What do filmmakers Bradley Beesley (Fearless Freaks, Okie Noodling, Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo) and Ben Steinbauer (Winnebago Man) have up their sleeves, or rather, in their cameras this time? Well, Park Grubbs, of course.
Before Jerky Boys, Jack Ass, Tom Green, Crank Yankers, Punk’d and all the other modern envelope pushing pranksters, Park Grubbs (G.R.U. double BS) was there in the forefront pranking on the prairie in Oklahoma, conducting backwoods experiments with a landline.
Pre-Park Grubbs, prank calls consisted of – “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” and -“Is your refrigerator running?” Park Grubbs is to prank calls what Iggy Pop is to punk rock, or what John Waters is to independent film. A childish pastime turns into sordid high art. Baltimore informs Waters’ films. Ann Arbor and Detroit informs Pop’s punk. A small wealthy, somewhat naïve, Oklahoma oil town informs the Park Grubbs phone call tapes.
In the early 80s, Park Grubbs – made up more or less of a trio of teens who perfectly imitated crotchety old geezers – expressed their ennui with the status quo (AKA those who were rocking to Styx Paradise Theater and Foreigner 4) through riotous and more than a little disturbing prank phone calls. As their high school contemporaries were cruising McDonalds and the teen favorite Shane’s Games, Grubbs was talking to the unsuspecting about canoes and sexual devices and processes of which you make cheese.
Although these prank calls by Grubbs were often risqué to the point of being triple X, there was something innocent but daring about the caller that kept the pranked on the phone. Sometimes for almost 10 minutes, both prankster and pranked could escape from the tedium and unending television sameness of small town life talking about things as mundane as urine.7
Although these pranksters were conducting aforementioned backwoods experiments with a landline, they were not scientists or even professionals. At one point, during mid prank, Grubbs has to hang up because his mom comes home. Although it was a performance, they did not view it as so. This, to them, was nothing more than a way to ward away the boredom for a short time.
Not for posterity, but for the hell of it, one of the prankster teens decided to tape the calls. The calls were taped primitively with the medium of the time, the cassette tape. This cassette tape was copied and copied again. Then it made its way across the USA sometimes landing at college towns other times landing in artistically informed cities like New York, Los Angeles and Seattle molding the local vernacular among co-eds and hipsters. Phrases like ‘hotdogs and shindigs’ and ‘I want to fondle your member’ became part of the secret vernacular, code words that helped form friendships, build art slacker alliances.
Art-rock weirdoes The Flaming Lips took the tape and cleaned up the noise and debated releasing it as a piece of pop history. Ghost World’s Dan Clowes and Neat Stuff’s Peter Bagge have both used it as reference material.
Now, filmmakers Bradley Beesley (Fearless Freaks, Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo) and Ben Steinbauer (Winnebago Man) have a vision. Through reenactments (animated and non-animated), reconciliations (the pranksters meeting the pranked) and interviews with the pranksters, the victims, the influenced and the under the influenced; Park Grubbs for the first time ever is coming to life.
And, in full disclosure, I should add that I am involved in the film. Steven Drozd from the Flaming Lips and I will be doing the soundtrack with a little help from some friends and fiends. In as much, the filmmakers have asked me to produce the film, which is a first for me. This is because I would like to think of myself as a Park Grubbs archivist and historian. Personally, this film is incredibly important to me. (Tyson Meade)
As Park Grubbs once stated “What d’ya think I been talkin’ about all this time!”
Here is a link to the Kickstarter page: