“Phiiliip in Paris” still seems to be one of the most surreal occurrences in my lifetime. Take one of the New York underground’s most prolific singer/songwriters/nightlife personalities of the early 2000s, and temporarily uproot him to appear on a float in “The World’s Biggest Fish Fry” Parade in Paris, Tennessee.
How did this event come to fruition? Myspace, of course. In corresponding with Mr. Guichard over the course of a few months, I kindly coaxed him into the idea doing this “red state” performance.
I initially “saw” Philip for the first time in provocative, mildly homo-erotic images printed on some handmade gift wrap artist and friend Annmarie Campbell had covered my Christmas present in (a small brown Aveda soap container) in December 2003. These images, of course, are from BUTT magazine’s seventh issue, released in May of the same year.
Intrigued and attracted to Philip’s images, this gift wrap was kept, and still probably resides in one of my many boxes of sentimental collections. However, it wasn’t until late 2005 that I rediscovered Phiiliip through the technological networks of myspace.com.
I purchased “Pet Cancer” off an Amazon z-shop and soon after, our delightful correspondence began. We were both at serious forks in the road in our life paths, and desperately craved something new.
After some thought, I felt that it was extremely important that Philip perform in my Southern backyard of Paris, Tennessee. My two best friends, Annmarie Campbell and Jesse Cooley, had begun working at a vintage clothing and antique store run by small town art patron (and compulsive collector) Nancy Mortensen. Annmarie and Jesse were in the process of turning the store, Fancy That into an experimental art gallery and studio. Nancy had backed up this transformation 100 percent from the beginning, so the timing seemed just right to stage the first major performance of Fancy That’s short history.
Scraping our meager savings together, Annmarie and I begged Nancy into letting us put on the Phiiliip show and parade float, by all three of us paying for one third of his airfare. After Nancy approved the idea with some hesitation, Annmarie and I began the intense task of coordinating our first concert, with absolutely no experience whatsoever.
Annmarie and I tossed around theme ideas for the parade float for quite some time. We finally made a decision…..Phiiliip as Lawrence of Arabia! On one of our adventures to ghost town Cairo, Illinois, we discovered a fake, carpeted camel, sitting in an abandoned storefront. Trying to concoct a plan to steal the camel took longer than expected, and the camel had vanished by the time we made it back to Cairo.
At any rate, we finally arrived on an “Under the Sea” theme, inspired by mermaids and mermen. Jesse’s Aunt Charlotte had agreed to construct a series of fin costumes out of various vintage fabric rolls we had at the store. We ended up with five costumes all together, including one created out of an American flag.
Trying to find a willing loaner of a trailer for our float turned out to be a harder task than we had thought (we thought, c’mon, it’s TENNESSEE!). We finally found a trailer, and in a matter of two hours, Annmarie and I (with the assistance of Nancy, her daughter, and a few other friends) decorated the float with a myriad of multigenerational blue colored clothing, and stuck a large wicker loveseat on it. It was gorgeous.
Annmarie and I picked Philip up at the airport the afternoon before the parade in Nashville and we began our adventurous journey back to Paris. To show Philip a true confederate landmark, we stopped in Fairview, Kentucky to view the Washington Monument of the South, a.k.a., the Jefferson Davis Monument. Then we were on our way home.
We arrived safe and sound in Paris that evening. Philip, Annmarie, and I had a great time discussing everything under the sun over a few beers that turned into a few more beers that went into the early morning hours. Needless to say, the morning wasn’t so kind.
Awakening bright and early (despite our massive hangovers) for the parade, we made it to our position in line on time. Annmarie and I, and our friend, artist Claudia Dishon, along with a few Henry County High schoolers, got in our mermaid/merman costumes and Philip put on his jean jacket with hair weaves and pocket watches. Nancy drove our lovely float down Paris’ main drag, promoting “Phiiliip” in big letters on an old wooden sign, and blasting the song “Summer Collection” from the truck’s interior speakers.
I’m still not sure just why our float didn’t place in the Fish Fry Parade. Well, this is the same parade that brought protestors one year prior when the openly gay, accomplished Broadway and television actress (and Paris Tennessee native) Cherry Jones was the parade’s grand marshal.
Nonetheless, the float was a hit. We sold the wicker loveseat less than a week after the parade. And Phiiliip’s concert that evening was quite interesting to anyone lucky enough to attend. Here is Annmarie’s account from ripped from her blog below:
“Phiiliip played a show in our very own gallery at Fancy That—‘the Parisidium.’ It was a headrush. Sunburnt and drugged, I smoked a pack during a panic over a technical difficulty. Phiiliip bought time with some long-legged guitar playing, which led to some minor blood loss and scratchy, scratchy, scratch-ups of a brand new 700-dollar guitar. The guitar belongs to my new boyfriend and damn do I regret asking his permission to use it in the show... I offered to clean off the blood, but was refused. Elliott said he'd rather do it himself, alone. (ouch)
Even still, the show was totally hot and I feel lucky as hell to have been there. I took lots of stills and Robert shot some film. It was big. I feel so much younger now than before.”
I’m still quite amazed that “Phiiliip in Paris” actually occurred. Looking back, some days it seems as if it was a dream, just as the way my late friend (and partner in crime) Annmarie does. I’m glad Philip and I have remained phone pals over these couple years and been there for each other through thick and thin, even though it’s been solely through electronic means.
Fancy That was a shooting star in so many ways. The overwhelming chaos and ineffable inspirations I felt during this art project/store is something that will truly never leave me. The tragedy of Annmarie’s death only two weeks after the Phiiliip show marked the beginning of the death of Fancy That. It’s true that “all things come to an end”, but none of us expected Fancy That would have ended as soon as it did and the way it inevitably did.
I’ve grown up a lot since this era of my life, and have held on to the positive at all costs. In doing so, I assure you all that you haven’t heard the last from Phiiliip, Annmarie, Jesse, or yours truly.
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