By Tom Reardon
A chat with David Liebe Hart, the weirdly delightful and completely prolific artist/musician/underground bon vivant of all things related to puppeteering, trains, and aliens, is exactly what you think it would be.
It is odd. Really odd.
But in his unique way, Liebe Hart is also charming and endearing. He may be full of shit, but we talked for an hour, and the subject matter was, in a word, diverse.
He is thoughtful and chooses his words carefully as he speaks to me from the road, somewhere in Texas. Liebe Hart was on his way to through central Texas to do one of the many shows on his current tour that will hit Phoenix on March 26 and 28.
Fans can expect some new and old favorites on this tour.
“I have a Shrek puppet that I never had before. Shrek is going to be singing about being an ogre and eating green yogurt, and there's gonna be a little bit standup comedy and Chip The Black Boy is back. I got him repaired, and I got Jason the Kitty Cat repaired and that cost me $1,000 to get the puppets re-stringed. Before I went on tour, I hurt my knees, so I've had to take it easy,” says Liebe Hart.
Knee problems aside, if you haven’t checked out the Shrek Retold video on YouTube, you really should check it out as Liebe Hart is a collaborator and proponent of Shrek puppetry. This choice video from the film, which really is a complete remake of the original, will give you a great idea of what Liebe Hart is like if you haven’t had the opportunity to see him in one of his many appearances on the tribute to weird comedy that was Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! on Adult Swim.
There are also a few Chip The Black Boy videos out there, as well, if you are curious about what to expect there. I won’t spoil it for you as there aren’t words that can do Chip justice except, “Whoa.”
Liebe Hart is, by his accounts, a very generous guy and likes to make contributions to worthy causes, especially when disaster strikes, but if he contributes to your cause, make sure you send him a thank you note. He’s big on those. He talked at length about the people who have not said thank you to him, but when I asked if this lack of manners was a societal issue, he had something a little different to say.
“People don't show any love or respect for their parents or the people that raised them and our families aren't close like they used to be. And I'm not trying to say this just to be out of line, but the African American community doesn't seem to stick together and help each other, you know, which is very, very sad. You just have to have to bless, release and forgive and move on with so many people,” says Liebe Hart who says that several of his family members that live in Southern California do not come out to see him perform.
An expert on trains, Liebe Hart, who turns 64 in April, pointed out the laundry list of historical train societies he is a member and patron of and is an avid collector of HO scale trains himself. He’s currently looking for an Erie Lackawanna MU Overland train set and/or a new girlfriend, which he also brought up several times during our discussion.
Unlucky in love, as one of his many songs, “No Sex Since 1994” claims, Liebe Hart has had a hard time finding the right gal since his early '90s divorce. His 2017 Space Ranger album is full of fun ditties like the aforementioned “No Sex” song, but my personal favorite is either “My Bisexual Friend” on is 2018 record, For Everyone, which also features eclectic (with a capital E) artist Jad Fair or “I Like Vivian Vance Better Than Lucille Ball” from the same record.
Liebe Hart’s singing and keyboard playing is a combo truly unlike any other artist you have probably ever heard and not for the weak of heart, but when you ask him about a song like “I Like Vivian Vance…” you have to be prepared for an interesting answer.
“What inspired me to write that song, (pauses) I wrote all the lyrics to that song ... I knew Vivian Vance from the Christian Science Church. Vance let me do gardening and yard work at her house. And she also let Robin Williams before he made it big. We both used to stay at the Saint Moritz hotel together,” says Liebe Hart.
What? How did the late Robin Williams get into this? Wild.
Then he continued:
“And when I first met Lucille Ball, she pulled a chair out from under me, and I fell to the ground and she says, ‘Gary Coleman is always going to be a bigger star that you, David, you're nothing to me,’ and Vivian Vance says “Don’t react to Lucille Ball. She's was mean to me."
A complicated man, David Liebe Hart, who has crossed paths, at least according to him, with many stars over the years. He also grew up watching syndicated episodes of longtime valley favorites, Wallace And Ladmo, in his native Chicago and fell in love with Pat McMahon’s Aunt Maude character.
“I always wanted it to be on the show. I liked Cousin Maude; she was my very favorite character on there. They were my heroes when I was growing up, When the show started they were in black and white and white, and they even had puppets on the show near the end,” remembers Liebe Hart.
Liebe Hart is still looking for a nice girl, though, so if anyone knows someone who might fit the bill, make sure you invite her to the Trunk Space on March 26 or Film Bar on tMarch 28. Neither appearance by Liebe Hart will be dull, that’s for sure.