Monday, July 6, 2009

It's a blog, Mrs. Walker, it's a blog...

This definitely ain't a good time to be a celebrity, considering the current spate of deaths amongst famous people.  Here are three more the Grim Creeper claimed this week.

KARL MALDEN, 1912-2009
“Streets Of San Francisco” is one of my all-time favorite TV Cop shows ("Hawaii Five-0" is right up there with it), and Karl Malden was a big reason why.  He was terrific as the tough-but-fair Det. Mike Stone, opposite Michael Douglas as upstart Det. Steve Keller, or “Buddy Boy”, as Stone always referred to him.  It’s amazing to think Malden was well into his 60s when they did that show, which required a fair amount of athleticism, and he obviously took great care of himself, considering he damn near lived to be 100.  Until I was reminded of them last week in his obituary, I’d all but forgotten KM’s American Express travelers checks “What will you do?” TV ads, which were lampooned by the likes of Johnny Carson and others.  Also easy to forget is Karl Malden’s film career prior to SOSF, during which he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for A Streetcar Named Desire and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for On The Waterfront, co-starring with Marlon Brando.  A fine actor and a good guy—he was even married to the same woman for 70 years.  Rest in peace, Karl—ya done good.

DRAKE LEVIN, 1943-2009
“Drake who?” you say?  He may well be the greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll guitarist that nobody knows, and “The Kid” provided all those careening riffs and killer solos for Paul Revere & The Raiders on pretty much everything they did up to and including “Hungry” in 1966.  A very underrated guitarist in a very underrated band, Levin left PR&TR for a National Guard hitch to avoid the draft in ’66 and later formed The Brotherhood with fellow former Raiders Phil Volk and Mike Smith, releasing two albums for RCA.  Drake had been battling cancer for several years and finally succumbed to it on Saturday.  Seems semi-fitting, I guess, that a guy from such a patriotic band like the Raiders would pass away on the 4th of July.  Rest in peace, Drake—ya done good, too.

STEVE McNAIR, 1973-2009
Unquestionably the most shocking passing this weekend was former Tennessee Titans QB Steve McNair, shot to death along with a female acquaintance who wasn’t his wife who may well have killed him and then turned the gun on herself.  Even sadder, this one has turned in a soap opera rife with speculation about what actually went down.  McNair’s wife claims to have no previous knowledge that he was seeing this woman, but evidently half of Nashville was aware of it.  An ignominious end for a guy who I admired for his toughness, often playing hurt and in tremendous pain, which in turn no doubt inspired his teammates to play harder with him.  Sad, very sad…

Let’s hear it for Ms. Winky-Dink, Sarah Palin, for resigning as Gov. of Alaska with a year and a half to go in her term.  She predictably spouted off a bunch of bugle oil about “it’s all good” and how she wants to help the Republican party “from the outside”, yadda x 3.  Sounds more to me like A) she can’t hack doing the job, and B) she wants to write books and do talk shows and make money, etc.  And don’t tell me this is so she can gear up for the 2012 Presidential campaign—that’s three freakin’ years from now!  She’s wasting her time anyway if she does run—Sarah Palin is far too flighty to make a decent commander-in-chief, especially if she can’t even finish her current term.  As trite as this may sound, a winner never quits, and a quitter never wins…

Again, for all you feminists out there:  I’m all for having a female President of the U.S. someday, but geez, Louise, surely we can find someone better than Palin or Hillary Clinton.

One of these days—and it won’t be long—one of these hot dog-eating fools is going to wind up dying on live TV during these silly competitive eating contests.  68 freakin’ hot dogs in one sitting?  I don’t think I’ve consumed that many in the last five years!  Nuckin’ futs…

I just finished author Mark Wilkerson’s 600-page 2008 biography Who Are You on The Who’s Pete Townshend last week, and I’m a bit spent.  The author was almost too thorough, especially with all the direct quotations he included from Townshend, which began to wear me out as a reader after a while.  No doubt, Pete’s been very influential in my life via his songwriting, but I’m not sure why it didn’t dawn on me long before now what a really pompous ass he can be sometimes, not to mention a very contradictory and confounding individual at times.  Why Roger Daltrey has put up with his crap for so long—apart from PT being his meal ticket all these years—is beyond me.  The book mentioned the numerous times Townshend tried to get the infamous Lifehouse album off the ground (even in the last ten years or so), only to abandon the project because no one could understand the concept.  I don’t think PT himself ever fully understood it himself, and I’m like “Dude, give it up, already!”  I also found all the stuff about his worship of spiritual leader Meher Baba very hypocritical, considering how much Pete abused drugs and alcohol in the ‘70s and early ‘80s (and damn near died of an overdose in ’81)—something which Baba (the original “Don’t worry, be happy” guy) did not condone at all.

I used to think it would be really cool to meet Pete Townshend and engage in conversation with him about life and such, but now I’m not so sure.  It seems Pete has this weird knack for being a very gracious and kind gentleman one minute, and a total arsehole the next—very Jekyll and Hyde-ish, you might say—toward his fans, the musicians he works with, record executives, the media, etc.  None of this diminishes the incredibly intense music Pete’s given us throughout his career, but I view him in a different light now—not quite the idol I once thought of him as.

I took another trip on the Way-Back Machine over the weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed viewing NBC’s answer to “American Bandstand” in the mid-‘60s, “Hullabaloo”.  I highly recommend renting or buying these DVDs, which are a nice time capsule of that era, music-wise, featuring many of the big names of the day, like Herman’s Hermits, The Kinks, The Animals, Petula Clark, Sonny & Cher, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Dusty Springfield, The Supremes and even the dreaded Freddie & The Dreamers.  Unlike “Bandstand”, “Hullabaloo” had a different host each time, so one week you’d get Sammy Davis, Jr., another you’d get Trini Lopez and another you’d get Michael Landon (singing, no less!).  All the Go-Go dancers hopping around on-stage while the groups performed were a total hoot, too.  Good stuff, Maynard…

WELL, DO YOU REMEMBER RICK ASTLEY?  HE HAD A BIG FAT IT—IT WAS GHASTLY…On those “Hullabaloo” shows, they had a weekly segment from England featuring late Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who would discuss up-and-coming artists from across the big pond.  While watching Epstein, I finally made the connection that one Rick Astley had to be his illegitimate son!  Do they not look like father and son?!?  Probably not true, though, since Epstein was a renowned homosexual.  Then again, so is Astley, according to Brian Griffin on "Family Guy".

A while back when I did my Top 20 Live Album countdown post, I made mention of the Rolling Stones’ Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out as being considered one of the top live LPs ever, but the good Dr. Sardonicus pointed out that it wasn’t all that spectacular.  Turns out the Doc. was right, as I now have it in my collection (having pirated it from the library), and I was fairly underwhelmed by what I heard.  It wasn’t bad, mind you, but hardly scintillating.  As great as the Stones are live in concert, it’s an odd contradiction that their live albums are so average (and sometimes less than average).  Good call, Doc!

If He really does indeed exist, I kinda had Him pegged to be more of a Stryper fan myself…

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