An in-store reading and book signing by Ben-Fong-Torres!
An On-stage interview with Willie Nelson by Ben Fong-Torres, Jukebox Jury w/ Jack Black from Tenacious D, and other highlights from the last Gavin Radio and Records Convention!
Show reviews of people from my "Almost Famous" LA past: Lowen & Navarro and Chuck E. Weiss!
Concert review of Grammy Award winning artist Nelly Furtado!
Show review and interview with Wayne Brady, star of ABC's "Whose Line Is It Anyway" and The Wayne Brady Show!
Greetings, faithful readers and entertainment junkies! Still playing catch up from the massive amount of shows 'n stuff I covered in February and March and will do my un-civil best to cram all of it into this humble little column. Thank you to all who came out to hear me do a double shot at The Salada Beach Cafe and The Four Provinces Irish Pub in the music capital of the world, Pacifica, CA, on April 6, including veteran KFRC radio DJ, (and Pacifica resident) Dave Sholin and familiar SF personality Ben Fong-Torres! Not sure where I'll perform next, but stay tuned! Those who are interested may purchase my CD "SYCAMORE STREET" by e-mailing me at email@example.com. It's a steal at ten bucks, baby, and I promise, if you are a pop fan, you won't be disappointed! Or log onto www.katelynbenton.com and purchase the CD of the same name and song by a very cute, talented 14 year old girl from Colorado I found by entering my name in a search engine on the internet!! Now that I've gotten them to license my song they used, I can get paid, thank you! Ya never know what's gonna happen next in the wacky world of Kimberlye "Almost Famous" Gold, folks...
Stay tuned next month for show reviews and /or interviews with Enrique Iglesias, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club , SF Chronicle film critic and pal Mick LaSalle's interview with Lana Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane at ACT and a few surprises! Till then...
Our illustrious publisher has informed us writers( by group e-mail) that he is cutting back all of our columns' length and frequency to make room for more ad space and comics. So although you may not be hearing from me as much, or as often, you are always in my heart, fans and foes!
"Puttin' On The Hits" A book reading and signing of "The Hits Just Keep On Comin'- A History Of Top 40 Radio" by Ben Fong-Torres at Booksmith, SF, February7, 2002
It was a dark and stormy night, filled with laughs a few surprises when former senior editor of Rolling Stone, Ben Fong-Torres came to hawk, I mean, talk about his book, "The Hits Just Keep On Comin': The History of Top 40 Radio" (Backbeat Books). Originally released at $29.95, he used to go to bookstores and slip people who bought it a few bucks, out of guilt. Now it's ten bucks cheaper and includes a CD of 16 legendary DJs, so he feels much better. He read the preface, detailing his early love affair with Top 40 radio as a child, what radio has meant to him, and several excerpts from the book and tapes of classic radio moments that had the diverse crowd of BFT fans enthralled and delighted.
Special guest, veteran KFRC DJ Bobby Ocean (not his real name, of course!) was on hand to spar with Ben, talk about today's radio scene, and tell stories, like the time he fell asleep, caused 37 minutes of dead air, and got fired. He's back on KFRC - for the 7th time, by his count! The high point was when they took turns "hitting the post", the art of talking over the intro of a song until the exact moment it starts. Easier said than done, even for these pros, who had everyone in stitches with their hits and misses over intros of classic songs like "Black Is Black" and "I'm Sorry". They offered a shot to anyone in the audience, but no one dared! Bobby graciously made on-the-spot cassette tapes for anyone who raised their hand, where he announced in that distinctive DJ voice, "(Insert name and city) on the Bobby Ocean show!" and then that familiar radio jingle "KFRC, San Francisco!" I had one made for my friend Rich Appel at Sony Music, NY, who is a big fan of his since his "Johnny Scott" (another fake name) days. If you're a Top 40 "Radio Head", ya gotta get this book!
"On The Road Again and Again..." an on-stage interview with Willie Nelson by Ben Fong-Torres (and other highlights) of the last Gavin Radio and Records Convention, The Hyatt Regency, SF, February 21, 2001
Gavin Magazine, a staple in the music industry for over two decades, played host for the last big three day schmooze-fest, on the heels of it's closing. Everyone who's anyone in the biz and/or could finagle a badge, showed up to attend seminars, panels, events, award ceremonies and meet, greet and eat ! This year, country music legend and renowned singer/songwriter Willie Nelson showed up to have an on-stage chat with that journalistic legend, Ben Fong-Torres, and to plug his new album, "The Great Divide", which is peppered with such diverse guest stars as Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock (!!). Wearing his trademark T-shirt, jeans, boots, bandana and braids, sixty-something, laid-back Willie told the "standing room only" crowd that he's "Not afraid of aging or death, but I ain't in no hurry to leave!" He smiled when asked about the passing of his dear friend and collaborator, Waylon Jennings, saying, "He had a positive and a negative side. Always tryin' to con me. We wore that 'outlaw' label with pride and I still do." Although he feels like country has "lost it's roots", he's heartened by the surprise Grammy wins for the soundtrack of the film "O Brother, Where Art Thou".
Some of his early jobs as a teen included: selling encyclopedias and DJ-ing at KHBR Radio in Hillsboro, TX. His grandmother told him he could play music," Just don't go on the road!" To her, 6 miles was "on the road".
On being prolific: Willie wrote "Funny How Time Slips Away", "Crazy" and "Nightlife" in one week. "It was a good week", he chuckled.
He wrote his book, "Facts Of Life & Other Dirty Jokes", in 30 days, mostly on the tour bus!
A couple of his crowning moments of glory in his four decade plus career: closing the Olympics with the Simon & Garfunkel song, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and the recent "Tribute For Heroes of Sept.11" with "America The Beautiful". "It's the power of music", he said, humbly.
When asked about having to declare bankruptcy several years ago and the IRS, Willie calmly replied, "They just didn't understand the situation." He paused, then added, "Don't ever pay for anything. If you pay for it, they'll take it.".
To keep fit, Willie jogs, rides his bike, doesn't smoke, uh, cigarettes. We know what he does like to smoke, and he still enjoys talking to fans after shows and taking them back to the bus. Okey dokey, Smokey!
When discussing his film career, including the acclaimed "Honeysuckle Rose" , BFT said, "Kimberlye Gold, entertainment editor for the SF Herald, told me they're showing a very funny movie on HBO that you had a cameo in, called 'Dill Scallion', sort of like the 'Spinal Tap' of country music." Willie said he didn't remember it! Ben asked the audience if they did and several people called out, "It was great!", "Loved it!". Thank God. (Willie must have been in a black out).
When Ben turned our man Willie over to the audience for a Q & A, he divulged his favorite Willie Nelson hit song : "Always On My Mind." When I asked how he came to record "To All The Girls I've Loved Before" with Julio Iglesias (Enrique's dad), he replied, "I heard this voice I loved on the BBC (radio) when I was in England, and I found out who it was and got his number and called him up! Brought him to Texas and we recorded it!"
Willie then treated the audience to a rockin' live set of old and new material with his veteran band from Nashville, including the title track of his new CD, "The Great Divide" and old stand-bys like his favorite "Always On My Mind" and "On The Road Again", which brought the house to it's collective feet.
After the set, Willie paused to sign autographs and have his picture taken. When it got to be my turn, I had a picture taken while he autographed a copy of the SF Herald with Nikka Costa's picture on the cover.(see www.sfherald.com under the "photo album" link) He put his arm around me, pulled me close and smiled, "How you doin'? Ya doin' all right?" Yeah, Willie. Willie still likes the ladies. I took a picture of Willie and a talented singer girlfriend of mine, who I promised I would not name, because rumor has it he grabbed her, uh, butt. "C'mon, was it a pat, just a tap?", I asked. "No way, it was a full hand grab", she confessed. No way was I leaving that out! Way to go, Willie!! I'll tell them Willie Boy was here, baby!!
Jukebox Jury w/ Jack Black from Tenacious D and other Gavin Convention highlights -
An audience of mostly alternative radio and record company fiesty folks were treated to a hilarious "rate-a-demo" contest by a panel of their peers, which included the star of movies such as "High Fidelity" and one half of the parody pop duo, Tenacious D, actor Jack Black. Audience members, who had to disclose whether or not they were "radio" or "non-radio" people - and the judges were provided with their own personal computers to rate the songs on a scale of 0 to 5 (the "suck/didn't suck factor") and a big screen on stage provided the results. The panel members then had to explain why they voted the way they did. Best comment, of course came from Jack Black, with that big mug of his,: "I gave it a 2 because it did sound marketable. But I would have preferred ... SILENCE!!" Too funny...Attended a meet 'n greet cocktail party, where I met a slew of radio and record company personalities, including Sterling James, nighttime DJ for Alice 103, who was really nice, asked me for my CD, and promised to listen.. At press time, she hasn't returned my call. Shocking. I'm sure she's busy...Went to an awards luncheon for AAA Radio, where media darling Ryan Adams and his people won almost everything. (Except U2 won "Band of the Year") I gave them all copies of the Herald with my review of his CD and SF show. I'm sure they were all impressed. John Eddie's (another alumni from this column - see www.sfherald.com under my columnist" link) manager won "Independent Promoter of the Year". When I congratulated her, she invited me to see John Eddie's show at Slim's that night. Since I've never heard from him again either, and after what I wrote about him in my last column, I politely, uh, didn't show...
"Almost Famous - L.A. & Beyond"
I have direct "A.F." connections to both of these acts and you can read about them on www.sfherald.com under my columnist link in the very first "Almost Famous Round I"!! Here it is, a couple decades later, they're still playing and recording and here I am writing about it. Life is stranger than fiction...
Eric Lowen & Dan Navarro, while probably not household names, did write a song for someone that was : "We Belong" for 80's rock diva Pat Benatar. I used to work with these guys in a "performing" restaurant in LA in the early 80's called The Great American Food And Beverage Company, which turned out the likes of actual household names like Vonda Shepard and Rickie Lee Jones. Lowen & Navarro, an acoustic guitar playing duo who sound kind of like Simon and Garfunkel and look kind of like a dressed down, flannel-shirted Hall & Oates, were prolific, talented singer/songwriters back then and they still are. I've actually seen them play in NY and Nashville several times over the years, as well - all of us former G.A.F.& B.-er's come out of the woodwork all around the world over and over again, it seems, according to their manager Mike Gormley (who used to manage the Bangles and Concrete Blonde!)
Although they haven't achieved fame on a mega-hit basis as artists, they do indeed have a very loyal fan base and following, as was evident on this night during their 2 (!) hour long sets. Old songs that I still remember liking , like "All is Quiet Out Tonight" and "Seven Bridges Home" still resonate - these guys harmonize like a well oiled machine after so many years playing together - and the new material was just as good. (Note to Eric: Have you ever looked in the mirror when you play guitar? You're a good looking guy in a sort of "William Hurt w/ long hair-in-a-beret" kinda way. Please stop making those "old man-with-no-teeth" faces! It's so distracting!)
They also still do this thing at the end of the set where they come out into the house and play a bunch of songs unplugged, walking through the audience, most of whom knew the words and sang along. Nice, but a little "Cumbaya-ish". Felt like I was at summer camp for a minute. (Maybe because the Freight & Salvage doesn't serve alcohol, not even wine and beer. What's up with that?) But if you like that sort of thing, they are plugging a" Lowen & Navarro Cruise" (!!) - I mean really plugging it, with a color brochure - and apparently lots of people pay lots of money and have a great time holding hands and swaying to their tunes on a boat. They have a new live CD, too. Hey, where's my "Kimberlye Gold Cruise", man - I wanna serenade some boat people, too! Sign me up, baby!
Opening the show was an Australian singer/songwriter named Anne McCue, a pleasant, if rather sedate performer who is now opening for Lucinda Williams. Everybody seemed happy to see me after the show, took copies of the Herald and my CD, and said they'd stay in touch. No one has - except manager Mike e-mailed me about Aussie Annie's upcoming shows. Go figure.
Still Love that Chuck...
Remember the Rickie Lee Jones song, "Chuck E.'s In Love"? Well, Chuck E. Weiss is a real live cool guy, an ultimate hipster from way back who has played music and is friends with cats like Tom Waits and the late Muddy Waters. I used to go see him play at a club in LA every Monday night for years in LA called The Central. (Now it's owned by actor Johhny Depp and it's called the Viper Room.) Chuck was always the epitome of cool. A be-bopper, a hepcat daddy-o. What he lacked in stature, he made up for miles in style: dark hair, dark shades , retro dressin', cool shoe wearin', swingin', gravel voiced dude who always had the baddest ass players in town sittin' in and playin' in his bands. Always put on a show, never disappointed. His cool always had an edge, an element of crazy. Wacky lyrics about weird-ass people, places 'n things, placed in between killer arrangements of swing, blues, New Orleans swampy soul and funk - the ridiculous and the sublime. Sample title: "Cub Scout Suit (With The Butt Cut Out)". He never took himself too seriously, even though cool was serious biz-ness, and was very soft spoken off stage. I dug Chuck.
I hadn't seen Chuck since 1990 when I moved to NYC, and when I heard he had a new CD out called "Old Souls & Wolf Tickets"(Slow River/Rykodisc Records) and was going to be in town, playing at Slim's during the Gavin Convention, I had to check out Chuck's scene, man! A sad and shocking note: his best friend in the world and his musical soulmate for years, sax player Spyder Mittleman passed away a couple years ago and made his last appearance on many of these tracks.( I was in another band with Spyder back in the 80's for a minute called St. Theodore & The Sinners.) He was a great guy and a wonderful musician. Tragic. I spoke to Chuck right before the set, still dressed so retro- cool, even smaller and more soft spoken than I remembered. Although he wasn't sure who I was at first (it had been over 12 years and I'm a blonde now!), the first thing he said to me was, "Y know, my buddy's gone", so I knew he remembered. He seemed glad to see me, but I didn't want to bum him out, so I gave him a copy of the 1st Herald he was in, a quick hug, and let him get ready to get his groove on .
It was weird - like no time had passed at all. Same great band for the most part, including Don Heffington from Lone Justice on drums and Tony Gilkyson (who co-produced the CD) from X on guitar, still looking and sounding amazing - and Chuck: same be-boppin' hand gestures and body movements, same hepcat, daddy-o vibe, same timeless, ageless gravelly voiced character with new songs that were just as cool, wacked out and fun as the old ones that I recognized. Time warp, totally. The new CD is not to be missed, if any of this has caught your fancy so far, and it should. Songs like "Two-Tone Car" and "Sneaky Jesus" rival anything relating to what's supposedly hip - on or off the radio. Chuck is a true original -God broke the mold with him. What this guy needs is a TV show, an "Ally McBeal" or a house band gig on a show like Letterman. For G-d Damned sake, somebody go find him one!!
"Go Nelly!" Nelly Furtado live at The Warfield, SF, February 15, 2002 and a review of her CD "Whoa Nelly!"
For once, I'm actually glad to be running so far behind schedule. Why? Because I have had some extra time to savor a wildly popular, now Grammy award-winning artist and I am happy to report: Nelly Furtado deserves every bit of hype and praise that has been heaped upon her, and she can add mine to her list of accolades. Now previous to this show, I had only heard her two singles off her CD "Whoa Nelly", the ridiculously catchy "I'm Like A Bird" (which I had heard her sing on some award show last year and was not overly impressed) and the even more catchy "Turn Out The Light" and I was pretty certain these had to be the best of the batch and the rest was probably filler. I was wrong, big time. This 23 year old Canadian born, Portuguese singer/songwriter has blended a myriad of diverse styles: Latin, hip hop, pop, rock, R&B, you name it, it's in there - and it all goes down like candy. And not just 5 & dime candy, mind you - but really fine, expensive chocolate that stays on the palate and delights for awhile. This girl is not just another flash-in-the-pan hot new artist - she's a songwriter - and a good one. I dare anyone to listen to this CD more than once and not have the line "There's a shadow in the sky/and it looks like rain" from the opening song "Hey Man" or the chorus hook of "Trynna Find A Way" or come to think of it, some part of every one of these songs stuck smack in center of their head, groovin' to the beats. And this cutie patootie is not just a party girl - she does have something to say, with attitude and style and originality. The production on this CD is stellar, contemporary, yet allowing all those different influences to set it apart, and her quirky, fun voice with the almost Billie Holliday-esque vibrato and the surprising nuances is mixed perfectly, throughout. I've listened to this CD a whole bunch and I'm gonna spin it a bunch more, along with the rest of the masses.
I was in a bad mood the night of her show at the Warfield: I'd worked all day and was tired and cranky and the last place I felt like being was in a club. The nice publicist at Dreamworks was able to get me his last ticket available at the last minute, so I hadn't listened to the CD yet and did not know what to expect. The multi-ethnic sold-out crowd was very young and I felt about 100 years old, which I did expect. (I can work it w/ the best of 'em, though.). A (young) guy at my table saw me writing and pointed out a gum-chewing Carlos Santana and his entourage seated in the back. Cool. I thought maybe he was going to sit in, like he does with the entire pop universe these days, but he was just there as a fan, unfortunately for us.
Much to my surprise - Nelly Furtado snapped me the hell out of my funk and won me over with hers. Dressed in flashy rainbow colors, with her trademark low-slung pants and big hoop earings, her effervescent, high energy stage presence and cute-as-hell appeal were just impossible to resist, even for a deadbeat like me that night. The audience adored and worshipped her as she led her very large band and dancers through a tight and well paced 90 minute show. She did it all: acknowledging the folks in each corner of the balcony and all over the room, prancing over to every part of the stage at some point, and coaxing the fans to sing entire sections of songs. It didn't feel calculated, it felt like it was her party and you could come if you wanted to! She kept up with her dancers during an entertaining early 90's medley of songs including "Poison" by Bel Biv Devoe "Push It" by Salt 'n Pepa, and "Jump" by Kris Kross, this 23 year old's ode to her generation's "classic soul" songs. She strapped on acoustic and electric guitars on various songs like "Trynna Find Away" and "Turn Out The Lights" and sang very well for the most part, better than I had anticipated. The sound was a bit muddy and throughout the set, unfortunately, and she hit a couple notes that weren't letter perfect - but Nelly's genuine exuberance transcended it all. I had to admit it, she was adorable. I was sold. If you're one of the few unintiated left, go out and get "Whoa Nelly" live or on CD -and have some fun, damn it!
"Super Wayne's World!" Wayne Brady live at the Warfield, SF, and a chat after the show March 8, 2002
Some people are born with God given talent. In one area, or two, perhaps. They can sing, or dance. Maybe they're naturally funny, or a great actor. Or just great looking. Then there are others who are so multi-talented in so many areas, have so much going on, they appear to be super human, like maybe God messed up and gave too many gifts to one guy. Wayne Brady, co-star of the ABC improvisational comedy show "Whose Line Is It Anyway", hosted by Drew Carey, star of the recently cancelled "The Wayne Brady Show" and soon-to-be daytime talk show host, is guilty on all counts, baby! The man is just too damned good - at everything!
For those of you who have not witnessed this 28 year old, Florida born, handsome African American man's endless, almost uncanny abilities, you only need turn the TV on Thursday nights at 8pm to ABC, (and syndicated all over the dial) to catch what this lucky audience got to actually participate in. Improvisational comedy is a magical art form that when done right, is superior to almost any other entertainment I've witnessed - and I've seen a lot. Wayne and his merry band of young cohorts (not the "Whose Line" cast, but just as talented) took suggestions from the audience, bringing some members on stage: of people, places, things and situations - exactly the way they do on the television show and nailed every skit to hilarious and mind boggling effect. Whether it was movie styles, pop trivia, famous characters doing ridiculous things in the context of completely unrelated circumstances, they got it on the nose and had all of us in tears, laughing. One skit involved suggestions from the audience to do with Sean Connery, a horse, tomatoes, and Jennifer Lopez's butt - and Wayne got them all! The really frightening part is that he does everything so effortlessly: he sings really well, he is an excellent dancer, he makes up songs of any style on the spot, he doesn't miss a comic beat on anything, what is wrong with this guy?? There's gotta be something!
So after the show we went to find out: what makes this guy tick and it is there a catch, something fake? Is he maybe a jerk, is there a flaw anywhere?? Believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen, the answer is no. Because we had gotten review tickets at the last minute, I didn't have time to set up a proper interview, but this Wayne Brady was so cool, such a nice guy, he had them bring us back to his dressing room and was more than happy to give us a few minutes of his time. What a mensch..(I sent down a copy of the Herald, my business card and a flyer for my upcoming gig with my picture on it, so maybe that helped - who knows?)
Prepared for this potential occasion, I brought Wayne a "Kung Fu Hamster", which sang an "Alvin-esque" version of "Kung Fu Fighting" and did martial arts moves when you squeezed him. This went along perfectly with a skit they just happened to have done that night, based on audience suggestion, of course, about killer chipmunks invading the planet, and Wayne was delighted. "For me?!" he chimed, like a little kid on Christmas. I ruled!
I asked Wayne how the live show differs from the TV show, and if there is a lot of editing that is involved from week to week to get to the good stuff. This question fired Wayne up - obviously he gets asked this all the time - and he wants this on the record and the world to know: nothing is scripted or edited - ever!! "We do 2 1/2 hours for four shows. You can't fail. It's an imperfect art form, a tight-wire act. We all fly by the seat of our pants, on stage and in the audience. All audiences want is to be entertained, to be released from reality - and since 9/11, it's my mission to do that for them, more than ever before. You can go back out there and deal with the world - but while you're with me, you're gonna be entertained!"
When asked who his influences are, his response was somewhat surprising. "Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Kaye, Sidney Poitier, and Lawrence Oliver(!). It's not only about comedy, it's about good theater!" he said passionately.
His publicist tried in vain to spirit him away (he really did want to talk to us!) but the third time was a charm and sadly, it was time for us to bid Wayne farewell. He commented, "And you're a performer, too!" (my gig flyer, remember?) so I gave him my CD, which also seemed to please him. (This guy must take "nice pills" - or do a lot of Yoga or something.) He even apologized for not giving us more time and gave us his publicist's card to set up a real interview next time. As we were walking out, Wayne took his "Kung Fu Hamster" with him and squeezed it, doing the "Hah!" part of the song and striking a pose along his new furry friend. Priceless! Wayne's world - it's excellent!!
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