The final poet for the Sundown Poetry Series, Rich Ferguson, is an accomplished Los Angeleno performance poet. The first time I saw him perform was at some club in Hollywood over twenty years ago; though details like which venue, who accompanied me there, or which poet headlined, are long gone, I've never forgotten the energy, imagination, and transcendence of the dramatic monologue he gave in the character of a marginal Southerner. Last week he and I collaborated on a wonderfully odd little poet-to-poet interview based on his several Googlegangers and some of his performance pieces. --KW
Katherine Williams: How long have you been President/CEO of Daimler Buses North America? What does that involve?
Rich Ferguson: Actually, I purchased Daimler Buses and became the President/CEO so I could be guaranteed a sufficient mode of transportation to my gigs in case my car ever broke down. You know how it is here in LA. You need a car to get everywhere. And being the President/CEO of a huge bus company seemed the easiest way for me to make sure I'd show up to all my shows should my Toyota ever give up the ghost.
KW: How did you meet your wife, Wanda? Which of the Assemblies of God mission fields was most inspiring, and why?
RF: Really? Her name's Wanda? Funny. She told me her name was Trixie when I met her at that truck stop diner. As far as which Assemblies of God mission was the most inspiring for me, I guess it would have to be the one where they let me invent a new god for a day. I called her Esther. She had dark eyes. Long, wavy, jet-black hair. Wore peasant dresses. Had a heart as big and deep as all the oceans combined. Could recite every Neruda by memory. And she was way into Bruce Lee movies.
I've often heard how you can drive all the way home from Hatteras on a leaky radiator if you put pepper in it. How does that work?
For starters, when I perform this feat of mechanical wonderful I don't use regular ground pepper. I actually use a jalapeno pepper. A BIG one. Big enough to block the hole in my radiator. Now some other folks might use other types of pepper. Me, I stick with those big, honking jalapenos. I've actually begun selling my own line of them at Pep Boys. Seem to be doing quite well last time I checked.
What led you to decide to run for Howard County Sheriff?
Again, this all had to do with my need to ensure that I could get to my gigs safely. There have been times in the past when I've been harassed and held up at gunpoint. So I thought to myself...what's the best way to ensure my safety as I travel from city to city to perform? And then it came to me...become a sheriff! You can carry a gun, a badge. And no one's gonna give you any grief if you run a few red lights when trying to get to a show on time.
Where do you think Charlotte and Hollywood converge?
I think Charlotte and Hollywood converge somewhere deep in my heart. Probably in the left ventricle. But I could be mistaken. Maybe it's in my spleen. Granted, I've been a CEO and a sheriff. But never a doctor. So I could be a bit off on this one.
You pitch left-handed in Immaculata's junior varsity games. Does that make you a communist or something?
"Communist," funny you should mention that one. That's what the Assemblies of God folks called me when I'd invented that new god, Esther.
I notice Sears is a big sponsor of Ellen DeGeneres. Did that influence you to give Sears car stereo a shout in your Steve McQueen poem?
Unfortunately, Sears didn't give me any royalties when I mentioned them in "More Steve McQueen Than Anything." But I forgive them. There was a point in time where they made a damn fine car stereo. And that's exactly what I was needing when I was getting ready for my senior prom. Can't have the perfect ride or perfect prom date without the perfect tunes.
What did the crazy circus arts girl from "Abilene Rising" and Wanda (aka Trixie) have in common?
They both smelled of cotton candy, sawdust and sweat. It was an intoxicating mixture that rose from their bodies like wild carnival spirits. I was hooked from the first hello.
So, what's next, after the oldest theatre in the Americas?
I'll be performing in SF in July and at the Miami Documentary Film Festival in September. And maybe London next year. But immediately after my show at the oldest theatre in the Americas, I'm looking forward to my brother showing me a damn fine time in the city of Charleston. And if those Band of Horses chaps aren't on tour, I'd love to run into them as well. I just love those guys.