One from the Desert Files: Mario "Boomer" Lalli and FATSO JETSON (2002)

From left: Larry Lalli, Mario “Boomer” Lalli and Tony Tornay

Larger Than Life: Casting shadows with Fatso Jetson
by Jay Babcock

A much shorter version of this piece was published Thursday, Dec 12 2002 in LAWeekly

Look closely at almost any significant rock band’s background—at its deeper, 
hazier context, at its place/space in its particular subcultural zeitgeist—and 
you will find someone who acted, perhaps unwittingly, as a crucial instigator: a 
subtle yet critical link without which the chain would not hold. Led Zeppelin 
had Roy Harper. Nirvana had King Buzzo. And Queens of the Stone Age, arguably 
the best American melodic hard rock band since Cobain exited in self-disgust, 
have guitarist-singer Mario “Boomer” Lalli.

“Boomer has this one quality that I’ve been searching for since the moment I 
saw him, and that is Boomer is un-heckle-able,” says Joshua Homme, the leader of 
the Queens of the Stone Age, who’s been watching Lalli play since he (Josh) was 
14. “There could be a wide array of reasons to heckle Boomer—but it’s impossible when you watch him play. The second he starts to play, when he 
squints his eyes? I’ve never heard anyone go, ‘bleh, shut up!’ I’ve seen people 
not like it, but I’ve never seen anything thrown at him. Nothing. Because you 
believe it. 
       

“It’s for real.”

* * *

Born in 1966 as “Mario” and quickly tagged with the impossibly appropriate 
nickname Boomer, Lalli was raised in Palm Springs, where his parents, a pair of 
opera singers, ran an Italian-themed restaurant called “Mario’s—Where They Sing 
While You Dine” with Mario Sr.’s brother Tullio. At Mario’s, which re-located to 
Pasadena earlier this year after three decades in the low desert, Mario Sr. and 
Edalyn lead the Mario Singers, a small group of performers, most of whom have 
other roles at the restaurant, in belting out two 30-minute shows (three on 
weekends) every night for the diners. (Now 80, the senior Lallis are still 
working/singing every evening, even on Sundays at 9.) [Restaurant’s now closed.—Ed., 2010]

“Our family has had a restaurant there for 30 years,” says Boomer. “For 20 of 
those years it was very successful, and summers off were just party time, just 
great. But now, it’s just changed. There’s a lot of big corporate money doing 
the restaurant thing there, so a unique little place like we had? It’s tough to 
make it work there these days. Our lease was up in the desert and we just 
thought What the fuck, let’s go for it in Pasadena.

“And you know, as great as 
the desert has been for our music, it was a terrible place to play music.”

Since he was 16, Boomer has been doing music in the desert that didn’t exactly fit the format at the family restaurant—or anywhere else.

“We grew up on Aerosmith, but that was fantasyland. Then we saw D. Boon and Mike Watt and the cats in Black Flag and the guys in Redd Kross and Saccharine Trust, and we saw these guys were guys like us! They‘re just dudes. And skateboarding too had a lot to do with it, because it was all about: Find a place. You wanna go skateboard? Find a pool, bail it out. You do all that work, you put effort into it, and then you’ve got this place. 
And that bled over into music.”

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"New Orleans Soul Red Beans, Rice and Corn Bread" recipe by DAVID CATCHING

Here’s an old “Come On In My Kitchen” column from Arthur’s getting-rarer-by-the-minute March 2004 issue (No. 9, available from the Arthur Store.) Our star chef that issue was Dave Catching, gentleman guitarist of Joshua Tree, California…

daveredbeansSS
This issue’s chef: David Catching of Joshua Tree, California


David Catching is currently a member of earthlings?, Yellow No. 5 and Mondo Generator and appears on The Desert Sessions Volume 9 & 10 (Rekords Rekords/Ipecac). Take it away Dave…

Hey y’all, Mardi Gras season is here and I hope you’re lucky enough to be celebrating it with me in New Orleans. If you are, you’re probably drunk, still drinking, dancing, chasing members of the opposite or same sex all night, and will be pretty tore up tomorrow. Here’s a little recipe I learned from my friend Jimmy Ford at the Jimmy Ford Clinic (thanks for showin’ me the way) and my friend Chef Big D, of the now-defunct Harbor Bar and Restaurant (R.I.P.), both of New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s easy and oh-so-cheap, which will be helpful while your scrambled brain tries to figure out what you spent all your money on. I’m giving you the vegetarian version here, but it’s also killer when cooked with smoked sausage. It ain’t my fanciest recipe, but it is great and will cure the meanest of hangovers for pennies. Regarding Tony Chachere’s Cajun spice: if you can’t find it in your neighborhood stores, I would recommend a trip to New Orleans. That means you’re probably overdue for at least a weekend there anyway…

New Orleans Soul Red Beans, Rice and Corn Bread
feeds six tore-up folks

one pound dried red beans
two cups white rice
one yellow onion
one half red onion
eight cloves garlic
two vegetable bouillon cubes
two tablespoons Tony Chachere’s Cajun spice
three pinches salt
two pinches black pepper
one pinch white pepper
one cup water
one box Jiffy cornbread mix (I know, but real soul food restaurants really do use this mix)
one jalapeno pepper
six ounces grated cheddar cheese
one egg
one cup milk
optional: one pound smoked sausage cut in one-inch length pieces

Wash and soak red beans overnight and rinse. Add water and boil beans until cooked, then simmer on low. Saute onions and garlic, with spices. Add onion, garlic and spices to simmering red beans and cook a few hours to taste. Follow rice cooking instructions. Follow Jiffy cornbread mix directions, then add chopped jalapeno pepper and most of the cheese. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and cook per Jiffy cornbread mix instructions. Serve a mountain of beans (with or without the smoked sausage) on a nice thin bed of rice.

My first taste of this particular recipe was at the Harbor Bar and Restaurant (the best soul food joint anywhere, ever) on Mardi Gras Day, 1993. This was without a doubt one of the best days of my life. I marched with the Lions Carnival Club, starting at 6am, with our second line brass band leading the way, from the sparse uptown gatherings, through to the thousands gathered at Lee Circle with Rex and Zulu, finally reaching the unbridled revelry of the French Quarter at 3pm, our costumes and masks obscuring the awe and joy we all were experiencing, some of us having imbibed many brands and colors of hard alcohol, psychedelics, prescribed and non-prescribed medications, marijuana and, from what I can gather through hearsay and gossip, stimulants of all kinds. In the madness of Frenchman Street at sunset, I met a beautiful stranger, who led me to the Harbor Bar and Restaurant. There, I was saved by the red beans and rice…

….and a double turkey and seven.