“Destroying Britney For Profit: Notes On Jann Wenner, Clive Davis And Other Vampires In Decline” by Joe Carducci (Arthur, 2008)

Destroying Britney For Profit: Notes On Jann Wenner, Clive Davis And Other Vampires In Decline

by Joe Carducci

Originally published Mar 5, 2008 on Arthur’s Yahoo blog

It was a bit much to read Rolling Stone’s recent cover story on Britney Spears. It was probably written by Vanessa Grigoriadis, though three others are accused of “additional reporting.” But none of these wrote this sentence:

“She’s the perfect celebrity for America in decline: Like President Bush, she just doesn’t give a f**k, but at least we won’t have to clean up after her mess for the rest of our lives.”

That one’s gotta be by Jan Wenner. (His byline has been Jann Wenner since he went skiing in Gstaad in the early seventies and fell in love with Alpine Teutonic machismo.) But this particular issue’s real offenses were:

1. Wenner Media’s corrupt humility in the Britney piece, where Rolling Stone is counterposed to OK magazine, a Brit competitor just rolling out an American edition. You’d never know that it was Jan himself who brought the fleet street scumbag sensibility up from the Florida-based drugstore tabloids and onto supermarket shelves via his own Us Weekly. “Us!” As if! The PR media began to turn on its celebrity subjects when the movies, TV and music that featured them began to be faked even more cynically in the 1980s. It’s Jan’s cash that keeps those jackals with their digicams running through the streets of Los Angeles after Britney whether she’s coming from or going to rehab, court, or the mall. He debased the People magazine formula and now the Brits are setting up directly to chase him downmarket.

2. The same issue’s piece on Clive Davis wherein Rich Cohen attempts to fob off this pop vampire as the last of the “record men.” It’s right there in the article: He was the first of the suits, not the last of the record men! He made Barry Manilow record “Mandy” which don’t you know made his whole career possible! Who edits this rag?! Clive Davis was last seen trying to break down Kelly Clarkson with the promise of turning her into a Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston! Sounds like an actionable threat to me. Only a true record man would hire Mike Watt to play on a pop session, and Davis opposed it.

Wenner is the perfect mogul for a Media in decline.

According to the new issue of The Atlantic (again a Britney cover), the gossip sites see their heavy traffic “during the corporate lunch hour, from women between the ages of 16 and 34.” What is Britney exploring for her audience? Author David Samuels writes,

“In the dark sewer of misanthropic, gynophobic, and Rabelaisian epithets running through the comments section of celebrity blogs, one can also find gems of authentic emotional connection to celebrity foibles… A good number of readers seem to write in the openly delusional… belief that if their post is sincere or hateful enough, the walls separating their own lives from the lives of celebrities will dissolve, transporting them from the backlit world of their LCD screens to the super-pollinated atmosphere of the media daisy chain.”

Samuels claims the blog-staff at X17, the leading paparazzi agency with a new retail blog, are “USC film-school graduates who prefer to conceal their real names in order to preserve their future viability in the rapidly disintegrating Hollywood system.” Good thinking, kids. I can somehow picture the films you will one day make.

Nowhere in this Britney coverage high and low is any consideration of what she is doing in her roomful of mirrors. She did more than “give it up” in the paparazzi parlance as other stars that subtly position or pose to help them create their shots. She seems to have doubled down on stardom just as it’s dissolving from something once as concrete as George Clooney’s bone structure into something ambient or liquid. Additionally, within the secret world of young women, new rapidly normalizing options like anti-depressants, cosmetic surgery, and period-suppression are whirling into the still unsettled breakthroughs of contraception and abortion. Lindsay Lohan’s sad reprise of Marilyn Monroe’s final photo session before her suicide in a recent issue of New York, and Heath Ledger’s simple drug O.D. seem small compared to the level Britney is operating on. She’s the new media supernaut; I hope she escapes their death watch and lives to tell, or dies in private.

Joe Carducci is the author of Rock and the Pop Narcotic and Enter Naomi: SST, L.A. and All That…. This is his first blog post for Arthur Magazine.

“21 Recently Discovered Delights” by Elisa Ambrogio (Arthur, 2008)

Originally published in Arthur No. 29 (May 2008)

Above: Elisa at the 2007 Arthur benefit in L.A.

“21 Recently Discovered Delights”

by Elisa Ambrogio

A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates by Blake Bailey (Picador, 2004)

The Bailey came out this past year or so, but I would recommend first reading Yates’ easiest-to-find novel, Revolutionary Road, before it goes out of print again. Eros, pathos, flop sweat, it’s all there; a man outside and inside his own time. Highs and lows as a writer, but at his best it does not get better; more of a grown man than Salinger and less of a prick than Updike: the comic and horrible desperation of the 1950s middle class white guy. I can’t get enough! The biography is filled with his drinking, mother, teaching, TB, women, self-defeat, madness, work, beard-growing and sadness. 

Alex Nielson & Richard Youngs Electric Lotus LP (vhf, 2004)

Two guys make glue-sniffing rock and roll cast in the crucible of the entire recorded history of time and act really nonchalant about it. 

Giant Skyflower Band show at the Hemlock

Closing out the show under swirling lights, Jason stumped out deep crazy timpani, Glenn sawed away at melodies and chords like a old-timy German cobbler channeling Dave Kusworth and Shayde “Mushmouth” Sartin slunk out basslines like a somnambulant Greg Lake. It was a night to remember. They’ve got a cd on Soft Abuse called Blood of the Sunworm, and name notwithstanding, it is effen rad.

The Evolution of a Cro-magnon by John Joseph (Punk House, 2007)

Finally. But don’t take my word for it, Adam Yauch has this to say:“So if you want to remember what NYC was like in the ’70s and ’80s, if you are interested in selling fake acid at Madison Square Garden, or dressing up like Santa Claus in a wheelchair to hustle money for the Hari Krishnas…put a read on this.” Also available in…audio book form, AH! Now, anyone who is anyone knows that this year John Bloodclot is also coming out with his own nutrition and fitness guide. Here is what he had to say in his press release: “I’m sick of people, who are either ignorant of the facts, or even worse, have hidden agendas, dissing vegetarians because we care about animals and the environment. What do you want to live in a barren wasteland dick wad?” Amen.

Joshua Burkett Where’s My Hat (Time-Lag, 2008) 

The album long awaited by those who played holes into Gold Cosmos so many years ago is finally here. Joshua Burkett is known for co-owning Mystery Train—the best record store in Western Massachusetts—and for being a bit of a mystery train himself. Though a master musical craftsman, he rarely plays live and takes years to release records. Where’s My Hat starts with a bold electric bagpipe somewhere between  an emergency siren and a diseased fog. Josh’s guitar braids mental rugs and smoothes down the rough edges. Though I think of Simon Finn at his gentlest, or Pip Proud or Skip Spence, it is not like anything else. And if you think there is you are wrong. There are efforts that wish they were this but they are not. You can hear the difference. Attempts at peace and a knawing  ill-ease permeate the record, but it is above all a work of intricate idiosyncratic beauty. 

Moving to San Francisco 

I can’t believe this place. Lousy with people with the right ideas, jamming, playing good records and eating salmon tacos on the edge of green cliffs over the ocean.

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ARTHUR NO. 34 / APRIL 2013

Oversized broadsheet newspaper
24 15″ x 22.75″ pages (16 color, 8 b/w)


Now with 50% more pages, Arthur continues its comeback in the bold new broadsheet newspaper format that’s turning heads and drawing critical acclaim.

In this issue…

After 20-plus years navigating strange, inspiring trips across myriad underground psychedelic terrains with a host of fellow free folk, righteous musician/head MATT VALENTINE (MV & EE, Tower Recordings, etc) finally spills all possible beans in an unprecedented, career-summarizing, ridiculously footnoted epic interview by BYRON COLEY. Plus: Deep archival photo finds from the MV vaults, a sidebar wander through some important MV listening experiences with your guide Dan Ireton, and a gorgeous cover painting by ARIK ROPER of MV & EE at peace in the cosmic wild. Delicious!

Orange County, California psych rockers FEEDING PEOPLE left the church, entered the void, lost band members and returned to our reality to sing their tale in glorious reverb. Chris Ziegler investigates, with photography by Ward Robinson…

Everyone needs someone to love, and AROMATIC APHRODISIACS are here to help that lovin’ along (sans wack pharma side effects). From truffles to borrachero, author-scholars CHRISTIAN RATSCH and CLAUDIA MULLER-EBELING get in on the action. Illustrations by Kira Mardikes…

Gabe Soria chats with novelist AUSTIN GROSSMAN (Soon I Will Be Invincible) about the basic weirdness of playing (and making) VIDEO GAMES, with art by Ron Rege, Jr….

All-new full-color comics by Lale Westvind, Will Sweeney, Vanessa Davis and Jonny Negron…

Is there a way to examine the nature of existence at its very foundation? Esoteric mapmaker DAVID CHAIM SMITH says yes—but there’s a price. Interview by Jay Babcock…

Stewart Voegtlin on what (or: who) made MELVINS’ 1992 beercrusher Lysol the most unlikely religious record ever built, with art by Stewart’s Chips N Beer mag compatriot Beaver…

“Weedeater” Nance Klehm on BETTER HOME BREWING…

The Center for Tactical Magic on ANARCHO-OCCULTISM…

PLUS! Byron Coley and Thurston Moore’s essential underground review column, Bull Tongue, now expanded to two giant pages. Covered in this issue: New York Art Quartet, Don Cauble, Douglas Blazek, Rick Myers, Desmadrados, Century Plants, Richard Aldrich, Robbie Basho, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, Michael Zacchilli, Pat Murano, Tom Carter, Les Conversions, Hobo Sunn, Decimus, Saifyya, Jeff Keen, Inspector 22, Yves/Son/Ace, Pink Priest, Smegma, Nouvelle Impressions D’Afrique, K. Johnson Bair, Major Stars, Endless Boogie, David Novick, Joe Carducci, Scam, Erick Lyle, Phantom Horse, Failing Lights, Tomuntonttu, The Lost Domain, George Laughead jr., Xochi, Sublime Frequencies, Barbara Rubin, Red Rippers, Linda King, Cuntz, My Cat Is An Alien, Bird Build Nests Underground, Pestrepeller, Painting Petals on Planet Ghost, Peter Stampfel, Joshua Burkett, Michael Chapman, L’Oie de Cravan Press, Genvieve Desrosiers, The Residents, Dawn McCarthy, Bonnie Prince Billy, Ensemble Pearl, Azita, Woo, Galactic Zoo Dossier, Mad Music INc., White Limo, Excusamwa, Little Black Egg, Dump, Jarrett Kobek, Felix Kubin, The Army, Bruce Russell, and Gate…

And more stuff too hot to divulge online!

Please keep in mind… Arthur is no longer distributed for free anywhere. Those days are (sadly) long gone. Now you gotta buy Arthur or you won’t see it. Our price: Five bucks—not so bad!



Ten years ago — 2002 — right about now: 70,000 free copies of the 56-page Arthur Magazine No. 1 somehow hit the streets across North America.

Thank you to everyone who helped get this train rolling.

Thank you, publisher Laris Kreslins and art director W.T. Nelson. Thank you, adfellow Jamie Fraser.

Thank you, senior advisors Mark Lewman, Paul Cullum and Shawn Mortensen (RIP).

Thank you, contributors Paul Moody, Byron Coley and Thurston Moore, Geoff Mcfetridge, Spike Jonze, Neil Hamburger, David Berman, Ian Svenonius, Dame Darcy, Eddie Dean, Joe Carducci, Camille Rose Garcia, Jason Amos, Joseph Durwin, Daniel Pinchbeck, Alan Moore, Pat Graham, Dave Brooks, Steve Giberson, Mike Castillo and John Henry Childs.

Thank you, all the agents in our improvised guerrilla distribution network across the continent.

Thank you, all the entities that spent money to advertise in our untested pages.

Thank you to everyone thanked on Page 3 of the mag: Brendan Newman, Kreslins Family, Oma, Kristaps, Gary Hustwit, Chris Ronis, Kate Sawai, Janis Sils, Bernadette Napoleon, Vineta Plume, Fred Cisterna, Richard Grijalva, Ned Milligan, Lizzy Klein, Robin Adams, Jack Mendelsohn, John Shimkonis, Prolific, Chris Young, Ed Halter, Mike Galinsky, Jim Higgins, Plexifilm Family, Alie Robotos, Domainistudios, Fistfulayen, Natalie and Zach, Janitor Sunny Side Up, Yasmin Khan, Rachel Stratton, Lady Montford, John Coulthart, Henry Childs and Joshua Sindell.

Thank you, Sue Carpenter.

Thank you, Darcey Leonard.

Thank you, John Payne and Andrew Male.

Thank you, Robin Turner.

Thank you to the bands that played Arthur’s launch party at Spaceland in Silver Lake (thank you, Jennifer Tefft): Fatso Jetson, Chuck Dukowski Sextet… I’m not sure who else.

Thank you, Matt Luem.

Thank you, Steve Appleford, for being a real journalist.

Thank you to everyone who played a role who I’ve forgotten or neglected to post here. (Please be in touch!)

And thank you to everyone who found the magazine, picked it and read it.

We’re coming back.

LIFE AGAINST DEMENTIA by Joe Carducci (Arthur, 2002)

Originally published in Arthur No. 1 (Oct. 2002)

by Joe Carducci

Anyone familiar with the roiling currents and tidal motion of American popular culture knows that the film and music industries are delivering less interesting work than ever. Melodies, rhythms, songs, voices, characters, stories and genres seem colder, more processed and, in general, received rather than inspired. There’s nothing wrong with referencing or even stealing plots or melodies as long as the stealing’s done by an artist or madman who revives them too, in some new personal way. But with the explosion of University film departments and rock and roll courses in the last two decades the American arts are filling up with professional careerists who better belong in business college, or law school.

The action film fell of its own overblown weight; you’d hardly know that it grew from such lean, tightly-scripted productions as Dirty Harry (1971), Death Wish (1974), Rocky (1976), First Blood (1982), and Terminator (1984). And whereas Jaws (1975) remade film marketing, Titanic (1997) threatened to remake the action film itself: fusing the male action film with the woman’s film takes another hundred million dollars and an additional hour in running time. The resulting summer behemoths trod the marketplace with such strong-arming confidence that the studios practically demand they be made without costly stars so as to pack in more explosives and effects and advertising.

The music industry’s dilemma was clear at this year’s Grammies. In a normal year Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS), would have slammed Republicans on non-Industry social policy grounds, but Bush got off easy this year as the country ain’t in the mood and Greene’s house was not in order. Big recording stars are lobbying in Sacramento to void the record industry’s exemption from the seven-year personal contract limit, and they want to own their own master recordings. And over all the bogus proceedings on Grammy night loomed the specter of the computer-software-hardware-internet juggernaut’s paramount killer app—free music. (NARAS is no longer Greene’s playpen due to sexual harassment lawsuit—a real Clinton Democrat, apparently.)

So the questions become:

– Have the media, which now dominate content, so divided programming into blindered marketing niches that’s they’ve cut the cords to our rich musical and film traditions?

– Has the evolution of Pop—its computer generated virtual musics and films—superseded any organic folk motion within our music and film traditions?

– Has the Organization Man of International Entertainment corporate culture proved incapable of recognizing and delivering music and film of the level that sundry Sammy Glicks and juke-box mobsters did for decades in their sleep?

– Has the music underground rejected all tradition but either the line of nihilism diagrammed by Greil Marcus in Lipstick Traces, or a backstop of kitsch (such vicarious ex-pat pursuits as French chanson, Exotica, Canto-Pop, J-pop)?

Sorry I asked…

We can’t be sure whether the current thin gruel might not be the only possible art deduced from the slim pickings of the last nearly thirty years. The teenagers just starting their bands and the twenty-somethings still prepping their first film will be the artists shaping what American pop culture will become. But they have experienced pop culture of little depth or personality their entire lives. What humanity persists in the art tends to be negative, reactionary traits: cynicism, indifference, contempt….

Radio was formatted in the early seventies and so ambitious recording artists quickly began to format themselves. An entire generation of willful rock bands—Ramones through Flipper—refused to format themselves. These were the last bands to have grown up listening to the cultural mix of pre-1973 radio and TV variety shows (not to mention walked through the high grade “amateur” musical environment Americans of all ages once experienced at County Fairs, Corn-boils, church socials, and school dances). But unformatted, these Punk bands were then, not programmed. Those that attempted to format themselves for hits (Talking Heads, Devo, X, Replacements…) ensured they would not be the bands that carried the torch forward; perversely, it would be the unprogrammed misses (Ramones, Avengers, Black Flag, Minutemen, Descendents…) that would launch a million bands.

Since the music left the South in the late fifties the natural grace of that early rock and roll has gradually dimmed, leaving a more studied rock music in its place. The British bands of the decade between 1963 and 1973 had studied the music, though you couldn’t say they were grounded in it. The American punk bands that formed before 1980 were the last to be grounded in this folk tradition aspect of rock and roll (though they were warped as well by that new Brit influence). Thereafter, even the most important bands (Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Tool, Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age, White Stripes…) are necessarily more conceptual in approach. It may be that our distance from the South of that day, and the input from today’s constricted media-driven musical environment might ultimately dry up the musicality of even bands that do not depend on the programmers of radio and MTV.

Hollywood today, courtesy of marketing science and Sammy Glick IV, offers CGI (computer-generated imaging) Potemkin villages and villagers for pulverizing in CGI thermidor for the boys, tearjerking emo-porn for girls, and nihilistic puzzle pictures for the sophistos. Generations of filmmakers have been destroyed by the Star Wars saga with nary a wobble in the force detected. (In my unrequited meetings with film producers in L.A. and N.Y. the life-size star-trooper models in the office corners never relax their guard.) More noxious influences on film narratives are tramping in from TV, music videos, advertising, videogames, pornography, and all the film deconstruction bonuses included on the typical DVD release.

Recently passing on through the obit pages have been American cultural figures such as Peggy Lee, Budd Boetticher, Joey and Dee Dee Ramone, Dave Van Ronk, Pop Staples, Katy Jurado, Ray Brown, Anthony Quinn, Waylon Jennings, Dorothy MacGuire, Harlan Howard, John Lee Hooker, Richard Farnsworth, Bernard Klatzko, Carl Perkins, Ed Roth, Hilous Butrum, Rod Steiger, Otis Blackwell, and John Fahey. Never mind the heftlessness of the obits in decades to come, Britney Spears may never die! The biotech nerds (not known for their ability to hear music) are forging new frontiers in unintended consequences.

Our meta-sentient pop culture has foreshadowed this immortality. The explosion of cultural choices via cable and satellite has reached critical mass via the web—it’s now become something different, a constant ambient hemorrhagic din. Kids watch Ozzie and Harriet and The Osbournes; the Randolph Scott rides again; Buster Keaton falls down and springs up again; and even the sword-and-sandal genre returns! We are either jacked by contemporary offerings (Survivor, Cops, Robot Wars, Dismissed…) or calmed by our immortal ghost culture (Lawrence Welk, Audie Murphy, Cheyenne, Father Knows Best…).

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“Charles Bronson, Dark Buddha” by Joe Carducci (Arthur, 2003)

Originally published in Arthur No. 7 (November 2003). Adapted from the forthcoming book, Stone Male – Requiem for a Style.

Charles Bronson, Dark Buddha
by Joe Carducci

Charles Buchinsky was following his brothers and father down the coalmine when WWII drafted him out from under the company town of Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania. After the war he drifted and found pickup work to avoid getting locked down into the life of his family, and to protect and pursue his interest in painting. A job painting sets for a theater led to acting and marriage to actress Harriet Tendler. By 1949 he’d done bit parts on New York stages, and they moved to L.A. where he trained at the Pasadena Playhouse, which led to his first bit part in a Gary Cooper film, You’re in the Navy Now (1951).

Buchinsky (often Buchinski), with his stocky ‘30s action-style body and toughguy face, was first just another uglyman character actor—not as mean as Neville Brand, not as nice as Ernest Borgnine. American film audiences after the war were no longer obsessed with pretty boy leads, but it was older actors who took advantage of this new appetite for realism—Robert Taylor, James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda—many of whom in fact had been those slim, unmarked romantic leads of twenty years earlier. Others who got the interesting B film leads were actors like Aldo Ray, Rod Steiger, Broderick Crawford; Buchinsky coveted these roles. He changed his name to Bronson in 1954 to sound less suspicious during the Hollywood red scare—his parents were both Lithuanian.

He was in the Hollywood system though not as a contract player with a studio. Still, he was soon getting third or fourth billed roles in westerns such as Apache (1954), Drum Beat (1954), Jubal (1956), and Run of the Arrow (1957). But he was ambitious and remained frustrated. He took lead roles in three great 1958 B-films, Showdown at Boot Hill, Machine Gun Kelly and Gang War, did dozens of television one-off roles from 1953 to 1967, and starred in a cheapjack series, Man with a Camera (1958-60). 1960s A-films for Bronson meant playing in the action ensembles of Never So Few (1959), The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), and The Dirty Dozen (1967). It was progress, a career, but he’d expected more. Bronson was the eleventh of 15 children of immigrants; his father was dead of black lung disease by the time Charles was 12. Several of his siblings died young. Once out of Ehrenfeld he’d been taken for an immigrant himself and he worked hard to leave his accent and naiveté behind. (Bronson used this accent for the character Velinski in The Great Escape.)

He bounced from agent to agent, divorced his wife, fell in love with his best friend’s wife and found himself ready for lightning to strike. Bronson turned down a script from Italy called “The Magnificent Stranger.” Richard Harrison, an American actor who had found work and fame in Europe, was busy and told Sergio Leone about Clint Eastwood. The idea was to have an American star in a German financed, Italian directed western based on a Japanese film (Yojimbo) inspired by a Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott western (Buchanan Rides Alone); it would be shot in Spain. Eastwood was younger, and had less to lose; he was looking forward to the end of the TV series Rawhide wherein he’d played a character he’s referred to as ‘trail flunky.’ Eastwood simply threw out his character’s and most of the others’ dialogue and as luck had it Leone had an eye for the rest; the film became A Fistful of Dollars (1964). Bronson then rejected For a Few Dollars More (1965) and that part went to Lee Van Cleef, a marginal heavy in lots of westerns through the ‘50s. Van Cleef became an overseas star too; he looked great but never threw out enough of his dialogue. Bronson would have done The Good, the Bad and the Ugly because by then he’d seen Fistful, but he was committed to The Dirty Dozen (1967).

Meanwhile, Bronson was getting his own international action. He had married the English actress Jill Ireland after she’d divorced actor David McCallum. (It was apparently all very civilized and will someday make a nice little TV movie.) McCallum, who was quite a pop star due to his role in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., had turned his agent Paul Kohner onto Bronson, and Ireland pushed him to France to do Adieu L’Ami (a.k.a., Farewell Friend, or Honor Among Thieves, 1968) and Rider on the Rain (1970). These arty messes were huge hits throughout Europe and Asia but are most interesting for being the first to really frame and linger on Bronson’s potential for violence in its cool, calm potential phase. Following such stillness with his natural aptitude with guns and fists became his formula. Bronson made ten films in five years for European production companies. And Leone finally got Bronson for Once Upon a Time in the West (1969) where he played opposite Henry Fonda.

After five years dominating the overseas box office, Bronson returned to Hollywood, though by now the studios were mere distributors of the productions of smaller, hipper companies—companies who knew the value of Charles Bronson. Dino De Laurentiis Productions signed him for three pictures at a million dollars each. The third of these was Death Wish, a film that became the zeitgeist’s skyrocket in the summer of 1974. And so, as the ‘60s youth culture crested and curdled in 1974, a deeply scarred 52-year-old immigrant’s son found himself the number one box office attraction in America, and the world.

Producer-director Michael Winner who worked with Bronson in this period said, “He had a chance when he could have broken through, and I know the pictures he didn’t do and it’s a pity.” But when the personal and professional pressures finally let up on Bronson, film had become to him merely a professional means to personal ends. He always knew his lines and hit his marks on the set. More often in Hollywood, actors were contemptuous of their craft and so drank or whored or subverted characterizations as written with a kind of performance striptease often hinting at closeted homosexuality. Bronson instead respected the work, but from hereon he considered himself a family man first, a painter second, and only then an actor. Bronson, the Dark Buddha, had reached his personal-professional goal or dharma and it earned him the following or sangha that further freed him.

He loved Jill Ireland; they were a Beauty and the Beast couple. She loved children as he did; more so perhaps for enduring repeated miscarriages to have them. His and her children from both previous marriages as well as their daughter were often together in the rural Vermont Bronson household and after Death Wish’s success Bronson and Ireland made films together. He gladly forced her on producers, and snubbed Hollywood by working primarily with Brit directors (Michael Winner, J. Lee Thompson, Peter Hunt). The best of these films are Chato’s Land (1971), Stone Killer (1973), Death Wish (1974), Death Hunt (1981) and maybe even Murphy’s Law (1986).

Three fortunate exceptions to this Brit preference are among the best films of Bronson in his prime: Mr. Majestyk (1974) directed by Hollywood veteran Richard Fleischer from a script by Elmore Leonard, Breakout (1975) directed by Tom Gries, and Hard Times (1975), Walter Hill’s directorial debut. Telefon (1977), though directed by Don Siegel and written by Stirling Silliphant, is less than it ought to be (see Siegel’s chapter on the film in his autobiography for details).

Late Bronson deteriorates but remains interesting. The Death Wish series (five in all; the last direct-to-video), 10 to Midnight (1983), The Evil That Men Do (1984), and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects (1989) are lurid collisions of an aging puritan-avenger Bronson with some of the sleaziest settings any box office champ ever got near. Here the sexual neuroses and Fleet Street cynicism of the Brits and Bronson’s professional detachment yielded strikingly perverse films. Bronson’s Beauty was dying of cancer through these years and when she succumbed in 1990 his career changed as well. He did one last great support role (fifth billed and without hairpiece) in Sean Penn’s The Indian Runner (1991) and then moved to network television where he did some good wholesome work that was likely closer to his true taste: Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus (1991), The Sea Wolf (1993), Donato and Daughter (1993), and the three Family of Cops films (1995, 1997, 1999).

Today, Bronson’s catalog has drifted off of the shelves of videostores with the phasing out of videotape, and interest hasn’t yet demanded restocking in the DVD format. A failed career then, one might say, but surely a successful life—a complete kalpa. In Hollywood the reverse is more often true, though it’s generally work from failed careers that endures. A Buchinsky autobiography is to be published.

Margin quotes:

“The star, to me, is not an actor. He doesn’t do a scene. An actor in that kind of role just wanders through the action. He doesn’t impose himself on the action.” —Bronson to Curtis Lee Hanson, Cinema, Vol. 3, No. 1, December 1965

“The most frustrating element is to try to protect the performance you know you gave, to get it up on the screen. This is the most difficult thing when you are a supporting actor, because the leading credits get all of the consideration…. You’ve got to work, you’ve got to live. I’m in a supporting category right now. The only solution is to get the hell out of this category, and prove that you can draw the box office as well as anybody else.” —Bronson to Curtis Lee Hanson, Cinema, Vol. 3, No. 1, December 1965

“Brando’s walking around dressed like a bum and telling how tough life is. How does he know? It was never tough for him. And it wasn’t tough for most of those ‘angry’ guys. What have any of them got to be ‘angry’ about?” —Bronson!, W.A. Harbinson, Pinnacle Books, New York

“It was the biggest ‘plug’ show in the history of television. The sponsor was a manufacturer of cameras and photography products. I was the hero, a news cameraman, but the director had to keep stopping the action to make sure the label on the equipment was visible. By the tenth week I realized I was playing second banana to a flashbulb. In the twentieth week, our flashbulb became obsolete when another company marketed one that could be used over and over again. So we got canceled after the twenty-sixth week.”—Bronson!, W.A. Harbinson, Pinnacle Books, New York

Byron Coley and Thurston Moore’s “Bull Tongue” column from Arthur No. 27 (Dec 07)

by Byron Coley and Thurston Moore

from Arthur No. 27 (Dec 2007) [available from The Arthur Store]

Joe Carducci, the ingeniously screwball theorist behind Rock and the Pop Narcotic has come out of the hills to grace us with another idiosyncratic non-fiction book, Enter Naomi (Redoubt Press), which presents an insider’s version of the SST label story. The structure teeters between chapters dealing with the particulars of the Naomi Peterson saga (she was a staff photographer for the SST), and a general recounting of the label’s saga. It’s a good if somewhat fragmentary read, focusing on some of the label’s issues with gender politics more than other possible tangents. Which means it’s still not the definitive SST book—probably there’ll never be just one—but it’s a pretty exciting read nonetheless.

As expected, the new box of Siltbreeze stuff is a magnificent blot on our culture. The FactumsAlien Native LP is a reissue of a 2004 CDR crafted (one supposes) as a side project to work with the Fruit Bats, the Intelligence and other combos more formal in their organization of body shape. The Factums’ material is evenly split between loose, baggy, electron-o fwuh with a very diseased kind of surface and a guitarric syntax mangling that totally defies archeological stratification. For punk, it’s insanely buxom.

Sunshine of Your Love by Xno bbqX (one of the most elegant CLE band name tributes ever) is similarly well-proportioned. Recorded a few years back (it was originally a cassette), it is the work of two Australian vegans in a shed with an electronic guitar and a drum (or something), but we’ll be rolled in a fuggin’ rug if it doesn’t sound like these guys eat meat. What the hell? Still, vegan or no, this’s a fairly magnificent third-yard of wet-black-snapper, and has all the requisite duo moves that “knowers” look for.

If it’s fun you seek, you could do far worse than to look up the work associated with Denmark’s Smittekilde collective. Their vibe is a bit in line with Ultra Eczema’s, but no one’s as thoroughly screwed up as Dennis Tyfuss, so the material is a bit more tame overall. Still, the latest batch of swag is quite glamorous. First up is Kindergarten Exposure #2, a graphics fanzine in the same vein as some of Mark Gonzalez’s stuff or the Hello Trudi material—single page illustrations and stuff by a variety of artists, primarily in a somewhat crude vein. Yum.

Perhaps even more screwed is Kattemad. This is a graphics book by Loke Sebastian, Luca Bjornsten and Zimon Rasmussen, detailing the different ways in which cat food can be disgusting. Excellent. As is Rock World comics by Soren Mosdal and Jacob Orsted. We’d initially thought this looked a little straight, but the excellent English language text, about crappy music and beer and toilet paper, ended up being quite outstanding. The same goes for Mok Nok’s Slugstorm LP, which has a dandy silk-screened cover. The music is a cool blend of post-noise instrumentals with fragmentary glimpses of drool in the distance. The vibe reminds us a little of Dirty Three, back when they were still on Poon Village, if they were crossed with some of the scum-roots that Mick Turner was trying to repress. Nimble!

The photographer Mick Rock has been responsible for a number of iconic images. His best-known work is undoubtedly his glam stuff, but for us the most important is the cover work for the Stooges’ Raw Power and that for Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs. The bulk of Rock’s Stooges work came out a couple of years ago. But the Barrett shots were only available in a very expensive limited edition hardcover that came and went in 2002. Now, Gingko Press’s Rebel Arts imprint has released Psychedelic Renegade, a prole version of what I assume to be the same material, and it is a true pleasure to behold. Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading