Ex-Clown On Paris Visit

Dava and Gilbert Shelton
Dava holding CD liner notes, with Gilbert Shelton,
on the boulevard Voltaire.

'Freak Brothers' Creator Hosts Dava,
the Rock-Queen To Be

Paris:- Thursday, 1. May 1997:- The lady said some guy was following her. She'd stop and he'd go past, then he'd stop and when she went past, there he would be again. This was earlier today, on the boulevard Voltaire, somewhere around the place de la Nation.

She had to go to the toilet, so she went into a café and without ordering anything, found where it was. A toilet is a public service that cafés are supposed to offer free; or they used to have to. The robot ones on the sidewalk, cost two francs, if they are not out of order. In a café, an 'express' is about six francs. If you want, you can say it makes the toilet free, or that the café costs four francs.

This particular specimen was one of the toilets where the light goes on when you go inside and lock the door. The lady didn't know this so she didn't lock the door in the total blackness of an unknown toilet. She says all this and asks Gilbert Shelton for the key to his apartment.

Gilbert and I are sitting on the sidewalk in the sun at a little café on the boulevard Voltaire, waiting for the May Day parade to march past.

The lady comes back and orders a white wine and when it comes I get a whiff of the Loire, near the sea. The lady's name is Dava and she is a clown in the process of retiring, after 1,200 performances, and she is about to become a rock star, with a little help from some old friends.

A year after she learned to read, when she was 18, she wrote a song she named 'Django,' after Django Reinhardt. Twenty-one years later, this song is on a CD-audio that is named 'Dava.'

Gilbert said, "Django couldn't read so he couldn't use the métro. He bought a Cadillac convertible and rode around Paris drunk all the time." All the same, he was a smooth-looking guitar-player, and Paris' radio FIP still plays his recordings often.

Dava heard Django at 18 when she was living in a one-room cabin in a small California town, and she wondered if he lived nearby. She didn't know he was dead, in France. To bad it's too late to hear him 'live.'

Another song of hers, "It's a Rainy Day," she wrote the day Jerry Garcia died, because he was a friend of hers. Jerry helped out The Dava CD her husband, Dave Sheridan, who was a partner of Shelton's at the time, before he died.

When Dava's daughter was four years old, she asked Dava for a clown. Dava couldn't find or couldn't afford one, but she had a tube of a mime's white facepaint, and she put it on for her daughter and became the clown. Now she has to quit this, because the kids pull on the arms, and it wrecks them - like having bad tennis-elbow in both elbows. Dava is working off the bookings still left, and will be finished in September.

Dava's clown will never entirely quit, because a painting of her as one, by Stanley Mouse, is the cover illustration for the CD 'Dava,' and 'Dava' is in Mouse Studio lettering. Dava's husband, David Kessner, wrote one of the songs on the album, played keyboards for it, and produced and arranged it. Dava wrote all the other songs on it.

Jerry Garcia and the Greatful Dead band fronted the money for Mouse's new liver about three years ago, and he did the painting of Dava after the new one was installed. Mouse is in pretty good shape now.

The musicians Dava knows always had a lot of respect for her - 1,200 gigs! - clown gigs, but gigs all the same. But when she told them she wrote songs, they became politely disinterested.

Dava wanted to have a single made of 'Django' but nobody does that anymore. Her daughter looked in one folder on her computer and found 400 songs in it. She found other folders full of songs. There were enough to do at least one CD and judging from what 'Dava' sounds like, there will be a couple more - dozen - to come.

I do not think Dava would have said all this if I hadn't taken out my notebook, but I did, so she did. Twelve hundred performances is a long time to have been a clown, and I think she is a little nervous about the career change.

Because of the 'Django' connection, I decide this is a 'Paris' story and I hope to hear the CD, and luckily, Dava has some with her and gives me one, with the explanation about the painting, the photo on the back and about writing all the songs all these years.

She says everybody has their favorites on the CD, and mine are the tunes 'The Test of Time' and 'Child of God.' As you can The Dava CD-audio imagine, me being a com-symp, pinko, looking-for-the-red's-march today kind of person; I wouldn't normally care for this type of song, but Dava does it different or better, and I like it. It may be my favorite.

Dava as a clown, painted by Stanley Mouse, is the cover illustration for the CD.

Doing this in the sun on a modest café terrace on the boulevard Voltaire is very agreeable, as Dava is a huge talker and fun to listen to. I hope I get a chance to see her perform someday.

Dava is accompanied on 'Dava' by 'The Peace Army' which consists of David Kessner on keyboards, Gary Vogensen on guitars, Tim Haggerty on bass and Terry Baker, drums.

'Friends' of The Peace Army who help out with some of the songs are: Maxine Jones, Merl Saunders, Martin Fierro, Jeremy Cohen, Louis Aissen, Jon Bendich, Jean Joans, Annie Ernst, Barry Ernst, Bob Rehfeld, Cheri Anderson, Esther Anderson, and Frankie Harrison.

Friends of the Grateful Dead band will recognize some of these names - these names put a 'good-rock' label of purity on this CD of Dava's.

Dava also has a Web site, which is a good thing because there is no record company behind this CD other than 'Dava / The Peace Army.'

If for some reason - even though you are reading this here - you can't get to the Web site, you can write to Dava and The Peace Army at Box 375, Novato CA 94948 - to order this CD if you want to hear it. I recommend giving it a listen.

Meanwhile, I think Gilbert is gong to help Dava 'find' Django while she is in Paris.

Illustration of Dava by Stanley Mouse, Mouse Studios. Dava/The Peace Army©1997.


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