Watergate And Me!

Evidence! From deep in the Nuttycombe Photo Archives.

Evidence! From deep in the Nuttycombe Photo Archives.

Above is the envelope containing the role of film I shot at the Watergate hearings. I went there with the guitar player from my band, Bob Barnes. The trip might have been his idea. Watergate was the hip thing and Bob was a hip guy.

Bob Barnes, rocking in the free world.

Bob Barnes, rocking in the free world.

I remember at the time I was painting a mural inside a hippie-ish crisis call center in downtown Rockville but spending much of the day watching the hearings on the TV in the room. The hearings Bob and I attended were not the exciting ones, like John Dean or the revelation of the secret tapes. Instead, they featured the droning testimony of Maurice Stans, who had been the Commerce Secretary in the Nixon administration but was the treasurer for CREEP, the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

SIDE NOTE: I played a gig for CREEP. No idea how or why — my band was a typical Top 40 cover band made up of shaggy youngsters. Up With People we were not. But whoever booked us sent over a 45 r.p.m. disc of the campaign’s theme song, Nixon’s the One. We had to learn it for the show. Also for reasons I cannot recall, that record is not in my collection.

The gig was at some big building in Arlington, Va., maybe Crystal City. (Oh, sorry — “National Landing.” Bite me, Bezos.) Most of my memories are of button-down Republicans giving us the side-eye, or in one case tossing off the witticism, “Is that a boy or a girl?” The only positive attention, and it wasn’t much, came when we played Nixon’s the One. Man, I wish I still had that record.

[UPDATE: My pal Peter Gilstrap did a fantabulous interview with the composer of Nixon’s the One, Vic Caesar. It is one wild ride!]

don't buy books by crooks

“If the hero of San Clemente sells his books he’s gonna rake in plenty…”

SIDER NOTE: Years later I would play on an anti-Nixon song, Don’t Buy Books By Crooks, which was a protest over the disgraced president getting millions of dollars to write his memoirs. The group was featured on the Today Show but I didn’t feel like going to New York.

Anyway. I thought that I had taken photos inside the hearing room, but I didn’t. Probably because it was not allowed. I do have shots of people lined up outside the Capitol, some interior shots of the architecture, and shots of the many police overlooking the crowd. Plus Bob clowning around. And there are pictures of the hearings on my bedroom TV.

When the transcripts of the tapes were released, my uncle asked me to buy him a copy. Uncle Gene had been Nixon’s roommate in the Navy. (He was also Jimmy Stewart‘s roommate at Princeton. And my cousin went to high school with Martha Stewart. But I digress.)

My Uncle Gene with Dick and Pat Nixon on the 1960 campaign trail.

My Uncle Gene with Dick and Pat Nixon on the 1960 campaign trail.

Gene and Nixon remained friends. Here’s a picture of Uncle Gene welcoming Dick and Pat Nixon to Binghamton during the 1960 presidential campaign. He was on the reviewing stand for the first Inauguration. (At the same time that Led Zeppelin was playing at the Wheaton Youth Center!) I have the official button he wore.

So I dutifully stood in line at the Government Printing Office and bought two copies, one for Uncle Gene and one for me. Gene was a staunch defender of Nixon but after sending him the transcript book there wasn’t much discussion.

That book is in my archives. Still looking for a copy of Nixon’s the One.

"What did the photographer know and when did he know it?"

“What did the photographer know and when did he know it?”

Major political scandal being investigated, large crowd, police don't seem too worried. Those were the days...

Major political scandal being investigated, large crowd, police don’t seem too worried. Those were the days…

Was glued to the TV in my bedroom--couldn't get enough of those crazy hearings!

Was glued to the TV in my bedroom–couldn’t get enough of those crazy hearings!

I'm sure these school kids have fond memories of their visit to our nation's capital. How many returned on Jan. 6?

I’m sure these school kids have fond memories of their visit to our nation’s capital. How many returned on Jan. 6?

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.

The Sound of Our Town

Red Fox Inn Bethesda Md Nuttycombe Archives

C&O Canal
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
Red Beet Records

Hometown tunes from the 1970s and ’80s are the unifying theme of Eric Brace and Peter Cooper‘s heartfelt and nostalgic new album, C&O Canal. A love letter to the musicians who inspired the D.C.-raised duo, C&O Canal is a set of cover tunes penned the likes of the Seldom Scene‘s John Starling, Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Joe Triplett, Karl Straub, and more; it’s an ode to a particularly fecund era for the local music scene.

C&O Canal Eric Brace Peter Cooper

The liner notes connect the many dots tying these D.C.-area musicians together, and hearing the songs filtered through the mesmerizing harmonies of Brace’s mournful baritone and Cooper’s high-lonesome tenor reveals the depth of craftsmanship and artistry this area has produced. “Washington history is as rich with genius-level roots music as it is tricky politics,” Brace writes, correctly. The album is dedicated to, among lots of inspirations, many of the D.C. clubs that hosted live music every week: The Birchmere where the Scene had its residency for so many years, Bethesda’s Red Fox Inn, where Emmylou started (pictured; I played there, too!), Gallagher‘s on Connecticut Ave., where Carpenter hosted an open mic (pretty sure I played there in the late ’60s when it was called Sam’s Place), the fabled Cellar Door (so many nights there; so much magic).

Almost every week in the ’70s, you could hear the Rossyln Mountain Boys‘ Joe Triplett sing his lament, “Been Awhile.” B&C bring it back with just enough reverence, while putting their own stamp on the song.

Likewise, if Cooper’s plaintive version of “Boulder to Birmingham” won’t make you forget either Emmylou’s definitive original or the nearly-definitive version by co-writer Bill Danoff‘s Starland Vocal Band, he acquits himself well.

I’d somehow missed Carpenter’s “John Wilkes Booth,” and so thought at first that the song was taken from some 1870s tract. But this recitation of historical perfidy manages to be both haunting and jaunty. Jauntily haunting? Is that a thing? On this album, yes.

From the opening title track, John Starling’s “C&O Canal,” B&C establish a consistent tone and mood, a celebration not only of this particular town, but of honest music made by and about real people. In this age of individual downloads, C&O Canal is one of those too-rare releases that work as a unified whole. The result is a listening experience to be savored at length, even on shuffle-repeat.

Brace and Cooper bring their Americana goodness to Jammin Java on Friday, June 3, for the official record release party.

Batman v Superman v Bullshit

The film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was so scorned by critics (a lousy 28% on Rotten Tomatoes) that the Warner Bros. marketing team has been reduced to dredging up what positive quotes they can find from the most random people on social media: a guy from Pakistan, an Irish dude who mostly tweets about football (i.e., soccer), and even a grandmother on Facebook.

In the time-honored movie-marketing ploy of plucking a few words out of context from a review to suggest that the critic actually enjoyed the movie, the Warners team has been posting the following graphics to Twitter. To be fair, the fans seem to have actually enjoyed the movie (the Rotten Tomatoes audience score is an inexplicable 69%). But is the opinion of someone with less than 200 followers on Twitter of any use? Yeah, yeah, democratization of the Internet, end of the gatekeepers, blah blah. But seriously, Twitter user @ceepascual‘s money quote, “Literally every scene with @galgadot in it took my breath away,” is just a guy ogling a pretty lady. Progress!

I have been retweeting these desperate memes right back at Warners, with snarky comments, to no effect.

There is an entire wing of the Nuttycombe Archives filled with Silver Age Superman and Batman comic books, a treasure trove that I adore. I was such a Batman purist that when I watched the Adam West Batman show on TV in the ’60s, I despised it. Why so unserious? As a kid, I did not understand camp. I’ve evolved.

But the approach to adapting comic book characters for film and television (and, indeed, in comic books) has swung so far in the other direction that I was about to write my own screed against this current climate of morose, sociopathic superhero movies, filled with what Wesley Morris in the New York Times termed “lugubrious solemnity and generic philosophizing.” But here’s the Austin American-Statesman‘s Joe Gross summing up better than I the problem with BvSDoJ. Spoiler alert: He compares it, unfavorably, to a garbage fire.

Here are some of the film studio’s sad attempts to lure you into the theater, and the new social media cineastes who inspired them:


Source: https://instagram.com/nic_ferazzoli


Source: https://instagram.com/gabrielqueirox


Source: http://twitter.com/ceepascual


Source: https://www.facebook.com/SuniyehNabeel


“@ohsnapitsgingee” seems to have disappeared from Twitter.


Source: https://twitter.com/JohnnyCrua


Source: https://instagram.com/kms_fotografie


Source: https://www.facebook.com/kathy.gummere.1


Source: https://twitter.com/TriangleSpidey


Source: https://twitter.com/Themysciran

Simpsons In-Joke Explained

danny simon comedy writing degree

On tonight’s Simpsons episode, Lisa and Marge go to see a musical version of Bad News Bears at the “Danny Simon Theater.” Danny was Neil Simon‘s brother. Neil, of course, does have a theater on Broadway named after him. His older brother does not. But Neil always credited Danny with teaching him the art of comedy writing. (So does Woody Allen; they all wrote on the Sid Caesar show.) In fact, the idea for The Odd Couple was Danny’s — it was his life. He and another recently-divorced TV writer were sharing a house. One day they started riffing a husband-and-wife bit between them. Danny realized there was a good idea somewhere. He started writing, but got tired and gave the idea to younger brother Neil. I know this because it’s one of many anecdotes Danny shared while teaching a comedy writing course at UMd. As you can see, he autographed my diploma, which remains one of my cherished possessions and the only degree that I deem worthy.

The Greatest Radio Spot Ever Produced

I say so because I remember it vividly some 35 years later. It’s a vivid ad, but the fact that it was a promotion for a one-time concert that probably ran only over the course of a few weeks, at most, makes it all the more remarkable that I could recall every sensationalized second. (Sadly, I did not go to the show.)

This airing was recorded from Steve Lorber‘s infamous Mystic Eyes show on WHFS, which I was in the habit of taping because one never knew what to expect from Lorber. Insistently unprofessional, Lorber flaunted both his lack of a “DJ voice” and his enthusiasm for and encyclopedic knowledge of the then-current punk/new wave/weirdo music scene. I’ve left some of Steve’s back-announcing at the end of this transfer so that you can get a taste of his refined taste. Eventually, I’ll transfer the entire tape, and several more filed away in the Nuttycombe Archives.

You have been warned.