The Freedum Tourists From Texas

I was listening to the Adam Buxton podcast the other day and I stopped dead in my tracks. A broad smile crossed my face and I started chuckling. He was interviewing comedian Stewart Lee and it was the usual mix of high chat and low chat and general ramble chat that we podcats adore. Stewart Lee started talking about a gig at the Edinburgh Festival. Which I had been at.

Not so amazing? Yes it was. Because this was a midnight gig in 1991 and the only people who were there was me, my friend Stuart and no more than six other people. One of whom, we now know, was Stewart Lee. 

This was a mythical gig that Stu and I had told people about for years, but nobody had ever believed us. And here was Stewart Lee confirming it was all true. Thirty years later! 

The Edinburgh Festival, 1991. Lee described it as 1989, it was 91. Definitely. That was the year that Stu and I were there at the same time, having both just failed our A-Levels. We both had minor dogsbody roles in The Birmingham Rep Youth Workshop’s production of Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop. It was all very serious, cutting edge theatre. The production won a Scotsman Fringe First, presented by Roy Hattersley. Although that success had nothing to do with me and Stu. 

We were scene shifters and stage sweepers and flyer distributors. Stu was given the nickname Izzy, as in, ‘Izzy Bizzy? Izzy Fuck!’ and he genuinely and justifiably and traumatically hates being called that to this very day. 

I also had a cameo role as a puppet which I played with gusto. I acted my socks off with arms and legs loose and bouncing up and down as though on strings. Stu, if I remember correctly, had to stand backstage and on cue, pop a glove puppet of a wolf over the backdrop. 

We had just finished sixth form and we spent our free time looking out for whatever weird shit Edinburgh had to offer two failed A-Level students. 

Mid-festival Stu, me and an unknown Stewart Lee, found ourselves at the same midnight gig at what I remember only as a ‘space’. It could have been a disused factory or slaughterhouse or old school, but years later, having found the flyer, it turned out to be a church. It was somewhere between the back of Waverly station and The Royal Mile. The place definitely had more of a ‘somewhere behind the station’ vibe to it. 

I’m almost certain that it was Stu’s idea. He’d been handed a flyer and there was something about the photocopied black and white, hand drawn design that was reminiscent of our own Sixth Form band ‘Michelle Mother of the Farting Pencil’ 

The poster had the full line up for the evening. But I was sold on the title alone - ‘The Freedum Tourists From Texas’  with the motto ‘We owe allegiance to no crown’. I kept it for years and I think I still have it in a box somewhere. 

At the start of the gig there were about 40 people in the crowd. They were sat on three sides of a square room. The first act was a woman and a slideshow called The Butterfly Effect. I don’t remember much about it other than thinking it was quite dull and predictable - Lots of images of a butterfly somewhere in the Amazon jungle, flapping its wings and causing a storm somewhere in Canada (with accompanying slide). Pretty standard Edinburgh Festival fare. Years later, I realise that this insidious poem was itself the flapping of the wings that was leading to the terrble storm that followed. 

A couple left during the poem. This was normal for Edinburgh - There’s so much to see so people take a chance, and if the show doesn’t grab them immediately they cut their losses and head somewhere else. But we were still around 40 people in the audience. Stu and I had paid and we would stay and get our money’s worth no matter how pretentious and painful the show was. 

The lights went down on the poet and the next act was announced: 
‘Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the stage… .. SPUNKY! The Anti-Clown!’ 

And there he was, Spunky The Anti-Clown, dressed in some kind of rubber bondage suit and covered in black, red-tipped dildoes. He waddled on crab-like to a dystopian chant of ‘Spunky! The Anti-Clown! Spunky The Anti-Clown!’. 

He got centre stage, pressed a button and water squirted out of the red -tipped penises. Then he left the stage. That was it. But it was enough. Five or six more people stood up and left the show. 

Next act was Three Day Stubble. They picked up their instruments to find all the electrics had been shorted by Spunky The Anti-Clown’s ejaculations. The tech guy ran on and tried to fix the problem, changing plugs and drying things up. Meanwhile, the lead singer took the initiative and improvised his way out of it. 

He earnestly walked centre stage and in a nerdy Texan drawl announced that the show had been sabotaged by Spunky’s fountain and that “I will now give you a fountain of my love…. “ 

He lay down on his back, undid his belt, unzipped his trousers and then directed a stream of golden piss straight up in the air and back down onto himself. The audience now began leaving in earnest and once the tech guy had got the equipment working again, there were no more than a handful of people left to watch the band’s set. Stuart and I were going nowhere. We were mesmerised. 

I’ll be honest. Three Day Stubble’s music was never going to win any prizes but those who left never got to witness the final act of the night. The Stu Mulligan Project. 

Things started off innocently enough. Their schtick was basically doing Carpenters lyrics to the tunes of the Mamas and the Papas. But it was all building up to the showstopper. If I remember correctly, it was something like Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These boots were made for walking’ during which the front man Stu Mulligan ate an entire jar of mayonnaise with a knife. Pretty disgusting, yes, but he then proceeded to regurgitate the mayonnaise in a spiral, centre stage. He pulled out a maraschino cherry and placed it on top. Fade to black, apart from a single pool of light on what he had produced.

The show was over. Faint sound of clapping from a very small, bewildered crowd. 

As we left, we walked past the dressing room where the door was open. There they were - Spunky, the butterfly woman, the members of Three Day Stubble and The Stu Mulligan project in a state of sweaty undress. They were in a congratulatory mood. ‘That went well tonight!’ Stu Mulligan announced triumphantly to his fellow Freedum Tourists. 

****

Link to Stewart Lee’s description of the gig

And to the whole episode  

I also found the Three Day Stubble Website which is well worth a little surf around: https://threedaystubble.com

And this extract from a book called ‘Painting The Town Orange’ about Houston’s art scene. There were a few lines about Spunky The Anti-Clown, including this description

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