Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Cult of Shut Up Little Man

"Someday Ray, I will kill you."
- Peter Haskett

I've always been engroess with outlaw art in all forms. I love the instances when the festering underbelly of American pop culture finally comes to a head and lifts up something real, honest, sometimes frightening, but always entertaining. This is the case with Shut Up Little Man!, a series that started with second-rate recordings and blew up into all forms of media simply because the recordings are as enthralling as they are disturbing. The story of Shut Up Little Man! is twisted, cruel, and unlikely. Most of all, and beyond all reason, it's magnetic because it is sinister and true.

The phenomena began in 1987 in a rundown apartmentbuilding the color of Pepto-Bismol in San Francisco's lower Haight district. Two college-age guys known today as Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D. moved into the kind of rat-hole apartment we've all had at one time or another in our lives, located on 237 Steniner Street #4. Soon after moving in they realized that their next-door neighbors where two alcoholic, violent, and especially loud psychopaths who were bound to each other only by their mutual boiling hate for one another.

Neither of the explosive drunks, Peter Haskett and Ray Huffman, worked. They spent each day drinking themselves into a stupor in front of the television, and screaming at one another with a level of hostility that is honestly hard to put in words. They never left their apartment except for short trips to O'Looney's liquor store or Walgreen's for smokes. They existed in their own dark world of booze and hate, which would later be captured for posterity.

Soon after moving in Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D. began taping the fights between Peter and Ray through their shared and thin apartment wall. Ray and Peter fought loudly enough that this was easily done. They taped hours of fights over conflicts ranging from toenail clippings to stealing, and we're lucky they did. The tapes are riveting in their intensity and unbridled hate.

Later the tapes Eddie and Mitchell made took on a life of their own. The Shut Up Little Man tapes! (Shut up little man being one of Peter's favorite things to yell at Ray) became a fast favorite among tape-trading circles. In 1993 a play based almost entirely on the dialogue from the tapes played in Los Angeles and received a huge response. The next year it was performed at The Threadwaxing Space in New York City's SoHo district.

This was just the beginning. The tapes took on even more incarnations. Shut Up Little Man! comic books, bumperstickers, T-shirts, and the original tapes are all now available from retailers such as Amazon.com. In 2002 a movie based on the tapes entitled Shut Yer Dirty Little Mouth was produced staring Glen Shadix (Otho in Beetlejuice) in the role of Peter.
The cult status of Shut Up Little Man! has brought about all kinds of online fan pages that feature everything from Ray Huffman's death certificate to interviews with Eddie Lee Sausage about the time he tried to pay a drunk Peter royalties.

It is amazing how two washed-up lunatics screaming at one another from the confines of their dingy apartment has entralled so many, but to fully appreciate Shut Up Little Man! you really have to hear Peter and Ray for yourself. Their fights are available on most all file-sharing systems as well as for sale. The recordings are hiliarious and startling. They will make you cringe and roll on the floor at the same time. They stand as a perfect example of fringe culture that is so alive and evil, it must be shared-if only for the sake of therapy afterwards.