Still Alice?
Behind the Scenes with Chris Christensen, the "Amateur Traveler", Episode 10


as many of you know, i used to be a clown. gino cumeezi. that was my name. great grandson of the infamous “gums” cumeezi, i liked to think of gino as a cross between charlie chaplin, roberto benigni, and grand central station. to think of him as a subversive public fool. a comic outlaw. a provocateur. gino ran for mayor of new york city in 1977 against ed koch (“put a real clown in gracie mansion”), and he finished 5th out of 4 candidates.

once, when he was campaigning for mayor, shaking hands, and kissing babies in the 57th streeet IRT subway, he was arrested for “reckless clowning”. for real! on a bright-urban, smog-filled, big apple fall day of 1977, two of new yawk’s finest were so uncomfortable with the large crowd surrounding gino – underground (2 decades before terrorists and 9/11) – that they handcuffed him, stuffed him into their black and white police car like a human accordion, and shut him behind bars at the 59th street station at columbus circle, just adjacent to central park.

now “clowning”, that is, being a clown, is no laughing matter. it takes hard work, endless discipline and endurance, and total commitment. especially the way i did it. you see, as soon as i left my small hotel room at 55th and broadway (the erstwhile, seedy but elegant, hotel woodward) in white face, black derby, and complete clown mufti, i was completely and entirely “gino”. not me, trules, dressed in a clown suit. no, i was the one and only cumeezi (etymology: cum from the latin for… whatever, and eezi from the great italian line of sicilian bozos).

so… when gino was locked in the slammer by 2 of new yawk’s finest at the clean and immaculate police station at 59th and columbus circle, for “reckless and indecent clowning”, he was without ID. also without voice. i mean, c’mon, what kind of clown starts talking just because he’s in jail? well, ok, i did have my kazoo! at first, this didn’t go over too well with the boys in blue. you see, because gino had NO ID other than his “gino cumeezi for mayor” button, they just didn’t know what to do. “ok, pal, what’s your real name?” gino (in pantomine): “here’s lookin’ at you, boyz!” “very funny, gino, but you’re in jail now. the act’s over. what’s your fuckin’ name?”  gino (in pantomime, with kazoo): ‘i’m gino. just gino. gino cumeezi.”

a few of da boyz in blue start cracking up. they have a clown in  jail… who, they sense has done nothing wrong other than try to make new yawkers laugh. he’s voluntarily encouraged them to arrest him, which they’ve clearly and stupidly done, and the clown has no ID! what the hell are they supposed to do with him? take off his clothes and do an anal search? (oooh, naked clown…. gross!)

“what do you want us to do with you, gino?” gino: wild gesticulation. dazzlement and confusion. a few more laughs. the blue-uniformed crowd is getting bigger around gino’s jail cell. “c’mon, gino, give us a break!” the boyz in blue are caught somewhere between amusement and procedure. they write him up. charge him with “reckless clowning and disturbing the peace”. give him a misdemeanor ticket with a court date, and set him free. gino (wilding gesticulating): “thanks, boyz. that was fun. have a nice day.”

a month later, gino has his day in court. unfortunately for the presiding judge, he’s brought his entire clown troupe, the “cumeezi bozo ensemble” (R.I.P:, his childhood friend, ric reaper, now a public defender for legal aide at at 100 center street, and… the new york post. “camille”, gino’s prim and proper, white-faced cumeezi colleague is sweeping the courtroom, “mr. eggs” is climbing over the courtroom pewes like benigni at the “life is beautiful” oscars, and ric reaper is pleading hapless gino’s case to hizzoner.

“your honor, mr. cumeezi means no disrespect to your law-abiding and esteemed courtroom. however, he is… a clown. and as such, he has no other choice but to… clown. he hopes you will understand and dismiss his public transgressions…” “just a minute, mr. reaper,” says judge ohno, turning bright red behind his ears. “this is a travesty! will you have please have mr. cumeezi sit down in  his seat? otherwise, he will will soon be trading his ridiculous and inappropriate clown suit for one of another stripe!”

anyway, you catch my drift. gino cumeezi was one crazy, badass, provocateur. his sole goal and job was to push the public envelope. to live outside the law (“to live outside the law you must be honest.”, bob dylan). beholden to only his own laws. the cosmic and comic laws of the universe. he didn’t conform. he didn’t bend. he committed. 100%. to the nonsense and chaos of white face and mufti.  he directed traffic at broadway and wall street. he climbed the desks of norman cousin’s “saturday review” office. he voluntarily got arrested and went to court. and… the world usually played… or… had to… just play along.

gino.42nd st. library

you may also know that i teach and try “to make art out of the fabric of my life.”

Still Alice?
Behind the Scenes with Chris Christensen, the "Amateur Traveler", Episode 10