I was saddened this week to hear of the passing, at 76, of my former professor and friend and all-around character J. P. Darriau, at home in Bloomington, Indiana. J. P. grew up in NYC during the war in a Jewish neighborhood, and one of my favorite memories of him is this grey-headed child of French Catholic emigrants to the States singing Yiddish songs about baseball at a piano during an evening of performance art circa 1989.
J. P. came to Bloomington in the early sixties and remained a prof at IU until his retirement in 1996. He was my professor in three classes and became my friend during the first. He opened his home, over the years, to innumerable members of my cohort, usually something I would discover much later.
During the first class i took with him, which he insisted on holding in his backyard sculpture studio instead of on campus, all the members of the class were charged with researching something about transformative performance traditions and presenting our findings in the context of a performance. While the details of my research are somewhat hazy, as I recall I determined to compare and contrast the European use and abuse of alcohol to the indigenous and pre-Colombian use of tobacco. I spent about $100 on various interesting beers and about the same amount on a selection of high-end tobacco, including what must have been among the last tins of Balkan Sobranies imported into the US before the Yugoslav civil war destroyed the factory.
I loaded all this on the back of my mountain bike and sprung this on the class, insisting that we had to consume all the beer and smoke all the ‘baccy in the three hours set aside for the class. J. P. was not happy with me and gave me an additional assignment to make up for the drunken debacle class that day was transformed into, and he explicitly enforced a no-booze policy on these classes after that day. But he certainly had his share of the goods I brought that day and there is no question in my mind that our relationship was deepened and cemented that day.
J. P., you were a good man; a hardworking, insightful artist; and a thoughtful, challenging, at times baffling but always deeply engaged teacher. My world is richer for having you in it, and I owe you more than can be told for your role as my mentor and as a contributor to the alternative culture of my hometown. R.I.P.