Flashback Friday: Year of The Lost & Found Walkman

I must have been 12 or 11 when I found it.  A black walkman clone – I think you’re supposed to call it a personal cassette player, you know, if you don’t want to use Sony’s marketing jargon or whatever – seemed to have just materialized on the tennis court one day with an unmarked cassette in it.

It was midsummer, and if I’m saying I was 12, it was 1994, but truth be told, I could have been 13 or 14 or 15 for all I can remember.  I was at camp, like I was every summer, in upstate New York nearby Lake George and for whatever reason, I didn’t have a walkman or a discman, or whatever, and I can’t remember what the weather was like or anything like that .

I remember distinctly, that it was one of those black plastic jobs with the little slit of clear plastic so you could watch the tape heads spin, and it had the auto-reverse which was this nice dealy that would automatically reverse the heads so you could listen to the other side of the cassette without having to eject it and turn it over yourself, and those cheap little plastic headphones that kind of covered your ear and had the little foam that rested between the plastic housing and your ear.

You know, it had the plastic thing that went over your head and messed up your hair.  Wow, those were bad days for headphones.  I popped on the phones and pressed play and heard the distinct voice of Bono screaming “IN THE NAAAAAAAAAME OF LOVE!  ONE MORE IN THE NAME OF LOVE!”

I had no idea what album this was, but I knew they were all U2 songs.  When I was 9 or 10 my Mom bought me this little dark gray Sanyo cassette radio and a copy of Led Zeppelin IV (the one with Stairway) on CD.  I don’t know why she thought I would like Zeppelin, but uh, I did.  That CD was awesome, but the radio itself didn’t have a CD player, so I would have to go to my Dad’s stereo system, which was this super-expensive NAD component system that I broke by hitting the eject button while it was still playing the day he brought it home, and take the time to copy the CD onto a tape.  My Mom was like, “it’ll be fun!”  Well, it was, and I got into the habit of making all of these mixtapes of my Dad’s CDs so we would have cool music to listen to on our frequent car rides from eastern Long Island into Brooklyn to visit all of our relatives. 

I remember listening to these CDs for hours every day with my Dad’s huge, expensive, futuristic-looking over-ear headphone monitors that must have cost hundreds of dollars, and finding songs amongst my Dad’s mix of 80s pop,  70s English rock, and random Time Life compilations of Motown or Big Chill Generation songs.  If I found a song I liked, I would patiently cue it up and copy it to one of those 90 minute Maxell tapes.  I must have made a hundred of those.

In the winter, we would ski at Gore Mountain, which was in the same area of New York that I went to camp, up in the Adirondack Mountains near Lake George, and I always loved the car ride because I would get to show off my handiwork to everyone.   My parents would express amazement at the songs that I would pick, and how they flowed together.  They would ask me how I did it.  Truth be told, it was random, but I knew I couldn’t say that, even at 10, so I told them I just tried to pick songs that had similar beginnings and endings. They bought it.  I had no idea that there was, in pop culture, a romantic element to making mix tapes.  The thought hadn’t dawned on me that teenage guys would make mix tapes for girls that they liked.   I made mix tapes for my parents.  Take that for what you will…

So, I had found this U2 album up at camp, and I had no idea what it was (I found out around 10 years later that it was Rattle and Hum when I bought it for no reason and was instantly teleported back in time), but it was the only music I had, and I really, really began to like it.  That was the album that they made that movie for with like the concert footage from their previous album as well as the recording of new material for the album all over America.  It’s really a great album…  So, I would carry this walkman everywhere I went and just listen to Bono wailing about starvation or Africa or Martin Luther King Jr. to the point where it practically became a sort of soundtrack to my summer.   I began to think of this walkman as mine – although I knew that it must have belonged to someone.

I listened to it constantly, during the day walking to and from activities, hiking in the woods, playing video games, whatever.  At night I would read Stephen King books by tenting my covers and cradling a big, rubber flashlight – the kind with the nipple button that you press in on the bottom – between my head and my shoulder while I scared the ever-living shit out of myself reading about a demon sewer clown that ate kids or an Indian burial ground that brought things back to life, and I would listen to Bono belt out jam after jam at the top of his crazy, 19-octave register.   I mean, this went on for weeks, this constant listening, and somehow, I don’t remember ever changing the batteries (although who would remember something like changing batteries 20 years later?).

Well, I was listening to this tape, as I always did on a bus ride to Great Escape, which was this theme park in the area that was, at that time, basically a smaller, hillbilly-infested version of a Six Flags.  I was probably thinking about all the rides I would hit up that day, or whether I would eat at the barbeque place – which had amazing curly fries, which were rare back then, and root beer, which was like my favorite drink in the world back then, and you couldn’t get it at camp at all.  Either way, I would have been gazing out the window, looking at the beautiful scenery along the highways up there, when this girl next to me tapped my shoulder and asked me, “Excuse me, where did you get that walkman?”

“I found it a few weeks ago.”  I answered her.  Oh man, I knew it…

“Is it playing U2?”  She had an earnest look, a hopeful look.

“Yeah.”

“Um, I think that’s my walkman.”

I knew it was hers the second she tapped me.  I gave it back to her.  I knew I could have denied it, but Bono probably wouldn’t have approved, and it was time to let go of the thing anyway.

I thought she’d be mad at me for not turning her walkman in, but she was just relieved to have it back after thinking it had been lost for good.  I was upset to lose the walkman, but when I got home at the end of the summer, I saw my Dad had bought two new CDs: “Achtung Baby” and “The Joshua Tree”.

A few years later, at the same camp, I was a Counselor-in-Training and I was cleaning a bunk after a bunch of campers had gone home for the year.

In one of the cubbies was a black boombox with an unlabelled cassette already inside.  It was Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning.”  I listened to it constantly…


STAGE: David Ives’ Venus in Fur

Venus In Fur at Studio TheatreReflecting on David Ives’ Venus in Fur, an adaptation of Austrian Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novella Venus in Furs, thoughts inevitably drift to Spike Jonze’s acclaimed 2002 film Adaptation; both tell the story of a writer’s difficult task of adapting a piece of literature into a visual medium.

This struggle essentially serves as a MacGuffin that allows each writer to confront and eventually resolve his own personal turmoil.  Adaptation pursues this end by setting the writer at odds with his identical twin brother; Venus in Fur uses a particularly curious casting session as the impetus for this inner conflict.

Director David Muse and Set Designer Blythe Quinn make their intentions perfectly clear from the outset.  This takes place in a spare, fluorescent-lit casting room with a water pipe bisecting the entranceway that runs from the ceiling to the floor like a blanched stripper pole.

At the foreground is the casting couch: a dingy, pea soup-green sofa that ties the room together as if it were in a 19th century Viennese psychoanalyst’s office.  A small wooden desk and two folding metal chairs sit on the left edge of the stage, a few more chairs sit along the back wall.  This is barely a casting room – and that is the point.

The space between the entrance door and that other portal, that couch where the mind is ajar, that is up to the imagination to fill.  That white-washed phallic symbol of tawdry lust, that water pipe-cum-stripper pole (Latin – like summa cum laude) is as good a place as any to start – and finish.


 

Thomas (Christian Conn), the playwright adapting and directing the play-within-a-play complains on the phone to his fiancé after a long and fruitless day of auditioning ditzy, vapid actresses who are unfit to play the domineering female lead in his play, Wanda.

In from the rain bursts Vanda (Erica Sullivan – and yes, with a “V”) in a pink rain slicker.  She is late and disheveled, and toting a large, black garbage bag full of props and costumes.

Venus In Fur at Studio Theatre
Photo: Scott Suchman

She is the epitome of the type of actress Thomas hates: she speaks in shrill, airheaded valley girl-ese, her demeanor offering none of the gravitas that Thomas imagines for the role.  He tries to show her the door, insists that she leave, but Vanda won’t take no for an answer and finally she does read, and she is magical – in a sexy corset, she is the vision and the voice of Wanda (with a “W”), and Thomas is cast headlong into her spell.

Both Thomas and Sacher-Masoch envision Wanda as a representation of the Roman goddess Venus, as indicated by the title.  Sacher-Masoch’s Wanda was intended to be an object of erotic worship, much like the Roman Goddess was worshipped as a goddess of love and passion, and Severin, her devotee, wishes for her to put him through Job-like trials of physical and emotional pain. Severin explains that he received frequent corporal punishment from his mistress as a young child that he eventually began to associate with erotic pleasure.  Because of this, Masoch is where the word “masochism,” as in Sadomasochism comes from.  In the play, Wanda alternatively describes herself as Venus and Aphrodite, who was the older Greek goddess from which Venus is based.  This is a clever bit of psycho-symbolism: Aphrodite, the older goddess, represents his childhood mistress, Venus is his current obsession, and in the pantheon of gods, they are one and the same; thus, psychologically, the mistress and Wanda are one and the same.

The acting in Venus in Fur is, in a word, brilliant.  This is not easy dialog, it switches back and forth from everyday chit-chat to Victorian Continental English, and it does so pretty seamlessly.  This is a two-person play, and the actors develop an electric and organic sexual chemistry as the play progresses through its uninterrupted 90-minute running time that is transfixing and completely believable.  Christian Conch is fantastic as he stumbles, regains his footing, and eventually falls completely for the stunning Erica Sullivan, who bravely offers a masterful and multi-faceted portrayal of V/Wanda, in a barely-there black lace corset that leaves little to the imagination.

Venus In Fur at Studio Theatre
Photo: Scott Suchman

Regular and reliably funny comic relief dots the play and keeps things moving until the rather puzzling and jarring denouement.  The film Adaptation ties together its emotional and narrative loose ends as the Kaufmann brothers discover a cynical and sinister secret behind the non-fiction work they are attempting to adapt.  In Venus in Fur, however, it is the reading of the adaptation that uncovers the hidden pathological truth, as the narrative is left to abruptly end with a bizarre and unfathomable twist.  Perhaps this is relative to the idea that a dramatic writer can discover new facets within their writing upon hearing it read.  And yet, as a theme, this does not square with what is presented, particularly at the end of the play.  Whereas in Adaptation, Charlie Kaufmann ultimately resolves his inner conflict, Thomas winds up like Prometheus, but instead of being chained to a rock and left to be picked at by carrion for eternity, he is shackled to his own base lust for… who knows how long?  For what and for how long, well, that remains unclear.  Venus in Fur is a delightful, witty, funny, and sexy play that knows when, but not quite how to end.

Venus in Fur

by David Ives. Directed by David Muse. Set Design, Blythe Quinlan; lighting, Michael Lincoln; costumes, Jennifer Moeller; sound, Matt Nielsen; dialect coach, Gary Logan. About 90 minutes. Through July 3 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Visit www.studiotheatre.org or call 202-332-3300 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 202-332-3300 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.


Flashback Friday: Summertime Blues

Normally Flashback Friday is a happy occasion, but today, I read the unfortunate news that Oscar-winning actor “Macho Man” Randy Savage died at the age of 58.

So before we get going with things, I’d like to mention it for a brief moment.  Many will remember the Macho Man from his once-ubiquitous “beef” (and mechanically-separated chicken parts) jerky ads in which he beseeched viewers to “Snap into a Slim Jim,” if they “need a little excitement (OOOH YEAH!),” and though this isn’t a wrestling website, and I am not a wrestling fan, I’d feel remiss to not mention his passing.  And besides, he had a definite sartorial sense that I would call “Glam Metal Qaddafi.”

NATO Mania is like a single grain of sand in the Sahara that is Macho Madness oooooh yeah!

Macho Man started off wrestling in the early 80’s, before the industry became the corporate whatever-it-is today.  Watching it as a kid, the wrestlers were basically hyper-realized cartoon characters whose moral identities as good and evil were at once both easily recognizable, and often subject to change at a moment’s notice.

I never really got into wrestling too much as a kid, my Dad would never buy the pay-per-views and back then, the opponents were unfairly matched. Often, I’d witness a really strong wrestler beating up a nobody for ten minutes.  As a staunch admirer of underdogs, this never really sat well with me.  But, despite all this, I will always associate wrestling with my youth.

Fucking Segways®, how do they work?

I watched the movie Wet Hot American Summer last night, and it occurred to me that summer is right around the corner.  When I was still in school, once finals were over, these would be the lazy last days of the year, when even the teachers were looking forward to that long vacation and would conduct class with a kind of vacant, pleasant malaise with perpetually wistful expressions that today would be attributed to Xanax.

Back then, of course, these absent gazes were clearly just the outward expression of someone dreaming about all the zany places that they would drink General Foods International Coffee Decaf Suisse Mocha Instant Coffee over the summer.

Couples once looked happy in commercials for products other than Cialis or Viagra.

One of the truly surreal things about being an adult is meeting teachers at bars (teachers know how to DRINK, yo).

When I was in high school, it was completely unfathomable to me that teachers could be real people with real lives, but it’s a crazy-mixed up world we live in now, and in a bizarre twist of fate, teachers aren’t just stern Old Testament rod-and-staff Edna Krabappel-automatons anymore.

Nope, some asshole done made them living, breathing, actual human beings, so now, summer is theirs too.  I’m still not 100% on board, but whatever.

“Why don't you mentor a child how to read?" – President George W. Bush

You teachers out there, you still get what we took for granted as kids; that three month period each year of unfathomable greatness.  As a working adult, I can’t even imagine having a whole three months off, like I was a kid and could just wake up on like a fucking Wed-nesday or some shit and not have to do a goddamned thing if I didn’t want to.

The Sun at nine in the morning just bathing my corner of the Earth in radiant goodness and millions of whatever-the-hell kind of bugs warbling that ever-present drone, broken up by a CHICKCHICKCHICKCHICK every once in a while letting you know that these were the days of true splendor.

These were the days of life itself that had burst forth from the nothingness of winter all spring into a ninety degree day with nothing to do but catch the ice cream truck and eat Doritos when the only flavor was Nacho Cheese and throw a tennis ball into the pool so your Golden Retriever could epitomize a paragon of six million years of human evolution by diving with gleeful canine abandon into a man-made underground swimming pool to paddle around frantically while lapping up and then reflexively gag-coughing on chlorinated water.

Seriously? Five fucking tennis balls? Come on, man!

We don’t get to be young forever, and even if I had the whole summer off now, I could never experience it with the child-like sense of wonderment that I once did.  Sure, there are great things about the summer now; the weekend days at the beach, nights at the club, and mornings in a lover’s bed, there’s a lot of fun, and we have access to a lot that we did not as children.  But as children in the summer, we had easy access to the one thing adults spend their entire lives trying to attain: joy.  This summer, you will wake up early on some morning and you will walk outside and you will smell summer and you will know a pleasant longing that you cannot place, a primal memory almost remembered.  It is joy.  Long live summer.


"Napoleon Dynamite" Animated Series Coming to Fox in Fall

Gosh! Are you one of the legions of fans still clamoring for a Napoleon Dynamite sequel/prequel/McDonald’s line of promotional cups after all of these years?  Well, full-disclosure (I’m contractually obligated to use the phrase “full-disclosure” in 1/5th of my articles – as are all members of the Press), neither am I.

So, you can imagine my shock (or apathy, ascribe to me what emotions you will) when I heard the news that Fox is launching a Napoleon Dynamite animated series in the Fall, like a crazed-ouroboros/phoenix hybrid, rising from the ashes to swallow its tail in perpetuity.  I know, right!?

After the Fox, Paramount, and MTV-produced Napoleon Dynamite, a remake of Jared Hess’ short film Peluca burst onto the scene in 2004, and launched the careers of lead actor Jon Heder, co-star Efran Ramirez, and writer/director Jared Hess, all three would go on to find a decent amount of success in Hollywood, with Heder co-starring in School For Scoundrels with Billy Bob Thornton (say it: thorn-ton – it’s surprisingly hard, right?), and in Blades of Glory alongside Will Ferrell.  Ramirez acted in both Crank films as well as the second season of Eastbound & Down along with Danny McBride as Kenny Fuckin’ Powers, and Hess wrote and directed Nacho Libre and Gentlemen Broncos.


So, if you’ve been dying to hear about Kip’s latest cage-fighting exploits, Uncle Rico throwing footballs over mountains or Rex’s ongoing and torrid love-affair with the lovely Starla, and you want that ring of sonorous authenticity to go along with it, you’re in luck, because the whole cast is returning, thank… uh I think the Norse gods called in a favor on that one, I don’t know.  I haven’t seen Thor yet, so maybe I’m just not qualified to speak on Norse mythology.  It’s a character flaw of mine, and I’m working on it!

I just have one qualm about this whole endeavor (aside from the existential one), if they’ve got the whole cast, why not just make this bitch live action?  I mean the trailer makes it look like an Idaho version of King of the Hill, which I mean, I liked, but…

Okay, the thing is, part of the appeal of the movie is the physical awkwardness of the characters.  I think in a cartoon, you lose that.  It doesn’t have the same effect as the physical comedy of goofy Napoleon wielding a bow staff, or breaking out flawless dance moves to Jamiroquai.

What do you think about Fox’s plans for a Napoleon Dynamite cartoon?  Let me know below, and I will personally see to it that Rupert Murdoch does not give a shit about any of our opinions, so make yourself a dang quesadilla, and talk to me, people!


Flashback Friday: Underage Drinking: A Requiem

Underage Drinking: A Requiem

Is this going to work?  Can you tell it’s chalked?  I can see it – barely, but will the bouncer notice it, the bartender?  Oh man, those girls in front of me look even younger than me, and I look really young.  Yeah, of course – bouncer lets them in, figures…  Shit, I’m up, look cool, look cool, like you do this all the time, alright, he’s looking at it now – back at me, down, back, down… Aaaaand my wrist is stamped!  Neon lights frame haggard-looking bartenders slinging two-dollar-fifty-cent pitchers and I can smell it, that stale, pissy smell of old beer and young libido emanating from the walls and the floors, and this must be the best place on earth, and right now, I’m sure it is.

Who cares what the bar was called?  I remember the name well, but it could have been and was anywhere and everywhere, these fantastic shitholes that catered to the underage drinker.  Every college town has these bars, they of the random week-night, the impossible-to-beat drink specials, the fire code-defying crowds packed wall-to-wall.  Ours was called “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and our night was Thursday night, that of the two-dollar-fifty-cent pitchers.  The fact that the bar shared a name with one of my favorite movies at the time only added to the panache of what I thought at 19 must have been the coolest bar around.

Underage Drinking: A Requiem
Big Chris would eventually get bullet teeth and change his name to Tony.

The place was so ridiculously crowded, like all of these places that brazenly catered to people who were not supposed to be drinking, that actually reaching the bar, and then getting the bartender’s attention was a skill and an art form.  Then, there was the careful tip-toe back through the throngs, 11 bucks lighter and carrying two pitchers of Bud Light like the fucking St. Pauli girl, and praying to the god of surface tension that these crazily filled-to-the-brim pitchers would somehow make it back to your friends more-or-less intact.

Underage Drinking: A Requiem
Is this the line for the bathroom?

This is a paean to underage drinking, sung to the tune of the non-descript fuck-music of the time, throbbing out of giant speakers and stomping on all reasonable conversation to leave its calculated but clumsy sonic footprint indelibly imprinted on the memories of our youths.  I know that when I think of those times, more pervasive than the olfactory rush of rotting beer is the near-pleading refrain that “it’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes” and the faded and forgotten footsteps of dancing gracelessly with girls interested in someone or something else.

But there was something romantic about those nights, wasn’t there?  There was something wonderful about the packed, sweaty herd of hormonal man- and women-children, all still young enough and still stupid enough to believe that all of this mattered.  To have unquestioned faith in the unspoken instinct that with enough intoxication and enough abandonment of inhibition, that something could happen.  What was it?  For me, I suppose it was sex, it was the nerdy talk of movies and music and the trashing of the people who weren’t audacious enough to come out that night and the circling of the bar, hoping to catch some girl’s eye – a kid who looked too young looking for girls who were looking for someone older.

I went back there several years ago, some time after I had already turned 21 with one of my best friends, another ex-Thursday night regular.   We were looking for a place to watch the Monday night game, and they had an impossible-to-beat wing special.  No bouncer greeted us to ask for my genuine article proof-of-age, no, we were greeted only by the nearly-visible smell of piss and stale beer hovering off the floor, carrying none of the promise it once did, and the disinterested stares of the regular assholes at the bar.   The place was empty and we sat down to the alien accompaniment of fucking menus and I looked up at the walls and I saw they were covered with fat, lazy flies, like a rotting corpse.  Leaving was an easy decision to make.  I have not been back since.


What's In A Name?

Hey hey we’re the Beatles!  People say we Beatle around! But we’re too busy – wait, what the hell?  Davy Jones sang this song for the Monkees, right?

Earlier in the week, Nylon posed the question, "how much does a band name really matter?" I mean, this is a pretty murky question, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it does matter.

The Monkeys
Did he say we’ve got to change the lyics to Daydream Believer to “Cheer up Eleanor Rigby?”

How about some history, first?  In 1957, the greatest band ever, the Beatles, were known as The Quarrymen, playing a Treme-via-Liverpool style of music that was fusion jazz, the blues, folk, country music, and Asian cuisine that was first popularized in 1955 by the Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group in 1955 with their hit single Rock Island Line.

By 1960, there were like 50,000 skiffle bands in England, and people like Van Morrison, Roger Daltrey, Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger, and David Gilmour all started off in skiffle groups.  It wasn’t until 1958, when original Beatles’ bassist Stu Stucliffe suggested that they change their name from The Quarrymen to “The Beetles,” in tribute to Buddy Holly’s band, The Crickets.  Funny enough, Buddy Holly, upon learning that there was already a Bronx R&B group called The Crickets, initially considered naming his band “The Beetles,” before presumably saying “fuck it.”

Imagine how different history would have been if these dickheads called themselves “The Beatles?”

Buddy Holly wound up choosing their name as a diminutive riposte to popular trend at the time of naming bands after birds (a tradition that continues today – birds have always been portentous creatures), because birds eat insects.  It wasn’t until 1960 that John, Paul, George, Stu, and Pete fucking Best would finally settle on the name “The Beatles,” after experimenting with names like “Johnny and the Moondogs.”

Would the Beatles have been the Beatles by any other name?  I just can’t see “Johnny and the Moondogs” emblazoned on a wall full of platinum records.

Chill the fuck out, Pete Best, I’m just fucking with you, bro!

Snap back to reality – oh, there goes gravity! Oh there goes Rabbit he choked, he’s so mad but he vomited mom’s spaghetti!

I know those aren’t how the words go, and I don’t care if this movie is far-from-fucking-topical, but in the semi-autobiographical movie 8-Mile, Eminem plays rapper B-Rabbit (yeah, his name is fucking B-Rabbit).  What the hell is a B-Rabbit?  A Bunny Rabbit?

I don’t think The Bunny Rabbit LP would have sold like The Slim Shady LP, that’s for sure.  By the way, how many names does this guy have?  Who the fuck does he think he is, Bobby Digital?

 

Man, the RZA is totally going to delete me from his Facebook page or whatever.

Bunny Rabbit or Eminem or Slim Shady or Marshall Mathers or Mud, 8-Mile was a decent flick; and it was another decent flick, A Hard Days Night, with John, Paul, George, and Ringo (Goddamnit, Pete Best, I’m not going to tell you again…) that inspired music producer Don Kirshner to form the Monkees, which were originally a fictional band, much like their similarly misspelled simian cohorts, The Gorillaz.

Davy Jones, taking a schvitz

 

In the end, names do matter.  Often, a name is the only impression a band gets to make on the world.  How many times have you come across a perplexingly named band and immediately disregarded it out of hand, simply for the inscrutability of its name?  I don’t know how excited I would be to listen to the music of a band called, for instance, German Industrial duo “Armageddon Dildos,” although, I hear they are generating some “buzz.”

More to the point, and this may be changing, is that the stories of these band names are intertwined, just like the music that these groups have made.  Music doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and musicians do not exist separately from the music that they make (try though some of them might).  Musicians identify with their music, so their music, in turn reflects their identities and what they aspire to in making music.  The name is a projection of this aspiration – a pretension that tells the world “this is what we are setting out to do.”  The Beatles were exceedingly clever.  The Monkees were usually silly.  And, now, I have said as much as I care to say.


Flashback Friday: Billy Ocean

She dashed by me (!) in painted-on jeans!

Yo! You know you love you some Billy Ocean – even if you don’t realize yet, come on! With a name like Billy Ocean, you’d be a fool not to love the guy.Billy Ocean

Sheeeeeet, as they say in my imaginary Wire-version of Baltimore (yo, Baltimore people: what’s up with your stupid Natty Boh beer with the Pringle’s Cyclops on it?  Some giant guy tried to fight me in a bar because I had the audacity to question this thing.  I would have kicked his ass, but I felt bad, knowwhatI’msayin?)

Actor Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Senator R. Clayton

 

Clay Davis – the corruptest (yeah it’s a word, fool!) politician in Fake Baltimore

Alright, back to Billy Ocean!

Come on, seriously, try driving up to someone on the street and yelling out the window at them, “Get out of my dreams!  Get in the backseat baby!” – (how do you yell a parenthetical, Billy Shakespeare?) – “Get into my car.”

Make sure they’re reasonably attractive, or you’re more than just a jerk, you’re a mean jerk!

Well, Mr. Ocean has been shouting this shit to the world for like 25 years (always at high tide)!  And, I’m told he doesn’t even drive!

Fifty Cent

Fifty Cent, on the other hand, he’ll take you to the Candy Shop or whatever.  Who knows?

Now, that is cojones, meng – serious cojones.

And then, just when you’ve been knocked on your tail by Caribbean Queen – oh you thought I didn’t mention that – well, I did – it’s the opening line.

Sorry, sometimes I just assumed people are as well-versed in the lore of Billy Ocean as I am.

You see, the lady dashing by me (I’m playing the part of Billy Ocean here – try to keep up) in painted-on jeans?  Well, guess what?  She’s the Caribbean Queen!  I know, right!?  I didn’t believe it at first either, but you know, the lyrics “Caribbean Queen/now we’re sharing the same dreams/and our hearts can beat as one (no more love on the run)” are fucking brilliant – and again with the parenthetical!

The balls on this guy!  But seriously, the song is genius – how she “dashes” by him at the outset, and then how he laments his hit-it-and-quit-it (lots of dashes, I know) lifestyle by juxtaposing “dashing” with “love on the run.”

Brilliant!

Of course, ardent fans of the film Jewel of the Nile – and I know you’re out there (although I prefer Romancing the Stone, personally) – will remember “When the Going Gets Tough.” The song was the unofficial anthem of the 80’s.

Jewel of the Nile

Spoiler Alert!  The guy in the middle is “The Jewel.”  I know, the movie sucks.

After all, it was “Morning in America” when Reagan put on his cyborg legs and tore down the Berlin Wall and killed Communism in the face.  That’s getting rough when the going got tough, word to your mom.

It wasn’t all sex and cyborgs with Billy Ocean though – he had a softer side, a surprisingly gentle side (he’s like English or some shit, who cares).

The song “Suddenly” might be the most dulcet tune on either side of the pond.  Try listening to it without crying.  It’s fucking impossible.

You can’t do it, because it can’t be done.

But the tears taste so sweet – like a bird’s!

That doesn’t make any sense, but it’s FRI-DAY (which comes both before, and after all of the days)!  And it’s mad late, so I’m going home to listen to some Billy Ocean.  Justin Brill(y Ocean) out!


Stage Review: Edna Walsh's The New Electric Ballroom

Photo by Carol Pratt.

The three witches – or rather, sisters – in Enda Walsh’s play The New Electric Ballroom (the sibling play to The Walworth Farce) have no General MacBeth to tempt with regal hubris.

No, in this tragedy, the old women tempt only themselves with the never-ending retelling of their tales of one fleeting romance so long ago.  No general, this man they loved, but an old-time pop star, the Roller Royal - an analogue for the ultimate rocker, a mix between the Big Bopper, and the King himself, Elvis Presley.

Of course, these women aren’t ostensibly witches, they are sisters, old sisters, and distinctly weird sisters at that (certainly, one must know that in most modern versions of MacBeth, the three witches are referred to as the “weird sisters).  The play itself revolves around the recursive telling that magical night when Clara (Nancy Robinette), the oldest of the three, was invited backstage by the Roller Royal after a concert at the New Electric Ballroom only to see him in the arms of another.  Or was it that of the middle sister, Breda (Sybil Lines) only 17, and in the throws of foreplay with His Majesty in His dressing room on that same evening, only to see him go, forever, after being interrupted by an unexpected guest.

Only youngest sister Ada (Jennifer Mendenhall), who was only six on the night of that ill-fated romance, has no connection to the Roller Royal whatsoever – so this tale could not be hers, could it?  Is this simply a story about three middle-to-old-aged women, virginal and disgusted by their own reproductive organs, obsessed with the Madonna Mary and the Whore Magdalene.  Is it a simply a play about a bunch of old broads  lamenting over their tiny feet and their salvation spurned by their Elvis in Disguise, hiding from the rumors of long-dead old women, and pining for some cake and some tea?

No, this cannot be the case.  Three witches – sorry, sisters – would be quite purposeless (not to mention disinteresting) without someone to spellbind, and that someone is the aptly-named Patsy (Liam Craig, in a dynamite performance, as with the rest of the cast), a poor, lonely fish monger, whose only bit of normalcy is the regularity with which he delivers fish to the sisters, only to receive withering scorn for his trouble.  He comes several times a day, “with the tide,” though he doesn’t know why (of course, the tide is controlled by the moon, right?), with strange stories of woe in which he walks the town, directionless and as if guided by a mysterious force, harangued for his troubles by a talking seagull (yes, you read that correctly).

Thematically, this play is absolutely brilliant – it is wrought with symbolism and delightfully creepy to take in.  The writing is phenomenal, as the dialogue takes on a truly lyrical quality; and at times, I wondered if I was indeed listening to sonnets in iambic pentameter (as if this were Macbeth).  The lighting, music and direction are outstanding as well.  Each time the sisters tell their tale, they start by switching on an old reel-to-reel tape player, which exudes the ghostly echoes of that old-time rock and roll.  A single floor light is used to great effect, each sister is drowned in the shadow of the sister doing the telling, and the youngest, Ada, at first sits in front, listening – the story is for her, the telling eventually consumes her in these shadows most of all.

Despite this, Ada seems to have a considerable amount of power.  She won’t allow her sisters tea, as for some reason she must brew it for them.  There is the cake baked by middle sister Breda (we are initially led to believe it was baked by Clara, just as we are initially led to believe that it was Clara who was romanced by the Roller Royal) that Ada will not allow them to eat – and then destroys.  At one point, Ada confesses to making them tell her this story over and over again, from the time she was a little girl, until their present middle- and old-age.

Then, there is Patsy, poor, poor Patsy – what of him?  He arrives with the moon – er – tide, delivering fish, spilling his heart out only to be regarded with contempt and unceremoniously shown the door.  His fish are promptly discarded by sisters, for they are fishers of men – or rather, of one Man, long gone – not fish!  This seemingly has gone on indefinitely, and he frequently complains bitterly of his loneliness, and pleads with them to treat him kindly for once, to no avail, until, in a fit of Pique, Breda demands he stay.  They strip him, and bathe him, baptizing him so his skin is new again, free of the foul odor of fish.  They dress him like he was the Roller Royal himself, and lo and behold he does sing!

Nevertheless, he is a patsy, indeed.  For eventually, the three sisters do resolve to eat some cake, and Ada does finally brew them some tea – or, is it witches brew?  The New Electric Ballroom has been extended until May 8th.  See it if you can.  You will not be sorry.

The New Electric Ballroom

by Enda Walsh. Directed by Matt Torney. Lighting, Michael Giannitti; costumes, Helen Q. Huang; sound, Martin Desjardins; fight director, Robb Hunter; dialect coach, Nancy Krebs. About 90 minutes. Extended Through May 8 at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW. Visit www.studiotheatre.org or call 202-332-3300.


Weekend In Review: The Walworth Farce at Studio Theatre

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Ted van Griethuysen and Aubrey Deeker in The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh. Directed by Matt Torney. Photo: Carol Pratt

“Only the running has any matter,” says Dinny (Ted van Griethuysen), the father in this disturbing black comedy, showing at The Studio Theater’s Milton Theater until May 1st.  This line embodies the essence of the play, in which brothers Sean (Alex Morf), and Blake (Aubrey Decker), everyday reenact the circumstances that forced them to resettle in a dank London apartment, so far from their beloved city of Cork, Ireland, so many years ago.  That the events that they are reenacting are of dubious veracity becomes clear, and affects the play with a mood that resonates like the nagging terror that one has forgotten something critical.  It is, at its core, a story about what happens when the ideas that we place faith in, and build lives out of and from are exposed for the lies that they are.

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Photo: Carol Pratt

Central to this narrative are the props and costumes that the family wears.  The father dons a ridiculous wig and constantly smears moisturizer all over his face to show he is young.

He repeatedly sniffs from a mysterious tin and makes the boys undergo a madcap series of costume changes in which the older son, Blake must appear as several different women in drag – often to very humorous effect.

Acts are triggered by musical cues played from an old tape deck, with a cassette of old, Irish folk music.

These effects in this play-within-a-play are essential, as it becomes clear that they represent the details that are intended by Dinny to  ground this narrative in reality, to almost force it to be real.

Each day, Sean is sent to the market to buy a whole chicken, a loaf of bread, creamy spreadable cheddar cheese, and a bottle of cream.  On this day, however, Sean picks up the wrong shopping bag, setting into motion events which unravel this careful, elaborate narrative, and expose the dark truth that it was constructed to hide.

Acclaimed playwright Enda Walsh wrote this tale, which is one part Cain and Abel, one part Stephen King’s Misery as part of his New Ireland series of plays, along with its “sibling” play The New Electric Ballroom (look for a review of that soon).  In The Walworth Farce, he aggressively paints the emotional landscape in which nearly every family lives; the play veers wildly between broad comedy, maudlin despair, and dark terror in perplexing fashion, like the wild mood swings of an alcoholic.  Linking such emotional and physical aggression to the inherently unpredictable nature of such frequent and extreme swings of temperament forces the audience to empathize with the two boys, and quickly draws them into that tight familial bond, wrought as much love from love as intense fear and shame, as much from joy as nauseating revulsion, and as much from anticipation as unrelenting terror.Read more


Flashback Fridays: Licensed to Ill

Now, here’s a little story I got to tell about three bad brothers you know so well it started way back in history… well, in 1986, actually…

In honor of the impending May 3rd US release of their new album Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 (Part one lives, apparently, in legend alone), and the release of the new single “Make Some Noise” (with its awesome video) this week for Flashback Friday, we’re going to remember the ground-breaking Beastie Boys album Licensed to Ill.[divider]

Come on!

If you’re anything like me (devastatingly handsome, that is), your first exposure to the Boys Beastly was the cultural explosion of “Fight for Your Right,” and its crazy, pie-centric video.

Wow, these guys are dicks…

But I would say, if it’s early Beastie Boys videos you’re after, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” is what it’s all about:

Ad Rock: microphone slinger, dentist…

It is widely acknowledged (or bandied-about, as they say in Nepal), that Nirvana killed Hair Metal (Kurt Cobain, himself, never got over it), but I think the Beastie Boys definitely drove one of the first nails in the coffin with their derisive send-up of the genre.

Aided by a toupee-wearing, ersatz Dom DeLouise (reknowned Hair Metal killer) and Slayer guitarist Kerry King, the thorough rejection of the excesses of such brazenly nonsensical music is made clear by the title to the song, which is, itself, a take on the Motorhead album No Sleep ‘til Hammerstein.

Lemmy would like to know just why the hell I’m talking about Hair Metal…

Shut up, Lemmy!

It’s not exactly jumping out on a limb in stating Licensed to Ill revolutionized Hip-Hop (it did used to be called Blip-Blop before the Beasties came along, though), but prior to the arrival of Beastie Boys, it was New York State Law that rappers had to dress like the village people.

Just look at Grandmaster Flash and the Furious (or is it Fabulous?) Five:

Young man! Won’t you listen to me!?

These guys are way cooler!

Accessorize!

The album though: crazy awesome.  “Rhymin &  Stealin?”  You damn right I’m deliverin’ Colonel Sanders down to Davey Jones’ Locker!  “The New Style?”  Yes! I broke into your locker!  And yes!  Your glasses deserved to be smashed!

Seriously, I could list and misquote the songs on this album all day, but really, we’re all better than that.

So, do yourself a favor, on this holiest of Flashback Fridays: give it a spin, preferably on cassette, motherfucker!