Starbucks: Flame For The Moths of Idiocy

In the spirit of Gawker, two datapoints make a trend. And when both of those datapoints come from Gawker itself, well, it doesn't get any trendier than that. So what's the scoop, you ask? Self-Indulgent, Dishonest Idiots and Starbucks.

Nick Denton tells the tale of having the mock-televangelical tax protestor Rev. Billy explode in his face at a friends' happening. The Rev's favorite stunt is setting up his pulpit in Starbucks and preaching against some corporate something-or-other. He's clearly mastered the TV preacher's self-righteous hubris, but based on his behavior the other night, seems to be reading from some abridged Bible, one without all that pesky "Blessed are the meek, the peacemakers, etc" crap. Well, when someone snaps a picture of him with walking out of an Office Depot with a box of Turbotax, we'll see if he can crumble as abjectly as Jimmy Swaggart.

What the overly referential Reverend Billy is to televangelism, Fischerspooner is to pop/rock stars. They staged their first guerilla performance in Starbucks in 1998. Carl Swanson reports from their latest concert in the NYT, and now there's a ga-ga Gawker review.

Like Rev. Billy, though, FS mocks only a few traits of manufactured rock stars (bad performances, lack of talent, diva behavior), while wholeheartedly embracing others. You know how, in Glitter, Billie/Mariah totally disses the guy who gave her her break and she...ahem. You can't reference Glitter and hope for any credibility, not even in relation to Fischerspooner.

There's a 2+ year gap in the meteoric rise of FS, at least as it's told to/by Swanson. Written out of that history faster than Little Richard is Gavin Brown, the art dealer with the "honor" of being the first person to actually let them perform. It was thanks to some ad hoc performances during a 1999 Rikrit Tiravanija exhibit, and a later series of nightly shows in the gallery, that Fischerspooner got any attention at all. Brown helped them put out their first CD and organized some actual (i.e., non-Starbucks) concerts. Just before their UK record deal was announced, Brown got ditched for Deitch; Fischerspooner has been trying to fail upwards ever since.

Of course, if this Launch-a-Pathetic-Media-Grab-In-a-Starbucks movement continues, regular folks'll learn to avoid the chain in droves, turning it into a niche-y, little Macchiatos for Masochists. Fortunately, like many other best-viewed-at-a-distance trends, you can follow along painlessly at Gawker.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: April 13, 2003.

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