I felt like crying. I was tumbling in deep water, clueless as to which way was up. Had he told me this last story to explain why he had just done what he did? Was it just another goof? Had the performance been a goof, or was there a deeper point I was missing? And what was the frigging point? Why? Did he get off on pissing off people? Was he his own fiction? Was he even he?
Drowning, I said goodbye, walked to my car and tried not to think about it.
Popular wisdom had it that I had been duped. That David Woodard—if that was his real name—got his kicks by messing with people. Andy Warhol's name came up. So did Andy Kaufman's. A friend said Woodard was an antimodernist. Another said he was a performance artist. Another said he didn't matter.
I nodded my head and tried not to think about it. I understood now what a friend of Woodard's had meant when he said it was exhausting to be involved with him. Nothing ever just was. There were always subtexts and intrigues and hidden agendas to everything.
"Sometimes I wonder how good a friend you can be with a person like David Woodard," Woodard's friend had said.
I hadn't talked to him in quite a while, but in that time, he continued to mail, fax and e-mail me stories written about him. Stories from the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle. Stories that appeared in German, Argentine and Portuguese ("David Woodard: Supreme Ruler of Dreams") magazines. They were almost always about his dream machines. The dream machines he told me he would not talk about. He talked about them. He talked about them in a KCOP-TV news story on him and his machine that relied heavily on the Kurt Cobain angle.
I knew that those reporters hadn't found him on their own, though I was sure he made it seem that way. He had hooked them by seeming uninterested; he'd hooked them with what is his lure: appearing to despise publicity for his connection to Cobain. On his own website, one of the stories dealing with the machine was accompanied by the Cobain death scene.
When I looked deeper into his site, I found heroic references to Mussolini, Hitler, Franco and Pinochet. He described a Metro train he took every morning to his downtown LA office as containing "junglebunnies in extremis."
Now when I talked to people about him, he was no longer the loony imp—he became everything that was wrong. He was irony run amok. He was wasted talent. He was celebrity culture. He was the little boy who wears his Superman costume every day after Halloween and goes from being cute to annoying to frightening.
By the time I went to his office in LA, I hated and feared him. His friend, Paul K., seemed surprised at my anger. He said he thought Woodard was brilliant, a genius, and that his real talent lay in writing.
But why get upset? he said. You know he's using Hitler just to get attention. You're getting all upset about what the point is. C'mon, you already know the point.
On a hunch, I asked him. Do you know if Woodard's mom is an anesthesiologist?
"Anesthesiologist? I was under the impression she was a Mennonite."
I placed a call to Mrs. Virginia Woodard of Ventura.
"No, I'm not an anesthesiologist. I didn't work," she said. "David's father was a disc jockey, and then he ran a public-relations firm. Now he's retired, but he's a storyteller."
And when I hung up, I began to wonder if that woman really was his mother; Woodard had given me the number. It could have been one of his people. Not that I'd ever seen him with any people. Though I could have sworn Paul K. had been the one running around in the Merlin getup that night at Blair Field. Was Paul in on it, too? When Paul said, "You can't tell anyone I told you this about David," was Woodard on the other line, a few feet away, giving K. the thumbs up?
I went to his LA office, the one with DAVID WOODARD, COMPOSER on the door. I looked at a couple of the dream machines there, which looked like something you'd get at Spencer Gifts. I looked at his wish machine, from another Burroughs story, which claims it will do the bidding of whoever places a wish on a piece of paper in it. This was how he controlled the weather in 1998.
When I told him he was hard to believe, hard to figure out where the act ended, if it ended at all, he seemed stunned. When I asked him what was the point of all the stunts and stories, he seemed genuinely hurt.
When I called him on the story about his mother helping him inject himself on the ball field, he spontaneously told me a story about being in a horrible bike accident and then explained that the Greek root of mother . . . His use of the word "junglebunnies" had something to do with feeling threatened, outnumbered.