Sunday, March 30, 2014

On its 20th anniversary, surveying and surviving the trauma of JIMMY HOLLYWOOD.

On this date twenty years ago, the comedy/drama JIMMY HOLLYWOOD opened.  I was one of its three stand-ins; none of us received screen credit for our seven to eight weeks of labor--ce'st la vie.

JIMMY HOLLYWOOD opened against the cinematic competition of MAJOR LEAGUE 2 and FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL.  It stiffed.  The audience didn't like it/didn't think it was funny or involving/didn't care for its takes on would-be actors and Instant Fame in an era seven years before SURVIVOR unleashed a floodtide of TV stars cast for reasons other than talent or conventional training in acting.

A few months after its release, JIMMY HOLLYWOOD was recut for VHS/DVD release (in some ways, an improvement over the theatrical cut).  Though it has some supporters, it sank into the cinematic equivalent of the La Brea Tar Pits, now so devoid of market value it can be seen for free by clicking the following link:

Perhaps the lasting impact of JIMMY HOLLYWOOD was that it served as a laboratory for its director.  The shoot-an-A-picture-fast approach was later applied to WAG THE DOG, more universally acclaimed critically and successful at the boxoffice.

I've written before about the unpleasant work atmosphere of JIMMY HOLLYWOOD as I perceived/experienced it.

Here's a quick precis: some crew members on the film were decent and generous to me (and I tried my best to reciprocate).  Others' behavior ranged from patronizing to contemptuous to hostile to downright vicious, seizing on any mistakes I may have made as a way of venting anger they couldn't display to people equal or higher on the filmmaking ladder.

I was scared of not measuring up and being fired--and two decades later, time and distance have enabled me to accept that other crewpeople were fearful for the same reasons and there were some things I could and should have taken less personally.  But, at the time, it was quite difficult for me to be detached enough to have a Big Picture view of what a key crew member of JIMMY referred to as "this madness."

Twenty years later, I write poetry and try to sell books and e-books of my work.  It's not always an easy vocation/avocation, but at least I've moved on with my life.

And, if I make a mistake, I can correct it without the paralyzing worry that I'm causing a hundred crew members to stop in their tracks and wait for me to get it right.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Randi Zuckerberg has her George Plimpton moment on Broadway.

Explaining the post title: George Plimpton of PARIS REVIEW fame had a lucrative sideline of being a "professional amateur" as football/baseball player/trapeze artist/bit-part movie actor and turning it into books and TV specials; one of the books (PAPER LION) became a movie in 1968, best known today as the breakout vehicle for Alan Alda, who played the reel version of Plimpton.

Now, let's go to Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.  She's on Broadway in the still-running stage version of ROCK OF AGES--offering insight into her new sideline, plus reacting in a tsk-tsk cluck-cluck way at the little people who aren't comfortable with San Francisco becoming a high-cost-of-living techie haven:
Your part of the plot is arguably a bit anti-capitalist, certainly anti-big money development. You even call the folks you're rallying "comrades." Does that strike you at all as a bit ironic, considering you and your family's own business success? Does part of your plot line ring true to your own life experience?
When I was developing the part, I actually found myself reading a lot about and calling upon the current struggles in San Francisco — the income disparity, the gentrification of the city with so much incoming tech wealth, the large homeless population. And that's what I drew upon to create my character. She's fighting to preserve L.A.'s Sunset Strip in the '80s.  But in my mind, she could easily be protesting in San Francisco today. I'm not saying that I agree with her personally. Some of her antics are completely over the top, ridiculous, and seemingly pointless — much like people throwing rocks at the Google shuttle buses in San Francisco today, causing destruction and harm to innocent people just to make a point. But in researching this role, it definitely made me see a new side of the story and forced me to put myself in the shoes of someone who loves their city and sees it changing into something completely foreign, right before their eyes. Change is really hard, and I admire her courage and fearlessness in standing up for what she believes — but at some point, we all need to realize that nothing stays exactly the same forever.

Here's the rest of the interview:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Peter Gabriel song also eulogy for past era of LA poetry.

YouTube link to Peter Gabriel's "We Do What We're Told":

Yes, I'm aware that people have life changes that divert them from their former activity in poetry.

But I've also seen the "don't ask questions, just accept and eat whatever the Leaders put in front of you" attitude in poets doing their best to avoid the fate of Irrelevance to the current scene.

And this is too bad, because, even at its sometimes preening, bullying worst, the days of late 1990s to early 2000s inspired genuine fellowship and the feeling that a place for you existed at the table--no matter  if you were a beginner or Published Poet/Professor.

That's over now.

Again, a toast to what once existed when Pete Justus, T. J. Sullivan, Jack Shafer and John Harris were part of the birth and early years of The Rapp Saloon in Santa Monica.

That's over now.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Saying goodbye to The Rapp Saloon reading that used to be.

Santa Monica CA's Rapp Saloon poetry reading began in 2000 at the International Youth Hostel (where it remains to this day).  I was fortunate enough to be one of its hosts; today, it was announced that the reading will be cut back in May from every Friday to the first and third Fridays of each month.  It now serves a less artistically diverse, more attuned to high-culture audience than it used to (when most factions of the LA/OC poetry communities commingled).  And perhaps The Rapp will maintain its current following for years to come.  But I mourn the now-official death of what it once was.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Justin Bieber taunts the police.

Canada's would-be-badass pop star flaunts his supposed superiority to mere police officers:
Bieber, who pleaded not guilty to DUI and other charges, also contested that he was drag-racing when the police arrested him and a friend in separate cars at a street blocked off by SUVs. As with his expletive-imbued arrest report, this new document, which described Bieber as "agitated and condescending," said he questioned why he was arrested.
"He then got upset and said, 'I'm 19 years old. I'm just out having a good time,'" the report said, quoting an officer. "'What were you doing when you were 19?'" When the policeman said he was not driving a yellow Lamborghini around, Bieber replied, "Yeah, well, I bet you didn't have millions of dollars in your bank account either."

Read more: 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dave Marsh and ROCK AND RAP CONFIDENTIAL deconstruct Kiss.

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WHY KISS AIN’T ON OUR LIST... Dave Marsh writes: In the fall of 1973, recently arrived in New York City and besotted by the extraordinary shows I’d seen by the New York Dolls in Queens and downtown Manhattan, I decided I wanted to investigate who the city’s best bands other than the Dolls might be. This wound up being a story that ran first in Newsday, the Long Island daily where I had the pop music beat; then Creem, which I was no longer editing but still writing for; and finally the British weekly, Melody Maker.

The article, which may have been headlined Great White Rock in its first appearance, boasted that there were currently a dozen “excellent” rock acts in the New York City area, and talked about eight of those I had seen. In order of appearance they were: The Dynomiters, Harlots of 42nd Street, Kiss, Luger, Elliott Murphy’s Aqua Show, New York Central, Queen Elizabeth featuring Wayne County and Teenage Lust. (I can’t remember why I didn’t mention the Miamis. I loved the Miamis—on stage anyway, like so many of these bands, that group was never captured right on tape.)

Coming up with a punk icon (Wayne County), one of the key New York singer-songwriters of the period whose career has lasted forty years (Elliott Murphy), and a huge pop success in the space of 2,500 words isn’t bad. But history—helped along by Wikipedia which at least three people have tried to amend for accuracy, all rejected by the mysterian Wikiprocess—remembers none of this. If it did, the Kiss Army might salute me rather than flooding my website with what amounts to “nyah, nyah, nyah,” now that Kiss is finally going to get into the Hall of Fame.

Because that article was the first mention of Kiss in the press, and it was not hostile. In its entirety it reads:

“This group looks as if it just stepped out of the underground movie Pink Flamingos, leading me to believe that I was right all along in thinking that the glitter craze was an ugliness contest.

“But Kiss's music sounds as if it is the most thought-out, controlled sound around, and the stage show is just as professional. And, they say, Eddie Kramer (of Led Zeppelin and Electric Ladyland) wants to produce them. Heavy metal meets El Topo.”

OK, I called them ugly. Why the fuck did you think they added the face paint? Other than that, it’s at least a kind of backhanded praise. It’s honest, too. I didn’t like Kiss, but I recognized what they had going for them (though I wish I had mentioned manager Bill Aucoin, a great market manipulator who’s been cheated out of almost all credit thanks to the megalomania infesting that band’s camp.)

Musically, I was done with them before I ever turned the first album over to the second side. Kiss had an extraordinary aptitude for adopting every cliché in hard rock history, and a complete absence of any ability to create so much as a hint of a new one. (I suppose maybe they were the model for Motley Crue?) The most interesting of their studio albums is Destroyer, and it’s not all that interesting, except as an example of the highly professional output of producer Bob Ezrin and guitarist Dick Wagner during the mid-‘70s. On their own, they were not clever at coming up with riffs, the beats are as repetitious as punk but without the energy, and their most interesting lyric is “Beth” which is nothing more than third-rate Bob Seger blended with second-rate Billy Joel, or maybe “Detroit Rock City” which is a clumsy J. Geils swipe...and so forth except for the disco album, I guess.

But they have the best make-up in the Hall. Until Insane Clown Posse is inducted, at least.

I realize this paints Kiss as more mediocre than incompetent, but....well, if the only qualification is having made a record at least 25 years before the ballots got mailed out, they are qualified, and perhaps I shall be fortunate enough not to live to see the advent of Justin Bieber and One Day in the Hall's once formidable list of inductees.

And yeah, Kiss inspired a lot of kids to want to be in bands. So did half a dozen girls (and boys!) in every high school graduating class.

All that mediocrity was harmless enough until the boastful bassist decided to turn it into a propaganda machine for the only two things he’s ever loved: Gene Simmons and money. Sex Money Kiss, his book on how to become a rich success, offers a stupendous (or maybe I mean stupefying) blend of preposterous career advice, dangerously over-simplified and inaccurate economic information and advice, and an account of human intercourse—by which I don’t mean just sex--that verifies emotional stagnation at the age of maybe fourteen. You could figure the same stuff out in maybe fifteen minutes of watching his dumb-ass TV show. (Yes, this means I passed on reading the other two. Pointless repetition is one of the worst things about Kiss.)

Alas, Simmons also has politics, of a sort, though I’d sure he would deny anything of the kind because that might alienate part of the audience—although since he views the rest of the species as essentially a chain of ATMs, maybe not. He is basically a cheerleader for capitalism and spreading the U.S. system abroad in ways that make Bono look like John Maynard Keynes.

Then there are his sexual politics, which amount to “Bend over, meat” and I mean that literally. It is true that Simmons imagines all other human beings (except his sainted mama and perhaps his kids) as inherently inferior to himself, but he has a particular contempt for women. I stopped being amused by this along about the time that he began to boast about his Polaroid collection. The misogynist misanthropy reaches a pinnacle in his 2008 book, Ladies of the Night: A Historical and Personal Perspective on the Oldest Profession in the World.

It seems odd that he didn’t write the book he’s best qualified for on this topic, which would be a history of pimping. Because if Simmons isn’t an evangelist he is certainly a peddler, and he practices the hard sell and the emotional con. Kiss didn’t have fans, it had an Army because they were the biggest band of their era. The truth is, Kiss never sold more than 2 million copies of a studio album although that was precisely the time when the Bee Gees and Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and a bunch of others began to sell 10 million (and more). One reason Kiss’s audience is early teenagers-- though these days that is true more often emotionally than chronologically, of course—is that only someone stuck there would be so militantly gullible.

Why shouldn’t Kiss be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Because they have added not the slightest musical value to rock, which is why they were not especially huge record sellers. And because, so far, in one way or another, the Hall has avoided honoring the music at its most mercantile and shallow.

But above all because there are so many worthy candidates who are not in the Hall of Fame. At the snail ‘s pace at which the Hall parcels out induction, many of the artists in the list below will be dead before they are even on the ballot. In Kiss’s own genre and time, by which I mean 1970s hard rock, almost every fan of it as a whole (as opposed to the Kiss Army) would agree that at least Cheap Trick, Deep Purple, Judas Priest and Motorhead are not just more deserving, but far, far better choices. Not every one of these fifty artists, who operated at more or less the same time as Kiss, are going to end up in the Hall of Fame nor should they. But they’re all better than Kiss.

Alice in Chains


Bad Brains

Bad Company

Black Oak Arkansas

Black Crowes

Blue Oyster Cult

Body Count

Bootsy’s Rubber Band

Canned Heat

Cheap Trick

The Commodores

Deep Purple

Def Leppard




J. Geils Band

Humble Pie

Iron Maiden

The James Gang

Rick James

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

Judas Priest


Living Colour


Molly Hatchet

Mother’s Finest


Mott the Hoople


New York Dolls

Ted Nugent / Amboy Dukes

Ohio Players



Procol Harum

The Scorpions


Social Distortion



Twisted Sister

Ten Years After

Thin Lizzy

The Time



White Zombie

(This list was compiled by RRC, not Dave Marsh alone.)

Actual CNN website headlines.

Taken from today's  homepage :
Should you go to college for Mrs. degree?
Is Colorado getting too high?
Where is 'Obama girl' now?
Meet the SAT tutor to the 1%

No comment.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

New poem: WHAT IS HELL?


it’s a question
that rents a room
in my mind these days

is Hell a place
like the current
Beverly Center food court
where almost everything
is closed
and you’re the only one
informally dining there
and the elevators don’t work
and the escalator is broken
so you can’t leave the mall
no matter how much you want to

or is it a chain bookstore
where you’re watching
a powerful blowhard poet
declaiming in body language
turned up to 12:
and you can’t leave the store
no matter how much you want to

or is Hell
that part of one’s psyche
repeating this mantra:
if it happened Before,
it will happen Once More,
and you can’t make a move,
atone for sins,
or try anything new
and you can’t leave your house
no matter how much you want to

Thursday, March 6, 2014

COMMUNITY and poetry communities.

Below, I've included a small portion of Todd VanDerWerff's AV CLUB review of the latest COMMUNITY episode titled "App Development and Condiments."  The episode focuses on social media (with a side order of futuristic dystopia parody--including a gag referencing Sean Connery's costume in John Boorman's ZARDOZ).

[The episode is] also, belatedly, about the idea that revolutionaries almost inevitably replace the system they long to overthrow with something that can be just as—if not more so—oppressive, because people are people and have a tendency to overcorrect for past errors (and become corrupted by power).

In Southern California (at least), the "revolutionaries" of poetry overthrew a system which (they believed) brought too many "bad" poets/comics/storytellers to the table in order to create a franchise of readings which mostly pay homage to the defunct Hyperpoets reading at Venice CA's Rose Café.  So, fewer readings, fewer poets--but "better" ones, as the Cultural Commandos see it.

Here's a link to the complete VanDerWerff review:

Monday, March 3, 2014

Blog commenter on Matthew McConaughey's me-tastic Oscar speech.

"Joel" commenting on critic Glenn Kenny's blog SOME CAME RUNNING, had this to say about Matthew McConaughey's acceptance speech for Best Actor Sunday night:
 "Almost nothing on screen last year was as entertaining as Matthew McConaughey thanking all the Matthew McConaugheys throughout history for the success of Matthew McConaughey."

For some more added context, here's comedian/satirist Martin Mull with his 1970s song I'M EVERYONE I'VE EVER LOVED:

Album cover for the above: