Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Jim Morrison: Rage from the Stage but Think on the Page

 

Whether he lacked the talent or time to develop into a great poet remains unclear. Much of Jim Morrison’s brief life is obscured—perhaps strategically—with vague pronouncements, clumsy metaphors, spacey diatribes and art house pretension. But when he was great, he drifted far beyond expectations, completely original, yet always too smart for the job.

Importantly, Jim Morrison looked like a rock star. The image matched the music—perfectly. In 1967, he invented how a rock star must appear—the hair, the leather pants, the boots, even the attitude. So powerful is the image of Morrison that his influence remains undiminished.

With The Doors, he found a band to match his dark visions. Ray Manzarek’s brooding organ seemed wired to Morrison’s dread. When Morrison died, so did The Doors, though they struggled for a while, pushed on by the momentum of their silent singer.  

He grew uncomfortable with show business, more artist than magician, more preacher than singer, hungering for fame until aware too late his soul had stopped. You can rage from the stage but only think on the page.

Restless demons empowered his words. He battled bravely until no drug or drink could forestall The Big Sleep—which was his end game anyway. Or maybe not.  With months to live, he was trying to get better in Paris, get his lungs back, repair a heart damaged by rheumatic fever, but never made it. His girlfriend didn’t help. Or maybe it was all predestined, just as he had predicted.  Like his contemporary, George Harrison, much of Morrison’s life seems passed in preparation for death. And Death always obliges the eager.

At Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Jim Morrison appears nightly, courtesy of The 27 Club, alone in a dimly lit corner, forever searching for that single, indelible, timeless line that always tells the truth.



#jimmorrison #thedoors #lizardking #lawoman #lightmyfire #classicrock #perelachaise #georgeharrison #1960s #rock #music #27club #losangeles #whiskeyagogo

 

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Eve Babitz: It’s All About Eve

 


Though labelled a 1960s ‘It Girl’ (but never ‘a West Coast Edie Sedgwick’), Eve Babitz, through force of personality, creativity, and a hard buzz of underlying craziness, made herself, and those around her, an enduring work of art. That’s a rare achievement that can’t be strategized or funded—thank God. (Corporations remained puzzled, restricted by an invisible blockade, unable to monetize whatever ‘It’ is.)

Consider ‘It’ as yet another definition of organic. Eve belongs more to a ‘sense’ of time & place than actual Los Angeles in the 1960s-70s... Faulkner is always the Deep South. Fitzgerald remains preserved in the sparking lapis lazuli of the Jazz Age. A time & place. That’s Eve.

So there she is seated, naked with pendulous breasts, playing chess with Marcel Duchamp (1963), in a moment definitely closer to Dadaism than Cubism. Or she’s dancing somewhere on the Sunset Strip, in a hot club with Warren Beatty or Steve Martin or Ahmet Ertegun or Stephen Stills or Jim Morrison or Edward Ruscha or Warren Zevon or Harrison Ford… or whomever. More explorer than groupie. 

Her appetite for Life was enormous, enabling true participatory journalism, involuntarily leap-frogging Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer and Hunter Thompson and other practitioners of ‘new journalism’. Eve wrote about Eve, even though it’s never clear she totally understood her subject. Thankfully, it’s all about Eve.

Her books and articles have a wayward honesty that pull readers into tentative friendships: you want to travel with her, but remain firmly in the back seat.

Eve’s often outrageous behavior is somehow subsumed in the inevitability of her actions—as if ‘it had to happen this way. Can you describe a more interesting alternative?’

Anyway, it’s those restless, Peter Pan-eccentric spirits, garnishing dull days with pixie dust, then to dance beneath diamond skies, to bequeath us the prayer ‘There’s wild magic everywhere. You only have to move.’


#evebabitz #losangeles #warrenbeatty #jimmorrison #harrisonford #normanmailer #huntersthompson #marcelduchamp #fscottfitzgerald #williamfaulkner #edie sedgwick #andywarhol #1960s #1970s

Friday, January 14, 2022

D.B. Cooper: Brushing Heaven’s Gate With a Landing Light

D.B. Cooper...or whatever...

Do not look for him

In brittle mountain streams

And do not examine the angry rivers

For shreds of his body

Or turn the shore stones for his blood

But in the warm salt ocean

He is descending through cliffs

Of slow green water

And hovering colored fish

Kiss his snow-bruised body

And build their secret nests

In his fluttering winding-sheet

-          Leonard Cohen

-   

He hails from 1971 but the vibe is sooo 60s. He’s Clyde Barrow with a parachute. He’s Randle McMurphy escaping into the midnight trees. Nobody really knows anything about D.B. Cooper, except that he hijacked a Boeing 727, got $200,000, and jumped out at 10,000 feet with a parachute over southwest Washington State. Pitch black. Raining. Never seen or heard from again. No body. No parachute. Nada.  The snake eats its tail.

The crime remains the only unsolved air piracy in commercial aviation history. It’s driven people crazy.  Thousands of books and articles have been written. There are a million theories. Why? Ask yourself why?

The FBI has given up. Exhausted after decades of futility... He’s gone baby gone, this black-feathered defrocked angel that ordered a bourbon and soda, stared out the plane’s window, then vanished forever into the night, as if he was never there; as if he never existed.  He is Camus’ Meursault, but more than an outsider—someone who has no need for terra firma; a fading phantom who cannot be traced through corporeal stigmata.

They could never find him because they were always looking down.  This narrative is clearly airborne. It has to do with winding jet streams and falling into the sky and holding onto the back of that silent condor as it sweeps up to the moon and brushes heaven’s gate with a landing light.


#dbcooper #hijack #cult #criminal #1971 #boeing #popculture

Monday, January 3, 2022

Kurt Vonnegut: Trapped in the Amber of this Moment

 



 He looked like the themes he wrote about—a slightly debauched Mark Twain who just may have traded river rafts for a space ships, and cigars for cigarettes.

Kurt Vonnegut had seen war close up with burning fleshing in the air and eventually counterbalanced the horror with child-like euphemisms.

His novels were somehow meta long before self-awareness became buddy-buddy with irony. His books are easy-to-read prophesies, non-sectarian but spiritual, dark with a flashing light at the end of the tunnel.

An obvious humanitarian, Vonnegut was wary of humanity. Slaughterhouse House Five, which he claimed to be his best book, isn’t about World War Two so much as it’s about the kind of people who participated in the war and how it affected them. His skill comes in melding the fantastic to the ordinary—and in that way explains how easily evil may overcome good, and vice-versa.

Like Hemingway, his sentences are deceptively simple. With Vonnegut, you’re misled by the often sophomoric humor, glib insights or near-cartoon characters. Then, later, the full force of the message hits you and that rare and precious reader-writer connection clicks in.

Initially embraced by the 1960s counter-culture, Vonnegut aged without relinquishing his Mark Twain follicles and cigarettes, his mustache sagging under the weight of worries—that humans might not make it over the fence; that people are too smart in the wrong way.

There is a Zen quality to his writing, as if he’s seeking the tranquility to be found in the acceptance that no one, ever, has really understood life.

                                ---

“Why me?"

“That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?"

"Yes."

- Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”

-         Slaughterhouse Five


 #kurtvonnegut #vonnegut #slaughterhousefive #author #american #counterculture #huntersthompson #billypilgrim #glenngould

 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Anna Karina: The Importance of the Moment


She didn’t belong with the hippies. She wasn’t rebelling. She wasn’t stoned. With Anna Karina, you could see the love of life was on her face, even when bathed in a vale of tears.


There seemed to be a Zen-like acceptance of the here-and-now, no yesterday and maybe no tomorrow.  Her pursuit of the present was irresistible.

She might dance now. She might cry or adjust her beret. It was the ‘moment’ and you couldn’t look away. There was no need for a narrative or three-act structure or character deficits. There was just Anna.

It was a charmed life (often the gods are kind to those with no agenda)...as if the French New Wave just happened to her. With her pale face and dark eyes, there’s a lightness to her that is ghostly. We see her forever in a school-girl outfit, pleated skirt and sweater: it wasn’t innocence; it was detachment.

In her face and body and attitude was an expression of the unshakable confidence that comes with the serenity of freedom:  she was what the 1960s always wanted to be.



 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Amanda Lear: A Riddle inside an Enigma Wrapped in a Sequin Gown

 

Was she born a man? A woman? When? 1939? 1941? Where? Saigon?  Hong Kong? Singapore? Switzerland?  And why is her voice so deep?

Who was/is/will be Amanda Lear? 

Questions without answers. Yet there she is – beautiful, vivacious, easy to laugh, rushing to the next party, posing for Salvador Dali, hanging with the Beatles and Stones. She models for prominent designers. She’s a cover girl on fashion magazines.

David Bowie pays for her singing lessons and off she goes to become a big star in France and Germany. A disco queen. A professional muse.  She paints canvas. Dali paints her. She poses for Playboy.


So easily bored. Amanda writes songs. She has lovers. She is a gay icon. She doesn’t belong in the 1960s/70s/80s/90s because she has no use for time. 

The real Amanda can only be seen by moonlight in a patina of pixie dust, sprinkled by a wayward nymph on her lazy way to nowhere.  

The best mystery enjoys unending immunity.


Friday, April 16, 2021

Sophia Loren: Of Strangeness in the Proportion

 

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.” - Edgar Allan Poe

We have millions of Monroe and Bardot lookalikes, but there are few, if any, women who remotely resemble Sophia Loren. What is it about her beauty that it should be restricted to one face only, ever?

The eyes, the nose and the lips – the proportions are odd, yet together proffer an allurement more supplication than seduction. If sound took form we would see harmony.

Her face remains more in memory than on a screen – for that’s where she belongs amid timeless shadows and sighs, the candle-lit embrace under a windswept moon with everything drifting out to dawn.

She could only come from an old land of sun and sea where the past is bemused by the present, knowing the love of life leaves you untouched by time. You can see it in her smile and the way she swirls her skirt. When she’s around, you don’t need a clock.



Monday, March 15, 2021

Stuart Sutcliffe: Those We Leave Behind

 


"[He is my] alter ego ... a spirit in his world ... a guiding force.” – John Lennon

 

It would be cosmically ironic if Stuart Sutcliffe (1940-1962), an original member of The  Beatles, ever wanted to be a famous musician. But he quit the group early on to begin a life behind an easel, not a guitar. Anyway, he had the eyes of a painter, not a musician.


The universe-wide divide between the anonymous solitude of his death and the raucous, global fame of the Beatles leads us to question the role of those we leave behind. Does their essence – like static, temporal monuments - demark the progress of our lives, or are they as unchained as the wind, always with us, changing but unchanged?

 So Stuart Sutcliffe, a leather-clad, pale face angel, ghostly and delicate, decides to emerge on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – called the greatest rock album of all time. There he is, a silent sentinel, defiant but reassuring, imparting that wisdom shared only by the departed – nothing dies if remembered, nothing leaves if loved.

Just listen to the way he sings Love Me Tender with an ethereal, driving determination - like a playful prayer - sure to leave footprints in the sand. 

 

 

 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Jerry Lewis: Show-stopping Banality

 


To many of us,  his talent isn’t obvious. Too much noise always gets in the way. Ego. Insecurity. Immaturity. Neurosis. Some performers are empowered by their deficits; Jerry Lewis’ took him just so far, and then left him stranded and exposed, swooning in self-pity or foaming over persecution by an illusory cabal of envious insiders.

It wasn’t long after the war and the advent of television. America was ready for a new clown. And there he was, no Emmett Kelly, but somewhere between a schlemiel and a schlimazel. Whatever, it worked pussycat, and together with his partner, Dean Martin, he had the world at his feet. And then the ground began to tremble.

With few exceptions, most of his work has chaotic noise that cracks the fourth wall, through which he shrieks to the audience to appreciate his efforts, to applaud his genius, thereby sacrificing character for personal adulation. Jerry can’t seem to help it. He really wants you know, damn it, how f’n hard he’s sweating for your smiles. The self-loathing is palpable.


His talent was one of daring invention, of wild kinetic energy, unregulated by taste or refinement. He didn’t follow orders or regulations. He did it all himself. Jerry Lewis had guts and stamina that pushed him to the front of the crowd – but once there, he so easily followed the path of least resistance.

His style of humor was destabilized as the 1960s progressed. Not even Vegas saved him. He retreated into charities that eventually disowned him. Nowadays, his albums are rarely played; his films, unwatched, whereas his boozy buddy, Deano, just keeps burbling along.

Much of Jerry’s humor had him portraying a man of inferior mental faculties. That hasn’t aged well. It doesn’t matter because, in the end, it was all about Jerry anyway. That’s the lesson, pussycat.

Jerry Lewis joins the immortals with the wondrous, show-stopping breadth of his banality.

 


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Neal Cassady: Drive He Said

 

King of the Road

“Twenty years of fast living - there's not much left, and my kids are all screwed up. Don't do what I have done." - Neal Cassady

If he was just a clown, a hyperactive dunce, a celebrity buddy, he would have been abandoned by  American literature. But Neal Cassady always makes into the footnotes. He’s always there, On the Road with Kerouac or On the Road with Kesey or wherever – he always seems to be moving, vibrating, jabbering and anxious to devour Life just before it devours him.

Cassady & Kerouac: Hit the road Jack


He drives the beatniks. He drives the hippies. He drives a neon-noir zeitgeist into the perfumed arms of flower power. He belongs to mid-century America (I like Ike but I dig Kennedy), a post-war Huckleberry where the Mississippi meets macadam. And like all travelers who know the real purpose of moving, he never takes baggage because the game is about escaping, not finding.

- 1968. His last breaths of life fog cold metal of a railway track at night. There he is, under a Mexican moon, hanging on, alone, the Holy Goof slowly slips behind the wheel for a velvet drive to the stars.




Always keep moving




Monday, November 23, 2020

Donald Crowhurst: Just Like You

 

Looking beyond the vanishing point

An error in judgment or a weakness in character such as pride or arrogance helps bring about the hero's downfall. – Characteristics of Greek Tragedy, Quizlet

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport - Shakespeare


Wealth. Fame. Status.
Under similar circumstances, perhaps you would have done the same. That’s what makes Donald Crowhurst a family member. He wasn’t outrageous or evil. Nor was he cruel or violent. He was just like you, a tightrope walker mercifully unaware of the ever-present chasm. Just a slight breeze, just enough to puff out a jib, is all that’s needed to slip.

In 1969, he slipped into the living hell of a dark mind; at first, intellectualizing his behavior, and then, when the center would no longer hold, diving into the womb of salvation and peace, a hundred miles deep in the North Atlantic.

End of the Voyage

He needed the money for his family, for his dreams, and The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, a singled-handed, round-the-world race, offered everything. Wealth. Fame. Status. Yet, he had to win. It would take near genius-level cheating, but we all have different talents.

Wait, here’s an idea to draw less attention: what about a hail-fellow-well-met second place? The gods must have been bemused to let such a forlorn, sad man drift and bob across the whirling waves. What a character this Crowhurst was. Let’s blow his bark into first place. And that was it - the tipping point.

Gone was a father, a husband, a kind heart and a good sailor. How fragile and weak and courageous and strong. Exactly like you.




Thursday, October 1, 2020

Mike Nichols and the Rarity of Entertainment IQ

 

                          Mike Nichols directs Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. 

If we don’t accept the possibility of genius, it’s difficult to explain how consistently – if not contiguously - successful Mike Nichols was on screen and stage.  One person can’t direct that many hits; one can’t win that many awards.

Part of the mystery is no mystery at all: Mike Nichols had an odd talent which cannot be learned, copied or modified. He could sense material that had hit potential and was able to dust his work with a patina of artistic refinement. It had quality, not just fame. Very rare.

Nichols, Taylor, Burton on the couch in Virgin Woolf

Beginning with the films Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and The Graduate (1967), he rarely took a false step. Same thing with theatre. Barefoot in the Park (1963) kicked it off and he just didn’t quit.

Born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky, in Berlin, in 1931, Nichols developed supreme survival instincts. He seemed to know what people wanted, what they liked, what they wished to see – and especially, in the beginning, what made them laugh. Similar to many funny people, he suffered depression, but he endured, and perhaps made the illness an unwelcome attribute.

Mike Nichols: Thinking it out

Regardless, when someone is so good at a difficult job, we must take note of the high-water marks, as if to say, we were lucky that such an artist touched down. Our prayers illume the illusion of life as we watch people - like Mike Nichols - paint in the dark, fifty feet high.








Sunday, June 21, 2020

Janis Joplin: Freedom's Just Another Word



“On stage, I make love to 25,000 different people, then I go home alone.”

― Janis Joplin



Janis Joplin became famous because of her incredible singing voice. That’s the essence of her appeal. She had no stylists or wardrobe assistants, no dry ice machines or back-up dancers, no lip syncing. That stuff doesn’t keep you around 50 years after you left...No, just a few guitars, drums, maybe a keyboard...and Janis. That’s it.

Don’t let her early death distract you from the raw talent – and her talent was as raw as it gets. She knew how to sell a song, the same way Sinatra did or Judy Garland or Aretha Franklin or any of the greats. Listen to her sing Me and Bobby McGee and you’ll hear it. ( It’s the phrasing, it’s the pitch control, it’s that cosmic alchemy of spirit, personality, experience, physicality, hope, defeat, love and loathing.

She was strong but could seem weak, a leader that followed others, laughed with a cackle but sad beyond belief. She needed heavy drugs to do what? Calm a restless soul? Obliterate despair? Help her to remember to forget? No answers, only convenient asides. Perhaps she wished for escape from her self-made cell. Maybe freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, maybe not, but Janis never played with a strong hand.

She molded her appearance to coincide with her persona – all feathered boas and junk jewelry and owl sunglasses and psychedelic cars. But a persona is, well, just a persona.


There she is jamming with sex machine Tom Jones or rapping with the impossibly beautiful Rachel Welch. Few other celeb hippies had the guts – and brains - to shake off the tie-dye and patchouli and just follow their hearts.

Like Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin did not commit suicide and wasn’t fated to die young. That’s morbid and sloppy. It was a series of dark, unresolved private issues and plain bad luck that led her away. That said, those who knew her well would tell tales, years after her demise, of her darkness and isolation.

They still find it hard to say farewell to Janis – because she always seems to be around, just one head-thrown-back-shattering-cry-for-love that swells it all back to life one more time.

“The first time I heard Janis Joplin’s version [of Me and Bobby McGee] was right after she died. Paul Rothchild, her producer, asked me to stop by his office and listen to this thing she had cut. Afterwards, I walked all over L.A., just in tears. I couldn’t listen to the song without really breaking up. So when I came back to Nashville, I went into the Combine [Publishing] building late at night, and I played it over and over again, so I could get used to it without breaking up.” - Kris Kristofferson




Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Ann-Margret: The Allure of Energy





Ah, her chin. Just the way she held it – defiant, confident, with Attitude before everyone had Attitude. 
Anne & Elvis: Doppelganging

If energy alone could convey sexual allure, then it would look like Ann-Margret.

She had it... The body – hard but curvaceous, the hair long and electric. The voice, either soft sensual or direct and laughing with an invitation to roll.

You could cover her in paint (The Swinger) or beans (Tommy) and it only enhanced what was obscured.

Ann-Margret met her match with Elvis Presley, two of them so ridiculously alike that there was a doppelganger effect tripping along the XX/XY chromosome axis.

Always on the move
And when it wasn’t hip to entertain U.S. troops in Vietnam, she went anyway, shaking for boys – just farm boys dazed by fear and heat.

Always ambitious, so eager to confront challenge with an inviting grin - more hip than hippy chicks - empowered by her untethered spirit.

That day she left Elvis’ funeral, head up, keening overcome by forward thrust, to be alone in the desert on a Harley thundering toward Viva Las Vegas. For years ago she discovered that only movement itself could calm such a restless soul.


Monday, December 2, 2019

Glenn Gould and the sacred gift of silence





A musician so outrageously gifted that he worshiped silence, listening to the notes as if small, restless friends. 

He shied from human contact yet always embraced Bach.
 Head-flung-back ecstasy

Genius does not go unpunished. There were the obvious eccentricities, the quirky cadences, the sotto voce, preternatural humming that came as a prayer to gods others could never know.

Weighted with awareness

Always alone, even with people, communing with that music of dark space wherein you risk deafness by the awful beauty of solitude. So Canadian: it is the distance between us that pulls the soul upwards.

You can see it in the hunched back, weighed with awareness, in the hands that were always beautiful white wings, and the head-flung-back ecstasy as music holds him as a lost lover.

Glenn Gould, when in the deep trance of talent, gave us whatever music always meant to reminded us of.
The awful beauty of solitude

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Brigitte Bardot: The Attraction of Detachment





Brigitte Bardot had a talent for beauty.  But it wasn’t the ridiculously perfect face of Catherine Deneuve. Or the seductive, interwoven curves of Raquel Welch. Bardot’s beauty was never cheekbone-dependent.

Indeed, she had an attitude that somehow forced her appearance to the wings, an insouciance that made her surprisingly relevant to the 1960s, where her sex-symbol sisters seemed increasingly absurd. It was a rebel streak, not a come-hither. The slight overbite. The updo cascade of blondeness. And a detachment that didn’t stop with the people in her room, but included everyone.

Bardot. Picasso. Beauty. Beast.
You just knew she was going to handle this film gig like last night’s lover, with a soft adieu and a pout and then out the door; that she didn’t care about character nuance or plot development.

It was her pilgrim spirit, an easy laughter than had more to with exits than entrances. You followed her into the next scene just to see if she showed up.

And then she left. No facelifts. No excuses. Seeking the 60s sunshine all golden over Cote d'Azur, alone with animals and others without guile.


What to make of her oeuvre? All the insubstantial films. The wasted time. Doesn't matter. She's not listening, caring as much about them as she does for you, held somewhere between a Gallic shrug and a seductive playfulness that comes so easily to those with no past.




Thursday, June 13, 2019

Brian Jones: Born Under a Bad Sign




“Yes I want to be famous, and no, I don’t want to live till 30.”  - Brian Jones


Brian Jones, the founder – and the best musician – of ever-popular The Rolling Stones - didn’t know how to handle fame. He was destroyed by popularity. The more fame Brian gathered, the more drugs he ingested, until...
Jones: Leader of the Pack

He gave The Rolling Stones its name, booked its early gigs, made up set lists, led the way in its rebellious attitude and style – and was fired by the other members.

With his beautiful, angelic golden pageboy haircut, his dandy suits, his just-above-a-whisper voice, his obvious fragility, who would have known he sired and abandoned eight children and beat women?

He wanted The Rolling Stones to remain as a rhythm & blues band, not a rock n’ roll group, and battled the others to control the artistic vision. He was ignored. In a brief time, The Rolling Stones became known as the world’s greatest rock band.

Brian Jones was the first international pop star to embrace – what became known as – world music with his production of the record Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka. Released in 1971, it failed to sell. World music went on to explode in the 1980s.

He met and lived with actress/model Anita Pallenberg. (It’s been said she was the only woman he ever loved). She left him for Keith Richards whom she left for Mick Jagger, kind of…
Two J's: soon gone


He was the only Stone to appear on a Beatles song, performing a great, meandering sax solo for You Know My Name (Look Up the Number). He also played on Baby You’re a Rich Man. He never received credit.

When he died, he owed debts amounting to over 200,000 pounds – which was finally cleared in 1982. Today, his sister receives about $21,000 annually in royalties. Sir Mick Jagger is worth about$360-million dollars.

Jones: The coolest Stone of all
It’s likely that he was drowned in his pool by a handyman whom he had just fired. Due to Brian’s lifestyle, the suspicion was never pursued.

He was the first big rock star to be admitted into the ’27 Club’, followed by the three J’s - Jimi, Janis and Jim.

Appropriately, the sad soundtrack of Brian Jones’ life is his beloved Blues:

Born under a bad sign
Been down since I could crawl
If it wasn't for bad luck
You know I wouldn't have no luck at all

-       - Albert King