Monday, March 28, 2011

Films That I Love #1-->ZARDOZ

John Boorman's wildly entertaining 1974 dystopian tale begins with this line, "The gun is good, the penis is evil...go forth and Kill!"

Zardoz is set in a future where a population of elites are immortal, and the rest of Humanity have been made into beasts of burden, within this outer world there is a "privileged" subset called the Exterminators who lord over the rest, and cull the population by murder. Sean Connery is one of the Exterminators, and once he gains entrance into the world of the immortals (the Vortex) he begins to unravel their dreary existence of conformity and sterilty (they have even give up reproducing) the fit and furry Connery naturally exudes testosterone, and he is perfect as the animalistic, sexy "monster" Zed (representing the "natural world", and it's vitality.) 

I saw this Movie in '74 when it came out, and have loved it since. Cable had it on the other night, and I was happy to note that I still find it a fine movie, and I am even more impressed by it's themes--as an atheist I certainly responded to it's thesis of religion (Zardoz is a giant flying stone God head) being used to manipulate  human-beings against their best interest, (Boorman was educated in Catholic School, BTW, a fact that I find not insignificant) not to mention the way Boorman portrayed a future society where no one dies (dreary, and limp, with little difference between genders--all women are slim and small busted, all men have been stripped of masculinity, it has also become a society where "crimes" (usually someone bucking conformity, & the pervasive groupthink) are punished harshly (at least by this societal standard) by aging, which was a timely theme in the '70's youthquake atmosphere, but remains just as significant today as youth remains fetishistized. 

Despite eternal youth, what the Immortals really desire is sweet, sweet death (which Zed is happy to provide), and I like what Boorman suggests about the enervating effects of a deathless eternal youth. Add to all this the secret of what "Zardoz" means---which turns out to be a camp hoot, and yes, I find the film deliciously amusing.

In the end, a natural life force, with it's implicit vitality giving parameters of birth and death (not to mention more traditional standards of gender), is restored by the once savage Zed who manages to give one of the former immortals a proper humping that results in a natural born child.  (Cue the pretentious drivel of a student critic, and quote Jean Jacques Rousseau?---nah!) 

Someone made a genius 10 min breakdown of the movie:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Top 10 Concerts

Of course I saw many memorable concerts in my gig going days, including odd, but enchanting experiences like seeing a purely by chance concert with the somewhat obscure '70's band Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks when my sister and I chanced upon a Country Fair on a trip through Topanga Canyon one day; Led Zeppelin, The Jam, Blondie, Patti Smith, etc., we saw many of the most significant bands of the era, But the gigs that remain encased in the amber of my memory are as follows, presented in approx chronological order:

1. David Bowie, The Long Beach Arena, March 10 '73

This concert was March '73, and was a continuation of the Ziggy Stardust tour begun in late '72. The gig was memorable because it was my first big concert, I was 17 at the time, and I wrote about it in my high school newspaper,

"the evening started with a fantastic light show...Bowie then came out wearing a gleaming (space age) outfit that tore away to reveal a slinky white pants suit, in this guise he belted out "Hang on to Yourself", and "Ziggy Stardust." ...Highlights of the evening include the ...eerie..."My Death" (the Jacques Brel tune) two stunning encore numbers, "Jean Genie" an outstanding rocker...and the hauntingly beautiful "Rock n Roll Suicide."

David Bowie is one of the great geniuses in popular music, IMO, and Bowie's distinguished 4 decade long catalog has only solidified my opinion of his genius.

2.. Iggy and the Stooges, Whiskey, '73

The Stooges played 5 nights at the Whiskey in June/73, (they also came back in Sept. for another 5 nights) on the strength of Raw Power, my sister and I went the first night, and suffice to say that I thought that the Stooges were incredible enough that I made sure that Joan and I went each night they played. I found this clip, sound only, for the 6/16/73 Whisky show,

3. The New York Dolls, Whiskey '73

Loud, sloppy, and fantastic--I loved the Dolls. The way they dressed knocked my socks off, sure Bowie had worn women's clothing, but had he ever worn 4" spike heeled drag queen sized pumps onstage like David Johansen? I loved the way that Syl posed right at the edge of the stage, and, the way David spoke at the beginning of a song, "When I say I'm in Love, you better believe I'm in love, L.U.V!" Some music you love from your teenage years can sound terribly dated decades later, but not The Dolls, if anything, I love their tunes even more now. A clip of the Dolls doing "Vietnamese Baby" at one of the Whiskey gigs has been found--my sister and I can be seen bobbing to the music on the left side of the clip in front of Syl,

4. Slade The Hollywood Palladium '74

Clearly Working class, and traditionally masculine despite the clownish glam outfits, Slade were certainly not elegant like Bowie, or Bryan Ferry, their music was aggressively heavy in a way that seemed out of step with the popular glam bands of the time, apparently Noddy Holder and Co. had been part of a late 60's skin head scene (I have no idea if this incarnation was Nationalistic or whatever, but there are photos of the boys with shaved heads circa 1969 out there) Slade was a natural precursor to punk, not to mention that they kicked ass in concert.

5. Roxy Music, The Hollywood Palladium '74

I loved Roxy Music although in a way they are an outlier band for me--I sort of hate some of the more effete glam bands from the era like Sparks for example. Anyway, Roxy Music were great, they were wearing Khaki military uniforms as I recall, all the kids from Rodney's were there too. Already wheezing, in a year or so, with Rodney's closed, and Bowie moving on to funk and other musical influences, the glam scene would breathe it's last...

6.. The Damned the Starwood April '77

The Damned were the first exposure that LA had to British Punk in the flesh, and this concert and their first album remain in my top favorite punk efforts ever! From the gig I remember Capt Sensible in the buff with all of his pink bits hanging out, and Jake Riviera ranting onstage that all Americans were too fat! Musically I thought that the band sounded tight, and since I had practically worn the grooves off of Damned Damned Damned I knew their tunes, so all and all the gig was extremely rewarding, and cemented my taste for punk.

7. The Weirdos, The Starwood '77

The Weirdos always struck me as a tight band with great songs, when I saw them Nicky had already joined as drummer. I wrote about those first gigs for "/ The Fanzine fo the Blank Generation";

"The Weirdos are simply the best thing to emerge from the dull LA scene since the Stooges lived and worked here...Visually The Weirdos play it straight New Wave replete with Johnny Rotten hairdos, & plastic and paint splattered clothes...the most distinct member of the group is...John Denny who is a study in dementia. Denny's performance can only be likened to a controlled nervous breakdown..."

8. The Ramones, The Whiskey, '77

I remember a hot sweaty night on the small dance floor in front of the stage when The Ramones played The Whiskey, the audience moved as one in wild enthusiasm. The band was tight, the tunes fast---as I later wrote to a pen pal, "The Ramones are the Coolest live."

9. Elvis Costello at Hollywood High, June, 1978

EC was already on his way to becoming a commercially successful rock artist, so even then this unlikely booking was a treat. As I recall my friend James, who had gone to Hollywood High, procured the tickets for the lot of us. Costello was skinny, and wearing a natty suit for the occasion. All of the Hollywood Punks were in attendance, so the gig was a big social scene. Costello and band sounded great of course, one of my strong memories is getting a drink in the Lobby, & chatting with James while "Pump it Up" throbbed in the background.

10. The Weirdos, Variety Arts Center, Los Angeles, 1988

The perfect book-end to my best concert going experiences--over a decade after first seeing the Weirdos I went to see them one more time. The thing with me is that, right or wrong, I prefer not to see bands once they start getting older, I tend to think that once bands get to the "reunion tour" stage that they really aren't the same band if you know what I mean. At any rate, we, I went with my friend Meredith, and my companion--we were all in our 30's when we went to this show, and so were the band--but the Weirdos still sounded great, and the tunes held up. Rhino 39 and The Dead Boys played this gig too, but weren't memorable to me. Rather hilariously, to me and my companion, is that as staid adults, we had elected to take in the concert from the balcony, but Meredith, rather bravely since the pit had long since become comprised of mostly males playing it rough, made straight for the mosh pit, and we didn't see her again until the end of the thing!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In My Beginning there was..Rodney's...More Tales of '70's Hollywood

In 1972 my sister Joan overhead a girl talking about Rodney's in class, that classmate was 15 year Lynn Kornsacher (sic?) who later become known as "Queenie", and along with Sabel Star and Lori Mattox, would be one of the original Rodney's groupies. We were as to why...nearly 40 years later, I struggle to understand since we had been up to then intensely interested in surfing, surf music, and, of course, surfers, LOL. I loved John Mayall, and the Allman Brothers, and in fact, along with a couple of High School pals, had been trying to put a band together that would play traditional Blues ala Muddy Waters with me doing my best imitation of Big Mama Thornton (it didn't help that all my friends wanted to do at "rehearsal" was chug Jack Daniels, but I digress). So now, I am like WTF? But...

I think that I always felt at odds with what was considered the "norm", I wasn't interested in typical High School life with its, to me, deadly dull football games, typical vapid teen-age speak, and the jockeying for position with other girls to score points with the BMOC. Surfing was an ironic sub-culture at my dusty San Fernando Valley High School which was an hour's drive away from any beach, but I gravitated toward the scene even though at that time, Surfers, almost all guys, didn't respect women, nor beyond the obvious--sex, were they interested in what a woman had to say--clearly a fatal flaw for a girl who even then was highly opinionated, not to mention that I didn't in the least resemble the prototypical surfer chick.

I do believe that I was typical of the kids that later became the Hollywood Punks, in that I was yearning for something to fill a void left by my High School experience, and like almost all the punks, I was a bright kid, but academically lazy, and unchallenged by the standardized curricula at my school. On the other hand, books & movies did shape my intellectual, and cultural, development, I loved all the British Kitchen Sink flicks that played on late night TV in LA, and then the wild 60's run of movies like "Morgan" (later, when my friend Meredith and I spotted David Warner late one night in a Hollywood 7-11 we dissolved into giggly fan girls so enamoured of that movie were we), Blow-up, Privilege, and the ultimate film for me, "IF..." and its subversive condemnation of the hypocritical English Public School system with it's rigid adherence to centuries old ideas of duty, honor, and what it defined as the "norm".

Always A heavy reader, I count Sylvia Plath, D.H. Lawrence, Anais Nin, F.Scott Fitzgerald, & Raymond Chandler as favorites. My taste in music was as varied as it was for most of my generation, The Beatles of course, and the whole of the British Invasion, later Cream, Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath, then The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Dick Dale--all the surf guys, most of whose music was used in the films like The Endless Summer, and Five Summer Stories, films that played on Friday nights in my San Fernando Valley High School's Gym. I also read all the music mags such as Creem, Circus, and my favorite, Rock Scene.

By 1973 I was getting tired of Surf music, and was veering more toward heavy metal, and the new bands I was reading about in Creem, etc. My formal intro into British Glam rock was seeing David Bowie's '73 Ziggy Stardust Tour when he played the Long Beach Arena--I won't lie, it freaked me out, I went dressed in black velvet with a smear of white face makeup, and a bit of stardust in my hair, but I wasn't really sure about this glitter stuff, Bowie and his Band looked as alien to me as the painted and be-feathered Native Americans must have looked to the first explorers who landed in North America--by the end of the concert I had wiped off the face make-up, and brushed off the stardust--at that moment I felt that I had fallen into the bizarro world of "Carnival of Souls" (another favorite late night flick.) My sister loved glam however, so much so that she, at 16 years old boarded a Grey-Hound bus bound for NYC, the center of the Universe for us at that time (influenced highly by watching Lance Loud and his beautiful friend, Kristian Hoffman, move there in "An American Family"--the PBS series that we watched religiously when it aired in 1973. From there we got into Warhol, his Factory people, and his superstars, the glamorous Females, and she-males who dazzled me--I have never lost interest in that scene even decades later.) Fortunately, NYC Port Authority? officers picked Joan up at the bus station, and shipped her back to CA toot suite. In any event I snapped out of my apprehension regarding Bowie soon enough, and wrote a rave review of the concert for the April '73 edition of my High School newspaper, The Source, not to mention chopping off my hair into a rooster 'do replete with cock's comb, and silver streaks, a move that clearly did not endear me to some of the pod people that I went to school with--I learned a couple of years later after graduating (also known as the happiest day in my life) out of that shit-hole that they privately called me, and my sister "The Monsters" & I would like to say a belated fuck-you to all of them.

One of the perks of living in LA in the early 70's was being able to go to tapings of the Rock shows on TV  including The Midnight Special, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, and In Concert--it was at these tapings that we were able to see T.Rex, & The New York Dolls for free (we also saw acts like the great James Brown, along with unknown quantities of hideous acts popular then including the ubiquitous hybrid metal-hill-billy band, Black Oak Arkansas who endlessly performed their one big hit, the annoying "Jim Dandy to the Rescue" both as an opening act for groups like Slade, and at these tapings) It was also at these tapings that we would run into the ultimate fan boy, the late Kevin Dubrow later lead singer of the Slade rip-off band, Quiet Riot--who, along with his friends, acted as moistly worshipful of their rock gods as any teenage girl with aspirations to groupiedom, hovering around the stage holding out hand-made T-Shirts for their band heroes to sign (but enough of that, I'm tempted to go on a rant about how bands treated their male fans, as opposed to their female fans who weren't groupies in those days, but I will refrain.) And of course, since I was collecting records, and reading all the mags, and fanzines too, we saw Iggy & the Stooges for 5 nights, and the New York Dolls, who I also believe played multiple nights, at the Whiskey in the Summer/Fall of '73.

Anyway, Despite hearing about how great Rodney's was, and being primed to make the scene by knowing at least some of the music, and perusing STAR magazine--we knew about the groupie thing--It was only after a few passes by the club with its crowds of sparkling denizens crowding the door, and sitting on the concrete barriers of the parking lot next door, that Joan and I finally mustered up the courage to actually go into Rodney's, but after we did we became hooked. To say that I was an innocent rube to the varieties of sexual orientation is an understatement, and I was agog at the boys dressed partially in female garb, & the boys who did not look like boys dressed entirely in female drag, not to mention the knowing little girls dressed in tiny lame shorts looking for the sort of "trouble" that still remained vague to me--as for what "gay" meant I was hardly aware, but would soon become enlightened.

We kept mostly to ourselves at first, but it wasn't until we met the outgoing Pearl Harbour, then called Lori Duple, in March of '74 at an assembly held at North Hollywood High, that our solitariness changed as she met people in the club and we overcame our shyness; soon we had a posse, Jamie, Meredith, Pearl, Joan and I traveled as a unit, we also had "satellite" members such Casey Duke, "Krazy" Keith Gouverneur, and Michael Sanchez. I'd never drank much or taken drugs, but that changed too--before going into Rodney's, we would park on a darkened residential street near the club and drink cans of "Green Death", Rainer Ale by its proper name, it smelt just like cat piss, but it got us blind drunk. One side effect of being a roving pack of thoroughly soused teenagers was that it fixed Rodney's eye firmly upon us, and he didn't like what he saw, but to his credit, he never 86'd us even when he thought for some reason that I had stolen records from the DJ booth, or when Jamie dropped a giant bottle of jug wine at the front door sending a flood of cheap wine, and glass which, in an unhappy coincidence, happened to wash over Rodney standing there in his fancy satin suit, my sister, upon hearing bystanders murmur in shock, "what is wrong with him", let loose with one of her dry bon mots, "Maybe he's having a seizure".

Beyond attracting the young and fabulous, some of whom, like regular Dennis Crosby, grandson of Bing, and various child Stars, Shaun Cassidy, Stefan Arngrim, among others, had tenuous ties with "Hollywood" (Los Angeles was then, and remains, "a company town"), Rodney's also had its share of peculiar denizens, including the ancient WW2 Vet (hell, the guy could have fought in WW1) who had decided to make Rodney's his neighborhood watering hole--on any given night he'd be enjoying a tipple at the bar--his white hair, and wizened features a stark contrast to the extreme youth of the typical patron. Then there was the guy everyone called "Icky" Danny who seemed really Old to us, but who was probably only around 30 or so, who came in to hit on the really young girls---ugh.

Michael Doll
Rodney's also attracted all sorts of completely out of the mainstream types, people who weren't slumming as weekend freak shows, but the real deal ya know, such as our friend Michael Doll, a tall teenager who worked as a she-male street walker to make ends meet, and who sometimes came to Rodney's in full drag (eventually we met a host of his drag queen friends, most of whom were habitu├ęs of the rough and tumble Drag bar, Daniel's off of Hollywood Blvd). Michael somehow managed to meet, and party with the New York Dolls when they played the Whiskey, and he took Pearl with him to their hotel, sadly, when Pearl died nearly a decade ago, she took her memories with her. At any rate, I credit Michael with inspiring my interest in vintage clothing (the selling of which eventually became my vocation) since he collected it, and artfully displayed it, in his tiny Hollywood Apartment--I started wearing vintage, died my hair blue black, began wearing the palest face make-up, and wore Revlon's Blackberry lipstick, a shade the color of arterial blood, this antique Vampire look became my signature, LOL.

That Michael had had a "challenging" childhood was a given--it was made even clearer to me when I met his Mother, a nurse, who had moved her son, daughter, and "nephew"--a small boy of around 7 or 8 (I now have reason to wonder who this kid really was), to Hollywood from Texas some years before. The mother seemed half-cracked to me at the time, but how nuts she was became much clearer a short time later when she murdered a pregnant friend, and cut out her unborn infant to claim as her own--Michael's mother was the notorious 1970's Los Angeles murderess, Norma Armistead, and her crime was the first child snatching by murder that most people had ever heard of--as an aside, Norma once threatened to kill me when I had a cat-fight with her 6 foot--even taller--in platforms, dress wearing, "baby boy." I still get shivers when I think about it.

Although there has been much talk about the famous rockers who visited Rodney's I never saw any really famous, as in commercially successful, musicians there that I recall at least, unless you count Bowie clone Jobriath, or those guys from "The Babys" (whose singer, John Waite went on to greater fame in the '80's with his single, "Missing You"), although god knows that there were legit rock gods aplenty for sighting in other locations nearby like the Hyatt House further west on Sunset where we spotted Jeff Beck going into the Lobby one night, and Mick Jagger hop out of a limo on another--the closest my friends and I got to any crazy British rockers was a ride in Led Zeppelin's tour bus (our friend Casey Duke somehow knew their Road Manager and scored us a ride down Sunset) We did know Iggy Pop, as I wrote in a previous blog, and I have enough colorful stories on him alone to wax nostalgic about rubbing elbows with the famous. One such occasion was the night of his notorious in-drag "performance" at Rodney's after which he needed a ride home along with his date, a rather tall and skinny drag queen--Iggy was wearing, as I recall it, a length of colorful fabric tied around his waist sarong style, and as the lot of us walked to my car, Iggy lagging due to being fucked up off his ass, not to mention smooching with the "bootie call" now and again, the "skirt" slipped revealing an impressively large, especially for such a small man, and very stiff unit--hoo-boy, if I hadn't felt like Alice down the rabbit hole before...

Down the street from Rodney's was our after-hours hang-out, a hip joint called "Denny's" (yep, that Denny's); the coffee shop would be full of young freaks after Rodney's closed, and it was at Denny's that another amusing Iggy story takes place. As my friend Meredith recalls, "Iggy (got) down on his knees in the middle of an aisle...blocking the progress of a long-suffering and very waspish old waitress named Louise while singing to her...wild thing, you make my dick sing." Oh Iggy, it is incredible that he survived the insanity of those years.

Come to think of it, I sometimes marvel at how any of us survived them; there was the time when, drunk as usual, I took a nasty fall during a party at Tom Ayres' (Rodney's partner in the Club) snug California Craftsman style house down the block from the club where a few of us had congregated after hours to hang out. I hit my head on the bath tub, and my sister, who had no driver's license, and barely knew how to drive,  drove me drunk, flailing, and bleeding profusely from the head to the UCLA Medical center where she unceremoniously rolled me out of the car at the emergency entrance and tore off (since I had repeatedly tried to leap from the car, with only my friend Jamie restraining me from doing so, Joan had had enough, and I don't blame her). The next morning, stitched up, shoeless, all in black, and blinking like a Vampire caught in the merciless California sun I attempted to hitch a ride back to Ayres house--I wasn't having much luck (who could blame the drivers whizzing by on Sunset only to see this dead white freak, barefoot and in all black, with a hugely bandaged head, with her thumb out?) At any rate, I was standing by a bus stop where numerous young Mexican House Maids were waiting to board the bus home to East LA after wiping the asses (figuratively speaking of course) of their tanned and toned Masters who lived in the jaw-droppingly huge Mansions in the area with roof-tops barely glimpsed in the forest of trees, and tall iron gates that surrounded them. A group of these women, none of whom spoke English, saw me, and pooled their change so that I could get on the bus, and for that I am eternally grateful--thank you ladies!

On another occasion, my friend Pearl, and another friend, Kat, a young runaway from Oklahoma working as a hooker, had hitched a ride from some guy who threatened to rape, and do other damage to them, the guy let Pearl go after Kat calmly told him that she "would take care of it." Still, Pearl came rushing into Rodney's screaming that Kat was about to be murdered and worse--to which the glittery Rodney's D.J, Chucky Starr calmly replied, "Oh well, just another Hollywood Story!" and went back to spinning Mudd, or whatever--hell yeah we were cynical already, but our brains must really been pickled to even consider hitch-hiking in Los Angeles during the period of spectacular, and brutal murders endemic in the 1970's--the culmination of which was the murder, by The Hillside Strangler, of Hollywood scenester, Jane King, whom I, and a couple of my friends, worked beside as extras in "Up In Smoke," a mere 3 years later.

To be truthful, nearly 40 years later, I tend to down play my Rodney's experiences so vivid are the memories of punk in my life, but meditating on the experience in preparation for this blog brings the importance of Rodney's to my cultural development, not to mention it's importance to the Los Angeles music scene, into sharp relief. It was also because of Rodney's that I was exposed to great music that I probably wouldn't have heard otherwise, and as a consequence, I saw many great bands live: Roxy Music, and Slade at the Hollywood Palladium, The Stooges and The Dolls at the Whiskey, David Bowie on both his Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs tours, The Sweet, Rod Stewart with The Faces before he became a hack willing to cash in on the Disco craze, and many more lost in the fog of my personal History. I know that I became an infinitely more open-minded because I made so many gay friends, so many unconventional friends, at Rodney's--I like to think that I became a kinder, and more open minded person precisely because I ended up rejecting the societal "norm", the Club, and the Hollywood experience helped me realize that "normal" is a subjective term used frequently to batter and shame those who are unique. Anyway, I wrote the following which was published as part of Rock Scene's "Rock Back" Column:
My memory takes me back to 1972 when named Rodney Bingenheimer opened his now famous English Disco. In those days we wore glitter to cover our acne..and  6 inch platforms to elevate our juvenile height. It was at Rodney's that we first rocked out to the electric vibrations of Sweet, Gary Glitter, Suzi Quatro, and the reigning King himself--David Bowie. It was at Rodney's that we popped our first Quaalude, and met our first popstar...It was at Rodney's where we, the generation of glitter babes, found a place where we belonged....Rodney's RIP"--Rock Scene, March 1976.