By Holli Harms

The mostly bare stage of the vast Cino Theater at Theater for the New City was filled to the rim with amazing stories of the 80’s: the crazy over the top parties of the rich and famous and not so famous, of HIV/AIDS pandemic that took so many lives and so quickly as overnight men were disappearing by the thousands, the drugs of the time and the fact that an actor could make enough as a clown/event performer to manage a life in New York City. These amazing stories are all Stan Baker’s and all are true.

Photo by Jonathan Slaff

He entertained us with how a chance meeting on the street led to “working” for Salvador Dali as a bunny sitting across from him at a dinner table eating carrots and handing out flowers to the other seated guests. That later flowed into becoming part of Dali’s photo art. He performed at Robin Leach’s party celebrating his gaudy over the top TV show “Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous!” He worked a party where a new band was being introduced to the world. The band? The Beastie Boys. Stan’s thoughts on them at the time, “They won’t make it.” He worked a party where he was dressed like Trotsky and walked around spouting Marxism at the party goers. He was working a party for a sixteen-year-old where the birthday cake was wheeled out and it was covered in credit cards. He wore a huge paper mache Mayor Koch big head and had a photo taken with the real Koch that ended up on the cover of the Daily News June 1986. It is a strange world to be so close to the famous, to have them converse with you because you are part of the fun, part of the story for the moment, but you are not really part of their world, only a court jester for the evening.

I spent most of the show with my mouth agape shaking my head at the outrageous and hideous spending of money by the rich (some of it went into Stan’s pocket, so I guess all wasn’t lost). There was a party where a huge giant penis was wheeled in. It was the cake. Taste is not something money can buy.

Stan regaled us through the evening with fascinating stories and impossible people.

There were several props that Stan brought with him, the most interesting and effective was him showing us the TV box he had built to hang from his shoulders framing him in the TV. A great way to step up to those in the spotlight and get them to talk as they did to a man inside a TV screen. The other props that were brought out I feel were not needed. Adding extra this and that props in order to engage the audience only got in the way of the stories being presented. Audiences get lost in all the extra frosting. Tell the story, tell the truth, keep it simple is the way to pull your audience in.

The strength of what Stan wants to share with us was most poignant when Stan brought a chair down to the front of the playing space, sat quietly, and with a single spot on him told us directly, quietly, of the loss he experienced by the onset of AIDS. Young men one minute laughing and performing with Stan and the next minute gone. He misses them still as was evident in his telling. We all listened, quietly, taking in the magnitude of what he was sharing. That simplicity was the most powerful portion of his one-man show and illustrated the strength of simple storytelling without ornamentation.

Thank you Stan for sharing your stories with us.

Party Clown of the Rich and Famous Written by Stan Baker and directed by Lissa Moira

MAY 30 – JUN 16; THU, FRI, SAT at 8 PM, SUN at 3 PM

Running Time: One hour no intermission

Theater For The New City  155 1st Avenue NY 10003

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