Wednesday, September 30, 2009

'He'll Love It'

Thanks, boys. I'm blushing over here, I feel so Pink Is the New Blog!

'Rain' on Their Parade

The buzz on "A Steady Rain," Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig's much-hyped Broadway play, doesn't sound too good. Sure, we'd all jump at the chance to see Wolverine and James Bond together on stage, but this bit from the Times review probably says it all:

John Crowley directs with restraint, elegance and limited imagination. Working with the accomplished team of Scott Pask (scenery and costumes), Hugh Vanstone (lighting) and Mark Bennett (music and sound), he occasionally has Joey and Denny’s memories assume three-dimensional form, with mean streets and forbidding woods materializing from the darkness behind them. He needn’t have bothered. Nobody goes to “A Steady Rain,” which ends its hot-ticket limited run on Dec. 6, to look at scenery. The woman with whom I saw the show made her priorities clear afterward, and they are doubtless shared by many. If only, she said, the play had been set in a police station locker room, where the characters might frequently change clothes. As it was, she was thankful for the small mercy that, toward the play’s end, Craig finally removed his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves. (Via NYT)

Wednesday Ad Watch

Dead On

It's completely out of character, but sadly there's no awkward metaphor in this column by Thomas Friedman. I hate to admit it, but I'm truly scared for our president. (Our country? That's fucked, regardless.)

Music Box: Prefab Sprout

As much as I mourn the death of the record store, there's no denying the huge door the Internet has opened for obsessive music collectors. Not only have I been able to track down even the rarest of rare import CD singles and out-of-print Japanese-only albums, the stealth nature of online music has even allowed me to get my hands on items that heretofore would have been unthinkable: infamous shelved albums and tracks. From unreleased Romeo Void demos from a 1993 comeback attempt and Susanna Hoffs' aborted 1994 sophomore effort (known as "The Wallace Album," for Matt Wallace's production), to Debbie Harry's take on Stock Aitken and Waterman's "Mind Over Matter" and Blondie's comeback collaboration with Duran Duran, "Studio 54" and "Pop Trash Movie," I can't imagine how I would have gotten any of these if not for the Web. As successful as I've been there are still a number of things that still elude me, namely "Apocalypso," the third album by the Motels that was rerecorded and renamed "All Four One" with some songs substituted (Capitol released a wonderful expanded version of that album with four of the lost tracks, but sadly "Sweet Destiny" has never appeared anywhere, nor have the original versions of four of the other original songs), "Trash Mad," Clare Grogan's 1987 post-Altered Images solo debut, and "Electric Nebraska," the plugged-in version of Bruce Springsteen's 1982 classic.

Maybe the only thing better than finding a fabled unreleased album (did you know Adam Ant has a lost solo album too?) is buying the new album by a favorite group only to find out it is, in fact, the Beach Boys "Smile" of their career that you never even knew existed. That's exactly what happened when I got Prefab Sprout's new disc, "Let's Change the World With Music," which I heard about where I find out about all my "new" music, Along with the Style Council and Everything but the Girl, Prefab Sprout were THE quintessential Kenny band in high school, one I'm sure I took an even greater interest in because hardly anyone else knew about them.

Like most of my faves, it all began with my brother Bill's bringing home a record from college, in this case the band's 1983 four-song EP, featuring "Lions in My Own Garden (Exit Someone)," "Radio Love," "The Devil Has All the Best Tunes" and "Walk On." While Bill liked it, I think he was soon on to the next group (Aztec Camera, maybe?) while my obsessive collecting had just begun. (Buying gatefold picture sleeve singles from here to London and back.)

Their full-length debut, "Swoon" featured the instant classics "I Couldn't Bear to Be Special" and "Cue Fanfare" (could anyone but Paddy McAloon write a catchy pop song about chess champ Bobby Fischer?!). Then with Thomas Dolby at the helm, "Steve McQueen" (aka "Two Wheels Good") only upped the ante, as "When Love Breaks Down" finally became a bonafide hit, "Goodbye Lucille (Johnny Johnny)" ripped my heart out and "Moving the River" was the poem I always dreamed I could write. The stylistic change of "From Langley Park to Memphis" threw me for a loop, but when I finally warmed up to it, it was a full-on love affair. "The Golden Calf" might not sound like them, but it may well be their finest moment (how's that for a compliment?), and "The King of Rock 'n' Roll," "Cars and Girls" and "Hey Manhattan" deserved all the attention they got. Ironically (or was their label just a bunch of pricks?), "Let's Change the World With Music" wasn't even the first time the Sprouts had an album rejected by the suits. The real follow-up to "Two Wheels Good" was actually "Protest Songs," an oft-bootlegged album recorded in '86 that finally came out in 1989. Some say it's not their finest hour, but I like its low-key style and would argue that any best-of collection would easily require a minimum of three songs from it, including their ode to the princess "Diana."

By the time "Jordan: The Comeback" came out in 1990, I wasn't sure what format I was buying music in. When I finally got around to buying the CD I was leery of it all -- 19 songs in four "chapters"? How could I have possibly predicted it would be the band's masterpiece, a fearless concept album on which McAloon tackles his three favorite subjects -- God, Elvis and heartache. I must confess something: I hesitate to put this disc on in my house because whenever I do, it becomes a quasi-religious experience ("Scarlett Nights"), something I will play over and over and over for weeks on end. No other album affects me so. (Blame it on "Jesse James Symphony" and "Jesse James Bolero" ... and if you ever get your shit together, Albany, the "Wedding March" is all mine.)

After something so moving and so epic, it seemed to make sense that it would take seven years for a follow-up. (Who wouldn't be exhausted after that epic of an album???) But what a disappointing one 1997's "Andromeda Heights" was. The songs are a little less sophisticated and a lot more more syrupy, but it's the Kenny G-style saxophone that ruins nearly half of them, giving them an easy listening sheen they desperately do not need.

But alas, it wasn't true. The actual follow-up to "Jordan: The Comeback" was a mere two years later, when "Let's Change the World With Music" was composed and recorded as a demo back in 1992, but rejected by the record label. It's now out -- remastered by Calum Malcolm in 2009 with insightful liner notes by Paddy in which he explains how it was nearly his "Smile" -- and proves to be the glorious missing link in the Prefab Sprout discography.

A few years ago, my friend Greg Jelinek and I set out to produce the ultimate Prefab Sprout rarities CD. The 43-song "Mine All Mine" was the end result, an epic collection of b-sides, outtakes and live tracks that still makes me wonder how this many good songs could have been left off the band's proper albums. That I never got to see them live is high on my list of musical regrets. (FYI: There's a great fan site is HERE.)

Some New Songs
Overcome Lyrics
Don't Turn Away Lyrics
Elliott Yamin
Tick Tock Lyrics
Back To The Crib Lyrics
Juelz Santana
Somewhere Over The Rainbow Lyrics
I Get It In Lyrics
Gucci Mane
Want It All Lyrics
This Is It Lyrics
Michael Jackson
Abbi Lyrics
Flamboyant Bella
Who Says Lyrics
John Mayer
Get your own here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Say Cheese!

Check out this fun article from the Arts Beat blog in which they asked readers to send their stage-door photographs from Broadway and beyond. (Slideshow is HERE.) Oddly, I don't see a single shot with "Speed the Plow" star Madonna.

'If You Say 9/11 ONE More Time ...'

A federal judge has ruled that the Sept. 11 terror attacks CANNOT be brought up by the defense team of Bernard Kerik at his corruption trial,

"This is not about 9/11," Judge Stephen Robinson said at a pretrial conference. He said the attack was irrelevant to allegations that former police commissioner accepted apartment renovations from a construction company in exchange for recommending the company for city contracts. (Are there fan clubs for judges? LOVE him!)

Now if only this judge could do something about W., Cheney, Giuliani (insert GOP candidate here) ...

Afternoon Delight: Yoann Gourcuff

More of Bruce Weber's shoot of French soccer hunk Yoann Gourcuff HERE.

'Chinatown' Justice

There are bunch of articles going around on social-networking sites reminding us that "all sex crimes need to be punished." I agree, and I'm certainly not here to defend a 44-year-old man raping a 13-year-old girl. But -- and this is a HUGE "but" -- I think everyone needs to remember that Roman Polanski AGREED to be punished: he was ordered to and completed a psychiatric evaluation in a Chino, Calif., prison (isn't being in Chino punishment enough?) and the judge then agreed to sentence him to probation. (Was this a just punishment? Maybe not. But that's the deal that was hammered out at the time.) The judge then decided AFTER THE FACT that it wasn't enough (he's dead now, but by all accounts his motives were not in the name of justice) and wanted to break the agreement and increase the penalty, so Polanski ran. It may be true that plea deals fall through all the time, but would you want to be on the receiving end of the sentence of a publicity-hungry judge with a sudden ax to grind?

The real moral of this sad story is that the second judges begin to renege on plea bargains is the second the justice system crumbles.

Tuesday Ad Watch

A Love Story for 'Capitalism'

Saw and loved "Capitalism: A Love Story," Michael Moore's look at the high cost of free enterprise on average Americans. Critics and pundits can argue the fine print of this film until they're blue in the face, but the state of this nation -- where 1 percent of Americans control more wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined -- speaks for itself. Moore's inimitable style assures that this film will only preach to the choir, but I wish it were mandatory for all Americans so they learn about the way Citigroup -- which took $45 billion in handouts from the taxpayers -- giddily boasts about the United States' being a "plutonomy" (their only regret? that those of us in the bottom 95 percent have equal power to the rich on Election Day), the "dead peasant" life insurance policies many corporations take out on their employees (you die, they profit) or the Second Bill of Rights FDR proposed for Americans but died before achieving -- a job with a living wage, freedom from unfair competition and monopolies, a home, medical care, education and recreation -- rights that we made standard in our rebuilding of Europe after World War II, but never bothered to ensure for ourselves. My only complaint is that the film left me with an unbearable sense of helplessness rather than even a hint of inspiration, and not even the clever Mr. Moore seems to have any ideas on how to turn that around. My grade: A


One Order of Identity Theft, Coming Up

While I kind of think anyone who orders cigarettes (and coffee?) to be delivered to their apartment is kind of asking for bad things to happen to them anyway, I found this paper lying in the windowsill of my apartment building -- complete with address, credit card number and expiration date, to be just the reminder I need not to give that kind of information out unless absolutely necessary, like if they deliver Pop-Tarts.

A Fake in Bradys Clothing

Finally got my copy of "Love to Love You Bradys," Ted Nichelson and Susan Olsen's tell-all book about the worst television show in history, "The Brady Bunch Variety Hour."

Needless to say, page 266 is my favorite (you can just imagine how flattered I was when Cindy Brady wanted to use my blog in her book -- if Mrs. Ditmeyer could see me now!), and the useless trivia I'm learning about Geri Reischl, better known as Fake Jan, is the best. Like did you know she was the original actress picked to play Blair Warner on "The Facts of Life" (or "Garrett's Girls," as the pilot was called) but then had the part ripped away from her due to a prior commitment to General Mills for a series of commercials for Crispy Wheats 'n Raisins in which she played Fake Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz"?!!! I'm telling you, this book is a must-have for Brady enthusiasts and pop culture junkies alike! (Learn more HERE.)

Blame the Victim-izer

The big question on everyone's mind regarding Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland, of course, is: why now? Early rumors had it that the Swiss authorities were trying to make nice with the United States after getting on our bad side when we started demanding names of bank-account holders, something the Swiss are very private about. But now comes word that two law enforcement sources familiar with the case have told The Los Angels Times that Polanski's attorneys -- operating in post-"Wanted and Desired" mode -- helped provoke his arrest by complaining to an appellate court this summer that L.A. County prosecutors had made no real effort to capture the filmmaker in his three decades as a fugitive. Read the full story HERE.

Read my update HERE.

With Friends LIke This ...

Nothing says straight male bonding better than choking your "buddy" at a Detroit Lions game ("We finally won -- after you went to the hospital!") and making sure his ass is on display for all to see.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pants on Fire

Was wondering why my blog was getting all these hits for Michael Biserta, the studly New York firefighter (Brooklyn’s Ladder Co. 131) with the infamously large hose that he proudly showed off in a "Guys Gone Wild" video. Well, it seems he is the "other man" in the messy divorce between former Miss Teen New Jersey Jamie Czerniawski, and her estranged husband, Charles, whom she allegedly stabbed when he became enraged after finding racy text messages between Jamie and Michael. (The couple are no strangers to sharing each other: they have appeared on the reality show "Wife Swap.") Not to be outclassed, in February the fire hunk got engaged to his Staten Island girlfriend, Danielle Cipriano, and their wedding Web site stating they are to be married on Oct. 10, 2010.

“I want to let you know just how fucking bad I wanna fuck you right now!!!! Can you get out??” Czerniawski, 30, asks Biserta, 25, in a May 18 text.

Earlier that day, she wrote Biserta: “I miss your lips!”

“Want you,” the smoke eater replied.

“Mmm, can’t wait!!!!!!!!!”" she texted.

Biserta, clearly indicated they had had a firehouse hookup in the past, then wrote: "If your [sic] in Brooklyn you can stop by. [It] won’t be like last time so I wouldn’t even bother ... it’s usually not that quiet around the fh [firehouse] but we’ll work something out ..."

I don't know about you, but this white-trash love triangle has me on fire ...

Hire Education

While the rest of the world is busy trying to stick an apostrophe in every plural word in the English language, reader and job-seeker Scott found that the Department of Education feels no need to use them at all.

Incest Is Best (for Ratings, Anyhow)

I found Alessandra Stanley's take on the Mackenzie Phillips "comeback" performance last week on "Oprah" to be spot-on, mainly because I think she viewed the whole immoral circus the same way I did. That she lumps it in the same category as Tom DeLay's "Dancing With the Stars" comeback only adds to the fun: "Both spectacles were momentarily shocking, but not momentous: audiences have grown inured to weirder sights and sadder stories."

Like I did, Stanley notes Mack's "surprisingly matter-of-fact" recounting of the whole thing ("as a public service she wanted to tell the world that she willingly had sex with her rock-singer father, John Phillips"), how Mack "could hardly have offered viewers anything less" if she wants to sell her memoir, and Oprah's "polite but wary distance" from her guest, "as if bracing herself for the possibility that the story could be discredited." (Having finally heard that several people who aren't Mackenzie or people Mackenzie told -- like Denny Doherty's daughter and Owen Cass -- knew about the affair in the '80s has finally convinced me that she's being truthful, for whatever that's worth.)

Stanley ends with this wonderful thought:
Winfrey, who looked dismayed and quizzical throughout the narrative, couldn’t help asking when it was that Phillips realized, “how wrong and vulgar and shaming this all was." Wrong, vulgar and shaming. That’s the least of it, but these days, in Hollywood and Washington, it’s the price of re-entry.

Speaking of which, it seems Mack has landed herself a job on VH1's "Celebrity Rehab" (way to go, Dr. Drew!), which might explain why sis Chynna jumped on the Jesus bandwagon. (Can I come, too?)

Monday Ad Watch

I'll bet Jamie Dornan smells as good as he looks.

On the Rag, Vol. 57

A look at what's making news in New York and L.A.'s free gay rags:

Next has Reddi-Whip aficionados Chris Salvatore and Michael Walker, of "Eating Out: All You Can Eat" fame, shirtless and sticky ...

Frontiers has former model and current acupuncturist Noel Busby, who makes a compelling case for life beginning at 40 ...

RIP: William Safire

Call us a bunch of wordnerds, but it was a real thrill for my family when The William Safire wrote kindly in his On Language column about my brother Bill's second book, "The Elephants of Style" ("His 'gray areas' are stimulating." ) Like him or not, Safire led an interesting life. Here's my favorite part of his Times obit:

Years later, Safire called Hillary Rodham Clinton a “congenital liar” in print. Clinton said she was offended only for her mother’s sake. But a White House aide said that Bill Clinton, “if he were not the president, would have delivered a more forceful response on the bridge of Mr. Safire’s nose.” Safire was delighted, especially with the proper use of the conditional.

(Click to enlarge)

Morning Wood: Latin Lovers Edition

You may remember former model and current actor William Levy from his Morning Wood post over the summer (HERE) that included a risque see-through underwear shot (HERE). I generally don't repeat guys this soon, but when I passed the cover of People en Espanol and saw his dazzling smile (and everything else), I couldn't resist picking up a copy.

The inside is nearly as good, with some new and familiar faces to start you morning off right:

Eugenio Silller, 29, actor (Mexico); Fernando Colunga, 43, actor (Mexico)

Javier Bardem, 40, actor (Spain); Carlos Bocanegra, 30, soccer player (Mexican-American)

Pedro Moreno, 29, actor (Cuban); Aaron Diaz, 27, singer/actor (Mexico)

It's Kenny With a K, Not Denny With a D ...

I wish I could say I pulled a bunch of old bottles out of my medicine cabinet from over the years to make this "hilarious" post, but I really did become the King of Pain (Management) this summer. My back is feeling marginally better and I'm cautiously optimistic about the tooth situation. Here's hoping for a fit fall. And to my readers who are under 40: stay that way.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Better Off Red?

The latest American Taliban, Michael Finton, a 29-year-old fry cook at Seals Fish & Chicken in Decatur, Ill., targeted a federal building in Springfield and Rep. Aaron Schock's district office. Sorry, Ginger: you're never gonna get his abs eating all that fried food. (Full story HERE.)