Frank Moore liked to push buttons. The Berkeley-based performance artist, who died in 2013 at the age of 67, was born with severe cerebral palsy that rendered him unable to walk or speak. He also only had limited use of his hands. As a child, he couldn't communicate with anyone other than his immediate family and instructors. At age seventeen, he devised a communication board with letters and basic words that allowed him to spell out sentences by pointing a stick that was strapped to his forehead at the board. That was the beginning of when Moore began to break out, not only of personal isolation, but also of oppressive societal norms and expectations.
Moore went on to enjoy a prolific artistic career (which the Express wrote about extensively in the January 29, 2003 feature, "Touching Our Private Parts"). He is most often remembered for his live performances, which usually involved a group of naked people — including himself — touching each other's bodies on stage erotically. These performances were not so much about sex, disability, or shock value as they were about transcending one's mindset in order to form visceral connections and celebrate life. Moore staged these performances in the East Bay and across the country throughout his career and aired recordings of them on his controversial Berkeley cable-access television show.
But Moore had a number of other projects too, including his online talk show Shaman's Den, which he streamed for more than two hours every Sunday night for fourteen years, starting in 1998. Throughout its run, the show featured interviews with artists, writers, politicians, professors, and just about anyone who Moore deemed interesting enough to be invited into the den. Performances of music, poetry, and nude erotic expression (of course) were also recurrent.
Moore was repeatedly praised for his ability to stir insightful conversation. His style was entirely improvisational, in a way that wasn't so much wacky as it was simply without need for notes. The pacing was slow, even with Moore's partner Linda Mac acting as a communication liaison, often guessing the end of Moore's sentences as he spelled them out on his board. The result was a test of patience, like an exercise in deeply considerate conversation. And they read that way as well.
Recently, Linda Mac and Michael LaBash (Moore's other partner) chose some of their favorite interviews from the show to be transcribed and included in the first of a series of books called Deep Conversations in the Shaman's Den. The first volume was independently published last month and is available on Moore's website (EroPlay.com). In it, author and Merry Prankster's member Paul Krassner talks about politics; LA Black Panther Party founding member Elder Freeman discusses revolution; Penny Arcade reflects on her life as a subversive artist; and anti-globalization activist Kevin Danaher speaks about international issues.
The book also includes a bonus at the end: the radical platform that Moore proposed when he ran for president in 2008. Yes, he did that, too.
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