Scanning the mind of Dead Man’s Carnival’s Professor Pinkerton Xyloma

Pinkerton Xyloma

Ahead of screening Dead Man’s Carnival for LakeFrontRow Cinema, Casey T. Malone shares his favorite selections from Pinkerton Xyloma’s notebook

Editor’s note: We like to explore weird and unexpected avenues into the films we program at LakeFrontRow Cinema. While this month’s shorts range from the macabre and schizophrenic to the blackly comedic, the centerpiece in our Casey T. Malone showcase is Dead Man’s Carnival, a docu-short on the titular Milwaukee punk rock variety show. I asked Malone to choose his favorite sketches and pages from Pinkerton Xyloma, the Dead Man’s Carnival founder and “ringmaster.”

While there are certainly weird/funny stories associated with the films we’re showing, it was a little more difficult to try and think of weird objects. I think the most interesting is that when making the Dead Man’s Carnival doc I was given 20 years worth of Pinkerton’s notebooks that featured sketches, stage designs, old set lists from his punk rock days, fliers, you name it. It was kind of an unprecedented and fascinating peek into where he came from. I scanned a lot of them but they only appear briefly overlaid on top of old pictures of him during the “punk rock” section of the film. It was like being given someone’s old journals and having them say “I trust you. Use what you want.”

While the notebooks were used sparingly in the film (except as overlays in the “Punk Years” montage) they were instrumental in me understanding who Professor Pinkerton Xyloma (his legal name, by the way) is and what his thought process was going all the way back to his formative years:

“Old set list”

Pinkerton Xyloma

Pinky still makes set lists that look like this, although now the stage manager Ben Shaw types them up and makes them readable to the cast and crew. This is an old one going back to the early days of DMC. I like seeing how chaotic the shows would be. It illustrates [Pinky’s] flair for performance in that he’s changing the lineup on the fly to make things run smoothly.

“Dead Man’s Carnival banner sketch”

Pinkerton Xyloma

This is a sketch in one of his notebooks that he probably gave to the artist who finally made the, now infamous, double-headed skeleton banner that hangs above the DMC house band The Magnificents at every show. As random and chaotic as a DMC show can be, there is always lots of pre-planning and discussion. Pinky spent a lot of time contemplating the “look” of the show before it just became second nature for all involved.

“Stage design”

Pinkerton Xyloma

DMC does a monthly show at The Miramar Theatre in Milwaukee, but they also do a lot of pop-up shows all over the country. This is an example of a floor plan that Pinky drew for a venue and sketched out how he would fit the performance into the space. There’s a lot of these in his notebooks. Generally he does it for every guerrilla show they perform.

“Punk notebook”

Pinkerton Xyloma

Pinky saves everything. You could draw a history of his art by just going through his closets. Among the notebooks he gave to me from the early days of DMC he also gave me his notebooks from his old punk rock days when he was touring in vans and playing in punk bands. These particular notebooks (made from about his mid-late teens on) are a chronicle of events he performed, but also scribbled philosophies, fliers, articles, and random bric-à-brac that he made into these artful collages. This is one of my favorites.

  • “Oddities & Prodigies: The Short Films of Casey T. Malone” plays Wed, Oct 26 at the Central Library (201 W. Mifflin St) in Rm 302 at 6:30p. Director Casey T. Malone and Pinkerton Xyloma will both be in attendance. FREE.