Loco in MoCo

randy

Please enjoy this Q&A I did with the prolific author Mike Sacks (I reviewed him here and here) about his latest literary outrage, Randy: The Full and Complete Unedited Biography and Memoir of the Amazing Life and Times of Randy S.!

Sacks claims that the book is a “self-published memoir of a thirty-something from Maryland found by me at a garage sale and that’s being re-published ‘as is.'” As the interview reveals, the work is really a vulgarly heartfelt homage to Maryland — largely Montgomery County — from a native son who strayed far from home.

One may also follow “Randy” on Twitter at @RandyIsDaMan, where the occasional reward is witnessing Randy’s Twitter feuds with the likes of Justine Bateman. What a world.

Maryland Native Mike Sacks’s New Novel Is The Most Montgomery County Thing Ever

For Whom the Belmont Tolls

B

Happy to have my first byline in Washingtonian magazine, an oral history of the Belmont TV jingle (“Whatever you want, think Belmont!”)

This extends my previous trifecta with Washingtonian. For several years, my band played the magazine’s annual “Best & Worst” gala, a swanky soiree based on its issue celebrating and castigating what the editors considered the high and low points of D.C. culture. The live event featured only the high points, where “Best” winners, mostly restaurants, were invited to host a booth and offer their wares. My band, I should note, was certainly not the best in D.C. Not sure how we got the gig, but they were usually fun.

As for low points, my group, Travesty Films, was once named the “Best Vanity Project” for our crowd-pleasing though admittedly low-brow comedy films. Thanks, I guess.

And then one year I was invited to be a judge for the Best & Worst issue, lending my expertise to the category of Best Movie Theater Popcorn. Arch Campbell was also a judge. We set up at the Uptown Theater to sample the snacks, including some microwave popcorn, which I didn’t think should have qualified. I can’t remember who we gave the prize to, but I recall being underwhelmed by all the options. For the record, the best movie popcorn was at the old Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Avenue, which proudly boasted real butter — until the scolds at the Center for Science in the Public Interest released a “study” that declared buttered popcorn to be a health hazard. Cineplex countered with a statement pointing out that most Americans only go to the movies a few times a year and thus were hardly in danger of contracting heart disease from the multiplex. And then the company caved and changed the recipe to the same dreck as everyone else. Thanks, “science”!

As is often the case in journalism, one learns as much about oneself as the subject of one’s article. Though I’d been listening to the jingle for its entire 40-year history, I didn’t realize until I made the calls that I knew everyone in the band: Pete Kennedy on guitar, Shannon Ford on drums, high school classmate the late, lamented Wade Matthews on bass, and Jon Carroll and Margot Chapman on vocals.

Anyway, the article was fun to do. I got to use my clever Olympus TP-8 Telephone Pick-up Microphone, which I picked up after learning that Ryan Lizza used one to record his insane conversation with disgraced political nutjob Anthony Scaramucci.

Click the link to get the earworm stuck in your head all over again. You’re welcome.

R.I.P Dick Gregory

I had the honor of interviewing Dick Gregory for WPFW radio in 2008. Basically, I said “Hello,” and he pretty much filled the next hour with wonderful anecdotes of his pioneering days in comedy and philosophical stories on all manner of subjects. Gregory was a very sweet fellow in person, happy to pose for a photo with some random white dude. The interview was for a pledge drive and the goal was met, for which I can take no credit.

Gregory’s importance in comedy cannot be overstated. Follow Kliph Nesteroff on Twitter; he has been posting amazing stories about and pictures of Gregory for the last couple days. Nesteroff is the author of the essential book, The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels & the History of American Comedy, and clearly can see into the future as well as the past.

Here is the Washington Post‘s excellent obit.

Inside the Nuttycombe Archives

I open the electrofied doors to welcome you into the Nuttycombe Archives. Behold the wonders and imagine owning a piece thereof. Seriously, all offers considered. This may be the first step in an upcoming Kickstarter campaign to finally monetize a lifetime of collecting and just attracting all manner of exotic cultural flotsam, jetsam, and Jetsons figurines.


Book Report: Stinker Lets Loose

I get to the bottom of the mystery that is Mike Sacks‘ latest book, Stinker Lets Loose. Is it in fact his latest book? Or is Stinker Lets Loose something more. Something more sinister? Or something wonderful? America needs to know.

Mentioned is my attempt at a re-novelization of the novelization of the original Ocean’s 11 movie starring the Rat Pack, Frank, Dino, Sammy, etc. One may find that effort here.

By all means, do check out Mike’s podcast, Doin’ It With Mike Sacks, interviews with comedy cognoscenti as well as original amusements.

Soul Man: Larry Kidwell, 1947-2017

lawrence and the arabians

Larry Kidwell has passed. Larry was the singer/piano player for the legendary D.C. band Lawrence & the Arabians. (That’s him in Jesus pose behind his bandmates, circa 1967.) Before the term blue-eyed soul, he was its embodiment. As Michael Dolan wrote about the band in Washingtonian in 1988, “They were the original soul rebels, white kids who grew up on black music and in turn played black music for other white kids to grow up on.” One of those kids was me.

Larry and the band get their own section in Mark Opsasnick‘s essential book, Capitol Rock, deservedly so. In the era of teen clubs and dances at the fire hall, before there was such a thing as a concert industry and professional music venues outside of classical halls, the band routinely drew 1,500 or more kids every weekend.

Lawrence and the arabians card

Of course, there were no Arabians in the band. As with many band names of the time, it was a play on something current, in this case the film. Yes, it was a more innocent time; please put your comments about “appropriation” aside, especially if you never heard the man sing. The few recordings that Larry and the band made don’t really do him justice. As with so much about music, you really have to hear it live.

Larry generously gifted me with the original photo of the band after I interviewed him for City Paper. He wrote on the back:

“If this picture means anything good to you, please keep it that it would give me pleasure, too.”

Larry, this picture means the world to me. And I hope I thanked you enough.

Condolences to his family. This town lost a bit of its soul.

I Read a Book!

A tribute to the late, great Chuck Barris, who — in addition to creating The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and most importantly The Gong Show — wrote one of the great works of American literature, his “authorized autobiography,” Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

So much of my life was spent watching The Gong Show. Farewell, Chuck. You will be missed.

The Problem With Regulations

So the current zeitgeist has caused even me to descend to the depths of politics. Here, I explain the problem with the debate over regulations, which is that ugly word “regulations.” In fact, government regulations are meant to safeguard and protect the public. So, instead of bemoaning having to follow instructions, be thankful that your safety is a concern of our elected officials. Well, some of them. #resist

At the Women’s March, Jan. 21, 2017

I went to the Women’s March in Washington, DC, and was quickly separated from my wife and party and spent two house standing shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers. While I never heard nor saw the speeches, there was plenty of activity among the thousands jammed onto the National Mall.

I decided to only bring my Canon PowerShot A590 point-and-shoot and Zoom H1 audio recorder with me, both of which fit into one jacket pocket. They proved up to the task of capturing a few of the magic moments from this historic day.

And is Youtube being sexist by choosing a man for the video’s thumbnail image? I could change it, but it’s a dramatic shot of a colorful fella. (I guess I’m still part of the problem…)