December 09, 2006

Brad Pitt & The Fountainhead

Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie visit Falling Water on Thursday, and by Friday afternoon, we're told about it, and given the classic photo op (above). They took a two-hour tour which ended with a private birthday (his) celebration afterwards in the living room.

This isn't a case of the media finding out and letting us know. This is clearly a case of Brad and His People making a concerted effort to get this photo and press release out. There are two points that Brad wants in the public consciousness.

#1: "Brad said he had a visual sense of Falling Water but experiencing it in person, hearing the sound of the waterfall cascading under the house and smelling the wood from the fireplace, was better than anything he could have imagined."

#2: "Brad said he had wanted to experience Falling Water ever since he took an architectural history course in college," said curator Cara Armstrong. "He and I talked quite a bit about design and art. He was incredibly well-informed about architecture."

Point # 1 amuses me. How nice of Brad to share poetic thoughts on his Falling Water experience. It's almost like enjoying his vacation photos over a glass of cabernet, isn't it? Such a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Point # 2 slightly disturbs me. It's that bit about wanting to see Falling Water ever since he took an architectural history course in college, which was well over 20 years ago.

Mr. Pitt has spent the last several years making sure that we know he loves architecture. We've heard details of how he personally re-designed the interior of a Hollywood home (and how it left Jennifer Aniston so unimpressed that she didn't even want the place in the divorce). He's gone out of his way to repeatedly insert his name into the star glow surrounding his favorite architect, Frank Gehry. And he's been so successful at representing himself as a design-driven creature that what clothing accessories he prefers bears mentioning.

At first, I was enamored with Brad's architectural bent. "Gee, he's such a huge and handsome star, yet he spends his spare time immersed in architecture... he's so smart." But in reality, I know that stars of his magnitude only release that kind of information for precise purposes. And that's what disturbs me.

He's spent years rolling out this architectural image of himself, but other than the remodeled house that Aniston hated, nothing's come of it. So, when he makes this latest concerted effort to share his Falling Water experience, I get concerned because it could indicate that his architectural id will finally manifest into the physical.

I picture him financing a public building that he designed himself, or donating money to expand an architectural wing of a university in his name, or designing and building an entire village in one of those countries that his girlfriend adopts children from. I also know I'm lending him way more architectural gravitas than he actually has. He's a movie star, an actor who enjoys acting like an architect...

Then the mailman delivers my current Netflix selection, The Fountainhead. Gary Cooper as a barely-disguised Frank Lloyd Wright antagonized by his secret patron/love interest Patricia Neal. The movie was just finally released on DVD, which I consider a big deal. Brad Pitt probably does, too.

And then it hits me!
Mr. Pitt wants a Fountainhead remake with him and Jolie!
Rather than having to make good on all his publicly-declared architectural aspirations, he can just act like the ultimate architect. So, he trots his girlfriend/co-star out into the snowy woods across from Falling Water for the photo op, sends out the press release, and in a few weeks he'll be in the executive office of a major movie studio getting the financial green light for this project.

This idea would be the perfect resolution to his "I want to be an architect" desires, as well as a brilliant career move. Plus, I'd much rather he re-do The Fountainhead than actually foist upon the world a building he designed. So, here's hoping for the win/win.

A Case Against Frank Lloyd Wright: Architect
Angelina Dearest

November 11, 2006

Lopez & Clooney: Hollywood Perfection

Here is Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney on November 9th, at Tony Bennett's 80th birthday celebration. The sheer perfection of this moment took my breath away. While simmering down from the 1000x star wattage, I reflect on how Out Of Sight, the Steven Soderbergh movie they co-starred in, is one of my ultra-favorite movies. I've seen it, easily, 10 times, with my most recent viewing being about 3 weeks ago. Everything about it is great, from the cinematography to Don Cheadle to the smoldering and energizing chemistry between Clooney & Lopez. Sure wish they'd team up for another movie... J.Lo's movie career could sure use a boost like that.

And the photo triggered a subliminal comparison with the golden age of Hollywood. Who do they remind me of?

Ah yes! Sophia Loren & Cary Grant. So, now I'm asking Hollywood:
Please work up a remake of Houseboat with Clooney & Lopez. Lopez has already done the maid thing, and Clooney is the 21st century Cary grant, so this is a no-brainer.

October 18, 2006


A third title has just been added to my tiny Blogging Empire.

Song Line

The title comes from a Tim Finn song about musical heritage, and is my chronological musical memoir. If you know the songs, and know (something) about the time periods covered, then there's something to be had from it, even if you don't know me.

September 15, 2006

Winona Ryder & Kate Moss

It's slightly unnerving to see Winona Ryder & Kate Moss hanging together, as they're both Johnny Depp ex-fiances. Makes me think of...

Ava Gardner and Lana Turner forming an ad hoc "Ex Wives of Artie Shaw" club.

Or Liz Taylor finally making amends to Debbie Reynolds more than 40 years after she stole her husband, Eddie Fisher.

Then again, the thoughts inspired by new BFF Winona & Kate are far more glamorous than the actual Depp exes. I'm guessing that if Johnny saw any of the recent shots of them shopping and smoking in NYC, he breathed a huge sigh of relief.

August 21, 2006

The New York Dolls & Mike Shelton

A new record from the New York Dolls is a dicey proposition. 3/5 of the original band are dead, and what they spawned has been so diluted over the decades that trying it again would be like trying to get another cup out of a spent teabag.

Then Steve Scariano let us know that
One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This was absolutely great. No, it’s not a New York Dolls record, but it is the best David Johansen solo album ever, and isn’t that reason enough?

He goes on to say that “You know if Mike Shelton were here he’d be in everybody’s face, rounds of phone calls, telling us how amazing this record is – go out and buy it, you’ll love it!” Shelton adored David Johansen, seeing him every single time he came to St. Louis, even attending the opening night of Car 54, Where Are You? because he starred in it. Shelton couldn’t convince anyone to see the rotten movie with him, so he went only with his unceasing loyalty to Johansen’s ever-more-curious career moves.

Both Shelton & Scariano are right about the new record: it’s bloody brilliant. Where I disagree with the boys is I
do think it’s a New York Dolls album, undoubtedly and unceasingly.

Based on historical review of a 33-year career, Mr. Johansen has always played a character, worn a costume, trotted out a new musical act for his audience. Transvestite proto-punk, BoHo Chic troubadour, New Wave Mick Jagger, lizard lounge act, ancient white bluesman… He has artfully continued the David Bowie-inspired craft of Musical Chameleon while never requiring the PR fanfare of more calculated practitioners like Madonna.

All these musical personas work because Johansen always comes from a musically pure place. His unceasing fascination and precise historical knowledge of all facets of popular music have always guided him. A New York Doll was the first mask he donned, and he was fortunate enough to have a randy glam boys’ glee club willing to go along with the lark. The Dolls profoundly influencing an important sector of rock music was the divine intervention of being in the right place at the right time. Rather than lessen the achievement, it makes the story that much sweeter.

The Dolls were Chapter One, while Buster Poindexter was Chapter 4, and all his characters are important plot points in Johansen’s musical review. Revisiting the New York Doll character is a gripping plot twist, and David is such a passionate, professional performer that I feel bad for even momentarily doubting that he’d do a disservice to the Dolls legacy. He remembers exactly the Dolls recipe: Chuck Berry, Ellie Greenwhich, Greenwhich Village drag queens, comic books, The Beatles, trash & kitsch culture, urban snark, street punk bravado. Using fresh ingredients, this recipe still works in the hands of the master chef.

The 21st Century New York Dolls philosophy is still irreverent, world weary and joyful. Creationist freaks get humorously poked with “Dance Like A Monkey,” my favorite protest song of the year. On “Plenty of Music,” they revisit The Ronnettes and score 10 points for the use of the word “superfluous” in an era-perfect chorus. The rowdy songs (“We’re All In Love,” “Punishing World,”) uplift, the spiritual songs (“Dancing on the Lip of a Volcano,” “Maimed Happiness”) inspire. Johansen’s lyrics are consistently arch, articulate, and snotty. The 3 new guys are top-notch rockers, and with Johansen and Syl Sylvain leading them astray, it all sounds like a band that’s been goofing off and making music for years. It’s all pure, it all rock, I’m so happy it’s in my life.

And it would be an absolute pleasure to have obsessive conversation about the record with Mike Shelton, but I can’t.

August 2004 Mike, his wife Carrie and his teenage daughter Emily were killed in a freak car accident. They were driving home from Beatlefest in Chicago, when a northbound car crossed the median and slammed into them, instantly killing all 5 people involved. An entire family literally went up in flames, and the shock still lingers like the smell of smoke in your clothes days after a bonfire.

Mike Shelton was the hub that held together the spokes of a musical family. The tires had just blown off the bus and we all crashed hard. Only after he disappeared did we finally realize how large that wheel was, and what a driving force he and Carrie were amongst all St. Louis Rock Obsessed.

The night after their tragic deaths, there was an impromptu wake at CBGB’s. Everyone was dazed and drunk, and tears of abject sorrow turned into tears of bittersweet joy as all the musical loves of Mike’s life played overhead… Bowie, The Beatles, The Stones, Mott the Hoople… every track brought Mike back. Everyone could feel Mike in the room. At one point, the lights went down, the Stooges went up to maximum volume, and an abandoned, tribal dance of celebration took place. The greatest moment of sadness was when they played “Michael Picasso.” Ian Hunter wrote the song as a tribute to his late, great friend Mick Ronson. Ronson was not only Shelton’s greatest musical love, but his personal pal. The ironic karma of Ian’s song to Mick becoming Mike’s song was eerily profound, and even Mike himself broke into tears over how painful our sorrow was.

In the days and months after the Lindsey-Shelton family left, each of us encountered Mike. Whether buying into life after death or deeply cynical about the prospect, each of us had undeniable moments of Mike checking in on us. It was always through the odd placement of a song so poignant and pointed that it defied mere coincidence. He used this same form of communication in both life and death, and each time we experienced it, the message was the same: I’m OK, I’m happy, I’ve still got your back.

The public memorial for Mike Shelton was a benefit concert. Iggy Pop and the The Stooges were Mike’s godhead. The Stooges became The Shemps in the hands of Scariano, Bob Trammel and Craig Petty, and a line-up of Mike pals throughout the decades paraded past the stage, being Iggy for a few minutes (earning the chance to do “TV Eye” is one of the greatest moments in my life). The Duck Room donated the space for the night, a film crew recorded all proceedings, and all of Carrie & Mike’s friends and family gathered for a raucous, magical, cathartic celebration. Mike’s actions in life are a lingering lesson in treasuring your family of choice – your friends. Old connections were renewed, new connections were made, and we’re all still a part of Shelton’s song line.

See memorial concert footage here.

August 2006 The 2nd anniversary of his abrupt exit, so four of us met for brunch before heading to the cemetery to hang around the family headstone. During the meal, Barb suggests that remembering how we each first met Mike would be a nice ceremony.

May 1995 Mike & Carrie always threw a Memorial Day BBQ at their home. One year, Mike gave Scariano specific instructions to bring some “new, cool people” to the party. In a case of mistaken identity that resonated like a whoopee cushion, I was recruited and brought along as one of those “cool people.” Within 10 minutes of meeting Mike, he asked what turned out to be his litmus test question: Do you like Mick Ronson?

“Oh yeah,” I told him. “But actually, I love Ian Hunter even more. To show how warped I am, in junior high, I used to fantasize that I was married to Ian Hunter.” Mike fixed me with smiling eyes, and said in all mock seriousness, “So did I, honey. So did I!” From that moment on, he was my source of all Ian Hunter news, as well as the imp who fed me smokes and drinks when I shouldn’t have, and goaded me into listening to albums that I probably never would have.

August 2006 Nowadays, Scariano has taken over Mike’s role of the person who practically forces me to get certain new records, with One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This being the latest of his benevolent commands. And every time I listen to the new Dolls CD, it easily conjures Mike Shelton.

We head out to Memorial Park cemetery, and walk up to the family headstone that’s constantly covered with tokens of honor and remembrance. In front of Mike’s plaque, a CD had been inserted into the dirt, like inserting it into a player. Getting up close, I see it’s
the new New York Dolls CD!!!! Turns out Chris left it there a few days earlier; on what would have been Mike’s 56th birthday. Is this not the gift he would want the most?

The four of us lounged on the ground in front of the gravestone, as stories, meat cracks and memories of Mike, Carrie & Emily flowed freely. It felt perfectly natural, it felt good. Once back in the car, Scariano did the absolutely natural thing: He rooted in my glovebox and pulled out the new Dolls. Before ever pulling away from the grave site, it cranked out full blast, and roared all the way back home. It was a riotous symphony that allowed for contemplation and sadness. But then that sadness got slapped silly by love and joy and David Johansen basically describing Shelton: “I’m not an artist/I’m a singing, dancing work of art.”

Mike, I love ya, but I can’t miss you if you won’t go away!
Girl, I can’t go away while you’re playing The Dolls!
Mike, this is why I play it everyday.

August 17, 2006

A Dictator & A Don

Fidel Castro is an expiring creature, so they tarted him up in a track suit and clown makeup in a half-hearted attempt to assure Cuba that he's still in charge. Along with fantasies about traveling to Cuba in 2007, I wondered why that AP photo of Fidel kept poking at the Cultural Connection section of my brain.

Hours later, the connection roared onto the radar screen:
Fidel reminds me of Uncle Junior Soprano.

The analogy is absolutely poetic. A don and a dictator, both of them feeble lion kings who now only hinder their pack. Where they once ruled with fear, they are now only accorded begrudging respect because once they were King of the Jungle. And both men have close family that rarely shows up at the convalescence home because they're too busy manning the herd while the lion sleeps tonight.

Cuba Libre!
Viva Sopranos!
And both of their funerals will play out like a lit match landing in gasoline.
And now it's time talk with a travel agent...

July 11, 2006

The Bangles

The Bangles
House of Blues, Chicago, 7.8.06

A group of 8 of us made a road trip from St. Louis to Chicago to see The Bangles. Considering the broad musical diversity of the people involved, Steve Carosello posed an unanswerable question:
What other band could get everyone in this group to Chicago for a show?

(Above, Vicki Peterson) The lowlight of the trip up was when Jon Bitch learned that bassist Michael Steele was no longer with the band. His bubble popped, but the replacement bassist was young, cute and a much better bass player than Michael ever was.

(Above, Debbie Peterson & Susanna Hoffs) But her absence reminded me of seeing Fleetwood Mac without Christine McVie; that other voice was missing. In the case of Steele, I truly missed her low-end harmony parts. Sure, the remaining 3 sounded marvelous and complete without her, but her departure was duly noted.

The band was magical, digging deep into the catalog, a healthy handful from the last studio album, and tossing off all the hits you do want to hear, as well as those I wish they'd skip. All 3 girls look gorgeous, sing better than ever, and genuinely enjoy playing the songs they perfectly execute. It's still hard to fathom being able to see The Bangles in 2006; to have them deliver 110% when even 75% would have been acceptable is a rare treat.

Being 3 Bangles made it much easier to get group shots. Which leads to the venue, The House Of Rules. The place gets more oppressive with every visit, so it always feels good to break at least one of their rules by sneaking in a camera.

Afterwards at a hotel bar, Miami Mike (above, left) invaded our space, yanked beer bottles out of his drawers and tried to get fresh with Joe (above, right).

Above, L-R: Joe's wife Gina, me & Steve.

And, above, Jon Bitch. Not pictured - but ever present - Tony Boyer.

July 04, 2006

Marilyn Comes Home

The culmination of this journey brings Marilyn to my house.

Demetrie Kabbaz's exhibit of Marilyn Monroe paintings at the Barton Street Lofts started on June 1st, Marilyn's 80th birthday. The opening reception was glamorous and lively, and it was the perfect setting for a predestined moment 3 years in the making: Could I Now - Finally - Have A Marilyn Painting?

As soon as I spotted The Painting (above), I felt it was mine. It's Marilyn from her last, aborted movie in 1962, Something's Got To Give, from a scene where's she's kneeling down to speak with her children. But Kabbaz had inserted a b&w photo of a young man, and I assumed it was a young Joe DiMaggio. This made it even more enchanting!
I declared aloud to my friend (who shares Marilyn's birthday), "That's my painting," while crossing my fingers that it was even vaguely, remotely affordable.

Seconds after the declaration, Kabbaz' dear friend Linda came in and gave me a huge hello hug, and I gushed to her that I was buying "1962." She smiled grandly and said what a great one for me to have because that's Demetrie's high school graduation photo on the painting!!
Destiny Fulfilled!

Mr. D. generously made her affordable, but the catch was I had to wait until after the exhibit closed... a whole month. Rather than cramp myself with childish impatience, I just tried to forget about it.

But finally, the Kabbaz call came: "She's home and she's all yours."
And then he came over and hung the painting for me (above), which was a joyous ceremony.

My definition of art:
Anything that unlocks the guileless part of your soul and makes it sing.
Those are coveted moments, and sometimes I've skipped paying utility bills in pursuit of beauty. But logic has little to do with art.

That's Kabbaz, Marilyn & me, above. I feel joyous and peaceful now that she's "home."
Demetrie, thank you for every magical moment of this journey, which will continue for the rest of my life, every time I gaze at "1962."

June 19, 2006

Def Leppard

Yeah! is the most appropriate album title since Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols. While the Pistols’ made a declarative statement, Def Leppard simply went with the gut response one gets at some point during each of their cover choices.

It feels both weird and titillating to be energized in the summer of 2006 by a band that had some of my attention for a few years in the early 1980s. Along with New Wave, I bought into the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and bought Def Leppard’s 1980 debut album,
On Through The Night. I hated the cover art, and was left cold by most of the contents, but it was obvious from interviews that Joe Elliot was a huge glam rock fanatic who was jazzed to finally have a band of his own, and they were all awfully young and cute. At 15 years old, this was sufficient reason to be a fan.

But the follow-up,
High ‘n’ Dry, was a genuine blast, and when unloading all my Def Leppard vinyl years ago, it’s the only one I held onto because it still moves me, hard. The band still had all the original members, and Robert John “Mutt” Lange came on board to create a loose, power crunch of pop metal. The singles “Let it Go” & “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak/Switch 625” still work perfectly.

There’s also a sentimental attachment to High ‘n’ Dry-era Lep. The weekend I turned 16 years old was celebrated with concerts by Van Halen (the Fair Warning tour), and Def Leppard. Actually, DL opened for Blackfoot (who?!), and even at that time, it was an absurd and backwards bill. But the DL boys packed a lot of tight rock into a 40-minute set, and they were awfully hot. When overly inebriated on a Sweet 16 weekend, that – and David Lee Roth the next night – was all I needed.

In 1983, there was no ignoring
Pyromania. Coming out the radio, “Photograph” was a bright and immediate latch-on. Then MTV bombarded our every viewing moment with the video (actually, it was more of a sword fight between DL & Duran Duran’s “Rio”), and chart domination was complete.

The appeal of that album was undeniable, but the relationship between Def Lep & Lange intrigued me way more than the music. Much like George Martin with The Beatles, or Roy Thomas Baker with Queen, producer and band worked together on the tunes to craft a distinct sound. In the process, these bands became better musicians, and left behind instantly recognizable slices of rock.

Robert John “Mutt” Lange produced a lot of seminal hard rock albums, but Def Leppard were like putty in his hands, allowing him to craft a signature wall of sound that eventually sucked the blood out of DL. While I wasn’t a fan of the chipmunk compressed vocals and layers of frills Lange plastered onto the boys, I did appreciate an audio craftsman perfecting his vision. Lange moving onto his own sonic Barbie Doll with Shania Twain makes perfect sense, and bought him a large chunk of New Zealand. So bully for Lange, but too bad about Def Leppard (if you consider untold riches and popularity a detriment to creativity), who were left without a master.

After floundering about, the boys decided to take a breather and rediscover what inspired them in the first place. What they discovered was pure joy, and how to properly share it.

Yeah! is absolutely exhilarating, both musically and spiritually. By returning to their roots, they uncovered the band they actually were under all that Lange pop rock tulle. They gave themselves a parameter: only 1970s British (save for Blondie) bands they loved before they got signed. They used a democratic system for song selections: everyone made a list and they found the common threads. They used good judgment: no obvious choices. They used their smarts: what they’ve learned over the decades reapplied to what made them do it in the first place. And they produced it themselves so they could just revel in the moment and deliver an honest set of songs.

The songs they settled on got my attention just from the advance blurbs. Anyone combining T. Rex, Blondie, Sweet, Kinks, ELO, Mott The Hoople, Badfinger, Roxy Music and Thin Lizzy on one record will probably get my cash. I did cringe at the thought of Def Leppard going light alloy on “Waterloo Sunset,” but that hurdle was easily cleared.

A good song is a good song, and shouldn’t depend solely on the performance. Ray Davies made an eternal impression with his wistful, trembling “Waterloo,” and anyone who’s covered it since latches onto that melancholy. Def Leppard get major props for having the balls to give the song some meat, and Joe Elliot’s vocal interpretation changes it from a hermit’s view of life, to an observer weary of city life just looking for humanity where it hides. In the extensive liner notes (totally worth the price of admission), Elliott writes: “
I don’t know what it is about the Kinks, but they had a wonderful knack of making what were essentially sad melancholic songs sound so uplifting! … his chord structures were so simple, that had they been kids, they’d have been in remedial class! Brilliant.

Elliott’s brilliance is in understanding that, seeing it as a template, and knowing more could be pulled from this classic tune. And for every time Joe endears himself to me with his reasons for doing a song (
“We had, HAD to pay tribute to Roy Wood somehow – so how???"), he and the band then deliver more than expected (ELO’s “10538 Overture,”) and more than we may deserve.

Twice, DL has me loving their cover more than the original: David Bowie’s “Drive-In Saturday” & Mott The Hoople’s “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” That last one made me feel like a traitor, but when considering how much Elliott adores Mott, he thought long and hard about how to do this without embarrassing themselves.

He shares his theory that the song “was really a Sex Pistols song minus, er, the Sex Pistols guitars!!! …it’s big, ballsy, & if I’m honest, the one song I had doubts about singing!! Paul Rodgers, no problem (they also cover a Free song); Ian Hunter, he’s my hero!!! What if I ballsed it up?!! …If I’m honest, I thought it was about time you all heard where the “woah ho” stuff in “Photograph” and “Foolin”’ and a lot of our “call to arms” choruses really came from.” And then they got Ian Hunter to appear on the song! You can just hear Def Leppard popping a woody every time they think about that.

The band introduced me to something I’d never heard before, but now can’t live without: “He’s Gonna Step On You Again” by John Kongos, a British one-hit wonder. And they tried a noble experiment that most everyone but me loves: “Rock On” by David Essex.

They’ve made me swoon because each band member picked a favorite album cover to replicate (Phil Collen doing
Raw Power = hot), and if he could curb his exclamation point tendency, I could read a novels-worth of Elliott’s music musings. Plus, I discovered some things undetectable under all that Lange production: Joe Elliot has an elastic, authoritative and manly voice, and Def Leppard just plain rocks; no disclaimers or descriptors, just rocks.

So, this is a kick ass summer album, and I’m grateful for every second. But what next?

Considering how the band has opened up and gone back to basics, this should translate over to future original work. Because, how can you have a journey like
Yeah! and remain unchanged? They’re 27 years into this game, and should have the guts to do as they wish from here on out. I’m hoping that they remain so jazzed by reconnecting with the essence of rock fanaticism that it allows them to drop the gimmicks and marketplace facades and produce something worthy.

Joe Elliott on their cover of “Hell Raiser”:
“The Sweet were, in my opinion, wrongly accused of being puppets because of their involvement with Chin & Chapman – an accusation occasionally leveled at us when we worked with Mutt Lange. All nonsense, of course, for both bands!!”
Here’s hoping that, in the future, Def Leppard remembers what they’ve learned from their past.

T. Rex & Sweet

June 12, 2006

VH1's Long Live Stupidity

Legal wars over who owns the phrase "Bat Out Of Hell" is not only a wasteful misuse of the justice system, but highlights just how idiotic certain kinds of "rockers" are.

Rather than come up with anything new, former musical partners Meatloaf and (the poor man's discount Phil Spector) Jim Steinman have been whoring
out Bat Out of Hell for 28 years (there's even a live symphonic version!).

But sometime in 1995, Jim Steinman legally trademarked the phrase, which just seems silly to begin with. Imagine how uneventful someone's life must be to pay attorneys to draw up legal papers on a cliche. It feels like he longed for that day in the future when he would pull a hissy fit over Meatloaf's 18th comeback attempt, and have an opportunity to huff the exhaust of a dubious achievement. Plus, he's probably frightened off Bonnie Tyler from pulling a
Total Eclipse Of The Heart II: Bright Eyes Turns Around... which is actually quite the achievement.

While this moronic event is as compelling as debating which direction toilet paper should spin from the dispenser, Meatloaf and Steinman have, so far, avoided total moron meltdown...

...whereas Ronnie James Dio's past pronouncements on his Devil Horns trademark should be included as a special bonus feature on the next DVD repackaging of Spinal Tap.

In 2002, Dio threw a girly snit after seeing Britney Spears flash the horns, and tried to take control of the hand gesture. While admitting he didn't originate the sign, he did make it clear that it was clearly identified with him, and that got quite a bit of free publicity for another of his embarrassing garden gnome gothic records. It didn't help his sales any, but the event may have been the inspiration for the self-absorbed show biz minutia that consumes a character like Johnny Drama.

Review Dio's comments on Devil Horns:
"The point is that you can't just flash it. You have to have a face that goes with it. There has to be some emotion behind it. It can't just be the raising of the arm, trying to get your fingers in the right position... A lot of times, bending of the knees always puts it in a slightly different perspective. It puts you in the Sumo position. Now you're ready to charge!"

You just know he delivered those quotes with intense seriousness, and comedy writers across the land kicked themselves for not having imagined it first.

Meatloaf, Steinman and Dio have one thing in common: strict adherence to album covers that make 5th grade boys feel all warm inside.
Actually, they have something else in common: strict adherence to infantile, overblown lyrics that make 5th grade boys feel naughty and/or evil.

At least Loaf & James center on paperback romance novel hoopla, indicating that they once had sex with women. But poor little Dio... he's been working the winged unicorn sailing through demonic dragon's breath schtick for decades. And he shows no signs of maturity other than maybe switching from the board version to the cyber version of Dungeons & Dragons.

So, maybe "rockers" like this mine the same collapsed vein because they are tragic cases of arrested development. The performing arts are a safe haven for the IQ challenged. But someone like, say, Cameron Diaz hires a PR firm to keep her most embarrassing utterances and deeds out of the paper. Or going back to Idiot Rock, Sammy Hagar at least matured into a tequila and chain restaurant entrepreneur.

But Ronnie James Dio continues to sit in his chain mail-covered Lazy Boy watching
Excalibur on an endless loop, while Meatloaf & Jim Steinman bitch slap each other over who gets the last stale Milk-Bone in the box. VH1 should do me a favor and corral these 3 for a reality show, a la Supergroup. But in this case, sould the title be Super Stupid? Or Long Live Stupidity?

April 23, 2006

Tom Petty Aging Crises

Tom Petty's vanity issues have always intrigued me more than his music has. He's never been what you would call good looking, but he has usually looked like a rock star, and that's the most important part.

He began his careering aping the Dwight Twilley look (above). That's an awesome aspiration, but far greater looking men have tried and failed to scale those heights. Still, Petty's hair was always very important to him and his image. In the early days, a reporter revealed that several times an hour Tom whipped a comb out of his back pocket.

So, as Mr. Petty's hair began to go, he played out the panic in various public ways. He does look good in hats; he should stick with that.

Over these many decades, as his hair reduced his looks grew scraggily and scarier (above). But that's cool because he's a good 'ole trailer gator Florida boy, and aging into haggard gravitas like his idol Dylan is a worthy aspiration.

But sometime last year, his mental odometer flipped over to mid-life crises, and his vanity issues go well beyond the hair. Something tells me the younger bride pictured in many of his public appearance photos has something to do with it... Think Heather re-working Paul McCartney's look, and hear that train of thought whistle past.

So, last season he trotted out as many new looks as Ashlee Simpson...

This season, he trots out a whole new face!!
Yes, he's done something to the hair, too. Understandable, and it looks OK.
But Tom Petty with Botox and cheek implants?!
You're Tom Frickin' Petty, not Kenny Rogers! What's with the face warp?

The thought of Tom Petty Plastic is too hilarious and too absurd to contemplate.
He reads like a sub par mash-up of Nick Gilder & Iggy Pop...
Perfuming the pig...
Gilding the septic tank...
Somewhere, somehow some plastic surgeon must have kicked you around some.

April 16, 2006


Much like calculus, yard work or NASCAR, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is unimportant to me, so I only just now got around to watching Blondie being inducted into it. Blondie being “honored” in such way was a big yawn… until I was genuinely moved by parts of Shirley Manson’s introduction speech:

“Blondie will enter the hall of fame as one of the coolest, most glamorous, most stylish bands in the history of rock & roll… There is just coolness and sweetness and integrity and grace.

“Debbie Harry, the most beautiful girl in any room in any city on any planet… She carefully subverted her mind-blowing beauty with her punk spirit and her gladiator heart.”

Chris Stein put it best when he responded with, “That really put dents in my cynicism.” Agreed. It also caused a flood of old feelings to break my dam.

For every serious music fan, there is that one song, that one moment, or that one album that completely changes their life. It’s such a dramatic, cinematic moment that classifying ones life as B.C. or A.D. is the only way to convey the religious weight of it. My Jesus of Cool rose from the dead the moment I heard Debbie Harry sing, “Yeah, riding high on love’s true blueish light/Ew ew oh oh.”

I heard “Heart Of Glass the very first week it hit the Top 40 Billboard chart, and my antennae started quivering. I knew the song was trying to be disco, but there was a lot more going on under the covers. I suddenly recalled all the little tid-bits about Blondie that I’d run across in my teen girl magazines (like a picture of Debbie with Brooke Shields), and I could literally feel pieces falling into place.

I bought the single, and actually liked the flip side
much better. “11:59” was urgent and pleading while the singer’s voice was cool and detached, and the dichotomy sucked me in. Plus, the label read:
"Produced by Mike Chapman.”
Oh, man, count me in!

I then rushed out to buy
Parallel Lines, and there was no going back. Despite the prejudice of my religious conversion, that cover is still one of the most striking examples of album artwork: simple yet effective, conveying layers of meaning and style with just a few broad strokes.

That album sounded like a jukebox full of promise. Sounds that I’d loved in various forms before were now brought together under one umbrella. I heard “Sunday Girl,” and “Pretty Baby” and found them just as yummy and hook-filled as any of my childhood AM pop favorites, and they did a cover of a Buddy Holly tune! But I also heard hard, chaotic, frantic sounds that riled me up, like “One Way Or Another,” “Hanging On the Telephone” and “Will Anything Happen?” I asked myself, “Is this punk rock?”
“Heart Of Glass” was the lamest thing on the album, and I was ecstatic!

With a gift of hyper information absorption, I went through a crash course on Blondie. I discovered new magazines like
Circus and Hit Parader, and it was blast to find Blondie popping up in staples such as People, US and Dynamite. In short order, I was a Blondie encyclopedia, and when “Heart Of Glass” hit #1 two months later, I was both shocked and pleased.

Blondie was a new world, where not all songs were love songs, where there was subtext and layers of meaning behind every lyric, every riff, and every artistic decision. Blondie was the tree trunk that sent me climbing onto a thousand branches. They “schooled” me on punk, Andy Warhol, CBGB’s, underground art and films, early 60s girl group pop, and that there was a lively, exotic world thriving outside the Billboard Top 40. Blondie taught me more about the broader cultural world within a couple months’ time than I had learned in my previous 13.5 years. It was heady and addictive.

“Blondie is a Group,” and then there was Debbie Harry. She was (and is) a goddess! Aside from Cher, I’d never experienced anyone like her. She was absolutely gorgeous, cooler than shit and had the most glamorous clothes, shoes and hair imaginable. In print, she was intelligent and insightful, but very coy about her past (back then, she had age issues), which gave her an air of mystery. She and boyfriend Chris Stein created and ran the band, and she was an equal partner in songwriting, presentation and direction. She was so beautiful and powerful and talented that she seemed more like a comic book hero than a real-life woman, but it was all true. Everything I needed to know about life, sex, fashion and music was learned at Miss Harry’s feet, and because American media became as infatuated with her as I was, it was easy to get all the advice I needed.

Blondie profoundly altered my view of the world, and I had the utopian belief that it affected everyone else, as well. But I quickly learned that at Kirby Junior High in St. Louis County, there was no change at all. Blondie was a bad topic with my peer group who labeled them disco, or punk, or queer or strange. I knew they were dead wrong, and the Us vs. Them mind set took firm root in my psyche. I’d unwittingly found another way to further ostracize myself from my peers, but this time it left me with something better. Blondie gave me football fields of things to think about, which made staying quiet and ignoring everyone so much easier to do.

Blondie was always ahead of the curve on so many fronts, and because of this gift (or curse), they sometimes confused me, but they always wound up accurately predicting future pop trends (for better of for worse). After Blondie melted down, Debbie Harry continued to improve as an artist. In her 50s, she took on the exacting task of becoming a jazz singer, and her time with the Jazz Passengers turned what was previously a distinctive and effective voice into a true musical instrument that has vastly enriched the sound of the present-era Blondie. Most singers’ voices erode with time; hers improved. That is just one example of the alien miracle that is Deborah.

And it can’t be stated enough: She’s just naturally cool, “with her punk spirit and her gladiator heart.” Even when an ex-band mate tried to put her on the spot at the induction ceremony (read Chris Stein’s tale of the event), she breezed right past it with a crack and a kiss on the lips. To be so continuously and effortlessly cool for so many decades is, basically, impossible. That may sound so junior high of me, but so what? If someone thinks “cool” isn’t important, than they never truly got rock at all…and they probably think the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is important. It’s not, but Blondie is.

April 10, 2006

Moses Martin-Paltrow

So, Whine Paltro & Chris Martin have a new child.
They named him Moses.
Whereas naming their daughter Apple just seemed, um, fruit, adding Moses to the equation just makes the whole thing biblically creepy.
If they name their next son Pontius, it'll just confirm my worst suspicions.
As if they weren't ponderous enough already...

April 07, 2006

Demetrie Kabbaz

The current issue of Arch City Chronicles features a piece I did on Demetrie Kabbaz, the man behind the mysterious Marilyn Shrine. It was a nice way to formally honor the man behind the art that kept me enthralled for so long.

Here's the story, in original blog entry order:

May 10, 2005
May 29, 2005
August 4, 2005
September 25, 2005
October 23, 2005
December 6, 2005

And here's to many more reels in the Technicolor MGM musical that is Kabbaz!

April 05, 2006

Farewell, Gene Pitney

The morning began with the incomprehensible news that Gene Pitney was found dead in a Welch hotel room, after another fabulous performance the night before.

The tributes will start rolling in shortly. My quick take:

The best male interpreter of Bacharach/David songs. His version "24 Hours From Tulsa" is better than Dusty Springfield's, and for me to say that is sacrilegious, but it's true.

He wrote "He's A Rebel." 'Nuff said.

In the late 1990s, Gene Pitney headlined one of those multi-band Oldies Acts cavalcades that played at Riverport in St. Louis. Steve Carosello and I made the trek to the dreaded Shed to see this, feeling that even watered-down Pitney would be better than none at all.

I truly don't remember any of the other bands on the bill. Was one of them The Grassroots? But memorable was that, after a hot summer day, the night turned bitingly cold and windy after the sun went down. So cold, that people, devoid of jackets, started leaving in droves. By the time Pitney took the stage, it was about 45 degrees and maybe 400 people were left in the seats.

All of us survivors were rewarded. Gene Pitney took the stage in a formal suit with a full band, strings and a full horn section! Do you know how expensive it is to take a band like that out on the road?! He couldn't help but notice the sea of empty seats, but it mattered none. He performed as if it were a packed house of V.I.P.s at Madison Square Garden, and it was
transcendent and magical.

His voice was flawless and powerful, his presence commanding. The band was spectacular, like listening to his entire catalogue with maximum fidelity. He played every single thing we wanted to hear, and then some, and improved on how personal favorites were remembered. That night, "24 Hours From Tulsa" brought tears to my eyes. "Town Without Pity" wasn't about teen agony, but just agony, period. "It Hurts To Be In Love" was thunderous.

It was a sensory overload; I can only recall snippets and emotions because my brain blew a joy fuse when the opening notes of "I'm Gonna Be Strong" sounded. It was just absolute perfection, and that it was shared by so few in such surreal circumstances made it magical.

It's no shock that Pitney had put on a "wonderful" show the night before his death. Because of the range and depth of his catalog, he could phone shows in and leave folks satisfied. Instead, he always delivered nothing but maximum quality with maximum passion with a voice that improved with every passing year. He was a truly unique artist, and he has left a gaping void.
Farewell, Mr. Pitney.

March 25, 2006

Arch City Chronicle

The new issue of Arch City Chronicle is out, and I'm a part of it.

Though I've written for them in the past, they asked me to be a regular contributor to their new architecture/real estate/design section. Basically, I'll do B.E.L.T. entries in print. Nice work if you can get it.

Click on the image if you want to actually read it. Or, if you're in St. Louis, just pick up a copy.

March 20, 2006

Dennis Quaid & Manorexia

Dennis Quaid flashes more flesh than most of our favorite bimbos, yet no one ever calls him on the endless chain of gratuitous shirtlessness for fear that he’d stop doing it! More accurately, since he’s a talented actor, popular media concentrates on that and overlooks his blatant flesh peddling. There’s a gender bias at play, but what choice do we have but to accept this and move on?

Even in his 50s, he has an amazing body, and an awful lot of work goes into that. There’s no such thing as accidental 6-pack abs, and I’m sure his daily fitness routine would shame Madonna. His dedication to his craft is acknowledged, yet his dedication to his physique is ignored.

Ignored, until Dennis revealed he was once manorexic. Yes, the same warped body image that is a tax write-off for Hollywood actresses also zapped The Torso. If the ever-svelte Quaid had fallen prey to the pressurized vanity of Hollywood, it begs the question: how many other actors have experienced this? Dennis was man enough to admit to a “girly” preoccupation with his looks, but is now secure enough to withstand the onslaught of “boylemic” jokes.

While contemplating Quaid’s disease that temporarily threatened that exquisite physique, I had brunch with a guy friend who’s been dieting to lose 30 pounds. So far, he’s lost 23 pounds and looks fabulous. As great as he looks right now, he insists that those last 7 pounds have got to go. I asked him to seriously consider staying right where he’s at because it’s (ahem) a thin line between looking good and looking scary. I sited the Farrah Fawcett’s and Nicole Richie’s of the world and warned that some future lost pound could mark the difference between looking youthful and looking elderly.

Rather than seeing what he actually looks like, he’s fixated on the goal. It has nothing to do with reality, but with a sense of self that’s threatening to veer out of bounds. Suddenly, I had a complete understanding of how someone like Dennis Quaid could have fallen prey and succumbed to that same mindset.

Dennis Quaid is ultra famous and constantly scrutinized by thousands of eyes. My friend is a somewhat public figure, but the pressure he feels to keep losing the weight comes only from him. Despite his profession, Quaid’s pressure came only from himself, too. Then he got a handle on it.

While contemplating the body image issues of my friend and Mr. Quaid, I noticed Fall Out Boy’s chubby singer, and wondered why so many American rockers are pudgy. Once upon a time, there were no fat rock stars allowed, with the exception of Leslie West, Meatloaf and Frank Black. But a generation of housebound, 20-somethings raised playing Nintendo on the couch have inherited rock, and the given of a rocker being a lean, hungry slash of energy is an antiquated notion… though Gerard Way, of My Chemical Romance, did purposely lose weight, maybe because a fat Goth is a complete oxymoron.

So, the young music boys are getting fat while the young music girls are starving themselves. Contrast the self-induced starving with the escalating obesity rates in America, and then Dennis Quaid reveals the secret of manorexia. For the young, weight has become such a dramatic black & white issue, but for Dennis Quaid, my friend and all of us middle-agers, a touch of grey is preferable.

Dennis Quaid
Reel Men Are Gay

March 14, 2006

George Clooney vs. Teri Hatcher

I believe George Clooney when he says he never dated Teri Hatcher, and I feel bad that he’s been dragged into her quivering mass of whack despite his efforts to avoid any serious entanglement with her.

Clooney is an experienced lady’s man, and can surely sniff out a clinging vine before it takes root. That he’s a Hollywood veteran probably gives him radar that can sense opportunists. Also, doesn’t he seem like the type of guy who’d steer clear of this:
“I have so much pain,” says Teri Hatcher. “I’m a woman who carries around all these layers of fear and vulnerability. I’m trying to be my powerful me.”

Thankfully, just cataloged all the problems I have with Miss Hatcher, and saved me the time it would have taken to say it in a more diplomatic manner. To sum it up:
Teri Hatcher is a lunatic. Much like Kim Basinger, even a blind man can sense that a haze of neurotic craziness hangs over her. Her aura is testosterone unfriendly.

The Clooney-Hatcher Saga in a Nut(job)shell:
  • Hatcher starts a rumor that she and Clooney are dating by denying that she and Clooney are dating, thus causing Clooney’s people to substantiate it by denying it.

  • But Clooney does concede that he went to dinner with her once. They ate at a place he frequents because he’s never bothered by the press. But funny enough, the night he takes Hatcher to that restaurant, there’s press waiting outside at the end of the evening. That hoary PR shenanigan killed Hatcher’s chances of even being his pal.

  • Then Hatcher reveals her childhood sex abuse to Vanity Fair. She also reveals that being “emotionally shattered” by a Hollywood Mystery Man is what prompted her to finally confess her horrible secret. It then gets leaked to the press that Clooney is that Mysterious Heartbreaking Cad.

  • Hatcher issues an “official” statement defending Clooney, saying he is not the man that crushed her like a little sparrow. Clooney issues a statement that all this mickey mouse takes away from Hatcher’s brave decision to reveal her secret.

Much like a stalker pulling any stunt to keep the victim engaged, Hatcher, in her precisely orchestrated battle against “tabloid sensationalism,” keeps throwing Clooney’s name into the mix. Why Clooney responds at all is a mystery; it just perpetuates Hatcher’s warped sense of connection.

But one thing about stalkers: They will stop bothering you once they find a new victim.
In Touch Weekly claims she’s now (ahem) dating Ryan Seacrest.
After snorting soda out the nose, note that Miss Hatcher’s “friend” calls Seacrest the “anti-George.” Note that a funny fuse has been blown.

Mr. Clooney, please take this opportunity to fully remove yourself from the Hatcher Job. Much like her face, it’s only going to get messier, and you’re supposed to be too smart to drown in the desperation.

Good Night and Good Luck
George Clooney

March 10, 2006

John Travolta's Church

The Scientologists have expressed their displeasure at John Travolta hoping to star as a Edna Turnblad in the cinematic remake of Hairspray. They’re reportedly griping about L. Ron Hubbard – the late Scientology founder – being severely anti-gay, and that Travolta parading around in drag would be a violation of Hubbard’s beliefs.

Let’s set aside that the Scientologists are a reported safe haven for closeted gay celebrities, or that Scientology is considered a cult by most of the globe. Instead, let’s concentrate on a church publicly questioning a parishioner’s career choices.

Many utter unkind words about the Catholic religion, but not a single Catholic CEO has ever said squat to the press about Jennifer Lopez’s divorces. The Jehovah’s Witnesses never said peep about any of Michael Jackson’s activities violating their by-laws when he was one of them. And the Mormons’ felt no need to rush to a microphone to denounce any of Maria Osmond’s public downfalls as a pox against their faith.

Now, the Church of Scientology never said diddly about parishioner Kirstie Alley’s over-the-top Fat Actress escapades, or Tom Cruise portraying a killer-for-hire in Collateral, and surely those roles violated some Hubbard creed. But Travolta tries to land the part of a fat housewife, and they go ballistic?

Considering the careers of their high-profile members, and with one of the church headquarters located smack dab in the middle of Hollywood proper, it just seems queer to publicly mess with Travolta’s next movie paycheck. And he needs to keep the benjamins rolling in if they want him to continue to afford being a member of the Church.

Separation of Church & State is, currently, an eroding concept, but separation of Religion & Hollywood has remained fairly consistent. When a scandal rocks the celebrity world, we hear condemnation from every limo-driver, waitress and spurned business partner, but never from the notorious person’s church. A person’s faith is supposed to be a private affair (Madonna), and even the religions the Christian masses consider too whacky to be legit (like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons) know to stay out of a member’s livelihood.

It's difficult to be fair about accepting the Church of Scientology as a valid religion when they’re hectoring Mr. Travolta about his career choices. They’re acting more like a bitter producer than a religion, and surely the movie community anxiously awaits Tom Cruises’ thoughts on Hairspray casting decisions.

March 05, 2006

Matt Dillon & Oscar

Tonight's the night Matt Dillon could win the Oscar.
Last night he won Best Supporting Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards, so maybe he's not sweating tonight's outcome. I'm probably more nervous than he is.

It's his time to win, really it is. At this point, he's a solid Hollywood veteran, who's worked his way up through the ranks, always giving solid and ever-improving performances. He's honestly earned the right to join the Academy ranks.

Instead, this will be the only time I'll ever be disappointed that George Clooney won.

Besides, even if he doesn't walk away with Oscar, he has finally been accepted into the club, and will have more opportunities in the future to be a contender. So, I'm still rooting for Dillon, even though he did not pick me as his Oscar date. Life's too short to hold a grudge, you know?

11:00 PM Post-Script
OK, so Matt didn't win, but he looked breathtakingly dashing, and losing to George Clooney is an honor.
Then Crash goes for the upset Best Picture victory. Whoa.

An insightful friend at the Oscar viewing party quickly noted that Brokeback obviously got the voters' nod. But because things are so dire for his administration, Karl Rove intercepeted Price-Waterhouse and made them change the winner to Crash. As far as conspiracy theories go, this one is not that far-fetched.

But most importantly, note that Matt Dillon was dateless. Uh huh.

All I Want For Christmas
Happy Thanksgiving
Gen X Regrets

February 20, 2006

Dave Chappelle's Burden

I just saw Dave Chappelle’s turn on Inside the Actors Studio, and I was riveted. It came close to answering some questions I have for Chappelle.

I was late to the Chappelle Party, but from the moment I entered, I always wanted to know: What's next? How do you take this to the next level?

Pointed, humorous discourse on race is good. His way of conveying it is perfect. Personally, he's never offended me, never crossed the line, but that's not what I need from him. But because he's so intelligent, so multi-layered with his comedy, I always want to know:
How do you take this to the next level?
What have you learned? What can you teach us?

I never expect any examples of honest, humanitarian behavior - or answers - from artists. I accept what they present to me, and use it in the manner most relevant to me. It’s a fair exchange.

But from Moment One with Chappelle, I developed these expectations:
What have you learned? What can you teach us?

These questions seemed inappropriate: Why would I expect something beyond what he's giving me? I never had an answer to that, just a strong intuition, just a hunch.

At one point, Lipton asks Chappelle what he would like to do for a living if not what he's doing. He answered:
A teacher.

It's in him, and he knows it. That's obviously what I keep picking up on.
Now, the man is obviously content being what he is: a comedian. But he's also always struggling to "keep it real." When showbiz demands started to compromise who he is and what he does, he split in order to save the pieces of him that he values. This kind of behavior is the true measure of a man, and not only does he measure up, but also he’s created a new benchmark.

Now, to place any heavy burdens on him is insane, and he won't accept any unnecessary expectations or compromises. But I think about the oft-asked question:
Where are the true leaders in the black community?
I think it's Dave Chappelle.
I think he knows that's in him, too. But that would carry him away from his true essence... or would it? And there lies his struggle.

With Lipton, he also said that his role is to point out and talk about the white elephant (institutionalized racism) in the room. To some degree, talking about it removes some of its power to harm. But then what?
How do you take that to the next level?
What have you learned? What can you teach us?

Dave Chappelle's actions show the content of his character, his mind and his soul. Thus, it brings up those expectations that I've developed for him. But I wouldn't notice it if he wasn't conveying it.

His family background puts him squarely in the ring of educational leadership. He even told Lipton that people of all races and ages come to him with their approval. He's primed for something beyond being a genius comedian.
It's his personal Black Man's Burden.
Mr. Chappelle, if Barack Obama should come knocking, open the door and let him in.

February 15, 2006

T. Rex on Glam Rock

Much like a kid watching their Thomas The Tank Engine tape 5 times in a row, I can’t stop watching Glam Rock.

There are Must-See clips: 2 top-notch performances by the always-amazing Roxy Music, and one apiece for the great-for-a-long-moment Alice Cooper Band, and never-great-but-so-what Suzi Quatro.

There are bizarre clips: Lulu stands frozen as she rocks a 1930s gangster look while covering a Bowie tune. Showaddywaddy’s front man had tube socks down his trousers. Literally, you could see the ribbing, I swear.

There are “What The Hell? They Ain’t Glam!” clips: Nazareth, Dave Edmunds, Rod Stewart and the Tom Robinson Band. Hypocrisy comes into play for the David Cassidy clip of “Rock Me Baby”. No, he wasn’t glam, he was simply fabulously cute, and he did sport a pair of silver glitter platform boots for this live clip. He gets in on a technicality.

But there are 2.5 clips that I keep repeating. The Sweet mimed a performance of “Teenage Rampage,” and it doesn’t matter that it’s canned because they look like Crayola tin foil and carry on like it’s last call at the corner tavern. Not having previously seen footage of them performing, this was a surprising delight.

At age 6, the very first 45 that I bought was Sweet’s “Little Willy.” I didn’t know who the band was, had not even seen a picture of them. I simply adored the song, and was powerless to resist. I played that infectious slice of romper-stomper pop so often that I was told to “give it a rest.” Which meant I flipped over to the B-Side, “Man from Mecca,” and absolutely loathed it. In retrospect, that would be because the boys in the band wrote it, rather than Chinn & Chapman.

But that Sweet moment in time still registers as a musical regret. Even though the more bubblegum aspects of glam rock were supposedly targeted to 8-year-old British girls, this American grade-schooler didn’t have a clue as to what was going on across the pond. If I’d been several years older during the Glam heyday, it would be a different tale to tell. But essentially, I missed it all, and that’s the regret.

I would have been the ultimate American glam freak, embarrassing my family and non-Glam friends with an overload of glitter and feathers, and naked alien Bowie posters on the bedroom wall. Upon first viewing of the movie Velvet Goldmine (paid to see it 2 days in a row at the theater), I had the strange sensation of vividly recalling something I never did, while my friend – who was the exact right age at that time – chuckled over how accurately the movie depicted that era. I was so jealous.

But the most revelatory item on
Glam Rock is the opening clip of T. Rex performing “Jeepster.” It’s an absolutely live and utterly perfect performance, so simple yet so energetic, with an underplayed charisma from Marc Bolan that had my nose pressed up to the TV screen.

“Underplayed” is a word seldom associated with Bolan, but on this particular Musikladen moment, it’s an accurate description. He is wearing a simple blue, button down dress shirt and black bell bottom trousers. His magnificent head of curly dark hair is shiny immaculate. His singing is calm and focused, his guitar playing spot-on and propulsive. No makeup or spangles, no primping and preening; Bolan is merely rock star cool. The other 3 members of the band are in the zone with him, especially the strikingly handsome Mickey Finn, elevating conga-playing to the ranks of cool.

“Jeepster” is an achingly basic blues shuffle, but as with all solid rock, it’s the tone and energy that creates an arresting tune. This song left plenty of open air for spontaneous moments, which included Bolan forgetting the words of the 4th verse, so he makes some up on the spot. But it’s done so casually, so naturally that it’s a testament to how perfect Bolan was at that moment in time.

Music history remembers Bolan and T. Rex in a precise way. This single performance shows that he/they were actually much more than their outrageous, bubblegum fairy dusters label reveals. They had the look, the sound, the chops, the magic, and that’s rock & roll.

But then comes the 2nd T. Rex clip, and the magic spell is broken. It’s only a span of about 18 months between these 2 Musikladen appearances, but the difference is Grand Canyon wide. T. Rex does a lackluster live reading of “20th Century Boy” that never stood a chance of matching the crunchy metal energy of the record. But the truly disarming aspect is Bolan.

He’s now decidedly puffy and orange, his hair a dry, dull mess of static electricity. He’s either wrestling his mouth free of a ginormous white feather boa, or primping and posing like a poncy peacock, and both these activities cause him to miss cues and remain generally distracted. Now, this represents the lingering impression of Bolan, as the larger-than-life, egotistical pop brat. Whereas that image was perfectly fine to me for all these years, in light of the “Jeepster” moment, it suddenly became unacceptable. If I’d been a viable participant of that era, his upward trajectory would have made smooth sense. Taken out of context, and based solely on musical merit, it’s just sad.

So, my thumb crashes down on the remote’s back button, returning to the first T. Rex, the one who didn’t need glitter to sparkle, or a large studio budget to slay an audience. Much like a kid watching their Thomas The Tank Engine tape 10 times in a row, I can’t stop watching Glam Rock.

February 02, 2006

Saving Pamela Anderson

There has been too much Miss Pammy bashing going on, and I'm putting my platform-booted foot down, hard. There are plenty of celebrities who deserve a beat down, but she's not one of them.

Cracks about her age are a given; she turns 39 this summer. In Sex Symbol Years, that's AARP. But cracks that she's looking road hard and put up wet?
Two words: Hepatitis C.
Maybe she hasn't kept up with her cosmetic surgery because she
can't risk going under the knife anymore. Plus, the current state of her face and body is nowhere near as ravaged as some of the Desperate Housewives or Paris Hilton's pals, so folks, just lay off.

In a disposable culture, sex symbols are like used tissue, so why is Miss Pammy deserving of gentle treatment?
Because she's a good gal who gets the joke and has never done any harm.

Good Gal: Dishing dirt is the currency in show business, yet no one has ever had a truly negative thing to say about Pamela's behavior. She's been around for quite some time; if she were a tantrum-throwing, backstabbing hyena, we'd have already heard about it. But we haven't, and no one has any reason to spare us such gory details. This doesn't mean she's Mary Poppins, but it also indicates that she treats everyone around her fairly. It has also been shown that she is a dedicated and genuine mother to her two children. All of the above makes her a very rare breed of Hollywood star and mother.

Gets The Joke: She's never pretended to be anything other than what she's capable of, never had pretensions of being something else. Her failures aren't as steep because she doesn't scale unnecessarily high, and that kind of honest career assessment is oddly refreshing in Hollywood. She is fully in charge of every aspect of her career, the CEO of her image, and you can't laugh at her because she walked you to the punch line.

Caused No Harm: Her animal rights activism generates headlines, but so far, it's documentaries and verbal taunts rather than bomb threats. Her choice in men can be dicey, but that doesn't hurt us, only her.
She hasn't ruined careers, spoken ill of (non-fur wearing) others, or brought about any controversy or negative press due to incorrigible behavior or irresponsible actions. In Hollywood terms, this makes her a saint! She asks for nothing from us (other than don't wear fur), and in return provides laughs and a rack.

As to the Rack Factor: For over 15 years, she has contributed quality material to the Global Spank Bank. That puts her in the Sex Symbol Hall of Fame, along with Marilyn Monroe, Raquel Welch and a few others I can't think of because I'm a straight gal... For her unwavering service to hormones and fantasies, she deserves our respect. For her singular brand of joie de vivre, she deserves our kindness.