The Tinsel and Rot Sirius Stiletto Top 20: June 2008

20. (15) Indivisible--The Dirtbombs#
19. (--) The Righteous Path--Drive By Truckers#
18. (7) Papa Was A Rolling Stone--Was (Not Was)#
17. (--) Norman--Sue Thompson*
16. (19) I Almost Killed You--Billy Bragg#
15. (12) Can You Feel It?--The Dynamites Featuring Charles Walker#
14. (--) Clean Up Your Own Backyard--Elvis Presley*
13. (11) Holes--Jon Dee Graham#
12. (6) Look Sharp!--Joe Jackson#
11. (1) Taking My Time To Get Back Home--Magpies#
10. (8) I Love A Rainy Night--Eddie Rabbitt*
9. (--) Is She Really Going Out With Him?--Joe Jackson*
8. (--) He's a Heartache (Lookin' for a Place to Happen)--Janie Fricke*
7. (2) Swept Away--Jon Dee Graham#
6. (--) The Beach Is Free--Billy Bragg#
5. (--) Deep Blue Sea--Otis Taylor (w/ Alvin Youngblood Hart)#
4. (3) The Little Lady Preacher--Tom T. Hall#
3. (--) Peanut Vendor--Terry Adams and Steve Ferguson#
2. (--) I Go to Work--Kool Moe Dee*
1. (--) October--Jon Dee Graham#


William Zabka: Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer

The name may not be familiar to most, but for any student of the teen films of the 1980s, William "Billy" Zabka is an undeniable legend. Perhaps even a god. And now he is a Tinsel and Rot Hall of Famer.

The New York-born Mr. Zabka's work in three '80s classics--"The Karate Kid," "Just One of the Guys," and "Back to School" (he was also in "National Lampoon's European Vacation," but not used to his best abilities)--earned him the distinction of being the quintessential jerk of modern cinema, the very embodiment of the fear and disgust felt by the unsung and unpopular at thousands of schools across America. Of the three, it is probably his turn as Johnny Lawrence in "The Karate Kid" that is most adored, and it's worth noting that that was his first film. A star right out of the box, surely something considered when the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Fame Board of Governors met to debate Mr. Zabka's induction into the Hall. And while we generally don't like to reward bullies here at Tinsel and Rot, we recognize that (a) Mr. Zabka was only playing a bully and (b) we would've been pretty pissed if the new kid stole Elisabeth Shue away, too.

Look how Zabka doesn't even say anything in that scene and he's still giving you that jerkoff vibe. Genius. And not only was it his first film, but dig this nugget from an online interview:

"For Johnny, I really was surprised that I got the part, because I didn't know karate. I never rode a motorcycle. The last thing I did before The Karate Kid was a milk commercial. I was just this nice young American kid."

As impressive as he was in pondering the inner debate to sweep or not to sweep and in revisiting the bully ouevre in "Just One of the Guys," Zabka truly hit his stride with his star turn as primo douchebag Chas in the stone-cold classic "Back to School." If "The Karate Kid" established Zabka as a force to be reckoned with, "Back to School" showed that force at peak perfomance--and, incidentally, he had to play off what may be one of the worst comedic acting performances of all time, turned in by Keith Gordon. Screw you, Melon, indeed.

Like any good champion, Zabka went out on top (or perhaps he couldn't get any more acting jobs...now is not the time for quibbling over minor details). He went on to do some TV, a few films, and some other things outside of acting, including writing and producing a short film (Most) that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004.

And now, he is the latest inductee into the Tinsel and Rot Hall of Fame, Today, William Zabka, you are the best around.

Here's a YouTube homage, followed by the Web smash music video "Sweep the Leg" by No More Kings (directed by and starring Mr. Zabka).


Ira Tucker RIP

Ira Tucker, the leader of the gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds, died Tuesday at the age of 83. I discovered this while double-checking the directions to Prospect Park for tonight's Carolina Chocolate Drops/Dixie Hummingbirds show. The show will go on tonight (weather permitting), and the Hummingbirds will pay tribute to their fallen leader. And the end of the New York Times obit both makes me smile and breaks my heart:

"The day before he died, his son said, Mr. Tucker tried to sing and could not. So he said he was going to switch careers and become a comedian, and spent the rest of the day cracking jokes."

Go to Brooklyn tonight if you can and pay your respects. The Carolina Chocolate Drops are great, too. Showtime's 7:30 p.m.


Twinkle, twinkle little stars

I have written many times of the glories of both Atlantic City itself and the always-entertaining travel to and from the City Where Dying Dreams Get a Proper Burial (like here, here, here, here, here, and, most recently, in video form (now fixed) here). But last Saturday's bus ride to AC may have featured the kookiest guy I've ever shared a bus with, the gentleman across the aisle who spent almost the entire trip on his cell phone.

Now, it wasn't merely the fact that he was on a cell phone for over two hours (with occasional welcome pauses when we hit dead zones on the Parkway) that made him kooky. It was what he was talking about that earned him the prize. His entire conversation was about astrology and its link to his day and, more importantly, its impact on which tournament (poker, I'm guessing) he should enter. Two hours. No joke.

The otherwise sane-looking gentleman (younger than me, I think) called his buddy asking him to run some astrological charts on whether he should enter the tournament at 7:15 or the one at 8. At first, I didn't realize that astrology was playing a role in the decision-making process; I initially thought his buddy was calling up a tournament roster or some other pertinent info about the events at hand. But that notion was dismissed when I started hearing phrases like "well, Capricorn's in retrograde" being bandied about, at which point I got completely distracted from doing work and became engrossed in the loony banter coming from across the aisle.

It was eventually decided that things looked better for the 7:15 tournament, but the conversation continued about all things astrological. When I heard particularly entertaining nonsense, I did my best to surreptitiously write down these pearls of wisdom. My two favorites were as follows:

"I just had my lunar return one or two hours ago." (This apparently was a good sign for tournament success.)

"As astrologists, we're privy to the objective truth about things." (I hope my jealousy didn't show.)

And there was too much BS going around to get these as exact quotes, but these capture the spirit of the thing:

"I want to live to, like, 100, or over 100, just so I can say I've been studying this for 80 years, and people will think I'm, like, the wisest guy ever."

"Plus, 'Capricorn' has 'Corp' in it, like in 'corporation,' so that's probably a good thing. Yeah, I just realized that now."

Somewhere along the way, things moved from irritating to entertaining, and I began ignoring my work and anxiously awaiting the next nugget (like that he has never been--and likely never will be--friends with a Virgo but that he always gotten along famously with Sagittariuses [Sagittarii?]). Then things came full circle at the end of the trip when he had his buddy run a chart on the bus trip, because we didn't hit any traffic, and he wanted to know the astrological rationale for that. At that point, my head was pounding, and I was ready to get off the bus. But I did wish that I could go to the 7:15 tournament at the Tropicana to see how things panned out.

Honestly, you really have to take a bus to Atlantic City at least once in your life. Just bring headphones in case it becomes too much to take.

Do Your Dance

Sometimes the timing's just right. Sometimes you're just where you need to be. Sometimes you're walking down the Atlantic City boardwalk and a 73-year-old man named Tony is dancing his ass off to Cameo's "Word Up."

Sometimes the world is beautiful.

(Note to anyone planning on inviting me to a wedding: Play "Word Up" and you're gonna get my version of Tony. Believe it.)

Another Atlantic City story coming up in the next day or so.


George Carlin RIP

In the world of pop culture, some people are so consistent, so seemingly always there that their death catches you completely off guard. George Carlin, with his HBO specials and constant touring (in my four years in Ithaca, I saw him twice, and Ithaca isn't exactly a hotbed of comedy), was one of those guys, and when I saw the news of his death on the cover of the newspaper this morning, it didn't seem possible. Some celebrities you just assume will always be around, no matter how illogical that sounds.

People with a higher regard for stand-up than I can more easily debate Carlin's place among the all-time greats, but I always found him to be on point and pretty damn funny. When you heard his act, it was clear that he had rehearsed it and honed it to perfection, yet it always seemed fresh and completely unforced. The jokes were often so smart and well-crafted that even when you didn't necessarily agree with his viewpoint--and maybe even were in the crowd he was skewering--you still had to admire the craft and precision of his attack. And for a guy who delivered material that was as clever as it was funny, he never came off as pedantic or gave off a smarter-than-you vibe. He was a man of the people, saying the things you thought but could never say quite that way. I'm sure there will be stand-ups that will come along and be as funny or maybe even funnier than Carlin, but I doubt there will ever be another one quite like him.

Rest in peace, George.


Nice Work, Stupid!

There is no segment of a TV newscast that I enjoy more than the investigative team socking it to someone taking advantage of the little guy. Nothing better than justice delivered by a hectoring reporter with a jones for facetime.

That said, maybe the investigative dogs should've been called off this hunt.

So, a really stupid woman figured that clicking on a Weblink that said "best seats" surely must be a link to the venue box office. Then when the price came up, I don't know, I guess she wasn't paying attention. So she calls up the local news, who, for some reason, are roused to action to combat this new, dangerous scourge of ticket scalping. Next thing you know, she gets her money back, plus a front-row seat from the venue and a personal meeting with Emmylou Harris.

Should we really be rewarding this sort of person? Wouldn't it have made more sense for the news to send over someone to smack her in the head and say, "Nice work, stupid"? (By the way, I'm copyrighting that idea and pitching it to the local news outlets as a recurring feature.) I'm all for looking out for the little (wo)man, but, really, there comes a point where you just have to accept your own stupidity. And for the woman in question, who seems perfectly nice, that time should've been now.

Also, glad there's nothing going on in the northern Virginia area that is of more investigative importance than this. Very comforting.

And kudos to the reporter for the first known utterance of the phrase "Emmylou doesn't exactly spray."


The two stupidest things I've ever heard in a baseball stadium

Uttered in rapid succession by, predictably, a Yankee fan at Yankee Stadium after a Padre struck out, 6/18/08:

"Yeeeeah! That's a K! Like YMCA!"

"Yeeeeeeeeah! That's K! The opposite of gay! K!"

He was on a roll, though, and made a game in the Seat of All Evil that kicked off with an hour rain delay entertaining. He found his niche by responding to every Padre fan's attempt to talk to him with a Ric Flair-esque "Whoooooooooo!" Which he did about 100 times. And that's a conservative estimate.

Also, a note to any homosexual gentlemen planning on attending a Yankees game: Might be best if you splurged for the better seats. You're probably not going to enjoy the repartee in the upper level. Just saying.


I Want My DVD: Vol. 3

I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon hanging out with doo wop aficionados in a parking lot at the Izod Center. I aint bragging, just saying. I was there in the vain hope that King of the Falsetto Lou Christie and/or my favorite Hank Williams Sr. interpreter (not really, but it's not worth going into) B.J. Thomas would be signing autographs as part of the preshow festivities for the yearly Richard Nader doo wop spectacular. Neither did, so to at least partially justify heading out to the swamplands, I grabbed autographs from Sonny Geraci (lead vocalist on "Precious and Few" and "Time Won't Let Me"), Mel Carter ("Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me"), and Eugene Pitt and the Jive Five.

I knew the least about Eugene Pitt, but I knew one of the songs mentioned in the program ("I'm A Happy Man"), so I figured I might as well get the autograph. Later research done after I arrived home confirmed that I also knew their big hit ("My True Story") and that I didn't know a hugely important fact about Eugene Pitt and the Jive Five. They were responsible for the "Nick-Nick-Nick-Nick-Ni-Nick-Nick-Nick-Nickelodeon" jingle that aired all throughout my formative years on Nickelodeon--the days of "Double Dare," "Don't Just Sit There,""Nick Rocks," the aforementioned "Fifteen" (still no DVD), and, of course, the greatest of all Nickelodeon shows, and the subject of this edition of "I Want My DVD," "You Can't Do That on Television."

Unlike "Fifteen," which, admittedly, didn't have an extremely large fanbase, "You Can't Do That on Television" was adored--or, at the very least, viewed and tolerated--by every kid worth knowing in the mid- to late 1980s. And everyone had their favorite cast member, whether it be Christine "Moose" McGlade, Alasdair Gillis, Lisa Ruddy, Kevin Kubusheskie, Doug Ptolemy, or maybe even Barth (anyone who says Alanis Morissette was his/her favorite is just trying to be cool...do not trust said person). Then there were the firing squad skits, the Blip's Arkaid bits, and the sliming and watering. And, of course, there was that undeniable theme song.

I should note that I am under no impression that I would actually find great artistic merit in the episodes of "You Can't Do That on Television" that would appear on any DVD. I accept that the show would almost certainly not be as cool as I remember it being, but, well, nothing is really as cool as I remember it being when I was in grammar school (except that ball going through Bill Buckner's legs; that's timeless). I just want my DVD of "You Can't Do That on Televison." And if it's too much to ask to put the whole series on DVD, how about a Nickelodeon Best of the Glory Days DVD with some episodes of "You Can't Do That on Television," "Double Dare," "Fifteen," and the like? I know that would sell. What are we waiting for, DVD makers of America (and Canada)?

In the meantime, here's a Locker Jokes segment, Moose getting slimed repeatedly, and a call for support for SlimeCon 2009 (which Tinsel and Rot firmly endorses):


Breaking News: One of My Nightmares Soon to Come to Life

I received the following in an e-mail last night:

On behalf of our partner site, StarFlowEntertainment.com, you have the opportunity to see Kenny Chesney perform LIVE!!

Here's your chance to be part of an intimate live taping for the NBC Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular.

Kenny will be performing one song, several times for this PRE-TAPE, that will AIR on NBC's July 4th television special!.

The phrase "Kenny will be performing one song, several times" is the scariest thing I've ever read.

Interestingly enough, I will miss the opportunity to see said nightmare in the flesh because I will be seeing Emmylou Harris, who will be, I assume, performing several songs, once, at the Union Square Barnes & Noble.


In the Garden

I posted this on The Palm Isle, which, if you ever read it, you're certainly not reading in the off-season. So, I figured I'd cross-post it here. You're welcome:

I was reading a story in the New York Post Page Six magazine (keeping track of Sean Avery's whereabouts)about the multimillionaire in charge of granting medallions to NYC cabdrivers when I came across an interesting nugget. The main crux of the story was that the guy has his own box right above the players' entrance for every event in Madison Square Garden. Yes, every event--Rangers games, Knicks games, concerts, circuses, Ice Capades (they don't still have the Ice Capades, do they? I'm old), whatever he wants. That's how life is when your born into a ridiculously lucrative line of work. Must be nice.

Anyway, back to that interesting nugget. Check this out:

"When MSG offered to put leather captain's chairs in the box, he said no. 'It was too showy.' When they suggested turning his area into a jury box during hockey games by putting a spotlight on the seats and asking his section to give a thumbs up or down on whether or not to pull the goalie, he said, 'No, I don't think fans should be making those decisions.' It's hard to say what's more jaw-dropping. That MSG offered, or that he turned it down."

Seriously? The offer was on the table to have this douche and whomever he brought to the game decide if the Rangers should pull their goalie? That has to be a joke. I would say that the reporter should have confirmed this story with the Garden, but it's the Post (and a ridiculously vapid offshoot of the main paper at that), so that's asking too much. But if this is, in fact, true, it might just represent a new low for the Rangers, or at least a low not seen since the Sassoon days. I'm trying to imagine a stoppage in play with a minute left in the game and the classless baboons in the stands at the Garden turning their eyes to the spotlight that shines on a multimillionaire and his clients who will dictate the team's strategy for the rest of the game.

Oh, how I wish the guy agreed to do it.


Why I Love New York City (Vol. 236,731)

This is what I did on a sweltering Saturday in Manhattan (or, as I like to call it, the other side of Jersey City:

I took the PATH train in around 2 p.m. after actually waking up and being active before noon on a Saturday (two weekends in a row spent with friends with early-rising children has opened up the possibility that things can get done before noon on weekends). On my way to the Housing Works book fair, I spot a guy sitting behind a card table outside a store on Bleecker. He's reading a newspaper, and there are three copies of a book displayed on the table. I glance over and see orange and the words "Mr. Met." Focused on getting to the book fair, I keep walking up the street before I come to my senses and head back.

Hot damn. The original "Mr. Met" is signing copies of his book. That's right--the first Mr. Met, the man who first put on the oversized, somewhat frightening baseball head back in 1964. Seriously, what other city are you gonna find a guy like that selling books in front of some kind of pharmacy? Does the original Phillie Phanatic park himself outside of Geno's? Doubt it.

Anyway, I chat up Mr. Met (Dan Reilly) and pick up the book. I soon notice that Mr. Reilly is a fellow iUniverse author, which clinches the sale. And not only did I get my own personally inscribed book, but I also got a bonus signed photocopy of a photo of Reilly with the original Mr. Met head. Awesome.

I am on a high once I get to the actual book fair, and that high continues when I find a 1999 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame program lying on top of a box at the fair. It was a pretty good year for the Hall, with Bruce Springsteen. Billy Joel (screw you, haters), Bob Wills, and Paul McCartney among the inductees. But better yet, the program cover was designed by personal hero Jon Langford. And it was a buck. Score! I also picked up some Erle Stanley Gardner paperbacks, an Ian Frazier book, a Dick Butkus autobiography, and a few records. Fourteen items: $10 total. And the money went to a good cause.

I was running a little late to the Big Apple BBQ in Madison Square Park, but I got there just in time for the start of the Wild Magnolias' set and was able to squeeze in some pulled pork (something sounds really bad about that, but I'm leaving it) as I took in the Magnolias' set. Good times. And God bless the spyboys for their willingness to wear their garb and give it their all in 90-degree heat.

After ducking into a bar to not see horse racing history, I decided to walk to the Mercury Lounge, where the Bottle Rockets were doing the fourth in their series of 15 shows to celebrate their fifteenth anniversary as a band (with Eric Ambel and the Roscoe Trio directly preceding them on the stage). But I got sidetracked in Union Square by a pretty cool brass band doing the Isley Brothers' "Shout" (lest you think they were doing Tears for Fears's "Shout") and "Charlie Brown," among other numbers. I stuck around for about 20 minutes and didn't feel much like leaving but had to continue the journey to the Mercury Lounge so I could get there early enough to get good photo position (which, as often happens when I plan that, was about an hour earlier than I needed to be there).

After a pretty good set from the Apple Brothers and a damn fine set from Ambel and the Roscoe Trio, it was time for the main event. And the Bottle Rockets came through with a kickass set, which though it didn't include any of my three favorite Bottle Rockets songs, was still amazing. They played somewhere around 30 songs for a little over two hours, but by the time it ended with a completely incongruous and dead solid perfect cover of Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love," it was still over too soon.

On my walk back to the PATH station, it occurred to me that over the course of about 12 hours, I had sat for a total of maybe 15 minutes. And my back and legs were feeling that a bit. But it didn't feel that bad. After all, in that half-day, I had stumbled upon the original Mr. Met, picked up some cool books and records, ate some good barbecue, and heard a bunch of great music, including a two-hour set from one of my all-time favorite bands.

Thank you, New York.


Hey, Douchebag (Vol. 2)

This has annoyed me before--and will continue to annoy me until it ceases to happen--but, seriously, you people who sold out the 550-capacity Bowery Ballroom on Tuesday night for the US Air Guitar Championships are all giant douchebags. Every last one of you. I don't care if you were there to support your friend. Your friend's an even bigger douchebag and it's time he or she knew that. If you were there to see the metal tribute to the Bee Gees, I suppose I could let that slide, as they at least play actual music. But I'm leaning toward douchebag. Sorry.

Tuesday night I went to see one of the best live bands I've ever seen--the fabulous Waco Brothers--play to a decent-sized crowd that was not near a sellout in a venue almost comparable in size to the Bowery Ballroom. Yes, the Waco Brothers kicked ass for about two hours, playing real songs real fast and real well. But I guess that would''ve been too much for you, to reward people with musical passion instead of a douchebag organization that celebrates the simulation of passion.

Look, I don't care if you want to win the Air Guitar Championship. Good for you, sport. Best of luck. But to want to watch people play air guitar and pay money for the privilege? Nope, that's something only a douchebag can do. And it's the height of douchebaggery to make the conscious decision to head out on a Tuesday night to watch morons play air guitar in a city where dozens of bands are playing actual instruments and playing their actual hearts out for little to no money and small to nonexistent crowds. Every time I try to get someone to go see a good band on a weeknight, I get the whole "Oh, not on a school night" excuse, but somehow you and more than 500 of your douchebag peers were willing to go out on a school night to see douchebags act like douchebags? And pay for it? As the kids say, WTF?

Is this what the future will be like? Will we all hand over our money and stand slackjawed while douchebags play air guitar, or Guitar Hero, or Rock Band, or whatever the latest simulation of actual art and entertainment is? Really?

On the bright side, the Waco Brothers were awesome. You should've been there. Douchebag.


Bo Diddley RIP

Bo Diddley passed away Monday at the age of 79.

Ellas Otha Bates didn't really invent the Bo Diddley beat, but he sure as hell brought it to a lot of ears and other more mobile parts of the body. And he stands tall among the early pioneers of rock and roll, with the Bo Diddley beat providing countless bands with inspiration. Unfortunately, for all that, he probably got his biggest payday from Nike and not Chess Records. And that's why it's hard to shed too many tears for the decline of the record business.

"Who Do You Love?" was probably the first Bo song I fell in love with, wearing out the "La Bamba" soundtrack cassette I had it on. But there are plenty other great ones he can claim credit for, including "I'm a Man," "You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover," and, I just learned today, the Mickey and Sylvia hit (likely best remembered for its appearance in "Dirty Dancing") "Love Is Strange." I also learned that he was one of the first of the early rock and rollers to have women in his band, including rhythm guitarist Norma-Jean "The Duchess" Wofford, seen in the clip below. Pretty badass.

Yessir, Bo Diddley was a gunslinger. He'll be missed, but he leaves behind that beat.

RIP, Bo.


What I Liked About May

*Cooperstown Weekend 2008
*Playtime with friends' kids, Vestal, NY, and Wilmington, DE
*Von Hayes bumping two umpires, Newark, NJ
*Matthew Ryan vs. the Silver State/Jon Dee Graham, Living Room, NYC

*Was (Not Was)/Todd Snider, Blender Theater, NYC
*The square pie at Adrienne's Pizzabar, NYC
*Alejandro Escovedo, Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA
*The Flying Monkey cupcake, Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, PA

*Breakfast at Sweet Sue's, Phoenicia, NY
*New Jersey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, NJPAC, Newark, NJ
*Chiller Theatre, Parsippany, NJ
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places