The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures: The Final Chapter

Sorry for the delay. Aside from building suspense, I had to wait a few days because I sent some cards late. But they should all be where they need to be by now. So, here is the exciting conclusion to The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures 2007.

3. Ernest Thomas, Danielle Spencer, and Haywood Nelson

I almost split this year's Holiday Greeting list in three to accommodate this photo, but I couldn't break with tradition. And so this photo loses its chance at immortality because of a strong 2007 for "celebrity" photos. And it kills me. I feel certain that if God had been willing to let Fred Berry, Shirley Hemphill, and Mabel King live long enought to be able to attend the 2007 Fall Chiller Theatre convention, and thus provided the opportunity for a full "What's Happening!!" reunion photo, things would be different. So blame God.

I do, however, like how the cartoon Rerun and Shirley rest comfortably on my left shoulder in the picture. And how Dee looks ever so slightly disgusted that I'm touching her.

1. (tie) Gary Coleman

So much exciting about the photo. First, it's Gary Coleman. Second, he was not nearly as disgusted to be at a convention as I thought he would be. Third, it completes the Jackson (Drummond) Brothers exacta started last year with the photo with Todd Bridges. Sweet.

A fun behind-the-scenes tidbit: if you look closely you can almost feel my trepidation about what to do with my left arm. It was an uncomfortable moment. As I waited for the picure to be taken, I flashed back to a scene in "The Surreal Life" (if I had a nickel for every time I did that...), where Monty Hall is standing next to Emmanuel Lewis and he pats him on the head like Emmanuel is five years old. I couldn't make that same mistake. And so I just put my arm behind my back so it didn't get any funny ideas.

1. (tie) Danica McKellar

Always a thrill to have an actual female in the Holiday Greeting; I think she's only the second (Reba being the other...a wax Ivana Trump was also in one if I remember correctly). I had to buy a book about math for middle-school girls to get the picture, but you make sacrifices in life. Plus, now it will be easier to pick up middle-school girls.

The book signing was kind of a sad affair, as the first few rows weren't exactly overcrowded with females. No, there were a lot of guys by themselves with desperate looks in their eyes, anxious to see how Winnie Cooper turned out. The guy on my left kept complaining because the event didn't start on time, and the guy on my right was talking to the people behind him about how he went to school with Danica's sister, who, as we all know, played Becky Slater on "The Wonder Years" (and it's an unpopular opinion, but I thought Becky Slater was cuter than Winnie...yeah, I said it). This came in handy later when he asked Danica about her sister and she said she was around somewhere. So, now I have a copy of a book about math for middle-school girls signed by both McKellars. Who's the man? Oh, not me? Fair enough.

I should also note that despite background appearances to the contrary, a cop wasn't assigned to the event to keep an eye on me. Though I didn't ask Crystal McKellar for a photo just in case the fuzz was waiting to pounce.

And so ends the Year in "Celebrity" Pictures 2007. I'm not sure how much longer I can keep this up, but if this is the last year for the "Celebrity" Holiday Greeting, at least I went out with a bang.


The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures: Part III

7. Walter Ray Williams Jr.

I sure wish they'd stop airing those Denny's commercials with him on the Sunday PBA telecasts on ESPN (surely someone in the Denny's creative team can come up with a new idea...what's the Moons Over My Hammy guy/gal up to these days?) and he isn't the most charismatic man in the world, but he is quite possibly the greatest bowler of all time. At the very least, he's earned a spot in the conversation. But of course you know all that. And I feel your jealousy. Second-best photo with a Jr. this year.

6. Cal Ripken Jr.

The Iron Man lived up to his nice-guy reputation at the book signing he did at the downtown NYC Borders, where he personalized books, pretty much signed whatever you wanted, and posed for photos with everyone who asked. And that was great and all, but it turned into a three-hour-plus signing, which is problematic when you're at the signing during your lunch hour from your job across the river. I left work at 12:15 and got back around 3:45. But it all worked out OK. Except, despite my best efforts, you can see me in the background of an episode of the YES Network's "Yankees Ultimate Road Trip 3." There's a show I never thought I'd appear on. I still feel dirty.

5. Porter Wagoner

It bums me out that I don't look just a little better in this photo. But it bums me out even more that Porter Wagoner's gone. As I've said, though, I'm glad he had a nice final act. Rest in peace, Porter.

4. Billy Joe Shaver

If more than three of the people on my Holiday Greeting List would have known who Billy Joe Shaver was, this would've made the cut this year. It's neck and neck with the picture of me and Hunter S. Thompson for my all-time favorite celebrity photo.

There is probably no single performer I enjoy watching in concert more than Billy Joe Shaver. He is the type of person for whom the word "captivating" was invented (that sounds very James Liptonesque, but it also happens to be true). After this photo was snapped (or maybe it was just before), I took a picture of a woman who was so captivated by Billy Joe's presence that she was literally shaking after the photo was taken. I was able to keep it in check.

NEXT: The first runner-up and the two winners. Exciting!

The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures: Part II

11. Joe West

I always hoped that my first photo with a Major League Baseball umpire would be taken with Dutch Rennert. But Dutch Rennert isn't emceeing country music legends shows. So I had to make do with Joe West, who should have fixed his tie.

10. Stonewall Jackson

The country music singer, not the Civil War general. A picture (or a daguerreotype) with the Civil War general probably would've made the Holiday Greeting, but he was shot by his own men 124 years ago, making that an impossibility. The singer's cool, though. I'm not a big fan of the leaning across the table photo, which accounts for the odd position my right hand is curled up in.

9. Edie McClurg

She'd be cool even if all she ever did was that one scene (not suitable for work in case you're not suitable for the human race and haven't seen the movie) with Steve Martin in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles." But then there's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," too. Plus, she was on "Valerie/The Hogans/The Hogan Family," but I'm not sure that's a point in her favor, since my memories of that show are sketchy at best. Anyway, she's cool. The kneeldown is almost as annoying as the lean across the table, but it came out just fine. Plus, the lamp's positioning makes it look like I had a really bright idea as the picture was snapped.

8. Chuck Barris

My second picture with the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer and, amazingly, the better of the two. At least when it comes to my appearance; Chuck is looking a little more haggard. Maybe because the guy in front of me on line kept shoving things in front of him to sign. Or maybe he's just getting old. But he's still one of my all-time favorite celebrities, the Game Show King. Enjoy my left hand, awkwardly going for his shoulder as I try to control my glee.

NEXT: 7 to 4, featuring what might be my favorite celebrity photo ever


The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures: Part I

The battle to become one of the lucky celebrities to appear on my Holiday Greeting this year was fierce. And it ultimately became the toughest decision in the seven (eight?) years of the Holiday Greeting. Most of the cards were mailed out today, so I do believe it's time to reveal those who didn't make the cut. I don't love them any less, except, well, yeah, I kinda do.

15. Marcia Wallace

Now that said "Jon" has received his signed Edna Krabappel photo, I can post the full shot. I didn't ask her to hold the photo up, but I guess she thought I was Jon and would want a picture of her and the photo to show off. Fair enough. It's a decent enough picture of me. I look kinda human. That's not gonna hold for the rest of these.

14. Chris Barnes

Yes, that Chris Barnes, Professional Bowlers Association star, co-star of the swell documentary "A League of Ordinary Gentlemen," and master of the Flying Eagle. I coulda used a haircut. But at least I got the Split Lip Rayfield name out to the people at the Pro-Am.

13. Ken Daneyko

While wandering around the Prudential Center in Newark after a thoroughly dull 1-0 Islanders victory over the Devils, the other members of the post-birthday party party and I came across former Devil and current Devil broadcaster Ken Daneyko. So, a picture had to be taken. And it was taken while two drunken Devils fans yelled, "Take the hat off! Show some respect, man!" Sweet guys.

12. Norm Duke

Back to the lanes for a dashing shot of me and future PBA Hall of Famer (provided he never took HGH) Norm Duke, who also knows his way around a trick shot. This was about attempt #4 at this picture. And yes, there is something in the pouch of my hoodie and I'm excited to see Norm Duke.

Tomorrow: 11 to 8, as we march toward #1.


Tinsel and Rot looks for guidance

I don't pay much attention to the mudslinging that takes up much of the primary season, mainly because I'm not registered as a Republican or a Democrat. So I don't really care who wins the primaries. Once they're over and we're down to one on each side (and Ralph Nader), I'll start paying more attention...assuming there isn't a really good Celebreality show on VH-1 that takes up a lot of my time next year.

Which brings me to my point (it's so rare that I have a point here that I will understand if you choose to stop here). With Oprah lending her support to Barack Obama and word of the "Chuck Norris factor" in Iowa, it is clear that celebrities--as should rightfully be the case--will be playing a big part in deciding the next President of the United States. And I want to make sure that I'm aware of the latest in celebrity presidential endorsements. So, I have decided to compile a list of 15 (lucky number) celebrities whose political opinions will need to be declared before I decide who I want in the White House in January 2009. And here is that list:

Steve Wilkos
Michael Winslow
Steve Guttenberg
Bubba Smith
Bronson Pinchot
Randy Quaid
Jon Brennan from the second season of "The Real World"
Dennis Haskins
Lark Voorhies
Corey Feldman
Corey Haim (Canadian, but I will still need to know)
Hank Williams Jr.
Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon
Gary Busey
Dick Contino

If anybody knows which candidate any of the above have decided to back, please let me know. There's still plenty of time, but I want to get a good head start on this and really give this important endeavor the attention it deserves.

The future of our country may depend on it.


Another Great Moment in Overheard Conversations

Whilst killing time before the Marahliday extravaganza in the City of Brotherly Love last Friday, I happened upon a group of four white people in front of the Independence Hall Visitors Center. One woman was disengaging herself from what seemed to be a friendly gathering as I passed by. Or so I thought. What she yelled out as she walked away made me think she wasn't a close personal friend of the other members of the group:

"If you commit a felony, spread your vagina and pay for it, ni--er."

Except she filled in the dashes.

After hearing her say this, two things crossed my mind:

(1) I should write this down so I don't forget her exact words. But what if I do write it down and I'm killed while the piece of paper containing the above phrase was still in my wallet? It would surely color the lede in the next day's news coverage:

"A man from New Jersey was found dead last night, and the contents of his wallet indicate that the world is a much better place without that jerkoff in it."

They probably wouldn't use "jerkoff" (not AP Style-approved), but it would certainly be implied.

(2) That phrase is probably the best conversation ender ever, and thus could really come in handy if you're stuck in one of those mindless party discussions you desperately want to end. I mean, what chitchat could continue after that bomb is dropped? Sure, the other person(s) involved in the conversation will likely never speak to you again and encourage others to do the same, but is that really such a bad thing? Don't you kind of want that anyway?

I'm just saying. It's yours to use if you want it.


No Sleep 'Til Ithaca

Remember last week, when Tinsel and Rot was exhausted? Guess what, we're maybe more exhausted this week. But a few more days and we should be OK.

This week's exhaustion was a result of last Friday and Saturday, which involved a really tiny amount of sleep. Like an hour. And that hour was in a series of 10-minute increments on a bus ride from New York to Ithaca that took about eight hours. Good times.

It began in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Friday night when the mighty Hudson Falcons celebrated their 1,000th show by headlining at the Stone Pony. Mr. Tinsel and Rot and Sister of Mr. Tinsel and Rot commissioned a cake from Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken for the occasion (see previous post), and as I carried it from the train station, I got to watch the rare late November fireworks celebration, which I would've taken a picture of if I wasn't carrying a cake. But you've seen fireworks displays, right? Yeah, well, it looked like that. Anyway, it made the walk a little quicker.

The rest of the night was spent anticipating the Falcons' set, along with sets from the Skels and the First Wave, and watching the occasional moshing, which I wish I could do every day of my life. There are precious few things I find more enjoyable than watching people mosh (from a safe distance). I think I'm finally comfortable enough to declare that "picking up change" is my favorite dance move in the pit. I find it impossible to watch that and not laugh. I don't think that's the intention of the mosher, but who cares? As long as he doesn't see me laughing, everybody wins.

Anyway, eventually the Falcons took the stage, in every sense of the phrase. The show was recorded for a live CD, so maybe I'll get to shame you into buying it someday. Suffice it to say (an expression I don't use near as often as I should), it kicked ass. They did a bunch of favorites, some songs I haven't seen played that often (including the personal favorite "Who's Talkin' Shit?"), and a straight-up cover of "The Thrill Is Gone" that confused the moshers and blew away anyone that had the good sense to pay attention.

By the time the show ended, I had come to the decision that I probably wasn't going to sleep that night. And a few hours later, after a diner run, my sister dropped me off in Jersey City about two hours before I was to catch a bus to Ithaca for the second 30th birthday surprise party for a friend in two weeks. I figured I would get a window seat and sleep on the bus. I figured wrong (a possible title for the next book).

The bus to Ithaca left the Port Authority at 8:30, I got a window seat, and all seemed to be going according to plan. I dozed off and woke up as we pulled into the next stop in Newark. I was vaguely aware of someone taking the seat next to me and a couple of others filling in the seats around me. Then we left Newark Penn Station around 9:15 and I drifted back to sleep. That didn't last long. As best I can recall, these were my thoughts as I drifted in and out of sleep for the next few hours:

"Hmmmph...it doesn't seem like we're moving."

"Whose damn cellphone is that? Oh, the guy next to me. I wonder how he hears it at all with the CD player on so loud."

"Damn, I guess we're in a little traffic on the way to the highway."

"Hey, who brought that crying four-month-old on the bus? And why is he sitting behind me?"

"We're taking a detour into Harrison? Why? OK, minor setback. We'll just follow that detour, get back on the highway, I'll sleep for five hours, and life will be good."

"Did the bus just jump a curb?"

"That cellphone shit has to stop."

"Where are we?"

"Why are we not moving again?"

"I think I might shove that guy's cellphone up his ass. If only he didn't look like he could kill me."

"Is that the IDT building in Newark? Didn't we pass that an hour ago? Oh my god, it's 10:30."

"Are you kidding me? This guy next to me fell asleep? Oh God, his cellphone is playing that song again."

"I wonder if I could just run off the bus."

"Well, at least we're finally out of Newark and on the highway."

"Why are we pulling over on the shoulder?"

"I sure wish the driver would tell us why we're on the shoulder. Oh wait, we're moving..."

"We're pulling over again? Seriously?"

"Why would you bring a four-month-old on a bus?"

And then came the announcement.

"Well, folks, there's an engine light that keeps coming on and I don't know why. They're sending out another bus from the Port Authority to come and get us."

It was now about 11:30. Three hours into the trip, still roughly five hours away from my final destination. Or mere seconds away from my final destination if I ran out onto the highway and called it a life. I decided to stick with the former. But I kept the latter in mind as I tried to get back to sleep while people were freaking out and complaining to loved ones on their cellphones. In situations such as these, it is only the complete inability of others to cope that keeps me sane. I thank them for their idiocy, particularly the gentleman next to me with the love of text messaging and ringtones who declared, "Man, this is bullshit. I got places to go," as if the rest of us just like to take long bus rides on a Saturday morning in December to gaze at asphalt and bare trees.

The replacement bus arrived about an hour or so later, and we all headed over to reboard. Now, kind, smart-thinking, rational people would simply take the same seat on the new bus that they had before. Unfortunately, such people generally eschew buses, so by the time I got on the new bus, after waiting for Johnny Annoying Cellphone to move his disgruntled ass, every window seat was gone. And there went my chance to sleep for most of the rest of the trip. Can't sleep on the aisle seat. Don't know how anyone could.

By the time a window seat opened up in Scranton, I was afraid that if I went to sleep, I would wake up somewhere in Buffalo, staring at Vincent Gallo's long-lost, creepier brother and having a Beef on Weck crammed down my throat. So I fought off sleep, with a fair degree of success. And it was lucky I was awake, because it enabled me to hear the creep next to me complain on his cellphone that he was going to write a real nasty letter to Greyhound demanding a refund, because they wouldn't let him leave during the bus switch and this sort of mechanical breakdown was unacceptable, especially when he was taking a day trip to Binghamton. Again, I found comfort in my time of sleep deprivation in knowing that I wasn't that guy.

I finally arrived in Ithaca around 4:30, played some Mr. Do in the bus station (used to be way better at that), walked to the motel, did a quick runthrough at Wegmans, and settled down for the final 15 minutes of sleep of the day before it was time to start getting ready for the party and pre-party festivities.

And then things happened. I think it was fun. People were laughing. I remember most of it. Actually, as the party went on, my eighth wind kicked in and I was able to speak and act coherently. I think.

Eventually, sometime after midnight, I settled down for a solid eight hours of sleep. I woke up feeling like a human again. It was a nice feeling.

No more buses in 2007. It's my Christmas gift to myself.


What I Liked About November

*The traditional waffle with ice cream and berries at the Eger Holiday Fair, Staten Island, NY
*The Bill Quinn 30th Birthday Extravaganza, Parts I and II
*Superdrag/Mic Harrison and the High Score, Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza, NYC
*Carolina Chocolate Drops, Symphony Space, NYC

*The Hudson Falcons' 1,000th show, Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ
*Seeing the Avett Brothers three times in four days
*Pumpkin bread pudding from the Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, PA
*Seeing two Islanders victories live and in person

*John Fogerty, Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank, NJ
*The WFMU Record Fair
*Bowling a 194
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places


Catching bees with vinegar

The academic institution that was lucky enough to take copious amounts of money from me and my family for four years recently sent me a reminder that next year is my ten-year reunion. Once I stopped crying after I realized it's been almost ten years since I graduated college, I actually read the letter, which ended as follows:

"Before you start making excuses as to why this year just isn't a good time to attend Alumni Weekend consider this - nobody is getting any younger, your priorities and commitments only grow with age, and since it's only been ten years, there's a greater chance of you remembering a classmate and them remembering you! This is the year to make it happen, so we must all do whatever it takes to get back to [college redacted] for this very special weekend."

Really? Is the hard sell the best approach here? And, if so, why not just come right out and say what you mean? How about:

"Hey, loser. You're only getting older, fatter, more stressed out, and more senile with each passing day. Why not come back and relive the times when you weren't such a drag? And there's a decent chance that people you went to school with will even remember you. They probably won't pretty soon, so get on with it. Get off the couch, you dope."

Or at least that's what I hear.

And that last line just creeps me out. "We must all do whatever it takes." Good God. Do I have to kill someone in order to go to the reunion? Because if I do, count me out. Probably. Depends on who I'd have to kill.

Still thinking about going. And throwing my book in people's faces. Hey, did you know that book still makes a great holiday gift?


Tinsel and Rot is exhausted

Management apologizes for the lack of posts. The Tinsel and Rot staff has kept the following schedule the last 10 days:

THU 11/15--Mr. Tinsel and Rot celebrates his Billy Smith birthday with dinner at Maxwell's, followed by the Gourds/Shinyribs show. Pierogies are eaten. A douchebag who spends most of the show texting takes spot during bathroom break. Fun is still had.

FRI 11/16--After a day of work, it's off to the Prudential Center, where the New York Islanders play slightly less horribly than the Devils and win 1-0 on a Josef Vasicek goal in which he dekes about eight times. Someone behind us finds a wallet, asks if anybody lost a wallet. No response. An hour later, a member of the T&R entourage realizes he doesn't have his wallet. Panic ensues. Wallet is recovered, minus cash. Mocking of wallet loser commences. Hasn't ended yet.

SAT 11/17--Breakfast/brunch at the Brownstone Diner. Bowling in Staten Island (194 in the first game). Pizza at Denino's. Rocking to the Avett Brothers and Will Hoge at Webster Hall. Full day. Wondering if all this running around is such a great idea.

SUN 11/18--Up at 8 a.m. to get a bus to Binghamton. Arrive in Binghamton at 3. Trip to Wegman's at 3:30. Quick visit with friend's child. Off to Ithaca at 4:30. More rocking with Avett Brothers and Will Hoge, this time at State Theatre. Fuller day. Convinced of idiocy.

MON 11/19--Up at 7 a.m. to get ride to bus station for bus back home. Woman at Ithaca bus station really only has use of one hand. When phone rings while she's dealing with a customer, she screeches, "Shortline, please hold," throws the receiver hard on the desk, and lets the person wait for five minutes. This happens three times. Only one person hangs up. Could've watched that all day. Instead, go to the Ithaca Bakery after getting ticket and then buy some records at Autumn Leaves. Bus supposed to leave at 12:30; doesn't show up until after 1. Could've played more "Mr. Do" in the bus station. Sad. But, in happier news, the bus also stops in Newark, so that shaves off some time. Get home around 7 p.m., too late for TMZ.

TUE 11/20--Get up to watch "Price Is Right." Still not sold on Drew Carey. Then get sucked into another episode of "The Steve Wilkos Show" before departing for Wilmington, Delaware, for another Avett Brothers show (no Will Hoge). Do a mad dash through Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market for food, mentally noting places to hit on the way back. Arrive in Wilmington at 5. More interaction with a friend's child. Watch him eat liquid ham. Eat food that looks and, one would assume, tastes better. Off to Avetts show at 8 p.m. A decidedly less-frenetic-than-usual Langhorne Slim opens. Much more enjoyable. Avetts kick ass, name-check Ithaca in "Travelin' Song." Probably yell too loud during song.

WED 11/21--Up and out of Wilmington by 11 a.m. This time, spend an hour in the Reading Terminal Market and make many exciting purchases, including pumpkin bread pudding from the Amish. Overjoyed. Get home in time to do a load of laundry and eat chicken pot pie, also bought from the Amish. Closest thing to a quiet day in a week.

THU 11/22--Thanksgiving on Staten Island. Turkey is consumed. Fun is had. Laughs are shared. Very tired. Not from turkey.

FRI 11/23--Sleep in past most of "Price Is Right." Catch the TMZ replay at 12:30. Wilkos still yelling. Attend decoy 30th birthday party for friend at Union Hall in Brooklyn. After waiting three hours to play bocce (and thus ending a twenty-year bocce-playing drought), hear the douchebag in a Knicks sweatshirt who we're playing say, "You're in the fuckin' hotseat now" right after his buddy says, "This'll take thirty seconds." Immediately flash back to every day of high school and then nearly as immediately make a note never to come to Union Hall to play bocce ever again. We lose 7-3.

SAT 11/24--Up and at 'em for the real deal surprise birthday party in Long Island, where the Islanders are victorious yet again, this time 2-1 over the Bruins. Party honoree genuinely surprised. Fun is had. Laughs are shared. Hockey fights staged on the front lawn. Darts are thrown. Sleep is achieved around 3 a.m.

SUN 11/25--Back at home by 2. Really tired. Not ready to go back to work tomorrow. Tired. So tired. So very tired.

Anyway, we'll try to be more active this week. We offer no promises, though.


Aint that a shame

Last Friday, Fats Domino was scheduled to sign copies of the new Fats tribute CD, Goin' Home at the Columbus Circle Borders at 7 p.m.. He was in town for a performance on "Late Show with David Letterman" (cancelled because of the strike), a "Today Show" appearance, and a benefit concert for the Tipitina's Foundation, where he received a key to the city from Mayor Bloomberg. Unfortunately, the signing was at the end of the trip for Fats, and by Friday night he was apparently worn out and not up to the signing. According to the highly entertaining blog of the trip kept by Times-Picayune writer Keith Spera, Fats was sleeping at the time of the signing and since his hand had swelled up and he seemed exhausted earlier in the day, all those involved decided it was best to let Fats get some rest. Fine with me. Completely understandable if a few hectic days got the better of him. And even without having read the blog, I figured Fats wouldn't just not show up for no good reason. I suspected he wasn't back at the hotel doing blow off a hooker's ass while playing "My Blue Heaven" in the hotel lounge.

Plus, the Fats camp did all they could to salvage the event, passing out CD booklets Fats had already signed and promising that those who bought multiple copies could leave their addresses and get a signed booklet and an extra bonus in the mail. Still, people were indignant when news started to filter through the line. Most seemed to settle down, including the guy behind me who spent most of our first 15 minutes in line droning on about how long the line was and how we'd be there until 9:30 at night. He was initially hurt ("I woulda never come if I knew this was gonna happen"), but then seemed to relax. And another guy eased the evening's pain by shoving about 10 WFUV lip balms in his pockets after the girl from FUV suggested he could have one.

But then as I left and gathered my stuff outside the store, some dude about my age came up to me.

"Hey, man, I just got here. What's the deal with Fats?"

"Yeah, they said he was sick and couldn't make it."

"Man, that's such bullshit."

"Yeah, well, the guy's 79 years old..."

"Yeah, I know, but I went to the show last night and he only played "Blueberry Hill" for 43 seconds--I timed it--and then he played piano for the guy, um, 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy'..."

"Lloyd Price."

"Yes, thank you. And then he just did that song and left the stage."

"Yeah, well..."

"And that's it. He's not coming back. This is the last time. Very disappointing, man."

It was at that point that I was almost glad Fats Domino was sick enough to miss meeting that creep. People worry me sometimes. Between this and recently seeing a woman reach through a crowd just to touch Roger Daltrey, I'm starting to wonder if I'm traveling in the wrong circles.


Hank Thompson RIP

Sadly, the Tinsel and Rot Death March continues. Today we salute the great Hank Thompson, who died Tuesday at the age of 82 from lung cancer. Despite his Hall of Fame stature, Thompson's a somewhat underrated guy in the annals of country music, probably best known for "The Wild Side of Life," which inspired Kitty Wells's answer song, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." I guess that's what USA Today was looking for when they titled his obit "Hank Thompson looked on the bright side of life." They probably should have saved that one for when Eric Idle passes on.

Thompson's records always had a clean, smooth sound to them, carried by Thompson's vocals, which were smoother than just about anybody in the country music pantheon (save maybe Ray Price). Hits such as "Humpty Dumpty Heart" and "A Six Pack To Go" still stand up pretty well today and aren't likely to lose any luster as time goes on. And Thompson's live record "At The Golden Nugget" (often credited as the first live record by a solo artist) is an easy All-Time Top Tenner and should find a place in the collection of any music lover. The record gives you the full casino experience, with the sounds of bells ringing and gamblers gambling captured right along with the crack band (which featured Merle Travis on lead guitar) supporting Thompson and shining on their own. If you don't have it, get it. It was recently released digitally (along with 17 other Thompson records from his Capitol years), so no excuses. Just do it.

I saw Thompson twice--once at Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing series (where the photo of me looking young and happy below was taken) and the other at the American Music Theatre in Lancaster, PA (where I bought the belt buckle shown above). Glad to have done so, sad that I won't see him again.

Thanks, Hank. Rest in peace.


Fabulous Moolah RIP

(AP Photo/World Wrestling Entertainment)

Mary Lillian Ellison, better known as The Fabulous Moolah, died Friday at the age of 84. Best known for her in-ring battles with Wendi Richter and Cyndi Lauper in the mid-1980s, Moolah won her first wrestling championship in 1956 and was arguably the most recognizable female wrestler for the better part of three decades. In her book The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle, Moolah told stories of hanging out with Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis and getting a marriage proposal from Hank Williams Sr.

Naturally, I have a signed copy of the book. Probably the only person you know that does. Kinda proud of that.

More info on Moolah's career here and here.


What I Liked About October

*Avett Brothers/Jimmy Sturr Weekend of Music and Good Times, Troy and Hunter, NY
*The completion of the Quest for the 2007 Holiday Greeting
*Nicole Atkins on "Late Show with David Letterman"
*Pumpkin pancakes at Sweet Sue's, Phoenicia, NY

*Amy LaVere, Living Room, NYC
*The apple cider donuts from the Lincoln Square Greenmarket
*Larry David's Bluetooth confrontation on "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
*Earl Scruggs and Family and Friends, BB King's Blues Club, NYC

*Deadstring Brothers, Mercury Lounge, NYC
*Islanders 2, Rangers 1
*The birth of Dean Richard Finch
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places


They Want Candy

Halloween is a holiday for kids. That's all there is to it. If you are over the age of 12, Halloween is not for you. If you're 13, maybe I'll give you a pass. But that's it. If you're out of the eighth grade, your costume days are over. I don't care how clever you think you are when you dress up as Hunter S. Thompson or put on blackface to be Tubbs from "Miami Vice" (something I swear to you I saw on the PATH train last year). Resist the temptation to dazzle your friends with your creativity and just treat October 31 (and all days around it) like any other day. The day is no longer for you. Be content with your Guitar Hero mastery and just let the kids have this one, OK?

Of course, there is one important way you can celebrate if you live in a residential neighborhood. Or, in my case, are close enough to the residential neighborhood in which you grew up. Every year, I celebrate Halloween the only way I know how as an adult (let's pretend I'm one for the sake of this blog entry). I head back home to Staten Island the weekend before and stuff treat bags with a frequently obscene amount of candy.

This year's bag will include at least five of the following:

Milk Duds
Heath Bars
100 Grands
Junior Mints
Mini Tootsie Rolls
Mini Charleston Chews
Junior Caramels
Laffy Taffy
Skull and Bones SweeTarts
Take 5 Bars
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Hershey Bars
Almond Joys

I don't mess around, people. 118 bags are now sitting in my childhood living room, waiting to bring joy to the children of Staten Island on Halloween (assuming the family dog has not consumed them). I worked out a system of equal distribution of chocolates and nonchocolates (the system fell apart at the end; the latecomers will have to deal). I overcame a preponderance of Milk Duds in a variety pack. I didn't graze any of the candy. I did it for the kids, because it's their day. And I remember the joy of treat bags that always made up for the people who gave out my least favorite candy, Whoppers, or, worse yet, nickels. Truth be told, the thought that my mom might give out nickels to kids also motivates me to put the bags together.

So, celebrate Halloween by being good to your local trick-and-treaters. No nickels, please.


Porter Wagoner RIP

With all the bleak reports in the news the last month, I knew it was coming, but Porter Wagoner's death at the age of 80 this weekend still leaves me cold this Monday morning. But it's comforting to know he had a solid final act, releasing the acclaimed "Wagonmaster" CD and opening for the White Stripes at Madison Square Garden this year. I only wish he'd had more time to enjoy it.

Rest in peace, Porter.


Time's running out...

...for you to buy me a ticket to see Billy Ocean at BB King's Saturday night. Avoid the extra $4 charged for day of show sales and buy now! I'll write about it immediately afterward! Don't you feel guilty that T&R provides you with all this entertainment that you pay nothing for?

Yeah, I've been trying to justify spending $50 (plus the $10 table minimum) on a Billy Ocean show, but I'm not sure it can be done, although some people seem to be able to, seeing as the show wasn't knocked down to half-price as BB King's sometimes does when ticket sales are slow. I was banking on that. I could have justified $25.

Alas, I will have to continue enjoying Mr. Ocean on YouTube. And maybe position myself at BB King's for soundcheck Saturday afternoon.


His Name Is Earl

Tinsel and Rot continues its reputation as a sharp observer of musical trends among the youth of America by reporting on the shows T&R attended during this year's CMJ Music Marathon in NYC.

Make that show. And it wasn't even linked to CMJ. Screw the youth of America. And, believe me, if I can get rid of this gut, I might just try.


So, yeah, anyway, last week T&R went to the bastion of hip, cutting-edge music in New York City, BB King's Blues Club in Times Square, to see 83-year-old banjo legend Earl Scruggs. And, as an extra added bonus, I got a table of 40-year-old frat guys behind me talking almost nonstop for three hours. Awesome.

There was an official opening act, too, but I may have enjoyed the table of talkers more. Uncle Monk consists of Claudia Tienan on guitar and frequently inaudible vocals and Tommy Erdelyi--better known as Tommy Ramone--on mandolin and vocals. I am hesitant to say anything bad about a Ramone, but this was my second time seeing Uncle Monk and, with any luck, should be my last. God bless the Ramones, but Uncle Monk's just not for me.

Luckily, Earl Scruggs was a lot better and, even at such an advanced age, plays a damn good banjo. Sure, there are some missed notes every now and then and he's a little less nimble than he was in his prime, but I suspect I will be similarly less nimble in 53 years. Actually, I can't imagine being less nimble than I am right now. But check back in 53 years and we'll assess where I'm at.

Scruggs was also helped by his ace band, with sons Randy and Gary on guitar and bass, respectively; Jennifer Kennedy Merideth on Dobro; Hoot Hester on fiddle; John Gardner on drums; and Bryan Sutton and Jon Randall on guitars. Everyone was pretty much spot on, with highlights too numerous to really mention. Sutton and Kennedy Merideth were particularly impressive on numbers like "Streamlined Cannonball" and "Foggy Mountain Rock," and the group's cover of Dylan's "You Aint Goin' Nowhere" was pretty damn cool, too.

My favorite song of the night, however, was, oddly enough, when Earl switched off to the guitar and picked an initially tentative but ultimately tender version of the Carter Family's "You Are My Flower," which is up near the top of my all-time favorite songs. And that's why, when one of the yahoos from the table behind me started singing his own lyrics to the song, I came as close as I have ever come to turning around and making a scene. Particularly when he was replacing "You are my flower..." with "I am a redneck..." Let's call this one Rule 4a: when a performer announces that the band will be performing a Carter Family, you shut your stupid, Bud-swilling mouth and don't open it again until the song's over. I don't care if you see a fire. Fire'll wait three minutes. And if it winds up consuming you, at least you will have died hearing a Carter Family song.

Luckily (though I'm not sure for whom...I can't imagine a fight would've gone my way), I was able to zone out the babble and enjoy the song and the rest of the show. It was my third time seeing Earl Scruggs and each time I wonder if it will be my last. I hope Earl has a bunch more in him...and that I get to see a couple.

Long live Earl Scruggs.


Going Once...

As a guy who wastes too much money on autographs of people who haven't been famous for several decades, I'm not exactly in a good position to mock people who spend great sums of cash at big money auctions. But, lucky for you, I will press on. Blogs are empowering!!!

So, there were two articles about auctions in the newspaper today that got me to thinking. The first was about a globe that an American GI took from Adolf Hitler's residence after it was overtaken. An interesting item to be sure, and the story behind it caught my eye. But then I kept reading and saw that (a) it was estimated to fetch around $20,000 at the auction and (b) the auction also included a box of Hermann Goering's cigars.

Now maybe you're a historian and the World War II era is of particular interest to you. So you like collecting stuff from that time period. And you see that globe and the box of Goering's cigars (estimate $2,000 to $3,000), throw down your dough, and, boo yaa, the items are yours. Where do you go from there? Do you display them, bring out your loot for conversation starters at parties?

"Hey, George, what a neat looking globe! Looks real old."

"Yeah, Hank, give it a spin."

"OK, sure."

"Guess who used to own that?"

"Oh, wow, you mean this is part of your WWII collection. Neat. Um, let's see, Omar Bradley?"


"de Gaulle?"

"Try again."



"Excuse me?"

"Ya heard me. Hitler. Awesome, huh? Wanna see my Goering cigars?"

"I should be going now, George."

Of course, the World War II era isn't everybody's favorite collecting focus. Maybe you're more into items with tangential ties to a murder rampage. And you can find that in the other newspaper article I read. In 1977, Yankee manager Billy Martin gave a jersey to a gentleman whose girlfriend was killed by the Son of Sam (the gentleman was shot in the head during the attack). And now, with no one to pass the jersey on to, the gentleman has decided to let an auction house sell off the jersey. It is expected to get about $30,000 (bids are currently up to $11,000).

Again, an interesting story and all, but do you really want something like that around? Particularly at the price of $30,000.

"Hey, cool Billy Martin jersey. Is that game-worn?"

"Yeah. And he gave it to a guy who was shot in the head by the Son of Sam! And Son of Sam killed his girlfriend!"

I bet all three items go for above the estimate. People with money are scary. What a relief not to have that problem.


More Chiller Stuff

So, this guy took the photo of Gary Coleman and me (still under embargo). He's a puppeteer and spent some of the weekend with his puppet Maurice talking with celebrities. He seems like a good guy, and he and Maurice visit children in need of a few smiles and laughs. But, so help me, he gave me an unintentional laugh with his interview with Feedback. Particularly at the 45 second mark. The puppet's reaction to Feedback's revelation about his childhood has knocked Bonaduce out of the top spot for YouTube clip of the month. To be fair, I'm guessing the puppet hasn't quite learned the proper reaction for that:

I also enjoy Gary Coleman's inspirational words: "You don't get to choose being born":

You can see more at the guy's YouTube site.


What Might Be Right For You May Not Be Right For Some

Capping off another action-packed weekend that started with the Avett Brothers in Troy, NY, and continued with 16-time Grammy winner Jimmy Sturr and the Jimmy Sturr Orchestra in Hunter, NY, Tinsel and Rot headed to the Land of the Misfit Boys, aka the Chiller Theatre convention in Parsippany, NJ, on Sunday to load up on potential Holiday Greeting photos and spend too much money on autographs of people I admired when I was 12. Mission accomplished on both fronts. Who says I can't set a goal and reach it?

I have experienced many exciting surprises in my years on this earth, but perhaps none greater than the one that awaited me when I turned on my computer Saturday night and checked the Chiller website to confirm directions. I saw a note on the main page saying that three guests had been added to the Guest List on Thursday. I had assumed that the Guest List was all firmed up, so I hadn't really checked in last week. I had my possibilities lined up, the money all spent in my head, and then that Saturday Web surf happened. In a flash, everything changed. The world was turned upside down. A miracle happened.

Ernest Thomas, Danielle Spencer, and Haywood Nelson were added to the Guest List. And if you don't know that that's Raj, Dee, and Dwayne from "What's Happening!!" please leave now.

Only a "Police Academy" reunion could have filled my heart with more joy.

As I approached the gang's table on Sunday, I got a quick reminder of why these celebrities are completely justified in charging $20 for their signatures. There has to be a high sum of money involved if you are expected to endure three days of interactions like the one involving the man who was buying an autograph from Danielle Spencer right before me:

"So, that will be $20."

"Sure, no problem." (Guy pulls out a $100 bill, Danielle takes it)

[To Ernest] "OK, you owe this guy $80."

"Whoa! Raj is in charge of the money. What are you guys doin'?"

[Awkward laughter from Danielle and Ernest]

"Ah, c'mon, it's like a plot from da show! 'I used the money to go buy weed because I thought it was a good investment.' Ha!"

And they had to laugh at stuff like that for three days. Hoo boy. I think I'd lose my patience two hours into the weekend.

I kept my interaction to a minimum, though later on I regretted not bringing up the brilliance of "I be Raj. Which Doobie you be?" to Ernest. But perhaps it's for the best that I didn't. Can't imagine that conversation would have brought me a lot of pride. Still smarting from embarrassing myself in front of Randy "Cousin Eddie" Quaid by telling him that my family and I quote Cousin Eddie lines all the time. He seemed underwhelmed. Luckily, I stopped myself before yelling "Merry Christmas! Shitter was full!"

Anyway, I am quite proud to own the autographs of the surviving cast of "What's Happening!!" (or at least the main ones...I'm not counting that annoying white kid from the waning years...I assume he's alive, but I'm sure I don't care. Stick it, Little Earl.). Plus, I got the photo with the crew. Unfortunately for you, that photo is embargoed until the holidays. Be nice to me and I'll put you on the Holiday Greeting list, though I offer no guarantees that the "What's Happening!!" crew will make the cut. Been a good few months for the celebrity photos.

Another photo in the same situation is one of the legendary Gary Coleman and me, who, as you can see above, clearly had the best price list of the day. As any "Surreal Life" watcher will know, Mr. Coleman doesn't care much for the "Whatchutalkinbout Willis" phrase. But apparently, money (specifically $60) talks. Or at least writes. I wonder if anyone took the plunge. And, no, wiseguy, I didn't. But I do now have a "Diff'rent Strokes" DVD signed by Todd Bridges, Charlotte Rae, and Gary Coleman. What have you done with your life?

Once I spent the bulk of my budgeted money on the stars of the Channel 5 5 p.m. Power Hour of the Late 1980s, I had to be a little more selective. You won't find a much bigger fan of the first season of "Who Wants To Be a Superhero?" than me, but I'll be damned if I'll pay $15 to take a picture with first-season winner Feedback. Even if some of the money goes to Make-A-Wish. In fact, I want a monetary breakdown in situations like that. No more "a portion goes to." I'm gonna have to see who gets what. Just the way it is. No more hiding behind charities, particularly if you're the star of a reality show that most people don't even know exists.

Feedback was in a room that was largely empty on Sunday, a few feet away from former Intercontinental champion Tito Santana and a little ways down from Ray Parker Jr., who had an iPod hooked up to a speaker and playing--guess what?--the "Ghostbusters" theme throughout the day. That room also featured former "Baywatch" cast members (Anjelica Bridges, Traci Bingham, and Brande Roderick) and female wrestlers (Dawn Marie, Gail Kim, and Christy Hemme), most of whom were surprisingly not busy most of the day. Apparently, the male attendees of Chiller are not as horny as I expected them to be.

Actually, most of the guests (except the perpetually sunglassed Val Kilmer) were not exactly besieged with fans on Sunday, generally the slowest of the three days, which is the exact reason why I was there. I guess there's something to be said for the general chaos of Saturday, but, well, I'm not saying it. Unfortunately, it's harder to take surreptitious photos of guests on Sunday, so those are in short supply this time around. You'll have to make do with these shots of Martin "John Kreese" Kove and Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick, the latter of which was taken as I was waiting for the shuttle to take me back to the train station. I just wanted you to see his hair.

Still, even if I have fewer photos, I ultimately prefer the relative peace and quiet of Sunday, where Edie McClurg and Marcia Wallace were just sitting around talking. I eventually decided that it was worth getting a photo with each of them--Edie McClurg because of that killer scene in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" (and, of course, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") and Marcia Wallace because she was on "Match Game" a lot. It doesn't take much to get $20 out of my wallet. I think these are longshots for the Holiday Greeting, so I'll share them with you. You're welcome

All in all, another fine day in New Jersey.


C'mon get happy

Danny Bonaduce reinserts himself in the race for Greatest Reality TV Participant Ever (Celebrity Division) with this totally awesome flip of the ridiculously annoying Johnny Fairplay (from "Survivor" and, most recently,"Ty Murray's Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge") at the Fox Reality Channel's "Reality Remix Really Awards" (to air 10/13 . . . set your TiVOs).

Mr. Fairplay says the face plant resulted in two-and-a-half hours of dental surgery and three root canals, and he has filed a police report about the incident.

Bonaduce . . . back with a vengeance.


What I Liked About September

*Maryland Renaissance Festival, Crownsville, MD
*Bowling at Bowl Rite Lanes, Union City, NJ
*Securing one of the 2007 Holiday Photos
*Richard Lange's Dead Boys

*Chuck Berry, Cranford, NJ
*The trial run of the Monster Slugger
*[This is where I would have written "The Mets making the playoffs"]
*The return of "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

*Farm Aid
*Newark Bears, Atlantic League Champions
*Shaking hands with Bill Clinton
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places


Literary Passage of the Month. Maybe the Year.

From the short story "Long Lost" in Richard Lange's Dead Boys:

The other husband's wife joins us at the bar. She's wearing Frosty the Snowman earrings. "So you're Mr. Judy," she says. "You're in publishing, right?"

"Is that how Judy puts it? I'm a proofreader."

"Proofreader," her husband says. "What the hell's that?"

"A job. A bullshit job. Lots of people have them."

"I'll drink to that."

"So you'd rather be doing something else," the wife says to me.

"Not really."

She eyes me over the rim of her wineglass. I can tell she's not going to back down. It's these kinds of conversations that will kill me.


Bears Win!

The Newark Bears are your 2007 Atlantic League Champions, taking the championship series, 3 games to 1 after a come-from-behind 13-7 victory over the Somerset Patriots at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium in Newark Monday night. Tinsel and Rot was there for all the excitement, and mighty pleased to be part of the championship celebration.

As usual, it wasn't exactly a full house in Newark (nor even a half-full house), but there was plenty of shouting from those who did come out to the ballpark. Unfortunately, the early evening found most of that noise coming from the contingent of fans who came to root Somerset on to a series-tying victory. Most seemed to be of the annoying Yankee-fan variety, chanting every player's name like the Bleacher Creatures do and just generally being loud and obnoxious from their section. Or at least that's what it sounded like from across the field. Plus, they made the embarrassing mistake of thinking that every name is chantable. Not so. You can't hold a syllable in a chant. For instance, "Jo-osh Pressley" and "Mi-ike Lockwood" are not acceptable chants. It's just the way it is. Chant only those names that are conducive to chanting, fans. The rules of fandom compel you.

Anyway, they had a lot to cheer about in the top of the first, as the Patriots put three on the board before the Bears even got up to bat. But thanks to two moonshots to left center by veteran Bear, #29, Jose "Mr. September" Herrera, the Bears evened things up after three innings. The tension grew in the next few innings, as did the stench emanating from Bears mascot Rip 'N Ruppert's costume. It was a great relief when he decided to patrol the top of the dugout for the rest of the game. And, for the record, no, Tinsel and Rot does not approve of the bizarre spelling of the mascot's name. I defy you to explain that spelling to me. I also defy you to explain why the annoying little brat and his friend behind home plate kept trying to get the attention of Bears in the on-deck circle, mocked a few for not responding, insulted one because he was playing minor-league baseball, and then cheered when the Bears scored. I know it's not right to hit 12-year-old kids, but it was a few innings away from being really right. I offered one of the Bears $20 to swing at him from the other side of the net. The woman in front of me matched the offer, and we were willing to go to $60 if he made contact. No deal.

As if the little brat weren't enough, any Bear in the on-deck circle had to listen to advice from a guy who kept "revealing" the first pitch he'd see in the upcoming at-bat. The same guy (and/or his buddy) also yelled "en fuego," I think, every 20 seconds, regardless of the situation. In fact, there was a lot of advice being dispensed in Spanish, interrupted only once by "fuckin' breakin' shit." Eventually, it became like a song. Not a very good one, but a song nonetheless.

Oh yeah, the game. Somerset jumped ahead with four runs in the top of the 6th, and when the Bears came out of the seventh inning stretch still down by four, it looked bad. But not for long. They plated two in the bottom of the 7th, endured some whining (and a disturbing lick of the hand from the Patriots' catcher directed toward the Bears' dugout) from the Patriots after a check swing call went against them, and then produced one of the single most exciting innings I've seen in person--an eight-run eighth inning capped by Mr. September's third homer of the game that wrapped up the scoring for the night and pushed the Bears to the championship.

And then the celebration began.

Look, I know the nonaffiliated Atlantic League isn't exactly the top tier of baseball, and I suppose it's easy to dismiss the Bears' championship victory. But the fact is that no matter the level of competition or skill, it takes something to win a championship. And the Bears had that something this year--and especially this series, in which they won Game 3 with a game-winning single in the ninth inning and Game 4 with that spectacular eighth inning. So, today, I am proud to be a Bears fan and proud of the fans who came out night after night to root on a team that Newark could call its own--a gritty, workmanlike squad that didn't feel much like giving up.

Viva los Bears!



ITEM:Lee "God Bless The USA" Greenwood cancels a show in Denver after not receiving his full fee

There's a lot to sort out with this story. First, the concert organizers went on the offensive, explaining that Greenwood walked out on a show honoring veterans, police, and fire personnel after he didn't receive his full performance fee, which his contract stipulated must be paid in cash or cashier's check prior to the show. The organizers claimed they had given Greenwood's management the bulk of the fee as directed, save for a $2,000 check from the Knights of Columbus that would square things. Greenwood, who at least knows he's free, decides to take a pass on doing the show.

Then, after word gets out to the media about his cancellation, Greenwood counters that it was a simple matter of the terms of his contract not being met, and that people who were disappointed at not seeing him in concert should blame the organizers, not him.

Now, what's the shocking part here? That the organizers reneged on the terms of a contract and then tried to harm Greenwood's reputation? That Greenwood would cancel an appearance honoring the military, police, and firefighters over a measly $2,000? That people would actually be disappointed at not having seen Lee Greenwood in concert?

No. The shocking part is that Lee Greenwood commands $20,000 per show. On the strength of one horrible song. Or at least I thought that was the shocking part until I read this sentence in a Rocky Mountain News article:

"The God Bless the U.S.A. singer reduced his usual fee to $20,000 to help out the promoter, Webster said."

Reduced his usual fee? How much are promoters willing to pay to bring in Lee Greenwood? How many people are willing to go to a Lee Greenwood concert to justify this price tag?

There aint no doubt I love this land, but sometimes I wonder about the people in it.

ITEM: Idiot designer Marc Ecko spends $752,467 on Barry Bonds's 756th home run ball and sets up website to decide its fate

I never thought it would be possible, but I finally stand firmly behind a statement made by Barry Bonds. Marc Ecko is indeed an idiot. After spending three-quarters of a million dollars to buy the 756 ball at auction, the designer has set up a website where people can decide if the ball should be (a) sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame as is, (b) sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame with an asterisk branded on it, or (c) blasted into space.

To reiterate, Ecko paid $752,467 to do this (plus whatever it will cost to blast the ball into space if that option is chosen). Man, that's a lot of money. Good thing there are no people in need in the world. Because then Ecko would look like a giant ass.

Look, I'm not well versed in the charity endeavors of Marc Ecko. Maybe he's a great guy who keeps his charity giving under wraps. But a Web search shows that he's given time and money to saving rhinos (which seems more like a marketing tie-in than actual charity) and that Marc Ecko Enterprises "has been funding the Tikva Children's Home of Odessa, a Ukrainian orphanage founded in 1996." Interestingly, the Tikva profile on the Ecko website ends with the following:

"To raise funds for the orphanage, MEE hosts an annual golf tournament known as the Tikva Drive for Life. All proceeds go to the Tikva Children's Home of Odessa. Last year MEE raised over $600,000 for the children and hopes to raise over $1 million this year."

Those good with numbers may note that $752,467 is pretty close to $1 million. I wonder if that goal would have been reached easier with $752,467 that instead was spent for some sort of marketing project/moronic social experiment. Something to think about.

For the record, Tinsel and Rot endorses Option D: brand Ecko with an asterisk and send him to Cooperstown, where he will be blasted into space fom left center at Doubleday Field as I eat some donuts from Schneider's Bakery. And maybe he could be rammed by a rhino, too.

ITEM: A Christian theater group takes out a $90,440 ad in USA Today chastising comedian Kathy Griffin for her remarks in her Emmy acceptance speech

OK, here we go again.

So, Kathy Griffin, being a comedian, uses her acceptance speech at the Emmys to say something she thinks is funny:

"A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus," an exultant Griffin said, holding up her statuette. "Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now."

Decent joke. And I have to think that Jesus isn't losing much sleep over it. But a Christian theater group in Tennessee was outraged and/or, like Marc Ecko, wanted some publicity. So they took out a full-page ad in USA Today to express $90,440 worth of their dismay.

Again, I've gotta think that $90,440 can be used in some kind of better way than an ad denouncing a comedian, who, really, has made a career of saying crazy things. Surely, there are still some motherless children around who could use a few bucks for medical care. Unless that's been solved. I haven't seen anything in the news, but maybe O.J. knocked it off the front pages. I'll do a Google search later.

Oh wait, this just in: the group took out another full-page ad today. So I assume we're over $180,000 now.

I have no more words.


Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll

Two concerts on Saturday proved--in different ways--that as Tinsel and Rot deity Huey Lewis sang, "The heart of rock and roll is still beating." Yes, we are proud to nonironically quote Mr. Lewis. We'll probably do it again.

The concert day began in Cranford, NJ, where I was hoping to finally erase the bad memories of Chuck Berry's set in Bridgewater, NJ, last year. I have never been so thoroughly depressed during a show as I was during Berry's time on stage, during which the band struggled to follow his very shaky lead and only hit upon something listenable at rare moments. There's probably no person in rock and roll that I'm more willing to cut some slack to than Chuck Berry, but even I had a hard time justifying that show. I don't even like thinking about it.

So I was a little nervous about seeing Berry again. But the concert was free, and early word had him being backed by the Smithereens, so I figured it was worth a shot. The Smithereens are a good band, so I figured they'd be able to keep pace with Chuck, or at least make a better go of it than the band in Bridgewater. And even if they couldn't, at least it wouldn't cost me any more than train fare.

Then, I checked the Chuck Berry website in the days before the show and saw that Berry was bringing his band from St. Louis for the show (or, really, for what I assume was the higher-paying gig the night before at BB King's), which was even better news. Surely, they would be well practiced in keeping pace with Berry. And then my sister expressed an interest in going, so the financial considerations of paying the train fare went away, too. So it was looking like giving Chuck Berry in concert another shot was a damn fine idea.

And, amazingly, it worked out just that way.

Yes, Chuck Berry totally kicked ass (at the age of 81) in Cranford. I was slightly nervous when he came out and announced that he would rock the crowd for 30 minutes. But a few minutes later, it changed to an hour, and it wound up being a thoroughly entertaining sixty minutes. The highlights included two versions of "Reelin' and Rockin'" that featured Chuck's daughter Ingrid on vocals and harmonica (his son played guitar in the band, too) and an early-in-the-set rendition of "Sweet Little Sixteen" that danced around between cool and just a little bit creepy (something about singing that song after you reach a certain age doesn't quite sit right). No "My Ding-A-Ling," but, hey, you can't have it all.

Throughout the set, I was amazed at just how much difference a good drummer makes. The drummer at the Bridegwater show seemed fairly frightened while trying to keep up with Berry, who essentially sings and plays at his own pace and stops songs whenever he feels that they're over. But the drummer in Cranford, Keith Robinson, had no trouble keeping things in order. And the rest of the band (Berry Jr., Bob Lohr on keyboards, and James Marsala on bass) was similarly on point. It was night and day between Bridgewater and Cranford (figuratively and literally), and I was happy to finally have that bad memory of Chuck erased. I can't tell you how relieved I am to say I have seen a good Chuck Berry show. Makes me feel a lot better about my life.

We stuck around for the Smithereens, and they were pretty damn good, too. So it was a pretty awesome afternoon, particularly when you consider the price of admission.

Then, things took an odd turn in Philadelphia, where we went to see the mighty Hudson Falcons as they embarked on another two-month-plus tour of the United States (and, alas, one that I will not be joining at any point this year). When Mark (Head Falcon in Charge) told me that the show at the Halfway House was in a basement, I guess I just assumed it was a club that was like a basement. And I was wrong. It was a basement. Of a house. Next to what looked to be an actual halfway house. Interesting set-up. I have no pictures. Aside from the fact that it was way dark, I was afraid that if I took out my camera, the punks would think I was a narc and whip me with their studded belts.

Anyway, after being prepped on what we were walking into, and once I was able to block out the mysterious puddles of mystery liquid and the leaking pipes in the basement (deftly balanced by the old-school, Glaser and Soul "Starsky and Hutch" poster upstairs) and embrace the fact that someone was going to slam into me at some point in the evening, I realized that the show was more rock and roll than Chuck Berry playing at a free festival on a Sunday afternoon. Sure, rock and roll is played in arenas and festivals to thousands of fans--and often quite well--but it's likely not played with as much heart and soul (another Huey reference!) as it is in a dank basement on a Saturday night/Sunday morning in Philadelphia with a bunch of people who need that musical release to make it through to the next day. They're not talking through the set, text-messaging on their Trios, or killing time until the afterparty. They're in the moment, screaming along, thrashing about, and just letting the music take over. It's rock and roll at its rawest (is rawest a word? I don't care), and if it aint that pretty at all, it's still pretty damn beautiful.

Hail, hail rock and roll
Deliver me from the days of old
Long live rock and roll
The beat of the drum is loud and bold
Rock, rock, rock and roll
The feelin' is there, body and soul.