SlackSubGenius interview for Gray Areas, Page 1
from GRAY AREAS magazine
Rev. Ivan Stang interviewed by Netta Gilboa
What is the Church of the SubGenius?
That is a damned good question. Weıre still trying to figure that one out,
ourselves. A lot depends on who is asking. The Church wears many hats; it
has to, just to survive, since it doesnıt really fit into any one known
genre or category, and it infuriates devotees of MANY known genres,
categories and denominations.
Hereıs what we tell people:
In 1953, the holy salesman ³Bob² Dobbs discovered that there was a
Conspiracy of Normal Humans insidiously robbing away the Slack of the
SubGeniuses (the abnormals and nonhuman bipeds) and repressing their vital
powers of abnormality their Slack. In response, Dobbs created this
disorganized religion although he didnıt go public with it until 1980,
when he thought the world might be ready for it. It was a ³cult² for
mutants, misfits, disbelievers, and those whoıd believe anything... a
fellowship for gimps, perverts, dope addicts, hippies, those who still read
books, sex fiends, victimless criminals, and all the for-real, down home
people... the SubGenii: those who look, but arenıt, human. And,
unfortunately (at least until some rich sucker becomes our ³sugar-daddy²),
this has to include numberless slogan-spouting, immature, obnoxious nerds,
fanboys and geeks for without them, we wouldnıt even break even.
To some people the Church is salvation. Seriously. They honestly say that
just knowing that the Church EXISTED AT ALL saved them from suicide. To
others itıs just a really good joke, though an endlessly complex one. To
others, itıs a really bad joke, and to yet others itıs a dangerous cult,
potentially right up there with the Branch Davidians, the Satanists, the
Masons and the Southern Baptists. They think weıre some kind of devil
worshippers, even though we donıt even believe in the Devil. The overly
politically correct sometimes think weıre not good, politically correct
warriors against the establishment, because our stuff is funny and takes
vicious swipes at all who are most certain their cause is the morally right
one. Others especially doctors and lawyers seem to know professional
bull-slinging when they see it, and enjoy that aspect of it. So itıs a
What-Is-It. ³Is it an actual anti-human hate trip, or a trenchant,
sophisticated comment on racism and extremism in general? The ultimate hate
group, or the ultimate brutal slamming of all hate groups?²
At least we donıt hate minorities. We only hate the majority the NORMALS.
We proclaim how tolerant we are of everything weird, different, fringe, and
shunned, and then turn around and advocate enslaving all Normals the
Mediocretins, the Pink Boys, the Barbies and Kens, the Box Dwellers. (After
all, theyıve already enslaved themselves under the money-grubbing
Conspiracy anyway.) This proves that we embody the first principle of any
successful religion: hypocrisy.
For artists, itıs a great vehicle for collaboration with other talented
sickos; Dobbs created a wonderful framework on which one can hang almost
anything, a skeleton that anybody can help flesh out. Itıs a hell of an
excuse for pranks on the straight-laced. Our first and only real rule is,
³F- em if they canıt take a joke.² (Or in more polite terms, ³Let them
mount up upon themselves, if they cannot see the humour in it.²)
Those who think itıs some kind of sexy, primitive fertility cult, a
throw-back to Paleolithic days, using the underground art scene as an
excuse, are probably closer to the truth than anybody else.
There really is a Conspiracy of Normals, though, and we ALL definitely need
more Slack. Let there be no doubt about that.
How is it different from other churches?
All the rest are liars. We are liars too, for sure, but weıre the only ones
that are halfway honest about our lying. We come right out and admit all
the things the other churches wonıt say: that weıre in it for the money,
that God isnıt actually paying any attention (although ³Bob² will, if you
pay him enough money, and all kinds of fake Gods will, if you pay them much
attention), that all organized religion is based on the ³US VERSUS THEM²
hate concept. The bottom line for other religions (and philosophies, and
political parties) is: ³Weıre right, God said so, and everything different
from us is BAD.² The Conspiracy religions depend on the fear and hatred of
anything different. We rejoice in the different.ı Itıs going to take
something very differentı to get this overpopulated planet out of the mess
itıs in. Not necessarily US but weıre helping to pave the way, to help
see that this new ³something² isnıt burned at the stake like Martin Luther
King Jr., Wilhelm Reich or JFK. Not to mention poor olı Jim Jones, David
Koresh and Charlie Manson!
We donıt kill people for not agreeing with our religion. We donıt shoot
abortionists in the back. We never burned anybody at the stake.
But weıre hoping to change all that.
Our marriages last only for set, limited periods of time, not for life. We
donıt preach that women are inferior creatures like dogs; in fact, we
question whether dogs are inferior creatures. We believe in the womanıs
right to terminate a pregnancy up to the 15th year after conception. Weıre
the only ones getting the REAL messages from REAL gods, aliens, demons, and
The Church doesnıt bring weirdos together for one unified cause, it only
lets them know that each other exist, and we encourage them to keep coming
up with their own, NEW causes. Weıre not looking for people who are
³like-minded.² By definition, SubGenii are all such charactersı that they
drive each other crazy if they hang out together for long. We encourage
heresy and schisms.
I could be cute here and insist that every aspect of the Church is dead
serious, but, letıs face it... wouldnıt any proper satire or dopey parody
worth its salt say the same thing? Why canıt we be both? I might tell a
newspaper reporter one thing about the Church, my radio audience another,
and a cop yet another. ³Yes, sir, officer, weıre just comedians. All these
AK-47s are just PROPS for our SHOW.² ³Those mental illnesses and diseases?
Thatıs just part of the satire, your honor.² ³Oh, weıre just making an
anti-drug video, Mister Policeman!² ³Oh, but itıs not pornography, maıam
Who is J.R. ³Bob² Dobbs?
Dobbs was originally a regular joe albeit one with superhuman powers of
salesmanship who happened to have been contacted by alien gods, and
subsequently became a major mover and shaker in the upper reaches of the
Conspiracy (the Trilateral Commission, CFR, Illuminati etc.). Infiltrating,
he learned Their ropes, and now is blowing the whistle on Them because he
thinks Slack is more important than anything else even money. (Easy for
him to say; heıs richer than Perot.) Dobbs is so surrealistically normal
that heıs totally abnormal, and he opens his arms to the weirdos, rebels
and perverts, striving to empower them while incidentally getting them to
pay to know what they really think.
Being a specific, historically accurate being, ³Bob² can be copyrighted,
whereas guys like Jesus and Muhammad canıt. Thus thereıs less chance that
³Bobıs² message will be garbled and twisted. Unlike them, he understands
advertising. He developed his own marketing strategy and didnıt have to
leave it to a bunch of embittered, antisocial follower-geeks. His is a
Dobbs tends to speak in pithy slogans. Examples: ³Youıll pay to know what
you really think.² ³Too much is always better than not enough.² ³Pull the
wool over your own eyes and relax in the safety of your own delusions.²
³If you act like a dumbshit, theyıll treat you as an equal.² ³I donıt
practice what I preach, because Iım not the kind of person Iım preaching
What is ³Slack?²
What you donıt have enough of. What nobody has enough of. What They didnıt³cut² you some of. Those who say donıt know, and those who know donıt say
as the Hells Angels said, which leads one to wonder why they, or I, said it
in the first place.
Slack is basically Something for Nothing, perfect luck, achievement without
ability. Itıs like the Tao. Itıs nothing and everything. Mostly,
everything. Everyone was born with Original Slack, but the Conspiracy of
the Normals programs you to replace it with False Slack like lame
counterfeit SubGenius imitation albums, say, or (much more frequently)
nerve-wracking jobs to pay for fancy gizmos and high status among the other
Cage Men. The Conspiracy is a confederacy of dunces who donıt even know
theyıre wrecking their own freedom by squelching everybody elseıs.
Is the Church tax exempt?
I wish! Unfortunately for we who keep his books, Dobbs refuses not to pay
taxes. He strongly believes that the people should not have to subsidize
religions they might not happen to believe in. He calls this ³the worldıs
first Industrial Church.² The fact that the IRS would never grant us
tax-exempt status has nothing to do with his idealistic yearnings.
How did the Church start? How does it get the word out to people?
PreScripture says the Church began in 1953 when J. R. ³Bob² Dobbs, while
experimenting with a home-made TV set and standing in a puddle of water,
was EMACULATED by JHVH-1, the alien Space God from some corporate Sin
Galaxy, and conceived this Church. Others say it really began the first
time two rascally kids ³cut up² in church, when they were supposed to be
acting pious. Real heretics say it started when my partner, Dr. Philo
Drummond, discovered that I, too, collected kook literature, and we pooled
our resources to create, for mercenary purposes only, the final synthesis
of all end-times prophecy, from all crazed religious nuts, true
visionaries, science fiction writers and bad monster movies.
The first statement is the only factual one. It is true that Dr. Drummond
and I have engineered Dobbsı public outreach; we make no bones about it,
and weıre happy to wallow in any due credit for that. However, before Dobbs
came along, we were NOTHING. We were less than nothing, before ³Bob²
revealed himself to us.
My job, as Sacred Scribe, is not only to make sure that ³Bobıs² teachings
get spread far and wide, and to recruit the best possible talents for doing
so, but to protect ³Bobıs² style from being watered down and cutesie-fied.
We will do ANYTHING to protect ³Bobıs² good name. Weıll tell people
anything they want to hear. Weıll even say he doesnıt exist, if thatıs what
it takes to insure his privacy and Slack.
Under Dobbsı direction, Philo and I started the ministry out modestly, with
small instant-print pamphlets that we left around in public places like
laundromats and dentistsı offices, for the unsuspecting to peruse and mull
over. To our surprise, but not Dobbsı, people responded in droves to the
offer of a $10 SubGenius newsletter subscription. That meant we had to
actually produce that newsletter, which grew into a 120-plus-page yearly
journal called The Stark Fist of Removal. We created a bunch of printed
ad-sheets full of slogans with our address attached, and, lo and behold,
punk fanzines started printing our ads for free. This material attracted
the attention of a few workers in ³underground cartoonist² culture (such as
Paul Mavrides, who fished Pamphlet #1 out of the trash at Rip Off Press),
and the printed Word started spreading on its own, not unlike a virus.
SubGenius ³clenches² started springing up here and there, and the Pamphlet
was reprinted in magazines like Heavy Metal and R. Crumbıs Weirdo. A fellow
Dallasite, John Hagen-Brenner, approached us and ended up designing much of
the early clip-style artwork for which the Church is known.
Under Dobbsı guidance, and being a professional film editor in my day
job,ı I started editing together bits and pieces from my collection of
oddball records, soundtracks and personal recordings into an audio tape
collection that later became part of the Media Barrage series. In 1981,
weird tape collage was a largely unknown thing. But, we swiftly learned, we
werenıt the only ones appropriating and rearranging clip-art and clip-tape.
A few people started sending us challenging tapes, most importantly the
individual now known as ³Puzzling Evidence² (now co-host with Dr. Hal
Robins of the reknowned KPFA-Berkeley SubGenius radio show). He was a major
inspiration, the master of creative tape-cutting. We worked his stuff into
ours, and this combination sufficiently intrigued others until there was a
whole network of independent tape arteests circulating über-edited tape
compositions among each other, all praising (or hating) DOBBS and his Word.
A critical juncture occured when the anti-music band of radical reactionary
³punk² rednecks, Drs. for ³Bob² (previously the owner and employees of
Little Rockıs only health food store, Beans N Grains N Things) started
trading hell-noise/Dobbs-rant tapes with us. They became perhaps the most
influential non-Dallas SubGenius coven or ³clench², due to the sheer
brazenness, creativity, and offensiveness of their so-called ³work.² An
unholy triumvirate formed between Dallas, San Francisco and Little Rock.
Up until this point, it had all been guerilla art and mail-order. But we
started holding Conventions, Conclaves and Devivals, allowing personal
contact with the unusual sorts of people who were drawn to Dobbsı Word. The
personal contact aspect was my bailiwick; in fact it became my job. This
real-life activity put us in contact with such persons as G. Gordon Gordon,
a professional mercenary and expatriate living then in Bolivia, who had
plenty of time to research the more esoteric aspects of Dobbs prophecy, as
well as to coordinate the ³security² aspects of the Church.
We had submitted a query regarding THE BOOK OF THE SUBGENIUS to 150
publishers. We got 150 rejection slips. But one day, young McGraw-Hill
editor Tim McGinnis found Pamphlet #1 in the back seat of my
sister-in-lawıs car. In the name of the Conspiracy, he made us an offer, we
got an agent (Jane Jordan Browne of Chicago), and, many months later, THE
BOOK OF THE SUBGENIUS was published. The snowball began to gather momentum,
albeit very gradually. SubGenius preachers such as myself and the dynamic
Pope David N. Meyer found ourselves sermonizing in art museums and
nightclubs; some people were convinced this was all just ³art.² Indeed, the
mavens of performance art in L.A. adopted us as savage prodigies from the
hinterlands. At this time, around 1983 and 1984, we were what might be
called ³darlings of the underground²... just another part of the cultural
freak-show. We were horrified, as we were SUPPOSED to be inundating the
entire globe, willing or unwilling, with the teachings of ³Bob², causing
riots and earthquakes, not amusing artsy-fartsy analysts of pop culture.
But we persevered. The riches that Dobbs had promised us had not
materialized, but we were UNDAUNTED. We tried to push the Church further
into the mainstream, starting with network radio, but we were laughed at
(or less). Luckily, the local Dallas independent, public-supported hippie
leftist radio station, KNON, saw merit in our audio work, and the radio
show THE HOUR OF SLACK was born. Puzzling Evidence, Gary GıBroagfran and
Dr. Hal Robins already had a SubGenius radio show at KPFA in Berkeley, and
recordings from that were a mainstay of HOUR OF SLACK. Soon, I was
benefitting from the audio contributions of ALL SUBGENIUSES and SUBGENIUS
SYMPATHIZERS, and Hour of Slack gradually got picked up by other stations.
We preached at more and more nightclubs and art museums, and I began work
on the SubGenius video extravaganza, ARISE, co-editing with Rev. Cordt
Holland of San Francisco. ARISE, half Devival footage and half appropriated
video clips, embodied the fair useı concept of copyright taken to its
ultimate logical conclusion. It is now available at any Sound Warehouse on
THE BOOK OF THE SUBGENIUS switched publishers from McGraw-Hill, who had
stupidly wasted the meager p.r. money on yuppie college students, to Simon
& Schuster, who wisely marketed it to ANYBODY CRAZY. I was commissioned to
do a second, ³safer² book, High Weirdness By Mail, a nonfiction overview of
all rival cults and extremists, from UFO nuts to white supremacists to the
sickest in underground magazines. Meanwhile, we were getting invited to
more club dates for preaching, and more radio stations were running The
Hour of Slack.
Meanwhile, the real-life, street-level aspects of the Church were flaring
far out of our control, or Dobbsı. People were standing on car hoods,
ranting, all over the country. Heinous pranks against God, state and church
were being performed in every city. A kind of small SubGenius subculture
developed, embodied at the so-called ³Dokstok² gatherings in the deep
South, which were like Woodstock on acid, and then on acid again. The Merry
Pranksters of Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test fame had finally found someone to
carry the tablets. Things that happened at the Dokstoks eclipse the
weirdness embodied in all rock festivals, pagan gatherings, witch circles,
and ³raves² combined. Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix would have been
impressed at the levels of illuminated partying occuring among what had
previously been disconsolate rednecks in the most ignored places of
When home computers became popular, various SubGenius BBS nets started up.
We edited another book for Simon and Schuster, Three Fisted Tales of ³Bob,²
which was an anthology of short stories about Dobbs for which we recruited
such luminaries as William Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson. Even MTV got
into the act, paying us to produce a ³commercial² for ourselves as one of
their ³In Your Eye² Art Breaks.
And still we were making no real money, even off of our mail-order
operation. Dobbs must have been intercepting most of it.
In 1990 I was invited to preach at a huge neo-Pagan gathering called
Starwood in rural New York, sponsored by Ohioıs Association for
Consciousness Exploration (or A.C.E., of Cleveland). Repeated subsequent
Devivals in this Pagan milieu, combined with a particularly disgusting and
sexist Stark Fist issue, somehow prompted a whole new breed of SubGenius
preachers to come into existence: WOMEN. It seemed the Goddess liked ³Bob²
or maybe just Connie, Dobbsı Primary Wife. SubGenius Devivals began to
take on a more rave-like, sensuous aspect, with shows in trendy clubs like
Clevelandıs Smart Bar being preached by stripper-preachers like Sister
Mary2 Au Contraire (our new superstar), the balladeer Sister Melodious
Chopps, Rev. Velveteen Sly and the bump-and-grind Rev. Suzy the Floozy.
Membership rose, in a couple of different ways.
Then came the counterfeiters, rip-offs and Slack Vampires, but weıll get
to those later.
How many members do you have?
There are now approximately 6,000 of the $20 Ordained
Ministers/Subscribers. Our three books have sold from 15,000 to 45,000
copies, depending on when they were published (they have slow but steady
sales, and are all still in print). Weıve printed about 50,000 of those
little $1 pamphlets. So I would estimate the total number of people who
CALL themselves SubGeniuses, but are leery of sending the $20, at around 30
or 40 thousand maybe, tops. Who knows? Of course, most of the True SubGenii
on the planet havenıt even heard of ³Bob² or the Church yet.
Keep in mind that SubGeniuses come in all types. There is no typicalı
SubGenius. The geeky so-called Bobbies arenıt real SubGenii, just money
sources. In my networking and travels I encounter little old ladies,
college kids, seemingly straight businesspersons, skatepunks, old hippies,
doctors, artists and show-biz types, truck drivers, Pagans, Deadheads, FBI
and ATF infiltrators... it really runs the gamut as far as age, race,
creed, etc. There are even Christian SubGeniuses, Orthodox Jewish SubGenii,
and Buddhist SubGenii. I donıt know of any Moslem SubGeniuses. There are
SubGenii in Brazil, Israel, Kenya, The Peopleıs Republic of China, and all
over Europe and the English-speaking world in general.
The Church itself is all people who study and support the teachings of J.R.
³Bob² Dobbs. Many such people are technically SubGeniuses, but not ordained
Members. Anybody can read our book and then say they are members of the
Church. That wonıt do you much good, however, compared to what happens when
you send in your $20 for an official ordainment which is a real
ordainment, by the way; youıll be a real minister, able to perform legal
marriages and start getting your Stark Fist journal in the mail. The
magazine tells you about local SubGenius types you might want to meet, sell
things to, or have sex with or whatever; you also learn which nearby
stations carry the radio show, when revivals are coming up, etc. At that
point youıre dealing with The SubGenius Foundation, Inc., a business which
is the only authorized mass outreach arm of the Church, and which is run by
me. There is a reason for the Church to have such a business front
without it, any idiotic TV executive could start making bad ³wacky
SubGenius² sitcoms about ³Bob,² which would instantly destroy the integrity
of ³Bobıs² message. (Itıs been tried.) Not to mention that none of the
people whoıve worked so hard for the Church all these years would ever see
any of the money. At least, as long as the trademark stays in our hands,
they get some meager pittance. Thatıs better than nothing, and infinitely
better than seeing the Church coopted by Hollywood.
Our next big project will be an album or a series of albums, and after
that, a movie. The problem is that we have to tenaciously hang onto
creative control. The second some L.A./Hollywood ad-boy committee gets hold
of this thing, itıll be ruined. We have learned our lessons from our
predecessors John Kicfallusi, creator of Ren and Stimpy, would be a
Who are some of the more prestigious SubGenius Members?
Our idea of prestige, or Theirs? I consider the unknown Arkansas preacher
Janor Hypercleats one of our most valued contributors. But his name doesnıt
drop well in polite society. Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO is probably the most
famous frequent SubGenius collaborator. One of my partners and practically
a co-founder, Paul Mavrides, has lately been starting to get the
recognition he deserves. He designs our books, and generally polices my
tendency to get all sappy and sentimental. Heıs best known for comics like
The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Anarchy, but his paintings and
³serious² art are getting more and more attention. Other artists and
weirdos who are famous and happen to also be SubGenius ministers include
the painters Robert Williams and Gary Panter; cartoonists R. Crumb, Gilbert
Shelton, the late Rick Griffin, and many more; movie directors Jonathan
Demme and Mike ³Wizard of Speed and Time² Jittlov; counterculture heroes
Ken Kesey, Pee Wee Herman and Timothy Leary; philosopher Robert Anton
Wilson, and ³cyberpunk² writers like Rudy Rucker, John Shirley, and Lewis
Shiner; David Ossman of The Firesign Theater... A lot of the SubGenius
³celebs² are secretly famous that is, theyıre worshipped in their odd
field: Michael Peppe the performance artist, for instance, or Winston Smith
the collage guy. We and the ³band² Negativland have been scratching each
otherıs backs for 10 years. There really hasnıt been much serious rock star
or movie star interest. David Byrne was a dues-paying Sub for awhile but
drifted away. In rare cases Iıll go out of my way to try to recruit a
fringe rock star... I failed with Oingo Boingo (Elfman doesnıt answer mail,
probably the key to his success), but succeeded with the Rainmakers who
subsequently broke up, damn it.
What type of mail do you get?
We get roughly 20 pieces a day, ranging from wonderful through really
bizarre to really awful. My favorite, of course, are the money orders from
fanatical customers. Next best are the tapes, art and written pieces from
people who are about to be, or deserve to be, famous heretofore
little-known bands like The Swinging Love Corpses of St. Louis, or artists
like Joe Schwind. We get some absolutely mind-blowing unsolicited
contributions of this nature. Then there are those who say to themselves,
³Oh, they guys think theyıre so weird, eh? Well, Iıll show em WEIRD²...
and they send things like blood and skin, or photos of the Dobbs art
theyıve had tattooed onto their bodies. Just today I got a package
containing the leftovers of some weird occult ritual -- a black hood, an
envelope of ashes, a vial of sperm, and a blood-soaked letter in an unknown
tongue. We also get long ³confessions² from mutants some of these folks
spill their guts out to ³Bob² or whoever is reading the mail (usually me),
and the stories they tell can be pretty damn strange, or heart-wrenching.
Thereıs a lot of loneliness out there. So-called ³crackpots² and ³kooks²
send us a lot of information on alternative medicine, conspiracy exposés,
etc. The only ³bad² mail we get are unfunny jokes from Bobbies, and
complaints about our mail-order slowness. (Usually, itıs the Post Officeıs
The Church is anti-drugs. Why? What if your Members use drugs anyway?
Huh? We said that? Oh yeah, right, I forgot, thereıs a War on Drugs on.
Even if we were gobbling vast quantities of LSD every other weekend, and
dancing naked around bonfires and participating in glorious orgies, do you
think weıd tell YOU??
Actually, weıre not anti-drug; weıre against the stupid use of drugs.
Especially the stupid use of stupid drugs (like speed, alcohol or MTV).
Probably even the stupid use of ³smart drugs.²
Itıs not that weıre against drugs, itıs just that we think they arenıt
usually NECESSARY. ³Bob² should be enough. Then again, having arms and legs
isnıt absolutely NECESSARY, and quite frankly, ³Bob² ISNıT always enough.
He goes pretty well with psychedelics, apparently. From what Iıve been
TOLD, you understand. A HELL of a lot of SubGeniuses are dedicated drug
users, but itıs almost always soft drugsı like marijuana and other
psychedelics. Hard drugs like booze, coke, TV... well, as ³Bob² says, ³If
you canıt get real Slack, False Slack is better than none at all.² The
problem with drugs is, humans get hold of them and abuse them. Pinks like
to get real drunk, drive real fast and do violence. We like to get real
stoned, think real fast, and do sex. Thatıs the difference. We think all
victimless crimes ought to be legalized, at least for SubGeniuses.
Offhand, why, I can think of several SubGeniuses who donıt take drugs.
People tend to assume that what ³Bob² has in his Pipe is marijuana.
Usually, heıs smoking the sacred Tibetan herb, Habafropzipulops, or Frop
for short, which grows only on the graves or droppings of dead Tibetan holy
men or fullblood Yetis. Itıs a rare but legal herb, and you NEVER come down
from it. Whatıs ironic is that the term Frop has lately become a slang
term for marijuana, even among people who never heard of Dobbs. And the
Feds have already caught on, incidentally; the handbook for the New Jersey
state highway cops instructs them that a ³Bob² bumper sticker is reasonable
cause to stop and search a car for drugs. Honest!
(Similarly, I sometimes see our jargon used by people who donıt know
anything about the Church... words like, ³Pinks² and ³bulldada.² It feels
good to know that one has contributed something new to the English
10. What sort of problems has the Church run into with blasphemy?
None. Weıre all for it. Oh, you mean problems from others. Weıve had
disappointingly little hate-mail or bomb threats. Believe it or not,
blaspheming is not yet illegal in this country, as long as you donıt use
FCC-disapproved curse words. I do know that some ³cult watchdogs² like the
Cult Awareness group try to warn people away from the Church because they
say itıs now a full-fledged ³cult,² just like the Branch Davidians. But
theyıre all so timid... Christian talk-show host Bob Larson occasionally
lambasts us as one of the Devilıs more subtle ploys, but I donıt blame him;
SubGeniuses are constantly pranking the guy. Down at the KNON radio
station, where we do Hour of Slack live, we get the rare bomb threat, but
the people who call those in are so self-evidently braindead that we donıt
even bother to call the cops about it anymore.
Weıve had a lot more problems from white supremacists than from any regular
run-of-the-mill Christians. Maybe itıs because the Christians see that we
are the ³mockers² foretold for the End Times, and are just doing our part
to fulfill Biblical prophecy. Weıve always said we were trying to ³undo²
the buckle of the Bible Belt, so that its pants would drop and it would be
forced to gaze, unflinching, on its own private desires; maybe they LIKE
I know lots of people who are harassed by religious nuts, though. Iıve
become very sensitive to making sure, in my critiques of goofy cults, to
separate Wiccans and Druids and suchlike Pagan types from Satanism. I
consider the Satanism hysteria to be a very dangerous outgrowth of
fundamentalist Christianity, based almost entirely on their own paranoia
and self-delusions. Especially when COPS, who should know better, fall for
this ³Satanic cults² garbage.
What about problems with the IRS?
Of course, any dealings by anyone with the IRS are always nightmarish. They
have never paid much attention to The SubGenius Foundation, Inc., per se,
because a quick scan of our bank records would tell the whole sad story. I,
personally, as an individual, was audited in 1983 and 1984, and it caused
me the worst headache I ever had in my life, but because I kept books so
badly they decided I owed them taxes on money I never made but I donıt
really think I was being targeted due to my SubGenius activity. Itıs just
that I was claiming ³office in the home,² and when you try to claim that,
their computers send them after you. (In the end, they decided that,
although I did all my work at home, I didnıt make enough money to qualify
my home as an ³office.²) Since then, even though I have the most legitimate
claim for ³office in the home² in the world, I have never claimed it;
theyıd just audit me again, and nothingıs worth that headache.
Itıs probably just a coincidence that my partner, Dr. Philo Drummond, was
audited the same years.
If you want to hear tax nightmares, check out Paul Mavrides. Heıs had the
feds and the State of California both coming down on him like a relentless
hammer for several years now. He insists that itıs not because heıs one of
the most virulent critics of the government and the Conspiracy, but merely
that they want every dime they can possibly get out of every cartoonist in
the U.S., starting with him.
You see, we have to fight paranoia. We have to pretend our phones arenıt
bugged and our tiny bank accounts arenıt monitored by the Feds or the CIA
or whoever; otherwise weıd go NUTS weıd be right where they want us. Just
because we wonıt let up on this silly ³JFK assassination² thing or this
³Iran/Contra² thing... I mean, if you start thinking that Theyıre after
you, you get REALLY paranoid.
Personally, I believe that my lackadaisical attitude and lack of real
paranoia has made me immune to harassment by UFOs, Men in Black, the
C.I.A., the N.S.A., etc. I tell myself that, CONSTANTLY. Those buzzes and
clicks on my phone, and the ones in my head, are JUST TECHNICAL PROBLEMS,
THATıS ALL!!! REALLY!!!!
Copyright 1997 by Rev. Ivan Stang / 1st Orthodox Stangian
MegaFisTemple Lodge of People's Covenant Church of the
Wrath of Dobbs Yeti, Resurrected / The SubGenius Foundation,Inc.
PO Box 140306 Dallas TX 75214 / Fax 214-320-1561 / PRABOB
http://www.subgenius.com -- SubSITE of SlackWhat has the Church trademarked?
The Face of Dobbs. That graphic. Thatıs all we really need. No ³Church of
the SubGenius² rip-offs could possibly survive without that Face. The
classic portrait of ³Bob² is what justifies and legitimizes literally
everything else we do.
All of our individual works are copyrighted, of course, usually in the
names of SubGenius Foundation and the participants. In other words, if some
Conspiracy T-shirt company wanted to make shirts out of some SubGenius
slogan or illustration, theyıd have to have permission both from us and
from that particular artist, and royalties would be divied up 50-50 the
Itıs a shame that we have to be sticklers for Conspiracy legalities but
itıs necessary, not only to prevent thievery from ourselves, but also from
our innocent contributors. Look at Robert Crumb out of idealism, he never
copyrighted his ³Keep On Truckinı² illustrations, and hippie capitalists
made zillions off of bumperstickers of those drawings. I know that Crumb
could have used that money when HE was being pestered by the IRS.
Personally, for a number of reasons, I would love to be rich or famous
enough to leave the U.S. and go live somewhere that I wouldnıt constantly
be harassed by minor government officials a place where I could BUY OFF
those officials, REAL CHEAP. Itıs depressing to me to have to think that
way, because Iım a patriot after a fashion... I mean, Iıd rather stay in my
country and help improve it. And Iım acutely aware that this is practically
the only nation on the planet where I could get away with broadcasting The
Hour of Slack in 17 cities. But the way they drain tax money even from a
poverty-stricken wretch like me, and the uses to which that money is put,
are enough to make one yearn for a nice corrupt Central American state.
Also, the crime here gets on my nerves. The really hideous thing is, in
most other countries, itıs a hundred times WORSE. Maybe not so many
gun-slinging murderers, but every other kind of crime. I used to be for
total gun control; I still think there should be a 7-day waiting period,
but after the latest few neighborhood robberies and the Branch Davidians
debacle in nearby Waco, I am starting to feel like Iıd better cling
tenaciously to my right to bear arms. BIG arms. Itıs almost like,
worldwide, thereıs this feeling of ³every man for himself.² And I really
hate that feeling.
What sort of problems has the Church run into over the years with charlatans?
Well, you know, when you get right down to it, weıre ALL charlatans. You
wouldnıt be much of a SubGenius if you WERENıT one, to some extent. The
most disturbing cases have been these yo-yos who show up every year or so,
nut cases who really, actually believe that they themselves are
³Bob²/Jesus, or Jesus/Crowley, or whatever... It seems that once a year
somebody comes along to whom I end up being forced to say, ³Uh, listen,
thereıs a few things I maybe ought to TELL you regarding ³Bob² and the
Sometimes itıs just obsessive fans, college-age kids who find their way to
my door expecting spiritual enlightenment. SORRY. I do my best in these
cases to serve as an example of a POLITE PERSON who ISNıT NUTS. But the
REAL CRAZIES... there have been a few. Usually they send us a few letters
and are so disappointed by my reply they they never write back. But there
have been people like The Hawaiian Jesus. He was this hippie who had been
living on a pot farm in Maui, and maybe reading the Bible too long under
the hot sun... he flew to Dallas and announced to me that he was Jesus,
reincarnated. (He originally meant to tell this to ³Bob², but I was, sadly,
as close as he could get.) He looked the part, if you go by those Sunday
School paintings. He brought with him a bunch of marijuana that smelled so
strongly, even through the sealed plastic bags, you could whiff it for
yards around. His plan was to get himself, and us, busted, so that he could
appear on Johnny Carson that night (by virtue of our amazing media
connections and lawyers!) and discuss the Biblical evidence that, not only
was pot meant to be used, but that he was Jesus. I managed to talk him down
from this plan, and I got rid of him by giving him the addresses of several
white supremacist groups in Alabama and Mississippi that shared with him
the concept of ³Identity Christianity,² the theory that the real ³Jews² are
the Anglos... he thought he had come up with that theory himself.
He was generally a really nice guy, and he did ACT and LOOK like the Prince
of Peace, if you go by Hollywood movie versions of Jesus. I told him I
didnıt believe he was the Lord, and that I thought he had a Messiah
complex, but that I would help ³spread word of his Presence² and weıve
done that. His name is Will Small. So be ready for His Arisal!
Thereıs always some street person pestering us with their revelations that
they are ³Bob² or the Anti²Bob², and they tend to sound really sad, and
they cave in when challenged by me, but at least theyıre so poor they canıt
come to Dallas.
Then thereıs Bob Dean. Heıs another one who says he IS ³Bob² Dobbs.
Unfortunately, whereas most of his competitors are street people, heıs got
a sugar daddy... and with this rich kidıs help, heıs actually released two
CDs under the name Bob Dobbs. (³Bob² without the quotes; he knew heıd get
sued if he used the quotes.)
In 1987 this young Toronto man, Bob Dean, and his wife showed up at my
house to tell me he was ³Bob² and that he was going to be doing radio talk
shows on CKLN, Toronto, under that name. He was a lot craftier than the
street psychos in that he made me think he was really just putting me on,
that he wasnıt actually crazy. He did seem rather unhealthily fixated on a
small number of personalities that I consider to be kooks the anonymous
³Cosmic Awareness² teacher, Lyndon LaRouche, and a few other fringe
philosophers. So I basically told him I would be happy to see him play
SubGenius tapes on the radio, but that I didnıt think it was a good idea to
claim he WAS ³Bob² for one thing, he wasnıt ³Bob², and for another, he
didnıt LOOK like ³Bob², and mainly, he didnıt sound anything like ³Bob² at
all. He went away babbling about how happy he was to be ³Bob.²
Nothing much happened until early 1992. Over the intervening years Iıd
gotten a few letters from Toronto-area SubGenius fans who thought I should
shut this fake ³Bob² down. At some point he was mixing SubGenius stuff with
readings from The Protocol of the Elders of Zion, which is an infamous
anti-semitic tract/hoax. The anti-semitic aspect really ticked me off and I
complained to CKLN, with no response. I have since heard that Dean was
fired from CKLN.
I soon received a package of publicity materials from DovEntertainment of
Toronto, announcing this BOBıS MEDIA ECOLOGY album by Nelson Thall and Bob
Dobbs (actually Bob Dean). All of their publicity descriptions of the album
were worded in such a way that the blurbs could just as easily describe my
projects and other authorized SubGenius projects. I.e., ³The album is a
transmutation of pop-culture sounds and the almighty spoken word, as
assembled from media guru Bob Dobbsı radio broadcasts between 1988 and
1991.² To most people with any passing familiarity with anything
³SubGenius,² that describes my radio show.
At no time was I asked permission that our names and concepts be used, and
no offer of royalties was ever made. They had sent me the album because
they thought I might REVIEW it or something!
I simultaneously received letters from friends who had seen full-color,
full-page, expensive ads for the album in magazines and assumed weıd ³sold
out² because they used such trendy, unSubGenius-like jargon. But, because
it was by ³Bob Dobbs,² they assumed it had our blessings. I got pretty
upset at this point.
I called up Gerald Belanger, head of DovEntertainment, and told him I was
quite unhappy and I couldnıt believe they were so obviously trying to rip
us off. Belanger, to my surprise, agreed that we should indeed get
compensation and credit, and he agreed with my suggestion that they put
stickers on the album stating that it was NOT the ³SubGenius² ³Bob² Dobbs
and that we did not authorize it. I actually thought the album was okay
my only objection was that it was being sold with the implication that it
was our stuff! (In the end, Belanger continued to distribute the rip-off
album despite his assurances to me to the contrary.) I called David
Newfeld, the musician and technician who had done the production aspects of
the album, and he also agreed that we had been treated unfairly. He and
Belanger had both been told by Dean that everything Dean had done was with
Bob Dean never returned my calls.
I wrote a letter detailing my objections, suggestions and demands. I let
about a month go by, and got no response. I called up Belanger. He said
that he and Newfeld had presented my letter to Dean and Thall and they
³just laughed² and said that we were broke nobodies in another country, you
canıt trademark a name and there was nothing to worry about.
I called Thall. He acted surprised at my complaint, said Bob Dean had told
him he had permission to use the name... and, in fact, that Dean had told
Thall (and a number of other people, such as David Lynch and Frank Zappa)
that Dean had originated the name and character of ³Bob² and that we were
copying HIM. Thall acted like he wanted to get everything straightened out,
and that he was sure we could turn this into a ³win-win² situation. He also
mentioned to me that his family owned a bunch of newspapers in Canada, and
that he was very close to the Marshall McLuhan estate. He suggested that we
meet in Cleveland on Oct.9, as I was to be there to perform, and he would
be on his way south to act as a consultant for the George Bush campaign,
and could stop in, meet me, and offer me ³a deal².
In the meantime, Thall continued to have his hired p.r. firm send out the
same misleading crap Iıd complained about. Even when quizzed about the
rip-off situation, this publicist was telling people that there was no
problem, that Bob Dean was good friends with Stang and had complete
permission. Apparently Thall hadnıt taken my efforts seriously enough to
tell his publicist the truth.
Thall then cancelled our meeting but said he was sure we would reach an
understanding. What understanding, I asked. Your office is still telling
people this is an authorized SubGenius album. Oh, well, he hedged, and
began repeating over and over, as if I hadnıt heard him the first time,
³well, you canıt copyright a name, I never heard of SubGenius before Dean,
but hey, controversy makes money;² heıd cut us in for royalties, ³why donıt
we market each othersı materials and turn this into a money-maker?² (I
paraphrase.) I got pretty stern with him and told him I didnıt like his
idea a bit, and that I did not want Bob Dean ³playing² Bob Dobbs, because
the worst-case scenario was that Dean would show up on David Letterman or
someplace spouting crappy imitation SubGenius stuff and... what next? The
Bob Dobbs Comedy Hour on Fox Network starring Bob Dean? Well, says Thall, I
only produced this album, I canıt control Dean, and my album doesnıt use
your trademarks, so there.
I then received three ad/interview pieces from different publications, all
tying the fake Bob album to our Church.
I called Thall up and informed him of these ads and interviews, and that I
did not want his album being sold anymore, period, until all connection
with us had been removed. He got pretty upset and must have said ten times,
³I have news for you, you canıt copyright a name.² He said heıd never heard
of Church of the SubGenius before Bob Dean and I could try all I wanted, no
way could we say he couldnıt use the name Bob Dobbs. I could not get him to
acknowledge that it was being used within a context that did indeed mislead
people into thinking this was bona fide SubGenius product. That didnıt
³sink in² at all, or at least he acted like it didnıt. Least of all did he
seem to comprehend that there was anything UNETHICAL or even slightly RUDE
about copping someone elseıs character whether or not they got away with
it. I really think the very concept was over his head.
Then followed the Battle of the Press Releases. I had sent a form letter to
a few select SubGenius collaborators explaining what was going on, and
Thall got the idea that I was sending this letter everywhere. So, to
retaliate, he sent a press release to most of the radio stations, album
distributors, newspapers and music magazines in North America saying that I
was this crazy nobody who was harassing him and the great Bob Dobbs, and
that his Bob was the real Bob because he was a student of McLuhan and had
interviewed Henry Kissinger once, and so everyone should buy or review
their wonderful album. Included was an unfunny ³bio² of their so-called Bob
Dobbs (by ³Connie Dobbs!²) implying that Bob Dean was channeling ³Bob²
How can there be two ³Bob² Dobbs?
There arenıt. Thereıs J.R. ³Bob² Dobbs and then thereıs this jerk in
Toronto named Bob Dean who calls himself Bob Dobbs because nobody will
listen to him otherwise. It may be that he really does think heıs ³Bob.²
Unlike the street people we encounter with Messiah complexes, Dean had the
Thall family fortune to fund him. Basically, this rich kid, Nelson Thall,
wanted to be an Art Boy, so he bought himself a Pet Artist only the pet
artist turned out to be a shameless and talentless plagiarist. (Well, not
talentless Deanıs one of the smoothest liars in the world.) But by then
it was too late Thall had already committed money to distributing this
album. So he has since tried to pretend that they were the great original
thinkers, and that we are some kind of pretenders. Call him up, like
friends of ours have done; thatıs what he or his paid publicist will tell
you. Itıs like they live in their own little insulated world where truth
and history donıt exist... itıs all the McLuhanesque ³electric
environment,² or some such crap, to them.
How has this problem hurt you?
1. Embarrassment 2. Their lies and slander 3. Financially. 4. My health.
#1: EMBARRASSMENT: imagine if somebody was using your name were on the air,
badmouthing Jews and spreading racist propaganda! Wouldnıt you be a little
ticked off? And thatıs only part of it. Dean is just plain SILLY. People
who donıt know any better think, ³Well, if this is the Church of the
SubGenius, I can do without it!² I get letters from people angry that ³we²
would say such mealy-mouthed crap as emits from Dean.
You should hear the interviews that Dean gives. (Iıve heard several because
half of the ones heıs given have been to disguised SubGeniuses, who just
wanted to see how stupid heıd get.) He insists heıs ³Bob² Dobbs he
refuses to ³step out of character,² EVER and he claims that back in 1979
he lived in Dallas, and that Philo and I used to ³attend his meetings² and
then ripped HIM off! He says this sort of thing just as straight-faced as
if he actually believed it even though there are hundreds who can testify
otherwise. Maybe he really does believe it! Thallıs even funnier, in that
heıs nervous around reporters and can never seem to get all his eggs in one
basket. He started off telling one reporter that it was all a big
coincidence that theyıd never heard of our Church or Dobbs. Then the
reporter asked, ³But then why does the album and p.r. contain all these
other SubGenius phrases and concepts, like Slack, ³Pinks,² ³the
Conspiracy,² Connie Dobbs, the Xists, the word SubGenius, etc. etc.?
Suddenly Thall changed his story and said, yes, there was a connection, but
it was that we stole our ideas from THEM. Smooth move, Nelson baby.
Also, as Dobbs, Dean claims to have helped assassinate JFK and Martin
Luther King. Ha ha, thatıs real funny if youıre a fascist at heart, I
suppose. Somehow I canıt see the real ³Bob² conspiring in quite that
direction. Coming from Dean, with his attachment to things like The
Protocol of the Elders of Zion, itıs probably wishful thinking.
Their sleaziness and hypocrisy is incredible! Their press release brags
about how they interviewed ³Americaıs number one political prisoner in his
jail cell.² But they wisely donıt say WHO that political prisoner might be.
One might conclude they meant Leonard Peltier. No. If you ask, it turns out
theyıre talking about Lyndon LaRouche!
#2. Their slander hurts us. There are probably a few recipients of their
press releases who had no prior exposure to the Church and believe them
when they say Iım this death-threat-making nut case, and that they with
their lame blatherings represent the true ³Bob². (Can you imagine how
ridiculous this all begins to seem to me??)
#3. Financially: people will buy this album of theirs, listen to it, and
conclude, ³Now I know what SubGenius is about egomaniacal nonsense. So
much for SubGenius!² And theyıll thenceforth avoid any of our new books and
albums and videos.
#4. My health. (Boo, hoo hoo.) For the first six months I got downright
apoplectic whenever I thought of these guys, and ended up having to get
medicated for blood pressure headaches. Lately, however, theyıve become
such transparent self-caricatures, and have put their own feet so deeply
down their throats, that my attitude has switched to a sort of detached
amusement, watching these ignoramuses dig their own graves in the art
world. ³How deep will they dig that pit?²
Theyıre using us as their publicity stunt. That would be almost admirable,
but for the particularly mean, reactionary and dishonest way theyıve gone
about it. One problem is, theyıre just not funny. Another is that theyıre
entirely ignorant of underground and alternative protocol, and instead do
everything the cut-throatı big business style... and they wonder why
theyıre getting hate mail!
What are some of the legal issues involved here?
Copyright infringement, obviously. Thereıs really no question that we could
win that, in court... the problem is, weıd have to send a lawyer to Canada
or hire one there just to get started, and weıre dead broke, and they know
it. And would it be worth it? Thatıs a MASSIVE headache, and I have a book
to finish. If they were in the U.S. itıd be a simple cease-and-desist
letter. But they know weıre financially hamstrung while they have literally
limitless funds. Thallıs dad owns a bunch of Canadian newspapers, and I
guess he must give little Nelson all he needs... like that personal
helicopter of his.
What Iım looking forward to is the ³damages² suit for slander and libel.
All I have to do is bide my time and theyıll blow it, big time. Theyıve
publicly accused me of sending them all this hate mail and harassing them
by phone. Actually, Iıve never given their number or address out to any
SubGenii, and I certainly never harassed them. Theyıre the ones who sent
all these idiotic press releases out, giving their number and they wonder
why theyıre getting angry calls, and why their sample CDs to radio stations
are returned to them, all smashed to pieces with a hammer! PLENTY of people
can see through their scheme and are angry without any inciting on our
part. Thall and Dean are so dense they literally donıt comprehend why
anybody besides me might be angry at them. Itıs almost hilariously typical
of the stupid rich, and yuppie business practices like a cartoon of the
heartless silver spoons² vs. the ³lovable tin cups.²
Why hasnıt your ³Bob² Dobbs spoken up?
The real ³Bob² has spoken up. He is quoted extensively in our publications
regarding the problems of Bobbies and misrepresentations of the Church. But
heıs way too busy and lucky to have to deal with a couple of pathetic,
jealous nobodies like Dean and Thall. He probably doesnıt even know about
them. Besides, we donıt negotiate with terrorists.
20. How do the two Bobs differ in style and content?
Bob Dean embodies a lot of what ³Bob² Dobbs stands against... abject,
uncreative dishonesty being number one. The true ³Bob² is funny, yet angry,
yet compassionate. Dean is none of those; instead, heıs a glib egomaniac
who talks mainly about what a wise and insightful guy he himself is. Heıs a
gross elitist, with kind of a fascist, right-wing edge to his rap but
without the satire!! His big heroes include LaRouche and Kissinger. Also,
whereas Dobbsı teachings may sound downright absurd to disbelievers, there
actually is a very coherent, if psychedelicised, logic to his Word. He
makes sense in a weird sort of way. Dean, on the other hand, showers his
listeners with trendy jargon that doesnıt actually make a lick of sense.
Itıs confusing in an annoying way... because itıs not deliberately
confusing. Dean has a tendency to sound like a coke-head with a big
vocabulary, but none of what he says really connectsı on any emotional
level, except maybe with die-hard McLuhan cultists.
Heıs fixated on a small number of select crackpots and visionaries, and he
takes them altogether too seriously (Mae Brussell, LaRouche, Cosmic
Awareness, etc.). We synthesize ALL kooks.... but we tell our audience to
distrust them, and be selective as they look into what they have to say
not worship them.
These two guys worship Marshall McLuhan the way I worship Jimi Hendrix.
Itıs SICK. They take McLuhanıs basic rap, and put our name on it. I suspect
that one reason theyıve been so nasty is that I didnıt show proper respect
for their godı in conversations with them. The fact they theyıve memorized
McLuhanıs essays and kissed the butt-shoes of the great man himself simply
doesnıt impress me in the least. Any intellectual nerd could do that.
Comment on the second counterfeit CD, and how Negativland was duped.
This is one of the saddest aspects of the whole deal. Negativland and the
Church have, of course, been mutually exploiting each other since 1984,
when they opened at our infamous Night of Slack Devival in San Francisco.
We have a lot in common. Anyway, even after I had started complaining to
Thall, he and Dean decided to do a second BOBıS MEDIA ECOLOGY album. Only
this time, they would hire the hippest of the hip to remix the material
from their first album. They paid Steve Stein and Negativland, both of whom
surely needed the cash, to do short, 5-minute bits. When Mark Hosler and
the other Negativland guys got the tape, they asked, ³Hey this doesnıt
sound very SubGenius-like; did you get permission to do this from the guys
in Dallas?² At which point Thall said, ³YES.² So they did these remixes.
Now, Negativland isnıt just angry that they got rooked into contributing to
a rip-off. It was even worse than that. The packaging of BOBıS MEDIA
ECOLOGY 2 is done in such a way that it appears to be a Negativland album
their name is the main thing you see, even though they did only 5 minutes
of the whole thing. Ironic, thatıs for sure, considering the U-2
disaster... but one good thing came out of it. Dean and Thall are now hated
not only by me, and all SubGeniuses, but also by Negativland and all
Negativland fans who know about this debacle. You can call up Mark Hosler
or Chris Grigg or Don Joyce if you have any question about this.
This is one example of why I say that Dean and Thall arenıt just dishonest,
but REALLY REALLY STUPID.
A 1987 pamphlet of yours says that ³the official High Priest/Priestess I.D.
card that comes with membership encourages the new SubGenius to twist the
Church for his own ends.² How do you feel about the Canadian Bob Dobbs in
light of that?
Twist it, sure.... not that it could be much more twisted. We didnıt expect
anybody to claim to be the whole thing, lock stock and barrel. We never
said that property was theft. Thatıs for Commies. Weıve always encouraged
people to ³take the ball and run with it,² but we certainly never thought
anybody would be greedy enough to claim they WERE the ball, and that
everybody was supposed to run with them.
Hundreds of people no, thousands have managed to collaborate with us,
to indeed twist the Church their own ways. Weıve never had any trouble with
a single one of those thousands of people, because it was a mutual
exploitation. This is the first time anybody has CHEATED us, tried to cut
us out entirely. Thall will argue that he offered us ³a deal.² Sure he did,
but only after we threatened to sue. And some deal heıd allow us to buy
his albums from him and resell them.
22. Whatıs pissed you off most in this hassle, and what have you learned
Number one: rich people can do any damn thing they want. And they think
itıs funny if somebody whoıs poor suffers because of it.
I know how that sounds... how ³bleeding heart liberal, have-not² that
sounds. But itıs the horrible damn truth. The hideous, nightmarish truth.
Unconnected to the Dean/Thall thing, one disturbing revelation I got from
doing SubGenius, in general, was how many people are so prejudiced against
perceived ³success² on the part of their own friends. There are those
so-called SubGenii, either mean or just plain stupid, who see our video in
a store and instantly assume it means 1) weıre now rich, 2) therefore we
must have sold outı, and 3) that weıre now inaccessible assholes who think
theyıre ³above² everyone else. Actually, my phone number is in the Stark
Fist and anybody who wants to can call me up. Our address is printed on
everything we do, and itıs not like some fulfillment company handles the
mail. I take the mail out of the P.O. box myself. When we do live shows we
donıt hide out backstage weıre at the sales table, hawking our goods,
gabbing with our awestruck fellow Subs, etc. Unfortunately, since Iıve
achieved some minor notoriety, all these naive kids think that means Iım in
some ivory tower somewhere. Actually Iım in a backyard outhouse in Dallas
and, considering the kinds of fruitcakes I have to deal with on a daily
basis, Iım pretty damned available. I would say that I am probably the most
accessible and least snobbish of all SubGenius members. Thatıs my ³job.²
(continued, Part 3.)
Copyright 1997 by Rev. Ivan Stang / 1st Orthodox Stangian
MegaFisTemple Lodge of People's Covenant Church of the
Wrath of Dobbs Yeti, Resurrected / The SubGenius Foundation,Inc.
PO Box 140306 Dallas TX 75214 / Fax 214-320-1561 / PRABOB
http://www.subgenius.com -- SubSITE of Slack
Moving into other gray areas, your ³Bob² has appeared again and again in
the computer world. Any comments on the Mac virus?
Wow. That one was a gas. The only time we ever seem to get national press
is when somebody else does something in our name. Essentially, the Church
got blamed in the press for the first Macintosh virus, even though nobody
on our mailing list had anything to do with it.
The story goes: On March 2, 1989 (?) (I canıt remember), on all Macintosh
computers that had been infected (by modem usually), there appeared on
those screens upon ³booting up² a message advocating world peace, with a
graphic of the earth. All well and good. It was a benign virus; after
flashing this corny New Age message onscreen, it disappeared forever, and
theoretically caused no damage at all. Understandably, those Mac users who
saw it were upset that their systems had been transgressed. Frankly, I
think they should have been thankful for it, because this was the first
thing that caused national attention to be focused on viruses, yet through
a benign virus! Its existence probably alerted thousands to the dangers of
malignant computer viruses, and prompted them to use virus-cleansing
programs, probably in the nick of time.
It wasnıt even anonymous. The creator, Richard Brandow, was credited
onscreen. But the San Francisco Chronicle called him up and asked him why
heıd done it. He said that heıd been inspired by prankster groups like the
Neoists and the SubGenii. The Chronicle latched onto that ³SubGenius²
connection (the Church having been a big fad in SF at the time), and
suddenly all the wire services were carrying the story that this ³joke that
turned into a cult² was responsible for the most vile and evil computer
virus known to man. It was publicity you couldnıt buy for a million bucks,
even though there wasnıt a shred of truth in it.
If the Church were to create a computer virus, you can rest assured that,
firstly, it would NOT be a corny message of ³world peace² that was
displayed onscreen, and secondly, that it would NOT infect JUST THE
COMPUTER. The SubGenius virus is an organic one that would affect even the
The best part of all was that newspapers all over the country were stating
that ³Bob² Dobbs was a sinister cult leader who had been assassinated in
1984, and his deranged followers had commissioned this deadly virus to be
invented. It certainly taught me how much to trust what I read in the
papers or hear on the news!
I donıt feel sorry for those who got unreasonably bent out of shape over
the thing; I know it terrified countless computer geeks with the EASE with
which their holy machines had been invaded. But that was a lesson they
should have been glad to learn the easy way. If it damaged any systems, Iım
sorry those owners think we had anything to do with it. They should be glad
we didnıt; for if we had, their screens might have been exploding all over
Didnıt the Amiga computer end up with ³Bobıs² head as a font or a keyboard
Well, itıs not the actual Dobbshead, itıs a sort of digitized, mini-iconic
symbol of a Dobbshead. We were pleased as punch at that. The way it
happened: a pal of ours was working as a programmer on the Amiga during its
development, and had been using the Dobbshead as a sort of test-pattern.
The other programmers loved it and it ended up as one of the dedicated
fontsı or whatever. The funny thing is, the first person who brought it to
my attention was Robert Anton Wilson, whoıd been given a prototype Amiga
for testing purposes. Since itıs only a few millimeters high, it doesnıt
look like the real ³Bob², but only gives the impression of being him... so
itıs perfect, it spreads his legend without damaging our trademark.
There are also IBM computer BBSs which celebrate ³Bob² Dobbs. Any comments
I wish I had the time and modem to follow these and participate. My partner
Philo monitors some of that. The gossip we hear about ourselves is great.
Itıs incredible to read these people who have never met you arguing about
your personal life. Iıd like to know where they get some of their stories.
I have read on BBSs that I am nearly blind; that I see Dobbs in dreams;
that I have a dozen wives and girlfriends; that I have a dozen husbands and
boyfriends; that Iım rich; that I forced somebody to send someone else a
mail-bomb; that Iım dead. (God forbid that the ACTUAL TRUTH get out!!) One
gratifying thing is that I keep seeing variations on my old Brag of the
SubGenius... there must be a couple of hundred different Brags floating
around out there on the net.
What distresses me is that there arenıt any parodies of the Church. Of
course, itıs the ultimate parody of all life on earth, but... youıd think
somebody would do it anyway. So far the only good parody of the Church was
done by one of Dobbsı own 13 Apostles, St. Janor Hypercleats, with his
³Church of DON.²
The Church sells some audio and video tapes. Which sell best and what will
people learn by getting them?
Theyıll learn hundreds of cool new lines they can use to impress their
friends, first off. Mainly theyıll be entertained and simultaneously fired
up with renewed righteous hate for the Conspiracy.
The distinguishing factor about our tapes is the editing style. Weıve been
perpetuating this manic style for 13 years, and now MTV and big radio
stations have begun to try to catch up with us. We collage everything from
recordings of our own devival preachings and songs, to clips from radio
preachers and monster movies... heard in stereo, itıs actually pretty damn
spectacular, although, like our predecessors The Firesign Theater, it
requires close concentration by the listener. You can hear any given
SubGenius tape or radio show a dozen times and youıll keep finding nuggets
you missed before.
Our video ARISE has been excerpted on the syndicated TV show Nightflight
for several years now, but in censored form. ARISE would be a good place
for anybody to start soaking in SubGenius electronic media. On the other
hand, the cassette tapes are a lot cheaper. Our tape, ³Media Barrage 10:
REPENT!² is a real good starter; although almost 10 years old, it embodies
the linear yet brain-twisting style of the SubGenius mini-cut technique.
You CANNOT be BORED by any SubGenius tape; you might be NUMBED, but thatıs
because you tried to take in too much at once. If you like Negativland, or
DEVO, or crazed preacher-comics like Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks, youıll
CREAM or OOZE over SubGenius.
The Hour of Slack radio program is the most vibrant SubGenius output going,
right now. A lot of people buy whatever is the latest Hour of Slack (if
they donıt live in a place where itıs on the air), and then theyıre hooked.
Or they buy our Best Of HoS tape. These and the media barrages are equal
parts music, ranting and collage. We also have a few tapes that are nothing
but music, such as The Hairs in ³Bobıs² Ears, and the new ³Bobıs² Media
Pollution. Generally, any given SubGenius audio tape is a cross-section of
many different bands, ranters, preachers and tape-cutters.
Although ARISE is distributed by Polygram (not that weıve seen any royalty
statements from them for a whole year), we have produced several other
videotapes which may be of equal interest to countercultural diehards,
which we alone sell. ³Pre-Dobbs Stangfilms² is chock-full of the claymation
pornography and satirical underground travelogs I did before I worked for
Dobbs, plus a lot of stuff censored from ARISE. We also sell videos of
certain special live stage devivals, intercut with video/computer
psychedelia... such as the ³Rant Nı Rave² videotape starring Sister Mary2
and myself, and ³Night of Slack² from the infamous San Francisco show where
³Bob² was first assassinated. That one has all the classic old-time
SubGenius preachers: Pope David Meyer, St. Janor Hypercleats, Dr. Hal
Robins, Pope Sternodox, and The Band That Dare Not Speak Its Name.
Surely your tapes have been pirated and people have traded copies without
paying the Church. How do you feel about that?
It helps us at this stage, and probably always will help us. If we were
persnickety about this, weıd print our stuff on orange paper so it couldnıt
Much of the Hour of Slack radio material come from tapes traded to me. I
canıt afford to go buy albums by, say, Diamanda Galas or Zoogz Rift or
whoever... but I give em airplay because theyıre traded to me (often by
the artists themselves). Or, say, somebody gives their pal a copy of our
stuff, in return for some amazing obscure prank call tape (which I
collect). The guy decides he likes our stuff and realizes he can get MORE,
from us so he sends US a copy of that great prank call tape in trade.
Hell, I probably trade as many tapes as I sell. But it keeps us awash in
new material, all the time. Itıs sort of time-consuming and not very cost
effective, but staying open and loose like this is precisely what makes the
whole money-eating project worthwhile.
Besides, anybody can tune in to Hour of Slack, and copy that. Itıs on in 17
cities. The bigger stations include WFMU (E. Orange, New Jersey, reaching
Manhattan), WCSB Cleveland, WREK Atlanta, and WZRD Chicago. Itıs on in
Madison, Wisconsin and at Stanford University in California... and of
course KNON in Dallas, not that anybody in Dallas pays us any attention
(which is fine with us!).
Do you think any such pirated tapes have ultimately hurt sales, or helps
spread the word about the Church?
As I said, it helps. I trade all kinds of tapes myself. And itıs all the
kind of similarly obscure stuff that you donıt find in stores. However, I
donıt SELL copies of other peopleıs tapes, and if we find out somebody is
simply copying our tapes and selling them, bootlegging us in other words, I
would be pretty pissed. Itıs a moot point, though; theyıd sell even less
copies than we do. In fact, there was this brain-damaged kid in New York or
someplace, Tad something, who decided to advertise bootleg copies of ARISE.understand from my ³moles² that he sold maybe 5 copies. Our braying
laughter at his expense was well worth any slight damage he might have
done; he spent far more on the ads than he ever got back in sales.
Plus, bootleg copies are almost always of poor technical quality. I would
imagine that if a collector purchased a bootleg of ARISE, heıd think, ³Gee,
this is a lot better than I expected... getting a clean stereo copy from
the source would be WORTH it!²
Our readers who collect tapes might wish to know your feelings on recording
and playing tapes with Dolby.
The introduction of Dolby into cheesy home taping decks is one of the
Conspiracyıs sickest, most perverse sales ruses. On the other hand, I must
say that any Pink whoıs fooled by it, deserves to be fooled. I donıt know
ANYBODY who uses Dolby in home taping anymore. In most machines that you or
I can afford, itıs nothing but a sound MUFFLING device. It gets rid of some
hiss, alright; it also eliminates detail and high end. Only an IDIOT would
use it in most home taping situations.
This is not to say that the Dolby system itself is evil. Itıs a wonderful
invention, FOR VERY TOP-OF-THE-LINE GEAR. Itıs great for professional
applications, with the kind of gear used in sound studios. I used to mix
film soundtracks for a living, and in that realm Dolby makes sense. But
home decks are just too clunky and inexact, too low-tech, for Dolby to do
what itıs supposed to. Instead itıs just a misused sales tool.
31. Letıs talk more about the book, High Weirdness by Mail. How did you
discover cool mail, zines, etc.? Your interest predated Factsheet Five, no?
This sounds like boasting, but Mike Gunderloy told me that Factsheet Five
was itself inspired by our early STARK FISTs, which had a section on
oddball publications. Gunderloy was one of the earliest SubGenius
contributors and saw that the world could use more of what we were fitfully
publishing along those lines. In a way, I suppose we were networkingı
before there was a word for it.
I guess it started for me when, as a young sci-fi movie fan, I did a
fanzine at age 12 to 15... thatıs when I learned how relatively cheap and
easy it was to self-publish, at least for a small circle of weirdos. Later,
after comics went up to 50˘, I started collecting stuff equally weird but
much cheaper than comic books: kook literature. In the early 70s I spent
any spare dough on 16mm short films I was producing. I also got involved in
a small network that centered around the Firesign Theater. I may be
mistaken, but I think thatıs where Gunderloy and I first crossed paths in
fact, several of those old Firesign fan club members later turned into
SubGenius contributors. Anyway, I dropped out of the fanzine world for many
years while raising my kids and making a living editing business films.
Once the Church got moving, I quit the film biz (except for the occasional
banned documentaries, like THE CU CHI TUNNELS, which concerned the Viet
Congıs side of the Vietnam War) and got back into ³underground² publishing
and SubGenius image-mongering. My whole life, Iıve been exploiting what you
might call ³home media², pushing that cheap media as far as the envelope
would stretch. Itıs FUN. You meet good folks that way. Iım sure some would
argue; but theyıre probably the kind who never leave their house. For me,
underground media is in equal parts printing, mailing, video and audio
electronic media, and also phone and personal contacts. I must have ten
thousand acquaintances (as opposed to only a few dozen close friends). Itıs
time-consuming, but then I work fast. Itıs expensive after awhile, but then
I live on the cheap. And, bless her heart, my wife works a regular job,
which fills in during my lean months between being a highly-paid free-lance
writer or editor or whatever it is that I do.
Any especially weird mail you got as a result of High Weirdness?
That book was based on the weird mail Iıd already gotten. What it produced,
however, was some paranoid mail. I had lambasted a number of hate groups in
it, especially white supremacists, and one of those groups The Church of
the Creator published a death threat against me in their magazine, Racial
Loyalty. It reprinted my paragraph on them wherein Iıd called them odious
inbred perverts, and they asked that any ³Dallas bootboys² who could locate
³the Jew Stang² should ³remind him what some of our other readers did to a
certain other obnoxious Jew talk show host.² (P.S., the punchline is, not
only am I not Jewish, Iım probably related to these N. Carolina rednecks!)
That wouldnıt have bothered me much, except that I then learned that my
ex-friend Bob Black, in a fit of jealousy over my perceived success with
SubGenius, had sent all those racist groups my real name and home address,
along with my nasty comments about them in hopes that one of them would
kill me or at least my wife and kids. (This may give you an idea of the
kind of counterculture integrity that exists out there.) This was serious
enough that I called the FBI about it, so that IF my house got burned to
the ground, theyıd know who to investigate. Nothing ever happened. I would
assume that the FBI were glad to have their files on me updated by
The Secret Service investigated the Church in 1982 showed up at my house
wanting to know if we were serious about advocating killing Reagan. (We
werenıt exactly.) Theyıd been alerted to us by some good citizen, but
hadnıt seen our materials. I showed them our stuff and they left ordained
One of the jargon-spouting New Age seminar-holding ³teachers² we listed
complained because Iıd called her act ³Witchcraft for Yuppies.² She didnıt
want to be associated with witchcraft.ı In hindsight, I too am sorry I
made that comparison, because Iıd hate to associate the witches I know with
that particularly deadly-corny, trendy dingbat. Iıve come to know a whole
lot of witches in recent years, and several of them are my main
collaborators now. It really dismays me that witchesı get mixed up with
Satanists.ı To this day, Iıve yet to meet a single Satanist in the
Wiccan/Pagan scene. There are Satanists, but from what I can tell theyıre
utter wimps, powerless nerdy geeks who like role-playing gamers, or the
Klingonı Trekkies get their kicks through vicarious power fantasies. The
Pagan scene itself seems relatively healthy and Slackful, to me.
What things are you especially proud of?
The best thing about this whole scam has been ³discovering² ³new² artists.
Iıve met so many talented people.... I feel like Iım the lucky guy who
later gets to honestly say, ³Yeah, I was the first person to encourage, or
give airplay to, or publish, that now-famous person!² The mutual
exploitation aspect is GREAT. They need the exposure, and we need the
freshness, the ever-sicker new material.
And friendships. Most of my very best friends I met through the Church.
(Also some of the grossest jerks, but they donıt count.) If youıre patient
enough to tolerate the geeks and glad-handers, you can wade through them to
meet the coolest and most amazing folks on the planet. Itıs certainly paid
off for me in that respect. I can walk through life knowing I am one cool
son of a bitch, if only by virtue of being able to count as friends some of
these Descended Masters that are my SubGenius buddies and girlfriends. I
have an urge to start naming names, but it would never end...
There have been drawbacks, as well. Straddling the brink of poverty is one.
Also, as we get slightly famous, a few people have become jealous...
bitterly jealous, to the point of circulating lies about us, especially me.
And others equate modest success with selling out. Theyıre so stuck in
their little alternative culture world... they only know 50 people, all of
them college age kids, and if 5 of those people also become SubGeniuses,
then they think the Church has become too ³popular² and therefore ³not cool
anymore². Well, I guess those folks were a bit too concerned with being
cool and popular themselves, because it never worried us that much one way
or the other. I suppose theyıll REALLY feel left out when, in 1998, every
man, woman and child on the planet is FORCED to believe in ³Bob² whether
they want to or not!!
Itıs like, for these armchair undergrounders, once you get the barest
smidgen of recognition, youıve ³SOLD OUT.² SOLD OUT!!! Iıd like anybody to
look at the last STARK FIST and say weıve ³sold out.² Hell, itıs so extreme
it offended the most offensive underground cartoonists!
I read you were working on a book about bummers. Is that still in progress?
If so, what sorts of bummers? Are you looking for stories from people?
Iım so glad you asked. Yes, for about 5 years Iıve had my feelers out,
trying to collect first-hand accounts of particularly spectacular,
telling,ı or pathos-laden BAD DRUG TRIPS. These would probably mostly be
bad acid tripsı and the like, although terrible alcohol trips are
certainly also included. I have gotten dozens of submissions, but only a
handful of them are well written enough or horrifying enough to be of
interest. A lot of it has been, ³Yeah dude like, I took two hits and drank
ten beers and I puked on my date.² Thatıs not what weıre looking for. We
want VISIONARY bummers. They donıt even have to be ³bummers²; that is, they
can be drug stories that are especially pertinent because of their totally
Itıs a delicate matter, a thin line to tread, and I have to have REALLY
GOOD SAMPLES in order to even approach a publisher with it. I donıt want it
to be perceived as either and anti-drug book or a pro-drug book; itıs just
accounts of what happened, that will probably be HILARIOUSLY FUNNY to old
psychedelics users, and DREADFULLY PERPLEXING to straight people. It would
also be educational to youngsters who are contemplating getting into
psychedelics, in that it would give them helpful hints as to how to avoid
certain bad situations. The most important thing, to me, is that it
function to prevent panic in first-time users... i.e., theyıd know from
reading this book that no matter how far out there they may feel, they WILL
COME DOWN. What I DONıT want to do is increase the kind of drug hysteria
that wrecked my trips as a teen in the early 70s. (Although without having
had those experiences, I probably wouldnıt be here, doing this, now.) So
what I mainly want is not just entertaining stories, but HONESTY thatıs
whatıs lacking in so much drug literature. To tell the truth, I could just
choose 20 pseudonyms and write the whole book myself, as could any number
of my friends. But if I can gather together ENOUGH of the MOST COMPELLINGLY
TOLD true stories, it could be more enlightening and entertaining than any
Carlos Castaneda hoax.
Iım very much still looking for stories; I havenıt hit up any publishers
yet. Anyone who has a ³BUMMER² worth telling is most welcome to submit it
to me at my P.O. box in Dallas. Anywhere from 2 to 20 pages, handwritten or
typed, is fine... but I donıt want dopey juvenile garbage, I want powerful
and riveting ALL TOO REAL TRUTH AND HORROR AND GLORY!!
Is there anything else youıd like to add?
There are a couple of thousand SubGeniuses who got involved back in the
early 80s and lost interest after awhile. I would like them to know that
the Church has expanded in some very major ways that may re-interest them.
The biggest change is the influx of women, the female influence. Our live
stage devivals are so vastly different from the old parade of bespectacled
male geeks that youıd hardly believe it. With the gorgeous, brilliant,
fast-talking witch-lady preachers like Mary2, and the interactive
giant-screen video backdrops, youıd scarcely recognize the new face of the
Church. Itıs painfully true that for many years our shows were conducted
and attended by what looked like the lowest geeks of sci-fi fandom. That
has changed drastically. There was a time when the Good Sex for Mutants
Dating League was nothing but a bunch of lonely fat guys looking for dates.
Well, that was then. This is now. We have taken the orgiastic ³Dokstok²
spirit and managed to bring it intact into the other hinterlands. You
havenıt lived until youıve undergone, and consummated, a SubGenius ³Short
Duration Mass Marriage Ceremony.² This is a grass-roots movement so weird,
so Midwestern, Southern and hick-like, that, by definition, the trendoids
in L.A. and New York will be the LAST to pick up on it. This is your chance
to show the east and west coasts that TOTAL ALL-OUT FULL-TILT FREEDOM is
MORE available right in your own podunk home town than in the coolest,
trendiest, corniest rave sceneı nightclubs. Abnormality need not be bought
up and subverted by the Conspiracy. As long as you crazy rednecks and bad
boys and girls can resist the commercialized fake slack of the media, YOU
SHALL COME, MORE AND BETTER THAN THOSE SELF-INVOLVED TRENDIES EVER DREAMED
POSSIBLE. And you donıt even need ³Bob² you only need what ³Bob²
How can interested readers get in touch with you?
Rev. Ivan Stang, The SubGenius Foundation, Inc.
PO Box 140306, Dallas, TX 75214
Send an SASE for free information on Church of the SubGenius products (not
much more info than you have right here, actually). Send $1 for the
Pamphlet that started it all, or for the mighty Catalog of all our goods
(T-shirts, etc.). Send $14 for The Book of the SubGenius or any of our
other books. Send $8 for any given audio tape. $20 for the video, ARISE.
$20 for the most important thing Membership and ordainment as a minister
in the Church, and a subscription to The Stark Fist of Removal magazine.
Make checks to The SubGenius Foundation. Thank you and praise ³Bob.²
Copyright 1997 by Rev. Ivan Stang / 1st Orthodox Stangian
MegaFisTemple Lodge of People's Covenant Church of the
Wrath of Dobbs Yeti, Resurrected / The SubGenius Foundation,Inc.
PO Box 140306 Dallas TX 75214 / Fax 214-320-1561 / PRABOB
http://www.subgenius.com -- SubSITE of Slack
I WAS ABDUCTED BY ALIENS
Copyright 1995 by Rev. Ivan Stang