Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Down in Bermuda...

It was about ten years ago when I first heard "Bermuda".

I was taking a long car ride listening to de-stress after the horrible experience of working on Psycho: The American Musical (but that's another story). I remember that Dan and I were riding out to 'where Christ lost his shoes' to some store that specialized in old time radio tapes and records. During the trip, we listened to Chuck Shaden's Old Time Radio show that played for years on WFMT every Saturday afternoon. He was playing The Bing Crosby program from 1952; and during the show he introduced The Bell Sisters with their new hit song 'Bermuda'.

I've a huge knowledge of classic songs, so I was immediately interested because this was brand new to me; And as it played I knew it would be my new favorite: The beat, the harmonies, the insane lyrics. Why had I never heard Bermuda before? Who where the Bell Sisters?

I'd soon sought out a 78 recording of Bermuda and was obsessed with playing it again and again for anyone who would listen. I can still picture Johnny Navin from The Aluminum Group staring blankly at me when I played him the song and told him that his group would have a break-through hit if they would record it. 'blink, blink'.

Click HERE to hear the Bell Sisters sing Bermuda.

I'd pretty much stopped singing at this point so my hopes of actually performing this song myself were pretty slim. Then as fate would have it, I met Mike Armstrong who had the same quirky taste in music I did. I'd sung "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on a rock cruise he'd done on Lake Michigan one summer, and Mike wanted to know if I wanted to do any other songs together. The first thing that popped into my mind was "Bermuda". From this song we formed what was to become the band, "Bric-a-Brac".

The thing I love about Bermuda, besides the sister's harmonies (I love sibling singing), is that Cynthia Strother, the eldest sister of the Bells, wrote this song when she was just 16 year old girl. It's from the mind of a young girl who'd never traveled and only had a vague idea that Bermuda was someplace far away and exotic. As Mike pointed out when I played it to him the first time is that Coral Sea on off the coast of Australia and no where near the British Commonwealth of Bermuda. Also, the song has a middle eastern beat, where the history of the island is more linked to Afro-Cuban roots.

When I was researching music rights when Bric-a-Brac was doing their album; I got in touch with the nephew of the Bell Sisters who was archiving their work. He knew that his aunts had a singing career but it wasn't until he'd heard 'Bermuda' played during the film "Grace of My Heart" did he think of archiving his aunts work. He created a pretty comprehensive website; His story can be found at The Bell Sister's Website. There's a lot more to listen to by the sisters and a full story of their lives.

He told me that his aunt Cynthia wrote the song because she had an unhappy childhood in an oppressive home. Bermuda just seemed a far away escape. But I also love the song just because on top of the 'Exotica' beat, the poetic teenage girl imagery, and soaring violins of Henry Rene, it's really a song about someone drowning. Yet another twist to the song.

Happily, Bric-a-Brac finally did record the song for our album, Sixteen Luxury Units; And we must have performed this song about a hundred times over the last ten years. according to the nephew this was the first time the song was recorded since 1968. Click HERE to hear the Bric-a-Brac version.

Thanks to some youtube subscribers, here are two versions The Bells Sisters singing Bermuda. Try not to drown in their harmonies!!!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Gay Parade 2007 or

The Reincarnation of Peter Pride.

Yesterday I went to my first pride parade in over a decade. Here’s the rundown and some random thoughts by the hours.

8:00 – woke up and immediately noticed I had a zit the size of Nebraska right in the middle of my forehead, which in effect pretty much negated any possible chance of any enchanted evening with a stranger seeing me across a crowded room. Unless he was a dermatologist and wanted to set up an appointment.

9:00- Paul came by and we met Gary and had breakfast at Over Easy. A great place for breakfast, but this morning everyone and their ‘sister’ was there. They sat us a the world’s smallest table and the waitress decided to see just how many plates and condiments she could fit on it.

11:00 – Finally at the parade route, we passed a group of bearded men standing on the corner of Clark and Belmont praying for our souls; further up a larger group had signs that said repent, and gay sex = sin. They were soundly boo’ed by everyone walking by them. I don’t really get the whole poster thing; do they really think that a sign that says “Repent” at the gay pride parade will actually get someone thinking, ‘hmm, I should try that repenting thing’. But by the time the parade started this group disappeared among the throng of people.

11:30 – A cute girl came up to Paul and me and asked if we would fill out a survey in exchange for $10. Sure! The survey was straight out of MySpace, and concerned self-body image. Do you think you are fat? Do you think other people think you are fat? When is the last time someone whistled at you while you were walking down the street? Did this make you feel: positive about yourself, angry, or did you ignore it…That sort of stuff. Luckily there was nothing about zits or I would have broken down right then and there.

12:00- Finally, the parade started. We got a spot right by
Steamworks behind some lesbians. The opening of the parade is for politicians to ride by and wave. Most of them I didn’t know. However, it great that the Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine was at the parade. It must take a lot of courage to go to the gay pride parade with a name like Dick Devine; there and the urologist.

1:00- A toady looking guy came up to me and push me aside and said “I have to get through here…” I thought he was with the lesbians in front of us, so I let him through. I thought he was a lesbian at first. But he just felt like he deserved to be in front of everyone. What is up with people today, there is such a feeling of entitlement and that people have to get their way regardless ? I’d never have the nerve to push my way in front of someone. It's a culture of rudeness.

To make things worse he was woo-woo’ing over everything. Granted I’m not much of woo-woo’er and if you are going to woo-woo then the gay pride parade is the place to do it, but I swear he was screaming over everything. He was on automatic woo-woo. At one point there was a big lull between floats and he keep on woo-wooing. The lesbian in front of him finally told him to stop screaming in her ear.

1:30 – Beads and advertisements: In this situation your self worth is totally based on if you can get one of the parade participates to throw you some beads. But this there was this green haired girl by me who was taking it as a personal affront that she didn’t get anything. At one point when she missed getting a flier to some hair salon I believe she actually started to cry. I became extremely aware of the floats throwing things because I didn’t want to get hit in the zit with a flying ad for some power drink. Maybe if the Christian people had attached their Gay Sex = Sin message to a string of beads they might have gotten more people to pay attention.

2:00 – A seemingly endless parade of floats featuring everything from Capt Crunch to Caribou Coffee. I’m glad that corporate America was supporting the parade, but after two and a half hours of watching drag queens and dancing boys, the ComEd float fell a little flat.

2:30 – Yet another pushy person came and pushed us out of the way to get in front of us. She seemed a little trashed and I didn't have the energy to push back, so I thought it was best to get out of the crowd. We went to Spin and had a beer, it tasted fabulous!

3:00- The parade was over. And Halsted Street was now a throng of people and trash. I hadn’t tripped over that many wine and beer bottles since my days at Medusa’s Juice Bar. And so the revelry began. It was the first time that I actually felt sorry for the policemen who were given the gay pride parade beat. They had this look on their faces like angry parents whose teenager's yard party had gone out of control. I mean they couldn’t arrest anyone for being drunk because everyone was drunk, they couldn’t arrest anyone for peeing in alleys because people were peeing everywhere.

3:15 – We walked over to Broadway where the parade was still passing by. On the way there we passed a Honda with two very confused Asian girls and a backseat filled with bags heading up Roscoe to Halsted, the ground-zero of the parade festivities. Had they picked this day to move into their apartment? They were driving right for the part of the area that we’d just left with throngs of people still walking in circles trying to find friends, make friends or find a drink. Poor lost souls; how did they not know this wasn’t happening? What if you had picked this day to move into your new condo in Lakeview? Talk about a nightmare.

4:00 – With the parade wrapping up on Broadway, Paul and I ran into a lovely site. Frat boys and their frat girl throwing freeze pops out the window in exchange for people who would pull down their pants. They weren’t getting many takers, so they proceeded to give the crowd a show. As Paul said: Out the window today, on a blog tomorrow.

Really Not Safe for Work. Picture One, Picture Two, Picture Three

5:00- Paul and I met up with friends, Gary, Dan and David. We walked out of the general Halsted Street area and thought it was time to get something to eat. Also, it was around this time that I realized that I was starting to burn and burn fast; I could feel it was going to be bad. My forehead was bright red and my poor little bald spot on the crown of my head felt like it was starting to prickle like I had fire ants walking on it.

Note to self: Sunscreen stupid!

5:15 – I made the horrible suggestion of going for Mexican food; Mainly because I wanted a margarita. We went to Caesars’ and although it was crowded and there was a half hour wait, we just chatted around the bar. The bad part came when they brought us to our table in the basement. The basement is usually the bar/night club area. Although people were eating and chatting, the management thought because it was pride weekend and we were all homosexuals that we would expect that the music would need to be at ear shattering levels; I mean how else would we enjoy our dinner. After several trips to the DJ booth and a visit from the manager we got the music down to a reasonable level that we could all scream over. To make this scene even more irritating, there was a TV set embedded in the wall and it was tuned into the Jimmy Swaggart Program ‘close-captioned’ for the enjoyment of the diners. Had the poster board carrying crowd come up with this diabolical scheme?

“Hey Josh, so after the parade we’ll set it up so that Swaggart will be preaching the word of God in all the restaurants. After several free Tequila shots, they’ll be repenting all over the place.”

“That plan is downright devilish, Tod.”

6:30 – From there Gary and I braved the Halsted crowd and went to Sidetracks. The scene had calmed down considerable since earlier in the afternoon. (Kudos to the city for cleaning up that mess so quickly.) After two (or was it three) fruity, slushy, girly drinks, my forehead now at least one color of the rainbow; and my energy level completely sunk; I was just staring out at one of the TV sets with Judy or Barbra or Bea or Cher on them lost in my own musical comedy world when this guy came up to me and said ‘Smile! You should be happy and filled with pride.’ “Woo-Woo” I yelled. And he seemed satisfied and walked away. And I had my fill of being prideful for another year. I took my sun dried zit and went home.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


This weekend ends Gay Pride month, and here in Chicago as in other big cities we are having our gay pride parade. I'm actually going tomorrow for a change. The last time I went there was a float promoting Streisand's Return to Broadway album. So that's got to be over ten years ago. Normally I would just sit and look at the el station and watch the lesbians and gay men with their coolers and disposable chairs waiting on the el platform at 10:30 in the morning. And that was all the pride I could take for one day. I'll report on my experiences Monday...

In the meantime, I searched the big wooden magazine box and came up with a look back at a pride-filled June from 1977 via the magazine Blueboy. The name of the magazine brings up memories of fascination and fear as I recall whenever it was brought up in teenage conversations it immediately brought up suspicions for just knowing the name; Unlike After Dark, Blueboy was straight up queer reading. Not really a porn magazine, it sought to be Playboy for the lavender set. In this issue along with some lovely photos of some 70's shaggy haired mustached boys, there is also a feature on Joan, Bette, Marlene, Greta - Role Playing and why we love to play them; an article about how all pirates were gay, and among the picks of the best albums to make love to Lena Horne, and Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.'s new albums

And right next to an ad for Man's Country, a gay bath house is an interview with Sylvester Stallone, which is ironic in itself because before him the name Sylvester was right up there with Bruce for names for your wife's hairdresser.

And while we are the subject of hair, the 70s gay culture must have been obsessed with hairpieces. I can't say what is more repellent in this ad, the man, the hairpiece, or the puns.

Comopolitan might have had Burt Reynolds in the nude, but only Blueboy could boast of a young nude Burt Lanchaster with a come-hither look in his eye.

And if that doesn't help get your motor started the how a "popper" superhero named Captain Rush! And I always wondered where Limbaugh got started...
Anyway happy pride... and I was going to put up a video of Somewhere Over the Rainbow or I Am What I Am

But this is much more festive... and nothing says gay pride like Chita Rivera and a stage full of synchronized dancers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How I spent my summer vacation…
Or Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Hello and I’m back!

Sorry for the long hiatus, but I took some well deserved time off from work, and just sort of fell out of the notion of scanning any photos or sitting at the keyboard trying desperately to be amusing. I really should read up on blogging protocol; I’m sure I was supposed to put up a “Be Right Back…” or “Stay Tuned” PhotoShopped over Art Deco watercolor of a flapper, ala the Tonight Show circa 1974, but even that seemed too much.

I didn’t do anything but watched the X-Files (I’m almost finished with Season One), transferred all 16 of my Sammy Davis Jr. albums, got blind drunk and made a fool of myself on a weeknight (Oy!), wandered from room to room in my house sighing, and generally feeling the need to dust behind things and putting pants, that I’ll never fit into again, into bags. Oh, but I did manage to do something that I try to do every few years and that is visit the House on the Rock.

Now dear Readers if you haven’t heard been to the
House on the Rock, than you have not drunken from the chipped kitten cup of LIFE. I once boldly proclaimed that The House is where my soul lives; and every few years I feel that the least I can do for my soul is to visit once in a while.

In a nutshell, the HOTR is a 1970's orange shag carpeted house built on a rock filled with all the Matt Helm accouterments and a series of huge barns filled with every conceivable bit of bric-a-brac, flotsam, and nostalgic hoo-ha collected in one place. This is my forth time visiting, and 3rd time bringing people who hadn’t been there before. About a ¾ of the way through the tour I usually ask my HOTR guests "Is what you expected?" This time when I asked Steve, a woman overheard my question, “Who could expect this?” she moaned with a dazed look on her face. “Who could put this in words?” Who indeed?

(If you plan to go, SPOILERS AHEAD if you want to be surprised don’t read any further. Avert your eyes. Turn away.)

But I can’t imagine that any amount of words can describe the pure unrelenting expanse of it. Part museum, part art installation, part nightmarish thrift store. And an overwhelming sense of pure visual overload. This time was no different although I knew what was coming around each bend, and for the most part a lot of it isn’t dazzling or even exciting, it’s just strange and disconcerting. Starting with the house itself with its late 60's d├ęcor, the first thing you see is a sunken living room/kitchenette complete with glass walls and dilapidated plush couch. A Polish tour guide was excitedly pointing out the finer points of vintage American shag living room to her group.
“This must be cleaned with a special vacuum cleaner.” The interior design is a mish-mash of Oriental, Deco, and Sears Catalog; what could these Polish tourists have thought?

This time through the House was a different experience for me, if only because this time I had a digital camera. I discovered that the whole experience is one big photo opportunity; as if I was seeing the wooden carving of a demonic jester for the first time having passed it by three times before. The opportunity to take a photo of not one but two drunken clowns in a bathtub figurines, made me feel as if I was suddenly Richard Avelon and the House on the Rock was suddenly Audrey Hepburn or Vanessa Redgrave.
At House on the Rock everyone can be Andy Warhol.
My soul came to say ‘hello, here I am' as I snapped away at the collection of Lady Head Planters as the nickelodeons played insistently in the background. (And where else can you see a figurine of a naked buff clown.)

This time I went with Steve and Paul who are creative both with music, dance and theatre; They saw the whole experience as a big art project and could easily able to point out the tricks of the trade; Such as, the violins are not really playing and that things were just sort of pieced together. In fact, this was all confirmed by a friendly HOTR guide who pointed out in the carousel room that some of the figures on the platform where not original but pieced together out of several broken figures; Hence the mermaid with the wolf’s head. Soon after I saw a Virgin Mary statute wearing a wide brimmed hat.
How wonderful it is that this huge, expensive tourist trap in the middle of no where is ever so gently exposing the most middle of America to art. Never would tattooed biker parents and their shaggy-haired son have gone to the MCA to see an art installation, but they intently watched a room of mannequins play circus music while people dutifully pushed buttons around the room to make old jewelry displays turn on. Art is truly everywhere, especially in the mundane. And when the mundane is stored in airline hanger sized barns then it truly becomes almost spiritual.

If my soul truly does live in the House, and let me assure you it does, than I was disturbed by how many just sinister images reside there. In every nook held a hidden face or distressed sea nymph. So many faces… so many filled with pain. And again, so strange to seeing families pushing their children through hallways, down orange carpeted walls past these images. I’m sure that they faces are burned in the imaginations of every child who has ever passed this way.

Any artist who hasn’t been to House on the Rock needs to make a pilgrimage. Book your room at the Don Q Inn (I'm sorry to say it looks like they took down the balloon room), have dinner in the B-15 bomber, visit the mineral museum, and spend six hours learning the art of art, and how thin the line is between kitch and the sublime.

Hope I haven’t lost many of you… Happy summer…!!!

Note: I took all the photos except for the livingroom which I got from

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I'm having some wine tonight... won't you join me...

Monday, June 04, 2007

June Is Busting Out All Over My Women's Household Magazines!

Welcome to another entry of AHITH's Women's Household Magazine review. June is all about young love, the start of summer vacation and of course crafting. I'm foregoing the usual photos of elderly women with their quilts (and believe me this months issues were bursting at the staples with them) to highlight some of the younger members of the WH Family, with our Calling Young Homemakers section.

Carol Ann, Pat and Gail Anne, whose photos look like they could have come from the Missing Person's page, talk of their dreams of finding a "Long Letter Pal", and share their love of collecting marbles and driftwood. Pat (in the middle photo) is just 17 and likes to babysit and take care of her small apartment. With those steely eyes and Sissy Spacek attitude I have a feeling that she left Quanah, TX with the first handsome drifter that promised to take her out of that God-forsaken town.

Click "here" to see full page:

As always an issue of Women's Household would not be complete without a bit of creepy yarn. This one, called ominously "Smiling Tom" is craft work that Stephen King short stories are made of.

This has to be one my favorite Spice of Life pages.

From the Pet Peeves section...

  • My Pet Peeves is to be walking along on the sidewalk and have my hair net on my hair catch on some low hanging tree branch.
  • My Pet Peeve is to hear women in public criticizing their husbands when they are slaving hourly with the best that circumstances, education and environment will permit.

And in the 'Embarrassing Moments' section there is a fascinating tale of a women who hides from her gossipy neighbor in the closet until she nearly dies from lack of air. Click "here" to read the full page.

And now a word from our sponsors...

The best bra name ever... and only $5.95!!!

And for $29.95 you could also have this beautiful wig that has a lifetime set.

With it you can go from Francis Farmer to Donna Mills or Patti Smith to Winona Rider with just a twist of your brush. And finally our "What's Your Problem" page. This month's problem asks the age old problem faced by people since the dawn of man: How do you stop people from trespassing on your land and stealing your rocks. Any suggestions? Click "here" to read the full page.

Until next month... happy summer and pleasant dreams!!!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Things that make you go hmmm...

OK... so once a year at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, the freshmen class traditionally is made to climb the Herndon Monument, which by the way is covered with lard, to put a Plebe beanie at the top. Then while they are trying to climb it the upper classmen spray them with water. And what you have ladies and gentlemen is some of the hottest man action I've seen without having to pay a monthly fee! I swear I'm not making this up... has pictures from this and past years.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Two-Ply comedy gold concludes with the end the series of cartoons from Sexual Misbehavior in the Human Male
Day Four