Is David Woodard's Life His Art?

Or is his art his life?
Or is he just scamming us?

"When I got back to the office, I walked around yelling that I had just seen the weirdest shit, that it took the cake. I definitely felt like we got taken. I didn't want to give him any more space in the piece than I had to."

In her 10-inch story, Manzer mentioned Woodard just once. He would fix that. On his website (www.davidwoodard.com), Woodard posted a modified version of Manzer's story. In it, the reported 25 in attendance had grown to 250. Also, a flock of five or six pelicans that "seemed to know what the beach gathering was about" appeared, as did three additional references to Woodard, which included his hope that the suspect, on the loose at the time, would not be apprehended.

He also wrote and posted the 1,600-word "Why One Conducts a Pelican Requiem With Pliers," under the pseudonym of Mohammed Farouk. In it, he made clear that his interest in the pelican incident had little to do with the plight of the bird:

"In being a feathered animal (and in this sense superseding fowl), bird also refers to maiden, girl. In OE., we have brid, i.e., bride, and in ME. Burde—young woman, lady (probably embroideress). And hence birdbolt, the arrow for shooting birds, is a not so discreet reference to the penis. It would seem Torres was intent on stripping away and permanently removing that which feminizes from the feathered animal. Torres may have felt compelled by divine fiat to memorialize an otherwise fleeting epiphany, a perfectly clear understanding of the essential truth that woman is man's natural enemy. Rather than deploy his organic birdbolt in a euphemized and hopelessly self-disarming declaration of war on the inside of a passing brid, he more grandly and resourcefully opted for the task of disarming a bird from the outside, of genuinely turning a feathered animal into a bare truth, such as himself.

"But, moreover, what implement or weapon did Torres ultimately select for his execution of the operation, and why? Whether or not Torres as Longinus simply used whatever object happened to be on his person or otherwise convenient to him at the time, his fabled pliers could not have been surpassed as a 20th Century symbol of the will to extract Truth.

"What is a pair of pliers, and what does it do? It is a pincer with which one may ply—i.e., bend, fold, twist, turn and/or layer. Like complex, explicit and perplex, ply derives from the Latin plicare. The Scandinavian plai means plight or condition. Torres, who resided on nearby Falcon St. with a parrot-voiced young daughter, was plying, making explicit, that which lay beneath the feathers, as it were. Now 33, the age of Christ at crucifiction [sic], Torres was spiraling at galvanic speed through the great sexual-electric tunnel, journeying into the light and gravely determined to unveil for all to see for all eternity the absolute essence of man's ruin, regardless of immediate legal and societal consequences."

"Yeah, I remember this guy," said Manzer, looking at her story on Woodard's Web site, having just discovered it had been tampered with. "It's so obvious he wants to be famous. As what, I have no idea."

I knew nothing of the pelican performance when the phone calls started a few months later—one year ago now. Woodard said he needed some advice on how to contact the New York Yankees. He had written a requiem for Joe DiMaggio and wanted to perform it at home plate in Yankee Stadium on opening day.

It seemed a crazy idea, not just because of the idea itself or the daunting logistics or that Woodard was all but unknown as a performer, but because DiMaggio wasn't dead. Not yet. He was dying in a Florida hospital, his status reported daily. Woodard told me he was so anxious to perform the song that he had tried to get permission to play "Farewell to the Yankee Clipper" for DiMaggio in his hospital room, lugging his pump organ in himself.

We met a few weeks later over lunch at a Coco's. It was the first time I had met him, and he was everything I'd expected: a big, open face with wide eyes, mild bordering on timid. He wore a suit that, though he was thin, was a bit too tight and far too old for him. He wore a fedora.

He was nervous and never generous with eye contact. I asked questions, and when he answered, he looked down, tapping his finger on the table. He stuttered a bit and asked for clarifications of what I thought were simple questions: What did he do for a living? Where did he live? What did he want for lunch? What was his age? This last one stopped him cold, and he smiled sheepishly. He never told me.

I directed the conversation and affected a kindly tone, speaking to him as one would an adolescent.

"It's an interesting idea, David. I don't know if it's possible. But if you really want to try, major-league baseball teams all have public-relations departments. You can get their numbers by . . ."

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