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Saturday, September 30, 2006


Weary of the seemingly endless rewrite that I'm working on for Tokyopop (the latest volume of GIRLS BRAVO), I hopped into the car and drove about Westport looking for a diversion. Eventually I ended up at the enormous Stop & Shop supermarket near the Fairfield border, and decided to pick up something to make for dinner.

The store in question is enormous, definitely the largest in town, handily combining a supermarket and a department store, and while aimlessly perusing the wares I wandered into the aisle that housed a plethora of cheap and crappy Halloween stuff such as bad wigs, plastic pitchforks and the like. It all looked unremarkable, but it did make me happy to think of the arrival of Halloween. Why, just yesterday while at the CVS pharmacy, I found a great and cheap toy of Charlie Brown that came with a cloth slip-on replica of his famous ghost costume, the one with dozens of eye holes, from "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," and that toy will soon adorn space on the barbecue joint's kitchen sill for the duration of the season.

While looking over the slim seasonal pickings my eyes riveted onto what at first looked like a replica of a "face-hugger" from the ALIEN movies, but upon closer examination was revealed to be a beer funnel, just like those found at collegiate keg parties nationwide, only with the funnel itself fashioned to look like a mandible-less human skull, while the almost three-foot long tube was made to simulate a dangling spinal column.

If the infamous cannibalistic necrophile and morbid craftsman Ed Gein had been invited to a frat party, I can imagine him showing up with just such a party-facilitating item. And think about it, you just know some sickass sumbitch is gonna use this thing to administer red wine enemas...

As previously mentioned, it was cheap — only $7.99 — and there was no way I was walking out without buying one. And with that purchase, my Halloween planning has begun in earnest!

For a few weeks I have contemplated just what I would go as this year, and settled on a classic monster. The usual faves such as Frankenstein, Dracula and such have been done to death, and I really wouldn't attempt them unless I could really bring something new or interesting to them. And forget about the Mummy; I like to party while in costume, and that outfit is one hell of a fire hazard, to say nothing of being a serious problem if you need to take a leak, so that one was right out. As much as I love werewolves, I decided against that one as well because I'd like to take at least three months to craft something spectacular, and until recently I just wasn't feeling it this year. But I'm back on track, and after mulling it over once more I have decided to do my own low rent take on the 1958 version of the Fly.

The Fly will be simple enough to achieve since the results of that famous teleportation fubar amount to an oversized fly head and a claw, so I came up with a basic design:

I'll have to get my hands on two pieces of foam, one about twice the size of my head, and the other large and long enough to cover my left hand and forearm. Using a reference shot of the character from the movie, I'll remain as cheesily faithful to its look as possible, however I'll tweak it a bit for comfort. My head piece will fit snugly over most of my skull, with the front portion ending just above my eyebrows. After hollowing out the head and carving it into the desired general shape, I'll spraypaint it a flat black and uses pipe cleaners or some other stiff-yet-wiggleable fibers to simulate that grody fly hair, and then I'll get one of those large, gold rubber balls like we all played with as children and cut the fucker in half, thereby providing the eyes. Those will be affixed with hot glue, and I'm still debating adding the feeding "proboscis" so that it comes out just above my nose. Once the fly helmet is completed I will blacken my face to match the paint job as closely as possible and obscure my features; hopefully an onlooker's gaze will be focused on the huge, gold eyes and not so much on my unconcealed glasses.

The claw will get the same paint and fiber attention, and I will fashion it into a form similar to a jai-alai glove so that my left hand will be concealed yet fully functional (a beer-holding claw will look great during photo-ops!). And once that's completed I'll top it off with a lab coat.

MAN, am I looking forward to Halloween!!!


Back in 1982 a buddy and I journeyed to Connecticut’s Wilton Cinema, the lone movie outpost on the wasteland that was then Route 7, on the recommendation of a friend who managed the place at the time. The theater was pretty much a characterless shithole that played mostly grindhouse attractions, never any of the big releases since those all ended up in my hometown of Westport, and as a result I rarely ventured to Wilton. This time, however, I was told by the manager that he was running one of the worst films ever released, a sword and sorcery train wreck of a picture — a genre that I love, both bad and good, and since the genre tends to be kind of cheesy in the first place I wasn’t expecting Kurosawa — and it would be leaving posthaste. Knowing better than to pass up a good thing, I grabbed my like-minded pal, Matt, and drove on over.

When we pulled up we were shocked to see the marquee bore titles for a double feature, namely WITHOUT A TRACE, and the movie Matt and I wanted see, SORCERESS; this was a weird turn of events because the circuit absolutely never ran double features, and I soon discovered that the pairing was thanks to the two movies being the biggest money losers that other theaters in the national circuit had ever seen, so since they weren’t making any cash elsewhere why not play them together during the East Coast bookings and cut down their run that much quicker? That may have been the district manager’s strategy, but I question the wisdom of that double bill because of the completely opposing genres in the match-up; WITHOUT A TRACE was a serious drama about child-kidnapping, and SORCERESS was a would-be CONAN THE BARBARIAN cash-in, two great tastes that go together about as well as Beluga caviar and Tom’s of Maine cherry-mint toothpaste.

Matt and I entered the theater, which was about half full, and found an assortment of drunks, juvenile delinquents, stoners and garden variety Fairfield County trash, clearly not the audience for WITHOUT A TRACE, but I guess they figured if they could get two flicks for the price of one, why the fuck not? So as the serious film drew to a grindingly dull conclusion the moviegoers availed themselves to whatever refreshments they brought with them, turning the floor into a minefield of discarded Budweiser bottles and converting the air into an atmosphere more appropriate for Reggae Sunsplash, if ya know what I mean…

Then SORCERESS began to unspool, and as soon as I saw the New World studio imprint I knew I was in for some good, cheesy fun. Well, maybe not good per se, but whatever. The other big clue was the film’s score; in a classic example of New World’s cheapskate tactics, rather than pay for a new soundtrack they just re-used the existing music from their not bad STAR WARS rip-off, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. But what I wasn’t prepared for at all was the incredibly impoverished look of the film, a movie that I knew was made recently, but the damned thing looked like one of the legion of tits-and-togas epics — a genre dubbed “peplum” after the short skirts worn by the Greeks in those oh-so-manly days gone by — unleashed upon the world by the Italians in the 1960’s in the wake of the unexpected international box office success of HERCULES (1957) starring Steve Reeves. Adding to the peplum feel was the fact that the movie was shot in Mexico and obviously — to say nothing of poorly — dubbed up the whiz-wang.

The movie opens with a scene of a mighty army of about seven guys in ridiculous bird helmets hunting down a fleeing woman, a lady who is revealed to be the wife of Traigon, an evil sorcerer who seeks to sacrifice his child to the presumably malevolent deity, Calgara. Exactly what this god is or stands for is never explained, and neither is what Traigon would get out of all this for killing his kid. Anyway, Traigon corners his wife and is shocked to find out she’s given birth to twins, a bit of a problem since the first born must be the sacrifice and mom ain’t saying which is which. The villain then attempts to get her to talk by having one of his bird-headed goons give her an impromptu hysterectomy on the forest floor with an object that resembles a three-bladed table leg/eagle’s claw.

No sooner does that atrocity get underway than a bolt of lightning crashes from the sky, striking and igniting a tree, and from out of nowhere comes Krona, a bearded dude who looks like Moses after hanging out rapping with the burning bush, and he hands out sped-up asswhuppings to Traigon and his men like Halloween candy. As Traigon expires, he informs us that this is only his first life and he will return again in a couple of decades, at which point he beams out in a majorly poor special defect. Krona then turns his attention to the disemboweled mother who entrusts the twins, both girls, to him as she croaks. Bemused by their gender, Krona nonetheless decrees that the girls will be warriors despite having pussies, gives them a psychic/physical link so that the two of them “shall be as one,” and conveniently grants them “all of the powers of sorcery and the fighting skills of the masters.” This gift is bestowed when the old geezer passes his hands over the infants, causing a haphazardly-animated feeble blue glow to suffuse the wee tykes. They are then given to a kindly agrarian couple of the type so often found in this kind of story and instructed to raise them as boys so no one will twig to the fact that one of them is the missing sacrificial lamb. That said, Krona fucks off to who knows where and the narrative jumps ahead by roughly twenty years.

By now we were about five minutes into the film, and I said to myself, “This is the movie that’s supposedly one of the worst ever released? Yeah, it’s inept, but was this worth the trip?” That question was spectacularly answered immediately after the thought entered my mind.

True to his word, Traigon rematerializes and immediately sets about kickstarting his sacrificial masterplan, screaming, “Bring me the two who are one!!!” as a previously unseen, uber-tanned princess type bares her titties for absolutely no reason and a guy in one of the saddest ape costumes ever committed to celluloid capers about like a loon. The bird dudes “huzzah” in unison while shaking their spears, and as that line about “the two who are one” is uttered the scene jump cuts — or is badly-edited — to a shot of the now grown “two who are one” (hereafter referred to as TTWAO) swimming buck nekkid in a secluded lake.

Lemme tell ya, THAT instantly got my attention, and I do not care what the story has set up, there is simply NO WAY IN HELL that TTWAO would ever believe they are boys. They’re played by Leigh and Lynette Harris, a pair of identical twin blonde cuties who graced PLAYBOY magazine with their simulated incesto/lesbo gimmick, and they could not be further away from looking even remotely male, even when fully clothed, if they tried. As is later revealed in some throwaway dialogue, they were raised with a sister, to say nothing of their adoptive mom, so they had to have seen both of them nude at some point in their lives, and even the most witless of simpletons would have figured out the obvious physical similarities. But, whatever; for all intents and purposes they’re supposed to be 100% convincing as young men.

As the two nekkidly frolic in the water, it becomes clear that they are being watched by less-than-savory eyes. The peeper turns out to be Pando, an almost unimaginably shoddy-looking satyr whose costume looks like the budget could only afford the horns, a panpipe, and the lower half of a tatty gorilla suit. Seriously, I’ve seen better outfits that were built and designed by drunks five minutes before a Halloween party.

As Pando approaches the river’s edge the twins catch sight of the “horn” dangling between his legs (which is not visible at any point in the entire film, thank the gods), and assuming that said implement is a weapon the bareassed babes storm the shore and beat the piss out of the poor, fake-looking bastard.

Buck nekkid ass-whuppin'! HOORAY!!!

After having his ass handed to him, Pando beats a hasty retreat, presumably to muster reinforcements, while the twins get dressed and hurry home only to discover the forces of Traigon (this time numbering around ten and lead by a goateed baddy named Krakanon) decimating their home. The soldiers rape and put the twins’ sister to the sword, shoot mom in the back with an arrow, and dad puts up futile resistance with what I guess are supposed to be a pair of “chuks” before getting pin cushioned with arrows. (Hey, don’t laugh: the nunchaku, made famous by the inimitable Bruce Lee, were originally used as grain flails by Asian farmers back in days until they realized they could be used to beat the living motherfuck out deserving douchebags.)

Suddenly, TTWAO arrive on the scene, turn blue in what I guess is a display of them “powering up” but exhibiting no skills of sorcery whatsoever, and beat the snot out of all comers, allowing a few to escape home to complain to Traigon.

As the twins mourn their dead, Pando returns, this time with Valdar the Viking in tow; Valdar is the living, breathing avatar of the comic strip character Hagar the Horrible, and the nano-second the guy showed up onscreen the entire audience laughed its ass off, and from that moment on no one left their seats for fear of missing anything else as utterly ludicrous.

I mean, look at these douchebags!!!

And as if his visual were not stupid enough, the Hagar-looking motherfucker is hilariously dubbed with a half-assed stentorian voice that renders such lines as “By Modin!” (Yeah, I know; it’s a script error, not mine because I’m down with the Aesir) and “By Yggdrasil! ‘Tis sorcery!” so funny that you will spew beer out of your nose.

The Hagar dude praises the “lads” fighting acumen, and after hearing about their grudge against Traigon agrees to join them on the path of vengeance, persuading them to build a pyre and burn their family’s corpses. (BTW, what the fuck kind of Viking is this douchebag if he can’t instantly spot TTWAO as hot chicks?)

"Lads." Yeah, right.

Then kung fu Moses shows up again, gives the “boys” some “who cares?” info regarding their vendetta, tells them that "When all seems lost, use the name: Vitaan!," and then hops onto the blazing pyre for no apparent reason, a move that drew a collective “Whaaa?!!?” from the soused audience. The Hagar dude then suggests that they find his pal Erlik to complete their “heroic” band, so they set off to the nearest city to locate the guy.

This so-called city would barely pass muster in a junior high school production of MAN OF LA MANCHA, and as our heroes make their way among the various stock types found in these tales we are finally introduced to the roguish Erlik, a smarmy bastard if ever there was one, played by an actor with a white guy Afro who is trying his damnedest to be Han Solo (and failing to a staggering degree). The second I laid eyes on this prick I wanted to cave his skull in with a frozen Butterball turkey, and I could feel that the whole audience was right there with yours truly.

After starting a pathetic fight in a tavern, Erlik runs into our heroes, and with the crew assembled the adventure proper finally begins, such as it is.

Once they’ve left the site of pathetic barroom violence, our mighty band of warriors retires to a squalid room so they can regroup and freshen up. But, unbeknownst to them, they have been watched and tailed by a topless hottie whose ass Erlik bit back at the local (see above), and she’s actually a spy for Traigon! As this skank listens at the door, the Hagar dude and Erlik converse about how Erlik’s actually a prince who’s taken to adventuring rather than face up to his royal duties — a bit of dialogue that runs by so quickly, you’ll miss it if you take the time to sneeze — but that narrative point comes to a screeching halt when TTWAO innocently disrobe. Now I have absolutely nothing against the brandishing of titties, but this scene is utterly gratuitous since there is no trace of anywhere for any of the characters to bathe, so the twins just whip out their own twins simply for the sake of a dairy display.

Anyway, this prompts the Hagar dude to squirm-inducingly attempt to explain to the “lads” exactly what the difference between male and female is — which leads to more confused unleashing of the sisters’ rib rockets — but when the Viking decides that the full explanation can wait until later, he and Erlik fuck off to the gods know where, leaving TTWAO alone to be lured away by the skanky spy.

Once in the clutches of Krakanon, TTWAO are subjected to a test of fire because "The god Agni will know the firstborn!" and it is soon determined which is which. Pleased as punch, Krakanon promises the superfluous twin to the guy in the pitiful ape suit for his own, er, "amusement" (picture that coupling...eeurgh), but at this point the guys show up and rescue TTWAO and they make like a baby and head out (into the forest, that is). However, a cadre of horny ape dudes shows up and lob primitive laughing gas bombs — yes, you read that right — at our heroes, making off with one of TTWAO and that hambone Erlik. I guess the ape dudes were hoping to get the right twin and just praying to get lucky about it because there is no identifying mark to tell them apart at this point, but I quibble.

So now Traigon has the firstborn and Erlik is deemed of no use, so Traigon pretends to release him (in order to keep his soon-to-be-sacrificed daughter happy) when in actuality he sentences the guy to be stripped naked and anally impaled on a ten foot wooden spike.


But before Erlik becomes a douchebag kebab, the ape man rummages through his personal effects and finds a cheesy-looking amulet. He presents it to the uber-tanned princess who recognizes it as the crest of the house of Armog, a fact that she brings to the attention of Traigon. Apparently, since Erlik is the prince of Armog (I'm not sure about the spelling on that, so forgive me) the sacrifice will be that much more powerful if the sacrificial twin is "consecrated with the seed of Armog," in other words osh-osh is just minutes away. Thus spared from anal agony, Erlik is cleaned up and dressed in a truly fey toga, fed some sort of intoxicant and presented to the equally cleaned up and drunk twin, and then the permed SOB takes the skin boat to Tuna Town.

Meanwhile in the woods, the Hagar dude, Pando and the other twin — distinguishable by wearing the same outfit she's had on for the whole film — try to figure out what to do next when suddenly the girl begins to complain about feeling "funny." As the Hagar dude expresses concern, she begins to writhe about in a clear state of sexual ecstasy as she experiences what her sister and Erlik are getting up to. This display shocks the hell out of the Hagar dude (and induces peals of laughter from the incredulous audience)and spurs the goat dude to try and hop on for a ride, but the Viking cuts that off before it can happen. Poor horny Pando then slinks off in search of a cold river, and the sister composes herself, only to once again immediately be overcome by her distant sister's osh-osh frenzy. Now I dunno about you, but if I were a twin I would NOT want to have such an intimate link with my sibling.

Finally the sacrifice is about to proceed, complete with the drugged Erlik wielding the dagger over the drugged and willing-to-be-sacrificed twin, and the Hagar dude and the other twin arrive to challenge Traigon once and for all. Traigon gestures magically, or some shit, and the ground beneath our two heroes gives way, plunging them into the stygian darkness below. They end up in a tomb full of ancient warriors and attempt to find their way back to the surface, but the dead barbarians re-animate with hostile intentions and proceed to menace the hapless heroes.

The horny ape dude, pissed off that he's now lost his superfluous twin twice, goes into the forest to find Pando and muster an army as a "fuck you" to Traigon, and when he does find the bargain basement satyr, the guy is surrounded by a trio of gossamer-clad nymphs, all doing some sort of would-be-erotic interpretive dance around his appreciative form. This image is guaranteed to elicit cries of "You have got to be kidding me!" from all viewers, so don't have any form of liquid refreshment in your mouth at this point or you will spew it forth like a breaching whale. Anyway, Pando is sufficiently outraged to the point of stamping his hooves in a petulant display, and he storms off into the night to rally a meager army.

So the score now stands thusly: Erlik and the firstborn are about to die, Traigon's about to achieve whatever he's gonna get from the sacrifice (we still don't know what), and the Hagar due and the other twin are about to be slain by a legion of the undead. Looks like shit's pretty thick, right? Suddenly the voice of Krona — aka kung fu Moses — reminds TTWAO, "When all seems lost, use the name: Vitaan!" TTWAO then blurt out "Vitaan!," which causes all sorts of crazy shit to happen.

At this point, we have reached the final fifteen minutes or so of the film, and all logic, sense and good taste are thrown out of the window in a display that nearly killed the audience thanks to us laughing so hard.

The drugged-up sacrifices come to their senses and start kicking ass, and the undead warriors halt their attack on the Hagar dude and the other twin and storm up from underground to join the good fight. Realizing that he's got nothing to lose, Traigon offers the uber-tanned princess as a sacrifice to Calgara, stabbing her and throwing her into a moat of fire. The evil god Calgara then shows up, presumably to in some way influence evil's chances of winning, and in a swirling nimbus of bad special effects we see this "god" for what it is, namely a giant Mexican woman's head, half-caked with oatmeal.

This gargantuan noggin then hovers in space, occasionally turning this way and that, while doing absolutely nothing other than spitting one or two balls of energy that cause random patches of dirt and weeds to pitifully explode.

And where, you may ask, is this Vitaan that TTWAO summoned? Well, another swirling mess of cheap opticals materializes, and from that psychedelic non-spectacle emerges one of the shoddiest foam rubber puppets that I have ever had the pleasure to behold.

I mean, what the fuck is this thing supposed to be? No explanation whatsoever is given, and it also hangs around in mid-air, snarling and awkwardly attempting to flap its wings.

Back in the trenches, our heroes are reunited and they watching amazement as the undead barbarians take the field. But amazement quickly turns to shock and disgust as the armed corpses take one look at the scantily-clad priestesses and decide to drop their weapons and rape the holy women. Once the heroes twig to what's on the minds of the revenants, the looks on their faces are priceless, with the Hagar dude providing the final word on the subject:

HAGAR DUDE: "It's been a thousand years...Y'know?"

Then the camera returns to the skies as Vitaan and Calgara snarl and grimace at one another, and their war of the gods amounts to Vitaan firing a bolt of lightning at Calgara, causing her to let out a scream and explode like a cranial Death star.

Vitaan then helpfully blasts open the castle gate with a lightning bolt and vanishes in another cosmic swirl, this time resembling nothing so much as a giant sky toilet in flush mode. Through the gates charges Pando, the ape dude, and a rag-tag army of perhaps twenty renaissance fair rejects, inexplicably supported by a few chickens and goats.

Erlik then confronts Krakanon and subdues him in an embarrassingly lackluster swordfight, but gets ambushed by Traigon. As the evil wizard is about to impale Erlik, two arrows penetrate Traigon's back, hurling him to the floor. We then see TTWAO brandishing freshly-fired bows, and they watch as their father does his cut-rate transporter vanishing act, reminding us that he still has one more life to go, foreshadowing a sequel that never happened.

Soon enough, the battle is over and the peasants and their farm animals rejoice. Erlik strolls out onto a balcony, the adoring TTWAO hanging on each arm, and the Hagar dude asks the permed asshole how he'll choose between the two of them. At that, Erlik delivers the films final line, one meant to be witty but instead leaving the audience ready to jump into the movie and kick his ass:

ERLIK: "You forget, Valdar...These two are one! Haw haw haw!!!"

Everybody laughs, just like at the end of a bad sitcom, and the credits roll.

As the lights came up, the audience sat there in stunned silence for a few seconds and then erupted with cheers and applause; this recounting of the experience in no way does justice to the lunacy of SORCERESS and just how much of a crowd-pleaser it truly is, and since it is inexplicably not out on DVD the only way to see it is to hope that your local Blockbuster still carries the VHS tape. It's become so hard to find that I occasionally buy used copies from eBay, just to make sure that I have several backup copies, bringing my personal tally up to five.

And why is it so odd that such a cinematic schlockfest is not available on DVD? Well, dear reader, it's odd because it was helmed by one Jack Hill, one of the greatest B-movie directors who ever lived and also the mastermind behind the exploitation classics COFFY and FOXY BROWN — both starring the one and only Pam Grier in all her ass-whuppin' and buck-nekkid-with-a-'70's-bush glory — as well as the laugh out loud insane SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, a bad movie to be reckoned with and one that I urge you to run out and rent immediately. So considering his track record, why is this movie credited to some “Brian Stuart?"

Apparently, legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman (head of New World, and the film's executive producer)withheld some of the promised budget (no surprise there) and had the final film recut, shearing off some twenty minutes of footage, so a frustrated Hill took his name off of the picture, turned his back on movie making and fucked off to an Indian ashram, leaving SORCERESS as his last film to date. But what a legacy to go out on!

Oh, and did I mention that there is no sorceress to be found in the entire film?

UPDATE-12/13/2015: SORCERESS recently came out on DVD and Blu-Ray in a gorgeous widescreen transfer that actually looks better than the print I saw in the theater thirty-two years ago. It's a must-have, folks! HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Much to my annual horror the Christmas TV ads have already begun, and it isn't even fucking October yet! Up first: a spot for the horrifyingly treacly Radio City Music Hall Cristmas Spectacular... AAAAAAAARGH!!! This is gonna be a loooooooong season...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


For many years I have avoided most sitcoms like the plague, simply because I feel that the form has pretty much reached a creative dead end and nearly all shows within the genre are distinguishable from one another only by name. Yes, there have been exceptions to my ban on sitcoms, most recently and notably SCRUBS and MY NAME IS EARL, but I have otherwise remained steadfast in my stance.

However, during my lengthy run of unemployment a few years back I found myself leaving the TV on for noise while I wrote, tweaked my resume, or cleaned my apartment, and as a result I encountered series that I would otherwise never have seen. Most of them were as disposable as I'd expect (BECKER and THE KING OF QUEENS fall into that category for me), but occasionally I was surprised by a great deal of wit occupying a show that was deceptively "cookie-cutter." I had never heard of YES, DEAR at all during its first four years on CBS — and judging by its spotty ratings history, neither had you — but now, thanks to syndication, I think I've seen every episode and still tune in for some of my favorite episodes. YES, DEAR appeals to me because it's had a number of genuinely hysterical episodes, and the characters are realistically quirky and neurotic enough for me to see bits of myself and several of my friends in them.

But the one sitcom that dominated the airwaves for almost a decade was one that I intentionally steered clear of because everyone I knew thought it was the funniest fucking thing ever aired, and when something achieves such a level of universal popularity I usually strike up an automatic hatred of it, sight unseen, since I usually find such things to be brainless and crafted to give the audience more of the same crap that it has subsisted on for years and grown to depend upon like a junkie and his next spike of horse. So my insta-prejudice kicked into high gear the second that EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND hit the airwaves, and I kept my disinterest going strong.

As the years went by and the RAYMOND megalith growed like Topsy, I would try to see what the big deal was but I always saw random snippets and what I saw did not appeal to me at all: Raymond came off as a henpecked pussy, his wife was an intolerable ultra-bitch (verging on the "hard C-word"), his kids were ciphers, his brother was a Frankensteinian crybaby, his dad was a boring misuse of one of my favorite actors (ever see Peter Boyle in JOE? He's like a serious Archie Bunker who's dangerously psychotic and scarier than hell), and his mother was an intrusive pain in the ass to a degree never seen on TV, a repellent factor that reminded me of my own well-meaning but aggravating mom writ large. None of this grabbed me, but then I left the TV on a few months ago and I finally caught a whole episode, and was charmed by the writing and generally excellent performances by the whole cast. Very reluctantly, I would catch the occasional episode, and came like the show quite a bit, but the episode I caught tonight has officially turned me into a fan.

The episode in question is from the show's sixth season (thanks to for the info) and is entitled "Marie's Sculpture." In a nutshell, Marie — Raymond's mother — joins a sculpture class and crafts an abstract piece. Well, abstract to her anyway, since everyone else stands mesmerized by it, either because they can't quite figure out why they are fascinated by it, or because they realize that it looks like a three-foot vulva, or labia minora if you prefer.

The second it was unveiled, I howled like a madman and chalked it up to my immature/dirty mind, but was then delighted to see that such was the intent of the writer. I won't say any more in case you get a chance to see this one for yourself, but it was really funny, surprisingly tasteful considering the setup, and actually got away with a pussy gag — several, actually — on CBS, the stodgiest of networks. Kudos to all involved, says I.

The only gag that comes close from a sitcom on a supposedly "family" network was a bit from ABC's GRACE UNDER FIRE with Brett Butler; Brett and her pal (the chick who played Cassiday Yates on STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE) attend a women's poetry open mic night, and this crunchy granola/sensible shoes type takes the stage. She breaks into a recitation that consists of bleating "Fish! Fish!," to which Brett observes, "Why do I feel like I'm in a feminine hygiene commercial?," as her pal cracks up. There was barely a titter out of the audience, and I couldn't believe that one made it past the censors onto the Disney-affiliated network.

Monday, September 25, 2006


While watching an episode of SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS on Nickelodeon I saw an ad for the latest in the legion of Barbie doll sets and almost snarfed out my orange juice over the hilarity of the commercial.

This latest ad was for Barbie and her dog, Tanner, a cute felt-covered pooch that Barbie feeds treats to. So far, so normal.

Then the ad switched to a closeup of the dog's ass, and when you push her tail she drops a brown payload.

Said payload can then be scooped up by Barbie and placed in a handy doody recepticle.

Now ever since I was a kid I thought the myriad outfits, cars, houses, spaceships (yes, there was an astronaut Barbie during the late-1960's) and whatnot were supposed to allow little girls to live out just about any fantasy scenario that they could think of. So does this latest addition to the line mean that little girls harbor dreams of cleaning up steaming piles of dogshit?

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Unretouched photo of my mom's dog-August, 2006

My main assignment during my house-sitting sabbatical is the care and feeding of my mom's dog, Mame. The dog is now nearly twelve years old and, being a chihuahua, has gotten worse with age, yapping constantly and generally being an ambulatory irritant.

When my mother first got Mame, she was feeling terribly lonely and figured that a dog would be a good companion. Not having the energy to deal with a big dog, she opted for a pedigreed chihuahua and sought out a breeder who operated a puppy farm upstate and shelled out a hefty sum for a tiny, housebroken pup. I was there when my mom picked Mame up, and I have to admit that she was cute as all get out, but what puppy isn't?

Upon getting the dog home, my mother steadfastly refused to train the dog in any way since the housebreaking had already been done, so what else was there to do, right? With that philosophy in place, so began a reign of diminutive canine tyrrany that continues unabated to this day.

If you know anything about canines or have ever had one in your household you know that as pack animals dogs need to understand who is the Alpha in your home's pack, and if you want any peace it sure as shit can't be them. Once she was old enough to realize that she could get away with murder, Mame became obnoxiously spoiled and for all intents and purposes trained my mother's behavior to such an extreme degree that the dog demands that my mother carry her all over the place rather than actually walk herself. That lead to the dog becoming the fattest asthma hound I have ever seen, and since she gets no excercise the only way to keep her within a healthy weight is to strictly ration her food, a move that only makes her even more vicious.

Yes, the cute little dog seen in the photo has a mouth full of sharp needle-teeth, and if anyone attempts to pet her or pick her up — unless she's known you for a long time, and even then it's kind of iffy — she'll go after the offending party like a buzzsaw on crack. She even pulls that behavior on my mother, who excuses it by saying, "Oh, she's sorry she did it," even as the fucking beast goes on snarling and attempting to remove a chunk from her arm.

All dogs will hang around the kitchen or dinner table in anticipation of something falling to the floor or a tasty morsel handed out by you, but if you want to discourage such behavior you have to start early in the relationship and stand firm in your position or else the dog will totally ignore you. One thing my mom does that drives me crazy is to sit there at the table and tell Mame that she must not beg, and that "No, there's nothing for you," and then hand-feed her items from her plate. Then she'll yell at the dog for having the temerity to keep begging. Talk about sending mixed messages...

During other times when I have been left to care for the hell-beast, she bristles at my refusal to take her shit and mopes about, refusing to eat and shitting and pissing all over the place as a form of protest. She gets over it after a few days, but it's distressing to see her so miserable and not eating, because even though she can be a pain in the ass I don't want to see her suffer.

So here I am, while my mom whoops it up in Hawaii, caring for this stroppy, spoiled brat, and thanks to her now arthritic legs she can't walk down stairs (up stairs is no problem), so I have to pick her up to take her outside to use her paper. To do this I have to don a pair of thick leather workman's gloves to thwart her deadly teeth, and once she's done her business she runs back upstairs, sits on her pillow and sulks. For the first couple of days this time around, she would try to fight me tooth and nail if I picked her up, but she very quickly realized that she was powerless against the gloves. Not one to let her displeasure go ignored, the next few times I picked her up she spitefully pissed all over me and any furniture she happened to be near at the time. Finally getting fed up with such treatment, all I could do was put down a garbage bag covered with paper on the kitchen floor tile and hope for the best. Thankfully, Mame is apparently tired of fighting too, and today I was blessed with properly used paper and no need to "suit up" for combat.

I just hope things stay calm for the remainder of my stay, but I know this dog very well and have reason to suspect that she may have more mischief up her sleeve...

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Yours truly-Westport, CT 1981. Can you believe I was parentally berated for being fat when this was taken?

One of the things that entertains and saddens me most about returning to Westport even for the briefest of times is just how much the place has changed since I first arrived here in 1972, just two weeks shy of my seventh birthday. I know, I know, "you can't go home again" and all that, but the slow, insidious metamorphosis that Westport has undergone is truly disheartening to witness.

My friend since junior high school, Walter, and I drove about the town on Thursday afternoon, a lovely day, and absolutely perfect for taking the guy on a tour of a town he hated and left long ago. Neither one of us ever fit into the town's mold of pod people in the making and consequently hold no love for the place, but since I occasionally drop in for a visit with mumsy I see what goes on. Walter, however, was unprepared for what he saw, deciding that somehow Westport has actually managed to get worse, becoming even more of a soulless, faceless "Stepford" than ever before. That statement put me into a contemplative frame of mind, and I mulled over a few things that are of no real importance and may come off as bitter, but what the hey? I have nothing better to do at the moment other than care for my mom's aged, vicious and incontinent chihuahua...

One of the more unfortunate results of the community expanding and clearing what remains of the area's wilderness to build horrible and ostentatious "McMansions" is the fact that the abundant local wildlife is forced into direct confrontation with man and the general populace actually has the nerve to be offended when the rightful non-human residents make themselves visible and wander about homeowners' properties in search of food. Hordes of Thanksgiving-style turkeys strut about like a feathered army (the people in my neighborhood embrace their visual absurdity and frequently feed them), deer traipse around and devour every plant that's not covered with chicken wire or sprayed with a chemical that simulates the scent of wildcat piss, groundhogs wobble hither and yon, and my mother even told me that she's seen a fox hanging around our back yard, all of which goes to prove that these critters have nowhere to go. What will become of them in the next ten to twenty years?

Stately Bunche Manor, 1972-1980

Walter and I drove past the house that my family moved into in 1972 and it still galls me that I no longer live there, thanks to the bad blood between my parents during their bitter divorce proceedings. The place was huge but not ostentatious in the style that prevails now, and if my mom and I could have stayed there I would have serious reservations about selling the place and never returning when she inevitably joins the Choir Invisible. I love the much more modest house that I grew up in from 1980 on, but when the time comes to deal with such depressing matters I will sell it, take the money and invest it in a home in a location that has yet to be determined (but definitely NOT in Connecticut) and never return to my despised home state for as long as I may draw breath.

Yet despite the proliferation of offensive housing, there remain a few spots that display the rustic charm that Connecticut can exude, such as this gorgeous stretch of land located right next to an office complex off of Nyala Farm Road. I have a great love for this location for a few reasons, chief among which is this view that brings "Christina's World" to mind.

Lastly, in an effort to curb the rampant speeding on the back streets, many speed-bumps have been added to the roads and I support that decision because for as long as I can remember there have been countless speeding/drunk driving-related deaths here, some of which claimed the lives of kids I knew while growing up, both those behind the wheel and innocents who happened to be on the road while other drunken assholes decided to drag race. The only down side to this new policy is the unfortunate choice of wording for the signage. I mean, when did they stop calling them speed-bumps?


Gumbo, cherished mainstay of Louisiana cuisine and one of the tastiest fucking dishes on the planet. As diverse as the people in the region that spawned it, there are literally dozens — if not hundreds — of ways to prepare a rich pot of gumbo and I have attempted at least seven different varieties only to arrive at my culinary gene-splicing of my favorite variations (chief of which is my mother’s brown roux specialty). Making a good batch of this sacred brew is an art form requiring patience, a knack for “measuring by intuition” and attention to both detail and the slowly simmering elixir, in other words, if you feel that you do not possess these traits, do not attempt this recipe and pass it on to someone who would feel more comfortable with it. If you’re gonna make gumbo, you’ve gotta do it right since gumbo cooking ain’t for the weak. Not scared off? Then let’s get badassed on the bayou!


SALT AND PEPPER (to taste)

Hail to the might and majesty of the roux!

The foundation of any good batch of the ‘Bo is a heartfelt roux. Roux is a mixture of flour and oil continually stirred over a medium hot flame until the mixture turns a chestnut brown; some prefer a lighter color for their roux but I find that the darker brown provides a headier flavor, but you can do it however you like. Blend the flour and oil slowly with a spatula, and I suggest adding salt and pepper (to taste) to the mix at this point. The roux is finished when it is somewhat pasty in thickness and has reached the shade of brown that floats your boat, but time-wise I usually stay at the stove and stir slowly for about a half-hour/forty-five minutes; this part of the procedure is a great time for functional meditation as you concentrate on the incredibly relaxing Zen of stirring. Also, depending on how much you need for your batch of gumbo, I suggest making a surplus of roux to save on the side. More on this shortly.

A surfeit of veggie goodness!

Next, chop up as much onion and celery as you may need and sauté in butter or oil until the veggies are somewhat soft. As mentioned previously regarding the roux, you may also want to prepare a surplus of the vegetables so that they can be combined with the surplus roux and frozen for when you may need it again; since making roux is a time-consuming activity you will pat yourself on the back for this time-saving bit of foresightedness when it is needed.

Behold the goodies!

Next, pour the veggies and roux into an eight-quart stock pot and mix thoroughly. Now pour in two quarts (or as much as you feel you may need; remember that much of my method is intuitive) of chicken broth and four Andouille sausages that have been cut into small, coin-shaped sections. NOTE: I recommend adding as much Andouille as possible since it adds a distinct flavor and spiciness to the mix, but keep in mind that the shit ain’t cheap; at my local supermarket they go for around six bucks per pound and that translates into two nine-inch sausages for about five bucks since a two sausage pack never quite equals a full pound. My average batch of gumbo requires at least four Andouille sausages, and in a pinch smoked sausage, Italian sausage and damn near any other sausage will do, but I’m snob for authenticity of flavor.

Bring this lovely mixture to a low boil and add the Dungeness crabs (cleaned of course, and frozen is perfectly fine — for my standard batch I go with three pounds, which comes to around twenty bucks) or Alaskan King Crab Legs, and then the chicken. I recommend wings, legs and thighs over breasts since breasts tend to fall apart into stringy tendrils during a long, slow simmer; it’s still edible, but it’s just nicer to have a piece of solid chicken to sink your teeth into while enjoying the meal. Anyway, pour in one quarter of a bottle of clam juice and we’re off to the races. Once that comes to a boil drop it down to a low simmer, stirring periodically for three hours, taking care not to break up the chicken too much. NOTE: sometimes the roux portion of the mixture may stick to the bottom of the pot so pay attention and don’t let it settle to the bottom for too long.

At the end of the three-hour simmer add at least a pound of fresh, cleaned shrimp to the pot, along with a few shakes of gumbo file; file (pronounced "fee-lay") is ground sassafras which is used to thicken soups and stews, so apply as much as you need for the desired thickness. Let this boil for another five minutes and remove from heat. That’s it. You have now made a pot of gumbo.

I recommend making this the day before you intend to serve it since, much like almost any dish, the gumbo finds its flavor overnight, just make sure that it has fully cooled before putting it in the fridge. And for those who want more of a kick to the flavor, feel free to add whatever kind of hot sauce you like later, though thanks to the Andouille you probably won’t need to.


Seriously, how do they obtain this stuff, and what does the processing plant look like?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


One of the many things that suck about being a descendant of a mostly close-mouthed family governed by an emotionally oppressive southern matriachy is the paucity of documented evidence about our ancestors and their stories, tales that have slipped through the cracks of history because "we didn't talk about those things." What little that I have been able to glean of the history of my mom's side of the family mostly goes back as far as the late 1880's/very early 1900's, much of that is piecemeal at best, and considering the horrors contained in much of it I can't honestly say I'm surprised by little of this lore being passed down. Fortunately photgraphy was around at the time, so in some cases I am able to attach a face to some snippet of my family's painful minutia.

My maternal grandmother gave up the ghost just after Thanksgiving in 1988 and when my mom traveled back to Alabama to settle her mother's estate, she returned with many artifacts of her mother's, including the one photograph known to exist of my great-grandfather, Liggon James. (see below)

I was already very much aware of the genetic stew that makes up my lineage, but I was taken aback when I saw the image of my great-grandfather. Here was a dude who looked like he could have been the guy they used as the model for the cartoon character found on the Pringle's New-Fangled Potato Chips container, in other words, he looked like a quaint "gay nineties" white guy. When I asked my mother about it, she related to me what little history about Liggon that she could recall (he died when she was very young).

As previously stated, my mom's family was basically a matriarchy, but that bastion of strong women was founded by my great-grandfather. You see, his mother was a freed slave whose name has been lost to time and when she was a young woman in the 1870's she worked in the home of a white employer as a housekeeper. According to what my mother was told, during her time there my great-great-grandmother was raped by her employer and Liggon was the unwanted result. When he was old enough to understand why he looked quite unlike the other kids, Liggon was told of how he came to be and from that point on he firmly defined himself as Black with a capital B, and when he was old enough to start a family he made sure that each of his many daughters got a college education so they would never have to endure what his mother went through.

Other than the story of his origin, the only remaining Liggon tale that my mom related to me was of how he held a well-paying job as a foreman of a construction company, and at the company's main office there was one of those stores where employees could buy all manner of goods for greatly reduced prices. When Liggon's very dark-skinned wife, Saveda, arrived one day to shop, one of the company executives took Liggon aside and said, "Look, we all love our nigger whores, but for Christ's sake, we don't bring 'em to work!" When Liggon informed the guy that this was no "nigger whore" but his wife, the executive flipped out because that was the first time he realized that my great-grandfather was not exactly a white man. Shortly thereafter, Liggon was drastically demoted in position, but he didn't give a shit because he had already saved a lot of money and therefore there was nothing that could really be done about it. Take THAT, you cracker pricks!!!

Monday, September 18, 2006


Whenever I come home to Connecticut, the first thing I do is set off in search of my favorite chil dogs. Once easily accessible at what used to be the Dairy Queen on the Post Road, these delicious morsels can now only be found on Connecticut Avenue in Norwalk, about ten minutes away at Dairy King, a joint that is exactly like the now defunct Dairy Queen, right down to the menu and logo.

These foot-long beauties are cooked up on a brazier, buns toasted, and topped with a sumptuous chili that is slightly spicier than that found at that bygone Dairy Queen, and when served up with a soda it's a filling feast of comfort food.

Arriving in Westport today, I dropped off my luggage and roared out into the night, soon arriving at Dairy King. Imagine my delight when I discovered that I'd arrived on a night when the chili dogs were on special for $1.45 apiece, down from their usual $2.59. BONUS!!!

It was such an irresistible deal that I went back for the same meal for the next three nights.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Recently I was asked by a friend what it is that I like in the women I find myself romantically involved with, since she was having a hard time putting a finger on my particular “type,” so I gave her a few cursory ideas but those answers really served to get me started thinking on the subject. I may have no “type,” but the women I find myself attracted to have certain traits that always get my attention.

Physically I am usually drawn to a voluptuous figure, be the lady short or tall; I’m a guy whose taste in such matters was formed by the pre-1980’s style of figure, namely women with some flesh on them. To be bluntly honest, I LOVE me some tits and ass and while I don’t look down on more athletic types, I like my ladies “built for comfort.” Too skinny looks unhealthier to me than zaftig, and when I see model-thin women my first instinct is to offer them a bowl or two of my own homemade comfort stew (I’ll post the recipe for the winter months; trust me, it’s delicious). Hey, I like to cook and I like to eat, so if you’re gonna be with me you’d better be prepared to put on a few! The smells that emanate from my kitchen are irresistible and you will definitely want to at least taste some of what’s cookin’, so just be forewarned. And yet I have dated a few willowy women, so go figure.

Along with the curves, I really love long hair, something that really completes a certain earth goddess feel, and I do tend to lean toward dark eyes. That may sound like I lean in a very narrow ethnic direction; that’s not the case, as I have dated all over the map and have no ethnic preference.

Looks are purely subjective, to say nothing of fleeting, so that’s low on my list of priorities. Hey, if you’re hot that’s great, but so-called storybook beauty is rare, so I prefer normal-looking women. I mean I’m no fucking prize, despite what the women who’ve actually told me that I’m hot have to say (Me? Hot? Ha! Who’da thunk?), so who am I to judge? I always thought I looked not unlike some crazed cartoon bear or toad as designed by Marten Toonder (look him up; the motherfucker could draw!).

Smart women really get me going, especially those whose brains share space with a sense of humor, the more absurd or ribald the better.

A strong personality with a certain fierce quality greatly appeals, and with that fierceness often comes a sense of comfort with her own sexuality, and that is a major turn on. Both of these qualities reveal a woman who is unafraid to be herself, and I believe in the whole attitude of “what you see is what you get;” it’s great to know what’s up going into a relationship, and there’s always a possibility for things to grow and evolve between both romantic participants, so there’s still room for surprises.

One potential stumbling block in compatibility is my love of all manner of kooky media, so I love it when I find a geek girl. These days there are many women out there who are proudly shameless about their fondness for animation, comic books, kung fu/horror/monster/gore/porn flicks, and I love you all, but the most difficult of my personal obsessions for all but one of the women I can think of to get past is my overriding love of truly bizarre music. Hey, I never said I was perfect…If you can enjoy — or at least tolerate — my interest in such sounds as the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, the Cramps, the Damned, Mercyful Fate, the Residents, and my beloved Devo, then you’re okay by me and have already earned one of my patented baby oil massages or a very long time with my face happily lapping betwixt your thighs. Your choice, and my pleasure.

And lastly, you’ve gotta love Halloween.

Monday, September 11, 2006


After my spiritual revivification at the Cramps show last week, I have launched into a near nonstop aural diet of the group’s albums, recordings that I have devoured both on vinyl and CD for over twenty-five years, and I never get sick of them. However, despite my fervent adoration of the Cramps, I am aware that their peculiar brand of lysergic swampbilly is a bit of an acquired taste for some listeners, so this post is here for the novice, a guide to over a dozen albums, and pointers on the best tunes that each has to offer. So let us begin, shall we?

GRAVEST HITS EP (Illegal, 1979)

Human Fly
The Way I Walk
Surfin’ Bird

Short and sweet, GRAVEST HITS is the perfect introduction to the band, with “Human Fly” immediately setting the edgy, psychotronic tone. The remainder of the album consists of covers, but the intent is highly infectious and there’s not a dud in the bunch. All of these tracks turn up again on subsequent releases — get used to some serious track redundancy from here on out — and this album has been paired with PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE on CD, so go straight for that if you want to pick up GRAVEST HITS. The only thing that saddens me about the CD being repackaged is that they put GRAVEST HITS on as the second half of the CD, thereby killing the discovery of a “new,” sinister sound. But that’s not to say that PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE lacks merit, but I’ll get to that later.


TV Set
Rock On The Moon
I Was A Teenage Werewolf
Sunglasses After Dark
The Mad Daddy
Mystery Plane
Zombie Dance
What’s Behind The Mask
I’m Cramped
Tear It Up
I Was A Teenage Werewolf (with false start)
Mystery Plane (previously unreleased original mix)
Twist And Shout (previously unreleased)
I’m Cramped (previously unreleased original mix)
The Mad Daddy (previously unreleased original mix)

This first full length LP gets off to a great start with the classic “TV Set,” a seriously rockin’ ditty about a guy who has dismembered his girlfriend and put her components to interesting uses around the house, but the rest of album is a bit of a mixed bag. The indisputable gems on this one include “I Was A Teenage Werewolf,” “Garbageman,” “The Mad Daddy,” “Mystery Plane,” “Zombie Dance,” and inspired covers of “Strychnine,” “Tear It Up,” and “Fever,” the last one being the only version of that oft-covered chestnut that I can listen to anymore. With the exception of “Twist And Shout” (an original composition by Lux and Ivy, not a cover of the Isley Brothers classic), the CD extras are nothing to write home about, so check them out only if you are the most rabid of diehards.


Green Fuz
Goo Goo Muck
Rockin’ Bones
Voodoo Idol
The Crusher
Don’t Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk
Can’t Find My Mind
Jungle Hop
The Natives Are Restless
Under The Wires
Beautiful Gardens
Green Door

Paired as the lead-in to GRAVEST HITS on CD, PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE is strong meat indeed, and it would take the band five years to come up with another full length work, let alone one as good as this. The two weakest tracks, “Voodoo Idol” and a forgettable cover of “Green Door,” can be skipped over and considered no great loss, but the rest of the album is a prime example of a band really finding its voice, most memorably in the bizarre “Don’t Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk,” and the last song I would ever want to hear if I’d been slipped some bad acid, “Beautiful Gardens.” A clear winner, and definitely one of the Cramps’ best efforts.

OFF THE BONE (Illegal, 1983)

Human Fly
The Way I Walk
Surfin’ Bird
Lonesome Town
Drug Train
Love Me
I Can’t Hardly Stand It
Goo Goo Muck
She Said
The Crusher
Save It
New Kind Of Kick
CD Extras:
Good Taste (live)
Uranium Rock

Eight of the tracks found here have been recycled from earlier releases, rendering this disc pretty much disposable if not for the inclusion of the exceptional “New Kind Of Kick,” and while the other new tunes are okay, this album is basically a ripoff.

SMELL OF FEMALE (Big Beat, 1983)

Thee Most Exalted Potentate Of Love
You Got Good Taste
Call Of The Wighat
Faster Pussycat
I Ain’t Nuthin’ But A Gorehound
Psychotic Reaction
CD Extras:
Beautiful Gardens (live)
She Said (live)
Surfin’ Dead

Too short for its own good on vinyl, and extended with two more live tracks and a single recorded for the film RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, this is a fun live set recorded at NYC’s legendary Peppermint Lounge, former home of Joey Dee and the Starlighters, the guys who gave the world “The Peppermint Twist” back in the early 1960’s. The sound is great, and the audience enthusiasm is clearly present, but the energy found at a live Cramps performance is oddly absent. Such, however, is not the case on the mind-boggling live rendition of “Tear It Up” found in the film URGH! A MUSIC WAR, which exists on the double-LP soundtrack, and the hard to find CD release of the same. It’s worth tracking down not just for the Cramps; the album features fantastic live cuts by Devo, the Go-Go’s, Wall of Voodoo, and many other bands just before they scored big league success.


New Kind Of Kick
Love Me
I Can’t Hardly Stand It
She Said
Goo Goo Muck (single mix)
Save It
Human Fly
Drug Train
TV Set
Uranium Rock

Yet another festival of repackaging, this is at least more consistent in rockin’ content than OFF THE BONE, and works well as a party album (if you can get away with putting this kind of stuff on a party, that is).

A DATE WITH ELVIS (Big Beat, 1986)

How Far Can Too Far Go?
The Hot Pearl Snatch
People Ain’t No Good
What’s Inside A Girl?
Can Your Pussy Do The Dog?
Cornfed Dames
(Hot Pool Of ) Womanneed
Aloha From Hell
It’s Just That Song

Hands down, this one gets my vote as The Cramps’ finest hour. Flagrantly raunchy and sex obsessed, this is a mid-Eighties distillation of exactly what scared the shit out of parents in the Fifties when “race music” first reared its ugly head and just might corrupt Biff and Princess. Taking a break from their more psychotronic and creepy leanings, and opening appropriately by asking the musical question “How Far Can Too Far Go?,” the album goes on to answer that query in a balls out, knock down, drag out, and frequently hilarious tour de force that stood little chance of getting any commercial airplay. Firing on all cylinders, everything clicks perfectly this time around; the lyrics, Lux’s rockabilly hiccup delivery, Ivy putting her all into the guitar work in a way that only a woman who’s in on the smutty joke could, thereby rendering it that much dirtier (and better), all of which is served up with tongue firmly in cheek. There are those who champion PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE for its early purity, but in my opinion if you choose to buy only one Cramps album, I say go with this one. You will NOT be disappointed.


The Hot Pearl Snatch
People Ain’t No Good
What’s Inside A Girl?
Cornfed Dames
Sunglasses After dark
Heartbreak Hotel
Do The Clam
Aloha From Hell
Can Your Pussy Do The Dog?
CD Extras:
Lonesome Town

Adding three tracks to supplement the LP material, this recording from Down Under is by far the better of the two Cramps live albums. Mostly featuring songs from A DATE WITH ELVIS (so you can’t go wrong), this is a lot of fun and definitely a keeper.

STAY SICK! (Enigma, 1990)

Bop Pills
God Damn Rock ‘N’ Roll
Bikini Girls With Machine Guns
All Women Are Bad
The Creature From The Black Leather Lagoon
Shortnin’ Bread
Daisys Up Your Butterfly
Everything Goes
Journey To The Centre Of A Girl
Mama Oo Pow Pow
Saddle Up A Buzz Buzz
Muleskinner Blues
Her Love Rubbed Off
Her Love Rubbed Off (live)
Bikini Girls With Machine Guns (live)

Sounding slicker than ever (and for this band I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing), STAY SICK! is not without its moments — the highlights being “God Damn Rock ‘N’ Roll,” “Bikini Girls With Machine Guns,” “All Women Are Bad,” and “The Creature From The Black Leather Lagoon” — but the bulk of this release is simply mediocre. Apparently, A DATE WITH ELVIS was a tough act to follow. Oh, and try to track down the 12-inch single of “Bikini Girls With Machine Guns” for the superb and frameable movie poster-sized foldout of a howling Poison Ivy as one of the title characters.

LOOK MOM NO HEAD! (Vengeance, 1991)

Dames, Booze, Chains And Boots
Two Headed Sex Change
Blow Up Your Mind
Hardworkin' Man
Miniskirt Blues
Alligator Stomp
I Wanna Get In Your Pants
Bend Over, I'll Drive
Don't Get Funny With Me
Eyeball In My Martini
Hipsville 29 B.C.
The Strangeness In Me
Wilder Wilder Faster Faster
Jelly Roll Rock

Taking the slickness factor up a few notches, the band experiments here with a “harder" sound and a beat that hits you in the face like a slightly wet leather glove wielded by a dominatrix suffering from raging PMS. However, while quite listenable, this album is simply a place-filler until the next release.

FLAMEJOB (The Medicine Label, 1994)

Mean Machine
Ultra Twist
Let’s Get F*cked Up
Nest Of The Cuckoo Bird
I’m Customized
Sado County Auto Show
Naked Girl Falling Down The Stairs
How Come You Do Me?
Inside Out And Upside Down (With You)
Trapped Love
Swing The Big Eyed Rabbit
Strange Love
Blues Blues Blues
Route 66 (Get Your Kicks On)

Slightly better than the previous disc, FLAMEJOB tones down the overproduction and returns to the crunchy tones that worked for them in the first place, but by this point it’s pretty plain to see that the band continues to tread water. Sure there are highlights like the excellent “Sado County Auto Show,” and “Naked Girl Falling Down The Stairs” (a strange tribute to Marcel Duchamps), but it’s still just more of the same.


Cramp Stomp
God Monster
It Thing Hard-On
Like a Bad Girl Should
Sheena's in a Goth Gang
Queen of Pain
Monkey With Your Tail
Devil Behind That Bush
Super Goo
Hypno Sex Ray
Burn She-Devil, Burn
Wet Nightmare
Badass Bug
Haulass Hyena
Confessions of a Psycho Cat
No Club Lone Wolf
I Walked All Night
Peter Gunn

Bouncing back from the previous album, BIG BEAT delivers a lot more than expected, with much of the album rockin’ out hard. “God Monster,” “Like A Bad Girl Should,” “Devil Behind That Bush,” and especially “Haulass Hyena” make this one worth checking out. Not a return to glories past, but a decent listen.

FIENDS OF DOPE ISLAND (Vengeance, 2003)

Big Black Witchcraft Rock
Papa Satan Sang Louie
Hang up
Dr. F**ker M.D. (Musical Deviant)
Fissure Of Rolando
Elvis F**king Christ
Owee Baby
Color Me Black
Mojo Man From Mars
She's Got Balls
Dopefiend Boogie
One Way Ticket

Considering how long in the tooth they are, I’d place a solid bet on this turning out to be the Cramps’ swan song, and as such it’s a surprisingly solid coda. Still romping through familiar territory, the Cramps perform here like grandpa with a fresh refill on his Viagra prescription, stirring life back into a once-vital rock ‘n’ roll Johnson and embarking on one last trip to the whore house; this one plays like the consistently-conceived whole that it is, making it the first release since A DATE WITH ELVIS that can be listened to without skipping any of the tracks. It’s all pretty good, but I have to give special props to “Big Black Witchcraft Rock,” and the charmingly offensive/ridiculous “Elvis F**king Christ.”

HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (Vengeance, 2004)

Quick Joey Small
Lux's Blues (Instrumental)
Love Me
Sunglasses After Dark
Subwire Desire
TV Set
Sunglasses After Dark
I Was a Teenage Werewolf
Can't Hardly Stand It
Sweet Woman Blues
Rumble Blues (#)
Rumble Blues (False Start)
Rumble Blues
Rumble Blues
Lonesome Town
Five Years Ahead of My Time (Demo Version)
Call of the Wighat (Demo Version)
Hanky Panky (Demo Version)
Journey to the Center of a Girl
Jackyard Backoff
Everything Goes
All Women Are Bad (Demo Version)
(Untitled Hidden Track)
Don't Eat Stuff Off the Sidewalk (Live)
I Was a Teenage Werewolf (Live)
Sunglasses After Dark (Live)
Jungle Hop (Live)
Domino (Live)
Love Me (Live)
Strychnine (Live)
TV Set (Live)
I'm Cramped (Live)
Way I Walk (Live)
Love Me (Live)
Domino (Live)
Human Fly (Live)
I Was a Teenage Werewolf (Live)
Sunglasses After Dark (Live)
Can't Hardly Stand It (Live)
Uranium Rock (Live)
What's Behind the Mask (Live)
Baby Blue Rock (Live)
Subwire Desire (Live)
I'm Cramped (Live)
TV Set (Live)

Definitely lending credence to my theory that their studio days are most likely over, this two-disc outing is a massive compilation of rare tracks, demos, live stuff, and just about anything else that could be exhumed, and is recommended for hardcore fans only, and perhaps not even then. At this point in their career a “best of” collection would seem to be in order, but having already repackaged much of their early output far too many times to get away with it yet again, a rummage sale of an album such as this may have been the only viable option. Of wildly varying quality and questionable necessity, the only saving grace of this album is an indispensable book chronicling the band’s history as told by Lux and Ivy themselves.

So there you have it, an unbiased-as-possible look at one band’s discography from a fan who has proven to be as diehard as the group itself, so take my recommendations if you feel so inclined. If not, then crawl face down into the nearest swamp and die, making sure your ass is above water so a rockabilly zombie can drop by for a cold one.