Sunday, March 27, 2011

Midnight Flicks

That last story reminded me about Midnight Flicks. We never had money and we usually panhandled our way in. I remember standing outside the Kirkwood Cinema trying to get in. I was 15, and it was Tracy’s 17th birthday. He was older and I thought he looked down at us with disdain. His expression seemed to say, “Why would you even come if you didn’t have the money to get in?”

Most of my favorite movies were run as midnight flicks. I don’t think they could make it in the mainstream marketplace.

Harold and Maud, El Topo, The Magic Flute, King of Hearts, Reefer Madness, Eraserhead, Beatles marathons, Freaks, Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, Gimme Shelter and Woodstock, Night of the Living Dead, the John Waters movies, 200 Motels, The Harder They Come, and the list goes on.

I remember coming out of the Varsity after a Beatles marathon and it was day time. We got to see old films the way they were meant to be seen. Before the Tivoli went totally “Art House” they screened all the old stuff. If you haven’t seen The Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D on a full screen you totally missed it. Those underwater scenes were incredible.

One night when I was standing in line at the Varsity Theater there were posters advertising next week’s flick, Eraserhead. I fell in love with the poster and somehow talked the theater owner into giving me a poster. Eraserhead is my son’s favorite movie.

These places were a good place for kids to hang out. I think they were baby sitting all the city’s adolescents. The ones I frequented were; The Tivoli, The Varsity (now Vintage Vinyl in University City), The Webster Cinema, The Kirkwood Theater, The Des Peres, and The Hi-Point.

One night we went to the High Point because Bud Cort from Harold and Maude would be there promoting his new film. When I walked into the dark theater I saw my buddy Tracy standing up front in a long overcoat. I ran up, threw my arms around him and yelled, “Hey Trace!” It was Bud Cort and man, was I embarrassed!

Naturally most of the kids were up to no good and there were a lot of drugs going around. The kids all seemed to be drawing their philosophical lines in the sand. There was a group that enjoyed mixing barbiturates and alcohol and getting totally trashed. I never understood it but I’m sure they never understood my group either. We had a friend whose dad owned a pharmacy. We had an unlimited supply of diet pills to help us through the all-nighters and we weren’t really into booze. I know both groups would seem distasteful to most people, but that’s how we rolled.

It all came to a screeching halt with Rocky Horror Picture Show. It started playing at the Varsity and was so successful they never ran anything else. RHPS was fine the first 4 or 5 times but it grew into a monster. Everyone came in drag and sang along with the movie. My friend Dan Holt got so good at the costumes, he ended up moving to Hollywood and going to movie make-up school.

All the other theaters’ business dried up and like all fads, interest finally waned but it was too late.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Birthday Cards from Valerie

My son has a huge collection of Kurt Cobain T-shirts. We had a small celebration for his birthday last night and Valerie came up with another great card. I decided I should post Chloe's and mine too.
Dylan - 3-23, Chloe - 2-14, Me - 1-18

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The First Time

My real independence came when I turned 15. I was a city kid and I’d already developed a strong enough sense of nostalgia that I was compelled to hitch hike back to Kirkwood in search of my childhood.

My friend Don, the kid I used to play air guitar on yard sticks to Kinks records, was actually playing bass now.

Don turned me on the “Grab Bag” at Mel Bay music. It was a box of super cheap used guitars. I found a spectacular green sunburst guitar that actually had 5 pick-ups and 10 knobs for $25.00!

My dad and Suzy Gray came up with the cash. Actually Suzy laid a guilt trip on my dad to come up with the money.

It was a beautiful sunny weekend morning. My family lived in the attic of a mansion on Westminster Place, a private street in the West End. I was ranting about the Grab Bag. “There was a beautiful guitar in there for only $25.00,” I said. Suzy threw an evil glance at my dad and said, “You come up with $10.00, and I’ll cover the rest!”

I hitched as far as Hampton and Highway 44 before the cops threw me off the road. I was so excited I walked the railroad tracks all the way to Kirkwood from there. If you’re familiar with St. Louis, you’ll appreciate what a feat that is.

Don turned me on to his friends in Webster Groves. He was a year older than me, so I was surprised when he fell in love with a girl named lee who was only 12. He dumped his old girlfriend Nancy for her.

Nancy tried to make Don jealous by making out with me. Nancy was my first real girlfriend. I was the envy of all my friends, she actually drove a car.

She lived in a huge, beautiful Webster Groves house that had a secret passage that was used to hide runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. I spent nights hiding from her dad there. I also slept in her dad’s van when there was snow on the ground. Man, what I went through for love.

Nancy never really cared that much about me and when it became clear Don wasn’t coming back, she dumped me. The whole thing lasted less than two weeks. Now I was a seasoned veteran in the ways of the world. I was heart broken, but it didn’t last long. Lee had a twin sister.

Lin was one of four girls who lived with her dad about half a block from Nancy. Their house was where all the hip kids hung out. We all went through our first sex, drugs, philosophy, and intellectual awakening there. There really was a counter culture in those days and we were in the heart of it.

Lin and I started taking long walks together late at night. As hip as we thought we were, we were babies. One night we found ourselves in the bushes by railroad tracks. It must have taken two hours before we got up the nerve to kiss. After that, it was official, we were one!

I can’t believe her dad let us, but we slept together. It never even occurred to us to have sex. That went on for six months, but it couldn’t last forever.

I feel really lucky that my first time was with someone going through the same thing. The whole night was spent in attempts. We would start and she would cry, “No, no stop, it hurts!” then she would say, “Let’s try again.” “No, no stop, it hurts!” She was crying. I couldn’t believe how awful this experience I had fantasized about was turning out.

The whole thing taught me sex wasn’t about satisfying me, it was a shared experience. That night we shared Hell!

Lin got pregnant, of course. We had a long talk with her dad and decided we were way too young to even consider having a kid. Her dad paid for the procedure and I paid half of it back over time. We all learned a lot. I don’t think I ever told my mom until I was almost 30.

I mentioned earlier Lee died a couple of years ago. I had the most satisfying cry of my adult life.

Lin and Lee

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I’ve become one of the neighborhood characters. It occurred to me when my son told me his friends’ parents talked about me.

My chosen form of exercise is rollerblading. I guess a gray haired guy with a routine of flying through the neighborhood every morning is going to be noticed.

I hate it when it’s too cold to skate. I can feel fat building up in my system.

I’ve explored every hidden corner of my neighborhood. There are places around here even the locals have never seen.

I skate past the apartment the movie “The Exorcist” was based on. This is where a bow tie wearing rottweiler and his old lady walk every morning. I wrote about them earlier.

I go past the Arsenal the North secured during the Civil War. It’s why the North controlled the Mississippi through the entire war.

Every morning I see the haunted Lemp Mansion and the famous Casa Loma Ballroom. The big bands played at the Casa Loma in the forties. My band opened for John Cale there around 1980. The place wasn’t made for large P.A. systems and the echo was horrible. A few years later I ran sound for a benefit for my friend, singer, Patti Thomas. She was in car accident and out of work for a while. I found out first hand how hard it was to get good sound there. Coincidentally, the show was a success and Patti thanked us by throwing a dinner at the Lemp mansion. I was not at all impressed with their food.

Sometimes I blade down to the river. There’s a long flood wall totally covered in graffiti. Some of it is spectacular. This is a great place to teach your kids to drive.

A lot of mornings I circle Lafayette Park. When I was a kid my family almost moved into a house on Benton Place. Benton Place was the first private street in the U.S.. It was way before the neighborhood was rehabbed and it was a really scary place. Our living room had been President Taft’s bedroom.

My old band has been rehearsing for a reunion show. It’s been going so well that Fojammi and I have been talking about getting a band together. He’s in recovery from a recent illness. He says the only thing that would stop him is if he gets well enough to resume skating as a ref at the Arch Rivals roller derby meets. His heart is actually tugged more by skating than music.

It’s a weird obsession, but I understand it.

Last fall I turned a corner to a strong wind that picked up the fallen dead leaves. I was surrounded, floating suspended in space with them. I felt weightless. Just as suddenly I turned a corner to face into it. I felt like Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill, Jr. facing into the debris from a tornado. I was leaning so far down I thought I could stick out my tongue and touch the ground.

There’s a saying in skydiving, “Speed is your friend.” There’s a point where you become so comfortable with it, you actually have more control.

Blading past my home pic by Valerie Pennington. That white station wagon with the CITY sticker is hers.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wax Theatricks Reunion

Well, it’s beginning to look a lot like reunion. Fojammi’s recent illness put the fear of God into us. Tracy decided we had to inflict ourselves on an unsuspecting public one last time.

Funkabilly played The Venice Café a couple of years ago and we had a 2 song Wax Theatricks reunion. It went well. Reagan had just died and with our typical flare for bad taste we played Ronald Raygun, our punk tribute to our least favorite president.

Several years ago we played at Duff’s 20th anniversary party. I was surprised how many new friends we had who had never heard the band.

It looks like we’ll be playing June 25th at Benet’s dinner club, The West End Grill. I would have preferred BBs because they would have videotaped it for us.

Rehearsals have been interesting. Dominic, Fojammi and I have been getting together, jogging memories and slowly realizing the material. We haven’t seen Benet yet. I’m afraid we may not get him until the show.

Tracy lives in the mountains of Colorado. We installed a program called Ejamming so he can rehearse with us via computer. There’s too much latency though. The timing is a little slow. So mostly Tracy make cracks at our expense as we plod along. It’s been fun.

I’ve been happily surprised by the strength of the music. We’ve been using an old live broadcast from KWMU and the records to help remember the material. We all agree we played everything way too fast. I’m sure it was the excitement of the moment. The material sure didn’t sound that fast to me back then.

I’d love to rerecord everything correctly. I know everyone else’s attitude is that’s all behind us, gotta keep moving forward. I think the music deserves the respect of another shot.

Fojammi came up with this song list and I like it. Dominic pointed out the half –hour drum solo going into an instrumental called Cold Hands is missing. We’ll have to make a decision about that I suppose.

When we released our last LP we also released Fojammi’s record Name Magic at the same time. With the exception of 2 songs it was really a Wax Theatricks record of songs Fojammi had written. For some reason we didn’t play his songs too fast. I told Fojammi I thought the band was finally maturing right as we were breaking up.

I had to communicate with Tracy about all of this recently. I had trouble getting in contact through email so I posted on his FaceBook wall. Our friend Dede took exception to my referring to the band as Wax Geriatrics.

The Wax Theatricks formerly Earwacks pic is the flexi-disc and first page of Carrie Lindsey’s magazine Noisy Paper, we miss her. Check out

The censored stamp refers to the disc pressers beeping out the word F&CK 4 times in the song Ronald Raygun. The word was only used 3 times, one was the word fun! Journalist Timothy Tyme was quick to point out, “There will be no fun under Ronnie’s rigid rule!”