Friday, August 25, 2006

ERIK'S MEDUSA I.D.

Them eyes were up to 'no good' in those days




Thanks Erik

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Snakes on Her Head

Anyone who lived in Chicago in the 80's, who had even the slightest idea what was going on, will remember Medusa's Music Hall. It was located on the corner of Sheffield and School in a building has since been rehabed into very ordinary looking multi-unit condos. Whenever I pass it I remember it with fond and foggy memories. For those unfortunate people who didn't get to go there, Medusa's was a three-story after hours dance club that was open from 11PM to 8 in the morning. They sweetly called themselves a 'juice bar'. For about three years it was my special retreat from the horrors of city suburbia.

I remember getting a call from my friend Brian who in describing the club to me acted like he had discovered a secret golden city; Inside this Xanudu he'd found three full floors of debauchery, dancing, and drugs. (Not necessary in that order.) "There was some guy who was a waiter crawling on his hands and knees with tray on his back" Brian beemed, "And dancing girls in cages, and music videos."
When I went I didn't see any crawling waiter, but I did see things that they just didn't teach you about in high school at 55th and Narragansett. Punks, gays, druggies, goths, transvestites, lesbians, prostitutes (again, not necessarily in that order). Medusa's really didn't get hopping until after 3 in the morning when the other dance clubs closed. That was when everyone poured in downing sparkling water, and dancing until dawn. I went to Medusa's almost every weekend. Because it was a juice bar, my parents didn't seem to care that I stay out until 8 in the morning. After all, I was only drinking fruit juice and sparkling water. I think I must have had sparkling kidneys in those days.

Each week the decor of the club changed. Some times it was dark and gothic, other times spacey and freaked out; b/w TV sets showing old tv shows on UHF stations mounted upside down or sideways in the walls or being used as tables. The 2nd floor was a cozy room where you could look down on the huge dance floor; I'd sit for hours just watching like some nappy cat. On the 3rd floor they had a dark room where people sat and watch projected movies and videos (The Cure, Cars, Lene Lovich). There I saw "Forbidden Zone" and the "Evil Dead" multiple times, bravely clutching my Perrier water, terrified that someone might come up to me and talk.

I once brought a bunch of co-workers from Zayre there to experience it. I had told them how it was a magical land where woman sat behind panes of glass, dressed in nothing but silk lingerie eating French Bread; and where they blasted Soft Cell's "Tainted Love", and how everyone crowded the dance floor until you couldn't move. My co-workers were not impressed. I remember coming home early that night as they gasped that they had seen two men kissing, and some lesbian approached Athena and said hello. (Athena looked like a female Greek version of Gary Coleman). "It's good to be back on the Southside" one of them said when we arrived back at Archer and Cicero. From then on I was viewed with suspision; I vowed to move away from the Southside as soon as possible.

I wonder where all my old Medusa's friends are today. Where is the punk girl, my co-worker at JC Penny's, who would go with me on occasion? I would drive her and she'd immediately ditch me. Hours later she'd ask to borrow the keys to my Austin Marina where she would have sex with some club boy she'd just met; Anarchist symbols written in the steam on the windows and the beer cans under the seat. One night on the way home she told me in a serious voice that her musical tastes were changing and she was really getting into The Cure's older songs. "I'm really into old Cure now." As if this were some milestone in her life.

One night a guy told me to stand next to the biggest speaker on the dance floor and press against it "Because it changes your heart rhythms." As if that was a good thing.
I was so into my cocoon at that time that it would have taken more than speaker vibrations to get me out of it.

A few scattered memories include*:

*The night that they filled the second floor with dry ice smoke causing white blindness. I walked around the rooms casually bumping into people, hearing slurping noises in the corners.

*The night Brian and I were standing on one of the landings when someone fell out of the 2nd story window. One minute he was sitting on the ledge talking with his friends, then we turned and he was gone. I remember we walked upstairs after his friends started to scream.

*The insane Asian doorman, who wouldn't let you in if you walked up the stairs too fast or didn't have your ID and membership card out. Rumor was had killed someone; We weren't surprised.

*The night I saw Violent Femmes there and the concert started at 6:30 in the morning. The dance floor was littered with vodka bottles and the whole room pogo'd. I remember dancing thinking the floor was going to cave at any second.

It was around the late 80s that I stopped going. More gang kids were showing up and the music was getting harsher. I remember being sad when at one point they redecorated the video room to a brightly, neon blasted multi-media room with fifty TV's on a wall. I missed the dark room with pillows on the floor. They stopped redecorating every week. I don't remember the last time I went or why I never stopped in when I lived close by. But one day I passed it and it was closed and the building was being remodeled.

Medusa's tried to move to other venues: "Medusa's night at Foxy's", As if it were a gypsy caravan with a magic bottle that if opened in any other space would re-create the magic. Regardless, I'm sure if it opened today I'd only find the music too loud and the place too dirty, and I'd be mad they didn't serve drinks. Discuss.

More Medusa's Memories: click here

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Memories of Mike Douglas


Hear Mike sing from the album Mike Douglas Sings It All: Philadelphia

I can't say that I hadn't thought about Mike Douglas for a while; In fact, last weekend I had seen his album the "The Men in My Little Girl's Life" at an antique store with the ridiculous price tag of $4.00 on it. The owner of the booth must have thought that it had just the right kitsch quota for his all-in-one all-white plastic stereo 8-track/record player that he was selling for $350.00, because he had it propped up beside it. I remember thinking, "I haven't thought about Mike Douglas for a while, wonder what he is up to."

Hearing about his death made me sad just because, like Johnny Carson, he was so ingrained in my psyche as something that would just always be there. I mainly remember him from the 70's, 3:30 in the afternoon, Channel 5. It was such a stay at home Mom's show; Quiet, with a non-threatening man, who spoke softly to celebrities. If describing a memory of The Mike Douglas Show it would be colored by the setting of a winter sun; My memories of Mike Douglas all are about trying to do homework by the light of the black and white TV set.

My clearest memory of the Mike Douglas Show was one where the guests were Mason Reese, and Harry Chapin. For those who know remember Mason Reese, he was a five year old kid who acted like an pompous asshole adult. He was known for promoting Underwood Deviled Ham spread. Like Rodney Alan Rippey, he was another fixture of the variety/talk show scene for a while and then just 'poof' disappeared. (I shutter to think what's happened to the poor guy.) Well during this show Mason Reese came out of his 'I'm a grown-up in a child's body' character when Mike started to introduce Harry Chapin and his song "Cat's in the Cradle". Mason cried: "He's going to sing 'that cat' song. "I don't want to hear 'that cat' song!" He was hysterical, throwing a tantrum. Mike and Harry assured him that he was going to sing a different song and not 'that cat' song, trying to calm him down. Then they went to a commercial. When they got back from the break, Mike came back and said "Now here is Harry Chapin"... Who of course began to sing, "Cats in the Cradle". From off-stage you could hear Mason Reese screaming: "You lied to me, you lied to me!" Now that's great television!

Thanks Mike!



A Prayer for Mike

Some other Mike clips:
Mike Makes Judy sing Over the Rainbow
Mike talks with Frank Zappa, Jimmy JJ Walker and Kenny Rogers about music and drugs.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Carol Vs. Liza

Very funny clip that I found on World of Wonder... I'm not sure what the protocol of blogs are... if I found something on someone else's blog do I give them credit? Robert help me with this one...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

La Scopitones

In its day Club Berlin was the hippest place to dance and be seen. I've not been there in years because the medium age is about 26. However in the late 80s, early 90s I was what could be called a regular. During that time spinning music and showing fabulous videos was DJ Bobby Marley. Bobby's speciality was playing not the usual fare for a dance club. Wednesdays were Horrible Hits nights with songs like "Seasons in the Sun", "Xanadu" or "Shaft" played through the enormous sound system for everyone to dance too. She also was a master at putting together wonderful video montages. I think it was there that I realized that "Mommy Dearest" was camp Click here to see one of her video concoctions. One of my more lucid memories at Berlin was the night I saw my first Scopitone. DJ Bobby showed Lisa Stansfield's video for "All Around the World" and morphed it with Kay Starr singing "The theme from Around the World in 80 Days". I was mesmerized... What was this strange filmed 60s music video? Years Later I discovered that they were called Scopitones.

If you've not seen one, you have not "seen" music. They are colorful, campy, sexy, and have a guarantee of instantly making me happy. Just see for yourself... I'll be posting some of my favorites throughout this blog... You just got to love the internet... these Scopitones were like gold to see 15 years ago... now they are just a click away.

A few examples:

Don't Fall in the Pool...


This guy's voice makes me pee...


Lovely Joi Lansing Trapped in the Web of Love


Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Recycled Laughs

Recently there was a headline on Huffington Post -- "Paramount tells Tom Cruise he needs a reality check". Basically they said "No more are we losing money giving you half the profits from the movie and paying you a zillion dollars to walk through your roles." (I hear he charges an extra million just to make that little muscle twitch on the side of his face to show that he's really acting.)

Well it reminded me of a letter I wrote about 7 years ago (jeez) to an old bf, Jimmy Doyle. He had moved to California; instead of writing letters full of regret and feelings, I wrote pithy reviews of movies I'd seen or imaginary pieces for situation comedies. Mind you boys and girls, this was a long time before e-mail was that common and 'a blog' was just a name for a monster in a 50's horror movie. This letter was my review of "The Blair Witch Project", and how there was all this controversy at the time because all the big budget pictures were failing and this movie was making a ton of money. I remember on 'Access Hollywood' one of the reporters doing a piece called, 'The End of the Hollywood Stars'; He was talking as if all the stars were going to suddenly disappear as if in a entertainment rapture. Or like Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts were going to have to start taking part-time jobs.

Anyway, I thought I'd recycle some old stuff, because I think it's pretty funny (Oh, how I love to make myself laugh.) ________________________________________________________________________________
August 6, 1999

Dear Jimmy,

I had to write you again to tell you about this frightening new movie that has been released, "The Blair Witch Project'. It's scary for more reasons than you know. First it is an independent feature made for about $25,000. And it is a big hit. Can you believe that industry sources say that this film will make more money than such well produced, well publicized features as "Wild, Wild West" and dare I conjecture, "Runaway Bride". Who is going to see this piece of crap? It doesn't have any star power such as Julia Roberts or Will Smith. Can the general public after seeing the "Blair Witch Project" relive the joy of seeing the movie by stopping at a participating Burger King and get a "Blair Witch" action figure with a purchase of a Value Meal. The answer is no. How blind can the public be? Don't they know that with a film like "Wild Wild West" they are not only getting state of the art production values, but they are getting the chance to take a piece of Hollywood home with them, albeit in the form of a plastic, non-dishwasher safe, cup. A true collector's item, sure to be the crown jewel at any memorabilia convention in 200 or so years.

It is breaking my heart that these so-called independent producers are making money that rightfully belongs in the hands of the producers of "The Phantom Menace', "Phil Collins's Tarzan", and "The Haunting". When will the public open their eyes and see that they are only hurting themselves by supporting a film that only costs $25,000 to make. Don't they know that Hollywood producers will be saying to themselves, "Hey, we don't have to spend $79 million dollars to make a film such as "Wild Wild West" we can spend $25,000 or less and the public will go to see it. That will be more profit for us." Who will be hurt by this I ask you? Of course, it will be the public. If the cost of production of films continues to go down we will not have such upcoming instant classics as "Jurassic Park III" the future remake of "Smokey and the Bandit" or "A Star Is Born" w/Will Smith and Jennifer Lopez. Instead, should they remake "A Star Is Born" with Suzy Brown, who works as a cashier at WalMart, and the weather man from the Channel 5 News. Maybe instead of the state-of-the-art special effects of "Jurassic Park III" they should just put a camera in the spider cage at the zoo; That is if they can afford to pay the admission fee. I ask you when will this end? Do we really want to go back to a world where the films we see are nothing more than cheaply filmed crap, i.e. "On the Waterfront", "Twelve Angry Men" "The Graduate"? I think not.

The question is: "What can I do to stop this?" The answer is to use your entertainment dollar to its best advantage. When you to see "Wild, Wild West" take a friend or two. Then see it again the next day. At work, say things like, "Wild, Wild West" is great! Did you see my cup?" Talk loudly on the bus or street about how beautiful Julia Roberts is in her new movie, "Runaway Bride" and that you would see it again and again. I have seen it several times. However, I have not gotten through the whole movie, as I pass out somewhere within the first ten to fifteen minutes and have to be carried from the theater. The one thing you should not do is see this witch movie! $25,000?!!! Who are they kidding?!!! I'm just going to stay home and watch "Friends". $2 million an show -- Now that's value for my dollar.

Yours in Christ,

John

Monday, August 07, 2006

LEFT IN THE DARK



It was just a matter of time before I posted some Barbra stuff... so I thought I'd get it out of the way... This video is pretty insane and has every 80s video cliche in the book... Check out around the 4:00 minute mark for a fabulous shot of Babs smoking and guzzling coke during the musical break... I vaguely remember this being shown a couple of times on regular TV. It's during Barbra's "I'm SO FUCKING SERIOUS, but don't you think I'm sexy" stage of her career.

The thing that makes this video so 'special' is that it's a Jim Steinman song. He was best known for writing classic Meatloaf songs. So it's Meatloaf meets Bonnie Tyler meets Barbra during a Moonlighting episode. Enjoy...

WARNING: This video has a shriek factor of 8.5. The sound of her high notes may stick in your head for up to 15 hours after listening.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Other People's Pictures



Somewhere I think I heard that some primitive tribes don’t want their pictures taken because it steals their soul. (I think I heard that in a Tarzan movie. Because how would a primitive tribe know what a camera does. It’s not like there were Fotomats in the Congo). Perhaps there is some truth to this however, example Paris Hilton…

One of my favorite junk shop/flea market pastimes is going through boxes of old photos. These are some of my favorite recent finds.

An old boyfriend of mine asked me why would I want to put photos of people I didn’t know all around my apartment. I think the term he used was that it was a ‘unique idea’. (Said in the same tone as if I was wearing my underwear on my head.) I guess my reasoning is that finding a truly ‘unique’ photo taken 50-60 years ago in a box at a junk store it’s a little like saving a bit of someone’s soul that was tossed away; repurchased as kitsch for a quarter several decades later.




Photos are often the last things that people want to save when someone dies. I say this because I’ve been to a ton of estate sales. Usually, mixed in with the VHS tapes of Murder She Wrote there’s often a box or album of family photos. As my parents reach the twilight of their lives I’ve been pondering the family photo archive. I can’t see myself giving them away to the Brown Elephant. I wasn’t even close to any of the people in the photos; being a late in life child, most of my older relatives were either dead or quite elderly by the time I was born. Regardless, I can’t see putting their pictures in the garbage.

Having said that…
I’m glad some people do, otherwise I wouldn’t have found these fabulous photos…



It will be interesting to see with the advent of digital photos if discarded family photos become a thing of the past, and instead of being thrown in a box with old paperbacks, they will just sit for decades on some forgotten page on a website until some 16 year old unique kid finds them, circa 2059.


Fun found photo site: Is This You

Friday, August 04, 2006

Adventure Blogging…

Welcome to my first Blog. Much like taking your first steps or saying your first word… (which my mother claims was ‘curtain’…) I’m sure that this will be really wobbly and full of incoherent mumbles. In fact, I’m still a little unclear on the concept of ‘blogging’ and especially how people have become ‘blogging stars’. I guess it’s an open field where only the fastest wits and typists survive.

That being said… I’m sure that 99% of what I’ll have to write will be filled with unfinished sentences, half-truths, and tons of misspelled words. Not to mention being called on my use of ‘there’ and ‘their’; or ‘to’ and ‘too’. A problem I’ve had since the start of low-grade education in the Chicago Public School system… One of my big fears is being forced to spell words in front of an audience. That “Spellbound” movie almost put me in the hospital.

Oh, speaking of random thoughts and the Chicago Public School system. One of my first reading memories is being in the 1st grade and Mrs. Kowalski asking me to read aloud from the fantastically large Dick and Jane book at the front of the room… In my mind that book was about ten feet tall. I just stared at it for a long time repeating, 'the pony is..., the pony is....and then she came running up to me screaming: THE PONY IS FRISKY, THE PONY IS FRISKY. Words that till this day make me shiver with fear. I hope that somewhere in some level of hell that old bat is riding that frisky pony for all eternity.

So welcome... As the title says... I need to be doing this like I need another hole in the head.

and speaking of holes...

that will have to wait until another post...