Great one gone

The greatest sports announcer in history has finally left the stadium.

Legendary sports announcer, and voice of the Dodgers for a record-setting 67 years, Vincent Edward “Vin” Scully, 94, peacefully at his home in suburban Los Angeles.

I grew up listening to Vin. Summer hasn’t been the same since that awful day when he hung it up in 2016 and left the broadcast booth. I’ve heard a lot of sports announcers over the years. Blessed to have come of age with Dick Enberg doing L.A. football, Chick Hearn doing the Lakers, and Vin for the Dodgers. Now, all gone.

Scully wasn’t just the best of those three legends, he was the best of all time, and I do not say so lightly, nor merely out of home team pride. He did everything for everyone, and did it well, but it was baseball he loved above all, and baseball he made richer for calling the play-by-play. Not just for the Dodgers, but for every player and team he ever watched.

You couldn’t watch a home game at Dodger stadium for most of my lifetime without hearing him on 40,000 radios from home plate to the bleachers. He was that good. If you went to a game, you took a radio to listen to Vin, because he was going to tell you more about what you were looking at firsthand than any five other guys, if you gave them a week to rehearse.

Any late spring to late summer night, after sunset and before dusk, the summer heat fading away, and his voice was the soundtrack to life, a lullaby while lounging in a backyard hammock as the night sky deepened from indigo to starlit black, and an under-appreciated feast for the ears, anywhere from the pre-game show to the post-game wrap-up.

He called Sandy Koufax’s perfect game. He called Hank Aaron’s 715th homer. And he called this golden baseball moment, one for the ages. Listen to it, and watch, as I did as it happened, and imagine hearing this for up to 162 games for 67 years.

Well said. And what a moment it was, too; I’ve run this one here myself, and was watching on the TeeWee when it happened just as Aesop was. The whole Game 1 saga was a pluperfect example of what made baseball worth following, over and above all other sports—precisely the kind of magic that only baseball could produce, magic which Vin Scully understood and appreciated better than anybody before or since.

It was late here on the East Coast when it all went down; when Gibson took his winning swing, it was one of those instances where absolutely every true baseball man watching immediately knew in his gut that that ball was departing Dodger Stadium for sure and certain. Despite having been a lifelong Braves fan myself and therefore having nothing invested in who would come out on top in that year’s Fall Classic, I nonetheless leapt out of my easy chair with a lung-scarring shout of purest joy that brought my slumbering girlfriend rushing out into the living room, frightened witless that something terrible, something awful, had just happened.

To the contrary, something extraordinary, something truly wonderful, just had. It was well after midnight here; I had to be at work at 5 the next AM, and cared not a whit that I’d be paying all day for the lateness of the hour. Kirk Gibson had just provided all the world with one of those exhilarating, unforgettable baseball moments that every baseball fan lives for, but somehow never really expects. Gibson’s Miracle Shot discombobulated and demoralized Tony LaRussa’s heavily-favored Oakland A’s so badly that Tom LaSorda’s underdog Dodgers ended up taking the Series in just five games, against all odds and expectations.

And who but the incomparable Vin Scully could possibly have done a better job of calling it for us? A blow-by-blow summation of the whole incredible thing:

Unknown to the fans and the media at the time, Kirk Gibson was watching the game on television while undergoing physical therapy in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. At some point during the game, television cameras scanned the Dodgers dugout and commentator Vin Scully, working for NBC for the 1988 postseason, observed that Gibson was “nowhere to be found”. This spurred Gibson to call for Mitch Poole, the team ball boy, to set up the tee for him to take some warm up swings. After a series of warm up swings, Gibson told Poole to go get Lasorda for an evaluation. After a brief stint to get Tommy’s attention, Pool informed Lasorda that Gibson was taking practice swings in the clubhouse, where Lasorda went back for the evaluation. Shortly there after, Gibson was seen in the dugout wearing his batting helmet Along the way, NBC’s Bob Costas could hear Gibson’s agonized-sounding grunts after every hit.

A’s closer Dennis Eckersley came on to pitch the ninth to close it out for (A’s ace hurler Dave “Smoke”) Stewart. After retiring the first two batters (Mike Scioscia and Jeff Hamilton), Eckersley’s former A’s teammate Mike Davis, batting for Alfredo Griffin, walked on five pitches. During Davis’ at-bat, Dave Anderson initially entered the on-deck circle to hit for Alejandro Peña. Eckersley pitched carefully to Davis because the A’s remembered all of the home runs he hit for the A’s a year earlier, not because the light-hitting Anderson was on deck, as popularly believed. After Davis walked, Lasorda called back Anderson and sent up a hobbled Kirk Gibson to the plate, amidst cheers from the Dodger Stadium crowd. Gibson bravely fouled off Eckersley’s best offerings, demonstrating how badly he was hurting. On one foul, Gibson hobbled towards first and prompted Scully to quip, “And it had to be an effort to run THAT far.” After Gibson fouled off several pitches, Davis stole second on ball three. On the next pitch, the 8th of the at-bat, Gibson, slammed a backdoor slider into the right field bleachers to win the game. The footage of Gibson hobbling around the bases on both hurt legs and pumping his fist as he rounded second became an iconic baseball film highlight.

Gibson would never bat again in the Series, and his walk-off homer in Game 1 marked the first time that a World Series game ended with a come-from-behind home run. In a somewhat forgotten detail of this game highlighting the teamwork that was this Dodgers team’s trademark all season, Gibson’s heroics still would not have been possible without the earlier home run by the man replacing Gibson in the line-up, Mickey Hatcher.

Gibson became the second player ever to record a walk-off hit with two outs and his team trailing in the bottom of the ninth inning of a World Series game, following Cookie Lavagetto in the 1947 World Series. Only one other player, Brett Phillips in the 2020 World Series, has since accomplished this feat.

A bona fide miracle indeed, one that will shine forever in the pantheon of America’s Pastime. And how profoundly grateful I am that the great Vin Scully was on hand to do the play-by-play in his own inimitable style. Aesop’s note-perfect finale really says it all.

Imagine being so good you could shut up for over a minute on live TV after one of the greatest moments in sports history, and just let the microphone tell the story. You don’t have to imagine it. Vin just did it.

Annnnnd bingo. Full props to color man Joe Garagiola as well, Scully’s partner in the booth that night and a damned fine announcer in his own right, for being astute enough himself to just keep quiet and let this most beautiful of baseball moments speak for itself.

Rest thee well, Vin Scully, and thanks so very much for all you gave us. You shan’t ever be forgotten.

Condolences

My deepest, most heartfelt sympathy goes out to Diplomad and his family on the sudden, unexpected passing of his son David. The rest of us can’t begin to fathom your pain at this tragic loss, my friend; on these awful occasions, there is little or nothing of use for anyone to say. Please know that my thoughts are with you, and my very best wishes that you might find the strength to deal with what must be dealt with, to cope with your grief in good time. May your beloved David forever be at peace.

2

Hyeppeh Joomteemf ‘n’shit, yo!

So earlier on this most auspicious of several other Nigger Day! holidays we now have strewn carelessly about the calendar like junk vehicles, broken toys, and stolen bric-a-brac across the dead brown grass of a Darktown front lawn, the local classical-music station spent the afternoon highlighting the “contributions” to the orchestral music oeuvre (not so auspicious, actually) of Black Composers (if any).

I used that “if any” aside sarcastically, yes, but advisedly too. Because apparently, there are indeed a handful of uppity Neegrows who claim to be composers of symphonic music. After enduring a painfully wretched interlude of truly godawful sqwronk and blorgle, including one “composition” featuring a male singer for whom one couldn’t help but feel a certain measure of pity as the poor fellow tried manfully, but all in vain, to locate some semblance of melody somewhere in the unmusical, atonal mosquito repellent this alleged Black Composer™ dared to claim as his own. As I was desperately cramming bits of toilet paper, styrofoam packing material, asbestos swatches, and cigarette filters up against my eardrums to blunt the agony, I realized that, as a huge ST-TNG fan, I had heard this material before:



You guys may think I’m just being funny here, but I swear that’s what this crap sounded like. Seriously.

Which doesn’t mean that there are NO black classical-music composers worth lending an ear to, mind. I know of at least one: the great Justin Holland, a true-blue, gin-you-wine-article American Original of the classical guitar.

Justin Holland (July 26, 1819 – March 24, 1887) was an American classical guitarist, a music teacher, a community leader, a black man who worked with white people to help slaves on the Underground Railroad, and an activist for equal rights for African Americans.

Holland was known nationally, not only as a musician but also as a civil rights activist who worked in the same national circles as Frederick Douglass. His goal was to develop his personal growth, in order to stand as an example for others to see. As a teacher, he deliberately chose a “cautious and circumspect” bearing, keeping his relationships with students strictly professional. He chose work that was considered honorable and held high standards, and the professional respect that accompanied his position aided his civil rights goals.

A measure of his success in showcasing the admirable African American to the world came after he died, when he was given eulogies, by white people as well as African Americans, about his skill as a musician and his personal character.

…In 1845 he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in the Western Reserve, where he worked on his dream of complete acceptance for African Americans by white Americans, with complete equality. Cleveland was another place where white people were sympathetic toward African Americans. He saw the area as a place that gave him the opportunity to work toward that goal. He consciously embraced education and assimilation as the best ways to overcome racial barriers and prejudices. He looked to European culture as a source of admirable standards (and hoped that middle-class Americans around him would associate him with those standards as well.) He spoke of his own music in terms of European excellence, teaching the “correct system” to fret the strings on the guitar, as done by “the best Masters of Europe.” He also wrote a 324-page treatise on subjects of moral reform.

The standout thing about Justin Holland is that, nearly unique among classical-guitar composers and performers, all of Holland’s work proudly bears a readily-identifiable Made In America™ stamp. To wit:



All of his stuff I’ve ever heard—and I’ve heard quite a bit over the years—is like this: lush, gorgeous, with all the Spanish or Italian influence sanded off to leave nothing but pure America the Beautiful shining through. If you listen close enough, you can hear the earliest stirrings of another distinctly American form in there: jazz.



Pretty, no? So here’s to ya, Justin Holland; God rest ye, and long may your beautiful music endure. You are a credit not just to your race, as they used to say, but to your art, and to your nation as well.

2

Dennis Hopper, American icon

Just so’s you know, I freely admit that I’m running this as an excuse to repost this most awesome Nicholson/Hopper duet from Easy Rider at the end.

I’ve always loved Dennis Hopper and found him to be a kindred spirit. He embodies American consciousness without a shred of sentimentality. We see in him a mixture of rebelliousness, sorrow, loss, and even grace. But more than anything, we see American restlessness. Although he is most known for his films, both as a director and actor, Hopper’s talent was also visible in his photography. After his career had a bit of a downturn in the 1960s, Hopper’s then-wife, Brooke Hayward, gave him a Nikon camera for his 25th birthday. 

Hopper’s photography oeuvre covers only the years 1961-1967, which is short chronologically speaking, but the creations that came out of restlessness transcend time. Hopper himself didn’t want to have anything to do with the pictures and put them away in a vault. “I was trying to forget…,” he said, “the photographs represented failure to me. A painful parting from [daughter] Marin and Brooke, my art collection, the house that I lived in and the life that I had known for those eight years.” Still, the photographs continue to live as artifacts of America’s past, separated from Hopper, the man, but bound to Hopper, the artist. His own view of their existence and status as photographs is almost irrelevant because of our gaze into the world he has recorded.

Hopper’s photographs, particularly in this collection, In Dreams, are a window into the soul of America during the 1960s. We see street scenes of Los Angeles: people frozen in time, sitting, standing up, looking into the distance of their own lives, or just staring at the passing dog. We see a close up of hands writing; jazz musicians in a smokey club; streets in rearview mirrors offering both a reality and an illusion of our strange world; George Segal and Sandy Dennis in 1965, a year before the release of Mike Nichols’ adaptation of Edward Albee’s 1962 play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” standing among the broken nude statues, embodying innocence not unlike their characters, Nick and Honey, in Nichols’ film.

We see Brooke Hayward in a grocery store, pushing a cart somewhat sadly, lost in her secret thoughts; a couple in a kissing booth; a girl in a rearview mirror driving to God knows where (a job? Seeing a friend? Or is she running away?); a cocktail party where a kiss between a man and woman appears seemingly from nowhere (Are they strangers? Friends? Lovers?).

We see the filming of Henry Hathaway’s 1965 western, “The Sons of Katie Elder.” Hopper does not discriminate and sees everyone as a human being, not in their respective societal or film roles. Hathaway and John Wayne are in the middle of a scene with Wayne pointing at something out of frame. There is a calmness, steadiness, and stability, but also the bubbling of creativity. I am drawn to these images precisely because they point to a time and a place when even the possibility of steadiness and masculinity was present in the culture. Things are getting done and life keeps moving forward.

In the collection, there are even self-portraits, in which we see Hopper’s need to be seen, a rebellious streak, and over the top self-importance. But there is also a certain sensitivity that only comes from someone who has the soul of an artist. They are the most dreamy of all. Is this how Hopper saw himself at the time? He is hovering like a ghost of America past and present. 

On one occasion, Hopper’s daughter Marin, reflected: “My father, Dennis Hopper, believed that being on the road in search of something was very American. You had to keep moving forward no matter what. Ride into town, gunfight at high noon, then off into the sunset.” Hopper represented—and even in his death, represents—not simply the one American dream, whatever it may have been or whatever shred of it is present now. Rather, he represents American dreams—lives lived on the photographic paper, on the celluloid, and in the American desert of desires. 

Okay, I take it back; the article is good enough to serve as its own justification, no excuses required for running it. Same-same with the vid, actually.



Update! So the whole Hopper trip got me to rooting around here and there, which eventually landed me on this incredible site covering all things Easy Rider. Captain America and Billy’s route to Mardi Gras is mapped out, literally; the entire movie is posted; there are then-and-now pics of some of the locations where scenes from the movie were shot, among other way-cool stuff. No foolin’, gang, this is one hella-awesome website for any Easy Rider fan.

2

Another RIP

One of the leading heels from the world of pro rasslin’ is gone.

Scott Hall, the two-time WWE Hall of Famer and a founding member of the New World Order, died at the age of 63 on Monday. The pro wrestling icon suffered three heart attacks from hip surgery complications over the weekend and was taken off life support.

WWE announced the news to open “Monday Night Raw” — a show Hall appeared on the first episode of in 1993 as Razor Ramon — and wrestler Kevin Owens started the show with Hall’s signature catchphrase” “Hey yo.”

The company also aired a video remembering Hall’s legendary career in both WWE and WCW. It was the start of a flow of tributes that poured out of every corner of the industry to remember one of the its all-time greats and influential figures.

In those halcyon WCW days, Hall teamed up with Kevin Nash to front the infamous NWO, going on to seduce perennial babtface Hul Hogan over to the dark side and into heel status, for the first time in the Hulkster’s career. It was an unexpected move for Hogan, who said later that he had agonized over the decision, and remains uncertain if he did the right thing or not. This article goes on to feature tributes and remembrances of Hall from pretty much everybody who was anybody in Hall’s era. More can be perused at the WWE’s official website, as you’d expect:

WWE Legends and Superstars have shared memories and paid tribute to the incredible legacy of two-time WWE Hall of Famer Scott Hall following his passing.

Triple H and X-Pac both shared heartfelt moments and examples of Hall’s larger than life personality.

Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, JBL, Trish Stratus and more would all share their gratitude for the impact Hall left on the sports-entertainment industry.

These Tweets include lots of great photos from what I consider to be the Golden Age of wrestling: WCW; NWO; the brilliant Sting saga. With super-genius Eric Bischoff masterminding the story arcs and plotlines, WCW had all the pieces in place: the sudden shifts in allegiance; the unlooked for knife in the back, shivved by a one-time friend; the best-laid plots, suddenly ganging aft aglee; the bitter, snarling rivalries; genuinely amazing feats of physical strength, agility, and utter disregard for life and limb—all this and more made for some damned heady entertainment. I said at the time the period could legitimately be thought of as today’s equivalent to Shakespeare. I meant that, too.

I especially like the remembrance posted by an old fave of mine, Diamond Dallas Page.


Preach it, DDP.

Elsewhere on the WWE site you’ll find a concise summary of Hall’s illustrious career.

A hugely influential Superstar, Hall began his career in 1984, performing with various organizations across the country before joining World Championship Wrestling in 1991 as The Diamond Studd. In 1992, Hall signed with WWE and introduced fans all over the world to the character of Razor Ramon, becoming a four-time Intercontinental Champion and one of the most enduring personas of WWE’s “New Generation.” He participated in memorable rivalries against Kevin Nash, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and countless others, with his two Ladder Matches against Michaels at WrestleMania X and SummerSlam 1995 both considered all-time classics by fans and industry insiders alike. In 1996, Hall re-joined World Championship Wrestling and joined Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan as the founding members of the nWo (New World Order), revolutionizing the sports-entertainment industry and ushering in the “Monday Night Wars.”

After retiring from the ring, Hall capped off a one-of-a-kind career by being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as Razor Ramon in 2014 and again as a member of the nWo in 2020.

Farewell, Scott. For most of the 90s, you helped make my Monday nights a helluva lot more fun. I won’t forget it.

RIP

We mourn the untimely loss of one of the most pure-tee badass drummers I ever did hear tell of.

Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins has passed away at the age of 50, according to a statement from the band.

A cause of death has not yet been disclosed.

Whatever the cause turns out to have been, I’m mighty sorry to hear this news. Check out this great old (1998?!? That CAN’T be right) live footage, from some outdoor festival or other up in soggy Vancouver.



The above show marked my first exposure to Hawkins, who blew me away completely. He’s the only kind of drummer I ever really liked: laying down a solid, rock-steady rhythm, gangly arms and legs flailing wildly about, rivers of honest sweat flowing from the opening number; throwing his entire body into pounding those skins so danged hard the front five rows would be in pain from the bludgeoning for days after—in sum, a perfect marriage of flawless technique; originality, passion, and style; and just sheer, fangs-bared ferocity. Seeing him play, you almost had to feel sorry for those poor drum heads and sticks, so profound was their ordeal.

Dave Grohl is a supremely talented multi-instrumentalist, a top-tier drummer, and a bona fide rock star his own self (Grohl, remember is the guy who propelled Nirvana to legendary status; the band spent years spinning their wheels and going nowhere until signing him on). As such, only a monster ass-kicker could ever play drums behind him, or would ever dare to attempt it. The Foo Fighters kept Taylor around for many a long year, which speaks volumes all by itself.

Fare thee well, Taylor Hawkins. You’ll surely be missed, and sorely. Your departure leaves your bandmates with some mighty big shoes to fill; I can’t say I envy them the task.

Update! Doubt me concerning Hawkins’ rabid-gorilla approach as a confirmed Brutalizer of Beat? Think I must be exaggerating the raw, impassioned fury of Taylor’s inimitable attack? Pick up the above vid at, say, 1:35 or so, watch that big tall drink of water slash and burn his way through the turnaround—this is but one of many examples, there are many more. After you do, come back and tell me you still feel that way.

A night in Hell

BCE posts on his stay in one of THOSE hotels; most of the saltier old road-dogs among us will need no explanation of what I mean by that, I trust. Naturally, BCE’s nightmarish and all-too-familiar story put me in mind of one of the single most atrocious dumps I can remember staying at: the Admiral Benbow Inn, in Memphis Tn. Regrettably, I made the mistake of DDG’ing the God-forsaken pit and wound up falling into the dreaded Search Engine Sinkhole, hitting links like a blow-junkie lab rat fiending for another sweet, sweet hit, sucked in by article after article chronicling the poor old Benbow’s rise and fall. Never woulda thunk it, but there’s some truly interesting history there, great gooey gobs of it. The backstory:

Dear Vance: Who the heck was Admiral Benbow, and what happened to all those motels here that were named after him? — J.F., Memphis.

Dear J.F.: Just like Colonel Harland Sanders with his Kentucky Fried Chicken empire, John Benbow (1653-1702) was a real person, an admiral in the British Royal Navy. During a long career at sea, he served as the commander of several vessels against various enemies, ranging from Barbary pirates to the French fleet, and I don’t have the time or energy to go into that here. Benbow died from injuries received in battle, with a biographer noting the cause of death was “the wound of his leg, never being set to perfection, which malady being aggravated by the discontent of his mind, threw him into a sort of melancholy.”

The admiral was buried in Jamaica, and his fame was so great that Robert Louis Stevenson, author of the 1883 classic, Treasure Island, named a tavern in his book the “Admiral Benbow Inn.”

Many years later, another enterprising gentleman in Memphis would do the same.

Allen Gary was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1913. Somehow he ended up in Memphis, as so many men and women from the Magnolia State do. In the mid-1930s, he attended Central High School and Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College). At some point, he met up with a business partner, George Early, and together they converted a nineteenth-century stable on Bellevue into a popular eatery called, quite naturally, The Stable. When it opened in 1941, it might be considered one of this city’s first theme restaurants. Not only was it decorated, inside and out, like a rustic barn, but the menu for this “Dispenser of Southern Horse-pitality” included such dishes as the Stagecoach, Hack, Hansom, Buggy, Surrey, and Sulky.

By all accounts, the Stable, located at Union and Bellevue, was a success, and quite a few readers have asked about it over the years, remembering good meals and good times there. But Gary and Early decided to branch out, forming other enterprises. Gary had befriended two of this city’s leading “hospitality men” — motel king Kemmons Wilson and drive-in operator Harold Fortune — and after serving for a time as manager of Fortune’s Belvedere, one of the chain’s largest and fanciest locations, Gary worked out an arrangement with Wilson to open restaurants at Holiday Inns around the South.

This wasn’t quite enough, though. In 1950, Gary and Early converted a brick cottage at Union and Willett into a cozy restaurant that they named the Admiral Benbow Inn. So the first Admiral Benbow in Memphis, or anywhere else for that matter, wasn’t a motel. Newspapers admired the new venture, noting that “its interior furnishings are completely modern in contrast with the fifteenth-century atmosphere.” Even though the tiny building sat just 20 feet from Union, “in the Terrace Room, eating pleasure blends with the busy traffic scene.” Just like in the fifteenth century!

At some point, it seems Early dropped out of this enterprise; I don’t know why. By 1960, Gary was operating 18 restaurants, an accomplishment that earned him a place in American Restaurant magazine’s Hall of Fame. A story about Gary in that publication — perhaps you saw it? — observed, “A restaurant operator whose receipts his first day in business totaled $7.10 [they are talking about the Stable] is today doing a business volume that exceeded $2 million in the fiscal year that just ended, operating restaurants in hotels in six Southern states.”

That still wasn’t enough for Gary. He next conceived Benbow Snack Bars, free-standing diner-type establishments, which often had little more than a counter and 12 stools, much like the nationwide chain of Toddle Houses. These were designed to be erected near motels that had no restaurant of their own, you see, but I was never able to determine how many Benbow Snack Bars were actually constructed. American Restaurant magazine, packed with helpful information, does say that Snack Bars “have been added in Memphis and in Laurel, Mississippi, and Gary is currently studying sites in 10 states” but didn’t say where, exactly, the Memphis locations were.

In 1960, Gary returned to his roots. He tore down his first venture, the old Stable, and erected the first Admiral Benbow Inn — this time a motel — at Union and Bellevue. The modern styling was certainly eye-catching, with lots of white concrete, bright colors, and suspended walkways linking what was considered this city’s first two-story motel. Of course, it included a restaurant along with a lounge called the Escape Hatch. He soon opened others — on Summer, next door to Imperial Bowling Lanes, and on Winchester, close to the airport.

As you can see from the images here, the Admiral Benbow Inn was certainly a nice-looking place and stood out from most of the hum-drum motels being constructed at the time. During its first years, it boasted occupancy rates of 100 percent. But for reasons that I don’t fully understand (since the Lauderdales never frequented such places), the motel developed a bad reputation. In fact, by February 2000, Admiral Benbow had declined to the point where my pal Jim Hanas wrote a Memphis Flyer cover story about his brief stay there. With a title of “Broken Palace: The Last Days of the Admiral Benbow,” you can tell it’s not a flattering portrait.

It was here, in fact, at the Admiral Benbow in Midtown that a fellow named Malcolm Fraser woke up one morning in 1986 to find himself without clothes, luggage, or money. Now this would be disconcerting for anybody, but Fraser just happened to be the former prime minister of Australia, in town for a business visit, and was supposed to be staying at The Peabody. The whole matter was never sorted out, but it’s typical of the decidedly unusual events that seemed to plague the Admiral Benbows in Memphis over the years.

So what happened to them?

Okay, so far, so…well, so dull, honestly. Aside from the mysterious Fraser saga, it’s the sort of dry, aggressively mundane stuff only a Memphian with an obssessive local-history fetish could find interesting, or maybe somebody who was being paid to act as if he had such a fetish. Hang in there though; we’re just about to hit the motherlode.

Memphis celebrates, occasionally even enshrines, its motels. The Lorraine has been encased for future reference as the National Civil Rights Museum; the Heartbreak Hotel, once a mere metaphor in the spiritual neighborhood of Lonely Street, now stands in literal glass and stone on Elvis Presley Boulevard; and the success story of Kemmons Wilson and Holiday Inns Inc. is eclipsed only by that of Fred Smith and Federal Express in the local mythology.

Even the dutiful Gideons have abandoned the Admiral Benbow at the corner of Union and Bellevue, however. There is no trace of either testament in the several drawers in room 245, one of which has had its front torn off and placed neatly inside it where the Bible ought to be.

The television is cockeyed from a failed attempt to rip it from its security mooring, although it doesn’t work so well anyway, and like most everything else in the room, it is rutted with burns from careless cigarettes and/or crack-pipes.

Seven doors down, a man was once stabbed with such a pipe by his so-called boyfriend, or so he said when, out of breath, he waved down a police cruiser at the corner of Madison and Cleveland. The boyfriend told a different story. He himself had been savagely beaten with the room’s telephone by the first man, he said, who had then stabbed himself with the crack pipe. He was only giving chase, he explained, so he could help.

The phone in 245 looks as though it may be the veteran of a beating or two. The plate over the keypad has disappeared, and much else in the room has been either picked clean or otherwise rendered useless. The cover of the heating duct leans beneath the sink. The bathtub faucet leaks hot water and cannot be made to stop. Pee-colored formica peels from the sway-topped sink and the flesh-colored stucco walls crack indiscriminately. The door’s security latch is no longer secure (nor any longer technically a latch, really), the hidden workings of the light switch are not hidden, and the peephole — the one you’re supposed to look through before, ever, ever opening the door — has been plugged with a tiny piece of cloth.

And not a Bible in sight, here when you really need one.

Unlike Memphis’ celebrated motels, the Benbow does not represent anything prized about the city or its history, anything people actually draw paychecks promoting. It is not a monument to the civil rights movement, the birthplace of rock-and-roll, or Memphis’ role as a universal crossroads.

Instead, the Benbow represents another side of the city, a side people draw paychecks keeping quiet, a side that’s as old as the city’s days as a rough river town and crime capital of the known universe.

It’s here that Little Pete, a 19-year-old gangsta from South Memphis, got pinched for shooting a man just off Elvis Presley Boulevard. Where a man once celebrated Valentine’s Day by flying into a drunken rage, trashing his room, and slapping his girlfriend around, all before 10 a.m. Where guests have occasionally tried to off themselves with excess anti-depressants, detergents, and razor-blades.

If, as everyone seems to agree, the Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of The Peabody, then it just might end somewhere in the tomblike parking lot here at the Admiral Benbow.

The Benbow’s seediness comes only in part from its dilapidation. Part of it is a matter of architecture. The elevated rooms, once a clever parking solution, create a claustrophobic above-ground subterrain ricocheting with shadows and echoes. A series of catwalks connecting the motel’s four buildings makes you feel as though you may already be in prison, so, well, what the hell anyway. In urban planning lingo, these effects might be described pathologically, symptoms of a property that is “sick.”

Once, when the Monkees stayed here, the parking lot and catwalks were overrun by screaming, teenaged girls.

A half-naked woman lies bloody and motionless beside the bed. G-men let a tabloid photographer into the room to snap some shots of the corpse, of the spectacle of blood and breasts and the 9mm cupped in a cold hand.

Nothing serves to verify the Benbow’s status as a dive — with all the campiness that implies — quite like this scene from The Sore Losers, the burlesque allegory from local cult filmmaker Mike McCarthy.

Mid-scene, there is an establishing shot of the motel’s neon sign and marquee, and audiences are expected to get the joke. “Cheap applause for the local crowd,” McCarthy explains.

Everyone knows you haven’t slummed until you’ve slummed at the Admiral Benbow.

Although McCarthy had his car vandalized while filming at the motel, it didn’t keep him from putting out-of-town talent up here during the filming of his latest movie, SuperStarlet A.D., at least for a night.

“The surreal charm wears off when we realize the doors are broken,” co-star Gina Velour writes of the place in her diary of the shoot, which appeared in Hustler’s Leg World last year. “The moldy ceiling is hanging like fog, and there is a single, bare 60-watt bulb, just like in the movies. It’s the worst night I can remember in all my travels. I can’t do this for the next three weeks.”

And she doesn’t, demanding from McCarthy better digs in the Red Roof Inn up the street.

“They didn’t share my sense of humor,” McCarthy admits.

Evidently camp has its limits, even for aspirant B-movie starlets.

I have to say, Ms Velour’s Admiral Benbow experience closely corresponds with my own.

Even more fascinating Admiral Benbow lore at the linked articles—some of it amusing, some of it terrifying, none of it in the least shocking or too far out for Benbow survivors. And we are legion, because some years back just about every bar, theater, or other mid-level and below music venue in Memphis, as well as independent bookers and promoters, made it their practice to book hotel rooms for bands on tour at the Benbow. The place was filthy. It was dangerous. It was run down, literally falling apart in whole sections. And it was positively crawling with drunks, junkies, crackheads, hookers, johns, flim-flam men, muggers, and other fascinating specimens from every strata of Memphis lowlife, criminality, and dysfunction. There are roaches crawling up the walls of the rooms as big as your thumb—bigger, even. Go ahead, ask me how I know.

But for promoters and venue owners and such, the Benbow wasn’t entirely without its charms nonetheless. It was dirt cheap, and for people working that side of the music-biz street, cheap trumps all else. Especially when you know you don’t have to spend the night there your own self.

The first time a promoter tried to shoehorn us into the Benbow box, we took one look at our assigned room, looked at each other in horror, and agreed immediately that we would NOT be staying at this wretched shitpit after that night’s show, taking it upon ourselves to speedily flee to someplace fit for human habitation and just foot the bill ourselves, even though our contract rider called for two double-occupancy hotel rooms, comped. If I remember right, we ended up at a Red Roof not far away, likely the same one Gina Velour wisely decamped to.

Our next time in town, the guy who had booked us met us at the venue seeming quite pleased with himself at having procured our two rooms already, saving us the trouble of checking in. We pounced without delay: might these rooms happen to be at the Benbow, perchance? Sensing there was trouble afoot, his cheery face fell as he admitted that it was so. We informed him sharply that no, we would NOT be staying at the Admiral Benbow, neither tonight nor ever again. As a compromise measure, we WOULD be willing to hold off on starting the show until he got us rooms at an acceptable hotel, so he wouldn’t habe to miss anything.

It’s common knowledge in the rock and roll universe that when two touring bands hit the road together, even if only for a few days, there is a kind of accelerated bonding between the two camps which takes place, formed initially around all the experiences they have in common: days on end eating nothing but horrible food and the inevitable distress that comes along with it; hot, easy women in specific cities; crippling hangovers and how best to deal with ’em; where the closest liquor store might be, and who’s going to have to shag his ass over there after sound check but before downbeat to fetch a jug for the green room, and such-like topics. Included among these topics: the Admiral Benbow, and how incomprehensibly skeevy it was.

I mean, ALL of our peers knew the place; everybody had a horror story, each more grisly than the one before, and not a one of us doubted for a moment that every word was gospel truth. No one that had actually been there doubted, at any rate. Those who had lived to tell the tale KNEW the truth, having survived the trauma, learned the lessons, and earned the scars. The rest? Well, they’d be finding out soon enough, poor things.

Any hard-touring band that’s put enough miles under their asses can tell you that there are indeed places dotted all across the American road atlas which no normal person knows about, nor will ever see. We’ve all spent our share of sweaty, sleepless nights tossing, turning, and scratching our fresh insect bites in hotels and motels Normals wouldn’t even believe exist. But they do. Those squalid dens are indeed out there…WAITING.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Another name added to the Must Be Avenged list

A voice from the Great Beyond.

Michael “Mike” Anthony Granata of Gilroy, California | 1965 – 2021 | Obituary

Michael “Mike” Anthony Granata February 21, 1965 – November 1, 2021

Michael, a longtime resident of Gilroy, passed away on November 1, 2021. Never a kinder more gentle man did I know than my husband, Michael.

For those who knew Mike, you know that he was a good and honest man. He was kind, considerate, and always polite.

Mike was adamant that people know what happened to him that caused his early and unexpected death. Message from Mike:

“Many nurses and non-nursing staff begged me and my wife to get the truth out to the public about the Covid-19 vaccines because the truth of deaths from the vaccine was being hidden within the medical profession. I promised I would get the message out. So, here is my message: I was afraid of getting the vaccine for fear that I might die. At the insistence of my doctor, I gave in to pressure to get vaccinated. On August 17th I received the Moderna vaccine and starting feeling ill three days later. I never recovered but continued to get worse. I developed multisystem inflammation and multisystem failure that medical professionals could not stop. My muscles disappeared as if to disintegrate. I was in ICU for several weeks and stabbed with needles up to 24 times a day for those several weeks, while also receiving 6 or 7 IVs at the same time (continuously). It was constant torture that I cannot describe. I was no longer treated as a human with feelings and a life. I was nothing more than a covid vaccine human guinea pig and the doctors excited to participate in my fascinating progression unto death. If you want to know more, please ask my wife. I wished I would have never gotten vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, don’t do it unless you are ready to suffer and die.”

Mike did not deserve the pain and suffering he endured. He was a good man and deserved better.

Granata’s needless death was caused by a relentless campaign of manipulation and deceit perpetrated by his own government; its “health care” and “science” bureaucracies; the pharmaceutics industry; Establishment Media; Murder Gnome Anthony “Little Mengele” Fauxci, to name but a few. Mike is one among many other innocent victims of a nefarious plan or program whose ultimate goal remains unknown, but whose results are increasingly obvious. May his death—may ALL their deaths—be not in vain.

Which, y’know, is all up to the rest of us.

2

Angelo Codevilla is dead

A great thinker, a gifted writer, a grievous loss.

RIP: Angelo Codevilla, R.I.P.

Codevilla, the historian of spycraft and powerful analyst of American political and social trends, has died. It is difficult for many commentators to see beyond the current news cycle. But Codevilla, because he could see America as it is presently, could also see into the future. Here in National Review in 2009, he predicted a populist-type figure, one that could unite the “Country Party,” could eventually come to lead the Republicans.

Far be it from me to suggest that Sarah Palin should be or is likely to be our next president. She has not shown the excellence of cognition or of judgment that would recommend her ahead of other possible candidates, nor does her path to the presidency look easy.

But as the nation celebrates the anniversary of the revolution of 1776, every presidential hopeful should realize that in the next election Sarah Palin — or someone like her — could be the vehicle for another revolution. The distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, are being overshadowed by that between what we might call the “Court party” — made up of the well-connected, the people who feel represented by mainstream politicians who argue over how many trillions should be spent on reforming American society, who see themselves as potters of the great American clay — and the “Country party” — the many more who are tired of being treated as clay.

Read the whole thing.

The excerpt and included link (not transcribed here, natch) is from/to NRO, so use your own discretion concerning Ed’s closing advice.

I must say, I’m taken a bit aback at how little reportage I’m seeing out there on what I consider to be a quite momentous event. I dunno, maybe it’s just me and my sadly lacking search-engine manipulation skills. The only further information I’ve run across so far is this:

He was walking when he was struck by a drunk driver. He died of his injuries at the hospital.

Codevilla had just recovered from covid. And then a drunk driver killed him.

That’s from Ace, and is pretty thin on the details. Perhaps we’ll see more of the story soon.

In any event, Codevilla was certainly one of the bona fide giants, no two ways about it. Everyone here will surely know of his best-known flash of inspiration and insight: the seminal 2010 American Spectator article wherein he postulated the division of the FUSA into the Ruling Class and the Country Class. It’s long and in-depth, but this ‘graph provides a pretty fair summation:

The ruling class’s appetite for deference, power, and perks grows. The country class disrespects its rulers, wants to curtail their power and reduce their perks. The ruling class wears on its sleeve the view that the rest of Americans are racist, greedy, and above all stupid. The country class is ever more convinced that our rulers are corrupt, malevolent, and inept. The rulers want the ruled to shut up and obey. The ruled want self-governance. The clash between the two is about which side’s vision of itself and of the other is right and which is wrong. Because each side — especially the ruling class — embodies its views on the issues, concessions by one side to another on any issue tend to discredit that side’s view of itself. One side or the other will prevail. The clash is as sure and momentous as its outcome is unpredictable.

No better proof of the 20-20 acuity of Codevilla’s political vision is likely to be found than that one paragraph, moreso when you consider how it’s even more relevant and apt today than it was back then. Bill expresses the severity of our loss best:

This is an absolute tragedy. Give the garbage refugees from various progressive and liberal fascist dumpster fires masquerading as high intellects, we can ill afford to lose the man who was, in my opinion, the leading American public intellectual.

His work has guided my thinking since his pieces on the awful way GWB was (not) waging war in the Middle East (No Victory, No Peace was the most important one, as I recall), on through his dissection of the American Ruling Class, to his current work on the emerging Patriotic American (Trump) movement.

He has been a shining light in the gathering darkness.

I shall miss him. And so will America.

We most certainly will. The old saw asserting that “No man is indispensable” may be true enough, in the strictly literal sense. But if Angelo Codevilla wasn’t indispensible, he came closer to it than just about anybody else I can think of.

Rest ye well, sir.

6

RIP Charlie Watts

A bit belated, I know, but still. One of the all-time great drummers just shook these mortal coils to join Heaven’s Own Band.

In a previous piece, I described Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham as the overall rock drummer par excellence. Extraordinarily dynamic, Bonham had a lot of gears. He could play louder and heavier than anyone, but could also finesse quiet passages, zig-zag between funk and reggae and swing, and, well, you get the picture.

Charlie was a different sort of drummer, at least while playing with the Rolling Stones. If Bonham was a six-gear, $100,000, 230 horsepower, hot-rodded Harley (with Batmobile-style mods like a smoke-blower, mini-machine guns, and oil-slick dispenser), Charlie was your English grandfather’s vintage Raleigh bicycle. It never broke. It was easy to maintain. You could cruise along on it all day long year after year, decade after decade. It had only one gear, but for a bicycle, it was the perfect gear. And it is with drummers and vehicles as it is for everything else: horses for courses. Which one’s best depends on what you need.

Simple, steady, rock-solid—that was Charlie Watts in a silver-sparkle Ludwig nutshell, and is exactly why I always loved his playing. No flash, no trash, just a backbeat you can feel deep in your soul, if you have any at all. The very best rock and roll drummers are like that, or so I believe. I never have been just a huge Stones fan, I can take ’em or leave ’em alone, but I DO love me some Keef, and some Charlie too.

No eight-bazillion flavors of crash cymbals; no racks-o-toms surrounding him; no gongs behind him, nor tympani he might hit one precisely (1) time over the course of a two-hour set; no synchronized kick-drum pedals by the dozen, when you only got two feets to play ’em with anyway. Just a simple trap kit, a no-nonsense, smack-it-silly snare-drum crack, and…well, just sheer nonchalant elegance, really.

I saw Buddy Rich a couple times years ago, and he was pretty much the same way, at least as far as his bare-bones kit went. The nonchalance and elegance…ehh, not so much; Rich’s facial expressions alone were absolutely maniacal, truly a sight to behold. Both times I saw him, he was sweat-drenched and purple-faced from early into the set, and he weren’t no spring chicken by then either. The energy level and overall vibe he exuded was powerful, not something easily caged or controlled. Joyful too, which I didn’t expect, having heard the stories and the infamous recordings confirming all the rumors of what a total bastard he was to work for, onstage and off. It was a little like watching a precocious teen on his first trip to the titty bar or something.

Anyhoo, back to Charlie.

First, you might never guess, listening to his recorded Rolling Stones drum performances, that Charlie was a precocious jazz drummer. With the Stones, he was a paragon of percussive minimalism. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a single drum fill on any Stones song a five year old couldn’t play.

But that’s no sleight. What matters is playing the right thing—not the complicated thing—and as it happened, Charlie always played the right thing. He played what he played because that’s what he should have played in the Rolling Stones song he was playing. That’s what good musicians do, after all.

Bingo. I’m reminded of something I saw in the Creem mag letters section soon after Van Halen had hit big with their debut album, wherein an EVH fanboy got himself all worked up and slobbery over Eddie’s otherworldly virtuousity, which nobody was trying to argue with anyway. He ended his long, effusive rant thusly: “Why play three notes when you can squeeze in ten?” Which flabby sentiment one of the editors blandly eviscerated with one of the pithiest yet most profound comebacks I ever did see, one that’s stuck with me ever since: Why play ten notes when you can say it in three?

I’m sure that statement went right over that kid’s head, but it’s a more important point than most non-musician types might realize. In all pop music, the Thing, the essential, crucial Thing, is to not overplay, to not burden a good tune with a lot of extraneous self-indulgence. Every talented professional will get his chance to show off his chops and shine a little, in every set he plays. But the REAL pros know that when you throw in everything but the kitchen sink in every damned song, you dull the impact of your sharpest material. First rule of showbiz, taught to me by my dad, my uncle, my early-childhood piano teacher, my church-choir director and high-school band director (same guy), and pretty much every musical mentor I’ve ever had: always, always, ALWAYS leave your audience wanting more. ALWAYS. Playing with discipline and restraint rather than letting it all hang out and flop around all over the place is one of the ways you do it.

This is the key to every Rolling Stones song. Charlies never breaks character. He starts the song, pumps along underneath, hits the fills where needed, but never plays a single gratuitous note. Then the song ends. Then he starts a new one. On it goes. As each song begins, everyone else hangs on, so to speak, to his chugging rhythm. It’s no wonder Keith once said “Charlie Watts is the Stones”.

Not to shortchange Charlie here, but there’s another great drummer who also lived his musical life by the less-is-more rule I gotta mention: Cheap Trick’s Bun E Carlos. Way underappreciated, in my view, but he’s another one who eschewed the flashy sturm und drang for just quietly doing an impeccable job of holding down the bottom end and keeping the proceedings rockin’ right along with neither fuss, muss, nor excess of any kind.

And this KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid, not their 1977 tour-mates) approach from the drummer of a band that, for years, opened every show with a fucking DRUM SOLO, mind you. I mean, NOBODY likes drum solos, ferchrissakes. Not even other drummers.



Ahh, but simplicity wasn’t always the Bun E Carlos Way. As with almost every aggressive but unschooled young hotshot whose only thought is to swing for the fences on every pitch, holding back was an acquired taste for Carlos too.

In 1973 or 1974, Carlos gained a major insight into his drumming. He told interviewer Robin Tolleson in 1986 that, like most young drummers, he was mostly interested in making his drumming stand out (“Where can I get the most licks in, and how cool can I sound”). While listening to a tape of a Cheap Trick concert, he realized he was rushing the beat and interfering in the performance of the other band members. Afterward, he began taping every Cheap Trick show to study his own drumming much more objectively, focusing on keeping time and supporting his bandmates. The band also played several gigs alongside Mahavishnu Orchestra about this time. Carlson says he learned a great deal about ambidextrous drumming from drummer Billy Cobham.

Making yourself a part of the music instead of trying to dominate or overwhelm it—recognizing that YOU must be all about the music, rather than the music being all about YOU—is a critical step in every player’s career, and sometimes a quite difficult one as well. Given my own background in hard rock/classic rock, I struggled mightily with it myself, and never really managed to master the thing. In fact, that’s why I never was able to play traditional blues at all well, and eventually just pretty much gave up on ever getting it right consistently, aside from the occasional (VERY occasional) fluke solo.

When it comes to restraint, blues is a particularly demanding genre, maybe the toughest of any modern popular music styles. It’s often said that blues lives and breathes in the spaces between the notes, not in the notes themselves. With blues guitar, what you DON’T play is every bit as important as what you DO play, very often moreso. Of equal importance is playing those notes correctly, what BB King meant when he used to talk about making his trademark single-note solos “sting.” Shaping the notes you play is paramount, and attack is all.

All of that is a little different for drummers than it is for guitarists, of course. Nonetheless, the basic principle of Less Is More still applies. Both Bun E Carlos and Charlie Watts spent long and notable careers providing an excellent education for all of us in how it was fucking done.

Update! Almost forgot another thing I always dug about Carlos: when onstage with Cheap Trick, he actually had a drum tech whose primary responsibility was this: whenever Bun E’s ever-present cigarette was near the end, said roadie would light up another, run out, and replace the expired butt with the fresh one, thus averting the unacceptable calamity of Carlos having to play without a gasper dangling from his lips. Too funny, that.

The lion donkey lays down with the lamb pit bull

Remember the other day when I told y’all that pit bulls were the absolute best dogs on Earth? I was NOT just winding my watch, y’know.


Two soul-enriching pittie vids in the same week calls for the rerun of a few pics of the last dog I will ever own: my beloved Cookie Monster, late and more lamented than you could possibly imagine.

One of the late Cookie with my late wife, who originally picked her out to bring home. Over my objections, fool that I was.

One just as proof that pitties really ARE sweet dogs capable of getting along with just about anybody.

Finally, my absolute all-time favorite of old Kookie-Kook. So somber, so dignified, so noble she makes Walter Cronkite look like a goddamned drunken fratboy.

Vidya via Ace. For all you animal-fanciers out there, if you aren’t a subscriber to The Dodo’s YT critter-vid channel, you’re really missing out on something good.

6

THIS SHALL NOT STAND!!

I have been saddened and dismayed by the rather blasé response to Dusty Hill’s death from my local classic-rock radio stations, which I listen to sometimes while I’m out delivering food or picking up/returning the young ‘un or whatever. When Tom Petty died, it was pretty much a three-day orgy of tribute to the man, which I had no problem with. I mean, I was by no means a rabid Petty fan, but on the other hand he WAS a truly gifted songwriter, with a top-notch band behind him. All in all, Tom was okay with me, and he had a long string of hits, so give the man his due, right?

By contrast, I’ve heard very little at all in the way of mention, recognition, or repeat ZZ Top spins in the wake of Hill’s death apart from a brief notice that their tour dates would go on more or less as scheduled. Commercial-free two, three, or four-play song sets,, interviews with the band, obscure live tracks, all that sort of thing? Not on your life, or not that I’ve heard, anyway.

Well, screw that. When I said the other night that I considered ZZ to be one of the greatest rock bands that ever was or ever will be, I meant every word of it. So have yourselves a couple bonus slices of musical genius from that li’l ole band from Texas, gratis. No need to thank me, y’all.



For anybody who might not know already: the trademark deep, rough-and-ready grizzly-growl on their records is Billy Gibbons, who handled most of the lead vocal duties. The higher, somewhat smoother, sweeter croon swapping verses with Gibbons on some songs, and holding forth on its own on others, is Dusty Hill. Of course, that’ll be obvious in the video footage. But still.

I repeat: God rest him, and may His comfort and love bless Dusty’s bandmates, family, friends, and fans.

Just a li’l ole band from Texas

RIP Dusty Hill.

Dusty Hill, the bassist for blues-rock trio ZZ Top, has died. He was 72.

“We are saddened by the news today that our compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, Texas,” wrote ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard and lead vocalist Billy Gibbons in a joint statement Wednesday, Rolling Stone reported. “We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature, and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top.’ We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’ You will be missed greatly, amigo.”

Hill served as the still-active group’s bassist for over 50 years. In 2004, Hill was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the group, which was founded in 1969.

ZZ Top is, of course, the only band ever to have kept its original lineup for that many years. I’ve always loved ’em, and I still consider them one of the greatest rock and roll bands that ever has been, or ever will be. Out of so much exemplary material to choose from for posting purposes here tonight, I just gotta go with my young ‘un’s personal hands-down fave—not only because it really is a great song, but also because it features what might be the best opening stanza ever:

Well I was rollin’ down the road in some cold blue steel,
I had a bluesman in the back, and a beautician at the wheel

Schweeeeet.



Rest easy, Dusty, and thanks for all the choice tunes. You will be forever missed, and never forgotten.

3

Departures

I’m gonna have to postpone my examination of the TSM piece mentioned below, having unexpectedly run across another one at WRSA that led me to…well, first, we have this obit and remembrance for a legendary Naval aviator:

We wake to the sad news that Snort (Capt Dale Snodgrass, USN-RET, callsign “Snort”—M) died in a crash yesterday. I was honored to interview him in 2000, but it wasn’t our first encounter.

In 1985, I was there in the crowd as a teenager when he awed us all in the Tomcat at the Pratt & Whitney airshow in East Hartford. I have chills this morning thinking of the chills I had then, watching the Tomcat in formation with the other Grumman cats, and I do believe it was a missing man formation.

RIP, Snort. Thank you for taking the phone call from a young writer with no credentials, but who was thrilled beyond words to interview the legend.

I imagine so. Follows, a repost of his 2010 interview with CAPT Snodgrass, which runs below one of the most famed photos of Tomcat derring-do ever captured, which I cannot possibly resist running here.

You can practically hear those jet-jock sized Big Brass Ones all a-clank just looking at that pic. On to the interview.

If you’ve researched information on the F-14, it is pretty likely that the name Dale Snodgrass has appeared somewhere in what you’ve read. “Snort” is virtual legend in the Tomcat community, and with more than 4,800 hours in the F-14, he is the most experienced Tomcat pilot in the world. Over a 26-year career in Naval Aviation, he had moved from being the first student pilot to trap an F-14 on a carrier to commanding the US Navy’s entire fleet of Tomcats as the Commander of Fighter Wing Atlantic. Now retired, Snort is on the airshow circuit, flying a wide range of aircraft, from the F4U and P-51 to the F-86, MiG-15, and MiG-17.

The accolades for Snort’s flying are long and distinguished…twelve operational Fighter Squadron/Wing tours, including command of Fighter Squadron 33 during Desert Storm, the Navy’s “Fighter Pilot of the Year” in 1985, Grumman Aerospace’s “Topcat of the Year” for 1986, a US Navy Tomcat Flight Demonstration Pilot from 1985-1997, and numerous decorations for combat and peacetime flight.

This is all good stuff, well worth reading in full if you’re any kind of military-aviation guy at all. But then we get to the part that stopped me COLD and made my eyes bug out comically.

What was your most tense moment in the 26 years?

From a combat perspective, it was when I had a flameout over Iraq while executing a last ditch surface-to-air missile defense. I was leading a night Fighter Sweep in support of an A-6 strike on a power plant on the north side of Baghdad.

As I said, the story of Snodgrass’ close encounter with an Iraqi SAM, which caused a flameout that in turn brought on a 15k-foot altitude drop, leading to an attempted air-start of the dead engine whilst flying through the middle of a thick triple-A barrage, is all good, gripping stuff for sure. But what slammed me betwixt the orbs was the part I bolded in the last line. Because see, I happen to know a little something myself about that A-6 strike he mentioned. In order to explain it, though, we’re going to need to make a little side-trip here, to another obit from 2015.

Reggie Parks Carpenter, 51, Captain, United States Navy, died from sudden cardiac arrest in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on February 3, 2015. Captain Carpenter, from Cherryville, North Carolina, graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications. He was commissioned an officer in the Navy via the Aviation Officer Candidate School, and received his aviator “Wings of Gold” in 1987. Captain Carpenter, also known as “Regbo” to fellow aviators, bravely served in the defense of the United States for 29 years.

He flew tactical missions in three jet aircraft, in four operational squadrons, and over six aircraft carrier-based deployments, including one as an exchange pilot with the French Navy.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval War College with a Masters in National Security and Strategic Studies, the personal highlight of Captain Carpenter’s career was his tour as commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHTY THREE (VFA-83), an F/A-18C Hornet squadron at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA. His final tours of duty, which he also enjoyed immensely, were in military diplomacy. He served as Naval Attaché to France, from 2007 to 2011, and to Argentina, from 2012 to 2015.

Captain Carpenter was a highly decorated naval aviator who earned many awards and medals during his career, including the Distinguished Flying Cross. A devoted, loving husband and father, he was also a kind, passionate man with quick wit and boundless zest for life. Captain Carpenter is survived by his wife, Suzanne, and daughters, Avery and Caroline; mother, Barbara Cannon; sister, Kelly Stewart; brother-in-law, Bob Stewart; and many loving friends and colleagues from all over the world.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, 2015, at Vienna Presbyterian Church, 124 Park St. NE, Vienna, VA. Interment with full military honors will take place at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 24, 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery.

You CF Lifers might begin to see where all this is going, I bet. For the shavetails, nuggets, and noobs, this oughta help clear things up.

The CF community suffered a serious loss yesterday, although most of you might not know about it. My “cousin”, Captain Reggie Carpenter, USN, died suddenly in Buenos Aires, where he was serving as naval attache, capping off a distinguished three-decade career as a naval aviator and diplomat.

He wasn’t really my cousin; he was actually my first cousin’s cousin, but his family and mine had been tightly intertwined for our whole lives; our fathers, uncles, and other kinfolk were all close friends from childhood, and the subsequent generations have all retained a sort of extended-family relationship ever since.

Those of you who have been around these parts a good while may remember him as “Regbo,” his flyboy call sign, or simply as “Cuz.” He did a fair bit of writing for the site back in its early years under those handles; he preferred the anonymity of them, for obvious reasons.

Y’all also might remember a post I did years ago from NAS Oceana, where the band had gone to play Reggie’s change of command party at the O-club there. He was taking over Rampager squadron, VFA 83, after having served as XO of the Sunliners. We didn’t get paid for the gig, or at least not in money; we got paid with twenty minutes apiece in the F/A-18 simulators instead. Which just made it one of the most richly remunerative shows I ever did. Hell, just hanging out at the O-club, meeting and hearing the sea stories of these “casual American heroes” as Reg called them, was payment aplenty.

He was a damned fine pilot, flying the A6 Intruder in the first sorties of the first Gulf War, then F14s, then Super Etendards off the Foch for a year as part of the officer-exchange program with the French. He graduated to the Hornet after that, and stayed in ’em for the remainder of his career. He was invited to join the Blue Angels and even toured with them awhile while he considered the offer; he eventually decided against it, and went to the War College instead. Back in his college days he got one of the highest scores ever on the Navy’s Pilot Aptitude test, and just moved on ever upwards from there.

Reg had a heart attack either on his way to or shortly after arriving at work yesterday morning in Buenos Aires (the family is still waiting for details on that); he’d just returned from an African safari with his beloved family. He was due to retire next spring; in fact, the last conversation I had with him was shortly before he left for the Africa trip. He asked if I wanted to attend his retirement party, and I assured him I did. We were talking about maybe having the band play for the festivities, in fact, and I was looking forward to seeing him again. He was 52, which is way too damned young to lose a guy like him. Hard to believe he’s gone so quick. He’ll be missed by all who knew him.

Rest easy, Reg, until we meet on the other side to pick some guitar and talk fighters and politics again. Your whole family was extremely proud of you, as well they might be, and your friends were glad and grateful to know you. Much love to you and your family, brother.

That, of course, is part of the obit I wrote for Reg right here at CF, which includes a photo of him leaning nonchalantly against his own personal F/A-18 that I took at NAS-JAX during a post-gig visit we paid him there once.

So here’s the payoff: that aforementioned A-6 strike over Baghdad on opening night of Desert Storm? Well, guess who else was out there along with Snort Snodgrass? Yep, you got it: none other than one Reggie “Regbo” Carpenter, that’s who.

Reg later sent a somewhat illicit cockpit video home to his (also my) Uncle Gene from that eventful night, along with a letter detailing a harrowing misadventure when his Intruder was struck by lightning (!!!) on the way back to the carrier, knocking out every electronic gee-gaw and instrument save for the gyrocompass. After being asked by the Midway’s comm shack if he wanted to attempt a trap on the carrier deck—sans all instruments and lights, at night, in a storm, no less—Reg opted for what’s known as “the better part of valor” and diverted to the airbase at Riyadh instead, where he landed his damaged aircraft without further trouble.

And that concludes tonight’s amazing tale of serendipitous coinkydink. You really just never know what you’re going to run across out there on the Innarnuts, do ya?

Men like Reg and Snodgrass are a breed apart for sure—capable men, courageous men, dauntless men, men without an ounce of give-up in ’em. Men whose vocabulary assuredly does NOT include discouraging words like “can’t” or “impossible.” As I so often say around here, we need all of such men we can get, and will never have enough of them. RIP, CAPT Snodgrass, and farewell. You too, Reggie.

3

Solemn anniversary

Saw somewhere that yesterday was the anniversary of the passing of punk-rock icon Dee Dee Ramone, which inspired me to revisit my own obit from way back when. Seems only appropriate to repost a bit of it:

So you wanna disagree with me about the impact of the almighty Ramones? It still stuns me that there are people out there who like bands like Nirvana or Green Day or Pearl Jam or Smashing Pumpkins, and who don’t even realize that none of those bands would even exist if the Ramones hadn’t left some very large footsteps for them to follow in. I don’t know if the same can be said of more modern flashes-in-the-pan like Limp Bizkit or Kid Crock or Puddle of Mudd and the fact is I’m glad of that, because they suck. But whether you like the Ramones or not, anyone who cares at all about real rock and roll knows whose faces would be the first carved into any punk rock Mount Rushmore, and it ain’t Fred Durst’s. Nor would it even be John Lydon’s or Sid Vicious’ or Dave Vanian’s or Stiv Bators’, although they’d all have their place. The Ramones did it first, the Ramones did it better, the Ramones did it longer. The Ramones did it. To paraphrase the Beatles, before the Ramones, there was nothing. Period.

Those of you who are old enough to remember (God help us every one), think back to 1976. Disco was king, as was Elton John and Queen and Styx and a whole slew of other pomp-and-pageantry bands. I won’t belabor a history that has been restated thousands of times since then, but the crucial point is that rock and roll was so far removed from the grasp of the ordinary disgruntled kids in the garage – the people who had kept it living and breathing since the beginning – that they couldn’t even see it from there. Rock and roll wasn’t just dead, it was starting to smell. Now imagine the Ramones strutting onto the scene, all leather and tattered denim and just plain noise. They were like an invasion from Mars, and truth to tell, I still can’t figure out just where in the hell they came from. I have a video that shows the Ramones doing “Loudmouth” from 1976. Joey looks like a freak scarecrow, doing those awkward leg kicks and clinging to the microphone stand as if it were a life raft on a sinking ship. Johnny was cool incarnate, slinging his stick-straight hair around and slashing at the guitar with that untireable right arm. Tommy was, well, Tommy, which means replaceable. Good enough, but replaceable, and he soon was. And then there was Dee Dee. That Fender Precision bass almost scrapes the ground, and Dee Dee hacks at it as if it had just assaulted his girlfriend. And the sound; my God, the sound. The level meters aren’t just in the red – they had to be trying to fly out the right side of the machine, they were pegged so hard. All distortion, all the time – and it’s beautiful. The sound is so pure, so chunky, so hard, so goddamn fucking pissed off that it makes me come up off the couch and yell every time I watch the damn thing. Still. The raw power and energy is so intense it makes me dizzy, and I’ve seen it a million times. I’ll be seeing it a million more this weekend, I’m sure.

And yet somehow, even with all the energy and buzzsaw adolescent aggro, they managed to keep it FUN. They never once lapsed into self-parody or foolish smug irony (the blood and sinew of New York bands these days, seemingly, and the last refuge of a rock-and-roll scoundrel). They never tipped a sly wink at their milieu, mocking their fans for cool points with critics, like so many alterna-dorks do these days. They always played it straight, and it was always just about smiling and moving and enjoying. It was rock and roll, plain and simple. Some critics in Elvis’ early days assumed that he was either the cleverest manipulator they ever saw, milking the dopey teeny-boppers for cash on the barrelhead, or he was just simply dumb as a box of hair. Most inclined towards the latter view, and so it was with the Ramones. I can’t tell you how many reviews I read in the early days, by pompous twits who liked to explain rock and roll in terms usually reserved for Van Gogh and Raphael, whose headline had the word “D-U-M-B” in capital letters over ’em. As usual, the art-wonks didn’t get it.

The Ramones truly changed the rock and roll world, in a way that is attainable for only the truest and deepest innovators. And Dee Dee WAS the Ramones. D-U-M-B? ‘Fraid not, Jocko. God rest his outrageous soul, and Dee Dee, if you can somehow hear my thoughts, I hope you know how much you meant to so many of us.

Back in the Gay 90s I met Joey at a NYC joint owned by a good friend of mine called Coney Island High, on the hallowed St Marks Place. I told him that he and the Ramones had quite literally changed my life, which was nothing but the God’s honest truth, as we say around these environs. He was deeply gracious and humble, not a trace of ego or pretention about him, expressing his sincerest thanks for my saying so. We did the usual music-biz chit-chattery for about twenty minutes or so, and then a brawl broke out that slammed one of the participating pugilists into Joey’s back, causing him to spill his drink. Off he went to the bar for another; the rumble sort of petered out, and I went back to sit with my girlfriend in a dream-like state of shock and awe at who it was I’d just been speaking with.

I met Dee Dee a few times on St Marks also. He could be seen regularly around what we used to call the Trash & Vaudeville block, the holiest of ground for American punk fans; pretty much everybody that hung around the area knew him. He seemed nice enough, but was usually way too focused on scoring dope to spend very much of his time idly conversing with worshipful, gushing strangers like myself. Dee Dee’s story is a truly sad one, albeit a too-familiar one in the rock and roll universe, and I hope he’s at peace.

I’m Rick James, bitch!

Still some of the most howlingly funny stuff I ever saw in my life.



That, of course, is from an early installment of Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories, one of the standout feature skits from Dave Chappelle’s short-lived (2003-06) TV show. The Rick James sketch was always my personal favorite, but the Prince one before it was a scream too…and apparently, as Murphy always swore and Prince and James both later confirmed, it really did happen.

Secrets about Charlie Murphy’s true Hollywood story and pancakes with Prince — among the best Dave Chappelle sketches ever
The funniest sketch on “Chappelle’s Show” didn’t come from Dave Chappelle — it was a gift from Charlie Murphy.

Murphy, who died Wednesday at 57, spent years as part of an entourage around his famed younger brother, Eddie, amassing weird tales from Hollywood. And while most of his stories seemed too crazy to believe, the greatest one of all was the time Charlie learned how Prince not only had a great jump shot, but could cook amazing pancakes as well.

“I swear it’s true,” Murphy told me years later. “I swear every word of it is true.”

In the sketch, part of an ongoing series called “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories,” Eddie, Charlie and their friends meet Prince (played by Chappelle) and his band, The Revolution, at a party.

In November 2003, Marcus Bishop-Wright, a stand-up comic, landed a part in the sketch playing Miki Free, a member of Prince’s band. He arrived on the set the day it started filming. He didn’t know much about Murphy and they had never met.

“There was definitely an air of comedy royalty about him (Murphy),” said Bishop-Wright. “He seemed like this other version of Eddie, the street-cred version.”

The sheer absurdity of Charlie’s story made it tough to film without people on the set laughing,” he recalled. “It was really hard keep a straight face. Dave (Chappelle) was cracking up the whole time we were shooting, he would say, ‘Stop! I can’t believe this s–t really happened.'”

But there was Murphy the whole time insisting everything was true.

“I could even believe the part about them (The Revolution) arriving on the basketball court in those outfits,” Bishop-Wright said. “But the part about the pancakes? I kept thinking, ‘This is where it all becomes part of a comedy.'”

The sketch was filmed over a two-day period along with another “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” about the time he met Rick James.

Years later, Prince and other members of the band confirmed Murphy’s entire tale was true.

“The sketch didn’t even have to be written,” Bishop-Wright said. “The only stuff that was added were Dave’s little flourishes while being Prince.”

More from the real-life Micki Free:

Charlie Murphy wasn’t lying. Everything that happened in that [”True Hollywood Stories” sketch] was for real. We went back to Prince’s house after the club. It was 1985, and there was a bunch of girls with Eddie [Murphy], myself, Charlie—rest in peace—and some other guys. And out of nowhere Prince says, “Do you guys want to play basketball?” Me and Charlie and Eddie are looking at each other like, what the hell? And Prince goes, “Me, Micki, and Gilbert against you, Eddie, and Uncle Ray.”

We played three-on-three. I don’t remember if we changed our clothes, but I know for certain that Prince did not change his. He didn’t gear up to play. If anything changed beyond the blouses, it was his heels. Prince changed into some tennis shoes. All I remember is when Prince made that first shot, it was all-net. I’m looking at him make shot after shot, like, “What the hell?” Then at the end they really did make us pancakes—blueberry pancakes. And they were good! Hanging out with Prince was magical.

Oh, I bet it was at that.

I didn’t know Charlie Murphy was gone, I must confess; he died of leukemia in 2017, poor guy, at a too-young age. He’ll live on via his unforgettable contributions to Chappelle’s Show, among other performances, and forever may he rest. While we’re at it, here’s another Chappelle’s Show classic: The World Series Of Dice.



“Dis why black people don’t have nuthin’! Dis just what dey wan’ us to do! Yo’ mutha ain’t shit!” Too, too funny.

Bonus Gaye!

In the comments to the Marvin Gaye piece below, Kenny reminded me of another one of my all-time faves.



I should maybe add that I don’t disagree at all with Kenny’s evaluation of What’s Going On, either. I always liked Gaye, but as far as I’m concerned his best work was already behind him by the time WGO came out. His latter-day stuff, although certainly influential and bold, just left me cold for the most part, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise in the earlier post. More deets on “Peculiar,” and on Marvin Gaye himself:

“Ain’t That Peculiar” is a 1965 song recorded by American soul musician Marvin Gaye for the Tamla (Motown) label. The single was produced by Smokey Robinson, and written by Robinson, and fellow Miracles members Ronald White, Pete Moore, and Marv Tarplin. “Ain’t That Peculiar” features Gaye, with The Andantes on backing vocals, singing about the torment of a painful relationship.

The single was Gaye’s second U.S. million seller successfully duplicating its predecessor “I’ll Be Doggone”, from earlier in 1965 by topping Billboard’s Hot R&B Singles chart in the fall of 1965, peaking at #8 on the US Pop Singles chart. It became one of Gaye’s signature 1960s recordings, and was his best-known solo hit before 1968’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”.

Marvin’s accompanied with background vocalist The Andantes: Marlene Barrow, Jackie Hicks and Louvain Demps with instrumentation by The Funk Brothers and Marvin Tarplin of The Miracles (guitars).

Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown Records in the 1960s with a string of hits, including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, and duet recordings with Mary Wells and Tammi Terrell, later earning the titles “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul”. During the 1970s, he recorded the concept albums What’s Going On and Let’s Get It On and became one of the first artists in Motown to break away from the reins of its production company. Gaye’s later recordings influenced several R&B subgenres, such as quiet storm and neo-soul.

Following a period in Europe as a tax exile in the early 1980s, Gaye released the 1982 Grammy Award-winning hit “Sexual Healing” and the Midnight Love album. Since his death in 1984, Gaye has been posthumously honored by many institutions, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

At around 11:38 am on April 1, 1984, as Marvin was seated on his bed talking to his mother, Gaye’s father shot at Marvin twice. The first shot, which entered the right side of Gaye’s chest, was fatal, having perforated his vital organs. Gaye was taken to the emergency room of the California Hospital Medical Center and was pronounced dead on arrival at 1:01 pm. Gaye died a day before turning 45. The gun with which Marvin Gaye, Sr. shot his son was given to him by Marvin as a Christmas present.

Another gifted musician dogged, and eventually doomed, by what’s generally known as a “troubled” personal life—an old story, a common one, and a tragic one. We’ve lost all too many of our greatest artists due to their “troubled” tendencies, one way or another. It’s long been my own belief that those “troubled” personal lives very often come along with the territory of creative genius. That maybe, just maybe, you only rarely get the one without the other—as if a skewed, reckless personality actually feeds the creative bent, both of them being integral components of the artistic soul. The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long, as the saying goes.

Happy birthday

To trad-country icon Hank Snow.

Clarence Eugene “Hank” Snow (May 9, 1914 – December 20, 1999) was a Canadian-American country music artist. Most popular in the 1950s, he had a career that spanned more than 50 years, he recorded 140 albums and charted more than 85 singles on the Billboard country charts from 1950 until 1980. His number-one hits include the self-penned songs “I’m Moving On”, “The Golden Rocket” and “The Rhumba Boogie” and famous versions of “I Don’t Hurt Anymore”, “Let Me Go, Lover!”, “I’ve Been Everywhere”, “Hello Love”, as well as other top 10 hits.

Snow was an accomplished songwriter whose clear, baritone voice expressed a wide range of emotions including the joys of freedom and travel as well as the anguish of tortured love. His music was rooted in his beginnings in small-town Nova Scotia where, as a frail, 80-pound youngster, he endured extreme poverty, beatings and psychological abuse as well as physically punishing labour during the Great Depression. Through it all, his musically talented mother provided the emotional support he needed to pursue his dream of becoming a famous entertainer like his idol, the country star, Jimmie Rodgers.

As a performer of traditional country music, Snow won numerous awards and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. The Hank Snow Museum in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, celebrates his life and work in a province where his fans still see him as an inspirational figure who triumphed over personal adversity to become one of the most influential artists in all of country music.

The influence of The Singin’ Ranger, as he was known early in his career, wasn’t limited to country music.

A regular at the Grand Ole Opry, in 1954 Snow persuaded the directors to allow a young Elvis Presley to appear on stage. Snow used Presley as his opening act and introduced him to Colonel Tom Parker. In August 1955, Snow and Parker formed the management team, Hank Snow Attractions. This partnership signed a management contract with Presley but before long, Snow was out and Parker had full control over the rock singer’s career. Forty years after leaving Parker, Snow stated, “I have worked with several managers over the years and have had respect for them all except one. Tom Parker [Snow refused to recognize the honorary title “Colonel”] was the most egotistical, obnoxious human being I’ve ever had dealings with.”

Snow’s evaluation of Parker is by no means a unique one, shall we say. Although to be fair about it, I’ve also heard tell that Snow could be pretty prickly and unpleasant his own self. But now that we’ve brought Elvis into this thing, enjoy yourselves an early Hank Snow hit that the King covered as well a few years later on, which version has always ranked near the tippy-top of Ye Olde Blogghoste’s list of personal favorite Elvis tunes.



Happy birthday, Hank. Country music—REAL country music, I mean, not the sappy, crappy contempo swill—just wouldn’t have been the same without you.

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