They say you should never meet your heroes. ‘They’ are right.
I can honestly say, I’ve never had an afternoon as strange as the one I spent with artist, comedian, puppeteer, and Christian music author David Liebe Hart. I’ve also never had as much difficulty writing an article.
Liebe Hart was in London recently, playing a show at Rum Runners. He is best known for his recurring appearance on Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, singing educational songs alongside an array of strange ventriloquist dolls. I’m a huge Tim and Eric fan, and must confess to buying one of Liebe Hart’s albums because of it.
He’s a strange, awkward man who makes strange and awkward music. He has garnered a cult following for his puppeteering, and songs about alien encounters, Jesus and trains. What’s not to love?
Going into the interview, I figured the biggest challenge would be not to fanboy when I met DLH for a one-on-one. Two hours of constant talking and a week later, I still have no idea what happened. It was a bizarre encounter and it left me frazzled.
It all began the second I picked him up in Wortley Village, with a rolling suitcase full of loose paper (and what appeared to be underwear) in tow.
I decided to take him to a model train store because the man has an encyclopedic knowledge of railroading in North America. There was much talk, both on stage and off, of a former London-to-Hamilton electric train. Much, much talk.
More than I bargained for
I’m a fairly experienced interviewer, so I figured I could handle whatever the guy threw at me. However, I was not prepared for the steady stream of dialogue. If I went the whole afternoon without asking a single question, I would have had more than enough material for a small book. As it stands, I have two hours of audio recordings that I can’t make any sense of.
No sooner was his seatbelt buckled – a feat made difficult by his gigantic fanny pack/water bottle holster – than I learned the racial and ethnic background of Liebe Hart. He is part German, Native American, African American, Scottish, Irish, and even some French Canadian.
His white Canadian side (he has many sides) welcomed escaped slaves from the underground railroad. His black side is distant and doesn’t talk. His German side descended from Pennsylvania Mennonites.
The list went on (and on, and on, and on).
He repeated it several times to anyone who would listen, and some who would not.
You’d expect an afternoon with a celebrity (A, B, C or D list), to be somewhat demanding, and it was. But Liebe Hart’s own list of demands were as commonplace as they were confounding.
Firstly, he wanted to come to the Fuse office to print out several copies of his Christian music, which he says is available only on a subscription service for Protestant churches.
Secondly, he wanted to buy manila envelopes so he could package the music and drop it off to any churches we passed.
Thankfully, we were on something of a tight schedule so that was out of the question.
However, it did not stem the tide of tales of the history of the Christian Science church – including which celebrities attended which churches, which celebrities influenced and were influenced by Liebe Hart, and which public domain hymns are being copyrighted.
It was a barrage of loosely-bonded information and again, it was repeated several times.
Train shopping was not the reprieve I was hoping it would be.
During our first stop, Liebe Hart tried to get me to buy him a model CN car and mail it to him in California. It’s hard to find cabooses, he said, adding he’d pay me back.
I had my doubts and politely declined.
He didn’t buy the car because he’s not supposed to be spending tour money on trains. I didn’t buy him the car because, really, WHO DOES THAT???
Also, he actually referred to me as his driver several times at the train shop.
The second train store was phenomenal, and DLH was in his element trying to find Canadian cars to add to his trains at home.
I have to hand it to Broughdale Hobby. Their staff are incredibly knowledgeable and have almost saintlike patience. Liebe Hart was something of a demanding customer, jumping from one question to another even as the staff were answering the first.
But jumping around from topic to topic is what Liebe Hart specializes in.
He capitalizes on oddity.
The Rum Runners show was brilliant in that regard.
The stage setup was simply a DJ table, a giant inflatable alien, and a projection screen for Liebe Hart’s animated videos. Ghost frogs, psychedelic Jesus portraits, and random trains flashed behind DLH as he half-sang, half-spoke in his NASA coveralls.
It was strange and awkward – just like the man himself.
Liebe Hart had to rewrite his Awesome Show, Great Job! hits, as he does not own the rights to them. However, the underlying messages were all the same – live clean, eat Vegemite, aliens are real and pose as angels, trains are great.
Several times during the show, he blamed his hoarse throat (a ventriloquist’s nightmare) on his manager for having the air conditioning too high in the car on the way to London. So, he had to substitute some high-pitched puppet voices with southern accents.
Prior to the show at the merch table, he tried to get me to buy him something to drink – even though there was a table of purchased drinks beside him, along with his three big water bottles in his combo fanny pack/holster.
He never once took a sip from any of them.
Like I said in the beginning – it’s not a good idea to meet your heroes. To be sure, I wasn’t disillusioned with Liebe Hart. I expected no less than what transpired, but I’m still in disbelief. To that end, I got exactly what I wanted – a bizarre experience with a bizarre man.
If you made it this far into the article, I ask you one thing:
Watch his videos.
Take it all in.
Now imagine exactly what you see there, but in the passenger seat of a Chevy Cruze.
Feature and shop photos by Gerard Creces. Show photos by Andy Scott.