Sunday, January 17, 2010

Automatic Human Jukebox

The Automatic Human Jukebox, 1978
(photo copyright by Kevin Scanlon)

Grimes Poznikov performing as The Automatic Human Jukebox
(photo copyright by Kevin Scanlon)

(Click on images for larger view)

I was going to ask readers if anyone knew whether the Automatic Human Jukebox, who used to perform near Aquatic Park at the wharf in San Francisco, was still there in 1989 (which is an important time frame for my novel-in-progress). However, a quick Google search led me to this sad account in a series of San Francisco Chronicle articles from 2002. The images accompanying the articles are disturbing, especially when compared to the photographs I’ve posted here, taken by photographer Kevin Scanlon in 1978, which convey an enterprising use humor and wit by the street performer to earn cash from tourists.

As someone who is fascinated by those who step or fall into society’s fringes (which I wrote about here), the fate of Grimes Poznikov who was the American Human Jukebox frightens me a bit. Clearly, Poznikov later developed serious mental health issues, and according to this site died of alcohol poisoning in 2005. More photographs archived here document the changes over the years.

Apparently he was still performing as the American Human Jukebox as late as 1987. Does anyone know if he was still performing in 1989? If so, I’d be interested in knowing if he was still at the wharf area or elsewhere around San Francisco, particularly during October of 1989. Please leave a comment below if you have information (or e-mail me at the address in the sidebar to the right of the screen).

Photo Credits: Both photographs above of the Automatic Human Jukebox are copyright © by Kevin Scanlon, used by permission, all rights reserved.

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Anonymous said...

The Wikipedia entry for him links to a news article saying he died of alcohol poisoning.

Anonymous said...

Yeah what a bummer for him to check out like that. I encountered him in 78' also, around Nov/Dec. I read that he taught school in Chicago, I like to find out where, Chicago is my hometown. I played the streets on and off, here and there, he was the reason why. I moved to Petaluma near SF, in 05' always sort of wondered what happened to him, just happened to google all this tonite. Dude is a classic, now he is on to the next realm. Long Live The Automatic Human Jukebox !!!!!!