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Sunday, June 27, 2004


Having weathered my birthday hangover, I now set down some thoughts from the past twenty-four hours.

For someone who is, I certainly don’t feel middle-aged. Sure, the bio-mechanics aren’t as fluid and efficient as they were during my misspent youth, but I honestly don’t feel much different than when I was eighteen.

My life and career are certainly not where I once envisioned them to be, but at least I can say that I had a career within the field that I wanted to be a part of since childhood, and that’s more than most of us can say. Not that said career went exactly as imagined, but I had a lot of great experiences, made a lot of great friends and learned a lot about myself and my own capabilities. Even when things were in the shitter, there was always something from which to gain wisdom. Sooner or later I’ll get around to using it.

While wandering around Alphabet City in lower Manhattan last night I was struck by a feeling of nostalgia that punched me in the stomach with the brass knuckles of memory. I found myself in Thompkins Square Park, formerly a hive of twitchy junkies and whores of indeterminate gender, and found it to be a charming little oasis in an area that grows increasingly trendy. The bar that now occupies the corner of Seventh street and Avenue A is rather quiet and a far cry from the insane cesspool that was once the late, lamented King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. Gone are the rows of well-worn Harley hogs haphazardly parked outside as their owners gleefully relieved themselves against the graffiti-heiroglyphed brickface. Where once the raucous strains of the Cramps’ signature swamp-billy siren songs battled for ear-space against the bellowing regurgitation of the Wah Wah Hut’s less hardy patrons, there was only the steady drone of traffic and the occasional snippet of a pop song weaving its way out of one of the many overpriced bistros. Smartly dressed yuppies glided by on rollerblades as they walked their canine companions; one man even had a very unwilling housecat on a leash, and the poor beast loudly protested that state of affairs while being practically dragged across the asphalt. No stoners were present, and the park actually exuded a family-friendly vibe. Quite a change from a mere thirteen years ago. Funny, but it only seems like about a year or two have passed since the nights I used to spend there.

In recent years I have decided to flee the five boroughs as soon as it’s financially doable for me, but for those brief moments last night I was reminded of the vibrant life that savagely held sway over the city and made a twenty-something Bunche fall madly in love with it. Now, it’s a haven only for those who can afford to pay the exorbitant price to live here and those of us who don’t have the scratch are being driven out, either to the far reaches of the territories or out of our beloved Apple altogether. New York will never really die, but the writing is on the wall and it loses another bit of its soul each day. New Paltz keeps looking better and better to me, and as soon as I can I intend to hang my hat there.

As for the next step in my employment life, I honestly have no idea where I will end up. Ideal jobs are rare during the best of times, and as for right now, forget it. I’m managing to scratch and survive and I’m sure that things will turn around eventually. I can draw, write, do art production, digital stuff and cook like a motherfucker, so I do have things going for me. I just need to remind myself of that.

My lack of both a job and a significant other had really gotten to me during the past few months, and though I hid it well I was a fucking mess. When not looking for work I was not taking the best care of myself, hardly sleeping and drinking way too much. After the Memorial Day barbecue at Seth and Ruth’s in Baldwin, I have decided to cut out all drinking unless at a party or on a night out; the worst thing that one can do for one’s health and state of mind is to wallow in self-pity and stay at home drinking alone. Consequently, I have cut that sort of bullshit out and am endeavoring to both lose weight and reclaim some of my inner toughness that I allowed to be beaten out of me by my last two years in comics. It’s time for a re-strengthening, plain and simple.

And on that note, I’m going to rustle up some dinner.

Saturday, June 26, 2004


Blame this article on a sixty-nine-cent can of Steve & Ed's Original Hot Dog Chili Sauce.

Next to genocide and slavery is there anything more American than the lowly hot dog? Enjoyed in huge numbers on a daily basis all over this fair land, everybody has their own unique preference for how they like to eat a tube steak: with relish, any number of mustards, onions (cooked or raw), cheese (real or that fake yellow/orange semi-solid), wrapped in bacon, or with a slathering of ketchup. Those are all well and good, but they all pale beside the mouthwatering culinary orgasm of a really, REALLY good chili dog.

When my family moved to Westport, Connecticut in 1972 there was a humble little burger & dog stand on the Post Road called Big Top Shoppe, or Big Top for short. At first I was drawn to their superior flame-broiled cheeseburgers, topped with the white variety of processed cheese slices. Juicy and utterly delicious, the Big Top cheeseburger was one of the last of the dying breed of made-in-front-of-the-customer burgers that overflowed with the pride and care of a grill cook who really gave a shit about what they served to the public. Whenever I'm toiling over a grill I can't help but wonder if I will ever be worthy of the mantle of a Big Topper...

Having made my way through the rest of their menu by the time I was eight, I turned my sights onto the hot dogs. I didn't expect much since kids have always been exposed to franks of widely varying quality and by that time I was pretty much resigned to the inevitability of another sub par specimen. At birthday parties, cookouts, and ball games I had been subjected to such noxious "treats" as those gray, spongy filler-dogs of the Ballpark brand ilk and the vinegary, artificial-tasting horror of the Oscar Mayer hot dog (which has always struck me as tasting like what cloned processed meat would taste like after a trip through a matter transporter) with bland yellow mustard. In short, I was totally unprepared for anything resembling the mind-altering palate-festival of the Big Top chili dog.

I received the frank from the grill cook and took a bite. The frank itself was flame-grilled to crisp perfection, displaying what some hot dog experts term "the snap", junk food slang for the resistance that a good dog puts up when your teeth sink into it. Its meat had a solid, beefy consistency that brimmed with subtly seasoned flavor; the ambrosia of carefully administered spices that were glaringly absent from the hot dogs that I had previously tasted. The bun was light and fresh, briefly toasted over the brazier, providing the perfect cushion and counterpoint for the sausage. And then, the chili. Sweet jumping Jesus in a basket of chicken, the chili...

Never before or since have I tasted chili of the caliber that graced Big Top's masterpieces. If I could somehow conjure up a gallon of that sacred elixir for the sake of analyzing it and breaking it's arcane code I would willingly give up the pleasures of the opposite sex for two whole years. The basics are simple: we're talking a beanless wonder consisting of fresh ground beef, cumin and a unique chili powder all simmered for the better part of a day. The niggling puzzle is a question of exactly what was it that made this mundane recipe taste so damned good? Sadly, the world may never know again since Big Top Shoppe gave up the ghost around early 1983 after it was discovered to be a very profitable drug front. But I digress.

After losing my chili dog cherry in such a memorable fashion, I insisted that my mother try to replicate the miracle at home. Gone were the bad hot dogs and soon our fridge made the acquaintance of Hebrew National kosher franks, Sabrett, and others along those lines, but the closest thing to the Big Top dog to ever grace our house was the mighty Nathan's curved dog. Grilled or oven-broiled, they had the right "snap." Buns were pretty easy to find and toast so all that remained was the chili.

Now let's make one thing perfectly clear. My mother was always an exceptional cook, but chili was never her strong suit. Much like a good curry, if you intend to make it yourself you have to have a love for the flavor of chili to truly understand what you're doing. In later years Mom developed a taste for it due to my endless attempts at south-of-the-border alchemy, but at the time she just couldn't get it to work. My solution was to try any and all available canned beanless chili, and after several disappointments I finally stumbled upon what is my canned chili of choice to this day: Hormel. It's not as good as the Big Top goodness, but if you tweak it with just the right amounts of cumin and either Tabasco or West Indian pepper sauce it's good for rock 'n' roll.

Even today I'm willing to check out a new canned chili on the off chance that it may be what I've been searching to recapture for the past two decades. Nothing has come along to take the place of Hormel, and after the many culinary disasters that I have been assaulted with I have come to the conclusion that there simply is no other decent supermarket chili to be had. This point was driven home by the results of my shopping excursion of a week ago.

Since I am still unemployed, I have the wonderful option of going to market at any point during a given twenty-four-hour period. Not only is the enormous Pathmark supermarket on Atlantic Avenue nearly deserted at 2AM, it also plays host to the dregs of the nighttime world.Prostitutes undergoing heroin withdrawal, bickering butch gay black men, alcoholic welfare mothers who are practically giving birth (again) in the frozen food aisle, hostile teenagers hanging around menacingly and former comics industry people can all be found haunting the joint, all under the weary yet watchful eyes of those unlucky enough to work the graveyard shift. It's all quite conducive to a meditative state, actually.

So there I was at 2AM, grooving on a very relaxed vibe (which probably had something to do with the six beers working their way around my synapses) and shopping at my leisure when I found myself in the aisle containing condiments for hot dogs, burgers and such. The thought that I might like to make chili dogs the next afternoon entered my addled mind and I began to look for old reliable Hormel when my eyes spied something I had never noticed before. The unassuming can read Steve & Ed's Original Hot Dog Chili Sauce and featured a photograph of what I could have sworn was the long lost Big Top brew, and it was on special for sixty-nine cents. Dare to hope?

When biohazard labeling should be mandatory.

The next day, when I finally opened the can, I tasted a bit of the chili sauce and my upper lip involuntarily tried to wrap itself around my nostrils. I should have stopped right then and there, but I hoped that once heated the flavor would come through. The brackish brown glop began to simmer and my apartment was promptly inundated with a stench that rivaled the Fresh Kills landfill or the farts that follow digesting a sack of White Castle cheeseburgers. As for the flavor, it tasted not unlike coffee grounds and cigarette butts slow-brewed into a tar-like consistency. I promptly dumped the offending crud down the bog, which seemed appropriate since it looked like the contents of colostomy bag. Bottom line: Steve & Ed's Original Hot Dog Chili Sauce is without question the single worst thing ever to cross my palate in all of my thirty-eight years on this miserable rock, and the fact that it is now sub-filed in my memory in relation to the chili quest is tantamount to psychological torture. In fact, it prompted me to go off at length on just what makes up a good chili dog just to try and get the violation out of my mind.

So the lesson here is that when you find a truly great specimen of your favorite junk food, cherish it since you may never find it's like again. And for the record, here's where you can find some very good chili dogs; nothing approaching the Big Top glory, but I'll take what I can get.

NATHAN'S-nationwide in the USA. Perfect frank, decent chili. 7 out of 10.

DAIRY QUEEN/KING-nationwide in the USA but slowly dying out. Decent foot-long dogs and light grilled buns, but the chili is the star here. One of the best out there, but the preparation varies regionally, so be sure to specify that you want it with just chili and not ketchup and mustard. 9 out of 10, sometimes 10 out of 10 (depending on where you get it)

Sheer junk food bliss from the Dairy King in Norwalk, CT.

THE PUERTO RICAN HOT DOG STAND AT 95TH STREET AND COLUMBUS AVENUE, MANHATTAN-run by a sweet middle-aged woman whose grasp of English is tenuous at best, this stand peddles your standard New York dirty-water-dog garnished with a homemade bean chili that can give eyesight to the blind. In fact, the chili is so good that there are some regulars who order just the chili on a bun. I have been a big fan of these dogs since the current proprietor's ancient father was making them during my four-year residence in the neighborhood, and at $1.25 each these are a bargain basement gem. 8 out of 10 (would score higher if the chili wasn't adorning the common dirty-water-dog)

MOJO'S-a beachfront joint in Provincetown, Rhode Island. Hands out exceptional dogs that not only taste great, but they look like works of art. Utterly appropriate for the most entertaining
of the East Coast's gay meccas. I once saw a drag queen work one of these to the point where I felt the urge to smoke a cigarette afterward. 9 out of 10.

SWANKY FRANKS-Norwalk and Westport, CT. Fried or grilled dogs (go with the grilled ones), and a bun which is much too thick and hearty at first, but the bun is absolutely necessary for helping to absorb some of the most ass-kicking chili ever to grace anything served in a family restaurant. 8 out of 10.

PAT'S HUBBA HUBBA-Portchester, NY. Infamous in local college lore first as TEXAS CHILI, this place is a twenty-four-hour chili endurance test for diehards and gastrointestinal masochists only. The only items on the menu are chili, hot dogs, hamburgers, cheese burgers and French fries, and chili-slathered versions of each (except the chili because that would be redundant and possibly lethal). The chili at this place tastes incredible, but you start to pay the price for eating it about three minutes after it hits your mouth and I won't even mention what happens about an hour later. Just make sure that you are near a bathroom that has a surplus of toilet paper and some interesting reading material; you'll be there for a while. The genius of this is that the food is dirt cheap, yet the small drinks that they serve (orange or grape only) are two bucks apiece, and as the chili rapes your mouth Viking-style, you'll go through at least four of them. The first time I ate this stuff I was taking a late-night break form working in my college's sculpture wing, and upon returning to the campus I flew to the bathroom, there to reenact the eruption of Mount Vesuvius with my scorched anus. As I suffered unspeakable agonies on the bowl, I noticed an understated bit of graffiti that simply read, "Texas Chili is an evil thing." Extremely dangerous and definitely not recommended for those with weak constitutions or acid reflux disorder. 10 out of 10 for the sheer balls it takes to do this to the public and get away with it.


Bunche here, with some suggestions for the next time you can't figure out what to rent at the video store. Don't rent the latest bloated Hollywood blockbuster, rent something totally stupid so you can tell your friends about it! And so, without further ado, here are some suggestions for stupid movies that will forever alter your moviegoing perceptions. Yes, it's..

In a fine example of just how stupid a film can be, Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson star as the title characters, a biker and a cowboy/biker respectively. Needlessly set in "the near future", which looks about as futuristic as next week, the title characters conspire to rip off some drug dealers. Things go awry and much pointless mayhem ensues. I know this sounds totally useless, but you've got to trust me on this one; it's one of those films that's perfect to watch with friends while you work on killing off a keg of brew.

Aggressively macho, ultra-violent and extra-stupid, this is one of the most unintentionally hysterical films ever made. Patrick Swayze stars as Dalton, a notorious Zen bouncer who is hired to clean up a roadside dive that is so extreme as to nearly be a level of Hell. Then Sam Elliot shows up as Wade Garrett, Dalton's mentor in the ways of ass-whuppin' and promptly steals the movie. Cussin', fightin', fussin' and fuckin', plus some of the looniest dialogue on record make this a perfect time waster. Fight choreography by the guy who trains Bruce Lee's daughter.

A zero-budget parody of action films in which a jet liner crashlands on an island used to train terrorists who intend to infiltrate US society. This film is so fucking cheap that the film opens after the crash and the only wreckage we see is a bit of styrofoam and random smouldering sheet metal. Among the survivors are a mother with a newborn, an amazingly stereotypical Latina, an obnoxious shirtless hunk, an overweight guy in a Hawaiian shirt who proves to be tougher than Rambo, and a white-suited James Bond stand-in who's very handy with a blowgun. The bad guys are apparently of Hispanic origin, as evidenced by their outrageous accents and bushy fake mustaches, and their leader is a beefy SOB with an unexplained pig snout (he even snorts when agitated). Once the crash-survivors get wind of the terrorist infiltration plot, they band together and kick ass in the riotous final half-hour. Folks, you just will not believe how dumb this one is, and as a result I highly recommend it.

I've said it for years and I'll say it again: Thelma and Louise was ripped off from this bargain basement 1987 comedy. Three women end up on the lam after killing a guy who called one of them a bimbo. Cheap and aggressively stupid, this is worth a look for its similarity to Ridley Scott's classic, and some of the worst acting of the 1980's.

It's just another typical day in the Big Apple when the ancient god Quetzalcoatl shows up from out of nowhere, decides to build a nest atop the Chrysler building and begins munching on Manhattan pedestrians like popcorn shrimp. Michael Moriarty and David Carradine headline here, but they take a backseat to the marvelous idea of a giant monster swooping out of the sky and eating people. I enjoyed this one so much that I actually saw it in the theater three nights in a row.

Director Peter Bogdanovich made quite a name for himself during the 1970's as the director of films that paid homage to old Hollywood genres (Paper Moon, What's Up Doc?), and with several box office successes under his belt, he was allowed to make his version of an old-fashioned musical. Starring Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shepard, Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn and Dulio Del Prete (who???), this film massacres around twenty Cole Porter classics by allowing the cast to perform them themselves — not the best of ideas since none of the cast can sing worth a shit — along with choreography that suggests dance night at the siezure ward. A huge fiasco that pretty much killed Bogdanovich's career, this is a veritable orgy for bad music fans that will leave even the most hardened observer slack-jawed (I almost wept with joy when I found the soundtrack album). Hard to find, but definitely worth seeking out.

Yet another of the seemingly thousands of Animal House ripoffs, this one stands alone as one of the most unrepentently lowbrow films ever made. The obligatory slob-frat heroes need money to save their frat house, so they enter a farting contest. That's pretty much it for plot, folks, and if you find gross-out humor to be up your alley, this is the film for you. Plus, this is the film that gave the world the phrase "drawing mud." You figure it out...

Slowly receiving it's due as the neglected classic that it is, Get Crazy is an unexpected work of freewheeling comedic genius. The Saturn theater is a rock'n'roll venue that is about to throw it's final concert on New Year's Eve 1982, and it's owner sends out a deathbed request to many of the rock stars who performed there over the years so that the final show will be unforgettable. However, the owner's weasel of a nephew is offered a hefty payday by unscrupulous developers if he blows up the Saturn (his uncle refused to sell out), and he wil stop at nothing to ensure the detonation, not even the presence of a full house of concert-goers and musicians. That's the main plot, but it soon takes a backseat to the backstage insanity: horny and drugged-out techies on the loose, a little sister's underage adventures, insane rock'n'roll assholes (lead by Malcom McDowell's vicious Mick Jaggger/David Bowie caricature Reggie Wanker), an overzealous fire marshall, a six-foot anthropomorphic joint, the Grateful Dead-like Captain Cloud and his gypsy followers, orthodox Jews who rock out hard, an extraterrestrial drug dealer named Electric Larry, and Lou Reed as the legendary poet/rocker Auden (whose extended rendition of "Deathbed Request" is downright hilarious). Wall-to-wall fun and packed with crazy musical sequences (including three different interpretations of "Hoochie Coochie Man"), seek this one out. Why this isn't out on DVD is beyond me.

This is one of the wave of ultra-low-budget horror pastiches that popped up occasionally during the early '80's, when audiences were still suffering from the plague of slasher movies. I saw this at Bridgeport, Connecticut's late, lamented County Cinema, a grindhouse that specialized in the kind of schlocky garbage that played for a week yet would always remain in the hearts of bad movie fanatics like me. The bottom half of a double-bill with FRIDAY THE 13TH:A NEW BEGINNING (which sucked most egregiously), NIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR was greeted by the snoozing junkies, drunks and local prostitutes with much amusement. God and The Devil are on a train bound to nowhere and pass the time by reviewing case histories of people who will be sent either to Heaven or Hell. God looks a lot like Col. Sanders, and there's this super-cheesy FLASHDANCE-inspired band that sing the unintentionally (?) ironic song "Dance With Me" which features the mocking lyric "Everybody's got something to do/ Everybody but you!" The movie itself is segments from three other movies:a presumably-unreleased slasher flick with John Phillip Law, a truncated version of the indescribably weird DEATHWISH CLUB , and a shortened version of CATACLYSM, which is the only one of the three films that is actually any good. This is worth sitting through for the sheer balls that it took to release this obvious clip-job.

An oldie starring Johnny Weismuller, this installment of the long-running series features a bunch of evil hunters who make the mistake of capturing Tarzan with the intent of putting him on display. Do you think Tarzan's gonna put up with bullshit like that? Anyway, he gets loose and kicks much ass in Manhattan while wearing a three-piece suit. It's no Tarzan and His Mate, but it is good for Sunday afternoon time-wasting.

Formerly known as Welcome Back, Brother Charles, this low-budget blaxploitation oddity features a hero who seeks vengeance on those who had him unjustly sentenced to prison. While incarcerated, our hero learns how to cause his penis to grow to around twelve-feet long and strangle people. This film sucks, but where else will you see a guy's unit attack people like an octopus tentacle?

One of the stupidest films ever released by the legendary Hammer studios, The Lost Continent tells the story of a ship filled with questionable passengers and a cargo of explosives that detonate when in contact with water (so of course they transport the explosives on the ocean. Whaaaaaa???). The vessel gets lost in the Sargasso sea and ends up mired in seaweed that goes on for as far as the eye can see. Worse, the seaweed has tentacles and teeth and is not very choosy about what it eats. Weird crab mutants also run rampant, and soon the castaways find a Spanish galleon that has been stranded in the weeds since the days of the Inquisition, along with the society that has flourished there since then (complete with hooded Catholic fanatics and that most welcome staple of most Hammer films, girls in tight-fitting clothes with really, really big tits). And then it gets silly. A 4:30 Movie perrenial, this is a must-see for those who like it goofy.

Based on the prophecies of Nostradamus, this Japanese mind-blower from the 1970's features every possible end of the world scenario, and then some. Among many other crazy highlights we get giant leeches, kids suddenly developing superpowers, incendiary global warming, lethal pollution, endless traffic jams, mass suicide, nuclear war, and two surviving mutants fighting over a bone. Truly bad, this is worth it for the sheer volume of fucked-up shit happpening in one film.

An early Pam Grier vehicle, The Arena gives us Her Royal Badness as a kidnapped African princess who if forced into gladiatorial combat in the days of the Roman empire. Teamed against an abducted druidic priestess (the inevitably white Margaret Markov), much ass-whuppin' and full-frontal nudity ensues (with Pam's glory — and '70's bush — prominent throughout). Cheap, cheap, cheap and fun, fun, fun.

Hugely disappointing on many levels, this film is recommended for one reason only: Graham (Monty Python's Flying Circus) Chapman's over-the-top perfomance as the title character. Yellowbeard is the outrageous embodiment of every pirate cliche imaginable; a guy so full of violence that when called upon to come up with an alias for himself, he comes up with the unlikely sobriquet "Professor Rape." Madeline Kahn is pretty funny here as well, starring as Yellowbeard's wife. As I said, it's bad, but Chapman (RIP) is brilliant.

This admittedly idiotic parody of the thankfully forgotten kiddie film The Wilderness Family is so completely, bloody stupid that you have to love it. The fake trailers at the beginning mostly bite the big one, but "Gina's Story" is notable for a pre-Star Trek: The Next Generation Gates "Dr. Crusher" McFadden back when she was still known as Cheryl. Also, the trailer for a "Raging Bull" parody is hilarious in it's pointlessly-censored profanity. The "story" proper deals with a family of New Yorkers who pack up and move to the forest in an attempt to "get back to nature." Massive amounts of bad jokes, tastelessness and stupidity run rampant, but what a crazy ride! Top insanity points go to Weejun, a brave of the Kay-O-Pectate tribe, and the adolescent daughter's alarming first love. This film should not be attempted without the aid of lots of booze or other, er..."party favors" of choice. Enjoy!

Have you ever seen the Herschell Gordon Lewis classic Bloood Feast ? It was made around 1963 and is the first American film to depict stomach-churning gore. The story sucked and the acting is inexcusably bad, but it is nonetheless a slice of film history. Blood Diner is a parody made in the 1980's and much of the gag is lost unless the viewer is familiar with the source material, but it's still pretty damned funny. Two brothers carry on the work of their late uncle Anwar, a fanatical devotee of the ancient Babylonian goddess Sheetar, and collect the body parts of various women. The parts are needed for a drugged-up cannibalistic feast that will revive the evil goddess, and the various murders are rather creative (the oddest featuring a victim's head being turned into a giant deep-fried hush puppy). Loads of over-the-top humorous gore, the wrestling antics of Little Jimmy Hitler and the hysterical flashbacks to uncle Anwar's killing spree are among the highlights.

How to describe this one? Based on a comic strip by Japanese comics legend Go Nagai (Devilman, Shameless School, Violence Jack and many other transgressive classics),the live-action Kekko Mask blows the lid off of the sordid goings-on at a private girl's school. If the girls step out of line even the slightest bit, they are sent to the headmaster (a weirdo in an inexplicable harlequin/executioner outfit) for S/M-style discipline. Who will step in to defend the innocent schoolgirls? Who else but Kekko Mask? Clad in a distinctive costume of red boots and gloves, a red scarf, a mask with bunny ears that obscures all of her features save for her eyes, and armed with a pair of 'chucks, she gets the job done. But what's that I hear you asking: what about the rest of her costume? Well, her untranslated name is "Kekko Kamen," which means "nude mask." Yep, that's right, other than the previously mentioned costume items, the lady is buck-nekkid. It may be gratuitous as hell, but the image of a mostly stark-naked woman in a red bunny mask kicking ass is certainly original, and absurd as hell. She even has a signature move that you simply will not believe: Kekko Mask leaps vulva-first toward her opponents in a spectacular spread-eagle, mesmerizes them with her "incredibly beautiful vagina," latches on with a leg-scissors move and breaks their necks. She then turns to the newly deceased bad guy and exclaims "That's the Ninja Tight Pussy Trick!" At the time that this was made (the early 1990's), Japanese filmmakers weren't even allowed to show pubic hair, let alone any gynecological details, so her tasty bits are "fogged out" via special effects. Those fucking censors ruin everything... Anyway, check this out for a real head-scratcher of a ride. Available through Video Search of Miami.

As a rule, even though I am a dyed-in-the-wool hardcore fan of martial arts films, I have to go on record and state that I have a blazing hatred for ninja movies. Good movies about ninjas are few and far between, such as Super Ninjas, the Kozure Okami (Lone Wolf and Cub) series and the outstanding Challenge of the Ninja (aka Shaolin Challenges Ninja), so when you find a good one, cherish it. Most of the others are simply mediocre like the Sho Kosugi flicks of the 1980's (Revenge of the Ninja, Enter the Ninja and others), or else just awful like the Swedish-made Ninja Mission, one of the handfull of films that I have walked out on. Then there are films like Challenge of the Lady Ninja. This film is an unmitigated shitstorm, replete with horrid dubbing, a ridiculous plot, martial skills that veer toward the superhuman, and camerawork that makes one wonder if it was lensed by Stevie Wonder. That said, it stars Chia Ling as a Chinese woman who somehow joins a clan of Japanese ninja and masters their skills. Chia Ling can throw down with the best of them (as seen in the unjustly ignored classic 13 Evil Bandits, aka Against the Drunken Cat Paws), looks terrific in a red ninja outfit, and is lots of fun to watch here, but the real selling point is the fact that Challenge of the Lady Ninja is the martial arts film that Ed Wood might have made if he were still alive. This is in many ways the Plan Nine from Outer Space of kung fu films (and there are a lot of strong contenders for that dubious honor), what with a painful script, terrible acting and my favorite element: despite the fact that the story takes place in World War II, we see 1970's Cadillacs as period automobiles. The plot is utterly beside the point; just sit there in amazement as the film unfolds and realize that it is practically impossible to intentionally make a bad movie that is as entertaining as this one.

Sequels that are worse than the original film are nothing new, but this followup to the 1976 desecration of one of the undisputed landmarks of cinema plumbs new depths of bad movie Nirvana. Kong somehow survives multiple machine gun wounds and a head-first fall from the top of the World Trade Center, but now he needs a heart transplant. No easy task since our hero is a fucking 60-foot gorilla... An artificial heart the size of a Volkswagon Beetle is manufactured and dumped into the big guy's chest in an ER scene that will leave you aghast. That's all well and good, but he needs a blood transfusion to ensure his survival. Fortunately there's a newly-discovered blonde female giant ape, and her blood is a convenient match (yes, I know all of this makes no sense whatsoever), so it's up to Linda Hamilton and Bill Pullman to bring her in. We get treated to the spectacle of gargantuan apes mating (while the human heroes do the same in a nearby sleeping bag), the female being hunted by gun-toting assholes which leads Kong to seriously kick ass (including ripping a guy in half like he was snapping a piece off of a Kit Kat bar), and a baby giant ape which is disproportionately small and played by a guy in an ultra-shoddy ape suit. Bad, yes, but more entertaining than the 1976 disaster.


James Bond, agent 007 of Her Majesty's Secret Service. Adventure hero par excellence, ladies-man, tough guy and all-around bad motherfucker. Part law-enforcer, part school-bully, when the guy enters a room you just know that you're in the presence of the Alpha wolf. It has been said that women want him and that men want to be him. The guy looks good in whatever he wears, gets to play with the coolest (and most destructive) of toys, travels internationally on his government's tab, squares off against megalomaniacal assholes who seriously need killing, and on top of all that he gets more ass than a toilet seat. This is a hero who can't help but to fascinate.

First seeing the light of day in Ian Fleming's 1953 novel Casino Royale, James Bond was envisioned as a somewhat neurotic torpedo for the British government; more cop/investigator than the impossibly suave super-agent who later became a cultural benchmark. He was a very human protagonist, one who admitted fear in the face of almost-certainly lethal peril, and a man who suffered most severely for Queen and country (read most of the Fleming-penned novels to see what I mean, particularly Casino Royale — the infamous encounter between a carpet beater and Bond's dangling, naked nuts will scar you for life — and Live And Let Die). Fleming, having actually been a British secret agent, brought a tense realism to his hero's adventures and made him into a likeable sort who could suddenly become extremely cold and ruthless when the need arose. And the license to kill did not give him the government-sanctioned leave to dispatch folks willy-nilly; he could kill in the line of direct orders or self-defense only, and once his superiors had all the details of a work-related slaying they would use their influence to cover up the messy details.

With such a hero in place and the exotic adventures that he endured guaranteed to whet the appetite of a cold war audience, 007 was destined to be a success. In fact, no less a luminary than John F. Kennedy cited From Russia With Love as one of his favorite novels. That said, the movies inevitably happened, bringing a new level of sex and violence to the screen (although the violence couldn't hold a candle to the insane sadism of the novels), while at the same time altering Bond into a superhero. And while it's easy to look at the content in the Bond films as rather tame by today's jaded standards, keep in mind that these flicks were among the first major releases to include such naughty stuff. When Bond killed somebody it wasn't pretty, and when it looked like he was going to get some punani, you knew that he got some punani. Bond flicks were where moviegoers went for titillation before such stuff was co-opted by big-time Hollywood. (Interesting aside: there was a comedienne whose name eludes me who once remarked that she used to pray to find a boy during her teenage years who could unhook her bra with the ease that she just knew James Bond could.)

Anyhoo, background info now over with, I intend to go off on one of my fabled movie rants, this time devoting my energies (or wasting valuable time —both mine and yours — depending on your point of view) to the long-running James Bond film franchise. I'm sticking strictly to the official series and ignoring the insultingly wretched Casino Royale (1967) and the sadly superfluous Never Say Never Again (1983). So, without further semi-scholarly film-geekery...


DR. NO (1962) Directed by Terence Young.
The film that started it all.

Sean Connery's first turn as 007 is a study in icy, nonchalant cool as Bond glides from one situation to the next with a sleepy-eyed, perpetually bored sneer on his face. However, other than the fact that this is the first James Bond movie, the film itself remains simply a taught and straightforward (if unremarkable) thriller with Connery's Bond as its saving grace. Oh, and Ursula Andress as Honey Rider is major league eye candy in that bikini (which I've heard on good authority was so smokin' that when Ray Charles was in the audience, he was heard to exclaim "God Damn!!!").

Notes: No theme song, but we get the definitive — and full-length — version of the immortal James Bond theme. Most of the main recurring characters are first seen here, namely Bond, Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and M (Bernard Lee). Jack "Hawaii Five-O" Lord shows up as the CIA's frequent liaison for Bond, Felix Leiter. No gadgets, just guns and ass-whuppin' (unless you count the flame-throwing "dragon"). Eunice Gayson appears as Sylvia Trench, the only woman involved with Bond to appear twice. The soundtrack to this is one of the best to listen to at home, and is replete with cheesy early-'60's calypso and Jamaican dance music (including the infectious "Three Blind MIce" and "Kingston Calypso"), so check out the CD. In the source novel the Chinese/German villain (who has steel pincers for hands) meets his justly deserved fate when Bond uses a crane to bury him in several tons of bird shit (I swear to God!!!).

EL BUNCHO RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 - an interesting series opener.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) Directed by Terence Young.
James Bond is back, and the pieces begin to fall into place.

Considered by many (including yours truly) to be the best film in the series, the second Bond outing sticks rather closely to the events of the source novel (one of the very few of the films to do so) with glorious results. International super-criminal organization SPECTRE (the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) rears its ugly head for the first time and goes after 007 intent on revenge for the loss of Dr. No, who was apparently on their payroll (he worked for the Russians in the novel). The plan: lure 007 with the promise of a Russian decoding device delivered by a beautiful (and horny) Red agent into a situation that is not only an obvious trap, but one that will internationally disgrace the British secret service (it involves SPECTRE agents filming Bond and the enemy agent fucking their brains out through a two-way mirror).

This one is as serious as a heart attack (with a smattering of the humor that would later fist the series right in the ass, but far less obnoxious than it would become) and highlights include a great catfight in a gypsy encampment near Istanbul, Daniella Bianchi as the mouth-watering enemy agent Tatiana Romanova, Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb (perhaps cinema's most horrifying bulldyke), Pedro Armendariz as Ali Kerim-Bey — Istanbul's livelier version of M (a part performed as the actor was dying from radiation-induced cancer contracted while filming the John Wayne-as-Genghis Khan-epic The Conqueror, which was filmed at a former atomic test site. Armendariz committed suicide at the end of filming the Bond flick), and Robert Shaw as Donald "Red" Grant, an exceedingly unsavory SPECTRE recruit who engages Bond in the now-famous battle on the Orient Express.

Notes: we get the first attempt at the now-cliché credits & hot chicks sequences, but the theme song (sung by Matt Munro — who?) doesn't show up until the end. The frequently heard "007" instrumental piece makes its debut here during Bond's run-in with an enemy helicopter. Q (Desmond Llewlyn) shows up for the first time, along with one of the most impressive gadgets in the series: the attaché case (if you've seen the movie, you know what I mean. If not, I ain't sayin' nothin'...). Master villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld makes his first appearance in the series, stroking his fluffy kitty and never being seen above the lower ribcage. Eunice Gayson returns for the second (and final) time as the underappreciated romantic-interest Sylvia Trench. Also, Walter Gotell (who would turn up in later films as General Gogol) shows up as the friendly tour guide on SPECTRE Island.


GOLDFINGER (1964). Directed by Guy Hamilton.
This is the one that made your mother get as wet as a swamp.

The third 007 film set the formula for most of the subsequent entries, and went on to launch the worldwide James Bond craze of the mid-1960's. Everything about this one that must have seemed fresh when first seen is so embedded in popular consciousness that it's almost impossible to watch this now and truly get what the big deal was.

Bond runs afoul of Auric Goldfinger, a corpulent Teutonic prick who has an unusual scheme for controlling the world's gold economy, and much mayhem ensues. The villain who reveals his plan in graphic detail, the gimmick henchman (Harold Sakata as the badassed Oddjob), gadgets that veer straight into comic book territory (the marvelous Aston Martin DB 5, which seems well-equipped enough to overthrow most third-world countries), over-abundant one-liners and Bond's transformation into a virtually-unbeatable superman who is a master of every conceivable human activity all begin with this film. The unexpected mega-success of Goldfinger lead the producers to the obvious conclusion: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. For the next several entries in the series, this film was essentially remade with slight alterations. And don't let my tone turn you off: Goldfinger is one of the classic Bonds, and you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Notes: Goldfinger introduces the pre-credits mini-adventure sequence, this one having absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the story (there was a teaser sequence in the previous film, but it was part of the story). The theme song — ass-kickingly belted out by Shirley Bassey — is one of the undisputed classics of cinema, and perhaps the definitive Bond tune. Honor Blackman makes movie history by getting away with playing a character named Pussy Galore (an overt lesbian in the source novel, Pussy is merely tomboyish in the movie until she has a literal role in the hay with 007). Designer Ken Adam's low ceiling/sloping walls sensibilities are greatly in evidence here, particularly in Goldfinger's rec room. Bond's CIA pal, Felix Leiter turns up again, this time played by Cec (pronounced "cease") Linder, who is the only actor to date to look like the character was described in the novels (prior to a limb-subtracting run-in with a shark in the novel Live And Let Die).

This film also features one of the great hero/villain exchanges in movie history. Bond, in the clutches of Goldfinger and nervously watching a laser beam slowly making its way to his family jewels, makes a pitiful attempt at bravado.

BOND: Do you expect me to talk?
GOLDFINGER:(amused) No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.

And let us not forget Goldfinger's other great bit of dialogue, directed at a group of mobsters who later end up with a serious case of death:

GOLDFINGER: Man has climbed Mount Everest. Gone to the bottom of the ocean. He has fired rockets to the moon. Split the atom. Achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor...except crime!

And he meant that shit!


THUNDERBALL (1965) Directed by Terence Young.
So how do you top the success of Goldfinger? You guessed it: excess.

The first Bond movie with a running time that passes the two-hour mark, Thunderball was also the first of the 007-as-spectacle films. Bigger budget, bigger action, more women... let's face it, just plain more of every Goddamned thing that people liked about Bond. Sadly, this one moves rather slowly, with only occasional signs of life, but it's still worth your time.

007 finds himself in Jamaica investigating the theft of two nuclear warheads that SPECTRE intends to use to extort £100,000,000 from those wacky Brits. My vote for the greatest of all Bond villains, Emilio Largo, is the head of this plot, and he steals the movie by virtue of sheer personality (he's a vicious, misogynistic asshole who enjoys whipping his mistress when she gets uppity). The other villain of note in this piece is Fiona Volpe, a thermonuclear redhead played by Luciana Paluzzi, who is such a badass that she fucks 007 and throws it back in his face (as he's captured by some of her goons) by stating that his much-lauded cocksmanship would never sway her from her loyalty to SPECTRE, and she sure as hell wasn't kidding.

As for our hero, Sean Connery was the most famous man on the planet by this time, and he clearly wasn't enjoying his stardom since he more or less sleepwalks through this film. And Claudine Auger (a former Miss France who actually beat out Raquel Welch for this role) sure fills out a swimsuit as the villain's mistress, but she's utterly boring otherwise.

Notes: Thunderball features a terrific opening sequence that is marred by the unwelcome presence of an improbably placed jet pack and too many bad one-liners (with more littered throughout the film). Very few gadgets, but the Aston Martin does turn up during the pre-credits sequence. Rik Van Nutter plays Felix Leiter this time around, and he comes off like a stoned surfer.

The shattering theme song is rendered by a then-unknown Tom Jones, and it gets my vote as the best of the lot.


YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967) Directed by Lewis Gilbert.
The budget soars and Connery grows more apathetic.

007 must solve the mystery of who is hijacking space capsules and why. This adventure takes him to Japan, and serves as more of a sumptuous travelogue than anything else. The plot jumps around from set piece to set piece while barely engaging the audience, the villains aren't all that interesting — although we do finally get to see Blofeld face-to-face, and that's a total disappointment since he's scrawny, utterly without a trace of menace and on top of that, his head looks like a cracked boiled egg (Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, anyone?). There's also a ludicrous bit of business wherein Bond undergoes plastic surgery to make him look Japanese. Folks, let me tell you that Sean Connery simply does not even remotely resemble an Asian, even when given epicanthic-eye mascara and a slathering of shoe polish. And by the end, the only thing missing from the over-the-top climax is Jimi Hendrix in kabuki makeup playing the James Bond theme. Pointless excess, but eye candy nonetheless. After this, Sean Connery walked away from the series to greener pastures...TO BE CONTINUED.

Notes: this is the first film in the series that earns the description of "wicked fucking stupid," but it is redeemed by being a visual feast. The locations are beautiful and by the time the film is halfway over, you'll want to book a tour of Japan.

The two main Bond girls are played by regulars from the Godzilla movies, namely Akiko Wakabayashi (from Ghidrah-The Three-Headed Monster) and Mie Hama (from Monster Zero, King Kong Escapes and others, who possesses major league, grade A triple-foxhood), and are as dull as dishwater. Bond's contact in Japan, and their answer to M, is played by Tetsuro Tanba (of Female Slave Ship fame) in a lively performance.

You Only Live Twice may be the first Western film to feature ninja, who show up in abundance during the climax. The only other things that this film has going for it are Little Nellly (a miniature helicopter that rivals the Aston Martin for sheer destructive capability) and a truly beautiful themesong perfomed by the otherwise spectacularly untalented Nancy Sinatra ("These Boots Are Made For Walking" notwithstanding).

By this time, Connery was totally sick of the Bond thing, and reportedly began to act like a total douchebag to members of the press, his fans, random passersby, trees... While doing a press junket in Japan, Connery royally pissed off the Japanese public by stating that he did not find Japanese women to be attractive. Great way to promote the flick, genius!


ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969) Directed by Peter Hunt.
Exit the Scotsman, enter the Aussie.

007 has been tracking Blofeld for two years and has found him living in Switzerland, posing as an altruistic allergist. Blofeld's real agenda: international dissemination of a virus that will render the world sterile. With the assistance of a likeable crime lord, Bond saves the day and also finds the time to fall in love with — and marry! — the crime lord's suicidal daughter. Sadly, as all seems right in Bond's world, tragedy rears its ugly head...

Exit Sean Connery, enter... George Lazenby??? Yes, Connery was replaced by an Australian former male fashion model with no previous acting experience. Not the best of ideas, but somehow not as bad as it could have been. Lazenby makes up for his lack of acting chops by being the best fighter out of all of the Bond actors; the blows he lands look like they slapped the taste out of the mouths of those on the receiving end. He's rather dashing too, and has a certain cool about him. Which only makes it infuriating to know that he took the poor advice of his agent — who felt that the success of Easy Rider and other such "youth" flicks spelled the imminent end of the Bond franchise — and bowed out in favor of greener pastures. Kreskin he ain't.

As for the other aspects of the film, this is a top-notch 007 outing in every way. Telly Savalas makes a great Blofeld, one who finally delivers on the menace promised in previous installments. He's suave, calculating, and every inch a worthy opponent for our hero. Diana Rigg shines as the tortured, self-destructive Tracy, the first of the Bond women with serious depth. It's easy to see why Bond falls for her, and she actually brings out a hitherto unseen tenderness in 007. She's a class act all the way. There's no theme song, but we do get an excellent instrumental during the titles. The vocal highlight is Louis Armstrong's touching "We Have All The Time In The World," used to great effect during the scenes of Bond and Tracy's courtship. Low on gadgets, high on action and plot, On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a strong contender for the title of best Bond film ever made, and would have earned that honor if Sean Connery had stuck around.

EL BUNCHO RATING: 4 1/2 out of 5- minus half a point for the absence of Sean Connery, but a winner all the way. Do not miss this one.

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971) Directed by Guy Hamilton.
Who's the old, fat guy with the hairpiece? HOLY SHIT! It's Sean Connery!!!

After George Lazenby moved on to appear in such cinematic classics as the unwatchable kung fu time-waster Stoner and the John "Full House" Stamos-versus-megalomaniacial-hermaphrodite espionage howler Never Too Young To Die, the Bond producers managed to lure Sean Connery back into bondage with a paycheck of $1,250,000, 12.5 percent of the gross profits, $145,000 for every week that the film went over schedule, and a promise that United Artists would bankroll any two films of his choosing. Sure, Connery's presence guaranteed box office, but four years had passed since he last stepped in front of the camera as 007. He was now forty-one years old, somewhat overweight/bloated, graying and obviously in need of a decent toupee. Get ready, folks: James Bond is back, and now he's your dad!

007 is hot on the trail of smuggled diamonds which are being used as components for a gigantic orbital death ray, a plan masterminded by Blofeld (now played by Charles The Rocky Horror Picture Show Gray). Slightly-entertaining run-ins with Las Vegas mobsters, badass wrasslin' chicks and a pair of homosexual hitmen can't hide the fact that this film has a convoluted and rather boring story , and a distinctly Smokey and the Bandit flavor permeates the the proceedings. The usual explosive finale on an oil rig is anything but stirring, and feels as tired as Kunta Kinte after the bloodhound marathon. In short, this one is a serious loser.

Notes: Shirley Bassey's theme song - her voice is terrific, but listen to the lyrics to truly get how great this tune is. Gay hitmen Kidd and Wint are fun too, and they should have been more prominent throughout. But NOOOOOOOOOO...

EL BUNCHO RATING: 1 OUT OF 5- dumb, dumb, dumb and just plain bad. One of the few that I'll never sit through again.

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN IN PART TWO: THE ROGER MOORE YEARS (whenever I get around to sitting through that cavalcade of almost total awfulness)


While most people are aware of my love of films, I am even more hardcore toward music. Any kind of music.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a household that was very musically open-minded and that outlook has stayed with me since childhood; I'll try anything once, and some of the things that I've encountered because of that potentially masochistic willingness are truly mind-warping. From Wildman Fischer and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy to Flash Cooney and the Deans of Discipline and the Yeasty Girls, I will listen to absolutely anything and as a result I have amassed a staggeringly varied vinyl and CD collection. Probably the most bizarre vinyl item that I own — next to the excellent Fiddler On the Roof Goes Latin — is Fist Goodbody's Traveling Torture Show, a recording of ambient music for your home S/M sessions presided over by a shirtless, flaming queen in a blonde wig and a feather boa. Side one is simply eerie music to set the mood, but side two is the same as side one, only with the occasional whiplash sound effect and some guy going "Aaaagggh!" in reaction. It's hard to believe that someone would ever relegate such weirdness to the cut-out bin (where I found it for a dollar!), but what do I know?

I'll tell you what I do know: after making my way through countless individual recordings and full-length albums I have narrowed down the top ten albums that I simply could not live without. That was no easy task and after making a list that amounted to about thirty-two all-time favorites I nearly pulled my hair out trying to weed it all down to ten. Here's my list and I hope that it intrigues you enough to check out any of these that are unfamiliar to you. And please feel free to write back with your own list because who knows? I may find something new out of the deal!


The first album — Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo (1978) — is justly recognized as a classic, but it was this second album that made me a Devo fan for life. Though the songs were deemed not strong enough for inclusion on the first album, Duty Now For the Future is rife with excellent minimalist rockers ("Clockout," "Wiggly World," "Strange Pursuit," "The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprise," "Pink Pussycat") and my vote for the best of many Devo-ized cover versions, "Secret Agent Man," which has a stompin' bass-heavy live version on the full-length Devo Live album which has to be heard to be appreciated. After this came the Freedom of Choice album, "Whipit" and top 40 fame, so this is really the last of the true Devo records before the inevitable loss of balls-out strangeness and creative stagnation slowly eroded much of the band's unique edge. You may enjoy the first album more, but check out this odd little slice of pre-MTV major-label-released mutation.


Sure, the Residents are a bunch of strange, anonymous, giant-eyeball-visaged art fucks, but this album can't be beat for sheer rapid-fire "what the fuck am I listening to?" quality. The title derives from the fact that each song featured is only one minute long, like the garden variety television commercial. And there are forty of them, which makes this a sort of soundtrack to impending madness. Eerie synthesizers creating an other-dimensional atmosphere, lyrics about being aware of being watched by a hungry ocean and having one's wife taken through an open doorway to the afterlife by "the Easter Woman," high-pitched voices drilling the dangerously infectious tunes into the mind of a mesmerized listener, and a pervasive sense of sadness and despair all gel to create the perfect guided tour of an aural asylum.


Often overlooked in favor of his other albums such as Trust, Armed Forces and the inexplicably acclaimed Imperial Bedroom, this album is the perfect way to introduce the novice to the early works of the one and only Declan Patrick McManus (that's Elvis Costello to you). A lively sampler of many musical flavors, the CD version is much expanded from the original vinyl release and includes thirty tracks, probably the best known of which is his heart-broken cover of Sam & Dave's "I Can't Stand Up (For Falling Down)."


Sold on CD for years in Manhattan's 34th Street subway station near the entrance to the N and R trains by a guy playing a didgeridoo while shaking a plastic egg filled with ball bearings, this slow-groove hip-hop/didgeridoo hybrid is probably the best album ever for creating a perfect, sexy "gettin' some" atmosphere. And the ladies really dig it.


This is without question the finest of the eleventy-jillion Norse Satanic metal opuses. Fronted by the over-the-top/all-over-the-place vocals of King Diamond, the musicianship on this is what separates it from the herd, and it rocks like nothing you ever experienced on AOR radio. Even if you hate this kind of stuff, please give it a chance because the music is seriously evocative and — for once in the metal genre — free of the hot-doggish guitar noodling that is not only irritating in a "look at me I'm so cool" way, but is also reminiscent of musical masturbation (are you listening, Yngwie Malmsteen?). No joke, when I bought this album I listened to it at least three or four times a day for six months, thereby relegating my soul to Satan.


Sure the Cramps had already put out a few albums-worth of their unique sludgy rockabilly/sleazy B-movie musical stylings but those were merely warmups for this, their masterpiece. Wearing its low-rent '50's rock 'n' roll influence on its leather-jacketed sleeve, A Date With Elvis is unpretentious, sex-obsessed (most notably on the track "What's Inside A Girl?"), completely insane and just as downright fun as a tequilaed-up, beehive-sporting truckstop waitress named Lurlene. I have had a lifelong love of obscure old rock that makes one feel like they are half-whiskeyed-out in a strip joint reeking of stale Marlboro smoke, spilled beer that has molecularly bonded with the Whorehouse Red shag carpet, and cheap bus station perfume, and I usually hate the bands who attempt to emulate that heady mixture, but the Cramps consistently got it right. You see, they weren't out to merely ape the sound and ambience of those dank, basement-level artifacts; the Cramps strove to keep the form alive and brought their own signature outlook to the proceedings, even when covering something as irredeemably ludicrous as the Spark Plugs' "Chicken" (Bawk bawk buhk-ACK!) or when transforming the Del Raney's Umbrellas chestnut "Can Your Hossie Do the Dog?" into the ultimate anthem to horniness "Can Your Pussy Do the Dog?" They still put out albums on an irregular basis (the last gap between Cramps albums amounted to around six years or more) but none have come close to this one, either before or since.


Simply put: this is the definitive British synth/fag-rock dance album. With not one bad track on this mother, put it on and you will be shaking your ass like you're trying to dislodge a jalapeño buttplug. In fact, this is one of a handful of albums that I discovered because they happened to be playing it in the record store and I fell instantly in love. Since first hearing this at Bleeker Bob's in early 1981 I have gone through three vinyl copies and now own it on CD. It includes such classics as "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang," "Geisha Boys and Temple Girls," "The Height of the Fighting" and one of my all-time favorite '80's dance floor classics, "Let's All Make A Bomb," so with a lineup like that you could be dancing right now instead of reading this!


Recorded at a live New Year's show in England in the late 1970's, this is a catalog of pretty much most of the material from the first three Ramones studio albums, only the versions here have the energy of the boys' live performances and all of the songs actually rock harder than their studio counterparts. In short, this is the only Ramones album you really need.


Remember when Frank Zappa had a minor Top 40 hit in 1979 with "Dancin' Fool?" Well this is the album that it sprang from and thanks to those pussies at the FCC none of the other far superior tracks ever made it onto the airwaves. Sure Frankie was notorious for his irreverent and often outrageously filthy lyrics, but he and his band were possibly the most skilled American musicians ever to grace the rock genre. These guys were so tight that most of the Zappa albums from that time were simply recordings of their live performances; in fact most of the songs from the period never had studio versions. Sheik Yerbouti includes such treasures as Frank's take on Peter Frampton's sappy "I'm In You," reworked into the far more honest "I Have Been In You," "Flakes" (a diatribe against the fucking idiots who infest the world), "Broken Hearts Are For Assholes" (lessons on how to get over a bad breakup by frequenting drag queens and getting heavily into homosexual anal sex and fisting with Crisco), "Bobby Brown" (the heartwarming tale of one man's instant conversion to anything-goes homosexuality after having sex with an extremely aggressive dyke named Freddy — yes, I know that makes no sense but the song is still pretty funny), "Baby Snakes" and the infamous "Jewish Princess," for which Zappa caught a lot of heat; it rhapsodizes about the rather explicit pleasures to be had with Semitic women. Sample lyrics:

I want a nasty little Jewish princess
With overworked gums
Who squeaks when she cums!

The controversy over that song was soon eclipsed by the much more vehement reaction to "Catholic Girls" from his next album, the classic Joe's Garage Act 1. I first got my hands on this album when I was in the ninth grade and it is definitely one of the experiences that shaped my mindset from that moment on. Come to think of it, this is the album that really launched my search for quality obscene music (but not the most obscene song ever recorded, which is a matter for another post).


After three albums that were good yet screamed "Look at us! We're art students! Ain't we clever?," the Heads got down to some serious ass-kicking funk and consequently came up with their best album. Every track on this owns the listener completely and if you enjoy the classic "Once In A Lifetime," you will be floored by the rest of the record. Sadly, nothing they have done since comes close to this one and David Byrne fully metamorphosed into a whiny, pretentious douchebag.



The kings of surf/instrumental rock attempted to cash in on the 1966 Batman television series craze with this collection of original instrumentals and covers of spy/adventure TV themes, and while it didn't rake in many ducats it scores big with folks like me who love good instrumentals. Their version of the Batman theme is easily the best of many that were recorded that year, but the real gems here are the original composition "Hotline" (later well covered by Man...Or Astroman?) and the drop-dead excellent covers of the themes from Get Smart and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.


It was impossible for me to choose a favorite album by my much-beloved Damned, but you can't go wrong with these three. The best of compilation is exactly what it claims to be — with a few notable omissions that can't be helped since they were recorded after this album was released — and the two studio albums are hands-down the best overall full-length records in their catalog (although there is a very good case to be made in favor of their classic debut album, DAMNED, DAMNED, DAMNED). The only thing you need to watch out for are the numbers that are pretty much designed to feature vocalist Dave Vanian's penchant for the over-the-top theatrical, but hey, everybody's got their own idiosyncracies! As long as we have "New Rose," "Melody Lee" and the exquisite "Plan 9 Channel 7" all is right in the world.


This past Thursday night I was invited by the lovely Lexi to accompany her and her sister, Ginna, to a benefit reading that supposedly had to do with a comic book store that's set to open on Seventh Avenue. For those of you not in the know, Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn is that noxious area that every neighborhood has that is pretty much equivalent to an overpriced tourist trap filled with Starbuck's coffee outlets, mostly-bad ethnic restaurants and neuveau riche yuppie fuckheads and their equally obnoxious gaggles of squalling ankle-biters. It reminds me of what Main Street in my hometown is like, and that ain't good.

So the sisters, my buddy Hughes and I went to this gigantic church to witness the proceedings, but imagine our horror when we found out that it was actually a gathering of famed literature writers who would be reading from their acclaimed works. Now I love to read, hell, you simply can't stop me from reading! But every single time that I've attempted to read what people consider to be "literature" I've been burned by page after page of overwritten horseshit that usually makes no sense and is in some way supposed to be "deep." As far as I'm concerned, there is still legitimate literature out there that has been written since the late 1960's. but too much of what I've experienced just doesn't get through to me. Now that you know that, you can imagine what a bowel-searing agony this was for myself and my compatriots.

The evening lurched to a start with the news that the original emcee was unable to attend due to a family emergency (I'm betting he came to his senses and got the hell out of Dodge), so we were instead treated to rambling speeches and introductions provided by the head of a children's' after school reading program who had absolutely no idea of how to speak publicly. His litany of "ums," "ers" and extemporized attempts at fostering interest in the program segued into a nausea-inducing promo video that would instill dread in any potential enrollee. Images of the program's "pirate store" brought up uncomfortable associations with a pedophilic fantasy setup. Disturbingly, this establishment bears an endorsement from David Byrne himself. The former Talking Heads frontman even showed up for the event and looked like he had just eaten an entire bag of Psilocybin mushrooms, his completely silver hair only adding to his acid-casualty chic.

After the video concluded, the first author smugly took the podium and regaled us with a short story that apparently had something to do with a writer's attempts at getting a spec script sold to Hollywood, delivered in a style reminiscent of a police-blotter report. Each event in the narrative was headed with a letter of the alphabet for reasons that completely eluded those in attendance, and it didn't help that the author interrupted his own reading to assure the audience that the piece was funny the first time he read it, so it was okay for us to laugh (I've got news for him: my friends and I were waaaaaay ahead of his suggestion). At this point I began to mime loading bullets into the chamber of a revolver and blowing my brains out, followed immediately by my stirring reenactment of a disgraced samurai ritually disemboweling himself. Lexi then leaned over and asked me "Is this the kind of thing that makes you wish you'd brought a gun?"

Then the next writer showed up (after a ludicrous intro in which the emcee gushed about the author's genius, in which he described a scene from a book that included a homosexual rape of Richard Nixon, which he felt was an important statement in the present political climate), some old fart who looked like a failed gene-splicing of Thomas Edison and Orville Redenbacher. This guy pretentiously droned on and on about something that had to do with a sorceress (I think), a downtrodden woman, ensorcelled brothers who take on the form of birds, blah blah blah. During all of this, I got up to take a much needed leak and was amused to see that various audience members were passed out asleep in the pews, some fully reclined and snoring. I also encountered a father who was walking out with his eight-year-old sons who were clearly bored by all of this bullshit; when asked if he was also in search of the restroom, the father said that he was instead searching for the patience that eight-year-olds did not possess. Upon having shaken hands with the unemployed, I regained my seat in time to hear the writer go on about "donkey rectums." At that point, Lexi conferred with her sister and decided that at the next smattering of applause we would leave and hit the local pub. When the applause began, we lit out of there faster than Kunta Kinte being chased out of a Merle Haggard concert.

We had nearly escaped among a small throng of like-minded victims when we ran into the event organizers (co-workers of Lexi's) and David "shroom-head" Byrne. They recognized Lexi and looked at her like they'd just caught her fucking a German Shepherd. But what the fuck were they looking at anyway? They were just walking in themselves, probably from hanging out at the pub or smoking bonghits in back of the Key Food supermarket just up the block. It took every bit of resolve I had to keep my promise to Lex and not call Byrne a douchebag to his face for nearly all of his post "Remain In Light" output (I cut him slack for his "Wicked Little Doll" teamup with Devo, but that's about it). Ah, well...sometimes one has to suffer for art.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

So here's my blog already!

So, after much badgering from various individuals I finally have established my own blog. Get ready for such scintillating entries as me commenting on the fascinating world of Brooklyn's many antique shops that are basically stocked with garbage culled from the lovely dump that most people call the street. Until I fully figure out the arcane workings of how to set this thing up, go to the section labelled ARCHIVES to see new entries. Get ready, dear readers!