At a table behind him sit six guys, all twenty-somethings wearing similar sweatshirts and haircuts all parted on the same side. Ricker’s long witch-length fingernails aren’t as obvious as the circuitry pattern tattooed on his face. The blue lines cross over his eyelids and weave through the metal hardware piercing his septum, lips, eyebrows, cheeks and ears.
“I’ll have the double cheeseburger, medium rare,” Ricker says to the Acorn server. He passes on the avocado and bacon up-charges.
Ricker is a fetish and freak-show performer. His stage persona, Slim the Living Cyborg, time-traveled to the unfortunate present because the future is far more dangerous for half-man-half-machine beings like Slim. In 4020, robots are outlawed. His mechanical parts allow Slim to lift kegs with his ears, swallow swords, and aggressively jam silverware in his nose three nights per month. He performs at Repent, at Milk Bar, every fourth Friday, at Deviant events select Fridays at Tracks, and with the traveling Arts Caravan variety show.
We’re sitting in Acorn because Ricker is trying to win the very specific Guinness World Records title for performing the human blockhead trick in the most dining establishments. After lunch he plans on taking me to a brewery to purchase a new keg for his act and, later, watch him get a tattoo.
He dines with his friend Jami Windecker, who performs as his assistant, Daisy Departed, on stage. “I get the awesome job of the cleanup, which is just wonderful,” she says. She also films the blockhead trick for Instagram. The two have visited well over 300 restaurants already, though his orders are not as adventurous as his look.
“She can pretty much pick whatever dish I get no matter what style of restaurant,” Ricker says. It’s usually the burger.
Eating out just to stick a butter knife up his nose is only one of the things Ricker might do on a given day. He learned the blockhead trick a little over a decade ago, around the time he began his transformation into Slim the Living Cyborg. But his fondness for the unusual and a desire for the spotlight began much earlier.
“My entertainment career started in fifth grade,” Ricker says. He grew up in San Diego and went to a new school almost every year because his single mother moved around a lot. The impermanence allowed him to create exaggerated personas.
“You get to be whatever you want to portray, and nobody knows who you are six months later,” he says.
Back then, his strategy was less shock and more awe; Ricker didn’t start slashing his torso with broken bottles or hammering nails into his skull until much later in his career. In elementary school, all he needed was a trick card deck and a 21-piece magic kit to entertain his classmates. It was at this young age that he began to understand the necessity of fillers and comedy in his shows.
“An act is hollow by itself. Anybody can do an act. It’s giving it life and making it familiar to your audience that’s important, because they might not have a connection with it until you give them one,” he says.
With this in mind, he created Slim. The character allows him to project his feelings of being different, something he’s practiced doing since he was fourteen years old, when he began dressing like a woman and wearing makeup. “I didn’t know how to translate that to the public — that I didn’t feel human or like the rest of society. The best way to do that was to call myself a cyborg,” he says. Plus, he’s been a fan of sci-fi ever since he saw The Terminator.
Ricker says he was lucky to discover the Enigma at a young age. The Enigma is a blue puzzle-piece-tattooed man who performed dangerous feats in the Jim Rose Circus, a popular traveling sideshow that started in the ’90s.
“To me, he was proof that you could be a non-normal and still be in society,” Ricker says, adding that in the ’90s, people were still very closed off to others who were different. Ricker met the Enigma four years ago at 3 Kings Tavern.
The two later became roommates. The Enigma gave Ricker his first sword and taught him how to refine his act, one that Ricker continues to push.
One of his standout tricks is weightlifting a keg with his ears while standing on glass barefoot. Ricker trained his ears to withstand the weight by putting deadbolts through his gauges. He continued to add more weight with items like cast-iron skillets until he could eventually pull kids sitting in a Radio Flyer wagon across the stage. The next step is trying to fill the keg, which is why we're going to Spangalang Brewery after lunch.
Ricker wants to see if the brewers can help him figure out the logistics of the trick. But we're late for his 4 p.m. tattoo appointment at Fortune Cookie Tattoo and have to skip our second stop.
Artist Kate Erso says Ricker is in her chair at least once a month. He allowed her to use him as her practice canvas during her apprenticeship. Today he is getting red circuitry tattooed on his right arm. Ricker says his modifications are not so different from the plastic-surgery modifications many celebrities such as Kylie Jenner get, except they lie on opposite ends of the spectrum.
“She is making herself beautified to fit into societal norms and then being praised for it because she is willing to ‘mutilate.'” he says. The opposite is true for Ricker.
Windecker says the most common comment she hears when they’re together is, “Hey, boy, what’s with all that shit in your face?” Ricker, she says, always responds with a joke. Oddly enough, he’s become more accepted the more modified he’s become.
“Before I got my face tattooed and my hands, I had a lot of people tell me I wouldn't be let in to stores. I would have people spit on me; I had all this backlash,” he says. “[Today,] even in small towns, it’s actually a very positive response most of the time. Once I tell people I’m a sideshow artist, they lighten up and are usually okay with me.”
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