Monday, October 31, 2011

"Does it come every night?"

During the run of Space Pirate Radio, there were always some pauses or intervals between broadcasts from station to station.  Sometimes the station was the same station.  Other times, a new frequency.  Frequently.  So pondering the days up to All Hallows' Eve, getting in the mood and such, considering all the influences...from early days in the horror TV business, to all the passions gothic, I went back to when Space Pirate Radio returned to the air on Halloween Sunday, Monday the First of November on NPR ass-filiate KCBX in San Luis Obispo, California.  This was 1999.

Shall we party like it's 1939 instead?  Yes!  Let's!  Why not?  Certainly the station was sixty years behind the time.

This is your Obedient Servant, Orson Welles, and we are here to make contact with the departed spirit of Harry Houdini.  Everyone seated round the table?  Good.  Fingers on the wine glass.  Ouija board yet?  Letters begin.

"You don't want me to leave Windwood house, do you Mother?"

Halloween and Space Pirate Radio were always a wonderful time for musical mayhem and sonic spookiness.  Of course, for some listeners familiar or not with the program, it seemed like every show was Halloween.  There were fine lines between Harmony, Humour and Horror.  I dubbed these early experiments Audio Alchemy, and this fourth sabbat of the year was a perfect time to reach for the Philosophers Stoned.

Every Space Pirate Radio show enjoyed voyaging to the Outer Limits.  On Halloween, we could get a little darker, but still be safe.  Musical choices from Europe could be a tad more horrific (wasn't Tad Moore Horrific that good looking blonde kid in A Summer Place?).  Nothing could be more extreme than Brainticket's Cottonwood Hill.  Or White Noise and An Electric Storm in Hell.  Lighten things up?  Bonzo Dog Band with Monster Mash or Look Out, There's a Monster Coming.  Back to the literate with Alan Parsons and Edgar Allan Poe or Prelude with the Seven Deadly Sins.  How many Halloween shows had Christopher Lee telling the story of Dracula, only to be interrupted every three minutes, in true local LA TV style, by Oscar B. Chow.  Hoping that you are enjoying "your...Golden Morning Movie."

Ah, yes Dracula.  You had to be a vampire to listen to the show.  Bed ridden with Nocturnal Transmissions.  The illustrious Steam Count, wearing the famous crest of his family, is shown above.  Giving Salute to the Radio Managers.  So much for subtlety.  It impales by comparison.  But more on the one who never drinks wine in a moment.

All Hallow's was also a festive time at the Green Neon Motel, located in the heart, or rather, bladder of the San Industrial Valley.  Year after year, front desk man Grungie Steinberg would be amazed by the arrival at the door of the latest costume design by longtime guest Chef Bruno Languini.  It is my opinion that his tomato & cheese omelette was his crowning achievement.  "Wow, Chef!  When you bend over, I can see the melting cheese."

Or how many variations were there of that classic 1941 Unilateral film The Wolf Guy?  Lon Chairs, Jr. so touching as the cursed Larry Tallbutt (so named after a family deformity).  How many times did we quote the Old Gypsy Lady saying, "Though the path you walk is thorny. Through no fault of your own."  "What the Hell does THAT mean?" Lonny would ask in pure torment.  "Even a man who's pure of heart.  And says his prayers at night.  May become a wolf, when the wolfbane blooms.  And his trousers are too tight."  Pure magic.

Obviously, to the long time listener, three horror films have been a constant mantra in the Space Pirate Radio mix.  From 1974 till the end, 1931's Dracula began the show after my introductions.  "Listen to them.  Children of the night.  What music they make."  That to me was the start of showtime.  When I left Santa Barbara and went El Norte, the 1931 Mexican version of the same lines became the appropriate opening.  I know I have played Klaus Kinski doing his low key version of the lines from Nosferatu, both in English and in German.  These were giggles and not long term.  The other two films are, of course, 1944's The Uninvited and 1956's Plan 9 From Outer Space.  Like the resurgence in Lounge Music, I am intensely proud that Space Pirate Radio brought these unpopular works of art back into the current culture of ultra-chic.  For those who didn't get it the first time round, I can cheerfully say, "Kiss my Capri pants enveloped derriere."

So stiletto heels off, zipper down, back to front. " Does it come every night? "

No.

Just when you begin to think you've dreamt it...

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Per Un Amico."

My dear old artist friend David Fontana sent me this wonderful piece of art as a birthday gift.  I felt I had to share it, as it captures the crazy dream time that was Space Pirate Radio in the early Seventies.  As I have mentioned here before, David was one of my earliest friends who just happened to be a multi-fauceted artist ("He had the PIPES, man!").  Painter, cartoonist, a doodles weaver AND a musician.  Ultra cool man.  The Banana Man.  The Banana Moon Man.  Fontana di Luna.

A Cool Cat.  A REAL talent.  And man, a joy to do so many projects together on.  What is wonderful is when you hook up with someone who is completely on your wavelength, very inspiring, totally original, secure in their own talents, willing to collaborate to make the vision happen in double time, not a competition, two individuals, united on sharing the joke...the ultimate Cosmic Giggle.

That is my dear friend.  He painted the artwork on my Space Pirate Radio album when I thought we should trip out on the old RKO logo (it was good enough for King Kong in 1933 and Orson Welles in 1941).  He worked with me on my play, Casanova's Lips, the later book publication of the same, and my TV program Crackers at Eight.  He did art for an attempted magazine called The Hermit.  We were dreamers, digging the music, drinking wine with Daevid Allen in a candlelit room filled with Gong LPs, considering the impossible.  Flatulence Groove, or it was a Gas man.

And with all the great memories of past days, I can't keep up on all the adventures he has had after leaving Santa Barbara: playing music with experi-Mentalists in Germany, doing art in England, making cartoons abroad and back in Hollywood.  Like a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, the liquid detergent, this cat's a pure sudsy bubble man.  Floating between Myth and Magic.

I'm not sure of the complete histoire de banana.  I've put his family tree in the Elvis P. band.  They founded Fontana Records and started the city of Fontana, California.  Created the art of letter printing.  Font derived from the family name.  Or not.

Either way, he is an a-Peel-ing fellow, with many a story to tell, if you can coax one or two out of him.  I am happy we are still friends and can recall those early days of artistic enthusiasm.  And dare I say, LUNA...? Si!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Time to Noodle."

Dr. Wu-hu Returns!

Okay, Jo!  We have just returned from many exciting adventures in the Far East.  The Brigadier suggested we Nip Around the Corner (his yuck-yuck Colonial Era racist type of music hall humour) and pick up some takeaway Chinese food.  As Time Laird, I suggest we jump into re-Tardis, set Wayback Control for early era, really fresh Szechuan food.  Hot & Spicy!  It Szechuan fire.  Chapter end.

The story so far...well, you remember Jo, off we go in a flurry of shakey camera work.  Winds whip your little mini-skirt.  Have your undies like Chubby Checker.  How you say?  Knickers in a Twist?  No matter.  Before you could say Hammer Burt Electrique (featuring Gong Lee), we were in the Ming Dynasty (it was So Mercilous!).  Quite an adventure!  But not to bore you with minor details, save to say that thanks to Sonic Screwdriver (3 parts vodka, 1 part hedgehog), a certain talent with pasta and my inimitable impersonation of Robert Wyatt, the day was saved along with 8 separate species.  But that's another story.

The Story of O by Pauline Reage.  Well, that's another story too.

So back into the re-Tardis, Brigadier food kept warm on hot plate, off for an evening of clubbing in Shanghai.  Everybody Wang Chung tonight.

But as so often happens on program, co-ordinates off due to abundance of cat fur (don't ask) and we wind up in pre-Eighties Cathay.  Shanghai, yes.  But yak loving, pre-disco dancing authorities think mysterious blue box smuggling opium.  Monkey farts!  If only.  Don't you Melrose Avenue extras from Von Sternberg film recognize me?  I am Doctor Wu-hu!  Cosmic Celestial Cabin Cruiser.  To no avail.  Must hide on train, Shanghai Express.  Jo and I meet lovely ladies.  Share their car.  Bohemians.  Tall blonde lady of Germanic descent.  And mysterious Chinese woman in black.  Jo asked if they were going to a Siouxsie & the Banshees concert.  A chilling quiet filled the room, which was already filled by tons of cigarette smoke.  Many birds died for their clothing.  I was attracted to them both.  And with Jo in the room, I suddenly felt the desire to start a commune in Scotland or Big Sur.  Me, as Yogi.  My ladies as Handmaidens or Dacoits.  Ah, what delights!

This reverie was soon interrupted by a halting of the train.  The seriousness of the situation came fully back to me.  A military man, who in evening dress reminded me of Charlie Chan, demanded to see my papers.  I showed him this psychic paper thingee I have which becomes whatever the viewer thinks it should become.  I don't understand how it works but it seems to get me past the doorman everytime.  Anyway, this credential, backstage pass/passport thingee bought me some time for a moment.  Until an unfortunate question came up. Unlike most episodes, we show up in the Forties, my companion is half naked in short skirt, thighs glistening in the bunker, lit only by the Battle of Britian.  No questions asked.

Not this time.  These damnably fiendish Chinese instantly noted the peculiarity of our clothing.  Bryan Ferry haircut and Fox News Conservative bowties.  And Botox ("Bowtox are cool").  Mon Dieux!  We didn't FIT IN!  The question was put to me.  What kind of undergarments was I wearing.  Never one to lie except when it is necessary, I replied, "I am a Calvin Klein man.  I am wearing black briefs."

Without realizing it...I had started the Boxer Rebellion.

We escaped by our chins.  Seriously, Max and Mabel Chin, laundry entrepreneurs, helped us get back to the re-Tardis, hidden in a cart of un-starched shirts ("no washee without tickee," we heard them shout while being pushed madly down the coach aisle, safely hidden amongst the shirt-tails).

Before safely leaving in the re-Tardis, I bought two shirts with the face of the lovely Chinese woman I had met earlier on the train car.  Arriving back safely in Golders Green Cemetery, East Finchley, Jo and I, still wearing the shirts you see pictured, met a man who offered to trade a shirt with Betty White on it for our two shirts.

Glad to be home, food still warm, I had to refuse.  "Sorry, no, " I replied.  "Two Wongs don't make a White."