Sunday, May 2, 2004

In Praise of Dr. Megavolt

Dr. Megavolt is a guy who wears a sort of tin-foil suit of armor and a birdcage for a helmet. He stands on top of what looks like an ice cream truck with an enormous Tesla coil on top. They turn on the Tesla coil and Dr. Megavolt wrassles the lightning. The ambient electricity is strong enough to raise the hairs on your scalp and to cause an unconnected fluorescent light tube (held aloft by a schlub assistant) to incandesce. You can feel the fillings in your head.

When I saw him at Burning Man in 1999, he fought the lightning from the coil for a few minutes and then shuffled to the side of the truck where he leaned over the edge and said to one of his technicians:

“Hey guys . . . I can still feel it.”

This moment of whiny humanity produced in me an abiding love for the idiotic stunt of Dr. Megavolting.

I saw the poor sap yesterday at the Coachella festival. He looked no worse for wear, but who knows? Inside those metal bars and iron cage, maybe there is a middle-aged guy struggling with his divorce or with worries about his receding hairline and expanding middle. Maybe the electricity has fundamentally altered the way he sees himself or how he feels about things. Who would he be if he weren't Dr. Megavolt?

In any case, Megavolt answers the call of the bell. He straps on that birdcage, climbs awkwardly on top of his ice cream truck and throws down with the great talons of hair-raising electricity that arc from the buzzing and screaching Tesla coil. If that ain’t a man, I dunno what is.

Gary Cooper for the new millennium: Dr. Megavolt.

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