artistic unknowns by Chris Matarazzo

From the toilet to the stage

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I have known some stinky, sweaty, rude, intolerable, brutish, self-absorbed, pimple-faced, neurosis-addled musicians in my time and out of all of those cats, not one of them ever had a problem getting a date. Why? Because they are musicians. Because they close their eyes and soar over a fretboard and pour their souls into microphones. Because they do what everyone else in the room wishes they could do. (It works for girls, too, but my gentlemanly mien prohibits such arguably critical assessments, lest my readers begin suspect me of being both judgmental and rude.)

The problem is, as with any Romantic perception of artists, that, after the initial OMG moment — after the artistic admirer realizes that the musician or artist or actor or poet who is the object of his or her adoration is, in fact, human, a realization sets in: Oh. He (or she) is just a person who wears hole-ridden, brown-bottomed socks, leaves crumbs on the kitchen counter and throws banana peels into the recyclable can . . .

The postures of artistic beguilement can only persevere for so long — perhaps only minutes after the initial, heavenly tryst, they begin to dwindle. That first breathless impression she has of him sitting under a weeping willow on campus with his rapscallionesque, unkempt hair and his five o’clock shadow, battered notebook in one hand and a cyclone-filled brow cradled in the other as he composes lines tends to wither when, after a time, she lies down on the couch and breathes in luxuriously, only to find that his talent for deeply embedding stench in the cushions exceeds his gift for embedding meaning within the elaborate skeins of free-verse profundity.

And, ah, the actor’s eyes as he trembles and sets the loft-spaces of the theater into a copper bell-like resonance, bellowing Arthur Miller’s magic:

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!

How infinity-eyed is this thespian wonder! How unbearably and electrically human, wearing his Technicolor soul like a silk Hawaiian shirt painted by Michelangelo. How could one not fall in love with such a passionate, expressive spirit?

But what is actually there to fall in love with? In each of these cases, it is a confluence of things for but a brief set of moments in a lifetime: the intrinsic power of the art form; the genius of the writer (God bless Arthur Miller . . .); the pre-constructed ideas of what is means to take a chin-drippy, squishy chomp of the bursting mango that is Life — bow-flying DiCaprio, roaming the C.G.I Titanic, feverishly charcoaling likenesses of his unabashedly nude lover, an unruly lock of hair covering one mysterious eye as he works; Wolfgang Amadeus (Tom Hulce) Mozart drunkenly jamming  like a virtuoso, despite lying upside-down on the arms of his cronies at the pianoforte; Jim Morrison intimately introducing an unsuspecting microphone stand to the musk of his leather-cupped crotch in an orgy of sound and sense under the marijuana clouds of a Midwestern, concert-hall oasis of hippiosity that stands, defiant, in a desert of line-walking churchiness!

Alas, regardless the sparkling moments, everyone sits upon the toilet still more often, even those sequin-clad baskers in the footlights.  It’s just that, with the artist, sometimes he or she becomes a single point of light fed by the separate beams of wonder, intricacy, personality, projection and by the mystery of the arts that have become incantations and talismans in a world that has forgotten about magic . . . if only for a song; for a night; for a play; for a glance at a time.

Still, at least some of us can keep the balls, pins, knives and flaming torches in the air for awhile. At least we bring the occasional smile to a straight-lipped world, even if we, secretly and all too often, stand pale in the daytime light, wielding a weed-wacker lazily around our hairy knees.

Chris Matarazzo’s ARTISTIC UNKNOWNS appears every Tuesday.

Chris Matarazzo is a writer, composer, musician and teacher of literature and writing on the college and high school levels. His music can be heard on his recent release, Hats and Rabbits, which is currently available. Chris is also the composer of the score to the off-beat independent film Surrender Dorothy and he performs in the Philadelphia area with the King Richard Band. He's also a relatively prolific novelist, even if no one seems to care yet. His blog, also called Hats and Rabbits, is nice, too, if you get a chance...
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