would come off as a P.T. Barnum-like thug who ran a side show in spite of what he did for Lenny, in spite of his affection for Lenny. His time with Tonya ended.
“Lenny, would you like to talk with this writer from Spin Magazine? She interviews rock stars.” John was glad that his mind was too deadened with drink to torture himself about Lenny and his relationship to his audience. Clarity would have been painful. He needed some fresh air. He was heading to the door when Lenny agreed to sing a new song for Tonya. John stopped, wondering what had been on Lenny’s mind that particular evening.
White kids think I’m funny/ White kids think I’m funny
White kids think I’m funny/ they like to laugh at me/
I am a rock n roll star/ people say that I am crazy/
I say curse words/ I tell motherfuckers to fuck off/
I tell a demon to suck a male hyena’s ass/ I really make
People laugh/ I am a big clown/
White kids think I’m funny/ White kids think I’m funny.
John picked up his bottle of Absolut and exited, not hearing the rest. He was flushed with different emotions now, anger and guilt among them. He walked around the backstage area and over to another act’s dressing room and knocked on the door.
“Come in!” someone responded.
John opened the door and saw the group members and some women he hadn’t met passing around a pipe.
“Hey John, what’s up? How’s Lenny?”
“He’s alright, just doing an interview with some woman from Spin.”
The vocalist from the group leaned back on his couch. “You wanna sit down and smoke with us?”
It would have been polite since he had walked into their room, but he didn’t feel up to it.
“No, actually, I was just . . . I’ll catch you later, something unimportant I wanted to talk about.”
John easily resumed his status as a nonentity in the room, with the girls and musicians paying renewed attention to each other and the contents of the pipe. John walked back into his room, not even bothering with what might have been a courteous warning knock, given that an interview was going on. The journalist and Lenny seemed to have established a rapport. Lenny was making eye contact and responding to questions with unusual coherence.
John asserted himself into their wavelength.
“You know, for someone who implies that Lenny’s act may be nothing more than a freak show with some unscrupulous promoters, you sure don’t seem to mind exploring it and entertaining your readers with the lurid details.”
She didn’t miss a beat in responding, “I’d love to talk with you some more and get you back on record, but could I just finish up with Lenny? Won’t take more than a few minutes.” John didn’t feel comfortable with his impulsiveness, but neither did he rein it in.
“If I wanted to cancel his interview right now, then I could. You’re not going anywhere, so listen up. Life is a race we are all running for someone. Lenny is a show horse, and not a Kentucky Derby loser getting sent to Burger King or Purina, like he would be on the streets. That said, you’re goddamned right I’m in the race, and I want my show horse to win, to sell records, to gain notoriety for his insanity.” John decided it was about time to kick her out of the room, but needed to get one more statement off his chest. “Don’t expect me to stand on the moral high ground, if you’re not interested in writing about it.” With that,
John held the door for her to exit, with a flourish of false civility. She put her tape recorder in her purse, gathered up her notes, and fled the room. John was sure he would read about this.
Lenny coughed again. After the tour ended, and the last fee collected, John assured himself, he would attend to Lenny’s ailments and demons. At some point, his compassion for Lenny would become clear. For now, his show horse would have to run, in spite of any muckraking journalist, in spite of any cough, in spite of any demon.
NOTORIOUS SINGER-SONGWRITER DIES AT 41
Lenny Wellis, the famous singer-song writer known for his offbeat and disturbing songs including “I Killed My Father” and “Santa Claus Tried To Kill Me” died today of complications resulting from pneumonia. Wellis, a diagnosed schizophrenic, gained a cult following during the early nineties. His agent/personal assistant, Jonathan Brown, discovered Wellis on a Chicago street corner, performing his unique style of music. Eventually, Wellis would receive national attention with the release of an album off of the Priority Label and a video on MTV2.
Services will be held Tuesday at Chicago’s AME church on 4th and Lincoln.