Friday, December 30, 2016

New Oldies For Ear Canals

What once felt like a gridlock of rock albums during the Seventies and Eighties now appears to be an embarrassment of riches in terms of new albums and bands to discover now that there's very little new product grabbing your attention. I've just begun to discover all kinds of old treasures, and while I come off looking like Johnny-Come-Lately, I'll gladly accept that title with a smile on my face. What great new sounds await!

Here are some finds, some you may have enjoyed through the years, but new noise for my pink ears:

Fanny Hill (Fanny): Yes, I've always known about them and even bought their Casablanca Records single Butter Boy when it came out, but never really looked further into their albums. Big mistake, there's some great stuff going on here. Fanny Hill may be their best album of the bunch, featuring some great original songs and a legendary cover of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine song "Hey Bulldog".

Among the great originals are the Glam-Bowie /Suffragette City sounds of Borrowed Time, Nickey Barclay's great keyboard playing and soulful vocals on Blind Alley, and the overwrought soap opera drama of Knock On My Door. Great lyrics on that one! There will never be a complete Fanny reunion ever (Barclay's turned down several offers) but we'll always have this entertaining album to enjoy.

Faust IV (Faust): This may be their most accessible album (that's a good thing) and I hear a lot of Frank Zappa in Giggly Smile and some Joy Of A Toy-era Kevin Ayers in It's A Bit Of A Pain and Jennifer. Tracks definitely have more of an acid-drenched picnic vibe to them than on their other albums, and if you're normally afraid of Krautrock this is a good place to start. There's even a jazzy reggae number called The Sad Skinhead.

Huffin' Rag Blues (Nurse With Wound): How do you follow up several decades' worth of industrial skronk? How about releasing a lounge album with enough curve balls to drive you crazy? Well, Huffin' Rag Blues is all that and more. Favorite tracks include Thrill of Romance, Cruisin' For A Bruisin' for the car crash set, and the David Lynch-Julie London nightmare Wash The Dust From My Heart.

Other tracks I like from other scattered albums are The Bottom Feeder and Beetles Crawl Across My Back, definitely not so loungey as the Huffin' album but still pretty amazing stuff. Not for the weak of heart but ultimately rewarding, nevertheless.

Nurse With Wound is the brainchild of Steven Stapleton and he has collaborated with other legendary artists such as Stereolab and Faust, who really get around.

Black Antlers (Coil): It's feels weird hyping an album with a set of testicles on the cover, but when it sounds as outstanding as Black Antlers, nothing's going to stand in your way. A synth & electronics duo featuring Jhonn Balance and Peter Christopherson, the sonic landscapes created by the dearly departed duo have a cinematic intensity to them that you definitely need to check out.

Favorite tracks include Departed, Things We Never Had, the somber Teenage Lightning, and the title track. This is great music to get in your car and fly down the dark highway in the dead of night. This is very moody music best enjoyed for those days when the sun is nowhere to be found.

Subliminal Sandwich (Meat Beat Manifesto): Jack Dangers' electronic soundscapes run the gamut from downbeat to jazz to dubstep and beyond. Tracks like Transmission and She's Unreal have a sexy trance dancability to them, while tracks like Cancer offer bleak, dark urban soundtracks in the Blade Runner mode. Future World indeed!

There's some great listening to be had from these bands, and it's pretty sad that these artists never got the attention they truly deserved. Look into these albums or any other ones by these artists and you'll discover a brave new world of insane sonics guaranteed to crack your brain open like a pink porcelain piggy bank!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Suburban Adam and Eve

There were green lawns with sprinklers
shooting water towards the azure sky
Spanish tile towered with television antennae gables
tropical palm trees swaying in the soft wind
blowing away dark gray clouds coughing out of battered station wagons

Things were cool when I was sixteen years old
there was the girl, with her long, dark, wet brown hair
which often fell into her dark, wet brown eyes
she gave me a dark brown smile and said,
“Wait a minute”

she climbed over the backyard fence
and I waited
I heard her voice over the fence,
“well come on”
I climbed over the fence too

she stood next to her neighbor’s peach tree
she pulled off a peach and handed it to me
“Bite” she said

I bit into the soft flesh of the fuzzy fruit
The juice ran all over my hands
she took my hands holding the bleeding fruit

She bit deep into the fuzzy peach
her eyes boring into me
her warm, hungry, brown eyes not moving away from me
the stare of a tiger
the stare of a wolf

This is the way it began
and this is the way it goes on
Even in suburban Culver City

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lovers Come and Gone

The world is full of love songs about people you love madly and the ones that broke your heart and the ones you drop as well as the ones that drop you in return, and…it got me to thinking. I want to talk about the loves I’ve had in the past. Real and imagined (the imagined ones can be defined as Internet Lolitas with the accent on the first three letters LOL).

There are the girls you ran after and the ones that ran after you. You worried about looking like a stalker when you ran after that girl, but when a girl runs after you she makes no bones about the fact that she’s stalking you. She’ll even tell you straight out, “I’m stalking you”. “Don’t you wish you never met her”, as PJ Harvey sang in Rid Of Me. Well, sometimes. It’s sexy when it’s the girl you want, but if she’s not then it’s a scene from Play Misty For Me, all signs of manic desire, obsession, unhealthy fixation, so on and so forth.

But I digress: I’m driving up Pacific Coast Highway making a delivery, staring at the big, blue waves and listening to The Flying Burrito Brothers. Feeling like such a California boy. “She’s the devil in disguise, she’s been telling dirty lies…she calls me ‘The Man In The Fog’, ‘Take me’, she says, ‘Just one time’”.

I think about the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers, where he visits a few of his ex-girlfriends to find out who is the mother of his only child. In his quest for the mystery woman we see him visiting a biker mama, a high-strung animal psychiatrist, a reformed hippie turned Stepford Wife, and an over the hill dragstrip queen.

None of the women are connected in any way, and collectively represent the phases of his life and what interested him most at that time about women. I think we’re all like that in many ways, and in that respect I can say that what interested me in a woman thirty years ago would never interest me now, because I’ve changed. I think we’re all like that; we change our taste in people, as we do in music or films.

People search endlessly for someone to love, not because they lack independence, but because who they choose to be with marks a milestone in their life. To live an entire life without love is a life lived without reference or signposts.

But I digress: Drove for 11 hours straight yesterday, and the last job was delivering some fashion over the hill from Laurel Canyon. It was pitch black and I was already tired and felt myself floating in the darkness up the canyon and when the job was done I drove back down the canyon, floating in the darkness and feeling like a Laurel Canyon ghost. It was a beautiful feeling.

There were the girls that made me cry and the ones I made cry, but above all the ones that gave me fire, inspired me, great pretenders of the muse…some of them were the real thing and others who just didn’t have it.

I think about people who have love all the time and others who never get any, and even worse, the ones who have to fight for it, like beggars in a tent camp. Do the people who never have love dream pleasant dreams or is life just a long nightmare for them? I wonder.

P.S. Many of the girls I've loved are either still single, a few are divorced, and most of them have gone mad. What’s it all about? You will know love and love will drive you mad, but loneliness is worse.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Does This World Make Me Look Flat?

When I was a kid I went to my music school's talent show. It was a fairly dull affair; lots of classical piano pieces, a homely girl on clarinet, even some operatic aria.

Just when all seemed lost, however, the big finale was worth the trip: ten boys and girls came out with electric guitars and music stands to perform Heartbreak Hotel. It was absolutely glorious. Half the guitars were out of tune, louder than sin and no one played in time with each other. It was the most no wave thing I ever heard, DNA, Mars and Theoretical Girls be damned.

On a separate note, I don’t need to go into laborious detail about the bizarre victory of a highly unstable and unqualified man for the most coveted position in the free world, the President of the soon to not be United States. Get ready to see reversals of everything resembling remedial thought, including the concept of the World being flat. Science, along with our natural resources will be taking quite a beating for the next four years. I’m sure even Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity will be destroyed by these imbeciles in the years to come. No one is safe.

How will that affect art for the next four years? I suspect that there will be a lot of artists playing it safe out of fear of the new bully regime. On the other hand I suspect we’ll see more Joel Greys than ever, artists becoming more decadent and defiant as a form of revolution.

On the way home from the psychedelic dance party I had to drive through Skid Row. In the middle of the street was this girl who looked like Cissy Spacek all covered in blood a la Carrie. She was looking for her other sneaker. When she saw my car slowly crawling she made this intolerant Aileen Wuornos face and threw her arms up to wave me through. If I could put subtitles under her it would be "WAIL CUM ON, SPORT!"

Am I the only one who nurses a strange nostalgia for obscurity? Thanks to the internet, nothing can honestly be branded as obscure anymore. What I’m referring to is a day and age in my childhood where tons of data couldn’t be gleaned from a computer and had to be simply discovered. Case in point, when I’d take a bus up to Hollywood Boulevard and I’d walk up and down the street and its many side streets, an endless labyrinth of old pulp magazine stores, magic shops, stores specializing in Eastern herbs (not yet approaching the mainstream as this was 1966), and even the odd witchcraft store with black candles. Bereft of any advertising, one had to roam through the Hollywood jungle to discover all these esoteric shops.

But all the mystery and kink of Hollywood Boulevard is gone, now, it’s just a jumped up Disneyland for tourists with the odd teen runaway wearing a Misfits t-shirt. Kids nowadays don’t even have a clue who Sid Vicious is, even. That might be a good thing. Maybe Sid can finally rest in peace.

Speaking of Syd I’ve posted a picture of the late Syd Barrett in the autumn of his years. I find the photo interesting, probably because the resemblance to Brian Eno is more than coincidental. Barrett was definitely a big influence on Eno during his Taking Tiger Mountain/Another Green World period, China My China and Third Uncle, for example. Kink and mystery, kink and mystery…it’s all over now.

Guitar art by Tim Biskup; DJ picture by Chris Reccardi.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Quark, Strangeness & Charm

I'm not one to obsess much over milestones because it's a game one can play indefinitely ("The 50th Anniversary of Sgt. Peppers", "The 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima", etc.), but I'll break my rule and let you know that this Monday, October 31st, will be my 60th birthday. Sixty years of...quark, strangeness and charm (thanks, Hawkwind).

This week also marks the 60th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, where I was born. I find it ironic that there was fighting in the streets as I was born, and that the cacophony of street fighting somewhat influenced me into a life-long love for playing free jazz and other areas of improvisational music. By my parents' account, I was smuggled out of the country as they escaped to the USA. Contraband is my middle name.

Now that I've turned 60 I have to confess that I've started moving slower for things. I no longer run for anything - I just take my time. I've been here long enough. What's the point of running for anything? I've seen enough shit to know how things will turn out.

But in essence the importance of getting older is that there's less a feeling of guilt in general. I find it harder and harder to feel bad about anything. And even worse, I find my self-esteem rising higher and higher. I really like myself and all the things that I've done. I've lost all sense of shame. I won't dwell on self-hatred.

But all kidding aside, I've done just about everything I've ever wanted to do. I was a rock musician, touring the country and recording several albums; I've designed and made my own fashions, many of which have been featured on this blog; I worked for every strata of American government (Fed, State, County and City); I've done private investigative work, and now I'm doing what I love best, writing punk rock crime novels. If I died tomorrow I couldn't ask for a refund. I got on all the rides.

For the celebrity obsessed I've shaken hands with John Cassavetes, helped Harrison Ford at the election polls, hugged Raquel Welch, attended Julie Newmar's birthday party at her home, attended Gene Simmons' own 60th private birthday party, hung out with Iggy Pop and Shaun Cassidy at Rodney's, danced with Patti Smith and made Sun Ra smile. Yeah, I got on all the rides.

I don't cry much over terrible things that have happened in the past. Crying isn't really that cathartic and I prefer to just keep moving. anyway. My pain is a luxury I can't afford. Life is mostly loss, anyway. You lose friends who decide they hate you. You lose parents who pass away.

So what's it all about? Sex and death. Sex - getting it, dodging it from lecherous men, singing about it, writing about it - by the way, writing sex scenes in my books have always been the easiest part of my books. I don't get writers who can't knock out a decent sex scene in their novels. If you like sex then writing about it's the easiest task in the world.

Death, not just the end of mortality but the end of friendships, relationships, marriages, i.e. anything that entails someone yelling FUCK YOU as a parting shot. Life is filled with a lot of that, sometimes just a wee bit too much of it. For fuck's sake.

But still, what's it all about? I don't know. I just keep writing about people doing bad things to each other, laughing my ass off as I type away. And this week I'm listening to The Slits...Ari Up, passed away six years ago this week...Who invented the typical girl? Do a runner, do a runner....and then I hear the answer. In the beginning there was rhythm. Silence is a rhythm too>>>>>.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Fish Eye

When I was young I remember when fish eyes lens album covers were a big deal. Generally meant to depict the effect of a distorted, drug-induced hallucination, the fish eye lens was developed in the early 20th century but didn't become available on the marketplace until the early Sixties.

The popular fish eye lens is the circular lens, best explained by Wikipedia:

The first types of fisheye lenses to be developed were "circular fisheye" — lenses which took in a 180° hemisphere and projected this as a circle within the film frame. Some circular fisheyes were available in orthographic projection models for scientific applications. These have a 180° vertical angle of view, and the horizontal and diagonal angle of view are also 180°. Most circular fisheye lenses cover a smaller image circle than rectilinear lenses, so the corners of the frame will be completely dark.

By the mid to late Sixties it was de rigeur for every popular band to have a cool fish eye lens photograph of themselves. Several bands released iconographic album covers employing this exciting new look.

Three album covers which immediately come to mind are Are You Experienced? by the Jimi Hendrix Experience (shot by Karl Ferris), Safe As Milk by Capt. Beefheart & His Magic band (shot by Guy Webster), and Mr. Tambourine Man by The Byrds (shot by Barry Feinstein). These particular shots expand on what would have been considered average stock rock photos.

The fish eye camera lens craze enjoyed its heyday in the Sixties and its use in the decades to follow slowly dropped into obscurity. I think we're due for a revival any day now....

***************

Speaking of a revival I've been listening to the Edgar Broughton band a lot lately. Talk about your overlooked geniuses, they were so far ahead of their time they couldn't even catch a break in their own home country.

The band's first album Wasa Wasa inaugurated their sound in 1969. While it recalls classic stoner rock like Black Sabbath, it sounds more like what would be considered The Birthday Party's signature sound over 10 years later. Case example: Love In The Rain, shown here on Beat Club.

Although the Broughton Band was more song-oriented compared to, say, the more freeform Deviants, the lyric content from Broughton was far more outrageous. One of the more extreme examples is “Psychopath”, the recalling of the rape/murder of a young teenage girl. The track unsettled rock fans with the way the crime is recounted with more than a trace of humor. This twisted sense of humor earned the band more than their fair share of enemies and made the band fairly reviled in a scene that accepted just about everyone. The Edgar Broughton Band stepped over the line and fans were not amused.

Nor did they endear themselves to the vegetarian hippie corps by posting a photo of a line of slaughtered cattle in an abattoir on the cover of their second album. They were pushing buttons far ahead of the punk rock bands of 1977, but nobody was ready for it yet.

While the band weren’t about to unseat Donovan in the peace and love sweepstakes, they still managed to be as eclectic as possible. One of the earliest bands to cover a Captain Beefheart song, they merged Dropout Boogie with Jorgen Ingemann’s instrumental hit Apache.

But if you want to hear the proper precursor to The Birthday Party, I recommend tracks like Evil (“Evil, evil, black as night…”), Crying and Love In The Rain, where the trio play distorted acid rock with swinging jazz time signatures. And for those of you who like ballads, you may never hear a ballad more gorgeous about suicide than Hotel Room.

On the other end of the spectrum is Elysian Fields, a band led by New York couple Jennifer Charles (vocals) and Oren Bloedow (guitar and piano). Their sound is very slow, moody and torch song influenced. For the past twenty years they have produced a line of albums that sound like Julie London transmitting messages from the dark side of the moon.

Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Sixties-era Jane Birkin, Charles sings in a low whisper while the band, a revolving group which included members of Jeff Buckley’s backing group play behind her. Bloedow and Charles write haunting melodies that are both erotic and romantic, Songs for Really Modern Lovers.

Some of their more haunting torch songs include The Moment, When, and Climbing Up My Dark Hair. If you go for more of a rock sound, they do rock out in a Romeo Void-kind of way with songs like Timing Is Everything, Jack In The Box, and Bend Your Mind. You owe it to yourself to discover this great band. You won’t be sorry.

Friday, September 30, 2016

My Goat Can Totally Beat Up Your Goat

A few decades ago I attended Los Angeles City College to study the art of screenwriting. The teacher wasn’t very good, in fact he was rather lazy and instead of instructing us how to write for film he merely had us write our scripts and then have us read it to the rest of the class. Groan. This wasn’t screen writing, this was a bad creative writing class.

What kind of scripts did my classmates write? One graying pipe-smoker of a fella wrote a coming of age tale which took places in the Fabulous Fifties and included slow motion scenes of wrist cutting and other suicidal rituals. There was also tedious dialogue between man and woman about “going all the way”.

Another classmate wrote about a plucky woman trying to make it in the food catering business. It wasn’t very funny and it almost read like a diary of her working day. While she read I stared at her metal braces and concluded she looked a bit like a shark.*

What’s the point? Well, sometimes when I read social networking sites it reminds me of that screenwriting class. Everybody’s got something to say but they’re not saying it very well. The irony is that everyone has a great story to tell, but they usually need someone else to tell it for them. Illiteracy breeds inarticulation.

I enjoy watching videos of writers discussing how they plot their story. I like the ones from Harlan Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, etc. I skipped the one from Joyce Carol Oates because her stories take forever to get going and her advice meandered just as badly. Stephen King’s advice is better than his actual writing. Paul Auster was drawn out and boring I had to turn him off after five minutes. He just took so long to get to his point. I wonder if he ever took a screenwriting course.

Charles Bukowski inadvertently gave advice in his German TV interview when he criticized other writers, saying that very sentence should move the action further and that overly describing things was deadly. A similar remark was made by Alfred Hitchcock when he was interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show. Films should be about action, not second unit footage of the scenery and the sets. Keep things moving!

I’ve always been accused of writing too briefly and not being too overly descriptive. This is good. This means I lie in the Buk/Hitch camp of storytelling. Keep things moving! Do you really want to read three hundred pages of this:

“You know, I was contemplating the early years of my life, those summer years of red sky dawns and cold frost forming on the windows of my Northeastern home. The newsboy pedaled by our house in his new Schwinn, throwing the paper with his expert right hand. Father read the news at the breakfast table as Mother prepared a hearty American breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, erc………………” The scary part is reading books where this prattle goes on for pages and pages. You want to cut your throat reading it.

Yes, my writing is very tight and spare. People want you to get on with it. Time is tight. If I ask you to describe an automobile accident nobody wants to know what everyone wore or how big their noses were. I want to know who did what to who and how did one car hit the other one. The name of the game is action. As in movies, so in writing.

*By the way, my screenplay was pretty bad, too. Six months after I wrote it I burned the stupid thing, but I do recommend you try writing one to get a fine appreciation of dialogue and scene staging. It will help your writing.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Antonyms and The Homonyms

I was at the pet store yesterday and I was chewing gum like Sterling Hayden, when I looked down and this fucking Pomeranian stared at me with his little button eyes and started imitating me, making chewing faces, snapping his jaws open and closed. What a clever little fucker.

Thought I was having a bad day at work until I saw Larry King walking alone down Rodeo Drive. Larry looked short and frail as if someone washed him in hot water instead of the cold. He was talking into his cell phone to Caller #000 with his shirt buttoned up to the collar in 82dgr weather. He walked as if it was a harder job than spitting into a prop microphone.

This old guy was complaining about the heat to me today.
I told him there was nothing wrong with the heat, there's too many people and too many fucking cars and if you took them all away you'd love the heat.
Well, when Pop heard this his wrinkled eyes got real big and he screamed, "YOUNG MAN YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!"

Thanks to a site called Creepypasta (creepypasta.com) I discovered the work of a great performance artist from Belgium named Olivier de Sagazan. He utilizes clay and other media to distort and modify his appearance. Here's a pretty wild sample of his work:

I like the way he mumbles to himself a lot while he works, like he's really possessed. He can also be seen in a movie called "Samsara".

Just saw Paula Abdul standing in front of Pepperdine U for the 9/11 memorial. She wore a cowboy hat, a mini-dress, with cowboy boots (matched the hat). She was alone and looked very happy. I never liked her until I saw her then. What made it so great was that the expectation is for her to be surrounded by a large, annoying entourage, but there she was, hanging out by herself and smiling, taking pictures of the breathtaking 100-flag display on the front lawn of Pepperdine University. Her cowboy outfit and the 100 flags gave me a true Myra Breckenridge poster moment.

Wow, what a find. Shortly before she passed away from cancer Sandy Dennis wrote her memoirs, and it's every bit as weird as she was. The star of such bizarre films as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Fox, and That Cold Day In The Park, Dennis was also the inseparable girlfriend to cool jazz juggernaut Gerry Mulligan. The book was written while she slowly succumbed to her disease, surrounded by her 30 cats. Yes, Ms. Dennis was a Cat Lady and goes into great detail about her cats. Highly recommended.

Getting back to Creepypasta, it's funny how the younger kids these days are creeped out by videos of clowns and weird people romping around in mannequin masks with weird, droney electronic music. None of these videos really scared me, and I wondered why. Then I remembered I grew up on a diet of Devo and Residents videos, all of which put a lot of these dumb videos to shame.

I once went shopping with this woman one afternoon in the Wilshire District. She took great pride in everyone in the store calling her on a first name basis; it was a frighteningly big deal to her. Bored with her making a big show of how popular she was in the store, I walked out to the sidewalk to check on my car.
A car loaded with black teenage boys drove slowly by me.
'YO, OZZY OSWALD!" "SUP, OZZY OSWALD?" They yelled at me from the car, laughing. I laughed right back.
Now there's a great hip-hop name, Ozzy Oswald. Make me a cross between Ozzy Osbourne, revered metal singer of Black Sabbath with Lee Harvey Oswald, notorious killer of the great President John F. Kennedy. Those kids had spunk. Those kids had genius.

I stood around five minutes more and then a car of white teenage girls pulled up asking me all kinds of questions. Talking to teenage girls is a lot like being abducted by aliens: once it's over you have no recollection of what just happened. I think they were asking me about my 7-star tattoo sleeve (by Ace Farren Ford of Purple Panther Tattoo fame), but then again I might have imagined that as the topic.

My friend came out of the store and asked me where I went.
"Oh, a couple of cars full of kids pulled up to talk to me".
"TALK TO YOU? WHY WOULD ANYBODY WANT TO TALK TO YOU? YOU'RE NOT FAMOUS!"
"I used to be famous".
'NO, I'M FAMOUS!!! I HAVE OVER 700 FOLLOWERS ON FACEBOOK!"
I smiled and said, "But this isn't Facebook, this is real life".

Did you ever see the black version of Roxy Music's Country Life album? I thought i was pretty amusing. Here it is:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cracked Knuckles (Hot Wire MY HEART Chapter 4)

Dante Sterno was beside himself because he racked up more dish than he could ever imagine in his wildest dreams. He just heard the story about Gil Hickey, the king of the scenesters who doubled on bass guitar for The Ever Populars. If memory serves he laid down under a pile of coats at a party while he overhead two punk girls drunkenly laughing about what a dud “Sicky” Hickey was.

“Well, you know every time I go out I see him with a different girl, so I just HAD to find out what made him so hot”.
“And?”
“Oh, sweet sufferin’ Jesus, he couldn’t get it up!” Both girls laughed uproariously.

The laughter finally stopped, and then the friend asked, “Did he get mad?”
“No, he just brayed like a donkey ‘I HAD TOO MUCH TO DRINK!’ His thing was all cold and damp like a piece of wet spaghetti!” They both busted up laughing again.

“I wish I could see who’s telling this story”, thought Dante, getting hot under the blanket of coats. “I don’t recognize her voice at all. Damn it!”

“Well, I’ll be honest with you. When I see him with his dates they just stand around and never hold hands or cuddle or shit like that. It’s almost like he just hangs around them to make himself look like he’s a big ladies man”.
“Oh, hell no. He probably just pecks them on the cheek after a date, like he’s their kid brother”.
“I don’t have time for that”.
“Fuck that”, the voices faded out of the room. Dante cautiously poked his head out a little bit. The two girls had left the room. He crawled out from under the coats and jumped off the bed.

He opened the door just a bit and poked his head out to make sure nobody caught him creeping out of the bedroom. The last thing he needed was to be spotted by the two girls after exchanging such hot gossip.

The coast was clear so he darted quickly out, quietly closing the door. He walked by a guy scamming on a girl in the corner of the hallway.

“This is pretty hot stuff”, thought Dante. “I have to go home and write this shit down. You remember what happened that one night when you heard some wild shit and then got so drunk you totally forgot what you heard. Didn’t even get a chance to write it down, you dumbass!”

He kicked himself for totally forgetting to go to the drug store and buy a little pad with a tiny pen so he could carry it around ion his leather jacket. Working from memory was a hard task for him.

The Vibrators were booming out of the cheap stereo. YEAHYEAHYEAH! Kids were jumping around d the room, crashing into Dante as headed towards the door.
“Hey, Dante!” someone yelled. “Don’t go! Party’s just getting started!”
“I’ll be back”, he lied. “Just going out for a 12-pack!”

He raced down the stairs, dodging kids with packs of beer and wine bottles stomping upwards towards the party. He weaved his way past packs of kids just milling around the sidewalk acting tough and goofy.

Half drunk, he jogged the gossip over and over in his head…Gil Hickey, ladies’ man, can’t get it up…bass player…The Ever Populars, ugh! Stupid name for a band, never could stand them…this ought to hurt them. Well, fuck them, never did like that power pop shit. They’re not punk enough.

He walked down a steep hill, the sidewalk’s grade shifting up and down from the trees ripping out the asphalt. Once or twice he nearly stumbled from the asphalt sticking up.

He turned down a few less steep corners and finally reached his apartment building. Walking up a tiny stoop and then going up the stairs, he could hear Animal nervously yelling, “Hello?”

“It’s me! Who the hell else is it going to be?”
He came in to find Animal in a tiny tee shirt and panties lying on her stomach sketching on her pad. Sketchy quickly ran up to him and stared at him.

“Wow, Animal, I heard some really volcanic shit tonight!” he smiled.
“Oh Dante, why can’t you just go out and have some fun, instead of always sniffing for bad shit on people?”
“What? That’s fun. I think digging up dirt on assholes are always fun”.

“Ugh! Whatever!” She lifted up a leg and twisted around back to her pad. “If you’re going to write, try doing something creative instead of destroying people”.
“I can write a novel later”, He grabbed his lucky writing tablet. “In the meantime I have a few bullshit castles to burn down”.

The evening ended with Animal sketching on her pad and Dante scribbling gossip on his lucky writing tablet.

The truth of the matter is that Dante’s petty hatred towards power pop bands seems to neglect the fact that most pop bands are largely run by rich kids, even richer than folk heroes The Working Class. And they didn’t come any richer than Gil Hickey.

Hickey didn’t want to compromise his family’s reputation by broadcasting all over town that he came from the Hickey family, head by his father, Hamilton Hickey, owner of The Hickey Concern. The Concern had interests in property management, realty, and a large, convoluted jumble of contracting, investments, and commercial insurance ventures. They had offices all over the Bay Area with plans on extending into Southern California.

It could be said that the most mysterious thing about Gil Hickey was that he insisted on playing rock star instead of simply staying home and enjoying his father’s money.

It could even be said that Hickey’s impotence might be the product of a bizarre inferiority complex. His masquerade as a down-on-his-heels punk could never compete with the real struggle that the street kids honestly faced every day. Living a sham made him feel less real and less than worthy in his eyes.

Animal brewed her usual bitter coffee – “Battery acid” and burned toast for herself and poured a bowl of Lucky Charms, which disgusted her, for Dante.
“Breakfast is ready!” she yelled. “Eat your colored foam”.

Dante slumped in his chair at the kitchen table, coughing and clearing his throat. “How many lumps of sugar do you want today?” she asked, shaking her blonde bangs out of her eyes.
“Um, four!”
“Four? Yuck!” She scooped four heaping spoonfuls of white sugar and dumped them in his coffee.

He sipped his coffee thoughtfully. “How do I phrase this item? ‘That supercool, ultra-foxy bass player from San Fran’s hottest pop band is too pooped to pop in the sack’. What do you think?”
“Tacky”.

He frowned. “’Someone might be Ever Popular, but they’re definitely not ever ready for the ladies’. Is that better?”
Animal bit into her burned toast and it crumbled into black chunks. “Not good. They might all be duds in the sack. Too much guessing”.

“Um, okay”, he watched his cereal get soggy. “’Someone might be ever popular around town but they’re not dishing hickeys or anything else’”.
Animal stopped eating. “Not bad. You just mentioned the name of the band and the guy in the same sentence without pointing fingers. You’re getting better”.

“Okay!” He jumped up in his chair. “Now we’re getting somewhere!”
Minutes later Dante banged out that one line over and over on his typewriter, thinking he had just composed the most brilliant sonnet ever written.

Several hours later he delivered his typed copy to the battered storefront known as Ripoff Magazine. It was even more beat than he remembered the last time he was there: the linoleum tiles were either cracked in half or kicked out completely. Roaches ran around, emboldened by the indifference of the squatters.

“I want this to be included with my orgy scoop. We can call the headline ‘The Haves And The Have Nots’. What do you think?”
Warren scratched his head. “There’s a whole lot of sex going on in this column. We’re trying to run a punk mag, not a porn mag, man”.

“Just this once. Hang in there with me. Sex sells, you know that. So what if we use sex to sell a few magazines? They’ll like it, everybody”.
“What did I tell you last time? Go out there and make nice with bands, kiss more ass, drop more names. More names in print, more bands buy the zine. It’s like free fucking advertising”.

“Okay, okay, but sex first, ass kissing later”, Dante pleaded.
Warren’s body turned rigid and stood back a few feet. “Just this time and after that, no more”.

“Deal”.
“Deal”.

Two weeks later at the I-Beam Warren, Raggedy Ann and Keith Crime passed out copies of the new Ripoff Magazine. The first stack was freebies which everyone pounced on, including the bass guitarist for The Ever Populars, Gil Hickey.

Warren offered a free copy to Hickey, which he predictably snubbed, but then turned to Raggedy Ann, offering his best boyish charms.
“Ann, baby, how about a magazine and seeing me a little bit later?” he asked slyly, giving his best trademark smirk.
“Here’s a copy, Gil. I’m seeing enough right now, thanks”, she said. She shook her red dreads away from his face to emphasize her indifference.

Pissed off, he walked over to his band mate, where they both thumbed through the ink-smeared Xerox disaster called Ripoff Magazine.

“Hey!” the band mate, a cheesy looking rocker with a big quiffle on top of his pock-marked face, said. “There’s a gossip column. Check it!”
“What?” Hickey whined, practically pushing his friend away. “’Ever Popular’? ‘Hickey’? Who the hell wrote this shit?”

Hickey ran over to Keith Crime and grabbed him by the throat. “DID YOU WRITE THIS SHIT, YOU FUCKIN’ ASSHOLE?”
Crime shoved him away. “No way, asshole. I’m just giving this zine away. I don’t even write for it”.
“Who wrote this and where the fuck can I find him??”

“He ain’t here and don’t grab me like that again”.
“Or else what?”
“You’ll find out. But you don’t want to know!”
Hickey screwed his face up with confusion at that last convoluted remark.

“Tell me one more time, and this time make sense”, Hickey pulled out a twenty dollar bill, waving it in Crime’s face. “Who? The Fuck? Wrote? This?”

The man who wrote it was goofing around Chinatown in a store looking at some barley hidden firecrackers laid out for sale. Dante looked around weighing his options at lifting a small handful of the tiny explosives.

He reached his hand out and picked up a batch of firecrackers, about to shove them in his pocket.

“Nuh-uh-uh! Don’t even think about it, pal!” a girl’s voice rang behind him.
Dante, embarrassed with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, turned around and saw a punk Chinese girl with short, spiky blonde hair staring at him. She wore a leather mini-skirt and fishnet stockings with high heels.

“There’ll be no stealing here on my watch. Put those little fuckers away, and then get out”.
“I’ll buy them, okay? How much?”
“Five dollars. Are you from out of town?”
“Hell, no”.
“So why are you buying tourist shit?”
“Do you always dress like that in the store?”
“No, not that it’s any of your business. My mom’s home with a cold”.
“If she saw you dressed like that, she’d kill you”.
“Are you done?” she asked, lighting a cigarette.
Dante picked up a bar of jade-smelling soap. “No, I’ll get this too”.

“Two dollars. A steal”, she rang his sale up on the register. “You can relate to that, can’t you, thief?”
“I’m going now”, he sneered. She followed him out of the store. She stood outside on the sidewalk stretching her shapely legs and puffed away, giving back dirty looks from old Chinese women who didn’t approve of her loose appearance.

“Well”, she yelled with a cigarette dangling from her lips. “Thanks for shopping, Tourist. Like I said, DON’T COME BACK!”

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Now Playing ABSOLUTELY FREE On You Tube: Erotic Euro Horror!

While I would never claim to be the toast of all social networking sites, far from it, I can claim to have a fairly robust following on old You Tube. I have a following of 5,500 faithful followers who want to be entertained by my posting of rare films unavailable on DVD or even on TV. Unfortunately, the brain police at You Tube have been pulling down many of my posts at an alarming rate, claiming that I have violated the laws of intellectual property.

What this means is that if James Toback can't make a cent off his wobbly 1983 suspense film Exposed then I cannot even post it for people who want to view it. Other films that provoked near-suspension included the noir classics Desert Fury and The Gangster as well as the Brigitte Bardot-Louis Malle potboiler A Very Private Affair.

Meanwhile, sites like Spotify and Pandora are doing more to rip off artists than my movie posts on YT. The priorities are getting dodgy. I've had so many of my posts pulled down that I've gotten leery about posting more movies. But I will persist. Besides, there's always Vimeo.

While all this drama is unfolding other Tubers are posting an exciting stream of classic erotic Eurohorror films. Many of these films have floundered on the VHS gray market for years, and now beautiful prints can be seen on YT. Unfortunately, half of them aren't in English, but hell, it's time to brush up on your high school French and Spanish!

Movies I have seen in their complete form in the past two months on You Tube:

1. The Female Vampire - Jess Franco starring the great Lina Romay
2. Shiver of the Vampires - Jean Rollin with a cool death metal soundtrack dubbed in, and it works
3. Kilink! - great Turkish series about a supervillain dressed like a skeleton
4. Lisa And The Devil - classic Mario Bava with Elke Sommer and a lollipop sucking Telly Savalas, as the devil
5. Evil Eye aka The Girl Who Knew Too Much - more Bava with a classic haunted house theme
6. Four Times That Night - Bava doing a bedroom sex farce with some real sex for a change
7. All The Colors of the Dark - psycho giallo starring Edwige Fenech
8. 99 Women - women in prison classic starring Edwige Fenech, Rosalba Neri, Luciana Paluzzi, and more
9. Virgin Among The Living Dead - more Jess Franco insanity with more nudity (not from him!)
10. The Nude Vampire - Jean Rollin with vampire laboratory rituals with animal masks and hoods! Creepy!

There's also lots of American exploitation in their complete form, like Russ Meyer's Cherry, Harry, and Raquel and Jack Hill's The Big Bird Cage. There's also tons of Laura Gemser sleaze to feast your eyes on. I also caught the Japanese film classic Onibaba. There's no limit to what you can catch on You Tube these days.

And just to compliment all the wild European horror films watched you can also catch an English TV documentary mini-series about the whole genre called Eurotika. Eurotika has segments devoted to the previously mentioned Jess Franco, Mario Bava, and Jean Rollin. It's pretty cool seeing starlets Brigitte Lahaie and the reclusive Pony Castel talking about their mentors.

Eurotika is almost touching in the way it celebrates freedom in sexual and artistic expression, eventually folding up towards the conservative early Eighties (the Moral majority-AIDS-Thatcher-Reagan years). But that's what makes these films so precious: just like the films from the silent era they show us a society that almost resemble aliens form another planet, a much, much freer planet.

Friday, July 8, 2016

IRON CURTAIN BABY Out Now!

Iron Curtain Baby is a collection of short stories by Andy Seven (Every Good Boy Dies First, Crash Walker) combining fictionalized memoirs of his adolescent years growing up in the early Seventies. The stories range from his memoirs of the glam rock era to growing up as a Jewish seminary student to the early days of the Hollywood punk scene. Interspersed are wild sketches of hardboiled crime stories set in the Thirties and Fifties.

Highlights include Apartment 217, a short memoir about the legendary Hollywood punk building Canterbury Arms; It Was A Pleasure Then, a story about kids hanging out on the Sunset Strip in the Golden Age of Glam; God’s Little Darkroom, a tale about born-again Orthodox Jews, The Later Prophets, a piece about bureaucratic Armageddon; and many tales of the dreary workaday world in stories like Bubblegum and Garbage, Butcher Boy, and The Rack Jobbers.

Included are sample chapters from novels published (Crash Walker, Every Bitch for Himself) as well as novels not yet published (Red Coffee, Hot Wire My Heart). Iron Curtain Baby is truly a sweeping collage of fantasies and experiences as only Andy Seven can tell them.

All of the stories in Iron Curtain Baby are presented in alphabetical order to dismiss any notions of topical preference, with the final mosaic of off-kilter subjects surprisingly culminating in the story titled “Where Do All The Wild Boys Go?” tying them all together. All in all, with Iron Curtain Baby, Andy Seven promises Outrage on Every Page!

Iron Curtain Baby is coming out on Friday, July 15 and will be available in eBook format on Amazon Kindle, iTunes and Book Baby. I'm currently offering free promo cards for the new book to anybody who wants some. All you have to do is PM me your mailing address and I'll send you a handful, no muss, no fuss. And it's absolutely free!

Amazon's taking advance orders right here:
https://www.amazon.com/Iron-Curtain-Baby-Andy…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

If you're an iPad queen like Daev Dave, here's the iTunes link:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/iron-curtain-baby/id1129576825?mt=11

Outrage On Every Page!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Sally Can't Dance" - Lou Reed (1974)

In 1973 Lou Reed followed up his most commercial release, Transformer, with his most ambitious album, Berlin. It was produced by Bob Ezrin, responsible for Alice Cooper’s most overambitious works School’s Out and Billion Dollar Babies. Like the two Cooper albums Berlin was overly serious and full of the overbearing weight of its self-importance. Whether this is attributable to Ezrin is open to debate. It seemed like Reed really put all his chips on Berlin and boasted at the time that it was the greatest thing he ever recorded in his lengthy and outrageous career.

Berlin lacked a hit single like a baseball pitcher lacked a right arm and quickly tanked. Reed, embittered by its failure, responded to its sad fate by assembling a top-notch stadium style heavy metal band performing Velvet Underground covers. It was so simultaneously brilliant and vindictive at the same time, with the great irony being that the resulting live album Rock & Roll Animal became his great selling album, even outdoing the legendary Transformer album. The double irony was that the guitarists, Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter had previously played with Alice Cooper (behind the curtain, covering for Glen Buxton).

Lou continued chasing a dollar by following up Rock & Roll Animal by recording Sally Can’t Dance, an album that showcased a more commercial Lou, something very New York and very Seventies. Although the album did respectably, many fans found it a bit of a sell-out. It was their loss, however, because I consider it one of his most decadent works.

Like a David Hockney painting, Sally Can’t Dance is a languid document of images of excess degenerating into lazy decadence. It’s far more reminiscent to my mind of the Seventies than any other work of his. I can almost remember every facet of West Hollywood in that era when I hear that album.

Sally Can’t Dance begins with Ride Sally Ride, a classic somber ballad by Reed that recalls earlier tunes like Femme Fatale, about a played-out party girl. “Sit yourself down, take off your pants, don’t you know this is a party”, Reed croons to a quiet piano and French horn. “Ooh, isn’t it nice? When your heart is made out of ice”. The song ends with a false joyous fanfare of disco horns and backup girl singers.

The next song Animal Language was a silly song about pets getting down and dirty with each other. I think Reed wrote this song just to piss off his most ardent purists by coming up with the silliest lyrics he could come up with. He succeeded with flying colors, as the gang from Creem Magazine shamed him for years for recording this silly song.

Baby Face and NY Stars are classic Reed songs about drugged out monsters walking all over each other and using everyone in their path. While Baby Face has a lazy Quaalude aura mirrored in its hypnotic electric piano riff, NY Stars counters with a furious, coked out irritability in the pounding rhythm and scratchy funk guitar. Reed sings NY Stars in a cold, vampiric voice laden with echo, “Remember, we’re very good at games”.

The second side of Sally Can’t Dance features more cold, echo Lou vocals on Kill Your Sons, his semi-autobiographic tale of being committed to Creedmore State Psychiatric Hospital by his parents. “All the drugs that we took sure were lots of fun, but when they shoot you up with thorazine and crystal smoke it makes you choke like a son of a gun”. All this institutionalized meds talk endeared Reed to William S. Burroughs. In Victor Bockris’ book With William Burroughs there are many accounts of Reed and Burroughs discussing psychotropic medications at great length.

Ennui, like Baby Face, is another bizarre cabaret ballad with Lou doing his finest crooning, but then there’s the title track Sally Can’t Dance, with its big disco horn section and girls oohing and aahing while Lou spits out hilarious lyrics like, “She was the first girl in my neighborhood to wear tie-dyed pants, LIKE SHE SHOULD. She was the first girl that I’ve ever seen that had flowers painted on her jeans”. Anyway, the punch line is that this once badass chick is now a drug-wrecked car crash. Lou goes further into East Village detail, like her rent-controlled apartment. It’s actually a very funny song.

The album ends with Billy, a great song about a childhood friend who was the model high school student and major source of envy, now returned from Vietnam with a major heroin habit. The lyrics and sharp and incredibly poignant, punctuated by Lou crooning over an acoustic guitar and a wailing saxophone. Like Sally, Billy is a study in drug-induced ruin, and who better to report on their downfall than Lou Reed.

There’s a great sense of loss and sadness to the album, inspired partially by the public’s inability to understand Reed and also by Reed’s refusal to fit in the music marketplace (he eventually conformed to every expectation made of him, but it wouldn‘t happen for another 20 years).

I think Sally Can’t Dance is a greater album than Berlin because in spite of all the decadence and ruin Reed manages to slip in enough deadpan humor all through the record – even in the tragic Billy Lou cracks, “Billy studied medicine while I studied foliage”. He couldn’t resist a joke here and there irregardless of the tragedy. I like that.

Sally Can’t Dance deserves a second look as a great Lou Reed album. Trashy, yes; funny, definitely; sad, absolutely, but also every bit as eloquent as a John Cheever short story. When a decadent rock album recalls great literature you need to give it a closer listen.

***************

So what do you do when you see a band that looks absolutely amazing and holds tons of promise until they start playing and then you realize this might be the worst band you've ever heard? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Black Belles.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kingdom of Blather

Just the other day I had to drop something off by the UCLA campus. So many young, beautiful people walking around. I couldn’t help but notice that all the students walking around were either talking into their cell phones or staring into them, scrolling for something, anything, oblivious to what was in front of them. It was weird, like horses with blinders on.

Did anyone even stop to look at the people and buildings around them? Were they so absorbed in their own little world did they forget to lookup and listen to the sounds of the street? The really sad part of it all is that some of these people are artists and musicians, and they’re deliberately shutting themselves off from all the sights and sounds around them. Like horses with blinders on, only horses are more observant.

You cannot produce great art if you’re blocking everything out of your sight, and likewise cannot produce great music if you’re blocking out the sounds of the street. Where are your reference points, your influences? You haven’t got any. It just won’t happen.

Summer means fun, which means more concert going than I have in a long time, tinnitus be damned. Judy Henske will be performing for the first time in years, so that’s pretty special, then there’s PJ Harvey and her ten-piece band (!), and then The Kills are playing in early September in support of their new album, Ash & Ice. They’ll be playing at The Wiltern, a theater I used to go to when they actually showed movies. I saw Willard there in 1971. I’ll also make my annual pilgrimage to Irwindale Raceway, which I go to once a year.

Summer also means a new Andy Seven book release, and this year will be no exception. I’ll provide more details in a few weeks. I’m pretty happy I’ve been able to release four books in four years without delay. I have a lot more stuff on the pipeline, so there’s no sign of my stopping anytime soon.

Next month marks my one year anniversary of being on Facebook. I’ve sold more books since getting on that site, but in all honesty I’m not much of a fan. Some of the people who have sent me friend requests are fans of my old bands from the past, so that’s pretty cool, but then there are all these strange people.

There’s that one guy from England who always posts shit about killing all Muslims and then sends me invitations to play some infantile computer game for him. What a nut. Then there’s the guy who always posts ugly psychedelic fractal images on my wall. Who cares.

And then there’s an endless line of clowns who refuse to accept that the punk era is over and there are new bands that are better than their old punk heroes. Nothing says “I’m old” more than obsessing over The Ramones or The Stooges. “We refuse to listen to dubstep; that’s not REAL music”. Yes, it is. Grow up.

Sometimes I think Facebook is like The Tower of Babel where everybody’s talking and no one’s listening, and it all crumbles into fighting because nobody can agree on anything. Suck on that, you trendy atheists.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Where Do All The Wild Boys Go?

It was the first night of August, 1970. My brother and I shared the same bedroom. At three o’clock in the morning my father came into the darkened room and woke us up. Although the room was pitch black I could tell there were tears streaming down his face.

“Boys”, he said slowly. “Your mother is dead. Prepare for the worst. Nothing will ever be the same again”. And he was right.

In those days if you lost a parent either by death or divorce you were looked upon like there was something wrong with you. Your classmates all looked at you like you were odd. Perhaps they were looking at you for signs of mental decay. It wasn’t something so easily identifiable.

You held the hurt inside you, but it wasn’t really something you could talk about. No one wanted to listen, anyway. My friends had more important concerns, like sports and school. They weren’t even thinking about girls at that point.

Something new was in the air. Even the religious boys in my school couldn’t resist the lure of the new movement called glam rock. I remember hearing a kid or two singing “All The Young Dudes” as they walked to class. It was a long step away from the hippie dream of the past couple years.

Everything sounded differently, and everything looked differently.

Music gave me consolation from the loss of my mother and there was nothing more exciting than the records of T. Rex, David Bowie, Slade, Roxy Music, Sparks and an endless flood of glamour bands all dressed up like spacemen from a kaleidoscopic planet.

The glam club to go to in West Hollywood was Rodney’s English Disco. The club not only played great glam records that drove me crazy but also provided me with a crash course in gender bending. It was one thing to look at pictures of rock stars in eye shadow and lipstick, but to see it in person was something new.

Boys and girls alike dressed in silver and gold lame, bright satin pants with huge elephant flares propped up in sky high leather platform shoes. Every kid looked like a superhero. Not to be left out, I ran out to the Sunset Strip on weekends to get a cheap, affordable outfit to fit in.

Every night there was exciting, even the off nights. You never knew who was going to drop in. On a regular weeknight you could see Iggy pop, Kim Fowley, The Kinks, Rod Stewart or Candy Clark. And the kids dressed like mad peacocks. My hormones were ready to explode.

The next day I made the terrible mistake of telling a friend at school about the new glam club. His name was Artie and he had no capacity for confidentiality, so once I leaked my account of going to this cool pace he very loudly demanded to go, too. Very loudly.

“Let’s go tomorrow night. Field trip!” he practically yelled. Our classmates turned up their noses.
“I heard about that place…Nothing but faggots”.
“You’re going to check out the freaks, Artie? Look no further. There’s Andy”.
I sneered right back.

So friend Artie drove me there the next night. I was duded out in my little glam outfit, but…Artie. He was fairly conservative looking – shirt hair, beard, dressed in faded corduroy, heavy-set, not an emaciated glitter rocker type boy at all. As we hung out in the loud, colorful club all wrapped up in silver, he yelled in my ear.

“Look at that dufus in the make-up! He’s got a dog collar on!”
“Please!” I freaked out. “Not so loud! People can hear you!”
“I don’t care if they can hear me. That guy looks retarded. Ugh! Look at that girl, oh she’s so hot!”
“I’m going to get a drink”, I said, anything to get away from him embarrassing me.

The regret I felt was that my private safe harbor from overbearing religion by bringing in someone who peppered his comments with Yiddish expressions and Borscht Belt humor. Bringing in someone from the Boring World ruined my enjoyment of the Wild World. I wanted to kick myself. What a buzzkill.

I avoided Artie for the next few days at school. In between classes he spotted me and cornered me in the hallway.
“Hey!” he said, diving into a small bag of potato chips, crumbs hanging in his beard. “Where have you been? The kids at the club have been asking about you”.
“What? What club?”
“You know! Rodney’s. They guys from Sparks were there last night. It was great”.

“You went without me?” I was incredulous. “I thought you hated the place”.
“Oh, those guys are okay, They just look funny. I met this really cool girl there last night, and you know, she’s Jewish. We spoke Yiddish for a few minutes”.
“What?”
He continued grabbing chips like it was his lifeline to survival.

“And you know that goofy guy with the carrot topped head? He invited all of us to his hotel room after the club closed. It was pretty cool”.

I couldn’t believe my ears. “They like you making fun of them?”
“Nah, I stopped once I figured they were alright. Hey, let’s go after Shabbos. Josh is coming with us!”
I thought I’d shit. Instead I backed out. The great irony, as I was going to learn soon enough, was that for all my bravado I didn’t change Artie’s life. He was about to change mine.

Rodney’s English Disco closed down a year later. As the rabbis in school taught us, like is mostly about loss. Nothing stays around; everything eventually vanishes. I was still distant friends with Artie, more distant than usual because he kept up his nightclubbing ways. Now he was bragging about a club called the Sugar Shack which played disco.

“It’s just like Rodney’s, Andy”, he cracked open some peanut shells.
“No, it’s not. It’s just a disco. I fuckin’ hate disco!”
“You don’t understand. The Sugar Shack is the coolest club”.

Telling me wasn’t enough. He had to show me.
Picking me up from home one night I asked him, “Hey, what time does Serpico go on?”
“Showtime starts in an hour. I think we can make it a half an hour before it starts”, he promised. I grabbed my coat.

While he drove Artie talked about good times at the Sugar Shack. “In between the disco records they snuck some Suzi Quatro in”
. “Oh”, I was bored. “That’s different. I guess…Hey, I thought we were going to Westwood to see Serpico”.
“What?” he accelerated the car. Suddenly we were speeding.
“This isn’t the way to the Crest Theater. Where are we going?”

Artie’s face broke into a nervous sweat. “Oh, uh, I thought we’d stop off somewhere before the movie. You know, we’re still kind of early”.
“The film’s going to sell out and we won’t get in”.

Artie didn’t say anything. He just turned up the music on his 8-track player and drove even faster. I felt like I was being kidnapped.

Not only were we not headed to Westwood, but we were definitely going east towards West Hollywood, Santa Monica Boulevard in particular. When we reached a club with blackened walls with even blacker windows Artie pulled over and parked.

“Come on, this won’t take long. You’ll really like it. Just like Rodney’s English Disco!” he charged towards the club like a bull. I eyed him suspiciously.

Once I got in I knew I’d been set up. The PA was playing “The Hustle” and “Get Dancin’” at roaring, deafening levels. I looked around and there weren’t platforms to be seen. Just lots of men and more men in denim and open polyester shirts dancing around in the darkness. Not a woman in sight.

I’d seen posters of gay bars whenever I walked around Santa Monica Boulevard so I knew what to expect: a lot of Burt Reynolds and Steve McQueen clones walking around displaying tough macho vibes and betraying it with feminine coquettishness.

“Isn’t this great?” Artie gushed. “I’m getting a beer. How about you?”
“No”, I was steamed. I felt shanghaied into going to this club because he knew I’d never want to go here. I was fit to be tied.

“AND NOW IT’S TIME FOR THE MISTER STUD 1975 CONTEST!!” a voice barked over the sound system. The crowd hooted and hollered. “CONTESTANT NUMBER ONE, PAUL PARKER HE’S LEAN, HE’S MEAN AND HE’S READY FOR ANY SCENE…TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER! PAUUUUL PARRRKER!!!”

An athletic man with sandy blonde hair began dancing to “Boogie Wonderland”. He was barefoot and I thought he was trying to be Tarzan but I was wrong. First he pulled his sports shirt off, displaying his muscular chest. The club roared their approval.

Artie came back with his beer. He was enjoying the show. The dancer then pulled his white denim jeans down. Another big round of approval came up. All he had on left was a microscopic bikini.

The song was almost over so I thought he was done, but he definitely wasn’t. His show-stopper was ripping off the bikini to the screams and swoons of the crowd. Dancing wildly, I saw this tiny dingle swinging up and down furiously to the music.

“Oh my God!” I looked away.
“Ahahahaha!” Artie was choking with laughter.
“Can we go to the movies now?” I whined. Artie ignored me.

Well, we got to see more contestants and more wieners for Mister Stud 1975. There was more frantic stripping to disco records as the night went on, and even Artie got bored after awhile. He took me home and I was fuming with rage.

It was nothing personal, though, I later found out. He pulled the same stunt with my brother and his friends. After awhile I just went to the movies by myself. The gay bar shanghai treatment became his modus operandi every weekend.

I didn’t see Artie for a few months after that. A little Artie goes a long way. Finally he apologized for the subterfuge.
“Could you come with me to this girl’s house? I have to talk to her and I’m kind of nervous”, he worked at a dramatic stammer.
“I don’t know”, I sulked. “I kinda wanted to practice my saxophone”.

“Come on. I’ll buy you a Moby Jack and fries”.
“Well”, I realized it was still daylight so there would be no night club frolics. “Okay. What’s this girl like? You never told me about her before”.
We walked to the car. “It’s weird. I have to deal with her brother before I can talk to her”.

He drove me into West Hollywood, not far from the club. We pulled up to a beat apartment building with an upended plaid sofa on the sidewalk and a bunch of soiled diapers in the gutter. We went up to the third floor and Artie knocked on the door.

“COME ON IN! I’M NOT DECENT!” a voice yelled.
We entered to a messy apartment with an open bed, scratched records all over the floor along with men’s and women’s shoes, pants, bras, fashion magazines, smeared makeup, lipstick containers, and whisky bottles. Lots of whisky bottles. There were about four youngmen in there. Two had clothes on, one only had a pair of pants on, and the last was completely naked. The nude jumped around a lot.

“Hi, what’s happening?” a dressed young man with wavy blonde hair asked. He looked bored and slightly annoyed to see us. “Are you holding?”
“Oh, I know him. You were here the other night”. A brunette with curly hair mumbled.
They didn’t seem to like him much.

“Is Sandra here?” Artie asked nervously.
“Who?”
“Oh, he means Billy. That’s Billy’s drag name”.
“Excuse me, could you not talk while my favorite record in the whole world is playing?”

The nude boy jumped right by us and screeched, “PARDON MY NAKEDNESS!”
“Um, yeah”, Artie stammered. “Sandra Billy”.
“Oh, well she’s at work”, the blonde deadpanned. “She’ll be home soon”.

“What did this guy get me stuck in now?” I thought. It was always some situation. Artie kept telling me he wasn’t gay and I kept getting further and further into the life without even asking for it.

The youngman in only pants had a sad Sal Mineo look about him. He stared at me with his big brown eyes.
“Do you know Billy, too?”
“No”, I said. “My name’s Andy. I just came with Artie”.
“PARDON MY NAKEDNESS!” the nude boy ran around the room.

The blonde laughed. “Look how scared he is. Seeing another naked boy. He’s going to go home and tell his mom. AND YOU! PUT SOME FUCKING PANTS ON!!!”

“I’m not going to tell my mom”, I said. “My mother died four years ago”.
The Latino boy in the pants’ eyes welled up. “Your mother’s dead? Is she really?”
“Yeah”, I lowered my voice. “It sucks”.

“PARDON MY NAKEDNESS!”
“YOU! I SAIDDDDD PUT SOME FUCKING PANTS ON!!!”
The boy began tearing up. “Did you love your mother more than anyone in the whole world?”
“Yes, I did”. I was more nervous than sad.

“I’ll bet she loved you more than anything in the whole world”, he almost burst out crying. “She must have been the greatest woman you’ve ever known. Everybody needs a mother’s love. It’s the most important kind of love there is”
“You’re right”, I smiled sadly.

“PARDON MY NAKEDNESS!”
“GODDAMMIT IF YOU DON’T THROW SOME FUCKIN’ PANTS ON RIGHT NOW YOU NELLY QUEEN I’LL THROW YOUR SCRAWNY ASS OUT!!!! NOW!!!”

The door flew open and a bookish black youngman in glasses came in. Artie spun around.
“Sandra! “Artie gushed. “I thought I’d come by since you haven’t been returning my calls”.
“Oh. Arthur”, Billy scoffed as he walked by us. “I don’t like surprises”.

“PARDON MY NAKEDNESS!”
Billy frowned. “Girl, cover that thing. I’ve seen more of your package than I’ve even seen of mine”.

An hour went by with the five youngmen ignoring Artie and me. They talked as if we were invisible. I was so bored.
I kept whispering to Artie, “Let’s just go. He, I mean she, doesn’t care about you. Forget about…her”.
“No!” Artie was steadfast and proved it by trying to ask Sandra a few things, only to be dismissed.

The dressed brunette jumped up from the crumpled bed and announced, “WELL, I’M HUNGRY! ANYBODY ELSE HUNGRY? LET’S GO TO DANIELLE’S!”
“I’M HUNGRY!”
“I’M NAKED AND HUNGRY!”
“GET DRESSED OR YOU DON’T EAT!”
“LET’S GO!”

Sal Mineo piped up. “Everybody be nice to Artie’s friend because his mother just died”.
“Ohhh, that’s so sad. You’ll get through it, I promise, sweetie”, the naked boy said as he was struggling with a t-shirt that was three sizes too small for him.

We followed the car with the two dressed youngmen, the no-longer nude and Billy. Sal Mineo rode with us. On the way there Artie griped about Sandra to him.
“I’m so nice to her. She seems to like me when she’s Sandra, so I don’t know why she keeps treating me like I don’t exist”.

“Oh, well, she’s the coy type, you know. The coy type! Hard to get. She gets things by playing hard to get!”
“I bought her drinks, I took her to the –“
“Turn here and park!” he practically yelled. He rolled down the window and yelled at his friends. “GET US A GOOD TABLE!”

Dinner at Danielle’s was as good as a dinner can be when the menu is stained and laminated with silverware that looked like it came from a soldier’s rusty mess kit. We got to see two sky-high tall transvestites attack each other in the middle of the restaurant, almost falling over our table.

Sandra/Billy never did hook up with Artie, and feeling crushed he drove me home feeling ejected, dejected and rejected. I was just glad to be home with my saxophone.

Two years later I had my own apartment, where I had a very strange dream. I dreamt I was a baby again and my mother was young, healthy and happy. She was dressed in a Greco-Roman toga in white and bathed me in a small spring. While she bathed me she laughed and sang quietly. It was the most tranquil dream I’ve ever had. I didn’t want it to end. I woke up feeling happier than I had in years.

In the following days after I thought more and more of my dream, and rather than feel happy I was stricken with a terrible melancholy. Life is mostly loss, like the rabbis said.
One night I wearily sat down at the bus stop on the corner of Crescent Heights and Santa Monica. I quietly waited for the bus to arrive.

Two youngmen sat down at the bench by me.
“Oh! That bartender, if he watered those drinks any more than he did you could breed turtles in them!”
“That’s the T, Mary”.
“And that butch door man! Yikes!” They both laughed.

Three more youngmen showed up and just laughed non-stop, probably drunk but harmless.
“I told him to put that thing away!”
“You told him? I think not!! I did. You needed help, bitch!” They all laughed.

A very sullen youngman who looked like Jethro Bodine with a duffle bag walked up to the bus stop sign and slammed his bag down as loudly as possible. He then spread his legs challengingly and folded his arms.

“Ohhhh, my, Miss Butchness”, one boy giggled quietly.
“Yesssss…men at work!” One’s eyes widened.
“Tragedy at work. Too, too tragic!” the other muttered.
“Footlocker daddy, hohohoho!”

My melancholy dissipated as I looked all around me. The bright, colored lights of West Hollywood felt like a carnival that didn’t want to end, ever. By the time the bus pulled up and we hopped on I was smiling.

I was smiling because all the boys on the bus were laughing and some of them had mothers, some of them probably lost theirs, but it didn’t matter because they knew the carnival will never end.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ripoff Magazine (Hot Wire MY HEART Chapter 3)

The storefront on Mission Street was beat, badly in need of repairs, paint chipping off wooden slats in the front, windows speckled with dirt and dead flies pressed against old newspaper taped over the windows. The view within was covered, and the faded sign above was for a shoe repairs.

The front door was protected by a mountain of trash piled waist-high. A leaky spigot under the front window had a splash of green moss growing out of the sidewalk. It was one of those storefronts that was so worn out to death that it was invisible to anyone walking by it.

The little shoe repair store could be entered from the rear with a credit card along with a good jimmying from a pen knife. There was no heating inside, but a few tables and chairs kept the squat alive. A few lamps pulled in from the trash supplied indoor light needed to produce a punk rock fanzine. This was the headquarters or more appropriately the "deadquarters" of Ripoff Magazine.

Warren Arrest gently placed a few photographs from the previous night's show around some quickly typed copy, moving the photos around the page in a semi-circle. He analyzed the layout, deciding which looked more intense for the Live Reviews Section. Sitting a few feet away cutting out captions with a rusty pair of scissors was Just Plain Sally, looking industrious with her cutting.

The back door frame shook a little with a knob jiggle. The squatters inside tensed a mite and relaxed when they saw Dante creeping inside.
"Hey, why didn't you get the door for me?" he asked, slightly hurt.
"Doorman's on vacation", Arrest drawled. "We're kind of busy here, as you can see".
"Yeah", Sally chimed in.

Dante walked over, peeking over everyone's shoulders, perusing their work. "No, the guitar player jumping in the air should be on top. The singer getting flipped the finger isn't news. You see that shit every night".
"You think I should move it down?"
"Yup".
"I was thinking the same thing".

Dante walked over to Sally's corner and watched her fight the paper with her rusty tools.
"Hey, Sally, I have a decent pair of paper scissors you can borrow. I mean, Jesus".
Sally looked up with her customary blank look.
"No, these are my tools". She proudly held the rusty scissors up like Lady Liberty.

Dante snorted and walked back to Arrest.
"So, here to help out?"
"Noooooooo", Dante crooned. "I'm just coming by to let you know that the next column's going to get done earlier than usual. I got some pretty hot info the other night and I'm dying to blast it in the zine".

"Um, like what? More high school photos?"
"No, better, much better. Why, it's almost too good for this rag, but I'll give it to you 'cause I'm a pretty cool guy".
"Are you going to tell me?"

Dante held out, walking over to a bunch of snacks and drinks sitting atop a scarred wooden table. He reached into a bag of ridged potato chips and jammed them into his maw, crunching loudly. He picked up a styrofoam cup of coffee and took a pull, puffed his cheeks up and spat it all over the floor.

"HEY!"
"Ugh! That fuckin' coffee's cold! And it's black, too! It tastes like piss! BYAKKKK!" Dante coughed up coffee grounds, spitting them out from his purple face.
"Ask before you guzzle, dick head".

Dante continued his coughing and spitting as Warren stared at him. "So, dumbass, are you going to tell me about this hot item you're just dying to burst...or what?"

Dante finally caught his breath after several tries. Without a word, he pulled out the paper he typed at home and handed it to his editor.
Arrest grabbed the copy and read it slowly.

As he scanned the paper a low moan giving way to a low growl rose higher and higher in volume.
"Mmmmmm....ohhhh....oh....AH.....SHIT!!!!"

His face turned several shades of white and gray and he handed the paper back to Dante.
"Where...did you...get this...stuff...from?"

Dante hemmed and hawed, eventually just wordlessly staring at his editor.
“This is all bullshit, isn’t it?”
“No, honest. It’s all real, I just don’t want to start narking my sources out, heh heh”.

Warren walked over to Dante and threw his arm around his shoulders conspiratorially. He turned his head just to check to see if Sally was watching and then around.
“I’ll publish this if it’s true, but honestly, guy, take a tip from me. Let’s have a little less scandal and a lot more positive energy. Make more friends. Don’t try so hard to piss everybody off, know what I mean?”
“Play it slower, like what?”

“We need money, see? Money will get us a cool little office space, not some bullshit squat. I mean I’m all for living humble, but let’s get what every other zine like Creem and Circus get, y’know?”
“I still don’t get you”.
“Dante, it’s like this. If you write up twenty bands per issue, that comes to twenty bands with five members each in every band and you sell a hundred copies alone just so these fuckers can see their stupid names in print, see? At three dollars an issue that’s three hundred dollars profit right there”.

“So I go find ten bands to write about? Is that it?”
“No, just make nice with these bands and get them to want to be put in the zine, like we’re doing them a big favor. They get their mention and we make our money. Leave me this item and go get these boobs interested in us. Oh, and here”.

Arrest discreetly pulled out a tiny folded piece of paper. “That’s for you. Enjoy. Put it away so Sally doesn’t see it”.
Dante pocketed it as quickly as he could.
“It’ll make you a lot nicer to everybody. Right now we need that. Go!”

********************

Dante walked by the corner drug store with its floppy awning and wooden slatted sides. He saw a flip-top box of cigarettes by the phone booth and swiped them. Opening the box, instead of expecting a cockroach to come racing out, he saw three fresh unsmoked cigarettes in the pack. Since he always carried matches with him he lit one up and took a deep drag on the smoke.

He walked further down the street with the sky in a gray patina, puffing smoke signals, adding more gray palette into the ozone. He walked a few feet ahead and then slowed down his pace. At the next block was a dented Ford Econoline van with the band name The Double Crossers spray painted over a vomitous splash of colors.

Dante tossed his cig into the curb and leaned against an empty storefront wall. A nervous, twitchy scarecrow of a young man in soiled tee, army pants and boots got out of the van. Looking around nervously, he opened up the rear van doors and pulled out a PA sound board with speakers.

“No way”, Dante grinned. “This is great”.
What made it great was that the store the van parked by had three round bulbs, the sign of a pawn shop. The young man pulled out a dolly and carted them into the pawn shop. Dante chuckled with glee.

“Wonder if the boys in the band know about this”, he mumbled to himself with no shortage of amusement.

He walked slowly and cautiously to get a closer look at the shop window. Most bands on the scene knew who he was so walking in there might be a bad idea. He found a nice sideways angle to the window without being seen head-on.

“Look at him twitch”, Dante chuckled again. “Scratching himself….”
The young man could be seen haggling with the pawnbroker inside the store.
“That’s Spider….shit. Never let a junkie handle your stage gear for you. Well, I never thought those guys in The Double Crossers were very bright”.

After much gesturing and nervous looks out the window (once Dante had to jump back a few feet) Spider finally managed to unload the sound board. He could be seen signing something and then taking a thin wad of cash and jamming in the back of his combat pants.

“How are you gonna explain that one, junkie?” Dante sniggered.
Spider then quickly jammed out of the pawn shop with two big 32” speakers on the dolly, quickly throwing them back into the van. Dante ran back to his original post.

“No takers on the speakers, asshole. I could have told him that”.

The van tore out from the curb. Dante slowly emerged from the corner and walked back to the sidewalk.
“Well, thanks for the item. That’s one band that isn’t going to be happy tonight. One missing sound board and one overdosed roadie. Wish I had my fuckin’ camera”.

******************************

Animal led Dante around a club called Kiki’s Deluxe at The Stockade, a gay bar that was having one of their drag nights. The club was packed with men looking for love, looking for entertainment and probably a load of party drugs.

Although Dante wore his usual punk uniform of leather jacket, jeans, tee and sneakers, Animal was dolled for Discoland, wearing a feather boa, violet satin tube top, black vinyl miniskirt and old platform wedgies. She even had some glitter glued to her cheeks.

“Come on”, Animal pulled Dante’s arm, dragging him around the club. “The dressing room’s around here somewhere!”
Dante yawned, wondering why he was even there.

Animal spotted a fat man in makeup but not in female dress.
“Hey!” she yelled. “Which way to the dressing room?”
The fat man appraised her sourly. “Well, doll, that’s for me to know and for you to find out!”

“I work with Mabel at Picasso’s Art Supplies. Is she back stage?”
“Mabel Mildew? Why didn’t you say so, girl?” The portly man stared at Dante in his tight leather jacket. “Back of the room to the left”.

“Can we go home now?” Dante groaned.
“No! I want to see Mabel!” Animal yelled over the bad dance music. It was Disco Tex and The Sex-O-Lettes doing their hoary classic “Get Dancin’”.

Dante wished he was home listening to The Ramones. Animal continued fighting the crowd, struggling to get towards the dressing room. Strobe lights and sirens were going off in the club and a DJ was screaming over the music – “GET DANCIN'……..KIKI'S DELUXE!!! STOMP YOUR FEET STICK UP YOUR ASSES OUT PUT YOUR HANDS UP IN THE AIR LIKE YOU GOSH DARN IT JUST DON’T CARE!”

They finally reached a black door which kept getting thrown open and then slamming shut, over and over again like some demented puppet show. The smell of beer and poppers filled the air.

Animal tried the door knob. “Shit! It’s locked!”
Suddenly the door flew open again, and a eight-foot tall black queen towered over the brightly lit room. Steam and body sweat emanated from the tiny dressing room.
“Yeeeeessssssssss?” the giant queen imperially asked.

“Is Mabel there? Tell her Animal’s here!”
“Oh, well…..Miss Mabel, you have company!”
Animal leaned over the large queen. “Mabel, Mabel, Mabel, it’s me! Animal!”

Mabel shrieked from the back of the dressing room. “Oh darling I’ll be out in a minute!”
The giant stared at Dante. “Well, he’s welcome to enter, but you‘ll have to wait, sweetheart”. Animal frowned.

The door slammed shut again. People shoved against them. “That bum, hustling my boyfriend in front of me. Well! Mabel’s going to hear about it!”
Dante just looked around nervously.

The door flew open and a dark figure fronted by a large bouncer raced out quickly towards the stage. Mable Mildew approached the stage resplendent in a gold liquid satin dress, her reed hair piled high in an upsweep with heavily rouged cheek, offsetting a short black goatee. She resembled a Milan runway model in crossfire with a Roman gladiator.

“KIKI’S DELUXE PRESENTS AND PREVENTS AT NO GREAT EXPENSE, THE WONDERFUL MABEL MILDEW!” Everybody screamed and applauded wildly.

“Mabel! Mabel! Mabel!” Animal yelled while jerking Dante around in a demented dance. Dante behaved like a surly puppet having its strings yanked wildly. Mabel lip-synced to Diana Ross singing “Over The Rainbow”. Shirtless men were bumping wildly, sweat flying around and splashing on Dante. Animal was in bliss, dancing like crazy.

The disco music pounded loudly while Mabel Mildew lip-synced her heavily padded heart out. Dante smelled more than a few asses in the fragrant darkness. Animal jumped up and down happily.

“Yaaaayyyyy Mabel! THAT’S MY GIRL!”