Johannas "Knickerbocker" Desselsen

From Plastic Tub

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Germanic Tribesman, 1950-1999, Desselsen arrives by a subtle manipulation of his coat-sleeve, which sullies forth a torrent of fading light. He is that light -- shot through a button-hole. He receives ten feet of black leader.

prelude to Corn Cake Symphony

A flamboyant Dutch immigrant who lived all his American life in Des Moines, Iowa, Desselsen was raised as the unwanted son of a harried cobbler. And such was his mistake -- born of a terrible beauty, his metaphorical arrangement seemed to passersby an audaciousness near unforgivable; and thus, coins were made. The sky over the land where Dutch people originate was that day particularly effluvient, having been rubbed down extensively by a cadre of deft Chinsese Chiropractors or -- as Tim Wilson refers to them -- swindlers.

The Dr.'s Cabinet

Hs name eventually changed -- to some. It became "Yoyo" and he was soon out on his own. He dropped out of high school and went to New York City at the age of 16, living it up for about six months. This was his only sojourn away from Iowa. When he returned to shake his heroin addiction he turned towards film and the corn country he knew and loved so well. Notoriuosly libertine, yet highly disciplined, he was a study in contradictions. He could be puritannical about his habits and the advice he gave to the young gay men who heeded it, but he himself was given to extravagant orgies.

Marlow, Manhole...

He would be forgotten today if not for the help of Stimes Addisson, who had befriended Yoyo in 1975, when he passed through Des Moines to visit an old family friend who'd emigrated from Ohio.

Addisson stayed in contact, encouraged his film activity, lent him the 500 dollars necessary to make A Fistful of Nothin (1977). His parents surprised him in death by leaving him the family property and a decent inheritance which he used to pay Addisson back and finance his second film, I Shot John (1979).

Best Boy, Hot Tub

Over the next two decades he was a reclusive filmmaker, working in 8, 16 and 35 mm, as well as video, pixelvision and some early digital. He is the author of sought-after 16mm films. He is what Nevid Kessar described as "Gay to the teeth, camp, known to dress in drag, cruise for rough trade among farmhands and generally terrorize his stern parents."

Alas, like many gay men of his era he succumbed to AIDS at the age of 49. His last words were reported to be "Alas, I have one butt to give for my cunt...." [country?]

Known Works

  • A Fistful of Nothin' (1977)
  • Columbo Learns Poetry (1978)
  • I Shot John (1979)
  • Tokyo Blows (1980)
  • Totem Animal of the Disappearing Man (1984)
  • Yo (1995)


Verna Cable noted that to mention "ten feet of black leader" has in fact no direct or obvious filmic reference, but referred conversely to "ten feet of uppity negra." We were stunned -- and amused. Later, we paid dearly.

The birthmark on his left thigh was often mistaken for a tatoo of a stop-watch.