Pretty Ricky’s bouncing around the coffeeshop, his phone in his hand, when he motions me over.
“I got a story for the Triad City Beat,” he informs me. It’s not the first time.
He waves the phone in my face.
“I just got 350 views on a video of me folding my laundry,” he says gesturing with the phone for emphasis. “I’m famous.”
He is famous to some degree at this nook off the corner of Walker and Elam, where he can often be found either working or hanging out or engaged in some combination of the two. And not just because he once drove through a blizzard to watch the UNCG Spartans lose in Syracuse in a play-in game for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, though that is part of it.
Pretty Ricky didn’t need to show me the video, because not an hour earlier, instead of doing actual work, I happened upon his Facebook Live feed, shot entirely from a low angle at the Suds N Duds. I watched for almost a minute — an eternity in Facebook Live time — as Pretty Ricky did his laundry and intermittently mugged for the camera while stroking his formidable chin beard.
Besides occasional sips of beer, there is literally no other content to the 20-minute film.
It is either one of the most worthless things ever submitted to the digital canon, or it is a work of accidental genius in its symbolism and reach. I am choosing to believe the latter.
The way I see it, Pretty Ricky is a purveyor of outsider performance art, his latest work descendant of the hyperreal cinéma vérité movement, or perhaps an homage to Andy Warhol’s experimental films like Sleep, which was real-time footage of one of Warhol’s friends taking a nap — for five hours.
Like many outsider artists, Pretty Ricky comes by this form quite by accident. Through the magic of Facebook’s algorithm, his work has found an audience.
And now he’s a social-media star, 365 views’ worth at last count, the sort of market penetration for which Facebook marketers are willing to pay 10 bucks.
But for Pretty Ricky, the views come free of charge.