It was 25 years ago today...

...that Lee Elia made history (not suitable for work content to follow...or if you prefer reading a censored version, go here):

Still genius all these years later. And it's good to hear that Elia has made peace with the moment and is using the power of the message to raise money for a cancer charity. If I had $89.95 to spare at the moment, I'd buy that signed ball. Another thing I'll have to save up for.

In any case, thank you, Lee Elia, from one of the 85 percenters. And print it!


The Tinsel and Rot Sirius Stiletto Top 20: April 2008

Another new feature that might go nowhere--a monthly recap of the songs on my Stiletto that are currently moving me. There's no scientific method that I used to compile these rankings; these are just generally the songs that, when they come up on shuffle, make me turn the volume up most frequently. So, let's pretend that my musical preferences are something worth knowing, OK?

20. Schnitzelbank--Becky and the Ivanhoe Dutchmen#

19. I'm Alright--Kenny Loggins*

18. I Am What I Hated When I Was Young--Ian Hunter#

17. We Didn't See A Thing--George Jones and Ray Charles*

16. Out of Our Way--The Silos#

15. See the Elephant--James McMurtry#

14. Keep Me from Blowin' Away--Willie Nelson#

13. Smoke!Smoke!Smoke! That Cigarette--Tex Williams*

12. Revolution--Hudson Falcons#

11. Tennessee Waltz--Sam Cooke#

10. Sun Giant Says Hey--Wussy#

9. Wreck My Flow--The Dirtbombs#

8. Another Country--Tift Merritt#

7. The Little Lady Preacher--Tom T. Hall#

6. Ever Lovin' Man--The Dirtbombs#

5. The Cheapest Key--Kathleen Edwards#

4. I Love A Rainy Night--Eddie Rabbitt*

3. Apache--Sugar Hill Gang*

2. Papa Was a Rollin' Stone--Was (Not Was)#

1. Rigor Mortis--Wussy#

#-imported into Stiletto

*-recorded from Sirius


Tommy (Grand) Habeeb: Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer

The mission of the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Fame is twofold. First, we aim to honor those who have achieved genuine greatness in not only our arguably warped eyes but in the eyes of the general populace. In that capacity, we have welcomed undeniable legends like Hank Williams Sr., Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison into the fold. Second, we look to shine a light on those who have achieved greatness in our eyes but whose names are greeted with a casual shrug or, at best, a tepid tolerance from the average citizen. We have achieved this goal with the induction of William Hickey, Gary Busey, and now the original and still greatest "Cheaters" host of all time, Mr. Tommy Habeeb, or Tommy Grand if you prefer to call him by his host name.

If you have not had the pleasure of watching "Cheaters," you are living a vastly unfulfilled life, and Tinsel and Rot is very sorry for you. But to catch you up, the show's premise is that someone suspects a loved one of infidelity, the "Cheaters" team of private investigators trails the suspected cheater and amasses video evidence, the host shows the aggrieved party this proof, and then there's a big confrontation, generally in a parking lot and almost always hilarious. Never has infidelity been so incredibly entertaining. And the most fascinating part of the show is that, most of the time, the person who is doing the cheating and ends up being the subject of verbal and occasional light physical abuse from their scorned lover apparently happily signs a consent form that allows his or her completely unblurred likeness to be shown in perpetuity. Fascinating. Yes, "Cheaters" may be the best worst show of all time.

Anyway, Tommy Habeeb, who for reasons I've never been clear on goes by the name of "Tommy Grand" for "Cheaters" purposes, is the true star of the show. As entertaining and explosive as the confrontations are, it is the perpetually black-clad Habeeb's casual reassurances to the person being cheated on that propel the show and earn him a spot in the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Fame. While sharing graphic evidence of infidelity, Habeeb would often add in a "I hate to have to show you this" or "This must be difficult to watch" as he offered an awkward pat on the shoulder meant to soothe someone who's just seen her boyfriend getting blown in a dorm room. And it would all be delivered in a flat monotone, which made it all the more fantastic. Never has unctuousness been so brilliantly displayed. And, yes, I am excited that I just used the word "unctuousness."

Unfortunately, Habeeb was replaced by the vastly inferior Joey Greco as host, and "Cheaters" never was the same. The show got progressively more bizarre (Greco was stabbed, the "Cheaters" cameras uncovered an odd S&M session, one of the cameraman got zapped by some sort of cattle prod), but it didn't have the Tommy Grand touch. I'm not sure if there are still first-run episodes airing, but G4 airs repeats a lot, and a lot of those repeats fetaure highlights from the Tommy Grand years that show the vast superiority of those episodes.

Sadly, YouTube's "Cheaters" clips are almost all from the Joey Greco years, so there is precious little I can show you to illustrate the brilliance that was Tommy Grand. But in my research, I discovered that Habeeb recently hosted a show called "Stag," where brides-to-be got to watch clips from their future husbands' bachelor parties. What could go wrong? Oh right, this (WARNING: contains language definitely not suitable for work):

Tinsel and Rot salutes you, Tommy (Grand) Habeeb, and welcomes you into the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Fame.


Poli Sigh

It's been about 24 hours and I still haven't fully recovered from this:

I don't think I've ever felt so bad for politicians. To be so desperate for votes that you have to pander to the professional wrestling audience...it just makes me want to hug each one of the candidates and tell them it'll all be over soon.

And while Clinton and Obama (particularly "Hill-Rod") can't quite make you believe they've watched one second of wrestling, McCain goes all out to get the wrestling fan vote. His speechwriters must be big wrestling fans, because he packs more wrestling puns and references into 90 seconds than even I'd be able to pull off. And sweet work bringing in Obama's alleged insult of the working class, which leads to what may be my the best thing that's ever come out of a politician's mouth: "Americans don't watch wrestling because we're bitter; we watch WWE because wrestling's about celebrating our freedom." Dude knows how to cut a promo.

He picks Jake "The Snake" Roberts as his veep, he might be unstoppable.

OK, so that was just an excuse to include the greatest wrestling promo of all time.

He's got 22, Obama. Look out.


On Joy

It's almost always easier to bitch. Plus, it's generally more fun. But sometimes it's a pretty fair idea to step back and realize that, as it turns out, things are pretty good. I was reminded of that a couple times in the past few weeks. So it seemed a good idea to share.

The first was at Kathleen Edwards's show at Irving Plaza (or FNYaIP, if you prefer). It was her biggest venue for a headlining show in New York City, and she seemed a little frazzled for the first few songs of her set, even copping to as much when she noted that the first time she played in NYC was at the Living Room to about ten people. Now she was playing to a not-quite-sold-out-but-still-pretty-full crowd at Irving Plaza on a weeknight, probably riding the wave of the good reviews her pretty damn good "Asking for Flowers" CD has gotten but also finally seeing the results of developing a fanbase in New York City after three albums and a heavier touring schedule.

She shook off her nerves early on and eventually settled in with her band for a show that was without a doubt one of the best I've seen this year. Then, as she came to the last song of the night, her badass "Back to Me" from her last CD of the same name, she gently chided opening act Dan Wilson for getting more people to sing along to his songs than she was able to get for hers. So, as she started the song she left some space to hear if anyone in the audience was singing along, seemingly not expecting much. But as she kept on going through the first verse, the singalong kept getting louder until the chorus, when it became a pretty decent-sized roar. A huge smile came over Edwards's face and when the biggest singalong roar came back to her ears, she screamed, "Oh my God--that's never happened before!"

It was a moment that you really should've been there for. In that one moment, you could feel Edwards's joy, feel what it's like to realize that all that plugging away, all those miles traveled, all of it was worth it. And when she left the stage, saying "Holy fuck! Thanks so much!" she was floating and if you had any heart, you were floating too. It was everything a live concert moment should be.

And there was some more of that last night at the Lakeside Lounge, where Chip Robinson and the Roscoe Trio capped off a largely morose (but exceedingly good) set with an all-out asault of the Rolling Stones' "Sway" that featured Eric "Roscoe" Ambel passing off his guitar to fellow Yayhoo Keith Christopher. I should start by saying that it was already a pretty damn joyful day for me, as I got to visit my friends and their two-week-old daughter, who, despite her Rangers onesie (parental cruelty at its ugliest) was awfully cute. And then I stepped into the Lakeside about five seconds before the show started with a cover of Dylan's "I and I." I love it when a plan comes together.

Anyway, back to that cover of "Sway." Christopher was sitting in front of Ambel when Ambel came over and placed his guitar strap over Christopher's shoulder and urged him to let 'er rip. The result was such a beautiful and righteous noise that a guy in a wheelchair outside stopped to watch and listen. He was soon joined by another random passer-by and, by song's end, two other guys who were also roped in by the sound. And as Christopher kept stretching out, the four guys outside and all of us inside just went along with him, swinging heads, stomping feet, and just generally testifying to the power of good rock and roll. I dug "Shine A Light," but nothing on that giant IMAX screen even came close to that solo.

That's why I go to a lot of shows. Sure, you don't get the feelings I got at these two shows every night. But when you do get them, you're so damn glad to be part of such moments. Glad to find and share such joy. Glad to be alive.

Here's to joy.


A trip down memory lane

While listening to part one of the Stuttering John spotlight on Sirius today, I was taken back to those sweet glory days that I spent in the lobby of the NBC building waiting for autographs from celebrities I probably only had a marginal interest in. In Stuttering John's "interview" with Chevy Chase (best question: Did you ever think that Garrett Morris's career would be more happening than yours?), you can hear a guy in the background rambling and then telling Chevy to mail him an autographed picture. That guy's name was Ron, or when collectors were feeling more cruel (which was quite often), Al Roker, because of a very passing resemblance to the portly weatherman. He wore a light blue shirt and navy blue pants almost every day, suggesting that he was either a stickler for consistency or just had one outfit. Hard to say which was true.

There was something off about him. I'm not sure what but it wasn't anything so profound that he couldn't function as a human being. And, to be honest, someone who was mentally off blended in just fine with the allegedly "normal" collectors on most afternoons. In any case, he was there just about every day (or at least every day I was there, which was maybe two times a week, sometimes three) and occasionally knew the celebrities whose autographs he wanted but often enough didn't. This led to many an exciting afternoon when someone dressed nice would come off the elevators and Ron or one of the other equally clueless celebrity worshippers would approach this person for an autograph. Good times. For awhile I became the Unofficial Music Celebrity Sighter, which looks nice on a résumé.

But if someone came off the elevators accompanied by NBC Security, Ron knew it was a celebrity of some sort and would thrust an index card to be signed. If the celeb wasn't in a rush, there would be some inane chatter from Ron, which the celebrity would either ignore or greet with an attempt at a polite smile. Then after Ron got that index card signed, he would give the celebrity another index card with his address on it and request that the celebrity send him (and/or, in later years, his fiancee) a signed 8x10 photo. Half the time, celebrities would take the card and say that they would indeed send a signed photo. But the other half of the time, the celebrities would just stare it and say, "What's this?" They were understandably confused that their "thank you" for signing an autograph was a request to send another one as soon as they got the chance.

And while Ron was waiting for the celebrities, he would seize upon the frequent noticeable tourist and strike up a conversation. After a few minutes of chitchat, he would whip out one of the DIY business cards and ask the tourist to tape his or her local news program and mail him the tape. Some people actually seemed completely up for the assignment, which I guess is a testament to people's willingness to please. I can't say that if a strange guy came up to me while I was visiting a new city and asked me to tape my local news when I got back if I would jump at that opportunity. Maybe I'm just mean.

When I heard Ron on the radio today, I wondered whatever became of him. Toward the end of my NBC collecting days, Ron stopped showing up. Maybe he and the fiancee moved away. Maybe he just got tired of waiting around for celebrities every day and enduring the other "normal" collectors snickering at him behind his back. And maybe Ron's at home right now, surrounded by index cards signed by people he never really knew and watching a 1995 newscast from Eugene, Oregon, still waiting for a signed 8X10 from Chevy Chase in the mail.

Godspeed Ron, wherever you are.


Lush Life

I first started reading Richard Price because I was bored and homesick. He was speaking at Cornell while I matriculated at the People's Favorite college in Ithaca, and I'd heard his name before, so I figured it was worth a shot (I used the same theorizing to attend an event with Phillip Glass...bad call on that one). So I went downtown to the Autumn Leaves bookstore, bought a copy of The Breaks, and went over to hear Price read excerpts from a book he was working on (which later became Freedomland). I got him to sign The Breaks at the wine-and-cheese reception that followed but probably didn't get around to reading the book until after I was done with Freedomland and Clockers. Pretty soon, though, I was all caught up with the Richard Price ouevre and ever since have kept a lookout for something new from him. The list of authors whose books I look forward to grows a little smaller every year (though I'm giving you one more chance with the next one, Ellroy), and Price is always at the top of that list.

So, a few months ago, I was pretty jazzed to see that Lush Life was due out. Price's books are always good, fast-paced (as opposed to quick, which implies a certain degree of lightness) reads, and Lush Life is no different. It's killer. You oughta read it.

That's really all I have to say. You can find reviews by people who do that sort of thing for a living elsewhere on the Internets. But just take my word for it--Richard Price is a literary ass-kicker. And you can tell him so yourself at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in NYC on Tuesday. C'mon...the chance to hear a writer talk about his book in the very area of the city where much of the book's action takes place? It's a slam dunk. Be there.

(As a side note that should in no way influence you reading the book or going to the event, I would like to register my one complaint about Lush Life--what's up with all the dropped question marks in dialogue? Author's decision? Shoddy copy editing? I want answers. But I feel too nerdy/copyeditorish to ask Price in person on Tuesday. Feel free to do so yourself, though. 6:30 p.m.)


Run, boy, run

While taking a well-deserved and not-at-all-unnecessary break from doing work, I saw two blogs (here and here mention Charlie Daniels's Soap Box entry detailing his dislike for the way "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" is used in Guitar Hero III. Specifically, he writes, "I want any of you parents out there whose children have this game to know that I did not grant these people my permission to pervert my song and am disgusted with the result." His main concern is that, unlike the story he told in song, the Guitar Hero version of the song finds the devil sometimes winning. Unacceptable.

Of course, I, along with the several dozen readers of my still easily purchasable book, know already of Mr. Daniels's occasional looniness and so wasn't terribly surprised to see the "Guitar Hero" rant. But, with my interest in the Soap Box (once daily reading) renewed, I took a look at the current Soap Box entry on the "bald faced power grab" that is global warming. Again, not really surprised that Mr. Daniels doubts that global warming exists. And I'm used to reading anti-global warming screeds because of the journals I copyedit at the day job, so no big whoop.

But I was a little taken aback when I saw the responses to Mr. Daniels's words. It was an experience that reminded me that there are a lot of odd people in the world. And they apparently love the fiddle.

My two favorites:

"Never once have I seen Al Gore and his band of earth loving sycophants riding in a Yugo but given the oppertunity, he'll make you drive one."

I like the use of "earth loving" as an insult. I also look forward to Al Gore making everyone drive Yugos. I'll admit that I will question his sanity when he does that.

"I hope John McCain selects Condelleza Rice as a running mate. That would be a certain 8 more years for the Republicians. I can see Opry right now saying: " Oh I Love you Obama, but I got to go with my black girlfriend, Connie". And my tip for Al Gore: You and Tipper just shut up already. We're not stupid out here in the USA, cretin's."

I've gotta be honest here--I can't see "Opry" getting on her television show and saying "Oh, I Love you Obama, but I got to go with my black girlfriend, Connie." But that's just me. I'm probably one of the cretin's.


Comedy Tonight

*Last week, I reached another easily attainable goal (set your goals low, kids, and you minimize the chance of disappointment) and got Chevy Chase to sign my VHS cover of "National Lampoon's Vacation" (previously signed by Randy "Cousin Eddie" Quaid, Anthony Michael "Rusty" Hall, and Jane "Cousin Vicki" Krakowski...Chevy Chase's is the one you can't read above). It was surprisingly painless, and the event that preceded it--an edition of the UCB Theatre's "Inside Joke," where every month a comedian is interviewed about his/her career--was surprisingly uneventful. Chase told some interesting stories (including the background behind the famous Richard Pryor job interview skit from SNL's first season) and admitted a few faults (he never watches his work but recently saw "Caddyshack" and marveled at how awful he was), but overall, the interviewer seemed ill prepared and the audience was so enamored of Chase that they laughed at just about everything, which got annoying after awhile. I was reminded of the time I watched one of the Andy Kaufman specials in one of the theaters at the Museum of Television and Radio and sat behind two people who laughed during the setups to Kaufman's elaborate punchlines. And that drove me crazy. Laugh at the funny stuff, people. And stop pretending that everything the comedian you're watching says is uproariously funny. It's not.

*I'm just about done with the book Comedy at the Edge and it's pretty good, though not incredibly revelatory. So far, my favorite anecdote, which I've probably heard at some point before, involves Larry David, an admittedly hypersensitive, uncomfortable performer:

One night at Catch [a Rising Star]...David came out, silently scanned the audience, muttered "I don't think so," and walked off without saying another word. David confirms that the story is not just urban legend. "I just didn't like what I saw," he says.

The book could use more quick shots like that, and probably would've been better as an oral history, but it's still a good read.

*BET ran a "Diff'rent Strokes" marathon Sunday, and I think it's safe to say that that show may have been the most consistently horribly acted show ever. Of course, I came to that conclusion after watching about eight episodes in a row, so there's clearly something wrong with me. But since the marathon featured shows from different points in the show's run, I became fascinated with Gary Coleman's descent into hell, starting off as the cute little kid and gradually turning bitter right before your eyes. There was a point in one of the later episodes where there was a clear moment for a "Whatchutalkinbout, Willis?" but all that comes out of Gary's mouth is "Wha?" I can just picture the director begging Coleman to do the old softshoe there. Poor guy.

*I ate at the Cozy Soup 'N' Burger near Astor Place for the first time tonight and quickly became fascinated with one of the autographed pictures on their wall. It was a signed 8X10 of ALF (or, as they knew him on Melmac, Gordon Shumway). And it was signed from ALF. Intriguing. So, ALF came in there one day? Man, that must've been cool. But way odd for the other diners there that day. Only in New York, kids.


Are You Ready for Some Fleecing?

Every few months I check in with the Hank Williams Jr. website to (a) see if he might be crossing the Mason-Dixon line to do a show and (b) to see the latest addition to the vast Bocephus merch catalog. So when I went to the site and saw the banner on the page advertising "The Ultimate Meet and Greet," my interest was piqued. I've only been to one meet and greet, but I'd go to more, well, if there were more current country artists I wanted to actually meet and/or greet. Bocephus would be one person I'd be interested in meeting and greeting, which is something I can't really explain. I'm just fascinated with Hank Williams Jr., as evidenced, of course, by the two singing and dancing Bocephi in my apartment. We've discussed this before.

Anyway, I figured I'd check out the info on this "Ultimate Meet and Greet." And I soon experienced the horror that enveloped me when I researched that card show last month. I need to stop spending time on the Internet.

Here are the particulars:

A LIMITED number of TEN fans will be offered the opportunity to meet Hank Williams Jr. in person, each night of the Rowdy Frynds Tour!!!

Selected participants will be escorted backstage PRIOR to Hank’s performance to meet Hank Jr. and have a photo taken with him.


The Ultimate Meet & Greet opportunity does NOT provide you admittance into the concert or the Rowdy Frynds Tour. You must purchase a ticket to the show.

Hank Williams Jr. will NOT be signing autographs. If you would like something signed, please join the fan club or purchase a signed photo through the fan club.

Photos taken at the meet & greet will be posted at www.hankjr.com for fans to view and print out. We will NOT be sending printed copies of the photos to recipients.

Hank Williams Jr. will meet fans before his show. If you are late or not at the designated area to be escorted backstage, you will lose your meet & greet privilege and your money will NOT be refunded.

Thanks and we look forward to seeing you on the road in 2008!!!

The Hank Williams Jr. Fan Club

OK, so let's take a look at this "ultimate" experience. Hank Jr. will not be signing any autographs for you, making me question the "ultimate" claim. But, hey, with ten people to attend to, you can't expect Bocephus to invest all that time he would have to spend signing an autograph. Fair enough. I'll just buy one off the website. Oh wait, it's $100? A hundred dollars?! Maybe I'll pass on that.

But at least you'll get a picture with him, probably by a "professional" photographer like that card show. Cool. What? You'll have to print it out from the website? Oh.

Well, that's fine. So I'll get to meet Hank Williams Jr. and maybe take a picture with my own camera. That'll be interesting, I guess. Yes, it will be. I'm in. Let me just join the fan club or pay the fee or whatever it is I have to do. So, that'll be...

Five hundred dollars?


April Fools?


For $500, Bocephus oughta take a picture with me, sign however many autographs I want, let me wear one of his dad's suits, and sing "Fax Me a Beer" until I get tired of it (shouldn't be too long). I guess "Monday Night Football" doesn't pay Rockin' Randall enough, or at least not enough that he doesn't need to toss another $5,000 a night into his pocket courtesy of his fans.

I'm not sure what depresses me more--the fact that Hank Jr. is doing his best to erase the years of goodwill the country music industry has established with its fans or that the Charlotte and Detroit meet and greets are sold out.

Luckily, I got this and two (horribly scrawled) autographs awhile ago:

Total cost: $0. Much better deal.

What I Liked About March

*Core of the Four Weekend, Uniondale, NY
*The Pogues/Billy Bragg/William Elliott Whitmore, Roseland, NYC
*Robbie Fulks, Mercury Lounge, NYC
*Easter Weekend in Ocean Grove, NJ

*The cover of the Daily News on March 29
*Terry Adams Rock and Roll Quartet, Turning Point, Piermont, NY
*Alex Meixner, Barbés, Brooklyn, NY
*The Best Show on WFMU Marathon Show w/ Ted Leo, Patton Oswalt, and Ben Gibbard

*U.S. Open Pro-Am, North Brunswick, NJ
*Wussy, Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ
*The return of "Celebrity Fit Club"
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places