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Brother Theodore, one of David Letterman’s all-time most memorable guests, lectures us on ‘Foodism’
01.18.2019
01:07 pm
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“My name, as you may have guessed, is Theodore. I come from a strange stock. The members of my family were mostly epileptics, vegetarians, stutterers, triplets, nail biters. But we’ve always been happy.”—Brother Theodore

I’m not sure this story qualifies as an actual anecdote or just a meandering way of introducing an amazing collection of YouTube clips, but here goes nuthin’...

As a lad growing up in Wheeling, WV in the 1970s, at approximately the age of twelve, I decided that I was no longer going to eat the food I was being served by my parents. In a home where greasy pan-fried hamburgers (or “Steakums”) were the typical main course and Kraft macaroni and cheese substituted for the “vegetable group,” I simply wanted to eat healthier. My parents were not very happy about this this demand—for that is what it was—and it seemed really insulting to them, but what could they do? The severity of my new diet must have really taken them by surprise. I became, pretty much a Fruitatarian, or a raw foodist, years before this was common. What influenced my twelve-year-old mind to do something like this was an obscure book I found in the local library with the distinctly unappetizing title, Mucusless Diet Healing System by Dr. Arnold Ehret.
 

 
I won’t go into the details of the diet, which extols the value of avoiding “mucus” and “pus” in your food—sounds like an admirable goal, right?—but suffice to say that while Dr. Ehret’s work still has many followers—he’s thought of as the founder of Naturopathy—many diet experts consider him a total quack. But I am not here to debate the merits of his ideas, pro or con, merely to offer some brief context before I send you off to read this short essay, The Definitive Cure of Chronic Constipation.

Okay? You got that? At the very least skim it. The language he uses is quite distinctive isn’t it? The total disgust he expresses about the workings of the digestive system is almost Nietzschean in its peculiar character. This absolutist tone must’ve contributed greatly to my pre-teen interest in the diet.
 

 
Now flash-forward to the late 1990s, New York City. I had become friends with the then 91-year-old Theodore Gottlieb, better-known as the infamous dark comedian Brother Theodore, a big influence on monologists Eric Bogosian, Lydia Lunch and Spalding Gray, who had been performing his totally insane one-man show at the tiny 13th Street Theater in Greenwich Village for ages and was a frequent guest on David Letterman’s late night talkshow during the 1980s. Theodore, or rather his persona, was once described as s “Boris Karloff, surrealist Salvador Dalí, Nijinsky and Red Skelton…simultaneously.” That’s not far off the mark.

At his age, it was not much of an exaggeration to say that Theodore had “been around forever.” He was delivering lines like “The only thing that keeps me alive is the hope of dying young” long before I was born. What was a great gag when he was, say, 50 years old, and then to STILL be delivering a line like that at the age of 93, as he did on my UK television series, Disinformation, well that, shall we say existential tension is what made his nonagenarian performances so incredibly spell-binding.
 

 
His show was in the form of a stern lecture. It was nearly impossible to tell if this was an act you were seeing or if he was utterly batshit crazy, a berserk “genius” impervious to laughter as long as an audience bought tickets. The props were a chair, a table, a chalk board and a styrofoam cup. There was a single spotlight. If you were anywhere near the stage in that little theater he could totally scare the shit out of you. Of course, whenever I brought friends, I took them right down the front!

It was an act, I can assure you. Theodore in real life was a mellow old bohemian guy who lived several lives in his 94 years. He’d been in Dachau, for instance. His mother, stepfather and sister were killed, but Theodore’s release was secured by none other than Albert Einstein—his mother’s adulterous lover!—who paid his way to America after the war. He’d also been on Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and most famously on Late Night with David Letterman (Theodore, along with Harvey Pekar, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and Captain Beefheart, was one of the most memorable and emblematic oddball Letterman guests of his early era).  He was in The Burbs playing Tom Hanks’ great uncle and was the voice of “Gollum” in The Hobbit cartoon. He had a cameo in Orson Welles’ The Stranger. He was even in a porno movie, an X-rated parody of Jaws called Gums (Theo plays the boat captain, in a thankfully non-balling role. The former concentration camp prisoner is also seen, rather inexplicably, wearing a Nazi SS uniform for most of the film). In his nineties he was dating a woman in her mid-forties. He rode a bike around New York City until he was well into his eighties. Theodore was an old Beatnik, that’s the way I saw him. I think that’s largely the way he saw himself.
 

 
And talk about a weird way to make a living! He really wasn’t anything like his crazed monk act in real life, though. And let me tell you, when you are in your thirties and have a friend who is in their nineties… you learn things about life. Not all of them good, either. 94 years is a long time to live. Too long, if you ask me. I’m quite sure he felt that way, too.

Theodore apparently had great difficulty memorizing lines, even his own material and so he only really ever did two major monologues—he’d switch off between them when he felt like it—for over 40 years. One was called “Foodism”—we’ll get to this one in a minute—and the other was called “Quadrupidism” where he’d extol the virtues of human beings getting down on all fours (everything went to hell when our ancestors stood up according to his theories).
 

 
One day I was visiting Theodore at his apartment and I was looking at his sparse book shelf. On it sat The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Baudelaire’s Les Fleur du Mal, an Edgar Allan Poe anthology, The Portable Nietzsche, some Saint Augustine, and… ta da… The Mucusless Diet Healing System by Dr. Arnold Ehret. I remarked to him that I myself was a pre-teen adherent to Arnold Ehret’s unconventional ideas about diet and he replied that it was the inspiration for his “Foodism” monologue.  “I merely exaggerated his writings. Just slightly. That was all it took!”

My jaw hit the ground. He’d managed to craft one of the most brilliant comic monologues of all time based on Ehret’s zany diet-sprach. I was awestruck at how amazing this revelation really was. I mean… how creative!!!

You read that essay about constipation, right? Promise me? Now go watch this extended excerpt from the “Foodism” lecture performed on Late Night with David Letterman in the mid-80s.
 

 
After the jump, every single Brother Theodore appearance on ‘Late Night With David Letterman!

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.18.2019
01:07 pm
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Why Iggy Pop’s guest role on ‘Miami Vice’ never aired
01.18.2019
09:29 am
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Iggy and dominatrix 1
 
Mid-1983 through 1985 are considered Iggy Pop’s “quiet years,” but he was still active and looking for ways to challenge himself. Acting was one such endeavor, with Pop taking classes and auditioning for various roles. This included a 1984 tryout for a part on a new NBC program, Miami Vice. During a 1986 newspaper interview, casting director Bonnie Timmermann talked about Iggy’s audition for the show.

He came in with his big eyes and black hair and sat and stared at me. Despite his reputation as a wild man, he was gentle. I immediately liked him. Iggy came in for a biker role, but we ended up giving him another part.

The Ig was slated to play opposite fellow Michigander Glenn Frey in a February 1st, 1985 episode named after Frey’s song, “Smuggler’s Blues.” But Pop didn’t turn up on set, and his absence was widely reported in the press. “He was supposed to be in the show. We announced it,” said an NBC spokesperson in January 1985. “But when it came time to make the arrangements, we couldn’t find him.” It seemed Iggy had simply flaked.
 
Iggy clipping 1
 
But that wasn’t the case. When Iggy saw a February 1985 article in the San Francisco Examiner about his “no show,” he was stunned. He never knew he had been given the part.
 
Iggy clipping 2
 
Miami Vice must have accepted this explanation, as Iggy was cast in another season one episode, entitled “Evan.” Pop’s part was that of a police informant named Thumper, a proprietor of a S&M-themed club. A scene was shot in the club’s setting, and Iggy’s guest role was noted in newspapers, but when the episode aired on May 3rd, 1985, the Ig was nowhere to be seen.
 
Iggy and Don
A publicity photo of Iggy Pop and ‘Miami Vice’ star, Don Johnson.

So, what happened with Iggy and the show this time?

This scene was cut by NBC Censors (Broadcast Standards Division) due to its S&M content. Camille Sands, an actress who had the small part of a dominatrix called Velvet, remembered later that the scene contained a customer of the S&M studio being molested on a torture rack while Don Johnson talked to Iggy Pop. The urge of NBC to cut this out led to the first serious argument with the Miami Vice producers, who refused to alter the episode. Subsequently, NBC used its contractual right of final cut, and cut the whole scene. (from the Unofficial ‘Miami Vice’ Episode Guide)

What would have been Iggy Pop’s dramatic television debut remains unseen to this day. All we have are a handful of publicity photos and snapshots taken on set.
 
Iggy as Thumper
 
Iggy and dominatrix 2
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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01.18.2019
09:29 am
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A TARDIS that Grows Weed with Artificial Intelligence
01.17.2019
04:25 pm
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Credit: Ron Kretsch

Or “How I, a complete novice, got here, from there…”

I am a 53-year-old wake-n-bake stoner and I’ve been high since… well… since 1979. Leaving much of that, er, loaded statement aside (and yes, as a definitive study of one, I do plan to leave my body to science) think of all the money I’ve spent staying massively stoned since I was fourteen. At approximately $20 a day over 365 days per annum ($7300) for 39 years that comes to $284,700 but do consider that I had to make nearly twice that and pay tax on that income before I could spend it on herb. Money doesn’t grow on trees, of course, but there was a time not all that long ago when an ounce of pot and an ounce of gold were the exact same price, for a little perspective.

I kid myself that all my money was spent on books and records, but I know the truth. And the truth is, I have no regrets. Frankly I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without marijuana nor do I wish to try. It seems obvious in retrospect that I was, and am, self-medicating, but who cares about that? I simply don’t feel right until I’ve smoked around ten bong hits and I have always been this way since the very first time that I smoked pot. But again, add up all the money I’ve spent each and every day since 1979 and it only makes sense that with legalization I would want to start growing my own.

Now I’ve been around quite a few grow rooms—some really sophisticated ones—and I have good friends who are master growers, but I myself have never grown anything, not even tomatoes, let alone cannabis plants that resemble Venus Fly Traps. Nevertheless my enthusiasm—I’m finally going to grow pot!!—was not to be dampered by my utter cluelessness as to what the task at hand actually called for. Standing in my new home I announced to two friends that I was going to start growing pot and they started pelting me with annoyingly reasonable questions. Questions that I could not answer. Questions like “Where are you going to do it?” 

“In the garage. Or the attic.”

“You can’t do that. You’ll get spider mites.”

“Or mold”

“You know you’ll need a grow tent, right?”

If you are reading this because you are interested in growing pot yourself, you probably feel vicariously defeated by what you just read. Admit it, you sighed at the thought of it: It already sounds harder than buying a clone at a dispensary, putting it under a light and giving it a squirt of Miracle Gro several times a day, doesn’t it? What’s a grow tent?

I felt like an overeager dummy. I also realized in that very moment how it was already seeming like an overwhelming task to me.

The next day I read several “how to grow pot” blog posts and the advice was, to say the least, all over the place and often contradicted the thing I’d read right before it.

I thought the obvious first place to start looking would be lights. I knew that I wanted LED lights (better, cheaper, cooler, safer) and perhaps the one place where many pot bloggers were in agreement was regarding Black Dog Lights. It was clear to me that Black Dog’s full spectrum grow lights was the way that I wanted to go, so I crossed that off the list (more on this topic later in this series.)

Something I also noticed immediately is that Home Depot’s online presence might be the single best and biggest internet source of all things hydroponic. But unlike the topic of LED lighting, with no clear grower consensus in grow tents or nutrients, I was again overwhelmed. How was I even gonna hang a Black Dog light in my (theoretical) grow tent anyway? Did I mention that I’ve never grown any plant? I did. Well I’m also helpless with a hammer and tools and so forth. I have no talent in that area whatsoever. I’ve been an apartment dweller for most of my life. So the idea of making a grow tent and hanging the lights and doing all that made this seem like it was going to be less fun than putting together an Ikea dresser. It was seriously daunting. You think it’s going to be easy, but when you want to get off the dime, you could go in a bewildering number of directions and it’s difficult to be confident that you’re not going to waste a lot of money experimenting until you get it right. That’s the way it was quickly shaping up to me.

Fortunately I have some human resources to rely on. I emailed my old friend Michael Backes, an internationally known expert on cannabis and the author of Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana. I explained my dilemma and he gave me several pieces of good advice. First he suggested that I purchase and read (and reread and then reread again) Jorge Cervantes’ Cannabis Encyclopedia. He also sent me a PDF of a study about pot growing hygiene which made a very strong case for using hydrogen peroxide to fastidiously clean all surfaces in your growing area. When I expressed exasperation about how complicated the supposedly simple act of growing a weed (properly) was shaping up to be, he suggested that he knew a consultant who was adept at setting up grow rooms large and small and that he’d probably charge me $4000 plus equipment and expenses to set me up right.

When I informed him that I didn’t see myself ever growing more than six plants, he sent me a link to the Cloudponics website and suggested this might be more what I was looking for: a truly turnkey pot growing solution. Although there are a small number of companies touting their automated grow boxes on Kickstarter and elsewhere, so far only Cloudponics had actually made it to market and they’d already launched their second iteration. I noticed that Cloudponics was utilizing Black Dog’s full spectrum LED grow lights and my interest was immediately piqued. I watched their video—a nudge-nudge-wink-wink tutorial on growing your own hydroponic tomatoes (see below)—and I realized that this was exactly what I needed, I just didn’t know it yet.

TO BE CONTINUED in Part 2 of ‘A TARDIS that Grows Weed with Artificial Intelligence’!
 

A time-traveling bud from the future. Stayed tuned…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.17.2019
04:25 pm
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Holy shit, there’s video of Fred Neil singing ‘The Dolphins’
01.17.2019
08:55 am
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Rick Danko and Fred Neil onstage in Coconut Grove (Photo by Mark Diamond, via Twitter)
 
Other than an impromptu appearance at a Coconut Grove café in 1986, Fred Neil’s last show was a 1977 set at a Tokyo event called “Japan Celebrates the Whale and Dolphin.” All of his last concerts had something to do with marine mammals: before the Tokyo gig, there had been “Rolling Coconut Revue” shows at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in aid of a dolphin rescue organization Neil helped establish, and he made an appearance at the Sacramento “Celebration of Whales” event featuring Joni Mitchell, Gary Snyder, and Gov. Jerry Brown, singing “The Dolphins” with Joni.

After mentioning St. Petersburg, Florida in my last post, I started poking around for footage of hometown boy Fred Neil performing, or talking, or pumping gas, for that matter. There is not much. In fact, as far as I can tell, there is almost nothing—only this outstanding performance of “The Dolphins” from one of Neil’s last shows. The video below, dated August 2, 1976, likely comes from one of the Coconut Grove Playhouse benefits; that’s John Sebastian on harmonica, and I reckon that’s Neil’s former partner Vince Martin stage right.

With reasons to despair growing fat and multiplying, I thought we could all use a little pick-me-up from Fred Neil, whose music is always there to remind you that, no matter how bad it gets, you can always curl up in the trunk of your car with your handguns and slam heroin.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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01.17.2019
08:55 am
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Watch some ball-kicking self-defense with seventies pop princess Lynsey de Paul
01.16.2019
08:12 am
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01ldp.jpg
 
Down these mean streets a pop star must occasionally go. Though they may not be mean themselves, they are sometimes trained in martial arts like Elvis Presley who was a black belt able to disarm a whole plateful of cheeseburgers at fifteen paces. Or, Stevie Nicks who could fuck you up with her four-inch platform heels. Or, the late seventies pop princess Lynsey de Paul who was so adept at kicking butt in self-defense she made her very own video to let others in on her secret ninja skills.

Lynsey de Paul may not be as well-known today as Presley or Nicks but at the peak of her career in the 1970s, she was a chart-topping star on both sides of the Atlantic. The first woman to win an Ivor Novello Award for her song “Won’t Somebody Dance With Me” in 1974 (she won a second the following year with “No, Honestly”—the theme tune to a hit TV series), de Paul scored a string of hits before her career imploded after a fall-out with her manager Don Arden—aka Sharon Osbourne’s dad. Osbourne described de Paul as “a miserable old cow” and allegedly, during one acrimonious tour, urinated in a suitcase full of the singer’s clothes.

Lynsey de Paul was born Lynsey Monckton Rubin on June 11th, 1948, in north London. Her father was a bad-tempered old git, a property-developer who regularly beat de Paul and her brother. He also spent a lot of time demeaning and undermining his daughter who he claimed would never amount to anything. At the age of eleven, de Paul vowed to get her ass out of the family home ASAP and make enough dough to live an independent life far away from her old man. It was another ten years before de Paul managed to get out, but once gone she never looked back.

My motivation was negative because I was trying to get away from something. I turned it into something positive, so that I wasn’t walking away from home but towards something better.

De Paul studied at art college and had a brief career as a graphic designer before turning her talents towards songwriting in the late 1960s. She wrote a batch of singles for Oliver! star Jack Wild before writing a song called “Sugar Me” for Peter Noone. It was only when her then boyfriend Dudley Moore suggested she should record this single herself instead of Noone that a star was born. “Sugar Me” was de Paul’s first major hit in both the UK and the US. It was the kind of song that once you started singing the opening line, it was difficult not to follow on to the next.

One for you and one for me
But one and one and one,
Pardon me, comes to three.

A simple rhythm, a clever hook and then:

Honey sweet and all the while,
Hid behind the smile was saccharine
I’m a go-between.

I must have sung those lines more times than a few headshrinkers would think healthy. The first time I heard them, I was caught, filleted, and served up ready to eat. Not just for the beauty of the singer but the cleverness of the song. Those old enough to remember “Sugar Me” will know what I mean.
 

 
Watch Lynsey de Paul’s self-defense video ‘Taking Control,’ after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.16.2019
08:12 am
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Moebius for Maxwell House, 1989
01.15.2019
09:32 am
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In 1989 Jean Giraud, or Moebius as he is universally known in the comix world, accepted an assignment from the Paris office of Young & Rubicam. The client was Maxwell House coffee, and the job called for a series of advertisements that would appear in French magazines. The images correlated roughly to what we would today call “a New Yorker cartoon” but they also overflowed with the exacting, unmistakable, visionary touch of Moebius, collaborator of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, and Luc Besson.

Moebius completed six images for Young & Rubicam but only four were actually used in magazines. The theme of the advertisements was “Grain de Folie,” which translates to something like “a touch of madness.” The purpose of the campaign appears to have been to convince French womankind that a coffee during the daytime might be seen as a proper activity or even a reward for completed tasks, as we shall see.

The heroine of the series was “Tatiana,” a self-possessed and fashionable young woman who happens to find herself alone on a deserted jungle island or the like. Rather than display a shred of panic, unflappable Tatiana instead demurely sips her cup of Maxwell House coffee, a cup that invariably is defined as a tiny expanse of white in an otherwise completely yellow image. Tatiana is so utterly capable that even the considerable threats of the jungle are reduced (in the caption, we find) to the everyday trials of suburban domesticity. Or something.

Here are two rather grainy images of the ads more or less in action. Note that you can see a small amount of white space to indicate where the center of the image would be, in the two-page spread of a magazine. (Better images—and translations—are supplied further down, never fear.)
 

 

 
Moebius fans have been aware of these images for quite a while. In 1991, just two years after the campaign, French artist Numa Sadoul included them in a book called Mœbius: Entretiens avec Numa Sadoul. A few years later they were printed in a limited run as Coffee Dreams, the 5th issue of Ashcan Comics, a series dedicated to Moebius rarities.
 

 
That issue, which was limited to just 100 copies, fetches $500 in online auction sites today—which is true of all of the Ashcan Comics that I was able to find.

Here are better-quality pics with proper captions so that you can enjoy the full effect of these indelible Moebius images:
 

Ce petit break fut un soulangement pour Tatiana qui se lassait tant de ces blablas intellos. (The little break was a relief for Tatiana, who was sick and tired of all the intellectual blah-blah.)

 
More Moebius after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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01.15.2019
09:32 am
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Breaking bad: Mötley Crüe’s porny photo layout in OUI magazine, 1982 (NSFW)
01.14.2019
08:53 am
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An early promo shot of Mötley Crüe.
 
In an effort to not diminish the importance of heavy metal in the year 1982, I feel compelled to make a few opening remarks on the year horny metal band Mötley Crüe first terrorized the eyes of “readers” of a national publication—adult magazine OUI.

In 1982, Venom released their deeply influential second album, Black Metal, the Scorpions burned our faces off with their eighth record, Blackout, Judas Priest delivered Screaming for Vengeance, and Iron Maiden unleashed The Number of the Beast. 1982 was also the same year the Plasmatics socked it to us with Coup d’Etat, which the LA Times called “the best slice of unrelenting heavy metal since the last AC/DC album” (1981’s For Those About To Rock). If referring to the Plasmatics as a “heavy metal” band makes you shake your head, here’s an interesting fact: Wendy O. and the band recorded Coup d’Etat in Germany with Dieter Dierks who had just worked with the Scorpions on Blackout. He helped push the Plasmatics’ punk sound to a heavier, more metal realm. Reviews of Coup d’Etat have even referred to Williams as an “Iron Maiden” for her vocal work on the record. So the next time someone tells you how much music in the 80s sucked, tell ‘em to Stop. Now that we have established 1982 as a pretty damn good year for heavy metal let’s talk about Mötley Crüe’s appearance in Playboy magazine’s pornier sister publication, OUI. (Playboy’s Penthouse, if you will.)

As noted above, this would be the first time Crüe’s mugs (and more) would be seen in a magazine with national distribution. Crüe had not even been called Mötley Crüe for a year when photographer Mark Weiss came to LA to shoot the band in their natural surroundings for one of his monthly contributions to OUI which, according to Weiss, kept him busy taking photos of rock stars and naked ladies. While Weiss was in LA, he took twenty or so shots of Mötley mugging for their lives with a couple of topless blonde models, pentagrams, all of the Aqua Net, human skulls, and a motorcycle, among other heavy metal staples. The photoshoot is accompanied by a long interview with Nikki, Tommy, Mick, and Vince (the magazine mistakenly spelled Vince’s last name as “Neal”), with OUI writers Mikael Kirke and Joe Bivona. It is full of all kinds of salacious statements—as one should expect it to be. And, since OUI was a porn magazine, the 1982 version of Mötley Crüe were probably even more over the top than usual (you can read the entire interview here). Here’s one excerpt not about sex, but an account by Vince about a science experiment Crüe conducted in Canada in order to deduce how long it would take for a Sony television set to fall out of a hotel window:

Oui: Are you guys into tearing up hotels?
Vince Neil: We got thrown out of Canada for that. Don’t bring a Sony TV in front of Mötley Crüe. You won’t have it too long.
Oui: So how long does it take for a television to…
Vince Neil: To drop out of a hotel? We timed it. Everybody in the band had a TV set, and we threw them out one at a time. Mickey’s (guitarist Mick Mars) went down in exactly seven seconds, which is a little over his mark. Nikki’s went down in 6.3 seconds, but he gave it a little push. Tommy’s went down in five seconds flat and hit a hooker on the street. She must have some voice to scream that loud!

First of all, Crüe’s antics during their 1982 tour of Canada are well documented and Lee’s television tossing has been verified as fact. However, if said television did inadvertently hit a hooker on its way to its death, I can’t understand why there isn’t a news item with the title, “Tommy Lee Nails Canadian Hooker With TV,” but that’s just how my brain tries to come to terms with such conundrums. I should probably get that checked out. Lastly, there is one more heavy metal connection in this issue of OUI—the model on the cover is Cheryl Rixon. Rixon, Penthouse magazine’s Pet of the Year in 1979, appeared in a controversial layout in Kerrang! magazine in 1982 with none other than Judas Priest.
 

 

 
More photos of Mötley Crüe behaving exactly like you’d expect Mötley Crüe to behave follow after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.14.2019
08:53 am
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‘Punk Nursery Rhymes’: The entertaining 1981 novelty album and the mystery band behind it
01.11.2019
09:27 am
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Album cover
 
I recently came across a novelty record called Punk Nursery Rhymes. Expecting unlistenable junk, I instead found it highly enjoyable. It was certainly better than it needed to be. Released in 1981, the record was attributed to a band called the Rotten Eggs, but that’s about all that could be immediately discerned. There are no credits included with the album, and it’s the only LP by the Rotten Eggs. I couldn’t help but wonder: who was behind this LP?

Punk Nursery Rhymes was issued by the Golden Editions label in 1981. Golden Editions was a part of Music World, a record company that could be described as Australasia’s version of K-Tel Records. Music World and their sub-labels specialized in budget compilations and novelty records, and like K-Tel, marketed their products through infomercials. You can see, above, that the “As Seen on T.V.” logo was worked into the album art, which features a rendering of Humpty Dumpty after his great fall. The “Humpty Dumpty” track was my introduction to Punk Nursery Rhymes. The song is brilliantly ridiculous—a nursery rhyme executed with the energy and attitude of punk. The song collapses at its conclusion, which is a perfect ending, as it works as both a parody of the ramshackle nature of early British punk, but also represents Humpty Dumpty’s tumble off the wall.
 

 
So, who were the Rotten Eggs? Blair Parkes a member of the Christchurch, New Zealand band, All Fall Down, has shed some major light on the mystery. Parkes has shared his memories of the All Fall Down days on his website, and in one section, wrote about their mid ‘80s visit to Tandem Studios in Christchurch. In it, he reveals who was behind Punk Nursery Rhymes:

I’d been up to Tandem Studios about five years earlier, as a member of the Newz fanclub. The band [the Newz] was briefly back from Melbourne and were recording Punk Nursery Rhymes as “The Rotten Eggs” for Music World. They were making the songs up as they went along. I’d not known you could do that. Eric Johns engineered both the Rotten Eggs sessions and ours. Eric was a very cool African-American guy married to a New Zealander. He had been in Heatwave who had struck it big with “Boogie Nights” and another couple of disco-era hits.

The Newz were a new wave act around for a spell in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. Also from Christchurch, the Newz released one album, Heard the Newz, which came out in 1980. Like Punk Nursery Rhymes, it was produced by Eric Johns and recorded at Tandem Studios. The LP was put out by Music World, with the Newz said to have been the only “proper” group on the label, at the time. It’s unclear how Punk Nursery Rhymes came to be, but my guess is that it was commissioned by Music World, and the Newz and Eric Johns did it to make a few extra bucks. It was all anonymous, so why not?
 
The Newz
The Newz

When I first found a stream of the full LP online, I figured I’d never get through all 18 songs, but Punk Nursery Rhymes is surprisingly entertaining. Punk parodies rarely capture the spirit of the genre accurately, but the Newz and Eric Johns not only did just that, they successfully paired punk with nursery rhymes—! The project may have come together quickly, but nothing about it seems haphazard. There’s even some post-punk weirdness worked into the mix, which was above and beyond the call of duty. The Newz are good players, and genuinely sound inspired. It’s all very infectious and splendidly absurd.
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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01.11.2019
09:27 am
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Orson Welles’ ‘Voodoo’ Macbeth on film
01.10.2019
08:55 am
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Poster for the ‘Voodoo’ Macbeth on tour in Indianapolis (WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Library of Congress)

A theater company in St. Petersburg, Florida recently mounted a revival of Orson Welles’ “Voodoo” Macbeth, which transposed the medieval violence and witchcraft of Shakespeare’s “Scottish play” into 19th century Haiti. The show and the stir it caused had much to do with the Welles legend. When it opened at Harlem’s Lafayette Theatre on April 14, 1936, some 10,000 people surrounded the venue, blocking traffic on Seventh Avenue; when the show toured the country after a three-month run in Harlem, the playbill boasted that the original engagement played to 150,000 people. 

The original production was financed by the New Deal. During the second half of the thirties, the Federal Theatre Project funded performances to feed starving actors and keep stages open. One of these was the Negro Theatre Unit’s Macbeth, directed by a 20-year-old Orson Welles. Despite his youth, Welles was not timid around the Bard, having published a three-volume set of Shakespeare plays “edited for reading and arranged for staging” during his teens. Among other revisions and inventions (such as the unmistakably Wellesian costumes and sets), Welles’ audacious staging of Macbeth replaced the three witches with a troupe of Voodoo drummers and dancers.
 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 
There is a wonderful story about the theater critic Percy Hammond, who panned the show in the New York Herald Tribune and died shortly thereafter. The tale exists in many versions; here’s how John Houseman, Welles’ friend and mentor, who was in charge of the Negro Theatre Unit and brought Welles on board, tells it in Voices from the Federal Theatre:

When we did the Voodoo Macbeth, it was very successful, and we got very nice reviews except from a few die-hard Republican papers. Percy Hammond wrote a perfectly awful review saying this was a disgrace that money was being spent on these people who couldn’t even speak English and didn’t know how to do anything. It was a dreadful review but purely a political review.

We had in the cast of Macbeth about twelve voodoo drummers and one magic man, a medicine man who used to have convulsions on the stage every night. They decided that this was a very evil act by Mr. Hammond, and they came to Orson and me and showed the review. They say, “This is bad man.” And we said, “Yeah, a helluva bad man. Sure, he’s a bad man.”

The next day when Orson and I came to the theatre, the theatre manager said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but there were some very strange goings-on last night. After the show they stayed in the theatre, and there was drumming and chanting and stuff.” We said, “Oh, really?” What made it interesting was the fact that we’d just read the afternoon papers. Percy Hammond had just been taken to the hospital with an acute attack of something from which he died a few days later. We always were convinced that we had unwittingly killed him.

 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 
Jean Cocteau, who was then reenacting Phileas Fogg’s circumnavigation of the planet, caught the “Voodoo” Macbeth in Harlem. Welles’ biographer Simon Callow reports that Cocteau, though put off at first by the startling changes in lighting, came to appreciate its “Wagnerian” effect, which heightened the play’s violence. In Cocteau’s account of his travels, Mon Premier Voyage, after recording a few criticisms of Welles’ choices, he expresses his admiration for the show:

But these are details. At the La Fayette theatre that sublime drama is played as nowhere else, and in its black fires the final scene is transmuted into a gorgeous ballet of catastrophe and death.

 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 

WPA Federal Theatre Photos, via Detroit Public Library
 
Thanks to another New Deal program, the Works Progress Administration, some film of the original “Voodoo” Macbeth survives. We Work Again, the WPA’s documentary on African American unemployment, culminates in this footage of the production, touted by the narrator in the old-fashioned American rhetorical style:

The Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project produced a highly successful version of Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy Macbeth, which far exceeded its scheduled run in New York and was later sent on a tour of the country. The scene was changed from Scotland to Haiti, but the spirit of Macbeth and every line in the play has remained intact. In this contribution to the American theatre, and in other projects under the Works program, we have set our feet on the road to a brighter future.

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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01.10.2019
08:55 am
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Born To Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey
01.10.2019
08:15 am
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Cultural critic Mark Dery, whose erudite essays have appeared in the pages of the Atlantic Monthly, Washington Post, Village Voice and his own collections, The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink and Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century, returns with his remarkable biography of the comically sinister author and illustrator Edward Gorey. This delightful combination of biographer and subject has been praised in the New York Times, the New Yorker, at NPR Vogue and other prestige outlets. We’re pleased to present a short excerpt from Born To Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (Little, Brown) at Dangerous Minds.

In the following excerpt from my just-published biography, Born To Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey (Little, Brown), I explore Gorey’s role, alongside Seuss and Sendak, in the postwar revolution in children’s books, a gleeful insurrection that killed off those insufferable, simpering Goody-Goodies, Dick and Jane, for good. In so doing, Gorey and other writer-illustrators reshaped American notions of kids lit and even childhood itself, making way for a more honest acceptance of the facts of life: divorce, death, racial tensions, queer desire. As well, the new wave slyly satirized not only the mainstream culture of the ‘50s and ‘60s but the conventions of children’s literature itself, many of which dated back to the cautionary tales and nursery-rhyme sermonizing of the Victorian era, when the children’s book as we know it was born. Whether Gorey’s work really was kiddie fare or arsenical treats for adults ironically disguised as picture books is still up for debate. Regardless, his influence is stronger than ever, identifiable at a glance in the YA novels of Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events) and Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), the twee-goth movies of Tim Burton, and somber memoirs of “the miseries of childhood,” as Gorey put it, such as Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home.

— Mark Dery

Nineteen-sixty saw the publication of Edward Gorey’s sixth book, The Fatal Lozenge, by the New York publisher Ivan Obolensky. Subtitled An Alphabet, The Fatal Lozenge was his first foray into the ABC genre. He would go on to perform variations on the abecedarium theme in six books, one of which, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, would become his best-known title. [They are, in chronological order, The Fatal Lozenge, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Utter Zoo, The Chinese Obelisks, The Glorious Nosebleed, and The Eclectic Abecedarium.]

The alphabet book is one of the oldest forms of children’s literature. Rhyming couplets, illustrated by woodcuts, aided memorization. Early examples wedded ABCs and Calvinist catechism. The New England Primer, ubiquitous in late-seventeenth-century America, is typical of the genre:

A In Adam’s Fall We sinnèd all.
B Heaven to find; The Bible Mind.
C Christ crucify’d For sinners dy’d.
D The Deluge drown’d The Earth around.

Gorey’s interest in the alphabet book was undoubtedly a byproduct of his interest in Edward Lear, well known for loopy abecedaria like “Nonsense Alphabet” (1845) (“P was a pig, / Who was not very big; / But his tail was too curly, / And that made him surly”). His library reveals a longstanding fascination with the form, with a predictable focus on the nineteenth century. On Gorey’s bookshelves, we find A Moral Alphabet (1899) by Hilaire Belloc, A Comic Alphabet (1836) by George Cruikshank, a Dover facsimile of The Adventures of A, Apple Pie, Who Was Cut to Pieces and Eaten by Twenty Six Young Ladies and Gentlemen with Whom All Little People Ought to Be Acquainted (circa 1835), and of course Lear in abundance. 

At the same time, he couldn’t have been oblivious, as an illustrator working in commercial book publishing, to the waves Dr. Seuss was making in kid lit. Alphabet books were playing an important part in reshaping American ideas about childhood. Consider Seuss’s On Beyond Zebra! (1955), whose boy narrator dreams up a new alphabet for kids who think outside the Little Golden box (“In the places I go there are things that I see / That I never could spell if I stopped with the Z”). Or Maurice Sendak’s Alligators All Around (1962), in which “shockingly spoiled” reptilian protagonists throw tantrums and juggle jelly beans with abandon. These and other unconventional abecedaria celebrate Romper Room radicals who flout the rules. Seen in their cultural and historical context, they look like premonitions of the hippie era, with its worship of nonconformity and its elevation of the child to a cultural icon, not to mention its stoner humor and acid-soaked song lyrics.

Though he seemed barely to notice the counterculture of the ’60s, beyond the Beatles, Gorey was in his own quietly perverse way more iconoclastic than Seuss or Sendak. In The Fatal Lozenge, as in The Listing Attic, his earlier book of macabre limericks, his combination of a children’s genre (in this case, the ABC book) with dark subject matter and black comedy is both mordantly funny and unsettling, especially when he crosses the line, as he occasionally does, into the “sick humor” of contemporaries such as the cartoonist Gahan Wilson. When an interviewer mentioned to Sendak that the grisly drawing of an infant skewered on the point of a Zouave’s sword in The Fatal Lozenge was the moment when Gorey went “down the road of no return as far as publishers were concerned,” Sendak quipped, “That’s why he was so loved. There’s never enough dead babies for us.”
 

 
The literary theorist George R. Bodmer places Gorey’s ironic, sardonic ABCs in the context of a postwar pushback, among children’s authors such as Seuss and Sendak, “against the limits of imagination, or the limits the outside world would impose on imagination . . .” In his essay “The Post-Modern Alphabet: Extending the Limits of the Contemporary Alphabet Book, from Seuss to Gorey,” Bodmer calls Gorey’s “anti-alphabets” a “sarcastic rebellion against a view of childhood that is sunny, idyllic, and instructive.” Gorey’s mock-moralistic tone satirizes received wisdom about the benignity of parents and other authority figures: a magnate waiting for his limousine “ponders further child-enslavement / And other projects still more mean”; two little children quail in terror at the sight of their towering, bearded uncle, for they “know that at his leisure / He plans to have them come to harm.” Yet Gorey also punctures the myth that children are little angels: a baby, “lying meek and quiet” on a bearskin rug, “Has dreams about rampage and riot / And will grow up to be a thug.” (The rug’s enormous, snarling head, with its bared fangs, is an omen of mayhem to come.)

Talking about The Fatal Lozenge in 1977, Gorey said, “This was a very early book and at that date I was not above trying to shock everyone a bit.” In that sense, his sixth book is so similar to his second that it might as well be called Son of Listing Attic. A good part of the book consists of the usual droll riffing on stock characters and situations borrowed from gothic novels, penny dreadfuls, Conan Doyle, and Dickens.

But just as clearly, there’s more going on in The Fatal Lozenge than enfant terrible-ism (“trying to shock everyone a bit”) or the larger trends identified by Bodmer: the bohemian backlash against the suffocating normalcy of the Eisenhower era and the growing resistance, led by Drs. Spock and Seuss, to outdated, repressive ideas about childhood and parenting. The recurrence of themes closer to home—the beastliness of babies, the depravity of the clergy (a nun is “fearfully bedevilled”), the furtiveness and shamefulness of homosexual desire, here associated with child molestation and even more monstrous perversions (“The Proctor buys a pupil ices, / And hopes the boy will not resist / When he attempts to practice vices / Few people even know exist”)—makes us feel, at times, as if we’re eavesdropping on a psychotherapy session. That these disconcerting images come to us in the reassuring wrappings of a children’s book makes The Fatal Lozenge even more disquieting.

It’s precisely that insinuating knowingness that Sendak loved about Gorey’s little books. “They all had what appealed to me so much—aside from the graphics and the writing—[which] was the wicked sexual ambiguity that ran through all of it.” Even Gorey’s artlessly brilliant covers for Anchor Books, Doubleday’s tasteful paperback line, exhibited an arch wit, Sendal thought. “I remember a jacket he did for…a novel by Melville, Redburn. And the jacket summed up completely the kind of confused homosexuality of that novel….So erotic and yet so simple. You can look at it any way you like. . . . [H]e buried a lot of information about himself in the art.”
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.10.2019
08:15 am
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