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Saturday, April 26, 2008

That Gutbucket Beat

Punk rock couldn't compete with the explosion in my teenage life of seeing Rahsaan Roland Kirk on stage at Carnegie Hall kicking beer cans off the stage, blind at birth, blowing three saxophones at once, and me young terrified young kid thinking, "This is what life is all about, a cool shit blind motherfucker blowing three horns at once!" Even real-time sex or superhype cocaine couldn't compete with this rush, baby.

One year later I saw Sun Ra, grizzled old spaceman drag genius with his big band, all ninety years old blowing nightmares and daydreams on their space horns and realizing God kissed them on their ear drums and they're sending it home to us Earthlings.

I remember Miles Davis pacing up and down the stage like a caged black panther at the Greek Theatre while LAPD helicopters were flying above trying to kill his frequency and failing, his electric trumpet sending messages to my cerebrum, "The frequency cannot be cancelled - you must submit".

The following year I saw Ornette Coleman with his double electric band playing harmolodics, which is like a mobius strip of jazz with a trash disco beat. Blowing a plastic alto saxophone, the hypnotic signal transmitting messages to my Earthboy mind, "The frequency will not be broken - you will join us and communicate".

After coping with losing my mother, an absentee father and Rabbis screaming at me all day in Hebrew school I knew I could find solace in my wise black hipster guardians from the bop dimension. For every day of my life, jazz has led the way towards my galactic salvation.

Friday, April 18, 2008

"Iggy, We Hardly Knew Ye"

When I was eighteen years old I frequented a club called Rodney’s English Disco, which was on the Sunset Strip. It was hosted by a man named Rodney Bingenheimer, who was apparently the world’s biggest rock fanboy and official welcome wagon to visiting bands in L.A. I went there on weeknights because the admission was free, on a dead night the drinks were sometimes free as well, and things were low-key enough to catch people at their least pretentious, posey and unguarded selves. And some nights were more unguarded than others.
There was the night a Congressman from a Midwestern state came by (with bodyguard). He asked Rodney what’s the deal, and within minutes a groupie named Lori Mattix came by and disappeared in the back room with the Congressman and Rodney. Nothing much was thought of it then, however, a few months later, there was posted on the wall of the club a letter with the official Congressional Seal on it. It was from the same Congressman thanking Rodney for showing him such an entertaining evening. I had a nice chortle over that. The most unguarded nights, however, were the Iggy Pop experiences.
On a slow Tuesday night Iggy came in, but I didn’t believe it was him. I couldn’t believe Iggy was so short and stocky. I was used to seeing him as he appeared on the cover of “Raw Power”, platinum-haired and silver jeaned. Tonight he showed up in blue denim dungarees and his hair was dyed black. Worst of all, he wore a T-shirt with his face on it (old Stooges photo circa 1970). Now, you have to bear in mind the Stooges had broken up, Iggy didn’t have a band or a solo career yet, and frankly, he was a drunken, stoned mess. I sat by the bar and he leaped onto the stool next to mine, craning his head towards me and staring right at me, hoping I’d make the association between his face and the image on the shirt. I was tired, in a bad mood, and didn’t care.

There were four other patrons in the club besides myself, all at the bar. No one would indulge Iggy by acknowledging him. In fact, everyone there seemed to think he was a washed-up, useless loser. Rodney was playing records in the DJ booth, which was an elevated platform above the dance floor. Iggy went up to the DJ booth and talked to Rodney.
Rodney picked up the club mike and announced to all five of us, “Okay! Tonight we have a special guest star, live at Rodney’s English Disco, it’s Iggy Pop!” Side 2 of “Raw Power” started playing over the PA and Iggy sang along to it on the club mike, or at least attempted to. He was on downers and seemed to have trouble spitting out the words when he wasn’t having problems remembering them. Here’s a partial transcription:
“Dance to the b-b-b-beat of the...uh....lose sleep...uh....Raw Power is...uh....s-s-s-sure to come...uh....” Two girls at the bar laughed derisively at this pathetic display. They were with an Englishman who found the whole affair, well, “Disgusting!” he spat bitterly. “Fucking failure! What a disgraceful bastard!”
The next tune on Side 2 was “I Need Somebody”. Iggy struggled with the words once more. “I need...uh....just l-l-l-like, uh, y-y-y-you....”, he stammered statically.
“Oh, this is just awful”, the girls at the bar moaned, in between shrieks of laughter.
“What a bloody egomaniac, he is”, the horrified Englishman grunted angrily. “Wearing a T-shirt with his bleedin’ face on it!”
Next song: “Shake Appeal”. Iggy fared just as badly on the vocals, loud and distorted, the record playing over the PA too quietly to hide how incredibly bad he was. He lasted another two songs (with more running commentary from the Brit and his two clubmates), and then he called it a night. I felt sorry for him, but I found the whole scene fascinating. This was the same guy I’d see on the bus sitting in front with all the old ladies. He’d always get off at the Strip, walking down the street with the saddest, most dejected look I’ve ever seen.
One month later, an awful biker bar hippie blues band played Rodney’s. They were set up on the dance floor. Iggy pushed up through the crowd, back in platinum blonde hair, and bum-rushed the bandstand in dress, high heels (three sizes too big), and wearing full women’s make-up. He didn’t look very feminine, if anything the drag merely exaggerated how masculine he really looked. While the band blasted through another inept hippie blues workout, Iggy would stand in front of the bandstand contorting his body, doing handstands and cartwheels in front of the band and posing like a Vogue Magazine model, predating “Voguing” by a good 15 years!
Bravo, Iggy! While the singer was perfecting his worst Jim Morrison blues-man delivery, Iggy grabbed the mike from him and hooted a hog-calling yell.
The fat hippie blues singer was terrified by this insane drag queen crashing his set. The audience loved it because Iggy woke everybody up from their deep slumber the blues band was inducing, I went home shortly after this but found out several days later that at the end of that night Iggy was grabbed up by the police and jailed for female impersonation and being under the influence of drugs. Needless to say, life got better for Iggy Pop and we’re all the better for it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

When Privacy Goes Public

One cool, beautiful Saturday evening in the summer my wife and I decided to walk down Robertson Boulevard after a pretty good dinner at Jerry’s Famous Deli (back when it was fun to go there). Everybody walking down the street seemed pretty happy and serene, only to have the vibe completely destroyed before our very eyes. Across the street was the Daisy, a top-rank restaurant frequented by showbiz celebrities that looked like a fairy tale house with picket fence.
We saw a jeep pull up to the valet park, and within seconds at least, Honest to God, twenty (20) paparazzi swarmed around the jeep like locusts in a corn field. It was impossible to see who was in the jeep because the swarm overtook it, flash bulbs popping away like a strobe light going berserk and the photographers yelling their heads off. We never did find out who got out of that jeep. The serenity of the street was completely destroyed.

The mania for entertainment news doesn’t just encroach into your personal life. It’ll grab you in your work day, too. I work next door to the Los Angeles County Superior Court on Hill Street, where the Britney Spears custody battles in court have been taking place. Going out on my lunch break has been a serious ordeal.
The first thing I have to do is make sure I don’t trip over feed cables on the sidewalk while a TV news reporter sets up in the middle of the sidewalk, and 3 paparazzi with bazooka sized cameras are marching up and down in front of me not giving a hang about the working people walking by them, getting in everybody’s way. This wasn’t an isolated incident at all, in fact, the Spears custody battles have been raging in the courts week after week, so the congestion just trying to go out to lunch or park has been well near impossible.

My wife was hired to design outfits for Jessica Biel in her latest film, and since Biel was Justin Timberlake’s latest girlfriend the studio was swarming outside with reporters and paparazzi. As tight as security was, the worst came to pass: someone took a phone camera photo of Biel performing a strip tease scene in what was supposed to be a closed set. They never did find out who took the photo, but there it was a week later in the Enquirer.
When gossip magazine money comes to play there is no such thing as airtight security. The payoff is too good and people are more than willing to jeopardize someone’s privacy for pay.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Poetry Corner

it was a fuck you kind of day

It was a fuck you kind of day
You spoke and no one listened
You dropped things all day and when you bent to pick it up
You hit your head and someone laughed
Nobody laughed when you made a joke
But they knew what was funny

It was a fuck you kind of day
Like the invisible man no one could see you
People couldn’t move over or walk around you
Like stupid robots with dying batteries they charged right at you
The world gave up on me and no amount of
Drink or drugs or atomic bombs were going to straighten them out.

rot and roll

“Rock n roll never forgets” but it rots
I’ve seen it rot
Rot ‘n roll
I used to walk by the antique junk yard on my way home
A dirty, ugly statue of Chuck Berry made of shit brown bronze
Holding a guitar with his goofy pompadour
Legs splayed like hot shit on a shit stick
Then one day I walked by and his left arm was gone
Who the hell did that?

The following week half his right leg was gone
That must suck he can’t do his stupid splits any more
Two weeks later half his face was broken off
I never saw bronze break like that
A week later the guitar neck was all broken off
The rotting rock star was in trouble
I couldn’t wait to see what was coming off the following week
But alas the stature disappeared
The moral of the story is
Rot n roll always forgets that’s just the problem.

blackbird fan club

Walking to the bank for silver coins
With my inky black hair
Some wings flap by my ear and I feel needles in my head
A fucking crow has landed on my head and he’s sitting there
In Koreatown everybody has black hair
But this crow decided my head belonged to him
He flew right off seconds later
Fuckin’ demon

2 months later
Walking to Rite Aid past the puke strewn parking lot
With my raven feather black hair
Again I hear some flapping by my ear and claws in my scalp
Another fucking crow has landed on my head
Koreatown again aren’t there enough black heads to land on?
He flew off and landed on the ground
I stared at him
He stared at me, looking like “Well, fucker, what about it? I like your crazy black head”
Finally a fan I can relate to