Thursday, June 19, 2008

Henry Earl

For years I knew this man simply as "James Brown," because that's what he usually prefers to be called. He led a very marginal existence, sometimes homeless, always begging for cash on the streets of Lexington, and often engaging in confrontationally surreal conversations with passersby. For years "James" was a figure alternately feared and beloved by locals for his antics.

Imagine my surprise, then, when he suddenly became world famous, thanks to attention given him on television by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel and a plethora of websites canonizing him for his mile-long arrest record and unorthodox mugshots.

It's a peculiar defensive trait we Kentuckians have: now that every net-geek and frat boy on the planet was yukkin' it up about "that funny homeless guy from Kentucky", most of us suddenly felt a bit offended. "You can't make fun of Henry! He's our crazy street person!"

Though I was initially angry that this man was being held up to worldwide ridicule (mostly without his knowledge) simply for comedy's sake on a TV program, I lightened up when I saw the effect Henry's newfound fame was having: people were suddenly showering him with money, food and gifts, and his sudden popularity with local college students softened any rough edges of his personality. I guess like they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

I haven't seen him in a couple years and I don't know what he's up to now, but I'm glad Henry got more than his fifteen minutes of fame. He deserves more, though, and under better circumstances.


Anonymous said...

I think I might have seen him in Cowboys in Lexington at some point last year.

By the way, if the same girl is still working as the bartender at Cowboys, I think she's super hot. Sure would love to be able to hook up with that one.

tstamps said...

I saw him about 3 weeks ago (Feb. 2010) in a coffee shop. He asked me if I knew him, I said 'yes', and asked me what his name was. Apparently he responds differently if you say 'Henry Earl' or 'James Brown'. I said Henry. He said he doesn't do the James Brown shuffle anymore.