Hail The White Rhinoceros Part One (of Three): Shaun Partridge

Posted by on February 21st, 2011 at 12:01 AM


BURNS: So you’d disagree that TV was not built to influence lifestyle choices?

PARTRIDGE: Well it depends what the lifestyle choice is, you know? I mean, and how you deal with it.

BURNS: More in terms of the “design” of the television. I mean, you seem to have gotten a lot of influence and inspiration from the television. So, I guess what I’m asking, is, don’t you think it was actually intended to influence lifestyle with commercials and brands and stuff like that?

PARTRIDGE: Oh yeah. Of course, of course. And that’s the thing. That’s the funny thing about the ’60s. I love the ’60s, but a lot of people were like, “Aw man … TV … man … what’s goin’ on … so negative all these ads! Tryin’ to brainwash us!”

And I never understood that. It’s like, well, if you’re an idiot you’re brainwashed. I mean, you can get so much out of these ads. They’re fun. They’re entertaining. If you’re turned on in your own session you don’t need to go buy these things. So I don’t know who they’re complaining about. TV shows are just magical things. It’s just so beautiful. In a sense, the Temple always said that TV was reality. And now there’s reality shows. We were justified in saying that TV was reality. The most popular TV show is a reality show. Now we have the computer. It’s like a smaller TV. God becomes more subtle and more divine and powerful. You have things like YouTube now, where you’re like: “I wonder if this song’s going to be on there?” And you click on there and there it is. It’s amazing. They say God sees everything. And I think it’s true and I think that can be applied to the computer. Everything is on the computer. Everyone’s on the computer. You type in someone’s name and there they are. Nothing is hidden.

BURNS: Yeah. It’s sort of like this big “thing” is becoming self-aware that we haven’t really been able to see before.

PARTRIDGE: Yeah. It’s truly amazing. Facebook is really weird too.

BURNS: I want to talk about branding and what significance brands have to you. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of you with the McDonald’s … The McDonald’s M is arguably the biggest brand [laughs] in the world.

PARTRIDGE: McDonald’s came into my life — I always liked it when I was a kid … I was living in San Francisco, it was my last day there, and I got really turned on to some good Anne Frankensense, and I was walking around … This shows how symbolic everything is planned alchemically … I had to have a bowel movement. And I was like, “Where am I going to go?” I’m in the street. And there was a McDonald’s across from Golden Gate Park, and I go, “Well, you have to buy something to use the bathroom.” So I went in there, and I wasn’t even hungry, and I go, “What should I buy?” It was kind of this dreamy, magical trip happening. And I looked at the Filet-O-Fish, and I had never eaten a Filet-O-Fish, my mom ate those. And I go, “You know what? That sounds really cool. [Awestruck]: A Fillet-O-Fish.” And so I ate the fish, and you know of course fish is a great symbol. And I had a bowel movement. And in alchemy they talk about transforming shit into gold, you know? So it all tied in perfectly.

Then I went back to Denver and I was at McDonald’s, and I was looking at all the different wrappers and packaging, and I felt this cosmic bliss flow over me. I go, “You can have a Filet-O-Fish in a blue wrapper, or a cheese burger in an orange wrapper.” It was just a wonderful moment. I just sort of realized how much I love McDonald’s. And when I got into alchemy and stuff like that I realized, “God there’s so much symbolism here.” I mean, Ray Kroc [who purchased the McDonald’s corporation in 1954]. His name is Ray, the solar fire. There’s so much, there’s a wealth of alchemical symbolism embodied in the McDonald’s franchise. I mean just the M alone is the number 13, which is a very powerful symbol of transformation. I mean 13 means so many different things. Also, the M represents certain things, like “male” and “female” united, or two mountains that you have to pass through. There are so many weird symbols behind the M. And of course it’s “The Golden Arches.” Ray Kroc wants you to be “M” Powered.

BURNS: That’s the one that always strikes me. Somehow that phrase, “The Golden Arches,” has worked its way into the definition of McDonald’s.

PARTRIDGE: Yeah, yeah isn’t that amazing? The arches are such a powerful symbol, like a rainbow. Also the original McDonald’s had like red-and-white stripes, symbolizing the Sun and the Moon. Obviously the whole thing about alchemy is uniting … the union of opposites. The Red King and the White Queen uniting and becoming one. I just realized: We just went to Disneyland for the first time, and I realized … You know that statue of Disney and Mickey Mouse?

BURNS: Yeah.

PARTRIDGE: I’ve been obsessing over that, and it’s called, “Partners.” And I realized it’s a union of opposites. Mickey Mouse, a mouse is a nocturnal symbol. It’s a lunar symbol. Obviously Walt Disney’s the king, he’s the Sun, and he’s holding Mickey Mouse’s hand, which represents the Moon. So I thought that was really groovy.

(Celebration Statue of the Royal Marriage in the Magic Kingdom. Photo taken by K is for Kaleidoscope.)

BURNS: So do you think in order for those symbols and those brands to have power … Well, I guess there’s two kinds of power we’re talking about. We’re talking about what people complained about, believing they’re being brainwashed, and then the power to see something different. In the M, something you don’t think about. Something weird, something—

PARTRIDGE: Yeah. You know what’s interesting? If you go on the Internet, one of the best wealths of information I found when I got into the occult was anti-Catholic groups, or just really obsessive people who think everything’s Satanic, ’cause they’ll go through and they’ll find all these amazing symbolic pagan things. And it’s true, but they don’t get that the whole Jesus trip is totally occult far-out weird and mystical. So they miss that. But they see all this stuff. Like Narnia is a Christian book, but it’s totally fucking occult and totally weird, and I think Christians are really kind of stupid and don’t see that. But these other people that are Christians and kind of uptight, they see all this weird stuff and they actually get it. They go, “Yeah, this is horrible. Bacchus is in the second book.”

I mean how do you explain that: a Christian book for kids and Bacchus comes and everyone eats grapes and they basically have like an orgy and run around these vines grow and destroy everything. It’s pretty far-out stuff. But that’s the thing too. You know those weird, conspiracy people on the Internet who whine about The New World Order and how all this Masonic stuff is evil. All these brands are trying to influence us. To me it’s comforting. When I see all these brands and all this symbolism I just say, “Hey, that’s really groovy.” It’s like God just giving you a thumbs-up. And these people see it as just like a sinister plot or something. To me it’s a familiar wave. I don’t understand, because ads are amazing. You know, the idea that this ancient symbol will work on someone, so they’ll eat here. And that’s interesting, but it still works. It’s like what came first: The Partridge or the egg? It still works regardless. Truth is truth.

BURNS: There’s the dystopian worldview that we’re all going to become numbers and items and brands are the reason for that and all that stuff. You seem to be looking at the flipside of that.

PARTRIDGE: You have to put your Rosie O’Donnell glasses on. Look at things correctly. I see it as a positive thing. Again, it’s very comforting. Not anything sinister. To me sinister is people that don’t have a sense of humor. That to me is sinister. I live in Portland, Oregon. There are a lot of uptight straights here. I was just on Jim Goad’s website. That’s where I met Josh [Simmons]. There was a picture of this guy, I don’t know, maybe he was from Brooklyn. And this guy just looks like … you can just imagine him sitting in his apartment slurping tuna casserole into his wet soft mouth and being pleased with his actions. Just everything about him is just like … he just has this smug little smirk, and he has this shirt that says, “Sarah Palin is a cunt.”

And his arms are just completely sleeved full of tattoos. There’s not one drop of imagination there. No originality. Which really doesn’t exist of course. Every tattoo is your classic tattoo, the old-timey sailor tattoos that everyone’s into. And he’s sitting there with this smug little smirk, and it’s just like, “Oh, give me a break.”

That shirt bothers me because it reminds me of the “Kill Your TV” shirt. It’s a way for these people who are against violence to be violent. Like, “Kill your TV! Yeah! Yeah!”

These are the same people who, of course, never want to say someone’s a cunt. You know, that’s sexist and uptight. But you can say Sarah Palin’s a cunt.

BURNS: Strange things that people believe. Do you consider your moniker, Partridge in a Pear Tree, to be a brand?

PARTRIDGE: Not necessarily. Basically, the Pear Tree, there’s no real proof, but I believe it’s symbolic of Jesus. And that Jesus is just basically a Phoenix trip. In a sense everyone is The Partridge in the Pear Tree. The goal is to transform. The Pear Tree is the Tree of Wisdom, of good and evil. It’s like that divine tree, the cross. Popeye the Sailor Man hung on the cross for nine days, and had his eye ripped out. And then he was enlightened. And that ties in with everything. I’m really interested in that whole serpent power of meditation. To make that eye single, you know? The third eye.

BURNS: The Kundalini serpent? Is that what you mean?

PARTRIDGE: Yeah, yeah. I don’t like that expression, though. I realized the other day that Escape From New York was about that. ’Cause Snake Plisskin, he’s the snake, he goes in there. He has one eye, his eye is single. Plisskin has two “s’s,” so it’s the two serpents like on the caduceus. So, to escape from New York is to escape from your lower realm, your base realm. Also, New York is the Big Apple of good and evil: to transform yourself and get out of there. So I think Plisskin Power sounds groovier.

BURNS: [Laughs]. That’s fantastic.

The “Rape” Issue

In 1994 … I guess we should talk about your relationship with Jim Goad, and how you met him.

PARTRIDGE: Oh yeah. I met him through my friend Boyd and his old roommate Michael. One day Michael had Answer Me!, the third issue of Answer Me! I go, “What is this?” And he goes, “Oh it’s this guy, Jim Goad puts it out.” And it was just one of the most amazing things. When I was a kid, you know those moments when you get turned onto something? All the sudden you’re like, “Oh this is what I’ve been looking for I just didn’t know it.” When I was a kid, my Uncle Joey, who was just this sadistic genius, who was like a few years older than me. One day we were in Albany, New York, and he goes, “Read this,” and he gave me three National Lampoons. And then he goes, “Watch this,” and he turned Monty Python on. And the light bulb went on: “Oh, this is perfect.” So I was always looking for stuff like that that was a bit more obnoxious and more fun. So Answer Me! really fit the bill because it was like National Lampoon but even more over the top. So that’s how [I met Jim Goad]. Then they did the “rape” issue.

BURNS: Right and that was published in ’94 and that included Adam Parfrey and Boyd Rice who, I guess you’d already been friends with Boyd, but …

PARTRIDGE: I first heard about Boyd when I was like 15 and had read the Industrial Culture Handbook. Have you read that before?

BURNS: No, I haven’t.

PARTRIDGE: Well anyway, I remember I was 15 buying LSD at this Cat’s house and he goes, “Here, read this.” And the two pictures that freaked me out … There was a picture of Cosey Fanni Tutti from Throbbing Gristle putting a knife up her cunt. And you know, to a kid that’s really insane. And I go, “These are artists? These people are like freaking serial killers. They seem so demented.” You know, Throbbing Gristle, Monte Cazazza and Boyd were in there, and his picture disturbed me the most. He had like a shaved head, he was wearing a hospital garb or something like that, and he’s in front of a car accident smiling. Cars terrify me. I’ve never gotten my license. I’ve never liked cars. And I’m looking at this guy smiling in front of a car accident going, “This guy’s like an insane person! What the hell’s going on?”

And then years went by and I moved back to Denver, and a friend had The Industrial Culture Handbook and I was reading it. I read his chapter, and he’s saying things you’d expect. It was an interesting interview. And then he starts talking about phone cranks and I just started laughing hysterically. I go, “This guy has the same kind of humor as me. I could be friends with this guy.” Then my friend who had the book said, “Oh he lives here now in Denver.” I remember going, “What? Why would he live in Denver?” It just seemed so strange. He saw the Temple stickers; he loves The Partridge Family. He contacted us, we did an interview and then we became friends.

BURNS: You’d go on to do a lot of work with Boyd and Adam, right?

PARTRIDGE: I’ve done some stuff with Adam. I’m still friends with Adam. Adam now has a commune scene going. Which is really groovy. We need to go up there; it’s in Washington. It’s really cool. We’d really like to start like some Temple communes.

But yeah, so that’s how all those people met. And at the time it was kind of having fun upsetting the sensitive straights: because I grew up in Denver, and it was the Psychic Temple capitol. I don’t know if you’re into psychic TV at all?

BURNS: No, no.

PARTRIDGE: Well they had the Psychic Temple, which is funny because people thought we took that from them. But it was because the fonts, when we made stickers, spelt out Temple the same as Partridge Family. Before we just used to call it The Church of the Partridge Family, the Partridge Family Temple, we’d call it different things until we made the stickers and then it just became written in stone. But the whole psychic TV trip, there was like three major places, and Denver was one of them. You’d get these people that were into like piercing they’re bodies and, “We’re into extreme culture. We’re into all information.” But a lot of them were really uptight. So there was kind of a response to this.

For me, personally, I thought these people were kind of silly. What turned me on to a lot of the unpleasant scene, when you experience that, and I call it the Brown Goblin scene, there was like a line written in the sand of what was allowed to be interested in. There was this Mexican cat, and he owned this store, and it had like a serial killer’s name. He sold really offensive, violent death metal, but he thought I was an asshole because I was interested in racial things. Because I’d read books about Hitler, that was verboten, you couldn’t do that. That’s evil. Yet this guy, his favorite person in the world was Richard Ramirez, and Richard Ramirez killed all these people, he ripped out an old woman’s eyeballs. You know what I mean? And I was like, “Where do you draw the line?” When you go into the Brown Goblin scene you have to experience it all. You have to eat from the whole ugly pie. How can you draw a line? If you’re into serial killers … it just confused me.

BURNS: You didn’t appear in any of the Answer Me! issues before #4, is that right?

PARTRIDGE: No, I didn’t. What happened was, I had written a short story called Rape is Love, ’cause I’d been at this college, and one day I had this weird thing … I was doing graffiti, and I just wrote the word “rape” and “God.” At the time it just seemed kind of silly, and I thought people would think it was interesting, I mean, not interesting, but not that big a deal. But people really freaked out. And, I’d never written the word “rape” before, but the reason I did it was I actually felt that that’s what life is. I still kind of feel that way. Even Andy Warhol said something, how you’re kidnapped. We have no choice, we’re just forced here, and that’s what I was implying. So then me and a friend were talking and somehow we were just riffing on the word “rape” and “rape is love” came up, and so I wrote like a funny little story. Then Boyd told Jim about it and so I sent it to Jim and he put it in Answer Me!.

BURNS: So that is the story that appears in that issue.

PARTRIDGE: Yeah. And it’s funny. Jim had the right idea. He did the serial killer thing in the third one, and everyone thought that was great. And then he said, “I’m going to do a rape issue,” and of course everyone flipped out. That’s the stuff that I think interests all of us. It still interests me, you know, why are certain things allowed? No! You can’t do that it’s completely wrong! Wrong! And people just scream and yell and stamp around. It’s kind of strange. But apparently, Jim said, John Waters would buy it. He came in, saw the rape issue, picked it up, looked at it, put it down and walked out of the store.


PARTRIDGE: And I thought that was kind of far out. And even Richard Ramirez told Goad that he thought they had gone too far with the “rape” issue. Which is a weird logic.

BURNS: Yeah. In 1995 you participated in the Cult Rapture art show. Adam Parfrey put that together. What did you contribute to that?

PARTRIDGE: We had a temple thing there. It was great, because we had this gigantic cube. We painted the inside of it and had all this temple stuff in there. We had one wall painted like the bus when you go inside. It was really cool. At first we were going to paint the outside like the bus, but Adam had run out of room, so we ended up having Jack Kevorkian’s artwork hanging out the outside of it, which was great because I didn’t know he was an artist, and I was like, “Great, this is some really groovy stuff. It was really fun. There were some groovy people there. Joe Coleman, this really good, turned-on artist was there. There was some interesting things.

BURNS: And Adam later included you, or the Temple, in a book called Cult Rapture, which was a book on fringe cults.

PARTRIDGE: Are we in there? I don’t remember. I think he just mentions us … oh yeah. ’Cause we did the art show he gives us thanks.

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One Response to “Hail The White Rhinoceros Part One (of Three): Shaun Partridge”

  1. vollsticks says:

    “Ian Brady the mod existentialist”. Oh you crazy American, you!