Who is that man? And why is he pointing a cane at us? That’s no man, that’s a genius in a bowler named Ernie Fosselius. The name might sound familiar to fans of his cult movie from the late 70s, “Hardware Wars.” Ernie was an early Sesame Street animator and indy filmmaker who’s turned to working in wacky ways with a much lower tech material--wood. Not just carvings, but mechanically moving pieces that are almost like little movies in themselves. “I like the characters” he says, and then he puts them into play.
Play that includes a bicycle powered “Crankabout” that can be parked and folded out to display a dozen or so of his wooden automata. Then, as a piece of street theater, Ernie in the guise of the Reluctant Barker (he made the name up while talking to us) sheepishly implores folks to come turn the gears and enjoy the show.
Is it profitable? Not exactly, but he has lots of fun doing it, and watching the way people react...much more immediately than in films, where as he puts it, “you tell a joke, and three years later, hear people laugh.”
There was plenty of laughter all day at Ernie’s place in Sebastapol, not the least of which came during some dueling Walter Brennans with Don the Camera Guy. And his political puppet theater is something else to behold. And his wedding cake toppers. And the wine stoppers...and miniature yachts driven by rats...well, you get the idea. Ernie is a hoot and a half. And on Talk Like a Pirate Day at that!
We Thaid out at a local restaurant with Ernie and his companion Ruth, then headed for Bodega Bay. Windy as all get out, but we still ran and shrieked like Tippi Hedren down the beach a few times and called it good. To the Bay Area in the morn!
Music in the van--”Rubber Soul”, Jacksonville Nights”--Ryan Adams