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Assorted Freelance Articles
The Mighty Shinn
The best breakfast I ever had was with my friend, Joe Shinn, on the wharf at
Monterey in 1977. It was 6 a.m., and the sea lions on the breakwater crowed like roosters.
The Man Who Fell To Earth
The Man Who Fell To Earth
Once upon a time, there was fellow named Ken Russell. He had three tragic flaws: he
couldn't play poker, couldn't sell used cars, and had a habit of declaring the emperor
"bare-ass naked" (as he's fond of saying.) It was perhaps the last flaw, a
crippling inability to embrace illusion, that is at the heart of this tale. . .
Mr. Rogers: Can You Say. .
When Fred Rogers departs this earth, which for the sake of humanity should not be
for many years to come, he will not return in another life. Buddhists will tell you that
Rogers has finished evolving; he has exited through the revolving door of reincarnation.
He is heading straight for Nirvana. . .
The Strongman who quoted Emily
This is as close as you'll get, probably, to ever knowing Terry Robinson.
You are lucky to get this close. The problem with Terry is that there is not enough of him
to go around. . .
Looking Up Lois Lane
I think I became a reporter because of Clark Kent. It wasn't my first career preference, I
assure you. Had I figured out how to fly, I'm sure I would have opted for Superman. . .
The Last Editor
Jim Bellows was a Mozart in a world of ink-stained Salieris. He deliberately helmed
restless underdog newspapers and made them sing with writing, personality, verve, and love
of community---while others were content to preside over stuffy, self-important, sleepy
cash-cows. He covered the city instead of Sri Lanka. . .
I see Old Lou several times a day, shuffling up and down the street outside, through this
nondescript neighborhood of old, '50s-era apartment buildings and sterile condo hives. . .
Vote For The Green
I've made up my mind. I'm voting Eileen Anderson for mayor. No, I'm serious. I'm referring
to Eileen Anderson, the self-described "dancing landmark" and perennial entry
for just about any office she can run for. The aging Irish-English redhead who for years
has stood on a corner near City Hall in a green knit bikini, dancing and singing. . .
The Great Bonggo Beane
Years ago, when I bluffed my way through reviewing the L.A. Philharmonic for a year,
primarily to go to a lot of free concerts, I came to look forward to seeing Bonggo Beane
almost as much as hearing the orchestra. . .
Off the Road With
If Charles Kuralt were himself the subject of one of those poetic feature
stories on CBS's "Sunday Morning," it might begin something like this. . .(Cue
the baroque trumpet fanfare and the sun logo. Cue Charles Osgood.)
The Lady and the Tiger
I was eating lunch at my favorite restaurant the other day, downtown's
Philippe the Original, "Home of the French-Dipped Sandwich," when I glanced up
to find Mabel Stark staring back at me. Mabel Stark, the "world's only lady tiger
trainer," dead for the past 27 years. . .
Picture Meta Rosenberg
Picture this: A little girl on a morning walk in the fairy tale Hollywood Hills, circa
1925, chatting with her nice neighbor, a fellow named Rudy. Rudy. . .Valentino. . .
Last Drinks With W.C. Fields'
I went to visit a waning landmark the other day, in the company of a living landmark. It's
an elegant way to witness history. . .
Looking for the Boys
Every now and then I go out to look for Laurel and Hardy. I visit those cement Silverlake
steps where they dragged the piano crate in the 1932 Academy Award-winning short,
"The Music Box.". . .
Note From a Rim-Rat
Charlie Nazarian's thick glasses, stubby physique and grey
toupee are etched in my synaptic storehouse like something by Gustav Dore. When he died a
few weeks ago at 87, I had to give way to a tear and a wistful smile, though I hadn't seen
him in 22 years. Nazarian, you see, did a lovely thing for me once, back when I was a nice
kid trying to rewrite the wrongs of the world. . .
Happy 4th, Mr. Freberg
On this anniversary of the birth of the United States of
America, allow me to pay tribute to the greatest American history teacher I ever had -- a
man who made learning such a pleasant experience that even today, I can almost recite his
lessons, word for word. . .
Peace on Earth, Turkey
I was gnawing on a $6 turkey sandwich the other day at a local eatery---wondering why a
turkey sandwich cost $6---when he walked in. He was at least six-feet-three, but seemed
taller. He had a flowing, handsome gray beard a good foot long, and wore an old suit with
tiny black-and-white checks, topped off with a pastoral Panama hat. . .
The Mogul Meets the Monk
I was in Starbucks, sipping something called a Decaf Tall Double Nonfat No-Whip Mocha the
other day, when who should walk in but the Dalai Lama! You couldn't miss him -- he was the
only one wearing prayer beads, and red and saffron robes. Even in L.A., this stands
out---well, a little. The Lama ordered an herb tea, smiling, and sat down to peruse a copy
of USA Today. . .
I took a little afternoon snooze on the grave of Bela
Lugosi the other day. I folded my arms across my chest and dozed off for a few minutes. It
seemed an appropriate pose. . .
Never Die, They Just Become Props
When I worked as a copyboy (sorry, egalitarians---that
was the term back then) at the old Valley News and Green Sheet in the early 70s,
my first duty early each morning was to "rip the wires.". . .
Another Nice Mess
Now, you have to understand two things about me before you read this: First, I love Laurel
and Hardy. Second, I tend to view small events in terms of larger symbolism. Okay. .
The Prisoner of Bundy Drive
This is the story of an exile behind steel bars. A prisoner of
the-way-humans-do-things. An embattled hostage in protective custody. Absolutely no
visitors allowed, except on official business. . .
The Story of Franco and
His home was fifty yards of cracked sidewalk.
For twelve years, Tim trod the same one hundred steps on Santa Monica Boulevard, back and
forth, back and forth, all night long. With his amorphous brown beard, matted hair, and
clothing rumpled as elephant hide, he looked like Rip Van Winkle, sleep-walking. . .
Down With Harry Potter!
Oh, yes, let's ban Harry Potter! No, no let's just burn the books, like
those Gawd-fearin' folks down in Pennsylvania did a while back. . .
Race and the L.A.
They should have just had venerable "Voice of the Lakers," Chick
Hearn, call the action in the L.A. mayor's race: "The Blacks fake the Latinos into
the popcorn machine. ... And here come the White Valley Conservatives. . .The Encino Jews
are yo-yoing up and down. ... Negative TV ads in the front court? No harm, no foul!".
Please Steal This
There is a fine book by the great James Thurber called "The Wonderful O." It's
about, if memory serves, a pirate who steals the letter "O" from the English
alphabet. . .Every time I hear about that "O" Magazine -- "The Oprah
Magazine" -- I think of Thurber's book. I think about how, if that pirate were around
today, the magazine would be called "P -- The Prah Magazine.". . .
House of Glut
To Cardinal Roger Mahoney of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese: Dear
Roger, You're a real card. (Pretty good pun, eh?) Here I've charged you to act charitably,
to be my emissary to mankind in Los Angeles, to minister to the needs of your very
troubled city. But, Rog', I assure you that creating the most expensive cathedral in
the history of the United States is not part of My will. . .
The Joke of the Butt
It's not every day that someone just comes out and announces, "I am an
ignorant, unsophisticated, crass, arrogant buffoon." Yet that, in effect, is what
"writer" A.J. Jacobs did recently in an issue of Entertainment Weekly.
Strings and Arrows of
When you're a kid, one of the great cosmic theories floating around is. . . what if
we're really just germs? You know -- what if we're just germs on some guy's hand?
And what if he. . . picks his nose? Ewwwww. Well, scientists have outdone the
kids. . .
Getting Away With
It was early. Physically, I'm rolling by 7:30 a.m. The brain doesn't get out of bed until
10. Somehow, I was in Borders Books at around 9:30 a.m. I was, as the delightfully
defensive expression goes, "minding my own business.". . .
There seems to be a concerted, and rather conceited, effort
by the Bush-Cheney administration to portray so-called "environmentalists" --
that is, anyone who steadfastly opposes pollution, deforestation, man-induced extinction
of animals -- as "extremists."
Excuse the Sarcasm
I remember, years ago, when the editor of a newspaper I worked for banned the word
"stink" from page-one headlines. "Might upset readers over their morning
coffee," he wrote in a memo posted for the whole office. (Presumably, they would have
finished their coffee by the time they reached page two.). . .
Cool is Cool, or
is it Hot?
"Daughters? Daughters are cool!" These are the exact words I overheard in
a coffee klatsch conversation the other morning. They were exclaimed by an ear-pierced guy
who appeared to be in his late 40s, to a lady friend who had just revealed that she is the
mother of three girls. . .
Three Quacks for Corporate
Ah, the corporate managers of today! Such leaders! Builders of spirit!
Bulwarks of judgment, clarity of thought and logic. Paragons of benevolence! Lucky you,
the American worker!
The House Around the Corner (Originally published in The Rense Retort in 1999, this column won first
place out of 25,000 entries in a Taiwan essay contest sponsored by the Taiwan government.)
Imagine you have a big fight with your quarrelsome family, and get kicked out. Actually,
you flee in fear of your life, and take up with friends in a house around the corner. . .
|DO NOT REMOVE THIS TAG UNDER PENALTY OF LAW
Jerry Lawson, brilliant lead
singer and arranger of The Persuasions, dies at 75
Jerry Lawson, the smooth baritone lead singer and
arranger of the fabled a cappella group, The Persuasions, died July 10 at a
Phoenix, Arizona hospice following a long illness. He was 75. His wife,
Julie Lawson, was at his side.
Jimmy Hayes, 'basso profundo' of The Persuasions,
dies at 74
Jimmy “Bro” Hayes, longtime bass singer of the
legendary a cappella group, The Persuasions, died May 18 in New York during
surgery for an undisclosed ailment. He had recently suffered from pneumonia,
after a decades-long struggle with emphysema. He was 74.
Obit for Joseph "Sweet Joe" Russell, Persuasions' Second
Rense column: Save Sweet Joe
Rense's video tribute to Joe Russell:
Are You Persuaded?
Sick of all the disharmony in our grating nation? Think Repugnicans and
Democraps will never again make beautiful music together? Then let me tell you about The
Persuasions. Good cure for discord.
Deciphered: A Demonic
Prelude by an Ailing Chopin
(Published in the New York Times.)
For the first time in 150 years, there is a new work by the great fantasist
of the piano, Frédéric Chopin. It is just 33 measures long, shorter than the
"Minute" Waltz, but it reveals a world about Chopin the innovator and Chopin the
bedeviled. Call it Chopin's lost "Devil's Trill" Prelude.
EXCLUSIVE: Lennon Planned to Reunite The Beatles
Former John Lennon paramour May Pang
revealed that Lennon---the man who instigated The Beatles'
break-up---actively planned to reunite them in 1974, but that "logistics"
got in the way, The Rip Post has learned.
Sgt. Pepper Summer
(Published in Pyschological Perspectives, the
quarterly journal of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles.)
So many are rhapsodizing about
the new, improved “Sgt.
Pepper,” I just couldn’t join the crowd. The Internet is writhing,
contorting with think pieces (term sometimes used charitably)---about how
the album “changed the world,” “changed the face of music forever,” blah
blah blah. (Nothing about music’s arms or legs.) The use of the word,
“iconic” should carry criminal penalties.
Zappa Drinks and Goes
I drove to that curious little postage-stamp of a cemetary
called Westwood Memorial Park one sunny morning---you know, the place where black Porsches
double-park to unload aggressively coiffed starlets who theatrically deposit poseys at the
slot filing the remains of Marilyn Monroe. . .
There Went the Sun:
Reflections on the Passing of George Harrison
When George Harrison died here in Los
Angeles, in the lush green hills a few miles distant, it rained. .
Ry Cooder, Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White:
Music For The Good People
The so-called music in this café would be very good
for murdering giant lizards in hell. Then gutting them and eating their
organs raw, and smearing yourself with their cold reptilian blood. While
being flogged by Satan. Other than
that, it’s okay.
Which is to say, go and see Cooder-Skaggs-White. Hurry. It is music as good,
or good as music. Well, it’s good music.
A Julep With Mr.
Redbone. . .
Leon Redbone sat easily in a comfortable chair on a broad, whitewashed porch. Bluebirds
flitted about, and bees buzzed a nearby hedge of honeysuckle, bzzzz bzzzz bzzzz.
Waits in Wonderland
Tom Waits has come to regard the telephone a lot like he does the microphone. Both are
instruments through which he can play to an audience. "I said I'd do phone interviews
in lieu of touring--which, believe me, is a lot more pleasant," he says. . .
The Musical Paint of
Captain Beefheart---poet/musical alchemist of the '60s and '70s not heard from on vinyl
since 1982---still sails the high seas of art. He's going by his real name these days,
though---Don Van Vliet---and no longer makes music. The Captain wields a paintbrush.
New High Note for Mario
Opera is no longer longhair (or blue hair) music. At sellout performances across the
country, Verdi and Leoncavallo are the hottest dates in town. And the matinee idol/tenor
who first made operatic singing a hot date with a mass audience 48 years ago---Mario
Lanza---seems to be making a comeback. No easy trick for a man who died in 1959. . .
Chuck E. Weiss:
Mensch, Monkey, and Liar
Chuck E. Weiss sounds like a publicity stunt, a concoction of apocryphae. Oh
sure, you think, a Denver trashman (one "Pappy" Frye) gave him his first batch
of blues records---fished out of the garbage, no less---when he was about six. . .
Like a Bird Within Him
When I turned my radio on a moment before sitting down to write this yesterday morning,
the first sound I heard was the voice of Jerry Garcia, singing this line from one of the
most exquisite of all Grateful Dead songs, "Crazy Fingers:" "Who can stop
what must arrive now?"
Song Without Music
For Jerry Garcia
Rhyming epic by Rense
Country Joe: Just An Old Folkie
It's just a coincidence---really. The United States goes to war for the first time since
Vietnam, and Country Joe McDonald releases his first album in over five years. . .
Fixin' to be Reborn: Country Joe and
the Fish Reunite---Almost
NPR commentator Ruben Navarette recently decried ongoing “boomer obsession”
with Vietnam, citing the debate over Bush’s time (or lack of it) in the Air
National Guard vs. Kerry’s service in Vietnam. “Americans have fallen into a
political time warp,” the Gen-X-and-proud Navarette railed. “We’ve been
transported back to the late 1960s and early 1970s.” And: “I’m sick of
hearing about Vietnam.”
New "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love" versions---but
where is "Now and Then?"
Beatles song was released on “Beatles 1”---actually two---but
no one seemed to notice. The songs: “Free as a Bird” and “Real
Love,” in completely new mixes by Jeff Lynne, accompanying the
videos for each. Ah, so what’s
special about a new mix? That doesn’t make the songs new. And yet,
in this case, it really does.
Say You Want a (new) 'Revolution?'
The recently leaked ten-minute-plus version of The Beatles’
“Revolution 1,” with various vocals and avant-garde effects added by the
group and Yoko Ono, is not only the most important Beatles musical
revelation since “Anthology” in the mid-‘90’s, but hard proof that there is
more fabulous material to be mined from original session tapes.
Sgt. Lennon's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Paul album.That’s the
perception about “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that’s taken
hold through the decades among critics and biographers, and not without
One More New Beatles Song?
There is yet another bend in the long and winding road.
There is one more Beatles song. Not another overlooked '60s tune from a
dusty corner of a vault. Not an outtake, rough rehearsal, or crude early
tape made in Paul McCartney's living room and found in somebody's shoe box.
Beatles Anthology Coverage for ICE Magazine
This was part of my extensive coverage of The "Threetles" reunion
projects for multiple publications including the Los Angeles Times. This
article was a scoop---the first comprehensive report on the Beatles
Anthology--- page one in Pete Howard's late, fine magazine about CD releases, ICE,
which was distributed internatonally.
My pick for strongest body of work by an ex-Beatle: George Harrison. I've never understood
how Harrison has been so short-changed, critically. His songs range from witty to graceful
to barbed. They swing, they croon, they rock 'n' roll, they poke fun, they contemplate.
Looking for John Lennon
Imagine John Lennon at sixty-one. Lots of people seem to be doing this
lately, I've noticed. A New York Times article a couple of weeks ago, "Looking For
Our John Lennon" lamented the absence of Lennon comments---not just on the occasion
of his Oct. 9 birthday, but in view of the atrocities of Sept. 11. . .
Home Again, With The Beatles
The Beatles often sang of going home again---almost as often, it seems, as they sang of
love. The home theme crops up in the Beatles' body of work the way doom recurs in
the poems of Edgar Allan Poe, dusty roads in the songs of Woody Guthrie. . .
What Would Lennon
Think? Yoko Ono Discusses the new "Let it Be. . .Naked"
It was January 1969, a few months after the release of the Beatles eponymous
white album. John Lennon was Beatled-out, and Paul McCartney was trying to
elicit enthusiasm for a new project: Get Back, a no-studio-frills album, and a film
documenting the making of it.
"Let it Be": Why
"Is it necessary?" asks Randy Lewis in his thoughtful review of The
Beatles' new album, Let it Be. . .Naked. (Calendar, Nov. 10, 2003.)
Here's an answer: no.
John and Yoko's Shocking New "Happy
Burned babies. Bloated corpses. A boy in a hospital, shock in his
eyes as he tries to comprehend the loss of his legs. Soldiers firing automatic weapons.
Ten-year-olds wielding rifles. People fleeing in terror. People starving. Shallow graves.
And tears, tears, tears.
A Band That Made it Very,
I wasn't planning to write anything about the 40th anniversary of The Beatles'
debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show," as I tend to avoid major anniversaries, and
every media outlet in the world is covering the story. But. . .Seeing as I've been writing about them for about 33 years, why stop now?
reFABricated---A virtual virtual Beatles Reunion
The big “of all sad words
of tongue and pen”* question about The Beatles is what a reunion
album might have sounded like. This is unanswerable beyond the conjecture
that it would have been very good, even if it did not “reheat the souffle,”
to use John Lennon’s oft-quoted explanation as to why there was no reunion
in the ‘70s. But I suspect such a reheated souffle would
have fooled many a palate. I don’t think you could put those four men and
George Martin together in a studio, provided they were in the mood to work,
and come up with anything less than brilliant and original music.
Rev. Ringo's Peace and Love Revue
Starr’s Peace and Love Express rolled into a tiny converted movie
theater in L.A. June 29, and the minions greeted him with peace signs,
toothy smiles, bellowed requests, and a touch of wide-eyed incredulity.