Tom Norman, the English counterpart of P.T. Barnum, exhibited his peculiar performers on wagon beds. Others did so in shop fronts and public houses. Yes, there was a time when one could go downtown and almost always be afforded a glimpse of something curious and wondrous, a bearded lady, an illustrated man, or Aquarium Chang the great Chinese giant. One of our goals is to return rare and exotic entertainment to the village square. To that end, The Raconteur hosts seventy-five FREE events a year. Which means we've offered roughly 550 FREE events so far. Here's a handful of moments we're particularly fond of:
1) With signature wit, Pulitzer Prize winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon reads poems filled with meaty unpronounceables and querulous urgencies about Ulster gangsters, suburban New Jersey, and Warren Zevon.
2) The late Jim Carroll, in one of his final public appearances, reads from his poetry and a novel in progress.
3) 2008 Oscar winning documentarian Alex Gibney answers questions about the creative, ethical, and conceptual choices that arise during the making of "factual films that are dramatic."
4) Surrounded by a gathering crowd of customers and passers-by, sideshow couple Honor Amongst Thieves swallow Mongol blades and spit fifteen foot flumes of flame into the blue black sky above Main Street.
Resident fire-eater Jersey Lilly prepares to ingest in front of the shop. Photo by Dante.
4) Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye talks about the development of hardcore punk, his do-it-yourself ethic, and the term "straight edge," which he coined.
5) In total darkness, Bindlestiff Cirkus founder Keith Nelson swallows a three foot illuminated neon tube; his esophagus glows as the bulb passes through it.
Mr. MacKaye in all his sock cap glory.
6) On the anniversary of Ernest Hemingway's 110th birthday, Hemingway's Cuban son, Rene Villereal, shares unseen photographs and speaks in Spanish (translated by his own son Raul) about learning to box on the author's barreled stomach and the letter Hemingway wrote him the week of his suicide.
7) On Mother's Day, Oscar winner Pamela Boll, following a screening of her acclaimed feminist documentary, Who Does She Think She Is?, discusses the competing demands of muse and mothering and the struggle to make art while nurturing life. Twenty local female artist/mothers are recognized and applauded during the event.
8) John Lennon's former girlfriend May Pang shares a hundred rare photos, unforgettable images of the icon, then discusses their four year relationship and his untimely death (as some members of the audience weep).
9) 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning and bestselling author Jennifer Egan reads from her award winning novel, Welcome to the Goon Squad, and discusses the upcoming HBO series based on her book.
10) Steely Dan vibraphonist Bill Ware, a founding member of the ground-breaking acid jazz group Groove Collective and the jazz/theater group the Jazz Passengers (frequently fronted by ex-Blondie singer Debbie Harry), plays Postbop and Afro-cuban keyboard, while Mike Kaplan, a saxophonist in the world famous Glen Miller Orchestra, lets his horn wail.
11) Sudanese Lost Boy Abraham Awolich, on a national tour, delivers a stirring presentation about his nine year flight across southern Sudan and the future of Sudan after genocide.
A sold out event at a church social hall we sometimes use.
12) Pulitzer Prize nominee David Gates and folk noir gangster John Wesley Harding (the first opening act for Bruce Springsteen in twenty years) lead a full house in a Shel Silverstein sing-a-long about a three-legged man with a two legged woman being chased around the country by a one legged fool.
13) New Yorker journalist Susan Orlean discusses the discomfiture of attending Adaptation (the genre-bending film based on her book, The Orchid Thief) with her aged parents. They watch Meryl Streep, who plays a fictional/factional character named Susan Orlean, snort lines of ground orchid dust off the naked back of Chris Cooper, then, in the dark, quiet theater, they ask their fifty year old daughter if she does drugs.
14) Two guys who made a shot by shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark when they were kids screen the hilarious fan film and recount exactly how, at ten, they managed to gain access to sacks of gunpowder, gallons of gasoline, a retired WWII battleship and a functioning Navy submarine.
15) Paradigm busting psychonaut Daniel Pinchbeck, following an appearance on Steve Colbert, discusses shamanic hallucinogens, the Burning Man festival, the Amazon jungle, Stonehenge, and 2012--the Mayan calendar's end date and the title of his latest book.
A fine summer afternoon in front of The Rac.
16) During National Banned Book Week, former Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert bangs bongos as keyboardist/former High Times editor Mike Edison reads from (and soundtracks) his favorite banned books.
17)Fresh from his 2010 win, Oscar winning director Roger Ross Williams, the first African American filmmaker to receive an Academy Award, screens and discusses his moving documentary, Music by Prudence, about a young Zimbabwean woman who overcomes poverty and severe disability to start a successful Afrofusion band. Prudence Mabhena, the film's subject, then performs with local musicians. Later that week they screen and perform for President Obama.
Missed a performance? Chances are we filmed it and posted it on youtube. To visit our channel CLICK HERE.