ZaZa Lipsoidic — hippie? punk? devo?
The Origins of ZaZa
Kal-El had Krypton, ZaZa Lipsoidic had Chicago.
This first paragraph from an article in the Chicago Reader, a free weekly newspaper, 12 November 1976, presents us with the origin myth of ZaZa’s creative life. (Entire story reprinted below.)
“For the past couple of years the Reader mail has contained — every week or month or two — a perfectly white 3x5 card, attached with a silver clip to a sheet of white paper, enclosed in a plain white envelope which was always without return address. And on this card, 30 words or less, which through the miracle of modern typsetting and high-speed presses, would soon appear throughout the city, causing countless people to laugh out loud on the Howard L at rush hour, respond urgently in the next days mail, or possibly, simply shake their heads and ponder what absurdity lurks in the mind of a man. A star was born in the Reader Personals column: ZaZa Lipsoidic.”
Utilizing the constraints of the 30-word-limit of the free Chicago Reader Personals column (a foreshadowing of Twitter), ZaZa Lipsoidic got to create, adjust, hone and maintain his character, having fun responding to any eventual feedback, yet still enjoy his authorly anonymity.
The twist came when a couple years into this very satisfying game, ZaZa decided to sell some collectible old Esquire magazines he owned, through the Chicago Reader want ads. A woman came by ZaZa’s apartment to look at the magazines and during their discussion she suddenly said “I know who you are!”
As ZaZa’s brain urgently scoured his past—he had for a number of years been resisting the Vietnam War draft; but that was resolved—the woman told him that she worked at the Reader and had matched up the typewriter ZaZa used to place the ad for magazines with the one that ZaZa Lipsoidic’s cryptic messages had been created on.
Her name was Beth Fletcher and she said she wouldn’t expose ZaZa if he didn’t wish—but after some conversation and laughs ZaZa decided to go for the 3 minutes worth of fame. The two met for an in-depth interview a few days later.
The exposé hit the newstands on 12 November 1976. Rumors of Chicago streets suddenly filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth were probably overstated, as certainly was the gossip of suicide jumpers from high-rise apartments along Lake Shore Drive. But certainly something major had shifted—the universe was now roaring onward with one less mystery.
For the newspaper feature ZaZa was given full license to pick how and where he wanted the photo to be taken. The day of the photo shoot ZaZa impulsively grabbed a conch shell off his shelf, went outside, and posed at a graffitied underpass nearby his home.
Eventually, at the end of that year, that image, captured by photographer Kathy Richland, also ended up as one of twelve images used by the Chicago Reader for their annual wall calendar.
So — let’s take a look at a couple dozen of the hundreds of messages that ZaZa Lipsoidic shared over the years — starting with the first. (These will include a number signed Torridzone Igloo, the heteronym that ZaZa was metamorphozing into towards the end of his time in Chicago.)
Beyond the Bayesians. Beyond Tyrone Slothrop. Beyond everything that has come before or will come after. There alone stands ZaZa Lispoidic.
The most difficult character in comedy is that of the fool, and he must be no simpleton that plays that part, said Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, perhaps thinking of ZaZa Lipsoidic.
It’s so hard to be a saint in the city, sang Bruce Springsteen, as ZaZa Lipsoidic nodded ain’t-it-the-truthingly.
I am a great friend to public amusements, for they keep people from vice, said Samuel Johnson, some 200 years before ZaZa Lipsoidic.
ZaZa: They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys. Carl Sandburg.
It was known all around that Lily had Jim’s ring, and nothing would ever come between Lily and the King, no nothing ever would except maybe ZaZa Lipsoidic.
The sower of the seed is assuredly the author of the whole harvest of mischief, said, Demosthenes, perhaps of ZaZa Lisoidic.
It’s true that I was in a movie called “Zaza”, but I don’t know who this Lipsoidic woman is. Gloria Swanson.
Is that ZaZa Lipsoidic in the driver’s seat of the black Mercedes on Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” album cover?
Is that ZaZa Lipsoidic on the back cover of the Beatles Abbey Road album?
“I was so rash as to read some of the public newspapers— I was stopped, faced by the appalling uselessness of explaining anything whatever to anyone whatever.” Baudelaire via Lipsoidic
So, your son’s a junkie and your daughter’s a whore, and you think they’re both sick? Howdya like to be the mama of ZaZa Lispoidic? Mama Lipsoidic.
“Forgive then our selfrevealing outbursts to us who live under the public’s eye and who, famous or not, can no longer attain to the benefit of obscurity” deNerval via Lipsoidic.
“Today my name’s printed on the front page of all the newspapers in the world. Tomorrow, perhaps fifty people can still spell my name correctly.” B. Traven via ZaZa Lipsoidic.
“Let the audience use their brain , then they’ll like you. Like you, I said, not love you.” Red Skelton via ZaZa Lispoidic.
ZaZa Zen WOW (Words Of WIsodom): If the nose of Cleopatra had been a little shorter, you’d need less plaster to make a replica of her face.
You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge one for yourself, said James Froud, perhaps attempting to explain ZaZa Lipsoidic.
Cosmic, noted Vladimir Nabokov (who virused out this year), is in constant danger of misplacing its S. ZaZa Lipsoidic.
a) Win a date with ZaZa Lispoidic. Simply guess what the puzzle parts his name is made up from and he’s all yours for 24 hours to do with as you wish.
b) This should win me a date with ZaZa: ZaZa Lipsoidic sounds similar to the name of famous Chicago hood “Kiddio” Spillazaz. Doris Daze.
We certainly have a town called Zaza del Medio in our country, but we know not who this Lipsoidic lady is. Fidel C.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Matthew Vll:15. “Baaaaaa-baaaaaa,” bleated ZaZa Lipsoidic ominously.
“Since the press has all the means of information and yet refuses to fully inform, it is responsible for American’s thundering stupidity.” Jean Genet via TorridZone Igloo
“. . . he was the first and the first is always great. Even if people after the first are greater, the first is always cool.” Patti SMith via TorridZone Igloo
Decades before social media and that desperate behavior called “trolling” —random unsolicited provoking commenting—ZaZa’s posts occasionally received snide and baiting responses. Occasionally ZaZa bit, with sharp teeth. Here is one.
I have two words for Z-Z, one is a verb and one a noun. Raffaello
Raffaelo. Crude petroleum does not run a car, and crude words are simply a bore. Distill yourself! ZaZa Lippsoidic
Being the Personals column, one exchange, between ZaZa and another contributor, Tigerlady, actually led, as personals are supposed to, a date and a relationship.
Onward . . .
Life went on and ZaZa pushed on — he worked a series of survival jobs—dishwasher, stock clerk, editorial assistant — while his real work, writing, was consigned to evenings that stretched into early mornings at a typewriter in his Rogers Park apartment, and whenever he could squeeze it in at his job. He had written short stories, poetry, and at that time was working on a play entitled Radio Peru.
ZaZa Lipsoidic was a big fan of “punk” music—Patti Smith, The Ramones, Television, Sex Pistols, Blondie, DEVO (from the concept of ‘de-evolution’), Pere Ubu, X-Ray Spex, et al. During this period a gay bar on North Halstead Street in Chicago was metamorphosing into the world’s first punk dance club.
ZaZa went a few times and soon he was spending most of his evenings and weekends there, pogo-dancing madly.
In 1976 ZaZa appropriated as his own an Air & Water show that was going on at the Chicago Lakefront. (He hired emerging visual artist AleXander Hirka to do the poster — now seen as one of Mr. Hirka’s earliest collages; rare in that it utilized a combination of photocopier-art and pencil drawing.)
From those who participated in enjoying the music and in the gatherings at LaMere Vipere, a sense of community emerged—a tribe.
ZaZa made acquaintances, friends, partners — connections which conceivably still exist.
A publication — the Gabba Gabba Gazette—covering the music, and the scene, was also started up by Ramones fan Mary Alice Ramel. The main character in the film “Rock ’n’ Roll High School” was glimpsed reading it.
ZaZa quickly became a contributor, writing reviews of such bands as The Residents, even trying his hand at writing song lyrics.
ZaZa Lipsoidic self-published a few broadsides in limited editions (10 to 100 copies — depending on cash and/or photo copier access at work). These included his and his friends’ writings, art, recipes (“Raspberry Lipsoidic”) and other cultural detritus. ZaZa Lipsodic’s “Garbitch!” (10 pages, 1975) and
The Bicentennial ZaZette (July 1976) were among them.
Patti Smith wrote: Deep in the heart of your brain is a lever/ Oh deep in the heart of your brain is a switch.
And in ZaZa Lipsoidic’s brain in 1977 the switch was thrown! He suddenly had the overwhelming urge to move to New York City. NYC was certainly one of the epicenters of the exciting new punk rock music scene.
And—New York City was where AleXander Hirka was from and ZaZa had the urge to be where Mr. Hirka was, that place where his spirit was always anchored to.
And so, with joy and sadness, on August 27, 1977, an amazing farewell bash was planned for ZaZa at La Mere Vipere.
ZaZa Lipsoidic moved to New York City in the fall of 1977.
In October of 1977 ZaZa Lipsoidic spun a poetic riff on his life in New York City, and the music scene, for the Gabba Gabba Gazette.
ZaZa in NYC
I slipped into town like a tourist. headless horseman through a landscape of chaos./
paranoid delusions (aka philosophical conclusions) keep the people believing on a Reality around themselves, an order. THERE IS NO ORDER! to the trained eye all the cops in nueva York are obvious impostors, uniforms randomly distributed to provide comfort to those who need to believe that their world is in the good hands of Respectability. I'd traveled 1000 miles to get here. I wasn't about to be fooled by the smelly-tongue architecture breathing 18 years of photos from the past. memory-photos more lifeless than words./
the asylums are overfilled. King of Hearts 1977./
(film #1 shadow-of-the-sun creature slides slowly down the street, dressed in black, the uniform of poets. caped and helmeted it pushes an upright vacuum Hoover. no questions, no answers.)/
(film #2: an old Italian man. fell from the Sth story window as a child. now comes by the corner pizza shop daily. is called over by the pizza shop owner and the lured, within the framework of a very carefully choreographed conspiracy to look-in-the-other direction as the shop owner flicks his ear from behind. laughter rattles through the old man. joy like a kid tossed in the air. one day when not called over he came by and asked the owner if he was not liked anymore.)/
(film #3 another pizza shop. an old toothless woman. she's spit out her mouth. screaming saliva. taps me on the shoulder. sez i turned the gas on her parents. angry! sez the gambini bros. are gonna get me now. picks up hostile pepper shaker. I balance hot pizza slice-weapon in my hand. She gets evicted by shop owner but yells back at me: "yellow-bellied punk"!)
(film #4 "spare change?" /
(film #5: "money for food. money for food. money for food.")/
(film#6 "gotta quarter for some coffee?" )/
I'm sorry. I'm short myself. And getting shorter. Part of the adjustment process is to not shrink away. Shrink away and you're under its thumb. Gotta ride it like a subway. celine's "emotive subway."/
(film #7: tom verlaine staring in a record store window a block from where the Filmore used to be.)/
(film #8: marc stevens, of large-genital-in-x-rated-films fame, bopping down 14th st.)/
(film #9 film #9 film #9: teenage jesus & the jerks at max's kansas city. . . maybe you have to like jazz, or the residents, or andy warhol, or be into New York city digital nervous-system rhythms. teenage jesus, herself, is a plumperous motrticia with blondie in her blood. The jerks: a mongoloid-pose drummer with a split-enz haircut, a pynchonesque kookie kamakaze bass player, and a Charles (yes I got the first name right) faulkner-halloweened-as-red-jacketed-manic-maniac saxophonist. The music intense. 2-3 minute sharp-edged geometries. No tune circles here. sledge hammer across the cranium. choppy. monodronic.)/
by the time this film was seen twice the amount of films running simultaneously began to cause overlaps. The sweet kiss of anarchy! Nothing makes Sense. I could live with you in a nada world. soupy sales introduces the Iggy pop band at the palladium. the ramones open the show. gabba gabba. iggy--4ever young! The ramones--white riot! Meanwhile elsewhere: BOMBSHELL BLONDIE CHEWS IT! sits hotshot arrogant ripping the microphone-cover to shred with her teeth at Country-Blue-Grass-Blues. . . dead boy stiv blows snotburger into previously-attached-to-shirt-with-safety-pin slice of baloney. Yes, of course, he then eats it.../
Desire-pirahna chewing up objects, transfornicating it all into the stuff that dreams are made of. I discover book list with this item on it: memoirs of a midget, by de la mere. Viper and frog and scorpion and crab and tarantula and turtle shop on 14th st. (what, no lobsters?)/
new combination of films./
originality's measure lost sun numbers./
melted clock with ants crawling on it./
"zaza: a film with gloria swanson./
"zaza a film directed by george cukor, starring claudette Colbert./
("all the way" a film with mitzi gaynor on the inner sleeve of) richard hell's album flaring into a life scream at Country Blue Grass Blues ("Her-BGB's"- scarlatina lust). How can I not like him? The music! The lyrics! The voice! That sexy tongue movement! He even wrote a poem with patti, maaaan! in attendance: johnny yen. joey ramone. buick mackane. spaz. torridzone igloo maintaining anonymity with a ski mask. punky. prick manitoba looking as ugly as ever. danielle. scarlatina lust. carol. danny ipana. plus many et ceteras whose names I don't know./
A "rock'n'roll" promo show comes to town. dealing mostly in overpriced elvis and beatles entrails. how about a 10 foot blow-up of shaun cassidy? But up there - look! It's bird land! It's a distant finger plane! No, it's PATTI SMITH yelling, "come on up here! best deals in town!" a battle against the opposing forces of Authority who are trying to control the flow up to the balcony. nice neat lines, just like nun-control in school. twisted throats yelling, "paaaaatti, they won't let us ip!" final victory after fighting the good fight. patti. ivan. lenny. jay dee. mrs. smith. selling patti smith "stuff"; writings, drawings, pix, etc. "next time you see us you’ll know your money helped fix the equipment."/
films films films/
Coming attractions: Ramones halloween. jonathan richman & the modern lovers. winter setting in. plus other short features and cartoons./
sin city yours, zaza lipsoidic./ 20oct1977
One day, walking through Brooklyn with a number of new and colorful artist friends, some street kids, confused as to what genre to relegate this strangeness, yelled out at the ZaZa entourage — “hippie punk devo!”
The next day, over a cup of chicken soup at the Kiev Restaurant, ZaZa claimed the former of the three terms as the one he would lay most claim to.
Current research indicates that soon after arriving in New York City ZaZa was joined by Scarlatina Lust, a friend from Chicago. It appears that they ended up working together on a number of projects, including creating a now infamous art-zine publication. (See below.)
So what became of ZaZa Lipsoidic?
This piece from the Chicago Reader, from 1978, indicates that ZaZa Lipsoidic metamorphosed into Torridzone Igloo. Among numerous other creative endeavors during this time, Torridzone Igloo is listed on the masthead as co-publisher of Smegma The Magzine.
[Torridzone Igloo was a major participant in the Mail/Correspondence Art Movement at the turn of these decades. He developed and maintained many hundreds of friendships and correspondences with creative spirits around the planet, including Vittori Baroni, Leslie Caldera aka Creative Thing, Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, Anna Banana, Al Ackerman, Guy Bleus, Ruud Janssen, Stefan Szczelkun, Costis Drygianakis, Chondros Katsiani, Ryosuke Cohen, Cracker Jack Kid, Buz Blurr, Henning Mittendorft, Carl Chew, et al. This pre-internet networking connected and extended to relationships with many local New York City artists including John Evans, Bart Plantenga, Carlo Pittore, Buster Cleveland, Tuli Kupferberg, Billy Boy*, Mark Bloch, E.F. Higgins III, et al.]
Cartoonist Dave Albert, in a December 1980 issue of the Chicago Reader mentioned the drought of genius since ZaZa Lipsoidic left.
But let us not dip the brush too deeply in the bucket of nostalgia-veneer — nor slap too many self-historification stickers on it all. It was a time and it was a place. For ZaZa Lipsoidic a number of places, and faces.
It was an energy. It was fun. It was attitude. It was just kids.
In This Century
The rumors have flown this way and that. Wild stories are still circulating. Everything from legends that found ZaZa Lipsoidic shoveling snow for decades in Vermont, to numerous extravagant accounts over the last decade-and-a-half of Torridzone Igloo being spotted living in a tent at the Burning Man festival in Nevada. Fake news?
One thing is clear — there is no real evidence of any creative works emerging from either ZaZa Lipsoidic or TorridZone Igloo so far in this century.
And the only online location that seems to have existing references/links to both of these creative characters is this website—which in itself is a cornucopia of visual art, writing, photography, video and other projects.
© AleXander Hirka 2019. All Rights Reserved.