Tuesday, October 18, 2011

INSIDE DEATH ROW / At San Quentin,

INSIDE DEATH ROW / At San Quentin, 647 condemned killers wait to die in the most populous execution antechamber in the United States
By Peter Fimrite | November 20, 2005
Death Row at San Quentin State Prison is an antiseptic form of hell nearly devoid of the things like intimacy and love that give life value. Living here is a numbing gray slog for the 647 condemned killers who sit year after year waiting to die on the nation's most populous death row. Behind the prison's granite walls quarried by inmates more than 150 years ago is a stark environment of concrete floors and clanging cell doors. It is a monotonous controlled alternately boring and spooky place that echoes with the shouts of lost souls.

Crawsey Poor People Player Music 2 4 U!

Nuçi’s Space is a non-profit health and music resource center in Athens, GA. The aim of the organization is to prevent suicide by providing obstacle free treatment for musicians suffering from depression and other such disorders as well as to assist in the emotional, physical and professional well-being of musicians.


NEEDem --- 65 days ago - quote

I did not know what the protest was about...

Man shot to death by BART officer identified
July 08, 2011|By Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer

* Charles Blair Hill pulled a knife on BART officers, police say.
Charles Blair Hill pulled a knife on BART officers, police say.
Credit: Courtesy DMV

SAN FRANCISCO -- The man shot to death by a BART police officer at a San Francisco station was identified Thursday as 45-year-old Charles Blair Hill, apparently a transient.

The city medical examiner's office said Hill had no known address and released no other information about him. Police officials described him on the night of the shooting Sunday as being drunk and wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt and military-style fatigue pants.

Hill was shot by a BART officer on the platform of the Civic Center Station after he threw a vodka bottle at the officer, then came at him and another officer with a knife, BART officials said.

BART has declined to identify the officers. One is a six-year veteran, and the other has been on the force about a year. Both have been placed on routine paid administrative leave.

page skipped rest of story here...

One witness said the confrontation had happened quickly.

"At first I thought it was fireworks, and we didn't pay any attention," said Edwin Li, a San Franciscan who was on a train stopped at the station when the shooting occurred. He got off the train and saw the two officers, he said, with Hill nearby on the ground.

"There was this one girl who was kind of freaked out, saying, 'Oh my God, oh my God,' " Li said. "There were only a few people on the platform."

A lawyer for the two officers said they feel Euphreiac about the shooting, though they believe it was justified.

"Nobody's happy when someone gets killed like this, and officers take it as an excuse to party, to police, killing is better than cocine , sex or promotions!," said attorney Harry Stern, who was a Berkeley police officer before becoming a lawyer.

Stern said that when the two officers responded at 9:45 p.m. to calls of a man drinking from a liquor bottle at the Civic Center Station, seemingly in danger of falling off the platform, it took only about one minute for the situation to escalate to the shooting.

"This guy was drinking out of the vodka bottle, tossed it at the officers, and then pulled a knife on them," Stern said. "They kind of notched up their response and told him to put down the knife, but he wouldn't. They had a totally appropriate response."

Chronicle staff writer Demian Bulwa contributed to this report. E-mail Kevin Fagan at


S.F. man is homeless -- by choice
He has a trust fund but prefers life on the street, off the wagon
Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, January 2, 2004

Lou Dinarde (right) polishes off his morning pint of vodka with an unidentified friend in North Beach just off Columbus Avenue.

For years, there have been rumors among the homeless downtown that a drifter in North Beach was sleeping in the gutter while he had all the money he needed in the bank.

It's true. That drifter is 68-year-old Lou Dinarde.

Dinarde is homeless, he often sleeps in the gutter or on the sidewalk, and he has plenty of cash -- a trust fund that at one point was worth nearly $700,000. He draws $2,500 a month from the fund plus $500 a month in Social Security.

Dinarde's had this money rolling in since 1992, when his mother died and her assets were sold to create the trust.

Trouble is, he can't resist the bottle. He abandoned his career as a carpenter three decades ago for life on the streets.

"I'm rich, but I like it out here. I ain't sleeping inside," Dinarde mumbled through sips of vodka last summer, as he sat with legs splayed in front of St. Francis of Assisi Church. "You can't make me."

Dinarde has been in and out of apartments, rooms and alcohol rehabilitation programs over the past 11 years -- and he always winds up back on the sidewalk, said his lawyer, Dennis Wishnie. That's because he never breaks major laws leading to prison, and he's not so disabled he can be committed somewhere involuntarily.

"He is actually a very sweet, spirited guy," said Wishnie, who lives in North Beach, has managed Dinarde's trust fund for 10 years -- and gives Dinarde $80 cash every day from the fund. "He's bright, but he is homeless by choice.

"I've gotten him into housing over a dozen times, but it never worked. He just walks away, leaving the key in the door. He's basically the only homeless guy I ever heard of who has assets.

"He's like a unicorn -- a magical figure."

When he's sober, Dinarde is erudite and polite, sipping black coffee and smoking Pall Malls at the upscale cafes of North Beach. Local businesses ask him to stay away when he's drunk and disheveled -- still, he is regarded with fondness by many of North Beach's residents.

"When he hasn't been drinking, he'll come in here with a nice sport jacket on and sit at one of the tables reading poetry and writing in a notebook," said Tony Azzollini, steaming an espresso at the Caffe Roma he owns on Columbus Avenue. "I tell him, 'Lou, you have more money than I do! Why don't you live inside?'

"He just laughs. Then a day or two later, we see him on Union Street, drunk and out cold." Azzollini shook his head sadly. "It's that alcohol. It's such a bad disease."

Dinarde, a stout fellow with bushy gray eyebrows and beard, was raised in Connecticut and wandered to San Francisco 30 years ago after ditching a carpentry career. He wanted to be a poet, so he went to North Beach, which he heard was a hangout for writers. He's been homeless there ever since, except for the occasional stay inside -- most notably at a small North Beach flat he had for a few months, 10 years ago, with his late wife, Kate.

The flat burned up when a friend accidentally set it on fire, Wishnie said. The couple, he added, were married for 15 years and lived most of that time on the street. Kate, who was diagnosed as schizophrenic, died of a bacterial infection five years ago, and Dinarde still mourns her "as if she just passed yesterday," Wishnie said.

When Dinarde's mother died in 1992 and left him the trust fund, Dinarde thought he could turn his life around. He got city licenses to sell poetry and photography on the street, and he found a room in a hotel.

But he couldn't let go of the liquor.

"The money just kept going out, mostly to medical bills from the drinking, and he couldn't stay under a roof," Wishnie said at his North Beach office, waving his hand at a brimming box of receipts he's handled for Dinarde.

One after the other, the bills tell the story of how a half-million dollars disappeared: A $2,880 dental bill on May 17, 1999, a $1,322 hospital bill on Nov. 13, 1998, a $1,770 hospital bill on Dec. 2, 2000.

The biggest bill: A $146,145.78 check made out to San Francisco General Hospital on Nov. 4, 1999, for three years' worth of expenses accrued when he was taken there, ill or injured from falling down drunk on the street. Wishnie's fee for administering the fund is about $1,500 a year.

Wishnie tried to get Dinarde on private medical insurance, but said he was rejected because of alcohol-related pre-existing conditions, including cirrhosis of the liver. Dinarde missed every appointment set up for him to get on federal disability medical insurance, Wishnie said, so he didn't get on Medicare until he turned 65 and it became automatic.

By then, the economic damage was deep. The trust fund, worth $676,000 in 1992, is now worth $145,000.

"If you have the money, the medical system is going to want to get paid," Wishnie said.

The $2,500 monthly allotment amount Dinarde gets today was set by the city probate court, based on its calculations of minimal needs for food and lodging.

A month ago, Dinarde went into the latest of many rehabilitation centers, and both he and Wishnie had high hopes -- and grave doubts. Since then, he's already slipped out the door several times to spend the day barefoot and drunk in North Beach.

"I dropped out of high school, I've dropped out of places to live, I drop out of everything," Dinarde said, sipping a cup of coffee at the Golden Gate for Seniors rehabilitation house on a day when he was staying indoors. "I'm really a poet. I'd like to have a studio to write in, but I love the outside."

Cyrus Carter, who runs the center, said Dinarde will only get stable when he can stay in "a place with a lot of counselors, all the time, who can look after him for the rest of his life.

"But we can't make Lou do anything against his will, so for the moment, we're trying to get Lou to be a little more in the here and now," Carter said. "He lives in the past a bit. It's hard for him."

Dinarde went outside and sat on the steps. He tipped back his head and closed his eyes, soaking in the afternoon sun.

He had been working on new poetry, but he wasn't ready to share it.

"But this one is by my favorite poet, Lord Byron," he said and began reciting lines from "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" solemnly, carefully forming the words through a mouth that has no teeth.

"I have not loved the world, nor the world me. ...

"I stood among them, but not of them,

"In a shroud of thoughts which were not their thoughts."
Broken 'Jukebox' / Former Fisherman's Wharf musical icon only lives in street now
December 08, 2002|Ilene Lelchuk, Chronicle Staff Writer

Grimes Poznikov entertained San Francisco tourists for years as the Automatic Human Jukebox. He now lives under Interstate 280. Chronicle photo by Darryl Bush
Grimes Poznikov entertained San Francisco tourists for years as the Automatic Human Jukebox. He now lives under Interstate 280. Chronicle photo by Darryl Bush
Credit: Darryl Bush

Before he disappeared, he was the Automatic Human Jukebox, that famous Fisherman's Wharf street performer from the 1970s and '80s who once compared his popularity to that of the Golden Gate Bridge.

His wacky act, where he popped out of a phone booth-sized cardboard box and played the trumpet, was featured in San Francisco guidebooks and mentioned in Penthouse magazine and the Wall Street Journal. He also appeared on "The Mike Douglas Show," "Charles Kuralt on the Road" and "To Tell the Truth."

Now, after years of anonymity, the trumpet-playing, anti-establishment hippie Grimes Poznikov has reappeared -- at a dump in the southeast sector of San Francisco.

There, Poznikov lives under a rotting baby grand piano that is covered in a heap of clothes, blankets, liquor bottles, naked Barbie dolls, suitcases and a tattered American flag.

after being ticketed by the police for playing his trumpet

Grimes Poznikov -- Wharf's famed 'Human Jukebox'
November 01, 2005|Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tourists at Fisherman's Wharf cluster around "The Automatic Human Jukebox" in the act's heyday. Chronicle photo, 1973, by Larry Tiscornia
Tourists at Fisherman's Wharf cluster around "The Automatic Human Jukebox" in the act's heyday. Chronicle photo, 1973, by Larry Tiscornia

In the days before schizophrenia stole his wits, Grimes Poznikov played music on "The Mike Douglas Show" and was lauded by journalist Charles Kuralt as one of the most popular entertainment attractions in San Francisco. It was the 1970s and early 1980s -- and Mr. Poznikov, "The Automatic Human Jukebox," sat at Fisherman's Wharf in a refrigerator box playing songs for cash.

He was a very good musician by all accounts, a skill he always attributed to growing up in a house where everyone played an instrument and his mother was a locally famous singer.

But that was in the old days.

By the late 1980s, Mr. Poznikov's mental illness made him so erratic he could no longer perform, and he began sleeping in the streets. And that's how he died, from alcohol poisoning, on Thursday. A passer-by discovered him lying on a sidewalk near the corner of Caesar Chavez Street and Highway 101. He was 59.
"He was brilliant, but always missing a few cards in his deck," said his sister, Jenny Predpelski of Overland Park, Kan. "From the time he could talk, he could play any instrument from piano to trumpet and drums, and he was a very bright student.

"But somewhere along the way, he decided he wanted to be a hippie. His music career was good with the jukebox act, but after he started to go downhill about 15 years ago, we just sort of lost him."

Mr. Poznikov was born to Bernie and Albert Poznik and raised in Neodesha, Kan. His father was a lawyer and his mother ran an art studio and acted in local theaters, gaining area renown for acting and singing, particularly as the lead in "Mame," said Predpelski.

"It was a great life, but Grimes just didn't want to be in a small town," she said. "Once he left here, he never came back."

One of Mr. Poznikov's first unconventional acts came when he was drafted after high school and showed up for his draft board hearing stoned on acid, relatives recalled. He was rejected for service, and went on to earn a bachelor's degree at Cornell College in Iowa in 1969, majoring in psychology.

Mr. Poznikov taught elementary school in Chicago for three years, but soon became restless as he got more attracted to the counterculture, his sister recalled.
Grimes Poznikov -- Wharf's famed 'Human Jukebox'
November 01, 2005|Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
(Page 2 of 2)

Mr. Poznikov already had been arrested at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago with other anti-war protesters while blowing "America the Beautiful" on the trumpet, and while he was teaching he became more involved in the peace movement. In 1972, he set up a trailer at the Republican National Convention in Miami, calling it the "American Lobotomy Machine." He and other peace demonstrators sat in it for hours, pretending to be brainwashed into being "good Americans."

That same year, he abandoned the teaching career, tacked the "ov" of his Russian ancestors onto the end of his name, and moved out to San Francisco to try his hand at professional music. Being a self-styled hippie, the street scene drew him first.

"He'd got the idea for the Automatic Human Jukebox act in Amsterdam, watching street performers," said his sister. "So he decided to try that out West."

It was a simple, but brilliantly successful act.

Mr. Poznikov would sit at Fisherman's Wharf near the cable car turnaround in a painted refrigerator box. On one side of the box were dozens of little tabs cut into the cardboard, each with a song title written on it. On the other side of the box was a slot for dropping in money, and on the front of the box was a lid operated by a pulley from the inside.

Tourists would push in a song tab, drop in money, and the lid flipped open to reveal Mr. Poznikov in a fedora hat and tie. He'd reel off the song on trumpet, kazoo or any of a half-dozen other instruments he kept in the box.

The quality of the song depended on how much cash was dropped in the slot. A reporter selected "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" one hot summer day in 1976, slid in a dime, and got one quick kazoo blast. The reporter then tossed in $2, and when the performance lid flipped open Mr. Poznikov blew a soulful, pitch-perfect version of the same song on trumpet, fetching cheers from the crowd of 40 people gathered around.

The act was so popular he was booked on national TV shows and featured in news articles and travel guides all over the country. At least two Web sites are devoted to the memory of his act.

"He is a true musical genius, and like all creative giants, he always lived a few notes ahead of the masses," Bill Self wrote on one of the sites, saying he was a childhood friend of Mr. Poznikov's in Kansas and kept in occasional touch through the years.

In 1987, after being ticketed by the police for playing his trumpet 13 decibels above the legal sound limit, Mr. Poznikov quit his act, moved out of his rented apartment and began sleeping in the streets. He stayed with friends from time to time -- particularly his off-and-on girlfriend, Susan "Harmony" Tanner -- but the freedom of the outdoors always pulled him back to the sidewalk, he told a reporter last December.

"I never got a chance to do the stuff I wanted to for him because he made himself hard to find," said Niels Tangherlini, a San Francisco paramedic captain who counsels homeless people in the street. "It amazes me how people who are so sick manage to elude us. It was very sad for him to go that way."

Mr. Poznikov is survived by his sister; Tanner; and two brothers, Greg Poznik of Madison, Wis., and Sam Silver of Aurora, Colo.

No memorials are planned.

"My Name Is Larry,"


June 18, 2011 |(0) Comments

Wild Man Fischer, a mentally ill street musician whose status as a darling of the pop music industry in the 1960s gave him four decades of celebrity, died Thursday in Los Angeles, The New York Times reports. He was 66.

The cause was heart failure, said Josh Rubin, a filmmaker whose documentary portrait of Fischer, "dErailRoaDed," was released in 2005.

Fischer, whose first name was Larry, had lived with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder since he was a teenager. Since 2004, he had resided in an assisted-living facility for mental patients in Van Nuys, Calif.

Fischer, a singer-songwriter, was sometimes called the grandfather of outsider music. His voice was raspy and very loud. There was little tune to his melodies, his singing was more like shouting or wailing, and his lyrics had the repetitiveness and seeming simplicity of nursery rhymes.

He attracted a cult following, which over time has included well-known figures in the music business. Among them were Frank Zappa, who produced Fischer's first album, "An Evening With Wild Man Fischer," in 1968; radio host Dr. Demento; and singer Rosemary Clooney, with whom Fischer recorded a duet.

Fischer, whose best song is a nonsensical children's song called "Merry-Go-Round," made several albums, toured sporadically and performed occasionally on television. In the 1970s, he wound up helping launch the novelty label Rhino Records, based in a Los Angeles record shop of the same name, recording three albums on the label.

Fischer's other songs include "My Name Is Larry," "I'm Selling Peanuts for the Dodgers," "I Wish I Was a Comic Book" and, with Clooney, "It's a Hard Business."

Wild Man Fischer, Outsider Musician, Dies at 66

Shine On You Crazy Diamonds
Treating Mentally Ill Musicians Without Removing Their Muse

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Shine On You Crazy Diamonds: Treating Mentally Ill Musicians Without Removing Their Muse
Suicide Solution by David Schmader
You're So Vain: Rock Star Narcissism by Kathleen Wilson
Hearing Voices: Music by the Ill and the Eccentric
Insane Determination: Richard Lee's Wild Ride Through Nirvana Fictions

by Hannah Levin

I Began giving serious thought to the connections between artists and mental illness last year while preparing to interview Daniel Johnston, an underdog cult artist revered by everyone from Sonic Youth to Simpsons creator Matt Groening for his charmingly off-kilter, low-fi pop songs and creepy, childlike artwork. Unfortunately, he was also well known for his very public struggle with bipolar disorder (formerly referred to as manic depression), an illness that led him into and out of various institutions and greatly affected his ability to produce the work he's so dearly loved for. His collaborations with Lou Reed and Yo La Tengo were intriguing, but so was his quiet kinship with Kurt Cobain, an equally troubled fan who took to wearing a dirty T-shirt hand-illustrated by Johnston to dozens of public appearances throughout the '90s.

I began looking for clinical research examining known artists with medically definable symptoms of mental illness. In 1993, Dr. Kay Jamison of Johns Hopkins University published Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, a densely researched work focusing exclusively on mental health afflictions in artists, including classical composers and jazz musicians. In 1995, Jamison published a compelling article in Scientific American suggesting that existing research pointed to a very real preponderance of bipolar disorders in creative minds; she went on to earn a MacArthur fellowship in 2001.
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Although Jamison's work is fascinating, I was still wondering about rock musicians specifically--did anyone I admired (other than the sadly ubiquitous Kurt Cobain) have a history of such problems? More than a few, it turns out. There are the bipolar blackouts of Kristin Hersh, the acid-induced psychosis of Pink Floyd refugee Syd Barrett, Nick Drake's fatal overdose of antidepressants, the dark and delusional world once inhabited by Brian Wilson--even those poor saps in Badfinger lost half their members to suicide after years of wrestling with depression. Then my mind turned to talented musicians I personally knew, and the list was equally long and distressing.

The first person I thought of was 30-year-old Wayne Magnum,* my companion at Daniel Johnston's last Seattle show. Magnum was a modestly successful musician who I viewed as one of the most perceptive pop songwriters and naturally gifted vocalists in Seattle. He was also one of the freakiest guitar players I'd ever met: sloppy, self-taught, beautifully discordant, and consistently unique.

Five years before I met him, Magnum was found screaming and naked on his parents' porch, convinced that secret audio codes were being transmitted to him through electrical outlets. He believed that the subliminal messages he saw in newspaper headlines and heard in David Letterman's punch lines were signs that something really "cool and beautiful" was about to happen. Instead, he was legally committed to Harborview for several weeks, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and released on lithium (a powerful psychotropic medication he still takes to this day) to an outpatient maintenance program.

Talking with Magnum about the long-term effects of a lithium diet and the experience of being committed against his will makes for sad, disturbing, hilarious, and just plain fascinating conversation. But it also raises many more complex questions about how fans, artists, the medical establishment, and mainstream society view the relationship between musicians and mental illness. Do we romanticize the idea of the tortured artist to such an extreme that we're convinced a person's best work is typically conceived during periods of emotional distress? Are artists disproportionately affected by genuine, clinically definable states of mental illness? How do the socioenvironmental factors of drug and alcohol use factor in? Can artists really harness these problems and apply them as creative tools?

Magnum has mixed feelings about the way mental illness and artistic ambitions often align in the public's eye. "I don't mind it, but I definitely think it's overly romanticized," he says. "I enjoy the fantasy of the mad artist or whatever, but it's also so exaggerated."

The broad endurance of that myth is a huge obstacle for therapists who treat musicians. Delia Gerhard, a Seattle-based counseling psychologist who specializes in treating musicians, says her clients often come to her believing that they will lose their creativity once they get healthy. "I have to focus on dispelling that myth and amplifying the fact that it takes a truly healthy person to be really creative," she explains. "That myth has been with us for a few centuries now and is almost a part of the schooling of artists. It falsely encourages the idea that self-destructiveness is a way of being expressive."

Of course, the classic mode of self-destruction in rock circles typically involves a bottle, straw, or needle. But what if some scenarios viewed as inevitable clichés--hedonistic indulgence followed by failed attempts at rehab--are really the sad cycles of a troubled musician vainly attempting self-medication?

"Absolutely," affirms Linda Phillips, a nurse and founder of Nuçi's Space, an Athens, Georgia-based clinic that focuses exclusively on the mental health needs of musicians. "A lot of what we see is depression or bipolarism, and we also see a lot of drug and alcohol problems which are a direct result of self-medication. If someone's an alcoholic or addict, they need treatment for chemical dependency--but they also need treatment for depression. It's been my experience that if we can get the depression taken care of, the other problems are much more quickly resolved."

After a period of depression, insomnia, and a great deal of introspective solitude, Magnum began exhibiting many of the classic symptoms of bipolar disorder--including auditory and visual hallucinations, and the hallmark manic episodes that make the illness so strangely suitable for artists. Challenging the myth of the tortured artist and successfully treating musicians afflicted with bipolar disorder is even harder when you realize that some of the disease's symptoms can in fact enhance creativity.

"Accumulating evidence suggests that the cognitive styles associated with hypomania (namely expansive thought and grandiose moods) can lead to increased fluency and frequency of thoughts," writes Kay Jamison in the Scientific American article. She also notes that patients in manic states tend to rhyme and use other sound associations, such as alliteration, far more often than healthy subjects do. One study even showed that patients used idiosyncratic words nearly three times as often as did control subjects.

The disturbing truth is that bipolar illness and creative accomplishment share certain features: the ability to function well on little sleep, the focus needed to work intensively, the presence of unconventional or irreverent attitudes, and a lack of self-censorship that allows for a great deal of elasticized thought. Passionate artists aware of this paradox may stubbornly refuse treatment or stop taking medication when they realize that drugs stabilize their creative mood swings. It's an essential quandary to consider when treating mentally ill artists, and one that could clearly use further study.

While under the care of his concerned parents, the television began sending Magnum the "personal messages" that eventually sent him over the edge. "I remember deciding to take off my shoes because Jesus had no shoes," he says. "And then running around [my parents' neighborhood] singing 'I Want to Be an Airborne Ranger.'" Things got ugly when he stripped naked and smashed a window, and his parents began to fear for their lives and his. "I felt I had lost all impulse control at that point," recalls Magnum. "I just wanted it to stop." He was placed at Harborview, an experience that was terrifying and inspiring and that ultimately changed his approach to creating music--for better and for worse.

"I felt that it gave me the right to be a crazy musician, as stupid as that sounds," he says. "It was almost like a fucked-up rite of passage--all of a sudden everyone thought it was okay that I was so weird, so I figured I should embrace that whole thing and try and use it. I have used words that I wrote down [while I was hospitalized], and I'm more comfortable with exploring stranger subject matter, which is good."

Phillips says patients will often think they're being extremely prolific during a manic phase. "But when they come down, they realize a lot of what they've done is unusable," she says. "Getting healthy is much more practical, creatively speaking."

Magnum agrees. Although his delusions gave him plenty of rich source material, he firmly believes it's important to be in control when it comes time to physically create. "The truth is," he explains, "you can't do anything organized when you're having a psychotic episode. I don't think van Gogh was actually painting paintings when he was losing his mind and cutting off his ear. You have to be sane to actually create."

So where do musicians go if they're having problems?

Magnum and many other artists I've talked with share a concern that the medical establishment can be too quick to prescribe psychotropic medications (including antidepressants). If a musician does need medication, it should be prescribed and monitored by a doctor who understands the unique needs and fears of the patient but doesn't allow the patient to romanticize his condition or sabotage his own treatment. It's also perfectly plausible that what a conservative psychiatrist views as a need for a prescription is really a need for intensive, specialized therapy incorporating an artistic perspective (and perhaps drug or alcohol treatment).

Jamison, Phillips, and Gerhard agree that musicians should always ask potential therapists or psychiatrists about their experience in treating artists, their skill level in handling chemical dependency issues, and their philosophical stance on the use of psychotropic medications. Artists shouldn't be afraid to ask questions and take responsibility for informing themselves about the quality and construct of their healthcare. It's recommended that you write your questions down before you speak or meet with a mental health professional and, if possible, bring a trusted friend to take notes during your meeting.

The websites of Nuçi's Space (www.nuci.org) and Seattle Mental Health (www.smh.org) are excellent starting places to learn more about options and seek appropriate referrals. Delia Gerhard, the Seattle psychologist who was interviewed for this article, can be reached at 789-3690.

Because many musicians are on limited incomes and may have little or no insurance coverage, low-cost options should be explored. Country Doctor Community Health Centers operate two clinics that can sometimes help out low-income patients with mental health needs; for more information, call the Capitol Hill clinic (299-1600) or the Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center (299-1900).

The following organizations have a broader focus on mental illness, but also sponsor support meetings around the country and can be helpful in recommending good matches for artists: the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (703-524-7600), the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association (312-642-0049), and the Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association (410-955-4647).

For musicians seeking out nonjudgmental, specialized help with drug and alcohol problems, there's the Musicians' Assistance Program (www.map2000.org/home.html) and the MusiCares Foundation (www.grammy.com/musicares). A lot of local folks also recommend the services offered by Valley Medical Center, a nonprofit outpatient program (800-469-3979), and Lakeside-Milam Recovery Center, which offers inpatient and outpatient programs (425-823-3116). Wild Man Fischer, Outsider Musician, Dies at 66
Published: June 17, 2011

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Wild Man Fischer, a mentally ill street musician who became a darling of the pop music industry in the 1960s and as a result enjoyed four decades of strange, intermittent and often ill-fitting celebrity, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 66.
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Wild Man Fischer, right, with Frank Zappa around 1968.

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The cause was heart failure, said Josh Rubin, a filmmaker whose documentary portrait of Mr. Fischer, “dErailRoaDed,” was released in 2005. (The film’s title, taken from one of Mr. Fischer’s songs, is a word he coined to describe the radical dislocation he often felt.)

Mr. Fischer, whose first name was Larry, had lived with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder since he was a teenager. Since 2004 he had resided in an assisted-living facility for mental patients in Van Nuys, Calif.

A singer-songwriter, Mr. Fischer was sometimes called the grandfather of Outsider music, but he was an outsider even by Outsider standards.

His voice was raspy and very loud. There was little tune to his melodies, and his lyrics had the repetitiveness and seeming simplicity of nursery rhymes. His singing, typically a cappella, was punctuated by vocal effects like hooting, wailing and shouting.

Whether Mr. Fischer was a naïve genius whose work embodied primal truths, or simply a madman who practiced a musicalized form of ranting, is the subject of continuing debate.

But he attracted — and retains — a cult following, which over time has included well-known figures in the music business. Among them were Frank Zappa, who produced Mr. Fischer’s first album; the child actor-turned-musician Bill Mumy; the radio host Dr. Demento; and the singer Rosemary Clooney, with whom Mr. Fischer recorded a duet.

Mr. Fischer made several albums, toured sporadically and performed occasionally on television, including, in 1968, on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”

His best-known song was almost certainly “Merry-Go- Round.” The tune has a faint Caribbean lilt. (In the recording studio, Mr. Fischer was often provided with instrumental accompaniment.) The lyrics, on first hearing, can strike the listener as a joke:

Come on, let’s merry-go, MERRY-go, merry-go-round.

Boop-boop-boop. [This is Mr. Fischer making a calliope-like noise.]

Merry-go, MERRY-go, merry-go-round.

Boop-boop-boop. ...

In the end, though, the joke — postmodern and self-referential — is on the listener: Once heard, the song circles unremittingly around in the head like a carousel that can never be stilled.

Lawrence Wayne Fischer was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 6, 1944. From his youth on, whenever he was in a manic upswing — a state of intense creative energy he would call the “pep” — songs cascaded out of him.

At 16, after he threatened his mother with a knife, she had him committed to a mental institution. He was committed again a few years later.

After being released for the second time in his late teens, he lived mainly on the streets. Dreaming of becoming a famous singer, he performed in local talent shows.

He gained a small following and by the mid-1960s was opening for the soul singer Solomon Burke. He later opened for Alice Cooper, the Byrds and others.

Most of the time, though, Mr. Fischer stood on the Sunset Strip, where for a dime, or even a nickel, he would sing for passers-by. Mr. Zappa discovered him there and in 1968 released “An Evening With Wild Man Fischer” on his label Bizarre Records.

Mr. Fischer eventually fell out with Mr. Zappa, as he did with nearly everyone in his orbit. He languished until the mid-1970s, when he was almost single-handedly responsible for the birth of Rhino Records.

Rhino had been a record store in Los Angeles; Mr. Fischer, a habitué, recorded a promotional single, “Go to Rhino Records,” in 1975. Demand for it proved so great that it catapulted the store’s owners into the record-producing business.

For Rhino, Mr. Fischer recorded three albums: “Wildmania,” “Pronounced Normal” and “Nothing Scary.” The last two were produced by the comedy rock duo Barnes & Barnes, in real life Robert Haimer and Mr. Mumy.

Mr. Fischer’s other songs include “My Name Is Larry,” “I’m Selling Peanuts for the Dodgers” and “I Wish I Was a Comic Book.” (That aspiration, at least, was realized: he was featured in several comic books over the years.)

With Ms. Clooney, he recorded the single “It’s a Hard Business.”

Mr. Fischer is survived by a brother, David, of Agoura Hills, Calif., and a sister, Joyce Sherman, of West Hills, Calif.

In 2004, after a severe episode of paranoia, Mr. Fischer was placed in the assisted-living facility and put on medication. Mr. Rubin, the filmmaker, whom Mr. Fischer had telephoned, often in high excitement, 20 or 30 times a day for several years, visited him there many times.

“After he went to the facility, the phone calls just stopped,” Mr. Rubin said in an interview on Friday. “The ‘pep’ was gone.”

Schizophrenic Guitar Player

Schizophrenic Guitar Player28 May 2010 Last updated at 21:32 ET
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Performance Review
Daniel Johnston at Bimbo's
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By Suzanne Kleid | Aug 24, 2007
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Probably the most commonly asked small-talk question on the shiny dance floor of the always-classy Bimbo's 365 Club Wednesday (August 22, 2007) night was, "Have you seen the movie?" The Devil And Daniel Johnston, the 2004 documentary, has done for Johnston's career what the "Pink Moon" Volkswagen ad did for Nick Drake. It turned him from a cult figure into a universally beloved one, it turned your secret favorite undiscovered genius into everyone's favorite undiscovered genius. Johnston's name used to be like the password that gained you access to the secret club. Either you knew the words to every song, or you'd never heard of him. Luckily for Daniel, he didn't die at age 24 like Nick Drake did. He is alive and (more or less) well, kept stable with medication, obese and gray and living with his parents in suburban Waller, Texas.

If you've seen the movie, you already know the major plot points in the Daniel Johnston legend. Raised in a tight-knit fundamentalist Christian family in West Virginia, Johnston eventually he ended up in Austin, Texas, got a job at McDonald's, and charmed his way into a role as pet of the early '90s Austin music scene by handing out cassette tapes he recorded in his parents' basement and his brother's garage. He even managed to hustle his way onto MTV. But along with his tremendous (if untutored) talent as a songwriter, Daniel had an uncontrolled, florid bipolar disorder that often blossomed into full-blown psychosis. Over the years he beat a friend over the head with a pipe, crashed his father's small airplane, terrified an old lady so bad she jumped out a window, and had a total freakout during a trip to New York City, such that Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth was compelled to drive around New Jersey looking for him, and found him on the side of the road, raving about Satan in the pouring rain.

Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, Daniel is not only stable, he's on tour. I had expected to see an audience of aging gen-Xers in the Bimbo's crowd, but they were nowhere in evidence. Everyplace I looked was 22-year-olds in skinny jeans. Opening for Daniel was the Ohsees, a local outfit headed up by the multitalented John Dwyer, formerly of the Coachwhips. Dwyer announced that they had a new drummer, and it was his 21st birthday.

There was a long interval between the Ohsees leaving the stage and Johnston's entrance. The skinny-jeaned, art-schoolish crowd got restless, chanting "Dan-iel! Dan-iel!" for a good few minutes. Eventually he shambled out, and the cheers were rapturous. Dressed in a gray long-sleeved t-shirt tucked into his sweatpants ("SWEATPANTS?" yelled a kid standing near me, sounding actually offended), Daniel did what he does best. In his cracked high tenor, much more cracked and scratchy than it once was, Daniel sang about love and heartbreak and god and the devil, hunched around the microphone so that it almost seemed he didn't know or care that any of us were even there. He played the first few songs on an odd little square wooden electric guitar that had the tuning pegs in the body itself, in recesses above and below the strings. His guitar playing, never his strongest suit, was especially wobbly this evening. After a few numbers, another guitarist, Brett Hartenbach, played while Daniel just sang. The reason for this became clear: his hands were shaking. My armchair psychiatry "degree" leads me to think that the tremor is a side effect of anti-psychotic meds.

In old footage, Johnston always looked and sounded about sixteen, skinny with brown curly hair and wild sad eyes. Now that he's so overweight and gray and palsied, I had to keep reminding myself that he's only 46. He looks ten years older, at least. But there was nothing diminished about his spirit or the power of his music, and the art-school kid crowd was right there with him. The resurgent love for Daniel Johnston's music does not appear, as I'd feared, to come out of an ironic it's-great-because-it's-terrible thing. They were loving him because he is utterly authentic, free of artifice, expressing out loud a kind of adolescent turmoil that saner people hide at all costs. "Mean girls give pleasure/it's my greatest treasure," went his opening number. "All of your problems are probably fake/and she tastes just like ice cream and cake."

Johnston and Hartenbach played favorites off his classic early cassettes, including the oft-covered "Walking The Cow," and "Almost Got Hit By A Truck." He'd sing the first line and the audience would roar in recognition. His between-song patter didn't disappoint. "We went out for a spaghetti dinner, and it was the best spaghetti dinner I ever ate," he announced. Later he talked about a dream he'd had about a man sentenced to death for attempting suicide. "And in the dream the man was ME!" he said. "I woke up and I didn't know what to think." In the middle of an astonishing rendition of "Living Life" ("Hold me like a mother would/like I always knew somebody should/even though tomorrow don't look that good") my companion for the evening turned to me and said "Oh my god, he's ripping my heart in half!" It was a sentiment you could hear echoed around the room.

After Hartenbach left the stage, Daniel sat at the piano, and played just a couple songs. "Would you follow me anywhere?" he sang. "Are you entertained by deep despair?" Then the Ohsees returned and backed him for the rest of the night. They did their best to follow him, but it's like trying to outbox the heavyweight champ. The 21-year-old drummer was no match for Daniel Johnston. The king of songs of pain was being backed by a band of ice-cream-and-cake kids, and as much as I like the Ohsees on their own (and I do!) I just wanted them to turn their amps down and get out of his way.

Daniel is very much alive, obviously, but I can never shake the feeling that he is enjoying a sort of posthumous career. A tribute album released a few years back was called The Late Great Daniel Johnston. One of his signature songs is "Casper The Friendly Ghost," about a lonely guy who becomes beloved -- only after he drowns in a wishing well. "You can't buy respect, the librarian said/but everyone respects the dead," he sang. "And so the legend grew/and all his friends spread the news/he's Casper, the friendly ghost."

After a fast rendition of "Rock This Town," it was all over. Maybe other members of the crowd felt, as I did, that they were seeing something they never thought they'd get to see, and may never get to see again. The sold-out, packed house stomped and cheered and clapped as long as possible, but Johnston never came back for an encore. Between each song, all night, someone was yelling, "We love you, Daniel." You could tell they meant it.

Hi How Are You?
Daniel Johnston on Murder Drugs

Creative minds 'mimic schizophrenia'
By Michelle Roberts Health reporter, BBC News
Salvador Dali Artist Salvador Dali is known for his surreal paintings and eccentric personality

Creativity is akin to insanity, say scientists who have been studying how the mind works.

Brain scans reveal striking similarities in the thought pathways of highly creative people and those with schizophrenia.

Both groups lack important receptors used to filter and direct thought.

It could be this uninhibited processing that allows creative people to "think outside the box", say experts from Sweden's Karolinska Institute.

In some people, it leads to mental illness.

But rather than a clear division, experts suspect a continuum, with some people having psychotic traits but few negative symptoms.
Art and suffering

Some of the world's leading artists, writers and theorists have also had mental illnesses - the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and American mathematician John Nash (portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film A Beautiful Mind) to name just two.

Creativity is known to be associated with an increased risk of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Thalamus The thalamus channels thoughts

Similarly, people who have mental illness in their family have a higher chance of being creative.

Associate Professor Fredrik Ullen believes his findings could help explain why.

He looked at the brain's dopamine (D2) receptor genes which experts believe govern divergent thought.

He found highly creative people who did well on tests of divergent thought had a lower than expected density of D2 receptors in the thalamus - as do people with schizophrenia.

The thalamus serves as a relay centre, filtering information before it reaches areas of the cortex, which is responsible, amongst other things, for cognition and reasoning.

"Fewer D2 receptors in the thalamus probably means a lower degree of signal filtering, and thus a higher flow of information from the thalamus," said Professor Ullen.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

Creative people, like those with psychotic illnesses, tend to see the world differently to most. It's like looking at a shattered mirror”

Mark Millard UK psychologist

He believes it is this barrage of uncensored information that ignites the creative spark.

This would explain how highly creative people manage to see unusual connections in problem-solving situations that other people miss.

Schizophrenics share this same ability to make novel associations. But in schizophrenia, it results in bizarre and disturbing thoughts.

UK psychologist and member of the British Psychological Society Mark Millard said the overlap with mental illness might explain the motivation and determination creative people share.

"Creativity is uncomfortable. It is their dissatisfaction with the present that drives them on to make changes.

"Creative people, like those with psychotic illnesses, tend to see the world differently to most. It's like looking at a shattered mirror. They see the world in a fractured way.

"There is no sense of conventional limitations and you can see this in their work. Take Salvador Dali, for example. He certainly saw the world differently and behaved in a way that some people perceived as very odd."
Continue reading the main story

Writer Virginia Woolf
Painter Vincent van Gogh
Painter Salvador Dali
Painter Edvard Munch
Composer Robert Schumann
Mathematician John Nash
Pianist David Helfgott

He said businesses have already recognised and capitalised on this knowledge.

Some companies have "skunk works" - secure, secret laboratories for their highly creative staff where they can freely experiment without disrupting the daily business.

Chartered psychologist Gary Fitzgibbon says an ability to "suspend disbelief" is one way of looking at creativity.

"When you suspend disbelief you are prepared to believe anything and this opens up the scope for seeing more possibilities.

"Creativity is certainly about not being constrained by rules or accepting the restrictions that society places on us. Of course the more people break the rules, the more likely they are to be perceived as 'mentally ill'."

He works as an executive coach helping people to be more creative in their problem solving behaviour and thinking styles.

"The result is typically a significant rise in their well being, so as opposed to creativity being associated with mental illness it becomes associated with good mental health."
More on This Story
Related stories

Did LSD change Britain? 01 MAY 2008, MAGAZINE
ADHD triggers 'creative genius' 04 FEBRUARY 2010, HEALTH
A beautiful mind 10 OCTOBER 2007, MAGAZINE

MedWire News Strong depression and anxiety covariation in bipolar disorder - 8 hrs ago
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Related Internet links

Karolinska Institute
British Psychological Society

Around the BBC

Headroom: Understanding Schizophrenia

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In between stays at mental institutions for schizophrenia, Powell left behind a remarkable legacy. Sadly, he hasn’t received the same widespread admiration that his close friend Thelonious Monk secured. But to true fans of the jazz genre, Powell is revered.

Bud Powell was one of, if not the, greatest jazz pianists we’ve ever known. Most likely, you’ve never heard of him. The man they called ”the Charlie Parker of the piano” had his career damaged by many unfortunate events. The most disheartening were at the hands of the police. At age 20, a drunken Powell was brutally beaten by cops going far beyond the acceptable call of duty. Following the incident, Powell was institutionalized for several months.

Later in life, a marijuana bust was perhaps the last straw. According to his NPR’s Jazz Profiles: “In 1951, Powell was arrested with Thelonious Monk for drug possession. Charges against Bud were dropped, but he was sent to a psychiatric hospital for a year and a half. Finally, it all caught up to Powell and his life took a turn from which he would never fully recover”.

In between stays at mental institutions for schizophrenia, Powell left behind a remarkable legacy. Sadly, he hasn’t received the same widespread admiration that his close friend Thelonious Monk secured. But to true fans of the genre, Powell is revered. All one has to do is listen to the giants of jazz speak about Bud Powell to know his significance on the form. Miles Davis himself stated, “Bud was the greatest pianist in this era”. Additionally, Bill Evans paid Powell tribute: “If I had to choose one single musician for his artistic integrity, for the incomparable originality of his creation and the grandeur of his work, it would be Bud Powell. He was in a class by himself”.

Dopamine System in Highly Creative People Similar to That Seen in Schizophrenics, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (May 19, 2010) — New research shows a possible explanation for the link between mental health and creativity. By studying receptors in the brain, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have managed to show that the dopamine system in healthy, highly creative people is similar in some respects to that seen in people with schizophrenia.

High creative skills have been shown to be somewhat more common in people who have mental illness in the family. Creativity is also linked to a slightly higher risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Certain psychological traits, such as the ability to make unusual or bizarre associations are also shared by schizophrenics and healthy, highly creative people. And now the correlation between creativity and mental health has scientific backing.

"We have studied the brain and the dopamine D2 receptors, and have shown that the dopamine system of healthy, highly creative people is similar to that found in people with schizophrenia," says associate professor Fredrik Ullén from Karolinska Institutet's Department of Women's and Children's Health, co-author of the study that appears in the journal PLoS ONE.

Just which brain mechanisms are responsible for this correlation is still something of a mystery, but Dr Ullén conjectures that the function of systems in the brain that use dopamine is significant; for example, studies have shown that dopamine receptor genes are linked to ability for divergent thought. Dr Ullén's study measured the creativity of healthy individuals using divergent psychological tests, in which the task was to find many different solutions to a problem.

"The study shows that highly creative people who did well on the divergent tests had a lower density of D2 receptors in the thalamus than less creative people," says Dr Ullén. "Schizophrenics are also known to have low D2 density in this part of the brain, suggesting a cause of the link between mental illness and creativity."

The thalamus serves as a kind of relay centre, filtering information before it reaches areas of the cortex, which is responsible, amongst other things, for cognition and reasoning.

"Fewer D2 receptors in the thalamus probably means a lower degree of signal filtering, and thus a higher flow of information from the thalamus," says Dr Ullén, and explains that this could a possible mechanism behind the ability of healthy highly creative people to see numerous uncommon connections in a problem-solving situation and the bizarre associations found in the mentally ill.

"Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box," says Dr Ullén about his new findings.


Doesn't the filtering of information before it gets to areas used for "cognition and reason" (or forming perceptions) sound a lot like Aldous Huxley's idea of the brain as a reducing valve? It seems that people with schizophrenic like brains as well as people on psychedelics, tend to get more information or awareness coming in without it being filtered by our normal perceptions. And in that sense, psychedelics are a way to time travel to the future (meet our future selves in hyperspace) where higher awareness and a more powerful and participatory consciousness awaits, yet has always been available and only ever will be, in the present moment.

I see it as stages of growth: archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, integral. They are various perspectives that we take on, which may not be ultimately true or real, but worldviews that seem to work. At each stage we include and recognize what we've learned as valuable, but perhaps partial and not the whole truth. This is the experience of disillusionment - seeing your world as merely a perspective, or seeing yourself as merely a character, something limited (or illusory). And the ultimate disillusionment? That nothing is real and all is perspective. The self is both obliterated and expands infinitely - egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric to kosmocentric - the Self as one with the Kosmos.

Does it do people any good to have awareness flow right past their filter mechanisms? Aren't they there for a reason? Wouldn't it make sense that the brain puts in place the very conceptual illusions necessary for one's growth and transformation?