What secrets does Steve Martin keep hidden? Why does he insist on Twittering naked except for his favourite banjo tie? Why did he say ‘no’ to the much ridiculed Scientology but ‘yes’ to the even more ridiculed Buttockology? What does he keep in a rented hangar out in the Nevada desert? And why do some people say that Steven Martin doesn’t suit a hat, though he insists on wearing one anyway?
Born August 14, 1945, into a Greek Orthodox family with Italian leanings, Stavros Martinee, was a large child. Some say he was the biggest in the county but that record was held by another boy called Gern Blanston who would grow up to wrestle hogs semi-professionally across the Midwest. Yet for the young Stavros, the pig pen held no special attraction. He was instead fascinated with the workings of his Uncle Pepe’s dairy farm which is where he spent so much of his childhood. Under Pepe’s guidance, Stavros learned to feed cattle, clean the barn, spit whilst leering at the neighbour’s buxom daughters, and, most importantly, discover the pleasure of handling milk-rich udders. Udders fascinated the young Martinee. Some boys have a special proficiency with the violin, maths, or sports. With the young Stavros, it was the ruminant teat. Revealing himself to be a prodigy when it came to sitting astride a three-legged stool, he could fill a bucket in sixty seconds, a county record, without spilling a drop. His skills didn’t go unnoticed. Given the chance to attend the local farming school, he enrolled when still only twelve years old and rose to the top of his class having undergone the ritual of running his genitals through a threshing machine at the tender age of fourteen.
Yet udders were not to be his life. One day whilst handling a fully-laden teat, his hand slipped and he fell awkwardly from his milking stool. Before he could react, his hand was crushed beneath the rear hoof of a one-ton Friesian. Learning to use that hand again would take many years. The family doctor encouraged the boy to take up magic and the banjo to help improve his dexterity and Stavros soon proved adept at both. No boy could saw a banjo in half quite like the young Martinee and he entertained the elders of the village many a night with the tunes he produced on a deck of cards ruffled close to their ears.
Aged 16, Stavros’s life changed forever. Whilst throwing quoits around the village duck for the purposes of polling in the local county elections, he was spotted by a travelled carnival owner and invited to tour. Aware that the young Stavros’s foreign name might impede his career in the conservative world of the carny, the showman Anglicised it and Stavros Martinee became Mrs. Edith Flankduster.
Edith would travel with the circus for four years, rising to the rank of bearded lady number three, but by the time he was nineteen years old, Edith Flankduster had already decided that he wanted a life away from punters pulling his whiskers all night. It was the early 1970s and, like many men his age, Edith wanted to shave his chin and to wear tight underwear visible beneath even tighter trousers. It would be the last time he wore a beard and the first time he would be known by his new name: Steve…
At first, he called himself Steve ‘The Scrotum’ Martin because he thought it gave him added charm. Yet life was difficult that first year. Complaints from the heavy metal band, of the same name encouraged him to drop his 'Scrotum' and he found his fortunes immediately improve. Unsure what he could do in the world with only one good uddering hand and three years of experience as a carnival freak, Steve Martin had gravitated into show business and made his début (emphasis on the accent) at the 45th Street Comedy Bar on November 23rd, 1971. People who attended his first performance remember it as one of the most memorable nights in LA’s history. It was the night that the sewers backed up and there was a terrible smell over fifteen blocks. Little else is remembered about Martin’s act, though some say it involved erotic contortions and steroid abuse. However, by 1972, the act had evolved to include four of the five jokes that would serve him well over the next two decades.
He rapidly established his popularity at local comedy clubs by buying drinks for the crowd and then, on the 17th March 1975, he declared that he would be the first comedian to fill the Hollywood Bowl. Advertising went up on March 18th, and, after a week of hectic promotion involving collecting social security and sitting in doorways rattling a tin cup and prodding a blind dog, Martin finally walked on stage to meet his adoring crowd. They’d been promised a ‘night of large breasts and motorcycle jumping’ so they were in an excited state when Martin appeared in his trademark white suit. From a distance, the suit looked like leather and his white hair resembled a crash hat. The crowd were also heavily influenced by weed, LSD, and liquorice torpedoes so they were off their guard when Martin launched into his act consisting of juggling, jokes, and yawning.
The night would go down in entertainment history as Steve Martin mesmerised his audience for the whole of the twenty seven minute set, later released on VHS for a ridiculous price for such a short show. But this would not be the last time that Martin’s business acumen proved valuable. With the consummate skill of a man trained to get the very last drop of milk from a dry teat, Martin leveraged his popularity with doped-up college kids to amass a fortune by selling merchandise such as t-shirts, records, posters, beer mats, mittens, socks, turnips, emergency rubber washers, and personalised back scratchers shaped like Martin’s badly-deformed hand (now perpetually locked in a clawhammer, though proving helpful when playing the banjo).
Friends who knew Martin at the time say that money changed him. No longer willing to run to the bathroom before the cheque for the meal arrived, he now fled the state, left no forwarding address, and started to part his hair down the middle. He was also driving around LA in a yellow Rolls Royce and guarded at all times by South American mercenaries instructed to call him ‘chief’ whenever in he was in the company of ‘tall blondes, brunettes, redheads or really cool bald chicks’.
What did he do with his money at this time? At first he wasted his money at the Playboy Mansion but eventually his began to channel his fortune into films. ‘The Jerk’ (1979) was originally planned as a cinéma vérité study of poverty in the Cuban ghetto in the years after the revolution. Problems with the script and trouble with the Cuban authorities after Martin was caught smuggling a family of refugees beneath the ‘famous comedian’s cape’ he’d adopted by that time, meant that the finished film was considered a failure. However, much to the filmmaker’s delight, it seemed to resonate with a student crowd who considered it a comedy masterpiece. It was quickly trimmed from its original running time of four hours twenty seven minutes, redubbed into English, and launched on a mainstream audience who were unaware of its art-house origins.
Again, Martin was not slow to grab the proverbial tit and he quickly milked the success of ‘The Jerk’ in order to make a succession of films, all of which found popularity among a heavily-medicated audience.
His 1982 masterpiece, ‘Roxanne’, was a critical highpoint. Originally conceived as a sex education film for the space programme and titled ‘Your Upside Down Is Heaven To Me’, it was eventually turned into a light romantic comedy starring Daryl Hannah. The script was changed and all the footage destroyed from the three weeks that Martin had spent on a closed set filming explicit sex scenes with a variety of household objects. It was during this time that Marin badly burnt the end of his nose whilst getting intimate with a lava lamp, meaning that he had to wear a prosthetic through filming. It would be the last time Martin directed himself in a lava lamp environment.
The next few years saw Martin try to establish himself with a family audience. ‘Parenthood’ (1989), ‘Father of the Bride’ (1991) and ‘Bilko’ (1996) were all big hits with people’s mothers but despite abandoning his core audience of ‘druggies, wierdos, and people who keep chickens for recreation’, these big-paying roles suited Martin as he was devoting more time to a new passion.
Steve Martin saw his first monster truck in 1988 and instantly fell in love. He described the moment with typical candour in his 1999 Rolling Stone interview in which he eloquently equated it to seeing ‘this big noise thing’. By 1993, he had the largest collection of Monster Trucks in Hollywood, though they were often hidden away from the public’s gaze in the large annex to his home that Martin claimed to have built for his art collection which he was also amassing at the time for tax purposes. The truth was that the art collection was housed in an old aircraft hangar in the Nevada desert, where they remain to this day, exposed to freezing nights and heat of the desert sun.
Martin’s next films were a series of serious dramas. The Spanish Prisoner (1997), Novocaine (2001), and Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005) established his reputation as an actor with a remarkable bank balance. Yet, again, Martin wasn’t satisfied and looked to abandon Hollywood as he started to spend more time playing his banjo with the notorious paramilitary folk group, the Steep Canyon Rangers.
Today Martin lives the life of a recluse, his only contact with the outside word being his Twitter account and occasional appearances at folk festivals where he plays the banjo and mumbles incoherently into a microphone. Allergic to poor people, Mexico, and spruce, Martin is choosy about the theatres he plays and instructs his management to levy high prices for tickets for the concerts which, true to his roots, are still only twenty seven minutes long including intervals.
Although a new younger audience has come to love ‘Uncle Steve’ through his hilarious tweets, Martin’s love affair with technology is more sordid. Unable to type due to his long standing milking injury, Martin travelled to India in 1992 where he spent six months with the guru Siri Mau Flidiahisa. There he was initiated into the mystical world of skiitatrijakjohja, derisively known in the west as ‘buttockology’. Teaching patience and promoting good circulation through the rhythmic clenching of the buttocks, the meditation techniques also taught Martin how to type using only his gonads. This he continues to do to this day, with this trademark typing errors attributed to the busy life of a Hollywood star but, in reality, caused by the sudden and rapid temperature fluctuations in the hills above Los Angeles.
Neighbours speak of hearing the clattering of his keyboard late at night as Martin works on his novels. Short in pages and large in print, each one is a masterpiece and takes him three long years to write using only his testes, but critics agree that Martin has a flare for words and hope that he will write more. Now a level three advocate of buttockology, he is currently writing his memoirs, spending long nineteen hour periods one buttock before switching to the other as words drip from his nuts.
He tours the UK with his banjo later in the year. Prices are exorbitant and he won’t be performing anywhere near his fans. ‘I don’t want those people near me,’ he was quoted as saying recently. Yet fans need not fear being deprived of Martin’s genius for very long. As one of his oldest friends said confidentially, ‘Steve’s a twisted marvellous genius of a fellow but so long as he’s got a pair of testicles and a willing audience, he’ll always put on a show’.