Item World: In search of Frogtown’s fictional fatman, and more

  • Updated: November 14, 2013 - 5:00 PM
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Tony Schmitz, left, does a dramatic reading of “The Fatman Descends” with his friend Bart Cannon in the role of Roscoe, the cop.

Photo: Kimerly Miller,

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Frogtown’s fictional fatman

Light-rail construction along St. Paul’s central corridor has made at least one guy’s imagination run wild. Writer Tony Schmitz, a 33-year resident of Frogtown, has written a 66-installment serial novel you can read online, “Fatman Descends,” in which a circumspect, corpulent denizen of the ’hood becomes embroiled in a sinister underworld revealed by the excavations. Of course, there will be zombies. The project was funded in part by Irrigate, a nonprofit that seeks to liven up the corridor and unite surrounding communities. While “Fatman” is fiction, “an appalling number of people and situations are based on actual events that happened around here,” said Schmitz, who has proved uncannily adept at building suspense in 500-word bites. A sample conclusion: “ ‘Smells like somebody opened the door to hell.’ Despite all the official explanations and denials that were to come, this was less wrong than you might think.” Read the story so far at FatmanDescends.com (you can also sign up for daily e-mail delivery).

KRISTIN TILLOTSON

Chappelle raves on

After partying with Skrillex at Light nightclub following the DJ’s Sunday-night gig at First Avenue — “a bunch of his sweaty fans bumped into me, and I got a contact high on acid” — Dave Chappelle seemed uncertain if he would also get to hang with Prince this week during his six-night, 11-set Minneapolis stand (which moves from First Ave to the Pantages Theatre Friday and Saturday). “First of all, who knows how to reach the guy?!” the comedian asked his audience on Monday. “You have to wait for a cloudy night and turn on the Bat Signal. Which would be a great movie, actually: Prince going out at night to fight crime on the streets of Minneapolis. Who wouldn’t watch that?” Chappelle also regularly referenced the movie that made Prince famous, and he took inspiration from the song, too: “I need a ‘Purple Rain’ joke tonight, a good closer where I can be like, ‘This one was written by a couple of guys in my band.’ ”

CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER

Sonny shares

By electronic DJ/producer standards, Skrillex (born Sonny Moore) is a surprisingly chatty little rock star. He told the sold-out crowd Sunday why he decided to kick off a five-city club tour at First Ave — his first time performing there: “I [bleepin’] grew up on ‘Purple Rain.’ This is very special for me to be here.” While his set sampled everyone from the Beasties to Niki & the Dove, he was smart enough not to play any Prince. How special would it have been to see the Purple Yoda’s lawyers there at show’s end?C.R.

The Russian who came to dinner

Brandishing an e-mail, Brad Shinkle, director of the Museum of Russian Art, buttonholed curator Masha Zavialova with a question as she supervised installation of “The Romanovs: Legacy of an Empire Lost,” the museum’s new show about the dynasty that ruled Russia for 300 years until the last czar and his family were executed in 1918. Who was this guest arriving a day early and what should Shinkle do with him? “He’s the grandnephew of Czar Nicholas II, and you should take him to dinner,” Zavialova said. “OK, I just take orders around here,” Shinkle laughed. And where would he take the czar’s nephew? “I haven’t figured that out yet,” he said.

MARY ABBE

Mayor of Snoose Blvd.

Longtime West Bank music fixture Maury Bernstein — an accordionist, folklorist, ethnomusicologist, teacher and radio broadcaster — died Sunday at 74. He had Parkinson’s disease. Host of the radio show “Folk Music and Bernstein” in the 1960s and ’70s, he taught at the University of Minnesota but may be best remembered for championing the Scandinavian music history of Minnesota and organizing the Snoose Boulevard Festival on the West Bank in the mid-1970s, bringing Swedish songbird Anne-Charlotte Harvey to the Twin Cities. He produced three albums from those festivals.

JON BREAM

Mom, dad and Pat Conroy

As millions of readers know, Pat Conroy has major parent issues. In St. Paul Tuesday night for the Talking Volumes series, the bestselling author of such books as “The Great Santini” and “The Prince of Tides” centered much of his hourlong chat on his beautiful, “beloved mom” and his violent, abusive and egomaniacal father, whom he revisits in “The Death of Santini,” a new memoir. “My dad had a great second act,” said Conroy, whose hair-curling stories of his violent, peripatetic childhood were softened by his folksy dark humor. When his fighter-pilot dad said, “I should have beaten you more, you’d a been a better writer,” Conroy says he replied, “If you beat me any more, I’d be Shakespeare.” The longtime South Carolinian said he thought he’d make a good Minnesotan because people here are so unhappy. “Does everyone in Minnesota keep a journal?” he asked later.

CLAUDE PECK

Peter’s way

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