Kembra Pfahler on 30 years of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, with exclusive Richard Kern pix!

Photo by Richard Kern, courtesy of Kembra Pfahler

On February 15, Marc Almond, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Sateen, Hercules & Love Affair, and DJs Matthew Pernicano and Danny Lethal will perform at the Globe Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. This absolutely mental, once-in-a-lifetime bill will celebrate the second anniversary of Sex Cells, the LA club run by Danny Fuentes of Lethal Amounts.

Because I am so eager to see this show, and because the life of a Dangerous Minds contributor is high adventure, last Sunday I found myself speaking with Karen Black’s leader, the formidable interdisciplinary artist Kembra Pfahler, by phone, after she got out of band rehearsal in NYC. My condensed and edited take on our wide-ranging conversation follows. If I’d noted every time Kembra made me laugh with a deadpan line, the transcript would be twice as long.

Kembra Pfahler: My guitarist is Samoa, he founded the band with me; he’s the original Karen Black guitarist, Samoa from Hiroshima, Japan. And then Michael Wildwood is our drummer, and he played with D Generation and Chrome Locust, and Gyda Gash is our bass player, she plays with Judas Priestess and Sabbathwitch. I just came from band practice, and I am one of those folks that really enjoys going to band practice. Doing artwork and music isn’t like work, and being busy is just such a luxury. It’s been very pleasant preparing for this show we get to honorably do with Marc Almond. We’re so excited!

We played with Marc Almond at the Meltdown Festival that was curated by Ahnoni in 2011. That was a great show with Marc Almond and a lot of other incredible artists. And I have an art gallery that represents me in London now, which is called Emalin, and I had an art exhibit there, and Marc Almond, thankfully, came to it. He’s friends with one of my collaborators called Scott Ewalt.

I’m not a religious person, but I did think I had died and gone to heaven. When artists that you have loved your whole life come to, for some strange reason, see the work that you’re doing, it’s one of the truly best things about doing artwork. I’m very much looking forward to this concert.

Can you tell me what you have planned for the show? I’m sure you want to keep some stuff a surprise, but is the disco dick in the pictures going to be part of the set?

You know, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black has always made a lot of props and costumes, and I never really just buy things. I’m not much of a consumer. I’m an availabilist, so I usually make the best use of what’s available, and we are going to have a lot of props and costumes in this show that I make myself, and I have art partners in Los Angeles, collaborators. We’re going to have a big grand finale sculpture that’s going to be my Black Statue of Liberty holding the pentagram. That’s a huge pentagram sculpture. I made that with a friend of mine called Brandon Micah Rowe.

That sculpture lives on the West Coast, and it comes out when I go to the beach and go surfing. I usually take the Black Statue of Liberty with me, ‘cause it’s a great photo opportunity on the beach. And the last time I was photographing the Black Statue of Liberty—‘cause of course I have several—I took this Black Statue of Liberty in a truck and drove down to Sunset Beach, right at the end of Sunset Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway, and I just have a great memory of almost drowning with the Black Statue of Liberty. It was very much like reenacting Planet of the Apes. That was the impetus for the Statue of Liberty; I’ve always loved the last scene in Planet of the Apes where Charlton Heston realizes that the future is just a disastrous, anti-utopian, dead planet. Kind of similar to what’s happening to us now.

Photo by Brandon Micah Rowe
[laughs] Yeah, it’s uncomfortably close to the present situation.

To me, it’s very close. I mean, film has always been very prophetic, to me. Orson Welles always talks about magic, and historical revisionism, and truth, and the ways that film can actually inform you of the truth in politics, mythological truth, cultural truths. And I’ve always learned the most just by watching films. That’s why I named the band Karen Black, because I was so educated by the films of Karen Black. I know that sounds sort of wonky, but what I’m getting at is I love listening to Orson Welles speak about magic and truth and film as a way to articulate that truth.

Are you thinking about F for Fake?

I’m thinking about the little tricks and happy accidents that occur in film that are what Orson Welles spoke to. I mean, Kenneth Anger talked about magic and film constantly, and light, and Orson Welles just had a different articulation of the same side of the coin.

I grew up in Santa Monica, so I always loved Kenneth Anger; I was always happy that I lived near the Camera Obscura on Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. I thought, I don’t fit in with any of these other Californians, but Kenneth Anger was here at the Camera Obscura. I can’t be doing everything wrong.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and my family was in the film business, and I left for New York because I wasn’t accepted by my family and the community, because I was interested in music, and it wasn’t fashionable to be a goth or be into punk when I was in high school. So I moved to New York. But no one was going to New York when I first moved there. I really just moved to New York to be as contrary as possible, and I knew no one would follow me at the time.

You moved to New York in ‘79 or thereabouts, right?

Yeah, I did.

I think the LA, probably, that you were leaving was more, I don’t know, provincial. . . I can imagine the appeal that New York would have had in 1979.

Well, also, the thing was that I really wanted to be an artist, and I got accepted to School of Visual Arts when I was in 11th grade at Santa Monica High School. That’s why, really. The Los Angeles that I was familiar with wasn’t provincial at all. I mean, there’s been generations and generations of weird Los Angeles. My grandparents met on the baseball field: my grandmother was playing softball, my grandfather played baseball, and my father ended up being a surfer, and I’ve always had exposure to a really incredible kind of lifestyle that I think people mostly just dream about. Like, Beach Boys songs at Hollywood Park race track in the morning and surfing in the afternoon. If you think about being born into this time when the Beach Boys and the Stones and the Beatles are playing, and then Parliament-Funkadelic’s playing, and then. . . just the most incredible exposure to music and art and nature, surfing even, surf culture. I mean, when most people are born in countries where they can’t even eat dirt for breakfast, I was born in the most incredible place, that I’ll never forget.

It’s such a huge part of my work, I named my interdisciplinary music and art class at Columbia University “The Queen’s Necklace.” Because when I was a child, I used to meditate on all the beach cities. Starting from Zuma Beach, I would meditate on the cities by saying: [chants] “Zuma, Malibu, Topanga, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Venice, Torrance, Palos Verdes”. . . I’d say all of the cities that represented the Santa Monica Bay area. That was in my field of vision, that was what I saw every day. All those piers, all those waves, and all of the mythology that I grew up with was all about beach culture.

So Los Angeles, I feel closer to writers like John Fante than anyone else. Do you have books in your library that you’ve had your entire adult life that you would say represent your thinking, more so than any other books? Do you have your favorite, favorite books? One or two books that always are with you.

Oh my God, I’d have to think about it. 

I do. I mention that because one of them is Ask the Dust. Another one is David J. Skal’s Cultural History of Horror.

What’s that?

It’s a great book that talks about the horror film genre being quite prophetic, and it’s kind of what I was trying to speak about, as far as how film and horror kind of teach us about the future. That’s one book, and also Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies, Volume 1 and 2 is important to me. Do you know that book?

I do not. Is it like a case study?

It’s a case study of men’s relationship to women during World War II and pre-World War II. It’s about men’s relationships to the women in their lives, in Germany, particularly.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall
01:18 pm
David Cronenberg on Andy Warhol
05:49 am

The soundtrack CD from the Art Gallery of Ontario show
In between A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, David Cronenberg curated a Warhol retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario. ANDY WARHOL/SUPERNOVA: Stars, Deaths and Disasters, 1962–1964, a selection of work from Warhol’s first years at the Factory, also appeared at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, but the AGO show was special in at least two respects.

Only the Toronto iteration of the show presented Warhol’s death and celebrity paintings alongside his early films. For instance, Cronenberg set Silver Disaster #6, Warhol’s silkscreened image of two electric chairs, in the middle of a triptych, looping the movies Kiss and Blow Job on either side. The director also recorded a soundtrack for the exhibition which he narrated himself, splicing in contributions from Dennis Hopper, Amy Taubin, James Rosenquist, and Mary-Lou Green. In a masterstroke, Cronenberg included Elvis’ recording of the title song from Flaming Star on the soundtrack; as he pointed out at the time, the Don Siegel movie that was the source for Warhol’s Elvis I and II is “about racism, and everyone dies in it, including Elvis.”

Recall that the brilliant explosion characteristic of a supernova is the moment of a star’s death. With its Ballardian preoccupations, the show might as well have been called Death Drive. Fittingly, the Guardian marked the fifth anniversary of 9/11 by running an interview with Cronenberg about his contribution to ANDY WARHOL/SUPERNOVA.

David Cronenberg at the Art Gallery of Ontario, 2006 (via Seems Artless)
The show also provided an occasion for Cronenberg to reflect on the New York underground scene that inspired him as a young filmmaker. He told a wonderful story about Stan Brakhage’s first encounter with Warhol’s movies during a Q&A at the museum:

Stan Brakhage, who was a very hardcore—I think he just died recently, didn’t he—just very hardcore art-art-art-film maker, with work in Super 8 and 16 mm and ultimately in video, but very, very obscure, difficult, you know, not very well known except in his own circle. Andy really knew everything that was going on in New York. He knew the underground, he knew the music, and he produced the Velvet Underground’s first album, I mean, he was into everything. He knew what was going on with underground filmmakers at [Jonas Mekas’] Co-op, and at one point, once he had made a few films, Jonas Mekas told Stan Brakhage he must see this work of Andy Warhol’s.

So he watched about 16 hours of Andy’s stuff, and he came out, and he said, “This is trash! This is ridiculous, this is ludicrous, it’s nothing. I mean, it’s absolutely nothing, it’s bullshit.”

And then Mekas said, “Did you watch it at 24 frames a second?”

And he said, “Yeah.”

He said, “Stan, I want you to go back and watch it at 16 frames.” Which, of course, makes it longer. “Because if you’ve only seen it at 24, you haven’t really seen it.”

Being the hardcore guy that he was, he went back, and he sat there for, you know, 20 hours, came out, he said: “He’s a genius.” True story.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall
05:49 am
Superstar & Star is the outsider artist that we all need right now
08:51 am

Let’s be real - shit is pretty fucked up right now. I’ve got that P.M.A., sure, but doesn’t it sometimes feel as if the world is literally crumbling around us? I say this [of course] with a bit of tongue-in-cheek cynicism and even a touch of mild sarcasm, but seriously—what the fuck is up?
It’s the little things in life that make everything seem O.K. When you’re down, is there a song you like to play to cheer yourself up? Or a television show that never fails to comfort or distract you? For me, it’s something living and real. It’s the music and story of outsider musician, Superstar & Star.

Neville Lawrence was born at some point in the early 1960s on the island of Trinidad. As a youth, he joined a local dance group and would perform in any way he could. Neville describes Trinidad as a place rich in music and celebration. This is something that has contributed to his creative background, although he claims to have no musical training. Popstars like Michael Jackson and Tina Turner became big influences on Neville’s life, as he hoped that someday he too would become, a Superstar.
In July of 1988, Neville moved to the United States to live with his family in Brooklyn. Having always been interested in singing, he purchased rudimentary audio equipment at Brighton Beach and learned to record his own songs. Neville would perform at New York venues such as The Arc and Samy Hotel, where he had shared the stage with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Biggie, and Tupac. I’m still not sure if he is fully aware who they are.

Superstar performs in New York in the 90s
After much diligence, Neville quite literally became a Superstar. It’s more than just a name—it’s a way of life. In order to act the role, one must demonstrate the ability to be the best person he or she can possibly be. We all must in some way contribute to the greatness of this twisted world that we live in. “To be a star, you must be disciplined, respectable, and humble,” he once told me. “If someone falls, you pick them up. Like a superhero.” Superstar hopes to make music that will make people help one another.
While in New York Neville met the love of his life, Ann (Star). She performed backing vocals, so they became known as Superstar & Star. Although Neville had once stated that the crime-rate decreased while he was in New York, duties eventually called elsewhere and the two moved to Omaha, where they reside today. Now without many opportunities to perform his songs locally, Superstar went online.

Superstar and Star
The music of Superstar & Star is described as lo-fi pop and disco, with a blend of calypso, soul, reggae, and sometimes even underground house. Coming from someone completely unaware of musical trends and movements, the recordings are actually pretty good considering Neville’s authentic outsider status. Keeping with his strive to end suffering in the world, most songs contain positive themes or connotations that follow the Superstar motto: “Life is Worth Living.” Neville claims to have written and recorded over two hundred songs, and most of which will probably never see the light of day. What has been released, however, exists on YouTube and is oftentimes accompanied by a mesmerizing DIY home music video that he shot himself. I think about all of them feature Superstar singing and dancing in various locations at home and throughout Omaha. And I can’t forget to mention this, Superstar performs in a totally amazing white and gold jumpsuit that he made himself.

The accessibility of the World Wide Web has allowed Superstar to find people who truly care about him. His home recordings and bizarre social media presence, along with an infectious sense of positivity, has gained Neville a fascinating cult-like following of both music-heads and weirdos from around the world.

More after the jump…

Posted by Bennett Kogon
08:51 am
‘Behind the Mask’: Michael Jackson’s posthumous cover of the Yellow Magic Orchestra

We learned a lot from the insane Quincy Jones interview from a couple weeks back. To recap, and this is all according to an unfiltered 84-year-old Quincy Jones, the Beatles were notoriously bad musicians, Marlon Brando and Richard Pryor were lovers, Chicago mobster Sam Giancana killed JFK, and… Jones once dated a twenty-four-year old Ivanka Trump. Probably the greatest reveal of them all, however, was about Michael Jackson, whom Jones worked with as the pop star’s producer.

Immediately into the interview, Quincy declares Jackson to have been “as Machiavellian as they come,” alleging that he would steal material from other artists for his own personal gain. More specifically, Michael Jackson supposedly stole the riff from Donna Summer’s “The State of Independence” for his smash hit “Billie Jean.” Vangelis and Jon Anderson from Yes originally wrote “The State of Independence,” which was covered and popularized by Summer the following year. Quincy Jones arranged an all-star cast of guest vocalists for the newly revamped track, Michael Jackson being one of them.

Bizarrely enough, “Billie Jean” wasn’t the only song with supposedly “borrowed” material intended for Jackson’s 1982 best-selling album, Thriller. In the early eighties, Quincy Jones discovered a song that he felt could work well for Michael Jackson’s upcoming record. That track was “Behind the Mask” by Japanese electronic synthpop pioneers, the Yellow Magic Orchestra. The song was originally a synth instrumental written for a 1978 Seiko quartz wristwatch commercial. YMO later re-recorded the track, with lyrics written by British poet Chris Mosdell and vocals performed by songwriter Ryuichi Sakamoto using a vocoder. The song appeared on Yellow Magic Orchestra’s highly influential 1979 record Solid State Survivor in Japan, and their ×∞Multiplies album in the US and Europe.

The first version of ‘Behind the Mask,’ recorded for a Seiko wristwatch commercial

The classic, album version of ‘Behind the Mask’ by Yellow Magic Orchestra
Jackson liked the “Behind the Mask” and agreed to record his own version of it during the Thriller sessions. With Sakamoto’s permission, additional lyrics and an extra melody line were added to Jackson’s version. The new lyrical content turned the focus to Jackson’s girlfriend, who he felt would often hide her emotions behind a symbolic “mask.” Conceptually, this was much to the contrary of the original YMO version, which contained a discordant thematic approach to “the mask.” Lyricist Chris Mosdell had this to say about the adjusted context:

“When Michael Jackson took it, he made it into a love song about a woman. It was a completely different premise to me, I was talking about a very impersonal, socially controlled society, a future technological era, and the mask represented that immobile, unemotional state. But hey, I let him have that one.”


Michael Jackson’s “Behind the Mask” was an anticipated smash hit and made the final cut for Thriller. A royalties dispute involving YMO’s management and Sakamoto, Mosdell, and Jackson ended up preventing the track from getting released. It wasn’t for another 28 years that a reworked version of “Behind the Mask” would be released…

More after the jump…

Posted by Bennett Kogon
09:32 am
The superstars of Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’
08:56 am

The Portuguese release of ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ (via Discogs)

In 1993, the BBC documentary series Arena devoted four episodes to “Tales of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The third of these focused entirely on the real-life figures in Lou Reed’s most famous song, “Walk on the Wild Side,” collecting footage of and fascinating biographical detail about each superstar sketched in the song’s verses—Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, “Little” Joe Dallesandro, Sugar Plum Fairy and Jackie Curtis.

I don’t know how the producers managed to keep Bono out of this documentary, but somehow they were able to limit the show’s interview subjects to people who actually had some business talking about this scene, such as Factory resident Billy Name, photographer Leee Black Childers and Reed/Warhol biographer Victor Bockris. Their perspectives are interesting. For instance, where many sources now identify the Sugar Plum Fairy as Joe Campbell, the former boyfriend of Harvey Milk whose character in My Hustler was called the Sugar Plum Fairy, Billy Name says this is too narrow an interpretation:

If you’re in the world of music or drugs, there is always a Sugar Plum Fairy: the one who delivers, who brings the stuff to you. Now, during this time, from ‘64 to ‘70, there were two individuals I knew who were called the Sugar Plum Fairy, as a nickname. Neither of the individuals who were the Sugar Plum Fairy were important to remember. Their only significance is that they became that character at that point. Lou, in “Walk on the Wild Side,” took poetic license. The Sugar Plum Fairy. The man, like in “Heroin” or “I’m Waiting for the Man.” The guy who delivers to you, the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Certainly there are worse ways to spend the holidays than lounging in bed with Holly Woodlawn and Andy Warhol.

Watch it, after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall
08:56 am
Horror legend Christopher Lee talks about Black Magic and the Occult

I can’t think of many leading actors who have died on-screen as often as Christopher Lee. Over his long and successful career, Lee was staked several times as Dracula, destroyed by daylight, eradicated by fresh running water (Dracula Prince of Darkness), staked then set alight by lightning (Scars of Dracula), impaled on a cartwheel (Dracula AD 1972), snared by a hawthorn bush (The Satanic Rites of Dracula), dissolved in an acid bath (The Curse of Frankenstein), killed by James Bond, stabbed by his treacherous servant (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), and decapitated by Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, to name but a few of his most memorable exits. If Lee was in a film, you could usually bet he’d be dead by the last reel. Even so, Lee was a major box office draw and his name above a title ensured a couple of hours of thrilling entertainment.

Despite the fact Lee had a tendency to be bumped-off in his films, he was the kind of guy you’d want on your team when battling monsters, demons, and Satanic creeps. He was debonair and presented himself as a man of knowledge and experience. He had an impressive war record where he was attached to the SAS and by his own admission had an incredible knowledge of the occult. He was introduced to this esoteric subject by his friend author Dennis Wheatley and it became a bit of an obsession after he read the works of Aleister Crowley.

In 2011, Lee was asked at a Q&A session at the University College in Dublin, if it was true that he had “a huge collection of occultism-related literature that amounted to 20,000 books?” Lee replied:

“If I had such a collection, I’d be living in a bathroom.”

Lee as a Satanic priest in ‘To the Devil a Daughter.’
Maybe not living in the bathroom but certainly at home in the library as Lee did ‘fess up to owning around 12,000 books on the occult in an interview with the Telegraph the same year. Lee took the occult and Satanism very seriously and was wont to warn people of its dangers:

“I have met people who claim to be Satanists, who claim to be involved with black magic, who claimed that they not only knew a lot about it. But as I said, I certainly have not been involved and I warn all of you: never, never, never. You will not only lose your mind: you lose your soul.”

From this, you can take Lee was a believer—an Anglo-Catholic—who was deeply concerned about the possible dangers of devil worship, Satanism, and communing with spirits. Strange that he should make a living out of pretending to do these very things.

More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
11:13 am
Stuck in the Mudd! Four decades later, the doorman of the wildest nightclub in NYC lets you in!

Here’s a drink ticket—enjoy the post!

“If you’ve been standing here for more than ten minutes you’re not coming in” announces Richard Boch in a stern but cute, almost teenaged stoner way. Don’t get me wrong, he means it. This was how “normal people” were greeted much of the time at the door of the Mudd Club (and many other ultra hip clubs in New York City at the time). This made getting in a huge badge of honor and being turned away a major disgrace. Imagine riding on THAT possibility just to pay to go into a nightclub? An anonymous “sniper” refused entrance once even hit Boch with a dead pigeon from a few yards away and sped off in a taxi cab!

Back then these normal people showing up at Manhattan nightclubs were mostly referred to as the “bridge and tunnel” crowd (Queens, Jersey, Brooklyn) a term not heard much these days, but once heard hundreds of times every night in NYC clubs. Some were 9-5ers, some wealthy disco-types expecting to stroll in on the doorman’s view of their Rolex or hot girlfriend. These regular folks were basically told to cool their heels or fuck off while an 18-year-old kid like me dressed to the hilt in what may have looked to them like idiotic rags, parted the seas and strolled in like I was Mick Jagger. This was not Studio 54 as they would find out soon enough. What it was, though, was a trip into known and unknown galaxies of hip culture throughout history, like a living, breathing museum/funhouse/drug den/concert hall/discotheque, mixed with nitroglycerine and LSD and thrown into a blender to create the unknown. The future. THE NOW!

The Mudd Club was almost literally unbelievable. Inmates running the asylum on an outer space pirate ship. This vessel was founded, funded and schemed by Steve Mass, who was on every side of the street all at once. When I first met Steve, he was roommates with Brian Eno and got that input, but he STILL drove me out to my parents’ apartment in Queens to help pull my record collection from under my bed, my parents shrugging their shoulders until reading about us a year later in the New York Times, thereby making it “Okay.” But really he was always very curious, constantly grilling me, getting inside my head. I once told him I thought he should round off the corners and ceiling of the Mudd Club like a giant cave and have live bats flying around the club. He actually considered it! He did this with certain other kids, rock stars, Warhol superstars, models, designers, Hollywood royalty, junkies, freaks and lord knows who else. We all had a bit of our heart and soul in that place.
Mudd Club owner Steve Mass. Photo by Kate Simon

The above mentioned Richard Boch is the author of a incredibly well-written new book from Feral House titled The Mudd Club. Boch was the main doorman there and the book is his autobiography or a coming of age story told in pretty much the aftermath of the glorious Sixties during the truly, in retrospect, harsh, dark, real version of what was hoped for, but lost in that previous decade. Richard’s story is all of our stories, those of us lucky (or unlucky) enough to have grown up or wound up in New York City’s grimy punk/art/drugged musical and historical mish-mosh. It was the Velvet Underground’s songs come to life after waiting a decade for the world to catch up to it, or crumble to its level.
To quote Richard:

I’ve always referred to the Mudd Club as the scene of the crime, always meant as a term of endearment. It was the night that never ended: the day before never happened and the day after, a long way off. There was nothing else like it and I wound up right in the middle. I thought I could handle it and for a while, I did.

Author Richard Boch. Photo by Alan Kleinberg
Boch was given marching orders orders early on to avoid bloated seventies superstars and the limo crowd. On one of his first nights of work he was faced with a huge, loud, and very sweaty Meatloaf. “Definitely not something I wanted to get close to, physically or musically,” Boch says, and ignored him. My first ever DJ gig was early on at the Mudd Club and I was told told by Steve Mass to do things like play Alvin and The Chipmunks records when it got a bit crowded, to “make everyone uncomfortable,” including myself. Of course I had the record. I also gouged a 45 with scissors insuring the record would skip horribly and then pretend that it wasn’t happening. Just long enough to get the asylum to freak out a little bit.

Later this stuff went out the window but it was quite a formative experience. Humor filtered through even to the most deadly serious moments there. The Mudd Club was a place where twenty people could literally have had twenty different experiences on the same night during the same hour as there was just so much happening on different mental/pharmaceutical levels and different floor levels. Everywhere you turned there was someone amazing. From the way I had grown up, seeing Andy Warhol, John Waters, David Bowie and the Ramones within a twenty minute span was “my” Studio 54. Watching Screamin’ Jay Hawkins while standing next to Jean-Michel Basquiat, seeing the Soft Boys, girl groups like the Angels and the Crystals, Frank Zappa, Bauhaus, Nico, the Dead Boys, Captain Beefheart, John Cale, a Radley Metzger film presented by Sleazoid Express or an impromptu freakout by Warhol Superstar Jackie Curtis, well this was my dream come to life!

My dream hasn’t changed in 40 years. I’m still in awe that it happened. And in the middle of all that I was allowed to put on my own demented conceptual events with friends (“The Puberty Ball,” etc.) and be a regular DJ. The people I came to know in the punk world who wanted more found it at the Mudd Club. Our mad obsession with the Sixties, especially the Warhol/New York sixties, informed much of what we did, and at the same time the Warhol Factory itself became more corporate. The Superstars were by then getting older and pushed out, but they were looking for more themselves, and they were looking to us to inform them, making for some extremely insane morality and immorality plays coming to life before our eyes. Mudd had the pull of what the press called “downtown,” and for the downtown types, well our voices were about to be heard loud and clear.
David Bowie and Dee Dee Ramone. Photo by Bobby Grossman
Howie Pyro deejaying at Mudd

Richard Boch understood all this, and was also an artist himself so he knew who everyone in the art world was, as well as all the new punk stars and celebutantes, no wavers, new wavers, culture vulture gods and the ones who would become gods themselves in a year or so. In the book he talks about being nervous about starting working there but man, he was the one for the job. In the pages of The Mudd Club, Boch’s quite candid about everything you’d want to know (gossip but not mean gossip: sex, drugs, more drugs, and getting home at ten AM, having done every drug and a half dozen people along the way—normal stuff like that). It reads in one, two, or three page sections, my favorite kind of book. You can put it down in ten-minute intervals or read it in any order you want, IF you can put it down at all. I have literally read certain sections backwards for 40-50 pages while looking for something and didn’t really notice. It made me laugh out loud, and it brought tears to my eyes. It’s kind of like “Please Kill Me, the Day After,” though it’s not an oral history as such, as it is written from Richard Boch’s point of view, but it has the same immediate anecdotal feel.
‘TV Party’ at Mudd. Photo by Bob Gruen
The club’s benevolent benefactor, Steve Mass, was responsible for making this incredible witches brew keep bubbling and kept the happenings happening. He was willing to do anything, just for the sake of doing it. Steve originally owned an ambulance service. For my 19th birthday they had a huge party for me on the second floor of the Mudd Club. Since Steve had medical connections, and since we were ALL junkies (well, a good 85% of us were), he furnished a massive cake with dozens of syringes with the plungers & needles removed so they could put the candles in the open syringes. This of course turned into a massive cake fight with the participants looking like the Little Rascals (with pinned eyes). Steve was always down for this sorta stuff. As for the main floor, the bands, writers and performers that I saw in a single month’s time was staggering! More than some people see in a lifetime.
From the book:

January 1979. The Cramps freaked out The Mudd Club with a loud Psychobilly grind that included such hits as “Human Fly” and “Surfin’ Bird.” A few months later, the “big names” started to appear…

He goes on to say:

The legendary Sam and Dave got onstage a few weekends later, and it was the first time on my watch that I got to see the real deal. By late summer, Talking Heads took the stage while Marianne Faithful, X, Lene Lovich, and the Brides of Funkenstein waited in the wings.

There were so many great performances: Scheduled, impromptu, logical and out of left field. The locals and the regulars were the staple and the stable and performed as part of the White Street experience. They included everyone you could imagine and some you never could. John Cale, Chris Spedding, Judy Nylon and Nico, John Lurie and Philip Glass were just a few. Writers and poets such as William S. Burroughs, Max Blagg, Cookie Mueller, and “Teenage Jesus” Lydia Lunch all wound up on the Mudd Club stage. The talent pool was so deep and occasionally dark that even Hollywood Babylon‘s Luciferian auteur Kenneth Anger got Involved.

Steve’s willingness and generosity along with his guarded enthusiasm offered support to a local community of artists, musicians, and filmmakers. Together with Diego (Cortez)’ and Anya (Phillip’s) short-lived but “dominating” spirit, the Mudd Club became an instant happening, a free-for-all with No Wave orchestration and very few rules.

Diego described the Mudd Club as “a container, a vessel, but certainly not the only one in town.” What made the place unique was its blank-canvas emptiness. When the space filled up, IT happened and everyone wanted to be a part. A living, breathing work of art, it was beautiful and way off center, a slice of golden time.

I was lucky, and soaked it all in.

Nico playing her wheezing harmonium. Photo by Ebet Roberts

All of us who got to be there were lucky. This was a timeless world of it’s own. A world that could be compared to any and all magical artistic movements, scenes or spaces. Dada. Warhol’s Factory, the Beats in NY and SF, Surrealism, etc.—times, places, people all endlessly written about as there’s just so much to say. Everyone involved had a unique experience, true to themselves. This wasn’t just a nightclub, it was so much more. It almost seemed like a private place where, on the best nights, people’s lives and fantasies were put on display and the public was allowed to watch. The public who just came to do coke and dance (as we all did) but who accidentally got touched by a bizarre and wonderful world that lived in the shadows of the city then, usually just brushing against them like a ghost in the night. Whether they even noticed or not, well, who cares?

This first book on the subject (I guarantee it will not be the last) is Richard Boch’s own experience, peppered with those of us who he interviewed for the reminders. This book is about his eyes opening, his chain-wielding power stance, his blowjobs, his drinks, his drugs, all of which are plentiful. It includes a little of most of us, the people we loved, the ones we lost, the games we played, and the love we shared of each other and our mutual history. Still though, there are a million stories in the Mudd’s microcosm of the naked city, this is just one of them.

And what a glorious place to start: right at the front door.

The trailer for the book
More Mudd Club after the jump…

Posted by Howie Pyro
02:47 pm
Leonard Nimoy speaks out: Why Spock approved of LSD and ‘dirty movies’

Throughout his life, the actor Leonard Nimoy appeared to be always open to discussing nearly everything in his life. He answered questions frankly and honestly on subjects as diverse as space travel, photography, or his own personal tastes in music or books. He answered these questions in a seemingly calm and rational way. His ability to do so was most possibly down to the very real personality changes brought on by playing Mr. Spock on hit TV series Star Trek. This was something Nimoy touched upon in an interview with TV Star Parade magazine in January 1968, where he discussed his thoughts about adult movies and the liberating potential of psychoactive drugs.

In the article “Leonard Nimoy Speaks Out on LSD, Religion and Dirty Movies—an unblushingly honest confession as told to Roger Elwood,” the actor was interviewed in the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel. He is described as being “relaxed and comfortable” and sipping from a “glass of ginger liquid.” Who knows what was in this amber nectar but the main interest here was the actor’s comments on LSD and “dirty movies,” as Elwood wrote:

And so is the topic of LSD. The self-hallucinatory drug. The ticket to a trip somewhere at the farthest reaches of man’s intellect. Or so its proponents say without telling you of the dangers, the obstacles on the road to mental Utopia.

Leonard is especially outspoken on the subject, apparently one to which he has devoted a great deal of time and serious thought.

“It is a useful tool in the hands of proper medical experts,” he told me. “I am convinced, as a result of reports that I have read, that it will bring about some very useful effects in certain instances and under suitable and necessary medical controls. However, as it is being used by so many young people as a means of escape and personal investigation without control, I consider it rather dangerous.”

But Mr. Spock wasn’t finished there.

He paused, obviously thinking of his own children and hoping that, as they got older, they wouldn’t be similarly imperiled.

Then, clearing his throat, he continued, “There have been too many unsettling reports of young people using it without the necessary supervision and having difficulty recuperating from the trip. In many cases, I believe that young people resort to drugs with the excuse that it will help develop their minds, whereas they haven’t done the necessary work involved for themselves so that this could happen.

“The point is—they are looking for a drug or pill which will do the work for them, and this attitude in life is disastrous whether LSD is involved or not. The drugs can, I understand, be properly used, when the essential mental climate and conditions are already present—however, I believe in natural development processes of the mind. The creative process for me has always operated best at the very conscious level—in other words, only when I’m in complete control of my own thinking do I feel that I am creating at my best.”

As a sidebar, it’s worth noting that Nimoy was so in “control” of his personal life during the making of the original Star Trek series that he became (by his own admission) an alcoholic and ended up in rehab. This may have been as a result of Nimoy’s identifying with the character of Mr. Spock. He later claimed acting Spock twelve hours, five days a week, impacted on his personality making him more rational but less emotional.

More from Mr. Spock, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher
09:04 am
The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Siouxsie and the Banshees on early TV documentary ‘Punk’ from 1976

There had been a killing. But no one was quite certain where it had happened or where the body was hidden. Maybe it was in the library bludgeoned with a lead pipe? Or sprawled across the conservatory floor throttled by some rope? The press carried snippets. People were shocked by the news. How could this happen on our streets? How could this happen to our children when Abba was still number one? There was outrage. There was fear. There was a dread that this was only the beginning of far greater horrors to come.

They were right.

In some ways, it was a mercy killing. It had to happen. It was inevitable. It was putting the poor beast out of its misery. The old horse was now lame and blind and in constant pain and could barely perform its act. Yet still, they wheeled it out for one more turn for the rich people to ride and clap and cheer while the old nag bravely tried to canter around the ring.

But the children turned away. They wanted something different.

There had been noises of strange new things going on for months. Small signs in venues all across London. A growing sense that something had to change. The old horse was dead and the business was out of touch with its audience. The kids wanted something to happen.

A band called the Sex Pistols were playing gigs in and around London. Promoter Ron Watts saw them rip up the joint at a gig in High Wycombe in early 1976. It was like nothing he’d ever seen before. This was the start of the future. This was what everyone was waiting for. He booked the band to appear at the legendary blues and jazz 100 Club in London. He organized a weekend festival called The 100 Club Punk Special for September 20th and 21st, 1976. The line-up was the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Damned, the Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, Stinky Toys and Chris Spedding & the Vibrators.
Sex Pistols poster for the 100 Club Punk Special, September 1976.
When the Sex Pistols hit the stage, everything changed. “In one night,” Watts later wrote in his autobiography Hundred Watts: A Life in Music, “punk went from an underground cult to a mass movement.”

The Sex Pistols had killed off one generation’s music and announced something new.

...[T]his was the big one, the first day of a new era. Nothing could compare with it either before or since.

Onstage, Johnny Rotten was “insulting, cajoling everyone in the room, his eyes bulging dementedly as he made the audience as much a part of the show as the band.” The group tore through their set to a thrilled and enthusiastic audience. The Clash played their set, while Siouxsie and the Banshees had improvised a set around “The Lord’s Prayer.” A week later, a crowd 600 deep formed a line at the door of the 100 Club.
Watch the Sex Pistols, Clash and Siouxsie in “Punk,” after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
08:46 am
You can own Marilyn Monroe’s pelvic x-ray because nothing is too creepy for a true fan
05:57 am

I was a little squicked out when the auction of locks of Marilyn Monroe’s hair was announced last year, so this is just straight up weirding me out.

The same auction house, the legendary Julien’s (“THE AUCTION HOUSE TO THE STARS!”) has announced its latest in a series of Hollywood Legends auctions. this one featuring loads of property from the estate of Patrick Swayze. Especially, um, devoted fans can bid on his hockey uniform from Youngblood which, yes, includes athletic supporters, and on his banana hammock from Keeping Mum.

A still from Keeping Mum. Before you go drawing any conclusions just based on that, Rowan Atkinson and Dame Maggie Smith were in the film, too.

In addition, as seems to be the case with practically every celebrity auction they do, there’s a passel of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, much of which is pretty run-of-the-mill, until you get to her chest and pelvic x-rays.





A Marilyn Monroe pelvic X-ray dated November 9, 1954. Information ghost printed in the upper right of the X-ray reads “Cedars of Lebanon Hospital/Drs. E. Freedman and S. Finck/ Name Di Maggio, Mrs. Marilyn/ No. 50612 Date 11-9-54/ Ref. By Dr. L. Krohn.” Dr. Leon Krohn was Monroe’s gynecologist.

17 by 14 inches

The provenance is interesting—“As a radiology resident at Cedars, a young doctor obtained this X-ray and one other, of Monroe’s pelvis. When he taught students, he used these X-rays to ensure that they were paying attention.“ OK, actually pretty funny, but I’d prefer not to speculate on why else someone would collect something like this. Images of Monroe’s chest have been around since 1947, though this is another level of exposure beyond mere toplessness. As for Ms. Monroe’s pelvis, that remained a bit more demure. But as I’m neither a woman nor a doctor, I’m out of the loop on gynecological techniques and instruments, and so I’m in the dark as to what exactly the apparent device is in the x-ray. Are we seeing an IUD insertion here? (Asking for a friend.)

Anyway, the auction takes place on April 28th. If you’re going to bid on these Monroe items, good luck to you, I guess, and please keep your reasons to yourself.

Posted by Ron Kretsch
05:57 am
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