Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Still Not Fascinating?

I was sitting in the doctor's waiting room this morning, getting sicker by the minute as I watched Maury Povitch's Jerry Springer-lite freak show on the telly, a "Hot and Sexy Opposites" special about couples madly in love with their physical polar opposites - you know, tall people with midgets, skinny guys with fat chicks, young guys with "sexy" seniors - that surely would have amused sideshow impressario P. T. Barnum or Nazi mix-and-match experimenter Dr. Mengele if they were still alive...when I suddenly saw someone who looked familiar.

"Wait," I thought. "I've seen that guy. he's a musician, he's in some band." Oh, yeah, Anthony Bedard (pictured at left), the drummer in the early 90s San Francisco "noisefuck" trio The Icky Boyfriends, a band whose charm, in one reviewer's apt description, "reveals itself like the too-familiar special sauce in your fish taco." And I remember thinking, "Maybe it's all not fake, maybe this calvacade of cultural perversion is for real?" But then I realized that musicians, being the world's greatest egotists - after politicians and writers, of course - will generally do anything to promote themselves and their bands, so I had a moment of doubt.

Talk Dupe
I recall years ago that Baltimore's rock troubadours Maypole once appeared on the Jerry Springer show, pretending to be a band torn asunder by a lesbian love triangle, but it was all a farce, concocted because the band wanted to travel to Chicago on Springer's dime. And who can blame them? I knew about the hoax because I nominated it for "Best Rock & Roll Swindle" in the Baltimore City Paper's 1995 Best of Baltimore issue, and later included the TV footage on Atomic TV's "Baltimore Local Music" episode. Anyway, a great e-list/newsletter site called owner-invisible-college has the full scoop (taken from "These Foolish Things," a 1998 Baltimore City Paper article on famous local pranks), and I reprint their description below:

On Valentine's Day 1995 the world learned the hissy, slap-and-bicker details of a musical lesbian love triangle gone decidedly sour. It was all in a day's work for that bastion of highbrow programming, The Jerry
Springer Show
. Arrayed before Jerry's camera's were the three ladies from the Baltimore rock band Maypole, all breathlessly confessing that they made beautiful music together of another sort. The bassist, a shocked Middle America learned, was sleeping with the guitarist, who in turn was jumping the bones of the drummer.

Girls will be girls-and fools will be fools. Maypole's appearance earned it an award for "Best Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" in City Paper's 1995 Best of Baltimore issue. And now you know the rest of the story: this televised display of Sapphic dirty lingerie was a delicious slice of dyed-in-the-wool dupery, with TV's sleaze-talk king the victim. Maypole is no more, but we tracked down drummer Laura King and bassist Karen Palter to get the real story. After King called the Chicago-based show and aroused some interest in the ladies' love lives (claiming the band was called Pretty Beaver), Springer's advance crew upped the ante. It called Palter at work and asked if anyone else was involved in the she-said, she-said affair. A quick-thinking Palter dreamed up an angry ex-boyfriend, and he was invited to appear too. Percussionist-about-town Rob Oswald was only too happy to play the jilted boy toy, giddily flying out with just the clothes on his back. The scamming foursome stayed in Chicago only a night, but they made the most of it, ransacking the hotel minibar and keeping the room-service crew on its toes-all on Sir Springer's tab, of course.

The next day's taping was a flawless display of Method acting and teasing titillation. Oswald copped supporting-actor honors, repeatedly shouting "Slut!" and even hocking a loogy at guitarist Jane Kelly's face. (This, uh, juicy bit of drama was preplanned back in Baltimore.) Oswald's mouth-missile won the coveted clip-of-the-week spot on E! network's Talk Soup.

Recalling the hoax, Palter sheds some light on talk-show hospitality: "They pick you up in a limo and drop you off on a bus," she says: As soon as the on-air light winked out, Springer's toadies loaded the Baltimoreans-and the rest of that show's wackos-on a bus and whisked them back to the airport. Of course, the ex-Maypole lasses might be hoaxing us. Maybe they really area bunch of bed-hopping rock 'n' roll badasses. In any event, something romantically real did come out of the whirlwind Windy City trip. After playing out their wrecked coupling on TV, longtime friends Palter and Oswald embarked on a real-life courtship, and they've been together ever since. We can almost hear Montel's teaser now: "They fell in love on The Jerry Springer Show . . . up next!"

Meanwhile, back at the Waiting Room

OK, so back to the doctor's office. The guy in question was described as "Anthony, 37 year-old" who was in love with a 77-year-old stripper named Dixie.(BTW, what is it about rock musicians and strippers? Take away the age difference and this would be a normal pairing.) Joggling my brain, I knew I had seen this guy in a band, and then I recalled he was Anthony Bedard, erstwhile drummer for San Francisco cult band The Icky Boyfriends, whose greatest claim to fame was starring in "King of Super 8" director Danny Plotnick 's 1996 film I'm Not Fascinating - The Movie!, which Mr. Bedard co-wrote and co-produced and whose plot has been described as "the pointless shenanigans of rock 'n' roll ne'er-do-wells The Icky Boyfriends and their futile quest for rock 'n' roll stardom." No one knows about this film, which I first saw at the 1997 Baltimore MicroCineFest - a lone VHS copy of which is available only at local film lover's emporium Video American - but it's a fairly amusing look at the Pepsi-obsessed (they cook everything with it!) three-piece ensemble, whose other members were guitarist Shea Bond and one-of-a-kind fluffy-haired singer Jonathan Swift (not to be confused with the 18th Century English writer, but possibly to be confused with the 20th Century American cartoon character Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons). Together they played music that was likened to an unholy union of Half Japanese meeting Jonathan Richman (though Richman never penned songs about dental dams or the taste of his girlfriend's spermicidal jelly). Or, as music critic Jennifer Kelly so succinctly observed, the Ickies walked "a fine, very permeable line between unlistenable and brilliant," with lyrics "like an autistic child's stream of consciousness." No wonder Danny Plotnick loved them.

In the film, Anthony and Shea support themselves as instructors at a comedy school, while Jonathan refuses to work, spending his days getting his hair done and toenails polished. Well, those days have gone. I work with Jonathan Swift at the Baltimore city library, where he now lives down his glorious rock star past as a mild-mannered book shelver in the dusty, musty subterranean bowels of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. He may no longer be fascinating, but it looks like his old drummer is still trying to be. Post-Ickies, Bedard continued on in a duo called the Resineators, with guitarist David Nudelman, and looks to be a fellow cable access TV producer for something called ACTV (Acid Caberet TV). Oh, and I just ran across this news item from SF's Bay Guardian, dated May 26, 2003 (so the Maury program must have been a rerun):
What would the Bay Guardian be without at least one weekly mention of Cameron chum, Hemlock Tavern booker, former Icky Boyfriend drummer, and your friendly Mr. Evil? Anthony Bedard was flown to New York on Wednesday to appear as a guest on the Maury Povich show as the boyfriend of Dixie Evans, 77-year-old burlesque star and curator of the Exotic World burlesque museum. "For reals!" affirms Bedard, who met Evans when he was playing drums for Fisherman's Famous Burlesque. "She's the sweetest, coolest woman." No icky boyfriend he.

Looking up Dixie Evans, I learned that in her 1950s heyday, her gimmick was utilizing her physical resemblance to Marilyn Monroe to do a Norma Jean striptease (as seen in photo at left). As the reviewer at Java's Bachelor Pad put it, "The real Marilyn Monroe was too inaccessible to your average joe, but Evans (in her Monroe guise) could let these men's imagination run wild. If you couldn't have Monroe, you could have the next best thing." It was a good run until Marilyn's death in the early 60s.

Icks Picks
And what of the the Ickies legacy? Are they still not fascinating? Well, in 2000, the Menlo Park label issued a limited-edition, career-wrapping compilation titled Talking to You Is Just Like Being Dead, which consisted mostly of previously unreleased studio cuts. Menlo Park upped the ante in 2005 with the release of a 57-track career retrospective called A Love Obscene.

Icky Boyfriends Links:
Blue Ghost Publicity
Midheaven Mailorder
Dusted Review
Pitchfork Media Review
Ugly Music for Beautiful People
Splendid Magazine Review

Dixie Evans Links:
Dixie Evans gallery
Exotic World Burlesque Museum
Java's Bachelor Pad

Big Empire
Video Addicts

Video Addicts catalog
Buy Indies.com
SatanMacNuggit (also has a preview clip)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

imma ole frienda Jon 'Swifty" Swift- can you help me contact him?...........tell him Poodles is lookin for him- my email is: tzaru4u@yahoo.com or he can find me on BUZZNET, by doing a people search for poodles~ thank you very much~

5:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you see Jonathan Swift in the stacks, you might mention to him that the Icky Boyfriends wikipedia page is in danger of being deleted unless someone with some band info beefs it up a bit:

1:51 AM  

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