The comedy community of Los Angeles received a profound shock two weeks ago when Parks and Recreation actor and writer Harris Wittels was discovered dead of a probable overdose. Parks and Rec fans will forever remember Wittels as one of Pawnee’s two hilariously incompetent animal control guys. In 2012 he also published Humblebrag: The Art of False Modesty, a very sharp book based on a pretty genius idea.
I actually saw Wittels do standup once. It was 2007, he was just 23 years old, and he appared as part of a comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in NYC called “Cavalcade” a friend of mine had organized—the show also featured Joe Mande, Jim Gaffigan, and Anthony Jeselnik. I don’t remember anything about his act. I confess that I found Wittels, as a comedian to follow, kind of confounding; in retrospect I didn’t catch him in his best contexts, and I mistook his giving-zero-fucks and deep hostility towards affectation and insincerity as a sort of laziness. On podcasts I was just beginning to tune into his deeply silly, low-key deadpan style when the news of his death hit the news.
One of the best episodes of any comedy podcast in 2014 came last November, when Wittels made his second appearance on Pete Holmes’ podcast You Made It Weird. After a half-hour of goofing around, Wittels suddenly revealed to Holmes that after “successfully” going through rehab a couple years earlier—which Holmes already knew about—he relapsed pretty badly and had to undergo a whole second, more serious round of rehab, which Holmes had not known about. That comment sparked a wild, hour-plus-long narrative of Wittels’ grueling second descent into addiction hell, a story that is (of course) made all the more powerful and moving because of Wittels’ passing.
Since his death I’ve become increasingly convinced, based on the testimony of Aziz Ansari, Dan Harmon, and others, that we did lose some kind of comic genius last month—one thing I never understand before was just how highly regarded his scriptwriting skills were. Sitcom director Rob Schrab did us all a favor by making a single video out of all of Wittels’ Vines—it takes just a few of the stupid things (there are dozens and dozens of them) to realize how brilliant, in an offhanded way, the guy was. He was clearly a master of the form, much as Humblebrag proves that he was a master of Twitter. Prepare yourself for a barrage of silly accents, facial expressions, loopy puns…. the man was truly a wellspring of cockeyed mirth, and he will be sorely missed.
If you have to take a leak in the St. Pauli party district of Hamburg, Germany, be sure to take the time to find a bathroom. To discourage drunk people from taking a public whiz in the neighborhood, a group of local community activists have applied a special liquid-repelling (superhydrophobic) paint to its walls. When someone pees on the specially-coated wall, it bounces back on the tinkler and gets them wet.
This pissed-off German said about his community’s problem with peepee, “I’m really pissed off that people pee everywhere.”
Watch the video the anti-public-urination group made which shows some pee-bodies getting sprayed with their own piss. It’s called “St. Pauli Pees Back”:
Want to stop public urination in your own ‘hood? You should, but you’re going to need a kit like this first.
In the immortal words of Twisted Sister, “We’re not gonna take it anymore!”
Midwesterners are quick to claim DEVO as native sons (as well we should—shout out to Akron, Ohio!), but this lovely little animation—a collab between Google Play and The California Sunday Magazine—illustrates their Hollywood migration in Mark Mothersbaugh’s own voice. But not before the prolific composer/artist/frontman/fashion designer (etc, etc, etc.) explains how he saw the world—fuzzy—until someone had the bright idea to test his vision when he was in the second grade.
I will say I feel like a complete dick after watching it. I had always subconsciously assumed Mark Mothersbaugh’s glasses were a bit of a nerd affectation/fashion choice (nothing wrong with fashion, and to be fair, they were certainly fashion for a couple of of DEVO fans I’ve met). Don’t get me wrong, I figured he needed specs, but I suspected the heavy frames of said specs were chosen more for their ostentatiously geeky aesthetic than mere functionality. Turns out there’s a lot of glass in those glasses, because he is legally blind and needs them to see damn near anything.
It also turns out that I am a cynical jerk. Sorry Mark!
A few years ago, a bunch (a gaggle? a band? a flashmob?) of cybergoth kids met beneath a bridge underpass for an impromptu daytime dance party. They went viral. Little did they know, in an alternate future universe, they were really waving their glow sticks to the whimsical theme song of Thomas the Tank Engine, that accursed kiddie show which parents despise almost as much as Barney.
The world is about to make a whole lot more sense:
Up and coming punky pop duo Ex Cops (Amalie Bruun and Brian Harding) were asked by one of the largest corporations in the world (#106 on the Fortune 500 currently) to perform for free during the SXSW music festival in Austin, TX—well not exactly free, they’d be singing for their supper, but when supper’s at fucking McDonald’s, who wants that shit?
This week our band was asked to play the McDonald’s Showcase at the annual South by Southwest, also known to music insiders as “SXSW.”
Their selling point was that this was “a great opportunity for additional exposure,” and that “McDonald’s will have their global digital team on site to meet with the bands, help with cross promotion, etc”
I don’t, and doubt that they know what this means either.
Getting past that rhetoric, at the very least a big corporation like McDonald’s can at least pay their talent a little. Right?
“There isn’t a budget for an artist fee (unfortunately)”
As of 2013, McDonalds is valued at 90.3 billion dollars.
I won’t get into the internet semantics of things you’ve probably seen on your Facebook feed; like that thing where it takes a McDonald’s worker 4 months to earn what the CEO makes in an hour, or their GMO love affair, and I will certainly spare you the bounty of photos showing how they treat their animals.
In lieu of being paid like a real artist, or anyone who is employed to do a service, McDonald’s assures us that we will “be featured on screens throughout the event, as well as POSSIBLY mentioned on McDonald’s social media accounts like Facebook (57MM likes!)”
We recently headlined a show at the Brooklyn venue Baby’s Alright. They are by no means a DIY venue, but they are still an independent small business. The owners are people our age who used to book shows at Pianos and busted their asses to open a venue of their own in Brooklyn.
While I haven’t asked Billy or Zach how much they make annually (that would be weird) I’m going to guess they’re not looking at brownstones in Prospect Park at the moment. Yet when we played, we were paid very very fairly, were provided with drink tickets, and each band member fed a full entree from their menu (try the Brussels sprouts)
I will also go ahead and save time for any schill / troll rebuttals; “Are the other showcases paying you? No one is holding a gun to your head!” This is true. It is our choice (pretty much) to fly to Austin, play shows without soundcheck, and get paid nothing to a little. But hear this loud and clear, we LOVE making music, it is what we do, and despite some of its very apparent flaws, SXSW still provides a decent venue to be heard by some people who are really there to hear new music and not just do blow with dudes who wear square toe loafers.
It is a horrifying and gross reality when one sees the true nature of corporations and their pathetic attempts to achieve relevance with millennials. Doritos received a lot of flack for their stage a couple years ago, but i’m going to assume they paid Lady Gaga.
Oh, I almost forgot; “McDonald’s will offer free food to all audience members”
I don’t doubt that tons of bands will kowtow to this lame, lame attempt at a rock show. And I’m aware that to achieve any exposure is a Herculean task in 2015, but the Boethian Wheel is a real thing, and this will continue to exist if we, as artists, keep saying yes in exchange for a taste of success. Even if smells like a shitty Fish filet.’
The nice thing about the way this has played out, Ex Cops get to keep their integrity, they won’t have to play in a fucking McDonald’s and they get their music that “exposure” they were promised anyways.
Ex Cops are on Downtown Records and have collaborated with Ariel Pink and Billy Corgan. They’re excellent, give ‘em a listen at their Soundcloud page.
A Tea Party-backed Republican state rep in Texas has introduced a bill that would remove marijuana from Texas drug laws, and instead see the cannabis plant “regulated like tomatoes, jalapeños or coffee.” The bill was introduced on Monday by Rep. David Simpson (R) who has stated that “[c]urrent marijuana policies are not based on science or sound evidence, but rather misinformation and fear.”
His argument is a simple one, an elegant line of reasoning that I myself once used on my extremely Christian parents when I was expelled from high school after a track coach caught me and two of my friends hitting on bowl of hash:
“[E]verything God made is good.”
Right? Even an atheist might let that one slide, although my parents didn’t buy it for one single solitary second.
In a statement, Rep. Simpson wrote:
“All that God created is good, including marijuana. God did not make a mistake when he made marijuana that the government needs to fix. Let’s allow the plant to be utilized for good — helping people with seizures, treating warriors with PTSD, producing fiber and other products — or simply for beauty and enjoyment. Government prohibition should be for violent actions that harm your neighbor — not of the possession, cultivation, and responsible use of plants.”
Legalize nature, Texas!
Simpson told radio host Chad Hasty that he did not believe that there needed to be “a big government solution” to legalizing cannabis. He’s right and his plan is a remarkably straightforward way to end marijuana prohibition on a state level:
“We don’t’ need a registry or more bureaucracies. We just need to hold accountable for their actions,” he explained. “Under the new covenant, if you look at Romans 13 [in the Bible], the role of the civil magistrate is to control or to punish when you have harmed your neighbor. And I don’t want the civil magistrate telling me how to worship and when to worship and dealing with my relationship with God or even coming into my home and telling how to do this or that.”
He lost me a little bit with some of that Bible stuff, but he’s still, at root, offering his constituents—be they liberal, conservative or libertarian—something reasonable. Something they can all agree on even if they’re coming at it from different places. No one should be arrested for possessing or growing something found in nature. Why go to the expense to enforce totally unenforceable pot laws? Even people who don’t smoke pot stopped giving a shit about it a long time ago. It’s time for the state and federal laws to reflect the fact that times have changed—just a teensy tiny bit—since the days of Harry Anslinger and J. Edgar Hoover.
“I think this would allow parents to be involved more with their children, and teach them — like with coffee or tea or with water. Respect it, and know that it can harm us if we don’t treat it right.”
I kinda like this guy. For a Christian Tea partier from Texas, he seems pretty okay to me. Rep. Simpson, next time you’re in Los Angeles, look me up. I’ll totally smoke you out, dude…
As most of the world, if not the galaxy knows, Leonard Nimoy passed away last Friday, and his many fans have since been celebrating a truly singular pop culture hero, a completely unmistakable actor who found his ideal role, with which he was forever identified—and who was also by all accounts a decent and much-loved human being.
Nimoy’s death has resulted in some priceless artifacts making the rounds, such as this awesome pic of Nimoy and Jimi Hendrix hanging out. But for my money you can’t beat this piece of vintage video technology advertising from 1981, a nearly 11-minute clip of space age hucksterism for the new technology of laserdiscs (actually “Laser Video Discs”), with the most credible witness outer space has to offer, Mr. Spock himself. The item in question was the Magnavision VH-8000 laserdisc player, which Wikipedia has called “poorly designed and quite primitive consumer player.” Oh well.
Scored to the unmistakable disco strains of the Network Music Ensemble (”The New West” followed by the even more familiar “High Combustion”), the mustachio’d Nimoy’s famously clipped, minimal and yet humane delivery of his “dialogue” with a glowing space rock makes him one of the few actors on earth who could pull this off without making it seem farcical—and it’s still pretty funny as it is.
It’s a real treat to watch Nimoy feign incredulity at the system’s inclusion of stereophonic sound or the existence of chapters to enable easier scrolling. He’s not just selling the system to us, he’s introducing viewers to a whole new chapter in American entertainment—the living room entertainment system era.
And also you get to hear a little bit of ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme.” The video makes you want to spend an evening in your den watching The Electric Horseman, inspecting some Rembrandt masterpieces, or improving your understanding of football strategy, doesn’t it?
X Files’ Special Agent Dana Scully has a punk rock past she’s not afraid to fess up to.
Actress Gillian Anderson still considers herself a “punk” at heart, confirming in a Parade Magazine interview, “even though I can dress up like a soccer mom, the punk rocker will forever be under my skin.”
In an NPR profile, Anderson expounds on being a punk-as-fuck teenage malefactor:
When we moved to Michigan ... my folks still had a flat in London that we would go to in the summertime. And through one of those trips I had started to become interested in the punk scene and started to dress differently than a lot of the kids in Grand Rapids, Michigan, were dressing. And I got my nose pierced and I started to shave my head and dye my hair and wear a lot of black. And so I looked like somebody that might be arrested. ... I was a bit of a class clown, usually the one that people would get to do the things that they were afraid to get in trouble for. So the mixture of those two things contributed, no doubt, to that vote.
And, in fact, on graduation night, I was arrested. ... I had a boyfriend at the time who was a couple centuries older than I was and I’d convinced him that we should go and glue the locks of the school so that people couldn’t get in in the morning. And lo and behold, they had a security guard because it was graduation night and they were concerned that idiots like me might try and do something like that.
Check out this 1985 photo of young, punk rock troublemaker, Gillian Anderson and take your crush to the next level
And this image purportedly from her high school yearbook (prior to lock-glueing arrest)
By 1991, even the most retrograde of old fogies was starting to suspect that rap music was not going away anytime soon. Advertisers began mining it for every bit of cultural capital they could, and soon hip-hop would be used to sell everything from breakfast cereal to high fashion. It became shorthand for “relevant,” and a nifty cultural touchstone that was sure to resonate with the youth… right? “Cutting-edge” and “hopelessly dated” are not mutually exclusive categories—a lot of groundbreaking things simply look silly in retrospect. Dan Aykroyd’s Nothing but Trouble however, was just completely, unjustifiably bad from the beginning.
The Razzie-winning box office bomb actually had a lot going for it in terms of star-power. In addition to John Candy and Demi Moore, Aykroyd was just coming off the Ghostbusters sequel, and Chevy Chase had finished his final National Lampoon’s Vacation movie. Unfortunately Aykroyd’s success may have have burdened him with a bit of artistically unproductive hubris. He directed the film, co-wrote the screenplay with his brother and co-starred in the movie (almost never a good sign). For a little perspective, this was a movie with the $40 million budget—massive for that time—and the box office take didn’t even reach $8.5 million.
Aykroyd also decided that Oakland hip-hop group Digital Underground (you know, the guys who did “The Humpty Dance”) could spice up the movie with a musical number—with Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase’s ultra-white guy characters as the enthusiastic audience. Most notably, this means a cameo by a young Tupac Shakur in the most undignified role of his short life. I’d be absolutely shocked if anyone predicted a future in music for Shakur based on this performance—it’s literally one of the worst moments in hip-hop history.
It could be the 1670’s, the 1970’s or in this present day, it is hard to be remain childlike in this world. This is the lesson beloved local TV children’s show host, Tom aka Mr. Rabbey (Tom Basham) learns in 1973’s massively overlooked horror film, The Psychopath aka Eye for an Eye. This grim and strange little gem opens up with one of Tom’s “Rabbey’s Rangers,” little Bobby, playing baseball with the neighborhood kids. His mother, who is straight out of central casting’s “abusive hag” division, immediately starts yelling and yanking him out of the game. His big infraction apparently is playing with other kids, who all seem fairly wholesome and nice. The ole chestnut of “Wait till your Father gets home” is growled at the little towheaded boy. Daddy does get home and is henpecked into unleashing some corporal sadism at the little boy, while one of the neighborhood kids watches in secret.
The next morning, an anonymous call is made to the police and little Bobby is “missing,” as his horrible parents look nervously at each other at the breakfast table. Bobby’s age? Five years old.
The film then cuts to “The Mr. Rabbey Show,” which centers around the eccentrically boyish host and his strangely gruesome puppet show. His choice in marionettes are something straight off of an old Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker album. (See, Oops, There Comes a Smile and get a nightmarish taste.) Despite the off putting puppets and plot lines involving cellars, Rabbey’s got a knack with the kids. A trait his handler Carolyn (Gretchen Kanne) recognizes, helping her come to his defense when the stage director hits the roof over Rabbey missing his marks for the umpteenth time.
Rabbey then goes to the park and plays with the local kids, almost like the pied piper of small town sunny suburbia. All is fun until one little girl’s horrible mother comes along and slaps the crap out of her when she tells her mom that she wants to stay with the other children and Mr. Rabbey. Before threatening her kid with “I’ll give you a reason to cry about!,” all but accuses Rabbey of having an untowards interest in the kids and warns him that she will go to the authorities. (Which apparently do not include DHS in her sphere of existence.) Rabbey looks irritated and confused, since his own sphere of existence seems to literally be stunted at a child-like level.
Meanwhile, the local police force are investigating Bobby’s disappearance. One of them notes that his medical records show a history of “accidents,” which are further looked into when the detective goes to the hospital and talks to the main nurse (Margaret Avery, who went on to be in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple). There’s no hard evidence of abuse, but she gives him a lecture on how you can tell when a kid is abused and introduces him to one little boy, who is bruised and afraid to speak. She shows the officer an experiment where she has the poor kid hold his arm up until she says to stop and asks the same of a little girl who was not abused. The latter immediately tires out and puts her arm down, while the little boy just leaves it up. The officer asks her how long Bobby left his arm up the last time he was in the hospital. She says “Fifteen Minutes.” While this is going on, Mr. Rabbey is in the room, visiting the sick kids to cheer them up with toys and a puppet show involving an executioner. Foreshadowing? You better believe it!
As the officer gets ready to leave, he is greeted and promptly scared by a puppet asking him questions through the driver’s side window. Rabbey pops up and doesn’t seem to make the officer feel any less weirded out, but does ask about Bobby and if they are going to arrest his parents. Of course, nothing concrete is given out information-wise, leaving Rabbey to think about justice that is needed. Another abused kid, a little girl named Rosemary, has one of the doctors knowingly tell her that if she needs anything, to call him. As she is being released, her harridan mother shows up and immediately starts quizzing her daughter if she told them “anything.” It’s a sick, sad world.
Bobby’s parents head home after searching for their kid with the police. They talk in hushed tones about when the authorities will find the body, all the while Rabbey is outside, listening. Soon, he breaks in and has one of his puppet friends peek around the corner, whispering, “Where’s the baby?” Creepsville turns into bloody justice land as the town’s boyish TV host offs both parents. While Bobby’s death has been avenged, you cannot spill blood without being changed and Rabbey heads back to the now empty studio, upset and playing the piano. Carolyn notices that he is acting more moody, especially during dinner, where he lightens up only when he starts exclaiming, “I wish I had all the chocolate cake in the world!” But he quickly comes down and says to her, “I don’t want to talk about it and you can’t make me. Leave me alone!” Things start to spiral more and more, with death, intrigue and one of the best and yet strangely, bleaker twist endings I have seen in a long time.
The Psychopath is an amazing and amazingly bent horror film that could have only emerged out of the 1970’s, arguably one of the grittiest periods for horror and crime films. It was the era that also gave us the even darker and brilliant The Candy Snatchers (1973), Hitchhike to Hell (1977) and more famously, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974.) Out of all of these titles, The Psychopath is infinitely more obscure, as evidenced by its lack of any legal DVD/Blu-ray release, something that all of the above have had. Which is a shame because there is truly nothing quite like it.
It’s commitment to not reward you with any feel-good comeuppance and present a fairly stark worldview is equaled by the strong performance by Mr. Rabbey himself, Tom Basham. A character actor who had appeared on TV shows like Adam-12 and Night Gallery, as well as the pro-gay cult biker film, The Pink Angels, Basham’s performance here is nothing short of unforgettable. He physically inhabits the role of this murderous man-child, acting every bit like a kid who gets irrationally upset, acts out and gets neglected, save initially for Carolyn and the kids themselves. Having the harsh realities of a world born ugly rear up in the imaginary life he’s created is a pill that Rabbey cannot swallow. After all, puppet violence is way easier to deal with than the real thing, so when these two worlds clash, none of this goes well. Having passed away back in 2010 from small cell cancer of the lungs, it’s truly a shame that Basham did not become a bigger name since what can be seen of his work is quite good, with his turn as Rabbey being the biggest stand-out.
The film itself is not perfect, with parts of the soundtrack being reminiscent more of a TV Movie of the Week than a dark horror film about mental instability and child abuse. It is also really strange that all but one of the many abusive parents featured here are mothers. The dads are mentioned but other than Bobby’s drunken henpecked sadist of a father, they are more in the background. This certainly would be far from the first (or last) film to deal with some violent mommy issues.
The Psychopath has remained in semi-obscurity for years. A remake was planned in the 1980s with Combat Shock director Buddy Giovinazzo at the helm and starring the interstellar Joe Spinell as “Mr. Robbie.” In a weird move, it was to be titled Maniac 2: Mr Robbie, though it had nothing whatsoever to do with William Lustig’s Maniac. Some footage was shot but the film itself was never completed due to the untimely death of Spinell. (Though you can see some of the footage in the X-rated version of Skinny Puppy’s “Worlock” video.)
The Psychopath can be found both on way out-of-print VHS copies and somewhat easily via the gray market DVD circuit (and YouTube in several parts), but with so many equally obscure films finding their way to legit DVD/Blu-ray releases, one hopes that this bizarre horror gem will get the treatment it so desperately deserves.
When Grace Slick talks, I listen. She’s nobody’s fool, she speaks her mind, and she can be hysterically funny. She is a good example for the young people of today.
She’s also got her priorities straight. Lately, I’ve been reading interviews with Slick from recent years, and when the interviewer gets to the inevitable question of regrets, the singer’s answers are remarkably clear-sighted and consistent. There are just two big ones:
The things I wish I did do that I did not do, were screw Jimi Hendrix, and ride a horse.
But there aren’t too many regrets, because I did pretty much what I wanted to do. So now, as an old person, I don’t have these huge regrets. Mine are fairly minor. They have to do with drinking and screwing, so that’s not all that important (laughs).
Abso-fuckin’-A-lutely.This is the kind of peace of mind you get as the reward for living a decent, godly life. I am reminded of William S. Burroughs, who, contemplating his relatively good health at the age of 82, attributed his longevity to “living right.” Ignore Grace Slick’s example at your peril, young people.
Slick appeared on Tom Snyder’s show in 1998 to promote her memoir, Somebody to Love? She talks about the time the cops knocked on the door and she answered it wielding a shotgun, the time she tried to outrun police cars in her Aston Martin, the time she and Abbie Hoffman went to the White House to dose President Nixon’s tea, and a lot of other occasions when she grabbed life by the balls.
Just kidding, only an idiot would use a lumpy bag of dank weed as a pillow. This is a pillowcase called the Giant Stash, created by Steelplant, that looks like an oversized baggie stuffed with Sour Diesel cannabis. And, it really is big, measuring in at 17” wide by 19” tall.
If you do want to sleep on your marijuana for some reason, fret not, its creator thought of that too. They’ve included an “aromatherapy” pouch inside the pillowcase for your aromatic stash.
Shade Rupe’s post mortem on the “David Bowie Is” exhibit in Chicago:
A cause célèbre for art, film and design institutions everywhere, with breaking attendance records, the Victoria & Albert—curated “Davie Bowie Is” exhibition is a marvel of closeness that zillions of fans through the decades never believed they’d be able to experience. In 1983 when D.A. Pennebaker’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was finally released we could squint through the reddish grain while our alien lord pranced and rocked the stage through multiple costume changes, mime, sucking off Mick Ronson’s… guitar, and admonishing his wife Angie’s makeup suggestions with “What do you know about makeup? You’re just a girl.” But this is different.
Debuting in Paris this month at the Philharmonie de Paris/ Cité de la Musique before then continuing to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands later in the year, the collection of costumes, outfits, memorabilia, and detritus, is vast as this is only a sampling of what the curators chose after Bowie opened his closets. Bowie’s self-application of color and cream is apparent with even a tissue that once blotted his lipstick is carefully displayed.
For Brits the ‘big moment’ was the “Starman” reveal on Top of the Pops, a moment given further clarity with a crew member shot backup film. While many English teenagers first got gobsmacked by that moment, even younger Americans were similarly blown away after over a decade of Bowie’s starring bursts when he premiered his devastatingly electric art moments during his December 15, 1979, Saturday Night Live performances with Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi on backup for scorching renditions of “The Man Who Sold the World” (in a Hugo Ball—inspired hourglass-shaped tuxedo), “TVC15” (in a school marm’s green dress with Arias and Nomi fending off a pink poodle with a TV in its mouth), and “Boys Keep Swinging,” with a Silly Putty—bodied Bowie unfurling a plastic penis, twice (though only shown on the first broadcast). Both programs make up significant parts of the exhibit.
Scary Monsters unleashed the final throes of Bowie’s magnificent more-than-a-decade of blowing Earth’s minds before settling down with that album that can’t be named (and thankfully is left out of the exhibition entirely). The next decade is skipped until we encounter Floria Sigismondi’s music videos (she’s created four for the Master in total) for “Little Wonder” and “Dead Man Walking.”
Other highlights of the exhibit, beyond getting to get ::this close:: to the Starman’s magic clothing include a gift of a test pressing of the first Velvet Underground album, bequeathed to Bowie’s manager Kenneth Pitt by Andy Warhol then to Bowie who exclaimed “By the time ‘European Son’ was done I was so excited I couldn’t move,” the keys to the underground bunker Bowie shared with Iggy Pop in Berlin which resulted in this writer’s own desert island disc The Idiot, and the Thin White Duke’s trusty cocaine spoon giving the man who fell to earth’s Diamond Dogs tour that extra bit of futuristic oomph.
This whimsical series by artist Michele Pred bears the title “Promote the General Welfare,” which phrase might ring a bell insofar as it is in the first line of the U.S. Constitution.
Some of the items feature actual neon, whereas others use electroluminescent wire twisted and bent to get a similar, albeit lo-fi, effect.
Pred’s comment on the series is as follows:
Each unique piece is made using a vintage handbag from the 1950s or ‘60s. For me, the use of purses from the mid-twentieth century harks back to that critical era, and reminds us how much has changed and, more importantly, how much has not. The text on each purse is created using Electroluminescent wire that is lit up using batteries and a small electronic driver that can be set to constant or flash mode. The purses are meant to be carried and serve as small-scale political billboards.
Submitted for your approval are two priceless videos from the cusp of the late ‘80s “Satanic Panic” era which, despite the outrageously ridiculous performances, are an insight into just how seriously some folks took the threat of creeping occultism at the time. Placed in historical context, this was the start of a cycle of hysteria so real that many high-profile arrests were made based on groundless allegations of “Satanic ritual abuse,” most notably the McMartin Preschool and West Memphis Three cases. It was a heavy time for followers of the left-hand path, but these clips remain utterly hilarious.
Wally George, host of ‘Hot Seat’
Hot Seat was a syndicated talk show, running from 1983 to 1992, hosted by over-the-top reactionary conservative commentator (and estranged father of actress Rebecca De Mornay), Wally George, who termed his delivery “combat TV.” The show’s format was a precursor to the popular “shock talk” shows hosted by the likes of Morton Downey, Jr. and Jerry Springer, with a profoundly right-wing posture. Hot Seat‘s studio audience was generally comprised of aggressively out-of-control meatheads, as you will see in these clips.
In the segments, Wally brings ‘80s uproarious cult goth band, Radio Werewolf - led by Nikolas Schreck, onto the program, and is given the treatment.
Schreck, pictured here with wife Zeena, who co-directed Radio Werewolf from 1988-93. Both renounced Satanism and occultism in the late ‘90s and today are artists and Buddhist teachers.
I had the opportunity to discuss Radio Werewolf’s Hot Seat appearances with Nikolas, in this exclusive Dangerous Minds interview:
I was initially aware of one appearance Radio Werewolf made on Hot Seat, but your webmaster informed me that you actually appeared on the show twice.
Nikolas Schreck: Well, thank God you turned to me to correct your appalling ignorance on these matters of earth-shaking importance! Now future historians can use your article to confirm that in fact, Radio Werewolf battled Wally George an unholy three times. Our first titanic Hot Seat struggle took place on April 25, 1987. That went over so well that he then invited us on his radio program, where Wally started things off with a bang with a little flattery, introducing me as more dangerous than Hitler, Jim Jones and Manson. The other guest that night was a Baptist minister who officially declared me possessed. Our final Armageddon of the airwaves occurred in the Fall of ‘87, when Radio Werewolf returned to Hot Seat to declare our triumphant return to the stage after the little obstacle of my ear getting cut off during that eventful summer. And that event led to a kind of “Brides of Radio Werewolf” spinoff, since Wally, admirer of the ladies that he was, was so taken with two of my stripper girlfriends who accompanied me to the show that he later had them on as guests so that he could pretend moral outrage at our sinful ménage à trois. If I’d paid Wally to be Radio Werewolf’s publicist, he couldn’t have done a better job.
Wally George’s presentation is so exaggerated that at times he comes off as, what would be known in the world of professional wrestling, a “heel.” Did you ever get the impression that there was any insincerity or fakery to George’s act?
NS: Wally was a consummate showman, no more or less insincere or fake than his showbiz idol Ronald Reagan, who both cunningly played exaggerated roles for their niche Neanderthal audience in the grand old tradition of American populist demagoguery. Offstage, Wally was unfailingly courteous to me, and was actually genuinely supportive of my career, despite his on-the-air hostility. Hard to say which one of us was “the heel” or “the face”. Our encounters were definitely “kayfabe” professional wrestling at its finest though. The difference being that what we did when the cameras rolled was completely improvised. We served each others needs. I understood that Radio Werewolf couldn’t be “The Most Evil Band in the World” without a worthy Van Helsing adversary such as Wally to oppose us. And he needed me to be the “Man You Love To Hate” so that he could be the “Good Guy” for his fans. Really, the supposedly more legitimate network news journalists who interviewed me were all just as contrived and two-faced as Wally. At least he was honest about it.
In the OC Weekly article on Wally George you are quoted “the audience was whipped into a genuine frenzy. They did not take it as a joke, and it felt very dangerous to be there.” Do you feel there was a closed loop between exploitative infotainers such as Wally George and Geraldo Rivera, and a fearful Cold War era public that created the Satanic Panic of the 80’s? Did you personally experience repercussions as a result of your appearances on Hot Seat?
NS: The live audiences watching the Radio Werewolf appearances on Hot Seat could easily have turned into lynch mobs, but I was as recklessly irresponsible as Wally in feeding fuel to the fire. It’s astute that you place all this in its Cold War context, because looking at these and other wacky ‘80s clips today without understanding the panicky fear of imminent nuclear Armageddon permeating the USA under the Reagan regime, it’s hard to understand the hysterical theological intensity driving the Satanic Panic. Wally and Geraldo were both simply fear-mongering entertainers making a living by giving the terrified audience exactly what they wanted. And I was part of the same closed loop, in that I collaborated with them by consciously embodying their worst fears, since that early phase of Radio Werewolf was designed as a self-parodying, mirroring manifestation of that society’s deepest nightmares about “occult music”. As for repercussions, Wally first invited us on Hot Seat after the horrified reaction in Los Angeles to my public announcement of Radio Werewolf’s “Free Manson” benefit concert at a Friday the 13th performance in March of ‘87. That was immediately followed by many months of death threats, LAPD surveillance and harassment of me and my friends, blacklisting and banning from certain clubs, the need to have security guards patrol our concerts, so I can’t determine how much of these shenanigans were inspired by the Wally vs. Werewolf broadcasts specifically.
More interview and those amazing clips after the jump.