- December 2010 -

Other Fein Messes
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First Concert/Record

I was fourteen and living in Edinburgh, Scotland. Richard Harris (no, not that Richard Harris) was eighteen and visiting us with his parents. He had tickets to see Peter Sarstedt at the Usher Hall that evening and his friend canceled at the last minute. Take Vicky, urged the grown-ups, and very graciously, he agreed. I felt like a million dollars (well, pounds, I guess) and very special. I loved the hit Sarstedt had recently taken to the top of the charts, “Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?” - it was the perfect song for a fourteen-year-old girl. It had a sad story and was very romantic. And Peter Sarstedt, younger brother of the more famous Brit pop star, Eden Kane, was dreamy – half British, half Indian, he had dark good looks and thick wavy black hair. I could scarcely believe my luck: and to cap it all, I was going to see him in the company of an eighteen-year-old boy!

I put on my best dress which I don't remember now but probably had ruffles somewhere on it and a high collar. We took a taxi, and I still remember my giddiness as we approached the Usher Hall (the scene of later high-school concerts and prize-givings I was to participate in, wearing my school uniform – an odd thought). Richard was a gentleman and treated me very sweetly. He chatted politely with me while we waited for the show to begin, and I felt very worldly. The opening act was the Humblebums, a comic Scottish folk trio with two members who went on to fame and fortune soon afterward. Billy Connolly was one of them, Gerry Rafferty, the other. I enjoyed them and laughed a lot at “The Welly Boot Song” and others.

But I was on the edge of my seat for Sarstedt. He didn't disappoint. He was as gorgeous as this gawping fan had hoped, and I happily sang along to his hit. He also performed his upcoming release, “Frozen Orange Juice,” which I didn't like as well, possibly because in Scotland we had no need for frozen orange juice and I therefore had no idea what he was talking about. The next day I couldn't stop talking about Peter Sarstedt and Richard Harris. I actually think I may have been as impressed by Richard as I was by Peter.

Now I have a confession to make. The very next concert I attended was the Rolling Stones at the Rose Bowl on their Voodoo Lounge tour. A friend was visiting from England and her brother-in-law was managing Smashing Pumpkins at the time, so he got us good seats. I might never have gone otherwise. I turned 40 at midnight at that concert. It rocked and so did I. OK, OK, so it took 26 years for me to realize how much I enjoy live performances. Now I go a lot!

At eight years old I saved up six shillings and eightpence (about 50 cents) to buy my first 45. It seemed to me to be a really important thing to do, but I had no idea what I wanted. The Beatles had just poked their mop-topped heads above the surface, but I was scarcely aware of them. All I knew was the music my parents listened to, which was swing and light jazz. But the money was burning a hole in pocket, so I selected a record that I was vaguely familiar with and was doing well in the charts. It was “Washington Square” by Kenny Ball, with a B side of “The Music Goes Round and Round.” The A side was eminently forgettable ( I have no recollection of how it went,) but the B side had a monotonously repetitive chorus that I can’t get out of my head now that I have dredged it up from the memory banks. I played it a lot because it was all I had.

I soon caught up with the Beatles, however, and bought most of their 45s (by which time the price had gone up to an extortionate seven shillings and threepence - about 60 cents). I remember capering madly about my living room with my best friend Sue Dixon to the EP of “Twist and Shout,” “A Taste of Honey,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” and “There’s a Place.” I couldn't afford LPs. A few years later a friend took pity on me and lent me a couple, and I became obsessed with them. They were “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “Disraeli Gears.” I played them until the needle almost wore through the grooves. I memorized the lyrics, made out with boys to them, and wrote anguished (and bad) teenage poetry with them playing in the background. I held onto them for over a year and was devastated when Jimmie asked for them back. I can still feel the disappointment and loss as I reluctantly handed them over. I kept hoping he would tell me I could keep them after all, but he didn't.

Victoria Stanton remains and probably always will be a music rookie, but has delusions that one day she will know what she is talking about.  When she is not battling that steep learning curve, she works as a school psychologist in a high school.

Another Fein Mess
AF Stone’s Monthly
December 2010

La Ronde

A comedian on tv said “People in L.A. don’t drive like in my home town. Where I come from, if someone needs to get in your lane near an exit you wave them in. Here it’s DON’T YOU DARE CUT IN FRONT OF ME, YOU GO TO SAN DIEGO AND LIKE IT.” I found it funny, and not funny at all.

When you take Franklin west from Vine Street in Hollywood, there are two lanes, the left for going straight on Franklin, the right for right-turners. The right lane is enormous. Every day as I sit 15th in line in the left lane, confident that I will make the green light at the bottom, someone roars up the right and runs to the front and puts on a left turn signal imploring “Let me in?” My wait in line is filled with anxiety. When I am at the front and charged with the butt/don’t-butt choice, I hug the bumper in front of me and point to the back of the line, which I suppose the comedian finds rude.

Then in the October 3 NY Times ‘Sunday Routine’ page, reader Alice Dubois penned a piece that opened “I am waiting, more or less patiently, in the right lane of the southbound FDR Drive, crawling toward the exit for the Brooklyn Bridge.” As the piece was titled, “Line-Cutting, on Four Wheels,” I was intrigued. As she watched lane-jumpers scamper ahead and dive 1 into her line she imagined her car topped with a megaphone manned by James Earl Jones who says “I see what you did, driver of the burgundy PT Cruiser. You should be ashamed of yourself.” A woman after my own heart, she also envisioned the driver then pulling over, apologizing to everyone in line and throwing his drivers license into the East River “vowing to take public transportation for the rest of his life.”

I have a friend in Brooklyn.

1 Forgive my geographical ‘racism,’ but I imagine in NY they don’t ask “Let me in?”


A song came up on my iPod. I liked it, and the voice was both familiar and distant, like I hadn’t heard it in a long, long time. It was Tom Waits, ‘Grapefruit Moon.’ I had liked that album the year it came out, and met him around that time, through Chuck Weiss. We weren’t close, but friendly. I say the voice was unfamiliar because it comes from 1976 when he HAD a voice. How well I remember his return to the Troubadour after a long european tour. Where his singing had been enchanting it now was gravel. I hoped the damage wasn’t permanent, but it was. He has made a career with the new one, so it was a blessing ... Gil T, former Rhythm Pig, lead man of the Dime Bags, has returned to Austin with his familia. Why does he ping-pong between the two lowest-paying music cities? ... Chuck Weiss has finally recorded the songs he does in his shows - Dead Man’s Shoes, Bad Jews In Malibu, others - at Village Music. Why way cross town in Santa Monica? “I had to do it analog. I just can’t get with that digital sound” ... Doug Fieger told me that in the mid-1970s, sometimes the night shift at the Licorice Pizza record store by the Whisky was him, Joan Jett and Matt Groening ... Since I don’t subscribe to the Cajun News, I didn’t know Zachary Richard suffered a stroke October 17th. He’s said to be healing. I heard about it from his friend James Trussart, the guitar-maker ... Ogling “Back to the Future” on Thanksgiving I couldn’t help re-notice that when he lands in 1955 the Chordettes song “Mister Sandman” is playing, and a Chordettes album is in the record store window. Trouble is the version playing is not the Chordettes, and the album is an 80’s reissue on Ace Records from England. HOW DO THESE FILMMAKERS LIVE WITH THEMSELVES!!!!! ... Speaking of films, sometimes I get jokes late. The villain of “Naked Gun 2 and a Half” is Robert Goulet, and the co-star is Priscilla Presley. It’s an oft-told tale that Elvis shot out a tv screen when he saw Robert Goulet on it. Other music gag: when Lt. Dreblin cuts in on a couple on the dance floor, the man who storms off is Mel Torme. (Oh, I suppose you watch PBS in your kitchen) ... A current Nikon commercial with Orson Koocher has a cameo closeup of him and Michael Des Barres, to what dramatic end I know not. Michael looks perturbed.

Rock Of The Aged

My friend Marcus says “I missed out on the beginning of rock & roll. I should have been born in 1946.” He’s from 1952. I feel I should have been 1945 so I could have gotten into music as Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino emerged. Lucky ‘45ers ... Somewhat startling to see Davy Jones on the cover of “Life After 50,” the monthly magazine given way at drug stores. He and his newest wife are doing fine. He’s 15 years past 50, she’s fewer past 20.

Rock Wrongers

Pat Pemberton (??) of AOL offered “Thanksgiving Turkeys,” ten songs that he/she says were awful. The review included the words ‘middle-of-the-road’ and ‘adult/contemporary’ so Pemberton is a rock writer. On this holiday of thanks, what AOL editor assigned a snot to insult music? Performers and admirers of the songs got no pleasure from the assaults, while Pemberton’s star becomes - remains? - tarnished. Heed the words of Rufus and tell me something good, Peepee ... Wow. Richard Corliss’s review of the Keith Richards book in the Oct 28 issue of Time said that Keith and Mick formed the Rolling Stones. Perhaps Corliss began listening to them in the 70s, and not seeing Brian Jones’ name never heard of him, nor read the new book 2 . But in Time’s online version he owns up to Brian’s part, though not calling him the founder. Maybe I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

2 A newspaperman in Balzac’s ‘Lost Illusions’ goes to a book store with a colleague who is selling his copy of a book that he reviewed. In the mid-18th century book pages were sealed, folded at the outside, so after you slit them open, two pages at a time, the book was rendered used. When he asked the reviewer why none of the pages were cut, he replied “I pried them open and peeked a bit. It was enough to write a review.” 3 Maybe Corliss embraces this 150-year-old tradition.

3 My recollection. Balzac wrote it more elegantly.


Why do they call it “Alzheimer’s”? Did he copyright it, like those women with ‘Happy Birthday?’ I haven’t heard “senile” in 20 years. Or maybe I have ... On CSPAN, a guy describing how the news of Abraham Lincoln’s reelection spread through the country says “Remember, this was before Twitter, before the internet.” I’ll try and keep that in mind ... An issue of the UK magazine Mojo dedicated to Frank Zappa quotes several journalists. A press release from one writer claims that Mojo calls it “A fulsome tribute” to Frank Zappa. Did every writer include a line about objectionable body functions? Frank talked about poo-poo once in a while, but cheez ... a piece about Al Jardine says a recording studio “informs and impacts” a recording. Current-cliche slammin’! ... Colbert, on 11-17, asked a guest if the Siberian forest was “degradated.” One too many syllables, Steph ... Online, the L.A. Library - the Library - asks you to make a ‘reservation’ for a speaker’s appearance by filling out a form and putting it in a “Cart.” At the end they demand your credit card. “Buy” or “Purchase” is not in the current administration’s vocabulary,” preferring to disguise the untidy business of business ... Reviewing my old tv shows I see that as early as 1985 I chided people saying “quintessential.” It wasn’t new then, it was old school. I’m an iconoclastic pundit. That’s my backstory. You take care. Have a nice day.


The 11-9 NYTimes Arts section’s big story hailed Warner Bros. Records for “unearthing a cultural trove” in its own archives. Meaning they looked at the junk in their closet. Bravo! I recently looked at some boxes I keep in storage - Should I call the paper?

But like Andy Kaufmann’s unremarked-upon go-for-cookies concert in L.A., it only happens if it happens in NY. In this decade, persons of my acquaintance in L.A. worked in the WB Records vault. sorting and evaluating its contents, then shipped it to NY where the result of their inquiry, along with others’, was plumbed and ‘discovered.’

L.A. is Leif Erickson to NY’s Christopher Columbus.

The Night Life

November 1st went to Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance as always the first Sunday of the month at Joe’s American Bar & Grill in Burbank. Lightnin’ Willie lived up to his name, as always. (Ronnie’s next bash there is December 6th) ... November 3rd was the SXSW reception at the Sunset Marquis. Sat with Kim Fowley for a while. He walks with a cane, fighting cancer, but nothing slows him. He chatted with/at me and Paul and Nancy Body for a while. Then someone brought over Buzz Cason. “Very pleased to meet you” said the Memphis songwriter, and I said “Buzz! You were on my tv show! We’re friends with Paul Hampton!” Shocked, he sat down. Next to be shocked was Paul. He knew that Buzz was co-writer of “Everlasting Love,” the Robert Knight song, but when Cason mentioned “She Shot A Hole In My Soul” by Clifford Curry, “Sandy” by Ronnie & The Daytonas and “Cry Baby Cry” by Van & Titus Paul’s eyebrows went up to where his hairline once was. “I gotta get my picture taken with you” he said, and Nancy snapped us.

jpeg Buzz, me, and Body

Buzz also reminded me that he was called Gary Miles 4 when he sang “Look For A Star,” Liberty Records’ American copy 5 of Gary Mills, the Brit who sang that song in the UK movie “Circus Of Horrors.” After that I went to the Viva Cantina to see Troy Walker 6. Every chance to see him is precious, he is so good, so funny, and so grateful to be playing after twelve years’ hibernation. I spent plenty of pre-show time there with Tom Kenny and his wife Jill, Allen Larman, King Cotton and others ... Nov 6th Body held his retirement party at his crackerbox palace. He’s worked part time at Video Journeys in Silver Lake for 16 years and says now it’s time to kick back. Guess he thinks The Reaper’s knocking. There was no evidence of that at the party, though I got an alarming slice of reality sitting on the couch watching Paul’s farewell video. Next to me was a woman of 30 with her 9-year-old son, and when on-screen Paul spoke about the Troubadour the woman leaned over to her son and said “That’s a club grandma and grandpa used to go to.”

“This is my party and it freaks me out” says dialogue-quipper Paul Body.

I wasn’t there when Dave Alvin dropped in at 6:00 - I took “Party Ends At 5:00” literally, silly me. It was a Saturday night so I went home and got ready to see Chuck Weiss at the Piano Bar again. Can’t get too much of Chuck E ... Next day my friend Kathe and her bf David took me (as a certified “lonely guy” friends take me out like I’m a shut-in) to see a production of “Merrily We Roll Along” at the Presbyterian Church in Hollywood. I like Sondheim, but didn’t like this a whole bunch. Not that I’m sorry I went, it was fun ... A few night later I went to a friend’s house to see “Ladies & Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones,” the documentary movie of a 1972 concert, out on DVD. I’m not much of a Stones fan, so lacking fascination with the guy Paul calls “Barney Fife” this visually monotonous epic was tedious. I sat next to a guy introduced as a cinematographer, and as the film progressed I leaned over and said “I’m no film expert, but if the lighting and photography on this thing is bothering me I’ll bet you’re going out of your mind.” “Dreadful, isn’t it?” he said. Later I found he, an Englishman, had been the lensman on some of the most important rock docs in history ... Friday June 12 I went to an art opening for my friend John Tottenham, whom I’d always known one-dimensionally as a writer. His drawings and paintings covered many white walls at a space next to a sport-shoes store in a nondescript part-American area south on La Cienega and a great celebration and gathering was at hand. Jenny the thrush and ivory-tickler from the Dusk Devils came along and we ran into many people we know, including to our surprise the surprised Phil Alvin. Much fun was had. Then we went over to a club mysteriously hidden behind Amoeba Record to attend Rodney Bingenheimer’s Rock & Roll show featuring my idol Ruby Friedman. We got in a little late and caught only two of her songs, but two of her songs is worth a hundred of anyone else’s ... the next night I went to the Mojo Monkeys’ CD release party in a loft in downtown L.A. I hadn’t done the downtown-loft thing, or gone downtown at night, for about 20 years, so my eyes were wide at the development there. The Staples Center/Nokia Theater district is marked by a hotel that looks like it belongs in Dubai and a wide street area marked by big lighting like the Ginza or downtown Las Vegas. Maybe Blade Runner. The pinball-machine decor is a good one to lure young people with money. “My” party was on the less lush Maple & 8th (streets often rife with lushes), up three flights to a big open factory room floor with a band setup and $5 cover charge. I drafted in behind a working musician, and ping-ponged around til I found King Cotton holding up a ceiling-post. That became the anchor from which I branched around the room squeezing among about a hundred people. After the band played some of us migrated to the roof and looked at big bldgs and other roofs (rooves?) by night. Fun enough, and way different, for me. In the early 80’s I scratched my head in bewilderment when people refurbished factories on dangerous streets down there. That they’re still doing it and still attracting ‘settlers’ still baffles me ... Nov 14 went to a book reading by Janice Shapiro at a house in Pacific Palisades and rubbed elbows with literati old and new (to me). Bought a copy of her book, Bummer, because it’s so good ... Nov 16 went to see Janice again in a public place, Skylight Books on Vermont, same story, different people.Then to TAIX to see “Guitarists In The Round,” Dan Janisch, Brian Whelan, Danny Durst and Tony Gilkyson. A whole lotta songwriters singing their songs and playing their guitars, daisy-chain style. It took a lot of energy - mine - to concentrate so much so after a while I went to see Rip Masters at Joe’s American Bar & Grill in Burbank. Rip wasn’t there: he had played the previous Tuesday, crazy guy, and this was a swing-dance night, hosted by Mark Tortorici, that fairly entranced me. Onstage was an 8-piece band dressed in fedoras, white shirts, suspenders and pleated pants doing what they should - “Mellow Saxophone,” “Choo Choo Ch Boogie,” etc. The attendees were mainly in their 20s’, about 1/3 of them Chicano, some guys in flat-caps and coats like James Cagney in “Public Enemy,” some gals in crinoline dresses. The scene was vibrant with breeding folks, and an attractive lot they were. The pool table was “run” by a guy who wasn’t very good, by his own estimate, who kept winning when the other players were worse. It was fun for me and Jim Dawson, the elders, to watch ... Nov 17 went to see the magnificent Troy Walker again at Viva Cantina, this time holding a table for eight for Julien Nitzberg, director of “Wild Whites Of West Virginia.” He came with Jesco White, the film’s star, and a passle of West Virginians involved in the production.

Jesco, the Wildest White, and Julien Nitzberg,

The visitors goggled at Troy’s wild show, which had a couple of heavy moments because Troy said that a bad financial investment - he has been working in voiceovers and commercials - has left him penniless. But, the trouper went on. (Jonny Whiteside’s fantastic and breathless paean to Troy, from 1999, is at http://www.laweekly.com/1999-09-23/music/ladyboy/3/) ...

Troy Walker keeps on keepin’ on

Nov 18th went to a Body & Muffler shop on south La Cienega that is nothing like what it says, a large space formerly occupied by one now used for Hollywood parties. (Never saw so many gals around 21 in tight skirts and high heels: were they cineastes or rentals?) The party was for the dvd release of “Wonderful Whites,” and I reencountered Julien and the West Virginians along with Deke Dickerson (who scored the film) and his band. Had some strange barbecue and left early at 10 pm because I knew that soon 150 people would be outside trying to get their valet-parked cars back and I wanted to beat that rush ... Friday night I went to the Writers Guild to see Penn Jillette interview, and honor, Stan Freberg, who has been making personal appearances aided by his wife Hunter. Since Stan is a little slow on the uptake, Hunter fills in with not a touch but a fistful of her own observations and personal info.

Stan The Man

He needs the help, she supplies it, but the room’s blood pressure rose every time she intruded with a story about herself while we hung on every word from Stan’s mouth. He half-recited John & Marsha, talked about producing the Contadina tomato paste commercial with Ann Miller, railed about some stupid people at Capitol Records, told anecdotes about Johnnie Ray and Lawrence Welk and Harry Belafonte, reminded us that his time on CBS network radio in 1957 was cut short by his refusal to take cigarette or alcohol advertising. He also told us that in the late 1960’s he went to London and was a guest on a tv show, and after his stint he was hurried off into the audience to clear the stage for John Lennon. When Lennon came on, he spotted Stan in the audience and asked why he wasn’t still on the stage. He also said that Lennon asked him to take over the management of Apple - but he declined because he wouldn’t move to London. His only mistake that night was occasionally explaining his work - everyone in the room already knew everything he ever did 6 ...

Getting Stan’s John Hancock

Afterwards the Frebergs sold, for $25, and signed the new CD they made together. Some comedians and newspaper people were there, as well as John Landis standing in an aisle near the front, facing the room making sure he was seen as he looked for his seat-mate. He’s no shy violet ... I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with a longtime folklorist friend who hosts this event annually for stray friends. The two Arts sat together - me and Art Podell, late, real late, of the New Christy Minstrels. We faced Jim Dawson (whose new book finally breaks the string of four books about farting - it traces the history and uses of ‘motherfucker’) and writer Elijah Wald ... Sunday night I went to Jonny Whiteside’s Messaround again and saw the Mojo Monkeys and the Groovy Rednecks, but couldn’t stay around for Ruben Guevera, my loss ... November 30th went downtown to see a speech and book-signing by Salman Rushdie, getting in despite having no “reservation” (see earlier beef). It was a fine function.

4 Actually Cason said he was Garry Mills, which is funny - 50 years since singing it he now has a false-identity crisis.

5 L.A. singer Deane Hawley also recorded the song, for Dore Records, after label owner Lew Bedell sent someone to a movie theater to catch it on a tape recorder.

6 In doing research for the 1998 box set, I got a cassette with couple of unreleased Freberg creations. Stan says there are hundreds from the 50’s. Like King Solomon’s mine, these undiscovered riches!

I Watch TV

A cruise ship that lost its power was towed into port and news-crews were all over it. It’s a floating city, and it lost its power. OK, so ... And what about those Chilean miners? They were safe. they were never in danger. Which one won YOUR heart? ... There was an hourlong documentary about the SLA and Patty Hearst in 1974. The shootout occurred in L.A. when I lived here, but it was a blur. The feature interviewed a couple of old tv newsmen: “I remember that guy,” I thought. TV news and weather people are dispatched like the guys jumping out of that zeppelin in “Hell’s Angels.” They go, and they’re never seen again ... Comedian Nick Swardson was so deeply entrenched as the gay rollerskater on Reno 911 that he’s gone overboard proving he’s unattractive. The gay guy was great, the new run of characters serially offputting ... I imagine all cartoons are digitally done now, but I used to watch Babar with my kid and stare, psychedelic-like, at the fluctuations in the color of his broad area of grey skin which “jumped” wildly. Each cartoon cell was hand-colored by teams of people and different paint-batches (the same formula, but with inevitable variations) so characters moved even when they stood still ... One station offers “World War II In Color” bragging that b & w footage has been colorized. It’s the same as 1985 - unconvincing browns and blues. Hasn’t that bad technology improved? Maybe the discovered a cache of it in a trash can so it’s considered historical ... When I heard someone cite Jimmy Doolittle’s 1991 autobiography I said “biography” to Simba, the cat. But I looked on the Interweb. Son of a gun, the guy who flew in World War One and led the 1942 raid on Tokyo died in 1993, age 97 ... btw, Simba took another ride in the engine compartment of my car, to the store and back. I guess I’ll put a basket in there for him.

11-22-10 History ‘n Me

When JFK was shot I was no longer watching tv. Hardly a budding intellectual I was a budding shallow-thinker. (I didn’t get this way all at once, I grew into it.) I felt at first the sadness everyone felt, but I also consulted my noodle. I had read criticism of him. Who knows if it was from the Glenn Beck of that day, I couldn’t tell the difference. But after a childhood of liking Ike without knowing why, I felt it was time to question political leaders, not just follow them. So I pondered in my weak way wondering whether Kennedy was ‘good’ in addition to glamorous. This was cracked and unnatural, stifling my feelings. With everyone crying I felt I had to ‘think,’ and reaching no conclusion fence-sat.

Likewise, I was shocked at MLK’s criticism of the Viet Nam war. At his being uppity. I don’t mean racially uppity, I mean reaching above his stature. He was successful in his field of civil rights, but what, I asked, did he know about the war? I was confused as always and couldn’t understand why this guy was speaking like an international figure. It would be like Mayor Daley demanding German reparations to Jews - who asked him? I didn’t know what was going on in Viet Nam and couldn’t figure how this guy with no consultation with the military or the government could say such a thing.

That’s why nobody consults me on anything.
I have a long history of not knowing what the hell is going on.

‘Round Town

Went briefly to the Sanity Rally, L.A. branch, Oct 30 at MacArthur Park. Bunch of people watching the Comedy Channel broadcast on a huge tv screen. Could have done that at home. Me and Bill Morrison walked over to Langer’s, the long-standing Jewish deli in the heart of a Salvadoran area and split a pastrami sandwich, their specialty. Walking back I saw a guy with a Polaroid camera, and a sign that said “Photo, $10.” This is not unusual at a popular park, but I stared in shock and said “Where do you get FILM for that?” When he realized I didn’t want my photo taken he turned away. Not the one-piece plastic camera, but the middle-period bellows one. I gotta find out.

Jamey Johnson’s country song “Playing The Part” may be about L.A. (I heard a lyric about him preferring Lower Alabama), but the 7:26 (!) video is quite a little look at Hollywood, the town. Not complimentary, wouldn’t ya know, but kinda interesting.

L.A. Times Are Upon Us

In the opening graph of his Thanksgiving piece in the Food section 11-18, Russ Parsons writes that turkey “gets surprisingly little attention” from “most normal people.”
Sound like a setup? Here’s the reveal: “I’m always trying to find new ways to make it even better.” He found the extraordinary man who cares about turkey, and it’s himself ... There’s an alarming trend among Calendar entertainment columnists to stray beyond their disciplines to lecture about racism, homophobia, the Middle East, violence against women, etc. They’ve pushing their luck ... Speaking of which, the murder of a publicist here unleashed a torrent of praise for the victim who was “much loved” by everyone. Well, everyone important to the publicist. (YOU try and get a party invitation from one.) Proof of her great “work” - getting news outlets to publicize films for the film companies that pay her - was attested to by listing the successful films she shilled for. A fuller evaluation would also mention the longer list of failures she handled. Not that they should be shot, but they should not be venerated by the very people they influence (newspaper employees) any more than the Congressional Record should honor “much-loved” lobbyists, who ought to be shot ... In the 11-19 Calendar, Charlie Amter tells us that a NY-based (thank God!) hotel manager is making the Roosevelt Hotel hep.7 The place now has “effortless New York cool.” (NY laidbackness - is there anything they’re not better at?) The managers also run Tao and the Marquee, which he says are two of the most important nightclubs in America. Amter writes what he’s told, and club-owners love him ... Nov 13, Ben Fritz & Amy Kaufman re ‘Burlesque’ - “it's unclear” whether it will succeed or “become a laughingstock like ‘Showgirls’ or Mariah Carey's bomb ‘Glitter.’“ Who are these snickering twerps? Laughingstock? Bomb? They’re monkeys flinging stuff from their cages ... David Freed wrote a front-page Calendar think-piece 11-27 saying movie-guide ratings are wrong because no one likes old movies anymore. “We’re a new generation and we’ve got something to say” says Freed, who avows that a Red Skelton movie (“the plot - if you can call it a plot”) is of no interest to ginchy young stylers like him and his march-stepping Silver Lake likes. He contends that everyone is cynical now, probably because American Apparel isn’t doing well ... and on December 1st, the Times sent Tina Susman to Mitchell, South Dakota, to do a story about The Corn Palace, an old roadside attraction. They should have farmed this one out. We in L.A. hate to miss a day of New York news.

7 His props include working with the gal who Gotham-glammed the pool area there 5 years ago. Remember? The place blared music all night in the courtyard facing the rooms but denied entry to hotel guests? It closed in a contentious, in-your-face months-long New York minute.

Them Darn Words

LATimes, Aug 16, eight deaths at an uncontrolled off-road motor race “raise questions” about safety. “Some” think the Bureau of Land Management is at fault, while “others” think the race’s promoter. This is the same as “Building’s collapse raises questions about its construction” and “People are asking why a 10-year-old was allowed to fly a plane.”

Events don’t raise questions. Questions are always there.
One exception: The purchase of a new car by an internet blogger raises the question of whether he’s selling drugs.

Some standard lines:

“People who died in explosion had no warning”
“Candles lit for dead student”
“Merchants hope for big holiday sales.”
“Flowers placed on sidewalk where person died.”
“Killer was ‘inconspicuous.’ “
”Movie’s success confounds critics.”
“Neighbors ‘surprised’ at bodies found in refrigerator”
“Motorists unhappy about higher gas prices.”
“Dead child was well liked.”
“Many people homeless after flood/fire/earthquake/taxes.”

None of these are news. All are normal events. “Motorists delighted with higher gas prices” is news. Man bites dog.

And, always “Police seek suspect in murder.”

No -- police seek KILLER!

Our Silly City

The police department, lacking any real crime to pursue, has announced “zero tolerance” for jaywalking in downtown L.A. Tickets are $191. Is there a surge in middle-of-the-road scofflaws?

No, the chief Keystone Cop says that pickpockets and muggers often jaywalk to commit their crimes. Jaywalking in L.A., then, is a gateway crime. The police department is like Kato, Inspector Clouseau’s valet, leaping out of hiding places to make us alert and prevent imminent thieving.

The joke is that in doing so the city is picking our pockets.

It’s so hard to find a friend

Two Farcebook people in a week, strangers, have suggested I “include a personal message,” perhaps of gratitude, when responding to their friend request. They included none.

How I long for the days when friends were few but familiar. Now they’re unknown and demanding.


I keep a amall notebook upon my person. At a party, I was scribbling in it when a woman eyed me suspiciously. “What are you doing?” she said.
“Writing down thoughts.”
She wrinkled her brow and said “I have thoughts, too.”
“Yes, but can you prove it?” I said.

Male Version

He put cream and sugar in his coffee and his friend said “How can you drink it that way?”

“It’s like I like my women - sweet and brown.”

- 57 -

Mark’s amiss



I guess one really has to be a smart-ass to name the burros of New York.  Which brings up a pet peeve in this household--LA Times Calendar reviews of what would seem to be fascinating plays or art exhibits.  Wow!  That sounds great!  Let's go!  Then either she or I read the dateline: New @#$%! York!   I suppose some of the more affluent subscribers just call their pilot and instruct him to file a flight plan so they can take the Gulfstream to LaGuardia, and their administrative assistant will arrange for the limo.....

Bob Davis


And then there’s Gene Sculatti:

An occasional column by Gene Sculatti
Well, not always. But here’s the thing: I like New York. You know, the Bronx is up, the Battery down. No really, it’s a hell of a town. But they’ve got this thing there. Kinda their version of what the L.A. Weekly has been doing for three decades or so. Call it ‘local bias.’ Hereabouts, that means our hometown “alternative” paper is mandated by law to relentlessly cover every utterance that falls from the mouths of Exene, John Doe or Henry Rollins, whether or not they’re issuing a new album, book, spoken-word recording or tour diary, acting in a film or on TV, staging a “performance piece” or hosting a radio show or muttering an aside to someone on the paper’s staff.
The Big Apple media gang does this with their anointed heroes too. The latest examples of this  involve fave daughters Fran Lebowitz and Nora Ephron. Last week’s New York Times and last month’s Vanity Fair both ran features on the former, to reveal that she’s  the subject of a new Martin Scorsese documentary. Why?
 The Times admitted that the big Lebo’s credits include but “two slim essay compilations and a children’s book and two long-overdue unfinished books” (hey, I’ve got three!). But, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter blithely explains, her writer’s block is “just sort of fact, like the sky is blue.” Carter, in fact, brokered the film deal, as, you know, kind of a fun thing to do among chums. As the Times  reported, “ ‘In the spring of 2002, I took Fran and all my kids to Disneyland before the Oscar party’ when the idea was hatched, said Carter, a producer of the film along with Ms. Lebowitz and Mr. Scorsese. For three years the director Wes Anderson was attached, but ‘he couldn’t figure out a way to do the film,’ Mr. Carter said. ‘And then we got Marty.’” Like the sky is blue.
Why a movie about Lebowitz? She’s not produced much work, but she seems to be well liked around Manhattan (population 1.6 million), appearing in the picture pages of every issue of Vanity Fair, and apparently giving good talk. “If you recorded all the phone conversations she has in a year,” Gradie told the Times, “you would have five of the best books of satire you could ever publish.” And how about this? Besides bouncing those deadpan bon mots off the Midtown pavement like subway slugs, Lebo habitually dresses as a man and—are you holding onto your monocle?—drives a vintage Checker cab! OK, I guess she is doc-worthy. Plus, she vaguely resembles frequent Untouchables guest actor Mike Kellin.

Franny and Mikey
The latest advertisement for herself from screenwriter/director/novelist/journalist/blogger/wife/mother/cook Nora Ephron is titled I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections. OK, so she does have the credits that Lebowitz lacks. But the question still applies: Why so much ado about her? How much ado? Of the talent behind Sleepless in Seattle, the Times reviewer reminds us,  “She’s like Benjamin Franklin or Shakespeare.” How’s that? Well, “her words are now part of the fabric of the English language. Whenever we talk about ‘white man’s overbite’—another one I use, or at least think, all the time—we’re quoting her.” I’ve been seeing a cosmetic dentist about mine. You fellas too? It’s endemic.
After admitting that, well, yes, I Remember Nothing blatantly snatches and grabs pearls from Ephron’s two or three previous memoirs, the reviewer tells us, “But you can’t hate her. You love her.” I was saying that to my wife just yesterday. Nora is “self-effacing and brilliant.” How do we know? Because the reviewer admits that, “I use lines of hers all the time. Just the other day, my 1-year-old and I were playing with his kitchen set and he picked up the pretend pepper and said, ‘Pepper?’ I held it over his pretend pot of stew and said, ‘Would you like some pepper with your paprikash?’ It just came out. But it was so funny the way Bill Crystal said as much in When Harry Met Sally (written by Ephron, whose script earned an Oscar nomination).”
Nor was the book review the sole example of the Times’ crush on one of its own. This week’s Times Magazine’s ‘Domains’ feature gave two pages to coverage of Nora’s “not huge” Upper East Side pad. Here we plebes learn about Ephron’s of notion of a perfect day, her fantasy career, favorite Lillian Hellman memento (where the hell’s mine? Misplaced again) and most cherished tchochke “found on the set” (movie, not TV).
Enough is enough. It’s even too much. Such surplus fan-boy (or girl) attention to the cha-cha charming members of one’s own neighborhood forms a new kind of First Law of Media Parochialism: Think local, write global. But, really, sometimes the big noise from your block sounds shrill and diminished a couple streets over.

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