Monday, June 29, 2009

My Friend, Tree, Was There.

Memories of Stonewall are still alive

Monday, June 29th 2009, 12:14 PM


Stonewall Inn bartender Tree was on hand when the Stonewall Riots occurred in 1969, and he still works there today.

We've come a long way, babies.

A bartender who was slinging drinks at the Stonewall Inn the night it was raided 40 years ago says young people need to know how far the gay-lesbian bisexual-transsexual movement has come - and what the previous generation sacrificed to get here.

"The younger generation needs to learn about gay pride," said the 70-year-old man, who calls himself Tree, and still serves drinks at the famous establishment.

"They have no idea the older generation went to jail for them," he told the Daily News on Saturday.

Tree recalled the days of disturbance that followed the late night raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village - which became a defining moment of the gay rights movement - as hundreds of revelers poured in and out of the Inn.

"A lot of gay people don't realize how it all started," said Hector Cruz, 38, who stopped by the bar for a drink Saturday afternoon. "This year is more exciting, I think, because of the anniversary. People are finally talking and learning about what happened."

"Being younger, we do take for granted where we are now and how far we've come," said 23- year-old Chris Brown, who spent Saturday with his boyfriend Joseph Bayer, 25.

"I'm glad I can walk down the street holding by boyfriend's hand," said Bayer as they went into the bar.

Peter Sandel, 31, said gay pride weekend is "a time to reflect on how far we've come and how we still have a ways to go."

"We are in kind of a paradox because gay pride is a tourist event, but it's also a very serious thing," said John Buono, 35.

Friday, June 26, 2009

RIP Sky Saxon

Sky Saxon died. His band was called "The Seeds."

His song was a garage band that found a groove and a hook, "Pushing Too Hard," that kinda sorta spoke to the bratty teenager of the late 60s era as well as to the "too cool to live on earth" crowd.

Here's a video "from 1966." You can see how they're presenting. Tough. A little arrogant.

Then I found this. Here they are in Feb. 1967 with Kaye Ballard and Eve Arden on "The Mothers-In-Law." This is beyond priceless. The teevee dialogue is so Brady Bunch.

Speaking of anthems.

November 1996.

"I Can't Seem To Make You Mine" is one of those songs that is a hook surrounded by what sounds like cat sounds in the vocal and guitar. The lyrics are junior high level, which is why they're so appropriate to the groove -- and that's what fun about this song, is just his groove and way his voice cracks around it.

Hmmmm. Guilty Pleasure Night...

A Song For Animal Night.

Wednesday night. Kulak's Woodshed. Marc Platt, Steve Schalchlin and four or five women.

"Wow," Marc said with a huge grin on his face. "All girls. And just two guys."

"Steve's one of the girls," someone said.

And it's true. I am.

And so is Marc, by the way.

And the girls? Well, we had a variety from my generation rock chick to young and ambitious girls with guitars. It's small-cast musical nice.

I told them I had helped a friend write some "songs for kids," and that I've been thinking about Animal Night coming up on Saturday. And that it would be fun to write a song on that theme.

And that's exactly what we did. Val, Bo, Avril and Steve.

I'm going to sing it Saturday night. It will be broadcast live.

This is scary because I can tell you every songwriter loves The Newest Song. The Newest Song is the greatest song ever written by any being which can produce a song or body movement. The newest song is the epic you've always been trying to reach.

You learn through experience, however, that the "newest song syndrome" wears off with time, and meh, it's another song. Everybody's got one.

So, I'm working on the piano part now. When you write "lyrics first," which we did, then the song gets written top down. The movement of the rhythm that lies beneath the words is not created. It's discovered. And that's what I'm jammin' on.

See you Saturday night. Live. (Gulp).

Oh, and tonight I'm hosting for Tracy Newman. Lorraine Newman's very talented singer/songwriter sister.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Seeing Larry David. Hearing Zero Mostel.

It was a surreal experience sitting next to Jim Brochu at the new Woody Allen film, "Whatever Works," watching Larry David do a role originally written for Zero Mostel. I couldn't even HEAR Larry David. The pictures were him but the voice was Zero Mostel.

Soon, Jim and I were both doing the lines at each other how Zero would have done them.

It was like watching the replacement cast of a Broadway show. And that's no slam at Larry David.

But it's in those lines where he totally hates on the girl. They feel jarring coming from Larry David. Zero made cruelty seem like a hug. His pain was so written on his face, that you knew no matter what he threw at you, the lion masked a kitten. Zero could go from rampaging monster to cooing infant in an instant, looking up at you with innocent eyes and a goofy grin, his missing hair plastered down from the back as if by baby spit.

I saw two movies yesterday. I kinda enjoyed one of them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Letter From Iran.

After making our last video, Marc Platt, who wrote and recorded the song, got this message from a friend of his in Iran.
Hello Marc:

It is so nice to hear from you. I hope you're doing fine, and I hope that everything is well for you and yours.

Thank you so much for the video that you sent.I would definitely send it to friends and relatives; thanks for the time you allocated and devoted for making it. Your support means a lot to me. I thank you on behalf of my nation.

As you certainly know, Many networking websites have been filtered by using the common internet connection here lately. I used to go through the filtered websites by getting VPN (Virtual Private Network) cards. Besides, downloading the AOL desktop was a great help in openinig these sites; but now(during the last 10 days)it would only be possible to get access to youtube, facebook, twitter,etc....through applying the links that break the filters.

You've definitely noticed that inspite of all these, so many amateur videos (taken by moblie phones of people) are uploaded to the Internet and immediately watched by the world.

Please give my regards to everyone. Once again, thanks. Take care, and stay well.

Warmest Regards,


Here's the video, if you missed it. It's comprised SOLELY of footage that could be found on June 20, 2009. This was the uprising as we could see it.

Peter Tork, Social Networking & Cancer.

I'm not one to beat up on the press. If I could do it better, I would. But there are some areas I do know about because I lived them. And one of them is how social networking on the Internet works, and especially, what it's FOR.

The Washington Post has an online story in it's Health section blog called "The Check-up" about Peter Tork of the Monkees having a rare form of cancer -- and that he's using Facebook as his way of discussing the disease and getting support. At the end of the post, the writer asks if it's "unseemly" to use Facebook in this way.

I actually thought that this was the whole point of Facebook.

Now, to be fair, the author was "friended" by "Peter Tork," which turned out to be his fan club. I guess she thought Peter had been waiting all this time to make her his friend. Maybe from an old fan letter.

But I know if I get "friended" by a celebrity I don't know, I know instinctively that it's not actually Brad Pitt wanting to get to know me better. I can't decide if the writer is clueless about social networking or clueless about how personal this medium is.

But, I guarantee you, when someone is fighting for his or her life, there's no such thing as "unseemly."

A Former Monkee with Cancer

Peter Tork (center) performs with his band members in 2001. (Photo by Rich Lipski)

Set aside, if you can, the initial shock of learning that Peter Tork, a former member of the pop foursome The Monkees, is 67 years old.

Tork and his fellow Monkees live on in my mind as the fresh-faced goofballs whose zany, madcap antics on television and vinyl albums helped define the late 1960s.

Mr. Tork announced in March that he has cancer, a rare form called adenoid cystic carcinoma that usually originates in the head and neck. Tork underwent surgery on his tongue, where the cancer was found, followed by radiation. But two weeks ago he announced that his cancer had returned. He's undergoing more radiation now and is hopeful he'll be back on tour with his current band, Shoe Suede Blues, this summer; he plans a stop in Vienna, Virginia on September 11.

How do I know all this? Because Tork "friended" me (and lots of other people, I later learned) on Facebook. ... is there also something a little unseemly, or unsettling, about going Facebook with your disease?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget | June 22, 2009; 7:00 AM ET

Monday, June 22, 2009

One of these persons is me.

EDIT: This photos was posted on Facebook in memory of Mike Coke, who was one of the coolest and nicest persons on earth. I have lost touch with Phillip Dunn and David McCarley. But we were an EXCELLENT quartet. This would have been my senior year.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

IRAN: "The Whole World's Watching."

This new video features another Marc Platt song and recording, written just for June 20th, 2009. As in "The Revolution Starts Right Here," I took footage of what was available online as the world "watched" the people of Iran standing against the injustice of a rigged election and edited against the soundtrack of Marc's song.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"He's Coming Back" (for Father's Day).

My brand new song. I tried it out at the open mic at Kulak's Woodshed this past Monday. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"The Revolution Starts Right Here"

I made this video for my friend, Marc Platt, a singer and songwriter here in Los Angeles. It's a great song and we've used it to illustrate the current situation in Iran.

EDIT: Andrew Sullivan featured this video on his blog. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran: "The Religious Ones."

I've been watching the events concerning Iran almost non-stop. I wasn't sure what to write until I saw this picture on the Huffington Post live blog of the Iranian vote fallout -- and thank you, Andrew Sullivan, for your live blogging of the events:

9:23 AM ET -- Solidarity. Via reader Dean, Iranian soccer players are wearing green wrist bands in their World Cup Qualifier match on Wednesday versus South Korea:

I once lived in a house full of Iranians. This is an excerpt from my upcoming memoir.

The day after I sat and told my Jesus band that I didn't believe in God anymore, and that I respected them too much to sit up there and pretend, I needed to find a job.

Since I had done short order hamburger cooking in Buna, I got a job in the kitchen of a local Mexican food restaurant.

I knew the manager, a woman, and told her I was a very hard worker. So, she signed me up and on the first day, I went into a kitchen full of Iranian college students. They were dark, handsome, sexy and sensuous. My little closeted gay heart was thumping hard -- especially when I discovered that they all lived in one big house near me -- and knew very few Americans.

I didn't know it at the time, but it was my salvation. I needed new friends and they needed someone to talk to so that they could practice their English.

Since I had come from the conservative Christian "guys hug each other" culture of the Missionary Baptists -- gentle, kind people -- it wasn't a shock for me to see the Iranian guys holding hands while walking or talking. I enjoyed this intimacy (and I don't necessarily mean in a gay way. I've always enjoyed touching my friends while talking to them).

There was a genuine kindness between them and when I visited their house, which was just about every night, they included me in their circle, though some were wary at first.

They had come from Iran to study Engineering. (I was informed that when an American college recruiter visited Iranian high schools to talk about career paths, they were hooted down when presented with the option of anything related to the arts -- kind of like American parents wanting their kids to be doctors instead of bass players.)

There were about a dozen of these students scattered across several houses in the small, east Texas Baptist College, which was, itself, nestled into a small valley in the rolling, piney hills. They were going to this Baptist College in order to "breeze through" two years of mandatory basic classes.

This was in the mid-70s before the Revolution.

The Mexican food kitchen was filled with these students because they would recommend each other for jobs. They were very hard working and great fun to be around. As I got to know them, the first thing I learned, of course, were the curse words. We partied hard together, especially if they found some willing American girlfriends.

One thing I noted was that they were from different classes of society. There were some street toughs and there were guys who came from more cultured backgrounds. But our language and tone together was totally locker room -- always challenging each other's masculinity and rough-housing. Bad language was our stock in trade.

Still, they were more like the Christians I had grown up with, in that they were very kind at heart.

For instance, there was a death among them. Some accident. So, they prepared candles and food and held a vigil in the house where everyone sat around quietly, thinking about the one who had passed, saying, "He was a good Muslim."

I remember one evening I was visiting them in their big house, when a new guy came in. They seemed a little more reserved, serving tea and being all civilized.

They said, "R. has come from a small town and his mother told him he should talk to Americans in order to learn the language."

There was no snickering in the room when this was said. It wasn't as if they were ridiculing him for being so naive and innocent, still talking about his "mommy."

I looked into two absolutely innocent eyes -- and I saw myself, small-town country boy out in the big city, not knowing the rules, trying to remember what my mom told me in how to survive.

He was very excited and his English was terrible, but I sat with him and we talked.

But, the whole time the Iranians and I were in Jacksonville together, probably a semester or so, I never experienced what happened when I was living with them up near Dallas, to Denton, Texas. North Texas State University.

We were all sharing a couple of apartments in this off-campus building.

One afternoon, we're all hanging out in the apartment. Knock on the door. M. runs to the door and looks out the window.

With a look of absolute terror, he whisper-yelled, "IT'S THE RELIGIOUS ONES!"

And, with that, I saw my strong, manly Iranian men run for cover, hiding in the closets and under the beds, leaving me stranded to answer the door.

A whisper, "Tell them we're not here!"

I cracked open the door, 007-style, saw three serious looking dudes with meaningful facial hair. I said, in my best Gomer Pyle voice, "Howdy!"

I was given the Iranian version of a dismissal which consists of a "tsch" or a small sucking sound made with the tongue on the upper palate, performed simultaneously with an uptick of the head. In Iranian culture, it serves as a "No" among friends, and a "You disgust me" when directed at a non-friend.

The lead one, very self-importantly holding some kind of religious book, leaned around and tried to see behind me, mumbling, "I'm looking for..."

I quickly said, "No one's here, and I gestured toward the now empty room without opening the door any wider.

He tsched me again, looked in again, gave the other two some kind of skeptical and scornful look, looked at me again, and slowly walked away.

Slowly, like zombies suddenly reverting back into humans, my friends arose from their hiding places and tip-toed into the living room.

"Are they gone?"

"Yes, you pussies. They're gone."

I wonder if the friends I made back then are out there wearing green armbands? I can barely remember their first names. Koorush. That name just popped into my head.

I'm thinking about you, Koorush.

EDIT: When they all discovered that I was gay, it was Koorush who defended me to the others. They (not Koorush) liked hanging out in gay bars, anyway, because it was easier for them to find willing women there. But his friendship never wavered. You out there, old friend?

Monday, June 08, 2009

I'm Singing a New Song Tonight at Kulak's.

At the open mic tonight, which is broadcast live over the Internet, beginning 10:30 EST, 7:30PST, I'll be singing a new song called "He's Coming Back." I wrote with Avril Roy-Smith from our Wednesday night workshop. It's about the soldier son she just sent back to Iraq.

I don't know when I'm scheduled. We choose out of a hat at the beginning of the night, and then go for two and a half hours. Like any open mic, the talent can be sometimes great, sometimes weak. But there's always someone new and interesting to listen to.

And many of the regulars at the Woodshed are quite accomplished. Me, I love talent, new or old. In style or out. I love watching a young person find his or her own voice. I love watching an old guy or gal find his or her own voice.

And, as usual, I'll be on camera three.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Letter From Iraq

Last night at Kulak's Woodshed, I was doing my usual on-air hosting for the live broadcast when suddenly we had an email.

It was from a soldier in Iraq.

He was writing because he was excited that we were featuring two singers, Siobhan Quinn and Michael Bowers -- an incredibly talented husband and wife duo from Virginia whom he loved. And he was excited that they played a song that, for a moment, brought him back to the place he first heard it.

That was our first email from Iraq and it brought home to me how connected this world is. That he could be there watching us playing music on the other side of the world through a simple Internet connection.

It's especially meaningful to me because I've been talking to Bill Kibler, who is spearheading a campaign to issue a stamp commemorating the Beirut veterans. It was Bill who made it possible for us to broadcast "The Last Session" live over the Internet back when everyone was still on dial-up. (For the record, the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee rejected the idea of the stamp because they have a policy of not issuing stamps about tragedies.)

I've also been working on a song about a soldier's mom. The demo recording is almost done. As soon as I've let it settle in a bit, I'll make a video. It's based on a true story, and I love this song. I hope it's as good as I think it is.

(Iraq soldier photo by Victoria5653).

Friday, June 05, 2009

NEWS! San Francisco August 17!

I just confirmed that I'll be singing a concert as a benefit for the New Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco on Monday, August 17.

More information soon. But bookmark your calendars.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"The Group" at Kulak's May 25, 2009

Returning to "The Group," one of the seminal four songs that formed the core of the score of The Last Session, is an emotional experience. (Those four songs saved my life and gave us the inspiration to keep on writing what became "The Last Session." I didn't really know that I would be playing this song last Monday night. I showed up at Kulak's Woodshed, as I always do on Monday nights, with no particular idea in mind.

But, the day before, I had sung "The Group" for a group of Jewish high school students down in Orange County, and it was fresh on my mind. The original song, written out of very honest passion, used the f-word twice. But I didn't feel comfortable doing that for the kids, and Paul doesn't want us using adult language on the air, so I sang my PG-13 version. (And, somehow, it seems even more cutting to say "stupid queer" instead of "fucking queer").

But I think it's a good performance.

Meanwhile, this morning I had a meeting with Jim Latham and told him I wanted him to produce my next album -- that it was time. I now have enough material, and I know how I want it to sound.

Now I just have to figure out how to pay for it.