The subject of today’s Sam Strange Memory is mental retardation.
Most people would rather be funny little smart-assess than sensitive observers of a God gone sarcastic. I know–I used to be just like you. I used to talk the Down Syndrome kid into grabbing the teacher’s boobs. I used to laugh all the way through I am Sam. I used to entertain guests with my spot-on Deaf Person voice. But I don’t do that anymore. All that changed the day I met Tommy Wisauo.
Little Tommy was a fighter, a lover, and a dreamer. I don’t know where he came from, who his family is, or how he got here, but one day he walked into my office and began a movie pitch I’ll never forget.
Tommy wanted “A Billion-Trillion Kronar” to fund his dream project: a documentary about his work-out routine and nightly romantic conquests. He wanted to call it Tommy, and when I told him a movie already existed called Tommy, he decided to call it Tommy Wasauo, and when I told him no one would go see a movie called Tommy Wasaou he decided to call it Tommy Part 2, and I said okay. I could barely understand what he said because his accent was so odd, some kind of combination of Christopher Walken, Christopher Lambert, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Count Chocula.
Obviously, I wouldn’t fund out of pocket the pet film of some dildo off the street. There was something special about Tommy, and I don’t use the word “special” as any kind of euphemism, though that would be applicable. He really was a magnetic, fascinating person. And I felt that letting him make his own movie might be a good way of exploiting him into giving the rest of us a first-hand account of what retardation is like.
I surrounded Tommy with actors and let him make his “Documentary.” I gave him a fake job at a fake bank working with fake money. Every night he came home to a fake house with a fake room in fake San Fransisco. I told him about his fake girlfriend and he was immediately convinced that their love was true. All Tommy had to do was walk around this prefabricated environment and interact socially with the actors. The movie would write itself, and I would further my status as a pioneer by making the world’s first documentary that was also a drama that was also a documentary: a “Docu-Drama-Doc.”
But then a funny thing happened. Tommy started directing his friends. He began writing their dialogue and writing in sex scenes even though he had no idea what sex is. Tommy may very well have been retarded, but he was clever enough to stage his own documentary, which made it a “Docu-Drama-Dram-Doc-Mentary.”
Watching this was mesmerizing, and before long I gave him free reign. Money was flying out the window, but I didn’t care. I once asked him where the budget was going since he shot only on video tape and ate nothing but bananas. He responded by beating the shit out of me, and he was right to. After that, I stopped intervening completely and let Tommy create his world.
And what a world it was. Soon, the actress playing his girlfriend simply became his girlfriend, and they were really happy together. They had super romantic, anatomically incorrect sex all the time. The guy who played his best friend actually stopped hanging out with his real friends and spent all his time playing anatomically incorrect football with Tommy. They were like brothers. The lady who played Tommy’s girlfriend’s mother actually adopted the actress. Though they fought a lot, they also shared a deep familial bond. And in one of the most academically rich moves of the project, Tommy created a retarded character whose mannerisms illustrated a retarded person’s view of a retarded person until the actor playing the character actually became retarded. Fascinating.
They lived like that while the cameras rolled. For years, I snuck onto the green screen soundstage, replacing filled tapes with fresh ones. There were 400 cameras in all. Tommy knew about 20 of them, but I hid mine behind Tommy’s many paintings of spoons, his favorite way to eat bananas.
If you’ve seen the movie, then I guess you know what happened next. Tommy proposed to his girlfriend. She said yes, but deep down something of her former self began to stir. She awoke from the Hypno-Wiseaou’s secret spell. Next she woke up Tommy’s best friend. Together they did the only sensible thing: had accurate sex. Then they woke up the mom, and the shock of it gave her cancer. No one could figure out if it was narrative cancer or the real deal. You see, Tommy had long ago persuaded their doctors, dentists, lawyers, and everyone else they knew to be a part of his “happy fun time project.” No matter where they turned, they were in Tommy-land.
This took a most profound toll on the little retarded boy. When he awoke, he could no longer trust if he was still retarded or not. If he were, he wouldn’t know it because that’s a part of being retarded, just like thinking you’re sane is a part of being crazy or thinking your smart is a very strong sign of stupidity. In the end, he overdosed on a drug called cigarettes. After he was dead from that, he wasn’t sure if he was dead or not, so he jumped off a building and fell three feet onto the green-screen floor. Because he had so thoroughly double-checked, he was certain that he’d succeeded this time. He was proved right when he died of dehydration less than a week later. Tommy held the funeral in his living room and sang “We are the Champions” though it was really “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Soon after that, Tommy’s frustrated girlfriend started attacking his fragile psyche with talk of leaving him for his best friend. When that didn’t work, she did that thing girls do, you know, where she beats the shit out of herself and then makes you think you did it. When that didn’t work she showed him her actual vagina.
This treatment is what finally pushed Tommy over the edge. Tommy knew she loved him. He knew that the absolute worst thing he could do to her was rob her of himself. So he attempted to scare her straight by shooting himself in the foot. Somehow, he ended up shooting himself in the head instead. I think the idea of shooting himself in a place he could actually see scared him, and he impulsively went for the one place he couldn’t see: right behind his eyes.
The moment he died, his spell over San Fransico/Los Angeles lifted and we all felt both touched and violated by a special breed of angel. I edited together the footage that made sense and limited the film’s release to California only because he really was our cross to bear and the wind beneath our wings. I guess we lost our innocent a little bit with Tommy. We learned something about manipulating others for the sake of art and how worthwhile it is, especially if they’re retarded.
Keep reachin’ for the stars kid…we love ya.