- November 2013 -

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Another Fein Mess
AF Stone’s Monthly
November 2013

‘Round town

Un-shy Kim Fowley held court at Whacko!, staying late to take questions and spin tales.

10-04 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass commenced in San Francisco without me. Travel plans were stymied by a snag in lodging availability at my friend’s house. But good for him - a new woman was there in my stead.

10-05 “Invaders From Mars” screened at the New Beverly Cinema. Big bonus was the appearance of Jimmy Hunt, the young hero of the film. He said that he’d done 45 other movies before this, his last. Whenever I’d seen this movie in a theater there were audible gasps when his father, who’s turned into another person, lashes out and whacks the lad. I asked how many takes they’d made of this very realistic smack and he said just one: “I missed my mark and stood too close, so he really socked me.” I brought a copy of Sh-Boom, the nostalgia magazine which Jim Dawson edited in the 90s, that featured a long article about the film. The friendly 70-year-old star autographed it “Gee whiz, Jimmy Hunt.”

10-09 Went to the New Bev to see “The Laughing Policeman,” a not really good movie 1, part of a series curated - just kidding, assembled by comedian Patton Oswalt, who spoke and joked before and after the film.

10-13 Went with Diane to the Redwood to see Skip Heller’s monthly Fools on Stools featuring, this time, Any Celsi, Karen Nash and Skip band-guitarist Owen Jenkins, followed by a set by the exceptionally entertaining musically-constructive Hollywood Blues Destroyers.

10-16 Having not gotten my fill, went to Taix at 10 pm to see Skip Heller’s Blues Destroyers again, this time alone. Good thing, too, bec the 10 pm set didn’t start til after 11. Fun was had, we passed a good time.

10-20 We went to a tony party in Brentwood for the publication of Harold Bronson’s book “The Rhino Records Story.” Saw people I knew, I didn’t, I recognized, I didn’t.
A lot of people from the Rhino years.

Johnny Whiteside’s Messaround featured once again, the ageless human power-plant Jimmy Angel, and the rockin’ Neumans, five youngsters with a stunning grip on 1965, when things were fun, before it got heavy ...

Had another letter published in the Calendar section. At night did not go out and see Chuck E Weiss, and also missed Linda Blair doing a pet-rescue and hunger thing for Halloween night at Viva. I can only do so much!

Things I missed, Damn - Ruby Friedman at the Hotel Cafe, Christopher Lockett at Taix, Ronnie Spector at the El Ray, Russ Tamblyn speaking at a movie theater, big old-car meet in the Valley ...

The movie portrayed San Francisco’s sleazy side. Shot in 1973, it included frequent background shots of the city’s then-new landmark, the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Of the character actors in it, my only “get” was Leigh French, from the Smothers Brothers Show, as a theater cashier.


In 1988, when I heard “(I Remember) In The Still Of The Night” by the 5 Satins on enormous theater speakers in the movie “Dead Ringer,” I was floored by its majesty. Things you know blared at ground-shaking volume assume profundity. When Charlie Feathers’ “Bottle to The Baby” blasted at a rockabilly show a while ago, the music felt so important I would have fought a war for it. When that one was recorded nobody could hear it that loud ... The loudest thing I ever heard at a rock concert was at a Flash Cadillac appearance at a drag strip in 1976. The band was the headlining musical attraction, but the real headliner was a car, or anything but - a full jet engine strapped to a frame. It’s initial blast was deafening and 2 seconds later it was gone ... Prior to that the loudest music I’d heard was the Fugs at Cafe Wha? in June, 1967, when I wandered through Greenwich Village the night before leaving on a plane for my student tour of Europe. It was deafening, but good-deafening ... I had few actors on my tv show. None were beating down my doors, it was just that I wanted to spotlight only music, which is ill-served by our culture, commanding about 10% of the respect of movies. This situation came clear again the other day as I was waiting for the music credits from a movie. Their placement at the very end rubs our faces in its priority. “Here’s that music crap, right after ‘Flowers by’ and the name of the transportation co-captain ... Dave Gold avers that Darlene Love claimed to be Bonnie of Bonnie & The Treasures. He knew Bonnie, Charlotte Metheny, who also performed as Charlotte O’Hara (alright!). She died at 33 ... Preposterous stereo. The first Dylan album had two components, guitar and voice. On the stereo album they were separated left/right, as if he was reaching across an abyss to play. Thank you, technology ... With the passage of much time, perhaps someone today never heard the phrase for a doomed or unlikely project “that will go over like a lead balloon,” i.e. will not fly. The band Led Zeppelin felt they had a poor chance of success, and called themselves that ...

Music reviewers

I am surprised at Randy Lewis’s potshots in his 10-22 LAT review of a Brian Wilson/Jeff Beck show. Expressing dismay that the two ended their show with a duet of “Danny Boy,” he sneered that that fine old ballad - obviously a favorite of Wilson and Beck - “can” be “treacly.” Well no shit, so can any song 2. Then he calls ‘Barbara Ann’ a “doo-wop throwaway.” It’s not doo-wop, and most intelligent people have stopped snickering at pre-Beatle music. Then Lewis asserts that Chuck Berry established a template (with the unnamed, thank you, “Sweet Little Sixteen”) that the Beach Boys “launched into the musical stratosphere” as “Surfin’ USA.” They IMPROVED Chuck’s original? Hardly. Also he crabs, with malice, how band name-owner Mike Love resumed his Beach Boys, the official Beach Boys, without Brian and other founders. Brian has repeatedly said he does not want to be a Beach Boy, and maybe Al and David wouldn’t work for what Mike’s paying.

2 My astonishment lingers. He doesn’t know Conway Twitty’s hit? Nat King Cole’s is famous and lovely. Wait, the great Carl Mann rock & roll version from Sun Studio?

Someone’s favorites tunes were put on a CD and given to a friend. The friend gave the CD to Out Of the Closet thrift store. I bought it for the brilliance of using an the padded-covered 45 album as its cover art. I salute you, Anonymous Giver!

Lou Reed

The media’s emotional hemorrhaging over Lou Reed’s death is a curious phenomenon. People who love Lou REALLY love him, and are bereft. He was inventive and daring in ways that touched many people. He had one hit in 1973 and albums that ran a gamut from sublime to ridiculous.

But like the rock crit who got a big newspaper sendoff a few months back because his admirers were newspaper writers, among Reed’s most adamant fans are newspaperish writerish people. His New York base includes loud people who want their emotions heard, so his sendoff got big play in Gotham-based national media.

TV people read his obit off their teleprompters with puzzled detachment to a viewership largely unaware of him. He was radical, he was forward-moving, he was loved. But Elton John or Rod Stewart will not get the same rending of garments when they go, and they touched more people. Just not the right ones.


* Last year in college, I lived with four others in a 5-bedroom house in Boulder. One guy, Bill Kroeck, was a 40 (!) year old college returnee upon whom all the ‘real’ responsibilities fell.

He had a bunch of ‘50s Broadway albums that opened my eyes to that stuff. He seemed interested, if not enchanted, in the 1967 pop music that blared, but one song set him off laughing every time -- “Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding. Finally I asked him what was so funny.

“He’s screaming bloody murder that you should try tenderness!” I never heard it the same way again.

* I first heard “Old Shep,” the Red Foley tune about a boy whose dog died, on the second Elvis album.

That’s it - dog died, the boy is sad. I was sad, too.

The original, by Red Foley, is a little more stark:

Then one day the doctor looked at me and said
I can't do no more for him Jim
With a hand that was trembling I picked up my gun
I aimed it at Shep's faithful head
I just couldn't do it I wanted to run
And I wished they'd shoot me instead

Finally the kid pulls the trigger, supposedly doing the dog a favor. Fortunately, the dog looked at him with understanding before he plugged him, so it was consensual.


The Dinah Shore Show runs on JLTV, a Jewish cable station that also runs incredible Soupy Sales videotape episodes. I gotta say that the square singing that I disdained in my early rock & roll years looks pretty terrific today. They said Perry Como was relaxed, but Dinah was as smooth and mellow ... Ad for Cialis: “She loves a lot of the same things that you do, and that’s what you love about her.” That’s all? Not “That’s ONE THING you love about her?” No wonder you need help ...
In a Burns & Allen episode Gracie becomes the smartest woman in the world through hypnosis (!) and wins big on a tv quiz show. When she’s unhypnotized just before the final week’s big jackpot, she resumes being dopey. The producers panic and scheme to give her the answers because “the sponsors will kill us if she doesn’t win.” Did anyone then recognize the truth in this de-catting of the 1950s quiz-show bag ?


TV news says ‘militants’ made the attack. Well, few attacks are made by ‘wishywashys’ or ‘undecideds’ ... News writers embrace phrases like “is unknown at this time” and “could not be determined” to say “I could not find out” and “nobody will tell me” ... Janet Maslin, in the 10-16 NYTimes, reviewing a book about Johnny Carson, wrote that it showed “The good, the bad and the ugly” side of Carson. What an egregious cliché. Maybe the section editor inserted it - he/she found it so fresh they made it a pull quote ... The 10-24 LATimes Calendar ran a front-page review (why? Why? WHY?) of a book wherein ex-New Yorkers describe their reasons for leaving. Not only does the reviewer rhapsodize about NY’s eternal appeal (and ‘outs’ an editorial page’s columnist as a NY transplant), he also goes on - ON - about his own rough and emotional departure from New York many years ago. New Yorkers spieling about New York is dog bites man.


Ad for stair-climber that will propel you to lose 30 lbs in 3 months. “Just walking!” says the cheery skinny gal. A weight-loss chart delineates how the machine burns off those pounds, but in the tiny print I caught the figure “12 mph.” That ain’t walking that’s running ... Jessie got a shiny Disney jacket for her 8th birthday. We returned it at the Disney store and got $40 credit machine-stamped on colored Disney-design paper with our address and the clerk’s signature handwritten. Time passed and the receipt, which has been magnet-attached to the refrigerator for 14 years, has faded: all the ink from the cash register has disappeared, leaving just the address and signature. I sent it to Disney and they sent me a $40 gift card. One cheer for Disney.


I never encountered gangsters nor did my working class family, but then we didn’t run a business. My blue collar dad declined to join a union “because it’s run by gangsters".

When a friend in LA told me he went to screenings of ‘Dobie Gillis’ when he was a kid (they recorded the audience reaction) I was struck by the joy of growing up in LA.

Was anything like that available in Chicago? No, just slush, snow, miserable unfriendly people, dark days, humidity, mosquitoes, old smoke-stained businesses, neighborhoods full of old-european ways, everything old. Seeing a tv show before it aired would have sent me to the moon. Why the hell did my family stay in that city?

I admit I have a warped memory of a place many people love. I suppose I just didn’t fit in. Not like L.A. where they run my letters in the newspaper!


“The Invention of Lying,” the 2009 Ricky Gervais movie, starts out very, very funny. The gag - in a town where nobody lies he realizes he can have his way by lying - holds for about an hour. The rest you could skip ... Enjoyed the dvd of “Shoot The Piano Player” so much I watched all the support material til the mixed-sex Criterion commentators, a serious Nichols and May-type duet who struggled to sustain a narrative. So uncomfortable ... Louis Armstrong and his band, at the opening of “High Society,” perform the title song in a bus. The back of the bus ... My friend’s babysitter in the late ‘70s had a job looking in on an old woman who lived in the house Jimmy Durante bought her in Studio City. Apparently he’d quietly arranged for her to be kept after he died ... Nearly every time I go to the New Beverly Theater I see Clu Gulager. On Antenna tv I saw two episodes of the tv series Crisis!. The episode Clu starred in was really exceptional, based on a book by John R. McDonald. I mentioned it to him and he didn’t remember a show by that name. Later I learned Crisis! was the syndication name for Kraft Suspense Theater, 1963-1965 ... The ‘Jeopardy’ category “New York Times Movie Reviews” broke unwanted ground, making humans look at a critic. For each ‘answer’ the eye was assaulted by an Ignatius Reilly lookalike with a deer-in-headlights look intoning “I called it” this and “When I reviewed” that. Maybe for Halloween ...

Business in attitudeland

Hippie businesses had one problem; customers didn’t warm to the idea of paying 3. Their stores were looted out of existence. Now hipster stores rob you. They charge enormous amounts and begrudge you the commodity.

A bakery restaurant in Los Feliz has you wait in line, where you must read rapidly their cluttered magic-marker written menu board: ask for a printed one and they melt you with scorn. Then they ring up your order and request a pre-tip.

The breakfast plate, brought to your table, is neat, designed by an art director. Jelly for your toast half-fills a paper pillholder the size of a grape, the toast is paper thin.

The food is designed for the eye. Want more jelly? The pre-tipped food deliverers will come back when it’s convenient. Simply requesting a second jelly thimble summons up the image of ragged Oliver pleading for “More?”

Also comes to mind a new donut shop, located where the BEST ONE IN THE WORLD once was in Hollywood. It is run now by ... whadyacall it, perennials? milliners? Their $1.25 not-large donuts are coated with a thin cap of frosting carefully measured as if by computer. The ambience is business, not fun.

3 I’ve told this one before. I plan to do it annually. In 1970 or so I went to a organic what-have-you food store in the northern California mountains and ordered a peanut butter and bean sprouts sandwich. The bearded guy (hey, I was bearded) moved in slow motion, fortunate for me, as after he slathered the brown bread with peanut butter he sucked each of his fingers before next applying the sprouts. I yelled STOP!, once again causing suspicion that I was a narc. (I didn’t do drugs, and preferred Jerry Lee to the Dead.) That’s my lot in life, Lalena.


An ad for a new Toyota shows dancers and musicians cavorting alongside 40 years of Toyota styles. It reminds you they always looked like crap ...

Not a Toyota, but a Rolls Royce coupe on Hollywood Blvd, license plate 007.


I got a ticket for a u-turn. I’ve made about a thousand of them since my last traffic ticket, so it’s ameliorated. To schedule a hearing, I took my first ride on the LA subway, from Hollywood & Vine station to the Grand Avenue platform, switching from red line to blue. The second half was on an LA street, i.e. a streetcar. Where am I - Berlin? Some fun ... I am very other-car conscious. Call me a do-gooder. When in a long line with a red light a block ahead, I leave two car-lengths between mine and the car in front so people can turn across it. When I initiate this, 9 times out of ten the car next to me does the same. Likewise, when I see the car in front of me extend into a crosswalk at a stoplight, I brake short so they can back up. Yeah, give me a medal ... Watching a 1957 Swedish movie, it took a while til I noticed they were driving on the left, England style. Then I remembered that my Swedish friend told me about the day in 1963 when at noon everyone switched to the “normal” right side ... Hollywood is mined with $2/hour parking meters. And I hear tell that since the fines are $60 or $100, people are monitoring their meter so conscientiously that the meter-vultures are measuring your confinement within the white lines or distance from curb to keep the revenue flowing ... Not of interest to most people, we who live (for the time being) in a hilly area often squeeze along 2-lane roads which allow one lane for parking. The state law says downhill drivers must yield to uphill cars, but I disagree 4, cars on the parking side have room to pull over, whether uphill or downhill. Others agree. I may get a ticket for it, but doggone it it’s the right thing to do.

4 I have but once encountered an uphiller, in my dead end street, holding his ground for me to back up when I came from above. Finally he, not a resident here, caved. If I had backed up the nearly 45-degree incline I would see only sky behind me and crush any man, beast or vehicle in the path.

I really must learn to park!!!!

I’m a publicity hawg for you, baby

The long-standing L.A. Times rule that the downtown Disney Center cannot be mentioned without “The Frank Gehry- Designed” in front has a distaff partner. Gloria Allred, who defends women, cannot be mentioned without a huzzah like “high profile women’s rights attorney.”

How does one get a high profile? Simple, everyone at the paper agrees to carry you on their journalistic shoulders 5 like Queen Farouk. So it was no surprise that the hed over Patt “The Hatt” Morrison’s Sept 4 half-page interview with her trumpeted “Filner’s nemesis.”

Is she the only lawyer who is charging him? Is Filner presumed guilty just by her opposition? Who cares? She is honored simply for accusing him. She is a titan before whom Filner must cringe -- “Uh oh, he’s in TROUBLE!”

5 :LAT Sept 2, Tony Perry cited a statement by Filner that brought “immediate mockery from his litigious adversary Gloria Allred.” All hail.

Breaking News

It’s old by now, but the banner news in AOL one day in early October was “Woman doesn’t recognize Kanye West.” The following story explained that “He didn’t freak out when the french woman asked who he was.” (Google “Kanye west french woman.”) Who says the internet is an information garbage pit? It’s as valid as tv news here, which reported this story with parallel astonishment.

Seeing is not believing

I don’t remember if I’ve addressed this before.
If so, I’m still boggled.

I asked the eye doctor why the image in the letter-chart projector went first to a mirror, then to another, then finally to the wall.

“Well, years ago eye doctor offices were twenty feet long. You know, 20/20 vision. Today that’s too expensive.”
“So each of those steps is six and two thirds feet apart.”
“That adds up to twenty feet.”
But the image is only seven feet from my eyes.
“Yes. But it’s actually 20 feet away.

How can depth be manipulated ?

The meaning of life

I’ve held out on revealing this too long.
Two things of which I am certain.

1. Some people look like animals because the animal ancestor shows. Julia Roberts looks like a duck. She has no duck features, but has a mien, an attitude, of duckness in her face. Some people look like bulldogs. Heard of someone who’s horse-faced? Predecessors to our humanness left traces which are expressed erratically: It could be in your elbow, your ear, your eyelid. People go through a tadpole stage, are born with tails. We come from the same soup. I realized this long ago, when I dreamt I was being chased and resorted to running on all fours to get more speed.

2. I must be nice to you because I will be you. Our life span is relative. On another planet we’d be older or younger or some such thing, people orbiting the earth for a year come back a hundred years older. We’re all each other. I have wondered why in my life of happiness mixed with rejection and failure and missed cues and betrayals I have not actually suffered. It makes no sense for me to escape capture, torture, starvation, great pain, death, great humiliation, true suffering - there are people who begin life in those straits and never escape. I got this relatively easy ride not as a reward for anything but by a wheel-spin. I’d better be nice to you because I will be you. 

Grit my teeth

Staples phone message:
“Please continue to hold for prompt service ...”


The old-police-car parade is held every October 4th.
Why that date?

Good head

NYT story about presidential bartenders - “Ale to the Chief.”

Alright, let’s kill ourselves ...

Tostitos now come Artisan style.

- 57 -

Mark On The Move
In the eighties I first went to Germany for my job at the Warner Music Group, visiting an affiliate company based in Hamburg.  Since my upbringing included a typical Jewish family’s anti-German sentiment (fueled in no small part by my G.I. father being taken through concentration camps at the end of WWII) I thought being there would feel creepy.  But I found the people friendly and my professional counterparts to be laid-back, generous, dryly funny and (I quickly found out) remarkably ignorant of their history. When I admired beautiful buildings around the lake in downtown Hamburg, one of my German associates told me the city had been spared the heavy Allied bombing of other cities. 

Hamburg, as an important port, had been almost totally destroyed in the war, but then rebuilt in the fifties and sixties to look like the prewar metropolis. The inhabitants live in a theme park version of their own history.
My many subsequent business trips to Hamburg, and a vacation along the Rhine valley, were comfortable enough, but I avoided visiting Berlin, even after the East opened in 1989, until this October.  I finally went to the heart of the Third Reich, despite lifelong nightmares about hiding while the Nazis were after me. 
Berlin has always been a destination for those interested in antiquities (Germany plundered as many Egyptian, Roman and Greek cities as the English), and now it teems with museums, memorials and historical exhibits, often open 24/7 and taking up entire neighborhoods and parks, all of which make explicit the now-unavoidable history of Nazi and Soviet oppression.  Everywhere I went schoolchildren from various countries (and most of all Germany) were being given tours of the sites where so many struggled, suffered and were murdered in the name of ideology.
At times Berlin seemed like a huge well-maintained cemetery with horrific events commemorated at every intersection and public square.  The chillingly-named museum and documentation center (opened in 2010), Topography of Terror, is on the site of the former Gestapo, SS and Reich Security offices, and contains spectacular, detailed exhibits showing how Hitler and his cronies rose to power through assassination, terror, manipulation and the ballot box.  A special exhibit concerned Hitler’s use of the press to distort the truth, whip up anti-semitism and punish anyone who opposed the brownshirts. 

Not far away is the Holocaust Memorial, a massive concrete maze of more than 2000 slabs of different heights, with an irregular, tipped stone walking surface.  Designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman on a football-field-sized outdoor space, this eerie and austere area straddles a subterranean information center, with very moving exhibits in tribute to each of the Jewish communities destroyed, and specific displays on prominent and ordinary German Jewish families who emigrated, were murdered, or survived WWII.
The Daniel Libeskind-designed Jewish Museum traces two thousand years of Jewish history in Germany, in a building that is a visual metaphor of loss.  The zigzagging architectural outline suggests a broken Star of David, its floors are irregular, the walls angled with windows only small gashes that often look out on nothing.  There are traditional art and historical exhibits clustered around three intersections called The Axis of Emigration, The Axis of the Holocaust and The Axis of Continuity.  One narrow, long gallery holds “Fallen Leaves,” an art installation by Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman consisting of more than ten thousand openmouthed faces cut from rusty iron plates scattered on the floor. The cold and claustrophobic space echoed with the metallic sound of these clanking, shifting iron plates.  Most astonishingly, the entire building is designed around a series of absences: galleries with no exhibits, cul-de-sacs that lead into unheated, ill-lit areas and tomblike “voids” that stand for the Jewish-German history that was never to be.  I had tears in my eyes more than once.
But perhaps the most astounding and moving exhibit in the city is the Berlin Wall Memorial, which runs for several long blocks of Bernauer Strasse, one of the first streets to become a dividing line between East and West.  Here much of the original Berlin Wall’s“ death strip” of no-man’s-land, patrol roads and guard towers have been preserved, interspersed with powerful sculptures and memorials to people killed trying to escape from the East during the 28-year period of the city’s division.  Displays and films in the visitor center explain each step in the Wall’s construction, the displacement of families, the destruction of buildings and neighborhoods that stood in the way, and the impact on daily life for those on both sides of this particular slice of The Cold War. 

Here I found out that East German troops had patrolled several “ghost stations” in the Berlin subway system, which ran from Western sectors to Eastern and back again. Their extant platforms offered an escape route, and that’s what some fellow officers tried to do - and were shot by their fellow officers. Not a rare occurrence, their deaths were reported in the East German press as the work of disloyal traitors.
My visit wasn’t all somber visits to the relics of horror.  I also managed to take in several fine museums on lighter subjects, including the Museum for Film and Television.  Their collection includes Marlene Dietrich’s costumes from “The Blue Angel” displayed near love letters from her friend Ernest Hemingway (his pet name for her was “The Kraut”), posters, props and scripts from films by Murnau, Pabst, Riefenstahl etc., Hollywood memorabilia about the careers of émigrés like Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder and Ernst Lubitsch (with special attention to Lubitsch’s 1942 film with Jack Benny “To Be Or Not to Be”).  Other exhibits contain material related to Wenders, Schlondorff, Herzog, Haneke, Tykwer, Fassbinder and other contemporary German filmmakers, with “Wings of Desire” and “Das Boot” given the biggest play.
I also managed to take in two music shows there. The English band Wire, still going strong after more than 35 years, blasted their industrial wail in the Fritz Club (housed in a former Berlin post office still known as Postbahnhof), and two American groups, Man or Astro-Man? and The Octopus Project. played a hipster bar-club called The Lido in the student district, where for a few hours I felt like I was in Brooklyn, Berkeley or Austin. 

I was surrounded by kids who looked like typical college-age big-city Americans, in Converse, nerdy eyeglasses and floppy hats, drinking Dutch beer, speaking German.  Not exactly what Der Fuehrer had in mind for the 1000 Year Reich.

-- 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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