Brief History Of...
Shut Up, Little Man!!!
Wil Forbis - [Email]
Peter: You wanna try?
Raymond: Hey, you cocksucker
Peter: Whenever you're ready.
Peter: Whenever you're ready.
Raymond: Take me.
Peter: Oh no, you're the one that asked to attack, not me.
Peter: But I know if you don't --
Raymond: I'll kill you.
Peter: No, you won't. Go ahead and try it. Go ahead and try it. Go ahead and try.
Raymond: Don't jab me you fuckin' prick.
Peter: Try it. Try it, Mabel.
Raymond: God damn you fuckin'
Peter: Okay Mabel. I don't attack. I don't attack, Mabel.
Raymond: I'll kill you.
The most important audio recording released in the nineties wasn't a collection of songs by a self-tortured alternative star or rap impresario. It wasn't the extreme MTV-style comedy of a screaming Lenny Bruce clone and it certainly wasn't any one of the self aggrandizing spoken word artists that scratched their twisted self eulogies onto vinyl during the decade of grunge. The most important audio recording released in the nineties was entitled "Shut Up, Little Man." It was a compact disk of two older gentlemen who lived in San Francisco's Lower Haight district and spent their available free time yelling, screaming, hitting and generally abusing each other. It was not a false recording; it was not a set-up like the dirge of "reality shows" that now plague network television. It was real. And the fact that it was real made it all the more frightening. And more importantly, all the more hilarious.
The two gentlemen captured on the recording, both now dead, were Peter Haskett and Raymond Huffman. The recordings were initialized by their next-door neighbors, Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D, two young men who moved into the building in the late eighties. Initially Eddie Lee and Mitchell conducted their audio espionage out of fear - early on Raymond had threatened Mr. Sausage and they had decided it would best to record Peter and Raymond's nightly rages in case an actual attack did occur. But eventually fear gave way to amusement - Peter and Raymond's nightly soliloquies became strangely bewitching. Their vulgar speech mimicked the well crafted dialogue of a David Mamet or Charles Bukowski character and their total lack of self censorship spoke of a freedom seldom heard in modern, politically correct conversation. In a way, Peter and Raymond perfectly embodied the spirit of punk rock - they just didn't give a damn. Eventually Eddie Lee and Mitchell shared their recordings with a few friends, who made copies for their friends and so on. The popularity of the Peter and Raymond show spread, by word of mouth, leading up to a formal release of the recordings in 1993, under the title "Shut Up, Little Man." (The name being based on a common request Peter would make of Raymond.) It was an underground sensation. This led to the creation of Los Angeles play, based upon the recording. Two film versions of "Shut Up Little Man" (one based on the recordings, one based on the play based on the recordings) were discussed around Hollywood. Neither one has seen the light of day, but it was still a remarkable feat for what were simply the drunken rants of two misanthropic alcoholics living in a decrepit section of San Francisco.
What made "Shut Up, Little Man" so entertaining? When I first heard the recordings, in the early nineties, I would have hypothesized that it was the strange sort of honesty on the tapes. This was real life, unabridged. These were two men who made no attempt to bow to the moral conventions of the day (indeed, they seemed totally unaware of them) and that made their battles all the more engaging. In addition, Peter and Raymond simply had a great way with words. Particularly words like "cocksucker," "motherfucker," "queer," "bitch," "kill," "asshole," and "sonofabitch." And they were experts at stringing these and other words into unique phrases. Homophobic Raymond would often belligerently announce, "You're not a human being, you cocksucker!" or "I despise queers! All queers! And that means you!" Patently gay Peter would defend himself with such retorts as "Little man, shut up! Shut up, little man!" or "Quit giggling, you silly little fool." The incentive for pursuing such recordings might seem dubious on paper, but put yourself in the place of Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D. You've only recently moved into the world of adulthood and one of the first places you come to reside in is one of the more disturbing areas of San Francisco, a town known for its drug addicts and general deviancy. Through your walls you hear, on a nightly basis, some of the most repugnant insults and degradations possible being screamed by two man-monsters engaged in an endless series of verbal (and sometimes physical) warfare. Try it for a couple months and tell me you don't find yourself laughing at the absurdity of it all.
I despise all queers. I hope they heard me everywhere in the fucking building. Because that's true. I despise all fuckin' queer cocksuckers. I like girls, and normal, decent human beings. Boys like girls and girls like boys. Queer little cocksuckers that think that they're wonderful, that they love boys, well fuck them little cocksuckers. They are not... they ought to have been put to death. I despise all fuckin' queers. And any decent human being despises the fuckin' queers. - Raymond Huffman
One could listen to "Shut Up, Little Man" for hours and still never get a solid understanding of Peter and Raymond's relationship with each other. Were they lovers? Frankly, it's hard to tell if they were even friends. In a quote from Banafish magazine , Eddie Lee Sausage described their affiliation thusly, "The exact nature of their relationship is something we struggled with the entire time we lived there. I always saw it as being similar to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Or in "The Stranger" where the neighbor of Merisault always beats his dog and calls it a filthy cur, but when it dies, he crumbles."
This much was known. Peter was gay and had worked in the advertising industry. He had lived in different locations throughout his life eventually settling in on San Francisco. On the "Shut Up, Little Man" recordings, Peter starts out the less aggressive of the two, but as time progresses he begins to assert himself more forcefully - leading up to an event mentioned in Eddie Lee Sausage's Bananafish interview where he tosses Raymond over the railing of their second story balcony, committing Raymond to some serious hospital time.
Raymond's sexual preference is up for discussion. His constant diatribes against gays would lead one to label him either a straight bigot or a self-loathing homosexual. Raymond had served time for a manslaughter charge, so it's possible he had been at least introduced to homosexual activities in prison. As to whether he and Peter had ever engaged in any sexual activity, nothing can definitely be said one way or the other. Certainly their constant bickering has the sound of an aging married couple, and the fact that they put up with each for so long other paints a picture of a strange devotion… but lovers? Who knows?
Shut up, little man! Shut up, little man! I got, I got a decent dinner ready. Nothing happened with the dinner. Because you crucified it. You ruined it. God damn you! Shut up, little man! - Peter Haskett
The "Shut Up, Little Man" cd was originally released in 1993, and quickly garnered attention. It was reviewed by numerous "respected" media sources like The Washington Post and Vanity Fair. Numerous musical acts sampled segments of the cd in their music. A radio station in New Zealand began playing the cd as a daily soap opera, albeit one where the main characters are chronic alcoholics who accuse each other of being "a piece of fucking shit" or "a dirty little man." Not quite "Days of Our Lives."
This all led up to the creation of the "Shut Up, Little Man" play, which ran in Los Angeles in 1994. The play was the result of an ill-fated collaboration between Eddie Lee Sausage and a theatre performer named Gregg Gibbs. Gibbs, independently of Mr. Sausage, had performed a one act presentation based on the "Shut Up, Little Man" recordings, and upon making the decision to pursue a longer version of the play, contacted Eddie Lee. Mr. Sausage signed on as a creative consultant and provided some materials for the play. The relationship between Eddie Lee and Greg Gibbs eventually disintegrated, and though Eddie Lee declines to comment much about it, he has described Gibbs as "a self-obsessed reefer-puffing egotist, well-versed in the high Hollywood art of flattery and inflated praise" . Nonetheless, the play was successful enough to generate talk of a "Shut Up, Little Man" movie (that has still not seen the light of day, though REM singer Michael Stipe once expressed interest in directing it) and strengthen the recording's status as a cult favorite. Perhaps the most successful venture inspired by the cd has been the "Shut Up, Little Man" comic book published in 1999.
But what happened to the progenitors of the violent verbiage that found its way onto "Shut Up, Little Man"? Predictably, after years of chain smoking, hard drinking and bodily abuse, they died. Raymond passed on in 1992 and Peter in 1996, both from essentially natural causes. (If anything was really natural about these two.) It's doubtful that Raymond was ever cognizant of the cult stardom that had generated around him, but Peter became somewhat aware. In 1994, Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D had visited him to try and explain some of the circumstances of the recordings and perhaps offer some financial compensation to Peter. (He seemed more interested in offering to perform oral sex on them.) After Raymond's death, a reporter from the New Zealand radio station that had serialized the "Shut Up, Little Man" recordings also visited Peter and did an interview with him. Finally, Peter's hometown, alternative newspaper, the San Francisco Weekly, did an article about the recording right before he passed on.
Of course, Peter and Raymond will always live on in their own little section of the fringe culture universe. As long as there is drunken bile spewing, as long as alcohol fueled rants flow freely, as long as people strive to accost each other with the worst parts of their nature, there will be "Shut Up, Little Man."
I am not going to die. I will tell you if I'm dead. - Raymond Huffman
Wil Forbis is a confirmed hermaphrodite who follows the spritual teachings of the
eastern philosopher Dal-Goga. Additional writings of Wil's as well as
money saving coupons can be found at his web site http://www.forbisthemighty.com.
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