Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Suzanne's Blog

Well, it's come to this. Suzanne Muldowney (left), best known to Baltimorons as "Underdog" (or "Underdog Lady") thanks to her countless appearances in the Mayor's Annual Christmas Parade in Hampden and on Atomic TV portraying the 1960s canine cartoon superhero, now has a blog: Suzanne's Blog.

Like her nemesis Howard Stern, "King of All Media," she is a now a veritable Queen of All Media - dance, music, song, television (not just Atomic TV but legitimate programs like her December 3, 2003 appearance on Maryland Public Television's "ArtWorks"), film (The Art of Madness), the Internet, and now her very own blog. It looks like it was set up for her by the guy who directed the documentary about her (the aforementioned Art of Madness, which I hope is coming to the 2006 Maryland Film Festival).

Scott Huffines (pictured far right with City Paper film critic Violet Glaze, moi and Suzanne) just sent me her latest posting, and it turns out she was just in town last weekend for the Greek Festival in Highlandtown. As everyone knows, Suzanne is a hard-core classicist, and celebrates anything having to do with Ancient Rome (like Julius Caesar's birthday) or Greece, and is even fluent in Latin, the ultimate Old School dead language. Anyway, check out her blog and here are her thoughts on the Greek Festival.

SUZANNE'S BLOG - From the Mind and Pen of Suzanne
March 23 2006

On March 26th I am headed to Baltimore again to participate, for the third time, in the Greek Independence Mid-Atlantic Parade. It is always held on or around March 25, because it was on this day in 1821 that Greece declared its independence from the Ottoman Turks.

When I was preparing to be in this parade for the first time, and received the above information, I almost screamed. Mention of the Ottoman Turks made me remember that Dracula had had great deal of trouble with them, too! The majority of his skewered-alive victims were Turks.

Of course, I knew right away that Dracula was not appropriate character to do in this parade. He was not Greek, and he lived in 15th not 19th century. I never told any of the townspeople about my Dracula involvement or that he too had repelled the Turks.

Since my first time was in 2004, it was an Olympic year - the year the Games returned to Athens, their birthplace! I participated as the Olympic Spirit. The committee had to OK an entry dressed in the ancient style, even though the majority of entries dressed in modern costume.

When I saw the folk costumes, I noticed that the men’s costume looked remarkably similar to the Romanian male costume. But I did not mention that to any of the participants. Those dressed in folk costumes were almost all children, not adults.

When I returned to the parade in ‘05, I still did the Olympic Spirit even though it was not an Olympic year. Now the organizers have accepted me as always doing that character for this event.

For the two weeks preceding Easter, I’ll be making chocolate crème-center candies. I learned how to make them almost 20 years ago, using different flavors of crème centers. These candies I decorate with contrasting colors of candy molded into definitive shapes, which vary according to the occasion. For Easter I use upright rabbits, with each color representing a different flavor of crème center.

If you’ve ever seen boxes of commercial chocolates, you’ve probably seen the funny squiggles, curves, swirls, etc, on top of the individual pieces. Unless there’s a diagram inside the box lid, you can’t guess the candies’ inside unless you’ve learned the swirls’ code language! My use of different colors to identify fillings is useful and decorative at the same time.

Suzanne Muldowney Links:

Art of Madness
Atomic TV's Tribute to Underdog
Suzanne's Blog

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream

Block Party
I was walking east on Center Street to get some coffee at the deli across from the Walter's Art Museum when I saw two men walking towards each other. One man, in front of me heading east toward Charles Street, was mumbling to himself (always a sign of living La Vida Loco, as I've learned after working over four years at a large urban library where angry, incoherent self-talkers are a daily part of the scenery). The two men passed within an inch of each other and the guy talking to himself looked over at the startled passerby and screamed at him, "Don't you block my sidewalk, motherfucker! You fucking blockers think you own everything, think you can block my life! You wanna block me, you know where to find me - 1022 East Monument Street, Apt. gibberish gibberish blah blah blah." The other guy had pulled his iPOD earphones off, but sensing he was dealing with an "offbeat" street person, put them back on and, picking up his pace, hurriedly continued on his way in the other direction - toward sanity.

Stopping in the coffee shop, I said to the owners, "Did you see that guy? The screaming guy?"

"Which one?" co-owner Robert replied, adding "We've got a bunch of screaming regulars around here."

When I pointed out the window, Robert peeped out to see the screaming man at the end of the block, and identified him. "Oh, that's Wendell, yeah, you better not block the sidewalk when he's on it."

Mental Gridlock
When I inquired about the other screamers, it turned out I had seen one of them on my daily morning coffee runs to another cafe, David & Dad's on North Charles Street. There I was astonished one day to see a middle-aged Black guy dressed in Army fatigues walking right down the middle of the street directly into northbound traffic on Charles Street during a green light. As cars honked and buzzed around him, he angrily pumped his fists and screamed at the vehicles "Get out of my way! Get out of my way! Fuck you! Fuck you all!"

A few weeks later, I saw the same guy stopping traffic on West Franklin Street, this time crossing the street laterally when the lights were green. His pace was slow and steady, as if he was a pedestrian at a crosswalk with a red light, and he looked angrily at the cars that drove around him, throwing his hands up in the air as if to say, "What are you doing? Are you crazy? I'm crossing the street! Can't you see that the light is green?" Think Dustin Hoffman as Ratso in Midnight Cowboy crossing the street yelling "I'm walking heah!" minus the Method Acting technique.

My initial shock at these screaming men's lunacy has now passed into nonchalance. Encountering an angry screaming man downtown in Mount Vernon no longer elicits an eyebrow-raising curiosity. Instead it now elicits nothing more than Robert the coffee guy's shoulder-shrugging response: "Oh, a screaming man? Which one?"

But I have to admit that I would like to meet the third screamer Robert referred to, so that I can be a completist and have Screaming Man Closure. I 'll be sure to be on the lookout. And to walk carefully down Center street, with plenty of space to spare, the next time I (make sure I don't) run into Wendell.

To paraphrase Don King, "Only in Mount Vernon!"

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Some old rockers still have something to say - something more than the usual blastings of the music industry and bitter recollections of how record companies swindled them out of royalties. With a Grammy under his belt for 1997's Time Out of Mind album and loads of media attention thanks to his recent Chronicles autobiography and Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home documentary, Bob Dylan is the most high-profile rock legend to be recently lauded for his ability to stay relevant and "on message" for his times even as he reaches into his Golden Years. But he's not alone. The gold may have turned to silver, but other seniors in his class (Class of '60s, that is) - varsity lettermen like Neil Young, Van Morrison, and Ray Davies - are proving that they too still have songs left unsung. And while the anger and interests of youth may have subsided into less confrontational themes and priorities - like songs reflecting on the March of Time, the death of a parent, or the loneliness of empty nesters - the art they continue to create still resonates with passion and purpose. Amidst all the aural overload in today's iPOD-wired, Satellite-radio blaring world, they still have poignant chords to strike. Or as Ray Davies sings in "Run Away From Time" (off his new - and first solo - album, Other People's Lives), "Time is the avenger, but why should we surrender?", rightly observing that "The world is too obsessed by the constant request for the Fountain of Youth they never will find."

This past weekend I paid homage to the Good Old Boys Network of Rock. Friday night I saw the Jonathan Demme concert film of Neil Young's post-aneurysm Prairie Wind tour, Neil Young: Heart of Gold - I loved it! (the song about his Dad's senior dementia hit home and made me cry) - and Monday night capped my trip down Memory Lane by going to see the Washington, D.C. leg of Ray Davies' 12-city North American Tour in support of his first solo album, Other People's Lives.

Thank You for the Days, Ray

I'm a Kinks kultist, and yet I have never ever seen them (and it's quite likely, with Dave Davies still recovering from a stroke, that I never will). So I felt it was imperative that I make up for my sins of omission and see Ray Davies on his short-listed tour of the States. After all, how many more tours does a 61-year-old hard-living man like Ray Davies have in him? I wasn't disappointed. Ray is a born entertainer and he's a press darling of late, with UNCUT Magazine recently putting the Kinks on the front cover and including a free CD (flatteringly entitled "The Modern Genius of Ray Davies") of contemporary indie rock bands covering some of his best tunes as well as a few of his most neglectd gems (including outstanding versions of "Better Things" by the The Fountains of Wayne and the ultra-rare "Strange Effect" by former Dream Syndicate guitarist Steve Wynn)

There was no opening band at the 9:30 Club, just Cab Calloway music playing on the PA system before Ray took the stage about half past 8 p.m. He was in fine spirits as he started things off with an acoustic set.

Ray started off his solo tour solo (appropriately enough), intoning the non-arguable statement "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," before proceeding to play a set of Kinks klassics, prefacing his hits medley with the comment that it was "an honor to sing them" to the crowd, who he encouraged throughout the night to sing along with him (e.g., "Come on, you know it, what's the next line?"). Ray mixed acoustic with electric throughout the night, often starting on acoustic before thundering away with full band behind him. All the hits were played, even the obligatory encor e of "Lola," but Ray managed to work in about half of the tunes on his new album, as well. My fave line of all the new songs was easily the one from "Next Door Neighbors" in which he described Mr. Brown running away "with an Essex blonde" (no doubt meaning Essex, England but resonating just as well for those of us familiar with Baltimore's Essex, the Redneck Riviera of Middle River!).

After his last encore tune ("Lola," of course), the PA started playing Fats Domino's "Walking To New Orleans," once again reinforcing Ray's love of the music-rich American city where he spent so much time before it partially washed away after Katrina's deluge.

During the show I talked briefly to a guy scribbling away in a notebook and asked him if he was a reporter. He was - his name is Scott Galupa and I'm including his excellent review for the Washington Times ("Kinks Legacy Not Close To Fading") at the end of my blog blather.It does more justice to the show than my meandering thoughts.

Washington Times Concert Review

Kinks' legacy not close to fading
By Scott Galupo
March 22, 2006

Ray Davies said it was an honor to play them. Actually, it was an honor to hear them. Kinks songs, I mean.

For two-plus hours at a nearly sold-out 9:30 Club Monday night, Mr. Davies, weathered but still spry at 61, played some of the most enduring songs of the classic rock canon, including riffs-heard-round-the-world rockers such as "All Day and All of the Night" and "You Really Got Me," plus English pop masterpieces such as "Sunny Afternoon," "Village Green" and "Tired of Waiting for You."

Of the former variety, Mr. Davies recounted Decca Records' dismissive characterizations of the raw sound of brother Dave Davies' guitar: "like a barking dog" and -- as if that weren't cringe-inducing enough -- too "working-class." (This is the same label that turned down the Beatles.)

Citing his "continued fascination with the sound of [Dave's] guitar," Mr. Davies sounded last night as if he missed his brother and frequent foil -- personally and professionally. He dedicated a fragile version of the nostalgic "A Long Way From Home" to him. Kinks reunion, anyone?

The Kinks, apparently dormant for the time being, have made up in influence what they have lacked in record sales -- a fact not lost on Mr. Davies. Before playing an acoustic suite of songs from 1968's "The Village Green Preservation Society" (including a sublime "Animal Farm" and a spiky "Johnny Thunder"), he recalled the album as the "biggest Kinks flop." However, if "flops" hang around long enough, Mr. Davies added proudly, "you'll become a cult."

Monday's performance was no mere hit parade. Mr. Davies dug into the Kinks' seemingly limitless catalog, kicking off with the beloved B-side "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" -- a kind of lifestyle credo for the famously individualistic singer.

A depression-prone misfit, Mr. Davies has hinted often, in songs such as the pin-the-tail-on-the-taxman "Sunny Afternoon" and "20th Century Man" ("I'm a 20th-century man/but I don't wanna die here," he sang with growling passion) that he's something of a traditionalist who's uncomfortable with the modern, impersonal, bourgeois welfare state.

Grungy singalongs such as "Low Budget," a late-period Kinks hit with which Mr. Davies had particular fun Monday, were happy antidotes to too much deep thinking, however.

Mr. Davies also has a new solo album (his first) to promote: the respectable, occasionally great "Other People's Lives." In a show of confidence, he played more than half the songs from "Lives." He noted the eerie prescience of songs such as "After the Fall," which was recorded (like the rest of the album) before he was shot in the leg and seriously wounded by a fleeing purse snatcher in New Orleans.

"It's about retribution, guilt, suffering -- does anybody have any of that?" Mr. Davies asked, a veritable quorum call of his favorite themes. At the conclusion of the first-album Kinks gem "Set Me Free," the thrice-married Mr. Davies said, in a tone more comic than rueful, "She did after that."

Supporting Mr. Davies was a sturdy four-piece band, notably including skillful lead guitarist Mark Jones, that was alternately twee and punk-furious, depending on the diverse needs of Mr. Davies' songbook. The new song "The Tourist" became a longish psychedelic foray, with Mr. Davies ditching his "Low Budget" flannel shirt and re-emerging after an intermission sporting black shades.

After a show-stopping "Lola" -- if he didn't play it, there might have been demands for refunds -- Mr. Davies stood at the foot of the stage, a bottle of suds in hand, and drank in the applause of a heartily appreciative crowd.

If Ray (and Dave) Davies' music is akin to a barking dog, well, there's no doubt he's still best in show.

Washington Post Concert Review

And here's the review from the Times' rival.
Ray Davies
Despite the general rule that rockers over 50 don't write tunes as worthy as those they penned in their twenties, legendary Kinks frontman Ray Davies has a few songs on his new "Other People's Lives" that deserve respect. Monday night at the 9:30 club, the 61-year-old Davies led a band through a rewarding two-hour-plus show that mixed cuts from that new CD along with favorites from his catalogue.

The usually curmudgeonly Davies was in an amiable mood, happily balancing a beer bottle on his head at one point. While not as talkative as he was 10 years ago on the "Storyteller" tour, he nevertheless prefaced several numbers with entertaining anecdotes, including the tale of how he initially wrote "You Really Got Me" as a blues number on a piano at his parents' home. He even spoke fondly of his brother, Dave, with whom he had some famous disagreements.

After beginning the show by whipping through straight-ahead takes on Kinks standards including "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" and "Till the End of the Day," the often-labeled Godfather of Britpop switched to acoustic guitar and slowed things down. A mini-suite of songs from "The Village Green Preservation Society," including "Picture Book," as well as the new numbers "Next Door Neighbour" and "Creatures of Little Faith," showed off his striking ability to pen wistful melodies with cutting, descriptive lyrical observations.

After a brief intermission, Davies used the second half of the evening to dig into pretty, slow-tempo songs such as "A Long Way From Home" and a series of noisy rockers. After explaining how a record company wouldn't sign the Kinks because their guitars sounded like barking dogs, Davies, guitarist Mark Johns and the band gleefully performed an abrasive "All Day and All of the Night." Enlisting crowd participation, Davies later finished off the evening's encores with the Kinks' cheerful hit about a transvestite, "Lola." - Steve Kiviat

Random order set list at 9:30 Club:

Following is my foggy recollection of the night's musical treats, with album sources noted in CAPS where possible.
Kinks Klassics Opening Singalong Set - "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," "All Day and All of the Night," "Where Have All the Good Times Gone?", "Tired of Waiting For You," "Dead End Street," "Set Me Free," "'Till the End of the Day," "Sunny Afternoon"

VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY (1968) - "Village Green," (I loved the part where Ray stopped after singing, "And Daisy's married Tom the Grocer boy" to ask the audience "What's the next line" to which the audience sang back "And now he owns a grocery" - "Makes perfect sense!" Ray concluded, mocking the simplicity of his own lyric), "Animal Farm," "Johnny Thunder," "Picture Book"

LOW BUDGET (1979) - "Low Budget"

SCHOOLBOYS IN DISGRACE (1975) - "The Hard Way"

MUSWELL HILLBILLIES (1971) - "20th Century Man," "Oklahoma U.S.A." (dedicated to his sister Rosie)

LOLA VS. POWERMAN AND THE MONEY-GO-ROUND, PART ONE (1970): "A Long Way From Home" (dedicated to his brother Dave), "Lola"

OTHER PEOPLE'S LIVES (2006) - "Things Are Gonna Change," "After the Fall," "The Tourist," "The Getaway (Lonesome Train)," "Stand-Up Comic," "Creature of the Night" and "Next Door Neighbours"

Encores - "Days," "You Really Got Me," "Lola"

Reviews of Other People's Lives

Here's a nice All Music Guide review of Other People's Lives:

Other People's Lives
Most artists don't wait until they're nearly 62 to deliver their first official solo album, but Ray Davies has never been predictable. As a matter of fact, Davies is the quintessential rock contrarian, doggedly following his path, sometimes to the detriment of his own art or career. This obstinate nature extends to the very sound of his solo debut Other People's Lives, a shiny, simmered-in-the-studio album where each song creeps on just a little longer than necessary. This 2006 effort sounds roughly 16 years out of time -- sonically, it could comfortably function as the follow-up to 1989's UK Jive -- and its slickness may keep some listeners at a distance, particularly if they're craving a stripped-down, back-to-basics comeback along the lines of Dylan's Love and Theft or the Stones' A Bigger Bang. But such a bare-bones effort isn't in Davies's nature -- ever since the early '70s, he's kept things clean and glistening on the surface while being prickly underneath. This may not suit the tastes of fans pining for a return to Village Green, but behind that smooth production are a set of songs that reveal that Davies has returned to form as a rich, idiosyncratic pop songwriter.

As he states in his wonderful liner notes -- where he details the recording circumstances for each cut, plus the album at large -- Other People's Lives is no concept album, but there are themes that hold it together. Davies tackles mortality and, one of his favorite themes, domesticity, head-on here, and his wit and wry critical eye remain intact. As an album, Other People's Lives may occasionally lag in momentum, but song for song, this is his strongest set of material since Low Budget, but a better comparison may be Misfits. Like that 1978 gem, this record doesn't rock hard and has a distinct writerly bent, as Davies presents a collection of narratives and character sketches that play like short stories. If there's a sense of creeping mortality here, there's also little fear (and there's no rumination over his shooting in New Orleans, either, since all the material was written before that incident). There's humor, irony, earned sentimentality and knowing, careful observations, all wrapped up in meticulously crafted words and music. There are hints of the Kinks -- "Is There Life After Breakfast?" lopes along like an outtake from Everybody's in Show-Biz, the absurd "Stand Up Comic" recalls the vaudevillian hard rock of the late '70s -- but there's nothing written as a conscious emulation of his past; instead, he's returning to his strengths and finding new wrinkles within his signature style. And if there are no flat-out knockouts here, there's not a bad song here, either, and each tune seems stronger with repeated plays. Most of all, Ray Davies sounds engaged as a writer and musician in a way that he hasn't in years, and that doesn't just make for a strong comeback, but it makes listeners realize what they've all missed since he's been away for 13 years (or perhaps longer, given the disconnect on latter-day Kinks records). Here's hoping that Other People's Lives kicks off a latter-day renaissance for the singer/songwriter, since it's proof that while many try to emulate him, there's no substitute for the crankiest, funniest songwriter in pop. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Related Links:

Kinks Legacy Not Close To Fading (Scott Galupo, Washington Times)
Washington Post Review
The Official Ray Davies Website

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Chris the Plumber Turns 50

A week or so ago I got a flyer in the mail from Chris Jensen, Baltimore's wackiest plumber (what other respected tradesman has the slogan, "Your Poop Is My Bread and Butter" alongside a picture of an exposed buttcrack boldly displayed on the side of his work van?) and all-around nutjob (his rooftop Christmas Negativity Scene depicting Jesus with a space alien is notorious) showing a picture of him with his long-suffering assistant Shawn "The Beav" Sapp (pictured below right) adjacent to this text: "I asked my helper the Beav how I could have a really cool 50th Birthday Party. He told me not to come." Ha, that sounds about right, I thought!

The flyer went on to announce a "Fish Roast and Jam" at The Fish Palace (Fish being one of Chris' numerous nicknames, and the Fish Palace being his eclectic abode) that promised to include NUDE DANCING, HEAVY DRINKING, LOUD ROCK & ROLL, and LYING & CHEATING, as well as a SPANK THE PLUMBER charity contest (pictured below left) to raise money for breast cancer research (his mother Pat is a survivor) and a Midnight BB gun Rat Hunt. There was even the promise of a celebrity-type roast, but the kicker that cinched mandatory attendence for me was the gracious proviso that "toilet facilities will be provided at no cost by Jensen Plumbing Service of America."

Suffice it to say, Chris Jensen knows how to throw a party! And for his 50th birthday party, he went all out. This one even had babes, and not just the cute prepubescent nieces and cousins that represent at his annual Christmas Talent Show parties. I'm talking about actual non-related hotties (see below right), no doubt there for the Spank the Plumber and Midnight Rat Hunt activities (who knew?).

Anyway, this was a great shindig and for all the crap Chris and I have slung at each other over the years (he was miffed at me for a long time because I aired footage of him dancing in his underwear on Atomic TV - hey, did that tape of Paris Hilton being lewd in her lingerie hurt her "career"? I rest my case!), I must admit the guy's has a great talent that you just can't teach. No, I'm not talking about his plumbing work (though in 2005 the City Paper named him Baltimore's "Best Plumber") or his camerawork all these years on Atomic TV (excellent though that work is), and I'm not even talking about his plumbing-themed artwork (impressive), his guitar playing in his pick-up jam band The Throbbing Members or even his Felix Ungerer neatnik tidiness that borders (like his porn collection) on anal-compulsiveness. I mean simply this: The guy knows how to have fun!

This was an awesome party and everybody seemed to be there, from his music pals to customers to local artists and even his girlfriend's coterie of writers and academics. I even saw my old gal pal (and frequent Atomic TV collaborator) Stella Gambino there - and here I though she vanished off the face of the Earth! (I had to take a picture with her, shown above left, to prove it to the world!)

Other VIPs in attendence included Sundance Award-winning filmmaker (and Charles Village neighbor) Steve Yeager, DJ/filmmaker Bump Stadelman, Todd Stachowski (pictured right) and his death metal-meisters The Rock Stars, former Sick drummer Gumby, rockers Katha and Ann Flinn of Mongoloidian Glow (check out this dynamic duo's April 1st CD release party at the Talking Head Club - no fooling!) and Cicaeda singer-guitarist/yoga instructor/Trixie's Palace entrepreneur Andriana Pateris. (Andriana and Ann Flinn of Mongolodian Glow are pictured below left.)

Music was provided by The Rock Stars and various other drunken revelers, including a Baby Boomer ensemble comprised of Chris and his older brother Billy Jensen on guitars, Eric Rhodes on lead, Peter Stern on bass, and former Rockhead and DelMarVa bassist Bernie Ozol, to name but a few. And what do old farts at play play, you ask? The usual suspects: early Stones, The Monkees, The Cars, even a little Nancy Sinatra circa "These Boots Were Made For Walking." The boys are shown rocking the night away away below right.

But I most relished the celebrity roast ceremonies where friends appealed to his most erudite sensibilities by presenting him with a succession of rubbers, dildos and other toilet-humor gifts. (And you wondered what people give plumbers?) This was followed immediately by some hardball whacking during the Spank the Plumber event.

A girl named Gacki administered the best whacky (as shown below left)...
then sat back to bask in the afterglow of her nick-knack-paddywhack handiwork while Chris showed off his butt welts and a drummer punctuated the ceremony with a very appropos "rim shot" (below right). And that note seems to provide a fitting end to the evening's highbrow festivities.

Thanks Chris - it was a blast! Though it's gonna take many a sleepless night to get the image of your splotchy butt cheeks out of my head! Oh, and Happy 50th - hope you got everything you deserved!

Related Links:

Best Plumber - Jensen Plumbing (City Paper, Best of Baltimore 2005)

Best Plumber - Chris Jensen (City Paper, Best of Baltimore 2004)

Chris Jensen's Nativity Scene (

Lights That Charm, Inspire, Provoke (Baltimore Sun review of Chris Jensen's Nativity Scene)

A Rock Star Is Reborn

I ran into Todd Stachowski (pictured left) at celebrity plumber and erstwhile Atomic TV camerman Chris Jensen's 50th Birthday Bash and the frontman of the long dormant but now revitalized Rock Stars gave me a copy of his death metal band's first ever CD: 1+1=Death. Death Metal (or Black Metal, whatever you wanna call it) is not really my cup of tea because I'm more a twee pop wuss, but I gotta admit: It's great!

Recorded at Orion Sound Studios in January 2006, it has a sound as thick and heavy as I imagine Brontosaurus poop would be, and Todd's hoarse Norse vocals have never sounded more Satanic or more in need of throat lozenges (in fact, his voice is exactly how I imagine Road Warrior's Lord Humongus - the Ayatollah of Rock 'N' Rolla - would sound if he fronted a band). Beautifully illustrated by Stachowski himself (a triple-threat artist who can write, draw and play music), 1+1=Death is equal parts humor and outrage, like Todd himself, and (again like Todd) is always entertaining. Todd wrote all ten songs and plays guitar and bass, while Tasha Levine pounds the skins and longtime collaborator (and live performance madman) Tony Himlin (pictured above right) contributes backing vocals. The resulting music has true cross-over potential, as I can see it entertaining metalheads at Dundalk's Zu as well as being put to use by the U.S. military to torture high-value detainees at post-Abu Ghraib secret holding cells in Iraq. It's that good!

But the highlights for me are the sound bites from cult movies that Todd samples in between songs. Always clever and to the point, like the Hairspray soundbite that precedes Todd's homage to big-haired East Bawmer hons, "Hair Hopper," and the Joe Pesci sample from Raging Bull - "You gotta shot. If you win you win, if you lose you still win. You just gotta get down to 155 pounds you fat bastard. Just stop eating!" - that leads into "No Way To Win."

Things start off with a real punch in "DW730W," the most commercial-sounding Rock Stars metal song ever (written about a box label!), with Todd sampling some dialog from a fight film ("You can hit him as hard as you have the God-given ability to hit...The people who make the rules intended for you to hit 'em hard!"). The song also also provides the CD's title, with its classic New Math equation:
Subtract yourself, 'till there's nothing left
Divide by nothing: 1+1=Death
Todd never did like math. I also like the romantic bickering dialog that precedes "Yer Gonna Git It," which sounds like it's from some biker flick, "Get out! If you don't drag your ass out that door I'm gonna cut you...I'm gonna cut your ass!" This is followed by such old Rock Stars' chestnuts as "Cat" (a deeply symbolic paen to female genitalia highlighted by Tasha Levine's great cowbell-driven beat), "Giant Rat" (no doubt about Todd's housemates in Armistead Gardens) and the very poppy "Hair Hopping" (this is my favorite tune, and it's the one song in which Todd drops his Lord Humongus voice - he should try to get it on the soundtrack of the new Broadway-version Hairspray movie because it would be perfect there). I love the soundbite for "Giant Rat," too: "That thing is dangerous, it took my child. Now I'm gonna see to it that I destroy it!" Newer songs, at least new to these ears, are "Leroy, Loretta & Hector," "Operation," "The Irresistable Force Meets the Immovable Object" and "Move Your Feet" (which has the great lines: "Sally was a bar stool/At least she looked the part/Born with a perfect body/She had a face like abstract art"). And people, I'm here to tell you it's all good!

Der Todesking is back! Todd the former Shock Wave music scribe is writing reviews again, Todd the cartoonist is drawing toons again (on the Internet now), and The Rock Stars are gigging again. Be sure to check out their CD. I'll post more info on how to get the album when I find out from Todd where it'll be available.

More Todd & The Rock Stars Links:

Todd Stachowski and/or The Rockstars appeared in the following Atomic TV episodes:

"Viewer Discretion Is Strongly Advised"
"Atomic TV's Cones and Rods Party"
1999 Holiday Special - "Underdog Battles Satan Claus"

And the Rock Stars now have a page on MySpace:

Rock Stars Review (City Paper, "No Cover" column 1996)

Following is a reprint of my review of The Rock Stars that appeared in the Baltimore City Paper's NO COVER music column circa 1996.

A Rock Star is Born:

Todd Stachowski Creates a New Shock Wave
by Tom Warner

When local music magazine Shock Wave washed up in the Spring of '95, main scribe/cartoonist Todd Stachowski didn't know what to do with himself. Doing every drug known to man and watching every Harvey Keitel movie known to his local video store just wasn't enough to stem his growing restlessness. Sure, City Paper's 1994 Best of Baltimore awards for "Best Anti-Music Critic" and "Best Politically Incorrect Cartoonist" looked nice hanging on his wall, but Todd Stachoswki the Working Class Renaissance Man (construction worker/roofer/forklift operator by day, artist/writer/rocker by night) needed a new audience to shock with his tongue-in-chic observations about Alf, child molestation, Satan worship, sexual perversion and recreational drug abuse.

"When Shock Wave went under, my megalomania was not being satiated," the 26-year-old Essex native explains. "So I was forced to find another way to make people think I'm a genius." Enter The Rock Stars, his humbly named "party metal" band that combines over-the-top songwriting (topics range from giant rats & hairspray to coprophilia & genital mutilation), outlandish glamrock costumes and between-song comedy skits to create an "extravaganza" for the audience. Since debuting at a Halloween party last Fall, the Dundalk-based Rock Stars - Stachowski on guitar & vocals, Fernando Garcia on lead guitar, fellow Shock Wave crony Joe Tricario on bass and Grace Slaymaker on drums - have played a half-dozen gigs around town at venues like Café Tattoo, Memory Lane and The Savoy, fine-tuning the metal-edged songs and comedy bits to the point where they've gotten a rep for being a fun "act," and not just another rock band. After all, what other local band performs the "Mr. Yuk" theme on request-death metal style even-or feeds the audience with chicken wings?

That distinction is fine with Stachowski, who considers himself more of an entertainer that a musician, anyway. ("I can't even barely tune my guitar," he readily admits. "The only way I can tune an electric guitar is by the wave on the distortion; when it stops buzzing, I figure it's in tune.") Though he writes all the songs and is a competent rhythm guitarist, he's much more concerned with how the band looks than with how it sounds. And make no mistake, the Rock Stars-in mascara, eyeliner and leopard-skin spandex everything-look marvelous. In fact, they looked so out of place when they opened the Erika Frazier Benefit show in January at Memory Lane-local mecca for the baseball-cap and flannel shirt-wearing Urban Hipster Set-that no one got the joke when Stachowski stepped to the mike and asked, "You all ready to hear some Poison?"

And who could blame them? These guys really do look like pretentious rock star dinosaurs from the 70s. With a painfully thin lead guitarist who dresses all frilly-frally like Jimmy Page, a mascara-caked bass player who looks like a heavily sedated Alice Cooper, and a frontman who wears KISS makeup with such engaging magic marker slogans as "Hey Baby I'm a Rock Star-Eat My Cum" scrawled across his belly, they're practically baiting the audience for a reaction of some sort. And any - laughter, heckling, rotten fruit-tossing - will do.

"People don't want to come to a show and not be entertained," explains Stachowski. "They don't want to see some guys in their work clothes just standing there playing guitars. I mean, big deal. That takes a lot of fucking thought."

By contrast, Stachowski puts a lot of fucking thought into everything the Rock Stars do on stage, especially the comedy skits (or "commercials," as he calls them) that serve as thematic lead-ins to various numbers. Stachowski credits long-time friend and actor Tony Hemlin with teaching him the importance of theatrics. In fact, Hemlin's turn as a Bible-toting evangelist who tries to save the Rock Stars (only to be converted to devil worship as the band seques into "Let's All Just Hail Satan") is one of the highlights of the show. But Stachowski's regular comic foil is childhood chum Joe Tricario, who manages to steal the occasional thunder from his bud in bits like the Stovetop commercial parody:

Todd: "Hey Jimmy, I heard your Mom's making Stovetop for dinner tonight."
Joe: "Yeah, she is. You coming over?"
Todd: "I dunno, 'cause my Mom says your Mom's Stovetop tastes like the shit she takes in the toilet."
Joe: "Yeah, well my Mom says that your Mom fucks the dog down the street 'cause your Dad don't know how to fuck and his dick is smaller than the dog's."

This warm appetizer usually leads into the crowd favorite, "Chicken Wings," in which Tricario robotically chants the song title while an attractive dominatrix named "Mistress Teresa" straps a dog collar around Stachowski's neck and drags him around on all fours while hurling barbecued chicken wings out into the crowd (a la Southern Culture on the Skids).

In another skit, Tricario takes on the demeanor of a lip-smacking redneck reminiscing about the glory days of glamrock: "Boy, that David Bowie," he drawls in a thick Deliverance accent, "He sure looked golddurn pretty in all that girly glitter."

But no Rock Stars performance is complete without the obligatory reference to Alf, who is the most important role model (after Harvey Keitel) in Stachoswki's life. "Alf was one of the best sitcoms ever made, a great show to get fucked up on drugs to," he enthuses, though he's convinced that the show also contains a disturbing undertone of child molestation. "The actor who portrays Willie is so sleazy, you know in real life he definitely molests children. He's playing this wholesome father figure and you know he loves little Brian, not in the way a father loves his son, but in a more perverse way."

So much for pop cultural obsessions. What about the Rock Stars sound? Stachowski would rather talk about the "show," but if pressed will confess that musically he leans toward the more "Satan-y" strains of death metal, especially his idols Celtic Frost (whose "Procreation of the Wicked" is a staple of the Stars' live set), and his singing likewise adheres to the low-octave, phlegmatic bellowing that's characteristic of the genre. But he credits another idol, Lou Reed, with "inspiring the intellectualism in my lyrics." This from a man who, yes, wrote something called "Cat (A Song About Pussy)," not to mention other self-explanatory songs like "Giant Rat," "Hair Hopping" (an homage to big-haired East Baltimore girls) and "Let's All Just Hail Satan." OK, so maybe the songs are cartoonish and the music a little too familiar, but the presentation is anything but. The Rock Stars are good dumb fun. Nothing illustrates this ability to make the ordinary extraordinary than "DW730W," a song about a label on a box that's easily the best thing Stachowski has ever written.

"I saw that number when I was working in a warehouse and I couldn't get it out of my head," he recalls. "It was just so hummable that I had to write a song about it. It's our math song .I hate math. All math is stupid." That frustration with numbers results in Stachowski's single funniest line, describing a headbanger's mathematical angst: "Subtract yourself, 'till there's nothing left/Divide by nothing: 1+1=Death." Now that's funny!

"Look, there's other bands around that have better songs than us," Stachowski admits, "But they ain't entertainers. When you come see us, it's not a concert. It's a party." So bring out the chicken wings and let the fun and games begin!

The Rock Stars appear at The Savoy on Saturday March 2 and at the Atomic Books Calvacade of Perversion sometime in April.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Masters of Their Dumbmains

What's In a Name? A Good Laugh?

My friend Amy sent me this interesting story from the online version of New Scientist magazine ( about ill-conceived Internet domain names that I thought I'd reprint below:

Unfortunate Domain Names

A NOTE circulating round the internet, which some readers will have seen but others won't, lists internet domain names consisting of run-together words that can be parsed in unintended ways.

Firstly there is "Who Represents?", a database of agencies for the rich and famous, the domain name of which is Second is the Experts Exchange, a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views: Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island: Need a therapist? Try And if you want to stock up on bedding plants, try the Mole Station Native Nursery, based in New South Wales, Australia:

The list concludes with the mythical power company We say mythical, because we investigated this site back on 5 July 2003. It turned out not to be the Italian subsidiary of the UK electricity company PowerGen, but a small company in Tuscany that charged batteries. But even that, it seems, no longer has this domain name, which has been relegated to the category of urban myth. The other sites are all real.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Over the weekend I retreated once more into my youth, immersing myself in punk rock mythology, watching the 2003 documentary End of the Century - The Story of the Ramones and working my way through a book about the West Coast punk scene called We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk.

Punk Debunked
The Ramones DVD was great, but ultimately very depressing. At the time of its release, Joey Ramone had already passed away and Dee Dee passed away two weeks after the Ramones recieved their Hall of Fame induction. A year later, in October 2004, Johnny Ramone passed away in his sleep, leaving Tommy Ramone as the lone surviving original member. But the most depressing part of the documentary for me was learning what an unlovable jerk Johnny Ramone was.

Everyone loved Joey Ramone - he was the endearing Everyman, the Jerry Lewis nerd misfit who finally "fit in" thanks to the "beautiful mutant" punk aesthetic, an innocent, a perpetual kid trapped inside a 6-6 towering adult frame, and a diehard romantic. And, when he wasn't trying to stab people with his hunting knife, Dee Dee was just as loveable in his drug-addled goofball innocence. Dee Dee may have been a stooge, but he knew his limits (unfortunately not until his Rap career fizzled), was able to laugh at himself, and wrote some damned good songs - some of the Ramones' finest.

But no one will shed any tears for Johnny Ramone. His guitar sound may have been genius (as distinctive and unique in its way as that of Chuck Berry's or Jimi Hendrix's or Carlos Santana's), but he was a mean, humorless, egotistical, cold-hearted bastard who managed to break Joey's heart long before it stopped permanently in 2001 (R.I.P.) by stealing his one true love, Linda, away (OK, he married her, so it wasn't a cavalier, thoughtless steal, admittedly). And he was a right-wing Republican extremist, the polar opposite of bleeding-heart liberal Joey. But the straw that broke the Ramones back had to be Johnny's acceptance speech at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony where he thanked "President Bush and our country, God bless." Not a word about Joey, mind you. What a bonehead! In financial matters, Johnny was very together, but in practically every other arena - politics, personality, art, culture, he seemed to be braindead. Mind you, Johnny was the one who initially resisted Tommy's suggestion that Joey move from behind the drum kit to take over lead vocals. And Joey went on to become one of the most iconic rock vocalists of all-time, with one of the most distinctive voices ever. Johnny didn't even know Joey's "Bonzo Goes To Bitburg" was an anti-Reagan song (did he think it was just a fantasy about a monkey visiting Nazi gravesites?) and when he got wind of what it was about, refused to perform it in concert. What a boor!

Sometimes the cost of creating great art is running the risk of alienating those around you and sacrificing your soul. Johnny struck out on both counts. To paraphrase a Morrisey song, when Tomorrow comes, "will I still be human?" In Johnny's case, the answer is a resounding No! Or as the other Ramones put it when describing his harsh, controlling personality, Johnny became "a monster."

West is Less'd
I loved The Dickies, liked X and The Blasters and The Nuns and The Go-Gos and The Dead Kennedys, and found Fear funny, if somewhat one-dimensional (and I loved their stage vulgarity, especially when they dished such non-sensical barbs as "Eat my fuck!" - I used this epithet quite often during Road Rage moments). But I was never that big a fan of what was called West Coast Punk, believing it to be leftovers from the New York, London, Boston, and Cleveland scenes. But, because I didn't know much about it - my only real exposure was through Penelope Spheeris' documentary film and accompanying soundtrack for The Decline of Western Civilization (1981), which has been criticized for narrowly foccusing on just one negative aspect of the scene - I figured I'd be open-minded and give it a shot, hence I picked up the Neutron Bomb book by Marc Spitz (senior contributing writer at SPIN magazine) and Brendan Mullen (founder of the seminal Masque club that fostered many of the bands covered here). And though it blatantly pulls on the same stylistic "oral history" coattails as Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain's Please Kill Me (which covered the East Coast - specifically New York and Cleveland - scenes), I learned a lot from it. Mainly, it made me seek out the work of The Weirdos (a great group whose "Neutron Bomb" song fittingly provides Spitz and Mullen with their tome's title!), the Latino punk ensemble The Zeros (the "Don't Push Me Around" guys, not the later glam-metal band of the same name), The Screamers (if for no other reason than Devo loved them and they experimented with concert video art years before the arrival of MTV), and others. Plus there's dirt dished about scary freak Kim Fowley (who sacked early Runaways guitarist Micki/Michael Steele for lacking "star power" - only to see her get the last laugh when she later joined The Bangles) and loveable freak Rodney Bingenheimer (the legendary KROQ DJ and erstwhile body double for The Monkees' Davy Jones whose DVD bio The Mayor of Sunset Strip, may just be my all-time favorite music documentary). I also learned that Darby Crash of The Germs was commissioned to write songs for the soundtrack of one of my all-time fave cult films, William Friedkin's 1980 fist-fuck-frenzied gay underground murder mystery Cruising. (The long out-of-print soundtrack contained the last recorded material by Crash, who subsequently killed himself at the ripe old age of 22. Bad timing for myth making: Crash's voluntary exit from his mortal coil was overshadowed by John Lennon's involuntary exit at the hands of Mark David Chapman less than 24 hours later. Advantage: East Coast. Even our rock stars deaths outshine the Golden State!)

There's even the Baltimore connection. Every respectable Baltimoron knows that Go-Gos drummer Gina Shock hailed from glorious Dundalk, but I never knew X bassist Joe Doe was also from Charm City. Another local son bites the dust.

But as the 1980s came about in the book, I realized why I disliked West Coast the first time around: the advent of Hard Core. All those slam-dancin', sweaty mosh pit surfer jock assholes took over, chasing away all the chicks so that Nazi skinheads headbangers could grope one another in an orgy of homoerotic Greco-Roman wrestling. Or as Jane Weidlin of The Go-Go's described it: "The whole L.A. scene had changed by the time we got back from England in early 1980, it had been taken over by all these real angry, young white boys...we were like 'What's this all about? It's really gross.'"

Unfortunately, the West Coast hooligan aesthetic reared its ugly head on this coast as well, regrettably finding a home down I-95 in Washington, D.C. - providing yet another reason for Bawmer locals to hate D.C.!

Jenny Lens: The Girl with the Camera Eye
Anyway, it's a good read, and it inspired me to do a search on the Internet for more info about some of the bands mentioned. While surfing I came across a familiar name, Jenny Lens (Jenny Stern, left), a pioneering punk photog from the original 1976-1980 Punk Era who covered the phenomena on both coasts, but mainly the West. Her name crops up quite a bit in Neutron Bomb, though she says she was misquoted therein. Regardless, Jenny Lens has a cool Web site with many valuable links to the bands of this scene. I e-mailed her, never thinking I'd get a response, and she e-mailed be back right away. This is truly a focussed Lens! She even put in a plug for Baltimore's notorious native son John Waters: "I always feel John Waters has not been given his due in the punk world. Who wore day-glo hair, even on their pubes, before Pink Flamingos?"

Jenny is currently working on various projects, including her first book, due out soon from Rizzola Books. As she described it on her MySpace blog: "Rizzoli called and my first book, Before Hardcore is being fast-tracked, Glen E. Friedman is editing/choosing my photos and I'm also writing accompanying text, telling stories of how I came to meet someone and shoot them, memories of the shows, parties, spontaneous fun. Just so happens many of the people I shot became famous later. Others infamous for being part of the scene and rarely seen."

Anyway, check out her site and check out her photos!:

Jenny Lens Website
Jenny Lens' Blog
Jenny Lens' MySpace Page

In the Wong Place at the Right Time
A lot of the L.A. punk bands played at Madam Wong's Chinese restaurant, owned by Esther Wong. Madam Wong passed away last August at age 88 and I didn't even realize that my friend Violet Glaze wrote a great obit about her ("Exit the Dragon") in the Baltimore City Paper.

Check it out:
Esther Wong Obit by Violet Glaze (Baltimore City Paper)

Best Punk Books to Read - So Far:

England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock and Beyond
by Jon Savage

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Rock
by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain

From the Velvets to the Voidoids: The Birth of American Punk Rock
by Clinton Heylin

We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk
by Mark Spitz and Brendan Mullen

Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984
by Simon Reynolds

Jenny Lens also recommends:
Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and The Germs
by Brendan Mullen, with Don Bolles and Adam Parfrey

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Crash Is Magnolia, Version 2.0

Last night I finally got to see Crash, the two-hour hatefest that won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year. I liked it. Great cast. Some great dialog. Nicely paced and edited. Engaging soundtrack. But I had a feeling I had seen this picture before. And I had...way back in 1999. It was called Magnolia and it was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. And like Crash with Kathleen York's "Into the Deep," it also had an Oscar-nominated song ("Save Me" by Aimee Mann in Magnolia) that played over a montage of the various characters' lives and intersected plot narratives.


And guess what? I'm not alone in my feeling. When I did a Google search this morning on the words "Crash" and "Magnolia," I came across this excellent article by Dan Brown in the London Free Press - "Pssst...want to know a secret? Crash isn't that great a movie" - that nailed my feelings to a T. I'm reprinting Mr. Brown's article below. See if you agree.


Pssst … want to know a secret? Crash isn’t that great a movie

by Dan Brown, Online Editor
London Free Press

As you probably already know, former Londoner Paul Haggis could walk away with an armful of Academy Awards on Sunday night.

This likely isn’t news to you. When the Oscar nominations were unveiled in January, the media here in London loudly trumpeted the fact that Crash, Haggis’ tale of racial strife in Los Angeles, had earned half a dozen nods.

But here’s the thing: Crash isn’t that great of a movie.

It may be in the running for the best-picture prize, it’s true. But that doesn’t change the reality of the matter, which is that Crash isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Now, before you send me an angry e-mail, let me explain my feelings.

Crash is a fine piece of work. There’s nothing wrong with Crash. It’s not a bad movie.

It’s just not the best movie of 2005. Whether it wins the Oscar or not, Crash is not an outstanding example of feature filmmaking.

The main problem with Crash is that it’s based on an entirely unoriginal premise.

As those who’ve seen it know, the movie follows a diverse group of Los Angelinos whose lives intersect in unexpected ways over a short period of time.

If that plot sounds familiar, that’s because director Paul Thomas Anderson covered much the same ground in 1999’s Magnolia.

Yet another filmmaker, the legendary Robert Altman, also used the same narrative structure for 1993’s Short Cuts.

And the similarities don’t stop there. The general consensus (with which I agree) is that Matt Dillon is the best thing about Crash. The veteran performer plays a racist L.A. cop who saves the life of a black woman whom he has previously sexually assaulted.

Hmmm … a troubled L.A. cop. You mean like the nervous cop played by John C. Reilly in Magnolia? Or was he more like the crooked cop played by Tim Robbins in Short Cuts?

Granted, there’s nothing new under the sun. But repainting the same horse ridden by previous directors is not the mark of a strong storyteller.

Even worse, Haggis couldn’t even think of an original title for his movie.

As if to prove he has a hard time coming up with his own ideas, he stole the name from David Cronenberg’s 1996 flick about sexual deviants who are turned on by car accidents. Cronenberg has condemned Haggis for the intellectual theft, and rightly so.

So how, you may be asking, did Crash end up with so many Oscar nominations?

The truth is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences loves to honour movies that are seen as progressive.

By singling out films that tackle controversial subjects, it reflects glory on itself. It is seen as a forward-thinking organization by association (this is the same logic that helped the gay cowboy romance, Brokeback Mountain, become this year’s Oscar heavyweight).

The truth is that Crash is a perfect selection for the Academy because it’s the type of film that makes white Americans feel guilty, but not too guilty, about that country’s racial divide.

Haggis was also probably helped by Million Dollar Baby’s Oscar triumph last year (Haggis wrote that film’s screenplay, adapting it from the F. X. Toole book Rope Burns).

Now, I realize that by saying Crash is less than perfect I am opening up myself to the charge of being a hometown basher. I realize that some of you are probably getting ready to send me hate mail right now.

But I’m not picking on Haggis just because he used to live here. I’m not being a hometown basher or a hometown booster. I’m just trying to see Crash clearly. We’ve given Haggis’ creation lots of coverage, so we owe it to you, our readers, to be even-handed.

Of course, we in the local media do love to give coverage to individuals such as Haggis who leave London and go on to be huge successes. They make for great copy.

And let’s face it, if Haggis does pick up some trophies on Sunday evening, we will all feel just a little more pride in being Londoners.

You can now feel free to send in those e-mails. But just remember — you won’t be able to change my mind.

And before you do, think long and hard about this question: Do you honestly believe Crash was the best motion picture released in 2005?

According to Rotten Tomatoes, the Web site that collects movie reviews of current releases, the critics gave Crash an average rating of 7.2 out of 10.

I’d say that’s about right.


Hey, I just got an e-mail from Dan Brown pointing out yet another similarity between Crash and Magnolia, one so blatant that I don't know how I missed it:
There's also one other major similarity: at the end of both movies, something unexpected falls from the sky (snow in Crash and frogs in Magnolia). Cheers!
- Dan Brown
Oh, and lest I forget, one more unoriginal scene: when spoiled trophy wife Sandra Bullock reaches across the racial and class divide to hug the Hispanic housekeeper she has been abusing throughout the film and tells her, "You're my best friend" it's basically a reprise of Jessica Tandy reaching across the racial and class divide to say the exact same words of endearment to her chauffeur Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy.