WW arrived at Sway Bar last night, Thursday, January 27, with implausibly high hopes; we had been informed that fallen celeb Gallagher--hammer swinger, melon ruiner, shirt stainer, honky Cheech Marin--was set to perform for free, on a whim, at the label party for Portland's One-Hour Pharmacy Records showcase.

This was pretty much unplanned for everyone involved, including label owner Statutory Ray, including Gallagher's Portland handler (and Portland Music Award impresario, and former Portland Beaver bidder) Craig Marquardo, and including even Gallagher himself, who seemed surprised to be alive at all. Gallagher is here in PDX because he will be a presenter at the Portland Music Awards tonight, alongside fellow sideways-at-best celebs Tom Skerritt and lesser Baldwin Daniel. He had agreed to appear for free, last night, as a bewildered favor.

Gallagher's prop comedy was never all that funny, exactly, but if we're going to be honest with ourselves, comedy has never been all that funny no matter what. Gallagher belongs to a school that includes Jerry Lewis, Howie Mandell, The Amazing Jonathan and Demitri Martin: comedians who propel themselves on mere momentum, distraction, target-marketed charisma and a sort of cultural timeliness, but who beyond their brief windows of relevance seem merely desperate. In interviews, Gallagher has not weathered his obscurity well. He has been cranky and paranoid and downright conspiracy-minded in his reactionary indictments of modern comedy, of kids these days and border jumpers.

Anyway, Gallagher refused to perform. He was, according to his manager, too stoned, and it had made him too paranoid to go on stage or to weather the usual Sway Bar crowd of strippers and stripper aficionados, and so skipped his scheduled set to instead talk to strangers on the sidewalk for more than an hour and a half. Portland flame-breather Draydin the Damned—the only flame breather to have breached the upper surface of the Hawthorne Bridge from underneath—was told to piss off after he told Gallagher that he was Draydin's inspiration at age 8 to be an entertainer; Gallagher went as far, even, to insult and discard the watermelon hat that Draydin's wife had painstakingly made, on a rushed schedule, for his appearance.

After announcing that Gallagher would not appear, Statutory Ray invited anyone who wanted to leave, to leave, but no one left; instead Ray plied his DJ skills on the tables, which he mans daily at Sassy’s and the Acropolis. In the meantime, two charming young girls named Delaney and Paris (real names, penned by moms and dads), who billed themselves as DP, sang dirty acoustic songs in perfect harmony and meter: “Doesn’t matter if you’re white or Asian/ Or of the Latino persuasion/ Pumpin’ them uglies feels so amazin’/So fuck my ass and cum in my face/Then smear my feces all over the place.” It was an oddly articulate burlesque, devoid of come-hithers or flirtation; they sang as if they were thirteen years old and had just attended their first awful folk-singer orgy and wanted to tell you about it. The effect was charming, disarming, sexy only in the way that girls that read books are sexy, even as they promised to fuck everyone in the bar, even as they admonished  hipsters that “there’s nothing cool about a Hitler mustache.”

Unfunny comics shouted, bands played. It was all denouement. Gallagher wouldn't perform. He ordered hamburgers from neighboring Star Bar and ate them outside. He insulted fans and chatted up strangers. He lived, perfectly, up to the expectations of anyone who's read an interview of his in the past five years who expected a witty, bitter, slightly spent old man who has had to suffer the indignity of suing his own brother just to maintain his own good name. Which is to say, we really liked him, and eagerly look forward to his PMA berth, which we hope will rival Ricky Gervais' droll, self loathing and deeply inappropriate puncturings at the Golden Globes.

Just for fun, some Gallagher career highlights, soon to be released in better detail in book form, courtesy of his handler Marquardo:

  • By roundabout way, Gallagher is the only reason that Comedy Central exists. You see, Viacom had spent so much money buying 16 of his then-popular comedy specials—with a cool million for the final—that they had to start a whole network to justify their investment. Jon Stewart says thank you for the career.
  • Gallagher’s first comedy special was directed, inexplicably, by REM’s Mike Nesmith.
  • Before every set Gallagher ever played on the tonight show, Jay Leno made a point of whispering in his ear, “Props are the enemy of comedy,” as if Jay Leno himself were not the enemy of comedy.
  • David Letterman and Gallagher used to try out their new comedy routines together only at lesbian bars, so that other comedians would not steal their routines.

Related, kind of: Watch video of our intrepid red carpet reporters Jay Horton and Sarah X. Dylan accost PMA 2010 nominees, attendees and Daniel Baldwin last year here and here.