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A joint creation of Josh Inman and myself (Finig). Josh and I each wrote 10 pages of this 20-page autobiography of Gay-Spy-Bishop Dee Race, flipping coins to see who got which page. Then we wrote our halves of Dee Race’s life, without comparing or consulting at all. That is why Dee Race’s life is so awesome. Digit.
My name is Dee race, I’ve done some things that I haven’t been proud of, but always managed to scrape together some self respect. My pride has kept my mouth shut some 25 years and it took a shit load of money and a sweet faced publisher to persuade me to write about what you want to hear about and not about breeding big dogs.
So here it is on the first page: I drank beer, I sang songs, I fucked women, I fucked the government, I did time, and I cleaned up and bred dogs. Big dogs… and I smoked weed with Willie Nelson. My name is Dee Race and this is my
already in those days. I never resented my father for those trips. I had another set of fathers – better fathers in basically all respects – in the gypsy buskers that used to play in the dockside brothels and taverns. They took me in, and it was from them that I first learned to scrape a fiddle.
The gypsies sang exclusively in Ukranian and Russian, so to keep up with them I learned a smattering of both languages. On my 10th birthday, the gypsies inked my belly with my first tattoo – a crude depiction of the naked mouse goddess Klunskeivna, caught in a mantrap and trying to gnaw her leg off at the knee to escape.
Needless to say, when my mother discovered it she was furious, and I was locked in the attic room for 59 weeks as punishment. My only companions were the sun (mercilessly hot in the afternoon hours) and the battered violin I had stolen from a sleeping hobo. In this lonely, claustrophobic space, I first began to compose.
My ‘attic songs’ were essentially all revenge ballads, fantasies of what I would do to my parents when I was released, set to the mournful
Something else. I had kept all of our love letters, each one of hers has the date when I received them and I have copies of mine in triplicate. I still have them today. We were married at the end of summer after our Prom. We honeymooned in Cancun, where I bought my first guitar.
We would drink tequila and as Glenda could already play the trumpet, we thought of starting our own mariachi band. We moved to Arizona for about 40 months, I took a government job to pay the bills, sourcing a manufacturer for new lighter weight plastic cased rifles for the army. This didn’t sit well with my
image by R. Grafkin
informed my parents that he would need to amputate my left leg below the knee. The operation was a grisly affair, with my chief memory being the certainty that I would kill the doctor as soon as I was allowed up from the table.
Afterwards, life at home changed drastically. My mother adjusted to my one-legged clumsiness by criticising the ‘filthy Slavs’ who had gotten their paws on me. My father dealt with his son’s maiming by absenting himself four or five days out of seven. We barely spoke to one another, even about the most mundane things, and he never again mentioned the lumberjacking apprenticeship he had spent so many months arranging for me.
And myself? How did young Dee Race cope with the loss of half of his left leg? Well, other than the cloying self-righteousness of my mother and the disappointed distance of my father, I found myself enjoying my crippling immensely. There was pain, certainly, but in those days it was easy enough to get a fifty-weight of Finnish Ibuprofen from the coastguard black marketeers, and the weeping stump-wound was rarely more than a bleeding itch. More important than any physical pain was the feeling of freedom – freedom
from all my commitments and obligations – that my injury allowed me. I felt as if a new Dee Race had been born, and his life was waiting for me to take it up.
That summer, 1962, I stole my father’s most valuable purebred monkey, Supreme, and hitched a bus to New York. From Greenwich Village I wrote a terse letter to my parents explaining that I was packing Supreme and I would execute him unless they paid a small ransom. $410 was couriered to my chosen drop-off box within the week. I mailed Supreme back via Express Post, then took the remaining $403 to Ostler Studios in Manhattan and produced my first album.
The studio executives were impressed with my money, intimidated by my beard and charmed by my exuberant fiddle-playing. They welcomed me into the Ostler Music stable and found a recording studio for me right away. While I was laying down the raw versions of what would become my first album – Nothing Can Kill Dee Race – the executives would frequently drop by to check on their one-legged folk-singer. They changed my bandages, made me cups of tea with lemon and honey, and offered me any number of backing musicians. I refused them all, and instead insisted that the executives themselves play on some tracks, tapping typewriters and ruffling sheets of paper. In less than six days, Nothing Can Kill Dee Race was
And ran offstage. Jefferson Airplane sat with Glenda, who was topless. The room was swirling with pot smoke. Outside in the darkness I could hear John Fogarty singing Fortunate Son, though I thought I had sent most of them to sleep with my heartfelt leftist folk music. Watching my wife, the mother of my children, dancing and kissing the Airplane’s bassist inspired what was to be my first hit song:
She could share her money / she can share her food
She’d share the work load wherever she could
She walked to old St Petersburg town where
She’d share her love with the men she found
She said she’d return, and I believed her of course
Returned with a letter, titled Filed For Divorce
but since by this time I was playing regularly with the Byrds and partied with the Who when they toured the US, I was able to simply ignore them. Around this time I encountered a young Texan outfit called the Thirteenth Floor Elevators on their first trip to the big city. These kids were so fervent in their appreciation of acid it was hard to relax in their presence, but we had several good afternoons tripping out of our tiny minds on Wall Street, running down the narrow alleyways and laughing at merchant bankers. It was around this time that I had a confrontation with a junky on a train (he was staring offensively at my sunglasses, so I punched him in the forehead and elbowed his windpipe a number of times until he started vomiting and choking at the same time) by the name of Lou Reed, who was at that time beginning to perform as part of the Velvet Underground.
It was around this time that I first met Glenda Snoxall. I had just released a double album entitled No-One Knows Where Dee Race Has Hidden His Leg to superb critical acclaim but poor sales. I was thinking of an international tour to boost my fan base in Europe, when I was assailed in the street one afternoon by a red-headed young lady with a trumpet, smoking a badly rolled cigar. She grabbed me by the shirt and told me that No-One Knows was my best album yet, and that this would be the record to finally show the Asians, all the Asians, that white Americans could outbreed them any day of the week. This was Glenda Snoxall – trumpet player for the Fist Gnomes and militant racist, an activist and member of a number of abhorrent
in the face. With our marriage looking increasingly like a rubber stamp and source of more heartfelt lyrics, my drinking was spiraling out of control. One night, in Tennessee when I was particularly drunk, I felt a pair of calloused hands help me out of the gutter. When my vision cleared I noticed it was Willie Nelson, with whom I had been touring. He threw me into his pick-up and we drove. After a while I started coming to, and he threw me a leather pouch. Inside was some grass and cigarette papers. I told him I had never rolled a joint before, and he looked at me straight-faced and said “What? You’ve got to know how roll them, how to hold them.” I think we drove to Washington that night, and the joke never stopped being funny.
image by frosty
less than a week before the wedding. I told the small one with his peaked cap and his massive overcoat trailing almost on the ground; ‘I’m Dee Race, goddamn you! I won’t be pressured!’
The tall agent, who had not this whole time stopped patting his dog, shrugged. ‘It’s of no concern to us, Mr Race. We have enough on you to put you away right now, for twenty or thirty years without blinking an eye. We’ll arrest you at your wedding if you like, heighten the drama somewhat. Would you like some drama?’
‘What would I have to do?’ I asked, gritting my teeth, trying to pull myself out of the freezing cold water.
‘Report to us once every ten days,’ said the short man. ‘Anything that happens. Everything. Every dirty word at a party, every time someone trips over a microphone lead on stage – you scribble it down and pass it on to us.’
‘What does the CIA care about the people I know?’ I asked, on my hands and knees, shaking myself dry like a dog. ‘They’re all horrible people, sure, but they’re at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to drugs, and they don’t know the first thing about politics.’
‘We care because we care about America,’ said the dog-patting agent. ‘My mother cared about it, and her mother cared about it too, and I reckon I care just enough that I’ll get my hands dirty dealing with a goddamn heroin addict folk singer if it’ll keep the Reds from rubbing their filthy mitts all over it.’
They gave me my instructions, and then they left me alone in the shallow pondwater. I crawled home that night, and Glenda was so wrapped up in the wedding preparations she didn’t notice that I was soaking wet and frozen almost to the bone.
So that was that – I became an informant. I’d like to say that I was upset when I learned – years later – that the CIA agents by the pond were complete frauds, that I had been duped by undercover KGB operatives, and that all my information was being piped direct to Moscow. To be honest, though, it made little difference. Aside from the embarrassment of being blackmailed by KGB agents into supplying secrets to Communist Russia by their claims that they could trace a link between me and the Communists, it didn’t matter to me who I was selling secrets to.
The pathetic thing is that none of the secrets I sold were really very good. Consider that over the years that I was a KGB informant (1970 – 1973) my wife Glenda was involved in nearly nine militant ‘actions’ (I believe today they would be called terrorist acts) on behalf of a number of white supremacist extremist groups, that she spent nearly $41,750 of my earnings from record sales during this period (my 1971 double-album Dee Race Wins The Race Every Time There’s A Race sold exceptionally well and kept us in good comfort for some time), mostly on small armaments to provide to guerilla activist groups, and that both the American government and the Russians were keeping serious tabs on her (after her attempted bombing of a low-income tenament house in New Jersey, the FBI opened a special file on her in which she was codenamed ‘Emperor Fu San’), and yet I never had a clue. I was too busy to keep track of Glenda, and she seemed happy enough whenever I did manage to catch up with her.
Instead, my reports for the KGB (which I dutifully addressed to Agent Powder of the CIA, in the mistaken belief that I was serving my country) were filled with the exciting minutiae of the folk/rock/pop scene of the time. “DEAR AGENT POWDER I THINK THE NEW YORK DOLLS MIGHT BE GAY, ALSO THE MC5 CAME AROUND TO MY APARTMENT ON FRIDAY BUT I WAS OUT AND FRED SONIC SMITH TAPED A PHOTO TO MY DOOR FROM THE VIETNAM
That’s how I did it and it was easier than I thought to sell one’s national secrets; I was approached at what was both my 35th birthday and farewell gig. The show was about halfway through and one of the reserved tables still was empty. A well dressed man with a pinched face came to take the seat. He was accompanied by two very burly men dressed in suits with crew-cut hairdos. They stood out because they were not the usual type of characters to appear at a concert.
Backstage the two burly men approached me after my post-gig shower. They said ‘Hello’ in a curious accent that I’ve later identified as Baltic. They told me to have dinner tomorrow night in a restaurant on 21st street at six o’clock. A private table will be booked under my name. The restaurant was the Gay Bishop. The bigger of the two then snatched my towel from my waist and left and that’s how it happened.
Another story to do with the reds is the strange disappearance of my old music manager. He was due around at my place for a dinner that I was cooking, the table was set for four and my two guests were left waiting until we decided to eat. I was cooking a soufflé and there was no way to leave it any longer. We were talking about my divorce to Glenda and how she reverted to her maiden name of Snoxall and in the settlement took most of the money from the Russians. The silly thing is I had kept exact records of all the transactions, which would have been inadmissible in court if I wasn’t prepared to fight the US government capitalist bastards in their highest of courts… the media. Instead of bravado I took it meekly and in the only interview I told Miss Snoxall to stick her trumpet in her brass section. Next to her balls.
To sum up my life I released a 50th birthday album, with each track being related to a certain portion of my life, from childhood to my birthday. It was given a frosty to lukewarm reception. However I have boxes of it so write to my publisher and we’ll send you a free copy. This is the track listing:
1: awkward smiles in class
2: virgin waltz
3: mariachi wedding
4: six kids and a six pack
5: a slab and a slap
6: sharing with Jefferson
7: carrots in my beard
8: two fat legs that walked out
9: 35,000 (lies dollars and lines)
10: on the lam
11: all you fucking pigs
12: hard time
13: fucking like a dog
14: that big blue sky
suicide in court, maybe get a bit of that press focus on me, see if the tide of public opinion doesn’t swing in my favour…’ My lawyer was doubtful, but I was sick of listening to his advice, and anyway, the man listened to the Eagles and he refused to believe that Creedence Clearwater weren’t actually born on the bayou. Fuck him, I thought. The worst I could expect was that I’d have a scar on one of my forearms, and what’s that but something else to tell the ladies?
In the event, the stunt went wrong in a number of ways. First of all, I foolishly chose to attempt it on a Thursday morning before 10.30am, when there were barely any reporters in the court. Secondly, I chose a moment when a particularly huge bird flew into the courtroom window, cracking the glass and drawing everyone’s attention. Thirdly, when people did notice that I’d slashed a dirty great slit in both of my wrists, they responded with genuine turtle urgency. I remember the doctor tapping the ash off his cigarette, then balancing it carefully on the edge of the ashtray, quickly combing his hair and picking his teeth on his way to my rescue.
To cut a long story short, I was in a coma for 71 weeks, and when I woke up it was 1979 and I was sentenced to 13 years in prison, starting as soon as I was well enough to be shipped there. Glenda had for Papua New Guinea only a few weeks after my courtroom wrist-slashing, and was wanted as a war criminal in the US and Canada for her so-called ‘Northern Summer Sabbatical’. I saw her on
the news while in the hospital – she was somewhere in the jungle waving a flamethrower around. I later found that she had divorced me six and a half years earlier (the cocktail of hypnosis tapes and injected steroids I indulged in virtually daily throughout the early 70s resulted in a fugue state in which I would sign anything Glenda gave me and remember almost none of it). That was depressing, but the worst moment was when the package arrived containing my new fake leg. My usual fake leg was made from the rear spar of a British ‘Vickers Valiant’ nuclear bomber, and contained ‘prohibited metals’. I was supplied with a prison leg made from the same plastic they constructed Barbie dolls with, and it crumpled under my weight the first time I leaned on it. It was not a promising beginning.
But prison was far more enjoyable than I could have predicted. All the cons rubbed noses with me in a friendly greeting gesture when I arrived, and invited me to participate in one of their many constructive projects. I assisted in the construction of a hot-air balloon (reinforced newspaper balloon and a tinfoil gas cylinder filled a trickle at a time from the prison stoves) in which a murderer named Orthodox Greg escaped, and after that I was given Orthodox Greg’s old stomping ground: the dog kennels. It would be wrong to say that I did not like
I met the second love of my life in 1997, tied to a pole outside the local canasta club. Her name was Apsu-lutely. She had the most wonderful colour and lines and then I knew exactly what it was that I should be doing to fill my time on the outside, now I was no longer drinking, singing or packing supreme in prison sex. This dog was magnificent to me, though in time I would learn it was only a mediocre dog, but the sight of its powerful body and short hair, I knew this was a dog for me. Also the idea of a political statement made through a dog appealed to me.
I made some enquiries and bought a pup for $2500, and started it in obedience classes real early. I joined the American Lhasa Apsu breeding society with my first dog, Emperor Fu San, but it seems I was given the wrong advice, and as a novice breeder, as with marriage, I had bought the wrong dog.
Across from Hong Kong. This was the bitch my fledgling kennel needed, its blood lines were strong, but there were few examples in America. Her temperament was sound, backline perfect, and her face angelic. I named her Forbidden City Forbidden Dreams.
She won judges commendations two years in a row and a third placing. I then had an offer to join her with China Commands, the top dog. I agreed and we split the litter. I had a dog and a bitch pup. The bitch was named “Tibetan freedom” and went on to win best in show. The dog turned out too aggressive to show, but I kept him for my own companion dog, as some teenagers had started jumping the fence and stealing souvenirs that they could sell on eBay along with plenty of counterfeit memorabilia. His name was Emperor Fu San Tu, or just San-tu. Now his teeth are less formidable, but his eyes are bright as he rests his head on my lap.
image by arran mckenna
The only fly in the ointment was that the higher I progressed up the ladder, the more intense and, well, psychotic the people became. My first few dog-shows were a joyous relevation to me – fresh out of prison, exploring the delights of freedom with my beloved Fu San yapping at my side. Now I was in the professional leagues, the competitions had a desperate, hungry yearning I had not encountered since 1967, the night we locked Jimi Hendrix out of the apartment building and made him wait in the snow for four and three quarter hours while we taunted him from the window. Fu San was still performing brilliantly, and I had no intention of backing down before I reached the top of the pile: a gold medal for Fu San in Santo Domingo. Still, certain clauses in the rulebook of the 1990 International Dogshow Championship Tourmament did not sit well with me:
- Upon attaining first prize, the victorious DOG is assumed to have attained Godhood, and will be shot through the head and dressed in the sacred oils and herbs for its ascension to heaven, accompanied by the gravegoods of its possessions in life and its human companions;
But I decided I would cross that bridge when it came to it. In the meantime, I bought a bicycle with a sidecar, made several modifications (cut away the left pedal and made a holster for my wooden limb), placed Fu San in the sidecar with a big fresh bone, and began to pedal one-legged to the city of Santo Domingo. When we reached the shores of the Atlantic ocean in Florida, we waited on the docks until dark. When it was completely black and deserted, I sealed up the sidecar tarpaulin, trapping Fu San inside, and tipped the bike into the water. With one arm clutching the handlebars, I swam with one leg and one hand across the bay towards the Vaccination, a sturdy coalship bound for the Dominican
Republic. I swam as hard as I could, but even so, Fu San’s air had nearly run out by the time I was able to attach the bike’s electro-magnet above the waterline of the ship’s hull.
The trip across the Caribbean was not fun. A bike seat is not a comfortable seat on which to perch for seventeen days and nights, especially when you are barely metres above the swell and constantly heave up and down into it. I ate all of my dry biscuits in the first three days, and had to look forward to a solid fortnight of no rations. What was worse, however, was the lack of drinking water. I was surprised to find the ocean water was salty and not to my liking. Fu San was willing to drink it, though, so I splashed handfuls on to his snout and drank his urine whenever he was able to go. In this way, we travelled to the tournament, feeling very sorry for ourselves and wishing we’d paid the $61 for a plane ticket.
When I dragged up the mostly shrivelled remains of Fu San onto the Dominican Republic shoreline, the fishermen recognised me instantly. Some of them shrieked at me that I was dirty Commie asscrack fluff, and someone else threw a jagged slab of concrete at me. I tried to reason with them, but in my state of mental and physical derangement, I only made things worse. Soon I was lying staked to the side of a small hill while above me, the villagers prepared to loose an enormous boulder to roll over me and crush me. Fu San they had set fire to, and his twitching hide was black with ash and flecked with flickers of burning dog skeleton. He lolled his head to look at me, as
I reconciled with my eldest daughter recently, I wonder if this was due to the low level media attention that has surrounded the book deal. It’s the way of children, interested in their aging parents only when they have money. Its true that it was an inordinate amount of money for a shitty little memoir, and perhaps it could have been more interestingly if I did take up Roy and Tom’s suggestion I joined their band so they didn’t have to ask Dylan, but I thought at the time a band like that would fail comically. I did allow them to keep the name I suggested, and last year their ‘Best Of’ was released. I saw no royalties, and wasn’t in “thanks to” section of the booklet, but if you listen to “End of the Line” Orbison croons “Dee Race, for the name, thanks”, its really quiet and backwards masked. But its there and that’s what counts. My name is Dee Race, and this was my life.
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