Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chasing Linkletter Ghost, Salvation and Manson Victim Eatery

Salvation Mountain

There’s some average Joe gag from decades ago about people being subjected to the movie reels or slide show from someone’s latest vacation. I always thought it was pretty cool, actually. Any time people go places is a good time, be they tourists or travelers.
I came back a few days ago from a trip that took me from Imperial Valley up to Death Valley. Naw, I won’t burden anyone with details of how great 117 degrees feels or how standing on a rock in the middle of Titus Canyon with no one within 25 miles feels incredibly liberating and alone.
I hit Salvation Mountain, a couple miles east of Niland, Calif., which is a hillside covered in a painted tribute to the faith of Leonard Knight. I visited the place in 1998 and talked with Knight for some time. I was just traveling then as now, no story or anything. Just wanted to get his deal. We talked about some hassles he was getting from some of the locals at Slab City, which begins about 100 yards south of Knight’s little compound, which is composed of a couple trailers and a lot of paint cans, along with the beaming hill.
Knight is now in a nursing home and he has a friend looking after the place. It’s still popular – the day I was there, at least a half dozen folks were poking around, climbing up the sides of the hill, checking out the art.
Slab City is just as compelling as Salvation Mountain. It’s a village of folks living off the grid in the middle of the desert. Some of them have solar panels now, which is a change from the last time I was there. There’s also a place for bands to play called the Range. It’s a stage with a little bar, and I’d say that any band wanting to shoot a cool-ass video and play for a crowd they would never encounter elsewhere, this would be the way to go. Haul the gear out there, bring some folks, stock the bar with $1 cans of beer, and have at it under the desert sky.
I spent the last couple days of my trip in LA, which is always fine and never long enough.  Had much tequila and beer at El Coyote, where Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Foster and Wojciech Frykowski dined before the Manson clan visited their place up the hill.
Where Diane Linkletter took a dive
One thing I also had to do in LA is check out the building that Diane Linkletter was supposed to have taken a dive from under the influence of LSD in 1969. Imagine my disappointment when I found out the cause of death was a ruse by her dad, talk show/wholesome entertainment icon Art Linkletter, to push an anti-drug agenda. The guy had a few burdens and I dug him when I was little, at a time that some entertainment figures were still pretty pure.  I’d say he was one of the good guys. And his daughter’s death came a couple months after the Manson slayings went down, so he was probably thinking he was doing some good by talking about acid being the cause and all. Still…I walked over to her apartments, Shoreham Towers, and grabbed a shot of the nameplate. For some reason, reading that she took a jump because she was depressed made me feel much worse than if it was just a lofty notion of flying on acid.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Woodshock – People Still Pay Hundreds of $$ to Hang Out in the Mud

"Dude, this so rocks"

It doesn’t sound fun but for most people, gathering in a field or parking lot with thousands of others to hear music is a great way to check out some bands. Ever since I learned that a perk of digging the din that few others do is that you get the venue to yourself, I have been spoiled. No line at the bar. You can stand right in front without being hammered by overzealous fans “getting into the tunes.”
I wrote this piece on music festivals for Revue as information. I was surprised to find the Milwaukee music event, Summerfest, was such a hit. But I was even more interested in learning that the Doors played there one year, and Sly and the Family Stone another. That’s some pretty progressive booking for that time.  This Wiki entry is pretty damn good, and I had to dig a bit in Nexis to verify anything I repeated. Don’t trust Wikipedia, even with the notations.
This was one of those articles that was a real pleasure to write, maybe because it wrote itself. The only thing I thought of later on that I might have touched on is the OD tent, which is a fixture at all such events. I’d like to talk with a couple of medics who have staffed those over the years and get some stories. Maybe next year.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

91-Year Old Punk Rock Mom

 My mom turns 91 on June 10. As she will tell you, it’s not recommended to get this old.  She makes due. But on Saturday night, she called me around 11:30 and asks if I just called her.  She’s up until 2 or 3 on most nights, watching old movies, reading the Wall Street Journal or some Michael Connelly book. Not unheard of for her to call at any hour except morning.
“Did you just call me and ask me about the Fix?” she asks. Of course not, I said.
The deal is that she got a call from someone in Winnipeg, Manitoba, inquiring about the Fix. See, in 1981, when we put together the sleeve for Jan’s Rooms, the second 7-inch for Touch and Go, I had the bright idea of putting a contact number on there in case our fans, which numbered in the dozens, wanted to reach us. None of us were stable enough to have a steady phone number, so I put my parent’s number on there. Who would think anyone would ever call us? It only took 30 years.
So on the night of June 2, 2012, a punk rock kid called.
“Is this the Fix?” he asked my mother.
“No, who is this?” she said.
“Steve,” is all she could recall. She heard a good party going on in the background. Music, girls and boys laughing.
He explained the number was on the record and he just wanted to see if the number was any good at this point.
“Who is this?” the caller asked my mom.
“This is his sister,” my mom said. She may be 91 but she sounds  - and looks – much younger.
More music, laughter. The caller was polite and cool about it.  He thanked her and said good-bye.
“It sounds like you’re having a nice party tonight,” my mom said kindly.
I remember reading about Richard Hell telling his mom what he did and she was cool about the whole idea of him being an artist.
This couldn’t be further from that – I’m certainly no artist although I admire any expression of brute force and passion.  There’s no word for that. But that’s all the Fix were. My mom doesn’t need to get that. But she’s sharp enough to bluff out some drunk, well meaning and righteously curious kid north of the border into thinking I have a sister.