I have painted a father holding the body of his son.

I have painted a dead horse.

i have painted a horse frightened by lightning.

I have painted a man suffering from
delusions of military command.

I have painted Lord Byron.

I have painted the slave trade.

I have painted a soldier berated by a priest.

I have painted a kleptomaniac.

I have painted a woman driven mad by envy.

I have painted an execution in London.

I have painted a woman addicted to gambling.

I have painted a child snatcher.

I have painted the insane.


From the words of Théodore Géricault



Linda Frye Burnham 2014









"Leaves After Géricault," woodland banner by Steven Durland

“Leaves After Géricault,” woodland banner by Steven Durland

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Art is an instrument of war.
Yes, art is dangerous.
Where it is chaste, it is not art.
I want my paintings to defend themselves,
resist invaders, just as though
their surfaces have razor blades
and touching them will cut your hands.

I’m painting a wild horse:
You might not see the horse
but surely you will see the wildness.

To draw
you have to close your eyes and sing.
Inspiration does exist,
but it has to find you working.
Life’s meaning is to find your gift.
Its purpose is to give it all away.
Give me a museum and I’ll fill it.

It is your work in life
that is your ultimate seduction.
And everything you can imagine,
it’s real.

From the words of Pablo Picasso


Linda Frye Burnham 2014










“Leaves After Picasso,” woodland banner by Steven Durland

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Linda’s list of artspaces in So Cal 1975-1988

I was asked to create this list for something that never happened, but I thought I’d post it here for people who might be interested. Most of the info came from High Performance magazine. Names in parentheses are those of the founders, as far as I know. Pardon mistakes and omissions. Let me hear about additions, corrections. -LFB, 8/2014

Artspaces/performance spaces/alternative spaces — run by artists

Al’s Bar, 305 S. Hewitt, downtown L.A. 90013; 1979-2001 (Marc Kreisel)

American Hotel and American Gallery, 303 S. Hewitt, downtown L.A. 90013; 1979-2001 as an art venue (Marc Kreisel)

Another Planet, outdoors, Wall & Boyd, downtown L.A 90013; 1988 only (Clyde Casey)

BC Space, 235 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach 92651; 1973-present (Mark Chamberlain and Jerry Burchfield)

Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice 90291; 1968-present (George Drewery Smith)

Boyd Street Theater, Wall & Boyd, downtown L.A. 90013; 1981-1988 (Scott Kelman)

Cam & Wally’s Galleria by the Water,2140 E. 7th Pl., downtown L.A. 90021; 1981-1986 (Cam Slocum and Walter Lab)

CLOSE Radio, KPFK Radio Station, 90.7 FM, 3729 Cahuenga Blvd. W., North Hollywood 91604; 1976-1979 (Paul McCarthy, John Duncan, Nancy Buchanan, Paul Vangelisti)

Contemporary Arts Forum, 7 W. De La Guerra, Santa Barbara 93101; 1976-present (founded by a group of artists)

Continuum, f. 1967, 8970 Ellis Ave, L.A. 90065; 1967-1990. Moved to 1629 18th St., Santa Monica 90404, 1990-present (Emilie Conrad)

Downtown Gallery, 560 S. Main Street, downtown LA 90013; 1984-1986 (S. Frank Rozasy, Stephanie Snyder)

Double Rocking G Gallery, 652 Mateo St., downtown L.A. 90021; dates? (George Landry & George Yasuda)

Espace DBD, 2847 S. Robertson, L.A. 90034; showed performance 1980-1983 (Rachel Rosenthal)

Exile, 116 Winston St., downtown L.A. 90013; 1981-1983 (Gary Worrell, Dennis Goddard, Linda F. Burnham)

EZTV, 8543 Santa Monica Blvd. #11, West Hollywood; 1979. Moved to LACE, 1804 Industrial Ave, downtown L.A. 90021, 1996-2000. Moved to 18th St. Arts Center, Santa Monica; 2000-present. (John Dorr, b.1944-d.1993)

F-Space, Saddleback Industrial Park, 1514-F East Edinger, Santa Ana 92705; 1971-72 (Barbara Smith, Chris Burden, Nancy Buchanan)

I.D.E.A. (Institute for Dance and Experimental Art), 522 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica 90401; 1974-1987 (Claudia Chapline)

Kaos Network, 4343 Leimert Blvd, LA 90008; 1983 -present (Ben Caldwell)

L.A. Artcore, 652 S. Mateo Street, downtown LA 90021; 1979. Later moved and now shows at two locations: Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso Street (San Pedro St. between Temple Blvd. and 1st St.) LA 90012 AND Artcore Brewery Annex, 650 A South Avenue 21, LA Los Angeles, 90031 (Lydia Takeshita)

Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies (LACPS), 3034 Angus Street LA 90039;1974. AND 814 S. Spring St, 3rd Fl, downtown L.A. 90012: 1984. AND 1048 W. 6th St; 1990. AND 6518 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028; (dates?) (Howard Spector)

Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), 240 S. Broadway, downtown L.A. 90012, 1978-1984; moved to 1804 Industrial Ave, downtown L.A. 90021, 1984-mid-‘90s; 6522 Hollywood Blvd., LA 90028. mid-‘90s-present (founded by a group of artists)

Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art (LAICA), 2020 S. Robertson, L.A.; 1973-1987 (Robert Smith)

Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art Downtown (LAICA Downtown), 815 Traction Ave., L.A. 90013, 1980-1987

Metropolis, 454 Seaton, downtown L.A 90013; 1982-1985 (Lin Osterhage, Monica Gazzo, Violet Hamilton)

Oranges/Sardines Gallery, f. 1978 as 605 East Third Street Gallery, downtown L.A. 90013. Changed name to Oranges/Sardines Gallery and moved to 312-320 Omar Avenue, LA 90013; 1979-1988. Relocated in 2000 as OrangesSardines Window Gallery, 5400 Monte Vista St., L.A. 90042; 2000-present (Ted Waltz and Carol Colin)

Orwell Memorial Performance Space, 240 S. Broadway, LA 90012; 1984 only (Paul McCarthy, Steven Durland, Lin Osterhage, Karen McCarthy)

Raymond Rose Studio, 10 N. Raymond Ave. Pasadena 91103; 1977-79 (Cheri Gaulke, Nancy Angelo, Vanalyne Green, Laurel Klick)

Self-Help Graphics, founded in a garage in East Los Angeles; 1970. Moved to 2111 Brooklyn Ave., LA 90033; 1972. Moved to Cesar Chavez Avenue (formerly Brooklyn Avenue) and Gage Street; 1979. Moved to 1300 East 1st Street in Boyle Heights LA 90063, 20011-present. (Karen Boccalero)

Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), 685 Venice Bl., Venice 90291; 1976-present (Judy Baca, Donna Deitch, Cristina Schlessinger)

Sushi, 852 8th Ave, San Diego 92118; 1980–present (f. Lynne Schuette)

The Floating Wall, 215 N. Broadway, Santa Ana 92701; 1973-1977 (Marsha Bailey)

The Woman’s Building, 743 S. Grandview, LA 90057; 1973. Moved in 1975 to 1727 N. Spring St., L.A. 90012; 1975-1991. (Judy Chicago, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and Arlene Raven)

Vanguard Gallery, So. state College St., Fullerton; 1974-76. Moved to 1317 W. 7th St., L.A. 90017; 1976-81 (Craig O’Rourke, Terry Roberts, Stephen Sotnick)

Wallenboyd Theater, Wall & Boyd, downtown L.A. 90013; 1981-1988 (Scott Kelman)

Womanhouse, 553 Mariposa Avenue in Hollywood; 30 January – 28 February, 1972) (organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro)

Womanspace, West LA; 1972. Moved to Woman’s Bldg.; 1973-74.

ZTZU,2624 W. 7th St., LA 90057; f. 1983-1984 (Michael Mollett & Neal Taylor)


Major presenters/museums where “performance art” happened

Japan America Theater, 244 S. San Pedro St., Little Tokyo

John Anson Ford Theatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood 90068

La Casa de Cultura de Tijuana, H. XIX Ayuntamiento de Tijuana, Baja California, Mex.

La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, 700 Prospect St., La Jolla 92037

Long Beach Museum of Art, 2300 East Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach 90803

Los Angeles County Art Museum (LACMA), 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.90036

Los Angeles Municipal Gallery, Barnsdall Park, 4800 Hollywood Boulevard, L.A. 90027

Museum of Contemporary Art, 250 South Grand Avenue, L.A. 90012

Newport Harbor Art Museum, 850 San Clemente Dr., Newport Beach 92660

Taper Too, L.A. (alt space for Mark Taper Forum)

Temporary Contemporary, 152 N. Central Ave., L.A; 1983-present (renamed MOCA at The Geffen Contemporary 1996)

Wilshire United Methodist Church, 711 South Plymouth Boulevard, L.A. 90005


Clubs that showed performance art

Anti-Club, 4658 Melrose Ave, Hollywood, 1983–1985 (Jack Ren Marquette, Jim Van Tyne, Russell Jessum)

Lhasa Club, 110 N. Hudson Ave, Hollywood; 1982-1987 (Jean-Pierre Boccara)

The Brave Dog, 1st St. one door north of Alameda, downtown LA, 1980-1982 (Jack Ren Marquette & Claire Glidden)

The Masque, Hollywood Blvd. & Cherokee Ave., Hollywood, 1976-1979 (Brendan Mullen)

The Roxy, L.A. 9009 W Sunset Blvd, W. Hollywood 90069; 1973 – present


Equity Waiver theaters where “performance art” happened

Academy West Theatre, 1711 Stewart Street, Santa Monica 90404

Actors’ Playhouse, Long Beach 90802?

Back Alley Theatre, 15231 Burbank Blvd., Van Nuys

Burbage Theater, 2330 Sawtelle Blvd, L.A. 90064

Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., downtown L.A.

Padua Hills Festival, L.A.

Pilot Theatre, L.A.

Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 2nd Street, Santa Monica

ProVisional Theatre (Santa Monica?)

The Cast Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood

The House, 1329 5th St., Santa Monica

Wilshire Ebell Theatre, L.A.

Zephyr Theater, 7458 Melrose Ave., L.A. 90046


Commercial art galleries that showed performances

800 Traction Building, Traction & Hewitt, downtown L.A. 90013

Collector’s Choice Gallery, 666 PCH, Laguna Beach 92651

Factory Place Gallery, 1308 Factory Place, LA 90013

James Corcoran Gallery, around 8200 Santa Monica Blvd., LA 90046

Jan Baum/Iris Silverman Gallery, 8225 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. 90046

Janus Gallery, L.A.

New Gallery, Santa Monica (NOT 18th St.)

Newspace Gallery, 5241 Melrose Avenue, L.A. 90038

Off Main Street Theatre, Santa Monica (home of Aresis Ensemble)

Risser Gallery, Pasadena

Ruth S. Schaffner Gallery, 8426 Melrose Ave., L.A. 90069

Sonrisa, 1st & Central, downtown L.A.

SPACE Gallery, 6015 Santa Monica Blvd, LA 90038

Stella Polaris Gallery, 301 Boyd St., downtown L.A. 90013

Tortue Gallery, 2917 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monic


Commercial spaces (sometimes rental spaces) where performances happened

73 Market St., Venice (Tony Bill’s studio)

Atomic Café, 422 E. First St., Little Tokyo

Biltmore Hotel, 506 South Grand Avenue, downtown L.A. 90071

Church in Ocean Park, Second & Hill, Santa Monica

Columbia Coffee Shop, Hollywood

El Dorado Hotel, downtown L.A.

Lobero Auditorium, Santa Barbara

Park Plaza Hotel, 607 S. Parkview, L.A.

PikMe-up Café; coffeehouse; West 6th Street between La Brea Avenue and Detroit Street

System M, 213 Pine Ave., Long Beach 90802

The Cotton Exchange, 1 W. 3rd St., downtown L.A. (by LACE); one big event 1984


Spaces rented/borrowed for performance (often warehouses)

11 Navy St., Venice

1338 West Washington, Venice

200 Westminster, Venice

208 Westminster, Venice

DTLA, 100 S. Alameda, Downtown L.A.

Storie-Crawford Studio


Public spaces & outdoor locations where performances happened

Angel’s Gate Cultural Center, 3601 South Gaffey Street, San Pedro 90731

Century Towers Plaza, Beverly Hills

Doo Dah Parade, Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

Echo Park Community Center, Echo Park

Los Angeles City Hall, downtown L.A.

Los Angeles City Mall Plaza

Los Angeles River, downtown L.A.

Paramount Ranch, 2903 Cornell Rd. Agoura Hills, 91301; 1927-1980 movie ranch; purchased by National Park Service 1980

The Armory, 700 E. Canon Perdido, Santa Barbara 93103

The Hollywood American Legion Building

Venice Pavilion, Venice (SSB)


Universities/colleges where performances happened

California Institute of Technology, Gates Hall, 1200 E. California, Pasadena 91125

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), 24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia

California State University Dominguez Hills, 1000 E. Victoria Street, Carson, 90747

California State University Los Angeles, Exploratorium Gallery, 5154 State University Dr., L.A. 90032

Chapman College, Guggenheim Gallery, 333 No. Glassell, Orange 92666

Claremont College, Libra Gallery, 12th & Dartmouth, Claremont 91711

Otis Art Institute/Parsons School of Design, Art Gallery, 2401 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. 90057; 1918–1997. Moved to Westside, 9045 Lincoln Blvd, L.A. 90045; 1997

Santa Ana College, Art Dept., 17th at Bristol, Santa Ana 92706

University of California Irvine, Fine Arts Gallery, Irvine 92717

University of California San Diego, La Jolla 90293

University of California, L.A., Dickson Auditorium

University of California, L.A., Shoenberg Hall, 2539 Schoenberg Music Bldg , West L.A.

University of California Santa Barbara, College of Creative Studies, Santa Barbara 93106

University of Southern California Medical Center, L.A.

USC Atelier, Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica


Other spaces NOT documented in High Performance and/or NOT connected with performance—all active in 1984 (from a flyer I found on the Web and from an Artscene, 1984). * means ARTIST-RUN

*AAA Art/Michael Salerno, 1001 First Street (at Center Street), downtown LA

*Brockman Gallery, 4334 Degnan Blvd., L.A. 90008; 1967-1991 (Dale & Alonzo Davis)

*Museum of Neon Art (MONA), 704 Traction Avenue, downtown LA 90013 (Lili Lakich)

*Thinking Eye, 1324 S. Figueroa Street, Suite 311, downtown LA 90015; 1980-1989 (Bill Lazarow)

Attack Art Gallery, 666. S. Vermont, L.A.

Cirrus Gallery, f. 1970 in Hollywood, moved to 542 S. Alameda Street, downtown LA 90013, 1970-present (Jean Milant)

Double X, LA

Gallery 318, 318 S. Omar, downtown LA 90013

Kirk deGooyer Gallery, f. 1980, 830 South Central, LA 90021; 1980-1982. Moved 1982 to 1308 Factory Place, LA 90013; 1982-1985. (Kirk deGooyer)

Grandview Gallery, LA

Neil G. Ovsey Gallery, 705 E. Third Street, 3rd Fl., downtown LA 90013 (Neil and Alice Ovsey)

Nicholas Wilder Gallery, 814 N. La Cienega Bvd; 1965-1970. Moved to 8225 ½ Santa Monica Blvd.; 1970-1979

Simard Gallery, 323 S. Towne Avenue, downtown LA 90013 (Ann Calhoun, Patty Sue Jones)

The Art Dock, 112 Center St., downtown L.A. 90012; 1981-1986 (Carlton Davis)

The House, Santa Monica, formerly Storie-Crawford Dance Studio; f. 1981 by Bess Snyder; owned by UCLA Dance Dept. 1983-86.

The Mermaid Tavern, 20421 Callon Drive, Topanga 90290; f. 1972 -1976 (Ann and Mickey Nadel)


Sites of performances by Asco

1971 ‘Stations of the Cross’ – One mile stretch of Whittier Blvd ending at
Goodrich Blvd. in East LA

Dec 24, 1972 ‘Walking Mural’ Whittier Blvd in East LA

Dec 24, 1974 ‘First Supper (After a Major Riot)’ traffic island at Arizona St
and Whittier Blvd in East LA

1974 ‘Instant Mural’ Liquor store wall at corner of Whittier Blvd and Mott
Street in East LA

November 2, 1974 ‘ASCO intervention during Self-Help Graphics Dia de Los
Muertos’ procession along Brooklyn Ave from corner of Gage Ave. and Brooklyn
Ave ending at Evergreen Cemetery in East LA.

(Evergreen Cemetery on Brooklyn Ave. has been a site for ongoing ‘Dia de los
Muertos’ processions since the 70′s)



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Art isn’t something that you marry.
It’s something that you rape.
A picture is an artifice that calls for
as much cunning as a crime.

Art is such a battle.
Yellow is a horrid thing.

Make a drawing.
Then begin again.
Then trace it.
Then begin again and trace again.
This hard path I have entered on
takes patience.
Painting is one’s private life.
Sometimes I lock myself away
and I don’t see the people that I love.
And in the end I’ll suffer for it.
Moods of sadness will come over anyone
who takes up art.
These dismal moods have little
I can’t tell success from panic.
And I feel like a horse
whose cup is given to the jockey.

If painting weren’t so difficult
it wouldn’t be such fun.
You know
the Muses work all day
and then at night they dance.


From the words of Edgar Degas


Linda Frye Burnham 2013

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The Shutdown

the bones of the forest watching
the lips of the river icing
the skin of the freeway cracking
the corpse of the big house steaming
the arms of the weather reaching
the heart of the country waiting
the eyes of the winter closing

Linda Frye Burnham 10/9/13

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It falls upon me like
a hun.
We wrestle,
roll across the bed.
Its knife-point pricks
my throat.
And after each false step,
each faux pas, every foolishness,
discountenance comes grinning
with its zipper in one hand,
its dagger in the other.

I writhe in shame and moan
my mea culpa.

And afterwards
I lie here like a bedsore.
I am a doxy of regret.
I am its concubine,
its sow.
Can this be love?

Today will be the day.
I’ll shower dress drink juice
go out.
I will divorce chagrin.
It will not fuck me any more.

Linda Frye Burnham 2013

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Van Gogh






I’m such a nobody.
I put my heart and soul into my work,
and in the process I have lost my mind.
The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting.
I am seeking, I am striving,
I am in it now with all my heart.
I only wish they’d take me as I am.
The sadness lasts forever.

Yet, in the depths of misery,
there is still a calm in me,
a music, a pure harmony.
And I see paintings, drawings
in poorest cottages and dirty corners.
Poetry surrounds us on all sides.

I’ve tried to show the café as a place
where one can come to ruin
or go mad, commit a crime.
I’m always doing what I can’t do yet,
so I can learn to do it.
I think that I still have it in my heart someday
to paint a bookshop
with a yellow front, pink in the evening…
a light in the midst of darkness.
I often think the night is more alive,
more richly colored than the day.
The lamps are burning
and the starry sky is over all.
I am not sure of anything,
but starry skies can make me dream.

–looking for a long time –
ripens you,
gives you a deeper meaning.

In spite of everything,
I’ll rise again.
For I have nature, art and poetry.
If that is not enough, what is?

From the words of Vincent Van Gogh

Linda Frye Burnham 2013

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Art evokes the unknowable mystery
without which the world would not exist.
Everything we see
hides something else.
We want to see what’s hidden
by the thing we see.
Bar from your mind
what you have seen.
Be on the lookout for
what you have never seen.

The mind sees in two senses:
It sees, as with the eyes
and it sees as a question.
We are surrounded by curtains of semblance.
(This is not a pipe!)
Our secret desire is for
change in the order of things.
The present reeks of mediocrity,
the atom bomb.
The power to surprise and delight us?
I call this power poetry.

I want nothing we know about.
Life obliges me to do something,
so I paint.

                       From the words of Rene Magritte


Linda Frye Burnham

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Steppenwolf, the Comedian

I’m rereading Steppenwolf, written by Hermann Hesse in 1929. It’s one of those pivotal books my generation devoured during our feverish 20s and 30s. I’m trying to understand what they meant to me then and what they mean to me now.

I started this project with The Magus by John Fowles (1966). Then, I’m sure, we were enamored of the tricky plot and the satanic details. Rereading it in 2012, I still find it valuable because it explains why the men of my generation were such emotionally unavailable dicks.

I’m only a third of the way into Steppenwolf, but it’s already clear that I used the book to examine what the hell was wrong with me then, and wrong with my friends. The copy I’m reading is the very copy I read back then, and it’s underlined and the margins are scribbled with “Sartre,” “Nietzsche” “Brian,” “Peter” — and the names of all my boyfriends if you have to know. We identified with Steppenwolf the tortured loner, too weird to excel in society and too wounded to escape the bourgeoisie. Now it’s clear the Steppenwolf and the rest of us just needed the right medication. But in 1929, Hesse suggested that Steppenwolves take refuge in humor.

I had to stop and write about this because in between old books I am also thinking about comedians and what they are like. Think Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Louis CK, Larry David, Dennis Leary, Sarah Silverman, Darrell Hammond, Lewis Black and anybody you know who is chronically, savagely funny. They are like the Steppenwolf. I’m going to quote a long passage from the book, so here goes:


From Steppenwolf:

“The lives of these infinitely numerous persons make no claim to the tragic; but they live under an evil star in a quite considerable affliction; and in this hell their talents ripen and bear fruit. The few who break free seek their reward in the unconditioned and go down in splendor. They wear the thorn crown and their number is small.

“The others, however, who remain in the fold and from whose talents the bourgeoisie reaps much gain, have a third kingdom left open to them, an imaginary and yet a sovereign world, humor. The lone wolves who know no peace, these victims of unceasing pain to whom the urge for tragedy has been denied and who can never break through the starry space, who feel themselves summoned thither and yet cannot survive in its atmosphere — for them is reserved, provided suffering has made their spirits tough and elastic enough, a way of reconcilement and an escape into humor.

“Humor has always something bourgeois in it, although the true bourgeois is incapable of understanding it. In its imaginary realm the intricate and many-faceted ideal of all Steppenwolves finds its realization. Here it is possible not only to extol the saint and the profligate in one breath and to make the poles meet, but to include the bourgeois, too, in the same affirmation. Now it is possible to be possessed by God and to affirm the sinner, and vice versa, but it is not possible for either saint or sinner (nor for any of the other unconditioned) to affirm as well that lukewarm mean, the bourgeois.

“Humor alone, that magnificent discovery of those who are cut short in their calling to highest endeavor, those who falling short of the tragedy are yet as rich in gifts as in affliction, humor alone (perhaps the most inborn and brilliant achievement of the spirit) attains to the impossible and brings every aspect of human existence within the rays of its prism. To live in the world as though it were not the world, to respect the law and yet to stand above it, to have possessions as though “one possessed nothing,” to renounce as though it were no renunciation, all these favorite and often formulated propositions of an exalted worldly wisdom, it is in the power of humor alone to make efficacious.”


That’s why I’m so thankful for comedy. It stands on the edge of the void, looks down into its horror, and comes back with the jokes.


Linda Frye Burnham, 2012

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What Comedy Did for Me as a Mother

I miss George Carlin. He died recently and his fellow comedians held a memorial for him, citing his border crossings and daring innovations. Louis CK honored him as a mentor who opened his eyes to the power of comedy to uncover uncomfortable truths about our lives and make us laugh at them.

I was lucky to present George Carlin at Highways Performance Space in the early ’90s. Carlin did a routine that punctured the political correctness of our extremely hip audience and brought them to an astonished silence. (I wish I could remember its context!) In the green room, my daughter Jill and I were able to thank George and tell him what he meant to our family.

In 1973 my marriage ended and that split our family into two homes, one in L.A. and one in Laguna Beach. My kids and I spent a lot of time in the car, listening to comedy albums: “Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him” by Firesign Theatre (1968), “Let’s Get Small” (1977) and “A Wild and Crazy Guy” (1978) by Steve Martin, anything by Tom Lehrer, and, most memorable of all, “Class Clown” (1974) and “A Place for My Stuff” (1984) by George Carlin. We listened to them over and over again. In those days, we four desperate drifters needed all the laughs we could get.

We listened to Carlin’s stuff obsessively till we could do whole routines verbatim. Thirty years later all of us can still do all of the Seven Dirty Words you can never say on television: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits. (Raise your hand if you can do this with your mother.) Parts of these great works are still in our everyday family vocabulary. In group conversation, our timing is impeccable. Because of this training, Jill can call you up after an episode of “30 Rock” and do an entire Jack Donaghy monologue at full speed.

One of the greatest benefits of this interpersonal experience has been the readiness of my children to accept and share my twisted career. In 1976 I moved into a furniture loft in downtown L.A. with a performance artist and two years later I started a performance art magazine, High Performance. The third issue featured a cover shot of a performance by Hermann Nitsch in which a blindfolded man drinks blood. I was joined in 1982 by another sarcastic visionary, Steven Durland, and among our many border crossings was the publication of the first art magazine issue about AIDS.

In 1989, with gay performance artist Tim Miller, I founded Highways, a performance art space in Santa Monica that became a stage for artists confronting racism, sexism and other oppressions. It also became a mecca for gay activists and the locus for gay protest rallies, raves and performances by the likes of the fabulous Annie Sprinkle. My kids did not shrink from supporting these ventures and in fact Jill moved in and became my second in command.

Yes, there was some comedy involved in all this, but mostly it was serious intellectual and aesthetic business. I believe the bravery of artists like George Carlin prepared all of us to be ready for anything, to be able to face up to that which shocked and challenged us and to draw on empathy when confronted with despair and hopelessness. We had a kind of sensitive armor that many others didn’t have. And we still do. And we’re still laughing. When we are together it’s inevitable that we will sit down for an Eddie Izzard marathon or a couple episodes of “Louie.”

We’re good together. So it was double great when George Carlin showed up for our extended family at Highways. He let us give him a lot of hugs.












Linda Frye Burnham, 2012




Posted in A Side of Fryes, Art History, Downtown Los Angeles, High Performance | Tagged | 2 Comments