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I only eat dead frogs when I have to

Robert Ritchie Memorial Service 10.21.2011 – foto by Smith

Friday night’s candle-lit Lincoln Park Memorial for punk poet artist Robert “Dick Head” Ritchie was one of those magic moments that give life depth.

Everyone told their Dick Head stories and I learned Robert was way weird way before he started doing drugs and alcohol. When he was nine, he put on a show in his backyard; he stood before his audience of neighborhood children and poured battery acid on his bare arms and laughed as the kids ran screaming home when his flesh began to bubble. For an encore, he rolled broken thermometer mercury down his arms and let the kids watch it absorb into his skin.

I ended my eulogy with this dead frog poem intestine story:

When fellow artist Wilcox was told of his death, he said, “Well as much as he could be a pain in the ass, he certainly did provide color for our little scene.”

That he did. In fact he gave me the best night of poetry in my life. Robert got us a reading gig at the Old Brooklyn Tavern in the early 80s. I had good poems but a seriously boring reading style and was ignored by the crowd. Then Robert laid down a clear plastic drop cloth, went back to change, and came back out wearing nothing but an octopus tied around his waist, it’s tentacles and his penis hanging down, swaying. He held a big stuffed green frog in his left hand and a butcher knife in his right as he started shouting:

I only eat dead frogs
when I have to
lifes a bitch not a bore
Im a slut not a whore
live for lust
loves a drag
I only eat dead frogs
when I have to

Art is free
but paint cost money
The galleries are full
of commies faggots & more
I dont let it get me sore
Cus I only eat dead frogs
When I have to

As he finished, he ripped open the belly of the stuffed frog with his butcher knife and the cow intestines he’d sewn into the frog the night before spilled out all over the plastic. And the noisy crowd that had ignored me went totally silent, all staring open-mouthed at Robert. Now *that* is about as fine as performance poetry gets.

I didn’t always like Robert, but I will miss him. In his own weird way, he was an innocent, a child of Pan amongst the stilted.

Robert Ritchie Memorial Service 10.21.2011 – fotos by Smith

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