Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Let It Come Down

It's Raining Cocktails

Let us sing and drink to the gods of rain. The litany of heat and drought is offered up on the news every night, but no one is doing anything about the weather (except Al Gore,) so I am offering up liquid libations to the precipitation gods. Jazzman Mose Allison is in town performing at Blues Alley and who knows, maybe he’ll be singing “Let It Come Down,” and he should, because we certainly need the rain.

Willy The Shake Cocktail

Mose Allison has a song called "Let It Come Down," a title that was actually taken from a scene in Shakespeare's Macbeth where Banquo says "It will be rain tonight," and the First Murderer responds, "Then let the rain come down," only as with most Shakespeare, they aren't really talking about rain now, are they? I know. Let's have a drink:

Willy the Shake Cocktail

1 1/4 ounces Malibu Pineapple Infused Rum
1 ounce Red Bull
.75 ounces Shakka Concord Grape Eau de Vie Liqueur

Shake the rum and Red Bull and pour into a chilled martini glass. Sink the grape liqueur into the bottom and garnish with pineapple cubes...speared. Shake and spear. Get it? Knew you would. This drink has a vile look to it, perfect for misdeeds committed in the dark of night in a windblown, rain-lashed castle in Scotland.

On one of Mose Allison's albums, he quotes a story told to him by a prominent educator studying the culture of the Hopi, a desert-dwelling Native American tribe of the Southwest. He found it strange that almost all Hopi music was about water and asked one of the musicians why. He was told that the music was about water, because that was what they suffered from not having. Then the Hopi told the educator, "Most of your music is about love." Let it come down.(1)

Threatened by what you're going through
Regretting the things you didn't do
Relying on compensations you've found
Groaning beneath the weight of it
Bemoaning the fickle fate of it
Complying just to keep both feet on the ground.

That won't get you any place
Won't excuse you from the race
When you meet your destiny face to face
And no more wish I might
And if there's going to be rain tonight
Let it come down.

...or let's have a drink. How about the Let It Come Down Martini?

This drink has "stages" starting with a martini glass lined in vermouth to represent the rain.

Let It Come Down Martini

2 1/2 ounces Rain Vodka
Atomizers of Vermouth and Limoncello

Using a chilled martini glass, spray the inside of the glass with vermouth. In a martini pitcher add the vodka with ice and stir. Pour into martini glass and spray the surface of the glass with Limoncello to bring the promise of the sun, after the rain.

Let It Come Down Martini (2)

A friend of mine wrote "A Toast To the End of Summer" for this blog entry which I offer here:

Here's to the sweaty glass that drools condensation on my shirt
To the mosquito hoping to gift me with West Nile virus
To the hornet that provided an unrequested ear piercing at no charge
To the tiny ants who boldly established a new colony in the open Dorito bag
To the gentlemen of a certain age who wear shorts and sleeveless shirts in daylight
To the malevolent sun that bathes us in it's melanoma rays
And to the summer dumpster and it's heavenly scent of crab feast remains

Summer's Almost Gone Cocktail

The Doors had a song called "Summer's Almost Gone," on their Waiting For The Sun album, and I think it appropriate we close the end of August with a drink that reminds us of shortened daylight and sinking suns:

Summer's Almost Gone Cocktail

1 1/4 ounces Grey Goose Mandarin Vodka
2 ounces Orange Juice

Shake the vodka and orange juice and pour into a chilled glass. Sink the grenadine then stir slightly to give you a gradated shading of color, representative of the sinking sun, and garnish with half a lemon slice, also symbolizing the sinking sun.

Morning found us calmly unaware
Noon burned gold into our hair
At night, we swim the laughing sea
When summer's gone where will we be ~~ The Doors

Oh more flop sweat:

"Katrina. Storm of a lifetime."

(1) This song comes from a 1968 album of Mose Allison's called I've Been Doing Some Thinking. He delivers the words in a deadly slow pace over piano chords so wistful and weary that you might feel he was trying to push the piano uphill.

(2) I photographed this drink two ways. With the strainer over the glass (inappropriate) and over the glass pitcher (which wasn't as photogenic, but proper.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Happy Birthday Sonny Jurgensen

I've created two cocktails to celebrate the birthday of football legend Sonny Jurgensen as well as advancing the start of the Washington Redskin's football season. Born on this day in Wilmington, North Carolina, Christian Adolph "Sonny" Jurgensen III attended Duke University, was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1957 and was traded to the Washington Redskins in 1964. Legendary coach Vince Lombardi took over coaching the Redskins in 1969, and he called Sonny "...the greatest pure passer of his generation." While I was writing this, I was perversely thinking about Lou Reed singing "Coney Island Baby," and his voice-over introduction where he goes on about having to play "football for the coach" while waiting for the heroin to kick in:
Coney Island Baby - RealOne Player

Sonny became a folk hero in this town. He was respected not only for his passing skills, but he was also considered intelligent, determined and competitive. For a while in D.C. there was heated debate over who should be quarterback: Sonny Jurgensen or Billy Kilmer and people were driving around with bumper stickers factioning off into "I like Sonny," or "I like Billy" groups. Sonny left the Redskins in 1974 and even though the Redskins have a policy against retiring a player's number, Sonny's jersey, number nine, has not been worn since in a regular season game.

Sonny's Spiral
#9, #9, #9, #9

The first cocktail I made up was in honor of Sonny for this day, and I named it based on what the most fanatical Redskin's friend I have told me. I had him go over Sonny's history in the Redskins, and I'll be quoting him at length in a bit, but he said that the most unique thing he remembers Sonny doing was when he threw a football behind his back for 40 yards in a perfect spiral. To honor this, the first cocktail is called:

Sonny's Spiral:

2 ounces Crown Royal Whiskey
2 1/2 ounce Amaretto Disaronno
1 1/2 ounces Cranberry Juice

Shake ingredients and pour into chilled martini glass. Garnish with a twisted lemon peel.

After Sonny's football career ended, he began anew as a sport's broadcaster, and he adds knowledgeable insight into every game having been there before, appreciative of what it's like on that playing field. For many, that's the only perception they have of Sonny: that guy on WRC-TV with George Michael. For others, Sonny will always be the "Redheaded Rifle" and much beloved in this town.

I've been watching the pre-season Redskin's news for weeks now. When Clinton Portis had his injury, it only reaffirmed what I know about this town's passion. Reading the Washington Post you had to marvel at the lengthy reports on the potential damage, doctors were being consulted,and a detailed anatomical diagram of the injured site in question. Never ask in a bar how people think the Redskins are going to do this year. Following two poor pre-season games, the first response was "They stink." Everyone quickly amended themselves, after debating the finer points along the rail, and one gentleman I met for the first time said, "They stink right now, but....we've got to have hope, don't we?"

The Burgundy And The Gold Cocktail

I know I've been loyal to them, being a D.C. girl, and in honor of my favorite team, I offer up the visually appealing (but highly undrinkable) cocktail:

The Burgundy And The Gold:

1/2 ounce orange juice
1/2 ounce Vodka
1/2 ounce Galliano
1 1 /2 ounces Grenadine

Mix first three ingredients and pour into chilled glass, then sink an equal portion of Grenadine. Garnish with Redskin's helmet.

I'll leave the final words on this piece to my friend who lives and breathes Redskins during the football season. When I asked him what he thought about the coming season, this was his written reply: "As far as this year: I believe this year will be the greatest one for Skins fans since 1991. We've upgraded our offense with the addition of the #1 coordinator in the league over the last five years (Al Saunders), and two great receivers (Brandon Lloyd from San Francisco and Antoine Randel El from Pittsburgh). Our second best receiver from last year is healthy again and will make our top four receivers amongst the top five units in NFL talent. We've added depth to our tight ends, running backs, fullbacks, offensive line, and QBs. Our defense added a great new defensive backs coach (Gray from Buffalo), and solid new defensive players such as Archuletta (Pro Bowl Safety) and Carter (Defensive Line).

Although some are worried because of pre-season losses thus far, I remind everyone that pre-season doesn't get game planned for and doesn't count. In two of Gibbs' Superbowl victory years the Skins were 1-3 and 0-4 in pre-season. The 1991 season that I spoke of they went from 0-4 pre-season to 14-2 regular season, including a 45-0 win on opening day. When compared to the rest of our division, it should be pointed out that last December we beat our division opponents (Dallas, NY, and Philly) by an average of 19 points each. All the pieces are in place for an amazing year when things actually count! September 11th will be the beginning of a special Redskins season!"

I love his exclamation point at the end. Like I said: D.C. and the Redskins have hope. Happy Birthday, Mr. Jurgensen.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Petey Greene’s Crustacean City

Washington activist Petey Greene’s grandmother An't Pig once told him, “Petey, you gotta stop smoking those reefers because they make you too hungry, and I can’t buy all that extra food.” I was thinking about Petey Greene this weekend, and food, when I had to help out my brother. A few weeks ago his car was stolen. When the police showed up they told him that it probably hadn’t been broken into, but rather towed away, which is the new mode of operation for car thieves. The police said it makes their job harder because you can’t pull over every tow truck you see toting a car around to make sure if it is a legitimate service or not.

Happy Harbor, indeed

Anyway, my family responsibility on Friday was to get to my brother’s and take him out to rent a car. We decided to make a day of it, which started with a haircut over in Deale, Maryland, opposite the Happy Harbor Marina on Rockhold Creek. My brother used to dock his boat at Hansel’s Marina a short distance from there, so it was an area he knew very well by land and water.With lunchtime approaching, we drove down the road to Skipper’s Pier, a restaurant which sits out on the water and is famous for it’s seafood, but especially it’s locally caught crabs. There was a strong breeze coming in over the water, and the waitress had to get masking tape to hold down the brown paper they put across the table, or it would have blown out into the water.

You've heard of pecking order, right?

I wrote about crabbing before with my brother last year, when he taught me about running crab lines and bait and the best way to eat crabs, which is using a small knife rather than the traditional pounding with wooden mallets. We were literally sitting out over Rockhold Creek, and one of our biodegradable table napkins flew off and landed in the water. I hadn’t noticed, and my brother said, “Look. A jellyfish,” only it wasn’t. It was the napkin. Later a jellyfish did mosey on up to our table, and I thought “If he thinks he’s getting some action off that napkin, boy is he going to be disappointed.” We saw seagulls sitting on the pilings out in the water, and my brother taught me that the bigger, heavier birds were the ones who got to sit on the higher posts, while the smaller birds fell in descending order of seagull hierarchy to the lower perches. While we waited, I sketched a crab on the paper, saying, “Oh! The ignoble end…”

Soon enough the crabs arrived, and we tackled the pile. While we ate, my brother was pointing out across the water where he used to go crabbing at Holland Point. He talked about the laws governing the length of crab line, and while most people think chicken is the most effective bait for crabs, it’s actually bull lips. Yes. The lips of bulls. He told me he used to buy these things in bulk from Mt. Calvary Meat Locker in Calvert County, and how if you coil the baited line when done for the day, then cover it in rock salt and put it in garbage bags you can use the bait again. He said it really stinks, works. He also told me that eel, which used to be plentiful in that area, was also a good bait for crabs, but that the Asians had hipped to the availability and gone into heavy marketing to ship the eels overseas at a profit, making it too expensive to use eel anymore when you crab. While we were eating, there was this huge Monarch butterfly hanging around by the large planter next to our table. I whimsically named him “Ambrose.”

"Hello, my name is Ambrose, and I'll be your server."

Driving away from the restaurant, back down Drum Point Road, I screamed out, “Petey Greene!” Only it wasn’t D.C.’s Petey Greene, but rather a bar called Petie Green’s, and it’s roof was lined with gargoyles and Christmas lights. So who is this Petey Greene that I’m going on about? Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene grew up poor in Georgetown of the 1930's. He overcame that poverty; he overcame being a Lorton Reformatory convict, where he landed after a 1960 armed robbery. He overcame addictions. He referred to himself as a “wine-head bum.” By the time of his death in the 1980’s from cancer at age 53, he was remembered as a community activist, but he’s not merely that name you see on the United Planning Organization’s satellite center over on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. He was an award-winning television and radio broadcaster, a humorist, and a folk hero.

Petie Green's, But Not Petey Greene

He had a radio show on WOL called “Rapping with Petey Greene,” but he was better remembered for his television show on WDCA-Channel 20 called, “Petey Greene’s Washington.” Petey would talk with his guests about life in non-bureaucratic D.C. as well as offer street-wise advice and commentary, all while sitting in this huge rattan peacock chair popular during that era: the type of thing you would buy at Pier One before they became tricked out, back when Pier One meant “exotic imports” with things like…incense and wicker and brass gongs.

Don Cheadle as Petey Greene in Talk To Me

On July 30th, the Washington Post did a story about an upcoming movie on Petey Greene’s life, starring Don Cheadle. The movie will be called Talk To Me and, according to Cheadle, it will not be a heroic depiction. “I think that was his whole thing, being straight up. He saw what he thought were injustices, what he thought was right or wrong.” I was very hard pressed to even find information on Petey Greene online when I started writing this piece, and I never did find a photograph of him, only a humorous clip from his television show where he explains the proper way to eat watermelon. I would add that I already knew the trick about salting a watermelon, as my southern Mama taught me the importance of that to bring out the flavor. I’ve added a link from a clip of Petey’s television show. In this segment, he’s quoted as saying, “I got it off the vine. It’s sweet like honey, and I plug it all the time.” I don't think he's talking about watermelon.

Petey Greene - How to Eat Watermelon - Google Video

Petey was also an early user of the term “Chocolate City” to describe Washington. Many think the term originated with the release of a 1975 album of the same name, issued by the group Parliament, whose members included George Clinton and Bootsy Collins. (There was another great song on that album, “If It Don’t Fit (Don’t Force It.” Just sayin’.) In truth, the term had been in use on local D.C. radio stations for some time prior to that.

When he died in 1984, more than 20,000 people lined up outside the Union Wesley AME Zion Church over on Michigan Avenue in Northeast D.C. to pay their respects. I am hoping this new film brings up more facts and more stories so that people can understand that time in Washington’s history. Like Petey's grandmother complaining about how marijuana made him eat too much, at the beginning of this piece. She later went on to amend her view where she said she’d rather “have him smoking reefers and just sit and smile at people than drink old wine and coming in throwing chairs around.” Hopefully not that rattan chair, Petey. That’s history.

He would always end his show with a trademark sign-off. To this day, if you say “Petey Greene,” in D.C., this is what people will shoot back: “I’ll tell it to the hot. I’ll tell it to the cold. I’ll tell it to the young. I’ll tell it to the old. I don’t want no laughin’, I don’t want no cryin’, and most of all, no signifyin’. This is Petey Greene’s Washington.”

Postscript: We did get to the car rental place, and I told the dealer I didn't care what I rented because I could drive anything. He shouted out to his co-workers, "The girl can drive!" Or, to channel Petey, "I'll tell it to the North. I'll tell it to the South. The girl can drive, and that's no jive."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The King Is Toast

To honor the anniversary of Elvis' death, I've created three cocktails to get toasted on. Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977, and he was carrying quite a get happy mix in him when he shuffled off, (1) courtesy of his own Dr. Feelgood, Dr. George Nichopoulos, or as he was more commonly known, "Dr. Nick." (2) David Stanley, the stepbrother of Elvis, has been quoted as saying, "Drugs were Elvis' escape. He didn't take them to get happy. He took them to get unconsicous." Guess what? It worked. Stanley goes on to say that he thought Elvis' favorite book was the Physician's Desk Reference (an encyclopedic book of pharmaceuticals.) "He'd go through the PDR and pick out combinations, like a drug cocktail, that he felt would be just right for him."

Blue Suede Cocktail

The first cocktail I had made up is called Blue Suede Cocktail, and I drank this in honor of an early hit of Elvis' called "Blue Suede Shoes," written by rockabilly, Carl Perkins. The Blue Suede Cocktail consists of:

1/2 ounce Jim Beam whiskey (preferrably poured from an Elvis shaped decanter)
1/2 ounce Blue Curacao
3 1/2 ounces lemon-lime soda
1 1/2 ounces lemonade

Mix the Jim Beam and Blue Curacao in a glass, stir in the lemonade and soda. Serve iced with a lemon wheel or peel. Drink, tread lightly and go cat go.

Elvis gyrated on to Hollywood where he made a string of films that seemed to be thematic in that there's always this girl, there are his gang of guys, singing is accomplished, and other cultures are explored (Charro!, Harum Scarum, Blue Hawaii) in embarrassingly condescending ways. Plus, each movie was guaranteed to contain at least one surreal moment involving a woman's ass, usually involving either a spanking or some bizarre pop music mating ritual and always a fight scene (Surprise. Elvis wins.)

Elvis In Hollywood Cocktail

To honor these cinematic clunkers, the Elvis in Hollywood cocktail:

1 1/4 ounces Malibu Pineapple Infused Rum
1 ounce Pineapple Juice
3/4 ounces Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur

Mix the rum and the pineapple juice into an iced martini glass, then "sink" the Chambord down the side so that it settles into the bottom the glass. Sunk as in Elvis' movie career. Garnish with pineapple. Sip and think about Elvis surfing on some wired board in Paramount's back lot and cue to ukulele music while Elvis wails on "Rock-A-Hula-Baby." (3)

Viva Vino Martini

Finally, the Viva Vino Martini named after an Elvis song called "Vino, Dinero y Amor," and whose lyrics in part go, "I like to drink wine, and money is fine, but I like the girls even more. Viva el vino, viva el dinero, viva viva el amor." This cocktail consists of:

1 1/4 ounces Fonseca Vin 27 Port Wine
3/4 ounces Shakka Apple Infusion, Eau de Vie
1/2 ounce Midori Melon Liqueur
3/4 ounces Cranberry Juice

Mix contents and shake into chilled martini glass rimmed with red sugar.

So many items have been merchandized using the image of Elvis, but some of my favorites are the bottles of booze, either shaped using Elvis' figure, or my personal favorite, his head. Country singer George Jones has this fantastic bar song called "The King Is Gone," (alternate title: "Yabba Dabba Doo,") and the lyrics are so impressive, I just have to reproduce them here:

Last night I broke the seal on a Jim Beam decanter
That looks like Elvis
I soaked the label off a Flintstone jelly bean jar
I cleared us off a place on that one little table
That you left us
And pulled me up a big ole piece of floor

I pulled the head off Elvis
Filled Fred up to his pelvis
Yabba Dabba Doo, the King is gone
And so are you

Round about 10 we all got to talking
'Bout Graceland, Bedrock and such
The conversation finally turned to women
But they said they didn't get around too much
Elvis said, "Find 'em young"
And Fred said "Old Fashioned girls are fun"
Yabba Dabba Doo, the King is gone
And so are you

Later on it finally hit me
That you wouldn't be 'a comin' home no more
'Cause this time I know you won't forgive me
Like all of them other times before
Then I broke Elvis' nose
Pouring the last drop from his toes
Yabba Dabba Doo, the King is gone
And so are you

I've added in a little clip of the song for you: RealMedia

You want to toast Elvis today? Elvis has been made out of toast. Oh, yes. He has. New Zealand artist Maurice Bennett, aka "The Toastman," is known for his toast portraits, and his Elvis work consisted of more than 4,000 pieces of toast (in varying degrees of doneness.)


(1) The autopsy suggested that he had overdosed on "significant amounts" of: Codeine, Methaqualone, Ethinamate, and miscellaneous barbiturates. There were also traces of Morphine, Valium, Demerol, Meperidine, Placidyl, and Chloropheniramine. The coroner also reported that Elvis' last meal had consisted of four scoops of ice cream and six chocolate chip cookies.

(2) For ten years, Dr. Nick was Elvis' doctor, and he sure didn't stint on the scrips. "Elvis's problem," Dr Nick has said, "was that he didn't see the wrong in it. He felt that by getting it from a doctor, he wasn't the common everyday junkie getting something off the street. He was a person who thought that as far as medications and drugs went, there was something for everything." The Medical Board Tribunal heard evidence of astounding volumes of prescriptions written by Dr Nick. Between 1975 and 1977, he had prescribed 19,000 doses of drugs. In the first eight months of 1977 alone, he had written 199 prescriptions totalling more than 10,000 doses of sedatives, amphetamines and narcotics: all in Elvis's name. On 20 January 1980, the board found him guilty of overprescription, but decided that he was not unethical. They gave him three months' suspension of his licence and three years' probation. He was charged again in 1992, facing a more aggressive review board, and finally in 1995, he was stripped of his medical license.

(3) Actress Jenny Maxwell played the bratty Ellie Corbett in Blue Hawaii. She got the ass smacking in this film. Not many fans know that Jenny Maxwell was murdered. The details of her death are sketchy and confusing. In June 1981 Jenny and her husband, famous attorney Ervin "Tip" Roeder, were shot to death outside their Beverly Hills condo. Their murder has never been solved. It's an interesting, but odd, coincidence that Tip was also actor Nick Adams' attorney and was involved in trying to solve Nick's death. Nick allegedly committed suicide in 1968, but Tip and others felt he was murdered. (As many fans know, Nick Adams was a good friend of Elvis' and often visited him on movie sets and in Memphis.) Coinky dink? Uh. Yeah. No grassy knolls here.

I want to apologize for the fuzzy fotography. I've just purchased a new digital camera and haven't a clue how to work it, other than knowing where the power switch is, and the shutter button. Hopefully, I'll be sitting down with the manual real soon and figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Your Next Door Neighbor Is An Environment

What G.K. Chesterton (1) actually said was, "Your next-door neighbour is not a man; he is an environment. He is the barking of a dog; he is the noise of a pianola; he is a dispute about a party wall; he is drains that are worse than yours, or roses that are better than yours."(2)

He is also the man who awakens with the dawn, hawks up his first loogie, bellows "GOD DAMMIT!" and then proceeds to exercise his residential rights in clearing 40 years of black lung disease so that he can sit by his first floor window all day, glaring out over the common courtyard, screaming, YOU DAMN KIDS GET OFF THE GRASS!" (3)
That was the last neighbor I had while I lived in an apartment. The first were this young couple living under me (within these allegedly thick-walled rooms). The husband was obsessed (4) with "Thus Spake Zarathustra," (which was used as music in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, but was also the opening theme music at Elvis' shows.) (5)

He has a passion for this music. He'd crank it up. He wouldn't play the whole song, but only the opening bars with the horns blaring and the kettle drums pounding: Dumm, dumm, dumm, dumm, dumm. Then he'd start it again. And again, and again, and again, and...well you get the drift. This wasn't an occasional thing. It was daily. I used to try to visualize him down there: wearing a bath towel as a cape, strutting around, pretending he was in Vegas and saying "thenk yew verah much," (6) or curled up naked and natally on the floor, pretending to be drifting in space. The couple moved; back to California. YAY! And took the big dog! YAY! And their newborn, squalling child. YAYAYAYAYAY!

Three college boys moved in. Their favorite thing was playing basketball in the living room...on bare wood all hours of the day and night. Dude! SCORE!

Now you know why I live in a house.

(1) Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was an influential English writer of the early 20th- century. His prolific and diverse output included journalism, poetry, biography and Christian apologetics, but today he is probably best remembered for his Father Brown short stories.

(2) Which may well be, as far as the roses go, because they refuse to thrive in my heavily shaded yard. I gave all of them to neighbors with sunnier spots, including a climbing yellow rose called Golden Showers (whose name continues to tickle me in my infantile humor) in the yard next door.

(3) The man really existed and may continue to do so. My friends and I took to calling him "Mean Mr. Mustard" after a Beatles' song, and it stuck. He had a dour, frowning face, equal with his temperament, and his wife lived in those snap-fronted floral-printed housedresses. He was once quoted as saying, "It makes you numb. Like Jack Daniels."

(4) Obssessed with this song the way Hitler might be said to be obsessed with Wagner. Adolf Hitler's admiration for Wagner began at the age of 12 when he attended his first opera, a performance of Rienzi in Linz in 1901. Hitler's passion for Wagner is discussed in some detail in Frederic Spott's fascinating study Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, published in 2002. Hitler also came to love Lehar (after first dismissing his operettas,) but Wagner was Hitler's musical mania. Spotts writes that Hitler attended more than a hundred performances of Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. According to his press chief, Otto Dietrich, Hitler knew Die Meistersinger by heart and could hum or whistle all its themes. I read this passage to a friend, and he said that perhaps if Hitler had been able to sing, he could have performed in operas and satisified his need for costumes, grandeur, pageantry, and drama, saving everyone a lot of trouble and grief.

(5) Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss not only crops up in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Elvis' entrance music, but is used by many including professional wrestler Ric Flair and as opening music for the group's Green Day and The Dave Matthews Band. During the Boston Red Sox 2005 Opening Day ceremony, members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops played this piece while a huge banner proclaiming "World Series 2004 Champions" dropped from the top of the Green Monster and covered nearly all of the 37-foot-high wall.

(6) Contrary to popular opinion, Elvis' jumpsuits were not made of polyester, but rather a lightweight, imported wool and were designed by Bill Belew. Belew worked on Elvis' personal wardrobe from 1968 until Elvis' death in 1977. Elvis' jumpsuits could not be cleaned. You could not even hand wash them as it would damage the fabric and jeweled studding. So, according to legend, at the end of a show, when Elvis was all sweated up (and toward the end, he really got sweaty,) the King would dump half a bottle of Brut aftershave all over the suit to mask the smell. Given his penchant for the martial arts, I'm surprised he didn't use Hai Karate cologne (7).

(7) I know I'm being a total brat making a footnote within a footnote, but I couldn't resist. Hai Karate cologne was a fragrance popular during the 1970's. Each bottle was packaged with a guide for self-defense so that men could protect themselves from the hordes of women it promised to attract.

*For triggering this memory, thanks to Fictional Rockstar.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Rufus? You're A Doofus!

It took more than one man to change my name to Bathhouse Betty (1)

I have had this vague dislike of Rufus Wainwright for some time now. He had his three chances at bat, but he's struck out, in my book. I wish I could go all Bart Giamatti on him. (2)

Strike One: It started in the early days of his career when his performances were running parallel with Jeff Buckley. Both young men were children of famous fathers: Jeff's father, Tim Buckley, was a singer and a songwriter from the 1960's, (3) and Rufus' father, Loudon Wainwright, III (4) had his greatest success during that same era. Rufus' mother, Kate McGarrigle, is also well known as a singer-songwriter from the time she began singing with her sister Anna as The McGarrigle Sisters. I'll leave it to the critics to sort out who was the more talented of the two, but my tastes run more to Tim than Loudon, and Jeff over Rufus.

I may be dead, but I'm more beautiful.

It seemed that every time I picked up some music magazine or trade paper, Rufus was badmouthing Jeff and whining about how Jeff got more attention from the media. He would complain so much, it felt like he was in a looped Jan Brady moment: always living in the shadow, "Well, all day long at school I hear how great Jeff is at this or how wonderful Jeff did that! Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! Oops. Jeff, Jeff, Jeff!" (5) Jeff was incredibly handsome, and Rufus factored that into the equation of the imbalance. His looks certainly didn't hurt Buckley, but I still think he had more talent than Wainwright. When Jeff's life was cut short in a drowning accident in 1997, I am sure few tears were shed over the loss. Somehow I picture a race to the mirror with the query, "Now who's the prettiest?"posed. (6)

Strike Two: Another festering Wainwright moment was in viewing a PBS broadcast in 2003 of Lance Loud: Death in An American Family.

~~We're a happy family,
We're a happy fa
We're a happy family.
Me, Mom and Daddy~~ (7)

Back in 1971 PBS television filmed a documentary in 12 episodes following the lives of a nuclear family called the Loud's in Santa Barbara, California. The show was called An American Family. What the filmmakers did not anticipate was watching the disintegration of the American family as they filmed. The show was aired in 1973 to much controversy, then a follow-up was done in 1983, and the most recent film of their gay son's life in 2003. Lance became well known himself for a time, initially from these shows, but also through later connections with Andy Warhol and Interview magazine and then as a musician and writer. (8) He died at age 50 following a longstanding addiction to crystal meth, then later diagnoses of HIV and hepatitis C. At the end of his life, he and his antagonistic father reconciled, and they had a genuine appreciation of each other.

When the Lance Loud show aired, at the end of the film there was a memorial tribute held in what looked like an outdoor patio of a restaurant, and Rufus was preparing to sing "Over the Rainbow." (9) His mother, Kate, was just beaming at him as she lead into the song's opening notes. She was so proud of her boy. Observing her prideful glance and his posture you immediately sensed spoiling and brattiness, an opinion which was cemented when he petulantly snapped at her, "Mother! Key of B!"

"A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow"
~~ Charlotte Brontë (10)

God I wanted her to have a Joan Crawford moment a la Mildred Pierce and slap him silly. You can just hear him snipping, "Oh it's impossible. Look at it. Ruffles! I wouldn't be seen dead in this rag. It's horrible. How could she have bought me such a thing?" (11)

Infamia, Infamia, Infamia (12)

Strike Three: Just recently I read that Rufus recreated Judy Garland's legendary 1961 performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. He used footage from the original event, reproduced her poster using his name instead of hers, so you got "Rufus, Rufus, Rufus," rather than "Judy, Judy, Judy," and he sang every song in the same order that Judy performed them on that memorable night. (13) Does this man understand the meaning of the word, "hubris?" (14) PBS has been running a documentary on Judy Garland called Judy Garland: By Myself, part of their American Masters series, (which is scheduled to be re-broadcast on August 30th at 9 p.m.,) (15) and if you watch this, you can only marvel at nature's gift and the genius this woman possessed. For Mr. Wainwright to even touch the toe of her ruby slippers (16) is an infamia, let along applying his nasalities against Garland's instrument filled with rarely heard emotional nuances. Three strikes and yer out! Hit the showers, Bathhouse Betty!

~~Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin' to high heaven~~ (17)

(1) This is actually a quote from the 1933 von Sternberg film, Shanghai Express, starring Marlene Dietrich in which she utters the highly quotable, "It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily." Bathhouse Betty is the name of an album by Bette Midler and alludes back to her early singing career at the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse in New York, where an equally young Barry Manilow was her accompanist.

(2) Bart Giamatti (1939-1989) was at one time President of Yale University and later, the Seventh Commissioner of Major League Baseball. He was also father to actor Paul Giamatti who is about to be featured in the Edward Norton film The Illusionist,(opening on August 18th.) It was Bart Giamatti who banned Pete Rose from baseball for multiple gambling infractions. The reference is also a little play on "I'ma get medieval on your ass,"from the movie, Pulp Fiction.

(3) Tim Buckley never knew his son intimately and passed over well before his son's own fame, dying of a heroin overdose in 1975. They were very close in appearance physically, down to the same bushy eyebrows. Both also possessed voices with far reaching octave ranges and purity of tone.

(4) Rufus' father Loudon is the son of a famous Life magazine writer and editor. Loudon also played Captain Spalding, the singing surgeon, on the television series M.A.S.H. in the 1970's. His songs are usually considered "witty and self-depreciating."

(5) This is, of course, a paraphrasing of the comment made by Jan Brady about her more popular, more beautiful sister, Marcia, from the television series, The Brady Bunch.

(6) The wicked Queen in Snow White, asking the eternal question of narcissists everywhere, "Magic mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" These days, we get Paris Hilton sex videos, where she might be posing the question into her cell phone while positioned doggy style.

(7) From the Ramones' song, “We're A Happy Family,” whose opening refrain is:
Sitting here in Queens, Eating refried beans.
We're in all the magazines, Gulpin' down thorazines.
We ain't got no friends, Our troubles never end.
No Christmas cards to send, Daddy likes men.

(8) There is also a rock/pop group called "The Loud Family," from the San Francisco area: Loud Family - The Official Web Site

(9) “Over the Rainbow” was written by Harold Arlen and tailored specifically for Judy Garland to sing. At one time, the producers of The Wizard of Oz were considering Shirley Temple for the role of Dorothy, in which case, we certainly never would have had that song. Instead, Shirley would have been singing about "Lollipop munchkins in my soup, witches and monkeys loop the loop. Golly gee, but I have fun, counting the yellow bricks one by one"--or something of that ilk.

(10) Charlotte Brontë. You want to know more, you ask? Have I got the link for you: The Life of Charlotte Brontë

(11) A quote from the film noir 1945 classic, Mildred Pierce, starring Miss Joan Crawford, with Ann Blyth as her bratty daughter, Veda. It is at this point in our reading that we can peruse the question, "Who would name their child Veda OR Rufus...or Butterfly, for that matter?" Butterfly McQueen is also in this film, and she's about as useless at helping out in restaurants as she was in birthing babies in Gone With The Wind.

(12) From the Sicilian dialect indicating infamy or scandalous act. This word crops up a lot in the novel The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Do I get a triple word play score in noting that it was believed actor Cary Grant had once said (in his Bristol accent,) "Judeh, Judeh, Judeh," when in truth he never uttered this phrase on film, but rather it was used by mimic Larry Storch much later in his own Cary Grant impersonations.

(13) Judy's conductor for this performance was Mort Lindsey who later went on to conduct the band for the talk television show The Merv Griffin Show. Merv Griffin, wealthy as Croesus now, used to sing in a band in his youth, and his big hit song was, "I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts." Oh yeah..Croesus.

(14) Hubris: Overbearing pride or presumption. Excessive pride. Arrogance. As in, "I'm showing a lot of hubris in defining the meaning of the word "hubris," when my readers already know what it means."

(15) Try and catch this show if you love music and the arts. You will truly understand what "God's gift," and "natural talent" mean.

(16) The Wizard of Oz, again. Actress Debbie Reynolds owns a pair from the original movie. You can also go over to the Smithsonian and see their pair. Every year for Christmas I ask Santie Clause to bring me a battalion of flying monkeys. Maybe if I'm good this year.

(17) Part of the lyrics to Rufus' father's most popular song, "Dead Skunk."
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