Before the great unveiling, let me also give props to two photos that have already appeared on this blog--Michael Winslow and Abdullah the Butcher. Two good ones that failed to measure up to the lofty stature of the Sigman Holiday Greeting. No shame in that, though.
OK then, here are your winners:
Photographically speaking, I'm not terribly fond of this picture. It's a little too tight on the face (another good title for my autobiography) for my taste, and I wish it hadn't been taken on black-and-white film. But that's what was in my camera at the time, so I went with it. I tried going for another photo a few other times (the Feldman was in a play off-off Broadway), but once he was in the middle of cursing out a cab driver and the other time I just missed him.
Still, for all its faults, it's a good chronicle of an historic moment. "Critical, But Stable" readers will be well versed in their Sigman/Feldman history; others will simply have to buy the book. In any event, the photo achieves all-time classic status simply because it was taken at 10 p.m. and Corey Feldman is wearing sunglasses. And that, my friends, makes it a Sigman Holiday Greeting for the Ages.
Once again, "Critical, But Stable" readers are ahead of the curve in knowing the importance of this picture. Taken after my second Dustin "Screech" Diamond stand-up comedy experience, this photo actually cost me $15, even though it was taken with my own camera. I suffer for my art. But I like the photo. We almost look related in it.
For those keeping score at home, this is the third "Saved by the Bell" cast member to appear on a Sigman Holiday Greeting, joining Mario "AC Slater" Lopez and Dennis "Richie Belding" Haskins. I've also had photos taken with Elizabeth "Jessie Spano" Berkley and Mark-Paul "Zack Morris" Gosselaar. Look out Lark Voorhies and Tiffani Thiessen, I'm comin' to get ya.
In my 29+ years of life, I have seen Corey Feldman's band perform twice (and seen him in an off-off Broadway take on "Fatal Attraction") and seen Dustin Diamond do stand-up the same number of times. Why, you may ask? Well, partly because there's something horribly, horribly wrong with me. But it's also so I can have the opportunity to immortalize such events on the highly anticipated Sigman Holiday Greeting. And that is just what I have done this year for Joe and Jane Jamessfriend. You're welcome.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night (except to those who don't celebrate Christmas...they can still have a good night if they want, though...their call).
If I had sent any of the three pictures you are about to feast your eyes on to loved ones across the country, the collective cry of "Who's that?" would have echoed from coast to coast. The photos that annually grace the Sigman Holiday Greeting must register with Joe and Jane Jamessfriend, good folks who generally would have a hard time identifying country music stars. Sure, Reba made it one year, but that was a weak year, and I consider that a less-than-shining moment in the archives of Sigmana (if I had remembered to open my jacket to reveal the "Country Music Isn't Pretty" t-shirt I was wearing, then it would've been something).
So, I now present three photos taken outside Carnegie Hall before the Grand Ole Opry show in November. If you are country-ignorant, please know that you prevented their inclusion on the Sigman Holiday Greeting this year.
An all-time classic. Oh, the many times I watched TNN and saw that same crazy, wide-eyed face of Whisperin' Bill Anderson as the cameras panned away and the Grand Ole Opry pre-show went to commercial. And now I have a picture with that look immortalized, and I'm in it, too. I may send this one to Country Weekly. Keep an eye out for it.
I was nervous that this wouldn't come out good, because (a) it was taken on a disposable camera, which I had to rush to Duane Reade to buy after I left the apartment without my usual camera, and (b) it was taken by a stranger (as were all the pictures here... same guy took all three...nice work, wherever you are). I had no need to be nervous. It's a winner.
Another photo with a missed opportunity for extra fun. Underneath my stylish Western shirt was a Jimmy Martin: King of Bluegrass t-shirt. I had worn it with the intention of showing it off if I had a picture taken with The Biggest Asshole in Nashville. Of course, Ricky Skaggs isn't really the biggest asshole in Nashville (not even top 100), but that's what Jimmy Martin called him in the fantastic book, "True Adventures with the King of Bluegrass" by Tom Piazza. And now, whenever I see Ricky Skaggs, that's the first thing that pops in my head. Then comes that "Country Boy" video with Bill Monroe.
Anyway, I forgot I was even wearing the shirt by this point of the day. I really didn't want to pose with the signed album in my hand, but the guy taking the picture insisted. Again, good call.
Birthed out of sheer boredom and disappointment that I had missed Little Jimmy Dickens, this shot with Trace Adkins also brings me great joy, both for what I assume is Trace's attempt at a smile and a frequent bonus to the celebrity photo, a bewildered-looking older man in the background. It's a peach, and now I have proof that I have shaken the hand of the man who brought the world the country anthem "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk." And, no, I'm not making that song title up.
TOMORROW: The Winners
But, over the next two days, I will present some pretenders to the throne. They fought hard, but, ultimately, they just didn't have that special something that alternately says, "Happy Holidays!" and "Wow! James really has too much free time!" Tinsel and Rot salutes them in their valiant effort.
Speaking of valiant (killer segway), this photo was taken at the Valiant Brothers Wrestling Reunion Convention held earlier this year in Carteret, New Jersey. Lanny Poffo (alternately "Leapin'" and "The Genius") vied to become half of the first brother tandem to appear on the Sigman Holiday Greeting (he is, of course, kin to Randy Savage). The sequined jacket and the man boobs made him a strong candidate, but the Polaroid nature of the photo, the general population's lack of knowledge of Mr. Poffo, and the homoerotic undertones of the photo eventually stymied his inclusion.
Taken at the same convention, this Polaroid features the Dream Team, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine and Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, both of whom, you may note, look very nightmarish. The awkward pose from me, coupled with Brutus's shears and zebra bodysuit, kept this one in the running, but, well, the Dream Team just looked too disturbing to properly wind up on a jovial holiday greeting.
Paul Feig, creator of "Freaks and Geeks" and author of "Kick Me" and "Superstud," posed for this shot at the Union Square Barnes and Noble on the same night that one of the photos eventually chosen as a Sigman Holiday Greeting was taken. It was an historical evening. Unfortunately, the woman at Barnes and Noble chopped off the top of our heads and the celebrity of Paul Feig is perhaps larger in my apartment than in the rest of the world. So, this one didn't quite measure up.
A few years ago, Dan Aykroyd, with his hands full at the time, responded to my request for an autograph by briefly stopping and asking me, "How?" I figured maybe putting down what was in his hands for two seconds might have been an option, but what do I know? That day, a tiny piece of Young James Sigman died. For the star of "The Great Outdoors," "Dragnet," and "The Blues Brothers," three of Young James Sigman's favorite movies, had proven himself to be a little bit of an ass. Still, when he was booked to do a signing of a new book on John Belushi earlier this month at the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble, I figured it was worth a shot. So, scurrying from the Tower Records across the street after Marah's in-store performance, I went to get the autograph. Aykroyd was pleasant enough, though he insisted on being connected to his cell phone almost the entire time. But he was obliging photo requests, so, what the hey? Too much bad blood to make it to the Greeting.
Viva la James! This picture of me and Bam Margera was taken at the Union Square Virgin Megastore during a signing of the Viva La Bam DVDs. It was one of the most entertaining signings I've been to, mainly because kids kept asking Bam to slap them in the face. And after making sure that that was really what they wanted, Bam obliged. Never seen that before. Ultimately, though, the photo just didn't make the cut. No strong reason. Just tough to crack the top two this year.
TOMORROW: If that aint country...
But then there are the moments when everything falls into place, when you unearth information that other collectors either don't see or don't care about, and when you're one-on-one with someone you admire.
Such a moment happened last Thursday at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey. See, a day before, I had opened the Village Voice to see that the Maxwell's ad listed Alexa Joel as opening the show on Thursday. Using my vast knowledge of most things Billy Joel, I knew that was the name of Billy Joel's daughter, and, really, how many Alexa Joels could there be in the world? After some Web searching, I found out that his daughter was indeed pursuing a music career, though the only music-related mention was that she had to cancel what would've been her first gig earlier this summer.
So, I thought, was this going to be her first show? And if indeed it was, wouldn't you think her dad would show up to something like that? And if he did, shouldn't I make the effort to get an autograph? And if I made the effort, would that be something a normal 29-year-old would do?
It was then I stopped asking questions, because I didn't like where this was headed. But I was headed to Maxwell's with my Billy Joel LP (the Live in Russia one, or something like Kohuept, but with those Cyrillic characters in it).
Before I go further, I realize that previous comments on this blog might make you think that I don't really like Billy Joel. Not so. True, when you go to an all-boys Catholic high school, he starts to wear on you by senior year, but there's no denying that long before that year arrived, I had worn out my cassette of his Greatest Hits, Volumes I and II, sat rapt in front of the TV when the video for "A Matter of Trust" came on, and once rather embarrassingly sang "Piano Man" in the family living room while my sister and mother watched. Billy Joel was probably one of the first people I really got into when I started getting into music, and for that, he should be commended. By me, at least. You do what you want. But his string of hits, like them or not, is pretty impressive. I'll even grant that there are a few clunkers here and there, but, c'mon, "Goodnight Saigon"? "Angry Young Man"? "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"? "Only the Good Die Young"? "The Longest Time"? "Pressure"? Should I stop? Yes? Fair enough.
Point is, I like Billy Joel. Deal with it.
I got to Maxwell's a little late, but Alexa hadn't hit the stage yet. She was talking to a few friends when I got there (and, yes, I know what she looks like, only because she looks like Billy Joel, which is almost a tragedy when you consider her mom is Christie Brinkley), and there were a dozen or so other people in the room, most of whom didn't seem like they cared if Billy Joel showed up. I scanned the room, looking for signs of Billy, but all I saw was the Maxwell's booker looking a little more fidgety than usual. And people going in and out the fire exit door. Hmmmm...
I moved up closer when the show started, just to the left of an older guy who, as he was taking lots of pictures, seemed to be aware of who Alexa Joel was. I like to think of him as The Future. I shook off the shakes that gave me and focused on the music, which, though not my thing, was pretty good, especially for a first show. She seemed pretty confident and though the songs weren't anything spectacular, they were good enough to justify seeing her even if she wasn't Billy Joel's daughter. Was that a compliment? I'm not sure.
Anyway, about a half-hour into the set, I see this guy approaching two of Alexa's friends who were a few feet away from me. All I could make out is that he had a hooded sweatshirt pulled waaay tight over his head and that he looked vaguely menacing. He tapped one of the girls on the shoulder and then quickly walked away, leading me to think, "Who let the homeless guy in?" And then I realized that the "homeless guy" was Billy Joel. Sweet disguise.
Because I was getting a little bored with the show, I moved to the back of the room to see how that perspective was. Then I was blocked, perhaps unintentionally, from going to my bag, which I had left in the back, by what I assumed was one of Billy's buddies in charge of shielding him from the great unwashed. But he eventually stepped aside, and as I put my camera in my bag, I realized that there was essentially a circle of beefy Long Island-looking guys surrounding The Hooded Piano Man. It was at this point that I wondered if it could be any more obvious that that was Billy Joel in the Harley Davidson hooded sweatshirt. Perhaps if the hood read, "This hood covers the head of rock star Billy Joel. Please do not touch him."
After the show ended, I stepped outside, since I'd lost sight of Billy inside and figured he'd have to head back to whatever idling vehicle that he was in before the show started. As soon as I stepped outside, I noticed The Hooded Piano Man smoking with the guy who was hesitant to let me get to my bag. As politely as I could, I approached the man who provided the soundtrack to ages 10-15.
"Excuse me, Mr. Joel?"
The hood turned around.
"Would you mind just signing an album for me?"
He gave me a little "OK" shrug, so I got the album from my bag. That's when this buddy chimed in, in as snotty a voice as he could muster.
"Oh, look what you just happened to bring."
"Yeah, well, I figured he might be here. I'm not selling it or anything."
"OK. Well, just don't run in there and tell everybody."
Right, because that was my plan. I was just about to run into Maxwell's, screaming, "Hey, Hoboken! Billy Joel's outside incognito, smoking a cigarette. Swarm him!"
Anyway, Billy signed the album, and all was right with the world. I told him he should be proud of his daughter (it never hurts to be a kiss-ass in these situations) and that she sounded good, especially for her first show. After saying she was good, he asked me, "Was she?" which I figured was a trap, but I didn't fall for it. And after asking me how I heard about the show, and Billy telling his buddy that he needed to get a copy of the Voice with the ad in it, I thanked him and headed home, happy and satisfied. Really. I was.
It don't take much.
Marah's Dave Bielanko
The Marahliday season begins tonight at the Lincoln Center Tower Records with a free in-store performance from Marah at 6 p.m. Then, it's Irving Plaza on Friday night for the Marah Christmas Extravaganza, Night One. And then, if you're me or aspire to be me, it's the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philly on Saturday for the Marah Christmas Extravaganza, Night Two.
I have spent much time extolling the virtues of Marah here. I will do no more. The time to act is now.
Go to the shows, OK?
Anyway, a month or so ago, I received a phone call early in the morning from a Tinsel and Rot operative out in the field that I should check my e-mail, for Seatfillers was offering the opportunity to attend the CMAs as a, you guessed it, seatfiller. So that meant that while the great unwashed were plunking down their $250 for seats way up in the 300 level at the Garden, I'd be on the main floor, being led around by the overstressed Seatfillers coordinators during commercial breaks to fill the large hole when Big and/or Rich needed to use the potty.
Honestly, I felt a little bad for those who paid $250 (plus fees), since I was getting better seats for free. But I had to wear a suit jacket, so it was just about an even trade.
As I'm sure I've either explained to you at some point or you've experienced firsthand, seatfilling is a very tedious and demeaning way to see a show. Basically, it is your job to fill the vacancies left when someone far more important than you gets the urge to stretch his or her legs. And you do that because someone apparently did a study at some point that said the average TV viewer will be shocked to see an empty seat, and will instead flip over to a show where all the seats are properly filled and all is right with the world. It seems insane to me, but what do I know?
So, you are herded into an area a good three hours before the show starts, branded (this time with a blue ribbon) and separated into groups (at the CMAs, I was part of the "Saddle" group), and eventually given a speech that assumes you are a moron incapable of being in such close proximity to a famous person. This talking-to is generally highlighted by the reminder that if someone taps you on the shoulder and says, "This is my seat," you get up and go, no questions asked. Whoever it is, he or she, it is to be assumed, is clearly more worthy of a seat than you. And the other highlight is when you are told not to talk to the celebrities. Unless they talk first. Then, I guess it's OK. I'm still not entirely clear on that. Fortunately, I've never been in that situation
This speech is almost always delivered by the same person, a woman with a sharp, piercing laugh that invariably makes me feel uncomfortable and/or like she might be capable of murdering me. During her CMA talk to the Saddles, the frightening speech was frequently interrupted as she tried to defuse some other situations developing regarding the other group, the Boots. I kept waiting to see her head explode, but no such luck.
Finally, everyone was herded over from the Theater to the actual arena, where the CMAs were being held. And then we stood in a hallway for about an hour while people passed by us, alternately asking, "What are the blue ribbons for?" and whispering, "You know who they are? Those are seatfillers." It's what I imagine what living in a zoo is like, except you're not standing in your own excrement. Or at least I wasn't. I shouldn't speak for the others.
In what was either a great stroke of luck or a terrible misfortune, our group of Saddles didn't get into the arena until Kenny Chesney had already begun his opening number. And there seemed to be mass confusion among the Seatfillers coordinators, as they led us from one area next to the soundboard to the side of the main space, and then back to the soundboard area. Finally, they sat us down in the holding area, where, theoretically, they would be coming back to get us when seats needed to be filled. Or, you could do as I and my fellow Tinsel and Rot operatives did, which is just ignore any frantic-looking person with a headset and just enjoy the show from a partially obstructed seat in the middle of the main floor.
The women who were initially sitting next to me were not happy, however, because they desperately wanted to be on TV, a desire I bid adieu to a long time ago, just after I appeared on TV (see "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," Episode 2, the pale guy right behind the Hot Seat). So, attired in their prom dresses (some people take the seatfilling thing way serious), they bolted for greener pastures, or at least a Seatfillers coordinator, after the first commercial break. Meanwhile, I contemplated how sad it was going to be when Garth Brooks performed, thus ending what I had hoped would be a lifelong streak of never having attended a show where Garth Brooks appeared. Luckily, tragedy was averted on a technicality when it was announced that Garth would be performing live from Times Square. So, I'm still clean.
(A question was posed in the Comments field asking why Garth Brooks is the Antichrist. Five reasons follow:
1. He managed to transition country music from a time when traditional country was actually making a comeback to a time when bombast, tight Wranglers, and singing like Kermit the Frog became the new standard in Nashville.
2. He was one of the first artists to release CDs with multiple covers so as to get more sales. He likely didn't create the idea, but he certainly ran with it the farthest. Or furthest. Whatever the right word is there. And he just really seems to have an aggressive desire to get every last dime out of his fans. I know they're at fault, too, but I don't have to look at them in the Country CD racks.
3. He recently signed a deal with Wal Mart to make them the exclusive seller of Garth Brooks CDs. And he's re-releasing all of his old CDs with new bonus tracks, so the fans can feel compelled to buy the CDs again. CDs you can only buy at Wal Mart. Douchebag.
4. Chris Gaines. Already covered in "Critical, But Stable."
5. It's my blog and what I proclaim is true is true.)
The Country Music Association decided that since the CMAs were in New York this year, which already upset a lot of people in Nashville, they would would further insult country music fans by inviting people like Paul Simon, Bon Jovi, and Elton John to perform (to be fair, the general consensus among the seatfillers was that Jon Bon Jovi would be the only person it would be really exciting to sit next to, so perhaps some new fans were born). Paul Simon sang Willie Nelson's "Crazy" (preceded by Willie singing Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years"...get it?), which didn't really seem to move anyone. Bon Jovi sang one of their own songs, with help from Jennifer Nettles, the lead singer of Sugarland, which went slightly better. But, by far, the winner of the worst performance of the night was Elton John and Dolly Parton's complete butchery of "Imagine." It was a performance so irredeemably awful that the standing-ovation-happy audience made absolutely no move to get out of their seats after the last note (we had made the move to fill seats during the last hour, so we got to see this one up close). Call and response doesn't really work on "Imagine," particularly when the responding involves Dolly Parton wailing, "Imagine no possessions."
The rest of the performances ranged from the pretty good--Miranda Lambert's "Kerosene" and Sara Evans's "Cheatin'," emphasis on the "pretty," and Brad Paisley's "When I Get Where I'm Going"--to the distressingly bad--Alan Jackson singing "Wonderful Tonight"--to the alarmingly awful--whatever the hell Rascal Flatts sung (I've blocked it out, and I can't be bothered to do the research) and Big and Rich's "Coming to Your City" (please don't). And the slideshow running behind Gretchen Wilson as she sang "I Don't Feel Like Loving You Today" was fairly confusing (JFK and Jackie? Lucy and Desi?), though it was a welcome distraction from the fact that Gretchen Wilson should stay away from the ballads. And during Julie (not Julia) Roberts's performance, I was reminded of her complete inability to finish singing a line without smiling, a trait first picked up by another Tinsel and Rot operative in the field during a trip to the Grand Ole Opry last year.
I had my brief flirtation with seatfilling fame at the very end of the show, when I was called up to the front row to fill a seat in that general area. After calling me up there, they couldn't find a seat for me. All of the sudden, I heard Brooks and Dunn talking behind me. Whoops. We're back on. My vast seatfilling training prevented me from panicking, and tragedy was averted. Perhaps you saw the top of my head on TV. Hope it looked good.
The night ended with me furiously grabbing unused programs from underneath seats, for reasons I'm not entirely sure of ( I have 4 extras--make me an offer), before heading out to the hallway again, where injured Jets quarterback Chad Pennington was involved in an impromptu photo session with every dope with a camera as he waited for his girlfriend to come out of the bathroom. That was probably the closest I came to an actual celebrity that night (other people I saw from relatively close distances--Sugarland, Dominic Chianese, Jerry Douglas, John Rich, Jeff Hanna, Matraca Berg...I'm not impressing you, am I?) But, at a savings of $250, it was a pretty good night.
The Grand Ole Opry celebrated its 80th anniversary with a show at Carnegie Hall, and the show was jammed full of artists who would not normally be stuffed into one Opry show, in what I imagine was a desperate attempt to make the Opry seem much cooler and relevant than it is. And, truth be told, I'm all for that mission. A world without the Grand Ole Opry--a world I think we will see in the not too distant future--is a darker, sadder world. Really. No sarcasm there.
Anyway, going to the show was only part of the day for me. The far more exciting part was supposed to be meeting Little Jimmy Dickens, the oldest member of the Opry and, quite possibly, the reason why I really started listening to country music. If I hadn't seen him sing "Life Turned Her That Way" on a TNN "Country Legends Homecoming" show, I probably never would've delved into the classic country stuff, content to just live in the alt-country ghetto, where Jeff Tweedy was king and Johnny Cash was the only old-timer deemed cool enough to like. Of course, if I hadn't heard him sing that song, I probably wouldn't have spent a picture-perfect Monday afternoon behind a police barricade with a bunch of scraggly looking autograph collectors, but, you know, you pay your money, you take your chances.
So, when I arrived at Carnegie Hall a little past 2 p.m., I figured the chances were good that I was early enough to see Little Jimmy arrive for the 8 p.m. show. Unfortunately, I wasn't. He came in around 1. And never came back out. And then they sent him out a side entrance after the show because the street was packed with people desperate for a glimpse of Martina McBride.
But the day wasn't a total loss. As the only person with a decent knowledge of what people looked like, I was the official spotter of the preshow autograph wait. And I initiated a stampede when I spotted "Whispering" Bill Anderson. No one had a clue who he was, but I didn't spend years watching him give his creepy camera stare during the televised Grand Ole Opry pre-show for nothing.
"Whispering" Bill (so nicknamed for his vocal style, which seems to be not so much a "style" these days as it is an inability to hit high notes) has been writing songs in Nashville for a long damn time (he won the "Song of the Year" at last week's CMAs for his cowrite on the Brad Paisley/Alison Krauss duet "Whiskey Lullaby"), and a lot of them are really good. Some of them. not so much, but you can't hit a home run every time. So, even though his singing's never really grabbed me (nor did it grab the guy at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop last year, when he commented, while listening to the Opry on the in-store radio, "Bill, no more singing, man"), I respect him as a songwriter with pretty impressive longevity in a town where you don't see that much of it.
So, it was cool to have him sign a few albums (while some camera crew filmed it, I can only hope y'all never see that footage and the requisite ego-fluffing I engaged in), and to start the rush of lookie-loo collectors desperately looking for an autograph from a guy they didn't know until two minutes ago. Probably made ol' Whispering Bill feel good, too. I do what I can.
And, even better, that was pretty early in the day, so I was four autographs up for the day about an hour in (3 Whispering Bills, 1 Brad Paisley, another person who I used to think was the enemy but have since softened my stance toward). So, it seemed like it would be a productive day, and at this point I thought it would be capped off by a Little Jimmy Dickens appearance. The future was bright.
In fact, meeting Whispering Bill was probably the highlight of the day, unless you count the moment when one of the collectors recounted how he once dated a "goth chick" who "bit his dick." Or the countless times the guy trying to get the stars to read his song "Lady Liberty" (which was, alternately, "a song for our troops" and "a song that will make millions" at different points during his pitch) made ridiculously inappropriate remarks to women passing by. Those were pretty exciting moments, too.
I did get Charley Pride and Ricky Skaggs to sign albums, and snagged pictures with Skaggs and Trace Adkins, the latter only because he was just standing there and I thought, "Well, why not?" And the same thought compelled me to get an autograph from Trisha Yearwood, as I realized that the only thing I actually don't like about her is that she sleeps with the Antichrist, Garth Brooks.
So, aside from not achieving the main purpose of the day (the autograph of and photo with Little Jimmy), it was pretty successful, "success," of course, being a relative term. I finally gave up waiting at about 7:15, grabbed some pizza, and then headed into Carnegie Hall for the show, which was pretty good, though it dragged in a few spots, much like your standard Opry show. Unfortunately, the Carnegie Hall Opry didn't feature live commercials for sponsors, nor was the Opry band or Carol Ann Cooper in the house, thus depriving the NYC crowd of any oversexualized Goo Goo Clusters spots. But Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, and Ricky Skaggs doing "Go Rest High on That Mountain" sure was pretty. And at least I finally got to see Little Jimmy perform, albeit only one song. And I'm pretty confident that the people sitting next to me were baffled as to why I was standing when he came out and singing "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose" right along with him, but sitting mute when "stars" like Vince Gill and Brad Paisley performed, but what can you do? I'm a 29-year-old man who worships Little Jimmy Dickens. What of it?
NEXT: The Country, My Ass Awards
Anyway, much of the first half of the week off was spent "enjoying" Country Music Week in New York City. I saw almost every country musician I despise, and even a few I like. Quite a time. I was gonna wait until the pictures developed, but why make you, the thirsty Tinsel and Rot devotee, suffer any longer? So, let 'er go, boys, let 'er go...
Sunday, November 13--The Rodeo Bar--Live Radio Broadcast of The Front Porch Show, hosted by Justin Frazell, with guests Lee Ann Womack, Waylon Payne, Jack Ingram, Billy Currington, Joe Nichols, and Scotty Emerick (followed by a full show from Trent Summar and the New Row Mob, which is why I was there)
When "I Hope You Dance" came out a few years ago, I was a pretty healthy Lee Ann Womack hater. I just don't really like inspirational, warm and fuzzy country songs. I don't care if you dance, and I especially don't care that you hope I dance. I'll live my life, you live yours. Now sing me a song about heartbreak or cheating or something.
But now, I must admit that I really don't have much of a problem with Lee Ann Womack. I like the two songs I've heard off her current CD ("Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago" and "I May Hate Myself in the Morning"), which are both pretty good country songs with a classic kind of feel to them, and they wisely focus on both heartbreak and cheating. Hooray for Lee Ann.
Now, if she could just ease up a trifle bit on the hair, the makeup, and the tanning, she might really be on to something.
Anyway, I though the radio show was going to be a full show from Lee Ann, interrupted intermittently by commercials. But it turned out to be "The Front Porch Show," a weekly radio show out of Texas that seems to play decent songs some of the time, but is hosted by a guy who screams most of the time in a thick Texas drawl. He was sort of like Larry the Cable Guy, but without the keen wit. And I stood through three hours of that while I waited to pounce on a seat for the Trent Summar and the New Row Mob show that was set to follow the radio program. Good times.
It was hard to find a place to stand, but I wound up with an OK spot between the two main rooms at the Rodeo Bar. And I was right at the bottom of the stairs that led to the VIP area, so I got to see the folks who were waiting to go on the radio show. Jack Ingram, who I actually like and respect, was the first guy I recognized. He's got a bunch of really good songs, seems to be making some inroads into the country music "establishment," and he's in one of Lee Ann Womack's recent videos, yet another reason why she might just be all right.
Then, a few minutes after I saw Ingram, I spotted a guy who I initially thought was Dierks Bentley, another Nashville hitmaker I don't really mind. But then I got a closer look and realized I was mere steps away from the man who set Manhood back at least 1,000 years--Billy Currington.
With any luck, you don't know who Billy Currington is. But you may know him from the most embarrassing video of all time, his duet with Shania Twain on "Party for Two." The song is, even by Shania standards, exceptionally and annoyingly awful. But it's the video that breaks new ground in hideous entertainment. It features the two of them prancing (and, really, "prancing" is the only possible word that can be used) around with the least amount of sexual chemistry I've ever seen between two human beings (and, believe me, I know plenty about a lack of sexual chemistry). It's like a really short episode of "Barney and Friends," but not nearly as entertaining. Every other song the man does could be jaw-droppingly brilliant, but I'll never be able to shake the image of him in that video long enough to appreciate them.
I debated taking a picture with him for a laugh, but I don't think I would've been able to deal with being that close to him. But I did wrangle him when it came time for his appearance on the radio show. During breaks, the host would call people to the stage, but no one could hear anything outside of the room. So, since I was between the two rooms, I took it upon myself to tell Billy he was being paged. Something to tell the grandkids about. I did the same, or tried, later on when Jack Ingram was being paged. I saw him by the bar and let him know that the host wanted him. He looked at me and said, "Really? Oh well," then grabbed my arm in a gesture of thanks and walked away to get a drink. And that's why I like Jack Ingram even more.
In the completely odd celebrity sighting of the night, former NFL quarterback Jim Kelly showed up a few hours into the show, apparently just to hang out. I guess he knew some people from the Front Porch Show, so he tried to get the attention of one of the guys working. And he did, because the guy yelled out, "Hey, Jim Kelly!" to which Jim Kelly responded, "Don't yell my name out, you dumb shit." Then, later on, right before he headed up to the VIP room, he looked at me and, for some reason, said what sounded like the following: "I know it's illegal, but that shit's killing me." I honestly have no idea what he was talking about. It could've been the scantily clad young lady standing near us. But, in any case, some sort of shit was killing Jim Kelly. Maybe it was Billy Currington.
The Front Porch Show finally wrapped up a little after 11, and a little later Trent Summar and the New Row Mob took the stage. I had only seen them once before, and that wasn't with the new lineup that features Yayhoo/Georgia Satellite/All-Around Cool Guy Dan Baird. It was a really fun show, seen by a fraction of the people who sat through the radio show, most of whom followed the orange-tanned glow of Lee Ann Womack out of the room. The band doesn't really got up this way very much, but they're definitely worth checking out. With Baird and Ken McMahan on board, it's a real monster of a band. And Trent Summar doesn't hold back much, jumping on chairs, doing the Robot, flailing all around. Sometimes it almost seems like too much energy, until you realize that there's no such thing when it comes to good live music. And the thrashing cover of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" can't be beat.
NEXT: There'll be guitars and fiddles and banjo-pickin', too
The King Rides Again
by Larry King III (as told to James Sigman)
M&M Minis--what's the point?...All this tumult in France cannot be good news...That "Christian warrior" mom on "Trading Spouses" sure was a peach...It's very windy outside today...Terrell Owens's agent makes me angry...I'm no Nostradamus, but this whole war in Iraq thing doesn't look like it's going to turn out well...Sometimes, I'll walk the streets of Manhattan and think about nothing else but those chocolate cookies filled with coconut that they used to serve at the Terrace Dining Hall...Seemed to be a lot of hurricanes this year...I've been reading a biography of Robert Frost for almost a month now and I can't decide if I want to finish it..."But Can They Sing?" has been a huge disappointment so far. Bring back "Celebrity Fit Club"..."Walk the Line" better not suck...Should I buy a Sirius radio? I can't decide...Good episode of "Family Guy" this week...Lot of people dying lately...Big shock that they think the guy responsible for drugging and raping that woman after he posed as a fireman is a journalist...I don't care what John Davidson tells me--I don't like the shootout...David Lee Roth is very tough on the ears...Pot roast doesn't get nearly enough respect...It's Country Music Week in New York City...That Chuck Scarborough is an ageless dynamo...What's Corey Haim up to these days?...If I were a grown man, I probably would insist that people stop calling me "Scooter."
'Til next time, kids....
Starting Saturday morning and running through Sunday, the marathon heralds the addition of "What's Happening" to TV Land's schedule. This is exciting news. Very exciting news.
Now we will once again have the opportunity to visit with Raj, Rerun, Dwayne, Mama, Dee, Shirley, and everybody else, just like I used to do every weekday at 5:30, when Channel 5 aired the show in NYC. For many years of my childhood, "The Brady Bunch" and "What's Happening" were the main reasons for existence. That might be hyperbole, or it might just be true.
Anyway, if you can't devote your whole weekend to TV Land, may I suggest that you need to at least see the Doobie Brothers two-parter. It's a TV classic, right up there with the creepy bike shop owner molestation two-parter on "Diff'rent Strokes" and the episode of "The Jeffersons" where George gives CPR to the very ungrateful white supremacist guy.
The TV Land website says the Doobie episodes air at midnight and 12:30 Sat. night/Sunday morning and again at 7 and 7:30 Sunday night. Dig it.
When it's 40 degrees out and you're standing in an interminably long line whose big payoff will be buying a T-shirt and meeting someone from the "Police Academy" movies, it's not a bad idea to start talking to the people around you, if only to see if they have a crazier purpose than you do. So, having already established that I was the crazier one between Josh and myself, it made sense to move on to the husband and wife standing in front of us.
Luckily, they had driven about five hours for some face time with Eddie Deezen, perhaps best known as Eugene Felnic, the nerdy guy in "Grease." Or perhaps not known at all, though he's one of those if-you-saw-him-you'd-know-who-he-was kind of celebrities. In fact, there was a whole tent full of just that sort of people awaiting us at the end of the line—the actual line I was waiting on, not the metaphorical one. As much as I like the "Police Academy" movies, I'd be pretty bummed if at the end of the metaphorical line, I was greeted by the guy who played Tackleberry (RIP). Or maybe I wouldn't be.
Anyway, they were big Eddie Deezen fans, so they decided to make the trip, not knowing—in what was rapidly becoming a theme—just how big a convention Chiller Theatre was. They were real pleasant, seemingly normal people, and good folks to spend three hours with while you're losing feeling in your toes. They never mentioned their names, and I never offered mine, which is as it should be. But they were good eggs.
A Chiller staffer was patrolling the line, so the female Deezenatic figured it'd be a good idea to ask her if Eddie Deezen was indeed in the tent. Sometimes cancellations happen, and though it would suck to drive five hours for no reason, at least you could get out of the line and do something more productive with your Saturday, like, well, just about anything else.
So, after being told his name about three times and finishing her cigarette, the staffer went up toward the tent (or, at this point in the day, where we assumed the tent was, not being able to actually see it). As she left, I told the Deezenatics the cold, hard truth.
"(A) She's not coming back and (b) if she does come back, she's not going to have any information."
Fifteen minutes later, and after a few minutes of trying to find us in line, the staffer returned with the following news:
"I don't think he's in the tent."
There was a brief moment of panic, but then Josh and I assured the Deezenatics that she probably didn't even ask anyone. And I think we were right, because somewhere in Hour 2, Josh asked the same staffer to see if Hurricane Carter was in the tent. After he wondered out loud if he should just follow the staffer and beg and plead his case at the front of the tent, we urged him to do just that. So he went up, and I guess he must not have crossed paths with the staffer, because she returned in about ten minutes and told us, "Ruben Carter? Yeah, I don't think he's in there." Then when we pressed her on that info, she said, "But I don't even really know what he looks like, so..."
This became even funnier when we finally got in the tent (Josh, by the way, got his wish and saved himself the last hour of waiting), and Ruben Carter was literally two tables in from the entrance.
Did I mention the excellent staff?
Finally, at a little past 3 p.m., after more than three hours of freezing, watching costumed freaks look at us and say, "You'd have to be crazy to be in that line," and actually getting excited when Kevin "Hercules" Sorbo came out in the cold and signed autographs for people on line (no, I didn't get one), we were at the entrance, me and the Deezenatics. We were just about to go in when Captain Lou Albano came out of the tent, leaving for the day. I quickly grabbed the "Body Slam" soundtrack out of my bag, got out of line, and snagged the latest of far too many Captain Lou autographs (far too many for most people, of course, being 1).
The woman letting people into the tent almost didn't let me in because I got out of line. That would've been interesting.
But after telling me, "You shouldn't have done that," she let me in. And it was F-list celebrities as far as the eye could see.
Hey, look, it's Tonya Harding. And there's Dwight "Howlin' Mad" Murdock from "The A-Team." And over there—it's tiny little David "Bud Bundy" Faustino. And Lydia Cornell from "Too Close for Comfort" is right there, next to Jerri Manthey from "Survivor," who's selling signed copies of Playboy for $50. Or she would be selling them if anyone wanted one. And there's all the wrestlers—Ken Patera, Rick Martel, Tito Santana, the Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Jimmy Snuka, and—sweet—Abdullah the Butcher, selling T-shirts.
I moved in for the Abdullah shirt first, and he and a guy I assume was his manager seemed quite happy that someone was showing an interest. The sales pitch started immediately. I could buy signed forks, an autographed cane, a shirt, or a plain old 8 X 10. I got the shirt.
"You have your own camera?" Abdullah asked.
"He'll take the picture," Abdullah said, pointing at the other guy.
So I moved in next to Abdullah. And then came a phrase I assume I'll never hear again.
"Now stick the fork in my head."
"The fork . . . in my head."
Now, I guess I grabbed the fork wrong, because Abdullah took it from me and showed me the proper way to stick a fork in a man's forehead. And so I did, which is when this was taken.
I can feel your jealousy.
Leslie Easterbrook was next on the list, and after walking around the tent twice trying to find her (there was no map that told you where everyone was, which was really helpful), I sidled up behind a couple of guys. And after a lengthy conversation with the first guy about the "Police Academy" movies and the second guy about "Laverne and Shirley" (she was on in the later years, when the gals moved out west), it was my turn at bat. She was excited to see the poster (or, more accurately, successfully feigned excitement in order to make me feel slightly better for waiting three hours in the cold) and talked about the movie and how it was "the one with no plot" (which, I know, you think would describe all of them). Then, after a slight faux pas on my part (I told her the second one was also one of my favorites; she wasn't in that one, which I realized after I said it) and the exchange of $10, this was taken:
Eat your heart out.
After checking out the prices for most of the guests, I decided I probably wouldn't be spending much more time or money in the tent. Courtney Gains—best known to me as the red-haired kid in "Can't Buy Me Love" who throttles Patrick "Ronald Miller" Dempsey in the arcade and screams, "You shit my house!"—wanted $20 for a signed photo of that scene. He was getting no business, but I couldn't justify the purchase. Then there were the people doing decent business, like Larry Hagman, Adam "Batman" West, and Burt "Robin" Ward, whom I had absolutely no interest in. And then there were those bordering on insane. As you can see above, Eddie "The Big Ragu" Mekka from "Laverne and Shirley" wanted $25 to sign a jar of spaghetti sauce he bought at the supermarket. Even I have my limits. Or I did on Saturday.
I did get my book signed by Missy Hyatt, who, when I was about 12, I thought was the hottest woman ever. Plastic surgery has taken care of that, though:
I wanted to be nowhere near her in a picture.
I also tried to find Dirk Benedict, but it turns out he cancelled, which inevitably means I will find myself compelled to go to one of these godforsaken things again. Hooray.
I briefly checked out the vendors inside the hotel (after waiting on yet another line just to get into the exhibition area) and picked up a Japanese movie program of "The Blues Brothers" for John Landis to sign. When I went to get his signature on the program, he was busy trying to find a good place to eat in the Secaucus area, which I imagine he might still be doing.
Then it was time to get home, so I hopped in a van going from the hotel to the bus stop and spent the bus ride back to Port Authority listening to a guy behind me tell his far-too-good-looking-to-be-going-to-conventions girlfriend that he was really pleased by his time at Chiller, because he was "able to fill in some gaps."
Maybe he did, but I'm pretty sure I widened a few more gaps than I filled in.
As my cab pulled into the Sheraton Meadowlands Sheraton Saturday morning, my cab driver, for about the fourth time in our ten minutes together, started laughing maniacally.
"Oh, look, a hearse! Look at that! Hahahahahahaha! Crazy people!"
He had begun releasing a flood of heavily accented gibberish soon after I mentioned that I was going to the Sheraton Meadowlands. As near as I could tell, most of the monologue focused on the fact that the Sheraton Meadowlands was full of crazy people that day. Lines everywhere. People in costumes. "Crazy"--that was the word that kept popping up in between bursts of laughter.
So I sat in the back of the cab, nodded my head, and said "Yeah, they're crazy" a few times, making sure to try and distance myself from "them." A futile effort, no doubt, but I had to at least try. And trying is the best you can do when it's 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, you've already gotten a little lost, and you're now at the Chiller Theatre Film, TV, and Toy Expo, where you have come to see the blonde chick from the "Police Academy" movies, Captain Lou Albano, Abdullah the Butcher, and a bunch of other "celebrities" of equal stature.
Someday, I'll get a respectable hobby.
Who am I kidding? No, I won't.
Anyway, after another quick outburst of laughter, the cab driver let me out in front of the hotel, where there was a pretty lengthy line of people waiting to get in. Assuming this was the line to buy tickets, I hopped on the end of the line, a little ways back from the guy dressed as Charlie Chaplin. But I soon realized that this was the line for people who had already purchased tickets. I had to go to a different line, on the other side of the hotel, to buy a ticket. Sweet.
So it was on to line #2 of the day, which actually started in the hotel lobby and snaked outside, right across from another line, which extended out of view. That was where to go to meet the celebrities, who were all in a tent at the end of that line, waiting to ask you to spend $20 to buy a signed 8 X 10 photo. So, once I got my ticket, I would have to go to that line, which really didn't seem to be moving that much. I briefly considered calling it a day, but, well, what fun would that be, right? Right?
Mere seconds after I got on the ticket line, I heard a staffer call out, "Sorry, line's closed. We're sold out of tickets." He was saying this in my general direction, but I just pretended I was on line long before he said it, and that seemed to work, because I wound up being the last person on line. Then more people got on line when he was distracted, and he didn't really notice. It was at that point that I realized this might not be the best-run convention. Or at least that was the first point.
But my spot on line and whether I'd be able to buy a ticket all became moot when someone came up to the line looking to get rid of three tickets. I jumped at the offer (saving $5 off the admission price, too, thankyouverymuch), as did the guy in front of me on line, Josh, who, it turned out, had no idea this was a major convention and just wanted to get a pair of boxing gloves signed by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. After looking at the autograph line, he was beginning to have second thoughts. But we decided to persevere together, and I made sure not to mention that I had a "Police Academy 4" poster and the soundtrack to "Body Slam" in my bag. I figured that was for the best.
After getting back in the ticketholders' line in order to get bracelets, it was over to the autograph tent, the main reason why I had embarked on this adventure. After checking out the Chiller website for a few months, I started thinking that I should check this convention out. I'd always heard about it, but there were never enough good guests to justify going. Then, they added Leslie Easterbrook--Callahan from the "Police Academy" movies--and, then, well, you know.
So, I had brought my Police Academy 4 poster and DVD (signed by Michael Winslow, of course) for her, the soundtrack to the fantastic 1980s wrestling film "Body Slam" for Captain Lou Albano and Dirk Benedict, a DVD of "Amazon Women on the Moon" for director John Landis, and former professional wrestling eye candy Missy Hyatt's biography to get signed. Plus I wanted a Polaroid with Abdullah the Butcher and, even more important, a T-shirt from "Abdullah the Butcher's House of Ribs and Chinese Food," which I hoped he'd be selling.
To salvage whatever's left of my dignity, I should just delete that last paragraph, shouldn't I?
Anyway, Josh and I headed over to the front of the autograph tent, where Josh made an unsuccessful attempt to weasel his way in, explaining that he just wanted one autograph. He was too shy at this point of the day to pull out his sheriff's department badge and try to get in that way. Had he known what was ahead, I'm pretty sure the badge would've come out. But it didn't, so we headed to the end of the autograph line and began the long, hard wait. At noon. In a parking lot. In 45-degree weather.
That wait, it turned out, lasted a little over three hours.
I know what you're thinking: "Wow, you're so cool! I wish I were you!" What? That's not what you're thinking? I could've sworn it was. My bad.
NEXT: Stick a fork in my head--I'm done.
In the meantime, here's a special Halloween/All Saints Day edition of Get Out.
FRIDAY, 10/28--Eric Ambel and the Roscoe Trio--Lakeside Lounge--11 p.m.--NO COVER
Yes, the Roscoe Trio returns to the Lakeside Lounge for another free show during which much fun will be had. This will be the last Roscoe show for a bit, as he's headed out for another overseas tour as one of Steve Earle's Dukes (though I just saw that he will be playing a house party at Drew's in Ringwood, NJ on Sunday, December 11. Glory be.). So come on out and wish him well.
By the way, one of my pictures is on Roscoe's website. That makes me happy.
MONDAY, 10/31--Maybe Pete--Rockwood Music Hall--10 p.m.--NO COVER
Maybe Pete played this same place last month, and it was a real good time. The "music hall" is a comfy, new concert space on Allen St. on the Lower East Side. It's a real nice place, and Maybe Pete has some kickass new songs that sounded damn fine at the last show. Come out and support them after you dress up as a tampon for the Village Halloween Parade. You should probably change before you come.
And if you don't go, I'm totally egging your car. And TPing your house.
WEDNESDAY, 11/2--Matthew Ryan--Living Room--8 p.m.--$10
It has been a long time since Matthew Ryan came to town, so there is absolutely no chance I'd miss this show. He's a real underappreciated songwriter who's got a ton of great songs spread out over four albums (if I had to pick one, I'd go with "East Autumn Grin"...but I don't have to pick just one, and neither do you). His songs are full of so much damn emotion that I find it difficult to write or talk about them without getting overly emotional myself. Unfortunately, I tried to explain this to him once at the Goldhawk in Hoboken a few years ago. But he humored me and explained how a singer can go out and sing dark, depressing (but real powerful) songs about lost love night after night and not go crazy. He's a heckuva nice guy and really should be a lot better-known than he is. But that's the rest of the world's problem. You and I can go to the Living Room on Wednesday night.
Tinsel and Rot trivia: The name of this blog was blatantly stolen from a Matthew Ryan song ("I Hear a Symphony").
See you out there?
When I "discover" a band through their live show, my immediate urge is to physically grab hold of everyone I know, plop them right in front of the stage at the next show the band does, and share with them the feeling that that particular band gave me the first time I saw them (if you are a regular reader, the fact that I have this urge likely comes as little surprise). My hope is that they'll get the same feeling I did, and if they don't, well, at least I tried. And, of course, if they don't get the same feeling, there is obviously something physically wrong with them (not the band), and their friendship automatically becomes trite and meaningless.
But the first time I saw Marah (rhymes with "hurrah"), after hearing about them for a few months and missing a couple of shows, I got that feeling, that feeling that I had to see them again immediately. I needed to see them do that song again about the history of where someone was killed, I needed to watch the lead singer bob and weave his way through a guitar solo, and I just needed to hear that sound again, that perfect, unrefined sound that only comes from bands whose aim is true. More important, I had to bring witnesses along to verify that this band may just be the greatest rock band I'd ever seen.
So I saw that Marah was playing a club called the Joyous Lake in Woodstock, NY, not too far away from my parents' place in Windham, NY, and not too far of a drive for the people we today call the Chambalas, who at the time were living in...um...oh, wait, it was...screw it, somewhere in New York. Somewhere reasonably close to Woodstock. That much I'm sure of. Except maybe not.
Anyway, point is that soon the three of us were walking through the village of Woodstock, dodging hippies and wondering if that nondescript building across the street, the one that looked abandoned, was indeed the Joyous Lake.
It was, and a few hours later, Marah was playing, Dave Bielanko was bobbing and weaving through a guitar solo, free drinks were coming from the bartender, and, on a ride to Windham full of hope and euphoria, all agreed that, yeah, this might just be a really great rock-and-roll band.
And then there was that December afternoon a few years later, in the middle of a blizzard and after a morning spent waiting for furniture to arrive in my new apartment, that I boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Philadelphia. Along for the ride was Esa Tikkanen Fan Club president Anthony Iaffaldano, who hadn't seen Marah before and had finally given in to my pleas to see them. Unfortunately, after moving about ten miles in two hours, enduring the entire remake of "The In-Laws" and an incomprehensible bus driver in the process, it didn't look good that he'd be seeing Marah this time either.
But the traffic eventually broke and we made it to Indre Studios in Philadelphia, where Marah was throwing a fans-only Christmas party. And after a few hours of holiday cheer and rock-and-roll sweat, Mr. Iaffaldano turned to me with a smile on his face and said, "You know all those times you told me about this great band Marah that I should go see, and then how I bailed out on going to the shows? Well..." I believe at this point, I gave him the finger. And he took it in stride, because he knew he should've gone to those shows, because, dammit, Marah was a helluva rock-and-roll band.
I could go on with other tales of conversion, but I think you get the point. And if you don't, here it is: Marah kicks ass. Sorry to be so blunt about it, but it's true. Sure, there's that difficult third album we don't really need to talk about, but, generally speaking, Marah's track record is pretty damn strong. And, having been given an advance copy of their new CD, "If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry" (which will be available in all your finer music stores on Tuesday the 18th, along with a Christmas album, "A Christmas Kind of Town") a little while ago, I can assure you that they're still a pretty great rock band on CD, and, of course, a phenomenal one on the stage.
So, with two shows in the NYC area this weekend (Friday at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ, and Saturday at Southpaw in Brooklyn) and the new CD(s) in stores tomorrow, it's never been easier to invite Marah into your life. If you love rock and roll, if you love that raw power that only comes from the electric guitar, if you love seeing and/or hearing a band who plays loud, hard, fast, and true, then you oughta check out Marah.
And if you like 'em, tell a friend.
Thanks in part to the quick thinking of your favorite blogger, what was bad news (the Waco Brothers Bloodshot Records Revue tour being cancelled due to a family emergency) is now good news--the Avett Brothers are playing a last-minute, two-set show at Southpaw in Brooklyn, NY, this Friday, October 14. Doors open at 8; the band's supposed to go on at 9:30. The cover's $10. Tinsel and Rot Money-Back Guarantee in full effect.
It'd be cool if they got a good turnout--cool for me and cooler for the band. So, put a little sunshine in your week--go see the Avetts Friday night.
By the time I left the Bendix, the rain had picked up, and parking lots were starting to get a little flooded. So I deftly jumped around puddles, moving from parking lot to parking lot with deftness and grace. Sure, I stepped in a few fairly deep puddles here and there, but, overall, I did a pretty good job of ensuring that I didn't spend two hours at Bananas casually inviting the onset of pneumonia.
When I got to the club, I paid the cover (is it really that important how much it was?) and asked to be seated "anywhere but the front." So I got a seat at a table right by the door, next to a couple who laughed entirely too hard at the lame relationship jokes from the two warm-up comics. I am racking my brain trying to think of a sufficiently lame example of these jokes, but I honestly can't recall even one. They were just that bad. So bad that I'm sure one of the comics will have his own sitcom any day now.
Soon it was time for Michael Winslow to take the stage. Almost immediately, he began sweating profusely. In fact, during a really bad opening bit on what women do when they use a public restroom, I became so distracted by the sweat overtaking him that I realized I wasn't even really paying attention to what he was saying. But I gradually was able to focus on his act, which, generally speaking, got better as it went along. And it was comforting to hear someone else yell out, "No, not on cauliflower" when Michael Winslow went into his kung fu movie shtick. (If you don't get the reference, congratulations...you did productive things when you were a child.)
After another long bit about making prank phone calls as a kid in a voice that eventually came to be that of a Gremlin, he launched into a genuinely bizarre bit about a movie he wanted to make starring Flipper, Cheech, and Chong. It was mainly a means to introduce impressions of a dolphin and Cheech and Chong, but when he brought out the dolphin hand-puppet, I started to get nervous. Everybody else seemed to enjoy it, though, so maybe my comedic sense is off. I did enjoy his impressions of Cheech and Chong, which seemed to go over just about everybody's head, so maybe it just wasn't my kind of crowd. I shudder to think of what exactly "my kind of crowd" is.
There were also impressions of Tina Turner (so-so), Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant and Jimmy Page's guitar), and, of course, Jimi Hendrix (the big finale and, honestly, a still-impressive rendition of Jimi playing the "Star-Spangled Banner"). He also broke up the stage act by showing a scene from "Star Wars" and providing the sound effects. Jealous yet?
I feel comfortable in saying that the show surpassed Screech's in comedic value. I realize that there is no fainter praise with which one can be damned, but it's the best I can do. Seriously though, he does some cool things with sound effects, OK?
After the show came the inevitable autograph/Polaroid session in the lobby. (NOTE: At this point, anyone interested in dating me at any point in the future should probably stop reading.) I brought along my "Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol" poster (which I forgot I had until earlier that day), along with my DVD copies of that movie and "Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach." I wasn't sure if I wanted all of those things signed, but I wanted to be prepared, just in case. I also wasn't sure about getting the Polaroid ($15), because, well, see that number in parentheses?
Anyway, I decided to get the poster signed and then worry about the DVDs if the line died down (I don't want to cause a scene...). The guy a couple of spots ahead of me in line really couldn't have been more excited. I guess his girlfriend (who was in the bathroom) was approached as part of that dolphin hand-puppet bit and "she just loved it, man." So that guy bought two DVDs to get signed (I was definitely not spending $20 on the DVD, a recording of his act, which, you might remember, I had just seen) and asked if he could take a picture with his cell phone camera. Michael Winslow seemed to hedge a bit, but then quickly agreed, even if it meant losing the Polaroid money. I want to point out here that, for whatever it's worth, both Michael Winslow and his manager (who I think was also his wife) seemed like genuinely nice people. They actually appeared to be appreciative that people came out on such a night. If they only knew...
Soon it was my turn and I pulled out the poster, which not only brought much appreciation from Michael Winslow, but also a "Wow, who brought the poster?" from the guy who was now trying to find his girlfriend so she could get in a picture. Then the manager/wife asked me where I got it (Ebay). A scene was almost caused, but it was quickly avoided. And my poster was boldly signed (I imagine it will be on display soon).
Then, staring at the torrential downpour that had developed while the show was going on, I decided, what the hell, I'll get the DVDs signed and buy a Polaroid, too. If you ever ask me for $15 and I say I can't give it to you, feel free to remind me of this moment. It was a moment of weakness, tempered by my fondness for any entertainer who's ever brought me joy and a desire to pay each and every one back in some way.
So I get on the end of the line (which never really got lengthier than about 20 people), and when I return to the table, Michael Winslow says, "Oh, cool, you went back and got the DVDs." Then I handed a $20 bill to his manager/wife for the Polaroid and explained that I didn't want to hold up the line, so I waited to get the DVDs signed. At that, his manager/wife said, "Oh, go ahead, just get in the picture." Which is how I got the free Polaroid you see above.
After the euphoric high that comes with scoring a free signed Polaroid from a member of the "Police Academy" cast, I headed out into the downpour and soon discovered that the hotel parking lot was now filled with several inches of water. There was no longer a way to walk around it, so I just had to give in and sacrifice my sneakers to the cause (what "the cause" was is kinda hard to say).
Then, in the next parking lot, there's a little room for jumping, so I hop around, with my umbrella bravely fighting an unwinnable battle and mostly obscuring my vision. I avoid one giant puddle and then another, and I think I'm pretty much safely out of the parking lot with one more well-placed jump.
And that's when I leap face-first into a giant sign.
But, somehow, it seemed an appropriate way to wrap things up.
So, about 90 minutes before showtime, I walked into the Bendix (only slightly drenched), and a little kid handed me a menu. There was one guy sipping coffee at the counter and another guy waiting for his order at a booth, so it was a pretty intimate gathering. All the better, I thought, because I'll be served quickly and then can just walk on down the highway, which, in this case, is not a metaphorical construct meant to conjure idyllic images of a ramblin' man but an actual statement of fact, as both the diner and Bananas are on Route 17.
I scoped out the menu, honed in on my standard diner choice (pot roast), and waited for the waitress, a Greek woman of a certain age who was currently taking a delivery order over the phone. As I waited, I noticed that there was another guy walking around behind the counter in a black T-shirt that read "Blindingly Sexy." After seeing the shirt, I didn't pay much more attention to him, because I figured that if I did look at a man who would wear a shirt that said "Blindingly Sexy" on it, I would probably just end up laughing in his face. Luckily, he was pacing back and forth on the phone a lot of the time, so he seemed just as uninterested in looking at me.
The waitress finished taking the order and started to put it together, getting the rice pudding out, starting up the coffee, picking out a box to put everything in. At this point, I began to wonder if she would ever take my order. About 15 minutes had passed since I came in and she had barely acknowledged me. In fact, the kid who gave me the menu seemed to be the only person cognizant of my existence. And he was busy with his Matchbox car.
Not wanting to cause a scene (a personal motto...James Sigman: Not Wanting to Cause a Scene Since 1976), I rationalized that maybe she was just one of those people who can only do one thing at a time. So, when the takeout order was done, it would be Me Time. No problem. I'm in no rush to get a front-row seat at the Michael Winslow show anyway. I learned my lesson last time: if you're going to go to a comedy club alone on a Saturday night, sit in the back, loser.
Then the "Blindingly Sexy" guy comes out of the kitchen and the waitress says something to him in Greek. He says something back and begins to walk in my general direction. But then he stops two tables away from me and asks, "What can I get for you?" And that would've made sense, except there was no one sitting there.
Then, the waitress says, "No, no, two more down."
And it is at this point, as the "Blindingly Sexy" guy approaches my table that I realize a very important detail about this man.
He is actually blind.
The shirt makes more sense now.
After this new information sinks in, I order my pot roast, chicken noodle soup, and glass of water. I know I'm not supposed to treat the guy any different than I would anyone else, so I'm silently convincing myself that, really, this is no big deal. Why shouldn't blind people be waiting on tables? Really, how important is sight when you're serving food? And what's the big deal about sight anyway?
But then the guy at the other table pays for his food at the counter and tells Blindingly Sexy, "OK, I'm giving you a $20."
I hadn't even thought of the exchange of money. What if he gives me the wrong change? Do I point it out? Do I just let it slide? Oh man, I don't want to cause a scene...
Then Blindingly Sexy makes his way out from behind the counter with my glass of water. And I begin panicking again. Is it rude to take it from him? He seems to know his way around the diner, so maybe he'll just know where the table is and put it down. But maybe he won't. And what then?
I decide to just let him bring the water over to the table and if it seems like his aim's off, I'll take the glass. That plan works well. Then it's time for the soup. This time, I decide to just take the bowl. I'm not taking chances with any hot liquids (another personal motto).
While the pot roast is cooking, Blindingly Sexy gets engrossed in other things, and the waitress winds up bringing out my dinner. I am at once comforted and disappointed, because I was almost acting like a human being around the guy by now. And I really wanted to be a human being, to show that I didn't care that the guy serving me my food happened to be blind, that it was just another day, another diner.
But all that went out the window after I finished my pot roast (which was only so-so), as I made a conscious effort to pay the waitress because I wasn't sure I could handle the whole money exchange thing.
NEXT: The main event
If you're still itching to stay up past your bedtime on Wednesday, why not check out Mary McBride at the Rodeo Bar? She's good. Show's at 10, no cover. I don't know if I'll make it (I'm sleepy and I don't know if I can handle the Rodeo Bar three times in a week), but you should.
(Of course, if such a show were made, the word "amazing" would clearly need to be removed from the show's title, but let's not argue over semantics, OK?)
My never-ending quest to meet every single person who entertained me at the age of 12 brought me back to Bananas Comedy Club in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, last Saturday. This club, as devoted Sigmaniacs will no doubt recall, was the site of Return to Screech earlier this year, where I paid far too much money and got far too soaked with rain to see and have a picture taken with Dustin "Screech" Diamond of "Saved by the Bell" fame. For the second time in my life. After investing two days on the first attempt (which is, of course, recounted in "Critical, But Stable," still readily purchasable by the link on this page. Buy it now before the bandwagon overcrowds).
But this time was devoted to a performer who predated Screech in the adoring eyes of the young James Sigman. Yessir, thanks to a timely reading of Steppin' Out magazine, I discovered that Michael Winslow, a/k/a that guy in the "Police Academy" movies, would be making an appearance at Bananas, the best comedy club in a hotel on a highway in New Jersey that I've ever been to.
Oh, the hours I spent watching the Police Academy films--the first three on video and four through six in the theater (I do not acknowledge the existence of the direct-to-video seventh installment, "Mission to Moscow"). And though I surely had a fondness for Tim "Sweetchuck" Kazurinsky and his nemesis-turned-friend Bobcat "Zed" Goldthwait, it was Michael Winslow, Officer Larvell Jones, who captured my fancy the most. Guttenberg got all the glory, but the discriminating Police Academy connoisseur knows that Winslow was the king. Who can forget that moment in "Police Academy 2: The First Assignment" when he imitated Lou the Dog's barking, frightening Lieutenant Mauser, whose hands had just been super-glued to his head in the shower, into stepping out of the locker room, naked. What's that you say? You can forget? I have my doubts.
Anyway, look, I liked the majority of the "Police Academy" movies, and in my crazy world, that was reason enough to head out to Hasbrouck Heights in the middle of a steady rain (which gradually developed into a massive downpour) to see Michael Winslow do his thing. And if that makes me less of a person than you (and I'm almost certain it does), then that's OK with me.
Or at least that's what I choose to tell myself.
NEXT: A diner experience that's out of sight.
Wed. 10/5 and Thu. 10/6--Charlie Louvin, Rodeo Bar, NYC, 10 p.m., FREE
A few years ago (or maybe it was last year...my sense of time is poor and my book o' ticket stubs is not at my disposal at the moment), I found myself in the Roseland Ballroom, full of just about as much anticipation as I'd ever felt before a concert. Charlie Louvin, half of the Louvin Brothers, possibly the greatest country music duo of all time, was about to play an opening set on the Unlimited Sunshine tour (a tour headlined and curated by Cake, a band I actively dislike but who at least have good taste in music). The guy standing next to me asked me if I was there to see Cake or Cheap Trick. I told him neither. I was there to see Charlie Louvin. He looked at me as if I would have been better off in a mental hospital. It is a look I am very accustomed to, as you might have guessed.
Anyway, I explained who Charlie Louvin was, rattling off the people who have been influenced by the Louvins and trying to pound it into this guy's skull that the guy whose last name he couldn't pronounce was probably one of the more important people in country music history. "More important than Johnny Cash?" he asked. I thought about it. "Well, yeah, I think so." The guy stopped talking to me soon after, as he was now convinced that I was indeed insane. To him, no one could be more important than Johnny Cash, who I am confident was one of the two country guys he knew, with Willie Nelson being the other.
But screw it, I do think Charlie Louvin is at least just as important as Johnny (at least within country music itself). And the fact that he's playing two free shows at a small bar with a stuffed buffalo head on the stage is phenomenal. So this is a big deal, which is why I'll be there both nights. You oughta be, too.
Wed. 10/12--The Waco Brothers Bloodshot Records Revue w/ Sally Timms, Jon Langford, and Dollar Store, Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ, 9 p.m., $12 (also at Southpaw, Brooklyn, NY on 10/14)
The Bloodshot CMJ BBQ was really kinda lame this year without the Wacos. There's something about watching Jon Langford's (see photo, he's on the left) drunkenness slowly progress over the course of seven hours that is quite exciting. Luckily, the Waco express is pulling into town with partner in crime Sally Timms, Waco guitarist Deano's side project Dollar Store, and a solo set from Langford. A Waco Brothers show by itself is usually a pedal-to-the-metal, careening, glorious wreck of a thing full of jokes, self-mockery, copious amounts of rocking, and lots of abuse of Marc Durante, the Wacos' pedal steel player (on the right in the photo). Throw in Timms and Dollar Store and, well, I can't wait until next Wednesday (though Thursday morning, maybe not so much).
Thu. 10/13--The Avett Brothers, Mexicali Blues, Teaneck, NJ, 10 p.m., $10
You're likely getting bored with the Avett hyperbole, so I'll just say that this show, if it's anything like the last Mexicali show, will kick ass. And the Tinsel and Rot money-back guarantee is back in effect. Go to the show, and if you hate it, it's free. But you won't hate it. So come on down and watch Scott Avett sweat through his pants, one of my mom's favorite parts of the last show. She's hooked now; you're next.
Fri. 10/21 and Sat. 10/22--Marah/The Drams, Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ, 9:30 p.m., $10 (Fri.); Southpaw, Brooklyn, NY, 8 p.m., $12 (Sat.)
I'm gearing up for a long Marah post leading up to the release of their new CD, "If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry," on October 18. And I'll be pimping these shows further at that juncture. But since this is the Brothers edition and Dave and Serge Bielanko are the brothers who drive Marah, it seems appropriate to beat the drum a little early. I have seen Marah somewhere between 30 and 40 times. I've been underwhelmed and/or disappointed maybe twice. So the odds are looking pretty solid for this being a good time. And the opening band, The Drams, is most of the band formerly known as Slobberbone, who used to put on a pretty good live show themselves. Really, you'd be crazy not to go
There is nothing quite like a Marah show on a Friday or Saturday night, so do whatever you have to do to get to one or both of these shows. And I now officially extend the Marahctober Tinsel and Rot Money-Back Guarantee to these two shows.
OK then. Carry on.
In any case, even though this may have been my all-time least favorite summer, perhaps I should focus on the good things about this past summer. Or at least try. So here's ten good things about the summer of 2005:
1. The Avett Brothers at Joe's Pub (NYC), Rittenhouse Square Park (Philly, PA), and Mexicali Blues (Teaneck, NJ)
2. Willie Aames losing his shit on "Celebrity Fit Club 2"
3. Taking a picture with Corey Feldman at 10 p.m. in which he was wearing his sunglasses
4. "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (the movie, not an actual one) and the conversation with a senior citizen on line to buy a ticket for said movie
5. R. Kelly and the most confusing five minutes in MTV history
6. Jimmy Sturr and the Jimmy Sturr Orchestra (Binghamton, NY, Spiedie Fest 2005) and the 20-minute film, "Everett Goes Sturr Crazy," inspired by the show
7. Elvis Costello and Emmylou Harris singing "Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet" (Central Park, NYC)
8. Cooperstown, NY, and the Baseball Hall of Fame's Grandstand Theater
9. Scott Miller and the Commonwealth (Iota, Arlington, VA)
10. Meeting "Freaks and Geeks" creator Paul Feig
There's a few others, but I'll stop there.
Now, bring on the fall. Quick, before it starts snowing again.
You have heard of the "Poltergeist "curse, wherein several actors in the movie met untimely demises. And then there is the "Superman" curse, which stretches from the original TV show all the way up to Christopher Reeve.
Now, with the passing of Don Adams, it has become painfully clear that there is another curse worse than any of the others, a curse so undeniable and so potent that it will rock you to the very core.
Yes, dear T&R reader, I am speaking of the "Back to the Beach" curse.
"Back to the Beach," a criminally underappreciated 1987 comedic tour de force starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funnicello that revisited the beach movies of days gone by. Unfortunately, the sheer brilliance of the movie (which had a killer soundtrack...which I own on cassette and vinyl) is now forever overshadowed by the devastation it has left in its wake.
Let's look at what's happened to some of the stars featured in that movie:
Alan Hale Jr....dead
Stevie Ray Vaughan...dead
Annette Funnicello...currently fighting MS, and, if that picture I saw on a supermarket tabloid is to be believed (and why should tabloids be doubted?), not doing well.
Pee Wee Herman...busted in a porno theater
O.J. Simpson...had some trouble with the law
Lori Loughlin...TV show recently cancelled
Fishbone...not popular anymore
Oh sure, it's easy and perfectly sane to chalk it up to coincidence. But that would be foolish. Watch out, Frankie Avalon. And that kid who played his son, who I haven't seen since. Oh no...I haven't seen him in anything since!
Honestly, I'm pretty sure that if I pitched this to an entertainment magazine, someone would bite. Aint that America...
But then I read an article about the season finale of "Degrassi: The Next Generation" and it mentioned that Caitlin from the original "Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High" series was on the show. So I tuned in, telling myself that I was only watching to see if that childhood crush on Caitlin was justified by time and then I would move on.
You can probably guess that it didn't turn out that way.
After spending that first time watching trying to decide if Caitlin was still hot (still undecided) and getting depressed because Joey Jeremiah, the very epitome of cool when I watched the original show, was now an old, bald man, I started to become interested in the kids on the show. I tried to piece together their back stories through repeats so I would know what was going on (a task more difficult than I thought it would be). I would switch off Mets games to see if there was an episode airing on Noggin, a channel I forgot I even had, buried as it is somewhere in the 100s (OK, it's channel 131, but I was trying to seem less obsessed. Not working.).
And now I anxiously await the new season, which starts next Friday. As much as I would like to tell you that my Friday nights are so packed with socializing that I won't be watching the season premiere, we both know that's not gonna happen. I'll be glued to the tube, unless I decide to go to that wrestling card at the local fieldhouse. Still single, ladies.
I would say that you should watch "Degrassi," too, so we can share our thoughts about the show, but, really, you shouldn't. I have a sickness and it is important that it doesn't spread. I'll find someone else to talk about the show with. Perhaps I'll hit the local schoolyard.
CMA WILL COVER ARTIST EXPENSES FOR 2005 CMA AWARDS IN NYC
CMA Board Approves Additional $500,000 For "Country Music's Biggest Night" In The Big Apple
NASHVILLE -- To help offset additional costs of traveling to New York City for "The 39th Annual CMA Awards" in November, the CMA Board of Directors approved a $500,000 budget appropriation to cover expenses for nominees as well other artists who are performing or presenting awards on the three-hour gala.
"This is an unprecedented situation. We recognize that hosting the CMA Awards in New York City for one year will result in added expenses for everyone involved -- especially the artist community," said CMA Executive Director Ed Benson. "The Board feels strongly we should help minimize those costs this year. The artists are central to our industry and the CMA Awards and we want to demonstrate our appreciation of their time and talents in this pivotal year by making it easier for them to travel and be part of this important occasion."
CMA will cover hotel, air and ground transportation for the nominees (artists, musicians, songwriters, album producers and video directors) and artists appearing (performing and presenting) on the 2005 CMA Awards, Tuesday, Nov. 15 at Madison Square Garden. Hotel accommodations will be covered for a specific number of days based on an artist's rehearsal schedule. In addition, hotel, air and ground transportation for a performing artist's band and essential crew members will also be covered (with some limitations). CMA will send detailed information about the travel program to all nominees and to presenters/performers as they are confirmed. . . .
OK, so let me see if I have this right. Kenny "Fraud" Chesney, who probably already possesses a criminal amount of money, will be getting an all expenses paid trip to New York City, while Mr. and Mrs. Country Music Fan have to pony up $250+ for a seat so far away from any actual goings-on that Trace Adkins will look like he's Little Jimmy Dickens? And the CMA thought this was information worthy of sending out a press release for? Is that guy from FEMA now running the CMA?
On a slightly brighter note, today I was able to buck the odds and get a ticket to the Grand Ole Opry at Carnegie Hall show on November 14. And upon attending, my dream of finally seeing the real, live Little Jimmy Dickens will be fulfilled.