Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ON THE LOST TRAIL OF BLACK CACTUS STAMPEDE


I should blog about Black Cactus Stampede. They had quite a pedigree, with ex-members from L.A.'s The Plimsouls and S.F.'s The Sea Hags, two quality bands. They had a unique sound for the era, an actual good songwriter in the band (who wrote for other bands as well) and absolutely zilch, nada, rien, zero trace of them left whatsoever online or anywhere else.

Their look was young blue collar guys next door in an era of Hair Metal black leather uniformity, with each band member an individual as such. (I've always thought the best bands were composed of recognizable individuals, both in appearance and contributions strengthening the whole. You could even tell the original Guns'n'Roses guys apart.) Friendly bad boys. I almost had a crush on one of them.


Their sound was double lead guitar with one of them a bottleneck slide guitar, a la the Mick Taylor Rolling Stones in the early 1970's. Their singer proffered a gruff baritone, in direct contrast to most of the era's gonad-squeezed falsetto shrieking. They had one song that I saw transform every audience live, wherein all these hardened, anally cool metal types would start unconsciously swaying to its trance-y beat (chorus: "...where's that little sister, where's that little thang?"). You can see the intensity of an instrumental break in my live photo above.


For my studio session and other interaction with them, they actually tried to be gentlemen around me, despite my protests that no one had to censor their words or hide things. I loved the conversations I overheard, like debating what cherubim were, why it was unusual for "a nice Jewish boy" to be so tattooed (it's against dogma orthodoxy bigtime to "defile" the body) or for example:

BCS1: I wish we had used Heather for our first promo photo. We used "-----."

BCS2: Who's "-----"?

BCS1: He's a putz!


For the trivia-minded, Black Cactus Stampede were (L-R in my group photo below): Isaac Baruch (singer-songwriter-guitarist,) David Pahoa (bassist, ex-Plimsouls,) Adam Maples (drummer, ex-Sea Hags and almost replacement for the first Guns'n'Roses drummer, probably not decadent enough,) and James "Jimmy" Gambone (slide guitar.)
They all had Biblical first names.

They were alone with the nascent Black Crowes and Little Caesar in performing bluesy hard rock with slide guitar (as opposed to slide/bluesy metal like Cinderella) in the Hair Metal era before the Nirvana sea change, and without having been told to. If you missed seeing them live in the late 1980's/early 1990's, you missed seeing one of L.A.'s best unsung bands, for there's nary a cd or download left to tell the tale...nothing online at all, until this blog.

2011 annotation: Still nada, rien, zilch about this band when you keep on Googlin' but this LINK will give you a 2008 photo of Jimmy Gambone in a reunion of his pre-BCS band Slyder in Florida, and "friend" Isaac on FB to see his genuinely Fine Art: he earned a Bachelor's Degree in painting from Cal State in 2010!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NOEL L BAND at the WHISKY A GOGO




The dissolution of Amy Winehouse's authority on the charts by virtue of her concomitant dissolution has left a void for many an aspiring smoky-voiced, torchy songstress. Pretty young songwriter Noel L, from Ventura County, Calif. stakes out her own unique territory in this scene by fronting her own rockin' band while singing and playing keyboard. After catching a great live performance, I posed the following.

Q:How long have you been performing music? A: I have been performing and singing literally since I was born. My mom said I could sing on key and hum to the T.V. melodies before I learned how to talk. I always laughed when she said this because I think of I've seen a home video of this when I was a baby and it's really funny! I just always loved music and was naturally drawn to it.

Q:What other artists do you like?
A: Some of my favorite artists are Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani, Black Eyed Peas, Michael Jackson, and of course The Beatles.

Q: Where do you want to be in a year?
A: I would love to be a #1 internationally known artist, collaborate with top writers, artists, producers and music video directors, be a platinum selling act, rule the radio, and live out a lifelong career in music. That would be a dream come true!

Q: Your unique look leads me to believe you have a personal stylist like other alternative artists such as , say, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Do you, and if so who? A: At my last show I was incredibly fortunate to be sponsored by a red carpet designer named Yochi Ben and to be able to strut around in her breath-taking dress. I also was sponsored by desiredesignsinc.com's jewelry! They gave me beautiful jewelry to wear for my concert! I felt like a million dollars and I loved it! I do my own makeup and hair. You have to feel confident in your own style and wear what makes you feel your absolute best!

all photos (C) 2010 Heather Harris

Saturday, March 27, 2010

GIANT PELICAN

Giant pelican resembling a 747 taking off at the Del Mar dog show Fairgrounds parking lot. Compare avian size to two-space car park lines.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

R.I.P. photographer Jim Marshall

This image (C) Jim Marshall. Music photographer extraordinaire.
February 3, 1936—March 24, 2010
I personally may have preferred the high-key tonality cum innate insight of music photographer David Gahr, but overall it was indisputable that Jim Marshall was THE MAN. He resisted micro-management by the music industry's bean counters by ditching these middlemen and going directly through the artists themselves for his work. The resultant rapport is best encapsulated in his aptly titled book of music photography "Trust."

Marshall photographed the upper echelon of rock musicians of the 1960's, '70's and beyond. Especially iconic: his 3/4 side view of Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire at the Monterey Pop Festival, Miles Davis boxing at a gym, many famous shots of Bob Dylan in the early to mid-60s, myriad portraits of the 1960's San Francisco music elite, and the one above of Johnny Cash emoting at his Folsom Prison performance.

For Google's gallery of Marshall's many decades of memorable music photography, go to LINK
Jim Marshall will rest in peace, but on his own terms!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

NIGHT TRAIN, GERMANY

Leipzig, Germany train station at night. Photo (C) 1994 Heather Harris. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I PHOTOGRAPHED THE 2010 ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES THE STOOGES, GENESIS, JIMMY CLIFF AND JEFF BARRY, just not on their induction night




All photographs (C) 2010 Heather Harris. All Rights Reserved.
In his worthy Retrokimmer blog, Deniz Tek claimed The Stooges make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame look good, not vice versa. I'll add: if it's fast, loud, wild, proactive, sexy, hard, wicked, half-naked and confrontational, any rock music matching this description probably was incubated by The Stooges. They did it all at once simultaneously, and first. The singer? He invented in your face. Drummist? Totally gonzoid. The guitarists? Drone-y weirdness personified in the late, beloved Ron Asheton, then once and current Stooge James Williamson, a guitarist so creative he's credited with the template for every hard rock genre that came after him. And for just one release's eight songs! Iggy said it better recently: "James came from no known musical vocabulary."

I'm glad the H of F, after a shamefully dissing seven tries, finally was embarrassed (by fellow Detroit-er Madonna no less!) into inducting them on March 15, 2010. I also hope Iggy stage dives into their audience, clambers onto the $3K a seat tables and spills drinks onto their tuxedos while being broadcast-bleeped for screaming obscenities and fondling the hotties all the while. He owes them.

Is this any way for grown men to behave? Of course! It's called performance. Anything this subversive is always a clarion wake-up call in the arts, and believe me, all rock music thereafter was awakened, even if its progenitors, for the ensuing forty years, suffered ignominy (bad pun) from their peers until this one Hall of Fame night.

The Stooges once scared their audiences, but some of us were always elated. (Little Art School Girl here certainly knew who Chris Burden was.) Check out the sublimely thrilled audience faces on Tom Copi's iconic shot of Iggy walking on a sea of hands. I chose my above stage pic of them between songs at the Whisky A Gogo, 1973 because it's never been published before and it shows three who'll be performing at the H of Fame, from left James Williamson, Iggy Pop and Scott Thurston. The portrait of Iggy for a magazine cover session dates from 1990, and the one of James, with the same guitar as he used in my 1973 shot, is from 2009.


My Genesis shot at the Roxy, L.A. highlights original lead singer Peter Gabriel, he of the bat wings, whose insistence on bizarro personae matching his unique vocals mirrored the outre Glam of the day. This of course is the incarnation I prefer since Gabriel's the-weirder-the-better lyrical stance far better complemented their innate musical complexities. Phil Collins' Genesis may have been the chart-toppers, but Gabriel to this day still retains all the real cred.

Jimmy Cliff, my pic of him circa 2006 as he's still a dynamic performer, quite simply mainstreamed Reggae for the entire world at large from his starring role as musician/outlaw in the revolutionary Jamaican film "The Harder They Come." (see previous blog for immediate effect of this movie on your truly. I later even wrote a book on Bob Marley and the Wailers.)

Jeff Barry? Fabulous songwriter of whom I can't find my Avedon-esque black and white portrait (in which he artily would have resembled a vastly taller version of present day Phil Collins.) He was once married to my Westlake classmate, the beauteous Elizabeth Gaunt. Partnering with Ellie Greenwich and now disgraced Phil Spector, Barry wrote the classic "Be My Baby" for the Ronnettes amongst thousands more. That'll do.


Parting words are from
my 1978 "Punk Rock 'n Roll" book, first overview on the subject published in the U.S. which, for bonus fun, included music tablature and went to press right the same week as the Sex Pistols broke up. These four sentences constitute the least I wrote on any of its featured artists because I felt the strongest about them and felt they spoke for themselves: it also inaugurated the very first instance of the subjective "I" in any of my writings, also because I felt so strongly about same:

"...More than any other selection, "Search And Destroy" constitutes the most seminal song in this entire notated repertoire. Virtually every Punk-inclined group to date claims the Stooges central to its inspiration and proffers one Stooges' song in its set, usually this one. James Williamson's scorching guitar work in this song coupled with Iggy Pop's havoc-wreaking imagery and overall savage abandon laid the foundation for ALL of the music that concerns us here. There is nothing I could say about Rock 'n' Roll in this book that "Search And Destroy" does not articulate already by itself."


And of course, speaking for themselves:




Speaking for the fans is whoever posted this video right after the actual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame appearance by the actual Stooges. This person set up a tri-pod and videoed his or her own television set. DIY and punk rock!

My final thought having watched
the Stooges play (and talk) on the televised Rock&Roll Hall of Fame show. I thought that given the artifice of the entire situation, the Stooges came off as very, very honest in their music, their attitude and their recognition of such a hard-won, lifetime triumph.

MY SO-CALLED DANCING CAREER

My So Called Dancing Career, directly inspired by the Portsmouth Sinfonia, the touring British orchestra started by Brian Eno, in which none of the professional or collegiate concert musicians were allowed to play any instrument that they already knew how to play.

Regrettable though it may have been to have missed the live onslaught of Portsmourth Sinfonia due to that pesky Atlantic Ocean betwixt us, their promo film surrounding their inception was featured at one of the earliest Filmex showings, a 1970's and now defunct Los Angeles film festival, which I caught along with the premiere of "The Harder They Come." This proved revelatory and inspirational to me. Both of them. Really. I acted on the latter by writing the first book on Bob Marley & the Wailers published in the U.S. for A&M who licensed the Island stuff, but first I had to dive into Portsmouth Sinfonia phenomenon as an inquisitive fellow artist (U.C.L.A. Bachelor of Arts degree quashing all doubt), and did so promptly.

I, who had never entertained a nanosecond's thought of the performer's life, organized a similarly premised dance troupe, comprised of three of us who couldn't dance to save our lives, and one expert who could, but was the recent victim of two broken legs in a freeway accident, casts newly shed. We christened ourselves "The Flying Buttresses," and wanted to learn to tap dance ever so badly. Which we proceeded to do, ever so badly.

It was the early 1970's. We shamelessly pilfered, er, um, borrowed the mien from the then spankin' fresh young Bette Midler, and fashioned our look from a cross between drag queens and the Pointer Sisters, courtesy of my local thrifteria, The Junk Store, motto: things go better with junk! Mae West's "Frankie And Johnny" provided the soundtrack to our esprit de dance corps, and off we went galumphing joyously. We passed our university gym requirement by convincing authorities this costumed, moving chaos was indeed the kineseologic satisfier of curricula-- see, we're "dancing!" We were invited to "dance" to open a supermarket, and did so. We were invited to "dance" in a video and did so. For half of it. The latter half of it. The music feed failed to launch, and the first half is four perplexed young women standing around waiting in Pointer Sisters/drag queen mufti. This so dispirited The Flying Buttresses that they ceased to be forever.

Regrettably,
Heather Harris
Van Nuys, California, USA


P.S. a taste of Portsmouth Sinfonia
:

and, in honor of the Flying Buttresses, some similarly amateur "dancing":

THE UNLUCKIEST PEOPLE EVER IN ROCK 'N' ROLL

photo © 1967 Heather Harris. All Rights Reserved.

"The Unluckiest People Ever in Rock 'n' Roll" is a piece from many years ago, but pertinent. Update 2016 disclaimer: the Stooges were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, and Chainsaw triumphantly toured Europe circa 2003 in a hitherto unanticipated reunion demanded by an Italian record label. There have been several tribute albums and numerous compilations of the band on topic herein and the gentleman pictured above frequently performs with his talented daughter Arwen Lewis. Other than winning second place in the 2015 L.A. Press Club awards for my photos in Donna Balancia's review of James Williamson of Iggy and the Stooges' solo gig (LINK,) I still am waiting....

Let's talk about bad luck in the music business. Whom are its greatest exemplars? Could it be The Stooges, the Detroit hooligans fronted by Iggy with heroic guitar squawking by Ron Asheton and James Williamson in the late 60s and '70s that changed the entirety of all rock music forever? In their time they turned prog/evolving studio complexity and singer-songwriter mellowmush MOR on its ass and struck out as the progenitors of punk, grunge, and all performance art onstage in music. But in the band's lifetime they couldn't get arrested. Wait, they did tend to get arrested. That, hard drugs, neuropsychiatric ward institutionalization, and a hunka hunka bad luck. They aren't the winners though.


Could it be Chainsaw, the band whose lead singer Mr. Twister (with whom This Writer later united) pioneered proto-glam punk rock before the Sex Pistols hit the USA running? Mr. Twister complains that it's as no good being before your time as it is to be after your time, since actual instigators can get lost in the hindsight, as Chainsaw did. Could it be This Writer herself, whose 40 years of phenomenally arty music photojournalism from Buffalo Springfield to The Red Hot Chili Peppers is surrounded by some Cone Of Invisibility that always threatens quasi-attrition after the four decades of Trying Really Really Hard?

Could it be the aforementioned Buffalo Springfield, whom everyone agrees were the best live American high-energy rock band of the 1960s, what with their front lineup of three singer/guitarist-songwriters, two of whom are still wailing away in their dotage as Neil Young and Stephen Stills? And their technical musical brilliance allied with burgeoning eclecticism before rock critics deigned to attach that word to its heroes? And who imploded after two years and two and 1/2 glorious LPs, in a squalor of fights and arrests?


Nope. It was their compatriot best live American high-energy rock band of the 1960s, what with their front lineup of three singer/guitarist-songwriters, and their technical musical brilliance allied with burgeoning eclecticism etc. etc. who imploded after two years and two and a 1/2 glorious LPs, in a squalor of fights and arrests. It was Moby Grape, the unluckiest great band you've never heard or are only slightly aware of the former existence of same.

Two bar band/studio buddies of great musicianship hook up with a wondrous towheaded White Soul singer/bassist, a tall, moptop cute guy with a winsome voice and unbelievable Hollywood pedigree for a hard-rocker musician (his mum was Loretta Young,) and an unprolific but brilliant songwriter/complete lunatic. Meet Moby Grape. It's also the heyday of the summer of love 1960's, and they're all in San Francisco, hence their regard as the secret best band of the S.F. hippies era. Rather than subjugating the talents of its members, it lets 'em rip with alternating lead vocals, alternating songs' authorships, and brings 'em back together with five-part harmony and killer technique. Live. Where everybody else usually fell down on their beflowered peace and love faces.

They shred live. They write fantastic material. They look good for disparate hippies. The amalgam works, fame ensues. They are signed to the then biggest record company in America,  Columbia (CBS, now Sony) and record their classic album of 12 killer songs. And then . . . it all begins to circle down the toilet bowl so completely that few remember the name Moby Grape not in conjunction with a cautionary "the worst case scenario of what not to do in the music business."


In the middle of the "back to nature" hippie dismissal of hype and artifice, Columbia throws the biggest and most pretentious press party ever thrown to introduce the band to muso mandarins and the terminally hip. Purple orchids drop down from the ceiling. Regard drops away from offended compatriots. Then, on the pretext that the whole LP's material is so strong (true enough) the dunces at the company release all the songs as singles which was the way that the showcase songs were presented to the public at the time. Presented... one at a time, so the public could, dare I say, purchase something they heard and liked and then eventually purchase more? Like iPod mp3s? Wrong era. Result? Nothing gets notices amid the glut, and nothing happens to any of 'em.

Oh, except for the best of their best songs, "Omaha" written by the lunatic, which has the world's most unfortunate mix for the single: instead of their then inventive phasing of guitar feedback sounds ringing from side to side in the stereo mix, the dullards mixing the single fail to separate the sound, and the innovative intro sounds like a mistake of solid static before the song begins. What if that had happened to, say, Hendrix? And then, the LP was recalled from release when philistines finally noticed that the drummer was flipping the bird with his middle finger on the front cover photo.

So San Francisco's secret best live band/embarassed debutants soldier on with their great material, lineup, musicianship, etc. etc. Another LP is recorded. The cute guy's marriage breaks up, as presaged by his winsome ballads, but in comparison to his bandmates, he's getting off easy. The bad luck starts to rain down in floodwaters. The manager sues the band for its own name and wins. Two members are arrested for contributing to the delinquency of minors (The Man's name for underage groupies. A budding Almost Famous-type apparently snitched to her parents.) The lunatic drops his last tenuous hold on reality, no doubt an acid-soaked one at best, and attacks the drummer with an ax, both unhurt but the former ends up in NY's notorious Bellevue. Attrition. The towheaded White Soul Singer quits to join the Marines! Then becomes homeless. The lunatic becomes homeless, then a ward of the state. Then no band.


So what's left besides the bad rep? Not too many outside S.F., NYC and L.A. saw how great they were live. I sure did, as I dated the cute guy's cousin for two seconds, hence the unusual for me backstage pic (I was never an Almost Famous. I came in the front door with a camera and, later, a photo pass. I didn't come in the back door with the band.) There's clips on Youtube that hint at what they were, as most 60's acts were not filmed performing live, or were recorded so badly they wish they hadn't bothered. The one below is marred not only by cretinous blather but by cretinous mixing that ignores their three singers, and omits the cute guy. Luckily that's of whom my photo is. There's that fabulous first LP, fortunately available in CD and download re-release. And their/my story here.



Friday, March 12, 2010

"THE RUNAWAYS" film premiere, last names only


It was nice seeing the triumph of so many L.A. icons in person last night at the Hollywood premiere of "The Runaways" movie: director Sigismondi with rocker husband Berlin, actors Stewart and Fanning, rockstars Jett and Currie, DJ Bingenheimer, even fellow photographers Elterman and Santisi (I was on holiday so no pix, just enjoying the event as the plus one of friend/colleague Kubernik whom Jett thanked last night for helping her to remain on the planet.) I came away mightily impressed with the young leads' performances particularly Stewart disappearing into the Jett persona, the authentic set design and costuming, being able to hear my own '70's on the soundtrack- that of the Stooges, Britrock, glam and punk rather than the era's mellowmush or disco chart hits- while I guffawed along with the audience at actor Shannon's hilarious (if disgusting-ish) turn as Fowley. Yes, it showed the bad, the controversial and the questionable along with the good.

P.S. Kubernik worked with the actual Runaways back in the day, and I photographed the very first incarnation of them playing live at the Whisky A Gogo in 1975, photo above, that featured bassist Steele of the future Bangles as lead singer instead of Currie or Jett. P.P.S. Trivia not covered in the film: unportrayed Runaways' bassist Fox graduated in the same Harvard Law School class as President Obama.

Bad, double-vision grab shot of the producers, cast, crew and real life characters taken from my reserved seat with snapshot camera in purse. Director Sigismondi in white jacket is between Jett, center, and Currie.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

TRAIL RIDING



I cropped my photo this way because its composition reminded me of classic Chinese landscapes, particularly with the landslide area just to the rear of the horses resembling a waterfall. The trainer was trail-riding my horse Indiana Jones (because he's an adventure to ride) today with another client, so, from the perspective of the boarding stable, I thought I'd photograph them on one of the mountain ascents to illustrate our overall terrain (trails zigzag all the way up in back to the top.) Indy is in front, and all of us ride in our English saddles on the trails.

This is one of the few parts of the Angeles Forest that didn't burn in the Station fire this last summer, so it's still green from the rains. Because it's our norm, I also keep forgetting that we ride "rough" trails, and have to contend with very steep inclines, landslides, quicksand, mountain-top switchbacks, motorbikes, sheep in pastures racing from border collies, mountain lions, deer, vultures, coyotes, bobcats and even birds darting from the brush which scare the horses with their sudden motion.

As prey animals, horses are afraid of everything, with anything anew causing their wreckless flight at top speed. And it's hard to restrain a 35 mph 1,000 lb. terrified creature, taking real finesse to leverage against all that. Bobcats are the best trail hazard- the horses think they smell identical to house cats and aren't bothered- and motorbikes are the very worst due to what professionals call testosterone poisoning. The Angeles Forest abuts Los Angeles so we contend with both urban and rural trail hazards. No wonder we have so many problematic rides! As Isak Dinesen routinely joked after returning from her safaris in the Kenya wilds, "'Cheated death again!" My own maxim echoes that of private pilots returning from treacherous flights, "Any landing you walk away from is a good landing." What a hobby.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Our 98-year-old farmhouse






Our house now is 98 years old, sufficiently rare in L.A. to have spent much of the 1990's portraying 88 year old farmhouses in a variety of films and television shows. There was one year the house even paid for its own mortgage, in a straight-to-dvd flick starring Roger Daltrey of the Who, Christopher Lloyd and Lauren Graham (in her first film leading role) called "Chasing Destiny."
It's also a Sears kit house. The reason we know it's a kit farmhouse is depicted above: these two homes are identical. Ours is the green and purple one that survived the Northridge '94 earthquake rather better than the blue one in Fillmore, with our 2-story chimney breaking off entirely and falling through the roof 10 ft. from us where we slept, the television swan-diving to its demise, ceiling fans unmoored from ceilings, with every plaster wall in the place cracked. Fortunately, our earthquake retro-fitting predated the quake or it would have succumbed to the Fillmore home's fate.

Still, the damage was far preferable to the fate of our across the street neighbors who died in it. 40 years accumulation of floor to ceiling junk knocked down by the quake killed them. It turned out they were hoarders of the most severe pathology, a worst case scenario cautionary tale for the chronically untidy. Mary Kay of The Dogs, then my neighbor, and I were part of the non-rescue party. Hard times.
(photo top left (C) 2010 Heather Harris)

"Chasing Destiny" shot primarily at our house

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

ADVENTUROUS RELATIONS





By his own admission, my maternal grandfather procrastinated the inevitable for over a century, living to be 104, robustly healthy and intellectually curious about the present as well as his past until his final 6 months. Interesting guy for a "farmer:" he was told by his small-town Southern high school that he wasn't college material so he made it a point immediately to get into Harvard where he drew cartoons for the Harvard Lampoon, cavorted with Kermit Roosevelt plus Joe Kennedy Sr. and defended The Gakwar of Boroda (a princeling from India) from racist students there with fisticuffs. 

Not at all wealthy, he traveled the world by working for passage on cattle boats (the pre-refrigeration export era,) was thrown out of England by Scotland Yard, joined a German dueling club with the pre-WW I student princes, made his way over to China in the 1900's, tried opium (recalling to have danced the ballet on top of the clouds, later marveling when he could see those cloud tops once again after commercial air travel was invented and became widespread,) got a tattoo there, and saw "the death of 1,000 cuts" in person in India. His descriptions of the starving masses clambering aboard trains in the Far East conjured the frenzied opening scenes of classic film "Lost Horizons."
 
Harvard architecture graduate, he then worked for Stanford White's firm in Manhattan and knew John Reed ("10 Days that Shook the World") so I took him to see the "Ragtime" and "Reds" movies about his cronies one summer. He designed part of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. He watched Charlie Chaplin film his short comedies on Santa Monica pier while in California. He married the most daring socialite girl in Memphis Tenn., the first to bob her hair and go barnstorming in biplanes. He then settled down to farm on land that was a small inheritance, expanded same and became very successful with such innovations as importing soybeans to the South when he remembered this crop from the Egypt of the 1920's. He imported the first VW Beetle and Russian Wolfhound (Borzoi) to the South. He and my grandmother were generous, nonjudgmental people. All his family and employees rightfully thought the world of them.
 


My immediate family chose to present such toxicity to yours truly throughout childhood that I really gravitated to the few allies in it like him even if he lived 2,000 miles away. I think I received my art talent, my (somewhat closeted) adventurousness and love of animals from him. (I certainly became interested in owning sighthounds from his old photos like the one above: that's a Borzoi he imported from Czarist Russia by way of Chicago.) I also "inherited" his open-mindedness --I can be good friends with folks with whom I disagree as long as they are likewise tolerant of me, because it's all about seeing what's out there and codifying the info. Example of same: he was as old-fashioned religious as one would expect a Southerner born in the 1880's to have been, yet fervently believed in science and evolution joking "The bible said God created the earth in seven days, but it doesn't really say how long those days were!"

It's sort of a tightrope walk to keep his memory as dignified as it deserves to be while recounting such tales of his adventurous youth. I retain the same professional qualms in writing about some of my contemporary musician clients, yet remain fascinated with how people such as them attain the balance they desire in their lives.
I tape recorded many of his tales as he remained an excellent raconteur. He outlived my grandmother by 25 years, and died on my birthday.

 1983-Mr. Twister, yours truly, my grandfather
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