Sunday, June 26, 2016

"Whose Side Are You On?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

After, against, along, among, around, at. Before, behind, below, beneath, between, but, by...Have I got a preposition for you?

1917.  The year of my birth.  Or so it feels.  Like the city.  Downtown L.A.  It's me.  I know it.  Knew it.  But now it's different.  It was once familiar.  But now it's changed.  I love that building.  The Million Dollar Movie Theater (like on Channel 9 during the late '50s and early '60s).  The theatre across from the Bradbury Building on Broadway.  Seeing those buildings is like looking in the mirror every day.  The structure is familiar, sort of.  But not so erect these days (*giggles*).  Possibly a needed retro fit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 3, 2016

"Knife in the Water."

Pretending to act like a cruel person...is just putting on a faSade.

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.