Monday, May 29, 2017

Belinda Carlisle Naked, The Ramones, Rodney Bingenheimer and Me - Another True Story

It's another true episode of shit that happened way back in my previous life. This is wild stuff and unbelievable craziness... But it is all true.... 

It's a story about the time Belinda Carlisle (the lead singer of the Go-Go's) stood right in front of me half naked and exposed her bare womanhood... 

It's a true story about how I first met the Ramones and became good friends with Joey, and got high with Dee Dee Ramone. 

It's a story about how my band got kicked off the Rodney on the Roq radio show! Yet a year or so later, I would become Rodney's assistant.

And it's all true.

Rodney and the Ramones

OK. This is a long convoluted story... So, I'll try to make it short....I was in a punk band named the Rotters in 1978. We had a hit song called "Sit On My Face, Stevie Nicks." (or "Nix.") I was the lead singer. 

Anyway, at that time I was a university student and fell in love with Punk Music from watching a TV show ranting on the evils of a disgusting music in England called punk rock.

So my friends and I (who watched the same show) decided to make a punk band. Since we were university students, studying cinema, it was a simple thing to get into the recording studio at the university and record for free. We did. The students hated us, but the instructor, Richard Simpson, liked us so much he said he'd make us a master for free so we took him up on the offer and the master was made. 

Fast forward a few days. The Dickies were playing at the Roxy. The Go-Gos had their debut show that night as the opening act for the Dickies. We figured Rodney would be there so we took a few singles with us and went to the show. Rodney had already heard a cassette tape version of the song and had told me, "When you make a 7-inch, bring it to me and I will play it." (I cannot recall how I had gotten that cassette into his hands earlier).

The Go-Go's played first (there might have been another band - I can't remember.) Even though the Go-Go's were sloppy as hell (look whose talking!) I liked them. When the Dickies played, their lead vocalist, Stan Lee, pulled out a roll of dollar bills (it was a roll of cut up newspaper in the size of dollar bills with one dollar wrapped around the outside so it looked like $100 dollars). Stan screamed out to the audience, "I have some money here to give to any girl who will come up here on stage and show me what sex really is!"

Immediately Belinda Carlisle jumped up on stage, screamed like a banshee, and pulled off her shirt exposing her breasts for the audience and entire world to see.... She wasn't standing more than 4 feet right (about 2 meters) in front of me!

It was a, er, "exciting" moment for me. 

I fell in love with Belinda Carlisle right there on the spot. I really knew I could really respect her and her questionable moral values. Really! Though, I considered that, when she became my fiancee, I was wondering how I would explain to my parents how I first met Belinda? 

But I digress....

Later on, Belinda would become a goddess. I had screamed to her "I love you!" when her top was off... But she never called me on the phone after that... No problem..... Her loss!

Anyway, later, Rodney was sitting at a table in the back with Belinda, so we found him and re-introduced ourselves and gave him our record. He seemed genuinely interested and kind and said he would play it.... But, you know how that is.... You can't be sure it will be played until you hear it with your own ears....

You can imagine our shock, surprise and happiness when, on the very the next Rodney on the Roq show, we heard our song, "Sit on my Face, Stevie Nicks" on air. Rodney would later tell me that "Sit on my Face" was the "most requested song in the history of the Rodney on the Roq show."

So, after that, we decided that we'd go to KROQ uninvited and just show up and try to get on Rodney's show. Of course we brought more 7-inch records with us.

We drove down to KROQ (in the Pasadena days) on the night of Rodney's show. We had no idea how to get in, but I knew that the front door of KROQ would be locked so we drove around to the parking lot on the back of the building.

I didn't know exactly what I was looking for as we drove around the parking lot. I was looking for a sign or something as to the rear entrance of KROQ when I looked up and on the second or third floor of this building were four guys standing at the top of the stairs. They were wearing black leather jackets and looked like punks. I shouted at my friend who was driving the car, "Stop! This is it!" As the car stopped, I grabbed some records and jumped out of the car and ran full speed up the stairs to where those four guys were standing.

As soon as I got to the top, those guys looked at me like, "Who are you?" and didn't say anything. I didn't say anything either as the door opened and a heavyset guy allowed those four in. He looked at me with a stink-eye, but since I was wearing a leather bomber's jacket and had a hand a handful of 7-inch records he shrugged his shoulders and waved me through the door.

I would soon realize  - and this will blow your mind - that those other four guys were the Ramones! No kidding. What luck, What incredible timing!

Thank you, god!

When I walked into the studio Rodney looked at me and said, "Who are you?"

I replied that I was the lead singer of the Rotters and he soon remembered me. He welcomed me into the studio. I then asked if my band could come in too and he said, "OK!" So I called the other guys and we were interviewed on air at the same time as the Ramones. During the Ramones interview, Rodney asked us, live on the air, "You guys like the Ramones, don't you?" 

The guitarist and writer of "Stevie Nicks," Phester Swollen, and I said in unison, "Uh… er… we like the Sex Pistols" (I do like the Ramones, but, at that time, The Pistols were my favorite band.) 

Anyway, I guess that was a faux paus and the guy who let us in told us we had to leave and kicked us out. But the damage was done. Sit on my Face became a big hit and that would be the first time I met Joey Ramone, who would become a very good friend years later - when the Ramones came to Japan and met me again and found out that I was playing in Japan the same kind of music that Rodney was playing in L.A.

Things are hazy after those early days... Later, after my band fell apart, I'd go work as Rodney's assistant. Which was tons of fun. 

Like I said, years later, Joey and I would become good friends. Maybe because I was one of the very few who supported the Ramones on Japanese radio. There is one thing about Joey Ramone that I think only his good friends must know: Joey was a really polite guy and I think he must have had good parents. Why? Because every year Joey would send me a Christmas card. It struck me as odd that this rock n roller god would be sending Christmas cards to people... But Joey always did. Think about that; only people with proper upbringing and manners do the little things like send friends Christmas cards. I was so surprised to get those. How many people do that?

There was another time that the Ramones came to Japan (It must have been 25 years ago or so) and they asked me to come to the show and bring young girls, so I did. I brought my famous TV announcer friend, George William's younger sisters. They were hot! I think they were 18 or so at the time. After the show, as I was talking to Joey, I overheard, Johnny angrily scream at the top of his lungs, "Stop pulling on my neck!" Then I heard George's pissed off little sister shout back, "Stop grabbing my tits!" 

I looked at Joey and nervously said, "Gee, Joey. I guess it's time to go."

That was the last time I ever saw Joey Ramone.

Oh, and Dee Dee Ramone? Oh, Dee Dee loved me! You see back in those days, I was living in Ventura county and we had MUCH better weed - at much lower prices - than the dirt in L.A. people were smoking... So every time Dee Dee and the Ramones came to KROQ, Dee Dee didn't want to go on the air, he wanted to hang out in the back room with me and the, er, "peace pipe" and "expand our horizons." I used to worry that he should be talking on the radio and not in the backroom getting stoned with me (I was always stoned anyway)... But it seemed like no one cared....

Oh, let me make it clear here too; I have never seen Rodney drink alcohol or get high... He was a tea-totaler. That kind of surprised me that he was so straight... But he is.

Dee Dee and I were stoners. It was the early 80s, OK? That's what people did back in those days. So off my back!

So, that's it. My claim to fame was getting high with Dee Dee Ramone. Also the first time I ever spoke to Belinda Carlisle was when she was half-naked... And Joey Ramone used to send me Christmas Cards...

Rodney? Well, Rodney was - and is - Rodney...

Rodney wouldn't hurt a fly. 

Rodney must have been standing in the middle of all that crazy rock n roll and whirlwind of madness and wondering, 

"Wow! Look at this beautiful house and this beautiful wife! (He doesn't have a wife).... Well, how did I get here?"

I wonder, today, how I ever got there.


Go-Go's - Cool Jerk '90

The Rotters are a long (and quite hilarious story. Read it here: The Rotters Biography - My name was "Nigel Nitro."

If you liked the above post, you might get a chuckle from:

My close "working relationship" with Charles Bukowski. This article was quite popular, thank you. Looking back, though, I kind of screwed that one up because I should have added the name of U2's Bono to that article's title; "Charles Bukowski, Bono and Me."  

Also, a while back, I wrote about the time I met "God" in person and even sort of had lunch with him at a restaurant in Los Angeles!...  And who could forget the time I met former president H.W. Bush and the hijinks surrounding Daddy Bush, Diana Ross and me

Friday, May 26, 2017

Rock N Roll Music and the Proof of the Existence of God!

I'm making a rock n roll movie. It's called, "Ghostroads - A Rock N Roll Ghost Story" Here's the trailer: 

The movie stars my favorite Japanese rock band of all time, "The Neatbeats." Rodney Bingenheimer (AKA "Rodney on the Roq" KROQ Los Angeles) is also in the movie. Rodney is one of, if not thee most famous DJ in the world. He's made many great stars famous. As some regular readers might know, I used to be Rodney's assistant (Read: His lowly "Go-fer.")

Rodney Bingenheimer

In Japan, it isn't too cool to "toot one's horn" so to speak, so I tell few people about my past....

One day, during the shooting of the movie, I was at the Neatbeats' studio. There I saw they had a book about Phil Spector (a very famous music producer who did the Beatles, etc.) 

I saw the book and then I opened the book to a random page and, I'll be damned if there wasn't a photo of Rodney and Phil Spector right there. "What a coincidence!" I thought to myself.

I walked back into the studio where we were shooting and said to the Neatbeats members, "Hey! You guys like Phil Spector?" 

They all said, "YES! HE IS GOD!" 

Phil Spector

I answered, "Oh? I've met him two or three times. I even "had lunch" (or was it dinner?) with him and Rodney when he showed up to that restaurant that Rodney 'lives' at in Hollywood named 'Canters.'"

Oh. That was a mistake. I opened my big mouth. Should have shut up and said nothing.


I could tell by the expressions on their face that they didn't believe me at all. Their jaws dropped open in disappointed disbelief... They looked stupefied.... 

Here, all this time, I was their friend. They thought they could believe me and trust me.... But here I was telling them something that, to them, couldn't possibly be true in a million years...

I said, "No! Really! I have! I have met Phil Spector a few times.....I'm serious." They still looked like they thought I was full of shit....

Flustered and insistent to prove I wasn't lying, I figured I'd offer proof... I added, "Do you guys know who Rodney Bingenheimer is?" 

They all lit up again and said, "Of course! Rodney on the Roq is legendary! He is a DJ god!" 

I paused... hesitated a bit, and then I said, "I was Rodney's assistant from 1980 ~81. He introduced me to many famous people...."

It seemed then like the roof caved in. I was ready for the insane asylum by the expressions on their faces.

I could tell by the way they looked at me that they had lost all respect for me at that very moment. They thought that I was a total useless bullshitter. 

They didn't believe me at all. 

...Not anymore.... 

.....Not about.... 


I protested, "No! Really! I was! Rodney introduced me to lots of famous people. The Ramones, Phil Spector, etc. etc." 

They still didn't believe me... So, in frustration, I threw my hands in the air, gave up and said, "OK. Fuck it! Whatever!...." 

That was Jan. of 2016. 

A few short months later...

In May 2016, by sheer coincidence, Rodney came to Japan and I was able to be a tour guide for several days for my old friend, Rodney on the Roq! I hadn't seen him in over 25 years.... 

We went to many good restaurants and fun places in Tokyo while he was here with his girlfriend (and fab movie director), Kansas Bowling who made the horror film, "B.C. Butcher." (

And, Rodney and Kansas both appeared in my movie too! What timing!!!! 

So, don't tell me, "There's no God!" 

There is. 

I have met him. 

His name is Phil Spector....

...and another legend, a god named Rodney Bingenheimer.


(I took lots of photos and wrote about sightseeing with Rodney here: 

With my old friend and legendary radio DJ, Rodney Bingenheimer 
at the Poor Cow in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo, Japan May 27, 2016.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Edward G Robinson, the Sexy Geisha and Me - A True Story!

Whenever I put some famous person's name in the title of my articles, the hits and access to those articles literally explodes. I like to think that my readership is skyrocketing because of my prose and penmanship (on a PC?) but I suspect it is really because of how vain I am and how I like to name-drop famous people. It doesn't matter how tenuous that relationship between that famous person and me is either because this stuff is all true. 

Swear to god! Strike me dead if I lie!.....

See? I'm still here!

Just the other day I wrote about my close "working relationship" with Charles Bukowski. That article was quite popular, thank you. Looking back, though, I kind of screwed that one up because I should have added the name of U2's Bono to that article's title; "Charles Bukowski, Bono and Me."  

Also, a while back, I wrote about the time I met "God" in person and even sort of had lunch with him at a restaurant in Los Angeles!...  And who could forget the time I met former president H.W. Bush and the hijinks surrounding Daddy Bush, Diana Ross and me

Yes, folks. These stories are all true too! 


So, here we go again with another titillating tale of my chequered past! (Well, not so past, I'm just talking about what happened yesterday...) Hence the title: "Edward G Robinson, the Sexy Geisha and Me - A True Story!"

Yesterday, I spent the day down in Atami. Atami is a famous sea-side resort town just south of Tokyo. It used to be called the "Venice of Japan." It is famous for the ocean, mountains, Mt. Fuji and it is one of two seats of true geisha culture in Japan (the other being Kyoto).

Atami and Mt. Fuji in the background

Anyway, before I tell you about the sexy geisha, Edward G. Robinson and myself, let me give you some background on Atami...

Atami is celebrating their 80th year of becoming a city and they are aiming to change their nickname from the "Venice of Japan" to the "Hollywood of Japan." The reason being is that there seems to be some sort of boom going on there for locations for TV shows and movies... (A government representative told me that there were, on average more than 300 location shoots a year in Atami! Wow!)

So, I was down in beautiful Atami to meet some folks from the government and the national travel bureau because we are arranging a fancy hootenanny shindig next year. Besides meeting the government and travel bureau folks, I was also going to meet a very famous, legendary geisha named Matsuchiyo and her geisha house publicity manager. 

I was looking forward to a sort of "Teahouse of the August Moon" meeting (except I hate sitting on the floor. My knees and my butt starts to hurt!)

Anyhow, Matsuchiyo is a very famous and high class geisha and has been doing that for years. She has been on TV and is well known in the entertainment business. I even worked on a documentary about her a while back. Here's that trailer:

Matsuchiyo has been a geisha since about the end of World War II. During the war, as a young girl, she and her family moved to then Japan-occupied Manchuria to seek their fame and fortune. Well, as you may have heard, the war didn't quite go as the Japanese Imperial Army planned and when the Soviets invaded Manchuria right before the dropping of the atomic bomb, all hell broke loose and the Japanese in Manchuria had to beg, borrow or steal to get the hell out of Manchuria before the Russians got to them.

A young Matsuchiyo and her mother were the only ones from their family who survived and were able to escape the onslaught of the Soviets and return to Japan. 

Beautiful Matsuchiyo in the 1950s?

Back in Japan, her family had incurred such huge financial losses that the only way out for them was for Matsuchiyo to be literally sold to become a geisha. So a proper and professional geisha she became.

After the war, in the 1950s, many famous American actors and actresses came to Japan. They would often go to Atami as Atami is only about 2.5 hours from Tokyo (there was no Shinkansen Bullet Train until 1964 so going to Kyoto was a major endeavour back in those days - Now we can get to Atami from Tokyo in 40 minutes or so by Bullet Train). And this is where Edward G. Robinson comes in. I was talking to Matsuchiyo's son (my friend Ken) and he was showing me photos of his mom. He said to me, "Here's one of my mom and some famous American actor." 

I looked at the photo and couldn't believe it. There, in the photo, is Matsuchiyo and my mom and dad's favorite gangster actor: Edward G. Robinson! My jaw dropped to the floor!

"Your mom performed as a geisha for Edward G. Robinson in the 1950s!? Holy shit! That's unbelievable!!!!" I exclaimed. In his always understated and subdued manner, Ken quietly responded, "Yes. It would appear to be so..."

Matsuchiyo in white and standing behind her with his hand on her shoulder is Academy Award winning actor Edward G. Robinson (I'll bet they called him "Ed-san.")

I was even told a story about the time Matsuchiyo went to the British embassy to entertain some royalty and other big shots who were visiting Japan. You know, if you or I go to the embassy whether there are "important people" there or not, they always treat us like criminals and rifle through our shit and give us full body cavity searches and check our ID and everything? Well, to a geisha? No. They don't do that. So when Matsuchiyo showed up to the embassy they didn't even check her ID or her belongings or anything. She, as a geisha, just walks right past security, no questions asked. No one bats an eye.

What the hell? That's right. No checks. No nothing. Why? Because everyone in Japan knows that geisha do not carry ID (I am not kidding here either)....Isn't that wild?

Anyhow, where was I? Oh, yeah, I was meeting with these government people and the travel agency people and Matsuchiyo. Matsuchiyo told us that the publicity manager for the geisha house was to attend today's meeting, so we were sitting at the government office waiting. 

Of course since she told us it was the "publicity manager" we were expecting some dude in a suit to show up... But no!.... Oh my god! It wasn't a dude, but a beautiful girl!... I mean, a really beautiful geisha arrived! Her name was Miho. I think my jaw dropped to the floor when she walked into the room. Everyone was so surprised!

Miho and Matsuchiyo at Atami Government City Office - May 24, 2017

Well, we all sat in a conference room (in chairs, thank you very much) and had a nice meeting. Matsuchiyo and Miho didn't say two words the entire meeting; they didn't have to, the mere eloquence of their presence was quite extraordinary and had a profound effect on everybody. I mean, imagine having a business meeting and legendary people are sitting right next to you! Wow!

The meeting went well and we all came to a mutually agreeable deal. We all said our "goodbyes" and I left and headed home. The end of a satisfying day!

But there is an epilogue and one last "joke" for people who are into Japan and geisha and pop culture. This last tidbit blew my mind too.

At the meeting, the representative from the national travel bureau handed me her card. I looked at her name and was quite surprised. Her name is "Tomoe Kimura." Why was I so surprised? Let me explain.... (My twisted way of thinking...)

Here I am in a room at Atami (The Hollywood of Japan) meeting with high ranking government officials and there are two famous geisha sitting right next to me. The girl we meet from the government travel bureau hands me her card and her name is the same name as one of the most famous Enka singers of all time! Imagine if you sat down at a meeting and someone handed you a card and her name was, say, "Petula Clark" or "Nancy Sinatra"? Get it?

I'm with geisha at a meeting and the person I am talking to is named Kimura Tomoe???? WTF?????? Kimura Tomoe sang one of the most famous Enka songs in history! You can't make this stuff up!!!!! 

 Tomoe Kimura - "Naniwa Bushidayo Jinsei Wa"
If video doesn't play, click here:

I asked the Ms. Tomoe Kimura we were having a pleasant meeting with if she would sing her monster hit song, "Naniwa Bushidayo Jinsei Wa" at our event opening ceremony.... 

When everyone realized the connection and the joke about her name and that famous song, they all burst out laughing... Especially the two geisha! 

I was happy. 

You know, geisha usually entertain you and make you laugh... it's not everyday that I get to entertain the geishas and make them laugh!


If you got a kick out of this article, you might like yesterday's: The Spirit of Ecstasy

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Spirit of Ecstasy

Do you have something that motivates you? I mean, besides money or a family and kids? Do you have something that has captured your imagination since you were small or some item or object that enthralls you and makes you dream of what could be? Something that helps you to become your best? Something that helps and motivates you to be more than you could be by yourself?

I do. It is a statue of the Spirit of Ecstasy.

If you enter my home, at the very entrance is the Spirit of Ecstasy on a solid marble stand. It is big and it is very old and it is quite heavy. The height of the statue is about 70 centimeters tall (about 2'3" tall - 27 inches). And since it is bronze with a solid marble base, it weighs about 22 kilograms (about 48 pounds). 

Most people would know the Spirit of Ecstasy as the statue that adorns the hood of Rolls Royce cars.

Since I was a young boy, I had always been fascinated by art and this particular statue. If you have seen it once, you will never forget this historic and enduring design. The Spirit of Ecstasy is in the form of a woman leaning forwards with her arms outstretched behind and above her. Billowing cloth runs from her arms to her back, resembling wings. For me, she also represents the symbolic queen of what is probably my favorite art movement of all time: Art Deco.

Even as a child, the Spirit of Ecstasy captured my imagination. She "spoke" to me and she pushed me to chase my dreams. She showed that I could do the impossible, that I could fly. The Spirit of Ecstasy has always reminded me to never give up and to always push forward in spite of all odds! 

I had always dreamed of having my own Spirit of Ecstasy since I was small. 

When I saw this statue, years ago at an antique shop, I just had to have it. My wife agreed, but, to this day, she doesn't know the secret this statue holds and what it really means to me. I am serious when I say that, since I was a very young boy, this was one of the designs that has truly held my imagination all my life, and will continue to do so, until the day I die. 

I'd like to tell you why.

But first, about the Spirit of Ecstasy herself. 

Before 1910, her name was not The Spirit of Ecstasy but was "The Whisperer" or "Emily" or "Silver Lady" or "Flying Lady," and she was designed and created by sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes

There's a fascinating story behind this statue and the people involved with its creation too! From Wikipedia

The statue carries with it a story about secret passion between John Walter - the second Baron Montagu of Beaulieu (a pioneer of the automobile movement, and editor of "The Car Illustrated" magazine) and the model for the emblem, Eleanor Thornton. Eleanor was the secretary of John Walter, who fell in love with her in 1902. Their secret love was to remain hidden, limited to their circle of friends, for more than a decade. The reason for the secrecy was Eleanor's impoverished social and economic status, which was an obstacle to their love. On the other hand, John Walter was married to Lady Cecil Victoria Constance Kerr.

By 1910 personal mascots had become the fashion of the day. Rolls-Royce were concerned that owners were affixing "inappropriate" ornaments to their cars.... Rolls-Royce Motor Cars turned to Sykes to produce a mascot which would adorn all future Rolls-Royce cars and become generic to Rolls Royce, with the instructions that it should convey "the spirit of the Rolls-Royce, namely, speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace to evoke the spirit of mythical beauty."... Sykes chose to modify "The Whisper" into a version similar to today's Spirit of Ecstasy. He called this first model The Spirit of Speed... Some critics and fans have given The Spirit of Ecstasy the dubious nickname "Ellie in her Nightie", suggesting Eleanor's influence.... In February 1911 Sykes presented to Rolls-Royce the "Spirit of Ecstasy." The similarity with "The Whisper" was hardly coincidental because the model for both had been Miss Thornton. The sculptor's signature appeared on the plinth and were signed "Charles Sykes." Eleanor died on 30 December 1915 when the SS Persia was torpedoed by a U-boat. She had been accompanying John Walter (Lord Montagu.) He was thought to have been killed too, but survived and was saved after several days adrift in a life raft.

A beautiful woman who was the model for this iconic design? A love affair between a baron and this impoverished woman? The baron and the woman are off having an affair and their ship gets sank by a U-Boat? The beautiful woman gets killed in that U-Boat attack? The baron survives after being adrift for several days at sea? The secret history of one of the world's most famous automobiles? 

Wow! What a story! Wow! The aristocrats! Where's the Hollywood writers?

But I digress, like I said, to me even as a young boy, the Spirit of Ecstacy represented chasing my dreams and flying towards success. 

What my wife doesn't know (to this very day) is why I was so insistent upon buying that Spirit of Ecstasy statue when we saw it. Before we found it in the antique shop, I had never seen one in real life except the tiny 4 or 5 inch tall ones on Rolls Royce cars. And, actually, I'm not interested, nor ever have been, in cars or clothes. 

But when I saw this bronze Spirit of Ecstasy statue at the shop, I knew I just had to have it. We've now owned her for over 11 years. 

Sometimes work gets me down or projects that I am working on don't go well or they get cancelled (like radio or TV shows)... Creating a movie or a radio show or TV show can sometimes seem like an impossible dream....

I can get depressed.... 

My wife knows this about my personality very well.

But what my wife doesn't know is that everyday when I walk out the front door or I come home at night, she is there waiting for me. The lady! The Spirit of Ecstasy stands at the front door and always cheers me on.

She always says, "Chase your dreams. Never give up! Always fly!" 

It must be my mental disorder that such an inanimate object can hold such sway over me and motivate me. I can't explain exactly why excepting that she has always been this way to me.

I think the story of the Spirit of Ecstasy is a fascinating one and find this sort of tale to motivate me and to make me think, "It's great to be alive."

Art that makes me happy or motivated, like the Spirit of Ecstasy does, is like magic. I hope that everyone reading this has some sort of item at home or office, be it a child's drawing, a painting, a photograph, an object or some art that inspires and motivates them. Doing so is a sort of mind control and can help you to overcome your fears.

Never forget everyone: "Chase your dreams. Never give up! Always fly!" 

She says goodbye to me and she welcomes me home everyday. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Charles Bukowski, Gary North and Me - A True Story

The original title of this blog post was: "Charles Bukowski, Gary North and Me - The Best Writers Don't Care What People Think," but I changed that because that makes it sound like I think I am one of the "best" writers.... I'm not... Top 10? Matbe (forgive the typo!)   ;)

Shit! I wish. I just hope I could become a fraction of what Bukowski or North are. They are great... They don't care what you think. The best writers, I mean; they don't care what people think. I read the famous ones a lot. I think, sometimes, I read new, young ones that could be really good or great someday.

Alas, I am not a great writer but I had a guy as a sort of teacher and advisor to me who is a great writer. In fact, I had two of them who really influenced me greatly. I'm not talking about some writer whom I have never come in to contact with excepting their written words in books I've bought, I'm talking about two who I have actually corresponded with who have written notes and letters to me. Those two guys really influenced me. Their names are Gary North and Charles Bukowski. Everyone knows Charles Bukowski today. He died a few years back. In the early 80's, he was a cult writer and few knew him. After he died, he became famous. Gary North is well known in political and historical circles. He is still alive. I expect that he will be very famous after his demise.

Gary North

Not to be too flippant, but dying is very bad for someone's health but I think it does wonders for an artist's or a writer's career... 

I will always be grateful that Gary North, years ago, would volunteer advice to me as to how to be a better writer as well as  helping me to publish my book. I'll get to Charles Bukowski in a minute.

One of the best pieces of advice Gary North ever gave me was something along the lines of "find your topic. Create a thesis. Study it well, write it and rewrite it. Rewrite it again after that. And finally, stick by your guns until someone can prove you wrong with facts or data. If new data comes up then rethink your position."

No, really. I don't give a shit if you buy this book or not. In fact, don't! The proceeds are supposed to go to a home for retired persons but my dad died a few years ago and these assholes from the publisher keep the money, I think.... I will put the entire thing for free online ASAP!

That was important advice for me. It was important because all writers  want people to like what they wrote. All writers want to think that they are correct in their thinking. All writers want to be popular and for everyone to like them.

But that is just dreaming and not realistic thinking whatsoever. The writer who writes in an attempt to please everyone - will be relegated to writing boring fiction and fantasy (which could be an honorable profession and much more profitable than writing nonfiction, by the way). 

The best writers, actually, are the ones who don't care what you or I think. The best writers know that readers really loving them or hating them with a passion is the best way to be. When people don't care either way, that's the death knell of any art. People must love you or hate you. That's what Charles Bukowski taught me. 

The following story about Charles Bukowski and me is pretty unbelievable - if you don't know me very well. I know my friend's will hear this story and say, "Yeah? That sounds exactly like something Rogers would do." I have lots of stories like this. Stories where I met the Ramones, Blondie, Arnold Schwartzneggar, George H.W. Bush, Phil Spector and a bunch of other people that I can't recall at the moment.... 

The underground 'zine: 60 Miles North
TRIVIA! That's my eldest daughter on the cover.

Anyway, here's the story about Bukowski and how he affected me... 

In the early 1980s my best friend, Jeff Hughart, and I started a free underground magazine in Southern California called Sixty Miles North. It was a punk underground rag that got pretty popular in a very short time. At that time, free underground magazines were a novel and new idea. Ours was one of the first.

At that time, there was this old man who was a popular poet and writer in the underground who (pardon my French) didn't give a sh*t what you thought. He had written a few books about how crappy his work life was and Jeff and I thought those books were awesome. His name was Charles Bukowski. Since my friend and I were ex-punk rockers we thought everything in mass pop culture and modern consumerist society was horrible crap so we gravitated towards "dark" writers and artists like Joy Division and Charles Bukowski. Bukowski's novels, we thought, showed total disgust and contempt for modern society and modern life and we liked that a lot.

It seemed it was obvious that Bukowski didn't care if people liked his writing or not. Bukowski thought everything was sh*tty and said so. That's why we thought he was way cool. 

Back in those days, Bukowski wasn't popular in the mainstream and was a cult artist. Bukowski lived in Los Angeles and it was well known that he liked the horse races. That was convenient for me because I lived near Los Angeles and so did my parents. In fact, my folks liked the horse races. They were horse race crazy too and, this is no exaggeration, by the time I was 15 years old, I had been to every race track in Southern California  a hundred times. As kids, we'd run around the horse races areas and knew all the best places to hide and play.

Great, eh? As a small child, my weekends were spent playing with other fucked up kids at the horse race track while my parents bet.... Now do you wonder why I am so screwed up today?

Jeff and I spent a lot of time on that magazine. It was our release from our jobs and it was fun. It was our creative outlet. We thought that we could get Bukowski to write for our underground magazine. 

I got a photo of Bukowski and showed it to my dad and mom and asked them if they had seen this guy down at the track. They weren't sure. Since Bukowski was a published author, and pretty old, I figured that he'd relax in the horse track's "Club House." In the Club House it is not crowded as tables cost a few dollars and one can sit, relax and not have to deal with massive crowds of people. Bukowski wrote that he hated the humanity at the horse track. From being there hundreds of times, I knew exactly what he meant, so from that, I also knew he must have sat in the Club House. (If you've ever been to the horse track you know the "smell of humanity": sweat, sh*t and stale cigar smoke....) In the Club House you could have your space and not be pushed and shoved. The Club House was relaxed. Like I said, my parents were regulars so they knew most of the people in the Club House. There were lots of famous retired actors and actresses there. The most famous one that I can remember was Mickey Rooney. He and my dad would often sit at tables next to each other and talk. 

My parents saw the photo but couldn't remember if they'd seen Bukowski or not. So, I went to look for him. Seriously. If you don't know about horse racing, this might seem impossible to do, but if you go to the track a lot and know that certain race tracks are closed when others are open and that there is only one Club House where the regulars hang out, you'd know it shouldn't be so hard to find some old guy betting on the horses. It's be akin to walking into a huge bar with, maybe, 200 customers or so and finding your guy.

Mickey Rooney played Mr. Yuniyoshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's

So, I went looking for Bukowski at the horse racing track... I figured if I found him, I could give buy him a coffee and hand him a magazine, and a stamped envelope addressed with our mailing address (this was way back before the days of the Internet) and ask him to jot down some junk and send it to us for publication in the magazine. 

At the track, I showed his photo to some of my parents friends, the workers there and Mickey Rooney. People said they recognized him but hadn't seen him for a while. I tried a half dozen or so different times but I never found Bukowski at the Club House. I gave up.

Jeff, on the other hand, tried an approached that I thought would never work in a million years. Jeff then sent him a letter out of the blue to his publisher and included the same sort of stamped envelope with the same tack that I tried. I figured my way at least had a small chance. I figured that if I could just speak to Bukowski personally, I could convince him to write for us. Jeff had other ideas.

In Jeff's envelope he included a sample of the magazine and a letter asking for a short poem or submission with a "Thank you." Jeff sent it off and we forgot about it.

Well, you can imagine our shock and surprise when the envelope came back to us from Bukowski two weeks later. We were thrilled... You can also imagine our disappointment when Bukowski hand wrote on our letter a "No thank you!" message saying he wasn't interested in writing for our magazine. We were, as Southern California people said back in those days, "Bummed out!"

But not to be deterred and being two guys with a huge sense of humor (and this is the part where you'll think, "That sounds like Rogers"), we decided to run his rejection letter as "Bukowski's writing for our magazine." I think we called it, "Rejection from Bukowski." We printed his rejection letter as is and told the story. We bragged how our "zine" had finally hit the "big time" as even famous writers like Bukowski refused to write for us (remember we were a punk rock underground magazine so that was cool!) I have that magazine around here somewhere, stacked inside of some boxes so I'll have to find it and show it to you sometime.

After that magazine came out, we, once again, sent one to Bukowski with another note. This time he wrote back to us something along the lines of, "I can't believe you guys are so hard up for material that you'd print my rejection letter." He then added two or three (I can't remember how many) short poems that we printed in the next issue.

U2's Bono is a wanker

From that I learned a great lesson in life and from Bukowski. The lesson in life I learned was anything is worth a try and you can't achieve the impossible until you try to do so and, you have to do what you want. Bukowski's writing, at that time, was very hard core and seemed extremely negative to me (OK. I was negative when I was in "punk mode.") I could have never guessed at that time he'd become so famous and popular. So popular, in fact, that wankers like Bono from U2 would try to increase his coolness factor by acting like he is a friend with Bukowski.

Oh, and that reminds me. I do recall one poem he wrote much later, after our initial correspondence. Here is what Bukowski wrote about the time when Bono from U2 called him: (this is from my memory so it isn't word for word):

Bukowski: I got a call from Bono the other day...
He said "Hi!" 
I said "Hi!" and asked how Cher was doing...
We didn't talk for 
long after

Isn't that hilarious? Bono from U2 is so conceited that he thinks everyone knows who he is so he calls Bukowski to kiss his a*s. But Bukowski is not impressed (or he really doesn't know) and puts him down with the comment about Sonny and Cher! Sensational!

Today, I still read material by Gary North and Charles Bukowski sometimes and other great and famous writers. Now, thanks to the Internet and blogging, I think I can spot almost immediately some of those people with potential to be good or even great writers someday. In the day of print and paper, it was more difficult and costly for writers to say what they wanted to say. They had to tone down their message. Now, thanks to blogging, writers can say what they want.

The best writers start off as arrogant and obnoxious. They have the raw material to become good someday. These are the young people, though, who need to read and study and refine and write and rewrite. These are the people who need to open their minds and realize that they have so much potential if only they'd throw away preconceived notions.

It is as a famous Zen story goes:

A Cup of Tea
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"
"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"
Fellow bloggers, especially you that are young, become great writers! 
Here is my advice to you: Find your topic. Create a thesis. Study it well, write it and rewrite it. Rewrite it again after that. And finally, stick by your guns until someone can prove you wrong with facts or data. If new data comes up then rethink your position. 

Always, do not care too much what other people think... Good art is not democratic.

And, ALWAYS keep an open mind and realize that many of the ideas we believed at 25 we find out at the age of 50 are completely wrong.

Lastly, let me leave you with this quote (and get off my soapbox):

"We have to abandon the idea that schooling is something restricted to youth. How can it be, in a world where half the things a man knows at 20 are no longer true at 40 - and half the things he knows at 40 hadn't been discovered when he was 20?" - Arthur C. Clarke

Psst! Sonny and Cher (Bono) were way cooler than U2's poseur vocalist Bono could ever be! Bukowski was an old man in the eighties. He wouldn't know about U2. Here's the Bono he must have thought he was talking to...

And, when U2 Bono hung up the phone, do you think Bukowski cared? 
Nope. Most probably not.

For Ryu, Andrew, Jp and Allison

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