Four Twenty Haiku
I do not inhale the weed
But Doug Benson does
My daughter Eli attends Emerson College, a phenomenal place for anyone interested in entertainment, whether production or performance. Lots of famous alumni of course – among them Stephen Wright, Bill Burr, Gina Gershon, Jay Leno, Denis Leary, Henry Winkler and Norman Lear. Successful show creators, too – her freshman dorm was funded by Max Mutchnick (creator of Will and Grace) and last year ahe worked with Friends creator Kevin Bright to create a sitcom from scratch. Doug Herzog, President of Comedy Central, is another graduate.
The list goes on and on…if I were a high school grad interested in a career in the arts I would crawl through broken glass while on fire just to apply. (Or at least ride a bike.) Of course, when I was looking at colleges, that area of Boston was known as the Combat Zone, rivaling the pre-Guiliani Times Square for opulent decadence. Today it’s the Theatre District, much hipper than the sanitized Disney-fication of the most famous intersection in Manhattan.
My enthusiasm is exactly the opposite for Lady Gaga – it’s the kind of processed dance pop that makes my skin crawl. But my Dad didn’t “get” The Beatles; likewise I’m not the target demo for the songs that she/he/it creates.
But even I have to give props for this amazing Emerson Lip Dub.
Most schools have an informative brochure or website to give potential students an idea of what it’s like to attend their university. I think the Admissions Department just trumped the competition – courtesy of the effort of over four hundred students. Kudos, Emersonians!
The BoDeans released Mr. Sad Clown this year, and for all I know it fell on deaf ears like most of their work. But the fact that they’re still out there plugging and making great music after thirty years is a welcome piece of news.
I remember seeing them play a local club just after the crest of an early hit, and I thought we must have just missed a fire drill. Surely a band who even got plaudits from Rolling Stone and MTV could draw a decent crowd, but this one was so tiny that my friends and I barely outnumbered the band. No matter – they played a great set. Great bands always do.
As you can tell from this thirteen year old review of Blend, they were getting the same underwhelming response then that they are now. I’m not pretending they’re the second coming, but they are a good band that is well worth delving into if you’re looking for music that is atmospheric, straightforward, rocking, laid back, lyrical and guttural.
Yep, those are contradictions. Life is contradictions. Enjoy.
They’re still here, ten years later, creating solid, soulful records that should be making AAA radio programmers do cartwheels. So why is it that their only glimpse of the “big time” has come from the use of their song “Closer To Free” as the anthem from the television show Party Of Five? And unlike The Rembrandts, they can’t even maximize their opportunity – after all, the show is on FOX, not NBC.
No matter – despite lackluster sales, club tours and sporadic praise, Sammy Llanas and Kurt Neumann have forged ahead, mining the vein they know best. Somehow two vocalists who individually would be unspectacular twist their voices into a well-oiled and irresistible harmony; Llanas’ rasp smoothed out by Neuman’s silk. Think Everly Brothers with a Jason And The Scorchers edge, or a Springsteen lead with a Little Steven who can hang with him all the way through.
Blend incorporates New Orleans rhythms and instrumentation to fill out its sound. “Heart Of A Miracle” could have been plucked off a Willy DeVille record (speaking of under-appreciated artists), and “Red Roses” is that slow dance with a lover on a second floor balcony. When they rock, like “Count On Me”, it’s more akin to the sound of the Long Ryders or Mellencamp than 1-4-5 rock (again thanks to brushes and toms for a backbeat instead of the Big Drum Sound). Other standouts include “Hurt By Love” and “Hey Pretty Girl”, a song that Springsteen would have killed to record for The River.
Someone must like them – they still have a record deal in an age where record execs are preaching corporate liposuction. And they’re still making very good music, despite the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a radio format ready to embrace them. Fans will be pleased to have another release that stays true to the course. Those new to the BoDeans will find yet another quality band toiling in the shadows. Looks like a win-win situation.
The BoDeans website
Last Comic Standing update – five comics move on to the semi-finals.
The first five winners are (in the order they were announced on TV) Felipe Esparza, Myq Kaplan, Rachel Feinstein, Mike DeStefano and Jonathan Thymius. I’d say the judges got it 80% correct. More in a moment.
I like the format of having the comics do a few minutes and then hearing some comments from the judges, even though it’s a tired gimmick used by American Idol ane every other reality competition. It affords the comedians on the panel the opportunity to be funny, although only Andy Kindler is taking advantage of it on a regular basis.
Greg Giraldo had a couple of zingers, but Natasha Leggero spends most of her time…um…just laughing. (Not that most comedy nerds watching from home wouldn’t want a hot girlfriend who laughs at jokes.) But the judges are overwhelmingly positive about everybody, which (1) doesn’t match their facial reactions during the performances and (2) is boring and pointless, and hopefully not supposed to create suspense.
Clear winners for the evening? Myq Kaplan and Mike DeStefano, head and shoulders above everyone else. Both have excellent material, command the stage and have perfect delivery. Thymius is an unpredictable oddball (think a disoriented George Goebel), and although Feinstein is pretty funny I think her obvious sex appeal is contributing to her success.
Lucky finalist? Felipe Esparza, who only had one good joke (his closer) and then blew the timing on the best line, his last. I didn’t think he was in the top half, let alone the top five.
Who would I have put in the fifth slot? Likely Chip Pope, whose solid routine probably gets the nod over Ryan Hamilton (best physical presence of the night, could have tightened up the story) and Adrienne Iapalucci (funny in spots but milked the same material bone dry).
Interesting to watch a couple of the comics go for one extended character piece, but it usually cost them – none more so than Lil’ Rel whose five minutes seemed to be only an introduction to a far longer routine. Next week the other five will be selected, and then the real fun starts.
…or as my generation knew him, Joe Fucking Cool.
Steve McQueen would have been eighty years old today, and that just doesn’t seem possible. Nor does the fact that he died thirty years ago, a month before John Lennon was murdered. Needless to say, that was one tough winter. Steve was never a kid and was never old – he was always a man. He was always the man. Even when the guy got busted, he was cool enough to flash the peace sign. That’s cool.
He got his start on TV like so many actors did then – many of the best writers were feeding scripts to anthology series and live stage productions. In the midst of his run on Wanted Dead Or Alive he got a great break in one of the best Westerns ever made – The Magnificent Seven. After that, it was on!
Women were drawn to him, and why not? Here was a guy who did what he wanted to do, made the movies he wanted to make, and said more by saying less. And men – well, they wanted to be him, especially fellow actors. Every man who wanted to play a more subtle kind of cool – when a Brando take would be too over the top – echoed his poise. Hell, Kevin Costner has spent a career trying to be Steve McQueen.
He did his own stunts and raced his own cars. He was instrumental in getting LeMans made when few had the passion for racing or thought it could be captured properly on film.
Bullitt might be famous for the great car chase, but Steve’s performance is top-notch. Matched up against his Magnificent Seven buddy Robert Vaughn, he is serious, relentless, unflappable. Peter Yates proved to be the perfect director, and the cast and script were stellar. It is so taut and mesmerizing that you might need to see it a second time just to catch the subtle nuances of the plot…but even if you miss a few things the first time you will not feel cheated. But it was McQueen who was the thread; if you didn’t buy his character, you wouldn’t see the film through his eyes. And that was the core of the magic.
His career, for all intents and purposes, spanned fifteen years. Before and after he made flicks like The Blob and The Towering Inferno, but during his run he was something special and unique. In the 70’s, followers like Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino and Gene Hackman found their footing and picked up the ball, showing the industry what great actors with discerning tastes could really do.
Had Steve McQueen lived, I like to think he would have been like Gene Hackman – an actor’s actor. Instead, dead at fifty. We’ll never know.
But we have do his legacy. Soak up The Sand Pebbles or Papillon. Revel in the revenge western Nevada Smith. See why remaking The Getaway was unnecessary. Be cool.
Steve McQueen’s IMDB page