COYLE & SHARPE / ARTICLES
Liner Notes, The Absurd Imposters
Released in 1963
If someday soon you're approached by two intense young men with the sincere request to let them back their car over your hand strictly in the name of science ... well, you've just been contacted by the Absurd Impostors.
San Francisco has been terrorized in recent months by two young men. They call themselves Jim Coyle (crew cut, freckles, higher voiced, and baleful stare) and Mal Sharpe (the other one). To look at them, you'd think them two well-educated, well-read, well-spoken, audacious young men. They are. They are also two young men who've rejected a conventional way of life in order to tape absurd, impromptu conversations with the innocent passer-by on a hidden tape recorder. Or, to put it another way (their way), "We're just Renaissance Men who like to bug people."
Their home base is San Francisco, a city well-known for cable cars, Tony Bennett, the highest suicide rate in the U.S., and a glorious collection of imported and domestic nuts. Add to this group attractions Coyle and Sharpe, whose adventures in this album prove that People Are Gullible.
Gullible like the time Coyle and Sharpe urged a grocery man to stock used (pre-bitten) fruit. Like the time they asked a passer-by if he'd mind jumping off the Mark Hopkins Hotel. Like the time they offered a construction worker a $20 bill for his half-eaten sandwich.
The results are on this LP: a series of ad lib confrontations with unsuspecting citizenry. To be accosted by them--and by one of their mad proposals--is to undergo a ... well, put it this way: how would you feel if someone asked your advice on how to grow carnations in your abdomen? The amiability and conviction of The Absurd Impostors causes most of their "victims" to accept the widest, most of preposterous stories.
Every sequence on this album is the result of absolutely no months of preparation. Interviews are never planned. These two intense young men have the ability to approach a man-on-the-street and have him dwelling in a fantasy world within seconds. Their chief weapons: dead-pan stares and a glib pair of tongues. While one Impostor catches his breath, the other, without pause, continues the attack. Their outward aura of respectability belies the unconventionality that lurks below.
When asked to list their qualifications for such a profession, the two can find only one thing they share in common: before meeting, they both had jobs in bakeries, very briefly. Their first meeting took place in San Francisco, which they consider their private asylum, in a boarding house which shall go unnamed to protect the guilty.
The right of Mal's arrival at the house, Jim asked him what he did. Mal outlined his professional qualifications, which involved an animal-to-human brain transplantation. Mal claimed that he was soon to receive the brain of a flamingo. Jim casually accepted Mal's story and proceeded to tell about himself: he insisted that although he appeared to be in his twenties, he was actually 83 years and was living at the boarding house on a Spanish-American War Pension. From that moment on, the Impostors terrorized as a team.
A few months later, they terrorized their way from San Francisco to New York. There, they talked their way into plush Madison Avenue jobs, and in their spare time, terrorized the citizenry of New York City. While in New York, they were encouraged by friends and terrorizees to tape some of their interviews. They quit Madison Avenue and returned to San Francisco to do just that. The months of their taping were often lean and hungry for the Terrorizers. The only dispute arose, however, over peanut butter. Mal prefers crunchy: Jim favors creamy. With just enough money for one jar, it can be a problem.
Men such as these could not be expected to live as do those in the world outside. Mal Sharpe (the nuttier, taller, darker, scarier one) was born two-and-a-half decades ago in Boston where, after graduating from Boston U., he took advantage of his liberal educational advantages by hiring on as a day laborer, author of Army Training films, merchant seaman, dixie trombonist, and car wash attendant.
Jim Coyle (the other one) was born three years before Mal into the home of a Greco-Latin scholar. That didn't help much, because Jim, bored with high school, skipped out on the road, supporting himself as a hotel clerk, English tutor, ball-player, and so on (he claims to have held 114 jobs running from 25 minutes to two months and from Chicago to Phoenix).
The Impostors' nomadic tendencies will come in handy. Already, they're so famous in San Francisco that they can hardly walk down Sutter or Market without being recognized. They're on the lookout for new fields to frolic in. It may be anywhere. So if two intense young men approach you with a sincere, honestly-phrased, seemingly beneficial proposal to let their car run over your hand, watch out.