Thursday, April 30, 2009

Viva Las Vegas

From Milly's Orchid Show 1990. The Elvis Show. I'm playing with Peter Allen who at the time was going by the name Peter Mitchell because he didn't want to be confused with the flamboyantly gay singer/songwriter of the same name. During my tenure with the Orchid Show we must have played this song dozens of times. I always thought Peter's arrangement of it was really fun and inventive.

Peter was my next door neighbor at this time. He and his twin brother Paul were two strikingly handsome guys.   Peter was a fantastic musician and I should credit him with teaching me to sing on the beat. Before him I just sort of wandered around the notes (and issue I guess I still deal with.) 

 These clips make me cringe a little; doing this fake nightclub act, acting like I'm some smooth son-of-a-bitch, when I couldn't have been more naive and un-smooth.   However, it was a fun time back then; if only because we didn't know what we were doing and all that counted was we were getting reactions from the audience.  

This was soon after I was in Interview Magazine.  Cartoonist Linda Barry was a fan of mine from seeing me at these shows and talked about me when she was being interviewed. Before I knew it I was in a national magazine when I had maybe sung before people a half a dozen times. I thought I was pretty hot shit because everyone was asking Peter and I to play at parties, and opening for bands.   At the height of this whirlwind I was asked to open for Dread Zeppelin, a Led Zeppelin cover band where the lead singer was an Elvis Impersonator sang songs with a  reggie beat.  So, who better to open for them but me and faux lounge Sinatra singer.   Opening up for them was a pretty big deal at the time (Robert Plant was touting them as his favorite cover band);  it was going to be the place to be on St. Patrick's Day.  

So Peter and I were all set to do the show and then Peter called me up because he wanted billing in the advertisements. He wanted it to say John Sinatra Connors & Peter Mitchell. I had no idea how I was going to do that considering it wasn't my show and I wasn't in charge of the advertising. But Peter said either I did something about it or he wasn't going to play.  I remember telling him that in future shows we could do it, but not this one.    It was a strange power play and I was stuck.  

Blurb in the Suntimes about the show

I paniked because I thought I was going to have cancel this gig and asked another guitar player I was working with at the time if he wanted to do the show.  Peter was hurt and that was the end of our musical relationship together.  In retrospect I should have more sensitive to Peter and tried to make him change his mind,  but I was being pigheaded too thinking the act was really about me.  Me. Me. Me...  I was 24 you know... As it turned out my performance was a complete failure. The show was sold out. Alice Cooper was even there.  I was completely out of my element trying to do these rock songs like slow ballads and I was booed off the stage while people threw beer bottles at me.   I think I lasted ten minutes.      

I wish Peter and I could worked longer... we were starting to come up with our own style just as it fell apart.    We made up later on and played some shows together again.   The last being about four years ago doing this song.  But you can't go home again.   

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Theme to the Patty Duke Show
Two Weeks in Heaven

I can't believe this was 20 years ago! Going through these tapes has been a very emotionally trying experience for me. I've been revisiting moments that I think would have been better left to a fuzzy memory. I really didn't have any business performing in these shows; This was the third time I ever got up in front of an audience and sang.    Granted it's a pretty amusing bit, but it almost hurts to watch me look so awkward; and it stings even more to see myself at 25 looking all cute and remembering how things were then. 

This clip brings back a very clear memory for me... I had only sung once before at the Orchid Show.  I was asked to come back for the next show however I didn't think I could make it because I had a date with Gamal.  Gamal was this six foot four, out of work Venezuelan runway model and kick boxer.  I adored him and we had this two week affair that I think I'll remember until I die. 

We met at Club Berlin one night when I was standing around with friends. From behind me I heard some one say, "I dare you, do it, do it..." Suddenly, this strikingly handsome, tall man with a shock of black hair said to me in this deep Fabio-ish voice, "I'm going to take you in my arms and kiss you now..." And he swooped me in his arms, leaned me back and kissed me... All of his friends applauded. I think I almost fainted...

After that we started to date. Going out with him was like being with a movie star... heads turned wherever we went. He called me his "Little Crystal" and told me how wonderful I was every other minute.  Sigh... Of course, it couldn't last. The night of the show, which I really wanted to do, he wanted to go to see "A Handmaid's Tale" which was playing across the street at the Biograph Theater.  However,  I won battle and we went to the Orchid Show and I sang this silly song.

Things then were never the same again between us;  Afterwards we went to Berlin  and he got drunk and cried and said he wanted to go back home to South America, thinking he was having a psychic vision that his grandmother was dying.  Then he would go off and dance like a whirling top on the dance floor.   He wore a black turtle neck sweater whose every pill and speck of dust glowed bright in the black lights that lit the club, "Look John, look at my chest, I have the whole universe on my chest..."

He stopped answering my calls, I think I even wrote a sensitive poem and mailed it to him... he called me and said, "I can not see you anymore, you are too wonderful, and we should always remember these last two weeks as something special.  I will treasure the time we had together forever..." He even made breaking up seem like a Charles Boyer movie.  In the following months I'd see him sometimes waking down the street with some new guy; Gamel in his short toreador coat his arms up like a Tyrannosaurus. 

I know now why actors don't like to watch their old movies, it's always about something else... not the performance... 

During this time, I was doing the Sinatra-thing. It was the only way I could think of to get on stage and sing. I would never have thought just to sing as myself. I think in my head I was going for a type of Gordon Jenkins lush arrangement. I can't believe I was bold enough to get up and do this stuff then... and oh, I purposely mixed up the lyrics at the end. Sinatra at the time was always getting his lines turned around.

There's a lot more where this came from... for better or for worse...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

RIP Bea Arthur.

A lovely tribute to a one of a kind performer from my pal Dan.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Tax Day...

Still really busy... be back in May... but in the meantime...