Lip Service




Our all-licensed Fool. He’s bound to tell us the truth. We will have him whipped for lying.



You think it’s easy being Tom Miller? Then you throw your ass in the pan with Alex Jones and Infowars and Prison Planet and see what happens.



Because, you see, with Tom Miller it’s not just a matter of holding a mirror to nature, it’s smashing the mirror and using the shards to make jokes that bleed.


Like Burning Lips (


Such is the story of the Ted Cruz Lips painting. And such is the movie that comes to us with all the substance of the headlines on THE HUFFINGTON POST, which is to say, from actuality, from our shared experience.


The painting of Ted Cruz’s mouth is actually a footnote to the story behind the story, its subtext: Performance artist Tom Miller of Gainesville Florida, in the manner of Houdini, attempts to disappear publicly into the countenance of Ted Cruz.


Ted Cruz. No other Presidential Candidate is ever mentioned or alluded to throughout the entire film. It is centered and focused on Cruz, so that everything else in the universe becomes blurred and out of focus, and that’s the point.


It’s the way you see things when you are a big-eyed little yellow fish in a murky tank and you dreamed that you could fly, and that makes you the star of a movie.


Back to Infowars. There is Ted Cruz in the background wearing a crown. What is that all about? What if he were wearing a crown of thorns? It could come to that. It will come to pass. The film, commenting all along upon itself, will allude to the Stations of the Cross. But the mask the film wears is always Ted Cruz.


An intelligent and articulate and perfectly suited and tied black man sits at a desk and derides Tom Miller for Not Doing Much. Back in the day a performance artist had to Do Something.


Not just stare into Ted Cruz’s face for two hours without breaking eye contact and get a bunch of people to watch him do it, which is what Tom Miller did, and then get THE HUFFINGTON POST to run a story about it, and then have it picked up all over the world.


When The Richard Fowler Show decided to get in on the act, the co-hosts called the event an “art installation,” and observed properly, “Two hours is a long time to do anything.”



Because Tom Miller said, “It’s the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done,” and we all love danger. All of us. You hear that? All of us. You hear that? That’s your ass in the pan sizzling.


We all have a subtext with Ted Cruz. We know who he is. (Well, everybody except Mario.) We know his story. We know his lips and that weird smile. For Tom Miller to become obsessed with it, the way the corners of the smile turn down instead of up, was entirely believable, even if he had just made Ted Cruz up, it was perplexing to us all, and then the booger appeared!


It was incredible. One can only conjecture that it flew out of his nose, that beak, that Grampa Munster beak, a white-snot projectile, of short trajectory, landing on Cruz’s upper lip and then through force of gravity combined with suction was impelled into the black hole of Cruz’s mouth.


All of that Tom Miller perceived in the depths of time as he stared into the abyss of Ted Cruz’s face, and when he emerged two hours later, he had the image of the painting in his head and he could get it out – except for money.


Almost as an afterthought to his mind-blowing performance, Miller produced the painting to commemorate the event, and then realized he could possibly sell it.


Yeah, right.


So he tried to sell it on eBay and nobody would buy it. And nobody he knew wanted it. And he didn’t want it. Until finally somebody said, “I’ll give you ten bucks to burn the fucken thing.”


So he did, and that’s what this movie really is about. The painting does not actually show a smile and does not actually look like Ted Cruz’s lips, it could be anybody’s lips, and does not, in fact, exist, having been burned, but you don’t have to take anybody’s word for it, you can see it.


You can see the painting. It’s over at the bar having a beer. This is the Hardback Café in midtown Gainesville and here are Alan and Julia Bushnell, its proud owners and creators and patrons of its arts, speaking haltingly of the emotional experience of the painting and preceding performance, the stare-down between Tom Miller and his unflinching photographic antagonist, the fictional Ted Cruz, being played by the actual Ted Cruz! It was too much for them. Actually, they’ve had enough. Could you please take your painting and go.


The painting does not finish its beer, so Tom does. And then a strange thing happens and we are reminded that this is en film as the screen turns reddish-orange and then black.

The painting must be transported to the fire site. As in medieval times a pilgrimage must be formed, which calls for the inclusion and musings of the artist and Minister of the Interior for the Tabernacle of Hedonism Michael Garvin upon the sacred and profane.


“It’s like the Stations of the Cross,” Garvin speculates mystically, with reference perhaps to Veronica wiping the face of Jesus on the way to the Cross, and then the image of his face remaining on the fabric. Yes, so like the painting of Ted Cruz’s Lips.


We follow the three saints (Tom Miller, Michael Garvin and Ted Cruz’s Mouth) to Maude’s Café, the Center of the Now Known Universe, where the priestess Kate Holden conveys them by means vehicular to the Bobbitt Compound where the bonfire has been amply prepared, she informs us, “With three kilos of asbestos and the tears of white trash.” The spiritual Minister of the Interior adds “a hecatomb of bed bugs” to the sacrifice.


In the backseat is Mario the Poet, who professes not even to know who Ted Cruz is, but, nonetheless, he is “Fucken pumped!” Thus the painting arrives at the compound, intended as a burnt offering.


This Ted Cruz has been to college, where he was fun-loving and only mildly despicable, and we can hear his young voice full of ambition and healthy greed.


Cowboy-hatted like a true western hero, proprietor of the Compound, meet Michael Bobbitt, first as tour guide, displaying the would-be bonfire, composed of “a whole trailer park full of hepatitis-filled furniture and ten gallons of gasoline” (It not only is like that scene from The Wicker Man, it is that scene from The Wicker Man), then as raconteur, in the most touching and unsettling scene in the film. While reminiscing fondly and movingly on his friendship with Tom Miller, Bobbitt calmly loads a rifle. “You were my first friend in this town.” They go back 18 years.


“We went to Denmark together,” Miller offers from off camera. He is the film’s narrator and raisoneur.


“For your fiftieth birthday.”


“And is that the rifle I shot?”


“This is my favorite. This is a 1902 Swiss Army sniper rifle.”


Appropriate perhaps to “An Apocalyptic Moving of the Spirit”.


Underscoring all is a driving symphonic crescendo aiming us toward hellfire, ushered in or out, it’s hard to tell, by the Compound Chickens, whose squawking voices morph into the voice of the underworld chanting “Ted Cruz”.


Speaking of hellfire, here, wearing his customary combat soldier’s helmet at a rakish angle, is the Reverend Angeldust, a disciple of Antonin Artaud, inventor of the Theatre of Cruelty, with the sunny bromide that a little audience participation can’t kill you, if you don’t buy it. But the day is darkening, and so is the film.



Remember the painting? Let’s look at the painting.


Turning the painting sideways, Miller and Garvin are struck by the semblance of snatch, which Garvin pontifically identifies from the Latin as “vagina dentata”, and on further inspection of the labia, which, Garvin further pontificates, is directly connected to the unconscious as though by a portal, and there it is.




Oh yes it is.


This is what I’m saying. There, as presciently painted as if by a prophet.


Let Fodder O’Brien explain. Fodder O’Brien is the offspring of either Bing Crosby or Barry Fitzgerald and Ingrid Bergman in Going My Fooken Way. Fodder O’Brien knows a ting or two when it comes to talken about demons and vaginas.



Talk about a curve ball. Suddenly we are in the pleasant surroundings of a living room with Chuck and Amy Lynn Martin.


The Bitch Slap Heard ‘Round the World!


The statuesque and sagacious Amy Lynn is famously non-violent, but, enjoined by the intrepid Tom Miller to do violence to what she perceives to be the face of evil, Amy Lynn administers (see above).


Charles Martin, the distinguished Professor of Chemistry, also known as Genius Boy, expatiates upon the coming blaze, in which the image of Ted Cruz’s Lips will be quantitatively converted and dispersed into everlasting diffusion in subservience to the second law of thermodynamics.

In the kitchen, where the drinks, or, rather, libations are, Mario would still have us believe he has no idea who Ted Cruz is. But Andy Martone has an idea because he watches the Alex Jones Show with his balls cupped in one hand and therefore knows that Alex Jones has documented Tom Miller and his perversion, let alone Andy Martone, who no doubt is hoping to be let alone. “You,” Andy Martone tells Tom Miller, proud to know him, “are Strange Florida Man!”


Remember the painting?


“Let’s light this son of a bitch up!”


Darkness falls.


“It’s always darkest just before the black,” Robert Culp as Kelly Robinson in “I Spy”.


Fire and Chanting


In the black of night at the Bobbitt Compound on that memorable night, whenever it was, the flames devoured The Lips of Ted Cruz in a glorious and majestic white hot fury of a ballet of violence and beauty and strangeness so that it seemed that the fire would never die.


Then it did, and so did Prince, and we fade in on the image of Fodder O’Brien and black-clad Tom Miller at the Temple of Hedonism, turning to the sacred ritual once again of poetry and the lament of the dead dead fish, our comrade, ourselves.


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