“Oh yeah. I'd hit that.”
Maya Topika Angelou, Esquire (1916 - 1967) - Arguably the most well known carnival stunt performer in all of Europe during the late 30s and 40s, Angelou actually began her career in Pender Falls, North Dakota under the supervision of her mentor and eventual partner Giolini Mostella. After a number of successful tours through various cities in the United States under the Flemming Bros. Circus tents, she and Mostella parted ways over the performance of a particularly complex and dangerous trick known as "The Black Carnation." It is rumored that after the split, Mostella burned the only notes regarding the act, and thus, it has not been performed since.
After the break, Angelous traveled to London and met her manager-to-be, Lord Mandrake. Mandrake, a carnival business veteran, began promoting Angelou's first critical success, the stage show "Mysterio in Flames." The elaborate work involved a number of dangerous props and in select performances, live animals. There was rumor of the show being redesigned for a Broadway run, but the production never materialized.
In 1909, Angelou enlisted in the Swiss Army but was not called for active duty. An account of her epic struggle with enlistment, alcoholism and parasailing were detailed in her autobiographical memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Took Up Racquetball.
After a dip in England's economy which decreased carnival patronage significantly, Maya Angelou was in desperate need of money. Midservice, she had been dishonorably discharged from the Swiss Army for using non-regulation pocket knives in combat training exercises. Living on a bench in Trafalgar Square, she began writing poems about the struggle of Swedish carnival performers in the modern era. The first volume of her literature was compiled and kept in a napsack as she embarked upon a expedition to Paris.
Once Maya arrived in France (on foot), she took her compilation to renowned publisher and purveyor of fine timepieces Julio Juanitono.
Juanitono took great interest in Angelou's work. According to his memoirs, Julio thought that "this young woman has great promise in the world of culinary arts." About her poetry, he remarked: "Well that actually really sucks terribly, but she's got a pretty nice body, so I'm willing to work with her a bit. Its not like anyone's ever going to read this crap anyway..."
Signing with Polygram Records
The success of Angelou's poetry shocked the entire globe. Considering that it was brash, unpolished, gritty and written in Sanskrit, no one could've predicted such a cultivated movement of support. Her fanbase quickly outgrew the reaches of France, spreading to Jamaica, Bahrain, and even Canada. Former United States president Thomas E. Dewey was reportedly a well-versed Angelou fan.
With her popularity at its height, A&R representatives from several major record labels began recruiting Angelou for a career as a record mixing engineer. As one rep from Decca Records put it: "If Angelou has the ability to move the masses through her artistic use of the Sanskrit language, it stands to reason that she'd be able to move the masses from behind a large-format mixing console. Infoulable logic prevailed once again.
Angelou engineered much of Barry Gordy's original Motown recordings, working on sessions for The Commodores, Pat Boone, and El DeBarge, all of which yeilded Top 40 radio hits. Her accomplishments as an engineer, paired with the multiple bodily injuries (generally linked to her on-again-off-again involvement with producer Phil Spector) led to a Purple Heart of Valor from the Audio Engineering Society. Angelou was also awarded several gold records for her accomplishments. According to her autobiography, "[t]hey make great serving plates for special occasions."
The "Play Free Verse!" World Tour
Twelve years after producing Pink Floyd's epic concept album Houses of the Holy, Angelou was living in the lap of financial stability. She'd curtailed a long-fought battle against alcoholism and was enjoying the sauce regularly, making her a much happier, more fun person to be around. She had friends, a beautiful house with a rose bush, and a goldfish named Gloria. It was at this point that she knew the only logical next step in life was to embark on a worldwide stadium free verse poetry tour.
Angelou recruited some of the top poets in the land to accompany her on the tour to end all poetry tours for future generations, including T.S. Eliot, Abigail Hoffman, and Isaac from The Love Boat. The tour, produced by Live Nation, consisted of 56 venues over an 80-day itinerary. Most major venues in the United States, Europe, and Australia were covered. Punch and pie were served.
The tour was widely successful, except for the 12 South American dates. According to first-hand accounts, tour manager Franklin Benedict hadn't realized that the region was already double-booked; as such, Angelou's poetry tour shared the stage with Iron Maiden's Rock in Rio tour for those performances. Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson called the dates "the strangest mixed bill I've ever worked."
It is rumored that the song Free Bird by ZZ Top was inspired by this tour, when front man ZZ was smoking Bhutani opium during guest poet Billy Collins' set. During an improvised poetic jam session, Collins went into a Gregorian vocalization ensamble, backed only by the masterful bongo drumming of "Wild" Willie Montgomery. After 15 minutes of crazy word-bending, face-melting poetic expression, one crowd member stood up and shouted "Damn it Collins, you're blowin' my mind! This is too crazy man!"
Due to her 1962 involvement with the Weather Underground, Angelou is widely believed to be a radical Democrat. This is not the case. In an interview with Artillery and Ammo Magazine, Angelou vocally opposed the values of the Weathermen, claiming that though she did not share their values, she "just really liked to blow shit up."
In reality, Angelou is a supporter of the even more idiotic Green Party. Go figure. Like all ranked Green Party members, Angelou took the entire year of 1978 off, opting to tour Tibet and study the Dalai Lama. Because of her pilgrimage, Angelou's entire body of work has been banned in mainland China (though it is widely circulated via black market poetry trading rings).
After seeing the world, producing hit records, and snorting pure cocaine off a stripper's ass while parasailing, Angelou decided she needed a challenge. She took up with Jake "The Raging Bull" LaMotta in an attempt to launch a successful career as a female boxer. Unfortunately, her career ambitions were almost immediately crushed when the existence of one Tatiana Ali was brought to her attention.
Realizing the world had little use for more than one female boxer, Angelou hung up her gloves and went back to poetry.
Like most ethnic performers of the era, Angelou had to endure the horrible truths of racism in the entertainment industry. Angelou revealed in her 1973 autobiography Touch Me Special (written by author Walter Parmin), that at one point she was receiving hatemail nearly every day, mostly from anti-Korean militants. Angelou took the hatemail in stride however, stating:
|I always thought the anti-Korean hatemail was funny, being that I'm not even Korean! It did hurt a bit though, being that I've always been so proud of my Swedish ancestry, and I've always tried to represent that to the fullest extent possible.
Another well-publicized bout with over racial and ethnical conduct was waged by the four surviving ancestors of Mexico's indiginous Mayan people. The quartet, commonly known as The Brothers (and One Sister) of Mother Maya charged that Angelou had no right to claim "Maya" as a first name due to her "wild, unabashed disregard for the Mayan people or their culture." In her famous, public rebuttal Angelou stated:
|Mayans? What are they, like, Indians or something?