A Beautiful Mind

Say “rah” with DNA@shocking.com
I just worked with Wesley Willis for the third time. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, he is a 300-pound man who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic and discovered by Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedy fame and given a recording contract. Since that time, Wesley has released three albums, done countless tours and has mounted several well-received art shows. The last two tours were trying experiences, as the bands that were to be his support, hosts, chaperones, guardians and friends seemed unable to provide the care that such a big man with such defined problems obviously needs. Wesley’s frame is so large from the waist up that, while sitting in a Ford Econoline van, he must tilt sideways to fit. Imagine traveling like that for two weeks and over 3000 miles with six other people and a van full of music equipment.

Some bands that took on Willis, who was the star attraction, weren’t so nice. Promising him 50 percent of receipts, they would leave him with only 5 percent. One band that played Chico before left him in a rat-infested warehouse while they went out and partied. I guess he cramped their style. Willis likes to hit himself. Anyone who sees him notices a large welt in the middle of his forehead. He also likes to head-butt strangers.

Once, while he was hitting himself, I grabbed his hand. He looked at me with watery black eyes and said, “The voices in my head tell me to kill people, but I don’t because I’m a rock star.” I immediately bought two CDs I already had. I figured I was saving lives.

So it was with shock that I saw Willis pull up last week in a full-fledged, mural-painted tour bus. Turns out the bus driver, Tal, is a saint. He owns not only the rig he’s driving, but several others as well. Having driven rock bands around for years (Korn), he’s made his money. Now he’s concerned about Willis. Tal is officially Willis’ caretaker; they share an apartment in Chicago, and Tal manages Willis’ affairs, including his soon to be up and running www.wesleywillis.com. Tal has had a hand in changing Willis’ medication around, curbing his need for self-inflicted wounds and reducing the amount of voices in his head to one.

I cannot stress how beautiful I find the heart of one who takes on the problems of another. Tal emphatically told a fan at the show that it was all about Wesley, and while this is true, I give the Genetic Strand Award of Rock Star this month to Tal—bus driver, showman and damn nice guy!DNA@shocking.com