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FIXING A HOLE (The Tao of Stuart)

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
The "Donut Disturb" sign from "Twin Peaks: The Return."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – So, there it was, as I pulled into a donut shop in Edmond, as the sun came up on Bloomsday.

A small, dented sedan. But the sticker in the window – it was identical to the one-eyed “Minions” sticker I had seen while in traffic – the same one that made it into my Red Dirt Grit post “That was a hoax, right?

At that time, four mornings ago, I was dwelling upon the whole “Paul is Dead” conspiracy theory (which I keep an open mind about), when I looked over and saw this same “minion,” which I’ve learned is Stuart, after having seen the Minions film from 2015.

Why was this significant? Because in my prior “Shoes as clues” post, I had noted how “shoes” were a prominent symbol in the Twin Peaks universe and related to the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover, where “Paul McCartney” is photographed, with the other three band members, strolling through a crosswalk on Abbey Road.

Stuart gives "Paul" the "eye" on Abbey Road in the Minions movie. (Illumination Entertainment)

This iconic moment is captured in the Minions film as well, as the three minions pop out of a manhole at the very moment the Beatles are crossing Abbey Road.

So, there is something about this “minion” image, particularly the one-eyed character of “Stuart.”

That name – “Stuart.” It’s been syncing with me quite a bit. Synchromystic researcher and Twilight Language writer Loren Coleman has noted the oddities linked to the name.

After the death of James Bond actor Roger Moore, my research revealed that the actor Barry Nelson, who played Stuart Ullman in The Shining (which came up today when my cup of coffee was $2.37) was the first actor to portray James Bond on screen, in a TV adaptation of Casino Royale in 1954.

Nelson ... Barry Nelson as "James Bond" in 1954's Casino Royale. He played "Stuart Ullman" in The Shining. (Wikimedia Commons)

But the Beatles angle clenched my brain – and then it hit me! Stuart Sutcliffe! He was the original bassist for The Beatles who was by far the most handsome and “cool” of the Silver Beatles – later to become simply the Beatles – and caused an insecure McCartney to become jealous of Sutcliffe’s friendship with John Lennon, with McCartney saying he was taking a “back seat” to Sutcliffe and resented it.

But Stuart Sutcliffe’s time with the band in their days playing in Hamburg, West Germany was limited, as in 1961-62 he became temporarily blind (the “eye”), sensitive to light and had terrible headaches and would die in Hamburg of a brain aneurysm on April 10, 1962.

I specifically remember back in April 1994, just a few weeks after Kurt Cobain’s death in Seattle, I went to a movie theater in Grand Rapids, Michigan to watch Backbeat, the Iain Softley-directed film about the Beatles’ early career in Hamburg, with a focus on Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff), John Lennon (Ian Hart) and Sutcliffe’s German girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr, played by Twin Peaks’ Sheryl Lee, who played, of course, Laura Palmer. I remember watching her on screen, and thinking about her incredibly moving performances both in Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. She still had that haunted look, as though her face were a mask.

Sheryl Lee playing Astrid Kirchherr in the 1994 film Backbeat. Kirchherr was former Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe's girlfriend at the time of his death in 1962. (Polygram / Gramercy Pictures)

It was Astrid Kirchher, the beautiful Hamburg photographer, who gave her fiancee Stuart that "Beatle moptop haircut" that the other Beatles would adopt. And yet the band members - clearly jealous - would pick on him, particularly the insufferable McCartney, as Lennon would later say.

Backbeat, by the way, is a very good film that features a stellar soundtrack featuring the “Backbeat Band” of singers Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum) and Greg Dulli (The Afghan Whigs), playing the roles of McCartney and Lennon, respectively (and appropriately); and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Gumball’s Don Fleming on guitars, R.E.M.’s Mike Mills on bass and Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl filling in, as it were for both Pete Best and Ringo Starr. Oh, and to clarify, it’s Henry Rollins singing “Love Me Tender.” A really alt-rock/punk assembly there. Great stuff! The soundtrack  was produced by Don Was and won the 1994 BAFTA Award for Best Film Music.

When I think about it, it’s eerie that Dave Grohl, now with the enormously popular Foo Fighters, appears on the soundtrack involving the world’s most famous rock band and focusing on the tragic death of a band member (although Sutcliffe had quit the band some months earlier to focus on his burgeoning art career and spend time with Kirchherr).

Stuart Sutcliffe in his "Beatles" days. (StuartSutcliffe.org)

And Sheryl Lee, who played Backbeat’s Kirchherr, had her acting career solidified after appearing as dead high school prom queen Laura Palmer on Twin Peaks – which, after 25 years, has incredibly and almost magically returned to television and to critical acclaim!

DONUT DISTURB

When Deputy Tommy "Hawk" Hill (Michael Horse) wants to keep people out of the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Office conference room while reopening the 1989 murder case files on Laura Palmer, he places a cute "Donut Disturb) sign on the door. And yes "donuts" play a big role in the Twin Peaks universe. We, the audience, see that iconic image of Laura Palmer, smiling as the prom queen - not long before her brutal death and being sent to the Black Lodge. 

So, I thought of that as I gazed at that one-eyed "minion" sticker on that same car, outside a donut shop I had never been to up in Edmond, Oklahoma. I saw a woman with her son and offhandedly asked if she had the car outside with a "Minion" on the window. She said "no." I got my donuts and as I found a table the woman came back in and said, yes, that was her car and she had misheard me. 

I told this very friendly woman about my earlier encounter with her car and she found it all very weird ... but she was cool about it. She said her son, a special-needs child, considered the side of the car with Stuart the Minion on it his side of the car. It was all very cute and very nice and human. She was so genuine. It was really neat.

Later, it dawned on me that the donut, with the hole in the middle, sort of looks like Stuart's one eye - the weird "henchman" creature created by Pierre Coffin

THE TAO OF ... STUART

So, back to Stuart Sutcliffe. It's sad that he (and Pete Best, for that matter) have been just about erased from Beatles history, due to efforts of ... well, I don't know. The same people covering for creepy old Sir Paul? There were rumors about how Sutcliffe developed this aneurysm, perhaps during a fight outside a performance hall in January 1961 - and that Lennon was somehow involved. Lennon did not attend Sutcliffe's funeral, but, according to wife Yoko Ono he grieved over his dead friend for many years.

In the 2000 film The Tao of Steve, starring Donal Logue as Lothario literary type Dex, he tells a friend about the Tao of Steve - a pop-culture "philosophy" based in Eastern wisdom and being "Zen" while being cool and aloof to get girls.

And Dex tells his hapless friend that his efforts are more akin to a "Stu" than a "Steve." And yet at the end of the film, Dex realizes that being a dickish, overly-macho "Steve" type (think Steve McQueen or Steve McGarrett from Hawaii Five-0), being a Stu ain't all that bad. Just being yourself is more like it.

Donal Logue and Greer Goodman share an "ice-cream kiss" in The Tao of Steve. (Sony Pictures Classics)

And that was Stuart Sutcliffe. He was artistic and cool and had a great girlfriend and a real gift. He realized playing live music - and not very well, as it turned out - was not for him. Art was for him. He was true to himself. He was innovative, daring, funny and was witty enough to keep up with Lennon, we now know. And what Sutcliffe lacked in musical ability on stage, he made up with style and presence. Again, the others - Lennon and McCartney, per usual - were jealous of Sutcliffe. 

And while we are the subject of tragic figures, it was President John F. Kennedy (Barry Nelson's Stuart Ullman was modeled after JFK, allegedly, for Stanley Kubrick's The Shining) who, a little more than a year after Stuart Sutcliffe's death would go to Europe and give his " “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in West Berlin, targeting the Soviets and the creation of the "Berlin Wall." For years folks have joked that JFK was saying in German, "I am a jelly doughnut." It was the late writer David Foster Wallace who would note in his epic Infinite Jest that "Few foreigners realize that the German term Berliner is also the vulgate idiom for a common jelly doughnut, and thus that Kennedy's seminal 'Ich bin ein Berliner' was greeted by the Teutonic crowds with a delight only apparently political."

Food for thought this Bloomsday.

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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