Monday, December 20, 2010

"Who'll remember the buns, Podgy?"

Wow!  Dig that photo.  Could that be some new, hip, psychedelic folk rocker from England or Europe engaged in that post-Incredible String Band thing?  Ah, no...wait, oh god, it's a photo of yours truly found from the archives of oblivion.  41 years ago?  Oh, how the body aches, the conscience reels.  Has it been this far down the path?  Oh well, Happy Christmas folks.  And this coming from a pagan.  Well, sort of pagan.  More of a hip gnostic.  At least that's what I thought.  Dig the colour coordination of the photo.  That really was the true colour of my hair.  Note the matching hues of the ensemble: brown cord coat; gold turtleneck; flowing Siegfried locks; Michael Caine Ipcress File-style horn-rimmed glasses; and rust suede zippered high-heeled Beatle boots from Hardy Shoes.  Too cool, man.  Carnaby Street comes to Orange County.  At least in that photo, which I think was taken in Brea, I lived in Diamond Bar at that time having fled the cultural oasis of Fullerton.  But I digress. 

Back to Christmas.  Or Paganmas to us Nancy Druids.  But religion aside (because my fanaticism was never in this area), I've always enjoyed the rich humour that comes from this time of year.  Cynicism came early.  Does anyone remember Stan Freberg's A Green Christmas from his album, Stan Freberg And The Original Cast?  The Goon Show Christmas programs were always a hidden pleasure.  The Beatles carried on the tradition with their Christmas discs for fan club members.  Each year becoming more surreal.

Christmas shows on Space Pirate Radio were always fun.  How many people enjoyed each season listening to Chef Bruno's Christmas album?  Which one was your favourite?  "Chet's nuts roasting by an open fire.  Jack Frost's nipple in your ear..."  Or "Oh come Marianne Faithfull, riding in her Triumph.  Oh come Marianne Faithfull, oh come on me." Or maybe "Good King Senor Wences Saw."  Mayhaps these classic tunes were inspired by the early days of Pogo: "Deck us all with Boston Charlie.  Walla Walla, Wash an' Kalamazoo!"  To this day, I can't hear a Christmas song in a store without rewriting the lyrics in some demonic sort of way.  Recently, I've retooled Andy Williams doing "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year."  Seriously, it comes on in Albertsons and I start singing:

It's the most horrible time of the year.
Family is dying and people are crying and living in fear...
It's the most horrible time of the year.
This can really change how a person looks at you in the produce section.

On stage, after doing Nothing Is Sacred and Casanova's Lips, I seriously wanted to rearrange the classic Dickens story with my play, A Christmas Maggie.  ("But isn't it A Christmas Carol, Mr. Scrooge?"  "I don't know Carol, but I did know Maggie and that's why it's A Christmas Maggie.")  It was an insane idea, of course.  But I wanted to do it anyway.  Scrooge, for all outward appearances, would be true to the Dickens period, except at the time, on his frock coat lapels he wore buttons that said "Nixon Now" and "Bomb Hanoi."  It was definitely a '70s piece.  Scrooge was a letch, attempting to seduce the wife of his employee, Bob Crotchairs.  In one scene, Ebeneezer, enjoying the view of the amply endowed Maggie Crotchairs, puts on a pair of 3D glasses and stares at her in a heightened sense of abandon.  Anyway, the play never made it to the stage but it did end up in various forms on Space Pirate Radio.

There were certainly many other Christmas moments on the program.  We all did our shopping with Don Wenow (from Our Gay Apparel).  And how about those holiday specials from Madame Rhumba's House Of Certain Pleasures ("Where else are you gonna get those rectum sticks?  You won't find them at Robinsons").

The holidays were a lot of fun spent among friends, especially if those friends were the multiple personalities that peopled my imagination on Space Pirate Radio.  Over the years, many a show was done on a Christmas morning and it was not a bad way to spend the holiday. 

So I hope the end of the year is good for you.  Here we are wrapping up a year's worth of these glowing, nocturnal emissions.  Heinz 57 varieties.  Did you ketchup? 

No Christmas would be complete without a message from the Beatle Pope, Pope JohnPaulGeorgeRingo II: "I've got nothing to say but it's okay.  Good morning, good morning, good morning."

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Oh, dazzling. People have to wear sunglasses."

Hello katz and kittenz.  A happy December to you all.  Well, here we are, creeping up to the watermark of one year using the modern cathode ray tube form of communication.  It's been lots of fun having the flashbacks and reliving those days of yesteryear on Space Pirate Radio.  My thanks to everyone who wrote in and shared their memories of all the crazy times we had.  I am very gratified by those people who, along with myself, discovered the music for the first time and enjoyed the sonic experience.  And there were a lot of sounds.  There was so much new stuff to listen to and I am pleased that so many friends and listeners tuned in to the unusual way that I mixed the sounds up.  It was always an experiment.  Fresh and new music, firing up my enthusiasm into a form of audio alchemy.  For the most part, for me, it was pure and total joy.  I am glad that that feeling communicated to so many. 

So it always comes down to the music.  I found that a really good new work by an artist would inspire me to come up with my own work.  I think I have mentioned in the past that Tangerine Dream's Atem album clinched it for me that I would do Space Pirate Radio.  I remember Can's Future Days album helping me to write my entire play, Casanova's Lips.  Amon Duul II would inspire from their lengthy pieces on Yeti and Dance Of The Lemmings.  Ash Ra Tempel, Popul Vuh and so forth.  Inspired work would inspire me.  So I was always glad when people would tell me that they would listen to Space Pirate Radio while painting, writing or working in the darkroom.  And other pleasures too. 

So back to the music.  In the heyday of the show, I spent a lot of time at concerts.  In recent years, my hermetic side seems to have taken over.  My lovely wife has made up for my traveling limitations by attending as many concerts as she can, as I used to in the '70s and '80s.  We have attended together a fair amount of memorable shows, but probably not as many as I would like. Magma and Porcupine Tree in San Francisco stands out.  Also in San Francisco, seeing Kraftwerk at the Warfield.  So if you regularly check in, you may have noticed there has not been an entry for the past two weeks.  One, because the little lady has been traipsing after Roger Waters and his new production based on the lead actor of the Wiseguy TV series: The Wahl (Call Him Ken); two, after punishing her for that indiscreation, we visited my old stamping ground, the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, to see and hear "the voice of Yes," Jon Anderson (who then would be the "knee, elbow and buttock"?  Choose your favourite member, past and present).

Well it was good to get out.  The fall of the house of the elderly ushers at the Lobero Theatre kindly allowed my new Mach I scooter, equipped with the iron & wine lung and kiss me catheter, escorted us down to our second to the front row seats.  Ah, the Lobero.  "I've traipsed on those boards," the Crypt Keeper said to his wife.  Singularly unimpressed, even descriptions of the stage layout backstage and ancient anecdotes failed to impress the little one from the Pleadian glow of seeing Olias himself.  Even turning off my Darth Vader breathing device in case there happened to be someone possibly recording the show, and the fact that I never interrupted or made any sarcastic comments during any part of the performance, added little to my cache.  "Look, honey, it's our first concert since Kraftwerk at the Greek Theatre, where that drunken asshole drenched us with his oversized Budweiser.  And it's Jon Anderson."  Well, it didn't matter.  This aged cynic suddenly remembered why he had devoted his life to the so-called world of progressive music.  Ah, yes, progress.  It's coming back to me.  The dream is not over.  Jon Anderson, like Lazarus, has risen from the dead.  He's not screwing up.  He's in top form.  He's talking about love and light.  And if I had a dollar for every time that was mentioned, these tickets would be paid for.  I dig it, man.  Seriously, though, he's in fine shape and that little inner glow is coming back.  Ah, yes, I remember. 

Actually, I haven't enjoyed a concert like this in a long time.  It reminded me of mellow shows in the past.  Shows that could be gentle and yet still retain an incredible power.  Gentle Giant at the Arlington was one.  Of course, being in the Lobero helped.  As I said before, it's a familiar theatre--a dear old friend, actually.  And even being in the front, in front of the speakers, one was not murdered as one would under most concert experiences.  Yes at the Santa Barbara County Bowl was very intense.  Rick Wakeman at the Ventura Theatre forced one out to the lobby on occasion. 

My wife still has a certain amount of physical and psychic strength to put up with that kind of environment, which is why she saw Roger Waters for two of his three Los Angeles shows while I opted out to do working man things.  I have good memories of Roger Waters and I'd like to keep them.  I want to remember the Roger Waters who gave me a glass of chardonnay--not the Roger Waters who thinks fox hunting is a divine right of the English upper class.  I saw The Wall when it was done for real twice in Los Angeles.  This was when founding member Rick Wright was for hire.  I saw The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking in Oakland.  And when I was at the top of my game, I had VIP access to Roger during the Radio KAOS tour at the Los Angeles Forum.  Somewhere out there, a photographer for Sony took a dozen pictures of yours truly and Roger after the show.  I've never seen them.  Drug-addled record company people could never help me to get copies for my old man scrapbook.  If by chance the lonely David Hemmings Blow Up character who took those shots should come across this rant and said photos still exist, I'd love to see them 23 years later.  Columbia Records used to be pretty good about this.  We'd get invited to all types of listening parties.  The first time I heard Roger Waters' Pro & Cons was at the Griffith Park Observatory with the light show by Laserium.  Still, even though Space Pirate Radio played music before anybody else did, I was not the music director and as far as the record company was concerned, I was not the one to bribe for that all-important record ad on Tuesday.  What a business, folks.  But I digress.

So I'm happy to say that the music still inspires.  The Jon Anderson show covered all the phases of his work that have been important to Space Pirate Radio.  I was pleased to hear a Basil Kirchin style of progressive jazz in his guitar chord changes.  Whether that was intentional or just me didn't matter.  Unlike the Roger Waters shows I didn't attend, this performance gave me that "space cadet glow."  Nothing personal against Roger.  I guess I would be a lot more enthusiastic if he decided to take Atom Heart Mother out on tour.  Now that would be courageous. 

Best of the season to you all. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Video Killed The Radio Star."

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.  The new volume of Perry Mason finally arrived, Season 5, Volume 2.  First episode from January 1, 1962, entitled "The Case of the Shapely Shadow."  Still stuck in all this nostalgia.  Just started Season 2 of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  And how about that recent announcement that George Clooney will play Napoleon Solo in a feature remake of the series?  I think George Clooney should play Perry Mason.  He compared himself to Raymond Burr once.  Maybe he's not as heavy as Raymond Burr, but he certainly isn't as thin as Robert Vaughn.  Anyway, "...Shapely Shadow" reminds me of one of my other on-and-off obsessions: The Shadow. 

As a kid, I was a fan of The Shadow radio show, pulp magazines, paperback reprints and early comics.  Who didn't love radio and not enjoy The Shadow?  When Space Pirate Radio began in 1974, despite my love for the original shows, he was still a great character to poke fun at ("C'mon Margo...let me cloud your mind!").  One of the funniest of the early Mad comic parodies was of the Shadow.  After unclouding the mind of Margo Lane, the Shadow is revealed to be about 2 feet tall in slouch hat and cloak, with nose a foot long.  I even named one of my cats in my teenage years after the Mad Magazine character, Lamont Shadowskeedeeboomboom.

So my early born passion for The Shadow motivated me to get involved with the Universal production starring Alec Baldwin  Fans of The Shadow have always had to put up with the contradictions in the character in its various formats.  The pulp Shadow is not invisible; does not cloud minds.  The radio Shadow does.  Orson Welles wasn't the first to play The Shadow, but he was the first to develop it as a character rather than a radio host.  Previous film attempts have all been a batch of mixed blessings, so fans of Walter Gibson's pulp character have never seen a true interpretation.  Throughout the years, the character had been in film development hell with various starts and stops. Many actors were considered and possibly attached to a production: Ben Cross, for one; Liam Neeson, for another (his Darkman had certainly covered similar ground).  So now Alec Baldwin, deprived of the Tom Clancy franchise, is attached, hoping there might be a success similar to Batman (which of course was inspired by The Shadow).

So at this time in my life, I've acquired a small collection of Shadow paraphernalia (second only to my collection on Peter Sellers, and all of them outdistanced by my esoteric music collection).  My love for the subject prompted my to consider publishing a new history of The Shadow entitled "Who Knows What Evil?"  This gets me in contact with Universal and the producers of the film, who invite me to contribute research on the project.  So in January of 1994, I'm back on the Universal Studios lot where I last had spent 3 days filming the prison finale on 1980's The Blues Brothers.  The studio has always been kind of a funny place for me.  I would write an article trashing its assembly line schedule of productions, and then within a month, be working in one of their films.  I was going to mention in my previous blog about jobs, how Universal had once offered me an opportunity to screenwrite for the Incredible Hulk TV series.  But being the purist snob that I was, since I wasn't a fan of Marvel Comics, I turned it down.  Probably blew the best chance for career advancement there, but, hey...can't stop being eccentric. 

But back to The Shadow.  I was fortunate enough to be on the set of The Shadow's private sanctum.  This is the scene where Lamont Cranston is invaded by his arch enemy, Shiwan Khan, played by actor John Lone.  The production staff is treating me with fine hospitality and I am introduced to director, Russell Mulcahy.  He is well known for directing Highlander.  But because of my music background, he is also known to me as the director of The Buggles video that inaugurated MTV (not to mention, his films for Duran Duran).  I told you not to mention that.  So upon introduction, I hum the little ditty and surprisingly he doesn't punch me out. We are friends for the day.  He is courteous and accomodating to me on his set, and even invites me to take his photograph in the director's chair. 

It is a wonderfully relaxed and open set, moreso than others I've either worked on or visited.  Alec Baldwin is extremely friendly, although he smokes like a fiend.  The set is enclosed and Russell directs from outside on a monitor.  He doesn't find it necessary to be that close to the action and viewing this style of directing at the time seems unique to me.  I am witnessing the change in production techniques.  John Lone is very friendly and enjoys talking about his work on Bertolucci's The Last Emperor and Alan Rudolph's The Moderns.  He seems a little uncomfortable in the wig.  Penelope Ann Miller is on the set, though not in this scene.  She is really friendly to me and invites me to stay another day (which will be her final day on set) to interview her.  We talk about the character of Margo Lane, which she seems to find helpful.  I put forth my theory that Margo Lane was inspired by actress Myrna Loy and this perks her up.  Later she will mention this in some interviews, which will bug other Shadow historians who feel Margo Lane had nothing to do with Myrna Loy.  It's fun to see your influence at work. 

Also on the set was Jim Brown, entertainment editor for NBC's The Today Show.  He's putting together a piece for the program.  And down the line, I will get a call from him and an invite to the NBC Studios to bring myself and examples of my Shadow collection for his feature on the film.  Groovy.  I will be a part of one of those discarded DVD extras, where I, along with the principal actors, will comment on aspects of the film.  I suggest to Jim Brown the inclusion of Jonathan Winters, who's in the film and happens to be in the NBC Studios on the day we are filming.  Of course, my producer/director's side creates a suggestion that will minimize my performer's amount of screen time.  Why don't I think of these things at the time?  Either way, the program did air on The Today Show and was seen in most of the U.S., except I think in Los Angeles where it got pre-empted for the O.J. Simpson decision.  Damn you O.J.! 

Also on that day at Universal, I met author James Luceno, who was there seeping up the mood as he had been given the job of writing the paperback novelization of The Shadow film.  A very friendly guy, typical of the spirit of sci-fi authors, he had previously written a Young Indiana Jones novel.  At the time, his ambition was to do Star Wars books, and I am happy to say that he has succeeded admirably in this area.  During the time of his writing The Shadow adaptation, we were in contact.  I sent him all of the background information on the character that I felt would help his book.  Copies of comics and things like that.  He sent me privileged information regarding the character from his side and he was very kind to acknowledge my assistance in his book.  Unfortunately, my own literary effort never saw the light of day. 

All in all, despite the film's shortcomings, it was an extremely delightful connection into a world long gone by.  A mysterious figure, shrouded in fog on a roof somewhere in 1930s Chinatown.  Marvelous!  Who is this figure?  The mystery deepens.  We do know this...if Lamont Cranston was a Man About Town, the best that I can do is be a Man About Blocks. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

"No man is free who has to work for a living. But I'm available."

I have a problem with the fine line between work and pleasure.  Somewhere along life's journey, I gave up on the concept that you work at something you hate in an attempt to deceive your fellow humankind into parting with valuable commodities in exchange for your useless goods.  This might explain why my CV is so abbreviated.  Based upon some early antiquated philosophy, my utopian vision (which might be fancy-speak for being delusional) embodied the rugged, outdated model that work should be of universal benefit--not personal profit.  Now let me tell you folks, this will not work in a job interview.  So if you're starting out in the workforce now, stop reading here. 

Anybody left?  Ask any madman, but the real pleasure in life is turning your own personal obsession into an occupation.  This can be really tough at the beginning.  Certainly, my early attempts at interacting within the real world were minor trainwrecks of embarrassment.  Being a box boy at Alpha Beta with my much too long Illya Kuryakin haircut was my first experience with deceit used as financial incentive.  "Oh, I just love those strawberries," sez the overweight checker to the elderly woman purchasing said fruit product, with yours truly placing them in the extra-sturdy paperbag.  The happy pensioner leaving the store, pleased that her purchase has been validated by the friendly cashier, the hostess turns to me and says "I can't stand those strawberries, they make me sick."  Why am I stunned into a shocked silence of horror?  You lying bitch.  Who do you trust?  Is this to teach me to question the comments made from people that are you paying currency to?  A minor event, you say?  Perhaps.  But if this event had such a profound effect that I remember it 44 years later, how then could I find myself in phone sales, using my talents as a gifted actor to entice unseen, new residents into subscribing to the Los Angeles Times?  It's all true.  From the entrails of a decrepit building in Whittier, CA, I would dial newly connected phone numbers (received in Langley-like fashion from unspoken connections in the phone company) and greet the unsuspecting recipient with the words "Hello, this is David Hemmings from the Los Angeles Times.  How are you today?  I have good news for you.  The Los Angeles Time has opened up a BRAND NEW office in your area!"  (This area included all of Southern California--we were the office.)  "And for a limited time only, if you have the Los Angeles Times delivered to your home, you will receive a special free gift."  (The gift was a collection of reprints of famous Los Angeles Times covers.  Suitable for framing.)  "I don't want to subscribe to the newspaper," the doubting customer might hastily insert into my fast-paced spiel.  "Oh, this is not a subscription," David Hemmings or Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing would say to the customer, "but only a TRIAL OFFER.  You can cancel at any time."  But of course it really was a subscription, and the point was to get them to keep the paper for at least a month so yours truly, Terence Stamp, could get his commission.  What a dreadful business.  I was actually very good at it and was sent to new urban areas of development simply to call recent homeowners and get that valuable, first time, daily paper subscription.  Like a field operator, I was removed from HQ in Whittier and phoning out of a distribution office in Claremont.  Besides the good pay for a young man, the perks of the job included getting my Sunday paper on Wednesday because the Calendar, comics, magazine and non-newsy sections were delivered early, and the fact that the little mini-mart around the corner thought I was overage and sold me beer with my lunch every day. 

(Footnote for underage drinkers:  I'm not condoning this, but remembering the fact that the store assumed I was older and I took advantage of it.  I should also point out that if you are underage, an effect that will really work is putting baby powder in your hair, giving you that greying temples look.  A slight limp can be added for extra effect.  It works.  Trust me.)

So the paper thing was pretty depressing.  Soul diminishing.  For years I hated the L.A. Times.  Wouldn't buy the paper.  Then later I decided why should I sell the crap that's in the paper when I can actually write it?  Sorry friends, I went off on a Tangent here (a much smoother ride...better than going off in a Huff).  So anyway, I liked music.  Thought I had an ear for it.  Wanted to play it.  Maybe get paid for it.  Do what you like.  Do what you love.  If you can make it profitable, you're blessed.  Of course, this also has its dark side.  Which explains how Dick Cheney exists.  Which is why I often say to people when they talk about sex and violence: "I'm a lover, not a fighter.  But I'll fight for love."

"Illya, are you free?"

Monday, November 15, 2010

"When fashion dictates..."

"'re living in, a Fashion State."

While watching the Desert Fox News Network, on Fox Und Freunde, I saw an interview with former first Fuhrer George W. Putsch.  He was there to promote his new autobiography, "Stories Told Round Mein Kampfire."  A collection of memoirs of a man's burning struggle to rewrite his memories.  Regain his memories?  Rogaine his memories?  Herr loss?  Not sure, but powerful stuff nonetheless.  As the metal union workers would say, this is riveting stuff.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an excess of free time and not much else motivating your daily existence.  It is hard to pick out a a favourite part of the book over another.  Every bit of detail sears itself upon the memory and, uhm...I.  Sorry, what was I saying?  The many challenges that faced this eloquent leader.  I was particularly moved by his agonizing predecision and former predecision after the previous former predecision to invade Poland.  Despite left-leaning criticism that his only desire to invade Poland was to take over its famous sausage industry (after rumours of his early failed Austin Sausage explorations and with some aid from the Saudi sausage faction), his firm conviction that the Polish leader had hidden stores of mustard gas remains convincing.  Even though after the invasion, no condiments of mass destruction were found.  Mustard, yes.  Gas, no.  Only in combination and with heavy beer consumption.  Great reading anyway. 

And who among us will not feel the pain of something internal coming up when we hear in his own words from someone else his feeling on the day of the Reichstag burning; forcing down his own emotions while reading Meine Pet Scapegoat to the Bavarian kindergarten.  It will choke you up.  And speaking of choking up, don't forget his passage on his near-death sexual asphyxiation while chomping on an oversized Viennese pretzel.  Exciting stuff.  Even though some have claimed that he was just trying to emulate his father, former Fuhrer, George Herbert Walker Putsch's famous rainbow sushi barf on Emperor Hirohito.  A cry of help from a neurotic son to his tyrant father?  Or just the inability to swallow correctly?  It will be up to the reading public to determine just how much you can swallow. 

So there is much to recommend in this book.  It's thick enough to press some Edelweiss.  And it's not all serious and somber moments.  A collection of Tex-Naz recipes are also included.  You'll want to whip up an armadillo strudel, I can guarantee.  Mouth-watering.  So add this book to your library.  Make sure you place it in the fiction section.  Right next to the Warren Report.  Auf Wiedersehen Pet.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Open Channel D."

Bob's your U.N.C.L.E. (Part 1)

Hello folks.  How are you, folks?  The wife and I just finished watching a Columbo episode from the 5th season starring Robert Vaughn and directed by Patrick McGoohan.  Wow, Napoleon Solo directed by John Drake, Number 6, Danger Man, Secret Agent and the Prisoner.  A pretty amazing meeting of '60s spy icons.  And what a week it has been for swinging '60s spy nostalgia.  I bought myself a toy: the complete set of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  Among my early obsessions in 1964 was a love for that black and white, NBC TV series.  I was hooked from the initial airing of the first show and was a fan from day one.  Like today's loons in love with Lost, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was the hipster, cool show of the early '60s.  Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo was the American's identification with the James Bond-type, but for us Beatle-bred, iconoclastic teenagers, David McCallum's avant-garde Russian, Illya Kuryakin, was the one to identify with.  As I think I've mentioned before, my insistence on wearing black turtlenecks with coats and refusing to cut my hair over my ears and behind the back caused suspension at my uber-fascist high school, John A. Rowland High School in Rowland Heights, CA--the upper armpit of the City of Industry, near the garden spot community of La Puente (hmmm...can heaven exist anywhere else on earth?). 

Anyway, big fan of the show.  Stayed with it through its first, great, black and white season, although I was torn apart when the show was moved to Monday nights, which was the night that I would go into Hollywood and work on the KCOP TV Channel 13 horror program, Jeepers Creepers.  More about this later, but I do remember being in the make-up room at Channel 13 and watching the monitor being tuned to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  But I digress.  It was my involvement with Rowland High School that got me invited to the set of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in 1966.  I wrote for the high school newspaper and at the time there was a magazine called Scene which was primarily a teen-based publication made up of contributions from  various high school literary staffs.  The show, wishing to increase its popularity with a younger audience, invited one writer from each high school to attend a Saturday get-together on the MGM Studios lot.  The invitation included the opportunity to visit all of the sets for the show, watch a preview of the next week's unaired episode, and finally, to meet and interview stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.  This is terrific!  The only problem was that I was not the number one writer at the paper.  So the invitation went to a more credentialed lady contributor, who casually showed me the invitation she had received.  I freaked.  But my intense spy training kept it cool and unnoticeable.  Was anyone looking?  Could I club her over the head and stick her into the multi-purpose room?  Would anyone notice?  I'd seen how this was done.  It could look like an accident.  They wouldn't find her.  At least not until after lunch period.  I coolly eyed my surroundings.  But suddenly, my plot took a strange direction...she said "I can't go, do you want to?"  How fine is that line between life and death?  Amazing, really.  "Oh, thanks, yes, I'd love to."  And so the violence factor was removed.  All was well. 

Well, anyway, to make a long story longer, I got up far too early on Saturday morning and took a series of buses to Culver City to wind up at the front of the world famous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.  Wow.  And it was all so casual.  Very relaxed.  What a time.  You probably can't see it in the photograph, but the marquee on top of the studios promotes the release of their latest mega-motion picture, Doctor Zhivago.  But I was not there for that.  I was there to enter Del Floria's Tailor Shop and travel through the halls of United Network Command for Law and Enforcement.  U.N.C.L.E. headquarters.  And we saw it all: the spinning table, the round globe, Alexander Waverly's communications center, those U.N.C.L.E. hallways.  The deep innards of that mysterious organization revealed.  A fan's delight. 

In the MGM screening room, we watched "The Foreign Legion Affair," which I expected as U.N.C.L.E. had been broadcast the night before (now on Friday evenings) and the preview for next week's show was the one we were now watching.  We are now in Season 2, all in colour, and the camp is rising considerably, while the serious espionage level is dropping.  Although I am not aware of the showbiz politics at the time, I believe this is due to the exit of original producer, Sam Rolfe, and the entrance of new producer, David Victor.  I noticed on my original U.N.C.L.E. membership cards (which you would get if you wrote NBC saying you were a fan of the show) that David Victor had replaced Sam Rolfe.  Ironically, I have kept the David Victor card in my wallet since I received it in the mid-60s.  I see that I was promoted.

So after the viewing, stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum come out and chat with the peanut gallery of writers.  Vaughn wore a Tyrolean-styled hat, which he referred to as his "weekend hat."  McCallum said he was wearing it because he didn't have his toupee on.  I don't think those two really got along very well.  I was dressed in my mock-Illya style turtleneck and coat.  McCallum looked at me with a dazed, surrealistic glance, which suggested "what the hell are you dressed like?"  I whipped out my classic Kodak and snapped the rare Access Hollywood exclusive you now see.

As I have mentioned before, although I admired Robert Vaughn for his politics (he was a Kennedy-style Democrat, and at one time was considered to run for the California Senate...but I think some spooky types may have scared him away from it), I narcissistically identified with David McCallum.  I was quite disappointed to discover that David McCallum was extremely, ultra-conservative.  In the past, I always took his side thinking how he had been wronged by his ex-wife Jill Ireland and Charles Bronson.  After all, in every episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the supposedly single Illya Kuryakin is seen wearing his wedding band.  And he and his wife, Jill, appeared in two episodes in the first season.  They were a picture-perfect couple, these two blonds who had met in England in the J. Arthur Rank period.  But as I always frequently discover, you can be surprised and you may have to rethink things.  For me, I have to find what is consistent.  It's the irregularities that disturb me.  So I'm not naive to be fooled by the performance, but in the case of David McCallum, he was closer to the spy that he portrayed in one fact: he never revealed anything about himself.  At the time, he hung out in the hip circles, released cool musical albums, appeared on Hullabaloo, acted as if he was sincerely a part of the counter-culture.  It surprised me in later interviews how conservative and socialist-paranoid he was.  Is it just the cliche of the tightwad Scotsman?  Or is it something else?  After all, the CIA has props from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in Langley.  They use the show as a recruiting tool.  "Hey kids, come to Langley!  We'll give you an exploding pen!  It's got gas!"  So it makes you question everything.  I remember accidentally running into Charles Bronson with Jill Ireland in Del Mar, CA.  They owned a timeshare in the hotel I was staying at.  Charles Bronson.  The star of those Death Wish movies directed by Michael Winner, who it's been listed was once a boyfriend of Jill Ireland.  I'm confused.  I'm petting my cats now.  Thank god they're not in show business.

Thank god I got out of this spy obsession.  For a while, I thought "what the hell is wrong with me?  U.N.C.L.E.'s the CIA."  Then on later re-thought, I considered that perhaps U.N.C.L.E. represented the United Nations or Interpol.  After all, they did show the UN building in early episodes.  And as the announcer said "U.N.C.L.E. was made up of multi-nationalities."  So perhaps this police force was more utopian than fascist.  Perhaps Thrush was closer to the CIA with its new world order agenda.

So what did we learn here?  Anything of importance?  Deep, sociological insight?  Or just pop culture?  Conspiracies and cover-up?  Or cool hairstyles and turtlenecks?  Light fiction or deeper meaning?  Life imitating art?  Didn't G. Gordon Liddy think he was the real James Bond?  Food for thought.  Be seeing you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Wouldn't this be a good time to head on out to the snack bar?"

50 states of  mind.  A union of the unusual.  So here we are at #51.  Then it has to be a possession.  At best, you could call this entry Puerto Rico.  It's half-time.  Let the show begin.  Or take a pause.  Bring on the leggy girls.  And maybe some music.  Anyway, let's take a break. 

Well, folks, how's it going?  What a week.  All Hallows' Eve.  All Saints' Day.  All Souls' Day.  A World Series that I couldn't care less about, but saw anointed by uber-fascists 41 and 43, only to be defeated by the boys from Castro.  I really have no room for sports, but I have to admit a smile here on this one.  (When it comes to sports, I only like female gymnastics and falconry "go for the eyes!"  Of course, now that I'm thinking about sports, I was fascinated by the 300 lb. groin lift.  This is a now deleted sport, wherein the athlete lifted himself up from the ground by grabbing each of his testes.  Now the incredible thing about this sport is is impossible.  But that didn't stop this from being a minor Olympic challenge in certain circles for a number of years.) 

And voting day.  Did you vote or will you, depending on your time zone.  I voted early.  Placed my ballot in the 17th hole of a well-heeled Florida golf course.  Obviously I voted absentee-off.  Sorry, I've been under the weather this week as well.  Which is why I'm taking it easy on this one.  I had many different topics that I wanted to discuss here, but hopefully they can wait.  Random thoughts, both old and new.  Like, if Yoko Ono had married Sonny Bono would she have called herself Yoko Ono Bono?  These questions have been with me all my life.  When I was a child, I was referred to as Master Guden.  This made me wonder if Alan Bates had been traumatized as a child.  Go figure.  So 'til next time, my fellow travelers, have a lovely day in democracy.  My polling place is always confused about my affiliation. When asked my political feelings, I often reply I'm a  Or in other words, a bourgeois socialist.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"We can dance if we want to."

We were all slightly mad in the '80s.  I always felt I could write a sociological thesis on how the world changed in 1980.  I would point to the murder of John Lennon and the entrance of Ronald Reagan as the death knell for the utopian idealism of the '60s and the '70s.  The desire to make a better world, which was coupled with the joy of personal freedom, turned into a primarily self-gratifying impulse for power.  It is only too easy to become the very thing you wish to change.  Take a freedom loving person and scratch the surface and the fascist is not too far beneath.  I could see the Dr. Jeckylls turning into Mr Hydes.  But what the heck, I'm crazy aren't I? 

So those '80s.  Pretty wacky.  Even though I felt I was still a key leader of the resistance--a top operator of the underground--I certainly carried on like a loon.  Can we ever not be in awe of the grandeurs of bad, I mean, cutting edge that the '80s personified?  I mean, look at me.  A perpetual, early midlife crisis.  Who else would be a natural blond and try to dye his hair white like Rutger Hauer's in Blade Runner.  After a first attempt, I looked like a bad country singer or maybe a canary.  I had to get that special white tone.  It needed to match the colour of my latest white automobile.  And what does it say about a time and place when you could knock the girls out with a 1984 Pontiac Fiero?  It was the world's first Snap-On tools car.  A rubber car.  Drive it like a condom.  Perfect for bedwetters.  The car of the future.  How long did the future last?  Four years.  This is real.  The day I paid the car off, Pontiac folded it.  This was my first and last American car.  And why did I have the damn thing in the first place?  Because it sort of looked like a Fiat Bertone.  But it didn't have the price tag.  Fiat.  The cool Italian car.  Remember what they said Fiat stood for?  "Fix It Again, Tony."  Well, you know what Fiero stood for?  "Fix It Entirely Right, Ortega."  I was lucky, though.  Unlike most of the cars, my engine didn't catch on fire.  Despite the outward appearance of being a sexy car, the interior had all the mystique of an interstellar coffin.  A two seater only, with a console dividing you and your passenger, it screamed "platonic relationships."  The girl I was going with at the time, impressed by the sleek exterior but then enlightened by yours truly regarding the awkwardness of the interior, responded to my comments about possible limitations to romanticism within the vehicle by saying "well I guess you gotta be a real good talker." 

Anyway, I had that car during my final days with KTYD and my new radio home at KTMS/Y-97.  I drove in semi-style to my various professional, radio-type public appearances in that car.  Those were the Dancing Days, my friend.  At KTYD, besides doing my only constant connection to reality, Space Pirate Radio, I supplemented my meager income by hosting KTYD Night at a club in Santa Barbara called the Pacific Coast Dance Company.  This was Tuesdays, folks.  Featuring the fab cover tunes of the Young Adults, a nice bunch of guys who could replicate (Rutger Hauer, Rutger Hauer) your favourite current '80s dance tunes.  I can still hear the Romantics in my head.  Or the Fixx.  Or Billy Idol.  When the boys would do the Fisted One's "Flesh For Fantasy," the sound man would give me a microphone and I would karaoke in the darkness singing "Flush, flush your family, come on now..."  Now how is that possible, you say?  Well, part of my contract included an open bar.  So after my second vodka collins I felt little pain and a hammy, Mickey Rooney-like love of the club.  "Hey folks, dance contest coming."  I would hustle the cutest or slightly uninhibited girls with their dates to enter the weekly contest.  Dance finals were the highlight of the Tuesday evening, with lucky couples receiving album giveaways and the latest concert tickets: R.E.M. at UCSB or the Go-Go's at the County Bowl.  This is as close as I came to selling out.  I didn't feel I was selling out because I was still known for doing Space Pirate Radio and there were no compromises on that show.  This was my down-to-earth, space boy persona.  Making a little money, getting free drinks, and having the attentions of listeners and non-listeners.  It was fun to be young.  I did feel sad for the many single males who I would watch enter the club, hoping to get lucky, blowing their paycheck on drinks for ladies who would eventually disappear into the night.  That was the saddest part.  But being in a haze of alcool and the off-center of attention didn't stop me from returning to the happening club the following week. 

Clubbing for me came into its peak when I hooked up with Zelo during the Y-97 days.  Post-1985, Zelo was the uber-kool restaurant/nightclub for Santa Barbara.  Studio 54 with really good food.  Tres-moderne.  They were so cool, they didn't do any radio advertising.  Every pathetic account executive at both KTYD and Y-97 always hoped to get them to buy airtime.  They didn't need it.  Until I came along.  Sploogie!  After the success of my 12th Anniversary Space Pirate Radio party at Zelo, the restaurant/club was the hip spot to be at.  I'll talk more about this later (sorry), but for now, I'm reminded only of that clubbing spirit of the '80s.  I actually like to dance.  Wild, geriatric seizures of expression.  It was great.  Isadora Duncan meets Martha Graham and Nijinsky at the Whisky A-Go-Go in an opiated, cappuccino moment.  Hermes Pan on acid dancing to the Blow Monkeys. 

So where have we been, kids?  We've talked about the '80s and we've talked about dancing.  So were we all lemmings dancing towards the edge?  Too many thoughts on that area.  Philosophical questions you can't answer.  Like how many angels can you fit on a pin giving head?  Hmmm!  Still love dancing, though.  Even now in my wheelchair, cramped by my iron & wine lung, if you put on "The Politics of Dancing" by Re-Flex: "I can dance mein Fuhrer."  Terpsichore!  "We are most a Muse."

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Please don't squeeze the Shaman."

It's raining.  So with the light, gothic sounds of rain on the roof, I recall the moments of one of my favourite Space Pirate Radio shows.  Occasionally, when I had a guest on the program, the show would veer away from its usual mix of madcap and music, and focus more on the artist who was in studio.  As mentioned in past entries, there were many special moments with very special friends who had extra special talents.  Many of those guests appeared on my '70s to mid-'80s KTYD shows.  But others evolved as the show progressed on its Y-97 era during the late '80s to mid-'90s.

One of those later shows that proved as much a pleasure to the audience as it did to yours truly was when American synthesizer artist Steve Roach did an all-nighter with me in 1988.  Steve was one of the select few American artists who appeared on my predominantly import oriented show due to his love of European electronic music.  Steve had made a reputation as being the most internationally experimental artist in the US at the time.  His influences had been Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream and Vangelis, but he was incorporating a highly original amount of Native American and Aboriginal sounds to the mix, creating a truly original twist in the world of ambient music.  In each work you could feel the spirit of Castaneda, Borges and Peter Weir's The Last Wave.  You felt the magic of the desert in Roach's soundscapes.  His work Quiet Music was one of my all-time favourites.

He was on my program to play and discuss his epic work, Dreamtime Return, the double cd of sounds inspired by his travels in Australia.  My friendship with Steve had been instigated by my long-term friendship with record producer, Eckart Rahn.  His record company, Celestial Harmonies, had picked up Roach's Fortuna label and was now releasing Steve's current works. 

Slight detour...only because I have to say here and now that I could go on and on about Eckart Rahn.  This delightful German music lover I met in the mid-'70s because of my playing German bands like Amon Duul II, Can and Embryo.  He represented the German artists musical rights to Americans and I met him through my mad passion for eclectic German sound experimentation.  I discovered he had his own labels, Kuckuck and ERP, which released unusual titles.  He introduced me to Deuter and Peter Michael Hamel.  And he released the works of my already favourite artist, Florian Fricke, aka Popol Vuh.  He also released non-Japanese versions of Kitaro and non-French releases of Jean-Michel Jarre.  He was a jazz man.  Sonny Rollins and Ornette Coleman.  He was a bass player.  Was involved with ECM Records.  A big part of the German jazz scene.  Got sucked into the psychedelic bit.  That's how he gets stuck with me.  He visits me in Santa Barbara from his home in Connecticut.  I visit him at his office in Munich in 1982 (I will always remember being in the restarurant by myself in the Munich Hilton, scooping up the beef stroganoff in the smorgasbord-like atmosphere, wondering what the hell am I doing alone in this city of Hitler, when I see a far door open up and a tall, good-looking, slightly rain-drenced blond Siegfried-type of a man comes in and says "Hello Guy").

So thanks to Eckart, he brings Steve Roach up to Santa Barbara.  Eckart is now living in Tucson, but Steve is still headquartered in Los Angeles.  Steve will relocate to Tucson and start his Timeroom Studios in the not too distant future.  Eckart's visits to Santa Barbara are always a pleasure, now doubly so with Steve in tow.  We do the town.  With Eckart, that means plenty of coffee and sushi too.  We go to my favourite Japanese restaurant, Kyoto, where much tuna and yellow tail is consumed.  Down to lower State St. for cappuccinos.  I suggest to Eckart that he should start the world's first sushi-coffee bar, thus cutting down travel time.  Another good idea lost. 

But on Sunday night/Monday morning, the three of us are in the sub-ghetto studios of Y-97.  Eckart is very shy, low-key and wishes not to take attention away from his artist's work.  Pity, in a way, because it would be so easy to do six hours just talking about his experiences in the German avant-garde scene.  His life in Munich alone is a wealth of information: the commune of Amon Duul, his friendship with Can, Fassbinder, Herzog and Wenders, the jazz and classical artists.  So many stories.  But not to be told on this show.  The focus is on Steve Roach.  In fact, Eckart will bow out after the first hour and head back to the hotel, leaving me and Steve to delve into the hypnotic realms of his music. 

It was very transcending.  We felt extremely other-worldly and yet were quite sober.  The power of Steve's music.  We played all of his album, as well as some of his favourite artists.  Much discussion on his Australian experiences.  During one part of the show, while listening to the music, I turned to Steve and said "I know this is cliche, but I felt an intense deja vu."  And he said "so did I."  Perhaps we had spent too much time in candlelit rooms listening to Klaus Schulze.  Or maybe it was the bunker-like decor of Y-97's studios.  I mean, really, folks.  Sometimes these radio stations at night really make you feel like you should have the cyanide capsules ready for any moment.  I should get out more.

I wanted Space Pirate Radio to put on a concert with Steve at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara and plans were set.  But then the city slapped the Lobero with an earthquake retrofit and the date had to be scrapped.  Fortunately, it was never announced, so fans and listeners were not disappointed.  But myself and Steve were.  That would have been a show I would have liked to have attended.  Anyway, that Space Pirate Radio broadcast of 1988 was a special show and I was pleased that it was a favourite among listeners.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Here we are starving to death, and all you can think of is food."


"Allo.  This is Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec...painter.  I may be a little guy...but I have the best brush in town."

How do you know if your girlfriend is having an affair with Toulouse-Lautrec?  If she has hickeys on her knees, that would be a clue.

What kind of cloth does a French thief wear?  Velour.

Attention horror fans.  They are remaking The Craft.  It's called The Kraft.  It's really cheesy.

Monday, October 11, 2010


After doing my previous entry, reprinting my Sherlock Holmes parody from 1981, I got to thinking about how much Sherlock Holmes has played a part throughout my life.  The Conan Doyle stories were among the first things I ever read.  One of my earliest gifts from my father was the Complete Sherlock Holmes.  Later, I was gifted with the two volume box set, the Annotated Sherlock Holmes.  Seriously though, what kid in my age group who loved mood and mystery didn't enjoy the atmosphere and trappings of the world's most favourite consulting detective?  So really, who isn't a fan.

Sherlock Holmes is constantly interpreted and re-interpreted.  I believe the character has been portrayed more times on film than any other fictional character.  Like Hamlet, it can always be viewed in a different light.  I've been lucky to see all of the best interpretations: Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing, Christopher Plummer, John Neville, Christopher Lee, and for most fans of the books, the work of Jeremy Brett.  There have been many variations and transmutations: Robert Stephens in the Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Nicol Williamson in the Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Spielberg's Young Sherlock Holmes, and now Robert Downey's.  And let's not even start about the parodies: Gene Wilder, Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley, John Cleese...  Before Billy Wilder did the Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Stephens, it was announced that the film would be made with Peter O'Toole as Holmes and Peter Sellers as Watson.  Later, around Magic Christian time, this developed into being a project that Sellers would play Holmes and Ringo Starr would play Watson.  Anyway, it's all too much. 

So a year later in 1982, I'm in London to put together my Space Pirate Video pilot and continue work on my Peter Sellers documentary.  Where shall I stay while I'm in this magnificent city?  My parents had been to London previously and they were supposed to be booked into the Sherlock Holmes Hotel on Baker Street, but they were given accommodations in another hotel in the Mayfair district.  They liked the hotel they were in, but were kind of looking forward to being in the hotel named after the famous character.  Remembering this, while booking my accommodations, I suggested to my travel agent friend, "howabout the Sherlock Holmes Hotel?"  So it was done.  Not a five star hotel, I still found the choice a pleasant one, the hotel conveniently located on upper Baker Street near Marylebone.  With Marylebone station around the corner, transportation throughout London was fast and easy.  I spent much time in the Marylebone station.  Trains could take me out of the city to East Finchley and Golders Green Cemetery--places connected with Peter Sellers.  The Underground would take me to Piccadilly or to the Thames Embankment.  And Baker Street itself was an easy street to walk south into London, down to Hyde Park and King's Road.  The hotel was at the north end of Baker Street near the famous lodgings at 221B which were, at the time, a bank that incorporated a small museum.  True Sherlockians, however, throughout the years, have debated where the actual lodgings were.  Supposedly at the time of the stories, 221B would have been at the south end of Baker Street--not the north.  I wasn't obsessed.  It was just nice to be on Baker Street.  You know, the Gerry Rafferty song, flowing through your head.  When I walked down the street, I failed to realize while passing number 94 that I was going by the former home of Apple House, the Beatles empire, as well as the old The Fool painted Apple boutique.  But that's London.  Every inch is history.  And you can't help but miss it all without knowing it.

But back to Holmes.  Or rather, his hotel.  It was very hot and humid that July in '82.  My rooms were located actually at the far end of the hotel, overlooking Baker Street.  The proper entrance to the hotel was actually located on the side street.  Looking at the other rooms, I would have been disappointed not seeing and hearing the life and action of the street itself.  My view of the street below included a post office, I believe a Wimpy Burger, a street corner with signs denoting the direction of Hatfield and the North.  Cool.  I took this as a good sign for my love of progressive music.  Now the irony.  You would expect the Sherlock Holmes Hotel to be the epitome of true English-ness.  It was, however, owned by some Middle Eastern group.  All of the staff and bellhops were from Pakistan.  Thank god I had the minibar, which, by the way, they would check each day to see how many tiny bottles of vodka and mini orange juice containers I had consumed the previous night.  Now, seriously here, I'm not being racist.  This is 1982 and I don't have any kind of Muslim stereotype going on here, right?  I'm just in London at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel and I expect to be bathed in some Baskerville-like fog of mist and mood.  Instead, my not-unfriendly bellhops speak little or no English and it's the England of the Raj.  So instead of being in a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle store, I'm in E.M. Forester's A Passage To India.  Near the end of my stay, I trundle down to the bar for another cool vodka tonic, and I discover the bartender is a woman and she has an English accent.  Oh my god!  I say to her, picking up my drink, "My god, you're the only English person working in this hotel."  Her reply to me: "I'm actually from Australia."  (For the record, I did actually meet an Irish maid working in a hotel on my trip.  It was at the Munich Hilton.  Go figure.)

But I digress.  While at the hotel, from my room, on the phone, I am using the services of British Telecom.  I am attempting to get the phone numbers of Peter Sellers's children, Sarah (who owns an antique shop) and Michael.  I am hoping to speak to them in regards to the documentary I am making on their father.  The young lady I am speaking to is very helpful.  She is explaining to me which numbers are listed and unlisted.  I tell her my desire to get these phone numbers for my film project, etc., etc.  And it sort of dawns on me that this conversation is seeming to be longer than what would be a normal conversation with an American operator.  As it turns out, I am speaking to a woman named Sue Caliburn, who happens to be married to an up-and-coming English actor named Nigel Caliburn, and she is being as helpful to me as she possibly can.  The Seller's children's numbers are unlisted and unavailable to me through British Telecom.  I can't get them for my project this way.  I do, however, get to connect with the wife of a man who works for the BBC and is sympathetic to my overall project.  Through this chance encounter I meet both of them during my stay in London at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel. 

Funny how these things turn out.  Almost like a blind date, I have the joy to meet this young couple in the lobby of the Sherlock Holmes Hotel.  Nigel Caliburn, also known now as Nigel Carrington, is a talented young actor from Cheshire who shared my love of the Goon Show, Peter Sellers and his passion for Sir Laurence Olivier.  It was a magical, solid friendship and made my trip to London very special.  In regards to the Sherlock Holmes connections, Nigel, as an actor, appeared with Jeremy Brett in the Sherlock Holmes episode, The Dancing Men.  Also, Nigel told me that he and Sue had their honeymoon at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel.  I enjoyed my long friendship with Sue and Nigel.  I am sure I will speak more about this later.  Nigel has worked long and hard at his career.  He has many credits on the BBC and has worked with many actors I have admired.  He understudied for Timothy Dalton (who, by the way, he can do a perfect impression of) and played opposite Vanessa Redgrave in Anthony and Cleopatra while Dalton was off testing for James Bond.  Nigel loved Olivier and I loved Sellers.  I seriously suggested to him that we create a play called "Green Room," where both the spirits of Olivier and Sellers are in purgatory in a green room in the afterlife.  It was my idea that this vehicle would give Nigel a chance to do all his best Larry impressions and I would do all my best Peters.  That we could act out our favourite scenes and make a comment here and there.  Perfect for the Edinburgh Fringe.  I liked it.  Another pipe dream.  Ironically and sadly, I called Nigel and broke the news to him regarding Olivier's death.  The last time I spoke to him was, sadly in the same vein, when I broke to him the news of the death of Princess Diana.  This is one of the painful realities of west coast time versus British time.  Despite this, I am happy to see that Nigel Carrington's career progresses.  He does many books on tape and appeared in the uber-successful film, The Dark Knight. 

Quick Watson, the needle!  Needle Nardle Noo!  Thinking back to those days at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel, having a supper of filet of sole and white wine at the Ristorante Moriarty, getting a second wind, deciding to take a cab and head to Leicester Square...well, that does it for me.  Although I never joined the official Sherlock Holmes society, the Baker Street Irregulars, it didn't matter.  I always thought their problem was due to a lack of fiber.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Study In Slightly Beige: or, the case of the Japanese doormen.

Further Memoir of Dr. John H. Watson M.D. (for Madman).  It was late Autumn in the year 1899, when I found myself once again in my old familiar lodgings at 221 B Baker Street.  The home of my dear friend Sherlock Holmes.  The many adventures we had shared up to this date.

I was going through my old tin box, which contained so many notes on the singular habits and baffling cases that had confronted my old roommate.  Each case revealed certain traits that made Sherlock Holmes the most famous of consulting detectives.

My profession as doctor was seeming to take less and less of my time, save for my deep love of gynecology.  I had been picking up a bit of income from selling the stories of our adventures to the Strand and Singles Register.  Which story should I recount next?  So many titles appeared to me.  The Singular Case of the Aluminum Crotch, or perhaps The Adventure of the Five Dancing Dips.  As I pondered these notes, I suddenly heard a scream come forth from Mrs. Hudson, the Dutch porno queen, who had since become our landlady.

The next thing I knew, the front door of our sitting room burst open to reveal the cloaked figure of a woman.  Recovering from my initial surprise, I was amazed to realize that I was looking upon the form and visage of Sister Blase Chalant, or Nun Chalant, Mother Inferior of the Convent of Our Lady of the Total Experience.  Before I could ask the dear Sister what she was doing in my living room, I heard the less-than-feminine voice of my old friend say: "Well, Watson.  The case you call A Study in Slightly Beige is closed for good.  All decent interior decorators of London can now sleep soundly.  The nortorious Wimpner and his illicit Drapery Gang are safely in the hands of Inspector Lestrade."

And with those words, Sherlock Holmes tore off the habit of Sister Chalant, to reveal the leather disguise of Mrs. Emma Peel.  That was the way with Sherlock.  Like living with a flesh and blood Chinese puzzle.  Holmes was a master of disguise.  The tight leather garments hugged his form well.  I was certainly fooled.  And curiously impressed.  Was the room getting warmer?

"Why do you think it is Watson," my friend asked, "that most English men like to dress in drag?  Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Robert Morely, Morecombe and Wise.  They all share this common trait."  Holmes was unwrapping a pack of Quentin Crisps, as well as removing the disguise of Mrs. Peel.  Certainly the stage had lost a brilliant actor in Holmes.  He had nice legs, too.

Holmes was now in his old familiar dressing gown, filling his pipe with shag tobacco, made from the finest shag carpets.  "Quick Watson, the sewing machine!" he shouted.  I disapproved of this habit, and told him so.  "Oh, stop complaining Watson.  You'll make me lose a stitch."  In these moods of his, he was impossible.  The pattern, including the one on his arm, was often the same.  He would measure the ash of cigar; inform me of some little known fact in history, like the Etruscans invented the first vacuum cleaner; recite a somewhat saucy limerick in Esperanto, and finally, quietly nurse on his violin.  After a while he would start to thumb through the newspapers and magazines.

"Look at this Watson," he said to me, waving a copy of National Geographic.  "It says here that penguins are mysteriously disappearing from the Antarctic.  They can't understand why.  But the answer is simple."  I was always amazed at how quick my friend could understand a seemingly impossible situation.

"Good Lord Holmes!"  How is that?"  I asked.

"Elemenopee, my dear Watsong," Holmes said, casually sitting on his violin case.  "Japanese fishermen are kidnapping the penguins, and smuggling them into Japan.  The penguins are then used as doormen at various hotels in Tokyo.  It's very cheap labor."

"Incredible Holmes!" I said, rising to go down the hallway, clutching my latest collection of Industrial Postcards.  "How can anyone know whether or not they have a real Japanese doormen or a penguin instead?" I asked, standing by the door.

"Good question, Watson," Sherlock said, stuffing a new shag carpet into his pipe bowl.  "I would imagine if your doorman takes his tip in fish, that would be a good clue."

[First published October 6, 1981.]

Monday, September 27, 2010

"...Now here in this forsaken jungle Hell, I have proven that I am all right!"

And hoo boy, it's hot!  Hellish heat.  Late at night, and as Marilyn Monroe would say, "We're having a heatwave."  This is obviously going to have an effect on today's entry.  Please bear with me.  Any crankiness for this week is barometric--not cinematic, as in past weeks.

As a matter of fact, Monday's film du jour was the Columbo 5th season episode starring Hector Elizondo and Sal Mineo.  Hector plays a murderous, Middle Eastern politico.  I've never seen this episode.  My wife bought this set because of Patrick McGoohan, so the Hector episode is a bonus.  I and my wife got to know Hector through my old, dear friends, Sandra Liddell and Harry Reese, talented artists and bookmakers, founders of Turkey Press in Santa Barbara.  Hector's wife, Carolee Campbell, is also a talented bookmaker, and through Harry, the chain of friendships began.  All very nice people, lovely memories in Sandra and Harry's home.  And through their friendship, Hector became a dear friend and guest on Space Pirate Radio and my KTMS Entertainment Magazine radio show.  So, despite the heat, I'm not as cranky as I was previous blog-time with Harry Brown or Werner Herzog. 

So, onto the next bit.  Here we are winding up September and it feels like we are halfway up the Amazon.  Odd, as I write this from the miraculous community known as Santa Madre Teams Teresa ("Mother of Trucks!").  The All-Armenian City.  More earthy, more working class than my previous haunts of Santa Barbaria.  A more religious, conservative community than I'm used to, there are shrines to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Pep Boys at every crystal meth lab on every block near you.  This is the home of Darth Maul-De-Nada.  Culture?  You'll find it in yogurt.  This is the home of tri-tip, trucks and big tires.  Once a year, men with accordions and bubble machines ride cattle.  They call it the Lawrence Welks Rodeo.  Wunnerful, wunnerful.  It's a military town with an overflow of people who work at the Jean-Claude Van Damme Denberg Air Force Base.  It's like an old Bowery Boys movie:  spooks galore (Langley types who hate the cold).

And you can hardly call it a jungle. Vegetation has long ceased to exist here.  Between pesticides and petroleum, anything green and over 1' doesn't exist. This town hates trees.  The only trees in this town are actually cell phone towers.  The native Indians, before creating casinos, called this place the Valley of Sickness and refused to live in it. They chose the highlands.  Sometimes I think it's purgatory or a rejected M. Night Shyamalan script.  And that's bad.  Because every script by M. Night Shyamalan should be rejected (sorry, I can't stand takes him 2 and a half hours to do what Rod Serling could do in 20 minutes).

So here in this forsaken jungle, it's kind of jungle free. I certainly don't feel the sort of atmosphere of Tarzan or Ramar of the Jungle or Jungle Jim.  No Johnny Weissmuller.  No Jon Hall.  No Sabu.  Some, but not enough Maria Montez.  And definitely no Turhan Bey.  So, "See Jungle See Jungle..." What does this all mean?  Well, you may ask. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

"..Outlawed in a world of science which previously honored me as a genius..."

An old friend, Joe Palladino, wrote me a while back telling me that he was putting together a film about the history of radio station KTYD and would I be involved.  Like a smart ass, I joked "seriously, is KTYD still around?" and made derogatory comments about voice tracks created in Bakersfield and endless ads for shooters on another Eagles classic rock weekend.  As I have said here before, for me, KTYD died in 1985.

Joe's letter created mixed feelings in yours truly.  Anyone who has read previous recollections about Space Pirate Radio can easily detect a love/hate relationship with the station.  Let me try to explain some of the smoke and mirrors here.  I really love radio.  I mean, I really love radio.  The magic of it.  All its possibilities.  The problem is that not everyone in radio shares this enthusiasm.  So when I found myself involved with freeform station KTYD in 1973, I assumed we were all free radicals, doing it for the passion, the love of music and trying to make a change.  I wasn't expecting so many of those long-haired, dope smoking individuals to be harboring a desire to turn into balding, 50-year-old businessmen so early.  Some of them were already bald, but they had that Ben Franklin look.  So you still thought they were cool.  But back to KTYD.  There's been much written about the station and I'm amazed at how wrong a lot of it has been.  There was a KTYD reunion a number of years back, held at Fess Parker's thing (in 1974, we would have wanted to burn the place to the ground--not assess its property value).  Many old faces gathered together.  Sadly for me, the gathering of the tribes bordered on the pathetic.  Instead of a reunion of kindred spirits and creative anarchists, it had the air of a sodden sales convention for the Scooter Store.  Ironically at this party, I was the designated driver.  Besides the horror of seeing the room filled up with sales lemmings of the new KTYD (those who had signed a pact with Clear Channel), the greatest disappointment was the fact that no one remembered anything of substance or importance.  There was a lot of talk about drugs and who had or hadn't been with the female music director. But basically, the revelation of then and when in the here and now was completely absent.

The old cliche is that if you remember the '60s, you didn't live them.  And the same could be said for the '70s.  I lived them and pretty hard.  But I recall them quite vividly, more often fondly, rather than with horror.  Of course, the Virgo in me (theme--"thanks folks for all the cards and letters") retains being an archivist, so that might help.  So I've kept the pertinent information.  As is, the basic facts about KTYD should be that it began in September of 1973 and that the program director, Larry Johnson from San Jose, turned an old county & western/oldies, Dick Clark owned, canned radio station into a living, breathing, freeform rock broadcaster.  24 hours, pretty much all live.  So Klassic KTYD 37 years ago (oh, me organs) pretty much revolves around who Larry Johnson hired to the station.  Besides Larry, the main headliners were music director, Laurie Cobb, and disc jockeys Ray Briare, Mark Ward, Bill Zimmer, and Jim Trapp.  It is at this part of the story, kids, where Larry brings on David and Tiny Ossman of the Firesign Theatre to do their stoney, retro nostalgia show, Easy Street.  And, has been noted in a previous remembrance, yours truly is in the entourage. 

The story so far.  As you remember last time, I enter the 8th floor studios of KTYD, high atop the 'Hotel' Granada Theatre building.  I get a weird feeling that something's going to happen here.  And I am quite sober.  As mentioned earlier, Larry Johnson, friendly and outgoing, is a big fan of the Firesign Theatre.  So anyone who is a friend, is probably somewhat annointed.  Up until this point, even with my previous background in radio, I assumed that the concept of Space Pirate Radio was so obvious, that someone else would probably do it ahead of me.  But they hadn't.  And especially not on commercial radio.  So, struck by a bolt of energy from Zeus, this son of Hermes decides I will pitch the concept to Mr. Johnson over lunch.  I explain the idea for the show and what I wish to do and he agrees.  Without an audition tape, resume, or sound sample, an on the air premiere is scheduled for Saturday night/Sunday morning, January 27, 1974. 

Now before "founding" members Edward Bear and Dave Heffner have even been heard on the station.  Not to try to pick nits here, but so often people who came on years later are listed as the original KTYD.  I don't even claim to be original because I wasn't there in September of '73.  I was there in November of '73.  In my mind, so-called "founding" members of KTYD are pretty much all together in the first year.  The ball is rolling.  The feeling is there.  The spirit is happening.  People are picking up on what's going on.  Disc jockeys around the state and country are hearing the buzz and want to be a part of it. As long as Larry Johnson is the program director, later people coming onboard are still a part of the momentum of the station, but the fundamentals have already been established. 

This is not to discredit those who came later.  On the contrary, the station fleshed out even more and became for the community the idealistic, multi-formated, (dare I say it) utopian radio station that the corporate blood suckers would do their best to disassemble.  I mean, freeform, man.  This means that at one time we had complete freedom.  We didn't make much money; in fact, we were quite poor.  But we felt rich in knowing that everything we did was based on what we believed in.  The music we played, we loved.  We weren't told by some wanker market consultant from Florida that the song we were playing had tested well in Sarasota...we played what we liked and what the audience connected with.  So to wrap up this KTYD thing, the original station was a collection of eclectic souls with many tastes, many talents, and many flaws.  But we did it 'cause we loved it and you knew that sometime, somewhere on that station, what you particularly liked, whatever style of music (from blues, jazz, hard rock, folk, country, classical, avant-garde, whatever), you knew that someone on that station was playing it 'cause they dug it and you dug it.  And that's why you tuned in.  For a while, you could tell there were no strings on the voices that were talking to you.  No puppets.  So we are back to my love/hate relationship with radio.  I love it for what it was and what it could be.  I hate it for what it became and what it is.  In a way, this continues my original concept for Space Pirate Radio.  Although a part of KTYD, I felt apart from KTYD.  Space Pirate Radio was always a sputnik.  A satellite revolving in orbit around home base.  Beaming a message down, hoping to reach a few.  In orbit, necessary...but separate.  

Monday, September 13, 2010

"I was classed as a madman, a charlatan..."

My choices in film viewings before I contemplate these writings seems to be having a questionable effect on the direction the article takes.  A few weeks back, an attempted innocent entry on my bohemian bachelor lodgings went all Cockney Charlie Bronson thanks to having watched Michael Caine in Harry Brown just before.  So this week, we've just finished the new David Lynch produced Werner Herzog film, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done.  Oh boy.  It's kind of happening again.  Though I'm trying my best not to be as cranky as I was post-Harry Brown, my planned attempt to continue my Virgo-themed series for the month of September has been somewhat fumed by the filmic experience.  This is a fairly recent occurrence.  As this is my 43rd entry, I have watched many other films previous to writing with no outward effect.  Perry Mason episodes seem to be the most innocuous.  But Volume 2 of the 5th season isn't out yet, so we have been forced to pick and choose from the weekly offerings of new dvd releases.  This has caused these latest permutations.

So now instead of waxing nostalgic, commenting on the music and arts, dazzling you with the wit and wisdom of things gone by, I am trying to detox from the 91 minutes spent beforehand.  And I feel a rant coming on.  I will try to keep it soft and fuzzy.  David Lynch and Werner Herzog.  That's a collaboration that's got to be interesting, right?  If there were ever two directors whose names spoke mental health, these are it.  I used to be a really big supporter of Herzog in the '70s.  I mean, Klaus Kinski and the music of Popol Vuh.  Aguirre.  A fan from day one.  Played all the soundtracks on Space Pirate Radio.  Had them all.  German and French vinyl.  His stuff was right up my alley.  Being German helped.  David Lynch however, was not my favourite.  I was not in awe of Eraserhead like everyone else was.  This is probably because I preferred my mental illness from Europe.  Disturbing images by Americans was too close to home.  I mean, I was working for these type of people.  Fellini, Roeg, Russell, Antonioni and Bunuel interested me because they were not like the bosses I worked for.  And even my favourite American directors tended to be the ones who went to London or Europe, like Lester and Kubrick.  So what does this mean?  I prefer my madness European-style.

This attempt at a world view, coming from a US born person, was more often than not, met with confusion or hostility. I mean, it took forever to explain the concept of Space Pirate Radio: foreign, experimental music being heard in the US of A.  "But they're singing in I-talian.  I can't understand what they are saying."  "But this is good," I would reply.  "You can make up your own translation.  They may be singing about crab lice and washtubs, but it sounds like pure poetry."  A well known disc jockey on air once asked me what the band Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) meant in English.  I said it meant "good sex on the radio."  Premiata, meaning prime, Forneria meaning fornication, and Marconi, the inventor of the wireless.  I just made it up.  I didn't know until later that it actually meant the number one bakery in the city of Marconi  I was mattoCapiche?  Playing the leetle joke.  Oh Eddie, kiss me goodnight.

Okay, so I succeeded in getting Space Pirate Radio on the air and I succeeded in producing several of my plays, but trying to do film was something else.  In 1979 I did a 20 minute short film called Crackers At Eight.  It was a shortened version of themes from my 1973 play, Nothing Is Sacred.   A lot of short sketches dealing with a day in television where the afternoon matinee movie, a sci-fi film called Crabs, ends up being the real thing by the evening news.  This was where I wanted (at the time) to take the direction of comedy. It was for myself, a progressive evolution of all the comedy, music and art that had influenced me up to that time: Mad magazine, Steve Allen, Jack Parr, Ernie Kovacs, the Goon Show, the Beatles, and Firesign Theatre.  It was far from perfect.  But it was for me, fresh and fast.  At at the time, very new.  The finished project caught the attention of the vice president of comedy development at 20th Century Fox.  She loved it.  Thought it was perfect for the studio.  She just wanted to fly it past her boss, the president of comedy development.  A meeting is set up, I drive down to the Fox Studios, have my reserved parking permit, armed with my quarter inch tape of the show.  Entering the plush offices of El Presidente de Comedia, being seated in comfy chairs, we watch my humble effort.  VP lady starts to laugh and smile as first jokes become visual.  But then she notes El Jefe is not sharing in on the fun.  She begins to cover her mouth and acts like a new internal discomfort is beginning.  The signs become visible.  The sounds and flurry of images are having no effect on her boss.  Her enthusiasm has disappeared.  End of showing.  El Jefe says to me, "this is not the direction comedy is going in.  We here at 20th Century Fox know that real comedy has to be story based, which is why MASH is our most successful television series.  This sketch style humor will never catch on."  I believe I told him he was quite wrong.  And I was amazed that the president of comedy development was not aware of something called Saturday Night Live or Monty Python's Flying Circus.  A true visionary.  Thank god he saved the world from my comic masterplan.  Perhaps we can also thank him for delivering the solid, story driven comedies that Fox would later be known for.  The list is endless.  Which one is your favourite, kids?  Date Movie, Epic Movie or Meet The Spartans?