Friday, July 30, 2010
Her plot had no trees around it so the light was just blistering from all sides. To this day when I think of my mother’s funeral all I think of is the unforgiving sun and its heat. I was only 13 and just quietly watched the speeches, the crying and the terrible sunlight.
When we got home we performed the Jewish ritual of mourning: for seven days we sat on the floor (no chairs), wore torn clothing, and covered all the mirrors in the house. People from the synagogue would come to visit and pay respects. Of course you had the whackos bragging about being her best friend. The truth was my mother was a lone wolf, trusted no one and liked no one. She was the most antisocial woman I ever knew. Some of these “friends” even tried to come by under the pretense of mourning and started riffling through her bedroom. I kicked them out and moved into her bedroom and slept in her bed. (My father had his own bed).
My mother, Elizabeth, was 43 when she died, and was 40 when she was diagnosed with cancer. A smoker who smoked about 2 packs a day (Kent Cigarettes), she loved her smokes so much she even sewed a leather cover for her flip-top packs. I remember walking with her to the Doctor’s office for her routine radiation treatment. She told me her Doctor sat behind his desk chain smoking, saying, "These things are a bitch to quit, aren't they?" (Back in the Sixties it seemed like everybody smoked). I’d sit there dutifully in the waiting room for her to come out after her treatment. Sometimes we’d walk home, or if she felt weak, we’d take a cab home. We’d go by the huge excavation site ten blocks wide – “Do you see that huge crater? That’s going to be Century City. Isn’t that exciting?”
After the mourning stage was over the school year began again and my classmates who used to bully me and beat me up now just walked away whenever they saw me, staring at me like I was a leper. I was now some kind of phantom. My mother’s antisocial attitude made sense to me. She knew.
The sadness felt like it would never end, but of course it did. Two years later I discovered T. Rex, Roxy Music, New York Dolls and glam rock, and the world was still colorful. Platform shoes, elephant flares and rock & roll. Somehow the sun didn’t seem so ominous anymore.
2010: Last week I went to the cemetery to visit my mother’s grave on her 40th anniversary, and lurking down the hill above us was a young coyote. It very shyly trotted over to a big, lush tree and lay in the dark shade, away from the blinding sunlight. The message was clear: we are vilified but we will keep wandering alone because it’s who we are. And we like it that way.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Banners were strewn about the park screaming “International Teen Fair”,“KFWB 98 AM”,“93 KHJ”,“KRLA”, etc. Several bandstands were set up with exhibition booths cradling them: teen star Donna Loren signing autographs, a karate demonstration ready to sign up new students, slot car races with fake roadways, etc. And discotheque lights, even in the daytime, flashing and flickering around. Crash Walker snuck in sheepishly, then cockily slumped into the type that was entitled to his surroundings.
On one stage was “Sam The Sham and The Pharoahs” playing “Little Red Riding Hood”, pachucos dressed up in gold lame suits with Sheik headgear. Kids zoomed by him on skateboards with t-shirts flashing the name of the skateboard company in florescent letters. A dance floor was nearby and miniskirted girls with plastic boots and plastic hats were dancing with guys in striped shirts and board shorts.
“Aha, I see you got my note!”
“Was that you? How did you find me?”
“This guy I know, Motorcycle Pat, told me you were there, so I asked him to float a note your way. Did I scare you?” he laughed.
“No, actually I’m pretty relieved to be here. I had a hell of a night on the Strip”.
“You look it, boss! Hey, check it out, there’s the Dr. Goldfoot Bikini Machine Dancers!” Bell pointed at seven girls in gold bikinis and gold go-go boots lazily dancing on stage to the title theme from the movie by The Supremes.
“Those can’t be the girls from the movie, either”.
“No, they look like their mothers”, Walker grumbled. Both men seemed disappointed.
“I’ve got a proposal for you. You’re a pretty big TV star and I’m always looking for thrills”.
“Hold it, let’s get away from this loud racket”, Walker led Bell away from the stage, and they moved over to a corner in the park that was a small hot rod and custom car showroom, showcasing the Beatnik Bandit, Twin Mill, and Mysterion.
Walker was still tired and wanted to lean on one of these fiberglass beauties but they were roped off from bums like him. “409” by The Beach Boys was quietly piped in through the PA.
“Attention, huh? You think I need attention? After that freakin’ party we were at? Attention I don’t need. I already have way too much of that. But thanks, anyway”.
“Come on, Walker, I need the press, don’t you have any big projects on the burner?”
“Shit, kid, I wish I could help you…all I have is some goofy vampire film I’m supposed to shoot in Italy, but the girl that asked me’s a nut and she’s probably back in Venice anyway”.
“That’s great, man, let’s do some vampire publicity stunt. I’ll get all the fake blood you need! I can get some fake teeth, the works! Leave it to me! I’ll call you!!!”
“Hey, wait a minute, do you remember that party we were at, that one Flagg yelled at us, and –“
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, July 14, 2010
The sun was setting on Sunset Boulevard as Crash Walker exited The Hacienda. It was one of those moments when dusk was approaching and the streets seemed pretty empty for a rare period in the day, even on a street as big as Sunset. The street lights turned on even though there was still enough sunlight to keep things visible. He slowed down when he saw Sgt. Gene Kurlich standing in the middle of the road, wearing his casual clothes, definitely not his detective-cop-show-best. The car behind was not an unmarked police car, either, a badass 1965 Dodge Charger with the slant back like a wild marlin.
Sgt. Kurlich flashed the fakest smile money could buy. “Well, well, Trash Talker, we meet again, you just can’t seem to stay away from trouble, can you?”
“What’s the matter, Kurlich, back for another feel?”
“Very funny, wise guy, I heard over the radio a stabbing occurred at this place of business and raced to the scene. Imagine finding you here.”
“Yeah, imagine finding you here in a sports jacket and a dickie. Off duty? That’s not exactly a regulation unmarked detective’s car, either. Your jalopy, I presume?”
Kurlich nudged him. “Screw you, Walker, you can’t seem to leave anywhere without a trail of dead bodies behind you. You’re just a cold-blooded killer, fella”.
Walker shoved back. “You’re not on duty, pal. What’s a clean upstanding cop like you doing hanging around a seedy little dive like this? Got an appetite for Mexican food?”
Kurlich whipped out his handcuffs. A siren blared a few blocks down and was getting louder. “I’m placing you under arrest, killer. You have the right to remain silent-“
Walker swung and cold-cocked him. He leaned down at the prone body and yelled, “The queen was stabbed to death by his boyfriend and there are witnesses, at least a dozen of them. And I’d watch where I’m caught making unofficial arrests if I were you, Officer.”
Walker got in his car and drove off. He made a U-turn heading west on Sunset back towards his home. Kurlich staggered to his feet with a beautiful shiner, his mouth twitched with anger, his body trembling with rage as he angrily burned the starter to his car, prompting a loud, grinding noise that could be heard three blocks away. He stomped the accelerator pedal as hard as he could, barely flying right into the ambulance that zoomed right by him to the front of The Hacienda. Several police cars followed behind the ambulance. Kurlich flashed his shield as he drove by them.
“Motherfuckin’ movie star, I’ll beat his head in, fuckin’ pretty boy. Jimmie Rodgers, Crash Walker, I’ll show them all”, he muttered. He bugged his eyes trying to locate the Corvair with “HERB MILLER” stenciled on the side. It shouldn’t be hard to locate even in the dark. “When I catch up with him even dogs won’t eat his brains off a gold-plated bowl”. His car crossed Silver Lake Boulevard with its gang graffiti scrawled over lonely concrete walls and bombed out Studebakers and Buicks parked like hellish markers.
“Thinks he’s funny spying on me in my leisure time, he’ll be laughing in his own blood”.
Crash Walker nervously looked into his rear view mirror every 45 seconds, knowing full well there was no way a Corvair could outrun a Dodge Charger. It didn’t help that traffic was thin this time of night, so it was only a matter of time before he’d catch up with him. All his worst fears were realized.
As he approached the fork that splits Sunset Boulevard to the extreme left and Hollywood Boulevard to the right he saw Kurlich zooming up behind him with bloody murder in his eyes.
Walker made a slight turn to the right to switch to Hollywood Blvd. “I got you now, you fuckin’ bastard”, Kurlich accelerated his speed.
Just as the light turned from green to yellow, Walker quickly swerved to the extreme left, staying on Sunset Blvd. “Hah!” Walker cackled. “Bite that and swallow!”
He tore down the boulevard, not looking back as much as before, but still nervously peering into the mirror like a nervous tic.
“God damn it!” Kurlich screamed. “Think you can burn me? Shit!”
He threw his wheel around in a U-turn, barely clipping an RTD bus that angrily honked at him. He impatiently waited for an old lady to move over in her station wagon so he could turn down Sunset.
Walker gunned it past Western Avenue with the porn shops and the XXX-rated theatres that double as strip clubs with names like The Safari Club and The Zebra Room, making him smile from the memories it brought him. Traffic was getting heavy, though so catching up wouldn’t be so easy for Kurlich. “Let’s see, what would Sgt. Kurlich be doing now, fondling some bus driver’s balls? Heh!” he chuckled. He looked into his rear view less often now, slowing his speed and passing Gower Avenue, past KTLA, KTTV and KNXT TV studios. He remembered taping some promos for the channels and having a good time. He drove by Ben Hunter grinning with a cigarette in his hand, Clete Roberts waving at him.
It was funny: he drove past The Hollywood Palladium, home of Lawrence Welk, the Champagne Music Master, Wallich’s Music City with the Capitol Records Building looming north on Vine when he heard a cacophony of horns behind him. Looking into his rear view he saw cars angrily honking at a Dodge Charger weaving wildly from lane to lane and cutting them off.
“Get the fuck off the road!”
“Out of the way, creep!”
Walker was stuck on the boulevard. If he cut to a side street he knew his goose was cooked because Kurlich could cut him off any time, and there would be no one around to catch him in the act of beating him down. The sky was now a bright red as the sun was finally succumbing to the impending darkness. As he drove by Hollywood High School he looked up Highland Avenue and saw it was too jammed with traffic, no chance for escape. He cut to the extreme left and Kurlich was two blocks behind, unable to switch lanes without rear-ending cars slowly turning in to Tiny Naylor’s drive-in restaurant.
“Thank you, Tiny’s”, Crash whispered. Traffic thinned out around Fairfax Avenue, giving Kurlich a chance to catch up to him. The Charger was gunning so fast you could smell the oil burning and smoke shooting out of the tail pipe, exhaust fumes stinking up the Sunset Boulevard ozone. When he hit the dip in the intersection his axle scraped the asphalt, causing sparks to jump out from his wheels. Walker got nervous again after catching a glimpse of the car racing straight towards him and no one else.
He could turn down Crescent Heights (too slow) or up Laurel Canyon (too narrow) so he stayed on the Boulevard. As he approached Sunset Plaza he saw Kurlich’s Charger two car lengths behind him, the maniac popping his eyes and shoving his fingers up and down in his mouth, simulating fellatio. Then he took his thumb and turned it down like a Roman Emperor. “Fuckin’ psycho!” Walker spat, “a credit to the LAPD. A real taxpayer’s dream!”
When they crossed San Vicente Boulevard traffic again slowed down because of all the clubs like The London Fog and Whiskey A Go-Go. Kids were leaving the Cinematheque 16 underground movie theatre, jaywalking across the boulevard, too. At this point Kurlich moved into the left lane to Walker’s right.
“God help you, Walker”, Kurlich screamed at him, “because you haven’t got a prayer, Pretty Boy”. He swerved into Walker’s Corvair, grinding the side of his car against his, metal groaning against metal. Adjoining traffic were honking their horns at them.
“Shut up”, Kurlich yelled at them, “Police Department!”
Passing The Classic Cat towards Doheny Drive, Walker seriously considered turning down Doheny, but Kurlich had him blocked.
“The last thing you hear will be your brains beaten like hamburger meat. I can hear it now: SMACK! SMACK! CRUNCH!” he cackled.
He sideswiped Walker ’s car again, pushing his now-battered Charger even harder into the already trashed Corvair. Club-goers were going to Pat Collins The Hip Hypnotist club.
“DEAD! DEAD! DEAD!” he screamed at him. His plans were cut short when a family in a station wagon turned right in front of him, forcing him to release his car’s hold on Walker ’s auto. He honked his horn angrily at them.
“Police Department!” he screamed at them.
“United States Marines, asshole!” the father in the station wagon yelled back.
Walker lightened up a bit but it wouldn’t last long. After Doheny Drive Sunset Boulevard would be wider, emptier and darker, much darker, for now the street lights shone and the evening had finally arrived. Outside of the Beverly Hills Hotel there would be nothing else around for miles but empty homes owned by movie stars miles away on location shooting pictures. It seemed like the only cars left on Sunset were him and Kurlich. His only option was to run as fast as he could to the nearest busy intersection. They both floored their pedals and gunned their engines in more ways than one, because Kurlich pulled out his service revolver.
“Walker, you’re deader than dead, and after you’re dead I’ll shoot you some more!” Kurlich screamed, firing wildly at the Corvair.
Bullet holes hit the left fender of Walker’s car, both cars weaving wildly at 95 mph, Kurlich trying hard to aim at Walker with his other hand on the wheel. Engines were screaming and high beams were flipped on, strobing the side of Will Rogers Memorial Park with its palm trees and quiet fountains paying tribute to silent film stars, some dying and others already gone. The lanes temporarily narrowed down to a single lane, so Kurlich decided to hang back a little bit, and shoot Walker from behind, an easier maneuver.
First he rammed his car into Walker's trunk, causing his license plate (kept on with a twisted coat hanger) to fall off into the street. He then fired a few shots into Walker’s rear lights, the red plastic cracking like egg shells by his trunk. “If I had any piss left in me I’d be pissing my pants”, Walker muttered. Kurlich lost all discipline and shot wildly, not caring what he hit, smashing a few movie star mansion windows in the process, decapitating a lawn jockey, and putting a few holes in a “BEWARE OF DOG” sign.
Now that they left Beverly Hills the lanes increased to two as they were approaching UCLA. Still firing like a maniac, missing Walker because of their demented speed, it caught the attention of a black motorcycle officer hiding behind a corner, who kicked into action with his siren and lights racing behind the Charger. The motorbike cop spoke into his mike as he followed them. Within minutes two police cars appeared and gave chase behind the bike and the two speeding cars.
The prowl cars couldn’t overtake them because now they were zooming down Dead Man’s Curve, the steep, undulating snake of road that Sunset turned into.
“Motherfucker! I’LL SHOOT YOUR EYES OUT! THE LAST THING YOU’LL DO BEFORE YOU DIE IS SUCK MY DICK!”
Still firing wildly, ricocheting against the huge stone walls of Dead Man’s Curve and barely missing the policemen, he lost control of the wheel and slammed head first into the wall, driver’s door flipping open and his body flying out of the car like a demented Jack In The Box, his head bashing into the asphalt.
The black motorcycle cop and prowl cars instantly slowed down and stopped. “Hey, do you think he’s dead?” One cop asked the other as they got out of their cars.
“Should be, the way that son of a bitch was shootin’ his piece”, the other cussed.
The other cops came out. “How you doin’, partner?”
“Well, I’ll tell you. If I had any piss left in me I’d-a-be pissin’ my pants”. They all guffawed.
“Hey, Jerry, that guy looks kinda familiar”.
“Don’t know him. Hey check it out, he’s not dead”.
Jerry searched Kurlich’s pants pocket for some identification and pulled out a wallet-sized photo of Jimmie Rodgers with a crudely drawn cock and balls in the photo.
“Hey, Bob, this pistolero’s a homo”.
“This guy's queer for Jimmie Rodgers”. Everybody chuckled. Pools of blood and piss flowed out of both ends of Kurlich’s body.
“Somebody radio an ambulance-" Kurlich’s eyes fluttered and he stirred a little on his back. One cop broke flares and placed them on the road to divert traffic.
“Hey, buddy, you took quite a spill. You okay? How many fingers am I holding?” Bob spread two fingers.
“What?” Kurlich stared at the policeman’s fingers. “What fingers?”
“What’s your name, buddy? Do you remember your name?”
“No”, he croaked, confused and disoriented. “Why am I on the ground?”
“You just had an accident, sir”.
Kurlich’s eyes widened in horror. “What happened to my car?”
“Now listen, we’re going to take you to the hospital. You’ve had a terrible accident. As soon as we get you all fixed up you'll be placed under arrest for speeding, disturbing the peace and using firearms. That cowboy stuff belongs on television, not real life…:
Jerry turned to the motorcycle cop. “Get that other guy, he’s probably in on this”.
Walker glanced at his rear view mirror, smiling because he didn’t see anyone following him anymore. When Kurlich wiped out he turned a corner and missed all the fireworks so his speed was still up.
“I don’t know where everybody went”, he sighed with relief, “but I’m mighty obliged they done vamoosed”, he drawled in his best cowboy brogue. “Hmm, Maybe I’ll just cut my speed down, better not turn back for awhile”.
His cockiness was short lived because his sight was blinded by the high beams and flashing lights of the motorcycle cop racing behind him.
“What the fuck now?”
The siren split his eardrums and the whole effect was like a recurring nightmare.
The cop pulled to the side of his car and yelled, “Pull over – RIGHT NOW!”
Sunset Boulevard finally ran out and they both turned on to Pacific Coast Highway. Walker gunned it back to 95 mph. The motorcycle swerved slightly from the wind drifting from the beach across the road. Walker zoomed by a man emptying out a horse trailer by the side of the road, prompting him to slow down to 65 mph and pull a U-turn. The motorcycle cop, now confused, pulled a U, following him.
Walker braked his car by the sand, leaped out a little dizzy and ran across PCH to the horse trailer. He pushed a pretty black Arabian away from the other ones and mounted it. The wrangler yelled, “Hey, what do ya think you’re doing, ya freak? Get off that horse!!!”
The black motorcycle cop pulled over by the trailer and opened fire. “Stop or I’ll shoot!”
Walker turned a deaf ear, kicking the horse and pulling its bridle, the horse racing up the steep Santa Monica Mountains that can’t be climbed by man or cop alike. The terrain was blacker than velvet and Walker and the horse quickly disappeared up the hill, so the cop fired into darkness, the darkness which enveloped Crash Walker.
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, July 7, 2010
Well, we've reached the end of the first half of the year, one of the most depressing, isolating, and selfish eras in history. I'll see if I can make a little sense out of it, but I'm no magician:
January - The 20th anniversary of "Horses", the first record I released. Getting that first record in my hands was one of the most exciting experiences I've ever had. Those were wonderful days, times that cannot be relived or reclaimed, which is why band reunions are such sad affairs.
Gary Baseman gave Rebecca a wonderful painting dedicated to her, which ended up as this year's Lollapalooza poster and t-shirt. Since our accountant passed away we found a new guy who's pretty cool; he likes hardcore punk and plays chess, too. That's pretty hip!
February - Got a new HD flat-screen TV in our bedroom and the first thing we saw was the Dr. Pepper KISS commercial that Rebecca did wardrobe for. Funny. Mixed some tracks for No Policy for an upcoming Montreal hardcore compilation CD.
March - Progress is going well on the Crash Walker serial, which will progress into a novel. Having a great time writing it. It will last somewhere between 16-17 chapters.
Began reading lots of Patricia Highsmith (Little Tales of Misogyny, The Price of Salt) and Chester Himes (The Real Cool Killers, Run Man Run). Great inspiration.
April - More people I knew passed away this month: Jason O'Gullegher (aka Big Jason) and Malcolm McLaren. It's very weird reaching the age where your peers begin leaving you because your generation has gotten that much older.
People at work are acting so panicky and freaked out, running around pissing and screaming like rats on a sinking ship. I had to take a "mental health day" off, a few actually.
May - The Fairfax and Showcase Theatres shut down and bookstores like The Bodhi Tree and A Different Light closed down, too. All the other bookstores are trying to sell me computer books like Kindle, eBook, etc. After a long day of typing on a computer I can't see myself relaxing in front of yet another computer screen blasting out a book. Paper always wins.
June - Worked as an Inspector (Supervisor) at the polls on Election Day. Unfortunately the polling place was at Park La Brea, the most exasperatingly confusing piece of real estate ever created in Southern California, over 100 acres of look-alike streets and look-alike buildings. Even Christopher Columbus with a compass would get lost there on a good day. I had to keep the Democrats and the Republicans from beating the shit out of each other, seriously. But I'll be back in November to do it again. I think it's time for another mental health day off.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Paul Cadmus 1904-1999. He died five days before his 95th birthday. He was the most outrageous and overlooked artist of his time.
1. Shore Leave (1933) - Sailors spending their leisure time drunkenly chasing girls instead of helping little old ladies cross the street. "Secretary of the Navy Swanson said, 'the painting represents a most disgraceful, sordid, disreputable, drunken brawl, wherein apparently a number of enlisted men are consorting with a party of street-walkers and denizens of the red light district. This is an unwarranted insult, and evidently originated in the sordid, depraved imagination of someone who has no conception of actual conditions in our service" - Time Magazine, 1934.
2. YMCA Locker Room (1933) - Guys in a locker room in various stages of undress (mostly nekkid) primping and checking each other out.
3. The Fleet's In! (1934) - More gobs drunkenly cutting up with torn-up hookers. "As opponents of censorship we cannot condone Admiral Hugh Rodman's burst of indignation at the striking canvas, 'The Fleet's In!' by Paul Cadmus. Admiral Rodman has had a long and distinguished career as a sailor. That does not make him an art critic. The PWAP show is an art exhibition, not an enlistment bureau for the Navy" - Washington Post, 1934.
4. Greenwich Village Cafeteria (1934) - Hipsters cram their faces with food like wild animals and pick each others pockets. "Something of the bitterness which every unemployed artist feels is evident in this painting entitled 'Greenwich Village Cafeteria' by Paul Cadmus of New York City" - New York Herald Tribune, 1934.
5. Gilding The Acrobats (1935) - a jughead-hat wearin' black kid slops gold paint all over a bitter-lookin' naked circus acrobat.
6. Venus And Adonis (1936) - A blown-out rich dowager desperately clings to a statuesque Gregory Peck-looking tennis player, who's classically naked of course.
7. Seeing The New Year In (1939) - A portrait of a party that's gone on way too long, chicks passed out while sleazy guys undress them passed out, nuzzle them, and there's even a guy in the background putting the make on another guy (!). "The painting doesn't have the air of fantasy. There is a cold, hard restlessness in the drawing that suggests that the artist has been determined to give you the facts and nothing but the facts, but at the same time the artist's complete absorption in every inch of wickedness in the picture attests too great an interest in wickedness for its own sake" - New York Sun, 1939.
8. Sailors and Floozies (1938) - This time the tables are turned: our fightin' heroes are all passed out cold, and the prostitutes, looking manly, suggesting transvestitism, are going through their pockets. A crumpled newspaper on the ground bears the headline, "1000 Killed In Air Raid". The sun is bleakly setting. "Paul Cadmus is on another red-hot naval rampage...painting with brilliant finesse a theme doused in indecency!" - New York Post, 1938.
9. Herrin Massacre (1940) - Strike-breakers are depicted beaten to death by labor union activists in a cemetery, the dead are left bloodied, broken and naked. "Just gory journalism" - Journal American, 1940.
10. The Shower (1943), Point O' View (1945), and Fences (1946) - Male nudes on the beach with dark, midnight lighting. "The Shower was sold before it settled on the hook waiting for hanging. His dealer's main problem is not how to sell the next Cadmus, but how not to play favorites" - Art Digest (1943).
11. Playground (1948) - Tenement boys hanging around the New York playground aimlessly looking around waiting for something to happen.
12. Finistere (1952) - Boys in Euro bikinis hanging out on bikes in beach-side Italy. One even brandishes a big Italian bread!
Discover the art of Paul Cadmus. Audasse, audasse, toujours l'audasse. Audacity, audacity, audacity always!