Dilettante 11: Chicken John’s Whore Church starring Dr. Ducky DooLittle

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These nightlife columns I wrote 20 years ago happened in tandem with my introduction into a subculture beyond measure: The Cacophony Society.

Chicken John, one of Cacophony’s big influencers, was and is the charismatic used-car salesman of the scene, continually producing odd and unlikely shows and events that amaze and astound. (Currently in 2018, it’s Camp Tipsy, which is a country-punk, junk-aquatic delight, and we can’t recommend it enough.)

As I settled into San Francisco’s honeycomb of rich and variegated nightlife scenes in 1998, Cacophony became my personal pod, my punk rock cuddle puddle of friends and chosen family. This was one of the first Cacophony events my friends and I attended, and we were instantly hooked. For life.

We were and are all part of a surreal, joyous-but-deadpan club-not-club with original-flashmob happenings and an annual runaway company picnic called Burning Man. Later, the scene coalesced with the Silicon Valley gearheads to become a legitimacy-gathering traveling show in the form of the Maker Faire and movement.

Before the Maker movement had a name, “making” happened in junkyards and warehouses around us, and as “Dilettante” I had my mind blown, weekly, by weird shows like this. Many of our lives are measured with a dividing line between the time before we found Cacophony and after we found Cacophony.

This event in particular featured a New York City-based sex educator named Ducky DooLittle, who has had a significant impact on American educators, bloggers, podcasters, performers, sex writers, and sex toy peddlers in the twenty years since then.

She’s also a certified Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Counselor and the author of Sex With the Lights On: 200 Illuminating Sex Questions Answered.

she's written a book now - git it girl

DooLittle, a former foster kid and street hustler with steel-strong insides and a soft, wry exterior, never stopped advocating for sex workers, street kids, and indeed anyone who wants to know more about their sexual bodies and habits.

She helps train med students on how to address sexual issues with care and compassion. She’s got an online course right now, and look at all these classes she teaches. Her “speaking” page on her site shows a more current and still totally hilarious 10-min talk by her about the exciting field of sex toys as teaching tools.

According to her site, DooLittle has appeared in the New York Times, HBO’s “Real Sex”, “The Morning Show”, MTV, NPR, “The Howard Stern Show,” and Playboy TV.

At the moment, Ducky DooLittle is recovering from having endometrial cancer, and since this is America, she needs medical bills help and has a Youcaring site. Ever the teacher, DooLittle’s own website has all kinds of tips on dealing with endometrial cancer.

From that Youcaring site: “Ducky has done so much for our community. … She’s been a rock in our little universe for years, and the sex toy industry and sex education and blogging worlds wouldn’t be the same without her.”

 

Scroll down or click through to read “Whore’n Again,” originally published in the SF Bay Guardian on 06.02.1998.

This is the eleventh piece in my “twenty years ago this week” project; Dilettante’s first installment is here.

 

Whore’n again: Chicken John’s Whore Church — a real Bible- and body-parts-thumpin’ hoo-ha

by Summer Burkes, 06.02.1998

 

Chicken John is a busy man. When he’s not organizing game shows in his infamous “You Asked for It” series, he’s practicing for his act as the world’s only one-man-band Elvis tribute, ringleader of the Circus Redickuless, logging time on the laughing squid site or, in this case, ministering to the lost as Reverend of the Church of the Bleeding Ulcer.

TKCAPTION

The Cacophony Society’s Chicken John, making margaritas on Jim Mason’s V-8 Blender, in the SF Chronicle in 1998 at a different event at SOMARTS

No matter what he does, he does it according to the laws of the Cacophony Society, an organization that embraces anarchy, hedonism, and dressing in costume for no apparent reason as a way of life. At Chicken John’s Whore Church on this Sunday night, religion is mixed with sex and science, performance art gets a big thumb to the nose, and pandemonium is the rule beneath a thin veneer of organization.

Neon crosses and ocean waves adorn the bottom of the stage at the Transmission Theater; sparkling lights twinkle at the base of a stodgy-looking podium. Xeroxed Bingo games, jigsaw puzzle pieces, raw pinto beans, and candles adorn the small tables throughout the club. Women who look like drag queens mingle with men in tiaras while Martin Denny plays in the background. Without warning, and an hour late, the radio-voiced Dr. Rev. Howland Owl comes onstage to introduce “chaos enthusiast, circus Svengali, and pusillanimous prestidigitator” Chicken John.

Chicken John in the author's kitchen, 1998. Get it? Chicken / eggs? ba-dump-chink

Chicken John in this writer’s kitchen, 1998. Get it, Chicken / eggs, ba-dump-chink

Chicken, wearing a black choir robe and obvious toupee, emcees with a sanguine rasp, introducing his sidekick (the pompadoured Geekboy) and organist (the fake Hasidic Rabbi Joeseph Leon). He begins the church service with a traditional (for them) game of Bingo. Leon accompanies him, playing the infamous Bingo song like an organ player at a skating rink.

A 1957 Maytag washer spins the Bingo balls, numbers are called, and someone wins. As the winner approaches the stage to accept her “cash prize” (a tape of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits), she is showered with beans and puzzle pieces. Chicken bravely shields her with the washer lid.

Dr. Rev. Howland Owl reappears onstage to deliver the sermon — a brief history of creation in couplet form. Although it has the engaging, singsongy rhythm of a Silverstein or Seuss work, its length bores half the audience, just like a real sermon. (That may be the point.)

Dr. Rev. Hal "Howland Owll" Robins

Dr. Rev. Hal “Howland Owll” Robins, the San Francisco legend with the huge brain

A few paper airplanes, fashioned out of Bingo mats, sail past the Reverend Doctor. He gives the stage over to Michael Peppe, a curious man in a cape, boxers, bra, and Zorro hat who pretends to be part of a futuristic sci-fi scenario in which he’s a male slave in a female-dominated society. Again, it’s an interesting story (the invention of the Orgasm Pill, followed by the obsolescence of romance and sex, all-female communities, genetic engineering to weed out most males, the remaining ones kept as slaves), but the antsy crowd can’t sit still.

Chicken John calls a 10-minute smoke break, projecting ’70s porn-film trailers on the back wall for the pervs who have come to see the star, former peepshow girl and crackpot sex scientist Dr. Ducky Doolittle. After the collective nicotine fix, it’s all about her.

Dr. Ducky Doolittle. photo by Katrina del Mar

Dr. Ducky Doolittle.
photo by Katrina del Mar

Dr. Ducky Doolittle, ex-street kid and daughter of a pill-popping mother, has been working in the sex industry since her teens. Deciding to avoid the downward spiral that the stripper route often leads to, she became a self-professed nerd, teaching herself all things scientific and sex-related to become a lascivious, comedic performance artist. A small, busty woman in a full-length leopardskin dress, she slinks onstage to deliver her latest work, the “Screwy Animals Show.”

[hey look, Puzzling Evidence TV recorded part 1 and 2 of Doolittle’s talk & it’s still on Youtube:]

With a meek, wavery voice, she breaks the Animal Channel down to the nitty gritty, educating us — her tongue planted firmly in cheek — with flip-charts and zoological facts. We learn that deer please themselves by rubbing their antlers on the ground, and lions do it with their back paws as they lie belly-up. Octopi, who have no distinguishable private parts, reproduce when the boy sticks one of his “arms” up the girl’s “nose,” and if she’s (ahem) got a headache, she bites it off.

Male lizards and kangaroos have two penises, not one, and although snakes can have sex for up to 180 days straight, they usually only do it for a week. “This is fact, ladies and gentlemen,” Doolittle tells us over and over again. “This is science.” She ends the 20-minute lecture (everyone’s paying attention now) with scientific anecdotes about, um, interspecies love between men and sheep, dogs, and pigs. Some of it’s funny, some horrifying. Doolittle knows from the other Wild Kingdom.

More performances follow: Howland Owl improvises a twisted voice-over to a vintage educational film about the hotel and restaurant industry, Bishop Joey from the First Church of the Last Laugh guest stars to testify to the crowd, and Doolittle, in a skit called “Oral Stimulations,” channels the ghost of an unfortunately-gummed stripper named Ginger Vitis. And, as with all services at the Church of the Bleeding Ulcer, the folks from Bianca’s Smut Shack administer communion to the believers for the finale.

Rabbi Leon goes to town on the organ again, another porn flick starts up in the background, and someone named David Apocalypse breathes fire as people file up to the stage to receive their holy marshmallows. Sensory overload, titillating zoology, cocktails, Bingo, and fire-breathing: Chicken John’s handbasket to hell is padded with kitsch, folly, and chaos. Hallelujah.

 

 

This is the 11th entry in my “twenty years ago this week” project from when I was a nightlife columnist at the Bay Guardian, once the country’s largest family-owned weekly newspaper. These “Dilettante” clips, compiled on my portfolio page, create a serial portrait of San Francisco culture at the turn of the century (1997-2001).

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and you know you’re a legend when comic genius R. Crumb draws you

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