Ode to Bubbleheads

The Fabulous Little Enis, 180 lbs of dynamite with a nine-inch fuse, with the Go Go Girls of Boots Bar, copyright Guy Mendes

The Fabulous Little Enis, 180 lbs of dynamite with a nine-inch fuse,
with the Go Go Girls of Boots Bar, copyright Guy Mendes

I spent the academic year 1972-73 teaching at the University of Kentucky and working on "Little Enis: An Ode on the Intimidations of Mortality," my story about Lexington rockabilly legend Carlos "Little Enis" Toadvine, which I hoped was destined for publication in Playboy magazine. During that year, my Lexington photographer friend Guy Mendes made two photographs that have become milestones in my life as a writer: First was his so-called "Captain Kentucky" portrait that graces (if you will) the cover of my new book, I JUST HITCHED IN FROM THE COAST. Then there was his iconic shot of Enis and the go-go ladies of Boots Bar, where the downward spiral of Enis's life had deposited him amidst the wreckage of his career and his health, when he was barely 40 years old.

Boots Bar was only a few blocks from the UK campus, and, as will surprise none who know my devotion to the high standards of yellow journalism, I considered it my professional duty to spend a great deal of time on the premises, researching my story. Across the street from Boots was (still is) a raggledy-assed old tobacco warehouse in which advanced students in the University art department had their studios, and among those students was a young ceramicist named Wayne Ferguson, who liked to while away his leisure hours pounding down a few beers next door at Boots, often in the company of the University's own resident Enisologist, namely me, and my pal Guy Mendes.

Sure enough, Playboy did publish my story (in 1974, under a different title), and illustrated it with Guy's photo of Enis and the go-go girls. Both the story and the photo proved to have post-Playboy lives as well: Prints of the photo are now part of many important private collections, and the story was reprinted in my book FAMOUS PEOPLE I HAVE KNOWN, and is also included in I Just Hitched In from the Coast. I've done countless readings of it (or from it) over the years; it's an indispensable part of my all-too-skimpy oeuvre, and I love it beyond measure.

Meanwhile, our former fellow elbow-bender Wayne was making a considerable name for himself as a Louisville ceramics sculptor, with work that is dependably bold, colorful, ironic, visionary, tender, and meticulously executed. Six or seven years ago, when I was invited to do a reading at the opening of an omnibus show of Kentucky artists at the Kentucky Museum of Arts & Crafts in Louisville, I noted with pleasure that Wayne, whom I hadn't seen in many years, was to be among the exhibitors.

Imagine my delight when I walked in and there stood my old friend Wayne, next to a pedestal topped off with the niftiest little ceramic bubblehead statuette of ... Me!  And Enis! And a coupla bubbleheaded Enisettes to boot! And every detail of the diminutive foursome (mini-Me stands about a foot tall, plus an inch or so of hat) evoked either Enis's soulful music and persona, or one of Guy's two splendid photos, or maybe even a few snippets of my own deathless prose, or--oh my!—all of those artistic endeavors and aspirations blended into one tasty little ceramic medley. Of course I would have given body parts to own the piece, but Wayne, having no interest in my appendix nor yet my tonsils, squeamishly declined, and said he believed he'd rather just give it to me free. Which, out of the goodness of his squeamish heart, he did.


Photo by Danny O'Bryan

I once described my home office this way: " a large room made small by the encroaching crush of thousands--yes, thousands--of photos, books, records, keepsakes, relics, souvenirs, paintings, bric-a-brac, objets d'art, tchotchkes, geegaws, and knick-knacks, to each and every one of which is attached a whole sub-set of memories, stories, and reflections."

Nowadays, pre-eminent amongst all that cherished flotsam and jetsam is Wayne's charming little sculpture, which embodies not only Enis and both of Guy's great photos and all the raucous, insalubrious ambiance of Boots Bar, but also (product placement alert) the cover of my brand-new book!

Soon to be available at fine booksellers everywhere! Don't miss it if you can!

Other Entries from Ed:

01/25/2012 I Just Hitched in From the Coast
9/24/2011 Eschew Higgledy-Piggledy
08/22/2011 Ode to Bubbleheads
08/19/2011 The Magic Trip
08/16/2011 The Congress of Wonders on DVD - Update!
06/01/2010 The Essentials of Western Civilization
05/31/2010 Free-Wiki-You
04/05/2010 McClanahands!
03/23/2010 My Nervous Breakdown
02/16/2010 Congress of Wonders - The Musical!

Copyright © 2005 - 2012 Ed McClanahan. All rights reserved.