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  • Remembering John Sex, East Village icon: ‘A hustler, a hooker, a honcho, a hero, a dyke and a queen’
    02:11 pm

    Pop Culture



    From the Dangerous Minds archive, a post about John Sex on what would have been his 59th birthday.

    John Sex was a New York City-based performance artist, male stripper and disco singer who was a standout personality of the East Village art scene of the 1980s. He’d sing schmaltzy Vegas numbers in glittery smoking jackets, shiny Ziggy Stardust-esque zip-up jumpsuits, 10-inch platform heels, and assless leather pants. His trademark was his bleached-blond hair which stood straight up on his head in an exaggerated pompadour which he said was held aloft by “a combination of Dippity-do, Aqua Net, egg whites, beer, and semen.” He also had a pet python, named “Delilah,” and a suit made of 500 light bulbs. In his X-rated version of the Sinatra standard “That’s Life,” he’d sing “I’ve been a hustler, a hooker, a honcho, a hero, a dyke and a queen.”

    The “character” of John Sex was not all that much off from the “real” John Sex, but more of a mythical version of himself as an omnisexual rockstar parody or phallocentric version of Tom Jones. He couldn’t turn it off if he wanted to, which I can assure you, he did not. He would often claim that his parents were immigrants who “Americanized” their original Irish surname “Sexton” to “Sex” so they would fit in better, then adding “and if you believe that one…”  The real story is that during a period of “rampant promiscuity,” Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi renamed art student John McLaughlin, the nice Catholic boy from Long Island who was everything his mother never wanted him to be, “Sex” and for obvious reasons, I think the name just stuck!
    imageJohn Sex with Ann Magnuson, early 1980s
    John Sex was a smart, super creative, fun, funny and endlessly inventive guy. Everyone loved him. There was absolutely no reason not to. John was a total sweetheart, a great raconteur and he always had the best showbiz stories and gay gossip you ever heard. He is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. There was constant laughter when he was around. You can see a little bit of what John Sex was like in this clip shot by video artist Nelson Sullivan. John and his friend Craig Vandenberg (who often played John’s washed-up showbiz loser father in shows they’d do together) trade lines in the basement of the Pyramid Club, warming up before a performance there. His boyfriend, Willfredo, the guy with sunglasses, is seen taking pictures about 2:45 in. You can see the performance itself here.

    With his female backing singers, The Bodacious TaTa’s (Wendy Wild, April Palmieri, Micki French, Myra Schiller and others) and wearing his exaggerated showbiz finery courtesy of his friend (and sometime TaTa) fashion designer Katy K, John Sex played to nightclub audiences at venues like Club 57, the Pyramid Club, Danceteria, Limelight, The Palladium and The Saint. Many of his shows would end with him stripping down to a glittery jock strap, or beyond, during a song called “Jet Set.” Some of his other notable numbers were “Hustle With My Muscle” (see clip below), “Sex Appeal,” “Bump and Grind It” and “Rock Your Body,” a song he did with noted hip hop producer Man Parrish, that I made a music video for in 1988 (see bottom clip).

    “Hustle With My Muscle” directed by Tom Rubnitz, This was shot at the Area nightclub in 1986 when the theme of the decor was something like “rednecks” or “trailer trash.”


    More after the jump…

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    Scientology’s redacted view of the proper role of women is (surprise!) incredibly sexist
    12:29 pm



    L. Ron Hubbard auditing a tomato. He claimed that that they “scream when sliced.”
    If you haven’t seen Going Clear, the HBO documentary on Scientology, I suggest you get on it. The science fiction cult of the rich and famous is so much more disturbing than most people know! From the mouths of ex-Scientologists themselves, you hear about surveillance, blackmail, brainwashing and abuse administered strategically upon celebrities and mere mortals alike, all to build this lucrative empire based on a batshit pseudoscience religious cult. There’s so much crazy, the doc can’t even cover it all.

    For example, one of my favorite details is L. Ron Hubbard’s fundamentally retrograde views on the sexes (which have, of course, been edited out of more recent publications). It’s pretty well-known that old L. Ron thought you could “pray away the gay” (or “audit” it away or whatever), but Scientology’s obsession with heteronormativity goes way beyond basic homophobia.

    Below is the entirety of a now-omitted chapter from Hubbard’s 1965 treatise Scientology: A New Slant on Life, covertly titled “A Woman’s Creativity.”

    The whole future of the race depends upon its attitude toward children; and a race which specializes in women for “mental purposes” or which believes that the contest of the sexes in the spheres of business and politics is a worthier endeavor than the creation of tomorrow’s generation is a race which is dying.

    We have, in the woman who is an ambitious rival of the man in his own activities, a woman who is neglecting the most important mission she may have. A society which looks down upon this mission and a society in which women are taught anything but the management of a family, the care of men, and the creation of the future generation is a society which is on its way out.

    The historian can peg the point where a society begins its sharpest decline at the instant when women begin to take part, on an equal footing with men, in political and business affairs, since this means that the men are decadent and the women are no longer women.

    This is not a sermon on the role or position of women; it is a statment [sic] of bald and basic fact. When children become unimportant to a society, that society has forfeited its future. Even beyond the fathering and bearing and rearing of children, a human being does not seem to be complete without a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. This relationship is the vessel wherein is nurtured the life force of both individuals, whereby they create the future of the race in body and thought. If man is to rise to greater heights, then women must rise with him or even before him. But she must rise as woman and not as, today, she is being misled into rising—as a man. It is the hideous joke of frustrated, unvirile men to make women over into the travesty of men, which men themselves have become.

    Men are difficult and troublesome creatures—but valuable. The creative care and handling of men is an artful and a beautiful task. Those who would cheat a woman of their rightful place, by making them into men, should at last realize that, by this action, they are destroying, not only the women, but the men and the children as well. This is too great a price to pay for being “modern” or for someone’s petty anger or spite against the female sex.

    The arts and skills of woman, the creation and Inspiration of which she is capable and which, here and there, in isolated places in our culture, she still manages to effect, in spite of the ruin and decay of man’s world which spreads around her, must be brought newly and fully into life. These arts and skills and creation and inspiration are her beauty, just as she is the beauty of mankind.

    Obviously gender conservatism is nothing new in religion, but you just kind of expect something a little more progressive from a UFO cult! This is a science-fiction religion founded in 1952—the futuristic aesthetics apply just fine to aliens, “Thetans” and bullshit E-meters (seen in the picture above, with Hubbard “auditing” a tomato), but a career girl is just way too “out there?” What would Xenu say?
    Via The Pitch

    Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
    The Carly Rae Jepsen vs Nine Inch Nails mashup is way funnier than these things have a right to be
    11:35 am

    Pop Culture


    YITT stands for “Yep, I’m the Toaster” (shades of James Hetfield’s vigorous declaration of his status as a table?), and it’s the nom de mash of a self-proclaimed “Amateur mashup artist/producer/drummer, photographer/mashup video editor” from the Bay Area. His Soundcloud page is full of goodies, but he’s lately posted a little piece of genius. In answer to pomDeter’s highly amusing “Call Me a Hole” from a couple of years back, YITT has made an unholy chimera of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole.” The recontextualization makes Trent Reznor’s angst sound… so… HAPPY! I do so wish Trent could be happy all the time. And the video mixing is every bit as skillful as the sound.

    And here, I didn’t think the Internet was going to cough up anything funnier today than the Hard Times’ torpedoing of One Life Crew.

    Via the AV Club

    Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
    The infamous Hashish Fudge recipe of Alice B. Toklas
    11:19 am



    Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein were supporting characters in the story of art, literature and culture during the early to mid-twentieth century. Stein was a writer, poet and playwright, who collected and promoted the artists Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse and Picabia; and the writers Hemingway, Ezra Pound and Scott Fitzgerald. Toklas was Stein’s lover, muse, editor, and confidante. The couple were inseparable during their 39-year relationship, which was celebrated through Stein’s book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in 1933. This book told the story of their relationship through Toklas’s biography.
    Stein (pooch)Toklas.
    While Stein ruled the salon, Toklas was mistress of the kitchen. Almost a decade after Stein’s death in 1946, Toklas published what could be described as another Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas—a cookbook that mixed her favorite recipes with concisely written memoirs of her life. Her childhood she recalled through her mother’s fritters and ice cream; her aunt and a favorite car (a Model-T Ford) recalled through a recipe for hot chocolate; while many of the artists, writers and actors she met through her relationship with Stein were evoked by recipes, such as “Custard Josephine Baker” or through tales of serving food—cooking Picasso fish, for example.

    One recipe for “Hashish Fudge” was supplied by friend and artist Brion Gysin. This sweet delicacy gave The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book considerable notoriety, and forced the publishers to enquire over the legality of publishing such a recipe.

    (which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)

    This is the food of paradise — of Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of hot mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to be ravished by ‘un évanouissement reveillé‘.

    Take 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon coriander.

    These should all be pulverised in a mortar. About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together.

    A bunch of Cannabis sativa can be pulverised. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.

    Obtaining the Cannabis may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as Cannabis sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognised, everywhere in Europe, Asia and parts of Africa; besides being cultivated as a crop for the manufacture of rope. In the Americas, while often discouraged, its cousin, called Cannabis indica, has been observed even in city window boxes. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.

    As “experienced” gourmands know, the recipe bears more of a resemblance to what’s referred to in Morocco as “majoun.” The 1960s comedy I Love You Alice B. Toklas, starring Peter Sellers name checks Alice due to his uptight character eating a bunch of hash brownies. An audio recording of Alice reading the “Hashish Fudge” recipe can be heard here.

    H/T The Smithsonian and Open Culture.

    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
    Grace Jones wows ‘em in Chile 1980
    10:03 am



    Only Grace Jones would look at home in a blue/teal/peach bodysuit and purple ponytail…. You can’t beat it.
    Grace Jones is such a likable presence that any random 44 minutes of her life would, we can presume, be tolerably diverting. Even better when it’s a pristine chunk of her performing on Chilean TV right smack in her prime. This marvelous footage popped up on YouTube in December but hasn’t gotten the play it deserves (yet). Considering that the clip is roughly 35 years old, to my eyes and ears both the audio and video fidelity seem extraordinarily high.

    The setting is some kind of swank eatery/studio, there are tables with well-heeled patrons enjoying food and drink. Quite a distance from, say, sweaty and chaotic Studio 54, n’est-ce pas? During the first number, “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game,” off of 1980’s Warm Leatherette, Grace briefly attacks a potted plant (an incident that, judging from this playful clip, got more than its share of attention in South America) and ends the song by hovering over a table full of patrons.

    During the interview segment, conducted mostly in Spanish, we learn that Grace was under the weather that day. It didn’t prevent her from shedding a tear or two during “Ma Vie en Rose.” During the jaunty track “Bullshit” she gets on a table and boogies down.

    This whole clip is crazy entertaining, but if you’re in a rush, it’s still worth it just for the stunning multicolored bodysuit and synthetic purple ponytail she wears for the first song. (After a costume change, she re-emerges in a more familiar mannish gray jacket.)

    Track listing:
    The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game
    La Vie en Rose
    Autumn Leaves


    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    Jimmy Page SINGS on his pre-Led Zeppelin solo single, 1965
    09:41 am



    Encouraged by his then-girlfriend, American pop singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon, Jimmy Page tried to move beyond his work as a session musician for a bit of the limelight himself. The result was the solo single “She Just Satisfies,” co-written with Barry Mason, which came out on Fontana Records in February of 1965. DeShannon co-wrote the instrumental B-side “Keep Moving” with Page and sang back-up vocals on the A-side.

    Page later remarked to Nick Kent in the pages of CREEM:

    “There’s nothing to be said for that record except it was very tongue-in-cheek at the time. I played all the instruments on it except for the drums and sang on it too, which is quite, uh … unique. “She Just Satisfies,” that’s what it was called. It’s better forgotten.”


    Not sure if I agree, it’s a nice Kink-ish curio of Page’s long career. He’s no Robert Plant, but then again he’s no Jeff Beck either... [In actual fact, he sounds like Keith Relf!]

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    Michel Polnareff: France’s greatest living pop music genius
    07:56 am



    Although not nearly as prolific—or as famous—as Serge Gainsbourg, there’s an easy argument to be made that eccentric French popstar Michel Polnareff comes right after him on the official list of Gallic musical geniuses. That so many music fans outside of France revere Gainsbourg yet have probably never even heard of Polnareff is a shame, both for them and for this unfairly overlooked performer. The simple fact is, there are very few truly great French rock musicians, and Michel Polnareff stands heads and tails above the likes of Johnny Hallyday and Téléphone.

    I first heard of Michel Polnareff via mid-70s ads for his albums in Circus magazine and knew that he did the soundtrack to Margaux Hemingway’s notorious rape revenge film Lipstick, but he was just someone I saw in magazines. I heard none of his music until decades later, but when I discovered his 1972 album Polnareff’s, I played it obsessively. If it was candy, I’d have gorged myself on it until I was sick and then just kept eating. It’s really one of the most amazing and musically audacious albums of the era, up there with what someone like, say, Todd Rundgren was doing at the time (both were extreme multi instrumentalist perfectionists), but heavily influenced by the likes of Burt Bacharach, maybe the Turtles and Moody Blues and certainly Scott Walker and Gainsbourg, too. Meant to be listened to as a single suite of music, like Abbey Road or OK Computer, Polnareff’s is a grandly ambitious and brilliantly realized Baroque orchestral pop album with not a single bad track in the bunch. I’ll go so far as to say that Polnareff’s is probably the second best French rock album of all time, after L’histoire de Melody Nelson. Again second to the great Serge Gainsbourg, but I mean Monsieur Polnareff no disrespect here, obviously. (Third on my list of great French rock albums would be Les Rita Mitsouko’s The No Comprendo, so as you can see, Polnareff’s is bookended by greatness in my estimation.) It’s really one of the most amazing records ever made. Don’t believe me? AllMusic’s Thom Jurek, a man known for his refined rock snob tastes calls it a “psychedelic pop masterpiece.” It is! He also writes that “it’s like an early model for the excesses of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk.” Right again.

    Finding the musicians and recording studios of Paris insufficient for his needs, Polnareff’s first hit was the unstoppably catchy “La poupée qui fait non” recorded in 1966 when he was just 21 and featuring the then-prominent London session musicians Jimmy Page [inexplicably referred to as “Larry” Page in Polnareff’s autobiography] and John Paul Jones. The song was covered by Ron Wood’s mod group, The Birds, Jimi Hendrix, Saint Etienne and Mylène Farmer and Khaled.

    En plus Michel Polnareff après le jump…

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    Jesse Malin on ‘New York Before the War’ and his early days with Heart Attack: a DM interview
    06:12 am



    Jesse Malin exemplifies an increasingly rare breed—a songwriter with an almost umbilical connection to a New York City that barely exists anymore outside of fading photos and fading memories. It’s fair, I think, to consider him part of a lineage stretching from Lou Reed through Jim Carroll, Richard Hell, Alan Vega, et al. From his time as a really young kid in the pioneering NYHC band Heart Attack, through his ‘90s alterna-fame with glam punks D Generation (a band that also included my DM colleague Howie Pyro), to his 21st Century solo work, Malin has grown into a worthy Bard of the Boroughs. His new album, New York Before the War, may actually be the apotheosis of his career so far. (I have no doubt that some DGen fans would disagree.)

    Since DGen, Malin has shed some Lower East Side punk classicism for a broader approach; there are traces of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen all over the new album. But it’s an eclectic batch of songs, and still for the greater part identifiably punk-inspired, and still absolutely classicist. Malin told DM that the title New York Before the War itself refers to things that New York, and society at large, have lost.

    It’s no particular war, it’s surviving and fighting against all the fucking corporate bastards, all the changes on the planet, with New York being one of the central pieces of the world. It’s that the world is such a disposable, apathetic, digitized place and we’re burning through it so fast. I’m into holding on to things that are important, and finding them, and making them, and celebrating them.


    In that spirit of touching back to the worthy past for inspiration, we thought it would be fun to look at Malin’s very early roots, as a member of Heart Attack. That band formed in 1980, when its members ranged in age from 12 to 16. Even at that age, the band managed to tour, and they released a 7” and two E.P.s, which were collected on the inevitable discography CD The Last War 1980-84. Malin was kind enough to share his old stash of fliers with us, and when we prodded him for personal reminiscences of the shows, he was supremely obliging.


    That’s the first time anybody took my picture. That’s me and two other members of Heart Attack.  Javier, on drums, from Mexico City. I met him through an ad in the Village Voice, he was a very original drummer. In the middle is John Frawley, he was from Flushing, Queens, and had been in the band The Mob, who were our friends and rivals at the time. He played bass. And that’s me on the right, I was 14 years old, and that was around the time the “God is Dead” 7” came out on the Damaged Goods fanzine label. And we were on East 12th Street, with a bunch of Puerto Rican guys in the back, and that was shot for Sounds, the UK weekly newspaper. Tim Sommer was doing a piece on the early, early New York hardcore scene, and I think we put out the first 7” from that scene, which became kind of a collectable, but it got bootlegged a few times. And that’s not our car, it just looked like that down there.



    171A was the studio where Bad Brains recorded the ROIR cassette. They had a record store in the basement called “Rat Cage.” Jerry Williams, rest his soul, wonderful guy, recorded all our bands there, let us rehearse there, had illegal gigs, the Bad Brains LIVED there, Black Flag rehearsed there, it was one of the first places to support hardcore. The first Beastie Boys record Polly Wog Stew was recorded there as well, with the famous “Egg Raid on Mojo.” That was a benefit, three nights at a theater, and believe it or not, with that bill, it was kinda empty! But a great show.



    The later years of Heart Attack, we got a bit noisy, and somehow attracted fans in those bands, so we played with Sonic Youth, we played with Swans. Swans were the loudest thing I’d ever seen at the time, louder than Motörhead, and they were very good to us. We did a few shows, mostly in New York, and that one was at the SIN Club, which means “Safety In Numbers.” That night there were gunshots going off across the street, and we were the very few white kids at 3rd St and Avenue C. The SIN Club took chances and put on great shows, and that was the cool diversity, being able to have Heart Attack and Swans, mix those two worlds. I guess the common thread would be anger, angst, intensity.

    Continues after the jump…

    Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
    Chillgroove to these 1978 ‘adult contemporary pop’ versions of Sex Pistols and Ramones tunes
    05:45 am



    We recently wrote about Bananarama doing a pop cover of the Sex Pistols’ “No Feelings,” but that cover is absolutely full-on-raging by comparison to this:

    In 1978 RSO Records released this one-off single featuring ex-Manfred Mann singer, Paul Jones, crooning over adult contemporary pop arrangements of the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant” and The Ramones’ “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.”  The “Radio 2 style arrangements” of these songs were considered a piss-take of the original punk motif, but hold their own as legitimate musical expressions of the light pop sound of the day. As punk may have been a reaction to the “soft rock” of the ‘70s, these Paul Jones covers can be seen as a meta “taking it back,” with tongue, we assume, planted firmly in cheek.

    He did them HIS way.
    We’re reminded of Pat Boone’s excellent 1997 album, In a Metal Mood—an artifact intended to have some fun sucking the shock out of a rough-and-tough genre, but with an end result that is interesting and well-played within it’s own musical idiom. Not merely a cranked-out goof, it’s clear a great deal of detail-oriented work went into the production of these covers, and particularly with “Pretty Vacant,” we get an insight into what great pop songsmiths the Sex Pistols actually were. One gets the feeling there’s nearly as much homage here as ballbusting.

    The Ramones cover is slightly less interesting, mostly due to the sarcastic “out of touch old man” lyric changes in the intro, but the remainder of the track, especially the choruses, have a VERY late-‘70s-terrible-era Beach Boys feel. If you enjoy that sort of thing either ironically or legitimately, you may be impressed with the competence of its arrangement. “Pretty Vacant” is the hit here, though, with its James Taylor-ization of Rotten’s nihilistic lyrics.

    Hear the cover versions after the jump…

    Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
    Elvis Costello’s daddy writes to Rolling Stone insisting his son is not racist
    02:24 pm



    June 14, 1979: trumpet player Ross MacManus, father to Declan Patrick MacManus—better known to his fans as Elvis Costello—defends his poor, persecuted son against charges of racism in a letter to Rolling Stone that they actually published. In case you’re wondering, this was after Elvis got punched in the face by Bonnie Bramlett at a Holiday Inn bar in Columbus, Ohio for calling James Brown a “jive-ass n*gger” and Ray Charles a “blind, ignorant n*gger”. Macmanus the elder was apparently either unaware of the incident, or preferred to ignore it, defending only Elvis’ use of the phase “white n*gger” in “Oliver’s Army.”

    For his part in that little incident, Elvis didn’t really apologize, saying he was drunk, and that “it became necessary for me to outrage these people with the most offensive and obnoxious remarks I could muster to bring the argument to a swift conclusion and rid myself of their presence.” (Sure dude, whatever.)

    Now I’m not sure if Elvis Costello ever actually held racist views, or if he was just being a snotty-ass, petulant, drunk little shit who thought it subversive to use racial slurs—though I don’t really care because I don’t expect Elvis Costello to be smart or politically sophisticated, I just want to hear “Pump it Up”. I do find it hilarious that a nearly 25-year-old man has his daddy writing lame apologias for him to Rolling Stone…

    FIRST OF ALL, MAY I thank you for the review of my son’s LP (“Elvis Costello in Love and Way” RS 287). It is the most perspicacious of all the reviews in any paper (and I have the cartoon of “El” framed on my wall!). “Oliver’s Army” is an important track for me, and your reviewer, Janet Maslin, so quickly picked up on the “white n*gger” significance. My grandfather was an Ulster Catholic, and as a child, I lived in an area where bigotry was rife. So we are those white n*ggers.

    This brings me to the disturbing reports that I have seen branding Elvis Costello as a racist. Nothing could be further from the truth. My own background has meant that I am passionately opposed to any form of prejudice based on religion or race. And El’s mother and I were both branded as hotheads and Marxists or anarchists.

    So you can see that we don’t have any chic, white liberal attitudes (and El has publicly despised the latter many times). This is the water that Elvis has been born and bred in, and he swims in it as naturally as a goldfish. His mother comes from the tough multiracial area of Liverpool, and I think she would still beat the tar out of him if his orthodoxy were in doubt.

    Twickanham, England


    Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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