- January 2016 -

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Pickwick Bowl

921 W Riverside Dr, Burbank, California 91506

Thirty-first annual Elvis show, January 10 at Pickwick Hall, Burbank, across from Viva Cantina.

28 acts. From 3 til 9 pm. Ample parking.

If you missed the first 30, now’s your chance.

Celebrate the King's 81st! Performers include Ronnie Mack, Troy Walker, Jimmy Angel, Carla Olson, King Cotton, Stardust Ramblers, The Honey Lulus, South Bay Surfers, Lisa Finnie, Groovy Rednecks, Michael Ann, Joe Finkle, Christopher Lockett, Skip Heller, Talking Treason, Brian Whelan, Alias Means, Mister Morrison, Merle Jagger, Count Smokula, Rip Masters, Steve Stanley,Justin Curtis, Joe Finkle, much more, at the Riverside Concert Hall in Pickwick Bowl, Sun., Jan. 10, 3-9 p.m.. All ages. Free parking. Full bar. $20 at the door, proceeds go to Union Rescue Mission

Another Fein Mess
AF Stone’s Monthly
January, 2016

Elvis is late

Elvis is bigger than ever. Our traditional tribute show is two days late, Jan 10 in the hall adjoining Pickwick bowling alley from 3 pm to 9 pm. The usual suspects and more.

(The Echo booked another Elvis tribute January 4th! It's not our gang, but what the heck - there's plenty of Elvis to go around.)

‘Round town

12-3 Went with Diane to hear author Dennis Cunningham read at Stories Books. Two days earlier he’d appeared downtown at the Central Library, before an audience of 300. This night there were 8 of us.

His master’s voice.

After he left the lectern 1, we all sat and chatted.

12-10 Went to see Diane’s distant-cousin Julia Aks in a two-actor performance of Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ at Crossing Complex in not-far Burbank. Christmas-cold in the hall, Diane bought heated wine and apple cider!

12-19 The PF Sloan salute at the South Pasadena Library was an invitation event. I was honored to be invited. It featured more musical performances - Grass Roots veteran Creed Bratton sang, Rumer sang her UK hit “P.F. Sloan,” Steve Kalinich did a beatniklike rap to jazzy accompaniment - than I expected, and the commaless free-associated thoughts of not-shy Paul Zollo gave me a taste of eternity. Beyond the stage, people privately shared their sadness.

12-20 Diane and I had a wonderful time at good friends Kathe and David’s wedding, held at Rive Gauche restaurant. Long shall they wave.

12-21 Decided to de-rust a manual hedge-clipper. Bought Brasso. If you wish to simulate death in the gas chamber, by all means work with that stuff. Even outdoors the fumes found my nose and massacred a million brain cells. Punishment for the foolishness of cleaning a tool I don’t use. Travails of a butch-wannabe.

12-24 Overnight, the house is bombed by palm fronds. They sound like trucks crashing on the roof, but they weigh next to nothing.

12 pm Seekers greet Mister Morrison for lunch at NoHo Diner in North Hollywood. (“You fellas are Jewish, aren’t you?)

From the right: AF, Gene Sculatti, Bill “Mister” Morrison, Rick Dubov

12-25 Traditional Jewish Christmas - take-out Chinese at Diane’s mom’s house.

12-28 Skip Heller and me take our last trip of 2015 to North Hollywood hotspots Iliad Books and the 99 Cent Store.

1 You stand ON the podium (pod, feet) AT the lectern or dais.


The LATimes guy declared U2’s Paris concert, seen on tv, heroic. Aren’t these the ones who said “We’re canceling!” when danger struck? The NY Times, too, saluted their bravery ...At the PF Sloan salute I learned that the Jimmy Webb homecoming concert at MacArthur Park in mid-2013 had a scant turnout. This was omitted in the press coverage. Well, MacArthur Park is not a perfect place to go at night. And it was a salute to something old. People who remember it don’t go out much, and young people don’t care 2 ... Reading Tab Hunter’s autobiography 3 (for you), he explains how he ‘created’ (my word) Warner Bros Records. WB Movies employed him, but he cut two hit records for Dot, and WB brass said “What’s going on?” They formed the record division to release his next recordings, which died ... While at a friend’s house, he played an Elvis CD that contained 1970s outtakes, and I heard a familiar chorus like the Marine Corps Hymn. It was the final chant of “Susan When She Tried,” which I know by the Statler Brothers. I guess the writers ran it past Elvis first. Wouldn’t you? ... Fats Domino had two pre-rock hits on the Pop charts, “Goin’ Home” (1952) and “Goin’ To The River” (1953). And speaking of Dominoes, “60 Minute Man” got to #17 in 1951. I thought Elvis started it all ...

2 TV news showed college-age kids reacting puzzledly to “Yesterday” by the Beatles, to show that they’re disconnected from the past. In 1965, it you’d played me the biggest hit of 1915, (“It’s a Long, Long Road To Tipperary” by John MacCormack) I’d’ve been puzzled, too.

3 His father left when he was born. He didn’t trace him til this century, and learned his name was Kelm. Jewish!

Why Must I Be Overlooked

* In college, one J-school class was taught at the business school. Our project had a special fillip - videotape! - and the instructor asked whose idea it was. I was scared to say me, the only J-school person, so he turned to a business school guy and congratulated him. Not that it bothers me now.

* Canvassing record companies in the ‘70s I discovered plenty many unknown albums. One, by Clifford T Ward, I brought to Gnurf at CBA Records. We listened, and he, too, was enchanted. Two weeks later he played the album for me. I said “I brought that to YOU.” No, he said, he discovered it and called the record company for a copy. He died convinced of this. (He did die. Doubt he recalled this. If he had, I’m sure he would have called and apologized.)

* A year ago I played a friend a girl-group cut that he’d never heard from his own CD collection. It was a song from 1964 upon which a subsequently famous Jewish-Italian lesbian based her entire career. Recently he played it for me, and I reminded him that I discovered it. He acknowledged this.

Finally, my ship came in.

How I Got This Way

At 7:30 am, late in 1957, I was prepared to leave for school when Hugh Downs, on the Today Show, said “And now, performing tonight in New York, Jerry Lee Lewis.” And what did I hear? The opening notes of “Down The Line”! Live! This was a chance of a lifetime! I froze in place and struggled to explain to my mother how important it was. I have never recovered from the words “Turn off the tv.”


* I often miss them. That is, I hear them, sing them, enjoy them but often don’t think about their meaning. Not a great quality for a writer. I know well the 1962 Rod McKuen chart-scraper “Oliver Twist.” A verse “he raises dickens with them chickens, you oughta see Oliver twist” echoes in my head from time to time, but only in December, 2015, did I get the joke - “he raises DICKENS.” As Stan Freberg said to Stan Freberg on “The Great Pretender,” ‘You catch on fast!’

* Crazy Arms, as I learnt it from the first Jerry Lee Lewis album, identifies the girl as the philanderer. As written, the singer is the guy who fools around and loses the girl.


I am suffused with columnists, with joy and amazement at their cleverness. Herb Caen columns 4 compiled in long forgotten collections. I carry a book of Mike Royko columns 5 in my car, read it when I have to wait. H. Allen Smith - every 1940’s book is a corker!

4 I recently found my own 1987 writing where I expressed this exact joy about Caen. Some people grow, I repeat.

5 I did not read Royko in Chicago. He was in the Daily News, which we did not get. All my fascination is post-post. But whenever I place the book on the table at a restaurant, some passerby comments!

These Are the Times Of L.A.

11-25 Veronica Rocha is all het up with “journalists and protesters” who found police reaction to their disobedience excessive. Their lawyer cited oppression of the narcissistic butt-ins who were tasked only to observe. Stand to the side, pretend to be professional ... 11-28 Tre’vell Anderson’s report that Sinead O’Connor survived a suicide attempt, ended with the reminder that she once tore up a picture of the Pope on TV. It was negligible then, to mention it now puzzling ... 12-3 Glenn Whipp tells us what NY critics think of NY plays. No LA plays that day ... 12-4 Re San Bernardino shootings, writer grandstands that he hies from there ... A peacenik rues the public’s rush for arms for self-protection. In Robin Abcarian they have that rarity, a pacifist in a foxhole ...12-5 “Did the Dodgers outsmart themselves” by not re-signing a player? That’s the way “Doubting” Dylan Hernandez looks at everything. Surprising HE wasn’t named manager after his years of Monday morning quarterbacking, (to twist a metaphor) ... Charles Fleming, car crit, finds the new Honda Civic ‘boring.’ C’mon, carmakers - entertain us! ... Jeremy Gorner, regarding the police shooting in Chicago, cites “footage from a Burger King with an 80-minute gap.” That’s some delay to get a burger ... Kate Mather and Joel Rubin report that the landlord of the two San Bernardino killers “appeared to tell one journalist he could enter” and then “the whole crowd rushed in.” Thusly, Times employees cavil “All the other kids were doing it” ...12-6 AP/ The kid with a toy gun shot by police in Cleveland actually had his hands in his pockets, according to “an expert hired by his family.” You expected another re$ult? ... 12-8 Meredith Blake goes to NY to praise an actor who’s had a lot of roles. More NY actors should come here, then we could get L.A.-based reviews ... 12-11 “the Edge,” no friend of mine, got all the permits right, and can now build on his canyon property in Malibu. The Times story is a surprising hat-tip, considering all the NIMBYs who raised rucki ... 12-13 Taylor Goldenstein or Richard Winton or Esmeralda Ramirez dug deep to report that a sobbing, swearing woman at the shooting was “described by relatives as” the decedent’s wife. (Sounds like 1950 press treatment of news from the ghetto: “the Brown woman”) ... 12-15 Timothy M. Phelps, re a shooting by police in Chicago, cites “what some see” as police foot-dragging. Who? What are their names? ... 12-16 Kate Mather grills a police rep about the killing, by police, of an armed man. The crime is ignored, police activity second-guessed. The man shot a .45 in the air. If a .45 hit you in the shoulder you would lose your arm. He refused police orders to drop it. Should they wait for another round to be fired from the weapon he refuses to cede? ... 12-19 Not only does ‘Star Wars’ arrival blanket the ‘news,’ but a columnist confesses that he, too, likes it. He’s human just like them, some ... 12-20 Chris Knight reviews a tapestry. Which is fully reproduced in photos. More than a page. Are all the garrets in LA gone? ... The floating hed above the headline over Meredith Blake’s salute to sex-changes was ”Agents of Change,” like it will wash over all of us. Was she the former Mel? ... 12-21 A Calendar rave, at length, about the band Muse is given wan help by a jump-hed declaring its show ‘high-concept,” which means dumbed down to reach the dullest listener ...12-22 Insert cover shot, ‘The Envelope,’ Four actors stand bravely having survived “Roles That Test The Man.” Hard up for heroes, we ... Brittny Mejia finds a woman who’s suing Cosby. Her proof? She has written about it and talked on tv. Would it be that his denials were given such weight ... Christopher Knight flies to Texas to dish an art exhibition, 2/3 of a page. Why? ... 12-25 The governor wiped clean the criminal records of 91 people who served time and got straight. Nice story, but an actor was singled out for huzzahs. In News, not Entertainment ... 12-30 Richard Winton tells us what the In Crowd thinks, about a police shooting, which “became a local touchstone in the heated national conversation about police officers and their use of force, particularly against black men.” Save it for the editorial page, Rich. (See “Liberal Press, down two graphs) ... Obit for a publicist who pimped for the Oscars. The Times is always grateful for help in deciding what stories to run ... Business section (!) columnist is overcome with a need to comment on “Star Wars.” The hed demands we “Admit it: ‘The Force Awakens isn’t very good.’ Jimmy Durante was ahead of his time (“Everybody wants to get into the act!”) ...12-31 “Times Staff and Wire Reports” assert that the drunk-driving kid who sought exoneration because he’d been raised too wealthily “was both mocked and condemned.” By whom? (See “Liberal Press, down two graphs.)

New Yawk, New YAWK Times

9-27 Laura M. Holson says LA is “a place where everyone, from slackers of Venice Beach to the doctors of Beverly Hills, has some kinda cockeyed scheme, usually involving celebrities” to make money.” Either my acquaintances are out of step, or Laura is a wan reductive simp ... 12-6 Subhed: “Kate Hudson hasn’t had a hit movie in years. But she is still a star in the fashion world. Why?” Headline-writer, retract your talons! ... 12-13 Liam Stack, reporting about Indianapolis police shooting a man lunging at them with a knife, includes this citation from Naptown paper “He had a mental illness” shouted “one person in the crowd.” So? ... 12-14 Ian Lovett and Adam Nagourney open their story about the man shot by police in LA with the fact that the decedent was shooting a gun and defied orders to drop it. Leading with the shooter’s actions was rare, if not unique (see “Liberal Press, next) ... 12-23 Jon Caramanica is unintentionally edgy regarding Larry Wilmore’s brand of anger, writing “Mr. Wilmore is simply mad.” Can be taken wrongly ... The hed that begins “Texas reels” I hoped would be about Lone Star dancers. Julie Turkewitz and Katie Rogers’s piece about a rich kid on the run presumes that this story “captivated the nation.” In loyalty to their kind, they cannot tolerate our disinterest. (See “Liberal Press, next) ... 12-27 A police shooting in Chicago “(set) off a flurry of questions about the department already under tight scrutiny.” By whom?

The “Liberal” 6 Press

I answer to liberal, but hate being talked down to. Today’s reporters are so fueled by doctrine that truth must be sifted from the dogma.

It takes this form. A man was killed by police. “Many” people are “disturbed” because the decedent was mentally ill. Like when a person comes at you wielding a weapon, you should inquire about their mental health.

That guy in LA crossed a city street brandishing a .45 pistol, which he shot in the air. Was he mentally ill? He sure was. Or stoned. Or stupid. He refused orders to drop it, and was dropped, for the safety of citizens.

But simps at newspapers see only bad police, good criminals. When a thousand people break into stores, newsies portray them as politically motivated. When they present a protester quote, they select one that reflects the querier’s intention.

The “national discussion” is among swell-headed journos who figure they are leaders by dint of their desks.


Newscaster - “We’re hearing talk.”
The voices in your head are groundless.

On a hippie episode of Rockford, “Quickie Nirvana,” the big crime boss is Matt Grunning. Was the ‘Simpsons’ on in 1977?


Bill Shakespeare repeatedly referred to Blind Man’s Buff. ISIL became ISIS because newspaper kids embrace familiarity ... In Herb Caen’s 1948 book he repeatedly refers to Skid Road. He calls down-and-outers Skid Rowgues. Tobacco Road is a twist on Tobacco Row in Nashville ...


‘Eating Raoul’ was shot, primarily, in my old apartment. The director and writers had created characters who were “out of it,” and a glance at my place in an old building stocked with “fabulous 50’s furniture” (outré then) fit their needs. And recently I learned that the apartment actually caused the movie to be made.

The 1920’s place was scheduled for demolition and many people had moved out. If I held out much longer my deal could go from take it (a buyout offer) to just leave - so the producers fired up their engines to make the movie.

One benefit of the place was that they could drill holes in the ceiling and stuff, as it was facing the wrecking ball. A not-unexpected drawback was the woman downstairs demanding a few hundred dollars to not turn her tv, stereo and Mixmaster on while shooting.

That old place, Peyton Hall, had housed movie exec Walter Schenk, who kept a pad to bed starlets. Johnny Weismuller had trained in the olympic size swimming pool. By my time the only vestiges of Old Hollywood were Dave Fleischer, downstairs and one over, and Herman Hover, a grouchy guy who sat poolside every day talking about how Hollywood had turned to shit.

He had grounds to be bitter. In the 1950s he owned Ciro’s, the famous nightclub. (On a Jack Benny show, Benny says “Call Herman Hover for a good table.”) That glory disappeared amid marriages and lawyers and the vicissitudes of show business.

I made him a little money when I introduced him to Nick Tosches, who was writing a biography of Dean Martin. Dino had gotten married at Wanger’s Beverly Hills home, in 1949. Nick paid him for the interview, probably Hover’s last.


In “Detour,” he asks for change for a dime to make a nickel phone call.

‘Columbo’ in 1977 asks for change for a quarter to make a dime call.

Film Finds

The Giant Mechanical Man
It’s A Disaster

A little late

My office contained an exercise machine, assembled here by professionals, that hasn’t been used in 5 years. Getting rid of it was impossible: it was too big to lug out (down stairs, narrow doorway) and a ‘machine disassembly’ guy declined to take it. I had to dodge around the damn thing to get to my desk. It always pained me.

Recently a hauler took it, and I am unhappy. Now when I walk in freely without hindrance, I am angry that it wasn’t removed a long time ago.

Gallows gripes. In a few months the house will be sold.

Like I needed another reason to not renew my subscription to Los Angeles magazine.



Rochester, to Jack Benny, in the 1940 movie “The Meanest Man In The World” :

“If you did that at my club you’d be whiteballed.”

- 57 -

Mark On The Move - “Swan song”
On Dec. 14 I fell on some black ice and hurt my knee, but a few hours later I drove/hobbled to the Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets "Quality Holiday Revue" at Harlow's in Sacramento.  The delightful Everly Bros.-infused duo The Cactus Blossoms from Minneapolis opened the evening with aplomb, featuring many tunes from their upcoming Red House Records debut.  In an alternate universe, their originals "Stoplight Kisses," "Clown Collector" and "Mississippi" would have been solid additions to the Felice and Boudleaux Bryant song catalog.  The Cactus Blossoms have been kicking around the midwest for several years; here's hoping their national breakout is imminent.
Nick Lowe put together a well-paced set of favorites from his Rockpile and solo recordings ("I Knew The Bride," "Cruel to Be Kind," "When I Write the Book," "Half a Boy and Half a Man") combined with seasonal tunes ("Christmas at the Airport," "The North Pole Express" and Roy Wood's 1973 anthem "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day").  Los Straitjackets provided stellar backing (and occasional choreography), dressed as usual in dapper suits & ties and Mexican wrestling masks. 

When Lowe left the stage midway, their instrumental set included a peppy reading of Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy," a "Sleigh Ride" that contained elements of "Walk, Don't Run," and an absolutely fantastic version of Link Wray's "Run Chicken Run" which brought a standing ovation.  After a 90 minute set, the encores were likewise superb: Lowe's never-old plea "What's So Funny (About Peace, Love & Understanding," the Staple Singers' arrangement of "Born in Bethlehem," and Lowe's heartfelt solo version of Elvis Costello's "Alison."
The following week I was in Memphis with Miss Vicky to visit her son (a newly-minted Public Defender there) and see the sights.  The National Civil Rights Museum, housed in the Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King's assassination, got the trip off to a somber but apt start.  I burst into tears on arrival, where a wreath still adorns the balcony outside room 306.  A line on the ground leads across the street, to the rooming house where James Earl Ray fired the fatal shot: the image of the bullet trajectory traced on the landscape is an emotional punch in the stomach. 

The main exhibits in the beautifully designed museum built around the Lorraine trace the bloody journey to civil rights in detail.  You can climb aboard the same type bus in which Rosa Park refused to move her seat, watch TV accounts of the attacks on freedom marches in Selma and Montgomery, and read James Meredith's applications to the segregated Ole Miss.  All the exhibits connect the several hundred year legacy of slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynchings and discrimination to the power of protest and King's non-violent message. 
Before King's murder, the Lorraine was one of the hubs of black/white interaction in Memphis (e.g. Steve Cropper and Wilson Pickett wrote "In the Midnight Hour" there when Jerry Wexler sent Pickett to Stax to record), but interracial cooperation was severely and negatively impacted by King's assassination.  Visiting the "legacy exhibits" in the annex across the street (you can look out the window James Earl Ray used, and see displays of court documents and evidence, including the fatal rifle and binoculars), the sadness and meaning of the killing, and the lingering questions about it, were brought home to me even more.  I wish every citizen of our country would visit this profound place of national mourning.
Crossing over the Mississippi border, our first stop was Morgan Freeman's Ground Zero blues club in Clarksdale.  The joint is unique for allowing patrons to write on the walls, ceiling, decorations, chairs, tables – anywhere one can reach.  It's "Kilroy Was Here" run amok.  There, while lunching on fried green tomatoes, we encountered the nattily dressed Josh "Razorblade" Stewart, who dropped by the club on his way to a medical appointment. 

Introducing himself as a "legend in Clarksdale" he told us about his time with the 173rd Airborne in Vietnam, his arguments with Freeman about the meaning of life, and eventually got on stage and sang a few tunes, including a bluesified take of Lionel Richie's "Easy."  We bought a "Live at Ground Zero" CD from him, a burned CD-R which he had to retrieve from his car, and which he signed and decorated with a sharpie.  
We then took in the Delta Blues Museum across the street, which had all kinds of excellent exhibits, many about local (and to me, obscure) bluesmen.  Of course, the famous names were represented too, with artifacts from the lives of B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf and so forth, including the relocated sharecropper cabin of McKinley "Muddy Waters" Morganfield.   We had the whole museum to ourselves for 90 minutes – not a good sign for Mississippi Delta out-of-season tourism.
Walking around the mostly boarded-up Clarksdale downtown, we visited a few spots associated with Ike Turner before driving to the outskirts of Clarksdale.  We passed one of the several crossroads at which Robert Johnson could have sold his soul to the devil (this one the intersection of Highways 49 and 61), arriving at the Shack Up Inn, on the grounds of the former Hopson Plantation. 

We stayed in one of the converted sharecropper cabins, enjoying a rainy evening under a tin roof, surrounded by antique furniture, old Lucky Strike advertisements, and threadbare carpets.  Thank goodness it had an adequate heating system and the bed was comfy.
 The next morning, two hours east across acres of farmland, we toured Oxford, visiting several places associated with one of our favorite authors, William Faulkner.  At Faulkner's longtime home Rowan Oak we spent two hours viewing artifacts and chatting with the caretaker and scholar Bill Griffith.  We visited Faulkner family graves at St. Peter's Cemetery (the family was Falkner until William inserted the "u" to create a pen name), and near the main Oxford square ran across Duvall House, in which Faulkner wrote his novel "Sanctuary" and the short story "A Rose for Emily."  A few hours after we left to return to Memphis, tornadoes hit the area, and there were several deaths in the Clarksdale and Oxford environs.  All we had to deal with was a little wind and rain.
One mystery we never quite solved was why just about every restaurant in Tennessee and Mississippi – even somewhat upscale ones -- serves food in plastic baskets (I even had an omelet in one).  Is there a shortage of plates – or dishwashers? – in the area?  Further study will be required to solve this culinary conundrum.
(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.  You can access his latest podcast and playlists at www.petsoundsmusic.com)

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