Sunday, November 27, 2016

"I just want to get the facts, Ma'am." 

Like any Crime Story, good or bad; like any Classic Noir, set in the Mean Streets of Downtown Los Angeles, the currently gentrified DTLA...it must start with a suspicious, violent Death.  The tone of danger is set.  The fine line twixt Life and the loss of same to the everlasting darkness of the Abyss.  This is the Underbelly, Man!  It is Then, and yet it is Now.  It's Alan Ladd and Veronica Silverlake.  Bogart and Bacall of the Wild.  It's a California Cuisine Menu with today's Special written by Jim Thompson.  FAREWELL MY LAUNDRY.  Ida LuPino Noir.

"It's Chinatown, Jake."  No.  It's actually Little Tokyo.  And the Death, an Ultra Violent One...happens between Burbank and Glendale.  On a train.  Like DOUBLE INDEMITY.  But not.  It's an Amtrak.  774, from San Loo E  to Onion Station.  Scentral California to the Big Avocado.  "This is the stuff, screams are made off."  Your conductor is James Ellroy.

The Passengers are unaware of the thin line between life and death that is to come.  Some of them are heading to the Rock Show.  And in two cases, the shows are different ones.  Myself and the Lady are destined for the newly coined term for the ghetto that once was Downtown Los Angeles.  DTLA.  For the Peace & Love Healing Vibes of YES members ANDERSON RABIN WAKEMAN.  The location, of course, that Palace of the Past, the Orpheum Theatre.  Home to previous encounters with KING CRIMSON and YES, the interior vibration is always relaxed and lower key.  And an alley behind the theatre that you know Marlowe has cased.   


But before the Dame and Eye have settled into our familiar surroundings; V for Vendetta shaped in Little Tokyo and City Hell, we must meet the soon to be disembodied living cipher who will violently depart this plane as train, under the wheels of our car.  Car number 5. 

The impact is unmistakable.  The train is a second home to us and we've done this route so often, one can tell when something is out of the ordinary.  "That wasn't right," I say to the wife, soberly looking eye to eye.  And it wasn't.  One can discern after the train has made a quick braked emergency stop, that the person no longer, has left two crime scenes: Part in the front at point of impact; the rest left behind, beyond the end of the Glendale headed train.  The carnage is bad enough to put out the lead engine and another engine is needed to pull the six car train set very slowly into the Union Station yard.  This will come way into darkness as the crime scene investigation draws on, longer than the actual trip itself.

Fortunately, I try to schedule any random Acts of God into the travel itinerary, since train encounters with outside objects, alive or not, is an increasing event.  The younger Rock Show couple in the row in front of us, are forced to miss the taping of Green Day on the Jimmy Kimmel Show.  Our show is for the next day, so we arrive into the Metropolis in the darkness; the skyline a surreal display of multi-coloured lights.  City Hall is prominent.  The Big Erection.  During the day, dwarfed like an ant below, I can't help but see Martian Invaders from the original WAR OF THE WORLDS, blowing up that Phallus into limpid rubble.  I'm sure it would be the same if I was in Washington D.C. with EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS.

Little do I know, that the next day before the show, I will finally accomplish the desire to investigate the upper tip of that pointed little head.  (And there's no code or subtext in the end of that sentence)  :)X.  It is the defining structure of classic Los Angeles.  Not...to the dismay of some, the Walt Disney Concert Hall. 

On my own, in true Illya Kuryakin fashion, if Illya lived in a Retirement Home in West Covina, I decide to enter Christopher Wren's Fever Dream of an Extenze Infomercial; Frank Lloyd Wright on Viagra.  Before the Prophesy of the Coming of the Brutalist.  I. M. Pei?  I. M. Potent.  Let's see how far up this shaft we can go.
                 
I am amused to see the news trucks of KCAL/CBS 9 & 2, parked up the butt of KABC 7 (my wife has some hidden sexual attraction for Weather Wonk, Dallas Raines...I think he is a THE FLY like mutation of Bryan Ferry and Jimmy Swaggart). 

*thighnote* (slightly higher than a footnote)  It is Okie Dokie to have a slightly perverse attraction to cheesy televangelists.  It is code when Benny Hinn, frothing in an ecstatic anointing moment sez, "Did someone touch me?"  I admit I have dark thoughts about "Pastor" Melissa Scott.  Especially when she is Speaking in Tongues (and her Temple WAS the United Artists Theatre in DTLA, now the home of the quite unlivable Ace Hotel and Ace Theatre).

There is a crowd of people entering the Main Street entrance to City Hall.  They are all there to get scanned and clearance for a City Council Meeting, which I believe has to do with street parking for those of the No Fixed Abode situation as opposed to property owners.  I never do this type of scanning.  Ever.  It is one of three reasons why I stopped flying.  Too Dystopic (that non-word used in place of dystopian). 

But I am in character, so all is well when I place my pockets contents in a small blue plastic container and prepare for my walk through.  A human walk through a car wash of radiation.  No beeps.  No red lights.  I'm surprised.  That metal rod in my hip (I don't have one), the stick up my ass (many insist on that one).  A belt, the most common of audio commotion (I don't wear one).  I reach the sign-in desk where a tall, dark officer assumes I'm with the City Council group, who are mostly dressed casual, those shorts and stuff.  I'm wearing my black Calvin Klein coat, so I might have passed for "concerned property owner" instead of "my vacation residence is a Ford Fiesta."  The officer is taken aback when I request "Observation Deck."  I expect a denial, but I'm asked to show I.D. and given a visitor's pass with no resistance.  A Jedi moment.  The officer quickly points to directions of the elevator maze that is the path to the top.  I'm blind, but have a memory of reading somewhere about the correct way of travel, ignore it and improvise like I know what I'm doing.  I don't.  But I have that Man from U.N.C.L.E delusional mindset.


The viewing floor is 27.  Many of the cars only go to the 22nd.  A hop out and then find the private or Express Elevators.  I find myself on floors and in corridors and offices I don't belong.  The back rooms of power and hidden means and ways.  No time for curiosity.  This cat needs the floor with the outdoor halls and balconies. 

Gliding into a secret unmarked office, with three young, almost hipster and trendy professionals behind computers, they are surprised to find their sanctum now inhabited by one; an aged runner perhaps.  Returned from Sanctuary.  I gravitate to the single lady, a Francoise Hardy type on my Left upon Entrance who is ready to offer assistance to this Elder from the Off Worlds.  But it is the taller, reed thin and friendly collegiate young man who stands to guide me out of the cyber labyrinth.  He speaks with a gleam of Masonic Ritual, that I have found my way to the lesser known private Lift that will lead me up.  I thank him most kindly for this rarified information and no Secret Handshake is proffered.  After pressing the Magic Button 27, like the Beatles finding the door that leads to the fire escape in A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, I am Free, Outside and Above the World.


I have the place pretty much to myself.  Nice.  Very nice.  The Metropolis below, but further away, thank the Goddesses for that, further away the newer towers of Moloch watch, ever watchful.  But further away...

After taking in the Four Points of the Compass, I decide to play in this Hall of Olympus, like in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.  I am alone in the Mayor's Room.  In the power driven spirit of Recent Coups, I satirically seize the reigns of mythical power.  I proclaim myself Shadow Mayor.  This is real!  I posted it on Twit Hair.


Taking my leave, Orpheus Descends.  Gorky heads for The Lower Depths.  I thanked the police officer who scanned my humble personage, was gracious enough to hand me my Hotel Key around the all seeing machine for my concern of it being demagnetized.  I complimented him on his work, shook his hand and expressed my appreciation for the work they do.  I'm still in character but my satisfaction puts me in Utopian Mode.  So an idealism is expressed and A New Hope for the Good Ones.  My sense of humour and irony only return when I realize no officer noted that the t-shirt I was wearing was caustically referring to the power elite from the film ROBOCOP.

And wait!  The day's adventures will blend into our concert tonight!  To conclude our musical YES band compare and contrast from the last visit to the Orpheum Theatre.  It's now time to experience the joining of forces with Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman (alphabetically, not chronologically as members).  We were surprisingly pleased with Steve Howe's version of the band, as those who read the Watchful Towre of Patty Melt entry.  At first, I wasn't sure.  But so far, concerts at the Orpheum have healing powers.  Trevor Rabin was sick with a virus that spread from and to all members.  He held up for all appearances sake to our audience, but got sicker enough to cancel the, as I write this, San Francisco show.  Jon's voice started tentative, but was in fine form as the evening progressed.  Rick, like Geoff Downes, can appear confused behind the keyboards, but unlike Geoff, was hypnotically note perfect.  His cape may not be as majestic as it was during the Tales era at Long Beach Auditorium, but his musicianship, like Steve Howe is dazzling to watch.  And the new cats on bass and drums inspired the older musos to have the energy and enthusiasm to make the whole ensemble come together.  The music was wonderful, with many high points.  I was particularly impressed with an inspired new arrangement of LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND.  Another satisfying here and now experience at this most favourite DTLA theatre.


And so the Femme Fatale and I conclude another four days in the noir soaked environs of our home away from another house, that may or may not be a home.  Los Angeles always means old haunts and new discoveries.  And we added quite a few.  So after the tally, it was back on the train, retracing the line and place that held such tragedy for others.

And the facts?  That a 57 year old man, ethnicity unknown, had slashed the throat (but not killing, as of that time) of either his wife or girlfriend, ran to a train heading Southbound, telling a passerby he was going to kill himself, before jumping under the wheels of our car.  Not a single local TV station carried the story.  No news van appeared as we waited, as day ended and night came.  Perhaps they were covering City Council meetings.  The only info, which contained a number of false impressions, like train passengers were bussed away (we weren't), appeared briefly on media web pages.

Google it up, Man.  The Net is a Drag.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"I dislike mirrors. Van Helsing...will explain."

My wife would be happy to live her entire life in a theme park.  Dingyland is her Fortress of Solitude.  Hiding in Open Sight.  It is her Nirvana (of course, so are concert halls, clubs, movie theatres, as well as arenas and stadiums; the latter of which I truly hate).  Dingyland is going to take a lot of work on both of our parts if I am ever to embrace it as "The Happiest Place On Earth."  The Magical Kingdom.  I despise the concept of Kingdom.  Kings are usually Tyrants.  And the Tyrant Must Die.

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.