Close encounters of the clammy kind 

Ever get the feeling that space aliens are swirling over your head and trying to ruin your life (or at least your column)?

Well I have.

Enter Orlando's own Brian Morton, the self-proclaimed Crop Circle Guy, and his own brand of localized paranoia.

With a website (, a band with a drag-queen theme (The Collective Obsession) and a seemingly endless list of peculiarities, Morton is trying to make his own big-circle mark in these parts -- some multipronged presentation involving synth pop and aliens -- and he's contacted me to do it. Big mistake? Perhaps.

Morton, who's too old for this at 42, seems an enticing proposition on paper. His press kit (yes, he has one) includes a CD, a videotape, and a fictitious bio. The CD evokes lo-fi Joy Division, the video is pure backyard, lo-fi minimalism, and the bio contains a lot of gibberish about aliens.

But I'll quote from it anyway. It's a slow week.

"This is the story of The Collective Obsession," it reads, "and how inner turmoil, too much hype and corrupt and incompetent management led to the most famous false start in rock and roll history."

There's a reference to mistaken drag identity, and something about music-industry expectations, and the rest bores me, quite frankly.

Speaking with Morton in person, however, proves to be an unexpectedly clammy affair. For all of his published pomp, Mr. Circle is something of a nervous, slightly frightening character.

"For the last 10 or 12 years, I've been writing an autobiography," he waxes. "And some pretty unusual, weird things have happened to me in my life. For instance, my younger brother was born on September 2, and that's my grandmother's birthday. ... Then my sister got leukemia in 1973, and she had three last wishes before she died. One was Disneyland, her second wish was to meet Carol Burnett, her third wish was to meet Jerry Lewis. The weird thing about that was, those would have been my three wishes."

Oh dear. While the ailing-sister angle begs a respectful breezing over, the Carol Burnett thing lodges in the throat like an old stiletto heel. I save my theories of synchronicity for amphetamines, Pink Floyd and "The Wizard of Oz", thank you. Jerry Lewis and Carol Burnett are just a step too far.

"I grew up in the Mormon church. We had to get up really early on Sunday morning to go to church, so we couldn't stay up late enough to watch Carol Burnett," he drones on. "I always wondered how people got to be comedians. And my theory was, 'Just watch, and see how it happens.'"

Read, and see how it doesn't.

"We went to Disneyland, and my sister met Carol Burnett," he Disneylands. "Carol Burnett was really good to our family, and before my sister died, she'd take her to the studio. Then she helped pay my way through college."

Our own little Tim Conway is by now inducing a slight pang of nausea in yours truly. Please stop.

"I spent 1979 to 1985 doing bit parts and extra work in LA," he doesn't. "The first part I ever got was as an extra in a Jerry Lewis movie, which was like 'wow.' And then my sister died on my grandfather's birthday and a few years later, he died on her birthday. It kept piling up."

In the back of my throat, anyway. Can we please get to the crop circles?

"In 1991, the crop circle phenomenon started becoming quite popular on the news and on "Hard Copy" and stuff," he copies hard. "The very first time I saw it on TV, the only way I can describe it is, in the movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," when he kept trying to build that mountain out of potatoes, that's the way I felt."

Richard Dreyfuss, Carol Burnett, and mashed potatoes. You win. "Were you abducted by space aliens?" I quiz.


And just then, as if by kismet, a cuckoo clock goes off in the background. I couldn't ask for better timing than this, dear reader. I've reached my journalistic peak.

"Well, my theory about the crop circles -- I've never really talked about this to anybody ... " he says, but his words are lost in the phone line and the din of the cuckoo. I make out something about "a wing, a prayer and a promise."

"When I finally figured out my crop circle theory," he nonsenses, now that the clock is silent, "I sent it to the Mormon church, trying to figure out if they could help me with it." (Good luck there.) "The theory I got it from was a certain book in the Book of Mormon, called the Book of Ether."

He drains my soul.

"I ended up getting excommunicated."

"Crop circles?"

"No, because I was a homosexual. There was no way that a homosexual could figure something like this out. So by excommunicating me, they could just wash their hands of me, and say 'he's a crazy ex-Mormon.'"

Pass the soap.

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