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Butterfly Man 02-13-08 02:36 AM

I'm dead, before the fact
Legendary street performer, Robert Nelson AKA The Butterfly Man has finally died.

In the early days of San Francisco’s Pier 39, "The Butterfly Man" quickly established himself as the quintessential example of generic comedy-jugglers. This fact alone allowed him to become the subject of numerous street performance videos that never made any money for him or anyone else.

For a short period in the mid-‘80’s, Robert became famous amongst a small group of itinerants and beggars who generally did some sort of commonplace display for tips. As “The Butterfly Man”, he peaked in ’86 during a Renegade midnight show in Akron, Ohio. During the ‘90’s, he received many awards that were mostly given to him out of pity.

Throughout his career, Robert had the reputation of being good with hecklers. In 2004 he authored a book entitled “Read Between the Lines” that was stolen by a gay guy.

Robert quit street performing in 2005, just before he became too pathetic to watch. He spent his final days in Hawaii smoking pakalolo and living off his wife’s meager flight attendant salary.

In lieu of donations, the family has requested all contributions be sent to “Eli” who usually hangs out in Pahoa around sunset and always wears the same hat.

FYI: Robert’s butterfly tattoos will soon be available on eBay... they will be sold separately. For details, please contact his son, Koleman, at 408 455 2471.

Dan Holzman 02-13-08 12:56 PM

overcome with grief
I am amazed to see how little Robert's death has effected the street performer community. I know he was not that popular, and his show was pedestrian at best, but come on people show some respect. Sure he was a burn out waste of space at least three years before his so called retirement, but that's no reason not to remember that sometimes the man had some very good weed.
I send my my best wishes to his widow, and hope she feels well enough soon to don a skimpy bikini, and take some tastefull shots of her spreading Robert's ashes around his favorite place on the Island ( The 7-11 in Hilo)
I like to report that Robert's death has freed up some great original material that could be spread out amoung the buskers who knew him, but that would would taint his passing with the stench of untruth, and I cared too much about the man to let that happen. In closing I would like to say "Rest in Peace funny Man", but I am forced to cut out the" funny man" part so people will know who I am talking about.
Aloha Bro,

Rachel Peters 02-13-08 01:13 PM

pooping on the party
guys, i didn't like it when scot did it about robert, and i also don't like robert or anyone else doing it about themselves.
my heart always palpitates a little when i see a name i know in the "curtain calls" thread and i don't like joking around with it.
maybe i'm just a stuffy, old, naggy sack who has no sense of humour and an enormous fear of other people's deaths, but it feels tainted with mock obituaries. even about one's self. sorry, bug man. sorry, dan.

jeep caillouet 02-13-08 01:58 PM

I hope I didn't scare him to death in our little cat fight last week. Jeeze ,now I feel bad. Sorry Buterflyman we'll mis ya.

Butterfly Man 02-13-08 02:14 PM

he's saved
This ain't no joke. I am going soon, the doctors will tell me how long I have left tomorrow.

It weird to be told you are dying when you feel great. I don't look that bad at all, really. If it wasn't for the lump in my neck, I'd look like I always have, bald, big nose and all.

The strange thing is, I also feel good. My writing has energized my life and I'm getting a kick and a half immortalizing some of you. I'm also getting better at it, I can tell.

I sure hope I get to finish some rewrites before I get too sick because some of my early stuff sucks.

I guess that's gonna happen, isn't it? Getting sick, that is. I'm not looking forward to that part. My advise would be to stay away from me when I do because I can be such an asshole even when I'm feeling good.

Just remember me every time you see a poor butterfly that is pinned to a board somewhere. I kinda see that as a metaphor for my life, Gazzo being the pin.

The Butterfly Man
AKA Robert A. Nelson III
Sept 16, 1949 - (fill in the blank Jim) August 27, 2012 (--Edited by Jim--)

remy 08-27-12 08:47 PM

you were one of the first people to teach me anything about performing. You were awesome.

Jim 08-27-12 09:14 PM

I guess it's a good thing I didn't delete or move this thread back when Robert first posted it. It always made me uncomfortable, though.

Farewell, for real, my good friend. You will be missed.

scot 08-27-12 09:26 PM

Time to add that date, Jim.

He was probably the happiest and saddest person I've ever met. I'm glad he died after he perfected life.

I blame Gazzo

jeep caillouet 08-27-12 10:14 PM

R.I.P. Butterflyman Godspeed to your next adventure.

Dan Holzman 08-27-12 10:47 PM

A little less laughter in the world
In 2008 Robert had posted that he had passed on, and it was easy for me to roast him because he was still around to read what I had written. We both enjoyed our mock battles here on because we knew that behind the jests and jabs was a mutual friendship and admiration.
This post is not quite so easy for me to write now that he is really gone, I will have to leave the jokes and insults behind and write what I honestly felt about him. I first met Robert and saw him perform when I was 16, and very quickly along with Micheal Davis and Kris Kremo he became one of my juggling heros. Robert was a fearless force of nature on the streets, a story teller of the first order, and a juggler who's memory will live on as long as there are props to catch and hats to pass.
RIP Butterfly Man

gav 08-28-12 01:30 AM

He was an inspiration to me when I was just a teenager starting out, one of the few street performers at that time that was actually encouraging.
I hope he went in his sleep like he wanted.
A true legend.

Stephon 08-28-12 05:57 AM

Watching Robert perform during his season at the MD Renaissance Festival taught me more about comedy, bravery, artistic grace, and variety entertainment than I have learned from any other performer.

Peter 08-28-12 09:17 AM

I went back and looked at his video on his site. I am a battle hardened Marine, but I'll admit I broke down and cried like a child. His ending poem always meant so much to me.

It matters not
The job you’ve got
as long as you do it well

Now things well made
By plans well laid
The test of time will tell

But you can not count
Or know the amount
of the value of a man

By the show displayed
Or the beauty made
By the touch of the juggler's hand

Stoned 08-28-12 12:27 PM

That really is sad news :(

unklesteve 08-28-12 01:40 PM

Dammit, Robert.


dave walbridge 08-28-12 04:08 PM

A ruff man with a heart of gold; he taught many, many of us.

jugglerjosh 08-28-12 05:51 PM

RIP Mr. Robert Nelson
Well, RIP Mr. Robert Nelson.

Thanks for writing me for a while as street performer and organizer post 9/11.

You kept me hopeful and many heads were down.

Sincerely, Josh Weiner from NYC.

jugglerjosh 08-28-12 05:52 PM

Thanks for posting.

Also on STRIDER Juggling Video.

Marcus Wilson 08-29-12 09:43 AM

He Was Brilliant
The funniest show I ever saw was a late night renegade show at an IJA fest. I'm not going to try to describe it because I wont be able to do it justice. He was the emcee and was the reason it was so good. In a room full of professional performers he was the guy everyone wanted to watch.

His posts on this site were hilarious. I'm going to miss reading them. He was brilliant and one of my favorite performers. I'm really sad he's gone

nick nickolas 09-06-12 07:42 PM

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