Secret/Charlie McAlister

Welcome to one of my secret mini-directories—hidden deep inside just like the ancient Native American city of gold Cibola is hidden underneath Mount Rushmore in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets.

There just isn’t enough about Charlie. And I need to collect what I have.

Turn of the Century Photograph of...

I first ran across Charlie in the 90s, ordering cassette tapes from Unread Records. This is the cassette I received—which I thought was very musical and quite funny too. (There’s a skit at the end with two high-pitched voices talking aimlessly about fried sandwiches for several minutes.) However, his catalog is extensive. Mississippi Luau is another good one to start with.


Later, I ran across SARDINE MAGOZINE—Charlie’s reviews of fish sticks and canned meat, which he mailed to the manufacturers to try to score coupons. But also: intriguing interviews and grainy photos. To me it felt like the most fully realized ‘zine’ I’d ever seen—I think it still is. I mention all of this on in Visuals/Zines.

But this dedicated page offers me the chance to just show you some scans.

This is from the double issue (9 + 10), which came my way in the late 2000s. In the center of the zine is a smaller zine—a ‘complimentary supplement’. It seems that this zine considers itself separate from SARDINE—its writer boasts of his status as the writer for ‘complimentary supplement’. Here are some scans to give you a taste.

Live at Action Research, March 14th, 2009

This show is just amazing to me. He is just a disaster—but this is his doing—he knows exactly the disaster he is making. A person could watch this set and hold their head in their hands, groaning at all of the ways that he undermines himself. Or a person could laugh themselves to tears—at one point the audience takes over the show, asking him what a ‘fleur-de-lys’ is, cajoling him to ‘make a phone call’, people shouting “Oh my god!” in dismay, and he just begins taunting them, singing, “These neighborhood critics, they don’t know how it is!”

Toward the beginning of the show, he says that he just wants to read the audience his stories. He’s a human being who writes stories and, sheepishly, he says that he just wants to share them. He paints himself as the vulnerable, estranged artist—and he says he’ll read one to you called The Gossett, or, The Slouch. Except he can’t: because it has no words.

Many times he attempts to read stories or to find any suitable ones from his stack of ragged notebooks. The one he does tell, simply starts off:

I am an avid sailor.
I like to race sailboats.
I’m a complete fruitcake.
I race.
I get on these crazy… boats.
I’m a complete snob, okay?
Don’t even try to approach me… at all.

I think there’s a temptation to make this into an Andy Kaufman kind of thing or Reggie Watts—but I think those acts come off as impressive. Charlie dismantles the entire show and the audience becomes unruly—as things proceed, they are talking and heckling with increasing volume.

What a great accomplishment. To foment an unruly audience. To pleasantly mount an insurrection against one’s self. How is it done?