David T. Warren Memorial
A WAY TOO SHORT BIOGRAPHY:
David T. Warren (aka: Flamo LaGrande, R. J. Mololopozy) lived a strange and unique life. After a tempestuous upbringing in the home of a prominent building contractor in Hayward, Dave left town with a traveling carnival. Here he learned the art of eating fire as well as various sideshow skills including magic. Later, he would apply his showmanship to selling Kirby vacuums and became tops of his team of salesmen. Of other door-to-door items he peddled, perhaps the strangest were Venus’ Fly Traps — carnivorous plants that Dave touted as “organic insecticide.”
At a crucial junction in his life involving separation from his wife and children, he moved to San Francisco after the 1972 demolishing of the seaside amusement park “Playland At the Beach.” Upset by the destruction of this park, Dave formed his one man Playland Research Center and initiated a series of Playland parties in the rubble of the park. PRC was dedicated to collecting and archiving photos, film, personal interviews of and about the classic attraction out at Ocean Beach that served as a magnet for young and old alike. His mottos “Do It” and “Have Fun” were painted on a large wall at Ocean Beach to spread his message to passersby.
In 1978 David, along with Gary Warne, Adrienne Burk and Nancy Prussia had a wild experience where they clung desperately to a heavy barricade chain atop the seawall under the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point as thirty foot waves crashed down on top of them. Later, in the early hours of January 3 over hot chocolate the four friends decided to start a club where they would encourage members to “live each day as though it were their last” by creating events and experiences that would challenge their deep personal fears, expand their knowledge and understanding of their world and those in it AND be hella fun. This group became the San Francisco Suicide Club.
Also in 1978, along with Chris DeMonterrey and Steve Mobia, David restored and operated the Giant Camera below the Cliff House at Ocean Beach. Dave considered the camera to be one of the last vestiges of Playland and so it fit into his grand scheme. This spectral attraction, one of fewer that half a dozen surviving in the world, was often attributed to Leonardo DaVinci and became a popular curiosity at scenic tourist spots during the Victorian era. Though both the GGNRA and the Cliff House restaurant wanted this bright yellow building demolished, David worked overtime, cooking up publicity for this interesting but strange place and it was his passion (and thousands of signatures gathered at the camera) that years later finally won for the camera the “official” designation as a national historic building (which is why it still exists, even after the remodeling of the Cliff House).
Though David, and the “Friends of Ocean Beach” fought a hard grassroots battle to stop condominiums from crowding out the public on the old Playland property, the developers got much of what they wanted. However their plans to build right up to the rocky edge of Sutro Heights Park was halted. The parcel of land where Dave painted his festive signs is even today free of buildings and this is due to the struggle that Dave and the “Friends of Ocean Beach” put up to stop the developers.
The Suicide Club morphed into the Cacophony Society in the mid 80’s, which in turn birthed the Burning Man Festival as a desert event in 1990. That year, in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, Dave was the first human to ignite the 40’ wooden figure, inaugurating nearly 20 years now of desert shenanigans.
David had a rough time of it the last decade or so. For someone who inspired people and brought humor and adventure into their lives, he could never seem to shake the many demons that plagued him and eventually brought him to his end. Many concerned friends searched out and/or helped to find David several times from the mid-90’s til 2008.) He would lapse in and out of binge drinking and usually end up on the street , sometimes making it into a group home or hospital/rehab clinic. Over the years some of us visited him at a graphics artist retirement home in Oakland, a group home in Oakland, a nursing home in Hayward as well as a couple of different camping spots in Castro Valley, Golden Gate Park and Hayward. His son put him up in an apartment in Sonora for a few months around 2002 but Dave’s weakness for drink always managed to sabotage any gains he might have made. He lived in Golden Gate Park for various periods through out the early 00’s and with Richard Tuck in El Cerritto for a while as he worked on the upcoming museum. We always eventually found him.
About a year ago, we became concerned when Richard was notified that David’s storage space in Santa Rosa was in arrears and about to default. Over the years, whether David was living indoors or not, whether his rent checks cleared or not, he ALWAYS paid the rent on his storage. He placed great importance on the stuff he had stored though much of it (boxes of empty vodka bottles, hundreds of pounds of Encyclopedia Britanicas, stacks of wood, etc.) might strike the casual observer as being of little or no value. Regardless, David lived homeless many years in order to insure his storage fees were paid. So when we learned that after 10 years he missed the rent we were pretty worried that maybe this time we wouldn’t find him again. And, sadly, we didn’t.
It all seems pretty blue but one time a couple of years ago when I had tracked him to a disheveled camping spot behind a huge boulder in Carlos Bee Park in Hayward which was his home for several years . David explained why he was there. It was mid morning on a glorious day, sunlight was streaming through the thick canopy of pine trees across the streambed just below his camping spot. The park was beautiful and seemed much as it must have back before the 49ers invaded the West. I was pretty upset that David was living in such straits – sleeping in a soggy pile of blankets and cardboard. Being morning time, he was sober and, for the time being had regained more than a bit of his old eloquence and insight. He could see I was bummed and had started berating him somewhat for not staying sober and retaining his quite comfortable room in the nursing home on B Street. He gave me that intense gaze of his, eyebrows raised in mock sardonic judgement. “Just look at this” he said gesturing grandly with the old showman’s panache’. “ This park, these trees and rocks and that stream… it’s all mine. I sleep where I want. I walk where I want. NO ONE tells me what to do, where to go, what I can’t say, WHO I SHOULD BE! You should be so lucky, kid!”
That is how David T. Warren should be remembered.
Written by John Law & Steve Mobia
The Most Beautiful Baby
Dave asked me to play the “mother” of the baby for the most beautiful baby contest he wanted to enter. I borrowed a baby from a friend for the pre-contest physical checkup (probably just to confirm that there really was a baby!). I went down and filled out all the paperwork using my friend’s little guy. We then went to the baby beauty contest, where Dave, wearing a homemade papier mache Swee’ Pea mask and diaper and carrying a giant pacifier, with his body painted with Calamine to give it a nasty, unnatural pink hue, disrupted the contest. (See pics on the Pictures page.) It was a pure David escapade! – Shirley Sheffield
R. J. Mololopozy
My memory of this may be off, but my understanding is that Dave picked up a ‘signature’ rubber stamp at a garage sale, and that signature was the erstwhile ‘R. J. Mololopozy’. An alias was born! – BobC
The Chinese Food Caper
One time I found myself riding around with Dave in his car, and a few other cronies (Pierre among others as I recall?). The day or so previous to that, Dave had found a dumpster filled with discarded chinese food and decided to cover the hood, roof, and trunk of his big ol’ GM sedan with mounds of chinese food, which was by now getting a bit ripe. It was a good look though! Anyway, late that night we stopped at Clown Alley on Lombard, and I stayed in the car while everybody else went inside. Parked at the curb, the car was eye-catching, and it caught the attention of SFPD, who decided to inquire further of me, as I was sitting in the car. I mumbled something about an art project and they cited public health concerns and suggested we lose the chinese pronto. I thanked them and assured that we would do just that, and passed their suggestion on. It was probably just as well that Dave missed the police part, the whole thing might have gotten more theatrical. – BobC
On January 2, 2010 many old friends gathered to remember and honor David T. Warren, who passed away on this day in 2009.
As a tribute to the man of many paradoxes, we had a memorial/celebration of his life. Perhaps you were there, or perhaps you wished you could have been there. Hopefully the information on this site will satisfy.
About the Memorial Gathering
10979 San Pablo Avenue
El Cerrito, CA 94530 Directions
Saturday January 2, 2010
3:30- 5PM (music/skits/readings/footage)Killer!
|What:||The memorial gathering is at 2pm. It is a carnivalesque potluck so bring food, snacks and beverages!Dress in a festive manner — put the “fun” back in “funeral.” We will have music, magic and film clips featuring Dave, as well as some of his many spiral notebooks filled with thoughts and ideas.
There will be stories galore as Dave’s life was so colorful. We are trying to reach as many of his old friends as we can. For ex-Suicide Club members, we hope to make this an intriguing reunion.
Alcohol is permitted in the museum, huzzah!
Since some of the proceedings will take place outdoors, dress for the weather.
|Questions?||Click here to send email|
WHY I JOINED THE SAN FRANCISCO SUICIDE CLUB –David T. Warren
As the years slip by and I try to align each day with the passing of my life, I find myself on tenuous ground. After forty years of living, dreaming, and working to build the kind of community that I would like to live in, I find myself faced with the reality of how little I’ve done to accomplish this task. I haven’t tried. I am accompanied into the future with the lessons learned by my daily attendance in the school of hard sox. Though reality has popped my balloon I arrive at this point in time with the buoyancy to find a better way to live the remainder of my life than the way I’ve been doing it. Apparently life offers no stable, secure rounded fulfillment. Life at best is for me an untidy mess of unfinished business, broken achievements, personal failures, half-successes, short-lived triumphs, belated insights, noble desires and shameful deeds. Hopefully through the years I have accumulated a little wisdom; but for me life is incomplete and much potential remains;
it eludes my mortal grasp. Life as an ongoing state has controlled me more than I it. Like most people I’ve had my moments of breathtaking perfection, but no permanent achievement seems possible.
This may be because as a human being I am only part of any evolutionary process whose task it is to till the soil, learn the rules, build the technology and make ready for the people of the future, where necessity will require that basic human needs and wants be provided for by the collective of the community and individuals will be set free from hampering emotions of jealousy, fear, and rivalry. The fact that people will also lose their ability to hate, love, have hope, or be generous will have little effect on the world of the future that will operate with ant like
perfection into the millennia. Provided of course, that we don’t blow ourselves off the face of the earth or drown in the slime of increased pollution in the interim. For me, these alternatives are grim and bleak and leave so much to be desired that I’ve decided to become a charter member in the San Francisco Suicide Club. The only requirements are that I put my affairs in order, stop looking for satisfaction on a tomorrow that may never come, and live each day as though it were my last. With this commitment, I bequeath half of my worldly belongings to the club’s trinary garage sale, these
funds go to support the club’s bizarre activities. Going places I’ve never been and doing things I’ve never done. Maybe I’ll see you there!!