Monday, December 27, 2010

I'm Never Alone with My Clones

My "Separated At Birth" Doppelganger List (Updated)

Thanks to Cecilia Strakna for the latest sightings of my separated-at-birth siblings, like Martina Navratilova...

Me and Martina (I'm the one on the right)

and Tom Petty...

Nothing petty about this comparison: Me and TP

Yes, the Martina comparison is frightingly spot-on, and I used to get Tom Petty comments all the time when I was younger, gaunt-er (is that a word?) and had more - and longer - of my trademark straggly hair. It used to be every African-American person I met would call me either "Tom Petty" or, back when I played pick-up basketball, "Larry Bird" - the latter comparison inevitably forcing me to reply, "I'm flattered, but you'll soon see my game is more Chucky Driesell [former Maryland Terrapins coach Lefty Driesell's talent-challenged/benchwarming son] than Bird!"

Of course, I naturally prefer Lori Heddinger's pic of my blue-eyed twin, Paul Newman:

Me and Paul Newman (FYI, I'm on the left)

OK, fair enough. Add 'em to my ever-growing list...This isn't my list, but one comprised of people I've been told I resemble - most comparisons here come from high-functioning mentally deficient peeps, though some are courtesy of normal people who weren't dropped on their heads as babes.

Team Doppleganger: Wuz We Separated At Birth?

This is me. Now check out the rest of my alleged clones.

1. Carson Kressely

"Lemme blow ya - a kiss!"

My Couture Cousin from TV's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I'm a better dresser though (Carson is too into flaming pastel threads!).

2. Keith Urban

I wish! Dude looks like a lost brother of the Gibb Brothers Tribe. The Country & Western-loving bagger lady at Eddie's insists I look like him. (Was this middle-aged grandma hitting on me?)

3. Julian Sands

We both have that manly, Slavic jaw thing going on, like something only a Cubist painter or Rock 'Em-Sock 'Em Robot would envy. Oh yeah, and that Flying V receding hairline thang is definitely going on as well!

4. Bob (Frank Silva) from TWIN PEAKS

Fear me!

5. Charlie Watts

Definitely. And I played drums, too! Wait - or should that line be: "But unlike me, Charlie could actually play drums"?

6. Martin Short

Guess it's the schnozzola. I used to work as a contractor at BGE and this Jamaican guy there would always greet me at the coffee machine with a "Greetings, Mr. Marteen Short, mon!"

7. Nick Gilder

Hmmm, maybe when I had long hair and my youthful cheeks were more sullen and gaunt. Does anyone even remember "Hot Child in the City"? These days I'm more like "Old Man in the Suburbs."

8. The Greaseman (DC 101 DJ Don Tracht,

When his hair thinned, he kinda looked like me on Steroids. Always loved the Greaseman - better than his old station mate Howard Stern, for my money!

9. Kato Kaehlin

Exhibit A: Classic longhair edition

Exhibit B: Nouveau shorthair edition

Conair the Barbarian! I can certainly see a resemblance, though Kato looks smarter.

10. William Hurt

All I know is, the resemblance is Hurt-in' me bigtime.

11. David Spade

I do love his "No Can Do" attitude!

12. Southside Johnny of Asbury Jukes fame

God what an ugly fucker! Let's move on, shall we?...

13. Bill Maher

I don't see this one at all, but there's this pain-in-the-ass regular at the library who I detest who insists that I look like Bill Maher - probably just to (further) annoy me. Again, as with Martin Short, I think it has to do with my studly schnozz. (You know what they say: big nose, big...nostrils!)

14. Gary Numanesque Alien from made-for-TV doc FUTURE SHOCK.

OK, I made that last one up (taking a pic from the little known 1972 documentary based on Alvin Toffler's book Future Shock and featuring narration by Orson Welles from his I-Need-A-Paycheck period) - but only because of my triskadekaphobia (I needed a #14!). My girlfriend Amy says this looks like a mummified Incan child. (I didn't ask her if that was turn-on or not.) Personally, this dude reminds me more of Paul Williams. Either way, it's an improvement over Southside Johnny!


Well, there you have it People Watchers. I neglected to mention the junkie guy at the library who once quipped that I looked a lot like "This dude I knew who got shot in the face" (he didn't specify whether I looked like the guy before or after his face got blown away), but I left that one off because no picture (and possibly no face) was available to post. Please lemme know if you can think up any more. Suggestions are always welcome. But please limit submitted likenesses to mammals.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

2010 Pratt Book Sale

I Came. I Saw. I Was Picky

Enoch Pratt Central Library
December 3-5, 2010

I was disappointed by this year's Annual Book Sale at the Enoch Pratt Central Library. Whether it can be attributed to self-discipline (I made sure to limit my bibliographic consumption because I have WAY TOO MANY books at home!) or the lack of quality selections on offer, I only picked up a few thrift scores this time around.

Plus, prices doubled this year from 25 cents to 50 cents for paperbacks, $1 for hardbacks, and $2 per tape/disc for videos, DVDs and CDs - of which the only bargains to be found (e.g., a DVD of South Park Complete Season 1 or a CD of Big Star's #1 Record/Radio City) were gone after the first hour on Friday, December 3. Thankfully, one of them was...


Condition: Donor gift
Cost: $2

Rarities is a 1988 compilation album by The Stranglers that was released by EMI (who acquired the back catalogues of the Stranglers's former record labels United Artists and Liberty). It covers recordings made between 1977 and 1981, of which my favorite tracks include the best-ever cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Walk On By" (produced by Martin Rushent and with Dionne Warwick standing in for Hugh Cornwall on the single picture sleeve)...

"Walk On By" EP (United Artists, 1978)

...and "Sverige" - the Swedish-language single version of Black and White's "Sweden" (the only country where, according to erstwhile resident Hugh Cornwall, "the clouds are interesting") with its irresistable bass line and catchy chorus ("Jag är insnöad pa östfronten!")...

"Let me tell you about Sweden
The only country where the clouds are interesting
Big brother says it is the place for you
Too much time to think, too little to do
Too much time, too little to do
I'm snowed in on the Eastern Front

The change is the minimum
Hypochondriac tombstone
The sense of humor is lost somewhere
Cumulus numbus for you
The change is the minimum
Hypochondriac tombstone
Big brother says it is the place for you
I'm snowed in on the Eastern Front"

(Um, I guess Hugh didn't care much for Sweden - he lived there way before Wallender and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo made the land of meatballs and black metal somewhat interesting.)

(Watch this fun fan video of the "Sverige.")

...not to mention the sublime "Vietnamerica," "Choosey Susie" (which Buzzcocks fanatic Amy Linthicum says sounds like a sped-up version of Pete Shelley's "Are Everything"), the instro "Meninblack," and two of the least compiled Stranglers tracks - the extended 12" versions of "Bear Cage" and "Shah-Shah-a-Go-Go." The two "Celia and the Mutations" songs - a cover of Tommy James & The Shondells "Mony Mony" and "Mean To Me" - date from the period when The Stranglers backed London torch singer Celia Gollin.

The Stranglers have Celia Gollin's back

The electronic tape manipulations in "Yellowcake UF6" (the B-side of their 1979 single "Nuclear Device") reminded me of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Revolution #9" knob-noodlings on The White Album, though I think only Yoko could enjoy repeated listenings to this...

...while the version of "Peaches" on offer here, in which Hugh Cornwall sings "Looks like I'll be here all Summer, Oh what a Summer!" instead of "Oh what a bummer!" violated my friend Dave Cawley's First Rule of Lyrical Rhyming. "Repeating the same word twice does not constitute a rhyme!" Dave (pictured right) screeched upon first listen. "That's just stupid!" Still, Hugh's verbal faux pas did not detract from Dave's vociferous praise of Mr. Cornwall's recent performance at the Ottobar.



Condition: Ex-libris paperback
Cost: 50 cents

Jeff Yang has great credentials for this subject matter, having run a magazine for Asian-Americans called A and penning the essential pan-Asian pop culture guide, Eastern Standard Time.

It's funny, I had checked this book out of the library and browsed through it when I was researching Shaw Brothers films and when I picked up this particular copy, I noticed someone had left an e-mail printout in the book as a bookmark. Being nosey, I read through the e-mail and - it was mine! Apparently, I had applied for a job at Hopkins in 2005. (I guess I didn't get the gig.)


Condition: Used paperback, gift copy
Cost: 50 cents

This is the critically acclaimed biography of The Most Famous Chinese Man In History that was written by former Elvis Costello & The Attractions bass player Bruce Thomas - who studied and practiced martial arts before famously getting kicked out of the Attractions after criticizing Costello's B.O. in an interview. Elvis expert Amy Linthicum says it's a good one. (The next time Elvis Costello comes to town, I'm gonna try to get mine signed by Mr. McManus!)


Condition: Gift copy
Cost: 50 cents
Rarity: Out of print

When I flipped through it and saw one of the few reviews I've ever seen of Otto Preminger's notorious 1968 cult counterculture bomb Skidoo, it became an essential purchase. The film is famous for its scene of The Great One, Jackie Gleason, dropping acid in prison; but more interesting to me is the fact that fellow cast member Groucho Marx - who plays no less a figure than God! - took LSD to prepare himself for the role as The Greater One. (He scored the little white tablets from Paul Krassner, as he recalls in his 1993 autobiography Confessions of a Raving Unconfined Nut.) Carol Channing Mickey Rooney, George Raft, Frank Gorshin, Frankie Avalon, Peter Lawford, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero and and John Phillip Law also fill out the mis-cast cast in this mess of a movie that's rightly "celebrated" here.

(In its defense, Skidoo does feature an interesting soundtrack by Harry Nilsson, and may be the first film in which the end credits - key grip and all - are entirely sung! The song title is, aptly enough, "Cast and Crew" and can be heard here on YouTube.)

Yes indeed, all the "monolithic mediocrities, big budget bonfires, formula failures, and camp classics" are here, from Joseph Losey's Boom! (a John Waters favorite) to Antonioni's Zabriskie Point. A wonderful time-waster of a tome about time-wasters!

THE FINAL FOUR OF EVERYTHING edited by Mark Reiter and Richard Santomir

Condition: Gift copy
Cost: 50 cents

A silly but fun book that takes the format of the NCAA's "March Madness" bracketology to its logical conclusion with non-sporting events - everything, in fact, BUT basketball! Like cereals, bald guys, movie gunfights, First Ladys, celebrity mugshots, sports nicknames, literary heroes, etc.

Hey, I just thought of one that wasn't in the book - a Final Four of "Rock Bass Players Who Practice Martial Arts." So far I've only got ex-Attractions four-stringer Bruce Thomas vs. Stranglers low-noter Jean Jacques Burnel, who's a black belt in dan karate and head of Shiokan UK (continuing his fascination with all things Asian - he also composed and performed music for the Japanese anime series Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo). I have no idea who would win. Wait - didn't Elvis Presley play bass when the Beatles came to call at Graceland? Hmmmm...King trumps chump...

Karate King Elvis

Garage Sale bass Dave Cawley merits mention for his "Pink Flamingo"-style woo-hoo wushu, but having seen him lose arm-wrestling bouts to arthritic middle-aged waitresses, cannot be taken seriously as a Final Four contender.


Condition: ex-libris
Cost: $1

I'll buy that for a dollar! I used to love Keith's rants during George W. Bush's "Reign of Error," most of which are collected here. Keith's become a little too over-the-top and sanctimoniously smug - albeit still brutally clever and delightfully mean-spirited at times - since then (as brilliantly parodied by Ben Affleck - the best performance of his life, IMHO - during his Saturday Night Live appearance), but I nevertheless picked this up for my brother, because he still loves the MSNBC daily lineup of Hardball, Countdown, and The Rachel Maddow Show (my current fave).

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Dagenham Dave

A random discussion with Dave Cawley over Thai food this past Sunday touched on the Golden Age punk band The Stranglers and their ill-fated No. 1 fan, Dagenham Dave - who was storied in the Stranglers song of the same name on the LP No More Heroes (United Artists, 1977).

The Stranglers: "No More Heroes" (1977)

It's an interesting song (and story) because I had never heard of this Manchester coal miner's son - who relocated to the London suburb of Dagenham and was rechristened "Dagenham Dave" by Stranglers's leader Hugh Cornwall - until I read Dave Thompson's excellent punk memoir London's Burning: True Adventures on the Front Lines of Punk, 1976-1977, in which Thompson commented:
"In many ways, he reminded me of Sid Vicious, a nice guy who couldn't distinguish the person he was from the world in which he was suddenly living...Sober he was fine, friendly and polite. But drunk - and he got drunk a lot - he could pick a fight in an empty room, and he could usually count on winning...Sid wound up cold and dead in a New York hotel room, with an armful of smack and a murder charge hanging over his head; Dave ended his days stuck in the mud at the bottom of the River Thames, after throwing himself off Tower Bridge, the final act in a tragedy..."

Dave Thompson's punk memoir "London's Burning"

That tragedy's final act occurred on February 9, 1977, though Dave's body was stuck in the mud for several weeks before it was discovered. A few weeks after that, The Stranglers added "Dagenham Dave" to their repetoire. So what led to Dave's Demise? Chiswick Charlie, Duncan Doughnuts & Bren Gun (Dagenham Dave's girlfriend Brenda - as rechristened again by Hugh Cornwall) pick up the story for web site
"Dave liked New Wave (Punk) music but he couldn't really identify with the punters. It was about this time that The Stranglers befriended a group of punks in a Finchley pub called the Torrington, and they started to come regularly to gigs. Hugh named the the Finchley Freds, later to be known simply as the Finchley Boys.

This was the first time anyone had challenged Dave's position within the framework of the band. Suddenly, someone else was telling the jokes and playing the fool. Dave reacted immediately by picking a fight with them during the gig a gig at the 100 Club while the Stranglers performed onstage. Dave took on about seven Finchley Boys in a fight which nobody won, he broke two ribs and chipped a bone in the corner of his right eye, It was the beginning of the end.

It was now 1977 and the Stranglers had finally got their record deal with United Artists which was a great triumph for them and everyone who believed in them from the start. Dave was present during the recording of Rattus Norvegicus and didn't think twice about telling producer Martin Rushent the way he thought the Stranglers should sound. Brenda, his long suffering lady, could no longer take any more and she left Dave to live with her mother in Sussex. Dave begged her to come back but to avail.

So on the ninth of February 1977, Dave committed suicide by jumping off Tower Bridge into the icy cold water of the Thames.
Some people may think of Dave as a hero, but I knew that is not the way he would have wanted it. I thought Dave was a really great bloke and that's all that matters."

Even though he's dead, Dagenham Dave lives on - on Facebook! Check out: Dagenham Dave the first Stranglers fan.

Morrissey's "Dagenham Dave" looks a lot like Terry Venables

Just to confuse matters, another Mancunian, one Steven Patrick Morrissey, recorded a single called "Dagenham Dave" (RCA, 1995) though it doesn't appear to be about the Stranglers's fan. It was the Mozzer's first release for RCA and featured former English football player (Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Queens Park Rangers) and coach Terry Venables, who was born in Dagenham, on the cover. The song also appears on Morrissey's Southpaw Grammar LP and the video can be watched on YouTube.

The Stranglers's "Dagenham Dave" lyrics:
Dave was from outer town
Manchester's likely too
Had read De Sade to Marx
More read than me and you
Scaffolding pays good bread
It pays for drugs and kicks
Dave only had one love
Had no real need for chicks
Dave was so far ahead
But now he's dead

I'm not going to cry
I bet he hit that water high

I guess he lost control
And welcomed in the night
It was too much for him
What were his thoughts that night
The river Thames is cold
It keeps on flowing on
But it left Dave alone
It just kept flowing on
There's certainly sickness here
But now he's dead

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