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Video: Kostopoulos: First Toilet Seat

King of Toilet Seat Arts

Boron, California

He's been dead since 1996, but just thinking about the King of Toilet Seat Arts still makes us smile. We were lucky to spend a precious 90 minutes with outsider artist John A. Kostopoulos in 1994, as he regaled us with stories of his colorful life, which we have yet to completely untangle.

In this video, John stood in front of his 400+ toilet seats and told us about the first toilet seat he ever painted. It was for an impromptu show on a US Navy ship during World War II (the kind where men typically wear coconut shell bras), with a group of sailors who called themselves the "Merry Minstrels," smeared their faces with burnt cork, and belted out Spike Jones songs about Hitler. The late artist's first toilet seat was performance art and political statement!

"They make that sound as we all know...." [1:18]

Video Transcript

The King of Toilet Seat Arts, Boron, California

[In front of his home and outdoor gallery of Toilet Seat art, John A. Kostopoulos tells us about what got him started painting famous people on the lids of toilet seats.]

Kostopoulos: The first one I painted was before the Battle of Casablanca, November 8th, 1942.

I was on the Battleship Massachusetts is when I painted my first one, was of Adolf Hitler, that was in 19-...

Then I was in with the first all-Greek band, sang the T Texas Tyler, Bob Wills, Ernie Tubbs, and all them great people and so I sing "Right in the Fuehrer's Face," then I had the first toilet seat was with Adolf Hitler on a toilet seat.

So, there was eight of us merry minstrels, we dyed our faces black with cork and we danced in a big circle as I sang all these old-fashioned songs, and the Fuehrer's song, when I sang that one, there was one man holding the toilet seat and as these merry minstrels all danced in a big circle I was emceeing this song and I'd sing "right in der Fuehrer's face"...

...and we had a trombonist who'd go [sputtering noise] like they make that sound as we all know, then one of them would squat, he'd raise up the toilet seat to his bottom and that trombonist go [sputtering noise] "right in der Fuehrer's face."

And that was the first toilet seat I painted before November 8th, 1942, in the Battle of Casablanca.

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