Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bucket List Item #182, checked off

My wife and I love the show Oddities on the Science Channel. For those who don't get the Science Channel, Oddities is a reality show that highlights the customers of and potential item sellers to an East Village antiques and oddities store called Obscura, which sells truly strange and interesting things. The show kind of revolves around customers either asking for specific items that the shop owners have to then try and find, or people coming in to try and sell odd items to the shop--sort of like Pawn Stars, but with WAY more embryonic mutants in jars. And usually the big reveal of whatever massively interesting thing they're about to show takes at least two commercial breaks and requisite cliff-hangers to actually get revealed.

Being a very odd place, Obscura attracts very odd people the likes of whom I haven't seen since my days working for the "liberry". Our favorite of the regular customers on the show, however, is a man named Edgar Oliver. He's an actor, poet and playwright who frequently visits the shop to pick up odd items for use in his plays or for decoration at his house. In manner, he comes across as not only very eccentric but as kind of an off hours version of a late night horror movie host, minus the ghoul makeup and with a bright and cheerful disposition. His real claim to fame on the show, however, is for his first appearance in which he was shown staring up in wide-eyed awe at an item on the wall of Obscura and uttering the now immortal phrase "Is that a... ssstraightjacket?" (See video.) His delivery of the line was too perfect. It utterly encapsulated his essence of joyous eccentricity in four simple words.

Now, allow me to be clear: while Edgar often seems to be in the market for items tinged with potential macabre, my wife and I do not find Edgar himself at all creepy, nor do we take any ironic or mean-spirited joy at his presence. We truly find him to be a hoot just as a person. We imagine that he's probably an extremely nice man. And beyond our love for the show itself, we adore episodes where he appears. We can't help but smile during the show's weekly opening, as Edgar's straightjacket footage is replayed and we have literally clapped our hands in glee when seeing him walk through the shop's door, cause Edgar always adds the right amount of odd spice to any given episode. (BTW, I now claim trademark on Odd Spice cologne. Smells like a dusty straightjacket with a hint of clove.)

The wife and I have long been discussing a potential trip to New York City, and within the past year we've stated that when we go we will have to swing by Obscura and pray it's on a day that Edgar is visiting. In our fantasy, he's there, it's lunchtime and we offer to take him out for a bite, just to chat and learn about his life, his work and absorb some of that Edgarocity. He'd be a fascinating figure beyond his Oddities appearances, as the man is an accomplished playwright and actor (even appearing in an odd little film that I enjoy called Gentleman Broncos). (YouTube also has quite a number of non-Oddities Edgar interviews and videos.)

Not long after our fantasy of My Dinner With Edgar began, I hit upon a Bucket List worthy idea.

"I want to see what Edgar's house looks like," I said.

Keep in mind, this was said months ago, as we were enjoying the last episodes of the first season of the show, as collected by our faithful DVR. The idea of getting a peak at Edgar's home, which you just knew would be a direct reflection of the man himself, was a truly delicious notion.

This week, we had that bucket list item come true.

No, alas, we didn't go to NYC, visit Obscurra, meet Edgar in person, have dinner with him, get invited back to his crib and get to tour its majesty ourselves, and have Edgar give us five monies. Instead, Edgar's house came to us via a recent sneak preview episode of the upcoming season of Oddities, again faithfully captured by our DVR. In this Edgar-filled episode, Edgar Oliver comes to the shop to inquire about the purchase of some scientific laboratory equipment--kind of mad-scientisty sort of stuff. Mike and Evan, the owners of the shop, go on a road trip to a medical equipment museum and buy some extras the place's owner had on hand. Then, instead of Edgar coming to the shop to look over the selection, Mike and Evan... GO TO EDGAR'S APARTMENT TO BRING THEM TO HIM!!!! When we saw that pre-commercial cliff-hanger, my wife and I could not have been more excited when we realized what we were about to see, and we couldn't fast forward through the commercials fast enough.

After the commercial, we eventually saw a shot of Mike and Evan standing outside of a plain apartment door, waiting for Edgar to open it from within. My wife and I steeled ourselves, bringing out hands up into prime gleeful clapping position. Then the door opened and we immediately saw that our assumption of what Edgar's apartment would look like--which is to say, wall to wall Addam's Family--was pretty far off the mark from its reality.

It was a perfectly nice apartment, tastefully appointed, clean and respectable with some wood paneling. There was not a hint of the macabre to be seen on first glance through the door. Nor, upon further glances as Evan and Mike were led into the apartment proper.

"Awww," we collectively said. The apartment could not have been more disappointing from our point of view. We wanted to see a place furnished floor to ceiling in all the strange and unusual items that Edgar has no doubt been purchasing from Obscura for decades. Instead, what we saw was a bright, clean and cheerful-looking apartment of modest size (though far larger than the typical one room NY efficiency apartment). Other than an interesting looking shelf, glimpsed at one point, there wasn't a stitch of the odd to be seen.

The Oddities crew showed Edgar the lab equipment they had found and he chose some pieces for it that fit in his stated budget. And then, as Evan noted, because he had only recently moved into this apartment, she gave him a housewarming present.

Wait, wait, wait? We collectively thought. This was a new apartment. That meant Edgar had previously had a different apartment. Immediately my mind began to blaze with possibilities. What event had caused Edgar to have to move? Did he need to move to less expensive digs? Was he evicted from a former place? Was the old place swallowed up by a dimensional vortex and sent to a hell-like realm after Edgar managed to summon the King of the Cabbage Demons during a wine-soaked evening drawing pentagrams with bone chalk? The possibilities! OH, THE POSSIBILITIES!

And, as it turns out, MY MIND WAS ON EXACTLY THE RIGHT TRACK. In fact, from the article linked here, the reality of Edgar's former home on East 10th Street, in New York's East Village, far outstrips anything I had come up with in my bucket list dream vision of what his place might be like. And it was a place populated not only by Edgar himself, but many other even stranger people, some of whom were frequently homicidal!!! The place sounds like the annex of an asylum, but it was a place Edgar loved dearly until he had to leave it. If you're an Oddities fan, a fan of Edgar, or just a fan of fascinating human beings, this is a must-read article. It offers more than a few hints as to how Edgar Oliver came to be so unique in outlook and manner. And there are other such articles to be found as well.

Now that I've freed up a space on the bucket list, I think its replacement shall have to be Seeing Edgar Oliver perform his one man play about that former home. Have to keep my ears peeled. That would no doubt be well worth a trip to the city. Until then, I'll have to make do with clips like this...


Phil said...

In case you do make that trip to New York, Obscura is in the East Village in Manhattan, down the street from where Edgar Oliver used to live. Although you'll find plenty of odd shops in Brooklyn if you look hard enough. I've seen Oddities a few times but I haven't checked out the store yet. I also need to visit the "Three Little Pigs" sandwich shop a block away, because their roast beef sandwiches look amazing.

Kandy said...

Edgar is my ultamite favorite! When he talk my heart literally skips with joy. Until typing in I love Edgar on the search engine , I thought that I was the only person who was fascinated beyond words by his demeanor. The first time I saw him was the straighyjacket episode. I was creeped out but to my surprise the feeling was abruptly replaced obsession. I yern to see a play of his that he's in so bad that I can taste it. I wish he had a show....