By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Inkoo Kang
By Dave Herrerra
By Josiah M. Hesse
By Britt Chester
By Noah Hubbell
Minty fresh. That's how the side of the bottle describes the blood's taste.
Pacing on the deck of a suburban home in gigantic platform boots that obliterate the leaves crackling underfoot, Maris the Great begs to differ.
"I think it's more like cherries," he says, and he should know. Although it usually winds up on the outside of his body and everything he touches, he's swallowed his fair share of the goopy liquid. "I use so much of it, I should be the company's spokesman."
Maristhegreat.com's Celery Girl presents SemiFreak, D.O.R.K. and P-Nuckle
8:30 p.m. Thursday, November 21
Sportsfield Roxxx, $4
Today he'll down some hefty doses. He's preparing for the final installment in this season's photo shoots chronicling his exploits as the creator of Maris the Great, the character, and maristhegreat.com, the Web site, and he's going to go out with a big red bang. The shoot's star as well as its director, he's donned his trademark costume: a black nylon bodysuit fashioned to resemble a skeleton, a captain's overcoat, large foam gloves painted like bones. His face is covered in green makeup, his teeth are blacked out, and there's some grayish gunk sticking out of his ears. Red contacts obscure the green of his eyes.
But in order to bring Maris to life, he's going to have to get really freaking bloody. Stepping away from the crew and other cast members, he lifts the fake blood to his lips and rolls the syrupy, cranberry-colored goo around his teeth. He gargles. He swills. Using his elastic and elongated tongue as a kind of paintbrush, he splatters the mixture all over his face and chest.
"I can do this all day," he says, a gleam shining through his red eyes.
He can, and he will. The shoots sometimes last eight hours, running well into the night. And on this postcard-worthy October afternoon, things are moving excruciatingly slowly. Cameras, makeup, props and supplies -- even a catering table -- are strewn about, giving this Aurora house the look and feel of a movie set. A volunteer crew that includes a photographer, set dresser and a host of "actors" -- members of the heavy-metal bands Malignari, Tyfoid Mary and Brutal Infliction -- shleps around, watching videos, smoking, drinking beer and Pepsi, and staring absently at two adorable Shih Tzus that lounge contently on the deck, more concerned with licking their hindquarters than the fictional forces of evil milling about them.
By five o'clock, Maris is eager to get on with it. He's got two groups to kill before the shoot's end, and every minute counts. One bandmember who's slated to play a big part in the early stages of the script is now two hours late, and no one has heard a word from him. "You know musicians," more than one person says, only half joking.
"Do you think he's wigging?" Maris asks. "His body language told me that he wasn't going to do this. I just had a feeling that he wasn't going to show."
Maris has gotten pretty good at reading body language in maristhegreat.com's two years. He's learned how to talk shy musicians into participating in staged murder scenarios and gotten straight men to kiss him on stage. He's grown particularly adept at talking drunken fans into providing source material for the Web project -- things like photos of their naked butts and genitals.
"There was one guy who'd been in the service in Afghanistan who told me he had been shot. The bullet had come out through his ass, and he still had a hole from it," he says. "I told him, 'Well, you know, people are feeling very patriotic right now. I think it would be a very good thing if you showed it to me.' At first he said 'No,' so I said, 'I really think you should let me take a picture of it.' Eventually, he did."
Tired of waiting, Maris decides to get started with the first shot: a faux ax murder to be staged in a regally sized shower in a basement bathroom. Brutal Infliction's Mikey Catalano is laid on the shower floor and advised to close his eyes as Maris and Cricket, his camera girl and co-director, cover his face with ground hamburger meat that's been mixed with fake blood. The lights are dim. Catalano lies still and lifeless. The effect is startlingly, nauseatingly real.
Maris flings the meaty mess around the shower like a kid throwing finger paint.
"Oh, this is sick," he says in a hushed tone. "This is beautiful. I feel this is real. I just got goosebumps."
The staged death of Tyfoid Mary and Brutal Infliction -- at the hands of Malignari, part of a twisted scheme to usurp Maris's power -- is only the latest plot line to careen around the vast digital space that houses maristhegreat.com. It will also be Maris's last bloodbath for a while. After killing off over thirty bands on his site and threatening scores more, the Webmaster, conceptual artist and deathmonger has decided to return to the land of the living. After a Halloween show at Sportsfield Roxxx, Maris will hang up his zombie gloves for at least two months.