Originally published by East Bay Express Feb 19, 2003
©2003 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.

7 Days
What good is it to gag a man who can't speak?

Justin Page
Too racy for the promoters: Frank Moore

Details: News tips son muy buenos:
News Category: Politics

The dangers of being Frank: Although controversial Berkeley artiste Frank Moore likes to think of his work as dangerous, the cops rarely have to break up his act. But a couple of weeks ago Oakland police officers escorted Moore and his entourage out of the World Ground cafe in the Laurel District.

As Moore tells the tale, Alison "Chokwadi" Fletcher, organizer of the cafe's "Poetry Diversified" series, "freaked out into irrationality" after reading a recent Express cover profile of Moore ("Touching Our Private Parts," January 29) and pulled the plug on his previously scheduled poetry reading at the last moment. The cover story featured a photo of Moore in his wheelchair next to a painted, naked woman, and detailed his fondness for nude "erotic play" in his performance pieces. A few days before the reading, Fletcher asked the artist via e-mail if he planned "to do any of the erotic stuff or just poetry or what?" "My firm policy is to never reveal what I'll do beforehand," he wrote back (due to severe cerebral palsy, Moore cannot speak without an interpreter). "But most places do ask me back!" That was apparently too coy for comfort, and so Fletcher canceled his reading, although she planned to still host an open mic. "World Ground has many patrons, from small children to senior citizens," she explained in another missive to Moore, "and I cannot risk having a show that would offend any of these people."

When Fletcher arrived, she was surprised to find Moore and his posse already present. "What are you doing here?" she recalls asking. "I canceled you. I need you to leave." Instead of leaving, a couple members of Moore's entourage began reading poetry and, Fletcher says, one began yelling at the host, calling her "retarded" and accusing her of censorship. "They were basically attacking me," she says. Fletcher then asked cafe owners Martha and Uffe Gustafsson for backup, and passions escalated further. Moore says Uffe "basically attacked" one of his female cohorts (the one doing most of the yelling) and pulled her outside, only to have her come back in crying, "He hurt me!" Uffe denies hurting the woman. According to Martha, irritated customers suggested calling the cops to break up the fracas. After the cops arrived, Moore took his impromptu reading to the sidewalk and the evening concluded without any arrests.

Moore later sent out a group e-mail titled "CENSORED," blasting Fletcher and the cafe's owners for overreacting. Fletcher, who first saw Moore do his poetry last year at the Art & Soul Festival in Oakland, says she intended only to make sure he wasn't planning anything inappropriate (like getting naked), not censor him. "It's a coffeehouse, it's not a theater," she says.

Martha Gustafsson says her cafe, which hosts many spoken word events, has a rule that artists need to disclose whether they're going to do anything explicit beforehand so she can warn customers. "They didn't respect the rules of the establishment," she says.

The thing is, Moore says, he wasn't planning on any nudity, and Fletcher should have realized that, since he didn't get kinky at the earlier poetry reading she saw. "How ironic," e-mails the artist. "After all I have done, this straight nudity-less poetry reading is the closest I have gotten to being busted."

In another episode earlier this month, Moore's series of twice-monthly performances through UC Berkeley's art department was unexpectedly canceled after just one show (eight were scheduled through May). Art department manager Judith Coyote says the faculty sponsor, Katherine Sherwood, violated department policy by not attending the show, and apparently couldn't guarantee her presence at future performances. Moore claims another reason for the series' demise. According to him, an art department heavy also read the Express story and put the kibosh on future performances. Apparently, some people can't handle the truth. -- Will Harper

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