It was in front of Starbuck’s in Thorton Park that I first met Geek. He was sitting on an outdoor metal chairs next to a large speaker blaring bears, rapping, resting, and holding down the street corner. He asked for my name. I was reluctant to give it to him because what rhymes with Jana is banana.
But thankfully, Geek didn’t go that route. Instead, he whipped up a little ditty about me strolling by, and being fly, on the mission to find that guy, or something like that. It was funny and clever enough for me to throw him a couple bucks as I continued onward, making my way through the east side of downtown Orlando. I didn’t think too much of it.
Then I ran into him again the next day. And then the next. Until officially Geek became a staple of downtown Orlando entertainment. With a creative thesis deadline on the horizon, I asked him for an interview in August 2009. He graciously accepted and then later came back for a photo shoot, so that he could be added to my book Who’s That? Discovering Orlando one Interview At a Time. He didn’t have a car at the time. So I picked him up at his apartment to take him to the photo shoot, and for the first time we shared a conversation that didn’t rhyme. It also took him longer to limp to my van from his apartment than it took to snap his photo in the studio. His shoot took all of three minutes. Because once that camera came on, he knew exactly what to do, the signs of a true entertainer.
Years after this interview, and even after I moved to Los Angeles with my now-husband, I ran into Geek in Venice Beach. We embraced and caught up. As it turned out, we both were still chasing our dreams of entertaining and making people laugh. It was so nice to see a familiar, friendly face in a city with so few genuine people. So to hear of his recent passing is saddening. To know he made a million strangers smile is inspiring.
You will be missed Geek. Thanks for living to entertain us all. xoxo
Are you prepared to answer my questions in rhyme?
All the way, to the USA. Bay-beh.
Tell me more about being a wordologist.
Wordology is funk. Put together in chunks, with rhythms and rhymes that make people feel fine. And no profanity ever comes to mind. So wordology is a theology, to make funk feel equal. That’s why my shows have an ongoing sequel. So that’s what I am—a wordologist. I put words together to make people feel better.
Are there any other wordologists out there besides yourself?
Well, it’s a self-proclaimed title. If anyone thinks they have the skills, the title is on idol.
How did you begin your career as street entertainer?
I used to sell ice cream back in Detroit. That’s how I began my exploits. My friend and mentor James Michael Antoine said, “Big Will… if you wanna make money, make people laugh by being funny.” So I’d sell ice cream up and down the streets with a jingle:
Hey little kids stop playin’ in the sand.
Go ‘n tell your mamma it’s the ice cream man.
Your mamma in the kitchen cookin’ pinto beans?
Go ‘n tell your big sister you want some ice cream.
If you want some ice cream and your mamma says no,
wait for your daddy to get back from that liquor sto’.
If he’s walking kinda funny and his breath smells strange,
that’s the best time to cop that change.
You see back then, Chrysler, Ford and GM was the big stuff in Detroit. The guys would get their checks on Friday. So when I’d come into the neighborhood–back then popsicles were a nickel and ice cream sandwiches were fifteen cents–five dollars could cover a whole neighborhood of thirsty kids. And that’s how I began my rhymes.
Where do you seek inspiration?
I’ve always had a natural gift for rhyme on the line, and put words together no matter the endeavor. I was always able to write on paper with a pen, what I had within. And I learned how to do it faster when rap began.
In that two seconds, which may seem like minutes to you, I take the time to think. Now my subconscious hears a name and goes to that reservoir of words that I constructed. Plus, after being on Earth a number of years you learn some things that can be used as metaphors–the stuff we learn watching movies, reading, experiencing, and things like that.
So it takes practice?
I study words. I learn words that rhyme. We all have two sets of vocabularies: a reading vocabulary and a speaking vocabulary. Your reading vocabulary is larger than your speaking vocabulary ’cause you’ll read word that you won’t necessarily use, but you know them.
How did you end up in Orlando?
It got too cold in New York. [Laughs]
Well it can be incredibly hot here…
Yeah. Either you’re burning up or drownin’ in rain. Take your pick. [Laughs]
Has Orlando brought you much success?
Out of all the places I’ve been–California, South Beach and New York–this place has been consistently great because I don’t have a lot of competition, or in other words a lot of other people to aggravate folks. But I don’t look at it like competition, really. There’s just not too many street performers here. I’m a novelty and oddity. In New York, they had a sound ordinance against my Vox [amplifier]. It made it kinda hard to make money. And in California, It was cool–Venice Beach, Hollywood–but it all changed. You’ve got these people puttin’ on a twenty dollar costume and harassing people. And so when they get to me they don’t want to be bothered. So Orlando is pretty smooth.
Has anyone been offended by one of your shows?
Some people may be offended but they had a problem before they met me. There’s no reason to be offended by my shows because I don’t use profanity, I’m not a racist and I love women. So I’m not gonna say anything derogatory. If people got something up they butt, it was there before they met me. It just might happen that I stepped on the cord that aggravated whatever is up their butt. And you can quote me on that. [Laughs]
Why the name Dr. Geek?
There’s three ways we can answer that. I was in a dream, and this race called the Giddagytes came to me when I was a kid. They were a race that made geeks. As a kid they told me, “Rock ‘n Roll was about to go under a transformation, disco would fade away, funk will have to be metamorphosized to the geek. So we choose you to speak on the street, to be our mouth piece, to keep the funk alive.” They said I’d be exposed to James Brown, George Clinton, Earth Wind and Fire, New Birth and the other funk odysseys before me. That’s one version.
The next version is that I was in high school. I graduated. I used to go back and lead the cheers for the crowd. My old high school teacher got me a jersey that said Dr. Geek. The word “geek” means to uplift, to pump up, to get hype. So I operate the up lift and hype up the spirit. That’s where Dr. Geek comes from… RUFF RUFF!
And number three? Let’s just stick with number one and number two.
Who inspires you?
Muhammad Ali. Langston hughes. They are some early, early influences. I always had a thing for poetry. I’m just inspired to give people quality entertainment. That’s what I represent.
Where do you hope street art takes you?
I just want to be the consummate performer. Michael jackson was the greatest, but I want to be the latest. You know what I’m sayin’? I want to be outrageous. I want the whole persona, my costume, to be blingin’. I gotta wear sunglasses even if there’s a black out. I wanna shine.
So that’s what’s up with the get up?
I’m just funk baby. I’m not the Mardi Gras, I’m the Party Gras. Because once the Mardi Gras is over, I still gotta carry on da party.
What’s your musical set-up?
I have the Vox, the guitar amp. I use thaatto generate sound from my MP3 player, my CD player and microphone. I add different effects to my voice.
What beats are your favorite?
I got a friend of mine named Kenny McCloud. He owns Black Hole Studio in Hollywood. He worked on Bone, thugs and Harmony’s first album. The boy is just funk personified. I used a lot of his beats, and some Tu Pac, Dr. Dre, Mobb Deep. If I can get it funky, I’m gonna make it chunky. Oh-kay?
Does your family solely survive off your performances?
No, we all chip in. My nephew and my sister, we all do different things.
How much money does a wordologist make?
Enough to do two things: 1.) stay at the po house, um huh, and 2.) stay out yo house.
What TV shows have you been featured in?
Shoo. I don’t think there’s enough energy in that lil’ thing. [He points to my recorder and laughs.] Recently, I’ve been on Inside the NBA. I’ve been on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and a lot of news programs. If you watch HBO, I’m in the opening credits of Entourage, though you’ve got to look real quick or you’ll miss me. Ive done some Jay Leno in the past… and been on MTV, BET, VH1. I’m on the back of the Dodgers 88′ World Series videotape.
What’s been your favorite experience thus far?
I would say this past basketball season with the Magic, and appearing on the local TV stations.Inside the NBA put me on their championship DVD. It’s just all been a blast man. Ya know?
Also, Charlene Pricket… she’s a friend of Sally Struthers from All In the Family. I did a thirteen-episode show for her step-aerobics in 1990, in Canada, called It Figures.
Are you aware of your YouTube presence?
Yes. There are so many videos I don’t even know about. But right now I have fifty-five and counting.
And all because of one BluBlockers infomercial?
Yes, it put me on the map. Up until that time, I was relatively new to California. I arrived December 30, 1986. Then in 87, ’88 and ’89 I was doing y thing on Venice Beach with Michael Collier, The Boys, Two’s a Crowd, the Black Street Boys. There were a lot of famous people that came through there–Wesley Snipes, Chaka Kahn, Leroy from Fame. [Leroy] told me to keep a humble spirit because of your novelty wears off, you’ll still get pucked up by the entertainment industry. I met reRun when he was hocking pictures, back before he died. Both o those gentlemen are gone now–God rest their souls.
But Venice Beach has been the Mecca of where I got recognized. When people saw the BluBlockers video, people from all over, like Australia, Chicago, New Zealand, would come to Venice Beach with hopes of meeting me. It’s been a real plus.
What do you want people to take away from your performances?
Lots of merchandise so I can get paid! No seriously—hope. Hope that they can make it—that they can succeed. Don’t give up on life. You don’t have to be a butt wipe. Enjoy people. If something don’t go right, don’t take it out on your fellow man. We all had to go down the same lane, everybody had to be potty trained. I don’t care your race, color, or creed, but knowledge with toilet paper and how to use it is what we need.
How long do you think you’ll stay in Orlando?
Until the police tell me I got’s to go. [Laughs] Nah, I’ll probably be one of my homes. I like it here.
How do you want to be remembered?
As a guy who was easy to approach and talk to, just down to Earth, you know? Someone who didn’t have no qualms, no big head. I still got to use the restroom. I got to use toilet paper. That’s what keeps me on the ground. You can learn to play the piano at three years old, you can learn to paint but someone still has to teach you how to use Charmin [toilet paper]. That’s the Geek philosophy, baby. While other people entertain to live, I live to entertain!