Wednesday, March 20, 2013

LOUISE BROOKS in PANDORA'S BOX (1929)

I'm a fan of great silent movies because they're time machines, letting us watch people like ourselves who, however, lived about 90+ years ago. Haven't you ever wondered what it would be like to watch your great-grandparents' world in news footage? What if your great-grandparents were from the decadent world of post-Weimar Germany? Not fiction like Cabaret but really?

And what if the central personality in the movie you watched in this degenerate post WWI environment had as modern an acting style as Robert DeNiro instead of the antiquated, overly melodramatic/overly stylized hamminess usually associated with silent films? Friends, try to rent a copy of Pandora's Box starring Louise Brooks, a late silent film (1929) made in Germany but starring this American actress

  • Louise Brooks, who 70 years later turned out to be as intelligent a film writer/historian as the best of 'em with her memoir "Lulu in Hollywood," was a post-flapper American silent film actress of unbelievable beauty, with a timelessness that looks pretty modern today with her chopped, straight MTV hair and black-Goth eye makeup. Her acting style had no relation to silent movie acting at all, no overblown gestures from theatre playing to the back row just sui generis Brooks. She was like a great modern actor that convinces you they are that real person in the role, not an actor. You can't anticipate what she's going to do any more than you can with a stranger.

     
    The story sort of doesn't matter, although in a turgid German way its deliberately degenerate world shows us gold-diggers, murderers, pimps, showgirls, bourgeois a-holes, and filmdom's very first attempted lesbian seduction onscreen. You watch this movie to watch the astonishing, mesmerizing Louise Brooks in action at the height of both her powers and beauty.
My favorite scene was when she was caught en flagrante by both the son and fiancee of her sugar daddy. She stops, looks up at them, and gives the most "cat caught with the canary in her mouth," utterly unashamed, knowing half-smirk. It is so modern a reaction, completely out of context for that world at that time, like "you're surprised I'm with him? That's your problem, not mine."

Rent the movie. This is a fascinating female heroine to know about anyway, like Isak Dinesen. A beautiful, rebellious iconoclast who was a smart cookie in real life (and purportedly a bit of a slut, another modernism.) Do you remember the scene in Citizen Kane where Jed Leland, Kane's best friend and drama critic, hates Kane's girlfriend's opera that he must review so much that he gets drunk, passes out, and Kane spitefully finishes the intended bad review himself, signs Leland's byline, and fires him? That's based upon Citizen Kane's co-scriptwriter, Herman Mankewiecz's real life experience with Louise Brooks. They saw a play together, he passed out drunk and she playfully wrote his review for him trying to imitate his prose by using words like "paradigm." Which subsequently was published!

Screen capture at the top: Louise Brooks caught en flagrante in Pandora's Box. This is from 1929, people, for a mainstream German film! (although by one of its leading directors.)
And at bottom, her knowing glare...


Monday, March 18, 2013

3 SMALL PHOTOS FROM 1969

 Above, a photograph I took as a teenager of a friend in the Franklyn Canyon reservoir of Beverly Hills, famed locale of Opie's Fishin' Hole on the Andy Griffith show.

She was a budding professional model who needed sample shots and had had another session there with a mutual friend. She kept trying to recreate those previous fantastic shots with the backlit glimmering around the lake the whole time. Since she already had those, I kept pushing for something different like the above.


Above, my photo of one of the protagonists of triangle in LINK during a student film shoot for which I took stills, in front of then new construction of the Cabazon Dinosaurs of San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs Calif., and with whom I contest absolutely nothing whatsoever occurred until the subject of same moved out.

When she did and I insisted on birth control, he and I hightailed to a local pharmacy, grainy pic below no doubt during Easter season, whereupon he made me LOL when he marched over to the pharmacist and barked out, "We're young, we're in love and we wanna do it. Whatta ya got?"

Saturday, March 16, 2013

ROCKIN' WITH ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM

Andrew Loog Oldham, the manager who famously introduced the Rolling Stones to our known universe gave an articulate talk last night (3.14.13) at Book Soup, Hollywood promoting his third book "Stone Free." He read a passage from same about the late Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, reminding all that everyone in the music business to this day owes his late colleague an incalculable debt for rebooting popular music and attendant pop culture in the 1960s.

Your humble photojournalist normally eschews autographs but concluded that same would look dandy on his vintage portrait by one of my few photographer idols David Bailey in the latter's  book "Birth of The Cool" whereupon Oldham graciously obliged. Oldham's reading was followed by a Q&A from the packed crowd, one of whom fondly recalled Oldham's own star quality equal to that of his charges the Rolling Stones backstage at the T.A.M.I. show in 1964.



Also seen with Oldham were Evita Corby and Rodney Bingenheimer, who certainly participated in pop culture heydays themselves. Evita was former booker of The Roxy's On The Rox and currently designs rock 'n' roll couture (alongside a former teenaged notoriety posing in her garter belt and stockings while its musicians kissed her derriere for Suzan Carson's shot on the back cover of Iggy Pop and James Williamson's iconic Kill City cd,) while DJ/onetime English Disco club owner Rodney has attained perennial Sunset Strip mayorship with his happily equally eternal "Rodney on the ROQ" radio show.  In the same vein, Oldham broadcasts his own great show on Underground Garage on Sirius/XM. His analyses of pop cultural appeal remain spot on. Smart cookie, he.

Almost exactly a decade ago to the day presented another photo op of this fascinating, erudite insider. Pictured above, Andrew Oldham, his beautiful wife actress Esther Farfan and famed producer/mover & shaker Lou Adler after Oldham's keynote speech at New Music Reporter convention, 3.14.03.  

 Also attending Oldham's reading at Book Soup were his friend and literary consultant Harvey Kubernik ("Canyon of Dreams," "Hollywood Shack job" et al.,) his brother and occasional co-author Ken Kubernik, Michael Ochs of his famed eponymous Archives, radio magnate Elliot Kendall, publicist and manager of band Dengue Fever Josh Mills, fellow photogs Harold Sherrick and Gary Strobl, and a slew of artist managers for whom Oldham had been such inspiration. Book Soup is renowned for its frequent celebrity author readings open to the public, and earlier in its theme-related day, music biz executive supremo Clive Davis spoke. It was whispered that he drew not one fifth the crowd that Andrew Loog Oldham did...
 
Everyone there enjoyed Book Soup's Andrew Loog Oldham event!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

POPEulism via Phil Ochs


The headlines today overflow with news of a newly elected Argentine pontiff, which means a great deal to a great many. While avoiding corrupted religious processes, I nonetheless adore great art and acknowledge much indisputably was created in the name of religion. Great art transcends all human foibles. And there's a song by Phil Ochs based upon the Christian canon that wells up strong emotions as surely as Michaelangelo's sorrowful Pieta does in the visual arts. 

One of the last projects I art-directed at Almo Publications of A&M Records was The Complete Phil Ochs: Chords of Fame, text by Tom Nolan and Marc Eliot, coordination by Michael Ochs, brother of the deceased songwriter. (More info, see LINK.) Throughout this lavish tribute flowed gorgeous photography, tablature of songs and insightful text with snippets of Ochs' best known work. But the only one I featured in toto was his "Crucifixion," whose lyrics trounced 2,000 years of overdone cliches with sheer innovation. (In the original recording, it was set against the perfect musique concrete arranged by John Byrd to highlight its stark newness.)

Since this isn't a licensed compilation like the book, here then are glances at the powerful imagery of innate altruism aimed at improving the lot of humanity--be it Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy or Jesus Christ-- cut down dead by banal evil. From "Crucifixion" by Phil Ochs:

"...he stand on the sea and he shouts to the shore, but the louder that he screams the longer he's ignored...'til the giant is aware that someone's pulling at his leg, and someone is tapping at the door..."

"...the Spanish bulls are beaten, the crowd is soon beguiled, the matador is beautiful, a symphony of style...but the hands that are applauding are slippery with sweat and saliva is falling from their smiles..."

"...now who would want to hurt such a hero of the game? But you know I predicted it, I knew he had to fall... tell me every detail, I've got to know it all and do you have a picture of the pain?..."

"...the universe explodes as a falling star is raised 'til the planets are paralyzed, the mountains are amazed, but they all glow brighter from the the brilliance of the blaze with the speed of insanity, then he dies." 

Monday, March 11, 2013

THE DOGS record anew and promote JAIL GUITAR DOORS

Back in the recording studio to get newest song "Let's Go Baby" and a cover of Eddie and the Hot Rods' "Do Anything You Want To Do" down for posterity, THE DOGS also took time to promote Jail Guitar Doors, the charitable foundation of fellow Detroit musician, the mighty MC5 legend Wayne Kramer.

Guitarist Loren Dog is seen modeling one of the charity's t-shirts, and was lauded on its Facebook page for the shout out by Kramer and his wife Margaret Saadi Kramer. More info on this worthy program to provide inmates with music opportunities to aid rehabilitation can be found here LINK.

Even outside the slammer, teachers everywhere agree that learning to play music is one of the best demonstrations of potential personal success imaginable. From starting with zero skills to playing recognizable music on guitar shows how patience and self-education really pay off, a valuable lesson for all but particularly those incarcerated for trying so-called "easy" criminal shortcuts. 

Below, Paul Hilton is seen engineering drummer Tony Matteucci and Loren in Paul's Platinum Studio; bassist Mary Kay, seen in same studio at another Dogs session, will report in later.

 



VELVET THREADS, VINTAGE CLOTHING BOUTIQUE



Velvet Threads is a worthy vintage clothing and accessories boutique at 3203 Glendale Blvd. in the Atwater Village sector of Los Angeles, open to the public Saturday and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. Unlike others in its field, the store reflects its expert buyers who cherry pick the best from all L.A. eras from Belle Epoque, Roaring '20s, Art Deco luxe, smart '40s + '50s business suits, Swingin' '60s to Boogie Nights/Glam '70s. It's upper end clothing without concomitant pricing. 

Its attenuated hours reflect double duty status for its proprietors Evita Corby (seen below left at a video shoot, more photos of my friend Evita in same here LINK) and Gretchen Bonaduce (right, performing with her band Ankhesenamen) who are on the premises to brainstorm their original clothing line and to utilize unsold stock in their film/video styling businesses.

 



SNOWY MOUNTAIN RANGE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The day after a "winter" rainstorm remains the only time snow visits the mountain ranges of the Los Angeles basin, and even so it's all gone by noon of the same day. Here then are rare a.m. views of this morning after, taken from the top floor of the parking structure of the physical therapy building that I visit thrice weekly.

A careful look at the second shot should reveal two kinds of communication towers: in the foreground a faux tree cell phone relay that reminds me of Claes Oldenburg sculpture, and on top of the peaks-- insanely gigantic broadcast ones.

Tech notes: both taken with my little Panaonic Lumix "purse camera." It was all too beautiful...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

INSIDE 'LIGHT OF DAY' RECONSIDERED

Light of Day beatific white lighting to suggest redemption/reconciliation, promo shot as featured in some cineaste magazine about production values
Another Light of Day promo shot of its fictional band (although the film was in full color)
 My photo of Joan Jett circa 1975 in The Runaways with Michael Steele, later of The Bangles.

Once upon a time it was a very different movie, this Light of Day still unavailable in modern formats in America.  An underpraised film as worthy as any underpraised song that remains a personal favorite in your iPod, the resultant film is/was an astonisher despite its tepid legacy. It wrongly was disowned by practically everyone involved in its making due to extraordinary circumstances of exigent bad luck. Allow yours truly to recount why Light of Day not only should be free of the excoriation but also why it remains a Rock and Roll Great in cinema.

The provable: its director/screenwriter Paul Shrader wrote Taxi Driver, and co-wrote Raging Bull, Bringing Out The Dead and Last Temptation of Christ amongst other works directed by Martin Scorsese, representing some of the latter's personal bests. He directed decade definer American Gigolo in the 1980s, and co-wrote Harrison Ford's relocation horror movie Mosquito Coast. This masterful raconteur of darkness in cinema hadn't even seen a motion picture until he was 18 years old because of martinet, contentious, religious family upbringing.

Casting differed wildly in its inception, with Pop poppet Fiona in the Joan Jett role and initially envisioned in the Michael J. Fox role, none other than The Boss hisself, Mr. Bruce Springsteen. (I can't resist quoting Randy Newman's lyrics with the Boss cameo, "My Life Is Good." LINK ) Mgmt. was floating a concurrent film acting career for our far younger Springsteen, who was sent this applicable script about a rocker and his sister, object: starring role and composing a theme song. 

Shrader's screenplay was entitled Born In The U.S.A. Springsteen kept the song for his own then breakthrough LP eschewing both the role and Shrader completely. When called to task he obligingly penned new title/theme song "Light Of Day" about remaining hopeful on the road of touring or life. Not quite the grandiose sociological overview of "Born..." but what could one do?   

With her unblinking, worldly-wise cat eyes, Joan Jett indeed held her own depite the presence of acting powerhouses like Gena Rowlands and pros like Michael J. Fox. Any scene Jett is in, I DARE you to take your eyes off her. Her onstage savvy surely ramped up Fox's rocker chops in their mutual live band scenes together.

Wrongheaded naysayers criticized the film's bisection of road journey/hardships of working bar band versus serious family drama as soapy. As someone who (***spoiler alert**) has been on both sides of the gurney with cancer, I fervently disagree. I myself had a scene mirroring one in the film when a doctor approached me after I awakened from "routine" surgery asking if I knew what an oncologist was. (I did, and in this instance remain here 38 years later after Stage 1 or 2 [less transparency then.] So did my better half, who 4 years after Stage 4 diagnosis and treatments thankfully remains here as well.)  Really Bad Shit, unfortunately does indeed Happen. I also know that touching someone's hand in hospital helps ground them as sensory lifeline back to the real world, another scene in the film.

One reads fairly long ago press that Shrader, before the critiques spat out, was proud of this exploration of personal family issues. And in contrast to naysayers as well, I also know why Shrader would delineate terrible family dysfunction pervading a story of folks seemingly otherwise functioning okay in their daily lives. I fathom that Really Bad Shit Happens in families as well from my subjective P.O.V. 

When first viewing this movie, it seemed a hybrid grafting of many realities in the life of my friend Mary, bassist of The Dogs as portrayed by Jett with Gena Rowlands playing the always reproachful and vacuous but aggressively suppressive mother and compliantly negative family of yours truly, so it all rang rather true in the characterizations. Drive and ambition DO mean as much as familial love and vice versa. The fantasy element to me remained the resolution of longterm, terrible family issues, as much a make believe storyline as realizing the rock and roll dream.

The unprovables: dead men tell no tales. The inside info to which I was privy remains hard to verify, as its source sadly has since passed away. He was a onetime co-editor of mine who took the publicity job route while concocting screenplays and writing book reviews for the New York Times. Hence a trustworthy professional. He read the original Shrader script via his film/music p.r. duties and revealed an altogether darker version, replete with a LOT more drugs amongst the musicians and hints of incest within the brother-sister love/hate relationship. 

I detected selfsame undercurrents, but so much of what remains of Light of Day including the Springsteen expropriation remains a giant "what if..." However, with Jett's stellar turn in her one-time-only leading role amidst roiling, subjective, hyper-personal family dysfunction, we can at least enjoy what made it to the screen. If you can find Light of Day in the first place...



Saturday, March 2, 2013

ROCK OUT WITH THE INTERNATIONAL SWINGERS!








All photographs: The International Swingers, performing 2.7.13 to a sold-out, quite crowded Skinny's Lounge in Studio City CA. It's something of a jam band on steroids consisting of all punk and post-punk rock/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legendsThey performed wild versions of their respective bands' best known hits and a promising sprinkling of new originals alongside well chosen hard rock cover faves. A knockout from that last category: The Faces' raver "Stay With Me" showing all the mega-fun in rock that initially inspired them all.

Stellar line up: drummer/vocals Clem Burke (from Blondie;) bassist/vocals Glen Matlock (The Sex Pistols, The Rich Kids;) lead singer/guitarist Gary Twinn (20 Flight Rockers;) guitarist/vocals James Stevenson (Gene Loves Jezebel, Gen X, The Cult, Chelsea, Kim Wilde Band, many, many more: uh, yes, you've heard him. Great sound, great practitioner.)  Nary a weak link.

Burke, a monster drummer at one point had to extemporize Catskills schtick skills to fill in during a temporary tech problem onstage that night. Twinn, best known in Antepodean circles proved a great showman as well as hardcore rockin' wailer. And Matlock fittingly sang the Stooges' "No Fun" as well as his own material.  

And jeez! Matlock only co-wrote one of the most important and influential canons in all rock history: Never Mind The Bollocks by The Sex Pistols. "Anarchy In The U.K." equals Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley. Without the Pistols and before them Iggy and The Stooges' Raw Power, our hard rock forms of music well might have withered into anemic narrow-casting, rather like once uber-popular Big Bands beget today's smaller jazz audiences. Yes children, it really was headed that way* when all of these performers initially launched their punk rockets.


 Above, Burke and Twinn.
 
 Four Swingers, three Swingers...

Below, Clem + drum kit logo; partial set list showing song keys.

 










 


Get yer red hot International Swingers EP plus far more info via their website: LINK. Their Facebook page: LINK


Below, my favorite shot of an individual that evening. Bassist Glen Matlock proved elegant as well as playful.


PHOTO OPS:
After the show Glen
Matlock remained 
gracious enough to
pose with my friends
Krista Wood,  left and Kim Yee, right.




*Research and enthusiasm-wise, I do know how it was. I wrote 1978's "Punk Rock 'n Roll" book, the first overview on the subject published in the U.S. (by Almo Publications) which, for bonus fun, included music tablature. It went to press right the same week that the Sex Pistols broke up. Out of print since publishers' parent company A&M Records went out of business.

Friday, March 1, 2013

RECENT CANINE PLAYDATES

 Above and right, Callahan
the Deerhound came to race about full speed with Karis and Sarahbelle last week, pausing only to pose for a "Bob Guccione-style" backlit soft-focus shot at top.


Hotter weather translated to shorter running laps when 6-month-old Lily the Labrador visited today. Rest time proved the most social.


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