Below are a few oddballs I feel privileged to have known while in my native Minnesota.
Note – this is by no means a complete list.
Tom Mischke was the kid from the other block who did strange things like put Barbie doll heads on GI Joe’s body. I actually worried about him as a young kid. But when he grew up he turned his zany antics into a local offbeat talk radio show on KSTP AM 1500. We collaborated on creating plenty of goofy improv videos, including a “Chicken’s Story”. For this video Tom dressed up in a chicken mascot costume and strutted around Northern Minnesota harassing farmers, a security guard at the Golden Plump chicken processing plant and people eating chicken at a KFC. I really should get those videos online.
To learn more about Tom and his antics visit:
Some of my other schoolboy chums remain characters. But they go unrecognized and unpaid for their antics. Some of them still live in the same old 55105 zip code. Their kids now go to grade school together and no doubt continue to unravel the nuns.
Rich Kronfeld was one of my favorite local oddball talents. He created an excruciatingly anal character known as “Dr. Sphincter”, who hosted a very uptight TV talk show called “Tightline”. It was brilliantly tense with the guests fidgeting uncomfortably under the harsh lights. The interviews were like cross examinations conducted by the Gestapo. Fortunately, Rich and his groupies had the good sense to put these classics, including Dr. Sphincter’s tour of Minnesota rest stops, online at http://www.drsphincter.com
I think Rich drew a good deal of inspiration for his uptight Dr. Sphincter from the often emotionally stoic and repressed Scandinavians and Germans who weathered the cold to settle and tame Minnesota with far too many sensible laws. I loved his Dr. Sphincter character. He did a cameo as an uptight scheduling dean in a movie I wrote and co-directed called “Free Fall”.
To learn more about Dr. Sphincter and his uptight art visit:
Crazy Cabbie – Everyone who parties late and hard should have a “personal cabbie”. Ideally this cabbie will be crazy and full of ridiculous stories and antics. A personal cabbie picks you up when you’re drunk, high or incapacitated and takes you home or to the next party across town.
My personal cabbie, “Crazy Cabbie”, was more performance artist on wheels than driver. He was loud, hilarious and abusive. I loved him and so did my buddy Tim. We enjoyed returning the abuse and fueling Cabbie’s insanity as we squealed through town.
All too often our cab rides with him were the best part of the night. God bless the “Crazy Cabbie” and have mercy on his passengers.
Captain Mike – I met the Captain years ago when he was a restless student at the uptight University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. I had endured four plus years of intellectually dishonest Catholic education at this institution and co produced a movie called “Free Fall” that lampooned it. During a student screening at St. Thomas, I offered a “Roads’ Scholarship” to the student who wrote the most compelling essay on why they wanted to leave St. Thomas and hit the road. As the runner up, Mike didn’t win the VW camper bus. But he did win a copy of Ed Buryn’s 1974 classic book “Vagabonding in America”. Mike hit the road for a few months with Ed’s book in his glove compartment.
Mike and I became good friends over time. Mike bought an old 1968 (Summer of Love) houseboat and took his vagabonding spirit on to the Mississippi River. I joined him on dozens of weekend cruises over the years. My ability to stock the bar and kitchen and recruit characters for these cruises earned me the title of “Cruise Director”. We had many “Good Times” on the mighty Mississippi.
Thom Caya – is one of the most outrageous oddballs I’ve ever known. I never really could tell when he was on acid or not. He was the same outrageous, obnoxious and hilarious person with or without the drugs and booze. I’ve never been thrown out of more bars and never invited back to more parties than when I was with Thom. But it was dam well worth it.
Thom was brutally honest in the face of repressed polite Scandinavians. They considered his behavior cruel and insensitive. I considered it fucking hilarious. I find it frightening that as I get older he makes more and more sense.
I could and should some day share the dozens of insanely funny stories we lived and survived together. But for now, enjoy some photos of this odd bird. Thom is “still a photographer”. To view his portfolio visit Thom Caya Still Photography.
Colleen Kruse – Funny Lady Extraordinaire – Colleen was the funniest woman I ever dated. So funny that she turned pro and did stand up comedy, including a few HBO and Comedy Central appearances. I once brought her to a company holiday party as my date. While I was out of sight she told my co-workers that she was actually a paid escort. Now that’s pretty dam funny.
I met her at a 1930’s vintage diner car, Mickey’s Diner, in downtown St. Paul. She was worked there as a waitress but she was really doing comedy. The crowd of late night drunks and misfits was her audience. Mickey’s Diner provided Colleen with a great stage and lots of inspired material for her later standup routines.
Colleen still does comedy, on and off stage, and hosts a local radio show called “Living Life Out Loud“.