Bucks Burnett's Namedropper: I Got the World's Greatest Mr. Peppermint Photo Op — Twice
Has this ever happened before? Spalding Gray (center) with Mr. Peppermint. Oh, and Bucks Burnett.
Michael David Pyeatt
Bucks Burnett isn't a journalist. He's a namedropper. He may not have met every one of his music idols, but he's met 90 percent of them. And he's here to tell you all about it, however he sees fit, in his monthly music column, Namedropper.
I was born in Dallas in October 1958, and a steady part of my early childhood ritual was watching Mr. Peppermint on TV.
Peppermint, played by Dallasite Jerry Haynes, was the Dallas version of Mr. Rogers, only more colorful, in a peppermint-striped suit and hat. I especially loved his sidekick Muffin. Rumored to be a sock puppet, Muffin to me was real, a stand-up guy and a great stand-up comedian. A real smarty pants, or smarty sock, depending on how much you bought into his reality.
I would also switch to channel 11 for the more lowbrow Icky Twerp, who’s Slam Bang Theater was always a bit more hobo and demented than Peppermint. He had guys in gorilla suits sitting around playing cards and hitting each other over the head with rubber clubs, just the kind of things '60s kids needed to see while eating breakfast before school.
As a teenager I began my lifelong quest to meet my heroes, but I never thought of seeking out Peppermint. Too lofty, too big, too much. Plus he didn’t really tour so there was no soundcheck to sneak into.
Ironically, his son would have plenty of soundchecks. That's because Mr. Peppermint's son is Gibby Haynes, the leader of weirdo punks the Butthole Surfers. Unlike his father's crisp, clean image, Gibby's band spent a decade making the underground more underground, before rather shockingly entering the mainstream in 1993 with the chart-topping Independent Worm Saloon — produced by, of all people, Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. The record was released on Capitol Records, the same label that brought you the Beatles, so go figure skate. Evidently, anything is possible.
Is this column rambling enough, all over the map enough for you? All of these concepts eventually collided in a most unexpected fashion at Club Dada.
On Jan. 30, 2001, Dada held what would be the first of five birthday events for and hosted by Mr. Peppermint. Sara Hickman performed as warmup act.
It was a bizarre, cheerful evening. Who would not want to hang out at Club Dada with Mr. Peppermint? I remember at one point after saying hello to The Pep (we were both a wee bit on the tip side of tipsy, I told him: “Pee Wee Herman. So unfair. That should’ve been you. YOU! There needs to be a Peppemint movie where you and Big Tex go to Six Flags and kick some ass. No Pee Wee, YOU!!”
Drink in hand, he shrugged and said, “Hey kid, you win some, you lose some. Can’t have it all.” Many local kid TV hosts might’ve resented Pee Wee or Captain Kangaroo. Not The Peppermint. He was way too classy for that.
The world shifted suddenly when none other than Gibby Haynes walked into the the club. Holy Butthole photo op, Batman! I immediately found Michael Pyeatt, one of the club managers, and told him to grab a camera.
Mr. Peppermint had always been vocally supportive of his son’s infamous band, but to my knowledge there had never been a photo of Jerry and Gibby together once the B’holes went public. The two seemed to have a mutual admiration with a truce of sorts; no public photos.
So I asked Gibby if he would take a picture with me and his dad. “Sure!” he said. The three of us smiled for the camera while I thought to myself, “Surely I’m the only Peppermint/Butthole fan to do this. (I just said peppermint butthole).”
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We made happy small talk, father and son both extremely happy and good-natured. Gibby was super cool and it was a thrill to meet him so unexpectedly and hang with him and his dad. After a few minutes he split.
Everything got back to the Peppermint level of normal when the most unexpected thing of all occurred. Spalding Gray walked in. What were the odds? He had made an appearance at The Met that evening (an art gallery of several years), so I guess somebody drove him over.
Earlier that night, The Namedropper got Mr. Peppermint together with his son, Gibby Haynes.
Michael David Pyeatt
I found Pyeatt again and asked him to take some more pictures. I introduced myself to Spalding and asked if he’d like to get a picture with Mr. Peppermint. He eagerly agreed.
So there I was, standing where no rock fan, no groupie, no self respecting starfucker had stood before; next to Spalding Gray and Mr. Peppermint as the camera clicked away.
As we chatted, Spalding leaned in and quietly said to me, “Bucks, tell me about Peppermint, what’s the deal with Peppermint. Tell me everything.” I suddenly felt like I was in one of his movies.
“It’s really quite simple,” I said, as Spalding listened intently. “Mr. Peppermint had a kids show on morning TV in Dallas. But he had a competitor on another channel at the same time, who was a bit weirder, Icky Twerp.”
“How were they different?” he asked, in a very serious tone. “It’s easy,” I said. All the Peppermint kids grew up to be Beatles fans and Led Zeppelin fans, and all the Twerp kids grew up to be Stones fans and then Sex Pistols fans. “What about yourself, where do you land?" he asked, staring at me. “I love Pepper, Twerp, Zeppelin and Pistols. I want it all.”
“Want it all,” he repeated. “Thanks.” And with that, he was gone.
On that night, Dallas was the coolest city in the world. The New York equivalent would be the Partridge Family showing up at a Velvets gig at Max’s Kansas City with a cameo by Andy Warhol.
I’ve still never found another photo of anyone standing together with Gibby and Jerry. Any photos I’ve found of the two of them together were taken that night at Dada. I’m the luckiest and hardest working rock fan in the whole wide world.
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