John Fare

JOHN Charles Fare was born in 1936 in Toronto, Ontario. These exciting
facts were always made available to members of his audience, for whose
benefit Fare's birth certificate was always displayed under glass at the
entrance to each of the theatres where, over the ie years, he conducted
his 'appearances'. Portions of this document have been blatantly
deleted, a circumstance which, in fight of Fare's own highly edited
state, I find very suggestive. It is more than simple tidiness, I think.
As a theatre programme, it seems quite perfect. It says: 'I went fishing
once, but tonight I cannot do an that.'

Fare attended Forest Hill Collegiate in Toronto, and in 1959 came to
London, where for a time he remained as an imperfect student at the
Bartlett School of Architecture. Disappointed, he left London for
Copenhagen. Owing to his financial independence, a condition from which
he was never perfectly relieved, he was free to spawn novelties,
including the first of his 'appearances'. The notable events of his
tirocinium are perhaps less well known than they ought to be. Nor are
facts concerning this or any other period of Fare's career as generously
imparted as one might be led to expect by an organization calling itself
the John Fare Vital Information Bureau, West 56 Street, New York. A
vital telephone call which I put through to them early this morning
yielded nothing beyond the swirly gobblings of a certain 'Jenkins' who,
possibly owing to the distance, resembled a ventriloquist in a Waring
Blender, and an unidentified preadamite whose continual laughter sounded
like pieces of iron thrown in a bathtub. As publicity agents, they are
just one step ahead of the Tarbaby.

I have nevertheless been told by others that Fare's earliest
'appearance' gestures consisted in the public removal of his clothing,
accompanied at times by such trimmings as the pressing of 'his bare
arse' against the street-level windows of particularly genteel
restaurants. These high deeds nearly always led to his arrest and/or
hospitalization, if only because it never, apparently, occurred to him
to avoid consequences, however predictable or unpleasant. One might
almost fancy that in these stunts, however amusing or informal, it is
not impossible to discern a tinge of masochism as well as the slightly
feminine tendencies to discard things and extort medical attention. (Any
woman, for example, will throw away an arrowhead collection, and a
survey conducted in 1968 indicated that in Harley Street 91 per cent of
the customers are women.)

After a brief spell in the bughouse, Fare was again arrested when, early
one morning, a frightfully Danish police constable found it impossible
to ignore Fare's curious treatment of a parked motorcar. Fare had in
fact already spent several hours fastening random objects to the vehicle
in question with epoxy resin. These included: golf balls, milk bottles,
brooms, unopened tins of food, one dead cat, his own clothes, old
gramophone records, dozens of biros, and over a hundred forks and
spoons. While Fare sat quietly in the local stationhouse, the police
officer waited patiently for the owner of the car to arrive so that it
could be explained that a known lunatic had unfortunately made him the
target of vandalism, but had been apprehended and would be charged as
soon as the victimized motorist would be good enough to sign a formal
charge. However, when the owner did turn up after hour or so, he
appeared not to notice anything. When pressed by the astonished officer,
he suddenly declared that he thought that there was something different
and appeared to be highly entertained. He immediately arranged Fare's
release and introduced himself: Golni Czervath, who was a cybernetic
inventor, electronics wizard, and an accomplished musician. Together
they began, almost at once, to develop a robotic operating table,
consisting of two robots (each with two flexible hands), attached to the
table, beneath which was located a power source and an ingeniously
controlled programming system. Assisted y the painter Gilbert Andoff,
they worked out a series of programmed 'appearances', which, if nothing
else, ensured a very settled career for Fare and an end o the son of
trifling which had so far coloured his life and which parents so often
find vexing. The series of amputations thus planned was still, of
course, a kind of strip show; yet the difference between it and Fare's
earlier disrobings is the difference between sculpture and election

The first operation, a lobotomy, was presented in June, 1964, in
Copenhagen. The time and day 8.30pm, Friday - never varied in subsequent
appearances. His mind thus abridged, Fare was more or less proof against
any doubts concerning his vastation which he might otherwise have

By the time I was last invited to attend one of Fare's appearances - at
the Isaacs Gallery in Toronto,17 September 1968 - Fare was short one
thumb, two fingers, eight toes, one eye, both testicles, and several
random patches of skin. Each of these scraps had been replaced by a
bizarre metal or plastic facsimile, so that when he entered the gallery
- a man who, in purely fleshly terms, was so small and faint that, thus
refurnished, he seemed to beggar the customary initial enquiry in the
game Twenty Questions - several memories were coaxed forward all at
once: brass monkeys in winter, 'A Rebours'. the whittling of Dr Moreau,
the final condition of Bonny Parker, Nathanael West's curtailed heroes,
a bird cage in Bradbury, 'Captain Carpenter', 'Johnny, I Hardly Knew
You'. and in the instance of the thumb, an eloquent rejoinder to Nazi
bad taste in the field of interior decoration.

That night in Toronto, his entire right hand, previously unmolested, was
scheduled to run out of luck. The gallery was hung with Andoff's huge,
faintly Transylvanian murals. Andoff and Czervath assembled the
operating table and its adjuncts in front of the audience, putting the
whole thing together 'from scratch'. Fare stood perfectly still in one
spot, smiling vacantly while lazy blonde spotlights grazed slowly about
the ceiling, as if in response to reports of leftover Messerschmitts,
harmless in their old age, ever so ample to catch.

At length, Fare lay down upon the assembled table, and his two
assistants strapped a number of tiny microphones up and down his flesh,
so that the highly amplified sound of his pulse, breathing, and
mutilation, could be laid on at will. At first, before the robots began
the actual surgery, it sounded like whale music. Andoff and Czervath
stepped into another room, and, as the four hands of the robots began
all at once to move very energetically above the weird table and its
stylized cargo, I was reminded for a moment of a xylophone recital I and
a girl named Nellie had gone to about ten years earlier on the planet
Neptune. Her last name was something like Fisher, only it wasn't Fisher.
One metal hand gave Fare an injection, paused, and began in concert with
the other three to perform exactly as one imagines a competent surgeon
and an assistant would. Alarmingly coloured lights began now to emanate
from the robots themselves as they continued the job. Plague shades
flooded the room, lurid crash pigments, a filthy Dallas crimson, shabby
leper mud, a kind of frayed porky one, and a truly horrifying yellow
that Winsor & Newton knew nothing about. The absurdly amplified noise of
the bone-sawresembled huge panting elephant death yells played backward
on too many tape recorders. People blacked out here and there, a few
more during the sutures.

The operation over, one metal claw abruptly raised the hand and wagged
it about horribly for a few seconds, as one would a found purse everyone
had been searching for in a large field. It then placed the hand in a
jar of alchohol, which Andoff, reappearing with the houselights,
carefully labelled and placed on a table next to the birth certificate.
'What larks!'a pretty girl of about seventeen said. Fare was wheeled
into another room and three days later travelled by rail to New York.
'Dying is an art like everything else.' Since the evening I have
described, Fare has made six appearances in various cities. Much of his
audience has from the very start consisted of a hard core of mainly
professional, mainly middle-aged people waiting patiently for the
masterstroke. The date of that event has always been kept very secret.
They'll applaud until their tickets tear up the ushers.

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