(From the July, 1999 issue of Java magazine)
Inside Deuce of Clubs
by Laurie Notaro
Deuce opens his front door. That might typically seem
like an ordinary task, but in Deuce's world, things are usually not
that simple. Posted and tacked on the door is a laminated
questionnaire -- a regulating mechanism, if you will -- to weed out
solicitors, strangers and generally, the unwelcome. After confirming
that I have nothing to sell, am not a Jehovah’s Witness or a psychotic
nut that ever dated him, I knock.
Deuce, a connoisseur and collector of his self-created brand of odd, bizarre and just plain peculiar, is a private man, despite his sprawling website (http://www.deuceofclubs.com) that doubles as an open book of his life. His vast, national web following has witnessed, via modem, Deuce drive his Whip It! car -- permanently affixed with hundreds of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream & Other Delights album covers -- across the country numerous times (Houston Art Car Weekend 97, San Francisco Art Car Westfest 97, Houston Art Car Weekend 98), the same car from which he contracted pneumonia after removing the packrat poop and nest that filled the vehicle (he still has the rat, now packed on ice in his freezer). They've seen the photos of his plaster bust of Wagner interact with the likes of former Vice-President Dan Quayle and actress Lori Petty; his fascination with name-twin Godfried Danneels, Cardinal of Mechelen-Brussels and candidate to become the next Pope; the real-life legal soap opera-battle between Deuce and the manufacturers of 666 brand cough-syrup; his pilgrimage to a lone phone booth tucked square in the middle of the Mojave desert, and his unsuccessful run for state legislator in 1992. It's antics like these that have placed Deuce not only in the heart of the avant garde, but also in places such as The New York Times and a curious newspaper in Sweden.
Deuce's living room/office/world is stacked with stuff; he proudly slips several early sixties cha-cha albums from his record collection of thousands and asks if I can identify the model on the cover (a young, scantily-clad vixen named Mary Tyler Moore), explains the work-in-progress poem tacked to the ceiling that consists solely of book titles and their covers, and tosses over his Mr. T Cabbage Patch Doll, sans clothing. He didn't strip Mr. T, he tells me. He came that way.
I've known Deuce since we worked together at Planet Magazine, so I'm not scared.
Java: When you first found Wagner in the thrift store for 75 cents, did you have any idea that he would become more popular and well-liked than yourself?
Since Wagner has been all over the world, has he ever sustained any harmful injuries on his travels?
Lots. He was in fine condition when I found him at the Salvation Army, and stayed that way until he fell off a bridge into the Rio Grande. After that, he fell from a Devil's Disciples tombstone in Coolidge, lost his head in Germany, lost it again when a Deadhead chick pantomimed a "drug drop," and recently was abused by Israeli officials at the Jordanian border. Still waiting on the details from that, he just arrived state-side several days ago. I've filled him with crack filling foam, which has not only made him more durable, but transformed him into a flotation device. In fact, on a recent white-water rafting trip, Wagner floated on his own part of the way until he carelessly headed toward a waterfall.
Where is Wagner going next?
After he returns to the states he will go on loan to a Salt Lake City woman who will show him Utah, then he goes to California with me, then to D.C., where a couple will take him on a roadside attractions tour ending in northwestern Nevada, where I will meet up with him again at Burning Man ‘98. After that, he's been invited to tag along on a friend's honeymoon to St. Lucia.
Any plans to develop an off-Broadway side show/ventriloquism act with Wagner's head?
Already did it at The Orange Show in Houston, Texas, in the early 90s.
Do you take him on dates?
Sure. I've done it lots of times.
Which one of you gets to make it with the girl?
It's pretty much ladies' choice.
How long did you collect the Herb Albert records? You must have had hundreds of them.
Maybe four, five years or so. They used to decorate my walls. Somehow they seem less disturbing on my car.
If you made another artcar, would you pick a John Denver record or Sonny & Cher's first album?
No way! From here on out, rule #1 is: no more paper-based art cars! Too much trouble with water damage!
You mean like rain or people spitting on you?
Rain. Art car events seem to draw rain almost as well as the Mill Avenue Arts Fair.
What led you to the Mojave phone booth? How did you find it?
That's a long, long story. But in brief, I got the booth's phone number from a letter printed in a friend's zine, called it & called it until someone finally answered, called a Mojave desert expert, and finally visited the phone booth a couple times.
Did you make a phone call from there? Was it to your therapist?
I made many phone calls. That was therapy enough.
When you found it, did you sleep there?
Not the first time. A guy's gotta have standards, y'know. But on the second visit I did.
Did Wagner display any feelings of jealousy toward the phone booth?
Well, if he didn't like it, he didn't say anything to me about it.
How the hell did it get into The New York Times? And in that Swedish paper?
The New York Times followed a link from The Payphone Project site. I have no idea how the Swedish newspaper article came about. I don't even know what it says -- and I'm 1/4 Swedish.
On your website, you have a portion dedicated solely to Amy Grant's mandible. What is it about Amy Grant's jaw that caught your attention and harnessed your love?
Well, that last part would be overstating it a bit. I just always thought she had kind of a weird mandible.
If Amy Grant died an her mandible came up for auction, would you bid on it?
I don't buy dead things.
What about the rat in your freezer? That's dead.
I didn't buy it, though.
You've made up with Henry Dean III, the president of the company that manufactures 666 cough remedies that once threatened to take legal action if you didn't remove the "666" story from the website. Are you frightened that you've perhaps corresponded with an agent of Satan? Do you buy the explanation that they named their products after a prescription pad number and not the devil?
Never underestimate the power of naiveté. Besides, when they chose the name, heavy metal bands hadn't even been invented yet.
You've mentioned that Cardinal Godfried Danneels has been ill. Any plans to send him 666 cold products to revive him or make a pact with them that ensures his future Holiness title?
As far as I know, 666 doesn't make any heart medications. What a pity: some medievalists saw 666 in VICARIUS FILII DEI (a Latin title of the Pope that adds up to 666).
Have you offered to lend a marketing hand to promote him in his race for Pope?
I have, in fact. So far I haven't heard back.
If you were his "campaign manager," what sort of activities would you suggest he partake in to improve his chances of becoming Pope, or simply to improve his image; he has been said to be "blunt," a "loner" who lacks "human warmth."
I wouldn't try to improve on it; I'd *capitalize* on it. Look how long it's worked for Don Rickles. Wouldn't it be great to hear a pope call a religious enemy a "hockey puck?"
Do you frighten potential relationship partners (chicks) with your interests?
I like to think of them as a litmus test. A woman recently e-mailed & asked whether I made the website to "get girls." My response was, "Why? Think it would work?"
Was that lady your mom?
Do you ever worry about becoming a creepy old man?
As Teddy Kennedy said, "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."