Friday, February 29, 2008

Best Friends Gone Wild!

Picture this: You're hanging out with your friend of 2 years, you guys go to bars, you check out girls, you hang out at parties and fraternize like all cool guys do, and then at some point you're alone and he turns to you and says with sincere sincerest sincerity, "You know, Andy, you've got a cute little ass and I'd like to get inside of you". NOOOOO! Either a kiss or a fondle is aimed to seal the deal, Oh! did I mention they're stone-cold sober? So it ain't Jack Daniels getting their gay on. And you just want to shrivel up and disappear? Well, it's happened to me a few too many times.

1) Friend Number 1: What didn't we experience together? We played in a band together, I'd hang out with him and his girlfriend at all the clubs, I consoled him like all bros do after his girl bailed on him, we did all the cool guy things, and then it happened. I moved in with a girl and lived at her place, but when she left for the weekend Friend #1 came by. We were in the kitchen and I had my back turned, pouring him a drink, and then WOOF! He put his hands on my hips and kissed my neck.
"HEY!" I jumped 2 feet. It was an apartment kitchen. That's as far as you can jump.
"Dude, I was only kidding!"
"That's not a joke and after you finish your drink I have to boil my neck, so drink up and fuck off".

2) Friend Number 2: Although this guy put out some of the records I recorded, who knew? He was married with grown kids, had girls hanging out with him all the time, but he was different with me. We drank together (he apparently never drinks, so they tell me), we'd go to clubs together (he talked to a lot of girls), and then one day I came over and saw my picture up on his bedroom wall. Last year I heard he left his wife for a famous artist and moved to a house in the Northwest where his homosexual escapades can be held in private. His ass-play hot tub parties have been the stuff of indie rock legend.

3) Friend Number 3: May be the worst because this one is a girl, a platonic girl friend. She was a sort-of pretty tomboy who always wore boots and pants with short blonde hair and clear blue eyes. A butch cigarette always hung out of her mouth. I hung out with her all the time while she dated every top show dog on SST Records. Once again I consoled her every time she broke up with a guy, but it was strictly mates, not dates. Once my band became popular and getting heavy airplay on KXLU who should come to my shows in a dress, hair grown out and full make-up on but Friend Number 3? She was on a fuckhunt and I was a wabbit. I tried to palm her off on my horny guitarist but she wanted the top bitch in the band = me. Once you've been platonic with someone it's hard to imagine her in your bed, even if she looks like Priscilla Barnes in her prime.

NOW! You might hate me for outing my friends for getting gay on me, but here's the punchline. When I spurned their advances, they didn't go home crying in their beer, this is what they did:

Friend #1 badmouthed me to every musician in town, he said I wasn't serious about playing music anymore, I was a Westside fake and a big domestic and totally pussy-whipped by my girlfriend.
Friend #2 went further than that. After I got married he stopped speaking to me and avoided me at every art show we'd run into and told everyone that my wife and I were homeless and living on the street. And people were dumb enough to believe it.
Friend #3 came to my wedding party but not without giving my wife a load of attitude, and surprise, also stopped speaking to me soon after.

If someone wants some gaytime playtime, count me out, do a little research into my sexual history before you assume I'm ready to swing, because an unwelcome pass will change me from Marc Bolan to a drunken truck driver. My crotch does not say "go".

Friday, February 22, 2008

Butcher Boy

I confounded my old man's expectations when I blew off college and decided to go to work full time. Since I had low self-esteem, instead of getting an administrative clerk's position which I would have excelled at, I went for something low and menial. I got a job as a delivery boy.
I had a halfway decent car that could get me around, so I applied for the nearest business in the neighborhood. It was a kosher butcher shop, Zimmerman's Meats, run by Morty Zimmerman, a gaunt man with a pot belly and a mustache that looked Hitlerian. His behavior was fairly Hitlerian, but I needed money, bad.
Zimmerman was cranky and acted like he was always on the rag, and looked it too with his bloody butcher's smock.
"Sevrin!" he yelled at me. "Mrs. Scheinblum of Cashio Street ordered five pounds of brisket. Here's twenty dollars and make sure you get exact change. Did you hear me, Sevrin?"
"I'm on my way!" I grabbed the twenty and the pink wrapping paper of five pounds brisket.
Twenty minutes later I came back with exact change for Zimmerman. Zimmerman was chopping wings off chicken bodies, and stopped to look at me. The first thing that came out of his mouth was, "Nu, how much did she tip you?"
"She tipped me fifty cents", which was normal back then. A pound of meat was only two dollars fifty cents.
"That cheap son of a bitch!" he yelled. "Only fifty cents. God damn it!"

Zimmerman was punk rock before there was punk rock. He showed me the ropes at depositing the store take for the week by walking with me to the bank across the street. Zimmerman didn't give two shits about propriety, he kept his bloody apron on. There we were in line, me frightened young yid-mod alongside Jewish hitler moustache with a bloody apron stinking of dead flesh, the customers moving far away from us in line. Zimmerman was oblivious to his effect on the crowd.
"Now listen, if they offer you a glass tea with cookies you tell them Mister Zimmerman has more meat you HAVE to deliver", he hissed so loudly you could hear him in Calabassas. "Take the money and get the fuck out", his voice rising with Semitic rage, people parting away from us even more.
I was disgusted by him, but then I lifted my arm and realized I had dead cattle and chicken stink on me, too. We both had the stink! I looked down at my shoes and noticed the reddish-brown hue of dried blood, too.
"Look, Sevrin", he went back to hissing, "The next assignment when we get back I have for you is you're going to hose the floor and I want you to sponge the freezer, then we have to prepare for the Shabbos rush!"
The teller waved us over with a terrified look on his face and took the cash. I think I worked for Zimmerman for two months and finally I got tired of taking scalding showers that barely got the bleeding meat smell off me. Zimmerman hated paying me anyway, I think that's why he threw a pisspot tantrum over my tips. I don't think he missed me and I KNOW I didn't miss him.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Einsturzende Neubauten

The hottest punk band from Germany in the early Eighties was called MDK (Mechanik Destruktiv Kommando) and they had a great song called “Werewolf” and they had a blazin’ skronk sax player. I saw them play at a cool gay bar in Echo Park, when such things were done, called the Other Side. I thought they were wicked.

MDK disappeared and the next big thing from Germany was an industrial band that combined no-wave anti melodies with power tools blasting in the background for percussive and extra sonic dissonance. The band looked like lager-gutted construction workers named Horst and were fronted by an emaciated jumbo haired glam-fop junkie creep named Blixa Bargeld. They were called Einsturzende Neubauten. Translated in English it’s “Collapsing New Buildings”. Scheiss!

I heard they were the opening act for a bogus glam act from England called the Specimen at a forthcoming show in Pasadena at an old-time theatre called Perkins Palace. I wanted to see the boys from Berlin but didn’t have any interest of sitting through a clownish drag-pop joke like Specimen. What would you do?

Half a day later I got a call from Ella, my platonic girlfriend. We met at the Dick Grove School of Music in North Hollywood, a jazz music school where we shared classes in Music Theory and Harmony (Harmony is the science of building chords, Theory is basically the study of everything else). We tried to make a go of being lover boy and girl but it didn’t work out. When we kissed she had the coldest lips of any girl I’ve ever kissed, and she even smelled like an aquarium. When she told me her sign was Pisces the Fish I wasn’t surprised.

When she was in Europe she met Neubauten and got to be chummy with them, so on the day of the show she got a frantic phone call from them, asking her in their 1st grade Englisch if she had a chainsaw they could borrow. Ella said her Daddy had a well-stocked tool shed, but needed a hot thug to carry the Makita for her. “Do you want to go to the show with me? We’ll get in for free”, she said.

“Yeah, let’s go!” I said, my inner hot thug emerging from my wiry wood-worker’s frame.

3 hours later: We got out of Ella’s car with her carrying little V8 tomato juice style canisters of petrol while I carried the heavy chainsaw that didn’t have a case nor a blanket around it. As we made our way past the goth crowd standing in line waiting to get in I glanced over and saw the most terrified vampire kids I’ve ever seen. Haven’t they ever seen a 6 foot tall hot thug carrying an enormous chainsaw in the middle of Old Town Pasadena in the dead of night before? Poseurs!

We walked up to the backstage door and saw an even more nervous bouncer in front.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, where do you think you’re going with that thing?” the bouncer barked.
“The band requested a chainsaw for their show”, Ella responded.
“No way. Is this a joke?”
“No, we’re on the list. This thing’s pretty heavy. Could you get somebody in the band to pick this up right now?”
The bouncer called for another guy. “Hey, Smitty!”
Smitty walked over and did a horrified double-take at the ominous tool in my hands. “What the fuck is that?”
“They say the band requested the chainsaw for their show?”
“Uh…are we insured for this?”
“Fuck, I don’t know…get those Germans”, he yelled. A minute went by and there was nervous silence. “Do these guys play music?”
“Yeah”, I quipped, “but they might build a table by the end of the show”.
The bouncer gave a sarcastic, nervous laugh. Three minutes later and 2 perky guys from the band showed up.
“Ella, Ja, you brought der tools!” they laughed. “Gut! You are die freundlich gut!” they grabbed the chainsaw from my aching arms.

Showtime: The band took the stage and while guitars and basses were howling other guys from Neubauten were manning noisy power drills and circular saws with sparks flying all over the stage. For their (what ended up being their) last number, the chainsaw finally got pulled out and growled all through the next noise-fest. The fans were on their feet and tearing their poorly dyed hair out and screaming. Finally a fire broke out on stage and the band’s amps and mikes got turned off and the curtain closed on them. Everybody went crazy. Specimen were fucked; they couldn’t follow this – nobody could! And I was a part of musical history…AGAIN.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Alleycats

Well, it seems like 100 years ago, but I’ll try to remember. I was putting together a show at Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco and I needed to talk to the Berlin Brats. I didn’t have anyone’s number but they were playing the Whisky A Go-Go on a Tuesday night. As I walked into the club I heard what was the most incendiary guitar playing I’ve ever heard, abrasive acidic tones with the most fluid lines ripping out of a small Fender Twin-Reverb amplifier.

Looking up, I saw the strangest trio on the elevated stage. The bass guitarist looked like a Chinese-American Ronnie Spector, and the drummer looked very wholesome, a Shakey’s pizza delivery boy who just stopped by to play drums; he really, really liked his roto-toms. He had many of them set up and used them quite a bit. The guitarist looked like an emaciated Martin Sheen, and when he opened his mouth to sing he had the voice of a pissed-off Popeye. He sounded exactly like Popeye. The band was called The Alleycats.

I quickly forgot about the Berlin Brats and gave these guys my total attention. I liked the way they didn’t acknowledge current musical styles yet exuded it completely. The true sign of cool is when you exude your own style without being a slave to whatever’s current or mandatory. They had it. At the end of their set they handed out flyers to their next show, the Fleetwood in Long Beach.

I went to the Fleetwood the following week and missed their set. I saw Randy, the guitarist and his bassist Diane in the parking lot. They stood in front of their 1970 Chevy Suburban talking to some fans. The first thing that struck me about them both is that off the elevated stage they were incredibly short, at least 5’2” both of them.

“Hey”, I said, “You guys are The Alleycats. I saw you play the Whisky in Hollywood. Great show! What time are you guys going on?”

Randy’s eyes got really big, “Oh, we already played, you missed us”, he said in his Popeye voice.
“That’s a drag”, Diane said with a cigarette in her hand. She reached in the trunk of the car and pulled out a box of Vanilla Wafers. “Want some Vanilla Wafers?”
“Diane, do we still have coffee? Get the thermos, I want some coffee”.
While Diane was hunting for the thermos with the cigarette now hanging from her lips, I told Randy, “Hey, do you guys play Hollywood much?”
“No, that was a last minute thing, we don’t get too many jobs down there”.
“Well, I’ve been getting some shows together at the Masque, this punk rock club in Hollywood. I’ll bet you guys would go over great there”.
“Do we have to do a lot of covers?” Diane asked, handing Randy the thermos she finally found.
“Oh”, I laughed, “that’s right, you guys play a lot of covers. Uh, no, it’s not important if you do”. Their taste in covers was pretty conservative: I remember a lot of Elvis (Jailhouse Rock sung by Randy, Hound Dog sung by Diane), Rolling Stones (Under My Thumb sang by both of them, Satisfaction sang by Diane), etc.
“I’ll set it up for you, it’s not a pay-to-play gig, either. Here’s my number…”
“Andy…from…Hollywood….Two…one…three…six…” Randy very slowly wrote it down.

From that point on whenever I’d phone I was called “Andy from Hollywood”. Weird, I’m so not Hollywood, but to a weird rock couple from Lomita I was absolute Hollywood. That’s another thing, Randy and Diane lived in a weather-beaten house with some of the tallest weeds I’ve ever seen in funky Lomita, California. There was a crapped-out speed boat in the back yard, long gone from any Hemingway-like nautical expeditions. I’d come over for guitar lessons (I think I paid Randy $10 per lesson) and he taught me how to play badass guitar like him. They were the best music lessons I’ve ever had, and I’ve been to LACC and the Dick Grove School of Music. Of course there was coffee, Vanilla Wafers and Top Ramen. Lots of Top Ramen.

So, I got them into the Masque, but first they had to play 3 grueling nights at Gazzarri’s. They only played two, and actually got paid to not play the last night after the club saw how weird and “un-cool” they looked. Once they played the Masque everybody took them as their favorite band. Shows with tons of punk bands like X and The Last soon followed, including an attempt by the Go-Gos to steal Diane from the group to join them (she declined), and they even played the legendary Elks Lodge riot, where the LAPD brutally attacked hundreds of innocent punks from inside the dance hall. They even had a shot at a punk concert movie called “Urgh! A Music War”, which also starred Gary Numan, Devo, and The Police.

What went wrong? Well, they signed with Ratt’s manager, Diane moved in with him, they changed their name to something forgettable called The Zarkons, and made a couple of turgid records for MCA and Atlantic. Drugs got bigger and bigger in their lives until they stepped into the darkness and disappeared, and maybe if Andy from Hollywood hadn’t walked in and changed their lives they’d still be chugging coffee and playing Elvis covers in a Wilmington bar somenites.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Stuff I Burned From FLIX

Well, it’s all fine and dandy to bemoan movies not released to DVD from the 1940s and 1950s but what about films from the last 20 years? The prints are still in swell condition so what’s holding up their release? They look pretty darn good on FLIX, the movie channel. Here’s three:

The Woman Chaser (1999): Charles Willeford’s hipster crime novel is a hoot but the film version ups its larf-quotient by infusing a large dollop of deadpan humor. The main character is an insane boor with cinema auteur aspirations, played brilliantly by Patrick Warburton who bears more than a passing resemblance to Oliver Stone, haha. What is the director trying to tell us here? The film was shot in color and transferred to black-and-white, and I own both versions on DVD. Thank God for the grey market.

Exposed (1983): Nastassia Kinski plays a farm girl move to the New York City to become supermodel who skyrockets to the top of the fashion world, only to find herself seduced by international terrorists a la Patty Hearst. Whew! The terrorist is played by Harvey Keitel and the vigilante terrorist hunter is played by an overdressed, delicate and lisping Rudolph Nureyev. The only bomb that goes off in this film is the movie itself. If you catch this bomb on FLIX you’ll see why Kinski was pretty box-office poison.

Bandwagon (1996): Great film about a scuffling band from the deep South going on tour across Clubland USA. The music isn’t bad and the guys in the group are actually likeable (for a change). The main attraction is Kevin Corrigan, great as always, playing the spaced-out guitarist. Most rock band comedies are too cool for the room but you’ll actually care about these fuckers.