Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh Almost Died From COVID-19: His Story


As Mark Mothersbaugh lay in a Cedars-Sinai hospital bed in early June after contracting the novel coronavirus, a ventilation tube sticking into his throat to help him breathe, Devo co-founder and film composer and acclaimed television came to believe he was recovering from a vicious hit in downtown Los Angeles.”There’s a bookstore that I love over there where I find stationery supplies, and in my mind I had been there,” Mothersbaugh, 70, said Thursday afternoon, sitting on the patio of the Hollywood Hills home he shares with his wife, Anita Greenspan, and two teenage daughters. “I was convinced for about two weeks that I had been hit by a brick by someone in Little Tokyo.”

Wearing chrome-rimmed glasses, his nose and mouth covered in a black mask branded with the logo of his commercial music company Mutato Musika, Mothersbaugh touched his right temple as he recalled the experience, as if searching for a head injury.

“I felt blood being touched. I was handcuffed to a downtown parking lot. I had this whole story elaborated on how these kids sold me to an ambulance company who then received some sort of payment for delivering COVID patients to their intensive care units. I totally believed it, ”he said.

Mothersbaugh’s delusions lasted for over two weeks during his time both on and off the ventilator. In fact, the artist did not contract the virus that causes COVID-19 while shopping in Little Tokyo. He caught him commuting between his home and his offices and studios on the Sunset Strip at the end of May. His family was in Palm Springs. After testing positive, he insisted on self-isolating.

Three painful months later, Mothersbaugh and her family are back together and virus-free. His experience, he says, has been devastating. It was also unfortunately instructive, because it confirms an argument that he and his revolutionary group, Devo, have been developing for almost 50 years.

“Everything has become more decentralized than I would have imagined possible,” he said. “For anyone who doubts the reality of the coronavirus and COVID-19, this is really real.”

Mark Mothersbaugh wears Devo branded face mask and dome.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

He saw the skeptics firsthand. As he recovered at home, a house of TikTok influencers across the street threw massive parties despite the lockdown and broke the news when Mayor Eric Garcetti cut off the power to the house. property. De-evolution is also real.

Adjusting his mask, Mothersbaugh recalled the circumstances that led to his hospitalization.

He had taken the coronavirus seriously, he said. As news spread about his dangers, he had avoided studio recording sessions for the four animated films he had tagged, instead meeting to observe and consult. Yet on at least one occasion towards the end of May, while working at Mutato, he unwittingly found himself in the company of a number of people he did not know.

When the symptoms arrived a few days later, he thought his exhaustion was from juggling too many things at once. Then he took his temperature. It read 103. At first he thought he was misreading the thermometer. He told his wife and she immediately started making calls.

Mothersbaugh recalls: “A nurse came over the next morning and said, ‘You should be in intensive care.’ I said, “This is ridiculous. She replied that she had been a nurse for three decades: “You need an ambulance now.” ”

From Greenspan’s perspective, the virus has spread through her husband’s system. “He went from ‘I’m not feeling well’ Tuesday to an ambulance at Les Cèdres on Saturday. It was terrifying. She believes the nurse, Patricia Lineweaver, saved Mothersbaugh’s life.

Mark Mothersbaugh’s family contact him while he was hospitalized in Cedars-Sinai.

(Patrick Mahaney)

Mothersbaugh spent much of the next 18 days on his back, reclined in his hospital bed in the intensive care unit. Isolated, like all those infected with the virus, from everyone except essential medical personnel, he lost all sense of time and space. Tubes and machines put it in place. At one point he tried to free himself from everything attached to him and they had to secure his arms and legs.

During video calls with Greenspan and their daughters, Hui Hui, 19, and Margaret, 16, Mothersbaugh pressed them for information about the Little Tokyo brick-throwing incident. Had they found his attackers? Did they have any suspects? “Some of the illusions were very dark,” Mothersbaugh recalls. “Like, ‘Oh no, I have to get out of this place.'”

As he drifted in and out of consciousness, he recalls that “a lot of people went in on stretchers and people came out on stretchers.”

Devo, the group he co-founded at Kent State after four students were killed by members of the National Guard in 1970, has also strayed from reality.

While attached to the fan, he said, “I wrote a brand new Devo album and put on a whole show live.” In their hallucination, the group performed it on the streets of Hollywood – through the use of augmented reality. “We were standing above these projections, which were going up one way or another.”

Mark Mothersbaugh during a Devo performance.

Mark Mothersbaugh throws “Energy Dome” headwear to the crowd during a performance by Devo in Times Square in New York City.

(Bryan Bedder)

In fact, as Mothersbaugh fought for his life, in the outside world, Devo’s “energy domes,” the red flowerpot-shaped headgear the group wore in their heyday in the early 1980s, became a meme on social media. Someone in the company that makes the domes realized that another of their products, plastic face shields, could easily be affixed to the hats to create a Devo dome shield.

As the meme and virus progressed, Greenspan and their daughters kept watch through video calls.

At one crucial moment, Mothersbaugh thinks they’ve helped him stay connected to the present.

His voice growing soft, he remembered “a time when I just felt exhausted.” Like, ‘I could just be floating on this river right now, and it would be really peaceful. It wouldn’t be a panic. It wouldn’t be something I was afraid of. I could really do that. I really thought about it.

“And then it just happened that [Greenspan] called me, and she and the kids were on the phone, saying, “You’re gonna be out of here soon. Get off this machine. I don’t know if everyone is lucky enough to have someone do this for them.

Mark Mothersbaugh at home.

Mark Mothersbaugh at his Hollywood Hills home: “We are all living with a pandemic. Who would have thought? “

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

For Mothersbaugh, the message he most wants to get across is, “If you have someone you know who is in intensive care with COVID, contact them and keep them in touch with the outside world because it is easy. to lose track of your situation and Why you are. I had no idea I was on a ventilator for 10 days. Time meant nothing.

Greenspan said that when the nurses finally took the ventilation tube out of her husband’s mouth, the first thing he said was, “Has anyone seen my glasses?”

Almost two months after being released, the TikTokkers are gone and Mothersbaugh is back to work. He says he still feels some after-effects that are fading. Holding out his left hand, which is trembling slightly, he described “something with my nerves.” Worst of all, however, is the overall physical toll, which he called “frightening.”

“Before COVID, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m starting to be around 50 now, and I’m 70.’ When I was in the hospital, I felt like I was about 90 years old. And now I’m back to 70, and I’m trying to get back to 50. That’s my goal.

He says he recovered by completing a visual art project he spent decades working on, one involving his long history in postcard art. Together with artist Beatie Wolfe, Mothersbaugh launched Postcards for Democracy, which the two describe as “a protest to support the 225-year-old US Postal Service and the franchise.” The aim is to help finance the postal service before the November elections.

Sighing through his face mask, Mothersbaugh said, “I remember at the end of 2019 I spoke to someone and said, ‘You know, I think 2020 is going to be a lot better.’ It scares me a little to think about it now.

He added, with a hint of mock enthusiasm, “We are all living with a pandemic. Who would have thought? “


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