December 9, 2005
After watching "Derailroaded," I knew I'd spent time with someone profoundly unique. If it's true the world only needs one of everyone, Larry "Wild Man" Fischer is the reason why. Such a statement isn't meant to sound derogatory. But those who recall Larry during his tumultuous life can attest to how much of a handful he can be. Heck, even I can verify it, and all I've done is watch the documentary.[/color]
[color=wheat]If the filmmakers - Josh Rubin and Jeremy Lubin - like delving into the extreme and bizarre, Larry's their man, a paranoid-schizophrenic who experiences waves of manic depression and hallucinations, manifesting people who are out to get him. At one point, he suspects Steven Spielberg. Poor Larry walks back and forth in his aunt's house, living and sleeping in filth. He cares for his aunt's dog and only recently returned from elusive traveling.
Nowadays, Larry seems harmless, but at 16 he was institutionalized for nearly stabbing his mother with a knife. When released, he wandered around Los Angeles where the streets became his personal concert venue, singing uninhibitedly and from the heart. He earned the nickname "Wild Man" and developed a cult following in the outsider music genre, which, we're told, involves singers with no professional training and rocking on whim. Larry must have done something right, though, since he cut his first album with Frank Zappa. Maybe you've heard his famous Rhino Records theme or passionate "Merry-Go-Round" song. It's not exactly pleasing to the ears, but it is catchy.
Rubin and Lubin's documentary reveals an incorrigible and insatiable man. Hitherto "Derailroaded," I'd never heard of him, but the film is a testament to how one person can lead an amazing life through unconventional means. How many people can say they've appeared on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in"? Or was the subject of his own comic book? And made it on the Top 50 charts in England and sang a duet with Rosemary Clooney? Interviews from Larry's family, Frank and Gail Zappa, Weird Al Yankovic (who swears he's not trying to kill Larry), and Dr. Demento provide compelling history on a man who lives by never losing his pep.
I'm glad I got a chance to meet Larry. While I'll probably never know him personally, his story contains the kind of nuance and poignancy that only real life can provide. But what is real life, after all, to someone like Larry? Only at the very end of the movie did I see how he went "off the track." Everything else was an adventure. For him, because he lived it. For us, because we got to see and hear about it.