These are six very nice vermin based news articles that you may enjoy :
1.) Vermin Supreme: The protester who would be president By Ann O’Neill, CNN
2.) Vermin Supreme Is Not Some Ranting Old Geezer By John H. Richardson Esquire.Com August 29, 2012
3.) Why is the Bush campaign so scared of Vermin Supreme?”
By Darren Garnick The Nashua Telegraph February,2000
4.) Republicans chased by ‘King of the Rats’ By Darren Garnick The Nashua Telegraph January 3, 2008
5.) Vermin Supreme : Interview By Simon Steinhardt Swindle Magazine Issue 18 2008
6.) Merry Prankster By Pagan Kennedy The Boston Globe January 11, 2004
Performance artist Vermin Supreme lives to mock the political system, sometimes by running for the office of tyrant or mayor of the United States.
Vermin Supreme: The protester who would be president
By Ann O’Neill, CNN
Tampa, Florida (CNN) — Vermin Supreme — yes, that’s his real name — was in his element at the “free speech zone” way, way, wa-a-a-a-y outside the sports arena hosting the Republican National Convention. He stood with a bullhorn in that tense gap between the front lines of police and two sets of protesters.
The cops were tricked out in their riot “turtle suits,” and one group of protesters, led by a red-and-black anarchist flag, was intent on disrupting the planned demonstration of another, the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.
The gray-bearded hippie standing between them wore a boot on his head.
“Between the cops and the protesters, there’s a vacuum. That’s the space I occupy,” Vermin Supreme explained afterward. “It looked a little scary. It looked like it might get tense.”
The self-described “friendly fascist,” who is a perennial presidential candidate and veteran of countless protests, recited passages from police manuals on crowd control tactics. Using the bullhorn, he urged calm: “Nobody needs to get hurt here.” A man next to him started to warble “Over the Rainbow,” and Vermin Supreme felt soothed. He held the bullhorn close to the singer, letting the melody wash over the crowd of about 150.
The tension melted away. It was, he said, “a beautiful moment.”
It also was as close as the 2012 Republican National Convention came to seeing the street violence and mass arrests that marked past political conventions. More than 1,800 people were cuffed outside the 2004 convention in New York, an all-time high. The number dropped to 800 four years later in St. Paul, Minnesota, and just 150 people were arrested that year at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
In Tampa, there were just two arrests — and only one during a protest march. Property damage was minimal.
Officials prepared for the worst, erecting fences around public buildings. Elsewhere, concrete barricades stopped cars and people alike. The jail on Orient Road was cleared out to streamline the booking of hundreds of expected protesters but the mayhem was limited: A man allegedly walked down the street with a machete strapped to his leg. A 19-year-old allegedly failed to remove a bandana over his face during a march down Kennedy Boulevard.
City officials said they expected as many as 10,000 protesters, including hardcore black bloc anarchists. They estimated 5,000 demonstrators would show up for the kickoff march. They got 500, tops.
As another city — Charlotte — steels itself for mass demonstrations at this week’s Democratic convention, the question has to be asked: Where were the protesters?
That question was posed Wednesday on ResistRNC.org’s website, but by the next day the rhetoric was more upbeat. “We are winning,” the group crowed, noting that Tampa spent $50 million on a “made-up bogeyman.”
But really, where have all the protesters gone?
Vermin Supreme has a few theories. “The weather here kept the numbers down,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t want to come down to Florida. Who wants to come to Tampa in August? It’s too hot, and it’s too far south.”
As the convention got under way, Isaac was swirling in the Gulf of Mexico, and Tampa had been transformed into what protesters complained was “a police state.”
While the storm may have been a deterrent, a Tufts University professor who studies protests in presidential campaigns says the unprecedented security buildup also was a huge factor. The Department of Homeland Security declared the convention a special national security event, which freed federal funding for extra police and state-of-the-art gear.
“This RNC has been so over-militarized, even attendees were complaining about the level of security,” said sociology professor Sarah Sobieraj. “They were ready with everything — unscalable fences, bomb-sniffing dogs, even long-range acoustic devices, which are nasty.”
The unmistakable message to the protesters: Don’t mess with Tampa.
“It is clear that these extreme measures were not intended to prevent a terrorist attack, they were for protesters,” Sobieraj added. “There has been a shift toward a criminalization of dissent that is a real problem.”
Indeed, there were cops everywhere: cops on bicycles, cops on horses, cops on golf carts, cops on mini-Jeeps, cops on street corners, cops on rooftops, even cops on boats. The city, with federal funding, spent $50 million to beef up security.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn estimates 4,000 law enforcement officers from 60 agencies — including state troopers, patrol cops from departments across Florida, FBI and U.S. Secret Service agents, and the National Guard — were in Tampa to help keep the peace. The officers dressed in military-style khaki fatigues, and some of them wore shorts. They were relentlessly cheerful and helpful, giving the streets a Copapalooza vibe.
In the middle of all that was Vermin Supreme, who also is running as a write-in candidate.His protest playlist includes the “Mr. Ed” theme song for mounted police officers, Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” for motorcycle cops and Queen’s “Bicycle Race” for the police on bikes. He looks like Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books and movies and seems a throwback to the Merry Pranksters and the hippies, yippies and freaks who disrupted the 1968 Democratic National Convention. His clownish attire is reminiscent of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Wavy Gravy, who is 76 and, as he puts it on his website, “fast approaching geezerhood.”
People have suggested that Vermin Supreme debate Wavy Gravy, whose given name is, coincidentally, Hugh Romney.
Vermin Supreme may have been the most visible neo-freak at the convention, but he wasn’t the only one.
On the first night, “A.J.,” a Ron Paul supporter in a tie-dyed T-shirt and long dreadlocks twisted in a knot, invited delegate after delegate to give him “a high five for the Constitution.”
So, instead of torn-up streets, broken windows, overturned cars, hurled epithets and worse, Tampa got a taste of street theater. There wasn’t a whiff of tear gas.
The protests that did take place were peaceful and widely scattered. Wednesday’s lineup was typical: Planned Parenthood held a rally in a park across the river from the convention center. One speaker pranced around in a costume that looked like a packet of birth control pills, but the dancing pink vaginas already had headed home to San Francisco. The AFL-CIO held a march without incident. A man who calls himself The Grand Rebbe hung for 12 hours from a cross in a park more than a mile from the convention center, but only a handful of people passed by.
Vermin Supreme, meanwhile, popped up everywhere. He began his protest week with an open letter to Tampa police, offering tips on how to keep the peace during “this hot and sweaty National Security Rodeo.” He advised police to make liberal use of cornstarch to avoid chafing, which he said would make them grouchy and more inclined to use force.
“The place where any two parts of the human body rub up against each other can cause painful irritation,” he wrote. “The same is true of the body politic.” The best way to avoid chafing, he added, was “wearing no pants.”
It might sound ludicrous, but Vermin Supreme insists there’s a method to the madness. He uses humor to defuse tense situations, and parody to make political points.
Besides attending protests, Vermin Supreme has been campaigning since the late 1980s. At first, the offices he sought were pure fiction, such as “Emperor for the New Millennium.” But eventually he set his sights on real offices, including mayor of Baltimore and president of the United States. He inevitably loses, but considers the fact anyone votes for him at all to be “a moral victory.”
He didn’t want his given name published; in fact Vermin Loving Supreme is the name on is driver’s license. “My wife knows me as Vermin,” he said. “My mother knows me as Vermin. For all intent and purposes, that’s my name.”
He was working as a promoter at punk nightclubs years ago in Baltimore when he adopted the name as part of his shtick. Other promoters and club owners were vermin, he said, so he declared himself the Vermin Supreme.
Asked his age, he responds cryptically. “I tell the media I’m 62.”
On this steaming tropical evening, he wore a black vest and white T-shirt over a pair of black shorts. Sometimes he dons a clown nose. Several neckties hung around his neck, each a variation of the American flag. They peeked through a beard that reaches his chest, and his gray locks are pulled up into a ponytail.
Speaking of ponies, Vermin Supreme says he’s affiliated with The Pony Party. If by some miracle he wins the presidency, he promises that every American will get a pony. Other planks in the Vermin Supreme platform include mandatory tooth brushing for all (because of Americans’ advanced state of “moral and oral decay”); preparation for a zombie apocalypse; and, last but not least, full funding for time travel research.
Vermin Supreme vows to go back in time “and kill baby Hitler with my bare hands.”
Although it seems he’s playing a huge joke on the political system, it has given him some legitimacy.
He has gotten on the presidential primary ballot in New Hampshire at least twice. In 2004, he made it onto the ballot in the District of Columbia, prompting the Washington Post to sniff that he was a candidate “about whom we have heard and know nothing.”
This time around, Vermin Supreme has the meme. He received some Internet attention during the primary by taunting Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul in New Hampshire, and sprinkling gold glitter on Randall Terry during a December 2011 campaign event for lesser-known candidates.
The glitter-bombing made him an Internet sensation. (Go ahead, Google it; you know you want to.)
But is Vermin Supreme for real?
“I am 100% a candidate. I am running,” he insisted as we chatted in Ybor City at the end of a long day of protesting. He explained that the campaign is his way of expressing his absurdist take on the political process.
He performed Wednesday night at Café Hey, a hub for protesters just a brick’s throw from their Tampa campsite, dubbed Romneytown. He played it for laughs, joking in a prepared stump speech that “a vote for me is a vote completely thrown away.”
Sort of. “I would love to see everybody get a pony, don’t get me wrong,” he said.
As the Republican convention drew to a close with arrests at a record low, all eyes turned to Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Democratic National Convention.
Once again, officials in a growing city eager for attention are steeling themselves against thousands of anarchists and protesters. Maybe they’ll show up this time. Maybe they won’t.
One thing is certain: Vermin Love Supreme will be there, his tongue in his cheek and a boot on his head.
Vermin Supreme Is Not Some Ranting Old Geezer By John H. Richardson Aug 29,2012 ESQUIRE.com
TAMPA, Fla. — Somehow it makes perfect sense that the most reasonable, sane, articulate politician I have spoken to at this Republican convention is wearing a boot on his head. This is Vermin Supreme, the perennial New Hampshire presidential candidate for the Absurd Party. I ran into him as I was walking out of the seclusion zone of the Republican convention, where VIPs ride around in golf carts while the hoi polloi sweat their way down an apocalypse-empty sidewalk. He was shouting at a group of black-clad Republicans through a bullhorn, teasing them about harboring secret anarchist inclinations, but he paused to let me conduct a quick interview.
ESQUIRE.COM: Mr. Supreme, as an anarchist, what do you think of this security situation?
VERNIN SUPREME: This security is an extreme overreaction and extreme overreach. It’s an incredible waste of resources, it’s part of the continuing fear mongering. They’re trying to normalize this type of security apparatus, normalize getting people used to the police state by bringing in every police agency conceivable. It’s going hand-in-hand with their demonization of anarchists, their attempt to criminalize protest, to clamp down on free speech by putting extreme limitations on the puppets I can carry.
ESQ: They won’t let you do puppets?
VS: They have to be within a certain framework. You can’t have a stick that’s too big and this and that.
ESQ: Regulations, man.
VS: Regulations. They’re locking it down, they’re putting up these giant fences, they’re giving protesters some place way over there where the delegates are not able to see: Good luck! You have your free-speech cage over there, yelling into the wind!
ESQ: How come you’re here by the gate? I’ve seen some Ron Paul supporters here, but I haven’t seen other protesters.
VS: There’s been a number of protesters throughout the city, of course.
ESQ: But not here.
VS: Right. It’s been my experience that other people have not grokked to the fact that you can engage delegates at certain entrances and exits. They just assume it’s all locked-own. But I don’t think a group of people could get down here, frankly. If there was group of ten or twenty, they would steer them. This has happened a couple of times — they’re marching to the center, but the police block off this street, they block off the other street. They steer them.
ESQ: So how come you broke off?
VS: I have been working with them all around town at different demonstrations. It’s not like I have not provided my constituent services, interfacing with the police and giving the basic ground rules of crowd control or what have you. I like to spend my time doing that because it’s an essential function of trying to deescalate tensions between the riot cops and my supporters — or just citizens exercising their free rights. I just blocked out today and discovered this. It’s a good place to lobby the delegates and try to get votes.
ESQ: For yourself.
VS: Of course. I welcome them to Checkpoint Romney, tell them to please have their credentials ready, please have their dental records ready for immediate inspection, please remove your shoes for the safety of you and your children, and please take your pants off for your TSA prostate check.
ESQ: Did they obey their instructions?
ESQ: You need your own police force to enforce your instructions.
ESQ: But as an anarchist, don’t you feel a kinship to the Ron Paul-Gary Johnson contingent here?
VS: My personal view of the anarch-capitalists is that it’s an oxymoron. I was wondering this last night. I was checking with my constituents basically, and there were some socialists and they had their socialist banner, and I wondered to myself: Why it is that I seem to have a personal more affinity to the socialists than the libertarians? And it occurred to me that the socialists are explicitly anti-capitalist, where the libertarians are explicitly pro-capitalist. As a social anarchist, I believe that capitalism itself is an inherently exploitative hierarchical situation — you do have a boss, you do have somebody in charge…. What was your question again?
ESQ: Just that as an anarchist you should be sympathetic to the Republican idea.
VS: Well, mutual aid is a very critical and important thing. For a while, I was saying libertarians have no souls, but I promised them I wouldn’t if they hammered home the importance of mutual aid. A lot of them are like, “Well. that’s what charity is for.” But they’re not taking their own responsibility for lesser members of society. For me, until they can prove to me that there’s compassion in there… I am a pragmatist. We are given what we have here in terms of government, so as an anarchist, okay, I’ll lean to the Republican side of getting the government small enough to drown in a bathtub or whatever. But what are we transitioning towards? The only Republican plan is just to…
ESQ: Unleash the rich.
VS: Unleash the rich. And the libertarians have it the same way, remove the government and the capitalist marketplace will make everything beautiful. And that frightens me. Whereas the Democrats, at least, in addition to their institutional warmongering and civil-liberty clampdowns, like to think of themselves as more compassionate and more concerned about the needs of the poor — whether that’s really a top agenda or not, I don’t know, but helping those who are less fortunate which seems to be a Democratic ideal. Of course I gravitate towards that. Of course, the idea that we need less government, I gravitate towards that. But how are we going to transition to a better society or a better America for all people?
ESQ: Mr. Supreme, you seem smart and of nuanced frame of mind. Why do you dress absurdly? Why the absurd when you could wear a suit and maybe more people would listen?
VS: I don’t think more people would listen to me. I believe less people would listen to me. If I didn’t have this getup on and I shouted through the bullhorn, people would ignore me. When I’m running for president in New Hampshire, the attire is simple elegant and effective for my purposes, and my purpose is to conduct a campaign of absurdist drama while also making a critique of the political system as it stands. Without the boot, I’d just be some other old geezer on the street ranting and raving.
ESQ: But don’t you think the boot delegitimatizes the seriousness of your critique?
VS: I do not. I truly do not, I believe that satire all the way form Jonathan Swift is a very valid way to communicate one’s free speech opinions.
ESQ: We’re getting a little too serious here, arent we?
VS: No, my character and my analysis go back and forth pretty fluidly. The name is Vermin Supreme. It’s on my drivers license, my passport, that’s really who I am. I’m happy to discuss my real political ideas, although I understand that a vast number of people who enjoy my presentation may not agree. And I may be diametrically opposed to them, but I appreciate their love. I’m a pragmatist. We all live here, we all got to get together.
ESQ: So tell me what you’d like to yell through my bullhorn?
VS: We just got to stop demonizing each other. We have to really be aware that many are lesser fortunate, and we have to understand that they are our neighbors, they are our fellow citizens, and we need to figure out a way to help them.
WHY IS THE BUSH CAMPAIGN SO AFRAID OF VERMIN SUPREME?
By Darren Garnick –Encore Magazine –The Nashua Telegraph-February 4, 2000
After John McCain ’s stunning victory over George W. Bush this week,
there’s something the New Hampshire Primary pundits are missing. Yes,
the Republican candidates differ on campaign finance reform and abortion
rights. And yeah, they don’t agree on fighting fair (without shame, Bush
supports keeping McCain off the New York ballot).
But the most symbolic divide is about a floppy rubber boot.
The boot sits atop the skull of Vermin Supreme: political satirist,
street performer and perennial write-in presidential candidate. A
39-year-old housepainter from Massachusetts, he is best known on the
campaign trail for his outlandish costume of the boot, faux fur-covered
jumpsuit and flipper shoulder pads. Coupled with his toy rat mascot,
the outfit is a magnet to shopping mall cop and U.S. Secret Service agent
Without question, Vermin is a publicity-seeking character in love with his own
press clippings. However, underneath the corduroy leopard print cape is
a passionate watchdog for government accountability, political integrity
and a clean environment. Vermin’s message that “all politicians are rats”
is no different than cries that President Clinton is a moral disgrace to the
Oval Office. Sen. McCain is bright enough to see past the boot. Gov.
Bush is not.
A few days before the primary vote, McCain invited Vermin and his
cohort, the “Rev. Red Moses” on stage at a rally and introduced them both as
“great Americans.” He even gave them each a minute or so of microphone
time. A few days earlier, McCain did the same thing for “Captain
Climate” and “Boy Atmosphere,” two college kids wearing tights to
call attention to global warming. Whatever the Arizona senator’s
motivation – some say he wants to prove he has a sense of humor – he is
not afraid to confront guerrilla theater.
The Bush campaign is terrified of anyone not wearing a suit and tie.
Sporting the boot on his head, Vermin was blocked last weekend by a tag team of Milford police, Texas Rangers and federal agents from attending a rally at the Hampshire Hills health club. This is a private affair, he was told, and Gov. Bush could pick and choose who was invited. On the phone and in newspaper advertisements, the Bush campaign declared the event to be open to the public. Vermin was given the same “private property” line a day earlier at a local elementary school, which apparently switched back to its public status when the rally ended.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Bootman tried again at the Pease Airport – this time without head covering or furry pants. Gov. Bush was welcoming voters to join him for the football game and complimentary snacks. “Hello, Vermin,” the Secret Service man said, using the same contemptuous tone that Jerry Seinfeld deploys to greet Newman. Boot or no boot, Vermin did not get anywhere near the snacks.
The role of the U.S. Secret Service is baffling here. If Vermin had posed a bodily threat to Bush or any other presidential candidate, he would have deserved to be smushed into his boot. If he displayed rude and obnoxious behavior in the middle of a Bush speech, he should’ve been yanked out the door. None of this applied, however. Simply put, Vermin was not welcome to watch the Super Bowl because he had worn a funny hat the day before.
Out in the frigid parking lot, Vermin did his shtick about “mandatory dental hygiene” and gave away “Brush Your Teeth – It’s The Law” bumper stickers to anyone would take one. His buddy, the Rev. Red Moses, had a darker message, comparing Bush to Satan and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. A mother and daughter wandered up to the troublemakers and listened to their raps. “You see, everybody has a right in this country to have a different opinion,” the mother said, whispering as an aside that the encounter was a “civics lesson” for the girl.
If more mothers shared this attitude, we’d have fewer uptight, self-righteous grown-ups. Out in the Hampshire Hills parking lot, it was painfully clear that these kind of parents are extremely rare. Among those aggressively protecting the Bush legacy was a college-aged parking lot attendant. “Who’s paying you? Forbes?” he said in an interrogating tone. “Those of us who donate our time and try to make this (politics) a respectable profession again … look like fools next to you!”
Yet, there is hope for political humor. Most of the voters who walked past Vermin at the Bush rallies smiled at his costume and his message. Inside the SUV caravan carrying Bush and parents George and Barbara, there were also plenty of smiles from campaign staffers. Due to tinted windows, the governor’s personal reaction to Vermin was not visible.
Given that his last day in New Hampshire was spent flipping pancakes , sledding and candlepin bowling, George W. probably does like to have fun. With a $200,000 per day spending allowance, he has the money to do whatever he pleases. Maybe in South Carolina he can hire security guards smart enough to know the difference between a dangerous assassin and a harmless clown.
REPUBLICANS CHASED BY ‘KING OF RATS’ by Darren Garnick
Thursday, January 3, 2008 Nashua Telegraph
For a mere $1,000, an irreverent political prankster named Vermin Supreme just bought himself one of the coolest introductions possible for his obituary.
Oh, the 50-something-year-old Supreme isn’t close to dying – not to my knowledge anyhow. But he’s now forever engraved in the history books as an official presidential candidate. A hundred years from now when scholars re-examine the meteoric rise of President Mike Huckabee, they will see Supreme’s name on the Republican ballot along with John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.
Supreme, a satirical anarchist who likens all politicians to rats and declares himself to be the biggest rat of all, has run for president in every New Hampshire primary since 1988. During previous elections, however, he has been a write-in candidate – a distinction that any buffoon can claim.
This time, he’s a buffoon who’s paid the Granite State’s election filing fee, a move that earns him a commemorative brick in the state’s official primary walkway in Concord and his own educational trading card.
Supreme (yes, that is his legal name) is best known for the rubber boot helmet he wears on his head with the pomp and circumstance of a Roman emperor. The rubber boot seems to be a natural extension of his head, with the toes pointing toward his next unsuspecting target.
That boot has now been enshrined in the Granite State’s version of the Smithsonian Institution – the New Hampshire Political Library, a museum and archive co-founded by the late Gov. Hugh Gregg, of Nashua.
Perhaps it will surface soon in one of those Manchester Airport historical kiosks alongside a Bill Clinton Big Mac wrapper or some Ronald Reagan jellybeans.
In a surreal scene Friday afternoon, Supreme good-naturedly tried to goad Secretary of State Bill Gardner into wearing the boot on his head. Gardner seemed to consider it for a brief moment, but said he was turned off by the boot’s dampness. And although this went unspoken, the secretary didn’t appear impressed when he learned that the King of the Rats originally found the boot at the dump.
You have wise instincts, Mr. Secretary.
Supreme also donated one of his giant homemade toothbrushes, a hallmark of his lifelong quest to introduce mandatory dental hygiene laws at the local, state and federal levels. Imagining a world where not brushing your teeth could result in jail time or fines represents the activist’s opposition to big government.
Bringing the national debate over torture into unexplored territory, Supreme this year is sarcastically calling for the use of waterboarding in the public schools. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter what his campaign issues really are anymore.
Supreme is solely in this race to mock politics and entertain himself. He’s a scruffier version of Stephen Colbert – without the TV or book deals. In fact, Supreme is one of the few presidential candidates without an obvious ulterior motive (beyond seeking publicity for publicity’s sake). He has no paid speaking engagements in the off-season, and chances are miniscule that he’ll wind up co-hosting a political talk show on cable.
The radical Republican has a bit of Howard Stern inside, thoroughly enjoying the political celebrity ambush. He insists he is not a “heckler,” explaining that he will not interrupt an event for the sake of a joke. Instead, he tries to confront each candidate as they enter or leave a building.
In a nod to MTV’s groundbreaking “briefs vs. boxers” question to Bill Clinton, he recently asked Hillary what kind of underwear she was wearing. (Supreme got the brushoff he deserved.)
“I’m seldom vicious,” he says. “. . . I do feel genuine hostility toward some candidates, but that does not prevent me from campaigning in a professional manner.”
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has traditionally played along with the boot man over the years. In his most recent encounter, Supreme asked him to confirm rumors that Republican operative Karl Rove was secretly responsible for the collapse of the Old Man of the Mountain.
Captured on YouTube, a smiling McCain replies that yes, “in a fit of anger, Karl went up there and dynamited it!”
“I’ve asked the FBI on several occasions to investigate that,” he adds.
Full disclosure here. I am probably the closest thing there is to Supreme’s official biographer. I’ve written about him extensively since 1996, when I first met him at a Bob Dole rally at Milford Town Hall, and I’ve also made two political films for PBS that prominently mention him and his exploits.
What I’m about to say now might also make me his de facto campaign manager.
This election is way too vital for me to waste my vote. But if I did ever want to waste my vote, I’d eagerly waste it on Vermin Supreme.
By Simon Steinhardt
On the campaign trail, Vermin Supreme likes to start his sentences with “I am the only candidate who supports…” And it’s true: he is the only candidate who supports fully funding time-travel research in order to go back and kill Hitler before he was born. He’s also the only candidate who makes mandatory toothbrushing his signature issue. After all, as he says in his dental manifesto, “Proper dental hygiene is essential to proper social order.” If you’re worried about flying monkey tooth fairies enforcing the mandatory toothbrushing laws, fear not, since Vermin Supreme is also the only candidate who promises that such creatures will not be used to that end.
Plenty of people make a career out of making a mockery of politics—it’s not hard to ridicule something that, more often than not, borders on farce. But few of them go so far as to legally change their name and party affiliation and pony up the cash it takes to get on the presidential primary election ballot, as Vermin did in Washington, D.C., in 2004 (as a Democrat) and in New Hampshire this year (as a Republican).
Vermin runs for president of the United States because it’s the highest office on the ballot, but his real campaign (or “cam-pain,” as he spells it) is for Emperor of the New Millennium. It’s an important job, considering he won’t be up for re-election until the year 2999 if he wins. And if he does, we’ll gladly yield to his mighty authoritarian leadership, as long as it’s as much fun as he promises.
Tell us about your campaign operation.
Baby, I am nationwide. I am fucking nationwide. That’s all I can say. I have constituents across this great nation of ours. Their level of support is indeed varying and wavering, but I’ve never blamed any of my supporters—and I use the term loosely—who will not actually contribute to my campaign, either with time or financial contributions. I understand that they may have to operate in a whole other dimension of reality.
You seem very focused on domestic policy—toothbrushing laws, legalizing human meat and so forth.
Yes, and free ponies for all Americans.
But where do you stand on foreign policy issues?
Well, I do believe that we should give the Iraqi people the opportunity to become a part of this great nation of ours. I firmly believe that Iraq would truly make a wonderful 51st state. It’s been quite some time since we’ve actually added a state to the union, and I believe the flag-makers of America could certainly use a shot in the arm in that direction, not that it’s strictly pork for them of course.
Are there any other prospects for statehood in your plan?
It looks like Iran is fixing to want to become a state. I’ve been watching the news, and it looks like they just might want to be our 52nd state, after Iraq. Once they’re all paying taxes to Uncle Sam and they’ve got the American flag flying over there, they’ll be instilled with pride for our nation. It will be such a beautiful, peaceful thing. Then, and finally then, they will be greeting us with flowers and roses and roadside flower stands and things like that.
Well it sounds like a mission accomplished to me.
Now as far as I know, you’re the only candidate, at least in the Republican Party, who wears a clown nose. Why do you think John McCain doesn’t want to wear a clown nose?
Sir, I’d like to address that issue of the clown nose. That is a dirty trick, sir. That is a smear that my opponents have apparently tarred me with for some reason. If you look carefully, you will notice that I’m not wearing a clown nose, nobody has seen me wearing a clown nose, and it seems that it is being added after photos are taken and distributed to the media.
So what is your real nose apparel?
Occasionally sun block when it’s really hot out, man. I have a very fine nose, I’m not ashamed of my nose, and I’m not sure why all this censorship of my nose occurs in the media. It’s very strange. I think you’ll notice that sometimes it’s actually a blue dot that I think was on TV for a while. I think it originally came from the National Enquirer. I think they put it on the face of that rape victim of one of those Kennedy kids, and then they started using it on my nose. A lot.
So are you saying you refuse to wear a clown nose?
Once again, if that’s what the people want, if the focus groups indicate that I would gain a certain segment of the clown-loving audience, then I’m all for it. My own personal research has shown that more people tend to be afraid of clowns, and would not be likely to vote for an actual clown for the presidency of the United States of America, let alone any other office.
What sort of controversial figures are floating around your campaign that you’re trying to minimize contact with?
I believe for the sake of my campaign and trying to avoid scandals that may have occurred in my past, I’m going to say that I’ve never heard of the Church of Euthanasia. And let me also say further that I never appeared on The Jerry Springer Show with them. I hope I’m clear on that. If I’m seriously trying to avoid the biggest scandal from my past, once again, I deny it would be any affiliation with any suicide-abortion-promoting cannibal cult. Not me.
Now I’m going to give you a little fill-in-the-blank analogy here. Barack Obama is to hope as Vermin Supreme is to…
A big block of Velveeta-style cheese.
So would you say you’re running on a cheese-based campaign platform?
As they say, all hail the power of cheese, but only in a metaphorical sense I suppose.
Melted, in a block or powder?
Oh, it would certainly be a big block, a strong foundation for this country.
Do you have any pop artists working on Vermin-cheese posters or anything like that?
Well the contest is open. Did I mention the Vermin Supreme Presidential Library?
No—tell me about that.
What I have done, I have hijacked a portion of the New Hampshire Political Library, which is a part of the New Hampshire State Library. The New Hampshire Political Library exists to collect memorabilia from the New Hampshire primary, and what I have done is I have taken over a section of it, liberating a corner of it, and declaring it the Vermin Supreme Presidential Library.
That seems a little presumptuous, don’t you think? Declaring yourself “presidential” at this point?
Presidential is a word that, if you look it up in the dictionary, would be described as something that pertains to the presidency, and so in that definition of the term I believe I am perfectly justified in claiming that it’s a presidential library, since it does pertain to the presidency and my quest for it.
From your market research, what do you see as some hot-button issues this year that aren’t being addressed by the mainstream candidates?
Once again, my quadrennial issue of mandatory toothbrushing, the funding of time travel, the zombie preparedness issue—those are my three hot-button topics, and of course free ponies, which is just a fucking promise to get votes, quite frankly. I also want to lower the voting age to 6 and make Hannah Montana my running mate.
Now what do you see as the flaws in Barack Obama’s stance on the toothbrushing laws?
Soft on plaque.
What about McCain?
If you dig deep, it’s not explicitly labeled, but I have exclusive video documentation of Senator John McCain giving support to the mandatory toothbrushing law. The approximate quote goes something like this. I asked him, “Senator McCain, do you support mandatory toothbrushing?” And he responded as follows: “Why yes, as a matter of fact, my campaign staff has a lot of practice hiding in people’s bathrooms late at night in order to make sure they have brushed.” So I’d have to say that he did in fact give full-on support for it.
There have been rumors that John McCain has been trying to get you to drop out of the race and endorse him. What do you say to that?
Once again, they haven’t made me a serious offer yet for my consideration to do that.
So what would you consider a serious offer that you’d be willing to accept in return for your endorsement of Senator McCain?
I’d settle for a cabinet-level position or a large cash payoff to help retire my campaign debt.
What particular campaign post would you be looking for?
I’d have to go for agriculture.
John McCain seems to have moved towards the center on—
Well he did start to suck the fucking fundamentalists’ dicks for a little while there…
I was going to say he had shifted specifically on environmental policy, or has at least tried to market himself as “green.” Would you say you’re more connected to the party’s base on environmental issues?
Well you know I’ve always been a long-term advocate of weather dome technology. As the climate undergoes certain alterations—and it hasn’t been proven that it’s caused by humans, by any means—the technology of weather domes, ala Bucky Fuller, is a very important part of my thing. Or we could simply kick anyone who complains about the weather out of the country. Environmentally, yeah I would be the extreme—extreme—environmental president. You see what I’m saying? Because I know the kids like to use that word, “extreme,” so I’m trying to use that buzzword in my campaign as much as possible. If you could just insert “extreme” in between every other word in the interview, that would be very cool.
So I’m sort of the extreme environmental candidate, and I believe that we can solve the excess carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere if we carbonate every beverage drunk by every American. I think the carbonated soft drink industry is on the right track, but as president I would certainly increase the amount of carbonation in all beverages, and carbonate every beverage that is not carbonated yet. And that way, we can all share in the burden of consuming and dissipating these harmful CO2 gases that might do something at some point.
So you’re saying you would take the CO2 gases out of the air and put them into our water pipes?
And our milk, and our orange juice and all other juices, and we’d pump up the carbon dioxide content in beers and sodas and all that good stuff. It would be extra, like extreme I guess. That’s just my solution, although I haven’t run it by any scientists yet.
How do you feel about being labeled as a “fringe” candidate?
It’s a term I can live with. I accept it. I’d prefer “lesser-known,” but I’ve certainly been called worse than “fringe.”
Well I’d rather not get into it. You might use these words against me.
Well they’re just coming out of your mouth, so they’ll be printed as such.
Yeah, well, I’m not falling into that trick. I’m smarter than that. I’ve been doing this for quite some time, sonny.
Performance artist Vermin Supreme lives to mock the political system, sometimes by running for the office of tyrant or mayor of the United States.
By Pagan Kennedy | January 11, 2004
Vermin Supreme, a 43-year-old activist and street-theater performer, swaggers toward Faneuil Hall to take on the Democratic groupies. Inside the building on this November night, eight presidential candidates will debate live on CNN. Vermin Supreme plans to stay outside, where the TV trucks splash spotlights onto the cobblestones. A tribe of John Kerry people wave blue signs and scream in unison: “Ker-REEE, Ker-REEE.” Many wear that mob-zombie expression on their faces, the glassy look of people who have been yelling one word for so long that it has turned into nonsense.
Vermin Supreme pushes his way toward the Kerry-ites. A few of them have to hop backward in order to avoid the pointy wingtips of the eagle lashed to his torso. He hoists his megaphone, conferring upon himself the electronic voice of authority. “Where does John Kerry stand on mandatory tooth brushing?” he demands. “Is he soft on plaque?” A few college kids break off to listen to the tirade. You can see it in their faces; suddenly, they’re no longer members of the Kerry gang. They’re just their ordinary selves again, exchanging glances with one another: Who is this guy?
As he passes through the crowd, Supreme spreads that kind of puzzlement. He has spent years figuring out how to transform a group-thinking throng back into a bunch of individuals. This is his art form.
“Vote for me,” he tells a gray-haired woman, peering at her from under the rubber boot stuck on his head, the toe of which points at the sky. “I’m running for . . . something.” In fact, in the past 15 years, he has set his sights on a number of political offices, all of them fictional: tyrant, mayor of the United States, emperor of the new millennium.
He seems to be a flamboyant-yet-sane hippie who is making a point about civil rights. With his wife, Becky (she asks that her last name be withheld), he roams the country to present his own brand of performance art at antiwar rallies and Republican pancake breakfasts. The couple fund their peripatetic activism by paying as little rent as possible and working odd jobs. But it’s not as simple as that: When this husband goes home — to a shack in the woods of eastern Massachusetts — he’s still named Vermin Supreme. He’s Vermin Supreme 24 hours a day, every day, no vacations.
Last year, I ran into Vermin Supreme at an antiwar march. Instead of a Visigoth costume, he had shown up in his Weirdo Lite ensemble — a Satan mask, megaphone, and sensible shoes. His job that day, as he saw it, was to boost the morale of the marchers, to be a sort of Bob Hope of the revolutionary army. People swarmed around us, chanting, beating drums. Some guy screamed, “What do we want?”
“Peace,” the crowd answered.
“What do we want?” the guy screamed again.
“Peace!” Now the river of people roared the word. The sound boomed through my chest. No one was laughing.
“What do we want?” the guy demanded again.
And this time, Supreme pointed his megaphone at the sky. “A pony!” he screamed, his amplified voice rising over the roar.
Next time around, pretty much everyone in the crowd had defected to Supreme’s chant. “What do we want?” “A pony,” hundreds of people hooted. Some young women near me bobbed up and down. “A pony, a pony,” they squealed.
Vermin Supreme has spent years working for peace, but what he really wants is a pony. He wants cotton candy and a fun-house mirror. He wants to topple the politicians from their pedestals and replace them with plastic chickens. He wants us all to live in a constant state of participatory democracy.
We’re bound to disappoint him.
It’s legal. “SUPREME, Vermin Love,” reads the government-issue driver’s license. He took the name in 1986, when he was booking bands for a grungy rock club. “All booking agents are vermin, right? So I decided to be the most supreme vermin,” he says. “I schmoozed people in character as Vermin Supreme, wearing a tacky suit and chomping a cigar.” When the job ended, he could not let go of the character. He decided to run for mayor of Baltimore in his plaid leisure suit. If all politicians are vermin, he reasoned, why shouldn’t citizens vote for the best vermin available?
And Vermin Supreme — the name as well as the passion for cartoonish gestures — began to leak into his private life. His wife has been calling him Vermin for so long that the word rolls off her tongue like any other endearment, honey or darling or sweetie. At this point, even his mom calls him Vermin.
Often, when Vermin Supreme shows up at a political event, it’s the boot that causes trouble. Security guards usually confer on their walkie-talkies and decide that the rubber galosh on his head has to go.
“What’s the problem with the boot? Why is it so subversive?” Supreme wants to know, though the answers are obvious. The boot makes him the tallest person in the room. The boot gathers an audience. It draws cameras and microphones.
“That boot is like Wonder Woman’s tiara,” according to Darren Garnick, the producer of two PBS documentaries about fringe candidates for the presidency. “If Vermin hadn’t worn that boot on his head, I never would have noticed him. There were plenty of other guys who share the same values, but they don’t have boots on their head, so no one listens. Maybe the boot is an indictment of the media.”
Indeed. Journalists will follow a guy with a boot the way a trout will go after a shiny plastic worm. The boot promises a good story. Vermin Supreme knows this. He has packaged himself as a made-to-order wacky sidebar for newspapers to run during campaign season. Like the politicians whom he mocks, Supreme presents one version of himself, and it’s nearly impossible to see the real guy underneath.
When I asked to follow him around on a “typical day” — that is, to watch him cope with the exigencies of being Vermin Supreme on the job and at the supermarket — he only laughed. He made it clear that if he had any typical days, he would not offer them up for inspection. He requested that I keep his hometown a secret. And he refused to specify what kind of blue-collar job pays his bills, although I know, because I’ve snooped around, that he has worked construction in the past.
But it wasn’t just his edicts that kept me from learning more about the private Vermin. During several hours of interviewing, he regaled me with anecdotes that had a prepackaged quality, as if he’d told them many times. When I probed for deeper insight — Why does he use the name Vermin in his private life? When did he feel his first twinge of political consciousness? — his words simply ran out. He didn’t have answers about his own motives. He didn’t seem to know what made him tick. In that way, too, he reminded me of a career politician. He’s a pro at hiding his private self.
Back in 1986, Vermin Supreme lived in Baltimore, a down-and-out art boy. One day, he heard that the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament would pass through town, a cross-country parade of walkers opposed to worldwide military buildup. “I went to Memorial Stadium to check it out, and I was floored,” Supreme remembers. He surveyed a parking lot that had been transformed, overnight, into a town. “It was an amazing mobile community. They had porta-potty trucks. They had kitchen trucks. They even had schools for the kids. It was so impressive.”
A week before, in the Two Greeks Restaurant, he had announced to his friends a new performance-art venture: He would run for mayor of Baltimore as Vermin Supreme. Now, as he surveyed that parking lot, his prank took on deeper meaning. He would align it, somehow, with this massive, mobile outcry for peace.
“I went to the thrift store and bought a sleeping bag and T-shirt, and I joined that march,” he says. After that, he signed up with Seeds of Peace, a group that drove around the country in a convoy to furnish demonstrators with food and sanitation. And he found a role for himself among the peace activists: sideshow. Wherever the group landed, Vermin Supreme ran for office. “My character came from the far right, with policies reminiscent of Jonathan Swift’s `A Modest Proposal,’ ” he says. He had turned himself into a walking essay.
And he watched as too many peace marches devolved into violence — either because people in the crowd did something stupid, like throwing trash at the police, or because the riot police lost their cool. So he decided that he would show up at some demonstrations as a clown rather than a candidate, helping to keep the peace. At such events, “I’m a little bit MC, a little bit town crier, a little bit 10-watt radio journalist, and a little bit Tokyo Rose” — whatever it takes to keep everyone in a good mood. Especially the cops.
Whenever a line of police approaches in full riot gear, he whips out his bullhorn and broadcasts reassuring messages to them: “There is no problem here. You are in no danger.” Sometimes, he uses his megaphone to lead the police through meditations inspired by new age relaxation tapes: “I’m going to ask you to seize on your happiest childhood memory. You can feel your breath inside your gas mask.”
Or he’ll resort to pratfalls. “In D.C. recently, I had a foam tube that looked like a nightstick, and I started whacking myself on the head in front of the police, who had their own nightsticks. Whack. Ouch. Whack. Ouch. A lot of them were laughing at me.”
Though he has aligned himself with the antiwar movement, Vermin Supreme’s true allegiance is to The Prank. And it’s this — the anarchism of comedy — that leads him to exploits that seem awfully strange for a man of peace. He recites his attacks on politicians as if he’s reading from a resume: “Sometime in the ’80s, I bit Jesse Jackson’s hand. Also, Jerry Falwell — I jammed a big wad of phlegm onto my palm, and then I shook his hand. I chased Paul Tsongas down the sidewalk, and my friends and I swung an enema bag in his face.”
It’s this side of Vermin Supreme that makes me uncomfortable — he seems to have forgotten that even though politicians market themselves as products, even though their hair seems to be made of extruded plastic, they’re still human.
Garnick agrees. “I’d call myself a fan of Vermin’s, but there are things I wish he wouldn’t do. He’ll say all these clever things, and then he’ll go and bite somebody.”
Vermin Is Our Future
In October, while I was clicking through cable stations, I stumbled across a show called Who Wants to Be Governor of California? It asked a collection of real-life fringe candidates to spin a glittery wheel and then talk about whatever issue came up. In the past few years, our country has turned a corner. The political sideshow has moved to center stage. Characters like Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger might be called fringe candidates, except that they’re winning elections. And, in 2004, the most vibrant conversations about democracy will probably happen on the streets; activists predict that this month’s New Hampshire presidential primary will be upstaged by hordes of guerrilla-theater performers.
“Political disaffection is very high — data show Americans are more disaffected from government than at any time since the polls started recording such numbers,” according to Ron Hayduk, an assistant professor of political science at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Such alienation, he says, will help to fuel protest candidates, stunts, and spectacles. Politics is going to get weird. Very weird. It seems only a matter of time before some cable station creates an “I want to be president” reality TV show or a guy in a hot-dog suit becomes governor of New York.
What do we want?
What will we probably get instead?
Pagan Kennedy is a freelance writer living in Somerville.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
( This article was also included in her anthology
“THE DANGEROUS JOY OF DR. SEX AND OTHER TRUE STORIES”)