- December 2009 -

Other Fein Messes

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1st Record/1st Concert

Growing up in North Dakota in the 70’s and 80’s I was brought up on the sheer and total genius of Elvis Presley, the scratchy soul of Ray Charles, the cutting edge sounds of Buddy Holly and the insane harmonies of The Beach Boys. My parents would play the records while they got ready to go on date nights, and my Dad would rock down the hallway dancing like Chuck Berry as Mom coiffed her hair in the bathroom. I took immediate notice, and I listened carefully. I knew from the first time I heard music, that it was part of something incredibly monumental, and from then on I wanted to hear anything and everything. I scoured through Mom’s 1966 Magnavox Astro Sonic and listened to all her and Dad’s records. I even tried out “In A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” the 35 minute version! Each record spoke to me in a different way, and I was accepting of them all in their own right. Elvis Presley was especially moving and I can distinctly remember sitting on the steps in our living room, while Mom was at the grocery store, playing his records. I listened to Elvis Presley when she was away,….because he made me cry. I was too embarrassed to let Mom know, even though I knew she often cried too. Little did I know then, the depths of a story so tragic. Elvis was and still is the most incredible artist we have known.

In 1984, things changed a little. By then, I had grown away from my musical upbringing, and been stung by the new 80’s pop scene. I bought my very first “Cassette tape” with my own money, saved up from a birthday or Christmas, Sheena Easton, A Private Heaven. I can remember my friend and her “single mom” listening to it on the record player in their two bedroom apartment and dancing in the living room. My friends and I would make up our own M-TV video’s and perform them for an imaginary audience for hours on end. Our first video was for the song “Strut.” The lyrics read “Let the lace fall across your shoulder,” so we found some lace and threw it across our shoulders. Pretty cutting edge stuff really. We had a secret clubhouse underneath the stairs and we decked it out all girly and would bring down our little library issued cassette player and rock out to Sheena Easton while we all memorized the lyrics to “Sugar Walls.” A tune written by Prince, in his ever so eloquent way. I think we even kind of figured out what he was really talking about….scandalous! Secretly though, we all wanted to be just like her.

We were all at that age when you are more ugly duckling than you are cute, but Sheena made us aspire to have that perfectly feathered 80’s hair, those big dangling earrings, and the precise black eyeliner. We all thought we could sing just like her. It must have been a sight, a bunch of awkward pre-teens trying to sing and dress like Sheena Easton.

It was these moments, after hours upon hours of Sheena Easton, which made me realize I needed my OWN cassette! I think I must have told my Mom that I wanted to go to Target and get the tape for myself. It’s funny, because this was right around the time of Madonna, and we had all wanted to have her music, but our Mothers said it was “inappropriate.” This was probably my second attempt to ask permission to buy my own music. Sheena somehow made the cut. She wore the coolest earrings.

So one evening after school Mom called me down from my room and said “let’s go get your tape.” I was so excited! I imagined the next day at school when I would show the girls from the clubhouse that I got my very own copy. I sure wish life could be so thrilling again…..sigh. From memory, I think the cassette tape case was orange, and she had on a beige sweater/dress thing on the cover, which was hanging off her shoulder, or something close. Honestly I must have stared at that cover forever that night, trying to figure out a way that I could look like her. I tried, and I’m sure there are photos somewhere. I shudder at the thought.

Sheena had that ultra effeminate sound, that slick glossy voice that made young girls and more likely young men, stand up and take a listen. Is this what being an “adult” sounded like? Was this how to be a lady? Her lyrical sweetness reeled us in, and her adult themed puns made us wonder. Little did we know, Madonna had yet to really hit us!

I have since gone back to these songs, and many others of Sheena’s, and they are so cutesy and maybe even ultra modern “pop” I can see why it appealed to me at that age. Of course most people know the hits, “Morning Train” “Almost Over You” “For Your Eyes Only” “Strut” etc. There is a song, however, from 1982 called “Machinery” which is really wild to listen to. It is full of beats that I don’t think had yet been necessarily established as “80’s” sounding or “techno.” It sounds like a video game that can sing. It’s really radical stuff, if you listen and consider the timeframe, radical to me anyway. Radical,…like Sheena Easton.

From Sheena, I continued on my 80’s bandwagon and eventually came of age that same year ironically, for my first concert experience. I was into “love songs” because I thought I loved my 5th grade boyfriend. I would record the best ones from the radio on me new shiny portable radio “boom box” and make mix tapes. You remember, we all did it at least once. A particular favorite of the time was “The Search Is Over” by Survivor. A catchy ballad about love and all its trials. How I even absorbed its meaning at such a young age is a mystery, but I knew when I heard the announcement that they would be at the local fair that summer, I had to be there!

I worked up the nerve to ask my Mom one Saturday, after dropping little hints here and there for a week or so. I was clever. There was one obstacle I had to work my way through however, and that was the fact that they uttered a swear word in the song. They said they word “damn,” and I though it was so bad that Mom would not allow me to go! So I played the song for her, and skillfully explained why they had to use such a word and that they were talking about love in the song and that I must see them in concert or I would just die! She must have had a good laugh after I left the room. Ha! She agreed, and took me to the fairgrounds with a friend, and the 3 of us attended the concert that summer. I remember Miami Sound Machine was the opener, and I thought Gloria Estefan was really neat. I had never heard that kind of music in my small town. When Survivor finally graced the stage, I was so excited I think I squealed! Unfortunately the rest of the show is kind of a blur, I don’t even remember hearing the song I wanted to hear so badly. I do, however, remember the thrill of LIVE music, the cold hard seats of the outdoor amphitheater, and the roar of hearing a crowd cheer in unison. A good memory all things considered.

Luckily for me, I have now come full circle and back to my musical roots. Elvis Presley is still a genius, and he still makes me cry. I am a full fledged, well educated, and always enthusiastic Elvis fan. I know too, that all the musical acts I have mentioned above have been somehow along the way inspired by Elvis Presley, the silent innovator. So really I owe it all to him. Thanks Elvis……..it has been a journey.

-Kari Lugo
-November 2009
-Los Angeles

Another Fein Mess
AF Stone’s Monthly
December 2009

Ya Can’t Know Everything

When I told someone that I’d seen Jack Clement with a band called Marley’s Ghost, he said “Ebenezer Scrooge.” I stared, and said What? “Oh, come on, Art, you pretend to be out of it but you know who Scrooge is.” Yes, I did, but didn’t know Marley’s ghost. “It’s in ‘A Christmas Carol.’ You at least saw the movie, didn’t you?”

It’s one I missed. We all miss something. Like Mark, who wrote this month (here, at the end) about never having seen ‘Seinfeld.’ I hadn’t seen or read ‘Christmas Carol’ not because it’s a Xmas story 1, I know plenty of them, I just never got around to it. Like ‘The Wizard Of Oz,’ which I saw for the first time when I watched it with Baby Jessie mid-1990s. “You never saw the Wizard of Oz?” people would say. Well, when it was on tv when I was a kid it looked like a girl’s movie.

I saw ‘Casablanca’ for the first time in the 90s also. Wasn’t that interested in it or Bogart, then or now, tho fascinated how his upper teeth tended to dry out and catch his upper lip.

1 I LOVE ‘The Canterville Ghost,’ with Robt Young.

For Want Of A Nail

One morning in 1911, Dave’s aunt went to work at the garment factory in New York, but his mother stayed home. Later in the day the sister, not yet Dave’s aunt, was killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. A few years later Dave’s mother moved to Los Angeles, married and had children. And in the late 1940s, Dave opened a recording studio at Santa Monica and Vine, with his partner, Stan Ross. The studio, named for a combination of Dave’s last name and the other’s first and last initial, was Gold Star.

Without Dave’s design for a separate echo chamber adjacent to the studio, what would “Be My Baby” be? What would be the most played song in the world if not “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”? And then what musical path would Brian Wilson have taken?

Sometimes it’s good to stay home from work.

Music notes

Thom Yearsley, of the late Paladins, tells me that Joey Altruda, who owns the mostly-analog Joey’s Place recording studio in the old Electro-Vox Studio on Melrose across from Paramount, is leaving L.A. to open a jazz club in Shanghai, China. Quite a jump for Joey ... Late news, Yearsley reports there will be a Paladins reunion at a concert in Holland next May. (When I asked Dave Gonzales a few years ago why he left the Paladins he said “That day we were on your tv show was the best performance we ever did. It was never that good again”) ... “Mark” went to the earlybird day-past-Thanksgiving rush at dept store in the San Fernando Valley and k.d. lang was ahead of him in line, getting pots and pans. “Thank you Katherine” said the clerk ... Just learned that Ron Hargrave, who wrote the song “High School Confidential 2,” lives in the Pasadena area ... During a scene in Glee in which a girl has a makeover, the intro to “Don’t Make Me Over” is played several times, but no verse ever comes. Was that to be diabolically clever or save money?..

2 We who already knew the song were delighted that the movie included another, excellent, version of the song by Jerry Lee. But we never got to hear it on vinyl. When Charly issued the box set in 1979 3 it included five alternate takes, but none were that one.

3 But that box set listed a JLL appeared in December 1957 at the Howard Miller (non-rock deejay cashing in on rock) revue at the Chicago Opera House on a bill with, among others, Sam Cooke. Which means I saw Sam Cooke! But when I mentioned this to Peter Guralnik he said “We’re not sure he made that show.” Well, I couldn’t tell ya unless I go under hypnosis.

All In The Family

Johnny Legend, nee Martin Margulies, was seated next to his friend Lon Osgood in the Big TNT movie when they were serenaded by Petula Clark. Subsequently Osgood played in one of Johnny’s bands.

Johnny’s sister Lynn Margulies met Andy Kaufmann when Johnny was filming “My Breakfast With Blassie.” She and Andy became a couple til the day he died.

Recently Osgood reappeared in Johnny’s life, and re-met Lynn. They moved to Oregon in the summer and are getting married.


Before the first Phillies-Dodger playoff game, the Dodger announcer talked about boarding the bus with the team to go to the ball park.

“I never saw anything like it. There were a hundred people across from the hotel screaming obscenities, the worst language I ever heard even in a locker room.” Philadelphians must save the brotherly love for each other. I thought the Phillies were quitters because their fans waved white handkerchiefs, the universal sign of surrender. Maybe Cub fans will adopt it.

Really Big Shew

It’s strange how “Ed Sullivan Rock & Roll” clips are so lifeless. Many are lip-synchs, none ‘take off,’ unless you thrill to Jimbo saying “higher.” Which is not to slag Ed. While he did not leap to embrace Elvis, only booked him (for a monstrous, astonishing $50,000 for 3 shows - in 1956 you could buy five houses in Memphis for that) after Steve Allen’s ratings trounced Ed’s when he had Elvis on, Ed was hep in other ways. When he had Lord Buckley on, he sat with three other men in chairs while Buckley tweaked their neck-backs to make musical sounds, really out-there stuff. And turned the show over to Louis & Keely for 25 minutes one night. And gets the world’s thanks for booking a ‘rhythm review’ featuring Bo Diddley, Lavern Baker, the Five Keys and Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson in November, 1955 -- the bold debut of rock & roll on national tv. The Diddley set is shown in look backs, but the “Gator Tail” Jackson clip is the only footage I know that captures the wildness of the sax-driven frenzy of an early-50s jump band. You can feel the floor shake, the audience heave. What I’d give to go back and attend one of those shows.

Booze - It’s News

I’m not a tea-totaler - well, I am, but I’m not Carrie Nation. But the press that liquor itself is getting in the L.A. Times is a clear sign the paper has been turned over to teenagers.

They send out people to evaluate bars. They hail Musso-Franks as a place where the bartenders mix a mean drink. They run articles that new cocktails are everywhere. And Elina Shatkin’s excitable article “L.A. is becoming awash in a sea of suds” about new hep places that serve many brands of beer.

The message is clear. These kid-writers are agog (agrog?) over the availability and diversity of liquor because they are entering the drinking world and they think readers are too.

Drinking as an obsession means a person needs help. Others just take it on occasion. This exaltation of booze as an evening’s activity is naive and, so recklessly hailed, sobering.

Now That Everything Is Easier Everything Is Harder

A guy says “Phone books? Why do they deliver them? I throw mine away. I just use the internet.” He’s the opposite of the wise fool.

I use a phone book constantly. For one thing, it’s at reach in the kitchen, where I’m often. The phone book is my friend, while the internet is trying to trick me.

Ever look for info about an obscure movie actor on the net? Twenty sites promise the best information: pictures, affidavits, home phone numbers, statistics, interviews, etc and you press it and it says “ARE YOU THIS PERSON? SEND US YOUR INFORMATION.” Time and time again you want something and the highlit area cries out ME ME ME and you press it and they’ve got nothing but a hit to show their advertisers.


what is this?

Recently wanting to find out anything about this cockamamie doll I bought 15 years ago (for my daughter!) I put in “dolls.” That offered 672,000 entries on ebay so I narrowed it down to “Doll, L.A.” on Google, seeking a doll dealer. What came back is 30 listings for the L.A. Dolls, some team. And someone in Swaziland who sells dolls. And Toys ‘R Us (“We sell dolls!”). Then I looked in the L.A. phone book. “Dolls, dealers.” They list a half dozen. But it’s so hard to use the alphabet and turn a page. (But I’ve stalled and still know nothing about this doll. Is it homemade?)

Recently I wanted the phone number of the LA Fitness club near me. The first shaded Google entry for L.A. fitness was from Bally’s, cleverly playing off L.A. and ‘fitness.’ What a swindle! Then four or five opinions of “my” club on yelp or squelch or someother. Then finally “Local Results” and a map pinpointing it, with the address. I click it: it’s the corporate office - “Put in your zipcode.” WHY DOES IT CLAIM TO HAVE MY SPECIFIC CLUB LISTING WHEN IT DOESN”T?
The internet is there to thwart. It doesn’t want to give a simple answer, or an answer at all, just make you run around like a fool.

It’s like a bazaar in Morroco. You ask for a Coke and a hundred people say “I get you a camel!” And you ASK for the camel and they bring you a donkey with a hunched back.

The internet is a den of vipers.

Stifle Yourself!

Mary McNamara, in the 10-14 L.A. Times, likened her long held love for little-known actress Jane Lynch to fancying “that certain downtown bistro that makes the best chicken curry or stuffed grape leaves or cinnamon rolls you’ve ever tasted but where you can still get a good table on a Saturday night.”

Well of course you can get a table on Saturday night. It’s downtown. Only lunatics go there unarmed. But seriously, isn’t this a little ... personal? (We ALL like grape leaves? Is that what you get when you “Peel a grape?”) I never wrote things centered on my own peculiarities, but I guess it’s OK now, so here’s a restaurant review:

“It was like that used-record store in Pasadena, across from the movie theater that was turned into a Goodwill back before Colorado Boulevard was toney, where the guy charged you 25 cents to get in and then followed you around with a snarling dog and you were the only customer and there weren’t even any good records.”

By the end you lose the point of whether the place was good, but be intoxicated by the allegedly universally-known details (“the sheep eyes were fried, not boiled”) of experiences the writer alone knows.


A 10-18 L.A. Times front page article cites a crash in which an accelerator-stuck Lexus “weaved” through rush-hour traffic at 120 mph. Must be written by someone who never drove a car, or rode in one. At that speed, in traffic, you get one weave, or none ... Mike Anton’s 11-6 story about a VW bus being returned to its owner after being stolen in 1974 included the charming childlike aside “Far out, man” as if the only context in which to view a VW bus is those wacky hippies ... The Nov 28 Contra Costa Times “Drive” automotive section has a story about a local guy whose parents promised him a car for h.s. graduation in 1963 so he chose a new Corvette Sting Ray. I guess there’s gold in them thar hills. A Sting Ray cost $4500, as much as two Pontiacs and a little less than a Caddy. “Here, Sonny” ...

In The News

I saw “Mammograms not needed for women under 50.” In the early 90s I ‘experienced’ a scourge of women in their 30s dying from breast cancer. Guess it’s not that important ... Though I am a naif, with all the pot stores around L.A. now shouldn’t there be a resultant crime wave? Drugs as such cause crime I was told ... The NY Times takes a stand 11/15 - “For Kristen Stewart, Life Is Not Easy As A Teen Idol.” I didn’t dig enough to find the word ‘survivor’ ... 11-21 L.A. Times “Business” news. Half page w/photo: Rich widow Spelling still selling her big mansion. Two month’s ago’s “Rich widow selling her big mansion” wasn’t enough. She must have put a TEAM of publicists on it ... 12-4 “Rolling Stone to launch restaurant chain in L.A.” http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-rolling-stone4-2009dec04,0,4958990.story The wrongness and stupidity of this apparently unedited press release staggers the mind.

Nov 22

The Barbara Walters-narrated JFK assassination story that PBS trots out every year shines an undeserving complimentary light on newsmen’s race for firsts.

* “When I saw the negative come out of the developer, I knew I had the shot” says one snapper of his gotcha pic of the Oswald shooting.

The photo was a record of a horrible moment, not a contest. He won the Pulitzer prize for luck - he was taking a photo of Oswald, had no idea a murder was about to occur.

* “Our paper ran that photo two hours before the Dallas paper, and to this day it makes me proud” says another.

The Ft. Worth paper jumping the Dallas paper means as little now as it did then.

That 40 years later these two ghouls remain cheery about that day adds a tiny bit more shame to our nation.

“Everyone knows that Taylor Swift can’t sing”

When I read the opening line of Ann Powers’ 11-22-09 “In Search of the Perfect Diva” (...) I was challenged. What, now she’s writing straight? To acknowledge this empress’s new clothes succinctly was something new for Ol’ Smoky. Perhaps with this new leaf turned, the premise would not then be stretched thinly around infinite corners.
Just a few graphs later the real Ann reappeared. In complimenting, by contrast, the British thrush Leona Lewis, Annie finds an issue.

“But Lewis has a problem too. Her critics perceive her as hollow, inexpressive -- all voice and no personality. Unlike Houston and Mariah Carey, whose marital, chemical and/or psychiatric crises lent them the aura of the real, Lewis seems determined to remain sane and a little bit distant in her devotion to her craft.”

There it is. The thesis. YOU CANNOT ENJOY A SINGER’S MUSIC UNTIL YOU’VE READ THEIR BIO. And, you hope, rap sheet.

What cosmic, cataclysmic, preposterous flapdoodle.

I was also challenged Dec 3 by her assault on the Grammys.

NARAS, the record industry host, has always been ten years behind the times. Hence, the big Grammy breakthrough of 1964 was The Tijuana Brass. That year the Beatles came out, too, but the voters then, like now, were out of it. I didn’t object that they overlooked music I liked, but that they missed what was actually happening, guided as they were by their mission and prayer, “Good music is coming back.” 4

But Annie’s objections are personal and spurious. The successful Black-Eyed Peas, much nominated, are “not exactly critics’ favorites.” So? Who gives a shit? Nobody pays money to read critics, they come free with the paper. And Maxwell, whose nominations are “deserved” (Oh thank you, oh holy one) “defies the stereotype of the critics’ favorite” by being older, experienced, and R&B rather than “indie rock or Americana.”

Definitions are needed when reading rock crits. When something is ‘critically hailed’ it means it is unsuccessful. Indie rock is indie because not enough people like it. Americana is the same thing, a joyful noise reaching thousands.

I’m hardly defending the status quo, but resent, in behalf of my core area of concern, musicians ( as opposed to hers, other critics), exaltation of the obscure at the expense of the successful.

4 See this sentiment time and again in 1956-66 issues of Billboard. Its entire run is available free online at http://books.google.com/books?id=pBQEAAAAMBAJ&lr=&as_pt=MAGAZINES&rview=1&source=gbs_all_issues_r&cad=2&atm_aiy=1965#all_issues_anchor

Linda Laurie RIP

I met Linda Laurie, who died in November, while I was spinning records at Club Lingerie in the mid-1980s. We were chatting about music, and she said “I wrote a hit record.” When she mentioned “Ruby Red Dress” I nodded respectfully, but when she told me her name I whisper-growled in her ear “Just keep walkin.’ “

Any fan of her two singles “Ambrose Part Five” and “Forever Ambrose” would have done the same.

The Ship May Be Sinking, but the Help is Eating Well ...

In a 11-12 L.A. Times science piece, John R. Johnson compared the thin glassy surface of Mars to “the brittle covering on a creme brulee dessert.” Someone’s expense account is gonna be audited.


On 11-20, Geraldine Baum “reporting from New York” discloses that there are small theaters as well as the large ones there. How the hell would I have know that without this remarkable investigative journalism? I guess actors and playwrights there are secretive about their productions, requiring G-Bomb’s stealth to ferret them out ...
In the “news hole” focussed on news of the United States of America ... 11-22 Tina Susman gives us a half page about the new look of the Russian Tea Room. You know, around the corner from Carnegie Hall. What? You don’t know all of NYC’s restaurants? What kind of L.A. reader ARE you? You probably couldn’t even find Elaine’s (It’s still there?) ... Tina’s 12-4 bombshell that a publicity stunt involving two women ‘living’ in a department store window was drawing big crowds in NY filled a half page. Of course, they made movies about people in NY dept store windows as far back as the 1940s, but NY is so vital to us that if it happens AGAIN in NY we need to know ... Everyone knows this but on exterior wall shots of “Seinfeld’s” NY apartment, the bricks contain the square earthquake-reinforcement plates required on all older Los Angeles bldgs ...

Verisimilitude and Consequences

"Bicycle advocacy, though noble and just, can veer into piety..."
-- Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, 8/31/09, p.61

The weak have to be protected from the strong. The short from the tall. The dumb from the smart. Civility is the rule of society, but the inversion cannot protect the mouse who’s teasing the elephant.

- I exited the freeway at Vine, on an aged ramp that goes up, then down. At the bottom is a crosswalk. As I neared the green light a woman in her late 20’s, hand cupped on her cellphone, walked right into my path. I honked the horn and she gave a slight glance and continued ahead. Arrogant pedestrians are not a rarity here. In other cities they would be run down for reason, but here a lingering memory exists of the days when police vehemently ticketed any car in a crosswalk even if the person was five lanes away.

- I watched a bicyclist on busy Sunset Blvd run a yellow/red and cause cars to jam on brakes. She blew thru and raised her middle finger, testing the bounds of tolerance, even here.

- I saw fifty bicyclists swarm the intersection of Franklin and Bronson August 28th, figure-8’ing and wheelying like a mobile Cirque d’Soleil, high on their specialness. Traffic was jammed for 10 minutes from their antics. One cyclist even stood in the middle of an exit street, like a guard at Jonestown. 5

- The antique shop customer at the very high counter was not a “little person” but a little person, under 5 feet. The clerk turned to me and the woman half-screamed “I was here first.” She was right to holler, but the guy could see only the top of her head, topped with black hair. I’d think by now she’d know to raise a ruckus while waiting to ensure she’s noticed. It’s a drag, but it’s reality.

- The weaker or smaller must adapt. It’s only sensible. I recently heard a weak metallic crunch while my car was stopped at a red light and looked back to see a motorcyclist down between two cars. One car’s passenger door was open, but I don’t know whether the biker hit it or he just lost balance. In California, the lane between the cars is designated as a lane in itself, for motorcycles 6. That is crazy, because cars sometimes suddenly change lanes. Laws apply but don’t protect you in the traffic jungle. Your rights are inherently limited.

- People with baby carriages block narrow aisles. When I wielded one I pulled way to the side but more benighted parents stood center, high on their nobility. It’s the same as a Baby On Board sign - it means you are special, not especially careful. 7

- And, here goes, women with exposed rippling tit tops and ass cracks - hell, bare shoulders - are free to be, but that exposure may tip an unbalanced or pushed-to-breaking man to later assault a defenseless woman. That the exhibitor remained untouched reinforces the illusion that society can protect women. 8

If someone much larger and scarier than me does something wrong, I can’t lay into him. My rightness does not assure me 24-hour safety.
Ironically, knowing this seems to make me special.

5 A man recently went to prison for braking hard when being tailgated by a bunch of bicyclists on a mountain road. It’s a public road, alright, but it’s planed and engineered for cars. The bicyclist must defer. Except the packs of crazies we have in California. If they belong in traffic, I can drive my car on a bike path.

6 If the motorcycle lobby is so effective, why is there still a helmet law? Well a helmet makes it safer, said someone. “Then why don’t you wear one while driving your car? You’d stand a better chance in an accident. Are you afraid your hearing and vision and ability to move would be impeded?”

7 Also sanctimonious are owners of unmuffled motorcycles. “I operate a vehicle which can easily kill me, so you have to know I’m there.” An L.A. Times writer who wrote that his sleep was interrupted every night by a neighbor’s explosive 4 a.m. motorcycle revs drew letters from tough two-wheel crybabies who wrote “I disturb you for my safety.”

8 A few years ago a woman wrote in a column that since it was ‘revealed’ that rape is not an expression of sex but of control, women could safely walk around naked. Our universities are hell-bent to refute William Dean Howells by ruining young women with books.

I Watch TV

CNN blares the formidable breaking news: “New Photos of Charles Manson.” This encompassed a rehash little different from the one we see daily on one cable station or another ... The Veterans Day WWII doc narrated by Martin Sheen included phony narrations of letters. Then, describing Patton’s mission, another actor begins growling in his behalf. Pathetic, insulting ... And History Channel’s “War in Color” or “War in HD” or “War in 3-D” shows a Nazi-taken color newsreel of civilians in Serbia being hanged (a German soldier, a non human, tugging down on one’s feet to ensure he is dead) and then a firing squad, interjected with Nazi edits of grieving, shocked townspeople. How much suffering can we stand watching? (There were no bare breasts. That would be obscene) ... The standards on Jeopardy have fallen: contestants now show their buzzers. Clicking in was formerly done sub rosa, hands discreetly out of sight. One gal I saw recently had hers at shoulder height. The showoffs do it to signal “I KNEW THAT” when they’re beaten to the punch. Their hands should be slapped ...

Talkin’ ‘bout ... Wha?

In the 11-19-09 NY Time fashion section, Brandon Dailey, a hairstylist in Manhattan, says “My generation is more outside the box than the generation before me,” regarding girls today wearing men's clothing.

But Dailey is 26. Who is in his generation? Certainly not 18-year-olds, they see him as nearing 30. I’ll say that a generation is 4 years, a high school term. But maybe less. The seniors don’t look down on the freshmen, they ignore them. Maybe two years is all. Poor Dailey is clinging to a time long gone.

Take my life, please. I predate many friends by 5 years. Those are the “Beatle people.” They know something happened before 1964, but it wasn’t in their lives - though it may have been in the lives of older siblings who ignored them! That’s the answer. When some of us were gobbling up Elvis, Little Richard, etc. they were shooting marbles or waiting for Barbie dolls to be invented. When the music struck them it stuck, and to this day that’s all they can talk about. So I’ll be generous and give a generation 5 years.

For Chris Sake

Chris Lee, in the 11-5 L.A. Times, is so overwhelmed by a movie that features Mariah Carey as an unattractive social worker that the unrestrained hosannas he spouts seem designed to reverse the terrible tarnish the role placed upon the idol he worships.

“Legendarily high-maintenance pop diva”
“glossy celebrity patina” (doesn’t patina come from aging?)
“music-video pulchritude”
“most unabashedly glamorous chanteuse “ (I’d hate her abashed)
“the alto with the five-octave range”
“what some are describing as an Oscar-worthy performance”
“still impressively blinged-out in diamonds”

Sounds like it was written for The Advocate.

That’s Entertainment

I went Dec 2 to the monthly “Rudy Casoni” show at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood after years of urging by the keyboard player. I thought I’d help them out by sitting up front and clapping, but the place was packed. ‘Casoni’ is a Sinatra-like wise-guy singer, backed by a 6-piece band led by Andy Paley. The show is based on a 4 am Las Vegas show, with an avalanche of obscenities and audience interaction. I especially enjoyed Laura Silverman playing a Jew at Christmastime, and the reluctant French strippers. Bobcat Goldthwaite and his wife were in the audience with Eric Idle, Sid Straw sang Merry Xmas with Casoni. It was a feast of bad taste. Great fun.

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Mark On the Move

Many of my friends use phrases from Seinfeld, but I saw only one episode when it was on in prime-time, didn’t like it so never watched again. (I’m with Groucho - I don’t want to join any club that would have me as a member.) Recently I’ve come to understand the power of Seinfeld through the backdoor of watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, which this season centered around a Seinfield cast reunion. Just as I first heard “Rock and Roll Music” on a Beatles album and discovered the Chuck Berry original afterward, I’m getting history ass-backwards.

I can’t remember anything about that first episode except that it was under weird circumstances. I was stuck in Dulles airport in Washington D.C. during a lightning storm, and I was in the lounge with a bunch of disgruntled travelers, one of whom was the singer Michael Feinstein. I introduced myself, as I had dealt with his manager and licensed his recordings many times, and we talked about his gigs at the San Fernando Valley Jewish Home for the Aging, where my maternal grandmother lived her last days and where Feinstein entertained when he was Ira Gershwin’s secretary, before his recording career took off. Anyhow, when Seinfeld came on in the lounge, and several people including Feinstein found out I’d never seen it, they insisted I be baptized. (!)

I watched it stonefaced, seeing nothing funny about it at all, and everyone else apologized to me, saying it wasn’t a good episode. By the time it was over, I announced to the group of strangers that I was unconvinced. They told me to give it another try, but I’d seen enough.

Many years later, continually berated by friends for not knowing the show, I turned on a syndicated episode to give it another chance, only to find it was the same show I’d seen in the airport, which still wasn’t funny. I remember thinking “The universe is telling me not to like this program.”

Several years passed, and these same friends urged me to see Curb Your Enthusiasm, created by the main Seinfeld co-writer Larry David. Against my better judgment I watched it and it floored me. I liked the first two seasons but then felt it went off the rails and I gave up on it. But a couple weeks ago I watched the new Curb Your Enthusiasm series “on demand” and got hooked again. As the Seinfeld cast was introduced, I knew I was missing a lot of the humor connected to the original show (like constant references to how bad the last episode of May 1998 had been). But the interaction between Jason Alexander and Larry David began to get to me, especially as they argued about whether when evenly splitting a check in a restaurant it was a requirement to leave exactly the same tip. This molehill turned into Everest. In another episode, Larry and his manager agreed that Larry needed to split up with his current live-in girlfriend before her cancer lab tests came back, since you are not allowed to break up with someone who has cancer, regardless of how much you hate them. But Larry fails to beat the doctor to his door. In another thread, Larry got upset when a visitor to his home opened the refrigerator and took out a drink without asking Larry, after Larry neglected to offer him a refreshment (and when Larry looked for support from his friends, he was told taking liquids is OK, but not solids, a rule Larry immediately violates out of pique).

I began to understand that “it’s an unwritten law” was the mantra of the series, that Larry David & Co. were expert at examining the tiny assumptions and irritations that distracted them from having “real” relationships. The characters were all monsters, with extremely low breaking points, but charming during their meltdowns. When I started raving to anyone who would listen about how funny Curb Your Enthusiasm was, everyone basically told me “Yeah, you idiot, it all derives from Seinfeld. It’s about time you got it.”

Then the day after Thanksgiving I watched a Seinfeld marathon on tv. I bet I was the only person watching these episodes for the first time. I saw the “Soup Nazi” and “Yadda Yadda Yadda” shows, the one about George’s ‘shrinkage,’ the one with the dentist who converts to Judaism and offends Jerry by telling offensive Jewish jokes AND Catholic jokes, the “schmoopie” episode. . .

I figure with all of Seinfeld on DVD, I should be ready to enter polite society sometime in 2011.

-- 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 )


Up and Around With Bill from L.A.

My sexual organ is undergoing some reconstruction. Beneath the skin is a thin layer urologists playfully call ‘cellophane’ which can tear. Yanking with too much vigor, or a gal with a guillotine bone running transversely in front, when on top, can break it. And dental accidents happen. It’s called Peyroni’s, I think. (The docs said ‘Do not look on the internet.”)

If the break is at the base, the break heals but bunches, stretching the cellophane so that it pulls the organ, once healed, either north or south when in an excited state. It can easily go 90 degrees. (He said one guy‘s two breaks resulted in something like a lightning bolt.) It doesn’t mean you’ll pee on the floor or under your chin; it only manifests itself in erection. I’d thought that exercising it would extend it forward, not skyward!

So the doctor told me to use a penis-pump. This is also for guys who can’t get it up, which I learned looking at the horrifying dvd that showed some guy (!!!) putting his ferkakta dick into this goddam 3-inch wide hard-plastic tube and lengthening it through suction, THEN sliding a ring, like a rubber without a body, to the bottom to keep it hard.

I didn’t lack hardness. Hardness was the cause of the injury. So now I work with the pump, which is like a vacuum cleaner pulling your prick forward (“Cannot cause injury,” I was assured) with the intention of, now get this, re-injuring the base to loosen its hold so that the suction-stress will straighten the alignment. The pumping is best done when hard, so those drugs seen on the tv sport shows are prescribed, though to my dismay no smiles or crowds of eager women appear.

After 5 months of this treatment, I went in to complain that varying instructions - “hold it for just 5 minutes,” “do it for 10 minutes, releasing and re-inflating to get more disturbance in the break” - led to a lack of improvement. This time the doc proposed that a tighter tube would better lead the organ on its correct path.

“But I can’t force it to go straight any more than I can bend it at will. It won’t flex when it’s stern.” The doc said, What you call a bend is just a pull from the bottom. If you straighten it manually you don’t strain it at the bend, only at the base.

“So if I hold it and push it into place it will be just as effective?”
Sure, he said, but can you keep it hard by yourself for ten minutes?
“Hell, that’s what got me into this mess!”

One effect of this is an ongoing absence of sex. To ask a woman if she has a perfectly curved receptor isn’t an ice-breaker, it’s a breaker. And it’s difficult to find a gal friend who’ll lend a hand. The docs say to keep pulling it til next June, give it an entire year before considering ... surgery. I’ll be pulling hard.

The good thing is I’ll have an explanation for the sexual drought of that period. The previous 12 months were inexplicable.

“Sad Scimitar Sam”
(nee “Laughing Lance”)

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