Round XIII - My Continuing Adventures As A San Francisco Entertainment Journalist
Enrique Iglesias (Julio's son) at the Paramount Theater!
Cheryl Crane (Lana Turner's daughter) on-stage interview with SF Chronicle's Mick LaSalle at ACT!
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Warfield and a chat before the show!
The Tubes at the Backbeat!
Siouxsie and the Banshees at the Fillmore!
Unsung Heroes 'N Zeroes!
Greetings, pop culture junkies and media hounds! Hard to believe, but summer's almost here - and "the hits just keep on comin'", as my friend Ben Fong-Torres so aptly stated in his book title (shameless plug and name drop - again!). I've been here, there and everywhere, covering the multi-generational gamut of entertainment! From the candid disclosures of offspring of movie pin-up queens of the silver screen - to the children of famous crooner/sex symbols who have achieved heartthrob status in their own right, I've got something in my goodie bag for everyone this month, folks! We got yer '80's bands attempting comebacks (an "Almost Famous" mainstay), yer 70's/80's bands that won't stop playing, and yer brand, spankin' new music making a splash and some serious waves. No matter what your scene is, baby, I aim to please!
I did attempt to cover the SF International Film Festival - since they sent me 9000 e-mails - but since they did not provide proper accreditation, I wasn't allowed to!! "Hi, check out all this cool stuff we have going on, but you can't come! No Kevin Spacey or Warren Beatty for you, baby! Read about it in the Chronicle!" Ce'La Vie, or as we Americans like to say, What!@#ever!
But despite that minor setback (because I am "all that"!) , I did get to attend the surprise 5oth birthday party of famed producer/songwriter, Narada Michael Walden (Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, etc.) at Harry Denton's hot new nightclub, ROUGE, located at 1500 Broadway (at Polk ) on April 23, thanks to publicist Steven Sodokoff at "Diamonds"( 415-647-1860). All the "invitation only" guests had to wear red to get in and it was quite the gala event to see and be seen. "'Nard", as his close friends call him, was holding court at the door, looking like "The African King", greeting each arriving guest with a warm hug and kiss, particularly warm if you were of the female persuasion. Right before he was led to the stage to perform a slammin' set with the all-star house band, he walked past me and took my hand and kissed it. After swooning properly, I introduced myself, wished him a happy birthday and we had a photo taken with my disposable camera. Perhaps it'll make it onto the SF Herald website (www.sfherald.com). Before leaving, I dropped a copy of the Herald with my card and my CD "Sycamore Street" on his gift table. Many happy returns, 'Nard!
Now without further adieu', I mean, ado...
"Like Father, Like Son" - Enrique Iglesias at The Paramount Theater, Oakland, April 1
Back in the day, Daddy Julio (not to be confused with "Coolio") used to make the ladies swoon with his "To All The Girls I've Loved Before", (dueting with our last month's man Willie Nelson).On this night, there was absolutely no doubt his hunky 26 year old son Enrique inherited all the right genes to fill out his tight brown leather ones - and I had the ringing eardrums to prove it. The sold-out house packed with mostly scantily clad, teenaged and twenty-something girls, writhed and screamed their bloody heads off the entire show like it was 1960-something at a Beatles concert! Oh yeah, one of them was playing down the street, this guy named Paul McCartney. Who I might have gone to see instead, if it wasn't for one of Enrique's guitar players being an old "friend" and co-writer of mine from New York, Tony Bruno. Tony and I wrote some great songs back in da '90's, and his previous gig before Enrique's was with Joan Jett (!) - go figure. Tony, who I haven't seen in years and had recently re-connected with some months back to resurrect our material, e-mailed me that he'd call when he got into town and have passes waiting for me, so I declared "friendship before music history", and went to check out Enrique's scene instead. No call, and no passes left for us, even after the attractive blonde girl who I gave my business card to at the stage door (who ended up being one of E's background singers) brought it downstairs to him. Waited until right before showtime. Thanks, Tony, you sure know how to make gal a feel special!!!@*%
Upon being seated, I observed a guy next to me hunched over a book, trying hard not to be noticed, and I leaned over and said, "You are so not an "Enrique Iglesias fan", who do you write for?" Turns out it was James Sullivan from SF Chronicle, and a really nice guy, to boot! Even after I admitted I dissed him in my January column for dissing my girl Macy Gray's last SF show (see www.sfherald.com under my "columnist" link).
To Enrique's credit, after three successful Spanish albums, this tour promoting "Escape", his second English-language album, firmly proves his crossover status into superstardom, if this show was any indication. Although I still don't get what the "burglar cap", faded t-shirt and chin stubble he sported had to do with being a sex god - was E having a bad hair day? Not that the all the little girls he was loving right now seemed to give a rat's you-know-what about. He did sing well and with supreme confidence, throwing in lots of sexy grunts and breathy voice cracks throughout his hits like, "Te Querio La Amor" and his 9/11 anthem, "Hero", new songs like the poppy, "Love To See You Cry" and odd choice 70's, 80's and 90's covers, like Prince's "Purple Rain" and Steve Miller's "The Joker" (why?). The flashy lighting and his giant band , including three guitarists, two keyboardists, drums, percussion and three background singers, provided a wild party atmosphere, gallivanting all over the stage and running amok, only bringing it down for a short acoustic set. Much of the time, Enrique just stood on a riser center stage, sensually swaying to the beat and let his band carry the show. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
"Low" point : Enrique singing an extremely risque' duet with one of the background singers (the one who took my card down to my best friend Tony - who SF's hottest new artist, Laurie Jacobs, kept exclaiming,"Oh, my God, she looks just like you!") where they were writhing on top of each other and at one point, uh, going down, and I mean, down, on, I mean, for the proverbial count. Good soft porn show. Great place for a guy to take a date - 100% chance of getting laid after.
Enrique did close on a nice note: bringing a quite large-and-in-charge female (duh) fan up onto the stage to serenade her with "I'm Your Man". He put his arm around her neck, nuzzled her ear and at one point, she just reached right down and grabbed his ass - a full hand grab, baby! Big Mama got her man!
After the show, crazed fans were swarming like honey bees and security blocked off the whole street. They wouldn't let us anywhere near the backstage area, even after I showed them my business card, treating us like groupies. As if!! Sometimes ya just gotta give up and get the hell outta there. Tony Bruno is not my hero, baby! And I've yet to hear back from him, - no e-mail, no apology, no nothin'! Like Denis Leary (from "The Job") would say, " You all suck!!"
"Good 'n Fuzzy" - B.R.MC Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at the Warfield, SF, April 5th and a chat (sort of) before the show
I get sent a ton of new music and there isn't enough time or brain cells to digest, let alone, truly appreciate what's out there. Every now and then, I get a hunch, or a nudge from a publicist I like, or something jumps out at me that screams, this is undeniable, so damn good that I remember why I love this stuff so damn much.
When Nikka Costa's nice publicist from Virgin Records sent me B.R.M.C.'s (taken from the Marlon Brando film, "The Wild Bunch") self-titled debut record months ago, it got buried amidst the ton 'o stuff, I must confess. But when she asked me to cover the show and interview the guys, I stepped up and realized I had uncovered a gem of a record and a real find: a great band, man! And they're from San Francisco, to boot! This trio of young guys, who can seriously play their instruments, have cooked up a delicious brew of equal parts Velvet Underground, Jesus and Mary Chain, Pink Floyd, Depeche Mode, The Verve, Crowded House and God knows who else: weaving hook-laden melodies and deep, introspective lyrics all through retro-sounding, yet totally cutting edge material. AND they produced their own record - for a major label!! Without even shopping the damn deal! Like Jerry Seinfeld would say, "What's the deal?" Well, uh, here it is: these dark-haired boys sure can play, write, sing and produce their young asses off - but actually having a conversation is another story altogether...
Robert Turner's (the bass player) girlfriend, a sweet art student named Lindsay, kept me company while I waited in their dressing room because the sound check was running late. She told me they'd been together since high school. Cute. Then their congenial English tour manager, Peter Gunn ((great name, luv!) appeared. Turns out the travel agency they're using for this tour is Entertainment Travel in Nashville - where I used to work as a receptionist back in '98! (Is there ANYone in this business I don't have some kind of "Almost Famous" connection to??)
So finally , at 1/2 hour till showtime - they shuffled into the dressing room. There's Robert, the clean cut, kind of preppy looking bass player, Peter Hayes, the dark, tousled-haired, tortured-soul guitar player, and Nick Jago, the raven-haired, cute, Brit-boy drummer, who crouched in the corner. They all looked about 15. (They're 22-23.) Here's what these very tired (or something) lads kind of had to say to me:
KG: So Peter, is it really true that you never listened to music before you met Robert?
Peter: Not a whole lot.
KG: But you picked up a guitar. Tell me how that works, that you decided to play guitar, even though you never listened to music?
Peter: ( Says something about Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones and then mumbles some stuff that is completely unintelligible) Yeah, then I just kinda picked up a guitar that was laying around the house.
KG: In the house? Did it belong to anyone?
Peter: My mom.
KG: Your mom was a guitar player?
Peter: Well, um, she had a guitar.
KG: Did you teach yourself?
KG: So you didn't take lessons or anything.
Peter: No, my mom taught me one song. A flamenco song. Says something in Spanish - or it could have been English, who could tell? And then, I uh, just started writing songs.
KG: So you just started writing songs, based on never hearing or learning anything? You're like "Rain Man" or something! ( I laugh - he mumbles)
Peter: Well, I had somethin' I wanted to say, I didn't know how to say it.
KG: Full songs, lyrics and music?
Peter: Oh yeah, they were lame. (laughs)
KG: Were they scary, Peter?
Peter: Yeah, way too many words.
KG: And you just made up the chords, you didn't know what the chords were?
Peter: I still don't know what the chords are.
KG: So how long were you doing this before you met Robert?
Peter: About a year.
KG: And you were 15?
KG: So Robert, how did you discover this musical prodigy, because you obviously have a musical background from your dad, right? (Michael Been from "The Call")
Robert: My dad had a background. (laughs)
KG: You grew up with the whole rock 'n roll thing, a completely different experience.
Robert: Yeah, I was pretty in need of music, I guess we all are. I don't know why, I really didn't want to play music, kind of a reaction to my dad
KG: Did he teach you?
Robert: No, but he had the instruments. I picked up the bass 'cause it was the easiest one, y'know, tryin' to work through chords and all that...
KG: I'm a guitar player and I think bass is so much harder, especially when you're trying to sing. Were you singing?
Robert: I didn't have to figure out patterns, structure. Nah, I couldn't sing at all, I'm still trying. (that's a lie!-K.G.)Even when we started the band, we were thinking of getting a singer.
KG: Really?? I don't get it - the record is so pristine, the harmonies, the arrangements, everything. I was surprised it was self produced. Who does the writing, how does that work?
Peter: Uh, I came up with some symphonic stuff, I didn't know what the hell rock 'n roll was. It seemed like some rigid kind of bullshit, y'know, bein' stuck in 4/4. 2 chords, 4 chords, it's all bullshit.
KG: I'm confused The songs have so much structure, they're so catchy. They have parts, sections. You obviously figured out a system that works. (Guys, give me something here!) So for 2 years you played together and then Nick (the drummer)came on board .You tried out a bunch of drummers?
Peter: Well, about 3, but, uh,...
Robert: That's a whole other story.(They both kind of mumble to each other - a secret language)
KG: I don't want to make you guys think too much, I'm just fascinated. Because I really love your record, and when I read your press, I wondered how did this happen?
Robert: Well, I guess we took a lot of time between when me 'n Peter started in high school, and we made little recordings that weren't really songs yet on a four track tape recorder. Then we took this break and went traveling separately, we weren't ready, we were just starting out. So when we came back together, we both had these songs that were pretty cool. Then we found Nick and the songs became so much better because we started playing as a band.
KG: (calling out to the cute mute boy in the corner) Nick, why don't you come over here and join us?
Nick (politely) Only if you're really interested.
KG: I am, I wouldn't have asked! (Those Brits!)
So you guys had written most of this record before you found Nick?
Robert: Only "Rifles", "Love Burns", but we thought it was too pop, we had to dirty it up.
KG: The subject matter is pretty deep. Great lyrics. Who writes the lyrics, both of you?
Peter and Robert: Yeah. Yeah.
KG: What about you, Nick, you participate in the writing?
Nick: No, not me. Not really. (laughs)
KG: But the arrangements are so cool, you must have a hand in that!
Peter: The song, the band, you know, we just kind of roam around together. (goes into a long explanation of stuff I couldn't make out at all).
KG: How did you learn how to produce your own record?
Robert: We made a demo by just pluggin' in, and if it sounded good, that's what we went by, just fucked around till we got in the studio, we had to trust engineers that told us, "this is the way you gotta do it, not that way".
KG: Were they right?
Robert: No. Uh, it's a long story. We came up with all the parts, we put it all together. From time to time we had people we trusted come in to tell us what they thought.
KG: You were smart enough to take in what you needed, that comes through. But you never shopped a deal, somebody reviewed you in BAM magazine? Then A&R people started showing up at your gigs in LA? You didn't have a manager or anybody shopping your demo, you just played a bunch of gigs and got a buzz happening and got signed?
Peter: Yeah, pretty much true. The idea was to play everywhere, anywhere that would have us. That way we got to know bookers, especially this one girl, and then they gave us numbers.
KG: Amazing. (I hate them- kidding!-K.G.)
Now the meat of our story...
KG: Robert, you have the loyal, steady girlfriend. What're your stories, guys?
Nick: I'm gay! (laughs) Don't quote me on that!
KG: Damn! End of interview!
Nick: No, I'm joking!
Peter: I've got a great girl.
KG: Where does she live?
Peter: New York.
Peter: Yeah. I see her about four times a year. (A rock star's dream! -K.G.)
KG: Hey, you guys gotta kick ass right now, you're doing it all right. Thanks for giving me your time, being so tired and all.
Peter: Hard to think when you're goin' on stage.
KG: I know. Have a great show!
I went out into the house to watch the show. The place was packed with a strange mix of all ages and types - (curious if they were here to see B.R.M.C. or the headliner, Spiritualized).
Here's the scoop about our sleepy boys, folks: these guys deliver the goods live, big time!! The complete opposite of laid-back and spaced out , the moment they took the stage, there was no doubt this confident, take-no-prisoners trio is destined to be huge. Playing almost every song off their self-titled CD, the band nailed their unique sound to the letter perfect note, recreating every nuance. Nick is an extremely solid drummer, and added cool stuff like a shaker to his drum stick to add texture. It was surprising to discover that Peter and Robert trade lead vocal parts in the same songs, sounding exactly the same - a very interesting and unusual phenomenon, but it works! A very tight and satisfying set - they even spoke a few words to the audience, thanking their home town.
After the set, everyone I spoke to was there to see B. R. M.C., not the headliner! A helpful Warfield staff member, Willie, reiterated this fact: the crowd was there for the opening band!
I stayed to hear exactly 1 ½ songs by Spiritualized, a very large band that sounded like the Grateful Dead: long , extended jams that made me want to jam the hell outta there. I saw the show I came to see - I am now a card carrying member of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club! (just don't ask me how they did it...)
"Cool Blondes/Hot Button Topics" - an on stage interview with Cheryl Crane (Lana Turner's daughter) by SF Chronicle film critic (and our pal) Mick LaSalle, American Conservatory Theater, SF, April 8
The SF Chronicle Film series, "Cool Hollywood Blondes", which included interviews with Hitchcock alumni, Tippi Hedren and Janet Leigh, concluded with the offspring of one of Hollywood's most notorious silver screen sirens, the late Lana Turner. Her attractive daughter, Cheryl Crane - shared anecdotes, memories and set the record straight on a variety of well documented legends and tales regarding Mama Turner. The entertaining evening began with famous film clips from the almost seven (!) decades of Lana Turner's film and television career, including classics like "Somewhere I'll Find You", "Honky Tonk" (both co-starring Clark Gable), "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Peyton Place".
Cheryl spoke about a glamorous, but lonely childhood, where she felt distanced from her mother. She is the product of Lana's second marriage to restauranteur Stephen Crane, giving birth to Cheryl in 1943. It was not until much later in adult life that they became close. Lana wed and shed a grand total of eight husbands. "My mother loved being in love", Ms. Crane shared .
She spoke about the hurt Lana Turner felt about being shut out from the Academy, never actually receiving an Oscar for any of her smoldering roles, 30 years of which she was a bonafide star. (She was nominated for "Peyton Place" in 1957) Cheryl talked about the way MGM controlled and orchestrated every aspect of her life, how nothing was left in her hands, what she wore, where she went and especially who she could and couldn't be romantically involved with.
Regarding how Lana Turner was actually discovered:, yes, it was by a Hollywood Reporter columnist, while she was sipping a soda in a Hollywood drugstore , but it was not SCHWABS, as the legend tells it. (It was a drugstore across from Hollywood High School, miles from Schwabs.)
About that pesky murder scandal, Ms. Crane confirmed it definitely was she who killed her mother's boyfriend, petty gangster Johnny Stompanato, after he threatened her mother's life. Rumor had it that Lana actually did the deed, and her daughter had covered for her. "If that were true, why would I have maintained my guilt after my mother's death (from cancer in 1995)?? Can we change the subject now, please?" she sweetly asked.
The interview was followed by a question and answer section, where Mick had a microphone handed to audience members. One query came from my own mother, Doris Goldberg (maiden name "Friedenberg"), who attended this event with her friend since high school, Ramona Batagleri. They are alumni of both the same junior high and high school as Lana Turner, Presidio Junior High and Washington High School, where she was known as "Judy Turner". (My mother was the Class of '43, "Judy" was the Class of '39.) "Hello, Ms. Crane", my mother said in her "Jewish Marge Simpson" gravel voice, "Why didn't you try and become a movie star, like your mother?" (Doris is an equal opportunity stage mother, not just limiting herself to Kimberlye "Almost Famous" Gold.) Cheryl claimed she wanted no part of that lifestyle - watching her mother was enough.
Mick LaSalle was very congenial and ingratiating throughout the interview and during the question and answer section, appearing relaxed and delighted. With his knowledge of the subject matter and wry sense of humor, he gave the impression that we were all invited guests in his living room, visiting with his guest of honor, Cheryl Crane. We had a lovely time, Mick. Thanks for your hospitality.
"Su Su Sushi - Still Mmm Mmm Good!" - The Tubes at The Backbeat, Santa Clara, April 21
Some bands just keep going and going and going, long after the record deals and radio play and "Where Are They Now" episodes have aired on VHI. Why? Because they're still f**king great bands with killer songs and stage shows and fans still pay money to see 'em. Ladies and gentleman, may I present the "Energizer Bunny Award" to the cream of this crop : The Tubes! (For a great source of band history and fine entertainment, check out my interview last year with frontman Fee Waybill on www.sfherald.com under my "columnist" link.)
The crowd at the Backbeat was soooo scary 80's in The South Bay, total fashion and music time warp, with mullets, mini-skirts, big belts and Eddie Money and The Cars playing on the sound system. Luckily, two normal looking and very nice guys, approached me on either side, where I had decided to camp out at the bar, and asked "Are these seats taken?" so I immediately christened them "Bodyguards In Stereo"! Malcolm, was a die-hard Tubes fan, his friend, Dana, had never seen them before, and they kept me great company. Thanks, guys!
When I saw the Tubes last year at The Great American Music Hall, they had a female back up singer, and three original members besides Fee: Rick Anderson on bass, Roger Steen (a shamefully underrated guitar player) and my favorite drummer in the world, Prairie Prince. Sadly, Prairie was on tour with that other '70's/80's band, The Jefferson Starship, but his regular sub, Trey Sabatelli, did a fine job, as did the rest of the new permanent band members. There was no back up singer this time. The band sounded AMAZING - the mix was great, and all the vocals and instruments were crystal clear as a bell. Fee Waybill's voice has never sounded stronger - this guy is truly one of the most underrated singers in music history. It ain't right that he's not recognized as such!
They did songs from all eras of their illustrious "20 years and then some"career, with strong doses of songs off of their first hit record "Completion Backwards Principal", which put them on the Top 40 map back in 1980 with "Talk To Ya Later". They also included a few off my favorite record, "Remote Control". Every song is still a gem - time has not tarnished a note from any of them . And they still stand alone as great songs - not just musical backdrop for whacked out theater pieces!
But come now - I may be one of the few that come to bask in The Tubes audio glory. The fans come to see what the hell Fee is gonna do - what he's gonna - or more importantly NOT - gonna wear! And he did NOT disappoint - he was in rare form on this night. Coming out in a white face clown outfit, he must have changed costumes at least dozen times, stripping down to his classic "Mondo Bondage" S&M gear, (and little else), swim trunks on "Su Su Sushi", "Psycho Surgeon" garb performing sick, sexual surgery, complete with toy intestines and fake blood on a blow up doll during "Rock 'N Roll Hospital", several, uh, interesting women's clothing options and of course, his classic "Quaaalude" 70's Rock Star outfit with the glam makeup, wig, and 10 inch platforms for "White Punks On Dope".
But let's get something straight, for the record: the guy loves to show his ass. Strip it, show it, shake it, flaunt it! Not that there's anything wrong with that. The guy is in incredible shape - and none of us are getting any younger, so he must be doing something right! You go, Fee - show that ass, baby!
After the show, I went backstage to thank Fee for putting me on the list and to say hello. The vibe was very low key - and I was very exhausted after all that great music and ass-showing, so I bid Fee farewell, and got the hell outta there...
"Sioux, Sioux, Siouxsie" - Siouxsie & The Banshees at The Fillmore, SF, April 24
Reunions. Comebacks. The concert trail has become a virtual shopping mall of " who used to be who", with something for every musical appetite. (And I am sure to seek out at least one per column, it seems!) This month, let us re-enter the Gallows of Goth and re-visit an icon from the era, Siouxsie & The Banshees, with all original members alive and in tact. The illustrious publisher of this little newsrag wished to relive his youth- so I agreed to go check out Siouxsie's scene. Here's the deal: if you were a fan back in the day (or night - this is Goth, after all) -1978-'96, to be exact - the two sold out SF shows proved you probably still are. So if you were there, you probably really dug it, based on the adoring crowd response.
Siouxsie looked great, dressed in a tight black (duh) suit and softer hairdo, much more feminine and classy than in her scary "Beetlejuice-esque" heydey. The sound was god-awful at first, muddy with pounding drums overpowering everything, while she did her best to wail over favorites like "Arabian Nights", "Christine:" and "Spellbound", along with lesser known ones like "Land's End" and "Voodoo Dolly". She definitely still had some piss 'n vinegar to share with her legion of admirers. When the AC at The Fillmore wasn't meeting her expectations, Goth Mama Siouxsie threw a mini-tantrum, took off her jacket to reveal a skimpy halter top, and exclaimed, "They call me the 'Ice Bitch', but they got it wrong, you know. I like it hot!" Before introducing a new song, "I Could Be Again", she snarled, "Fuck MTV, fuck radio airplay, we don't need that fucking crap!" The mostly 30-something post-Goth boys 'n girls enthusiastically cheered on their Queen of Mean.
And if you weren't a fan? You'd probably have been at the Paramount that night, partyin' like it was 1999. And I wish you'd have taken me with you in your little red corvette.....
Unsung Heroes 'N Zeroes
Circus Town - Tommy Womack
Only one this month, kids. Tommy Womack is this guy I knew in Nashville who is brilliant. Sick, twisted, and talented as hell. He's a little bit country, he's whole lot rock 'n roll, and one of the best songwriters I've ever had the pleasure of hearing live and on CD. This is his 3rd, folks, and it's a gem. Get it just to hear "The Replacements", the first piece of music journalism about a real band set to music. Nah, get it because there are some truly great songs on here - about life and love and growing older and all kinds of stuff we can sure use a good dose of. And get his autobiographical book, "Cheese Chronicles - The True Story Of A Rock 'n Roll Band You've Never Heard Of." It's every bit as funny as anything you've ever read in my "Almost Famous" columns! And that's saying something...