Awards

(2013)

So last nite I flipped on the TV and it was the BAFTA Awards so I watched a while, searching the crowd, looking for John Altman, who was there with the Queen or the surviving Beatles or the Prime Minister or some Sri Lankan cricketers or somebody, he always is. I thought I kept seeing him but there was always a mustache or beard. After watching a series of Englishmen hand out awards to people from Hollywood, I gave up and switched on The Producers. The original, funny one. John Altman wasn’t in that either, but he could have been. Some guys are like that. And some guys take their wives to Philippe’s on Valentine’s Day, which isn’t quite the same,but it was less crowded than the BAFTA awards, and I imagine the parking was easier. Plus we got to keep the beer glasses, which was almost like getting an award.

The only Awards ceremony I can ever remember attending were the Grammy’s, but not those Grammy’s, the famous ones, but the Jazz Grammy’s, which is kind of like going to the Academy Awards, but not those Academy Awards, but the Educational Film Academy Awards. The first one was the best, it was at the Biltmore and was dull but the Indians were throwing a victory bash across the hall for the proposition that let them build casinos up the wazoo and you have never seen such perks. Food in vast piles. Drinks to the brim with good whiskey. I followed the TV crews–they always know where the free grub and booze is–and soon most of the other reporters were there too (you can always make up shit in your review, no one will know the difference) and then half the players. They’d get their grammy, thank Bill Cosby (who wasn’t even supposed to be on stage half the time) and then hightail over to the Indians to celebrate, since the Grammy’s were so cheap with the drinks. I came back in time to see an unfortunate scene involving a world famous and infinitely patient jazz player not getting the treatment he deserved, and wondering if some famous people drink too much. It pissed me off so bad I split for Mr T’s Bowl in Highland Park to watch Joe Baiza.

I think I went to another Jazz Grammy or two, but they’d moved them to the Nokia, a venue I hate, actually. There’s something profoundly wrong about the place. I can’t put my finger on it, but I can step in it. The mainstage was room was packed with people, none of whom I had ever seen at any jazz event anywhere, and whose notion of jazz I suspect was somewhere between Kenny G and the Tijuana Brass. I had press perks, of course, and wandered up to the exalted Green Room several floors up, past several lines of bouncers. Drinks were free. The buffet was pathetic. The crowd was show biz–they are everywhere in this town–and there were booths with curtains and plush pillows reserved for jazz royalty, there really being such a thing. Herbie et al. They looked like movie stars which, considering the state of jazz, verged on surreal. There were gorgeous dames everywhere, leggy, decked out, bejeweled, eyes aglow. Scarcely anybody I recognized from the scene, though. Clubs laid empty, yet the jazz grammy’s were like a small but overcrowded and vaguely hip city. Bored to tears I wanted to split. The grammy press rep caught me and introduced me to other grammy press reps. I politely broke away to head back to the mainstage to see Chalie Haden get his lifetime achievement award. The crowd was too busy yammering away to notice. Somebody gave Charlie Haden a quick introduction and handed him an award. He began to thank people, but thirty seconds into his brief remarks a couple suits come out and bum rush him off the stage. The curtain opens and some shitty contemporary jazz band starts up a dance tune. The crowd cheered and danced. Charlie stood offstage, looking bewildered, angry, disgusted. At that moment my inchoate distaste for the grammys crystalized into pure hatred.

Back to last night, during a commercial break I switched back to the BAFTAs. How much respect those awardees were being given, by the crowd, the staff, the television cameras. Poor jazz, I thought. It can be the most amazing music, a room full of perfect improvisation, sheer beauty, delight, heartbreak…and it gets the bum’s rush every time.

Actually I do remember attending the LA Weekly Music Awards. I had no intention of being there but my editor insisted. We went. It was packed, but the crowd seemed hipper than the jazz grammy’s, and it wasn’t quite so bogus. I hung around till they gave the jazz award. I’d had inside information that it was to be a very hip player from Detroit. I dug the guy. They announced his name. Announced it again. Apparently he was a no-show. So they put the award aside and went on to the next category. But actually he wasn’t quite a no show. He was actually outside but the bouncers wouldn’t let him in. Your name is not on the list, they said. But I’m winning an award, he told them. I can’t do anything about that the door guy said, now please leave. So he left.

Funny how I’ve never been to a jazz awards ceremony that wasn’t fucked up.

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Celebrity sighting

My latest celebrity sighting. Being mistaken for an actor at Enterprise Rent-a-Car. A stage actor, though. That was new. The mistaken guy was an actor. Thought he knew me. I said no, I’m not an actor. You’re not just saying that? No, I’m not an actor. You sure? Yes, I’m sure.

At least he didn’t hound me for an autograph. But then he was in the business. It’s the tourists who want the autographs, especially in Hollywood. I’ve signed a couple there to get them to leave me alone. Wrote simply Brick. Brick! I knew you were him. Look, honey, it’s Brick. Who? You remember. The guy on TV.

I’ve never been on TV.

I’ve been mistaken for movie actors, television actors, a guy in a commercial, a porn star (in younger, far better looking times) and the bass player who’d just been on stage at the Playboy Jazz Festival five minutes before. Man I played good, the guy said, pumping my hand. Just like Jaco Pastorius. I thanked him.

I could have gotten laid by a woman at a jazz club who was convinced I was the bass player there, too, but she fell off her bar stool. The actual bass player, behind me, fled.

Now back to rehearsal.

Very nice ladies

(Found this one…it’s maybe a decade old, and the party was ten or fifteen years before that.)

I’m reminded of a party many years ago where, slightly bored, I wound up in the parlor, just me and a bunch of older pretty ladies (probably all pushing 40 then).  We just sat around talking. I remember we talked about vacations and where me and my wife like to go, about wine which I didn’t actually know much about but they did, about who it was we knew there. They were all very charming and they thought I was just perfectly charming as well. I can be, sometimes. They asked about my wife. You two enjoy doing things together? I said yes, we’re real tight. That’s so sweet, they said. None of them were married. None had kids. A few had tattoos which was still a little novel at the time. They sipped white wine and I drank a beer. We kept chatting and then I finally took my leave. Later, outside, someone took me aside. Saw you in the living room there, he whispered. You know who those women were? I had no idea. He told me that every one of those girls was a retired hardcore porn actress. A few were stars, even. Or had been. I shrugged. You didn’t recognize so and so? Who? He rattled off a few more names. I didn’t recognize any of them. You don’t look at a lotta porn, do you? I said no, a little ashamed. He snickered. You just figured they were all very nice ladies, didn’t you. I blushed and said yeah. Which, actually, they were. He laughed. When I went by the living room again, the ladies were cooing over someone’s child. One looked up, smiled a beautiful smile, and waved.

Tony Curtis

(2010)

Tony Curtis died a couple days ago. And Tony Curtis was just so freaking cool that everybody in this town needs somehow to make a personal connection with him.  When so much coolness up and disappears from the planet all the hipsters feel an odd bit of desperation; they just have to, somehow, reach out and touch that coolness while it still lives. For coolness lasts beyond the grave, but not for long. It  fades in an eerie way, still alive, before becoming history. Once history all the coolness is gone, that kind of tactile coolness you can get high with, or drink coffee with, or fuck or fight or just run into on the way to the elevator. The real, corporeal coolness. History renders the living cool dead, stone dead…turns it over to academics and poseurs and biographers who, let’s face it, someone as cool as Tony Curtis wouldn’t be caught dead with. But to actually have a story based on something real life, where you and Tony were in the same space together, interacting or even not interacting but conceivably could have in a way that a historian never ever can…well that kind of coolness is addictive. It is the power of the story. The time that you and Tony Curtis were together. When your universe and Tony’s came together, briefly, and somehow a tiny bit of his coolness rubbed off on you. Just because.

I have one of those stories. And to be honest, a lot of people have those kind of stories. They just don’t write them down, like this:

Sometime back in the mid eighties we had a friend, Jeanne Lynn, this crazy cool chick, older than us, a red head with one of the big Southern gal personalities. Jeanne Lynn was really hip. She worked on films, knew gallery people, actors, directors, jazz musicians, artists, beatniks, hippies, and punks, she was a  fine bassist and great partier. She snagged one of Dolph Lundgren’s training jacket from wardrobe which I wore for years without ever knowing who Dolph Lundgren was. Jeanne Lynn  loved to laugh and tell crazy stories and dirty jokes and smoke weed and we were all great friends. She was the first person we knew I think that was able to exist in that world without losing any of her hip, cool edge. Anyway, she took us to a gallery opening….no, a store opening, some kind of pricey, big boutique on what had been a dull little nothing street called Melrose Place.  This was just before Melrose Place became Melrose Place, and Melrose itself was still a new concept, not yet overrun and tacky. This was that long ago. The party was packed with people, all these Beverly Hills types slumming it on Melrose Place.  There were a lot less rich people back then in the city, and fewer rich neighborhoods, so that end of town below West Hollywood (WeHo hadn’t been coined yet) was thoroughly middle of the middle class with a smattering of struggling bohos  and wanna be show biz types. I remember my wife and I and the others with us, whoever they were, were decidedly out of place at this bash, but enjoying it nonetheless. The food was great., a long long table full of food.. The open bar was even better.  Their was a fine band, too, subdued but all killer players…everyone said that guy there was Sinatra’s guitar player (which meant, I know now, that he was Ron Anthony), and the harmonica player was the guy who did the theme from Midnight Cowboy (though I doubt that now). I watched them for a long time, saying hey to the people who said hey to me, and checking out the westside babes—jeans were still very tight at the time. Yowza. I was just digging it all and polished off a drink–I was drinking greyhounds back then–and went back for another. Jeanne Lynn, stoned, pulled me close, quietly squealing with excitement. Did you see who you were standing next to?  I hadn’t. You didn’t see who you were standing next to all that time? Honestly, I hadn’t. She rolled her eyes. Obviously I’d blown it somehow. I said sorry, but I hadn’t noticed. Jesus, Brick, that was Tony Curtis! Really? Standing next to me? Aghast, she blurted out Yes! You were looking right at each other! How did you not see him? I shrugged, helplessly. Damn, Brick, he’s a real movie star! We didn’t say icon back then, but saying somebody was a real movie star meant something back then. Jeanne said she had wanted me to talk to him so that she could come up and introduce herself. Tony Curtis  had been her idol. And I was right there next to him, utterly oblivious.

I think we’d even exchanged pleasantries, me and Tony. Just a word or two. But I didn’t put the face with the legend. I was too stoned, probably, or maybe just listening to the music, or distracted by coked out westside babes. Jeanne just shook her head. My wife, laughing, said he doesn’t know anything about actors. I didn’t. Still don’t. I’ve lived in Hollywood most of my life and never see any movie stars.

Tony was gone by the time I turned around. Apparently he’d only been at the party ten or fifteen minutes. He would have been flying on blow back then. Everyone knew he’d gone all to hell. But still, he was Tony Curtis. And we could, maybe, have had a nice little chat. But I never recognized the guy. I always regretted that, I mean, Tony Cutis was so cool. Oh well.

That’s it. That is my Tony Curtis story.

It’s not much. In fact it’s not even a story at all, just a seeing but not seeing Tony Curtis story. Probably the worst Tony Curtis story ever. But he’s dead now and I wanted to tell it one last time.  I wanted to tell it while his memory still glowed, and that feeling that he’s not really dead still hung about. It takes a little while to get used to the dead thing. You can’t quite let go till the body is stone cold and buried, and even afterward he hangs about, a living memory, a marathon on Turner Classic Movies.

But yeah, Tony’s gone. I can never tell him this inane story. And he can never show me one of his goddamn paintings.

Sigh….

Another sigh even.

Ya know, I began this story trying to be funny. But it’s not funny at all. Maybe I left my sense of humor in my other suit.

Rock’n’roll Ralphs

(2013)

We go to the Rock’n’roll Ralphs for the thrill.

We have our own Ralphs here in Silver Lake, but it’s all normal now. Silver Lake is all normal now, Silver Lake used to be Silverlake and edgy and new and leathery gay but that’s long gone, gone with the punks and the freaks and the vatos. It’s all rich people and hipsters with kids and beautiful single women. Ours is a nice Ralphs. There’s a couple Ralphs across the river in Glendale…there’s an Armenian Ralphs and an upscale Ralphs and between them an eerie underground Ralphs that always make me think of Beneath then Planet of the Apes. You enter the parking lot above ground and way in the corner there’s a winding driveway that leads you into the Stygian darkness below. Inside, though, it’s just a regular Ralphs.

But Rock’n’roll Ralphs is special. We always park on the roof and take the elevator down. That’s fun. Our Ralphs doesn’t have an elevator. And our Ralphs doesn’t have all these people either, these Hollywood types, who can’t even roll a shopping cart down a grocery aisle without looking like they’re trying to hustle something. There’s a lot of rock’n’roll types, hardened roadie looking guys with too much thinning hair and baskets full of beer and TV dinners. There’s Hollywood lifers, people who have obviously lived in Hollyweird their whole lives and have that sort of otherworldly jadedness that comes from too many nights and not enough days. There’s wackos that talk to themselves or each other and you think they might smell funny but they don’t really. There’s gorgeous starlets buying healthy little things and a bottle of white wine. There’s children with dad for the weekend picking things mom never lets them have. And there are celebrities who slip in under dressed and un-made up and try to pass as just another extra. Which works with me, as I can’t tell a celebrity from a ham sandwich.

This was Oscar nite, too, and just a couple blocks down the street from Rock’n’roll Ralphs the street was full of ham sandwiches. They come in big limousines and wave at the crowds and a zillion cameras flash. The women shimmer and the men don’t shave. I don’t know who almost any of them are, but the crowd does, and they ooh and ahh and scream and yell and hold on tightly to their autograph books. They take pictures from afar with their cell phones and post them on their Facebook pages. They cram together on the sidewalk, stomping all over stars of people who probably once walked that red carpet. Billy Barty’s there, and Valerie Bertinelli and Bing Crosby and Dane Clark whose face you’d recognize even if you can’t place the name. The Doors are there, and the Carpenters, and Zsa Zsa and Jean Harlow and Godzilla. This scene was made for Godzilla. This scene was made for Nathaniel West. He set the final act of the Day of the Locust right here, in front of Grauman’s, where the mob got ugly and out of hand and deadly. Not now. The fans are well behaved. No one gets drunk. No one gets tased. The stars wave, and the people wave back.

I did see a genuine Day of the Locust out there once. In this very place. We had just turned left off Orange onto Hollywood Blvd and into a phalanx of slow moving squad cars, lights flashing and utterly silent. They followed the saddest little Toyota you ever saw, running on fumes and four flat tires. The car rolled to a stop right there in front of the Chinese theater. It was the middle of summer and there were a zillion tourists and they couldn’t believe their luck. The line of cops couldn’t hold them back and they poured into the street like ants. The lady got out of the car exhausted and broken and laid down on the pavement as ordered. The cops rushed in and cuffed her before the crowd could get to her. They stuffed her into the back of a patrol car and took off. The remaining cops tried vainly to clear the street. Last thing I saw was Granny posing in front of the dead car. We headed east down Hollywood Boulevard, away from the crowds of tourists, till only locals walked the sidewalks and winos begged for change.

But that was then. The now was inside this Rock’n’roll Ralphs. I wheeled the cart up and down the aisles people-watching as my wife shopped. There were none of the glamorous starlets…they were all at Somebody’s watching the Oscars and dreaming and sniping. In fact there weren’t many movie looking people at all…this was the rock’n’roll side of Rock’n’roll Ralphs. These people didn’t go to Grammy parties, they worked them. They might look like hell here, rumpled and unshaven, but give then twenty minutes and they’re the sharpest bar tender you ever saw, smiling and cracking wise, shaking, not stirring, raking in big tips. I know this because there on the frozen food aisle two scruffy dudes were perusing the pizzas while their even scruffier buddy stared at his iPhone. Hey check this out, he said, they want me to tend bar at Seth McFarlane’s Oscar party. His friends hmmphed a cool, you like pepperoni or cheese? I knew right then that Seth McFarlane’s Oscar party was a big deal. No one would hmmmph a cool at something insignificant, not at Rock’n’roll Ralphs. Their mumbled cools said volumes. It meant movie stars, big tips, maybe even getting laid. Or an audition. Or both. It didn’t mean a score necessarily, but it did mean the possibility of a score, which is what the Hollywood hustle is all about. The score, the gig, a step up. It meant his buddies would be at home eating pizza and watching the Oscars while he was getting hit on by you’ll never believe who. It was a Hollywood moment, an Oscar moment, right there in the frozen food aisle at the Rock’n’roll Ralphs. This doesn’t happen at the Silver Lake Ralphs. It doesn’t happen at the underground Ralphs. It certainly doesn’t happen at a Von’s.

Not that I had a clue who Seth McFarlane was. No idea. A ham sandwich maybe. Somebody who scored. Someone who wasn’t tooling around a Ralphs on Oscar night like it was Disneyland. Today I find out he was the man. He hosted the damn thing. Some people liked him. Some hated him. Whatever. I imagine it was a hell of a party, crawling with ham sandwiches. And George Clooney. And Meryl Streep. No ham sandwich she.

(Our neighborhood Ralphs is now gone.)

Miles Davis

(from a Brick’s Picks in the LA Weekly, 2010)

Miles Davis. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Colombia Records is just making sure.  They’ve repackaged everything He did for them, then repackaged the repackages, finally they stuck all the repackages into a trumpet case and are selling it for a jillion dollars. One of those way limited editions that millionaire jazz fans just have to have. Not even critics get that thing. They’d probably just sell it to Amoeba anyway. Critics do get invited to the fancy release parties though. Free food, free booze, free respect. Colombia and the Miles Davis Estate do these things up good. The Bitches Brew one was atop a fancy Beverly Hills hotel. Rooftop, baby. Look at all those rich people way down there. They had live Miles projected on the side of a building and he was like a dozen feet tall. A giant, huge Miles. A young hippie-ish Chick Corea was mad on the keys, and Wayne Shorter was so rad. If you stood just right the light reflected on the glass wall surrounding the roof and a gigantic mega-Wayne Shorter loomed over the Hollywood Hills, blowing crazy saxophone. A sky god. Unstoned, it looked cool. It might have been terrifying stoned. The thing is, though, that Wayne does not loom vast over the city. Not even Miles does.  That’s why they were throwing this big bash. So we’d tell you about this new Bitches Brew reissue that we’ve had in the changer here now for weeks. It’s a good one, people. Real real good. But we wish this stuff did loom over American culture like that giant Wayne Shorter. And that music meant as much to people nowadays as it did a generation ago. Oh well. Those were different times. The poets, they studied rules of verse, and the ladies, they rolled their eyes.

[Yes, the last couple lines there were copped from Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane”….]

They don’t have goons at the Philharmonic

Was at the Hollywood Bowl yesterday for the L.A. Phil’s press party. The spread is onstage in the bandshell. Food, drink, reporters, musicians, hustlers, hangers on, sundry rich people, a lotta suits and some nice legs even. Gustavo Dudamel is really little. Maybe 5’6″. I’d seen him milling about in  the mix last night, just another fast talking kid scamming on the free grub/drinks because he works in the mail room of an advertising company or something. Lucky for me I didn’t smack his hand down when he reached for the purple potato wedge things. His goons would have been on me in a second.  Well, they don’t have goons at the Philharmonic. Unless those little gay kids are goons. And Dudamel isn’t gay. I was stereotyping. You can do that with that crowd. Or maybe I’ve just been around Hollywood too long.

The potatoes were purple, though. Weirdest food was the gazpacho in a spoon. Big white spoons with a big mouthful of gazpacho in each. You take a spoon off the silver tray the silent, expressionless waiter holds out for you, slurp the thing down, and then put the slurped spoon down on a tray another silent, expressionless guy holds out for you. It was one of those revoltingly decadent things, a silent servant  holding a spoon for you to slurp, something out of the Last Emperor, maybe, or like the French Revolution never happened. I slurped but felt guilty about it. I mean imagine that gig—you’re the guy who holds the slobbered spoons tray. He probably was an actor. They all looked like it, the waiters/waitresses. All handsome or pretty, the girls in the same outfits as the guys—black pants and shirts and a bright pink or yellow tie. Maybe they were color coded. I didn’t notice what color tie the slobbered spoon guy had on. I doubt anyone else did either. I doubt they noticed him at all.

I wonder if a generation ago people held out spoons for people to slurp. I doubt it. I think that’s something new. And I think it says a lot.

(2010)