- February 2010 -

Other Fein Messes
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Doug Fieger. Photo by Neil Zlozower.

Doug Fieger.

An awesome parade of musicians came to call during his last days. He died surrounded by loved ones; six people comforted him at the end. A memorial event won't be held for at least a month. He was especially proud of the 1999 Knack "Zoom" album - a masterpiece of Pop - and I was proud just to be in his life.


1st Concert

First concert experience: It was the summer of 1971, and I was such an innocent nerdy 16 year old scholar that my mom let me take the family Econoline van anywhere I wanted. So I drove from our house in Los Altos (now Silicon Valley) to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco for a free Hot Tuna outdoor concert.

I was desperate to shed my nerd skin and was in love with psychedelic music and the hippie image. This was my chance for full immersion. Hot Tuna, featuring Jorma and Jack from Jefferson Airplane and cosmic fiddler Papa John Creach, was the alpha and omega of psychedelia and blues. This was a journey to Mecca.

San Francisco was, of course, locked in a chilly summer gray. The streets around Golden Gate park were gray, and the longhairs in levi jackets were hunched against the cold. They seemed a bit worn, older, harder looking that the photos in Life Magazine from the Summer of Love three years earlier. Professional, somehow.

I merged into the crowd, feeling fraudulent amidst ghosts of the dream. I barely remember the music. Joints were being passed around. I was terrified one would be passed to me. My nerdiness was my shield, and no weed came my way. I left the park sensing with finality that I'd missed the wave. In my disappointment I couldn't imagine what could come next. The drugs, music, and wandering would soon come in abundance, but without the meaning of the Movement.

Forty years later, I'm still searching the landscape for psychedelia, the earth mama, the joint passed in pastoral circle, the signs that the corporate monolith is cracking from the roots of a giant tree where we will all gather.

My first record was Earthworm Ensemble.

Paul Lacques leads the band Double-Naught Spy Car, and plays with I See Hawks In L.A.

Another Fein Mess
AF Stone’s Monthly
February 2010

The Best

I first noticed the madness of best-of’s in, oh, 1974 when Rolling Stone put out a book “The Best Rock & Roll Concerts Of All Time.”

I wondered what they were talking about. The best concert of all time was Jerry Lee Lewis at the Chicago Opera House in 1957. I was there. So, then what were these people writing about?

They were talking, each individual, about the most fun THEY ever had. Does that mean it was the best? Not hardly.

Comes now the turnaround ...

Having said the preceding, I state incontrovertibly that our Elvis show Jan 8 at the Echoplex was the greatest show ever held on this planet. Second best show was last year’s, going back to the first one on Jan 8, 1987 at the Music Machine. And strangely, in defiance of logic, each one was better than the other!

This is an underground event. The Times didn’t list it (tho lauding a screening of two Elvis shows two nights after his bday) and once-reliable Steve Edwards didn’t mention it on the morning news. So the word is spread by love, and Jonny Whiteside at the L.A. Weekly. You had to search for it, like a club in New York - only here, once you find it we don’t bar the door.

Who had this much fun at an Elvis celebration? Who? The hundreds of us laughed and smiled and jumped for joy from beginning to end.

Elvis Show Notes

There was a mixup between Candye Kane and Ronee Blakley that led right up to showtime, but both held forth wonderfully, Candye also duetting with swain Skip Heller. Big Manny and Barry Holdship were regretful last-minute drop-outs. Lisa Finnie did “Big Hunk Of Love” as a ballad. Jimmy Angel, the only person on hand who was at Humes High with Elvis, flew in from Tokyo for the event. Ronnie Mack returned as co-host after sitting it out for 12 years. The two bands that dipped into psychobilly each included a member of the late Saddle Sores. Two bands did ‘Paralyzed,’ but the Church Keys kept ‘I’m gay every morning’ in while Lightnin’ Willie bowdlerized it. The Dusk Devils did the Wanda Jackson version of ‘Party’ which softens the original “Everybody come and taste the possum papa shot.” Michelle Shocked appeared in a bowler hat like Charlie Chaplin and did cabaret versions of two songs. Glen Glenn has missed the last two years owing to health problems including the loss of one kidney. Likewise, Doug Fieger could not make it. Carlos Guitarlos was ....

The Echoplex is a marvelous venue; the video projections combined both the act onstage and Elvis footage in miraculous malanges. But it isn’t marked and I know a few people who gave up trying to find it. Located under Sunset Blvd where you don’t really know you’re on a bridge (Glendale Blvd tunnels beneath it) the club is up an alley so doesn’t face the street. The show ran from 8:15 til 12:45 with about 30 acts. City Councilman Tom Labonge was on hand, but didn’t get onstage and sing: he did, however, bring Chi Chi from “Grease” in his party. The charity money goes to the L.A. Fire Dept. Fallen Firefighters Memorial Fund and the West Hollywood Food Bank.

Highlights were many, but my thrill was finding the solution for forgetting to bring Elvis CDs (originally, tapes) to play between sets. Many’s the year we heard the Who or the Futon Clang. I forgot it again this year, but the engineer said “Do you have an iPod?” and he hooked it up and we were 100% Elvis.


Fred Willard slays’em with “Faded Love”

Lightnin Willie holds forth, with Pete Anderson behind

Frank Lee Sprague fights through a dancin’ girl frenzy on “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby.”

Phil Alvin conoodles with gorgeous ticket-taker Jennifer.

And from photog Michael Dooley:

* Fun with the Blasters onstage doing “American Trilogy” and “Do The Clam”

* The Topa Twisters reunite after 22 year for the Elvis show.

* Frank Lee Sprague surrounded by pulchritude

* Rockin’ Ray Campi makes his 24th appearance for Elvis.

And from Jennifer Howell

* Skip Heller and Candye Kane harmonize

* AF swoons to Ronee Blakley, Count Smokula barges in

* Ronnie Mack responds to Count Smokula with his impression of Renfield.


Rockabilly Ray

Ray Campi, Austin’s first rockabilly singer, has had a remarkable life. In 1951 Hank Williams signed his Ernest Tubb songbook - and in 1977 Ray had it signed by Tubb. In 1952 he met Slim Willet at a Slim 1 Whitman show, just before Willet’s song, “Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes,” became a hit for Willet, Perry Como and a dozen other people. In 1958 after visiting Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, New Mexico, he phoned Buddy Holly and pitched him some songs, but none were recorded by Holly. Speaking of Buddys, when Ray’s Rockabilly Rebels toured Texas in 1978 their fourth member was Buddy Miller.

Longtime L.A. resident Ray was plucked from obscurity in 1970 by Rockin’ Ronny Weiser and became the mainstay of the Rollin’ Rock record label. Ray will perform in England in July at the Americana Music Festival, but keeps his day job as a teaching temp in the L.A. school system.

1 In the 1930s, many mothers named their children Slim to call attention to the scarcity of food during the Depression.

Tempus, fuggit

* When John Stewart announced the next night’s appearance by Ringo Starr, the audience wasn’t prompted to cheer so didn’t: maybe, college age, they didn’t know him. And a couple nights later when Colbert donned elaborate eyeglasses, the quip “I look like Percy Dovetonsils” flew unacknowledged past an audience that goes “Whoop!” at the drop of a pin.

* I dug out a postage-weight gizmo, a metal scimitar with a ring on top and a dangling rod that points like a sundial to show the weight of the letter you clip to it. I thought I used it recently, but I guess not, judging from the postage rates printed in its case: airmail 13 cents, regular, 10 cents. I still have some 2-cent postcards. (Kids this was after the Beatles broke up! It’s not that old ...)

Music In the News

Randy Lewis, who should know better (and does), must’ve been a copy-editing victim in his 1-8-10 LAT piece about Al Wertheimer’s 1956 Elvis photos. Many were taken at Elvis’s performance on the Dorsey Brothers tv show, which, Randy writes, led to subsequent tv appearances on “Milton Berle’s and Ed Sullivan’s variety shows.” A crucial part of E’s tv history is that in the fall of 1956 Steve Allen booked him onto HIS debut against the longstanding Sullivan show, and won the time slot decisively. Sullivan, who previously said he wouldn’t touch Elvis with a 10-foot pole, then booked him for 3 appearances at $50,000 - a stratospheric and record-breaking fee. Without Allen’s demonstration of Presley’s power, Sullivan probably would have kept that 10-foot distance ... January 23 Ann Powers reviewed the Haitian relief telecast. The most newsworthy performance was the debut of a song written, I think (“collaboration” unclear), among (she wrote “between”) four people that is “part atmospheric film-noir pop” and “part menacing rap.” That victims of tragedy need menacing rap is a given, but why just film-noir pop? Cinemascope reggae, Italian-subtitled country and Tarentino emo stand as ready to serve ... the jazz band Transvalue’s album “Book III” was filed in the Spoken Word section of Amoeba, and as its title was “ ‘58 Ford Retractable” I bought it. It is music outside of my world, and out of this world too. A spoken story semi-shouted over brassy jazz, it entranced me for 80 minutes of a recent road trip ... The R.B. Greaves album on Atco, 1969, produced by Ahmet Ertegun, is one of the best albums I own. Don’t think it’s on CD, though ... Everything Dan Bern does is great, and that has been true, unfortunately, for a long long time.


Why do folksingers do a soundcheck in a room that holds 40 people? “Can you hear me alright?” he says, moving away from the mike, unaffected by the fact we can. It’s a tiny room! Just sing!... Twenty years ago, CDs of older records included studio chatter and countoffs before the song, and I’ll admit I liked it. But now I find it hard to remove when iPodding ... I saw Anna Laube (lou-bee), the Wisconsin- or San Francisco- or Iowa-based singer-songwriter at Genghis Cohen recently. She’s made two CDs, travels the country as a troubadour. She’s in her 20s but sings with an old blues-lady’s voice. A great one ... Saw Tony Gilkyson sitting in with “Dr. Steve” at the Melody Room way south on Sepulveda. (Miss your turn, though, and you drive clear through LAX and out the other side.) It’s a fine Wensday jam ... When in town, Skip Heller often plays at the Amsterdam Cafe in North Hollywood. His latest CD, “The Long Way Home,” has leapt the bounds of DIY and is headed for the hands of a major distributor. It’s vocal w/band, re-mixed by Mark Linett. The cut “I Used To Love California” is the pick-to-click, even though it’s a fib -when he wrote it he swore he’d never return here ... Saw Carlos Guitarlos 1-28 at a new, to me, venue, the Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, in a mall on Sunset & Gower. Great show, with a full band. And great to have a place like that in town ... And Jan 15 saw George Tomsco and 3 Balls of Fire with Vic Gerard and Pete Curry at Don The Beachcomber’s in Huntington Beach. Mike Vernon was there too... Busy music month.



Anna Laube, at Genghis Cohen, December 2009

Rip Masters keeps’em dancing with original material at Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance Jan 4th at Joe’s Great American Bar in Burbank.


‘Increase’ is so passe. I read where electricity use “spiked” 15% in ten years. That’s some slow spike. ‘Increase’ is as square as saying active without “pro” ... I was puzzled at the L.A. Times hed “Brittany Muphy’s death stuns industry.” Did steel manufacturers have a thing for her? ... Good 12-4-09 NY Times hed about Taylor Swift deferring to a teen: “20 year old fogey cedes crowd to 15-year-old.”

Fat Chance

33% of Americans are obese, it says. While there’s no doubt there are megatons of fat people in America, the scale isn’t everything.

I weigh 2 195 lately. That’s as heavy as I’ve gotten. But to look at me you don’t go “Hey fatso.” I could lose some, to be sure, but I wear it OK 3. Yet, according to the chart I am obese.

I am 5’ 8” and then some. (“Some,” unfortunately, is not a full inch.) A few years ago I took a weight drop to 175 pounds. People worried that I had a fatal disease. That’s as low as I can go; any lower you can see my age. But according to the government chart I should weigh 145. I am fifty pounds overweight!

Don’t believe everything you read.

2 Not “weigh in.” Ever.

3 “You Wear It Well” is a great song by Rod Stewart.

Important things

Why don’t they make the whole airplane out of the stuff they make the black boxes from? .... Isn’t everything funny “laugh out loud” funny? ... Is there anyone else in America like Frank Gehry whose name prefaces his work by law? ...I want a house with soft-wood floors ... When is the assertive growl-and-fist pump when a sports or other person wins something going to disappear ? Not soon enough. Isn’t anyone embarrassed besides me? ... I looked at National Lampoons from the 70s and realized it was a college-muted Playboy. Each ish had a naked girl and a sexual situation. The new generation was getting its own sex, and it was different. Well ...

Lost Luggage

Daughter Jessie left her DVD folder on the Greyhound coming down from San Francisco. I checked with them the next day: nothing.

Of course, then I remember my friend Vicky saying she found an iPod at the airport and tried to turn it in. “Keep it” the airline clerk said, “or someone who works here will take it.”

On the third hand, my friend Vicki found a Kindle at the drug store where she works. It stayed in Lost & Found til someone said “I don’t know what this is, throw it out.” She gave it to me, me to Jessie. I called Amazon and asked if the owner could be traced through the serial number. “No, it’s yours now” said the official Amazon rep.

I feel bad because it was probably another college student who lost it. But I feel good that we have it. I lose stuff. It’s cyclical.


* Why is “All In the Family” in reruns? The Rush Limbaughish Archie Bunker is not funny. My blood pressure rises at the sight of that family (Meathead is a sorry representative of ‘my side’). Do people now look at it like The Honeymooners? Plenty of bellowing. It makes me sick.

* I record Daily/Colbert every night. That means if I turn on the tv between 8 and 9 a.m., a Comedy Central show will appear.

That’s SO last year. This year that “shoot me” show with David Spade and the banjo player is gone, replaced by ab-toner ads. “Our viewers are sick of entertainment” says the imaginary Comedy Central spokesperson, “so we offer the balm of selling you things.” America thanks you, and wishes you herpes.

* Is the Sy-Fy network so named because people can’t figure out what Sci-Fi means? Like, “What is skee-fee?”

I’m Liberal, But To A Degree

* I don’t wanna go all Ron Paul, but if power corrupts then the larger the government the worse.

Here they’re installing tv’s to catch speeders. That is so 1984 it sends me shivers. It isn’t about safety, it’s about collecting money - $450 is the amount I’ve seen. Goddam bastards. What really shocked me was that Arizona had already tried this. Ari-goddam-zona with its rebel independence 4 was the state, along with Montana, that had no speed limit until 1974. But it, at least, is retracting this gov’t punishing program.

4 Sometimes the state’s wide-openness, both in geography and thinking, yields sour flowers like the Aryan Brotherhood. But there’s all kinds there.

*An L.A. Times article about a cleanup of the walls on the Los Angeles River called a wall-defacer a “graffiti artist.” They’re blasting his shit off the walls! “Spray can vandal” might be better. I’m really good at shoplifting, so when I’m caught I’ll tell the L.A. Times I’m a “merchandise liberator” ...


I have a friend who takes all incoming calls, speaking long and languorously while someone sits stewing on hold. To live without the anxiety of knowing you’re inconveniencing the waiting person is a state of unconsciousness I dream to achieve. This guy swears by various gurus, perhaps there’s a retreat for this.

But when this schmo begs off a call, he often says “Can I call you back? I’m on long distance,” a faint. far-off and preposterous echo of a time when AT&T charged $4.50 for a 3-minute cross-country call. Faced with that I say “Never mind, I’ll send you a Telex.”

Reading Between the lines

In the June 2008 Smithsonian magazine article about 1930s trick golfer John Montague, his biographer Leigh Montville giddily lists some of the swells who belonged to Lakeside Country Club in Toluca Lake: Oliver Hardy, Johnny Weissmuller, Adolph Menjou, Douglas Fairbanks, Howard Hughes, Charles Coburn, Humphrey Bogart, Randolph Scott, Don Ameche, Guy Kibbee, W.C. Fields, Bing Crosby, Mack Sennett. She calls it “a movieland refuge, a playground, a reward for wealth and fame.”

What is missing in the list, besides women? Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, Paul Muni, Leslie Howard, Shemp Howard. No Jews allowed, you see. It’s still the same there. Jews have the west side Hillcrest Country Club, downhill and over from the Aryan Bel Air Country Club. The Hillcrest was often mentioned on the Burns & Allen and Jack Benny shows. It’s a movieland refuge for refugees.

What Not To Wear

* Melana Ryzik, 11-25-09 NY Times: “ ‘Barf’ Rihanna squealed, at the sight of a pair of pale pink satin Brian Atwood stillettos.” Male readers wondered who manufactured knives covered in pink satin.

* In the 9-3-09 L.A. Times we got a Washington Post article by Lyndsey Layton about a woman dying in a Nevada hospital. “Richard Rivera, a bearish man in sneakers, shorts and a baseball cap, spends his days” at her bedside. He had no shirt?

Clothing description can slip past the eyes of photo editors, who don’t understand squiggly marks unless they’re made accidentally by digital cameras. In the 12-9-09 L.A. Times, Victoria Kim gratuitously describes Larry Flynt “wearing a green tie.” Once again, was that all? More egregiously, the accompanying photo, from another day, shows Flynt in a red tie.

Comes also to mind the Daily Show’s 1-19-10 Wyatt Cenac report from Las Vegas. The stock Vegas pan footage includes a shot of the Rio with Danny Gans on the marquee. He’s been dead a year.

Follow The Drinking Gal

After I was fired from my penultimate record company job, potential successors were asked “You DO smoke dope, don’t you?” Apparently my cordial and I thought collegial interaction during the many pot-filled meetings was considered standoffish. Now it’s apparently a requirement that you drink if you work at the L.A. Times.

That’s a funny turn. In the first half of the 20th century it was a given that a newspaperman’s desk had a typewriter on top and a bottle in the drawer. Today, maybe with the advent of newspaperwomen (female reporters alone seem to walk the bar beat), they watch you swig before hiring you. I reach that conclusion only after a spate of ‘joy of drinking’ articles that have been forthcoming in the paper’s outreach to drinkers.

Here in sousern California we are fascinated by ways liquors can be combined with each other, and with other things. Take the 1-15 piece - three pieces - by Alexandra “Iron Stomach” LeTellier.

On the left page, Matthew Biancaniello is hailed for serving “egg-based drinks in lovely emu eggshells.” (Sounds like W.C. Fields’ breakfast. Hate ugly emu eggshells.) After this, there’s egg on the facing page as Alex goes to ELEVEN OTHER places that mix eggs and hooch. (“Yamazaki whiskey, pure maple syrup, fresh lemon juice and egg whites” sounds particularly vomitory.)

The news is capped with Mr. Biancaniello’s Mr. Wizardlike instructions for a emu-shell gin drink mixed with “cherry liqueur egg-white foam,” with the cautionary note to rinse out the eggshell “a few times to ensure the egg is sanitary.”

Why? Keep it risky so it becomes a sport, like eating blowfish.
Make “Have a drink and BE somebody” meaningful.

Tale of Two Cities

This time I go with the L.A Times. Michael Philips opens his 12-4 review of ‘Everything’s Fine’ with “relief” that actor Robt deNiro has done a serious movie. While I disdain Phillips’ wave-off of comedies as “fluff,” the overall tone is good.

The NY Times reviewer, the estimable Stephen Holden, disgorges an avalanche of perhaps-personal-problem bile: “Warning: A putatively heartwarming dramatic comedy like ’Everything’s Fine’ can be hazardous to your health. The queasiness produced by this sentimental weepie builds into a wave of nausea during its finale, in which a family with the usual array of problems and disappointments (I refuse to use the word ‘dysfunctional’ anymore) reunites for Christmas, all lovey dovey.”

Sounds like that fucking “It’s A Wonderful Life,” where everyone’s happy at the end. “The only emotions we respect are morbidity, fright and failure” Holden imputes to his kind.

Mental hospitals are filled with critics.


That the Tea Party geeks were called teabaggers was a hilarious turn. However, the subject of teabags is dear to me.

Celestial Seasonings “helped” its customers 30 years ago announcing “We’re taking the string and tag off our bags” to save you money, save the environment, etc. I knew this was bullshit - prices did not drop - but these days I have several types of stringless tea and when one falls to the side unnoticed I have no idea what kind it is.


I like Maureen Dowd’s writing in the NY Times. I WANT to like it. But a few years ago she wrote a column that berated men, generally, for not hitting on her. It said, essentially, “A guy said to me that nobody wanted to date me because I was too sharp and intelligent. What is the matter with all you men out there?”

My regard for her earthrocketed 5 . The expansion of one man’s comment to all mankind is so ... well, when you spray generalities you must bear the consequence of your recklessness - in this case, losing my custom!

A while ago I started peeking at her stuff, then resumed reading it. Til Jan 13. That day she complained about big shots in Hollywood: “In a town where nobody makes less than they’re worth, and most people make an obscene amount more, there was only one topic of discussion,” a tv executive’s mistake. I do not take offense on behalf of Los Angeles - the town to which she refers is “show biz.” But still ... “nobody” and “most people” is stupid and irresponsible.

Where do you see reckless and shallow criticism of NY? Not in the NY paper, or here. Not because anyone is restraining himself: NY is venerated, period. So it’s time I do it Dowd-style.

“In a town where everyone is rude, the weather stinks, living quarters are smaller than prison cells, Donald Trump is respected, stolen goods are sold on the street, idiots cheer when you say ‘Brooklyn’ and everyone’s addicted to drugs and trying to con you it’s no surprise that suckers line up in the rain for $1500 socks stamped with a designer name.” I don’t believe this slander by omission; I love New York. It’s just turnabout for how all writers east of here toast our town.

The last graph includes “one TV writer” and “Another.” She shouldn’t’ve skipped that ‘sourcing’ class in J-school.

5 Can you “spike” down? Regardless, not a word you’ll find here.

New Yawk!

In a Smithsonian magazine article about why people love their town, the gal (a non-native) 6 celebrating New York City says “and when we see celebrities, we don’t make a fuss or even stare at them. That’s what Jackie Kennedy liked about New York!”

Name dropping in this context is hilarious; its obvious she’s atwitter when she sights stars. Also the notion that NY is the only place with celebrity-sighting civility. Of course, the last time I saw a celebrity here I pushed him to the ground and covered him with kisses screaming “Look, look, the guy from Entourage!”

6 New York is like France 7: founded and constantly replenished by immigrants. Who can forget the 1977 SNL skit blasting “Escape From New York” done by NY chauvinists from Chicago, Toronto and L.A.? When you take a Gotham address you’re handed an egg cream and a Yankee cap and you’re in!

7 There is no national genotype: it’s a hodgepodge.

Every Darn Girl Does Fine

In the 1-3-10 L.A. Times, two women are hailed unsparingly. Mind you, all Entertainment features are worshipful. It’s a suck section where publicists are repaid for the prizes they award writers and editors. Hence no “Yoctum Squeegie, the worst movie company president ever” or “Sally Squatso, her new movie will fail (with photos)” or “Bernardine Brando/Susquehanna Spielberg/Susie Spelling - They rode to stardom on Easy Street.”

But still. The Robin Abcarian piece on Tina Brown lists her triumphs last century and her struggles this one. ‘But many people say she’s on the right track now’ is the theme. In other words, she has not succeeded. And for this she gets an entire page.

Abcarian writes giddily about a ‘scandalously decadent’ party Brown held in 1999 at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Were pigs skinned and their heads donned as masks? Was human blood drunk? What national monuments will she defile next? Lincoln Memorial? Arlington National Cemetery? Decadence sounds cool to teens and teeny-brains.

Likewise, same ish, a gal who heads the History Channel is hailed for the station’s success - with an aside that “some might” object to that station’s abandonment of history for the better-ratings DaVinci Code and Ghost Stories that besmirch the station’s character. She’s a success! That’s what counts.

These Are The Times Of L.A.

Jan 21, Chuck McNulty (who?) wrote a stinging, stinking rebuke of Paul Reuben’s re-staged Pee Wee Herman show. It was in the first person, like “Hey, Pee Wee, you’re getting a little old, aren’t you?” Not his words, but as puling. It was an open letter, like we all know and love McNutty. Who do the editors think readers like - Pee Wee or McFutzy? The familiarity he employs is arrogant and insulting and self-spotlighting. Stating smugly, as if untrue, “One of my jobs as a critic is to make richer, more talented people feel bad about themselves” filled me with hatred for the sneering McNothing ... Regarding the closing of the cosmic Bodhi Tree book store, reader Michael Gastaldo writes 1-25 that he loved wandering around the place with a complimentary cup of tea. No wonder it’s closing, with freeloaders like him ... Not since the article speculating what would be in Sarah Palin’s book have I read as fulsome dithering as that from Dawn C. Chmielewski and Alex Pham (it took two!) blue-skying about the then-unseen Apple book-reading thing in the 1-25 Business section. “Executives wonder,” “widespread speculation,” “Pundits and analysts have guessed,” “remains a question.” Why write anything if you know nothing? ... John Glionna has the whore beat. Mid-2009 he wrote complaining about the quality of customers at brothels in the Philippines, now in the 1-26 “World” section he’s uncovered sexual sordidness in Tokyo (“Trying to Tame Tokyo’s Adult Playground”). I expect at least a price guide for all the travel money he’s getting ...
The L.A. Times is laying off writers here willy-nilly apparently to strengthen their force in NY. January 31st when you turned to the “Nation” news, 60% of the space was taken up with a story about a 116-year-old tavern in New York. (Some NY news gets here slower than others.) This breakout was filed by heretofore newcomer Baxter Holmes. Welcome abroad! It’s no wonder it gets so much space: it concerns L.A.’s two favorite things, New York and drinking.

Now Pitching

There’s a tv ad with two dopes up to their hip boots in cranberries urging you to buy some. Nobody remembers the 1980’s (90’s?) ads with guys standing hip deep in almonds? It had the same angle - ‘Buy this shit because we have so much of it.’ Cranberries are surely the harder sell, but the almond one was more dictatorial: “Just eat a can a week” was their pushy plea.


If Harry Reid says Negro he’s just old and can’t keep up with the word-fashion police. That Bill Clinton had scoffed that two years ago Obama would have been getting coffee for him meant Obama had no experience, he was wet behind the ears. Clinton’s interracial record is unimpeachable.

Obama was wrong blaming the Supreme Court for confirming corporate rights. If a corporation is a citizen, it has a citizen’s rights. The problem is the ridiculous decision to grant them citizenship 100 years ago. This is what must be addressed.

And the banks came with their hands out saying “I’ve done wrong, please forgive me and help me” and got money. Then they told cardholders “You’ve done wrong. We’re punishing you. Your 5% rate is going up to 29%.” Isn’t it Isla Vista time again? Been 40 years.


The piercing interviewer, Jan 4, asks, about the man who murdered his wife and two kids and self, “Do we understand there were some relationship issues in the family?”

Google Maps

Aren’t they great? Just information. Or maybe not. I entered a search for a Verizon store and got two 8 in the area. I zoomed in on one. It showed an enormous two block ... empty lot, with a teardrop, maybe mine, designating the store. Way at the opposite end of the lot was Joe’s Gift Shop. So there are just two stores in 4 square blocks of downtown Burbank?

Oh. It is a huge mall, full of stores. But Google will identify yours only if you pay them.

8 Tho the Verizon locater shows the two sites as equal, the one in the mall is a kiosk that does near-nothing. You learn that only after you park and roam the mall looking for the store.

Doin’ It Doug-Style

I met Bruce Ravid, who signed the Knack to Capitol, at Doug Fieger’s house recently. Doug is holding his own in his cancer fight, sleeping more than you or me but alert and ambulatory.

I told Bruce that at Capitol Records in 1973 I set up college radio phone interviews for Yoko Ono for her new album. ‘Then we’ve met already” he said. “I was a dj at the University of Wisconsin then. I interviewed her. You must be the guy that said here she is.”

Small world, me and Bruce.
“Small Wonder” is the Doug Fieger solo album.

Quelle Fromage!

The Brits are known for mispronouncing french. It’s not a mistake, it’s an attitude. Why else pronounce beauchamps “beecham”? All in good fun, in disrespect for France.

We had ours, too, in L.A. For the first part of the last century the official pronunciation of the city was loce angle-ees. Sam Yorty was the last mayor to employ that peculiar mangling. It was chosen, most certainly, to distinguish “us” from Spanish-speakers.

But on a recent BBC tv promo, a flash card bragged that they had many “bureaux” around the world. How the hell do they pronounce that? To leave the x silent would be ... french. Boo-ree-awks?

Fine Words

From the CD box, “The Magic Touch: The Platters Anthology, 1991.”
Herb Reed of the Platters:

“But because of our music, white kids had a sense of fair play about blacks long before the Civil Rights movement. We were invited to a lot of homes by kids whose fathers looked at us like we were going to steal the goddam refrigerator. The music broke down the barriers. It opened a lot of doors to a better understanding. And it gave us, five kids from Watts, a taste of a better life.”

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Harpo Marx’s spoken debut at the Pasadena Playhouse, 1964

“Now, as I was about to say in 1907 ...”

- 57-

Mark On the Move

I remember reading an article about folksinger Greg Brown in The New Yorker some time ago, but despite my interest I never saw him play live until Jan. 28 in Nevada City. (I went back to The New Yorker’s digital archive and found the piece in their Nov. 27, 2000 issue, written by Matt Dellinger and called “Beef Stew.” He wrote that Greg’s “made a career out of not making a career” and detailed how he founded Red House Records, rarely played shows in major markets, and generally let his impulses be his guide. As the rebel son of a Pentecostal minister, he seemed to carry deep ambivalence about his place in the world.)

Brown is known to tell lots of stories on stage, but few have made it onto his couple dozen albums. Though I have five from the last few years, the first few songs at his show at Nevada City’s Miner’s Foundry were new to me. Accompanied by guitarist Bo Ramsey, Brown half-sung, half-recited them in a gruff baritone, swallowing his syllables like Tom Waits, and my first reaction was “what’s the big deal?” Unlike me, people in the large crowd were clearly familiar with his shtick, greeting him with raucous applause and requests. Then he did “Blue Car,” a song I knew from his “Covenant” CD and it began to click for me. He enunciated the lyrics better, and there were striking images and a laconic sadness to his delivery (“it’s a good old car/but the clutch is a little loose/and the brakes are screaming/a song called what’s the use” and “I’ll close my door against the wind/I’ll park my old blue car/I may fall down the mountain/But I will never fall in love again”).

He then ran off a half-dozen songs of high quality and power, including “Summer Evening,” “Canned Goods” and “’Cept You & Me Babe” (with the great opening verse “Half the people you see these days are talking on cellphones/Driving off the road and bumping into doors/People used to spend quite a bit of time alone/I guess nobody’s lonely anymore/’cept you and me babe”). When he got into character as a half-drunk preacher at a graveside service for “Inabell Sale” he included us as pallbearers and reached a peak of creativity, improvising parts on the fly with the sardonic humor of Lord Buckley, Lenny Bruce or Tom Waits. By the show’s end I’d learned that the big appeal of Brown’s songs was the jerry-built blending of hardship and cynicism with celebrations of life. His voice is rougher, but his ability to connect seems to be undiminished. He won me over.

In Nevada City I belong to an organization called South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) which was formed in 1983 to fight a dam project that would have devastated the local Sierra watershed. After the battle was won by the tree-huggers, the group stayed together, and now among other activities sponsor the yearly Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City during January. Hundreds of people from around the world submit documentary films and attend screenings, and the event has become a place to get very depressed about the state of the Earth. This year I saw eight films in a day-long marathon, whipping me between feelings of utter powerlessness and sudden bursts of optimism.

The 3-minute short “Lady Bug Swarm” was a cute little piece with a toddler puttering around with plants covered in the bugs. “Flathead Wild” showed manificient scenery in Canada that’s being threatened by mining interests and “Call of Life: Facing the Mass Extinction” featured various smart people (Stanford’s Paul Ehrlich, paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey, biodiversity expert Norman Myers) explaining how everything’s going to hell in the next forty years if we don’t do something about plant and animal extinctions (Leakey suggested humans could also be on the list). In “Bag It,” an average schmoe resolves to stop using throwaway plastic bags, and this leads into an examination of how much plastic crud is gumming up the ecosystem, getting into our food, and messing with our internal organs. I was energized enough by this one – which did offer some simply personal actions that can make a difference – to momentarily feel like the world might not end after all. But it was followed by “The End of the Line,” based on journalist Charles Clover’s book of the same name, which chronicles the catastrophic loss of ocean life from pollution and overfishing. The situation is dire (we will very probably run out of seafood entirely by 2048) with ripple effects through other species and consequences for our global health.

Fortunately, the trend of Wild & Scenic films this year was to focus on activism, rather than just freak everyone out, so nearly every film is tied to a website and/or organization that is doing something positive about the problems. You can get more information and follow links to some of the films at www.wildandscenicfilmfestival.org.

-- 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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