Saturday, October 29, 2016

"Did you see Steve Bartman out there? No? Good. For a second I thought we were in trouble*."

The Chicago Cubs are down 2-1 in the World Series to the Cleveland Indians. The good news for the Cubs is that Chicago Bear QB, Jay Cutler, has been cleared to play. And he won’t be playing for the Cubs.

A drunk-driving Texas A&M student crashed into the back of a parked police car while taking a nude selfie. She is fine and is studying for her final in Kardashian 101. 

And why is Pee Wee Herman reporting from the World Series? Huh? Sorry. Ken Rosenthal.

*For the record, Steve Bartman had nothing to do with losing that series. There was another game to go. 

A survey of college students showed most could not identify Joe Biden or Ronald Reagan, but they all could identify Kim Kardashian. The name of the survey is “We’re So Screwed.” 

Since you asked:

Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” strikes again.

To paraphrase, they suggest you eliminate the word that as much as you can until you can’t. The example:

“He felt that his big nose was a distraction.”

Remove that and it becomes, “He felt his big nose . . . “

How Come Rock and Roll Stars Never Sing About Their Rich Parents?

Nobody, especially me, is calling me a journalist. Nobody is calling me neither Woodward nor Bernstein. Hell, they’re not even calling me Bernwood. Although that would be cool. 

But even guys like me who write penis jokes and Paris Hilton jokes - no, they are not always connected - can accidentally stumble on a discovery now and then. 

In my fascination/obsession with the music scene in California in the late Sixties, I have discovered a hidden secret that runs right straight through the heartbeat of the rock and roll catalyst that was the Echo Park/Malibu/Laurel Canyon/Topanga Canyon/Sunset Blvd. 1968-1980 music mecca: 

Rich parents.

On paper all you had to do was listen to the lyrics of Byrds song “So You Want To Be a Rock and Roll Star.” and show up on Sunset Blvd in 1968 and you would instantly become rich and famous. 

But as great bands like Crazy Horse and Little Feet and the Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco and the geniuses that were Lowell George and Graham Parsons were can attest, it was not nearly that easy. 

One of the written laws of rock and roll success is having a distant father. Rich parents are often uninvolved parents. 

Rock critics hate rich rock stars. So rock stars play down their wealth before and after success. Generally rock critics are punk rock fans. They were ostracized weirdos in high school who have decided to champion being losers. And losers hate winners. That is why rock critics and the Dude from “The Big Lebowski” hate the Eagles. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Dude. But the Dude is nothing if he isn’t a world class loser. 

Rock critics hate bands that are popular like the Eagles and Led Zeppelin. The music critic thinking goes, I am a genius, most people are stupid, if most people like a band, like the Eagles, than the Eagles are be bad. 

Only with artists is the title “Starving” considered a badge of honor. Have you ever heard of a starving lawyer? Or a starving architect? 

Wealth was considered an evil in the Sixties. It was counter to the counter culture. Wealth was something to hide and be embarrassed about and ashamed of. The thinking was the big war machine in Vietnam was caused by the rich republicans and they might not have been wrong. 

But like most professions in the entertainment industry, acting, singing, dancing and comedy, they take at least ten years to have a chance at big success and that is just the people who stick with it. 

So who makes it through those tough and lean ten years? Rich kids. 

It is not a coincidence that the rock stars who died of drug overdoses died at 26/27. Mama Cass, Jimi, Janis, Graham, Jim. Most quit high school to become rock stars at 17 and then they finally made it ten years later, they had money to spend on too many drugs. 

Graham Parson's mom was rich as the heir of a Georgia/Florida citrus magnate and Graham had a hefty trust fund that allowed him to buy drugs and booze, expensive clothes and quit all of the bands he was in including, "The Byrds", and "The Flying Burrito Brothers."

Jackson Browne’s parents inherited a rich hippy haven called the Abbey San Encino in the-then nice area of Highland Park built by Jackson’s grandfather who was an immigrant from Germany. He built it himself before he went into California politics and got rich. Jackson’s parents were mysteriously generous supporters of hippy artists and Jackson was one of them. They also had homes in the city of Orange by the hills. 

Jackson did live in a cheap apartment in Echo Park but he could afford to support Glenn Frey and JD Souther also living there who were, at the time, genuine starving artists. 

Randy Newman’s father was an Oscar winning song writer from a wealthy family. Jim Morrison’s father was a rear Admiral living in a mansion in Coronado. James Taylor’s father was a doctor who came from old East Coast money. David Crosby’s father was an Oscar winning cinematographer who had extremely wealthy parents on both sides. Crosby was a Santa Barbara brat. Crosby, always the annoying artist,  got kicked out of more private schools than anyone can name.

One of the stalwarts of the L.A. music scene and a good friend of all the Eagles was Ned Doheny. Doheny as in the filthy oil rich Doheny family. Owners of Doheny beach and such. J. Paul Getty-like rich. 

Linda Ronstadt’s family was a filthy-rich machinist manufacturer - whatever the hell that is - in Tucson Arizona. Stevie Nicks also came from a rich Arizona family. 

Although a world class abusive a-hole, the Beach Boy’s Wilson brother’s father, Murry Wilson, was a legitimate song writer who also owned a successful machine building business - whatever that is - and banked-rolled their career.  Yes, the Wilson brothers grew up in a modest Orange County suburb, but that was because their well-to-do father was cheap as hell. 

Mick Jagger’s dad was a well-read teacher/economist. Bob Dylan’s parents were devout Jews living in Minnesota, and his biography is suspiciously vague about what they did for a living, but, given the nice suburb where Bob grew up, we can assume they had plenty of money. 

Many of England’s rock legends attended art schools, Clapton, Lennon, Jagger, Townsend and it takes money to go to art school. It takes money to buy guitars and amps for teenagers. Most rock and roll stars grew up taking piano lessons. They had a piano in the house and could afford lessons. Money.

Rock stars love to tell stories about how broke they were. But almost all of them had a soft landing waiting for them back home if they did not make it. 

Most California-based rock and roll stars are rebels who ran away from home and it takes money to be a rebel. Go ahead. Look in the Jobs Wanted section of the want ads under rebel. Not many listings. 

There were some serious rock stars who came from poverty like Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Keith Richards. So it is probably no accident they made it big when they were young. They had to.

But even with all of his talent and success, Bruce said he did not feel comfortable buying a new car until he was 31. And that was after being on the cover of “Time” and “Newsweek” for “Born to Run.”

Most of the Eagles came from truly modest means, but Glenn Frey, RIP. Frey loved to talk about growing up in hard-scrabble Detroit, but his dad was a big shot at General Motors. Frey grew up taking piano lessons and lived out at places with street names called 18 Mile Road which is where the Detroit rich folks owned farms. 

Yes, Frey was broke as old grandma when he got to LA, but he quickly acquired a need for private planes, limos and hotel suites and personal assistants quite naturally. And tons and tons of blow. 

Don Henley said he had three gold albums and $4,000 in the bank before the album “One of These Nights” really broke the Eagles wide open. The Rolling Stones were deeply in debt when they made “Exile on Main Street.” They had to live in France to avoid paying taxes in England. Hell, even George Harrison had to borrow money to finance Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian.”  

The people who do well by the record industry are the bands who fail. The record company pays a fortune to get their first album recorded. And when it bombs, they are done and record company is out of all that money. Where the record company recoups that money is with the acts who make it. 

One out of ten bands record companies sign make it. That sounds generous, but the one-out-of-ten band that makes it earns them millions of times their initial investment. 

The bands who hit it big are ripped off the most. Those bands have to pay back all of the recording costs and tour expenses. And most of them do not own their publishing rights. The songs they wrote they do not own. The bands make pennies per album. 

Unless bands had a pit bull manager, like physical opposites tiny Irving Azoff of the Eagles and the giant Peter Grant of Led Zeppelin, the record companies and concert promoters cheated the crap out of bands.  (Led Zeppelin was so huge in the Seventies, when they toured, the concert promoter and venue lost money. But having had Led Zeppelin appear there paid off later with more bookings due to pure prestige) 

So the record company screams and cries and lies about how much successful bands are losing money. On paper. Meanwhile the record executive lives in a mansion in Bel Air and he supports two girlfriends on the side up in Santa Barbara and down in San Diego. (Several of my neighbors in my first hip/singles apartment building in San Diego were hot wannabe actresses who were being put up by their Hollywood studio executive boyfriends. A $40,000 sports car and a $1,500  a month in 1987 was nothing to them) 

When successful bands did sue their record companies and got what was due to them, namely the Led Zeppelin, Eagles and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Guns and Roses, they were dumbfounded at how much money started rolling in. Look at how rich Tower Records was. Until they went broke. 

Tom Petty said that a 28-year-old male getting a check for $250,000 is just a recipe for disaster. 

Not sure how the economics of entertainment work, but Steve Martin, also from a well-off Orange County family,  spent ten years sleeping on couches and living in girlfriends apartments. Even when he wrote for “Sonny and Cher” and the “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” he was broke. Then his albums broke and suddenly he was collecting valuable works of art and living in Malibu.

Lenny Kravitz’s parents were rich. Slash’s parents were rich. Tommy Lee’s parents were rich. 

Love the story Slash tells of Guns and Roses finally getting booked to play a friend of a friend's dad's bar in Portland for $100. They hitchhiked from Hollywood up to Portland lugging their amps and guitars and drums in the rain. When they finally got there and played, they were so bad, the bar owner refused to pay them.  

Two years later, Axel Rose had his own therapist, masseuse and voice coach sitting next to him on their private plane. 

The lone Eagle who should be the relatively most broke, Bernie Leadon, who quit before “Hotel California” lives on a huge ranch in Nashville and has a side hobby collecting trains. Not model trains. Not a toy train kids ride on. Real trains.  

There are two sides of the American economy. On the side you want to be on is the one I saw when I peered into the celebrity casino at the Palms Casino Resort. It was closed, but there was a blackjack table with a minimum bet of $25,000. That was the minimum bet. They said the the usual bet was $100,000. 

Five minutes later at a gas station less than a half mile away, when I went to buy a bottle of water and sunflower seeds for the drive to San Diego, the cashier/owner lost his freaking Apu mind at my audacity at asking him to break a $100. 

How both scenarios are even possible in the same country, let alone 600 yards away, is hard to fathom.