The Evolution of a Tour

Newsflash: I am not Madonna (as much as I’d like to be). Nor am I U2. And I am most definitely not the Rolling Stones. In other words, I have no business going on a Tour. So how does it happen that my sixth tour is about to begin?

A number of years ago, fifteen to be exact, I embarked upon my very first tour – The Friendship Tour: Chameleon in Motion. At the time it was more a Madonna-wannabe move on my part (a phase I’ll grow out of in a few years, or so I’ve been saying for two decades). I even nicked the second half of the title from a spread she did in Interview. It was 1995 and I was in the midst of my matriculation at Brandeis University. Bored with just about everything, I turned to my friends and started visiting everyone I knew outside of Boston. Ann and Kate were at RIT and Kirsten was at U of R, so I spent a bunch of time in Rochester, NY. Suzie and her roommates – Chris, Kristen, Anu, and Tommy – were at Cornell, so I crashed quite a bit in Ithaca, NY. Missy was up in Potsdam at Crane, so I even drove up there, and beyond into Canada, to spend time with her. With all the miles I was racking up, it seemed that more was at work than a few simple trips to see friends. It was a transient bit of life-on-the-road, living out of the car, a long clothes rack running the length of the Blazer, hung heavily with robes and pajamas and costumes and accessories – and it all fell under the umbrage of a “Tour”.

I didn’t perform per se, but I had a tour book that I had everyone sign. For that first outing, it was no more than a few pages of photo-copies – black and white prose and a few horrendously amateurish photographs. I think the title was even hand-written in big black marker. But it was my first time, and it was magical. Soon, and much to my pleasant yet puzzled surprise, the “tour” took on a life of their own – becoming more real than I had imagined. My friends all played along – strangers did as well – and by the time that first tour was over my Frankenstein-like efforts had created an entity of its own.

I went on a second outing in 1996 – The Magical Mystery Tour: Master of Manipulation, and when my third tour rolled around – The Royal Rainbow World Tour in 1997 – I had extended the time period for a tour from two or three months to over half-a-year. The itinerary had also grown, with stops across the country: Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans, Savannah, St. Augustine, Boston, New York, Rochester, Ithaca, and Washington – as well as around the world: London, Wales, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Cozumel, Canada, Hong Kong and the Philippines.

The basic concept was the same – visiting friends and family and showing off the Tour Book (which had become a rather-unwieldy three-ring binder full of photos and designer paper). I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Tour Book was becoming its own sort of Project – and the main focus of my touring efforts. It was something to promote and share with others, and as it collected signatures and well-wishes from friends old and new, it became a repository of memories. This was no longer a silly, stapled collection of piss-poor ditto-copies – it was a narrative of my life, of my journeys, and suddenly my tours were more than just a lark – they were an autobiography of sorts, a concentrated period of self-analysis that only being on-the-road could provide. You can escape from your hometown, you can elude your past, you can even run from your family and friends, but you cannot, no matter where you go or what you do, hide from yourself. Being on tour made me confront myself in ways that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, during the rest of the year.

After the 1997 Tour, I needed a break from the incessant world traveling – I also needed a job, so I settled down for a bit, focusing more on projects and writing and photography. Yet the call of the road came back as it always does, and in 2003 I headed out on The Talented Trickster Tour: Reflections of a Floating World. This time around the Tour Book was a project unto itself, with a cohesive theme, impressive presentation, and thought-provoking images. My touring process had also evolved – instead of ridiculously over-the-top costumes that more often than not resulted in horrified reactions from friends and gawking stares from strangers (in one case I was even mistaken for a clown in Ponderosa – I don’t know which was worse, the clown bit or the Ponderosa part, or the fact that the whole thing involved children), I dressed down (but still looked impeccable, thank you), which lent more focus to the Tour Book.

My most recent jaunt was The Divine Diva Tour: A Fairy’s Tale. Running for a full year (2005-2006), it also marked the turning point in production. No longer would the Tour Book be a containment of actual events I’d gone through, or a collection of photos of me and my friends – from here on out I would be an artist, and the tour book would be a piece of art, with me playing out different roles and images, employing a patently fictional narrative, and a protagonist who acted out all the edgy living that my real life could no longer handle. Finally, my art had become an outlet, and a healthy way to wrestle with the demons within the safe confines of a tour.

I harbor no illusions – this is still a grandly delusional gesture. All I do is go around, visit some friends, show off my Tour book, and call it a day. There are no tickets, there are no shows, there is no audience – but there is a belief in myself that comes about as a result from all this play, and there is a reality that somehow results from such earnest will.

Like all things whimsical and ephemeral, there is a limit on how long one can tour – even Cher and Tina seem to have recognized this – and in my case it’s even more tenuous, being that so much of my touring is grounded in make-believe. With that in mind, I have decreed that this one – A 21st Century Renaissance: The Resurrection Tour – will be my next-to-last tour ever.

By the time my seventh, and final, tour comes around in 2015 (yes, I have the dates set, and yes, I plan that far ahead), I’ll be turning 40 years old, and old enough to hang up my touring hats. That’s not for a while yet, and we haven’t even begun this one, but the clock is ticking, and that’s when things get good. (Of course, it should be noted that after her Blonde Ambition tour, Madonna quite earnestly stated she would never tour again. That was five tours ago.)

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