Stoney Connors is perhaps best remembered (when he is remembered at all) as a second-wave adjunct member of two of the least influential but most footnoted collectives of the postwar era: the arts anti-organization Fuxus, and the organized anti-artists of the groundbreaking nonsemble Theater of Infernal Music. (His dual membership is in itself unremarkable, for as any D student of Art History 101 can tell you, there was a great deal of crossover between the groups, thanks to nepotism, inter-office romances, inbreeding, and extramarital hankypanky, ultimately insuring not one but two entries in the indexes of all textbooks for such inexplicably familiar names as LaMonte Hall, Marilyn Vuvuzela, Johnny Cagematch, Charlotte Moonmad, Lamb June Pike, Koko Ohno, Epstein “Eppie” Leptik Sezhere, Haul Ass Comesalive, and Pauline “Paula” Shareitis. Rock and rollers will recall that several members and groupies of TIM, including Connors and his downstairs neighbor, future Aleatoric DJ Juan Kale, went on to form the short-lived but oft-name-dropped band the Velveteen Rabbithole, about whom it is famously said, “They only sold 100 albums in their lifetime, and everyone who bought one eventually died.”
The group fell under the sway of blue-chip artmonger Nancy Horewall, who took them under her huge batlike wings, designing the cover of their first album (a texured, scratch-and-sniff photograph of a kiwi fruit, which, when peeled away, significantly reduced the resale value of the record), taking an undeserved production credit for it, and forcing the group to perform with her multi-media sound, light, and incense showcase, The Explosive Plasma Inedible. While sales of the self titled debut TIM album were as dismal as everyone including Horewall predicted, a split single with the more musically inclined wing of the concurrent French countertop revolutionary movement, the Constipationists, yielded a surprise hit in one particularly hip peasant village in Switzerland. The Velveteens’ side, “Give Chance a Piece,” consisted solely of 4 minutes and 20 seconds of a blind beggar named Elvish Parsley grunting the title phrase in 87 languages, the majority of which he invented on the spot, as soulfully as he could despite a lifelong history of agnostic atheism (that is, the pathological inability to believe with any degree of uncertainty in the existence of anything less than nothing).
Alas, as the sun began to set on the Age of Aquarius, the members of the TIM group began to break up and break down, often simultaneously, and none felt the blow more severely than the onetime child prodigy Connors, who had spent much of his preteen years as the boyservant of acclaimed poet-turned-cryptofascist cheerleader S. Ra Poundcake and was now forced into early retirement at the tender age of 22, during which period he began experimenting day and night with the notorious synthetic drug that nearly destroyed his mind, Ican C4.Myles. The first sign that Connors was running off the rails was the fact that he began hearing voices—specifically, the voices of his second cousin, Nadine Spongebottom-Goldenrod, and his paternal grandmother, Khan E. Frances, both of whom were regrettably alive and well, though dead to him since an awkward Groundhog Day incident many years earlier. While at the time Connors’s increasingly erratic behavior was seen as tragic, later generations have embraced his many unfinished compositions and rambling, 7-hour-long messages on friends’ (and enemies’) answering machines during this period as some of the best work of his career. (“Which is not saying much,” the impossible-to-please wags at the trendsetting online publication Tuning Fork once sniped in a zero-star review of the 2009 rerelease of his admittedly vexing 1971 9-day-long motion picture, Mirror Mandingo VIII: My Baby Snakeoil, and its accompanying 190-disc original soundtrack album.) Indeed, when Connors finally managed in 2003 to complete Limes, his 30-year-old abandoned “middle-aged symphony for dogs,” with the help of original collaborator Dan Paik Varx, critics greeted it with the near-universal sentiment, “Thank god THAT’s done.”
Connors’ relentless and frequently futile explorations of his own mind and body (particularly his amygdala and navel) brought him to the attention of fellow psycosmonauts Terry O’Leary, Tim McKinsey, Beckley D. Pinchbottom (and his sister, elusive novelist and Fox TV regular Thomasina Pinchbottom), and of course Ken Queasy and the Married Pukesters, who traveled across a small portion of West Texas in a Winnebago for 3 weeks, just long enough to inspire straight-laced “Nuge Journalist” Thomas J. Fox to pen the perennial syllabus-filler The Acoustic Tango IQ Test without so much as setting foot in the commune’s recreational vehicle, nonetheless inspiring countless college freshmen to drop out of school and invest their tuition money in large, gas-guzzling minivans and SUVs. Then there were the shadier figures, like Lou “Sid” Dreme and his drug-dealing identical twin, “Krispy,” who were always on hand to take the gang higher and higher until there was no easy way down.
This mottled crew embraced Connors as a kind of guru for approximately two weeks —that is, they collectively hugged him virtually nonstep for 13 days, a gesture which left the affection-starved artist in a state of severe arousal combined with a self-loathing which branched out into the loathing of others. It was this pivotal event that led to him being treated for Pre Traumatic Disorder Stress [PTDS] over the next 17 years by the controversial Dr. U. Gene Landrover, founder of the massively ignored Transnational Analysis movement and author of the oft-parodied self-help book I’m AP, You’re Chicago Manual: A Style Guide for Dingbats. (The primary controversy concerned whether Landrover was more accurately described as a “nutcase,” a “lunatic,” or some unholy combination of the two.)
The self-proclaimed doctor’s Svengali-like spell over Connors came to a hasty but welcome end when the duo were framed for selling unframed paintings of clowns to underage girls in border cities (a violation of the notorious Mannsonn Act) and jailed. Landrover soon endeared himself to the prison staff and became in-house chaplain, while Connors escaped with assistance from the self-hating extremist group the Pleather Overground and moved for a time to the back room of a Trader Vic in Manhattan, Kansas, where he read the complete works of Malcolm Forbes and briefly joined the Gray Pandas, a roving herd of animal activists.
While in exile, Connors hired a manager, Manager “Seymour” Speiderman (“Manager” was his given name, while “Seymour” was his unshakeable nickname) and self-published the extravagantly prix-fixed volume Kitchen Kounter Kouture. Sales were so low that Speiderman actually encouraged would-be readers to steal copies and then had them arrested for shoplifting, receiving lucrative kickbacks from corrupt local authorities.
The 1980s brought a change in the zeitgeist, in the form of neon-colored spandex and MIDI samplers, and Connors inadvertently found himself on the Comeback Trail for the first time—that is to say, he took a wrong turn in search of himself and wound up both physically and emotionally wounded on the heavily trafficked Trail that provided access from the Hardensoul Expressway to Zombie Acres, a popular shopping mall in suburban Omaha. For understandable reasons, there was no revival of interest in Connors’ work during this period, so he took a temp job in Things Dismembered, a Goth-themed novelty kiosk in the mall, which gradually led to his being named Assistant Manager on the same day he was dismissed for excessive tawdriness.
Little is known about Connors’ exploits from July 1995 to August 2005, primarily because he slept through most of that era. When he did at last wake up for good, he was extremely cranky for two weeks, and then calmed back down before easing into a short, refreshing nap. “Connors is amazing,” a distant friend observed around this time. “He says he got so much rest during his self-described ‘Dark Nighttime of Troubles’ that he no longer needs to sleep. True, he naps an awful lot, as often as five times a day, and generally for seven to ten hours at a stretch, but he has simply quit sleeping altogether.”
As Connors napped, America was changing: Airport lines grew shorter, Christmas shoppers’ patience grew longer, hair grew both longer and shorter, jeans grew skinnier, wallets grew tighter, and the nation’s children grew much, much fatter. Legislation introduced at the school board level gradually had every state in the union assigned one of two colors—Jungle Red or Pacific Ocean Blue—after which all flags, commercial and government signage, and school uniforms, in addition to scores of other items, had to be replaced with the appropriate hue.
When Connors managed to stay awake for a record twelve hours one fateful afternoon and evening in the late summer of ’05, he learned several things at once: Worst and foremost, his manager had maxed out all his credit cards and then sued him for “irreconcilable similarities” to approximately 124 more successful artists before fleeing the country with Connors’ second wife, one of two that Connors had no memory of ever meeting, let alone marrying. On the somewhat brighter side, however, scores of young inept and undistinguished musicians, unfocused photographers and media makers, and underemployed digital artists now claimed Connors as the great-grandfather of their as-yet-unlettered generation.
It is not possible to name the best of these acts, for there are none. But a brief list of “Connors’ Kids” would surely include Beet Regeneration, Burt’s Whole Circus, The Great Rock & Roll Swingle Singers, Your Afternoon Hangover, Sam the Shaman and the Woolite Boogie Monster, The Hateful Bled, The Thinking Man’s Dog, The Yes Man Who Smelled Like Earth, The Groovester Whoop, Squat Thrust Community Dinner Theater, Struwelpeter Frampton, DeeeToxxx, G. Whizz & the Bolan League, Tortoisehead Soap, Sheep & Cookies, New York Guise and Dolls, Saxon Violins, Acid Pussy, Sponge Tonic, Lushpulp Blurve, The Exploding Necco Wafer Conspiracy, Spunk Floyd Thee Barber, Chakra Khan, Pilot Lighter, Rocket J. Squirrelmeat, The Gangbang Gang (as well as its later offshoot known simply as “Gang,” often confused with an even later offshoot, “Banghra Gong,” which included no members of the original group and no professional musicians whatsoever), the duo Aston Martin & Shari Lee Lewis, and the trio Barbie, Benson, and Hedges. (Many of these acts never actually heard or saw anything Connors ever did, but all of them took note when self-appointed “Freq Folk” demigod Dependra Bronchristus wore a Stony Connors t-shirt when appearing on Good Morning, New Paltz to promote his worst-selling and thus most-loved album, Yours Truly, Satan.)
An invitation to deliver a guest lecture at a local community college led almost overnight to a tenured but unpaid position at an uncredited “alternative school” in the woods of Maine, where Connors taught a seminar on the hidden significance of hip flasks and hopscotch in the works of 17th century “slanguage poet” Edmund Spendthrift to future members of the bands Sunny in Chernobyl, Shady Crady, the Blueberry Lightswitch (members of whom regrouped to form the even more Stoney-ed band Cutlass Reve, who in turn influenced the Japanese noise-opera trio FU JAPAN, who moved uninvited into the parking lot of Connors’ apartment complex while composing their groundbreaking “mockopic” Commie Dearest, earning what little money they could as greeters at a local walnut farm—but this parenthetical digression is best left for another time and place).
While Connors had nothing at all to do with either mini-movement, he is often cited as the force majeur behind both “prenatal postpop,” a genre of music created by remixing the sonograms of fetuses whose parents conceived them on dancefloors during the short-lived “flubber party” craze of the late 1990s, and “meth rock,” which was born in a suburban basement in Bakersfield, California in the mid-1990s and later popularized in the theme song to the 2005-2013 television series Baking Brad, recorded by Pearl “Flattop” Perkins and Lester “Snaggletooth” Youngblood.
Even so, the general (and generally employed) public still knew little if anything about the enigmatic Connors, a situation that was in no way improved when a South Carolina-based firm with no experience making anything other than industrial films for defunct industries decided in 2007 to shoot a documentary about the artist and his short-storied life. Their efforts met with major resistance not only from Connors himself, who refused to allow them to use any of his work, but from every single person they approached for interviews who either knew or claimed to be influenced by the artist. Their resulting feature, Sugar for the Saltyman, consisted entirely of stock footage depicting in great detail the inner workings of a factory that produced peppermills, accompanied by voice-over interviews with the only three people—Henny Rollems, Carmen DiPiglia, and an obscure prop comic named Radish Head—who would agree to speak on camera, and even then only on the condition that their images would not appear onscreen and they would be paid an enormous amount of cash in unmarked bills. Sugar failed to earn any sort of distribution beyond cable access television, though it was awarded a 2011 “Ackie” for Best Time Code Preceding a Videotape from the Akron Chamber of Commerce.