He kept in touch with Tucker, who was working at a Georgia Wal-Mart and struggling to get by. A few decades before, she had been hobnobbing with Andy Warhol and his coterie of oddballs and artistes at his Manhattan Factory. She began visiting Kostek in Stuart – as did Jad and David – and the nucleus of what would become 50 Skidillion Watts was formed.
The gang would hang out in town and hit the downtown record store, Confusion Records, right off “Confusion Corner” – the roundabout that even locals used to just close their eyes and gun it through – and visit with John Clements. Half Japanese became regulars in Stuart, even rehearsing and playing a gig at Confusion. “It was almost a democratic thing,” Clements said. “If there were 20 guitars on stage, no one would have stepped in and stopped them. David was like Elwood in The Blues Brothers – dancing bizarrely and punching the air.”
It was a wild scene for a sleepy town. “I just couldn’t believe they had an act like that,” Clements said.
Jad Fair remembers those times – and the weather – fondly. “I’m not very keen on wintertime,” he said.
And, of course, there was Jillette, who was starting to make a name for himself with his irreverent take on magic. He was a Half Japanese fan, too, and in 1987 he fronted the money to start a record label for Fair and the gang to release records. Jad called it 50 Skidillion Watts – a made up name for as many zeros as would fit on the label – and it rose out the Fairs’ previous label. It wasn’t the first time the name had been used, but maybe it was the first time all those zeros were attributed to an actual number.
Why South Florida is the crossroads between the Velvet Underground, Half Japanese and Penn Jilette.
From Hey Darren [via Mr. Emmett].