Wednesday, November 2, 2016
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
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.
We will always have San Diego.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
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
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.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
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 17, 2016
After, against, along, among, around, at. Before, behind, below, beneath, between, but, by...Have I got a preposition for you?
How about that title, hey? Reminds me of the days('60s & '70s) when film titles thought it was cool to be sort of endless. DOCTOR STRANGELOVE, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb. CAN HEIRONYMOUS MERKIN EVER FORGET MERCY HUMPPE AND FIND TRUE HAPPINESS? OH DAD, POOR DAD, MOMMA"S HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET AND I'M FEELIN' SO SAD. WHO IS HARRY KELLERMAN AND WHY IS HE SAYING THOSE THINGS ABOUT ME? My favourite is THE PERSECUTION AND ASSASSINATION OF JEAN-PAUL MARAT AS PERFORMED BY THE INMATES OF THE ASYLUM OF CHARENTON UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE. Of course, this one gets off the hook by simply being referred as MARAT/SADE. The title itself? It's one of those early childhood memories that refuse to dislodge from the cranial caverns, while more pressing current information is instantly forgotten. It reminds me of a delightful CALVIN & HOBBES cartoon strip, where Calvin's father gets up from the chair and sez, "Why is it I can remember a jingle from an old '50s cigarette commercial, but I can't remember why I got out of my chair?"
The title ends with one of my earliest puns. I can't recall anything else from letter C to Z.
This childhood flashback recalls another moment of madness in the First Grade Finger Painting Class. Raymond Elementary School, Fullerton, California. Our finger painted efforts are hanging on the chalkboard. Every student is asked by the teacher to describe their efforts. Each youngster points out their horse on the farm, skyscraper, jet flying in clouds, etc. My work is nothing but colourful swirls. The teacher asks, "So Guy, what is your drawing of?" And swear to Dios, I replied, "It's my forged Picasso." More proof, that I was not of this planet.
I leave you with an early version of SPACE PIRATE RADIO art for local press done by Mike Merenbach. The final version as printed is on an earlier entry. On this one, which is totally different from the published version, Mike did not finish the head. Somehow, in my present state of decay, it seems appropriate. Hasta lumbago, everyone!
Friday, June 10, 2016
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.
Friday, June 3, 2016
BING is a good name for a search engine. An abusive Father who torments his sons and makes them want to kill themselves.
Sappho's home sound system has les Bose speakers.
Friedrich Nietzsche's favourite snack was Uber Munch.
When philosophers buy products advertised on television, it is often from The Home Schopenhauer Network.
The Middle East's Greatest Mystery Writer: Edgar Allan Apu. Author of THE FALAFEL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER.
Seeing a good production of WAITING FOR GODOT before I die is on my Beckett list.
When he moved to Syria, Aleppo became the least remembered Marx Brother.
A new Swedish Family Film: "I AM CURIOUS (GEORGE)."
A Speedball for the Elderly: half a Xanax and two cups of English Breakfast Tea.
E. M. Forster on Psilocybin: "A Shroom With A View."
"We will, in fact, be greeted as carburetors." General Motors. (Most Forgotten Military Moments.)
Living in the Moment. Even if that moment is 40 years past, 5 minutes ago or 5 years to come...
Gandhi's Email Service: Mahatmail.
Shakespearean Bar-B-Que: "Aye...There's the Rib."
New Summer Movie about girder construction. Critics call it "riveting."
The cruelest person in Israel, not known to everyone, is the Marquis de Mossad.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
I will always love Radio. Good old fashioned, live, Freeform Radio. Honest, non-corrupted, doing it for real Radio. And like a lifelong partner, soul mate, friend and lover, member of the family, I have painfully watched this Dear Soul go through the hurtful trials of existence, fighting off the illnesses for its struggle to survive. Battered down by the treatments of the professionals; "experts" who profess to keep the patient "alive." Bullshit!
What a difference a decade can make. When SPACE PIRATE RADIO went on the air for the first time on January 27th, 1974, KTYD Santa Barbara, California, the people running the station were all young, rebellious, excited by the music, inspired by the sound and vision of what could be possible with this overgrown wireless set. Business wasn't the motivating reason for being on the air. We weren't unprofessional. Hardly. We just knew that if we did something good that we were all passionate about, the station would financially float. Good Deeds would garnish Good Rewards. And we were right. KTYD with all its eccentricities, contradicting personalities and ultra diverse programming, became the top model of a successful Freeform Radio station. We were a hit, Man! A Big Hit! The record companies loved us 'cause all types of new artists and musical styles got a shot. The DJs loved what they played. No playlist commanded by someone else. No payola. No corruption. It was Real.!
That would change...
Success at doing something original creates a satisfaction; a sense of well being that like Alchemy, transmutes into power. A Personal Power, interpreted differently by the Individual. How one uses this Power, is the Rite of Passage. I watched so many of my young, hippie, radical or just fun loving or downright lazy friends transform themselves. Once in possession of this Power. If one does not have the ample tools of introspection, this gift of certain powers has the ability to transform on lesser levels. For the Man on the Street, we call this transformation: Corruption.
And in the Purgatory of Life known as Commerce or Industry or the Free Market, this Corruption, soul devastating as it can be... Well, it is simply Business As Usual.
How quickly the free spirited and visionary, idealistic youth of the '60s and '70s were able to embrace in the '80s, the repressed, restrictive and so hated values of their oh so un-understanding parents. After the murder of John Lennon and the Reign of Master Chimps, Ronald Reagan and Czarina-like, mystic loving, Rasputin Red Wearing former FBI agent Nancy Davis, my Weather Or Not Underground Members, Black, White, Grey or Slightly Beige Panthers were ready to give up. Olly Olly Oxen Free. Time to give up the Go Go Dancing for the Dance of the Lemmings. "Hey, I'm middle aged! Time to get my share."
So the year 1984 lives up to its Orwellian promise. In the early days of radio, a local radio station had to be locally owned. Serving the community and so forth. Media understood by and for the Community. With the spokesperson for the General Electric Theatre and Company, the Death Valley Days industry of Boraxo and the Twenty Mule Team, Chesterfield Cigarettes as the Perfect Christmas Gift, Arrow Shirts and so on...well, it was time to remove that little local radio hang up. Why couldn't a Media Consulting Group from Langley, Virginia decide what people in Laguna Beach would hear? Thus, with little effective Resistance, the FCC or Federal Communications Center, de-regulated ownership rules of small market radio stations, and the buying boom was on.
Like a night on the Home Shopping Network, selling zircon encrusted earrings, the pitch was feverish. Small Mom & Pop companies bought up failing stations in exciting communities like Santa Barbara and Long Beach; less exciting places like Banning, Beaumont and Barstow. Communications savvy banks were quick to make loans available, with the small print proviso, that if the bubble should burst and collections were due, said broadcast stations would revert to the banks. And for, pardon the playlist pun...a song.
Now, in a piece of fiction writing, wouldn't it be funny if these banks were only shills or fronts for a larger network of one market, one owner Media Corporations? Nah, you couldn't write this kind of stuff. Who would have such a clear channel of operations, be premier in such an undertaking and still be taken sirius?
Stuff and Nonsense.
Monday, April 4, 2016
Dreamtime, but The Sleeper Awakes...
"I can dig it!"
The Little Lady and I have returned to the City of Vendors. Vim Vendors. Where the Angels Are Lost. The Chet Bakeries abound. "Let's Get Lost Honey!" Far Away, yet So Close. Downtown. Petulant Clerks. *giggles* Our Home Away From Our Former Home Away From Home: The DoubleplusGudenTree.
So it has been just under a year since we last saw the band MAGMA. These French favourites, first played on SPACE PIRATE RADIO in 1974 promised they would return last April 6th, after their stunning show at the Echoplex. So said Stella Vander, long reigning stellar ambassador and lead voice of the ensemble. Spokesperson from her planet, commanded by the Monarch and visionary leader: former husband Christian Vander. The man who follows the beat of a different drummer: Himself.
We first met Stella Vander, backstage after the show in San Francisco, 1999, Progfest at the Palace of Fine Arts. Friendly and cordial, she presented us to the Drumming Buddha himself, smiling and quiet like Maher Baba in a Bernardo Bertolucci film. It was presented that I was the first to play his music on U.S. commercial radio, back in the day and he was pleased. My satellite had passed through the system of Kobiah.
But tonight we were in the first row, below Stella and company, in the reincarnated semi-classic movie house of yore, The Regent. One of the many ancient palaces of Downtown Los Angeles, that in the late '60s, I would venture into the environs from Diamond Bar, to catch a forgotten British or European horror flick, with Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee or Barbara Steele.
Three's a charm for Magma. Although the acoustics in these vintage movie theatres are sometimes less than optimum, the vibe was a warm and fuzzy dynamo. Magma has an opening artist this time around; the sonic cello work of Helen Money. I dig her and was looking forward to seeing and hearing her so up close and personable, having only viewed recorded performances. If a classic cellist had played in the Balanescu Quartet and did acid with Hendrix, the experiments might be these. I dig her explorations, but some said the hall wasn't working with her as well as it should have.
The evening is even more special as the lady and I are joined by my old friend from Santa Barbara theatre days, Paul Bergevin. Paul says we first met during LOVE RIDES THE RAILS, which he worked on in 1973. He saw my play NOTHING IS SACRED, which immediately followed that year with ABELARD AND ELOISE after that. I remember him being a fan and friend of SPACE PIRATE RADIO early on. He interviewed me in an early Isla Vista apartment of his for a class at UCSB. Before his successful and long-term career in the banking world, il Mondo di Banco, Paul graced the counter of an all-night gig at the Goleta Kwik-E-Mart and tuned in to my weekend avant-rocker shows at KTYD, Saturday and Sunday mornings. This fueled Paul's lifelong passion for the music, as well as being one of the many facing an early Monday morning work call who tuned into, recorded and called me on the phone during SPACE PIRATE RADIO.
An instructor at SBCC, Santa Barbara City College, once said to me, "I know which students stay up all night and listen to your show. They have revealing zombie-like motions, or often collapse their heads on the desk. The ones with the greatest fortitude have AAA road map bloodshot eyes." I am gratified.
Paul also acted, and played the part of Mozart and a Louvre night watchman in my play CASANOVA'S LIPS in 1976. Since this is the year of the 40th Anniversary of that theatrical outrage (I was an actual instructor for this *giggles*), I intend to discuss this in-depth (charges) later. *more giggles*
I also get to meet Paul's friend Doug Lee, who listened to SPACE PIRATE RADIO in the day, and still retains a grand passion for this music and is a real friendly cat. That's one of the faith miracles of the show: the music unites kindred souls, who upon first meeting, you know you've been buddies for years, automatique. And the irony is Doug makes his home today in Fullerton, the childhood heaven & hell in my life; the first launching pad of my space station, located in the heart, or perhaps failing kidney, of Door Hinge County. I like him immediately and we are the Alexandria Quartet for a marvelous, Magickal evening.
Helen Money and Magma: the pad is strictly Coolsville. Mondo Perfecto!
Our stay in Fritz Lang-Lee, Virginia on the Left Coast continues in the vein of the Master of Metropolis, Mabuse and Spys. And more. Earlier, we make the Fantastic Voyage in the Doctor Morbius Krell-like Subway Shuttle to our molecular destination, Amoeba Records. We need those sounds, Man. How many journeys have I made, with early friends and now wife, to the Sacred Temples of the Sounds? Moby Disc (a moveable feast), Vogue, Aron's, Amoeba San Francisco and now Hollywood. But that's another story for another time.
The following day, in pure daylight, unusual for my normal nocturnal habits (because, quite simply, when I travel I switch to daylight hours, as necessity demands it. At home in the lofty Melting Watchtowre, the old Hermit does his alchemy in the darkest hours before the dawn), we are on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles.
This encounter is always the most surreal to me. Partially because in my late teen years, I spent unlimited hours here, Day for Night, and vice versa. My perception today, that I am truly The Ghost Who Walks (or in my case Stumbles) is compounded by how much The City has changed. It still is this dystopian relic of my childhood, but I still can't get a handle on the new transformation. My wife, I'm sure, has had her fill in my confusion on directions. In the late '60s and '70s I knew Downtown Los Angeles like an urban street in Fullerton. I knew every theatre, pawn shop, Army surplus store and bus stop. Metropolitan and Greyhound. Now it's like I'm on the cover of that Steely Dan album, The Royal Scam. The skyscrapers rise to Tower of Babel heights. I am the ant that winds below my trashcan. In awe. Insignificant.
So in the spirit of Off-World, the cherished wife and I trek the streets of old. We are heading to the Bradbury Building. The scene of so many scenes. Noirs of the Past and Future Passed. How appropriate. This building which symbolizes to me the Spirit of Ray Bradbury, and stands majestically today, while the great writer's home was unceremoniously demolished.
This is the home of Sebastian. He make friends. Literally.
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
I realize that it is his manic, higher voiced, crazed and almost cartoonish--yet with flesh and bone--characterization that has influenced so many of my own theatre and radio interpretations. Oh, my!
In 1971, my second theatrical involvement in Santa Barbara, following the anti-war City College production of BURY THE DEAD, was DRACULA, A MUSICAL COMEDY. Put together by the husband & wife team of Chuck Wilson and Marcelle Nadeau, under their Zodiac Associates Production company, AKA ZAP, the show was presented at the Cabaret Theatre in the Timbers Restaurant, located north of Santa Barbara off Highway 101. Directed by a lovely man, H. Gordon Chaves.
Somehow, I found myself with the role of Igor--really the character Renfield as portrayed by Dwight Frye in this pre-Mel Brooks YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN musical spoof.
It was a truly fun show. A great comic part for me to relish. The best comedy part I had done since leaving Southern California theatre groups and moving to Santa Barbara. In those days, I did George S. Kaufman type shows like YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU (playing the Russian ballet instructor), THE SOLID GOLD CADILLAC, SLICE IT THIN and the forerunner to LOVE RIDES THE RAILS, another melodrama HE AIN'T DONE RIGHT BY NELL. The wonderful Santa Barbara City College Theatre Drama Department Head, Director and Instructor Max Whittaker had helped the production in some way and he had previously cast me in the serious show, BURY THE DEAD. I'm convinced that after seeing DRACULA, A MUSICAL COMEDY, he gave me my second most favourite comedy role in the aforementioned LOVE RIDES THE RAILS.
(Mr. Whittaker also cast me in the serious production THE NIGHT THOREAU SPENT IN JAIL prior to RAILS. I mention this only to point out my schizophrenic idea that I was both a SERIOUS and COMIC actor. I still vainly thought at times I was David Hemmings, David McCallum or Terence Stamp sometimes; Peter Cushing or a shorter Christopher Lee other times; or Peter Sellers, Alec Guinness, Terry-Thomas or a British satiric character actor out of a Tom Stoppard play the rest of the time. If I didn't stop affecting English and U.K. actor and pop star theatrics in my daily appearance and attitude, I would on occasion, revert back to my Orange County childhood roots and become Ernie Kovacs, Stan Freberg, Steve Allen and every character from MAD MAGAZINE. Only in my *AHEM* 'mature' years would I attempt to master the Arcane Art of blending the Serious into the Comic. Often with musical accompaniment.) :)
Speaking of music, the show was called DRACULA, A MUSICAL COMEDY. Now, egotistical as many think I am, I have NEVER claimed to be a musician, Much Less...a SINGER! Yet, that was what was asked of me to do in this production. How is this possible? It has often been said, that Fear of Speaking In Public is GREATER (!) than Fear of Death. DEATH scares the fecal bits out of me, but I have never had Stage Fright. Never. Don't know why. However the concept of singing a straight song in public does. Can't do it. For the most part, I really hate musicals. I used to loudly criticize Santa Barbara Theatre Groups for endless productions of OKLAHOMA, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, CAMELOT, CAROUSEL, MY FAIR LADY and so forth. There was a thing called Youth Theatre that all the acting students did in the Summer. They knew it would maybe, probably lead to a professional career in film and television, as many alumni had. I was a snob. I wouldn't have any part of it. Where was the adventure? Where was the innovation? There was a world of exciting new theatre out there. Stoppard. Osborne. Pinter. Bennett. Miller, Jonathan from England, even Arthur from the U.S. If you are doing chestnuts, how about Shakespeare? Or Moliere? Or Marlowe? But Cover My Anus, Annie, not another F*#&^%G production of LITTLE MARY SUNSHINE!!!
But I digress... I'm in a musical. I hate singing. I will be the recipient of an award for Best Male Singer for this thing. How is this possible? Simply by being in a character. If I had to be Guy Guden thinking he was Tony Bennett or Johnny Mathis, or worst of all, thinking he/I was Guy Guden, well, new horizons in loss of bladder control. But singing, if you can even remotely call it that, as Renfield, fly eating lunatic of Count Dracula? A love song, no less. And to pretty young girls in the Cabaret Theatre audience? Yeah, that doable.
This leads me to another slightly egocentric aside regarding performance. I always hate it when actors say they NEVER watch their work. "Oh no," sez big film star. "I never watch my films." Well, then why in the Hell should we? If you think your work is crap, or flawed to the point of repulsion, why should I pay twenty bucks for it?
Here it comes: "I really like my work." In fact, I LOVE it. Now let me attempt a veil of mock humility here, by saying: I always do things to make me laugh first. I am the audience I want to please, the critic I want to impress. This is probably pompous and most possibly arrogant, but it is the absolute truth. It has to make me happy first. Then I can believe it is my best. And I always like to try new things. Take the levels higher. Explore more than the Double Entendre. The Triple Entendre. I'm currently embarked on the Octo Entendre. If it works for others, I'm terribly pleased; thankful. If not...I won't water it down. Polish it up, yes. Make it predictable? Never. This is most likely why I linger more on the shores, than being in the mainstream.
I do understand the discomfort actors have with watching themselves. It's not liking what you see as the real you, as opposed to the characters you play. I admit I enjoy listening to recordings of my show SPACE PIRATE RADIO. And I admit that my least favourite part of the program is the beginning. Being me, telling the listeners what's coming up on this morning's show. But once after the Dracula opening: "Listen to them! Children of the Night! What music they make!" (English or Spanish), and a dozen or so characters emerge in the musical mix...I am the show's number one fan.
Anyway, DRACULA, A MUSICAL COMEDY was great fun, with a great cast, crew and director. Tom Zeiher was the Count, and he was super. A handsome lead going silly. In many ways better than a Cary Grant and perhaps better than George Hamilton in his Dracula spoof, LOVE AT FIRST BITE. His wife Barbara Zeiher was also in the cast, a Carol Burnett type comedienne, also top notch. Two professionals I had the pleasure of working with a number of times in those Golden Santa Barbara Theatre years. They both were involved in my TV comedy CRACKERS AT EIGHT in 1979. And they were kind enough to offer me a directing job of NUNSENSE, which I had to turn down because the play wasn't the kind of comedy I felt I should do. I was saddened to hear of Barbara's passing in 2007 and Tom's last May, 2015.
Lovely people and wonderful theatre memories.
Doing stage plays can be such magic. The moment is such an event. But unlike film, that can capture an image, a moment frozen outside the event, it's ethereal. Gone. A memory, lasting hopefully. But gone nonetheless. How glorious it is to savor that moment.
"Look at his eyes. Why the man's gone crazy!"
Saturday, February 20, 2016
I love Surrealism, in all its forms and mutations. Some forms more than others. I considered MAD MAGAZINE an evolved Dada manifesto. And the visuals of Ernie Kovacs could be Dali or Miro or Duchamp with a silent laugh track. Spike Milligan and THE GOON SHOW was definitely audio surrealism. A friend of Beckett, one can see a Music Hall sabotage of the Fourth Wall and a direct link to Pirandello meets Panto. The Beatles were surrealists when they took over the school class. And many of their musical classmates followed. Like Sunday Night at the Palladium meets IF.... When Robin Williamson of The Incredible String Band guested on SPACE PIRATE RADIO, he said his biggest influence was Alfred Jarry, a forerunner of the Dadaists, who died almost a decade before the Zurich Happening.
Music, satire and art. The trinity of elements so often found in the surrealist's bag of tricks. Beatles, yes. Also Beyond the Fringe, melting down into Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, the Bonzo Dog Band--especially Vivian Stanshall and Roger Ruskin Spear. A parade of British eccentrics. In the U.S. post-MAD, Kovacs and Stan Freberg, Ken Nordine and The Firesign Theatre.
So where do these lunatics congregate? If the Salons have Shuttered and the Communes and Collectives have Closed?
Why, the Only TRUE Surrealist Motel, of course...The GREEN NEON MOTEL!
"Accommodation for SPACE PIRATE RADIO is furnished by the Green Neon Motel. The Green Neon Motel , the only TRUE SURREALIST MOTEL, located in the heart or rather, bladder of the San Industrial Valley. As owner-manager-front desk man Grungie Steinberg says, 'Stop on in and try a cup of our complimentary Anxiety Coffee. The Green Neon Motel. 1949 Linoleum Avenue, in the City of Appliances, California.' "
Like Lawrence Welk broadcasting from the Aragon Ballroom, the Green Neon Motel appeared on SPACE PIRATE RADIO regularly from the mid-'70s to June 2002. Basic information regarding this feature has been printed here in "Green is the colour..." and "What's the Recipe today, Jim?" entries. And the latest news can be found on its Twitter account @greenneonmotel. For now, we can only scratch the surface of events of the absurd that have taken place within and without these hallowed halls. As the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich or other salons of the surrealistic in Europe and the New World, the Green Neon Motel was more often than not, a Happening!
And what makes a motel, the ONLY TRUE Surrealist motel, and not, say a MOTEL 6 on bad Mexican fast food and prescription medicine? Well, an infinite number of things. First, a Front Desk Man who appears to rarely leave the lobby, often on the phone, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE playing on the behind the counter screen, seemingly in a Godardian loop (longtime listeners of the show may also remember a clip from LOLITA playing often in the background). The knocking at the lobby front door, announcing the arrival of some new guest, if not the more familiar interruptions of semi-
Ah, the Chef! We could fill pages on his exciting life, just even the events heard on the program. His experiments in culinary wizardry alone, make him the gastronomical equivalent of Dali; if Wolfgang Puck was Marcel Duchamp; if Anthony Bourdain was Tristan Tzara; if Jacques Pepin was Man Ray. Who else can dress up on Halloween disguised as a Tomato and Cheese Omelette AND be a master of the Opera, ready to deliver an aria from Puccini Chin Chin's masterwork La Testicalla (famous for "The Broom Sequence"). Besides being the acknowledged creator of his famous Fettucine Alfredo (delicious egg noodles in sauce served with the undergarments belonging to Alfredo), he is also the star of the cult classic film MAYBE, BRUNO. ("But your film was a BOMB." "DON'T SAY that my film was a bomb!!!") The Chef's presence at the Green Neon Motel validates its reputation as THE place to get away and have a life threatening emergency, second only to the Chateau Marmont.
Yes, the Green Neon Motel. Its multitude of unit entrances, reminiscent of that doorway scene in YELLOW SUBMARINE. Zen Mystics have favoured the location for decades. Originally because it was a member of the Best Eastern Motels; others because the sienna coloured bath water reminds them of the Sacred Ganges.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Quite possibly an equal influence on my deviant youth was his founding and co-ownership of the beat(nik) Orange County coffee house, CAFE FRANKENSTEIN, in Laguna Beach, California. My parents loved driving in the car. Hauling me and my sister in the Ford de jour for quick, but not quick enough, jaunts through all points SoCal. Trapped in the back seat, missing my comic books back home or something cool on the telly, I would stare out the right hand window, observing the apocalyptic landscape that was (and still is) Door Hinge County. What newest grove of Orange trees has been mowed down to make way for the latest crop of tract house? The natural carnage had spread out from hyper-urbanized Fullerton and Anaheim, to once pastoral Placentia and Yorba Linda. Out beyond to the hills and valleys of Orange and Santa Ana. Spreading beyond to the doorsteps of Corona and Riverside. If the parents had opted not to head to Riverside, with an end destination to be the 31 Flavors Ice Cream Store, then the journey might wind through the Sleepy Hollow hills and valleys that would ultimately lead to the off beat beach community of Laguna Beach.
The town was not like other beach communities; somehow slightly off kilter. To my youthful perception, it had an exciting, Romantic feel. A calling to my sleeping Pirate subconscious. If we were there during the day, we would probably notice two things: the wild and gently crazy man who waved at all the cars on the main thoroughfare; a visit to the Pottery Shack, where the aquariums with the shells that opened up contained unusual flora and odd stuff. A nighttime visit would bring out the oddly colour lighted seaside buildings and shacks. On the posh end was the Victor Hugo restaurant. On the mystical and bohemian side was the CAFE FRANKENSTEIN.
This was doubly exciting to me as a kid. The beatnik mystique was calling me through art and images in MAD MAGAZINE. And to name this pad after the Good Doctor's Creation. I was drawn to what secret initiate mysteries might await inside. And the taboo cult was spreading. In Brea, a little coffeehouse opened up called DRACULA'S DEN. Yet another clubhouse named after the sacred Universal Monsters. Is it little surprise that I opened up a Beatnik Lemonade Stand in front of my house in Fullerton called KING KONG'S KORNER? TRUE!
Also, on the drive into Riverside, there was a cool looking place called DIOGENES' LANTERN. The Hermit!!! My fate was pre-ordained. All the Signs were there...and usually lit by a red and blue light bulb.
But I digress...
So George Clayton Johnson was a member of the Southern California science fiction circle, which included Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, and Richard Matheson. It was Beaumont who introduced him to Rod Serling and resulted in seven episodes for the show. Johnson was a true eccentric, perhaps not as literary driven as his mates. He would hitch-hike to and from the events, where a young sci-fi fan as myself would attend, enjoying the company of these professional dreamers. Places like the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (or LASFS), the Count Dracula Society and the later Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.
The photo above is of one such gathering of the Count Dracula Society, probably 1966 (held at a place called Rudi's Italian Inn on Crenshaw Blvd., I believe). We are listening to Ray Bradbury speak. Yours truly, bespectacled, seated in front of the dais, waiting to get my copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes signed by the author. Forrest J Ackerman and others are there. This photo was published in the English hardbound book The Dracula Scrapbook by Peter Haining. Anyway, it was heady company for a high school kid. So glad I missed those football games.