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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

40th Anniversary Edition: ELVIS PRESLEY IS STILL DEAD

Surprisingly, not a scene from a special episode of ACCORDING TO JIM.

It's the fortieth anniversary of the passing of the King, and I remember that day in 1977 like it was yesterday.

I had just barely turned twelve and was quite immersed in the history and music of rock 'n' roll, and although I had listened to a lot of Elvis Presley I just didn't get what the big deal was. I'd seen the footage of his appearances on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW, suffered through a few of his (mostly) wretched flicks thanks to THE 4:30 MOVIE, 

Elvis, about to molest a hand puppet in G.I. BLUES (1960).

heard the mothers of some of my friends describe how crazy and "naughty" he made them feel when they were teens, and witnessed the general public mention him with a reverence usually reserved for the Pope or some shit.

The "lost" Elvis movie, NUDE HAWAII (1961)

This across-the-board worship didn't sit well with me at all since I considered Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis to each be far superior in terms of both musical output and sheer showmanship — to say nothing of being balls-out crazy in the case of the latter two — and I scoffed at Elvis' Las Vegas career, a period described so eloquently in the film HEARTBREAK HOTEL (1988) as him "kissing the ass he used to kick," so I simply had no use for an icon that I felt was an overrated, bloated has-been in a Captain Marvel Jr. suit.

Think I'm kidding? Google Elvis Presley and Captain Marvel Jr. and see what you discover!

On the day Elvis died you would have thought the world had come to an end. The news was crammed with endless footage of beer-gutted, toothless trailer bunnies, their beehives practically touching the sky, bawling at the entrance to Graceland like they'd just seen their most beloved child shot through the head by a nude-from-the-waist-down Ronald McDonald with a bloody penis. Again, I just did not get it. This was the summer of 1977, the summer of STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, a golden era twenty years after the heyday of the now-deceased hillbilly whose famous sneer sometimes made him look like a stroke victim. His music was now obsolete, dethroned by disco and the anti-monarchy vitriol of the Sex Pistols and things could only get better, right?

The Sex Pistols, aka Rock 'n' Roll Phase 2?

Well, all of that just goes to show you how little I knew in my twelve-year-old arrogance. The STAR WARS series would eventually turn to utter horseshit, the Sex Pistols fizzled out after one album — two, if you count the soundtrack to THE GREAT ROCK 'N' ROLL SWINDLE — and disco, which started out annoyingly enough, would collapse under its own weight and played-out repetition (to say nothing of all that cocaine), and not long after that MTV would start the countdown to the death of not only rock 'n' roll, but pop music in general.

MTV: the future is now, and it sucks ass.

It wasn't until my college years that I reevaluated my opinion of Elvis and finally got why he was culturally important. For better or worse, the guy brought black music to the masses, had a look and a style that were totally unlike anything that white America was ready for at the time — or maybe it was ready and needed the boy from Tupelo to kick down the front door — he could sing his ass off, and he irritated the shit out of parents everywhere while sending their innocent young daughters into fits of panty-drenching ecstasy, all of which is, as we now know, the very definition of what a rock star is supposed to do. Elvis Presley invented that shit. Let us review:

Sure, Chuck Berry was a born guitar-slinger who hauled underage white girls across state lines in order to violate the Mann Act.

Chuck Berry, about to duckwalk your little angel over to the Motel 6.

You're goddamned right Jerry Lee Lewis performed as if someone had hooked a high voltage power cable up his asshole just before he took a break to fuck his thirteen-year-old cousin.

Is that the Mummy? Holy fuck! IT'S JERRY LEE LEWIS!!!

Yeah, Little Richard looked like the first contact ambassador from the Planet of the Flaming Hairdressers and shrieked like a Capuchin monkey on a fistful of Stud City animal stimulants.

"Tutti Fruity" indeed.

And not one of them would have made it onto the popular airwaves if Elvis hadn't blazed a trail of "unwholesome, race music filth" before them, and for that I could haul his mouldering corpse from the cold, cold earth and kiss him full upon his maggot-drooling lips.

The King relaxes between takes on the set of the stag reel masterpiece HOUND DOG HUMP (1958).

And as I got older I also found out about just what a twisted freak Elvis was in real life; all the creepy shit about his mother and her bizarre nickname of "Satnin," how he supposedly wouldn't fuck Priscilla anymore after she'd given birth to Lisa-Marie because her parts were now associated with motherhood (thereby driving her into the arms of Elvis' karate instructor), the escalating madness brought on by unimaginable excesses and prescription drug addiction, the deep-fried peanut butter and bacon and banana sandwiches, and all sorts of bizarro good ol' boy shit that the tabloid media still mines and we still devour, and probably always will. Plus, don't forget the religious-cult-like proliferation of Elvis impersonators and their oddball ilk, some of whom are actually legally empowered to perform marriage ceremonies, perhaps the ultimate white trash/kitsch statement.

But the crowning moment of Elvis lunacy can only be the time when the King, allegedly doped-up out of his mind on one of Dr. Nick's pharmaceutical cocktails, barged into the White House, presented President Richard M. Nixon with a gun in a beautiful wooden collector's case, congratulated him on what a great job he was doing running the country, and asked to be appointed as an honest to Christ agent of the D.E.A., an event which, thank God, got photographed for posterity.

I swear on my mother's eyes that I didn't cobble this together with Photoshop. Tricky Dick meets Captain Marvel Jr., for fuck's sake! I mean, you just can't make this kind of shit up. 

So I salute you, Elvis Aron Presley. King of Rock 'n' Roll, karate black belt, master of every field of human endeavour — if you believe his movies, anyway — and total maniac. I will remember you this evening when I get home and spin the bootleg compilation ELVIS' GREATEST SHIT,

an incredible compendium of the King's all-time worst efforts, including "Song of the Shrimp," "There's No Room To Rhumba In A Sports Car," "Dominic the Impotent Bull," and his incredible rendition of "Old MacDonald Had A Farm," in which Elvis outlines how the animals on the farm had better stay in line or else he'll eat them in a variety of ways. I may also break out Turkish Elvis impersonator Emil Nargi's cover of "It's Now Or Never,"

but I'd really like to get my hands on this gem, perhaps the perfect album to play on this day of days:

Sadly, I don't have THE ELVIS PRESLEY SEANCE, so I may pop over to the local bodega and kick down a couple of shots in Elvis' honor.

THE KING IS DEAD! LONG LIVE THE KING!!!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

AS DALTON SO WISELY SAID, "BE NICE."


The really good Popeye's on Flatbush Avenue.

Since I knew that this past Tuesday was going to mean me spending hours at Mount Sinai hospital waiting for a late-in-the-day dermatology checkup — if they book you in anytime after 2pm, expect a looooooong wait — I treated myself to lunch at the good Popeye's on Flatbush Avenue. 

The counter girl who served me was a young beauty with deep ebony skin, a very pretty face, and stunningly beautiful eyes that stopped me in my tracks. She looked like she'd had a miserable day, so before I ordered I said to her "Listen. I'm old enough to be your dad, so this is not me hitting on you. I just have to tell you that your eyes are beautiful!" She lit up at that, smiled and thanked me, and then took my order, grinning from ear to ear all the while. When she told me how much my order was I didn't stop to think about it and just paid her. When I sat down I realized that my favorite Popeye's meal — five mild wings with mashed potatoes and gravy, a biscuit, and a large Dr. Pepper — always comes in at close to fifteen bucks, and the counter girl instead charged me for a 2-piece combo, thus saving me close to five bucks. 

Proof of kindness in the form of a receipt.

Lesson to be learned from this: ALWAYS BE NICE TO YOUR CASHIER!!!

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

All-Time Favorite Movies: A PATCH OF BLUE (1965)

 Home is where the heart is...NOT.

In an effort to take my mind off of my current medical woes, I'm going to start posting capsule looks at my favorite movies of all time, in no particular order. Hopefully, you will find some items that interest you enough to check them out. 

Today we start with A PATCH OF BLUE (1965), a sweet but jarring and tragic tale of the friendship between Sidney Poitier, in yet another of his "perfect negro" roles, and Elizabeth Hartman as the blind, isolated, and abused daughter of aging whore Shelley Winters. (Winters won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this performance and deserved every ounce of it.) It's Hartman's journey from an abused adolescent to blossoming womanhood as her friend (Poitier) teaches her how to be come self-sufficient in the sighted world during daily visits to the local park, a world her horrible mother has intentionally kept her unprepared for. As the pair become close, the young woman develops deep romantic feelings for her friend and intends to act on them, but he kindly keeps her at bay due to her age and innocence. 

Life lessons in the park.

But as the narrative progresses, he and the audience learn just how unspeakably horrible the young woman's life was until she met him, a tale involving her witnessing her mother's work as a low-rent whore in their apartment, her being blinded by acid thrown at her father during a vicious spat between her parents, and getting raped by one of her mother's customers while her mother had stepped out for some reason, a scene made all the more terrifying because we experience it from the girl's blind and uncomprehending point of view. Seeing her friend as a way out of her hellish life with her mother, she tries to convince him to take her in as his willing lover, which she says is alright because she's "already been done over." She relates all of this in a matter-of-fact way that communicates that she has accepted such violence as just the way life is, so her relationship with her friend/desired lover is something she never considered as possible. (The appalled look on Poitier's face after her recounting of her sexual assault is like being hit in the face with a hammer.) 

The film's sole decent man holds in his horror and disgust as our blinded and abused heroine nonchalantly recounts being sexually assaulted by one of her mother's vile clients.

And things are further complicated when the evil prostitute mother gets wind of her daughter's friendship with a black man who intends to honorably save the girl and enroll her in a school for the blind, but mom thinks his plans are more lecherous, which does not sit well with her nigger-hatin' attitudes. And worst of all, the mother plans to retire from hooking and open her own brothel, pressing her innocent blind daughter into unwilling service as her first deployed whore. It's a gripping study of world-class family dysfunction and a touching tale of a damaged young girl blossoming to womanhood under the most adverse conditions possible. A hardcore tear-jearker if ever there was one, and hands down my favorite drama from the 1960's, HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.
 Poster from the original theatrical release.

Friday, August 04, 2017

"UMGAWA, BRO!"

NOTE: This story was originally posted to my Facebook wall three years ago but I somehow neglected to run it here, where it truly belongs.

While waiting for a bus on 7th Avenue a little over an hour ago, a sixty-something white woman stared at me for a while with a look of admiration on her face, eventually wandered over, looked me square in the eye and said, "Nice dashiki, bro!"

Need I tell you that she lost me at "bro?"

I thanked her for her compliment and hoped she would go away but no such luck. She instead got closer and began going on and on about how African colors were so beautiful and how Africans were so smart for knowing what colors go well with their coloring. She then asked me, "The dashiki comes from NIgeria, yes?" I wear dashikis purely because they are comfortable and I give less than two squirts of rat's piss about their point of origin, so I politely told her that I had no idea. She then began to lecture me on how I should look it up and become familiar with "my culture," which led me to stop her right there and tell her that my culture is American, thanks to me being born and raised here. ( All done politely because, though she was exceedingly presumptuous and condescending, she was clearly being sincere and meant no offense.) I also explained that my ethnic makeup is a genetic stew of four distinct ethnic varieties from five points of origin on three continents and two islands, and that I had no real interest in Africa. (Tell the truth, American black people, do you really give a tin shit about "the Motherland?" We are NOT Africans. We are Americans, goddammit, and actual Africans will be the first to let you now that in no uncertain terms. Trust me on THAT one! Which is not to say that I don't know some really cool Africans, one of whom I consider to be one of my brothers and whose African relatives are some of the most sweet and fun people I've ever had the pleasure to know.)

Anyway, she still kept trying to school me on black culture, so at that point I adjusted to waking meditative mode, in which I was able to perceive her natterings and nod or say something like "Uh-huh" when appropriate by way of response, while in my head all I could see was a vast void in which time became a moot concept. I have no idea how long she yammered at me but eventually the bus arrived and I was able to make my polite escape. Thankfully she had just happened to be standing near a storefront when she saw me and did not have to take the bus.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

"MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH..." BLONDIE at the Beacon- 8/1/2017





From the "Missed It By That Much..." department: 
Last night an old friend brought me along to the Beacon theater to see Blondie in concert, with a backstage pass kindly provided by her girlfriend. As Blondie has been one of my Top Five favorite bands of all time, I jumped at the opportunity, hopeful to have an audience with Debbie Harry during the after-party and obtain proof of that momentous occasion via a photo. 
The opening bands were the two-woman (and barefoot) Deap Vally, who were quite good, and co-headliners Garbage, a band I never cottoned to, but I have to admit that they kicked ass as a live act and have forced me to reconsider my previous negative opinion of them. (I would definitely see them perform again, and no one is more surprised by that statement than me.) Then Blondie took the stage, with Debbie Harry Chris Stein, and Clem Burke being the only remaining original members, and they proved in no uncertain terms why they gained their iconic status. 

Blondie takes the stage. (photo by Anne Lowrie)

 (photo by Anne Lowrie)

The venue requires the music to end by 11PM, so Blondie only played for a little over an hour but they made every minute count. They performed a mix of new and classic material, closing with an encore consisting of "Dreaming" and "The Tide is High" as performed with live marching band accompaniment that came from out of nowhere as Debbie ruled the stage in an outrageous faux-fur coat.

(photo by Anne Lowrie)
My friends and I made it down into the bowels of the theater for the after-party and carefully plotted how we'd make our move for the hoped-for photo-op, and eventually an exhausted-looking Chris Stein — Blondie's guitarist and co-founder — arrived to meet and greet. I managed to briefly chat with him and thank him for all the years of superb music, and he could not have been more gracious. Drummer Clem Burke soon followed but was immediately surrounded by what were apparently old friends as he downed a glass of red wine, so I let him be and returned to the stakeout for Debbie Harry with my friends.
Just before midnight, Debbie Harry herself finally arrived and immediately beset by fans and well-wishers. Looking quite beat after putting on a hell of a show — everyone cut her a shitload of slack, as she's 72 and still brings her A-game — she was quite cordial as she signed autographs and posed for a few pictures, so my friends and I kept strategically adjusting our position, getting ever closer to La Harry as the throng thinned a bit. 
But then her management cut off the crowd's access and hustled Debbie away to a waiting limo, and my friends and I followed close at her heels, determined to do our best to snag a photo, but it was to no avail. We watched sadly as our exhausted queen boarded her carriage to be whisked away into the NYC night, but we were happy to have been within literal distance to have shaken her hand. 

The queen departs. 

Sure, we were somewhat disappointed, but we all had a great time and came out of it with bitchin' and very durable backstage pass stickers for souvenirs. (I re-attached mine to the bits that one peels off to expose the sticky bits, and it now resides in my album of memories, along with the show's ticket.)

My after-party pass.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

A RANDOM SUMMER THOUGHT

That moment while spending quality time with your girlfriend and she whispers/moans in your ear, "I'm sooooo wet..." and you think to yourself, "No shit! My hand's about to start singing 'Surfin' U.S.A.!!!" (There! Try hearing that song again without thinking of THAT image!)