Everybody has a favorite King John story. I have dozens, which often revolve around his creative use of English.
Like the time he bumped into a man at Disneyland and said, “I’m sorry sir. I didn’t know you were in my way.” Or how he once asked what day it was by inquiring, “What is the name of tomorrow?” Or how when he sings with the rock and roll cover band Snotty Scotty and the Hankies he turns Route 66 into Room 66; I Fought the Law becomes Hop Off the Log; and Double Shot of My Baby’s Love somehow morphs into Can’t Find My Baseball.
Jonathan Fischer, who turns 57 tomorrow, has a condition called Willams Syndrome (WS). People with WS are known for having heightened musical abilities and for being extroverted, polite, and very sociable. This describes John perfectly as he loves meeting people, often employing the icebreaker, “Do you live near a fire station?” In spite of his many physical problems, which are commonly found in individuals with WS, John is one of the happiest people I have ever known.
The first time I ever saw John was about twenty years ago in a bar in Pasadena called The Old Town Pub. The house band, then as now, was the Hankies, and during their set the bass player riffed the opening for I Can’t Turn You Loose. The crowd went nuts as the singer introduced “Dr. Martin Luther King John Fischer Boulevard Junior” to the stage. An extremely overweight man in overalls took the microphone and fearlessly tore through a couple of standards, butchering the lyrics along the way. The audience lapped it up. I remember thinking, “This guy has style.”
Over the past two decades John has been a beloved friend to me and my family and we’ve accompanied him to dozens of outings around Los Angeles, including the Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena every year, where he earned his nickname by being elected “king for life.”
At the time I first met John he resided in an assisted living facility in Pasadena and his weight hovered around 400 pounds. He later moved to a different facility in Long Beach where he lost 260 of those pounds by, in his words, “sweatin’ to the oldies.” He currently lives with his sister Susie in Van Nuys, where we will be tomorrow night helping him celebrate his birthday.
I’ve always said that it’s impossible to spend more than twenty minutes with John and not hear him say something that you will remember forever. We’ll only have time to stay with him for a couple of hours tomorrow night, so if the average holds, we will leave Van Nuys with a half-dozen new quotes to repeat for the rest of our lives. … While smiling.
(Here’s a video of John shredding on Wooly Bully (which he sometimes sings as Willie Bowman) with the band at the 2008 Colorado Street Bridge Festival: 2008 Bridge Festival)