Sunday, August 27, 2006

Norbert Leo Butts

The people from Beechwood and Viv and I went to the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood last night to see the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels starring Norbert Leo Butts. I was not overheated about seeing this show. It has one song that I was familiar with and it's a great and very funny song. It's called Great Big Stuff. It's a list of stuff Butts' character will be able to afford after he's swindled everyone in sight ("I can afford a Broadway ticket!").

The show was a laff fest. Puns, blue humor, clever schtick, muggings, and world class physical comedy, nearly all executed by Butts. The beef jerky bit had us in tears. Butts spent about twenty minutes trying to eat a piece of beef jerky that evidently came from a free range cow: it was tough. And he was having seizures trying to gnaw it. No words, just him rolling and twitching and contorting all over the stage.

The songs, though really good, seemed nearly irrelevant next to Butts' antics. The guy is in the same class as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.

Go see this show, especially if Butts is in it. It'll be at the orange County Performing Arts Center soon. Check for dates.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Another Holiday in the Sun, pt.2

Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker were playing at the world famous Belly Up Tavern, just up the street and around the corner from the vacation digs in Solana Beach. So Brother A-Bomb and I decided to go.

The Belly Up is a sweaty and groovin' kinda upscale joint that offers up an eclectic bunch of artists. I've seen Jonathan Richman, the Knitters, Camper, Phranc the Lesbian Jewish American folk singer and others. The Neville Brothers were there the night before and packed the place. Dave Alvin is coming up a week from Saturday. Blink 182 and the Beat Farmers are two famous groups that played there in their formative years.

Some 25 years or so ago I was at Camper's first performance at Drew Blood's house on Mulberry St. in Rio Nada. They were all teens then. Since, I've seen them in places as diverse as McCabe's Music Store in Santa Monica and headlining at the Universal Amphitheater.

Victor, the bass player, has been a friend since he was 16 or so. He worked at the Mission Inn in the kitchen during the old dinner theatre days. We drug him onstage a few times against his will. One time he was an Anatevka villager with a chef's hat. Oops!

Then he became a famous musician and traveled the world and cracked the Top 40. We are all very proud of his many successes.

Bro A-Bomb drove all the way down from Rio Nada to be there. He was a wee bit late due to a fellow motorist who was slapping himself in the face repeatedly and with great zeal as he drove down the I-5 South of Encinitas. Bro watched him intently in his rear view mirror, missed his exit and ended up headed for Miramar. He made a crafty freeway U-Turn and belatedly arrived at the digs.

So we tootled up the hill to the tavern and bought a coupla tickets.

Camper and Cracker are sorta the same. Dave, the fine singer songwriter, formed Cracker after an incident involving a beer bottle, his head and a violin player backstage in Berlin, so the story goes. Thusly, Camper fell apart and Cracker emerged from the ruins. Time passed and feathers were unruffled. Camper reformed in the wake of Cracker's success. These days, members of each move back and forth between bands. Victor is playing bass for both bands these days.

Bro and I ordered a couple, he a beer and I a merlot, from the very same waitress who waited on us in October at the Knitters concert. She remembered us and we her. It was as if we were welcomed home by a dear friend.

Camper was late but great. They played all the hits, a song dedicated to Syd Barrett, recently demised and covers of the Clash's "White Riot" and Black Flag's "Wasted". Everybody bellowed along to the chorus of "Take the Skinheads Bowling".

It was odd to watch these ex-teens, now middle aged men, roaring through the old songs. The boys were a little thicker, a little grayer and a bit less edgey. I remember when they played at the Universal they were playing I forget which of their songs and they broke into that riff from Kashmir for about 8 bars and the place went ballistic. No fireworks at the Belly Up. But, still, a lot of heart.

Afterwards, Bro A-Bomb and I went in search of some bottled water in downtown Solana beach (in the old days, it would a been a case of Red Stripe we were looking for). We stopped at the Rite Aid on PCH, took our blood pressures on the blood pressure machine and bought some water.

The next day I read an interview in a San Diego weekly with Anthony from the Chili Peppers. He said that he was still going to be taking his shirt off and jumping around when he was old and in the way.

Lemme hear ya say "Yeah!".

Another Holiday in the Sun, pt.1

I went to Solana Beach by myself this time. It was both great fun and acute dullness.
I drove into town just in time to clean myself up and make the drive down to the Old Globe in Balboa Park in San Diego. World Class theatre is to be found there. Lotsa Broadway bound productions.

They have a summer rep series that performs three of Shakespeare's plays in repertory. On our last visit we saw a remarkable Othello.

I was on my way to see A Midsummer Nights Dream. It was hilarious and romantic and sweet and full of itself. The fairy scenes were ephemeral, magical. And very funny. In each scene the sense of "otherworldliness" was captured very nicely. A nice contrast to the mortal earthly scenes.

Three nights later I drove to the Globe again to see Titus Andronicus, one of Will's bloodier plays which was, in this production, done up with a lot of schtick and giggles. Who would of thought that a play in which a mother's sons are fed to her in a meat pie as an act of revenge would be hilarious? It was. Also, some very nifty stylistic presentations of blood and mayhem.

In all three of the Globe Shakespeare offerings, the acting was exquisite.

I always feel I'm in a holy place when I'm in a theatre. And I often leave feeling renewed or cleansed somehow.
Even when the show is stinking up the house. Merde!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Day at the Races

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Scar

On the back porch
in a cardboard box
covered with dust
and webs
a pencil letter from my dad
in a hospital bed
in Omaha,
16 years old or so,
detailing the removal
of his appendix,
an emergency,
the stitches then removed
and now attached
in the upper left hand corner
of the letter.

I was scared
to see the scar when I was five.
Such a hideous mark
on a man of such
immeasurable compassion.