The Automatic Human Jukebox

For many years, beginning around 1972, Grimes Poznikov entertained crowds at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf by transforming himself into the "Automatic Human Jukebox."

source: wikipedia

Some details about him from a 1975 syndicated article by reporter Philip Hager (The Spokane Spokesman-Review - Sep 14, 1975):

Grimes Poznikov is the Automatic Human Jukebox — a statement that somehow renders anything that follows it anticlimatic.

For three years, he has been delighting the throngs of visitors to Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiardelli Square, popping out of a box the size of a telephone booth to offer such selections as "Sentimental Journey," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and, inevitably, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

But even as a minor institution in a city with a deserved reputation for unorthodoxy, Grimes Poznikov, the Automatic Human Jukebox, has found himself facing an unceremonious eviction from the streets of San Francisco.

Poznikov's problem is that he has been cited for occupying a public street without a permit, a charge he intends to fight before a jury.

In recent weeks, seeking that elusive permit, he has been turned down by the city's Public Works Department, the Recreation and Parks Department, the Art Commission and, finally, the Board of Permit Appeals.

As a streetcorner jukebox, he doesn't fit into a tidy official category.

"I'm in a gray area, somewhere between a musician and a street artist," he explained. "The Public Works Department pointed out that under their rules I wasn't a building either."

The concept of the Automatic Human Jukebox occurred to him in the early '70s when he read of a poll listing "jukeboxes" as one of the things Europeans liked most about America.

During the height of the tourist season, Poznikov almost every day erects his seven-foot-high jukebox on the corner of Beach and Larkin, using a wire cord to anchor the structure to a nearby maple tree.

Passersby are invited to make a selection from a list of tunes Poznikov has mastered and drop in a coin. ("AHJ practices no economic discrimination," a sign announces. "However, quality... will vary automatically with the quantity of coins inserted.")

Few of them realize it, but Poznikov has been peering right back at the crowds who peer in at him. He occasionally takes their photographs and, as a student of psychology, he has written a scholarly paper entitled "Deinstitutionalization of Psychotherapy Through Mass Psychotherepeutic Implementation — Automatic Human Jukebox, a Case in Point."

In his paper Poznikov has recorded his observations of his customers during what he calls three years worth of "ongoing demonstration of mass psychotherepeutic implementation," noting such details as "... a five to 35 second raucous laughter follows most AJH actuations."

Passersby, he has written, first refer to the jukebox in "non-personified pronoun terms" ("it") then, upon his emergence horn in hand, they speak of it as a "living component" ("he").

Poznikov regards the Automatic Human Jukebox as an experimental art form, patiently explaining to a puzzled questioner, "I want to legitimize and advance the system of non-verbal communication... the people who come here can interact with the jukebox, participate in the process of making music."

According to wikipedia, he ended up dying homeless on the streets in 2005. His life inspired a short opera titled Broken Jukebox which premiered in Jan 2008 at College of Marin.

     Posted By: Alex - Mon Feb 21, 2022
     Category: Eccentrics | Outsiders, Marginals, the Excluded and Low-castes | Music | Performance Art | 1970s

I was there in about 1968-69 as a high school student and witnessed the "Human Jukebox" in action. When he wasn't playing, he'd close the flap on the front and wait for someone to put money in the slot and state their request. - All these years later, it's fun to see the photo and hear more of the story.
Posted by Don Griffith on 02/21/22 at 04:59 PM
He was there in '79. Hilarious when you first discovered him. Good video -- you usually couldn't see him that well, because the crowd.
Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 02/23/22 at 02:02 PM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.