Saturday, February 20, 2016

"Elevator in the brain hotel."

Well, here we are in the Year of the Monkey.  An auspicious year that has caught my attention as the 100th Anniversary of Dada Surrealism, begun in Zurich with the original Cabaret Voltaire.  How cool!  How beat!  How eccentric.  Belle Eccentrique!
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-permanent resident, Chef Bruno Languini.

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, February 2, 2016

"Lemme outta this furshlugginer place!"

January 27th of this year was SPACE PIRATE RADIO's 42nd Anniversary.  "Come and meet, those dancing feet.  On the Avenue, I'm taking you to..."  And like Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL, my Dystopian Dreamscape of late has a toe-tapping soundtrack.  It's off to the Dinah Shores for Inner Circle Clubbing at the I CAN'T COPA CABANA.
"What the Huell Howser is he talking about?"
Current enthusiasms have returned to a prophetic sharing plan of fear and loafing.  "That's the signpost up ahead - your next stop, the Twilight Zone."  Classic and not so classic sci-fi, also called social fiction.  Fantastic images and predictions of a world that has become, with variations, the common place of today.  Taking the People Mover, the little lady and her aged philosopher head South, following the tracks of Route and Room 101.  It's off to Santa Monica for the British stage production of 1984.
Having to forego my immersion in the Aldous Huxley biography I've committed to, and with an attempted fortitude for the journey ahead, I am really looking forward to seeing this production.  Despite a tendency for reclusive behavior, I know in my heart of hearts and bladder of bladders, that I would be truly missing out if I let this experience pass us by.

And when is the last time one has seen a good interpretation of George Orwell's book on the stage?  Umm... 

1984 is like Hamlet, in that it is open to a multitude of interpretations and variations, reflective of the times and the interpreter.  It is dark fun and fearful protection to collect them.  There is a satiric connection to Spike Milligan's THE GOON SHOW versions (there are two) and Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL.  Both Orwell and Milligan knew Big Brother was the BBC, of whom both were employed.  And Peter Cushing won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in Television for his (ironically) BBC TV production.  Michael Radford's version, meant to commemorate the year 1984, is quite marvelous on so many counts.  John Hurt gives a great performance in a pantheon of great performances.  Richard Burton's final film role is darkly sober.  The cinematography by Roger Deakins (before being 'cleaned' and ruined on American dvd release) and soundtrack by the Eurythmics add to this unique film.  And for many, Edmond O'Brian (an ironic name choice and alteration of the film character name to O'Connor) and his 1956 version is like Olivier in Hamlet, the first to make an impression.
But we are yet in another of our Sainted Cities to appreciate The Broad Stage presentation of the Headlong, Nottingham Playhouse, and Almeida Theatre Production of 1984 by George Orwell, adapted and directed by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan.  And it is a stunner! 
Showing its connection to the world we live (or sleep) in today, it is faithful to the meat of the book.  With a stage, image and sound design sharing a living connection to the examples mentioned before, it is classic, steampunk and razzle dazzle.  As if the Royal Shakespeare Company performed Marat/Sade as Our Town with a deafened Pink Floyd The Wall and a dance-less Bob Fosse.  It's a Thinking Person's Trip and a class act, even during moments that could be vintage Sam Peckinpah directing Oliver.

An opening lecture on Orwell and a post performance Q and A with the author/director and key cast members was the icing on the cake.

It was theatre only the British do best.  Not DIRTY DANCING, THE MUSICAL, thank Goddess.  Not even KINKY BOOTS (though if some desperate theatre impresario tried to turn Orwell's book into a Las Vegas musical, I bet the title might be BIG BRASSIERE).