Frank Portman //
King Dork is the bitingly witty debut of Frank Portman, a.k.a. Dr. Frank, the singer/guitarist of The Mr. T Experience, an American punk rock band. King Dork’s MacGuffin is J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye and Portman writes his novel in the same stream of consciousness mode, with Tom Henderson being King Dork’s kind of anti-Holden Caulfield.
Tom Henderson, the narrator and protagonist, is the archetypical American high school loser. He dubs himself King Dork, being “small for my age, young for my grade, uncomfortable in most situations, nearsighted, skinny, awkward, and nervous. And no good at sports.” His incredibly inane and cruel classmates, whom Tom cynically typecasts as ‘normal’, and the high school faculty address him as Chi-Mo, Hender-fag, or Sheepie. Tom resents his classmates and faculty as much as he resents the cult status of The Catcher in the Rye, that unavoidable icon for teen rebellion, that seems to have nestled itself in every pore of high school life for over a good 50 years now.
Tom is heavily into seventies bands like The Who, The Kinks, basically “the whole Merseyside/British Invasion sort of thing”, but also into Bubblegum, which “normal people think … sounds corny or wimpy, not realizing there would have been no Ramones without ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy’.” One day Tom will be a rock star of the same stature, or so he envisages. With Sam Hellerman, his only and equally dorkish friend, he spends a vast amount of his time planning their own rock band, because being in a band could possibly be the secret to attracting semi-hot girls.
Until they get their act together and no longer suck at playing, their endeavors are limited to thinking up great band names, stage names and album titles, one even more comical than the other – Green Sabbath: Monsignor Eco-druid on guitar (Tom), The Grim Recycler (Sam) on bass and industrial sabotage, Todd ‘Percussion’ Panchowski on drums, percussion, acoustic and semi-acoustic drums, cymbals, tambourines, cowbells, chimes, gongs, toms, shaker eggs, bongos, stick clicks, wood blocks, percussion, percussion and more percussion. First album: Our Drummer is Kind of Full of Himself.
If starting a rock and roll band and becoming a rock and roll star is your aim, check out the first encore of the novel: the Bandography. The second encore is an amusing glossary of typical high school lingua as well as some of Tom’s (or Portman’s?) thoughts on some of the world’s greatest rock and roll bands:
- The worst band in the world named itself after The Doors of Perception
- Sweet – 2nd greatest rock and roll band of all time, made the first-greatest album of all time: Desolation Boulevard and the all-time greatest song in the history of music: ‘Fox on the Run’
- The Who – the greatest rock and roll band of all time
- Zappa – if all hippie music had been this weird and good maybe subculture wouldn’t have been such a total waste of brain cells
Portman weaves the sixties and seventies tunes brilliantly into Tom’s day-to-day life, e.g. when Tom cycles home after being on the receiving end of his first blow-job, singing at the top of his lungs those typical bubblegum songs like ‘Glad all over’, ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’, and ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy’. King Dork is a pleasantly satirical read that takes you on a musical trip down memory lane.
Booktunes 10: King Dork, a full listing of records listened to, critiqued, or referenced by Tom Henderson is now available through our website. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye
is at hands when clicking the link. You may also want to find the inspirational song 'King Dork
' by The Mr. T Experience on iTunes.
text by Mina Witteman / photo by Brad Hoyt