Frank Chu

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Frank Chu

Frank Chu giving a television interview with his trademark picket sign (April 2006).
Born March 24, 1960 (1960-03-24) (age 49)

Frank Chu (born 24 March 1960) is one of San Francisco's best-known eccentrics. His street protests against US Presidents, corporations, and a distinctive concept he calls the “12 Galaxies” have been held in San Francisco and nearby locales since at least 1995.

Chu lives in Oakland, California and commutes daily to San Francisco where he can find the largest audience of passers-by and television news crews to share his thoughts with. He supports himself through a combination of state aid, sign sponsorships, and small donations from his supporters.


[edit] Before his protests

Little is known about Chu's life before he started protesting. An old resume of his states that he has worked as a truck driver and holds an associate's degree in Business Administration.[1]

In early 1985, Chu, then 24 years old, took 11 members of his family hostage in his home in Oakland and was reported to have been beating some with his fists. Chu fired a .38 pistol at one police officer who came to investigate, but missed. Police cordoned off a ten-block area for three hours. Chu eventually released his hostages and surrendered to the police.[2]

[edit] Performance/protest technique

Chu being interviewed by a CBS reporter during the Bay to Breakers in 2006

Frank Chu protests daily, or nearly daily, typically walking throughout the daytime hours in downtown San Francisco (particularly along Market Street and Montgomery Street[3]) holding one of his signs, and occasionally supplementing this with spoken remarks on similar themes. He is also known to protest elsewhere, for instance in downtown Oakland and at the University of California, Berkeley campus.

Chu will deviate from his usual rounds in the pursuit of a larger audience, and he is frequently seen at street fairs and protests. Although he claims to be a Republican himself,[1] he seems equally at home at protest demonstrations representing all shades of political opinion. Occasionally, people who oppose a protest group will single out Chu as an example of the protest group's incoherent message not realizing that he is not protesting on the same terms as the other protesters in the group.[4]

Although the form of Chu's actions is that of a picket-sign-carrying protester, it is misunderstood if interpreted merely as a protest or picket. He sometimes refers to "a live performance of my protest" rather than simply "my protest."[5]

Chu also likes to appear in the news media, and will try to position himself in view of television news cameras and to offer himself to be interviewed. He pays close attention to the local news media scene and keeps tabs on where he has received good coverage. He will depart from his usual parade ground to attend media-magnet events, for instance the Scott Peterson trial[6] or the BALCO grand jury hearings[7] or the court case deciding on the timing of the California recall election.[8]

[edit] World view and interests

Chu performing at the 12 Galaxies bar in San Francisco

Frank Chu holds Bill Clinton responsible for directing the CIA to withhold payment to him for being the star of something called "The Richest Family" during the presidency of George H.W. Bush. His protests frequently called for the impeachment of Clinton even after Clinton was no longer in office. Bill Clinton and various other US presidents are frequently accused by Chu of cooperating with the 12 Galaxies to commit crimes and treasons. Chu is strongly interested in television reporters and newscasters, who will bring him the publicity he requires to inform the world of the injustices committed against him. He hopes that this wave of publicity will cause a public outcry, which will result in the impeachment of various US presidents and the awarding of "$20 billions" in compensation for the damages he and his family have suffered. Another source says:

Frank believes that he and his family have been filmed for years now without their knowledge and the show has aired as "The Richest Family". He found out that he was a star (and appeared on the cover of Newsweek, Time, etc.) because California Correctional Officers who were really movie stars who were really KGB agents told him---through ESP. In fact, nearly all the movie stars have ESP. Frank is not from another galaxy and never contends (sic.) [sic] to be. He hasn't even visited them. He is aware of them (possibly) through ESP being sent to him by Soviet ex-presidents (alive and dead/resurrected) and KGB agents. Clinton, Hillary, and even Chelsea are "guiltied" of being in collusion with the first 12 galaxies away from our galaxy, while Frank is being aided by the Zegnotronic (120 galaxies away)[9]

The now closed 12 Galaxies bar in San Francisco was named in honor of Chu's cause. Chu has occasionally performed spoken-word on-stage at the 12 Galaxies — his performances have a similar theme to his signs, with riffs off of the twelve galaxies theme and the seemingly abstract use of syllable combinations for poetic effect; to this he adds the use of a percussive "ah" syllable at irregular intervals between words, superficially similar to the "uh" speech disfluency or discourse marker seen in ordinary conversation but with a more constant tone and duration and a less-conversationally-natural placement.

[edit] Artistic lineage

Frank Chu's variety of protest is nearly unique, but not entirely without precedent. Daniel Pratt, "The Great American Traveler," wandered incessantly, lecturing about "The Four Kingdoms" and "The Solar System," obsessing about U.S. presidents and complaining about being deprived of his fairly-won fame by the powers-that-be. He was characterized by his incoherent speech and his made-up words, sometimes formed by what appeared to be squishing other words together haphazardly or with a method known only to him. He was widely thought to be insane, but was humored and honored in a tongue-in-cheek fashion by young wiseacres.

Chu's eccentricities are also reminiscent of San Francisco icon Emperor Norton. Like Norton, Chu is embraced by the city, and he dines and drinks for free at various city establishments.[citation needed]

[edit] Mental health

One news report from 1985 quoted a police lieutenant as saying that Chu had a history of mental problems and had been prescribed medication.[2]

Though he has been known to raise his voice at times, Chu respects personal boundaries and most social customs, and is always happy to share his views and answer polite questions. His personality fluctuates in response to changes in his environment and the people around him. Some theorize that Chu has an "in character" persona that he moves in and out of depending on the nature of the audience. Others theorize that his delirium or psychosis increases with exposure to hostility or isolation, and improves greatly with friendly nonthreatening contact. Some testimonials regarding his demeanor:

I work downtown and have observed Frank from afar for several years. He goes through aggro modes and then returns to his diligent, yet peaceful, marching. The worst I've seen him was one morning when he followed me for three blocks, ranting the entire time, but not being physically threatening. When we stopped for a light and he took a breath, I flipped open my pack of cigarettes and said, "Want a smoke?" He paused and then said, in a perfectly normal tone, "Sure, thanks" and wandered off.[citation needed]
I've had the same experience with him. The first time he followed me to work ranting, I turned and offered him a cigarette and, in the middle of a Zagnatronic outburst, he calmly said, "Oh, thank you" and proceeded to be quite civil.[10]
My husband's secretary invited him to a Giants game one day cause she had an extra ticket. She said he was actually normal.[11]

A reporter noted:

For at least a decade this guy has been doing this thing that he does, this thing that no one really understands. Now he has a club named after him, and, as 12 Galaxies' [Adam] Bergerson points out, he can drink and eat for free in a number of places around town. From the looks of it, he's also got plenty of genuine friends.[12]

Chu is also a regular at San Francisco Bike Messenger Association events, usually in the form of barbecues and parties, and maintains a social relationship with a few bike messengers who live in the East Bay. At such functions he, although quiet at most times, behaves appropriately.[citation needed]

[edit] Physical health

Chu nears the finish line at the 2008 Bay to Breakers run.

Chu occasionally walks with a limp, commonly attributed to his strenuous protesting schedule which requires him to walk many miles every day. Supportive friends occasionally buy him new shoes when his current pair seems beyond repair, and one local shoe store gave him a new pair of shoes as part of a promotion (Size: 7½–8 US).[citation needed]

On 14 April 2001 the San Francisco Cacophony Society awarded Chu a pair of shoes, a certificate and a small honorarium as part of a "Frank Chu Day" ceremony honoring him.

On 18 May 2008, Chu was seen crossing the finish line at the annual Bay to Breakers run at around the three-hour mark.

[edit] Sign sponsorships

Chu has been sponsored by the likes of Barbary Coast Consulting, Harputs adidas, Learn iT!, Quiznos Sub, Rasputin Music, Chris Daly's 2006 San Francisco Supervisor campaign[13], and Phil Angelides's 2006 California gubernatorial campaign[14] — typically through ad-space purchased on the back of his signs.[15] As of May, 2005, his going rate was $100 (U.S.) per week.[16].

[edit] Sign texts

Chu at the 2004 Independence Day messenger barbecue

Chu's black signs with fluorescent, all-caps lettering are instantly recognizable even by those who know nothing else about him. His signs change from day to day, and tend to go through syntactically-similar phases, with the phrase "12 Galaxies" being his trademark and a constant presence in the signs. In June 2007, Chu broke from this tradition and started replacing this with "85 Galaxies"[17], "130 Galaxies"[18], "800 Galaxies"[19], then "1000 Galaxies"[20]. At the 2007 Castro Halloween Party, Chu's sign claimed "7,645,000 Galaxies", at MacWorld 2008 he was up to 75,850,000[21], and at the Iraq War protest on March 19, 2008 he was up to 8,685,000,000[22].

The earliest of the photos of Chu's signs show his "classic" phase, in which the signs typically read "IMPEACH [figure] 12 Galaxies Guiltied to a [modifier] Rocket Society", where [figure] was typically a living-or-dead former U.S. president, and [modifier] was something along the lines of "Zegnatronic", "Omegalogical", etc. The very earliest examples are handwritten, for instance:

12 Galaxies
Guiltied to a
Rocket Society[23]

Later versions are professionally-printed, for instance:

12 Galaxies
Guiltied to a
Rocket Society[24]

Chu began to use adhesive letter stickers to modify frequently-changing elements on his signs. Examples:

  • Impeach / Jefferson / 12 Galaxies / Guiltied to a / Omegalogical / Exortations[25]
  • Impeach / Van Buren / 12 Galaxies / Guiltied to a / Omegalogical / Theoretical analysis[26]

He then extended this technique to modifying other sign elements, occasionally attaching the letters beyond the sign's original dimensions, while also moving from the classic text schema to a more varied set including phrases like "Grand Theft Against the Universe" and "Perverted Treasons" and heading the sign not with the demand for impeachment of a public figure but with a short set of letters, for instance:

  • BRINST / 12 Galaxies / Betatronic Universal / Perverted Treasons / Against them ruling / Dectronic / Neutron Speculations[27]

This began to settle to a more consistent pattern, in which the "12 Galaxies" phrase was followed by a two-word partially-neologistic phrase, a partially-neologistic commentary on the news media, and then an ending phrase. Examples:

  • WELCH / 12 Galaxies / Bretrokenitol persecutions / KGO: Textrochenical coverage / Faxkonutikel / Anabolic Contemptuous / Fibrillations[28]

A more recent version of this sign phase begins the sign with a pre-printed name instead of a short collection of letters, and mostly abandons the use of adhesive letters. Examples:

  • Massachusetts / 12 Galaxies / Quintronic criminals / Time Magazine: Star / Hextrotronic / Oscillating / Ebullient inoculations[29]
  • Cameron / 12 Galaxies / Kotsdrodenikel emanations / TASS: Gutsprosenical coverage / Phixgrostrenikul / Embellishments Consolations / Apologetics[30]

One version included the names of three medications and one category of medications, which could easily be misidentified as Chu-isms at first glance: "terfenadine", "carbamazepine", "sertraline", and "tricyclics":

  • Kayser / 12 Galaxies / Stetrobenigul sertralines / TASS: Detrorunical coverage / Cutrogrenikel / Terfenadine Tricyclic / Carbamazepine[31]

Another version used a different set of Chu-ism-like technical medical terms:

As seen at the re-opening of the Academy of Sciences building,[33] Frank Chu has eliminated any mention of the 12 Galaxies from his sign. McCardell / Stetrozillions of Populations / PBS: Kratrowroniel Netcasts / Wutrocrenikoll / Avid Controversial / Cryetrogroniull

[edit] Awards

Frank Chu has received the following awards:

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b Chu, Frank Resume undated[1]
  2. ^ a b "Police Subdue Man Menacing His Family" San Francisco Chronicle 29 January 1985, p. 6
  3. ^ Vigil, D. "A Frank Chu F.A.Q." San Francisco Chronicle 6 February 2005, p. 17[2]
  4. ^ "Four Minutes with Frank Chu: San Francisco, 15 March 2003" brain terminal 21 March 2003 [3]
  5. ^ "Behind Closed Doors in Washington" Starve.Org undated[4]
  6. ^ Hay, Tim "T-shirts cause buzz outside Redwood City courthouse" Oakland Tribune 5 October 2004. p. 1
  7. ^ Padecky, Bob "Bonds Part of Grand Jury Freak Show" The Press Democrat Santa Rosa, Calif.: 5 December 2003. p. C1
  8. ^ Hubler, Shawn "The Recall Campaign: Outside a Sedate Courtroom, Scripted Chaos on the Street; In what has become a routine spectacle, candidates, advocates and oddballs compete for the media's attention in San Francisco" Los Angeles Times 23 September 2003. p. A20
  9. ^ Pearson, Timothy — account of interview given in email September 28, 2000[5]
  10. ^ email to not publicly archived mailing list, 2 December 2002
  11. ^ "SeenyaRita" commenting on Flickr, August 2005[6]
  12. ^ Kamps, Garrett "Frank Chu: the man, the myth, the ‘Experience.'" San Francisco Weekly 17 November 2004[7]
  13. ^ [8]
  14. ^ "Governor Votes, Angelides Gets Last-Minute Endorsement" Political Muscle (Los Angeles Times blog) 7 November 2006 [9]
  15. ^ "Zegnatronic protester rockets toward profits" San Francisco Business Times August 24, 2001[10]; see also Reed, Dan "S.F.'s perpetual protester subs for capitalist" San Jose Mercury News 26 September 2001
  16. ^ Amor "Chu-bot report" 11 May 2005[11]
  17. ^ [12]
  18. ^ [13]
  19. ^ [14]
  20. ^ [15]
  21. ^ [16]
  22. ^ [17]
  23. ^ [18], another early handwritten version
  24. ^ [19]
  25. ^ [20]
  26. ^ [21]
  27. ^ [22]
  28. ^ [23]
  29. ^ [24]
  30. ^ [25]
  31. ^ [26]
  32. ^ [27]
  33. ^ [28]
  34. ^
  35. ^ San Francisco - Best Of - Best Pathological Citizen - Frank Chu (2007)

[edit] External links

[edit] Video footage

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