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Shut Up Little Man Gets Explained On Film

DETROIT - The mid-'90s was a turbulent time looking back on it. This was a time of change and all of we were graduating and going our separate ways. Grunge music had hit its peak and the main messiah of that movement, Kurt Cobain, had committed suicide. College was coming to a close. There were hints at making big money if once we left our college campus. That's when I first stumbled across the weird world of Peter and Ray.

I for one could have gone on quite well without that introduction but once you hear them there's no turning back. Ray Huffman and Peter Haskett are the subjects of the new documentary "Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure" directed by Matthew Bale. These two senior citizens are the oddball stars in this baring saga that has gone on for 28 years. Peter and Ray are violent, loud and argumentive alcoholics who were secretly taped by their next-door neighbors. A collection of their best bickering was released and has become an underground sensation. These tapes were originally passed out to friends and then they eventually were dubbed onto CD. It became an instant cult classic in 1992 which is about the time I first heard them for myself. The CD was called "Shut Up Little Man" and the legend grew from there.

The strange CD is a collection of 20+ arguments of two men who have seen better days. They didn't work but drank hard booze excessively and would get into bitter arguments, deliver drunken soliloquies, and yell pontifications and declarations of rage and hatred to one another. The screaming and shouting is almost unbearable but at the same time very funny and entertaining. Peter and Ray fight about everything under the sun and make life threats to one another, shout out their disdain for homosexuals, and boast about their contributions of courage in WWII. It is difficult to tear yourself away from their tirades. The men who recorded their arguments have become legends themselves.

The audio misadventures were recorded by Peter and Ray's next-door neighbors Mitchell D and Eddie Lee Sausage. These are two pen names and they both appear on the liner notes of the CD like this as well as in the film. To this day I have no idea what their real names are. Mitchell and Eddie live right next door to the old drunks and get sick of hearing them argue. They all live in a cheap pink painted apartment complex with paper-thin walls in San Francisco. The bickering never lets up and the noise is just unbearable. Soon they decide to record the old men and this became somewhat of a hobby. This started out as something to do and it soon grew to be an obsession. They attach a microphone just right outside of Peter and Ray's window. They get more than they bargain for and hear bodies being thrown on the floor, threats of calling the cops to each other, and more death threats. The only peace they get is when the two of them pass out for the night. Peace is always short-lived and then the unruly neighbors start up all over again. The title of the tape comes from Peter Haskett who is constantly yelling and berating his roommate Ray with the phrase, "Shut Up Little Man !"

The film points out something really interesting and that is when the tapes were first released Mitchel D and Eddie Lee Sausage were relaxed about creative copyright. They gave the listeners the freedom to use the audio anyway they chose and they could make their own products with it. So now you got artists making their own visual adaptations of this with puppets, (using real audio from the tape) and a real Shut Up Little Man comic book. Now, I remember the comic book because it had black and white pictures of a Shut Up Little Man play on the inside cover. I also remember the first pressing of the CD and it had a simple black and white cartoon drawing on it and it looked really homemade. The original CD pressing has some kind of code inscribed on which you can see on your computer audio player. It reads, "Good Ol Fashioned Christmas" which is far from the truth. I found that information to be somewhat humorous.

I lost contact with the whole Little Man scene after I graduated from college and moved to Chicago. Since then Itunes has acquired the original recordings and have added never before arguments into the ultimate collection. The cover of the CD cover has changed too with better art and is very popular. This has become a cult classic. This has become the subject of movies and stage plays. After some productions were made Mitchel D and Eddie Lee Sausage had second thoughts and realized that they were letting money slip out of their fingers.

These men are drunk out of their gourds and some of the arguments are very funny without meaning to be. The cussing is over the top so its not suitable for sensitive ears. This is really hard to listen to all in one shot. It gets very repetitive but there is a narrative in the CD and somewhat of a storyline. The two drunken men are visited by another drunkard named Tony who is also a Viet Nam Vet. This seems to add a little variety in some of the conversations in the ways of homophobia and a hatred of stoners. The fighting gets so bad that the boys go over to their apartment and bang on their door to quiet down. This leads to a very spooky soliloquy by Ray Huffman who says, "Make no mistake.... one day I will kill you... maybe not today but one day I will kill you.". There is nothing funny there but it is a very somber moment. It is also a very haunting moment because it reveals to us the depravity of alcoholism and Ray is, in fact, talking to himself. In many ways, these drunken men are already dead in spirit.

Mitchel D and Eddie Lee Sausage admit they have started a cult phenomenon with their recordings. They appear concerned and bewildered by it all and show us the hundreds of letters that continue to pour in. Most of these letters remain unopened and unread. The two of them continue to send out copies of their CD to people from all over the country. But what they really want to know is how to profit off of their accidental gold mine. It appears now the two of them have had plenty of time to think about the free usage act on their original tape liner notes. The sad saga of Peter and Ray has spawned some really profitable products such as cartoons, plays, and films. This has led to some bad blood with some of the artistic community.

A friend of mine once said, "You would think by now they would have come out with something new." That would lend one to believe that they would have secretly taped someone else? Would this be another voyeur product of some sort? But there really isn't much of a creative team here in Mitchel D and Eddie. They just happened to be at the right place at the wrong time and struggle to take it all in. This leads to tracking down Peter Haskett in his lonely apartment years later. Peter has moved on with his life after the death of his roommate Ray. They give him a check for a hundred dollars and explain to him about the tapes that they made and have been selling. Peter learns that he has become a cult celebrity and cannot seem to bring his mind around his newfound fame. You can see his motor skills are not very sharp from years of alcohol abuse. He seems to have a bit of a hard time remembering those days and his many drunken arguments.

There are no real upsides to this tale. Both Peter and Ray died from alcohol abuse. Peter dies shortly after Ray and is alone in a tiny bedroom with very few belongings. They never really understood the scope of curious fans that have collected their sordid conversations. Look for special segments from famous cartoonist Daniel Clowes, (creator of Eightball) in this film. Clowes does a comic book adaptation of Peter and Ray and introduces them to the adult comic book audience. He is grateful for getting access to this bickering and using it for artistic inspiration Clowes confides "God knows how many Shut Up Little Mans are going on around you right now? Its a completely sealed off-world. How else would you get access to that?".








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