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The Orange Show

Bad Taste Tour: The Orange Show
by Cash Peters

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Have you ever heard of a guy called Jeff McKissack? Well, he's the author of this health book called How You Can Live a Hundred Years, which, since he died at 79, I'd say he was uniquely underqualified to write. However, before he died, Jeff McKissack built this weird structure in Houston which he called The Orange Show. Tour guide Erin Johnson:

Johnson: "It's fun. It's fun. It's a great laugh. It's ridiculous, it's absurd, it's stuck in a neighborhood, one guy built it. It's bizarre. But it's fun."

The Orange Show

So you get the idea - it's fun. Jeff was a mailman who had a bizarre fixation with oranges, and so in his spare time, quite naturally, he decided to build a tribute to his favorite fruit, and fill it with sculptures, tractor seats, wagon wheels, and umbrellas. Imagine clearing out your garage and dumping everything in your neighbor's garden. It's a bit like that. There's also a pond and a steam engine, and maps of places you should recognize, but don't.

Johnson: "Now, here we have a map of Florida. It's odd. It's not the proper shape."

Peters: "It's shaped like a cucumber."

Johnson: "And everything's out of proportion."

Peters: "Why is it here?"

Johnson: "He wanted to show people where oranges came from, and oranges grow in Florida."

Peters: "I thought Florida was connected to the US."

Johnson: "That was my impression too."

Anyway, the entrance fee's a dollar - although I'd haggle, if I were you. For that you get to see Jeff's amazing wishing well - amazing because it's only four feet deep and doesn't hold water - and you visit the toilet. Honest - the gents bathroom is part of the tour! Jeff designed it himself, so you can expect the worst.

Peters: "Would it hurt you to put lids on the toilets?"

Johnson: "Yes."

Peters: "Would it really hurt you to put doors on the stalls?"

Johnson: "Yes, it would. We remain true to his vision."

Peters: "His vision was to see other men pooing?"

Johnson: "Yes, it was."

Peters: "The toilets actually jut out of the stalls, so you can talk to your neighbor while you're pooing."

Johnson: "This is all seeming far more ridiculous to me now than it has ever been."

Peters: "You mean it didn't seem ridiculous before I arrived?"

Johnson: "No."

It's true. Normally you have to take LSD before you see anything like this. The Orange Show is what a migraine would look like if you could draw it. Jeff, it turns out, though, died an unhappy man. Suzanne Theis, is the executive director.

The Orange Show

Theis: "He believed that hundreds of thousands of people would come here. And when he opened it and only 150 people came he was so sad and died six months later. The lifespan of the creator is often the same as it takes to achieve the dream, which suggests to me that the important thing is doing it, which makes this a very zen thing."

Johnson: "Would you like to see the stage where he intended to talk about health and nutrition?"

Peters: "Try and keep me away from it."

Johnson: "He intended there to be an organist, and the organ would rotate while he gave his speech."

Peters: "How many people turned up to his lectures?"

Johnson: "I don't think he gave one."

Peters: "So he built an entire stage but never gave a lecture?"

Johnson: "Possibly."

Peters: "And did the organist ever turn up?"

Johnson: "No."

Peters: "He wasn't a gifted man, was he?"

Johnson: "Er."

Peters: "Or an intelligent one?"

Johnson: "Er."

Peters: "Or a sane one?"

Johnson: "Okay, you may have me there. But he was able to spell his name correctly, and that's all that matters."

The Orange Show

Well, I guess. But there's a pool and a juice bar, and signs everywhere saying things like: 'Please be quiet' and 'I love oranges.' On the whole, the structure falls somewhere between an eyesore and a monstrosity, so I'm guessing the neighbors must be furious. Well, it turns out, there are good neighbors and bad neighbors. This is the good neighbor:

Good Neighbor: "It's amazing."

Peters: "It's okay to use the word ridiculous."

Good Neighbor: "I love it."

Peters: "But you live next door to it. Wouldn't you rather have a nice house there?"

Good Neighbor: "No. That would be boring."

To reach the bad neighbors, the ones who hate the Orange Show, I wormed my way into the affections of their mailman - Kermit Briscoe. He's a real fan of Jeff McKissack.

Briscoe: "He had a vision. It was a vision. A vision. And he built it from his vision."

Peters: "Well, apparently there's good neighbors and bad neighbors, have you met the bad neighbors? Apparently they have a gun."

Briscoe: "No, no, no, no - who tellin' you that?"

Peters: "The good neighbors told me they had a gun."

Briscoe: "Everyone's got a gun in Texas."

[They approach the bad neighbor's door:]

Peters: "Okay, this is the moment. I'm worried for my life."

Briscoe: "No, come on. KNOCK."

Peters: "Well, okay. You'll have to carry my dead body to the car."

Briscoe: "I won't, they ain't gonna do nothing."

Peters: "Let's thank God for small mercies and leave."

Briscoe: "It's not like that, man."

Who cares, I certainly wasn't waiting around to find out. I returned to the Orange Show for the final leg of the tour - the museum.

Peters: "Oh no."

Johnson: "I'll turn on the lights."

Peters: "Why bother?-Oh no. I may have to sit down. This is awful."

Johnson: "It is, in my opinion, the creepiest part of the orange show."

Peters: "Or possibly of the country.."

It's the dopiest museum you'll ever visit. There's no theme, no point to it. It's just a shed full of stuff. They've got two shop window dummies in polyester pant suits, a decapitated Santa Claus, and objects that even the people who run the place have yet to identify.

The Orange Show

Peters: "This looks like a barbecue with a barrel organ attached."

Johnson: "Yes, I often wonder what that is. Over here's a rocket."

Peters: "That's not a rocket. It's not rocket shaped."

Johnson: "It is rocket shaped."

Peters: "No it isn't, it's shaped like a shovel and what is this?"

Johnson: "It's a clown."

Peters: "By what definition?"

Johnson: "He has a white face and he's missing an ear and has white gloves."

Oh boy. In short, Jeff McKissack was a guy who didn't know the meaning of the phrase 'you're nuts.' But for a dollar, I figure it's well worth a visit. Oh, incidentally, before he died, Jeff requested that his ashes be thrown over the exhibits at the Orange Show, so remember that if you decide to sit down. In Houston, Texas, I'm Cash Peters for The Savvy Traveler.


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