Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Good Morning, Dave

It's not much fun living in this Dave-less world.  There are forever memories, and plenty o clips, but if the final Late Show montage with the Foo Fighters hit you like it did me, it was as final as anything else: all these comedy moments of your life, and now we're done.

Wait, who's "we?"  Dave might be done, but I'm not.  Why not use this space to explore that early oddity that rarely gets a mention, The David Letterman Show.

Footage of these episodes is relatively rare, but myself and other video collectors did our best then and now to preserve these gems until Dave wants to leave some extra cash behind and calls Shout Factory to put episodes on DVD.  

The 60 minute episodes are easier to find (perhaps due to impending cancellation) but the 90 minute episodes at the start are impossible.  Or are they?

Last year, the 2014 calendar matched 1980, so I watched what episodes were available as they happened.  For the 35th anniversary, I want to do the same...maybe not on the exact dates, but enough for you to get a feel of what was happening.

June 23rd, 1980: Gary Will might not have a VHS or Betamax available, but he has an audio cassette recorder.  And here we go:

Bob Sarlatte announces.  Notice that the audience is live for the voice over: probably a mistake.  Also notice that Edwin Newman reads the news in front of the audience.  That goes exactly as you'd think.  Even cooler to hear Gary himself laugh in the background.

Rough as it might be, enjoy.  As the Summer turns to Fall, I'll post more content to see how the show survives.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

In The City

New York City, you ebb and flow.  You go from grimy to gritty to funky to artsy to gentrified to now...sleek.  There is good and bad in it all, and there are only, oh, a dozen cities on this Earth that have "it all" and you are one.  Springtime in New York, even better, yeah?  Of course, this view (or review, I guess) could have been created and judged in the dead of Winter...and I'm glad that's not the case.

It's been nearly 15 years since I've hit Fun City, and I don't have to get into the changes during that stretch: we're all familiar; we lived through it.  And, being an outsider from Dealville, who am I to say if what's new is better?

Discussions had, New York insisted suit removed, I walked.

Everyone was soaking it in, and why not?  Even more so, if you survive the winter, it's their rotation of life.  Dealville, it's a constant.  And admittedly it seemed difficult to not be an outsider, even Central Park.  Groups, couples were in their spots, dogs on their walk, overly-competitive softball games occurring for public entertainment.

This setting occurred during the first half of my trip, and then Mama Earth blustered and got grey enough for the attitude one from Goldland attributes to NYC...only I was wrong.  If there was an attitude, it would have confronted me one way or another, but it never did.  Consistantly: friendly or at least not negative, a lack of accosting attitudes, and general...well, fuck, what is the word?  Normal?  Is something even normal if you don't know what it is, or what to expect?  It sure seemed that way...and yet, I wanted a glimpse of the past.

So, remembering a subway stop is near the hotel, I looked at a map, randomly aimed at an area away from midtown, and got on the train.  Holy Shit - this one goes to Coney Island?  This is the train from The Warriors...

...except the subway was clean, and there was no graffiti, and there's no remnant of that era.  It's completely vanished.  Is it really, I thought?  Is there nowhere else left?  I felt utterly amazed that a city so large had so few windows back into that time.

I started to feel I made a mistake in my stop as I was roughly 6 or 7 blocks up on land and hadn't found a decent restaurant in the walk.  I was about to turn around when, after reading a happy hour menu, the hostess and I look (inadvertantly) at each other, square in the eyes.  Well, hello, I,,,you know what, yes, I'll stop here.  That, and I'd feel like a jerk if I kept walking.  And shit, the Happy Hour special was "Hamburger Taco and Beer, $5"  Sorry, anyone who really knows me knows I have to make that deal.

In all my solo meals on the trip, I was usually left to conversations with a friendly bartender.  If there was live music, that helped, but meals go at a quick clip in that plan.  Finally, and just my luck, the final night of my trip, was talk of a free comedy show.  And - it's right nearby!  Well I have time to kill, why not?

Saints be praised - there it was.  First good sign: I walk downstairs to the bar.  Immediately: an unidentifiable smell.  Mostly worn beer and booze.  It's just loud and rough in there, and they're blasting Gang of Four...YES.  YES!  It took days, and it might have even been accidental, but I found a slice of old New York.

The drinks were, well, they were weak.  And to be honest, they didn't taste good.  How anyone can make a drink taste bad is a lot of work, but what was I expecting in this place?  Had someone in there called themselves a "mixologist" I'd have left immediately.  Alas, the comedy show was delayed 30 minutes, and then delayed again, right to the point I was about to leave.  That's the moment I was told to go down to the basement: it's about to start.

That picture was my view from row 2.  I'm sitting in what appears to be re-purposed church pews.  They should have been tossed, but what's the difference?  I sit, and I sit...and, what, am I supposed to be here forever?  Is this a test?  Are all the "comedians" getting drunk?  High?  I had to break away.

On the train trip home, I slowly began to realize that what I wanted from NYC was what I got.  It was also all that was left: a taste.  A taste of those nutty times when life there was fast and cheap.  It's all that's left anymore, and riding that Coney Island train, my future fit perfectly with Joe Walsh's words, as The Warriors made it home:

But somewhere out on that horizon
Far away from the neon sky
I know there must be something better
I can't stay another night

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A storm brewing on the strip

Maybe it could rain water...or maybe it's just a love storm.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Good Fear

Of all the fear that the human psyche can handle, a lot of it is compartmentalized.  Do I fear the big one coming to tear down LA?  Of course, as much as I do Ol' Bess just up and disappearing when I'm ready to go somewhere.  There are greater fears, of course, but those are easily swatted down in usual methods.  "Yeah, but what are you gonna do?" and the moment dies.  "Well, I hope not." you say, and on to the next topic.

Then, ever rare...not the kind of thing you chase, but just comes up, is the good fear.  There's enough unknown out there to make one complacent, or even simply satisfied.  Being complacent isn't bad if you aren't harming anyone, and satisfaction is a good thing.  Trying major new things in a life, like a new job, can be such a thing.  We glide from one to the next and it all seems easy to everyone else, but it's a personal battle.  

Looking out for No. 1 in today's America is an unfortunate reality, and I'm not above it.  Watch that number grow, however, and it's hard not to up the energy.  We have wants, it's only natural.  Well, what if?  What if you did it?  What if you campaigned and strove, and dealed and there you are?  If you say what you mean, then isn't this the achieved goal?  It is.  Now...jump!

The good fear almost comes over like buyer's remorse.  Oh, things are fine.  Look at the bright side: there's plenty happening, and it's true.  But what of the call-up?  The sign that you're moving on up, a la George Jefferson, climbing the ladder of success rung by rung?  The patience to wait, hope against hope, "see what happens."  Anyone can do that with life, and in a lot of instances, that's the less-stress way to live.  You won't hear any argument from me.  So many of us here in Pacific Gold have to do it ourselves.  That's the thrill of the gold hunt: you find some.  You hope it isn't Fool's Gold.  You believe the bartender and don't expect him to pour you a Reno Gold (a kid's version of the cocktail for those reading at home).  

Sure, I'm afraid.  But it's good, because it's wonder.  A look to the future and saying "This."  Only one way to find out...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Faces in the Crowd at Super Bowl XIV

Lover of old TV that I am, I continually sit amazed when watching old sporting events.  I notice the difference in shots, in graphics, and lack of commercials of course.  But the thing that hits me the most are the crowd shots.  Today's fan, those who decide to attend live pro events, usually sit with 1 or 2 pieces of officially licensed merchandise on themselves...sometimes more given the weather.  Finding someone NOT doing so these days is a rarity.  Yet go back in time, and you'll see much the opposite.  The people at the games were fans: their mere attendance alone the proof.

Since the 1979 Los Angeles Rams are the official team of Pacific Gold, I wanted to look back at their big moment in the sun: Super Bowl XIV.  It's been 35 years, and with the next Super Bowl upon us, why not take that look back in time to the crowd?

 (Seriously, does it get any more gold?)

CBS covered the game, and stayed relatively nuts and bolts on the coverage.  Post-play shots before the instant replay were usually of a player.  Occasionally, a very wide crowd shot where you can't make out anyone or anything in particular.  But every now and then,,,

Check out the front row: suits!  In 1980, no less.  New Jersey native (and Rams coach) Ray Malavasi gets "good luck" from Clifton, NJ.  And: only 1 Bradshaw jersey.

The Rams just intercepted Bradshaw, but as you can see from the men on the bottom right, this was not to their liking.  Hefty man in the brown shirt wearing shades while in the shade...because there are deals to be made no matter the time of day.

He woke up in the morning.  He checked his hair: perfect.  I'll probably have a drink or two at the game, he thought.  Maybe I'll even be on TV.  That would be cool, he reasoned, as he opened his closet.  Doesn't seem like a solid color day.  Seems like horizontal stripes.  Brown will do.

Steeler fans were easier to identify in these shots: plenty of black and gold.  Their noise, that of celebrating a 1st down, seems to mildly annoy those in front of them.  That, or they giving the grimace of "will you listen to the shit we've had to put up with all game long?"

I neglected to mention the other fun curio of old TV: the progress of technology.  Almost looks like two old IBM mice for headphones.  I think you have to wear a winter hat when wearing those, too: they likely weigh 5 pounds.

We're well into the 3rd quarter when we finally get the first Andy Sidaris "babe" shot of the game.  They're already ahead of the Urban Cowboy trend.  

I wanted to say so much about the expressions in this photo but the biggest thing is the timing: this was a crowd shot taken during a play.  At first I chalked this up to bad TV, but on second thought, it's so rare to see the crowd's reactions while something is happening...and not during a replay - during live TV.  Sure, most are mugging for the camera, but the man in the tan jacket has no need for it.  What's happening?  Everyone stop and...

After Pittsburgh won the game, the traditional celebration was modest.  No confetti; all in the locker room.  And once CBS cameras were moving, people tried to sneak in the shot.  But who would be flippant enough to just shove a microphone into Bradshaw's face when Musburger is interviewing him on national TV?

I mean...who is that egocentric to make himself part of...

Oh right, Sid Hartman.  Just getting a 1 on 1 interview with another close, personal friend.

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.