Tuesday, Oct. 20, 1998 | 9:38 a.m.
He's hot, he's sexy, he's eating a cheesesteak sandwich
By God, Dayvid Figler is Jim Morrison! The star of Saturday's performance of "Dayvid Figler is Jim Morrison in Hello, I Love You (Where You Folks From?)" is courting some press at a table in downtown's Gourmet Cafe, and if you grant that the shaggy, protean Morrison is now in fact a slight, balding attorney -- and, oh yeah, alive -- why, it's almost like dining with the Lizard King himself, minus the gratuitous displays of genitalia. By carefully copying some of the things Morrison used to do -- eating, talking -- Figler is achieving an astounding feat of mimicry.
Oh, it's not so much a physical impersonation as a spiritual communion sort of thing. What Figler wants to do in his show is inhabit the spirit of Jim Morrison, or perhaps let the spirit of Jim Morrison inhabit him, or cohabit with it, or work out some subletting agreement, or whatever -- it probably doesn't matter, because the show isn't really about Morrison anyway.
A fun goof on skates
According to the promotional literature of its sponsoring agencies (the Nevada Arts Council, the city of Las Vegas), "Hello, I Love You (Where You Folks From?)" is a one-man show that "contemplates the quest for fame and the meaning of Las Vegas impersonators." Figler, the one man whose show this is, is a Las Vegas poet of long standing, a coffeehouse regular, as it were, who also coordinates readings by visiting poets, and, when he's not contriving hilarious verse about pop culture and his stomach ailments, handles murder cases as an attorney with the Special Public Defender's office.
The show is built from bits of Figlerian poetry and prose, some old, much new, all jury-rigged into a 50-minute monologue tied together by not very much. No overarching theme. No linking dramatic structure.
"It's all very tongue in cheek and satiric," he says. "It's all kind of a fun goof." He will, however, imitate Morrison at least a bit. "The title ('David Figler is Jim Morrison ...') is a tip of the hat to the legions of impersonators who have graced our city," he says.
A partial menu of the topics addressed in the three-act monologue: celebrity iconography, dream interpretation, inspirational disc jockeys, manic depression, lounge impersonators, jazz, intoxication, Elvis (it's obligatory), the punk rock future of Las Vegas, and, of course, bowling. That's the first two acts. Of the third he will only say, "I don't want to give it away, but I will don roller skates." All building to the climactic, er, climax: "At the end," he says, "the people will go home."
Birth of a dream, death of a bowl of soup
Jim Morrison's tummy feels better. Afflicted earlier with intestinal flip-flops, Figler now feels well enough not only to eat, but to eat broccoli-cheese soup as he explains the conception, gestation, birth, circumcision, potty training, difficult childhood and impending maturation of "Hello, I Love You."
"On Aug. 18, 1997, a dream took shape," he says, a small speck of broccoli stuck to a front tooth. "Not only did I turn 30 that day, the Nevada Arts Council called on that same day and informed me they were giving me a fellowship for my ..." And here he has trouble finding a quick term for the peculiar mixture of poetry, prose and comic woolgathering perhaps best summed up by the phrase that thing he does.
"... my performance poetry," he concludes. "My, um, spoken gymnastics."
The only stipulation for receiving the award was that he give a free performance. "Which," he says, "started the wheels ticking, if wheels, in fact, can tick."
Big wheels keep on ticking
So, Dave, could you describe what audiences will see at "Hello, I Love You," perhaps comparing it to, say, a long-cancelled but fondly remembered TV show (hopefully not "Battlestar Galactica")?
"It's a very "MacGyver"-like production, where we take what elements we had and pushed them together, and we had ourselves some kind of device. We got ourselves a tin can, some bubblegum, a comb, some paper clips, some shiny pants, some roller skates -- and we got ourselves a show!"
So, would you say then that it's a veritable hodgepodge of stories, poems, rants and ruminations?
"It's a veritable hodgepodge of stories, poems, rants and ruminations," he says. "And dancing!"
"Oh, there will be dancing," he promises.
So it's very Jim Morrison meets MacGyver?
Uh, no. "It's very Mickey Rooney meets Mickey Rourke."
"We're taking (Figler) out of the world of open-mike, spoken word poetry and putting him in the world of theater," director Joshua Abbey says. There will, he says, be multimedia elements to the show -- slides, live music. And Figler is taking the term "one-man show" literally. "I can have as many women in it as I want," he says. Watch for special guests.
"His work is very fascinating to me," Abbey continues. "He delves into an intellectually interesting analysis of celebrity, fame, the cult of personality." Abbey likens Figler to Lenny Bruce, Eric Bogosian and Spalding Gray, in style, at least, if not in magnitude of impact. "He's really from the same mold. He's a very important voice in Las Vegas."
What the show is really about, Figler intones in an intentionally bad imitation of Lawrence Olivier, is "the love of theater." Then he corrects himself. "The undying love of theater," he says, then corrects himself again. "The undying, unrequited love of theater. Theater is a cold-hearted lover," he says. And since Figler never met a metaphor he couldn't extend beyond all reason, he adds, "I think theater is tolerating my advances at this point, and will ultimately acquiesce to a movie and dinner, but in separate cars."
Please don't squeeze the shaman
Jim Morrison will appear in the second act, the vehicle for some Figlerian ruminations on American culture and celebrity. "I appear as Jim Morrison in the present day," he says. "Looking very much like me. In much the same sense that Morrison was possessed by the soul of an ancient shaman, so, too, have I perhaps been possessed by the spirit of an ancient burnt-out hippie.
"I'm a big fan of everything Jim Morrison was ever attached to, good or bad" Figler says, apparently not excepting even that embarrassing neo-Freudian soliloquy at the end of "The End." "He was the first rock star to transcend into a being religious-like icon, while at the same time he had Billboard chart success." Morrison mixed sensuality, spirituality, pop sensibility and oft-dropped leather pants into a potent style that Figler insists still reverbs in popular music. "Whenever you see a rock star posing, you have to harken back to Jim Morrison with his arms outstretched. Otherwise, you have to go back to Flo and Eddie to get the kind of raw sexuality you had with Morrison."
Jewel must die!
When he's not handling autopsy photos, filing motions to sever and using Latinate words during his day job, Figler is working on a book-length manuscript of his poetry. He hopes to publish it someday, although it would probably help if he changed his name to Jewel.
"Yeah, Jewel, she's good," he says of the neurasthenic pop sprite who recently published a book of poetic musings. Figler finds it a tad discouraging that publishers extend book contracts to celebrity versifiers when perfectly good real poets go unpublished. He can't restrain his sarcasm.
"I'm all for it," he says of poetry by the likes of Jewel, Ally Sheedy, Suzanne Summers, Jimmy Stewart. "If it brings people to the word and inspires them to explore their own voices, then God bless Ally Sheedy! In fact, I wish the Brat Pack would put out an entire anthology of poetry. I would read from it often and dramatically in front of crowds. Whenever I see a famous person release a book of poetry, I just can't resist."
Some stirring last words
Any stirring last words, Dave?
"If people like what I do," he says, "they'll like 50 minutes of it."