Eric Trules

Eric Trules

October 6, 2004

Trules tells students to live for themselves
By Daniel Dyba
Published in the Daily Trojan, Thursday, October 7, 2004

Professor of theater spoke about life at second “What Matters to Me and Why” event.

Living for yourself even when doing so makes you feel like an outsider is what matters to Eric Trules, an assistant professor in the School of Theater, who spoke to an audience of 60 students and faculty at Ground Zero Wednesday as part of the “What Matters to Me and Why” series.

“To tell the truth, I feel a bit like an imposter today, speaking to you as a renowned academic … because in truth, I still feel like an outsider, an outlaw, an artist rebel, like a maverick … I still feel like a clown sometimes,” said Trules, as he pointed to a political campaign poster of himself dressed in clown attire when he ran for mayor in New York in 1977.

Trules became clown Gino Cumeezi, his alter ego, in the 1970s. He liked dressing as a clown because it gave him the opportunity to break societal norms, he said.

“I could do absolutely anything with anybody … I could put my leg in a cop’s hand, I could steal someone’s girlfriend or boyfriend all with a sense of humor … and it allowed me to poke fun at all the conventions that we have in society,” he said.

Trules finished “fifth out of four candidates” in the mayoral race, he said.

Not everything in life has been comedic, however. Trules was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in 1988.

It was one of “the scariest and most wonderful times in my life,” he said. It was wonderful, he said, because he gave up anger, ambition, and normal routines to discover that “what was underneath all these things I let go was love.”

Throughout his life, Trules has taken “leaps of faith” in his decisions: When he left his undergraduate studies to become a modern dancer; when he left dancing for New York without knowing what he was doing; when he became a professional clown; and when he moved to Los Angeles from New York.

Since coming to Los Angeles, Trules has acted in television and film, published a literary magazine, performed poetry, and produced an independent feature-length documentary film titled “The Poet and the Con,” about his relationship with his uncle, who is a career criminal and confessed murderer.

“I have lived a life outside convention,” Trules said.

Trules said he doesn’t believe in religion, but in personal choice and cultural differences.

Early in life, Trules followed countercultural attitudes such as Bob Dylan’s questioning of authority, Muhammad Ali’s courage to say no under pressure to conform, and John Lennon’s wisdom to realize that life wasn’t going to be a series of “hallmark card successes made.”

He went into college as a pre-med major, but in the process dropped physics three times and calculus twice. After skipping his college graduation, he hopped the Canadian border and headed to Toronto.

He said he felt over-loved by his parents and stifled by them.

“My parents were just always there for me and I could never break this leash. I felt like a dog on a leash and no matter what I did it was OK, and I need to establish myself as an independent human being,” Trules said.

“I decided that I would stop living my life to please my parents and for the first time start living my life to please myself.”

At the time, rumors circulated that he was dead or living in the wrong side of the tracks.

Now, Trules is married to an Indonesian woman 30 years his junior. Despite the gap in generational values, cultural differences and socioeconomic backgrounds, “we love each other a lot,” Trules said.

Linda Chamberlin, a junior majoring in philosophy, identified with Trules’ family background because she feels as if her parents might have loved her too much.

“Subverting social norms is presenting itself to me as an opportunity to have a little more freedom in who I am,” Chamberlin said.

Pamela DeFino, a junior majoring in philosophy, said she thought it was humble that Trules views himself as a performer and not an academic.

“What impacted me the most was the concept of being an outsider and accepting it as something not to be ashamed of,” DeFino said.