Monday, January 28, 2008

The Lost Week End

Here we are at the last day of my 50 party. Pictured are Fojammi, Mark Gray, Me and Tony Patti. Don't look like 4 artists, do they? Tony asked if the people at the party were my skydiving friends. I told him they weren't. My buddy Fran Weber asked if they were my musician friends. I told him they weren't. Who were these people?
It reminded me of a Salvidor Dali memoir. In an entry titled "How to be a hyper-snob" . He wrote he wasn't making money yet and his bohemian friends invited him to dinner. He declined saying that his rich patron friends had already asked. The same day he turned down an invitation from the rich patrons with the excuse that he was spending the evening with his bohemian friends. He almost starved during this time.
Valerie and I took my kids to the Soulard dog parade. We ran into Joanie, Patty and Tommy Thomas. Barb and Michael Jackson were there too.
Sharon supplied the photo

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Birthday Season

Man, this is birthday season. Ben just had one. Mine was last Friday and it lasted 3 days. By Sunday I just wanted to crawl under a down blanket and watch old Charlie Chan movies. It wasn’t to be.

My skydiving buddy Colorful Tom, husband of famed KDHX DJ ‘Drea Stein, talked me into going down to our local bar “Friendly’s” so he could buy me a birthday drink. Walking into the bar I almost couldn’t believe my bloodshot eyes. It was a surprise party. I eventually rallied and the party got going. Valerie had been planning it for months and I don’t know how she had the energy to pull it off.

Tony Patti, Mark Gray, Sharon, Becky, Danny Stefacek, Steve Martin, Sardo, Tom and ‘Drea were the only locals. It seemed like everyone else came from a hundred miles away and it was cold that night. A lot of people that just lived blocks away never got their invites.

The beer garden was tented in with a wood burning stove. They went to a lot of trouble to decorate it but it was too damn cold and we took over the back room. Let’s see--- Marge and Phil, Dennis Connolly and Noel Bowman, Linda and Joe Suterer all came from Wine Country were we used to party with Rib Tip and Sue. I mentioned jumping into their frozen pond on New Year’s Day many years ago in a previous entry. That’s what’s pictured above. (I’m pretty sure I borrowed the swim suit from Rib Tip). Joe and Linda brought the pic.

It also just happened to be Dennis’ 67th birthday.

Valerie’s family seems to have this running gag. They get me some article of clothing that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, Skydiving is not for you!”

Last night was Sharon’s birthday. Mark’s girl friend Trish had a grand opening for her new restaurant Sandrina’s. Dom and Vince’s band, Psychotronics, played. A lot of people I know were there and I think I probably offended every one of them in one way or another. (I get a little amped up when I drink whiskey). Those evenings are usually followed by a full day of apologetic phone calls. In fact this blog entry is a day late and a dollar short. I’m just about well enough to head down to Soulard’s dog parade.

Valerie and I were just in the Epiphany parade down there. We ran into Joanie, Tom and Meagan. I told Meagan I mentioned her 2 Harlequin Romance novels in my blog and she still seems embarrassed about it. I personally would love to have anything published.

It just occurred to me that I haven’t put anything historical in this entry so here goes: In the late 80’s I tended bar at the Soulard Preservation Hall during Mardi Gras. It was a great gig. I made a small fortune, got drunk and handed my cash drawer over without having to balance the books. It’s amazing how much love and trust there was back then. This was the same year local artist David Classe painted the wild naked man dancing on the roof of the Preservation hall. That was Chuck Auger. Chuck was speeding on meth and howling at the moon. The cops got him down and he used the police report for his promotion portfolio. He was very proud of it. He was also the best concert promoter I’ve ever played for. It was a calling he never really pursued.

Sharon says she has surprise party pics. I'll post them later.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Central West End

This is a photo of my band Jon Cotton in 1973. I was 15 and just coming into my own as a young adult. The guy with his head in the bass drum is John. His sister Lora has been mentioned earlier. If you live in St. Louis you know John as the head of one of our town’s biggest real estate developers. John’s had an interesting life and I might go into what little I know of it some day. Dom and Ben are also pictured. They’re still part of my life and I’m sure there will be new stories yet with them.

I was living in the Central West End then. It hadn’t been gentrified yet and was what I imagined the Haight Ashbury scene was like. We had a lot of San Francisco transplants and a lot of West Enders moved back out there. There was a pretty openly gay community complete with a popular bar on the corner named the Potpourri. We had a head shop named The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari where you could get your drug paraphernalia. Before Duff’s opened it was a black magic shop with a pentagram painted on the floor. The neighborhood had a lot of witches and warlocks.

Duff’s acquired the space and Dominic got a job mopping up at the end of the night. Duff’s was only a single storefront then. When they added the storefront next door they got a dumb waiter so they could send dishes downstairs to a dish washer. Before this everything was done by hand in a sink.

Dominic took a vacation and got me to fill in for him. They weren’t sure what to call the position so they called me The Dominic. I was scrubbing a stove when I had my first encounter with my manager Vance. He was a long haired, bearded warlock crouched at the door pointing a huge knife at me. “Hey lover, how’d you like whisker burns on your butt hole?” he hissed.

Dominic told me the story of a large guy in a nun’s habit named Sister Benedict. He threw Dom over his shoulder, running down the alley with him as he kicked and cried. Sister Benedict turned out to be Bobby Udell, a cousin nobody told me about. We all became great friends.

There’s a lot more to come about the West End and Duff’s.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I turn 50 today

For my thoughts about this go to
scroll to the bottom and click on "Turning 50"

Saturday, January 12, 2008

John Forester

One of my father’s best friends was his roommate John Forester. John was one of my dad’s pall bearers and cried like a baby through the whole service. It broke my heart even more.

John used to be in the Negro Baseball League. He told us stories about his team traveling through the south in their bus. It could be scary, but there were funny moments.

There was sign at one small town that read, “If you’re a nigger, get out of town. If you can’t read this, get out of town anyway.”

September 2nd 1979

My life went down a new road on September 2nd, 1979. My band’s agent was a guy named Buzz Butler. He was the hardest working agent in show business representing bands like Street Corner Symphony and Walnut Park. Walnut Park later changed their name to The Heaters.

He had us booked at The Stagger Inn in Edwardsville that evening. For some reason my mother and brother decided to drive out to see us that night. My father originally said he’d be there but backed out at the last minute. He had decided to go the DuQuoin State Fair with a girl friend.

We had finished sound check and were relaxing in a back room before the show. Mark Gray was our sound man. He came into the room in hysterics. His face was red and his body was convulsing. I wondered if he was having a bad reaction to some drug. He looked at me and said, “Your dad is dead.”

Everything went yellow.

Mark’s mother Suzy was on the phone. I could barely understand anything she said because she was crying and having trouble catching her breath. She later told me I was able to comfort her enough to give me details.

They had decided to go to a friend’s property at Holiday Shores, a man made lake that happened to be close by. My father was swimming from the side of a boat. He went under the water and never came back up. Everyone panicked and they eventually found him tangled in the weeds at the bottom of the lake.

This all came to me 15 minutes before we were to go on stage. In a trance like state I went on. At our first break my brother Patrick and I went to the local morgue to claim his body.

I was given his personal affects. Patrick refused to believe he was dead and insisted on seeing his body. The mortician was reluctant but my brother persisted. We went into the basement of the mortuary to find him with tubes pumping liquids into his body. It was unreal for me and I was angry with Patrick for making us go through it. There was an open casket at the funeral home and I was never able to get closer than 30 feet from him. It felt like there was actually a physical barrier.

Somehow we made it through the show that night and everyone told us it was one of our best. After loading up to leave it was time to get paid. Buzzy said the bar short changed us $25.00 but he made up for it by stealing an expensive bottle of scotch. Dominic was still drinking at the time and was more than happy to take it as part of his pay. Buzz always looked out for his acts. Everyone loved him. He’s gone now too.

The funeral service was held in South St. Louis and the procession went from there all the way to Calvary Cemetery on the north side. In the lead car on the highway I looked back at the cars that in the procession and I couldn’t see the end.

"He who dies with the most friends wins."

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Venice Cafe

After the Oyster Bar closed I worked at a few different places until Jeff Lockheed offered me a job at his bar the Venice Cafe. He said he’d hire anyone that slept with Monica Reed.

I’d like to make a list of everyone that worked there because they were all talented but I’m afraid I’d leave someone out.

The Venice was originally Jeff’s home. We would sometimes end up there after the Oyster Bar closed. The upstairs bar used to be Jeff’s bedroom. He had a large scoreboard from some old ball park over his bed.

Jeff is a pretty original painter and the house was filled with art. I still have some of his Christmas cards. They were very funny, psychedelic, Pointillism drawings. There was a huge canvas that hung over the fireplace that depicted Christ on the cross with a cartoon word balloon that said, “This hurts!”

Jeff also lived in a boat at Portage Des Sioux. He pretty much gave up living at the house and opened it up as a coffee house. At first he kept it open until 3:00am and a lot of under age college students came. That all changed when he got a liquor license.

Before I started working there I didn’t know his partner Paul Cuba. Paul was really the boss and Jeff seemed to be more of the P.R. man. Paul was also a painter. He mainly did huge Hyper-Realism pieces. He reminded me a lot of my boss at the Oyster Bar Dennis. He was a good guy. He died a few years ago. I’m not sure how.

A friend of mine named Meagan had 2 Harlequin Romance novels published that were hiding somewhere in the Venice’s library. The library was scattered throughout the bar and she was too embarrassed to point out the books. I never could find them.

Another friend, Wren, did my tattoos. They’re simple Mercury wings on my ankles. I wanted them to look like I’d gotten them in prison. The idea was that as a skydiving artist I was the winged messenger. Oh well, Wren is tattooing for Trader Bob now.

One year the Venice was invited to appear at the city’s St. Patrick’s parade. The only rule was that everyone would wear green and white. The guys all showed up in Girl Scout outfits and roller skates. The Venice was not invited back.

The following year Soulard had their first St. Pat’s parade featuring the roller skating Girl Scouts. I got to drive the lead car carrying our Grand Marshall Ray Hartman. This was before he sold the Riverfront Times to the Village Voice people.

We were in Jeff’s art car. It had a stock propeller and you had to double clutch it like a truck. It was open to the air and we had a case of beer behind us in the back seat. It was so cold the beer actually got colder as we drank it. I ran into Ray years later and he said the only thing he really remembered was the painful coldness. I was dressed in a drum majors outfit in complete Mardi Gras drag. No one in the crowd recognized me even though I yelled at everyone. The car is pictured with Jeff.

It seemed like a lot of us scattered after marriage and kids. I’ll have a lot of stories about the Venice.