Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Unfortunately, Andy Kaufman is still dead

Andy Kaufman lived 35 years.  He has been dead nearly that long.  Yet...Andy's legacy lives on.  As is the case with most entertainers, performances transcend time.  Andy's is a different case: there are people who think he didn't die at all.  It would be something he would do, wouldn't he?

For the first 10 years of his death, this statement was said, almost wistfully; a roundabout remembrance of a talent gone too soon.  It culminated in an NBC special about Andy, and then it ended....until 1999.  '99 was Kaufman's best year since, oh, 1981.  A movie (which, sadly, was not successful) and two books shared the life and inside tales of the man.  It was at a sneak preview screening of Man on the Moon that I noticed the narrative had changed.  Bob Zmuda was in attendance and took questions from the audience.  Someone asked "So, is Andy still alive?"  The audience laughed, and Bob said something along the lines of "you never know," and further stoked the fire.

Maybe this was just to help promote the movie, I don't know.  But weird for him to say...

And in this internet age, the rumor, however inane, continues to resurface like a mushroom.  Andy is still alive!  Andy is going to come back 20 years after his death!  No, 25!  Wait, I meant 30 years!  Hey, that gave Zmuda another chance to remember his friend and make a few bucks.

Did I say make a few bucks?  No...this is about legacy.  A legacy that could be simply maintained with a website of clips and writings, shared anecdotes...or, in this case, a book of such items.  Of course, such a book was already published in 1999, so 15 years later, let's do it again.  Maybe Bob made up more stuff - joke's on us!  I bet Andy would have loved that.  Hey, I bet you and Andy would have even DONE a joke like that!

In the book, Zmuda states that this was written not for attention or personal gain, which is the kind of thing you'd hear from a Beatles tribute band in a casino or any other celebrity impersonator.    Having not spoken in private to Zmuda, I don't know if his love of Kaufman has reached Robby Krieger levels...I met him at a bar once where, dressed as Tony Clifton, he entertained us all.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Zmuda states "He said to keep a lid on it for 30 years.  It's 30 years now...What I'm doing is sending a telegram to Andy: it's time to come in from the cold."

(Telegram?!  I'm dying)

The same article quotes Andy's brother, Michael, who wonders why people continue such "conspiracy theories" about his sibling.  "They might be attention-hungry, or more likely in need of money.  Who knows?"

We know.  In Andy's day, we (the audience) were sometimes the last to know, but we all know now.  We've known for a while.  And we're being told the same joke once again.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Fear on Saturday Night Live: Hazy Memories

As with any holiday, traditions come to mind.  For Halloween, beyond The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and various horror movies, I watch the Halloween '81 episode of Saturday Night Live.  You know, the one hosted by Donald Pleasence.  Oh, you don't remember that episode?  Maybe you remember the musical guest: Fear.

Here and there you can find clips of this show, particularly of their second performance.  But what interests me most is the differing tales of what happened that night.  30+ years is a long time, and yet the memories seem to change.  You forget something, roughly 50% comes back to you, and then that's the reality.  My sister thinks one 4th of July there was a fire in the yard.  In truth, a fallen bottle rocket set off a fire no larger than the rocket itself, and I put it out quickly (and with minimal dramatics) with a garden hose.  But ask her about it now, and you'd think the house was in danger.  There - do you grasp the concept?

Let's compare people's memories: a video interview with John Joseph of the Cro-Mags (who still looks and talks like a longshoreman), and multiple descriptions of the day's events by Ian MacKaye (One even came from NPR...one of the 20 shows they have where people just talk in front of an audience with acoustic guitar and mandolin music).  Both were there that night.  I'll also include information from the 1985 book Saturday Night by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad, and the book Mr. Mike by Dennis Perrin.  For magazines, let's go even further back: a November 1981 Billboard Magazine, and a New York Magazine article from November of 1981 as well, written by Roger Director.

Why the punks were invited to "slam dance"

Mr. Mike: Not only did O’Donoghue want Fear, he wanted to project the chaos of a punk club into America’s living rooms, and to this end he and Belushi brought in some forty skinheads from Washington DC to slam dance and stage dive while the band performed.

Saturday NightBelushi and O’Donoghue had arranged for thirty-five or so of Fear’s rowdy fans to take a bus up from Washington so they could slam dance in 8H as the band played.

John Joseph: "I bump into Ian MacKaye and he's like 'Yo!  Fear is playing on Saturday Night Live tonight.  You know, show up at Rockefeller Center at this time.  Everybody's gonna get in!'"

Ian MacKaye: "I got a call around 10 in the morning...and a voice said 'Lorne Michaels office, please hold.'  And I had no idea what that meant."

Now, the reason I wrote the example above was for this very quote.  In print recollections as well, Ian drops Michaels' name.  Lorne's produced, what, 88% of all SNL episodes?  But he wasn't there for this episode, and I kind of think Ian forgot and just assigned Lorne's name to it.  In fact, it was that incorrect first fact that lead me to wonder what else might be wrong.  (This is unfortunate, I know,  Shit, I was just a kid when this was on the air, but if you don't remember something, no one will fault you for saying you don't know)

The dress rehearsal

Why have the punks also slam for the dress rehearsal?  You can think of reasons why and why not to, but...

Ian MacKaye: "We were talking and I said 'Listen.  Don't blow it.  Because, if we blow it, we won't be on the live show."  So we're dancing, and we're trying to keep it cool, but someone knocked into a camera and it fell over.  It was an accident.  So we're led back into the Green Room and they said 'You have just caused $100,000 worth of damage.'  So they locked us in the Green Room."

John Joseph: "There was a piano in there, we pulled all the strings out.  We were fucking...we get out, slam dancing in the room.  Went out in the hallway, broke the sinks.  Fucked the whole place up."

Saturday Night: During dress rehearsal, some of the slam dancers got carried away, cursing and tumbling off the set, banging into one cameraman and nearly colliding with some of the others.  The song was stopped in the middle to cool them down.  When dress ended, members of the technical crew complained vehemently to Davey Wilson, and Wilson told Dick that the crew was threatening to walk off the show unless the slam dancers were dropped.  Dick told him the dancers would go on, but he went up to see them in the Green Room to lay down some rules.  O’Donoghue went with him, but only to watch.  Dick didn't mention it, but for the air show, during Fear’s song, he took the precaution of turning off all the mikes in the studio except the singer’s.

Ian also states that "they" said the punks would NOT go on, but then Belushi said HE wouldn't make his cameo in the show.  Either way, it's on.

As arranged during the dress rehearsal, Fear plays their first song, "I Don't Care About You" without the punks.

Each time I view this episode, I get a sense of anticipation.  I can only imagine some of those involved dreading this segment, but there was no going back.

"Hotel accommodations for most guests of Saturday Night were furnished by Berkshire Place."  I truly hope Fear was put at this hotel and not somewhere else.  They deserve it.  I envision Lee walking up to that couple and asking if he can join them for dinner.

Showtime for the punks

Ian MacKaye: "Actually, there were fights breaking out between audience members and the kids."

John Joseph: "Even before the band played, people are just fucking, you know, slamming into each other."

(Donald, doing his best to introduce Fear and warn the audience)

John Joseph: "You know, Fear comes on and it was like BOOM!"

(Fear begins "Beef Baloney")

John Joseph: "John Belushi's going nuts."

There is conflicting evidence on whether Belushi DID dance or decided at the last minute not to.  You'd think a camera would be trying to find him if he was in the crowd.

(Punks enjoying "New York's Alright if You Like Saxophones")

Saturday Night: (Dick) heard somebody yell “New York sucks!” and saw one of the dancers heading toward the singer’s microphone.  Frantically, Dick got up and ran as fast as he could into the control room and shouted at Dave Wilson “Fade to black!”

Ian MacKaye: "You'll hear one moment, where the microphone stand falls into the crowd, you'll hear, very clearly someone shout 'NEW YORK SUCKS!'  And that voice belongs to me."

John Joseph: "Ian MacKaye grabs the mic and he's like 'Fuck New York!  New York sucks!'  On Saturday Night Live!  And Lee Ving's immediately like 'Ah, he doesn't really mean that.'"

Lee's actual quote was "He's just kidding.  We want to make friends."

Lee then introduces "Let's Have a War" with "For anyone who voted...this is for Republicans and Democrats alike.  1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4!"

The giant pumpkin, part of that night's set, is being led onto the stage the very moment the screen cuts to a pre-taped segment from the season premiere.  Fear's segment ends, and everyone's memories clash:

Saturday Night: When the slam dancers, supposedly berserk, saw the stage lights go out and realized they were no longer on-air, they immediately stopped dancing and peacefully walked off set.

Mr. Mike: In the studio, Fear ceased playing and the skinheads walked off the set. 

Ian MacKaye: "As we were lead off the set, Eddie Murphy said "FUCK YOU!"  We were then locked into a producer's room, where we were making phone calls.  It seems like a thing to do."  

John Joseph: "Security realized this ain't their dancing, these motherfuckers are fighting, they came out to the dance floor to, like, get us out of the studio.  But we was like 'Yo.'  People were, like, slamming them to the ground.  The head of Ssecurity gets on the mic and is like 'Everyone has to get out of here!  That's it!  The show's over!  We want you guys outta here!  So my friend picks up a pumpkin, cause it's Halloween, and he just fucking launches the pumpkin, smacks the fuckin' guy right in the head, the guy fuckin' falls on the ground, and the next thing, that's when the shit hit the fuckin' fan."

Was Ian up in the office at that point?  Why didn't this anecdote make the books?  Hard to say, huh?

The Aftermath

John Joseph: "Finally, the NYPD shows up, with billy clubs, fuckin' like, fucking...people up and we're like 'Oh shit!"

Ian MacKaye: "After being told that chargers were going to be pressed, we were then let go.  I had to pay for parking, which was expensive.  But no charges were pressed."

If this truly was O'Donoghue's and Belushi's idea, the charges would have involved THEM, and NBC likely wouldn't want that out in the open.  Speaking of, it didn't take long for the beacon of journalism that is the New York Post to report on its findings.

New York Post's "inside" story   

Saturday Night: A few days later, (Dick) was further incensed when the New York Post reported, completely inaccurately, that there had been a riot in the studio causing $200,000 worth of damage.  In truth, a plastic camera-case lock worth something like $40 had been broken.

Mr. Mike: “inside” sources spoke of “a riot, mindless, out-of-control destruction of property.”  “This was a life-threatening situation.  They went crazy.  It’s amazing that no one was killed.”

John Joseph: "The next day, the New York Post, it says 'Riot on the set of Saturday Night Live causes, like, a quarter of a million dollars worth of damage" 

The book Live from New York - Ebersol: Anyway, the total damage that was done in the studio was about $2,500.

Ian MacKaye: "The $100,000 camera was just a $20 piece of plastic."

Billboard Magazine:  "As far as we can tell, there has been no $200,000 worth of damages.  We had to pay $40 worth of labor penalties.  That was the extent of it." - SNL spokesman Peter Hamilton

Billboard Magazine: "In point of fact, nobody was hurt and nothing was smashed." - Lee Ving, who, according to Billboard, was "unaware of any controversy until the Post story was read to him."  

New York Magazine: "I’m really not mad at the band.  I’m mad at those kids that were slamming." - Ebersol.

(The actual headline from the Post: "Fear Riot Leave Saturday Night Glad to be Alive.")

Final Thought

John Joseph: [C]ause we was just kicking camera over, screens, anything that looked like it costs money...Bam!  Next!"

Well, in the words of Robert Evans, there are three sides to every story: Your side, my side, and the truth.  And no one is lying.  Memories shared serve each differently.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Waiting Game

It seems another day in Goldland: talking deals, with statuses and plans laid before everyone.  The waitress was appeased with a polite smile and large tip, so I had all the time in the world to continue my focus.  Industry speak only lasted so long because this time of year, this kind of place, you get to what you desire: the action.

The man across from me knew my lingo, and perhaps even more so.  Conference TV contracts, polls, the lines.  "That time in Laughlin, after I cashed in from the Belmont, I said what the hell, drove up there..."  You'd be hard pressed to even get a glance from 99% of the bevy of beauties or oh-so-serious shades-wearing crowd with that kind of talk.  But here I am, delicious meal and drink in front of me, nodding, taking it all.

Pleasantries abound, quick eye contact made around me (the kind where neither acknowledge it) and back to the subject.   The World Series is over (its result continued junk shots to Dodger fans) so there is simply one mission.  I've soon realized it isn't even so much about all deals happening, a victorious parlay, or even a push.  It's about the deal itself.  Ask anyone what's more fun: having gold or the day you find it, and the answer is as plain as the brown shades on your face.

Done there, we wander up Camden.  I had little time to discuss "work" as it is, but there's always time for action.  I returned to find that my surroundings were still stuck on discount costumes and planning events that, a week later, they likely won't recall.  Well, carry on.  I'll continue the hunt.

"I got the job done.  Kind of."  You know by the description alone there's a story.  Go for it...

Monday, September 29, 2014

A great moment for the future while stuck in neutral

Sitting in this monitoring cell, the sun begins to blind while those outside squawk their jolly thoughts.  Deal making in progress, however, which reminds me...

The Kansas City Royals deserve your respect

It was all but set coming into this weekend: Kansas City was in there for the first time in nearly 30 years.  If not, it would be Seattle, for the first time in 13 years.  Instead, we are given the encore of a season's-worth of Jeter tributes, nearly all written by old, overfed oafs.  Fox did the same for their afternoon game, a Yankees-Red Sox match-up that was last relevant  in May.  The Red Sox also gave him a "tribute" inasmuch a reminder to its fan base to allow it - we just won the title last year, so temper your alcohol intake, please?  Even for an hour?

Beast or Burden

I'm old now, you know, so perspective creeps in when a "new season" begins on the tube.  The viewing experience is so different these days, and yet we still see the same concept.  This is because of money, sums greater than many may ever know.  The other side of the scale is time, which is tight.  My reaction is quicker now: going for the gut.  "I like the set, but that writing..."  Hey, I made it to the first commercial break.  Sometimes, even more.  Why eat a meal you don't want?  I don't have to look far in any direction to find a junkie.   

I've got it bad, and I've got it good

It was a fine, even entertaining Saturday of college football, but the more research I have since completed, the more I see a slew of even larger games comin' at ya next weekend.  That's all well and good, but when the forecast for next Saturday is a Santa Ana Son of a 93??!!  Look, I appreciate these random hot breaths from Mama Earth every now and then, but this is supposed to be a day of successful relaxation.  Cooperation is the word; isn't that all we ask for in life?  From the weekend weirdos that populate Beverly Drive, the hi-fi in the background, hell, even the parlays...we're keeping up our end of the deal.

Looks like the mug could use a refill.  Back to it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

There's plenty to do here!

Hold still...let me take the picture.

All right.  Should we try the Golden Gate?  Maybe they have some pinball games you can play.  Dad just wants to spend a little time on the black jack tables.

Sure, we can get some food.  Whatever you'd like.  How about a shrimp cocktail at-- I know you had one yesterday.  Hey, how about a nice prime rib!  That's even better...I think we can get a hamburger.  OK, let's go for hamburgers.

You know, a hamburger does sound good.  Maybe they have some in the Golden Nugget.  Let's take a look inside.  Follow me.  Yeah, there's...I know where the restaurant is, I'm just going to ask this cocktail waitress.  Excuse me, are you still doing the black jack tourna-- OK, I know!  Sorry, you are?  Great.

Two please.  Thank you.  Non smoking if you have it.  Oh, she said you can't bring in the soda.  Don't worry, I'll get you another.  Thanks, I'll...oh, you don't have that.  Is 7UP OK?  Yeah, 7UP and I'll have...do you have Busch?  I'll take a Busch.

Do you have to look so bored?  What?  Nothing to do here?  We just have to find it.  They have to have stuff for kids.  Otherwise, why-

Thank you.  Yeah, he'll have a hamburger and fries.  I'll have...do you still have the special for the T-Bone steak and eggs?  Oh, for lunch, sure, medium-rare...yeah, baked potato is fine.  Uh...Thousand Island.  Thank you.

I tell you what.  After lunch, we'll call information and see which casino has pinball.  I'll give you a roll of quarters.  But you have to promise me...Donny...promise me that you won't play the slots.  If they catch you, they toss you out and they don't tell me.  We don't need a repeat of what happened at Vegas World yesterday, right?

Yeah, I understand, but if you didn't like the show at Circus Circus, it makes no sense to go back there.  It isn't going to be any better.  The Hacienda has some?  That's great, thank you, ma'am.  We'll try there after lunch for some pinball.

Hey...how about that?  Looks good!  Excellent, thank you.  If you have A-1, sure.  And, could I get a cup of decaffeinated coffee?  Sanka's fine.  Thank you.

I'm hungry, I bet you are, too.  Mmmm.  Here we go.  Does your hamburger taste good?  We'll get our strength up and then we'll go to the Hacienda.  Nothing to do here?  Come on - look around!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

This time, for real?

(The 1979 Los Angeles Rams, Pacific Gold's official team)

Though it's been 20 years since Dealville had an NFL team, we've heard bullshit from other teams over the years ever since.  First it was the Seahawks, then the Colts, then the Jaguars, and most recently the Vikings (even on this blog, no less). Each time, the city was used as bait for stadium negotiations, forcing the public to turn their head and cough up the bucks to ensure "their" team stayed in town.  Some less than others, but the conclusion was the same: no NFL team.  Those of us living here simply moved on, while so many transplants meet at designated bars to root for their old hometown's team.  (Fan-dom never leaves, but the town's residents?  Goodbye.)

I think I can speak for the majority of the sports fans in this town saying that receiving any of the aforementioned teams would have been a perk...a nice addition...but it wouldn't mean much.  Just another way-station until the team's owner is dissatisfied with the "stadium situation" and they leave.  The Raiders?  No one here wants all the baggage that comes with the team: their fans, their level of success the last 20 years being a very LA reason, but it's mainly because of LA's other team...the first who really left in 1980...

Look, I won't lie.  My arrival out here in Dealville was a constant quest for LA Rams gear: hats, glasses, you name it.  Everyone I asked (NFL fans) never seemed to mind the loss of the Raiders.  But the Rams...it was as if they lost a love and it moved to Orange County (can't blame them for not following them) and then it's gone.  

But then Rams owner (and Burt Reynolds imposter) Stan Kroenke buys land on the Hollywood Park site.  (Name ready, too)  Each passing month hasn't seen an end to this trend: a return of the Rams.  This week, Inglewood's Mayor Butts went on KJLH (which is, I've been told, is a radio station in town), and said what he could tell the public.  "We are working diligently to make this happen."  He said the official world likely wouldn't be until the 2015 owners meeting, but we all know this gets done...spending all of this season handing out envelopes to all other owners.

This post just might be a historical document of pre-LA Ram insanity...or just plain insanity.  Nothing new around here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hail to the...uh...

With the removal of the Washington Redskins trademark this week, sports fans are hearing and reading a lot of hot sports takes on the issue.  Players say it should be changed, players and oafish members of the media say it shouldn't, former players mock the whole idea.  But what I haven't heard that much about in the din of opinions is that of the fans of the team.  Fans buy the merchandise, follow the team, likely say the name more than anyone else in public.  Are any giving up their fandom?  Sticking with the team?

Well...I'm a fan of the team.  They won Super Bowl XVII (lord, I'm old) and I said they're my new favorite team.  Had Miami won, well, Go Dolphins.  But I was a kid and that's what I said.  Unknowingly, I had integrity: I WAS a Redskins fan, and have been ever since.  Simple as that.  It helped that my parents followed different teams, and I could never get interested in the bumbling franchise in the dome.

So, when you're a kid, you get a lot of merchandise as a gift.  A Redskin maroon satin jacket.  (Hello 80's!)  Redskin caps, jerseys, knock-off T shirts (which we'll see again, it seems), trash cans.  If they had it, I was for it.  Then one year I got this as a gift:

This was the NFL's idea to market to kids...maybe even those not interested in football.  Each team's doll is literal: the New York Jets is a cartoon plane wearing a helmet.  So, they went all-in and in my childlike mind, I liked it as I did the rest.  He's smiling because yay, football!  He's not "stoic" like the guy on the helmet, which I took to be the guy in the anti-pollution ad (who, I found out later, was actually Italian...but that's showbiz).

Move forward a year or two, and in Social Studies class a flighty substitute teacher talked to us about how cultural norms change through time.  "Stanford used to be called the Indians!  All these things say Indians at the school.  What happens to that stuff?"  Being a sports nut, I offer that it becomes a new word I'd learned but can't spell, "memorabilia."  "YES!  It's all the past."  It makes me wonder if the Redskins would be changed...but considering I only read the Sports and Cartoons sections of the newspaper, I had no idea if this was actually being discussed.

A successful decade for the team culminated in Super Bowl XXVI at the old Dump Dome.  Through wheeling and dealing, I'd be attending the game.  My clothing of choice was a simple Redskins sweatshirt with a supposed old team photo.  The logo on the shirt was the size of a quarter, and I feared I should make a bigger deal...even if I was in the end zone, upper deck.  For every band-wagon fan there, you'd see an old guy in the full-on Native American gear.  What also tempered my outfits were the known facts of a planned protest by Native Americans in front of the stadium.  And believe me, you couldn't miss it entering the dome.

Game day, my father and I deftly tried to pass the group and walk up the concourse.  Soon, I was accosted by a young protester, Native American, and larger  than me.  All that was showing was my cap, but that was enough.  "Hey!"  I'm grabbed by the jacket.  "Redskins are gonna lose."  Before I can respond, my father (not a sensitive man in nearly any way) grabs me and yells "Go play some bingo."  A fight is avoided due to the sheer amount of people getting into the stadium but the whole event (the accosting and my dad's response) stayed with me for weeks.  I'm just a fan...am I doing something wrong?  What should I do differently?  My next hat purchase was a 60's styled R with two arrows at the bottom.  I still wear it and like the look, but no one knows what team it is.  And yes, I guess it means my dad is a jackass in nearly any situation.

The following season, Washington played at Kansas City, and the anticipated protest arrived in full force.  After that season, however, you didn't hear about this issue or see as many protests.  This was aided by the fact, I think, that the team turned to absolute dogshit when Joe Gibbs retired.  They aren't good, they aren't on TV, and it's put to the back burner of cultural issues.

20 years later, it ramped up again, louder than ever.  Why the quiet and then the ramp-up?  I'll never know.  The trademark removal this week isn't the tipping point, because if you're expecting either Redskins owner Dan Snyder or NFL Kommissar Roger Goddell to "make the right decision" about anything you're out of your mind.

So do I think the name should be changed?

Sure.  Change it back then, change it now, change it five years from now.  My question back is: We're not going to have a STUPID name going forward, are we?

The Washington Federals.  What the fuck?  No!  We tried that once already...

The Washington Americans.  Well...all NFL teams are American.

Do you see what I'm getting at here?  There would be a new problem, on a much smaller scale, of course...but a problem.  If the new name was awful, people would STILL WEAR REDSKINS STUFF...maybe even call them that forever.  Can't you see some middle-aged guy?  "Well, I grew up in Wheaton and I've always called them the Redskins.  I'm not changing."

My suggestion: the Washington Razorbacks.

  • Same team initials.  
  • You can even keep the "R" helmets from the 70s (though the feathers would be debated).

  • The offensive line is still referred to as the Hogs, another tie-in.
  • The name is nearly as long as the current name.
The Washington Razorbacks.  Love them Hogs.  Go Hogs!  

There...everyone happy?  What - Arkansas fans are pissed off?  Eh...