Kyle the dinosaur is always the first to perk up when he hears the opening strains to SUPER DUPER’s crowd favorite, “This Jam is Fucking Awesome.” And with good reason: nearly every time that clarion call is sounded, he has to answer it with enthusiastic audience-rousing dance. Kyle is the first among equals in SUPER DUPER’s costumed-freak dance line and he makes his only priorities to take Duper Troupers to the next level of bacchanalian fervor and to avoid extinction.
Journalist Edgar Caquill interviewed Kyle as he finally broke his silence about life, love, and his blood-feud with Barney the dinosaur:
Tell us how you ended up working with SUPER DUPER.
Well, I’m visiting relatives at the tar pits a couple years back when my agent rings and says SUPER DUPER wants to work with a dinosaur, and I’m like “You got the news too late—they’ve had Nick Sanders in the lineup forever now!” But seriously, my agent says they want a dinosaur to dance for the last song. So I say, “No problem. Take a cattle prod to the show and when the last number is called, light up any SUPER DUPER groupie in the room.” See, because the fans skew elderly. So their groupies are dinosaurs. Get it?
Yes. What’s the real story?
If I dealt in “Really,” I’d be taking this interview next to some realist asshole like Vedder, except you can’t groove to his shit, so he’d never need my services.
With all due respect, Kyle, these interviews were intended as an opportunity for the fans to get to know the real personalities and stories behind the show. Can you try to accommodate that into your “always on” ethic?
[Roars to the heavens. Scoffs.] OK, fine. But don’t expect any heartwarming stories about my tepid, secondhand politics or how there’s real human caring behind the swagger. I pre-date humanism and I’ve been known to predate humans, dig? I don’t even do the Telethon anymore.
So, even as one who has lived through mass extinctions and devastating global climate swings, you don’t think that, say, “Club Apocalypse” expresses, behind the snarky fatalism, an impulse toward addressing a vital issue?
All I know is that “addressing a vital issue” usually seems to take the form of lusting after a different kind of car and hippies putting on demonstrations that far too often use giant puppets in a didactic manner rather than just letting them entertain like they want to.
For someone so apolitical, you seem like a strong advocate for puppet rights.
Eh. To tell you the truth, I’ve kinda turned self-hating since all those puppets surrendered to Jim Henson’s giant piles of government cash.
You were friends with the Muppets before Sesame Street?
Oh sure. Big Bird, Sweetums and I were actually living the rough life in Hell’s Kitchen for a couple summers in the 50s, running numbers, protection schemes, switchblade robberies. But we did it all with a healthy dose of song and dance—it’s kind of our brand.
That kind of life sounds really familiar.
Oh, you noticed that? Yeah, West Side Story is basically a stage documentary of how we’d do back then. When we heard what was going down, we danced down to the Shubert Theatre and hung [WSS director and choreographer] Jerome Robbins off the catwalk. I put a stiletto on his hamstring and asked him what he thought our life story was worth. Unfortunately, we settled for two bottles of Bennies and a personal introduction to Judy Holiday instead of holding out for producer credits.
Speaking of your relationship with other puppets, what’s the dynamic like among you, the cowboy skeleton, the Coelacanth, Medusa the Gorgon, Diaper-Fetish Uncle Sam… it’s a long list of costumed dancers that the band employs.
Wow, where can I start? Well, the Coelacanth is definitely the old man of the group—
Are you serious? A dinosaur is calling the Coelacanth “Old Man”?
Get educated, son! The Coelacanth dates from the Devonian Period, which any geologist can tell you began 416 million years ago. My last cousin died, on the other hand, in the K-T extinction only 65 million years ago. I mean, tell me, who’s the old man: Dave Letterman or William Shakespeare?
Which dancer would you say you’re tightest with?
Super Mario, easy. He’s the only other one of us that came up in showbiz. Don’t get me wrong—that Medusa’s got presence. But her whole shtick is literally “you cannot look at me!” That’s kind of arty in a Miles Davis peek-a-boo way, I suppose, but it’s not the attitude of a pro.
You’ve worked with a lot of pros in your day, haven’t you? Tell us some Sinatra stories.
Everybody wants to hear the Sinatra stories. Nobody cares about 60 million beautiful years of pre-Bobby Soxer entertainment.
Would you rather skip the Sinatra?
[Sighs. Rips and swallows a side of beef off a live Angus.] No, I hate bands that are too precious to play their hits and I hate supporting players who won’t talk about the stars. So I was working with some people who wanted to open Cuba back up to large-puppet floor shows, which had been shut down in the last days of Batista. Anyway, through this and that twist of fate, it ended up that JFK, Sam Giancana, Sinatra, and I were all schtupping the same broad—
Wait, wait. You were sharing Judith Exner with the mobster and the president?
I’m not loving your attitude here. Do I need to get Chicago on the phone to prove it to you?
That’s okay. Did you meet Sinatra through Exner?
No, I picked Judes up from Hyannis Port one night, and Peter Lawford was too drunk—and I mean even by Kennedy standards—to drive to the train station. And the worst part was that Ocean’s Eleven was going to start shooting in four days and Lawford at that point was banned from Pan Am. So his wife, Patsy Kennedy, puts two Gs in my tux and begs me to make sure he gets to Vegas in one piece. I was kind of a Nixon man that night, but after taking a Pullman across America with the suavester and his case of Kennedy scotch, I fell in line. And good thing! Because Il Padrone was in full campaign mode when we stumbled off the train and into The Sands. He made us wear Kennedy buttons, Kennedy sashes, Kennedy masks. There were bootleg Kennedy prophos, too, but nobody I knew was dumb enough to use ‘em.
So what was it like, being on stage with Frank, Dean, and Sammy?
Well that’s the key word, isn’t it, “stage.” If they’d given me a line or two in Ocean’s or Robin and the Seven Hoods or even Four for Fucking Texas, I’d have some residuals to live on, wouldn’t I? But I will say that, all in all, dancing to Basie four shows a week in sweet air conditioning and then letting Sinatra bankroll the wild Vegas nights afterward sounds like it would be awesome and I wish I could remember even one night of those years.
Sorry to hear that. But your Vegas sojourn doesn’t end with the downfall of Camelot, does it?
Yeah, after Mia Farrow kind of Yoko’d the Rat Pack, I was stuck in Vegas with no act. But I wasn’t the only one out of work, so I called some friends and put together a show at the Dunes with Dino from The Flintstones and Godzilla. We called it “Dino, Kyle and Zilly.”
But that didn’t last so long.
[Sighs, flops tongue from left side of mouth to right.] No. Look, I’m not proud of what I did in the 70s after “Dino, Kyle and Zilly.” But in my defense, nobody else is proud of the 70s, either. When the floor show got cut, I lost my room at the Sands but I was stuck in Vegas. So yeah, I had to rent out a little green tail to keep a flop over my head. But everybody in Vegas has had to hook at one time or another—it’s a time-honored tradition that even has a code name: “Bunking with Debbie Reynolds.”
That’s a terrible name.
Maybe, but it kept me alive in more ways than one. One afternoon in the 60s I was on the median of the Strip with [Eddie “]Rochester[” Anderson] from Jack Benny’s program, and we were crazy lit up on scotch and goofballs, so of course we’re pissing on passing cars. Well, most people knew enough to just keep driving because you better believe Jack Benny was connected, and at this time I hadn’t yet lost the protection of Everett and Banister at the CIA. But wouldn’t you know it, one little pug in a Mercury convertible skids to a stop and gets out with a tire iron, races back towards us. It was Rickles! Don’t believe what they say about how offstage he’s a total sweetheart; Mr. Warmth is an everlovin’ bruiser who loves to stomp minorities, and here we were— a green guy and a black guy who were so wasted that between us we couldn’t lift an entire arm to block that tire iron! I said to Rochester, “Use that raspy voice to get us out of this, or we’re gonna be part of Hoover Dam tomorrow!” And Rochester pulls a supreme double-take at Rickles and says “Whoa, Mr. Rickles! We’re sorry to trouble you. We’re bunking with Debbie and Howard Hughes hired us to give him golden showers at speed. We thought you was him!”
But Don Rickles doesn’t look anything like Howard Hughes.
His POS Mercury didn’t look anything like Hughes’s custom Lincoln either, but again, it’s not the reality that matters. It’s these teeth still being my originals that matters!
One other important thing happened in the 1970s: you met John Lurie while performing in Vegas.
I can’t talk about that. [Kyle the T-Rex has a long-delayed lawsuit against Lurie over the provenance of the name “Lounge Lizards.”]
How about the 80s? Did anything memorable happen before the incident with Spielberg?
Oh, nothing worth rehashing. Some bumfights against all the Krofft puppets that were getting laid off left and right. Voiced Grimlock the dinobot on The Transformers.
And of course we’re all familiar with your outburst during an infamous lunch at the Ivy with Spielberg that most people date as the beginning of the Velociraptor ascendancy.
Yeah, the less said the better about that. My bad, tyrannosaurids!
After that came your feud with Barney the dinosaur.
No! No! No and no! I did not “feud” with Barney. I stalked and tried to eat him for a few years in the 1990s. And whatever his publicist says, that violet freak is no dinosaur. He’s an anorexic hippopotamus who OD’d on colloidal silver and betel nuts when he was living as a minor cult leader outside Sedona. The PBS show is just mandated community service; trust me on this.
(Long, uncomfortable pause)
Any final shout-outs you’d care to make?
Oh, yeah, one. This guy, I should now tell the world, is my son by Tasha from Land of the Lost. I abandoned him and his mother because of his mental disability, and I’d like to say I’m sorry.
Did a judge require you to say that?
Anything else to tell the fans?
Yeah: Cool it on the fossil fuels. I don’t burn up your ancestors to drag my ass to the drive-thru every time I get a midnight Mac Attack.