The first thing I saw when I arrived at Henry Hill’s memorial was a live pink poodle on a leash with a pink haired lady in a pink satin blouse on the other end (Jonesy). That set the tone for a day where “Unforced laughter is encouraged and preachifying not allowed” (Captain Rainbow). The clothesline of T-shirts and walls full of costumes testified to his life full of fantasies and the hard work he did to make them come true.
The Grange Hall was filled with what I heard was about 300 people eating, drinking and talking all at once. We truly made a joyful noise. There was food glorious food, so much that everyone ate their fill and way more.
Enough good wine and beer to make it a real party. A woman at my table showed me her plate of at least 7 different tantalizing desserts. After we had all stuffed ourselves and then eaten just a little bit more Rainbow called us to join in a circle to remember Henry. “Does anyone remember anything?” he said and we laughed. “I know they say if you were really there you don’t remember…” another big laugh. Christy was the first to speak, “He shot me out of a canon, he made me disappear, he cut me in half, and I realized that no one else will ever do that to me in this lifetime.” Another lady said simply, “We are one less clown.” Dennis Hudson told how Henry transformed him from a musician into a performer, “Lose the glasses and I don’t really like that shirt- we have to be entertaining, if we’re not entertaining who cares about the rest?” Another woman said, “Anything he was involved in was totally exciting.” A poem written for Henry ended, “Oh Henry you sly dog, you left us too soon.”
Danny told us that he was excited to bring Henry some gorgeous green mallard feathers to ornament some of the Native American inspired art Henry was making. Henry said, “Danny, ducks have no power”… It seems that Henry educated a lot of people on great range of subjects. A mother recounted that she had once asked her very small son upon returning from Henry’s house what they had done that day “Henry taught me how to throw a hatchet!” he replied. Henry was sometimes known as Professor Dubious and he created other characters such as “Swami Snatch a da Money.” One speaker noted that Henry’s courage and willingness to just throw himself out there was his defining feature. A woman who remembered visiting Cheesecake “my dad’s hippie commune” remembered “Harly the Harlequin” a mechanical character that Henry built that could do shell tricks. She said she was entirely captivated by Harley and that “Henry was a muse who could inspire and amuse a ten year old kids.” Jonesy sitting next to Lady Rainbow told us about meeting Henry and Lady Rainbow at a party where Henry was levitating Lady Rainbow. She went up but then the machine that made the magic possible froze up and she got “stuck” in the up position. Jonesy while laughing at her memories told us “I knew- I want to know these people and I do.” Karen said “He was so real- so human- 100% real.
Brilliant, kind, wonderful, ornery, crusty” Mike Crutcher stood and told us he (Mike) would sing and he belted out “From the land of sky blue waters… Hamm’s the beer refreshing, Hamm’s.” There were many cans of Hamm’s beer decorating the altar set up in the front of the room which also contained several gnomes, lots of photos including American Indian regalia, back to the land moments, ukeholics poses, and a general picture of a man well loved with many, many friends. If there is one thought I took away from the party it was that Henry was a man rich in friends.
Brooks Schmitt told us, “I grew up in Boonville and I thought Henry was normal.” When I left Boonville I thought, “This is boring.” “When we did the Dark Carnival for Halloween we really didn’t have it together a few days before. Henry took us to the Grange and we went down to where all the old props are stored- known as ‘The Alligator Pitt’. Mike Crutcher told us, “Don’t go down there, the pump is broken.” Brooks continued, “It was flooded, we had to step from piece of Styrofoam to piece of Styrofoam. He kept pulling out this great stuff like a human head on a spit (which decorated the buffet table at the memorial). The stuff he gave us made the Dark Carnival. It was so weird, beautiful and diabolical in his head. I gotta measure up to that, he’s an inspiration.” A young man who did construction with Henry recounted that they were working on a job with another man who was a real perfectionist and “Henry wasn’t really into that… I asked him how we would know if something was alright and he said, ‘You put it up there any if nobody says anything it’s good’.” Karen told us that she saw Henry two weeks before he died at the Buckhorn and asked him how he was. He said, “I’m dying. I’m dying from too much living.”
Rainbow finished up by quoting a poem about arriving at the finish line of life totally used up and saying, “What a ride” and then he invited us all to go out and launch paper lanterns into the night for Henry. We went out and many excited kids were holding large paper lanterns with what looked like burning squares of cardboard wired to the bottoms. Bill Meyers told them, “You have to hold it for a long, long, time.” So they did and then when enough hot air filled the lanterns the kids lofted them up and away they sailed into the black night up and up until they looks like fireflies. Someone said, “How do we know they won’t cause a fire?” No one knew but it seemed entirely appropriate that there should be some unanswered questions on this might. Then they fired off a Henry’s big canon, which made everyone’s ears ring and was pretty scary. Finally a manic band of drummers took up the celebrating pounding the beat of Henry life into the night. If Henry touched your life or even if he didn’t but the description of his life touches you please step up for Lady Rainbow who could use help paying off Henry’s medical bills. You can send donations to: Rainbow Hill c/o Grange #669 P.O. Box 363 Boonville, CA 95415.