by Art Chantry:
this is a photo taken at a halloween haunted house back in 1994. that’s me (with the meat cleaver at my throat) along with mr. & mrs. frank n. stein (and the brilliant artist ashleigh talbot in the foreground.) that guy with the green face and blood dripping from his fangs is the erstwhile (and LEGENDARY) wilum hopfrog pugmire, hisself.
going to a professional halloween haunted house with somebody like wilum is quite an experience. i didn’t quite know what to expect, but what i got was watching the masterful count pugsley “talk shop” with ghosties and ghouls and goblins. it was hilarious – boogeymen would jump out of the shadows at us and wilum would calmly say “HI” and then give a critique (a friendlt crit, mind you). the scary monster would suddenly break character and start to talk techniques with dear wilum and then i’d just sit back and watch as two ‘professionals’ compared notes on how to scare the shit out of people.
wilum pugmire is one of my heroes. this guy has seen and done and experienced more that most people would in… welll… 13 lifetimes! in the 25 years i’ve known him, you could fill several books with what this guy has gone through. but, he’s he such a master of chaos that he glides through it all somehow. with a wistful smile and snide remark and a playful smirk, i’ve seen him turn around dangerous situations and warp it into a memorable fun event. the guy is really good.
to begin with, wilum was raised a mormon. he went to his mission in (i believe) ireland. he came back home and began to work at the roadside attraction (later moved to the seattle world’s fair as a toursit feature) called “jone’s fantasic show”. it was an incredible exhibit space full of crazy machinery and sideshow freakish devices all executed in a sideshow swagger humor – all built by the inestimateble ‘doc’ jones. if you didn’t grow up in seattle, don’t try to remember it. it’s long gone.
wilum worked for doc jones as his general assistant and ‘marketing department’. his technique was to dress extravagantly in a green-faced vampire costume (aka – ‘count pugsley’) complete with derby hat and floor length black cape that read (on the back of the cape in big bold white letters) “visit jones’ fantastic show”. he would creep around and lurk in corners of the seattle center food circus (the old armory building that was where the jones museum was located upstairs). he’d scare kids and stare at people in creepy ways and drift off to surprise another group – showing offis sign on his back as he turned around to leave. he was creepy and hilarious. he did this for (i think) 19 years!!
during that time, he was excommunicated by his church. he went to his excommunication hearing dressed in full spagetti-strapped drag. the nervous elders looked at him and said, “brother wilum, we undertstand that you like to dress up as a vampire.” wilum responded with “oh, honey! you don’t know the half of it!”
you see, wilum ‘dresses up’ 24/7 and has all his life. he’s what you might call a drag queen – a sort of goth/punk/boy george/h.p.lovecraft/pope john paul sort of drag queen. he’s a big man and his presence does NOT go unnoticed on the streets of seattle. walking down a sidewalk with wilum is an experience everybody should have. strolling past a construction site with him is to be assaultd by a dozen catcalls and lewd remarks are tossed at him like grenades. but, wilum simply glances over his shoulder, gives the macho men a little ‘kissy face’ and they all suddenly eating out of hands, his new best friends. the guy is magic. a real pro.
but, the other side of wilum is even more interesting. for instance, he’s been a pillar of the seattle punk community since it’s inception. he’s edited zines (one in particular called ‘punk lust”) and befriended street kids and entire rock bands. he’s helped promote so many little monsters (who later became ‘grunge rock stars’) thats it’s hard to count them all. he’s maybe what you could call the “grandmother of grunge”. it’s quite a colorful history.
even more important is the fact that wilum pugmire writes ‘weird fiction’ – what the uninititated might call ‘horror stories’. in fact, he’s become a major figure in the weird fiction underground – especially in the very purist but extremely large community of h.p. lovecraft devotees. he’s considered one of the major keepers of the lovecraft tradition in america. the lovecraftian underground is a world w
the works associated with the cthulu mythos (and tales of h. p.lovecraft in particular) are emulated and the literary traditions continued. wilum’s short fiction and collections of short stories and prose have been widely published and distributed for decades. in fact, his work has even been anthologized by the likes of poppy z. brite and stephen king.
in the last few years, wilum has discovered the internet. his facebook postings are astonishing. he simply reads his stories (and those of h.p.lovecraft, natch) into his desktop camera and then posts it. but his theatrical appearance changes from video to videio and what he talks about is fascinating in the extreme. the guy has managed to become an undergound blog filmstar by simply being himself. his following is growing huge. the stuff is really amazing. wilum is frank and honest and totally comfortable with himself. he actually makes a great presentation.
recently, anti-gay ‘trolls’ have started to attack wilum. true to form, he simply ignored it for a time (water off a duck’s back), but eventually, the old street warrior in him popped out and he set them nasty bigots straight (pun intended). the guy can do amazing things with words and he took them apart. never fuck with a drag queen – they can be deadly. they will simply rend you limb from limb and leave you for dead without batting a false eyelash. to live that life is become sort of beyond normal human power. they are the single TOUGHEST people i’ve ever met. again, never fuck with a drag queen. they’ll take you apart.
wilum is becoming an even better known name (maybe even a star) in the popular underground. and yet, he also managed to find time to re-establish himself and return to his roots and become actively part of the LDS again. his spiritual travels took him through many many paths and backroads (some of them i’ve been fortunate to witness), but his fairly recent return to the mormon faith surprise even him. he met with his elders and made a ‘pact’ with them that satisfied everybody’s needs and desires. now he’s back in the fold. he’s still THE wilum pugmire (a hero to me and many others). but, he’s an active mormon again. go figger, eh?
never fuck with a drag queen.