About this project
Kentucky author and Merry Prankster Ed McClanahan reads his favorite stories! Limited edition recordings of Fondelle and A Congress of Wonders brought to you by Ed McClanahan, Nyoka Hawkins, Jack Wright and Gurney Norman. Not commercially available. A Kickstarter exclusive!
"AHOY KICKSTARTERS! It's me, Ed McClanahan!'' With your help, I would like to complete two audio CD projects. The first is a reading of Fondelle or: The Whore with a Heart of Gold (Larkspur Press, 2002), a fictionalized memoir of my adventures in the summer of 1954—my last summer as a college undergraduate—, when I went out west for the first time, to work on a road crew in Yosemite National Park. The story mainly concerns an encounter I had with an extraordinary couple—a West Virginia-born "showgirl" from New York City and a one-armed WWII vet from Oklahoma—while hitch-hiking between Beaumont, Texas, and New Orleans on my return trip to Kentucky.
The second would be a multi-disc reading of all three stories in A Congress of Wonders (Counterpoint, 1996), the book I want to be represented by when I stand before that great literary panel in the sky. “Juanita and the Frog Prince," "The Congress of Wonders," and my personal all-time favorite, the novella "Finch's Song: A Schoolbus Tragedy"—incorporate all manner of improbable stuff, from witchcraft to clairvoyance to metempsychosis (the transmigration of souls) to spontaneous combustion to a guy with two noses to ascension unto heaven on the wings of a million tiny birds. “Artfully told,” said Publishers Weekly, “these droll, neo-gothic fairy tales are richly embroidered with threads of alchemy—and love.”
I will be working with professional musician and audio producer Jack Wright and publishers Nyoka Hawkins and Gurney Norman of Old Cove Press to produce these studio-quality, one-of-a-kind recordings of my stories. The Fondelle CD will feature artwork by the great Canadian woodcut artist Wesley Bates (taken from his original illustrations for the Larkspur Press edition of the story) and liner notes by Dr. Tom Marksbury, the University of Kentucky film scholar and documentarian, who is currently writing a screenplay of Fondelle.
These spoken-word CDs will be limited editions; they are not and will never be commercially available in this form, so this is a one-time-only chance to own them. Best of all, we offer them here in conjunction with your choice among a wide variety of other signed and personalized-to-order McClanahaniana, including both current and rare first editions of my books and rare prints of my artwork (as rendered by the renowned Lexington printmaker Joe Petro III), along with “guided tours” of my (very interesting) studio/office and unique opportunities (An O’Round at Lynagh’s! Brunch at Alfalfa! A day-trip to Maysville!) for you to hear more, perhaps, about Ed McClanahan than you ever really wanted to know.
THE GOLD BOOTS: A PROVENANCE
In the fall of 1990, during a time when I was in rather desperate need of distraction, I went out to Oregon to join my friend Ken Kesey (author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion, and protagonist of Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) in one of his more notorious pranks, a colossal media shuck-off wherein Ken declared his intention to drive his fabled psychedelic bus Furthur (actually the latter-day red-headed stepchild of the original Furthur) to Washington, DC, and present it to the Smithsonian—all this despite the fact that the Smithsonian had already indignantly declared its intention to reject the gift out of hand, as a facsimile, a fraud, and a counterfeit. (You can read all about this cataclysmic contretemps and the crazy, abortive bus trip that ensued in a story of mine called “Furthurmore,” which is reprinted in I Just Hitched In from the Coast.)
So I’m sitting out there in Oregon a few days before we’re scheduled to embark, watching the first game of the World Series with Ken and some other friends one evening in the living room of the barn (no, that’s not an oxy, moron; the Keseys lived in a converted dairy barn) in a state of distraction as extreme as my condition required, when my meandering eye happened to discern that on the wall behind the TV (where my very own Cincinnati Reds, god love ’em, were humiliating the Oakland A’s) was a little bookshelf bearing a short row of books, anchored by a pair of amazingly life-like, full-sized, gilt cowboy boot bookends, like overgrown bronzed baby shoes.
“Are those real boots?” I inquired after studying them warily out of the corner of my eye for an inning or two.
“Yep,” Ken said.
“Whose are they?” I asked.
“Yours,” he said, “if you can wear them.”
They were real! Gleaming, gold-lacquered, pointy-toed, low-heeled, high-rent Justins, magical, show-time, seven-league cowboy boots … and I could get them on!
Here’s the backstory, as I came to understand it: Among Ken’s numerous (not to say innumerable) friends was the great country/folk/rock/blues singer/songwriter/actor Hoyt Axton ( “Joy to the World,” “The Pusher,” “Greenback Dollar,” etc., etc.), who had been a recent visitor to the Kesey farm. (Hoyt, by the way, was also the son of Mae Boren Axton, who wrote “Heartbreak Hotel,” Elvis’s first hit.) In the early summer of 1990, Hoyt had showed up in his enormous tour bus to visit Ken, to talk about a possible collaboration on a film of a rodeo novel, The Last Go-Round, that Kesey and his pal Ken Babbs were writing at the time.
I don’t know how long Hoyt and his entourage and his prodigious bus stayed at the Kesey spread, but they pulled out, Babbs tells me, after sundown on a rainy Oregon evening … and immediately got stuck big-time in the ditch about thirty yards down the lane! An enormous scene ensued—lotsa vehicles, lotsa headlights casting weird shadows in the stygian gloom, hordes of hippies and stage-door cowboys gauming about in the muck and mire—until Farmer Kesey putt-putted down the lane on his mighty Massey-Ferguson tractor and hauled Hoyt’s behemoth out of the ditch. Whereupon Hoyt rather ceremoniously presented Ken, in honor of Ken’s (usual) man-of-the-hour heroism, with this magnificent pair of golden cowboy boots, which had been
custom-made for Hoyt Axton(!)
although they didn’t actually fit him anymore. If you can’t wear them, Hoyt said, give ’em to the first Cinderella who comes along—which, as fate would have it, would be me.
Anyhow, after a mighty struggle, I succeeded in getting the boots on and parading around in them all evening long … to the great disadvantage of my tootsies, each of which promptly developed a crippling blister. But I persevered, and early the next morning I snuck gimpily but gamely into town to the local shoe shop and got the Wonderboots stretched a little, to accommodate the McClanabunions, and they were mine!
Thanks, no doubt, to my new lucky boots, the Reds won that World Series in four games, and I concomitantly won a fifth of Scotch off ol’ Babbs, an A’s fan, poor sap. I wore the boots often during the bus trip, but that lasted only about ten days before it came to a gloriously inglorious conclusion in Stockton, California, approximately a continent short of Washington, DC. During the trip we were featured in the Bill Geist segment of “CBS Sunday Morning,” and for a brief but indelible moment my magical golden boots were on nationwide TV, with the McClanafeets inside ’em!
Magical indeed: For the next few years, they even improved my elephantine version of the Texas Two-Step—marginally, I must admit; but any improvement at all in my dancing has to be considered a minor miracle, attributable only to the influence of the magic boots. (Well, my daughter Cait helped a little too.)
During those years I wore them only sparingly, on very special occasions. Meanwhile, my aging tootsies were inexorably splaying themselves out until, alas, I could no longer get them into my gorgeous fabled magical lucky seven-league Hoyt Axton/Ken Kesey golden cowboy boots. So I retired my magnificent boots to a life of ease and luxury as an integral part of the décor of my aforementioned very interesting office, where they have stood splendid sentinel ever since.
The boots, size 10 1/2B, are in fine shape. The gold metallic cowhide uppers are still soft and supple, and the (original!) soles and Neoprene heels are barely worn. Aside from a few negligible black Neoprene scuff-marks (where I no doubt Two-Stepped on my own feet), they are in superb condition. And if they don’t fit anyone in your household, they’ll make you a stunning set of bookends, or andirons, or bedside lamps, or candlesticks, or, uh, salt-and-pepper shakers, or … ???
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