So I was watching Charles Owen’s quintet jam at LACMA on Friday–they were really cooking–and Marlon Brando’s gardener was dancing up a storm, a crazy expressive beatnik gonzo dance, all in his own world. Some hipster is filming him and trying not to look like he was filming him which made him really look like he was filming him and you couldn’t help but stare, like he was the lamest spy ever. It made the lady archaeologist mad. Made her really mad. She wanted to hit him, that hipster. She wanted to punch him in the face. It’s an odd thing, a mad archeologist. Somehow anger and archaeology don’t seem to go together. Simmering, maybe, or grudges even, but wanting to punch some goofball hipster in the face, I dunno. But it reminded me of George Zucco. George Zucco? She’d never heard of him. I explained how there was a movie called the Feathered Serpent in which George Zucco played a mad archaeologist. There was, too, and it was a perfectly lousy movie, except the villain was a mad archaeologist. A very limited genre. A jazz critic pal of mine on hand seemed to know everything about George Zucco. Weird how that happens, but he did. All his roles, even as a grave robber. He’d played an excellent grave robber, that George Zucco. Not many do. Chevy Chase would play a terrible grave robber. As would Richard Burton. I mentioned neither, so not to ruin my pal’s spiel. If a guy’s playing a hand, I let him play it. I’m no kibitzer. By now all the archaeologist’s rage had dissipated, the goofball hipster unpunched. Which was good. It would have ruined a perfectly splendid afternoon. We retired for drinks and babble, talking about Marlon Brando’s gardener again, and what a wonderful, wonderful town this is.
Going to a PopDefect gig at Al’s Bar on a Friday night in July, before the smoking ban and the house is packed, beyond packed even…you came home, threw all your clothes in the washer and washed your face, as if that would help. Woke up past noon smelling like Perth Amboy. Jump in the shower and then likely do it all over again on Saturday night if the line-up looked good. It usually did. What a glorious hell hole Al’s Bar was. All of us will die early from the air in there. Plus the bathroom fixtures were sticky. And the Pope getting everyone way too high on the back patio. How did they put their band sticker way up there? I saw your name in the men’s room. It says you rock. You put your cigarette out in my beer. What a stupid band name. There’s somebody fucking in the photo booth. My car got broken into again, and I gave the homeless guy a dollar to watch it. No, the bartender’s boyfriend is in the band. No, not the drummer. We’re not on the guest list? Jackson Brown, here, really? It was better before they earthquaked it. Art fag! Damn, if my wife wasn’t here I could get so laid right now. Can we get anything in the monitors? Wow, Seattle. God that art sucks. Are the smoke machines really necessary? You live upstairs? Uh oh, I owe her money. I go to Raji’s now but I drank too much. I was way up front and that blonde’s ass was rubbing against me the whole time. Dude, you gotta lay off the junk. Tip or die! Shit, took so long to find a parking space I missed the first band. Who were they? They don’t serve food in here? Yeah, I know, but I’m clapping because they put me on their guest list. I used to walk here from the Brave Dog. It was cool then. Spoken word? In here? It’s five bucks for the single but it’s colored vinyl. Cliff said no way. I saw a dead guy out on the sidewalk once. My band is here next month. Can I get a martini? No? We’re kind of a Stooges meets Velvets meets Exile on Main Street era Stones thing, but all original. Just talk to the bouncer, he always gets me in. How come there’s never any toilet paper in the ladies room? Wow, another Flipside guy. The beer is warm. I couldn’t hear a fucking thing up there./ Yup, I smoked a joint with Kurt Cobain where that pile of boxes is now. I didn’t know you played the saxophone. I met Angie Bowie here once. I met my ex-boyfriend here. I thought I met Robert DeNiro here once but it was just some guy. Either I’m way too stoned or that band is way too weird. After party? Where? Can I come? Their seven inch is worth big money now. She’s a performance artist, but be nice. We got reviewed in Maximum Rock’n'roll, but I couldn’t tell if they liked us or not. Yeah, but he’s an asshole now. We wanna shoot our video here. Under the table at rock’n'rolI Denny’s? Really? I dunno, some shitty band from Boston or Austin or something. They’ll be done soon. I can’t find my shit. She’s naked. Completely. We got banned from no talent nite ’cause we were too talented. Here’s a flyer. Who didn’t you sleep with? We need gas money. A naked guy jumped into the drum kit when I closed my eyes. This is a drinking song! My feet are killing me. It’s on compact disc, but all I have is a cassette player. I liked ‘em better when they couldn’t play. Wiener Gotcha. Hey, that’s George Herms. The band wasn’t much, but the chick on bass was hot. Whose getting laid on top of the volkswagen? No, outside. I played pool with Jerry Brown but my girlfriend danced with Linda Ronstadt. Dude that’s way too many piercings. Would you guys mind, we’re trying to conduct an interview here. Sounds like he blew an amp. Yeah, the hot little bartender is a writer, I always tip her extra. El Duce pissed on me once. You should have seen the encore. We were getting high in the soundbooth..we know the guy.Those assholes can’t play pool worth shit. The singer showed me her boob job. TURN DOWN!!!! I hate this place. Wait, I’ll go to Bloom’s for more rolling papers. That guy’s been hitting on me all night, I think he’s from Orange County. I never liked this punk metal shit. There is no industry list. The dominatrix at the bar teaches at my kid’s school. Art damage, they still call it that? Oh, that smells good. They’re trying to find the drummer now. What does a fluffer do? Whose beer did I just sit in? There’s glass all over the floor there. I think I got her phone number. Remember when these guys were good? The toilet overflowed. She’s one of those Brat Pack chicks, ignore her. It’s a fanzine, there’s a xerox machine at work. I think of them as art films, actually. She hated the band so much she threw the money at them and told them to get off the stage. Look across the street, a yuppie. Let’s fuck with him. Meet ya at the Chinese Denny’s, you can sober up there. Sonic Youth, here? Or just somebody from New York? Jack Brewer weirded me out. He always does. You get a flyer? Puppet shows never work in here. Sex Bomb! Not rockabilly, swampabilly. This is the greatest place in the world if you’re fucked up. There’s not enough graffiti in the bathroom. She thinks she’s Siouxsie Sioux. He’s drinking all the half empty beers. I know all the backstreets. Oh god, another yuppie. There goes the neighborhood.
You big literate fuck, quit writing so well. There’s only room for one poetic underachieving big gnarly lug in this town, and it ain’t you. So what’s with the “I smell tamales, marijuana, burnt hair, and disappointment. What the hell is going on here?” This is Facebook. Writing is dead. Mediocrity prevails. Why can’t you get with the program? Just hit the like button a few times, change your profile picture, add a YouTube link and voila, you’ve written a novel. Better yet, tweet something. Anything. 140 characters, including spaces. But lay off the literacy and pretty writing. I don’t want to see one more post I wish I’d written. Fuck you.
Aside from that I’ve had a great weekend.
Written in 2007 and appearing on the LA Weekly.com site, this seems ancient now, from another life time, another person really, utterly unjaded and trying hard as he possibly can to be a jazz critic.Oh jeez. Fun story, though, and a very fond memory.
I love my buddy Dean. Ya can’t not love him…he’s a nut. And inspired, brilliant, funny, knows everything and everybody Sicilian motormouth of a musician from New York City with a heart the size of Indiana. A place he probably hates. So Dean begins emailing and calling me at work on Monday morning (no kidding…it was a Monday morning) and starts in at turbospeed about some guy whose name I never did get except I think it sounded Slavic or Balkan, something central European and points east who’s a saxophone player from Cleveland and he’s the best and yadda yadda freaking yadda. And something about a neighbor who gets his Sicilian heart and points south a-stirring, and they are new best buddies, and she’s a sweetheart, and I’ll love her, and she’s an ex-dancer or something, and she comes from Cleveland, and she’s a publicist now and has this new client who’s this saxophonist from Cleveland, and she’s got him a gig or showcase at Catalina’s and you have to be there because I told her (in a drunken moment I am sure) that you are a ”jazz journalist” for that weekly whatever it is you write for and I promised you’d be there. Continue reading
John Altman plays with the Mark Z Stevens Trio tonite, Saturday Feb 2, at the Desert Rose in Los Feliz, corner of Prospect and Hillhurst. Music is 7 to 11. There’s no cover. That’s the bare facts. Everything below is just my usual charmingly humorous diatribe, but hell, if I were you I’d read it. Besides, Mark asked if I could spread the word about the gig. I said sure, Mark, anything for you babe. Because that’s the way we talk in show biz, and that’s the way we roll. Continue reading
(This was an email I sent earlier this summer. Hadn’t realized it was posted to The LA Beat by a very dear conniving editrix. I do remember getting an outraged email from a very dear enraged publicist because I had failed to mention another Escovedo son. You make a lot of enemies in this bizz.)
Pete Escovedo has his Orchestra at Hollywood & Highland tonite. Great stuff. Music is 7-9 pm, it’s free, parking is $3 with validation (buy a candy bar for a buck) and either buy the wine there or even better sneak something in. Hoo boy.
Pete and brother Coke were in Santana (and Azteca), his kid is Alejandro (of the Zeroes), and his kidette is Sheila E (as in Prince and several gorgeous covers of Modern Drummer), who sometimes plays with this bunch, wailing on the kit and looking beautiful. You try that.
Pete puts on a rocking latin jazz show with a great big sound. Some funk and soul here, maybe some pop there for me to complain about. Pretty cooking. Plus he’s the nicest guy on the planet. Cool scene, too. It’ll be crawling with latin jazz hipsters and dancers will be grinding away all over the place. Lots of babes. Plus you can go out onto the Boulevard and stare at the freaks and superheroes or go next door and put your hands into Judy Garland’s handprints and look like a complete jackass. They have footprints, too. And Jayne Mansfield stuck her….no she didn’t. I was making that up. I apologize. Nevermind. Better to just stay inside Hollywood and Highland. Really.
Oh….you can also try and win the free wine they give away between sets. You could wind up with some bowling passes and feel like an idiot, Jose Rizo handing you some bowling passes, but I won the wine twice in one month a few years ago. Really. People thought it was fixed. It wasn’t, honest. One of them was a big giant bottle of red wine that a number of you got hammered on at a party we threw probably just to watch you get hammered on that big bottle of wine. But you wouldn’t remember. You were too fucked up.
(I just won the bowling tickets a couple weeks ago. Bubba Jackson handed them to me and I felt like an idiot.)
Was at the Hollywood Bowl yesterday for the L.A. Phil’s press party. The spread is onstage in the bandshell. Food, drink, reporters, musicians, hustlers, hangers on, sundry rich people, a lotta suits and some nice legs even. Gustavo Dudamel is really little. Maybe 5’6″. I’d seen him milling about in the mix last night, just another fast talking gay kid scamming on the free grub/drinks because he works in the mail room of an advertising company or something. Lucky for me I didn’t smack his hand down when he reached for the purple potato wedge things. His goons would have been on me in a second. Well, they don’t have goons at the Philharmonic. Unless those little gay kids are goons. And Dudamel isn’t gay. I was stereotyping. You can do that with that crowd. Or maybe I’ve just been around Hollywood too long.
The potatoes were purple, though. Weirdest food was the gazpacho in a spoon. Big white spoons with a big mouthful of gazpacho in each. You take a spoon off the silver tray the silent, expressionless waiter holds out for you, slurp the thing down, and then put the slurped spoon down on a tray another silent, expressionless guy holds out for you. It was one of those revoltingly decadent things, a silent servant holding a spoon for you to slurp, something out of the Last Emperor, maybe, or like the French Revolution never happened. I slurped but felt guilty about it. I mean imagine that gig—you’re the guy who holds the slobbered spoons tray. He probably was an actor. They all looked like it, the waiters/waitresses. All handsome or pretty, the girls in the same outfits as the guys—black pants and shirts and a bright pink or yellow tie. Maybe they were color coded. I didn’t notice what color tie the slobbered spoon guy had on. I doubt anyone else did either. I doubt they noticed him at all.
I wonder if a generation ago people held out spoons for people to slurp. I doubt it. I think that’s something new. And I think it says a lot.
(email, 2009 or so)
The wine flowed, all delicious Italian varieties. I just asked for something red and then something else red and then—I had three—something red again. They were all tasty. The guy read me the name off the bottle each time but I had forgotten it by the time I nodded “oh”.
The hors d’oevres were the best I’ve ever had and the little waiter guys with the trays kept bringing them on. Got stuffed on little mouthfuls. Trout caviar is delicious. We snuck away from the schmoozing and wandered about the grounds, very nice, very unassuming. You weren’t supposed to know who was inside doing whatever things rock stars do that they don’t want known. There’s a secret entrance for the Madonnas and the like. Bars everywhere, pool side, on both sides of the lobby, everywhere you looked there were people sitting with drinks and chatting their heavy significant chats or giggling as champagne tickled their noses. There was a singer I had heard on the event’s website who really intrigued me, a soul sort of thing, and as I had mentioned it to the publicist previously suddenly she, her producer, and some unidentified others were ushered into my august presence. We had a nice chat. Turns out she was the evening’s entertainment and I was very impressed. They were thrilled and whispered about it in Italian. I was talked into attending the fancy concert at the Fonda on Saturday where she’ll be performing with half a dozen other Italian acts. Full band this time. The backstage will have gourmet Italian grub and wine, they emphasized. Bring your dear wife. I wasn’t sure if I was open that night and hemmed and hawed a bit and said yes (one always hems and haws a bit). The publicist restrained a squeal and the Italians smiled and whispered among themselves. The singer, thank god, speaks fluent English, well, is in fact an American raised in Italy so I guess she got on the bill on a technicality. Afterward the hotel manager overheard that I was from the LA Weekly and I was snatched away to join a tour of the hotel’s recording studio beneath the pool. Very nice. Madonna had just been there. Joe Perry that very day. His amp was there. We weren’t allowed to touch it. After the Italians wandered back up to the bar left we stayed a bit and talked studio business and recording techniques and music stuff. They were thrilled to have a real live LA Weekly guy in their studio. I mean, there were a couple other journalists at the party, actually, there, all from tiny little monthly rags, none of whom were on the tour. I mean puhleez……
Alas the end of the night was drawing nigh, and I had to scurry off to my beautiful Buick Lucerne before it turned into a pumpkin and me into an office worker again.
It was so show biz there. The side no one talks about. The kind of people Perez Hilton would never draw gonads on. At one point I was hanging with a legendary weed dealer (though that’s virtually legal now), a wholesale hashish dealer (“By the pound only, $3,600″) and a music journalist turned bank robber and now, paroled, a music journalist again. Well, a heroin dealing music journalist. I didn’t know that at the time, but writers all need that day gig. And I really liked the guy’s writing. The best of it he wrote in prison. All that spare time. He’s dead now though, a car accident. I liked him, but it was for the better. I hate heroin dealers. Come to think of it I have known two bank robbers, one that writer/heroin dealer/dead guy I mentioned, the other a musician. He was paroled and became a history teacher. A poetess I know was a heroin dealer. I lost track of her. It’s best to lose track of heroin dealers. It’s best to lose track of heroin addicts, too, but only because they steal your stuff and break your hearts. Continue reading
(email from I dunno when, but back aways)
My standout musical memory of the Sunset Junction Festival was Universal Congress Of…it was the year they held it in Echo Park along the lake and as usual back then the festival was great but the music bland and then UCO hit the stage and were intense. Play some more of that outside shit! somebody bellowed, and they did, Steve Moss screaming on the sax, Joe Baiza just gone on electric Ornette, and Jason Kahn’s self-taught drumming driving it all ahead. They got so funky the people danced. I also remember Pygmy Love Circus ending the event year after year…loud, fierce, drunken, funny as hell/ Once Spaceland took over and pulled them ya knew it was the beginning of the end. All those poppy “Silverlake Sound” acts they’d book…. That wasn’t the Silverlake sound we remembered. Our’s was much harder and weirder, but Spaceland slowly squeezed that out of the Sunset Junction. But it was also fun to always see your friends play there, though usually in the lesser slots (11 a.m.!) I remember my brother Lex’s band last ever gig was there and they were awesome. My brother Jon played there I don’t know how many times. It was all punk and cholo and aging hippies and leather queers back then…and you couldn’t go twenty paces with running into someone you knew….glorious times. I used to love that fair. For years we lived on Edgecliffe three doors up from Pig Park (the little triangle where Jack Zinder died…Fyl named it in memory our of guinea pigs)…back then our pad was party central, three days non stop partying all Memorial Day Weekend year after fucking year. The best stage was right there at Edgecliffe & Sunset. It hadn’t completely transformed into the gay stage yet. One mellow afternoon I went down and caught Jesters of Destiny and Universal Congress Of back to back. I have that on tape (I had a blaster and recorded everything back then…I have hundreds of hours of stuff from about ’85-’90). A lot of the other music over the years blends into each other now in my grey matter; nothing specific stands out. Once they began bringing in rock stars, though, they fucked it all up. And the booths got so expensive local vendors couldn’t afford them. No more Silverlake Militia selling tee shirts, no more local merchants.no more people you knew trying to sell their art or their music or whatever local people sell when booths cost a couple hundred dollars. We moved over the swish alps to where we are now about 1991 and in the mid-nineties the partying switched to our pal Sketch’s pad off just off the Bates stage and early on they had great bands there and the cover was a voluntary $2 then $3 then $5 which we paid. Cool hangs at Sketch’s….best ever time there was maybe twenty years ago and getting there at noon and parking in front of Sketches (Fyl would cab it later in the day) and it was so hot we wound up hanging inside all day…DVH showed up early too and pulled out a jay and then another and another and I got soooo high when we finally went through the gate it was like Checkpoint Charlie and I was gripped by paranoia and all the colors shimmered and the sounds were like Ives or “Section 43″ or heavy heavy dub and it was like being at the Festival on acid….
(What a difference twenty years makes. The Sunset Junction Fair is dead, killed by greed. And if I smoked three joints now I’d melt.)