I met Mr. Blockhead when I was 17

Originally published at: I met Mr. Blockhead when I was 17 | Boing Boing

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Sick 90S GIF

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If you run into him again let him know I liked his music.

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Man, do we need more kindness in this world.

The grandfather of one of my summer camp friends ran sideshows in California. My friend would tell us stories about a blockhead performer who’d taught him how to push a long nail all the way up his nose. Then, of couse, he demonstrated it for all of us with a loose nail from a bunk. As we looked on with horrified fascination, he explained that the blockhead told him that if you did it wrong you’d pierce your brain sac and die

He also demonstrated a pretty good hypnotism act he’d learned from another performer, but the blockhead demonstration remains clear in my mind today.

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I remember years ago stopping by the yearly festival put on by the neighborhood Catholic church in its parking lot. They had a few carnival rides run by hard-bitten carnie types with tattoos and stands selling churros, tamales, and beer. No glass eaters or win-a-prize scams in operation though. The parish priest was wandering around this surprisingly secular scene greeting people.

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Don’t you mean, “I met Mr. Blockhead on this day in 1978”?

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he was a blockhead because he got hit with your rhythm stick?

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Sometime around 1980 I lived in the San Gabriel Valley part of the Los Angeles sprawl. The town I grew up in, Glendora, was white, suburban, hot, smoggy and brainless.

One of us said, “Let’s skip school (Glendora High School) and go to the Los Angeles County Fair!” The fair was in Pomona. Probably still is. Our parents had taken us every year when we were small children. Now we were 16,17,18.

We got stoned and did the Fair thing. At one point, we came across a very loud barker. He sounded like a guy in a 1940s RKO movie: “Ladies and gents! Come 'n see Biiiiig Berthahhhhh! She’s so big and fat, it takes four men to hug her, a box car to lug her!” Then he’d basically repeat the spiel, word for word.

I’d heard of the “Side Show Fat Lady” thing, but I’d never actually seen one. So we got in line and went in. “Bertha” probably weighed 400-500 lbs, and just sat behind a roped-off area, eating and not looking at us, the people who paid to see her and who slowly made their way from the entrance to exit.

What was so grotesque, and has always stayed with me: everyone but us was yelling at her, “You disgusting fat pig!” “Where’s your self-respect?” “My god, lady, don’t you have any self-control?” It was very depressing. I remember feeling sorta sick, suddenly. Did these people not think she was human? Did they think they were somehow required to say assholic things to her? It definitely harshed our buzz and we drove home (not far), chastened.

Five or so years before that, I went to the first day of the school year, Sandburg Junior High in Glendora. The first day back after the summer was always overwhelmingly exciting. It had been 3 months since you’d seen a lot of those people, but because of the nature of phenomenological time, it felt like 2 years. Where’s your new locker? Who’s in your new classes? Etc. Oh my gawd the girls had gotten so much sexier over the summer! (This was 8th grade.)

But as soon as I got there and started meeting up with old chums, I kept hearing, “Have you seen the kid with the head?” (Wha?) Some claimed to have seen this kid with a huge head, others had only heard stories. 8:30 AM on an early September morning. Too much! Apparently there was a new kid at Sandburg who had this huge head, with flaming red hair on top that looked like cotton candy. I kept thinking, how big could a head be?

For weeks I attended school, but never saw the kid with the head, who I’d learned was named “Rocky.” I almost thought it was some fake thing: you act like you’ve seen this kid, but there really was no such kid. I knew a couple of kids who said they’ve seen him. There were no smartphones in 1975, of course. No pics.

One day, as I was heading to class in another building, I rounded the corner and came face to face with Rocky. My knees buckled. I said nothing, and kept walking. Now I knew. It was true. Rocky is real, and it’s worse than I imagined. I never heard him speak.

That kid was Rocky Dennis, who the movie Mask was based on. Eric Stoltz as Rocky, Laura Dern, Cher. I saw the film when it came out and cried a lot. I’d wondered off and on how difficult it would be to live like that. As a freak. He was a normal kid, but had craniodyaphyseal dysplasia, extremely rare. I never knew him. I was scared and far too immature at 14 to even understand such things.

Neither Big Bertha nor Rocky Dennis even comes close to matching your Blockhead story though, Frauenfelder.

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