Thursday, March 27, 2008
If rock ‘n roll wants to enter the mainstream and be taken seriously as an art form, then fine, but you have to bear in mind that once that happens things like awards, tuxedos and banquets arise from that serious mess. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a fine example of what happens to trashy entertainment that decides it’s heavy business.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (televised on VH1) is a train wreck, a plane wreck, and a car wreck complete with flying roadkill. Every culture hero you looked up to in the past will eventually show up at these ceremonies and show how drained they are of any significance whatsoever.
While it was heartening to watch John Fogerty aka Grampa Feedback introduce the Ventures, things later ground to a dead halt when bitter Lou Reed showed up to introduce awardee Leonard Cohen. For a man who insists on being taken seriously as a songwriter, Reed shows little respect for anyone else’s work. He read Cohen’s lyrics with very little expression or verve. Cohen’s speech wasn’t terribly funny, but considering how grim his songs are that came as no surprise. Rather than perform his own songs, some Starbucks minstrel covered a Cohen tune instead.
John Mellencamp, the awardee with the most unmemorable name that night, looked like Tweedledee the carnival midget sporting an Elvis pompadour toupee. His speech was interminable and was followed by an equally interminable medley of his Eighties trailer park anthems. I think I would rather serve a year in prison under solitary confinement than take orders from him in a band. He looked very angry and full of his tiny self.
Sucking up more schedule time was Madonna, who accepted her award quoting Kabbalah and other cosmic crap, and her speech lasted so long it felt like a college lecture. Instead of doing her customary Broadway hooker schtick Iggy & the Stooges covered “Burning Up”, Iggy coming off like Kevin Bacon playing the Flying Dutchman. When the bass guitarist proudly kicked his leg up in the air I could feel the air whistling out of this shit soufflé. Soon drummer Scott Asheton fell apart in the middle of the song, so Ron Asheton busted into a noise-jazz guitar solo that ruined an already awful song.
The worst was saved for last: Tom Hanks came aboard (Madonna, Mellencamp, Tom Hanks, it was so fucking Eighties I had the puke chills) and gave a long, unfunny Baby Boomer account of discovering the British Invasion to introduce the mediocre racket that was the Dave Clark Five. Super-creep Dave Clark accepted his award looking every bit as sinister as his reputation. He had the most satanically arched eyebrows I’ve ever seen, arched so high Anton Szandor LaVey would spin in his grave in Hell out of jealousy. Actually, Clark looked like a marionette that’s been melted and then thrown in the spin-dry cycle for three days. Singer-songwriter Mike Smith died a week before the awards ceremony, and if it wasn’t for Smith old DC would be picking up litter in Hyde Park.
The topper of course was the final jam session on Dave Clark Five tunes, led by 80s has-been Joan Jett, mugging like Liza Minelli on a date with Bela Lugosi. Other 80s casualties chimed in, like Late Night chimp Paul Shaffer, Billy Joel, Mellencamp and his fiddler (uh, yeah, lots of fiddle on Dave Clark Five songs!), Hanks sang backup, and Baby Boomer deadbeat Chevy Chase was seen boppin’ in the audience.
If this nightmarish puppet show is the bottom line when it comes to giving rock music the respect it thinks it deserves, then some art forms should remain misunderstood. Sometimes "understanding" creates soul-crushing compromise, so keep the mystery alive.
Friday, March 21, 2008
The big punk rock thing to do for the kids at the Masque was to move into a decrepit old apartment building in the center of Hollywood called the Canterbury (as in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales). I really needed a place to stay because my back ached from sleeping too many nights on the floor at the Masque. The most eventful things there never happened on weekends, they would happen on Tuesday mornings. Like this one Tuesday morning, there was a knock on my door.
“Andy, I need your help”, Rick said desperately with a fix in one hand and a tourniquet in the other. Rick was a quiet punk who hardly ever talked to me, well! He hardly ever spoke to anyone. When I saw the loaded fix I practically jumped.
The door was ajar while he held the packed works.
“Close the door!” I hissed. “Jesus, get in already!”
He slammed the door. “Look, this is the plan. I’ll tie up while you plunge the fix in, okay?”
My apartment window overlooked a parking lot for Love’s Barbecue, heavily frequented by police cars, of which SEVERAL were parked by my window.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah”, I freaked, “cool, baby, let’s take this in the bathroom where the COPS, like outside the window, CAN’T SEE us”.
He doddered into the bathroom with me, careful not to upset the works. “Okay! When you see my veins swell and throb, plunge it right in. Here!”
He handed me the needled plunger and pulled on the polka-dot scarf around his arm with his teeth as tightly as humanly possible. The veins bulged out of his arm like purple snakes. I felt sick just looking at this.
“NNNNGGGG! C”mon!” He roared with the material in his maw.
I hesitated at sticking the needle in. I never did this crap in my life. How deep should I go? What if I waste the expensive junk by not getting it in completely?
“Okay, okay”, I paced a little in place. “Give me a second, I gotta think about this”.
“NNNGGGG!!!” he pulled harder on the scarf and breathed heavily.
“HEY!” I barked. “Time out! Let’s switch, yeah let’s switch, Rick. You plunge and I’ll tie, I’m a good tie guy”.
We switched. I pulled hard on the scarf as he plunged the needle in, and I saw the switch from junk to blood enter the dropper. Blood never makes me faint but I almost did this time. It creeped my ass out.
“Bitchen, Andy”, Rick grinned, “I knew I could count on you. Thanks, man, Next time I’ll save some for you, I’m a little short today”. He edged towards the door.
“Thanks”, I gagged, “I’ll remember that”.
As soon as he left I double-locked the door like an old lady biddy grandma.
The rent was due and a single apartment back then went for $150 a month. Since I was out of work and assisting fuckface junkies on weekdays for free $150 may as well have been $500, 000. I had two gigantic PA speakers in storage (4 feet tall each) I remembered that weren’t being used so I decided to put them up for sale. The looks I got when I wheeled them through the lobby and up to my place were priceless.
“Andy, playin’ a show at your place tonight?”
“Yeah”, I joked, “didn’t you get the flyer?”
Until I sold the speakers I may as well put them to work, so I hooked my PA speakers up to my stereo. It was like hearing intermission records at the Hollywood Bowl or the Greek Theatre, and the neighbors never complained, because they were illegals who played their cha-cha-cha ranchero shit at ear splitting volume, too.
One day I was walking by the Masque and Holly was hanging out.
“Andy!” Holly yelled. We hugged and then I said the inevitable.
“Hey, Holly”, I said quietly, “what are you doing right now?”
“Who wants to know?”
“Hang out with me for awhile. I’ve got some records I want you to hear”, I smiled and then she smiled.
We got to my place. “Cool speakers!” she laughed. The speakers were so large they went all the way up to my Murphy bed with little room to get to the kitchen and bathroom.
“Get on the bed and I’ll put something on”, I ran over to the stereo and put on Kraftwerk, not too sexy, but powerful out of those big speakers. I got back on the bed and we both lay there on our stomachs.
The music began, rhythm machines and synthesizers booming out of the 4 foot speakers in our faces, our hair bouncing on our heads from the vibrations of sound. DUT-DUT-DOOT-DUNN! BOW-BOP-A-DOOP!
“WE-ARE-THE ROBOTS! DOOT-BOP-A-DOOT! WE-ARE-THE ROBOTS! DOOT-BOP-A-DOOT!”
“Well, Andrew”, Holly purred, “That’s a quite a punchy bass frequency”.
The walls trembled from the music bouncing off the walls. We both started laughing from the vibrations tickling us from the PA. I got real quiet, tapping my foot to the music, and glanced at her. She looked at me with that “What are you waiting for, sailor?” look.
I turned closer and kissed her, she kissed me sweetly and we continued handling each other to the strains of thunderously loud Teutonic techno.
I was watching TV on a Sunday night and people were yelling loudly in the hall, nothing new for this place, but this time doors were getting banged on. My door got banged on quickly.
“WHAT?” I yelled. The hallway smelled badly and was bathed in smoky red light.
“FIRE!” a fat black woman yelled at me.
To the left of the hallway the sofa that had been sitting there for 3 months was on fire, and the flames spread. People were running around, screaming, the alarm bell was deafening, and I ran back in.
QUICK>QUICK>QUICK, what will I take with me? I immediately grabbed my saxophone and a painting I did of a boy pulling a spitting cobra out of his zipper. I raced out the safe side of the hallway thinking, gee, I hope my neighbor Pat’s okay. Pat played saxophone, too and lived next door and like to dress like The Invisible Man, bandages and all, when he performed. The flaming sofa was right by his front door! I ran out to the parking lot and looked up at my apartment window to see if my place caught on fire. Much to my horror Pat was hanging out his window looking down.
“Andy!” Pat yelled. “I’m fucked!”
“Shit!” I yelled back. “You might have to jump!”
“Well, look, there’s two cars that’ll break your fall, you can do it, god damn it!”
“God damn it!”
There were a few cars under the window from the rather high Second Floor that would break his fall, but his ankles would take the painful shock, no shit.
The fire trucks raced right up to the building and they charged up to my floor.
“Hey, maybe you’ll have to jump into one of those trampoline things!”
“I hate those fucking things! I’m scared of heights!”
Before I could get another stupid helpful suggestion I could see firemen smashing in Pat’s door down behind him, throwing a blanket over his ass and pulling him back into his room and racing him out of the building.
Two hours later I got to go back to sleep in my smelly burned toast apartment, everything intact, paintings, saxophone, and even sexy PA speakers intact. And I sold the speakers and made the rent.
Friday, March 14, 2008
1980: The Laufer Company was an entertainment publishing empire that put out a slew of showbiz rags on a monthly basis: Rona Barrett’s Hollywood, Tiger Beat, Flip, Rona Barrett’s TV and Movie World, etc. They had offices on Hollywood Blvd. across the street from the Chinese Theatre and it was walking distance from my courtyard apartment built by Charlie Chaplin’s studio. It was a temp job that paid poorly, but when you’re living the punk rock lifestyle everything is either free or cheap, anyway.
My first assignment was working in the mail room. We had to open up mailed requests for 8 x10” glossies of TV and movie stars.
“This one’s for Dirk Benedict. Who’s that?” I asked.
“Who’s that? You don’t know who Dirk Benedict is?”
“Where have you been?”
I wanted to say guzzling beer at the Hong Kong Café watching The Weirdos play “We Got The Neutron Bomb”, but I was hung over and they would have asked, “Who’s The Weirdos?”
“I’ve got a request for Scott Bayou. Where’s the Bayou pics?” I mumbled.
“THAT”S SCOTT BAIO!!!” some gay ranger yelled. “Don’t you know? It’s Chaaaahhhhchee”.
“Yeah, Chachi from Happy Days”, some girl chirped. “He goes ‘wow, wow, wow’”.
Everyone laughed but me. Are these people crazy?
“Who am I?” some Chinese kid quizzed. “Eeeey!”
“A used car dealer?” I asked.
“It’s the Fonz!” the girl chirped once more. “Chang, you are so funny!”
“Fonzie, Fonzie, Fonzie!” the homo fan wailed. “I have one for Henry Winkler!”
Henry Winkler, sounds like a Rabbi from Baltimore, I thought.
My boss Phyllis was a tired, dog faced blonde in her seventies that liked to flash cleavage, which always made me feel uncomfortable.
“Andrew, do you prefer Andrew or Andy?” Phyllis nervously asked.
“Andy’s just fine”.
“Andrew, go down to Basement Room B-50. I want you to clean out the room. The Andy Gibb contest is over and we have to clear out the room to make space for the Charlene Tilton giveaway”.
“Will I need a broom and a dustpan?” I asked.
“Oh, Andrew”, she spurted. “You’re always joking”.
How do you clean out a room without cleaning materials? I took the creaky elevator down to the Basement and opened the door to a tiny storeroom, just a little bit bigger than a closet. A pile of postcards tumbled out the door at my feet.
I switched on the light to see: The room was piled with postcards three feet deep from one end of the room to the other. I walked on postcards, I kicked them out the door, I jumped out of the room and grabbed a trash can in the hall and started grabbing handfuls of postcards and throwing them in the bin. As I threw them out I noticed one postcard had a photo of Bettie Page with a crocodile.
“Hey, wait a minute”, I said and tossed it to the side for a pile I was going to take home. The next postcard was a vintage Fifties postcard of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.
“Sweeet”, I gushed at the cool postcard. Five minutes later I sat down on the pile examining every postcard. Some were lame but a few were awesome.
I began reading the postcards and started chuckling. This is what they said:
Tiger Beat’s Andy Gibb Contest
WHY I LOVE ANDY
A is cause he’s Adorable
N is new pictures of cute andy make me swoon
D is for his dreamy eyes
Y is for his yummy lips yummy yummy andy
I giggled like an embarrassed schoolgirl. The big cock block of course was the signature:
MICHELLE JONES, 11
Eleven? That’s not jailbait, that’s embryo bait. Oh well, at least I scored a cool postcard of a jackalope. I was such a vain bastard I blew 2 hours reading the Andy glory parade and finally tossed out the rest of the junk. It wasn’t very hard work.
Robert was a huge, Tone Loc-looking black guy in his thirties. He kept calling me “Young Blood” because I was just barely in my twenties.
Phyllis raced over to us. She never walked, she raced. She was very intense.
“Robert, Andrew”, she commanded nervously, “I want you both to load the truck up with all the Expired Issues boxes. Take them to the landfill in Sylmar, and remember, BE CAREFUL”.
After loading the pickup with endless boxes we tore down the 101 to Sylmar, and there it was: The Sunshine Canyon Landfill Station.
Passing the gate we entered a hellish scene: miles and miles of sprawling, flat land with large ditches scattered here and there, tractors shoving enormous piles of trash into even more enormous gaping holes. There were broken television sets, chairs, dressers, exercise bikes, etc. There were scattered bonfires of burning garbage. It was like the Mojave Desert of junk!
“Damn, Young Blood”, Robert exclaimed, “there’s some halfways good shit lyin’ around here”.
A map was handed to us showing where we were allowed to dump our boxes, so we turned to a tiny plot of dirt after almost getting run over by a rogue tractor.
I jumped up to the truck bed and handed boxes to Robert.
“Okay, these babies are pretty damn heavy so watch out”, I told him.
“Cool, youngblood, use yo’ bionics, that’s the way”, he grunted.
“I love it, love it, love it! Say, youngblood, where you from?”
“New England”, I panted heavily, “You know, Kennedy Country”.
“President Kennedy, man it’s a shame the way they shot him down like a low-down dog. Me, I’m from South Cackalacky. I got me some fambly in North Cackalacky”.
Robert called the Carolinas “Cackylacky”; he was clearly insane, but who better to hang out with in a garbage dump than a lunatic?
I handed Robert another box and he dropped it. The box burst open and out tumbled magazines with the cover blurb, “TV’s Bathing Beauties Pictorial”. The cover showed Heather Thomas, Farrah Fawcett and Cheryl Tiegs in bikinis.
“Well, alright! Check it out!” I jumped down and leered at a copy. “Robert, dude, check out Linda Carter in a string bikini”. I picked up the magazine and jammed the pin-up in his face.
“Awyeeeeah”, he picked up his own copy. “Jack-well-leeen Smith. I love it, love it, love it”.
“This one’s going home with me”, I smacked my lips.
“Sheeeet, youngblood, ah heards that. SNORT!” he snorted.
Two hours later we were done and took off in the pickup. The radio was cranking “Da Doo Da Da” by the Police. When Sting got to the moronic chorus, “da doo dah dah”, Robert started bouncing up and down like a madman and singing along at the top of his lungs.
“Come on, youngblood”, Robert roared. “Sing along! Use yo’ bionics! Da doo dah dah!”
He was out of tune and out of rhythm with the record, but who cares? I just spent a small fraction of my life in a garbage dump and this song was our National Anthem.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
I'm on vacation from the internet for a week. I need one, I'm tired of the whole business, don't you get tired of it all? I'm going to drink quite a bit and remember that books will always be your greatest entertainment, art too. Modern films are your enemy, they're made by people that hate you. Seriously. The film industry should be destroyed ASAP. D. W. Griffith and Cecil B. De Mille told me so in a dream last night. So, anyway, I'm on vacation.
P.S. While you're reading this listen to "The Show Must Go On" by Three Dog Night.