Wednesday, December 18, 2013

3 Annual Must Dos For Christmas

1.  How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  It's the ultimate animated show.  Standout:  Max.  Cartoon Network Saturday Dec 21 at 6pm. 

2.  Darlene Love sings Christmas Baby Please Come Home on David Letterman Friday December 20th.  No Jay Thomas to tell his Lone Ranger story and throw footballs?  Letterman's website lists the other guests as John McEnroe and Kristen Wiig.

3.  A Christmas Story.  I watched it last weekend and it never gets old.  It's a classic and TBS is running a marathon starting Christmas Eve at 8pm and running through Christmas Day. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Luscious Jackson Throws A Party

 When I'm about to go crazy
cause I'm still living here
I just get my friends together
and we dance, dance, dance
cause this is the state of the world
this is the state of the world
this city tells me what it's like to live

- City Song Lyrics

Luscious Jackson surrounded by dancing fans. 

If you're Luscious Jackson and you haven't played your hometown of New York in 13 years, why not throw a welcome back party?  It happened at Webster Hall on Saturday.  The band was in fine form and the audience loved it.

The show opened with Here from Natural Ingredients and also used in the movie Clueless.  (I will always think Roller Derby when I hear this song.)  When Gabby sang Get on the Floor/Let's Dance some more, the stage was set.  Early on they played the hit Naked Eye, still cool as cool.  Other highlights were Nervous Breakthrough and Why Do I Lie?  The new songs like Are You Ready blended in seamlessly with the old. The band has a new album, Magic Hour.

Jill entertained the crowd with her tale of the days when they would sneak into Webster Hall (which was probably called The Ritz at that time). It involved scaling a wall, a dumpster, a fire escape and a knock at the door.  This entry is no longer an option. 

There was probably some anxiety about coming back after over a decade hiatus.  Will people respond? Will they show up?  The floor was packed with people having a great time.   Jill, Gabby and Kate made us feel like they were enjoying the ride and we were passengers in their bus.  

Kudos to Sparkle Beauty Studio's Gabriel Trujillo and Jeffrey Fernandez who worked the hair and makeup. Loved Jill's sparkling eyes.  They could be seen from the balcony.  As she said, "Gabriel really gets the glitter on!"

Friday, December 06, 2013

Nelson Mandela

It was this song that really made me pay attention to Nelson Mandela. Who says music can't change the world?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Luscious Jackson Return To New York

Reminder:   The ladies who brought us Naked Eye are playing Webster Hall on Saturday.  I'm guessing there will be lots of dancing.  I'm going, you should too!

Guster! A Symphony! Free!

It isn't cool enough that Guster recorded 10 songs with a symphony (actually, probably many), but they are giving it away free.  Link here.   They are not exactly forthcoming with what symphony, hence the title:  Live With The Redacted Symphony.  I'm guessing they've culled their favorite performances from several shows. 

Album includes the following:
What You Call Love
Two Points For Honesty
Fa Fa
This Is How It Feels To Have A Broken Heart
Lightning Rod
On The Ocean
Come Downstairs and Say Hello

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Baddest Stamp

The US Post Office seems to get few things right these days.  There is an exception:  The Johnny Cash forever stamp which was issued in June, but I just bought today. 

This has got to be the coolest stamp.  16 stamps on a sheet which is designed to look like a 45 picture sleeve.  I was so impressed with the art direction, that I had to research.  According to the USPS site, the photograph was taken by Frank Bez during the photo session for Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash, which was released in 1963.  Greg Breeding served as art director and designer for the stamp.

Frank Bez shot many celebrities and did a lot of work for Esquire Magazine.  Here is a slide show of a few of his shots and stories behind them. The Jim Morrison photo has to make you laugh.  Duke Ellington was his favorite session.  He has photographed everyone from Angie Dickinson (her Esquire cover has been reproduced a few times) to the Byrds to Mahalia Jackson to Raquel Welch.   How does this guy not have a Wikipedia page? 

Greg Breeding is on assignment by the USPS and was given this project.  (There are three other designers on assignment with the USPS.)  He was born the same year the photo of Johnny was taken.  In an interview on Soundcheck  Greg said when he was a young boy and used to watch Johnny's TV show he thought,  "He was a scary figure to me."   He acknowledged the enormity of finding a photo that summed up Johnny's career.  Greg got the stamp right. Not only does he pay homage to the man in black, but he does so in a simple classic design with great use of brown, black and fonts. 

I thought it was hard to go from designing albums to CD's, but a stamp has got to be a whole other challenge. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stevie Nicks Horror Story

Stevie Nicks, everyone's favorite rock witch is going to appear on American Horror Story: Coven

In an interview with E!, Ryan Murphy, the series creator said,  "The season really is an allegory and a metaphor for any minority group in the country where you feel alone so she's a girl that has never known any other witches and all she's ever known is Stevie Nicks." 

Is Ryan implying that Stevie is a witch?  Maybe they'll try building a bridge out of her during her
appearance on the show.   Obscure reference below:

Friday, November 08, 2013

Dan Wilson In Words and Music

When a musician tells a good story, it's a golden evening.  Dan Wilson took center stage last night at Joe's Pub (with the accompaniment of keyboardist and smart phone programmer Brad Gordon).  Dan told lots of great stories and played lots of great music. 

Dan Wilson at Joe's Pub
I met Dan when I managed his earlier band Trip Shakespeare.  They were a powerhouse. Their live shows were unmatched for excitement and sweat.   Dan had the hits with his next band Semisonic.  Last night he told us of the genesis of Closing Time.  Although Dan was happy to be in his routine of playing the same song each night to close the band's set, band members were bored and wanted something new.  At the same time, he and his wife were expected their first child.  He wrote Closing TimeEvery new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.  When I first heard that song, it brought back so many memories of hanging out in clubs and talking to bands after the show.  There was always someone to say gather your coats and head out, we're closing.

Dan has co-written with "very strong women":  Carole King (his second co-write), the Dixie Chicks, Adele, Pink, etc.   In a story arc that played out over the evening, he began by talking about how initially it was slow going to hook up with other writers. Finally John Titta his music publisher asked his manager Jim Grant, if he would be interested in writing with Carole King.  Dan's mother said to him, remember she spells her name with an "e".  Being nervous at their meeting, the first thing Dan could think of to say to Carole was "My Mom loves you."  She said, "That makes me feel old." 

Several songs later, Dan gets to his writing with Adele.  They meet in this small studio in LA and Adele says I'm not really that familiar with your stuff, but my Mum loves you.  The ironic circle closed.  They wrote Someone Like You.  She played the unfinished song for her manager (who loved it) and her Mum (she cried).  Dan said we must be on to something and they were.

It's the little touches that make a wonderful evening even greater.  Dan who I admire as an artist as well as musician, had printed up a take home memento of the evening. His illustration work can also be seen in the video for his latest single Disappearing

Dan has three more shows on deck tomorrow in Minneapolis, then to Hollywood and San Diego.  Go see him!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Way To Give: The Buffet Family at NY Public Library

You have 40 years in a lifetime to make an impact. 

Howard G Buffet has a 40 year plan to feed and employ the world through agriculture.  He was joined by his dad Warren, son Howard and Tom Brokaw at the NY Public Library last night.  He runs a self titled philanthropic organization that is globally trying to change agriculture.  He has written the book 40 Chances.  

Howard G, Warren, Howard W Buffet
Their conversation last night had great spirit and humility.   Yes Warren is one of the wealthiest people on the planet, but he didn't payroll his kids.  Howard G told the audience that his dad made them do chores around the house for a 50 cent allowance which was paid in dimes.  Warren kept a slot machine in the attic which only took dimes.  Howard said he spent most of his allowance trying to get the big payday of three cherries.  Essentially the allowance went back into Warren's pocket.  

Tom Brokaw suggested that this is the century of women.  Warren agreed and said he was very optimistic about the future of this country.  "Look how far we've come with only half our talent."  With women now in prominent places, the future looks brighter.    Howard G added that his experience in Africa was that if you wanted something done quickly, put the women in charge. 

The greatest lesson:  fail sometimes. 

The "Impossible" Morrissey

Sasha Frere-Jones has written a very entertaining review of Morrissey's "Autobiography" in the New Yorker.  Morrissey's writings sounds self indulgent, self serving and all over the dial.  I don't know if I can stomach reading this one.  Apparently his ex-band members in the Smiths all hate each other which is broadcast loud and clear.  I read Mike Doughty's book and quickly got sick of his hatred of ex-band members.  I also have no tolerance for ramblings either.   This book sounds like a thorn in the side. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tips from Graham Nash

Music is the presiding factor in Graham Nash’s life.  He opens his book, Wild Tales with this line:  It always comes down to the music.  It is his driving force. It’s the reason he kept agreeing to Crosby, Still, Nash and Young regroupings.  From the moment he met David Crosby, he knew they had a connection and it was through their music.  He became good friends with him, which is probably why Crosby’s descent into drug addiction is the hardest part of the book to read. 

I was never a CSN fan, but appreciated their talent.  Me being a sucker for musician memoirs, I had to read Wild Tales.  I can’t say it’s one of my favorites, but it was a nice read. 

Tips from Graham Nash:

On Managing Money:
“When it was over, the entire tour made close to $12 million, but David, Stephen, Neil and I only got $300,000 each.  That Left $10.8 million unaccounted for, by my arithmetic.”
(Summer 1974 Tour CSNY.  There was crazy excessive spending on that tour and of course, lots and lots of drugs.)

On Dating:
The first date with his not-yet-wife Susan:  “I spent most of that night trying to figure out how to make myself more attractive to this woman. Aha! Now I knew what to do.  I’ll get up in a tree, I thought.  (Don’t even try to attempt to follow this reasoning.) So fifteen minutes before she was supposed to show up, I climbed into a tree outside our bungalow at the Chateau.    And, believe it or not, this stunt actually worked. 
(She told him she had been to a self-exploration conference, which prompted him to think of hiding in a tree.)

On the drama of being in a band:
I know what you’re thinking; didn’t we learn a thing or two about four superegos trying to coexist in one studio?  Why in heaven’s name were we gonna do that again?  But it’s the music.  It’s always the music.  It’s like a drug, irresistible.  And we’re both smart enough-and-dumb enough-to recognize that. 

What I didn’t know about Graham is that in 1990 he started Nash Editions, which is  a fine arts digital print making company.  

Graham will be touring on the West Coast in November.   
Howard Stern's interview with Nash.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

But For Now Dexter......

Dexter ended it's run tonight SPOILER...

and so did Debra.  Why was she given the same fate as all of his criminal conquests? 
I think she deserved better. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Charming Linda Ronstadt

--> “I’m not competitive musically.”  This seems obvious.  Linda Ronstadt is the ultimate collaborator.  She has sung with everyone from Dolly Parton to Nelson Riddle to Mariachi los Camperos de nati Cano.

She was on the road with Neil Young in Houston.   She heard about Emmylou Harris from Chris Hillman. He thought they had the same music sensibilities.  After her show, she heads over to this biker club.  It was rowdy.  Gram Parsons comes on stage and sings with Emmylou.  She said you could hear a pin drop in the place. At that moment she felt jealousy.  She loved Emmylou’s voice.  She said I could carry that jealousy or I could embrace her as a fan and maybe one day get to sing with her.  The latter was the chosen path and it resulted in Trio. 

Gracious, funny and very astute, my impression of Linda Ronstadt.  John Rockwell interviewed her last night at the 92Y last night.  I haven’t read her book Simple Dreams, but I’ve heard Rockwell and others say it is beautifully written.  The only thing she said she wrote before this book was thank you notes. She was inspired by Renee Fleming’s and Rosanne Cash’s memoirs.  Her publisher said you don’t have to write about your old boyfriends, just about the music.  She was in.  She wrote on a laptop, mostly late at night after her kids went to bed. 

She has a varied cast of friends, She was asked about Phoebe Snow who she said she misses dearly.  They might not speak for a year, but when they did it was like no time had passed and they made each other laugh.  Rosemary Clooney invited her to sing at a benefit.  Linda said I’d love to talk to you about Nelson Riddle. (This was after her three records with him and he had passed.) He told Linda that Clooney was the love of his life. Clooney invited her for dinner. Linda told the funny story of how Jerry Brown just shows up at her house as she’s leaving to go to Clooney’s house. He invites himself to dinner and then high jacks roses that were sent to Linda to bring to Clooney.  She said he doesn’t spend a red cent. 

Not much of the rock era of her career was touched upon.   After playing arenas, which she said sounded horrible; she wanted to play “on a stage with a curtain”. They used to joke that it reverberated so much in those venues, that you could hear a guitar solo that was played the week before.  John Rockwell was instrumental in connecting her to Joseph Papp and then came Pirates of Penzance, which was eventually performed on a stage with a curtain.   

She is active in the bay area not for profit organization Los Cenzontles. Their goal is to create a family-like environment where young people could learn and explore traditional Mexican music and dance.

Linda was charming and sassy.  She’s well read and well versed in music.
She shared her joys with us last night.  I always thought she was the coolest and she still is.  Her book, Simple Dreams:  A Musical Memoir is out now.  

For more reading:  SF Gate. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Boys and Boy Bands

A friend was telling me about driving in the car with her teenage daughter and singing a One Direction song.  This made me think about the past 15-20 years where there has been a steady stream of boy bands.  It actually goes back further with groups like New Edition.  Now it's all about One Direction.  These names are pretty close.  This got me to thinking about when I was growing up.  We didn't have boy groups. We had girl groups: the Marvelettes, The Supremes, The Crystals, The Shangri-las.  The list could go on. 

Boys were solo.  Some of them started on TV or ended up there, but most of them were one hit wonders. It started around the time of Paul Peterson from the Donna Reed Show and progressed to David Cassidy on the Partridge Family to Bobby Sherman who had two TV shows: Here Come The Brides and Getting Together

I wonder if teen magazine are still popular with girls?  We had Teen Beat and Tiger Beat.  It seemed like Peter Noone, Davy Jones and Desi Arnez Jr were on the cover of every issue.  Tiger Beat still publishes. There are a few lots of back issues available on ebay. Is it time for a 60's party?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Linda Ronstadt

A friend and I were talking about Linda Ronstadt and how underrated we think she is.  Her voice is golden and bold, a very nice combo.  In the next few days I get the 92Y catalog and there it is on September 18th, a conversation with Linda.  I buy ticket the next day.  Two days later, the news comes that she has Parkinsons and can't sing anymore.  It's a total tragedy for our ears, but worse for her being.  As of my post, there are still tickets available. 

I'm looking forward to what she has to say and I'm sure it's a lot. Her autobiography Simple Dreams comes out in September.  The New Yorker has a nice piece on the power of Linda. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

C'mon She's Happy

Happy – This is something Shirley Jones seems to have remained for her entire life, even while married to the scoundrel (I use that word based on her writings), Jack Cassidy.

Shirley Jones: A Memoir is another autobiography that starts off promising.  Tales of her childhood in Pennsylvania are charming. Her grandfather founded The Jones Brewery Co that produced Stoney’s Beer.  Legend has it the name came from a dog that Shirley’s grandfather loved. When the dog died, he took the nickname Stoney.  She was a troublemaker, lover of the outdoors and animals.  She thought she would be a veterinarian. She took singing lessons.  She was Miss Pittsburgh in 1952 and received a two years scholarship to drama school.  She never made it to college. 

On a trip to New York with her parents, she called an old friend who told her about a Rodgers and Hammerstein casting director holding an open audition at the St James Theatre that same day.   With no Broadway experience, she auditioned.  That casting director, John Fearnley was so impressed that he had Richard Rodgers come to hear her.  “I cringe with embarrassment at how quickly and easily everything unfolded for me.  It was as if a magician had waved his wand and effortlessly raised the curtain on my career.”  In that first audition Rodgers said to her “Miss Jones, we would like to make you an offer.”  It was for a spot in the chorus of South Pacific.  A year later she’s Laurey Williams in the film version of Oklahoma.

She becomes a Hollywood darling, who enjoyed playing against typecast, taking on a sultry role when offered.  While on a European tour of Oklahoma, she meets her Waterloo (her words), Jack Cassidy.  She’s warned about his philandering, but can’t resist his charm. He’s still married to Evelyn Ward (David Cassidy’s mother), but that ends and Shirley and Jack tie the knot. She achieves fame and her story starts to reveal itself in print, like way too many others.  If it's not drugs (and in her case it isn't), it's trivial gossip.  She offers a little too much information: sex, more sex and the size of her husband and stepson’s anatomy.  David’s brothers nicknamed him donkey.  Did we need to know that? Why am I repeating it? Unfortunately, this will remain in my brain until I die. 

Shirley and David
The touching and revealing parts of the book surprisingly belong to her relationship with David Cassidy.  When she first married Jack, she stayed out of his relationship (or lack of) with his son.  David slowly warmed to her and she fondly refers to him as her son.  Shirley loved working with him on the Partridge Family.  She took the role after turning down the part of Carol on the Brady Bunch. She wanted to do more than pull a roast out of the oven.  Shirley Partridge was a working mom. 

This book would have been a gem if she delved into her craft and how she developed it with virtually no acting experience. She was the only person under personal contract with Rodgers and Hammerstein.  When she talks about life on the set of the Partridge Family, it’s interesting.  I got bored very quickly with stories of Jack’s infidelity.  (She finally leaves Jack, when she thinks he is a danger to their sons.)  I’m sure publishers are keen on getting the gossip.  I’m not sure if it still sells books to tell all and then some.  One thing that is almost absent from this book is drug/alcohol abuse.  Jack was an alcoholic and that’s basically what cause his death, but she wasn’t and it was refreshing not to be belabored with those tales.  

At 79, Shirley still continuously works. I loved her on Drew Carey’s show.  She looks fantastic and has a successful marriage to the irrepressible comedian Marty Ingles.  Staying sane in Hollywood is not easy.  C’mon get happy:  Shirley’s there. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Ava Gardner Conversations

Bastards are always the best survivors. -On why Frank Sinatra would outlive her. 

I could never take Surrealism seriously after that.  -Said after her crazy meeting with Salvador Dali in Spain. 

Tough, beautiful, self-depreciating, loving a good joke and manipulator, this is how I see Ava Gardner after reading Ava Gardner:  The Secret Conversations. 

What was suppose to be her tell all book, turned into a post mortem collection of conversations for both Ava Gardner and the author Peter Evans.  Rumor has it that she canned the idea of this book after telling Frank Sinatra about it.  He supposedly asked her what the publisher was paying her for the book.  He sent her a check for that amount not put it out. In 1990 she released Ava:  My Story without the participation of Peter Evans. 
 The kernel of the book began in January 1988 when Ava approached Evans about ghost writing her memoirs.  Subsequently, they had many conversations; about half of them took place in the wee hours of the morning.  Ava died two years after their initial conversation took place.  In 2009, Evans decided to put his research into a book.  I was not aware that the author had died of a heart attack before finishing The Secret Conversations. 
Ava married Mickey Rooney when she was 19.

This book can easily be skimmed. There is repetition, especially when it comes to Ava pondering whether to actually release this book or not.  She gives you a glimpse into Hollywood of the 1940’s and 1950’s (It was either a blast or debauchery depending on how you look at it) and I do mean a glimpse.  If you are interested in hearing about her films, try another source.  I would have loved to hear the story behind working with her idol Clark Gable on Mogambo. 

The most poignant insight into Ava’s last years comes from the meeting at her place in London with the head of Simon & Schuster, who wishes to publish her book.  Ava was considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. She prided herself on swimming and playing tennis in her 60’s.  She probably thought these activities would counter her chain smoking and drinking.  She suffers a stroke that leaves half her face paralyzed and a limp left arm. 

Here comes her modified Sunset Blvd moment.  When Evans sets up the meeting she immediately tells him "Call Jack Cardiff.  Tell him I desperately need him."  Jack is one of the top cinematographers.  He rearranges the lamps in Ava’s drawing room to make her look her best. Jack tells Peter, "It’s the best I can do discreetly.  Remember, it’s always the cameraman, never the star.  Tell her she looks good even if she doesn’t believe you.  It’s a tribute you must always pay to great beauties when they grow old."

People really had an affectionate and realistic take on Ava. They played her game, which she played truthfully and no one was fooling the other.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

chaos and COUTURE

Lots of Couture.  Very little Chaos.   There was a lot said about this exhibit at the MET before it even opened.  The costume gala was dedicated to it. There were very few in attendance that got the memo. Madonna did wear her Tartan.  

Bricolage (Garbage Bag Clothing)
Without Vivian Westwood and her shops, there would have been no chaos at all.  Granted, as Deborah Harry said, these clothes were old when they wore them.  They recycled and reused.  Nothing survived.  Something had to, but if it did, the curators didn’t find it.  They recreated the bathroom at CBGB’s (which looked much cleaner than I remember it) but couldn’t get their hands on one of Joey Ramone’s leather jackets?  (Not enough chaos in a leather jacket?) They couldn’t exhibit photos of Deborah Harry in all her garbage bag glory?  She was genius at making anything look good on her.  I saw Blondie several times in the 1970’s and she was the coolest person on the planet.  Nobody came close. Except for a magnet in the gift shop, there wasn’t any representation of her.  There is a whole runway (it does look like a runway) of clothes constructed of garbage bags, but they were all done recently, none worn by Ms Harry.  They totally ignored Siouxsie Sioux. 

Moth Eaten Chanel

The London punks were way more colorful than those in NY and that’s basically what commandeers the chaos part of the show.  Tartan prints and lots of T Shirts with writing and pop culture images compromise Westwood’s contribution.   What looks like a moth eaten Chanel suit is donned by the model in the exhibit posters. In person, the outfit looks plain stupid.  It was dated this year, which might mean it was created especially for the  MET.

Only one Stephen Sprouse piece exhibited?  Granted his first collection didn’t come out until 1983/84, which by that time Punk was evolving into New Wave and the look was evolving from what it had been in 1976.   Sprouse was a big influence on the pop, fashion and the music scene. His first runway show was at the Ritz, a downtown nightclub now Webster Hall and it was set to the music of Siouxsie and the Banshees.  Andy Warhol was a fan and Keith Haring became a collaborator. 

I had great expectations for the exhibit, which were lessened by friends who had seen the show prior to my viewing.  It didn’t meet the lowered expectations. It was a disappointment.   The video is so large and grainy that you’d have to be a football field away to actually see it.  Did we really need to see video footage of a shirtless Sid Vicious? No clothes, but he was wearing the padlock around his neck and the gallery was labeled hardware. It's a stretch.   I can’t recall who was quoted, but he said that Sid could not remove it, because he lost the key. Now that is punk. 
Hardware + The Shirtless Sid

Punk:  Chaos to Couture is at the MET until August 14th. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All Stars Everywhere

Tonight's All Star baseball game is at Citi Field.  All Stars in Chevys paraded down 42nd St a few hours ago.

Photo by Keith Eland

Our own Met Matt Harvey is the starting pitcher.  No one really know what Matt looks like (he does look different all the time).  Jimmy Fallon took note and let Harvey himself, interview fans about Matt Harvey.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Art is in the Book

There are two very similar named and similar in approach art shows that happened this weekend in the Hamptons.  ArtHamptons is the bigger of the two. We chose to go to ArtMRKT.  All the temporary galleries are situated under a big enclosed tent which makes it easy and fun to browse the contemporary and modern art.  Things happen when you don't expect it.

Masked Words by Doug Beube
In looking at a fascinating sculpture cut from a dictionary, the artist name looked familiar to me. It was Doug Beube.  Our wedding photographer had been working on books at the time he filmed our wedding.  This was 15 years ago.  My husband and I were able to reconnect with Doug and he took us through his process.  I'm always blown away by the unending creativity of artists. Using a dictionary, (opened to the word low-life) he created a sculpture.  He told us that its necessary to position the book in the middle to be able to work with it.  The artwork is similar in structure to the Roman heads on display at the MET.  He doesn't coat the sculpture with any material as he wants it to still be a living breathing book. 

Doug is represented by the JHB Gallery. Their website has a few more works by Doug to explore. There is nothing like seeing art in person, but I recommend checking out these sites to see his creations. They are fascinating. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Another NY Institution Goes Way Of The Budget

The beloved metal tags you get with an admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art are gone.  As of yesterday, the museum stopped using them.  The rising cost of metal and fewer and fewer manufacturers have made the buttons obsolete.  Now you get a paper sticker.

Having seen Chaos to Couture (I will get to that in a later post) on Friday, I was one of the last visitors to receive a robin's egg blue button.  According to the article in the NY Times, the color might actually be Mole, huh? The buttons were introduced a year after they enacted the suggested price policy in 1971.  According to the Times they replaced both paper and stick pins.  The buttons were a souvenir to the patron for her/his donation.  They were costing the museum about 3 cents per button, up from 2 cents a year ago.  The paper tickets will cost a penny each.  To cover the 1 million visitors a year, the museum would manufacture 1.6 million buttons a year and they were made by a local company in Chelsea.  In keep with the times, the new paper tickets will have space for corporate sponsors. 

Like the Ramones, CBGB's and subway tokens, New York no longer has the MET button.  
Friday's Button RIP

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Since I'm on my Darlene Love Train (pun intended), I'm posting a few photos from her interview with Brian Gari yesterday at Barnes and Noble.  She was promoting the re-release of her book, My Name is Love.  Brian enhanced the interview by bringing audio clips (The Blossoms first recording, Stumble and FallVickki Carr's version of He's A Rebel) and video clips (Shindig).  Loved the clip of her performing with the Righteous Brothers.  Darlene closed the evening with a performance of Lean On Me

The Life Of A Very Clean Tramp

--> I love a racket.  I love it when it seems like a group is slipping in and out of phase, when something lags and then slides into a pocket, like hitting the number on a roulette wheel, a clatter, like the sound of the Johnny Burnette trio, like galloping horses’ hooves.  It’s like a baby learning how to walk, or a little bird just barely avoiding a crash to the dirt, or two kids losing their virginity.  It’s awkward but it’s riveting and uplifting and funny.  In a way it’s the aural representation of that feeling the makes the first time people feel the possibilities of rock and roll music in themselves the benchmark of hope and freedom and euphoria.
               -Richard Hell  from I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp

It’s important to know what excited Richard Hell. It leads to a clearer picture of his life until age 34, as he lays it out in his autobiography.   He followed that quote by saying he and friend/fellow Television bandmate Tom Verlaine disagreed on how they wanted their music to sound. According to Hell, he was exhilarated after the band’s first performance.  Verlaine was not.  It was the end of Television for Hell before it really even began.  This is a pattern that would follow him throughout his music career.  

Richard Hell’s influence on both music and culture is understated.  I mentioned I was reading his book, I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp and only 1 of the 20 people I spoke to had a passing knowledge of him. A handful of them were my partners in crime in frequenting the NY clubs mentioned in the book.  We lived these times and Hell still didn’t register with them.  It’s not a name you would forget.  He was the first to have choppy spiky hair, wear torn closes, paint words on them and use the safety pin as a fashion accessory.  He performed with abandon. 

I never paid much attention to Television or Richard Hell.  I knew the song Blank Generation.  I was into bands with tight songs mixed with pop sensibilities.  Even the anarchy of the Sex Pistols could fit in with that description, although I wasn’t a big fan of them either.  I love Blondie and the Ramones, both of which Hell has distain for.  He mentions that Chris Stein (Blondie) and Dee Dee Ramone auditioned for Television but didn’t make the cut.  While Dee Dee had his problems, I think both fared better with their respective bands. 

The writing is erratic, but so was his life.  He was a heroin addict who kept journals.  Without the journals how would he be able to describe in such detail all of his sexual conquests breasts?  (There are many references.)

His childhood was unremarkable. He grew up in Kentucky. It’s not a charmed life, but it certainly isn’t the broken home of a truant which he later became.  His father dies at an early age.  At sixteen, he and best friend Tom Miller (later re-christened Verlaine) have their Thelma and Louise moment by fleeing home and driving a car as far as Alabama where they get picked up by the cops.  They were heading to Florida.  Shortly after that Richard earns enough money to come to New York City. His mother agreed to let him go at 17.  His early tales of a grizzly Lower East Side are accurate and intriguing.  He has many menial jobs, but it was possible to live off of next to nothing those days in the city.  The book then starts to read like many a candied musician memoir:  lots of drugs, lots of sex, record company screws artist.  (Somehow Keith Richard’s book didn’t fall into that trap.)

His description of drug addition has become the norm for these autobiographies:
Addiction is lonely.  It starts as pure pleasure, and the degeneration, in a few quick years, into a form of monumental compulsive-obsessive condition is actually more psychological than physical.  One the drug use has replaced everything else, life become purely a lie, since in order to keep any self-respect, the junkie has to delude himself that use is by choice.

Richard doesn’t stick with anything that isn’t solitary.  He can’t hold on to jobs, he moves from one band to the next.  He didn’t hang around long enough with either Television or The Heartbreakers.  When both bands released their debut albums, he was long gone. 
It makes sense that he eventually settled in a career that is solitary:  a writer.  

Probably most overlooked was how smart he was about marketing his bands early in his career.  He went to the owner of the newly opened CBGB’s and asked for and got a Sunday night residency. He knew the importance of having people know where to see the band and being able to see them on a regular basis.  He created posters for specific shows using band photographs as well as eye-catching graphics and text.   He gave a performance. 

There are passages that are so ripe with description that you can see the scene play out in your head.  They are also very humorous.  In describing the girls in his neighborhood:
They were a skittish herd of scaled-down giraffe girls with pretty, flat kitty-cat faces.  I liked all of them.  We were going to drive into the country out by Versailles, where another of the giraffe girls lived on a horse farm. It’s those moments that make reading about his early childhood so rewarding. 

His tale stops cold at age 34, which is when he decided to get out of music.  He has since dipped his toes back in on several occasions, including a stint with the band Dim Stars.  Life in New York in the 70’s and early 80’s was raw, gritty and oh so much fun. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Twenty Feet From Stardom

The story flows. It’s not sappy or self-pitying.  It’s a story of very strong, talented women.  Twenty Feet From Stardom is a powerful documentary. Kudos to the director and editors. 

I saw it as part of the NY Times Films Club series.  Following the movie was a Q and A with director Morgan Neville and three of the movie subjects:  Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and LisaFischer. 

Darlene is better known as the voice of the Crystals among other bands.  Remember He’s Sure The Boy I Love, He’s A Rebel and Christmas Baby Please Come Home (she is actually credited on the track)? In the 1960’s her group The Blossoms were the hottest session singers in the country.  Gimme Shelter probably wouldn’t be a classic without the voice of Merry Clayton.  It’s worth seeing the movie just to hear her tell the story of the recording of the song.  If you saw the Rolling Stones perform that song live in the past 25 years, you heard Lisa Fischer bringing down the house with Mick Jagger. 

In Fischer’s humility she said there is no way she would come close to the truth that Merry delivers on that record, so she could only be inspired by her performance. That is the beauty of these women, they all truly like, respect and believe in one another.  There doesn’t seem to be a cutthroat rivalry among them either then or now.  Merry thanked Darlene for her tutoring early on in her career. Darlene said The Blossoms, were in such demand that she would refer producers to Merry.  She also said that Merry was the best or she wouldn’t have recommended her for the job.  This of course didn’t exclude playful digs between Merry and Darlene.  Darlene was ready to pass the plate after Merry’s heartfelt preacher-like tale of growing up in the church. 

Darlene and Merry both had fathers who were Pastors.  Singing in a church choir gave them the tools to be the best session singers. They knew when to sing and how to delivery it.  At the time Darlene was breaking into the business, session singers were white and rather restrained.  As Bette Midler says in the film, they knew when to put their hands up and when to lean into the mic and that was about it.  Darlene and the Blossoms couldn’t read music but they could feel it and could run with it.  They made the producers’ job easy.  They upped the ante for any singer. 

You will be blown away by this impressive and diverse contribution of The Blossoms:

That’s Life -Frank Sinatra
Johnny Angel -Shelley Fabares
Monster Mash –Bobby Pickett
Rockin’ Robin –Bobby Day
The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss) -Betty Everett
Chain Gang –Sam Cooke
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
Unchained Melody
(You’re My) Soul and My Inspiration –Righteous Brothers
River Deep Mountain High –Ike and Tina Turner

It wasn’t always easy. There were failed solo careers.  Darlene Love was contracted to Phil Spector.  She finally got out of her deal, signs with Gamble and Huff and then they sell her contract back to Phil Spector.  Could it be more devastating?  She decided to clean houses.  As she pointed out Tuesday night when referring to Phil Spector, what goes around, comes around.

The film also highlights Judith Hill who was set to backup Michael Jackson on his last unfulfilled tour.  She is the youngest of those profiled.  I had no idea she was a contestant on the Voice this season.  She is pursuing a career as a solo artist and unlike the other women profiled, she writes her own music, which gives her an advantage.  It’s probably what moved Sheryl Crow from the background to the forefront.  Sheryl appears briefly in the movie.  Also appearing are Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Sting.

There has to be a lot of valuable footage left on the cutting room floor. The interviews are engaging and entertaining, which I think is a testament to the performers as well as the filmmakers.  I would love to see the “rejects” from Morgan Neville.  I’d pay to view on the web.  It’s a no-brainer.

Twenty Feet From Stardom is a joy.  It will have people talking.  The archival footage is riveting.  Don’t be surprised if this movie revitalizes the careers of these highly talented musicians. 

Of note:  I focused on the women, but The Waters should be mentioned.  They are featured on Michael Jackson’s Thriller: Julia, Maxine and of course, Oren.

Of second note:  The movie was produced by Gil Friesen.  He was chairman of A&M records and I had the pleasure of working with him.  He's one of my favorite record company people.  Sadly he passed away last year, but not before hearing his film was accepted to the Sundance Film Festival.  

Monday, June 03, 2013

Dessa's Ghost

Call Off Your Ghost is a new one from Dessa
The song is based on a true story of running into a former lover at a friend's wedding.  Yikes.  That sounds uncomfortable.  Her record company describes her as “Mos Def plus Dorothy Parker”.  It sounds like she's been listening to a lot of Luscious Jackson

The Minneapolis native weaves her production much like the ladies of Luscious.  Dessa is labeled an emcee/writer, but that doesn't paint a big enough picture.  I have a soft spot for Minneapolis artists (Trip Shakespeare, Prince, Husker Du).  They put out good records.  Dessa's album comes out the end of the month. 

Speaking of Luscious Jackson, rumor has it that Jill, Kate and Gabby have mastered a new album and we should be hearing something new from the ladies this year. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Makes You Smile?

I'm walking the dog up 1st Avenue this afternoon.  Without seeing anyone, I hear a person singing in a loud/bad Liverpudlian accent "and I'm happy just to dance with you".  I then see a white haired man wearing knee socks, camouflage shorts and a Chicago T-shirt walking past me.  The T-shirt commemorated the band's 1989 tour.   He was thoroughly enjoying his walk and the music.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Someday, Someday, Maybe

One of my favorite TV characters of all time is LorelaiGilmore.  She’s witty, strong (even when she thinks she’s not) and houses a great knowledge of cultural trivia.  She’s my kind of gal.  Lauren Graham who so wonderfully played Lorelai just released a novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe. 

The story centers around Franny Banks, the actress/waitress who is trying to make a go of life in New York City and realizing her dream of one day being interviewed on the stage of the 92nd St Y.  That would mean she had made it as an actress, a well-respected theater actress.  She has 6 months left in her self imposed quest to make it happen. Franny’s a little bit Lorelai and probably a lot of Lauren.  Lauren had said in an interview that it’s loosely based on her life and what she couldn’t remember, she made up.  She credits Diane Keaton with the suggestion to put these stories into a book. 

The story is about struggle and self-realization.  Anyone who has a dream, no money and lives on their own, can relate to it.  Franny occasionally asks her dad to supplement her income.  She deals with each situation with self-depreciating humor and determination.  The story also drives home that support, understanding and kindness can come from unlikely resources.

Lauren uses reproductions of Filofax pages to show the passing days.  If you don’t remember Filofaxes, they were the lifeblood of daily organization.  Before Palm, Blackberry or the smart phone, there was the Filofax. At the end of the year I would flip through mine and think, wow I guess I did accomplish something.  The voicemail messages from her English teacher father are sarcastic and sprayed with love. You can hear his voice in your head.  Franny had to have a cool, good-looking boyfriend, who you know will turn out to be a jerk.  I believe a guy like James is a rite of passage for every single girl in the city.  I could relate. 

Loved reading this book.  Someday, Someday, Maybe is sweet, charming, snappy and engrossing.  Oh did I mention, it’s also well written.  

The Leonard Lopate Show: Lauren Graham - WNYC

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Following The Following

I started watching The Following for one reason:  Kevin Bacon.  He is one of our best actors and he played Fenwick in Diner, that alone is reason enough to love him. 

The three episodes had me.  It was like a page turner on TV, then.....
Bacon plays Ryan Hardy and ex-FBI agent who captured a serial killer, Joe Carroll who is now running a cult via his jail cell.  Hardy is called back into action to track down Carroll, despite being fired from the FBI. He's an alcoholic who we don't see drinking after the first few episodes. 

The show really got stupid when Carroll escapes from jail with the help of the warden (the beginning of a tiresome show of law enforcement being totally inept).  He exits into a helicopter and Hardy misses him by seconds. This will be played out in every episode, as well as several dead people (most of them are FBI and lots of stabbing. It became tiresome, but I held out and watched the whole season which concluded last night because Kevin Bacon is a good actor. 

Who on this show gave the ok to light the show the way they do?  Regardless of them being in a dark room, why does it have to be so dark the viewer can't see anything?  There is a big fight scene at the end, but I had no idea what was happening because I couldn't see anything.  This has been going on all season.  

For my amusement, I could not stop reading online reviews of the season finale.  I have been laughing out loud all day.  I have to share some of my favorite lines.  It's clear that I am not the only one to find that that show lost it's way early in it's first season.  It has been renewed by Fox.

  • Sweet Claire is dislocated herself, waking in a dark room that shouldn't surprise her because hey, everything in the set design is dark.
  • Weston [an FBI agent], convinced they don't have to play by Joe's rules, utters perhaps the finest line of the series thus far: "WE CAN CHANGE THE STORY." (If right after this you screamed at your television "WE CAN CHANGE THE CHANNEL," then tweet me so we can become best friends.)
  • Bodies move around in space (I really do apologize but I can't see anything on this show) until somehow, someway, Hardy and Joe's tussle lands them in a boathouse full of gas tanks.
  • And there are days when I think the high school girls on Pretty LIttle Liars are a collective Sherlock Holmes compared to the FBI on this show.
  • Seriously, no one can die from a gut wound on this show, can they?
  • This show really tests my facial recognition. Nick Campbell

  • Are you surprised that law enforcement didn’t rise en masse and demand that the second season of The Following be killed for portraying all cops as mentally slow and unable to hit a target?
  • Ryan goes to the address that Joe described in the book.  There he finds Emma and gets syringed in the neck.  Because he’s an idiot. 
wsj blog Dawn Fallik