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 posters.
   
   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 entertained.
   
   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.