Five Strange Facts about the Life of Annette Funicello

1. Sleeping with Zorro?

As a 15-year-old girl in 1957, Annette Funicello had a crush on the TV character Zorro, and "every night I drifted off to sleep hugging his eight-by-ten framed photo to my chest," she remembered in her biography. So the next year, Walt Disney had a special treat for the Mickey Mouse Club star — a guest appearance on Zorro (which was also produced by Walt Disney Studios). The delighted teenager got to celebrate her 16th birthday on the set, where Zorro himself carved a 'Z' into the frosting of her cake. And in that episode Annette also got to wield Zorro's infamous sword — "thrusting it into the chest of my no-good fiancé and sending him plunging off the side of a ship."

That episode was titled "The Postponed Wedding," but Annette's real life romances were more complicated, as she struggled with growing popularity. (Her biography also reveals that she discovered that "for a while one of my brothers was selling my phone number!") Annette lived with her parents until the day she was married, and at the time one tabloid boasted the headline "Annette reveals: How Far I'll Go Now That I'm Engaged." But on the day of her wedding, she received a death threat from a soldier, and remembered that ultimately "Saint Cyril's Church became a guarded fortress filled with unobtrusive Disney security people..."

As Annette marched down the aisle, she was wearing the veil that she'd worn in the Walt Disney movie, "Babes in Toyland". But this wedding wouldn't lead to a fairy tale happy ending. In her biography, Annette wrote that there was "a spat" on her honeymoon, that the honeymooning couple didn't speak to each other for two days, and that she called home to her parents crying. And that three weeks later, she was pregnant.

Her husband was Hollywood agent Jack Gilardi, and they had three children together, though daughter Gina once asked if her father was Frankie Avalon (Annette's co-star from movies like Beach Blanket Bingo), and if so, why was he never home for dinner? Annette got married when she was 23 — and got divorced when she was 39. Years later, she would even film a pilot for a dramatic TV series where she plays a sad widow whose husband was killed in Vietnam, who then meets up with a lost love from her teenaged years who'd tried but failed to become a successful nightclub singer...played by Frankie Avalon.

But in real life, Annette got married again to a former police officer who she met at a race track — and she tells a wonderful story about surprising her now-grown-up fans. They'd complain that they couldn't imagine discovering the former sweet and pure Disney star at a race track, holding a drink in her hand, and smoking a cigarette. "I also have three kids," Annette would remind them.

"So guess what else I do...?"

2. Devo, The Beach Boys, and Johnny Carson

Looking over her career, one of Annette's most fascinating songs was recorded with the Beach Boys in 1965. It was the opening song for "The Monkey's Uncle," a movie about a genius college student named Merlin Jones. "Let them say he's the booby prize," Annette sings, as the Beach Boys supply their familiar harmonies. "He's the boy I idolize..."

But a full 41 years later, in 2006, the Disney Studios released a new album of songs covered by contemporary artists — and chose "The Monkey's Uncle" for its final track. And in an interesting twist, the song was performed by Devo 2.0 — a new generation of teenaged Disney performers, assembled into a 21st-century version of the pioneering new wave band, who were actually backed and produced by the original members of Devo!

Annette also earned a place in television history as the original performer of what eventually became the theme to The Tonight Show. But ironically, it all came from a failed attempt to date Paul Anka, another 1950s teen idol. Though their relationship didn't last, it produced an album titled "Annette Sings Anka" — and years later, Anka would create Johnny Carson's theme from the melody of one of the album's more sentimental tracks. ("And now at long last, it's really love...")

However the most memorable track on that album is probably "Hey Mama," if only for its misplaced set of teen-rebel lyrics, addressing a mother worried that her daughter will become "the leader of a teenaged gang..."

3. Grown-Up Movies?

Even in the movies, there's at least one scene where Annette gets luridly drunk — and then starts driving a race car around an abandoned track.

Fabian: You crazy broad! What's gotten into you?

Annette: Thatshh right, I'm a crazy broad. But you don't care...

Fabian: I'd kiss your silly-looking face if you didn't smell like a brewery..

In Thunder Alley (1967), the former Disney star played the daughter of a racing promoter who gradually starts to fall in love with the traveling driver played by Fabian, and tries to compete for his affection. ("Days of screaming wheels. Nights of reckless pleasure!" promises the movie's tagline. "Their god is speed... Their pleasure an 'anytime' girl!") It was her last film of the 1960s and her last film for 20 years, except for a brief scene in the psychedelic movie Head starring the Monkees. Although she was approached about appearing naked in a film — wearing nothing but that hat with the Mickey Mouse ears that she'd worn as a Mouseketeer — she declined the offer. ("People are more interested in changing my image than I am," she later explained.)

But reportedly, Annette did confess to one interviewer that "I did naughty things. There was a time, I was in my thirties, when I wanted to see an X-rated movie, OK? I bought a blond wig, and I got into the movie.

"It was boring."

4. 125 stitches

Annette bravely struggled through a series of health problems — which was all the more difficult since it was years before the underlying cause was diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. For example, one night, she remembers that it felt like the room in her house had suddenly gone dark and started spinning, while Annette heard "loud, crashing bells." As she ran for the bedroom, she slipped on a ball that one of her children had left on the floor, and gouged her face on the side of a dresser as she fell to the ground. It took 125 stitches and some plastic surgery to repair Annette's face, she writes, and she later discovered that her right eye had a permanent blind spot.

But she also writes that immediately after the accident — and presumably still in shock — she'd blurted out to her husband that "I need to brush my teeth before we go to the hospital."

Annette hid the news of her illness for over five years — not even telling her parents. She later described this period as "Living a lie," and in a 1994 interview with Tom Snyder, she admits that "It was a hard choice for me to make... I tried to keep it a secret. I really did." Her reasons were "I just didn't want pity", and also, "I didn't want to worry anybody." But when she finally revealed the illness, she told USA Today that "Just being able to talk about it now is a big help."

She'd worried people would see her struggling to walk in a restaurant, and come to the conclusion that "'Annette's drunk'."

5. Ears Held High

Her star-dom peaked in the 1950s and 1960s, but Annette continued to hold a special place in the hearts of her fans — though she knew that the world was changing. At one point in his 1994 interview, Tom Snyder describes a commercial promoting the Vermont Teddy Bear Company in which Howard Stern recites the slogan "Give her a bear, she'll bang you!" Annette laughs gamely, then replies that "That's not very Disney." And she also confirmed that Walt Disney had indeed once asked her to never allow her navel to be photographed when she began making movies for other studios.

"How much would we have to give to see your belly button?" Snyder asks eagerly.

"I don't have one," she joked.

But during that same interview, she also comforts a 17-year-old girl in California who'd been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis just two weeks earlier, and later Annette would be recognized for the inspiring example she set in raising awareness about the disease. In 1993 she even founded the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases, which according to CNN still remains active 20 years later, supporting research into their causes, treatments, and cures. Bob Iger, the new CEO at Disney studios, ultimately told CNN that she "was well-known for being as beautiful inside as she was on the outside, and she faced her physical challenges with dignity, bravery and grace."

It was because of her status as a former Disney-era icon that her openness had that much more impact. In a made-for-TV movie about her life, Annette said "It makes me so happy when I hear from people that my going public makes them feel stronger. They're not embarrassed to use their canes or to be in a wheelchair because if I can do it, they feel they can too." Though she was played by an actress in most of the film, she appears as herself in its final scenes. And she delivers its inspiring closing line — a characteristically sweet but ultimately very fair assessment of what it all had meant.

"Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."

My Favorite Roger Ebert Stories

1. "Your Movie Sucks"

Roger Ebert could wield a poison pen as well as anybody. And the story of one confrontation has a permanent place of honor in Ebert's page on Wikipedia. In January 2005, Rob Schneider took out full-page ads in Hollywood newspapers to attack movie critic Patrick Goldstein, who had panned Schneider's recent movie Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. Schneider suggested mockingly that Goldstein wasn't qualified to critique the movie, since his movie reviews had never won a Pulitzer Prize.

"As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize," Ebert wrote in his own review in the Chicago Sun-Times, "and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."

Ebert later even titled his next collection of negative movie reviews, "Your Movie Sucks" — although the rest of his review was equally scathing. ("Schneider was nominated for a 2000 Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor, but lost to Jar-Jar Binks...") But Wikipedia notes that this fight actually ended with a surprisingly amicable resolution. "On May 7, 2007, Roger Ebert reported on his website that he had received a bouquet of flowers from Rob Schneider, with a note signed, 'Your least favorite actor, Rob Schneider.' Ebert saw the flowers as a kind gesture and publicly thanked Schneider, and said that Schneider may have made a bad film, but he was not a bad man.

"Ebert also expressed hope that Schneider would make a film that Ebert would find wonderful."

That same good-natured honesty turned up in 2003, when Ebert called Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny the worst movie ever shown at the Cannes Film Festival. A columnist at remembers that at one particularly painful part of the film, Ebert "even started singing 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head' out loud, eliciting laughter from what was left of the audience at that point." Ebert had done that before. (In 1987, at a tedious screening of Jaws 4: The Revenge, Ebert couldn't contain himself when he spotted a glaring continuity error. As Michael Caine emerged from the ocean and climbed over the side of a boat, Ebert blurted out to the audience around him, "His shirt is dry!")

Gallo was stung by Ebert's criticism, and called him "a fat pig with the physique of a slave trader," to which Ebert just responded by paraphrasing Winston Churchill in a perfect and devastating comeback. "I can always lose weight, but you will always be the director of The Brown Bunny."

"But then he did a remarkable thing," remembers Deadline's columnist. "[W]hen the film was cut by 26 minutes over a year later, he agreed to see it again and wrote a piece actually reversing his opinion.

"In addition to being sharp, funny, insightful, interesting, opinionated, informed and complex in his writings he was also fair."

2. Thirty-Two Years Ago...

Roger Ebert honestly enjoyed Ice Cube's 1997 horror film Anaconda, and years later his new co-host Richard Roeper didn't let him forget it. But the two men disagreed even more over a 2002 romantic comedy called Never Again — which Roeper liked, but Roger Ebert didn't. He complained that its explicit vulgar language just didn't work in a romantic comedy, and Roeper started teasing Ebert about being so easily upset. Ebert, who had just turned 60, wasn't going to be put in that box.

"Don't condescend to me!" Ebert shouted.

"You're so shocked by it!" Richard Roeper responded smugly, not aware the Ebert had the perfect comeback.

"I've written an X-rated movie!" Ebert retorts. "How many have you written?" And we all smiled, remembering that Ebert did indeed write the screenplay for Russ Meyer's 1970 cult classic, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Ebert later wrote that in Meyer's films, "the women were always the strong characters, and men were the mindless sex objects." Although he added that the legendary B-movie producer disapproved of silicone implants because "They miss the whole point."

3. Ebert vs. Siskel: the Secret Smackdown

Some remarkable footage surfaced in 2006 showing Roger Ebert's rowdy behind-the-scenes banter with his TV co-host, Gene Siskel. Filmed sometime in the early 1980s, it reveals their brief bursts of on-camera enthusiasm (while recording their promos) to be part of a longer, vicious, battle of wits that kept happening off-camera. Gene Siskel, peeved that Ebert slammed his public speaking ability, reached for the obvious comeback about Ebert's weight. But soon they're just trying to see who can ad lib the funniest put-down. After Gene tries to rattle off a list of foods, all of which Ebert would supposedly order at McDonalds, he ultimately trips over his own words, and Ebert interrupts triumphantly, "I knew Gene couldn't sustain that string for long without a grammatical error..." And then he goes in for the kill. "Now the other day Gene was in there and the little girl said to him, 'Would you like some french fries with your order?', and Gene said, 'No! Maybe... Other! Other! Never mind! Never mind!' And then he walked out..."

"They saw Roger walking in," Gene counters, "and they said one of everything to go. And one of everything to stay here."

"When they saw Gene walking in," Roger retorts, "the little kid behind the counter called for the manager and said 'Mr. Jones, can you come out here? You can understand Mr. Siskel, can't you? I can't ever understand him when he's ordering!" And then on a roll, Ebert ends up doing both the manager's voice and Siskel's incomprehensible response.

"What will you have sir?"

"Uh, Pounder quarter. Pounder quarter. Uh... uh... Quarter pounder. Uh, cheese. No cheese! Cheese. No cheese! Shake milk! Shake milk..."

But by the end, they actually seem to be bonding because of this movie-critic ritual, and I'll never forget Roger's gracious words when Siskel died of brain cancer in 1999. "What Gene and I did together is one of the great joys of my life. My relationship with him was one of the great events of my life."

4. Roger Ebert vs. Bill O'Reilly

Ebert always had strong opinions. (According to the Internet Movie Database, he considered the 1978 film I Spit on Your Grave to be the worst movie he'd ever seen — until he saw a 2010 re-make, which he declared to be even worse.) But through it all, he always seemed proud to be writing for a daily newspaper. "My first professional newspaper job was on The News-Gazette," he remembered in a 2008 article, "in my home town of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. I was 15. The pay was 75 cents a hour, eventually climbing even higher..." So he took offense when the Chicago Sun-Times was listed in a "Hall of Shame" created by Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly. Ebert wrote a column delivering a fierce rebuttal, but in his typical style, the passion remained connected to a personal memory. Ebert writes that he'd hate to be in O'Reilly's hall of fame because "It would place us in the favor of a man who turns red and starts screaming when anyone disagrees with him. My grade-school teacher, wise Sister Nathan, would have called in your parents and recommended counseling with Father Hogben."

Ebert had spent decades sharpening his writing style, and a quick call to the Sun-Times editors revealed that Bill O'Reilly was going to be a very easy target. "I understand you believe one of the Sun-Times misdemeanors was dropping your syndicated column," Ebert's column continued. "My editor informs me that 'very few' readers complained about the disappearance of your column, adding, 'many more complained about Nancy.'

"I know I did. That was the famous Ernie Bushmiller comic strip in which Sluggo explained that 'wow' was 'mom' spelled upside-down..."

5. Ebert's Last Column

Roger Ebert famously dated Oprah Winfrey back in 1985, but of course there was more to the story. "It begins early one morning in Baltimore," he remembered in a 2005 column in the Sun-Times, "where Gene Siskel and I are scheduled to appear on a morning talk show hosted by a newcomer named Oprah Winfrey. The other guests on the show include a vegetarian chef, and four dwarfs dressed as chipmunks, who will sing 'The Chipmunk Christmas Song' while dancing with Hula-Hoops." It's a funny memoir — on their second date, Ebert treated Oprah to dinner at Hamburger Hamlet, thought at least he also took her out to the movies. And yes, the date ends with Ebert informing Oprah of just how much money she could make by syndicating her show, and the rest was history.

But even people who weren't Oprah have fond memories about the kindness of Roger Ebert. I once e-mailed him asking if he'd ever watched Jennifer Ringley's JenniCam, and Ebert took the time to send me a quick e-mail back. ("Have never watched. Will look and see what I think....") A friend of mine remembers interacting with Roger online back when Ebert was still running CompuServe's movie forum — and being invited to dinner with Ebert during a break at the Cannes Film Festival. And I'll never forget the time a teenaged girl wrote in to Ebert to complain that he'd given a negative review to a teen comedy that she'd actually liked. I can't find that column online, but maybe it's better just to remember it as a legend. "I'm glad you liked it," Ebert wrote back. "I love movies too much to wish anyone a bad time at the movies..."

He dispensed this kindness through his hometown newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times, which became his permanent home in print. Ebert seemed to know he'd become famous, but he used this platform for good causes, fighting against book censorship, film colorization, and the no-adult-movie policies at Blockbuster Video. ("It's my belief that no true movie lover has any business going into Blockbuster in the first place, since its policies have done so much harm to modern American cinema...") Over years of reviewing for the Sun-Times, Ebert once calculated he'd seen over 8,000 movies. Maybe that's why, even in print, Ebert always felt like an old friend.

Besides sharing lots of laughs and some personal stories, Roger Ebert shared his deep love for films. On Tuesday, Roger Ebert wrote what would turn out to be his last column for the Chicago Sun-Times — marking the 46th anniversary of the day back in 1967 when he'd first become their film critic. "However you came to know me, I'm glad you did," he wrote, "and thank you for being the best readers any film critic could ask for." And he ended it with his signature trademark. "So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me.

"I'll see you at the movies."

Seven Forgotten Classics by Davy Jones

1. The Greatest Story Ever Told

I'm a fan — and there's one song Davy Jones should be remembered by. In 1986, the 41-year-old former teen idol recorded his own secret anthem. I think of it as his personal "My Way" — an original song about a life spent in show business, where (more than most performers) he'd spent years trapped by his own fame. "We had them eating Corn Flakes out of the palm of our hand," he sings wryly at one point, and there's an ironic nod to the title of one of the first Monkees songs ever recorded, "I Want to Be Free."

The song has real grace, showing that Davy Jones ultimately made peace with his strange fate. (He titled his 1987 autobiography "They Made a Monkee Out of Me".) And on a forgotten corner of YouTube, in a home-grown video that's been viewed less than 100 times, a hardcore Monkees fan has lovingly annotated the song with a poignant collection of clips.

"I've done it all, from A to Z.
And I want to be free..."

Click here for the complete lyrics.

2. When Davy Jones met Frank Zappa

The last act of the Monkees was a forgotten psychedelic film called "Head" where they mercilessly deconstructed their own celebrity. ("The money's in, we're made of tin. We're here to give you more!" they sing at one point.) And when the film finally arrived at Davy's segment, it finds him trapped in a song-and-dance persona, singing a strange song written by Harry Nilsson. Davy turns in a mind-boggling dance number where his black and white tuxedo turns to white and black, while he sings up a weird childhood memory about the day he realized that "his father was not a man, and it all was just a game."

Davy suddenly does a dramatic spoken-word rendition of the song's last line — "if I ever have a son...let the sadness pass him by" — only to be jarringly snapped back into his song-and-dance persona once more. But at the end of the song, he's confronted by Frank Zappa himself — escorting a cow — who tells him that the song "was pretty white".

Zappa adds, possibly sarcastically, that the youth of America depend on Davy to lead the way.

3. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

At the age of 54, Davy joined with the other Monkees for a reunion tour — and he'd shared a strange story about that time when, at the peak of his "teen idol" career, he appeared on an episode of The Brady Bunch in 1971.

In the episode, teenaged Marcia Brady tells her high school that she can get Davy Jones to sing at their prom — but she can't actually get in touch with him, because hundreds of other teenaged girls are already swarming outside his hotel. Davy overhears her story (when Marcia bursts into the sound booth at a recording session) — and then later surprises Marcia by showing up at her house, and asking if he can be her date for the senior prom. "I got hate letters from every other girl in America," Davy told the concert audience in 2002.

"Because I wouldn't go to their bloody prom...."

4. 1995's Grunge-y "Brady Bunch Movie"

Nearly 25 years later, Davy actually appeared on the big screen in "The Brady Bunch Movie" — but only to mock that same sugar-y episode (and the way Marcia always upstaged her younger sister, Jan). Davy had already been doing a live version of the song in a stage show called "The Real Live Brady Bunch." (Chicago's "Annoyance Theatre" would actually re-enact episodes, satirically performing a new one each week, with Jane Lynch playing Mrs. Brady and Andy Richter playing her husband.) When the troupe performed the "Getting Davy Jones" episode, Jones would play himself.

The cheesy 1970s show had become a campy touchstone, and the growing fascination ultimately inspired a big-screen send-up called "The Brady Bunch Movie" (co-written by the show's original creator, Sherwood Schwartz, and starring Shelly Long). Its premise was that the '70s family hadn't changed a bit, though they now lived in a very different mid-1990s world. And then yet again, Marcia announces to her high school prom that she's procured an appearance by that dreamy teen sensation, Davy Jones.

The real Davy Jones again sings "Girl", though he's startled to discover that this time, he's being accompanied by a grunge band on the stage behind him — who join in, and decide that his song is pretty groovy.

5. Nicole, Nicole, Nicole?

Surprisingly Davy also sang a song on another forgotten 1980s sitcom — but this time, in an episode acknowledging that show business can make you crazy. In a remarkable guest appearance on Paul Reiser's first series, My Two Dads, Davy played a flamboyant celebrity named Malcolm who drops in on the show's two single guys raising a teenaged daughter — with his entire entourage. ("That's my business manager, road manager, personal manager, and a gaggle of tarts.")

In the episode "Fallen Idol," the pressures of show business ultimately cause the high-strung singer character to lash out at his loyal teenaged fan, blurting out that "Malcolm is dead, and you killed him."

But to make it up to her, he later delivers a command performance in her living room of a sweet song written especially for her — titled "Oh, Nicole".

6. Your Personal Penguin

Cartoonist Sandra Boynton created a children's picture book about a penguin in 2006 — and the book was packaged with a special recording by Davy Jones. Even after all these years, Jones presumably still seemed like the perfect choice for the penguin's formal yet ever-so-friendly voice.
"I want to be your personal penguin,
I want to walk right by your side.
I want to be your personal penguin,
I want to travel with you far and wide..."

In the short "board book," a little penguin adores a hippopotamus, and promises to remain its best friend forever. (It's already racked up 26 five-star reviews on Amazon.) You can still download a free mp3 of the bouncy song from Sandra Boynton's web site. And the video above takes a peek at the session where it was recorded.

7. Sexina

I'd had a chance to interview Davy Jones back in 2008. Davy was already in his sixties, but just four years before his death, he'd recorded the theme for a campy new indie comedy called Sexina, Pop Star Private Investigator. ("She has the boobs and the brains of a queen. She's every man's dream...")

"79-year-old Adam West plays a ruthless music industry overlord bent on destroying the sexy pop sensation [Sexina] with an evil boy band composed entirely of cuddly robots," I wrote in my article. And for the movie's James Bond-style theme, the film-makers had brought in "one of the original boy band singers."

Click the image to hear an excerpt from Davy Jones' theme song for "Sexina: Popstar PI."

I'd always thought of Davy Jones as a smart, thoughtful man, confined to the life of a remembered teen idol. In the end I decided not to do the interview, but producer Eric Sharkey later assured me that he'd really enjoyed working with Davy, and saw him as someone with "a good philosophical outlook on life. Someone who's at peace with themself.

"He's got his horses, he's got his music — and he knows who he is."

Meeting Trent Reznor on X at the Sharon Tate Horror House

The former editor-in-chief of MONDO 2000 magazine shares a new excerpt from the MONDO 2000 Open Source History Project, which is now in its last days of collecting funds by offering attractive awards via Kickstarter.

It was about three months after I'd quit MONDO 2000. We (Mondo Vanilli) headed down to L.A. with a demo tape and this very fun and very silly little Xeroxed package offering music industry behemoths the opportunity to get in on the cutting edge of cyber-absurdism.

Actually, the day before, I'd discovered that issue #8 of MONDO 2000 had come out in my absence. It was the first one without me. I was down at Tower Records off of Telegraph Ave (in Berkeley) and I saw it on the stands. And I actually bought it. I could have gone up to the MONDO house and grabbed a dozen for free, but pride etcetera... you know. And it looked great. The Negativland v. The Edge confrontation (as mentioned earlier, I had walked out of MONDO in an argument with Alison over whether to run it at all) was in it, but it was a much shorter version and it wasn't mentioned on the cover. I read the issue all the way through that night and it was the best issue ever — it was the most flawless and sophisticated issue yet, which was a bit upsetting, actually. I kind of wanted it to totally fall apart in my absence. In retrospect, it's not surprising that it was good since St. Jude and Andrew Hultkrans were still guiding the editorial content.

We were going to stay with Timothy Leary in Beverly Hills and we had a whole lot of really amazing music industry connections to look up. I had connections because of MONDO 2000. And we were going to meet this girl Yvonne, from Chicago, who had gone to art school with (Mondo Vanilli musical force) Scrappi. And she knew all kinds of people in the industry. She was sort of... well... let's just say that Al Jourgensen called her a groupie. I certainly wouldn't pin that tag on her... because she wouldn't accept it and secondly, because she's a great, multidimensional, real human being — but she did hang out with a lot of musicians, let's put it that way. She has been a babysitter for Anita Pallenberg, which to me, was the height of hipster cred. And she knew a lot of people. I also had heard from Billy Idol, who was just starting work on his infamous cyberpunk thing. So I had his phone number to plan a visit.

On our first full day in L.A., we saw a bunch of people. I think the first person we met was Cara Burns, an old friend of Yvonne's. She was part of a very powerful law firm, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. They represented lots of high-powered people in the entertainment industry. And she agreed to take us on, which I think was ultimately our undoing, actually. And we met with this guy who was like one of the top agents representing bands... as I recall, he mostly signed people to Warner Brothers. Our connections were actually too good.

At some point during that day, I called Casey Cannon, a MONDO friend from L.A. who knew everybody in Hollywood. At that time, she was making most of those short two-minute previews you see in movie theaters... and her husband Van Ling was with Lightstorm and was James Cameron's go-to guy on the new technology. I must have called her from a phone booth since, like most people at that time, I didn't have a cell phone. And she told me that we had to go to Trent Reznor's party that night.

As she informed me, Reznor had just rented the ol' Tate mansion. That is, he'd rented the house that had been occupied by Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate... the place where Sharon and all those other people were slaughtered by the Mansonoids. And this was to be his housewarming party.

I didn't have a pen, so I promised to call her back when we got back to Tim's house and get Reznor's phone number. And almost as soon as I got there, she called me. "You've really got to go meet Trent Reznor!" Plus, she noted that Leary's house was right around the corner from Reznor's new place. So I got the phone number and called it right away.

I always have anxiety about calling famous people — a fear of rejection. Particularly then, sort of at the height of MONDO's media hype... when some famous person said, "Who the fuck are you?" it bruised my ego. (Now, it feels like there's less at stake.) But I called, and fortunately, I got an answering machine. And I was able to leave the message that I was staying at Timothy Leary's house. Howdy, neighbor! The Leary name was a first-rate calling card.

The phone rang almost constantly at Tim's house, but at some point a couple of hours later, he came out of his office with his phone in hand and announced that he was talking to Peter Christopherson (Coil, Throbbing Gristle) — who identified himself to Tim as Pighead Christopherson — and we were invited to Trent Reznor's housewarming party. It was all a bit of a synchronicity too, because — at that time — this underground theater group was putting on a play based on a conversation Leary had with Charlie Manson when he was in prison and there were posters and flyers for it around the house. Leary was pretty excited about the play.

Just before we were about to head to the party, Tim came out with a mint dish filled with pink ecstasy tabs, offering them around. Simone (Third Arm — the other member of Mondo Vanilli) took one and I think Yvonne may have taken one. Scrappi and I refused.

But something about the historical resonances nagged at me. What would the small town freak who I had been back in the '70s think about refusing a hit from Timothy Leary before heading up to the infamous Manson horror house to a rock star party. After a few minutes, as we worked on our beers before heading out, I snuck over and pocketed two hits. I went in the bathroom, broke one of them in half and took it. (I guess it seemed more shameful to be a lightweight and take half-a-hit than it was to just refuse it all together, thus the subterfuge.)

I must have had an empty stomach because it came on quick and rather strong for a low dose. Reznor's new home was only a few blocks from Leary's, but it was on some windy roads and getting there became interesting when a red Ferrari started tailgating and some guy began gesticulating wildly out the window. He cut in front of us and made us stop. Out popped Gibby Haynes, shouting. He wanted to know if we knew "the way." He didn't even have to say the way to what. Yes. He let us get in front again and we made our way to the Reznor party.

On arrival, an enthusiastic Gibby jumped out of the car to meet Tim and bragging that the red Ferrari was on loan from Johnny Depp. With the ecstasy coming on, the entire L.A. media world started to seem like a serene and glittery playground filled with happy children playing grownup and I settled into a comfort zone. The world was a friendly place. Relatively speaking, of course.

There were two buildings on the Reznor grounds. One relatively small looking house and another building that looked like a warehouse space. The lights were all out in the house and a sign said to go to the other building.

The scene inside was grunge boy meets Barbie doll. Very odd. The guys — who all looked to be in their thirties — were all in jeans and t's and leather jackets, with long hair and puffy beer faces. (OK... me too... except I had the lambskin, fur collar, floor length overcoat.) And the girls — who looked like they were just about past high school — were all perfect mostly blonde babes with inflated boobs and noses pointed to the sky wearing impossibly short skirts and generally dressed and made up for sex. And for the most part, the guys and girls weren't together.

Gloomy Kraut techno blared too loudly for conversation, and the general mood seemed dour. Everyone carried plastic cups filled with beer. No one was talking to each other. The girls all looked disappointed. No rock stars in sight. This was nothing more than a college kegger with a bit of hipster edge. Where the hell was Trent?

Leary looked lost and confused. Nevertheless he asserted his tribal leadership and brought us all to safety — a place to sit — some benches around an unlit fireplace. Once settled, Tim and Simone found comfort locked in each other's eyes, while Scrappi, Yvonne and I continued to scan the room in search of a glimmer of glamour.

After awhile, I realized I had to move. If I sat there any longer, I was going to trance out for the entire evening into the rather boring pink spongecake that the inside of my head was turning into. Yvonne must have been feeling the same thing. By this point, too bored for paranoia, she suggested we "creepy crawly" around the grounds, which made me laugh.

As we were exiting the building, Reznor appeared and greeted us with a sly grin. He followed us out, and around the corner was Anthony Kiedas. Reznor introduced me. Kiedas asked: "Your name is Are You Serious?" Somehow my ecstasy-displaced ego mustered a response. I looked up at the towering pop star whose face had been on my TV screen a thousand times over the previous decade and smiled and said, "Yes. And who are you?" Kiedas deflated. "I'm Anthony," he muttered, humbly, and we shook hands.

And so, Yvonne and I soldiered on to check the perimeters of the ol' Tate mansion, wondering what walls a creepy crawler would crawl over; what bushes would a Squeaky Fromme creep through (Fromme actually wasn't involved in the Tate-LaBianca episodes). It was all just a funny game and Squeaky was just a famous name... like Reznor or Kiedas or Leary. Somehow the horrible reality of that day some 25 years earlier didn't feel any closer at hand on the grounds of the ol' Tate mansion than it had from any other spot on the planet. If there are ghosts, maybe ecstasy chases them away.

After a good half hour of wandering around, and Yvonne videotaping the arriving party guests (she kept her video camera with her at all times), we noticed a little bit of light now peaking out from behind the curtains of the smaller house. We slinked up to the door. There was a handwritten sign that read: “COME IN HERE TO BE KILLED."

While Yvonne laughed it off, I actually thought it through. Let's see. Reznor is a major rock star with money and ambition. He doesn't want to die right now from a lethal injection, particularly one that doesn't get you off first. Now, maybe if he had spent the last year of his life sucking up to Terry Melcher and Dennis Wilson only to have his song lyrics ripped... achhh! Don't go there. Thankfully, my little reverie was interrupted before it turned into full blown empathy for the devil. Yvonne did the only sensible thing. She opened the door and walked in, camera first.

There they were. Seventeen Illuminati figures, including Marilyn Monroe, George H.W. Bush, David Bowie and The Penguin, all in black robes, huddled over Britney Spears, laying in the center of a Pentagram while Reznor raised his blade.

OK. I just made that up. Actually, it was terribly normal inside. Kiedas and Gibby and Trent were there, and some music industry types, and the hottest of the young girls, clearly selected with care from the warehouse space. Within minutes, Tim and Simone wandered in. Record industry guys came over wanting to ask me about virtual reality. Here I was, in this world historic cosmically weird Manson horror house with Timothy Leary and rock stars sorta situation and I was getting into the same conversations that I would have had back in San Francisco.

There was one moment of vintage verbal violence. Gibby started screaming at some way porno looking girl because she wouldn't believe that this greasy looking longhaired dude with a southern accent was the driver of the red hot Ferrari and that he'd borrowed it from his good friend, Johnny Depp.

"CUNT!" he screamed. "Stupid fucking L.A. cunt!" But it wasn't to be taken seriously. She laughed at him, extended her middle finger and walked out and he immediately turned his attention elsewhere.

And that's basically the whole story. I did see a laughing Reznor waving around a baggie of mushrooms and heading into a room with one of the girls. Maybe that's why he liked the Mondo Vanilli tape so much that he called the next day to offer us a recording contract.

Later that night, Gibby came up to Leary's house and started asking if he'd ever seen any of that real acid... "like the stuff you guys used to take in the '60s." Tim got annoyed. "LSD is LSD. It's just that they make the doses smaller." Then, Gibby started ranting about how nobody tries to change the world by hijacking planes anymore, and Tim got even more annoyed and denounced terrorism in a couple of brief sentences. Gibby paced the entire house in long rapid steps for a few minutes and then flew out the door. I believe they eventually became friends.

See Also:
Part One: Introducing the Mondo 2000 History Project
Resurrecting Reznor's '90s Discovery — Mondo Vanilli (an Interview)
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
Timothy Leary's New Book on Drugs
The Chicks Who Tried to Shoot Gerald Ford

Dana Plato and the Diff’rent Strokes Curse

It was 1999 when I first investigated the sordid aftermath of the death of another Diff'rent Strokes actor, Dana Plato. It seemed like the last remnants of Dana Plato's fame had finally been picked clean by the scandal-hungry media when she'd died that May. According to People magazine, "[T]he lovable star of Diff'rent Stokes grew up to be a petty crook, an addict, an alcoholic and, with her death at age 34, a Hollywood casualty." The New York Daily News added that by the early '90s "she was spending most of her time playing the nickel slots in Las Vegas after she was turned down for a $6-an-hour job picking up garbage and cleaning bathrooms." But in the last month of her life, Dana started an even more unlikely business relationship with Shane Bugbee, a 31-year-old Chicago-based promoter, which ensured her continued infamy after death.

For one thing, he'd put her alleged autopsy on the Internet: "Internal examination, external examination, graphical view..."

Dana started down this final road to degredation earlier that month. She'd scheduled an appearance at Bugbee's Expo of the Extreme — along with alternative metal acts like Marky Ramone, Jello Biafra, and Motorhead — and got time on Howard Stern's radio show to promote it. That interview landed Bugbee a brief flirtation with notoriety when Stern read the name of his vulgar-punned Web site ( on the air. Her appearance on the Stern show was important, Bugbee had told her, because "my response, from the Web page, from everyone, is no one believes I'm even talking to you."

Bugbee's proud press release for the Expo — headlined "Dana Plato Speaks!" — was soon followed by one titled "Dana Plato Silenced," after she died of an overdose of painkillers and muscle relaxants just two weeks before the big event. Dana's years of notoriety were over, and all Bugbee had left were the tapes of their phone conversations.

Plato on Tape

But if there are no second acts in America, Bugbee at least provided Dana with a sordid epilogue. Bugbee contacted Internet Entertainment Group, according to a company spokesperson, and offered the recordings for their pornography Web site. But there was more to come.

In August, Bugbee launched the "Dana Plato Cult Web site," and began hawking memberships for $30 apiece. ('s 1999 version of the site is here). The site included more attempts at exploiting the former child star's notoriety. One page offered to let visitors "Ask Dana questions from the grave through the Dana Plato Psychic Network." (Presumably, they'd be answered by excerpts from his recordings — but nearly four months later, it still led to a page "under construction," and the same held true for the site's message board.) But have no fear, every page ended with a banner ad marketing Bugbee's CD: "Dana Plato's Last Breath."

The disc featured the doomed actress talking extremely fast, in her hyperactive voice with childish enthusiasm, about resting from the flu, or lisping because she'd bit her tongue. Plato is chatty and erratically candid, but it's not necessarily the "tell all" promised by the site's promotional copy. Dana does ramble in their last conversation, but there's no explicit descent "into a drugged-out Hollywood HELL!" ("Listen in HORROR...") And though it does open with a montage of sound clips, to advertise it as "Kimberly Drummand's [sic] audio suicide note CAUGHT ON TAPE!!" was an exaggeration.

But nonetheless, they are recordings from the last week of Dana's life, which ironically include an eerie clip from her appearance on Howard Stern. (Howard Stern: "Hi Dana, how you doing? You don't look near death. I look near death, actually." Robin Quivers: "Right, we look in worse shape!")

Former child star Barry Williams, who played Greg on The Brady Bunch, told me a few months after her death, "I listened to the interview and it didn't — something didn't sound okay, even then... It sort of reminded me of the Shakespearean line, you know — 'She doth protest-eth too much.'" If she was loaded, it wouldn't be the first time. Diane Anderson-Minshall, who interviewed Dana for the lesbian magazine Girlfriends in 1998, remembers that "she came to our cover shoot drunk."

Even on Bugbee's recordings, you can hear him emphasizing an important point to Dana about her New York trip. "It's a non-refundable ticket... It's not transferable for cash or anything." And Dana does sound strangely anxious to please on the tapes. In Bugbee's recording of their last phone call, the night before she died, Dana can't seem to hang up. Clinging for more than 20 minutes, her thoughts gets less and less organized. (Bugbee later told IEG that "she sounded loaded.") After sentimentally blathering about working for free, Plato seems to start crying when her 14-year-old son Tyler asks if he can be an actor. She asks for an earlier flight home from New York ("so that I have some time to rest, and not look like hell,") and when it turns out that's not an option, she says "That's fine. I'll get a valium from someone and sleep."

Towards the end, she burbles out "I really, really, really, really, really have a good vibe that this is — this is it."

The Last Stop

Wrong. The next track on Bugbee's CD is the call he'd attempted to make to Dana the night she overdosed. Yes, he's morbidly included the recording of Robert Menchaca, Dana's fiance, trying to wake her up. ("Dana. Dana! Hey, Dana....") Bugbee went so far as to title the track, as well as the CD, "Dana Plato's Last Breath," though there's no evidence that it's her last breath, or even who it is that's breathing on the tape. Bugbee can be heard telling Menchaca "That's okay, man, let her sleep it off, dude. Whatever."

Bugbee's also included two additional conversations with Menchaca. In the first, Menchaca calls crying from the hospital the day after the suicide, and in the next he talks about the autopsy and the investigation. He tells Bugbee police found syringes, a pill bottle, and a pack of rolling papers. Ironically, he complains to Bugbee about the media. "They turned a light on this as soon as I got out of the truck."

The autopsy Bugbee posted was presented under the heading: "You decide... Accident, Suicide, or Murder?" It was clearly a publicity stunt. A link at the bottom of the page read: "Learn more about the life and death of Dana Plato by getting your own copy of Dana Plato's Last Breath by clicking here! " Inside the scandal-mongering booklet that accompanied the CD, Bugbee listed Menchaca as a possible suspect. Dana's mother-in-law was listed as "Suspect #2", and the next subhead was "Government Plot." ("after all, the government has done weirder things....")

It all marked the gravy train's last stop. In his booklet, Bugbee wrote that he and Dana had discussed a coffee table book, a biography, and other business deals. But 15 minutes into the recording of their last conversation, he said "It's been great talking to you and just getting to talk to you the little bit I have. If that's all I walk away from this whole experience is having a few conversations with you, I feel like a lucky guy."

And there was one final irony. As their last conversation wound down, Dana babbled, "Um, It's just, it's, no one, no one ever takes [sic] attention to me, you know, and I will not let you down, ever."

Bugbee blustered optimistically, "Well, good! Then I won't you. We'll have a long relationship, then.

"We'll know each other forever."

See Also:
Dana Plato, Porn Star
Screech's Sex Tape Hoax
Nancy Drew's Sexy Secrets
Why Sarah Palin's Sex Life Matters
Diff'rent Strokes: Season One

Eight Druggiest Rock Star Stories

The following is an excerpt from Everybody Must Get Stoned: Rock Stars on Drugs. The book was inspired by Paul McCartney on Drugs, an article I wrote for 10 Zen Monkeys in January of 2007.

In researching this particular section, I relied heavily upon two great sources: Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (An Evergreen book) by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain and High Times magazine. Other major sources for the book included Celebrity Stoner and a great book titled Waiting For The Man: The Story of Drugs and Popular Music by Harry Shapiro.

During the latter half of the twentieth century, rock stars were privileged with the opportunity to experience just about every imaginable thrill. They were young, they were aggressive, many of them were wealthy, they were in a culture where thumbing your nose at authority was the rule rather than the exception, and they were treated like sex gods by members of the opposite or desired gender. And, of course, there were plenty of drugs around to get crazy with. These are some of the twisted highlights or low-lights of rock star behavior related to drugs.

1. Blood of the Stooges

In 1969-1970, Iggy Pop and his seminal proto-punk band the Stooges lived together outside Detroit in a house they nicknamed "Fun House." (They also named an album for it.) Besides writing and recording music, they were injecting massive amounts of drugs, mostly heroin. When setting up a hit, the Stooges would squirt the blood out of their syringes and shoot it all over the walls and ceilings. After a while, enough blood had accumulated on the apartment's walls to create a sort-of degraded smack addict's Jackson Pollock mural. Ron Asheton, the only Stooge member who was not a junkie and who lived elsewhere, described it "...a lot of times there would be fresh stuff. Then it would dry on to the table or on the floor.... I wish I was smart enough to take pictures of it because it would have been a masterpiece."

2. Sid Goes to the Toilet

Dee Dee Ramone found himself at a party in London, hanging out for a few moments in the bathroom snorting great quantities of speed. It wasn't the sort of place you'd want to hang out for too long, as Dee Dee quickly noticed that the bathroom was disgusting — sinks, toilets, everything was full of vomit, piss, and shit. Sid Vicious — a key figure in the London punk scene but not yet a member of the Sex Pistols — wandered in and asked Dee Dee if he had anything to get high on, so Dee Dee generously gave Sid some of his crank. Vicious pulled out a syringe, stuck it into a toilet filled with puke and piss, and then loaded it with speed and shot himself up.

3. Brave Ted Nugent, Rock Warrior

The right-wing rocker Ted Nugent is known for being very antidrug and very prowar. The Motor City Madman happily calls out any pussy-ass traitor not ready to grab a gun or a bomb or a nuke and show those towelheads that we mean business. But back during the glory years of the Vietnam war, this most macho chickenhawk in the Republican firmament went to extremes to make sure his own pussy ass didn't end up in Vietnam, and he used drugs to do it.

In a 1970s High Times interview, Nugent related the story of how he avoided the draft. For 30 days prior to his appearance before the draft board, the hairy and bearded Nugent stopped brushing his teeth, bathing, washing himself, or combing his hair. He ate nothing but junk food and high-fat foods and drank nothing but Pepsi and beer.

Then, a week before his physical, Nugent pulled out all the stops. He stopped going to the bathroom. "I did it in my pants. Shit, piss, the whole shot. My pants got crusted up." Then three days before the exam, Nugent started staying up with the help of crystal meth.

When he finally went in for the army physical, Nugent was so sick that he passed out during his blood test. During the urine test, he couldn't pee. And when it came time to give them some excrement, he pulled down his pants and it was all there and ready. In fact, he got it all over his hands and arm. Nugent bragged to High Times, " the mail I got this big juicy 4-F. They'd call dead people before they'd call me.... I just wasn't into it. I was too busy doin' my own thing." Didn't Dick Cheney say something like that? (Nugent has recently claimed that he made this story up.)

4. Can You Tell the Difference Between Tripping Out and Nodding Out?

In 1967, rock guitarist and notorious smack addict Michael Bloomfield, who had played with Bob Dylan on his classic mid-sixties albums and as a member of Blues Project, had his own band of fellow musician-junkies. They called themselves the Electric Flag. They were hired by B-movie master Roger Corman to create the soundtrack to Corman's LSD movie The Trip (starring a young, acid-gobbling Jack Nicholson).

The band was invited to the film opening, where they took the front-row seats that had been set aside for them. But the lads had arrived so loaded down on smack that they were nodding off and spacing out throughout the film. In a High Times interview, Bloomfield added that the band was also encouraged to sleep by their positioning in the theater: "We're sitting in the front row, and we're like one inch from the screen — we have to sit at a 90 degree angle just to see the movie..."

When the movie ended, everybody filed out except for Bloomfield and his coterie of stoned musicians, who were glued to their seats, some with eyes closed and the others glassy-eyed. Confronted by members of Corman's crew as to why they were not leaving the theatre, Bloomfield had enough presence of mind to come up with an excuse that would be socially acceptable at that time and within this particular milieu. "We all had a lot of acid," he told them. In 1967 Hollywood, at the screening of The Trip, this had to be respected. Not wanting to bum the fellows out during such a sensitive event, the crew members left the musicians alone in the theater. It took them several hours to pry themselves from their chairs.

5. Waste Not, Want Not

Japan has a reputation for searching rock stars for drugs. Most famously, Paul McCartney spent some time in jail after going through Japanese customers (see also the chapters: "The Beatles on Drugs" and "Big Busts and Big Deals"). So when Guns n' Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin was warned by his manager to get rid of any drugs he might have before going through customers in Japan, Stradlin put them someplace he knew he wouldn't lose them — in his stomach. He must have had quite a stash, because he wound up in a coma for 96 hours.

6. Jim Morrison's Excellent Adventure

In Please Kill Me, Ronnie Cutrone, an artist and denizen of Andy Warhol's 1960s Factory scene described a typical night out with the Doors' lead vocalist: "Jim would go out, lean up against the bar, order eight screwdrivers, put down six Tuinals on the bar, drink two or three screwdrivers, take two Tuinals, then he'd have to pee, but he couldn't leave the other five screwdrivers, so he'd take his dick out and pee, and some girl would come up and blow his dick, and then he'd finish the other five screwdrivers and then he'd finish the other four Tuinals, and then he'd pee in his pants, and then Eric Emerson and I would take him home."

7. But Why Is Elton "Still Standing?"

In his mid-1970s heyday, Los Angeles declared "Elton John Week." To celebrate, the glam rock pasha invited his relatives out to L.A. to celebrate. Allegedly, Elton took 60 Valiums, jumped into a hotel pool, and shouted, "I'm going to die." His grandmother was heard to comment: "I suppose we're going to have to go home now."

8. When Ozzy Got Some of That Good Government Cocaine

In a 1999 High Times interview, Ozzy talked about the time he had the best coke he'd ever had. He said, "I'm lying by the pool one day and I met this guy and I ask him, 'You want to do some coke?' He goes, 'no no no.' I'm whacking this stuff up my nose, it's a brilliant sunny day, and this guy's sitting there with one of those reflectors under his chin getting a suntan. I say, 'What do you do.' He says, 'I work for the government.' 'Uh... what do you do with the government?' 'I work for the drug squad.' I sez, 'You're fucking joking.' He shows me his badge. I fuckin' flipped...flames were coming out of my fingers, man. He says, 'Oh you're all right. I'm the guy that got you the coke.'"

Buy the book!

See Also:
Paul McCartney on Drugs
Ed Rosenthal: Big Man of Buds
Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
Willie Nelson's Narcotic Shrooms

The QuestionAuthority Proposal
Bush Administration’s Greatest Hits (To Your Face)
Catching Up With an Aqua Teen Terrorist
Don't Go There: Top 20 Taboo Topics for Presidential Candidates

Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks

Rush: The Last Taboo

Rush in 1978

As the redheaded, one-eyed stepchild in the Mondo Globo omniverse, I’ve written about some really fucked up shit; pretty much everything this side of fecalphilia.

And while I’m generally not shy about exposing my own proclivities, I’m about to reveal one that pushes the very boundaries of counterculture sensibility.

I love Rush.

Now, upon revealing this in person to some, I’ve seen the color completely drain out of the face, in a way that could only be rivaled by a revelation of secret daughter dungeon proportions. In terms of relationships, you definitely don’t want to let this cat out of the bag to a prospective mate until sometime between the farting in the bed phase and marriage.

The band is currently on tour to promote its latest release Snakes & Arrows. The tour is actually an extension of last year’s summer outing, which ended up being the sixth highest-grossing tour of the season.

With such evergreen success (Rush has been playing the same venues since I first saw them … in 1982), why does going to a Rush show still feel almost like sneaking into a NAMBLA convention?

Because much of their material showcases the instrumental prowess of drummer Neil Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Geddy Lee, that’s bound to alienate some listeners right off the bat. And while the band has taken strides to make their music more accessible over the years (and Snakes & Arrows has a sharp, fresh sound that’s remarkably contemporary for such a, well, old band), they ain’t gonna be mentors on American Idol anytime soon.

But I suspect it has a lot to do with the amount of baggage that Rush carries with it. The mythology of this legendary Canadian trio is fed almost as much on misconception as it is on their worthy musical achievements (including multiple Grammy nominations) and rabid fan base.

Because of their willingness to play with their sound over the years (evolving from the Cream/Zeppelin power trio blueprint to Yes-like sprawling masterpieces to a full embrace of synthesizers and MIDI technology in the ‘80s before stripping back down to a purely guitar-based rock sound), Rush means different things to different people. Even fans argue about “which” Rush is the “real” Rush.

Allow me to demonstrate:

Rush = Dungeons & Dragons. Thematically speaking, Rush never were a sword-and-sorcery band, though that perception thrives among the unwashed. They did use sci-fi narratives, but only to advance a larger theme, as demonstrated best in their seminal album, 2112, where futuristic elements are dwarfed by the Ayn Rand-ian perspective.

While there’s no doubt that plenty of RPG nerds have been into Rush since those bones were first rolled, you can file this one under “All puppies are dogs, but not all dogs are puppies.” That is to say, in especially the small towns of America, when considering the circle of life that is high school ass-kicking, it has just as often been the case that the one listening to “2112” has been the ass-kicker as he has been the hapless, bespectacled victim.

Rush is a heavy metal band. Wait, Rush is an ‘80s synth-pop band. It seems unlikely that these two misconceptions could co-exist in the popular culture terrain, and it is. However, I have heard both of these assertions made, and not just by the average yahoo, but by the media (below-average yahoos). Obviously age is a factor in determining which false statement you subscribe to. If you’re between the ages of 40 and 50, and all you know about Rush is “Working Man,” I guess you might call that heavy metal. I mean, you could also call it afro-funk if you wanted to, but whatever. On the other hand, if you’re between the ages of 30 and 40, and your first exposure to Rush was the MTV video for “The Big Money,” you could be excused for thinking they were … uh … The Fixx?

Girls aren’t into Rush. Okay, so there’s probably about as many girls into Rush as there are guys who watch “The View,” but let the record show that they do exist. I dated a girl last year who, to my amazement, was into Rush, and proclaimed it so defiantly my big toe jumped up in my boot. (She dumped me because I smoke too much pot. Go figure.)

Black people don’t like Rush. I remember the claim being made that you're more likely to spot RU Sirius in da club with Young Jeezy than a black person at a Rush show. This made me understandably self-conscious given my sensitive liberalitude, so I made a point of looking around at the last couple of shows and was relieved to see some color in a sea of pale flesh. I mean, there are probably more blacks at a Dave Matthews concert, but then again there are more white people at a Michael Franti show, so again, go forth and figure.

Geddy Lee isn’t human. He’s some kind of chipmunk. The aforementioned ability of Rush to tinker with their sound is one of the things that endears them to their fans. Hell, there have even been times when critics have been in synch with the band’s sensibilities (Grace Under Pressure, for example, was very in touch with its time, 1984, and appealed to critics for about a minute.)

Of all these phases, however, the most recognized, and paradoxically revered and reviled, was the first seven years of the band’s career, when Geddy Lee’s high-pitched yelps defined Rush’s music. And while Lee has spent the last 25 years proving he could also emote with more warmth in his voice, one could argue it still dogs the band. But at the same time, it is that original quality that would go on to influence vocalists like the Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

So let it be known that when I see my favorite band at their stop at the Sleep Train Pavilion (!) in Concord in the Bay Area this weekend, the sense of rapture that will somehow manage to overtake the copious amount of booze and weed in my system comes from unashamedly indulging in something the masses will never understand: The taboo of Rush.

See also:
Top 10 Pillars of Led Zeppelin Mythology
The End of Internet Radio?
The Satanic Cosmology of Jack Chick

Hating Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert won the first Pulitzer Prize for film criticism. But 33 years later, is he part of the problem?

That's what Armond White is suggesting in a 3,200-word essay arguing that Ebert's "TV glibness" misses the meat of movies. Critics today discuss movies "simply as entertainment" detached from their moral and political context, White argues, and internet bloggers are compounding the problem with an elite hipsterism which is "diminishing cultural discourse."

Vanity Fair's James Wolcott quipped that the column "has something to annoy, invigorate, and agitate just about everybody."

The 20th anniversary issue of the New York Press found Armond White declaring war on the deadened souls of the movie-loving literati. This week White, who heads the New York Film Critics Circle, accused critics of ignoring politically-relevant movies like Steven Spielberg's Munich and War of the Worlds. Instead they'll only endorse dishonest films like There Will Be Blood or Gus van Sant's film about the Columbine shootings, the kind of movies White describes as "irresponsible," "pseudo-serious," and "sometimes immoral or socially retrograde."

And where is Roger Ebert's big contribution to this cultural dialogue, White asks — his insightful new idea or his notable style? But White takes his attack even further by noting Ebert's substitutes on the show now "loyally prevaricate in Ebert’s manner — a 'criticism' show owned and sponsored by the Disney conglomerate!"

"Prevaricate" is a strong word, but White is suggesting an industry-wide pattern of dishonesty spotlighting the movie industry instead of the movies. For example, when Premiere launched in the last year of the Reagan presidency, it focused on box office receipts "for that era enthralled with tax shelters, bond-trading and pro-trust legislation," and the magazine ultimately "perverted movie journalism from criticism to production news." To this day, White concludes, we're left with film criticism "that's blurred with celebrity gossip."

But even more he objects to a "disrespect for thinking" — and this is where the bloggers come in. If it's a tragedy, "it’s not just for the journalism profession betraying its promise of news and ideas but also for those bloggers."
The love of movies that inspires their gigabytes of hyperbole has been traduced to nonsense language and non-thinking.

It breeds a new pinhead version of fan-clubism.

Unfortunately, the "post-Tarantino cinema" requires critics to reach for the esoteric in a kind of grass root elitism. With the world of film criticism now globally decentralized, it crowns "a network of bizarro authorities" — pompous trend-followers "with a hipster/avant-garde pack opinionated throng, united in their sarcasm and intense pretense at intellectualizing what is basically a hobby." White accuses "the Internetters" of confusing the ability to publish online with democratization — "almost fascistically turning discourse into babble."

"’s mostly half-baked, overlong term-paper essays by fans who like to think they think."


Roger Ebert once confronted a similar issue with film critic Pauline Kael, according to a story White adds to his column. Ebert asked Kael if she watched his show, legend has it, and Kael replied dismissively that "If I wanted a layman's opinion on movies, I don't have to watch TV."

But Ebert himself takes a more philosophical view to the flood of online voices. When the web was young back in 1996, Ebert wrote a column for Yahoo! Internet Life with his reviewing partner Gene Siskel assessing the movie information available online. "You can find out almost anything about the movies on the Web," Ebert wrote.

"Some of it will be true. Some will be pure invention. A lot of it will be advertising..."

But Friday saw an announcement that for the first time the Annual Roger Ebert Film Festival would be held without Roger Ebert. Earlier this month 65-year-old Ebert made headlines when he announced he'd return to writing movie reviews after a series of health problems, though he'd forego a fourth surgery which would restore his ability to speak. "I am still cancer-free, and not ready to think about more surgery at this time," he wrote in a letter in the Chicago Sun-Times (adding "I should be content with the abundance I have.") Ebert adopted his familiar playful tone — "Are you as bored with my health as I am?" — but stressed a familiar passion. "I still have all my other abilities, including the love of viewing movies and writing about them."

After three decades in the public eye Ebert is one of the most familiar faces on television, and he seems blissfully unaware of White's column. Friday the Chicago Sun-Times site even boasted a fresh post on Roger Ebert's blog — titled Ebertfest in Exile.
Every year I keep meaning to include "Joe vs. the Volcano" in Ebertfest, and every year something else squeezes it out, some film more urgently requiring our immediate attention, you see...

Ebert writes honestly that the movie "was a failure in every possible way except that I loved it."


Did White launch his argument at the wrong time? "Don’t misconstrue this as an attack on the still-convalescent Ebert," White warns. "I wish him nothing but health. But I am trying to clarify where film criticism went bad." But White's article still drew a thumb down from blogger Matt Zoller Seitz.

"His simplistic denunciation of the meaning and impact of Roger Ebert — who has done more to widen the tastes of the movie-going public and popularize basic cinema literacy than any critic in the history of print — is shameful, and would be so even without the 'I wish him well as he recovers' parenthetical."

In fact, it was the online blog Defamer that identified the context for Armond's remarks. "Escalating Film Critic Crisis Enters Crucial 'Everything Sucks' Phase" read their snarky headline, linking the introspection to anxiety about the recent dismissal of several prominent newspaper film critics. "The discussion turned especially profound this week as a selection of esteemed critics moved on to slapping anyone and anything that would stand still long enough to absorb their blows."

Sympathy may be rolling towards Ebert in this discussion, but even before his column, White had already racked up an unflattering section in his Wikipedia entry labeled "controversy"
Many mainstream critics accuse White of contradicting the grain of mainstream criticism only to provoke debate [citation needed].

He frequently praises films that almost all other critics have drubbed, such as Little Man, Sahara and Against the Ropes. He often focuses a large portion of his reviews to attacks on the critical establishment... He is also frequently accused of being an aggressive pop culture writer who lends intellectual legitimacy to commercial product.[citation needed]

Of course, this could be dismissed as another half-baked term paper essay from the opinionated throng. The entry also notes dutifully that White "pioneered the case for the music video being one of the most significant postmodern art forms" and authored a book on the life of Tupac Shakur." (Library Journal wrote that "White has interviewed few subjects and done only modest secondary research in his attempt to place the rap star in a larger social and cultural context. This will appeal mostly to fans of standard rock biography....")

But it may be Google News that delivers the ultimate verdict. Searching for references to White's article turns up exactly one — the snarky sendup it received at Defamer. Ironically the only news outlet paying attention is one of the bizarro authorities with their "hipster/avantage-garde pack mentality."

If a critic challenges the awareness of film critics and no one notices — does he still make a sound?

See Also:
Sexy Adult Secrets in 'Little Children'
Robert Altman's 7 Secret Wars
Dead Woman Blogging
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube
Author Slash Trickster 'JT LeRoy'
Robert Anton Wilson: 1932-2007
Alvin and the Chipmunks launch

Lawrence Welk vs. The Hippies

Lawrence Welk was approaching his seventies when radical changes suddenly hit America's music scene. The clash in the late 1960s shook the band leader, America's most famous square, and he confronted the raging turmoil in a series of shocking performances — at least, according to these five videos.

Thirty years before American Idol, parts of America were still uncomfortable with the very idea of rock songs even appearing on television, especially during Welk's squeaky-clean song and dance show. And since The Lawrence Welk Show ran for three decades, these videos suggest the ultimate long, strange trip. They're a window in time, capturing a bizarre never-world where the hour-long show actually surrendered happily to the coming onslaught of rock.

1. Sweet Jesus

Yes, "Dale and Gail" are actually singing about the excessive use of marijuana: the devil's weed, the great satanic corrupter of our youth — and the counterculture's intellectual lubricant. Welk really did trot out a 23-year-old rejected Miss Oklahoma contestant to croon a shockingly wholesome rendition of "One Toke Over the Line." Maybe he was trying to tell us something.

Nearly 40 years later, the clip ignited a new controversy. Tom Shipley, one of the drug-friendly song's original singers, uploaded Welk's version onto YouTube — and nearly immediately, it drew over 160 comments.
"Do these two know what a 'toke' even is?"
"This fails so hard it approaches win from the other side."
"I think I'm about to stab pencils into my eyes and ears."

Welk was famous again, but for all the wrong reasons, as this forgotten moment in time "sparked" a very 21st-century enthusiasm.
"I want to make physical love to this clip."
"Way to go, Light-em-up Larry!"
"a priceless moment in television history"
"Champagne...the gateway drug!"

Though perhaps inevitably, some commenters also searched for a hidden message in the couple's giddy vocal delivery.
"look at their eyes!!, their baked!!"
"oh. my. god. becky, look at her blunt."
"She has to be baked to wear that outfit."

There's no evidence that Dale and Gail actually toked up before singing the song. But when accordionist Myron Floren introduces them — there's obviously something that's making him cough.

2. Sucking on a Ding-dong

Welk's heroin habit eventually caught up with him, and he was swallowed whole by a voracious counterculture. In a shocking turnaround, he brought in Lou Reed to jam with the show's banjo player, organist, drummer, and orchestra, citing a song which was "high" in popularity.

A remarkable video shows the squares in Welk's audience bobbing in a slow waltz as The Velvet Underground rips through "Sister Ray." ("I'm searching for my mainer, I said I couldn't hit it sideways...")

"Wonderful!" Welk declares at the end.

"Mr. Welk... This isn't like you at all," you can imagine his singers saying. Though of course, by now you folks know we were only kidding about that heroin habit...

3. Stop the Music

In a historic telecast, five men in yellow blazers and five women in matching blouses were confronted by "Hippie Welk."

The smiley man who played polkas on his accordion suddenly appeared with long hair and Beatle spectacles, flashing a peace sign and barking "Don't you cats know this polka jazz is strictly from Squares-ville? I can't stand that kind of music."

The audience actually gasps...

Backed by a Day-Glo drum, Welk then launches his singers into Wilson Pickett's "She's Looking Good." (Joking about bands with animal names, Welk says "I just opened the cages, and look what I released... The Babbling Baboons.") It rocks. Even if Welk's cast isn't quite sure how to dance to it.

While the Velvet Underground video was a mashup, this clip really is from an actual broadcast. It's a seismic shift in America's cultural landscape, as the song's driving beat fries the minds of America for exactly forty seconds. But then Welk's two white "soul sisters" are interrupted by some very unconvincing acting, as two female cast-members complain "Mr. Welk... This isn't like you at all."

Returning to their pre-liberated state of near-infantalism, they ask Welk about his trademark champagne music. "Whatever happened to the music that went doodly doodly doodly doodly doot?" They give him a raspberry, the audience applauds loudly, and Welk smilingly says "Of course, by now you folks know we were only kidding."

"We wouldn't do that to you nice people."

4. Meet the Beatles.

Drugs influenced the Beatles too, but when they broke up, it was Lawrence Welk who picked up their countercultural cred, turning "Hey Jude" into one of "ten big songs" on his ground-breaking concept album, Galveston. But where the Beatles released "Hey Jude" together with "Revolution," Welk paired it up with a softer song — Glen Campbell's "Gentle on My Mind."

Its graceful trumpet solo inspired audiences to waltz and vote for Nixon, shortly before a startling full-orchestra crescendo into the chorus, and one brief flourish of funk from an unappreciated bass player.

In a surreal moment, the string section saws away underneath a giant golden sign which says: "Geritol."

It was nobody's Woodstock.

5. Smoke on the Water?

It was almost heroic the way Welk clung to his kitschy schtick in the face of a changing world — his own personal freak flag, flown gloriously high.

Welk was nearly 90 when he died in 1989, but he lived long enough to see another accordion player make the big time, possibly channeling his spirit. In the early '80s, Weird Al Yankovic offered up the ultimate tribute, mixing Welk's "Bubbles in the Wine" into an accordion medley of 14 ridiculously inappropriate songs, from Devo to Jimi Hendrix, the Clash and the Who.

Later footage of Welk's show was even spliced into a video for the hyperactive medley (which also included "Hey Jude"), creating a montage that's oddly reminiscent of the surreal bandleader himself. It ultimately proves that given enough accordions, any song can become soul-crushingly square.

Even "Smoke on the Water."

100 Years After

It's been 105 years since Lawrence Welk was born. (Tuesday would've been his birthday.) But this November saw an interesting coda.

A video was uploaded to YouTube showing an audience of high school students baffled by a vinyl record of Welk's polka band performing "Minnie the Mermaid." Their heads bob as Welk's deep-voiced singer croons about the time he'd spent down in her seaweed bungalow...

But it turns out it was a time capsule within a time capsule, since the video came from a public access TV show they'd recorded for their local cable outlet in the 1980s. (An earlier episode featured a video by GWAR.) The two teenaged mid-80s hipsters are playing a song from 1957, just a pit stop on the song's journey to YouTube 50 years later.

The video has been watched just 87 times, but it drew one comment that puts the whole thing in perspective. "Now your show seems as ancient here as the Lawrence Welk record did..." In the future, maybe everyone will be Lawrence Welk for 15 minutes.

He'd learned to play the accordion before he'd learned to speak English at the age of 21, and rose from a poor immigrant family to become one of the richest men in Hollywood. But it was his earnest commitment to hokey friendliness that made him a kind of legend. Even if Welk never grokked the emergence of rock music, one YouTube comment suggested Welk had earned some respect simply for the role he'd played for the generations that came before.

"He made my grandparents — whom I loved dearly — happy during the final years of their lives. For that, I respect him."

Adam West and Davy Jones Meet Sexina

Sexina starring Adam West

Ladies and Sexina!

A James Bond-style theme song rolls behind the opening credits of a new film featuring Adam West as a ruthless criminal mastermind. But its star is Sexina, part Britney Spears, part private-investigator-secretly-fighting corruption-in-the-music-industry.

79-year-old West plays a ruthless music industry overlord bent on destroying the sexy pop sensation with an evil boy band composed entirely of cuddly robots. The ultimate irony? The movie's theme is sung by Davy Jones, whose vocals for The Monkees in the 1960s make him one of the original boy band singers.

Davy Jones records the theme to Sexina

Click here to hear an excerpt from
Davy Jones' theme song for "Sexina: Popstar PI."

UPDATE: You can also click here for our list of
"Seven Forgotten Classics by Davy Jones

"Sexina is a very campy film, and Davy's track blends well with the tone," according to the film's publicists. It's one of 80 wildly original films being screened at the San Francisco's Independent Film Festival, now celebrating its tenth anniversary. ("What we're lacking in corporate dollars, we make up for with our devoted IndieFest filmgoers," according to founder Jeff Ross.) To promote the festival, the organizers even came up with their own bizarre trailer.

And Sexina, Popstar PI couldn't possibly be more indie. It's the brainchild of Eric Sharkey, whose resume includes uncredited work as a production assistant on the notorious Glitter (as well as Vanilla Sky). He's written, directed, and produced two previous films — though one was a four-minute short about a Coney Island Alligator Hunter (Her secret weapon: beer.) The other film, I Got Lucky, pairs a pot-head with a talking hamburger who can predict the future.

Sexina starring Adam West
In his sexy new movie, Adam West, who was TV's original Batman, schemes in the shadows for ways to overthrow the pop stardom of the film's singing sensation, Sexina (played by Lauren D'Avella). Sexina — real name: Maude Jenkins — has withstood all challengers, including a rival singer named "Sir Stabs-a-lot."

But now she's facing new competition from a narcissistic teen idol named Lance Canyon. (Church groups complained about his controversial song, "You Need The Extra Deep Love," but Lance responds that "My penis was touched by god. They should just worship it.") By day, Sexina and her bodyguard Chainsaw deal with the pressures of show business. ("I don't want a rapping Jesus in my video!") But she's also moonlighting as a kick-ass detective.

"We have our best person on the case," says her adoring female boss. "She's tough, smart, and very sexy. She also has the coolest walk, and a great smile."

But watch out — this movie is filled with unlikely plot twists. ("Not only is G-Dog not really from Jamaica. He's also a robot!") Besides inspiring the young students at Britney High School, Sexina must also investigate a kidnapping — the daughter of yet-another former teen star. The film's crazy mix also includes ninjas, cannibals, a man in a bear costume, and even a brief parody of Barbara and Jenna Bush.

Sharkey co-wrote the theme song's campy lyrics. ("She has the boobs and the brains of a queen. She's every man's dream... ") It's not clear there's a message in his film, although despite the villainous Lance's anti-drug commercial, he's also a big hypocrite. "There's still plenty of weed, cocaine, and ecstasy for everyone," he announces to his party guests, "as well as heroin, crystal meth, horse tranquilizers, vicodin, Xanax, modelling glue, yellow jackets, black beauties..."

Lance probably should've listened to the movie's theme song more carefully.
She's wicked cool and that's a fact,
so evil-doer's watch your back.
She'll get you....

Sexina: Popstar PI makes its world premiere this week at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival. Catch it Saturday (February 16) at the Roxie at 9:30 p.m.

And click here for our list of seven forgotten classics by Davy Jones

Dead Woman Blogging

Theresa Duncan committed suicide in July.

But on New Year's Eve, five months after her death, she updated her blog.

January's Vanity Fair had already trumpeted "The New York Art World's Bizarre Double Suicide" in a cover story this month. (One week after Theresa's suicide, Jeremy Blake, her partner of 12 years, removed his clothes and walked into the ocean at New York's Rockaway Beach.) Morbid interest in her blog was only exacerbated when, three months after her death, a new post suddenly appeared on her blog just two days before Halloween. Its title?

"Basil Rathbone's Ghosts."

It's a weird final twist for the A-list blogger and game designer. In the last year of her life, Theresa's apartment was in a New York rectory "allegedly haunted by the ghosts of Edgar Allan Poe and Harry Houdini," according to Vanity Fair, and she'd developed an apparent intrigue in at least one ghost story.

Unfortunately, the entire 423-word post was written by Dick Cavett. On his own blog at the New York Times site, the former 70s talk show host had promised his readers ghost stories. In February he'd told a story about the actor who'd played Sherlock Holmes in the 1940s. (Moments after Rathbone's friend is killed in a car accident along with his beloved hunting dogs, the actor receives a phone call from a psychic who says she's received a ghostly message. "Traveling very fast. No time to say good-bye. There are no dogs here.")

Theresa wrote a post scheduled to appear at the end of October, quoting the entirety of Cavett's last six paragraphs.
The next time I saw Rathbone...more years had gone by, and he was in the act of receiving a summons for letting his dog Ginger off the leash in Central Park. I thought he might have decided, looking back, that it had all been some sort of bizarre coincidence, or maybe a highly original prank. He said, "At the time, of course, I was quite shaken by it." And now? "I am still shaken by it."

A note below the post warned that a second one would appear on New Year's Eve — the final blog post of Theresa Duncan.

And increasing the tension was another dark story lingering after her death — the couple's belief that Scientologists were secretly harassing her. Vanity Fair reports that her boyfriend Blake "wrote a 27-page document encapsulating their claims, which he planned on using as the basis for a lawsuit against the Church of Scientology." (They also report Tom Cruise's denial that he interfered with her negotiations to direct a modern version of Alice in Wonderland, which her agent says was blocked for "budget considerations.")

Theresa's fear of Scientologists had already led to bizarre confrontations with their Hollywood neighbors, according to the article.
"Theresa said to me, 'Jeremy and I have started a club where we've found a bunch of old men and we're letting them fuck us in the ass, and we wanted to know if you wanted to be a part of it.' I asked Theresa if she was joking. She said 'no' and repeated herself..."

In July, when O'Brien came home and picked up her mail, she wrote, Duncan "shrieked 'cult whore' and 'cult hooker' repeatedly. She was very frightening."

Both incidents appeared in a letter supporting the couple's eventual eviction from their bungalow in Venice, California in August of 2006.

But a strange mystery lingers over one detail of Theresa's story — the fact that rock star (and Scientologist) Beck pulled out of Theresa's Alice movie. New York Magazine found a curious inconsistency in Beck's statement to Vanity Fair that he'd "never met to discuss doing her film." Blogger Emmanuelle Richard says she found an Italian interview where in fact, Beck gushes excitedly about preparing for his upcoming movie debut. ("It will be full of energy and full of characters: some kind of Alice in Wonderland set in the 70s... The director is a friend of mine and it will be her directorial debut. We will begin shooting in the Fall.")

Or was their fast lane life simply catching up to them? Vanity Fair reports Blake sometimes took a hip flask of whiskey to his job at Rockstar Games, while Theresa "drank champagne by the bottle."

"It was starting to show in their faces; they were looking haggard."

After the couple's twin suicides, the New York Times ran an article about prowling through Jeremy Blake's computer, assembling his final artwork from the PhotoShop folders he'd left behind.

Other bloggers searched for a logic in the death of the two New York artists. "The same anxieties that underwrite Ms. Duncan's nightmare visions are to be found in the economic and technological circuitry that surrounds all of us," reads one post on the blog Jugadoo, "an erosion of stable modes of identity and selfhood..."
It isn't hard to imagine a future scenario when people will be able to generate AI-controlled virtual selves who will stroll around digital worlds like Second Life, having conversations with grief-stricken friends and family after their living counterparts are dead. That a person on the brink of suicide might leave a new kind of note.

And then Theresa's final blog post appeared.

It spoke of "twenty largely wasted years," saying trying to write is a failure "because one has only learnt to get the better of words for the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which one is no longer disposed to say it."

Theresa is quoting T.S. Eliot, but she'd skipped the first four passages of "East Coker" to focus in on the fifth. "With shabby equipment always deteriorating in the general mess of imprecision of feeling, undisciplined squads of emotion..."

Her final mysterious post was another long quote, arguing wearily that the great truths have already been recorded and "There is only the fight to recover what has been lost and found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions that seem unpropitious."
"But perhaps neither gain nor loss. For us, there is only the trying.

The rest is not our business."

See Also:
Scientology Fugitive Arrested
Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death
Robert Anton Wilson 1932 - 2007
Death? No Thank You

Top 10 Pillars of Led Zeppelin Mythology

Led Zeppelin a long time ago

At London's 02 Arena Monday night, rock gods Led Zeppelin will attempt to recreate the special alchemy that made them one of the most legendary live bands of their era.

Zeppelin were notoriously inconsistent on tour, with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham often exploring extended jams on band classics to varying effect. I've talked to people who were lucky enough to have seen them live, and the reactions range from "They didn't sound like the records" to "best 20-minute drum solo ever."

There was no doubt, however, that when the band was on they were like nothing else on earth. Zeppelin was doing three-hour-plus shows complete with acoustic sets when Bruce Springsteen was still playing bars in Asbury Park. And unlike contemporaries The Who and Pink Floyd, Zeppelin never used backing tapes or additional musicians, relying instead on sheer audacity, volume and Jones' underrated multi-instrumentalism (the man played everything from the Mellotron to the mandolin to a triple-necked acoustic monstrosity, often while performing the bass lines with his feet on custom bass pedals!).

And while the jury's still out on whether age and the lack of a huge element of their sound (Bonham) will render them incapable of getting a modicum of that magic back, in some ways it doesn't matter. For once again, the mighty Zeppelin have proved their incredible ability to stay relevant.

For those of you who aren't old enough to remember Lester Bangs dissing them in Creem magazine or the magic of bringing home the brown paper bag that held In Through the Out Door (or in an extreme example, being RU Sirius and having your first acid trip while listening to "Dazed and Confused"!), here are ten reasons I believe the mythos of Led Zeppelin remains etched in stone at a time when anything of lasting quality in pop culture seems almost impossible.

10. "Here's to My Sweet Satan … " Although you'd never know it by their slanderous remarks, America's more extreme branches of Christianity (Pentacosts, Baptists) never met a better friend/punching bag than Led Zeppelin. When crackpot preachers started playing rock records backwards in a desperate attempt to scare parents into burning their kids' records (the scene where Kathleen Turner does this to Kirsten Dunst's records in the film The Virgin Suicides shows the unintended hilarious results of this ridiculous act), Led Zeppelin was one of their first targets.

And what better tune to focus their bogeyman search on than "Stairway to Heaven?" The most famous "backwards masking" message meant to turn little Bobby from Buffalo to the side of Beelzebub was the alleged "Here's to my sweet Satan," warbled by Robert Plant.

Of course, the band denied this, and you don't have to be a Grammy-nominated sound engineer to hear what is clearly a big pile o' Christian crap.

9. The Bill Graham Beatdown Before thuggish hip hop was even an art form, let alone an industry, Led Zeppelin had a posse in full effect. Led (no pun intended) by Richard Cole, a coke-fueled maniac whose powers of physical intimidation were only outmatched by Zep's manager Peter Grant, their security was half drug-and-teen-procuring entourage, half security force.

Despite a mutually advantageous relationship in which both parties suckled at the new teat of stadium rock, the muscle behind both Zeppelin and Bill Graham Presents had run afoul of each other, by the very nature of their need for control. In 1977, during a multi-night stint at the Oakland Coliseum, the shit hit the fan.

When a BGP goon vied for a Darwin Award by roughing up the 400-lb Grant's young son backstage, the manager, Cole and Bonzo gave the poor sap and another employee a beatdown that ended in long hospital stays. Graham, ever the entrepreneur, kept charges from being filed long enough for Zep to finish the Oakland Stadium gigs.

8. This Album Has No Title Though commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV, Zep's fourth record not only had no actual title, but failed to display even the band's name on its cover. Instead, the band developed runes that stood for each member – Plant's consisted of a feather within a circle and is supposedly the Feather of Ma'at (the Egyptian goddess of justice and fairness); Jones' was three interlocking ovals; Bonzo's was also three interlocking ovals, and could either be a symbol for "man-wife-child" or the logo for Ballantine beer, depending on whom you ask; Page's (called "Zoso," which has also been used as the album's title by some fans) is the only one created by its bearer, and so its mystical significance remains a mystery.

Obviously, brass at Atlantic Records weren't exactly aroused by the unprecedented lack of identifying reference anywhere on the record. But the band's insistence on this concept formed the basis not only for their reputation as a fiercely anti-commercial artistic force, but also provided much of the mystique that was vital during the band's existence, and crucial to their continued legacy.

7. Led Wallet When Zep fans first heard the unmistakable bashing of John Bonham's drum intro to "Rock and Roll" in a Cadillac ad a couple of years ago, many were heard to utter a groan. But closer analyses of the handling of the catalog of the world's biggest rock band reveals a relatively tasteful restraint.

Especially when you consider that Jimmy Page was once referred to as "Led Wallet" for his unwillingness to part with a pence.

Still, the band has never performed again apart from a handful of mediocre events, all for charity (Live Aid, the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary). Jack Black was seen in the film "School of Rock" begging Page and Plant to allow Richard Linklater (who was also thwarted from using their songs in his film bearing an actual Zeppelin track name, "Dazed and Confused) to use their music for the soundtrack. They declined.

In fact, use of Zeppelin's music in film has been confined to the films of their pal, Cameron Crowe. Some argue this restraint is excessive – one could imagine the impact of a Zeppelin track in, say, a Scorsese film. It certainly would be nice for the guy not to have to mine the Stones all the time!

6. Peter Grant Led Zeppelin might have been the first rock band to make the business of being in a rock band a … business. Previously, bands like The Beatles would make money only when the number of records sold reached a staggering amount, and even then often under duress. Their contracts favored the record company to an obscene extent.

Zep's ability to establish a revenue producing powerhouse employing record sales, touring and merchandising was largely due to the wiles and weight of its manager, Peter Grant. A former pro wrestler, Grant was the basis for fictitious band manager Ian Faith's cricket bit in This is Spinal Tap. Further evidence of his style of communication can be seen in the new re-release of The Song Remains the Same, where Grant is seen practically ripping the head off a "cunt" who, at a show in Cleveland, failed to stop bootleggers from selling posters.

5. John Bonham Could Zeppelin have continued after its influential drummer died from choking to death on his own vomit after 40 measures of vodka?

Two words prove the perils of such an endeavor, had the band even had the heart and spirit to carry on – Keith Moon.

It's an easy argument to make that The Who's two post-Moon albums (Face Dances and It's Hard) diminish the band's catalog by causing it to sputter to an inglorious end. And while this might owe as much to a fading of Pete Townshend's genius (Zeppelin were more like Queen than The Who in this respect, with Jones making significant contributions throughout the band's career), Moon took more than just the drummer's throne with him to the grave.

He also took a huge part of the band's spirit, and while Moon was slightly more of an extroverted character, the fact that Bonham's simple "fantasy sequence" in The Song Remains the Same (showing such high-concept footage as him urging his cow along the pasture as well as intimate peeks into his home life) is the only one that isn't totally laughable either in concept or execution speaks volumes.

And even though there is something clearly fitting in having his son on the kit, in all respect, there is only one J. Bonham anyone will be thinking about when the band pulls out his showcase, "Moby Dick," as they're expected to.

4. Don Kirschner's Rock Concert with Led Zeppelin It never happened, and when I saw an old TV clip of Deep Purple recently, the wisdom of Zeppelin's avoidance of the medium of television (due both to the limitations of sound quality at the time as well as their desire to control their image and increase their mystique, not easy to do when you're playing for housewives on "The Mike Douglas Show") becomes very clear.

3. The Mud Shark An underground legend that went public with Frank Zappa's toss-off reference to it in "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" ("destined to take the place of the mud shark in your mythology!"), the story of a young band fucking a groupie with a small shark that had been caught while fishing out the window of Seattle's Edgewater Inn provided a blueprint for debauchery hardly equaled even today.

2. The Devil and Led Zeppelin In the commentary for his film The Man We Want to Hang, dedicated to the art of occult icon Aleister Crowley, filmmaker Kenneth Anger rather sheepishly admits that many of the pieces were seen courtesy of Jimmy Page, who had managed to consistently outbid Anger at auctions of the magician's work.

Then there's Page's acquisition of Crowley's Loch Ness mansion, in which many sinister acts of magick were perpetrated.

The guitarist's obsession with Crowley wasn't shared by the rest of the band, whose interest in the past didn't go much further than Elvis and "The Lord of the Rings." Still, a salacious media didn't hesitate to lump all in together, especially as Zep's fortunes seemed to turn dark toward the end (Plant's car accident in 1975, followed by troubled tours and the death of Plant's son in 1977).

1. What's in a Name? While the story goes that Keith Moon named the then-New Yardbirds "Lead Zeppelin" because he thought they'd go over like a lead balloon (badly), Page and Plant were immediately drawn to the inherent dynamics of light and heavy, which fit into their conversations about where they wanted to band's music to go.

Zeppelin weren't the first heavy rock band (and please don't call them heavy metal!), but they were the first to really understand and exploit the fact that heavy sounds even heavier when paired with lighter influences. Since then, rock bands from Iron Maiden to the Pixies to Nirvana have added new twists to the basic loud-quiet-loud dynamic.

Robert Plant once said the reason he thought people reacted to "Stairway to Heaven" favorably even after hearing it thousands of times is that it starts quietly and steadily builds in complexity and intensity throughout the duration of the song. At the same time, songs like "When the Levee Breaks" and "Kashmir" establish an intensity that never flags, but is still splashed with shades of shadow and light.

And that's the magic of Led Zeppelin, Charlie Brown.

See also:
Then End of Internet Radio?
Six Freakiest Children's TV Rock Bands
The Satanic Cosmology of Jack Chick
Author/Trickster JT LeRoy
Dan The Automator Remixes the Blue Angels

The Furious Passions of Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer

He had two Pulitzer Prizes, and six wives.

But while sex remained a fascination for Norman Mailer (along with power and celebrity), he lived his ideas — the good ones and the bad. His life became an 84-year fantasmagoria of fulfilled impulses, and the strange and wonderful knowledge that resulted. Woody Allen once joked that when Norman Mailer died, he'd donate his ego for medical research.

Calling ego "the buzzword of the century," Mailer boldly explored his passions in nine different decades, leaving behind a secret second body of work — amazing stories about the story-teller's life.

Here's some of the highlights.

Movies Gone Bad

Attracted by Hollywood intrigue, Mailer devoted his third novel The Deer Park to the depravation of the entertainment industry, naming it after the notorious 18th-century pleasure groves of King Louis XV. ("...that gorge of innocence and virtue in which were engulfed so many victims.")

But in 1968 Mailer pioneered a new form of excess, filming five days of unscripted improvisation "to dissolve the line between fiction and actuality," one biographer wrote — "to set the stage for an explosion of human passions." Fist fights broke out, and the movie ends with a genuine brawl between Mailer and actor Rip Torn.

Publisher Barney Rosset lent his house for part of the filming, and remembered that things quickly descended into chaos.
My mother in law went outside, then came back into the house screaming, "There's a midget in the swimming pool...!"

Someone had thrown Herve Villechaize into the pool, and he was drowning.

Rosset drove to Mailer's hotel room, banged on the door, and shouted "Norman, you've gotta come back and get your midget!" Villechaize was taken to a hospital where his stomach was pumped (possibly for alcohol), but the next day, the future Fantasy Island star was back on the set.

The movie told the story of a movie director — coincidentally, with Mailer's name — who's considering a run for the Presidency. Mailer wanted to explore what provokes the assassination of political figures, but the cast unwisely included both Mailer's wife and his ex-wife, and at one point Torn even advised the actors to attack Mailer's film doppelganger with their harshest criticisms of Mailer himself.
"All you want to hear is how wonderful you are."
"You never listen to anyone but yourself."
"You're spoiled."

The movie's ultimate achievement is probably the brutal honesty it uncovered. Torn's attack on Mailer — while wielding a hammer — was apparently triggered by disappointment that the movie hadn't followed through on its assassination premise.

"Four of Mailer's children — Dandy, Betsy, Michael, and Stephen — were terrified, screaming after Torn's assault on their father... Calling Torn a 'crazy fool cocksucker', Mailer wrestled him to the ground, biting and nearly tearing off Torn's ear."

Celebrity Gone Wild

In 1971 Norman Mailer showed up drunk on the Dick Cavett show. Backstage he slapped guest Gore Vidal, then literally butted his head, according to Mailer's recollections in a 1977 article in Esquire.
Vidal: Are you crazy?
Mailer: Shut up.
Vidal: You're absolutely mad. You are violent.
Mailer: I'll see you on the show.

Vidal had written a nasty remark about Mailer (comparing him to Charles Manson), and when Mailer finally took his seat, he sat in cold fury, spitting out fierce and cryptic insults.
Mailer: Why don't you look at your question sheet and ask a question?

Cavett: Why don't you fold it five ways and put it where the moon don't shine.

The audience hated him — But then Mailer's competitive instincts kicked in, and during the commercial break he sobered up enough to collect his wits.

"Why do you have to answer them with insults and nasty statements and they're answering you maturely and with dignity?" a woman asked from the audience.

"They're mature and full of dignity," Mailer replied, "and they'd cut my throat in any alley..."

In that moment a famous feud began with Gore Vidal that lasted nearly 20 years. "I've been misrepresented, by my own paranoid lights, for twenty-five years in this country..." Mailer told Cavett's audience. "I have presumed with all my extraordinary arrogance and loutishness and crudeness to step forth and say, 'I'm going to be the champ until one of you knocks me off...' But you know, they don't knock you off because they're too damned simply yellow, and they kick me in the nuts, and I don't like it."

It was one of the great moments of live television, and Mailer regretted only that his points hadn't come through clearly, though he'd definitely made an impression. (As he himself described it, "The good byes were short. Mailer turned around and Vidal was gone.")

This fascination continued, Mailer holding a fierce contempt with the mass media while occasionally also flirting with it. In 1981 he appeared as the doomed architect Stanford White in the movie version of E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime. And in 2004 he even played himself in an episode of The Gilmore Girls.

The episode was titled "Norman Mailer, I'm Pregnant."

The Boxer's Rebellion

Boxers are artists, Mailer argued, facing the same high stakes of ego and punishment that a writer faces when staring at a blank page. Or maybe Mailer was just attracted by the brutal pageantry. ("I respect most boxers," he once wrote, "because they're violent people who learned to discipline themselves...") His book The Fight captures all the social nuances of Muhammad Ali's 1974 re-match against George Foreman in Zaire.

But Mailer didn't just watch boxing; he'd step into the ring, sparring recreationally with light heavyweight champion Jose Torres even when he'd reached his 50s. And at least once, it went even further. Yesterday one online boxing fan remembered Mailer's most bizarre boxing moment, interrupting the post-fight press conference after the 1962 world heavyweight championship.
...after Sonny Liston flattened Patterson, Mailer had stayed up partying most of the night. He returned to his room early in the morning, but instead of getting some rest, or at least a shower, had spent the remaining time before the post-fight press conference drinking some more while trying to chat up the chamber maid cleaning his room. He made Liston's victorious post fight conference but preceded to barge onto the stage and attempt to explain to Liston that he could existentially prove that Liston hadn't won, and that he, Norman Mailer, was the only man who could promote the rematch into a million dollar event.

Liston, apparently, stared in impassive, silent, disbelief as Mailer was carried out of the room on his chair.

Strange Politics

In 1967 Mailer wrote a book titled Why Are We In Vietnam in which the word "Vietnam" occurs only on the last page. Instead the plot concerns two hormone-addled teenaged boys who wonder which one will bugger the other first. (The back of the swaggering book featured a picture of Mailer himself with a black eye.) Two years later Mailer ran for mayor of New York City, backed by columnist Jimmy Breslin, on a platform proposing that New York City should become the 51st state.

"I felt God wanted me to go into politics to save New York," Mailer remembered last year. "I was a high-octane fool."

He brought his novelist's ambition to covering the political scene, once receiving an invitation to meet President Kennedy, and remained fascinated by political personalities for nearly sixty years, and their suggestions about the national mood. In 2003, at the age of 80, he published a new book titled Why Are We At War — this time filled with an unusually timely analysis of the post-9/11 world.

"Since I believe in reincarnation, I think the character of your death is tremendously important to you. One wants to be able to meet one's death with a certain seriousness.. Terrorism's ultimate tendency is to make life absurd."

But he felt that a crazy religious fervor lurked behind the Bush administration's response. "Once we become a twenty-first-century embodiment of the old Roman Empire, moral reform can stride right back into the picture."

His political insights continued to the end. Last year a collection of interviews found him weighing in on Bill Clinton's statement about the Monica Lewinsky affair, that "I did it because I could." "I think the style of phrasing comes because of his wife.

"Having been married six times, I have some idea of what one says on such occasions."

Sex and Beyond

Norman Mailer didn't just write a biography of Marilyn Monroe, he wrote two — one, written in the first person.

The 70s also found him writing a book of essays called The Prisoner of Sex, much of it rebutting the new wave of feminists who were criticizing his public statements.

One year before his death, he published a collection of interviews performed by his son John Buffalo Mailer. Bill Clinton's remark that "I did it because I could" had been labelled by Playboy as the epitomy of the boomer generation, an "amorality" that frees the fool to pursue all courses with abandon. But Mailer made a simple yet irrefutable distinction for his own life.

"My amorality — if we're going to get into it — was a search. I wanted to learn more about sex."

Throughout his life, Mailer remained forcefully unapologetic, clinging to his own sense of the sexes and insisting human relations couldn't be reduced to simple formulas or sweeping generalizations. 1974 found him sending this letter to Women's Wear Daily.
It has come to my attention that Gore Vidal has been speaking in your pages of my hatred of women. Let me present the following items.

    Number of times married:Mailer 5Vidal 0
    Number of children:Mailer 7Vidal 0
    Number of daughters:Mailer 5Vidal 0

These statistics of course prove nothing unless it is to suggest that the reason Vidal may have married no lady and fathered no child is due perhaps to his love of women and his reluctance therefore to injure their tender flesh with his sharp tongue.

Ultimately Mailer's feud with Vidal ended with a rapprochement in 1992, and after Mailer's death it led to one final irony. In a New York Times profile, it was Vidal's kind words which were offered as Mailer's ultimate vindication.

"Each time he speaks he must become more bold, more loud, put on brighter motley and shake more foolish bells. Yet of all my contemporaries I retain the greatest affection for Norman as a force and as an artist.

"He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements."

See Also:
When Kurt Vonnegut Met Sammy Davis Jr.
Is The Net Good For Writers?
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes
Author Slash Trickster "JT Leroy"
When Cory Doctorow Ruled The World

CWILF Island: Hottie Candidate Spouses

michelle obama

Let's face it, being attractive has never exactly been a prerequisite for being First Lady of the Nation.

Take Margaret Taylor, wife of 13th President Zachary Taylor. Now there's a face only a shovel could love. And Herbert Hoover's wife? I dare any erection to withstand that vision. (It bears noting that, of course, these guys weren't exactly Marky Mark, either.)

Sure, there was the occasional Jackie Kennedy, the odd Ellen Arthur, betrothed to 21st President Chester A. Arthur. On balance, though, most of them were as funny-lookin' as their presidential partners.

Times have changed, of course, and today a shady character like Nixon — that shifty, sweaty fucker — could hardly run for dog catcher. So obviously (and especially in this culture where double standards rule the day), everyone's had to step up their game to be taken seriously in national politics.

But in Campaign '08 the candidates' wives have taken it to a level that didn't exist even just four years earlier. Don't believe me? Take a look at how much worse they looked in 2004!


So while most of the media are content to pretend to quibble about issues, we've decided to assess the fledgling campaign the only way it really deserved to be qualified – by rating the Top 5 CWILFs of the 2008 presidential race!

Just so that we're clear here: CWILF = Candidate's Wife I'd Like to Fuck. I'm embarrassed to have even had to spell that out, but you never know.

Now without further adieu, let's bring on the CWILFs!

5. Judith Giuliani

Judith Giuliani

Madonna mia! I'm a sucker for Italian broads, so in some ways I like her more than some of the others. But, she's guilty by association, so the fact she's willing to be with this skeevosa makes the baby Jesus cry. What can you say about a guy whose own daughter didn't tell him she was accepted to Harvard, and who publicly endorsed Barack Obama just to spite him? But more on her later …

4. Jackie Dodd

Jackie Dodd

The hotter of the two (!) Mormon candidates’ wives. And you never know about those magic underwear – everyone assumes that these must be granny panties, but since nobody’s talking about it, they could have modernized them into thongs or bikinis. And the fact that she managed to make her husband forget about dating the likes of Bianca Jagger and Carrie Fisher (in her hot Jedi days) says something, right?

3. Michelle Obama

michelle obama

Oh my, forget about the historical implications of Barack in the so-called White House, how about some hot chocolate in the Oval(tine) Office? Some bootylicious lovin’ in the Lincoln Bedroom? Is that even irony? I’m not sure, but I’m into it. The fact that she’s no wallflower (she’s described herself as having a “loud mouth”) only makes my hardened wood petrified.

2. Elizabeth Kucinich

Elizabeth Kucinich

Progressive superhero Dennis Kucinich has been getting his balls broken over his new hot, young trophy wife, and I for one am going to make sure this doesn't stop anytime soon. I haven't seen an example of beauty and the beast this extreme since, uh... the last time I got laid. Thank god she at least has a little beaver tooth thing going on with her mighty incisors, or else someone might accuse him of pandering to the electorate.

1. Jeri Thompson

Jeri Thompson

Despite the ick factor of actually imagining her curling up with that flubbery fossil, the wife of jowly, drawling old bastard Fred Thompson takes the fuckability cake. She's one of them there smart chicks, too (if I go to my grave without ever having banged a political consultant, it'll only be because god thinks I'm a douche and wants to see me unhappy).

Honorable Mention: Bill Clinton

Okay, he’s actually more of a CHILF, and I certainly don’t wanna fuck him, but I’m amazed by how many girls consider this guy an unqualified, no-questions-asked panty-dropper. Issues of age, infidelity, even politics fly right out the window. So for the love of god, if Hillary wins, somebody keep him away from zaftig Jewess interns, will ya? Also: can a First Gentleman be impeached? Pray for a Democrat-controlled Congress.

Honorable Mention: The Daughters

I decided not to make a separate list of candidates’ daughters I want to fuck. Not because that would be “wrong” (please!) – only because I couldn’t come up with a cool acronym. CDILFs? Doesn’t work.

But I can't resist calling out the previously mentioned Caroline Hanover (Giuiliani) and Meghan McCain, who’s just about the complete opposite of Hanover. McCain is accompanying her father on the campaign trail, maintaining a blog, and looking like the hottest prospective First Daughter since, um, the last REAL one. (Yes, I'm the father of Jenna Bush's baby. There you have it. Though she told me girls can't get pregnant that way.)

See Also:
Racist Porn Stars
Democratic Cartoon Candidates
The Five Faces of Bush
Senator Vitter's Suppressed Statement
John Edwards' Virtual Attackers Unmasked
YouTube's 5 Sorriest Questions for the 2008 Presidential Candidates

Britney vs. Bin Laden: A Celebrity Comeback Battle

What a weird, wacky week of high-profile iconic resurrections!

In one corner, we have a disheveled, sickly looking maniac who can barely move and appears to be in some kind of drug-enduced stupor while babbling messages of madness.

And in the other corner, we have Osama bin Laden.

But are these two really that different? Neither of 'em have had a decent hit in the U.S. since 2001, that's for sure. And right now both are hell-bent on trying to regain some traction in terms of contemporary relevance… appropriately enough, both in the field of video.

Ask any of Osama's wives, and they'll tell you our favorite joltin' jihadist is actually the sentimental type, and has got hisself all verklempt over today's anniversary of that thing that happened six years ago. (Which he did. Yes, I said it. Now all you conspiracy nuts can spam me at

First we get last week's reminder from bin Laden that he continues to play Road Runner to our Wile E. Coyote … meep meep! Sure, he looked about as stiff as Andy Dick at a Boys & Girls Club Pancake Breakfast, but look as good at that age I will not, hmm?

At least you gotta give props to his cinematographer for making sure his colostomy bag stayed outta the shot. Bravo! Now we're expecting his second video in as many weeks. Joy! I can't wait for another chance to be compelled to put aside my wicked Western ways and embrace Mustafa or whoever.

It certainly won't happen while I fight the urge to join the chorus of Britney-haters who seem to think it was a bad idea for her to shake her flabby, unsexy ass in front of millions of people. Yeah, like I can ever resist that temptation.

Everyone knows I'm no homo (although I'm totally gay for that new Iron Man trailer!), and I certainly likes a little jiggle on my jello. But this is no Beyoncé-esque, taut, round rump we're talking about here. Britney might as well tattoo the Frito-Lay logo on her ass.

Okay, so she's not quite Gwen Stefani in the post-natal department … whatever. Obviously it was all about the "dancing." I mean, I tell people I "dance," and I certainly will go out to clubs and "dance." But when I saw her on the MTV Video Music Awards, I knew instinctively that this was the same "dance" I do around 1:45 about 20 minutes after I should've left the club in a drunken heap. Or that time I decided whiskey and Vicodin would really unleash the Deney Terrio in me. Not so much. (The look on 50 Cent's face said it all – I had the same look when I saw Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity show and they launched a midget 50 feet into the air.)

Of course, this is all to promote a new single ("Gimme Monostat 7" or something like that) from the Brit-ster, whose recent contributions to the world include keeping various nannies busy and showing off her cooch.

So now that we've introduced our challengers, let's see how they stack up against each other in hand-to-hand comeback combat...

Tale of the Tape

bin Laden – Exiled terror icon. Once a reviled boogeyman for the Bush administration, now more like the Johnny Carson of Jihad. (You see him once in a blue moon, and he looks worse every time).

Britney – Fallen pop tart. Once a Madison Ave poster girl inspiring erections across lines of age, race and income, now more like the girl you end up bangin' after a drunken 3 a.m. introduction at the Jack in the Box drive-thru.

Let's get ready to rumble...

Still Sexy?

bin Laden – I don't know, man, it's not really working for me without that whole rough 'n' rugged cave thing going on. Plus I prefer my terrorists wild-eyed and frothing at the mouth. Ol' Ossie just doesn't have that eye of the tiger anymore.

Britney – She looks like her belly button stinks. Ew.

Winner … bin Laden!


bin Laden – As previously stated, the guy just really doesn't have the dynamism anymore. And unlike Britney's choreographer, al-Qaeda's production team didn't have the wits to surround him with high-flying, acrobatic jihadists doing somersaults in the background to give it some sorely needed pizzazz.

Britney – Like watching a perfect trainwreck. Except the train is too fat and drunk to speed down the tracks, and it kinda waddles its way toward disaster. Britney's performance was her generation's "Aloha from Hawaii." Only Elvis didn't look this bad till he was 40, and she's … what?! 25?! Sweet mother Mary!!

Winner … Britney!

Will It Fly?

bin Laden – Is there anyone left with half a brain who hasn't realized this guy is the Colonel Sanders of Islamic extremism? Twenty years from now nobody will even remember he existed, but they'll still be handing out buckets of terror with his face on 'em. The only real question left for bin Laden is how much time his kidneys will leave for him to get really desperate for attention.

Britney – Judging by what a predictable mess the last five years became for Ms. Toxic, I'm guessing not. I mean, think about it – we're talking about someone who's managed to make Christina Aguilera look like Ute Lemper by comparison! The only real question left for Britney is whether she'll end up like Anna Nicole Smith. Although I personally have little interest in seeing her bloated corpse anytime soon. Not when her bloated non-corpse is still worth some entertainment...

Winner … You tell us, in the comments.

The Male Scale: 10 Archetypes

Legends of the Fall - Brad Pitt

Manhood is in flux.

Until the 19th century and the beginning of the Women’s Suffrage movement, traditional gender definitions prevailed. But as women gradually claimed their share of political power, they were not content with the classic male-work-rational-strong vs. female-home-emotional-weak dichotomy that dominated — and of course they shouldn’t have been.

Men resisted the movement until they could do so no longer. As women took steps to define their own gender roles, men missed the opportunity to do the same. We were left with a confused, ragtag concept of what it means to be a man, defined not by ourselves, but rather by contrasting ideals from two sources — liberated women and posterity.

But most modern men defy these narrow stereotypes, taking pieces of each. So without further ado, I now present to you...

The Male Scale

John Wayne1: John Wayne
The cowboy. Solitary, doesn’t need anyone else, but everyone else needs him to save the day. He is untethered by the world, an emotional Gibraltar. Therein lies his power, and his doom.

James Bond2: James Bond
Bond is…almost untrammeled. As a spy, he is defined by his one “weakness,” a desire to save the women who he encounters, and not solely for the sex. It is this chink in his armor, this mite of sensitivity in an environment where it could mean his death, that has made his image an echoing one.

Hemingway3: Hemingway
Hemingway would pretend to be Wayne, hunting and fishing and eschewing the women for the guys. For Chrissake, he got a special dispensation to hunt U-Boats in the Caribbean during WWII, which really just was him and his buddies getting drunk in pleasant waters. But his manliness, down to his nickname — Papa — was always a bit of trying too hard, always a dodge from the heavy emotions that consumed him. His characters were constantly hurt and refused to show it. He was the sensitive man who couldn’t bear to think it, so tried to cover it up with obscene displays to the contrary.

Jason Bourne4: Jason Bourne
As we reach the middle of the scale, Bourne is a twist on Bond. He has that something that many men crave, that surety that every other guy he sees, he can take in a fight. But he’s also a man in search of himself, haunted by his status as an assassin. If you choose to see it that way, he represents a drive towards self-awareness that few action heroes attempt.

Harry Potter5: Harry Potter
Harry isn’t the best wizard. He’s not the smartest. But he is the bravest. He alternates between brash actions that make you cheer cringe, and moments of self-doubt and emotional connection that, well, make you cheer and cringe. He is motivated by the desire to protect, but also for love and family. And, of course, he combats evil. It’s fitting, perhaps, that the balance is embodied in a child, who is less affected by the cultural ideas that can take root in the soul after so many years.

Brad Pitt6: Brad Pitt
Right, right. We all know he plays a badass Irish boxer, a secret agent, and Tyler Durden. But let's not forget roles like Tristan in Legends of the Fall. (Sure,Tristan was one of the Knights of the Round Table in Arthurian legend, but the name also means "sad"). And, since hooking up with Jolie, Pitt has actively been trying to change his image from sex symbol to humanitarian aid symbol. That Vanity Fair cover he got so upset about was said by some to be working against this new image.

Barack Obama7: Barack Obama
Obama is a sensitive voter’s fantasy, hitting all the right notes of compassion and unity and hope. He lets us fantasize about the possibility of a President who isn’t a 1 or a 2 like most of those we’ve gotten over the years (particularly from the Republican party). Although he displays a strong chin, he is constantly criticized for his “lack of experience,” meaning his indecisiveness, lack of definitive policy, etc. In effect, he’s being criticized for not being more like Wayne or Bond.

Anderson Cooper8: Anderson Cooper
The compassionate anchor. Cooper vaunted into celebrity, of course, with his impassioned reporting from New Orleans during the Katrina disaster. He attracts viewers who want something beyond that dispassionate traditional approach, an anchor with whom they can connect emotionally. His stature, fine features, and blue blood are also not prototypically masculine, but are part of a package that a lot of people find appealing.

Danny Tanner9: Danny Tanner
On Full House, he was father and mother, teaching his children about emotions really more than anything else. He was respectable, the kind of dad a lot of people would want. Of course, that didn’t stop everyone from calling him gay to the point that Bob Saget wrote a hysterical song defending Tanner’s heterosexuality.

Mr. Sensitive10: Mr. Sensitive
Just to get the point across, I’m going with a caricature here. In the certifiably crappy movie Bedazzled (whose only redeeming feature was Liz Hurley in shifting, besequined outfits), Brendan Fraser for his wishes switches his personality around in an effort to win the heart of this one girl. At one point, he wishes to be “sensitive,” which just means that he starts crying over crap like the flight of a bird. The lesson I think we’re supposed to take away: some, or even a lot of sensitivity is good, but for God’s sake, be a man!

So now I ask you: is this scale accurate? Is it skewed in one direction or another? Where do prominent figures you know fall? (I think Bush is a 1.)

Ethan Todras-Whitehill is a freelance writer who covers technology, travel, and subcultures. He contributes regularly to The New York Times and several national magazines. He also blogs at

See also:
The Scientific Laws of Romance
Nancy Drew's Sexy Secrets
Girls Are Geeks, Too
Why Chicks Don't Dig the Singularity
Top 5 Cartoon Hunks

Hype Smackdown: iPhone v. Paris Hilton

iPhone v. Paris Hilton

It's a battle of pop culture titans as two empires -- one high-tech, one high-rise -- clash in explosive PR fury. Since these two heavyweight memes have climbed into the competitive media ring of their own volition, we thought we'd size them up for you. As Stephen Colbert would say: "Pick a side -- we're at war!"

iPhone: Simple to use.
Paris Hilton: Simple.

iPhone: Well-protected against viruses.
Paris Hilton: Has herpes.

iPhone: Critics complained battery life too short.
Paris Hilton: Critics complained prison life too short.

iPhone: Provides driving directions.
Paris Hilton: Knows how to drive. (Sort of.)

iPhone: Responds to touch from multiple fingers at once.
Paris Hilton: Responds to touch from multiple fingers at once.

iPhone: Wants to be held by everyone.
Paris Hilton: Wants to be held by her mother.

iPhone: Sexy footage leaked onto the net.
Paris Hilton: Sexy footage leaked onto the net.

iPhone: Appeared in multi-million dollar ad campaign.
Paris Hilton: Appeared in House of Wax.

iPhone: Everyone wants what's in the box.
Paris Hilton: Everyone knows what's in the box.

Feel free to make your own comparisons in the comments...

See also:
Expect Trouble Activating Your iPhone
I'm a Mac v. Bill Gates: iPhone debate
5 Sexiest Apple Videos
How the iPod Changes Culture
Wonderful Wizardry of Woz

The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor – Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy

A porn shop in a cartoon unexpectedly triggered a lawsuit.

In the Family Guy episode "Peterotica," Peter and his friends go to the local adult bookstore. What happens next was apparently determined by the following sequence of events.

1. Family Guy asks Carol Burnett if they can use the theme to her 1970s variety show.

2. Carol Burnett says no.

3. They draw her into the cartoon as the adult bookstore's cleaning woman.

And then comes #4 — Carol Burnett sues them.

The Fox Network has expressed surprise, since she appears in the cartoon for only four seconds, but Burnett's lawsuit reportedly claimed violations of copyright and trademark law, plus a misappropriation of her name and likeness. This weekend a judge revealed what happens in step 5: Carol Burnett loses that lawsuit. According to news reports, a judge signed a ruling Friday that while the the Family Guy episode may offend her — the First Amendment allows parodies. (After all, her original variety show was famous for its own parodies.)

Carol Burnett is a pioneer in celebrity lawsuits. In 1981 she surprised legal observers with a successful lawsuit against the National Enquirer over a report that implied she'd been drunk in a restaurant with Henry Kissinger. (“In a Washington restaurant, a boisterous Carol Burnett had a loud argument... But Carol really raised eyebrows when she accidentally knocked a glass of wine over one diner and started giggling instead of apologizing...") She may have been vindicated over that slight to her public image, but as a public figure she's also fair game for ridicule. And thanks to Family Guy, an animated likeness of the 74-year-old comedienne can be glimpsed in some very unsavory company.

Like most Family Guy episodes, this one was a series of loosely-connected jokes, but this time they were tied together by the theme of adult books. Peter's disappointment at the adult bookstore's offerings drives him to write his own porn novels. (Including Angela's Asses, Shaved New World, and Harry Potter and the Half Black Chick.)

Ironically, in this episode of the cartoon, it's the Family Guy himself who is eventually sued — though for different reasons. Peter's own erotic novels are so steamy that they prompt one driver to remove his shirt while driving. (He'd been listening to the book on tape version of Peter's adult book, The Hot Chick Who Was Italian. Or Maybe Some Kind of Spanish.) This scene may include another dig at Carol Burnett, since the tape version of that book is being read by a regular guest on the Carol Burnett Show — Betty White.

Peter's career ends after the disgruntled motorist's lawsuit — and he also gets a surprise visit from... Betty White.

Perhaps foreshadowing the legal showdowns to come, she tells him, "I just got a subpoena for an erotic novel, and I'm looking for the son of a bitch responsible."

Click here to buy a DVD with this episode!

See also:
Top 5 Cartoon Hunks
Screech's Sex Tape Follies
The Celebrity Breast Conspiracy
The Porn Star, the Diva, and the World Wide Web
5 Sexiest Apple Videos
Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey
5 Lamest Charlie Brown Cartoons

A Conversation with Justin Kan of

Photo by Scott Beale

It all started with Andy Warhol. He took a look around at the equipment available during the 1960s – tape recorders, video cameras, 8mm film – and realized that it wasn't necessarily about producing new narratives in the traditions of theater, opera and so forth. In fact, this was the stuff for documenting life right up to the point of tedium and beyond it, and it would be increasingly democratically accessible. This was, in fact, the context for his most famous quote: "In the future, everybody will be famous for 15 minutes."

Warhol was, of course, excoriated by both art traditionalists and committed political artists for presenting every day banality as art. But since he approached it all with such deadpan irony, others viewed his approach as the epitome of cool.

Today, Socrates' famous dictum, "the unexamined life is not worth living" has been surgically altered to read, "the undocumented life is not worth living." By the time Justin Kan clipped a mobile camera onto his cap on March 19, 2007, opening, it was just another step along the way to the inevitable – the fully mediated life.

On arrival, caught a media buzz. Justin appeared on "Nightline," "The Today Show," and "MTV News," and various blogs, newspapers and magazines covered his occasional travails (pranks, evictions, etc.) Not wanting to miss our chance at some camera time, we coaxed him into appearing on The RU Sirius Show.

Justin Kan showed up at our former studio in San Francisco's lower Haight with a small entourage that included his brother (who contributed a funny and cool rap song to the show). He proved to be funny, smart, self-aware, and entirely likeable.

Since we interviewed Kan last month, has started to spread its franchise. "Justine," a cute blonde freelance graphic/web designer and video editor from Pittsburg seems to keep the camera pointed mostly at herself, for obvious reasons. And "Parrris Harris," who calls himself a "fashion conductor" has also been added to the roster.

Pretty soon, there may be hundreds of people broadcasting their lives 24/7 via; or through some other "channel." Watching them must be somebody's idea of a good time.

Futurist Jamais Cascio and Jeff Diehl joined me for this conversation with Justin Kan.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS: You're sort of a walking security camera — the democratization of surveillance. Have you thought about the implications of that?

JUSTIN KAN: I've thought a lot about the implications of where we're moving as a society. We're losing our privacy, whether we like it or not, right now. It's partially voluntary — through blogs and things like, or through exposing your life on social networks like Facebook or MySpace. And it's partially involuntarily, through the prevalence of closed-circuit TV cameras everywhere. Camera technology and cameras in cellphones are getting so cheap that they're everywhere, and people are taking pictures of everything.

I guess the question in my mind is: how do we want to move to that? I think the worst thing that could happen is that there's a huge power disparity, with certain people having access to all these video cameras, and the large majority of people not having access.

JAMAIS CASCIO: I've written about "The Participatory Panopticon." David Brin refers to that as "reciprocal accountability."

RU: Brin also says "Privacy is dead, get over it." We are Big Brother!

JAMAIS: Indeed. You don't have Big Brother; you have scores of Little Brothers and Sisters.

JUSTIN: Exactly.

RU: So Justin, you're planning a sort of franchise thing.

JUSTIN: Exactly. I want everyone out there to be broadcasting their lives online!

JAMAIS: It's Justin.NN — The Justin News Network.

JUSTIN: Yes. (Laughs) I don't know if it counts as news.

RU: What's the most interesting thing that's happened to you since you strapped on the camera?

JUSTIN: One of the weirdest and maybe the worst was, right when we started, a couple days in, our viewers called the police on us. They used VoIP to spoof our phone number. The cops burst in, guns drawn, expecting to see this horrible crime going down when actually it was just three guys on laptops. I think they were a little disappointed!

JEFF DIEHL: You can do some horrible crimes on a laptop! Didn't they realize?

JUSTIN: They did not, actually. When we were trying to explain how someone spoofed our number with relay, one of them said, "I don't understand technology. I just shoot people!" (Laughter)

JAMAIS: Since you mentioned the police activity, what immediately strikes me is: you will, at some point, record a crime in progress. Whether it's somebody being mugged on the street, or something like that...

RU: You are such a pessimist! (Laughter)

JAMAIS: It's just the real world! You do this long enough, you will eventually record something that's illegal! And then you're therefore a witness — or more to the point, your archives become a witness to this crime. And the question then becomes: can the recordings be subpoenaed by the police? Have you given any thought to that?

JUSTIN: I expect they'd be able to subpoena our archives, just like the prosecution can subpoena archives of a security camera. They call in the surveillance company — or whoever is responsible for the tapes — as the witness, to testify how the camera was set up. I'd probably be in a similar position.

JAMAIS: Right.

RU: There's so many weird and interesting events going on in San Francisco. You could go to insane performance art stuff where people are putting nails through their organs, or...

JEFF: What?!

RU: I guess that was in the 90s – people like Mustafar were always performing. Or you could go to underground sex clubs and stuff like that. Are you staying away from the really weird stuff? Does it just not appeal to you?

JUSTIN: I kind of go for the weird-but-fun San Francisco stuff. Like there was that Lombard Street Big Wheel race, so I participated in that. You got to see the Big Wheel view of me, tearing down Lombard Street, ramming into people...

RU: Your greatest controversy was when you switched off your gear when you were with a young lady. This is, of course, the thing everybody was waiting to see! And it sparked much debate about whether you sold out on your promise to keep this thing going, consistently and constantly. How do you view that?

JUSTIN: Well, the bottom line is, it's my life, and I'll do whatever I want!

RU: (Laughs) Opportunity struck, and...

JUSTIN: Opportunity strikes, and... You know...

JEFF: "What's more important: this camera or getting laid?" If she's not going to do it with it on, then...

RU: But if you look around the net, there's obviously a lot of women who want to show off for the camera. Have you been approached by, uh, you know... women who want to make a reputation?

JUSTIN: I don't know. We're still trying to figure out what we can show and what we can't show. And I think that, right now, the safe play is definitely being family-friendly. We always like to encourage advertisers to approach us. And something like that might be a little over-the-top from a corporate perspective.

JEFF: Can't you just make an immediate fuzz filter, so — you know, the guy on the control just hits a button and it goes fuzzy. But you still see stuff moving around...

JUSTIN: We might be able to do that, actually. We'll have to hire an intern to sit there and move the little bubble around.

JEFF: The naughty bits.


JEFF: Isn't there going to be a big scandal for your franchise when the first person starts broadcasting themselves naked or having sex or something that's considered obscene? How do you regulate that?

RU: I thought that was the idea! (Laughter)

JEFF: Well, of course it is! But nobody's done it yet! I'm surprised nobody's done it publicly yet. I'm surprised you haven't done it publicly…

JUSTIN: has been R-rated at best, so far.

JEFF: But isn't that going to be a problem? It will probably become some kind of a free speech issue. You'd have to force people through some channel where whatever they're going to be webcasting — it's okay. Because otherwise, anybody can just load up their browser and watch people having sex!

JUSTIN: Well they can already do that. Just not on!

JEFF: You're going to make it a lot easier...

RU: So whatever people are going to do with their Justin franchises is OK to you?

JUSTIN: Well honestly, shouldn't be a platform for the (sort of) "bad stuff" out there on the internet. Whether it's hate speech or obscenities of whatever. So we'll almost definitely do some censorship. If someone's using their channel to broadcast themselves committing a crime – well, that's not something we want to promote. You know? We would definitely shut that down.

JAMAIS: Have you run into any intellectual property disputes — recording something that someone else claims as their own copyrighted material?

JUSTIN: Not yet. I guess if we were issued a takedown notice from someone who's music I listened to… but we haven't gotten anything.

RU: It seems like the one thing that you need to avoid is watching a lot of other media.

JUSTIN: Well, I don't go to movies. And I think I've watched TV like one time in the past 56 days, and the camera wasn't pointed at the screen. But honestly, the quality from the camera (recording other media) is such that you're probably better off BitTorrenting it anyways.

JAMAIS: That doesn't matter.

JUSTIN: I understand that it doesn't matter from a legal perspective. But, for instance, I've been invited by ClearChannel radio stations to come in the station and listen to music. I think they view it more as a promotional tool.

RU: But the music industry might start displaying their hunger for reward as this gets more distributed — just like they're doing with internet radio. A lot of people who use your equipment are going to be listening to music all the time — or else they're going to have to change their lifestyles.

JUSTIN: Right. But I wouldn't be surprised if the music industry realized that this is something more along the lines of radio.

RU: Yeah, but they're attacking internet radio right now!

JEFF: It's the same thing as people using it for sex. As soon as you democratize it and make it available for everyone to use for free — they're going to start going to concerts, and they're going to start going to movies. How do you police that?

JUSTIN: That's something we'll have to figure out as we go along.

JAMAIS: And how do you control it? Right now the camera that you're wearing is maybe the size of a small Mag-Lite. Within the next few years, you'll be able to wear something the size of a lipstick tube. Or maybe even something that's smaller than that.

JUSTIN: You can already do that. There are glasses that have built-in cameras that you could actually use with this. We made the conscious decision to make the camera visible; partly, to promote the celebrity of it, but also to let people know they were on camera. I think that's much more ethical than the alternative.

RU: Have you had anybody become upset about being on camera? I remember when I was walking around in the 1970s with a video camera — one of those ancient Portapacks that you strapped to your back. Some guy got really paranoid and upset that I was randomly videotaping people.

JUSTIN: I got kicked out of the Gap. That was probably the worst response. And some people request… you know, "Oh, I don't want to be on camera." So I kind of turn away and don't talk to them. And that's generally been okay. Most people — I'd say 29 out of 30 — have been really excited or positive about it.

RU: They want to be on camera.


RU: They think what you're doing is a cool thing. It's interesting.

JUSTIN: Exactly. And I think part of it is my attitude about it. I'm not an investigative reporter! I try to approach people in a way that makes them comfortable. I'm not "in your face" about it.

RU: Do a Mike Wallace trip on people! That would be a sudden turn for Justin!

JEFF: I was just imagining flocks of skaters downtown wearing these things and going around and pulling Mike Wallaces all over the place.

RU: Did you go to that movie that you were advertising?

JUSTIN: Disturbia. Yeah, we went to the movie. We took the camera off and played the trailer while I was in the theatre. So there was another two-hours where you didn't get to see of Justin's life. Mostly I was sitting in the theatre.

JAMAIS: So you say.

JUSTIN: So I say.

RU: I would think that the company that made the movie would've wanted you to sit there and view...

JUSTIN: I don't think they wanted the recording of video out there. I guess they could've turned the camera on me or something. That would've been cool.

JAMAIS: It would've been interesting to have a recording of your reaction to the movie.

JEFF: That's something that you could do during sex, too!

JUSTIN: (Laughs) Just put the camera on myself, like this, I guess...

JEFF: Just her view! Yeah!

RU: Justin's smiling face...

JUSTIN: It'll be like [makes a face]. (Dryly) Yeah, that would be great. I'm sure the viewers would appreciate that...

JEFF: Your "O face," close up.

RU: From what I understand, quite a large majority of your viewers are male. Does that...

JUSTIN: I don't know if that's true. A surprising amount of our viewers are outside the demographic that I thought they would be in — which was 13 to 35-year-old males. They seem to be… everyone. Mothers, fathers, older women, girls in their 20s... It's amazing that we've hit all over the map like that.

RU: What do you think is appealing to them? And do you think it can continue to be appealing over a long period of time?

JUSTIN: Well, I think the appealing thing about something like is that you get an inside view into someone's life. It's kind of a low-commitment way of having a real relationship. And you know, people want to talk to other people, and people like watching other people — fundamentally.

JAMAIS: It's very primate.

JUSTIN: Exactly. It's something everyone does, instinctually. So being able to just go to a web site and automatically have video of one guy — day after day — and you can see what he's doing and check up on him – that's something that appeals to a lot of people.

RU: It's like an extra relationship.

JUSTIN: Exactly. What's cool is the way that communities have formed around the video. People log in the chat room, and talk with each other. People with the same faces show up and they recognize each other. It's cool. After the first week, I stopped going to the chat room much. And then when I came back, maybe three weeks later, I was like the outsider. In my own chat room!

RU: Do you monitor what viewers like, what some of their favorite moments are?

JUSTIN: I get viewer updates every fifteen minutes to the cellphone so I can see —"Oh, this caused a spike." I was at the Halo 3 premier, and we plugged the live feed of us playing it into the transmitter. And we instantly got around 80 viewers. Everyone wanted to check out the demo!

RU: There has been some note that your viewership has been going down.

JUSTIN: (Joking) It might be because I'm not attractive enough!

RU: Do you have plans to do some things to bring people back? Or are you just going to let it flow...

JUSTIN: Well, we had this huge spike after we were on Nightline and The Today Show. Now after a huge press wave, we've basically stabilized. So we're working on viral tools to let people share their videos more easily; and to access the archives. We have this huge library of content. But am I going to do some horrible stunt? We'll have to see.

RU: If you get this franchise going, and there are a bunch of people doing this — are you going to want to watch a lot of them? Or are you going to be like me? I never really listen to other podcasts...

JUSTIN: You know, I don't watch For one reason, it's...

RU: (Laughs) Can't watch that damn thing!

JUSTIN: Yeah. (Joking) Everyone on it is irritating!

JAMAIS: It gets a bit recursive.

JEFF: The infinite regress is disconcerting...

JUSTIN: People don't want to see me watching myself. Over and over.... I guess when we do launch a bunch of other channels, I won't watch those very much either. I'll just get feedback from other people — let them tell me who's interesting and who's not.

RU: Rake in the percentages!

JUSTIN: Yeah, something like that.

JEFF: (Joking) Just don't give Josh Wolf your technology. God knows what kind of trouble he'll get into with it.

JUSTIN: He'll be back in jail, two months later!

JEFF: Do you ever want to unplug?

JUSTIN: That's a very common question. It's just like anything. There are times you want to and times you don't.

RU: Do you ever feel deeply depressed, and feel "Oh shit! What did I get myself into?"

JUSTIN: No, that hasn't happened yet. We're saving that for when we need some good drama!

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The Secret Ending of Pirates of the Caribbean 3

I didn't like Pirates of the Caribbean 3. But maybe I would have if I'd seen the ending. The real ending is tucked away behind the closing credits. In this crucial scene there's a flash forward — ten years into the future — and we find out what happened to Elizabeth and Will.

Fortunately, somebody's uploaded the footage to YouTube. It's just one way videos floating around the net give you a new perspective on movies, though it also raises an interesting question. Does it take a real act of movie piracy to explain Pirates 3?

Secret endings are almost a tradition with the Pirates movies. Each one included a very good scene hidden away behind its closing credits. The first Pirates movie tacked on a reminder of all that gold left back in the cave — the cursed treasure of the Black Pearl — in a surprising scene with a monkey. Pirates 2: Dead Man's Chest ended with a special scene re-visiting the island where natives held Johnny Depp captive. (It doesn't involve a monkey, but it does have a dog!)

But in Pirates 3 the extra scene actually reveals the fate of two characters. (Spoilers off the starboard bow!) If the curse of the Flying Dutchman keeps lovers apart for 10 years — what happens after 10 years? Is the reunion fraught with dread and bitterness — or do they have kids and settle down in the countryside? Maybe there's some improbable return to the land of the living after a magical green flash of light?

Watch this video and find out!

After two hours and 48 minutes, you can forgive moviegoers for heading to the exits early. (I'd seen a 10:40 showing which didn't end until 1:30 a.m!) "Maybe instead of At World's End, they should've called it At Credits' End," I grumbled later. "Because that's where all the answers lie."

But I ended up with a new appreciation for the internet — and its fan base of Pirates fans who assembled a stash of video curios.

It's easy to forget that Pirates of the Caribbean was once just a 40-year-old ride at Disneyland. Somehow, someone's uploaded footage of Johnny Depp re-visiting the clunky ride after it was rejuvenated to match the summer blockbuster. About 2:30 into the video, Depp's left the boat to poke his own animatronic figure as it rises from the barrel. ("It's a little more than spooky," he says.) There's also a video called Captain Jack Sparrow at Disney World, which is probably better if you don't know its backstory. Impossibly, the movie's swashbuckler seems to have turned up under Florida skies, mingling with children in full pirate regalia and corrupting them with his sword-fighting lessons.

That Johnny Depp is a sport — but how crazy are his fans? One woman found herself with a 20-year-old stick of bubble gum from a pack of "21 Jump Street" trading cards. Would you chew it if she also offered you its collectible Johnny Depp card?

But my favorite clip reminded me what all the hype was about. One fan created a mashup video in which Captain Jack Sparrow fights Captain Hook — using footage from both Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and the 2003 live-action Peter Pan. The two sets of clips mesh perfectly, proving what to me is the most timeless and universal truth of all.

That pirate movies are fun.

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Raising Hunter S. Thompson

B. Duke

Hunter S. Thompson lives on. In the play, Gonzo: A Brutal Chrysalis, performer and writer "B. Duke" incarnates the Last Free American Writer as he was during the intense and difficult years 1968-1971.

The play's publicity package tells it like this: "Fresh from his breakthrough success chronicling — and nearly being beaten to death by — the Hells Angels, Thompson embarks on a one- and two-man war on the Death of the American Dream. From Big Oil and the Big Three to the NRA and the Kentucky Derby, Richard Nixon and the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the usual suspects are strafed and castrated by the Man Who Would Be Raoul.

"What he could not conquer from without, he co-opted from within by becoming the single greatest and most effective danger that anyone before or since has been to the bipolar establishment that is American politics."

I would only add that on November 11, 1971 Rolling Stone published the first installment of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And in the following year, they ran his Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72. A generation was thus given an opportunity to learn the truth about America in the only way it could truly be told, through a cracked acidic lens that blurred fiction and fact and came to be called "Gonzo Journalism."

The SF Weekly said about "Gonzo: A Brutal Chrysalis,"
If you're looking for the fun loving and hilariously drug-addled Hunter S. Thompson portrayed on screen by Johnny Depp and Bill Murray you'll be surprised and uncomfortably mystified by this one-man performance about the founder of gonzo journalism. Gonzo is an interesting look at a lesser-seen side of the counterculture icon, but the performance feels like a reckless, all-out verbal assault. The theater's concession stand sells cheap whiskey and balloons filled with nitrous oxide, and the gunshots onstage feel dangerous and deafening. But perhaps, Hollywood sheen aside, this show is a truer look at the man who reinvented modern alternative journalism.

I interviewed "B. Duke" on the RU Sirius Show. Steve Robles joined me in questioning "B." Indeed, the media hook here may be that Robles waxed way obscene about Condie Rice days before Opie and Anthony's moment of infamy. Read on.
To listen the full interview in MP3, click here.

RU SIRIUS (INTRODUCING SHOW & GUEST): We were just starting the R. U. Sirius Show when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a little light-headed, maybe Steve Robles should host the show." Then suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us, and the room was full of what looked like huge bats swooping and screeching and diving around the studio and a voice was screaming, "Holy Jesus, they've just eaten Diana Brown!"

"B. Duke" was shot from a cannon August 20, 2005. He landed in my back yard and we raised him on belladonna and chili dogs, and he grew. Today he is a freelance counter-intelligence operative feared throughout the empire and certain precious gem syndicates. After giving notice to friends and family, he dove body, mind and soul into Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Recent sightings reported in South Dakota, Wyoming, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, read like confessions from some hideous corruption and conversion spree. He prefers LSD to all other drugs and aggressive seduction to passive supplication. (Most of this description is written by "B" himself.)

I don't know if I'm going to do aggressive seduction or passive supplication today, but...

B. DUKE: You seem like a really nice guy, but you're just generally not my type.

RU: Yeah. Well, we'll see what happens. I might change into something entirely otherwise after you finish drinking that water we just served you...

BD: My god, man, what did you do? Are you sure you put enough in?

RU: You might notice I look like a spider. So, describe the genesis of "Gonzo."

BD: My producer, "A. Duke," came to me in July of 2005 and expressed some frustration… wanting to get out of life as a techie. He'd done theatre work before, and he'd seen me do spoken word and other play performances in San Francisco. I did "Dr. Strangelove" and "Night of the Living Dead."

So "A." called me up and said, "I think we should do a play together." And I said, "Well, what did you have in mind?" And he said, "I think we should do a play about Hunter Thompson." I nearly hung up the phone on him. But he's been one of my best friends for over a decade. So instead I said, "I'll have to call you back," and then hung up the phone on him. I called him back in December, and...

RU: Why did you hang up the phone?

BD: I thought it was way too close to Thompson's checkout for us to be diving into something like that. It felt a little bit scavenger-like. Disrespectful. I'm a big "respect for the dead" person. Also, even though he had a pretty good influence on my life from an early time, he wasn't exactly the godhead idol of my universe. So we met in December, and I told him and "C. Duke," our director and executive producer that if they wanted to re-create Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I was out right then.

RU: Right. Been done.

BD: Everybody had tried to capture that zany madness and that sort of zeitgeist. So I suggested that we use Fear and Loathing in America : The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist. That's a collection of Thompson's letters from '68 - '76. I had read that a few years earlier and I'd become keenly aware that the nuances of a real man were there.

A great little history book called Don't Know Much About History tried to lift the veil of lionized demi-gods by remembering that George Washington once said to Henry "Ox" Knox as he was crossing the river, "Henry, shift your fat ass over, you'll swamp the whole boat." The object of the book was to treat historical figures as real people.

RU: There's a lot of material from Hunter… bitchy letters and notes…

BD: He was ferocious. He would start in on speed, probably somewhere around 11 PM or midnight, and he would go to bed about 8 or 9:00 in the morning – around the time his young son Juan was getting up. He'd get up around 3 in the afternoon.

We secured an original 1968 IBM Selectric Model I typewriter off of eBay for the play. I learned from working with it that you can lie through a computer really easily. You can delete whole swaths of material real easily. On the typewriter, you have to think continuously. Also, we're used to firing out our emails right now. Nobody takes time to think about anything. In these letters, he'd stop and start. They would take hours for him to create. And in between, he was hosting a lot of druggie friends and doing a lot of shooting and some traveling and...

RU: It's interesting to think that he didn't send those letters out impulsively. And yet some of them certainly have an impulsive quality about them.

BD: Well, he starts off 1968 in a pretty bad state. The Hells Angels almost beat him to death out — and that was the Oakland club. He had the incredibly bad sense to harangue a guy named Junkie George, He was considered one of the more uncontrollable guys on that squad. And if you can picture the Hell's Angels having guys on there that even they admit are uncontrollable...

Junkie George had smacked around his wife and kicked his dog across a fireplace. And Thompson quipped at him that only punks did that. And Junkie George laid into him. And once one Hell's Angel is on you, the rest will follow. And he got out of there only through the grace of a man nicknamed Tiny — who was massive. Tiny hauled Thompson out of there.

So he pretty much fled San Francisco and went out to Colorado for his best friend's wedding. And he kind of fell in love with the whole area just outside Aspen. But for Hunter, success immediately involved getting sued by publishers who pretty much wanted a settlement agreement that would chain him to a typewriter for them.

RU: A lot of his anger and a lot of his juice came from being really pissed off as a writer. Pissed off at mainstream publishing. Pissed off about not getting paid. Pissed off when his articles weren't published in full. That sort of thing. He was a warrior for writers.

BD: That's part of it. But at the same time, I think it does a disservice to Thompson to classify him as chronically pissed off. The top of my bong used to read, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." And I still firmly believe that.

He hated hippies because they weren't doing anything. There were other radicals around here, like the Diggers and SDS — people who really were fomenting change. But he thought the hippies were just lazy. But the main thing that was driving him in early '68 was that he couldn't come up with a new idea. He didn't know where he was going.

RU: There was a book about Lyndon Johnson, and then that got screwed because Johnson dropped out.

BD: That book was part of a settlement agreement from court cases. He was going to do that, The Rum Diary, and then he had sold the idea for a book called "The Death of the American Dream." And then Lyndon checked out of the race. And that cost Thompson about $10,000, which in today's money would be about $80,000 or $90,000. And he very much needed the money.

So Hunter became obsessed around that time with the death of the American dream. He could see things going just horribly wrong. In writing a piece titled "Presenting the Richard Nixon Doll—Overhauled 1968 Model" — the overhauled 1968 New Nixon model, he pretty much lays out the road map for why the Democrats are going to fail in 1968.

RU: This is before the Chicago convention?

BD: Yeah. That was another galvanizing point for him. That was the big face-off. And we make a big issue of that in the play. One of the first things that came up for me in writing the script was that this was a humungous turning point for him. Because he'd pretty much socked himself into Woody Creek, and wasn't going out much before he went there.

By the way, he read tremendously. His inventory of magazines and publications was twenty or thirty publications long — newspapers, magazines. And he didn't just read one side. It's not as though he just read all the left-wing stuff. He wanted to know what the other side was thinking. He read religiously.

RU: He was a political junkie. In fact, he was a mainstream political junkie. In a way, he followed it the way he followed sports. He loved sports and he loved electoral politics.

BD: He was a pragmatic realist. He very much wanted to see America succeed on the promise of America — hence "The American Dream." He wasn't trying to define that for anyone. He just didn't want to see it get perverted by people who were really just using us and selling us their version of the American Dream. And this becomes a very heavy point with him.

When he went to Chicago, he had originally wanted to go around and see the delegates. He bugged Random House for months to get him credentials to get in the convention. But as it approached, he realized that the convention itself was going to be largely irrelevant, and what was going to happen there was a pretty good-sized battle. And Richard J. Daley was no slouch. This is Chicago we're talking about

RU: Before the Chicago convention, Daley had recently given shoot-to-kill orders in a race riot.

BD: This is the old school Democrats. My grandfather worked for a steel mill, and when they were on strike, the mob would come in and try to break the strikes down. So when you're in a tough industrial production area like Chicago… the Democrats were not, you know, the spineless creatures of today. These were people who lifted bricks, worked steel, built cars, and would do it to it if you tried to screw with them.

RU: Right. They weren't going to put up with a bunch of flower punks.

BD: Well, there was a schism in the Democratic Party at the time. And the tremendous youth movement that came largely from California kind of fanned out from there. And so you had these older liberals there who Thompson would come to absolutely detest for their uselessness. They'd had the baby and built the family business and they were very comfortable and didn't want too much change. So there's this kind of uneasiness between the two parts of the Democratic party — the young people really wanted to turn American away from this travesty and end the war.

RU: Also, many of the Southern Democrats were still segregationists… Please perform a segment from the play.

The blowback from the mayor's race was pretty catastrophic. I was no longer a fellow among the people. Instead I'd become a dangerous freak among the misfits. "Communist!" "Dope fiend!" "Motherfucker!" I was commonly all three at once. "Thompson, you communist dope fiend motherfucker!"

Certain people who had once called themselves my friends and allies now said openly that Aspen and Woody Creek in general would be far better off if I met with some hideously violent fate that the Hell's Angels would do for free. Those treacherous cocksuckers would have to come up here and get me first. Randomly firing the .44 at the gongs I had mounted on the ridge crest kept any such fuckers from thinking that was a realistic possibility.

Besides, it's not like I'm a journalistic recluse any more. Whereas Playboy and Esquire may have cut me off at the knees, Warren Hinckle has decided to give me a platform from his new magazine, Scanlon's Monthly. Even when he lopped off entire sections of my NRA and Killy pieces, I was still able to take a head-on run at the fat bat bastards who have almost done this entire country in. The money was pretty good — kept things around here relatively fluid… that is, when they actually paid me. You see, Warren's intentions were noble but he has absolutely no idea how to conduct national distribution or spur an expanding subscriber base. I figured the entire thing was going to go down in flames owing me a ton of money in the process.

RU: Is this writing basically you trying to do the voice of Hunter S. Thompson? Are you incorporating his stuff? Is it all him? How does it work?

BD: I had originally intended to take certain passages from Fear and Loathing in America : The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist and kind of knit them together. I quickly abandoned that. I knew it wasn't going to work. Also, we would run afoul of copyright issues with the estate and I don't really care for his widow. She's done several stupid things that I really detest. So I didn't want to pour more gasoline on that fire. And unlike Johnny Depp or Bill Murray, I didn't have the luxury of moving into Thompson's house and getting the Hunter experience.

So I did more research and it was the political stuff that he did that really caught my attention. And at that time, I lived alone. So I had a great luxury of time to myself to do this. And I really kind of absorbed him through his letters, and went back and re-read things that I had read before, in the context of the letters, to get the complete effect. And I really allowed him to take me over. I spent a lot of time with my eyes closed imagining the world as he would see it.

And it's very easy to translate elements of his frustration — the Vietnam war to the Iraq war; spineless, useless Democrats to spineless, useless Democrats; vile Republicans to vile Republicans. Oil companies fucking everybody.

So I realized that I couldn't just try to sound like him. I had to reach in and find that agony. And I knew there was something in there that no one was really getting to because we're all fascinated with the myth of the gonzo maniac. But at the core, even our more outlandish people are real people (with the possible exceptions of Paris Hilton and Barbra Streisand). And as I started to find out more about his personal life, I could see where that pain was coming from. His wife had two miscarriages, one at four months and six months, both in 1968. And in 1969 she delivered a stillborn daughter.

RU: And that plays into your piece...

BD: Oh yes, it does. Yeah. We went for the man not the myth. Everybody knows the myth.

RU: Did you have any trepidation about trying to do this, in terms of a responsibility towards him as a man?

BD: I wouldn't say I had trepidation. I knew what we were going for, and my cohorts in were very patient with me in letting me get this together in a kind of organic way. There was none of this: "must meet milestone A to get to milestone B." We didn't work that way.

But I was really concerned about having to experience all of that pain. And up to the point where I got the Selectric, the process of writing this script was nothing but agony. It hurt all the time. After the stillborn baby, he really lost his mind. If you had given Hunter Thompson a button to blow up the world at that time, he would've pushed it. He was very blackened, and just horrifically torn

RU: Was he doing a lot of the drugs he was famous for during this time?

BD: He was doing a lot of speed at the time. He'd laid off the LSD, but was trying to get mescaline every now and then. The speed actually came from a nuclear lab in New York where his wife Sandy had been a secretary, and those poor scientists were paid so badly, they started producing methamphetamine.

RU: That nuclear crank is the best shit.

BD: Yeah, well... I think that's why he really didn't like the Hell's Angels so much. They were still fucking around on Benzedrine and he's got "Fusion power." Anyway, if you've ever been around someone who takes speed, the emotional roller-coaster ride they go through is pretty extreme.

RU: I've been very close to someone who took speed.

STEVE ROBLES: (Knowingly) Yeah, (Laughs) In fact, you could argue that the ability to have some kind of grip on reality becomes...

BD: ... very strained.

SR: At least as tenuous as while on LSD, I think.

BD: But Hunter slept. A lot of speed freaks will go and go and go and go until they collapse in dehydration, starvation, exhaustion. You know — spun out tweeker. But he slept every night and Sandy took good care of him. And let's not forget that we're talking about Hunter Thompson,

But Thompson rode the ups and downs of this, and he did drink quite a bit. And so that had an impact. And, of course, being sort of sequestered with Sandy there the whole time was a compound misery. And he was from an age where men didn't really talk about their feelings. They kept it locked up. He didn't believe in psychiatry. He took it on alone. So he was trying to grapple with all of this agony in his personal life. Meanwhile, the country's disintegrating around him. He got the shit knocked out of him in Chicago by the police. He started to feel like the whole nation was really slipping into a type of internal Civil War bordering on anarchy.

RU: He really felt it. He was not a cynic.

BD: No, he wasn't. And he'd already covered very heavy things as a journalist. He had been in South America for a time, and had covered riots down there and had done some tough reports in New York City and the Caribbean. He knew true toughness. He was unafraid to go into it. And remember, Thompson was like 6'5" and 185 pounds. He was monstrous.

SR: I think part of his wanting to speak out came out of frustration because there weren't a lot of other strong voices that he agreed with.

RU: Nobody quite put it into the package that he did. I was actually one of the people who would read Rolling Stone back when those articles came out. So I got the initial surprise of reading him… wow! Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was the first one I read.

BD: He and Hinckle and Ralph Steadman hooked up and pretty much made a pact to go ahead and rip these assholes out. I don't mean to say that he was ready to step up and become a John Lennon. But he was keenly aware of his ability to reach people and sway their minds, even one-on-one. And he was an ardent prankster and a total psych-fucker. He really enjoyed that.

RU: There are a bunch of stories about him doing some crazy shit. Do you have any favorites?

BD: Oh yeah. My personal favorite is when his friend was living in New York on the fifth floor of a walk-up in Hell's Kitchen. Thompson went over there to see him one day, and the guy wasn't home and Thompson got bored. And, with all the windows open on the fifth floor, he took a belt off and started smacking this wall with it: Whack! Whack! "Beg for it, bitch!" Whack! Whack! Whack! "Who's your daddy!?" Whack! Whack! Whack! And so the neighbors got really distressed and called the police, and the police stormed the place. So they went up there and found Thompson sitting alone. "Where's the other guy? What's going on there?" "I don't know what you're talking about. Who? What? Huh?"

RU: (Laughs) In writing this, did you feel like you had to adopt his lifestyle at all?

BD: Absolutely. I've been chain-smoking Dunhill reds since October and I don't smoke. My mother and my grandmother and my girlfriend are all very concerned that if the play continues to be a success, I will have to continue smoking.

RU: What about all the other enjoyments? Had any adrenochrome? Did you bring any adrenochrome with you? (Laughter)

BD: My attorney's not as good as his!

SR: You don't have the Samoan?

BD: Hey, he was Mexican, dammit! (Laughter)

SR: How about Wild Turkey?

BD: Absolutely. I've been drinking 101 pretty much rabidly for a while.

SR: Yowch!

BD: (Laughs) Smoking a lot of pot, and taking acid.

RU: It would be really hard to be a Gonzo journalist right now. In terms of mainstream publications, nobody let's you do it! Lester Bangs was sort of the last one to get away with it in the rock press.

BD: Matt Taibbi. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone is the heir apparent to Hunter Thompson. He is on the mission...

RU: I guess I haven't been reading it lately

BD: I first noticed him about two years ago when he went to Burning Man and proclaimed it for what it is — toothless and wallowing in its own muck and irrelevant to anyone or anything. The next week, he went out to New Orleans with Sean Penn, who was on some insane rescue mission for a single black woman in an underwater parish. Tabbi went into this destruction with Penn and filed an incredible story. He has been in Washington since, ripping every single one of these vile greed-heads that we love to hate. And he names the names. He tells you exactly who they are and what they're doing. He went into a Senate fundraiser for this one Senator from Alaska posing as a Russian oil company investment banker. And the company name he made up translated to "oily fart gas." And he really did kind of go in and invade this scene Thompson-style. But he doesn't do drugs like Hunter did. Or at least if he does, he's very quiet about it.

RU: It's great that it can still happen. I think the magazine industry — the magazine people are much more tight-assed than they were in the late 60s. I'm surprised and pleased to hear that Wenner lets somebody rip. Of course, people can do gonzo on the web. But the other question is, does anybody do it well? What do you think about that? Certainly, lots of people are trying to mix fiction and non-fiction and tell wild drug tales and so forth. But who does it well?

BD: Well, Arianna Huffington, when she finally saw the light and was forced to admit that our government was freely for sale — I sent her a letter. She and my father are friends. I sent her a letter welcoming her to the punk rock club, and recommended that she purchase Dead Kennedys albums and Black Flag and the Circle Jerks and catch up on things. She never wrote back...

RU: She's never written back to me either.

BD: She could go far. She could go far with that dyed red job and just a little shave on the side. She could be hot! Think about it.

SR: Could be?! I would bang the living crap out of her. I'd bang her so hard that her fucking ex-husband would feel it.

JEFF DIEHL: Is that before or after Condoleezza Rice?

SR: I'd do both at once, man. How about that? How about a little salt and pepper in my hotel room.

BD: No no no... listen. Condoleezza Rice needs a devoted line of slave boys under her desk to try to achieve the impossible, and that is an orgasm.

But getting back to what we were saying about being a gonzo journalist in the early 21st century. What it takes is guts, determination and belief. Rolling Stone ran an interesting piece a couple years ago that showed how most journalism schools are turning their graduates towards marketing. And journalism has always been right up there with teaching in terms of poverty. But that's not true any more. Journalists can make it. And then there's the fact that these — as Thompson would've said it — castrated editors and publishers are afraid to rock boats. No one will touch GM or Westinghouse. And then we had the brainwashing from the Bush administration. People were genuinely afraid to step out. This was the most dangerous time since at least the McCarthy era for this country, where the backswing of the administration, in terms of curtailing liberty and intimidating free speech, really did put a clamp down on all of us. We're just now getting out from under that.

But there's no journalist Gary Cooper for this generation. First of all, it has to start in the schools. This is where Thompson's death could really help us out. Thompson is going to become a college course in places like Columbia.

RU: Right. And people are going to wonder: Why can't we do this? I mean, there was a whole narrative around this idea of New Journalism that has kind of disappeared.

BD: Professors need to be willing to take chances, and to do more in the publish-or-perish environment than stroke their own egos. We're at war. Our country really is going to hell. I feel like it's the Roman Empire, circa 425. One more venal or weak leader, and we're done.

RU: Before we let you go — give us another piece of your act.
BD (AS HST): Steadman's still recovering from that debacle in Newport at the America's Cup last year. He really went at it from all angles, including a rock band whose single at the time was "Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker!" Including Ralph on his first hallucinogens, and for his bravery, he was treated to a near hopeless flight from harbor police and private security as we tried to spray-paint "Fuck the Pope" on a large yacht and were undone by steel balls in the spray can. I was using the flare gun to cover our asses for a graceful exit from this. And there's Ralph — barefoot and psychotic, ambling onto a plane for New York. His plan is to get to the Scanlon's offices, and to sort of blend in with the other freaks and get some down time. But he lands there, takes a cab to Scanlon's, and finds out that they are locked up tight. They'd folded the day before. I already knew that. But Ralph's mind was in such a delicate condition at the time that I couldn't tell him. One last thing, and that would've been it. And he was far too valuable for future excursions. So I think I'm going to have to give him a pass on this one. I mean, last time I talked to him, he was still having severely debilitating flashbacks, and hoping for a soon return to a relatively peaceful normalcy as much as Ralph really can.

It's time to dial in the other hardcore pro. Oscar Zeta Costa and I had been working both sides of this wretched street for years. He's the main engine in the Mexican brown power movement down in Los Angeles – an attorney of unflinching gall, hypnotic oratory, and the will to do what the other guy won't every single time. He can shut down large stretches of that vast nightmarish metropolis by calling for a one-day strike among the Latinos. And yet, he's under the delusion that he can build a country where freaks like us are safe from prosecution as he settles into a tweed-and-loafers existence as a UCLA law professor. Oh yeah, we've traded barbs over who's the bigger sell-out — co-opted into a comfortable existence just outside the wires. But being called an infantile anarchist by that Mexican dunce with the moles… That was the last straw. It's time to call that rotten little spic on his shit, haul his ass out of Los Angeles, and to a place where he cannot escape the overwhelming filth that is America. Las Vegas is neutral territory for both of us. Neither one of us has any connections there, or any clout that's going to count for anything other than a quick getaway if we need it.

"Gonzo: A Brutal Chrysalis" will be performed in Seattle in September-October.

September 20-22, 27-29
The Freehold Theater
1525 10th Ave.
Seattle, WA

October 4-6
Capitol Hill Arts Center
1621 12th Ave.
Seattle, WA

They are also seeking a venue for a planned a September run in Los Angeles and would welcome any information about those venues at:

See also:
When Kurt Vonnegut Met Sammy Davis Jr.
Willie Nelson's 'Narcotic' Shrooms
Drugs and Sex and Suzie Bright
Did Bush Spin Like Nixon?
The Chicks Who Tried to Shoot Gerald Ford
David Sedaris Exaggerates For Us All
20 Secrets of an Infamous Dead Spy

The Celebrity Breast Conspiracy

"Public diplomacy" in Hollywood isn't exactly an exercise in subtlety. But sometimes, publicists, studio executives, or whoever dreams up these boob-headed propaganda schemes, actually try to trick us by presenting "authentic" incidents of "titillation". Which are totally not authentic.

In fact, call us paranoid, but we strongly believe there is a well-established, but never openly-acknowledged, plan among movie marketers and star handlers to manipulate the constituencies of female celebrities. Shocking? Yes.

However, here's five tabloid examples that make the case.

1. Dead Man's Chest?

Three franchises compete this weekend over the biggest box office in movie history. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 is the big contender, and suddenly its lead actress starts jabbering about... well, here's the resulting headlines.
Keira Knightley Wants Bigger Breasts
Keira Knightley Wishes She Had Larger Chest Size
Knightley Not Happy With Her Breasts, Wants Them Bigger
Knightley: 'I don't have tits!'

Keira plays the feisty Elizabeth Swann in the new Pirates movie — an adventure-loving tomboy. Of course there's a line of merchandise associated with the film, and when asked later for her opinion on her officially licensed action figure, Keira responded similarly. "It's nothing like me! She's got tits, for a start! I don't have tits!"

And the headlines rolled again...
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Live Woman's Chest
Keira Knightley Says Well-Endowed 'Pirates' Action Figure
Looks Nothing Like Her
Keira bemused by Pirate doll's ample cleavage
Keira Knightley: I Don't Have Any Tits!

Tits! Tits! Tits! Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Everyone got the message?

2. The Right Stuffing

But Keira is only the first example of a marketing ploy gone wild. Just a few weeks earlier, Spiderman 3 broke box office records by earning $117 million in its first day. By that weekend it had racked up over $381 million, and it's already become one of the twenty highest-grossing movies in cinema history.

But did Spiderman have his own secret weapon?

Just days before the movie premiered, Kirsten Dunst told British reporters that "I had to wear a padded bra for this movie...! I embraced my Mary Jane boobs!" And the headlines started spilling out.
Bust boost for Kirsten
'I had to wear a padded bra'
Kirsten Dunst sexes up Spider-Man's Mary Jane...
Kirsten Dunst Has Saggy Boobs*

* A blogger named Mocksie.

Kirsten Dunst issued more breast-related comments in 2004 while joking about the release of a video game for Spiderman 2. After spotting her character, Dunst announced "They made her boobs gigantic! I was like, 'Tone down the boobs, please!'" For this year's movie, her publicist apparently advised her to be a little more breast-positive. ("...I get it. It's OK... I didn't feel like it was sexist or anything...") And speaking of her character, Spider-Man's girlfriend, she added, almost prophetically, that "I know that her boobs are usually enhanced on the action figure toys as well."

A few days later, Marvel comics issued this 7-inch collectible figure.

Is Kirsten Dunst's bra-stuffing a legitimate news story? (It is a kind of special effect...) It's a bit of trivia that seemed suspiciously timed, guaranteed to seize the attention of the celebrity press, even those who were already covering the future of Spiderman movies. One reporter ultimately couldn't resist asking as his next question "whether her bigger breasts will be seen in a fourth film?"

3. Charlie's Nipple

Can Shrek 3 compete with this titillation? After all, the film's leading actress is...a giant animated ogre. But fortunately for the producers, her voice is supplied by Cameron Diaz, who played one of Charlie's Angels. Leaving nothing to chance, she appeared to promote the film on The Ellen DeGeneres Show — and then pulled her breast out.

Cameron Diaz flashes boobs on Ellen
Ellen Checks out Diaz's Boob
Cameron Diaz Has Nip Slip on Ellen Show
Diaz bares a breast on Ellen

In the press, the incident was a wardrobe malfunction, of course, and Ellen relayed a message to Diaz from the production staff.

"They're asking you to pull up your shirt."

But it was a publicity masterpiece — and all the headlines prove it.
Shrek 3! Shrek 3! Cameron's nipple! Shrek 3!

No wonder Muslim fanatics hate us.

4. The Visible Woman

That's enough breasts to last through Memorial Day weekend — but at least one Hollywood actress thinks you're in for a long, hot summer.

Two weeks before the Fantastic Four sequel opens, the film's leading actress starts making the rounds. Jessica Alba clumsily announced to one reporter that she hopes this movie will alleviate the ongoing problem of how friggin' hot she is. "I hope all my new work will help producers in getting past my hotness," she complained to GQ magazine.

And then for good measure, she started talking about sexy body parts.

"I have my own fashion style and do not try to fit in," Alba began "I don't have my breasts under my chin, I'm not showing butt cheeks, nor much legs..." So she's saying she dresses her tragically-hot body in a less-than-sexy manner. But this plea for attention is so blatant, Gary Larson could've used it for a new Far Side cartoon.

What Jessica Alba says:

"I don't have my breasts under my chin, I'm not showing butt cheeks."

What reporters hear:

"Blah blah blah breasts. Blah blah blah butt cheeks."

5. Disney Girls

There's other examples of this phenomenon too. In 2005 a rumor leaked to the tabloid press that Lindsay Lohan's breasts were so humongous, they'd had to be digitally reduced when she appeared in Disney's newest movie about Herbie the Love Bug. (Which was, ironically, called Fully Loaded)

The film's producers later squelched this rumor — and in fact, 18-year-old Lohan spent most of the movie in a sternly unrevealing racing uniform.

Two years later Lohan would check into rehab after crashing her Mercedes in a suspected DUI incident. But her brush against notoriety had already put this whole phenomenon into perspective.

Yes, movie publicists and the entertainment press like to steer the conversation towards what's "under the hood."

But ultimately isn't it even more demeaning to pretend there's nothing there at all?

See also:
The Secret Ending of Pirates of the Caribbean 3
10 Worst Spiderman Tie-Ins
Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey
World Sex Laws
Libertarian Chick Fights Boobs With Boobs
Sex Expert Susie Bright Lets It All Out

Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey

VH-1 proudly displayed the clip on their blog, gloating that in comparison, "All the throwdowns from the current drama-filled season of Celebrity Fit Club seem like kids' stuff..." It's Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey Walden— the detached smart-ass comic confronted by a former Marine drill instructor.

Dustin's been riding a wave of publicity ever since that infamous sex tape was released to the world. (Click here for our interview with Dustin about it.) Did Dustin enjoy the notoriety too much? Or did VH-1 set him up? And is it a verbal beatdown — or a former child star righteously standing his ground?

After 11 years of playing Screech on Saved by the Bell and its sequels, Dustin became a standup comic, ultimately joining the cast of VH-1's celebrity weight-loss competition. In this profanity-laced clip from Sunday's episode, Dustin weighs himself for Sgt. Harvey and the show's nutritionist, Dr. Ian Smith. Dustin had already challenged comedian Ant, the shows host, to "physical combat" for making what he thought was a bad call. When Harvey aggressively dismisses him, Dustin offhandedly refers to the UFC, which is the Ultimate Fighting Championship — a cable TV fighting show.

And then all hell broke loose. Blog
A transcript of the video appears below

HARVEY: Three pounds. Get the fuck out of here.

DIAMOND: I gotta move? Everyone else has been up. I don't have to go anywhere...

HARVEY: Man, get this — somebody get his ass out of here! (Off-camera voice: "You're done, Dustin") You are fucking full of shit. I oughta, before you will tell me, I will beat your fuck — you must be out of your fucking part-time cartoon mind!

DIAMOND: (Turning to go) If you agree, we can set up the UFC...

HARVEY: Don't you ever god damn motherfucking threaten me! God damn! Don't you ever fucking threaten me!

DIAMOND: I did not threaten you.

HARVEY: You just god damn stood and said you fucking challenge me! I will wear your fucking ass out! Don't you ever fucking threaten me! I'm hear to fucking help your fat ass!

DIAMOND: You put yourself in a protected spot...

HARVEY: No, you god-damn — first after you said you'd kick his ass, you said you'd kick mine! Why the fuck don't you ever think?

DIAMOND: Did I say I'd kick your ass?

HARVEY: Yes you did!

IAN SMITH: You did.

HARVEY: You stood right there, and goddamn fucking said it!

DIAMOND: Can you roll the tape back? Is that what I said? Is that what I said?

HARVEY: You don't want fuck over with me, boy, 'cause I'll wear your fucking ass out.

DIAMOND: That's a threat.

HARVEY: I will fuck your world

IAN SMITH: Go, Dustin. Go, Dustin...

DIAMOND: That's the threat.

HARVEY: I think that... and you're god damn right, It's a fucking promise. It's not a god damn threat. It's a fucking promise! Don't you ever, in your fucking life — in your fucking cartoon life...

DIAMOND: (To stagehand) ....attack me on camera...

HARVEY: ...ever fucking threaten me, bitch. 'Cause I will wear your fucking ass out. Now you take that shit to your porn convention.

IAN SMITH: Get off the scales.

DIAMOND: I'm off the scales.

HARVEY: And if you ever fucking go to A, you better standby. Guarantee that shit, too. Now put that bitch on the VSPOT. Get the fuck out of here.

DIAMOND: Whatever.

This clip appears on VH-1's "VSPOT" page. It closes with Sgt. Harvey offering one final thought.

"He got away this time, but he's lucky my home girl held me back.

"Because I was ready to dissect him."

See Also:
Virtual Screech, Sexual Superstar
Screech's Sex Tape Follies

When Kurt Vonnegut Met Sammy Davis

When Kurt Vonnegut published Slaughterhouse Five, he was 47. He'd struggled for 20 years to earn a living as an American writer, working as a public relations man for General Electric, an advertising copy writer, and even a car salesman. "All I wanted to do was support my family," Vonnegut wrote in 1999. "I didn't think I would amount to a hill of beans."

But this forgotten period of his life also includes a haunting story about television, a World War II story, and Sammy Davis Jr.

With two children, "I needed more money than GE would pay me," Vonnegut wrote in his introduction to Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction. "I also wanted, if possible, more self-respect." Vonnegut hoped to spend his life writing short stories for magazines, and began tapping his experiences in World War II — and in the world that followed. But in the 1950s the magazines publishing his fiction were exterminated by the ultimate juggernaut: television.

"You can't fight progress," Vonnegut wrote bitterly. "The best you can do is ignore it, until it finally takes your livelihood and self-respect away." In 1958 his sister died — and then her husband a few days later — and the 36-year-old would consider abandoning writing altogether.

In another world, Sammy Davis Jr. was a rising star. Though the 32-year-old had yet to join Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, he was making a name for himself as an entertainer in Las Vegas and on Broadway. In a 1989 biography, Sammy remembered asking his agency for a role in TV dramas, and being told a black actor would be too jarring for audiences in the south.

"Baby," he replied, "have you any idea how jarring it must be for about five million colored kids who sit in front of their TV sets hour after hour and they almost never see anybody who looks like them? It's like they and their families and their friends just plain don't exist."

Sammy's genuine pain found echoes in one of Vonnegut's stories. D.P. — published in Welcome to the Monkey House — tells the story of the only black boy in a German orphanage. ("Had the children not been kept there...they might have wandered off the edges of the earth, searching for parents who had long ago stopped searching for them.") When the boy spots a black American soldier, he mistakes him for his father.

Sammy was cast as the soldier in a television adaptation of the story. Though TV was killing Vonnegut's career, he'd ended up as the co-author on this single teleplay. (Ironically, it was to appear in a showcase of half-hour dramas sponsored by his old employer: G.E. Theatre.) The published story ends with the young boy explaining his newfound hopes to the other skeptical orphans.

"How do you know he wasn't fooling you?"
"Because he cried when he left me."

In the teleplay, the heart-wrenching scene is played out. The alienated soldier — an orphan himself — finds himself abandoning the boy, yelling "Go away! I'm not your father!

"I don't need you!"

Then he realizes he can't do it. He collapses to his knees, and sobs "I need you."

And he promises he'll be back.

Sammy remembers that "everybody on the set was crying." Future President Ronald Reagan even wandered in — then the host of GE Theatre — and said warmly that "It's going to be a wonderful episode."

And according to Sammy's biography, his Hollywood agent Sy thought it was a milestone for America. "Well, sweetheart, you've made television history. When they write the books about the tube, they've got to write that Sammy Davis Jr. was the first Negro actor to star in episodic television... You'll have opened those doors for others to follow." Sammy remembered that "It didn't matter what as long as they broke out of it being just maids and butlers."

But there was one problem. General Electric worried that nearly two-thirds of their products were sold "below the Mason-Dixon line," according to Sammy's agent. His biography remembers that painful conversation. "They say they will be ostracized by their white customers and dealers. So there's no way we can use that show.

"The sponsor is the boss... GE paid for the show, and it's GE's right to bury it."

The show finally aired — in a doomed time slot competing against Rock Hudson's first television appearance ever. But surprisingly, it beat Hudson's ratings in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles — and was only a half point behind nationwide. The reaction was surprisingly positive, and GE even cast Sammy in two more episodes. And somewhere, America began to change.

Before publishing SlaughterHouse Five, Vonnegut struggled through another 10 years of writing. In Bagombo Snuff Box he complained that when he published Mother Night and The Sirens of Titan, "I got for each of them what I used to get for a short story."

But eight years before his death he'd look back fondly on the 1950s in America, remembering it as "a golden age of magazine fiction..."
"...a time before there was television, when an author might support a family by writing stories that satisfied uncritical readers of magazines, and earning thereby enough free time in which to write serious novels.

"This old man's hope has to be that some of his earliest tales, for all their mildness and innocence and clumsiness, may, in these coarse times, still entertain."

See also:
Robert Anton Wilson 1932-2007
Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes
Rudy Rucker Interview
When Cory Doctorow Ruled the World

Official Launch: 10ZM.TV

One of the reasons for the "video apology" term in the settlement agreement with Michael Crook is that we were already planning to launch a video property. Having Crook's apology in video seemed an appropriate format, and its wide viewing would help get some visibility for this new effort. We figure he owed us that much. There are a few things we're going to experiment with in the show, called 10ZM.TV, and hosted on the video sharing network. First, we'll be collecting video commentary from web figures on stories and themes we explore on our various other properties, such as this site, The RU Sirius Show, NeoFiles, Destinyland and Pastor Jack. Second, we'll record bits from our own writers and commentators. And finally, we're going to publish hot little bits from the continuous series of mind-blowing interviews conducted by RU Sirius. Rudy Rucker's interview is the first one we videotaped, so you'll see several clips from that in the coming weeks. So stay tuned, subscribe via RSS or iTunes, or watch Rudy Rucker now:
Science fiction writer Rudy Rucker, author of the book, Mathematicians In Love, claims that any natural process can be regarded as a computation, and that computers are not "digital."

Sexy Adult Secrets in “Little Children”

It was nominated for three Oscars, and won: none. Little Children dramatized Tom Perrotta's brilliant novel about suburban entrapment (and the possibility of escape). Was something lost in its transition to the screen?

Perrotta, along with director Tom Field, condensed his book's seven characters into movie-friendly vignettes. Even though their screenplay was nominated for an Oscar, it inevitably raises questions about what was left out — and why. Are book-reading audiences more liberal than mainstream movie-goers? Were some scenes too hot for Hollywood — or just too complicated?

Warning: this article is full of spoilers. Lots of 'em.

The Bi-Sexual Lover

When the film opens we see Kate Winslet playing an unhappy housewife at the playground. But in his book, Perrotta indulges in a glance at the life history that brought her there. An active feminist in college, she'd found meaning and self-discovery in a college Women's Studies program, ultimately enjoying "a passionate affair with a Korean-American woman named Amelia."

This digression leads to a scene which adds a crucial perspective to her future unhappiness. By page 12, Perrrotta has breezily recapped her failed grad school career, fretting that the best possible outcome would be "a one-year, nonrenewable appointment teaching remedial composition to football players in Oklahoma." She returns to a low-paying service sector job — at Starbucks coffee — where one day she spots her former lover, looking "absolutely radiant," with her husband and baby.

"Amelia shrugged, as if she didn't understand how it was possible that she even knew this pathetic woman in the green apron, let alone that they'd once danced to Aretha Franklin in their underwear and collapsed onto a narrow bed in a fit of giggles that seemed like it would never stop."

That year — and while working at Starbucks — she meets her future husband Richard.

Meeting Slutty Kay

Richard is seen in the movie, as the wealthy, fetish-bound husband who sniffs panties he ordered from an online porn site. The book describes his own troubled history — a previous twenty-year marriage from an accidental pregnancy, which ends in divorce. Yes, he'd turned to porn, before meeting his future second wife. ("They were both desperately lonely and waiting for someone to rescue them.") The book notes that it's the realities of child-rearing that first stifles their sex life. But it's only when doing research for his branding company — about the Y2K bug — that Richard stumbles across the web site for Slutty Kay. Richard was equally beguiled by the porn model's internet frankness — her confidence, her honesty, and her joy. In a surprise twist, Perrotta's book follows him further than just sniffing the panties he ordered online. "He could never get past the uncomfortable fact that she existed for him solely as a digital image," Perrotta notes, which leads Richard on a surreptitious flight to San Diego for a life-changing weekend retreat — with the Slutty Kay Fan Club.

It's at Beachfest 2001 that he calls his wife and tells her that he's never coming home.

This changes the dynamics of the film's crucial moment on the playground, when his wife must also grapple with the fact that she doesn't have a husband to go home to.

Larry's wife, the "fucking whore"

The mall security incident haunts former police officer Larry — but his life story casts a cynical light on the suburban town's morality.

His wife and he are devout Catholics — though he'd met her at a Miss Nipples contest at Kahlua's. After his own tragedies — the mall shooting was followed by the death of his father — Larry decides that "horrific things happened to good and bad people alike with no regard whatsoever for their goodness or badness." His Catholic beliefs evolve into some more profane. "[I]f some kind of God was in control of it all...then God was an asshole or at best an incompetent, and in either case was of absolutely no use to [anyone] who simply wanted to live a decent life..."

The mall shooting leaves him impotent, but it's his sacrilege that causes his wife to consider leaving him. Their final argument was ultimately about "a cleavage-baring dress she'd worn to mass during the July heat wave." During the week his wife wore the same nurse's uniform, and wanted Sunday to be a day when she looked nice.

After their separation Larry watches her bitterly at church, dressed "as if Dirty Dancing was the Eighth Sacrament." Which ultimately leads to a startling scene.

The Pedophile Among Us

Jackie Earle Haley was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the unreformed pedophile. But in one of the book's most outrageous scenes, the character's ever-faithful mother actually convinces him to go to church. ("Say a prayer for your old sick mother.")

There, inevitably, he's spotted by Larry, the now-relentless neighborhood activist. The moral-minded community has already identified the disturbing pedophile in their midst — "whole families fleeing pews" — but Larry watches his estranged wife sitting blithely with their children. "Just two feet away from that shitbag!" Larry announces. Tension builds throughout a sermon about how Jesus loved everyone — but Larry finally loses control, confronting the smiling pervert and trying to eject him from the church.

The congregation watches as he attempts to pull him from the pew, the pedophile crouching and clutching the kneeler. Ultimately he succeeds only in pulling off his pants — revealing "the blasphemous pallor of his butt cheeks."

"'I'm sorry,' he explained. 'I wasn't trying to pull his pants down.'"

"Please," says the usher. "Please just leave."

Why, Brad, Why?

The film's plot centers around the forbidden attraction between a married woman and a married man. Their rebellious passion comes as a surprise, with only an intriguing outline of their motivations. But the novel grants the reader a look into Brad's pscyhe.

Named Todd in the book, he's still the neighborhood legend, dubbed "the prom king" by the housewives at the playground. He's a good-looking, stay-at-home dad who boyishly can't resist midnight football games or the cajoling of skateboarders. But Todd remembers the day his personality was frozen. ("The afternoon his mother died, Todd and his friend had been throwing snowballs at cars...") When his father comes to inform his son somberly about his mother's death, Todd asks "Is this about the car?"

"Did someone tell you?" his father asks?

The moment now hopelessly confused, he eventually tells his son "I want you to live your life as if this never happened." Todd plunges ahead with relentless adolescent success, falling into a pre-law career almost by accident (taking the LSAT as a show of support for a fraternity brother). The book savors his grown-up dilemma — and that of his career-minded wife Kathy, trying to hang on to her ideal husband.

Played by Jennifer Connelly in the movie, the book grants her an extra scene, when she lures her unfaithful husband onto a final weekend getaway in the hopes of saving their marriage. In the bedroom she delivers "an amazing performance, marred only by the slightest trace of smugness on her face, a cool erotic confidence that he couldn't help resenting."

Perotta savors their situation in truthful, cynical dialogue.

"Do you love her?" she asks?

"I don't know," Brad answers honestly. "That's what I'm trying to figure out."

See Also:
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
Hating Roger Ebert
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube
David Sedaris Exaggerates For Us All

5 Freaky Muppet Videos

The Muppets exploded into worldwide popularity in the 1970s as regular performers on Sesame Street. But as pop culture changed, Jim Henson and his company found even stranger creatures to parody by mingling with real-world celebrities. The five-year run of The Muppet Show set the weird tone for a tradition they've continued to this day. These 5 online videos show what a long strange trip it's been.

1. Star Wars: the Muppets Strike Back

Just two years after the Stars Wars Christmas Special, and a forgotten appearance on the Donny and Marie variety show, the "stars of Star Wars" made a special guest appearance on the Muppet Show. (In one surreal moment, Mark Hamill attempts to do a Fozzie Bear impersonation, unintentionally reminding everyone how much Fozzie always sounded like Yoda.)

Kermit the Frog tries to lure Hamill and his droids into performing a musical number, noting to C-3PO that "your little garbage can friend wants to." But when the big finish arrives, it's a hunt for Darth Vader — assisted by the intrepid cast of "Pigs in Space." After a crash-landing ("You forgot to push the stoppy thing"), they discover a much shorter Darth Vader — played by Gonzo, with Miss Piggy standing in for Princess Leia. The spectacular dialogue about phasers is interrupted by an appearance by Angus McGonigle the Gargling Argyle Gargoyle, until — sure enough — the cast breaks into a poorly-explained music number.

2. Kermit meets Blondie?

Not only was Deborah Harry a punk rock singer and new wave pioneer — she was also a guest on The Muppet Show. In a surreal moment, Harry sings Call Me — the theme to American Gigolo — for an audience of cheering frogs, while new wave muppets with multi-colored hair lay down a background of synthesizers and electric guitars. Harry even performs One Way or Another with a muppet version of Blondie (wearing skinny ties and black and white suits), its chorus of "getcha getcha getcha getcha" dramatized by monsters behind doors (including a one-toothed blue fan named Mulch.)

The most inspiring moment was when the punk pioneer corrupted a band of boy scouts — played by frogs. ("The pogo? Would that get us our punk merit badges?!") They bop to muppetty punk rock until a concerned Kermit checks in on the troop. ("Does Mrs. Applebee know you're in here?")

After all the jokes about colored hair and safety pins, Deborah Harry joins Kermit in Rainbow Connection, acoustic banjo joining high new wave voice. Deborah Harry sings this one with sweet sleepy bewilderment. But maybe she's just surprised that she's harmonizing with a singing frog.

3. The Goo-Goo Dolls vs. Elmo

The Goo-Goo Dolls had two #1 songs on their 1998 album Dizzy up the Girl when they payed a call on Elmo's World, adapting the lyrics for Slide to the child-like muppet. ("Elmo whisper in my ear. I really want to hear / The things you did today / that satisfied you...") Inspired by their rock star cool, Elmo imagines himself in sunglasses and a black leather jacket — and bobs innocently in time to their catchy alterna-pop.

What's surprising is how well it works. The song's original cryptic lyrics finally make sense, and the tune's uplifting melody complements their message of self esteem. ("Let those good thoughts fill your head. You are furry proud and red...") Of course, probably the last thing Elmo needs is more people stroking his ego. His top-muppet status has already introduced him to an impressive string of celebrity A-listers, from Robert De Niro to Mike Huckabee, and even Norah Jones dropped by to sing a torch song to the letter of the day. (Y.) In 2004 Elmo topped it all off with a cameo on the West Wing.

When it comes to raw popularity, he's the king. Or as the Goo-Goo Dolls put it: "Elmo. No one can touch him..."

4. Love songs with Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper bit the head off a chicken and drank its blood onstage, the legend went. (And Frank Zappa advised him to never deny it.) The 70s shock rock star performed notorious live stage acts which included a boa constrictor and a guillotine — until his alcoholism led him to a stint in a sanitarium. And then he sang love songs to a muppet.

As a pioneer in music video, it was inevitable that Cooper would want to experiment with Jim Henson's creatures. Wearing his trademark "black snake-eye" makeup, he performed muppet-enhanced versions of his three biggest hits, and more than 25 years later, YouTube music videos have turned up to document the legendary meeting. During School's Out, a gang of giant, fanged monsters bully Cooper — wearing a cap and gown — in a bizarre dance number. During Welcome to My Nightmare, Cooper arises from a coffin (to the recorded sound of an applauding audience, followed soon by recorded laughter for the antics of a puppet skeleton).

When Cooper finally culminates his appearance with You and Me, his top ten love ballad, he's joined by an enormous green bird with rainbow hair and a studded beak. "I wanna take you and squeeze you til the passion starts to rise," Cooper sings, as they stare deeply and meaningfully into each others eyes. The strangeness works, ultimately emphasizing the song's message — that that's enough for a working man.

5. The Jim Henson connection

Looking back to the early days, probably the strangest thing of all is to see Kermit the frog with Jim Henson's arm attached, as he did in one of his last appearances ever on The Arsenio Hall Show. But in 1974, Henson had performed an even stranger trick— cycling through a series of different voices to throw off the panelists. (Which stumped Arlene Francis and Dr. Joyce Brothers — but not puppet enthusiast Soupy Sales.)

16 years later Henson was performing the same trick on Live with Regis and Kathy Lee, and it would be his last public performance with the frog before his death of pneumonia at age 54. So it's re-assuring to travel back in time and see the gentle puppeteer enjoying the reaction from delighted interviews — and showing just how much of his personality he projected into his work.

On "What's My Line," host Larry Blyden had jokingly addressed a question to Kermit the Frog, asking "How long did it take you to finally get Jim Henson right?"

Kermit replied that "The beard was the hardest part."

See also:
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
Pulp Fiction Parodies on YouTube

Screech’s Sex Tape Follies

Dustin Diamond

Dustin Diamond claims his hotel room sex tape slipped into the world four years ago. But anyone who's watched the tape can see that story's obvious flaw. Within the first five minutes Dustin's naked in a bath tub with his girlfriend, Jennifer, telling her:
"I wanna watch the rest of 24... What episode are we on? Did we get Season Four yet?"

"Not yet," Jennifer answers, "I haven't bought Season 4."

Season four of 24 was released just 13 months ago.

Reached for comment today, Jennifer said, "I can't believe I'm catching shit for not being accurate in a statement during downtime in my own home. Half the time I don't even know what day it is... and I probably had wine to top it off. I probably meant CSI and had a brain fart."

In the tape, Jennifer responds to Dustin's request to watch 24 by chanting, "Kiefer! Kiefer! He's my man." (Kiefer Sutherland does not apppear on CSI.)

Monday, the celebrity sex tape's broker told The New York Daily News that Dustin "made this tape in a St. Louis hotel room with two girls last summer with the intention that I would sell it."

But Dustin's girlfriend seems convinced that Dustin's hotel sexcapades with the two other women nevertheless happened in his distant past. "Considering the tape was about four years old, our little scene had to be before that... I still can't believe he taped over us."

If it's true, Dustin has been calling his penis "the monster" for over four years. Dustin also insists the tape was made shortly after he and Jennifer met in 2002. "Jenn found out about this and thought I cheated on her," he told 10 Zen Monkeys while he and Jenn relaxed in their Wisconsin home. He says when she'd confronted him about his X-rated antics, his concern was "making Jenn realize it was a long time ago; it wasn't that big a deal.

"I said, 'You can't be mad. I didn't know you were going to be around!'"

Standing By Her Man

Monday's allegation that Dustin knowingly filmed the sex tape for distribution this summer is well-timed — right before this week's Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas. On the implausible rumor that Dustin swapped in a cock double for the filming, Jennifer told the New York Daily News, "I would definitely know. I'm proud of my man."

"She's perfect for me," says the former Saved by the Bell star admiringly, "but at the same time she doesn't put up with bullshit."

They've already been through a lot together. In 2004, Jennifer suffered a miscarriage with their first child, after which they created the Dustin Diamond Foundation to support child care organizations. In 2005 Jennifer told a Milwaukee reporter they'd been married since 2003. But in November Dustin told me that "I'm not really married.

"We just say we're married because — might as well. I come home and hang my balls on the coat hook like any married man."

Jennifer, who met Dustin in an Arby's in 2002, is now also his manager. She promised to share the unique perspective this gives her on Dustin's sex tape before I interviewed him — but that changed when I made the call. "You know what? I'm not happy," she said. "I'm not commenting." And about the fact that Dustin says he taped over their bath tub sex tape for a sex tape with two other women?

"I am not happy about that either."

In the tape, Dustin exercises his former child star charm to seduce an alleged bride-to-be and her bridesmaid into girl-girl action involving a plastic dong. The "bride" even gives him a blowjob while wearing her veil.
You've done this before...
Only to my husband.
When are you getting married again?
Shut up!
(Dustin hums "Here comes the bride.")

But it's Jennifer's voice that's heard in a seven-minute bath tub scene spliced onto the beginning of the film, providing some intriguing dialogue of her own. ("That's quite a 'brat' you have there... Why is your toe going in there? Stop it! No seriously — do it again.") Both Jennifer's bath flirtations and Dustin's orgy with two other women were released on the now-infamous adult DVD Screeched. In November Dustin told me the tape must've slipped out after he shared it with his friends in 2002. "Four years is a long time to lose track of something."

He didn't want it released, he explains, but he was afraid it would leak out onto the web, and, "Once it's out there, the bottom line is the internet is unstoppable. I was faced with either spending a fortune fighting a losing battle, over years — and then it still gets out anyways. Or, you know — 'back door' this guy, no pun intended of course, and go around and sign off with this other company. I could make a fortune, potentially, instead of spending it on a losing battle."

Of course, the tape couldn't legally be released this summer without a signed release from the two other women Dustin says he met in a motel room four years ago. "Once our attorneys became involved," Jennifer tells me, "they spoke with the ladies and got the releases." After four years? "I guess Dustin keeps the numbers he gets," Jennifer speculates.

Adding, "Well he did...not any more!"

Controversy and T-Shirts

Other statements of the couple have faced scrutiny from the press — especially since Dustin announced he was in danger of losing his house. The organizers of an online telethon claim Jennifer told them, "This is more of a publicity stunt than anything. He is not really going to lose his house."

Dustin calls that's an outright lie, saying the disgruntled internet show concocted the quote for revenge when Dustin objected to their program's format. "We never OKed a telethon asking for freebies — we're selling shirts! We're not asking for handouts!

"They said, 'Well, we set up a telethon so that's what you need to be doing.' And we said 'Uh-uh!' And they got pissed off. We ended up leaving, and then they called up and threatened us, saying, 'We're going to tell the media this whole thing is a hoax.'

"Jenn said, 'It'll be slander and libel,' so we have allowed them enough rope to hang themselves."

But what about the newspaper article questioning their integrity? "My stand about the Journal-Sentinel reports is: they can suck my balls," says Dustin. "They can suck my balls, and I'll film it and sell it to Red Light 'Failed career'? Suck my balls!"

In the background, Jennifer laughs.

And about those stories that the t-shirts he'd sold weren't even delivered? "There's just some dickhead, some nerd out there, going, 'I'm going to take my ogre-slayer sword and hack into his server...' We weren't getting the emails and the orders!" He points out Paypal has procedures in place for that. "If they didn't get a shirt, they get their funds sent back. So no one's getting ripped off." And he argues that it was "maybe 100 or 200" — out of 22,000 t-shirts.

So if it was 22,000 shirts — at $15 a pop — does that mean Dustin made the $330,000 he needed for his house? Minus expenses, says Dustin — like shirt costs and shipping...

Wisconsin's Journal-Sentinel also alleged that Dustin wasn't even making payments on their house.

"That guy's a retard," said Dustin. "The internet gets like 99.9% of everything wrong."

It wasn't that he wasn't making payments; the financier had suddenly called in the entire loan, and, "I don't know how many people have a quarter mil lying around... What it comes down to is my lawyers advised me not to pay them once the legal papers came in, because if they are going to take the house, I'm just throwing money away for nothing. Plus, I tried to send them payments and they weren't accepting them because they were moving to try to take the house." But when I talked to him in November, he felt good about new financing he'd arranged (though he was still waiting for a final round of signatures).

More Unreleased Porn?

Ironically, shortly before the sex tape surfaced, Dustin was already selling a ring-tone that said "Buy a t-shirt...I really don't wanna do porn." (According to the Journal-Sentinel.) But when I asked Dustin about these four-year-old porn tapes, the conversation took a weird turn. "There are quite a bit of tapes that I hope don't get out." What's on the tapes? "Oh, dude. We'll see if any of those got out. We did some pretty gnarly stuff. Between me and this other guy, we pulled off some things that were guide-worthy."

I asked again what was on those tapes.

"I can't tell you. If I let the cat out of the bag... The Dirty Sanchez and the Fish-Eye would be part of that if it wasn't already out... We used to do a thing where we'd get people to do stuff on camera and compete with other people who did stuff on camera. We used to have a lot of fun with that. Like we'd get girls doing stuff that they'd never do."

I asked once more — what was on those tapes?

"I can't reveal, my friend."

I asked if he'd ever make a new sex tape, and he says no — at first. "I can't make a new one because of my lady, man. It'd have to be figures that would make her say yes, because I'm not allowed to to go on forays and expeditions any more."

So how many ladies did they tape?

Dustin claims the sex tape was part of a Hollywood contest of competitive sex-tape swapping. When I asked him how many sex tapes there were — among all the participants — he has trouble counting them up. "Between all of us? Um, maybe... (He sighs.) Lets see. Between, like, there are about, uh... (Another sigh) 13 of us doing it, and we did it for numerous months, so it's probably, between each one of us, over 8 months, or 8 times 13 or so — and then some of those had more than one girl, and some of those had one... There's quite a substantial number. Well over a hundred."

And how many times did he tape himself? "Maybe eight times, or something." The current sex tape is "definitely top shelf," he says, but using vodka as a rating system, "If this is Belvedere, there's definitely some Pravda and some Grey Goose up there. There's a few Kamchatkas."

But What About Screech?

I have to ask him about Saved by the Bell. In light of the sex tape, what does he say to fans complaining he's defiled their wholesome memories of Screech?

"People need to grow up," Dustin answers. "You're not a child any more. I think people would be more upset with finding out Santa Claus isn't real from their parents rather than finding out I ruined their Saved by the Bell dream. Does that happen with every childhood show? Are people upset because — 'Why did you do this to my Small Wonder.' You mean she's not a robot?'"

Dustin has spent years fighting the stigma of simply being a former child star. "I think people like to pick on me because I'm the only one who didn't come out of the grinder with — I'm not a junkie and I don't even smoke cigarettes! I came out of the Hollywood grinder pretty unscathed, and that pisses them off. They want to see me fail."

He says he's worked hard to revive his career, so intentionally releasing a sex tape would be the last thing he'd want to do. "I wouldn't have chosen the month where I was on Showtime with The Comedy Show and [an appearance on] Knights of Prosperity with Mick Jagger. I definitely wouldn't have picked that time period, plus getting signed to Universal Records to do my first comedy record. There's a lot of big stuff... You want 'I did a show with Mick Jagger,' not 'I got blowed with two girls.'"

Jennifer Gets the Last Word

Despite all the notoriety about his sex tape, in real life Dustin is often demure and protective of his girlfriend-manager Jennifer. When I ask Dustin if there was anything interesting edited out of Screeched, he refuses to answer. "Dude, I'm standing right next to my lady!" he insists.

"Remember, I hang 'em up when I come home. She throws them down the garbage disposal when its done."

Sunday she told me that their bath tub intimacy wasn't limited to 2002. "It's a common occurrence for us...even still." Jennifer was obviously uncomfortable when I interviewed Dustin, as he told me he'd slept with 400 women. "Jenn's like, 'I don't want to hear this,'" Dustin teased.

Then she told him to say that she was the best.

See also:
Virtual Screech, Sexual Superstar
Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey
Five Druggiest High School Sitcom Scenes

Paul McCartney On Drugs

McCartney On LSD

The Beatles titan recently claimed, allegedly during a talk with friend and self-proclaimed "king of bitter divorces" Alec Baldwin a few days ago, that he has grown physically sick from the latest charges by his estranged wife in their divorce proceedings. (Her latest claim is that he stole paintings by Picasso and Renoir from their once-shared lodge.) But, let us revisit for a moment one of the more interesting charges leveled by Heather against Paul, shall we? Let us return to the drugs.

In college in the late 1970s, I had a girlfriend from The Hamptons who had been the baby sitter for Paul and Linda McCartney. (Paul and Linda and their children lived in that elegant Long Island suburb through most of the 1970s). Lizzie hated babysitting for the McCartneys because they were slobs (messy house) and because there were "drugs all over the place," right out in the open where theoretically one or all of their four young children could get at them. When I questioned Liz more closely about the drugs, she mentioned white powders, mushrooms and (no surprise) marijuana.

Lizzie detested drugs back then, because she was worshiping a poet named Robert Bly, and Robert Bly hated drugs. But I must admit, for me, this tidbit added substantially to Beatle Paul's always questionable hipster cred.

In the recent divorce case between Paul and his anti-landmine activist soon-to-be ex-wife Heather Mills McCartney, Heather filed a court statement, according to the British tabloid press, stating that McCartney had attacked her with a broken wine glass, and that he used illegal drugs and drank to excess.

I'm in no position to comment on any propensity Sir Paul may have towards violence, although a biography written by the tabloidesque rock writer Christopher Sandford promises, in a synopsis on, that "McCartney is a tale of self-destruction, violence and epic excess." (Imagine that. Paul McCartney: the Great Beast.) And McCartney himself has made clear that he drinks heavily when he's depressed (after the breakup of the Beatles in 1970, after the death of his first wife Linda, and while he toured for his hardest rocking solo album, "Run Devil Run" in 1999).

But when it comes to Macca and drugs, there is quite a bit more to talk about.

Join me then on a magical mystery tour:

Paul McCartney and Drugs: A Timeline

Early 1960s

The Beatles play frequent late night shows in seedy clubs in Hamburg, Germany, popping stimulants — mostly Benzedrine — to stay awake.

August, 1964

Bob Dylan turns The Beatles on to marijuana. He is shocked to discover that they're pot virgins.

April 1965

John Lennon and George Harrison are slipped LSD at a dinner party thrown for them by their dentist. McCartney is elsewhere.


McCartney becomes the last Beatle to try LSD


McCartney is turned on to cocaine by Robert Fraser, an art dealer and a central figure in the London counterculture, who was art director for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover (the image itself was done by Peter Blake). He uses cocaine a bit during his work on Sgt. Peppers, although he apparently doesn't share it around with his mates. Cocaine is very obscure in 1967 and doesn't become second nature to rock stars ’til around 1969.

Spring, 1967

McCartney is the first Beatle and the first major figure in rock to admit that he and the other Beatles had taken LSD. While this would seem to have been obvious to anybody who had been listening to their recent recordings, the great majority of people were way more clueless than they even are now and so the admission stirs up quite a bit of controversy. Lennon is miffed that McCartney came out of the closet as an acid head first.

June, 1967

In Life magazine, McCartney describes himself as "deeply committed to the possibilities of LSD as a universal cure-all."

July 24, 1967

All four Beatles sign a petition published in The Times of London calling for decriminalization of Marijuana. Sir Francis Crick and Francis Huxley also sign the petition. The Beatles also pay for the ad.


Paul and Linda McCartney are busted for smuggling hashish into Sweden. He pays a $2,000 fine.


McCartney is busted for growing marijuana on his farm in Scotland. He is fined the equivalent of $240.

McCartney visits John Lennon and Harry Nilsson, who are living together in L.A. while Lennon produces Nilsson's album, "Pussy Cats." A bleary-eyed Nilsson offers McCartney some PCP. Paul asks, "Is it fun?" "No," Nilsson replied. So McCartney passes on the PCP.


According to a book written by May Pang called Loving John: The Untold Story about the time she spent as John Lennon's girlfriend, John Lennon and Paul McCartney drop acid together one day in New York City in 1974 and decide to go visit David Bowie.

Bowie has just received the final mix of his latest album, Young Americans which includes two songs that John Lennon worked on. One was a reworking of The Beatles song, "Across the Universe," and the other was to become Bowie's first number one hit, "Fame," co-written with Lennon. Bowie proudly plays the new album for his two Beatles heroes and they're impressed. And so he plays it again. And again. And again. Eventually, McCartney excuses himself and bolts out the door, Lennon following quickly behind. Bowie's drug of choice in the mid-1970s might explain his obsessiveness that day: mountains of cocaine.

An interesting side note: In The Beatles version of "Across The Universe", the line "nothing's gonna change my world" comes across as a sort of cosmic meditation on the divine perfection of the eternal now. In Bowie's version, the same line becomes an expression of terrified desperation. This might be interpreted as the difference between psychedelics and coke, as well as the difference between the 60s and the 70s.


Linda McCartney is busted for possession of marijuana in Los Angeles, but charges are dropped.

Sometime around 1976-77

I can't find the source so this is from memory, but at some point the McCartneys hosted a party for the original cast of Saturday Night Live. Mescaline was on the menu, according to one of the many SNL histories.

Late 70s

John Lennon, Paul McCartney and wives are sitting around Lennon and Ono's apartment one Saturday night getting stoned on weed and watching SNL, when Lorne Michaels does one of his occasional routines offering The Beatles a ridiculously small amount of cash ($3,200) to reunite. They briefly consider heading down to the show as a lark to claim half of the money, but they're too stoned to deal with it.

January 16, 1980

McCartney famously busted in Japan at the start of a planned tour with Wings with approximately half-a-pound of marijuana in his suitcase. He spends ten days in prison in Japan before being released and deported. After his release, he promises to quit but also argues that it is less harmful than Valium or alcohol. He also later comments that he just couldn't leave the pot behind because "it was such good stuff."


Paul and Linda McCartney busted in Barbados for possession of marijuana. Several days later, Linda is busted again flying into Heathrow Airport in London with marijuana.


McCartney, now a Knight of the British Empire, tells Musician magazine, "I support decriminalization. People are smoking pot anyway and to make them criminal is wrong."

September 22, 1999

At an after-party for a celebration/performance for McCartney's new album, Run Devil Run, held at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, McCartney is observed smoking vast quantities of weed with Woody Harrelson and Laurence Fishburne. McCartney's publicist gives a photo of the red-eyed trio to High Times magazine and encourages them to publish it. High Times published the photo under the heading, "The Three Stoners."

June 22, 2000

McCartney delivers a keynote speech in England on "Drug Awareness Day" about "heightening parental awareness to drug misuse, and to outline Government activity in this area." Rank hypocrisy? In fairness to Sir Paul, the talk repeatedly uses the term "misuse" and singles out heroin and cocaine as "the drugs that cause the greatest harm."


In a prime example of the media's tendency to recycle old news as though it were fresh news, the British press goes wild with headlines like "Sir Paul Admits He Used Drugs!" The articles quote from an interview McCartney gives to "Uncut" magazine. He disclosed that he once smoked heroin, but didn't get high. He says that "Got to Get You Into My Life," off of the Revolver album was about pot and that the hit single, "Day Tripper" was about acid. He also admits the obvious, that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was about LSD, something the song's main author, John Lennon, always denied. While he tells the magazine that he's grown out of using drugs, he also tells them he "was flattered when he was recently invited by a group of Los Angeles teenagers to share their marijuana." McCartney was quoted as saying, "To me, it's a huge compliment that a bunch of kids think I might be up to smoke a bit of dope with them."

Other McCartney Fun Facts

  • McCartney was always uptight that everyone considered Lennon, not to mention Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, a lot hipper than him. Thus, he was known to brag, particularly on the pages of Rolling Stone, about being first to try this and that. It was on the pages of Rolling Stone that he first let it be known that he was the first Beatle to try cocaine, and that he came close to cashing it in on unspecified drugs on a few occasions. "I've seen my soul get up and walk across the floor a couple of times." He also claimed in the mag that he gave Mick Jagger his first taste of marijuana. Sir Jagger vociferously denied the claim, saying that the Stones smoked weed long before The Beatles did (nyah nyah!).

  • Continuing on the Paul-is-hipper-than-you-think theme, McCartney was the Beatle who befriended ultra-hipster hero William S. Burroughs when he settled in London during the late 1960s. McCartney supplied Burroughs with tape equipment to experiment with his cutup method.

  • McCartney was also a lifelong friend with Beat/counterculture poet Allen Ginsberg. He performed, along with Philip Glass, on Allen Ginsberg's 1996 CD release, "Ballad of the Skeletons."

  • Paul and Linda McCartney were financial supporters of the 25th and 30th anniversary celebrations of "The Summer of Love." The celebration of psychedelic counterculture was organized by their long-time friend Chet Helms and took place in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

  • In Blackbird: The Life and Times of Paul McCartney by Geoffrey Giuliano and ex-Wings member Denny Laine, Laine claims that, in the mid-1970s Paul and Linda were heavily into the occult and Aleister Crowley. The 1975 album, Venus and Mars seems to have a bit of an occultist vibe.

    Drugs In Song

    However much McCartney may like his altered states, particularly those derived from cannabis consumption, direct drug references are rare and allusions are subject to debate and interpretation. Nevertheless, aside from the songs mentioned earlier, "Got To Get You Into My Life" and "Day Tripper," I present a few McCartney lyrics that reference drugs, or seem like they probably reference drugs.

    I'm Looking Through You
    1965, Rubber Soul
    Ripped on weed, McCartney sees deeply into his then girlfriend, model Jane Asher, and decides she's a phony. This story has been told by McCartney himself.

    Yellow Submarine
    1966, Revolver
    On the surface, a child's rhyme; but the song was taken as a winking assertion of hippie, psychedelic, drop out escape from the dreary mainstream culture into the upcoming party utopia. It was even adapted by some new left activists as a theme song for those seeking an alternative culture.

    With A Little Help From My Friends
    1967, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
    He gets high with a little help from his friends. What does he see when he turns out the lights?

    Fixing A Hole
    1967, Sgt. Peppers
    Taken by some to be a heroin song (fixing being a term used for shooting up], but also works as a contemplative pothead song or, for that matter, a plain old contemplative person's song. Another song lyric with a drop out vibe.

    Lovely Rita
    1967, Sgt. Peppers
    "When are you free to take some tea with me?" George Harrison has commented that The Beatles frequently used tea as a pseudonym for pot. On the other hand, they were Limeys, so maybe tea is just tea.

    A Day In The Life
    1967, Sgt Peppers
    "Found my way upstairs and had a smoke and somebody spoke and I went into a dream." Probably not a ciggie, but you never know.

    Magical Mystery Tour
    1968, Magical Mystery Tour
    "Roll up!" "A mystery trip." And the whole album/movie concept was taken from Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters.

    Penny Lane
    1968, Magical Mystery Tour
    "The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray." Hey, wouldn't a florist be selling poppies from a tray? In England, heroin was medicalized and made available to addicts, who were given injections by nurses. Also, "Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes." George Harrison grew up in a suburb near this street, Penny Lane. I recall a story about how George went back there on acid to grok it in all its weirdness. This may have inspired Paul's song.

    Get Back
    1970, Let It Be
    "Jo Jo left her home in Tuscon Arizona for some California grass." Is the grass just grass? What, she couldn't find any grass in Tucson?

    Three Legs
    1971, Ram
    "When I fly above the clouds, when I fly above the crowds, you could knock me down with a feather."

    Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
    1971, Ram
    "Hands across the water. Heads across the sky." Ahh, peace and drugs in the early seventies. References to heads in the late sixties and early seventies were pretty much understood to mean psychedelic drug heads.

    C Moon
    1973, Red Rose Speedway
    "I'd never get to heaven if I filled my head with glue. What's it all to you?" A rejection of a bad high, and yet, ain't nobody's business but his own.

    Hi Hi Hi
    1973, Red Rose Speedway
    This one is blatant and should have been titled High High High. He's "gonna get high high high." Mediocre song, though.

    Band On The Run
    1973, Band on the Run
    Not about drugs, but about being busted for drugs and Macca's concerns about being "stuck inside these four walls, sent away for ever.'

    Rock Show
    1975, Venus and Mars
    "The tension mounts you score an ounce ole!"

    Medicine Jar
    1975, Venus and Mars
    McCartney's first anti-hard drug song for Wings. Wings guitarist, Jimmy McCulloch, had an ongoing problem with heavy drugs, and eventually died from a heroin overdose. It's generally thought that McCartney wrote these lyrics trying to challenge and discourage his behavior. "Dead on your feet, you won't get far if you keep on putting your hand in the medicine jar."

    Wino Junko
    1976, At The Speed Of Sound
    Apparently, McCartney continued to preach it to brother McCulloch. "Pill freak spring a leak you can't say no."

    The Song We Were Singing
    1997, Flaming Pie
    Apparently a bit of misty nostalgia for old-fashioned psychedelic philosophizing and The Beatles heyday, which also seems to permeate the entire album. "For a while, we could sit, smoke a pipe. And discuss all the vast intricacies of life... Take a sip, see the world through a glass and speculate about the cosmic solution."

    Flaming Pie
    1997, Flaming Pie
    "I took my brains out and stretched 'em on a rack. Now I'm not so sure I'm ever gonna get 'em back... Go ahead, have a vision."

    Final Thoughts from Sir Paul

    So there you have it. The world's most complete roundup of Paul McCartney's relationship with drugs over the years. Does it matter? What does it mean? Let's give Sir Paul the last word, from his as-told-to 1997 biography Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, co-written with Barry Miles (Miles has also written bios of Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Charles Bukowski):
    In today's climate, I hate to talk about drugs because it's not the same. You have someone jumping on your head the minute you say anything, so I've taken to not trying to give my point of view unless someone really very much asks for it. Because I think the "just say no" mentality is so crazed. I saw a thing in a women's magazine the other day: "He smokes cannabis, what am I to do. He laughs it off when I try to tell him, he says it's not really harmful..." Of course, you're half hoping the advice will be, "well, you know it's not that harmful; if you love him, if you talk to him about it, tell him maybe he should keep it in the garden shed or something," you know, a reasonable point of view. But of course it was, "No no, all drugs are bad. All drugs are bad. Librium's good, Valium's good, ciggies are good, vodka's good. But cannabis, oooh." I hate that unreasoned attitude. I really can't believe it's thirty years since the sixties. I find it staggering. It's like the future, the sixties, the sixties to me, it hasn't happened. I feel like the sixties are about to arrive. And we're in some sort of time warp and it's still going to happen.

    See also:
    Willie Nelson's Narcotic Shrooms
    Prescription Ecstasy and Other Pipe Dreams
    Hallucinogenic Weapons: The Other Chemical Warfare
  • The Porn Star, the Diva, and the World Wide Web

    "Mimi is miffed"
    wrote Perez Hilton. Then he photoshopped an x-rated composite photo of Mariah Carey into his series of offensive pictures.

    It's just one way web pages are getting involved in the ultimate celebrity showdown between a music diva and a porn star.

    Wednesday legal documents were filed arguing that while porn star Mary Carey may exploit her body, the right to exploit the name Mariah Carey has already been sold. By Thursday had tracked down the porn star for an interview which plays on their site after a horribly mis-placed ad for a contest involving "Dove Cream Oil." ("Void where prohibited.") Catching her in a bizarrely candid moment, the adult film actress jokes that "I got pants on tonight... I'm a good girl... I'm going to rehab." She then takes a phone call about "the guy who's suing me because I wouldn't go out with him" — and angrily insists that Mary is, in fact, her real name. And the Carey part? "It rhymes, it was funny, it was goofy. It was a porno name!"

    Meanwhile, Automatic Princess Holdings, LLC has identified themselves as the official and exclusively-licensed exploiter of the Mariah Carey name, arguing that public could confuse "the goods offered" by the 26-year-old porn star with the "goods and services offered" by the 36-year-old singer. (No pun intended.) By Thursday the Smoking Gun had also dug up the group's legal documents, where they admit that Mariah Carey's name became famous after they "invested a substantial amount of time, effort, and money in promoting the Mariah Carey mark." While Mary Carey may have applied to trademark her name a year ago, Mariah's team says they'd already notified her of their pre-existing trademark.

    Elsewhere on the web, Mary Carey took a break from her busy schedule of teasing strangers at bus stops and running for Governor to address the controversy herself on her (not safe for work) site. "It makes me so sad that we can't just be friends and drink some champage this new year," she wrote earlier this month. (Adding that "I am dancing in philly next week and you can see me at Oasis and the 76ers games Wednesday and Saturday.") But she offered a longer analysis about Mariah on her MySpace page.

    "I think she is dumb for causing all this drama."

    Web surfers seeking a scathing online rebuttal from Mariah Carey found only this rejoinder on her web site: "You can purchase a Fan Club gift membership for all the Mariah fans in your life!" But fortunately YouTube rushed in to fill the void, when WXYZ Radio uploaded a video fulfilling the potential of these two media worlds colliding.

    In "Mariah Carey vs. Mary Carey," they spliced together samples of both Careys at work to create the inevitable comparison. Using bath tub footage from Mariah's Shake it Off video and the sexy bed rolling filmed for We Belong Together, they showed the MTV diva as a music video vamp. But while the song Maneater plays in the background, the video switches to footage of Mary Carey performing her trademark girl-girl kissing and groping scenes. And there's more in Part Two, this time using Chris Brown's Gimme That as the accompanying track and more racy footage of both performers.

    Other YouTube users uploaded their own bemused commentary. ("What is she afraid of?" asks a 37-year-old in Canada. "People might think that Mary Carey can sing...? This is just a get her name in the paper.") Video blogger "Jewelry Man" weighed in with his own unique perspective. ("How 'bout we go back to them headlights?") And overlooked somewhere in YouTube's comments rests the perfect solution from user djbluu. "I say foxy box it out. Winner gets to keep the name..."

    Mariah Carey may be thinking "Gotta do what's best for me, baby, and that means I gotta shake you off." But in the end porn star Mary Carey faces her own set of identity concerns too. "There are people using my images illegally," she posted on her blog, "such as the imposter Mary Carey's on MySpace, escort services and such."

    Ironically, after all the legal fussing, Mary Carey considers herself a fan. "I love Mariah," she writes. "I have always respected her talent and beauty."

    "I just wish she would let me use my name!"

    See Also:
    The Prince of Gonzo Porn
    D.C. Sex Diarist Bares It All
    Deep Throat, Big Brain
    Pregnant Nympho Sex

    Virtual Screech, Sexual Superstar

    Dustin Diamond played the innocuously nerdy "Screech" on the Saturday morning sitcom Saved by the Bell — so everyone's curious how he's handled the transition to adult video star. After reviewing the tape, we can report that Dustin, now 29, wields a video camera at a bachelorette party gone wild. There's a bride, her bridesmaid, lots of champagne, plus Dustin himself — a horny standup comic trying to coax them out of their clothes.

    The plot of the tape is at least as unpredictable as an episode of Saved by the Bell. (Will the bride-to-be sober up? Will Dustin convince them to model lingerie?) But the real potency of this mystery is what's Dustin like? After 11 years of playing the luckless high school nerd, originally on the Disney channel, it's jarring to imagine him in a drunken hotel room orgy.

    So as a public service, we've replayed the DVD, transcribed Dustin's dialogue and created an appropriate avatar to read it.

    To see "Virtual Screech," click on this hyperlink.

    (Note: your browser must allow JavaScript popup windows)

    See also:
    Screech's Sex Tape Follies
    Dustin Diamond vs. Sgt. Harvey
    Dana Plato, Porn Star

    Author Slash Trickster “JT LeRoy”

    Laura Albert, aka, JT LeRoy

    Of course, we can't assert anything positively about Monsieur Derrida's recent failure to exist; we can't even state that he ever did exist, since he may have been a mere metaphysical projection of our own prejudices against absolutes. However, in as much as we may categorically claim anything — Mr. Derrida will not likely be showing up for work tomorrow. Although, who is to say?
    — Jacques Chirac, President de la Republique Francais, 2004

    First of all, they're great fuckin' books. Some books are a cool read. They grab you. But then they let you go. The JT LeRoy books, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, Sarah, and Harold's End gnaw on your bones. They stay with you, if you let them. (I just caught the last fifteen minutes of the film version of The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things on IFC and it brought it all back.) But then again, maybe you just kicked them out of your head because the writer turned out to be a woman in her thirties and not a boy in his teens. Your loss.

    The story of the "literary hoax" has been told elsewhere, and I don't think Laura Albert particularly wants me to add my version to the cacophony. And so I'm going to respect those wishes. For those of you geeks who only pay attention to science fiction, Google "JT LeRoy" and feast on the mediated pathos. Meanwhile, Laura Albert had other kinds of food on her mind when she joined me on the RU Sirius Show just before Thanksgiving. Indeed, you might say that Laura Albert, AKA JT LeRoy, is a riddle wrapped in an enigma, then wrapped again in dough brushed with eggs and sprinkled with sesame seeds, and baked at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes.

    In other words, she's a simple gal who likes food, good friends and the odd, occasional, scandalously-complex, literative meta-performance; apparently in that order. "We only did it for the fame," snarled Johnny Rotten, frontin' for prankster/hypster Malcolm McLaren's Great Rock ’n' Roll Swindle. "I only did it for the food," Albert would explain about two decades later.

    Necessity may be the mother of re-invention, but nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven.

    My tuneful co-host Diana Brown joined in this conversation.
    To listen to the entire interview in MP3, click here.

    RU SIRIUS: Thanks for inviting us to several parties including one for the cover interview with you in Paris Review. It was nice to see you surrounded by people who love you and care about you — perhaps a different image than some people might have from a distance. Tell us about being included in the Paris Review — an excellent interview.

    LAURA ALBERT: I've heard such good feedback from the people who have read it; I just had the feeling that the proper medium would come. I turned down Rolling Stone. I turned down Vanity Fair. I was honored, but I just felt like when Paris Review came it was — they're a literary magazine and I'm a writer. And at the end of the day, what I'm interested in is people who take problems of the spirit, problems of the soul, and transform them into problems of craft. We weren't hanging out with Paris Hilton. I don't know her.

    RU: [Ironically] Hell of a writer, though.

    LA: That's why you don't see pictures of us hanging with Paris. It's all those novels she wrote, you know? You know, when you do an interview with someone and then they write it up, you're reading somebody's interpretation. They put their projections onto you. It's going to be, "She sits there and she is reflecting on boogers and"... whatever the hell — it's their take. And with Paris Review, it's just a Q&A. And it was the senior editor who came out. He was wonderful. My friends became friends with his friends. It was like family, and I think it was because the whole articulation was just so different being around people who know me. Nobody who knows me has said anything about it all. They don't need their three minutes of fame to say, "Oh, this is who she is or who she isn't."

    RU: It's funny that you mention turning down Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Because in the literary world, Paris Review is it. It's a huge thing.

    LA: I always felt like I would never be in Paris Review. I remember my friend was talking to me, this wonderful writer who's a real mentor to me, and she felt kind of snubbed by Plimpton when he was around. And I remember just thinking, "Man, if they're doing this to you, they will never mention my name! Forget it!" And to be on the cover was just, like — it's pretty amazing.

    RU: It's a sign of a respect for your work.

    LA: What's really funny is: you can have these people talking smack about it, you know, "She's this and that." But the fact is, it's the Paris Review. If there wasn't some value to my work, which, you know, that's the thing that has been questioned...

    RU: Right. That's true. And If you get the cover of Vanity Fair, that's questionable. It could be about the gossip.

    LA: Well, it means you've got nice tits. Wait a minute, no — I have nice tits, I could do that.

    RU: It seems like we ought to live in a culture where people can try on different personas pretty easily. Wasn't that the point of virtual reality?

    LA: Yeah, I'm amazed at how [sighs] — everyone asks the question, "Why? Why did you do it?" A friend of mine says, "You know, people have said you did it for the celebrity. You did it for the money." What money? But he said, "I know why you did it." He said, "You did it for the food." I said, "Yes! Yes!" That's true. I did it for the fucking food.

    RU: So what kind of food did you wind up bumping into? Does JT LeRoy get different food than Laura?

    LA: [Singing] "Is it worth the waiting for, if we live till 84 all we'll ever get is gruel (ah) Every day we say a prayer, will we change the bill of fare, still we get the same old gruel (ah!). There's not a crust, not a crumb can we find can we beg can we borrow or cadge. But there's nothing to stop us from getting a thrill — wait — when we all close our eyes and ima-gine Food! Glorious foo-ood [Co-host Diana Brown joins in] Hot sausage and mustard! Ma, we're in the moo-ood. Cold jelly and custard."

    DIANA BROWN: [Giggles] Yes! You sing far better than I! I do love that phenomenal segment from "Oliver." But food, let's go back to fo-o-od.

    LA: Yeah, that was it for me. When we were going around the world and everything, it's like, there's that celebrity, but I'm like, "Where's the hors d'oeuvres?" Because I was a ward of the state. I was in a group home where we would get these Type 10 cans, where they come in with the peanut butter.

    DB: Like the #10 S.E. Rykoff Industrial size...

    LA: Yeah! That's it! That's it! I'm always amazed when you go to these events... I used to write for 7x7 and...

    RU: Wine and cheese.

    LEROY: Well, these women don't eat! It's the iced tea and a salad kind of scene.

    DB: Right. The "society x-rays" in the front row of the fashion shows.

    LA: We were at this one party, I can't remember the hotel, and we situated ourselves with a shopping bag by the kitchen. [Laughs] And the wait-people were running from us. They were running! And it was like, "Come on back here, baby!"

    DB: [Laughs] You're all seducing the wait staff to get the canapes.

    LA: If it came to that...Celebrities? No, I want the waiter!

    RU: But did Savannah get some food that should've gone to you? (Maybe we should tell people about Savannah.)

    LA: They can read some tea leaves and they can make it up. [Laughs]

    RU: Google JT LeRoy and then make up a new story.

    DB: [Laughs] They seem to already.

    RU: But do tell, what did Savannah get to enjoy? Some fine foods?

    LA: That was the thing, we both really enjoyed eating. I was grateful it wasn't just me, because now when it's me, and I make an appearance, it's not the same.

    RU: You brought some music with you and we're going to play it.

    LA: When I was in New York and I was a punk, I loved The Avengers. There were very few female singers. In the punk world, if you were a girl, it was OK if you were the girlfriend or if you "made yourself useful."

    DB: Sewed costumes for the band.

    LA: Yeah, sewed costumes. It was replicating what mainstream rock and roll was. And it was supposed to be the promise of the difference. So the fact that she (Penelope Houston) opened for the Sex Pistols' and there were these two songs that were just amazing to me. I sang them all the time. So to be able to record them — I recorded them with Jerry Harrison.

    RU: Formerly of the Talking Heads.

    LA: Yeah, that was really amazing. I'll tell you one funny story. We were there with one of the producers who had worked on it. And we were there at this table at this really nice restaurant in Sausalito. And they complimented me about my voice, which was really nice. We had recorded some original stuff too, and then they complimented me about some lyrics I had added. And I said, "Well, I actually wrote all the lyrics. And also I wrote all the JT stuff and everything." And there was this moment of silence and then everybody just burst out laughing. I realized, no one was ever going to believe me. I always told people, "I wrote the books." And the reaction was always like this "Prince and the Pauper" thing. People would call up "JT" and say, "You gotta watch your back, because that speedy chick is just megalomaniacal — trying to to take credit for your work!"

    RU: The role of women in the hardcore punk scene was real weird actually. Hardcore punk had this macho thing going on, I guess.

    LA: There was this whole straight-edge thing going on. I spoke to Steve Blush about this. And the whole straight-edge thing was — you don't drink; you don't smoke; you don't fuck. And I really loved that idea, because really all the drugs going on in the hardcore scene, the punk scene, were really sad. Most everyone came from a really horrible background and it just wasn't making anything better. So here came this movement that made it cool to not use. But the backstory was that it was very misogynistic. There really was rage at women. And I met a guy who told me that he was this other guy's lover. And the guy was not out. It was closeted. There were all these DC kids where, if they fucked — if they engaged with a woman, they would have their heads shaved as punishment. It was this boy's club, and I couldn't figure it out. Once again, it was just like, "Shit!" You know, here's something where you think, well, it's an opportunity to be a participant and an equal, and the doors are shut. "You don't got the genitals fer it! Nope, I'm sorry!"

    RU: I don't think I have the genitals for it, actually. I was in what I thought was a hardcore band in Rochester, New York in the early 80s, and if I'd known...

    LA: The problem was Rochester. That was the problem. I don't know if it was your lack of rocks, or your preponderance of rocks. I don't know if I want to know.

    RU: If I'd known what was going on in hardcore in some of these other cities, I would've turned into a folk singer immediately.

    LA: I could picture you kind of like doing sort of an Ali G sort of "Kumbaya" thing, you know, with a banjo going. My mom used to took me — [laughs] "took me." My momma took me! Yeah, that was the start of all my problems. No — I used to go to Pete Seeger when I was a kid. It was the protest stuff. It was definitely early punk.

    So let's talk about food!

    RU: All right.

    LA: My birthday! You were there.

    RU: I started asking you about Savannah and whether she got your food.

    DB: Yeah, did she get the coconut shrimp and you had to do the Levage rolls, how did that snack hierarchy break down?

    RU: Talk about food and friendship.

    LA: We're both ladies who munch. But the funny thing is — very often, someone would ask her, "Do you want this? Are you thirsty?" And in the group home, if someone offered you something, maybe you don't want it, but somebody else does.

    DB: You always accept.

    LA: Right. Maybe I don't want it, but maybe someone else does. You never say no. You're always open. Because everything is of use and you've got a big family that you've got to provide for. You know. It was just a little bit of a mindset...

    RU: So the idea of sharing food..

    LA: No, no, no, I'm not talking about food. I would probably bite it out of somebody's hand. I probably have. Actually, even my first oral sex experience was with whipped cream. I mean, I wasn't going to put that thing in my mouth without a healthy dosing of whipped cream. It's scary, you know?

    RU: It looks better in whipped cream also, I think. With a cherry on top.

    LA: Do you find that? You can take little cotton balls and just kind of approximate it too.

    RU: I don't think cotton balls, no. It's not really the thing.

    LA: You might not get a girl. You might get a dental hygienist who might get turned on by that.

    RU: Don't even talk to me about dental hygenists. (The right side of RU's mouth was all messed up thanks to dental surgery that week.)

    LA: Well I'm trying to make positive associations. I'm doing it for you.

    RU: You're re-framing my negative experiences.

    LA: Next time you see them coming at you with the cotton balls, you won't think Novocaine shot or Marathon Man. You'll think, oral sex! See? I've opened your horizons.

    RU: On this show we're only allowed to think about anal sex, I think we established that with a previous guest. "Yay, Anal!" was a theme in an earlier program.

    DB: It was a theme. It just kept coming up.

    LA: So to speak

    DB: Ooo.

    RU: Do we have a tight-ass culture, do you think?

    DB: Speaking of anal sex.

    LA: I don't know. I'm from New York. I did do phone sex. I mean, I spoke to so many people who would get deoderant bottles stuck up inside them.

    RU: Sure, yeah. The hospitals always have people with light bulbs up there and so forth.

    LA: Yeah, hot light bulbs. They put them in; they grease them up; they're warm. But for me, it's not edible, so I'm really not that interested.

    Well, you guys came to my birthday! Did you try the vegan cake?

    RU: Umm... we got there sort of late. I had something very sweet, actually.

    LA: I went to Deadwood, South Dakota, because I work on the HBO show Deadwood, and my son's on the show. And I spent all last year there, and it was pretty amazing... And some of the cast-members were there and they have fans in town and they have this "Wild Bill Hickok Day." And it really brought back how graced we are in San Francisco with food. The quality of the food there — it was all Cisco food products straight off the van. And no matter what they tried to do, they were working with the same product. And you can just scrape off the pesticides with a knife. And, I mean — the level of obesity there — it's the idea of quantity over quality. There was one place called the Corn Exchange in Rapid City that didn't have massive mounds of food, and people were upset. It's just filler! It's like the casino culture.

    RU: On the other hand, I've been to some restaurants that are very upscale and they give you so little food and the cost is...

    LA: And as a Jew, doesn't that just kill you? I mean, as a New York Jew, it's just like, "What?! Hello!"

    DB: I do murder mysteries, and one of the lessons is: Never take an actor's food. One of my friends was joining the company and she came to watch the rehearsal. And she started taking the other actor's food: "Are you going to eat that?" You just don't take an actor's or a musician's food.

    LA: My book Sarah — it's just all about the food. I mean, there's transgendered stuff and sex and all that other kinds of stuff in there too but it's like an ideal world. I mean, an actual, transgendered truck stop — it wouldn't exist. Especially borderline South, it just wouldn't be allowed. So, you know — I created a place — this magical world where people can exist and this magic could exist — the food, the people of different genders and different sexuality. And instead of being murdered, they were actually aspired to.

    DB: In the Paris Review interview, they asked about stories and their protagonists, and you mentioned Peter Pan. Talking about food makes me think of the scene where the Lost Boys envision any food that they want to eat and it can just magically appear before them. Do you think that might have been some influence?

    LA: One thing — we got exposed to such a rich culture. It was a very different world from the group home. I was always amazed when we'd go into the houses of people who were fabulously wealthy and their refrigerator was just like Sam's Club.

    I mean, one thing I did early on was I found that writing is like barter. I know so many people who barter in the city for all kinds of goods.

    RU: You wrote for Web magazine many years back, like me. What name did you use?

    LA: Laura Victoria. I did the sex column.

    RU: And did they pay you in food?

    LA: No, but I found a way to parlay that into...

    RU: You get invited to a lot of stuff.

    LA: Yeah, I'm not really a party kind of — You know, it's like, if you've seen one pregnant slut sucking off an elephant, you've seen them all. [Stunned silence] Don't you find that to be true, RU?

    RU: You know, I'm going to have to dream about that. I'm going to meditate on that.

    LA: You're still on the cotton balls?

    RU: I believe I've seem some dog action on film, but...

    LA: "I don't know if I can handle this."

    RU: It could be rough. Before we let you go, let's bring it back to writing just for a minute.

    LA: I want to talk about my birthday — what I did on my birthday. So what would you like to ask me about my birthday?

    RU: Happy birthday? So how old are you?

    LA: I'm a 41-year-old soccer mom. I think some articles kind of referred to me like that. Nothing against soccer moms. My son doesn't play soccer, but...

    RU: He'd be allowed to, though, if he did.

    LA: [Laughs] Yeah, I think so. He runs fast. He kicks balls pretty hard.

    RU: I'll bet he does. You taught him well.

    LA: The apple doesn't fall far from the gosh-darn tree.

    RU: All right, speaking of kicking balls....

    See Also:
    Neil Gaiman Has Lost His Clothes
    Beyond the 'Zipless Fuck' With Erica Jong
    An Interview with Douglas Rushkoff
    Is The Net Good For Writers?

    Robert Altman’s 7 Secret Wars

    Robert Altman's career started with corporate training films in Missouri. The experience landed him Hollywood work filming TV shows in the 1960s — but his personality rebelled against creating false fables of comfort. Before M*A*S*H and The Player, Altman had forced his fierce honesty onto unsuspecting television characters. It marked the beginning of a forgotten march through America's cherished archetypes, challenging one beloved hero after another.

    For example, when network executives handed him the characters from Bonanza, his first impulse was to torture them.

    1. Bonanza (1961)

    Hoss, Adam and Little Joe were a happy all-male family on a Nevada ranch in that magical TV west. Altman opens his episode Silent Thunder with rednecks sexually harassing a deaf mute female (played by Stella Stevens). Good son Little Joe intervenes, and later teaches her how to read, but then she falls in love with him. In a series of painful scenes, Little Joe struggles to convey rejection to someone who doesn't understand, can't communicate, and is full of the rawest emotion.

    Altman directed eight episodes of Bonanza, all but one in the show's second season — and they're some of the darkest in its 14-year run. In The Rival, gentle Hoss loves a woman, but she loves a fugitive. In a typical Bonanza plot, a showdown seems inevitable, but Hoss agonizes over the ambiguity. Is he hunting his rival because of his crimes — or to vindictively avenge his scorned heart? There's no easy answers as a lynch mob starts forming, and even before any triggers are pulled, a devastated Hoss knows that the woman he loves will never, ever be his. Altman heightens the episode's tension with evocative lighting tricks. In one scene, a gun emerges from the shadows for several agonizing seconds before the triggerman is revealed — Hoss himself.

    2. Combat (1962)

    Altman's dark style was better suited for the gritty war stories in the series Combat. In one episode the survival of the entire unit rests on a single captured prisoner not giving away their position. Pinned down in a chateau, the soldiers can escape by swimming down a river at night — but they can't haul their prisoner underwater. The commander faces an impossible choice. He can kill the young Nazi conscript before escaping — or risk all their lives on the soldier's pleas and promises of secrecy. Again — there's no easy answers. Altman used the chateau to good effect, including long shots to show the soldiers on its upper level with the lone Nazi below.

    Altman's TV career would be short-lived. It was reportedly hobbled by his clashes with TV executives, but there were other controversies. Wikipedia notes that Congressional hearings were held over an episode of a forgotten TV show called Bus Stop which showed a murderer successfully escaping both capture and punishment — a favorite Altman theme.

    3. Countdown (1968)

    Even before M*A*S*H the maverick director took a special delight in confronting the media's traditional heroes with muddier dilemmas that exposed their all-too-human weakness, whether it was soldiers, cowboys — or astronauts.

    In Countdown James Caan and Robert Duvall played astronauts challenging everything but outer space. There's jealous co-workers, organizational indecision, and the all-too-real friends who don't understand. If the astronaut makes it to space — alone, in his space capsule — will this din of endured opposition ultimately cloud his judgment? The final press conference is chaired by Ted Knight, who later played the vacuous newscaster Ted Baxter on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. In a friendly, empty TV voice, he's the one who delivers unsettling news about the mission's status. Would the astronaut successfully launch and reach the safety of a moon base? Or would Altman strand him alone on the moon, ending the film within maddening proximity to what could have been a happy ending.

    This is considered Altman's first major feature film. A string of successes followed — including M*A*S*H and the critically-acclaimed Nashville. But after the disappointing box office for Popeye in 1980 (along with rumors of libertine excesses on the set), Altman was effectively exiled from major Hollywood productions.

    4. Secret Honor (1984)

    During these "wilderness years," Altman filmed a remarkable one-man show in which a lonely, drunken and suicidal Richard Nixon looks back over a secret plan he'd orchestrated to provoke his own impeachment and escape his war-mongering corporate handlers. ("Secret honor...public shame.")

    As Nixon descends into drunken bitterness, he has trouble working the tape recorder, and rambles through an alternate history of his political career. As Nixon prowls the room, so does Altman's camera, and in one of the most disturbing moments, the screenplay revisits a famous story about young Nixon writing his mother a letter in the voice of Richard's pet dog (signing it, "Your faithful dog, Richard.") As he addresses his enemies, real and imagined, the disgraced and tortured ex-President roars out, "I'm not your dog, Mother!" Altman ultimately magnifies the image of a raging Nixon across multiplying TV screens responding to a nation he feels is urging him to suicide with a heroic, "Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em!"

    5. Tanner '88 (1988)

    Would Altman ever acknowledge a true act of goodness? He teamed with Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau to create a counter-candidate in the 1988 presidential race. In half-hour episodes on HBO, Jack Tanner interacted with real political figures like Bob Dole (during the New Hampshire primaries) and Kitty Dukakis (at the nominating convention) — but only to make the point that the primary process buries any meaningful passions with political consultants and sound bites. Tanner's true fervor is only visible when he privately addresses his campaign staff. In a rare happy twist, Tanner's private thoughts about what the 1960s had meant are surreptitiously taped, making him a viable candidate and bypassing the political consultants altogether.

    But Altman still plagues Tanner with a bewildering array of opposing and arbitrary forces — both political and media — which come between Tanner and his friends, his wife, and his daughter. And like the characters in Nashville, Tanner's campaign strategist remains haunted by the ultimate arbitrary political event — the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

    Future Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon plays Tanner's daughter (she was 22) — and the show ultimately received an Emmy.

    6. The Gingerbread Man (1998)

    When handed an unpublished John Grisham story, Altman gave the studios exactly what they didn't want. Robert Duvall's portrayal of a mentally challenged stalker fits Altman's unsettling world view too well. Though the womanizing lawyer (Kenneth Brannagh) tries to do the right thing, in an Altman world there's nothing but chaos — so the script's final redeeming fight on a rainy night becomes just one more turmoil of emotions. Dissatisfied studio executives tried to re-edit the film, but when test audiences didn't respond any better, they apparently decided to under-promote it.

    The move was so little-known that when Internet Movie database listed the film, they mistook its title for a series of children's stories, and included this picture:

    7. The Long Goodbye (1973)

    When remembering Altman in his heyday, people point to his early 70s triumphs like McCabe and Mrs. Miller or M*A*S*H. (Someone once even uploaded the entirety of Altman's remarkable 1970 film Brewster McCloud onto YouTube in ten-minute installments.) But often overlooked is Altman's bold 1973 re-imagining of the ultimate American archetype — the lonely detective.

    Philip Marlowe clings to a personal code of honor in a world that has gone wild — but Altman transplants the character into the 1970s, so his world includes protesters, feel-good health clinics, and topless neighbors sun-bathing. The detective becomes everyman Elliott Gould, who moves through a Raymond Chandler underworld still filled with cops and petty crooks, but ultimately reaching a dark irony in its dime store message about loyalty. The noir-ish jazz in its title theme works on many levels, seeming to acknowledge that people everywhere were changing and, like Altman himself, moving further and further away from the simple answers of the 1950s. It could almost be an epitaph.

    "There's a long goodbye, and it happens every day..."

    Haunted by Chipmunk Ghosts

    America has a love-hate relationship with cute, fuzzy rodents. Not the scary kind that steal American flags, or attack from outer space. The kind that sing.

    As absurdly meaningless as it seems, the last 50 years have seen Chipmunks darting in and out of the popular zeitgeist. My first podcast was about squirrels, and it culminated with the moment in 1961 when jazzman Don Elliott, along with partner Sascha Burland, convinced jazz legend Cannonball Adderley to do a duet with scat-singing squirrels. But his squirrels - The Nutty Squirrels - became casualties in a 50s-era culture war. ("Jazz was heroin, jazz was people dropping out of society," I riffed.) People weren't comfortable with the idea of nihilistic beatnik rodents, and ultimately America sought comfort in the familiarity of the Chipmunks.

    Yet as 2006 began we'd seemed to have lost our faith in cheery cartoon animals altogether. The 1970s had already left both the Chipmunks and the Squirrels far behind, and Don Elliott moved on to writing the soundtrack for The Happy Hooker. Inexplicably, though, the Chipmunks made a brief comeback during the 80s with an album called Chipmunk Punk. Its Wikipedia entry argues that the album become "an integral and important part of the soundtrack of many Gen Xers' lives," and also claims — suspiciously — that Kurt Cobain modelled Nirvana's first album Bleach after the structure of Chipmunk Punk.

    An indifferent world still left the Chipmunks facing an uphill climb. Glowing with Chipmunk-mimicking DNA, the son of the Chipmunks' original creator tried to spawn a revival of his father's characters. Sinking profits into a TV cartoon (which lasted for three years), Ross Bagdadsarian, Jr. then sunk his personal fortune into an ill-fated full-length feature movie which he wrote, directed, produced, and provided the voices for, along with his pregnant wife Janice. ("If rest and pampering were going to be the key to our child's intellect," he remembers on his site, "Janice was going to give birth to a melon.")

    The 90s saw the franchise kept alive by unlikely novelty albums of club music, two country albums, and gimmicky specials like The Chipmunks meet Frankenstein. The corporate suits at Universal Studios ultimately bought a controlling stake in the Chipmunks in 1996, though Bagdadsarian claimed in a lawsuit that the studio "undertook the systematic destruction of a family owned and operated business," according to an article in L.A. Business Journal. They also reported the suit's claim that Chipmunk-related revenue dropped 98% under Universal, though Bagdadsarian told the business journal that, "Everything turned out great in the end."

    Universal ultimately gave him the rights to the Chipmunks, and he then entered a five-year deal with Paramount.  Amazingly, American culture may see the Chipmunks yet again, as the article ends with talk of a 2008 Chipmunks movie written by Simpsons contributor John Vitti.

    Meanwhile, Bagdasarian's lost Chipmunk movie from the 80s has finally been released on DVD, where it can delight and baffle a new generation of online hipsters. ("Diamond thieves? Interpol? Prepubescent chipmunk girls in belly-dancing outfits...? It's all here baby.") We can also expect new releases from the Chipmunks catalog, and even more Christmas specials.

    And yet I had to wonder if Ross Bagdadsarian, Jr. feels haunted by the ghost of his father's 1950s success. If you slow down any Chipmunk record to half speed, you hear his father's voice, triple-tracked and performing as all three chipmunks. Of course, the ghost of jazzman Don Elliot can also be summoned by slowing down the Nutty Squirrels.

    Music styles may change — jazz, punk, grunge, and dance mixes. But just like real infestations of vermin, the popularity of singing rodents is never really gone. 

    Dan the Automator Remixes the Blue Angels

    Dan The Automator
    The unassuming young man in our San Francisco home studio, admiring the view and wearing the basketball clinic t-shirt, was none other than Dan The Automator Nakamura, possibly the coolest and most creative hip hop producer around today. Nakamura is simply responsible for the most surreal, humorous, eclectic, sci-fi, beat-driven music being produced these days. Some compare his contemporary position to the place Brian Eno held for so many of us in the 1970s and '80s, and the comparison is deserved although, as he tells us, he's still working on and refining his technique.

    He produced The Gorillaz' first album, and he was the driving force behind Dr. Octagon with Kool Keith; Del Tha Funkee Homosapien; and he produced Cibo Matto's Stereo Type A — that's just for starters.

    It was Fleet Week in San Francisco (yes, America's most un-American city does celebrate our military at least once a year), and The Blue Angels tried to shock and awe us with their aerobatics, buzzing MondoGlobo's hilltop studio and nearly strangling the sound repeatedly as we recorded the show. But after a while, we just thought of it as part of the mix.

    Lisa Rein joined me as co-host for the show, and got Dan The Automator to talk about his participation in the Creative Commons; and Producer Jeff Diehl also contributed to that discussion.
    To listen the the full interview in MP3, click here.

    RU SIRIUS: As somebody who watches some MTV, I've been wondering: Why do you think Damon Albarn is so happy about having sunshine in a bag?

    DAN THE AUTOMATOR: You know, I'm not really sure exactly. That was an interesting one. With that particular song, we had gone through a whole slew of various lyrics to get there. The way we would work is, we'd create melodics and timing, and then words would come last. He's a really brilliant songwriter.

    RU: And Del is a brilliant rapper.

    DAN: Absolutely, Del's my favorite. Actually, there's a new Deltron record coming. We're probably gonna be done recording it by the end of December... So some time next year.

    RU: All along you've been working with almost infinite options, in terms of the sounds that you might use; like you might have some really corny bit of advertising and you mix in avant garde jazz and classical and hard rock and everything else. Is there some method that you have for figuring out what's appropriate to a particular artist or a particular song? Is it entirely intuitive?

    DAN: I'm a big fan of all the types of music you've mentioned. I'm not so much into modern R&B and modern country and modern jazz, but everything else — old country, old R&B, old jazz and even pop music from the old days through now — I'm a big fan of all that stuff. And I've followed people that don't pay much attention to categorizing music, who are eclectic about their influences. So when it comes to making records for myself, I don't look at it so much as "This is a jazz kind of thing," or "This is rock," or whatever. I just go, "This'll sound good."

    RU: You were in some ways right on the forefront of this change. Before, everybody was oriented towards genres. Everything had to fit a genre. And at a certain point, people started mixing them all up, which was a great relief, because it gets tiresome.

    DAN: I agree. I was influenced by the early stages of hip-hop. In hip hop, you have guys like Run DMC rhyming over rock beats or really electronic beats. Or you have another group like A Tribe Called Quest rhyming over jazz beats. That's how hip hop was, originally.

    RU: It's really true that hip hop was sort of the first form that was very liberal about its use of all kinds of other things and putting it into the mix.

    DAN: Just with Run-DMC, they had stuff over old Monkees records, over The Knack, Aerosmith...

    LISA REIN: You donated a track to the Creative Commons — Relaxation Spa Treatment.

    DAN: First of all, the Creative Commons thing — the whole idea was to give music that people could freely use and license. Part of what's going on right now in music, sampling — taking little bits of songs — it's become a very expensive endeavor. I don't mind the fact that it's expensive because if you're using someone else's work, you should pay for it. That's my personal opinion. If they don't want you to use it, that's their business. That's okay.

    But on the other side, I worked with (DJ) Shadow — we made really interesting recordings. And it's like Musique Concrete, which you could never do at this juncture in time because it's too expensive. It can't exist. You're losing a form of music. So I felt like I would like to at least contribute to the side of things where — if people do want to use something, or chop it up, they can do that. The thought that goes into that kind of stuff can bring out new ideas. And that will bring about more different kinds of music. I'd hate to see that whole thing go away.

    JEFF DIEHL: Don't most artists sympathize with that view? Isn't the copyright law now mostly protecting the record companies or labels; isn't it the corporations who want to protect this stuff?

    DAN: Well, it's a little bit of everything. Ultimately, like I said, if you made it and you didn't want someone else using it, that's your business. You know what I mean? It's a very fundamental principle to me. I respect that.

    JEFF: But that's kind of an old school mentality, right?

    RU: I would say, as a writer, if somebody quotes a couple of paragraphs of mine in the context of something larger, then I don't really have the right to say anything about it. All literature and all writing is built on that.

    LISA: But you might want attribution for it.

    RU: If they pretended it was their own? I suppose you could have a point.

    DAN: When it's a recording, it could be the guy's voice. Maybe he doesn't want to lend his voice to this project, so I respect that side of it. I have to say that I regret that you won't see records introduced like the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, because it's become too expensive to do. I'd like to see people contribute with things that people can use, chop up and change around.

    When people sample me, sometimes I can't just clear it myself because it's through a label. But I always clear my side of it, because I feel like it's the same thing if you're using music in advertising. I don't really want to, say, advertise cigarettes or something like that, but pretty much anything else, I feel like it's okay because they're still bringing music out. And I feel the same way about someone using the music in a song. In general, I want people to have the ability to do something like that.

    RU: In this context, what do you think about mashups? Have you had any of your songs used in mashups?

    DAN: I've heard a few things hear and there. I come from a DJ background. Before we were making records, we were doing that all the time. I'm from San Francisco. We've been mixing all sorts of different music for years. It was part of the background that allowed me to get familiar with different kinds of music. So I don't find it to be refreshingly new, if you understand what I'm saying. But I'm glad people do it. But I also think the way some people do it; it's more for the idea of doing it than the sound... what comes out of it. I don't really enjoy those so much.

    JEFF: The gimmick of taking two song titles that have the same word and then mashing them together...

    DAN: Exactly.

    RU: You seem to work entirely in terms of projects. Have you ever thought of trying to develop a solo career or forming a band?

    DAN: There's one big flaw in that theory. I can't sing, I can't rhyme, and I like vocals.

    RU: Do you relate yourself in any way to the idea of the great producer? There was Phil Spector and then Brian Eno.

    DAN: I think they're operating on a higher level than I am, so far.

    RU: Do you have trouble listening to the stuff that you've done in the past because you feel like it could've been better?

    DAN: Well, I always feel like everything could've been better, but there's another thing involved — the ability to let go. I feel like records, movies, whatever — they're a snapshot in your development and in your life. I could still be working on Doctor Octogon right now. But some time, it has to go out there and live its life.

    JEFF: Because theoretically, you could just continue to work on a project forever...

    DAN: Exactly.

    JEFF: Like software, you could release versions.

    DAN: That's a little strange, but yeah. I feel like the edges are what make things interesting. If you listen to some of these bigger budget bands, it gets more polished as time goes on. And maybe you like the more polished version, but maybe you like the rawer versions.

    RU: You choose some great surrealistic lyricists. Did you always have an affinity towards that?

    DAN: I work with a lot of people who have, I should say, "alternate ways of thinking." And they find the most profound and most interesting ways of putting together lyrics. That's really enjoyable to me.

    RU: You list your influences on your Myspace page. I wanted to just throw out a couple of them, because they were amusing and interesting. The BeeGees! Say what you love about the BeeGees.

    DAN: Well, I was a little young when Saturday Night Fever came out. People kind of looked down on them for a couple of reasons — it was disco and there's a lot of falsetto involved. (Laughter all around.) I'm telling it like it is. But as far as songwriting goes, they put a stamp on the whole seventies partly because they were great songs that just keep going time after time.

    RU: RZA.

    DAN: The Wu Tang Clan is just really brilliant. I'm a fan of people who take their whole thing and put it into a concept. I love the music, but even more I just like them conceptually, and the attitude it takes to go make that.

    RU: It's like people who develop mythologies around their band and have a whole cosmology, and that sort of started with P-Funk.

    DAN: RZA is also an organizer. With Wu Tang Clan, there wasn't actually a group — it was a bunch of different people that he kind of brought together to be a group. And if you understand, you get nine ghetto cats together and you can organize and make that happen, you're on some shit. You've really got a focus there, you know? I give him credit for the whole concept, the strength of it.

    RU: Tell us about the CD you brought with you.

    DAN: NBA 2k7 is a soundtrack for the NBA's new videogame. And what I did with this was I picked various artists that represent various styles of hip hop and various styles of regional rap to do this — everything from Pop New York to underground New York: to the South; the Midwest; West Coast, Backpack, Real Flossy. I wanted to show the variation, the eclectic nature of the United States.

    Neil Gaiman has Lost His Clothes

    Neil Gaiman & RU SiriusNeil Gaiman didn't arrive naked when he graced our MondoGlobo studio on Sunday, October 1. But according to a post on his website, he had lost most of his clothes. "What are the odds that, if I was sent a box of clean clothes to wear, a box that was waiting for me in New York, I would somehow manage to pack most of the clothes that were inside back up in the box along with the awards and books and CDs I'd been given, not to mention the already-worn UK-trip clothes, and then send that box with my clean clothes in it home, and that I would only discover the awful reason why my suitcase was so light on a Sunday morning in San Francisco?"

    Rest assured, Mr. Gaiman didn't smell like several days sweat, and he looked pretty much like you'd expect a comic writer and fantastical novelist to look: all in black, including the leather jacket. And if he felt like he was in the middle of one of the most common types of nightmares, he didn't seem disoriented.

    In fact, he didn't even tell us about his travails and he pretty much carried the interview (along with my co-host, Diana Brown), while your humble host (that's me) was in something of a somnambulant fog brought on by that day's health issues (I'll spare you.)

    And then there was the presence of Paul McEnery, who had interviewed Gaiman for Mondo 2000 back in the mid-1990s. "We broke him in America," he assured me. I had ignored his pleas to participate in the program, not wanting to crowd the show with too many cooks, but there he was, and so he was invited to kibbutz.

    All in all, it worked. This is a damned fine Neil Gaiman interview.

    Gaiman, noted for his Sandman comics, the novels American Gods and Anansi Boys, and so much more, has been touring America promoting his new collection, Fragile Things: Short Fiction and Wonders.
    To listen to the interview in MP3, click here.

    RU SIRIUS: His New York Times bestselling novel American Gods was awarded the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Bram Stroker...errr. How 'bout that? The Bram Stoker award.

    NEIL GAIMAN: The horror people actually call them the Strokers.

    RU: What do they give you? I'm imagining a bucket of viscous red fluid.

    NG: That would be wonderful. Actually, it's one of the prettiest awards. It's a little sort of haunted house designed by Gahan Wilson. You open the door and the name of what's won the award is behind the little door. It's kind of cool. It's much prettier than most.

    RU: That's real effort. Do they have a ceremony?

    NG: I think they did try to have a reasonably good ceremony. The trouble was, I'd logged on to their website that morning and their webmaster had been overly enthusiastic and put up the results. At nine in the morning, I discovered that I'd won. And then I had to go through the rest of the day pretending that I hadn't. People would come over to me and say, "Good luck!" and through gritted teeth I would say, "Thank You."

    RU: One of the things I love in your work is the importance of the figure of the trickster or the rascal that runs through pretty much everything. It's like this figure Mr. Nancy, who appears in the last two novels. And it seems like this may be the sort of person who can bring magic into our world and it's perhaps the sort of person that we don't have room for any more in America.

    NG: Oh, I think there are tricksters in America. I think they hang around the edges, which is, I think, the place where tricksters ought to be. You don't want a trickster at the center of your life because they will...

    RU: ...or as President.

    NG: You definitely don't want a trickster as President, although you'd have a really interesting country for 4 years, or perhaps for 3 or 4 weeks until he absconds with the money from the treasury.

    RU: Do you think that fiction is the best way to express the value of that sort of character? You can't as easily write prose justifying the trickster as you can fiction.

    NG: I think evoking the trickster is best done at short length. Mr. Nancy, one of the best things you can say for him is that he does die on page one. And then he hangs around the novel refusing to go away.

    I always loved trickster stories. My favorites; obviously the Anansi stories are wonderful; the Coyote stories are marvelous. You run into these stories where Coyote will get into an argument with a rock...and lose.

    RU: That's happened to me.

    NG: The thing I think I love best about tricksters is that they lose from time to time. Gods and heroes win. Tricksters are just like the rest of us. They win sometimes; they lose sometimes. They screw up every bit as often as people do, only with more style.

    RU: The comedy of that fucking-up comes across in Anansi Boys

    NG: I think Anansi Boys is pretty much a comedy of embarrassment.

    RU: Particularly your main character.

    NG: Which is why I wanted to do a character that was English. Because the English do embarrassment better. We have raised it to some kind of slightly awkward apologetic art form. American's understand the concept of embarrassment...

    RU: ...we just don't engage in it.

    NG: I was talking to an American friend who told me that she was in England making out with an Englishman in a parking lot in the rain. He got very scared and upset and wouldn't continue making out with her. She asked me, why not? And I told her, "Basically, it's because you are an American. You were making out in the parking lot in a car in the rain and your attitude is 'Anybody walking past, I don't know these people. What the hell? This is my life. Go away.' Whereas his was the profound certainty that the moment that things went any further, not only would somebody knock upon the window; if he rolled the window down, it would be someone he knew and standing just behind him would be everyone else he'd ever met and they would all be staring disapprovingly." That's just how the English are built.

    RU: A sense of propriety still exists.

    NG: And a wonderful magical sense; a sort of conviction that the world is designed to make you slightly embarrassed and slightly ill at ease. But I actually like that.

    The lead character in Anansi Boys is divided up into Fat Charlie, our hero, who is very English and very embarrassed; and his brother Spider, who is semi-fictional and God-like and for whom the world just sits up and begs and does more or less whatever he wants it to do.

    RU: The sense I get is that neither is complete without the other. Charlie is perfect neurosis and the other is perfect pathology.

    NG: Psychosis.

    Terry Gilliam has loved Good Omens for years. He recently came to us and said, "What is it going to cost me to get the option for myself?" Terry Pratchett and I put our heads together and thought: we want this to be a Terry Gilliam film. We don't want this to be an anybody-else film. We've said no to lots of people who want to make it into a cool big commercial film. So we decided that it should cost him a groat.

    DIANA BROWN: I was struck by the title of your new collection, Fragile Things, and your take on the title. And I'm quoting you: "The peculiarity of most things we think of as fragile are how tough they really are." And you talk about eggshells and butterfly wings and hearts and dreams. And the line I like best there: "Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things can prove remarkably difficult to kill." So what was your impetus to put this collection together and name it Fragile Things?

    NG: The only thing that makes me feel like it's OK to write short fiction and take the time away that I could otherwise spend on a novel is the idea that every eight years or so, I can put it all together and I will have something book-like. It was eight years. I had enough stories. It was time to put them all together in one place and see what they did. Which is something very cool for a writer because the themes take you by surprise -- you put all these stories together and they have something huge in common. Things repeat. When I was reading it aloud for the audio book I would discover that even certain phrases would repeat themselves from story to story. And I thought, "Should I take them out?" But I rather like the fact that they repeat.

    What gets harder is: what order do they go in? I couldn't figure out how to do it. So eventually I turned to my editor and I said, "I have no idea what order I want these things to go in. Would you do me a list?" So she sent me her list. And I looked at it and I said, "That's not right" and promptly put them into the right order. I really needed somebody to send me a list so I could go, "What are you thinking of, woman."

    The original title that I had in my head was "These People Should Know Who We Are and Know That We Were Here." It's a quote from "Little Nemo." It was all going to be first person narratives and unreliable narrators talking about their lives. But then I kept coming up with stories that couldn't follow that pattern. And then I kept telling people that the title was going to be "These People Should Know Who We Are and Know That We Were Here." And everybody I would tell that title to would look at me and tell me, "Oh nice title. A bit Dave Eggers-y isn't it?"

    And then finally, I'd written a song from a dream. It was one of the very few occasions where you wake up from a dream with words in your head. You write them down and they seem to be lyrics. And there's a band called One Ring Zero who did a wonderful album where they came to a bunch of authors and asked for words. And I gave them these lyrics, which we called "On The Wall." And there was this line in there: "think that I would rather recollect a life misspent on fragile things than spent avoiding moral debt." That line started haunting me. And I thought, "I wonder what those fragile things could be?" So I started thinking about the nature of fragility and people and hearts and stories and all of the things we think of as fragile. And suddenly I realized that was the title of this collection.

    DB: Do you find yourself working within a particular construct of a story and the story insists on going in a different direction?

    NG: Definitely. You write the story wherever it will go and sometimes you'll run into enormous trouble if you have an idea of where a story is supposed to go and it's not going there. I was about halfway through Anansi Boys. It was going completely on track. I knew where the plot was going. I knew everything about it. I'm writing away very happily. I've got a character going up in an elevator to see another character, and I thought: Hang on, if you go up to see him. And you have the conversation with him that I think you're going to have; he's going to kill you. That's not part of the plot. That's not even where I thought this story was going. That makes it much darker and derails everything. And suddenly these characters who I thought of as wallpaper, came up and started doing things.

    RU: I loved that character, Mr. Coats (the murderer). I feel as though I've met that guy and maybe you have too.

    NG: I loved writing him. I took enormous joy in writing a character who was everything that I could hate. He's every crooked agent that I have ever encountered.

    I've had very good agents. But every once in awhile, you see a friend of yours winding up with a rotten apple. Poor Douglas Adams. I remember going to see Douglas once, and he looked very down in the dumps. So I asked him what was wrong. And he said, "I've just discovered that my accountant who has just advised me to by a new house and told me I was fine, had actually cleaned out my bank account, and having been caught, just killed himself."

    DB: You start the book with "A Study in Emeralds", a fabulous literary mashup in which Sherlock Holmes meets the world of H.P. Lovecraft. What is your favorite Lovecraft story?

    NG: My favorite Lovecraft at exactly this moment that you happened to ask me is probably "The Outsider." It was the first, and I had no idea of what to expect. And suddenly I'm climbing up in the darkness with somebody who has been down in this dark place, and he's climbing up and up and up and up and he finally comes into the sunlight and comes out and everybody who sees him starts screaming. And we realize he's a horrible creature and he goes back down. It's an incredibly simple plot idea and it completely took me by surprise and told me that I was with an author who would take me to strange places and whom I trusted. And for whom everything was atmosphere. The joy of Lovecraft is not plot. You don't read Lovecraft for those brilliant twists and turns.

    DB: You're immersed in it.

    NG: You are. You're adrift on this clotted adjectival froth that floats on top of the story and it carries you away.

    PAUL MCENERY: I wanted to ask you about the theme: Gods who have fallen on hard times. That's what is really going on in American Gods and Anansi Boys. And you're revisiting it with a comic book that is coming out right now, The Eternals. Is that why you went back to The Eternals?

    NG: Not really, although thematically it does seem to be an odd sort of fit with these things. It was definitely a theme that began in Sandman. I can point to "Calliope" in Sandman 17 about a muse who has been kept prisoner. Most of the Gods in Sandman are Gods who are no longer believed in, no longer worshipped and no longer anywhere near as powerful as they would like to be. And then in The Kindly Ones, I wrote this sort of weird rant that Loki has as he's killing a young lady. He does this rant about the new Gods: the gods of mortuary and ambulance and the gods of freeway and television. So I thought, "There's something here that I'm trying to say." And that all stewed, until one day I was in Iceland for a 24 hour plane stopover. So I had this plan to keep going until it got dark. And I didn't realize that on June 23 in Iceland, you don't get any dark. So I've been awake for 36 hours. And I'm in a little tourist office looking at the little maps of the Viking incursions into Newfoundland and back, and I think, "I wonder if they left their Gods behind"?

    So I walked back to my hotel and I started typing out an outline. I wrote "American Gods" at the top. I was thinking, I could do a road trip. I can talk about the America that has been fascinating me. And I can talk about the fact that there are things that are missing -- spiritually missing -- in America. It's the weirdness of the American predilection towards giant roadside attractions.

    DB: The Enormous Ball of Twine.

    NG: The Enormous Ball of Twine. The House on the Rock. All of those kinds of things that seemed to fulfill the same kind of place in the soul that the holy places in Europe and Asia...

    RU: They're not quite Stonehenge.

    NG: Yes. They're not quite Stonehenge. So when all that was done, I really wanted to tell the Anansi Boys story. That is much less a story of Gods falling on hard times and more a story of how your family is embarrassing. And Gods seemed like a lovely way of super-charging that. Giving it more weight and more power. That's one of the things that Gods do. It's the great thing about Gods in stories and in our collective consciousness. They embody something. So Nancy as the trickster; as a God of storytelling; as a God who would go out and pick up loose women; as a God who would come home drunk -- this was somebody I wanted in my story.

    RU: Two Englishmen, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, both are very outspoken about their beliefs in the occult and psychedelic drugs and all kinds of weirdness...

    NG: Alan worships an imaginary Roman snake god. I remember the day. I was sitting at home and the phone rang and it was Alan, who had always been a devout rationalist -- a man who would have made Penn and Teller feel that they were superstitious. So Alan called me up and said [Cockney accent], "Neil. It's my 40th birthday next week and I've decided to get me midlife crisis over with, so I'm becoming a warlock and I'm going to be worshiping an imaginary Roman snake god. Just thought you'd like to know mate. Alright?"

    Unfortunately, him having done that, growing a really long beard, I think, wouldn't it be great to grow a really long beard. But Alan's already done it. So I can't imagine myself -- if I became a sort-of psychedelic warlock, people would say, "Oh, he's just doing Alan Moore."

    RU: Has it surprised you that so much weirdness has managed to leak its way into the world of comics?

    NG: No, not at all. We are wonderfully weird people. It's a pity really that it isn't as true these days. I'll always meet people who will explain to me that they're going into comics as a career move. Which is like somebody telling me that they're going to live in Belgium as a career move. It's just wrong.

    Those of us who got into comics, at least before the early 90s, most of us got into comics because it was a really cool, strange, odd place that nobody was watching.

    RU: That's what I was thinking, but to a certain extent, still nobody is watching. It's like a really big cult.

    NG: I don't think it's a cult any more. I think it's hit the stage of religion. It may fall back to cult. Comics is in this weird world now where all the places that are reviewing stuff will just cheerfully review comics alongside everything else. This is what we were fighting for 25 years ago -- to be sold in bookshops. As far as the likes of me and Alan and Grant and the rest of us are concerned, we are now living in the Golden Age. This is utopia. There are zeppelins and flying cars and a cure for cancer in this perfect future. This is what we dreamed would happen. Back in '86, nobody was reading comics. I remember the sheer amazed befuddled joy when we in England discovered that Kathy Acker read comics for pleasure. And it was magic. It was so cool. She was this weird figure, but almost part of the literary establishment...

    RU: Almost a legitimate intellectual. She would love to hear that.

    NG: It's true. She was almost legitimate and she read Love And Rockets. And she got into line to get her copy of Dark Knight signed by Frank Miller at a signing. The reason it was so cool was that this had never happened -- somebody from that world coming into our world. These days, everybody reads comics. I go to a big author event or book expo or something like that and all these authors sort of sidle over and ask me how they can get into the business. You want to say, "Go away you latecomers! We want none of you! We spurn you."

    RU: I guess anybody who's anybody has to do a graphic novel now.

    NG: Exactly. It is kind of true. I actually kind of like it. I love the fact that we live in a world where you can get Michael Chabon and Will Eisner collaborating on a comic. That's magic. I'm glad we're living in a world where Art Spiegelman is taken absolutely as seriously as anybody else in American letters. But it's so easy to forget the way things were.

    RU: You're doing something with Terry Gilliam, who is absolutely one of my favorite directors.

    NG: Bless! I hope that it happens. Terry has been working for many years on Good Omens, which is the novel that Terry Pratchett and I co-wrote about the end of the world...

    DB: It has just been re-released.

    NG: Absolutely. Terry Gilliam has loved the book for years. He has been working on it for awhile. He recently came to us and said, "OK. I'm going to get the rights back to the script that I wrote with this guy called Tony Brusconi a few years ago. What is it going to cost me to get the option for myself?" Terry Pratchett and I put our heads together and thought; well, we really want Terry Gilliam to make it. We want this to be a Terry Gilliam film. We don't want this to be an anybody-else film. We've said no to lots of people who want to make it into a cool big commercial film. We like the idea of it being a Terry Gilliam film. So we put our heads together and we decided that it should cost him a groat. And I don't believe they've actually made groats, which is an old English coin worth about four pence since about the 1780s. Which means he is going to have to go to EBay.

    RU: He's going to have to do some searching... a magical quest.

    NG: They're cheap. I mean frankly they're really cheap. We figured out we were going to need Farthings to pay the agents -- the agent commission on a groat. I went to EBay and picked up a farthing for practically nothing.

    Willie Nelson’s ‘Narcotic’ Shrooms

    Psilocybin Shroom
    Willie Nelson and four others were issued misdemeanor citations for possession of narcotic mushrooms and marijuana after a traffic stop Monday morning on a Louisiana highway, state police said. — Associated Press, September 18, 2005

    Webster's Dictionary defines a narcotic as "a drug that produces numbness or stupor; often taken for pleasure or to reduce pain; extensive use can lead to addiction."

    According to, the word narcotic comes from the Greek word "narke" which means "numbness or torpor." A second definition from the same site acknowledges that the word narcotic has slipped into common usage and has come to mean "A drug such as marijuana which is subject to regulatory restrictions comparable to those for addictive narcotics." Wikipedia tells us that, "A narcotic is an addictive drug derived from opium, that reduces pain, induces sleep and may alter mood or behavior. The derivation of the word is from the Greek word narkotikos, meaning 'benumbing or deadening,' and originally referred to a variety of substances that induce sleep (such state is narcosis)." From there, the Wikipedia entry goes on to acknowledge that "Many police in the United States use the word 'narcotic' to refer to any illegal drug or any unlawfully possessed drug." (Actually, nearly all narcotics are legal with a prescription, unlike Willie's shrooms)

    The misuse of the word narcotic by America's legal system began early in the 20th Century.  Legendary psychedelic chemist/researcher Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin told me...

    The original meaning of narcotic was to define something that would cause narcosis — a numbing dopy state where there wasn't much feeling, and pain was lessened and sleep came easily. The Harrison Narcotics Act was passed into law in about 1915 give or take a couple of years, [ed: 1914] and it was basically a law making opium (and morphine) and coca (and cocaine) illegal.These were collectively called narcotics, and the term came to represent those two drugs (and their allies) for years. Illegal drugs were called narcotics, and the people who were employed by the Bureau of Narcotics were called Narks. In 1936 a super ego called Anslinger moved to put marijuana into the law and it was called by all the police, "another narcotic. " This was the status of Federal drug law until the sixties when the hippie movement took off. Clearly LSD and mescaline and STP (DOM) weren't like opium (the focal definition of a narcotic) so the Bureau of Narcotics weren't the right people to go after the users. So a new group was created, associated with the FDA, and called the BNDD or Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.The B of N and the FDA wore difference hats and competed for attention in the anti-drug fight. It all was resolved in about 1970 with the passage of the Controlled Substance Act bill and the creation of the DEA. It is quite a story.

    Among the drug hip, the use of the word narcotic to describe mind-active drugs other than opiates carries with it an implicit irony. (Implicit only because irony, by its nature, can't be explicit.) On the other hand, the mainstream media, even the San Francisco Chronicle, from the drug-sophisticated Bay Area, tends to use law enforcement misnomers for illicit drugs, when reporting news around drugs. For instance, one report called the disassociative hallucinogen Ketamine a "date rape drug." There is, of course, no such thing as a date rape drug. There are drugs that were developed to be used — and are used — for other purposes that are, on rare occasions, used for date rape. And then there's alcohol, which has been the more easily available and frequently used substance of choice for date rapists since time immemorial. Unlike some other US papers, The Chronicle, at least, never reported on an LSD overdose, something that is virtually impossible to achieve, however hard some of us may have tried back in the days of heroic dose experimentation.

    There are probably a dozen or so regular Chronicle culture and opinion writers who are sufficiently (intimately) knowledgeable regarding mind-altering plants and chemicals to inform the news editors about their mistakes, but who cares? No news agency will ever have a Dan Rather crisis for accepting and passing along drug misinformation. Indeed, nobody... nobody demands accuracy from the news media regarding mind-altering drugs or those who enjoy them.

    Meanwhile, back to the concept of "narcotic" shrooms: As far as I've been able to decipher in one day's research, there are no opium-containing mushrooms nor are there any pharmaceutical relaxants or stupefiers that are derived from mushrooms. However, one source, who asked to be nameless, but who is associated with a company that supplies legal highs, told me that the Amanita Mascaria mushroom "can cause a kind of drunken stupor that can last a couple of hours, slowing you down until you pass out." Accoding to Ilsa Jerome, Project Coordinator for MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), "The depressant compound [in amanita] is almost certainly muscimol, a direct GABA agonist, GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid) being a major inhibitory transmitter. Other GABA agonists include benzodiazepines, GHB and ethanol." Other compounds in Amanita, however, likely have opposite, excitatory effects, so stupefaction experiences are rare, and most experimenters report mild psychedelic effects, with some disassociative properties. And of course, Psilocybin, the drug that Willie was actually carrying, is a psychedelic (mind-manifesting drug or plant); or as some would have it, an entheogen (drug or plant that causes one to experience the god within); or a hallucinogen (drug or plant that causes one to watch The Dead for five hours without getting bored shitless.)

    I asked Jerome if she was aware of any relationship between the activity of psilocybin in the brain and the activity of actual narcotics (i.e. opiates). She noted that, "There are a few studies that describe the effects of psilocybin in people, but none alongside those of opiates." But she added, "We do know that psilocybin, like LSD, mescaline and a host of obscure related drugs, acts to 'switch on' certain serotonin receptors. All these drugs share activity at 5HT2A and 5HT2C receptors; from there, actions vary, but psilocybin also acts to turn on 5HT1A and probably 5HT1B receptors. Opiates act on at least three opioid receptors, those being represented by the Greek letters 'mu', 'sigma', 'delta' and 'kappa'

    In other words, "they definitely have different pharmacological activities." (Technically, Dr. Shulgin points out, psilocybin doesn't cross the blood/brain barrier and make it into the brain. Only after digestion is Psilocin produced, which does get across the brain-blood barrier to produce the psychedelic effects. Shulgin says, "This accounts for the time delay from the eating to the turning on.")

    Perhaps we should accept the term "narcotic" as a description of any illicit mind-active drug since it is now common usage. But the word still carries more than a whiff of its original connotations. Drug warriors and reductionists do think of all illegal drug effects in terms of stupefaction. Most psychedelic fans would argue that these substances result in the opposite of stupefaction. Indeed, the experience frequently makes trippers painfully hyper-aware. On the other hand, if you're hoping that your buddy who is tripping on a hefty dose of shrooms will help you sort the garbage for tomorrow's recycling pick up, you might consider the slacker — laying on the floor for six hours staring at the back of his eyelids — to be stupified.

    Narcotics or no, Willie Nelson will remain an American institution. Universally loved despite his weird-ass mile-long ponytail, lefty politics, and blatant marijuana advocacy, maybe this Willie Nelson bust will help awaken our countrymen to the absurdity of the drug war and the assumptions that are built into it. Probably not, though. For one thing, people find so much entertainment value in celebrity run-ins with the law that they don't want to mess up the fun by making serious politics out of it. Anyway, most people seem to regard this endless game of cops-and-stoners as an irretrievable fact of life.

    Dana Plato, Porn Star

    Dana PlatoDana Plato's soft-core porn feature, Different Strokes: The Story of Jack and Jill... and Jill, is misunderstood. "Dana really wanted the lesbian thing to be real, not exploitative," remembers Diane Anderson-Minshall, who interviewed Plato about the film for the lesbian magazine Girlfriends. "She wanted it to be a statement, not just another career move everyone would make fun of." Unfortunately, the people at DanaPlato.Net are positioning it as "Plato's pussy videos" with the tagline "From child TV star to adult porn star fucking her way into your bedroom."

    The video's cover promises a "steamy erotic love story," but is it? Porn lovers may be disappointed.

    The film opens with Plato's female co-star, Landon Hall, watching the male lead play the piano. The camera pans slowly over his ringed hand and the sheet music to stop on Hall, in a blue bikini, leaning on the piano, trying to communicate something with her eyes. You quickly get the uneasy feeling this movie is going to have more plot than the usual porno.

    The piano scene does lead to sex, but not with Dana Plato. Instead, there's R-rated footage of "Jack," who's a photographer, making love to Landon Hall. Dana arrives later, playing a New York art director who's come to help Jack in his next photo shoot. They've got an early shoot the next day, so in a typical porn plot device, Jack suggests, hey, "Why don't you spend the night?" But then he makes a fatal mistake. He leaves the two women alone. Wrong! Everyone knows what's going to happen next...

    "You're not wearing a bathing suit!"

    "Nah, I didn't pack one..."

    There's a long shot of Dana diving into the pool naked. Then there are shots of her through ever-shifting prisms of water. Hundreds of frustrated men reach for their remotes to hit the frame-by-frame button. But a minute later, Plato stands up and reveals her breasts.

    Landon stares, bites her lip, dives into the pool, says something generic like "Ooo, it's chilly," and then removes her bikini. Oboe and piano music begins, and, of course, a montage. But in a radical departure for a porn film -- nothing happens! (Say, that is arty!) Instead, the film shows Dana calling her lesbian lover in New York, who doesn't pick up the phone because, of course: She's busy with another lesbian!

    Guess there's nothing left to do but... take a shower!

    This seems like an obvious setup. Landon Hall is already taking a shower when suddenly, there's a knock on the door. Dana had been showering elsewhere in the house, but wouldn't you know it, there's no soap! She swings by (no pun intended) to pick some up (no pun intended) and a transparent conversation ensues.

    "Oh, wow, this is a great shower. It's huge! I have a little bitty one back in New York."

    "You know, if you want, there's plenty of room in here. You could join me."

    "Oh, I'd love to. You wouldn't mind?"

    More pause-button fun ensues, but little is revealed. Instead, there's another arty montage: mostly scenes from the pool, with one flash of a fantasy where Dana kisses Landon's breast.

    Not to give away the plot, but let's just say the ladies' stars start lining up. Landon has a fight with her boyfriend, then runs into Dana, who asks "Would you mind dropping me off at my hotel?"

    Landon's reply? "You're not going to stay in a hotel tonight. You're gonna come home with me."

    Of course, they end up in bed together. There are candles all around, and they're both naked. "It feels good to cuddle like this, doesn't it?" Landon asks. Dana starts petting her hair... But this scene is disappointing, too. Landon runs her fingertip over Dana's arm. Dana drags her fingertips across her breasts. There's a kiss. Dana pets her hair again. Kiss. Kiss. Oboe. And that's it.

    Then there's a jump to the next morning, when Dana's ass is sticking out from the covers. The complicated threesome depicted in the movie's promotional poster never occurs. Instead, the film cuts to the two women running with a picnic basket in the sun, the synthesizer switches to harpsichord sounds, and we're treated to a song written by the film's director.

    I want to know, what you think of me

    I want to know, what you're feeling

    Maybe it's just me, but I thought this movie had more potential when they were naked in bed together.

    Dana Plato told Girlfriends the movie was "The worst piece of work I've ever done." It could've been better, but the director was "not an actor's director." (His next film was Bikini Med School.) "When there is no chemistry, no consistency, it's hard to do a good scene."

    But for all the notoriety the film caused her, it could be worse. Earlier this year, her former TV co-star Gary Coleman revealed to US magazine that he was still a virgin.

    Click here to buy Dana Plato's video!

    See Also:
    Dana Plato and the Diff'rent Strokes Curse
    Screech's Sex Tape Follies
    Nancy Drew's Sexy Secrets
    Why Sarah Palin's Sex Life Matters
    Deep Throat, Big Brain
    World Sex Laws