In the summer of ’67
Gregory Sharits left New York City
to travel across
on a Greyhound bus
headed for St. Louis.
Early Saturday morning, July 29th,
his bus pulled into Indianapolis for a rest stop.
Gregory Sharits got off the bus
at the Greyhound bus terminal, walked to an elevator, got on the elevator and rode to the 6th floor,
the top of the building,
where he jumped off the roof.
He wasn’t killed.
He suffered a broken left arm, hip and leg, among other injuries,according to a story in the Village Voice.
Sharits was the manager of the New York Filmmakers’ Cinemateque,and the article asked any of his friends,
if he had any friends in Indianapolis,
or any other people in the arts,
to visit and cheer him up
during his lengthy recovery. Two people did what the article asked and showed up to visit him in the hospital: Me, and Davi Det Hompson.
I didn’t know him at all. But I lived in Indianapolis, and Gregory Sharits was a creative person brought down by depression, and I was in the arts, I thought, and I felt obligated to show up to see him and cheer him up.
When I walked into the room of Gregory Sharits’ at Methodist Hospital, there was a tall, earnest-looking fellow already there, also visiting.
He introduced himself as David Thompson.
David E. Thompson.
David E. Thompson said he collaborated with Gregory’s brother, Paul Sharits, on some experimental films.
Experimental films flashing with light, pulsing with color, altered faces, elusive objects
Tom H. and David E. (he was not yet Davi Det) quickly began some philosophical art discussions,
What is art?
How is art made
Why is Art?
Greg Sharits remained quiet and supine, presumably healing, and certainly in a fog.
Tom H. and David E. shared shared contact information before going home. That information soon needed updating, starting with his name, because David E. pushed the last letter of his first name into the his middle initial, and the first letter of his last name to the end of the middle initial.
Tom H. thought it pretentious, and said so, but Davi det explained clearly why he was choosing to create his nom d’art.
Their mutual interest in art, particularly the Fluxus movement, soon led to some collaborations. Tom H. had a band which drove his fellow jazz musicians crazy with its undefinable style, and he quickly added a performance art element to their concerts, some of them staged in tandem with exhibitions of Davi Det’s distinctive artworks, paintings, sculptures, books and other things.
Davi Det also turned their concert programs into art pamphlets, and began contributing lyrics, and cover design, and co-wrote liner notes for the band’s eventual album on the Vanguard label.
Vanguard Records now belongs to the Lawrence Welk organization. Davi Det would have found that amusing. He was an art teacher, and he encouraged the band members, and especially Tom H., to think of their playing as their artwork, opening up new possibilities to all of them.
The lyrics he sent were fascinating and challenging, and difficult to fit into the band’s repertoire. They recorded some of them, and others were put away. In 1970, Tom H. moved with his family to Los Angeles, He began working as a studio musician, and touring with a singer named Neil Diamond.
Davi Det, and his wife moved to Richmond, Virginia. He continued to send Tom H. occasional lyrics, and Tom H. recorded a couple of them, but still couldn’t find a comfortable fit with the kind of music he was writing and playing.
Davi Det never never smoked, never drank, never did any kind of drugs. He exercised regularly, and he seemed the picture of health, until one day in 1996, while running, he collapsed and died of a heart attack.
It was sudden and shocking and senseless. A memorial exhibition of his work filled every art gallery in Richmond.
In Los Angeles, Tom H. was still with the Neil Diamond band, keeping a checkered schedule.They toured for a year or two, then took a year or two off. The off years were consumed by projects, some lucrative, some pro bono.
There was a television movie, multimedia shows in Asian theme parks, a cabaret show honoring fellow Hoosier Hoagy Carmichael…That kind of thing.
After the 2015 year of touring,
Tom H. was seeking an interesting project, and in his archives, he found a box labelled “Art.” In it were lyrics and correspondence from Davi Det. He thought: I got all these extra years, all these years that Davi Det missed.Iit suddenly seemed urgent for him, 50 years later, to finally complete those song embryos, as he had promised Davi Det that eventually would. And in January of 2018, when Neil Diamond retired from touring due to illness, he set about doing just that.
Back on April 26, 1996, a few months before his death, Davi Det sent Tom H. a letter. It was mostly newsy chat, but the last paragraph read:
“I found myself talking about Greg Sharits with Stan Brak(h)age last week. Stan had given Greg the round trip ticket from Denver to NYC with the advice that if NY ever became to(o) much to use it. The stub of that ticket was in his pocket when he jumped. So, we owe our friendship to Stan. Odd.”