Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Operation Gold Rush (crash WALKER Chapter 16)

Looming above Crash Walker’s head was a sign with the banner of “BIBLE LAND – PREPARE TO MEET GOD!” There were problems reading the sign because most of the lights in the amusement park were out. A few light towers were on but they were scattered in remote areas around the park. The black-haired man in the cowboy’s outfit raced through the attraction nervously looking behind him. He was now running way from not one, but two psychotic pursuers: The California Committee with their Duffyland park staff and psychotic rogue cop, Sgt. Gene Kurlich. If he were to fall into the hands of either side it would mean his demise. The California Committee had him going there for awhile until he realized that if they could kill Bill Flagg and turn a blind eye to Billy Bell’s death, then he could be put out at any time.

Crash Walker ran through bulrushes illustrating the birth of Moses, then past a big ark with statues of elephants and giraffes in pairs, finally stopping to catch his breath. He could hear running towards his direction. He hid in a corner and ducked down even deeper when lights turned on and sad, weepy music cranked up, a robotic figure of Jesus rolling his tearful eyes to the sky as women in robes tossed roses at him and brutal robotic Roman gladiators nailed his hands to the cross. Whiny violins pumped shrilly through the PA with a tenor operatically singing, “A crown of thorns on haloed head, Jesus saves the noble dead”, over and over. Creepy.

“Hey! Do you hear anybody around the Bible Land section?”
“Nah, it’s just that crummy music playing when you switched on the power”.
“Maybe he’s in Atomic Land”.
“Hell, turn on all the power switches, he’s bound to turn up somewhere around here”.

Walker made a point to avoid Atomic Land so he ran in the opposite direction, and for once he tried to run as quickly as possible and as silently as he possibly could. The trick was to run on the front of his feet and not on the heels. There wasn’t time to take off his cowboy boots so he tried his best to be quiet like it was a matter of life or death. Crouching low and looking out for men dressed like funny cartoon animals wielding guns was not his idea of a good time. The only way he could get through it was by pretending he was acting in a TV show.

Duffyland didn’t suffer from lack of shrubbery so if he needed to duck into a bush he was covered, like now. A walrus and a giraffe stomped around, craning their necks looking for him.
“I swear I saw him running in this direction”, the walrus whined.
“You’re crazy, he wouldn’t head this way”, the giraffe grumbled.
“We gotta catch him, we’re already in trouble for letting that crazy cop get away from us”.
“Yeah, now we have to catch two whackos instead of one”.
“But, remember, no shooting at the cowboy. We can nail the cop but the cowboy gets dragged back”.

Great, crazy Kurlich escaped from the guards, thought Walker . What a bunch of incompetent bozos. So now I have the Funny Animal Nazis chasing me and the even crazier cop nipping at my heels. I wish I was dead already.
After the two Funny Animals ran off Walker skulked ahead to a large entrance with big gray banners with “Civil War World” emblazoned on them. There was something odd about a cowboy running into an area called “Civil War World” but everything about Duffyland was off-kilter.

He ran into the exhibition marked Johnny Reb’s Jubilee. He stopped to listen for footsteps and heard nothing. In the darkness were animatronic robots of Confederate soldiers with rifles. A switch turned on from somewhere in the room and bright lights turned on, banjo music cranked up with screams of “YEE-HAW!” while Confederate soldiers brandishing bayoneted rifles danced and sang. One of them, holding a jug of moonshine relentlessly chased a black slave girl robot, her clothes half ripped off looking terrified. “YEE-HAW!” “Clap yer hands and stamp yer feet!” The drunken soldier chased the half-naked slave girl around the room to the bluegrass tunes.

Crash Walker hoped the loud music wouldn’t arouse attention from his pursuers, but then it got louder. Gun shots rang out, the Dixie soldier’s face flew off his head.
“BANG! A WINNER!” A woman yelled.
Another shot rang out, Walker ducked and saw the bottom half of the black slave girl bullet holed to Swiss cheese.
“BANG! BANG! ANOTHER WINNER!” Walker saw a figure emerge from the shadows in the back of the room. It was April Van Winter dressed in black holding a Luger. “The South won’t rise again, not tonight at least”, she smiled.
“April!” Walker gasped. “Let’s get out of here before I get nailed”.
“Well, maybe I’ll have to nail you!” she pointed her Luger at him. “What with Daddums dead and all”.
“How did you know that?”
“I’ve been here all this time. Poor dead Daddums!”
“April, put the gun away!”

“THERE HE IS – GET HIM!” A Hippo guard raced in with a Cheery Chimp guard. Van Winter spun around and fired at the doorway by their side, pieces of door jamb flying off. The guards ran outside for cover.
“Let’s go out the back!” Van Winter waved her gun towards the back of the theatre. Walker looked nervously at her, sizing her up. Was she friend or foe?

They found an emergency exit and ran out the back. They looked around to see if anyone was after them and saw a few Funny Animals in the distance running after them. “Let’s head over there, the Drunken Fire Truck ride!” Walker pointed to a garishly painted building with a swinging fire truck on the roof and a mural of goofy, nutty firemen wielding bottles of booze and falling off their fire truck. “Come on!”

“Just a second, darling”, April grabbed him from running away from his pursuers. She wrapped her arms around him in a lover’s embrace, brushed her cool jet black hair against his face and kissed him tenderly. Walker stared beyond her at the Funny Animals catching up to them. He tried to struggle but she had an octopus grip on him, jamming her tongue down his throat and rubbing her slim thigh against his growing erection. He started moaning angrily, unable to break her grip.

“Get those freaks, they’re making out!” A wacky dog yelled to his partners.
April pushed Walker away, spun at her pursuers and opened fire. “Kiss this! My heart belongs to Daddums!” she yelled. Walker ran off but Van Winter stayed behind. He ran behind the Drunken Fire Truck ride and looked around for her. She was gone.

“How the fuck do you get out of this stupid place?” Walker wracked his tormented mind. “I can get out of Pacific Coast Highway, the Sunset Strip, a gay bar in Silverlake, but I’m going to get killed in some shit amusement park, damn it”. Walker decided to just keep moving, no matter what, never stop. He snuck over to a ride called “Doctor Monkey the Crazy Surgeon” covered with a huge mural of a demented chimp in a scapular with a stethoscope around his neck holding a hammer and saw.

He could hear shrieking monkey noises with jungle sounds in the background. He listened for Duffyland guards running around but heard nothing. Feeling tired, he crouched in a corner and wished he had a cigarette.
“In a way I’m glad she’s gone. What a nut, a piece of ass, but crazy as fuck. Fuckin’ Hollywood ”. He shook his head. “And what’s with those guys trying to prop me up as some Governor, ‘King of California’? They must be crazy. I’m not leading anybody, I can’t even lead my way to the toilet. They almost had me there for a minute. Crazy motherfuckers, they killed enough people to get me fried in the electric chair ten times over. I’m finished. I’ll never be a star again”. His paranoia descended into sulking.

He heard a faint stirring behind him, making him turn around. A terrific blow smacked him up the side of his head turning the dark night into a bright, blinding flash. He fell to the ground and looked up at Gene Kurlich standing above him with a fireman’s axe.
“Now I’ve got you, you killing movie star bastard, heh! Nice axe, huh? Drunken Fire Truck, my favorite ride. As soon as I get my cuffs out I’m taking you into custody, Pretty Boy”, he pulled out the cuffs from his belt. Walker was fighting unconsciousness from the blow. “Nope! Showbiz creeps like you aren’t heroes – I’M a hero! People need to worship policemen, firemen, WE run the city, WE’RE the heroes here, not you Liz Taylor assholes”, he said as he grabbed one of Walker ’s wrists, about to clink the cuffs. “If I could get my hands on Marlon Brando, boy, the things I would do to him”.
Walker lurched and punched Kurlich full contact in the groin, pulling his other wrist away. Kurlich doubled over and Walker grabbed the bat away and bunted Kurlich in the face. “Fuck you!” Walker yelled.

Kurlich went for his gun while Walker ran towards the Jet Train, running up the stairs to hide by the tracks. He fired shots at Walker ’s feet, who was racing quickly to the elevated platform. “You can run but you can’t hide”, Kurlich yelled. “I’m bringing you back, dead or alive. I am the law!”
He followed Walker up the stairs to the Jet Train. When he got to the platform and only saw the Jet Train sitting idly by the tracks. “Come on, Cowboy, the sooner you give up, the easier it’ll be on you”.
Shots rang out at him from a corner in the platform, one shot grazing his right thigh. April Van Winter smiled at Sgt. Gene Kurlich pointing her gun at him. “Looking for Mister Right? Don’t even think of playing the hero or I’ll plant your skull with these pretty silver pills”.

"Firing at a police officer, you one-eyed bitch? You’ll get pulled in for that and we’ll frame your father’s death on you, too, you rich cunt, what do you think of that?” Kurlich sweated profusely.
“I think you want me more than her, you twisted son of a bitch”, Crash Walker shouted from the top of the Jet Train, looking down on both of them. Kurlich lifted his pistol to fire.
“Uh-uh-uh-uh”, Van Winter sing-songed, still pointing her Luger at Kurlich. “Drop the gun, get up there and fight like a man”.
“FINE! NO PROBLEM! And after I’m done with him I’ll get to you, you fuckin’ whore! I’ll have you both suckin’ my balls!!!” He angrily climbed to the top of the train.
Van Winter moved over to a black box by the tracks with screaming red lettering saying, “DANGER Do Not TOUCH”.
“Hmmm…what does this say? Danger! Do Not Touch! What does this do?”

Kurlich advanced towards Walker on the top of the Jet Train, the tracks elevated over the park. Van Winter saw that the box was locked and fired her gun at the lock. She opened the box and saw a large switch. “Well, I’ll be damned. Modern technology, brought to you by Aero Van Winter”, she giggled, and violently flipped the switch.

“GOODBYE, BOYS! BON VOYAGE!” She waved as the Jet Train started running at 65 miles per hour, both Walker and Kurlich barely able to stand on a rapidly speeding train above Duffyland USA.

The complete edition of CRASH WALKER will be available in eBook form on August 2015 via Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Barnes & Noble Nook and other eReaders. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pretties For You

In late 1971 Creem Magazine sent Lester Bangs out to write an article on the raging new rock force that was Alice Cooper, from which these pictures appeared.  It didn't hurt that the band spent a short tenure in the Detroit rock scene - where Creem Magazine was located - sharing bills with The MC5, Stooges, SRC, and The Frost (whose guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter later joined the band).

Before Alice became a trailer park rock god he earned a lot of bonus airline points playing the drag queen card, wearing falsies, Dolly Parton wigs and just queening out.  On the right is a still from the legendary "Ballad of Dwight Frye" song where's he's institutionalized in a strait jacket. In the next picture he's doing a bizarre Salvador Dali "Persistence of Memory" routine.  He later met Dali who adored Cooper to the point of creating a hologram of him.

Here's Alice in body stocking and heels to the left, and tearing the poster to the "Love It To Death" album on stage to the right.  Early footage of Alice Cooper performing live can be seen in Frank & Eleanor Perry's movie "Diary of a Mad Housewife" where chickens aren't killed, but pillows are ripped open instead and goose feathers are tossed around in a hail of pflug. 

When my band used to tour the driver got to choose which cassette tape we had to listen to while they drove. I had three guitar players; when one drove we had to listen to Neil Young & Crazy Horse, when the other drove we had to listen to the third Velvet Underground album, the real terrible one with songs like “I’m Set Free”, “Jesus”, and “I’m Beginning To See The Light”, yuck, and the third one played a tape that had Alice Cooper’s “Love It To Death” on one side and “Killer” on the other side. Guess who played the best guitar?

Here's Alice consolidating his queeny image by having his hair done at the beauty parlor.  He also had The Cockettes perform and appear at several events and shows around this time. I think Alice and Frank Zappa tried pretty hard to downplay any drug involvement because they were creepy guys from Laurel Canyon and at the time (1970-1971) every straight in LA thought if you had long hair and came from the Canyon you were Charles Manson, so eventually they went out of their way to brag about how average they were. Too bad. By the time "School's Out" was released (1972) our private party was over.

All photos by Ric Siegel, 1971

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Smell Check 2010

Well, break out the champagne and crank up the brass band. Marc Jacobs has dropped his first men's cologne in 10 years called "Bang!" Not a great name but what a cool package! A bottle that looks like the bashed-in front of a car hood, all bent and twisted metal. The ad campaign (speaking of packages) depicts our intrepid designer totally nude sporting the ugliest tattoos this side of G.G. Allin with his jacked-up looking cologne bottle covering up his private parts (thank you, God!). The wait was definitely worth it; a sneak preview of the scent is enjoyable and sexy, so bypass the ads and just get it. You won't be sorry.

Light Blue (Dolce & Gabbana) = More Dolce than Gabbana, this sweet-smelling EDT (Eau de Toilette) has the standard blue, cool odor we've come to know and love by now. Very fruity, light and airy, but nothing new.

L'Eau D'Issey Pour Homme (Issey Miyake) = A little cinnamon, a little musk, not a bad combination, I liked it much more than L'Eau D'Issey. Now that was nasty.

Eternity Aqua (Calvin Klein) = Bland and boring, skip it. The ad touts "a watery surge of cucumber, vibrant lavender and the warmth of sandalwood". Not an inspired combination of materials, and placed together didn't smell terribly wonderful.

Bleu De Chanel (Chanel) = Too many scents these days call themselves "blue" this and "blue" that, and frankly, they all smell the same. This is no exception. Pass.

Gucci Sport by Gucci (Gucci) = For those that have a fetish for sniffing the grass stains off some sweaty guy's pants after he's played Flag Football all Sunday. I'm not among them! Gucci makes great clothes for women, but men's fragrances is clearly not their forte.

Burberry Sport (Burberry) = A rather shrill, citrusy odor for people who want that Gatorade body aroma, hence the Sport tag. Me, I’d be happier with the Burberry Brit cologne line, which has a less strident scent to it.

Cool Water (Davidoff) = I went to school with a kid called Davidoff and he never used cologne, much less used deodorant. Again, any cologne or scent with the buzzwords "Blue", "Cool" or "Aqua" pretty much smell the same, and basically this pretty much smells like Bleu de Chanel and the rest of their peers.

John Varvatos Vintage (John Varvatos) = If you want a great combination, learn from the master. Varvatos Vintage showcases the combined scents of tobacco, suede and even patchouli. Sounds like my house! I'm pretty prejudiced towards this kind of musky business.

One of my guilty pleasures is buying cheap deodorant from the drug store, but this time something's gone pretty awry. A few applications of Axe Deodorant's new "Dark Temptation" reminded me of another scent in my bathroom, a far more expensive one: Thierry Mugler's Angel for Men deodorant. Not as strong, but so close it's as if someone stole the recipe and put their stamp on it. Just imagine saving yourself over $20 on Mugler's deodorant for the cheapie Axe brand. Why, it's scandalous! All's fair in love and cologne war.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Zapped - The Greatest $1 Music Sampler LP Ever

In the late 1960's Warner Bros. Records released a string of promotional song sampler albums featuring their best tracks, some of which were getting heavy airplay on the radio. They usually went for $2 and were in the double-album format. The line-up on a typical sampler would be The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, Tiny Tim (!), Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Arlo Guthrie, Deep Purple, T. Rex, etc. Not a bad deal for $2, and the artists you didn't like would even weigh in with a track that was halfway listenable. But formats begin to get stale after awhile and Warners began to play with it, releasing a sampler of easy-listening schlock called "Schlagers!" and going the extra mile for Frank Zappa's Bizarre & Straight labels with the best sampler ever (IMO) called "Zapped".

Released at the peak of Zappa's artistic powers and his impressive talent roster, "Zapped" is surprisingly eclectic, from Alice Cooper's haunted house metal (the genre he started), Tim Buckley's jazz-folk, The GTO's baroque minstrellisms, and vintage tracks from the Lord Buckley library. And the beast gores on. Liner notes were annotated by legendary rock critic John Mendelsohn, who deserves his own blog. A rogue critic for Rolling Stone Magazine in the Lester Bangs-R. Meltzer mode, Mendelsohn championed countless unknown British talents like The Move, Fairport Convention, The Kinks (when they were banned from performing in the States), and an unknown cross-dressing singer named David Bowie. He also had a great band called Christopher Milk, and I still own their excellent United Artists Records 7" EP with the gatefold cover. His liner notes are superbly informative.

Side 1 to "Zapped" begins with "Titanic Overture" by Alice Cooper, a solo pipe organ piece that recalls haunted houses and sailor shanties and quotes pop-schmaltz hit "I Think I'm Going Out Of My Head". Creepy stuff!

"The Blimp" by Captain Beefheart follows, a spoken word piece with a jumpy, jolting backing track complete with Zappa-style horns tooting. Beefheart's poetry is a joy to listen to, his affection for funny words ("Shadrach") is in the W. C. Fields tradition.

"St. Nicholas Hall" by Judy Henske & Jerry Yester follows. Frank liked to take hippie freaks and place them in stuffy, patrician settings for deadpan irony. Stilted vocals matched with an equally stilted harpsichord backing, The GTO's also used harpsichord on their album, too. The tuxedos worn by Yester and band on the cover were also employed by Captain Beefheart's band on the cover of "Lick My Decals Off, Baby". Maybe that's where the "straight" in "Straight Records" comes in.

"I Must Have Been Blind" by Tim Buckley is a nice song with some cool vibes backing him. Mendelsohn's liner notes indicate he didn't care much for this music, ha ha.

"Merry-Go-Round" by Wild Man Fischer is one of the earliest records that documented a street singer in his native habitat, warts and all. Many, many warts. This track features backing from the Mothers of Invention percussion section, Art Tripp III and Jimmy Carl Black.

"Refrigerator Heaven" by Alice Cooper comes from "Easy Action" and has a great Syd Barrett-style song construction with rabid guitars that play horror movie melodies in unison like some demented string section. And Alice's vocals rule the track. I love the final lyric, "I won't come back until the sun sets down on the moon".

"Little Boy Blue" by Tim Dawe is a surprisingly poppy folk track, catchy as hell. Tim Dawe was a founding member of The Iron Butterfly (!). The lyrics are very funny, too. There's mention of a woman dressed in black and busting out her whips. S&M folk? I love it.

"Governor Slugwell" by Lord Buckley is his version of a radio broadcast of a Gubernatorial fat cat's rally, with Buckley playing all the characters. His ear for people's voices is hysterical; the Irish cop, the crotchety politician hemming and hawing, perpetually clearing his throat, and tops himself with the Sun Shining Negro Drum Corps ("WHAM! PAM! WHAM! PAM! WUBBIDYBUBBIDYBOO!")

Side 2 to "Zapped" begins with "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up". Jeff Simmons was a Mike Bloomfield wanna be who played acid blues, and this track is great, featuring superb backing by The Mothers (who he would later join), and an even more superb Zappa superfuzzed-out guitar solo.

Captain Beefheart returns with "Old Fart At Play", another spoken word track which I find rather odd. There are better tracks from "Trout Mask Replica" that feature his wildman singing. I would have picked "Ella Guru", "Moonlight On Vermont", or at least "Ant Man Bee".

"Holiday In Berlin, Full Blown" by The Mothers of Invention follows, one of the airiest and prettiest compositions ever recorded by Zappa and his colleagues. It always puts a smile on my face, even the boozy "Thanks For The Memories"-sounding 1940's Big Band sax break.

"Circular Circulation" by The GTO's is a country tune about some outlaw called Muddy Guts. It's probably the most tuneful song on their album sung by Miss Pamela (she struggles quite a bit on it). The GTO's were really getting into country at the time because some of them were chasing The Flying Burrito Brothers, the only glam country band in recent memory. Loved those Nudies outfits, boys.

Of course the album ends with Frank Zappa and his swinging "Willie The Pimp", vocals by Captain Beefheart and wild electric violin sawing from Sugar Cane Harris. Anyway, I'll let Mr. Mendelsohn have the last word in his brilliant liner notes, who had this to say about the late Frank Zappa:

"Finally we come to the creep who started it all, the man who keeps digging up these perverts and encouraging them and producing them and foisting them on a defenseless public that he's rendered a pushover with his wild eyes and intimidating wit.
"What can one say, except that we have him to thank for opening up virtually countless areas of popular music and for infusing what we sometimes refer to as rock for lack of a more explicit term with the self-effacing wit that enabled it to survive as long as it did".