-February 2000-

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Feb 00 Mess

I'm So Sick Of New YAWK

I love the theatrical New York I learned on tv in the 1950s. It had subways and taxicabs and Nathan's hot dogs, Ralph and Alice Kramden and Luci and Desi and Fred and Ethel, Jan Murray and Garry Moore and Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan and What's My Line? and Queen For A Day and Art Linkletter and Kukla, Fran & Ollie. Never mind that the last one was from Chicago and the previous two from L.A. -- EVERYTHING on tv seemed to be from New York. Later my fascination grew when I discovered "On The Town," with "New York, New York" ("the Bronx is up and the Battery's Down"). Not to mention "Guys & Dolls."

But never, once, did I want to live there. I visited many times in the 1970s, staying for weeks and months with my indulgent friend Cliff Burnstein in Brooklyn Heights. It was a gass (in Chicago, whence I hail, gas is pronounced like has) to be in that vibrant city, up til all hours of the night and morning, walking those Manhattan streets with a vigor that seemed to emanate from the pavement. I, in fact, became a hyper-New Yorker during those stays. I was super-alert, and quick to be offended. It seemed the way to be. Were the Indians who first lived there sharp-tongued, pushy and combative too?

What bugs me -- and this will lead to music somewhere down the line -- is that the American press -- with America following -- looks to New York as Mecca. Most American news purveyors are headquartered there, so there is an inevitable New York spin on the news. For instance, when a man-on-the-street is needed, the networks don't send a reporter to Tallahassie or Tulsa, they walk out their door. It saves them money, but it imposes a New York vibe on America.

Mostly it's in the newspapers. I live in Los Angeles, a rather large city, where day after day the LA Times reports on four areas of news: local, national, international, and New York. It's not designated that way, but it works out.

News stories that have absolutely no impact on L.A. are reported like they're important to us.
- A woman who owned a hotel in New York underpaid her taxes. Front-page L.A. news? Not seemingly, but the New York papers played it up, so suddenly we were fed it, daily, for absolutely no reason.

-In 1999 there was a flap in Brooklyn about some art exhibit. Did it remain, as it was, a local -- Brooklyn for chrissake! -- issue? Hardly. We not only read about it, we were treated to an on-the-spot report from the LA art guy, and then a flood of letters to the editor! In the L.A. paper! -Are there any rich, pushy, egomaniacal people here in L.A.? Why yes. Then why acknowledge AT ALL the doings of Donald Trump, a rich New Yorker who grew richer in real estate? There are a thousand other rich guys in New York,and they don't get covered. This imbecile employs publicists to get his picture in the paper and the New York press takes the bait. They so adore his idiocy they call him "the Donald." OK, so the New York media are suckers, but why does this fool's fame extend to L.A. and the rest of America?

Maybe I feel this way because I grew up in Chicago, second in population to New York, and then, as the population shifted, settled in the new Second City, L.A. It's enough to give a person a complex! When a radio station in Chicago called itself "one of America's two great radio stations," I just assumed the other was in New York. (Music equivalency: the Blasters in the early 1980s considered themselves second-fiddle to X in all ways. When the B's album surpassed X sales, I said, "Now YOU can headline over THEM," and they said, "Oh no, we'll never be as important as X.")

Journalists in all cities across the U.S. look to New York. When the aforementioned Ñew York hotel owner, I forget her name, was indicted, Newsweek's COVER ran the headline "As In Rich." The supposedly national magazine was so fired-up over a New York woman's business conduct, affecting only New York, it branded her a bitch.

Newspapers and broadcast outlets throughout the country are staffed by people who disdain their home or adopted towns because they ain't New York! (Many people here call it 'back east,' as if it's some homeland. That is wrong. The east should always be called 'out east,' our home 'back west.") Consequently here in Los Angeles we are bombarded by articles that imply that our life is inferior to New York's. The L.A. paper keeps more than one full-time reporter there -- as if it's important to us! L.A reporters constantly report on new Broadway plays --revivals even -- that, you can safely say, few people in L.A. will ever see. The L.A. drama critic, a couple years back, waxed nostalgic about New York, and how the first days of spring brought out fierce, purposeful joggers. (I can see them now, snorting and pushing him out of their way, and this guy reveling in it.) A guy in an LA paper, reviewing a film about two teens in the midwest in the 60s, dished the film because "The 60s didn't happen in the midwest, they happened in New York." A newspaper gal here, interviewing an author at a Bev Hills pool, commented how odd it was to see an intellectual basking in the brainless palm-treed atmosphere of L.A.

The swine! You expect that from New York reporters, marching out here for eternity and reporting that "people don't read" because the New York friends they visit write only film scripts, but from an L.A. reporter? I was flabbergasted back in the early 1980s when Andy Kaufman's "milk & cookies" caper at Carnegie Hall was reported in LA newspapers: I had attended the exact same show at the Huntinton Hartford theater in Hollywood, and it got no press! The message? -- it's only important if it happens in New York! This is a thumb in the eye to the horrid Sinatra song that crows, "If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere" -- making it there is easy, compared to here, where you have to fight the New York-obsessed press for recognition!

Many times it still catches me off-guard. During a national eleciton period, a local paper headlined "Need an Opinion? Ask people at the Gramercy Restaurant." I assumed, though there is a street by that name in New York, that it referred to a local L.A. establishment. No, it was a reporter seeking (like it's hard to get them to talk!) opinions from New Yorkers. Another headline, "It's Tough To Get A Taxi" I assumed would be about taxi service in L.A., but it was about New York! Another headline, "Broadway Redevelopment," I assumed to be about our downtown, was about the Great White Way.

This New York stain is evident in Saturday Night Live, which started 25 years ago with a quickly-assumed New York attitude -- the players were Canadians and Angelenos and Chicagoans -- and continues to this day. Why, oh why, are we supposed to know the name of the mayor of New York? Or the governor? Or care about the Mets or Yankees? Why would a show named "Session on West 54th Street," be presumed to be in New York when a hundred other cities have 54th Streets? A rock & roll website is called The Velvet Rope. Why? Because someone in New York thinks the velvet rope that separates masochistic New York clubgoers from clubs is the Symbol Of Rock & Roll. (This towering stupidity, of subjecting yourself to the whims of a cro-Magnon doorman, was briefly exported to L.A. in the 1980s, but failed to catch on. People here are too dumb, I guess.)

The Patty Duke Show theme song contrasted Brooklyn Heights with upper Manhattan-- as if anyone outside of New York had any idea what that meant! The title "West Side Story" similarly demanded you know about Manhattan. As a child I wondered what West Side meant. How was one to know it was a dreaded part of New York? A DeNiro/Streep movie was summarized by an LA reviewer "She's from (I don't know where) and he's from Staten Island, (or vice versa)" as if we knew the boroughs there! Imagine a New York reviewer saying "she's from Encino and he's from Fontana!" (L.A. reference: one's hoity toity, the other's hoi-polloi-ey.)

Some goddam noive!

An interviewer on American Movie Classics asked actors how growing up in New York made them so great. Each offered "only in New York" anecdotes about Coney Island or the Yankees or egg creams. None, certainly least the NY-based inverviewer 'enabler', countered that people in Denver had no Coney Island but had Elitch Gardens, people in Cleveland had no Yankees but had the Indians, people in Chicago had no egg creams, but had chocolate phosphates, or that fascinating things happened to Marlon Brando growing up in Illinois, James Dean in Indiana and Marilyn Monroe (or Jackie Robinson, or George S. Patton, or Dustin Hoffman) in L.A.

It was a New York-based show. They talked to New Yorkers. They all agreed that a New York childhood was the road to greatness. Whee!

Ads run with New York accents. Remember the guy 20 years ago in the bathtub talking about the "shmutz" in the bathwater? NY ad guys thought he was cute: the rest of the nation thought he was an imbecile. New York-speak is epidemic portraying "tough" cartoon characters, and "50's" people. A cable-network program which profiles movie stars has a New York 'tough-guy' spit his narration like a New York punk. Is this supposed to add credibility? This Bronx-talking tv-hood is talkin' to you SO YOU BETTA LISSEN! How about the NY-attitude pizza someone's now selling? Who would order it? If the waiter dropped it on the floor he would slam it in front of you and say "Dis is yuws. You gotta problem wit dat?"

Even grocery stores do it. The Jewish/deli shelves of groceries in L.A., Texas, Colorado always have Fox's U-Bet and Dr. Brown's, two New York items, as if every Jew in America comes from there! Maybe they they got the show title wrong, and heard, "When you're Jewish, The Whole World Comes From New York!"

I grow weary.

Back to music, in the mid 1970s I thought the best rock & roll was coming from NY, led by the Ramones and Springsteen (New York, New Jersey, same thing). An indigenous scene was forming, like weeds pushing through concrete -- previously NY's rock & roll fame was the song factory at the Brill Building, Dion & The Belmonts, and Joey Dee's take on Philadelphia's twist craze. But that scene burnt out, and the music spotlight returned to the west coast, where roots-rock was transmogrifying into something special in the hands of Los Lobos, the Blasters and X, and commercially-manufactured pop thrived with the Go-Gos and Bangles. Not to mention punk-rock flourishing hold here far beyond its first stirrings in New York.

What's my beef?

I dig New York, I just don't think it should be adored.

I was there last summer with a rock band. It was their first visit, and they were impressed with how nice it was. In the summer doldrums, the town was empty -- we easily hailed TWO cabs at 51st and Broadway at 10:30 on a Friday morning. We had a fine time; people were polite.

One musician said it confirmed what I told him years ago: New York is a friendly place because the worst New Yorkers all moved to L.A. Out here, we see them pulling dangerous U-turns to get parking spots, (their cars are festooned with Yankees or Mets stickers). We hear them cheering unnaturally at sports broadcasts in bars and restaurants. We see them screaming, and pushing, at the NY/LA volleyball game. We hear them at the top-price restaurants creating a roar that makes table-talk impossible.

Think people in L.A. are dumb?

People in England sound smarter, but they're not. Just look at their daily papers.

Think people in New York are smart? No, they're just louder.

And they control the media.

Elvis Show

Back to reality. The January 9th (The House Of Blues moved us back a day) Elvis Birthday bash was a stone blast. On hand:

Paul Marshall, Harry Orlov, Mario, Little Miss Tammy Smith, Billy Swan, Sheiks Of Shake, Kevin Banford & His Bakersfield Boys, Gene Jaramillo, Kings Order of El Mysah, Celestials, Dan Edwards Combo, Christine Rose & Her Bear Cats, Lightnin Willie, Rod & Tonemasters, Randy Beckett's Rebel Train, Cadillac Angels, Danny Blitz, Ellie Mae, Eddie Perez, Groovy Rednecks, Johnny Legend, 3 Bad Jacks, Barry Holdship, Doug Fieger, Sprague Bros, Rip Masters, Pearl Harbour, Levi Dexter, James Intveld, Ray Campi, Jimmy Angel, Paladins, Russell Scott, Eddie Nichols & Real Seduction, Double Naught Spies, George Thomas

Missing were Rosie Flores (recording in Nashville), Swamp Dogg (off to the Caribbean), and Dwight Yoakam (dunno). They were missed, but a fantastic time was had by all! Highlight was Pearl Harbour in her harem outfit belting "You're So Square" and "Hound Dog." Even a good review in the LA Times!

This was our 15th Elvis celebration, and it's still going strong.

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