Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"More wolfbane?"

Going through the long shelved archives, amongst the programs of plays done at John A Rowland High School and the Diamond Bar Players, the goofy bits of writing for the High School Newspaper, THE BRANDING IRON ("yuck"), and poetry that actually ended as a runner up in a Buffalo Springfield lyric writing contest (more on that later), I found a number of artifacts pertaining to my long running relationship with THE COUNT DRACULA SOCIETY of the early '60s to mid '70s.  I am always amazed at how many important, interesting and influential persons were at those get-togethers, be they at some multi-purpose building in a Los Angeles park, a celebrity's home in old Hollywood or a vintage hotel like the Knickerbocker.  I've discussed days with THE COUNT DRACULA SOCIETY on these pages in the past.  And have included photos with Vincent Price, William Marshall, Robert Quarry and Ray Bradbury.  But rediscovering the programs for the annual awards banquet, reminded me how rich the company was.  Especially for a 15 or 16 year old boy.

These were relaxed times.  Where fans of gothic horror movies, literature, fantasy and science fiction, could rub elbows with top professionals in all fields, and not be corrupted by blatant commercialism or attempts to hustle a gig.  It was for the love of the genre.  How things have changed.  And why I gravitated away from it by the late '70s, early '80s.

It all started with the youthful obsession with FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine and its enthusiastic editor Forrest J Ackerman (he never liked a period after the middle J).  This magazine was the bible for twisted youths in love with weird movies.  And its editor was very available to its fans; being run by the biggest sci-fi fan of all.

In a way, like in the bohemian past, Forry ran a sort of salon.  The door of his home was almost always open to seekers of the strange, in awe to walk through his collection of mind-bending artifacts.  His Robotrix from METROPOLIS at the front door, his collection of Universal Monster Heads, his original sci-fi magazine art, film posters and photos.  Ray Guns and movie props.  It was a trip, Man!

Getting to know Forry led to the discovery of a new organization called The Count Dracula Society.  "Devoted to the serious study of horror films and gothic literature."  I got my sympathetic, fantasy loving father, to take me to a meeting in some multi-purpose room at some park in South Los Angeles, where we met Forry and the Society's Founder and President, Doctor Donald A. Reed.  This is where I sat next to a still rather unknown George Kennedy, there to say hello to Forry, as he had just finished filming a movie written by PSYCHO author Robert Bloch, whom Forry was his literary agent.  And so an association began with the society lasting under 20 years.

I'm always dazzled by the company that one elbowed with at those meetings, award banquets and film screenings, public and private.  Three of the earliest award recipients, I never met: Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, Jr.  But Vincent Price crossed my path at an awards dinner and the world premiere of DR. PHIBES at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.  Hosted by Army Archerd, I also got to meet eccentric voice actor Paul Frees, who was on the soundtrack album, doing impressions that had nothing to do with the film.  Still, this was Boris Badenov from ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE, company member with Stan Freberg, the Pillsbury Doughboy and every other voice in the English language release of RODAN.

 I met two of my three favourite sci-fi authors there:  Ray Bradbury and A. E. Van Vogt.  Also Robert Bloch and Fritz Leiber, Jr.  Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster sat next to me at a dinner once, which I didn't realize till halfway through the meal.

Many of my fellow youthful enthusiasts went on to careers in the field.  Randall Kleiser, Joe Dante and John Landis, who I got to work with in two of his movies, THE BLUES BROTHERS and INTO THE NIGHT.  Special effects and makeup people came out of this group too.  Stop motion animator David Allen was a good friend; he living in Anaheim while I lived in Fullerton.  David was a student of masters Willis O'Brien of KING KONG and Ray Harryhausen of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.  David went on to work for George Lucas, another fan, in STAR WARS and likewise fan Steven Spielberg in YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES and John Landis in OSCAR.  The circles were small in those days.

The more one participated in the Society, the more one was rewarded by Donald Reed with governing positions in the club.  Over the years I became a Governor, Vice Chairman and Assistant Secretary.  The perks of this meant hobnobbing at organizational meetings with Forrest J Ackerman, Ray Bradbury and others.  Donald Reed was a very nice guy who had endless enthusiasm for gothic literature and classic horror films.  I liked the classic gothic edge the society had in the beginning, with many worldwide scholars attending and lecturing.  That aspect of the society diminished over the years as the Hollywood aspect pervaded and the use of The Count Dracula Society as a publicity machine for new projects.  The organization tied in with the Hammer Film release of DRACULA A.D. 1972.  I had letters of introduction and was able to contact Peter Cushing and his wife Helen in Kent and Christopher Lee at his home in Cadogan Square in London in January 1970.  Later when Christopher Lee moved to Los Angeles, he attended one of the awards banquet (at that particular affair, one not only met Lee, but actors Strother Martin and John Agar).

I remember one time, under my official capacity as one thing or another, I had the privilege of giving out to the other Governors, a skull & crossbones pin that had been designed by Bud Abbott of Abbott and Costello fame.  They had been made as parting gifts for cast and crew of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET CAPTAIN KIDD with Boris Karloff.  They were quite beautiful, with red stone eyes and the words "Your Pal, Bud Abbott." in the mold underneath.  I kept two for myself, one of which I gave to FIRESIGN THEATRE friend David Ossman.  At the banquet I had the pleasure of pinning one on the lapels of director Robert Wise, there to accept an award for THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and THE HAUNTING.  Did I mention that Bud Abbott was a friend of Reed's and had donated his remaining collectable pins to the Society? 

Those were heady times.  I've posted pictures here in past entries, with Vincent Price, William Marshall, Robert Quarry, Rock Hudson, Ray Bradbury.  There's more, of course.  I remember one banquet with director Curtis Harrington, there to pick up an award with a table filled of cast members from his film GAMES.  Method actor Don Stroud was there, quite intoxicated, laughing hysterically at all of the speaker's foreign names, like Devandra P. Varma.  Otherwise, the more intimate meetings at old Hollywood mansions in classic screening rooms were pure magic.  Was it the home of director Rouben Mamoullian, who did THE MARK OF ZORRO and THE GARDEN OF ALLAH that we joined actress Carol Borland in a rare screening of THE MARK OF THE VAMPIRE?
Pure Magick!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"I dislike mirrors. Van Helsing...will explain."

My wife would be happy to live her entire life in a theme park.  Dingyland is her Fortress of Solitude.  Hiding in Open Sight.  It is her Nirvana (of course, so are concert halls, clubs, movie theatres, as well as arenas and stadiums; the latter of which I truly hate).  Dingyland is going to take a lot of work on both of our parts if I am ever to embrace it as "The Happiest Place On Earth."  The Magical Kingdom.  I despise the concept of Kingdom.  Kings are usually Tyrants.  And the Tyrant Must Die.

This is not the time or place to discuss my love/hate relationship with Walt Disney.  As the mutated product of a young life misspent in Door Hinge County (Door Hinge being the only rhyming equivalent of Orange), I will save this rant for an upcoming encounter with the blessed/cursed location; this Carnival of Souls encamped in Anna's Home. 

No, instead I will sidetrack to the lovely lady's Second Place of Fantastic Diversion: Universal Studios.
Longtime listeners of SPACE PIRATE RADIO will know that I refer to the Hollywood Studio as Unilateral Pictures.  Producers of the Classic Horror Films like 1941's THE WOLF GUY, starring Lon Chairs, Jr.  "Even a man who's pure of heart, And says his prayers at night.  May become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms,  And his trousers are too tight."

Spontaneity becomes the choreography of motivation and I insist to the travel driven wife that we are off to Hollywood to see KULA SHAKER at The Roxy and stay at the Universal Hilton, visit the Park and do the Tourista Tango.

I've never done the Universal Studios Park, Rides or Tour Experience.  I have worked on the Universal Studio lot, however, a number of times and quite enjoyed myself.  Director John Landis, an old horror and sci-fi fan who when as kids hung out at Forry Ackerman's house of fantastic memorabilia; he lets me cavort in THE BLUES BROTHERS.  My former girlfriend, Sue Dugan, is now a costumer working for Designer Deborah Nadoolman, the wife of Landis.  I may discuss my subliminal film career, if you can call it a career, later.  But suffice for now, Universal Studios is the "Happiest Place" for me, because I've worked here, made money here, was given job offers here and all around treated well.  John Landis would grab me from the Jail House Rock scene (the movie's finale) and pull me along to his working bungalow, which just happens to be the one Alfred Hitchcock called home, and watch rough cuts of the James Brown sequence.  John would spend precious working time talking to me about our horror and sci-fi obsessed days at the home of the editor of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and passing this information on to a lady reporter from the Denver Post.  That was January 1980.  Earlier, at the end of 1979, I was a paid extra in the Illinois concert scenes, actually filmed at the Hollywood Palladium.  Besides the music, the thrill of those two days was hanging with Cab Calloway and working with the great comedy actor John Candy.  I loved SCTV and hated SNL.

In the mid eighties, I would do one more film for Universal with John Landis.  INTO THE NIGHT.  Spending 15 hours shooting from afternoon till daybreak at the legendary Ships Restaurant on La Cienega Blvd.  That was a trip!  This film was the first leading role for both Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer.  I played a leather freak in black, Raymond Blurr.  The opening establishing crane shot of Ships Restaurant, showing the front door entrance, with yours truly, sitting at the counter with a beautiful, free-spirited, blonde woman (played by a lady model, who had just appeared in a ZZ Top video), was actually the last take filmed at nearly 4:30 in the morning.  In the other window, film director Amy Heckerling of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, serves dessert and coffee to Jeff and Michelle.  I am seen over Michele's right shoulder, in her responses to Jeff's line of questioning.

Later still, I would be offered a chance to write scripts for THE INCREDIBLE HULK television series, but purist that I thought I was, would decline.  Finally in 1994, I would be invited to contribute research and promotional assistance to THE SHADOW, observe the filming of the Sanctum scenes, and have full access to cast and crew.  A real buzz for a long time lover of THE SHADOW radio series and pulp magazines.  All this verbosity, to simply say the Universal Studios park has a not unwelcome feel to it.  Rather than Disneyland, which does have some magickal childhood memories, also includes a young adult contempt of its darker undertones.  Undertones which have soured into elder adult overtures of malignancy and betrayal.  How fresh the memories retain of a gestapo-like dress code, which often banned those of us with modish long hair from entering this exalted realm of fantasy.  Bullshit!

So it takes the Little Lady to bring back my Inner Child.  My attitude has changed.  My altitude has changed as well.  In hotels, I like the high floors.  What happened to my fear of California Earthquakes?  The train in that long tunnel in Chatsworth?  The Klaustro Kino Phobia of the subway; the tight fit of the Red Line?  Hah!  Hah!

The Universal Studios Park is a stage set, and I love playing on the stage.  The childhood memories flood back.  That's a problem with the Elderly Plumbing.  From the opening Universal Globe through to the paths & byways.  It's recess time!  My first order of preschool business is going to Springfield.  Now I have to admit, from the early days on, I was never a fan of the show.  Everyone else was.  Even as a comedy fan and comic artwork aficionado, I didn't have time for the program.  Even though Matt Groening contributed LIFE IN HELL to the underground press I did my surreal satires to and our paths crossed, I didn't schmooze.  THE SIMPSONS was on Sunday evenings, and I was prepping SPACE PIRATE RADIO for that night at the Witching Hour. 

Well, that has changed, like so many other things.  I enjoy the show for all its avant-garde touches and subtleties waiting to be picked up.  It's still smarter than FAMILY GUY or SOUTH PARK.  It's gotten friendlier and that's appreciated in this environment of cruel, angry and dystopian humour that permeates the mindset.  I need optimism when I'm cutting the enemy down with giggle-filled sarcasm. 

Even the wife, who tortures me, and I mean TORTUES, as in Bela Lugosi in THE RAVEN, "TORE-CHURES" me with her fanatical love for the accursed Dingyland....even the wife admits that Unilateral has the Park Life down better than the Walt's Stormtroopers.  Yes, it's WESTWORLD with a pointy fingerprint scan.  But the entrance experience is far more professional, less invasive and inviting then Dingy's "ARBEIT MACHT FREI," just off the train cattle car welcome at Himmler Street and the SSplanade. 

We do THE SIMPSONS ride.  It is the first ride I've been on since the original Captain Nemo ride or Mr. Toad or Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland.  Or maybe Tripping on the Monsanto ride, hoping to steal a kiss from girlfriend, Maggie Elfman.  This ride...there are warnings about people with heart conditions, nervous dispositions, spinal problems, sudden shocks, flash photography and epileptic seizures.  Like those medical ads on TV, "side effects may include certain death, shrinking of the toupee and testicular migration.  Do NOT take CRAPALOFT if you have suicidal thoughts regarding Jerry Springer, or find breathing a normal part of your daily routine,  Discontinue taking CRAPALOFT if symptoms include spontaneous choreography of the bowels, or sudden quantities of sawdust develop in your heart valves, thus causing pulpatations."
Oh, the irony!  I'm going to die on THE SIMPSONS ride!

And just a day after seeing KULA SHAKER at the ROXY THEATRE on the Sunset Strip.  I mean, KULA SHAKER.  Featuring frontman Crispian Mills, the son of my first childhood crush, Hayley Mills.  Hayley Mills whose photo on LIFE Magazine was my first passion for the opposite sex.  And Crispian, the son of director Roy Bolting.  Whose May-December marriage to Hayley caused an outrage--especially with Walt Disney!  And possibly began my obsession with younger woman.  Quite possibly.  Buy Roy Bolting is cool 'cause he directed all those great, early Peter Sellers films.

Ah, the ROXY THEATRE!  Saw STEELEYE SPAN there.  And STOMU YAMASHTA'S GO, with Michael Shrieve and Al Di Meola in the group.  And the original stage production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.  Fab, man!

And yes, I DID survive the Simpsons KRUSTYLAND ride.  The wife and I even had a car to ourselves.  It was that mellow.  At the end of the ride, a camera takes a picture of the abused and surprised riders. Sadly and unfortunately, the flash didn't go off.  So I have no visual memory of surviving the experience with cherished woman.

I did die, however, on the MINIONS ride.  Next time, I will be prepared. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

"I need a rendezvous...rendezvous."

The world seems out of balance.  A chaos factor in the air.  A Battle Extraordinaire.  Darkness versus Light.  Good versus Evil.  An Orange County version of Steam Punk.  A blending of time periods.  Josef Goebbels runs The Desert Fox News Channel.  Shicklegruber hosts The Apprentice.  Dancing With The Scars.  Lemmings going over the Edge with a Quick Quick Slow Two Step. 

It's hitting home.  Too Claustrophobic For Comfort.  So when the Poles shift; there's seismic action under your tap shoes...The Yin Yang becomes the Kling Klang:  We're heading off for the Rock Show.  Or in the Amon Duality of it all, the TWO Rock Shows.  It's a Deja View.  How does one fight off this malaise? 

By going to the Rock Show.  May-December, Young and Old.  In a Romantic Interlude.  Harold and Maudlin.

We are migrating South to see KRAFTWERK.  2 Times 2.  First, it's off to San Diego.  A new venue for the Little Lady and me: The Balboa Theatre.

A pattern has revealed itself, but with new variations.  My Muse and I love KRAFTWERK.  I am proud to say that SPACE PIRATE RADIO was the first commercial radio station to play the Work of Kraft (without the cheese...Louise!) in January 1974.  Despite that boast, the Beloved Little Lady has ACTUALLY seen Ralf Hutter and the boys, perhaps three times more than me.

If one scrolls or scrawls back to the collected Arcana that is the tower of candles melting, a post praises the KRAFTWERK experiences of San Francisco and Oakland, and bemoans the SoCal misery of the outdoor concert.  As mentioned previously, when asked at a certain time what were my favourite and least favourite concert experiences, I replied: BEST: KRAFTWERK, San Francisco, the Warfield Theatre.  The Worst: KRAFTWERK,  Los Angeles, the Greek Theatre. 

Why is this? 

The reason appears to me to be Indoor versus Outdoor.  The serious music lover wishes to be involved in the enclosed event.  Outside is social event, a picnic, a party.  A Festival.  It really doesn't matter who or what is playing.  The music is the soundtrack to the Happening.  The Audience is the Headliner.  The Massed Ensemble are there to be watched.  The Artists are secondary.  The Fourth Wall is reversed.

And so for KRAFTWERK, the earlier equation is repeated.  Our last experience with the band was in Oakland, at the Fox Theatre.  Three nights, but I opt out for my cranky man, low energy routine of seeing only one show.  Only E has the Energy for the marathon music binges.  And her secret life as a patient of Sacher-Masoch prepares her for the Ordeal to Come. 

In Oakland, I take the Middle Path.  Shows One and Three I avoid.  But not today.  For this pair of KRAFTWERK shows, I am now Sasha Mascot.  I'm the Alchemist of Pain & Pleasure.  I'm going for the Gold!

And why not?  I'm a changed man.  New experiences await.  The first show is in San Diego.  At a venue neither I nor my venue voyager has been to: The Balboa Theatre.

And the second show is on my fogging Birthday, for Krispies Sake!  September 18th, a Sunday: the actual day of my early entrance.  The place?  The Hollywood Bowl.  Let's Go!  I'm pumped!  I'm on Stereo Oids.

Yin Yang.  Kling Klang.  Indoor.  Outdoor.  Show me the Magick.

And it Manifests. 

The Balboa is a doorway into another mindset.  A theatre better prepared for vaudeville and Thurston.  Actually a low key auditorium that stages travelling musicals; this is not your typical hall for Pixies or a Depeche Mode Tribute Band.  Usually filled with Season Subscribers, it is, in fact, a treasure to savor an unexpected musical moment.  Quite simply, this theatre, named after Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the First European to see the Pacific Ocean (how appropriate!) becomes possibly the here and now of the best KRAFTWERK performance we have ever experienced.

It is sublime.  No yelps of inebriated concert goers, misplaced applause or disturbances to the performance.  The acoustics are delicate to accentuated.  There is room to breathe for the silent spaces.  It is Blissful.  It tops every show of the band I've seen.  My batteries are recharged.  I'm back in classic SPACE PIRATE RADIO mode.  I'm inspired.  And when I'm inspired, I ignore the Pods waiting for me to snooze.

As mentioned before, I've seen KRAFTWERK in concert 5 times total.  My much younger wife has seen them actually 13 times.  She loves sole founding member Ralf Hutter.  I respect him enough that I would let her move to Dusseldorf with him.  Now SPACE PIRATE RADIO was the first show to play KRAFTWERK on commercial U.S. radio.  And in all the years of the show, with all the musical heroes I've met, I and the wife have never met Ralf.  That must change.

And it did.

Thus making San Diego, this Southern Star of California, a place of new, surprising and cherished memories.

And now on the flipside of our platter...

"You say it's your birthday."  Usually frightened of flipping the odometer, I decide to celebrate an ominous numerological event by doing a second KRAFTWERK show in an open arena.  The Hollywood Bowl or Bowel if I feel the need for a cheap shot.  Actually, I don't hate the Hollywood Bowl like I truly hate the Greek Theatre.  The last time I was at the Bowl was for Monty Python.  Yes, the filmed concert of Monty Python at the etc. etc.  I am actually in the film, with excellent seats, sitting with my girlfriend at the time, Sue Dugan: actress, costumer and after TWILIGHT ZONE, THE MOVIE, the horrific triple death accident, nun.  Besides seeing the Pythons in the flesh and unknowingly appearing in the film, the performance was memorable for sitting with Doctor Timothy Leary and talking about ASH RA TEMPEL and Manuel Gottsching.

But I digress...I'm here on the natal day for KRAFTWERK.  "Are you coming to the Hollywood Bowl?" Ralf Hutter asks me and the wife in San Diego.  "Of course," I reply.  "It's my BIRTHDAY!"

And although the hot day turns into a comfortable evening, none of the subtlety of the San Diego performance is in evidence here.  A group of musicians performing classical interpretations of KRAFTWERK songs fails to soothe the outdoor party crowd.  No Balanescu Quartet here (look it up), though they do their best at winning over an unsophisticated crowd.  KCRW's Jason Bentley tries to win over the crowd in schtick I gave up years ago broadcasting at openings of Radio Shack in Carpinteria or Ellwood Beach.  I Marcel Marceau a gagging projectile hurl to E, returning to my seat.  I'm jealous, of course.  Why isn't SPACE PIRATE RADIO on KCRW, instead of Morning Becomes Erectile Dysfunction?  Something should be done.  :)X.

Instead of the ambient intro in semi-darkness in San Diego, the Bowl large screen monitors tout the wisdom of credit card purchasing power.  Inebriated old friends meet to discuss short term encounters.  People choose open chairs at random.  Views are blocked.  Vaping is the cool thing to do, even though it lacks any of the Eastern Exoticism of a B made Turhan Bey and Maria Montez film.

The Bowl has a lovely vibe in its location.  Voted by the LA Weekly as the Best Concert venue.  This would be true if music wasn't involved.  The show had major mistakes.  Another crashing defeat for the Outside.  Oh, well.  I took it in my stride.  Good Spirits prevailed.  The best thing about the show was the large screen, showing the Winston Smiths how cool the show would be if you were a half mile closer to the stage.  Unfortunately, the screen changes the colour of the actual staging.  A perpetual Kinda Blue permeates the transmission.


"It's my birthday too, yah."

We will always have San Diego.

On to the next bit...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

"Kind of a zen thing, huh?"

Celebrity Foods:  Ike & Tuna Turner.

Celebrity Foods:  Stacy Quiche.

Celebrity Foods:  Ramen Burr.

Celebrity Foods:  Feta Arbuckle.

Celebrity Foods:  Noodles Weaver.

The Mistress of Potato Noir:  Ore-Ida Lupino.

Racist Science Fiction Film:  PLANTATION 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

The Alcohol Choice of Imperialists:  White Man' Bourbon.

"You're a better martini than I, Dunga Gin."

The alcohol favourite of the Under 30 set:  Logan's Rum.

The leading chef in Middle Eastern Irish Food:  Pita O'Toole.

A well bread actor:  Pita Cushing.

Major theatre chain to cut chair size in half.  Now every movie "will have you on the edge of your seat."

New Summer movie about girder construction.  Critics call it "riveting." 

Eighties Music for the Elderly:  Hair Loss 100.

Nouvelle Vague Music for the Eighties:  The 400 Blow Monkeys.

Kylo Ren & Stimpy.

Friday, September 9, 2016

In and around Greg Lake.

Those Mysterious Eastern Urges beckon.  And a journey East means heading Southeast.  Once again, jumping on a Train of Thought.  "I think, therefore I Amtrak."  It's off to see the Rock Show.

This time, it's YES.  I've avoided the band's tours for some time now.  The last tour I went to with the Little Lady was Talk.  San Diego and Santa Barbara.  I was a Tad Cynical (wasn't Tad Cynical in DAMN YANKEES?) about a Jon Anderson free band; when Chris Squire died, I thought the door was truly closed.  Did I really want to go and sit through Steve Howe's YES Tribute Band?

Then I heard they were doing all of the Drama album and the two standout sides of Tales From Topographic Oceans.  I waivered.  After all, I had experienced the fresh and complete Topographic Tour with original members at the Long Beach Sports Arena.  Wouldn't this interpretation be a pallid cut and paste version? 

Well, a Blissful mood and deep love for my wife who loves all things YES made me get seats for the first announced Southern California show in Los Angeles.  And at a favourite theatre, the Orpheum, where we had so enjoyed KING CRIMSON.  I admire Steve Howe, so I thought it would be worth it to watch the man perform his artistry.

When it was announced that drummer Alan White had dropped out of the tour from back surgery, I thought this would be a bad omen.  Since Steve and Alan are the only two members who actually played on Tales and neither are original members of the band.  And every time I would see a recent picture of Steve, I'd worry that he wouldn't make it through the extensive and exhausting tour.

Fingers crossed.  As well as other body parts (but that's just part of the ageing process, not superstition).

Well, we are back in our favourite haunts of Downtown Los Angeles.  Referred to now by the hipsters and marketing people as DTLA (which sounds like a dyslexic pronunciation of TV station KTLA).  Our Sanctum located in the mystery shrouded alleys of Little Tokyo.  City Hall, blue veined and lighted, erectile guardian of the ant life below.  I am Kent Allard masquerading as Lamont Cranston, surveying my two views high above the Metropolis.  I know this place.  I will be sustained by harvest salad, Middle Eastern food, vegetable tempura and Japanese beer.  The wife will try Japanese Coca Cola.

Concert night.  I have prepared for the evening, making a sartorial debut in my GENTLE GIANT Octopus t-shirt.  It is the Roger Dean import cover, not the American octopus in jar one.  So there is the Secret Handshake--the shirted connection to tonight's performers.  Dean, the YES artist and GENTLE GIANT who toured with them.  I get many unsolicited compliments for the shirt.  Far more than any other one I have worn to a show. 

The Orpheum vibe is as relaxed as ever.  When the show begins, all seems well.  Like THE MOODY BLUES show I reported on in past cathode glow, the cynicism disappears, the talent rises and the spirit seems fresh.  Crescent fresh.

Steve Howe seems healthy and vital.  He is very limber and I wonder how his leg bones survive.  He plays masterfully and drops to his knees in rock star fashion.  I'm jealous.  I can't feed my cats without threat of appendage disaster.  And the new drummer impresses everyone.  One person passing by during intermission said, "I'm glad Alan didn't show.  This guy has a real presence."  Oh, my.  He was good.

Geoff Downes did an admirable job.  Though I've played his work on SPACE PIRATE RADIO from The Buggles on, I had never seen him live.  The Little Lady has from numerous concerts, especially ASIA.  I think Billy Sherwood is physically morphing into being Chris Squire.  And Jon 2, who used to have the effect on me like chalk on board, has brought me around.  His voice has rounded out, developing richer colours.  All in all, the show was very, very good.  This is probably the best this incarnation of YES will be.

I do wonder how the band felt about the poster outside the Orpheum, announcing the ANDERSON RABIN WAKEMAN band coming in November.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

"Whose Side Are You On?"

"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" so goes the saying.  Mankind is a distinctly nasty piece of work, where operational lies are more tolerated than universal truths.  In the world of power broking, honesty is NEVER the best policy.  As a Cold War Kid of the Sixties, I was sublimely brainwashed with the dangerous allure of the Spy.  And it all masqueraded as entertainment.

The worst offender, of course, was James Bond.  I was never fanatically religious, but an early argument for me was, how could this man get a "license to kill?"  How did a government get the authority to override The Bible?  The Supreme Commandment of Ten, "Thou Shalt Not Kill."  Moral rule obliterated like getting permission to drive.  Also Bond is a Company Man, and my contempt for Authority Figures had settled in.

This is why SECRET AGENT and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. appealed to me more.  Early on I questioned whether The United Network Command for Law and Enforcement was a parallel for the dreaded C.I.A., but No!  This outfit had offices throughout the world.  And the early visual connection with the U.N. building, plus logo and title, suggested an international agency; a more efficient Interpol.  And it didn't take long in the former show, to realize that clever agent John Drake was working for corrupt bosses.  A state of affairs that would lead to THE PRISONER.

Not all Spy Movies and Television Shows are cut from the same cloth.  And like Friend and Foe, the sides are often changing.  Or might even be One and the Same.  Six to One.  Half Dozen to the Other.

Summertime was a great time for television in the Sixties.  When regular series went on hiatus and were not just filled with reruns, we were sometimes lucky enough to have the Networks bring in British series for the duration.  This was how we got SECRET AGENT (the American title for U.K. hit DANGER MAN).  And you really couldn't do better.  A smart show, that snuck in as a Saturday Summer replacement.  This would also continue for THE PRISONER. 

Another Summer Surprise was THE AVENGERS.  That first black & white season with Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee was very stylish with substance.  Unlike SECRET AGENT however, the success of the show, diluted with new American production money, put it into the category of Bond Parody.  More cartoon than novel.  More MODESTY BLAISE and less IPCRESS FILE.

So the levels in films of espionage vary.  And it depends on my mood swings how I appreciate each.  Recently I went on a kick seeing how many of the Sixties proto Bond films held up.  Many of them feature the American agent in London and  Europe, like BEN CASEY actor Vince Edwards in HAMMERHEAD, George Peppard in THE EXECUTIONER or the TV series MAN IN A SUITCASE.  The films always offered up the English Dolly Bird like Judy Geeson, plus British support actors such as Robert Morley, Charles Gray or Nigel Green.

The serious spy caper is John Le Carre or Len Deighton territory.  FUNERAL IN BERLIN, THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM, or THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD.  The tones change if the agent is David Niven, Dirk Bogarde, Laurence Harvey, Rod Taylor or Richard Johnson.  It just goes silly and sadistic moving to the Right with James Coburn or the worst, Dean Martin.

I'm currently dipping into THE AMERICANS series.  I'm wary with its C.I.A. spook producer credentials.  I try to avoid getting sucked into jingoistic 24 type propaganda.  THE AMERICANS is well made and certainly its art design is seductive.  Season 2 calls out.  I haven't been able to watch the last Daniel Craig 007 film.  Of the two extremes of spy films, the current Bond is more of a freak than ever to me.  Perhaps my mood will change.  But the only Bond film I admired was of its correct time: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.  Only the fish killing each other in the tank scene makes me uncomfortable.

When I was on the air doing SPACE PIRATE RADIO at Y97, my third theme night at ZELO restaurant and nightclub was cloak and dagger oriented.  I was an Eighties Illya Kuryakin turned DJ.  It was a lot of fun.  There was no UNDERCOVER CHARGE.

Friday, June 10, 2016

"When news happens, we're there. When it doesn't, we make it up."

Introduction to EYE-FOCUS ACTION NEWS with Tawny Roto-Baez.

It's almost surreal for me to think that when I was doing my labour of love SPACE PIRATE RADIO, now in the mid-'80s and post KTYD, my major source of employment was as a newsman for KTMS-AM, Santa Barbara.

Of course, all this began when I left KTYD, there from 1973 till 1985, and went across town to KTMS-FM, now called 2KO ("Knockout Radio" What an awful handle!), actually KKOO-FM  (really should be 2K TWO O).  The AM news station still connected at the hip and both stations broadcasting from the CITIZEN KANE like Inner Sanctum of the Santa Barbara News-Press daily newspaper building.

It was a good gig.  Given the Evening Slot on the FM, the AM news station on my broadcasting right, one pretty much ran or baby sat both stations after dark.  I was technically an employee of the Santa Barbara News-Press, with an NBC affiliation on the air.  My writing for the alternative weekly papers, the News & Review and the Nightlight (which became The Weekly and ultimately both papers merged to become The Independent) made for an easy segue to writing for the daily as well.  The NBC connection gave us network cache and a hookup with the TV affiliate.  (On my Friday Evening shows, after my time had ended, I ran a stereo broadcast or simulcast of FRIDAY NIGHT VIDEOS in tune with the TV broadcast, sent out from NBC New York or Los Angeles.  This was not unfamiliar ground.  On KTYD we used to run a stereo reel to reel to broadcast along IN CONCERT on the ABC Network.  Obviously the NBC broadcast was safer, as our tape could get out of sync with the ABC show and cause the viewer/listener to have a random psychedelic experience.)

The two radio stations went through a succession of ownership changes in those mid-'80s.  The News-Press, owned at this time by the New York Times, had to cut the stations loose because of monopoly laws (now laughable), so our ancient home Downtown got shifted into a sinkhole on a street, mostly residential up the road in mixed area foothills.  With older '40s and '50s houses down the street, Westward; we near the corner, a Crack House having that honour, occupied by a drug addled police informer.  A little corner market opposite.  It was new.  New studios.  But pretty tacky in a sense. Sometimes I wasn't sure which one was the Crack House.

It wasn't all that bad.  It wasn't all that good, either.  Like when my car got vandalized by the psycho neighbor and he came at me with one of my removed windshield wipers.  Actually very comic, if it didn't have the threat of serious injury or death.  Parking on the street stopped and our non practical sinkhole driveway became de rigueur.

Being nocturnal for SPACE PIRATE RADIO and doing the weekends, added me doing late night news duty, recording feeds and such.  And I was Arts and Entertainment Editor for your News Authority ("Up Against the Facts, Man!").  Those were busy times with, as usual in radio, an ever revolving door of bosses and colleagues.  One man who was a fairly long turn constant and a really good boss, a good boss indeed:  John Palminteri. 

John was News-Director at KTMS pretty early on when I came aboard.  There were other News anchors and crew at the old News-Press building in 1985, but when we moved to the Sunken Gardens of Cacique Street, John ran the show.  I have nothing but pleasant memories of working with John.  Never an argument or clash of any kind.  This is because he was a pro, surrounded in a gallery of amateurs calling the shots.  John gave me the freedom in news and entertainment like I had on SPACE PIRATE RADIO.  He had a sense of humour and a sense of play in the work ethic.  I remember far more smiles than frowns.  And that can be rare in News.  (That's John in the picture, third from the Left.  I'm at the Far Left.  I'm always at the Far Left.  *giggles*)

When he had enough of General Managers who wanted to cruise late night in the Blues Brothers News Mobile looking for crime scenes and listening to "Smuggler's Blues," John left and went to my old turf KTYD.  And of course, his solid work on KEYT-TV.  We never did get that news helicopter, did we John?  *giggles*  Thank you, old friend.  Even if you wouldn't/couldn't take me to the Ronald Reagan shindig.  I understand.  I've seen the file.  more *giggles*  Thanks, anyway.

And talking about that photo.  Look!  We all have microphones!

That's Martha Bull, right of me and next to John.  In the van.  That's Jim Rome.  Yes, that Jim Rome of Sports News Fame.  KTMS was an early gig for him.  I had a show on the weekend Saturday Evening called ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE.  My co-host was Paul Hefti, seen leaning through two lovely ladies' faces on the right.  Paul was from the composer Neal Hefti family.  When Paul missed a show, Jim Rome stepped in.  It was good company, Folks.

ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE was a pretty hip little Arts & Leisure radio broadcast.  Paul would invite a musician or artist friend for half of the show, as I would a film, literary or musician person for my segment.  We had some cool people on.  Hector Elizondo sat in studio for a very fun interview.  I also had Shelley Winters, Tyrone Power Jr., actor Chris Mulkey, authors Jim Harrison and Erica Jong and an earlier unaired interview with Frank Zappa when he passed away.  Paul had some wonderful musicians in studio including a memorable set by Tom Ball & Kenny Sultan.  When we were discussing the influence of The Kingston Trio, I mentioned how much I liked the song "Zombie Jamboree"  I was rewarded with a spot on performance of the song, totally extempore.  Delightful.  The show also tied in with my late dear friend, Terry Boyle, manager of the art cinema theatre, The Riviera, as well as the local book and comic book stores.  These folks also co-promoted SPACE PIRATE RADIO, so it was really quite idyllic.

During those times, the Arts were really flourishing.  And the News, well...it was Mostly Good.  And we always welcome Good News.