Friday, August 28, 2015

Menswear Apocalypse

Up until twenty years ago, when the word menswear came up the most common visual brought to mind were very well-groomed guys in suits, safari jackets and houndstooth slacks. Slacks, slacks, slacks, a real menswear word. Repeat after me: Haggar, Jantzen, Bally.

The pantheon of male fashion was Playboy, Esquire and GQ Magazines, manly graveyards of stiff, stodgy non-style. Every fabric was of a barfy earth tone, and on the opposite end of the spectrum when Miami Vice was the rage, colors were so alarmingly explosive, it was impossible to wear something with a modicum of modesty.

And then something funny happened: designers began taking notice of what rock musicians were wearing and incorporated this influence in their designs. Clothes looked more rock & roll in design and colors became freer, not Technicolor goofy as in the past, but tasteful.

With the advent of designers as diverse as Commes Des Garcons, Paul Smith and a few others, menswear became as challenging and as exciting as women’s fashions. Choices in menswear became more diverse, and consequently there is now a larger market with men making these choices, rather than enlisting their girlfriends to make them.

While female models were getting younger and thinner than ever, the whole Paul Newman/Sean Connery looking model was slowly getting weeded out in favor of a new male counterpart. Models like Andrej Pejic, Paul Boche and Cole Mohr were now getting major editorials and runway work, garnering huge followings in the process.

New exciting menswear magazines began popping up like Another Man, V Man, Essential Homme, Numero Homme, Fantastic Man and too many more to mention. These exciting new models could be seen in all of the aforementioned magazines.

As I stated in a previous blog title, “Once Rock Stars Looked Like Models, Now Models Look Like Rock Stars”, and the posted pictures bear this revelation out. Most of the models shown here (Erik Andersson, Dylan Fosket, Val Bird, Jaco Van den Hoven and Karl Byrne) could easily be in a rock band and garner a huge following.

What’s the significance of this? Well, once upon a time rock music was all about the packaging of a band, with cool hair and clothes being an important component. With that in mind, menswear designers have been employing the same strategy to sell fashion to young men, launching bombshells of hard rocking visuals as potent as the first New York Dolls album cover or a Supergrass CD.

The end result is that men of all ages and persuasions can enjoy fashion like they never have before, looking cool without having their girlfriends to run the show for them. This is truly Men’s Liberation at its finest, and everybody wins.

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the late, great Craig Lee, my former comrade in punk rock noise. One of my earliest memories was when he and Alice Bag approached me about joining The Bags on saxophone. I was flattered, but I didn’t really think there was a place for me in their band; it seemed pretty complete to me. I went to see them perform at The Whiskey A Go-Go just to see if I could mentally place myself in their songs.

Craig played good punk guitar and he did this odd Harpo Marx routine as he played, making these cross eyed wild Harpo Marx expressions. It wasn’t that weird if you think about it, because around that time Ron Mael was doing a Charlie Chaplin thing in Sparks and Rick Nielsen was exhuming Huntz Hall in Cheap Trick, so Craig was probably getting into the whole slapstick rock look.

At any rate The Bags were tearing it up, but I just couldn’t hear my squalling saxophone fighting itself through their sonic skronk. As a side note, my horn playing is very loud in general and many singers have a major chore singing over my sax playing, so it would have been a constant battle, anyway. Unfortunately they took my rejection personally, which wasn’t the intention, but I ended up playing with old Craig a few years later.

In 1980 I played in a band he put together called The Boneheads which also sported a gaggle of scenesters including Robert Lopez of The Zeros (aka El Vez) and Elissa Bello of The Go-Gos. It wasn’t a band that took itself too seriously, which I really enjoyed. We sounded like a cross between The Contortions and The B-52’s, very Alphabet City + downtown New York. Craig wrote most of the material, sang a lot and I thought he did a great job.

I ran off a little while later to play with someone else, but I saw Craig again nine years later at a show. It would be the last time I would ever see him, and he was unnaturally friendly - he had a tendency to be abrasive with me in the past. I didn’t know that he had medical problems, so I had no idea he was so close to leaving us.

He said the funniest thing to me. “Andy, you know, you really ought to be a writer. That’s your true calling. That’s what you really should be doing. I bet you’d be so good at it”.
Looking back, not only do I now agree with him, but there’s a touch of clairvoyance in that remark that only the dying can see. I’ve never forgotten that advice and I have even more difficulty forgetting Craig after giving me that message. That’s a send-off message I will take to the grave with me.

Friday, August 21, 2015

WRANGLERS' CANYON/CRASH WALKER Double Novel Out Now!

Meet Crash Walker: a man too obtuse for trouble, too lazy to kill anyone, and in addition incredibly boorish, self-centered and incredibly good looking enough to earn contempt from everyone he meets, especially from other men. He is the star of my double novel set WRANGLERS' CANYON/CRASH WALKER.

The western novel format is an extremely limited one. Most stories from that era are rigidly defined; they have to be, of course, since they are confined to a specific point in time. The standard western tale has been told countless times via literature, television, radio shows and motion pictures for over a hundred years. The biggest challenge for me was to write something fresh within that classic genre.

I made a concerted effort to avoid the current nouveau Western clich├ęs by drawing on a pair of disparate influences: With Wranglers' Canyon I went for a more surreal approach, so I used Alejandro Jodorowsky's classic film "El Topo" as a major influence, but more importantly I drew from the erotic horror films of Jean Rollin and Jess Franco.

As for our hero, Crash Walker, although he populates both novels, no two stories could be more different; in Wranglers' Canyon our hero is a floater, drifting between jobs as a cattle driver, ranch hand, rodeo rider, singing star, convicted criminal, ultimately promoting to Sheriff of Jonestown. He accepts the role forced on him.

In the second novel Crash Walker,which takes place 100 years later, he's a western television star in Hollywood during the post-JFK era. This time he’s the target of an ominous conspiracy to exploit him as a puppet politician propped up to serve a small Californian committee of powerful businessmen. In the second novel, unlike the first, he doesn’t accept the role forced on him.

He’s also charged with the murder of a right wing television star, making him simultaneously famous and notorious, but not quite the way he wants it. Through it all he films toy commercials, performs publicity stunts, makes public appearances, visits his mentally insane missile designer father, and dodges an even more mentally unstable ex-girlfriend.

Walker is even more of a fantasy figure in the second novel than in the first one, i.e. his name isn’t even real, it’s a showbiz name created by a casting agent. While the first novel challenges the bridge between fantasy and reality, the second one has its feet firmly planted in reality with our star earning his keep with fantasy.

TV westerns were a major pop culture force during the Sixties, putting our hero squarely in the center of the action in Hollywood, placing him at Sunset Boulevard parties, teen festivals by the beach and Hollywood movie premieres. If it happened in the Sixties then Crash Walker was most likely there.

The book you’re reading is presented in the double novel format so popular during the paperback publishing boom of the Forties and Fifties. Both novels have been joined together in one volume because in addition to starring Crash Walker they also have parallels in characterization and plot development. This was a surprising coincidence, given that both novels were written four years apart of each other.

In both novels Crash Walker responds to a whirlpool of turbulent change forced upon him by men of control, greed and societal pressure. These are tales about troubled times and the man who meets them head on.

Wranglers' Canyon/Crash Walker, Andy Seven’s double novel is available for $3.99 at all popular eBook retailers, including:
Amazon Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/Wranglers-Canyon-Crash-Walker-Seven-ebook/dp/B0149J3P8Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1440213205&sr=1-1&keywords=9781483557540
iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/wranglers-canyon-crash-walker/id1032555968?mt=11
Nook (Barnes & Noble):
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wranglers-canyon-crash-walker-andy-seven/1122574654?ean=9781483557540
Oyster:
https://www.oysterbooks.com/book/APoGRc2kxCC2tR8NZvJNtm/wranglers-canyoncrash-walker

Each website provides a short sample - about four chapters worth - of the novel for previewing before purchase so you can see what deviltry is brewing in this shiny beast.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Now Playing ABSOLUTELY FREE on You Tube - Tortured Women Edition

During the 1970's a whole slew of films documenting the unhappiness of American women proliferated, whether it was John Cassavettes' "Woman Under The Influence" or Alan Rudolph's "Remember My Name". One thing was certain, in the Seventies women were unhappier than ever and the cinema was there to document it so well.

Some of these films have finally made it in their fullest form on You Tube. One of them, That Cold Day In The Park is available on DVD, but the other two are not. Fortunately they are now available on You Tube for your viewing pleasure. They all come highly recommended.

That Cold Day In The Park (1969) - Directed by Robert Altman, this film stars Sandy Dennis as a young spinster who socializes with couples much older than her. Just when you think she's going to drown in her cobwebs she looked out her window and sees a meek-looking teenage boy sitting alone on a park bench, staying in the same spot even in the pouring rain.

She runs out to get him and gives him shelter in her apartment. He's a mute and doesn't speak, virtually behaving like a small infant (shades of The Baby!) with her bathing him and all the rest. Of course, things are never what they seem and we find out that there's more to this teen than meets the eye. Dennis progressively behaves more carnally towards this puppy boy until things take a deadly turn.

Filmed during the hoary hippie era, That Cold Day in The Park has a trashy groovy vibe about it that's dated as hell but still has that kitschy TV rock star veneer about it. Luana Anders has a great part as a Patti Smith-type hooker that raises the energy level of this mostly downbeat film.

By the way, as a side note did you know that Sandy Dennis was girlfriend to cool jazz bop genius Gerry Mulligan? What an angular silhouette they must have cut.

Looking For Mr. Goodbar (1977) - Although the only full movie version is in German you can still follow along and figure out what the hell is going on. Based on Judith Rossner's best seller, Goodbar is the disturbing story of good Irish Catholic daughter Theresa, a teacher for deaf mute children (Madonna) who prowls the discofied bars of naughty New York at night (Whore). There's some serious sexual Jekyll and Hyde hijinks afoot in this story.

By day Theresa juggles her teaching with trying to get a decent hearing aid for a sweet ghetto child, trying to gain the confidence of her protective brother (a great LeVar Burton) and arguing with social worker William Atherton (best known in Day of the Locust).

By night Theresa falls for no-good hustler Richard Gere, sleazier here than he was in Breathless, if that's possible. Before she meets Gere we see her hooking up with guys and actually charging money for her services. What a tramp! The scary part is that she's supposed to be the stable daughter in her family. Guess who plays the unstable one? You guessed it, Tuesday Weld.

I won't give the ending away, but I will say that things don't go well, and why should they, when a brazen hussy flings her quiff like a party favor? Oh well, at least the poor kid gets her hearing aid. Someone gets a happy ending.

Looking For Mr. Goodbar has never had a proper DVD release in the United States because of clearance problems regarding the heavy disco soundtrack. Basically what this means is that the DVD company would have to pay a small fortune to the songwriters and publishers for permission to use their songs in the picture. This also explains why films with rock heavy soundtracks have either taken forever to be released or not been released at all.

As a side note, director Richard Brooks co-wrote the screen play for The Killers with John Huston but never received credit for it. I hope he got paid, anyway.

Play It As It Lays (1973) - I reviewed this before a few years ago on my blog (The American Nightmare of Frank Perry). In fact, I was the one who posted this little gem on You Tube, so don't forget to subscribe.

Play It As It Lays is the story of Maria, former model and star of a 10th rate flop biker film. The unhappy wife of a wild, temperamental film director, we see Maria get an abortion, mope about the beaches of Malibu, visit her autistic son and drive endlessly down the freeway in her convertible shooting off her gun. Does any of this really lead up to anything?

Tuesday Weld is perfectly cast as the disillusioned California blonde swilling booze and popping pills with gay producer friend Anthony Perkins, reuniting them professionally for the first time since Pretty Poison. It's great seeing Perkins play a sane human being for a change. This time Tuesday's the psycho in an empty headed blonde way.

That's it. This is only a small sampling of films demonstrating women at their most tormented. What makes the these films so deft is their reluctance to simplify their subject in a Phil Donahue women-are-victims sort of way. Make no mistake, these dames are screwed up badly and are living wrecks, but that's what makes these movies so enjoyable. You want to see them wreak havoc on their lives and everyone else's, and there's no Joan Crawford quick fix happy ending going on here, either. I didn't even mention Diary Of A Mad Housewife, also directed by Frank Perry, also available on You Tube and a must see on your YT list. But anyway, watch and feel the pain, the sadness and madness of what it means to be a woman.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

We Can Go Anywhere

One of the few pleasures left on the internet without fear of reprisal or stalking is the amazing and virtually miraculous app called Google Earth. The word miracle definitely comes to mind because the fact that I can go anywhere on Earth and see what it looks like is absolutely remarkable.

Google Earth works brilliantly in concert with Mapquest in that you can quickly identify what your destination will look like before you even get there. Pretty phenomenal resources if you ask me, and anyone taking this for granted most be crazy in their rapidly decaying brain.

The application begins with a pic of planet Earth, asking you where you want to go. You type in an address and once filled in, you start flying over the planet, narrowing down to the country and over the city and into the neighborhood, taking into the street you’re looking for. This can be a little dizzying, like you’re parachuting into the location you’re looking for.

The weird part is typing in old homes and finding that many of them have been torn down to make way for some ugly Los Angeles condo. Pretty depressing. On the other hand, my last house in Providence, Rhode Island and first home in LA are virtually unchanged since the day I last lived there.

I checked out my last home in Providence, and other than the lawn being changed into some ridiculous bush pageant has been virtually unchanged since I last moved out in 1964. That’s pretty remarkable. Thanks, Google Earth!

Little House I Used To Live In
I also visited my old grammar school, Providence Hebrew Day School and realized it hasn’t been renovated a touch since I last attended there (the same time period). In a weird sense, there’s the feeling of time travel in these Google Earth travels. If your old haunts haven’t been touched since you last left them you are essentially traveling back through time to visit them again. That’s simultaneously miraculous and eerie, but that’s the bizarre miracle of Google Earth.

Another benefit to scoping out unknown areas is the ability to possibly avoid a bad neighborhood, or at the very least preventing yourself from making a bad turn at the wrong corner.

Can you imagine being invited to a party in some seedy area, like the Downtown arts district where Peter Ivers got killed, and not knowing what the building even looked like in the dark? Well, thanks to Google Earth you can print up a pic of what this dank hipster hole looks like before you get there, saving you dangerous hours of circling around some fucking loft nightmare.

So, while you’re dumping your little man figure into the landscape and sliding your slider to get a closer look at a weird storefront, just remember that you can also sit back and laugh at atrocious banalities like Kat Von D’s High Voltage Tattoo wall mural (pictured above) without attracting too much attention. Technology wins again.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Beggar's Buffet

France has made a habit of taking us Americans to task for not appreciating our hometown artists, so it’s somewhat ironic that France has finally lifted its taboo on Bernard Buffet in nearly forty years with a huge retrospective of his work. Bernard Buffet has experienced some of the most extreme highs and lows of anyone in the art world.

Buffet painted in the Expressionist style, emphasizing harsh deep lines alternating with thin, scratchy ones and using thick applications of color. His content and style was simple enough to appeal to the man on the street as well as art critics. His art hit a nerve so immediately he made millions and won awards by the time he reached his mid-twenties.

Blessed with movie star good lucks, fame and fortune, he incurred the enmity of none other than Pablo Picasso. Picasso was incensed that his children allegedly found Buffet’s art more fun to look at than Daddy’s. Picasso led a rather loud campaign against Buffet out of sheer jealousy.

He also incurred the hatred of writer Andre Malraux, Pres. Charles de Gaulle’s Minister of Culture. Malraux branded Buffet’s genius paintings as “bourgeois” = I’ll translate it for you: “He’s too fucking rich, famous and good-looking so let’s just attack him because we’re a bunch of ass-wipe snobs”.

In retaliation Buffet did something that made him an even bigger fucking king in my opinion= HE STARTED DOING CLOWN PAINTINGS! Crazy, wild, deformed looking clowns! Lots of them! Enough to piss off every art snob from Paris to Marseille. And prints of these clown paintings sold by the millions. Every French household had a Buffet clown print in the house. Bernard officially joined The Ranks of The Terminally Uncool. He was sort of the Gallic Keane.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, unfortunately, was when he broke up with his boyfriend, Pierre Berge, over a spat about Yves St. Laurent. Berge ran into the arms of St. Laurent, and Buffet in turn fell in love and married beautiful singer and actress Annabel Schwob. The art community felt he’d gone traitor by marrying a woman. Is there no French word for bisexual?

In spite of it all the French government employed Buffet to design a postage stamp and Japan opened a Bernard Buffet Museum in Osaka. He continued to paint up until he contracted Parkinson’s Disease in his seventies and lost the ability to paint. With the loss of his only passion, Mr. Buffet committed suicide by self-inflicted asphyxia in 1999.

After all the awards and millions earned does it really matter if a jealous cognoscenti badmouths the work of an unimpeachable master? Buffet struck a chord with the average Frenchman, Picasso’s kids and me. And that’s what all great art should do.

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If you haven’t seen the works of Belgian animator Raoul Servais you’re in for a treat. Every animated work is a masterpiece of sight and sound and can be dug up anytime on You Tube. This one is one of my favorites by him: it’s an animated version of Belgian surrealist Paul Delvaux’s paintings. It’s called “Papillons De Nuit” (Night Butterflies) and is absolutely dazzling to watch.

I also recommend “Siren” and Chromophobia”, but all his works are breathtaking visually and well worth your time. You won’t be sorry!