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SUNDAY BRUNCH

Hey, Mr. Rodman, Is That You?

April 12, 1998|NOA JONES | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

L.A. seems to have found itself a pet ghost. The Phantom Bride, as some people have called this vision in white, has appeared at no fewer than three sites in and around the city in the last month and is rumored to be making a fourth appearance sometime Monday.

Camera crews trained on celebrities exiting the Shrine Auditorium for the Oscars last month missed a shot of this impudent character traipsing down a closed street out back. But the strange vision didn't escape the gawking throng of celebrity chasers congregating outside. Oddly, the Police Department on patrol didn't escort the bride from this restricted territory. It is uncertain whether they were too stunned to move or simply didn't see the apparition.

The bride wore a full-length gown, spike heels, silver elbow-length gloves and a long flowing veil, but its face was hidden behind an expressionless white mask.

"It gives me the shivers," said one celebrity-seeking teen who fell into the path of the bride. The bride bisected the crowd like Moses parting the Red Sea as it approached the Shrine's velvet ropes. While interacting with anyone willing, it kept cautious and mute, moving in slow motion. Seemingly satisfied with the awe it had struck, the figure turned and solemnly left the area escorted by two homeless people who called him "Joey."

Only a week earlier, an eerily similar Phantom Bride performance was caught by a Daily News photographer. This time the backdrop was a blooming poppy field in the Antelope Valley. The article identified the bride as "Joey Artsaveslives."

The Phantom Bride's first recorded appearance was last month near the Cahuenga exit of the Hollywood Freeway, site of a disasterous chain-reaction collision. He was reportedly wielding an unplugged Hoover vacuum cleaner on pavement covered in cash and coin.

Another photographer, Chris Marchan, said he was invited to witness all three appearances by an anonymous caller but had ignored earlier tips until he saw the poppy field photo published by the Daily News. Marchan decided not to pass up the Academy Awards.

"I didn't know who it was," he said, "but by then my curiosity was piqued."

Filmmaker Josh Charson was also invited by an anonymous caller. He captured both the poppy field and Shrine appearances, which he plans to use in a film about guerrilla performance.

"I am not really questioning the identity of the artist," Charson said. "The work speaks for itself."

A representative for the Museum of Contemporary Art did not recognize the act as related to the its "History of Performance Art" show. But the description of the bride is reminiscent of a graffiti artist known as Joey the Phantom, whose work has been featured in Rage Aginst the Machine and U2 videos.

This performance artist has revealed himself on three consecutive Mondays: the crash site, a field of blooming flowers and the Academy Awards. His dreamlike Kabuki-style movements are as much a nonsequitur as his choice of locale. Like the Greek cynic Diogenes who used the city streets as a expressive tool, the bride appropriates media events for its stage. No hat is passed, no advertisements left behind, only puzzled looks.

Charson and Marchan both received a fourth tip-off last weekend. Perhaps in response to the City Council's banning of unlicensed street vendors or the release of J.J. the whale, the Phantom Bride has directed them to "the Venetian beach."

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