30 June 2011

The Bachelor Party

(L to R) Wild East, Foosko & Sgt Nick Penis - Deer Path Inn 30 June 1988

23 years ago tonight some old friends, relatives and in-laws gathered at the Lantern in Lake Forest for my low key bachelor party. The image above is of the 'After Party' complete with Pabst Blue Ribbon. Amazing how hip we were and didn't even know it.

One of my friends asked my father that night what his experience in Vietnam was like. Dad shrugged and said there wasn't much to tell. Everyone nodded and the conversation moved
quickly to the Cubs and the merits of Old Style. The night winds down as in-laws leave but old friends wanna go all night.

Wild East and Foosko. decide to reenact Lobby East dorm life with a purchase of the cheapest beer available. Army buddy and Chicago local, SgtNick Penis comes along for the ride. Sadly, Red, White and Blue is not available so two sick packs of PBR go from the Lantern to the Deer Path Inn only four blocks and a low crawl away.

A month or so later the old man is visting D.C. and offers dinner at his favorite French restaurant in Old Town Alexandria. My bride asks Dad, in a break after escargot en croute but before steak au poivre, what it was exactly he did in Vietnam. Dad sips his Beefeater martini and tells my wife it was just like the mafia. "They'd come down to the village. Kill some locals. We'd go up the mountain and kill some of them."

While the rules of time, place and occasion are invaluable for apparel -- there is some wisdom in applying the rule to story telling. You don't wear a white dinner jacket to a bachelor party nor should fatigues be worn in French restaurants.

29 June 2011

Wearing My Independence

The right Talbotts

The wrong Talbots - Door County, WI July 1988

I don't know about you but I've never worn a tie on the 4th. Still, it's the lead up that counts. Not interested in theme ties but something more understated keeps 'em guessing.

28 June 2011

Something Wild - 1986

Directed by Jonathan Demme and written by E. Max Frye. A flashback to my 1986. A story of change within change.

Charlie Driggs (Jeff Daniels) likes to spice up his life by sneaking out on restaurant tabs. I'm guessing Brooks Brothers 346, a pinpoint button down with extra starch (on a hanger) and Johnston & Murphy cap toes in British tan.

Audrey 'Lulu' Hankel (Melanie Griffith) is banging 12 on the koo-koo meter but in a good way. The way it was in 1986 when girls who were just a little crazy were something wild. E. Max got the idea for the film when he saw an ultra straight guy in a suit having a romantic lunch with a gal just like Lulu.

Lulu confronts Charlie outside the diner for his Dine & Dash. Then offers him a ride back to work. Uptown. She has a car.

How can you say no? Instead of going uptown...

Lulu kidnaps Charlie and takes him to a NJ motel where she handcuffs him to the headboard...

and proceeds south after calling Charlie's office...

and putting him on the phone...

with his boss. "Yeah, I'm getting this down."

Later, Lulu and Charlie both do a dine & dash.

I've been looking for these seat covers for 25 years.


Lulu & Charlie stop off at another cheap motel...

but have to give the car up when a cop (that's John Sayles behind those Ray Bans) asks if they own it.

They cross the street to another cameo by John Waters as a used car salesman. That shirt is a perfect McNairy knock off.

Lulu, who tells Charlie to call her Audrey, visits her 10 year high school reunion.

Where she introduces Charlie as

her husband.

While the Feelies play

and I'm transported back to this wonderful time. Full of nostalgia and color...

And it all changes when Ray Liotta appears.

Before CDs. Before cell phones. Before any responsibility of any kind. Something Wild made a huge impression on me. Like being hit in the head with a shovel. I loved it then and even more today through Criterion's Blu-Ray. An amazing soundtrack that I still have on cassette. It's different.

27 June 2011

Looking Closer

What amazed me when I first saw red stripes with a navy and yellow polka dot tie (M Magazine- 6/87) was clarity. Looking closer, I see primary colors from 7th grade art class. I can do more: Reverse the tie and shirt color. Use navy /yellow rep instead of polk dots. Red gingham shirt instead of stripes. The choices are endless.

That's looking closer. Using your own creativity in the most basic of functions -- getting dressed. And it should only matter to you because only you will know. That's really what life is. And then it won't matter how much money you make or what parties you go to. Something far better is going on since you're making the rules.

It's funny. People I know who work hard at being fashionable usually hail from very un-hip pasts while people who distance themselves from hip are some the hippest people I know. I wonder why that is?

24 June 2011

G. Bruce Boyer & Big Joe Turner Get Some Sugar

"Yea, boy. Get you a little sugar tonight.
Are you ready? You should be ready."

G. Bruce Boyer follows up on the smokey cool of Nina Simone with the operatic, Big Joe Turner, a blue's man who lacks Nina's notoriety but whose powerhouse voice must have raised the hair on your arms when heard live. I wanna thank Bruce for turning me onto Big Joe and for my new favorite 'gettin' sugar' song.

Joe Turner (1911 – 1985) was born dirt poor in Kansas City and never had a minute's formal education in music. Had things been different, Joe might have been a great American opera star. He had a staggering musical talent: a natural ear, an ability to remember thousand's of lyrics, and his pipes were capable of an instinctive subtlety as well as soaring majesty. Not to mention his manly, overwhelming, and commanding presence.

In a club or dance hall, with a rowdy crowd in front of him and a blaring orchestra behind, he needed no microphone to be heard in every corner of the room. At 6'2 and over 300 lbs, he wasn't called “Big Joe” for nothing.

As a teenager, I had heard rockabilly star Bill Haley's version of what some have called the first pop rock 'n roll song, “Shake, Rattle, and Roll”. It was a nice, fairly bland, harmless tune without any real smoke or sexuality about it.

Haley's recording in fact owed most of its fame to its use as the opening sound cut to the most popular juvenile delinquent genre film Blackboard Jungle. If white bread could sing rock 'n roll, it would sound like Bill Haley.

But the song itself was something else, and we were familiar with the original, by Big Joe. His version was a revolutionary experience to a kid just becoming very much aware of his sexuality. Joe picked that song up, filled it with lust, alcohol, a dash of the Devil's wit, and a dose of pulsating danger and turned it loose on the streets at midnight:

Like a one-eyed cat peeping in a sea food store,
Like a one-eyed cat peeping in a sea food store,
I can look at you, tell you ain't no child no more.

A year or two later I heard Big Joe in person, when he played at one of our local dance halls. After the band warmed up the crowd for half an hour with scorching renditions of “Night Train”, “Flamingo”, and “Unchained melody” , Joe lumbered out on the stage wearing a wrinkled tan gabardine suit that was billowing and draping around him as though it might have been made from a tent.

Directly at the center of the apron was a gleaming chrome mic. Joe gave the downbeat to the band with his left hand, pushed the mic out of the way with his right, and went immediately into a blistering version of my personal favorite “Cherry Red” that went on for about ten minutes. The whole ballroom pulsated like a gigantic heart.

He filled that hall with joy for the next hour-and-a-half, as one great blues tune after another came thundering out of him. He closed with, “Roll 'Em, Pete”, which contains the most existential set of lyrics ever heard:

You're so beautiful, but you got to die some day,
You're so beautiful, but you got to die some day.
All I want's a little loving' before you pass away.

The really interesting thing about Joe's performance was that he didn't move at all except for a finger snap or two. He just stood there like Mount Rushmore and let the sound pour forth. There were none of the physical gyrations and signature tricks we were used to seeing with the rock 'n roll musicians who played the dances.

No leg flailing, hip shaking, head tossing gymnastics; no hopping or skipping or rolling around on the stage. Joe just stood there with his arms at his sides and wailed like the solid force of nature he was. There were no gimmicks, no tricks, no pretense, no pandering. He just did his thing and you either got it or you didn't. And when Big Joe sang the blues, they stayed sung.

There's no doubt in my mind that, as a musician, Joe Turner was a genius, and his music a national treasure. And, not being an opera buff, I'm I'm not at all
disappointed by Fate.

And, oh yes, Big Joe appears in what I suggest is the greatest jazz documentary ever made: The Last of the Blue Devils. Check it out.

Selected Discography

Count Basie and Joe Turner: The Bosses (Pablo)

Joe Turner Texas Style (Black & Blue)

Joe Turner: The Boss of the Blues (Atlantic)

Big, Bad & Blue: The Big Joe Turner Anthology (Rhino)

Joe Turner: I Don't Dig It (Jukebox Lil Records)

Joe Turner, Milt Jackson, Roy Eldridge: Nobody in Mind (Pablo)

The Trumpet Kings Meet Joe Turner Pablo)

23 June 2011

Back in the Summer of '82...and '83 and '84.

One of the few parks who kept log books

Documenting the best days of my life

Entries by full time staff ran a little dry

But the journals show a more festive attitude once the seasonal staff arrived.

Even the photography was festive

It wasn't a Summer internship at The New Yorker but it beat waiting on tables. Three mind frying Summers are documented in Ranger Logs archived in climate controlled and acid free storage somewhere in Northeastern Florida. An NPS curator was kind enough to scan what turned out to be the best days of my life.

Buried in some of the most god awful handwriting are the frustrations of dealing with thousands of visitors a day in a very small space with temps as high as 107. Mr Carlson from TV's, WKRP is afforded VIP coverage but, as always happens, it is the everyday that stands out with each ranger contributing his or her own point of view and penmanship.

A ranger nicknamed, Whitey is addressed as such by a black ranger to the astonishment of a southern Georgia family. A Japanese father asks a ranger for directions to I-95. A pig tailed man in a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt walks by and offers, "Y'all didn't have no trouble finding Pearl Harbor."

It was like working in a giant fish bowl with visitors from all over the world converging with Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia day trippers. All of it captured in a beautiful three volume set complete with photographs and illustrations. Contact me for a limited edition copy or screenplay.

22 June 2011

21 June 2011

Black Tie at Lincoln Center

The Team L - R: Foster, Miss Kittie and me by Alice Olive

The Venue: Lincoln Center

The Mission: Shoot a shoe.

The Result: A new obsession -- with the Canon 5D too (thanks Foster)

Alice Olive shoots the shoot...

which has already...

prompted questions...

from my concerned father...who is also a leg man.

20 June 2011

Miss Kittie Comes To Town...

Melbourne blogger 'Kittie France' arrives in NYC. Her goal, a different pair of shoes every day for a year. I was honored to contribute -- the photography -- not the shoes. More to come when the slides get back from the lab.

17 June 2011

Father's Day Advice

I'll never tell you what's coming back. I'll only tell you what never left.

My Sub today

Dad's Understated Choice

I grew up with the lore of my father's Explorer upon his return from war. It was an icon to me. His thick wrist covered in the black face and stainless steel with those beautiful numerals.

Front of photo: Dad in Nha Trang - 1967

Back of Photo: "Finger in ear! A typical pose. Look at that $200.00 Rolex shine in the "sun""

I learned to make fires in the Army and it didn't matter how wet the wood was. It always ignited. Thanks to a 5 gallon can of mogas. Despite her vulgar and wasteful ways the Army was not shy about collecting totems within units.

I was eight or nine when I first heard 'Rolex' from my father. It was the watch for Special Forces. Anybody in the military could buy one but few did.

Panmunjom, Korea - 1971

He's showing the Explorer to an anchor cranker or marine. No doubt the young 'El Tee' bought a Rolex before rotating home thanks to that mystical military allure. No, "Joe Shit the Rag Man" here. We're talking clued in. OD Green hipsters. Guys who sniffed out the best: restaurants, booze, cigars, music, reel to reels and wheels.

Dad - Ft Bragg, NC 1966

It was the totem I grew up with. The mysterious watch elicted 'oohhs and ahhs' from those in the know and not so much as a side ways glance from those not. That was the power.

Tintin - Ft Bragg, NC 1977

I pulled the trigger in 1976. Couldn't swing the Explorer but happily settled for the 5513. I was in the Sub Club few understood. Times have changed and the Sub is everywhere. When Dad and I talk about Rolex it's almost as if it's an old language we've grown tired of (Dad chucked his Explorer into a New Mexico desert and I'm close to chucking mine onto 7th Ave.). Inaccurate. Expensive to repair. Anxiety of loss.

But it was his advice I nearly always bought, "Drink the local beer. Be the last to a party and the first to leave. Check out her mother before you marry her. Never take anybody's last anything. Keep the rear sights in focus and you'll hit it every time." These things never seem to run slow or get lost.