What Are You Wearing 

The Masked Dancer

A couple times a month, Frederick Michael Kobrick IV, 25, and his friends lug a secondhand Lowrey organ down from their third-floor studio in the Flat Iron Building and perform on the sidewalk. They don't have an official name for the group, but often refer to it as Donor (as in organ).

You're wearing a gas mask tonight. The last time I saw you dance, you had a wolf mask on.

It was a lion mask, and it was stolen from me. I don't know who took it; I guess they needed it more than I did. I have a lot of animal masks, but the lion was a favorite. I'm a Leo, and I'm fascinated by the characteristics humans attribute to lions: power, gore, brutality. I don't subscribe to any of those perceptions about lions. To me, the lion is primordial, pagan, like a giant phallus. Where the lion mask connected me with nature, the gas mask protects me from the toxicity of this city.

Do you always wear a mask when you dance?

I wear masks because I like the anonymity. Not because I'm afraid, but because I don't like feeling people's perceptions of me on my skin. My body is the only thing I fully govern, it's my only possession. So I enjoy using it, stretching it out. Also, I have really big ears and the mask keeps them warm.

What do you think about when you dance?

I try to just enjoy the movement. A lot of my moves are self-created tribal dances and mating rituals. I have this one move where I squat down and pretend to grab these giant testicles hanging off of me, or like I'm milking these gigantic ethereal teats.

How long do you and your friends usually play for?

We go until the cops shut us down. When we starting doing this in May, we could go for five or six hours at a time. Now they know us, and some of them like it and let us play, but some of them come and shine flashlights in our faces and tell us to stop. We consider this part of the beautification of Wicker Park.

Don't you get tired?

I'm an ambulatory being; I don't sit down at a desk or sit in a car for long periods of time.

What do you do when you're not dancing?

I work for a man who has muscular dystrophy and is a playwright, and I also work with autistic kids. I like working with the kids because they are unconditionable by society. People tell me, "Oh that's so nice that you work with those people," but I'm not doing it as charity for the handicapped. It's actually very selfish: I like working for the man with muscular dystrophy because he doesn't ask me a lot of questions. I show up to his house wearing a dress, he doesn't say anything. He lets me be whoever I want to be that day.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marty Perez.

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