Dead Can Dance
by Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle
DEAD CAN DANCE (Decadence and Post Mortem-ism)
Stop Checking the Mirror to See if You’re High
If you aint out in the driveway huffing daddy’s gas, you’re a momma’s boy. Granted Chucky Baudelaire’s “everything is illuminated—but only for me,” hash trashed megalomania; given Wally Benjamin with the munchies in Marseilles; next to any rather ripped American teen wacked on Crack, embalming fluid, Oxycontin, “X’, Percodan, or Percocet those two amateurs are pussies.
“Lightweights!” quoth a drunken Poe, of Europe’s bleeding edge.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stranger” is Batman’s take on Nietzsche. Will to Power was an 80’s New York noise music band. I bought heroin by the bundle, 10 bags a day. Overdosed twice on junk; lived, and I’m still laughing . . . once on coke, a speedball, which made hell look lukewarm. You want flowers of evil? Go to Nan Goldin land. Her Ballad of Sexual Dependancy plows me down.
The Dandy Warhols
Of three shots fired at Andy Warhol one hit him point blank; that bullet spawled, chewing through his throat, stomach, liver, spleen and both lungs. He survived to satirize Valerie Solanis and her SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) as P.I.G.’s (Politically Involved Girlies.) Previously believed a powder-puff ephebe, Andy proved truck tough.
Now aint he the nazz? Let us not dwell on the obvious. Decadence, its contour, characters, and chronicles, has been subject to homages more bookish than mine. Laboriousness is an objection. History’s in the making, not its rehash. Variation is repetition. Here I’ll target solar flares spinning off black suns, anomaly beside itself, and fit to be tied. These lions of depravity I view from lines of sight visible only at night, when such overlord’s of license slip their leash.
Call ‘em kings of sin.
Petrus Borel, the Lycanthrope, drinking Bordeaux from a skull combed his hair straight up to stimulate the flames of genius. Gerard de Nerval, imprisoned, then insane, hung himself with a filthy hank of rag which he claimed to be a garter given him by the Queen of Sheba.
—Moribund, or force majeure? First we isolate then exalt one prime strain of ruthless virulence, the dandy.
Dressed to Chill
An often “misunderestimated,” ineffectual, effete, aesthete, engagingly epitomized in Huysmans’ encyclopedic treatment (as of some unspeakable disease) of necrotic, post-erotic, esoteric recluse Des Esseintes—desuetude’s pallid prince, the Nigrido’s narcoleptic neurasthenic, wholly addicted to artifice, who gave the kiss-off to his concupiscence over cordials: D.O.A.’s adult delinquent draped in cinders, cerements, and black crepe.
Regard the irretrievably lost object: exhibit petite “a”.
Is this daring or demerit? Instinct instead insists. Decadence is incandescent! Did they not dance The Infernal Gallop? From Lord Byron, Britain’s bedroom athlete, to continental clotheshorse Barbey d’Aurevilly, our fulgurating male peacock in flagrant pavanne masks a hungry wolf.
Crowned by Lady Caroline Lamb, “Mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” the one non-philosopher in Bertrand Russell’s monster tome The History of Philosophy is Lord Byron. Russell had no choice. Byron’s stature as a figure and sway as a poet captivated Europe; his stopping-power could not be denied. Byron’s sheer animal magnetism so enthralled society wives many posed as chambermaids at his Dover hotel in hopes of catching just a glimpse before he fled across the channel. (The Corsair sold 13,000 copies in one day*) At that time a Lord might commit murder at midday on the king’s high road: the only question? Well, whom did he kill? Still, Byron exceeds the limitless. He was exiled for boinking his sister. Born hindered with a clubfoot, need I add he took up boxing? **
Across that channel Barbey D’Aurevilly later swanned immaculate in fashions 50 years past date, much like 20th century hard-boiled pulp author Mickey Spillane, on our side of the wash. Indefatigable, his sexcesses were attested to by harlots high and low, while Spillane splashed pics of his pin-up wife full frontal on The Erection Set, a building-contract con game cracked wide by his private dick Mike Hammer. They saw themselves as Ronin, samurai sans master: knights of the male sublime. And at 80, both could grind your bones to make their bread.
An infamous indifference due to dandies descends to this blessed day; Beau Brummel put the “B” in superb. Just as Andy Warhol replied when questioned on his work by asking Factory artists from his coterie, “How do you paint my pictures?” out sight-seeing, then confronted with a stellar chain of lakes, creator of basic black, and daddy of all dandies, Regency top cat Brummel asked his valet, “Which lake do I prefer?”
Doffing citron waistcoat and his preferred dove’s blood gloves nancy-boy Edouard Manet bent his sword wounding a critic who had dissed him.
Law of the Claw
What guest-list at soirée Grand Palais could boast such venerated names? This is the Felon’s Salon. So haut monde as to be the living end in fatal snubs, people are just dying to get in. Definitive (with an emphasis on fin) its terminal disdain.
Fan in claw the courtesan Madame Woo brews her evaporating poisons. Funereal. Venereal. No man knows what hit him, or where she’s gone in air. She could uncoil upon the parquet floor beneath her empire chair. Snakes and ladders, cloak and dagger; seated to her left is the “Razor” Lacenaire.
The museum on Rue Rouchefoucauld is closed for the evening. How did they get inside? By magic, it appears. Like Fantomas, do they exist? If not, is this why no gendarme can apprehend them? Damask, cut glass flasks, dizzying tisanes. Midnights, the Musee’ Moreau plays ghostly hollow host to this ghastly clan. That Symbolist himself devised the racks, which showcase here his eerie works on paper. No less bizarre and Byzantine are these complex wooden spines, an integument of unfolding wings, tricked hinge, and cobweb vanes that display his occult aquarelles, watercolors and designs.
Signature killers, each club member keeps a calling card with its distinctive flair. Cooney, the garrulous Australian, favors the garrote. He’ll throttle any man who interrupts him when he’s talking. In the end he may well catch his death; the Aussie just might snuff himself when he stops to take a breath! Cram a man between his vise-like hands; he’s canned Spam. The author withholds details, though what a tale to tell. Gory stories unfold in a style that will not sell.
Cooney has no imitators. He choked one cuckold fool to death with a bell-pull from Notre Dame; his discourteous parting gesture. So he leaves his name. “If overnight is not alright, a café is OK.” Loose as a noose, he’s every lady’s swain. It’s not an instance of the opposite of the same.
“Rehearse outbursts first”, we hear in our weary ears. “Want good, fast, cheap? Pick two”, the mangler-strangler claims. He gagged a convicting magistrate with scarlet velvet ropes that cordon off the foyer of Leroux’s famous phantom’s opera. Thus he made his mark or sign. His favorite film stars Fu Manchu, in The League of the Nine.
Pale tapers burn and curl down like viburnum. “Look Ma, no hands!” jokes Saint Peaux-Rouge, a cruel conceptual killer. He may grow as old as the superannuated alchemist the Comte de Saint Germain, for both know Time’s in our mind.
Most criminals get caught because they’re high. They pull brainless heists mainly when they are in a real big hurry to get high. Ordinarily, such chumps are picked up lickety-split in the crackhouse right next door, where they are looking in the wrong hand for their lighter. A typical sober success story in A.A. in New York City, anyway, drones on in this manner. “Hello, my name is Norm. I got sober 5 years ago, met a nice girl in the program. Today I work for an insurance company.” His tale winds through Manhattan’s church sub-basements like a Moebius strip, Mies van der Rohe’s “less is more” paradox, or the Eternal Return of the Same. How differently then did Ravaillac, at our table’s head, quit dope to become a super duper knife fighter . . .
“No guns, no bombs, no knives! That’s too far out”, the sobriquet checkout line tabloids term the “Red Skin” begins. “Mental violence: that is in! This nickname works for me. Do not we French call thugs Apaches?” Saint Peaux-Rouge is a dandy. Just as Leonardo scorned the sculptor, in Michelangelo, for his muck and mire, so he revered the painter more in Buonarotti. Specters spectate and lift little. By the power of suggestion the Redskin can think a man to death. “Too much die in that diet platter?” Clad in black alpaca, he dawdles at his langoustine. Lixiviate. Elutriate. “You cannot be caught red handed if you keep immaculately clean.”
Impassively, Saint Peaux-Rouge trails one fair hand in air, slender fingers plinking as if coaxing ivory keys. Spell-caster, hypnotist to high society’s surprise suicides, he consults your horoscope in constellated skies. Perhaps a banker wanders in a daze over the cliffs: his sole beneficiary? Saint Peaux-Rouge’s Svengali’s sway cannot be denied. Signed, dated. Pushing the documents toward you. “Tomorrow I had to go crazy.” “Just now my photograph died.”
Before his work with encryption, he made plans to lay siege to the city of Richmond . . .
Travel Advisory: Doo Doo’s and Don’ts of the Turkish Toilet
The various Turkish toilets encountered in Paris define the progression
From bad to worse. They put the “toil” in toilet.
All Turkish toilets are wheelchair accessible.
Don’t put your room key in your hip pocket.
Eat cheap. Turkish food is indigestible. You won’t need their toilets at all.
Do not puke in a Turkish toilet!
Can’t get enough? You can pay for the Museé des Égouts (Museum of Sewers).
You may make a diaper or Kotex-type pad from toilet paper if it proves
Impossible to get yourself clean. This, though, in style-conscious Paris
Is considered a fashion faux pas.
Speaking of faux pas (false step), don’t make one while using a Turkish toilet!
Nobody Can Spell NietzXsche
Insane, and syphilitic, his books on Hitler’s hits list; Nietzsche’s Ubermensch meets the underground man. They’re in the mood for doom. At the very time he declared his Gang-of-One war on Bismarck’s Germany, Dionysius/The Antichrist precipitates himself into a Turin street to embrace a fallen dray horse. Uh huh. Coupled with amor fati, or “Russian fatalism”, this scene was lifted straight from Dostoyevsky. Zarathustra’s vision of the Eternal Return: he stole it from Jean Paul Richter. Ditto the death of God. Why didn’t Nietzsche expand his core Sils Maria revelation beyond a few scattered notes? It proves to be no more than dumbbell déjà vu, if not an utter fabrication. Jean Paul expatiates in whispers to us now, but Nerval, too, plagiarized Richter’s Speech of the Dead Christ from the Universe that There is No God in his own Christ on the Mount of Olives. (Tunnel visionaries, Nerval, “the Nyctalope”, suffered from night-blindness; he could not see the night . . . Nietzsche couldn’t see at all.) Decadence is a literary disease. These characters were book sick.
The Chants of Maldoror † is our diamond of decay. Vision and passion; fire and style. Nothing is known of its author. While Bowie-poet Jeremy Reed cut his entire book “about” him solely from whole cloth, in The Other Heaven Julio Cortazar held adamantly on, casting the Comte de Lautreamont as but a shadow haunting Paris. “Let us make every imaginable grimace!” wrote Arthur Rimbaud. So Lautreamont revised his early drafts to excise all human form, transmuting such to metal, mineral, or predatory features. Finger, tooth, fang and claw: “the man who could not smile” scowled through bent “lips of jasper.” In my unbalanced youth I razored page and cover margins from my softbound copy, trimming it to fit in my hip pocket. I vowed to carry it forever; then memorized it by ceaseless re-reading.
There is a prehistory to Rimbaud’s
“I is another.” (Letter to the Seer)
Which renders it elusive in its authorship,
And therefore still more authoritative:
In 1854 Nerval inscribes a photo of himself
“I am another.” In 1870, six months
Before Rimbaud’s world-reversing letter,
The Comte de Lautreamont writes,
“If I exist I am not another . . .”
He then starved to death
At the age of 24, shifting
Our emphasis to “If.”
(From: Close to the Art of Those Fearless at Sea)
I have seen the plaque inscribed on his Rue de Faubourg Montmartre door behind which he ignobly perished. “Who opens the door of my funeral chamber? No one is to enter. Whoever you are, begone!”
* That would be 1 in every 80 residents of London, in an England where only 50% of its men, and 15% of its women, could even sign their names. (The illiterate memorized him.)
** Fighter by day, lover by night, today Byron is esteemed a national hero by Greece for his armed opposition to the Ottoman Empire’s rapine and predation.
† His sequel, Poesies, contradicts The Chants so wildly, he signed it with another name. In it detournement (waylaying) marks a dark star for Situationism.