Friday, May 27, 2011

Rock & Roll Confidential Part 6


As far as I'm concerned punk rock started with this Craig Godlis photograph published in Andy Warhol's Interview in 1975 depicting Television collaborators Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell in their most raggedly ragged ramshackle glory. Their music fell short of their wild looks but this photo pretty much lit the fuse to what was to be The Sex Pistols look and what eventually would become "punk fashion".


Here's an ad for The Mercer Arts Center from The Village Voice during the summer of 1972. If you look down at The Oscar Wilde Room you'll notice a bill for "The Dolls of N.Y." (!). It doesn't mention the other acts performing like Suicide, KISS, Queen Elizabeth featuring Wayne County or The Stilettos (Deborah Harry), among others.
I didn't catch the blurb for the Dolls so I missed them (sorry), but I did catch the Off-Broadway production of "One Flew Over The Cukoo's Nest" (predating the movie, BTW) which was very good featuring Lane Smith in the role of Randall McMurphy. Lane Smith later played Perry White on the ABC-TV show "Lois and Clark".


In the late 1960's Frank Zappa extensively advertised Mothers of Invention albums in Marvel Comics. This great ad designed by Cal Schenkel was on the inner cover of a giant-sized Spider Man Special comic.


Here's an ad for Led Zeppelin playing The Rose Palace in Pasadena, California with Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity opening. The cost of a ticket was only $4 back then. Those were the days.


Pictured below is a press photograph of Sparks seen performing on "American Bandstand" around the era of "A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing" (1973). While I'm not the world's most foremost authority on all things Sparks-related they're probably doing "Wonder Girl" or "Girl From Germany". Notice the cartoon sledgehammer Russell Mael is sporting.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Elevator Shoes (red COFFEE Chapter 8)



“You are cordially invited to the view the Bullock's Fall Collection presented exclusively at
Bullock’s Wilshire, 3050 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California
Saturday, October 12, 1935, 7:30 pm,
By Invitation Only
RSVP
Refreshments will be served”

Jiminy Christmas, it seemed like every silver spoon and diamond tiara was in force to view the little soiree Bullock’s threw to sell the new styles between Downtown LA and The Miracle Mile. The fashion show was held in the upstairs showroom, cleared out as a banquet hall with a small runway with a small bar on one end and a buffet on the other end. Waiters walked around with trays filled with canap├ęs dodging hungry dowagers and their drunken husbands. The drunken husbands were the ones with all the dough dragged in by their status-climbing wives. When they weren’t boozing it up they were puffing away on stinky cigars and talking stocks with their rivals.

Looking at the crowd from behind the curtain I could see that every spittoon shooting bigwig had a bodyguard hovering a few feet away from them, understandable given the recent spate of murders in the past few weeks. The room got pretty smoky until Mr. Hermann the store manager requested that everyone kill their smoke. “The clothes are susceptible to tobacco smoke and odors”. The old lizards grumbled, of course, crushing out their smokes of choice in the sandy urns.

Bored, I walked over to the window to kill time and noticed a headless, stumpy bird sitting on top of a street light. Then I saw its head revolve in front of it with its big, golden cat eyes staring at me. It was an owl. What was on owl doing in the middle of the city? The owl’s eyes remained fixed on me.

“Lois, have you been in makeup?” Bell Amie the designer asked behind me. I turned around to show her my fully made face to her. “What do you think?”
“Get in hair, right now, and then get fitted, we’re starting in a few. No time for staring out the window, dear.” Drat, I just wanted to be home with a glass of milk and a volume of Balzac but I needed the money.

The first outfit: I walked out in a silver lounging ensemble. “Our model is attired in a silver silk pajama ensemble ideal for long Sunday mornings or for resort relaxing”. I sashayed around and glanced down, catching ZaSu Pitts apprising my outfit.

The second outfit: I modeled a navy blue wool work jacket and skirt. “Labor Day is here and our model looks smart in this seasonal work ensemble, whether taking dictation, answering the phone or watching the stock market rise”. I looked down and noticed a few gray moustaches leering at my business section.

Half an hour later the other models and I slipped on our clothes and walked around the lounge. I felt uncomfortable doing this because it reminded me of stories I read about courtesans waling around the parlor of a brothel. Some of the models actually had phone numbers and keys slipped to them, out of wives’ sights. Luckily no one got fresh with me, probably because I was the tallest girl in the room.

“Excuse me, ma’am, what do you call that outfit?” a familiar voice asked behind me. I turned around, and said, “I like to call it – Teddy!” I smiled, hugging Detective Ted Braintree, my friend from the police academy shooting range.
“Hi, Lois, great show, but I gotta tell you, what you’re wearing now beats the pants off all those other classy outfits you wore tonight”, he said smiling.
“This is just some beaded dress I bought two years ago”.
“It looks great, kid.”
“What are you doing here?”
He leaned over conspiratorially to me and quietly said, “I gotta watchdog these two loaded stiffs, can you imagine? Just look at them over there!” he pointed at a pompous white-haired fat man wearing a cummerbund and a pince nez, and his wife standing nearby in a fox fur stole smoking with a cigarette holder. “Kaiser Wilhelm and Marie Antoinette. Who would want to kill them?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“There’s a lot of washed necks and shaved legs at this shindig. Jeez, you look swell tonight”.
“Listen, Ted, why don’t you lose the fossils and take me home? I haven’t seen you since that swell time we had target shooting.” I played with my hair without realizing it.
“I’m sorry, Lois, but I gotta wet-nurse the waxworks, police duty and all that other stuff. Let’s make a night of it next Friday, whatta ya say? It’ll be my first free night in weeks, honest to God”.
“Well alright, ya big lug, but remember a promise is a promise”, I said, squeezing his hand.

The models had to exit the building from the back towards the alley. Things were safe what with all the limousines and taxicabs surrounding the department store. I guess I had nothing to worry about. But then I started thinking about that owl just staring at me in the darkness from on top of the lamp post, burning his large golden eyes into me.

I pressed the elevator button with one hand on my hip and the other around my handbag. There was no one else waiting for the elevator, which seemed a little funny. When the doors opened a man in a large coat stood in the back, his hat brim pulled down so low you couldn’t see his eyes. I got in and pressed the street button.

The elevator began going down until the man behind me pushed me aside and hit the stop switch.
“Hey, what gives?”
The man in the coat shoved me against the wall. I tried pushing back but he slugged me hard on the side of my head.
“Listen, pretty puss, you wanna keep your pretty face you keep that big mouth of yours shut. Just give with the beautiful looks and stay out of other people’s battles. You got me?” The man had a strong Southern accent and an ever stronger grip on my arm. I tried twisting my arms around me to get to his neck put kept reaching into emptiness, my vision getting darker and darker.
“Let go of me or I’ll scream.”
“Go ahead and scream, scream as loud as you want, toots”.
I opened my mouth and nothing came out because he had his hand over my throat, choking me. I felt myself choking until I passed out and collapsed to the floor. After I hit the floor I could feel myself drifting down and the elevator doors opening. I woke up a minute later and there was no one there.



Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Beauty Pavilion (crash WALKER Chapter 0)


Although Crash Walker wasn’t a convicted killer he still couldn’t freely walk around Sunset Boulevard as he pleased, especially under the scrutiny of Hollywood tour buses floating up and down the street. So he donned the darkest pair of sunglasses money could buy and returned to his favorite watering hole, Schwab’s Drug Store for brunch with his actor pals.

His fat buddy Tony wasn’t wearing his Julius Caesar toupee today, letting it shine, but he was ragging Mr. Walker.
“Look at you, just look at you, eating with sunglasses like Ray Charles. Does food taste better when you can’t see it?”
“Come to think of it, it does”, Crash ate with his head hung down, avoiding eye contact with the other diners. “If I can’t see how nasty it looks it tastes much better”.
“You can’t eat with your head hung down, it’s not natural. You’ll choke!”
“Shut up”.
“Lookit, Buddy Boy, they way you’re sitting, your wind pipe is bent over your esophagus, you’re going to choke on your toast, a strip of bacon will strangle you!”
“Don’t you have a screen test to bomb out on? COUGH, COUGH, COUGH”, his face turned purple as he choked on a piece of toast. Tony diligently banged on Crash’s back as he gulped down some steaming hot coffee to sink the offending piece of bread.
“AH! AH! AH! What did I tell you? What did I tell you?”
“Don’t you have an audition for a toilet paper commercial to go to?”

Albert the dog-faced actor piled into the booth with a puzzled pooch look on his face. “Hey, Harold, what’s with the lunettes?”
“Don’t call me Harold, I’m Crash, ya dig?”
An equally doggy waitress glided up to the booth with a pot of coffee. “Some freshening up, ya movie stars. How about you, Big Spender? Your customary coffee and toast?”
“Yeah, the usual, and hold the sarcasm”, Albert whined. “Say, Crash, I know a great way you can cash in on this Bill Flagg murder. Why don’t you write a book called ‘If I Did It’?”
“WHAT?”
“Y’know, you could walk us through the murder, pretending what would happen if you really did kill that pompous fake cop bastard”.
Tony’s face turned red. “Are you crazy? What kind of an idiot would kill somebody and then write a book called ‘If I Did It’?”
“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard”, Crash shook his head. “No dice”.
Albert lifted his hands supplicatingly. “Just think of the payload you would-“

Everyone stopped what they were doing to watch a blind ten-year old black boy walk up to their booth led by a German Shepherd almost twice his size.
“Mister Crash Walker?” the kid jerked his head towards the gang.
“What did I tell you?” Tony blurted. “Even a blind kid can pick you out with those sunglasses on”.
“Shut up! Over here, kid”. The boy walked towards the sound of Crash’s voice as the German Shepherd sniffed the food on the table. He handed an envelope to Crash, whispered “God bless”, and left.
“Well, obviously he didn’t want your autograph”.
“Shut up, Tony”.

Crash opened up the envelope, pulled out a beautifully handwritten note that said, “Mister Crash Walker, I have some inside information on the murder of William Flagg that I am sure you will find valuable. Meet me at The Beauty Pavilion at 8760 West Sunset Boulevard around noon. Ask for Dr. Gastmeyer.
P.S. Don’t be late.
P.S.S. Just kidding.
P.S.S.S. No, I’m not. Don’t be late, my time is valuable”.

Cruising in the Corvair down Sunset Boulevard Crash and Tony listened to The Roger Christian Show on 93-KHJ. He was playing “You’re So Good To Me” by The Beach Boys and the sun was already out and boiling the brunch in their stomachs. “Is this it?” Crash asked. “8760 West Sunset?” He pulled up by a weird futuristic coliseum – type structure.
Tony looked at the note and said, “This looks goofy enough to be it". They walked down a narrow driveway towards a mirrored glass door. There was a little intercom box by the door. Crash pushed the button on the box.
“Yes? Yesyes?”
“Crash Walker for Doctor Gastmeyer”.
The door buzzed and the guys walked in to the waiting room. There were statues and paintings of Venus, Aphrodite and Freyja throughout the room with incoming patients seated waiting to be served. A man with his nose bandaged held his head down reading a magazine, a beautifully made-up woman took her sunglasses off to reveal two black eyes, an effeminate man nervously squirmed in his chair with a large brace around his neck trying not to be noticed.

“Yes, are you Crash Walker?” the secretary asked Tony.
“Heck no, don’t you watch TV?”
Crash piped up, “Like I said, we’re here to see Dr. Gastmeyer”.
A nurse looking remarkably similar to the secretary opened up the pink door to their right and led them inside. The effeminate man continued his squirming.

They entered a completely white, overlit room with four surgical chairs several feet apart with patients lying back in them, all with their heads covered save a few holes cut into the covers for operation. One for eyes, one for the nose, one for the lips, etc. Nurses attended each patient, but the most interesting person in the room was a woman with a blonde beehive hairstyle in a surgical mask and gloves bent over a patient. She must have been at least six foot seven, an Amazon.

She straightened up and looked taller then everyone else, quietly instructing the nurse on treating the patient. She glanced to her side, saw Crash and walked over. Removing her gloves glamorously, she bounded towards them, “Mr. Walker, I am Doctor Hilda Gastmeyer”, she put her slender hand out, her huge blue eyes expressive under the surgical mask. “Welcome to The Beauty Pavilion, more than just a clinic, but a new beginning!”

“Please to meet you”, Crash smiled, “I brought my friend Tony Romano with me. We didn’t even know about this place until now. It’s so out of the ordinary!”
Dr. Gastmeyer pulled off her surgical mask and smiled, “Yes, I have the most gorgeous factory in the world. I manufacture glamour with my colleagues to keep Hollywood beautiful!”
“This is quite an impressive clinic you have here, Doc”, Crash looked around. “Am I imagining things or are you operating on several patients at the same time?”
“Yes, I’m keeping my production moving just as you would a conveyor belt, keeping pretty in a constant state of motion”, Crash noticed her lips not moving smoothly together, something unnatural in the way they synchronized to the words she was saying.

“Hmmmm! I suppose you could do a lot of alterations on my looks, wouldn’t you?”
“Absolutely not, you are a very photogenic man, every feature perfectly proportioned”, she grinned, and then frowned at Tony, “but your friend, ugh!” She disgustedly shrugged her shoulders. “Fixing his exterior shell would take many, many appointments!”
Tony frowned at her.
“Can we talk about the note you sent me?” Crash asked, craning his head up to her. She had eight inches on him.
“Of course, my office is down the hall!”

Dr. Gastmeyer was so tall when she crossed her legs behind her desk you still saw a lot of leg behind the desk. She lit a cigarette and offered one to the guys, who declined. Her office had silver wallpaper with a few boring certificates and diplomas on the wall. In the corner were two bird cages, one with an African Gray parrot and the other with a Blue Amazon. They nervously paced on their perches, occasionally ruffling their feathers.

“So, I read everything in the paper about the Flagg murder case. This Mr. Flagg, did you know him well…outside of the argument you had with him at the party?”
“A little bit, not too much”.
“You know he dabbled in drugs? On television he preached against them but he actually indulged in quite a few pharmaceuticals”.
“Really?” Walker raised an eyebrow. “This is hot news. Why didn’t you go to the cops with this information? You could have saved me a lot of trouble.”
Gastmeyer smiled quietly and blew out smoke. “Mr. Flagg and I went to the same supplier. I can’t jeopardize The Beauty Pavilion with that kind of scandal, not even for you, my perfect looking friend. I’m sorry”.
“I’m glad you’re sorry”.
“How do you like that?” Tony shook his head, “of all the screwy-“
“Shut up, Tony. Alright, I’ll let the cops know about them and I’ll keep you out of it”.

Gastmeyer’s intercom buzzed. “What is it?”
“Doctor, it’s your husband on the line”.
She spoke into the speaker. “Hello, dear, what is it? Quickly”.
“Did you talk to the movie star yet? The bank’s been calling, and –“ She quickly snatched up the phone, cutting out his voice on the speaker. Tony nudged Crash and pointed under the desk to her right arm, which had heavily applied makeup covering marks along her forearm.
“Darling, I’m with a client right now. We can discuss this later”.
Crash stared closer at the silver wallpaper and noticed that the corners were peeling and there were cracks in some of the seams.
“I know, but it will be taken care of. Now! I need to go, love you, Hugo”.

She hung up and collected herself, smiling at Crash, putting out her cigarette. “What was the topic? Refresh me, glamorous man”.
“You have the dope, I mean information, give it to me and I’ll let the cops know and you won’t even be involved”.
“Well, Mr. Walker, knowledge is power, and knowledge also means money. How much is this information worth to you?”
“Hey!” Tony yelled.
“Cool it. I’m not good at playing guessing games, Doctor. Why don’t you tell me your asking price and I’ll just tell you if I can afford it”.
“Well, you look like an attractive star with strong prospects, how does Twenty-Five Thousand dollars sound?”
“Are you nuts?” Tony yelled again. “Jesus!”
“No, nada, no soap. I don’t have that kind of money to bang around”.
“Well”, Dr. Gastmeyer rolled her eyes regretfully.

“LALALALA”, the African Gray sang from its cage.
“The fucking movie star! The fucking movie star! Grease him for the dough!” The Blue Amazon sounded just like the man named Hugo from the intercom.
“I have a habit to support. Where’s my syringe?” The African Gray chanted, his eyes glazed staring at Crash.
“The loan sharks are gonna bust my hump!” The Hugo voice piped up.
“Verdammt! Verdammt!” the bird bobbed his head.
“Soak the pretty bastard, scheisse!” The parrots now yelled with their eyes glazed and their crests folding up.

Dr. Gastmeyer jumped up from her desk and tore off her scapular and threw it over the cages in an effort to shut them up. They still muttered remarks but it was too late.
“I knew it, I knew it!” Tony banged his fist on the arm of his chair.
“Sounds like a shakedown to me”, Crash cussed. “We’re leaving and you can forget about the twenty-five grand, I’ll pass on your fake information”.
“I warn you, sir”, she regained her composure, “I have a powerful team of attorneys. What was discussed today will not leave this office”.
“But we will. Fake looks, fake information”.
Tony sneered, “And you didn’t think I was good lookin’. At least I’m not a damn junkie!”
“Get out of my office! Hier raus!” She yelled, throwing her big glass bowl ashtray at the wall. The boys trooped out, past the cloned secretary and the hapless, unhappy, super-bandaged but glamorous Hollywood patients in the clinic.

“Shitfire. What a waste of time”, Crash sighed as they got back to the car. “You know, the prettiest thing I’ve seen today was the Rocky and Bullwinkle statue”.
“Hells bells, kid, let’s drive by it one more time!” Tony yelled and then ripped a vicious fart.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Brotherhood of The Horn


It was 1972 and I had $185 left in my Bar Mitzvah fund. I was taking flute lessons at Siegel’s Music and on the way out of the store after a lesson it stood in the shop window staring me down: a Conn Mark IV Tenor Saxophone, silver plated and so small for a tenor it was mistaken for a C-Melody saxophone. It was from the 1920’s and in pretty good condition. It had a naked girl with long, sexy platinum hair and a killer pair of titties etched into the bell of the horn. I ignored her beckoning towards me for the next two weeks.

I tried to forget about her lying in my bedroom listening to Captain Beefheart, Blodwyn Pig, the Bonzo Dog Band, and The Mothers of Invention, all showcasing demented psych-jazz saxophone playing. I finally said, “fuck it”, went to Crocker Bank, closed my account and walked one block down to Siegel’s Music and bought my horn. But it wasn’t just a horn, it was buying a new life, newer than I ever imagined.

My flute teacher Jerry Myers was thrilled to hear I got the horn. “Now you’re going to be playing the real stuff, Andrew”, he said as he began drawing up saxophone exercises for me to practice. One of the first things I did was play my sax alongside Jimi Hendrix records hoping to replicate distorted guitar sounds. I also remember playing along to T. Rex records, wearing out my copy of “Electric Warrior” playing lead sax to “Jeepster” and “Rip Off”.

As soon as people found out I could play saxophone invitations were extended for jam sessions; after all, who needs yet another guitar player or singer? People always need a sax player. Within weeks I was skronking and skreeking at downtown loft parties, all the booze you can drink, Yes! I played New Year’s Eve with my brother Marc Anthony Thompson backing up some wild rock band at The Blind Pig. Have horn will party :).

Beyond the loft party sax tramp shenanigans Jerry Myers taught me about the whole old school jazz fetishisms, as in watching him rehearsing with a big band at The Musician’s Union on Vine Street. Big bands generally suck but once you’re sitting in front of a wall of saxophones, trumpets and trombones, the sheer power of these winds will blast your ass into the stratosphere. Even a hoary (whore-y?) old chestnut like “Signed Sealed, Delivered” sounds strong enough to make you see the Saints.


Across the street from the Union building was M.K. Stein, which sold every type of brass and wind instruments, cases and horns and instructional books, etc. The walls were jammed with yellowing framed photos of jazz recording stars whom played up the street at The Vine Street Grill, Shelley’s Manne Hole, The Hollywood Palladium (home of big band leader Guy Lombardo) and the CBS radio station on Sunset & Gower. I bought a leather saxophone gig bag at M.K. Stein after I found a $100 bill in my back yard – I lived next door to a massage parlor and when I took out the trash on a rainy night I saw a bill on the ground, grabbed it and ran up the stairs.

The best sax repair man in Hollywood was right around the corner, a guy named Mac who had a big speed boat in his driveway which you walked past to get to a little garage in the back. Inside the garage were hundreds of horns in various states of disrepair with pads and keys being replaced or overhauled. Jazz music was always blaring out of a tinny cassette player and “Mac” in his skipper cap would calmly tell you your horn would be ready in a few days. And it would sound better than you ever imagined it could sound once you picked it up.

The wild thing about this sonic education is that one ear was listening to glitter rock and the other one was discovering jazz. In between the Sweet, Roxy Music and Queen shows I’d go to Shelley’s Manne Hole to see Charles Mingus and Gato Barbieri and Donte’s in the Valley to see Stan Getz and Art Pepper.

My time to groove in the Big Band Mode came when Jerry taught a big band class at Los Angeles City College (which has an awesome music curriculum, by the way). “Pick your horn, Andrew, don’t be shy”. I wasn’t. I picked up a baritone saxophone, huge and heavy, so large I had to place it on a stand, lest I dislocate my neck.

We played another Stevie Wonder classic, “For Once In My Life”, and the vibrations shaking from the resonating horn boomed across the room. I was bringing down the bottom, electricity flowing through me, from my cerebellum through the reeds, down the curved horn and out of the bell of the horn.

The next week I walked to The Donut Show at Toluca Mart on Pico & Robertson and the crazy bastard Morey Branovan with this thick sunglasses and Hawaiian leis around his neck braying “Hatikvah” on his alto sax like some hebe Roland Kirk echoing down the intersection providing Jewish nightmare music. I picked up some chocolate buttermilk donuts realizing I could play better than this untalented dinosaur.

Walking down Pico Boulevard I started picking up jazz 78’s from the Hadassah Thrift Shop. My favorite was “I Cried For You” by Dinah Washington with that wild, swinging Ben Webster tenor solo. You could also buy 78’s in great condition at Music Man Murray in the red light district of East Hollywood, records like vintage Charlie Christian sides complete with the album cover (opening up like a photo album). I’d alternate playing my scratchy 78’s with “Nothing Is” by Sun Ra, “Volunteered Slavery” by Roland Kirk and “Science Fiction” by Ornette Coleman. Music would never be the same again and my life would never be the same again.