- November 2009 -

Other Fein Messes

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1st Record/1st Concert

Rhythm and Blues and the explosion of Rock ‘n Roll were the sound track of my teenage years growing up in Hollywood. Every afternoon my buddy Phil
Spector would come over from his house across the street and we listened for hours to the latest records. From “Gee”, “Shaboom”, “One Mint Julep” to “Pledging My Love” by the then-late Johnny Ace, there wasn’t a song or artist and group that escaped us. But the advent of Elvis changed everything.

My very first concert was one I never attended! In the autumn of 1957 the big buzz at school was that Elvis was coming to Los Angeles, appearing right in our neighborhood at the Pan Pacific auditorium. The Pan Pacific was a huge arena used for large trade and auto shows, the Ice Capades and political rallies. We were more than ready when we arrived that day. With our white tee shirts, tight peg-legged jeans and our pomaded hair swept into ducktails, we were a group of “Fonzie” clones.

We thought we were so cool that the lack of tickets wouldn’t be a barrier to our getting in to see Elvis. To our amazement, thousands and thousands of energized teenagers streamed in from all directions for this, the first major rock concert to hit town and the first live taste of Elvis’ magic.

Suddenly the crowd was gone, happily ensconced inside the auditorium, waiting for Elvis to appear in person and dazzle them with his performance. Deflated, we were left outside with a few other forlorn stragglers. We stood there looking at one another, as the others slowly walked away. We were determined to find a way in, to pry open an unguarded door or window, whatever it might take, as the frenzy of screams and feet stomping inside egged us on.

We soon realized that security was much tighter than we expected. We were all ready to give up when we wandered into a small parking area near a side door and stopped dead in our tracks. Like a visitor from another planet, there was Elvis, the sunlight bouncing off his gold lame’ suit making him appear larger than life.

“Come on, you guys,” I yelled excitedly to them. They just stood there dumbfounded.

“Well, I’m going.” Before I lost my nerve I raced towards Elvis.

He stood with one leg propped against the front fender of a car, talking to several of his bodyguards. I approached slowly, expecting to be stopped by one of them, but nothing happened. When I was unbelievably close to him I smiled and said, “Hi.”

Elvis, who was several inches taller than I was then, looked down at me, reached out his hand and clasped mine. “Hi, I’m Elvis Presley”, as if we were old friends.

“Hi, I’m Larry Geller. Nice to meet you”

The pictures I had seen of Elvis hadn’t prepared me for the impact of the vision before me. I’m not sure I even blinked, as I stared at that perfect face framed by his unique long sideburns. He radiated vitality and magnetism; the air around him was charged with electricity.

Then someone yelled, “Elvis, you’re up man, time to go.”

“Well,” he said politely in his southern drawl, as he nodded toward the door, “Well, they want me in there, now.” It would have been easy for a star like Elvis to make up some excuse to escape a pesky kid, but I honestly didn’t think that was what he was doing

I just stood there and watched him go, and then I heard an explosion of sound as he walked on the stage.

Meeting Elvis like that rocked my world, and in my wildest imagination I never dreamt what was to take place eight years later, that Elvis and I would change each other’s lives forever.

For more about my relationship with Elvis check out my web site at www.larrygellerbooks.com

Larry Geller

Another Fein Mess
AF Stone’s Monthly
November 2009

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

The free 3-day outdoor HSB festival, which evolved 1 from the original Strictly Bluegrass fest formed nine years ago, ran October 2, 3, 4 in San Francisco. It was a musical feast 2 in a sylvan setting.

The lineup holds pretty much to folk/acoustic music. MC Hammer’s 11 a.m. Friday set was partly but by no means primarily attended by school children bussed in for the event. He is a prominent San Francisco community figure.

Friday, the short kickoff day, I talked to Marshall Crenshaw, who arrived early for his Saturday show. Then I walked through a throng to meet someone. Once there I looked up and saw the person I was going to meet the next day. (What are the odds? We’re in the same karass!) Watched angry political singer Tom Morello stir the crowd like Abbie Hoffman at Woodstock. Returning backstage I watched John Prine, who sang wonderfully, as good as ever, with his band. My ‘crew’ departed at 4:30 when cold ocean winds blew in.

Saturday started with Marshall Crenshaw’s wonderful full-band set. Raced over to see Buddy Miller, the savior of all music. Emmylou Harris joined for one song and then Robert Plant did four songs. (I’m Movin’ On, Sea Of Heartbreak, Hey Arkie, and XXX). I could listen to Miller all day, and often do. Back at the Banjo Stage I saw excellent Tim O’Brien, and jawed a little with hale and hardy 80-year-old Jack Clement. After that, at the Star stage, saw Dave Alvin’s set. Exiting that I took a gander at Elvis Perkins 3 . Sunday I saw Jack Clement with Marley’s Ghost. And Doc Watson, and Allen Toussaint.

High points were constant. Wonderful people, wonderful weather. And it’s free. Philanthropist Warren Hellman has bankrolled this multi-million dollar event for 9 years, and has endowed it for 15 years after he dies. He walked around basking in the joy he created.

Low points were the sudden cold spells, and the crowding, though it wasn’t paralyzing. Actually I loved it. Truly bad was seeing one L.A. publicist. While I spoke backstage with Marshall Crenshaw, a businessman trailed by the publicist came up and pumped Marshall’s hand. The publicist, whom I know, saw me but did not even nod. I figured it out: I was with Crenshaw, but what if I was just a fan, or bothering him? He couldn’t risk acknowledging me. I grit my teeth at this lanky Chicago-born freak and after a while he went behind Marshall and shook my hand. It could have happened in L.A., it could have happened in Austin, but I wish it hadn’t happened here.

One constant thread of camaraderie was the omnipresence of pot. I saw joints exchanged or handed out with such casualness and bonhomie that it tempered my previous notions of dope fiends decapitating babies.

1 It formerly was strictly bluegrass (like the bands at South By Southwest were strictly from the south or southwest), then expanded into adjoining disciplines .

2 See Hardley Strictly Bluegrass 9: Free Concert in the Park for the whole roster.

3 His musical approach is anything but rockabilly, but forceful. The son of actor Tony Perkins, Elvis has endured calamitous family tragedies, with his dad’s death of AIDS and his mother dying on a plane that struck the World Trade Center.


SF Chron guy Joel Selvin w/fest founder Warren Hellman.

Field Marshall Crenshaw, with New York Rocker founder Andy Schwartz.

“Proof that I’m not in New York” said Andy. The sign invites you to sit til the owner gets back.

Jack Clement, AF.

Marshall in the morning.

Buddy Miller left, Robert Plant at mike.

The Dave Alvin Band tunes up.

Rodney Crowell relaxes.

I spied Vic Gerard, a friend from Austin, backstage at the Booker T show - a wonderful surprise; his son was playing the fest. Pretty Rosie Flores jumped into the picture.

Booker T and wife Nan. They have been Marin County residents for 18 years, in Tiburon, across from Sausalito.

Allen Toussaint reprised every New Orleans rock & roll record, rightfully since he played on nearly every one of them.

The Tracks of My Tiers

* I’ve been saving my Week-At-A-Glance books for 30 years. (A couple are missing. What stupid burglars!) In them I can find people’s names if I can remember the year they were around. It has come in handy not so much for 1983 as for recent years.

* I build the auto-dials on my cellphone in tiers. Most people who use auto-dial use the central eight: 2 through 9. But hardly anyone realizes their phones go up to 99 (and some, 999).

How my tiers flow: If number 4 is someone I call constantly, then their cellphone is 14 and their work number 24. I hardly know anyone with 4 phone numbers so I’d start again at 30 if I had some associative thoughts about the 30’s. I start again near 60 because those years have resonance. A Beatle friend is 64 (home phone 74, etc.). 66 is for a car guy (Route 66). I avoid giving anyone 69 because it’s easy to reset for temporary numbers when out of town. The guy who collects singles is 45, and the gal who has 62 in her email address is 62. The old-car guy is 88, for Oldsmobile Rocket 88, and the girl who likes girl groups is 81, for Candy & The Kisses’ “Do The 81.” A guy who loves Love gets 77 (“7 Plus 7 Is”). My folkie friend is 59, the year the Kingston Trio hit. One guy is a record dealer, so he gets 78. The only person I call regularly in San Francisco gets 41 because the area code is 415. A neighbor I call a lot gets 36 because it’s easy to dial; another still shoots photos with film so he gets 35 ( millimeter). A very good friend who I have no numeral for gets 44 because it’s easy and I call him often but his tertiary numeral jams at 64.

This is what people whose life is a fantasy do with their time.


I’ve been a decryer of digital sound, but with muffled speakers to absorb the stabbing-knife sound it’s OK. I never cared about sound, I just like music. But a couple of my 45s fall flat when they make the leap to digital reformation.

- Bill Black’s Combo. These instrumentals had a bulbous sound that filled your ears. Digitally it’s all flat, the music rendered worthless.

- ‘Don’t Start Crying Now.’ The flipside of ‘Raining in My Heart’ by Slim Harpo pulsed like the needle was galloping on the grooves. On a CD, the lifeline is rendered straight, no beeps.

- ‘This Time’ by Troy Shondell 4. After the anticipatory intro, every instrument 5 in the city of Batavia, Illinois crashes in at once on the 45, like Fibber McGee’s closet spilling out. On a CD, the thrill is gone.

4 The Shondell family name seems to have ended with Troy. I guess he had only daughters.

5 On his website, Shondell’s avers there was only a drum, sax and guitar on the record. It took a crafty engineer, then, to get the piano and chime sound.

Those Darlins

Those Darlins, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, played three shows in L.A. October 23-25. Southern culture is delightfully on the skids.

In Austin in March they played up their country side, in gingham outfits, with fiddle and mandolin, but this go-round they rocked only. I fairly laughed til I cried. They are randy, especially Nikki, whose invitations for someone to inseminate her or for male members to get some air could have been in bad taste but were just funny funny funny because we were all in on it. I’ve never seen anything like it.

First night at the Silver Lake Lounge the sound was grate-ful and despite a stage raised four inches the sightlines lousy. Fri night at the Hotel Cafe visibility was great - the stage raised a few feet - and the sound sensational. The room heated up as more people wandered in and got on board. Troublemaker Nikki kicked a water bottle onto a front table, walked off stage and ate someone’s food from their plate and did one hell of a job improvising the role of slut. The music was wonderfully raucous.

Sat night, “The Bardot,” a roofed balcony attached to the Palace theater was peopled by jungenvolk hoisting cocktails and a tuxedoed emcee resembling Michael Stipe channeling Dr. Joyboy. Enduring the throb of a contemporary nightclub’s beat-songs is something only the hardiest ears should attempt 6. Those Darlins may have overcome the amibiance but I didn’t stay to find out.

They play, they sing, and they’re funny.
This is all I ask of any band.

6 It’s accepted wisdom that tomorrow’s big growth industry is tattoo removal. However, from my experience at the Bardot that may be overtaken by eardrum replacement.


I recently mis-wrote “San Andrea’s Fault” and I think I’ll keep it. She’s the saint who ruptures the earth and kills people and is sorry ... A friend who works around lesbians refers to them as islanders.
The Isle Of Lesbos ... It’s time to shitcan ‘kerfuffle.’ It was good ten times, now ditch it. The same goes for ‘wonk’ ...

I Watch TV

After Tim McGraw sang on the 10-23 Today show, one of the hosts, Dodo something, said to Billy Ray Cyrus “What was that song of his I said I liked?”, indicating she heard his music for the first time that day. “I like them all!” said Cyrus diplomatically ... A tv documentary guy said “the legendary Grand Canyon.” That’s odd - I can’t think of anything more real... A Channel 9 speech transcriber pegged the town between here and San Francisco ‘San Louis Abyss Poe’... ‘Lonesome Rhodes,’ Keith Olbermann’s name for Glenn Beck, is a nod to Andy Griffith’s character in “A Face In The Crowd,” an aw-shucks hillbilly singer who grows into a television demagogue ... a tv docu referred to someone as a “Mafia turncoat.” Isn’t that a loaded word? Like he besmirched his honor with the glorious Mafia? Sod the Mafia ... the movie “Tim” from 1979 is a romance between late-20s Mel Gibson and mid-40s Piper Laurie. The Encore Channel’s annotator calls it a “May-December.” June-September maybe.


* Occasionally I catch Perry Mason and notice product placement of cars. But what did they take us for - anyway? The ‘57 Plymouth he ditches in a canyon is black, but when he came back next day it’s a light color (b&w tv show). And I feel bad that Ford went to the trouble of supplying them with a ‘57 Ford Skyliner. That had the retractable-hardtop system that Ford kept for 3 years, then transferred exclusively to the Lincoln Continental. Without anyone demonstrating the joyous swallowing of the steel top into the tongue-lapping trunk 7, it’s just an awkward-looking 57 Ford. (That year Ford, a beauty, outsold Chevy. The ‘57 Plymouth also out-looked the stubby 57 Chevy, which for some reason endures as the premier 50s American automotive - I’m gonna say it - icon.)


* You want friends? Drive an older car. In SF I rode in my friend’s medium-blue (i.e. unspecial color) top-down ‘68 Firebird convertible and people hollered and cheered as we drove by. At stoplights the compliments flowed- you can’t STOP people from talking to you. And this doesn’t apply just to goodlooking cars. Twenty years ago I drove to Las Vegas with my friend in his ‘54 Plymouth Cranbrook and people honked and waved on the highway. It is a terrible-looking car. No self-respecting car-head would go near it. But everything old looks good because everything new looks like nothing.

Historic TV History

The History Channel runs one-hour histories of auto brands, but they always climax with the company’s latest model, the 1995. Like the Discovery Channel’s 1993 documentary on the ‘recent’ end of communism in Russia. That’s history, alright.

And how could you tell that the tv documentary about the 1929 stock market crash was old? Was it that it was on film or that they interviewed people who were on the trading floor that day?

No. One person was interviewed in a record store.


Heard “Southern Man” the other day and recalled my reaction to it in 1970 - “Wha?” This guy whom I didn’t like 8 knocking the South for racism was crazy. The big civil rights movement was between 1962 and 1965: dogs attacking protesters, bullwhips cracking. By 1970, prejudice in the north was widely known, owing to cities burning 9 in 1967. 10 For this Canuck to be launching so broad an attack seemed unseemly, both for the time-lag and the tsuris. His issue-awareness was as relevant as if the Beatles had sung about ducktails and poodle skirts.

8I don’t dislike him, I like some songs, just not a big fan. I prefer GEORGIE Young who did “Nine More Miles,” a song that gets faster and faster as he gets closer to his baby’s home.

9 The great song about the kickoff Detroit riot was “Black Day In July” by Canadian Gordon Lightfoot, who watched Detroit burn from the Windsor side of Lake Ontario. (This is not to be confused with Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” which is about being in a hotel in Switzerland looking across a lake and watching a casino where Frank Zappa was scheduled to play burn down.)

10 In James Brown’s bio, he talks about how Vice President Hubert Humphrey got him to speak in ghettos to help quell violence. Then in the 70s he got into trouble with the I.R.S. and asked HHH to help, but Harumphrey wouldn’t take his calls.

I Don’t Know Much About Art

I like artists. They all should be given paints or cameras or whatever and sent to Manzanar where they can’t get in any trouble. Because when they’re let loose in society, life just overwhelms them.

Take Annie Liebovitz. She takes nice pictures - but don’t give her a loan if you want it repaid. She pledged all her life’s creations, past and future, for a gazillion dollars which she - no, life! - frittered away. And now her creditors want her collateral!

This infuriates the L.A. Times’ Paul Lieberman. Her shots for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Vogue don’t ingratiate her to everyone, but Paul is so on her side he’s almost out her back. The $25 million she owes “puts a spotlight on the pressures” facing her, he writes obviously. “Supporters say she did not realize what she was signing away, like many creative sorts.” (That’s what supporters would say.) “Artists like her generally don’t do it for the money” said Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. ”She has visions beyond seeing her images on scarves or ties,” says Carter: “she identifies with Cartier-Bresson and Irving Penn.” Poo on people who sell out to pay their debts. They’re clearly not idealistic!

But in the end, Lieberman damns her by citing her “high-concept shoots” -- or he doesn’t know what ‘high-concept’ means.


Saw an SNL rerun, late 08, in which actor John Hamm appeared in an ad for “John Ham, the ham you eat on the toilet.”

How many of us suffered for our names as kids? Nearly any name is subject to ridicule. This guy must have suffered plenty of garbage like this in the schoolyard, though not after the age of ten.

What kind of morons 11 are on the SNL writing staff? The guy went along with it, he must be a trouper. We know they shoot low there, but there’s a limit ...

11 Re: Morons/SNL. They fired Michaela Watkins, the only performer there who struck me like lightning this century!

Some People Who Used To Be Here

Brendan Mullen died 10/13, age 60. He was a funny guy, though sometimes a prick to me. He was on my tv show a few times at its outset, and I’ve placed a piece of one on youtube, a 1985 slice of local rock-press namedropping that may fall flat in content, but gets an A for delivery.

Austin native Amy Farris, who could not carve a career in L.A. just fiddling and singing, died at age 40. She held a variety of day jobs that must have tortured her; she said as much. For the past year, though, playing in Dave Alvin’s band must have have raised her spirits; she was given good solo and duet shots. The notion that it was suicide was broached but never followed through in the press; does anyone really need to know? A good singer, great fiddler, beautiful woman, a terrible loss.

I have little to say about the admirable and terrific Soupy Sales, as his life and shows didn’t cross my path much. However, my salient memory of him is his being upstaged at the Comedy Store by Tony Clifton and then Andy Kaufmann, his two opening acts. (I don’t think the joke was on him, just us. Hats off to him for booking it.)


Simon Stokes, still on the concert circuit, after we chatted in Gelson’s parking lot, Hollywood. 10-10-09

Writer Mike Stax, artist William Stout and writer Ken Barnes at Freakbeat Records in Studio City signing copies of the second edition of writings from Who Put The Bomp magazine. 10-11-09

Harmonica virtuoso Louis Lista bids adieu to Hollywood, heading for film work in New Mexico. He stands in front of his most recent dwelling, the apartment building where Bobby Fuller lived. 10-22-09

Ex-Rockat and 13 Cats-man Smutty Smiff returning color slides he borrowed ten years ago, pics I took at Teddy Boy rock & roll shows in England in 1979, some of which, he tells me, appear in his book “Cats, Tats” - and somethingorother, which was published a couple years ago. (I’d like a copy, but the book is out of print.) Smut is leaving Seattle, where he’s lived for several years, for a new life, with a new wife, in Iceland. 10-23-09

New York, New YAWK (in the L.A. Times)

Tina Susman, 10-9 files her second dispatch about a story that “fascinates New Yorkers,” the squabble over the estate of a rich dame named Astor. We have rich dowagers too, but do they have the lustre of New York attached to them? Fuggedaboudit ... 10-4, she hogs a hefty portion of the one page dedicated to news of the nation with the breaking news (with map of Times Square) that poets are writing paeans to it. At the story’s end she contrasts savvy New Yorkers with unknowing outsiders. Love that Shmutzman shmeer ... 10-15 more Tina. Formerly-important-Column-One report on trees being planted all over NYC. More than half a page. To hell with here, we want to live there! ... 10-11 a long unsigned AP story about a festival celebrating ‘Lincoln in New York.’ Get me a plane ticket!... Breaking News! In Geraldine Baum’s 10-25 New-York-News Column One long report on her discovery that New Yorkers are full of themselves , she got one to say “New York is known worldwide and as New Yorkers we feel the world revolves around us.” That’s why she makes the big money.

Also from Out Of Town

Richard Abowitz, spelling overworked Las Vegas Beat person Ashley Powers, reports (with two pics of Sylvester Stallone) that people vie for $10,000 tattoos there. Of special interest to Angeleno readers is the headlined use of “the Strip” in a story without a location byline. (Is there also a “Strip” on Sunset in L.A.? Who knows?) Also, the following week a story about how Halloween will be celebrated on ‘the Strip’ with no location byline - the Strip is a place in Vegas.

AP Watch

Ann Powers’ 10/13 analysis of the first post-mortem Michael Jackson song tells us that other songs in its vein (“saccharine, overly smooth and often grandiose”) were “scorned by many critics,” (who, like Ann, are bitter, overly tattered and often insignificant - AF) but in light of his death, “those units of inspiration (What? - AF) have a different impact.”

Meaning? Now I have to take an honest look? Previously I was blinded by my own negativity? People around me are changing their minds? Cripes, her world is so relative she’ll turn on a dime.

Good Lord -

The NY Times out-blustered the L.A. Times’ on the Jackson single by printing a near half page (“A Jackson Song Arrives and the Discussion Begins”) featuring tag-team blathering by the Jons, Caramanica and Pareles. Who reads this self-serving shit? This on top of the previous day’s “Jackson single to be released tonight.”


The 10-13 Calendar front page was a flock o’rock crits, with Annie, Bob Hilburn and Patty Goldstein, who was one before becoming what he is now.

Bob’s think-piece 12 about his friend Lennon broached the possibility that other stars who befriended him might have used him for his press power, but wrote that he knew John’s friendship was real. When he averred this same thing ten years ago, Van Dyke Parks wrote into the L.A. Times that he knew Lennon and Lennon said that rock writers were the worst people on earth.

12 I’m far more interested in his 33-year dismissal of the Ramones.

More Ann - “Yes I Kan!”

Her 9/14 analysis of the profound issue of Kanye West’s rudeness at an award ceremony branded him “boorish, and, yes, macho.”

What is the analog word for a boorish aggressive woman? Macha? Carries no weight. Something sounds like bluntish? No - the clean insulting adjective for feminine is gyno!

When, same story, she says that Taylor Swift’s subsequent thank-you speech was “totally inconsequential,” did anyone share Ann’s outrage that this teenager uttered no “I have a dream” or “Give me liberty or give me death?” TAKE A LOAD OFF, ANNIE!

Local Papers

I rubbed my eyes in disbelief at the L.A. Weekly cover story Oct 16-22 about a good cop who was killed by bad gang members. Isn’t it in their charter to never run a story like this? Kudos for just once going against their grain... and someone please tell Melissa Anderson there (same ish) that Serge Gainsbourg was not an “infamous” artist, unless she knows about mass murders he’s committed ... Every Sunday I look forward to David Lazarus’s column in the L.A. Times Business section because it’s so fervently anti-business, blowing the whistle on corporate abuses of customers, unfortunately one at a time. The whole paper should be like this.


My personal-worst at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival was seeing a young-looking SF Chroncle columnist who, by me, “broke” the wise-ass 13 style of interviewing.

I enjoyed the Chron when I lived up north in the early 1970s, and still do, what’s left of it. Back then it was ridiculed for the exact reason I loved it - “it has more columns than a Roman temple.” I loved those writers and their folky local views.

In the 1990’s I got a subscription to the SF Chronicle. But instead of warm folky humor I found an interviewer who hoisted himself above the people he interviewed, a strange and unwelcome focus. This guy would trap the subject - the talented one, the one we want to know about - with insults and sly digs. This self-glorification was very unseemly and of appeal only to the writer and likeminded misfits. 14

So naturally the style spread. Now the NY Times has their own interview-churl, Deborah Solomon, wisecracking and kneecapping her subjects every week in the Sunday magazine.16 And the L.A. Times apes them with a rotating (on this!) bevy of boors.

13 “Smartass,” the chosen writings of SF rock crit Joel Selvin, will soon be published by Chronicle Books.

A couple years ago I would have used the old Midwest all-encompassing dismissal ‘jagoffs,” but it has slipped into common usage and lost its regional flair 15.

15 I have a copy of Flair magazine around here somewhere. It was like Esquire, from the early 50s. Pretty interesting.

16 This hyena sullies her profession by invoking outsiders for her arrogant ‘questions.’ In her 5/17/09 grilling of economist Ron Scholes she flings hearsay and personal fluff.

- “You’re known as (bla bla). Do you accept that label?”
- “The writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb contends you ‘should be in retirement home doing sudoku.’ ” A non-question insult.
- “Some economists believe” (bla bla). So?
- “It’s been said (bla bla).” What hasn’t?
- “Actually, I think” (bla bla bla).

Shut your contemptuous trap, Deb-rat. Don’t be so gyno!

News Stuff

* On the fridge at my journalist friend’s house was the note “Bocelli Is Blind.” It was a note he sent to a reviewer at the newspaper who chided Bocelli for not making eye-contact with the audience.

* Another friend there got a call a few months ago from an L.A. newspaper music crit asking for confirmation of Ellie Greenwich’s death. He lashed back at her “You don’t call other journalists for confirmations!” because he is a professional.

I Just Don’t Understand 17

I mentioned to someone that I disliked “The Gangs Of New York” because the costumes were clean and the lighting elegant. I’d like it shadowy and very, very dirty and chaotic like life surely was then. I don’t like any movie that claims historicity because they always reflect the time they’re made. So my friend said “Yes, but Daniel Day-Lewis’s acting was superb.”

I stared blankly. What good is acting? I honestly don’t know. To pretend is nice, but is it important? I like only two actors; Sterling Hayden 18, because he’s always Sterling Hayden, and William Shatner 19 because he isn’t.

But acting? Who needs acting? Only music is real.

A great Ann-Margret song

18 Jim Dawson just turned me on to the 1954 movie ‘Crime Wave.’ Hayden was really Hayden in it, and as a bonus Timothy Carey was completely nuts as ... Timothy Carey - not an actor, a character. A real person.

19 The “Columbo” in which he plays a tv detective is the best episode (and Tim Carey is on it too!) - his permanent pose is perfect. Shatner towers over those who slag him - the joke’s on them!

Ya Can’t Win

Talked with a gal at a party, but when a guy started in on an L.A Times woman’s rock-writing my chat-friend said “typical sexism.”

No, I said, she is uniquely an idiot.
“I’ve seen guys your age tear apart women writers many times.”
We tear apart men writers.
“Doesn’t matter.”
Walk with me to the car and I’ll show you the book of Pauline Kael’s movie criticism I keep there.
“Doesn’t matter.”

How are we supposed to co-exist with these creatures?

Up With Chuck

I steered clear of Barney Hoskyns’ Tom Waits biography, declining to release a photo of him with Chuck that I’d posted in this column. At the last minute I relented but he said it was too late, he’d gotten another Troubadour photo from someone else. That photo was mine, too. Who cares. Thumbing the book at a book store I looked for the photo and then looked up Paul Hampton, whom I’d introduced to Tom, and saw my name in the index - more than once! “How could that be?” I pondered. I did no interview with Barney.

But wait! In 1999 or so I met Barney on a friendly basis at the Sunset Marquis. He said he was writing a book on L.A. in the 60s, and I said I wasn’t here then, but had some funny stories about the 70s. Aware that this did not fulfill his agendum, I met with him to be sociable, unaware that the cassette tape was running.

Glad I didn’t say anything embarassing. But the pileup of people’s sarcastic, often kidding, comments about Chuck suggests he’s just some guy who hung around Tom. Chuck’s personality, knowledge and musicality might be as strong an influence on Tom as the other way ‘round. Who knows?

There was an incident at the Troubadour involving Chuck, Waits and Brendan Mullen which I never understood til I found this: Troubadour Blog


Peter Tork, responding to Davy’s comments, said that he is on Facebook and slammed Nesmith saying: “We’re not even Facebook friends. But I do have more friends of Facebook that he does.”

That’s not funny, but the preface on Punmaster.com was:

“And in further proof that Facebook will soon be taken over by the AARP ......... “

Speaking of Which

Calling senility Alzheimer’s gives old people another name to forget.

Eight Lives Left ....

We have a white male cat girl-named Simba. He was found 18 months ago in Burbank the size of a Hostess Snowball and nurtured by female humans to healthy adulthood.

At 6 pm, Wens, October 28, I parked the ‘86 Volvo and went in the house. Simba is not allowed out, but he gets out. I rang the dinner bell (food can) and he didn’t come. Worried I walked around the front of the house and on the driveway heard “Meow.”
Since he wasn’t forthcoming I feared he was injured.
Since he wasn’t forthcoming I feared he was cut in half.
The voice was so close it was like he was a ghost.
I looked under the car, fearing I’d run him over.
I opened up the hood of the car and he jumped out, bathed in black.
He ran in the house. His jaw was down, but he was OK on 4 legs.
He had crawled up the front wheel assembly, into the engine compartment, and then I drove off, going 60 mph to Van Nuys, then running errands and coming home. The car remained running for 3 hours because it has trouble starting.

My cat-friend looked this up on the internet and learned it was not a unique occurence. But not a desirable one, either. I wish I could ask him how he did it.




- 57 -

Mark On The Move

Despite my qualms about Bob Dylan’s live performances of late (his in-person vocals were pretty shot last time I saw him in Sacramento two years ago) I went to the Hollywood Palladium OCtober 14th, and there caught the return of guitarist Charlie Sexton to his band. After an excellent opening set by John Doe (Johnny Rivers warmed up the crowd the night before, George Thorogood the night after) I was pleasantly surprised to find Dylan warm, engaging, funny and in a good mood, feeding off the considerable power generated by Charlie and his bandmates. Bob started with a rollicking “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat” and then concentrated on recent material (“Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” “Cold Irons Bound” and “When The Deal Goes Down” among the standouts). He’s comfortably settled into a kind of forties-crooner mode, his spoken-sung lyrics articulated well on the slow stuff, a real potent Lefty Frizzell-Gene Austin-Bing Crosby thing going. When he pulled out an old tune like “Highway 61 Revisited” or “Ballad of a Thin Man” he made up in enthusiasm for what he lacked in vocal power. Mostly.

The following night I revisited another of my sixties favorites, comedy troupe The Firesign Theatre, during their reunion “Forward Into the Past” run at the little Gallery Theatre in Barnsdale Park. They did a good job slicing & dicing sections of their first three albums (Waiting For the Electrician Or Someone Like Him, How Can You Be In Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All and Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers) into a continuous flow, but the real treat was their hilarious extended Shakespare parody Anythynge You Want To which took up most of the second set. The section which weaves together the names of Hollywood executives and studios as if they were in the cast of MacBeth (“you’ll more than gold win, Mayer!”) is writing of the highest level.

Speaking of which, the highest level is where you start your visit to the Grammy Museum in the L.A. Live complex in downtown Los Angeles, but it’s all downhill from there. I noticed a number of small errors in the displays (Warner Bros. Records misspelled as “Warner Brothers” throughout) but those were minor compared to other unimpressive and paltry exhibits. There are displays of questionably interesting items such as a suit Miles Davis had worn and thrown out, rescued by someone from a trash can, and (part of a special exhibit no less) Neil Diamond’s high school letterman sweater for fencing. Huh? A multi-page letter from Nesuhi Ertegun to his brother Ahmet of Atlantic Records is almost illegible and would benefit from an accompanying printout of the text. And the Industrial Workers of the World “little red book” of folk songs is useless showing just the cover (they could have let us see one page at least).

There are touch-screens everywhere, but they don’t lead to much (if you want to hear examples of psychedelic music, you get clips of three recordings – the mighty Grammy organization can’t muster 30 or even 300 to choose from?). I got into the booth where producer/engineer Eddie Kramer demonstrates various studio techniques, and where you can do your own mix of recording effects, but two of the four “modules” leading through the process were broken, and the final mix I worked on for ten minutes turned out to be unplayable. Part of a display of interactive Roland instruments was puzzling too -- the dials that allowed the user to balance the headphone and keyboard volumes were purposely blocked and disabled, making that exhibit mostly unuseable for anyone who wants to hear their audio options clearly.

In the auditorium there was a film about the production of last year’s Grammy telecast, which had some interesting backstage stuff involving the collaboration of Beyonce and Tina Turner on “Proud Mary,” but when it came time to see the performance the filmmakers intercut interview material that interrupted what was actually broadcast. The whole museum exudes the feeling of designers patting themselves on the back while ignoring how to best serve visitors. It’s not the sort of place where you’d take out-of-towners for a good time, I don’t think, unless they are absolutely dying to see a costume Kanye West once wore.

-- Mark Leviton

(Mark’s sixties-themed radio show Pet Sounds can be heard alternate Wednesdays 10pm-Midnight PST on KVMR-FM 89.5 in the Sacramento area and streaming at www.kvmr.org )

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