I’ve had a few videos saved; fun odds and ends which seemed appropriate to put up on my website, via the magic of YouTube after transfer to DVD. So please indulge me, if you wish, and experience them.
While I make no claim to have any masterpieces captured on film here or any videos in the catalog destined to go viral, it is a silly collection from yours truly, guaranteed to crack a smile or your money back. Sorry, time spent watching these clips is a whole other matter and simply cannot be refunded. But I read somewhere that smiles are good for you.
Herb eats a Whopper at the Port Chester, NY Burger King circa 1986. Filmed and narrated by Erik B. Slavin on location in the new apartment’s parking lot at SUNY Purchase and at the BK. Starring in order of appearance: Jens Wilkinson, Lynn Powers, another very attractive woman whose name I don't know, Stuart Cottingham, Ed White, David Shenk, introducing Rolf Shreiber as Herb and the unwitting staff and patrons of the Port Chester BK.
We were all students at SUNY Purchase, mostly RA’s (I was a Student Director/Campus Center Manager), and Herb eats a Whopper is an improvised spoof of Burger King’s actual ad campaign about an everyman, Herb, who was the only guy who hadn’t tried their Whopper sandwich. The brilliant idea, conceived by Erik, was that we were a group of kidnappers coercing Herb to finally eat a Whopper. At times the hand-held camera action is reminiscent of an old episode of Cops or perhaps Mr. Slavin should be recognized as a pioneer of techniques over-employed in feature-length films such as Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity 25 years later. His narration, as always, is spot-on.
My thug character is appropriately wearing my old upper west side street gang colors, Dragon Masters. It reads Jester down the front of the cut-off sweatshirt because that had been my graffiti tag and nickname back in the day as a teenager hanging out at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on West 89th Street and Riverside Drive. Wearing it had helped me act like a tough guy — which I wasn’t - so it was a powerful wardrobe choice along with the Harley Davidson cap, the shades, the gloves and the cig.
But I’m not the star of the show any more than Herb is. The undisputed stars of the video turn out not to be the student-actors at all, really. Not even Erik. We are all catalysts for the purest improvisation, the true performance art lies in the unadulterated reactions of staff, management and patrons to the appearance of Herb, or, more accurately, to the appearance of the video camera. Without knowledge, preparation or prompting, and weirdly true to the ad campaign, the staff invites Herb to “come on in” from the get-go and the patron’s question “is that really him?” It’s charming, it’s darling, and the appearance of a camera in 1986 makes everyone think they’re going to be a star. They are stars; of course, there’s just no celebrity in it. It’s all simply good, clean fun, with the exception of that nasty Whopper Herb eats.
There’s a lot to say about The Jellomania Wrestling Extravaganza, and I’m pretty wordy to begin with. So I’ve resolved to be uncharacteristically brief about this piece, in the interest of fairness. The event was filmed and narrated by Erik B. Slavin at the Pub, located in the Campus Center South building at SUNY Purchase in 1987. There were a great many people who participated, a great many more watching, and I’m not certain all of them would want their names attached to this memory, as fantastic as it was. I simply can’t start naming names, either, or this could get very long and I will inevitably leave people out. The wrestlers, the other players, the techs, campus staff, there were truly dozens and dozens of people who made this happen and deserve my thanks; especially as I see this as the high water mark for my time at Purchase.
I became a Student Director, or Campus Center Manager, a so-called paraprofessional position which helped me pay my college tuition my last couple years. It was a fantastic job, and it connected me with an entire community of Resident Assistants, Head Residents, Student Life Directors, College Deans and Public Safety Officers. Between this position, my growing political involvement, fencing on our NCAA team (technically the team was called the Panthers but the team called itself Broccoli and I was one of our worst fencers), goofing around on a college radio show and assuming the mantle of back page editor for the college newspaper, The Load, I had become a big man on campus. I served on boards and I partied hardy. My studies, unfortunately, were often secondary to my blossoming social life. But that social life, as you can see, did come in handy.
As a Student Director, I was responsible for staging an event that was educational, social or cultural. I doubt The Jellomania Wrestling Extravaganza was the kind of event this requirement was likely meant to encourage: tag team matches in the campus center, 3 male teams vs. 3 female teams, to provide tournament-style wrestling entertainment in lime Jell-O… clearly a social event. To keep the gender balance, two referees, one male and one female, would officiate, and the emcee would be in drag. I solicited people from my entire social network at SUNY Purchase — which served to diversify interest from all corners of the campus. I also placed a series of letters on the back page of The Load in the lead up to the event. I cast myself as a dangerous underworld figure and tried to stoke controversy about Jellomania, insinuating scam or fraud. For security (my goons), I stuck with good-natured guys I knew who were sometimes solicited as bouncers because of their size; frat boy types without a fraternity to join, jocks without a football team to suit up for. They were larger than the wrestlers, but seated. Several Design Tech students helped me realize the wrestling ring. An 8’ diameter kiddy pool I bought in a local store was used as the liner, surrounded by a series of fancifully-painted, interlocking wood panels strung with lights to top it off. Food services provided 150 gallons of lime green Jell-O to fill the ring, but that amount barely reached above the ankles of the wrestlers.
I really enjoy watching the prologue still — all those people talking trash about me. It’s great! Interviews aside and with the exception of a few noteworthy moments, the matches were infinitely more exciting live and in person. The conclusion, although unplanned, is fitting even though it still pisses me off a bit. That kiddy pool lining simply couldn’t handle the strain any more than my goons handled the interloper. The event ends in mayhem, the emcee is tossed into the slop and a winner is declared. But that’s performance art for you, right? Much of the joy is in what actually happens between and beyond the framework of plans. I hope the people who required me to stage an educational, cultural or social event would agree.