-November 2004-

Other Fein Messes

1st record, 1st concert

The closest thing to a rock record I ever owned was the soundtrack to Elvis' It Happened At The World's Fair, which I requested and received for my 8th birthday. It was the first Elvis movie I saw in a theater when it was released. My brother and I didn't even want to go at first, when our parents dropped us off at the show for the weekly kiddie matinee - 3 p.m., 20 cents admission - because we thought Disney's Savage Sam was playing and Elvis Presley was "for girls." But our teenage cousin Patty convinced us that Elvis was pretty good, so we went, and that was that. Even in 1963, even in what is probably considered one of his worst films, he was the coolest thing we thought we'd ever see. I recognized "One Broken Heart For Sale" from the radio ("So that's Elvis Presley?"), thanks to a teenage aunt who lived with us and some very cool baby-sitters (I never hear "A Lover's Concerto" without thinking of Ida Gomez) who made sure CKLW (greatest station ever) was playing constantly. Not long after that, I adopted Elvis as my personal lord and savior, and I still love "Beyond The Bend," "Take Me To The Fair," and "Happy Ending" from that album. "A Fool Such As I" remains my favorite Elvis song of all-time, though (which is why I was so pissed off they used the wrong version on that Elvis 30 No. 1 Hits album).
I got to see Elvis four times in the '70s, including the Vegas show that opens Albert "Dickhead" Goldman's book (he got it wrong, btw - August 6, 1973; the previous night, we got to see Bobby Darin's last show ever, which was great - he ended with "Dream Lover" and "Splish Splash"). And - I kid you not - the Vegas show where Elvis said "Elvis isn't strung-out on drugs ? and if I find out who said that," striking a karate pose, "I'm going to break their neck." He got a standing ovation. It was also the show where he introduced his ex-wife and Lisa Marie, muttering something about Mike Stone having no balls, and the one he started over because Vicki Carr had arrived late and hadn't heard him sing "It's Now Or Never." But the best Elvis show was in April '77, four months before he died, in Saginaw, Michigan. He looked horrible but - maybe because the audience was factory workers and farmers, not Vegas high rollers - it was a terrific night. The illusions were all intact and nothing before or since comes close to the devotion I saw in that auditorium that night.
First record I ever bought myself, though (with grandparent Christmas money) was J. Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers' "Last Kiss," again thanks to CKLW. Still love it to this day. Don Waller played me Wayne Cochran's original version four years ago, not long after he found it (it came out on CD shortly thereafter) - and I still can't decide which one is better. I do know that Pearl Jam's version sucks because it didn't have the bass riff, and "Last Kiss" is the bass riff. (I also once heard a great version of it, with the riff, sung entirely in Spanish on the radio in a Mexican restaurant -- but I've never been able to trace it since.) I was also in a college band that covered it in the '80s and the crowds always loved it. Very cool because you'd see Mohawked punks and college preps singing together during the chorus. I recall Dave Marsh calling it a bad song in one of his Book Of Rock Lists, which I never understood since Springsteen's "Wreck On The Highway and the Ramones' "711" seemed to be such direct spiritual descendants.
First concert: The Monkees, Olympia Stadium, Detroit, winter 1966. My mom took us. She was horrified, calling it "mass hysteria" and comparing it to Nazi Germany. The Monkees were actually pretty good, and I'm glad I got to see that '60s rock hysteria firsthand. But I wish we'd have seen the Beatles, instead. I never saw another show until my friends could drive and we saw the debut of Alice Cooper's Killer show in Saginaw the day the album was released. We went to a Taco Bell several hours before and actually met Alice, Shep Gordon, and the whole band who just happened to be eating there and who gave us backstage passes and then beers after the show. It was an event that led me down the road to perhaps wasting my life, but oh, well?

Bill Holdship is a former editor of Creem and BAM and a longtime contributor to Mojo magazine

Fein Mess /
AF Stone’s Monthly
November 2004

California Screechin’

L.A. is like France. Everyone makes fun of it, but secretly wants to be there. One article in the July 2004 ish of Mojo, the lavish British rock & roll magazine, listed fifty important songs that came from California. But giving writers that carte blanche, it was fifty opportunities to hurl damnation at our wonderful town!

* L.A. (Fullerton) native Kristine McKenna sees X’s song “Los Angeles” “delving into the stinking urban maelstrom papered over by Hollywood’s dream factory.” The stinking maelstrom she, or they, describe has a lot to do with rock & roll kids lying in gutters, which occurred worldwide, and was a lifestyle choice. And “Hollywood” papers over life, not L.A., last I checked.

* Immigrant (So why does he live here?) Mick Farren, praising Tom Waits’s “Small Change” album, says it “reminded surfers and sun bunnies that Skid Row started around 5th & Alvarado where ghosts from old movies waited with dead eyes, cheap suits and Saturday Night Specials should the hedonists in the T-Bird stray from the freeway.” It is difficult to count the cliched groupings here, but it’s a load.

* No-Cal’s Jan Uhelski, writing about F-Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” says they were “harnessing the zeitgeist of drugs, sex, and self-indulgent rock” found in L.A. That the song lacks all these things notwithstanding, perhaps she dipped into German to mislead the reader to overlook two of these qualities present in her own back back yard -- The Bay Area is no stranger to drugs (ha!) and self-indulgent rock (the friggin’ Grateful Dead!). But, alas, it’s not known much for sex.

* John Harris, no nationality given, sees the Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday” through psychedelic glasses when he explains it was about “some Valley Girl or Boy making it home from he Strip to find that whatever they had ingested had warped their view of the mundane.” The song is just a comment of the boredom of suburbia, inspired by songwriters Goffin & King’s move to a suburb of New York.

* L.A. resident Kirk Silsbee writes that Chet Baker’s “langour” (naturally “concealing the rot inside”) seeped into the L.A. musical psyche and “would become a recurring, if not THE recurring, theme of the next 50 years of L.A. music.” As Hank Locklin would’ve written if he’d been from L.A., “Please help me I’m snoring.”

And, off topic, Dave DiMartino, writing about “Hotel California,” ponders the “infamous cover” photo. What infamy is there? It’s simply a word poorly chosen to sound more important than “famous.”

Medical Alert

I wrote back aways that I had mind-boggling skin itch on my arms. In September the doc gave me Ultravate ointment and the condition disappeared that day. This reminds me of 15 years ago. I had a red tint around my lips like an old woman who’d over-reached her lipstick. I lived with it desperately (I have tv shows where I can see it) for years til I went to an herb guy and he gave me something and it went away in 2 days.

Call me a skeptic, but I suspect in both cases that the ailment had just run its course.

Ich Bin Ein Hilburn

In his 10-7-04 L.A. Times wrapup of chart positions, Bob Hilburn illuminates the success of Brian Wilson’s “Smile” album by quoting -- Randy Lewis’s review from the 9-27-04 L.A. Times. Journalistic incest is standard fare at the Times.1

I’m glad he didn’t quote this: Lewis, citing Wilson’s use of the Crows’ “Gee” to segue into “Heroes & Villains” crows it was “his way of telling pop fans ‘You’ll never hear doo-wop music again.’ “

That’s a nasty little trickle, especially when it’s encased in quotes as if Wilson said it. Wilson loves doo-wop, even if Lewis doesn’t.

1 I, like Hilburn, quote L.A. Times writers to make a point.

I Solve Things

I have the answer to some world problems, but nobody asks.

-- The guttural sound that leads such words as “Channukah” needs to be spelled “kh,” which clearly makes you do the hard K and then exhale. Just because some idiot made it “ch” without knowing there was an English sound already using that letter combination doesn’t mean we need to continue honoring it. Likewise the second consonant in “cashmere” is not “sh,” as we already have one of those, but “zh.” And while we’re on words, let’s reduce Wednesday to Wensday, OK? It’s time to retire the god Wednes; he’s had his day.

-- When parking, we were taught to drive past the space, stop, signal, and back up. But of course, since nobody knows we’re parking, the car behind you rides up your bumper and then the driver honks his horn (or, in some neighborhoods, shoots you). The proper etiquette should be to stop the car decisively BEFORE the space, put on your turn signal, then shoot forward fast (before the creep behind you creeps behind you) and back up. It’s elementary.

I Shall Be Released

Like so many L.A. drivers, I am polite almost always. I let people in, help people out. But I got into an interesting quandary recently.

Fairfax and La Brea are two major N/S streets a mile apart in Hollywood. If you want to dodge them at rush hour you can take Gardner, halfway in between. But since someone wrote a book about L.A. shortcuts, this formerly-good sidestreet is now worse than its -- say, what IS the alternative to an alternative? -- those others, which are multi-laned.

I was heading north on Gardner, having just gotten takeout at Astro-Burger at Santa Monica, and found myself 12th in the line of cars waiting for the light to change at Sunset. Due to the follies of life -- pedestrians blocking the right turn, a left-turner straddling two lanes -- only 3 cars usually get through despite the light lasting 30 seconds. I waited for the first clump, and indeed they were only three. Then another green -- 3 cars, damn. Next green - 3 cars again, but now I was third in the batch.

Then a woman in the alley to my right got into a car, backed up swiftly, then drove 90 degrees towards my car. She nosed into the insufficient space between me and the guy ahead, and motioned, imploringly, with her face and index finger “Let me in?”

I was flummoxed. I had waited a long time, shouldn’t she? I had food that was getting cold. I had sat through three long-waits like Marcello Mastraionni at the beginning of “8 1/2.” As quickly as she motioned to me, I shook my head no, and pointed to the car behind me. This, of course, she took as an OK, and when the green came I went forward simultaneous with her. She jerked to a stop2 and, in a rage, honked her car’s horn and raised her two hands in exasperation. I went forward and the guy behind me let her in. (Ladies first!) She also, somehow, got around me and moved very fast beyond me, probably in high dudgeon.

Without telecommunications I could not explain my position.
She thought I was a maniac.
This, often, is my lot in life.

2 Her decision to not continue forward was not based as much on calculation as economics -- she had a new BMW convertible. Though my car is shipshape and even shiny it is not new, and I have found that when my car is visibly inferior to another in a traffic standoff, the other guy always concedes. I learned this in extremis 10 years ago when a Rolls-Royce in a disappearing lane tried to nose in front of my Yugo.


Eagle-eyed Todd Everett noticed in a recent movie a Bass Ale mat facing the bartender when the shot was from his POV. “Obviously, they place these mats facing the customer in a bar, but since Bass Ale paid the fillmmakers for this placement, they must have insisted it be read from both camera angles.” And I, scanning past “Corky Romano,” bristled when I heard the title character say, when viewing a printer, “Is that one of those Epsons you can download greeting cards on?”

Movie-ads are not new -- I heard that Jerry Lewis3 pioneered it. I just saw “Forrest Gump” for the first time, and when he was on a park bench he pulled out “the world’s finest” shoes (something like that) and the Nike box was clearly shown. That clicked in my head, but in case it didn’t in everyone else’s, later he ran a marathon wearing a t-shirt with the huge NIKE letters on it. Furthermore, in his film “Catch Me If You Can,” Hanks offers cake to fellow govt agents saying “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.” (Was this extant in 1962, the time the movie was set?)

Does Hanks need the money? Couldn’t/shouldn’t he decline wearing a sandwich-board at his level? Struggling independent filmmakers need money, but they don’t get it5, the rich ones do. Only the biggest pigs at the trough get fed.

I recall a bartender friend who, when I asked about the Camel cigarette ads on the drink napkins, said they were ad-placement. But, I asked, did it result in an increase in Camel sales there? “Half the cigarette sales are now Camel filters” he said. Sheep, led coughing to their doom.

But back to Nike, I cannot forget a Winter Olympics when network broadcasters were ordered by their management to stop wearing Nike logo jackets on camera. The on-air chuckleheads revolted at this assault on their freedom and demanded they be allowed to wear them. “They’re nice jackets. Nike gave them to us.”

The network wanted to be paid for the broadcast endorsement. The news-heads felt empowered by their closeness to the marvelous company. Somebody shoot them all.

And what about the Continental Airlines Arena? And the restaurants that “Proudly Serve only Coca Cola Products”? (You want 7-Up? We don’t have a kickback deal with them, so you go to hell.) What really gets my goat is “AT&T Presents So-And-So At The Hollywood Bowl.” I at first figured that if AT&T is presenting it, it’s for free: Thank you Big Corporation! Then I found that it meant nothing, the tickets are still $75, only the musician gets a few more bucks shoved in his pocket.

Who was that sports figure who, when recovering from a heart attack first thanked Nike, then God and his wife?

3 A 6-movie DVD set of Jerry Lewis movies was recently released. NY Times reviewer Dave Kehr cannot resist (New DVD’s, 10-12-04) telling us about the “long-running debate” about Lewis’s value, and how the French revere him. He MUST bring up these writers-only points (What care Lewis film fans?) because he needs to telegraph to other crits that he is “aware.” It would be possible to simply evaluate the work, but that’s never done. In loyalty to his kind, Kehr continues the obstruction.4

Also, Kehr, apparently a foreigner, says the French may see Lewis as typical American just like “Americans sentimentally (and inaccurately) believe Maurice Chevalier to represent the French soul.” WHAT Americans? If stupid Americans stupidly think this, what nationality is Mr. Kehr? There’s a boat waiting.

4 Now that the Jeff Airplane has licensed “Revolution” for an online stock-trading ad, how about “Up Against The Wall Motherfucker” for a new line of wall-mounted tv’s?

5 In the movie “Barfly,” generic beer is shown. No beer company would permit the use of their brand being swilled by the alcoholic Charles Bukowski/Mickey Rourke. Not even for free.

Call ME Eagle-Eye too

People like us see the music content in movies. Like in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff” -- What’s “Another Side of Bob Dylan” doing on the wall inside of the bar? The Albert Finney movie “Gumshoe” is noteworthy only because the detective is obsessed with Dion.

And also the music content in music movies. Like the wrong version of “Do You Love Me” used in “The Wanderers.” Or when a guy in “That’ll Be The Day” pulls a record out of a Buddy Holly album, puts it on the turntable and we hear “La Bamba.”

Most recent sighting, for me, was in the sci-fi movie Minority Report. Fugitive Tom Cruise is spotted on a commuter vehicle by a man behind a newspaper. The ogler is Cameron Crowe. Of course I consider him a music person, even though he’s made a couple of movies.

It Started In Austin

A recent NY Times article about the Whole Foods Market chain said some people referred to it, with its unforgiving prices, as the “Whole Paycheck Market.” Now that’s funny!

New Yawk, New Yawk!

In Eyes Wide Shut6, the character visits an apartment that has a bathtub in the kitchen. My viewing companion, who had lived there, said “Ha! I had a place like that!”

Many years ago I was at an apartment there, and could hear, at intervals, the sound of breaking glass outside their open courtyard window. “That’s the welfare people in the next bldg throwing their bottles out the window” said my friend, blithely. I mentioned this to another New Yorker and they said, “Oh sure, it’s like that at my place too.”

Yet they make such good musicals!

6 At our New Years parties (see Bill Liebowitz obit, at end7), we sold tickets only to our friends. Once, only, a guy came to me and said “This is not what I expected, I want my money back.” We were aghast: these tickets were sold only to friends. I asked him where he got his, and he cited someone we didn’t know. We refunded his money and escorted the stranger out. Just like the party scene in Eyes Wide Shut!

7 This pre-echo, referring to something that hasn’t been seen yet, is like the opening of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” by Led Zeppelin, where the echo from the vocal outburst comes before the actual sound. That was caused by a reel of tape “imprinting” the singing on the previous layer of tape. Don’t know what caused it to happen here.

Be My Blabby

Listening to a long Ronnie Spector interview from the late 1980s, I heard a lot of time- and fact-shifting. She said the Ronettes backed up Tom Jones when he appeared at the Peppermint Lounge in 1962. Maybe she did, but I doubt it, as his first record came out in April, 1965, when the Ronettes had a long string of hits behind them. Also she referred to “decrepit” Goldstar, which was a bit mean. Also said she worked with Barney Kessler, possibly the guy who makes the whisky.

But musicians don’t know details. That’s for music eunuchs like.....

Hearing some of her later recorded work I was struck by how she stretched out that vibratto to excessive lengths in her later recordings. It’s a sexy gimmick when used lightly, like the little “oomph” at the end of “You Baby.” Today’s gal singers “oomph” and purr and sex-growl all through a song prompting only a rise in headaches.

Baffling 50s Memories

- School swimming classes, til my high school departure in 1963, were held in the nude. I did not understand this, then or now. The girls did not swim thusly. Were we being molded into Greek warriors? Being readied for the routine humiliation of the military?

- My mother told me not to sit too close to the tv because the radiation would cause me to be sterile. Has there been a decline in birth rates since the arrival of lap-top computers?

- For a segment of the kids show Winky Dink & You, Winky8 had you draw on the tv screen on a plastic roll-on that you sent away for, connecting dots to make stairs or a boat. Of course, many kids didn’t have them, so they sat helplessly while Winky Dink climbed up stairs that were not there. I, in fact, had the plastic applique, but I know who didn’t -- Andy Kaufmann. On his 1983 Chicago tv special he did a mock kids show and he urged everyone to follow him up stairs that cannot be seen because you, the viewer, don’t have the magic screen. His anguish was long-lasting.

- Every boy had a woodburning set. What happened to this hobby?9 You had a penlike thing with an electrical cord and a thin wood sheet with a drawing on it and you were to trace that drawing with the red-hot pen tip. Did kids burn their fingers? Did they ever! The pens had differing tips, so you can imagine the opportunity for injury when a kid changed one. And it was impossible to burn wood in a predictable line*10.

- Softball in Chicago was played with a soft ball. Still is. It is a large, beanbag like thing with enough solidity to be hit a good distance by a big man. Naturally, you don’t wear a glove, as the ball can be caught easily without injury. When I arrived in Colorado in 1965 I learned that a softball is an oversized hardball. Wha? My daughter briefly played “softball” at school here year before last, and I was relieved when she quit.11 Being hit by one of those rocks could ruin you for life.

8 If this were being written for the NY Times, I would say “Mr. Dink.”

9 In fact, after writing this I found a woodburning set at Michael’s Art Supplies in Glendale. I did NOT buy one for my daughter.

10 At swap meets you see people selling paint-by-number canvasses and twisted plastic lariat key chains kids made at camp, but never wood-burnt art. That’s because nobody ever did one without ruining it.

11 When I wrote that, I also wrote that it was cruel for parents to cheer the strikeouts of 8-year-olds. A couple of people dished me for mollycoddling, saying kids should get used to hardship. But at 8 some have no idea which end of the bat to use. It’s especially tough to have people laugh at you when you’re just learning, though it is, I admit, a glimpse of what’s coming in life.


I was at a deli with Harold Bronson, former Rhino co-owner. When I ordered a Cobb Salad12, I asked him, with mock-superiority “Harold, did you ever have a Cobb salad at the, mmmmm, BROWN DERBY?”

The Cobb Salad was invented at that famous Hollywood watering hole which closed around 198013, and I thought I had one on him. “I’ve got you topped on that, but I’ll tell you later” he said, giving his order.

This shocked me twofold. Number one, slyly saying that he had me topped without preening or at least returning my bravado was remarkable in “friend combat” -- not many people understand my style14. Two, I couldn’t figure out how he could top me. We ate and jawed, and then, with the suspense nearly killing me, I said “So how do you have me topped?”

Coolly, without visibly savoring the thrill of victory, he said “My father was a wholesale produce salesman, so sometimes I would go with him to his accounts. One account was the Brown Derby, so I met Cobb himself.”

With that poker face, he should play poker.

12 Cobb Salads are never the same at any two places. And without the Brown Derby there to set the standard, it is left to the marketplace to define at will.

13 My “playfulness” with other people has got me in trouble all my life.

14 I had lunch there in 1973 with John Lennon. John was delighted that the Capitol corner booth, surrounded by framed musician caricatures, had a drawing of Gene Vincent. (And where did those go? Did the wrecking ball get them?)

Harold Bronson in my living room, 1985, with Kittra, for Rhino Christmas album cover shoot.

Letter to The Editor, L.A. Times, 10-15, 04 not published.

Regarding a 10-14-04 article about the wonderful Z Channel, which ran on L.A. cable in the 80s:

“I, too, loved the Z Channel. However, when founder Jerry Harvey committed suicide, he first killed his wife. Someone close to me was close to Mrs. Harvey. She simply refers to him as ‘the murderer.’ “

Idiot Wind

In Bob Dylan’s book he says he was picked up while hitchhiking from Minnesota to New York by someone driving a 1957 Impala 4-door.

That obscure reference may be a key to the truthfulness of his autobio: there was no 1957 Impala, and the ‘58 (model debut) made no 4-doors.

And Jerry Lee’s 1995 Young Blood album has a song he wrote with the band, “Crown Victoria Custom ‘51.” The Crown Vickies came out in 1953.

This reminds me of the L.A. Times article about a drive-in restaurant that egregiously cited people cruising in their ‘57 Chevys and ‘43 Fords.

You don’t have to know Fords to spot THAT American history error.

Girls Girls Girls

It’s not easy being a man, vis-a-vis women. My kid’s friend’s mother just got her tits reduced. What am I supposed to say -- Nice? I daren’t because women are.... women.

I always thought visible bra straps were gauche. And not too long ago wasn’t the VPL, visible panty line, a no-no? What, now, then, visible thong straps? They’re wearing them up around their rib cage, yet we’re not supposed to look. Or we are, but not acknowledge.

The style invites not only comment by hygienic concern. I know I sure wouldn’t want a ropelike piece of cloth sawing MY rear. But then I’m not a gal, so I’m not made of sugar and spice

15 The gal I saw sitting in the Gaucho Grill with the top of her ass crack showing was apparently asked by the mgmt to cover it up. A purse ended up shoved sideways in her pants-top. Maybe it was upsetting customers, maybe the restaurant feared the health dept -- Who could tell what might fly out of there?

Those French!

I have always liked the Bobby Darin song “Beyond the Sea,” so when I looked it up in an international listing, I was shocked to see that french versions changed its title to “LAMER.”

If they ADMIT it’s lamer than Bobby’s version, why list it at all?

- 57 -

Obits, in order of disappearance --

On Greg (d. 10-19-04)

A couple of years ago I memoirized herein that I met Greg Shaw at a St. Vincent de Paul in Oakland in 1971. He was looking at records. That was a shock: I had never seen another person culling 45s at a thrift store. We became friends. A week later, though Greg’s introduction, I drove to Ed Ward’s house in Sausalito. I had told Greg that I had a (dupe) copy of Jack Scott’s first album on Carlton, so Ed traded me the Roy Orbison album on Sun for it, in behalf of his friend John Morthland.

I then went to Greg’s house in Fairfax with my box of doubles. Greg picked out 39 of mine and offered me 13 in return. I came to find out this was not an atypical Greg swap, but since some of his were Suns that were unknown to me, I conceded. After all, what good were doubles to me -- I knew no other collectors. I recall that Greg couldn’t remember who did the version of “Que Sera Sera” that sounded like “El Watusi” and I told him it was the High-Keys.

Greg and then-wife Suzy introduced me to a point of view different from the hippie-symp lifetsyle I knew. I said something about public tv and she said “Oh that’s just a bunch of professors with beards.” Their anti-intellectuality was populist, based entirely on honest rock & roll. They moved to L.A. a little after I did, where he kept close company with Ken Barnes, another recent immigrant from NoCal.

I would read Bomp magazine with relish; it was the first publication I saw that organized rock & roll history. But I never joined the Bomp crowd as I met Ronny Weiser and enlisted, instead, in the Rollin’ Rock army.

In the mid-1970s, when labels were indulging rock critics, Greg edited Phonograph Record Magazine for United Artists Records. PRM contained enthusiastic reviews of new, often non-UA records and even occasional slams at UA records. This could not go on forever, and didn’t.

In 1976, Greg, and Sire Records, hosted the Flamin’ Groovies big-time debut at the Roxy. However, the set was plagued with equipt problems, exacerbated, I recall, by their not having backup guitars, necessitating long tuning interruptions. Doubly bad, they were overshadowed, immensely, by the opening act the Ramones, making their L.A. debut.

Greg appeared on a 1990s tv documentary about San Francisco in the mid-1960s. I kidded him about this, as that town’s hippie music was sorely in opposition to what Bomp stood for. But he had been there, at Haight & Ashbury, as a kid, and could comment knowledgably.

I had Greg on my tv show once or twice. We’d see each other here and there. I have him on videotape as a bystander at a mock music argument between myself and Phil Spector. I called him a couple of times last year about being on the show again. He said he was pretty sick, and on child duty a lot. I should have tried harder. He was a great guy.

On Bill (d. 10-26-04)

Bill Liebowitz, owner of this town’s Golden Apple comic book stores, was a larger than life character. His store promotions for comic writers, cartoonists, pinup girls, rock & roll bands and yo-yo exhibitions were the stuff of local legend.

Sometimes he wore an oversized styrofoam cowboy hat and called himself Major Bill. At 6 foot 5 he himself was oversized. He said a distributor once told him “You’re one big Jew.” I took a photo of him back to back, equal heighth with Sleepy Labeef. At one time he owned Isaac Hayes’ enormous Lion of Judah cape, bought from the guy to whom Hayes gave it as collateral on a loan. Big Bill could wear it with the same command as Hayes. Bill is on the front cover of Swamp Dogg’s “I’m Not Selling Out, I’m Buying In” album, looking pensive fourth from the left. (I am second. ) And he is on the backcover, wearing the cowboy hat.

I met Bill in June, 1973, at a Dick Clark 20th Anniversary tv special taping at the Hollywood Palace. I was there, like Bill, to see Little Richard. But as the day wore on, Richard was a no-show; I think he wanted more money. The place had been full at 10:30 am, and Three Dog Night and Paul Revere & The Raiders were entertaining in their segments, but at 6:00 Clark came out and said we could all be excused, since it might be a while til Richard actually made it. “We can dub in the audience response” he said.

Those were wasted words for Bill, me and about twenty other desperate rock & roll fans. We all waited til 10 p.m. for Richard’s arrival, and it was worth it. He came out to a roar disproportionate to our meager number, and looked shocked. Though we came in the theater strangers, we were united in supplication to our savior, the King of Rock & Roll.

Soon after this, Bill co-promoted, with Jim Pewter, a Jan & Dean reunion at the Hollywood Palladium. It put him in good stead for a future series of smaller but equally spectacular musical events.

In 1973 I lunched regularly with some guys from Warner Bros. Records including Gene Sculatti (fifth on the Swamp Dogg album cover) and Bob Merlis (first, on the left). We shared an interest in characters, and old rock & roll. One day I met Dick Blackburn, a record collector, actor, director (“Lemora,” and later “Eating Raoul” co-director and -writer) and introduced him to our group. He was inducted. Soon Bill Liebowitz came along, and made us five. Together we formed a company called Pumping Piano Productions for the purpose of holding a New Years party for our immediate circle of friends.

The first one was 1978/79. Bill was in real estate management then, and located the site, an abandoned Bagel Nosh in the Marina. We were like five Andy Hardys putting on a show. We had Dr. Demento judging the Beatnik Poetry contest, Swamp Dogg (who signed on as the 6th PPP member) made a steel-drumful of gumbo, had the Rubber City Rebels play a set, held a twist contest and other then-mad things. Each of the hosts, all non-performers, did an act. Bill’s act was scratching a rub-board while wearing a piece of gold foil on a front tooth, playing Cleveland Chenier to my accordian-wielding Clifton.

It was a raging success. The following year we held it at Troupers Hall in Hollywood. That one featured Roy Good Rocking Brown with a backup band including Lee Allen and Pee Wee Crayton, and we gave away a ‘62 Cadillac as the door prize. (Purchased at 4 pm Dec 31st for $200. It went OK in reverse, but forward it slipped out of gear at 20 mph.) Chuck Weiss and Tom Waits came again (buying tickets, like all our friends - nobody got in free, except Johnny Legend, who stiffed us with a bad check) and Tom met his future wife there. It was another raging success.

The following three parties featured Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Bull Moose Jackson, the Blasters, Los Lobos, Darlene Love, Jo-El Sonnier, The Beat Farmers, Joe “King” Carrasco, Dino Lee and others. When we held it at the Starwood, Bill cut an unforgettable figure as Bruce Springsteen, with bandana, jeans and an unplugged electric guitar lip-synching Robert Mitchum’s “Ballad Of Thunder Road.” As the parties grew in rarified fame, they grew unwieldy, and we all gave up in 1986. Besides, by then all the old musicians we could get for a song were back on the road as the world rediscovered them.

Bill was always up for fun. We - the PPP guys and spice - would annually go to a Saturday night dance at Verbum Dei High School at 110th & Central in south Los Angeles to see Clifton Chenier’s sainted appearances. Bill would slavishly attend doo-wop shows from coast to coast. I accompanied him to one in New York, and when our plane stopped in St. Louis got him an “I Love The Cardinals” cap. (The Cardinals were an early Atlantic Recs vocal group.) And he and his wife Sharon and my gf Kathe conspired to give me the most shocking, successful surprise birthday party anyone ever had. Bill’s and my birthdays are 2 days (and 5 years) apart, so we frequently double-dated for bday dinner, and it was at Bill’s house that I nearly had MY heart attack, walking into a room full of people, culled from my phone book by Kathe, shouting “Surprise!” It was deathly shocking because some of them were not my friends: I didn’t like everyone whose phone # I carried.

Bill’s and my music tastes often dovetailed. We were each other’s most fervid Queen-fan friend. Recently he reminded me that we once left a Led Zeppelin show bec we were both bored. (Too much guitar soloing.) He and Sharon attended every Jerry Lee Lewis show at the Palomino in the 1970s. He was crazy about Waylon Jennings and David Allen Coe. Bill & Sharon set up a Golden Apple table at the giant 2002 rockabilly bash in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Bill was agog seeing Jack Scott, Dale Hawkins, Sleepy Labeef and others. He was astonished when I got the Persuasions to sing my tv theme song, but confided that in the 1980s he had employed a Persuasion as a cleanup man at the store.

Our biggest difference was our bank accounts. Bill loaned me $800 in the early 90s: When I repaid it in 1997, he nearly swooned. By then he had long ago quit his realty job and started Golden Apple Comics, scientifically named for the name already printed on some surplus bags he bought. He had taken a bold step of independence from the 9-to5 grind, and he succeeded incredibly.

Many film and music figures came to Golden Apple for both comics and conversation. He only closed the store on very special occasions, such as when Michael Jackson came in, always wearing exotic costumes, one a beekeeper’s outfit.

When Michael asked the price of a monster head, Bill gave him a figure. When Michael responded “How much for three of them?” Bill responded “So now you’re Jewish?” He said Michael cracked up. I think Bill was a little amazed at himself.

Bill did it all, marrying well, raising a family, making a living his own way, spreading joy throughout. His only flaw was his choice of child-names. When their second son was about to be born, I graciously contributed the name Jerry Lee. It was a winner; the kid could be called Jerry, yet when he used his full monicker, Jerry Lee Liebowitz, who but the sourest cynic could help but stand up and cheer? Though the child has repeatedly told me he prefers his actual name, Ryan, I think he said it just to make the old man feel good.

Bill’s story is one of a heart full of love for his friends, family, and his many interests. He had a heart scare twenty years ago and underwent a quadruple bypass operation, cheating the death he had forecast for himself: his father had died of heart failure at age 40. He beat the Reaper for 23 years, during which time he grew from a character known among his close friends to one whose fame as a retailer and offbeat-culture maven grew to national stature.

One obit started “The comic book world was rocked by the news of the death of Bill Liebowitz.” He made a huge impression, living and dead.



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