Last night I decided to swing by Pete’s Candy Store (709 Lorimer Street) in Williamsburg to check out performance artist Iron Man. On every Tuesday evening in July, James Hook is ironing your finest, and his own, in a display that encourages participants to pit the patriarchy against the matriarchy and even examine feelings about slavery and servitude. The one-man show is literally a dude standing in a bar steam ironing clothes under a tabletop spotlight while folks sit around drinking PBR’s, eating grilled cheese sandwiches and paying little attention. But with the steam rising through the single light source, the result is actually somewhat dramatic, and affecting.
I brought two items for Iron Man to work on—a large modern shirt dress and a 1960s Hawaiian shift dress. I’d ripped the hem out of the latter to lengthen it and wanted him to iron out the crease that’s been there for 50 years. Iron Man is personable, happy to chat with you about your ironing needs and even assist with a polite therapy session. He’s an ideal servant, welcoming and willing to do whatever needs done. Part of the performance is music—he wears headphones while ironing to get him into the zen zone. But the audience can choose what track he listens to—when you drop off your items he asks what you want to play. He has a couple extra pairs of headphones so you and a friend can follow as he presses on.
I really wanted to hear Prince but because he was playing songs through Spotify (where Prince’s music is unavailable), I chose Sheila E.’s “The Belle of St. Mark”–which Iron Man said he actually really enjoyed. Then he picked two songs of his own: a classical track, followed by some minimal techno.
Spending time with Iron Man reminded me what I’m missing from my relationships with the service people in my life. I rarely chat with the woman who does my laundry; though she remembers my name I don’t know hers. And I’m usually so wrapped up in either a hangover or the stress of the morning to ask the guy at the bagel counter how his day is going. When you get your items pressed by Iron Man, he makes an earnest attempt to form a kinship with you. You’re united by the music you’re listening to, and bonding over the satisfaction of a freshly pressed garment.
You can catch Iron Man’s final performance next Tuesday at 9pm; he says the finale will involve “child labor”. Bring clothes for him to press, and hangers. If you’d like him to iron the shirt off your back, he provides robes. And unlike everyone else in this town, he’s offering the service for free.