Slash Coleman is perpetually searching. Even the one-man show he's been performing around town, called "The Neon Man and Me," spurred the 39 year
old to produce a "VH1- behind- the- music-style" documentary, which he's calling,"Glow." Coleman said he's still making final edits, but plans on showing it
Saturday at Art 6.
Perhaps it all began when the Chester native was 10 and all he wanted for the holidays was an Atari. His parents gave him a typewriter in an Atari box. He
made do and dreamed of being a famous writer.
After graduating from Radford University, he "beatniked" his way across the country for 20 years and expressed himself through every medium known to man -
painting, massage therapy, jazz piano, theater, fiction, non-fiction and interviews with nosy journalists.
I met Coleman on a recent cold and rainy afternoon. He showed up in a dapper cap with two jackets and looked like he walked out of a Kerouac novel (minus
the smell of booze). Slash Coleman had the intonation of a story teller, and sometimes it's hard to tell where fact blends to fiction.
Brick: You've been performing your show "The Neon Man and Me," for over a year and a half and the documentary you made about
it," Glow," seems like a natural conclusion.
Slash: Well I'm working on another solo show,"Slash Coleman had Big Matzo Balls." It's about my growing up as a Jew in a Jerry
Springer, blue-collar family in Chester. When my family (on his mother's side, his father is Catholic) came over during the Holocaust,
some came to Richmond and intermarried. They were afraid to profess their Judiasm because (they were afraid) somebody would
come for the Jews again.
Brick: Do your siblings feel the same way?
Slash: One sister is Baptist and the other would rather die than have anyone know she's Jewish. One of them has been in the National
Enquirer for chaining up her boy friend. Yeah, like that.
Can you share any specific scenes from your new show?
A hillbilly ends up seeing a commercial about how you can train dogs to find your Jewish identity. But the dogs find him. He doesn't
realize he's Jewish. He's in the Jewish closet. He makes a decision on stage whether to come out of the closet, but every time an
emergency Jewish broadcast siren goes off.
Brick: There seems to be a lot of focus on your sense of Jewish identity. In other interviews you've talked extensively about what
you call the Jewish closet. Why all of this now at this pint in your life?
Slash: I think it coincided with my coming back to Richmond, but I was starting to feel this way before I came back. When I first wrote
"The Neon Man and Me," my friends read it and said," This is a Jewish story, not one about your friend." So, I retooled it. But now, I'm
ready to tell that other story.
Brick: From what you say, it sounds like your recent work draws upon your painful experiences growing up in Chester - getting
beat-up by two girls for being Jewish, and so on, Why come back to the area?
Slash: This is where my family is. And I've been more successful here with my work. But I had one tough time at my high school reunion
(Lloyd C. Bird) The school asked me to do 30 minutes of stand up. I bombed. I wrote material that would have been good for 12th
graders but these people were old, almost 40. When I was on stage, people just started talking over me, and I kind of shrank inwards,
put the mic back and walked off. There was this one outcast from high school. His dad was the roach exterminator. They were really
poor. He had a bad complexion and was overweight. At the reunion he was still the outcast. I just talked to him because nobody else
would talk to me. So I'm, talking to him and he's dressed up in his best overalls and white t-shirt, and one minute into the conversation
he says, "You know, I really just don't want to talk to you."
Brick: You've been lauded by the arts community for your business acumen. Can you support yourself with your shows, and what
does your business model call for next?
Slash: Not quite. I still work in furniture upholstery for my Unlce's company. I'm trying to book bigger venues, bring it outside the state
and college circuit. But in five years, I think I'll be done with shows. I want to write fiction and support myself as a writer at home.
Photo: Jay Paul