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Friday, May 29, 2009

Fan Art Gone Wrong, Very Wrong!

There are two kinds of comic book fans, Marvel fans and DC fans. Since I'm a DC comics fan I never warmed up to Marvel much. Nevertheless, I always found the God-like status paid to megalomaniac Stan Lee to be extremely obscene. When I heard there was a group show at Hollywood's own Gallery 1988 paid to Stan Lee, not Marvel Comics and the hard-working geniuses who worked under him, I was intrigued. How does a self-loving prick like Stan Lee rate a show? Will Jack Kirby's ghost show up and take a dump on Lee's worn-out toupee?

Tributes like this I would accept like a burning spear hemorrhoid, which would probably resemble Spiderman. There were few paintings that actually could be called "art" and most of it was just plain bad. Let's cast the swine before pearls: When the artists weren't busy imitating Mark Ryden or a kid's Fruit Roll-Ups ad (you know when the kids are bugging their eyes out like speed freaks), it was just bad Napoleon Dynamite fan art. I actually missed the liger!

He who (cannot be named) should have their thumbs hung:
1) He who painted Dr. Doom giving Ozzy devil metal fingers
2) Stan Lee pencil sketches
3) He who painted "The World of Stan Lee" and then cribbed a load of Jack Kirby images...you're a douche
4) He who painted Stan Lee on stage with Marvel heroes rocking out in a band called The Excelsiors...you're the biggest douche of all

I saw a terrible painting of the Hulk going for $7000 (the most expensive piece there) and it was the stupidest thing I ever saw. The horror set in when I discovered it was my next door neighbor's painting! I also a beautiful color box of Mr. Fantastic that didn't seem like art to me but belonged in some stoner teen's rec room. By the beer bong.

At least some people tried, there were paintings that had virtually nothing to do with superheroes. If they couldn't get into the comics frame of mind they should have fucked off.

Who was good?
1) There was a nice painting of Dr. Strange by Nic Cowan. Unfortunately it looked like any image from the Powerpuff Girls. Bummer.
2)Yoskay Yamamoto's painting of Thor was excellent because it was not only a cool tribute but showed an ORIGINAL art style not to be seen in the rest of the room. His lines and composition made me a fan.
3) Chris Reccardi's painting of Sue Storm/Invisible Girl was very stylized and well-done. Every line was perfectly executed, and again, he won a fan.

To Gallery 1988's credit most paintings were priced to move (under $800) so the art fan gets some great new shit...even a cool stoner light box of Mr. Fantastic.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

All Yesterday's Parties

Bad parties can be more legendary in one’s mind than the good ones. In fact, if you asked me what the three best parties I’ve been to were like I couldn’t even tell you, but the terrible ones are relegated to immortality. I don’t know if my terrible parties beat yours, but these ones are unforgettable…in every bad way possible.

There was the “Pimp and Ho Party” in the Hollywood Hills, the real swanky part of the Hills, too, valet parking, luxurious digs and all. It looked promising until Rebecca and I realized we came from another generation. My pimp look emulated some Cab Calloway fifties greaser pimp – every “Pimp” however went for the Fifty Cent rap star look. I was totally out of place. Rebecca went for the “Sweet Charity” slut look – every “Ho” at the party looked like some two-bit Pussycat Dolls wannabe with clear heels and clear French nails. Yuck! To add insult to injury it turned out that these weren’t just ordinary film crew folks, they all belonged to some EST cum Scientology cult. Help! People were telling Rebecca about “The Revision” and how it changed their lives. “The Revision” put them on the right path on the condition they tithed 25% of their earnings to this cult. What a pity, the house was so beautiful and the drinks were good, but the company was Hollywood scary.

I also remember Emma’s Penthouse Magazine “Pet of the Month” bash in the Hollywood Hills again – does that guarantee schmaltz? Don’t worry, we’ll get to Silver Lake pretty soon, it was in February and raining cats and dogs. As soon as you ascended the stairs from the road the first thing you walked by was an unlit infinity pool. I almost fell in, but Rebecca grabbed me and pulled me away from a certain drenching. Unfortunately others didn’t fare so well, in fact when things got boring we would watch new party goers walk right in to the infinity pool, like some bad college prank. The house was packed with swingers, including some fried old British glam rockers with their old man faces arguing about New Wave cinema = not Thomas Dolby new wave, but Francois Truffaut new wave. There was dancing on the second floor, and in the bedroom by the dance floor there was some gross swinger orgy smelling like a tuna cannery. It was so bad our friend Renard had to stand guard by the bathroom so Rebecca could use the crapper. Renard had a great time though, his glasses kept fogging up from all the steamy shenanigans!

Sofia Coppola’s birthday party was a real fizzle, too, no blast, sorry Chief, and took place in her swanky digs in the You-Know-Where Hills. We took our friend Stefan – we always bring friends with us, we need our own entertainment – and after the Princess of Honor greeted Rebecca and snubbed Stef and I in her raging homeliness, we both looked at each other and in unison whined, “THAT’S IT?” The tantalizing princess of cinema? The other party goers were easily the prissiest load of snobs I’ve ever met, and that’s just the guys. The girls thought their shit didn’t stink; one of them even said aloud to her date, “I don’t like him – he’s creeping me out”, pointing at me. After a few drinks I started throwing the gross-out sushi toxic treats in the kitchen against the wall, and needless to say they stuck like Play Doh at Mother Goose Nursery School.

Okay, here’s a shit Silver Lake party for you: Chuck Mosley (ex-Faith No More singer) threw a birthday party for his daughter, a phoney baloney little brat who cracked the most rehearsed pissy smile I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t stand her, but not half as much as Chuck and his woman who proceeded to ignore me because I’m white but loved Rebecca’s negroid coolness. Every black guy in the place with their trendy bullshit dreadlocks improduced hisselfs to hers, and Gentleman Chuck gave her his newest CD, which sounded like every terrible Red Hot Chili Peppers ballad ever recorded. Two hours after we got home he called us and axed Rebecca what she thought of the record, and she said it sounded bland. Chuck mournfully announced to the Dreadlock Brigade over the phone, “Rebecca doesn’t like our record”. Ho, Ho, Ho!

If people catch wind of this blog griping about their crummy parties I’ll probably never get invited to them again, but that’s okay. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that the best parties are with a tiny bunch of pals that don’t judge you and know how to simply chill and not work so hard at trying to be hard and superlative. It’s all about fun, not networking. I’ve already got a motherfucking job.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback

I didn’t really understand The Monks the first time I heard them and was never a big fan of their music until I saw the documentary “The Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback” (excellently directed by Lucia Palacios and Dietmar Post) on the Sundance Channel recently. Now I’m totally obsessed with those noisy psychos. “The Transatlantic Feedback” is a great documentary and reads like a Tony Curtis military comedy from Hell. It’s the story of five enlisted men in the Army in Cold War-era West Germany whose infantry duties consisted of washing the General’s car or for bassist Eddie Shaw measuring bazooka artillery projectiles. To pass the time they hit the decadent Berlin club scene (which spawned The Beatles) playing covers as The Torquays. After they’re discharged from the Armed Forces they decided to stay in Germany and continue playing the clubs, catching the eye of two advertising men, Walther and Karl.

Walther and Karl molded the boys visually into wearing all black, hangman’s knots for ties, and shaving the middle parts of their heads like ascetic monks, a pretty bizarre reaction to the now popular Beatle haircut. Musically they were molded as well: as Eddie Shaw explains it: “Where there were four chords, you narrow it down to only one. If there were six lines of lyrics, can you shorten it down to only two?” Musical and lyrical minimalism was part of their new order. “Some of their ideas were brilliant”, guitarist-singer Gary Burger recalls, “but some of them were too crazy for us. We had to say at some point, ‘We’re not going to do that!’”. One of the humorous aspects of Walther and Karl’s management was a written manifesto, read laughingly aloud by Shaw: “You must always look, act, move, walk, talk like a Monk, but above all else you will not be a Torquay”.

The Monks’ sound was incredibly assaultive with some of the most incendiary feedback-drenched fuzz guitar playing from Gary Burger, hypnotically semaphore organ playing from future IBM exec Larry Clark, and the most bizarre banjo playing in history from Dave Day. Eschewing folksy, melodic playing for violent chord-bashing, Day plays his banjo like a percussive instrument, doubling the beats the drums are pounding. At one point during “Monk Time” he even replicates machine gun sounds on his banjo. Brilliant stuff!

And how about “Monk Time”, with the most schizophrenic set of lyrics screamed by Burger, bouncing bipolarisms at the drop of a hat. Anti-war: “Why do you kill all those kids in Vietnam?” Pro-war: “Mad Vietcong! My brother died in Vietnam!” Anti-music: “Stop it! I don’t like it! It’s too loud for my ears!” Pro-music: “What do you mean, Larry? You think like I think, you’re a Monk, I’m a Monk, we’re all Monks!” Talk all you want about hip irony, this was strong shit for 1965 when everybody was groovy.

The stern Germanic influence continues on a song with mournful church organ and chanting Monks singing, “Got a reason to laugh, got a reason to cry, be a liar everywhere, Shut Up! Don’t Cry!” and then slipping a little Satanism in Higgle-Die Piggle-Die, “Way down…to Heaven!” The negativity hits a feverish peak with the amazing “I Hate You”, Burger’s voice recalling classic David Lee Roth (tell me I’m wrong!) wailing, “I hate you with a passion baby, My hate’s everlasting baby!” The music never once loses its edge, guitars burning through your eardrums, sleazy organ and that nutty banjo bashing itself into your skull.

Once Walther and Karl parted ways as band managers the band slowly unraveled. Onstage fisticuffs, dropping the Monk look, record industry indifference, and drummer Roger Johnston leaving the band led to the guys’ return to the States, with the exception of banjo-guitarist Dave Day running a pub. “If I had stayed in Germany, I probably would have died there”, admits Shaw, emphasizing the vice-crazed “anything goes” lifestyle of decadent Berlin, still crazy after the legendary “Cabaret” era.

Looking back in retrospect, the band attempts to whitewash their lyrics by claiming that because of attention focused on “only one song” their music “wasn’t really political” (“Monk Time”) but you can’t get more political than “Complication” with its lines of “people kill for you, people die for you” and the lyrics for “Shut Up” have political connotations (“Be a liar everywhere, Shut up! Don’t cry!”).

Burger, Day and Shaw seem to be the most forthcoming in their analysis of the band while Johnston seems very saddened by the experience and Clark is a man of few words, but that’s okay. Walther and Karl, both long believed dead, declined to be interviewed for the film, stating that a manager’s job is to stay in the background. Shit, that’s refreshing!

The film ends much like “New York Doll”, the band’s dream of playing New York finally realized by doing a reunion show to scenester celebrities like a pre-op Genesis P. Orridge, Peter Zaremba (Fleshtones), and a super-twitchy Jon Spencer. The band looks thrilled as fuck to be playing again, and fortunately didn’t show signs of losing their edge at all, still playing with an ageless intensity. Burger’s lead guitar lines still boil and Day’s mental case banjo strumming still pounding like a musical jackhammer. Still wearing their legendary black shirts, Dave Day quips “we don’t have to get the hair styles anymore, we already have the bald spots”.

Although “The Transatlantic Feedback” is a documentary on one of the most obscure bands in rock directors Palacios and Post did an amazing job with old TV broadcasts, band interviews and Cold War newsreel footage.

Shortly after the film wrapped drummer Roger Johnston passed away, but the band continued to play the occasional reunion show in Austria and Germany (clips available on YouTube). Unfortunately, Dave Day passed in January so it seems pretty doubtful the band can really play again, but their mark in rock history is assured. While any band can release one album and disappear, it takes stunning performances and brilliant songwriting to make that one album stay fresh and immortal in people’s minds, and The Monks are one of the small handful of bands that have accomplished just that. It’s always Hop Time, it’s Beat Time, it’s Monk Time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stuff I Burned From TCM, Part 6

DVDs have been a part of our lives for over ten years, and while it seems everything has finally been released it’s almost surprising that there are still some amazing movies that are still not available. Thanks to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) these films can still be viewed and enjoyed, never to be forgotten. By the way, some of the films I’ve written about in past blogs have eventually seen a release, like “Wild Boys of the Road”, so hope springs eternal.

Mickey One (1965): Mickey One (played by Warren Beatty) is a lounge lizard Joseph K who runs from invisible killers for a transgression that’s never explained to him. Was it for unpaid gambling debts and fucking the mob boss’ mistress? The dazzling black and white cinematography recalls Robert Frank’s legendary book “The Americans” offset by Stan Getz’s lush film score. This is easily Warren Beatty’s finest performance and one of the most bizarre Hollywood productions ever. Thanks, Columbia Pictures!

The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962): Timothy Carey’s wild brainchild nightmare movie. A bored insurance salesman decides to get into the God business and uses rock ‘n roll as a means to enlist people to his self-made religion. This concept must have been pretty daring in its time (1962) and several more popular films later ran with the idea, “Wild in the Streets”, to name an example. The rock concert scenes are genuinely exciting (watch Carey wiggle like a worm in gold lame!). I think David Lynch could learn a thing or two about surrealism when the climactic black and white footage is intercut with color showing Carey insanely laughing as he stabs a wafer expecting it to bleed.

The Twonky (1953): Arch Obler of “Lights Out” fame directed this sci-fi comedy about a television set that hypnotizes people and controls its owner, Hans Conreid. The TV set is actually an alien from a far-away planet, but never strikes me as sinister. It happily helps Conreid wash the dishes, shave and light his pipe in a matter of seconds, all at the same time, so much for world domination. That’s a pretty domestic alien! The Twonky’s also crazy for marching band music. Although this came around the era of space war movies like “War of the Worlds” this is more like “Gumby”.

Brighton Rock (1947): Brighton is the British equivalent to Atlantic City, a happy seaside playground, which provides the setting for this British noir, the best in my opinion. The happy setting provides a sick counterpoint to all the ominous crimes they commit. Adapted from the Graham Greene novel, Richard Attenborough plays Pinky, a cold blooded-killer who’s so out of control his gang decides to ice him. He’s onto their game, of course, and fleeing from them he meets a na├»ve waitress, who falls madly in love with his baby-faced good looks. Her loyalty is like none he’s ever experienced and he slowly learns the value of love, an alien concept to him up until now. This is very similar to the theme of another Greene story, “A Gun For Hire”.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Belts, Boots, Gloves Love

One of the most overlooked yet crucial parts of a wardrobe are the accessories…belts, boots, gloves, etc. I actually learned to love my accessories and buy them regularly. In fact, I bought a cool glam rock scarf today. Here’s a few stores I recommend for your major men’s accessory purchases:

Silver Connection (8308 Wilshire Blvd): Stuff I bought at Silver Connection: a styley King’s crown ring, a bear trap ring (good for weddings), and a cool Batman belt buckle, all in silver. And that’s just for the guys. There’s tons of items for girls, some of it’s goth, some of it’s hippie, some emo, even Southwest cowgirl stuff. Go and see Randy – he’ll hook you up and a great guy to do business with. At the Wilshire & San Vicente strip mall. He gives strip malls a touch of class.

Cools Clothing Store (110 Japanese Village Mall): I hope I’m not being racist when I say that any t-shirt store in Little Tokyo would automatically have anime graphics all over them, so imagine the double-take I made when I saw Rat Fink and Lucky 13 images instead blazing through the shop window. Here in the heart of Little Tokyo is a rockin’ little Lowbrow art shop, mostly girly clothes but sulky-pout emo boys might find skinny-minnie wearables here, too.
Cools is run by Masato Miura, who doesn’t bill himself on his business card as Store Manager but as “Mechanic”. Wotta card. He sells Tattoo art t-shirts, nutty beanies, cigarette cases, cute earrings all dragged out in the Kustom Kar Kommando style. I wish he didn’t play reggae music – how about some Guitar Wolf, bro?
With Christmas around the corner hit up Masato’s wicked garagey gift shop. I’ll be there buying the t-shirt that says “My Girlfriend Can Totally Beat Up Your Girlfriend”.

Zappos (Henderson, Nevada): For the first time ever I got a boner just by reading a packing slip…it was from Zappos. The slip said, “Your order was picked, packed and shipped by Cheryl and Amber”. Oooh Baby! Tell Daddy all about it! I ordered a gorgeous pair of brown leather boots with a side zipper (Brutini). The boots were so fresh they smelled like steak! Either the boot maker cooked the leather (medium well-done) before he sewed them or Cheryl and Amber tore into some prime rib before they picked, packed and shipped my boots.
Zappos, keep selling those kool, kewl, kool boots at great prices and send more sexy packing slips, please!

Ross Dress For Less (7060 W. Sunset Blvd): Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste. But when I run out of wealth and I run out of taste I go to Ross Dress For Less. There are some genuine finds here, you can get closeouts on designer stuff like DKNY boy panties and Calvin Klein belts. My wife bought those great Andy Warhol canvas tote bags (Campbell Soup Can and the Banana Velvet Underground LP cover) that came out a few years ago to cash in on the Edie Sedgwick flop movie (“Factory Girl”). They also have the Elvis, Jackie O and wild sunflower Warhol designs.
You can also get great markdowns on picture frames and kitchenware. Just make sure you stay away from the shirts and pants, guys, because they’re as irregular as a 90-year old man.

Leatherup.com (955 Venice Blvd): I love leather! Leather looks better on me than it does on a cow! And what better place to order your leather needs than through one of my favorite mail-order places, but Leatherup.com?
They sell biker vests, sexy leather chaps, biker caps, kid gloves, and best of all, leather boots. I ordered a killer pair of engineer boots for under $75 and got it within three working days with a 10% discount coupon included for my next order. Leatherup.com is like the hottest party girl: cheap, fast and eager to accommodate.

Maya Jewelry (7452 Melrose Ave): One of the oldest O.G. Melrose stores, Maya has a tasty assortment of tribal items from Africa, India, Central America, Peru, China, Japan, Thailand (i.e. if you saw Steve-O and Chris Party Boy from “Wildboyz” rompin’ around naked in that country it’s here) sexy jewelry like hoop earrings, toe rings and more for the ladies, studly sunglasses of every style imaginable for the studly guys out there, and some of the most colorful tribal masks, bracelets, rings and necklaces. I love Maya. My one-stop sun virgin sacrificial shop.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Gary Baseman: La Noche De La Fusion

Gary Baseman’s wild new book “Dying of Thirst” was recently released, and to celebrate its publication his work was on display at the Corey Helford Gallery under the title “La Noche De La Fusion”. The Saturday night opening was high concept, a Brasilian style carnaval with a mambo band, fire-eaters, and Baseman critters in outfits a la Disneyland, some cartoony and some sexy. Rebecca was instrumental in designing and fabricating outfits for the show.

Three spaces were used at the opening: the gallery itself for the display of his paintings, the parking lot where the carnaval took place, and a little warehouse on the other end of the block where the Baseman critters put on their outfits, and in the case of the sexy critters also had hair and make-up done.

The turn-out was huge, and from what I understand was Facebook RSVP only or some crap like that. Since I don’t belong to Facebook I got in via my “plus one” with Rebecca, but just barely. The guest list I was supposed to be on didn’t have me on there, and had to call Rebecca to get me in. The security guards were way over the top, insufferably so; in fact, there were even guards regulating how many people could go up to the balcony to look at paintings. I think the gallery took themselves way too seriously, to the point of placing a slight damper on the fun of the proceedings.

I had a good time at the opening but silently thanked God that these things don’t happen very often. I think Baseman’s a cool artist and his critters are fun to look at but by the end of the night I kind of wondered what Robert Williams would have done with the same budget.