Over the years I've met a lot of interesting people online. Some are good decent people I would want to actually be friends with, others are horrible people I'd want nothing to do with in real life, and then there are others that kind of fall in between there somewhere. It's the way of the internet, where often you find people who are not what they really are, because of the blessing and curse of anonymity online.
People can turn into completely different people online and tear down others verbally, and psychologically because no one knows who they are. It's something that we've all come to put up with and tolerate because there's really nothing that can be done.
And yet there are those who are exactly how they are in real life. Even if you don't know those people, there's just something about them and how they interact with people that gives you the idea that there's nothing fake or phony about them. They are genuine people for good or bad.
I used to be on a hip hop mixtape message board back around 2005 til several years ago called Rapmullet, and one of the people I met on there was Chris Lilly aka DJ Crazy Chris. Chris was one of the genuine people. Like him or hate him, there was nothing about him that screamed fake, to me. There were times he'd make me laugh so hard, and other times he'd make me so mad, but he was real.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP
People who know him mostly know him from his mashup mixtapes that he would put together. I have to say the man was a genius when it came to mixtapes. I say was, because he doesn't do them anymore, having moved on to another passion (more on that in a bit).
One of his better tapes, in my opinion, was his Bionic Blends Volume 2: The Bionic Woman Edition. In it he used various songs of different genres by female artists, and put them together in a truly creative way. And for good measure he added bits and pieces of tv dialogue or other soundbytes and it was really damn good.
You can get that by clicking the cover art (both covers link to the same file, you only need one), which was also done by Chris.
People who know me know that I like a lot of different types of music. I can get with a little bit of just about any type of music. That said what I REALLY like is when music is done creatively and incorporates more than one genre. Whether it's Gangstagrass, who incorporates hip hop with country & bluegrass and won an Emmy nomination for the theme song to the FX series Justified (Long Hard Times To Come), or Apocalyptica, which uses classical music instruments to perform heavy metal music, I just like creativity.
And Chris' tapes were highly creative. Partaking in virtually every genre of music he would fashion out an incredible hour or so of music that needs to be heard to be believed. I -- and others -- often tried to convince him to sell his tapes, because they were THAT good, but he had no interest in that. He was doing it because he loved to do it, not because he wanted to get rich. Much like a writer who just has to put words on a paper to get the story out, rather than publish it, I think Chris was kinda the same way. He did it for the love, not the money, which I think is the most noblest of all things.
Then a few years back the forum we were on went away and Chris disappeared. I always wondered where he was, but just really had no way to contact him that I could think of. I had an old email but figured he didn't check it much as he was never a big internet nerd as I was or anyone else I knew.
Then recently, Big Chew over at Rapmullet (who used to host the forum we were on) did a piece on where Chris was now, and as I related earlier, Chris is a genuine person. When you hear that someone is doing a new project or whatever that is 180 degrees from what they WERE doing in the past, sometimes you think "what? REALLY? That guy is doing THIS?"
But with Chris, when you find out that he left behind the mixtapes and started doing puppet shows in his hometown of Saint Albans West Virginia, well... there's no real surprise there. Because anyone that knows Chris knows this is clearly something that he would do. He enjoys entertaining people and making them laugh. Chris could make people laugh better than most anyone I have met online. And he doesn't do it to hurt (although if you got on his bad side...) but more to the point he seems to like to entertain and bring smiles to people's faces.
And that is what he is doing now with his own Puppet Theater called "Sassafrass Junction".
Sassafrass Junction based in Saint Albans, West Virginia is run by Chris and childhood friend Tara K. Barton along with Ben Levesque, a puppeteer and graduate of West Virginia University. Also helping out a lot in this venture are the backup puppeteers Courtney and Julie. After they found a nice piece of real estate in the downtown area and built the theater up with their bare hands, now it's a great attraction for children to go to.
They do various shows such as Cinderlolly and Dr. Tottlebottom's Exotic Bird Show, and perform at schools, hospitals and birthday parties among others events.
I remember growing up and the school class, or day care I was at would go on field trips to various locations around town, and the one I remember most succinctly was going to Center in the Square in Roanoke Virginia. Center in the Square was sort of an all encompassing field trip that featured an aquarium, a museum, a theater, a little gift shop where you could get quartz rocks and things like that. As a kid it was like the best place in the world to go to to just get away from everything that was driving you crazy in your life. And of course as a kid everything seems to be magnified, perception-wise, as far as things driving you crazy in your life.
And one aspect I always loved was the planetarium where you could look up at the stars in this room and everything was very peaceful and it was really cool. I think kids need things like that. Educational and entertaining things that really allow them to escape for awhile. If only for awhile.
|Chris Lilly, Courtney and friends|
Looking back, I realize this is really a natural evolution for Chris. I remember us always going back and forth online about Fraggle Rock and Neverending Story and The Muppets and whatever (with a huge hodge podge of various topics thrown in for good measure) and he always came off as someone that really enjoyed that type of entertainment.
So to see him doing something now that involves that, it's very appropriate, I think.
If you are in the area and are interested in visiting Sassafrass Junction, you can give them a call at 304-395-5373.
CLICK HERE for detailed directions to get to the theater, once you are in the area.
For more info on their shows, or just to see what all they do, go to their website at Sassafrass Junction.