Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kiss/Devo Tour Program

Found this official "Tour Program" for the inaugural Atomic Books "Kiss/Devo" party held March 17, 1994 at Memory Lane. (The program lists the venue as The Hour House and that's where it was originally scheduled to be held, but the event got shut down for some reason or other and bumped to the following week at Memory Lane.) Local bands were invited to play songs by Atomic Books owner Scott Huffines' two all-time fave favorite bands (um, Kiss and Devo). Includes the set lists - and Scott's reminder to tidy up afterwards!

The only known salvageable footage of this historic event is Blister Freak Circus (Skizz Cyzyk and Joe Tropea) performing Devo's "Gut Feeling" - with the backbeat provided by Pong! Scott Huffines filmed this at Memory Lane, brilliantly inserting stock footage clips that evoke the Devo aesthetic (think "It's a Beautiful World").

"Gut Feeling" by Blister Freak Circus
from Atomic Books' "Q: Are We Not Kiss? A: We Are Devo!"
Memory Lane, early 1990's

Here's Scott's backstory on this event:

Peruse the City Paper nightclub listings and you are likely to find a plethora of hipster-ironic musical mash-ups with clever names like "Johnny Clash's Planet of the Apes 80's Flashback" or "The White Strokes versus Wu Tang & Wang Chung."

But in the early days of Baltimore hipsterdom this was not the case.

That is until the tax man came knocking at Atomic Books' door.

A $5,000 tax bill loomed large. How was Huffines to pay? A book sale? Although during the 90's Baltimore was referred to as "The City That Reads," the fact was, no one read. Of course they occasionally bought books -- but only to decorate their living spaces with. What was he to do?

Suddenly a light bulb appeared above Huffines' head, a 150-watt illuminated marquee scrolling a message: "Put on a show, Little Rascals style!"

And since Kiss and Devo were his favorite bands he decided: What better way to beg for money than to force feed the grunge-loving public the music of his youth? And thus was born:

"Q: Are We Not Kiss? A: We Are Devo!"

The show was a rollicking success, even garnering a coveted City Paper "Best Of" award. Huffines and Warner videotaped the event, utilizing antique VHS cameras the size and weight of cinderblocks. They stored the tapes away never knowing that they were Atomic TV's legacy, their Dead Sea Scrolls, their Book of Genesis.

Many years passed.

And so these tapes sat, deep in the Atomic TV archives until one day the spectre of unemployment revisited Scott Huffines and gave him time. Time to panic and time to worry about his future. But eventually he grew bored and nostalgic, as men in their 40's often do, and he used this time to review hundreds of unlabeled videos, trying to make sense of his past.

He is still confused.

Sit back and enjoy one of Atomic TV's earliest clips, our own "Cavern Club" footage.

-- Scott Huffines

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Miriam Linna Zines

Straight Out of Brooklyn

Cleaning up the house, I rediscovered a lot of old zines I hadn't looked at in years, including three associated with Miriam Linna, erstwhile Cramps drummer and the entrepreneuress behind the Norton Records empire (along with her longtime partner and A-Bones and Zantees bandmate Billy Miller).

Joined at the Hip: Billy Miller and Miriam Linna

If RE/Search Books ever came out with an Incredibly Strange Hipsters volume, Miriam would surely be their first point of contact - and by strange, I mean interesting, cool, and curious. She's just a compendium of knowledge about all things strange and unusual, be it books, mags, music or what have you. Naturally, Miriam and Billy live in the Hipster's Mecca, Brooklyn, NYC. Back in the day I called the Norton Records phone number (a NYC area code, natch) and Miriam herself answered the phone...I recall we shot the bobo yapping about music and pulp novels for a good while until I was giddy with excitement. This ranks up there in my memory banks with meeting Miriam and Billy's West Coast equivalent Hipster Couple, Mike Vraney and Lisa Petrucci of Something Weird Video and Tease magazine fame.

Anyway, here are some fine Linna publications from yesteryear.

The Norton Records catalog itself was already something of a zine, often providing the only reference to or photo of rare vinyl platters and bands hitherto unknown. So it was only a matter of time before Miriam and Billy boy branched out with a music zine (and later full-fledged, full-color-cover magazine) called Kicks. They published two issues in 1979. Then, after a 5-year hiatus, came out with Kicks #3 in 1984.

No. 3 (1984)
Edited by Billy "The Big Fish" Miller and Miriam "Scamp" Linna

Anyone familiar with Norton Records (or the A-Bones, Zantees, or Cramps, for that matter), would know what kind of music interested Billy and Miriam: Strictly Old School "Rock & Roll" - i.e., American rhythm and blues, rockabilly and anything recorded at Sun Records. In that sense they were like Baltimore's John Waters, who always accused The Beatles of killing real music (i.e., Little Richard, Fats Domino, Doowop and other ebony tones) in 1964 when they ushered in the whitebread British Invasion. But, just in case people didn't know, Billy laid it all out in the Kicks #3 Editor's Manifesto, reprinted below:

For those who have trouble with small print, let me excerpt a few choice Miller morsels:

"We don't deal in ROCK MUSIC here at KICKS. If you're a fan of David Bowie or Devo, take this magazine back to the store. You've obviously bought the wrong thing. To me, rock music means asshole Roger Daltry swingin' a microphone around his head while leagues of stoned out squares gaze in wide-eyed ecstacy waiting for MTV or Lisa Robinson to tell 'em where they ought to take their zombie butts to next...WHENEVER YOU BUY A RECORD BY DURAN DURAN YOU ARE SPITTING ON THE GRAVE OF EDDIE COCHRAN! It's a big sham and you are the sucker. Do kids get in front of a mirror and pretend they're Spandau ballet? You tell me, Jack." And so on...but I think you get the point now! (Though Billy must have given Miriam a pass for her brief foray into New Wave music with Nervus Rex - whose "Don't Look" b/w "Love Affair" is one one of my all-time fave singles, btw.)

But the Kicks manifesto also hinted at future publications, because uber-hipsters Billy and Miriam's interests couldn't be constrained to just music. Defending the "non-musical" articles, Billy contended that "...White Castle, Lois Lane, Vic Morrow and The Golden Spike reek of the same heart-pumpin' fodder that sets a Sun record spinnin' and bodies wailin'." (There was even an homage to Shemp Howard in its pages!)

In fact, a feature on JD paperbacks in Kicks #3 called "1,000,000 Delinquents" by one Miriam "Bad Seed" Linna eventually spawned a sister publication called...

Bad Seed
#1 (1984)

Taking its name from ye olde scriptures ("the fathers have eaten sour grapes and set the children's teeth on edge" - Jeremiah 31:29), Bad Seed was dedicated not just to books, but any and all movies, mags, or music relating to "bad" (i.e., cool)teens and juvenile delinquents. Bad Seed's themes probably inspired like-spirited zines like Chip Rowe's Teenage Gang Debs and John Marr's Murder Can Be Fun.

Here's the Bad Seed creed:

And last, but not least...Miriam's interest in bad seeds led inevitably to the bad boys and girls of '60s adult paperbacks and...

Smut Peddler!
"The astonishing world of paperback exotica"
Vol 1, No 1 (1992)
by Miriam Linna

Here's the editor's Mission Statement:

Ah Smut Peddler! Before Feral House came out with Sin-a-Rama, this was the definitive reference guide to sleazy '60s adult pulp novels. As she says in her "Intro of Sorts" (above), "Folks say you can't judge a book by its cover, but I can pretty much assure you that BIG BANGOUT AT THE SIN SHORE and CONVICT LUST and LOVE ADDICT and PERVERTED LUST MEN deliver. Deliver what? THRILLS, AND PLENTY OF 'EM!...This stuff is luscious, enervating, astonishing, and unaboundingly exciting reading." Though she cautions her readers that the sex depicted in these naughty nightstand readers is relatively tame by today's "anything goes" standards, Linna - ever the old school rocker - makes the argument that, "Like rock & roll, a good adult novel gets your immediate attention with a solid beat and keeps you glued to the pages with action, action, ACTION!" Yeah boy!

Now I gotta find my Shake Books, the extinct publishing empire founded by Alan Betrock, whose books are all out of print. Betrock covered turf quite similar to Billy and Miriam, stuff like adult movie posters, tabloids and cult scandal magazines, and the wonderfully self-descriptive I Was a Teenage Juvenile Delinquent Rock 'N' Roll Horror Beach Party Movie Book: A Complete Guide to the Teen Exploitation Film, 1954-1969.

Monday, March 30, 2009

So Different, So Appealing

That's how I describe my home today, thanks to a massive Spring Cleaning Initiative the past two weekends. As you can see in the "before" and "after" shots below, a little tidying up can make a world of difference!

My living room, before.

My living room, after.

That's me (holding the tennis racquet, far left) and my exhausted girlfriend Amy (wearing the lampshade, far right) proudly surveying a living room that's truly fit for "living" again.

Lewdsome Twosome

More Spring Cleaning Artifacts...

Two more "salacious" reads unearthed during my ongoing Spring Cleaning Project.

First up, a Jayne Mansfield bio that boasts the greatest cut-to-the-point title ever:

Here They Are - Jayne Mansfield
by Raymond Strait
SPI Books, 304 pages (1992)

Subtle cover, eh? I actually own two of these (they travel in pairs), purchased for a buck each God knows where.

But I really love the following find, a collection of Russian short stories by such giants of Western literature as Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gorky and Kuprin - being hawked as lurid and lewd adult reading: Women and Vodka. "The depths of desire - 17 unforgettable Russian stories." Is it that hard to sell Russian lit that the copywriters guys had to hype it like they were writing a Stoli ad? Note that some moronic bookseller scrawled "45" cents across the otherwise lovely cover drawing by Lou Marchetti.

Women and Vodka
Edited by Mark Merrill
Cover by Lou Marchetti
A Pyramid Royal Book, 190 pages (1956)

Here's the back cover:

Note the hype (that I've highlighted in boldface):

"A woman with a debt to a man and only one way to repay it...An innocent young girl driven into those streets from which there is no return...These are only a few of the naked moments in this powerful collection of great Russian stories. They range from the closed boudoirs of society to the tawdry excitement of back-room rendezvous. Bold, shocking, frightening frank - each one is a literary masterpiece."

Well, at least that last statement ("each one is a literary masterpiece") is accurate, though if you just read the cover you'd assume that old Fyodor and Leo were merely Russia's answer to Harold Robbins, titillating the masses with tales of getting juiced and getting down. (Hmmm, perhaps I should have pursued this topic as a thesis when I took my Russian Literature class in college.)

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dim Sum is back in town!

Zhongshan Restaurant
323 Park Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 223-1881

Dim sum is back in Baltimore - and right around the corner from where I work at the Central Library. Boy howdy! First a Vietnamese place opens down the street (the wonderful Mekong Delta Cafe), and now this; could this be the dawning of a new wave of authentic Asian restaurants (as opposed to those faux "pan-Asian"/"fusion" parlors like Pei Wei) downtown? The dim sum place is called The Zhongstan Restaurant (named after the prefecture-level city in south China, itself named after the "Father of Modern China" Dr. Sun Zhongshan - aka Sun Yat-sen), though people sometimes refer to it as The Chinatown Cafe - the name of the previous restaurant in that space. It's at 323 Park Avenue between Mulberry and Saratoga Street, on the block that passes for Baltimore's Chinatown. The entrepreneurs behind the new restaurant are Philadelphia's Richard Wong and co-owner Shirley Cheung; the chef behind Zhongshan is Sam Thang.

Dim Sum is some yum-yum fun

The only Charm City dim sum I ever sampled was at the old Grand Palace in Brooklyn ( it was great and I thank my neighbors Ed and Bella Chou for taking me there to enjoy the many delicacies on offer), but it's long gone; the only other options until now were Jesse Wong's Hong Kong in Columbia and Oriental Manor in Ellicott City. In her Dining@Large blog, Sun reviewer Elizabeth Large called dim sum "Chinese tapas" and while the two menus can be polar opposites in price (tapas = pricey, dim sum = thrifty), they both do cater to folks who like to sample lots of small dishes. Dim sum is basically steamed and fried dumplings and other small dishes that are traditionally served on weekends as brunch up until 3 pm. So if you get a whim for sum dim, check it out!

Here's Elizabeth Large's "Table Talk" review from the Baltimore Sun (March 25, 2009).

Chinese restaurant Zhongshan to open in Baltimore

Once Baltimore had a Chinatown. It was small, but it was a Chinatown. Now Richard Wong, a Philadelphia restaurateur and native of China, hopes to resurrect it. The first step is his new restaurant, Zhongshan (323 Park Ave., 410-223-1881), scheduled to open for regular business Friday.

Some restaurants open quietly and have their grand opening months later. Not Zhongshan. The night before the opening, the owner will hold a 10-course banquet (by invitation only, unfortunately). The 300 block of Park Ave. will be closed off, and the celebration will include firecrackers (yes, the owner has gotten the necessary permits) and a Chinese lion dance.

I asked the general manager, C.K. Cheng, if anything else was planned.

"Local dignitaries have been invited," he said. "I don't know if they'll be here or not. The Chinese Embassy in Washington is sending someone."

And here's a Chowhound post from aubzamzam:
After the tragic demise of Grand Palace (and the ensuing decline and fall of Imperial Gourmet's dim sum) I thought decent dim sum would require a trip to Philly or further. However, I had some great Dim Sum at the Chinatown Cafe today. It's on Park Avenue, between Saratoga and Mulberry, in the former Chinatown. I was delighted to see that their dim sum menu had some of the more interesting standards (tripe and chicken feet) as well as the dumplings, buns and turnip cakes, etc. I was pleased with what I had. No carts, alas, but it was a weekday and not busy.

I also liked the looks of their menu (many of the standard American-Chinese stuff, but also some more traditional Cantonese dishes) and was thrilled that they included their daily specials (which looked like pretty "challenging" food) in english listings. They also have some HK-style noodle soups, which usually requires a trip to Golden Gate Noodle House up in Towson. I shall have to return for non-dim sum to see how it measures up. Expect to hear more in the next week or two.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Naughty Nightstand Novels

I unearthed some more treasures during my weekend cleaning binge (aka Spring Forward/Fall Backwards Toward Nostalgia)...some naughty nightstand novels from the '60s! Some of these even escaped notice in Feral House's exhaustive Sin-a-rama collection. In today's anything goes moral climate, when you can see and download just about anything on the Internet, it's easy to forget what a lost art these sleaze sex paperbacks from the '60s represent. A number of legitimate authors - Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Lawrence Block, and Donald E. Westlake among them - got their start writing these books under various nomes de plume. (By the way, my all-time fave pseudonym is Jerome Murray writing as "Dr. Lance Boyle"!) Not to mention a number of talented artists, like Robert Bonfils, whose sexy covers (along with the salacious titles, which always managed to contain the words "sex," "sin," "lust," "passion," "flesh," "wanton," or "orgy" in there somewhere) really sold the merchandise. I actually own at least one confirmed Bonfils cover:

Typical Bonfils Babe

More importantly, these prurient pulps were from an era of strict censorship, when one had to "sell the sizzle, not the steak." According to John Gilmore - a Hollywood crony of both James Dean and Ed Wood, Jr. - who wrote a dozen or so titles (including Lesbos in Panama, Dark Obsession and Brutal Baby) under the pen name Neil Egri, "The law was hard and fast: no dirty words, no "cock" or "cunt," you couldn't directly mention the sexual organs, and even pubic hair was taboo. Sex scenes had to result from relationship - couldn't be promiscuous or they would be considered pornography. The books had to have a moral, Good had to shine through in the end. They couldn't even smell dirty."

God I miss those quaint times!

Sex After Sixty
by Hal Kantor
Pad Library (1966)

This one inspires me. I turned 52 this year and this former Peeping Tom has to confess that it's an indisputable fact: the sex drive takes a nosedive at the half century mark. I get more excited by food (especially Ceriello's orgasmically satisfying Rotisserie Chickens!), English Premiere League football matches, and new episodes of Lost than looking at naughty bits these days. But according to author Hal Kantor, the sex drive returns after 60 - and how! And this book was written in the pre-Viagra '60s (1966 to be precise). Johnny Carson once quipped that having sex at 65 was good, but that it was even better when you got off the highway and turned the car off. Kantor's tome offers yet another view of what to look forward to.

Love the cover text: "Though he was an old man, he performed like a stud! And because of his reputation, his apartment was a harem for every girl who wanted him - and there were so many, he had to turn them away!"

The back cover continues: "His prowess and his endurance seemed to increase with age. And though he didn't understand it, he made use of his abilities as he had never been able to in his youth! And the girls couldn't stay away from him - they wanted him with a fervor and a desire that left him limp and exhausted. But he was always ready for more! And there were always more who were ready for him!"

The front cover is typical of this genre in that while all the women look exotic and are dressed in sexy accoutrements, the men are uniformly bland and always - always - wear white button-down shirts (the ultimate '60s square accessory!)

by Rick Raymond (pseudonym of Gil Porter)
Playtime Books (1964)

"Sex for her was a gay, two-way game, until he made her burn to play it straight."

Sex is a topic that's always, um, current...but what I like about this one is the cover. No, not her love pillows! I'm talking about the fact that the chick is AC-DC and can get turned on by men and women alike isn't as nearly as strange (especially in our current Girls Gone Wild era) as those Nancy and Sluggo dolls in her arms. What's that all about?

Executive Stud Sinners
by Monte Rappe
Dragon Editions (1966)

Somehow I think Executive Stud Sinners is still the official employee handbook at AIG.

by Harry Guggenheim
Nite Time Book No. 111 (1964)

I actually read this one cover-to-cover. It's about a man (which I am) named Tom (as I am) who's a Technical Writer (like I was for 18 years) who just happens to like dressing in women's clothing (OK, that's where the parallel ends)(honest!). This is a good read, because not only does it have the sexual pecadillos angle going for it, but our protagonist is a tech writer for the government so, Cold War Paranoia being what it is, Commies try to blackmail him into spying for them or telling Uncle Sam all about his love of nylon stockings and frilly black lace undies. And I'm convinced that this relatively well-written novel was written by none other than Ed Wood, Jr., the notorious cross-dresser, hack writer and infamous director of cult "bad" movies like Glen or Glenda, Plan Nine From Outer Space and Bride of the Monster.

Ed Wood, Jr.: Truth is stranger than Pulp Fiction

"He was a man - and yet he had desires that a man should not have! He tried to resist the compulsion, but it was no use. There was something about the feel of a woman's clothing against his male body that drove him out of his mind with the unbearable ecstasy. And there was that one night when he knew he'd have to go all the way..."

C'mon, that's pure Ed Wood!

And speaking of blackmailing Commies, they'll always try to trap ya, whether you're a cross-dressing government tech writer or a sex-crazed GI...

Commie Sex Trap
by Roger Blake
A Boudoir Original Edition (Art Enterprises, Inc., 1963)

The Higher Education Sin Trilogy

College for Sinners
by Andrew Shaw
Nightstand Books (1960)

Passion Ph.D.
by J. X. Williams
Ember Books (1964)

OK, the authorship of Tranvestite may be open to speculation, but according to the authors of Sin-a-Rama, J. X. Williams was one of a half dozen pseudonyms employed by...Edward D. Wood, Jr.! Wood wrote a number of sleaze sex paperbacks in the '60s for various publishers in order to pay his rent, bar tabs and finance his madcap film projects. According to his pal John Gilmore in Laid Bare: A Memoir of Wrecked Lives on the Hollywood Death Trip (Amok Books), Wood churned out "book after book at a pace like dribbling a basketball." Some of his other pseudonyms include David L. Westermier, Emil Moreau, Jason Nichols, N. V. Jason, Dick Trent, John Quinn and, in feminine voice, Kathleen Everett.

Alumnus of Sin
by Dean Hudson
Evening Reader (1964)

About the cover: Why the hell is Mr. Mortarboard drinking whiskey from a martini glass? Is that what they taught the over-educated back then?


OK, so you graduated from College for Sinners, got your Passion Ph.D., and go to your alumni lust reunions. Now what do you do? You get a boring job in the real world. But come Happy Hour, it's time for...

Office Party
by Dean Hudson
A Leisure Book (Corinth Publishing, 1965)

"The meek ran wanton and the wanton ran berserk!"

Before the Internet and e-mail and cubicles, people interacted more with their co-workers, as this masterpiece by Dean Hudson (author of Alumnus of Sin and a pseudonym of Evan Hunter/Salvador Lombino) makes clear. "The co-sinners and flesh feasters were going out of their cottonpicking minds. For it was time to unleash passions and inhibitions at the Office Party and to hell with the consequences. For after it was all over, life would go on - as sinful and shameful as lustful orgies had ever made it!"

Wow - gives new meaning to the expression, "I gave at the office!

Now if only I could find this companion volume:

Cheap Stories
"All the best parts from the worst books"

On a related note, these books inspired me to dig out and listen to my cassette tape Cheap Stories ("The best parts of the worst books") by Wheaton, MD-based Dave Nuttycombe and the Travesty/Teen Comedy Party lads. (I think you can still get this tape by sending $10 check or money order payable to West Production Services, Inc., P.O. Box 2810, Merrifield, VA 22116). It features the best parts of the worst "adult" novels of the '40s, '50s, and '60s, read to the accompaniment of smokey bongo jazz. Includes readings from Out For Kicks, Shabby Street, Nautipuss, The Bigamists, Virgin In Blue Jeans, Commie Sex Trap, and more. Winner of the Best Humor Award from the Washington Post's Vic Sussman, who said, "Cheap Stories is one of the funniest tapes I've heard in years...A must for all true lovers of American popular culture." I remember I sent a color copy of the cover of Nude Man in Jazz Town to Dave Nuttycombe years ago after he told me he considered it the Holy Grail of these naughty nightstand books.

Related links:
Robert Bonfils Paperback Cover Art

Related audio:
Cheap Stories: All the Best Parts from the Worst Books
by Dave Nuttycombe of Teen Comedy Party/Travesty-Brand Fine Products

Related readings:
Sin-a-rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties
Queer Pulp: Perverted Passions from the Golden Age of the Paperback
Young Lusty Sluts: A Pictorial History of Erotic Pulp Fiction
Bad Girls of Pulp Fiction

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My Brain Damage: Who Would Notice?

I banged my head hard against a wood beam in the attic this past Sunday so, at the urging of friends (especially in the wake of Natasha Richardson's recent death from a skiing accident head injury), I went to Patient First to get checked out. yes, I had headaches and, yes, I felt a bit spacey the day after, but that could maybe just be attributed to sinuses and too much coffee, right? Anyway, I went to Patient First to get checked out and I loved the doc's analysis.

Patient First doctor's analysis of my head injury:
"You probably lost a few brain cells, but whaddya gonna do?"

My analysis of the injury:
"I probably lost a few brain cells, but given my prior mental state, who would notice the difference?"

Kill Bill: The 1-Minute Version

I love this. Found it posted on my new favorite allthingsasian blog, DISGRASIAN™.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Baltimore Babylon

The Terrors of Tinytown: Sex, Sleaze, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and Other Nefarious and Notorious Goings-On

(Baltimore City Paper, December 2, 1992)

As part of my Spring Cleaning this weekend, I ran across this old article I worked on with fellow Baltimore City Paper scribes Tom Chalkley (who also drew the pictures), David Dudley, Mike Guiliano, Brennen Jensen, and Michael Yockel. I'm posting it here because I don't think the City Paper ever uploaded it to their online archives. Which is too bad, because I love scandals and it's one of the best run-downs of Baltimore's Hall of Shame. So take a gander at our Rogue's Gallery of Charm City Charmers like Spiro T. Agnew, Wally Orlinksy, Clarence Mitchell III, William Zantzinger, Joan "Dragon Lady" Bereska, Alice Pinderhughes, Jeffrey and Karol Levitt, B104 DJ Willie B, Patterson Park investigative journalist Marty Bass, B'more political oddity Monroe "That's a bunch of junk!" Cornish, and child-molesting serial killer Arthur Goode. You'll have to click on the images to enlarge them (sorry, I'm not very good with scanning stuff in!).

Baltimore Babylon left cover

Baltimore Babylon right cover

Baltimore Babylon page 1

Baltimore Babylon page 2

Baltimore Babylon page 3

Baltimore Babylon page 4

Baltimore Babylon page 5

Baltimore Babylon page 6

Baltimore Babylon page 7

Baltimore Babylon page 8

Baltimore Babylon page 9

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Spring Cleaning Redux

More Documents and Detritus from the Domicile-Dustbin

As the Spring Cleaning project continues, I find more forgotten files, decaying documents and rusting ruminations...

Here's my 1996 City Paper review of Todd Stachowski's band The Rock Stars...

"A Rock Star Is Born":
Todd Stachowski Creates a New Shock Wave
No Cover column
City Paper, February 28, 1996

Hmmmm, this scrap was interesting because it has two of my zine reviews for Eileen Murphy in the City Paper's old "Imprints" column. I loved Selwyn Harris' sleazily snarky Happyland (and I kinda loved culture cutie Eileen Murphy too, as I recall)...the Rock Beat International zine was a bonus discovery as it mentions two of my fave cult singer-songwriter heroes, Alex Chilton and local boy Tommy Keene. Incidentally, the editor and publisher of Rock Beat International is Geoff Cabin, who apparently is an even bigger Tommy Keene fanatic than I am; he recently published The Tommy Keene Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to the Music of Tommy Keene (iUniverse, 2007) - needless to say, an essential purchase for anybody keen on Keene.

Happyland and Rock Beat International
Imprints column
City Paper, September 13, 1995

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Maus in Haus Leads To Massive Kitsch Excavation

"Hercules" Warner earns his PhD (Piling Higher & Deeper)

Accumulated Decrepitude

My domicile is dicey thanks to an infestation of lil' miceys...so I took the advice of the exterminator (and my "Eeeeking!" girlfriend) and jump-started a massive Spring Cleaning operation, part of my No (Live) Mouse Left Behind initiative that will hopefully root the pesky little varmints out of their nesting areas - and Lord is this reformed Packrat's home a rodent's paradise, with piles upon piles of books, zines,CDs, videos, DVDs and magazines (not to mention carry-out menus of restaurants that went out of business decades ago!) scattered throughout the "living" quarters.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

It wasn't only the mice I was afraid of; I feared that I was turning into a middle-aged version of "Kent the Hipster" in The Onion's famous kitsch-collecting put-down spoof "Family Unsure What To Do With Dead Hipster's Possessions" (you know him/me: the guy with Mexican wrestler masks, Herb Alpert LPs, "a poster of some movie called Urgh!...stacks of old cereal boxes...Hello Kitty pillows...a slew of plastic toys that don't work...and an accordion with no straps" - check, check, check, check, check, check and check!). So, armed with a broom, dustbin and a hefty amount of Hefty trash bags, I metamorphasized into Mr. Clean and stormed the gates of my Trash Palace in order to reclaim it in the name of cleanliness and peace of mind (not to mention keeping my girlfriend!). And my Herculean efforts to clean out the Augean stable of my own making has already paid off, as I've excavated many treasures buried under piles of dust, dirt mildew and grime. Like...

X Marks the Byline

...my very first byline for the Baltimore City Paper, an October 1982 story about adult film star Annie Sprinkle's visit to The Little X Theatre on Howard and Franklin Streets, back in her pre-"Post-Porn Feminist" period. The Little X Theatre, nee The Little Theatre, is now a parking lot that I pass every day on my way to and fro work. But back in the day on this very spot of asphalt, Annie thrilled audiences with her "Bosom Ballet" performance and received their hearty one-handed applause in return. (Alas, typical me, there's a typo in my print debut, with Annie referred to as Ms. Sprinkles, plural, instead of her singular self. Hmmmft, who was the proofreader back then?)

Little Oral Annie

A Clutch of Comics

I also discovered a box of cool comics, many from obscure publishers like Charlton and Tower Comics, the oldest dating back to 1950 and featuring my personal faves, those little Aryan antagonists The Katzenjammer Kids:

The Katzenjammer Kids strip was created by German immigrant Rudolph Dirks but by the 1940s the series was drawn by Harold Knerr. The 1950 issue pictured above was actually a reprint of 1946 comic drawn by Knerr and published by Standard Comics.

I even found a Norwegian version of Archie! How or why I came to own this is beyond me, but it's pretty cool in a non-essential way.

Speaking of knock-offs, I found a Tippy Teen spin-off comic featuring her friends "Go-Go" and "Animal," the latter an obvious clone of Archie's lummox jock "Moose." It was published by Tower Comics.

Tippy Teen's pals Go-Go and Animal

Bobby, David & Susan

I also found a 1972 Bobby Sherman comic - did I buy this in 1972 in a latent homo phase or did I pick it up secondhand as a latter-day hipster in the 80s or 90s? (Full disclosure: yes, I'm ashamed to say that I was a full-blown hipster during this period of pointless accumulation.) Or was it possibly my sister's? The mind boggles...

The Bobby Sherman comic was chock-full of ads for David Cassidy and Susan Dey memorabilia, reminding me that this was the golden era of ersatz TV rock stars (The Partridge Family, The Monkees, Sherman's Here Come the Brides).

Susan Dey will change your life!

A must for all girls!

David wants YOU!

David's Super L-U-V

If only David and Susan had answered this ad
and learned to play "real" music!


I also found my premiere ish of Marvel Comics' The A-Team...

I pity the fool who collects these!

The Love Racket

I found a tennis romance comic from the '60s (note the wooden racquet with wood press)!

Game, Set, Love Match

And speaking of strange sports...how 'bout the Devil bringing the heat from the pitcher's mound? (The Tampa Bay Devil Rays pale in comparison!)

War Is Hell - And Good Entertainment!

But the real gem I found in the comics bag has to be this '50s Korean War-era Men's Adventures comic filled with stories of warfare, suspense and danger. It was published by Atlas Comics, the '50s publishing company that would evolve into Marvel Comics.

I like the distinctive artwork and Cold War propaganda-filled narrative of the opening Korean War story, "Communist!" in which the North Korean protagonist proudly proclaims "Yes, I am communist! I was born a communist and am living as a communist...and will die a communist for that is the only way of life..." Click on the images below to enlarge and read along comrades!

"Communist!" page 1

What a gorgeous opening page. According to the signature at the bottom, this strip was drawn by Sam Burlockoff, who worked at MLJ Magazines in the early '40s on Zip Comics series like The Shield and The Web and later moved to Quality where he inked Blackhawk, Captain Triumph and Plastic Man around 1946. He worked for National for about 3 years in the early '50s, mostly on war comics like these. One of his few superhero assignments was working on the Superman 3-Dimension Adventures book.

"Communist!" page 2

I like the comments in the bottom right panel about "In a capitalist country like America, there live only gangsters who shoot at people night and day" (sounds like Baltimore - but this was way before Homicide, The Corner and The Wire!) and "People there live in filth and squalor, digging into the garbage of the rich for food!" (now it really sounds like the area around my work - who knew?).

"Communist!" page 3

"Communist!" page 4

"Communist!" page 5

"Communist!" page 6

Hipster Mea Culpea

Finally, if there was any doubt about my unfortunate hipster "Man About Town" phase, I unearthed a box of custom stationary I made in 1997 or 1998 (whenever it was that I turned 40). Going by the tone, I was quite the smug ass then. One page actually had a bogus press release underneath the letterhead (in which I'm described as a "Leisure Consultant," next to a graphic of a slacker with his feet propped up on a desk) that I made up as a goof when I started working at GSE Systems (I liked that gig; I was a consultant and later was hired on board full-time, but the tech bubble burst and I became "redundant" - as the Brits call it.) What hyperbole in the text - I must have ripped it off from somewhere as it's way too clever by far to be something I came up with! Still, it elicited a smirk from me when I reread it. (Wait - maybe this bogus press release actually got circulated at GSE Systems and that's why I was laid off to enjoy full-time "leisure consulting"!).

Tom Warner: Leisure Consultant, Man About Town & Sultan of Smarm

I like the lines: "His wit and aplomb in every situation conceivable let him glide effortlessly between the glitter of high society and the depths of the underworld. The kind of overdone coolness that even a Sinatra or Shatner have to work hard at came naturally to Tom Warner...Let's welcome Tom Warner to the fold and realize that's just a matter of time before this Man About Town becomes Big Man Around Office"! Oh the irony...as that BMAO is now humbly serving the citizens of Baltimore as an insignificant, lowly librarian!

But don't worry, all of these lost and found treasures will be soon disposed of at flea markets, on eBay - or whisked into that dustbin and deposited in the trash! I'm cleaning up my act!

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