Doug Stanhope Fires Sick Jokes, But It Doesn't Mean He's Not on Target

Doug Stanhope
Doug Stanhope
Randi Lynn Beach

Doug Stanhope stands atop a tiny stage the size of a wooden coffin, ready to unleash his vitriolic humor upon an audience whose members have come like willing lambs to slaughter.

He's a misfit, a carnival barker dressed in a pea-green thrift-store sports coat and sickish-yellow shirt, topped off by a loud striped tie and scuffed white shoes. He feels like a million bucks but seems displeased with the rest of the room.

Behind him is a set of red velvet curtains affixed by blue clothespins. Lime green walls, far too dazzling for the dark and vicious riffs to come, feel somehow cartoonish, an assault on the eyes.

"Welcome to our awkwardly bright show," Stanhope croons in a hoarse growl, adjusting the mic.

It's Friday night at an invitation-only gathering in artsy Bisbee, just six miles north of the U.S. border with Mexico. In attendance are 25 of Stanhope's neighbors and friends, crammed into a small building called the Fun House. It's part of a compound decorated with fake palm trees, windows with psychedelic eight-sided sills, and courtyard candy dispensers that spew ping-pong and billiard balls. And this being Stanhope, the buildings have nicknames designed to shock and awe — the Suicide House, Rape Trailer ("I don't know," says his road manager Greg Chaille, "it just stuck"), and two others named after the Shady Dell motel trailer park in town. Stanhope calls them the Shitty Dell Trailers.

On this night, the comedian knows all his guests by first name. They're outliers, just like him, dressed in mink stoles and cowboy hats; some have technicolor hair. One spent two years in prison for smuggling drugs from Mexico — then ran for Bisbee mayor.

They're all about to consume a near-lethal dose of Stanhope; straight up, no chaser. He's a tour guide to some very dark places — death and suicide dominate his material. It's an act fueled by liquor and even stronger medications.

He calls it "comedy that leaves a stain."

Sipping vodka from a coffee cup, he launches into vintage Stanhope riffs: eloquent, anger-fueled rants on the absurdities of stressful modern life. They're seething diatribes about anal rape and masturbation without the Internet and getting dissed by lowly Popov vodka, which wrote Stanhope's manager that not only would it not sponsor the profane comic but "wouldn't touch him with a barge pole."

At age 49, with a yarmulke-shaped pattern bald spot and crow's feet around his eyes, Stanhope looks like a banged-up former frat boy. He likens his relationship with his penis to that of an old couple who no longer have anything to do with one another and who remain together for the sake of the children.

Over the next hour, the audience's laughter comes in machine gun blasts; some of it uncomfortable, with people covering their mouths in a knee-jerk defense mechanism. Still, Stanhope's insights and comic pacing are bullseye precise: His act is like reading Hunter S. Thompson — you don't have to do the drugs to feel the buzz.

But what Bisbee-ites see standing before them isn't America's most rapid-fire shock-you-into-submission talent. They don't see a comic whose epic tours, captured live on disc with names like Something to Take the Edge Off, Deadbeat Hero, and Burning the Bridge to Nowhere, have won him a reputation as a comedian's comedian. They don't even see the most destructive stand-up comic Americans have barely heard of, performing for loyal fans who scour cyberspace for news of his next gig.

It's Neighbor Doug they see; the acerbic, chain-smoking, lunatic funny guy next door they run into in the checkout line at Safeway. He's the one who writes goofy Yelp reviews of local merchants and throws outrageous, booze-addled Sunday afternoon football bashes.

And then there's his girlfriend, Bingo, the zany partner in crime with electric blue hair whom he began to woo in earnest a decade ago, soon after she checked out of a Wyoming mental hospital.

Her name's Amy Bingaman, but Stanhope assigns absurd handles to everyone in his entourage, like knighthoods bestowed by a benevolent, if crazy, king. (She, in turn, calls him Stanhope.)

Most monikers describe a person's geographic proximity to Stanhope's house at 212 Van Dyke Street. In the audience this evening is Uphill Dave and his wife, Kimbo Slice; Nurse Betty, Just Jen, along with Rev. Derrick. For some reason, Neighbor Dave and wife Evil-E couldn't make it. Neither could One-Block Ben. Nor Jake LaMotta, boxing's "Raging Bull," who drops in when he's in town.

Initially, Stanhope also tabbed Uphill Dave as another Neighbor Dave, until the original objected: There was only room in town for one Neighbor Dave so get Doug to give you a new handle, he griped. There's a whiff of groupie worship here: Many in the crowd sport bright red sports jackets issued by Stanhope, who bought 25 in bulk at a local thrift store for $3 apiece.

The uniforms are part of the kickoff of Doug Stanhope's Big Chill Bisbee weekend. There's a camera crew on hand, shooting footage for a future comedy special. On Saturday night, Stanhope will perform inside the local Royale Theater to a crowd that snapped up 150 tickets online in just a few minutes, fans who will converge on Bisbee from across North America to cheer on their comic idol.

A few arrived from Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, dressed in Stanhope-like thrift-store garb. Two others flew in from nearby Tucson aboard a private plane with "Stanhope" painted in red on the craft's underbelly. The next day, many will hit the compound for the bleary-eyed Sunday afternoon football frivolities.

But this Friday night is for locals only — Stanhope's way of showing his gratitude to the residents of Bisbee, whose friendship, he says, has provided the closest thing he's ever had to a normal life, a safe haven from the vicissitudes of the soul-devouring comedy circuit.

After moving to Bisbee in 2005, the comedian refurbished a double lot in an otherwise forlorn bohemian neighborhood of rental shacks and tweaker holdouts. He quickly fell for a cast of characters straight out of an episode of Green Acres or Taxi. For the longest time, few of them even knew what Stanhope did for a living. He always has seen Bisbee as an escape from all that — the pressures of his profession. But after a quarter-century in the comedy business, celebrity caught up with Neighbor Doug. Now many people know that he takes a scorching cigarette lighter to the envelope of public discourse, and they still love him.

The crowd shouts out encouragement as Stanhope stares them down, like a pissed-off Marine Corps drill instructor.

"Is everyone's drink free enough?" he finally asks, swilling another deep guzzle of vodka. Squint and he's Mickey Rourke's Charles Bukowski character in Barfly, belting out drunken love to the alcoholics around him: "My friends! My friends!" But this being Stanhope, an audience assault is expected. And here it comes.

He glowers down at Uphill Dave and his western hat: "Thanks for wearing the big fucking hat there in the front row, asshole. Why didn't you just wear the 10-gallon job?" Uphill Dave loses the lid.

For 45 minutes, Stanhope's delivery is more shout than speak, a harangue so energetic it unleashes a sweat. But the eyes aren't smiling. This is a professional comedian delivering a well-practiced routine calculated to evoke laughter, not some half-sloshed amateur blowhard with an unfocused agenda.

He launches into a raunch riff of wanting to jerk off before a show in San Francisco but realizing to his horror that he has forgotten his computer. So he resorts to the X-rated fare on the pay-per-view hotel TV. He settles on a XXX flick called (he teases the audiences, pausing before offering the title) "Backdoor to Chyna," featuring the exploits of a "she-ogre" ex-professional wrestler and bodybuilder who started doing porn.

The material is reminiscent of another Stanhope one-liner: "Life is like animal porn; it's not for everyone."

When Stanhope is done, the crowd cheers and someone shouts: "We love you, Doug!"

Neighbor Doug smiles back: "We pulled it off, didn't we?"

The group moves outside into the cool Bisbee night for a bonfire and drinks — many, many drinks.

Stanhope calls his act "comedy that leaves a stain."
Stanhope calls his act "comedy that leaves a stain."
Randi Lynn Beach

If you want the blueprint for Stanhope's rant humor, look no further than his mother, Bonnie, who worked as a waitress when Stanhope was growing up in Worcester, Massachusetts.

An alcoholic, Bonnie abandoned her family for Florida when her son was 10, leaving him to his father, head of science at his school. Years later, they reconnected, and Stanhope moved his mother out to West Hollywood. When he co-hosted The Man Show on Comedy Central, she had a bit part reading porn reviews on TV.

But the lack of a mother's guidance has been a looming, if not darkly creative, force in Stanhope's life. He dropped out of school at age 15 and entered the Las Vegas telemarketing world, what he now calls "the side of the business that verges on fraud," dunning old people, the vulnerable, and the less-educated for their hard-earned money. By his own description, he was a skinny little dude in a mullet haircut, selling worthless products by the sheer audacity of his pitch.

The gig essentially was a woodshed for his modern-day comedy persona, a Glengarry Glen Ross boiler room, where he honed his comic edge. He abandoned the scam in 1990 to perform stand-up comedy full time.

In the years to come, Stanhope developed a routine about the seamier side of life — getting robbed by a transvestite, boning a midget, not to mention a prolonged dreamscape where he man-rapes a black NFL player in uniform. It's not the kind of material to which you'd subject, say, a first date or your aging parents.

Stanhope hates big cities and large, intimidating venues. His dream gig is an intimate rundown bar on the outskirts of town, where the house band plays off-key, where he can get drunk with fans after the show before flopping at some seed-bag hotel, if he gets any sleep, before slogging on to the next no-name town.

Along with a road-rash style of of partying, Stanhope became known as a rare funnyman who doesn't take himself — or his fans — too seriously. He calls them the "middle-row seat stooges on a Southwest flight; serial shooters without bullets."

He once wrote on his website: "I don't know why I appeal to so many wrecked, scared, miserable, ugly, angry or the otherwise ill-suited for life as we know it. But I'm not unhappy that you're here.

"Every time there's somebody like the Aurora theater shooter, I check my mailing list and Facebook to see if they were a fan."

Stanhope met Bingo during a gig in Portland in 2000. She was an around-the-clock caretaker for a man with severe cerebral palsy whom she brought to the show in a wheelchair. The man loved to laugh, albeit compulsively, loudly, and manically. At the show, he unleashed at all the wrong times. Stanhope thought he was a heckler. Then he spotted Bingo and fell for her.

They didn't talk for years. Then one day, Bingo e-mailed the comic soon after she was sprung from a mental institution where she was treated for bipolar schizoaffective disorder, a condition characterized by abnormal thought processes and deregulated emotions.

Stanhope invited her to attend his annual drug-fueled people-gone-wild party in Death Valley, although, he warned: "Doctors would advise against it."

She went to the bash. The rest is crazy comic history.

"He seemed fearless to me," Bingo recalls. "I felt like I had found a kindred spirit. We flipped out, and knew it was the right thing at that moment."

Soon afterward, Stanhope fled life in Los Angeles. The fatal blow came, he says, when he read that friend and comedian Mitch Hedberg was found dead in a New Jersey hotel room. He'd always loathed being so close to the underskirt of the movie and entertainment industry. It was time to bail.

He'd visited Bisbee many times before and always loved the forgotten-place aesthetic of the town of 5,000 people, where U.S. Border Patrol trucks creep through the streets and back roads scouring for illicit crossovers. He liked its imperfections, like the gargantuan mining pit that looms just outside town resembling a festering root canal chasm a dentist just abandoned rather than filled.

One day, between standup dates in El Paso and Tucson, Stanhope bought property in a comparatively ne'er-do-well part of town. He surrounded it with a corrugated tin fence to create his own party fortress, all revelers welcome.

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Not long afterward, Bingo was on her way to Bisbee as well, driving from her parents' Oregon home with all her belongings in her car.

The pair quickly found nirvana in the Arizona desert.

"I don't think I've ever seen Stanhope happier since he landed in Bisbee with the bright-blue-haired Bingo," said Just Jen, who has known the comedian for 20 years. "There's something about this place that lets them be free. It's a different lifestyle than the madness and mayhem in L.A. They can be who they are, which is incredibly creative."

Stanhope's girlfriend, Bingo, has been with him since shortly after she was released from a mental institution.
Stanhope's girlfriend, Bingo, has been with him since shortly after she was released from a mental institution.
Randi Lynn Beach

Everybody in Bisbee knows the story of how the standup guy met Neighbor Dave.

Stanhope and Bingo had just hit town and didn't know many locals. This changed when they got totally messed up on mushrooms.

After partying for hours, they decided they needed pizza. Had to have pizza. Many pizzas. But the local shop wouldn't deliver. Stanhope would not be denied.

The pair wandered Van Dyke Street waving $100 bills to entice some stranger to shag a couple of pizzas. Bingo wore a flowing green dress, big floppy hat, and glitter on her face. With the goofy Stanhope, they looked like two Elizabethan actors on acid. That's when Dave Schock, a Frito-Lay delivery truck driver, came home after work.

He spotted the two zombies and called to his wife: "Hey, Evelyn, ya gotta see this!' Then he offered to fetch the pizzas for free. Schock had done a neighborly thing and thereby earned Stanhope's first Bisbee moniker: Neighbor Dave. A few years later, tagging along on the road with Stanhope, he'd check into the hospital to recover from "a week of heavy drinking, and more."

On the morning of his Saturday Big Chill weekend show, Stanhope hunkers down inside the Fun House to practice his material. Bingo is a few blocks away at another of the couple's houses, working with artist Gretchen Baer on illustrations for a new children's coloring book.

It's a project about light, color, and mental illness. Bingo says the bright colors around the properties are a defense against life's darkness. She paces the kitchen in a long yellow housecoat over plaid pants, siren-red blouse, and pink bra. Barely noon, she pours herself a Vitali vodka and soda on the rocks. As she drinks, she talks about what the embrace of quirky yet accepting Bisbee has meant to Stanhope and herself.

"We like going to the Safeway and knowing the checkers," she says. "You know people wherever you go."

Stanhope even knows the local cops by their first names. In his act, he riffs on the checker who's a vicious gossip, regaling him on the local dirt.

Baer says she'd heard about the new couple who'd arrived in town in 2005 — some standup comic and his girlfriend. With her then-shaved cueball head, à la Sinead O'Connor, Bingo was like a specter around town. Everyone talked about her; few actually saw her.

One day, the couple went to Cafe Roka, where Baer was a server. Bingo was decked out in a pink ballgown. Baer rushed to the table: "Bingo, I've been looking for you! I'm so glad to know you exist!"

Baer says Stanhope still pretends to be jealous about getting upstaged by his girlfriend but says the exchange explains a lot about the couple's Bisbee dynamic: "On the road, it's all Stanhope. In Bisbee, it's Bingo and Stanhope."

Around Bisbee, Stanhope makes his mark with his hijinks. Like the time he arrived home from a thrift store with a garbage bag full of tennis balls. He doesn't play tennis but couldn't pass up a bargain. So he and Baer got drunk and pulled a prank on a local named Ron Oertle, who was then running for mayor. They wrote on each ball "A vote for Ron Oertle is a vote for progress." Then Stanhope took out his baseball bat and belted the balls into the neighborhood, he and Baer laughing as the missiles bounced off houses and made backyard dogs go berserk.

Like many comedians who are extroverts onstage, Stanhope usually is reserved at home. He rarely frequents bars in Bisbee, preferring to stay at the Van Dyke Street compound and get blasted with his inner circle.

Derrick Barger, the local known as Rev. Derrick, a caretaker at the Stanhope redoubt, says he's seen the comic help old ladies load groceries into their cars in the Safeway parking lot.

On a rare night out, Stanhope ran into a local named Sandy the biker, who was being kicked out of an area biker gang. Stanhope threw Sandy into his car and drove off, saving him from a serious ass-kicking.

"His comedy is rude," Derrick says of Stanhope, "but he's not rude."

And then there's Mishka Shubaly, an up-and-coming dive-bar singer from Brooklyn who also says Stanhope saved his life. On the Friday night Fun House show, Shubaly warmed up the crowd with a few songs with Stanhope-like lyrics, such as "Pass me the lampshade / I'm drunk again / Blew my drug money on a quart of gin" and "This is no modern romance / I'm going home in a fucking ambulance."

As Shubaly tells it, he was in the middle an ongoing morphine high in 2008, going nowhere fast. He'd lost his job on Friday, his band the next night. On Sunday, Stanhope called. Someone had given him some of Shubaly's music. He liked it. The two had been drunk-dialing for months. Now Stanhope had a proposal: Did Shubaly want to join him on the road?

Fuck, yeah, he would.

Stanhope later got actor Johnny Depp to listen to his music, Shubaly says. He calls Stanhope's brand of humor "brilliant perversion," inspiration from a comic who speaks to other hard-working people in hopeless situations. Because Stanhope knows. In the early days, he too slept in his car. His message is this: There's no satisfaction in this messed-up modern world. In his mind, Shubaly sees Stanhope standing on a cliff shouting amid a monsoon, "No! Fuck you! I will not capitulate!" The comic, he insists, says things onstage that most people are afraid to even think.

"His dirty little secret is that he's really a nice guy," Shubaly says. "He cares about his friends." He calls the Stanhope compound a supportive place: "Sure, there's a lot of ball-busting, but it's really positive. Doug makes sure of that."

Stanhope says the kind of stuff onstage that other people are afraid even to think.
Stanhope says the kind of stuff onstage that other people are afraid even to think.
Randi Lynn Beach

At home, mornings are Stanhope's time to be, well, Stanhope. Often, he puts on a private show for Bingo: He raps. He dances. He does dorky karate moves. He makes prank phone calls to friends. In the afternoon, he settles down to write his comedy riffs.

But for all the laughter in Stanhope's life, the Bisbee house is known for two unlikely events: the suicides of his mother and a good friend.

Bonnie Stanhope went first. Years after she and her son had reconnected, she contracted emphysema and Stanhope moved her to Bisbee from Los Angeles so the two could be closer. Eventually, her condition worsened. She didn't move around as much and began to talk about suicide, saying things like, "This is enough." Soon, Stanhope moved her into the Van Dyke house, awaiting the end.

One night, Stanhope jostled Bingo from her sleep. His mother had told him, "I need my pills. I need my pills now!" That meant she was ready to overdose on morphine.

"It's time," he told Bingo. "No, it's really time."

They sat up with Bonnie for hours. They drank. She took 90 morphine pills as her son massaged her. But Stanhope is Stanhope. After his mother had gulped down five handfuls, he told her: "Wait, Mom! They just found the cure!"

She laughed. "We roasted her," Bingo recalls. "It was beautiful." And then she was gone. Stanhope had to wait a few years, but now he talks about the night in his act. He's also just finishing a soon-to-be-released book about his relationship with his mother. For months, he cried as he wrote it.

The next suicide took place in a house on the property. Derrick Ross, a musician friend, had just lost his wife, Amy, to lupus and, as Bingo says, "He was not about to live in this world without her." He came to stay at the Stanhope compound.

One night, when Stanhope was on the road, Ross shot himself in the head. Bingo found the body. The scene was grisly. Overcome with shock and grief, she immediately called Stanhope. As always, he knew exactly what to say, as he does when Bingo's condition has her talking to the walls: He turned tragedy into humor.

He told Bingo to have Rev. Derrick hammer in a "For Rent" sign outside precisely when the coroner arrived to claim the body.

As unlikely as it seems, Bingo found herself smiling amid her grief. Stanhope's philosophy is simple: "If you're laughing when everyone else is crying, you fucking win."

Today, Bingo wears a cherished piece of jewelry: a necklace with a small piece of sheetrock bearing the bullet hole from Derrick's suicide. The place where he died still is known as the Suicide House.

"This house has seen two really brilliant deaths," she says. "We all face death. Does this house have bad juju? Fuck no. This is all about good juju."

Stanhope's view of death always has been a double-edged razor: something to poke fun at but a topic that seems ever-present, especially in his comedy.

"Life is like a movie," he tells audiences. "If you've sat through more than half of it and it sucked every second so far, it probably isn't gonna get great right at the very end and make it all worthwhile. No one should blame you for walking out early."

In 2011, on Louis CK's TV show, Louie, Stanhope portrayed a down-and-out comedian who plans to kill himself. In a subsequent interview, CK expressed his fear for Stanhope's future. "I've always been scared for him," he told NPR's Terry Gross. "I've always been afraid that he's going to let himself go and die."

But Stanhope isn't near punching that ticket. Sure, he drinks like a lake trout, but he also eats healthy, guzzling smoothies and scarfing down greens.

He doesn't fear death; some days he even looks forward to it. He and Bingo have this fantasy in which they die together: They're aboard some doomed plane. As the craft plummets and passengers scream, Stanhope is riffing, making jokes.

There's one downer, a single note of regret: "Stanhope's material will no doubt be great on the way down," Bingo says. "And he knows none of his fans will ever get to hear it."

Doug Stanhope is backstage at Bisbee's Royale theater, standing in the brooding low light. It's a half-hour before his sold-out show, and he's summoning his standup mojo.

It's not so easy. At home, the comedian is soft-spoken, low-key, far less angry. When pressed about the difference, he shouts: "I couldn't exactly yell like this all the time!"

Before most shows, he'll implore Bingo: "C'mon, help me. I gotta drum up the hate. I gotta go onstage and yell at people."

On this night, there's a pre-performance calm, marked of course by biting Stanhope-isms. He's spent the afternoon reviewing his material with Bingo, who studiously watches every performance for which bits work and which don't, making notes if Stanhope gets too drunk and misses punchlines.

He stands in front of a folding table with a plastic bottle of Popov vodka, some greasy tacos, and a case of Bud Light in cans.

"Can you imagine how sad you'd be if you won backstage passes on the radio for this gig?" He laughs to himself. Then he steps outside for a cigarette.

He blows smoke into the cold air and has a few laughs at Bisbee's expense. Tickets for the show are $25 a pop, which he calls "an outrage" in this working-class town. While most seats will be filled by out-of-towners, Stanhope knows a few locals will be in the audience, many with little clue about what they've gotten themselves into.

"I see people around town who say, 'I'm gonna come see you," he says, exhaling more cloudy cigarette smoke. "And I'm like, 'Really? Are you sure you want to do that?'"

Outside, a line forms in the 30-degree night. Most are Stanhope repeats. Like Leigh Myers, a schoolteacher from Phoenix who makes no excuses about her fetish for Stanhope's humor. "I'm always right there with him, wallowing with him in the worst bits," she says. "The darker the better."

Real estate developer Bob Billick flew in from Indiana. "His stuff is niche-based. Not everyone will get it. But his fans know that he's five steps ahead of those observational humor comedians. Behind every Stanhope set, now matter how crass it gets, is the man's philosophy on life."

Finally onstage, Stanhope pimps what he calls the "merch," the T-shirts and signed Bibles stolen from hotel rooms — some by the comedian, some by fans.

The crowd applauds uproariously when he walks onstage. "Save your energy," he tells them in a practiced deadpan, before warning of the depravity to come. "I've been working on this stuff for one and a half years," he begins, swigging his vodka. "If you hear something you think you heard before, just remember, you were drunk. And you're drunk again. So you'll forget."

With cameras rolling to record material for the upcoming special, he kicks off the rollicking 90-minute set riffing on ISIS. "They're using social media to recruit disenfranchised youth. Hey, that's what I do. Fuck off, ISIS. This is my corner." Then he moves into material on the group's public beheadings, complaining how you never get to see the head roll off the corpse. The audience laughter has a nervous edge, with one man sitting at the bar covering his face, repeating, "Oh, man! Oh, no!"

He talks about his thrift-store fetish, how he often checks out the obituaries to see who has died so he knows when to hit the local stores in the hopes relatives have panned off some of the deceased's favorite suits. The problem, he says, is that most obits are incomplete. "I say put the size of the guy in the obits," he says. "That would make shopping so much easier for thrift-store shoppers."

There are jokes about Bingo and her mental illness, kids with cancer, and how society shuns "crazy" people while saving its empathy for the "retarded."

By the end of the set, the audience seems drained, as though finally able to let down its guard for anything truly offensive that might have come its way.

Stanhope walks off stage to a standing ovation, but not before slapping a high-five on a fan whose hand is covered in tattoos. After a few smokes, he says, he'll return to party with fans and "drink the bar dry."

It's well after noon Sunday, but Stanhope's Big Chill Bisbee weekend still is in alcohol-fueled high gear.

The comic slouches in a chair in his backyard, petting his cat Meatwig, rapping with fans invited to the bash — including a guy sprawled out on a lime green couch and dressed in a purple robe and tattoos of a Hawaiian hula dancer.

Rumor is that Stanhope's in a bad mood. He's displeased with the previous night's performance, during which he suffered several miscues.

"I fucked up too many bits. I was muddle-mouthed. I fucked up words." Told the gig rocked, he waves a hand in dismissal. "Any comic who thinks he's good," he says, "actually sucks."

Bingo appears wearing pink ribbons in her blue hair and a pink see-through apron. "Give me three more minutes and I'll be in hostess mode," she whispers to Stanhope.

For awhile now, she's been decorating their living room with clocks, most showing different times and one with the word "diarrhea" written beneath it.

Near the kitchen is a painting of a comedy show audience. The faces are red and grotesque, the mouths opened too wide. There's also a family photo of Bingo with her parents and two sisters. Everyone else looks normal; Bingo is wearing a gas mask.

Outside, Stanhope continues to hold court. "Damn, this sun feels good," he says, still slouched like a sultan in a black shirt and black pajama bottoms.

He says he partied until after 7 a.m. with friends and fans. Somebody took out some cocaine, which made the night stretch like taffy. He looks down at his left wrist, on which the word "vacuum" is written in large black magic-marker letters.

"I don't know how it got there," he says, sipping vodka from a coffee cup. "There was so much blow. At some point, the word vacuum was so important I had to write it on my hand."

The camera crew still is around, shooting bits for the special. Stanhope is irked that he soon must rally from his hangover mode to say a few words on-camera. Suddenly, looking around, he takes inventory of the locals present.

Hey, WTF. Where is Neighbor Dave? He didn't come to the Friday night gig and was a no-show last night.

A guy in a mummy T-shirt suggests he might be dead. Everybody laughs.

Soon, Stanhope moves inside the Fun House to begin swilling fruity margaritas, eyeballing five different football games on five big-screen TVs. Then Neighbor Dave shows up in the backyard.

Now the party can begin in earnest, the coming hospital visit be damned.

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