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By LP Hastings
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Photo by Keith MaySmooth operator/poet/lead singer/teen mentor Derrick Brown talks jive, loves ladies, and makes females swoon. Chuck Woolery called him "bizarre and funny" after his consolatory handshake with Brown on The Dating Game. Brown addresses people as "punky" and "bub."
And now we get to sigh all over the boy—bring a lawn chair—as he joins the Lab's poetry night, complete with DJs from KUCI-FM 89.9, paintings, photo exhibits and more.
Brown has published four poetry books—his fifth, This Heart Is a Barfight and You Just Got a Bottle Upside the Head, comes out in July—since his 1998 second-place triumph at the National Poetry Slam Finals.
"I was used to reading with a bunch of drunks in a bar, not in a huge opera house on a stage by myself," Brown says of his debut in front of an audience that included reporters from 60 Minutes and Time Magazine. "I think I did good 'cause many were spazzy and performing like they had to take a shit or were auditioning to be in Korn, which I guess is redundant," Brown says, referring to his competitors. His strategy? "I chilled. I touched the sissy sentiments and bathing-suit areas of many that night."
The maverick poet's recently fizzled band, John Wilkes Kissing Booth, was the rubble from which crawled Brown's two new bands: German-electroclash-inspired Glockenspiel and elbow-fetish-influenced All Black Cinema. He also teaches teenagers to unleash their inner bard, and to his repertoire has added photography, shooting glamorous people. He's ordained, so he can marry people but remain a bachelor. He worked as a gondolier in Naples and lived out the romantic dream of living on his boat, the Billie Ocean. He bumped his head a lot; he now lives in At the Drive In's old apartment in downtown Long Beach.
But it's his poetry that leaves you yearning for eyeliner-smeared passion. In "Cheap Rent," he writes, "Our love was blacklisted and strong/Our love was a brawl in the street with spectacles on" and "Her skin is rehab for sandpaper junkies."
How does he do it? Brown swears by the "Bum Method," trademark pending. "The Bum Method involves writing down ideas when you drive and filing them later, organizing them categorically, as in love, violence, donkey-punching, etc.," he explains. "You then piece it together like a puzzle and pay bums a dollar to give their input. If they don't like the poem, you beat the crap out of them and take their shoes."Derrick Brown reads with a backup band at the Lab, 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 966-6661; www.thelab.com. Wed., 7 p.m. Free.