For some reason I woke up with this video playing in my head on loop.
For context, a bunch of my friends and I thought this was the funniest thing in the world circa 2004. Like “Star Wars Kid” before him, Gellieman was a figure of ridicule, but also strangely some respect? Of course he was a figure of mockery, but like us he too was a teenager. I think on some level we understood that we all were not far off creating something that embarassing. We had that kind of potential. I mean, we were drama geeks. Have you seen Glee? If you substituted the singing for “acting out” and the wheelchair for stunted emotional maturity, that was basically us.
When I think about it more, it was pretty my best friend leading the charge with the “Aicha” video. Thing is, he always posessed this bizarrely infectious enthusiasm. If he got on a tear about something, nine times out of ten, everyone would be on that train whether they liked it or not. So, “Aicha”. We watched it enough times to learn it by heart. We knew the song, we knew the dance, we knew the very specific inflections with which Gellieman said every single line. We’d break out into spontaneous performances from time to time, whether this was in the middle of class or not. It all reached its fever pitch when, for shits and giggles, we created a parody boy band group and performed the song at the school talent show. In retrospect, I’m sure most people had no fucking idea what was going on, but we did it all with such conviction that I think they just rolled with it. We were all Known Individuals by that point.
Look, I could write novels about my best friend. We don’t talk much now, because we live half a world away. Doesn’t mean I don’t still adore the guy. We have one of the most concrete relationships in my life, in that it never needs watering and will always be there. I don’t know that we could have awkward pauses, there’s just too much history. We’ve known each other since we were infants, yet I think fairly often back to high school and his nigh frightening creativity. Saying he was prolific would be a dramatic understatement. He’d just get whipped up into these personal frenzies and create, seemingly apropos of nothing. We’d meet at the same corner to walk to school and weirdly often he’d be like “oh by the way, here’s a script I wrote last night” and hand me a 20 minute performance on paper. Maybe it’d was a faux soap opera script that included a character for everyone in the drama department, totally nailing all our personal in-jokes and isms. Or perhaps it was an ersatz Waiting for Godot, riffing on the fall of communism. It was always something.
Y’know, one time the Prime Minister was visiting our school. What did he do? He went home and painted a red & purple picture of New Zealand’s topography and gave it to her. Burned into my brain is a photo of the two of them standing together, him with a goofy grin, her more than mildly disconcerted. I’m 98% sure she thought he was a special needs student and treated him accordingly. I get it, he was a weird dude (still is) and was entirely unpredictable (still is).
I think one of my many many favourite stories about him was when we did a student directed performance of King Lear themed around the Stock Market Crash of 1929. He auditioned, but ultimately didn’t get cast as a speaking part. I think his part was “Old Man” or something of the like. Thing is, he was always around and constantly goofing off. We were all a pretty tight crew and he was good friends with the director. As the production advanced, he was Just Always Around, riffing and improvising. The more he was around, the more his character ended up being added to scenes. By performance time, Old Man was in a curious number of scenes. Not only that, he had lines. Plural. Was Old Man a big character in the original play? Did it matter? Not when he was around. When I think about it, whenever he was around, it felt like you were in some kind of scene. He made it that way.
I wonder how much it costs to get to Finland…