A Bad Man in a Dirty Old Town: Bob Reuter's Beautiful New Book
Every Friday afternoon, St. Louis listens to his sporadic and scratchy radio show and tries to dissect host Bob Reuter. Perhaps we should leave this task to the professionals. Trying to comprehend Reuter is like trying to piece together a four piece puzzle with no corners.
Bob Reuter (front) and Bassamp (back) of KDHX's Bob's Scratchy Records. Photo by David Mitchell
Yet his newest book, Tales of a Talking Dog, is a set of snap shot stories that further cement his legendary status. Published by JK Publishing and Saint Louis Projects, Tales of a Talking Dog will be released tonight at Off Broadway at 8 p.m. Bob Reuter's Alley Ghost, the Trio Project, Rat Heart and the Griddle Kids will play the show.
Reuter unconsciously imparts wisdom in every conversation, despite his self-deprecating opinion of himself. Sometimes it's big stuff and sometimes it's not: I learned during our interview that he enjoys the classic American breakfast (eggs, bacon, fried potatoes and toast) for his afternoon meals.
Cassie Kohler: You call yourself a "talking dog" and "a bad man". Can you explain your perception of yourself as that?
Bob Reuter: Well, it comes from the short story in the book, "Out of the Jungle." I once did a collection of songs under the title, "Bobby the Dog Boy Raised by Wolves." I think that's where that dog stuff comes from. I feel like the family I was raised in didn't know what to make of me. I always had this feeling that I was a bad person. It was definitely hammered home to me. I got that all through my life. The first guy I ever smoked any dope with, he was the one that had it, but I was the bad kid. So if I say I'm a bad man, it's partly because I actually believe that still.
Why write these memoirs now? What's your intention for putting these stories out there?
Just to tell my story. I had this one therapist one time that said the more I tell the story the more I'll be free of the stuff. Really, it was other people's ideas to publish it. My ex-wife used to always say, "You don't have to tell everything to everybody." I figured why not just say it and no one could ever use it against you?
You focus on the other characters in your life much more than your own personal commentary. It's really a collection of short stories about people that bounce in and out of your life. Who are some of your favorites?
Little Ricky. I feel a connection to bad people because I understand what it's like to be the bad person. And Little Ricky, he became what they made him. He got applause for singing songs holding his dick on the street corner. Just how far off was hitting a 40-year old woman with a rubber hose from that? The heroes that I grew up with, people that I thought were really cool, all came to bad ends. It's enough to make you question who you are idealizing. Or maybe they were too cool to live in society. Not that beating old ladies with a rubber hose is cool.
What is cool?
I don't know. Being who you are. Frankie is a huge hero of mine. I don't know if the reasons for him being a hero came across in the book. If ever there was a guy who was just himself. He didn't put on for anybody. Together we made a whole person. It wasn't until he died that I was free to be a whole person on my own. The hardest story to tell was when my friend Sonny killed himself. That was the hardest one to tell and I knew I needed to tell it.