Kristian Hoffman's Diaries


Kristian Hoffman

Nov. 11, “Nomi Song” Premiere
Nov. 19, Jerome Kern Night at Bricktops
November 27, Rantrantrant
Dec. 1-3, Rants A Go Go!
Nov. 25, Thanksgiving
Nov. 17, Rant!
Nov. 3, after the election
September 30, The New York Dolls at the Avalon
Sep. 15, Mata Hari at Tangier
Aug. 18, Abby Travis Band
Aug. 12, no Candypants
Tony Awards
July 14, Peggy Lee tribute
July 19, Mata Hari Premiere Show at Tangier
July 30, Velvet Hammer Illuminata
Jul. 31, k.d. lang at the Hollywood Bowl
July 2, Abby Travis
May 23, Team Loud Benefit
Feb. 21, Bollywood Follies
Feb. 27, Art Show Opening

November 11 “Nomi Song” Premiere

It’s really been a pretty breathless couple of weeks. Went to the premiere of the “Nomi Song” at the Arclight complex behind the fabled Cinerama Dome, where the seats are voluminous and the screens are huge. It was part of the AFI filmfest and it all seemed very important and fabulous.

Udo Kier was the host, looking wonderful as usual - what a survivor! He introduced director Andy Horn, my acquaintance and more recently quite good friend ever since the days of Club 57 back in NYC. Andy gave a sweet little speech before the film to the respectable house of Klaus enthusiasts, and then it was on.

Nomi Song Ann Magnuson was my date, and we comforted each other as we appeared on the HUUUUUUUGE screen. We had reason to fear the revelation that our very pores might be the size of gopher holes - but Ann was far more used to seeing her face expanded to the size of a small tract home than I. She of course looked absolutely adorable and wonderfully confident.

In my case, I really didn’t quite look like the implosion of mummy wrappings that I expected. Ann whispered things like, “It’s not really so bad!” that I found to be of meager comfort value. Especially since my teeth were so crooked that I always seemed to be speaking through a mouthful of pecans. And that fruity flat nasal whine of mine that I used for emphasis - I sounded like a Texas drag queen! I'm certain it’s just the low quality sound equipment!

Now when one goes to see a documentary that is ostensibly about someone named Klaus Nomi, but the events it covers are so emotional that you have yet to recover from them, it can be something of a shock to be forced into the realization that the movie is NOT actually titled “The Nomi Song - All About Kristian Hoffman”.

Fortunately I knew in advance that this was NOT going to be an hour and a half detailing how, aside from that classical shit (i.e. Klaus’ most important, popular, ethereal, wonderful and visionary work - the work that will assure his immortality) yours truly actually INVENTED Klaus.

But it was still something of a disappointment that they allowed more reasoned perspectives to creep into what, for me, could have been a much more gripping narrative. In short, they took the ME-NESS of ME out of it! Darn that Klaus!

But the film is really a wonderful work of art, put together with great care and delicacy. It captures the excitement, confusion, inspiration and tragedy of Klaus' brief life with many lovely moving moments, and loads of eye-popping archival footage that I had never seen before. I was seduced as an audience member into a rapt appreciation - even despite the me-ness of me factor!

There was a decidedly uncomfortable moment at the end, when Andy did a brief masterly Q & A and then volunteered, “We have two CELEBRITIES in the audience!”

Ann and I, having with great foresight seated ourselves in almost the last row, looked around expectantly.

“Ann Magnuson and Kristian Hoffman!”

CRINGE! Boy - that is not likely to ever happen again, and is it ever uncomfortable. Everyone in the audience turning their heads to gape at you, and all I can think of are the dentist and pecans as I try not to smile.

And then the only question I was asked is was I ever paid for the songs, which in true record industry fashion I had not been. So my moment to shine was my moment to whine!

But all in all the film is remarkable, and I’m proud to be part of it, and it goes into some sort of American art house release in February. If you’ve ever loved a kook, this is a film you need to see!

And I’ll correct for the me-ness of me factor when I write my completely skewed and grandiose Klaustory for the history page.

Some info on the theatrical release of "Nomi Song" is on the Gigs page.

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November 19 Bricktops, Jerome Kern Night

Comedy School!

I have a hard lesson in the difference between being “clever” (or deluding yourself into think you are), and what is known as “comedy”.

The great thing about Bricktops is the sets are sooooooo short, so it’s like a vaudeville act, or a 45 on a vintage jukebox - if it’s bad, there’s barely enough time to be annoyed, and if it’s great you’re dazzled and long for more.

The terrible thing about Bricktops is the sets are sooooooo short, so you barely get your stage footing or get used to the sound, and are just about to “sell” the darn act, when POW! It’s already over and you’re left out of breath wondering what you did all that work for. And from an audience point of view, if you happen to love it, it leaves you hungry for more, knowing that act is likely never to be repeated.

It’s not like being Vag where you get your five minutes a week. It’s just your five (well, make that fifteen) minutes for ALL TIME.

Jerome Kern night
Vag Davis, KH, Summer Peaches (Bricktops Interpretive Dance staple)

So, when you’re a neurotic artist like me, who got into the “biz” like most losers, I mean people - okay, okay, OKAY I GIVE!- because I needed the attention, and wanted some unqualified love (wah wah), and wanted a safe place to spew my arty couplets (wah wah wah), where I thought someone, ANYONE, might finally listen (those mocking muted trumpets are surely at their most flatulent now!), it takes all your reserves of chutzpah to face this friendly crowd with a bunch of songs decidedly more demanding than those you usually attempt. You want their LOOOOOVE so badly! You’re NEEEEEEDY - and no one loves a needy guy!

You’re trying to bring something wonderful to this fabulous material by La Kern - only one of the greatest songwriters of all time - but you know your vocal limitations, and you’re not a drag queen with a fabulous head dress, or a beautiful girl with big tits - you haven’t got a gimmick or a band to hide behind - you’re just an elderly pop nerd trying to reach this crowd with your “voice”. And in this setting, you barely get to fight your fear to a momentary truce and register the crowd’s sometimes indifferent response, and then it’s OVER!

Then you’re already all alone off stage and it really wasn’t THAT terrible, was it? Or did it even happen? But you feel kind of nauseous and wish you’d never left home. You feel like someone pinched the intravenous tube with your blood supply - where am I? You have a vague pitiful memory of at least one applau (the singular of applause - get it?). The level of self doubt is elevated to the grandiosity of suicide fantasies.The evil Roberta Flack, who hides behind a toadstool in my soul, leaps out in a garden gnome costume with a huge avocado ‘fro, snidley rasping “Where is the Love?” and cackles off into another dark cockle or whatever the fuck they are.

I start off okay: I’m about to sing my rollicking New Orleans Fats Waller re-interpretation of “Can’t help Loving Dat Man” - and I say “ Here’s a song about something with which you can all identify: being in love with a LOSER!” The crowd, which is dutifully filing in from the back room that is really the “parlour” of “The Parlour”, laughs heartily and generously - this might be easy!

I continue (“B-b-b-b-brevity!” Jiminy Cricket hectors!) - “You know he’s mealy mouthed and can’t make up his mind and just won’t commit to anything, butcha jus’ LOVES him all the same - sort of like I felt on November 2!” The audience makes a noise similar to a stomach growling - but I knew that was a groaner, and was ready for it: “OK, political joke! Sorry.”

There’s a light titter that tells me all is forgiven, and my lovely accompanist Linda Good - she of the imposing Jane’s Addiction/Lisa Marie Presley resume -starts her intro.

Now Linda is a wonderful pianist, far more capable than I, and she has one of those “real” left hand techniques - you know, chords, and riffs, and counter melodies. In my punk rock “fake” technique, it’s all I can do to occasionally hit the root note. I’m so lucky to have her! Our one brief rehearsal was fabulous: “One-Take-Linda" I called her - I knew she had the magic! Thank God that Carolyn Edwards suggested her!

But Linda also chooses to spring her “fancy” side on me at this delicate juncture. I’ve written a very specific tinker toy intro for her to play at this moment, which includes THE KEY and the MELODY - you know, that little thing a nervous singer who’s NEVER SUNG THIS SONG BEFORE might cue off of - and she’s all over the keyboard like Rachmaninoff! I never knew there were so many octaves! I’m looking at her helplessly over my shoulder, and she’s smiling at me graciously while her fingers blur like hummingbirds up and down the length of the keyboard - I realize she doesn’t even need to look at the keys while she plays - she could do this forever! Her neo-classical noodling continues unabated. Her skills are really quite amazing! Is there a cue in this dazzling etude?

I’m nearing blind panic - this is the FIRST SONG! I need it to be a winner! Putting imaginary pressure on myself ‘til I think my head will explode and a million notes are swimming in my brain like Pixar piranha, I think, “Oh Well, take a stab at it” - and an eerie wobbly sound comes out of my mouth like a goat just realizing it’s about to be slaughtered. When I’m brave enough to look back at the audience they’re eyeing me curiously - they think I’m doing it on purpose! - while the uncertain wail of my own voice dangles in the fetid air in front of me like a string attached to a wobbly infected tooth, waiting for the door to slam - I can almost see it!


Then I pull a “Rufus” and start all over again - thank the lord for his cheerfully sloppy precedent.

I realize, hey, these are only folks. It’s not that bad! (“You LIE - it’s TERRIBLE and YOU’LL NEVER recover!” Jiminy is always with me with a comforting word) So I turn around to Linda and say, “You know, I need my cue.” And she gives it to me - just like she would have all along, if I’d only asked.

I find the note easily, and there are actually cheers as I confidently croon the bluesy intro, especially when I sing “I even loves him when his kisses got gin”. Whew.

So I’m feeling a little better and start my next spoken intro, which I’ve got kind of prepared. I put on an elocution teacher voice and say, “In that PUCE moment when you find yourself in the hothouse BLOSSOM of PEEEE-YOU-BERTY, you often suddenly discover you have some new and exciting INCLINATIONS” (pause - boy, I’m good!) “you’d like to share” (a muffled snicker, or at best two, from the crowd) “....OR NOT!”

It’s amazing, but during the course of this little intro, from the very first word, the cocktail chatter amplifies geometrically to epic battle proportions so rapidly that I feel like I’m in some lousy surround sound preview to “Alexander”. The jostling to get to the bar is so instantaneous that I look around, fearing there’s a fire! Is it THAT easy to lose an audience?

The few souls still looking at me seem to visibly harden like the super freeze from “The Day After Tomorrow”.

This intro, which actually makes ME laugh, was meant to reference the fact that the next song (“I Never Knew About You, and You Never Knew About Me”) has lyrics which seem to be Kern’s self-remonstrance that he didn’t feel safe enough in his gayness soon enough to come onto a childhood friend whom he later found out was gay as well. That’s a tragedy that I think most of us who’ve had to deal with a “secret” can identify with.

I was going to explain that more simply after the “clever” introduction, which according to the laugh-o-meter was NOT funny, and probably not even CLEVER, but instead I lose my way and hobble lamely to an illogical close, and look back at Linda with my most needy “Please, at least won’t YOU love me? I’m paying you!” basset hound face, and she starts the song.

To be fair, during the instrumental break, when I walked amongst the audience (most of whom have politely returned), and pick people out and say, “Ohhhhh, I never knew about YOU!” or, “Wow” (copping an illicit but transient feel) “I WISH I knew about you”, or “I know about YOU! You’re STRAIGHT!”, the crowd responded with the requisite guffaws and chortles that I knew smelt of “slaying ‘em”. But it was a long bumpy road to that moment.

So imagine my surprise, when introducing the NEXT song, and I spout what has to be the most lame pop reference jibe - what I call “crutch comedy”, because it’s resolutely unfunny and unclever and just something to get you through the moment - it’s the stuff that makes Jay Leno look smart - and I say, “Contrary to popular belief, Celine Dion did NOT invent the power ballad.” (I actually thought of saying Bon Jovi, but thankfully did some quick mental math and realized half of these people weren’t born til after he dated Cher.)

It was like a Nazi rally after that! I gaped in stunned silence as the deafening HOWLS of appreciative LAUGHTER rained down on me like confetti on the “Queen For A Day” contestant (You know - She beat the lady whose children had been eaten by wolves by the last minute reveal that her leprous left foot had fallen off ON THE SET. So she won the monkey fur chubby that was gonna wow ‘em back at the quarantined cardboard hut on Devil’s Island).

As the endless ovation continued, I had plenty of time to stand there blankly while this wave of warm appreciation washed over me and consider: was that first intro “Clever” as opposed to this one, which is “Comedy”? Is that the difference? Was that first intro “Bad” and this is “Good”? Was that first intro actually successful at being “thought provoking” or “a little bit interesting” whereas this one is actually “Funny”? Or did I just FINALLY warm up the audience, and now they’re “with” me?

The laughter kept coming, so I took a few minutes to think about some unpaid bills, and what rehearsals I had before Thanksgiving, and to hope I could finish the Velvet Hammer poster in time, and then did a few multiplication tables in my head to ward off senility. Darn, I guess the words “Celine Dion” are just comic GOLD! Man, I’m GOLDEN! Next time I’ll even try referencing “Prada”! That always works for Ann!

Of course the “gold” couldn’t really pay my way through the next song. I’d always wanted to sing “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” because I just think it’s one of the most beautiful songs ever written - a song that all others are measured by and generally found wanting. And I thought I could “Costello” my way through it - call the boundaries of my vocal ability “character” instead of “flaws”.

On that level, I think it worked. And the audience was patient and attentive - even when I jumbled up the most important words in the song “Now, laughing friends deride”. I even wrote a little “Twinkle Twinkle” intro to it that I thought quite poignant and evocative, and Linda played it with great nuance and feeling. And we added the cool descending minor chords from the Polly Bergen arrangement in the last verse that take the song to a surprisingly mordant place.

But still, living MY dream is a lot to ask of an audience in a campy cocktail lounge - especially after we’d shared such an uncomfortable ride together. So I could feel their patience wearing thin as the song came to a close, even though the response was “polite” - what an ugly word! That’s where the suicide watch comes in.

Thank God for Vag! He jumped up on stage in Marlene Dietrich Morocco drag, and went into one of his miraculously extemporaneous raps - first just staring bug-eyed into my face repeating my name about 75 times an a maniacal monotone. He’s the Marcel Duchamp of performance - never was mindless repitition so hilarious. We start the duet, “I Won’t Dance”, and immediatelty the audience is ours - no, make that his. I’m suddenly a prop in the Vag Spectacular, and though I do show a little more life than a vetriloquist dummy for the remainder of the song, it’s a fine point.

Vag and I worked out some silly choreography in rehearsal, where I’m supposed to prove that “I Won’t Dance” by running into the crowd, and he’s supposed to chase me. So I foolishly run offstage at the appointed cue - but Vag DOESN’T chase me - he just stays up on stage vamping some hilarious 20’s style proto-rap, as the audience goes wild, and I am effectively in the dark, and no longer part of the routine! Boy, the stage craft chops of that trooper! No one is safe!

Jerome Kern night
Vag Davis with KH

He sort of makes up for it by giving me a laborious mock blowjob during the curtain call, while delighted hoots and crowing fill the air. Even I can’t resist breaking up at the sight of that ridiculous blonde “bob” wig - it looks more like a Steiff Chihuahua - bouncing up and down at my groin area.

And that’s show biz - the highs and the lows and being eclipsed by your designated “Eve”, all crammed into 15 minutes or less. Now THAT’S Comedy!

The Screamer’s own notorious Tommy Gear, my old friend and sometime punk era bunk mate (NOT what you’re thinking - but he sure is cute), is on hand to watch me drink my way into partial oblivion, and is even kind enough to say he enjoyed the set. He got a ride home out of that!

And it really was a fun show. But it just wasn’t about the “me” of me. It wasn’t even about “me”. It was just some campy distraction that was enjoyed with light appreciation by happy patrons between cigarette breaks. Damn! Where’s the “me” in that?

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November 27th Rantrantrant

In a bizarre personality profile piece, the L.A. Times devoted six columns, half a page and a huge quarter page picture to a soldier about whom they said:

“This sergeant has seen bullets fly in Vietnam and Iraq. To him, it’s a lifestyle, an adventure.”

The writer seemed to find charm in the fact this Sgt. Kugler served in both wars, and in the good soldier’s enthusiastic attitude.

Apparently intended to be a feel-good piece for the Thanksgiving week-end, and also apparently irony free, the Times went on to quote Sgt. Kugler as saying “I thought of the guy during the Battle of the Bulge who told the Germans, ‘Nuts’. So when I’d take seven ammunition magazines, an M-16, and drive an open vehicle into Baghdad, a city of 5.5 million people, knowing somebody was going to get blown up that day, and I heard a mortar coming in, I’d say ‘Nuts’.”


The Times went on to add: “Kugler derived enormous fulfillment, even pleasure, from his Baghdad duty. ‘The air smells different, everything to your senses is new, and you get a kind of adrenaline rush from being in that situation.’ ”

Wow! "Even pleasure"! Talk about “lifestyle” “choice”. I can imagine why some one might feel in desparate times a war might be necessary, even though I don’t agree, but this war-as-sport attitude was something else again. I always go to war for the rush - of killing people! It’s like a computer game - only better! And packing the latest heat to go on a murderous rampage is not just a career - it’s a “lifestyle”! Guess what - this wasn’t a skit on Mad T.V.!

So as I studied the picture of this guy laughing with his sons fishing on a pier, like a Norman Rockwell picture (except for the combat boots: “They’re so comfortable, he acquired six pairs”), I wondered, who is this article aimed at? What is it telling us? Is this a veiled satire? A recruiting ploy? Or is this just a local color story, the way one might brag about how long your favorite rib joint has been open?

Is this distance between the act that we’re commiting ( it’s called killing!) and the way we describe it actually making people feel like killing ISN’T killing after all?

Somehow I just didn’t go all warm inside and reach for the s’mores - but I’m afraid I might be one of the few.

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December 1-3

Rants A Go Go!

Joanne has suggested that as I get into a post election calm, these outbursts of mine may become shorter and less frequent.

Now you know what to ask Santa for! Until then.......

Today I heard the news that the Bush administration is trying to roll back 90% (!) of the protections for critical habitat for salmon and steelhead from Mexico to Canada. Fish that are in serious decline even with these protections.

Well, my eyes misted over, and then I trembled and then I started crying. You know I’m a weeper!

How can I cry for a bunch of stinking fish that I don’t even like, when I laughed hysterically at the mental image of two Mexican Federal Agents being burned alive by a rioting mob? Today I even laughed out loud at the number of Britons (45%!) that didn’t know what Auschwitz was. People are stupid and then they die - now THAT’S comedy. Why didn’t I know that at Bricktops? And where is my moral compass?

I guess it’s a Disneyfication of my feelings into convenient “comic sidekick” morality:


Animals: GOOOOOOD!

The problem is - it’s the truth! Maybe that’s why I weep for my species - we are BAAAAAD. “Developers applaud the plan” for species protection rollbacks. Surprise! But NOT funny.

There was a featured quote in big block letters (and I’m proud the L.A. Times chose to highlight this) on Page 29 (but I’m ashamed the L.A. Times buried it there):

“ ‘The Actions are typical of this administration - ignore science, ignore sound economics, and ignore the law.’ -Nicole Cordon”

Cool - even if La Cordon is only the policy and legal director of an obscure environmental activist agency, aka any tree hugger, U.S.A.

Meanwhile, if George Wanton Bush were wearing a black hat and twirling an oily moustachio, he couldn’t seem more cartoonish. “Extinction’s my middle name!” he’d lisp with villainous glee. But he is the most powerful man in the most powerful nation on earth. Maybe that’s why I’m crying, and why people deserve to die.

Further adventures in weeping!

A new lifestyle? I'm soooooooooooo in touch with my emotions!

Listen to this pathetic story:

Vegetating in bed with the heat on full blast - you know in California if the temperature ever drops below 55 we believe we’ve been banished to Siberia and react with accordant hysteria.

So I’m nestling under the down comforter with the reluctant cat, after taking down my art show last night, trying NOT to find a reason to get out of bed, and that silly “War Games” movie, starring a young and peculiarly swollen lipped Matthew Broderick, is on.

I’ve only got my nose and eyes over the bedclothes because man, it’s winter here! It must be 60 outside! So I’m peering at the screen at the finale where the computer finally “learns” that thermonuclear war is futile, and says in that cheap Toys’R’Us vocoder voice:

“Strange game where the only way to win is not to play.”

And I burst out crying! Bawling! “Dat’s sooooo TWOOOO!” my conscience, which since the election only speaks baby talk, agrees. “Dat is an obzoobayshun ub sum sub-stwance!” That’s the emotional rawness of living in a Bush regime in a truly ugly America. I’m reduced to this!

Some friends say, “Well at least cocaine is always cheap and plentiful - and really high grade - as long as there’s a Bush in the white house.”

I don’t even know how to respond to that outsider factoid. What? Is there a connection? The Worm? The Spice? Is this “Dune”?

While pedophile priests (it’s an honored tradition for these upholders of the fabric of morality) make the front page with spilt sperm guilt gelt payoffs, and the Berserker circus careens into the weird blaring calliope denial of science or truth, and the rich dance madly on the graves of their own children, sporting their Crosstikas in a KristallNacht Reichsmordewoche Night of the Long Knives Night on Bald Mountain orgy, I sniffle infant tears in stupid awe.

Did you know that another word for the Night of the Long Knives (during which Roehm and many of his Stormtroopers were assassinated on Hitler’s orders in a power blood purge) was also called “Disambiguation”? Wow - that’s even cooler Orwell than “Collateral Damage”. It’s almost poetry! To make “clearer”!

Well, I guess there’s nothing ambiguous about Bush. Don’t wait til you’re disambiguated!

BTW, I’m really on the side of the priests as far as the molestation goes. I think priests have fondled choirboys for a thousand years, and somehow the planet survived. What’s the big deal?

And besides, if we’ve won the war in Iraq, why is gas still so expensive?

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November 25th


Well - this is how bad it’s gotten: I was just reading the paper (okay - I confess I get the bulk of my news info from that dubious source, but I got my pillar of salty skepticism on hand for any reportage - including YOURS!) - and there was this article about how live television captured an enraged mob of hundreds of otherwise average Mexican citizens, as they turned against a trio of federal undercover agents, apparently mistaking them for kidnappers (!), and burned two of them to death near their overturned car. And I started laughing! I couldn’t stop myself! Then I was laughing more at the fact I COULD laugh at this horror, ‘til finally I had to wipe tears from my eyes! I was howling out loud! I scared the cat! Oh, I’m dyin’ heah! HOOOO! HAAAA! HEEE! I laughed ‘til I was SICK! Even the image of those fried corpses was HILARIOUS - like the many times my mom burned the turkey - oops! Crusty!

I feel terrible for the families of those agents, and burning to death seems like one of the most torturous horrific ways to enter the great beyond imaginable. I don’t think my laughter is likely to endear me to them.

And the mob is the symbol of civilization disintegrating in its purest and most frightening form (our last “mob ruled” elections are barely a metaphor compared to this, even though the outcome on a global scale will be much worse than the loss of two officers’ lives).

But it’s a mark of the tenor of this moment, when truth is so hopelessly marginalized, that trouble for any agent of authority (any of whom you can assume, with a probable .05 margin for error, to be absolutely corrupt) seems cause for outright celebration! Victory by proxy and happenstance! Bash Black Bart! I couldn’t sucker-punch the establishment, but those angry vigilantes can! It’s especially easy to laugh with the distancing of the filter of a Wile E. Coyote media, where nothing is believable and everything looks like a cartoon.

Add to that my own habit of running off having actually understood perhaps ten percent of the story, knowing nothing of the contextual history and socio-economic structure of the region, and not bothering to do any further research. “Too painful” is my threadbare excuse, as I run to my current painkiller addiction, e-bay, with a disposable income I assume, in my ignorance, most of those vigilantes will never have - they could all be upper middle class homeowners and I’d never know.

It’s how the story gets me to my sweet spot of high indignation or condescending snorts of superiority - I’m an American, after all! Knee jerk - that’s my motto! Identification with the pain of others? Trying to understand their motivations? Actually looking into the dry facts? Don’t they pay someone in Washington to do that for me?

So - I’m not proud of that laugh, although it was a great stress relief. In fact, I’m suppressing a chuckle right now, and accessing all the liberal guilt I can muster to excuse it! But, pardon me, Off the pigs! Please!

Being righteous is so tiresome, even when you’re right!

But the laugh is indicative of...something? Like, take how poor Dan Rather has been pilloried. Now, don’t get me wrong - I was never a Dan Fan. Icky! But is there ANYONE in the WORLD who doesn’t KNOW for an absolute FACT that Bush received “preferential treatment” during his Vietnam era service in the Texas Air National Guard? ANYONE? Preferential treatment? DUH! He’s been handed EVERYTHING by his Manchurian Candidate backers ever since he proved he could get that lopsided crack in an eight ball he calls a smile around his fake home boy patois. His phoney college achievements, his escape route from the reverse Midas Touch that bankrupts everything he comes near (now the United States itself and the natural resources of the world!), the presidency. YOU ALL KNOW IT’S TRUE! Come on, you cretinous FUCKERS!

So a piece of paper was copy-shop forgery. Well then, Bush must be cool after all! That’s our America!

And that’s how truth works now - the whole fucking steak is sitting right in front of you, and some outraged (crafty republican - fill in the blank) says “Hey - doesn’t my napkin have a GRAVY STAIN on it?”

And the whole dunderhead world goes home hungry.

Where was I? Oh : Thanksgiving. -


Well, you rant fans can skip this part - Thought I’d list a few things I’m actually grateful for, sort of as leavening, or just because I’m an unreformed hippie, or as bet-hedging in case there IS a higher power.

Basics: Roof over my head (and a grand rickety gimcrack Charles Addams sprawl of a roof it is!), a car that runs, food in the refrigerator, and some petty cash in the bank. That sets me ahead of 90% of the world’s population. I don’t know why it happened, but I’d rather not die penniless in a filthy gutter, so, thanks!

Less basic: Family that loves me. Wonderful Boyfriend. A fantastic supportive inspired posse of co-conspirators and collaborators in the effort to keep light, love, beautiful music, and crazy art alive! I might call that a community - that’s a good word. And many people who are fighting with me to preserve vintage Halloween ephemera. That cannot be overstated! Thanks! Oh, and a pretty cool record collection.

America. It’s a grand old flag! There’s no village or town or hamlet I’ve had the wonderful privilege to visit in our great country where I haven’t met fantastic inspiring creative (did I say friendly and generous?) people, and every single place in America has some terrific defining characteristic that is so unique you just want to live EVERYWHERE at once. I LOVE America. And the natural wonders! You just can’t visit Yellowstone enough. Or El Chavo.

And a voice - to rant with, and share what little vision I’ve been given as an artist and a human. I’m grateful for that! And the right - for the moment at least - to use it! And I’m grateful for the voices of others to share and dispute and kick my ass! I LOVE America! For everything it promises and offers and shares. Cause it was started by SMART people, who liked being smart, and liked other smart people! But who were also compassionate enough to want to protect EVERYBODY - even against the SMART people! (I’d complain about the lack of socialized medicine - but - this is THANKSgiving.)

And ALMOST lastly, for the international community that has somehow seen fit to become my pen-pals, and reminders, and historical correctors, and supporters to whom I hope to somehow return the favor in kind - wow - life is rich!

But I’ve saved one of the best for last - Joanne, my lovely webmistress, who puts up with me, has untold reserves of patience and positive feedback, to say nothing of her astute editorial suggestions (you don’t believe it? You should see some of this shit BEFORE she fixes it! You don’t want her job!) and makes this outrageously self-indulgent hobby of a Kristian Hoffman one-stop info archive possible. Love and Thanks!


Now wipe that sticky saccharine glop off your faces, take a quick acid bath in the hazardous waste removal percussion showers, and back to kvetching! Thanks, schmanks!

I was just throwing away the October Issue of Rolling Stone with the John Kerry cover story and interview. I am OUT of love with the guy - the honeymoon was over with that candidate (or, more accurately, can’t-i-date) long ago - why why why why why why WHY isn’t he demanding a huge embarrassing tabloid legal wrangle investigation into the Ohio vote count? At least it would distract the Bush Follies from a few weeks of planet destroying! You should at least be holding the incumbent responsible for this debacle of an election til that darn electoral college convenes. Get out there and WHINE and GNASH and HOWL, loser!

So it surprised even me how difficult it was to relegate that dream to the recycling bag. I had to reread the interview. Revisit the loss. You show me a scab, I’ll pick it!

Of course one of the single defensible things about the determinedly blah content of Rolling Stone (they’d be almost as radical as a Gap ad, if they could afford the Viagra) is that it is a (lonely) mouthpiece for unabashedly liberal journalism. Refreshing!

So this was not a hardball interview. It was basically, “So John - why don’t you just feed me your teleprompted platform and I’ll coo at the appropriate moments?”

But still, I caught MYSELF cooing at the appropriate moments! This was a smart, thoughtful, experienced guy who seemed to want to return some balance to the American vision, some security to the American people, some safety nets to the world environment, and some friendship to the other nations of the earth. And even seeming to want that is so unheard of in this grim moment that I could barely force the magazine into my bale of old newspapers in my minute bid to at least do no further harm to the trees of this earth. Even if Kerry is a goddamn loser who equivocates about gay marriage and war and all that other "minor" shit - he was OUR loser!

So now I’m rethinking my position on hope - or at least somewhat muting my support for its vaccine of choice, known as despair. Suddenly the high you get from indulging in either of those prismatic emotional drugs seems innappropriate. Like I said in one of the lyrics for my next record (if I EVER get that together):

Despair is the cheap window dressing on the obvious

Which certainly means I don’t think it’s a particularly clever response to an unfortunate turn of events.

But why not just try it on for size? Go on a little binge? Once they found out that red wine was actually a healthy stress reducing regimen to adopt for the human heart, why not binge on a few mood enhancers for the soul? Sometimes a wallow is all that we’ve got.

I was reading how George Carlin has resigned from his former position as acid tongued idealist, having relinquished any hope of people being evolved enough to facilitate positive change for society. At least this year, you got that right buster! He’s ready to WATCH the tragedy, but no longer ready to emotionally invest in preventing the tragedy. So he’ll keep the acid tongue, thank-you, but lose those burdensome ideals.

Man, how that resonated with me after MY angry rant! I WANT to give up on humanity - they seem to have given up on me!

But then even I indulge in a little mealy-mouthed equivocating: the neanderthal portion of us is really only MOST people, and barely that - it’s only MOST by one or two measly percent. Perhaps it’s only MOST but not all people who voted, and only MOST but not all rich people, and only MOST but not all Christians, probably seasoned by a goodly portion of fundamentalists of all religious persuasions.

But that silver lining only gets you so far - and up close it looks suspiciously like one of those copper sandwich quarters.

The knowledge that so many great artists whom I admire find this blackening of their world view as they mature into what should be the glorious sunset years is taunting me: if these geniuses ended in a despairing wallow, who I am I to disdain the tainted water of that sulphuric fumarole? Dip a toe, pussy!

So, does knowledge and perspective necessarily mean despair? The fact that this observation is not new - it is forever renewed and revisited, like the grave of a childhood friend - and that it seems to come to so many artists, gives it the unwelcome weight of truth.

And even the childhood friend may have only been so in a dream, for aren’t memories edited and shaped and sculpted by experience and denial? Perhaps believing in the power to change really IS a young man's folly. Perhaps knowing better is the bitter crop of an observant mind.

I was listening to this fabulous NPR show on the Life of Leonard Bernstein (although they did gloss over his inner conflict about his bisexuality, as well as any possible male sexual partners who may have figured in his life, with one or two sentences about his pre-marital status in the 40’s - at least in the FIVE HOURS I listened to!) - and the correspondence he kept up with his creative community was such a privilege to hear! Their eloquence, insight and humor! It was like a drug - one that makes you more CLEAR, rather than more addled.

Now I was listening while driving to and from my Mom’s house, so I’m sure I’ll get some of the names wrong, but one writer whom I found particluarly involving was named Martha.......Gilbert? Gilmore? I did a google search and only came up with some modern geophysicist - surely not OUR Martha. Marte?

But after many wondrously clever letters, she wrote mournfully about the Kennedy assasination - in my mind an historic event that somehow seems weirdly disproportionate in cultural resonance to the actual wit, charm or soul of the man. Oh, symbology. But then I heard this letter which, paraphrased, said something like:

‘I just want to resign from the human race. This climate of cruelty and hatred among the human species has me despondent. It doesn’t even matter who the perpetrator was - they are not the cause; they’re merely one of the tragic effects. This is not a time I would choose to live in, and I’m in such despair I almost don’t care what happens......Of course Texas is an abomination - it always has been.’

Sound familiar? Maybe this is a human moment that returns to us - like Christmas, or World War.

Perhaps the human cycle is destined to have a few of those startlingly brief titillating moments where the spirit and culture peeks its nose above the surface of our cruel and reckless fallibility, to smell the glistening fresh air of brotherhood and possibility, and then - IMMEDIATELY! - wantonly, willfully dive back into to the dark clouded mire of fear and suspicion and meanness of spirit, where we rush to destroy whatever is left of the world. Where we feel safe under the stones with the other invertebrate mollusks.

On the same show, some Viennese companion of Leonard’s said, “When you are protected, covered, secure - you are safe - but cannot reach the heavens. When you are uncovered, heaven is sometimes within your grasp.”

He was of course talking about La Bernstein’s penchant to embarrass himself while stumbling in his enthusiasm to try for the stars. But that mind set helped me think of a new equation about people who want to be “secure”:

Those who voted for Bush hate, fear, and distrust other people. They think people need to be coerced and punished into a narrow course of “acceptable” behaviour.

Those who voted otherwise like and trust people, or at least WANT to like and trust people. They think encouragement, debate and example, as well as generosity and sharing, encourage “acceptable” behaviour, which they decline to define.

Which way would you rather be treated?

I know it’s idiotically simple - but show me an exception! PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!

This never seemed so urgent before, now that the toys of the Gods are in the hands of the dolts.

Because hasn’t the reclamation of any sort of balance in the world been made more impossible by every technological leap forward?

When the industrial revolution blackened the urban skies with coal smoke, it seemed like humanity had reached its technological nadir.

But now we can do that in an instant, on a global scale! And now there’s so many more of us to do that! With so much less restraint! While you’re breathing, or wasting time reading this stupid paragraph, some species has just become extinct. Some forest has been razed. Some child has starved. I think there’s a one-liner in there somewhere!

Now, of course, my ventures into real literature are laughable! I always loved Paul Zone’s quote in New York Rocker, when they asked him his favorite book : “What? Me? I don’t read!”

And I subscribe heartily to Lux Interior’s offer in "Most Exalted Potentate" to show me the book of life “or you can just look at the pictures if you like.” I’m a skimmer. And I love the pictures.

But I did read Mark Twain’s “The Mysterious Stranger” (and of course his earlier despairing look at the advantages of technology in the horrendous pile up of bodies at the end of “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court”) and that was enough to help me realize that, towards the end of his life, this great humorist and humanist found little to laugh at in the brutish unthinking amorality he could no longer deny was at the soul of the species.

And in “The Once And Future King”, Camelot may be felled by romantic betrayal, but wasn’t it also a kingdom that was built on the blood of battle and the religious zealotry of the Crusades and the misery and gold of the conquered? The bones of the crushed are always the foundations of the palaces, and when they rot the palaces crumble.

So when some clever man tries to chide human nature to take stock of itself with laughter and fun making, and then to redress its foibles with a little kindness, the man himself often absorbs the bilious poison of knowing the souls of those around him better than the vessels which contain them. And insight - or is wisdom too grandiose a word? - becomes bitter, or even dangerous: witness Oscar Wilde.

So the knowledge that at least half of this country that votes are mental midgets with no capacity for compassion, easily manipulated to feel threatened by the spectre of say...Gay marriage! (who ARE these groundhog people? gotta laugh to keep from crying)...into taking a stand against their own best interests - Well, that knowledge is NOT a conduit to a satisfying peal of superior laughter - it’s a conduit to the much heralded slough of empathetic despair, a sort of soul defeat. If they can be that stupid, might I not be as well? As Daryl Hannah as Pris said so succinctly in Blade Runner, “Then we’re stupid and we’ll die!”

Not a fun concept!

As a point of America’s monumental stupidity - let’s take a closer look at the words “gay marriage”. Take the word marriage out of the Christian context it’s been forced into - because, um...don’t Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists marry? To say nothing of Episcopalians and Protestants and Catholics, and Jews? Maybe all THOSE marriages should be outlawed too!

To me marriage is just a word, with a finite meaning. But to many Americans it is apparently a flaming sword, the future of which threatens their capacity to shop at Wal Mart and fill their tacky homes with idiot shit, and kill strangers in far off lands, and teach their kids that God hates fags, and that evolution is just an ugly rumor, and to remind their kids that poor people don’t deserve medicine or food and neither do you! Somehow "marriage" is the key to all that.

“Gay” “Marriage” was so divisive to these staunch folks that it was apparently THE ONE stealth weapon that mattered when it came time to vote. It’s funny that people were concerned about little things like the economy, the war, and the fate of the planet, but when it came time to vote, the idea of having to accept two fags getting a hitched in a civic union was REALLY their prime concern. At least the Republicans were smart enough to know that THEIR constituents are REALLY THAT STUPID!

So: the word “Marriage”. Marriage is NOT a religious word. It implies a social contract. “Social” does not imply “religion” except as various religions, or lack of same, affect various parts of social interaction. DUH! Are you listening, you morons?

So the word “Marriage” is a CIVIL word. In our culture, civil and social contracts are not stable - they evolve. DUH SQUARED! Um - can you spell women’s suffrage? Slavery? I know those comparisons are tired, but at least they’re easy to grasp - at any rate I thought so until I realized Americans were so STUPID - and they CAN’T spell!

So, marriage is described in the dictionary as “a person being united to a person or persons of the opposite sex as husband and wife in a special kind of social and legal dependance” - “of two general types: monogamous and polygamous”.

Further down it says, in describing various cultural perceptions of marriage through the ages, “a bride was often secured by capture, theft, purchase, or the exchange of a sister”.

And only then, and only WAY WAY WAY after that does it bring up religion AT ALL, saying that since the Reformation there have been two conflicting views: “a sacramental and indissoluble union” and “a purely civil union which is dissoluble with just cause”.

Now I know all you zealots are gleeflully clinging to the phrase “of the opposite sex”. Go ahead - cling! After all, that’s what you do! But then indulge me, and read a little further.

Hmmm. Heady stuff. Polygamy. Has the cultural and social view of marriage evolved beyond that in our country? Or is the concept of marriage static and inviolate? Better ask your third wife - the one that reads!

Let’s see - capture, theft, purchase - I don’t THINK we do that anymore. Well, I guess movie stars still get to purchase - and I imagine corporate heads do too. This is America. Maybe that’s a God given right - after all, His name is on every dollar! Better check the Bible.

Let’s get to the “Christian” view point. (At least “since the Reformation” - or do we recognize the Reformation? Perhaps they fiddled with the WORD OF GOD a little too freely!) A “sacramental and indissoluble union”. Hmmm. I don’t know ANY divorced Christians - do you?

OOOOOPS! Maybe those Christians who decided marriage SHOULD be dissoluble are letting their concept of marriage “evolve” - maybe they’re even getting a little bit “CIVIL”! (No, I don’t mean they’re polite! That is no longer a Christian value.)

So obviously, if marriage is NOT kept static and the concept of it is EVER tampered with, SOCIETY CRUMBLES, and there is ANARCHY, and people begin marrying their DOGS to their pre-teen CHILDREN. It’s happened very other time, hasn’t it, you GAY DIVORCEES? Watch out, your Jesus is giving you a broad humourous wink from the bloody cross, but I don’t think he’s laughing WITH you!

So I guess the civil and legal definitions of marriage DO evolve as a society evolves. TRIPLE DUH!

Now one other aspect of marriage is that, even though it must be done legally to be recognized by courts of law, the actual public ceremony may be practised along the guidelines of your religion of choice. (Get it - choice? This is America!) So is a Jewish marriage not recognised by those who were married in a Catholic church? Or is a civil ceremony presided over by a justice of the peace perhaps not recognised by either a Jew or a Catholic? Oh - only when they cross state lines. Gee, I’ll have to think about that.

Are you with me you morons? You can have any goddamn rules in your idiotic religion you want! You can sacrifice goats and drop black wax on your nipples in a satanic pentagle made of human blood and keep out the fags and yell that black people are only half human and buy a farm and stockpile arms (until the GOOD people in this country make that illegal and take them all away and leave you brats bawling in your diapers of ignorant fear) and EAT Jesus’ BODY and DRINK Jesus’ BLOOD in some cool goth bizarre archaic cannibalistic ritual, and think HATE is a family VALUE, and teach that to YOUR CHILDREN and grow soy beans and eat that shit they call tofu or whatever the fuck you want! That’s your religious RIGHT as an AMERICAN!

Just keep your religious nose out of my legal and civil union, so I can visit my spouse in the hospital and be present at the reading of his will and be covered under his health care! Like even Walt Disney (the fascist organization whose wholesale destruction of children's literature has warped the impressionable minds of your helpless children for decades) - even they have same-sex couple health coverage, YOU DOPES! OOOOPS! Better get that fag Mickey Mouse out of your infant’s brain pan. I always thought that squeaky voice was a little fey. Put a stop to his influence now, otherwise your kids might grow up and be FRIENDLY and NICE!

Did you ever stop to think that gay marriage might be STABILIZING to your idiot SUBURBS? Did you ever think it might be an advantage to have a nice quiet stable two income gay couple invest in your neighborhood and raise the property values? That their commitment meant they probably WOULDN’T be having the speed addict leather clad crisco orgies next door that you assume every “gay” person has? Darn, if that party doesn’t sound an AWFUL lot like the heterosexual no-fags-allowed SWINGER parties I’ve seen several documentaries about recently! And these were “CHRISTIAN” swngers! Since I’ve seen it on T.V. and on film, it MUST be true! I bet ALL HETEROSEXUALS ARE LIKE THAT! Boy, I wish they’d move out of my neighborhood! I wouldn’t want a STINKING AMORAL CHRISTIAN SWINGER (and on top of that THEY’RE OLD AND UGLY AND DON’T GO TO THE GYM) heterosexual to be tempted by the sight of my poor innocent cat! If they’re allowed to “swing”, who knows what’s next? DIVORCE?

A brief aside: have you ever seen a Gay person marching for the right to marry his dog or his brother? Happy Thanksgiving! The next time some native Americans see some stupid Western European religious nuts starving in the woods, they’ll know better!

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November 17th

A long unedited rant not even slightly disguised as a diary entry - Is this Blog? Or Bleaaaaguh?

I was just thinking about the word “Hope”. How we can use it, in this time where it seems more like a fool’s distraction that an uplifting force to help us through the next battle.

I don’t even know what emotions we are supposed to allow ourselves right now - the Quaker teaching that “There is that of God in every man” may be true - but that part where it is hiding seems pretty hard to reach in a slim yet still shockingly reason-free majority of what I loosely call my fellow Americans. Because the word fellow, as it is used to imply friendship, is obviously not applicable in those cases.

So between thrashing colorful rem states where I have inexplicably been dreaming of having wild but safe(r) sex with Brian Grillo (Of course he’s adorable, but I’ve known him for 20 years!) - I’ve been driven witless by nightmares of a nation of Wolverines.

When I was little my dad gave me a book acalled “The Thornton W. Burgess Animal Book For Children” - sort of a pre-cable Animal Planet channel, to put it in contemporary vernacular. And out of all the animals, the Wolverines were the scariest. Not because of the pictures - they looked a bit like lumpen badgers. But I guess because of the word “voracious”, which I had to look up. They seemed violent, insatiable, unknowable, and unstoppable. And now those nightmares have returned.

So I’m left to observe MY emotional response to Bush Follies - the Sequel, and wonder - how does it serve me? There seems so little “hope” out there - with the hideous Condaleeza (3rd) Reich and her witless Rumsfeld cronies in ascendance, the Supreme Court up for grabs, even Harpers' using the heretofore verboten word “Fascist” to describe Bush - I can only look for answers for the next few weeks in the “safe house” of my behavior and that of my friends.

Every time I open the paper and I see that the U.S. dollar has become so devalued against the currency of all the countries in the world that Bush bad -mouthed, in his usual cavalier ignoramus fashion (he can’t even come up with a CLEVER uninformed jingoistic jab - even I could do that!), that economists fear a major economic collapse is imminent for the U.S., and our entire economic stability is dependent on the good will of Japan and China (!), it’s hard for me to find any joy of the “Well, you voted for the guy” cold comfort sort.

When I read that all of the centrists in the senate have been replaced by a new generation of hardline Republicans (may I replace that word with the more accurate “assholes”?) so hopes of acoss-the-aisle compromise is a fading ethereal wisp of ectoplasm, I just wonder - do I have the right to hope?

I guess I should be doing my gig diaries, that sort of website-friendly infotainment on a personal scale. Isn’t this web thing about my “art”?

Or is it about me, and my rants, and my point of view and how I truly believe Linda Ronstadt would make a great president - no, make that benevolent dictator?

Shouldn’t I use this dark time to rediscover real gratitude for the fact that I still so often get the invitation to work alongside artists who are indeed my idols: accompanying Rebekah Del Rio while she uses the incredible instrument of her voice (so aptly showcased in “Mulholland Drive” with her chill-inducing accapella rendition of “Crying”) to caress the mordant musings of “Gloomy Sunday”?

What about getting to sing “Unknown Soldier” with Stew’s incredible aggregate “The Cover problem” on a beautiful summer night in front of 1500 people or so at Cal Plaza?

Or getting to play my best Shakey’s Pizza Parlour bargain basement ragtime piano to Vaginal Davis’ scathing rendition of the Go-Go’s “This Town Is Our Town” at the same glorious “Star Trek The Next Generation” 80’s corporate optimism breezy moonstruck venue?

And being chosen to be in Mink Stole’s band, and have la Stole attend my art opening AND my pumpkin carving party - creative life is good! I’m in the company of inspired activist creative staunchly liberal people all the time! There’s always a wonderful project - today I’ll play keyboards on Andrew’s wonderful “Where I Want To Be” with great musicians like Jim Laspesa and fabulous cellist Matt Cooker, who plays with Air and all sorts of folks.

I also live in California, and the embarrassment of Schwarzenegger is at least moderated by the agile puppeteering of Shriver. I may not like Schwarzenegger, but I’m fine with Shrivernegger!

And we actually LIKE liberals here - Orange County notwithstanding.

And hearing some moron next to you at the check-out counter, or the thrift store, talk about how HIS Jesus wouldn’t be able to forgive such and such a sin is the exception, not the rule. In fact you’ll share a raised eyebrow and a humourous disbelieving shake of the head with everyone else in ear-shot - it’s a bonding experience here, not a disquieting fearful one.

Having people around you (people in absolute denial of every scholarly psychological study of the last 50 years, I might add) that regard being Gay as a “lifestyle” “choice” - doesn’t happen too often here. Choosing to be a mean spirited judgmental ignorant Christian as opposed to a charitable compassionate expansive Christian - now THAT’S a “lifestyle” “choice”!

Of course these K-Mart Christians have the upper hand right now in that OTHER America. And they know you don’t just have to take your Jesus off the rack anymore - you get to select from a dazzling array of product options, and get a customized Jesus with only the features you want!

You can have him streamlined and sharpened and weighted like a cudgel, remove the burdensome low tech freight of compassion and pity and that sticky pablum of the rubes: “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself”! Makes for a more aerodymnamic, sportier model, with more accurate target delivery and untraceable exploding tips, oops, I mean inspirational vigor and pizazz!

Why subscribe to some half-baked myth, ooops I mean the inviolate actual Word of God, when you can really pare him down to the essentials, so he can be better armed to wrestle that brutishly primitive warmongering flame-spewing fundamentalist deity that so inspires those darn dusky heathens! That towering icon whose name is used as a rallying cry to acts of violence, war and senseless bloodletting! Ooops! Which is which? What is this, a lookalike contest? Darn! I’m always getting the messiah mixed up with his stunt double anyway, and now Yaweh is in a suspect line-up with Allah and I’m all confuserated!

It seems like those desert rats and us glorious god-fearing Amuricunts are both equally willfully misinterpreting the words in our respective “good books” to aid the secular causes of which ever maniacal spokesmodels hold the current copyright!

And of course there’s always the issue of transalation - those in power always get to do that! Thank Mel, I mean God, that they finally translated it BACK from the millionth corrupted mistranslation into a 21rst century approximation a some dead language first booted around in the “Exorcist”(aka the Old Testament) - Aramaic!

Our man Mel finally put the focus back where it belongs - on the gore! Just like real life in Iraq for that cute li’l sepia girl and her Aramaic lookin’ mama! Oops - they’re dusted! Glad I got the DVD.

But meanwhile, back in my town in Cal-if-fornicate, we don’ hol’ wid dat fussin’ and hollerin’! No suh!

“When me ‘n’ my kinfolks gits to gadderin’ roun’ de ol’ pot bellied stove in de gen’ral sto’, ” he ruminated with some satisfaction, inhaling deeply on his corncob pipe to the smell of fresh fryin’ apple fritters, “we don’ truck wid dat line o’ malarkey! In NY town and Los Angle-eeez, we don’t cotton to a bunch of ignorant orn’ry troublemakers gettin’ all upset over nuttin’!”

Yes, the coastal regions of dis heah Unided Staytz are places of a different code, a place of some solace and comfort.

But is this a bubble of denial? Or is this the right way?

During Reagan’s tenure, my peace activist radical Mom espoused the theory that the Republicans had a long term plan to dismantle the educational system, because uneducated people are more emotionally malleable. They’d seen what a free college education resulted in - an informed youthful populace that questions things and gets ideas! Can’t have that!

Better to demonize the very idea of book learnin’(to use Bush’s strangely Hollywood adopted folksy accent - as you can see, I’m trying to ape that to better communicate with dem reg’lar folks!), and just in case THAT doesn’t work, why don’t we purposefully render them incapable of reading at all!

According to Mom, these same Republicans were (and ARE) behind the wholesale promotion of videogames, because they increase hand/eye coordination and heighten a simpleton “us vs. them” attitude - both desirable attributes in idiot cannon fodder, oops! I mean the few, the proud.

She stopped just short of saying they invented AIDS. I wasn’t laughing then. But back in that simpler time, I had a little more ironic spiritedness when I declaimed her theories to all and sundry. The point was more like , “Isn’t my mom cool?” It wasn’t the cold muffled lead death knell throb of “Isn’t my mom right?”

And recently, back when I still believed - oh remember this wistful joyous ignorant state? - that Kerry COULD and indeed MUST win the election against these hatemongers - singing “Unknown Soldier” seemed not only like an act of moderately silly but ultimately unifying bravado - it seemed like the ‘right’ sort of protest note to sound while we bonded as a gathering force to return “heart” to the empty cavity that America was becoming.

The Cal Plaza show was a tribute to California songwriters and music (coordinated and curated by the ever wonderful Gary Stewart), so I introduced “Unknown Soldier” by saying, “Back in the sixties, John Lennon said ‘All You Need Is Love’, ‘Give Peace A Chance’ and ‘War is over If You want It’. Noble sentiments to be sure. But out here, our designated visionary had a different take on the subject...”

Cal Plaza 
click for full-scale image

And in the middle of my anger about Iraq and the idiocy of a large portion of my American compatriots, as well as a sense of ascendancy of the “new left” (remember all those unregistered voters who were going to save us?) Jimbo’s slightly dopey but wildly prescient lyrics took on a new resonance:

Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Unborn living, living dead
Bullet strikes the helmet’s head

And it’s all over
War is over

Even as I indulged in a lot of unseemly rock screeching to the wonderfully capable jamming of this band that had Probyn Gregory, Stew and Heidi, Joe Berardi and Mark Doten, my mind flared in Stanley Mouse explosions of psychedelia to the notion that the shroomin’ shaman espoused: War is only over when you’re dead.

Then it was time for the execution sequence, and Stew was supposed to shoot me with his casio. He was so timid, that he missed the down beat of Joe’s ear splitting mock gunfire, so I had to remain standing and say, “Is that all you’ve got? You missed!”

But the Stew took aim again, the firing squad drumroll increased in tension, Stew hit the casio in time to the last crackling bullet report, and, channeling the intermittently injun-addled spirit of the sadly fat and bearded po’ boy’s shaman in a puddle of his own Budweiser piss, I leapt upwards and backwards to fall flat on my shoulder blades on the concrete stage, in a mock death crumble that hurt as much as the real thing.

There were screams of awe and approval from across the lovely pond that inexplicably separates the audience from the performers in this fanciful modernist setting. I crawled, playing broken and crippled - and - FEELING broken and crippled - to the crutch of the mike stand, and over the repeating chords of the outro, I sang a bit of another lovely dated song from an innocent era:

Some may come and some may go
We will surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading on the grass

But where Chet Powers (bless his soul - that song is still unrivalled as a brotherhood anthem - but Oh, the hope it assumes - the hope! I ask you! Do we have the right?) would have urged you to “Smile On Your brother” I just started screaming “It’s all over!” and then after an ejaculatory spasm of rock frenzy, told the hot combo to “bring it on down”. And they did! This was like a “real” concert - or was it a “lifestyle” “choice”?

As they nimbly kept a muted rocking pulse going, I said to the distant but vocal audience, “What does our president say to these people we’ve sent in fatigues and flak and helmets and tin foil jeeps to fight and kill and possibly die in an alien land? What comfort does he offer them as they lie bleeding on the sand? What musical cue does he think is appropriate for this gorey tragedy?

“Does he say; ‘Why it’s just like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz! Your brains are over there! And your guts are over there! Your intestines are over there! And your bleeding cock is over there! Why that’s YOU, all over!’

“No! - he offers them these facile words from the canon of yet another GREAT California visionary” [and you’d be surprised, but the melody DOES fit right over the chords of “Unknown Soldier”]:

Don’t worry baby
Don’t worry baby
Everything will be all right

So as Stew and Heidi and Probyn joined in an angelic repeating chorus of that top forty classic, I fell in a heap on the ground whimpering in gravelly “Soul Kitchen” tones “It’s All Over” - until we predictably went on a little too long, and petered out.

Oooooooh - the response was rapturous! Wasn’t I clever? I beamed to myself in my tight white jeans which I can still actually fit into, my Tom Jones magenta polished cotton tapered shirt with the collar that goes down to the nipples, gathering my Edwardian Fop coat that Michael Quercio made me promise to him in my will.

I was all political ‘n’ shit! I made the moment ‘mean’ something, when everyone else was just being campy. Ooooooo - I made ‘em laugh, ‘n’ cry, ‘n’ think, and all that other cool stuff. What I mean is - that was one of my GOOD pre-apocalypose memories. Before the election.You know, back when there I say again..........hope?

How quaint and collegiate and naive and provincial and all those other grown up words that seems now! That sad clown clumsy pirouette that I mistook for daring! That tongue deluding monosodium glutamate that passed for substance in my mind! Oh well, the cheering was real. But then they love Stew and the “oldies”, so they were predisposed to be kind - never underestimate recognition factor in making an audience feel happy and proud of itself and in on the joke. At least I had that. Maybe they just liked the Doors.

So - Hope - the eternal question. Dare we?

Some of my better lyrics for a song on Abby’s last CD take a rather jaundiced view of Hope’s properties:

Bring me the poison that rots in the vein
I’ve tied off my arm, where’s the dope?
I already know the first one is free
So bring me the drug that they call hope

Bring me the thief who deals in my dreams
I offer my neck - where’s the rope?
I’m up on the stool; just one little kick
It’s only a foot or so to hope

But in retrospect those fashionably goth musings just aren’t very constructive in forging an everyday working relationship to the darn concept. How do we make it work for us in this ugly new scenario?

At the moment I’m much more attuned to my anger. And it’s more fun! I hate it that we live in a nation where Chevy Chase is taken to task by a bunch of post election blabbermouth revisionists for saying that Bush has the intellectual capacity of an “egg timer”, or Cher is razzed for calling the president “stupid and lazy” (right on, sistah), John Mellencamp for calling him a “cheap thug”, La Streep herself (God Bless Her!) for “belittling the president’s faith” (L.A.Times - and gee whiz - that’s a stretch! Has the possible word of that guy known as Jesus ever been more twisted and abused to serve such evil purpose?). And even the determinedly minor league Jennifer Aniston was busted for calling Bush an “idiot” (her cachet has just increased by a sizable leap in my book!).

The “conventional” wisdom says that this response by the so called hollywood elite (“limousine liberals” - what a tacky dismissive denomination by some billionaire under-the-radar stealth corporate criminal, who’d rather spend billions of dollars on weapons contracts that will get those little detestable ants, I mean poor people who obviusly don’t count for anything, oops I mean our war heroes and those idolatrous terrorists, to kill each other in some disdant searing desert, than buy an ounce of baby food for a starving child) - this observation about Bush’s mental capacities or lack of same is alienating our “core constituents” in the swing vote states - the so called “real people”! The “regular people”!

These “regular” folks (does “regular” mean they’re GOOD people? And by extension the “limo libs” are not?) are apparently “turned off” by Michael Moore’s “stridency”! Huh? Strident? Can you spell Christian Coalition? Can you spell Swift Boat? I say to these “real people” - take a look at the candidate you elected: can you spell Emperor’s New Clothes? Bush is a MORON! That is “REAL”! That is as REAL as it gets!

And you are the MORONS who are paying with your rights and your social security and your children’s future and the last few existing wild animals on earth to pay for his plan to DISENFRANCHISE YOU! That is REAL! You are the MORONS who BOUGHT IT! You’re worse than HE is!

After all, he’s just one single mindlessly cruel ardently malevolent evil doer, (albeit with huge financial and political backing). You are the MILLIONS who are PAYING him to DESTROY YOUR LIFE!

All in the name of a knee jerk neanderthal FEAR that they sold you at 1,000% the market value. And you fuckers mortgaged your entire lives and souls to pay for it! That is REAL!

So to me “regular” isn’t interchangable with the word “right” or even the unreasonably devalued word, “nice”. People who vote for Bush are NOT NICE, NOT GOOD, and definitely NOT RIGHT. They are MEAN, STUPID, FEARFUL, and WRONG! If that is “regular”, YOU FUCKERS CAN HAVE IT!

Besides, since 9/11, when has Main Street had ONE SINGLE problem with terrorism? Other than those fanciful rainbow hued alerts that do nothing but remind me of My Little Pony’s mane?

The Hollywood elite should NOT couch their judgment in “real people speak” - or hide behind anonymous donations to pay stealth liberals with “regular” demeanors to “sell” the truth - we should shout from the rooftops! We should be even MORE DAMNING! MORE STRIDENT!

I don’t WANT to compromise the OBVIOUS PAINFUL TRUTH to make it easier to have a dialog with a bunch of judgmental self-righteous know-nothing creeps who think it’s OK to lie and cheat and steal and kill!

This is a bunch of people who have been presented with every opportunity to show themselves kind, thoughtful and reasonably intelligent, and instead show themselves to be HEARTLESS IDIOTS by voting for another HEARTLESS IDIOT bent on DESTROYING THE WORLD and DESTROYING EVERY HOPE OF COMFORT AND SECURITY YOU’LL EVER HAVE!

I say, when you show up on the playground and can stop bullying and be nice, and play by the rules, then we’ll talk about a game of four square. Then the word ‘reconciliation’ might come into play. Oh, and I love your home cookin’. BUT UNTIL THEN, GO STAND IN THE CORNER, FACE THE WALL, PUT ON THAT DUNCE CAP AND TAKE YOUR PUNISHMENT LIKE A MAN. If you don’t do your homework, YOU FAIL.

Just because this monster bullied his way into office with your valueless stupid blessing doesn’t make you SMART! The people who built the Titanic thought they were pretty smart too! But they didn’t build any lifeboats for you or your children!

So feel free to shoot yourself in BOTH of your FUCKING UGLY FEET! But don’t expect ME to pay for the crutches.

Oh, and when you fly out of your dented 70’s Corollas in the apocalypse, to your grey strip mall heaven where you’ll still be slaves in your masters’ palaces, polishing their Hummers and eating their shit, BECAUSE APPARENTLY THAT IS HEAVEN TO YOU, be sure to take your edited bible with the rest of Leviticus blotted out, cause censorship is the only way you’ll ever make it through the gates, YOU EVIL SMALL MINDED FUCKS.


Oh, on a lighter note, go to Then think of your children’s lunchbox or reading skills or hope for college or parklands or firefighters or whatever pathetic second-hand nyquil dream you occasionally indulge in WHEN YOU’RE NOT FRIGHTENED OUT OF YOUR GODDAMN WITS AND KILLING YOUR NEIGHBORS AND BROTHERS TO PROVE IT!

Limousine Liberals - move over! Is there room at that wet bar for one more? Oooh, this vodka is cheap, but tasty! Let’s wave at all those “real people” with their folksy homilies (THAT GET INNOCENT PEOPLE KILLED!) and their phoney accents (LIKE BUSH’S COMFORTING WHO’DA THUNK DRAWL - it’s like a draught of poison in your ear) as we pass them by on the way to the wacky liberal secessionist state of California. I disown you creatures - at least ‘til I calm down. BECAUSE - TRUTH? YOU FUCKERS CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

Oh, and if any one of you Bush-voting fag-hating morons happened to like my music before you read this, and are now having second thoughts (or your first recorded thought actually - there is no proof of prior acts), I’m sorry. I still want your money and your adulation! Music crosses all boundaries, and this is just entertainment, isn’t it? And really - I'm just "processing" my anger. Isn't that healthy?

But if you read one of my lyrics and couldn’t tell that I am a wildly unabashed lefty pinko commie liberal fag, then you’re just as stupid as I thought you were.

And I welcome all measured thoughtful responses - a respectful dialog is so rewarding!

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November 3

Omigod. I just woke up and fairly leapt into anger and despair!

How can we as a nation not only allow, but actually embrace a demonic, sub-literate, dangerous, hateful, empathy-free moron? How can we let this cruel parody of a human wield the greatest power in the world?

Let me see - he can't articulate a cogent thought, and he lost every debate on facts, delivery, and charisma. Better vote for that guy!

He disemboweled the educational system by robbing it of funding, while hobbling it with ill thought out mandatory goals - better vote for that guy!

He hates poor people, fags, anyone who isn't white and rich - better vote for that guy!

He's vacuous, while maniacally smug, as he destroys the very earth beyond any hope of reclamation - better vote for that guy!

He doesn't want you, America's workforce, to have minimum wage raises, or any hope of healthcare coverage - better vote for that guy!

But he sure wants to force his so-called religious values on you and your children, whether you share them or not - better vote for that guy!

And he declares pre-emptive wars on false grounds based on horrendous lies that have been completely exposed - to you, the voting public - as a regular pattern of operation for him and everyone he stands for - better vote for that guy!

If he's breathing, he's lying! Better vote for that guy!

He doesn't have a soul! Better vote for that guy!

Oh, and his face is a hideous intellect free imp mask that makes my skin crawl. Who could stand to be near him - much less touch his evil oozing glad hands? Better vote for that guy!

Don't get me started on his drug crazed rich bitch family that places themselves above the law!

Then I heard Republican voters from Ohio asked why they voted for Bush, and they stammered in pre-literate mumblings: "Um, cause he's um....the better man!"

Ouch! Are we truly a nation of hateful cheap unkind fearful idiots? Do these horrible people deserve the power to vote? Not that it was actually counted! Is this America we are part of? A cruel embarrassment that has no right to call itself civilized until it stands up for the willful damage it has wrought on the face of the earth, and makes amends, and boots these evil-doers into some unimaginable dark night where my fondest wish is only that they become aware of their own failings and have to live with it? That punishment is the cruelest thing I can imagine - they are THAT evil!

The legacy of this regime will surely be as dark a stain on the pages of history as any power mad group of heartless war mongers has ever left. I guess power does corrupt - and America, as the most powerful nation on earth, is not immune to that equation.

Is this who we are? I want to abandon this country - rub its stench from my clothes and body, and its filth from my soul. I can't be aligned with the biggest bully on the block who uses his power only to injure and intimidate. An America that has no love for tolerance, beauty, art, the common well-being, education, history, or responsibility, gets no love from me!

But then I remember that fully 50 percent of the people who DID vote fought long and hard against this evil. (And that's not everyone in this country - what about their children too young to vote? And what about all those doubters, sad though it is, who did not vote out of despair? And those foolish idealists who voted for Nader - they have good souls! And what about all the legal immigrants who cannot vote? And what about all the "illegal" immigrants who should be legal?) As friends we have to stick together and bolster each other up. With the people who voted FOR Kerry, and even more that voted AGAINST Bush, we actually have a 55 million staunch Bush hating friends right now. That's a decent number - to start the NEXT revolution. People I can proudly call my tribe!

So I guess the dry carrot on the stick I'm distracting myself with this morning is that we - the 50 percent - can still hope to create some light in this dark time - pull together and become even stronger and more determined than before. We can re-embrace liberalism instead of fearing it as a word that loses elections. We've already lost!

Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe we won't compromise our ideals in order to slime into a corrupt office. Maybe this will help us actually redefine ourselves as RADICALS - for in this time - believing in justice and true democracy, believing in kindness and peace, believing there are creative solutions to give everyone in America (and then the world) the opportunity for real education, sustenance, and health care, and thus the "pursuit of happiness", is a RADICAL notion!

In an odd way, that very radicalism may be why Kerry needed to lose. Every time he took the bait about the swift boats or the war in Iraq, every time he stared into the camera and said "I will hunt down these terrorists and KILL them!", he sounded like a scared scripted understudy trying to muster a venom that was not his to give. That was a bad message. A bigger man would have said "No, I would have voted against the war!" "The welfare and comfort of the American people comes first!" "There is always another solution". We need bigger men. This was the Democrats' race to lose. And by compromising with well meaning guys who look like "winnables" - not winners - they lost it. So be it - unless we can get a recount!

I'm most sad for the environment that will surely be irreparably harmed during the next four years. You can never get that back. And the people who will die in stupid conflicts. (And we're not the only country in the world that is stupid THAT way). But everything else CAN be changed. I believe we, as radicals, can do it!

I think everyone is just wrung out. Dry. Wasted. This was such an emotional election for me, I think it's like having the flu, it's a consistent energy drain on the soul. I think we DO need time to burrow and regroup, have some decent food and drink with friends, remember we are all still alive, cherish what freedoms we still have, and resolve to use them to better this sorry nation of ours - an empire apparently in steep decline, morally, ethically, spiritually and culturally. We can seem a sorry people. But we do have to realize, that in a lot of ways, it's just another day to live through, try to enjoy, and try to make a little bit of a difference.

But after that rest - it's time to act!

So the real revolution starts here - today. There's no reason to be afraid of losing anymore. Now the REAL work begins! Speak without fear! Work without compromise! Call these idiots out!

From many notes this morning, I feel the surprising warmth that was the one true victory of this election - we bonded as a people with a philosophical purpose, with an energy and commitment that was the strongest I've felt since the 60's.

Everyone I know volunteered for something, or donated something, or played a benefit, or just ranted away in an informed fashion. All my usually apolitical band members sent out mass e-mails reminding people to vote.

I even had exciting political dialogs with people with opposing viewpoints - I'm sad that they won, and I can't help but think that anybody who voted for Bush is a moron, but they were respectful informed dialogs the like of which is usually reserved for dope addled college students in obscure dormitories.

What I mean is - people were engaged! People CARED!

Let's retain that truly human spirit of caring through this dark time! Let's get OUR priorities straight - we are the Love Generation! We are the knee jerk liberals! We are the cool people! We will prevail, because people want to be loved!

Best - or the best I can muster on this sad day in American history,

XOX Kristian

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The New York Dolls at the Avalon, September 30, 2004

featuring Kristian's Original Vintage Brownie Instamatic Snaps (scroll down about two screens to see them)

Oooooooh! That palpable cottoncandy of wist I have to wade through to go to this concert - first, because seeing the New York Dolls was my most formative “rock” experience, which inspired me to actually dedicate a large portion of my creative energy and about 35 years of my life to music.

It was also my first experience with published artwork, which is a pretty cool place to start! And the Avalon: once the Hollywood Palace, I remember opening for Sparks here long ago when the Swinging Madisons actually seemed to have a “career” ahead of them, and marvelling at the wall paper in the dressing rooms that still had pictures of Yma Sumac and Victor Borge and all the other greats who’d primped there before us. Magic. And thankfully, the building still retains most of its fanciful Hollywood decocco charm.

Still, it’s always a risky proposition to have your hazy gilded recollections scrape up against the often harrowing iceberg reality of a “reunion” tour. You’re never sure if it’s worth having that mental addendum imprinted forever in the index of a long cherished memory book often better left closed.

New York Dolls So admittedly, I was dubious about the whole thing. This was, after all, the band I’d always touted as the greatest ROCK band EVER in the history of recorded music - better than the Cramps, the Sex Pistols, ANYONE. (Those inescapable Beatles, you ask? Pop, my dear - and always beyond comparison, unfortunately for us music lovers hoping for a second coming!)

I let the opportunity to buy a ticket pass - Arthur and I made some half hearted attempts at exploring the possibility (he’d dragged me to see Morrissey, and that was GREAT!), but ultimately I was planning on spending the evening at home with my best friends: Progresso and Sony.

Then in the 11th hour (make that 11:45) Jay Sosnicki, an old friend whom I’d let down repeatedly by promising him drawings I never delivered - shame on me! - called me and said he was reviewing it, and would I like to come with him and do an illustration for L.A. Alternative Press? Very old school! Free ticket, and an outlet for rash commentary! Of course I said yes.

So we got there, and there was Arthur (my friend - not Kane!) after all, and the ever lovely Rosemarie (of Dickies fame), Clem Burke up on the balcony - a host of familiar looking survivors, some young goth/metal historians, and a lot of grizzled pot bellied nostalgia seeking semi-retired revolutionaries. I felt fairly well preserved by comparison, which is novel. But of course not compared to Clem Dorian Grey Burke - let’s keep this in perspective!

The usual wait ensued, and then there was a recorded tribute to Arthur (RIP) Kane (I always knew Arthur K couldn’t play and breathe at the same time, hence his unique red faced near-drowning style. And David had just said that in a promotional interview, which made me feel somehow related to him!) David, like Mick Jagger in the Hyde park/Brian Jones tribute, had picked some poem which I did not recognize, nor remember. Very literate post Theater of the Ridiculous, Performance Art, Harry Smiths - not quite so NYD. But touching!

And then the Dolls were on - blasting into “Looking For A Kiss” - and David looked.....well, he looked so amazing I was sure his hair was a wig for about twenty minutes! Fantastic! Scrawny, limp wristed, with some scarab apron and a few bangles, attitude to spare - WOW!

And little Sylvain looked adorable - a slightly plumper Skippy Low version of himself, but just the right cheesey cap and posing. Just a little warm vision.

But then everything ........ started ....... slow ....... down. Wasn’t this song sounding curiously lacklustre? Was it my expectations that were to blame? But what about that MUSIC STAND planted shamelessly in front of David’s microphone with the STAGE LIGHT on it and the SPIRAL NOTEBOOK of LYRICS David is pawing through during every song? He can’t really NEED that, can he? Is it a “rock-elder-statesman” pose? Something to make him look “serious”? A legitimate crutch? Or just an embarrassment? Whatever it is, it sure isn’t very DOLLS!

And the BAND! Who are these generic rockers who’d look just as at home in an Aerosmith tribute band or a Pete Yorn video? Couldn’t they do better than that? Don’t they know any kooks anymore? I know that Sugarpie or Donita would have done this in a second.

Are you so out of touch you need these well meaning but Dolls-panache-free session peeps? Jay kept harping on what a coup it was to get the Hanoi Rocks bass player - but, much as I love their old album covers and their early hairdo’s, I didn’t see the coup in this guy’s looks or his playing - just one more rock-by-numbers guy with zero pizazz.

Because everything seemed to be moving with such painful deliberation, I had time to fall into a neo-scholarly remove, and sort of “examine” the concert. So I watched David, waiting for the charisma to take over. It was absolutely bizarre! With the exception of one fatigued hand-slapping gesture towards a couple of folks at the lip of the stage during the encore, he NEVER made any eye contact with the audience. Not once! Didn’t look at us, or engage us, or relate to us in an way. He almost never danced at all - an occasional half hearted booty shake was the best he could muster. The was no patented cheerleader leap, and a minimum dose of the fabulous continuous mincing that made the early Dolls shows so fantastic. he never spoke to the audience, or introduced the songs or told stories or jokes. Weird.

I have to say, the New York Dolls catalog is unassailable, and it was WONDERFUL to hear it in a live setting. And the fact they did the confrontational “Vietnamese Baby”, which was never a crowd favorite even back then, warmed my heart. To hear David shouting “Talkin’ Bout Your Overkill!” in these dreadful times was so invigorating, I almost did the rock arm pumping salute.

And Syl did a very sweet introduction to their “Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory”/ “Lonely Planet Boy” medley: “We’ve been all around the world, and they all feel the same way as us: They hate Bush!” (Somewhat muted cheering) “So get out there on election day and fire his ass!”

But that was actually the only time ANYONE spoke to the audience, except for a cursory band introduction.

And then there was always the unmitigated cringefest of the horrendously reggae-lite (!) karaeoke style version of “Piece Of My Heart”. YUK! What an embarrassing Huey Lewis bar band slog. I wanted to cry. Was this something from David’s wildly spotty solo career? But of course, that seemed to be a HIGH point for the audience. They were screaming, cheering, singing along at the top of their lungs. It was like grandma’s corner at a Billy Joel concert. I really almost walked out. But with an audience response like that, who can blame the old warhorses?

And this theory was proven when David introduced the one song I wasn’t familiar with: an r’n’b chestnut called “In My Girlish Days”. This was the perfect Coasters type of reveal that was so prototypically Dolls-i-an: a hard driving obscure blues rocker with wild in-your-face gender-fuck sass - much like when the Doll’s first introduced my green ears to “ Don’t Start Me Talkin’ ” - they could always pick a song that was as PERFECT for them as if they wrote it.

But, because it was unfamiliar, the crowd response (including that of my usually quite tasteful escort) was indifference, cocktail chatter, and a race to the bar. They didn’t want something new. Oh, I forgot - that’s how rock really works. So “Piece Of My Heart” became somewhat more forgivable in that light.

In his defense, David did seem to be coping with mid-tour voice problems. He seemed to be drinking a lot of bottled water, and using a Chloraseptic breathalizer regularly, and his usual two note range was reduced by about three quarters.

I know what it’s like to try to sing when you can barely squawk. But still - he gave us so very very little - and I at least hungry for at least a little bit more. Just a nod, a joke, a one-liner, something.

Even in this underwhelming incarnation however, in fact more than ever , I came out totally convinced that the Dolls catalog is a treasure of tutankhamen proportions - if it could even reach me through this tidal wash of disappointment, and inspired me all over again, it must be genius.

And Jay went and saw them again next night, and insisted that the Avalon performance was just an anomolous off-night, and the Dolls really were THE GREATEST ROCK BAND EVER!

New York Dolls
Arthur Kane
New York Dolls
Bowie In Audience
New York Dolls
Cheerleader Leap
New York Dolls
David J.
New York Dolls
Personality Crisis
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Mata Hari at Tangier, September 15, 2004

Abby is out of town on tour with someone from the Butthole Surfers, or someone with like post-punk cred, so she has asked Ann to subsitute host Mata Hari at Tangier.

Mata Hari Ann said to me, “Why don’t you do something a little Art Nouveau-ish?” for the poster, and the resultant print has gotten me all sorts of unexpectedly outlandish accolades. I also got to color it the modern way - on computer - with the expert assistance of one Mr. David Yow (former Jesus Lizard madman -now quite the graphic design entrepreneur!). He welcomed me into his Santa Monica home with those delicious butter cookies (Madelines?) and his dry wit, and everything was so easy it was like magic! That’s not MY experience with ANYTHING in the world of computers - so it must have been HIM!

I was going to get to play a full set with my fabulous band, and premiere several never-before-performed songs that Ann and I have co-written for her next album in HER set.

Plus, Brian Grillo is going to revive some of his “Grillo Follies” antics - a cardboard and poster paint, youthfully vigorous, frayed shoestring budget, post punk interpretation of the Great Zeigfeld, (with just the most tastefully seedy whiff of Querelle) that used to wow unexpecting club goers at the tiny Olio Club in Silverlake back in the 80’s, before Brian had his brush with mainstream success (and Geffen Records) with his punk/funk/rock outfit Lockup.

The Grillo Follies was a gently irony-free send up of all things musical and thirties and Gene Kelley, with the drop dead gorgeous Michael Fotland (who sadly did drop dead a few years thereafter) helping out with the dance routines, and crooning ditties like “Everything Happens To Me” in white lace gloves and sailor suits. Obviously it grated against everything that was hip at the time, which is why it was so wonderful and refreshing. And boy, were these guys cute!

So it was very sweet of Brian to take a momentary detour from his earnest solo folk songs about alienation and like classic topics, to don his skin-tight contour enhancing sailor outfit once more, and dance around the tiny Tangier stage with some dayglo chiffon scarves floating about him like Kate Bush video atmosphere while singing his Weillian song “Lola”(which we also cover in Mink Stole’s extensive raiding of the Grillo catalog).

I missed the cardboard sets - Mr. B is a very gifted painter and designer - but the speakeasy atmosphere was perfect, and his off hand manner and crooked self-mocking smile were infinitely charming.

For my set, since it was still pre-election, and we were in that gilded deluded state of optimism regarding the fate of the world, I decided to be completely partisan and political - big surprise! I dedicated the set to Linda Ronstadt, saying it was the duty of every artist to harangue and inveigle and cajole as she had done. That’s what we’re here for! To share our vision! All of me, why not take all of me!

So of course I dedicated “I’d Believe In Anyone But You” to GWB, and said because he’d made America so much more secure I’d also like to dedicate “Earthquake Weather” to him (“now that my sister has a rifle of her own”, indeed!).

I said, “I know GWB claims to be a man of faith, and here is a song about the golden idol he prays to every day” before “Madison Avenue”, and asked “What dream does GWB have for America?” before launching into a searing version (due to the dueling guitar attack of Dave and Pierre ) of “Mediocre Dream”.

And finally I couldn’t resist asking, “How did GWB feel when he saw the devastation in Iraq?” before “Crocodile Tears”.

Very topical.....indeed careening dangerously close to the cesspool of smug! But it wasn’t really like that at all.

One strange thing that happened is that we’re all so pathetically unschooled in the vagaries of organized religion that no one on the bill had any idea it was Rosh Hashanah. Nor did we know that this is a “very big” holiday in that particular faith. I know it felt a little twilight zone when I was heading to soundcheck during the notorious L.A. rush hour and there was barely a car on the freeway, but I just assumed it was another everyday police chase, and it was my good fortune that a criminal on the run had cleared four lanes of traffic for my convenience.

So at first it was a little spooky how empty the club was. We thought, “Wow, those first couple of Mata Haris where it was so crowded that most people couldn’t even get in must have scared off all the repeat patrons!” But then one of the club managers cheerfully informed us, “Oh, this holiday is a TERRIBLE day to have a club gig! No one EVER comes and it’s ALWAYS a cave!”

How had I missed this basic obvious show business tenet for all these years? Did Abby know? Was this some cruel joke she was playing on us?

But fortunately a steady trickle of wayfarers started to gently fill all the booths and seats in the club - slowly enough that we could greet the ones we knew by name as they passed by the stage. And soon it was comfortably full - like in those thirties movie nightclubs where they can only afford so many extras, and all the tables are full but you can still see because there’s no elbowing crowd of hoi polloi blocking your view.

In fact it was the most homey, comfortable experience I’d had yet at Tangier, and the sound was amazing (thanks Gregory!) and the audience was warmly and vocally receptive, many free beverages were passed to the stage, (the manhattans are GREAT there) and once again I’ll have to repeat - it’s the kind of club I’d love to go to if I weren’t working. Somehow the Abby magic continued, even when she wasn’t there.

So when during the last breakdown of “Hey Little Jesus, Get Out of that Hole”, a Cabo type shitfaced jock with a sunburnt grin smeared on his face like graffiti got up on stage and grabbed the mike from me, insisting on singing “Cat Scratch Fever” over the pulsing fuzz riff Ernesto kept playing, all I could say was, “Let’s hear it for the Nuge!” And I could see Howie and Tawny giggle from their crosslegged position on the carpet at the foot of the stage. It was that kind of evening.

Ann and I had done a quick Cabaret set at the beginning of the show, including her classic “The Sky’s A’ Cryin”” (a song I wish I wrote!) to welcome the stalwart souls who came first.

Then after my set, Ann took the stage looking ravishing, as usual, and my band warmed up to the new songs we’d learned:

“Falling For An Actor” - a glam lament for losing your heart to a cypher, “Miss Pussy Pants”, a minor folk rock update on the peregrinations of Ann’s Geffen era heroine, and “Full of Fuck”, a bouncy pop/disco/toytown declaration of being full up to here with meaningless sex.

The shitfaced jock and his spring break cohorts, having hoisted their fourth ( and possibly fifth) sheets to the wind, mistook this as a provocative invitation to hoot and holler in the most stereotypically ugly American style. But Ann handled them with grace, and expert aplomb, having defanged much more venemous upstarts over the years at Club 57. Everyone in the audience was laughing with them, with us, and more pointedly, at them. It was almost like a staged enactment of the point of the song - clueless male testosterone, but it was only observed in the sweetest least judgmental fashion of course!

We also did “Sex In Heaven”, and “Old Enuf To be Your Mom” the song Ann and I wrote which premiered in Dallas a year or so ago, but had never been played with a full band before. And then the last song was “Whatever Happened To New York” - my proudest new composition with Ann, where I called upon the spirit of “Like An Angel Passing Through My Room” era Abba to provide me with a template for the spirits-of-Manhattan-having-flown ballad. I think Abba actually answered, because even I got chills - but that’s not really saying much - I weep openly at Hayley Mills movies.

Still, it was exciting to give the full band treatment to these back and forth collaborations Ann and I have been working on over the last few months - can a fabulous new album be far behind?

Cassandra Petersen (Elvira) was there, and I know there were other celebs too, but right now I can only remember the songs, the atmosphere, and the rock!

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Abby Travis Band, Mata Hari, August 18

Played Mata Hari as a member of the Abby Travis Band. The usual delightful shenanigans ensued.

What was unusual, and particularly exciting, was that I got to play keyboards on the suicide classic “Gloomy Sunday” (an as yet unreleased Charles Ball production of me playing spook-house organ to James Chance’s squawking sax and Lydia Lunch’s hoochy-coochy come-on spoken word version was my introduction to this chestnut in about 1977) with Rebekah Del Rio.

Yes, THAT Rebekah! The one who wowed you in “Mulholland Drive” with her eerie gooseflesh achingly gorgeous accapella rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” (in Spanish!), lovingly elevated to icon status by one David Lynch.

In rehearsals she was all giggles and self-deprecation, and had a spotty record of attendance, apparently inspired by her (18 year old?) son’s forgetful tendencies when it comes to bag lunches or mad money or extra wraps - he’s still studying away at some institute of learning, and Rebekah’s dedication was as maddening as it was commendable. But she seemed like anything BUT a stage savvy veteran. In fact, her protests that “I’m NOT a musician” rang truer than many a punk poser’s disavowal of his Julliard credentials!

But when she took to the tiny platform at Tangier, her mastery was absolutely frightening. Her expert banter, her casually charming relationship with her intimidatingly hot trio of jazz/merengue musicians (cute too!), her sexy frisson-laden demeanor, and above all her connection with the audience - all were so stellar that when I was finally asked to step up to the stage, my knees were shaking and my fingers could not form an F chord to save my life. I gritted my teeth and willed myself to swing lamely through a version of “Gloomy Sunday” that was so studied and lifeless I wanted to access the lyric’s bitter expectations, and kill myself right there on stage. But Rebekah’s artistry was such that the applause was overpowering! She even (somewhat charitably?) raised the possibility of us working together again - soon!

You know I’m a voice whore, and her instrument is such a gift from heaven that I’d gladly carry a parlour grand up three flights of stairs to accompany that unequivocal treasure. Even more if I were just a little bit younger!

But I can say that the experience was leavened with her Hippie Mama attitude backstage. She said, “You don’t mind if I undress, do you?” and a millisecond later I was seeing stuff in the harsh light that I’m sure her husband (if any!) hadn’t seen in years. Between that and my butt bongo with Abby in Madison, Wisconson, (some of which I have captured on my voice mail for a future “beat”), I bet I’ve been privy to stuff a battery of breeders would give anything to see!

Rebekah has since been in touch - hoping we can work together again. Me too!

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August 12

The first of several times the projected Candypants show at “Sit and Spin” is bumped. I am sooooooooo eager to play with them, and prove to “George Baby” (as Mink Stole calls him, in the only band I’m in with him - so far) that I’m worthy of being included in some fashion on the NEXT Candypants CD. And this, because of Lisa Jenio’s unexpected invitation, is my chance! Little do I know that this show will be bumped at LEAST three times, ‘til that li’l interloper with beaucoup du style and chops aplenty (and about twenty-seven years my junior) Debbie “Marizane” Shair will be back from her tour with Heart(!) to replace me! Bummer! Kids today! So far, I NEVER got to play with Candypants. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying to woo Lisa Jenio into some side project with MOI! Au contraire, cheri!

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Tony Awards

Let’s go back - way back - to the Tony Awards. What am I doing watching this? I could never relate to mainstream theater, or almost any theater for that matter. But here I am in bed, guiltily scarfing a Pizza Hut delivery pizza (they really do taste like doughnuts with toppings - so greasy and puffy!) and rooting against all odds for Boy George or ANYONE connected with “Taboo” to win.

We’d seen the show when I was in N.Y. for that Burt Bacharach tribute, and boy, was it a mess. But a progessively more involving, endearing, charming and finally moving and ovation-worthy mess.

I’ve always been a Boy fan - he’s one of the greatest rock STARS that ever lived - and he had it doubly hard, because he did it without the aid of a single good song! (I know, I know, but “Do You Really Wanna Hurt Me” isn’t really a whole song - it’s more of a one-liner. “Church Of the Poison Mind”? Maybe. Getting the line “War is Stupid, and People Are Stupid, and Love Means Nothing in Some Strange Quarters” into the American top ten was a subversive miracle, but it’s still a lousy song. “Move Away” - well, okay, that WAS great. But you see what I mean. Marginal catalog at best.) Anyway, he had ALL of the style, attitude, sass, and personality, to say nothing of the colorful drug and weight issues, just NONE of the material. So what an attractive underdog. And...homo-correct. Gotta show up for the peeps.

And when we were standing on our feet applauding, next to the busloads of tough looking broad shouldered middle-aged bridge-and-tunnel down jacketed lesbian couples who’d come out admirably to support their Rosie’s pet project, giving rousing huzzahs to every actor , especially the uncannily gifted Euan Morton who played George himself, it occurred to me that any one of these kindergarten level tinker toy tunes was a thousand times catchier and more emotionally direct than any meandering hook-free Sondheim pap that has long since destroyed Broadway as a source of musical joy for oh ....about a century or so.

That, coupled with the fact that it was actually a show about Leigh Bowery, who is to performance art what Marilyn Manson is to Olivia Newton John, and George’s star turn with “Ich Bin Kunst” : “I am art! You are Not!”, and it felt like there was at least the barely discernable whiff of revolution in the air. Or was that stale poppers?

But as the Tonys dragged on, each insufferable production number more implausibly excruciating than the last, all burdened with myopic observances suffering nauseating cultural death throes from lyrical freezer burn - it became painfully apparent that there would be no “Taboo” upset.

I was glowering at my greasy Blue Willow dish in my lap - “This as all so tragically predictable!” I thought predictably.

But then I heard a familiar voice and looked up to see one Michael Cerveris accepting the award for best musical performance of the year in - oh, what the fuck does it matter? Some shitty piece of crap! (Can a piece of crap actually be shitty? Is that like saying the sun is sunny? Or Boy George is Boy George-ey?) Yes - THE Michael Cerveris who sang not ONE but TWO of MY songs at my NYC record release party all those years ago. Way to go Michael! I’m rethinking my whole position on the viability of Broadway as a showcase for my new material. Zeigfeld, watch out!

As you can see, all it takes is this one microscopically tenuous association by what only marginally even qualifies as “proxy”, and suddenly the Tonys was all about ME ME ME!

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Peggy Lee tribute, the Hollywood Bowl
July 14

I was invited to see the Peggy Lee tribute at the Hollywood Bowl by my new cyber friend Richard Barone, who produced the show.

Richard was in the Bongos in that wayward but winsome time we call the past, and he and I had often been compared by mutual friends, and I was instructed to seek him and his music out, saying I would love them both. Nothing really happened until it was revealed that we both have undying adoration and respect for Tiny Tim, and suddenly the information highway brought us together with the smell of fresh cut tulips and the sound of scratchy 78’s. That he was also enamored of Paul William’s first band, the Holy Mackerel, further cemented the cyber-identification.

But although I confess that I move in a heady realm of magnificent talents and personalities, I realized my pond was of a different size than the one from which he produced the talent at this gathering.

I have to admit I was shamefully ignorant of Miss Lee’s talents as a songwriter - I just knew her as a stylist and an icon. So the FACT of Nancy Sinatra doing a technically uninspired but still charming take on “Why Don’t You Do Right?” was more resonant than the ACT of her doing it. Freddy Cole was amazing, and Bea Arthur was a weird marriage of supper club showmanship, raspy attitudinizing, and genuinely bizarre timing.

But Jack Jones was an absolute revelation. His outrageous showboating on “All Right, OK, You Win” was so electrifyingly over the top, he was a total rock star! He was all over the stage, growling and yelping, wiggling his white pompadour, gyrating and doing such extreme “jazz” phrasing that he left out entire lines of the song. His voice soared with easy authority to all sorts of surprising notes, and he oozed grizzled sexual swagger. (Ew! Is that icky?) And this from a person whose recorded output was so uniformly awful that even in the hey-day of thrift shopping, when records were only a dime, it was still too expensive for one of his mortifyingly bland L.P.s .

Rita Coolidge worked her mike as if she were doing calisthenics, though her warble threatened to wobble and her reading of “Fever” was several degrees too tepid.

Then the lady whom I came to see burst on to the stage - PETULA CLARK! What an a-list 60’s Swinging London Icon! Was I ever jealous! Could Richard get HER to be on “& Too”? Sadly, her patter was embarrassing, somehow mixing tribute up with Peggy Lee proximity reports. And her voice was in poor shape - although I could ruefully identify - I lose my voice every time I sing! But it was the song she sang - “Circle In the Sky” that brought the evening home for me. A chillingly poignant ballad, that apparently was the last song Peggy Lee wrote before she died, its deceptively simple chords and lyrics were so touching that it reconfirmed to me the power of song to move and evoke and inspire. And it was Petula, however momentarily challenged, who was the vehicle that delivered this gift. Thank-you Mr. Barone!

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Mata Hari Premiere Show at Tangier
Monday July 19, 2004

Am I a rock whore? All I know is, rehearsals for this show with the various grand divas and their temperaments left my mind too spent to translate my cheat sheets into a language my fingers could understand. Or so I thought.

Fortunately, when the music in front of you becomes an impenetrable maze of alien glyphs, FEAR takes over. The evening’s agenda had me playing with Abby, sans band, in her opening get-to-know-your-hostess solo cabaret set, then with Robert Sherman aka Constance in his Hermione Gingold inspired turn, then with Ann Magnuson for HER twenty minute set, and then back with Abby and the whole band for a regular set, PLUS three songs with Jane Weidlin and a new duet. And somehow the fingers through trace memory or a sudden frightening explosion of self awareness went most of the places they were supposed to on the keyboards.

It always surprises me that in rehearsing for what to me are these fairly demanding shows, I never seem to get any more facile with my instrument. (O.K. I agree a sexual euphemism spices up some dull blogging, but PLEASE!) I just seem to stay in the same place, barely faking my way through every event. Isn’t this supposed to get easier?

But the evening itself was fantastic!

The line to get in snaked all the way from the door of the club past the bar and out down the sidewalk into the parking lot, and Hillhurst Avenue has rarely witnessed a more festive crowd of glam rockers, goth kids, porn stars (I’m not kidding!), tattooed’n’pierced’n’stuff Silverlakers (some with those dyed muttonchops that have become inexplicably fashinable of late), and slim pale couples clad in their best Adrian/Hurrell attire.

It was actually so crowded that some of our best friends couldn’t even get in, except for stalwarts like La Bag who waited by the bar til they saw an opening and stampeded the door.

Abby was in fantastic voice, and in the opening set her rendition of the Shangri-La’s spoken word lament ”Past, present, and Future” was particularly theatrical.

I’ve known Robert Sherman, veteran of many a Mapplethorpe photo, for DECADES - but he counter-claims that I HAVEN’T known his alter ego, Hollywood Bar Marmont hostess Constance, for nearly that long, and SHE’S much younger than I am. I guess that’s drag math. Anyway, SHE growl/purred her way through two appropriately decadent covers: “Cocaine” (“With it I’m aglow - without it I go INSANE!”) and “Booze” (“Booze is the only answer!”), to our humble Abby Travis band’s only recently unearthed jazz/swing chops, and much audience merriment.

Then Ann came on in an angelic white gown, which the spotlight made all shimmery and transluscent, to sing her classic “The Sky’s A-Cryin’”, do some rapid fire spoken word, rich with improv and wisecracks, and then do two of our collaborative efforts, “Old Enuf To be Your Mom” (with me on my piercingly brittle sounding banjo-esque acoustic guitar - thanks, Mr. Sound man) and the brand spanking new “Just a Guy” - one of the ten new songs we’ve been cowriting for the last few months. The response was predictably rapturous - I’ll say something about that girl: aside from the looks and wit and all that stuff - she’s got TIMING. Those folks were beside themselves with laughter and adoration.

Then Abby came out in yet another from her fathomless collection of ceiling tickling headdresses, and we did a nice rocking set, and then Jane Weidlin came out to do HER set backed by our band. Where her Dorian Grey portrait is hidden I don’t know - I hear her permanent home is in Panama (!) so perhaps it’s some Santaria Ouanga Gris-gris concoction, but whatever it is, she looks so young, it’s scary!

It’s never a bad idea to play with whatever Go-Go you can get your hands on - I highly recommend it! That same pixie/babe/punk energy is still on tap, whether doing a solid glam version of Roxy’s “Mother of Pearl” with spot-on three part harmonies, or “Venus in Furs”, throughout most of which Jane was only accompanied by me and my embarrassingly cheesy sitar/tabla keyboard patch.

She also did a suitably breathy “Cry Me a River” while we played with an uncharacteristically light pop/jazz touch, Abby sitting on the floor and caressing her bass like an abandoned baby wombat on Animal Planet. For the last song Abby and Jane circled each other in a wild punk cha cha version of “I Get A Kick Out Of You” during which actual kicks were threatened, which somehow deteriorated into mock crotch diving and just the most tasteful hint of lesbo lip lock.

It was a marvelous opening - if we hadn’t been running the club it was exactly the kind of club I’d like to go to: great kooky entertainers, just enough time between acts to order the classical (if a tad overpriced) cocktails so ably mixed by highly trained bartenders, a wonderful mixed crowd as watchable as the people on stage, atmospheric decor, an intimate setting that was close to my house and over early!

Mata Hari decoded means bitchin’, wicked and sassy!

What L.A. Weekly has to say

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July 30

This was a LOOOOOOOONG day - remounting Illuminata at the fabulous El Rey Theater meant an agonizingly long tech run through, and then the show - and then I was going to pack up my keyboards and dash over to Bricktops to play with Alice Bag at 11:30 or so.

El Rey Illuminata went very much as the last time - eye candy, dancing burlesque beauties, pasties a-go-go, fezzes, fedoras, and cocktails - you know the routine.

However, I don’t know if it was due to the lack of sight lines from where we (the band) were crushed over on one side of the stage, or just a general boozy vibe, but under the Millionaire’s usual jovial tutelage, we played the most sloppy set of music cues and accompaniments in the history of the Velvet Hammer. It was two solid hours of embarrassed eye-rolling , and our eyes couldn’t roll far enough heavenward to express the slap dash nature of our usually Prima-tight playing. This was truly Burlesque at its most convincing - but where was the hook? We played as if we were trying to beat the genre into extinction a second time. Very Tom Waits last call at the terminal lounge.

Of course it didn’t seem to matter - if anything the crowd was more enthusiastic than usual. Are we so good that even at our worst we shine? Certainly not! - I think everyone is just looking at the girls - as well they should be! And maybe if we sounded like we were drunk, it just added vintage sordid ambience.

Velvet Hammer girls
L-R: unidentified Chorus Girl, lovely choreographer and political activist Carol Cetrone, KH, and in back Pleasant Gehman

I had no time to call my career choice into question afterwards though, because I had to rush rush rush to get my darn keyboard over to the Parlour club. In fact I was in such a mindless blur of haste that I rudely pushed by this attractive petite girl who, out of the corner of my eye, reminded me of the fabulous “Foxes”-era Jodie Foster - one of my favorites! But that didn’t keep me from elbowing her out of the way - twice! But the second time I did a classic vaudeville bug-eyed double take as it hit me - I skidded to a stop, almost losing my grip on my cheap Champ amp, turned on my heel and - yes, it was Nadine, my friend from Germany. Ooops!

I hadn’t seen her since the last German tour with Dave Davies - two years ago? - when she’d braved the containment ropes and saw horses and come right up to us to say hi. We’ve been pen pals ever since.

She’d come all this way alone to be baptised in the cloudy brackish waters of L.A. retro culture - brave soul. She maintained a respectfully discreet silence about the evening’s shortcomings - thank god! At least it must have seemed “colorful”, I rationalized internally as I whooshed her, without even really asking her, into my car, and we made like Mr. Toad to Bricktops.

Culture shock? Here was a girl who’d been all over Germany by herself, and had now braved the rapid transit system of Los Angeles alone (She’d actually taken the BUS from Echo Park to the El Rey! What native has ever done that?).

So I didn’t really even think about it, that is until we got to Bricktops (thankfully in plenty of time) and went past the imposing doorman (very cute! but to the out-of-towner, wouldn’t he look exactly like the Hollywood version of a homie gangbanger?), the bartendress (hmm - could that Antmusic goth outfit actually be mistaken for switchblade gang moll attire?), over to Alice, in her floor length black beaded ensemble ( “I got it at Ross!” she chirped - but still, when you’re a 5 foot 5 fresh faced kid from abroad, couldn’t this Latina diva seem - well - intimidatingly urbane?) and then I made the mistake of introducing Nadine to Vag.

“Oh, you’re from GERRRRRRRRRRRR- MAN - EEEEEEEEEEEE!”came the piercing falsetto squeal on a cloud of pineapple scented vodka breath. Vag placed her massive seven foot frame directly in front of and over the shrinking, cowering Nadine, almost physically trapping her against the wall, leaned down into Nadine’s face like the caterpillar leaning down from the mushroom - so invasively close that a slight stubble could be seen through her pancake, and started gibbering some deafening pidgin German that was apparently simian in origin through a maniacal mask-like grin.

It suddenly occured to me that after an evening of witnessing whomever it is that rides on the L.A. bus at night (the mind boggles with Cronenberg imagery), and watching some tattooed salacious dames rotate their naked breasts to the squawking of sleazy Las Vegas Grind trombones, and now this red-light district assault by a Nubian giant in the quivering throes of drunkenly explosive verbal abstraction, our li’l novitiate Nadine might need a little rescuing.

“Don’t you need a cigarette?” I interposed, ushering Nadine to the patio in the back, where a well timed glower convinced the friendly guy in the striped gondolier shirt (cute! and he’d only said, “How are you doing?” But this was a mission of mercy) to hightail it back into the club.

I got an opportunity to talk Nadine down , and she got an opportunity to breathe, relax, and tell me a little about her last couple of weeks. I was unsure if she thought that I only knew people who wore two inches of make-up, vintage clothes, and were constantly in a state of sexual provocation, but I guess we could address that later.

Now it was time to play!

Alice had made a big deal out of being nervous, how she had never done this before without a band to hide behind, how I might have to resue her if she blanked, you know - that sweet girlie novice thing. I’ve used that same trick myself.

But from the moment she grabbed the mike and the first words of “Devil’s Gonna Get You” came out in that wonderfully powerful rock solid gospel voice of hers, it was obvious that no hand-holding would be required. Sashaying into the crowd with bugle beads a-swinging, “I’m tired of buying pork to grease his fat lips! He’ll have to find another place to park his old hips!” she belted lustily in “Put It Right Here”.

It was bluesy like Bessie Smith, and sometimes even a little croon-y, but more assertive, more charged. “Taint Nobody’s Business” was relieved of its sometime suicidal subtext and turned into some sort of hymn of liberation.

The set was too short, but that meant more time for drinking and convivialities. Nadine had calmed down a little, and by the time I dropped her off at her Echo Park hotel I felt like she might forgive L.A. for coming on a little too strong. Even if the revolving sign outside her hotel window was of a giant pink cartoon foot on crutches.

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July 31

On Rufus’ invitation, I take Nadine to see Rufus Wainwright open for k.d. lang at the Hollywood Bowl. It seems like this will show Nadine a much more conventionally “civilized” aspect of Los Angeles life, although calling any aspect of civilized behavior “conventional” in a culture that places so little value on history, education, or common etiquette may be something of a stretch.

But the Hollywood Bowl, if you can get over the parking, is an unadulterated joy. Anytime a group of people all join together in a communal act of art appreciation, it’s an uplifting experience. And this always takes place at twilight - the one time you can depend upon summertime L.A. to be seductively gorgeous as the sunset gilds the haze and sets otherwise unremarkable buildings aglow like rich Rubaiyat temples, and the silhouettes of the improbable flora make the horizon a Max Ernst dreamscape.

The air cools and people in a non-combative mood of cheerful expectation amble lazily up the hill with their Patina picnic baskets and pillows, and everyone helps you find your seat like you’re a cousin they’re glad could make it to the reunion.

We didn't know whether to be disturbed or amused when we were ushered into seats 9-11.

We didn't have much time to think about the implications because we happened to be seated next to the ever vibrant and stylish Bernadette Colomine, sometime leader of Shoofly and the Apache Dancers, who translated the words for that Rufus song in Moulin Rouge. So we’re settling in as a rawther international trio, and as the pastel lights of the bandshell come on, the L.A. Philharmonic sets into a plodding version of the “Star Spangled Banner”.

I don’t know about you, but it didn’t take “Farenheit 9/11” to make me question what it means to be an American and a patriot in these troubled times, when apparently half of our nation is so appallingly stupid that they actually believe that it’s not a criminal embarrassment to have Bush represent us.

It’s almost impossible to overstate the evil wrought by this man, whether by deviousness or stupidity or by the manipulations of some back room corporate puppeteers - who cares? The result is the same. That he is cruel, malicious, thoughtless, uneducated, megalomaniacal, incapable of human empathy - that he doesn’t care what sort of ruined shell of a planet he leaves for his grandchildren, nor about the quality of life of the citizens of his country - that it means nothing to him to lie outrageously, constantly -that it means nothing to him to divide families and send young men to their death killing families of others who could have lived and become our brothers if another solution had been sought - that it means nothing to him to exploit what shabby colorless dreams the disenfranchised can still cling to while he sells them as slaves down to the next three generations - these are all beyond question.

But that we as Americans allow it! That is the crime. Our crime against all the other nations of the Earth, our crime against the planet, and our crime against ourselves and our children!

So to hear this song that has been so bent and abused and freighted with malignant portent that it can only resonate with the hideous notion trying to be forced upon us, as we allow whatever was good and just about this nation’s precepts to be mangled beyond recognition: that asking questions is unpatriotic, that standing up for minorities is unpatriotic, that believing that Peace is better than war is unpatriotic, that calling attention to the lessons of history is unpatriotic, that apologizing for a grievous error is unpatriotic, that taking a moment to deliberate before you kill another human being is unpatriotic - that America can only survive as a thug, a bully that must beat the world into submission - to hear this song being played - unannounced, unsolicited, at an evening’s celebration of two openly gay celebrities from Canada (!!!!!!) - it was like an armored tank crashing a baby shower. Only worse - because at a baby shower you don’t bash the baby’s head in, call him faggot, and leave him to die on a fence in Wyoming.

I thought of Michael Moore’s contention that we need to reclaim words like “Patriot”, “American” and “Liberal” and make them proud words again - words that stand for something besides lies and fear and suspicion and prejudice. And I thought - “Should I be reclaiming this song? Should I be opening my heart to its beauty, and freeing it from the chains of its current political baggage?”

But it was too big a leap for me to make - and the openly bellicose phrases about the “rocket’s red glare, bombs bursting in air” made the Quaker in me cringe. They only reminded me that Bush told us the truth about at least ONE thing all along: “I’m the War president!” he crowed gleefully, like an idiot child with a Tonka Toy. And that brutal barbaric declaration - did it make us rise up in horror? No - it somehow COMFORTED a warped lost America that I cannot fathom.

So as everybody rose, with that kind of Stepford emotion you see when contestants on “Big Brother” hug each other over an alliance, I remained seated while this wave of conflicting emotions just this side of despair washed over me. And so did my international compatriots.

Nadine looked at me questioningly - “Does this happen all the time?” Bernadette stared forward, jaw clenched. It made me so angry - this kind of coerced coming out as a political entity at an event that had only moments before seemed so carefree - this was not what I have in mind at an evening’s entertainment. But I guess right now there is no moment that is NOT political. The simple desire of wanting to enjoy these artists in an ambience free of wartime chest thumping is a POLITICAL desire - and a SPIRITUAL desire. A desire we will have to fight to acheive.

And this was no Linda Rondstadt, being true to the values that she had espoused her entire career. This was being forced upon us, not by the entertainers we had come to see open their hearts for us to share or judge - but by some other misbegotten will. The same will that can’t figure out why separation of church and state is important. The same will that didn’t listen in ethics class. The same will that thinks Mel Gibson’s Jesus is a compassionate man. The same will that never learned the old civil rights anthem “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love” - how poignantly hopeless THAT sentiment now seems.

As I stared at the crowds around me - “These are probably GOOD people” I thought. “They love their families and their friends and try to make a good life and come out to share enriching artistic opportunities like this.”

But a singular facile comparison would not leave my head. One that we have all used. One that slips out unctuously to describe feelings at once more complex and at least marginally less dire. One that is so attractive, one that gives its user such a momentary sense of power, that it’s like a trap we WANT to fall into. I tried to resist - it’s too easy, too big a broadside, too fraught with tragedy that should never be exploited flippantly.

But finally I couldn’t resist, and my eyes watered: “It IS like being at a Nazi Rally before the Jews have been sent away. It IS like that last brief summer of self-delusion, before your brainwashed children point at you mouthing scripted words they can’t understand, and you are carted off to the salt mines.”

They might as well have been singing “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.”

I tried to make eye contact with one hippie couple a few rows away who had also remained seated. But they were staring at the ground uncomfortably, committing to their act of social defiance, but praying for it to be over.

And then it WAS over. And these people who had only moments before seemed little better than brainless storm troopers settled back into their picnics and wine bottles, indulging in a moment of preshow chatter before Rufus walked out. I could hear the patchwork of accents - New York, Valley, some lisping nasal gays making pop reference jokes, the elderly people with creaky voices asking for a napkin or a brownie. These were just people. People who liked a k.d.lang song, or subscribed to the Bowl and didn’t know who she was, or read a review, or liked show tunes. A few real Rufus fans - gay couples, and teenage girls. How could that moment mean nothing to them? What DO we attach meaning to?

Rufus came out and was uncharacteristically nervous, but very funny. He claimed authorship of the Star Spangled Banner, looked back at the orchestra and confided to the audience - “You know they really scare me!” When his microphone stand slipped and his mike almost hit the piano keys, he blurted, “This place is a dump!”

He suffered through the age old opening act conspiracy: The orchestra that was perfectly balanced and audible during the entirety of k.d.langs set, even when she was playing with a whole band, was completely inaudible during Rufus’. It was shockingly obvious. Same orchestra. And all he had was a piano.

So Van Dyke Parks’ amazingly gorgeous arrangement for “Little Sister” was completely lost in the Hollywood hills. Why do they do that?

They let Rufus have five songs. In a weird way, it was enough. He’d made his statement, shown his voice, and moved a lot of k.d.lang fans with “Dinner At Eight”.

I dragged Nadine through the parade of security guards to the “Meet and Greet” that was decidedly unglamorous - set in a little dark platform surrounded by cinderblock walls behind the bowl, with no refreshments of any kind.

Rufus came out and did his rounds efficiently, laughing his famous blaring nasal bray (Nadine said, “Oh - his voice even sounds like that when he talks. Maybe he can’t help it!” - not an atypical first reaction to the voice I consider to be a golden resource of endless wonder) and sharing little moments with everyone. He told us to be sure to attend his not-too-secret midnight show at Hotel Cafe, and attempted no German homilies.

And then we went back to watch k.d. Her typical show: the instrument of her voice is astounding. Her control is spectacular. Her resistance to any sort of teen pop wiggle singing calisthentics is a singular victory. Her politics are great. Her jokes well timed. She invited us all to move to Canada if Bush got re-elected. Her readings of the songs she chooses to cover sometimes lack emotional heft, but it’s nice she’s bringing them to this audience. There are a couple of truly beautiful moments (that bombastic “Crying” is not among them.)

So why don’t I feel anything? She doesn’t SEEM cold. but she FEELS cold. Still, I dutifully bought the album (used) when I found it. She does do a creditable job of reimagining Joni Mitchell’s “Case of You”. I just come away feeling - “Huh?”

On the otherhand, this chapter will immediately be eliminated from my website should la lang consider covering any one of MY songs, for which I think she is uniquely qualified. Oh how GREAT that would be! Did I say I LOVE K.D.LANG? There - Now I have! And Nadine did too!

So, we’re outside the Hotel Cafe - the doors are closed and the doorman puts on his most gruff robotic disinterested face - which is understandable given the hordes of adorably eager youthful Rufus faithful who are crowding the alley in hopes of claiming one of the 30 available tickets. I waver out in the sidewalk with Nadine as the John Rechy patrons of the still delightfully sleazy Spotlight pass us by, and grim hardened Rap Rock couples crowd the entry to the biker lite bar next door.

The prospect of any interaction whatsoever with the dreaded “Guest List” STILL absolutely crushes my soul into its reactive “unwanted outsider nerd incapable of inspiring even the most fleeting affection” position - even when I KNOW I’m on it. Even the moment when the doorman skims the name list non-commitally fills me with the dread of cruel judgmental exclusion. So this was looking pretty hopeless. Still, for Nadine, I brazen my way up to the door, passing all the modish lovelies, and recognize one of the fellows from the cinder block al fresco“green room” at the Bowl. “What’s going on?” I venture, as his face lets me know that I’m as welcome as pigeon shit on his maroon leather half coat.

“Ummmm - dunno” comes the reply from the distance as he swishes past me like Tinkerbell and the glow of his “insider-ness” disappears around the corner.

The doorman tells me with a condescending ennui so affected that I’m scared he might give me Epstein-Barr, “It’s oversold, so even if you’re ON the guest list you’re NOT getting in.”

I’m defeated, I admit to myself - this is not my kind of battle - and I go to escort Nadine back to the car.

But it turns out that Cherry Vanilla and the incredibly feisty Bernadette are right around the corner at the other door, along with a crowd of pushy a-listers. Cherry Vanilla gives me a big hug, her bubbly warmth infusing me with guest list fatigue antibodies, and introduces me to some dark model types whose eyes glaze visibly as she lists my increasingly remote accomplishments. Then Paula, Rufus’ dedicated tour manager, peeks out the door, and as these purported sophisticates engage in an unseemly mad crush, she says “I can’t get you all in!” and tries to close the door again!

Now I’m really fading back into the street. The moment seems to have passed me by, and what do I want to get in there for anyway? Cherry is parting the waters like the red sea - after all, Rufus is staying at her house - but the crowd closes behind her and all is lost and my mind is sour graping it’s way back into driving mode, when a firm hand grabs my elbow and I hear the battle cry “Kristian MUST get in! Wait for KRISTIAN!”

It’s Bernadette, and Nadine and I are practically THROWN through the door, and tossed into seats right at the front next to the wonderfully personable Damian Kulash from OKGo (you should buy Future Soundtrack For America - his “This Will Be Our Year” is quite lovely, and he’s a dedicated anti-Bush swing vote rallying politico), directly across from “Dunno” boy, who is all smiles and apologetic and says he didn’t even know if he could get in (he had styled Rufus for the Bowl appearance) and two seats away from Kirsten Dunst.

Bernadette says she couldn’t figure out what I was doing waiting so far away from the door - the Klingon Warrior Princess puzzled by the Eloi, if I may mix my Sci Fi metaphors -and I had to confess I was waiting, as I had all my life, for a guest list Joan of Arc just like her! And this time she came! Is this an al-anon issue?

Anyway, of course the set was incredible - everything you’ve always wanted in a Rufus concert. He was loose, friendly, chatty, inspired, witty, campy ( you can go to the Rufus Wainwright Message Board for all the encyclopaediac documentation you desire) and his voice soared to angelic heights. He played forever - “I had this dream where they remade ‘The Red Shoes’, only the nightmare wasn’t that she couldn’t stop dancing - it was that I couldn’t stop singing!”. The was even an ounce of self deprecation in his humor - a new horizon! Gay Messiah - brilliant! Art Teacher -hilarious! That new song - Crumb by Crumb - he’s still coming up with the goods! Hallelujah - well, you’ll have to get the gossip about his inclusion of this song in his Friday Bowl set from someone else, but it’s a good (bitchy) story. Just a fantastic inspiring terrific show - how lucky we were to be there. Even Nadine had to confess a weakening in her stance on The Voice.

I guess Nadine got a crash course in the many strata of our local entertainment caste system over these two days, and even got to meet one doorway angel - Bernadette.

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Abby Travis July 2, 2004

Played keyboards for Abby at the Cecil B DeMille Tribute Bricktops yesterday. Vag was looking lovely and unusually convincing in her white beaded twenties flapper gown - some of the earlier couture choices have been a little more polyester 70's farm girl revival although Vag always makes it work.

Because of the theme, Abby had arranged an old fashioned multi-media-extravaganza where she performed the first song - a medley of "Hunger" and "Sometimes a Wish I had a Gun" - to tape, standing on a riser in the middle of the dance floor in front of a projection of DeMille's early epic "Madam Satan".

Bricktops poster This movie starts off as a rather stodgy stagebound leaden attempt at bedroom farce, often painfully unfunny, but the clip Abby chose is the eye-popping extravagantly glittering and plumed costume ball sequence which takes place in a dirigible(!) docked at a sort of radio tower in Manhattan which gets struck by lightning(!). As the winds howl and the Busby Berkeley cat dancers fall screaming to the shifting floor amid falling deco pilasters and blimp supports, the dirigible is ripped to pieces by the elements in an amazingly convincing set piece of early special effects, prompting the hundred or so costumed gin soaked reprobates to parachute (in kooky deco moderne parachutes) to various spots in Manhattan, including the lion's cage at the Central Park Zoo! As Abby said, it's sort of the "Wizard of Oz" in reverse, where the flying monkeys come to YOUR house. At the center of it all is Madam Satan, a stealth schoolmarm who, for one night, manages to appear as the most alluring devilish sex goddess the rather too rouged and lipsticked gentlemen had ever seen.

So as this ravishing rollicking ten minute sequence plays in the background, Abby appears in a floor length black velvet cape, a bosom hugging 30's black satin evening gown with a long train, all the appropriate jewels and baubles, and a black cat/devil mask put together by fashion maven to the stars (and I mean Cher! and Debbie Harry!) Michael Schmidt. (His new line of chain mail is incredible!) The old tricks work best, and for the moment all disbelief is suspended, and Abby IS Madam Satan. But that doesn't mean that in a darkened night club with black floors in extremely high heels and a long swirling satin train that its particularly easy to navigate off a three foot riser, through the crowd, and to the stage across the room, especially when trying to peer through two tiny eyelets in your cat mask! Shades of my own similar experience, blinded by my own mask, at Bollywood Follies.

So while I repeat the creepy organ intro to "Have I Got A Deal For You", Abby's pact-with-Satan song from "Cutthroat Standards", to cover Abby's journey from riser to stage, I hear gasps of tense concern, as I see the feather "whiskers" from Abby's mask teeter dangerously to and fro above the heads of the audience, coming fitfully my way. Everyone in the room is identifying with her ankles, and bracing themselves for a painful cracking sound. You can hear a relieved exhale as she mounts the first step to the stage, and starts her demonic crooned invitation to sell your soul.

But the fun isn't over yet! In a theatrical gesture worthy of any DeMille melodrama, Abby accents a line from "Monster" by swirling her arm and going into a petulant half swoon, grasping onto one of the red velvet curtains. Well, these curtains are of the scotch tape and bobby pins "maybe in the dark no one will notice" thin tacked up variety, and our heroine takes a magnificent backwards tumble down the stage stairs, her black train settling like a puff of smoke after a magic trick across her pale comely legs. Very twenties "Keystone Cops" slapstick - only it's real, and tall handsome young men in vintage attire look on in horror and rush to Abby's aid while the crowd doesn't know whether to gasp, cry or cheer!

But Abby doesn't miss a syllable, and shooing off the would-be Valentinos, she's back on her feet, finishing "Monster" with panache, and getting audience members to join in "The Hate Song" by sharing THEIR pet hates, which are overwhelmingly (and deservingly) directed at George Bush - but of course our hearts melted by the more original pet hate when an adorable girl in blonde pig tails shouted into the microphone "Ani DeFranco!"

The evening winds down in typical Bricktops fashion, with Vag's musical tribute to Popeye's fried chicken, which she sings and taps her way through to the twinkling sounds of Mr. Uncertain's fab piano skills while chewing on drumsticks and wings, throwing those greasy biscuits at the audience, and guzzling (but in a twenties sophisticated syncopated way!) beer. There's is a rather unsettling moment at the end however, when Vag's mock charleston gets so vehement that her dress flies up to reveal her crooked black garters, and frayed see-through black undergarment, which is a little too tight where the secrets are bundled, so it's sort of hiking up in an asymmetrical fashion to reveal one grey looking testicle popping out like a mushroom. It was a little too late period Kupka for me, and I believe it was as well for Mr. J from BauHaus sitting next to me - his jaw dropped perceptibly and his monocle definitely went a little steamy.

So despite the fact that this wasn't quite the skirt lifting, shaved pubic hair revealing, carpet crawling, eighteen sheets to the wind event the "Team Loud" Parlour experience had been, there was still plenty of razzle dazzle, circus tumbling, and life threatening acrobatics for one evening, which is why Bricktops is STILL my favorite club in L.A.

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Team Loud Benefit The Parlour Club
May 23, 2004

Walking into the dark interior of the Parlour Club for the AIDS/Lifecycle Lance Loud memorial benefit from the blinding sun outside, it took a moment for my eyes to adjust. Uh-oh - looking pretty underpopulated! Bummer!

The show was organized at the very last minute, so it was really difficult to snag any of those all important "picks" in any of the local rags. And because it WAS a benefit, the tiny listings they did secure were in such obscure places that even I couldn't find them. The organizers, Ann Summa and Jeff Spurrier, scored a major coup when they got a pick in the L.A. Times Week-end Calendar section, but the editors neglected to include the venue, address, time, phone number, and even Lance's last name (!) - it was sort of like code for insiders, or an evil tease.

So I wasn't exactly surprised by the moderate turn-out, but it was still a little disappointing. The Parlour Club can be deceptive however, because there is a large back area (set up like, of all things, a PARLOUR), where Ann Summa had set out lots of her old seminal punk rock photos to sell for the benefit - there were quite a few people poring over those. And the side bar is very dark - so when Weba Garretson took the stage, people came from all of these cubbyholes and crannies and it suddenly felt comfortably respectable, if not packed.

Weba has perfected her Suzuki Beane Beatnik persona - you really do expect her to have a side project of an abstract sculpture made of crushed tin cans in a spare white tenement somewhere. And her voice is actually deserving of the shopworn overused terms "mellifluous" - it DOES flow like honey - and "dulcet" - it is pure, like an organ stop. She sort of caresses the songs. So her set was quite a lovely comforting bouquet of meandering Kurt Weill inflected melodiousness.

I was a little miffed at Alice Bag though, because in both of the last confirmed line-ups I'd been sent, she was supposed to go on with Las Tres at 7:00. But she wheedled and cajoled Ann and Greg into letting her go on at 4:30! So when I arrived there in plenty of time at 5:00 P.M. , she and her band were just leaving the stage - and whether it was stagefright or the need for an afternoon cocktail - I still find it INEXCUSABLE that she didn't wait for ME ME ME! Can you spell Bee-yotch? Lucky for me, she's asked me to accompany her on a few Bessie Smith songs at Bricktops/Parlour on July 30. I think I'll get to see her for once, cause if I'm actually playing with her it will be hard for her to avoid me, unless she's even trickier than I thought.

Anyway, as my set drew nearer, more well wishers arrived and it began to be more like a really great private party. Pat, Bill, Michelle, and Delilah Loud commandeered a table right up front. Michelle has a new boyfriend who loves Marizane, so I gave that union my blessing. Legendary punk rock photographer Jenny Lens found out about the event from me, and immediately volunteered to help, so she was running around selling raffle tickets. Nipper Sea Turtle was there with her boyfriend, both decked out in their usual snakeskin glam rock by way of princess/ballerina attire. Taylor Negron complained that the P.A. was too loud. Mink Stole was busy telling everyone who'd listen how much she loved Candypants. Stella from KXLU and David (Details) Keeps were hobnobbing and helping. And of course my friends who were involved in the show - Abby, Brian Grillo, Burlesque Stylist/Queen extraordinaire Ginger Goldmine, Lisa Jenio, and Alice Bag and her wonderful husband Greg Velasquez had all brought THEIR friends, so an aura of conviviality took over. And there were even several people I DIDN'T know!

Since it was such a casual event, I decided to dispense with fears about "pacing" or "rockspectations" and just play a few kooky songs, including a couple I'd never played before and barely knew. I started with "Get it Right" with Lisa Jenio lending her fabulous warble, and I got lost in the second chorus just long enough to stop by mistake, which let Lisa do a stellar acapella R. Spector "Oh-oh-oh-oh" to cover the error as if we had planned it.

Then I went straight into a Bricktops inspired unapologetically "good tyme" medley, starting with my bemused paean to Rufus W., "Little Brother". Then "God if Any", with Abby, during which she leaned so convincingly on the piano in an orgy of chanteuserie that I gaped into her smiling face and forgot where I was in the song, making the last few chords a little abstract.

Then a new song called "Imaginary Friend" (I KNOW ! I KNOW! Everyone from Ron Sexsmith to Britney -I think- has already used that title. But mine is SPECIAL!). It of course was inspired by George Bush, because it is beyond me how ANYONE could believe that he was their friend, but some people seem to cling to that delusion. And of course it was another in a long line of music hall type songs I can't seem to stop myself from writing. I did get to introduce it with a paraphrase from an article I read in Harper's where they said that the unusual thing about middle America's core support for Bush was that it was seemingly the first time a people have taken to the street with a revolution in reverse, telling the rich and powerful, "Take my rights, Please"! That got a hearty appreciative howl from an audience so warmly demonstrative that I could tell they weren't used to being in a bar having cocktails quite so early in the day.

But the biggest response was saved for last, when I introduced my new fairly straightforward folk/rock song "Mockingbird", for which I pulled out my rarely seen trusty acoustic guitar (the same one I wrote "Crocodile Tears" on) to let it in for a little of my hamfisted bashing.

I introduced the song by saying, "I'm berating everyone that NOW is the time to come out!" (Uncomfortable titters) "Out!" (Silence)"OUT as a political person!" (Screams!) "And in keeping with that lofty agenda, here's a song about Mel Gibson. His spiritual aura is so UGLY that he has managed an AMAZING and UNLIKELY feat! He's made it so the Road Warrior is NOT Queerbait anymore - not even in that tight leather getup. Now he's just ICKY!"

It took a long time for the screaming and the laughter to die down after I said that, and then I plunged into this little ditty:


A silly bird once got it in his head
To sing a silly song about the dead
Whose club in afterlife was all about
How many other corpses they'd keep out

What becomes a legend
Who becomes a firebrand
Quoting ugly language
That he just can't understand?

Mocking bird
Just couldn't get himself to stop, he
Hasn't heard
That everybody knows his song
Rest assured
He's gonna make a perfect copy
And mimic every malaprop, he's the Mockingbird!

He couldn't fight his nature or his quest
To push the young from other birdies' nests
And mesmerised by glitter he'd patrol
And blacken every bauble that he stole

(At this point I had pedal an E minor on guitar while explaining to the audience, "I think this next line is the worst pun I've ever written, and it probably WON'T make it into the recorded version, but at this point I just can't resist!")

What becomes a birdbrain
Who is baked into a pie?
The bake of revelation
That his song is just a lie?

(Repeat Chorus)

What becomes a hero
When his halo is secured
By picking through the gospel
Looking for the dirty words?

(Repeat Chorus).

The liquor had surely taken effect by now, because the audience nearly deafened me with screams for more, during which Ann came up to me and whispered "Could you say something about Lance?" Oops! I had dedicated "Get it Right" to him, saying it was for him because he always believed in second chances, but I'd forgotten to say anything else, so I fumbled through an impromptu attempt at loving extemporization which didn't flop too badly.

Then Ginger did her fabulous strip tease schtick and Brian did a wonderful earnest heartfelt but often funny set oozing with charisma. David Keeps did the raffle, during which Abby won a trip to Mexico! Ann gave everyone who performed a wonderful historical original print of hers - I got a fabulous pic of Johnny Rotten. Michelle's new boyfriend compared me favorably to vintage David Bowie - surprising given the New Vaudeville Band stylings I'd indulged in, but that's a compliment so heady it's just this side of a pick up line to me! It was so much fun - and everyone was cheerily woozy. Abby insisted that there be an after party at her house, but I felt I didn't have the moxie or the stamina to handle anymore, so I watched as Alice Bag and her Husband and Jenny Lens and the bartender(!) synchronized their watches and all got directions, and I headed for home.

And the best part is, even though it seemed and felt like an intimate boozy party, through someone's generous donations or SOMETHING Ann Summa and Jeff Spurrier made their goal of $1,500.00!

Team Loud Benefit Poster

P.S. Don't blame ME for this ugly flier!

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April, 2004

On April 13, played keyboards in Abby Travis' band at Tangier, the great new club in Los Feliz with a (surprise!) wonderful intimate Moroccan atmosphere - though it has a slight Pier One/Cost Plus feel, it STILL invokes hookah flavored visions of Keith and Anita Pallenberg wrapped in nothing but a saffron scented Persian throw. It also has comfortable seats (if you can get one), great sight lines, and and great sound.

I had just seen Sam Phillips do a great set there, and thought "Why aren't my friends and I playing here?'", and now we are! Although I'm counting the seconds 'til industry hipsters make it an elitist Largo type venue (You know - paper thin faux friendly veneer, over a mind locked so tightly closed that no WMDs will ever pry it open again) and shut out the locals for good - it's THAT cool!

So the club was packed - I guess Abby's full page (maddeningly uncredited - whassup @ the Weekly?) fantabulous Rocky Schenck portrait in the "picks" section of the L.A. Weekly didn't hurt. The celebutante attendees included David J of Bauhaus, En Esch of KMFDM (with a whole tribette of gorgeous gals clinging to his Teutonic arms), Donita Sparks, the ever lovely Brian Grillo, Pleasant Gehman, the aforementioned Rocky Schenck, documentary director Augusta, and a gaggle of adorable Goth Kids who always inspire all sorts of deviant sexual fantasies!

Abby Travis at Tangier Abby felt called upon to wear her gorgeous yet wildly unwieldy 20's showgirl/circus bare back rider plumed headdress, cause it had been in the pic, and it's a logistical nightmare to get the bass strap on over it, but the white feathers tickling the ceiling always do add that petite soupçon of flair du jour. Did our usual smoky glam/trip hop inflected set as Abby did as much of a sexual panther like slink around the stage as her headgear allowed, with bravura drumming by the ever great Fredo, (and Eva's no slouch on bass either), and Dave Bongiovanni was spotlit for the revival on Cutthroat Standard's truly standard-worthy "Hangover Flower". The response was outrageous and deservedly so. When is Abby going to be recognized as the Bettie Page Renaissance Diva she truly is? And that's in addition to being a fantastic drinking buddy!

April 16th - I'm invited over to Dave Nolte and Kristy Callan's new home studio (in their BEDROOM) to record some keyboard and backing vocals on their cover of the Bee Gees' early 70's chestnut "Lonely Days, Lonely Nights". This track is for the proposed expanded and improved reissue of Eggbert's "Melody Fair" Bee Gees tribute of a few years back. This time it's going to come out on the Jigsaw Seen's fab imprint Vibro-phonic, which is only right, because Jonathan Lea and Dennis Davison were the originators of the project anyway.

So I get to Dave and Kristy's house with a rudimentary idea of the rather simplistic original piano performance - it's very poundy, which is my forte and probably why they asked me. If you listen to the 45, nuance and delicacy don't play much of a role. One thing I couldn't get is the way whoever played on the original managed to hit the keys BEFORE and AFTER the beat. It's an amazing display of a sort of cave man splash technique, echoed in the unbelievably sloppy hand claps,where everyone just sort of APPROXIMATES a beat, ending up with this weird assault which is about as subtle as an elephant's foot on a newborn child.

Me and Dave both marvel at this, and he swears he's going to try to keep some of that um..."natural" (?).... feel in THIS version. I've got HALF the battle won, because I resolutely end up AHEAD of the beat, but someone else is going to have to do the lagging half for me. Unless they have a new computer mixing program where you just hit "sloppy" and it randomly disarranges your performances for you.

Anyway, what was so FUN about the session was that Dave was just open to every silly idea I wanted to try; "How about a little harpsichord in the second verse?" "Sure!" "What if we use some of that 'Strawberry Fields' flute patch - is that too tired?" "No - go ahead!" And so on.

After he did me the honor of letting me sing thirds type harmony with most of Kristy's, as usual, angelically pure lead vocal (she IS the new Karen Carpenter)- and what a pleasure that is! I even flatter myself that we really have a BLEND! - I said, "Well, I DO have some sort of 'Free Design' type backing vocal ideas for the 2nd verse!"

Dave stood steadfastly by while I did some fairly screechy renditions of impossibly high notes - never a hint of judgment or impatience passed over that kind face - and I think we came up with something fairly pretty, especially if he gets Kristy to double it as I begged him to do. Then I tried to fake my way through the REAL Bee Gees backing vocals, and then he even let me put a "bad gospel" counter-melody in the outro, by which time hot water and lemon had ceased their magic and my singing was as raspy and atonal as Rod Stewart's (perhaps that's a good sales angle).

But I just had so much pure fun, some of which I hope makes it onto the released record - I thought - "This is what I was MADE for. This is MY Disneyland - to just get to fuck around and brainstorm with great musicians on fun projects!"

Then on Saturday night Justin Tanner and I were invited to a cocktail party at Liza ("Gilmore Girls") Weil's house, where she had bought all the ingredients for Makers Mark Manhattans (our current fave) just for US, the first round of which we promptly dropped on the floor. I just had to put that in, because we're both IN LOVE with LIZA - and in Bullwinkle tones in INSIST: "Not THAT Liza - THIS Liza!"

Then on Thursday the 22nd I go to the Hollywood Hills home/studio of Gilby Clarke (yes, Guns and Roses!) to do basic tracks for a new Abby song, a beautiful bic-waving glam/power ballad called "Blythe". Mr. Clarke is the perfect engineer: patient, supportive, enthusiastic, disarmingly handsome, and has magic fingers (and presets) that make everything sound better than you imagined. The drum sounds are especially overwhelming.

He's also humourous and willing to joke about his past and has an adorable puppy, and (in a revelation that is comforting for a fogey rock dinosaur like me) has those beautiful Richard Avedon landmark psychedelic Beatles posters framed on the engineering room wall.

The only thing that points to a certain cultural chasm between his hair rock generation and mine is that he is clad in ultra tight low riders so resolutely LOW LOW LOW that every time he stands or bends over the board, there is a disquieting helping of ass crack alert.

I wonder, "Is that just so 'NORMAL' among his crowd that he doesn't even notice, or is it deliberate to make us awestruck at his rock 'cool'? Are we SUPPOSED to look, and be either titillated or shocked? Or are we supposed to NOT EVEN NOTICE?"

No matter if any one of these postulations came near the truth of his intent, the result was much furtive sidelong gaping, during which I was even afraid to make eye contact with Abby, for fear she would think my reaction was uncool! That was how distancing this fashion choice was (although I later asked Abby, and she was just as startled as I was, theorizing that he was probably just wearing a pair of his wife's pants, as if that made it more normal).

Anyway, after whatever rock debauchery he may have put his body through in the past, I can say with some authority that he still has a cute ass -white, curvy, and firm looking. If objectification is the disease of our culture, let it be an equal opportunity malaise!

April 24. Abby is playing at the Furthermore Art Gallery, in L.A.'s romantically decrepit Chinatown, at a benefit for artist Erica Rawlings (brain surgery - scary and sad) and asks me to come down and accompany her on "Monster." I do, and it's a very sweet event - especially because the Hayden Triplets (including Petra, who sang and played violin on "Of Eyes Remain" from "Cutthroat Standards) do a wonderful set of lovely unaffected country tinged vocal harmony. The crowd responds wildly to their straight country/folk covers like "Tramp on the Street," but it's their originals that startle with their lazy irony, surprising twists of melody, and violin and cello interludes played by the sisters themselves. Mike Watt and Danny Frankel (percussionist to the stars) spotted in the crowd.

Then on Sunday, the 25th, played my first gig with Mink Stole. The band is Slim Evans on drums, whom I had played with before in the El Vez band - a real long tall Texan charmer; Foster (don't know his last name!) on guitar - he's played in all sorts of seminal Silverlake aggregates like Brian Grillo's band, Los Super Elegantes, and even (I BELIEVE) Drag Diva extraordinaire Sean De Lear's band Glue; and the sleepy-eyed George "Baby" Woods on bass. They're all welcoming and mellow in a way no other outfit I play in, including my own, is. I guess I'm just used to a lot of neurotic perfectionism manifesting itself in sour quipsterism even in the most comfortable of situations - and these guys aren't like that at all. They're pleasant and friendly - WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

That doesn't mean I don't give a valiant (if unwitting and almost involuntary) try to put a STOP to this atmosphere! After having rehearsed with George several times for this gig, I have time to chat with him about his musical history during some casual moments at soundcheck while pulling out my fillings with the tootsie rolls Mink has thoughtfully provided. It turns out that not only did George used to DATE Alice Bag(! -that's saying a lot, considering the fabulous HANDFUL we all know her to be), but he is also one of the masterminds behind one of my FAVORITE bands: Candypants.

This fact begins to put a certain tingling into my foot, meaning it's LONGING to get into my MOUTH! And it doesn't take long! I'm thinking how I submitted some melodies to Candypants singer Lisa Jenio in hopes of her writing lyrics to them and, if the Gods smile on me, recording them, because I love her lyrics and her voice - and of course, being lead-singer-centric, I've failed to digest any other credits on the Candypants CD, and it dawns on me that when she gave me the 'dear John' "I'd LOVE to, but...." speech, it was because she said, "George really doesn't want any outside writers on this album."

The fog parts - oh - THAT George is THIS George! And without any thought whatsoever, my mouth opens and the accusation, "Hey! You're THE George who won't let Lisa Jenio record ANY OF MY MATERIAL!" pops out!

A millisecond later it occurs to me that this is perhaps not the BEST way to make friends with the bass player in a new band, and the damage control babble starts coming out, "I mean um because I um most certainly LOVE Candypants and I um just would be so THRILLED and HONORED to be associated with it in some small way any way at all and um I HAVE sung with Lisa um before she's really quite um a good friend of mine so um and blah blah blah.."

George just eyes me evenly and says deliberately without anger in his voice, "Well, as a songwriter, wouldn't you really want your CD to feature YOUR material? I mean you probably wouldn't do MY material would you? You're free to do YOUR project with Lisa if you like..."

I'm defensively going through all the people I know who DO outside material (it's a pretty small list) Abby? Ann? But I also GET IT immediately - just because I KNOW I'm the greatest songwriter in the WORLD and people should feel BLESSED to be offered the GIFT of a chance at using MY SPECIAL SKILLS - it doesn't mean anyone else necessarily feels that way, or even SHOULD. So fortunately I don't pursue it; I just shower George with more heartfelt accolades for his project, and it seems as if a potential dealbreaker has been averted.

So we get ready for the gig - We've been told to dress in blue and black, or at least i THINK we have - but Foster shows up in a handsome brown and white houndstooth 40's jacket and a yellow shirt. Oh well. Mr. Dan, whom I've known since I opened for one of his serial drag comedy sketches called "The Plush Life" at this very venue before my first CD came out, is EVEYWHERE: making sure we've had enough to eat, checking the door, doing the lights and sound, greeting people and seating them, rushing officiously and efficiently about, even giving us our "places" cue back stage when "Go West" by the Village People comes on the preshow tape. Mink kindly and humourously informs me that this is "a term of people of the THEATER - like 'glow tape'. I know they don't have this in your world, but you may catch on soon!" And then we're on.

I must say at this point that rehearsals have been a no-pressure breeze, and Mink makes sure to tell you she loves you, and she loves your playing, and she's grateful to be working with you, at every possible opportunity. But rehearsals are also very low key. So I've never seen Mink be "on" before; she's more like your nice sister and it made me wonder exactly how casual a show this was going to be.

But she turns ON like a klieg light the second she hits the stage: everything is amped up into a hyper realm of frantic funny charisma. Things that were pretty funny in rehearsal are REALLY funny now; songs that seemed inconclusive are EXCITING, and I catch myself uncontrollably laughing out loud at some of her meandering stories.

Of course part of this could be the unbelievable heat wave of love that blasts forth like a Santa Ana wind from the packed house (which includes Paul V of Drag Strip fame and Howie Pyro and Nipper Sea Turtle and Andrew Sears) - It's almost slipped my mind that Mink is a John Waters LEGEND, and that many of these folks know EVERY line she uttered in "Female Trouble" and like classics. So just being that CLOSE to her is a thrill to them.

But this unconditional love doesn't make Mink lazy - it makes her BETTER, FASTER, more attuned to her MUSE, and the set rushes easily by, with her wringing the most out of her Patricia Hearst stories and the brace of Brian Grillo originals we back her up on, as well as the beautiful Lyle Lovett weepie "If You Were to Wake Up" and the FRENCH version of Sonny Bono's "Bang Bang" (which has an entirely different bridge).

Just as she's about to sign off with the "Up With People"-esque "Bring Me Sunshine", she coos to the audience, "I've got a little parting thought to leave you with: When you woke up this morning, you were the OLDEST you've EVER been, but now you're EVEN OLDER, and tomorrow you'll look back on today and think, 'How I wish I were that YOUNG again!' AND YOU NEVER WILL BE! Ta ta!" And the band went into the upbeat vegas swing of our Al Green take on the theme "Female Trouble" and Mink was off to a chorus of lusty huzzahs.

All that talk of age made me reflect (never a safe thing to do - especially when the word "age" is in question) that when I was young, all my friends and I were really into old records and antiques and cool retro clothes from the thrift stores, and were always looking for old-lady type luncheon restaurants that still had their original bridge club decor, like the lamented Bullock's Wilshire Tea Room and the Tick Tock Restaurant on Cahuenga and Mary Elizabeth in NYC. And we were always looking for cool old dark steak houses with their deep tuck and roll banquettes like Taylor's and Billingsly's and Musso and Frank's, and old fashioned bars with great tropical drinks like the Formosa and the Tiki-Ti and the Dresden Room. This was sort of pre-irony cultural comfort seeking - it was a wisp of hope that some good things would last and were worth saving, and that the best part of the remnants of recent history could be accessed through love and faith. Similarly, we were dying to worship at the feet of the Louis Primas and the Eartha Kitts and the Ruth Browns and the Keely Smiths, the Candy Johnsons and the Korla Pandits and the Kay Martins, but also at the feet of lesser known backwater aging hep cats who toiled in swinging obscurity at the tail ends of their careers, still laying down some hot riffs in dim smokey Tom Waits lounges wherever we could find them.

And my frightening yet somehow fulfilling realization was that, between Velvet Hammer and Bollywood, and now this new combo, and considering some of the more determinedly retro stylings of my own back catalogue - perhaps we have BECOME - perhaps we ARE those aging hep cats for the youth of today to worship! Please, eager itinerant soul-seeking youths, please - confess to ME! I've got all manner of dispensations to salve your unquiet souls!

Monday, April 26th. Morrissey, Wiltern Theatre. Went to see Morrissey at the glorious Wiltern Theatre. Not really into reviewing live shows, just simply LOVED it, every fey gesture and every new song (surprisingly!) What a rock star! And when the entire audience was singing along to "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" ooooooh! Gooseflesh! Although really - who gives a fuck if you've got Irish Blood and an English Heart? You've been living in L.A. for five years - why not do something a little more relevant, like Bush bashing?

The greying and widening of his audience WAS a little disturbing - unfortunately this was NOT the prurient eye candy of the gorgeous latin hyper-goth youths with their black lace see-thru shirts and their rockabilly D.A.s and their raven haired bouffant black vinyl stilletto babe dates of the typical KROQ new wave revival concert - but this WAS Monday, after all. I heard from reliable sources that the dirty old man ogling-bait crowd night of cafe-au-lait beauties was definitely Saturday. But the only reason I'm even mentioning this concert at ALL is because Morrissey's time honored tradition of throwing off his shirt as he runs off stage after an hour and a half of preening sexually provocative self stimulation is, at this point in his undeniable MATURATION, like Punk rock liberation for the aged! How in-your-face is it that he allows his assertively 45 year old physique that resembles nothing so much as a sack of potatoes to be viewed by the audience in the most surface of all cities - Hollywood? We were absolutely GASPING with silent guffaws of disbelief! And then in the criminally brief encore, he did it again! Gramps liberation!

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Bollywood Follies Key Club, Sunset Strip
February 21, 2004

Man, it's been a busy few weeks! Even before my art show, on Feb. 21st, I had been honored to be asked to sing the grand finale at the very first "Bollywood Follies" produced by "Velvet Hammer/Lucha va Voom" sexpot, logistician, and cultural adventuress extraordinaire Rita D'Albert.

Bollywood Follies In a surprising turn of events for someone who has consistently been a media darling and gotten her shows on all sorts of "pick of the week" lists, usually accompanied by outsized photo coverage, Rita some how missed out on getting this brand new untried venture on ANY pick of the week lists in the L.A. press, AND it was at a new (really inconveniently located) venue, AND, as I pulled up in my cracked windshield Volkswagen Golf, it was POURING RAIN. This did not bode too well for attendance. But I guess Rita had the magic, because it was packed anyway.

The show was at the Key Club on Sunset Strip - neither location being favorites of mine; but whether due to the fantastic staff, or me actually getting to see that the Key Club was more stylish than the boxy bad 80's industrial low rent dump I had imagined it to be (it's actually very comfortable, and has lots of wood surfaces and a really cool art show downstairs - but the parking situation WAS ridiculous), or the fact that Rita had hand draped the whole place with swaths of blue velvet and glitter fabric, the location seemed warm and welcoming, even if it wasn't one of the 20's movie palaces that Rita usually chooses.

Bollywood Follies The show was much more music-heavy than the regular Velvet Hammer (uh ......DUH! It was a tribute to Indian MUSICALS! I just figured that out.) The Millionaire had a huge extended band, with more horns, keys (though not ME! ) and percussion than ever before, and the musicianship (including the always awesome Joe Berardi, and the lovable trivia expert Ron Sures on bass) was incredible. And the featured dancers were absolutely eye-popping, especially the nude blue painted gold-headdressed multi-armed Kali twins - later to be featured on the cover of the L.A.Times "Weekend" section. I was doing a good deal of gaping.

The unbelievably slender, improvisationally astounding, omnipresent Blaine Capatch did a great version of "My Name is Anthony Gonsalves", which, even amongst the strange amalgam of underinformed low pop cross-breeding that IS Bollywood, seemed a peculiar take on a possibly Latin lover/clown ...? Anyway, after many fabulous acts and routines, which I peered at jealously from a blind spot at the side of the stage, knowing full well Ann Magnuson and her wonderful husband John Bertram were front and center at a ringside table with the best vantage point to see EVERYTHING, all too quickly the show was winding to a close and it was MY MOMENT.

I had been chosen to sing "Jaan Pehchaah Ho" from the Bollywood classic "Gumnaam". It is the ONE Bollywood song that, even if you know NOTHING about Bollywood, you may have heard. It was featured in "Ghost World", but its insidious impact is far more pervasive than that. I can remember, maybe ten years ago, sitting with my friend Rocky Schenck at the Cramp's house, while Ivy and Lux showed us that very clip of the mini-skirted cat-eyed Indian go-go dancers shaking at a speed that seemed physically impossible, while holding their clawed cat hands at implausible right angles as if slapping the audience's face. This was the flavor the Cramps were hoping Rocky could impart to the video he was about to direct for them - and those images were seared in my mind, even BEFORE I saw them again at a party at Alice Bag's house where through some legerdermain (or cocktail mixing prowess) she managed to get everyone (including ME) to DANCE to the T.V. MONITOR (!) in an attempt to replicate that very Bollywood frenzy - a sort of jet speed epileptic take on mistranslated "Shindig"isms. Everyone was sure sore the next day.

Kristian at Bollywood And now, in just seconds, I was going to go on, in my skin tight white pants, my even MORE skin tight black lycra shirt (I'd succumbed to Atkin's fever in the weeks preceding this moment so my displacement might be somewhat more modest), my gold sharkskin tuxedo jacket, my glitter face mask, and my pencil moustache painted on, like El Vez's, just for this occasion - to sing the ONE song EVERYONE WAS WAITING FOR! I'd practised a series of outre gesticulations that would be inexcusable in any other context, and had taped my phonetic lyrics on a monitor on case I blanked, and was oddly READY - READY TO SLAY 'EM like a BENGAL TYGER BURNING BRIGHT!

The intro starts, and my heart is filled with beat and melody, and I saunter up to the wireless mike (a first for me - THIS IS THE BIG TIME!) and I'm possessed by BOWIE : my arms are spreading to the beat in a grandiose Ziggy gesture and I'm gonna nail this, and the words are in my brain like God's teleprompter, and I open my mouth to sing and my pitch is perfect and the world is in my hand to squeeze like a Kahlil Gibran pomegranate - AND THE MIKE IS NOT ON! SILENCE! NO VOX! The dancers are swirling about and the orchestra is raving in a mad vertiginous smear of color and sound and my MOMENT is PASSING like an intangible ghost and I'm peering blindly helplessly through my glitter face mask at this contemptible new-fangled buzz-killer, this, this, this WIRELESS THING and there's a tiny nob on it about the size of a bat's fingernail that I GUESS you're supposed to switch on IF YOU CAN FIND IT and IF YOU CAN KEEP IT IN FOCUS IN THE DARKNESS ON STAGE and I claw at it lumberingly with ineffectual play-do digits ( did I TELL you my MOMENT is PASSING?!) and I finally get it on and test it and now I don't know WHERE I AM in the song and my mind has let go of the lyrics like so much impenetrable gibberish and I turn to the Millionaire who catches my gaze sympathetically but is enough of a showman to keep swaying rhythmically in his beautiful embroidered white shift, NO HELP THERE as the song RACES by and ALL is LOST, LOST! I am a BOOB in my BOWIE GESTURE!

But fortunately, my eye falls on my cheat sheet and I automatically start bleating hoarsely the nonsense phrases in some vague concert with the music, and WAIT, I'm catching ON to this, and the song isn't quite THAT far gone AFTER ALL, and even though I never quite regain the smooth insinuating Casanova tones that had come so easily at soundcheck, it's not SO bad, and I'm surrounded by leaping dancers and the whole cast comes out on stage (just like in"Hair" I reflect idiotically) and the applause erupts while I'm doing some suggestive hip shake with Rita and her boyfriend Mark Pritchard, and afterwards people even come up to me and say my Indian wasn't too bad! So even though the honor far outweighed the performance, it was a glorious evening after all, and when they restage it (May 21st if it's not bumped back), I've been invited back, given an opportunity to redeem myself - and with my new wireless mike savvy I'm SURE to RULE!

I thought I'd include here my PHONETIC take on these immortal Indian Love Lyrics:

John Pay-ay John Hoe
Geena ah-ah sawn hoe
Seala caught you ronny valen
Onk natura oh
Nam too batah oh
And that's only the chorus - there are three more verses, available upon request!

So on Thursday, April 8, we do the first performance of the NEW Velvet Hammer show called "Illuminata" directed by Michelle Carr WITHOUT her longtime partner Rita D'Albert - who parted with some drama shortly after last year's legendary bus trip back from S.F. which had resulted in no less than THREE divorces! (Well - some of them turned out to be only SEPARATIONS - but it was pretty dramatic at the time - weeping CLOWNS and EVERYTHING!)

Illuminata Velvet Hammer Expectations are mixed, because though Michelle has long been known as the inspiration and innovator for the show (and indeed introduced this notion of retro-burlesque to a virgin world, which now seems to have inspired similarly themed shows in most towns of any size in the western hemisphere), Rita was perceived as the organizational backbone of the madly demanding and confusing VH infrastructure. How could one woman handle this wildly divergent crowd of mini-divas alone? To say nothing of posters, programs, club owners, transportation, hotel bookings, advertisers, musicians - I'm getting tired just thinking of it!

So we arrive at the newly buffed and reopened Vine Street theater (a lovely 20's rococo themed nightclub that once hosted such luminaries as Yma Sumac in its incarnation as the Hollywood Palace, then suffered a slow but steady decay as a rock theater where the Swinging Madisons had once opened for Sparks) for soundcheck to a buffet of champagne and strawberries and mini-Reeses buttercups.Of course I'm too "pro" to drink before a show, but I know where about a thousand candies went!

I'm pretty excited because the Millionaire has chosen to have the band do one of MY compositions for the VH documentary by Augusta: "The Shriek of Araby". We've never done anything I wrote in this band before, although we do perform the Millionaire's immortal "Ass Tassels" from the same film, on which recording I got to do an uncharacteristically gritty organ solo. And having this band (including Joe Berardi and Ron Sures) do MY song is a giant step up from my four-track-fake-drums-played-by-hunt-and-peck method original recording. The sound check goes okay, despite the Millionaire's typically frazzled over-achiever demeanor.

And then the guest comedian Jeremy Kramer comes out to rehearse his bit, which has some musical cues I need to pin down.(His partner, Laura Kightlinger, has the more stand-up savvy members of the band cooing in stage whispers"Ooh! She's FAMOUS!" Who knew?) Jeremy was said to be a bright light of San Francisco comedy during the 90's, at one point rumoured as being groomed by Robin Williams as his logical successor. By some obscure series of misadventures, this early promise did not explode into international success as expected, but now he's working regularly as a club comic and apparently back on the ascendant.

Now I have a PERSONAL history with Jeremy, because he's from Santa Barbara too, and we attended the same schools, and for some years were quite good friends - especially in high school, where he was the de rigeur "Graduate" style anti-hero student body president that was typical of the soft-center upsets that passed for "revolution" in certain predominantly white upper middle class suburbs in the late 60's/early 70's.

On last year's Velvet Hammer tour he hadn't recognized me - which didn't bother me, because we probably hadn't seen each other in 25 years (although I think he sporadically ran into one of my brothers). So I reintroduced myself to him, and told him how much I thought of him as a legendary character "back in the day", and how nice it was to see him again, and blah blah blah, and it was all very pleasant even if it DIDN'T lead to any renewal of friendship vows.

So at this soundcheck, when he came over to me, and started ordering me around over my shoulder with little in the way of politesse or expected niceties, I didn't take it amiss - I just thought, like most of us, he was a perfectionist, and we were gonna make this show the best we could, and after all, weren't we friends?

After soundcheck I caught him sitting on a couch with the ever charming and wonderful Blaine, and they were talking " comedy speak", which to the outsider can sometimes sound like a series of the most embarrassingly inane puns and lame 2nd string trivia show pop references, but I think to comedians is a weirdly spiritual form of yogic breath control exercise. And I went up to Jeremy, because I wanted to write some of the finer points of my sound cues in his act into my script. He was very patient with me, if a tad condescending, which I found peculiar - because wasn't I here to make HIM look good? No one asked ME if I even wanted to do this routine! And as I finished up and I said "thank-you", which he did NOT, he looked at me quizzically from his slouching position and said, "By the way, who ARE you?"

I was momentarily dumbfounded, not necessarily because he had forgotten me AGAIN, but because if he DIDN'T recognize me, there was no EXCUSE for the imperious way he had been treating me, as if I were some sort of musical janitor. I guess my reflexes were quicker than my courtesy, because I said in a light yet intimate tone, "Why Jeremy! I've known you ALL MY LIFE! I was with you at your second grade birthday party where you got the Beatles first album! I went all through school with you and we were practically BEST FRIENDS in High School! In fact, you must have been to my house FIFTY TIMES!" Jeremy said nothing for long enough that Blaine couldn't resist an editorial snort: "BURNT!" which gave me no end of retrospective pleasure. But soon enough they returned to "comedy speak", and though Jeremy deigned to stand next to me once on the bus trip to S.F. for about 45 seconds, it was never brought up again.

However, this in no way reflected on the show, or my experience of it! It was truly one of the most consistently entertaining and outright beautiful shows they'd ever put on. The opening act especially, by the Geishas, started out looking like an otherworldly Warwick Goble fairytale illustration - magical! And Venus DeMille's Bride of Frankenstein routine was so beautifully realized, with the theremin, and the incredible plexiglass and bottled lightening birth station. Overall, it was a triumph, and the girls seemed even friendlier than usual. The trip to S.F. was fab, and it's always a treat to play the Great American Music Hall. The sold-out second show went particularly well.

At the after party I even did archaic things that one can't confess during a Bush regime, at least not in print. (Nothing that HE hasn't done, however!)

Although I was pleased to drive back through Fresno in a van with the Millionaire, DJ Senor Amor, and Ron Sures so we could drop Mill off at an in-laws Easter Party (in an unsettlingly displaced Orange County style "instant mansion" gated community) and to talk records (and personal experiences in the world of prostitution - results understandably varied) with Ron and S. Amor at OUR more pedestrian Marie Callendar's Easter meal, I was sorry I missed the girls on the return bus, who this time (and I'm not naming names, and WON'T testify in court) apparently ingested an entire alphabet of controlled mood elevators including the letters X, L, S, and D in some sort of Jim Jones concoction, along with whatever lukewarm liquor they had left to heighten their post-show love-fest. Sadly, they still couldn't make out with the (cute) driver, but certain members of the troupe who attended Abby's Tangier show showed me the Rhode Island sized purple bruises on their nether regions which they had acquired on the drive that certainly indicated some sort of (probably illicit) physical interaction. Too bad we had to miss that!

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Art Show Opening, Los Angeles
February 27, 2004

I've arrived at my very first solo show art opening ever in my fabulous purple pimp suit that I got for $15 at the Atwater "Out of the Closet" thrift store not knowing what to expect.

The brief history of this event has been a bumpy one: first it was set for October, but cancelled due to lack of lead time. Then, as THIS date approached, the partners in the Silverlake gallery space evidently had some enormous squabble and split ways with some rancor. The remaining partner felt uncompelled to honor the other partner's bookings, especially since the DEPARTING partner absconded with the booking calendar and (vague rumour has it) certain undisclosed sums of some medium of exchange. And OUR booking was IN THAT VERY BOOKING CALENDAR!

Fortunately, even though the remaining partner refused to honor the gallery's two week commitment, he did let us keep our opening night, as the press releases and invitations had all gone out already. But it felt faintly vaudevillian to be doing all this mad framing, rummaging through dusty closets and portfolios for ancient originals I was certain I still had, searching my moth eaten phone books for acquaintances who had works of mine they might consent to show, and trying to get the souvenir greeting cards (henceforth to be referred to as "the merch") lithographed for this blink-and-you'll-miss-it "One Nite Only" event.

Tom Cannon was the curator, who came to me with the idea that I mount a one man show of a body of work I hadn't re-examined or taken seriously for years, and I was flattered but dubious - I was sure there wasn't nearly enough work, and who would care anyway, and all that monstrously predictable self-doubting insecurity you're supposed to leave in early teenhood along with pimples and hand-me-downs. And I still constantly get pimples.

But with Tom's seemingly bizarre faith in me as my co-pilot, we plunged in and managed to come up with enough pretty darn fabulous work that even I was startled - we had all of the drawings from Iris Berry's "Two Blocks East of Vine" (except the "Pig Man and Pumpkin Lady" drawing which I believe is in Xenes closet - she was on tour), most of the Eggbert Hollies Tribute CD illustrations, pieces from as far back as "Tales of the Tatterman" (a children's book I illustrated in the '70s), and a variety of color works that I'd completely forgotten I'd done. In fact we had too much to show. Things were looking good.

But, since it was the first time for all of us, we WERE getting cranky with one another, bitching and kvetching and making big mistakes with the matt cutter right up to seven o'clock on opening night. It was like there were three hundred tasks that we only realized needed to be done on the day of the show - like FOLDING the thousand cards that arrived from the lithographer so we could actually SELL them, picking up the catering in horrible traffic from downtown, etc., etc. and me and Tom and his wonderful assistant whose name I have forgotten had no one to pick on but each other. Which we did.

Queerbait Jesus So, zero hour grumpily arrives. The lovely tray of fancy cheeses and fresh berries and salmon pate swirls donated by star caterer Kash Brouillet (in whose shortlived band "Kashiselvis" I played a fantastic gig where we opened for the Gun Club) was put out, we tried to get the inescapably mainstreamed rap music OFF the stereo and start MY mix of faves from the Geranium Pond to the Daughters of Albion (which was completely inaudible through the evening), the pictures didn't seem TOO crooked, we'd gotten most of the cardboard scraps off the floor, and I helped myself to a stiff reinvigorating drink as my mom, chauffered by my brother Kaj and his wife Alejandra, arrive at 7:00 ON THE DOT.

I hover about them nervously for long moments - and they walk around the room, eyeing the art with fairly convincing interest and mouthing some bland rote familial approval my way.

And that's it.


Well, my dear friend Rocky Schenck comes, because he has another early event to rush off to, and I lean on his shoulder nervously in the empty room, trying to avoid my Mom's pitying gaze from afar which intimates: "Oh, Kristian, I DO believe in your talent, even if, at your advanced age, you haven't managed to make anyone ELSE believe in it! I, as your loving mother, DON'T CARE that you gave an art opening and NOBODY CAME!"

The minutes grudgingly crawl by in the whitewashed cinderblock art space that seems more damp, chilly, unwelcoming, and cavernous by the moment - or maybe it's ME that has just become more FEEBLE and SMALL. Whose idea was this ANYWAY? Who can I SUE? Maybe the answer is in that Jack Daniels - but DARN , my MOM is watching! Can't you PLEASE JUST KILL ME?

And then, suddenly, at about 8:05 (but who's counting?) the room EXPLODES with people!

I'm sure the relief lights up my nose like a clown's, as scores of well-wishers come in waves for the rest of the evening. I'm never left unattended again, and am so completely bathed in over the top compliments from so many people, many of whom were completely unaware I did anything but tickle the ivories, that I can't remember anything but the glow. There is actually a drawn out ugly FIGHT over who gets to buy "Miami" - a pen and ink line drawing of a portly rabbit in bathing trunks sunning himself in a beach chair. That's the kind of fight I LIKE! And the lithos (or "merch") sell like crazy!

Theme Restaurant Let's see if I can remember some of the over 200 people that actually showed up (to say nothing of the many well wishers who called me the next day saying they hadn't been able to find the place, or thought it was going to last a couple of weeks):

  • Adele "Contortions" Bertei
  • Alice "Secretary of the Democratic national Committee" (and Abby Travis' Mom) Germond
  • Laurel "Murphy Brown" Greene
  • Ellen "The Nanny" Ratner
  • Kim "The Strip" Chase
  • Matt "Roseanne" Roth
  • Patti - fabulous genius - Scanlon, and her husband Hugh Palmer
  • Donita "L7" Sparks
  • Tim "Sugarpie" (celebrity Skin, Cramps) Ferris
  • Doug "The Hangmen" Cox
  • Debbie "Maw and Paw" King
  • Todd "The New Women" Hughes
  • David "Death in Venice California" Ebersole
  • Michael "Monitor/Billy Wisdom and the Hee-Shees" Uhlenkott
  • Mike "I invented Silverlake" Glass
  • Erin "Steppenwolf" Quigley
  • Christopher "Ads in heavy rotation" Boyer
  • Ann "Lotus Lame and the Lame Flames" Mclean
  • Alice "Eternal Rock Star- Stay At Home Bomb" Bag
  • Steve "geffen theater" Eich
  • Howard"the Picture of Everything" Hallis

And that's only the celebutantes I can remember before the liquid courage got the better of me!

Of course the ever lovely Crystal Ann Lea and her Rock God husband Jonathan Lea passed by on their way to see the Zombies to impart good cheer. Andrew Sandoval and his wonderful wife Wendy fielded compliments on the album cover I drew for his CD "A Beautiful Story" (of course to all the raves I got directed at that work I had to confess it is a shameless lift - um, reinterpretation? - from a page of '50s lifestyle rag "Flair".) Iris Berry was there, signing her book and beaming. Abby Travis was there to guard the artwork from HER album that so many people were trying to buy, as well as to shepherd her wonderful mother Alice who is going to get Bush kicked out of office come November. I think the Millionaire (my "boss" in the Velvet Hammer band, leader of Combustible Edison, etc.) shook my hand and offered some of his trademark quips, but that was just as I was entering my grey-out, just the tasteful side of a blackout where one still SEEMS to be walking, listening, and capable of rational thought. Ann Magnuson showed up to give every drawing an earnest going over - and soon after to have me hired to illustrate TWO of her monthly "Paper Magazine" columns. Justin Tanner held my hand through most of the proceedings. Pat and Bill Loud reaquainted themselves with my mother.

Bindy and Bradley Arthur Brennan held down the fort near HIS original Hoffman work "Bindy and Bradley" which shows Belinda Carlisle cheerily cutting off then Mayor of L.A. Bradley's head with a surf board while city hall crumbles under the weight of a Tsunami - one of MY faves. And on and on.

Unfortunately a little too drunk to be humble at the success of the evening by this time, I insisted on posing for surely blackmail-worthy snaps for near strangers in the suit which I kept telling everyone was "really purple!" in case they hadn't noticed!

But fortunately I was whisked off to a mysterious privately owned million dollar tiki-room themed speakeasy called "The Monkey Bucket" in the nearby hills for an impromptu afterparty before I could alienate TOO many people - I THINK!

So, in the warm glow of an incredible array of Scopetones playing on the video jukebox, to the lullaby of the waterfall from the jacuzzi by the imported carved Polynesian columns, I tortured poor Alice Germond, and by extension Abby, with blowhard tales of MY mother's peacemaking accomplishments (promising to send her a copy of my Mom's new book "Compassionate Listening" which I did - thank god) as the perfect Manhattans flowed and Alice Bag and her husband Greg and Abby and Matt and Erin and Steve and Boyer faded into a pinwheel splatter of warm glowing colors and I WOKE with a START in a strange bed (alone - THANK GOD) in a wonderfully appointed room in this grand manse with a private bathroom and my clothes neatly hung over a chair (how did THAT happen? And WHO did it?) so I could crawl back into them with what little shame I had left to go nurse my hangover with the magic memories of what turned out to be a fantastically happy event: My first Art Opening.

And the best thing about it IS : Mssrs. Doug and Johnny Tellez, who run the Eastside Studios Gallery in Silverlake (4626 Hollywood Blvd. L.A. 90027 Ph: 323-660-7874), came to the show and on the strength of enjoying themselves (and, apparently, the work) so immensely, have ALREADY booked me for my MY NEXT ART SHOW - this coming October! Two shows in one year! I better run draw something new - I don't think you can have two "career retrospectives" that close together!

Many many Many thanks to Tom Cannon for arranging, curating, negotiating, babysitting, believing, forgiving, mollycoddling, framing, toting, yelling, and hosting, and to Kista Cook for designing the lithographed greeting cards whose sales made the show such a success!

For more Kristian Hoffman illustrations, visit the Illustrations Page.

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2003 DIARIES ARE HERE: diaries2003.htm
2002 DIARIES ARE HERE: diaries2002.htm