RIP Tom Kennedy… very sad

So today is the day that I’m supposed to mail out to you guys a note saying that our dear beloved gravel-voice maniac Flash has made it to the big time.


Tom Kennedy wrote me an email on Saturday. I’ll share that with you now:


The intention of this email is to let you

know that Flash has a Discovery Channel

TV show premiering Monday evening,

called Doing Da Vinci. I believe that

it is scheduled to air at both 7 & 10 PM.

Flash does not have a publicity

department back here, but I thought

it was important to let his friends know that

his show is about to air. If I was to help

him spread the word, I would send out

a few emails. Tell your friends of course.

And for you tech savy Flash fans, go to and search for the show called

Doing Da Vinci and you can view over ten clips

that show the team of builders, including Flash,

build some amazing machines out of the

sketchbooks of Leonardo DaVinci. Building

mostly war machines, the crew sometimes

encounter disagreements on how to get

the job done…and Flash will be Flash….

…Your mission, if you decide to accept it, is

to watch (or record) TV on Monday night.

This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds….

Over and Out,

Major Tom

Doing DaVinci

Discovery Channel

Monday, April 13th

7 & 10 PM

My response to Tom was terse. I had a show that night. I actually wrote back to him the follow note, in total:

“on it.”

No signature. No fun. Nothing to denotate that he was a mentor to me and I loved him and that he was one of my most favorite people on the face of the planet. Nope.

Just “on it”. Taking for granted that he would always be there to muse with and advise me and make impossible, truly impossible creations that baffle, astound and impress t he people… me included.

Tom saw his last sunset that day. He drown at Ocean Beach on Sunday, caught in a mother of a rip tide.

His passing leaves us impoverished.

This is a big man, a giant almost. Stong. Powerful. Hard worker. Hands like medium Cornish hens. How a tide could get him and not others is either baffling or there are some super-tides out there. I have always feared the rip tides. I will now be terrified of them.

I met Tom for the first time in 1995, he made Ripper the friendly shark. At his request…. Actually his INSISTANCE, I took a 30 person circus to his town, Houston Texas, for the annual art car parade. Which was a great experience for a young showman and forever changed my perception on what “family” entertainment could (and should) be.

The art car parade was amazing. It was a freak festival. In 1997 we brought the Vegomatic of the Apocalypse and it won First Place! This is a festival of freakish proportions with 400,000 people in attendance. And it happens probably because of Tom Kennedy.

Tom built this whale:



Tom build this bus:

topsy turvy art car

Tom’s body of work is astounding. He built American Art, the Art Car. And took us all along for the ride. Without fear or a parking spot for any of them. He lost his art to the tow truck many times. Can you imagine?

Sad. But I really feel blessed to have known him at all. I’m kinda in shock, I guess. Because I havn’t seen him in a little bit, and was expecting to see him tonight.

I’ll let ya’ll know when the things are. So it goes.

Life is fragile. I will miss Tom Kennedy. So will a million others. The really sad thing here is all the kids that will miss his work… the work he never got to make. Lets make sure that we always have a spot for Tom to park…. visit Laughing Squid for memorial updates and blog comments on this truly remarkable life.


8 Responses

  1. […] – Chicken John […]

  2. This is beautiful.

    wendy at the Orange Show

  3. Nice writing. Thanks for sharing that.
    Honi in Houston

  4. Tom will be missed in Houston as much as in California. I took my art car on a road trip with Tom to the Indy 500 parade. Best art car road trip I’ve ever been on. Tom and Pepper Mouser were the people that got me to go to Burning Man were I found out about the Flipside burn in Texas and those things have impacted my life in a positive way. Thanks Tom RIP

  5. […] Chicken John’s Blog […]

  6. Finitude

    Somewhere a shark shudders as it instinctively senses its father will create no more.

    Somewhere a dolphin makes clean lines in the dust on its fiberglass cheeks with its artistic tears.

    Somewhere a shark bike can’t take the loss and drifts sideways in the sea of storage with x’es for eyes.

    Somewhere a van whose fins once reached to the sky sits with tearful snot running from its ringed nose.

    Somewhere a saintly bus with huge fins and a cadillac ass can’t roll with the weight of her grief that we all have in common.

    Somewhere a ranger turned nash that lost an eye and didn’t die now wonders if it can go on without those strong hands on its wheel.

    Somewhere a whale has gone to pieces and now despairs that it may never get it together to go too fast again.

    Somewhere a hippo doesn’t wag its tail, and squeezes an electronic tear out of its winking eye.

    Somewhere a fuzzy curve tailed cat car meows to its maiden and asks why.

    But somewhere………. a veeeery unusual school bus reflects on itself, keeps its eyes on the prize… and rolls on.

    And somewhere………. a whimsical missile truck waits, poised to stop that war yet.

    And somewhere………. pristine fresh wrought fins adorn a puckered up Black Rock fish that can’t wait to get that first coat of playa dust….. forever.

    And somewhere a kid looks at a book about Art Cars, consults Wikipedia, or like my Grandson did, surfs a Ripley’s page and does NOT believe it, but sees that it can be done…. anything can be done…. and with a certain, finitude……. finatically even.

    And everywhere, people who knew him and people who knew of him, live out their lives richer for the experience of… Tom Kennedy.

    I love you Tom and I know you loved me and that’s what means everything to me.

  7. […] infamous performer Chicken John, a 2007 San Francisco candidate for Mayor, posted out: His passing leaves us […]

  8. Still aching and not fully believing he’s gone.

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